I am a creature of habit. Bad habits, as a matter of fact. I tend to "loop" on things, which means I just go over and over them in my mind, rather than breaking the loop and being healthier, wasting less time, being more productive, etc.
Take, for example, my blog. I didn't want to update until I had time to fully update on ALL the FUN things! That have been going on this summer!
But today I finally realized that that train has left. I will have to let it go on without me, without you, and I will just have to accept the fact that I cannot simultaneously live my life AND document it, no matter how much I'd like to. I narrate my life constantly in my own head, saving up posts, but then I can't type enough to keep up with it.
Suffice it to say, I am having a fun summer.
The second example of bad habits and looping is this: Whenever my client work slows down, I pause on the last assignments, drawing out the time between getting them and doing them, because I don't like the idea of having NO work. It doesn't occur to me that maybe I'll get MORE work if I just DO the work I have!
For the past four years that I have been self-employed, even though I have had dry patches, I have always gotten the work I needed, when I needed it (knock on wood, spit on the floor, stave off the evil eye). However, this does not stop me from lingering over the last assignments, or flinging resumes into the wind desperately, or cringing my hands and worrying and thinking about getting a job telemarketing so we don't starve. I worry to Dereck that my clients secretly think I suck (and they probably do when I DON'T FINISH THEIR WORK), and that I have had a good run, but now it's over, and I don't know what I'll do to earn the money I need to earn.
Dereck is patient with this loopiness, but he is always the first to tell me (and he is right) that the work will come, that I don't suck, nobody thinks I suck, don't personalize it, it will be okay.
So, my goal for the day is to finish my assignments (one I won't quite be able to finish today, but I can get a head start) and then to try to enjoy my time between assignments.
I have had a goal every day this summer that I have not yet met (No, Heith, it's not to blog daily, though I did sort of set that as a goal, didn't I?): My goal is to return to my poetry roots and to begin writing again. I have started playing the guitar daily, and I have some wicked cool blisters, but can't actually play anything yet. However, I have not written. Anything. Nada.
I realized the other day that when I wrote my thesis, I wrote most of my first drafts on yellow legal pads, and then typed them on my typewriter. Instead, I have all of these wonderfully cool notebooks, which I end up either giving away to other writers, or just carrying around, or just leaving on the shelf. So, I got some yellow legal pads. That was two days ago, and so far two people have used them, but none of those people were me.
My parents just came out for a week-long visit. They left for the airport hotel yesterday afternoon. It is odd to be in the living room without them to chat to. It was a successful visit as defined by the fact that I did not lose my patience with my mom. I have noticed that she is very good at pushing certain buttons I have, and for her, it's probably just the ritual, the loopiness of conversations we've had for years. But instead of engaging, I murmured soothing words of, "I'm sorry," about her pain, her health, her troubles. Instead of engaging, I took her into the children's room and gently rubbed her back. My friend Jamie noted, when I mentioned this, that I was replacing words, the verbal, the metaphorical, with touch, with love.
I think I did this, I chose this, because the first day she was here, I didn't get a chance to rub her back, and I was devastated that evening that I hadn't even performed that simple act for her. So, I made a point to do it every day after that. Just to take some time to touch her, to love her. And the act of loving her, the physicality of it, helped me to soothe her and to soothe my own nerves, helped us to reconnect in ways we had connected when I would rub her back when I was a teenager.
That's how long she has had the pain-- for about 25 years. She mentions that she has never been in so much pain. This may be true, but I've heard it before. She mentions that sometimes the pain is so great that she wants everything to be over with her. This usually gets a pretty big rise out of me with some yelling and some tears. This time, I just rubbed her back and said, "I hope you don't. I'm so sorry you have to bear this. I love you."
I am hopeful that after four years of her making comments like this that it's just something she says, something she needs to articulate, rather than something she would act on.
I told her that I would come out to visit her for her birthday in October, and I will. Something for us both to look forward do, something for her to hang her endurance on, something concrete and specific.
I met them through some other friends and we just clicked! Even though they are all in their early twenties. One of them is asleep in my studio right now, and the lead singer is asleep in my kids' room (she has been sick and her roommate is out of town so she's nervous staying at her house alone, so I asked her to stay here and have been stuffing her with Mucinex and orange juice). The one in the studio is also an art major. He has been using the studio to work on collage posters advertising their next show, which is this Friday, in town. They are also playing two shows in St. Louis next month-- one with a band that has been on David Letterman called An Horse. It's a band they are huge fans of, so playing with them means the world to them.
I think I have learned more about new music in the past few weeks than in the past twenty years.
J likes to hang out here because nobody knows where he is. It's a respite from his busy life and people constantly stopping by his house and making demands on him. It allows him to think and work on his art and be anonymous. Every day when I go out there, he has hung another poster or another piece of art or in some other way made it a cooler place to be.
At any rate: With all of these musicians hanging around playing guitar until the wee hours, I pulled out Tommy's guitar and learned to tune it (okay, still learning) and yesterday I learned two chords. I had to cut down my nails to be able to hold down the strings on the frets. It took me awhile to learn just two simple chords, so I just practice them over and over.
E, the singer with the cold, can really write the HELL out of lyrics. I am really amazed. They have a great sound (J is the drummer, but he plays multiple instruments, completely self-taught, and so is she).
I haven't really met or hung out with their bassist yet-- just have met him a couple of times at J's house.
At any rate, this has all been very fun and absorbing.
Sam has been at his father's since Monday, but the boys are here for a few hours today and I swear, this morning he is taller. He said he has noticed that he can look his father directly in the ear now. Good grief!
As for work, I am really busy right now! Which is great! I am a little leery because I am engaged to work on another huge grant this summer-- same grant, different clients. And we haven't really gotten started yet. I've been working on manuscripts for them, though, and a group in Toronto, so basically every day this week, I've been engaged with one manuscript or another. I have two more to do this week, and then one more next week. I just want to knock them out so I can get back to writing poetry! (I admit, the band and E in particular have inspired me to get back to it).
My knitting has stalled out since Christian's diagnosis-- I had to rip out a lot in the hospital because I kept messing up, but I am still "working" on a new shawl! With baby Alpaca. I think I'm focusing on guitar and poetry this summer, but I am sure the knitting will be in there too!
So, anyway, now you know (at least in part) why I've been so busy and too busy to blog!
In other news:
1) I hit a car in my drs parking lot on Dereck's birthday. Fun!
2) I am on anti-inflammatories for my rotary cuff and they are helping
3) The Wellbutrin is still helping me act like a normal person (aka, awake)
4) The children are now out of school!
Anything beyond that, well, I just can't remember because I had a running list of things to report in my head and then too many things happened to remember them all. But the important thing is that life is good and I'm having a hella lot of fun. I feel vibrantly alive-- which is the opposite of how I felt for most of winter.
I just wanted to check in and say that I have given up on trying to update everything that is going on (good! mostly good!) because it's been so long. But I'm still here and will resume regular blogging tomorrow-ish.
Last night, I was ready to go to bed after watching House. But John texted me and asked if I wanted to hang out. Then Heather called and without violating either of their privacy, it was clear that they both sort of needed to hang out a bit last night, so I told them to come on over. Two other people joined us, and Dereck, so we all hung out and ended up toasting my birthday at midnight.
I went to bed finally at 1:00 a.m. I got up at 3:00 a.m. to test Christian's sugar. I got up at 6:00 a.m. and went to his bedroom to test his sugar before having him leave his warm covers for his shot and then his bath before breakfast. (He eats 1/2 hour after his insulin shot, and he is not supposed to go back to sleep in that time).
While I was in my bathrobe in Christian's room, I heard my friend Chris's voice in the kitchen, talking to Sam. I thought, "Why is Chris in my kitchen at 6:00 a.m.?"
By the time I went in to find out, Chris was gone and had left: A full thermos of coffee; additional packets of Paneira coffee (we don't have a Paneira in town, by the way); a loaf of bread from Paneira, and a lovely fruit and cheese danish tart. Oh, and a lovely, pottery forest green pitcher filled with brightly colored sunflowers, with a card from him and Talia. Isn't that a nice way to wake up???
