Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Moments with Joey – Math direction

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I figured that today would be a good day to post one of these from my 'Joey File.' I think I needed a good laugh; Joey never fails to come through.

SCENE 1, INTERIOR. AFTERNOON, FIFTH GRADE CLASSROOM. The school day is over. A fifth-grade boy is sitting at the back table with his teacher working on his math assignment. The boy has already asked numerous questions about the assignment; he turns the page and sighs. He stares at the page for several moments then petitions the teacher for help.

JOEY: I just don’t get this.

TEACHER: What don’t you understand?

[The boy points at the problem he doesn’t comprehend].

TEACHER: It says to find the set of rays that make up the angle.

JOEY: Rays?

TEACHER: Yes, rays. Like we talked about in Math class today…a line which only travels in one direction; remember how we talked about the sun’s rays and how they travel from the sun…their starting point?

JOEY: [The boy’s face lights up as he breaks into song]. Doe, a deer, a feeeemale deer. RAY a drop of golden suuuunnnnnnn!

[The teacher takes a few minutes to explain the concept again, and soon the boy is finished with the assignment. He then takes out his word problem for the night and reads it over aloud].

JOEY: At the Scout Shop a compass costs $5 and a flashlight costs $8. The Scouts spent a total of $90 on 15 items. How many compasses and how many flashlights did they buy? [Pause]. Do they have to spend any money on flashlights?

TEACHER: What does the problem say?

JOEY: Um….


JOEY: Well, do they have to buy flashlights? I mean, if they just spent all their money on compasses, it would be a whole lot easier to figure out.

TEACHER: Yes, it would; however, would you want to spend all of your money on just one thing?

JOEY: Well, it would depend on what it is.

TEACHER: Compasses?

JOEY: No, I’d buy something useless.

TEACHER: Something useless? Like what?

JOEY: First aid kits.

TEACHER: You’d buy first aid kids?

[The boy nods his head vigorously].

TEACHER: Yet you think that first aid kits are useless?

[The boy thinks for a minute then speaks tentatively].

JOEY: Well…I guess not; but if you’re not hurt they pretty much are.

TEACHER: Well, hopefully you’ll get hurt...


JOEY: Mr. Z, guess what I learned yesterday?

TEACHER: To bellydance?

JOEY: [longingly] I’d love to learn to do that!

[The boy glances around the room to make sure that he and his teacher are really alone. He leans in close and whispers].

JOEY: I.learned.to.sew.my.finger.

TEACHER: To sew your finger?

[The boy makes sounds of a large, blunt object stabbing into his finger and makes the motions of blood spurting out in all directions].

JOEY: Shpalk, shpalk

TEACHER: What were you really trying to sew?

JOEY: Two pieces of red cloth. I was making a bag. A purse.

TEACHER: For yourself?

JOEY: My mom…[The boy pauses, thinking for a second. He then drops his voice to a whisper]. Well, don’t tell anyone it was really for me.

[The teacher stifles a laugh].

TEACHER: Don’t worry your secret is safe.

JOEY: Thanks, Mr. Z, I knew I could count on you.

[The boy returns to his word problem of the dilemmas of the Scouts. There is silence in the room for a few moments].

JOEY: Awww, tie gone!

[The teacher looks up from his work curiously at the boy who is looking intently at him].

TEACHER: Pardon?

JOEY: Awww, tie gone!

[The teacher glances down at the tie he is wearing, then back at the boy with a puzzled expression].

TEACHER: I have my tie on.

JOEY: No, awe-tie-gone…o-ct-a-gon!

[The boy stifles a giggle as he leans back in his chair].

TEACHER: I can think of someone I’d like to be gone.



TEACHER: Then people would ask, ‘where Joey gone?’

[The boy erupts into laughter and slaps his hand on the table].

JOEY: But not if I had a compass…

[Fade to black]

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Let it Be

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The June wind stirred the chimes out on the front porch, its six notes sounding randomly in that sorrowful soundtrack life seems to have been writing this past week. For some of us, this is not the fairy-tale story or that one with the happy ending.

