Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Friend in Two Personas

Two years ago (as faithful readers of this blog may recall), wheelchair problems prevented us from venturing into Boston. Once the chairs were repaired, however, John and I ended our exile, and once again rolled onto the Commons, soaking in all the charm of the city. One of the Freedom Trail guides (whom we'd often seen, but had never spoken to) rushed over to us, smiling broadly. "Where have you been?" he asked. "I've been worried about you!"

So evidently, we'd become, at least in his eyes, a fixture in Downtown Boston. Humph! Actually, that's kind of cool, don't you think?

So, we'd chat with him on occasion, learning that he conducted his tours portraying James Otis, Jr. (who famously said, "Taxation without representation is tyranny!"). When we'd see him, we'd actually address him as Mr. Otis.

Finally, we took his Boston Town Crier walking tour. You can read about that wonderful experience in my blog post, Kidnapped! In fact, please do read it, just to get a little more back-story to this narrative (and, if you ever visit Boston, to know which tour you really need to take). After the tour, we chatted a bit with Mr. Otis, as he gave us pointers on other Boston attractions.

During the summer of 2009, we saw Mr. Otis now and again. It was always a delight, especially as I watched his growing regard for John. Last August, I was looking at the Boston Town Crier website, which (at the time) linked to his professional acting website and included his real name and email address. No, I won't divulge either here, since the link has been removed. But I did send an email, and suddenly the friendship moved into the 21st Century.

Our friend spends his winters in Southern California, but we had sporadic contact on Facebook and through email. When tours resumed in April, however, he wasn't there. We'd ask the other guides about him, and they kept saying "He's coming next week," or "He'll be here in May." About mid-May, he posted on Facebook that he'd landed some small jobs in California.

In June, we stopped by the Boston Common Visitors Center, and a young man in 18th Century garb introduced himself as our friend's son. He explained that, until his dad could return in July, he'd be doing the tour, portraying Samuel Gray, a rope maker who was killed in the Boston Massacre. He's as nice as his dad, though much more shy.

In late July, we saw "Mr. Otis" briefly, as he rested before having to sell tickets for his tour (now that he's back, he and his son take turns conducting tours). It was good seeing him, and he extended an open invitation to pick up one of his tours at any point.

So last Friday, we joined his group at the Old South Meeting House, and "walked" with them to Spring Street. After he did his talk there, he told John that he was about to embarrass us. Then he said loudly to his group, "These are my friends, John and DebbieLynne, who are celebrating their eighth wedding anniversary!"

At Fanueil Hall, just before I promised to embarrass him back (the true purpose of this blog post), one of the people in his tour was kind enough to take this photo:

So, my 18th and 21st Century friend, although you may be embarrassed, I hope you know that John and I appreciate you! See you soon, Lord willing.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Anniversary in 18th Century France and the Italian Renaissance

After an exceptionally (and, from my perspective, delightfully) dry summer, it's been raining steadily since Sunday. Not very conducive to celebrating our eighth wedding anniversary this past Tuesday. Or so I thought! My romantic husband, fondly remembering our first face-to-face date at  The Museum of Fine Arts back in 1999, decided an afternoon of art history would be the perfect celebration.

He was right! I've been in the 21st Century all summer, despite all our Boston Adventures, and I needed a vacation to centuries past. Since the Freedom Trail was water-logged, the museum became an excellent portal for time travel!

As soon as we entered the museum, we spotted an exhibit of Musical Instruments. Although I usually shy away from the ornate, the 18th Century French harpsichord totally enthralled me. The exquisite soundboard and the leg decorations are original to the 1736 piece, while the side casing was redecorated in the next century.

Isn't it breathtaking? The man guarding this exhibit kindly took a photo of me and John in front of it.

After a delightful conversation with him, we went upstairs to see Italian Renaissance Art. I very much wanted to see a relief sculpture by Donatello, whom I'd studied in college. As if I had some sort of honing device built into my brain, I found his Madonna of the Clouds immediately!

Visiting 15th Century Florence was comfortable for me, since I'd had two semesters of Italian Renaissance art history in college. My professor always told us that seeing slides and text-book photos of the great works paled in comparison to seeing the works themselves. How absolutely right he was! And how reassuring to see a piece of art that I've known since those days in his classroom.

