Sunday, May 15, 2022

Sunday morning coming down

 

I have been doing a lot of reading on Dr. Google this morning and have concluded that I am under medicated for my low thyroid function. My doctor decreased my dose three months ago, and since then I have been extremely fatigued and sleeping fitfully, but the very worst part is the dangerously dire moods, the dark thoughts that swirl inside my head, and now I am remembering that this is exactly how it felt right after my son was born, and my thyroid went out of whack, and it took seeing four doctors before finding one who didn't dismiss my exhaustion, lethargy, drenching melancholy, climbing weight, constant chill despite it being warm outside, and hair falling out in perfect half moons at my temples, as simply post-partum symptoms. There was nothing simple about it.

When the last doctor I saw finally diagnosed me, and put me on levothyroxine, a thyroid replacement hormone, I felt back to normal within a week. But recently, after my current doc reduced my dosage for the second time, I began to feel as if I was moving underwater with lead weights attached to my limbs, and I was also weathering all manner of catastrophic mind fucks, and feeling unreasonably emotional about the slightest and possibly imagined shifts in the  air. (Maybe that's why all the kitchen reno decisions felt so hard.) Three days ago, I went back to my previous dosage because I still had some pills left and the difference in how I feel today is marked. No longer do I feel (as I said to my son) as if I had covid and didn't know it, but am now suffering from long covid. No longer do I feel as if my most significant relationships are crumbling and my marriage is on the brink of divorce. No longer do I feel, dear God, can I say it, no I can't, it's too extreme to write, so I'll use the euphemism: No longer do I feel like what is the point of it all?

I was going to call my doc and request that she reinstate my previous dosage, which I had been doing fine on. She'd lowered it based on the results of a TSH test, which is only one of five tests needed to get the full thyroid picture, according to multiple sources on Dr. Google. When I told my husband my plan, he said, "Why don't you just go see an endocrinologist instead?" Duh. So I began researching who might be good, only to discover that in 2018 one of the city's leading hospital systems opened a whole treatment center devoted entirely to the diagnosis and treatment of thyroid disorders. They even take my insurance. 

And so first thing Monday morning, I will call to make an appointment with one of the doctors there, who specializes in thyroid, diabetes, and bone diseases (hello, arthritis and joint pain), and who has more than a hundred five star reviews. He looks ancient in his picture, but is apparently accepting new patients, so I shall endeavor to engage his expertise and see what transpires. In the meantime, I will continue taking the higher dosage of my thyroid meds, because not feeling like your presence on this earth is an affront even to yourself is reason enough. 

And that is my Sunday morning testimony.


Thursday, May 12, 2022

Overcast, but light breaks through

I'm having such a moody week. My girl arrived last night, bringing her sunshine with her, and that helped. But the grayness inside me I can't quite seem to touch. I am so weary of myself, this physical and emotional body, but not of this life, which has so much sweetness at the center, so the darkness that encroaches, it must be chemical, no?  I did email a therapist friend at 3 AM on Tuesday morning, asking for a referral. Time to shrink this noisy brain again, soothe this turbulent internal sea, make peace with what is. Whatever.

But my daughter, what a bright light she is. She went into her new office for the first time today, outfit carefully chosen. "Do I look like I work in tech?" she asked her brother and me, modeling the white jeans, shell gray top, moto leather jacket, and fresh white kicks. I was reminded of when she was in kindergarten and picking out her own clothes. She would run into her brother's room with an item of clothing in each hand and chime, "Do these match?"

"You look great," I told her this morning. 

"You look like you're ready to kick ass and rule the world," her brother agreed from his leg-braced perch on the couch. 

"Cool," she said. "That's a good way to look on the first day of school." 

And darn if she doesn't already have a friend, a young woman she met in her first week of working remotely from Boston, who is coming in from Long Island today so they can meet in person. Her new workplace has a hybrid remote work system, and they don't seem to really care how often people come into the office. Before my daughter sailed out the door this morning, she and her new work friend were busy coordinating a subway station meet-up, so they could travel to southern Manhattan and walk into the office together. I think my girl is going to be okay.