I tried several times to return to sleep today, but the phone rang, and then I had to de-skin some chicken breast for dinner because Dash had to run to campus. And then I had too much coffee, so every time I tried to lie down, I couldn't sleep. I had coffee with a friend this morning, and then Heather and Chris came over for some House this afternoon. So, it was a great birthday, except that I am psychotically tired right now, and am expected to show up at karaoke because not only is it my birthday, it's a BIG birthday. I am so tired, I was trying to help Christian with his sixth grade math; I didn't understand it, so I was snapping at Dereck, who was trying to help. Heather was nodding off at the table, and by then, Chris has left for work and Talia and John had gone to play rehearsal.
Dereck finished up the homework, while I dozed on the couch. Heather left to go brush her teeth. Now, I am counting the minutes until I put the little ones to bed and wondering if I can lie down for an hour before karaoke. On the one hand, I really need to go to sleep. That would be the responsible thing to do.
In these situations, I always think of a line from the great Richard Russo book Straight Man. The lead character is a beleaguered chair of an English department at a university in a small town. His wife is out of town. He has excruciating gall stones. He has recently caught up with an old friend whom he doesn't even particularly like. They are in a bar, and his friend has engaged in a fight. So, our weary narrator thinks about his pain, how mad his wife will be, his job, and says, as he rises to join the fight anyway, "We do not want what is good for us."
That has resonated with me for the past ten-to-fifteen years since I read the book. Sadly, I have based some unfortunate decisions (that usually involve staying up way too late) on the fact that I also do not want what is good for me.
In spite of my Wellbutrin and going to bed at a reasonable time last night, I feel tired today. Like, I should get up and go get the list of Christian's blood sugars from the weekend and update the computer form, but I don't want to go to the effort. Days like this are almost never productive.
With one notable exception, it has been an exhausting four days. First Tommy got a fever, and then Christian did. And fevers will never be the same in this house again. Fevers cause blood sugars to spike. And when that happens, you have to introduce urine testing for ketones and additional insulin into the mix. Giving Christian additional insulin makes me very nervous. I hate it.
He stayed home from school Thursday with Tommy (both had fevers). Then, Tommy's went away, and Christian's got higher. Friday morning, it was 102.6 and he complained of chest pain. When his blood sugar gets high, he gets paler, until he gets the flush of fever which is too bright, two red stains on his cheek.
I called the doctor and his office was closed. So, I called our team in Columbia and they recommended that I take him to the ER just to be seen. So, I gave him his lunch and packed his sugar meter (what is that thing even called?), snacks, glucose tablets, insulin of both kinds (slow acting and fast) and needles, my laptop, video games, cell phone and charter, novels, and off we went. I told him, "If we pack as though we will spend the night, maybe we'll get out of there before dinner."
Well. If you take a child into the ER and say, "He has juvenile diabetes," you will not have to wait. I have never gotten such fast (urgent) service in my life. In fact, it wasn't even until they had strapped heart and blood pressure monitors on him that they asked why we were there. They did a blood panel and an X-ray after listening to him. They determined that what he had was viral and sent us home. We were home in time for his afternoon snack.
Friday night was a mish-mash of dinner with friends and watching a little bit of the Battlestar Galactica preview show Caprica. However, with Christian's fever, I had been up more frequently checking his blood sugars and I knew I would be again, so we called it an early night.
His blood sugars plummeted during the night because we had to give him extra insulin Friday night. So, we'd wake him and give him milk and then back to sleep for a couple of hours. Rinse, repeat.
On Saturday, he still had a temperature, but was feeling better. Dereck had plans to take the kids to a snake exhibit on campus, and my friend Jamie was in town this weekend and wanted to go out for a cocktail. Dereck left me lying on the bed with a sinus headache and wondering how I could manage to duck out of my drink with Jamie. So, I called my friend Talia and invited her to join us. She and Jamie came here first. I tried to convince them that we should just stay home and drink cider, but they wanted to go out. So, Jamie drove us up to Il Spazio... where Dereck had a surprise party waiting for me! For my 40th birthday, which is tomorrow.
I think I have had maybe one other surprise party, but the other one was notably smaller: When I was 18, my friend Diana and some other friends surprised me for my birthday and took me out.
This one took the cake: The kids had known about the party for two weeks, but nobody blabbed. Unbelievable. Sam said, "Why weren't you suspicious?" and I looked at him and said, "Because today isn't my birthday!"
My headache vanished and I was able to enjoy good friends, appetizers, and decadent cake. A few friends followed us home for dinner where we got some chicken and side dishes for supper.
And then. I was calculating Christian's insulin at 6pm because he needed to go up a step for his evening dose. But I got the morning dose in my head. I gave him 22 units of insulin, instead of 11. I said, "Oh, I have to give you one more, because I forgot to go up!" He and Dereck said, "Wait. The evening dose should have been 11."
I don't know when I have been more panicky. I gave my kid twice his dose of insulin! Fuck! So, I got hold of the Team Doctor on call and he said that it's a common error. He told me I wasn't a bad mother. He said, "Just check him every hour or two and feed him sugary drinks." So, I ran out for pop and Skittles and we checked him every hour or two. And gave him milk and chocolate milk again, depending on how low his sugar was.
Yesterday, his blood sugars were still wonky from the insulin, but his fever was much lower. He did have a temperature though, so I have kept him home today. He is much better today, but I just wanted him to have one stable day. I spoke with the school nurse and she said, "Don't rush him back. Don't feel like you have to send him back tomorrow either. Kids have been out with this for a week, and they don't have diabetes."
It's a little like diabetes is a trump card for everything. It could go to our heads if we let it.
The other night, Christian wanted to play on the computer before bed. I told him that because he was sick, he could either go lie down in bed and read or go lie down on the couch and watch TV with Tommy. He said, "If you force me to make this decision, I'll just get sicker."
I said, "You can lie down in bed or lie down on the couch. I am your mother, and you are sick. And you are not going to manipulate me this way."
He apologized immediately and went to bed. Wow, I can see how some kids might use illness as a way to get what they want! If you don't do what I want, I'll stress myself out so my blood sugars spike!
Oh, hell no.
My dad is an asthma researcher. Self-management. He said that when he began, a lot of the kids at the center where he worked would induce asthma attacks because the hospital was fun: TV, ice cream, no school work. So, he took away the TV and the ice cream and brought back the school work. Suddenly, the rate of hospitalizations went down. They told me down at the hospital in Columbia that some kids will impose high blood sugars with ketones so they can be at the hospital-- because the hospital is nicer than where they live.
That breaks my heart.
Jamie and his wife Karen gave me a book of poetry by C.D. Wright called Rising, Falling, and Hovering. I started reading it yesterday afternoon and it is beautiful, but also writes unflinchingly of poverty and war in Mexico, Central America, Iraq. Situations that I, sitting in my living room, cannot imagine. Cannot fathom. Noam Chomsky says our society breeds us for apathy. Isn't that true? Isn't that horrifying?
I don't know what to do about it. I should pack up and move to a third world country and make things better. Maybe when I am not so busy poking a small boy with sharp instruments every two hours, I will be able to go out and make the world a better place. Until then, I am afraid I am very much tied to my homestead.
Christian's diabetes reminds me of when the boys were newborns, only instead of them waking me with their cries, my alarm wakes me and I pull on my robe and quietly go to his bedside to check his blood sugar. It's both nice and a little overwhelming to be so needed. The blood sugar is getting to be routine; the shots aren't so much yet. I asked at the emergency room if there was a trick to not hurting him and at the same time checking to make sure I haven't hit a vein (by pulling back on the plunger). The nurse told me no. But this morning when I had my own blood sugars tested for insulin resistance, the nurse told me simply to keep the needle still.
Now, that wasn't so hard, was it?
I am lucky: Christian is okay. Yesterday was the 6 year anniversary of Sam being hit by a car. He is okay. Tommy was playing with our friend Heather's mandolin all Saturday afternoon. He was writing songs, and Jamie was writing them down, recording them, and paying Tommy $5 to perform. Yesterday, Tommy found a mandolin on Ebay for $27, and we got it for him.
School will be out soon. Summer will be upon us. I don't have any grants due this week. Yet, I do have work to do. Even though I have often felt like I have been pummeled by the universe this year, I still know I'm lucky.
Today was better... but weird. It's like yesterday there was a huge earthquake, and so today I was just sort of wading through the tremors. The silence was deafening.
Sorry I can't be more specific. But you know how it is. I went for a walk with a friend tonight to catch up and it took me AN HOUR just to tell her about YESTERDAY. By the end of it, she was slightly in tears on my behalf. I do sort of feel like I must have a bull's eye on my forehead lately.