I stumbled into the bathroom this morning and saw the image of a young old man staring back at me from the mirror hanging above the sink. The few grey hairs I’d been noticing lately seem to have multiplied tenfold, and the lines which previously had been weakly etched across my face now seemed to line it like that of a well-used roadmap.

Life was a highway—I was a municipality.

My mother lie in bed, her breaths coming in labored gasps. She took hold of my hand and gazed at me through her one good eye. Every breath she took I was sure was to be her last.

“Bummer,” she croaked from somewhere deep in her throat, attempting a smile in one of her lucid moments—which were rapidly becoming more and more infrequent.

“That’s an understatement,” I replied.

Really, it was.

The grip of her hand tightened around mine. How many hours had I sat here? I’d lost count. The only way I’ve been able to even track the days was by reminding her every time she woke what day it was, what time it is, where she was. She doesn’t ask, but I tell her all the same. If it were me, I’d want to know.

The worst part is that emotion—that dreadful little feeling of helplessness, that deep understanding that there is nothing I can do—I can only be. Doing is the easy part; it’s the being that is the hard thing.

It’s so much easier to run someplace, to buy something, to go on an errand; but to simply be there…that is the hard part. To be there when her eyes open, to see her when she smiles or grimaces, murmurs disembodied thought, and falls back asleep; and through it all, to not have the ability to stay the inevitable.

She asked today, “Am I going to die?”

“We all are,” I responded a few moments later, choking on my sullen reply. “All of us will one day die.”

There have been days now, days when the bitter fount of tears has been emptied and dried. Tears become no longer an option; they become something more of a luxury, like a well run dry in summer’s oppressive heat.

In the quiet of the back room I held her hand, the hot tears stinging my cheeks yet again from sources unknown. She continually faded in and then out of consciousness, her requests slogged and pieced together in a mismatch of jumbled words.

I simply held on to her hand; I could only be…there was no to do.

I found myself becoming angry at God in watching this suffering go on without recourse; I found myself questioning that which I knew—that which I’d always believed. If God really were merciful, he should either heal her, or let her die.

God—I unpremeditatedly decided—was cataclysmically cruel.

I felt a nettling anger surge within me, bitterness directed at heaven itself, at the God who allowed such suffering.

“What is your faith made from?”

I was taken aback at the thought which pervaded my mind—a whispered rivulet.

What? I thought in return.

“This is but a moment of time; if you remember, My son suffered for a moment, too.”

But that’s different, I countered. You’re God.

“Not while he was on the cross…she has you, but My son was left alone—if you remember. Now you have the smallest idea of what it was like for Me when he was helpless, and I could only watch when he was crying out in anguish.”

Then let it be finished. I thought. Let it be finished.

“When it’s time.”

The oxygen machine continued to drone in its rhythmic pattern as I held onto Mom’s hand.

For now, I can only be.

Friday, June 26, 2009


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Mom made me laugh, which is a good thing, considering the circumstances and the things I really want to write…perhaps in a day or two I shall.

I moved close to hug her today. I just wanted to be near her. The well of tears has been precariously short in supply as of late. I held on for a little while and asked her if there were anything she needed. Her weakened voice was arduous to formulate, she murmured: “Yes.”

“What do you need?” I asked, drawing back.


“Are you trying to be funny?” I asked her.

The weakest flicker of a smile echoed across her face as she whispered, “Yes.”

And so she was.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Come what May

Pin It I have not responded to your individual comments; I don’t know as how to respond to be completely honest; just know that I am thankful for them.

I am also grateful for the phone calls which I have not answered, the emails which I have not replied to. For the Facebook messages which I have not ignored and for the text messages which you know that I usually never read. For each of these, I offer up a hearty “Thank you…I’m so glad that I can count you as friends.”

To save time I will reply to the one incessant question which has been universal through most of these forms of correspondence: “Teachinfourth, what happened?”

