Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Squashed Best of 2010

It's the end of the year, a traditional time to both reflect back and look forward.  I noticed a theme making the rounds among some other blogs: a year end re-cap.

Specifically, Scary Mommy wrote  "2010 in Pictures & Posts" and then invited others to participate in her Year in Review linky.  Then Theta Mom picked it up and ran with it, and that's where I took notice.  (And now, thanks to my friend Cheryl of Little bit Quirky, I am also connecting to Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday New Year link-up, too.)

Me?  I am never too proud to steal borrow and then pay homage to good ideas from others.  So here it is, the FIRST annual Year in Blog wrap-up for The Squashed Bologna, my best of 2010.

If you're new here? Warning: it's been a pretty intense year with two important deaths and a lot of pain around my son's autism.  So if you want light and funny?  May I suggest November's post.

Here are some of my favorite Squashed Mom posts from 2010:

January: {This one is easy - I wasn't blogging in January - so nothing!}

February: Imagine that {My first official "Ruminating Ramble" about age and memory and looking ahead and...}

March: Nearly Finished Business {My thoughts on lovingly letting go of my father, preparing for his impending death}

April: From Birth To Death (and the messy stuff in the middle) {The post I took my tag line from; reflections about my sons, sparked by their differing reactions to my father's recent death}

May: From Autist to Artist {This is my "big one" about autism, the one that put my little blog on the map}

June: A Little Respect {My love letter to Jacob's new special needs school that sent their acceptance letter to HIM}

July: Mourning in the Morning  {Feeling sad about how my sons are just not getting along any more}

August: Flowers of Late Summer {Reflecting on the bittersweetness at summer's end and looking ahead toward my mother-in-law's passing}

September: Sitting Here in Limbo {What it feels like in the hospital, waiting for my mother-in-law to die}

October: Sometimes it's the little things {Finding and cherishing the little bits of happiness among the sad, the pearls amidst the turds}

November: The Conversationalist {Reporting a hysterical conversation with my son Ethan}

December: The Beauty of Each, Our Every Child {Another "big" post about autism: thinking what might have happened to my son Jacob, were he born in another time and/or place}

and on to 2011 we go....

Now, me being me, I couldn't possibly do this without talking about the process by which I made my selections. 

For some of these months the choice was a no-brainer, like May, which held my "famous " post about autism.  For others it wasn't easy.  Especially for March the month my father died, there were a number of very meaningful posts there.

And then there was that notion of "favorite."  Some months had posts which had been specifically linked to by others.  While I may have liked these posts, was I being influenced to chose them myself because they had the added shine of having been acknowledged by outside others as being "good"? (And does that matter?)

And then there were months like September... how do I chose between poignant posts about my dead father, about my dying mother-in-law, or a sweet funny one about my autistic son?

In the end, of course the list is somewhat arbitrary, based on how I felt about my posts at the moment I sat down to my computer to write this list.  On another day, the list would have a somewhat different configuration, and that's OK, no need to be definitively definitive.

Finally, I would like to thank each and every member of the many intersecting communities who read my blog and whose lives my writing touches.

Many of you are writers yourselves, and this year, my first year of blogging, has been an incredible expansion of my life as I have connected with you.  Others of you are my friends in real life, and I so appreciate your support here as well as out there in "the real world."

There are no words to properly say "Thank You" from the depths to which I mean that.

My life has been transformed this year.  I lost my father, but found my voice.  And life will never be the same.

Here's to another year of community building!

Happy New Year to one and all!

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Something Wonderful

At the pediatrician's office with my son this morning, I was reminded of something to be thankful for.  We hadn't been there in five months, not since my sons' annual physicals this summer.  And before that?  Last spring... maybe?

This morning at 8 AM when I went to call the doctor's office, I had needed to look up the number.

And then the particular pediatrician my son saw was the same one he had seen first at a week old, on his first doctor's visit ever.   She'd had another child herself in the intervening years, had a few more gray hairs mixed in with the chestnut brown.  She was happy to report that my son had a simple cold with his croup, and write that very dear prescription for prednisone, which will (hopefully) keep Jake from having another night like last, tonight.

And then we spent a moment acknowledging that we had barely seen each other in years.  "Yes," I'd said, "we are no longer frequent fliers here.  Remember those first years when I had your practice's number on speed dial?  I think you were on call some of those nights when I had to phone in with a sick child at 2 AM." 

And truly, it was like looking back to another lifetime ago, remembering those early years, because things are so different now.  My sons are eight, nearly eight and a half, poised on the brink of big-boy-ness, but still seeking Mom's lap for cuddles.  And Jacob, with autism in the picture, will clearly be little-boy-like longer still.  But also?  Getting big, fast.

Today it was hard to move myself out of my whiny, complaining space into finding my gratefulness.  But I wanted to, needed to.

As I look back over this year there has been so much shitty, shitty crap, but also, amidst the crap, the gems are there, too.  And today I was actively treasure hunting, trying to focus on the positive as the year winds down to its last few days.

Four more 24 hour periods, and then, onto the next.  Thank goodness.

And yes I know how arbitrary a marker a year is, that calendars are an invention, a human creation, like longitude and latitude marks on a globe, imaginary lines that hold significance only because we all agree on them.

And being Jewish makes this even clearer since we get to have two "New Years" every year.  Ethan asked recently which one was the "real" one, which lead to a whole discussion of the above, how they are both real and also both artificial.

I guess the truest year markers are the natural ones, things like the solstices and equinoxes, that have observable dimensions; the winter solstice being the clearly measurable shortest day, longest night (with the summer one the opposite).  The vernal and autumnal equinoxes have those perfectly equal day and night ratios, twice a year precisely.  At least here, far north (or there, down south) of the equator, they do.

At the actual equator where day and night are always exactly the same, each 24 hours offering alternating 12 hour periods of light and dark?  All this stuff is hooey.

Is this one reason why tropical cultures have often embraced a more "live for today" attitude while those evolving in the nether regions where one must hunker down to pass through a long cold dark winter holding the promise of warmth and sunshine solely in your mind for months have frequently taken on a more "work hard and suffer now, enjoy later" philosophy?  Possibly.

All I know is that right now I need to mark the passing of time, to find a way to put this dreadful year behind me.  And also?  To acknowledge the lovely things that have happened this year, too, the gems among the crap:

I began this blog, and found a whole world, a community I did not know existed, which has blossomed into something wonderful beyond my wildest dreams.

We found a new school for Jacob, which has been all we hoped and dared to dream it would be: the right school for him.  He is growing and blossoming there something wonderful, beyond our wildest dreams.

