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.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

30-Year High School Reunion: Processing Some Thoughts

Last week, I flew to DC to attend my high school reunion, which was held over the weekend. I did not make it to the 10-year or 20-year reunions, but this one seemed to be in the cards. Airfares were relatively low, my schedule was fairly open, and I always have a place to freeload stay (with my middle sister and her family). Work is pretty busy so I decided just to work remotely vs. trying to take time off. Plus, I'm burning some vacation time in December, when I take the kid to Orlando for a few days.

I attended Robert E. Lee High School in Springfield, Virginia. I graduated in 1988, before cell phones and social media existed. I learned to type on an actual typewriter. By the way, I realize that the school's name is now politically incorrect but honestly, it didn't occur to us that it was a problem back then. (For the record: if someone wants to change the name, I have no beef with that.)  It also didn't occur to us that some of our classmates might be gay. I sometimes wonder how many people had to pretend to be straight because they weren't allowed to be any other way.

Here's how I would characterize my high school self. I was neither popular nor profoundly unpopular. I didn't play sports. In our freshman year, my friend Jared and I made a pact to make it all the way through to graduation without playing an organized sport of any kind. We both pulled it off with no problem. Most of my friends were theater kids and/or the GT/AP crowd. Many of my closest friends were in the class ahead of mine, but I still had plenty of friends in my grade. I generally had a boyfriend at any given time. I was involved in a service organization called the Leo Club, which was affiliated with the Lion's Club. I was also involved in Close Up and took annual trips to DC to learn about our goofy government.

As for the popular kids, I would split them into two categories: decent human beings and, well, not-very-nice people (I guess you could say that about any population). I had friends who were popular and who somehow managed to retain that status while being genuinely nice to everyone. The thing that keeps you from being popular in high school is whatever makes you different. For me, this was a medical condition (and maybe a few personality quirks - who knows). I have vitiligo and can't make a tan happen. Having a tan was somehow profoundly important in the mid-1980s in the DC 'burbs. It was made pretty clear to me (by the not-very-nice people) that it was a problem.

So, I had a bit of trepidation heading into the weekend's activities. On Friday night, my sister accompanied me to a happy hour event at Bourbon DC in Adams Morgan. A classmate that I didn't know covered the drinks for the first two hours or so (three cheers for Tom!) I was particularly excited to see a couple of friends that I've known since the 6th grade: Felix and Cookie (no, Cookie is not her real name - she tried to get us to call her by her real name, Rangsima, before giving up many years ago). I was also excited to see a few people I'd known since middle school. Melinda is one of my all-time favorite people, so it was great to see her.

The bourbon bar queued up Risky Business on a large screen and played old people music to appease us. It was hot and crowded, but I was glad I came. Plus, it's always nice to have my extroverted sister along to balance my social awkwardness. I think she talked to more people than I did (she graduated from Lee in '92). She got hungry and found a pizza slice joint next door. They weren't kidding around with their slices. We ended the evening and I extracted my rental car from the underground dungeon in which I'd parked. My parking fee was $24.00. It's a good thing my husband wasn't with me - his little Midwestern heart would have stopped beating on the spot.

My sister and her husband flew to Connecticut on Saturday in order to attend the Farm Aid concert, so I was on my own for Saturday night's event. The festivities were held at an upscale bowling joint, Pinstripes, located in Georgetown. I paid $125 to be a part of this shindig. I couldn't eat any of the food, but I made sure I got my fair share of the vino from the open bar. Several people attended this event who were not at Friday's happy hour so it was nice to catch up with some new old faces. As soon as I ran into Kelly and Rachel in the bathroom, I felt like the whole thing was worth it. I was also excited to see Beth, someone I'd always liked a lot.  I made the rounds and talked to quite a few old friends. I don't know when I've hugged so many people. The wine made it easier. I had fun looking at all of the memorabilia my pack-rat classmates had laid on a table - everything from letter jackets to paper programs for events that happened in 1988.

Felix was my unofficial date, and we did manage to belt out a couple of songs from our long-ago French classes once we'd had a couple glasses of wine. Beaux yeux, beaux yeux, depuis que je vous admire! Mostly we wandered around separately, running our mouths to people we hadn't seen in three decades. At one point we had a semi-quiet moment and he mentioned how a kid named Jonny had tormented him when he was a kid. In recent years, he confronted Jonny via Facebook. I guess Jonny had a shitty home life and struck out where he could (and chose Felix as a target, for whatever reason). They hashed through it as adults and I think my friend felt a little better after that.

The thing about middle/high school bullies, though, is that they generally don't seem to remember what they did. There were a few guys in attendance on Saturday whose presence still made me uneasy, even though I know that sounds dumb. I still remember one of them mocking me in 8th grade science class, mouthing foul words in my direction.

I mean, what do you do after 30 years? I'm pretty sure that it's meant to be a water-under-the-bridge thing. We had a big class - 462 students. There were quite a few people that I didn't talk to on Saturday but not out of dislike - I simply didn't know them. I was standing in a circle with a few people and one of those guys-I-didn't-know joined us in conversation. Our paths just never really crossed in high school. Someone asked him if he has kids. "Yeah, I've got three of them fuckers," he said as he pulled out his phone. He made me laugh. We talked about concerts we had attended - we had seen some of the same bands. So, I don't think he was a dick - just a popular guy that I'd never really known.

As for the handful of bad memories, you can't forgive someone who doesn't apologize - and who, in all likelihood, has no memory of their less-than-stellar behavior. And there's no point in holding a grudge, of course. I suppose I should also confess that my friends and I were not always super charitable either. We were never unkind to anyone in a face-to-face sort of way like I'd experienced myself, but we had ways to amuse ourselves. For a period of time in the 80s, McDonald's happy meals contained a small plastic telescope. One time, I was standing in Senior Hall with Jared and a few of our friends. Nearby was a fairly popular kid who . . . well, let's just say that the distance between his skull and his shoulders was somewhat abbreviated. Jared used to pull out the telescope and pretend to look for that kid's neck. We howled over that.

Anywho . . . I enjoyed the reunion and I'm sorry more people couldn't make it. (I think slightly over 100 did attend). Sometimes I wonder how people pulled off an event of this magnitude prior to the existence of Facebook. The organizing committee (some of whom served on the student council way back when) did an amazing job. Speaking of Facebook, I've actually gotten to know some members of my class better over the past decade than I did during the four years at Lee. That's kind of an amazing thing, I think.

I ended up staying in the DC area for six days since it's cheaper to fly mid-week. I was grateful for the opportunity to spend some time with my sister and her family. My youngest niece was a bit shy around me when I visited in July, but this time she sat in my lap and told me she loves me. Swoon! I took one of my nephews out for lunch at the Burger Shack in Chantilly - they had a great vegan burger! I also refereed one FortNite-related brawl between my nephews over the weekend. On Sunday, I drove out to Bethesda to have dinner with my friend Carrie. On my last night in town, my sister and I (plus three of her kids) drove to Kent Island, Maryland to have dinner with our dad and stepmom. It was a really nice way to end the visit.

