Friday, April 30, 2010

The Tail is Definitely Wagging This Dog


So many things to do, so little time to do them in. So few of them actually turn out to be things that I want to do, but I don't realize that until they're fully done. Instead, I am doing them out of a sense of urgency, duty. And, to be completely honest, it's not so much pride of accomplishment that I feel when I'm done as relief. One more thing to wipe off of the white board of to-do's.

I had a dream last night. There was a storm coming and as I looked out the window, I could see a flag whipping in the wind. Snapping back and forth, rippling and twisting to the whims of Mother Nature. The sturdy flagpole stood straight and tall, not bending or swaying an inch in either direction. I waited and waited for a moment to rush out and rescue the flag, a safe interval where I wouldn't be subject to the fierce assault of rain and wind. Finally, I just decided to brave the storm. I dashed out into the day, lowered the flag before it fell into tatters, unclipped it from the pole and took a moment to rest my hand on the cold steel of the flagpole, thanking it for its unwavering support.

As I walked slowly back inside, feeling the full force of the cold rain pelting against my cheek I realized that the pole was desperately in need of this respite. Despite its visual lack of movement, the pole was constantly buffeting itself against the tug of the flag as it pulled this way and that in the storm. Bracing itself for unexpected movements.

For the last few weeks, I've been the flag. Racing to meet deadlines, parenting by the seat of my pants as Bubba ramps up his business yet again -on the road no less than four days a week. Today, I'm honoring the flagpole. The flag has been tucked away in a closet and I'm taking time to write and read and feed my soul. The flag is the flashy "see-what-I-can-do" banner waving in the sky for all to notice, but it's the pole that holds it up.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

No Interneto

I seem to have lost my sporadic internet connection at home. I'm not ignoring you all and, indeed, I'm seriously in need of a blog fix, but I have no time to be away from home long enough to write a post these days. I'm hoping Bubba will be in town long enough to get a handle on it soon and I'll be back in the swing of things.

For now, know that I'm with you in spirit.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Small Victories, Big Questions, Simple Joys

Those of you who have followed my blog from the beginning and those who know me well are aware that our family spent a few really rough years struggling with Bubba's health. For nearly three and a half years he was stricken with a mystery-disease that legions of experts, armed with millions of dollars of modern technology and medical training were unable to diagnose. After a $55,000.00 surgery that took eight hours and twelve weeks to recover from, he had a relapse and we were able to finally find a doctor who accurately diagnosed the situation and began treating Bubba with medication to 'buy us time.'

Fast-forward eighteen months after Bubba began taking the medications that effectively stopped him from having relapses and, for some unknown reason, he decides to quit taking the meds. They were expensive, but our insurance plan covered them entirely. They caused him no physical side effects whatsoever but he decided that taking three pills three times a day as a 37-year old man made him feel (emotionally) "ill. Old and infirm." His words. Not mine. These magical purple pills made me feel free. Free from the ticking time bomb that he had been for over three years - never knowing when we'd have to call 911 or when I would get a panicked call from him on a business trip in China (happened before) or Prague (there, too) or Argentina (yup, you guessed it) as he felt it coming on again.

If you want to read all of the ugly details, you can find them here

Suffice it to say that I was furious, frightened, and confused about his decision to stop taking his medication. I told him I thought he was nuts. I begged him to go back to the doctor first and run it by him. I pleaded with him to explain it to me. I tried to guilt him into taking them again by telling him how terrified I was. Nothing worked. He shut down and stopped talking to me about it and a lot of other things, too. I went into turtle mode, pulling myself into my mommy shell and went about doing the things I knew I could control (HA!).

Six months after he stopped taking his medication I noticed a lump on his abdomen. It was so large I could see it through a t-shirt when he was standing in profile. It resembled a small bratwurst and lay directly over the area of his stomach/small intestine that was affected when he was having attacks - on the right side of his stomach just below his rib cage. I pointed it out to him and he swore it was nothing. A year after I first noticed it, it hasn't gotten much larger, but it has grown a bit and it's definitely still there. He maintains it doesn't bother him a bit.

Now, for the "Small Victory" part. We had grown so far apart due to this and other factors that I asked him to go to a counselor with me to see if we could put things back together. He agreed. Small Victory #1.

At the counselor, the issue of his health (and my view that he was generally disregarding it) came up. After a thorough history of the situation, the therapist felt that the best thing to do was for Bubba to go back to the doctor who diagnosed his condition and let him decide. She asked me to prepare myself for the possibility that he would acknowledge that Bubba was doing fine off the meds and let it be. She asked Bubba to prepare himself for the possibility that the doctor would smack him upside the head and order him right back on them. We agreed to go together and abide by the doctor's orders. Small Victory #2.

We went last week. I'm thrilled that I was there because Bubba, as per usual, minimized the issues and wasn't even going to point out the lump on his abdomen ("It doesn't hurt!"). The doctor was shocked that he had stopped taking his meds and his eyebrows disappeared into his hairline when I described the growing lump. He asked Bubba to lift his shirt for an exam and quickly determined that the lump was an enormous hernia. Somehow, a loop of bowel has pushed out through the peritoneal wall and the muscle layers in Bubba's stomach and is protruding. He cautioned that it doesn't need to be operated on immediately, but it does present a problem if the bowel twists. In that case, Bubba needs to hit the nearest ER and have it repaired immediately or he'll go septic and die.

For Big Question #1. Is inflammation in Bubba's intestinal wall (caused by him going off his medication) pushing this loop of bowel out through his muscles instead of shutting down his digestive system like it did before? Well, apparently, that calls for a CT scan. Bubba went happily and we won't know anything for at least a week, but at least he went.

