Losing

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My friend Glenn’s prognosis isn’t good.  There is absolutely no hope.  None.  Nada.  I have been in constant contact with him since his diagnosis, and absolutely nothing good has happened.  He can’t swallow, so a feeding tube has been placed.  It boggles my mind how quickly he has deteriorated.  A trip to the Mayo Clinic only brought him a second opinion that was just as bad as the first.  He said that at least a consensus on his diagnosis has removed the need to make decisions.

This past weekend, I called the boys to tell them.  Those were difficult conversations.  The kids consider Glenn a part of our family.  The boys were shocked, quiet, and deflated.  In many ways, Glenn has been a larger part of our family than many of our closest relatives.  We’re all in disbelief that such a senseless thing would happen to a man who has already had too large a share of misfortune.

There is never a time when I think of him that I don’t hear his voice.  I knew his voice before I ever met him in person.  We had been hired as a team, and our first contact was over the phone.  I remember exactly where I was the first time he called me.  I was filling up my car at a gas station by our local airport when my phone rang.  His Jersey accent was strong, and his gregarious personality came through loud and clear.  I was smiling ear to ear during the entire conversation.  I knew immediately that I would enjoy working with this man, and I was right.  There was never a cross word exchanged between the two of us.  We were a team immediately from the moment of that first conversation.

I have spent some time considering this unique friendship, and I know that I have been blessed to have had such a good friend in my life.  Glenn is the brother I never had.  He’s the brother I wish I could have had.  He has interfered in my personal life without asking and without being asked.  He has given me advice.  He’s known my deepest secrets, and he never judged me harshly.  He has worried along with me, and he has shared joyous times.  He has spent holidays with my family and evenings around the fire.  He came to concerts when I was playing and to my kids’ graduations parties.  He often over-stayed his welcome, but he never expected to be treated like a guest.

He kept his eyes on my kids.  He told me what he had seen on Facebook that I may have missed (or had been blocked from seeing.)  While this annoyed the kids at the time, years later they have understood that he was simply looking out for their best interest.  He cared.  No one asked Glenn to adopt our family, and we probably never lived up to the family he deserved to have, but he adopted us nonetheless.

And so now I am the annoying friend.  Not a day goes by that I haven’t asked how he’s doing, if he needs anything.  I remind him that I love him, and that I’ll be there for him in any way possible.  Tonight he told me to sit tight.  He said, “As things progress, I’m going to need you.  For now, just pray.  I’ll need you soon enough.”

My heart is breaking at the thought of a world without Glenn.

Worry For A Friend

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dandelion

 

I’ve been feeling really burned out and frustrated.  The past two years have taken a heavy toll on me.  One thing I have learned for sure is that change causes stress, even if those changes have been good.  I’m simply worn out and exhausted.  Moving, starting a new job, making sure that the kids are adjusting has made my head spin.

Weeks ago, I decided to take a short trip back home by myself.  I planned on getting my hair cut by the same person I had trusted for years.  (The ordeal of finding another stylist could be a blog post all by itself.)  I was going to call a former co-worker and see if she wanted to meet me for dinner.  I planned on doing a little shopping at places that I miss and then meander around my hometown on the way back home.  I looked forward to a low-key getaway BY MYSELF.  I just wanted 24 hours of not having to work, worry about work, or kids, or anything.

I emailed my hairstylist, and asked her to let me know when she could fit me in on either a Thursday night or anytime on a Friday.  May 1st was the first available date.  I was excited to plan my getaway, until I went to schedule the day off.  I sat down at my computer and opened up my calendar to May 1st.  Right across the top of the page I saw “Lola – No School.”  I knew immediately that I wouldn’t be able to go away by myself.

Lola is 11-years-old.  While she is sometimes home for an hour or two after school, she doesn’t like it.  There is no way that I would leave her home alone all day while I went off to selfishly spend time alone.  My next thought was that if I asked Lola to tag along with me, then Emily would expect to come along, too.  I took a deep breath and emailed my hair stylist to ask if she could also fit the girls in for a hair appointment on that date.

