I Celebrated a Birthday, But Failed to Save a Life.

Have you ever taken a mouth-to-mouth resuscitation class? I took one for a babysitting badge when I was in Girl Scouts. I remember the plastic dummy and going through the routine while hoping to God I’d never have to use it. Flash forward a few decades.

On March 9th, I flew back to Wisconsin for my mom’s eighty-seventh birthday. My brother, Joe McCartan, ordered a cake and I picked up flowers. Mom was so surprised! Over dinner that night, she told us she planned to live a long time. For her one-hundredth birthday, she wants a stylist to dye a blue streak in her hair. I love her attitude.

My brother is the king of joking around. I couldn’t get a picture of him when he wasn’t mugging for the camera.  When I left Colorado it was seventy degrees. Check out the temperature on my brother’s iPad.

Two days later, Joe drove to the butcher to buy steaks to grill and went to a chiropractic appointment. In February, he slid on black ice and crashed his car into a telephone pole. It exacerbated an already sore back.

Later, the three of us watched the UW Badgers cream Northwestern by thirty points. Being a yawnfest, Joe texted on his phone. He’s a highly sought after, free-lance, on-location sound technician for major networks, television, movies and corporations. Very excited, he read the thread out loud. It regarded a commercial he had been hired to record. The company wanted to shoot tight shots of musicians playing the oboe, violin and cello. He had texted the high school music teacher, who had all kinds of ideas.

“The kids will love being in a commercial.” Joe was stoked.

“Sounds like you contacted the right person,” I said and yawned. “I think I’ll take a quick nap.” I walked upstairs to my room.

When I returned downstairs, Mom played Words with Friends in the kitchen while the steaks thawed in a pan. I had planned to walk the dog, but Joe had already left with Charlie. I opened my laptop and wrote my last post about daylight savings time. After dinner I thought it would be fun to play a game and take some group selfies.

Always pretty high energy, Joe burst through the door led by their Collie.

“I just missed you,” I said, looking up from my computer.

“Yep,” was all he said. Then he ran up the back stairs to his apartment behind my mom’s Victorian. I heard his footsteps overhead and then settled in to proof my stupid post.

He moved in a year before my dad passed away and has been taking care of Mom. He’s been a godsend, taking her to appointments, shopping and the little things, like setting the table for meals. He brings her tea and puts her eyedrops in before bed. My mom is super sharp, but has glaucoma and hasn’t been able to drive for years.

When Joe didn’t come downstairs, Mom said, “What’s taking him so long? We need to get the steaks on the grill.”

I shrugged and more time passed.

“Go check on Joe,” she said. “I don’t want to eat at 8:00.”

“Give him a few more minutes,” I said, knowing he liked his privacy.

A few more minutes passed and I ran upstairs.

I opened his door and peeked inside. “Hey, Joe!” I shouted. You have to walk through a kitchen to get to the large open, living and dining space.

“Joe! Time to make dinner,” I shouted through the doorway.

No response.

I stepped inside and saw him chilling in front of the computer. His arms relaxed on the armrests, his head was cocked backward and his mouth hung open.

“No wonder you didn’t hear me. You’re sound asleep.”

Still no response.

Something was wrong. “Joe! JOE!” I raced up to him and patted his pale cheeks.

No response.

“Oh, my God!” I felt for a pulse in his neck, but couldn’t find one. His lips were white. He wasn’t breathing. I screamed to my mom. She called 911, hysterical when the operator didn’t understand what was going on. I used my fingertips on his wrist and heard quick taps racing across the surface. Were they mine? 

Just like I’d been taught all those years ago, I started mouth-to-mouth and alternated with the CPR technique I’d learned on the Internet. One, two, three, four, staying alive, staying alive… I’m sure only minutes passed, but it seemed like an hour before the first responders arrived. They tried everything, but couldn’t get a pulse. Hope slipped away.

The paramedics came and hooked up a CPR machine and breathing tube. I went downstairs to check on my mom. Her friends, Kathy and Roger Roth, consoled her on the couch. Time passed. I ran back upstairs. “Did you get a pulse?”

