Friday, May 31, 2019

On Letting Go Too Soon


I come from an affectionate, demonstrative family. We said "I love you" freely - and still do. It is no small blessing to know, always, that you are loved. While I am sure that my husband's parents loved him, he never heard those words. Ever. It took a while, but his heart is open now. Even a little mushy sometimes. Plus, he's a great dad.

He hates it when I tell this story, but it's one of my favorites. When our daughter was three months old, we took her to the state fair. We had a great day and she looked so cute in her hat and sunglasses. As I was pushing her stroller up a hill on our way out at the end of the day, I asked my husband, "Have you ever told her that you love her?"

With a straight face, he replied, "I don't know her that well yet."

He wasn't making a joke - that's just how is brain works. Despite that goofy response, he's thoroughly devoted to her. He overcame the lack of affection in his own upbringing and routinely tucks his daughter into bed. His hugs might be accompanied by a reminder to "turn in that science assignment tomorrow," but he's there for her in body and spirit.

Growing up, I accepted affection from my family but was hesitant to interact with others in that way. I suffered with vitiligo and other visible physical conditions, resulting in a desire not to be seen and certainly not to be touched. It led to a lifetime of chronically low self-esteem.

As I've gotten older (and have grown in some ways more comfortable in my own skin), I've gotten better about receiving and even initiating physical contact with others. A beloved member of my church lost her husband several years ago. She got up to light a candle in his memory, her voice shaking as she spoke about her pain in losing him. Karen was new to our congregation then. I didn't know her. But as she made her way back to her seat, I found myself rising to catch her in a hug. It was out of character for me, but it was genuine.

I try to connect with people when I can, and when I sense that they are open to it. A hand on a shoulder while asking, "How is your dad doing?" seems like the right thing to do. I dole out compliments on the regular - it's amazing how startled people are to receive a compliment sometimes. If you like the cashier's necklace, tell her so. Of course, I've gotten no better at small talk (like, how do you end it? just walk away?), but I'm out there tryin'.

Lately I've been thinking about hugging, perhaps the most human way of all to connect. A couple months ago, my friend Carrie officiated at a memorial service. The service was held at my church so I was standing near the kitchen in case anyone needed help finding the bathroom, coffee, whatever. I greeted Carrie and she hugged me. She is a very warm, genuine person and her hug reflected that. I mean, it was some kind of great hug - long, steady, and sincere. I felt like she was saying, "You matter to me."

Here's where I go wrong with hugs. I assume that people would not want to touch me any longer than necessary, and I always pull away first. Always. I did so with Carrie but nope, she was still in full hug mode. I can't tell you how many times I've done this. I mean, what is wrong with me?

Last weekend, my friend Heidi experienced an unbelievable tragedy. She and her husband, along with their daughter (they also have an adult son), were at their cabin. Chad mentioned some slight nausea and shortly thereafter, he died. If I understand correctly, it was a cardiac issue. Heidi is a nurse and tried to save him, but it was out of her hands. His death happened with a quickness that feels especially cruel. I should mention that Chad was just two months older than I am. It's always particularly startling when you lose a contemporary. Chad was a great guy. I saw him annually at the circus protests that Heidi organizes in our community, and crossed paths with the whole family at other events, too. Heidi and her children are reeling, as you can imagine.

Heidi is not a person who is inclined to ask for help on a personal level. She has a lot on her shoulders now. Obtaining new health insurance, figuring out how to do the chores that Chad used to do, making sure that her children are coping . . . the list goes on and on. The only bright side here is that there are a lot of people who care about this family very much. A GoFundMe campaign already has a pretty healthy balance (enough to ease some immediate worries, anyway). I wanted to help in some small way (in addition to making a donation) so I made a casserole. Heidi is vegan so I knew that I could whip up some comfort food for when she needs it. Another mutual (vegan) friend has been cooking for her as well. I think Pam and I were both worried that well-meaning neighbors might drop off food that Heidi and her family could not eat.

Heidi is someone for whom I've always had a lot of admiration. I've known her for several years. Not only does she organize circus protests and try to educate people about the realities of factory farming, she is very active in TNR (Trap Neuter Return). I'm sure she has saved hundreds of cats. She inspired me to get rid of my dumb excuses and to switch from vegetarian to vegan five years ago. Heidi has a big heart but she's not a mushy person. She has an offbeat sense of humor (which may be why I love her so much). She once posted a meme on Facebook that related to hugging. She was not, from what I gathered, a hugger.

I was prepared to deliver my casserole to her home, but Heidi said she'd be nearby and offered to stop and pick it up. She said she would have her parents with her. I told her that sounded great because I'm currently fostering a puppy and Lexy has been looking for some new flesh to gnaw on with her razor teeth. I told Heidi, "Don't worry, I won't hug you." It's been a running joke between us because I did hug her the first time we met in person.

"I've been hugging. It's okay," she responded. I'm so proud of her for letting people help her. I know it's not easy.

And so, I hugged her when she arrived. I tried not to let go too soon.

