Archive | July, 2020

Faith

28 Jul

Lucas Cuartas was in one of my fourth grade classes in Medellín, Colombia. I think it was in 1992-93 school year, because Pablo Escobar was still on the run and times were crazy.  There were police searches, car bombs and assassinations by vigilantes, and paramilitaries on all sides.

Lucas Cuartas was absent one day. The Columbus School was a private school for wealthy families, and kids were rarely absent, so Lucas’ absence was notable. It wasn’t until someone official arrived – the counselor, our principal, I don’t remember who – arrived at our door that I knew his absence was extraordinary. Miss Vicky, the religion teacher, might have been there too.

My small class of 20ish students sat silently as they were told that Lucas and his family had gone out for pizza the night before. As they drove past a police roundabout, a bomb went off, blowing the roundabout to bits. The car was sent rolling. Lucas had a broken arm, but his mom was in very serious condition.

When I was in teacher’s college, no one prepared us to share this sort of tragic news with our class. Maybe they do now, but in Medellín, Colombia, though it was not an everyday experience, few families or classes had been untouched by the violence of that city and country in that particular period. In the class next door, a girl disappeared from one day to the next after her father had been found, assassinated and dumped in a hole by right wing vigilantes who felt they had proof that he worked for Pablo Escobar. Rumor had it that the girl’s mother had taken the remainder of her family and fled to Argentina.

But there were my fourth graders, facing their own tragedy that touched on our classroom family. I think there was a call for questions, I don’t really remember. I do remember, though that a sweet girl named veronica raised her hand.

“Can we pray for Lucas and his family?” was her simple question.

Chairs scraped on linoleum as every kid in my class, including the one Jewish student we had in a room full of Catholics, knelt on the floor to pray.

A few days later, I went with my principal to a mass for Lucas’ mom, who wasn’t doing well. She recovered some weeks later. Lucas returned to school in a cast, but my class felt so much closer than we had before.

I think often about the contrast between the formality of the mass and the simplicity of the prayers of my class. I don’t know if one had more impact on the outcome of the Cuartas family’s tragedy than the other. But I am still awed by the power I felt in that classroom as my students prayed. There is a verse from Hebrew that says that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” That classroom was filled with faith, hope and love for others. If we all had the conviction of those fourth graders and followed the guidelines and safety protocols public health officials keep repeating to keep ourselves and others safe, we will be able to go back to normal, sooner, rather than later. I have faith in that.

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Feeding the Beast

21 Jul

Thank you for bringing Lucy in today. She is such a sweet old girl! She has a severe moist dermatitis infection on her ventral chest area and is very itchy….

So began last week’s report from the vet.

Lucy came home with two types of pills and a shaved chest. After the first round of medication, she was already scratching less. And she slept better.

And then the side effects set in.

The antibiotic she is on, Cephalexin, has a list of possible side effects

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Panting
  • Drooling
  • Hyperexcitability
  • Skin rashes

 

She vomited twice. Her appetite is off and as each meal rolls around, I have to get creative.

Each meal starts with two bits of naan, each spread with peanut butter, then rolled up to conceal the meds I have hidden inside. Knock on wood, but, so far, these have been well received. Her bowl of food is a different matter. When she first turned up her nose at her bowl of kibble, she deigned to eat it when I sprinkled small bits of turkey jerky on top. I usually reserve the jerky for positive reinforcement on walks, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

After a few doses of the meds, she turned away from her food, so I tried chicken and rice. It worked for one meal. I tried sprinkling probiotics on top. One day, I got a spoonful of peanut butter and scooped some onto individual kibbles in the hopes it would encourage her to eat. It did not. Today, when she turned up her nose at my offerings, I looked in the fridge, grabbed the bag of shredded carrot and sprinkled some on top. Success!

She has three more days of Cephalexin. I am hopeful that I have enough food toppers in the fridge to get her through.

Lucy Turns 14

 

Senioritis

14 Jul

Lucy hasn’t been sleeping well. As a result, I have not been sleeping well.

Truth be told, my anxieties over the discussions around returning to in person school have also disrupted my sleep. My sleep disruption has impacted her sleep habits, but her issues are more than a reaction to mine.