And my son, he's going to be okay, too. He took himself to physical therapy across town and back yesterday, navigating on crutches all the way. He firmly refused my offer (demand) to accompany him, insisting he could do it on his own. When the man and I picked up our girl from the airport last night, she wanted to know how her brother was doing post surgery. 

"Is he very needy?" she asked. 

"Not at all," I told her, "he's the opposite of needy." 

"He cooked dinner for everyone last night," her dad added. 

Twas good, too, southwestern style chicken breasts with peppers and onions and caramelized roasted sweet potatoes. He's always been our "I do it" child.

Lying in bed last night, the lights out, I whispered to my husband, "We have two very capable children." "Hmmm," he murmured, drifting into sleep. I lay awake brooding for a long time, staring into the dark, taking some comfort in these two souls, both so dazzling to me, who chose us to be their parents. 



Saturday, May 7, 2022

Thankful for the good

I made coffee in my own kitchen for the first time in a month this morning, and it tastes sweet indeed. And my son, on crutches, made scrambled eggs and bacon for himself and his love both yesterday and the day before. This morning, he made himself oatmeal. It's so funny seeing the habits in our children that endure from childhood. He hated eggs as a boy, and only learned to enjoy them on hangover mornings in college. And so when he was growing up, on school mornings I would make him and his sister oatmeal with strawberries and blueberries and a cut up banana, sprinkled with crushed almonds and dried cranberries and drizzled with a little honey. That was my version of making a healthful breakfast for my children so I could think I was being a good mother. And now he tells me that oatmeal is still his breakfast of champions.

His recovery from the ACL surgery is going so much better than last time. The pain is manageable, and he appears to be in much less distress. He attributes this to his surgeon being more exact and precise in performing the operation, and therefore inflaming the surrounding tissue less. Last time, three days in, his knee was massively swollen and looked, as he put it, like grape jelly from the bruising. This time it is about two thirds less swollen, and the bruising is minimal. 

His dad took him to his first physical therapy appointment yesterday, and at home, he is faithfully doing the assigned exercises, and icing on schedule. The part of him that is fascinated by the body's ability to heal itself is rather enjoying marking his own progress. I cannot tell you how relieved I am by the way this is going so far. I pray it continues like this. Plus, he is great company, our boy. And next week, our daughter is coming to town for a few days to go into her new office for an in person day, and to attend the bachelorette weekend of one of her closest friends since they were four. My son's finacee will be in Mexico attending a wedding in Cabo in which she is a bridesmaid. It will be the  just the four of us in the house again, the way we started out. "I think the four of us balance out each other's energies," I said to my daughter. She guffawed and said, "Keep dreaming, Mom."

 

We're still slowly setting up the new kitchen, and trying to release a lot of excess stuff as we go, but here is a picture showing the under mount lights glowing softly from behind a strip of wood installed along the lower edge to shade the naked filaments from the eye. I think it works perfectly and am so happy that I pushed for it. The contractor came up with the most elegant solution possible, it simply looks as if the cabinets were made that way. He will be back next week to add some white wood filler to the seam where the new strip of wood meets the lower cabinet edge, to block out the thinnest bleed of light through it. I love that he is such a detail person, a soul after my own heart. Also, the backordered cabinet came in and was installed yesterday, as you can see on the upper left. 

Only the tiniest details remain now: one door is going to be replaced because the contractor says it is warped and can't be properly aligned with its partner, and the floor molding next to the new fridge needs to be squared off and painted. And then we are done! Despite all my hang wringing in the early stages, I judge the entire project a great success. Thank you, dear friends here, for holding my hand through this. I promise to stop trying your patience and bending your ear about it now. My mother would say I possess too little faith, and it's true, I do tend toward catastrophic thinking. In this case, happy to say, it was wholly unwarranted. But I still appreciate having been able to process it here.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

What obtains in my tiny corner (in the shadow of the unconscionable SCOTUS ruling)

 

My son and his love came over on Tuesday evening for my birthday, and since it was the night before our boy's knee surgery, and his dad was to take him to the hospital in the morning, he and S. stayed over. Yesterday, the ACL repair went well. When his dad picked him up from the Hospital for Special Surgery at six in the evening, he wasn't feeling much pain, as the nerve blocker they'd given him hadn't worn off yet. New York being the structurally inconvenient city it is, S. met him curbside and helped him upstairs while his dad went to park the car. He was feeling nauseous, and barely made it to the bathroom before puking violently. He felt a little better after that, and I fixed him a sandwich, as he now needed to eat so he could take the meds his dad had picked up for him earlier.

