Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Now what?

Not sure if my sweet, eclectic, intelligent, conscientious group of readers is aware of this, but stress is NOT good in doses too large.  Even sometimes if you are doing many things to try to help yourself.  Yesterday, I woke up early and came downstairs to do a workout.  I chose a new one from Exercise TV.  It was hard, but not too bad.  Shower, breakfast, and then pouring a cup of coffee I started having chest pains.  Bad enough I had to sit down.  John immediately got concerned and suggested calling 911.  I blew him off.  waited for it to subside.  It took about 10 minutes.  Didn't go away, but whatever, right?  Drove to school- only got nervous because of the pain once.  Stopped by the nurse to check my BP- high for me, but not bad.  We talked about how it might be muscular.  I take a muscle relaxant and an anti-inflammatory for my fibro already, but she thought that taking some ibuprofen might help if it was a muscle thing.   By the time we got to my classroom is was more persistent.  I got some ibuprofen from a friend, and it still wouldn't go away, and in fact started to get worse.  So I took advantage of the benefit we have for our "nurseline"- they are sort of like a morphed version of a doctor who makes house calls, and your mom.  They also suggested I call 911.  So that's what I did.

The good news was that all the tests they did- EKG's and blood work- showed that it was not a heart attack.  Some of the bad news is that it took 2.5 hours for the pain to stop.  Also, it was stress induced, which means even though I thought I was doing lots of good things to help myself manage stress, yeah.  It's not enough.  Erg.  When you just can't stop, I guess sometimes no matter what you do, it's too much.  Or not enough, depending what direction you look at it from.

I sort of feel embarrassed and a little stupid, writing about how my chest hurt, and I wasted a day in the e.r. and it turned out to be nothing.  Of course, that isn't really accurate.

We are trying to find people to help with the kids for the next 6 weeks because John, while healing, is not supposed to lift Neil for that long.  Or do much of anything- you know the list: walk the dog, carrying groceries, take the trash out... that sort of thing.  And now on to the important things: figure out a way to stop arguing with John, and manage to not have a real heart attack.  Sigh.  No prob.  Maybe it'll help a little if I pet on the kitties more...

Saturday, February 4, 2012

too many languages?

I spoke with a woman I don't know for a while tonight.  She was very kind.  I also went to me first Fellowship Dinner.  This morning began on a frustrating note, but ended with an interesting question mark.  

When I woke up, John was so tired and uncomfortable, that even though I just asked him to go down to lay on the couch and play ref so the kids didn't kill each other while I showered, he wasn't even sure he had the energy for that.  Of course, my first comment was about him wanting to go to that meet today insinuating the high level of bad-idea that was.  He was right there with a snapping "I knew that would come up."  Which just sucked.  Because I didn't mean for it to be an I-told-you-so moment, but rather a moment where maybe he could see that I DID maybe understand a bit more about how he was feeling that he realized, and that I really AM looking out for him and trying to keep him from over doing it so he can recover.  And when I tried to tell him that, he apologized with just a tone that did NOT match his words at all.

Then so of my work/school/friend angels came by and helped us clean out our closet and our drawers and our bedroom.  I don't know why Wendy keeps doing this for me, but it makes me feel so very loved.  What a wonderful thing.  And today she brought the music teachers, both of whom have touched my heart in odd and interesting ways.  My first interaction with Holly that I remember was when I shared with her how happy the dirty dishes made me not long after John's first surgery.  Not that I was happy about the dirty dishes.  Do not misunderstand.  They annoyed the bad word out of me, coming home after working all day, and AGAIN having to clean the sink out.  But this one time, as quick as I got pissed, I smiled.  Because the dishes being messy meant that the kids were home and that they were home and doing things with Daddy.  Who had been too ragged out from brain surgery and chemo to do anything for what felt like forever.  That is a nice thought I wish I could make stick more often.

Wendy has been the art teacher for my classes for several years.  I always end up taking my students back to class a little late because she is so much fun to talk to, about so much stuff.  

And Maggie is scary smart, beautiful in many ways, AND she loves the show Bones.  My friend Matt got to be in an episode of that show.  His main comment to me when I asked about it had to do with how tall everyone on the cast seemed to be.  Maggie and I don't share the same lunch period any more, which is a shame, because she too is always fantastic to talk to, about many different things.