I'm going to keep working on this hugging thing. Life, as they say, is short.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

ADHD (Sub-title: Parenting is Hard, Y'all)

The funny thing about being the mom of an only child is that for every new challenge that comes along, I'm technically still a first-time mom - even though my child is a teenager. While my daughter does have biological half-siblings (through her birthmom), she is my only child. I can't compare her behavior/illnesses/whatever to my other children, because they do not exist. This sometimes leaves me wondering if I'm making the right call when decisions must be made (and my husband, as you might guess, is not a decision maker).

If you had asked me a decade ago, I might have been one of those people who said, "Geez, kids are over-medicated. Just let them be kids." Now I've been forced to re-think my uninformed stance. My child has been diagnosed with ADHD - Inattentive Type.

Since my daughter started school back in 2009, I've made jokes about how she talks too much. I've heard words like chatty, distracted, talkative, etc. from teachers at every parent-teacher conference I've ever attended. I think it was her second grade teacher who said, "She can't walk across the room without stopping to entertain every table."

I love the fact that my daughter is friendly and extroverted. People tend to like her and to enjoy being with her. My dad once said, "She makes me feel like I'm special." I think that's her superpower - making everyone around her feel special in some way. I wouldn't want her to be any other way.

The other side of the coin, alas, is that she struggles to focus and is profoundly disorganized. It was a problem in elementary school (unfinished assignments, lost assignments, etc.) but her grades were always fine. At times I wondered if she was getting by on pure cuteness (I mean, I am biased but she is pretty cute). However, I'm sure her teachers could see that she understood the material and may have let some of the homework slide. I've been hearing about her intelligence all along, too - even if she doesn't turn in the homework, she is 100% capable of understanding the content. She tends to do pretty well on tests.

Middle school has been a challenge, and that's an understatement. Cuteness gets her nowhere and teachers care a lot more about missing assignments. Sometimes, she has done the assignment but it's crumpled at the bottom of her backpack. She is constantly behind. She has had an F in some of her core classes at various times this year. Her dad and I feel like we have no choice but to harangue her about her homework every night. We resort to taking away her phone, iPad, etc. Tears are shed. We started to wonder . . . were we fussing at her for something she truly couldn't help? Then we started thinking about high school. She'll be a freshman in September. Her GPA will start to matter a lot more. Our daughter plans to study music in college. We've told her over and over again that even if she studies music, she'll still have to take the core classes like math and science.

If I'm being honest, I actually think homework is a bit of  a crock. (Apologies to my teacher friends!) I understand that it's meant to enforce lessons learned during class but I feel like it's just a time-suck with no real payoff. Nonetheless, I tell my daughter that she has to play the game and Get. It. Done. We do our best to help her. We remind her constantly. We don't make her do chores or anything that would interfere with homework time. We buy her the tools she needs (a new desk, post-it notes, etc.) But still, she has struggled. She truly cannot focus on this stuff.

I called her neurologist's office to see if any of the symptoms are related to her epilepsy (and meds for that condition). They told me that the symptoms I described are not really on the list of side effects. Plus, I can testify to the fact that the focus issue was present before the epilepsy meds came into play.

Next, I called her pediatrician's office. I had started to think, "Maybe life doesn't have to be THIS hard?" It's not like we enjoy riding our daughter about her homework day after day. They sent us a packet of forms. It's called the Vanderbilt Assessment, which provides a scoring system to determine if a child is exhibiting ADHD symptoms. Her dad and I filled out the form (separately) and the rest went to A's teachers. Her pediatrician compiled the responses and called us in for a meeting. Yes, it's clear that she has it. I should also add that I spoke to A's birthmom and two of her sons have ADHD and are on meds for it. The third son tested borderline and is not on meds (as far as I know). So, with the family history, it's not too much of a surprise. I should add that she doesn't really have the H (hyperactivity) but I guess the same acronym is used regardless. She has the "Inattentive" type. Here's an example: a few weeks ago she brushed her teeth and then went to bed with the water still running. Not trickling, mind you - full-on running. She can remember the lyrics to a thousand songs but not to turn the water off after brushing her teeth. I think one reason we waited so long to look into it is that her dad and I don't really know what's normal teenage-girl-who-thinks-about-boys-a-lot stuff and what constitutes an actual problem. Once it became clear that her future may well be affected by her inability to focus, we started to see it differently.

Dr. T gave us a list of medications that can be used to treat ADHD. We're checking with our insurance to see how much each one will cost so that we can decide which one to try. From there, we just see how it goes. At this point, I'm feeling like . . . if there is a tool that can help my child, I owe it to her to look into it, at least.

Last weekend, A competed at the district-level Solo & Ensemble Festival. She performed in a solo (Class A), a duet (Class A), and a madrigal. She is moving on to state for the solo and duet! (the madrigal was a less complex Class B song that was therefore ineligible for state - however, the judge said it was the best thing she'd heard all morning). I am so proud of my girl. She is so talented, if I do say so myself.  I firmly believe that she will go far in life. She may just need someone to pay her water bill while she does so.


Thursday, February 28, 2019

Sven, Part 2

At the end of November I wrote about my bout with a kidney stone, whom I affectionately named Sven. My kidney birthed Sven about two weeks before my daughter and I were scheduled to leave for our Christmas trip to Orlando. At the emergency room, I was told that Sven would probably pass in the next few days. I was given a plastic insert for the toilet and a strainer. You have not lived until you've strained your own pee, let me just tell you.