I didn't take a lot of photos at the reunion so I've stolen borrowed one from Melinda. I'm not even sure how they pulled it off, but the organizers managed to play a VHS tape of some events from our senior year. Crazy!

My daughter is currently serving as campaign manager for a friend who is running for student council. I told her, "Don't run for student council yourself. In 35 years you'll have to organize a reunion and it looks like a lot of work."





Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The Worst Day

I would love to tell you that I remained calm. I wish I could report that I knew exactly what to do. Instead, I found myself standing in the tall grass along highway 494 near Eagan, Minnesota, wailing, "Oh, my baby. My baby."

This was on Sunday. We'd spent the weekend with friends in Cologne. The day before had been full of fun activities. Our friends have a boat and we took the kids tubing on Lake Zumbra. It was my daughter's first time tubing. Our friends have three boys and she watched them do it first. The boys flew behind the boat, laughing and bouncing along on the waves that formed as Dennis guided the boat in circles, steering clear of nearby fishermen and a pair of loons. Soon, it was A's turn and she replaced one of the three boys on the tube (all clad in life vests). I sat in the back of the boat and took video clips of the kids careening across the water, having the time of their lives.

After the tubing adventure, we found a great bistro for lunch and enjoyed lunch on the patio, under wide maroon umbrellas. The kids sat on one end and the grown-ups sat on the other, adult beverages in hand. I fussed at my daughter because she was blowing through her data allotment by showing the boys goofy videos on her phone.

Later, we stopped at our friends' house to drop off the boat and then headed to Minnesota's largest candy store. I hardly have words to describe this place to you. It's massive (housed in a huge yellow barn) and full of every kind of treat you can imagine. I even found some amazing vegan cookies. We spent about $50 and our friends walked out at least $75 poorer.

Back at the house, we ate burgers hot off the grill along with corn on the cob and roasted zucchini, fresh from Sherri's dad's garden. Soon, we headed to the backyard, where Dennis had started a fire in the fire pit. The kids set up a corn hole set and played until it got too dark to see the boards. Finally, we watched a few episodes of Impractical Jokers before heading to bed.

The next morning, we had a quick breakfast before loading up the car and heading out at 9:30. Our friends needed to get to church and we needed to get home in time for P to get to work at 4:00. The eight of us exchanged hugs and then we started our journey home.

The kid wanted to get some rest (9:30 is early for her) so she quickly settled in and propped her pillow against the door. She was sitting behind me on the passenger side. Her dad was driving. About 20 minutes down the road, I checked on her and couldn't see the shoulder strap of her seat belt. I woke her up and made her show it to me. She lifted her red zip-up hoodie to show me the strap, and then dozed back off.

About 15-20 minutes later, I heard a weird noise from the back seat. I don't know how to describe it. If you keep your upper and lower jaw tightly clenched together and attempt to whisper, "Click click click" through your teeth . . . that's probably about as close as I can get. I think my initial thought was that my daughter was having a bad dream. Right then, my husband looked over his right shoulder and said, "She's having a seizure!"

The next few seconds found us in a state of sheer panic and terror. We'd been in the left or middle lane and had to get over to the right. As he pulled over, I frantically disengaged my seat belt. As soon as the car came to a stop, I jumped out as fast as I could and opened the back door. There I found my daughter in a full-blown seizure and completely unresponsive. I don't remember taking her seat belt off, but I must have done so. "Call 911!" I shrieked. I think he was already trying to call. However, he was in such a panic that he didn't hit the green "send" button. He finally managed to connect to the 911 dispatcher. I heard him say that his daughter was having a seizure and that we needed an ambulance. The next challenge was to describe where we were. I looked behind us and was able to identify the nearest exit. Later, we realized that we were directly in front of the TCO Performance Center, a massive building that serves as a training center for the Minnesota Vikings.

While we waited for the ambulance, I held my daughter as the seizure raged on. She was drooling and breathing very fast. Her arms were bent at the elbow, her hands tightly clenched near her collarbone. Her body convulsed and she continued to force air through clenched teeth. I remember thinking that I just needed to make sure she was breathing and that her heart was beating. I held my palm against her chest, which was clad in a red Rent tee shirt. Her heart was racing. I worried that she might overheat, so I embarked on a mission to get her red zippered hoodie off. I was able to pull it off her right arm but not her left. I decided to lay her down on the seat. She was still convulsing. I managed to pull off the sweatshirt and threw it on the floor. Was it safe to have her lying down? Should she be sitting up? I was in a state of sheer panic. I tried to sit her up but she was technically unconscious (I assume) and could not hold herself upright. I wondered if I was supposed to check her airway, but her teeth were still tightly clenched.

Later, I learned that I had really done all I could. The main goal is to keep the person safe, and I succeeded in that, at least. I didn't know what else I should be doing at that moment, though. I remember repeating, "I don't know what to do!" Why hadn't I Googled what to do in this situation? I just wanted it to stop with a desperation that I can't even articulate. I don't know how long it took the ambulance to arrive, flanked by three police cars, but I know it was amazingly fast. A seizure happens in a time warp of sorts. It may only last two to three minutes but it feels like a hundred years. By the time the ambulance arrived, my daughter was coming out of the seizure. I called her name and she opened her eyes. During the seizure I had started to worry about neurological damage. Now I had hope that my baby's brain was okay.

The officers blocked the right lane of traffic while the paramedics pulled my daughter out of the car and loaded her onto a stretcher. She opened her eyes and looked at me with confusion. "We're getting you some help," I told her, touching every part of her that I could reach. I remember hearing one of the paramedics (Marcia and a nice lady whose name I wish I could recall) thank the officers for blocking the lane because traffic had showed no signs of slowing, even for a little girl having a seizure on the highway. I remember the paramedics running some basic tests and at one point asked my daughter to stick out her tongue. She could not do it, which scared me.

I asked if I could ride in the ambulance. They told me that I could ride up front with Marcia. One of the officers led me to the front of the ambulance and guided me into the front passenger seat. Meanwhile, my daughter was loaded into the back of the ambulance. She was in full meltdown mode at this point. She is not a fan of medical procedures on her best day, and this was not her best day. There was talk of an IV, and she was flipping out. Later I learned that this is called the postictal phase, a period of confusion and disorientation after a seizure.

The paramedics changed their mind and decided that I should ride in back. So, for the first time in my life, I found myself in the back of an ambulance. My daughter was wailing, "No! No! No!" but didn't seem to know what she was protesting. She just kept clutching at the blanket, the seat belt, the blood pressure cuff, and wires that were all around. They brought me to the back so that I could calm her down, but I wasn't having much luck. I answered lots of questions from the paramedic who sat across from me. 13. No allergies. No, never had a seizure before. No medications. They didn't end up starting an IV but did run a quick blood sugar test by pricking her finger - her levels were fine.

