Posts Tagged health

Health Update and Request for Ripple Reviews

Hello friends. I hope the sun is shining on your Saturday with as much light and brilliance as it is shining on mine. It’s been an overwhelming week for me and for my family. We spent the greater part of the week in specialists’ offices and holding my son tight as we search for answers. While we still don’t have a diagnosis for what’s causing our son’s high blood pressure, our hopes our high and our faith is firm. We will find a cause and then a cure. In the meantime, I thank God every morning for another day, for me, for him, for all of us.

Your prayers and kind thoughts mean more to me than I can adequately express here. Please keep lifting my family up, and please know just how much we appreciate it. Truly, we are so grateful for your love and support.

As you may or may not know, Ripple’s planned release date is Monday, 1/21. I thought about delaying it, but right now, working is keeping me sane and helping me get my mind off my worries. With my family behind me, I’m going ahead and releasing Ripple on time. It’s true to my nature and true to what the characters in this novel would do were they in my shoes. No matter the circumstances, life must be lived, rather than set aside. And in living, and working, we can find relief from our difficulties.

Front and Back Cover

To those of you who were kind enough to advance read Ripple, I would be so very grateful if you could write an honest review on Amazon and/orGoodreads. And I do mean honest, with the gentle caveat that the more stars you give it, the more likely it is to end up in the hands of other readers.

I’d also like to send out a huge thank-you to Renée Schuls-Jacobson, who sent me a note late last night and single-handedly turned my Amazon blurb into a much better end product. My name may be on the title, but the writing of this first novel has been one I could not have done alone.

Here are the links to Amazon and Goodreads.

Amazon

Goodreads

And finally, to buy an autographed copy of Ripple, I think you can click on this link: Buy Autographed Copy of Ripple

And again, thank you all so very much for your support, and especially for your prayers and kind thoughts concerning my son.

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My Son: Holding Tight, Not Letting Go

He fidgets. We wait. He jumps up, runs over to the machine and looks all herky-jerky, happy, just wanting to play with one of those toys they give to kids. You know the toys, right? They’re packed into this glass case, and a kid deposits a fake coins into the dispenser after he gets done with the pediatrician.  In the old days, we got lollipops for our troubles, but modern kids, they’re all obese, or heading that way, so they get these cheap toys. Or so they say.

I look in the mirror and I see a fat woman and for the life of me, she won’t seem to go away. Stop, El. This isn’t thinking. It’s abuse, another form of it, and deep down, you don’t want that anymore.

 •••

  “Mom! I want this one! The jelly-wiggle!” He grins, all dimples and elbows, and dances around, in a circle, each hand raised with index fingers wagging toward the ceiling. When he dances like this, his face breaks into sharp angles that accentuate his Eastern-European chin dimple, which is, I just learned, caused by some strange genetic malformation of the chin bones. My husband has it. So did Kirk Douglas, and so does his son. The funny thing about this chin dimple is it makes a man look incredibly handsome.

It’s funny, isn’t it? The things that are malformed, not right, a little off, unique, can be the things that make a man, a boy, most loved. I always was taken with a chin dimple, and the fact that it’s a mistake, a genetic error, makes me even fonder of it.

“Shh,” we whisper. “Calm down, love.” He runs back and sits next to my husband, who wears a dark gray suit. Before I can count to ten, he jumps back up again, and stares, intense, eyes narrowed, at the jelly wiggler toy.

•••

She leaned over and scribbled something on his chart. I squinted. 160/102. No. The muscles around her eyes flexed and then she let go, and as her eye muscles retracted, she undid the blood pressure cuff, all the while speaking to my son. Rip, it went, and it sounded so loud in that coffin-quiet office with the pictures of our aging doctor and her three sons on the walls, and I leaned over and shut the office door.

“160/100,” I whispered to my husband, who was watching Dr. M while I held onto my tiny creature, not so tiny now, but in my mind’s eye, I see him as a baby.