Sven did not pass within the next few days. I called the urologist to whom I had been referred. She gave me a prescription for a medication that was supposed to "relax my ureter." It just figures that I'd have an uptight ureter. The pharmacist indicated that Tamulosin is typically prescribed to men. I quickly realized that the odds weren't in my favor. Sure enough, nothing happened.

I went to Disney as planned. On the long drive to the airport that morning, I felt quite a bit of discomfort and thought, "Ohhhh, maybe today's the day!" Having experienced the pain of the initial attack (pain so intense I couldn't form actual thoughts in my head), I was scared to have a recurrence while walking around Epcot or something. Eventually, I started to think that maybe it had passed and that I somehow didn't notice. Maybe Sven broke apart or something - I didn't know what his options were. I had secretly hoped that that roller coasters and all the crazy rides would force an eviction either way.

The original pain I felt occurred when Sven traveled from my kidney to my bladder - or at least that's my understanding of the situation. Fortunately, once that pain had passed, I only experienced mild discomfort from time to time. Once the new year passed, I was hesitant to generate any new medical bills since the deductible starts over and all that jazz. I still owe over $2,000 from an emergency appendectomy that I had a year ago. I told myself that everything was juuuuust fine. Denial is a powerful thing, mes amis.

About a week ago, I spent a day feeling really crappy and I suspected it was Sven. The mister encouraged me to call the urologist's office. They sent me to the hospital the next day for a CT scan and bloodwork. On Friday, I met with a Nurse Practitioner at the urologist's office. "It's still there," she said, tapping the screen on which my scan was displayed. SON OF A! Sven had barely moved at all. He was blissfully hanging out in my bladder. The intermittent discomfort was occurring whenever he attempted to block the flow of urine. Sven was endangering my kidney.

The NP advised me that surgery was needed. She opened a brochure with pictures and started pointing out what needed to be done. I don't know why I hadn't expected this news, but I didn't. I started to feel woozy and hot. I closed the booklet. "I'm sorry, I can't look at it right now," I told her. I then used it to fan myself. I am not a queasy person in general - and goodness knows I've had plenty of surgeries. However, my urethra is intended for outbound traffic only, and the thought of a medical device going in the other way . . . it was just a little too much.

My surgery was yesterday. It was scheduled at the older hospital in town, which is affiliated with a Franciscan sisterhood. There are crosses everywhere. I winced when I saw a painting in one of the hallways of a surgical scene in which Jesus was present with his hand upon the surgeon's shoulder. I never never never look down on anyone's faith, but I basically just want science in my operating room, thanks. I wondered if the nurse who started my IV noticed my UU chalice tattoo on my arm.

My husband and I arrived at the hospital at 8:30 for my 10:30 surgery. All of the preparatory stuff went fine. The nurse separated me from my husband so that she could weigh me and then ask me a couple of mandatory questions: was I in fear for my safety at home? did I have thoughts of suicide? I think it's good that they ask these questions.

The hospital is indeed old but they've modernized a lot of stuff. They have a digital surgery display board. I was assigned a patient number and then my husband I could watch the color coded board to see where I was at any given time - in the operating room, in recovery, and so forth. He and I hung out in a pre-op room for a while. We watched some of the Cohen hearings, mostly because the broadcast was on virtually every channel. Will his testimony be enough to change the minds of Trump supporters? I doubt it. "He's being railroaded! Fake news!" Whatevs.

A parade of people came through my room to meet me. The hospital calls it a "Circle of Care." My favorite was Jenny, the nurse who got my IV in on the first try. My veins get a little uncooperative sometimes. I met the anesthesiologist and a couple of other nurses. Then the urologist herself came in. I had already read the reviews on her, most of which seem to frown on her bedside manner. Indeed, she was not the friendly sort - just matter-of-fact. That doesn't bother me too much as long as she's competent at her job. I asked her a couple of questions and I could tell that she would have preferred that I had kept them to myself.

Now, there must have been a note in my file about my pre-Disney attempts to get the stone out, because the nurse who wheeled me to the operating room asked about the trip. She is getting ready to go to Disney as well. I was moved to the hard, flat operating table and then three of us were chatting about Disney. They were a friendly bunch. Soon, the anesthetic was added to my IV. Apparently, my last words before sleep were something like, "I really thought the Tower of Terror would have taken care of this."

I woke up in recovery with a young nurse named Rachel looking after me. "So, you thought the Tower of Terror was going to fix your stone, huh?" The OR nurse had passed along the news. Then she asked me if I wanted more ice chips. I didn't remember asking for any. Holy cow, anesthesia is just the weirdest experience.

Eventually, I was wheeled to a normal hospital room and my husband was there. I was given a Vicodin (and some Saltines) and was accompanied to the bathroom with a male nurse whose name I've forgotten. I'll spare you the details on my bathroom trip but . . . owie.

I almost forgot one super important detail (not that anyone is still reading). I was originally told that a stent was a sure thing. The stent would be installed in my ureter to make sure it stayed open. When I met the doctor, she called it a 50/50 chance. This had been my biggest fear all along - leaving the hospital with hardware that was likely to be very uncomfortable. Fortunately, I did not need the stent.

