Hello, Spring!

Spring is officially here. I don’t know what date WordPress will put on this post, but I am sitting here typing it at 8:55 PM on March 21. Which means it is the second day of Spring. I generally don’t enjoy Spring. I am allergic to dust and trees and grasses and weeds and mold and all kinds of flowers and … Well, probably a lot more things than I can remember to list in here. Basically, I am allergic to every single thing Spring brings. Instead of being able to enjoy the warm breezes and the soft sun on my face, I am forced to double and triple up on my allergy medication and drive around with my car windows closed and the a/c blasting full force. On any normal year, I do not greet Spring with open arms or joy in my heart.

But this has not been a normal year. It has been a year of stress and disappointment and worry and more stress. Winter was supposed to bring us mounds and mounds of fluffy, beautiful snow, according to our seasonal forecasts. Instead, it brought us warmer than average days and rain. Lots and lots of rain. Which, in turn, meant all the things I am allergic to bloomed in the Winter, too. There was no relief for this hacking and sneezing allergy sufferer.

I don’t dislike rain, by the way. I am from a place where it doesn’t rain nearly enough, so rain holds a bit of a special place in my heart. There is something kind of magical and mysterious and fun about a gray and rainy day. But … we have had months of these types of days. If I’m being honest, I have to admit I am more than a little sick of rain. I am also sick of my muddy yard and the dog foot prints that are all over my floors.

oct2017-bee+mum1-sm

So I was ready for Spring this year. The idea that it was quickly on its way, coupled with the unseasonably warm temperatures we have had for most of the winter, had me thinking of pastel colors, flowers, and buzzing bees. I was ready for the smell of fresh earth and green grass, even if I had to enjoy these things in extremely short bursts. And I thought it was beyond time for some bright colors in a world that seems to have gone all too gray.

Today, Spring looks like a fluffy white, slushy mess outside my window. I got so excited about Spring’s arrival that it seems I forgot about our annual March dumping of snow. And it arrived, right on schedule, today — just in time to celebrate Spring. It’s cold. It’s wet. Everything is frozen. In short, things are unexpectedly unpleasant.

snow-cherrytree-march2018-sm

 

But … school was canceled. And it will be canceled again for tomorrow. My sweet girl and husband were both home today, and we nested inside our house. We laughed and joked. My daughter and I played a video game together. We had home made tortilla soup. I watched the dogs playing in the snow. We were all warm. And safe. And together. In short, things were unexpectedly awesome. I can’t think of a better way to welcome Spring.

Advertisements

Hello, Monday

Mondays, in general, aren’t great days. I don’t know of anyone who looks forward to Monday. I’ve never met anyone who feels excited at the prospect of returning to the drudgery of work or school or whatever else the week may hold in store. The worst Monday of the year is the Monday after the start of Daylight Savings Time. That Monday right after you “spring forward” is a killer. I don’t have any hard scientific evidence to back this up. But I feel it in my heart. There are some things you just know, on a gut level. And this is one of them.

In general, I don’t hate on Mondays. I don’t love them. I don’t enjoy knowing I have to get back into a productive routine and get stuff done after a weekend of family time and relaxation. At the same time, I’ve never particularly dreaded them, either. I guess I didn’t feel one way or another about them. They were just there, like a flu shot or a trip to the doctor: a necessary evil, or something like that. Oddly enough, I’ve always harbored a big hate for Wednesday. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s something about being in the middle. Today was almost enough to make me change my mind about Mondays. Because today was a banner day. And I don’t mean that in a good way. It pretty much sucked, all around.

I started off with the not-quite-put-together feeling that happens every year when we spring forward. It doesn’t matter what time I go to bed or how much sleep I get, it’s never going to be enough to overcome the uneasy feeling in my brain that tells me time has gone completely off the rails. I spent the whole day feeling tired, run-down, and generally annoyed with life. The Monday after Daylight Savings Time always makes me feel like I’m stuck in a world that has suddenly grown too small. Or maybe that I’m just out of whack. Or something. I don’t know how to explain it, other than to say nothing fits together the way it should.

shiner-kittybed1-sm

My daughter has been fighting a sinus infection. I took her to the pediatrician last week, and they told us to use over the counter allergy meds to make it go away instead of prescribing antibiotics. I’m all for using as few antibiotics as possible. Unfortunately, it didn’t work in this instance. She woke up this morning feeling worse than ever, with even more sinus pain and pressure, a fever, and a sore throat. It seemed a visit to the pediatrician was in order. We managed to get an appointment for noon. I made the mistake of getting there early — silly me.

Long story short: We ended up waiting for over an hour. We were slightly early, but the doctor took us back over 40 minutes after our scheduled appointment. This is bad enough, but the waiting room turned into a horror show of annoyance and frustration. Our pediatrician’s office is divided into two waiting rooms: a sick side and a well side. We were on the sick side (of course). There were a lot of other kids on the sick side, too. After we had been waiting for a few minutes, this boy — probably around 10 or 11 years old — came jumping down the hallway from the well side, looking for the bathroom. The floor is mostly white tile, but there are red and blue tiles spaced evenly along it, and he was entertaining himself by jumping from colored square to colored square. He ran into the sick waiting room. He made all kinds of noise. He jumped from square to square in there. He banged all the toys. I think every parent in the sick waiting room breathed a sigh of relief when he and his sister finally got called back for their appointment.