But, things will work out.
How will they?
I don't know yet.
(Sorry, a little Shakespeare in Love for you.)
That's about all I've got. Except that Tommy and Christian both have fevers (Christian's is very low, but now I have to practice due diligence), so I may have two kids home tomorrow.
Sam is a little miffed that his temperature is normal. I can't say I blame him, but I'm glad somebody is healthy.
Today was a no-good, terrible, awful day. And I mean that for me. No other members of my family are represented by that statement, though Christian had his lowest low at school today-- and it was a half hour AFTER his morning snack! And he has had the same breakfast and snack with me that he had all of last week. So, I am a bit baffled. But, he had a glucose tab, then some milk, retested a half hour later, and he was fine. I appreciated the school nurse calling.
Back to me (because although I find Christian's diabetes interesting, I am not sure I want this to become Christian's Juvenile Diabetes Blog). The day was intense, stressful, and long. But at least, thanks to my Wellbutrin, I got to stay awake for all of it. Yay me.
I can't write about why it was bad. Let's just say that I'll live, it wasn't tragic, and everything will be okay.
One of the things I do, one of my callings right now, is to drive my friend John around town. He lives near me, and due to a series of unfortunate events, he is car-less. Our town is small, and it only takes me about five minutes to drive him anywhere he needs to go; it takes him considerably longer to hoof it. And he also has arthritis in his knees (and he is only 25, poor kid!). So, this evening, before dinner, I left Christian in Dereck's care (after his insulin shot, and with semi-low glucose, and a timer set for when he should start eating) and went to get John from work and take him to his next destination.
I have been listening to the Wicked soundtrack non-stop lately, and watching every YouTube video about it that I can find. Usually, I listen to "Defying Gravity" in the car, and belt it (despite my horrible cold). I'll never be Idina Menzel, but man. She can sure sing. However, Christian and I had been talking about Wicked, and I was telling him about when Glinda and Elphaba say goodbye, and so I listened to "For Good" on the way to get John. And by the time I got to him, I had made myself cry. Fortunately, John got me hooked on Wicked to begin with, so he didn't mind, and we listened to it again. By the time we stopped, I was weeping, and John just hugged me. I said, "I had a bad day." He asked if I wanted to go for a drive, but I told him I was okay and I'd see him later. Then I came home and listened to it just one more time, and cried in the driveway.
The song reminds me of him, but it also reminds me of her, my Glinda, or my Elphaba, whichever you choose. So, I came home and copied the lyrics and sent them to her in an email. We only talk now a couple of times a year, but because I knew her, I have been changed for good.
I just came out to the studio to work because this is where my laptop has been living. And by work, I mean blog. And by "where my laptop has been living," I mean that I can smoke out here.
You'll be happy and proud of me to know that I went to my doctor on Friday, FINALLY. I had made the appointment at the same time I wanted to have Christian checked out for an ear infection... Well, I think we all know how well that turned out (on the plus side, they did cure the ear infection in one night, with a single, IV dose of anti-biotics).
So, I walked in with my list and said, "Please keep in mind, I made this appointment BEFORE what happened with Christian, so let's just keep that out of the equation for now."
I was nearly sure that he would tell me that my fatigue was caused by going to bed too late and then having my sleep interrupted by driving kids to school and my subsequent returns to bed. But when I asked about that, he started shaking his head almost immediately.
Apparently, when you've been on anti-depressants long enough, you can have a condition called a seratonin poop-out. I am not kidding. Google it. You will also start to see words strung along with it. Words like chronic. Words like fatigue. Words like syndrome. All strung together, for convenience's sake. Chronic fatigue syndrome.
Basically, I need something else to compensate for the fact that my body doesn't produce its own seratonin anymore. So, he prescribed wellbutrin. The fact that I am not nappy this afternoon MIGHT be a placebo affect. I mean, I probably could nap. But I tried yesterday afternoon and... couldn't. Even though I was on an anti-inflammatory drug for my sore rotator cuff, and I felt dizzy for hours. I didn't like that drug at all, so I stopped taking it.
We also discussed my weight and insulin resistance. He is going to check me for that on April 27 (I have a massive deadline this week, so I can't afford to starve, drink disgusting sweet drinks, and then run back and forth for them to check my blood five times).
Then he dangled this little tidbit in front of me: There IS a drug that can help with the insulin resistance. And it can cause people to lose weight. A LOT of weight. It's NOT a weight loss drug, however (but if it walks like a duck...).
Here's the catch.
I have to quit smoking first. Because then I'll gain about ten pounds, and then I can go on the drug and I'll lose more. BUT, if I quit smoking after I've lost a lot of weight, I'll gain it all back. My body will be confused. So, naturally, I said...
"Well, I'm not quitting smoking right now..."
Of course, what he failed to point out is that if I just NEVER quit smoking, all will be fine. Yes? No? Well, a girl has to try.
So, now I'm mulling that over.
I'm willing to try following the low carb diet right now, though. And I must admit, I am hungrier. Christian is allowed to have more carbs than I am, so he's always full. I have been drinking tons of water a la Jennifer Aniston in an attempt to pee so much that I don't notice that I'm hungry. But I notice. It makes me feel sorry (eye roll) for skinny celebrities because they must be hungry ALL THE TIME. But, wow, when you really have to learn about portion sizes you realize, hey, dude, I was eating about, well, a LOT more carbs than I should have.
Christian is doing well at his father's. We all (Dereck, their father, the boys and I) went out to lunch for Chinese food today to see what Chris can have. We even weighed stuff. Let's just say that it's not entirely all clear and that occasionally, he can have Chinese food, and once again, lows are worse than highs. He has been having enough low readings lately that none of us minded if he went a little high today, but I don't think he did: He was all about chicken on a stick.
Now, I should go look at a grant application. The client called me on Thursday: I still don't have a contract, and they haven't heard from the contract office. They had to warn me that there is a possibility that I won't get paid for this work. Well. I have a four-year relationship with this client: What am I supposed to do? Ditch them? On the other side, they don't want to take advantage of me. So, I told them that I just wouldn't stay up all night or put my health at risk. And since I seem not to be napping, I might as well go work on it.
I am sending this as a group letter because I have a cold and fever and I want you all to have this information-- I just don't want to type it out a million times or talk on the phone more than I have to.
I just wanted to let you know how Chris's school day is going (I just talked to the nurse). We brought in a jar of peanut butter for his snack so he can dip his pretzels (and the nurse bought a loaf of bread in case he has a low), his lunch with his turkey sandwich on a frozen pack, teddy grahams, grapes, and he is having chocolate milk for lunch. We also made sure that all of his teachers have glucose tabs in the classroom, and they gave him an index card to hold up saying, "I need glucose," and he has another one with our information and the fact that he has diabetes and his name.
Apparently, he had a low at 11:30. He didn't hesitate; even though there was a substitute teacher in the classroom, the sub gave him a glucose tab and when they tested him, he was at 69. So, they took him right to eat lunch, and they will test him in 30 minutes (I just talked to the nurse) to make sure it's up. But they said it was all handled with great expediency.
Jill the Dietitian just called too and was happy to hear how everything is going and asked about the lows. I will send her a follow-up email letting her know about today at school.
I am going on Christian's morning field trip with him, School Nurse said that if you want to go on the all-day fishing field trip, she'd pack everything he needs (the peanutbutter, we can bring extra carbs, the glucose, little cups and ketone strips, his blood glucose meter) in his storage tub so you'd have it. And I'd plan on giving him an extra snack that day in the afternoon or even morning if he's really active.
He was low again at 3 am (69) so I gave milk and then retested half hour later. I didn't re-test him yesterday because I figured it was okay, but last night at bedtime, he was 157, and so when he dropped to 69, I re-tested him because I wanted to make sure I was right about him going up with the milk. And he was in the 140s when I re-tested. So, I'd just do whatever you feel comfortable with at 3am when it comes to re-testing (but also just be prepared to give him milk).
I think the fact that nobody has trouble with the injections is more than half the battle. The diet is even fun. I'd love to come up and see him-- and maybe to go out for Chinese, because that's something I'm going to have to figure out with him too.
Okay, I think that's it for now!
Hey, could you forward this to your sister for me? I am cc-ing my folks, the dietitian, and the nurse educator on this too, because it's just easier than typing or saying a million times. I haven't called your sister because I am sick and talk on the phone as little as needed, but I know she would love to hear an update.