A few nights ago, she had a really bad night. She woke up around 11:00 and started pacing. Oh, how I wished for wall-to-wall carpeting, because the sound of her toenails on the hardwood floors woke me up – and kept me awake until 3:00. It wasn’t just the midnight pacing – there was panting and staring into space. When she stilled, she didn’t lay down. She scratched, panted, started, then started up suddenly returning to the pacing There were sudden starts and more pacing. She crawled under the bed. I took her out for a couple of potty breaks. I gave her a very early breakfast. And I started thinking about canine cognitive dysfunction: doggie dementia.

She was better the next morning. I was exhausted, but she slept the day away in her usual, 14-year-old way. Since that day, I have been watching her carefully, keeping a list of all the behavioral changes that have happened over the last few months. She’s been itchy and, despite two baths with the medicated shampoo she got last summer, she is still itchy. Maybe that’s a part of the problem.We have a vet appointment later this week. I am hopeful and a little worried.

Lucy Turns 14

 

 

The weird way I am dealing with my back- to-school anxiety

11 Jul

I am not an anxious person, but as the details of my school district’s opening plan evolves, I have an unfamiliar feeling in my chest that I can only call anxiety. I am trying to deal with it by thinking back to times when I have felt this anxious and, despite living in Medellín Colombia from 1991-1994, I have nothing that compares.

What has been helpful, though has been thinking about my years in Colombia. It was the height of the drug war. Pablo Escobar had escaped from prison and there was a nationwide manhunt. FARC rebels were attacking police. Vigilantes were attacking narcotraficantes.  And yet, I only have two recollections of times I felt anxious there.

The first is at the end of my second year, when I had to change houses. I was struggling to find a house in Envigado where I could still employ my maid, Teresita, and have my dog. It ended well and I loved the traditional house that I found. It had thick white stucco walls and a floor with alternating yellow and green tile. The two barred windows at the front had wooden shutters that opened from the inside. There were two interior patios that had openings in the roof. In winter, when it rained, I loved the sound of the rain falling into the patio. My anxiety of looking for this house has been almost erased by my joy at finding it.

The second time I felt anxious, was in my second year. It was a particularly trying time in Colombia. In a country with the highest rate of murders and kidnappings in the world, it was hard to believe things could escalate, but they did, and it impacted us at school. The murder by vigilantes of the father of a girl in the class next to mine was bad enough. But then, on a family evening out for pizza, a boy in my class was affected. As the family car drove past a police roundabout, rebels detonated a bomb in the police station. The family’s car flipped. Lucas, my student, suffered a broken arm. His mother was taken to hospital and was in serious condition. When the principal and counselor came to talk to my class, I got tears in my eyes when a sweet girl named Veronica asked if we could pray. I had to wipe the tears away as each and every student got out of their chair and knelt in prayer for Lucas, his mother, and their family. We all felt like we were part of their family. A few days, when things took a turn for the worse,  we all attended a mass to pray for his mother’s recovery. Fortunately, she recovered and this horrible tragedy helped bring this class together in a deeper way.

So, all of this has me thinking about finding joy. Every day in isolation, I make myself do four things: exercise, read, write, knit. I think I am going to start writing the joyful stories I have from my years in Medellín. I might even post some of them here.

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Going Grey

7 Jul

I noticed my first grey hairs in the 90s, while I was working in Medellin, Colombia. A student named Felipe pointed them out to me and I told him they were all named after him. He thought that was pretty funny and told his mother, who was horrified, but laughed. Felipe was that kind of kid.

The really funny thing is that the conversation with his mother almost certainly took place in Spanish, but I remember it in English.

A few years after leaving Colombia – and more grey had appeared –  I was getting my hair cut and the woman in the chair next to me asked,”Is that your natural color, or are those highlights?”.

I told her it was and she replied,” You are really lucky.”

Since then, I have embraced the grey. That conversation helped me with its acceptance. I have watched family and friends both go grey and fight the grey. My mother spent years in a deep relationship with Lady Grecian Formula, stemming the grey tide, before finally embracing the inevitable. And she wore her grey well. My brother – who, like me, has my mother’s hair – has gone completely grey.

At my last haircut, on March 16th, my stylist cut my hair exceptionally short. I think she was anticipating the closure of salons. I am now at the point where I am thinking about getting my hair cut again. But I am also thinking about how ready I am for my hair to go completely grey.

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