Sadly, our relief was short-lived. Once their appointment was done, the entire family came into the sick waiting room, which was already full. I have no idea what they were waiting for, but the two kids continued to make noise and rattle and bang on toys and jump from square to square on the tile floor. Their parents busied themselves on their phones. I thought about telling them they were sitting in a room stuffed full of sick kids. But then I decided to keep it to myself. If anyone ever deserved to get sick … Well, I’m not proud of the thought. But there you go.

Finally, after our hour wait, we got to see the doctor. As expected, he said my daughter has a sinus infection, and he prescribed antibiotics. We went on our merry way, ate lunch, and then went to the drug store to get this medication. There was no prescription ready for my daughter. There was no prescription in the system for my daughter. I realized, with a sinking feeling of dread, that this meant I would have to call the doctor’s office to find out what had happened.

I hate calling the doctor’s office. The doctor’s office phone system is the third circle of hell. I am sure of this. Again, I have no scientific proof, but I feel it. I feel it right in my gut. It feels a lot like acid reflux, but it just keeps going and going and going. It is impossible to find a live person on the other end of the phone. You have to sit and listen to a recorded message that is, I swear, five minutes long. And then, you have to try and figure out which option will give you what you need. But here’s the thing: none of the options fit. Ever. And Heaven help you if you push the wrong option, because you can’t back out and try again. No. You have to start all over. I know this because I did it three times today. And I still never got a live person.

rose-waterdrops2-sm

After the drugstore, where we weren’t able to get my daughter’s prescription, I decided to drop her off at our house while I ran a couple of errands. I had a coupon, and I had to go inside to get it. My dogs, of course, went absolutely nuts. After all, I had been gone for three hours by this time. Clearly, they thought I was never coming back. I grabbed my coupon and headed back out the door.

Unfortunately, Monday is also lawn day for our neighborhood. The lawn guys were out there, next to our house, with their leaf blowers and rakes and mulching things. My Springer has a habit of trying to dart out of the door before you can get it closed. The urge is particularly strong when there are strange people in our front yard. As I backed out of the house, all the while pushing the dog away from the door, I tripped. There is a step down into our garage from the house, and I managed to trip over this and come down with all of my weight on my bent/twisted ankle. It hurt like a … Well, something that hurts a lot.

But I’m a tough person. At least, this is what I tell myself. So I sucked it up, limped to the car, and decided I would run my errands, anyhow. I had a coupon! It needed to be used! And off I went. At this point, I still had no news regarding my daughter’s prescription. What else could go wrong?

Well, I’ll tell you. My ankle throbbed and ached the whole time. I went to two stores, and nearly got run over in the parking lot of each one because I couldn’t manage to hobble out of the way fast enough. The first store didn’t want to take my coupon, which led to an extended wait as the cashier tried to figure out how to key in the entire code. And I got all the way back home and into my driveway before I was able to call the pharmacy again about the stupid prescription that started this whole mess. It turned out the doctor actually “called in” the prescription by leaving a voice mail on the pharmacy phone, instead of sending it electronically. And, of course, no one had checked the message. I had to turn the car around and head out into the world once more, limping and cursing the whole way. But I managed to get the damn prescription. Finally. Victory!!

jamesavery-sorrentoring-book-IG-sm

And so, here I am. Monday is over. It’s not official for another couple of hours, but I’m calling it done. My ankle hurts and has started to swell. Hauling one’s posterior up three flights of stairs on a throbbing ankle is no picnic. Neither is standing in the kitchen and cooking dinner. I learned both of these things the hard way this afternoon and evening. I still need to straighten my house before the cleaning ladies come tomorrow, but I really can’t handle any more trips up and down the stairs. I asked my family for help with it, but that hasn’t materialized. I have a sinus headache and have used up a box and a half of tissues, which tells me the allergy attack that started three weeks ago has probably morphed into a sinus infection for me, too. I’m just … done. I’m ready to climb into bed with a book for a couple of hours of quiet time.

Tomorrow is another day. For some reason, the thought of it makes me very afraid.

 

Rain Boots

Last weekend, I got new boots. These are my first rain boots. Ever. That’s right. I’m 48 years old, and I’ve never had rain boots before. I have waterproof hiking boots and waterproof walking shoes. I’ve trotted both of these out on walks through many a rainy day. But I’ve never had an actual, honest-to-goodness pair of rain boots. I never needed them growing up. I’m from S. Texas, and it doesn’t rain there very much or very often. Now, I live in Virginia. It rains a lot here. But, in the 15 years I’ve lived here, I still never bought a pair of rain boots. I guess it never occurred to me that I might need them.

Several months ago, when we were waiting for Winter to make its first chilly appearance, it seemed like all the almanacs and weather gurus were forecasting snow for us. Lots and lots of snow. I love snow, so I was pretty stoked about this possibility. Sadly, most of our lovely snow has come in the form of rain. Still precipitation, but not nearly as fluffy or pleasant. My yard is a mess. No, it’s beyond a mess. It’s a swamp, and the fact that I have two active dogs doesn’t help matters one bit.