Once I felt well enough to get dressed, my husband drove me home. We stopped along the way to pick up my prescription for Vicodin. I went home and went to bed. I spent the rest of the day in bed, watching dumb daytime TV shows. Daytime commercials are the worst - no, I am not at home because I've been injured in a motorcycle accident, have Mesothelioma, or have a child with a birth injury. But let me know if y'all have those things and I can tell you who to call.

So, that's the tale of Sven. The pain isn't too bad today. I've taken half a Vicodin so that I can still work in a couple of hours. Wheeeeee

I don't really have any photos to share with this post so here is my Chalice tattoo. :-)


Monday, December 24, 2018

Disney Adventures

I don't care what anyone says about Disney World. I love it. Sure, it's not the cheapest place to hang out with your family. The lines can be long. There are crying children all over the place. But seriously, sign me up.

In the summer of 2017, my husband and I went to Orlando with another couple. It was our 20th wedding anniversary (theirs, too). We didn't take any kids and we had a blast. I didn't feel guilty about not bringing my daughter because she was having a great time with her cousins. My sister took the kids to Busch Gardens and planned a bunch of other fun stuff. When I talked to my daughter on the phone one day during that trip, though, I heard myself saying, "Hey, I'll bring you to Disney next Christmas."

I said it without giving much thought but then it did start to seem like an achievable goal. So, I started planning. The friends from our anniversary trip let us use their timeshare account, which was a generous gift indeed. Instead of spending thousands to stay at a Disney property, we spent around $400.00 for a beautiful two-bedroom suite with full amenities. I also spaced out the expenses in advance. One month I'd buy park passes. The next month I'd buy airline tickets. We planned for three days at Disney parks and two days at Universal parks.

Our trip finally rolled around this month. The mister stayed home with the dogs (and the guinea pig family that we were fostering). I think he is going to take the kid on a father-daughter trip when she graduates (I have no idea who is going to plan it, though - nothing really happens around here unless I plan it). We flew out on Wednesday, December 12th, landing in Orlando by early afternoon. We picked up our rental car (which was surprisingly affordable) and then headed towards the resort. The kid was snapping photos of palm trees before we even left the airport. That evening, we headed to Disney Springs. For the uninitiated, Disney Springs is basically a shopping/dining/entertainment district owned by Disney. Parking is free, so that's a plus. We checked out some shops and caught a few musical performances. We had dinner at the House of Blues. Our server was amazing and kept calling us "Queen." I had a vegan burger. This was also the meal at which we found out that my daughter does not like feta cheese.

The next morning, we had plans to visit Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park. Getting my kid out of bed was a challenge. I mean, if she won't get out of bed for Disney World . . .  sheesh. One nice thing about staying at a resort was that we had a full kitchen and could eat breakfast there. I was trying to avoid the expense of eating three meals a day in the parks. Eventually, I bullied her out of bed and out the door. We had a great day at Hollywood Studios. We both love the Tower of Terror (and as an added bonus, we had fast passes for it). We also rode the Rock-n-Roller coaster (she had been too short to ride when we visited in 2012). The day was warmer than expected, and I never heard the end of that since I'd indicated that she wouldn't need to bring any shorts (per the forecast). We finished the day with dinner at the 50's Prime Time Cafe. This was the one "special" dining experience that I'd booked. I'd heard mixed reviews on this place from fellow vegans. How well a vegan eats there seems to depend on a number of factors, such as the chef on duty. I was not one of the lucky ones. I had spaghetti with marinara sauce that was nothing special. However, it was a fun experience and I did enjoy a very festive adult beverage.

One thing I was really looking forward to was seeing the holiday decorations in all of the parks. I must say they did not disappoint! We saw some amazing decorations and watched lots of fun holiday performances as well. 

On Friday, we were scheduled to visit Universal Studios. I had planned specific parks on specific days because of the fast passes. Getting my daughter out of bed was, once again, a challenge. When we got to the parking lot, the attendant pointed at the sign and told me that "we recommend the premium parking." General parking is $25 and that seems ludicrous to me already. Paying $40 for upgraded parking is crazy talk. When I declined, she snatched the $25 out of my hand and didn't say another word to me. I wonder if she had some sort of quota to meet. Regardless, you don't see that shit at Disney.

When we walked through the park and entered Diagon Alley, seeing my daughter's face made the whole trip worthwhile. She held her cheeks in her hands and repeated "ohmygodohmygodohmygod!" She was blown away. She's a Harry Potter fan and it really is amazing how they've recreated the place. "Now you see why I wanted you to get out of bed!" I said. We started by buying a wand in the wand shop (which was packed to the gills). My mom and stad had sent her $100 for the trip, and my husband had put aside $400 of his bartending money for us. So, it felt okay to splurge on a $50 stick. She quickly got some lessons on how to use the wand at the interactive displays. A steady drizzle was falling but everyone basically just ignored it. I mean, there were people there from all over the world - when you've spent that much money and traveled that far, you just go with it.

We did visit the rest of the park and rode a few rides. I love rides, I really do. I do struggle with some of the virtual reality-type stuff, though. I had purchased some anti-nausea patches and took a non-drowsy form of Dramamine, but some of those rides were still a struggle. I ended up closing my eyes during the Race Through New York with Jimmy Fallon ride. If you ever get to Universal, you've got to ride the Escape from Gringott's ride in the Harry Potter area. It was so much fun and didn't make me queasy.

