The One Ball I Cannot Drop

I’m not sure if I’m a juggler or a catcher.

Most days it feels like both.

IMG_6794

Keeping balls in the air and fielding the ones tossed my way.

Definitely both.

On a daily basis, I drop one ball or another.  I’m working to see this not as a failure, but as a “missed” try–something to work harder on.  Some are more serious than others–bigger balls, you might say, and so the little ones I drop I barely blink an eye anymore.

Forgot to get boxes of tissues.  Okay, grab a roll of toilet paper and sit it on the counter.  Not aesthetically pleasing, but not hurting anyone either.  And it gets the job done.

Forgot to get ketchup.  A little more serious.  Dig in the refrigerator I need to clean out (another dropped ball), fingers crossed I will find a stray pack of ketchup or sauce that will make them forget they really want ketchup.

Slacked on the toothbrushing routine and paid for it at the dentist.  A little more serious.  Actually, I spent three days beating myself up over this.  But once again, took it as something to work harder on and we are back on track.  Dental hygiene–we got this!

Overdue library book.  Okay, lecture my sorry self about being a sorry self and put the book in the car and make sure we get by there to return the book.  Again, it costs us, but it is easily fixed.  Thankfully.

Got behind on fourth grade math skills.  This dropped ball weighed on my heart, smack dab where it landed, for quite some time.  Finally, I gathered my thoughts and made a game plan and asked for help.  Possibly my best move as a home school parent–asking for help when it was overwhelming.  That ball has been tossed back up in the air, and as long as we stay on it, we’re good.  Thankfully.

But there is one ball that I am constantly fielding and juggling.  I am not the only one.  There is a whole community of parents and caregivers who are dealing with this.  Every single moment of every single day.

Those who care for children who have food allergies.

Food allergies.  These are the commonly recognized top 8:

Milk

Eggs

Fish

Crustacean Shellfish

Tree Nuts

Peanuts

Wheat

Soybean

These are the major allergens, but know that these are not all of them.  There are as many food allergies as there are foods.  I have a niece who is allergic to two of the top 8 and bananas.  They can vary and often the person with food allergies will have multiple foods that are problematic.

Food allergies are more than unpleasant and uncomfortable and bothersome.

They are DEADLY.

When you are allergic to something, it doesn’t matter if your last reaction was treated with Benadryl and you were fine.  Each reaction is different, and anaphylaxis can occur with any contact to an allergen.

Anaphylaxis is a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction.  It can kill.  When it occurs, a shot of epinephrine and a trip to the ER are the proper course of action.

As a parent of a child with three of the eight major allergens, that is the one ball I cannot drop.

I MUST NOT DROP.

At the grocery store, I read labels. And reread them.  Sometimes my OCD and anxiety kick in and I have my oldest reread the label before we prepare whatever it is.

I get emails regularly notifying me of recalls because of potential exposure to allergens.  I usually get several of these a day. (The latest is for cumin and paprika–these have me rethinking a lot of what we prepare and eat…..and no more Mexican restaurants for a while.)

I bake cupcakes for her to take to birthday parties.  I politely decline treats at the bank and grocery store.  I hesitate before accepting invitations to anything.

I check and double-check that we have her epipen anytime we leave the house.

I obsess over complaints of throat discomfort and rashes.  Sometimes it’s hard to delineate between anxiety and a potential reaction.

Before we go out to eat anywhere I’m online looking up allergen charts.  If they don’t have one, we don’t go.

I reiterate over and over to the wait staff my child’s allergens and what she’d like to order.  Even if we just ate there last week, and all was okay.  I sound like a broken record to my family, I know.

I am careful about soaps and lotions and shampoos, because there can be allergens in there as well.

When we go to events, I eyeball what those around us are snacking on.  I have coached my daughter to look out for her own well-being, but she’s only ten.

This is my ball.

And I’m doing everything in my power not to drop it.

So when I see this “meme” going around the social media world that is insinuating that this is a choice–living with this life-threatening condition that keeps me up at night and has my anxiety at a level 9000 on a scale of 1 to 10–

I get mad.