So those crazy ladies, plus Maggie's banjo-playing hubby and her lovely little Lydia (about 6 months younger than Neil) helped John and I reclaim our closet and bedroom. 

This evening, we went to our Universalist Unitarian Church's Fellowship Dinner.  Neil was the traveling entertainment, keeping everyone on their toes as he left the kids area and wandered in circles around the crowded tables, got up on stage and wiggled a little to the music, and generally made sure that everyone knew what our one year old looked like as I chased him around the room.  

It was a really nice night, but John and I still were "weird".  Then I spoke with that kind lady that I didn't know until tonight.  And she shared several thoughtful, heartfelt, intersting things with me, the last of which was the 5 Languages of Love.  So I went to the site and took the general test and the apology test.  It was very interesting.  I plan on encouraging John to take the assessments, too. 

The thing that worries me a little is that my outcomes for the general love language test was:

6 Words of Affirmation
6 Quality Time
6 Receiving Gifts
3 Acts of Service
9 Physical Touch

The "physical touch" didn't surprise me at all.  The fact that my second highest language was three of them made me wonder pretty significantly.  Is it good to have more languages?  Or just complicated?

Friday, February 3, 2012


When I close my eye lids, the inside feels cold and burning at the same time.  It's only 7:30, but I'm tired like it is 3:00 a.m.  

John really wanted to go to the last ever dive meet at the University of Maryland.  Two divers of his that mean a lot to him are on that team-in a large part due to his training and connections.  It is also his alma- ater, and where he would have loved to have had the chance to coach.  I completely understand why going means so much to him.  I just think that it is a bad idea!  The drive down is long, the meet is long, the drive back is long.  Of course, all of this "long" stuff is relative, but right now, it is being compared to lying in a hospital bed all day for 4.5 days, and not being allowed to even get up to use the bathroom for 4 of those days!!  For heaven's sake, he got winded walking the short hallway to the elevator.  I completely HATE having to be the one to push and tell him that it is too much too soon.  He apparently called his father to complain about my disapproval.  Not sure he knows I know that, as I found out while having our son call his grandmother to tell her how he did on his report card.  (He BLEW past all the goals for reading, did wonderful in math, and needs to work on writing and his self control.  I can see that.)  She told me that Bob agreed with me when John was kvetching about the whole thing.  I guess that surprised him.  

It seems like small people know when you are just dancing on that line between "doin' ok" and "about to snap".  The three kids were playing so great while I was cleaning the kitchen and fuming about this whole thing.  It's just that everything they were doing somehow required YELLING VOICES.  Which I really wanted to stop.  Really really.  I asked them, I yelled at them, I yelled again, I made Cilly sit and think about how she could play without screaming (she sat on her head like, for those of you who are familiar, my old hero Mork from Ork), and then I finally went in and popped their behinds.  And while this was happening, I had to leave water running to stop Neil from:  throwing the dish towels in the trash, emptying the pantry of all the crackers, pulling out the dirty dishes I was trying to load into the dishwasher, and bring me the bottles of Fusion that were within his reach.  Thankfully, the dog food is up high while he is staying with a friend, or I am sure that would have been in the mix somewhere.  He likes to play with it and throw it around, scoop it out, and not put it back in the bowl.  And did I mention his current game is bashing me in the face and grabbing my hair, a clump in both hands, and pulling side to side.  Neither the bashing nor the pulling is particularly hard, but it is, none the less, one of my least favorite Neil games.  

I put them to bed early.

Now I kinda wish I had remembered to stop and get some more wine.


I got to pick up John today, in our new/old van!!  The van is fantastic, and John is tired and battered but well and happy to be home!  Now, if someone could arrange for us to be able to nap for about 2.5 days straight, that would be much appreciated. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Being there and doing that

Today was a mess, top to bottom.  I didn't set the alarm or think the morning through very well.  Ended up running like a madwoman to get Aiden to school on time, making it just under the wire, got Cilly to school okay, stopped by the in-laws to check out the van that was donated to us by one of John's diving families, then realized if I went home, I'd be there for about 12 minutes before needing to come back to pick up the little lady.  Wouldn't have been such an issue, but two friends had come by to help with kids and everything, and although I left them a key to get in, there were no kid and not so much for them to do with me gone.  I felt kinda like a dork.  But they were sweet about it. 