When I went to Disney and Universal in 2017, it quickly became clear to me that I hadn't done enough research into vegan options. This time around, I had my ducks in a row. Plus, both parks have gotten better about making vegan options available. The rising popularity of the Impossible Burger makes it easy to eat "fast food." I ended up eating several of them during my trip. At Universal, I even had vegan ice cream at Ben & Jerry's. I also appreciate how great the vegan community is when it comes to sharing. There is a full wiki for vegan eating at Universal, and a Vegan Disney site as well. I also made two visits to Voodoo Doughnut during our trip. So many options! We also had dinner at Dixie Dharma in downtown Orlando one night.

Saturday was slated for Disney's Animal Kingdom park. I had tried desperately to get fast passes for the Avatar Flight of Passage ride, but it was a no go. So, I knew we'd have to suck it up and stand in line for that one. We decided to get it out of the way when we first arrived. It was raining heavily but again, whatcha gonna do? Indeed, we were in line for about two hours, but Disney does a pretty good job of entertaining you (or at least giving you something interesting to look at) while you are waiting. I had really talked up this ride to my daughter so I was hoping she would enjoy it. She was almost speechless after we got off the ride. Mission accomplished!  Eventually the rain stopped and we had a nice day in the park. I've seen the Lion King show three times now but it's still a lot of fun.

On Sunday, we visited another Universal park, Islands of Adventure. This one is more super hero-oriented but does feature another Harry Potter experience (Hogsmeade). The good news is that we were able to bring the wand so that she could get some more mileage out of that. I also did a bit of shopping at this park. My nephew's birthday is the day after Christmas so I picked up a few things for him. While I was shopping, my daughter rode the Incredible Hulk coaster. She tucked her phone into a pocket and then buttoned it up. As it turns out, all riders have to pass through a detector and she was immediately busted for having a phone. I guess they don't mess around! She brought her phone to me and then rode the coaster. We rode most rides together but I passed on a couple of them. I had to pace myself or my stomach would get angry.

The resort where we stayed had tons of activities for kids, teens, and adults. My daughter checked out "teen ping pong" later that evening and had a lot of fun. The resort had tons of pools and I could see people swimming in them, but I felt like the amusement parks were enough excitement for me. It was warm but it didn't seem to me like it was swimming weather. The resort was beautiful. Each morning I enjoyed breakfast on the balcony and enjoyed the views of the palm trees and other Florida-ish things.

Monday was our last day in the parks. We headed to Epcot. I know that not everyone loves Epcot, but I really enjoy it. We had one fast pass, which was for the Soarin' ride. This was where things turned a bit sour, at least temporarily. Soarin', as you might guess from the name, is a ride that makes you feel like you are flying. It's pretty low key, though. You sit in a row of seats that swing a bit as you fly over mountains, the Eiffel Tower, etc. In our row, there was a woman with four children. The youngest boy seemed to have some trepidation about the ride. He looked to be about three. One of the cast members knelt down next to him and explained how the ride would work. He didn't seem to be buying it. Eventually, it became clear that the mom would have to exit the ride and take the little guy with her. That left three other kids. The youngest one was not old enough to be on the ride without an adult. I heard the cast member say that he could stay if another adult would take responsibility for him. I unbuckled myself and said I'd do it. I said to the family, "I'm Claudia," and did my best to look like a friendly mom who can be trusted with a stranger's child.

I sat next to him and the ride commenced. He really seemed to enjoy it, as did his sisters who sat on the other side of him. I helped him with his seatbelt when the ride was over.  My daughter, however, was not a good sport about any of this. She was deeply disappointed that I had volunteered to sit with a different kid. I volunteered for a couple of reasons. One: no one else was stepping forward. Two: this little guy wouldn't have been able to ride the ride if I hadn't sat with him. And three: I felt like I sped things up a bit for the dozens of people waiting for that ride to start. If they'd had to pull the second boy off the ride, it would have taken that much longer.

Honestly, I was appalled that my daughter was upset about the fact that I had stepped forward to help another family. Is this how I raised her? Not to try to help when you can? An hour later, she had another meltdown when I stopped to return some work messages. We were spending six solid days together - how much more of my time could she possibly want? Later, she apologized for being bratty and all was well again. I think she was just tired and crabby. After all, we'd had several days of non-stop rides and shows and walking.

We walked through all of the countries at Epcot (where else can you go from France to Japan to Mexico?) She was invited to join some performers in Mexico and had a lot of fun singing and dancing. She also had her photo taken with Mary Poppins (in England, of course). I may or may not have grabbed a margarita while in Mexico. We did some shopping in China and then poked around a bit more before heading to the MouseGear gift shop. I hadn't yet purchased any souvenirs for myself, so I found a couple of unique items to take back home.