From that gallery, we made our way to the Renaissance paintings. But they reside in a big room that reminds me of a great hall in a European castle, so we decided to break for lunch at The Galleria (scroll  down on the linked page to the second dining venue). We had the three-cheese plate, and peach cobbler for dessert, which seemed to us to be a romantic, Parisian meal.

Thus satisfied, we returned upstairs to the Renaissance art gallery. There were many paintings we really should have photographed (John gave me a year's membership at the museum as an anniversary gift, though, so we'll go back),  but one painting that intrigued John was Luca Giordano's The Communion of the Apostles.

I'd never been exposed to Neapolitan painting before, but the play of light and dark reminds me of Baroque painting. (Maybe if I hadn't cut so many classes when I took Baroque...) It's certainly different from better known depictions of the Last Supper, and I'm still deciding if I like the less formal positioning of the Apostles. It's an interesting interpretation.

My more orderly mind preferred Fra Carnevale's The Presentation of the Virgin at the Temple. The obvious study of perspective delighted me.

Yes, I was horrified by the pagan gods adorning the temple's columns. No Jewish temple would tolerate such profanity in reality. But, as I recall my first semester of college, the class I took was subtitled "The Sacred and the Profane," so I suppose this painting epitomizes the spirit of the Renaissance.

By then, it was getting late, and the RIDE paratransit van would be coming soon. We whisked through the 18th Century French gallery, where Marie Louise Elizabeth Vigee-Le Braun's Portrait of a Young Woman arrested my attention.

Ironic, don't you think, that we began and concluded our anniversary celebration in 18th Century France? I wonder what centuries and places we'll visit during our ninth year of marriage. I have no doubt that my husband will make sure they're all romantic!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Looking Back to the Anticipation

June 22, 2001 was a nicer day than predicted. The forecast thunderstorms that caused John to reschedule our harbor cruise on The Spirit of Boston never happened. But John had decided, cruise or no cruise, that was the day he'd change our relationship.

As we sat on the pier at the supposed site of The Boston Tea Party., he opened a new bag of Famous Amos Chocolate Chip cookies. I accepted the first cookie he offered me. When he offered a second, however, I declined. We'd be eating lunch soon, I thought, and anyway, I was afraid of dribbling chocolate on my clothes.

He said, "Oh, then I guess you don't want this." And, from the cookie bag, he drew a small gray velvet box. He opened it to reveal a ring with five small diamonds in a row, and asked, "DebbieLynne, will you make me the happiest man in the world by becoming my wife?"

Well, tomorrow we'll celebrate our eighth wedding anniversary...because I said "Yes." And I'm so glad I did!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Hospitals and Happy Endings

Sometimes, a writer can be tempted to omit certain parts of a story for the sake of dramatic effect. Or, as in the case of my recent hospitalization, for the sake of vindication. But Christ's teachings demand integrity, even if such integrity may weaken the force of the story. Consequently, the time has come for me to write an update on the hospital story, perhaps exonerating the hospital more than I'd like.

The morning after my discharge from the hospital, an outside agency called to ask about my experience. As you can probably imagine (particularly those of you who actually know me), I gave them quite an earful regarding the discharge and the fiasco with the Hoyer Lift. I told the woman that the incompetence was inexcusable, and that I didn't want to return to that hospital. Furthermore, I said, I believed the hospital owed me an apology.

A couple days later, the Director of Nursing from the hospital telephoned, expressing her dismay that I didn't want to return to that facility. Again, we narrated the account of the discharge, emphasizing our feelings of disturbance that four nurses had no clue how to operate a Hoyer Lift, and that the fifth nurse they brought in (because she professed to know about the apparatus) was just as confused as to  how it worked. The Director of nursing stated that they had been trained to use the Lift, but she could see by our narration that any training they might have been given had no effect.

She also asked about the rough treatment I had received the night before my discharge, so I gave her the name of the abusive CNA. She recognized the name instantly, and said she would speak with her. Then she gave me her pager number, instructing me to have her paged if I'm ever admitted again. She assured me that she will personally make sure I'm not mistreated again.