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“Mama, was I this big?” He asks, holding his arms about a foot apart.

            I grin.

            He grins, and the grin is as big as his face. “The size of a football?”

            “Yeah,” I nod.

            “I could fit inside a football?” The light dances inside his eyes.

            “Yep.” Now I smile back at him. “That big. No bigger.”

She ripped off the elastic that makes the cuff grip his right arm so tight, and wheeled around, writing something down in his chart. It’s a thick chart for a six-year old. After all, we always joke, he’s our medical scare baby. When I was pregnant with Maddie, I got laser surgery on my eyes, and with those surgically-repaired eyes squinting, I could read her handwriting. 160/100.

It passed quickly. The appointment, I mean. But how fast will this pass? How fast will he pass?

Just a few days ago, he stood in front of the fridge in a Cambray button down shirt and baggy khakis, all serious and tiny, and in my mind’s eye, with both eyes fixed on all fifty-two pounds of him, I saw him as a fifteen or sixteen year old. He was tall and lanky and searching for a glass of water. For some reason, I often see him projected, his tiny form onto his future form, older, taller, a vision, a future ghost of the man he is becoming. It always makes me smile, he always makes me smile, this little boy of mine, this unique, quirky, challenging imperfect child, this sunshine, my sunshine, and I know I can hold on only for so long.

I never wondered if God was giving me this vision to comfort me, to let me know what this youngest son could have been, because he was no longer to be. But it’s weird, because I never see my other two children as older versions of their little selves. Just the baby of the family, my baby, this dimpled man-child of mine. Is God sending him to me, this future man, as a message, as a reminder, a letter of love and comfort and a promise that he will make it through this okay? Or is God reminding me to hold tight, so tight, because his time here is fast fading, fading?

 

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It’s Okay to Be Like Everyone Else: A Five-Miler

I’m in a crowded room and my family’s there, waiting, and I’m holding my breath.  I see my brother. He’ carrying this biological terror inside him, this virus that he’s going to unleash on the world, so I take a deep breath and slip out the back door.  I end up in a bathroom, and there’s no toilet paper on any of the dispensers, so I dig under the sink and grab a handful of rolls, which I’m handing to several strangers.  And then I hear my name, and it’s my husband screaming for me.  Come help me, El, so I go to him, and he’s fallen in this shallow pool with tiles on the bottom.

I hesitate.  I’m scared.  Then I see blood dripping from his mouth and eye, and I leap in there and grab him.  I lead him by the elbow to the infirmary.  But then I must leave.  I’m the only one who knows how to stop the virus.  The secret is orange juice.  The scene changes, and I’m sitting in the back of a car watching a long line of cars queued up for gas, trying to get the courage up to run inside and buy orange juice.  I must buy it, and save myself, and then save everyone else.  But first I gotta get out of the car.

I wake up, shivering.  It’s 6:55 AM and it’s time to get the kids off to school.  I make a mental note to buy orange juice.

It’s 9:45 AM.  I zip up my red running jacket and tap my Nike sportsband.  It’s 38 degrees, so I’m wearing shorts but once I get a mile under my belt, I’ll be warm enough.  My body is tired but my mind is not.  As I jog along, slow and steady, my thoughts flit and fly about and I let them be without trying to control what comes into mind.  I don’t have any agenda when I run today.  I just run.

My run follows the trail along Burke Lake.  Light brown leaves hang from tall pen oaks above me, and many more leaves obscure the soft dirt underfoot.  It smells like burnt wood and mold and dirt and lake water, which for me is what Heaven must smell like.

Last night, I stayed up until three AM working on draft two of I Run.  It occurs to me now that I once ran to keep from drowning under the sea of troubles I then was facing.  There was something almost superhuman in the miles I covered, but even as I ran and ran from my pain, I ran my body almost into ruin.  I smile, gently, thinking of the odyssey of healing and faith I was on, and thank God I don’t have to run like that anymore.