Angry.

Vehement.

How dare they?

The memes I’ve seen are basically saying:

“If my kid can’t bring peanut butter to school, yours shouldn’t be able to bring communicable diseases.”

I’m sorry–what the heck?!

I am not here to debate about immunizations.  That is not my place.

What I am here to do is to put a halt to this IGNORANCE.

I’m not angry with the people who shared it.  They don’t know any better.  They might be reacting from a place of fear for their child’s health, and I GET THAT.

But hear this–

I FEAR FOR MY CHILD’S HEALTH EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

I wash down surfaces in public to keep her safe, and I carry a sheet to cover the theater seats to limit the chances of exposure to her allergens.  I LOOK LIKE CRAZY, JUST TO KEEP MY CHILD ALIVE.

THIS.

THIS IS NOT A CHOICE.

Whether or not people get their children immunized (again, not debating that here) IS A CHOICE.

Get it straight, please.

While there may be some parents who have children with food allergies who choose not to get immunizations, the two do NOT automatically go hand in hand.

ONE IS A CHOICE A PARENT MAKES FOR HIS OR HER CHILD.

THE OTHER MOST DEFINITELY IS NOT.

Because believe you me, if I could choose for this to be gone tomorrow, in the next minute, ten years ago–

I WOULD.

If I could choose an allergy free life for my child I would.

So we could enjoy going on vacations without worrying that the person who stayed in the room before us had a major feast of her allergens right before checking out.  So we could go to eat with friends without my having a mini-meltdown in my closet before we have to leave.  So I could let her say yes to party invitations based on whether or not she wanted to go, and not on how well I felt the parents would work with us on her allergens.

So I wouldn’t be sitting here tonight, while she’s ten years old, praying with white knuckles that when she is allowed to date, the person she is interested in will respect her and care enough about her to do everything to keep her safe.

Just like I have.

Every day of her life.

I have a lot of balls in the air.

But this is one I cannot, MUST NOT drop.

This.  This is not a choice.

This is our reality.

There is a difference.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Counting Syllables

Yesterday we went on a Family Adventure to celebrate the light that is our Princess.  She is about to enter the double digits, and that is worth a special day of happy happy joy joy just for her.

I was eager and excited to make it happen.  And thrilled to plan the surprise.

But when it comes down to leaving home and being okay with it, sometimes I struggle just a little bit.

This coming from the girl who once packed up and moved away to Japan with the Fella and my Aub.

I don’t know if this struggle is in part due to the grief cycle or if it’s just my genetics coming out in me big time.

But leaving home can bring me a little stress.

The day was totally worth working through it though, and then…..we got back in the vehicle and prepared to head home.

Thank goodness the Fella was driving.

Bless him. I’m not a good passenger.  Apparently I have turned into my Mama with my driver’s side brakes and gasps for sound effects that make a trip really fun.

Yeah.  Bless his heart.

Because this happened.  And Anxiety Girl climbed in the vehicle and sat all buckled right there in the front seat with me.

On the way home from Atlanta.  The interstate became a parking lot.

On the way home from Atlanta. The interstate became a parking lot.

That right there.  Parking lots on the interstate.  People merging.  Without turn signals or advance warning.  Brake lights for miles.  A big reason I don’t like leaving home.  Things like that.  And then Anxiety Girl starts thinking about Miss Sophie at the house and worrying about her and what if we had an accident and what would happen and…..

I decided to try to work through some of the stress by counting…..

syllables.