That conversation made us willing to give the hospital one more chance. And it indeed would be more convenient to continue there. First of all, my primary care physician (an affiliate of that hospital) has her office in wheeling distance of our apartment. Secondly, the hospital is on the main bus line, making it easy for John to get in to visit me. So, having the Director of Nursing's name and pager number does give us a measure of confidence.

A few days later, the president of the hospital sent a letter of apology, stating that there would be an internal investigation into my experience. I already knew of two external investigations, which I figured would favor me more than their external one.

But yesterday I received another letter from the hospital. They again apologized, and informed me that, after speaking with all the parties involved in my complaint, they concluded that those parties require education, reeducation and improvement in communication skills so that they can serve all their patients better! I believe I got much more than simply the apology I'd originally requested. I'm more than satisfied! So yes, I'll remain with my primary care doctor, and I'll go back to that hospital if I need treatment.

Maybe adding this post doesn't decrease the dramatic effect of my story after all.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Beach House on Commonwealth Ave

Sometimes,  chronicling an entire "Boston Adventure" can be a bit unwieldy. Sister Nicholas, my favorite professor in college, used to instruct her students: "Write a lot about a little." So, although John and I did several different things in the city yesterday, I'd like to narrow my focus to one small slice of the day.

We had started up Newbury Street, looking for a place that might sell desserts. I wasn't really keen on the idea, figuring anything we could find there would be well beyond our budget. So we turned right on Berkeley Street and then right again on Commonwealth Ave. Commonwealth Ave is a well-to-do neighborhood, with beautiful (though not wheelchair accessible) houses that I could only dream of owning! John happily photographed front gardens, which indeed are splendid!

We continued wheeling toward the Public Garden, still admiring the stately homes, when we noticed a plaque on one of them. Not surprisingly, the history-lover in me perked up as we wondered  who the lady on the relief was.

We tried to get closer, so we could read the inscription, but obviously we couldn't go up the stairs for a better look. My husband, sure that I would track down information on this house's former resident, used his zoom lens to take a high definition picture of the plaque so that I'd be able to read it once he uploaded it to my computer.

Guess he needn't have bothered, because just after he snapped the picture, a gentleman bounded up the steps. "Excuse me sir," John said, "but could you read that plaque for us?"

The man looked at us, not the plaque, and told us the woman it depicted was Amy Beach. Not only had she been the first woman to join the Boston Symphony Orchestra, but she was the first American woman to compose a symphony. In 1885, when she married Henry Beach (a prominent physician), her father-in-law gave them the house as a wedding gift. (Sure trumps the wedding gifts John and I got.)

As we wheeled toward the Public Garden, I thought about how delightful Boston is, with history every place I turn. Even when I'm only looking for dessert.  

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Standing (In My Wheelchair)

A few years ago, a Christian criticized my blog for being too offensive with the Gospel. That's her prerogative, I guess, and she doesn't have to read my posts. But neither do I have to adjust the teachings of Scripture to make them palatable. The Old Testament prophets didn't bow to pressure by softening God's Word, even when kings imprisoned them for their messages. Jesus, God incarnate, said many things that caused the political elite of His day to crucify Him. And, of the Twelve Apostles, only John died a natural death (while exiled), while the others died martyr's deaths for proclaiming that Jesus is Lord.

In present day America, tolerance for biblical Christianity is dwindling. Especially as politicians seek to "protect" the interests of the homosexual activists (who thwart attempts to offer freedom from homosexuality to those who truly want it). I'm saddened that our country, although built on Christian principles, now exerts such blatant animosity toward the Bible. Religion and spirituality are perfectly fine, apparently, but no one wants to hear that Jesus is the only way to heaven. And please, go easy on that repentance stuff! In short, Jesus' authority as Lord has been rejected!

Except...well....He's my Lord. That means I'm ruled by Him, subject to everything Scripture teaches. And included in Scripture is taking a bold stand for Him. Not bashing people with the Bible every chance I get, but sharing the truth at appropriate times, even when doing so is politically incorrect. And, as America turns from Jesus with increasing force and speed, I need to stand firm in my commitment to Him. 

Jonny Diaz sums it up perfectly, as you'll see in this video:

Monday, August 16, 2010

Why Did You Get Me Out Of Bed?