Please be patient and indulge me just a bit as I answer as I can. I find myself doing what writers do when they are faced with a dilemma…they write about it. It is with this in mind that I put tremulous hand to page—

The steady beat of the windshield wipers scraped away the waves of water as the miles of highway fell away beneath the tires of my Honda CR-V. I hadn’t made this trip in years. The clouds overhead were gray and ominous; they were a good mirror for my thoughts—reflecting back the mood of what I had been feeling.

Wait, let me go back.

It was Saturday. I’d been in St. George when the phone call came

No, I need to go still farther.

18 years.

My parents got divorced.

Yes, that was hard. But that is a whole story in itself which could fill volumes. The life that I’d once known had become fractured into two. I at times wonder about the life that would be now had that dreadful event not come to pass, however I’ll never be privy to that information; what I do know is the life which ensued because it did.

That’s the one I am currently living.

To surmise: both my parents eventually remarried.

My dad married a woman named Arlene. To sum up nearly two decades in just a few sentences: she helped my dad and me to finally have a positive relationship. She always made it a point to make sure that we were all included as family. She cared about my father’s children just as much as if she had given birth to each and every one of them herself.

Is it any surprise that we call her, ‘Mother’?

I have two Moms. Two women I credit with varied parts of my life.

Fast forward sixteen years into the future—July 2007; Arlene was diagnosed with cancer. She was given between one and eight weeks to live.

This was the time I received a ticket for the emotional rollercoaster known as life, which would offer up its myriad of twists and turns over the next several months. I ended up flying home in October, thinking that one of my Moms was going to die.

She surprised everyone.

She began to get better.

She began to respond to treatments.

The cancer spread.

Saturday, June 20, 2009—1:34 P.M: The call came from Sandpoint, Idaho. My dad phoned to let me know that Arlene’s condition had rapidly deteriorated and it was not looking good. She had been admitted to the hospital just a few days before because of various complications which inevitably led back to the cancer. She had requested to come home—she told my dad that this is where she wanted to die.

There were to be no miracles this time; no saving graces where she would baffle the doctors and glean extra years to her lifespan as she had done so many times before.

This time, it was for real.

I was on my way. I bid farewell to the friends I’d been visiting and began the arduous trek to the panhandle of northern Idaho—a seventeen hour drive from my current location.

I ran the gambit of emotion as I drove in the rain nearly the entire distance to Tremonton, arriving at 9:00 P.M. and staying with an old friend so as to get an early start out the next day.

I was up before the sun, fumbling with contact lenses and car keys—slipping out into the early morning light, inking over the distant hills like warm butter. I drove along in silence. My jumbled thoughts were mismatched as town after tiny town nestled securely in and amongst the bosom of rolling hills passed in my wake, their inhabitants still aslumber.

As I drove, I passed from sunny skies to those of rainstorm. I traveled through storm after storm. Like the tempests in my own life, I traveled through he sun, rain and back again as the miles still fell away. From time to time I was in the sunlight, but I could see the dark clouds out on the horizon, and I was moving right toward them.

Bring it on.

Was this to be a metaphor of the events coming to pass in my own life? Leaving blue skies behind and trading them for heavens of ashen gray?

Makeshift crosses on the roadside served as sordid reminders of what was to inevitably come to pass. I winced every time I saw one, and quickly averted my eyes, as if having seen something repulsive.

I drove into the downpour.

Down it came, harder…threatening to dislodge my little vehicle from the road, but still I drove, unimpeded.

On the other side of the storm was a sky which was bluer than the one I’d left behind. It made the storm feel worth it, just to see what lay on the other side.

Joni Mitchell once talked about having seen clouds from both sides. I think I understood—finally—what she was trying to say….a road trip of this nature was the best thing for me at this time. It was just me—me and an iPod full of music and a head jammed full of thoughts and a heart full of emotions needing to be worked through. Like the trash strewn along the highways of my life, someone needed to pick it all up and sort through it.


So I kept traveling the road, with new sights waiting to be seen with the billboards of my life spelling back their messages in the broad moments of quietness.

This second day’s drive took 11 ½ hours, it was nearly 5:00 P.M. when I pulled into my parent’s suburban neighborhood. As I climbed out of my car I realized that had I flown, so many things would have been missed.