I have a fever, a really stuffy nose, a sore throat and chills. Christian has pink cheeks, a good appetite, a good attitude, and good blood sugar levels. We are all following the diet, and so far only Tommy doesn't seem to get enough to eat from it, so of course, I let him eat more. (Okay, I admit-- I am hungrier on the diet too, but I know I'll get over it).
I am getting ready to hit the sack, but I just wanted to check in. I will leave you with this link that my dad sent to me today.
Slowly, the onion layers of change are peeling away and revealing new, inner, shiny parts of themselves to me. Some of our friends came to visit tonight. I suspected Christian was tired and wanted him to go to bed. Dereck took our friends down the hall to a conference room to chat, and I couldn't bring myself to leave Christian alone in his hospital bed in the dark. I sat with him until his breathing fell into a steady rhythm, but even just going down the hall felt far away.
Chris has been sitting in my arms on the bed while we watch movies, and it moves me that I still have the power to make it all better. Even if that isn't really true, he still believes it.
He did admit one fear to me tonight though: He is reluctant to leave the hospital. (First he asked me what the word reluctant meant. Then he used it.) At the hospital, he feels safe: They are on top of his insulin, his meals, his blood sugar checks. I've given him one shot of insulin and checked his blood sugar one time, and helped him pick out meals that other people prepare and bring him. I can't seem very capable of handling this right now, even though I have raised him to this age.
I reassured him that he will be safe at home. It's my job to keep him safe. And I also realized that I won't feel comfortable letting Sam babysit his brothers at night for a very long time. I don't know when I'll feel comfortable with that. Nor do I feel comfortable hiring a sitter. This is my responsibility. I didn't really think about that until I was leaving the room tonight to go down the hall.
I haven't really attended karaoke regularly for months now. I don't know why-- fatigue, depression, just feeling more like staying at home where I can smoke in the studio [we can't smoke in our bars anymore, and going outside is, well, cold mostly lately] and watch House any time I want to.
Now, I won't go because I can't leave Christian. What if something happened? We won't even test his blood sugar until 3 a.m. And we will only do that for a couple of weeks. When will we be able to let that go?
It's an incredibly powerful protective instinct, this mothering. Do you know that I secretly think that I love my children more than any other mother on earth loves her children? And when other people talk about loving their children, my inner self shakes her head sadly and thinks, "Oh, you don't even know about loving your children. I have the market cornered on that."
But it's also true that my children haven't needed me constantly in the ways they did when they were younger. They have grown very independent. We are all still very, very close (I cannot blog about the personal conversations I have had this year with Christian, but trust me: We're close). Now, suddenly, I am in charge of making every meal again instead of trusting him to make a sandwich. He needs me again. He really, really needs me.
Even though this SUCKS and I wish so much for him that I could take this away, I can't also help but feel flattered to be so needed again. And I also secretly hope that the structure this will give to our lives will help lift me out of my stupor of fatigue and depression. This sharpens things and gives me an intense focus. When I go to the doctor on Friday, I am going to tell him either to test me for every single thing that could make me so tired, or I will find a doctor who will. I can't afford this bullshit any longer. My son needs me.
I found out today how I am handling things in a rather unexpected way. I mean, I have felt fine. And last night, after I grew a pair, I got a good night's sleep. After Christian's midnight snack, I crawled into the empty bed and slept. In fact, I completely slept through Christian's breakfast, and woke at 8 a.m. when our dietitian came in to talk to Chris.
Christian and I went and used the bathing room and I put up a curtain between us. (It's a huge room, with a separate tub and shower, so we had complete privacy). He bathed while I showered, and we were ready at 9 a.m. when his dad and brothers and Dereck got here for our education.
Let me also say that 1) Everyone is getting along extremely well; and 2) Tommy and Sam are taking this like champs. They have been cooperative, tender, and well-behaved and attentive during all of the education. We all sit around a little table. Sam is like a sponge, absorbing everything. He is already trying to figure out how to bind insulin to food to eliminate shots. Tommy is learning everything quickly; he volunteered to give Christian his shots in the morning so I could sleep in.
Frankly, that is going to be the biggest change for me. Sam has been getting his brothers up and shepherding them through their mornings for awhile; they get me up when it's time to drive them. I will be getting up at 6 a.m. now, no matter what. In the summer and weekends, there can maybe be an hour of variation. For night owls like myself, this is going to be a challenge. However, there is simply no alternative. One does what one has to do.
After lunch, Dereck and I took off for some shopping. I wanted to get a pair of Chaco sandals for summer, for my birthday, which is coming up in two weeks. It's a big one too. So, we drove downtown and went into a nice shoe shop that had a lot of great selection. I asked to try on a pair.
Now, Chacos have a long, continuous strap that takes some education to figure out. The salesgirl simply dropped them at my feet. I struggled with them and asked for a little help. She came over and tugged on them a little and said that there are directions on the box when you buy them. Well, I'm not going to buy them if I can't even try them on, am I? Then, she went back to standing boredly by the register. There were no other customers.
After wrestling for a few more minutes, I slammed down the shoes, slid my feet into my clogs, and stormed past the salesgirl and out of the store. That is the Jen Equivalent of a huge tantrum/confrontation. I didn't say anything to her, but I got out of the store and let loose a flood of obscenities, and stormed down the street angrily. I bet people thought I was insane. I think among the things I said was, "Is it too much to expect to have a little help trying on shoes when YOUR SON IS IN THE HOSPITAL WITH GODDAMN FUCKING DIABETES?"
That was really my first clue that I may be in a little denial, and maybe I have some residual issues that will surface. Hmmm.
Eventually, I calmed down, found another shop that carries the shoes and boasts a very nice salesgirl (Alpine in Columbia, Missouri). Dereck got me the shoes for my birthday, and I wore them out of the store. Then we went to Jimmy Johns and got a sandwich. We sat outside in the sunshine and ate and talked about our new life with diabetes.
Afterwards, we went to the mall. We picked up Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix at Christian's request, and a video game that didn't end up working on either of our laptops (dammit). I may have also picked up Enchanted for myself to watch... And I may have gotten it because it has Idina Menzel in it, and right now I am slightly obsessed with both Rent and Wicked. Idina Menzel originated the roles of Maureen and Elphaba in both shows.
We also went to Mr. Bulky's candy and got some sugar free candy for Christian. However, management of diabetes has changed ENORMOUSLY from what I had heard about it when I was growing up. Case in point: Chris had picked out a solid chocolate bunny for Easter before he was diagnosed. Boy, he was so bummed about Easter and that bunny. But we met with the dietitian today and mentioned the bunny. We checked the carbs on the back, and when we were planning his meals for Sunday, we included 1/4 of the bunny for one meal. Isn't that incredible? There is NOTHING he CANNOT have anymore. It's just timing and planning. This is NOT your grandmother's diabetes.
As much as everyone here has been supportive and upbeat and great, and as much as I think I am really coping with this very well, underlying everything is the appalling knowledge that my CHILD has a PERMANENT disease that could KILL him. I mean, my paternal grandmother (no biological relation) died from complications due to diabetes. We found out today that we can expect Christian to have low blood sugars (which are worse than the highs) as often as every other day. That is absolutely, forgive me for my repetition here, appalling. Suddenly, I have to turn into hyper-aware mother when I have always been easy-going mother.
Don't get me wrong: I am completely up to the task. And you will be happy to know that at the same time I scheduled Christian's appointment for his ear infection (which they treated in the ER Thursday night in one dose, thankfully, though he has such a runny nose that I suspect all he will remember about this weekend is blowing his nose), I also scheduled an appointment for myself for this Friday to talk about my ongoing depression/fatigue. Yay me.
Anyway, backing up, we got some sugar-free candy, and a gift bag, some Propel water that he can have (anything less than 20 calories is a "free food." Propel has ten calories a pop; this means he shouldn't have more than one... well, I don't really know the time frame, so maybe we'll just stick with one. I'll ask the dietitian on Monday.
Oh, the things that enter your head when you get a diagnosis like this: I have been making the kids walk home from school, despite Christian's heavy backpack. He is dancing around the room, and both Dereck and I realized that he hasn't really done his little Asperger's dancing for awhile. There are roses in his cheeks. I took him to the doctor last YEAR sometime or maybe before because he had dark circles under his eyes and sallow skin. I thought he was anemic. The professionals here have guessed that Christian has had diabetes for at least three months. I think he has probably had it for more like a year. Maybe more. And believe me, typing that makes me want to weep with shame.