I have a couple of pairs of rubber boots to use for yard work when necessary. These are not nice boots. They are yellow and cheap and coming apart at the seams. They are too big for me to wear with just my sock feet, but they are too small to wear with shoes inside of them. Every time I have to use them, my feet ache, both from the cold that seeps through the bottoms of the boots and because there is no support. Usually, this isn’t a big deal. We will get a little rainy weather, followed by enough sunny days to dry out the yard. Not this year. This year, there has been rain followed by rain and then some ice, which melts into water, and then a little more rain. It became obvious I needed better boots.

patti-stripedrainboots-sm

Enter my new rain boots! My husband found them on sale through REI’s website. This is the second pair we ordered. The first pair wasn’t comfortable or tall enough. But this pair fits like a glove. And look! They’re blue! Not just blue, but two colors of blue. What could be better? I mean, maybe if they also had flowers or something on them. I’m partial to daisies and roses, after all. That might be a good addition. Otherwise, I think they are pretty darn perfect.

The weekend my boots arrived, we had rain. (Of course!) And I wore my new boots out into the thick of it. Is there anything as magical, glorious, or just downright fun as a new pair of rain boots? I splished. I splashed. I jumped into puddles with joyful exuberance. I laughed. I can’t explain it, but there is something freaking amazing about jumping into a puddle. I felt like a kid again. Or, considering I never had a pair of rain boots before, maybe I felt like a kid for the first time.

I went home from my day out in the rain. I dried off my boots and put them away. And then, I told my husband the truth: These boots are much too nice and fun for my swampy, muddy yard. My husband laughed and shook his head. “I guess we’re back to square one, then. You need some boots to work in the  yard.”

Um. Yep. I guess that’s right.

The Life-Rut

Have you ever been in a life-rut? It’s a time when everything around you feels too big and too small all at the same time. You know you need to move forward. You want to move forward. And yet, somehow, you remain in the same spot. It’s frustrating. And maddening. It makes you want to throw your arms open to the universe and scream at the top of your lungs. Not that this would change anything at all, but the scream would be something different. And, at the point where you hit that great wall of frustration, anything different is a good thing. Even if it’s only a scream that hurtles out into the uncaring universe, never to be heard by anyone else.

I’m there. It’s time to admit this to myself. I am in a life-rut, and I don’t like it one bit. It sounds silly to say this, but I’m not sure just how I ended up here. The life-rut feels familiar to me. I’ve been here before, but I thought I was over and done with this. It seems that is not the case. It seems the life-rut has, once again, snuck up on me. I wasn’t expecting this at all, which, I suppose, is the purpose of sneaking. Well played, life-rut. Well played.

pish-bookshelves3-jan2018-sm

A little over a year ago, I was in a good place. I was eating healthy. I was working out every day and loving it. I had worked through a lot of my childhood issues, putting me in a good mental place. I had lost quite a bit of weight. It had taken an effort on my part, I’m not going to lie. I’m not a person who can just cut back on eating and drop 20 pounds like it’s nothing. I’m not a person who can mentally walk away from my past, my own self-hatred, and my perceived failures. Oh, how I wish I was one of those people. I would be living the dream. But I had put in the effort, and I was finally seeing some rewards. I was (dare I type it out loud?) happy. Things weren’t perfect. I still wasn’t writing. But, overall, I felt good about myself.

I’m not in that place today. Today, as I think back, that time seems tinged in golden light. Because, today, I am stuck. There’s no other way to describe it. I’m just … stuck. It doesn’t feel dangerous or even terrible or anything. I guess that’s the thing: it doesn’t much feel like anything. And yet, I hate it. I feel smothered and suffocated by my own mind, life, and fears. I don’t feel good about myself. I don’t feel happy. I don’t feel much of anything at all. A general feeling of malaise has settled over my life, leaving me wondering most mornings whether it’s even worth it to get out of bed for the day.

Is this Depression, once again rearing its ugly head in my life? Yes. If I’m being honest and rational with myself, I would have to say this is exactly how Depression feels. I mean, I have been here before. This is a well-traveled road for me and my mind. It feels so … awful. That word doesn’t seem to come close to describing things, and yet, it is the only word for it. It feels awful, all the way down into the very pit of my soul. Maybe it feels even worse this time than the last time things got this bad. Because this time, it feels like I have lost all the progress I made before. It feels like Life and Depression have ganged up together to shove me hundreds and thousands of steps backward.

shiner-window-nov2017-sm

What happened to all that progress? What happened to all that happiness and certainty and positivity? I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about it this week, and the simple answer is that my husband had a heart attack. This is a simple answer and a not-so-simple one, all rolled together. My husband had a heart attack last January (2017). I thought he was going to die. I really thought he was going to die. And yet, I couldn’t let myself dwell on that at the time. There was too much to do. There were too many other things that had to happen, so I stuffed those emotions away.

If he gets better, I thought, everything will be okay. If he gets better, everything will go back to the way it was. This is what I told myself so that I could get through having to tell my daughter that her father’s heart wasn’t working. So I could get through having to wait for days until they could do the surgery. So I could get through a day of waiting while they did the surgery. So I could get through medication interactions and my husband not being able to hold down food and puking and pain. So I could get through two ER visits and being readmitted to the cardiac wing. So I could cheer him on as he worked up to walking and bathing himself. So I could guard against infection until his surgical wounds healed.