Went to spend some time with John.  He told me some little but great news:  for the first time since his second brain surgery, he coughed AND sneezed, and his head didn't hurt!  I brought my computer and the first season of Fringe that we are devouring, and as we sat there, I looked at him.  His cheeks have scruff, you can see the oil on his skin, he still has the line for the IV in the back of his right hand.  The question-mark shaped scar on his head where they cut him open for his two major brain surgeries is white and smoother than I thought it would be.  He is so tired.  The bubble on the side of his head was not quite as pronounced this evening.  For the smallest moment, I was able to see through his eyes, and it took my breath away like a fall from a height, or a punch in the gut.  He has been through so much.  And I would like nothing more than to make it okay.  In some small way.  I hold his hand.  We watch Dunham start to realize she might have been one of the children Walter experimented on. Maybe being there and doing that do make it okay, a tiny bit, in some way.

It would've been nice if the evening was just that.  But it was real, instead.  He started to have horrible pains in his ribs, so bad he couldn't breathe.  He has a high tolerance for pain and this was not a comfortable experience for him.  He wanted me to shut the door, so no one would see him like that.  ??  Really?  The only people there are neurology patients and nurses.  But he is my Green Lantern...silly man.  He didn't think the percoset would help, silly man,  but took it anyway because I insisted.  The thing that we argued about was that when he is hurt- stubs his toe, or bashed in the face by a baby head (much more common than you non-parental types might imagine), he chooses ANGER instead of pain.  He grits his teeth, bares down, sort of growls.  That is one of the ways he fights through.  I hate it.  It scares me.   And now that baring down like that can cause his brain to bleed again, it REALLY scares me.  He angrily asked what he was supposed to do.  "I don't know! Suck it up?" was my lovely, supportive response.  I tried to draw parallels to the three babies I had, the 62 hours of labor with the first one alone sans pain meds.  We used the Bradley Method.  I tried to get him to do "rag doll"  where you go limp and let go, breathe deep and long.  He didn't like that.

One of the many things I love about him is that he called once the percoset kicked in and we talked.  He said that moments like that make him realize how much of his shit I have to put up with and how grateful he is. 

I guess it is fair to say that I will never really understand what he has been through.  But I guess it's also fair to say that we both have been through so much.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Just because you can't see it

I just wanted to say something briefly about an old student of mine.  This year has been such a trial in so many ways.  I was going through facebook and email and getting some things finished up after getting the kids to bed.  Trying to unwind a little.  And browsing some pictures on a friend's facebook page, I came across one of her children praying at Jacqueline's grave.  Jacqueline was in my class the year that John and I got married.  She was a lovely, blonde little girl.  She was quite bright, quiet in class, very silly at recess, a wonderful singer, with her head screwed on right.  I remember a conversation I had with her and her best friend Alexandra at recess.  There were several girls in that 5th grade class getting all crazy and goofy and, as often happens, mean about boys.  I asked Jacqueline if she had her heart set on anyone in particular.  Her answer was quick and perfect:  No!  I'm too young for that stuff!  Amen, little sister!  Her expressive face smiling in a crooked, screwed up, one eyebrow up type of way.  She made me laugh!

The following year, when I was pregnant with my son Aiden, those two girls would call my school voice mail and leave long, giggly messages, singing lullabies into the recording until their time ran out.  Then, they would call back and keep singing and laughing so hard I couldn't understand anything they were saying.  I would put the phone down on my desk so that I could here their antics and laugh while grading papers.

I ran into Jacqueline a few times, at a dive meet, or when we took the 5th graders to the pool in her neighborhood for their pool party.  I found out she babysat and I fully intended to call upon her to help us out with that.  She would TOTALLY be someone I wanted to be an influence for my babies!

Then, the summer after John's initial diagnosis and treatment, I got a text in the middle of the night from a teacher friend, saying she was going to be ill and asking if I had heard.  Jacqueline, Alexandra (Lexi), and a boy who was also in my class that year (whom John and I tried to get to join his trampoline team- very athletic, sweet kid) Sawyer were in a horrible car accident.  There was no alcohol or drugs involved.  Just an honest to goodness accident.  Jacqueline died.