An old man wearing gloves nods at me, and I wish him a good morning.  I need to go to WalMart on my way home from this run because we’re out of laundry detergent.  It’s not the worst task I’ve ever faced it, but I’d rather be outside running past the birdwatchers clutching binoculars than negotiating the blue aisles of a discount store.  I sigh, and allow a small half-smile, because I’m happy now.

But when I ran fifty, seventy, even ninety miles a week, as I did in the pages of I Run, I wasn’t so happy.  It was never enough to be average, or good enough, or middle of the pack.  It wasn’t enough to run 15-20 miles a week, or get Bs in school, or less than excellent reviews as a young lawyer.  If I wasn’t perfect, I wasn’t enough.  I needed that external proof of my own value; I needed it like a woman needs oxygen, because I did not have my own source of self-value.  I knew not the unconditional love that God’s grace provides.

An Oriental woman runs past me in the other direction, and we smile at one another.  Fast or slow, tall or short, we’re all runners, and we’re in this together somehow, even if we never see one another again.  I used to be afraid to be like everyone else, “in it together with them,” because without trophies or a high enough salary or a low enough average running pace, I would be left with just me, my essence, my very being, and that could not possibly be enough.  After all, how could anyone love just me, without a good reason why?

I check my watch.  I’ve run 2.5 miles, and it’s a good time to turn.  A five-mile run is nothing heroic, and that’s okay.  I don’t need to be a hero.  I’m healed now, healed from so many things, including this sick sense that I have to accomplish anything to earn the title of being lovable.

Because that is what I am.  You see, I’m just like you and the next man or woman.  God loves us all, just the way we are.  I smile again.  He loves me.  And as I head back in the other direction toward my Mazda, I think about picking up the orange juice.  Today is my day to be like everyone else, and if that includes making a trip to a discount store, then I’ll face it with a smile.

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A Hail Mary Pass Thrown into Swirling Gust of Wind: Medicating AD/HD

I paced back and forth in front of my son’s first grade classroom, waiting for his teacher to finish talking to another child’s parents.  My husband tries to come to as many parent-teacher conferences as work permits, but I’d scheduled this one for 10 A.M. on Election Day, so I was going into the breach solo.  And while I didn’t want to feel scared and worried and a little sick to my stomach, I did.

Too often, these conferences hadn’t gone well in the past.  At the very first one, when Ben was still in preschool, his teacher glared at me with this serious, disapproving look.  “You know, you’d better get a handle on this sooner than later, when there’s still time.  Otherwise, he’s going to end up in jail.”

I glanced at my husband in shock.  “Jail?”  I gasped.

“Jail,” she repeated.  “At this rate, with this much oppositional behavior, this much anger, jail.”

In case you’re wondering, we switched preschools after that.

Things got worse before they got better.  When Ben was in kindergarten, I would jump when the phone rang.  If it wasn’t the school calling, I breathed a sigh of relief.  When I visited Ben at school for lunch, his classmates told me that my dear son was “bad.”  As I have written here, this hurt like hell.  I felt powerless and not a little clueless.  The last thing I wanted to turn to was the medicine cabinet.

But we did it anyway, both for our son’s sake, and for our own.  The payoff was not immediate because we had him on too low of a dose: 10 mg of Metadate, which is a generic form of Ritalin.  But once we got the dosage right (20 mg), the turnaround was immediate.

And yet, as I stood in front of Mrs. X, I wasn’t sure.  It had been about three weeks since we’d increased Ben’s dose, and we hadn’t heard from her except for one phone call, which I received the day after we increased Ben’s dose.  It had been a really weird call.  Mrs. X called for the sole reason of telling me that Ben had behaved well all day.  Was this an anomaly, or a new beginning for our troubled six-year old?