Ethan has the perfect teacher for him in this so important third grade year.  She is lovely, a living Ms. Frizzle.  He no longer thinks history is boring.  He spent an hour the other day quizzing me about the Kennedy family.  He wants to know who my favorite president was.  We are googling interesting facts about WWI together.   It's something wonderful beyond my wildest dreams.

And as to 2011?

Here's to hoping it is something wonderful, beyond our wildest dreams.

For me and my family, and for you and yours.

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Croup! Crap!

Yeah that's the best title I can come up with after being up all night with poor Jakey.  Sorry. 

I should have known it was coming when he sounded so froggy this afternoon, as laryngitis is related to croup.  But it had been so many years since he'd had it that I was hoping he'd outgrown his tendency toward it.  Apparently not.

There is a nasty cold making the rounds in our family and now it's his turn, apparently.  On vacation week. Of course.

The thing is he hasn't been sick in so long, I'd kind of forgotten the drill.  Yeah, I know how strange that sounds.  He goes to school, he goes to therapy groups, goes to Ethan's school to pick him up; he rides a school bus, city buses and at least once a week he takes the subway with me.

Jake is exposed to a thousand germs every week. But he has gotten sick about once, maybe twice a year for the past 4 years or so.  Go figure.

I am guessing that the thousand vitamins and supplements we give him to strengthen and balance his immune system have something to do with this. Or maybe he's just naturally resilient.

When he was 2 and 3 years old he had the requisite 7 or 8 yearly colds/bugs/flus that they say are necessary to teach the immune system how to recognize and fight invasions properly, priming the pump, as it were, to function well.

And when he did get sick, well, at 13 months he had his first case of croup. On vacation, of course, the first summer vacation we ever took with the boys.  And it was a doozy.  I was flat out panicked, it being our first experience with the boys ever being that dreadfully ill.

There is that awful barking cough, that if you've ever heard it?  Sounds like nothing else on earth.  It sends icicle shards of fear down every nerve fiber of a mother's being when you hear it.  It sounds BAD.  Because your kid, when you hear it?  Is struggling to breathe.

And then tonight poor Jake was really panicking himself.  Fearing that he can't breathe, sobbing and barking and making it all so worse.  Because the panic also constricts the airways.  Add in autism and his language processing disorder and calming him down is a tough, tough task.  Crap!

And at 80 pounds, it's not so easy anymore to sit on the closed toilet and hold him on my lap while the steam does its magic in the bathroom.  That was followed by holding him in my bed with the windows wide open in my bedroom (steam followed by cold air being the best way to open up the passages) chilled down to a nice 55 degrees or so with arctic blasts coming in from the river.   Whatever it takes.

Tomorrow we will go to the doctor, get Jake some prednisone so that tomorrow night we can both truly sleep. (And why, oh, why is it always the worst at night?)

But for now, I have crept away from my child-tossed, fever-sweat-soaked bed to steal a few minutes to myself, knowing that this is all I will have.

For tomorrow will also bring Jacob wanting all mommy all the time, as every ill child wants and needs to have; the full on glow of his mother's attention and tender ministrations being the comfort thing.

That and lollipops and ginger ale and (gluten-free) pretzels.  And lots of TV.

Not what I was picturing for "How I spent my winter vacation."  But somehow, for this crap year?  I shouldn't have been so surprised.

So I spend tomorrow snuggling my Jacob, curled up on the sofa watching WALL-E for the hundredth time, with non-stop Jakey commentary.  It could be worse.  Ethan could have it, too (spitting over left shoulder as I type this).

Because my lap?  While ample?  No longer big enough for two.

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Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Beauty of Each, Our Every Child

There is a documentary that's gotten a lot of buzz lately called “Where's Molly?”  A recent CBS news feature on it has been making the rounds on the internet.  I am assuming that many readers who are part of the Special Needs parenting community are familiar with it.  If you're not, you can see it here.

It's the story of a man’s search for his autistic sister, who disappeared from his family when she was 2 and he was 5.  She was vanished into thin air; "sent away" never to be heard from or spoken of again.  And then, some 47 years later he began to look for her.  And he found her.

I saw that video the other day and couldn't stop crying; rivers of tears just poured down my face.  And knowing that there are so many other stories like this one?  So many children that were just thrown away like yesterday’s rubbish?  Is beyond heartbreaking.

Last month we had our first parent-teacher conference for our son Jacob (who is on the Autism Spectrum) at his wonderful new school.  It went so well, and was lovely to see how fully his teachers and support team saw Jacob's strengths as well as his deficits.

But just before the meeting, when my husband and I were having a quick coffee together, he looked up at me and asked "If Jake had been born in our time, they would have called him 'retarded' wouldn't they?" 

And I had to say "yes."  No one would have looked under the language deficit, beyond the sensory seeking behaviors and seen his intelligence and humor.

If he had been my brother instead of my son?  He might have been sent away.  How sad that makes me can't even begin to be touched.

And then, tucked away in the back of the December 5th Sunday New York Times Style Magazine, there was yet another article, an excerpt from a book written by Allen Shawn about his autistic twin sister, sent away to "camp" when they were 8 years old (my sons' age) never to return. 

Unlike Molly, she didn’t completely disappear. Her family visited, kept contact.  But still, they lived apart, in separate worlds, her home lost.

And then I have been having even darker thoughts.   Because Jake's twin brother Ethan has been doing a school unit on immigration, he had to do a lengthy report on his family history.  He was interviewing me and I told the tale of my mother's parents both coming over on boats from Eastern Europe, through Ellis Island (the classic New York Jewish immigrant story). 

My mother's father's family right off the boat.  Literally.  On Ellis Island, 1920.
As part of this, I had to answer questions about who came over and who was left behind.  And while my grandfather's whole family came over, my grandmother's whole family stayed behind; they had a business they didn’t want to leave.  She was the only one who crossed to America.  And she lived.  And they all disappeared. 

Telling this tale opened up the story of the Holocaust to Ethan, who, at 8 is starting to be able to handle some harsh truths like this.  As I was finding gentle ways to talk to him about this, I wanted to make sure he knew this was not just about the Jews - our personal part of the story, the 6 million lost - but also to include the other 5 million, the long list of those considered "other," "lesser," "unworthy to live." 

And I listed Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, and Gypsies, talked about the absurdity of using skin color as a measurement of value.  And then, racking my brain to remember who else was on the list I hit the disabled including "Mental Defectives."  I was remembering they were among the first to go, near the top of Hitler's "undesirables" list.  How he had "gas vans" drive around cities picking up the mentally unfit and disposing of them immediately. 

And I nearly lost it because I realized that meant Jacob.

That would have been Jacob, had we lived there, then.

Or if that were to suddenly be replicated here, now.