And, somewhere along the way, I guess I forgot about my feelings. Because there was just too much to do. Because I had to be strong and just get on with things. Because that’s just what you do.

dc-bench1-2014-sm

My husband recovered. Thanks be to God, he made a full recovery, even surpassing his doctors’ expectations. A year and, almost, a month out from his surgery, he is healed and healthy and doing fantastic. Everything is back to normal.

Except, it isn’t. Nothing is normal. Nothing can be normal again, not like it was before. This doesn’t mean it’s bad. It means that what we had before is gone. It’s just … gone. And now we have to figure out a new normal. Somehow. In some way.

But I find myself grieving the loss of our “normal” life from before the heart attack. Or, maybe I am grieving the loss of the life I expected to have. I’m not sure. It is as if I have been shoved into a stranger’s life, and I find myself standing here, holding all of these feelings — the fear, the anger, the sadness, the uncertainty — clutched in my arms. And I’m not sure exactly how I ended up in this unexpected place. It’s all over. The surgery went well; the recovery was bumpy, but, overall, went well. People keep on telling me it’s all over and done. They tell me I should be happy about that. I should be happy about how lucky we were. And you know what? I am happy. I am. Really. But I still have all these other feelings, too. I don’t know what to do with them.

My husband has recovered. And my heart is full. And we were lucky. But, in many ways, I have yet to recover. My emotions are full, too. My fear is full. My anxiety is full. My sadness is full. My anger is full. And I have to figure out how to move forward. A step at a time.

A Day of Checking Out

Sometimes, you make plans. You lay in bed at night, thinking about all the things you need to do and all the things you want to do in the coming day. And you organize and categorize and plan through how you’re going to get all of it done. Or a majority of it done. Or, maybe you know you’ll never get it all done, but you make a mini list of things you feel you can accomplish in the space of the coming day. It feels good to plan. There is something about sitting down (or lying in bed at night) and thinking through a plan, with steps you feel you can easily accomplish. It breaks something huge and uncontrollable down into little bits that feel easier to manage. It makes you feel like you have control over your life, in a way. Maybe, if you can come up with a plan and follow through on all the steps and accomplish this task, you can also grab hold of bigger things in your life, like your insecurities and fears and uncertainties. Maybe you can conquer those, as well.

Perhaps this is just me. I used to be extra-organized. I’m not that person any more. I daydream more. I can’t find things in my house. I’m always losing my keys. Or my phone. Or my glasses. I don’t pay attention to my calendar, even though I know I should. But even I enjoy the feeling of invincibility that comes with knowing I have managed to think up the perfect plan that will allow me to accomplish all the stuff everyone thinks I need to be doing. However fleeting, it is a true “pot of gold at the end of the rainbow” feeling. And it is FABULOUS.

double-rainbow1-sm

The funny thing is that we really aren’t in control at all. Maybe we can fool ourselves into thinking we have some say in what happens to us. Or that we have the ability to make things go one way or another in our lives. We can accomplish one task or one set of tasks, but there is going to be something else down the road, just around the next corner. And, sometimes, the universe gets in the way. You might think everything is going to go one way, but the universe likes to step in and say, “Um … No. I don’t think so.”

Today was one of those days. I went to bed last night thinking about which errands I needed to run today. I needed to return some things at a local craft store. I needed to return some things at Target. I needed to purchase some things at Target. I needed to make a run to my local Sally’s for nail polish remover. I wanted to go to a certain place for lunch. I needed to do laundry. I wanted to make this blog post. I wanted to do some pictures for my nail polish blog. I had it all planned out, particularly because my daughter was scheduled to stay after school for a couple of extracurricular activities. I had all this extra time. It was a gift! A gift of “here-I-am-doing-all-the-things”. I was going to be so accomplished. It was going to be incredible, and I was going to roar my amazingness out into the ether like a boss. Rawr!!

shiner-window-nov2017-sm

But the universe said no. We had low freezing temperatures last night, along with a wintery mix of snow and ice. We woke up to a day full of cold and dreary rain, all of which seemed to be freezing up on the sidewalks and less-traveled side streets. The main streets around our house seemed okay because they were treated, and because there is a lot of traffic on them throughout the day and night. My daughter’s school was closed today due to the weather. Clearly, it was not a day for going out.

And so, we checked out for the day. My husband worked from home. We cooked breakfast. We played with the dogs. Basically, other than a quick run out for lunch, we cocooned. My daughter and I spent the whole afternoon watching anime. I finally got to introduce her to one of my very favorite shows. We laughed and joked and talked about anything and everything.

Did I get any of my planned tasks done? Nope. And I’m totally okay with that. Because I ended up with extra time that was a gift I didn’t even know I needed.

Folding the Sheets

I can’t fold the sheets. I have a king size bed, and I dread having to wash our sheets. It’s not that I don’t enjoy having clean sheets. I do. I enjoy that very much. It’s because I can’t fold them. I’ve tried so many methods. I’ve tried so many tactics. I’ve failed — again and again and again.