Eventually, A started to calm down. I reminded her how to engage her breath for some yoga breathing she'd learned recently. "In through your nose and out through your mouth," I said, and then repeated several times. Remarkably, my tactic seemed to have some effect. I also pointed out the back window and reminded her that her dad was right behind us. We were headed to the Children's Hospital in St. Paul. I held her hand for the rest of the ride. "She's my person," I tearfully told the paramedic whose name I can't remember.

Soon, we were stashed in room 6 in the emergency room. P parked the car and joined us a few minutes later. I had texted Dennis and Sherri and they joined us within the hour. Once she felt steady enough to walk, I accompanied my daughter to the bathroom across the hall. I looked at myself in the mirror. My mascara was smeared in a way that was almost garish. I cleaned myself up as best as I could. My daughter's dried drool was all over the front of my tee shirt from when I clutched her to my chest in desperation during the seizure.

A doctor came in to see us pretty quickly. She asked my daughter if anyone had hurt her. A shot me a look of utter confusion. "It's okay, sweetie, she has to ask you that." We briefly recapped the previous day's events. Tubing, candy, corn hole. Nothing that would cause a seizure. No bonked heads or strobe lights or anything that would seem to point to a cause. The doctor recommended a CT Scan, which was done almost immediately after that. P and I stood in the darkened CT room as our daughter, our one and only child, was slid in and out of the massive doughnut, which was covered in Sesame Street stickers. I took a quick photo in case she might find it amusing later. I shuffled closer to my husband and put my head on his chest. I desperately wanted to have a good cry, like the ugly red-faced kind, but I felt like it wouldn't be helpful to our child.

The CT scans were normal, thank goodness. They also ran some blood work to test for things like salt levels. Everything came back normal. I knew my daughter was physically exhausted because she didn't even fight the technician who took her blood. Normally, even a flu shot is cause for crying and screaming and theatrics.

The ER doctor told us that the neurology team was requesting that we stay at the hospital until six hours had passed since the seizure. Apparently, if a second seizure will occur, there is a higher chance of it occurring in the first six hours. If we had lived in the area, they probably would have sent us home to wait, but we live four hours away.

By then, our friends had arrived and I had notified our family members and close friends. I also sent a message to my daughter's birthmom to ask about a family history of seizures (there isn't one). Plus, I knew she'd want to know. She was understandably as distraught as I was.

As relatives started to call and text, everyone wanted to know why why why. So far, there is no why. I hate to keep guessing at it because I truly don't know. My first theory was that the shoulder strap of her seat belt had pressed across her neck and maybe that caused the seizure. Her pediatrician later discounted that theory so I've refrained from guessing further. There's no point in it. I've decided to put my energy into an optimism that calls this a one-time occurrence. Many people do have one seizure and then never have another, so it is possible.

Back at the hospital, we took turns visiting the cafeteria. By now it was around 1:30 and we hadn't eaten. We ordered room service for the kid. She was hesitant to eat because at times she thought she might vomit. We finally convinced her to get some mild stuff like yogurt, rice, and pretzels. She didn't care for the yogurt but she did eat the rice. The hospital room was small but did have a flat screen TV and lots of free movies. We watched Jumanji. Four adults were pressed against the wall while the kid rested in the bed. We encouraged her to sleep, but she was scared because the seizure had started while she was sleeping. The nurse brought her a pillow and a warm blanket. She reassured my daughter that sleeping didn't cause the seizure and that it was good to sleep. As we were learning, a seizure is exhausting on the body.

Finally, at around 4 p.m., we were discharged. I was given a prescription for Versed, which I filled at the hospital's pharmacy. It's a pre-filled syringe that can be used if a seizure lasts longer than three minutes. I couldn't help but wonder how I would ever manage to time a seizure while my heart was being ripped out of my chest. A was very worried about the long drive home. We could have stayed overnight (my boss is certainly very understanding in that regard so it wasn't that I was worried about work), but we knew we had to get home sometime. I sat in the back with my daughter while her dad drove. I held her and rubbed her back. I think the three of us felt exceptionally tender at that moment, just uncertain and little bit afraid of what the future might hold. Later, we switched and my husband sat in the back with her.

We were relieved when we arrived home without incident at about 8:30 p.m. We set up an air mattress in our bedroom because our daughter did not want to be alone. She asked me to order a baby monitor, which I did. Once that arrives, she'll move back into her own room and we'll use the monitor as long as needed. She is worried about having a seizure at night and not being heard. We are adjusting to a new normal, I suppose. She is also worried about having a seizure in the shower, so I now sit in the bathroom with her while she showers.

On Monday, we visited A's pediatrician. He ran some neurological tests, like having her walk on her toes and touching her finger to her nose with eyes closed. He has referred us to a pediatric neurologist for an EEG, which tests electrical activity in the brain. As I have now learned, a seizure is what happens when the electricity in your brain goes haywire. The soonest appointment we could get is on September 7th. In the meantime, we have been instructed to focus on safety. No swimming, climbing, or crossing streets alone.

After we got home from Minnesota, my husband said, "I think I'm scarred for life." See,what you have to know about my husband is that he is a former Marine. He's an easygoing, stoic, Midwestern boy. I sometimes joke that you could set him on fire and he'd say that he was fine. He doesn't share his feelings, and I've only seen him shed a tear twice in 26 years. However, I could tell that this day had wrecked him on the inside. We might yell at our daughter for leaving plates in her room or losing her school ID, but everyone who knows us will tell you that our lives revolve around her. The seizure, plus the trauma of having our child plucked off the side of a busy highway and whisked away in an ambulance, have shaken us to the core.

I still feel like crying but each day is getting a little easier. I feel like the seizure is a movie that will just replay in my brain for the rest of my life, but I'm grateful that my daughter is fine and received great care. We were glad that we happened to be so close to the Twin Cities and not in the middle of nowhere (we passed a lot of nowhere on the long drive home). I was also deeply grateful for the outpouring of support we received. I had lots of worried people on my hands, as you can imagine.  Many people were praying for my baby.  As a Unitarian Universalist, my faith leads me to thank the paramedics, doctors, technicians, and nurses (go, science!) for helping my kiddo. However, I also feel that any positive energy/love being sent in my daughter's direction is a good thing. Call it prayer, call it whatever you want. People care about my child and that's important. The method of expression is really secondary in my mind.

Up until Sunday, I felt like I'd been through a few scary moments in my life. Now I know that those moments were nothing compared to how I felt on Sunday. I'm still processing everything that happened, but what I do know is that I'm the luckiest mom in the world because I still have my ID-losing, plate hoarding, curly-haired baby girl.