“No, nothing,” one of the paramedics replied. I felt so guilty. I didn’t do it right. I could have saved him, but I failed! I couldn’t stop sobbing.

After answering tons of questions about his health, I went back downstairs. By that time, the funeral director, Bill Hurtley, and the priest from across the street, Fr. Dooley, had arrived. I got to know and love both of them when they took care of my dad’s funeral. Bill brought my mom back from her catatonic state with his dry humor.

Anxiety filled my empty stomach with broken glass. I turned to Bill for support. “I wrote a stupid blog post and didn’t come upstairs in time. I screwed up. I could’ve saved him.” Tears streamed down my cheeks.

He looked me in the eyes and said, “You found him relaxed in his chair, right?”

I nodded.

“There was nothing you could do. He threw a clot,” Bill said.

“What?”

“A blood clot. Believe me, I see a lot of dead people,” he said. “It’s what I do. Heart attacks are pretty uncomfortable. The victim has time to react, so we usually find them on the floor. Throwing a blood clot is painless. It happens to runners all the time. They go for a run and as soon as they sit in a chair, they die.”

“Why am I here if I couldn’t save him?” I asked.

“For your mother,” he said. “If she would have discovered him, it would’ve been a shock she would never have recovered from.” He took a moment and added, “Don’t blame yourself. Even if someone throws a clot in the hospital, no one can save them.”

An autopsy would have cost five to six thousand dollars. Bill insisted it would be a waste of money. Pulmonary embolism. It’s what people get from sitting too long on planes. Who knows where Joe got his clot. Surgery two years ago? The accident? Bumping into something and not telling anyone about it? We’ll never know. He wasn’t on blood thinners. I’m taking a baby aspirin now.

Alive and vibrant one minute and then gone the next. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it.

My little brother, who towered more than a foot over me, who did lotus position yoga with me when he was little for giggles, who I took to all kinds of concerts and events when I was in high school and college since I feared our almost ten year age difference would cause us to drift apart. My little brother who I loved dearly is dead at forty-nine years old. I was only a few steps away. How can that be?

He was a saxophone player in a band and was a local celebrity. He worked with people all across the United States. His Facebook and funeral home page are filled with heartfelt shock and condolences. We planned his funeral for March 25th at St. Paul’s Church across the street from their home in Evansville.

Being the writer in the family, I had to write his obituary. It was tough enough when I wrote my dad’s and felt tremendous pressure to do Joe’s life justice. His friend and co-worker, videographer Eric Janisch helped fill in the work details. You can read Joe’s obit here.

Two things I discovered on my own might help others.

  • I couldn’t get the image of him sitting in the chair out of my head. Every time I closed my eyes, I saw him. I must not have blinked the whole time I ran toward him. I stayed up all night. It was the same the next day as neighbors and relatives arrived. My husband, Danny, flew out that afternoon. As I drove toward the Dane County Airport I noticed some perfectly formed trees silhouetted in the snow. I picked one and stared at it as I drove toward it. I closed my eyes and saw the tree. It totally worked. That horrific last image of Joe disappeared, at least from my retinas.
  • Exhausted, I didn’t dare take a nap. Experiencing the shock all over again upon waking is the worst. In the past it has taken weeks for my brain to wrap itself around death. I wondered if saying it out loud to myself would speed up the process. I gave it a try. “Joe is dead. He died and you couldn’t save him. He’s not coming back.” I repeated it again before I picked up Danny and then twice before falling asleep. It worked.

Danny and I have lost half our families in two years; his bother and mom, my dad, then his mom’s boyfriend of fifteen years and now, my brother. It’s devastating to lose the people we love.

What about that quick tapping in Joe’s wrist? I hadn’t told anyone. Even though others shared the cause of death idea, I still wondered if it was instant as the funeral director and doctor claimed.

Days later, I remembered. “Make sure to lay your fingers across the wrist or you’ll feel your own pulse,” the instructor had told the Girl Scouts. I held my husband, Danny’s wrist in a different way. A strong slow pulse throbbed beneath his bones. No quick tapping on the surface. It had been mine I felt, not Joe’s.