We use cotton sheets, of course. I mean, cotton is the fabric of our lives, right? All that advertising can’t be wrong. Plus, cotton sheets feel nice and soft and comfy. But they wrinkle like gangbusters in the dryer. My mom always tells me I should iron my sheets. Because, you know, they are cotton. And they wrinkle. If I had a dime for every time she commented, in that off-hand way of hers, that she doesn’t know how I can manage to sleep on sheets that are wrinkled … Well, I would have a lot of dimes. I sleep fine on my wrinkled sheets, by the way. I think the idea that I spent time ironing them, when we are just going to get into bed and rumple them all around, would be enough to keep me awake.

4949674054_c37b5a8f86

My husband can fold the sheets. Usually, once I pull them out of the dryer, I sweet talk him into “helping” me fold them. I say “helping”, but what I really mean is that I sit there and watch as he works his magic. I try to console myself with the fact that he is much taller than me. And his arms are longer. So, of course, it’s easier for him to wrestle a king-size sheet into submission. I mean, more height … more arm length … It’s logical, right? This makes me feel a little better.

But then, I remember my mom. Who is barely five feet tall. Who has the arm length of a five-foot tall person. And guess what? My mom can also fold the sheets. My mom can fold the sheets even better than my husband. When my mom folds them, the sheets look brand new. They look like we just pulled them out of the packaging for the first time. They have crisp corners and sharp folds. They are folded down to where they are about the size of a large hardback book. It’s like there are infinite folds. Or like my mom somehow managed to bend the time-space continuum in order to fit the sheets into the teeniest possible amount of space in our linen closet. I don’t understand how this works. When I lamented my inability to fold the sheets to my mom, her response was less than helpful. “You could fold them, if you cared enough. You just don’t care.”

This made me feel pretty bad. I mean, here I was, pouring out my heart about my domestic failures … hoping for some first-class mentoring or Jedi-master level mind tricks or mother-daughter bonding or something … and all I got was that I didn’t care enough. It lasted for about thirty minutes. It was not a good time for me. But then I concluded my mom was probably right, in some respects. I mean, I would love to fold the sheets. I would love to wrangle them into submission until they were folded down into infinite folds of cottony-soft goodness. I think this would give me a great deal of personal satisfaction. But I’m never going to iron them. They will always be wrinkled. And, maybe this means I don’t care. Maybe the sheets know this. Maybe they behave accordingly.

jan2017-fae2-sm

In my defense, I do okay with the flat sheet. I can get that one folded down to a decent size. And it ends up looking pretty even and overall nice. But the fitted sheet. The fitted sheet is my nemesis. The fitted sheet is my hell. I can never fold it. In my hands, the corners never fit together. There are suddenly twice as many of them. And way too much elastic. There are always parts and bits that are inside out or hanging out around the edges.

My sweet dog Fae loves to nest. If she finds blankets or towels or anything relatively soft, she will dig in it and push it around and pile it up until it’s a big, lumpy mess of soft, lumpy messiness. And then, she will lie down in it. That’s what the fitted sheets look like when I fold them. They look like Fae has been nesting in them. Tonight, as I struggled with the fitted sheets, I turned around and caught Fae watching me. She was standing out in the hall, looking longingly at the mess I was making. She probably thought I was building the perfect nest, just for her. And she probably had loving doggie thoughts that made her feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

As I shoved my now-folded sheets into the linen closet, quickly slamming the door before anything could tumble down onto the floor, I heard Fae sigh. She had a disappointed look on her face — the kind of sad, pathetic look only a dog can manage. What could I tell her? How could I explain? It wasn’t that I wanted to deprive her of the perfect, messy nest. It’s just that I don’t have whatever gene it is that allows one to fold the sheets perfectly. Whatever gene that is skipped me entirely.

But I can manage to find the stash of dog cookies, each and every time. So I did that. And Fae was okay with it.

Oh, Christmas Tree

I’m one of those people. You know … the ones who put their Christmas decorations up right after Thanksgiving and, then, leave them in place until sometime in February. I know, I know. People like me tend to annoy and irritate most everyone else. I mean, not all the time. But when it comes to the whole Christmas decoration thing, we’re a pain in the hoo-hah.

I think the right after Thanksgiving thing is pretty common. Most people I know put their trees and decorations up the weekend after Thanksgiving. Growing up, my dad worked what was called a “seven and seven” schedule. This meant he spent seven days living at his work site, and then he was home for seven days. If he was home for Thanksgiving, my family always put up our decorations the weekend after the Thanksgiving holiday. So we would gorge on turkey and count our blessings on Thursday. And by Saturday, we would be out hiking over our property in search of the perfect tree. By Sunday, our tree and house would be all decked out: ornaments, lights, the works. On that first Sunday evening, once all the lights were in place, we would turn all of them on, including the tree. Our house was at the top of a hill, and we had a long, unpaved driveway down to the road in and out of the area where we lived. We would all hike down the driveway just so we could see all of the lights from a distance. Good memories.