It was with a heavy heart that I cut across the evenly cut grass of the lawn and entered through the back door, silent as a wisp of smoke. The problems of the world were still gathering around me, pushing and shoving; they were mine to be conquered, mine to be vanquished.

But for now, let come what may; after all, there is nothing I can do to stop them.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The game we play

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When I was a kid, I used to go over my friend’s, Jess Corcoran’s, house.

We’d play all sorts of things outside; however, on rainy days we’d let our imaginations run wild, and tear untamed through the house utilizing the ‘hidden’ trapdoor in his closet floor, which led to his dad’s workshop in the basement. We explored the attic with all of its familiar nooks and crannies, and eventually—at his mother’s insistence—played board games: Checkers, Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, Sorry, or Monopoly.

Monopoly was one of our favorites; once the pieces had come out of the box, I’d snatch up the iron or the car—those being my favorites.

We’d play for hours; dreading landing on Boardwalk or Park Place when they were owned by the other person—especially if there were houses or hotels situated on the property. Before long you could find yourself doling out hundreds—or even thousands—of dollars. Jess and I would play for hours. We’d laugh, we’d fret, and sometimes we’d even steal money from the bank when the other person wasn’t looking.

However, after a few hours, the game would end. The money, board, hotels, houses, and all of the other playing pieces would go back into the box. In the end it wouldn’t matter how many properties I’d owned, how many houses I’d bought, or even how much money I’d manage to accumulate during the course of the game.

When the game was over, it was over.

We walked away from the experience with nothing more than the memories of playing.

The money couldn’t be spent anywhere else.

The hotels were useless.

The property was nonexistent.

The board was just a board.

It was—after all—just a game.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Pin It A family emergency has arisen and I will be absent from the blogging scene for an indefinite period of time as I am driving up to Washington. I'll see you all again upon a return to a steady wireless connection or moment of nonchaosness.

Until then.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Guest blog - The Apron Stage

Pin It I just wanted to make a quick post to let you know that I was invited to do a guest posting all the way over at The Apron Stage. Though this is an older Moments with Joey, it is there if you’d like to head over, check it out, or to comment.


Moments with Joey – Protection

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I know what you’re thinking, “Hey, school’s over, how can there be a ‘Moments with Joey’ when you're not currently teaching?” Well, during the last month or so of school I had so many ‘moments’ with this particular student that I didn’t want to be posting every few days. As a little treat, I’ll be sharing these gems I’ve kept tucked away over the summer months.

SCENE 1, INTERIOR. NOON, FIFTH GRADE CLASSROOM. The students have just walked out the classroom door for lunch. As the teacher picks up his own lunch sack, a fifth-grade boy runs up to him at the back of the room. He is clutching something in the palm of his hand and has a look of concern on his face.

JOEY: Mr. Z?

TEACHER: What’s up, Joey?

JOEY: I was wondering; do you have protection?

TEACHER: Why, you looking out to be my bodyguard or something? This isn’t exactly a rough part of the school, you know?

JOEY: No, I mean legal protection…you know, just in case something was to happen?

[The teacher raises his eyebrows].

TEACHER: You planning on suing me for something?

[The boy laughs for a second and then whips out a ‘business card’].

JOEY: I’m serious. If you get into trouble, somebody’s got your back, okay?

TEACHER: Uh, thanks, Joey, that makes me feel…safe.

JOEY: Don’t wait until it’s too late…most people do.

[The boy turns and walks away. As he reaches the door he pauses with his hand on the knob, turns, grins, and gives a wink before disappearing after his classmates].

[Fade to black].

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Quest

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What does one do when they finish their third day’s training for school and are completely exhausted?

They don’t feel up to hiking, going out and doing serious photography, or even coming back to the place where they’re staying and going to sleep yet either…

I’ll tell you what they do, they set out on a quest; a quest for the perfect maple bar.

Remember how I once talked about how I’d found a maple bar which I thought was pretty good, and I’d even driven across town to get it? Well, that was awhile ago, and since then I’ve discovered Dunford maple bars, quite possibly the best maple bars on the planet.


