prettier in hindsight

21 06 2010

Almost 10  years ago and more than 20 lbs lighter, this is me.  Shaun and I had taken a trip to the island where my family lived.  When we were young and had disposable income, we could do things like drive down for a long weekend.

This trip happened to take place just a few days after a hurricane had blown through.  The ocean was beautiful and turbulent.  Normally, it’s calm and only the most determined surf off the coast.  It was too beautiful to ignore so we set off walking down the beach, looking for shells and little sea animals that sometimes get washed up.

Several years before, we had come across a sea turtle that had been washed ashore and pecked on the neck by some scavenging bird.  We collected the little guy into an ice bucket we stole from a hotel with ocean water.  Then we went to the police station to see if a conservationist could come get him.  In a small town on a small island, the police are the ones who know who to call.

On this trip, however, there wasn’t as much debris – there were just HUGE waves.  (Huge compared to normal – I know other places put our little patch of ocean to shame.)  I couldn’t help it – I dove in and started body surfing, leaving Shaun with the camera.

It was wonderful, but even then my body had started it’s course towards this dis-ease.  I had been diagnosed with mitral valve prolapse.  I needed to sleep about 14 hours a day.  I would throw up if I was in the sun for too long.  I wasn’t even 21.  Instead of being young, beautiful, and fabulous I was busy making contingency plans.  Carefree and spontaneous were (and still are) words I didn’t understand.

No matter all that – I kept surfing.  After four or five waves I was getting very tired and decided to go after one more ride then go back to the hotel for a nap.

I dove in and started swimming out towards the waves.  That was the one that caught me – a riptide.  I remember being pulled towards the bottom and my brain started the emergency procedure protocol: don’t panic, relax, swim parallel to the shore.

Initiate survival tactic #1 – don’t panic.  I realized then under the water that I didn’t care very much if I came back up.  I wasn’t suicidal.  I was just at ease that if my life was at an end, that was ok too.  The pain, the fatigue, the grief, the losses of infertility – that would all be over if the ocean kept me.  I saw the swirls of the waves enveloping me and supporting me.

In normal circumstances, I’m terrified of drowning.  Of being pressed from all sides and powerless to reach the top for a breath.  The thought in my head during this was “one breath and it’s all over.”  Instead of terror, I felt relief.

I don’t know how long I was under but the ocean didn’t want me.  It spat me out literally at Shaun’s feet.  The wave pushed me into something solid and then there was a flash.

The flash of a camera held by my husband.

The ocean gave me back to him and it didn’t even take my hat.  That ocean is a pretty cool guy.  I’d like to see him again.



17 05 2010

It’s almost officially summertime in the South.  Just as I was putting the groceries in the car it started to sprinkle.  The drops were heavy and hot, just like the air.  During the five minute trip home, the storm went from flash flood torrents to a steady, soaking rain.  Getting the groceries out of the car, both Ethan and I were soaked through.  I had hoped to wear my cute outfit until Shaun got home but nature thwarted me.

I dressed up a bit this morning for my cardiologist appointment.  I wore my BCBG jeans, a tissue style v-neck shirt, and my favorite Ann Taylor t-strap wedges.  I even put on makeup.  The first time I see a new doctor, I try not to look too much like a country bumpkin or a soccer mom.  I want their impression to be of a smart and able grown woman.

The second or third time I see a doctor, I don’t care as much if I show up in my normal suburban casual style – soft capris and a tank top.  I normally have a hat on too because I try not to pay attention to my hair on days I don’t have to.  Basically, I don’t mind if they see me in my normal state of disrepair once they know I’m not an idiot.

Today I dressed up to see a new cardiologist.  I don’t like him enough yet to say “my” cardiologist.  Shaun mentioned that just because of his profession, he started out in my view of him with a big black mark against him.  Really, if my – yes MY rheumatologist – hadn’t insisted, I wouldn’t have seen this one.

It’s not that I hate cardiologists in general, it’s just that the science hasn’t caught up to a point to where they can help me.  I do the tests.  I try their meds.  I change my lifestyle.  They tell me that “once I know what it is, I’ll feel better.”  I’ve known what it is for over 10 years and I still don’t feel better.

This guy was ok – he seemed a few years older than me and when he came into the room, he introduced himself to Ethan and shook his hand.  It was adorable!  The entire staff loved on the little man and that made it much more comfortable for me to not have to worry about him being in the way.  Some doctors really do mind having kids in the room.