My family kept the tree up a little longer than most of my friends’ families. Although it could vary depending on my dad’s work schedule, my parents generally left the tree up for about a week after Christmas. We always had a live tree, which, of course, limited how long we could leave it up. By New Year’s Eve, or New Year’s Day at the latest, my dad generally had us undecorating and putting everything away. I can’t remember ever ringing in the new year with our decorations in place.

christmas2017-tree-closeup1-sm

This year, we were late in putting up our tree. We were busy, and putting up the tree is a lot of work. There are things to be hauled from the garage. There are boxes to be searched. There are lights to be untangled and tested. There is furniture to be moved. Still, we got the tree up and running by the end of the first week in December. We had a beautiful tree this year, if I do say so myself. It was all decked out in colored lights, which gave it a beautifully pastel glow at night. For the past several  years, we’ve used all white lights. We have a fake tree that came pre-lit. I like the white lights, too. But the tree is old and the lights don’t work any longer. In a way, this is great. Because those colored lights were fabulous this year. Really fabulous.

By all rights, we should have taken our tree down weeks ago. Most people I know — especially folks who had real trees — have them down and packed away the day after Christmas. We used a real tree for a few years, and, even then, I couldn’t bring myself to take it down that quickly. Although we had to let it go by the end of the first week in January. Real trees just get too dry and dangerous. And messy.

christmas2017-tree-closeup2-sm

Having a fake tree does away with all of that. It doesn’t do away with the mess — at least, not completely. Our tree is old and sheds. A lot. But it’s not likely to dry out and catch on fire. This is a big plus, because it means I can keep the tree up as long as I want. Last year, I think we took our tree down sometime in March. And it didn’t get put away in the garage until April. This is overly long, even for me. But last year was a weird and horrible year. I was too worried about my husband’s heart attack, surgery, and recovery to care much about the tree.

As I sit and type this, my tree is still assembled and decorated. It sits proudly in front of a window on the second floor. I still turn it on every night so I can sit and watch the lights. I still look forward to coming home in the evening and seeing it lit up through the front window of my house. I know Christmas is over. I know I’m “supposed” to take down all the decorations and put everything away and get on with the business of “normal life”. I know it’s unconventional and, maybe, even a little bit weird to still have the tree up and lit. I get it. I really do.

christmas2017-tree-closeup3-sm

But here’s the thing: I don’t care.

I hate January. I hate this month with a mighty passion and the strength of ten dozen burning suns. It is a sad month for me, one that has always made me feel bittersweet, anxious, and unsettled. Now, one year after my husband’s heart surgery, I have even more terrible memories associated with January. All month, my Facebook memories have been from our time in the hospital or from just before my husband’s heart attack happened. January is gray and chilly and … well, to be honest, it’s more than a little bit boring. It’s also extremely long. Thirty one days … and I feel the true weight of each and every one of them.

The Christmas tree makes me happy. It gives me a little bit of brightness in a world that is locked into the midst of winter. It gives me a little pick-me-up on gray and dreary days that make me think Spring will never come. It helps me get over the bad memories. It’s not like the tree is going to erase those things. But seeing the cheerful lights and the beautiful ornaments helps to smooth out the edges just a little. It’s cheerful.

And so, it shall stay. At least until February. And I will happily remain one of those people. But I did bring in some of my outside lights. I might be one of those people … But I’m not a savage.

 

I Had Me a Day

When I was a kid, my Dad would sometimes say to me, “Little Girl … I’ve had me a day.” This was usually said at the end of the day, when it was nearly time for supper. And the statement was typically accompanied by a groan that sounded world-weary and disgusted, all at the same time. That’s a lot for a groan to communicate. I know. My dad was a master of non-verbal cues.

As a kid, I knew what this meant. It meant my Dad was, effectively, closed for business. He was in a bad mood and didn’t want to be bothered. I would be wise to give him a wide berth for the rest of the evening. But here’s the thing: I was just a kid. I knew what it meant in relation to me and my little slice of life on the planet. But I didn’t know what it meant.

Well, I’m here to tell you, my friends, this has changed. I know what it means. Like, really, really, really MEANS. I even know how to do the groan-thing that my dad was so good at. Because, yesterday … Yesterday, I had me a day.

tx-grayskyclouds-ig-sm

It started out innocently enough, as these things often do. I had a busy day planned. I wanted to get several things done, and I needed to do them by certain times during the day. It was one of those days when I needed things to run like clock-work. Or, as close to clock-work as I could get. The night before, I sat down and thought through the coming day. I made a mental list of the things I needed to get done. I wanted to make tortilla soup in my crock pot, but I needed to go to the grocery store for a few ingredients. Because it was a crock pot recipe, I needed to get everything in to cook by a certain time. I needed to mail two packages for my parents — a task on which I am overdue by about a week. We were finally having a day when the temperatures were above freezing and the ground wasn’t muddy, so I wanted to do some yard work. I wanted to grab something to eat in there somewhere, and I was looking forward to the arrival of an eagerly-awaited nail polish collection, which, according to the USPS tracking information, was supposed to arrive in my mail box before 8 PM. This was important because temperatures were supposed to drop well below freezing, and nail polish doesn’t do well if it freezes.

It all sounds like a great plan, right? I mean, what could possibly go wrong? Well, I’ll tell you. Everything. Everything could go wrong.

I woke up 30 minutes late, which doesn’t sound like a lot. But, in this instance, it proved to be disastrous. One of my dogs didn’t eat when my husband fed them on his way out the door that morning, and I had to take the time to coax her into it. I decided to go to the post office to mail the packages first, even though I was starving. The line wasn’t long, but, even so, one person cut in front of me. And then, I couldn’t mail both packages. And then, I couldn’t mail the one package via the method I wanted to, so it cost more.

