It’s Friday, it’s Lent, and we live in Wisconsin. So, naturally, we headed out this evening for a delicious church basement fish fry in Halder.
Halder might as well be Stankowski-ville and I just love it.
Baked fish, crinkle cut fries, homemade desserts, and enough left over for lunch tomorrow… what’s not to love?
The best part, though, was that on the way there, at nearly 6 pm, Seth pointed out that it was still light out. Still! At 6 pm!
And just like that:
“The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light.” –Matthew 4:16
Too literal? Perhaps, but man, does daylight ever make a difference this time of year.
It’s still cold (like real cold) and there’s lots of snow left on the ground, but to see the sun when I get up in the morning and when I leave work in the evening? Absolutely glorious!
“Maybe one of the great unknown–unrecognized–truths of life is that light always dawns, eventually; that there is no such thing as a perpetual darkness of the soul. I know that in my own case the darkness only existed because I refused the light. I simply did not want the light. I had been in the cocoon of darkness for so long I thought that it was light.
“Maybe life is simply a going from light to light, from darkness to darkness till the last Great Darkness signals the coming of the First Great Light. That would explain why we are in a constant state of ‘disillusionment.’ I have come to understand that it is not protesting what we do not like that counts. It is choosing what we do which, ultimately, changes things.” –Joan Chittister
Light and dark make such powerful metaphors, don’t they? Maybe it’s because light and dark can be so powerful, even literally.
The last two lines though.
I have come to understand that it is not protesting what we do not like that counts. It is choosing what we do which, ultimately, changes things.
If we want to bloom, we must stretch toward the sun.
Stretching toward the sun, sharing the light I have when I have it, and promoting the things that I love– those are choices. Positive choices. Choices that lead to positive change. I will continue to look forward to the light. Even in the darkest days of winter.
And just to prove it, I’ll buy a really cute pair of wedge sandals on Zulily in the middle of January.
My sweet little sister got all excited when she saw that “Velcro.” was the title of an upcoming post so I thought I’d flesh that one out first. I think it’s a little weird that velcro would excite her so much, but who am I to question someone else’s passions? I’m nervous that I’ll disappoint, so as a preemptive measure, I’m posting for your visual enjoyment a false-colored scanning electron micrograph of velcro because it’s been one of my favorite SEMs since I first saw it a long long time ago:
Today (as in the day I started writing this post, which was actually several days ago) I decided that I will never purchase another pair of velcro shoes. Terrible choice.
Little odd for a thirty-year-old woman to have to say something like that. I know. But I got these super cute shoes last fall from Zappos.
I always expect the shoes I order to a be at least a little bit different when they arrive on account of no store in their right mind would ever picture the size 11– things become considerably less cute the larger they get, it’s a fact. So when they arrived and they were still super cute, I was thrilled… except that I discovered that they had a velcro closure, not some sort of buckle or clasp. Sometimes surprises can be good (like when your friend rents herself an accordion player as entertainment on her own birthday), and I really didn’t think the velcro would be such a big deal.
(Side note: I used to literally feel embarrassed at mentioned my shoe size, as though I had anything to do with it. Now I’m embarrassed that I felt embarrassed about it. My feet are my feet. Short of binding them, ancient Chinese-style, there’s really nothing to be done. Just like my square jaw. Sometimes we just have to accept the body we are in and be glad to have it!)
Unfortunately, for the last year I’ve been walking around in these cute shoes getting more and more frustrated at the dang velcro.
(And yes, spellcheck Satan, I understand that velcro should technically be Velcro, but I’m not going to capitalize now or ever– on principle. Because you told me I should.)
Turns out, velcro is a terrible way to secure the strap on a shoe like this. Especially in this size. Just terrible. The closure kept getting worse and worse every time I wore them and today, I couldn’t even make it from my office to my car without stopping twice to reconnect. Lame. No more wearing those shoes.
I wonder about the cobbler (is that what shoe designers are called? or just shoe fixers? shoe makers? let’s just say cobbler for the sake of making my upcoming metaphor sound good…) who would use velcro as the sole closure for an adult-sized mary jane style shoe. It just doesn’t make sense to me.
…and here comes that metaphor — ginormous leap…
So what about the soul cobbler who seems to have attached my mood, disposition, whatever, to the sun with what basically amounts to velcro?
You know that feeling you get in your stomach when you miss a step and feel like you’re going to fall?
It’s like that for me, teetering at the edge of depression, now that the sun is disappearing earlier and earlier each day. Here in Wisconsin, it’s completely dark by 7:30… then 7:20… (and that was few days ago… we’re looking at about 7:00 pm now…) we’re scheduled to lose 1.5 more hours of daylight by the end of the month. Factor in the end of daylight savings time and that puts us at dark by 5:00.
As much as I love everything about fall– the colors, the crispness, the smells, the holidays– the sun going away makes everything else slowly dull.
As the sun progresses, so does my mood.
