Saturday, November 17, 2018

i, robot.

It occurred to me today that my body as machine is faulty. There's malfunctions in the hardware and software. The hardware is unable to be upgraded. 

That's what my pills are: software updates. My spiffy compression socks are hardware patches.

When I think of it like that, I feel better. More like the Millennium Falcon, where duct tape holds things together but she's still the fastest ship in the galaxy. 

Yep, that's me. Kick it to make it run, don't be alarmed by strange bangs from the motor, and hope it just stays together. 

Thursday, November 15, 2018


Lately I feel like I'm living in some gray space, between times. I know that the past months have happened, and I know what has happened in those months, and I know that eventually I will have a job again and step back into the flow of life. I'll feel more healed than now as far as all my maladies go, and perhaps at some point my youngest sister and I will be on speaking terms once more. 

But right now, I'm just hanging out in limbo. 

Perhaps it could be better described as that hole through which Alice falls from reality to Wonderland: paused in eternal free fall. Or more mundanely: standing in the hallway, unsure of which door you needed to access - closet for jacket, door for linens? 

Either way, the things that I feel as permanent will eventually alter. I'm just horrible at waiting for that change. 

I've been doing all the things I'm supposed to: networking, looking for a job, researching companies. I've got multiple versions of my resume, and about fifty cover letters, all tailored to individual companies. All my media is updated, and my phone doesn't leave a three-foot vicinity of my hands until bedtime. I'm eating and sleeping and healing, and using CBT to deal with bouts of depression and inadequacy that roll through. I'm reminding myself that I can only control my own emotions, and not those of others. 

All that, and yet I'm still in the gray, thrashing and kicking and wanting to move into either darkness or light or maybe just a firmer footing.  


Lesson number one, which the universe pushed on me over the past year, was how to recognize when help is needed and then how to ask for and accept said assistance. 

The second lesson was a reminder: how to be patient. 

I'm not always great at being patient. I'm one of those people who reads the ends of books, because I'm too impatient to wait for the end if I know what is probably coming. I also read ahead online when we're watching TV shows, and I'm an inveterate traffic-checker, just to avoid accidents or slow downs whilst driving. If a bag of chocolate enters our house, it's odds that before the end of the day, the entire bag will be gone. 

You might classify all this as lack of willpower, but really, it's impatience. 

Being in this gray space is enforced learning. I can't hurry snow, or healing, or laundry; I cannot rush my job search, or shove my sibling into being willing to heal our relationship. I can only breathe into my impatience. 


In September we visited Dan's side of the family. Whenever we do so, we stay in a hotel with a pool, and go swimming with our nieces. 

So we're in the pool, me and the three girls. They're racing and playing games undecipherable to an adult, even to one who still lives primarily inside her own imagination (that's me, fyi...). They started out years ago as fearful swimmers, but are now quite comfortable swimming on their own, without an adult dogging their every liquid move. I'm extraneous, another body clogging their creative arena. 

I moved to the deeper end of the pool, and was simply thinking when our eight year old niece swam by. "Auntie, what are you doing?" she burbled, limbs flashing beneath the water. 

"Treading water," I replied. "It's the first thing I was taught to do in water." 

Probably not the first thing; that was no doubt blowing bubbles or something equally youthful. But my first memory of swimming lessons is comprised of chlorine, bright early summer light, and moving my arms and legs to keep my head above water, a voice telling me to relax and breathe. Once I got the hang of it, I felt like I could tread water forever. 

I think about that now, watching watery November sun cast morning shadows across our snow-patched lawn. Maybe I'm not so much falling through this gray space, so much as I'm keeping my head above water, relaxing into the feeling of staying afloat. 

It might not be something I want to do forever, but I know I can, if I just breathe. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

my anxious colon

In autumn 2016, we went to Ireland. It was a trip I never thought I'd make. I'm not a planner of world travel. Usually the most I plan is a trip to my sister's house or Target. But Dan is a planner, and he planned this vacation. 

It was the first time we traveled internationally, and also for any length of time. I was nervous about all kinds of things, but mostly I was terrified of not knowing where bathrooms are. 

If I go to the Mall of America, I know where the bathrooms are. The good ones are in Nordstrom's. You'd think Macy's bathrooms would be nice, but they're not the greatest. There's usually a weird smell. 

I knew where every restroom was from my house to my office; where to stop if it was an emergency - Target or Walmart, where there were lots of restrooms- and where to stop if I knew I could wait a few minutes - a gas station, for example. Before I went somewhere new, I'd scope out the situation online: the MN State Fair, museums, restaurants.  

Ireland was a mystery. 

Not just because of the miasma of mystery that swirls around the island, but because of the unknown WC. It was like going into a black hole. 

I found enough information online to soothe my anxious colon, and we went. 

To be honest the first few days were not awesome. They were awesome because we were in Ireland, and seeing things that we'd never seen, and drinking Guinness and loving it. But they were not awesome because when we landed, I spent about 2 hours in and out of the airport restrooms before we could head into Dublin itself. 

After my meds got my stomach under control, it was...amazing. 


I feel like a lot of my life is like this. There's times that my gut takes over my life, and I have to cancel plans, or leave early from an event. My family and friends know that if I'm in the bathroom for a while, not to worry...just text me, I bring my phone everywhere. 