After that, I went to grab some food at a favorite place. I used to have a punch card to get loyalty points. I eat here often enough that they actually would add up for me. As of the start of the year, you can only score loyalty points through their app, which means I can no longer pay cash for my meals. I mean, I can. But I won’t get free things with my loyalty points any longer. So … that realization sucked.

Then, I couldn’t find what I wanted in the grocery store. And my husband kept texting me with things he wanted. And my daughter texted to say she had a migraine and that her finger, which she injured on Sunday evening, was throbbing and (still) swollen. I scheduled a doctor’s appointment for my daughter, because, at this point, I was afraid she had broken her finger. I then dashed through the rest of my grocery shopping, ran home, put the refrigerated items away, and raced to her school to pick her up from the nurse’s office. Then we were back home, where I frantically chopped and mixed and all that stuff. I managed to get the food into the crock pot only an hour late. Aaaaand, just in time to run to my daughter’s doctor’s appointment. The doctor’s appointment led to x-rays, which required an hour’s wait. And a stop-off at the drug store for a finger splint. I managed to get home just in time to let my cleaning ladies into the house. I’m so thankful for my cleaning ladies, you guys. This isn’t part of my story, by the way. It’s just something I want to toss out there. While the ladies were making my house beautiful, I decided to use the rest of the daylight to get my yard work done. This was a no-go. I could only do about half of it because the ground was still too frozen.

dc-bench1-2014-sm

After the cleaning ladies were done and dinner was done, I was also DONE. I had a splitting headache, and I was in the worst mood. But it was dark outside, and I had managed to accomplish nearly everything I had planned to do. It turned out my daughter’s finger was not broken, which is excellent news. And my day was over, right?

Yeah. WRONG! As she was taking her shower, my daughter realized she had completely run out of certain “feminine products”. Any gal knows there are certain things one MUST HAVE, and “feminine products” rank right up there at the top of the list. This was around 9:30 PM. My husband was already in for the night, so I had to run back out in the cold to go to the drugstore for the required items. Luckily, the drugstore was open until 10, so I had just enough time to grab my stuff and trundle down the road. It’s not far from my house. On the way out, I checked my mailbox. It turned out my nail polish never arrived. But I consoled myself with the thought that I would get to see my lit Christmas tree as I returned home. It was my one bright spot.

As luck would have it, my husband decided to clean the kitchen for me. And, in doing so, he turned out all the lights. Including the Christmas tree. So I didn’t even have that. But I did have me a day.

An Anniversary

Yesterday (January 13) was an anniversary for my family. Not a wedding anniversary. Or a birthday. Or anything fun or celebratory like that. Yesterday was the 1-year anniversary of the night my husband almost died. One year ago yesterday, my husband went to the Emergency Room thinking he had bronchitis. Instead, we discovered he had had a heart attack. And that he had lost function in part of his heart. From the ER, he was admitted to the cardiac unit. And a run-away journey began for all of us.

The scary thing about traveling down a path you’ve never traveled before is just that: You’ve never been there before. You don’t know what to expect. You don’t know what’s around the corner. It’s scary as hell. It really is. And I feel like January 13, 2017 started me and my family down a twisting, uncertain, and, of course, unexpected path. There were a lot of tears. There was a lot of fear. There was a lot of me trying to be calm and strong and hold it together for my daughter and my husband. There was a lot of me failing at that, and failing HARD.

So far, January 2018 has felt weird. I’ve been anxious and unsettled. Whenever I visit FaceBook and see a memory pop up from last year at this time, I look at it and automatically think, “That was five days before the heart attack.” Or “That was two weeks before the heart attack.” And so on. It feels … weird. I don’t know how else to explain it. It feels weird to look at those pictures of my family, smiling and laughing, and to think about how innocent and naive we were then. It’s weird to look back at those pictures and think about how we had no idea what was about to come or how life was about to change.

may2016-rosesonwalk1-sm

As we were going through everything last year, I remember thinking to myself that we just had to hang on until we got through the first few days. And then, just hang on until we got through the surgery. And then, just hang on until we got through the milestones after the surgery. I thought that, if we could get through one hurdle and then the next and the next … if we could continue moving forward … we would eventually get out of the forest, so to speak. If my husband recovered and came home and got stronger and continued to improve, then we would overcome this ordeal. We would have traveled the path set out before us and come out at the end of it, and our normal life would be waiting for us there.

Looking back, I realize I was terribly naive about it all, even in the midst of my fear and panic. Because “normal”, as it existed before the heart attack and surgery, is gone. It’s just gone. There’s no other way of saying it. I wish I could have it back, but I can’t. I’m not the same person I was before my husband’s heart attack. The truth is, no matter how much I told my daughter everything was going to be okay, I thought my husband was going to die. I thought I was going to have to figure out how to live without him. I thought I was going to have to raise our child on my own. It was me, standing at the edge and staring into the abyss. And the abyss stared back at me. This experience shook me to the very core of my being, and it still hasn’t let go.

