Long Days and Short Years

just trying to pay attention so I don't miss my life

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Road Trip

It was one of those nights that you know will be short-lived.  The car was packed and the alarm set for 4:30 (a.m., we thought at the time).  Toiletries, cooler, bike, peaches, coffee–the list for the groggy morningtime.  Leaving Charlotte early should get us into New Orleans by dinnertime, right?

I would have gotten much more sleep if I hadn’t woken up every hour.  But I did, with no external cause to blame.  I was just tense.  We were about to drive 12 hours with two preschoolers and worry was running my brain on overdrive.  Deep breaths, pray, it-will-all-be-okay… but my muscles weren’t getting the message. 2 a.m…. 3, 4… 5:05 a.m.?  Wait a second, what happened to the alarm?

(That afternoon it went off in southern Alabama and we laughed.)

All was well… toiletries, cooler, bike, peaches, coffee… sleeping children extracted from their beds… and by 5:45 we were on the road.  I-85 south, our home for the next 500 miles.  500 miles?  Deep breath.

There was some whining, some complaining, some ad nasuem “is this New Orleans?” from our oldest (no honey, this is a rest stop in Georgia) and  occasional “I want to go home” cries from our youngest (yeah, not likely).  We kept driving.  Why did they always announce their bathroom needs right after we passed the nice wooded rest stop?  We tiptoed through truck stop potties (don’t touch that! or that! just let me carry you), and kept driving.  We ate Doritos and I tried not to look at the ingredient list.  We put on a kid CD and listened to Wheels on the Bus twenty-six times in a row.  We kept driving.

In the end I think that it was the boredom that saved us.  Eventually, somewhere around Montgomery we just settled into it, accepted it, looked out the window.  I stopped trying so hard.  Cute husband made up a game about a monster that was named after a strange-sounding city we passed.  We kept driving.  Our oldest stuck playdough creations to the window, our youngest napped.  The tension left my body as we drove and drove and drove.

When we reached the Mississippi coast we decided to leave the highway and find the ocean.  We tried and failed, got back on the highway, tried again.  And there it was.  Endless water, endless sky, at the end of the (almost) endless highway.  Everything was okay.

It has been a long time since I’ve been on a long road trip.  Grown-up demands on my time and the presence of babies has made flying far more convenient.  But I tell you, there’s a difference.  It’s just different to be plopped down in a different world three hours after you left your own.  It’s just different to know, to viscerally know, that expanse of road that connects one far away place to another.  It’s different, and it’s good.

I had almost forgotten.


Do the Math

Pets are a little like cars… at least financially.

They either cost little-to-nothing (some gas, some food) or they cost your right arm and three toes from your left foot.  That would be the price of car repairs and vet bills.

It’s not that car mechanics and veterinarians/vet techs don’t deserve to get paid a fair wage for all the good work they do.  I’m all for specialized, supportive services–thank you for knowing how to fix my Nissan or my feline friend.  It’s just that I don’t budget for these things that may-or-may-not-happen-at-any-given-moment.  Yes, I know that we should have some kind of pet and car emergency funds, and put money aside every month and then we wouldn’t get caught by the surprises and that would be the responsible thing to do…

I’m starting to hear Charlie Brown’s mother talking.  Wa, wa, wa, waaaa…

About two weeks ago, our small, needy tiger strip-ed cat was bit during a neighborhood cat brawl.  Again.  And the bite swelled up into an abscess.  Again.  And we remembered how much it cost last time at the vet–$150.

Keep that number in your mind.

So we decided to lance the abscess ourselves and then give him the rest of our youngest daughter’s ear infection antibiotic (which she was DONE with, okay?).  We even checked in with a friend who works in a vet office, and he said that it was okay but to be careful with the pus cause it (and I quote from his text) “can be some nasty bacteria.”

Store that information next to the $150 in your brain.

We (okay, mostly cute-husband, but I HELPED) lanced the abscess.  I will spare you the details, but lets just say that it was one of the grossest things I have ever seen… or smelled.  But remember our savings!

One pertinent detail:  It was a long process and I really did clean my hands often.  With lots of soap.  But one time, just one time, maybe after the fourth or fifth round of catch-the-cat-and-squeeze-out-some-more-pus, I have a vague memory of brushing hair away from my face and accidentally touching my eye in the process.  Then I washed my hands and got back in the game.  Really, I hardly touched it.

The next day my contact was bothering me.  Darn contacts.  They cost about $30 a pair and I had just changed them.  But after a day of rubbing and red eyes, I threw them out, remembering that quick eye brush.  A few days later I put in new contacts, but after a day, same problem.  Darn.  Another $30 down the drain.  Glasses for a WHOLE WEEK and everything seemed better.

I put contacts in again.  Wednesday came.  I was in a coffee shop working on my sermon about thankfulness, but I wasn’t feeling very thankful because my right eye was killing me.  It was hard to look at the computer screen but I was paying for babysitting and Sunday was coming but boy-oh-boy did my eye hurt.

By lunchtime I had given up.  I took out the contacts.  I called my husband.  “Honey,” I said sweetly, “please take me to urgent care before my right eye falls out.”

The urgent care doctor didn’t know what to do.  “I can prescribe antibiotics,” she said, “but it would be better if you saw your ophthalmologist.  As soon as possible.”

We drove straight there.  I covered my eye from the sunlight and moaned.  They took me as an “emergency visit” and my ophthalmologist gave me numbing drops(I love numbing drops).  She looked in my eye.  “Wow.”  She was clearly impressed.  “Your cornea is all torn up. And I don’t even recognize that bacteria, but it looks like a Petri dish in there.”

A Petri dish in my eye.  Great.

She prescribed an especially strong antibiotic and told me to throw the contacts away.  For those of you who are keeping track, the antibiotic cost $20, and the two visits were $10 each.


Three pairs of contacts ($90) plus 3 lost hours of babysitting ($21) plus two co-pays ($20) plus the antibiotic ($20)=$141.  Savings from do-it-yourself cat surgery=$150.

BUT… the opportunity to squeeze out pus from your cat’s back and hear the ophthalmologist say the words “Petri dish”?  Priceless.