That evening as we sat on the patio, I asked the girls if they’d like to come along with me.  They whooped with pleasure, and I felt like a heal for wishing that I would have been able to have some time to myself.  Then T said, “Hey, can I go, too?”  The girls let out a big….UGH!

When T stepped inside the house for a moment, I talked to the girls.  I told them that they needed to apologize to their dad and tell him that of course he was welcome to come along.  So there I was, both girls and a husband coming along on my alone trip.  Oh, the dog was coming, too, because no one was going to be home to let him outside.

In my head, I was griping and complaining.  Even as I made hotel reservations for two rooms, I was wishing for the weekend trip I had planned by myself.  I arranged for a friend to keep our dog as an overnight guest, because I couldn’t find a hotel that would allow pets.  The dog will be with us, just not at bedtime.  When T started making arrangements for us to visit his mom and then invited his sister to join us for dinner, I wanted to stomp my foot and say, “Quit hijacking my trip!”  Then something happened to make me take a step back and realize what is really important.  My family wanted to be included.  They want to spend time with me.  I should be grateful, not griping.

Just yesterday, I received a text from a dear family friend from back home.  Earlier in the day, he had been diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus, and the doctor’s prognosis was grim.  Damn cancer!  My friend has three children, and the youngest isn’t even out of grade school.  My heart sank at the thought of what he will be facing and what he will be missing.  He had been misdiagnosed for too long.  Now it appears as if it’s too late for any treatment to have much of an impact on the disease.

I can’t stop thinking about him and remembering times together and our many conversations.  Our backgrounds are so different, but we have been friends from the moment we met.  He is from New Jersey, and I’m a small town Midwesterner.  Years ago, he and I were hired by an organization as a team.  Technically, I was his boss, but we worked as a team.  I can still remember our first conversation.  We hadn’t yet met, but we immediately hit it off.  He was my muse, and he inspired creativity in me.  I owe much of my success in that job to him.

My family became his family.  As a divorced man without extended family nearby, he often spent time at our house and joined us on holidays.  Eventually our jobs took us on separate paths, but our friendship has continued.

He is younger than me.  He’s too young, and he has so much left to accomplish.  Nothing about loss is logical.

He and I have exchanged many texts since yesterday.  He’s not able to speak right now, and I’m thankful that we are able to text as a means of communication.  I asked him if I can come see him, but he keeps saying, “Not now.  Soon.  It’s really bad now.”  I’m afraid, because I don’t know what that means.  I’m praying that there will be a time soon.  I have told him that all he needs to do is let me know.  I can be there in two hours…day or night.

I feel petty and selfish.  All week I have been complaining inside.  I wanted my trip alone.  I resented the fact that first my responsibilities changed my plans, and then everyone else climbed on board.  I feel like an idiot for concentrating on the negative instead of being grateful for a day off work, a trip back home, my health, and the chance to spend time with people I love.

Life is too damn short, precious, and fragile.  I have lost too many people that I love.  We all have…or eventually we all will.  One day, someone will mourn the loss of our lives.  No one escapes death.  In the face of certain tragedy and loss, how is it that we human beings are able to lose sight of the precious gift of each new day?  Why do we waste time complaining, or stuck in jobs we hate, or live our lives plodding from one day to the next?  Obviously, I don’t have the answers to these questions.

We are all human, and it is in our nature to carry on in the face of all the uncertainty and loss that life throws our way.  We are resilient and relentless in the pursuit of another day.  We adapt.  We make do with what is available to us.  We cherish the memories, and we make new memories to pass along to those who follow along behind after we’re gone.

Please say a prayer (or send good vibes and strength) for my friend that he will be granted a little extra time to make a few more memories with the people who love him.

Thanksgiving? No, More Like Malaise

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November sucks.   