There was nothing I could do. He had already passed.

How am I? Better. I’m grateful for the time we had together. Looking back, the timing of my visit seems serendipitous. I’ll embrace my grief and will remember him always.

Joe McCartan

Spring is emerging after a long winter dormancy. I see everything more intensely now and understand life’s fragility. Everyone will die. Life is impermanent. The trick is to live each day with appreciation and wonder.

In memory of my brother, I will start a nightly journal. I’ll list three positive things that happened during the day. He would’ve liked that.

What about my mom?

Many of her friends have offered to help. At this point, she won’t consider moving to Colorado with my brother and dad inurned in Madison. We’ll do whatever it takes to celebrate her one-hundredth birthday. I want to see her rock that blue streak.

The Girl on the Page

It’s World Poetry Day. Enjoy!

Susie Lindau's Wild Ride

054

Self portrait by S. Lindau 

The girl on the page was sullen.
She had so much to give
And so much to do.

She followed the whims of the author,
Who took her to task,
Forced her to go through,

The fantasies that surrounded
The world in her head;
The dreams that she knew.

But the girl planned a way to confound her.
She imbedded a thought
That created the truth.

She broke through the chains that confined her.
No longer was held
As the author’s keys fell.

So she took control of the author
And told her that she
Would rather be free.

To live her life out in the open
Where she could be heard.
For those understood

That her life could be what she wanted.
To live life and love
All those she thought of.

Her heart felt the first beat of living
She opened her mind

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This is a Courtesy Reminder

We interrupt your regular programming for a courtesy reminder.

It’s that time again.

BASE jumper on ledge of building

Time to take a flying LEAP!

We will leap ahead.

No, not that kind.

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Daylight Savings Time starts tomorrow! We’ll leap AHEAD and lose one hour. Dang. It causes tons of accidents, and suicides peak on Monday. But we gain an extra hour of daylight at night. Yay! Continue reading

My Crazy Mind and Eating Without Inhaling

My Crazy Mind and Eating Without Inhaling.What if there was a way to slow down and enjoy what we eat? I would love that. Sometimes, when I’m hungry, I inhale my food. I look at my empty plate and think, “When did that happen?”

You might have heard about mindful eating. It means savoring each bite by setting down your fork to chew your food and really taste it. That would be swell, but when I think about what I eat, it hardly deserves the time.

  • A piece of toast with coffee.
  • Granola, fruit and yogurt between 9:00 and 10:00.
  • A half sandwich and soup for lunch.
  • Something cooked quickly for dinner or leftovers. I love using the crock pot and made enough beef stew last night for a family of eight. 

So this morning, I ate a bowl of cereal – I have no idea what kind – and had an AHA moment.

This is how my crazy mind works. See if you can follow along…

I had been dinking around on Pinterest and they recommended several boards filled with everything French. One woman in a goofy pose reminded me of Me!

While on our two trips to France, I always looked forward to mealtimes and eating at sidewalk cafes and restaurants. Chefs use fresh ingredients, lots of butter, dairy without preservatives, and nothing GMO’d. Yum.

On my last trip to Los Angeles my son, Kelly, and I went to Aroma Coffee and Tea in Studio City, one of my favorite restaurants. It reminds me of France. It’s a converted home filled with windows. They have a breakfast salmon stack that is so delicious, my mouth waters while recalling its tastiness. The flavor explodes in my mouth. Their secret? A twist on an eggs Benedict built on two potato pancakes instead of a boring old English muffin. It is so good!

I never finish it and take half of it home. Why?

Because I savor every bite.

This photo is from Aroma Coffee and Tea’s Instagram account.

Aroma Coffee and Tea

I thought about French food and how rich it can be. Flavorful cheeses. Chocolate that melts in your mouth. Strong coffee. Savory dishes. When I eat grilled cheese, my taste buds snooze because I’m used to cheddar. A couple gulps and it’s gone. But if I made my sandwich with an unfamiliar cheese, my they might wake up, right?