He had a much better first night this time that he did the last time he had this surgery, he thinks because he deployed the pain meds more strategically, staggering the two different kinds of pills instead of taking both together as suggested. I guess when you're a certified paramedic you know how to adjust these sorts of things. Now he's on the couch with a big brace on his leg, icing everything with a very sophisticated contraption that his insurance wouldn't cover last time. This time, as a member of New York's bravest, he has the best insurance in the world, and he's geeked by the whole technology of the therapy machine with a sleeve that fits over his leg, running icy water over the surgical area and timing everything as programmed. 

Last night, he reflected on how different his experience has been this time, how his medical care has been top of line at every step, and how frustrated it makes him that everyone isn't afforded this same level of care. He said his surgeon was excellent and that she told him the last ACL fix was poorly anchored and it was always going to be just a matter of when, not if, it would tear again. Thank God it didn’t pop while he was climbing into a fire, and that he has the good fix now. Recovery protocol is different this time, too. They told him to put weight on the leg immediately whereas last time they told him to stay off it for a week. He also starts home physical therapy exercises today, and clinic PT tomorrow. 

He's using crutches of course, but moving around quite well, and feels confident that ultimately, he'll be better off than he was before, and that re-tearing his ACL was a blessing in disguise. But it’s a nine month rehab process. He says he's going to use his time on medical leave to study for the fire department's Lieutenant's exam. As my husband always says of our boy, "He's the sort that when he climbs a mountain and gets to the top, he looks around to see where the next mountain is that he can climb."

__________

Widening the lens to record developments in the larger world that affect us all, there was the leaked Alito decision from the Supreme Court, indicating that the majority of justices will vote to overturn Roe v. Wade and a woman's right to be the sovereign of her own body. In some states, like Louisiana, there is already a move to characterize abortion as homicide, while the Supreme Court and Fox News are up in arms trying to identify and punish the leaker of the upcoming Roe decision. Yet these same people only shrugged at the revelation that the wife of a sitting Supreme Court Justice was instrumental in planning to overthrow our government before and during the January 6 insurrection. It's like we're heading back into the darkest ages of this American experiment with democracy, or maybe we're already there.

__________

On the kitchen front, it is just about done. The contractor really pushed to have it in usable condition before my son arrived home from surgery yesterday. There are still fine-tuning fixes, like perfectly aligning a couple of the cabinet doors, and a few tiny touch ups to the molding. I am also contemplating adding a strip of molding in front of the undermount cabinet lights, as they are fully visible along the lower edge of the cabinets. My husband and the contractor actually like how that looks, but I have this notion that I want the lights to glow down softly from behind a thin facing of wood. My husband imagined task lighting while I was thinking mood lighting, and I suppose that's the difference. However, when the contractor brings the molding and holds it against the cabinets to see how it will look before installing it, if I find I don't like it better than the visible lights, then I am resolved to eat the cost of the already purchased molding. It will have been worth it to me to feel sure of my choice. 

The man and I also had a difference of opinion about getting a new fridge. It's wasn't too contentious, but he did exclaim at one point, "Dear God, is money burning a hole in your pocket?!" You see, I wanted a wider, counter-depth fridge that would fit the alcove originally built for it, which meant donating the perfectly functional Kitchen Aid unit he'd bought when our old fridge conked out on Christmas eve six years ago. The fridge he bought was much deeper than the depth of the alcove, and the door, when opened, extended far enough that it hit and was stopped by the front of the dishwasher. He rolled his eyes and capitulated, and now we have a new, double-door unit that fits the space perfectly and soothes my visual OCD. 