This morning T reminded me of the other Thanksgivings that have been full of sadness, loss, or disappointment.  Of course, through the years, some Thanksgivings have turned out just fine.  If you were a statistician, though, you would see that our family has shockingly high odds of Thanksgiving misfortune.  One Thanksgiving, we sat by the bedside of our dying daughter.  A few short years later, we sat in the Emergency Room.  T, a VERY pregnant me, and one-year-old Luke were waiting for stitches to close a particularly bad “boo boo” to Luke’s head.  Luke had fallen into a bookcase just as we were getting ready to walk out the door to go to Grandma’s house.  If you throw into the mix the number of years when one kid or another just happened to be sick on Thanksgiving Day, our track record really sucks.  T and I talked about all of these things this morning.  He said that while he doesn’t believe in my November superstitions, he’s beginning to wonder if there isn’t some merit to my dislike of November after all. Continue Reading »

Life Raft

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Last night, T told me to get ready.  We were going out for dinner.  He said with a silly smile that  I needed some red meat.  Double entendra.  Em didn’t have plans, so the girls could stay home by themselves.  I agreed that it sounded like a good idea.  It had been a hard day.  I didn’t feel like cooking.  The girls seemed happy at the thought of having us out of the house for a while.  They were both occupied with their own things, and seemed to be looking forward to an evening of quiet….without Mom and Dad hanging around the house.  While I didn’t feel much like going out, the thought of a juicy steak at one of our favorite spots perked me up a little.

I had been a slob all day.  We were heading out for a late dinner by the time I got myself cleaned up and looking presentable.  It was nice, though, because the Saturday night rush had already passed by the time we got there.  We went to a local favorite.  It’s a cozy, intimate place, and has a beautiful evening view of the runway lights at our local (tiny) airport.  To top it all off, the food is always wonderful.  We enjoyed a cocktail and conversation while we waited for our food.  I could already see that this was a good idea as I began to feel myself begin to relax for the first time all day.  My friend T.  There he was across the table, always knowing what is best for me even before I know it myself.

As soon as my tension began to subside, deep, deep fatigue began to set in. The adrenaline had been replaced with exhaustion.  T asked where I wanted to go after dinner, but all I really wanted to do was to go home and go to bed.  He tried to entice me with a drive down by the river to look at Christmas lights.  Maybe we could stop for martinis?  “No, please.  All I want to do is go to bed.”  I can’t ever remember feeling so wilted.  We drove home after dinner, and I immediately got ready for bed.

He was there in bed with me, and I’m not sure where I was.  Yes, I was in bed, but I seemed to be floating.  I rolled over, laid my head on T’s chest, and hung on for dear life.  The headache was back, and I felt like I was swirling and spinning.  I was hot and cold at the same time.  I was sweating and shivering.  Images and emotions flashed at me in my half-sleep.  At some point, I fell asleep.

Around 2:30 a.m., I woke up.  I was tangled in the covers, and my hair felt damp and stringy.  I wanted to get out of bed.  I wanted to wander around the house.  I wanted to stand and look out of a window.  It was December 11.  I picked up my phone to confirm the date.  There it was, taunting me in the darkness, December 11.  I laid there, forcing myself to stay in bed when all I wanted to do was flee.  I’m not sure where I wanted to go, but I didn’t want to be there in the quiet darkness with my thoughts.  If I got up, though, it would be the actions of a crazy woman.  “Normal” people don’t wander around the house in the middle of the night.  I flung my leg across T and grabbed his arm.  Once again, I hung on until sleep came.

This morning when I woke up, it felt like I had won a battle.  I had been victorious.  I hadn’t cried.  I hadn’t wandered around the house thinking and thinking.  I had CHOSEN not to do the things that would feed the fires of grief.  Instead of floundering around in the water, I had held onto my life raft.