Good lord, I could never survive in Alaska… not without being diagnosed as seasonally bipolar, anyway. Manic 6 months of the year, depressed the other. I guess at least I would know it’s coming…
I’ll never go north of the UP! (Hopefully someday I’ll convince Seth to come back to you, beautiful UP!)
Don’t worry, I’m using my special light (the one I cleverly cropped out of the phone picture I posted in my most recent post– it’s right behind that and I turn it on every morning in the morning, and sometimes for a little boost in the afternoon) and I’m aware of these feelings and I really think the stupid shoes were not helping. So with my light, and my trusty [read: ugly and oh so comfortable (I’m sorry for making fun of you, mom)] Danskos, stomping through the leaves to and from work has been kind of ok (also, I love leaf stomping). And taking my pup on weekend walks in my blue paisley waders is even better. Again, no velcro.
Here’s the hard part, the thing I hate myself a little bit for finally admitting:
FALL IS NOT MY FAVORITE.
In theory, it is, of course, but in practice… man… it kills me. I want to love the leaves and the pumpkins and the corn stalks and the chill in the air and such. But my velcro lets go as the sun slips down earlier and earlier and I simply cannot love it as much as I really want to.
As such, it’s now finally time to admit the following:
SUMMER IS ACTUALLY MY FAVORITE.
In theory, again, it shouldn’t be… I don’t like hot and sticky, when my head gets hot my hair gets crazy frizzy, and mosquitoes and black flies and other insecty creatures make me crazy. But, all that sun? Late night runs when the sun is just slipping below the trees? Windows open, breeze in the house… I kind of do love all of that.
Maybe that’s the real reason I want to move to the UP so badly… because even summer there isn’t so hot. It’s gorgeous every single day. And the greatest of all the great lakes– the Superior one, is the most amazing place in all the land!
(Actually, my grandparents lived there when I was little and trips to the UP were when I got to see them and all of my cousins on my dad’s side so it was really my dream to live there just because I loved how it felt to be in the UP when we were all there. But that was then. Summer is it now. Part of it, anyway.)
I have always tanned easily– it’s my sturdy Polish peasant stock. (I don’t remember if my mom or grandma said that to me, but I love it so much. I like coming from sturdy stock! It makes me feel like in a past life I wrapped my head like a babushka and harvested wheat from a sun-filled field… yes, I can romanticize even back breaking labor.) And even when I do burn, it generally fades into a lovely brown relatively quickly. I love Cabo San Lucas more than any vacation destination I have ever had the pleasure of going to (even Hawaii! even Europe! I’m so serious– love love love that dry, sunshine-filled heat). And SoCal is always calling my name (now that I’ve been there and when I forget momentarily that earthquakes scare the pants off me; even if they’re bitty… bitty earthquakes, not bitty pants).
I guess I’m just a full sun kind of plant. Goodness knows I am always thirsty. (Do you know me in person? How often have you seen me without my Nalgene? Did you ask me if it was in my car or in purse if you didn’t see it?) I whither without extreme amounts of water (ironic for someone who likes Cabo so much… but did you see the other part about the great lakes???) and I think I’m in need of full sun too.
The changing of the seasons, in every season, is something I actually look forward to. I like the variation, life and death and new life, year after year after year. I am learning, however, that those months characterized by less sun here in the northern climes are probably always going to be a little harder for me. Turns out, my soul is more important to me than shoes, though. And even the shoes, despite their unwearability on account of the stupid velcro are still pretty cute and I’ll probably go out looking for another pair just like them… with something a little more secure as the closure. I’m stuck dealing with the soul velcro, so to speak, but even more than the dang shoes, it’s worth it. Worth it to fight. Worth it to stop walking every now and again to secure it.
My sister-in-law Kayla, Sister Athletic Trainer, is an absolute genius at puzzles.
I don’t mean that Kayla likes puzzles, although I suspect she does. I mean that she is literally a puzzle genius. She can walk by a table holding a 12,000 piece puzzle entitled “sky on a cloudy day” and find at least 6 pairs of matching pieces before I can even figure out which way to orient the picture on the box.
I am not being facetious.
Maybe Kayla has just had a lot of practice. She has spent three of our last 11 week long cottage vacations doing puzzles as she recovered from major knee surgery (as good as she is at puzzles, she’s not exactly awesome at keeping her own ligaments from tearing). Maybe it’s a gift from God or something. (Drop Dead Gorgeous reference… anyone?) I don’t know. But she’s real good.
At the moment, I feel like I’m staring at a complicated and beautiful puzzle and all that I have left is one particularly challenging bush or patch of sky or something. Once I get a couple pieces in place, the whole dang thing is going to fall together, but I can’t figure out where to start and I am le frustrated! (The “le” is intentional– I’m pretending that the word frustrated is French.)