I have also made an appointment for Sam. Yay me. Let the healing begin.
A long phone call later and I think I am ready to close this out. I bought myself some new clothes today, because I think I've gained some weight this winter. That is depressing, but I have enough other crap going on, so I am not going to focus on that and become more depressed. I just got some clothes that fit me better, and I'm moving forward. I am going to, in this order, figure out my shit: 1) Learn all there is to know about keeping Christian healthy; 2) Keep myself healthy; and 3) Get Sam the care he needs. Sam is only number 3 because his appointment happens to follow mine.
On a final note, Dereck's parents asked today if I wanted anything in particular for my birthday. My first thought was, "Yes, I want Christian not to have diabetes anymore." What came out of my mouth was, "I like Amazon gift certificates."
Isn't that just how life goes? We want our children not to have diabetes anymore, and we make do with Amazon gift certificates. Such is life without a wife and kids to do the dishes.
Last night, I texted two friends (who would get and appreciate this): "Trying to decide which is worse: Gay sex, or sleeping in this chair."
One of them is gay, incidentally, and I have no problem with gay sex. It's a comment based on something we say often-- probably not translating well here, but there it is. This blog is also a journal for me.
One texted back almost immediately (1:53 a.m.): "The chair."
John told me yesterday that I should enjoy the learning and ask as many questions as possible, but I should also freely make fun of people. In that light, I will say that when I met the diabetes team leader, who was perky and skinny and tan, while I was sitting, bleary-eyed, in my pajamas, I mentioned that my knowledge of diabetes was almost completely academic.
Christian is enjoying his breakfast of cornflakes, milk, and apple juice. He has twice as much liquid as solid. He has to pee into this plastic tub in the bathroom, and they keep track of everything going in and out.
Last night after he fell asleep, the nurse showed me the shower room, the nutrition room (from which I took a milk in the futile hopes that it would help me sleep), and told me about the Ronald McDonald room. I guess they might have a tad better sleeping arrangements there than this foldout chair that I have.
I called maintenance to have the room temperature lowered just two degrees. It makes a difference.
After thrashing around on the chair, I spied a Mommy-sized space on Christian's bed, so I climbed in with him and was finally able to sleep. Until they woke him up to pee at 5:30 and gave him an insulin shot. And then woke him at 6:00 for breakfast. He asked where my breakfast was, and I laughed and told him that I'm on my own. I'll find something later. Right now, sleep is so much more important. So, I'm chatting with him and writing to you.
I asked him finally this morning if he knew what diabetes was. He didn't, of course, so I gave him a rudimentary explanation:
You have an organ called a pancreas. It makes insulin that tells your body what to do with the sugar it eats, tells it to send the sugar to your cells. They told us yesterday that they think sometimes a virus attacks the pancreas, reducing and slowly killing off insulin production. So, when your body doesn't produce insulin, your sugar stays in your blood. When the levels rise to the degree that they had in Christian, sometimes it can ruin your kidneys and lead to all kinds of bad things.
So, he will learn to eat foods that don't put more sugar into his blood than his insulin shots can tell it where to go. And if he were to do something like eat three really sugary doughnuts, he'd learn that he has to take more insulin to make up for that.
I hope I have it right and haven't confused him too much.
I realized two things last night:
1) Nobody on Lost or Battlestar Galactica had diabetes. It colors how I view those shows now, just a bit. Diabetes would have been a genuine tragedy. But it also seems somehow unfair that patients with diabetes don't get to share in the fun.
2) I need to ask about getting Christian a medic alert bracelet.
I don't yet have a title for this post. A night to remember? Too corny?
I could KICK myself for not seeing that Christian's symptoms pointed to Juvenile Diabetes. He drinks a lot and pees often. I know that this can mean diabetes. So, why did other explanations always seem plausible?
This actually started last night, with a discussion I had with Sam. I don't really want to get into that here right now, but it resulted in my deciding he could stay home today. Take a mental health day. Let's just say that in some ways, he really does take after his mother.
So, this morning when Christian told me he had an ear ache and had felt faint in the tub, I wasn't inclined to keep him home. I told him that if you stand up quickly after being in hot water, you will feel faint. This in spite of his saying he had felt faint when he got up to use the bathroom last weekend. I took his temperature. No fever. I told him to go see the school nurse, and if she said he looked like he had an ear infection, I'd take him to the doctor.
The phone started ringing as soon as I walked through the door after dropping them off. So, I went back to get Christian, whose ear hurt and who was also tired from being up with his sore ear. I called and got an appointment with the doctor for this afternoon. Their dad was to take the kids for the weekend, so I called and had him meet me at the dr. with Tommy.
When we got to the doctor, I mentioned that Christian has gotten really skinny lately, and I wanted them to see if maybe he was anemic, because he seemed... frail.
Weighing him revealed an 8 pound weight loss since February. That sounds like a Will Smith movie, doesn't it? Sorry, poor joke. Anyway, our dr. asked the student physician what is most likely to cause that kind of weight loss in a child. The student physician didn't know. The doc said they could test for diabetes immediately. I said, "Doesn't he have to fast and drink a disgusting liquid?" No, with the kind of weight loss he has had, if his blood sugar was above 300, this test would detect it.
My ex asked what normal blood sugars would be: 60-100. Christian's couldn't be counted by their office's machine, indicating that it was over 500.
I didn't know at the time, but this can lead to high PH levels and the breakdown of kidney function. Basically, he could have slid into coma or death. Just gone to sleep...
Fortunately, Christian's blood isn't the kind that becomes acidic. So, he probably would have simply continued to lose weight until we freaked out and took him in. Still, it was a fortuitous ear infection. As my ex wryly noted, that school nurse probably deserves a gift basket.
The doc sent us over to the ER. They gave him an IV and treated his ear infection and hydrated him. An arterial blood oxygen test showed us that his kidneys were fine. Big, huge relief. I mean, I could see it in our physician's eyes (bless the man, he had been planning to leave the office early and instead ended up with us in the hospital).
The whole time were were at the ER, poor Tommy and Sam were hanging out in the waiting room until Dereck came and brought me an emergency bag with knitting, laptop, and phone charger in it and took them home for dinner.
Then, once we figured out he was stable in the hospital, they contacted the children's floor down in Columbia and I drove him down here. They insisted that he come tonight. They have now started him on insulin with a snack: pb and j with two graham crackers and two things of 2% milk. I was surprised to see so many carbs, but the nurse told me that he will eventually be allowed to eat ANYTHING, as long as he makes up for it with the insulin.
The reason for the hospitalization is that they spend 4-5 days here with us training all of us in nutrition, diet, and insulin shots. We are going to get all of the tools we need here to go home with his diabetes. I know that this is going to mean a lot of changes for all of us. However, after first worrying whether or not he had something like leukemia causing his weight loss and THEN worrying about his kidneys and him slipping into a coma, the rest of it all seems pretty manageable.
Christian is also getting over his initial shock. He is greatly relieved that he can still have soda-- it just has to be Diet now and forever. I think the whole family will be healthier once we learn about how to manage Christian's diet. It's hard to justify eating a bunch of crap when your kid isn't allowed to.
I felt like a bad mother when they asked if anybody smoked. Yes, I do. The nurse (who is really very nice) told me primly that I'd have to leave the entire campus of the hospital to smoke. Grrrr. Well, Missy, what you don't know is that I'll be FINE while I'm here. So there.
Now that Christian has had his snack, I'm shutting off Harry Potter and the lights, and I'll unfold my chair and set it up so we can try to get some sleep. I doubt I'll get much while we are here, which sucks. But wow, things could be so much worse.
As it so often happens in this business, suddenly work and clients are pouring in. I stopped typing for a minute to find wood to knock on. I settled for the metal locker in my studio because that was the closest thing, and it's the thought that counts.
This Monday morning, I am sitting wearily in my studio waiting for a phone call. I am also sitting here with Chris, and we are drinking coffee and watching Lost. Not that we have given up on House, of course. We are simply branching out.
Friday, I finished some work I had had, and today I need to do more. But right now, I'm too sleepy to do anything but type a few thoughts and drink my coffee and, well, a cigarette or two won't hurt...