Last night, before his pain blocker wore off, our son stood on his crutches inspecting the new fridge, which had been delivered while he was in surgery that morning.  "This a really sweet fridge," he finally pronounced. "I'm sorry to tell you this, Pops, but Mom was right." My husband only grunted because he knows that I know full well that he really likes the new fridge, too.


Here's a picture of the kitchen taken a couple of days ago, before we started moving things back in, and another one showing the counter and backsplash detail. I do love how it all turned out, though I will now need to add my own touches of color. The new cabinets are less deep than the ones we had before, and overall, I think we have less total storage space, but I don't mind. Everything feels a bit more spacious, and we need to get rid of stuff anyway. 

My cousin in Orlando, when she saw this picture, said "I see pebbles on a beach!" Now that she mentions it, maybe that's what I was subconsciously reaching for. Those island memories live deep.


Monday, May 2, 2022

Dallas dispatch


My darling niece held the grand opening of her dental practice in Dallas this weekend, though she has been working out of the practice since its soft opening in February. But this weekend was the hoopla and fanfare, the balloon arch, the grazing table that looked like food art, the partnership with a local plant vendor whose greenery for purchase made the space look divine, the champagne and music and entertainment, all of it following the official ribbon cutting. 



All her siblings came, meaning her older sister and my son and daughter. Though my niece grew up in Jamaica, she and my children forged a full sibling relationship through the years, courtesy of summers together in New York and at their grandmother's home in St. Lucia. She had no idea my daughter and her love, and my son and his love, would be in attendance. They flew to Dallas from New York and Boston on Friday morning to surprise her. She was at work when they arrived at her house, but her husband, who was in on the surprise, took this picture and texted it to her, and that's when she knew they had come for her grand opening.


They all spent the weekend together, and my girl sent me random photos so I could share vicariously in the fun. 



I'm so proud of my niece, and the way she has marched to her own tune and become the owner of her very own dental practice. That's my niece with her dental assistant and front desk receptionist, all of them in their neon pink scrubs. My niece adores and cannot resist brightly colored scrubs, so she's probably in the right profession.


We watch our little ones grow and pursue their becoming, and yet so often, we don't quite grasp the full measure of their power in the world. And so they show us who they are, year after year, resilient, determined, and if not always sure, then at least resolute, imaginative, brave. I'm in awe of these young people, every one of them, and I love that they show up to support one another always.



Thursday, April 28, 2022

Lovely things


My son, his fiancee, and her parents did a walk through of their lakeside wedding venue a couple of weeks ago. Her mom sent me that photo of the happy couple on the dock where they will say their vows five months from now. The trees will be fully leafed then, and in a perfect world it will be a clear September day, when the lake is crystalline blue, the light brilliant yet gentle, and camp is at its most beautiful. My son grew up on that lake, and the friends he made during camp summers there have become his most faithful fellow travelers through life. Yet it was his love who wanted to hold the wedding there. She fell in love with that rustic place, too, and the way the camp people just folded her in. My daughter likes to say that camp is like a cult, but an exuberant joyful one that throws its arms around everyone. I'm getting excited! Now if only the rather zaftig mother of the groom can find something spiffy to wear.

In more immediate happenings, the kitchen reno is, as everyone predicted, going into overtime. It was supposed to be done by my birthday next week, but now that doesn't look likely. The end is in sight, but the punch list of final details is endless, and triggers my undiagnosed OCD. It helps that the contractor is a detail guy. He notices things that even I don't see, and I appreciate his perfectionism. No "good enough for government work" attitudes there, but of course, everything takes time. I do love the countertops I chose. I didn't need to get used to them, I was immediately happy. They are very understated, a light polished gray with thin seams of white running through, the lines far enough apart that it doesn't look too busy to my eye. I do see now that plain gray would have been boring—inoffensive, yes, but definitely less interesting, because those white seams remind me of the delicate foamy ribbons the surf leaves behind after waves kiss and then retreat from the shore. I'd show you a picture, but the countertops are covered by drop cloths right now to protect the surface while the backsplash is being installed. I'm told the backsplash will be finished today and grouted tomorrow. I do believe I like it fine, too.