Wouldn’t that slow down my inhaling process? Maybe I would taste my food and experience a meal. I might actually remember what I ate. Wow.

I asked my husband, Danny, about it and he said, “We could eat different colored jello every day!” He always takes me so seriously.

With only two of us at home, I make too much and throw it out. I enjoy cooking, but I don’t plan our meals ahead of time. Dinner has become a yawnfest.

2017 is the Year of the Big Chill. I vowed to work hard, but play harder. So far I’ve seen huge results. Taking breaks has kept me from entering the Internet free-time death spiral. When I fill out my planner, I add playtime just like work. What if I added cooking to the schedule? It wouldn’t take that much longer to make a gourmet dinner.

Years ago, when I first read A Year in Provence, I loved the idea of going to the market and buying fresh ingredients to make a brilliant meal each night. I fantasized about a life in the future when Danny and I would bike to the market. We would select their freshest fish, vegetables, and herbs, then bike home to make a fabulous meal together.

*insert needle scratching record here* We live on a big hill. It’s winter. The larger supermarkets require driving on the highway.

Instead, Danny comes home at night and finds me with my head bent over my laptop. I look up and say, “Wow. You’re home already?” My mind races to the limp broccoli in the bin, the huge bag of carrots I bought weeks ago, and what might possibly be hidden under thick frost in the freezer.

With a little planning, we could eat like kings. Why not queens? Okay, now I’m thinking off topic.

I mentioned dusting off my cookbooks and Danny said, “I like the idea of buying fresh food from the market every day and then making dinner.” I think he’s excited about eating dinner.

Going gourmet and making an effort is worth a try. I wonder if one of those French Pinterest boards contains recipes. Hmm. Maybe that goofy girl, who looked like me, cooks.

So what’s on the menu?

I’ll go to the store as soon as we eat all the leftover beef stew.

What’s for dinner at your house? Are you in a food rut? Do you inhale or savor every bite?

Related posts:

My Resolution Failures and the Year of the Big Chill

How to Unplug 4 Hours – It works!

Telltale Signs You Need a Break

A response to the Daily Post – Ruminate

Twelve Reasons To Use Twitter

I was shocked to read an article by the Associated Press about Twitter. Few have signed up for an account since the US election. I assumed with political tweets making worldwide news, people would be curious to see them first hand. Nope.

People use Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family. It remains the social media of choice. But Twitter has an expansive reach. We have the opportunity to connect with just about everyone with a public account. How cool is that?

According to Alexa website ranking statistics, Facebook is #3 in the world and in the US. Twitter is #18 in the world and #8 in the US. It seems this social networking site has become even less popular after the election.

Twitter Traffic Statics from Alexa

Twelve reasons to try Twitter:

1. You can follow anyone.

I can follow anyone with a public account. Although non-follower’s tweets won’t show up in my feed, I can check out their tweets and can tweet to them by using their Twitter handle. @susielindau is mine.

2. You can communicate with celebrities, politicians, athletes, comedians, best-selling authors… from around the world.
  •  A few years ago, a blogging friend wrote a satirical piece about Roseanne Barr. I tweeted the article to her along with my friend’s Twitter handle. Roseanne responded and they had a conversation on Twitter. How cool is that?
  •  After posting about how seeing Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis set me back on track after cancer, it blew up on Twitter. The link is still being shared.
  • I finished reading Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane, (terrific book!) and asked his fans what I should read next. I tagged him, (added his Twitter handle) in the tweet. He retweeted me. I received hundreds of comments in replies. Gaiman is a consistent tweeter and converses with fans daily.

Beware! If you don’t see the blue and white verified check symbol next to a celebrity’s name, it’s a fake account. There are lots of phonies out there.

twelve-reasons-to-use-twitter
3. 
To be heard.

It feels good to connect with others. We are all human. Expressing ourselves and our opinion gives us a voice. Our words can be meaningful.

Don’t expect a response from high profile accounts, but if you have good timing, your tweet may be read by the person you tweeted.

That said, don’t become a troll. Trolls are nasty people who tweet hate. There’s enough hate in the world. If you are going to disagree, do it in a respectful way.