Well, after a quick IM conversation with a friend of mine, she challenged me to find the maple bar which could rival those of Dunford Bakery.

I was doubtful.

Was this even possible?

I stopped off at several stores.

Several bakeries.

Bought several different maple bars.

But none of them could even touch a Dunford.

I was pretty sure that there was nothing even worth my time down here in southern Utah. I’d already combed Hurricane as well as LaVerkin, but neither of them had anything; it seemed only fitting that Cedar City was next on the list for failure to impress.

I first began by accessing Google Info and finding the local bakeries and began to hit them one by one.

Lame. Lame. Okay. Not-so-great. Awful.

I was now convinced that Cedar City was the proverbial ‘cardboard donut capital’ of the world when I passed the Visitor Center. The sign on the street proudly boasted that they had all sorts of information about the city.


I decided to put them to the test.

I pulled in to the parking lot and walked into the building. A young woman, Aimee, approached me as I pushed past the swinging glass doors.

“Can I help you sir?”

“Actually, yes,” I said with a somber expression. “My request might sound a little odd though.”

“We get that stuff all the time,” She grinned back. “Try me.”

“I’m on a personal quest for the best donut in Cedar City…maple bar to be exact. I’ve already been to several places, including Festival City Bakery…so far, I’m not impressed.”

Aimee flinched, her face clearly showing her distaste for the business I just mentioned. “That place is awful,” she crooned. “Don’t ever go there for a good maple bar.”

“Where would you suggest?” I asked, raising my eyebrows.

Aimee leaned in conspiratorially, her hand on her chest. In a low voice she said, “Tommie’s Bakery is heavenly.” Her eyelids fluttered slightly. “Quite possibly the best donuts in the county.”

“Really?” I asked. “They’re that good?”

Aimee went on to explain the history of the baker who ran said shop, and how he was ‘a master’ when it came to the culinary art of baking. She began to then give me directions to find Tommie’s which she said was located in a gas station.

“In a gas station?” I asked unbelievingly.

Aimee nodded again, “Like I said before…they’re heavenly. Trust me, you won’t regret it.”

I thanked Aimee for her time and drove to the prescribed destination, wondering if these maple bars could be just as good as Aimee had claimed they were.

Sure enough, there was Tommie’s, down at the gas station, just like she’d said. I pulled into the parking lot and walked into the store. Because Aimee had been so adamant, I decided to buy two.



Still, I was skeptical.

Until I took the first bite.

Aimee was right.

They were heavenly.

But were they as good as a Dunford?

To be honest, I don’t quite know…I guess I had better go back tomorrow to double check.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Swell Saturday

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Not wanting to go into a long, drawn-out retell of day 1 of my trip, I instead choose to focus on two images I took.

Antelope are plentiful on the Swell, but they never seem to be around when you’d like to take a photograph of one. Luckily, I came across this fellow—rather by accident—and was able to get a shot of him before he took off.

Horses and burros were brought in when the Swell was being mined for uranium in the early nineteen hundreds. With the coming of the automobile and mechanized farming, many were released or escaped into the wilds. The descendants of these animals still roam free today and inhabit the San Rafael, making their home in remote canyons and valleys.

I’d only seen wild burros one time before in all my varied trips with my own eyes; this time I was fortunate enough to come across a herd of about twelve of them—including a few foals.

For now, that is all.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

New looks and new adventures

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Stop, don’t go anywhere, you ARE at the right place…

It’s just a new image…

A new look…

A new adventure in daily living.

As you are reading over this blog entry, I am yet again off on a whirlwind adventure.

“Where are you going, Teachinfourth?” I can almost hear you ask.

Good question.

If you look at the new header you’ll have an idea of where it is that I am headed on this next grand adventure.


Where exactly?

Where do I always go?

Yes, my solace in the wilderness.

My place of rejuvenation.

My place of refuge.

Like the look of my blog, I plan to take on new vistas, to see new things…oh, and attend training in Cedar City for two days.

The good must unfortunately come with the bad; however it will be worth it in the end…of this I am sure.