Just yesterday, I spoke with a friend who had recently needed to be on crutches (she had fallen and injured her ankle). She remarked that the experience has given her a deeper appreciation for people with mobility disabilities. "There were so many things I took for granted," she confessed, "like walking across the room to get a drink of water."

Those words ring in my ears today because, even though I've been a quadriplegic from Cerebral Palsy since birth, I still take things for granted. Such as getting out of bed each morning.

Even when my Personal Care Attendant called in sick today, I just presumed that God would provide someone to fill in for her. I didn't stop to pray. John just plunged in to making calls, only to talk to people's voice mail. As my smug feelings of security wavered, I wondered, "Where are all these people who ask the Lord how He wants to use them today?"

Immediately, I confronted the truth that I had neither acknowledged my dependence on Him to provide someone to get me up, nor had I asked Him to use me in His service today. My concern had been on getting my own needs met rather than on what His purposes for me might be. Others should make themselves available to serve Him by getting me out of bed, but I lost sight of the responsibility I have towards Him and towards  people. Obviously, an attitude adjustment was necessary. As John kept dialing phone numbers, I humbled myself before the Lord.

After lots of calling, a dear friend from church rearranged her schedule in order to help me. She made some significant sacrifices, but I know this woman well enough to know she gives herself to the Lord and does what she believes He wants her to do. And yes, I appreciate her!

Once I was up, fed and dressed, my friend left to help her husband. I thought about the day before me, and the agenda I had planned. Then I thought of the Lord's faithfulness in providing my friend to assist me, and about her willingness to set her plans aside for Him. God didn't work all that out just so I could stream movies or play computer games. No...He got me up, as He does every morning, so I can write and draw for Him.

And maybe all of us should stop taking the freedom to get out of bed for granted. How does He want you to serve Him today?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Unexpected Boston

Yesterday, I had plans for things to do at home, but John decided I'd been away from Boston too long. So we got on a bus, and the day I had anticipated vanished.

We did many of our usual things in Boston, but we had two surprises. While wheeling through the Common, we saw two young women playing Scrabble. I've seen people playing chess in public, but Scrabble is a bit out-of-the-ordinary. And intriguing. And John couldn't resist striking up a conversation, especially when he saw their Diamond Anniversary Edition Scrabble set! Of  course, he took their picture:

We had a pleasant chat with them, and then meandered to Quincy Market for Fish and Chips, followed by my customary cannoli. Nothing new about that, nor about the  crowds of tourists. After all, school starts soon, so people are finishing summer vacations.

As we headed back to South Station, we had our second unexpected surprise. A seagull, evidently unable to fly due to a wounded wing, had discovered a bag of fast food...or so he thought! Watch his frustration as his expectations are thwarted and he finds only trash!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

How Many Nurses Does It Take...

On Friday, July 30, I was admitted to the hospital for pneumonia, though the physician assigned to my case seemed fixated on finding a bladder infection. She finally got the urine sample from me that she so coveted, and I think she felt vindicated that it was cloudy (which didn't surprise me since I hadn't been given much to drink all those hours in the Emergency Room). She cheerfully trotted the specimen off to the lab, giving me an IV antibiotic that would fight both the pneumonia and any bladder infection I might have.

The nurse decided my feet needed to be elevated that night. After a while, my left leg started hurting, as if every muscle in it was being twisted. I can't work call buttons, so I waited. The more I tried to shift my position, the worse the pain grew. I prayed for help, trying to encourage myself by thinking of the pain Jesus endured on the cross for my sin. But I couldn't stay that spiritual. Honestly, I'd never felt such intense pain, and relief became more important to me than maintaining a spiritual perspective.

At last, the 11:00 p.m. nurse came into my room, and removed the pillow. Ahh! The relief was instant and absolutely wonderful! Mind you, I still couldn't sleep; my room was blazing hot, and the open door let in light and sound. At 3:30 a.m., a man in the next room regaled the nursing staff with stories from his 40-some-odd years of marriage, and then sought their assistance to operate his TV remote. Why did he need to watch TV at 3:30 in the morning, anyway?