Sunday, August 5, 2018

Summer: From Fresh Vegetables to Ocean-Eyed Boys and Everything in Between

Summer afternoon - summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language. - Henry James

I could hardly wait to get to the farmers' market yesterday. Parking is a mild annoyance and the market (held downtown) can get pretty crowded, but I remind myself of how much I will miss it when we're knee-deep in snow in a few months. I picked up corn on the cob, zucchini, mushrooms, tomatoes (I'm growing my own but they aren't ripe yet), lettuce, cauliflower, green beans, and peaches. I've recently re-committed to Weight Watchers so I just need to make sure I don't supplement those nice veggies with Oreos (I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing, but pretty much all Oreo flavors are technically vegan).
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Somehow, it's already August. My friend Nancy is a teacher and she always says that August is "like one big Sunday night" but I'm not a teacher and I'm not even close to letting summer go. We've had a few adventures so far this summer. The kid went on tour to Michigan back in June (with the touring choir of which she is a member). She also enrolled in some fun summer classes over at the high school - stuff like baking, set building, leadership games, and so forth. She told me that they actually played dodgeball the other day. I guess not enough generations have been traumatized by that "game" - gotta make sure today's kids learn the whole "Lord of the Flies" thing the hard way.

The classes have been held in the mornings. Then, in the afternoons, she's been hanging out in our neighborhood park. The city hires "parkees," which are college-aged kids who run organized games and activities for the younger kids. Lunch is also provided (which is nice because it bridges the gap for kids who might not get enough food while school is out). I like that she has been spending so much time at the park. She comes home sweaty and tired and very much in need of a shower. I'd rather see her playing kickball in the park than staring at a screen all day.

However, I found out another reason why she loves the park program so much. There is a boy there who (and I quote) "has eyes as blue as the ocean." Oh boy. I think she really regrets telling me about it because now every time she mentions the park I ask her if Mister Ocean Eyes will be there. "He'll look right at you with his ocean eyes," I tell her. This is met with eye rolls and sheer exasperation.

We have certainly seen a hormone surge lately. She took a shine to a young Kohl's cashier yesterday. I bought her a few new things for school because I had the coveted 30% off coupon and our state featured tax-free shopping days for the first time ever. Anyway, last night she discovered that there was a security tag on one of the shirts I bought her. "Look, Evan left the tag on," she said. Evan??? She liked his hair and his glasses, apparently. Oy.

The teen had to miss a couple of weeks at the park because she was in Virginia. She flew out to DC on the 14th and spent a week with my middle sister and her family. She got to spend three days at Busch Gardens. Lucky kid. Being her usual organized self, though, she showed up at the Busch Gardens water park with no swimsuit. To be clear, my child didn't bring a swimsuit to a place called WATER COUNTRY USA. I think my sister ended up running to Target to buy her a new one.

Her dad and I joined her at my sister's house a week later. It was a long car ride but we've done it a gazillion times before. We drove about 11 hours on Friday night and then arrived at a Super 8 in Youngstown, OH at 2:30 a.m. I had booked the room on Priceline. We didn't need anything fancy since it was just a matter of getting a few hours of sleep before hitting the road again. When I checked in, all bleary-eyed and exhausted, the chick at the desk said, "Okay, I see you've booked a smoking room." Oh, sweet Jesus. They were fully booked so there weren't any other options. We were so tired that we didn't even argue.

Now, I don't want to suggest that the romance is dead in our marriage but when we walked into our smoky room and saw that there were two beds, we were delighted. "Oh, thank God," we muttered simultaneously. We'd spent so many hours in the car together that we just wanted to sleep in a bed without another human in it. And so we did. It was weird to have ashtrays everywhere. I felt like I was on Mad Men for a second there (the general decor also made me feel like I'd slipped back in time a few decades).

The next morning, we got up and hit the road. We missed the complimentary continental breakfast (whatever that might have been) and decided we'd get some food at a rest stop later on. Stupidly, I took some medication that does require food to be taken with it. "It'll be fine," I told myself.

It wasn't fine. By the time I found some food, the damage was done. I spent the next five hours slumped over in the passenger seat, clutching my abdomen, while my husband drove through torrential rain to get us to my sister's house in Virginia. I felt somewhat better by the time we arrived, fortunately. Lesson learned. Take your meds with food, kids.

I'd like to say that spending time with my extended family was the best part of my vacation, but if I'm being very honest, the best part of my vacation was this: my brother-in-law got me and my sister tickets to see Erasure at the Warner Theatre. I've been a fan of Erasure for 32 years. I've asked Alexa to play Erasure so many times that she's probably planning an intervention of some sort. I make no apologies about being a fan. Seriously, I had the time of my life. My sister booked an Uber because of the distance and the still-pouring rain. Once we arrived, we grabbed a couple of over-priced drinks and took our seats, which were AMAZING. I think we were in row H, just to give you an idea. The opening act was just finishing up. Before long, Andy Bell, Vince Clarke, and two back-up singers took the stage. I was grinning so hard my cheeks started to hurt. I sang along to every song I knew. When they played my favorite Erasure song, " Sometimes," I thought I might pass out. "It's not the way you lead me by the hand into the bedroom!"  I'm happy to report that Vince Clarke is as much of a synth genius as ever and that Andy Bell is just as over-the-top as ever. Andy kept shedding clothing and I wondered if he might be naked by the end.

The other great thing about this concert is that everyone there seemed legitimately very happy. There was no fear of pissing someone off if you accidentally bumped them. My sister and I went to the restroom and when we came back, "Blue Savannah Song" was playing. A woman was dancing up the aisle towards me and briefly danced with me as I made my way back to my seat. It seemed like most of the attendees were in my age range and it may also have been one of those rare times when I was in the minority as a heterosexual person. I loved every second of that concert and am very grateful to my brother-in-law. My other brothers-in-law need to step up! Ha ha.

In addition to the concert, we also attended a high school production of Hairspray, visited my stepdad and grandma, and spent a day in DC. I was able to score tickets to the new African-American History museum, which is not that easy to do. I had to wake up at 6:30 a.m. and compete with strangers to snag some of the few tickets that are released each day. We also visited the Air & Space Museum, which is my least favorite museum of all, but I took one for the team because that's the kind of self-sacrificing, heroic woman I am. Despite the rain that plagued us for several days, my sister was determined that we tie dye some shirts, which we did. They all turned out great!

On Wednesday the 25th, we headed to the Eastern shore in Maryland to spend a few days in Ocean City. We stayed with my dad and stepmom. My sister and her family followed us out there the next day - they rented a place in Bethany Beach. The beach visit was a lot of fun, too. I attended yoga on the beach a couple of times. We hit the boardwalk and the GoKart tracks, ate Thrasher's fries (the mister even let me add vinegar), and of course spent time at the beach. We celebrated my sister's birthday the night before we left for the long trek home. We arrived home on Monday, my car piled high with dirty, sandy laundry. I actually tried to vacuum out the sand a few days ago but the sand said, "Nah, we're good!" So I guess the sand is permanent.