(Don't be complacent and think that couldn't happen.  The German Jews thought they were essentially regular German citizens, completely assimilated into society.  All it takes is a charismatic leader with really bad ideas, good spin doctors, and a strong military to back him / her up.)

And so I struggled not to let anything show on my face as I felt the full on horror of that scenario playing out in my mind while I blithely went on, deflecting Ethan from this too soon knowledge.

Stumbling over my words: “There are others on the list, I don’t remember exactly who, but that's not important. What’s important to remember is how wrong it is to judge whole categories of people by what they are instead of by who they are, as individuals.”  

The assigning of differential values to human beings because they belong to one category or another is fundamentally wrong in my book, and I work hard to convey those values to my sons.  It was ever this way with me, but has become even more so now, as I look at Jacob through the eyes of others and see how easy it is to dismiss him, to place him in a category of "lesser."

I, like so many other Autism Moms was particularly struck by one moment in the wonderful Temple Grandin bio pic on HBO this year.  When her mother says, fiercely "Different, not less.”  

And that has become, I think, for many of us our rousing battle cry as we seek for our children all that they deserve: dignity and respect; to be included in all that they want to be included in; to be educated BEYOND the lowest rung of “appropriate” - to be educated creatively and caringly to the fullest possible extent, so that they can achieve their highest possible potential.

And to never stop searching for what that potential might be.  Even when it is hidden inside an infirm, floppy body, or tied up in knotty language that tangles with every turn inside the brain. 

As more and more of these stories of hidden away, lost children come out, as I think of the many other times and places where children like Jacob would have been thrown away, I am so thankful for the time and place he managed to be born into.

We are nowhere near where we need to be, to truly be an open-minded society that sees value in every individual.  But still, it’s the best time yet that has ever been for being born different.

The gas vans are not coming for my son.

Not today.

And I find comfort in the knowledge that all of us folks in the Special Needs parenting community around the world are striving to make a brighter future real; to help everyone, everywhere see our children as different, but not less. 

To discover and to truly value the wonders that lie within; the beauty of each, our every child.

Note: This was originally posted at Hopeful Parents, on my regular monthly day there, the 10th of December, as "Value-Able."  But I had posted it very late in the day (you can read why, here) and I have strong feelings about this post.  It's another "big one,"  full of things I'd been mulling over for a long time before they coalesced into a post.  

I almost held it back, to keep it on my own blog, but I had nothing else to put up over at Hopeful Parents.  I take my commitment to that blog and community seriously, did not want to miss my appointed time, so up it went.  But now I realize, I also want it here, back "at home" with me.  So I am re-posting it here, with a few additions and tweaks.  And choosing today, Christmas Day, to put it up? A timely reminder to value EVERY child born.

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Friday, December 24, 2010

With Heavy Heart

As I talk with my friends about their winter vacation plans and travel about the blogosphere reading people's holiday posts, it is with a heavy heart.  I am looking down the barrel of these next ten days with dread, not the warmth and anticipated snuggly joy that abounds elsewhere.

Life with Ethan and Jacob is not easy these days.  They have no relationship with each other, we do not function as a cohesive family unit much.  A moment here, a moment there, is all.  Otherwise everyone is in their own individual bubble with me running back and forth between everyone like a crazy person trying to mold some cohesion where none naturally flows.  And then the fighting, the constant fighting.

Two eight year-old boys, both lonely, under one roof together.  One unable and one unwilling to play together.  And me weeping because of this.

So these long days need to be planned and filled and turned into something other than easy and relaxed, which is what I so need right now as my body continues to twinge and whinge at me and I wait anxiously for my immanent surgery.

I need to farm Ethan out to any of his friend's families who will have him, so he can have time with friends and away from his autistic brother.  And Jacob?  Needs to be played with, entertained, challenged, have as much structure as possible imposed on these odd, structureless days.

And my heart so isn't into it.  I love my son Jacob to pieces, but it is very hard to be his mother right now.  All he wants is all my attention all the time.  And an hour playing with him leaves me drained, limp, spent and turning on the TV with deep guilt.  I know it is bad for his brain, but it makes him so happy and I need the break.

Autism is really hard on the holidays.  On vacations.  Any time that families normally come together with any sort of flow and ease, anticipating relaxed unstructured time, is, instead a time of struggle for us.  I am tense and unhappy, feel put upon and resentful.  And then I have to purge all this and put on the happy face, because my kids deserve my kinder, better self.

Every happy family I glimpse out in the world or on my computer, laughing, playing, just being together drives home to me how much we are not that family.

And this year especially, it weighs so heavily on me.  This first year without my father, my husband's mother.

And with all my gall bladder troubles and the attendant days spent in medical mishegas these past two weeks, I have had neither time nor energy to properly plan this break.  And we cannot go away, I can't risk another attack far from home.

We are set through Sunday, and then?  I will be scrambling to keep my boys anywhere near happy and entertained.

Ethan needs play-dates, Jacob needs someone to engage with him and structure to his days.  My husband needs to finish the sad task of clearing out his mother's apartment, the one she had lived in for his entire life.

And me?  I need some time for me, to rest and to build up my reserves to be ready for my coming surgery.  I also need some happy, relaxing family time.  And I will be getting neither.

There will be a moment here.  A moment there.

And that will have to do.  It will do.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wordless Wednesday (now with more words)

I was going to skip Wordless Wednesday today because I feel like talking, but I've got a few readers that would disappoint (and I'd hate to do that).  So this post is going to be a double header.

First: a few cute pictures of my family.  And then?  Some chatter because my brain is all a-clatter.  And me?  I like to share the noise.

It's the second day of winter.  Let's take a walk down memory lane today to winters past...

Here's one from 2004:
Jakey and Me, February 2004 (when my hair was still blonde-ish)
Snowy day, December 2005: 
Time to get 3 year-old twins into bundled into snowsuits?  Half hour.
Maximum time 3 year-olds will spend out sledding?  15 minutes.
How about these from New Year's Eve, 2008?   We had been up in Great Barrington and were supposed to return to the city that day, but got socked in by a blizzard.  So we played in the snow for hours.  Yipeee!
That was a lot of snow!
What could be better than a toboggan pulled by Dad?
Snowy Jacob
Snowy Ethan
Looking at these pictures is making me long for snow.  So far this winter: bitter cold aplenty, but no snow.  Sigh.

And now, for part 2 -- those pesky words:

I'm actually feeling human today.  Today, for the first time in nearly two weeks I woke up without feeling like I was something scraped off the bottom of a shoe.

I forgot how reductive pain is, how it strips the layers of the self away.   I have been hunkered down in survival mode for so long, I was shocked by clarity and lightness.

