Long awaited exhale

standard May 12, 2014 15 responses

That day, that evening really, when our lives were irrevocably altered, I was hyper aware that everything was changing.

Sometimes change takes you by surprise, sometimes you have to look back to try to pinpoint the exact moment. You sift through the memories, the events until you can say “There, right there, that’s when it all changed.”

That night though, I watched it change. I knew nothing would ever be the same, and I was desperately focused on making sure that the children would never, ever be able to pinpoint that day as the day their lives were altered. A part of me hoped that they’d never even notice the change, that the transition from normal to not might be subtle enough from their point of views that there never would be a “before” and “after” in their minds. But, having lived through major medical upheavals pretty much my entire life, I wasn’t delusional enough to truly believe it.

That night though, that one night, I could control.

We got the call from M’s doctor while we were out to dinner with the kids, getting ready to take them to a pajama event at the local church. They were eating at one of those pretend “healthy” buffet restaurants and we were just watching them, assuming we’d be headed to dinner with our friends as soon as we’d dropped them off.

Then I looked at my phone. I had three missed calls. (Those places are noisy.) M had two. All the same number.

Our eyes met over the children’s oblivious heads. Fear shone back at me.

“He has a brain tumor.” I thought, as his phone rang again and he stumbled away from the table to take the call in the relative silence of the parking lot. “They only call like that, frantically, after hours on a Friday evening, if it’s something really, really bad.”

In my mind brain tumor was as bad as it got.

Cancer was as bad as it got.

That almost makes me laugh today.

I wiped the fear from my face. Stopped my hand from straying to my own phone. Forced myself to focus on the kids and their cheery chatter. M didn’t come back into the restaurant, so I put a last spoonful of peas into Little L’s mouth, helped C wipe Mac&Cheese sauce from her face, and gathered their things.

We found him, pale faced and wild eyed, standing by our car. Even without knowing what was wrong, I knew our evening was toast.

“How about, instead of the pajama party, we go home, watch a movie and paint our nails!” I said to the two little faces starting to dart back and forth between his deathly pale face and mine. The girls focused on me, skeptical. It sounded like a trick. It felt like a trick. But it was clearly too good not to believe.

“In front of da TV?” C asked tentatively.

“Yup!”

They agreed with glee, instantly forgetting their planned evening of fun with their friends, and clambered into their seats. I buckled them both in and closed the door. Only then did I let myself make eye contact with M.

He murmured the doctors’ hypothesized diagnosis and the world as I knew it shifted on its axis.

I could have guessed a million things, this wouldn’t have been on the list. At the time I lived blissfully unawares of the sheer number of people affected by auto-immune disorders, of the sheer number of auto-immune disorders in existence. Neither of us had any clue.

A storm of questions and fears exploded in my head, but I held on to the only thing that felt solid and real. I held on to the fact that I had to make everything normal for the kids. Make this seem like a fun, special evening, not a disastrously life altering one.

We went home. Decided to watch Ponyo for the first time. I painted their tiny nails. I held them both tight. M took a long walk so he could call the many medical professionals in his family. And I surreptitiously tried to Google what the doctor had said.

I grew to loathe that movie. It became their all time favorite. They watched it over, and over, and over again that summer, and every time I was thrown back into that surreal evening where I tried to maintain normalcy for my girls for as long as I possibly could.

In the movie, there’s a huge flood, the waters overtake the town while terrifying prehistoric animals swim up from the depths of the ocean to swim among the people. That’s what that year felt like. Overwhelming fear sweeping over us while new and increasingly terrifying things lunged at us as we tried to tread water and stay alive.

We survived that flood. The girls thrived despite all the upheavals, all the changes. In the end it molded them as much as it did us, but it didn’t break any of us. In fact, I thought we’d managed to incorporate all the changes, that we’d been able to rebuild and move on, our lives different, but still good.

And then, last Tuesday, the doctor declared M to be almost fully healed, to be in maintenance mode rather than repair mode. And I let out a breath that I hadn’t realized I’ve been holding since that night way back in March of 2011.

As that pent up breath escaped from me, I saw M’s shoulders relax fully for the first time since that night. Saw fear that I no longer even noticed lurking in his face fade away. And I felt my lungs fill fully with air for the first time in years.

It’s still an auto-immune disorder. It’ll never fully go away. But it released some of its grip on our lives. Lives that might not be as irrevocably altered as I once feared.

M and Little L at the beach

****** A few back-story posts for those who haven’t had the good fortune to be following this blog for the last 3 years: His Strength Lies in His Vulnerability

Fast Paced Movie Sequence

Hearkening Back

Driving All Day Long 

Musings on a Challenging Year

Evolution of a blog and a blogger

standard April 3, 2014 10 responses

Its_my_life_logo_vertical14

My blogging journey started years ago, long before blogging was a “thing,” long before we had kids, long before I even had the inkling of a thought that I might want to one day be a writer for a living.

My first blog was a sad little thing that existed on a platform that no longer exists today. It was about my knitting and, since I wasn’t a very fast knitter, it didn’t get updated very often.

Then I had a baby and the blog and I grew up a bit. We moved to Blogger, Google’s blogging platform. We changed our name. We started writing about more than just yarn.

But, let’s be honest, and I know this for a fact because I just spent quite a bit of time in the archives this week, the writing sucked. The only reason those early posts didn’t just get deep sixed is the subject matter. The writing might have been terrible, the posts either fluffy or just plain boring, but they offer a tiny glimpse into my life as a new mom, the challenges I faced, the joys that I embraced. If I ever have the time I might go back and archive them for good, but for now, they’re lurking in here, somewhere.

As blogging took off nationwide, I went through a phase when I felt that I had to, come hell or high water, post every single day, or risk losing readers. Then I realized that maybe I could skip the weekends. Finally it dawned on me that quality is way more important than quantity and I started only writing when true inspiration struck. Aren’t we all glad?