So, you’re probably wondering just what prompted a new look on the blogfront.


I found myself wrestling with HTML code for hours on Friday trying to master the subtle and frustrating complexities which compose the cyberworld. At points I was ready to pull out my hair. I’d try one thing and then another—all to no avail.

Scratch that…I messed up my blog absolutely. Jacked the code, and panicked just a bit. Thank goodness for Google searches and tutorial helps.

So here you have a new look to teachinfourth.blogspot.com

I should probably ask what you think, but I already know that there are those out there who will like it, and those who will not. Ah, the dilemmas one will face when they try to please everyone...or nobody.

Will the blog change more as time goes on?

Will I find new places to take photos?


Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but change is inevitable.

Until I arrive in Hurricane….

It’s 3am I must be lonely…

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or sleepless.

It’s amazing to me just how well Matchbox 20 nailed it. As I look at the digital clock on the microwave it currently reads 2:55 a.m.; nearly 3 and I am still awake.

This always seems to happen right before I depart on a trip; I just can’t seem to find that place where dreams meet reality. So I instead just lie there, staring up at the ceiling fan, my mind a tumult of thoughts which tumble about my head like mismatched socks in the dryer without a fabric softener sheet. It amazes me that all of these reflections waited for the onset of night to unleash their full vehemence.

And so I am still awake while the rest of you slumber.

Tonight I have been thinking a lot about family. About the temporary state of life. About the limited time we all have here on this fragile, little planet flying haphazardly through empty space.

I was thinking about my parents tonight.

I was thinking about the time when they will no longer be here.

I was thinking about the limited moments that they—as well as all of us—have remaining to us.

I was thinking about this little space on the web I come to every few days to write the daily adventures—and misadventures—of my own daily living.

I have no answers tonight. I have no deep insight. I have no magical cures for ailments or problems of the world as I sit here while most of you dream away these remaining predawn hours.

There are times though that I wish that I did. I wish that I had that magical wand to make everything better, to help those in distress, to make everything alright.

If only the world were as it is at Hogwarts.

The clock now reads 3:09.

...But outside it’s stopped raining…

Thursday, June 11, 2009


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The smell of a worn leather glove.

The cheering of the crowd at a stand-up double.

Sno-cones for sale at the concession stand.

This is what summer is all about.

I was recently invited by the Cubs and the Mets (no, not those Cubs and Mets) to take shots of individuals—as well as team—at their most recent baseball games at the little league fields this week. It was a fun experience and it was great to see these boys cheering each other on, whether or not they were doing well as individuals.

These, by no means, are not all of the best photographs I took; however, since I don’t know all of the parents involved, I did not post any shots which clearly showed faces of the players which I do not have permission to use images.

Just know that there were others…and sometimes, that just has to be enough.
















Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Pin It I was reading a friend’s blog this morning. I call this person a friend though we’ve never met face to face, we’ve never exchanged letters or email, and we’ve never spoken to each other.

Yet, we’re friends.

I was reading over her blog entry this morning about something.




It’s amazing to me that a blog is such a great medium. I still find myself overwhelmed from time to time by the ability individuals have to write the thoughts of their hearts and send these out to the cyber world, and then have these items found—perhaps followed—by people whom they’ve never even met.

We laugh with them.

We cheer along with them.

We cry with them.

We—in the darkness of our private sanctuaries—even get down on our knees and pray for their well-being.

We become connected.

Words and experiences can indeed be a powerful thing.

They can lift. They can build. They can inspire.

They can also destroy.

What brings this on today?

I was thinking that if I really wanted to, I could create an entire life; I could create a whole existence which simply did not exist and shuttle this off to the blogger world; but really, what would be the point?

My mom reads this.

My mom would know.

It’s interesting that there is a group of people we meet though a medium like Blogger, but we really don’t know them…sure we know parts of them…but we don’t know all of them; but then again…we shouldn’t. Nobody knows each and every part of us. Every secret longing of our hearts, every silent apprehension we hold.


We are all puzzles.

The readers slowly put the pieces together along with their own experiences and ‘create’ a person on the other end of the keyboard. But in reality, we really don’t know them.