We walked past the big ball as we left the park and talked about a plan to make one last visit to Disney Springs before flying back home the next day. We took the shuttle to our parking lot and hopped off. Now, up until then, my phone had been doing a great job of marking our parking spot each day. This time, however, it was off. We began walking up and down the aisles, looking for our nondescript rental car. Suddenly, five days of parking had blended together. Were we near the front of the aisle? In the middle? How far had we walked to the shuttle? Were we near the small grove of pine trees or farther away? The rental car was a grey Toyota Camry. I decided to be more methodical about it. I started at the first row and just started checking grey cars. I had noticed previously that the key fob didn't work until it was directly next to the car, so there was no hope of getting it to beep or to activate the lights from a distance. The kid, meanwhile, was tired and started to cry. I continued to look for the car. I couldn't believe it was this hard to find! I felt like an idiot, for sure. Eventually, I spotted a security vehicle parked in the distance. I walked over to her and explained our predicament. As it turns out, they get a report showing what time each row was filled. Based on when we arrived, she could give us an idea of which rows were mostly to contain my rental car. I looked more closely at the rental car tag. I had misread the abbreviation - it was a Corolla, not a Camry. Son of a! The security guard drove around the lot while we walked down the aisles she had mentioned. It was the kid who finally found the car. So much relief! I'm not sure how long we walked around, but it was longer than I'd want to admit regardless. Anyway, if you go to Disney, take a picture of your dang car and where it is parked. That's a tip from me to you.

After all that, we decided to skip Disney Springs. I picked up some ice cream for the kid (I felt bad because she'd been so upset about the car) and headed to the resort. She rallied and walked over to the recreation center for that night's teen event, which was dodge ball. I can't even imagine a scenario in which someone would choose to play dodge ball voluntarily.

The next morning, we packed up our gear and checked out. We were ready to go home, but not quite ready to leave behind palm trees and 70-degree days. Our flight home was uneventful. The kid was supposed to do her homework but she watched some goofy show instead. Gee, I'm glad I went to the trouble of alerting her teachers about her absence and making sure she had all of her assignments. 

If I had known (at the time I made the offer) that my daughter is going to Estonia this summer with her touring choir, I probably would not have done the Orlando trip. I mean, this stuff is expensive and it was certainly an extravagant Christmas gift. I have no regrets, though. In just a few short years, she'll be away at college. I hope she'll remember the trip - our inside jokes ("Are you chapsnatting this?"), lying in bed watching Live PD together, talking to Stormtroopers at Hollywood Studios, and screaming our heads off on a roller coaster. I hope she'll forget the whole misplacing-the-car bit, though.








Friday, November 30, 2018

Another bodily organ goes rogue

It all started with my lower back. It was hurting - a lot. I attributed the pain to a yoga class I attended on Tuesday. I hadn't been to yoga in a couple of weeks and figured maybe I'd just overdone it. One too many twists or something. By Thursday I couldn't even walk normally, but my back has been in spasm before so I didn't think too much of it. Plus, my crappy posture and the fact that I sit "wrong" while I'm working leads my back to revolt from time to time.

On Thursday evening I offered to take the kid to Noodles for dinner. Her dad was working so we were just going to run out for a quick bite together. As soon as I got to the first traffic light, a searing pain shot through the left side of my abdomen. I thought it would pass and continued on. I soon realized that Noodles was going to be short two customers that night. I just couldn't do it. By this time I was having trouble breathing from the pain, and I was simultaneously hot and cold. I took the first exit and headed back home.

For the next hour or two, I tried to figure out what to do with myself. I took some ibuprofen and then some aspirin. I took a very hot bath and tried to read the latest copy of UU World as I soaked. I felt dizzy when I finally climbed out of the tub. I tried to lie down in bed but couldn't find a comfortable position. Nothing made the pain better. I wasn't sure what to do. My daughter was getting increasingly upset. While it's true that she's a self-absorbed teen, she gets pretty worked up if someone around her is hurting in any way. The pain was bringing me to tears - it was just relentless. And I am someone who has a pretty reasonable pain tolerance - or at least I think I do.

Finally, I had her call her dad and ask him to come home from work in order to take me to the hospital. I gathered up some sweat pants and a tee shirt, but soon realized that I was incapable of changing my clothes. My daughter tucked them into a tote bag for me. Before long, my husband was home and I shuffled out to the car so that he could take me to the hospital.

Now, I do not deny being a somewhat vain person. I am not one of those roll-out-of-bed-and-go people. I tend not to leave the house until I've at least got some mascara on. But here I was, in my bright red pajamas from Kohl's, my hair still wet from the bath, and zero make-up. And honestly, I did not care. That's how bad the pain was.

My preferred hospital is on the other side of town, but the mister insisted on taking me to a closer one. He sped all the way there. I've been holding a grudge against this particular hospital for years because when I had my gall bladder out, they acted like they'd never met a vegetarian before. The day after my surgery, Nurse Ratched brought me beef broth and was all kinds of annoyed that I wouldn't eat it. So, I've been avoiding that hospital ever since (also, I had filled out a comment card to express my annoyance). I live in a mid-sized town but, inexplicably, we have four full-sized hospitals. I guess it's good to have choices.

My husband pulled up at the emergency room and left the car with the valet. I don't know if was my wet hair, ashen skin, or pained expression that made my plight obvious, but the valet dude ran straight over and opened the emergency room door for me. I let my husband do the talking at the registration desk. I hunched over and clutched the corner of her desk. She was very matter-of-fact (I'm sure she's seen some shit) and directed us to sit down and wait. It occurred to me that emergency rooms probably see people who are basically just trying get their hands on some opioids. Who knows.