On Friday night, I had a headache so I stayed home. Dereck had gone out for dinner with a thesis committee he was on. While I was at home watching House with Chris (I made him watch the season finale of Season 4, which is awesome), my friend Jamie called. Jamie is a poet. He and his wife Karen, who is also a poet, were going to come by with their friend Mary. They didn't end up coming by. Dereck told me later that Mary is also a poet, and she was giving a reading on Saturday. It turns out there was a whole conference last weekend that I would have loved to have gone to, but that's life.
So, Saturday afternoon, I went to hear Mary read. And she was wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. Of course, none of the poems she read Saturday are published yet. I recognized a lot of myself in her poems. I was lucky that I had a chance to go and hang out with her and Jamie and Karen and their friend Allegra that evening for an hour.
They were playing with a dream website and we were talking about recurring dreams. I mentioned that my recurring anxiety dreams are always that I am in an airport, train station, or hotel that is like a labyrinth. I can't ever get to my destination because I am stuck, but I end up having such interesting adventures that I end up not caring. And for the first time, it occurred to me that maybe my dreams are trying to tell me that even if I am not at the point in my life that I may think I need to be, even if it feels like I am being waylaid en route to my destination, maybe the journey IS the point. And maybe the fact that it's so interesting along the way makes up for not arriving.
Mary looked at me and said, "I've known you for ten minutes and I knew that's what your dreams meant. This means that you need to stop worrying about not writing. Live your life, take care of your children. This is more interesting."
I mentioned to her that when I first became friends with Jamie (I met him before I met Karen because she teaches in Southern Missouri), I was excited to have a poet to talk shop with. However, we almost never talk shop. She said, "All of my closest friends are poets, and I can assure you, we never talk about the craft of poetry. We share a worldview so we hang out."
I was also thinking yesterday of how fortunate I have been to meet so many interesting people in my life-- many of them right here. It made me feel better about where I live. I was also thinking about Emily Dickinson. She rarely left her house. Yet, what a very vivid life of the mind she had!
Every once in awhile I have to rattle my cage and then I eventually accept again my perimeters. Until I don't.
I did start knitting. I am making another shawl. I have gotten a lot done on it so far-- I love the pattern. It's very easy and repetitive, which suits me. It has enough variation to keep me from getting bored. I am enjoying the process and the soft alpaca yarn, but I am always impatient when I am working for the final project. And then to start another one. I have two more projects in mind after this one, and lovely yarn to use for them.
Last night, I was invited out for a drink with some very close friends. We usually just hang out at somebody's house, but last night, we went out (in anticipation of another friend's birthday, actually). Anyway, I just ordered a coke, and the whole time I was there, I wanted to leave. In fact, Dereck was halfway through his Bloody Mary when I announced that we had to leave after that drink because I had things to do at home.
What I had to do was put Sam to bed and write a post about last night's episode of House. Not very pressing, either of them. Sam was okay either way, and the post could have waited for morning. I don't know why, but I very urgently felt that I needed to be at home, and then to stay at home. So, when the birthday friend arrived at the DuKum and I received multiple text messages, I begged off.
Nothing significant to report as a result of that. Sam kept texting me from his bed because he couldn't sleep. He had taken a nap after school, so today, I am trying to keep him from collapsing from the tired. Tommy was then up with his cold. Christian was then up trying to get ear plugs into his ears because Tommy has been snoring.
The kids were bouncing up and down like jacks in the box. I finally just gave up myself and headed to my bed. Where I heard Sam creaking as he turned in bed, where I sighed and tried various sleep positions, where the phone rang at 1:43, and I had to get up at 2:15 finally to settle loud bickering from the younger set's room. Christian was keeping Tommy awake to prevent the snoring, and Tommy was weeping with exhaustion. I settled Christian into the TV room futon and stumbled back to bed. By this time, Dereck was awake and feeling frisky, but I kissed him and soundly fell asleep, so he got up and started taking quizzes on Facebook.
I was amazed this morning when the kids got up and got themselves ready for school according to schedule. I thought for sure they'd all sleep in and then wake in a panic. I would have kept Tommy home with his cold except they are doing state testing this week and I get text messages several times a day stressing the importance of attendance. And actually, Tommy was the only kid in a half-way decent mood this morning.
So, we are all tired. I would have slept in later today, but my guilt at the fact that my family had to push through the tired kept me from doing so. As a result, I don't feel like going to karaoke tonight or doing much else, either. Did I mention that we are all tired?
I think this is why I don't blog more often. I find my life boring to write about. And, yes, a little boring to live. We had a very nice weekend with friends with St. Louis. We got snowed in with a delightful baby boy, and there was lots of knitting and crocheting and lots of episodes of House. It was very pleasant, but that doesn't sound very interesting to read about, does it?
Right now, at this period of my life, which is recurrent by the way, I am so bored and depressed with living in this town. I will be 40 in April. Turning 30 didn't bother me: I had three kids, owned a house, was starting grad school.
Turning 40 only bothers me because I no longer feel like I have my life stretched out ahead of me. When you're in your twenties, your life is stretched out, but you don't see all of the possibilities. You see the blank sheet of paper that you're terrified to write on. You edit yourself, you hold back, or you don't see all of the possibilities-- you only see the blank sheet.
Now that the past twenty years of my life has already been written, I can look back and see so much room for editing. That point where I got married right after college graduation? That could have been filled with grad school, travel to Europe, and/or Peace Corps. I could have followed my dreams of being a writer and moved to New York City to pursue it. And then maybe I wouldn't feel so much contempt for the other people I see driving their kids to school. I sometimes feel like this town, these people, well, none of us really matter. Our lives don't matter. We are just a small blot on the planet. People in NYC or Chicago or LA are somehow living lives more vividly, in living color. And as a result, I find I don't take particular care for my appearance here-- because I just don't care.
So, my biggest problem with turning 40 is that I am still living here, have lived here for FIFTEEN YEARS. That seems huge to me. How many years have I lost? How many dreams are dead now? How many can I revive? I can see the light at the end of the tunnel: Tommy will graduate from high school seven years from now. I will be 47. What will I have time for? If I get the PhD, will I be able to get a job? Will I be able to move? If I move, will I discover that I don't matter any more than I do here, that the people there don't matter, that it doesn't make any difference?
I have always hated the adage to bloom where you're planted. That is just stupid to me: Instead, go plant yourself somewhere else! Why would I want to settle for this????
Then, I think in terms of practicalities: It takes me 5 minutes to get everywhere. We can afford to live here (sometimes! Ha ha ha!). The kids are safe. We have great friends here, and the people here ARE great, my disdain notwithstanding. How will we meet people if we move? We will move anonymously through bigger supermarkets and have more anonymous Starbucks to go to, but we will lose connections to place and people that we have here.
I don't know what the answers are. I don't know what about my life I will regret. One friend tells me that I have books in me to write. I had better start writing them. Part of my problem isn't just the fatigue that I have written about over and over. Everyone is tired. EVERYONE is tired. That's what happens when you reach a certain age. My problem is my refusal to start new projects unless I feel as perfectly refreshed as the princess without her pea. Now that I work at home, I don't push through the tired. I go to bed. So, I need to start doing more when I'm tired. I need to make my bucket list (oh, please forgive me).
Did I mention that I'm a little tired today?
But I'm not going to take a nap. I am going to print out a knitting pattern and start knitting it, and I am going to start thinking about what I'd like the rest of my life to look like.
My youngest came home with this joke last night, and it never fails to make me laugh when I think about it.
Two men were sitting at a bar, drinking. The bartender washed dishes behind the bar and watched them. The first man drank a shot, jumped out the window, and came back in another window. Then he sat back down.
The second man asked, "How did you do that?"
The first man shrugged. Then, he drank another shot, jumped out the window again, and again returned through another window.
The second man drank a shot and jumped out the window, plunging to his death 50 feet below.
The bartender said to the first man: "You're mean when you're drunk, Superman."
Things continue. I suppose that is the only thing we really have, isn't it? The inescapable knowledge that whatever our troubles or pleasures, life marches on.
And by "things continue," I mean "things continue to suck." The depression hasn't lifted; however, it has taken on a new form and shape. On Saturday, we went to our accountant to have our taxes done. In spite of saving last year, the fact that we had to get a new roof and a new water heater, and the fact that we traveled some last summer, all contributed to meaning that we didn't save enough. I have almost half of what we owe.
I am horrified. I mean, almost paralyzed by this. I have vacillated between a wild range of emotions since we found out. When we walked out to the parking lot, I knew that Dereck had some errands to run. I said, "Take me home so I can change my clothes and get drunk."
