Saturday, May 22, 2010

Memorial Day

To say that she was unamused would be a grievous understatement. It was freaking freezing and she'd read all the magazines. Jane had checked in and met all of her obligations.
This current stop along the way, in another hospital and another ICU waiting room, was just not a part of how she thought it would have all played out. They were on Day 5 of the waiting game. They had been eating crap-food for close to 2 months, hadn't slept well for even longer, and it was a physical impossibility to get comfortable.
She was joined in her vigil by the woman who either was, or was not, her father's wife. And, with all due respect: She was bat-shit crazy. Always had been. She was absolutely kind, big-hearted and pixie-ish, too - but, you didn't want to piss her off. She could hop up on your chest while you were asleep, brandishing a machete and speaking in tongues.

Redheads, whatchoo gonna do?

Crazy woman and Jane's father fell in love in high school, went their separate ways for 30 years and then got together to reconsider it. They got together about every 3 years, as near as anyone could tell. They got divorced a couple times, had fantabulous and elaborate re-marriages, traveled the world and engaged in a brand of hillbilly warfare only known to the True Hillbilly. They fought and loved with extreme prejudice.
She was also a nun. Or not. The lack of verifiable information in this story (in this entire family, for that matter) is much greater than the wealth of it.
Jane and The Nun had a long rich history full of things that are best told in person, so you don't miss the inflection - it's critical to the telling of these stories. Suffice to say, nobody was incarcerated for very long and nobody died.
The 36 hours that preceded this one were some of the longest ever in the history of time. Her father had coded so many times that it was no longer possible to keep count. He'd been in the throes of severe dementia for 4 days and had caught infections from the incision that appeared to run from his heel to his shoulder. He hadn't remembered her name for about a month and he called her My Little Buddy.

HIS little buddy was technically her younger brother who was mostly unavoidably detained for most of this fun. And, regardless of how many times she heard herself say that it was no big deal that he couldn't remember her name (in spite of the fact that she seemed to be the only one constantly available to run damage control) it mattered.

All of this silliness just percolated and grew as she sat in that freezing waiting room for way too many days. She began crocheting hats for the oncology floor - because she had gotten to know the nurses there. The longer she went without food and without sleep, the more knots she tied - the more impervious she became.
She stopped counting things like stitches and hours and code blues. She paid no mind to calendars and clocks.
The Nun, who either was or wasn't her step-mother, kept telling stories. The endless (and, seriously - this from a girl who can marathon-talk like none other) prattling on and on about anything and everything was roughly 10 cc's away a from homicide or a suicide or some other ...cide.

Jane looked at the beautiful, completely white haired and radiant (crazy) woman and imagined wrapping her hands around her throat. It was really a pretty skinny little throat. She'd seen people do it on TV and had read about it. She started to wonder if she had what it takes to do that.
She sat and stared without listening to a word for just barely long enough to recollect. She set down her yarn, stood up and stretched. She was holding her arms open in a big old to-the-stars stretch when the door right in front of her busted open with a sobbing couple.

They had clearly been at The Lake. It was Memorial Day weekend and it was not difficult to spot the campers and lake-dwellers in the Midwest. They had on tank-tops and flip flops and shorts or swimsuits. They had obviously been crying for a long time. Their faces were all puffed up and they had that look of absolute desperation. You wouldn't know that look unless you've spent some time in an ICU (or Pediatric) waiting room.
Their hair was a mess.
Since they were standing right there, just like that, at that very moment in time- they sort-of fell into Jane's arms. The hug that resulted was strong enough to move mountains and launch tsunamis. There wasn't enough time to savor much of that moment, however, because the door swung open and another couple pushed through in the same shape.

Then there was a grandmother and her daughter towing some shorties who had fallen asleep on the drive in. Then somebody clearly left the gates open because the waiting room filled to beyond capacity within half an hour.

In the waiting room, people typically tend to at least try and keep their shit together. This room was no exception. Everyone settled into a bizarre cacophony of suppressed sobs and labored breaths.

Turns out that almost everyone in the room didn't know if their child was alive or dead. They all had a teen-aged child who had left on a church mission trip in one of those 14-passenger vans. Something had gone horribly, horribly wrong and there was a wreck with a semi on I-70.
, when you've actually raised a child to teen-aged-ness - you start to stop worrying so much. This kind of blow is crippling on so many levels.

It was freezing freaking cold in that waiting room and it didn't take long for the adrenaline and endorphins to wear off. The lack of food and the spent emotions could be heard in the chattering teeth and hiccups.
Jane forgot about The Nun for months.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Privacy in the Wild West: Personal Branding

Almost every day lately, there is a new and alarming post, from a trusted source, illustrating how much of our privacy we have lost. That's just nutty - to have lost it, we would have had to have it first.
You can't lose what you never had.
Nothing on here is private. This is the Internet, Cowboy! This is more of a Wild West than the actual Wild West was a Wild West - we're smarter now and we brought bigger guns and craftier ninjas.
Understanding and respecting that is the first step to making sure you have a good Personal Brand. yea. That's some craziness, huh? We have to mind our Personal Brands, for real?
Yep. It's time to move on past the whole lack of privacy wah-party and graduate to what we can do to make it better. Given the easy availability of personal information on the Internet we now live in a world where anybody (friends, mates, family, employers, government agencies...) with good digits can and probably will Google you to see what you've been up to.
If you allow yourself the occasional drunk-booking (facebooking after cocktails) and wake up with a Sharpee mustache on your face, you'll get over it.
But, if a quick snapshot of your activities online yield habitual patterns of nastiness, unpleasantly regrettable photographs and other unsightly and not delicious things, you probably need to re-think your strategy.
Since you know it's not private and there's a really good chance people are learning all about you without even getting to know you in person - tend to that.
Make sure you like the photographs of you that have your name on them. Clean up any copy that you may have written and tune it till it's tight and follows all the rules of convention. A good online Personal Brand is as valuable as a good handshake and a sincere smile in person. Be happy and positive.
You are brave and funny and smart and strong, all you have to do is make sure that much is apparent.

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