Saturday, November 5, 2011

Thanksgiving Came A Month Early in Our Family

I owe you photos!

Can I say that this has been about the busiest fortnight of my year? We've been costuming and partying and celebrating and mall-ing, and IKEA-ing all these two weeks. Between the sewing and the baking and the merrymaking, there was also a day when my life stood still after a freaky phone call from the doctor about getting "additional tests done" after some rogue results from a routine checkup. This was the Tuesday before halloween and I was standing at the sewing table, holding part of one of the costumes and feeling my heart lurch up into my throat as I listened to the nurse explain what was amiss. I'll tell you the ending now - it's a good one, so you don't faint from the fright: mercifully, the hospital was able to schedule me within 24 hours, and the scans were done and everything was clear and wonderful so I'm not dying after all or anything like that.

I hardly get to use the training from my work in counseling (at least not as much as I get to use Physics from my teacher days) but on that day I did. I wish, after getting the phone call, I had run shrieking to my Bible, but it was more like "right, let's get lunch for the kids and while they're eating, blissfully-unaware-like, let's call the husband and see if he can take the morning off tomorrow so I can get to the hospital without all the children in tow, and while we're moving from room to room, picking up toys and misplaced laundry, let's tell God this feels bad and I have small children and can He please at least let me live long enough to sew their prom dresses so they won't wear something really ugly?"

My ex-colleagues and I used to talk very clinically in terms of the stages of grief and crisis whenever we (or loved ones) were going through something difficult. It was very bizarre to the casual observer to hear stuff like, "So, you know (my husband) was laid off last month and he's in the anger stage now. He's past the shock stage, so I have to let him vent and curse. Not nice to hear but at least he's able to let it out." When a beloved ex-colleague passed away in Singapore last month, we FB-ed each other with "I'm in the denial stage now. You?" Utterly weird, but it was how we coped and made sense of the avalanche of emotions we were also managing . And that was also how we worked with the dozens of people with traumas and crises to help them cope.

It's always different when it happens to yourself, though, isn't it? I am happy to say that my macabre brush-with-death story began and ended in less than 24 hours, so I never really left the initial stage of shock. The day after the scans, when everything was presumably back to normal and seemed no more than a bad dream, I still flinched when the phone rang for the first time that morning. I laughed about it after, but there you are - aftershock of shocks can still be spooky. And add to that survivor's guilt, and you get a very shaky couple of days after.

I'm telling you all this not to freak you out but just to share what our fortnight was really like. My first thought when I heard the news from the doctor's office was, "For goodness' sake! Couldn't you have picked a different week? One in which I actually have a spare day or five to schedule in a little bad news. maybe?"
You know what, though - it turned out to be a blessing that it all rained down on the busiest week of the year - between that first phone call and the hospital visit to get the all-clear, I sewed all day. I didn't even stop to think. Miraculously, meals happened - it could be that my own hands prepared them, or maybe the kids made their own food, or else meatballs fell from the sky, it was all a hazy blur. But I was in shock and, by gum, I was going to use that state of suspended animation to finish the darned costumes! And we still had a birthday party to get going that weekend.

So there - the most frightening 24 hours of my life in a long time. I entertained some crazy thoughts, let me tell you, especially that night while lying in bed and willing the morning to come. Did I really want to know the outcome of the scans? What would happen to my girls? Would I have enough time to make them emergency wedding dresses, in (what I estimated would be) their dimensions at age 25? And hope they could sew well enough to alter them to fit then? Would their dad be OK? I knew I shouldn't have hoarded that much fabric, greedy pig." And on and on it went, alternating between real and flippant, real and flippant, before sleep overcame me and the day dawned anew with - although I didn't know it at the time - the good news of a false positive result.

A week later, the official letter came from the doctor's office that originated the order for the additional scans. In it, it was stated that this was "not uncommon." Well, why couldn't the nurse have mentioned this on the phone? Grrrr!

So that's my little near-death experience this week. It made me very thankful that, not only am I likely to live long enough to sew prom dresses for the girls, but also that I don't have to predict wedding trends 20+ years into the future. At a particularly poignant lump-in-the-throat moment, I also realized that, looking back over the past 7 years of my life since I became a mother, I wouldn't change a thing about how I lived them. Sure, I wish I'd exercised more and eaten less nutella (and more dark chocolate), but I am thankful I didn't have a job that I wish I'd worked less hard at; that I didn't homeschool my kids so that I was exhausted all day and had no time to play; that I didn't cook every meal from organic scratch so that I was washing and cleaning and milling and gardening until the wee hours; that I didn't sew all their clothes so that I no longer had any joy in creating impractical and silly toys and costumes. I continue to salute all you out there who do all these things and more, and do them well, and with passion, but those aren't me. And there've been times when I've wished they were, because they seemed so.... virtuous, somehow, not to mention how in vogue the internet makes them. I'm glad I've been who I am, zaniness, laziness and all. I hope I never lose this perspective.  