I still struggle with this.  I am in touch with her mom, who is a fantastic lady.  I always worked it out to sit beside her on field trips that year and was very disappointed when I didn't get to teach her younger daughter.  People say that god had a plan, there is a reason for everything.  Mostly, I feel like that just can NOT be possible, not if someone as young and smart, weird and funny and generous as Jacqueline, someone so young and so beautiful in so many ways, could die.  And then there is Lexi.  Sweet, and gentle, and helpful, and this is her very best friend.  They were friends because I paired them up on our geology field trip.  And she now has to live with this.  I wanted to scoop her up and hold her and protect her from all the pain and guilt you know she will feel....I am in touch with her and her family.  Both families have helped me and mine out over our battle with cancer and all the residuals connected with this evil stupid disease.  I am frustrated for myself for not doing a better job reaching out to Sawyer.  He and Jacqueline were dating.  I think they must have been a terrific couple!

People still talk to me about how god has a plan.  My son's kindergarten teacher, and gentle sweet woman, let me ask her how she can believe that.  I was not accusing, but truly curious.  Some people are a bit aggressive with their beliefs, but this past year I have come across a few people who have very clear and strong opinions, but don't seem to want to force their ideas on anyone.  She is one of those.  So I really wanted to know how she process things like this.  My interpretation is that it is about the big picture.  Like with my friend who lost her husband to Melanoma recently.  Her daughter Ella was in my son's class at the CLC preschool.  Maybe, the "plan" god has is something like this:  Ella and her sister will be so saddened that they lost their father to cancer at such a young age, that when they are older, they will reach out to another family experiencing a similar event.  This chain will continue like dominoes in many directions and perhaps be the starting point for the person who ends up being motivated to find the cure for cancer.  I make an analogy to Thirteen Acres.  I worked there when I lived in Richmond.  It is a school for children with more severe behavior issues than public schools can handle.  A counselor there followed me outside- I needed a break from some of the crazy things the long term sub was doing in the classroom.  I was "just" an aide for one boy, but felt the need to be there for as many as possible.  I joined the after school program to be there for the kids more.  This guy came to talk to me and told me to keep doing what I was doing.  To know that I was being an influence that had an effect.  He told me how his younger brother, in his teen years, made some really bad choices surrounding drugs and other similar things.  Both he and their football coach struggled to encourage that young man to make better choices, to believe in himself, to get and stay clean.  The younger brother ended up in jail.  Several years later, that young man came to my friend the counselor, his big brother.  He told his brother that while he was in jail, the things that he and their coach told him over and over would rattle in his brain, and after 6 years, he finally realized they were right.  He turned his life around.  The problem is, how many of us get to be there after those 6 years?  How about when it takes longer than that?

Just because you can't see it, doesn't mean it isn't so.

I miss you, Jacqueline

hump day- good, but not as much fun as it sounds

Hump day.  It fits, more or less as we seem to have passed a few of the current road blocks.

We know now that John's brain is doing a good job of absorbing the air pocket that was left behind after the initial drain.  He needs to stay in the hospital for a "few more days", but his brain is perfectly capable of doing the job of healing.  So that is cleared up and offers a bit of relief.

For my part, I couldn't sleep till around 1:00 again.   Every time I started to relax, some alarm that was connected to John would go off.  Luckily all I had to do was wake him up and in his initial "huh?" movement, he unbent whatever was triggering the alarm.  Then, sometime after 1:00, they started coming in to check his vitals and so that woke me up.  That and the fact that I was sleeping with rubber gloves on and in a chair-bed which is sort of like a sofa-bed but smaller and a little less comfortable.  But better than a regular chair, to be sure.

Then I had to suck it up and write my principal asking about the situation with my position if I were to take the rest of the week.  I just don't want John to be alone any more than he has to.  I was actually scared to have that discussion.  Not totally sure where the fear was based, since the other day when I called with the idea that I was done and needed to tell her that I was taking some time regardless of the consequences, I actually felt a small sense of relief.  At least, I reasoned, I know what to put my energies into now.  I guess it is the not-knowing that is immobilizing and, in so being, fear producing...

I would like to write more, but my one year old is currently amusing himself with pushing over his diaper pail repeatedly.  And I want to take the kids down to NIH to see Daddy for a while.