Now, in the aftermath, I feel everything has changed. Friendships are irrevocably altered. My online presence is irrevocably altered. My relationship with my husband is irrevocably altered. My relationship with my daughter is irrevocably altered. It’s just … not the same. Nothing is the same. My “normal” is gone, and I don’t know how to get it back, and I don’t know what my new “normal” is supposed to be.

rosylady-raindrops1-sm

My husband recovered. I will forever be thankful for this. He is strong, and he is doing well. He’s been back at work for several months now. He is more or less back to his old self, other than a few diet changes and a few medication changes we’ve had to make. We weathered the storm, and I should take a deep breath and relax a little bit. Except, I can’t seem to do that. I worry about my husband all the time. Every cough, every instance of him not feeling well, every everything scares the crap out of me. I feel panicked and afraid. I’m probably driving the poor guy crazy.

Today, as we were sitting down at lunch, my husband said something silly. It made me laugh, and he looked at our daughter and said, “See? I make Mom laugh. That’s why she needs me around.” And I lost it. I started crying right there at the table, and I couldn’t stop. I know my husband and daughter probably thought I was crazy. But I couldn’t help it. In that moment, the reality of it all slapped me right across the face. And I knew there was a part of me, still standing on the edge and staring out into the abyss. And the abyss is still staring back.

The Good Day

I feel like my life has been filled with mostly-bad days over the past several weeks. Certainly, it feels as if all of January passed by me in a fog of … Well, “not good”. I’m tired and grouchy and feeling a bit overextended. It’s not just that I’m physically tired. I’m mentally and emotionally tired, too. There are a lot of days when I wake up and have a few moments of blissful ignorance before the reality of it all — heart disease and quadruple by-pass and sodium levels and blood pressure numbers and fluid restrictions and pain and anxiety and fear — comes crashing back down on me. In a way, I love those few moments of quiet in the very early morning right after I open my eyes. I love them because, just for those few ticks of the clock, my life feels “normal” again. It feels like the type of normal I’m used to. The type of normal I understand. The type of normal I know how to do.

But, of course, it can’t last. Because my life isn’t normal any more. I mean, all of this will become normal in time. And, when it does, I will know how to live this new “normal”. For now, though, I have been set afloat in a sea of life-stuff that I don’t understand and find terribly frightening. My footing is unsure, and I keep expecting the next tumble to come along at any moment. My husband had a heart attack. My husband has heart disease. My husband had a by-pass. “This is my life now. This is our life now,” I whisper to myself as I lie awake in the dark, waiting for the alarm clock to go off. I know it’s true. And yet, it seems surreal to me. It almost feels like all of this happened to two other people, not to my husband and me.

9667776513_cbaf726b72

Our sudden and unexpected plunge into the realities of heart disease brought along a lot of baggage. The fear of the unknown … the waiting for his surgery to happen … the horrible wait WHILE the surgery happened … the new merry-go-round of medications and vital signs and learning how to change the way we eat even more … the exhaustion … the stress. At first, I thought the surgery would be the bulk of the “bad” stuff. I thought that, once the surgery was done, we could relax a little bit and get on with the job of helping my husband to recover. Maybe it works this way for some people, but it didn’t happen like this for us. We had blood pressure that was too low, which impeded his ability to walk in the hospital. We had a sick child at home. We had almost constant nausea and vomiting for the first two weeks he was at home. We had a re-admission to the hospital because of this.

I’ve basically been on edge since January 13. I have been wandering through my life, holding my breath and waiting for the next bad thing to happen. Waiting for that next crisis or drama. I can feel it out there, lurking just around the corner and waiting for the perfect chance to pounce. I can’t let myself sit down and think about any of this for too long, because I will start to cry. And, if I start to cry, I have the feeling I won’t be able to stop. It’s not possible to live like this. I can’t continue being on edge and stressed and worried about what might happen. It’s too mentally and emotionally exhausting. No one can live like this. And yet, I find I am afraid of letting myself relax. I’m afraid to say to myself, “Okay, Self. This is our new normal. We’ve got this. We can do this.” Because, if I say that to myself … if I believe that … I’m going to jinx all of us. It’s not rational. But this is the thought in the back of my mind.

6030646135_81076cc187

Yesterday, though … Yesterday was a good day. My husband felt nausea-free for the first time in two weeks. He managed to get through the whole previous day without nausea medication, and he got a good enough night’s sleep that he managed to shake the grogginess that is a side-effect of those meds. He felt strong enough to get out of the house. We took our daughter to her basketball game. We went to Crate and Barrel so that he could walk around a little bit in a place that had chairs handy in case he wanted to rest. We got tea at Peet’s Coffee. He felt good enough to go with me to pick our daughter up after her game was over. He enjoyed the sun on his face. He even told me it felt good to be outside, in the fresh air. He managed to spend several hours outside of the house.

Today hasn’t been a great day. Today is more of a “meh” on the daily fulfillment measurement scale: not bad, but not so good, either. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I don’t know if it will be a good day or not. I don’t know if I will be able to handle whatever tomorrow throws my way. I don’t know if I will even want to handle any of it.

28722388540_a50da24acb

But I do know this: In the midst of all the yuck and ick, yesterday was a good day. It shines in my memory with a brilliance made all the more poignant by our recent experiences. Yesterday made me feel happy. And hopeful. And — dare I say it? — normal. And I’m going to take those feelings, wrap them up tight, and store them away in my memory. Because the good days are too precious to let them go so easily. The good days are worth keeping.