Today was another sad December 11th.  My mom has been moved from the hospital to a skilled nursing unit.  It’s depressing, even though the facility is nice.  She lays behind a curtain on her half of the room.  This is what her life has been reduced to, a room,  a bed behind a curtain.  As I watched her laying there, mumbling in and out of sleep, I wished for my dad once again. To see her like this would have made him so sad.  If Dad were alive, he would have been able to keep her at home. He would have been able to care for her in a way that I am not able.  My children, my job, my responsibilities have not allowed me to become the full-time caregiver my dad once had been for her.

I sat with her in the darkened room.  I wondered what her mind was thinking as she slept.  I hoped that the thoughts in her dreams were better than the reality of what her life has become.  I hoped that she was remembering the things that once made her life worth living.  We didn’t talk at all today.  She drifted in and out, and I sat in a chair…watching and thinking.  We had once been a little family, Mom and Dad, and me.  Those days have passed.  So many things have passed.   Too many.

I drove by the old house on my way home from the hospital.  I had to stop and go inside.  For just a moment, I stood there in what was once a living room.  Think of that word!  Living room.  It was once a place where people lived.  It had once been full of life, love, family, and conversation.  I gently touched the place where I had found my dad two years ago.  I touched that spot, but I remembered other times, happier times, and I was thankful that this is where he had taken his last breathe, in the living room, in a place he loved, in the comfort of his own home.

 

 

God Bless the Gentleman

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I had a lovely morning coffee meeting today with a retired gentleman.  He was a gallant gentleman.  He stood up when I approached the table where he sat waiting.  He shook my hand in both of his hands.  I sat my bag down next to my chair and placed my black binder on the table before I moved to go to the counter to order my mocha.  He was immediately up and out of his seat again.  He wanted to buy my coffee.  I wouldn’t allow it.  I had invited him to meet me.  I wanted a mocha (really, really badly!) and I couldn’t expect him to pay $6 for my indulgence.  We bandied back and forth over it for a moment until I put my hand on his arm and told him that I insisted on buying my own mocha.  We got our business discussion out of the way immediately, and then we settled in to a lively discussion about travel, Italy, architecture, and historic preservation.  I thoroughly enjoyed his company, and I smiled as I drove back to my office.

I was still happy and excited as I sat down behind my desk.  I had asked the man to volunteer his professional services and serve on a committee.  He is a retired architect, and his knowledge will be such an asset to the committee, but that isn’t why I was so happy to have made the connection with this gentleman.  He may not know it, but our gentle conversation this morning helped me in a way that he would never understand.

Being treated with kindness and respect is something that meant more to me than his willingness to assist me by serving as a volunteer.  These past few years have been difficult, and I have been stripped of my trust in my fellow man.  I am like an abused dog at the animal shelter.  You know the one.  The little guy who cowers in the back.  All the other dogs horn in and grab the food first.  She doesn’t step up to the cage when people come in looking for a pet.  She hangs back.  She is wary.  She doesn’t know whether the hand reaching out towards her is going to hit her or pat her on the head.  She startles easily.  She doesn’t like loud noises, because LOUD reminds her of yelling.  I am that scared little dog in the back of the cage.  It is not impossible to turn that poor little dog around.  All she needs is consistency.  She needs to be removed from the situation that caused the distress.  She needs to be around people who are kind and gentle.  She needs to learn to trust again.

Late this afternoon, I sent the kind gentleman an email thanking him for taking time out of his day to meet me for coffee.  I thanked him for agreeing to assist me as a volunteer.  I told him how much I enjoyed our conversation and told him that I would enjoy sharing a cup of coffee with him anytime he would like some company.  Before you get the wrong impression, this man was elderly.  There was NO possibility of mixed signals!  I simply enjoyed his company, his intelligence, and most of all, his kindness.

While I was able to send him a simple follow-up thank you email, I was not able to tell him how much it meant to me to connect with a good human being or that he helped in some small way bring me closer to the front of my cage.

How Lame!