And so this was my haiku for our trip home last night.

ambulance lights pass
all I think is don’t let that
be us, please slow down
This was when the parking lot turned into “stop and go and stop and go fast, wait, no, stop” traffic.
Poor Fella.
But working on the haiku did help, and I’m sure he was relieved that I wasn’t co-driving for those few minutes.
Tonight I’m thankful for adventures (more on that later), and for a little girl who will wake up tomorrow as a pre-teen (!!!!!), and for a mischievous little guy who just came in to say goodnight and said, after he found out his sister is already in the bed, “Maybe I need to go bother her for the last time that’s she still nine.”  Oh me.  I am grateful for the Fella who is willing to drive any distance to make adventures happen and bring joy to his family.  Most of all, I give thanks for a safe journey there and back with all my people from oldest to youngest tucked in close beside me.  Except for Anxiety Girl.  She really wasn’t invited.  I wish her people would talk to her about not just honing in on other folks’ adventures.
Wishing you all a traffic-free day for adventures.
Love to all.

Three Things (or more) We Learned at the ER

Today started out soon in the morning.

4:40.

a.m. that is.

I awoke to the sound of the phone ringing in the other room.  Once fully awake, I moved with purpose to get to it, only to miss the call.  Hoping it was a weather alert or some such as that, I looked at the Caller ID.

Oh no.

My oldest.

Supposedly tucked in safely in her dorm room at the Oldest and Best.

But something wasn’t right or she would not be calling so early.

I was right.  Something was very wrong.  She’s had health issues similar to this before, but the pain has never been so bad, so terrifying–she felt paralyzed.

The calmness in my voice did not betray what was in my heart.  I was at least 45 minutes away and I was in my pajamas.  I suggested she call 911, but she said no, she could wait.

I have not gotten ready that fast since Mama called me and told me it was time to come tell my Daddy goodbye.   And this morning’s trip up the road to the campus was a long, long drive.  I played the radio on low as I drove as fast as I dared in the darkness.  Trying to distract myself, I flipped through a couple of different stations.  Finally I ignored it all and just thought.  About my sick baby.  About my Mama.  And for a few moments it was as though she were sitting in the passenger seat alongside me.  I felt peace, and a few minutes later my daughter texted that the pain had lessened somewhat.

That was news I could handle.  Definitely.

After five hours in the ER, where everyone was nice, the facility was clean and quiet (come to think of it, I never heard an intercom), and we were given a room almost immediately, we were heading out with news that nothing was seen that could be problematic.  It seems to be, unfortunately, something she will have to live with and deal with from time to time.  The good news is she can live with it.  So thankful.

In the middle of her visit, when they were pouring liquids down her to prepare her for the ultrasound, my girl did what most her age seem to be doing.  She took a selfie.

Oh me.

But instead of rolling my eyes, I laughed.  She must be feeling somewhat better if she felt like taking a selfie.  After we were able to share with her grandmother what was going on, my daughter shared her funny picture on Facebook, hospital gown and all, along with three things she learned today:

Things I learned today: 
1. Hospital gown blue is definitely my color 
2. Hospitals use Starbucks straws, and 
3. You’re never too old to call your Mama to hold your hand in the ER.

It made me smile.  Folks continued to check on her throughout the day and wish her well and ask her what on earth was going on.  I hope that girl knows how loved she is, and not just by her Mama.  But yeah, mostly her Mama.  I adore the ground she walks on, but I don’t hesitate a second to yank it out from under her when need be.

Today was not one of those days.  Today was a day of “poor baby’s”  and trying to make her laugh and asking the nurse to wait to take her blood pressure until this particular political commercial was over, because it really was making her crazy.  Today we memorized the weather in our town and all surrounding areas because we heard the weather report over and over on the morning news.  They really do design those shows for folks who are there for a few minutes and gone.  Seriously, same stuff.  Over.  And over.  And OVER.  We questioned Dr. Phil’s choices, and then questioned if he had run out of normal troubled folks, because it seems that he’s digging deep to find this sort of crazy.  For real.  Tomorrow’s show will be about two women–each one thinks the other is stalking her…..and they’d never met before the show.  Okay, that eye roll I skipped during the selfie?  Insert it {here} please.  I will not be watching.

When I narrowed it down to three things I learned, here’s what I came up with:

1.  This raising children is never over, it never gets easier, and no matter how old they are, when they’re hurting or in trouble, they’re your baby.  ALWAYS.

