Friday, September 28, 2007

Cause for Concern

I admit it...I'm somewhat spoiled when it comes to the health of my children. Outside of the usual childhood ailments and occassional bouts of winter-induced asthma, my kids are as healthy as can be. Having suffered most of my childhood from one ailment or another (some serious), I was always concerned that my progeny would inherit the weaknesses of my youth. This is not the case, so as I said, where their health is concerned, I've been somewhat spoiled.

My idyll was shattered this week when my youngest, who had complained of a mild sore throat for some time, called from school to say her throat was very sore and her ear hurt when she swallowed. A throat culture at the doctor's office the next day came back negative for strep. A diagnosis was offered that the sore throat was probably brought on by seasonal allergies, with medications for same duly prescribed.

Here's where it gets ugly. Not only did my daughter not respond to the medication, her condition dramatically worsened in the next 12 hours. Her throat was raw and every swallow brought a stab of pain that brought tears to her eyes. She couldn't talk, couldn't eat, couldn't sleep from the pain. All she could do was roll herself into a ball and whimper like a frightened pup. Nothing unglues a parent like watching helplessly as their children suffer. Having basked luxuriously in the glow of healthy children for 27 years, this came as a nasty shock and I was frantic.

Another round of telephone calls had me running to a lab for a series of blood work. The preliminary results came back within a matter of hours, indicating an elevated white blood cell count, indicative of infection. Another prescription for an antibiotic to address this new information. Several more hours of watching helplessly as my child writhed and cried out in pain, hoping and praying that, this time, the medication would work.

Nothing commands your all-consuming focus like bringing your child through a rough illness. Nothing, I repeat, NOTHING is as important as that child's comfort and well-being. I went nowhere, I spoke to no one, I did no housework, no school work, nothing but dispense medication, record body temperature, monitor any improvements in her condition and sit by my child to comfort her. This is what she needed. This is what she wanted. This is what she got. End of story - no questions asked. As we say in Spanish, punto y fin.

Thankfully, she turned a corner within 24 hours of taking the antibiotic and was feeling well enough to eat, something she hadn't done for most of the previous 48 hours because of the intense pain in her throat and ear. She now appears to be heading for a new Guiness Record in the eating binge category. I never thought I would be grateful to hear her squabbling with her brother over rights to the television remote control or watch her playing on the computer. It's those little things that say life is back to normal.

Of the blessings I've been granted in this life, healthy kids tops the list. This reality check did not go unnoticed. Thank you, God. I hear you loud and clear.

Ballo ergo sum,
Always and All Ways,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Mission Accomplished

In an earlier post, I talked about my excitement over having landed my first custom order client for my nascent handmade greeting cards business. Let's call that the honeymoon phase. Everyone knows what comes after the honeymoon...real life. Having been paid in full, I now had to deliver the goods. Simple, I thought, until I actually sat down to do it. That's when real life reared its head. Why is it that things take so much longer to do than you think they will? And why is it that the materials that were once so plentiful seem to mysteriously dry up at the most inopportune moment? And why...oh yeah, I forgot about Murphy's Law. Who the heck is Murphy and who made him a legislator anyway?

When I entered the world of small business, I found out the hard way that stuff happens precisely when you don't want it to and you have no choice but to figure it out on the fly. I discovered that my particular shade of gold cardstock was nowhere to be found but in a small variety package with several other colors. In order to purchase enough to complete the project, I would have to buy six or seven packages. And to top it off, the client wanted matching envelopes. But wait... I found a supplier with a million colors of cardstock who is sure to have my shade of gold and there's a two day turnaround time on orders. Great...except the catalog with the color chips from which I must order takes nearly two weeks to arrive. And NO, they DON'T have matching envelopes. Then the printer runs out of ink in the middle of running the graphic motif for the order. And I couldn't find a supplier for the gold-edged paper I use inside the cards...and on and on. What began as a pleasant diversion turned into an onerous task.

Among the changes I had to make in order to complete the order were: choose a similar color cardstock with matching envelopes, develop a relationship with a printer to cut and score cardstock for me to free me from doing it by hand, juggle print cartridges between two printers until replacements arrived, and cut paper and apply gold leaf paint to the edges by hand. Now add to this scenario "drop everything at a moment's notice to deal with family issues" and you get an idea of the juggling act I had to pull. Oh yeah, did I mention I'm also a graduate student?

In spite of the hurdles, I successfully completed and delivered my first order a few days ago and it was a great feeling. I learned a lot in the process and realize I still have much to learn. If nothing else, I learned that when the next set of hurdles comes my way, I'd better have my track shoes on because I plan to stay in this race.

Here's a picture of the final card.

Ballo ergo sum,
Always and all ways,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The First Signs of Autumn

Labor Day weekend was remarkable for two reasons: 1) It was quiet. My usually festive and very LOUD Caribbean neighbors were NOT having a party or a barbecue so there was none of the requisite soca, reggae and house music blasting at triple digit decibel levels, and 2) I picked the first apples of the season from my tree. This crop ripened a little earlier than in previous years and a bountiful crop it is.

My apples are organic. While in some circles that means wholesome, natural and without chemical pesticides, in my backyard, more often than not, that translates into insect-ridden and bird-pecked. The tree is just too darned big to be effectively sprayed against insect pests. As for the birds, you can see from my photos that I have a healthy parrot population enjoying the literal fruits of my labor. Between the bugs and the birds, I lose more apples than I'm able to harvest. Nevertheless I love my apple tree.

In spite of the rather large losses I incur every apple season, I manage to save enough to merit a decent pie or two and more than a few apple empanadas (apples in a dough crust, deep-fried, glazed, then dusted with confectioner's sugar. YUM!). This year's batch even yielded some that were good enough to eat out of hand. Although I wait patiently all summer for this moment to arrive, I greet it with a melancholy grin and a small sigh of resignation. Ripe apples are the harbingers of autumn and are as sure a sign of summer's end as the waning daylight. It's downhill to the holidays from here, which seem to come earlier and earlier each year, thanks to guerilla marketing tactics.

I can't stop the relentless march of the seasons but facing it becomes a whole lot easier with a slice of hot apple pie.

Ballo ergo sum,
Always and All Ways,
- Gitana