It made me see how I have been not thinking for days.  When you are deep in the brain fog you can't see it, it just feels like atmosphere.  It's only when it lifts that I understand how limited of vision, short-sighted as well as short-tempered I have been of late.  I know I've been less than 100% present, but how much less was not clear until today; today when I am at least somewhat myself.

My beast-brain had been at the forefront, large and in charge; now somewhat quelled.  My executive functioning is up and running (as much as it ever is in this ADD brain of mine, that is) my frontal lobes asserting themselves once more.

I felt like throwing myself a welcome home party.  I've missed me, truly.  But I so didn't have time for that.  I had so much that needed to get done, that I had not just left un-done but hadn't even realized was sliding off the plate.  Especially: arrangements for my post-surgery recovery, which surely involve other people tending to my children for a few days.

Yesterday I slept all day.  Really... ALL. DAY.

I made it to Ethan's class publishing party at his school, got the car re-parked (NYC alternate parking, it was on the wrong side) then came home and collapsed.   Set the alarm for 3:55... five minutes before Jake's bus wait-time begins and thanked the gods that someone else was picking up Ethan to take him to Hebrew School.  Then?  Sleep.

My husband and I have a running joke...  I say: "I'm so tired I could sleep for a week."

He says: "Honey, that's called a coma."

I pretend to consider the consequences, then conclude: "That's OK, I'll take it."

Only yesterday?  It wasn't so funny.  I really did feel that I was nanometers away from not being able to wake.

If you could call the zombie-like state in which I have been carrying out my minimalist functioning  "awake."  It's a miracle that I have been able to execute the bare minimum required of competent parenting (kids are taken to school and picked up, fed, clean, homework done and in bed before midnight - CHECK!)

So you can imagine how happy I was today to be able to think, to function like a normal human being (well, my usual crude imitation of one, anyway).

And all this makes me think of Jake, and wondering how his level of internal distraction and discomfort is contributing to his sometime foggy state.   When he's so busy trying to get enough input to make sense of his senses, there's no room in his brain for the other good stuff.

He clearly has attention issues, but they're not of the ADD variety.  We've tried ADD meds; they do nothing for him, just make him highly cranky and even more distracted (if that's possible) and who needs that?  His attention issues are puzzling and seeing how distracted and completely unable to think I've been these past two weeks gets my brain a-humming (now that it's finally awake).

Anyway, I don't have any answers to this, no conclusions drawn.  Just musings and questions, lines of inquiry worth chasing down a bit, sometime.  When I have some spare time.  (Don't all fall off your chairs laughing now.)

And now my energy is flagging, and the sofa so inviting.  My spurt of productivity of has sputtered out; time for rest and renewal.  If I am going to retain my human form tomorrow?  I must now put down the mouse, step away from the keyboard.

Goodnight, my friends, goodnight. 

I’m linking up to Wordless Wednesday at Angry Julie Monday.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Wherefore art I "Squashed"?

I have, lately, had a few people wondering and asking about the origin of my blog's name, and my related nickname/twitter handle.

They want to know why my blog is called "The Squashed Bologna: a slice of life in the sandwich generation" and I call myself "The Squashed Mom."  What's squashing me? 

Literally squashed between my boys & my parents, March 2009
I didn't think this was such a head-scratcher.  I figured appending the subtitle "a slice of life in the sandwich generation" would have made everything clear.  

But apparently?  Not.

So here to set the record straight is my blog name's genesis story, plucked from my first post on February 6th, 2010 (with a few edits):

In February 2005 my very elderly parents moved back to New York from Florida, ostensibly to be nearer to their adorable then 2 year-old twin grandsons.  In reality, so I could take care of them, too. 

That was when I realized what it meant to be a part of that often cited “Sandwich Generation” demographic.  

I am especially so because I am an older parent who is also the daughter of older parents. Common for my generation / locale / socioeconomic milieu. Very uncommon for theirs. Heard often at my suburban elementary school, when my parents came to an event: ”Oh, your grandparents are here.”

I chose to call my blog “The Squashed Bologna” because that’s what I started saying, at first laughingly, then later less so, as the responsibilities of intensive elder care bumped up against the all encompassing, wonderful maelstrom that is the parenting of young children: “Oh, this is ‘the sandwich generation’, that must be why I feel like the squashed meat in the middle all the time.”

So there it is folks, it's "The Squashed Bologna" because I felt, and still often feel, like the squashed meat in the middle.  Add the autism and ADD into the equation and it's like sticking a 100 lb. weight on top.  I guess that means I've been turned into a pressed sandwich, a living croque-madame.

And then when I joined Twitter in April 2010, I naturally became @SquashedMom.

Also, about the pronunciation?

My "Bologna" is the sandwich meat ("sandwich generation" - duh), not the city in Italy, so pronounce it like "baloney" - "buh-low-nee" NOT "boh-low-nya".

Why did I spell it "Bologna" then?

Because, like I said in this post, spelling bologna "baloney" is just WRONG.  Oscar Mayer had me trained right at a young age.

Any other questions?

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Unbearable Sucktacity of Being

If you called or e-mailed or rang my doorbell today and I did not answer you, did not return your connecting gesture?

Forgive me.

I have been miserable all day, riding that line between extreme discomfort and pain, riding it hard.

Today, all day: I felt like crap, shit, shite, merde, poop, crud, dreck, guano and cowplop. 

Think this post is gonna carry the label "whiny rants"?   You betcha.

But it's going to be brief.

Because for this stuff?  The line between entertaining and oh-god-when-is-she-going-to-shut-up?  Comes up mighty fast, I know.

Like I said: brief.

I know you think I don't have it in me.  Me, being "Queen of the run-on-sentence (with parenthetical clauses)" and all.

Just watch, I can be brief... ish.

Just the facts, ma'am:

I now have a date with a surgeon: January 5th.  (Sad to say, he does NOT look like weird Al Yankovic.)

That's the soonest date after the big school break is over that we can get the "gall bladder removal show" up and running.

In between now and then?

I will likely be a little bit miserable, all the time.

Afterward?  For about 2 weeks, a LOT miserable.

And then?  And then?

If I'm lucky, a whole lot better.

Friends have sent messages of support and tales of how much better they felt once the deed was done.

I can't say I'm not anxious, but as these days of feeling crappy roll on and on I am getting quite ready to be done with all this.  I hate being cranky with the kids.  Hate having no energy, and really hate low grade nausea as a constant companion.

It was my least favorite aspect of being pregnant and I came out of that with two babies to show for it.

Nothing of the sort this time (although I have been told gallstone jewelry was the fashion in ancient China, I think I'll skip that).

Keeping a sense of equanimity, keeping my humor intact  and getting some patience with the kids back are my big challenges for the next two weeks.

Also?  Coming up with posts that are NOT all whiny rants.