 

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Why I pray

The news was devastating. On Sunday, inside a flaming house in Brooklyn, four firefighters became trapped when the ceiling suddenly collapsed. Three of the firefighters managed to make it out alive, but the fourth could not be rescued. One civilian also died at the scene, and five others were injured. The city is now grieving the loss of one of its Bravest, Timothy Klein, who is my son's age, who had been in the fire department for six short years, the same length of time as my boy. My son spent three years on the medic side, and has been on the engine and ladder side for only three years, and he had never met his fallen comrade. Still, he lost a brother, and we lost a young man who didn't hesitate when the inferno raged. I cannot imagine the pain of his family at the loss of this son of a retired firefighter. They all knew the risks, but prayed he would be as lucky as his father. At moments like this, the reality of what my own son does for a living comes crashing in, and I have to take myself in hand, sitting in silence and circling him with all sorts of protective light, and this is why I pray. Rest in peace, brave Timothy Klein. May your brothers and sisters who are called as you were, who run into burning buildings to save the rest of us, be safe always.


Sunday, April 24, 2022

Chaff and grain

My friend and I sat on a bench across from that red Japanese maple excavating our lives as mothers, partners, workers, women of a certain age holding life’s quiet traumas, the two of us emptying our carousel of cares. 

When the spring chill began to overtake the late afternoon sun, we walked home slowly, both of us feeling lighter from the soft sifting of worries, the rueful laughs, and grateful for friendship, especially the kind women share.

As a teenager in the age of "Desiderata," I and my friends at Queens High School for Girls used to write pithy quotes on the covers of our subject notebooks, most of them trite and transient, but there was one quote that I carried forward through the years. Though I’d first encountered it on a garish day glo poster on someone’s wall, even back then it felt true to the bone. It went like this: 

“A friend is one to whom one may pour out the contents of one’s heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that the gentlest of hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away.”

I later looked up the original quote by Dinah Mulock Craig:

“Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person—having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.”

The breath of kindness, yes, but the safety, too, is such an important part. With a true friend, one feels safe.

 

Friday, April 22, 2022

(Re)construction

The kitchen reno continues, more or less on schedule. One upper cabinet next to the window is on back order, and will have to be installed later. The countertop guy came and measured and made a template yesterday; I had no idea they made a template before cutting the actual stone; they never show that stage on HGTV. The cut countertop slabs will be delivered and installed on Monday. They took down the heavy plastic sheeting that was blocking off the living room, so things feel a little more open now. Dust somehow managed to find its way under and around the plastic anyway, and I will have to do a thorough cleaning of surfaces, nooks, and crannies once the construction is done. Everything in its time.

I am thankful this job will be finished by my birthday, May 3, as our son will be having a knee operation on May 4, and will need to stay with us for about a month after that. He lives in a third floor walk up, and won't be able to navigate the stairs immediately after the surgery. He tore his ACL again, the same knee, it happened at work, so he is now on medical leave from the fire department, and seeing all the best doctors to get him back into fighting form. The department knows how critical it is for firefighters to have strong, intact bodies, and they offer the best medical care to ensure it. I am grateful he is getting good care, but heartsick that he will have to undergo that surgery again. 

I remember how excruciating the recovery was last time, especially the first night, when our boy awoke crying silently in the hours after midnight and his dad just held him, the two of them watching the clock till he could take another dose of meds, even though in the beginning, not even those pills could touch the pain. He healed quickly though. In six months he was fully restored, despite that the recovery period is said to be nine months. His fiancee pointed out that he is six years older now, and to give himself the full nine months. He may have to, because the department won't put him back in shift rotation till their doctors give him the all clear. In the meantime, he still shows his face at work for house activities like clean up-day. He is not a shirker, that one.