Before I even sat down in front of Mrs. X, I knew the answer was the latter: Ben had gotten a fresh start.  A redo, a do-over.  “You know, I’ve been looking forward to this meeting,” beamed Mrs. X.  “It’s been like night and day, like a sun rising, ever since you made the brave step of getting him the help he needed.”

“Really?”  I couldn’t breathe so I tried to sit down without smashing my knees into the tiny table in front of me.  I’m clumsy like that.

“Yes.  Really.  The transformation has been the biggest one I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot of AD/HD kids.  Sometimes the meds help a little.  Sometimes a lot.  In his case, he’s gone from . . .”  Mrs. X paused to find a tactful way to say it.  “Well, from struggling, to being helpful, and attentive, and funny and . . . oh so kind.  I mean, he was always sweet and affectionate, but my gosh.  Now he gives me flowers, tells me how much he loves me—“

—“He’s always been so affectionate and sweet,” I murmured, my heart hurting.

She nodded.  “The great thing is that you made this change for him early in the year.  So his classmates won’t always remember him getting in trouble.  I mean, they all struggled to figure out the rules in the beginning, so he didn’t stick out as much in their minds.  And now he’s getting along with his classmates.  He’s funny and well-liked and . . .”  Her voice trailed off and she smiled at me.

Some decisions, when viewed from hindsight, seem obvious.  Other ones seem divinely inspired, like small miracles.  But the decision to medicate our son was more like a Hail-Mary pass thrown into a swirling gust of wind: a combination of savvy quarterbacking, divine guidance and a tad of blind luck all in one.

 

 

 

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8 Going On 28

I stride toward the elementary school’s front door and set my jaw.  I am wearing my usual jeans and blue oxford button down shirt.   Blue, gray and orange trail running shoes complete my outfit.  I’ve rehearsed all of my lines.  I will meet with the speech therapist and decline further services.  I will not whine or beg or complain.

“My daughter has had services for 5 years and I appreciate all that you’ve done for her, but she feels like a nerd when you pull her out of class.  Yes, I am sure.  Thank you so much for everything.”

She’s 8 gone on 28.  Then she is 8 again and I’m so confused.  I want to hold her tight and promise her, with all of my might, that it is all going to be alright.

My daughter, age 7

My image reflects back at me from the long, tall windows that line the lunchroom to my right and the office on my left.  I try not to pay attention to how I look because lately I have been feeling self-conscious.  Runners should be thin and I don’t think I look thin.  Instead, I gaze through the lunchroom windows and try not to gulp.

One year ago, a boy had said unspeakably inappropriate things to my little girl in that lunchroom and I’d gone into school to talk about it with her teacher.  With a helpless shrug, she had murmured, “I have no control over the lunchroom.   It’s not within my jurisdiction.”  We did not let this Lord of the Flies mentality stand; instead, we requested that my daughter switch to a teacher that did not shrug at bullies.  This whole incident, however, had shaken me to my core.

She’s 8 gone on 28.  Then she is 8 again and I’m so confused.  I want to hold her tight and promise her, with all of my might, that it is all going to be alright.

Last night, we were walking in the woods and Madeline whispered, “Gary and Joey told Lizzie that she sits at the loser table at lunch.”

I scowled as she continued, “And they tell me that too, because I always sit at that table.”

My scowl turned into a howl, “That is UNACCEPTABLE.”

Words strung into sentences and when I was finished, my bespectacled daughter remonstrated, “But Gary can’t help it Mom.  He’s popular.”

Photo by Ann Nguyen

So as I pass my daughter in the hallway, I wink at her and promise to swing by the lunchroom after meeting with her speech therapist.  A look that mixes anxiety with hope and unconditional love passes over her visage like a summer thunderstorm.  Then I pull her teacher aside and explain the “loser table” matter to her, and she nods with a sage, somewhat ironic, controlled expression of discontent.  I know she will take care of it, so I square my shoulders and rehearse my lines and walk into the speech therapist’s office.