Wish me luck.

(I would say "send chocolate" but I can't eat any for the next month or so... waaaaaaah!)

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Stream of Consciousness Sunday: Surgery on my Mind

I am glad to finally have a chance to participate in another "Stream of Consciousness Sunday" writing meme, hosted by the lovely Fadra. 

The rules are such:
  • Set a timer and write for 5 minutes only.
  • Write an intro to the post if you want but don’t edit the post. No proofreading or spell-checking. This is writing in the raw.

I am such an over-thinker, this is always a challenge for me, but also why it's fun: to just let go once in a while, be raw and unpolished -- how liberating.  OK, setting the timer and letting 'er rip......


Ask me to take my filters out and write what;s on my mind and one thing just dominates all else: surgery. I have a surgery date now: January 5th. On January 5th a guy is going to come into a room and take a piece out of me. I am going to lose an organ I was born with, and in spite of all the trouble that thing has been giving me lately I'm going to miss my gall bladder.

Not that i even knew I had one until about a week ago.

But still, I have had the great good fortune in my life to be relatively healthy. the head cold and stomach bug here and there, a little endometriosis, probably But no medical procedures until my IVF, no hospitalizations or surgery until my twins were born via c-section 8 and a half years ago.  And those were happy reasons to be doing all things medical (not that the fertility stuff wasn;t fraught in its own way. I have never been more anxious in my life than during those two hopeful dreadful weeks waiting to find out if the IVF "took") And since then? Nothing too.

But this surgery stuff? Its scary, even though they say it's a big nothing, since its now done laparoscopically and not the fish gut surgery it used to be. But still to me? it's something. a something that thoughts of will be my constant companion until its done. January 5th.

And then I'll just be a whiny cranky bitch for a week or so, because have i mentioned i really hate pain and make a terrible patient?   And the kids? don't even get me started on how the kids are going to react to all this.  I am guessing: not well.  Surgery - crap!

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Grateful Tears

Well, I'm two days late for the Special Needs Blog Hop this week. It's been one of those weeks. The kind you can't believe was actually ONE week because so much happened during it.

The whole Gall Bladder drama.  Was it really only a week ago I doubled over in sudden searing pain?  And now I have a date with a surgeon.

Then there was Thursday.  It started off with a PA meeting, then a trip to the doctors office for repeat blood-work (because my liver panel had come back with scary high numbers), followed by what turned into an all day ordeal at the imaging center.  (I did get a really cool blog post out of it, though.)

By the time I got home from the scan, I was done in.  But no.

Thursday evening was: our apartment building's Holiday Party AND Jakey's School Holiday Party and Show.  (Not to mention, also Ethan's school's annual Teacher Appreciation dinner which I loved working at and would never miss.  Until this year.  Grumble, grumble.)

A week earlier I had apprised Ethan of Jake's upcoming school event and he had balked.  Big time.  I had gotten all preachy about how "he's your brother" and the value of supporting family members.

He dug his heels in that he didn't want to go.  I dug my heels in that he was going.  Then I backpedaled.  It was also our building's annual holiday party, an important event for us.

Our apartment building, like many large buildings in New York City with family size apartments, is also somewhat of a community.  And of all those I've seen, we are more so than most.  We have two awesomely kick-ass building-wide parties a year in our (ridiculously large) lobby: Halloween and Holiday.

We don't miss them for anything.  But for something as important as Jake's school show?  We were going to be missing the Holiday one this year.

And I realized this would cause Ethan much sadness.  He is good friends with the two boys who live right upstairs from us.  They have a standing Friday night playdate.  They run up and down the back stairs at will, popping in and out of each other's apartments.  If the phone rings at 7:30 AM on a Sunday, I know it's the upstairs neighbor kids calling to see if Ethan can come up.

So Thursday I took the "choose your battles" and "try to make your kids happy" injunctions to heart and left Ethan at home with the upstairs neighbors to attend the Holiday Party and eat candy canes until they came out his ears.

Did I mention I felt like 100% shit by 6 PM Thursday night?

They had "challenged my gall bladder" for the scan.  I'd had no idea they were going to do this, would have scheduled the test for Friday if I had known that, so I could go home and just collapse Thursday night, like I wanted needed to. 

But there was no chance for that.  It was Jacob's school event and we needed to go.  He needed to be a part of it.

My husband was likewise less than enthusiastic.  Not a crowd, group, join-y person in any way, shape or form; he loathes large, loud events where he knows few people.  And kids?  In groups?  To say "not his thing"?  Understatement of the year.

And Jacob?  Even though it was his event?  He wanted to stay home, doesn't like going out in evenings much, wants to play with his toys and watch TV.

So you can see what a bundle of joy we were as we headed out to this shindig.   We were stressed and snipping at each other.  Not a jolly thought within a mile of us.  And did it help that it was a frigid, wind-whipped night, and cabs were as scarce as hen's teeth?  No, not at all.

We finally arrived at the Interfaith Center where the party was taking place.  There was a pizza dinner party first, but none of us were eating pizza, so we had purposefully come late for that.  The room was full, at that point a sea of strangers to me.

To briefly explain: Jake's school is unusual.  Instead of being housed in a single building, it is diffuse, two or three classrooms of Special Ed kids co-located in a handful of Catholic Schools (for active inclusion purposes) scattered up and down Manhattan's West Side.  There were only 20 kids total at Jake's specific location, and this was a gathering of ALL of everybody, up through middle school.  And this being Jake's new school, this was my first such gathering of the masses.

And then, as we stood there, surely looking a bit like the lost lambs we felt ourselves to be, I heard a voice cry out from the crowd:

"Jake! There's Jakey! He's here!"  And an eight year old boy appeared before us, with a big grin on his face, trailed by two more.  They hugged and high-fived our son, took him by the hand and carted him off to the table where his teacher and much of the rest of his class were munching on pizza.

Tears sprang into my eyes.  Grateful tears.

I turned to my husband.  "This is why we're here."  And by "here" I meant both this night AND his school.

I was mopping up the tears that kept running down my cheek (good thing I hadn't had time for mascara) as we waded through the crowd to catch up with our son.

When we found "our crowd" all the teachers, therapists, administrators who work with our son smiled at him, at us.  Were so happy we were there.  Many hugs all around.  And I was once again filled with knowing how lucky we were to have landed here.

I can hardly imagine a nicer, kinder, more intelligent, open and thoughtful group of people to be in charge of my son.  And the tears just kept on coming.

Then it was time to move into the great hall and see the show.  Each class had a song or two to show us, and there was a sing-a-long in the plans, too. 

