Friday, June 25, 2010

Now show me yours

Yesterday we met our daughter and her family at an ice cream stand cum small playground. While the girls were enjoying their ice cream, Charlotte, 4, had to tell us about a recent minor accident where she had scraped her knee. Of course, being a kid, just telling us about it was not enough; she had to pull up her jeans to show us. There it was - her injury, nicely healing.

I wondered later why children love to show their boo-boos. No embarrassment, no hesitation. Maybe they’re just proud to be “survivors,” or maybe they just want sympathy. Whatever it is, most of us lose that desire to display weakness by the time we are adults. By then, we're told: Be Strong. Be Capable. Be Tough.

The few times we are required to show our weaknesses, we are encouraged to diminish their importance. I’ve read more than once that in a job interview, when the applicant is asked about her weaknesses, she should state them in such a way that they seem to be actually strengths, such as instead of “I work so much that I neglect family and other priorities in my life,” one should say, “I work too hard,” for after all, who doesn’t want to hire a hard worker? Instead of saying, “I’m such a perfectionist that I can’t even work in a team because, in my arrogance, nobody ever comes up my standards,” you just say, “I’m a perfectionist,” for after all, we need people with high standards, don’t we?

It’s OK to be weak, it’s OK to be injured or scarred. Lord knows, that’s what it means to be human. Of course, there are some people who are emotionally imbalanced and take it to an extreme, something termed emotional exhibitionism, where you bare your entire life and soul for anyone and everyone. But most people are very afraid of appearing vulnerable or defective - inadequate. Sometimes this reveals itself when you try to appear to know more than you do, or seeming to possess skills that you don’t actually have. I think the phrase, “I don’t know” has gotten a bad rap, for in many cases, it is the perfect response. From politicians to teachers, people are afraid that admitting lack of knowledge makes them seem weak. In my opinion, even experts had to have a learning curve at one time. Everyone is a beginner at one point. And if your fear of looking inadequate or vulnerable makes you avoid asking for help or requesting information that will help you learn, grow and expand, then you just dig yourself a deeper hole.

I'll admit it - I’m vulnerable. I’m a klutz and I am accident-prone. In a lot of things, I’m physically, emotionally, or mentally incapable of greatness. I’m moderately deficient in a lot of skills and knowledge, and wildly deficient in others. I’m willing to admit my weaknesses and imperfections, and will nod vigorously if it is suggested that I need improvement in many areas. Writing those sentences doesn’t make me feel weak or depressed. It actually gives me hope and some good reasons to get up in the morning and some desire to set goals. Life is growth, and if you’re really a seeding trying to make everyone think you’re a full-grown plant, it can get ridiculous. We’ve all got a lot of growing to do, and we’ll get many knee scrapes on the way. That doesn’t make us weak. It just means we’re moving.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Two syllables

I’ve had an opportunity to get back into sewing this week, and it gave me time to reminisce about my sewing experiences. I’ve come to the conclusion that in sewing, there are two 2-syllable phrases that have popped up intermittently on every project I have sewn.

The first is “OH NO!” Oh, yeah - fellow seamstresses, quilters, woodworkers, and various other crafters can attest to this. It’s the dreaded phrase, the one that sometimes is an unspoken, panicky thought, at other times a verbalized wailing expression of despair, and at other times a long, drawn-out sigh as a knot forms in the pit of the stomach. You know when it happens. It happens when you are clipping a seam and you clip just a little too far and your whole blouse is ruined. It happens when you are cutting out a pattern and you make a mistake and then you realize you have no extra fabric to redo it. It’s when you realize a second too late that the needle in the sewing machine is in such a position that it will ram the metal presser foot, break, and explode its dangerous pieces like shrapnel. It happens when you realize you bought the wrong zipper length or button width. It happens when you are in the middle of a project (usually with a looming deadline) and then discover you are out of interfacing, or a certain color thread, or some other absolutely necessary tool.

All these things have happened to me, of course, at one time or another. But times of frustration are not the only times the “OH NO!” is exclaimed in sewing. You have to remember a seamstress is working with dangerous tools - sharp things like needles and scissors and seam rippers (does the word “ripper” give you a clue?). For accident-prone folks like me, this can present a problem. It can even be bad enough that the poor unfortunate seamstress goes beyond a 2-syllable phrase and into a 4-letter word. I remember when I was sewing right along and got my finger caught under the sewing machine needle. The needle went halfway through my finger, bent, then came out at another part of the finger. Ouch! Then there was the time (the aforementioned needle hitting the presser foot at 90 miles an hour) that the needle tip broke off, flew up, hit me in the eyeball, then bounced back out. I had to go to the optometrist for that one. Of course, I’ve had the usual pin and needle pricks that drew blood, the razor-sharp scissors that clipped my skin, and the rotary cutter mishaps. (A rotary cutter is a pizza cutter for cloth. Don’t ask.)

In spite of the countless numbers of “OH NO!” experiences I have had in my sewing career, I must say they are balanced out by the other 2-syllable phrase - “AH HA!” (Yes, sewing is not all torment and frustration. You may have to rip out your stitches, but should never have to rip out your hair.) I adore the “AH HA!” experiences. An “AH HA!” always comes with a smile, maybe with a little slap on the forehead for being so dense. An “AH HA!” comes when you have been working for hours on an intricate item and something is awry. You can’t understand what. You followed the directions, you measured correctly, you did everything in the proper order, but for some reason, something is not right. If you are lucky, you are about to feel the “AH HA!” elation when the solution strikes like lightning. “Oh, now I get it!” And suddenly the air is sweeter, the sounds lovelier, the fatigue not so prominent, for you have figured something out. You became aware of what was causing a problem. You have unraveled the puzzling predicament to reveal the answer! It may be that, as luck would have it, your revelation comes in a minute or two. Or it may be that you go to bed confused and wake up with understanding. However long it takes, those “AH HA!” moments are exhilarating. (For MTs, this happens when you suddenly understand what a mumbling dictator is trying to say. It's a light bulb moment.)