I hate to say "I told you so," and I am tremendously pleased with Bubba's response to the 'experts' (in this case, the therapist and his doctor), but I wish it had just been simpler. A "go back on your medication, you knucklehead" would have sufficed. But maybe, just maybe, if this was all caused by him going off his meds, that's the knock on the skull he needs to turn things around.

As for the simple joys, there are so many, I'll have to do them in list form:

1. Bubba was not put out by my joining him at the doctor's office and scheduled the CT scan so that I could be there for that, too.
2. Traffic on the way to the hospital this morning was an absolute breeze and my parking was free.
3. The CT scan took place exactly on time and we were out with enough time for me to get home and vacuum up the tumbleweeds of dog hair before a friend comes for coffee this afternoon.
4. The sun is out and my tulips are blooming in the yard.
5. I have today and tomorrow off of work and I'm going to write, walk the dog, clean the house, and read.
6. There are beets roasting in the oven for my lunch and I'm going to toss them with some fresh spinach and goat cheese and drizzle them with balsamic vinegar. Ahh, chick lunch.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Reinventing the Wheel


It seems ridiculous, but I'm becoming more open to the idea that each generation has to do it to some extent. It's a critical part of growing up and asserting our independence and testing our wings. That gradual pulling away from our parents that we do as we get older is vital for preadolescents and teens and, while it makes me sad, I know that it is most often associated with frustration, eye-rolling, anger, and disdain.

I distinctly remember the acidic, condescending attitude I had toward my mother as a teenager. I was certain that she was old-fashioned, obtuse, and completely wrong about most things. My respect for her was at an all-time low during my high school years (cringing, sorry Mom). As badly as I feel about it, I know that I had to push her away in order to find my own boundaries and test my own theories and discover whether I had what it took to come up with solutions on my own. Thankfully, I know that she didn't take most of it personally and I often only seethed inside because I would never have dared hurt her by saying out loud some of the things I thought.

When I had my first child, I began shoving her away again - determined to do things in as opposite a way as possible than she had. I was set - concrete hard - on making entirely different choices and being a completely different parent than she had. I very much wanted her to be a part of my family's life, but it was so important to me that she recognize that this was MY family and she was here as an invited guest. I am certain that I made many mistakes along the way, not taking into account the wisdom and knowledge she possessed as a result of her years of parenting, and while part of me (the perfectionist bit) regrets that, I know that had she offered advice, it would have fallen on deaf ears anyway, and the actual tripping over my own feet was what helped me to learn how to walk as a mother.

From time to time I find myself doing a task just the way my mother did it and I realize that, while I came to this particular way of doing something through trial and error, it turns out that maybe my mom did have it right. I'm not certain whether these occasional flashes of insight will lead me to ask for her advice in the future, but they do have the effect of adding an additional layer of respect for her and reminding me that I still have some growing up to do.

I hope that I can remember these lessons as Eve and Lola grow up and push me away from them. I hope that I can have as much grace as my mother as they roll their eyes and huff annoyed breaths and stomp away from me. I hope that I can refrain from offering unwanted advice and simply recognize that it is their turn to reinvent the wheel.

Thursday, April 01, 2010


I grew up hearing tales of my great-grandmother's miraculous gardening skills. I have vague memories of visiting her at her tiny little cottage, her shiny red Thunderbird parked in the driveway, the house compact and square, but no actual recollection of the inside of the house itself. Instead, the backyard looms large in my mind. Walking out the back door of this place was a little like going through the wardrobe in the Narnia books. The yard itself stretched past where my eyes could see, far behind the house itself, and was bisected by Gram's greenhouse. Everywhere you looked there were pots of flowers, staked vegetables, olive and pear and apple trees. The sweaty greenhouse was packed full of seedlings and little clay pots and Gram's fingernails were always short, squared-off, and housed more dirt than I thought possible.

As she aged, she resisted a move to an assisted-living complex mightily. Her sturdy Ukrainian frame, all 4'11" of it, was a force to be reckoned with. She simply couldn't conceive of living in a place without dirt and plants. Finally, a compromise was discovered. The 20-story building in downtown Springfield where she would have an apartment had a flat roof. She could have a portion of it for a roof garden. Everything would have to be in pots, but she would be allowed to work her magic up there. I often wonder whether they knew what they were in for, but I suspect they had never imagined the likes of Gram. Within months, she had appropriated the entire footprint of the roof. She grew gum trees, olives, fruit and berries. Pots of every size filled the roof with only slim paths between for watering and tending the plants. It was a virtual jungle. She was up there two or three times a day. When she passed her year anniversary at the residence, you could spot her building by the foliage rising into the sky from the roof as you came into the downtown core.

My grandparents once told me the story of the time they took Gram with them on a visit to the Holy Land. She was a devout Catholic and it had always been her dream to visit just once. They treated her to a week-long sojourn and my grandmother was horrified to discover that everywhere they went Gram was pinching 'starts' from all of the plants. Having lived in the fertile Willamette Valley of Oregon for most of her life, she was astonished by the varieties of plants that grew in this arid land and was determined to bring some home with her. My grandparents pleaded with her to stop, noting the presence of heavily armed soldiers everywhere and feeling certain that they would be arrested or stopped at customs. Gram capitulated and stopped picking leaves from every plant they passed. Or so they thought.

Six months after they returned, we came to visit and she proudly escorted us up to the roof garden and displayed her collection of Holy Land plants. From simple leaf starts, she had managed to create a lush corner souvenir of her trip. My grandmother nearly fainted. Gram just beamed.

I am certain that it is her spirit coming through me that gives me such satisfaction as I squat to dig through the soil in my yard and prune wayward branches off of the trees in my yard. I often wish I had her talents and feel frustrated with my own efforts but for today, I've decided that simply taking pleasure in gardening is enough. I don't have to be a superstar. I can just dig.
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