It was exactly as adorably amateurish and goofy as you are imagining.  Some of the kids were so excited, they were bubbling over, jumping around like grasshoppers.
Jake waiting with classmates
Others seemed more subdued, some even a little shy, reticent.  Some needed leading, more direction than others.  It's a very diverse community.  This is not an all autism school, but one that serves kids with a whole mix of special needs.

But the kids do have one thing in common.  They are sweet kids.  There's not a mean one in the bunch.  This is so important to us in ways too numerous to count.

And tonight I am loving everybody.  From the how-could-they-be-that-tiny Kindergartners in their grass skirts doing something like the hula to a tropical christmas song to the loping pre-teenagers clearly not ready to inhabit those awkward bodies, but making a go of it anyway, swaying and singing along to "Feed the World" and a rousing "Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah."

There were, of course, some technical difficulties, but everyone pulled through like the troopers they were. 
Waiting for the music to start
Jacob's class sang a boisterous holiday medley that included "Happy Diwali" in honor of their Indian teacher.
Still waiting for the music to start
Jake's class putting on a fine show
We left exhausted, but with big grins on our faces.  We wouldn't have missed this for all the world.

Wait, didn't I start off this post mentioning the Special Needs Blog hop?  Yes, yes I did, and here's the connection (and the link)...

The prompt this week was "What I Want for the Holidays:" (Actually it was "What I Want for Christmas", but being Jewish, we don't do Christmas, so I'm paraphrasing.)

And what I want is what I got Thursday night: a Community for Jacob.  Friendship and a place where he fits in, belongs.  He has never quite had this before.  We are very, very lucky.

And for that I am grateful, deeply grateful.  And weeping happy, grateful tears.

Note: As it seems appropriate, I am also linking this up to Maxabella loves "Grateful Saturday" blog hop.  Click her button below to join in or just visit this lovely Australian blogger.

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Varda's Radioactive Reading List for Yuet

Today was test day number two for me: repeat bloodwork and a HIDA scan of my gall bladder. This is the one where they inject a bit of radioactive tracer into my vein and watch what happens inside my gall bladder.  Ethan is excited by the idea that I *might* just start to develop mutant superpowers afterward, like the characters in his beloved cartoon shows do.

What?  It could happen?  (Remember who I'm married to.  Spider-Man, right?)

Anyway, I have not been the happiest camper these last couple of days.  I've been edgy and cranky, not my usual self.  I have had less patience with the kids at a time when they are needing extra-kind-Mommy, and so I'm not very happy with the parent I'm being.

Ethan, little sponge that he is, is really picking up on the heightened anxiety floating freely about our home right now.  He has been moody, cranky, a little anxious himself.

And for Ethan?  This delightfully translates into extra obnoxious.  When anxious his impulse control, dubious at the best of times, becomes completely non-existent.

If I tell him to stop doing something because it is annoying me?  He will compulsively do it over and over giggling all the while.  And though I know he is not trying to be evil, that it's his anxiety pushing him into this, my reptilian brain reacts not well.

And Jacob?  When Ethan is bouncing off the walls?  Thinks everything about it is funny, and laughs.  Maniacally.  In Ethan's face.  Guess how much Ethan likes that?  Yup.

So you can see how we're a lovely combo right now.  Deep breaths required.

So, this morning after I brought Ethan to school, I stayed for the beginning of the PA meeting then stepped out after the principal's report to head off to doctorville.  Then I had a happy surprise: a moment with a dear friend I have just not had a chance to see hardly at all this fall.

I got a quick hug and a big smile; the 3 minute update.  Just what I needed.  She wished me luck in my scans today, I told her I would be fine because I had my book with me. (Leaving it home was my miserable fail on Monday, although I did catch up on a thousand trashy magazines worth of gossip about celebrities I didn't care about and fashion I would never in a zillion years wear.)

My friend's eyes lit up; she got all excited the way only a reader will: "what-are-you-reading-how-do-you-like-it?"  She works in the school system, and so her vacations correspond with the kids.  Thus the snuggly week between Christmas & New Year is her big reading week.

When I told her the three books I am currently in the middle* of,  I swear she squealed. "I want to read all of those. You have to do a reading list post."  

And this friend?  When she talks and commands requests?  You listen and say yes.  Hence the title of this post, which she also demanded suggested. 

Also?  I am a reader and I love books.  (You all knew I was a reader, right?  Is there a writer who is not?  Doubtful.)  So I have been thinking about writing about reading for some time.  And it has perfectly coalesced to be now.

Thus I am starting to write this post sitting in the waiting room of the imaging center, as there seems to be a substantial delay in my scan start.  And I have figured out something... writing is even a better distraction from the anxiety of waiting than reading.

Even if my thumbs are starting to ache.  (And have I mentioned I want an iPad?  YES, I WANT AN iPAD.  Just saying.  You know.  In case anyone has an extra $600 sitting around and wants to buy me a belated Chanukkah present. Would be terrific for Jake, too.)

Sitting next to me in the waiting room, there's an old man loudly discussing how to fill out the intake forms with his slightly less elderly wife.   He is 90 and frail and now I am missing my Dad so achingly much.  Being here without him feels so very odd, still not right.

I'm the patient this time?  Really?  Well OK, if you say so.

The old couple are misinterpreting and answering a lot of questions wrong, and it takes every ounce of self control in my body to not sidle over and help them.  But not today.  I'm minding my own business, yes I am.

I'm not listening to the young woman making arrangements to settle back into her life here after having lived abroad for some years.  She's trying to renew her very expired driver's license and also to get tenants out of her condo so she can move back in. (People, if you don't want the world knowing the details of your private life?  Don't discuss them loudly on your cell phone in waiting rooms.)

The room abounds in lovely distraction.  Sigh.  Have I mentioned I have to fast for this test again today?  I am getting so hungry the plump arm of the woman sitting next to me is starting to look good.  Or the potted plant in the corner.

Distractions, yes, some days my ADD is wonderful useful.  Because folks?  I really don't want to think about why I'm here.

So back to the topic at hand: what am I reading?

Lit: A Memoir (P.S.)Well, the book I brought with me is "Lit" the latest book by the wonderful memoirist Mary Karr.  Having been primarily and voraciously a fiction reader my whole life, I am finding myself increasingly drawn to memoir as my current writing is obviously mining that vein.

This is a powerful book, and I am happily still close to the beginning, just digging in for a good meal.  To quote the back cover blurb (because it's been a long day and I'm feeling tired, so taking a tiny lazy cheat here), Lit is "about getting drunk and getting sober; becoming a mother by letting go of a mother; learning to write by learning to live."  Yup, that's the basics.

I love how in spite of the harrowing facts of her life, she keeps a biting sense of humor about everything.  How she begins by running from knowledge about herself, but obviously evolves to embrace it.  How she reflects constantly on the process of writing, moving from poetry to memoir.