As for the rest of the summer, we have a few more things planned. The kid heads to choir camp this week. Next weekend, she and I are headed to the state fair. I gently suggested to my other half that he skip the trip this year. We go every year, and every year he looks kinda miserable. The following weekend, the three of us are driving to Minnesota to spend the weekend with friends. On the 21st, I'm flying out to Denver to spend time in the office. This is my first trip to Denver and I'm really looking forward to it. It will be nice to meet my co-workers in person. I'm a little worried that I'll be turned away at the border of Colorado because I don't know how to snowboard and don't look very outdoorsy. I'm hoping to sneak in, though. So, do they issue my legally-sanctioned weed at the airport or do I have to pick it up somewhere? Kidding! I'm kidding!

I'm sure school will start before we know it. The kid is headed into her third and final year of middle school. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but she's excited. You can imagine how I am looking forward to getting her up in the mornings. Of course, I bought her a pair of $60 Van's yesterday so maybe she can use those to sprint to school when she misses the bus.










Sunday, June 3, 2018

D is for . . . Don't Get a D, Dammit

Once our daughter hit middle school and started receiving actual letter grades (instead of the gentler elementary school report card ratings like "meets expectations"), her dad and I shared some expectations with her. Basically, we didn't want to see anything lower than a C. Too much pressure? I don't think so, but I can see how you could make a case for that. In sixth grade (first year of middle school), she had some close calls but managed to complete the school year with A's and B's. Seventh grade has been a much more challenging year.

Apparently, I've now turned into the type of mom who squawks about "unmet potential." And bad decisions. My daughter is very bright. All of her teachers (in elementary and middle school) have assured me that A is 100% capable of doing the work that is assigned to her. What she lacks is . . . oh, what do you call it? Oh yeah - focus. Her grades this year started out great. However, I could tell from the first parent-teacher conference back in the fall that her science teacher was not messing around. She was not swayed by the sheer cuteness of the petite girl with the big curls. Instead, Mrs. F was exasperated by a kid who asked to stay after school to work on extra credit assignments but then ran her mouth with her friends instead. She had little patience for half-completed assignments and the like. You know . . . a lot like the real world?

All year long, I've been riding my daughter about her science grade. She kept assuring me that she'd do some extra credit and improve her grade. Alas, the grade is in and it is final: D+ - which, in my books, is basically a D, which is basically a hair above failure. She current has C's in English and Math as well. Those grades aren't listed as final, but I'm assuming they might be.

I should add that she has lots of good grades on her report card. She's doing well in her electives (like choir), as well as in World Cultures and Spanish. My frustration lies in the fact that the not-so-great grades are in core classes. She has one more year of middle school and then the clock starts ticking with her GPA in high school. Actually, it happens before that because she has signed up to take advanced Algebra next year, as well as a Spanish class that earns high school credit. I don't want to pressure her about college, but five years is not really that far away.

I know she is starting to think about college, though. She's been checking out our state's university system, and making note of which campuses are known to have good music programs. The seventh graders took a "career interest" test back in the fall and not surprisingly, my daughter's potential job titles included: singer, dancer, actor, and - I swear I am not making this up - magician. The seventh graders were split up by career interests and taken on field trips last week. My daughter's group went to a local theater.

I was torn about what to do about her shitty science grade. I decided to do two things: 1. Make her clean her room because it was starting to veer into "the health department will be calling" territory and 2. Make her choose her own consequence for her poor decision-making. After all, she chose not to study for her tests. She chose not to complete her assignments. Those were the decisions that she made. So today she chose her consequence: giving up her computer for a couple weeks. She doesn't need it for homework since this is the last week of school. She mostly only uses the computer to play Roblox while simultaneously watching "Liv and Maddie" reruns on her phone. It's gotten to the point where just hearing a few notes of the theme song sends me into convulsions. "We both know we're better in stereo!"  

So yeah, I've been torn about how to handle this. We set expectations and she didn't fully meet them. What's the right approach? Paying/rewarding for good grades or leveling consequences for disappointing ones? She has one job at this point in her life, which is to be a student. I feel like I would be failing her if I didn't set expectations. At the same time, though, I am immensely proud of my daughter. She's talented and kind and an all-around good person. For all I know, she'd give me a D+ for my parenting skills. I dunno.  :::sigh:::

I am looking forward to the end of the school year so that we can avoid the dreaded morning routine, though. Now that I work from home, I sometimes grab one of the dogs and walk her to the bus stop in the morning. It's nice to have the extra time since I don't have to drive anywhere. Speaking of which, the new job is going pretty well, I think. I've got six weeks under my belt and I'm learning a lot. I sometimes feel like I'm at a movie and everyone else got there before I did. I'm looking at the screen and asking, "Whose car is that? Why did they get pulled over? Is that Gwyneth Paltrow?" I'm not bored, that's for sure.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to inspect a bedroom to make sure that cups filled with fungus and whatnot have been removed.



Thursday, May 3, 2018

Dear 13

Hey Kid,

Happy 13th birthday! You're finally a teenager!

Sometimes I think about the day you were born, after the dust had settled and the nurses had moved you to the nursery. Your dad and I went to the lobby of the hospital to make some calls. When I walked back to the nursery wing, my heart was racing. I had this terrible fear that I wouldn't remember which one was you, that I wouldn't recognize my new daughter. After all, I didn't carry you in my womb and we had only just met. I remember seeing a row of bassinets, each one containing a newly-arrived human. I nervously scanned the row.

But, I knew you right away. I've always known you, baby girl. I know your tender heart and your crazy curls. I know your green eyes and your fear of spiders. I know your infectious laugh and your insistence on pulling doors that clearly say "push." I know you.

I am so very proud of the young woman you are becoming. I love how you treat other people with kindness and compassion. I love how you keep singing, even when you think no one is listening. I love how you understand my quirky sense of humor so thoroughly that you make jokes that slay me on the spot. I love how you still let me hold you. Please know that you will never be too old for that.

We have running jokes, you and I. "You're my favorite," I say.

"I'm your only," you respond.

And you are, of course. My only. My person.

Happy birthday, Goober.

Love, Mom


Saturday, April 21, 2018

Looking Up!

I don't believe that if you do good, good things will happen. Everything is completely accidental and random. Sometimes bad things happen to very good people and sometimes good things happen to bad people. But at least if you try to do good things, then you're spending your time doing something worthwhile. Helen Mirren
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/helen_mirren_534603?src=t_good_things
I don't believe that if you do good, good things will happen. Everything is completely accidental and random. Sometimes bad things happen to very good people and sometimes good things happen to bad people. But at least if you try to do good things, then you're spending your time doing something worthwhile.  - Helen Mirren

I don't believe that if you do good, good things will happen. Everything is completely accidental and random. Sometimes bad things happen to very good people and sometimes good things happen to bad people. But at least if you try to do good things, then you're spending your time doing something worthwhile. Helen Mirren
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/helen_mirren_534603?src=t_good_things
don't believe that if you do good, good things will happen. Everything is completely accidental and random. Sometimes bad things happen to very good people and sometimes good things happen to bad people. But at least if you try to do good things, then you're spending your time doing something worthwhile. Helen Mirren
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/helen_mirren_534603?src=t_good_things
I don't believe that if you do good, good things will happen. Everything is completely accidental and random. Sometimes bad things happen to very good people and sometimes good things happen to bad people. But at least if you try to do good things, then you're spending your time doing something worthwhile. Helen Mirren
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/helen_mirren_534603?src=t_good_things
The last four months or so have certainly been eventful. In December, I had two car accidents in one day. I'm still dealing with some of the effects from that, including the fact that my neck still hurts every time I turn my head to the right. And yes, I went to a doctor about it. She basically said, "Right, but did you schedule your mammogram?" I think I will need to break up with this doctor because she is always more worried about getting me back for other procedures (get dat revenue!) than she is about why I came in to begin with.