Yesterday, since he had free time, he met up with some of his future in laws—nephews, sister, aunt—at the Museum of Natural History, where his dad works. It was spring break, and my husband had got the family tickets to the dinosaur and butterfly exhibits and shows, and he also gave them his now famous behind-the-scenes tour of the ichthyology department. The boys were fascinated. 


There's my son with one of his (future) nephews, showing him a cleared-and-stained fish specimen—the fish are treated with certain chemicals that render the flesh gel clear, leaving the bones red, and the cartilage blue, allowing an unobstructed view of those aspects of their anatomy. My kids grew up helping their dad with such processes when they went to work with him, and they loved showing the magic to their friends. Now a new generation gets to enjoy what happens behind the curtain of a great natural science museum.

Afterward, my son came home with his dad, and we got to spend time with him for a couple of hours, chatting, dining on pad Thai take out, and watching Survivor together in the dusty makeshift space of our living room. I hate so much that he has to have another surgery, but the fact that he will be under our roof for a few weeks afterward, and we can nourish him from our brand new kitchen, is a sweet silver lining.

 

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

A spirit of acceptance

This photo of my girl was circulated at her new job to introduce her to new colleagues. Her start date at the new company is May 2, but she will be able to work remotely from Boston until the end of June, when she and her love will move back to New York City. They found a great apartment in a lively artsy Brooklyn neighborhood dotted with sidewalk cafes and hipster joints like the drag bingo bar where my niece Dani and her friends can be found every Monday night, and where practically all of their closest friends already live within walking distance around them. 

The kitchen renovation is proceeding on schedule, the cabinets are now almost all installed, and tomorrow someone will come to measure the dimensions of the gray quartz countertop, which will take 2-3 days to cut and deliver, which means the counter will be installed by early next week, and the backsplash the same day, with grouting to be done the day after. I continue to be completely unsure about every choice I have made, but however it turns out I have decided to simply be okay with it, because my husband stated very clearly that while he is fine with whatever I decide (except when he isn't, and then he gives his opinion and we make another choice), it will drive him bananas if, after everything is done, I am constantly second guessing the process and moaning that I should have gone with some other decision about a particular detail instead. I say that's fair. And so however the final kitchen turns out, I am resolved to be at peace with it, because it will be a safe, bright, and functional new kitchen and what a privilege to have wished for that and then be able to make it happen.

As for the contractor, I have no complaints. I suspect I might be a difficult client with all my hand wringing and self doubt, but he has been unfailing kind, informative, and accommodating, offering choices until I arrive at one I might be happy with, and never making me feel rushed or bamboozled. I do know that we have different aesthetics—I like warm lighting for example, and he is cool LED lighting all the way; he also likes a few bells, whistles, and flourishes, while I like simplicity and clean lines. And so I have to be my own designer, which is where the self-doubt comes in. I wish I knew how to throw in a dash of art, say in the lighting fixture over the kitchen island. I played with the idea of getting an art glass fixture, but I didn't have the confidence to choose something dramatic and bold, so I went with a simple three bulb cylindrical light with white frosted glass and brushed nickle hardware. My husband, son, and daughter all liked it, and I did too, but it was a moment where I could have gone with drama and flair instead, and I didn't. On the other hand, this apartment was built in the 1950s. It's lines are simple and unadorned, so perhaps a simple unadorned kitchen is a perfectly good canvas for what can come later.

I did get the backsplash I was mulling over in a previous post. I hope it looks as good as the picture. Honestly, I worry that the smaller hex tiles will look too busy, but it's too late now, I've settled on them, and if I find that I don't love them, well, I will keep that to myself. My husband is a patient and easy going man, but one thing that he cannot abide is people getting all worked up about circumstances that are essentially fixed, and not of astronomical importance in the scheme of life anyway. He is philosophical that way. "Done is done," he might say. Another famous one of his lines: "You play the hand you're holding." I guess I'm writing this post as a way to process and practice a spirit of acceptance about the outcome of this kitchen renovation, given that every material choice along the way has been mine. One of my aphorisms? "Live and learn." I am definitely doing a lot of learning. I am also looking forward to purging so much stuff as we set up our new kitchen!