The design underwent a similar evolution. At first it was the no name platform, then a generic Blogger layout, and then, I decided to invest in myself and hired someone to design something that would make my blog look like “me.”

I loved that Blogger blog. I loved the dark paneling of the back, the notebook design, the photos of the kids at the top. I liked being on Blogger. It was a nice, safe, easy platform.

But last year I decided it was time for a change. Time for some more growing up. I had visions of things I could do with the blog that I couldn’t do on Blogger. I also had dread of days when traffic skyrocketed and I’d be left mentally begging Google not to shut me down. I wanted a little bit more control and ownership over the whole thing. Maybe even a little more space for the words to express themselves.

This move took a long time. It involved a lot of moving pieces and many, many frogs to face down and choke down. To say that I dragged my feet and made this a million times harder than it needed to be is the understatement of the year.

But here we are. Brand new digs. Clean. Fresh. Amazing new header by Becky Bayne. Lots and lots of space for the words to sing.

I hope you like it here. I’m still getting used to everything, kicking baseboards and flipping switches to see what they do, but I think it’s going to be a good place for me. I think I’ll stick around for a while.

Once a cat person always a cat person… or not?

standard December 30, 2013 1 response

I am a cat person. Let it be clear that I have always considered myself to be a cat person. I like how they smell, I like how low maintenance they are, I like evening cuddles on the couch. I especially like how little of me they ask for.

Is that wrong of me to admit?

If it is, oh well.

My cat, Axl, is smart, easy going, and very, very independent. His expectations of me are that I will feed him twice a day, keep his kitty litter relatively clean, open the door or window when he wants to go out, and share my spot on the couch after the kids have gone to bed (preferably without having to compete with the laptop).

That’s pretty much it.

Chill cat.

He doesn’t mind if I leave for the day. He doesn’t mind if I ignore him when I’m on deadline. He’s happy to just be.

So when the kids started lobbying for a dog over a year ago I balked. There are already a lot of people who rely on me for their emotional and physical well-being. I didn’t really need another body to make me feel like I was lacking.

Dogs, in my experience (and I grew up with dogs… so there is some factual basis to this observation) are needy. They want to play, to be entertained, to be walked, to bask in your attention. And they’re great at returning it. But they do need a lot.

And I? Well I was quite tapped out on being needed so I resisted.

And then we dog sat this summer and I… well… I enjoyed being loved so unconditionally. So we dog sat again… and it was, if that’s possible, even better second time around.

Suddenly all that need didn’t feel as oppressive as I thought it would.

There is something to be said for unconditional acceptance. Dogs, they need, but they also don’t criticize. They’re excited about a walk with you whether it’s to the mailbox or a two hour hike around town. They’re happy for any treat you offer, even just a pat on the head. They’re quite happy to sit in a chair while you work, and just as happy when you call it quits and offer to go for a w-a-l-k-i-e-s.

Which is how I found myself researching dogs. And how we found ourselves bringing this one home yesterday.

This is Dottie. She’s a 20 week old mini Australian Labradoodle. She’s about 10lbs now and should grow to be around 20lbs. She’s hypoallergenic and she doesn’t shed. She loves cuddles. She gives kisses. That’s her new absolute favoritest toy in the WHOLE WORLD. Until she drops it and plays with something else.

The girls are in heaven, the husband is in love, the cat is pouting in a closet, and me? Well… I might be on my way to considering the possibility that I’m not just a cat person any more.

Mama said we’d go for a walk after this post was written. I’m waiting patiently. 

I’m fine. Almost.

standard November 27, 2012 3 responses

I was fine.

I am fine.

I mean, clearly I’m fine. The blood work the doctor ran last week shows just how fine I really am. Every possible result was smack dab in the middle of the normal ratings. And was I happy when I read that? No, it made me mad, really, truly, mad.

Mad? That’s crazy right? Who gets mad about being healthy?

Well, apparently I do. Wanna know why?

Because if I’m fine physically, then it means that the fog, the tired, the lack of motivation has to come from somewhere else, and the only other place is in my head.

It means I’m not as fine as I keep telling everyone.

Which is absurd, right? Because this is the good year. This is the recovery year. This is the year things fall into place and we start to embrace our new norm.

I remember thinking in the middle of the worst of 2011 that if everything we were going through didn’t drive me to drink nothing ever would.

I think I was wrong.

See, I’m really, really good in a crisis. I rise to the occasion like a champ. I can be strong, logical, organized. I can do it all.

I don’t think I’m so good in the aftermath. I’m not so good at relinquishing control and letting things go back to a state or normal, whatever that normal might resemble.

This is the time that is hardest for me to manage.

For a long time I hold tight to my fight reflexes, never really knowing when to let them relax. And then I think I relax them too much, and pretend, not that things are better though different, but better and exactly the same.

Which means that every time something rears up to remind me that the new norm doesn’t quite resemble the old norm, like a parallel world where things are almost identical, but just a little bit off — a second moon floating next to the single one from our world, a green sky instead of the cobalt blue we’re used to, people with four fingers instead of five — I feel like I’ve been thrown back into the original chaos.

I’ve often accused M of doing just this, of not facing the changes head on, of not coming to grip with any of the changes, but who am I to talk?

I took on the mantle of crisis manager and wore it well. Then I hung it up and went about my business. I never grieved for the life we left behind. I never dealt with the altered future we face.

I looked at the picture perfect blood work results the other night and I didn’t just see great numbers, I saw all those things I keep pretending I don’t need to face, all those things I haven’t had the guts to verbalize.

I saw the problem in my head that has been growing instead of shrinking, pushing the important stuff aside, demanding to be noticed.

I may not be fine.

But I will be.