My luck got a little worse in late February, when my appendix decided that 48 years together was more than enough. I recovered from that and then lost my job in April.

When I lost my job, I was touched (truly!) by the sheer volume of friends and family who reached out to me. My friend Jennifer sent me some fancy vegan chocolates to console me. Several people checked the job boards at their places of employment and passed my resume around. A former boss did a lot of networking on my behalf.

I reached out to some of my LinkedIn contacts and just happened to connect with the "right" one, the owner of a technology company in Denver. I'd referred a couple of clients to him in the past. It just so happened that he had a position that would be a good fit for my skills and background. We met at a Starbucks last week when he was in town on business. I was really impressed by his charismatic yet easygoing demeanor, as well as his passion for the work his team is doing for clients.

So, it looks like I start on Monday! I'll be working remotely (the owner is sending me a Surface tablet next week). The company isn't set up to have employees in my state so I may have to go the sub-contractor route until that's set up. I never dreamed that my job search would end so quickly. I am beyond grateful. I realize now just how stressful my old job had been. Things were not going well and I felt like I had become a professional apologizer. ("I'm sorry that your site is down. I apologize for the inconvenience . . . ") Now I can look forward to a brighter future and a fresh start. I know it sounds corny but I'm genuinely excited about it.

I've been thinking a lot about luck. I don't know if I really believe in it. I'm also iffy on the phrase "everything happens for a reason." People say it to be reassuring, which I have certainly appreciated. However, when I was younger and suffered four miscarriages, the only way through it was for me to come to an understanding that sometimes terrible things happen for no reason at all. And sometimes, when you least expect it, amazing things happen, too.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Ch-ch-ch-changes

When I was in my very early 20s, I worked for a German-born retired USAF general who owned a small international marketing company. One time, I left work a few minutes early for an appointment. The next day, I saw a note on his desk that he had written to himself: "Claudia left at 4:56 today." He was probably my weirdest employer. He paid me next to nothing and routinely referred to me as his sexetary. But then he would do outlandishly generous things, like taking me to lunch at a fancy restaurant or buying me crystal for my birthday each year. Thanks to him, I actually own a lead crystal ice bucket - not everyone can say they own one of those.

I've had the good fortune to have some very nice employers over the years. For some reason, though, I keep thinking of a scene from one of my favorite movies, The Muppet Christmas Carol. (Hey, I didn't say that I was a sophisticated movie-goer here!) The bookkeeping rats urge Bob Cratchit (AKA Kermit the Frog) to ask Ebenezer Scrooge if they can have some more coal for the fire. Scrooge flies into a rage and asks the rats if they'd like to be "SUDDENLY UNEMPLOYED!" The rats, in turn, break out into a Caribbean-style dance and start chattering about a heat wave.

Why am I thinking about that goofy scene? Well, because (as of yesterday) I am  . . . SUDDENLY UNEMPLOYED. I am still reeling from the shock of it. My emotions were (and are) all over the map: fear, worry, sadness, and stuff I can't even articulate. I mean, I've always had a job. I have been working steadily since I was a teenager. I think the last time I was unemployed was in 1988 when I was a student at Texas A&M, and then a brief period after the mister and I moved to the Midwest in 1995.

My career path has been interesting. I started as an administrative assistant at a local IT company in 1996. Later, I transitioned to the company's web development department and eventually got into project management. In 2010, the web department (which had been spun off as a separate company by that time) was sold to another local IT company that specialized in web hosting and managed services. Fortunately, I was offered a job by the new company and worked there until 2016, when the owner sold the company to a very large IT company. In 2017, the very large IT company sold the web development division to a small marketing agency. Got all that?

I was excited to get into a new field and to learn about content marketing (in addition to continuing to serve the clients that were part of the acquisition). I did everything I was asked to do. I earned two HubSpot certifications. I wrote blogs to support the company's inbound marketing campaigns. I managed web projects. I trained clients. Plus, I liked my boss and my co-workers (I still do, honestly). And then, suddenly, I was sent packing. I can't say that I took it well. I cried all day and I'm pretty sure I still have more tears to shed. It's hard not to take it as a rejection of me as a person instead of simply "we can't afford to pay you anymore."

Of course, I have to be very careful about what I say next. It's very easy for me to go down a path of being very angry. So, I am trying to stay positive, focus on the future, and hope that a great opportunity comes along. Why was I let go? I was told that the decision was purely financial (my salary was not huge, but I'm assuming that I made a bit more than my much-younger co-workers), so I'm trying to take that at face value. I was told that there was nothing I could have done differently and that I didn't do anything wrong. I keep thinking about how I worked with some of the same clients for a decade or more. I have to think that some of them may wonder where I am. I feel bad about that, like I've let them down in some way. 

Just recently I told a friend that after being acquired three times, I sometimes wondered when my luck would run out. I was hired by each company and held onto my job even when others were let go. It's kind of like when my husband hit a deer a few months ago. We live in an area where it happens pretty routinely. His number was just up. It was his turn to mangle a deer. Now, my number is up (not for the deer thing, though, I hope).

We're snowed in (yes, in April - Mother Nature can go suck an egg), so I've been working on my resume and gathering references. One positive thing is that I've managed to build a good network over the past 22 years and am reaching out to people who have offered to help me in my job search. Several have agreed to serve as references. I filed for unemployment this morning (for the first time in my life). As if getting fired isn't enough of a blow to the ol' ego, the unemployment forms just about finished it off. "Were you fired for stealing? Were you fired for drug use?" Geez.

What makes me sad (well, almost as sad as being unemployed) is that it just feels like loyalty doesn't mean anything anymore.  You can check your work emails on nights and weekends. You can beat the drum for the company. You can do everything you've been asked to do and more. But in the end, it won't save your job. And that's a tough lesson to learn.

Telling my daughter that I lost my job was almost as hard as absorbing the news myself. She is a very empathetic kid and I knew it would make her sad to see me down in the dumps. I assured her that it's my job (ouch) to worry about this stuff. I will do my best to make sure that very little changes in her world. I assured her that we'll still have her birthday party as planned. I did her laundry while she was at school yesterday (I normally make her do her own laundry), so that's one little bonus for her. I have more time for her, at least temporarily (I hope).

