Sunday, February 26, 2012

fear and accomplishment

These days I seem to be surrounded by far flung travelers. My dear friends are living and teaching in South Korea this year, and my baby sis has been in Bejing teaching for the last two. Me? Well, I'm sorta proud of myself for flying 2/3 of the way across country. It's all relative...

I hate traveling. I really do. There are so many factors beyond my control... I dislike being a captive audience in airports and confined to small spaces in airplanes. I don't like sitting next to strangers and feeling like I have to lock myself in a tight little box so I don't disturb the person assigned to the seat next to me. There's never any food I want and what is there is insanely expensive. And then, there's the fear of crashing.

I forget how much I hate it, though, until I've finished the trip. I knew this one would be tough because I was leaving my men at home. Flying is expensive; it turns out that it is insanely so during February vacation, and there was just no way we could afford to have us all go. The internet and cell phones make it pretty easy to stay in constant conversation with the boys back home... but when we landed in Portland, and I knew they were just outside... well, I got kind of choked up. We'd made it there and back again, and now we were back to the way life should be. And we'd made it.

Those of you who fly all over the world may not think of it as an accomplishment, and truthfully, it's really not. But each time I do something like this without WB beside me, I prove to myself yet again that I can do it. As much as I hate traveling, I hate solitude more. It sounds cheesy, but I am a better person with my husband around. He completes me, and calms me, and has strengths that I don't. And it's not so scary to get stranded in an airport (cough* Dulles, you suck!* cough) when my whole family is with me. But de-icing at 9:30 PM, halfway between my home and my sister's, with only my daughter to keep me calm? Getting through that was a big deal for me.

I will probably never be able to visit my sister in her far flung locales (unless WB drugs me, serioulsy), and I will probably never teach anywhere but here. But we measure success by what we are each capable of doing, and I am sometimes capable of more than I give myself credit. And it is good to be reminded of that every now and again.

{these moments}

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

MCP 2012: February

Month 2: Love or Leap

Here's my oldest, skiing his heart out in his final middle school race. He came down with a terrible cold, so he didn't have the sort of finish he'd wanted... but we were all there cheering him on, because that's what you do when love someone. His darling girlfriend and her mom were there too. If that isn't love, I don't know what is.


It is never easy to graduate out of sequence. As much as people want their diploma, coming back after all your friends have finished is tough. These two sucked it up, though, and did it. It wasn't the prettiest ride into the homestretch... and the ceremony itself was a bit hindered by my recent medical issues... but they got it done. And at the end of the day, it doesn't matter how long it took you to get your diploma, but that you did it. And they did.

{this moment}

No words, I know... but I am pretty proud of this girl. Not sure if that translates through in this picture, but it's true.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

sick... or sickly?

I've been thinking about your medical stories all week. I had no idea you'd dealt with so much!

My dear mother in law said this, or something similar, when I talked to her after my gallbladder surgery. She came to spend the day with me after the ovarian cyst surgery (I hate that I have to differentiate between recent surgeries, but I digress) and said something about my medical knowledge. "Well, I've been doing this since I was 6..."

When I tell the story, I guess I really have spent a bit of time with the medical community. Upper GI series at fly/mosquito allergy shots... two separate times in isolation on med/surg, at 8 and again at 10, for an unknown cause of gastroenteritis... blind spot in my left eye  at 11, caused by a burst blood vessel leaving scar tissue... strep and bronchitis and sinusitis annually, if I was lucky--bi or tri if not... mono...endometriosis and related fertility issues... bunion surgery... and now this. It's a wonder I didn't end up a nurse, if you really think about it.

But I don't think of myself as sickly. I mean, I was, I guess, but that's not how I see myself. Sure, I'd catch everything that came by, but I just kept on going. I just thought that was how life was... mostly healthy, with a few bad sicknesses thrown in for perspective. Who knew that was not everyone's experience?

Fast forward to today. I'm sitting here on another sick day, wishing I could just go to work already. I feel another cold coming on, which could be a big deal since I really can't cough effectively; I do NOT want to add pneumonia to my list of experiences. And I'm thinking about my MIL's comment... WB has never had strep! I had it so often I could tell the doc before the test came back whether it would be positive or not based on how I felt after the giant Q-tip. He's had a couple of surgeries, sure, but all in all he is one of the healthiest people I know. It's no wonder she is overwhelmed by my litany of sicknesses.

And frankly, I'm kind of overwhelmed right now, too. Thank heavens the kids lean closer to his constitution than mine.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

when you care enough to send the very best

The last few weeks have been a lot of things. Overwhelming. Painful. Emotionally exhausting. But they have definitely been humbling. I have no need to ever repeat the fast paced trip through varied surgical procedures, but I am thankful for the outpouring of love that said trip has brought.

I try pretty hard to be the person bringing a meal to people when they need it. I do it because... well, because it's what you do. I find comfort in sharing food, and it becomes the way to tell someone they are on my mind and their hard time is not something they have to endure alone. But to be the recipient of that kindness, over and over again... wow. We've had so many people stop by with dinner... dessert... to not only bring food but to also spend some time making sure we (well, ok, I) are ok. So many others have offered to bring food if we need it. To say I feel well cared for is certainly an understatement.