We got home and I burst into tears in the driveway. Then I went into the studio, lit a cigarette, collapsed on the couch and cried some more. On the one hand, we aren't the only people who have gotten screwed like this with taxes. But after the two projects I finish up in the next two weeks, I have nothing else in the hopper. Nothing. And now, after every cent I earn, I have to pay present AND past taxes. We can set up a payment program with the IRS and it will probably take us FOUR YEARS to pay it off.
I texted my friend John that I was on a mission, and he came over within the half hour. I changed into shorts and a T-shirt and we sat in the studio watching House and drinking cider while I chainsmoked. By the time I sent inside for a nap, my problems hadn't gone anywhere, but I didn't care anymore. Mission accomplished.
On Sunday, I was cautiously optimistic. I took the Kathy Howe approach that I could view this as an opportunity to grow my business. I started researching research institutes to which I could send promotional letters.
Yesterday, I was despondent. I watched some of the TV that I had to write about for ClickClaque, and then I went out to the studio to work on a deadline. I sat out there for three hours, chainsmoking, paralyzed. I have a black ashtray in my studio. I clean it out frequently, and then I watch again as it has first one butt in it and a little bit of ash. By the time I clean it out, it is covered in ash, has a couple of bottle lids in it, sometimes crumpled foil from a new cigarette pack, and I am searching for places where I can ash without the ashtray flowing over. Then, I take a Walmart bag, dump the ashtray, tie a knot, throw the bag away and start again.
By the time Dereck came home from a work dinner, I was nearly catatonic. I hadn't eaten dinner, and when I walked into the house to use the bathroom, I found that the dog had emptied the trash, the compost, and the cat food all over the kitchen floor. I went back out the studio and lit another cigarette. That's when Dereck found me. I told him what the dog had done, and when I had finished the cigarette, went into the house and helped him clean up the mess. That's the second time I've cleaned up that mess in a couple of days.
Then, we drove up to get the kids from their father's house. In the car, I told Dereck that I am leaving Kirksville. He said, "What are you saying to me?"
I said, "You can come too. But I can't stay here. I am not staying here for the rest of my life. I can't have a real career here. I am so sick of the uncertainty of self-employment and the worry. When Tommy graduates from high school, I am gone. You can come with me; you have six or seven years to figure out what you want to do."
So, he wondered if he should start looking now, and I said, "Yes."
We were pretty silent for the rest of the ride after that.
I perked a bit for the kids. I am sure they always know when something is wrong, but I decided not to tell them about this. Sam worries about money anyway. They wouldn't be able to NOT freak out about this. Even if by some miracle we turn out to be okay sooner than we think, they wouldn't be able to shut this off. So, I'm not telling them. I turn vague when Sam says his friend has a nicer cell phone than he does (Sam hasn't asked for a new phone in two years-- why now?), and try to put the kids off at the grocery store when they want to buy two bags of Chex Mix.
Fortunately, we've never been rich. But we have been able to escape relying on a strict grocery budget up to now, and we've been easily able to get a couple of new books at Hastings when we want to. Sam needs new shoes; I am worried.
When we got home last night, the dog had gotten into the garbage in the studio and strewn it all over. I was so furious that I took my grocery bags into the kitchen and as I reached below the sink for garbage bags, I slammed the cabinet hard about four times, cursing the dog as I did so. I went out to the studio and sat down and calmly picked up one piece of trash at a time.
Two friends called and suggested some House. It's the remedy for everything. We have been watching House together since Season 1 episode 1 this winter, and we are half way through Season 3 now. I went into my house, calmed myself down, put my children to bed, and then went out to the studio for more cider, cigarettes and television. I excused myself at 11:30 and put myself to bed so quietly that Dereck didn't even realize I had come into the house.
In spite of my early bed time (that IS early for me), I still went back to bed this morning after taking kids to school. It was raining, so I got up again at 8:45 and picked up John to take him to work so he wouldn't be a puddle. We went to McDonald's and ran downtown for him, and then I dropped him off. I knew I was probably awake enough to get up and begin work with coffee. I went back to bed until noon.
After I got up and showered and dressed and went out to the studio to work, my phone rang. It was my friend Rebecca from one of my client sites. She had contacted me on Facebook and wanted to know if we could just chit chat this week, catch up. So, when she called, I knew it was her and I was expecting it. I told her what was going on. She said that she had really just wanted to chat, but at a meeting fifteen minutes earlier, she had been asked to check on my availability for a grant that has a deadline of April 27. That's the day before my birthday. I told her I was available. We talked for about 45 minutes more.
I got off the phone with her with a renewed sense that maybe I can make self-employment work; apart from the work they may have for me in April, she seemed to think that there is plenty of work out there. It's just a matter of FINDING it. It's tedious, but is it worse than committing myself to a 9-t0-5 job that I hate?
I wonder. Last night, I was staring off into space on our drive and thinking that what I want most in the entire world is financial security. However, I am also leery of The Monkey's Paw way of thinking. Be careful what you wish for. Be careful what you wish for.
I always think of the advice one of my friends at the university here once gave me. I was still in graduate school, looking for jobs, and I told her, "I just want a job that will put food on my table and a roof over my head."
She fixed me with a stare and said, "If that is all you look for, that is all you are going to find."
It's so hard in the face of financial crisis not to ask for the bare minimum of what will take the edge off the anxiety and pain and worry. Yesterday, I was so anxious as I sat and smoked that my palms kept sweating. I was trying to type to my friend Mary P. in Ottawa, and I had to keep wiping my hands on my shorts in able to type. I have never actually hyperventilated, but I have certainly felt lately like I might.
I don't what is worse: This acute depression or the lingering, dull depression that plagued me for the first part of winter. Neither of them is good.
Today, before and after that phone call, after I had dressed for the day, I sat and worked on a project that is due at the end of the week. I worked on it until 5:00 p.m., and I might work on it more tonight. Jes and Elliot and Beth are coming up this weekend, and I'd like to be able to have Thursday afternoon at the very least to clean for their visit. Tomorrow, I should get another call about the April grant, and hopefully know more by the end of the week.
I am grateful for the call; I am grateful that news like this comes along to save me. However, I feel too much like a yo yo right now to actually be happy.
In the absence of anything really interesting to share with you, I thought I'd pass along some links to some new blogs I've been reading.
Full disclosure: These people are all members of my extended family. And they are all terrific, funny writers. I have been cracking up reading these this afternoon. Well, not all afternoon. But you get the point.
One Magpie is written by my second cousin (first cousin once removed?) Charles's wife Erica. I have never met her. She is completing her MFA in creative writing, and he just got accepted to the program. Writing runs in the family, even when we get married it seems. Smells Funny is written by Charles's older brother Ed. He is funny as hell. You should read at least the first page of the blog. Five Crows is written by Charles and Ed's mother Louise. She taught one of my writing classes when I was at BYU. She is married to my mother's first cousin Tom. My mother was born to Blanche and Perry; Tom's parents were Elva and Gail. Elva and Blanche were sisters. Perry and Gail were brothers. My mother and Tom were born 12 days apart. Louise has published a bunch of books now too. She was one of the hardest professors I ever had, bless her soul.
I'm in between books. And I am coughing up a lung (status: Three weeks and unchanged). I stayed up waaaaay too late last night, so I am exhausted. I have been pushing fluids. We are almost out of milk, but I am too tired to go get more milk, though I want to drink milk.
But I hate being in between books. The thing is, it's not like I don't have loads of books around that I haven't read. Either my dad sent them to me, or I purchased them with every intention of reading them and then chickened out.
I have to be careful what I read: If I read something too upsetting, it just makes the depression worse. I tend to do all right at movies, but reading is a whole different ball game.
So, I toyed today with the idea, in the name of frugality, of trying to read some of the books I have instead of wanting to go purchase more (because, let's face it, with the crap I read, I can get a new novel or three while I'm buying more milk). It makes sense to shop your own bookcases, right?
Off to Amazon.com I went and typed in the names of some of the books on my shelves that I haven't yet read. And review after review, I realized that I cannot read these books. They are about harrowing events, children who have grown up with sexual abuse and parents who are alcoholics. I am sure these books are finely written, but they are also, just by their reviews, devastating.
So, I have decided that I will shop the kids' bookcases first. I am sure I can find something there that won't push me over the edge.