The doctor seemed to brush off my concerns about the tachychardia and the “syncopal episodes” that have become more frequent.  My first EKG of the day showed that my pulse was 110 at its lowest and the rhythm was “within range.”  He told me that if I felt funny in the future, the best thing to do was lay down on the floor so I didn’t fall when I passed out.  Yes, thanks, that’s very helpful, Doctor.  I think you’d like to meet the administrator at my old school who said that if a kid hits you, to take off your glasses and curl up in a ball and scream for a teacher.  Suggestions like that are TOTALLY plausible.

In my medical history, I had mentioned very clearly that I have a bunch of dead relatives who died sitting up.  They were otherwise young and healthy but they couldn’t fall during the “syncopal event” and their hearts never kicked back in.  This happened to my dad when he was just a few years older than I am right now and the only reason he got a diagnosis and a pacemaker was because it happened in front of a nurse as he was being discharged from the hospital.

I think I have a right to be worried.  The doctor today told me that I was not my dad or my relatives and I shouldn’t be scared over nothing.  I don’t happen to think it’s nothing and I told him that.  My genetics are the perfect storm of potential heart issues – every person on my mom’s side has MVP with dysautonomia which is now being shown to be very similar to neurocardiogenic syncope.  He scheduled another echo which was done today, another EKG – I’m in the running for the most EKGs in a year – and a tilt table test on Friday.  I don’t think he would have scheduled the tilt table test if my rheumatologist, my primary care, and my mother had all demanded it.  I have no plan to scare the shit out of my kids the way my dad scared me.  If I have this, I’d rather they stopped my heart while attached to monitors with doctors in the room.  I don’t even know when I’ll get the results from today’s ultrasound.  I figure I’ll call on Wednesday if no one calls me.

On Saturday, I went to Walmart by myself.  It was the first time I’d been out of the house for a length of time in weeks.  I’ve had a lot of bad days lately but last week I made it through an entire week without needing Shaun to stay home and I felt brave enough to go out by myself.

While I was out, I saw LJs teacher and we chatted for a moment in the bathroom supply aisle.  About 30 minutes later, she walked up to me in the little girls’ section (yay, clearance racks!) and said “I am so envious of you.  You’re out shopping in peace and have time to look!  You just look so relaxed and refreshed!”  I made the normal thanks, and thank God for my husband who watched the kids pleasantries and we parted ways again.

It’s so weird to me that people envy me.  It seems so odd because I LIVE in my body and everything I have has been fought for.  Nothing has ever come easy.  It’s only this quirk of genetics that brought me this auto-immune disorder that makes my body regenerate incredibly quickly.  I see former classmates of mine and they look 10 and 15 years older than I do.  Lifes’ struggles show on their bodies and on their faces.  They have visible lines that tell of battles fought and of hardships overcome.

My skin doesn’t sag or show sun damage.  I can’t even keep my ears pierced because my body heals so quickly.  My body is still firm and all my lady bits are in the place God originally put them.  I weigh 10 lbs more than I did when I had my hysterectomy but it only amplified my boobs and butt.  My hair grows over an inch a month and my fingernails are almost always naturally long.

I have three gorgeous, healthy, and smart children.  LJ looks like me in his build.  Chickpea and Ethan are the spitting image of Shaun.  On the outside, we have the perfect little suburban life.

People envy that.  They don’t know that my body attacks every invader, whether it be a dissolvable stitch or a fetus.  They don’t know that I have almost every side effect to every medication.  They don’t know about being a foster parent or about adoption.  They think I’m overprotective or concerned about nothing when I parent my children differently.

I really don’t think other people are any more blessed or lucky than I am and my family is.  They’ve fought different battles and walked different roads.  It’s just weird to me that some people spend time being envious of others.  I don’t think it’s bad or anything, just different.

I would rather people look at me and think “it is possible to overcome what I’m going through.”

Psalm 129

“Many a time they have afflicted me from my youth,”
Let Israel now say—
“Many a time they have afflicted me from my youth;
Yet they have not prevailed against me.
The plowers plowed on my back;
They made their furrows long.”
The LORD is righteous;
He has cut in pieces the cords of the wicked.

hot hot heat

29 07 2009

How is it 80 degrees in the house but only 74 degrees outside?  This is not good!

I’m going to feed the kids popsicles for lunch.  It’s too hot for anything else.  I feel the worst for Cali, our collie mix.  She’s got on a thick fur coat and is just stretched out panting.

Caution: busy day ahead

21 07 2009

I can’t believe we’re less than 3 weeks away from school starting.  May and June were crazy months and thank goodness we’ve been able to have a quiet July.  My goal in July was to bore the crap out of the kids so that they’d be excited to go back to school.  I don’t think it’s worked yet… they seem happy to sleep in until 9 am, hang out in pj’s, and watch PBS.