Of course, you don’t have to sew to have the 2-syllable experiences. Life throws things at us all the time just to see how we deal with them. We have the “OH NO!” moments when we see a check on the bank statement that we forgot to write down, when our new haircut is too short, when we realize we forgot to pay a bill, when our car needs $1300 worth of work, when the toilet is leaking, when the electricity goes out, when the computer crashes, or when someone we just can’t stand wins an election. These probably happen to all of us.

The irony and pure joy of the thing is that sometimes you’ll have the dreaded “OH NO!” reaction and then you dive headfirst into your situation and after research or others’ help and advice or even prayer, you see the proper response, the answer, the best way to handle it, and it will be at this point that you are blessed with the “AH HA!” experience. And hopefully you have learned a way (in situations where you have some control), to avoid that problem in the future. Lesson learned, point taken. (Hmmm...I don’t much like that word, point.)

Now, that’s all for today. I’m headed back over to the sewing machine. I never learned the lesson of double-checking the needle position, but I did buy some safety glasses to wear just in case. Well, at least I learned something.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

I assure you I'm normal

I’ve heard that it is nearly impossible for a medical transcriptionist (MT) to type the word “plural” (word tense) because it always comes out “pleural” (having to do with the lungs). We just can’t help it. We type medical terminology all day long! It inevitably filters into our everyday lives and conversation. Sometimes we type the wrong word because we’re used to typing a similar medical word and our fingers just take over; other times, we type the wrong word because our expander automatically expands an abbreviation into a long, incorrect word or phrase. Whatever the reason, my husband seems to think I cannot separate myself from my job when it comes to written or oral communication.

Well, of course I can! Sure, I love my work and it is a major part of my existence, but I am a human being and I have a life outside of medical transcription. I can hold a “normal” conversation. Hmmph. He doesn’t think I could say or write much of anything that wouldn’t contain references to medical transcription, anatomy, pharmacology, or anything medically-related. Well, mister, I’ll just take that bet. There’s more to life than my job. I'm not some kind of nut who can't speak or write plain English. I am the most normal person you'd ever meet.

How normal am I, you ask? Well, here are some normal things about my life. I was born on Septic the 27th, which makes me a Libra. Libras are known for their desire to have everything peaceful - no phytes, no Battle signs, everything in fluid balance, and that describes me perfectly. Eye was born in Memphis, but am a transplant to Maine.

My family is normal, too. I have a sister who is really into genealogy. She has been going to cemeteries to look at old family Graves disease. My son nose everything about computers and all that digital stuff. He dose programming on web sites and works on a MAC anesthesia computer. (He also has a dog, Toby, a lab.) My daughter is a stay-at-home mom, but she is an expert in keeping kids safe in automotive crashes. She is an instructor for children’s cardiac seat classes. She doesn't have a dog, but does have a black CAT scan. My son-in-law and daughter-in-law are both teachers, so they have to interact all day with their pupils. My husband is a retired Pasteur. Make no bones about it, we’re all normal. I'm not pulling your leg. I’m sure this may come as a shock-wave lithotripsy to you, but I’m one of many perfectly normal people in my normal family.

We love living our normal life on the coast of Maine. We used to have a 2-car garage at our old big Victorian house, but now in our little home O2 we have to Parkinson in the driveway. But that’s OK. Down our road is a little pathology that leads to the ocean. Mainers love the ocean. They enjoy saline and digging muscles and finding a PERRL in an oyster occasionally. If you look out into the sea, you can sometimes see a navel ship pass by. Except for moving to Maine, I haven’t really traveled much. I’ve wanted to go to France for a lung time now (I took 21-French cystoscope in high school) but my mom is of Scottish descent, so visiting Glasgow coma score would be a treat, too. I definitely want to avoid Chorea - so much danger over there in that part of the world right now.

I also have normal hobbies. I don’t golf or bowel or anything like that, but I love to sew. My sewing room is in the same room as my home office, so I can sit here and look around at all my creative tools. I have a whole thread display on the wall in every color of the rainbow - Lymphazurin blue, yellow jaundice, red reflex, Lyme green, peau d’orange, white cells, gray matter - a beautiful soft palate, keeping all my creative gastric juices flowing. I store my bigeminal patterns in a nearby box so I can choose what dressing or skirt to make next. I’m pretty conservative treatment in my sewing choices when I sew clothes. I don’t follow all the latest fads in sterile fashions. With my window right beside effects my computer, as I listen to the sinus rhythm of the music on my iTunes, I can open the prep and drapes and look out my window pain and see nature in all her gory - trees, grass, rocks - and that’s just a tiny ejection fraction of all the stuff we have in our yard.

Sure, MT is fascinating, but I don’t let it rule my whole life. Of course, I am busy, with a lot on my platelet, and life still has its challenges. If I had a magic arthroscopic wand, I would T wave it and say “Abra cadaver” and everything would be perfect. But I’m content. I know there’s light at the end of the carpal tunnel. The days ahead are promising, and my suture looks bright.

See? I am completely normal. I wrist my case.