We waited ten minutes or so before being brought back to a room. The nurse asked me a few questions and I advised her that I was already down a gall bladder and an appendix - I figured it might save her some detective work. I sat on the bed but was unable to lie down. Instead, I clutched my knees to my chest because it seemed to make the pain 1% better. "I'm guessing kidney stones," she said. Ahhhhh. This was actually making sense to me. The lower back pain wasn't from yoga after all. They made me pee in a cup and then advised me that there was blood in it (I hadn't noticed but then again I don't spend a lot of time examining such things).

Next came the attempt at an IV. It was almost an exact repeat of the scene in February when I had my appendix out. My veins, generally, prefer to be left alone. They do not easily submit to needles and such, and they do not go down without a fight. A pair of nurses (one was a student) finally got it in, but it was not anchored in an ideal way, apparently. Thereafter, I had to hold my left arm out at a very specific angle or the IV didn't work (it was attached to a pump that would start beeping if I moved even a single millimeter). Eventually, I was taken down the hall for a cat scan. The technician told me, "I'm not supposed to say, but it's a stone." So, the theories were correct.

By that time, the pain meds that were administered via the IV had finally started to work. I could breathe normally and even lie down like a normal person. I was discharged by midnight and sent home with two prescriptions (one for Vicodin and one for the nausea that accompanies the Vicodin). We stopped at a CVS to pick up the medications and P actually asked me if I was going in. Um, no, a sufficient number of townfolk had seen me in my pajamas at that point. When we got home, I took the meds and went to bed. I was just so glad to have my pain reduced to something in the range of "discomfort."

So, I'm signing off because I've now killed enough time that I can safely take another Vicodin and go back to bed. I will be drugged until the stone passes (gee, I hope it's as fun as I've heard!) My stone and I bid you good day, sir!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Broadway-Themed Bedroom, Baby!

My daughter, for some strange reason, was growing tired of the doggies-chasing-bouncy-balls stencils (in primary colors, no less) that I applied to her bedroom walls when she was a toddler. So, we hatched a plot to redo her room with a theater/music/Broadway theme. We created a Pinterest board and started sharing ideas. Some of the ideas were very, um, expensive, but most were pretty do-able. Ultimately, we started with a few of those sparks but added some of our own, too.

We started by dragging most of her stuff out of her room and shoving it into the basement. We just left the main furniture items like bed, dresser, etc. We moved the remaining furniture into the center of her bedroom and then painted the walls/ceiling white. It took a couple of coats to make the bright red, blue, and yellow dog stencils go away.

Next, I ordered some WallPops from Joann Fabric & Craft. I ordered vertical black stripes. The new paint had to "cure" for a couple of weeks so her room was in disarray during that time. I used that extra time to clean out her bookcase, closet, dresser, etc. It was time to cull all of the little kid stuff (like size 6 underwear) even though my heart broke just a little bit in the process.

I applied the WallPops on two walls (four seemed like overkill). I actually had to do some math (boo!) to get the spacing right. I will say that the WallPops material felt a little cheaper (and was a little shinier) than I might have liked, but it was pretty easy to work with. It was also very forgiving. If a stripe was crooked, all I had to do was to remove and re-hang. I was happy with the end result. There are a few small nicks here and there but I assume no one is going to inspect the walls that closely.

Other parts of the project:
  • Replaced 1980s ceiling light fixture with a more modern cover. 
  • Put together a really fun puzzle comprised of playbills from Broadway shows. Then I Modge-Podged that mofo, framed it, and hung it. This is my favorite part of the room. A and I were supposed to do the puzzle together but I did 95% of it. She insisted on tapping the last five pieces into place so that she could say had participated.
  • My mom made new curtains. Musical notes - perfect!
  • I replaced all outlet covers and the main lightswitch. 
  • I got rid of her old desk and bought/assembled a new one from IKEA. 
  • I kept her old vanity, but I replaced the drawer pulls (which were pink) with black ones to match the new color scheme. I also replaced the seat cushion on her vanity chair.
  • I picked up a new memo board to match the new color scheme. 
  • We couldn't call it a Broadway room without at least one poster, so I picked up a Les Miserables one from posters.com and framed it. 
  • A friend from church gave us an album cover of Godspell. I framed that and hung it. I liked the idea so much that I headed to a record store just down the road and bought three more albums: Jesus Christ Superstar, Hello Dolly, and Evita. (I was hoping to find Cats or Phantom of the Opera, but you get what you get and you don't throw a fit). My stad gave me a tip that Michael's has album frames at three for $25.00. I hit a sale and got them for $12.50. 
  • My friend Sarah gave me an old table a few years ago. Originally it was a sewing table and then Geo the Crested Gecko lived on it for about a year. I stripped that table and repainted it black and white. It now houses her television, PlayStation, and occasionally a sewing machine. A chest full of craft stuff lives below the table. Geo now lives in the living room and guess who takes care of him? 
  • Most of the rest of the decorating was done with decals. I consider myself to be a vaguely creative person but not necessarily an artistic one. I didn't feel like I was going to pull of any type of artwork on my own, so I went with the decals. I found some pretty fun ones, if I do say so myself: stars, a quote from Hamilton, music notes, etc. 
  • Finally, I replaced some items in the room to match the new color scheme. For example, the canvas bins on her dresser are new. 
The most startling thing about this whole process was the fact that she didn't seem to need most of the stuff we moved to the basement. It just goes to show you that we all have too much crap.  The essential items (like her musical instruments, shelves, etc.) were incorporated back into her room. We kept anything with true sentimental value. I took a carload of old books, clothing, and toys to Goodwill. Other stuff was tossed out - particularly anything that was broken or had dried slime at the bottom. If you are a parent, you know what I mean about the slime.