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T and I went to a wedding reception last night.  It was a small, intimate party.  Oh, and yes….it was for two men, but that is an entirely a different story!  Anyway, it was a beautiful reception at their home.  Twinkling lights were strung all around the tent in their backyard.  There were hanging lanterns, soft colors, wonderful food, and the champagne was flowing!  I knew almost everyone there, and so did T.  We had a great time visiting and laughing with friends.  We were both relaxed, and several times, T mentioned how much this outdoor party reminded him of our own wedding reception.  He said that he would really encourage our own kids to do something much like this when the time came for them to get married.  The informality was so relaxing and warm.  It felt much more like a celebration than the showy receptions we had attended most recently.

As I said, we had a good time.  In MY case, I might have had too good of a time.  I was swaying and leaning heavily on T as we made our way back to the car.  We held hands as we drove home, and I drifted in and out of sleep.  For once, we were coming home at a decent time and to an empty house.

I quickly hopped into the tub while T took a shower.  By then, I wasn’t feeling very good at all.  😦  I laid my head on the side of the tub and tried to remember just how many drink I’d had.  Well, I couldn’t remember.  In fact, I could barely finish my bath and make my way to the bed without getting sick.

When T climbed in bed, he snuggled up to me and said, “Oh man!  You’re naked.”  I must have mumbled incoherently, because the last thing I remember as I drifted off to sleep was him asking if I was OK, was I going to be sick.

When I woke up at 4:00 a.m., I was in a panic.  T was gone.  I didn’t know if Andrew and Emily had even made it home for the evening.  I popped up out of bed.  I was naked!  What???  I looked out the window, and I could see Andrew’s car in the driveway.  Good.  Thank goodness, he was home.  I threw on my robe and set out to find T.  I wondered if he was mad at me.  I wondered if anything had happened between us.  Yeah, and I felt really stupid.

T was dressed in a pair of shorts and sleeping on the couch.  I woke him up.  “Is Em home?  Are you mad at me?”

He laughed.  “Yes, Emily is home.  No….nothing happened.  It didn’t really turn me on when you said you felt like throwing up.”

We headed back upstairs to our room and snuggled under the covers.  (I made a quick stop to the medicine cabinet for some Ibuprofen.)  We turned on King of the Hill and drifted back off to sleep knowing all was right in our world.

Faded Flowers, Faded Me

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Today I felt like no one liked me.  Have you ever had a day like that?  I simply felt alone even when I was with people.  It was too busy of a day, and I didn’t spend one moment doing anything I enjoyed.  The day went too quickly, and I didn’t accomplish everything that I had planned to get done in the office.

I am officially on vacation.  I am not smiling about that.  I feel like everything is going to fall apart when I am gone.  I feel like I am going to have a messy shitstorm waiting for me when I get back.  OK, now le’s add some paranoia to the mix.  I’m afraid someone is going to purposely cause trouble for me.  You know….”When the cat’s away…”  I’m just trying to tell myself that everything will be OK.  It’s just one week.  It can’t all possibly fall apart in just one week, right?

Yes, we are going to go away for vacation, and yes, my mother has not taken this news lightly.  She called me yesterday during my lunch hour.  She never calls me.  I am always the one who calls her.  She asked me if I had time to talk, and I said that I did.  Then she asked me if we were still planning to leave town for a vacation.  I said that we were, and she said, “Oh, well that’s OK.  Don’t worry about it.  I don’t want you to change your plans, but I have scheduled angioplasty for Tuesday morning of next week.”  Oh, indeed.  Doesn’t that just figure?  We have known that Mom has needed angioplasty for well over a year.  The doctors advised against the procedure, and now Mom has scheduled it for when she knew that I would be out of town.