But yesterday, I received a card in the mail. It was sent by one of the Sunnies... and she got the whole class to sign it. And there, on print, was proof: proof that my job is more than a job, and proof that I am succeeding at it. I set out to teach my students about more than math and proper grammar; I want them to learn to be successful in this world. And reaching out to someone who has undergone a medical procedure... never mind the second in as many weeks... is part of how we define success.

My darling Sunshines work very hard to keep people and arms length. Usually they do a pretty good job. But I am lucky enough to be allowed behind the curtain, for which I am forever grateful. My life has been enriched by all of them letting me into theirs. I knew this before surgery-- but that card... well, it shows it in a way that everyone can see.

I will never look like a high achieving teacher-- I don't care about test scores even a little bit, and just don't give the kind of time to teaching kids to pass high stakes testing as I'd need to do look like a national teacher leader. Frankly, I don't want to be that kind of teacher. But I know I am really good at being the kind of teacher who loves going to work and spending her days with a bunch of teenagers. Who loves to laugh with them and celebrate their successes with them and push them to become the kind of adults they want to be. And the kind of teacher who will hang a card like this in her classroom until she retires.

Which, since we're telling the truth here, is the kind of teacher I want my own kids to have. Without the back to back abdominal surgeries. I wouldn't wish that on anyone.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

a tale of two surgeries

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.

Actually, it was just the worst of times. The last 3 weeks have been medically eventful and a pretty big downer, to tell the truth. And while I am thankful that both situations were treatable and did not come with long term medical drama, it would have been nice to skip one, or both, of the procedures.

The cyst was sudden. It had been growing for awhile-- I don't know how long, but my suspicion is 6 or 7 months. I was fine, and then I had a small pain in my side. And then the pain was bigger, and then overwhelming, and then insurmountable. By then we were in the ER, and I was on mind altering medicines to try to deal with said pain. Being told I needed to switch hospitals was more frightening than being told I needed surgery. By the time she introduced herself and said she was going in, I had already figured it out. (They don't send you to a neighboring hospital for an ultrasound unless they are pretty sure you need serious interventions.) I had a grand total of 3 hours to think about it-- while still on said mind altering drugs. Was I nervous? In theory I knew I should be, but the morphine said otherwise. And so I flew down the Road to Surgery, no lines, no waiting, and no worry.

This time, however, I knew. From the day after the first surgery, I knew it was coming. I kind of wish the kind radiologist who reviewed my films (pixels?) hadn't called to tell me what was happening, because I quickly learned there was only one cure for an afflicted gallbladder, and it wasn't drugs.

At first I didn't think I'd had any symptoms, so I tried to forget about it. The more I felt like eating, though, the less good I felt. It came to a head when I almost threw up after eating lunch-- a sudden, holy crap, I-am-not-ok moment. A call to the doc confirmed what I was pretending not to know: my gallbladder was not long for this world.

Four days of waiting to meet the second surgeon; three days of waiting for the now scheduled surgery. Seven days of knowing it was coming. Thinking about what could go wrong. Worrying about being couch bound again. I still wasn't completely healed from the first surgery, and I was prepping for a second. To say my defenses were down is an understatement. And yet, the thought of waiting until I was in pain again... the potential emergency room trip... nope, I'll take the scheduled procedure and be grateful.

It also turns out that lower abdominal surgery on your reproductive system and upper abdominal surgery on your digestive system are very different procedures. Both were done laproscopically, which means significantly shorter healing times, but most of the similarities end there. I am healing very differently from the second go-round. I am less hungry, probably because my digestion is affected. I hurt more-- which could be from the position of the incisions... or because I just did this 18 days ago and I'm over it. Either way, I'm happy to say it's getting better. I would imagine I'll be solely on Advil by tomorrow, and I still hope to be back at work by the end of the week.

I can tell you one thing; I don't need to this again, any time soon. That foot of mine is just going to have to wait.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

knowing is not doing

I've always been active. All through school I took a full load of classes, avoided study halls because they were boring, was involved in sports and clubs and friends... constantly on the go. My professional career has been no different-- committees and coaching and after school activities has been my norm. I've known for the last few years that I've danced a little close to the edge, and I really have tried to back away. This year I did give up a couple of activities, but I ended up picking up a couple of replacements. I thought they'd be less stressful, but... I should have known better. I'm in for the year, however, because, when I say I'm going to do something, I do it.

Flash forward to 2 weeks ago. You all know the story-- pain started at 9 PM. By 2 AM I couldn't take it and we hit the ER. By 5:30 they were shipping me to a second hospital, and I was undergoing surgery for a recently discovered ovarian cyst by 8:15.  To say that this little side trip was not in the plans is an understatement. But... even though I knew I was overscheduled, I didn't react. And so my body took care of it for me.

I don't know what I'm going to do from here. A few of the committees I am on have overlapping roles, and with time, those may merge into one committee. They all support my teaching job, in one way or another, so I'm not willing to give up completely. But I also realize I need to make a change in my stress level-- even though I don't feel stressed at all. As my darling brave sis pointed out this week-- I can't help anyone breathe easily if I don't put on my own oxygen mask first.

So my oxygen mask for the rest of the year is going to be slow, but steady progress towards listening to what my body is saying. If I need to miss a meeting, the world will not end. I cannot do it all, and my family must come before work. And my health must come before all of that.

I'm going to need reminders. Please remind me.