2.  You’re never too old to wish your Mama was there in the ER with you, no matter how old you are, no matter why you’re there–you never stop wanting her comforting presence.  I know, I sure wanted mine today.  

3.  Good news becomes more precious and appreciated the older I get.  When the doctor said, “all clear,” my whole body did the fist pump, “YES!”  

 

Tonight I’m thankful for that good news, for my baby girl who still wants me to hold her hand, and for the nurse who tied the back of her hospital gown because I had not done it.  (Epic Mama Fail there.)  I’m thankful for the Fella and Leroy who took care of the littles in style (I think they are working to have me replaced by their uncle–he is now their favorite! Adventures and lunch out will do that for a person).  I give thanks for all of those who love my girl and wanted to know she is okay.  I appreciate those who were there to calm my worries and anxieties so that I didn’t pass them along to my girl.  And I give thanks for the voice of one who loves her so and has ever since she became the other female in the family, whose voice quivered today when she thought about what could have happened to her little one–the one she will probably always see as 7 years old and in pigtails.

It’s always a good day to give someone good news and tell them how much they mean to us.  We really shouldn’t wait until they need us to hold their hands in the ER.  That’s a good message to hear anytime.

Love to all.

Breathe, Shirley

It’s been over a year and a half since my dearfriend had her out-patient procedure.  The one that gave us the words that we go back to and use with each other so much.

Breathe, Shirley.

She went in to have the procedure and was put under anesthesia.  She doesn’t remember a thing until she started waking up.  She was in some sort of recovery room and hadn’t come fully to yet.  The nurse was doing things to take care of her and encouraging a person named Shirley at the same time.  As the nurse took vitals and made notes, she continued to say aloud, “Breathe, Shirley.  You can do it.  Breathe.”

My dearfriend, in her semi-conscious state, felt awful for this other lady in the room who was having a very difficult time in recovery.  After all, Shirley wasn’t even breathing.

And then, as she came to even more, it hit her.  The nurse was talking to her.

Only her name isn’t Shirley.

*sigh*

The story is a lot funnier when she tells it. (Especially the way she says, “So then I asked the nurse, ‘Are you talking to ME?'”) But most things are.  She can take those everyday mundane and even hard things and have us both laughing over them by the end of the story.

I love having folks like that in my posse.  Don’t you?

We have laughed and laughed over that one.  There she was feeling bad for poor Shirley who wasn’t breathing well enough on her own, and turns out it was her.

Oh me.  Y’all hang on, I gotta wipe my eyes from laughing so hard.

I told my Mama this story shortly after my friend shared it.  We had a good chuckle over it ourselves.

And then came Mama’s HospitalStay, the one where she was on a vent and many of our days consisted with them attempting to take her off the machine that was helping her breathe.  I found myself saying on more than one occasion, “Breathe Shirley.  Breathe.”

That’s not my Mama’s name either, but I was hoping deep inside, beneath where she was resting so peacefully, that maybe it would stir a giggle and she’d remember and be able to breathe on her own again.

And maybe, just maybe, like my dearfriend, I was the one who needed to be reminded to breathe.  Sometimes in the midst of hard times and stress and anxiety-filled days and nights, we tend to forget to do just that, don’t we?  And we need to be reminded.  To stop.  And take a deep breath.

Breathe, Shirley.

I have another sisterfriend who writes and shares stories about “finding balance and grace in the midst of life,” over at Centering Down.  I am blessed that I get to share stories both on-line and off with her.  She has a calming spirit, and she knows all about breathing.  As a matter of fact, she has published her 100th post, and it is about breathing.  Y’all take a minute and go read “Calming Anxiety with Breathing Techniques.”  It’s good stuff, and I can attest to the fact that breathing does help with anxiety and stress.  I just have to be reminded sometimes.

After all, if it’s good enough for Shirley…..well…..

Congratulations to my friend on her writing triumph.  And thanks to my dearfriend who allowed me to share her story and gives me the gift of an hour with her each week while we wait for our girls–where we laugh and remind each other to breathe.  And we call each other Shirley.