Here's my favorite quote so far: "Such a small, pure object a poem could be, made of nothing but air, a tiny string of letters, maybe small enough to fit into the palm of your hand.  But it could blow everybody's head off."

The Mind's EyeOn my bedroom nightstand, you would find The Mind's Eye.  No one makes neurobiology more interesting and personal than Oliver Sacks.  He was the conduit through which most of the world was originally introduced to the amazing autist Temple Grandin.

This book is yet his most personal, as he is a patient & subject as well as the doctor & observer.  In it he documents his growing vision problems due to ocular cancer, leading to blindness in one eye and the accompanying loss of stereoscopic vision.  He also talks about his face blindness, a fascinating condition that many people on the autism spectrum share.

It is dense and intense writing.  It makes my brain tick and click and spin in very good ways.  But if I try to read it when I'm too tired?  I realize I'm reading the same paragraph over and over, not making enough sense.  But when I'm fresh?  Wonderful stuff.
Composed: A MemoirAlso, in my bathroom (AKA the Library) is the incredible Rosanne Cash memoir Composed.  This is a re-read for me, a delicious one.  I had devoured it when it came out this summer (on my 50th birthday, no less) it being one of those "can't put it down" books.

And now I have the decided pleasure of coming back to it and taking my time. I know where it is going so I don't have to rush through.  I can savor, roll the words around in my mouth and images around in my mind for a while, like tasting a good aged wine. Maybe a Cahors; complex, leathery but delicate, hints of flowers and fruit but lots of earth too. 

This is a great book for bloggers, as it clearly swims in our rivers.  Rosanne is a dyed in the wool storyteller with prodigious talents.  A few critics have called it rambling.  I am a vocal fan of rambling; I say to hell with straightforward.  Some folks confuse a lyrical and fluid, organic flow with chaos and lack of structure.  Don't listen to them.  This book moves like a river; jump in, let it take you for a ride.

Yes, there are stories she chooses not to tell.  We all have those stories.  That hers is such a public life just raises the stakes for her.  As any blogger knows, this is not just her story, it's her life, and because she is a mother, it's her children's lives being laid out here. What is told is so lovely and full, emotionally rich and giving of herself, only a greedy fool would call her on what she holds back.

At the core of this book are motherhood, parental loss and her creative process.  Could anything be more tailor made for me to both enjoy and relate to? 

Finally, I have also just finished a children's book that I am really looking forward to Ethan being ready for.  It's for a slightly older kid, or a more precocious 8 year old reader than he.  This book was brought to my attention by my wonderful book-loving friend Jill.

Jill is a children's book editor and writer who keeps a (terrific, if sporadic) blog about children's literature and what she and her kids are reading, and also about what she's writing, as she is in the middle of a writing MFA.

The Wednesday WarsThe book is The Wednesday Wars, and it is fabulous.  It takes place on Long Island in the late 1960s, which is also the time and place of my own childhood, and the author, Gary D. Schmidt gets it just right (as he was born in Hicksville, New York, so he should).

It's the story of Holling Hoodhood, the only Presbyterian in his seventh grade class.  It takes place over a school year and is about his relationship with a special teacher, his family, a girl, Shakespeare, friendship, the Vietnam War, loyalty, kindness...

I don't want to call it a "coming of age" story because that makes people think cliche, and this is anything but.  But there is growing up and coming to truths in there, without ever any heavy handedness for even a moment.  The book is deep as the ocean and yet full of light.  Buy it for a 10 to 12 year old boy you know. But read it first yourself, as you will really enjoy this funny and deeply moving novel.

OK, enough books.  Enough blog.

Tomorrow I will talk to my doctors, get the results from today's tests, strategize our game plan for going forward.

Tomorrow I will eat more skinless chicken and pita bread while dreaming of blue cheese and chocolate truffles.

And now, dear friends, I must sleep.  

*writing this on my Droid, auto-correct tried to make that "muddle of" which also feels about right.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: The Week in Pictures

As you all know, I am wordy person.  A big talker.  Long form.

My "Wordless Wednesdays" are NEVER truly wordless.  They run the range from Nearly Wordless Wednesdays (I can never use the term "nearly" anymore without immediately bringing to mind the Harry Potter series' character, Nearly Headless Nick, the Gryffindor house ghost) to Hardly Wordless Wednesdays, where there are lots of photos, but they are a prompt, anchor or enhancement to a hell of a lot of words, well into a full blown essay (albeit with picture support).*

This week I'm going to try to be as wordless as possible, just drop a picture or two (or three, or four) in and then sneak out of the room quietly.  (Shhhhhhh, don't wake the baby. . . . .)

Here goes... The Week in Pictures (now with Happiness Quotient):

Very Unhappy: The Great Kitchen Disaster of 2010

Jake, not so happy at Basketball, Saturday (where I had my Gall Bladder attack)
Double Dose of Happiness: Twin Baby Cousins at the Chanukkah Party, Sunday
Ethan, Happy (Presents!) at the Chanukkah Party, Sunday
Jakey, Happy (Presents!) at the Chanukkah Party, Sunday
Me, unhappy (Gall Stones!) at the doctor's office, Monday
That's all folks! 
*I think I may have just surpassed myself in my attempt to retain my "Queen of the run-on-sentence (with parenthetical clauses)" title.

I’m linking up to Wordless Wednesday at Angry Julie Monday.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I've Got Stones

Gall Stones, that is.

What?  You thought I was talking about my Mom-balls again?

Yeah, I've got those, too.  Just try to take away a vital service from my autistic son, Jacob.  Mess with him and you will see my giant huevos come out, big time.

I mean, even though my *actual* eggs are kind of over-cooked at this point (see my last post), my metaphorical ones?  My "don't mess with my family" ones?

Outsize and ready for action.

But about that other thing?  Yeah, I'd really like to pretend this isn't happening.

But doubling over in slicing, cramped pain and then making a mad dash to the women's room to gag and dry heave for 10 minutes during my son's basketball practice on Saturday sorta makes that impossible.

I cannot say enough about how happy I am to have the good fortune to have actual medical professionals in my family, both natal and the machatunim.  (That's Yiddish for the whole {damned} family you marry into - you know, the in-laws.)

I had already self diagnosed via the friendly internet on Saturday night.  When I was finally able to stop moaning and sit upright, that is.

But you know?  The internet?  Scary place to do medical research.  Reminds me of that old Nicole Hollander cartoon, the one where Sylvia is reading a book called "Infectious Diseases."  As her daughter warns her to put the book down, she yells out "Oh my god, I've got anthrax!"

In spite of the chance to just completely terrify myself, I kept a mostly level head.