4. Because most celebs post their own tweets.

Many use it as a platform. One hundred and forty characters can convey a lot especially in all caps.

Trump’s tweet unleashed the #EverythingInAllCaps hashtag game that night.

5. For up to the second news.

I check Twitter Moments for news like some who sit in front of their TV and channel surf. In a few seconds, I learn the latest one or two days before it makes it to print or television. People tweet what’s happening as it occurs.

6. Because hashtags. 

Adding a hashtag (#) in front of a word hooks you up with tons of people who may not follow you. The symbol works like a bulletin board to bring people together with common interests. #MondayMotivation, #Thursdaythoughts, #FridayFeeling, #SundayBlogShare, #AmWriting, are a few of my favorites.

Hashtag games can be addictive. They trend throughout the day like #ThingsDoneByMistake in reference to #EnvelopeGate after the Oscars. It’s fun to throw down a 140 character entry.

7. For safety.

#Longmont trended a few weeks ago. It’s a town north of me. I was like, “WHAT?” Three brush fires near Nelson Road made visibility tough. They had evacuated over one hundred and fifty homes less than five miles from my house. 60 MPH gusts pummeled my home. Don’t worry. Firefighters put it out.

8. For inspiration.

Pope Francis tweets and so does the Dalai Lama, Paulo Coelho, Steven Hawking and Deepak Chopra. Years ago, when totally depressed about breast cancer, I checked my Twitter feed. Someone called Angel tweeted. “Everything will be alright, you are loved and being prayed for.” Later, I couldn’t find the account!

9. For promotion.

I blog, therefore I promote. I tweet all of my blog posts. Readers have clicked on links from tweets to my blog over 350 times since January 1st. That’s a pretty good boost.

Warning! Use the 1/3 rule when promoting: 1/3 tweet your own links, 1/3 someone else’s, and 1/3 tweets without links. If you err, do it in the no links category.

To err is human, but don’t expect a lot of followers if all you do is retweet or tweet links. That is sooooo boring. *yawn* I don’t follow automated accounts or those who don’t communicate like a human.

10. You can make lists.

Since I follow a ton of people, I make lists to check on my favorites. They include News sources, Retweetables from Mashable, Science Porn, and Merriam Webster, Funny people, and Susie’s Posse among others.

11. It’s great editing practice.

With only 140 characters allowed per tweet, I’ve learned the skill of “tight writing.” Cutting excess verbiage has carried over into my manuscripts and screenplays. Since joining Twitter in April 2011, I’ve tweeted 18,100 times. That’s a lot of practice.

12. To meet people from around the world.  

It’s not unusual for me to carry on a conversation with someone from India, Western Europe, Canada, France, Sweden, or New Zealand to name a few countries. The ease of communication on Twitter makes our world very small. I love that!

Through Twitter, I have gained an understanding of how people may view the world through a different lens, but we are more alike than different.

Twitter is my social media of choice. Set up an account. Try it for kicks and giggles. 40% of users don’t ever tweet. Tweet me @susielindau and I’ll add you to my posse!

Follow me on  Twitter, PinterestInstagram and my Facebook Page. It’s always a Wild Ride!

Do you have a Twitter account? How do you use it?

Related articles:

Twitter verification just got interesting

On lockdown with Shia LaBeouf #TakeMeAnywhere

Fantastic Meme Found in Crested Butte

bikes leaning across trail Telluride

Danny and I biked on a trail through Crested Butte. As we rode out of town, we noticed a gathering of people taking pictures. We dropped our bikes, walked up to the cement post, and cracked up.

Things I hate meme from Crested Butte

I would love to meet the person who graffitied it. This is my kind of humor.

If you had the opportunity and courage to graffiti, what would yours say?

Mine would say:

Things I love –

1 . Respect for property

2 . Natural selection

3 . Sarcasm

I still like the other one better.

Have you ever graffitied anything? A wall? A desk? A tree? Would you?