Yes, we are still going on vacation.  I sat there stunned for a moment while she told me not to change my plans for her.  I was silenced.  I didn’t know how to react.  All I could think of was the girls.  They have sat home alone all summer while T and I work.  I am stressed out.  T is stressed out.  I NEED a vacation.  We all do.  The past year or so has been so very difficult.  What to do?  What is my duty, to be a good mother, or to be a good daughter?  Would there really be an impact on the outcome of her surgery if I were to stay home?  Well, I’m not going to be able to guide the surgeon.  The boys will be home.  If there is an emergency, they will be able to let us know.  If there is an emergency, I can fly home.  Settled.  We are going on vacation.

Truth be told, my mom has been an invalid for more than 17 years now.  No, I don’t believe she was actually incapacitated for that entire time.  Yes, she had a real illness, but many people live active, productive lives with that same illness.  I will never forget T’s reaction when my mom was diagnosed.  “Well, she’s been waiting her entire life for this,” and T is NOT the kind of person to criticize unduly.  Enough said about my mother.  Yes, she is in horrible shape now.  I have real compassion for her, but I also have other responsibilities that require me to set boundaries and priorities for just how much of myself I can give.  It is a difficult, guilt-ridden balancing act.

All week, I have been remembering something from the past.  It was early in the month of August when my son, Adam died at birth.  I almost died, too.  Earlier that spring, I had planted flowers to dry for wreaths and arrangements.  I had planted and  harvested yarrow, statice, allium, globe thistle, and artemesia.  All summer, I had cut my flowers, tied them into bundles,  and hung them up in the rafters of the shed to dry.  It was fragrant and beautiful to enter the shed that summer.

When I returned home from the hospital without by baby, I was unable to leave my bed for about a week.  I was so sick and weak that I couldn’t go up and down the stairs.  T had carried me upstairs, and there I laid-sat-cried.  Gradually, my strength returned, and I ventured out of my room.  I wanted to see those flowers.  I had picked them when I was healthy, when my baby still lived, when I was so happy and hopeful.  As soon as I was strong enough, I made the trip out back to the shed.  It’s an old shed.  Believe it or not, but we salvaged it from a friend.  They were going to get rid of it, and we took it and gave it a home.  We hauled it in pieces in the back of a truck.  I loved that shed.  I still do!  It has cute paned windows, a funny slanted roof, and dutch doors.

As I walked out to the shed that August afternoon, I wondered how I would feel to see the flowers.  I still remember how much it hurt to walk that far, and how weak I felt as T helped me hobble out to the shed.  I opened the top portion of the dutch door and stood in shock.  There was no color.  Bunches and bunches of flowers hung from the ceiling rafters, but every single bit of color had drained out of them.  I stared.  Suddenly, I felt satisfied.  It was as it should be.  I couldn’t use any of the flowers I had grown and gathered. Well, good.  There would be no additional reminders of that painful summer.

I have thought about that summer of faded flowers often over the years.  I have continued to dry flowers.  I have a wreath hanging on the door of my front hall closet that is made from flowers that I grew and dried several years ago.  The colors are still vibrant.  The strange and sudden loss of color has never occurred again.

This summer, I haven’t had an event quite as dramatic as the flowers.  Still, I feel a lack of color all around me.  There seems to be a sepia haze covering my world.  The sky isn’t quite as blue.  The flowers in my garden are struggling to find their way through the weeds.  Their petals are dull and pocked with insect damage.  They are dying where they grew instead of being preserved or brought inside to fill a vase on the table.  The grass isn’t dewy and green.  Instead, it looks patchy and straw-like.  Colors all around me are fading.  Just like me, a faded version of all that they could be.

 

 

 

5 a.m.

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Here I am writing at 5 a.m.  It feels good to be sitting here drinking coffee and writing.  This past week has been a blur.  I’ve been so sick that I haven’t been able to do much of anything that wasn’t absolutely required of me.  It started last Sunday.  At first I thought it was allergies, and I continued to work as usual.  I couldn’t miss work on Monday, because I had my monthly board meeting.  On Tuesday, I had a committee meeting that could not be missed. 