She’s 8 gone on 28.  Then she is 8 again and I’m so confused.  I want to hold her tight and promise her, with all of my might, that it is all going to be alright. 

I am in the meeting now, and I deliver my lines right.  It’s hard.  I don’t do well in these situations, which is crazy weird for an ex-trial attorney, but the truth is, I deplore confrontations, so I usually avoid them.  It turns out that her speech therapy was going to end anyway, with just a few more classroom observations.  She will suffer through no more special pullouts that breed a sense of inferiority.

I keep my promise.  I amble down to the lunchroom and find my little 8-year old sitting with four other 8-year old girls at the “loser table.”  I do not glare at Gary and Joey.  They are children too, and at some point they will find the light or fall into the darkness.  No matter.

I sit beside my daughter and she pulls her hands up to her head and pushes her hair behind both ears and a question forms in the crease between her wide-set eyes.  This will turn into a vertical thinking wrinkle by the time she turns 28 and someone will love her vertical thinking wrinkle as much as my husband loves my three horizontal thinking wrinkles.  I don’t hear her question, so I lean toward her and ask her, “What did you say?”  She draws close to me and hugs me tight with all her might and I know it is going to be alright.

Do you identify with this conflicting need to hold on and let go, dear reader? She is my only daughter, and my eldest child of three.

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How to Talk to a Friend in Need

A dear friend contacted me this morning with a question.  A problem really.  He read my blog on rendering assistance to strangers or friends who are suicidal on social media and he got confused and made a mess of things with someone he loves dearly.  And he needed me to explain how to fix it.  In short, his wife got upset during an argument and she confessed that when they fought, it made her want to hurt herself.

            A word about my friend.  Let’s call him Gary.  I’ve known him since my undergraduate days and he is a good guy.  He is a scientist and if you are familiar with the Myers-Briggs test, he possesses the classic scientist’s personality: INTJ.  Which is to say that Gary reminds me of Spock.  He is logical.  And he is a good man.  Smart, funny and loyal.  But Gary is not sensitive and he is not subtle.

            Gary heard his wife, “Joan” utter the words, “I want to hurt myself” and he immediately thought of what I wrote about suicidal threats.  He assumed she was suicidal.  So he asked her, “Does that mean I need to call the police?”  Needless to say (and I am chuckling now because Gary and Joan hugged it out tonight), this wasn’t the best response.

What do you say to someone like Joan in this sort of situation?  Most of all, you listen to what Joan has to say.  Sit down beside her.  Ask if she needs a hug.  Remain calm and try not to overreact.  Joan may just need to vent.  She trusts you enough to tell you she is in pain.  Whatever you do, do not abuse this trust by blaming her for feeling depressed.  Give her the gift of time and be patient with her.  Be honest with her but remember that she cannot process too much right now, so keep it simple.

After she tells you what is wrong, thank her for talking with you.  That may sound odd, but it took a lot for her to reveal her vulnerabilities to you, and she won’t feel as guilty or scared if she isn’t worried about how you will react.  A simple “thank you” will help ground her and let her know that you do not resent her or think that she is weak.

Tell her you love her and you are concerned about her.  If you can, sit with her for a while.  I know you must be busy (we all are busy) but time is one of the greatest gifts you can give someone you love.  Ask her if she is okay.  If she asks you if she is going to be okay, promise her that you will always be there for her, and if you believe she will be okay, tell her.  Never lie, but I for one appreciate reassuring words.

Finally, remember that you must take care of yourself as well.  Give as much as you can to Joan, but realize when you are over matched.  If she avers that she is feeling suicidal, ask her to call her therapist or her psychologist.  If Joan is suicidal, please do not leave her alone.  None of us are an island right?  There is a time when you must act as a bridge.  If you cannot help Joan, please do not hesitate to help her call a professional, a suicide hotline or offer to drive her to the hospital.  You are doing God’s work.  Know this.

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