My Demon Washing Machine is Haunted

Have you seen the latest Kathy Bates commercial for Turbo Tax?  Haunted by ghostly dead children, she wants to know if she can use them as a deduction. I can relate. I have a demon washing machine.

my-demon-washer-is-haunted

One morning, I sat at the kitchen counter and my washer beeped. It was an unusual sound. Persistent. Frantic. Nonstop. The machine had never warned me like that before. It seemed to be crying out for help.

“What the hell?” I ran to my laundry room. The door of the front loader hung wide open. How could it beep with the door open? As I stepped toward it, cold water seeped through my socks. My gaze dropped to the puddle on the floor.

“Are you kidding me?” I picked up one soaked foot.

The empty washer had filled with the door open…. by itself. But how? The machine had been turned off.

I set it to Drain. The washer obeyed while I wiped up the water. I dismissed it as a random washer failure.

Two days later, I walked into the laundry room with a basket of dirty clothes and towels. I stepped into yet another cold puddle of water.

Crap!

Setting the basket on the counter, I looked inside the empty washer. It had filled with the door open, AGAIN!

I wiped the floor and then made small piles to launder the following week. There would be a lot more after a weekend in the mountains. My washer works better with full loads, anyway.

This time I unplugged the machine. There was no way it could work without electricity. I smiled and packed up to leave.

Late Tuesday afternoon, I walked into the laundry room with more dirty clothes and stepped into water all over the floor. While hanging limp across the top of the washer, the plug gloated as if to say, “See? It wasn’t me.”

How did it fill?

I turned off both the hot and cold water taps. Righty tighty. It couldn’t possibly fill now. I shut the washing machine’s door, just in case. I usually kept it open to keep mildew from growing on the rubber gasket. Poor design, in my opinion.

For four days, piles of clothes and towels had soaked up tepid water. They stunk. Lifting the sodden mess into a laundry basket, I dragged it downstairs to my GE stackable. Starting with towels, I washed them with soap and they still smelled musty. I washed them again with vinegar and a third time with soap to get the vinegar smell out of them. What a process.

Filling the upper dryer with clean towels, I decided to go to bed.

The next morning, I walked to the stackable’s dryer, but the door was already open. What? The weight of the towels must have pushed on it during the night. They were still wet. I had to run them through the wash again. Such bad luck.

I felt like Kathy Bates. Was the ghost in my house a compulsive clothes washer? Had it used a rock to clean its unmentionables down by the river when it was alive? Surely I had fixed the water problem by turning it off.

With fingers crossed, I entered the possessed laundry room. Slowly, I opened my washer’s door. Water poured out. I slammed it shut. How? HOW????

It didn’t make any sense. My husband checked the water lines. Yep. They were shut off. The cord still dangled across the top of the machine. It taunted me. How could this be happening?

Danny shrugged. “Maybe you should call someone,” he said.

“Like an Priest or an exorcist?” I asked.

I called an appliance serviceman and said, “Yes, I have a demon washer,” and then explained what was going on.

The resident expert suggested disconnecting the hoses. That way I would know if the valves were broken. A new machine wouldn’t fix the problem if a valve needed replacement or repair. Danny disconnected them.

As I stared at the dangling plug and disconnected hoses, I wondered what I would do if the washer filled and spilled water onto the floor again. Was this the start of some new crazy haunting? We’ve had bangers and I’ve seen ghosts, but this one could be destructive. I imagined wading through a flooded home, Roxy dog-paddling beside me.

It’s been a few weeks and the faucets remained dry. No wet socks. No mysterious filling. No beeping in frenetic warning since that very first day. The washer was definitely the demon. My stackable has been doing all the work.

I asked Facebook friends what kind of washing machine I should buy. A friend replied, “One without a demon.” We’ll see. I plan on purchasing a new washer this week.

Stay tuned my friends. I hope I don’t say, “I’m going to have to move again,” like Kathy Bates. I’ll keep a lifejacket in my kitchen, just in case.

Have you ever experienced unexplainable events in your house? What kind of washing machine should I buy? My Frigidaire front loader was the worst.

Related posts:

Being Haunted – A True Story

Haunted at The Stanley Hotel

Unnerved at The Winchester House