In the meantime, do you have any good book recommendations for me? That don't contain utter tragedies in them?
My hands are rough. On my palms and finger tips, for maybe the past week or two, my hands have been covered with tiny white blisters. The blisters peel almost instantaneously, leaving little broken white pieces of skin attached to my fingertips and the heel of my hand.
This also leaves my fingertips red and raw-looking. Today is the first day it's started to hurt, just a teeny bit.
Before any blisters appeared, my palms showed little red dots underneath the skin, as though they pushed through the skin to form the blisters.
Dr. Google suggests it is a form of eczema that comes and goes. Dr. Google tells me it is stress related.
It's all about the Benjamins these days. I should be working right now, as a matter of fact. I have two projects to work on. I think I'm scared-- scared that I don't know how to do this anymore, when, in fact, it's a lot like riding a bike. What I need to do is go out to the studio, pop a DVD of House in and just do the work. Instead, I am sitting in my living room, listening to Rent, and blogging.
Back to money. We have been having some serious conversations this week about where we can cut corners. Last Thursday, for the first time, we went grocery shopping at Aldi's. I have never been there before, and from what others have told me about it-- dirty, bad produce, no shopping bags, extremely cheap-- I was scared to go. So, the fact that we decided to do our shopping there felt ominous: Okay, here we go, we have hit rock bottom. We are shopping at Aldi's.
I was pleasantly surprised. It was clean, organized, the produce looked fine, they had really an amazing selection to choose from. We got almost everything on our list there, and saved, we estimate, between $40-$60 on our groceries. That makes shopping at Walmart or Hy-Vee hard to justify, except for things like meat.
One of the reasons we have been talking about money is that last week I made a misstep when I was making credit card payments and left myself with very little money with which to get through the rest of the month... unless I run the cards back up, which I'd like to avoid.
In the midst of conversations about getting rid of cable and eating out less, deciding not to head down to Dem Days in Hannibal (thereby saving $50 on a dinner and $70 on a hotel; we spent about $20 going to see Watchmen instead), an old college friend (haha, you're 40, so you're old!) invited me to read his blog about the recession and how he and his family are handling it. It's a sobering read. He and his wife are both artists, so things are tight.
One of my friends here in town, though, is defying the odds by landing his first professional job (he's a young 'un). So great is his relief that for the first time he has been telling me stories about the poverty he has faced during his college career: Eating raw potatoes; sitting on the steps of his apartment listening to his landlord pound on his door asking for rent... Stories that made my jaw drop. He wins: I've never known that kind of poverty. And Aldi's actually gave me a lot of piece of mind: We will probably be able to feed our family just fine. The kind of poverty that we are facing means that we will have to think more seriously about spending money for entertainment, not that we are in imminent danger of losing our home. It's very different. And we are very lucky.
I have two projects to work on-- and I can't bill for them until I work on them. I have one more coming in next week. Sometimes I look at the statcounter for my business website and feel happy-- people are looking! And then days go by with no email and no calls and I feel despondent.
I toyed with the idea of applying for a position at the university. I am not yet ready to change careers, though. If I got the position (big if), I would surrender days of complete freedom, summers with my children, the flexibility to fly out to care for my parents at a moment's notice. I would rather continue having faith in my company and hoping that more projects will come. How long can I continue to do that? How long before I have to face "facts" and change careers? I could get a job at the convenience store to tide us over, or some other kind of fast food job. In some ways, that kind of solution is preferable to a career change. A career change would involve a commitment. A commitment to not quitting, to making the best of that choice. I am not yet ready for a career change.
I realize how this sounds: It's easy, when you are on the outside, to say, "Get over yourself. Get a fucking job. Support your family. Get your head out of your ass and do your projects."
Or, perhaps, to say to my artist friends, "What are you thinking? If you can't afford to be an artist, then maybe you should get a real job."
I recently took a chance on adding one of my ex-husband's friends as a Facebook friend. He recently commented that he was going out to his car in a parking garage, and I asked them if there was a strange man sitting in this car... this time. So, he posted a story this incident, which I later wrote a poem about.
I seem to be able to speak cogently about depression, even when I am in the midst of a bad patch, like I am right now, like I was on Friday. Actually, today isn't bad. Saturday, I was almost manic with my energy levels and good mood. But on Friday, I was in the vice grips of despair.
The thing that really pisses me off about depression is that nothing triggered Friday's "episode" as I like to think of it. I woke up, had lunch with friends, but suddenly I found myself sitting on a stool at Il Spazio, talking to my friend John, unable to accept even a coke to drink. I realized I was in danger of breaking down into tears there, so I called another friend and spent the rest of the day watching re-runs of House and smoking cigarettes. I smoked 21 cigarettes on Friday, if you're interested. I had 4 on Sunday. Yesterday, I had none. Today, I have had none.
The reduction in smoking isn't deliberate. I am not trying to cut down. It's just the way things go: When things suck, I smoke more. When things are better, I smoke less. __________________________________________________________________
For what it's worth, since I'm talking about depression, I would say that I have been in a depression since August 22, 2008. Amazing how you can sometimes pinpoint things exactly like that.
I would define my depression as causing everything to be more difficult. I used to be able to make bread, edit a manuscript, make dinner, and go for a run, all in the same day. Now, I can do one of those things. I have to make a choice. I sat on the couch for about two hours this morning before I forced myself to move to a different couch to watch television so I could write about it. I have not yet written about it. It's like I am paralyzed and I can't move. The only things I am fully capable of doing are getting the children picked up, dropped off, homeworked, fed, and bedded down for the night.
This is the longest funk I've had. At least that I can remember. The huge grant project that almost killed me still makes me tired and still makes me not want to work. I long for structure, I have some client work now, and yet I can't do the work. I was talking to a friend on Friday, we were smoking together outside Il Spazio while I was still there. I said, "I have work to do."
He said, "Then you should do it."
I don't know how to explain this to people who haven't experienced it for themselves. __________________________________________________________________
Okay, I have now showered and dressed. My son is home with me today-- he pulled his neck yesterday by stretching, so we went to the ER. They gave muscle relaxers and recommended cold compresses. He has more range of movement today and less pain, but I am glad he is home and not at school. He still has trouble turning his head to the left.
We have to make flan today for a school project. A friend tells me not to think of what I *have* to do today, but to think of what I *can* do today.
1) I can take a shower and get dressed.
2) I can go pick up lunch (I promised Taco Bell in return for him reading this essay).
3) I can make flan with him for his Spanish class.
My friends Jack, Melissa and I have been gathering for lunches on Fridays at the coffeeshop. Jack and I are sometime writing partners. However, we were both pretty lame last year about actually writing anything, so we sort of stopped. Now, we have started again with short assignments. Two pages. This week's theme was The Material and The Spiritual. Here is what I wrote in my little notebook.
(I showed it to my friend Chris later and he said, "I don't know whether you wrote this because you're depressed or whether you're depressed because you wrote this."
Let's say that humans have a soul, or some tangible, spiritual, ethereal self. Let's say this is a conscious self also that is reincarted many times, without memory, into may different bodies and lives.
We know that from our observations, the universe tends toward chaos, toward entropy. This is true of the universe and its expansion, of decay and erosion on earth, and also of our bodies. Our bodies slowly break down and erode until they fail and die, so the soul moves on.
If entropy is true of the entirety of the universe, then wouldn't it stand to reason that it also holds true for the soul?
Entropy manifests itself in the body in a slow breakdown of organ function, a drying up of skin elasticity. It take years or even a lifetime.
How does entropy occur in the soul? I have heard that there are "old" souls, and this makes sense. But it also makes sense that old souls are identifiable by a maturity, a melancholy, a sadness that has no tangential relationship to that particular body, lifetime, or experience.
Perhaps depression is an indication of a soul's aging and entropy. The soul breaks down in the body and decays. This causes the body to need more sleep and causes depression symptoms like not looking forward to anything, inability to enjoy life.
What if depressed people have souls nearing the end of their cycle? How do souls stop the endless iterations of life and bodies and experiences?
Maybe they can't. Or maybe this is one explanation for why people kill themselves [I am not suicidal]-- they somehow know that this will make things stop, not just for this turn in the cyle, but STOP.
If there is a God, then does God also tend toward entropy? A topic for another day...
What is eternity? A bird's wing can cause the most undetectable kind of erosion when it tips the edge of a mountain. Perhaps the entire universe is slowly decaying at a rate that will take eternity.