Back to owing your photos..... my silence here hasn't been about that medical emergency, which was really only a 24-hour time warp out of the otherwise busy week. Our little Jenna turned five yesterday, and we threw a party for her on the halloween weekend. And then we continued celebrating yesterday with a day trip to her favorite haunts. Then today we packed our bags, hopped in the car and drove up north to visit the inlaws. So here we are today, finally catching our breaths!

And just so you know that even manic me can't run around like a crazie forever, I've caught Emily's cold and I'm sitting here waiting for the Nyquil to kick in. Let's see how much I can type and format and edit before my virtual speech slurs and my virtual tongue lolls and my physical forehead hits the keyboard and inadvertently types rude and repetitive non-English words, shall we?

Right, here goes! Too late. I'm feelimmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm


  1. Wow, you've been busy! I'm glad you're not going to die. I'd miss you too much. :-D

    "Up North" wouldn't happen to be around Cambridge would it???

  2. I'm thankful that you have so much to be thankful for!! And glad you've survived it all with your humor intact. ;)

    P.S. There's a reason Nyquil is to be taken at NIGHT. ;)

  3. So sorry for your scare, thankful for the incredible good news, and perspective those types of things give.

  4. oh LiEr. How well you write - what a jolt your post gives me, in a good way, in a good step-back-and-think way.
    I'm so glad it was a false-positive. I'm so glad to know how a counselor deals with grief. I'm so glad you know your parenting style. You are an inspiration. Thank you.

  5. What a post! I laughed and I cried and I'm so glad you're OK! Enjoy your Nyquil enduced sleep & you're visit with the in-laws.

  6. Glad you are OK - virtual hug here form across the pond. (I'm in the UK). Is there anywhere a person can read up online about these psycological things? I fairly recently divorced and whilst I think I'm OK now, there would be comfort in checking I've been through all the stages and am 'done' now.

  7. @RuthieVirtual hug to you, too, Ruthie. I hope things go well for you, and keep getting better. Yes, you can read up on Kubler-Ross's 5 stages of grief and loss online - email me!

  8. @Amy
    Thanks, Amy! No, "up north" is Fargo!

  9. This made me cry! The prom dresses, the wedding dresses, the perspective on choosing the virtues that make you happy... I was totally right there with you. Thank you!

  10. "Real and flippant, real and flippant" - that is exactly how our minds race when we're in shock. I'm glad you are okay, and more than okay, realizing you've invested yourself exactly where you want to in life. Too few people feel that way.

  11. Good for you and thanks for the perspective - I am going to stop feeling guilty when someone asks me if I made something the kids are wearing and I have to say no (well I will try). And while I am commenting, thanks also for the blog :-)

  12. First, so happy you are ok! Thanks for the update. I especially love this portion: "I continue to salute all you out there who do all these things and more, and do them well, and with passion, but those aren't me. And there've been times when I've wished they were, because they seemed so.... virtuous, somehow, not to mention how in vogue the internet makes them."

    So that's exactly how I've felt and now I know I'm not alone. Good for you!


  13. Glad you're ok! Even as a medstudent, I'm sometimes surprised how bad some tests we regularly use are. Like, if you're sick they will definitely pick up on it, but on the expense that quite a few healthy people will also be found sick and have to retest...

  14. I am glad you are well. It is a horrible experience to have, though.

    Husband had a similar false brush with death about 5 years ago. He actually had a strong risk factor for said illness, having worked for several years in a laboratory that studied the lethal virus that he tested positive for, and we went into total panic. Given the typical timing of the disease, he was startlingly symptom free but potentially was facing death within a decade (we were in our mid 30s at the time). It took 2 weeks and many tests to determine that the original red flag was a false-positive. We cried every night. It was awful.

    Thanks for the tip about the Caponi art park, btw. We were there on Halloween with OUR three girls, and although we skipped the actual art tour (our kids [aged 1, 1, and 3] are too young for that), I think they still had a good time in the leaf pile and doing crafts.

  15. L! I just read this! How did I ever miss it? I'm so sorry you had a scare at all, but mighty glad it was nothing (these medical people need to get on a course on how to NOT scare un-sick people!).

    Love you.

  16. I am glad everything turned out ok.

  17. Glad you're well! Love the thankful-I'm-not-perfect-eco-mom bit.


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