Here’s what’s up:
In my job (like my real J-O-B) I work as a scientific research writer, which basically means that I help clinicians and scientists to write grants and manuscripts (and yes, sometimes even eulogies and other speeches and such) about whatever scientific endeavor they favor at the moment. I’ve worked on tons of different things. It’s awesome, really, because as much as I dig STDs, 6 years of nothing but gonorrhea and chlamydia got to be a little bit much. I’m not that into it. In my current job, I get to learn about new and interesting things all the time– oncology, genetics, bioinformatics, cerebral palsy, Alzheimer’s disease, chronic kidney disease, pancreas divisum, diabetes, neuroprostheses, patient navigation, and the list goes on. It’s awesome… like being in school minus the grades plus a real salary. Life is good.
Because I really love science and because nerdiness is my life, not just my job, I get quite invested in the things I do. And it’s all that much easier to get sucked in when I work with really passionate investigators… and so many of these investigators, just wow. These clinicians see a problem in their practice and come to us to either study the problem or solve the problem, and it’s inspiring. I have three projects swirling around in the back of my mind all the time right now. And there’s something about them that’s similar, they are related, they are somehow the answer to one another’s problems, but I can’t figure it out. That’s my puzzle. And it’s becoming my obsession. How can I make these things work together for the good of patients? I won’t know until I can fill in the sky!
Not long ago, I worked with a pediatric nephrologist and learned about Bardet-Biedl syndrome (BBS)– a rare genetic disorder that results in cilia malfunction and many consequent symptoms affecting nearly every organ system in the body. Because the disease is so rare, finding care for these kids, especially coordinated care with specialists who truly understand the disease, has always been a major problem for BBS families. Recognizing that challenge, Dr. Haws started The Treatment Center for BBS at the Marshfield Clinic to provide coordinated, comprehensive care for patients around the country… and even around the world. It is the only BBS clinic in North America and has already served 16 individuals from 14 different families in its 3 clinics to date. I helped Dr. Haws capture survey results from providers and families that participated in the clinics and the comments from the grateful families were overwhelming. I was particularly struck by the woman who blogs here at 71toes.com (polydactyly is a common symptom of BBS and her family of 7 was no exception– how clever!) as she documented her family’s participation in the clinic. So cool!
Coordinated care for kids with special medical needs… it’s a thing that’s done well for many kids at Marshfield Clinic. But what about kids in the foster care system?
I have also spent a lot of time working closely with the medical director of the Marshfield Child Advocacy Center. She is totally committed to creating a Foster Care Medical Home (FCMH) for kids in the foster care system in Central Wisconsin. Medical homes are a really effective and interesting way to make sure that healthcare needs are met in a timely, consistent, and patient-centered manner and it’s something Marshfield Clinic has really embraced in recent years resulting in huge cost savings as well as huge reductions in the need for emergency care and hospital readmissions. We don’t have one for kids in the foster care system, though, and they likely really need it. At the moment, I’m working with Dr. Iniguez to complete an American Academy of Pediatrics planning grant for the FCMH and we just completed our third of four focus groups with foster care providers and past participants. Holy… wow! These families. I mean, I was into it before, I thought it was a great idea… now? I’m smitten! I want this to succeed, to help these families, so very, very badly! I am committed. But how? Where do we find the funding? Whose going to coordinate the care? Can it be like the BBS clinic?
And finally, behavioral health. I told you about my big fat $1.5 million HRSA grant? The one that kept me from blogging for over a week, right? What I didn’t tell you was this: due to a “misinterpretation” of the guidelines, the grant was triaged without being reviewed. WTF, right? I know, I’m furious, but trying to be cool about it… because the program is just way too important to let die now. Yes, it was a big mistake. No, I was not at fault (thank goodness, right?!). But dang, do I ever feel responsible… disappointed… dejected even. It was unpleasant news for everyone involved. And now we’re looking for another way. Another way to bring behavioral health services to patients in the primary care setting who desperately need them, but cannot get them due to the provider shortages we face in our area. How does this fit in? Well, you know who else desperately needs behavioral health services but can’t get them? Kids in the foster care system. These kids benefit tremendously from the notion of trauma-informed care… care that keeps in mind, always, that these kids have been through a really stressful, really awful situation and that those traumas subconsciously inform their every single action.
So, in conclusion, I feel like there’s something there… an invisible thread weaving its way through these projects and constantly tickling the back of my mind. It alerts me to the fact that there’s something in common, some answer that I’m overlooking, some person who needs to be contacted or informed or something. I just can’t find what that something is at the moment. I am missing a vital piece of the puzzle– I’ve got to find my special purpose! (The Jerk, yes?)
Two winters ago, my husband’s grandfather set up a card table in the living room and worked on a puzzle all winter to keep himself occupied while it was so cold. He did a bigillion piece puzzle or something and it had a lot of sky in it. Lots and lots of plain, blue pieces spread out on the table. And when he got to the very end? One was missing.
There was one piece of sky that was blank.
And it stayed blank for a while.
Until one day, Ed, my grandfather-in-law, bent down to put his shoe on and found a puzzle piece in it. It was in his shoe! Right there! All along! He snapped it in and the puzzle was complete.
I’ll find the piece. I’ll make the connection. We’ll make the foster kids a medical home and extend behavioral services to the population that needs it.