When I posted a note about my job search on Facebook, my friends were very supportive. According to them, I'm talented and smart and lots of other adjectives, too. You know what? They're right. I may not have tons of confidence when it comes to my appearance. I worry that I'm not a great mom. I certainly have my insecurities. But, I am confident in my ability to do a good job, wherever I land. They say that integrity is what you do when no one is looking. I'd like to think that I have integrity. I'd like to think that I've developed some valuable skills over the years. Plus, there has to be some employer out there who wants to hear my terrible jokes all day long.



Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Middle School Talent Show

My daughter participated in a music gala at her school last night. It was essentially a talent show, with a fundraising component added (raffle, admission, etc.) The show benefited the school's music department.

The kid sang the song "Colorblind" from Glee. Because of time constraints, she was only able to sing one verse. However, she had the opportunity to sing it in its entirety at church a couple weeks ago (see below) and she's sung it for me and her dad about a hundred times, so I think we're all set. She also had a small solo in a number performed by the advanced mixed choir.

I have to say . . . some of the kids really blew me away with their talent. One group of kids performed a step number. It was so much fun to watch. We have a local tribe that's very prominent in our community. Quite a few tribal kids go to my daughter's school. A group of them performed a water song (in the native tongue) and then later they did a smoke dance to a drumming soundtrack. I think I was just extra impressed because I think it takes courage to be in middle school and to proudly wear tribal garb. Middle school is usually more about fitting in than standing out.

One act shattered my heart. The screen came down and the music started. A student named Jocelyn came out and sang a song about her brother. It was a sweet, simple song with lyrics like "I love you to the stars." Meanwhile, on the screen, dozens and dozens of photos of her family flashed by. In each, the focal point was a dark-eyed boy with nasal cannulas sending oxygen into his lungs. He looked happy but there was clearly something wrong, health-wise. I wondered if it might be cystic fibrosis. The photos kept coming and I started to think, "Oh no, I don't think he makes it." Second later, a photo of his headstone appeared. He died in 2017 at the age of 10.

I have no idea how she sang so clearly and beautifully. It's only been a year since she lost her brother. The auditorium, which was packed, was silent. I was crying openly at that point. Oh man, I feel a little weepy just thinking about it now! Brave girl, for sure.

A couple of acts were less memorable, but it was obvious that all of the kids had worked hard. My husband felt compelled to whisper his editorial comments throughout the show but I shushed him because you never know when the kid who just performed has family sitting directly behind you. A band performed an original song. P leaned over and asked, "Do you have aspiriiiiiiiiin?"

After the show, the kids who performed were running around, taking selfies. I spotted one girl, an eighth grader who had performed in the step routine. She has vitiligo, made all the more noticeable because she is African-American. She's lost the pigment on her forearms, neck, and hands. Part of me wanted to grab her and take her aside. I wanted to tell her, "You're beautiful, hold your head up, wear sunblock at all times."

However, she was already holding her head up just fine. I noticed her walking confidently across the cafeteria, three friends following a half-step behind her. She was laughing, calling out to other kids. Later, my daughter told me that the girl is one of the most popular kids in the whole school.

I couldn't help but wish I'd been more like her in middle school. I had the same medical condition (plus a couple others, just for extra fun) and my experience was pretty much the exact opposite. I'm still bearing the mental scars from being told that I was ugly, unpopular, and simply "less than." Geez, I think I'm secretly jealous of an 8th grader! Seriously, though, I hope bullying isn't as bad as it used to be.

The talent show was one of the more memorable evenings I've had in recent memory. Say what you want about "kids today" but you know what? I think the kids are alright.


Sunday, April 8, 2018

Because poetry is cheaper than therapy

People tell me all the time, "You're such a great mom!" Memo to those folks: my kid wants to run track at school and I told her that she can do it, but only if she takes the city bus home. I'm pretty sure a great mom would figure out a way to pick her ass up. I sometimes wonder if people believe that an adoptive mom needs extra encouragement. I dunno. I think all moms appreciate hearing that despite all the yelling and all the times we let our children eat doughnuts for dinner . . . we're doing okay.

I haven't been writing a lot of blog posts recently. One reason is that my daughter is getting older (13 in a few weeks!) and I think her privacy is more important now than it was when she was a toddler who pooped her pants on the regular. The other is that I'm finally writing that book that everyone always tells me I should write. I don't know if anything will come of it, but I'm enjoying the challenge.

At my church we have an annual "Poetry Sunday." It's basically just what you think it is - a celebration of poetry. I am a fairly crappy poet. I know I was an English major and all that, but I've never written a lot of poetry. However, I threw together a piece for this year's service and read it to the congregation today. So, here 'tis:

Flutter

Convinced I was carrying a boy, I named him Seth Patrick
Deep brown eyes like his dad, but with my completely reasonable nose
I watched the ultrasound monitor closely, squinting at the foreign images
The room was dark, the paper-covered pillow crinkling beneath my head
The doctor pointed, a tiny flutter. “The heart,” she said, matter-of-factly

Soon, that flickering heartbeat fell silent, my wailing the only sound
We had tried before and would try again, not comprehending the futility
Four tiny spirits tried to break through, each flying away in succession
A cliche, I know, but my arms ached for the infant I would never hold
I gently shook a toy frog in the nursery, a soft chime emanating from its belly

We sat across the desk from the social worker at the adoption agency
“Start with these forms,” she said, sliding them across with a smile
Months were spent with forms, home visits, security checks
I created a photo album about our lives for pregnant women to peruse
I was careful not to make us look too poor, too religious, too anything

“A birthmom wants to meet you!” The social worker was almost breathless
Days later we sat in plastic chairs at the agency, nervous and afraid
Did I have lipstick on my teeth? Did I look like a woman who could care for a baby?
J arrived shortly thereafter, her blue-green eyes and ready smile putting us at ease
“I know your baby will be beautiful,” I remarked, wondering if it was okay to say

I cried at my desk at work when the official word came. We had been chosen
I painted the nursery and confided in the frog with a chime in its belly
Would she change her mind? Would she decide that I wasn’t meant to be a mom after all?
Days clicked by. I stared at my phone around the clock, wondering when labor might begin
The due date passed and an induction was scheduled. The baby was in no hurry

On May third, Patrick and I stood at the foot of J's hospital bed, making small talk
We endeavored to be respectful, lighthearted, not at all presumptuous
At 5, we retreated to the cafeteria for dinner, though we were not hungry
Suddenly, a rush of excitement. “She wants you in the room!” We scurried to the elevator
At 5:56 PM, a pouty-lipped baby girl made her debut, her tiny red fists punching the air

My arms, all at once, stopped aching. The ache, perhaps, had been passed to J
My soaring joy would be forever tied directly to her abject sorrow, and we both knew it
I caught my breath and then called my mom on her recently-acquired cell phone
I tried to keep my voice steady when she answered.
“Mom,” I said. “Would you like to hear about my daughter?”


Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Spare parts, forcibly removed

Ordinarily, my husband is not the world's most attentive guy. He doesn't notice if I get my hair cut or buy a new sweater. I tell him what I'm making for dinner and five minutes later he asks me what I'm making for dinner.

Last Tuesday, however, he did listen. We had an ice storm and school was canceled. I worked from home. Ever since I had two car accidents in one day back in December, I get a little squirrely about icy conditions. Since my daughter was home, I suggested that she make herself useful and make me some lunch. I handed her a recipe for chickpea salad. She loves chopping stuff and this recipe calls for chopped celery.

I started feeling not-so-great at around 3 or 3:30 that afternoon. I called my husband and suggested that he pick up dinner for the two of them since I didn't think I felt up to cooking. I told him that he'd also need to take the kid to her haircut appointment at 5:45. I worked until about 4:30 and then climbed into bed. For the next three hours, I writhed in a relentless kind of pain that originated in my abdomen and then seemed to take over the world. One minute I was hot, the next minute I was cold. At one point, I tried to make myself vomit in case that might help. I had no idea what was wrong. Had my daughter accidentally poisoned me? Did I just have one of the weird illnesses that have been flying around all winter? I kept waiting to turn a corner on the pain.

Finally, at around 7:30, my husband came in to check on me.  I am normally the decision-maker in our relationship, but I just kept saying, "It hurts. I don't know what to do."

"We're going to the hospital," he said. "Let's go."

We left our daughter (and the dogs) at home and journeyed across town, our car's tires seeming to find every bump along the way. I walked into the emergency room just before 8 p.m. I remember the time clearly because the joint switches from urgent care to straight-up ER at 8. I did my best to sit upright in a chair as I watched the chick flip over the sign in the window. Fortunately, the ER was not crowded and an admissions person came out to fetch me fairly quickly. I told my husband he could just hang out in the main waiting area. I sat on a large chair in a small room while she took my blood pressure, temperature, and whatever the thing she attached to my finger was meant to do. The blood pressure cuff wouldn't work and she had to try a couple of times. I thought I might expire in the meantime. I couldn't stand for anything to be touching me.

Finally, mercifully, she ushered me into an exam room. I all but dove towards the bed and curled up on my right side. After that, everything was pretty much a blur. I remember a nurse named Jesse who struggled to get an IV into my right arm. It wasn't his fault - my veins are generally uncooperative. He had slightly better luck with my left arm and hooked up an IV. However, it didn't work quite right and required almost constant fiddling. "It's positional," I heard him say. He injected morphine into the IV. If my pain dissipated at all, it was not by any measurable amount. I remember peeing in a cup at some point. I remember being given a gown. I remember not caring what parts of me were hanging out of the gown. I heard someone say, "I like your tattoo." I may or may not have said, "Thanks."

I almost forgot one fun detail. A steady stream of people came in and out of the room. I asked one of them, "So, um, if I need to vomit, where would you recommend I do that?" She handed me a puke bag. Not two seconds later, those carefully chopped bits of celery left my stomach at high velocity. Thinking I was done, I handed the bag to a member of the small crowd of medical personnel that had gathered at the door (they were waiting for me to finish, apparently). I quickly realized that I'd been too optimistic in my belief that I was done. I gestured in such a way to indicate that I needed a new bag, and a new bag was promptly delivered. No one flinched during this whole process.

With the puking out of the way, the doctor proceeded to examine me and ask me some questions. Blood in the urine? Nope. Back pain? Nope. She thumped on my back and listed to my lungs. Then she applied pressure to my abdomen. I thought the pain was coming from, you know, everywhere, but when she pressed on the right side, it intensified significantly. "That's your appendix," she said. She indicated that a CT scan would be needed to confirm the tentative diagnosis of acute appendicitis. At about this time, I asked a nurse to fetch my husband from the waiting room. I didn't think he should miss out on all the fun.

Soon, a technician came to wheel me down the hall for a CT scan, where she was joined by a second person. They moved me to the CT bed and then they injected dye or something or other into the IV. "You'll feel like you've peed yourself," she told me. "But don't worry, you won't actually have peed yourself." Sure enough, I felt oddly warm. The bed was more like a conveyor belt, moving me in and out of the big vertical doughnut.

I was transferred back to the wheelie bed and taken back to my room. I was still in pain and received a merciful dose of Dilaudid in my IV. Before long, the doctor came back to confirm the diagnosis: acute appendicitis. She explained that I would need surgery right away. I didn't bat an eye. I was just glad to know that the pain would be gone soon. They were welcome to cut me open and take whatever they wanted. I didn't even care. The good news was that my appendix had not yet burst (props to my guy for getting me to the hospital so quickly!) The doctor told me that they were just waiting for an operating room to be available and then I'd be in surgery. I know people complain about doctors and hospitals and waiting, but I have to say that things moved along pretty efficiently. A steady stream of people came in and introduced themselves. I met the surgeon, the anesthesiologist, and a series of nurses.

By around 11:00, I was wheeled down the hall and into an operating room. I think the nurse who was pushing the bed said something about the room being "cold and bright." I shifted to the operating table and my arms were placed at right angles to my body. My brain developed a half-formed thought about a crucifixion. Someone said that they were going to ditch the not-quite-right IV in my left arm and put one in my right hand instead. Warm blankets were laid across my legs. A mask appeared over my face. That's about all I remember.

What's weird about general anesthesia is that when you wake up, the time is simply gone. It's not like waking up from a nap and having a rough idea of how much time has passed. Anesthesia just removes that chunk of time from your personal clock altogether. When I woke up in the recovery area, two nurses were tending to me. My husband was there. I feel like I was probably asked a lot of questions, but I don't remember much.

Within an hour or so, I was discharged from the hospital. I could have stayed overnight, but my husband had to go home either way.  We could not leave our daughter home alone overnight. So, once I could stand upright, I left. They gave me a morphine tablet for the road. After dropping me off at home, my husband found an all-night pharmacy and filled all of my prescriptions. For the next few days, I was supposed to alternate between ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and morphine. I was given ice packs for my swollen abdomen (which now had three glued-together incisions). My husband took the next day off so that he could take care of me. He made a schedule for my meds and handed me everything right on time. Since narcotics sometimes cause constipation, I had a prescription for a remedy for that, too. In our nearly 26 years together, I don't think my guy has ever said anything quite so sexy as this: "Hey babe, it's time for your stool softener."

A week has now passed since my surgery. I went back to work on Monday. It hasn't been smooth sailing. I am not a "take it easy" kind of person. I am letting stuff go as much as I can. The pain has been worse than I expected. The morphine makes me feel all oogy so I only take it at night. I have been wearing stuff like yoga pants to work because my mid-section is not interested in having contact with denim or any restrictive garments of any kind.

So, that's the news from here.

Keep your appendix if you can. If I had to give appendicitis a Google review, it would be looking at one star. "Would not recommend."

Heavily medicated? Napping a lot? These two will console you by taking up the whole bed.