It’s become a term of affection now…..

Love to all.

And don’t forget to breathe.

Gators, Cats, and Panic Attacks

I’ve been up since five this morning.  And I’ve not had a nap today.  Neither of these things was planned, nor did they contribute to my general pleasantness today.  But I’m not ready to throw in the towel yet.  (Besides I might need it for next year’s Towel Day…..never throw in a perfectly good towel.)

I woke up to the sound of a cat yowling.  Just outside my bedroom window.  I turned on the porch light and looked out.   I saw what looked like a calico cat huddled on the corner of the deck.  Upon closer inspection a few minutes later, I realized it was the black and green soccer ball one of our crew left out there.  Ummm, yeah.  (Note to self–schedule eye appointment.  Soon.)  Rather than being the return of the stray who serenaded our girl kitty a couple of months ago, I realized our big boy, Sugar, had busted the screen and gotten out.  We got him back in and I made the necessary repairs (well, mending for the time being is a better way of describing it I suppose–Gorilla tape is the bomb!).  I couldn’t go back to sleep.  So I finished reading my book in the quiet, which was a rare treat.

The littles and I had an outing first thing this morning.  After we arrived, I saw I had an email from the neighborhood folks.  A gator has been seen in the pond at the other end of our street and he’s been hanging out in some of the yards around it.   So that sounds about right.  My mind immediately went to what could have happened if we hadn’t found our cat this morning.  Sugar, whom we rescued last year when he was three weeks old from whatever got him and beat him up pretty bad, whom I bottlefed and worried over, escaped just as there’s a gator on the prowl.  Oh my stars.  I was overwhelmed.  I don’t want to lose him that way.  Or at all.  I have to make sure this doesn’t happen again.  I could feel the panic rising.  That’s what all the grief and brokenness and hard times of the past four years has done.  I have panic attacks from time to time.  I look like Mike Wazowski from Monsters, Inc./Monster U.

pic of mike wazowski panicked

Or not.  Not making light of panic attacks by any means, but that feeling lost and “not knowing what to do at all” look that you see in his face?  Yeah, that’s it.

I am working my way through them.  Today I gave myself a pep talk.  Told myself I could handle this.  One. Step. At. A. Time.  And I did.  I talked and laughed with my Aunt.  For a long time. (Sorry.)  I changed some plans and rearranged my thoughts, and by afternoon, I could hear Mama, “This too shall pass.”  She said that a lot.  She’d also say, “Well if that’s the worse thing that ever happens to us, we’ll be all right.”  Or, “Well, at least they’re not shooting bullets at us.”  She was right.  I did feel the worry and upset and panic passing.  Sugar was back to his old self, no longer the crazed cat of 5 a.m. that refused to acknowledge me calling his name and telling him he needed to come back inside.  By late morning he had forgiven me and was back to being our happy, curious indoor cat that we all love.

That's our big boy, being goofy.

That’s our big boy, being goofy.

I am trying to learn not to let these moments overwhelm me.  I am trying not to let people and their issues steal my joy.  I am working really hard on tolerance and patience as well.  These things called Grief and Loss and Death have also turned me into one great big eye roll.  (Can you imagine Mike Wazowski doing an eye roll?  Yeah, that’s what I feel like too sometimes.)  I just don’t have the patience with some situations or some attitudes like I used to.  Is it a side effect of grieving?  Is it my age?  Is it that I think life is too short to waste time on things that really don’t matter in the long run?  Maybe some of all three.

All I know is that tonight I’m okay.  I made it through today.  The gator didn’t eat my cat.  I will find Sugar a new family (due to allergies, it just has to happen).  Right now at this moment, it’s all okay.  It’s different, but it’s okay.  I made a game plan and kept breathing.  I cannot let myself think about tomorrow.  I just have to do the NOW.  And some days that’s as good as it gets.  Oh, and I only rolled my eyes twice today I think.  Not too bad for a Monday.

This is my superpower, so yeah, I've got this panic thing down.

This is my superpower, so yeah, I’ve got this panic thing down.