Anyway, I am pretty happy with the results. I'm officially done with the project now. The kid seems happy. In just a few years, she'll be off at college. I feel like the current theme is grown-up enough to see her through until we kick her out and insist that she start adulting.

If you click/tap any of the images, you should be able to view a full-sized version.











Monday, October 15, 2018

Seizure Aftermath: The Other Shoe has Dropped


Isn't it strange how time works? August 19th is as fresh in my mind as ever, but I can't remember what I had for lunch today. I have flashbacks to my daughter's seizure on that seared-in-my-brain day. I see her hands clenched near her neck as she bucked and convulsed. I see the ambulance flying towards us on the shoulder of the highway. I see the paramedics loading my baby onto a stretcher. Now I know why people say that watching someone have a seizure is almost as traumatic as actually having one.

Almost two months have passed since that day. She has not had another seizure. In the intervening weeks, I was able to convince myself that the episode was a one-time occurrence, a fluke. She had an EEG on September 7th. It took 3 1/2 weeks to get the results and even then it was only because I called (I'm assuming the results sat around for a bit). Because it took so long, I included it as evidence in my "everything's fine" analysis. I mean, if the results were abnormal, they would've rushed to let us know, right?

The results were indeed abnormal. When I found out, I became unhinged. The neurologist's office wouldn't provide any other details about the EEG results until we came in for a consultation. They referred us back to our pediatrician's office for any questions we might have. The pediatrician's office advised us that they couldn't answer any questions. I may have shrieked into the phone at one point - it felt like no one was being as helpful as I would have liked. Initially, our consultation with the pediatric neurologist was scheduled for November 5th. I couldn't imagine how we'd wait that long. Fortunately, there was a cancellation and our consultation was rescheduled for today.

My daughter has epilepsy. I'm still getting used to saying that. My mind is spinning. She's having a lot of trouble digesting it as well. I spoke to her counselor at school so that she'd know what was going on.We are trying to keep things as normal as possible.

Here's what we know at the moment:

  • The EEG showed spikes that shouldn't be there. They represent a lack of stability in the electrical activity in her brain.
  • She is scheduled for an MRI on November 5th. The MRI is needed to make extra sure that the seizure was not caused by a tumor or that sort of thing. We are expecting normal results here.
  • The condition is genetic.
  • A major trigger is a lack of sleep. I suspected this already and have been pushing her to get more sleep. We take her phone away at night. The neurologist stressed this over and over: my daughter must get 9 hours of sleep per night. She should not look at any electronics prior to bedtime. I know she is very frightened of having another seizure so I'm hoping that is enough of an incentive to get the sleep she needs. Honestly, she needs that sleep either way - her body is growing and changing so fast that she needs all the down time she can get. 
  • The tentative diagnosis is: Benign Epilepsy with Centro Temporal Spikes.
  • There is a good chance she will outgrow this condition. 
  • Without medication, she has a 60%+ chance of having another seizure. The odds just sort of snowball from there. The doctor described a succession of seizures as being like kindling that builds towards a fire. 
  • The neurologist is recommending medication. There are two from which we can choose, so we have some homework to do. Each has slightly different side effects so we just need to weigh our options. 
I still need to read and digest the folder full of information I received today. I need to submit a Seizure Action Plan to the school. We have to continue to make sure she stays safe - no swimming alone, for example. The kid and I are headed to Orlando in December (this will be her Christmas gift). Dr. E confirmed that we can still do this. Again, we just have to focus on making sure she gets enough sleep. He warned that if she doesn't get enough sleep, the rides could certainly cause a seizure.

So, that's what we know for now. My daughter is scared but we are doing our best to get through this as a family. The meds will likely require routine labs and that's actually the part that upsets her the most. Having her blood drawn terrifies her. I am not sure what I did wrong (as a parent) that she ended up with this goofy fear but seriously, she will avoid even the tiniest bit of discomfort, even if it only lasts a second or two (and is good for her in the long run).

Today was pretty surreal. We answered a litany of questions (even down to the kid's weight at birth). It was kind of weird being asked if my daughter is pregnant. "Ew," she said in response to the nurse's question. I was asked again when I made the appointment for the MRI. Okay, people, one trauma at a time, please. I cannot contemplate teen pregnancy at the moment.

Another little bit of good news: her highness is incredibly close to hitting the 5 foot mark. This has been a goal along - to be 5 feet tall. Honestly, she can achieve all the height she needs with her hair. It's always fun to watch the nurses try to pat it down so that they can get an accurate height measurement.