I found out yesterday that the charter school Alyssa will be going to did get their pre-K charter.  I called up and they had lost Ethan’s paperwork (not surprising since his name dramatically changed with the adoption) but they did go ahead and put him on the waiting list.  It would be the best possible thing for him to be able to go to pre-K there.  Otherwise, I’m going to homeschool him during pre-K.  He’s one of those kids that does not do well in a normal school environment.  He’s not quite ADHD like LJ is but if there are other kids around who are not focused, then he won’t settle.  His brain works a lot like mine – he absorbs info, files it away as irrelevant at the moment, gets bored, then creates trouble.  So, I’ll file his paperwork with them today so that hopefully he’ll get in soon.

For Alyssa to get admission, I had to register her under her old name during the last school year.  There are only a certain number of spots available and it’s further broken down by the child’s primary language.  It’s a dual-immersion English/Spanish school and they also teach Mandarin Chinese.  Hopefully it will challenge her enough to keep her out of trouble.  Pre-K for her was like a lesson in futility.  She already knew EVERYTHING they were teaching the other kids (she’s on a 1st grade level) and decided that meant everyone else was stupid and she was therefore in charge.  With some kids, they do that and get this air of bravado and adults think “he’s going through that arrogant stage.”  With her, she really does believe that we’re all here to serve her and suggesting otherwise  does not compute.  Of course, she is smart and beautiful which means people DO line up to give her things.  She had talked her teachers into giving her 3 lunches a day, THREE!, letting her roll around in the dirt during recess, taunting other children, and basically acting like we will not let her act at home.  It’s all ok with them because she’s cute and smart and gives you those big green puppy dog eyes.  All this does is reinforce the thought that she’s a superior being stuck in a smaller body.  Or something.

There’s a reason my kids act like civilized human beings.  I don’t fall for the BS and I have no fear of saying no.  I don’t use fear or intimidation to keep them in line, they just know the expectations and they know I’m not going to back off of them.  This does mean we talk a lot about the meaning of words like upset, disappointed, unhappy, discussion, responsibility, and who is in charge.  We can actually eat a meal in a sit-down restaurant with the kids.

LJ will be going to the school across the street from us.  He didn’t get accepted into the charter school, and that’s probably for the best.  He didn’t walk or talk until he was 5 and he’s still behind in language and social skills.  Because he was non-verbal, his test scores showed that he was mentally retarded and he was held back a grade and stuck in special ed.  There’s nothing wrong with that because he did need to learn the basics but he has made so many strides since then that you’d never guess he wasn’t always “normal.”  He was in a regular class last year and recieved speech therapy and social skills therapy several times a week.  This year, he’ll still receive services, but they’ll be integrated into the class so he doesn’t get singled out or pulled away from class.

I really hope he gets a young, active teacher this year.  Last year we had all sorts of trouble with his teacher.  He needs someone interactive – not someone who hovers and scowls.  Doing that puts him on defense and he retreats into his fantasy world.  Then everyone who wants to play ball during recess is stealing his stuff and every time someone bumps into him in line means they’re deliberately trying to knock him down and get him into trouble.  This causes meltdowns and tantrums.  Then he’s scared to go back to class because he knows that’s not a “good reaction” so he does stuff to get sent out of class.  Things like picking his nose until it bled so he could go to the nurse’s.  Making himself throw up.  Stomping on another kid’s foot.

When we figured out what was happening, we started playing games at home during homework.  When learning was a happy thing and he felt safe doing it he immediately started getting better.  He was making 30’s and 40’s before we started and after he was getting 90’s and 100’s.  Still, we couldn’t convince the teacher that he’s not a bad kid – he’s a scared kid.  She didn’t see anything wrong with her methods and would tell me “I have 20 kids in that classroom!”  20?  Really?  That’s all… huh.  That’s a TINY class.

Anyways, I have to register all three for school today since their names, birth certificates, and social security numbers have all changed. So I need to get them all ready to go while I fill out the paperwork here.  Thank God that it’s all online and all I have to do is print it out.

I also need to run to the post office.  We made a sale on Etsy!  Yay!  I also had a book mooched on BookMooch, so I need to send it out.  After all that, we’ll be back home and do lunch, then they get naptime and I get to list some more lace on Etsy.  If I get a chance, I need to go out in the garage and get a coat of primer on the keys.  Shaun’s going to do the metallic paint for me since he’s got a steadier hand and has more experience with oil-based enamels than I do. I also need to clean the bird cage, our bathroom, and my workstation.

The kids are up and the boys are already in trouble, so it sounds like time for breakfast!  Have a happy Tuesday, everyone!