I was still awake when the phlebotomist came at 7:30 a.m. to draw blood. She realized fairly quickly that, because of my Cerebral Palsy, she really needed someone to hold my arm for her. Shortly after she left, the nurse came with my pills, changed my position, and turned on my TV. Much of the morning after that is a blur, except for the very kind CNA, the wretched breakfast food, the two phlebotomists who gossiped (half in English and half in Creole) and the joy of seeing John roll in a little before noon.

When the doctor came, she informed us that it would take another day to determine what type of bladder infection I had. She ignored my pneumonia. Didn't even listen to my lungs! I started wondering how the bladder infection caused the chest congestion that caused be to make the trip to the Emergency Room in the first place, but she didn't give me a chance to ask about that. Well, at least they were giving me Mucinex, which seemed to be helping.

An hour before John had to go home, a CNA came to change me. John politely got out of her way, but she demanded that he leave the room entirely. He explained that he's my husband. She insisted it wasn't "proper" for him to be there. (John later remarked that if he's never seen me undressed, we might need  to consider marriage counseling.) Finally, the other CNA convinced her to let him stay.

After they finished, John and I could hear the patient in the next room (the same man who had been so chatty at 3:30 a.m.) bellow: "You can't discharge me till you iron my shirt!" John literally doubled over in laughter, and I wondered if I was at a five-star hotel! Did he want his collar starched too?

A few hours later, after John had gone, the CNA came to change me again. She handled me roughly, I'm guessing in retaliation for John's lack of cooperation earlier. She grabbed my hip, which John had told her was dislocated since birth. I could feel the imprints of her fingers for almost 24 hours afterward. Praise the Lord, when I told the nurse about it, she assigned a different CNA to me.

I might have slept a total of 20 minutes that night. My room was very hot, and too brightly lit. But I talked to the Lord quite a bit about the fact that I was there to represent Him, even if I didn't have a chance to share much about Him. I reflected on my studies of 1 Peter 1, particularly the section about trials revealing the true character of our faith. I knew I needed to grow in that respect.

I was ready for the phlebotomist at 7:30 Sunday morning. At 9:00, my CNA fed me breakfast, and shortly  before 10 the nurse gave me my pills. At 10:00 a.m., my beloved husband arrived, joking that "for some reason" he'd decided to skip church. I was so happy to see him! I forgot about the phlebotomist, too engrossed in wondering if I could go home that day.

At some point after lunch the phlebotomist came, after my CNA announced that I'd be going home. Of course, I knew I really couldn't be discharged till my bloodwork was reviewed, so between 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. I was on an emotional teeter-totter. Finally, at 3:30 the doctor came in to say there was no bladder infection; my urine had been cloudy from not drinking enough! ARRGH!

John told the nurses that the para-transit would be picking us up at 5:00. They said I'd be ready. But at 5:00 I was still in bed, waiting to be transferred to my wheelchair. Then the nurses got serious, but it was too late...the para-transit had to leave without me. Four nurses made feeble attempts to get me into my chair, only to decide they needed the Hoyer Lift.

Trouble was: when they found the lift, they didn't know how to use it. At that point, I became a poor representative of Jesus, and started yelling. I was embarrassed that they'd caused us to miss our ride, and frustrated that five nurses  hadn't been trained to use a Hoyer Lift. The incompetence, frankly, was unacceptable!

It was almost 6:00 p.m. when we got to the bus stop. When a bus finally came after 6:30, it was crammed (probably with people returning from the Red Sox game), so the driver radioed for a bus to come get us. It took another 45 minutes, but the MBTA found a driver who had just finished his shift to come for us. An MBTA supervisor also came to make sure we were okay.

As we rolled into our apartment at 8:00, I marveled that the MBTA was more caring and competent than the hospital. Who would have guessed?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Sick Leave

This blog gained wonderful momentum this summer, and I looked forward to getting a good rhythm going. But a week ago yesterday, I landed in the hospital with pneumonia. Not exactly what I wanted to happen, mind you, as I'd looked forward to a "perfect" summer. But the Lord had blessed my summer beyond my hopes and expectations, so really even this illness doesn't disappoint me too badly.

I'm recovering well, my doctor says. I'm just very tired, so I'm trying not to exert myself much. Oh yes, I have lots of stuff to blog about, but not enough energy for typing. So, for now, the momentum must slow down. But I'll be around! I've only begun to write!


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