I look forward to a day when I can ‘meet’ some of my blogger friends (since I already know about 75% of them) face to face and we can—for the first time—hear each others’ voices, listen to each other laugh, and get one more piece to add to that ever-changing and complex puzzle known as…you.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Ode to Today

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The sounds call from the open window...

Laughter from the park.

The sounds of birdsong.

The splaying of water from the sprinkler heavily mist the air; miniature rainbows are birthed in the droplets that fragment the light of the sun.

Pallid snow still caps the distant mountains—hazy blue in the afternoon light.

The white and gray drenched clouds race intermittently overhead, as the odor of lilac still permeates the air with its rich aroma.

The barbecue is beckoning to me; it wants to be used.

I rise from my space and relish in the fresh air, wafting in waves about me and the glorious smells it brings: freshness, invigoration, awe.


Friday, June 5, 2009

Gastro esophageal chest burning

Pin It It was 1:40 AM when I walked into the ER at the hospital.

The pain which seemed to tighten and burn in my chest was one I’d never experienced before; however, I get ahead of myself...

Set the clock back to 11:10 PM.

I was writing a blog; for some reason I just couldn’t sleep. That’s when I first felt the sharp pain in my chest. It was a tightening, like somebody had hold of my heart and was squeezing it. It wouldn’t go away. At first I tried to brush it off as nothing and decided that I was just tired, I tried to go to sleep.

12:40 PM

I’d now tossed and turned for over an hour; the pain kept coming in small spurts about every fifteen to twenty minutes. It felt like my breathing was coming with labored difficulty. I was now starting to worry; I grabbed my laptop and did a quick search: What does a heart attack feel like? I was greeted with the following:

Some heart attacks are sudden and intense — the “movie heart attack,” where no one doubts what’s happening. But most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people affected aren’t sure what’s wrong and wait too long before getting help. Here are signs that can mean a heart attack is happening:

Uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing or pain in the center of the chest lasting more than a few minutes.
  • Pain spreading to the shoulders, neck or arms. The pain may be mild to intense. It may feel like pressure, tightness, burning, or heavy weight. It may be located in the chest, upper abdomen, neck, jaw, or inside the arms or shoulders.
  • Chest discomfort with lightheadedness, fainting, sweating, nausea or shortness of breath.
  • Anxiety, nervousness and/or cold, sweaty skin.
  • Paleness or pallor.
  • Increased or irregular heart rate.
  • Feeling of impending doom.

Not all of these signs occur in every attack. Sometimes they go away and return. If some occur, get help fast. IF YOU NOTICE ONE OR MORE OF THESE SIGNS IN YOURSELF OR OTHERS, DON'T WAIT. CALL EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES (9-1-1) RIGHT AWAY! In the event of cardiopulmonary arrest (no breathing or pulse), call 9-1-1 and begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) immediately.

It was at this point that I began to panic.

1:20 AM

Did my arm feel tingly? I couldn’t be sure…maybe it was just because I’d been leaning on it. It probably wasn’t tingly at all; but I was doubtful.

Did I feel a sense of impending doom?

Heck. Yes.

I wanted to call someone…but it was much too early to be calling my friends for something which could very well be a false alarm. I punched 911 into my cell phone so it was ready to connect, dressed quickly, and drove myself to the hospital—all the while feeling this intense, burning pain which came in waves; it would be there, and then it would be gone.

1:40 AM

I felt relief wash over me as I walked through the sliding doors of Intermountain Health Care. If I were at the hospital, chances are I wouldn’t die. After all, the doctors on duty had taken Hippocratic Oath…they had sworn to save lives.

My life would be saved.

The ER was not how I’d envisioned it would be; it wasn’t how I’d always seen it on television. I fully expected to find a room full of people bleeding, ambulances pulling in, with brilliantly flashing lights—gurneys being rushed everywhere, and alert doctors and nurses barking orders.

Life is not like on television and in the movies.

The receptionist was slouched over, obviously bored with being on the late shift. People sat around the room in groups of up to four. Some were trying to sleep, others were not.