But the problem with hot-knife style searing pain of mind bending proportions in the area of one's major organs?  Hard to believe it's no biggie, not connected to a serious condition requiring immediate medical attention.

But a nice chat with my lovely ER doc cousin, Jessie, in Vermont reassured me that had I come into her ER, she would have been all "Crap! Why is this person in my ER?  It's just a gall bladder attack, nothing dangerous. I had to wake up from my nap for THIS?" (She often works the overnight shift.)

She told me to see my doctor on Monday, went over the warning signs that should send me rushing to the ER for real, and gave me advice for how to get myself comfortable in the meantime (antacid, Tylenol, rest, duh).

And the next day I felt mostly better, which was a mighty good thing, it being the Sunday of my husband's family's annual Big Chanukkah Party.  (I know, not technically Chanukkah anymore.  But?  Shhhhhhh.  It was so early this year.)

What?  You want to see pictures of that?  OK here's a few:
Lighting Grandma Blanche's menorah
Presents Galore!
Grandma Sylvia got a zhu zhu pet
And at this bash?  Yes, indeed, I sidled up to Danny's cousin who happens to be a G.I. with that "you are about to be cornered by a relative with a medical question" look on my face, and he did not back off and disappear, which I took to be the go-ahead sign.  (If you're confused here?  Folks, we're Jewish.  To us "G.I." is short for Gastro-Intestinal as in a doctor's specialist degree, NOT Government Issue as in "G.I. Joe".  Please!)

So I asked cousin David, "Do you do Gall Bladder?"  And he gestured for me to continue.

I described my symptoms, and when I got to the part about the pain finally localizing in the upper right quadrant of my abdomen and then radiating to my back under my shoulder blade, he nodded.  Then he poked at a spot and I yelped and he said to call his office at 8:30 the next morning and they'd get me in right away.

Oh yes, I married into the right family!

So all this is how, yesterday, I came to have my first complete and thorough physical exam in... maybe 10 years?

The problem with being essentially healthy and taking care of multiple elderly parents and young kids with all sorts of issues is that you can neglect your own health big time.  (I *might* have done that.)

Until there's a big wake-up call.  Like, oh, feeling like you're being sliced in half by a ninja out of the clear blue at 2:45 on a Saturday afternoon while your autistic son is attempting to play basketball.

What?  You want to know how the basketball is going?

Yes, I did share my excitement about it, and planned to report back right away.   But life got... busy, you know?

Briefly: it's going well-ish.  (A full post account is coming up soon, I sort-of promise.)  Here, look at some cute pictures (sorry about the odd color, there's weird yellow lights in that gym):
One excited boy
Playing basketball, sort of
So, back to my foray into all things medical yesterday... having been a basically healthy person for 50 years (and believe me, I know how blessedly lucky I am about this, am grateful & do not take it for granted) my experience with medical procedures has been mostly on the sidelines.

Let me tell you, there was a more than slightly surreal quality to be personally undergoing the same diagnostic procedures that I had sat through countless times as the support person for a parent or friend.

Like deja-vu with a side-step.  Like in those dreams when your point of view flashes back and forth between a first and third person perspective, leaving you wondering if you are watching or experiencing the events at hand.

To be the one in the ugly, ill-fitting gown on the table myself?  Very, very weird.

What?  You want pictures of that, too?  Well, here's me waiting for someone to come into the room and do something to me:  
Beige is so NOT my color
So I've now had my first echocardiogram, folks.  And you young people with healthy hearts who have never had to care for someone with cardiac troubles will not get what a big deal this is.  But if you're on my side of the fence, you will understand the thrill, and why I'm bragging:

My ejection fraction?  Was terrific.  (The "ejection fraction" is a measurement of the heart's efficiency at pumping blood, and is severely compromised in Aortic Stenosis, the condition that did my father in.)

I jumped with joy.  (Well, I would have if I weren't laying on a table covered in yucky ultrasound goop.) 

Considering that I am essentially allergic to exercise?   I have no right to have a heart as healthy as mine appears to be.  And I am NOT going to take this for granted.  I am going to thank my lucky stars and work from here on outward to not let this good start turn sour through inactivity and complacency.

I am a 50 year old with young children. I need to do all I can to ensure I am here to care for them through their formative years, to do all that is within my power to not abandon them too young.  (Please hold me to this.  Yell at me if I don't start to take better care of myself in the future.)

I am guessing I have my love of dancing to thank for the positive state of things.  Those years of my late teens through mid-twenties when I went out dancing with wild abandon two or three nights a week.

And the way I danced?  Way aerobic.  I would work up quite a sweat.  Hell, I would often sweat completely through and thoroughly soak my clothes.   Looking back it's a wonder anyone ever dared go home with me afterward, sweatball that I was.

Although it must have helped that, as an old boyfriend put it, I "danced like a girl who likes to fuck."  Ahem.  Guess I wasn't afraid to move my hips.

Sigh.  It's nice thinking about a time when my body was more about pleasure than pain.

But getting back to the icky medical stuff.  I ended my day at the imaging center I had taken my father to many a time before.  Once again, the odd disconnect of shifted perspective.

"You've been a patient here before?"  The receptionist asked the question as a not-question, rhetorical. Clearly I looked familiar.  She thought I was a returner, a repeat customer.

"No" I answer.  Then, because she has raised her eyebrow sceptically I start to question it myself.  "I don't think so..." I stammeringly add, "I've been here so many times, but I'm pretty sure that it was always to bring my father in."

"Well, let's check, then" she says, inputting my statistics into the computer, which spits back... nothing. First timer.  Fill out the thousand forms and bring back the clipboard.

The technician is friendly, chatty, and I don't mind.  Gowned and gelled yet again, I am lying on the table when she swings the monitor around to show me: a solid white almond shaped nugget in the black hole that is my ultrasound gall bladder.  "Stone" she says.

Well, at least I wasn't imagining things.

"Is it a big one?" I ask, watching this thing taking up a good quarter of my gall bladder float around like an jumbo olive in a small martini glass.

"Oh, yeah, I would say that. The good thing is, it's too big to pass through the duct."

"That's a good thing?"

"Yeah, better than the granules, they really hurt going through."

OK, I'm happy to just take her word on that.

So now we wait on the blood-work, schedule another test in a few days (they're going to make my blood a teensy bit radioactive), and then?   Review the findings and evaluate my options.

Apparently, wave a magic wand and make it all go away?  Not among them.  Damn!

I may have a date with a laproscopic surgeon in my near future.  We may wait and see.

And if I do end up having my Gall Bladder removed?  Here's to hoping the guy doing it looks just like Weird Al Yankovic in his classic "Like a Surgeon" video.

Because I want to go under the knife laughing.

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