By Wednesday, there was no denying that this was not allergies.  I woke up around 5 a.m. on Wednesday morning thinking that I was having a heart attack.  I was laying on my back and gasping for air.  Turns out, the cat was sleeping on my very congested chest.  I pitched him off and wandered out of bed.  Oh, boy…was I ever sick now.  I grabbed my phone, sent a quick email to work to let everyone know that I would not be in that day, and climbed back in bed to sleep until I could call the doctor. 

My doctor was not impressed with my work ethic.  He told me that I was exhausted.  Yeah…I knew that!  (Sometimes I wonder if I even remember what rested feels like anymore.)  Yes, I agreed.  I am exhausted — now I had pneumonia, too.  He prescribed some fantastic medications.  The pharmacist said, “Wow, when you get sick, you really do it right!”  My doctor told me to stay home from work for the rest of the week.  REST.  I was supposed to rest.

Days later now, and I am getting better.  I’m not sure if I have ever felt this level of exhaustion before.  While I did not take the rest of the week off, I have been resting.  I compromised.  I worked half-days and slept away the afternoon, early evening, and all night long.  I’ve spent the past few days in and out of sleep.  I have been so out of it that the weekend snuck up on me.

Ah…the weekend.  This isn’t a normal weekend.  I was leaving to attend a five-day conference on Saturday afternoon.  T wanted me to stay home.  My mom told me to “Tell Them” that I couldn’t go.  I’m not sure who she thinks “They” are!  I am THEY, and I said I had to go.  Why am I here then if I am sick?  Oh, that’s easy.  I’m looking at this as a mini hospital stay.  🙂  I have a lovely room.  I don’t have to cook or clean up after anyone.  On Monday, I will not have to go to the office.  Yes, I will attend conference sessions, but there will be plenty of downtime, too. 

My assistant and I drove to the conference together.  We took a cute, little company fleet car, a hybrid that runs almost soundlessly.  She drove, because I am still half-looped on medication.  It was a lovely three-hour drive.  The countryside was beautiful.  It was sunny.  The conversation was good.  We had dinner with friends also attending the conference, and I was in bed by midnight.  There will be no partying for me on this trip!

I woke up a little before 5:00, and laid there in the quiet.  Coffee!  I really wanted a cup of coffee, so here I am drinking my coffee while I write.  I have a relaxing day stretched out before me.  I don’t have to attend a session until 2:30 this afternoon.  We came early, because my assistant is going to attend a basic training session beginning first thing in the morning.  I plan on getting a little more rest and then taking a nice leisurely walk around town. 

This is the National conference for the organization that I am affiliated with.  It’s always a good time seeing old friends, and the host communities highlight the best their area has to offer.  This year, we are in Iowa, and tonight’s festivities are going to be at the State Fairgrounds.  We will be eating carnival food, milking cows, and throwing cow patties.  I can’t think of anything that I’d rather do than hang out with cows! 

I’m still fighting off the tail end of this illness.  My energy level is not back to normal.  I feel delicate and breakable.  For some reason, I feel a bit tearful at times.  (I’m feeling sorry for myself!)  This has been such a difficult past year, and this illness is the end result.  Oh yes, and I blame myself for that, too.  I have not been very kind to me…and it’s time to change that.  I have spent too much time, effort, and energy this past year on things that produced nothing but heartache…and eventually illness. 

This illness has given me a chance to take a step back.  I have lived the past few days drifting in and out of sleep in a dreamlike state.  Now that I am finally waking up and feeling better, I feel cautious.  I don’t want to jump back onto the exhaustion track.  There has to be a better, kinder way to live my life.  I’m not sure what changes I need to make yet, but changes need to be made.  A year and a half of unhappiness has ended up with pneumonia and exhaustion.  I am mentally and physically wiped out.  Being wiped out isn’t a good or fun thing, but I’m trying to look at it a little bit like wiping the slate clean.  It’s my choice not to allow this stressful lifestyle and behavior to continue.  Call this my wake-up call.