Not sure if I were really having a heart attack or stroke, I merely took a seat and looked around the room.

There must have been about twenty people altogether; I found myself wondering about their stories: the woman with the sleeping toddler, the three teens sitting one chair away—the only group talking, the Latino couple by the oversized aquarium, the three men standing together by the door, one of them wearing a dust mask.

The receptionist began to eat Red Vines and seemed to be playing a game on her computer. This was definitely not at all like the show, E.R.

The pain had stopped—so I merely slipped into an empty chair—and sat. I wasn’t about to leave just because the pain had stopped; I wanted to be here in the event that this was really real. If it were, I figured that somebody could probably get to me before I actually died.

Nobody else was talking—all maintained radio silence—they were probably all wondering just what the others were doing here. It was at this moment that the burning sensation returned. I made a decision; I’d talk to the receptionist.

1:56 AM

The receptionist directed me to the nurse practitioner on call that evening, a lady by the name of Debbie. I talked with her in triage room #2. I told her about the chest pain I’d been experiencing, how breathing seemed laborious, and how my grandfather had died of a heart attack before he was fifty.

Debbie started to explain several things it could be, but she couldn’t be sure unless they ran some tests. If it felt bad enough, she recommended staying, checking in, and hooking me up to some monitors, “I wouldn’t want to take a chance on having you leave and then die in the parking lot.” She said.

Being the bargain shopper that I am, I asked, “What does a trip to the emergency room run a person if it’s not during ‘regular business hours’?”

Debbie smiled. “The cost of an ER visit is the same no matter when you come…we don’t take coupons either.”

I smiled back. I liked this lady. “I think I’m just going to…wait, if that’s okay, after all, that’s what that room is really for, right?” I gestured to the adjacent room where several patrons still lingered.

“You got it.” She winked.

I turned to go sit back down, but then paused. “Debbie, if it starts to hurt really badly, I’m going to scream your name. I’m just asking one thing…come save my life, okay?”

“Don’t worry, Teachinfourth, I won’t let you die.”

I smiled and walked back to the waiting room.

I waited.

2:05 AM

I saw the sign behind the receptionist; it talked about how patients were seen by the severity of their condition, not by the order in which they arrived. I grinned…there were an awful lot of capitalization errors on that sign. I thought of how much my class of fifth graders would enjoy finding the mistakes during our session once a week when we’d look at photos of ‘errors in advertising’ and talk about the importance of doing things right.

Yes, my class would definitely have a heyday with that one.

2:12 AM

Another brief pain flashed through my chest—it only lasted a few moments and then was gone. I opened my notebook and thought about writing out a will…probably not the best idea as most of my stuff would just be divided amongst my family members. I didn’t have a whole lot of heirlooms which people would be fighting over.

2:45 AM

A woman came in with two plates of frosted heart-shaped sugar cookies. She gave one to the receptionist and the nurse on duty. The pain hadn’t come back in all that time; I started to think about how good those cookies looked.

3:00 AM

A man by the name of Mr. Holly was brought in on a gurney with a wad of cotton in his mouth. I was thinking that he’d perhaps had a seizure—I found myself feeling gratitude that it wasn’t me. There were only six people left in the waiting room with me at this point…most had been taken back to see a doctor or nurse. Many of them had also left after their consultation. Most appeared to be in good spirits; I could only assume that that means they were going to be alright.

3:04 AM

A Mapleton ambulance pulled up without sporting its lights; no true emergency then. The pain had not returned in awhile so I made the decision to leave—despite the Nicholas Cage / Sean Connery movie which I’d been listening to offhandedly for the past hour.

I drove home.

The pain did happen a few more times.

I arrived home and went up to my room, feeling more tired than ever. I dropped onto my bed and was soon asleep—hoping to still be alive when I awakened.

It wasn’t until afternoon the next day that I figured out what had ailed me: gastro esophageal chest pain.

In a word: heartburn.

The remedy: A large, soft-serve cone from Macey's and two Omeprazole.

Prognosis: I am going to live.
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