That was a requirement after a work lunch one day, where I emerged after half an hour, sweating and pale after almost passing out in the loo. "Why didn't you text me?" my coworker asked, horrified. 

Part of me waits every day for the first twinge, the knowledge that I'm going to need to find a throne pretty soon. But part of me is also aware now that I have to leave the house, just go with it. 


In Ireland, the weather is drizzle, with some clear spots. In our time there, we had just a few hours of sunshine. It was what we expected. We donned rain coats, popped the hoods up, and pushed through wind to see the beauty of the country. 

In retrospect, that's how I live. It's how I have to live: put on a coat and walk out into the rain, hoping for the best. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2018


Everything is about returning to the earth. 

Leaves, grass, sticks, stones. They're all drifting closer and closer, gravity pulling and tugging insistently. And people are the same. We struggle in the net: boarding planes, driving cars, riding bicycles. Hot air balloons, trapeze acts, sledding down steep hills. You name it, we're skimming over dirt, until whenever it is that we give in to gravity. 

I've been on a pile of medication for years now. It started out small: lisinopril, for high blood pressure that is apparently genetic, a small round peach colored tablet. Then for a time I added Lexapro and Wellbutrin to the pile; that was a hard time, to be frank. But with therapy for both me and Dan separately, and together, it was the best thing that could have happened. It was a reset button. 

Eventually I stopped taking both Lexapro and Wellbutrin. Why? Because I thought I was fine without them. (Note to self: Don't just stop taking stuff like that because you think it's a good idea. Remember the dizziness? Ugh.) 

Then it was just lisinopril and birth control, another peachy-pink tablet. Which was awesome, as it turns out, because with my PMDD, taking birth control round the clock means you have no menstrual cycle. Late 1990s Kim would have lost her shit over this - it goes against nature, etc - but late 2010s Kim was ELATED. 

We bought our house. I got sick. Really sick. Couldn't stay out of the bathroom sick, blood where it shouldn't be, kind of sick. Eventually after a colonoscopy and CT scan, I was diagnosed with Crohn's, an auto-immune disease in which your body thinks that your intestines are Alan Rickman in a Bruce Willis Christmas movie, and kicks your insides with steel-toed boots. 

Inflammation: it gets the job done.

That was painful; I remember cuddling with heating pads for days on end, hoping for it to just stop. There was more medication: little blue anti-spasmodics, bitter steroids. Those tapered off and I ended up with two new all the time medications: turquoise Imodium tablets and giant flesh-colored Balsalzide caplets. (Think Mike and Ike size.) 

So back up to 4 medications again. 

Last fall, when I had my blood clot, the birth control was nixed, and I started taking Xarelto: tiny, red, triangle shaped. Because of the inflammatory disease, I have to stay on it for life. Yay. New pill. 

And after that, my thyroid got all malignant, and now I'm on levothyroxione, the replacement hormone for what my thyroid no longer kicks out. Another small peach pill. 

I also take colorful gummy multivitamins, and extra vitamin D in small clear gels. And yellow sertraline, for anxiety. 

Needless to say, when we travel anywhere, I have a small backpack of rattling medications. The Balsalzide in particular is a hefty pill that I'm fairly certain is made using Rubbermaid technology, and I'm cut back to 6 a day from 9 a day previously. They have their own little container, since they won't fit in a standard pill box. 

I just refilled my two-weeks' worth of medications this morning. It takes about 20 minutes, and I have two bins of medication, since the Balsalzide caplets are so large. There are so many colors that it could be kind of pretty, in a modern-art kind of way, if they were just hues and tints and not small pieces of machinery. 

I'm forty-two. I have more medications than my parents combined. 

Sometimes I get tired of taking everything, of parsing out my days and weeks into little plastic partitions. Once, when I was seeing a new doctor, I griped about the number of pills I have to take. He replied with a chuckle: "What happens if you don't take the pills?" 

I know what happens. I don't leave the house. I lie down. I give up. I fall, the way October leaves are drifting now, and I become earth again. In their own way, they're keeping me from giving in to gravity and just laying down on the ground, these little stacks and piles of tablets and capsules. I lay on them the way others leap onto motorcycles or horses, and away I go. 

Thursday, October 04, 2018

cry havoc...

it's been forever since i posted anything here. so very, very much has happened...

we bought our house. moved in with our cats, henry and emma. traveled to Vegas, DC, Ireland, Belgium, Slovenia, Germany. now have 6 nieces and 4 nephews. dan's changed jobs a bunch. i was diagnosed with Crohn's disease. henry passed, other loved ones passed, friends and family moved about emotionally and physically.

this last year in particular has been crazy. we got back from Ocktoberfest in Munich last fall, i developed a DVT in my left leg; this was accompanied by a pulmonary embolism in each lung, too. will always be in recovery, it feels like, because i have to keep taking xarelto (an anti-coagulant) because having an inflammatory disease makes me more prone to blood clots.

anyway during that process, a CT of my chest revealed nodules on my thyroid. thus, the month of march went as follows:

Week 1: Laid off from work, effective May 7th.
Week 2: After 4 biopsies, confirmation that the nodules are cancer.
Week 3: Our 25th anniversary party at Big Wood Brewery, which has been planned for months. Three days before the party, we organize a wedding, since i'll be unemployed and full of cancer. We get hitched.

april was a month of scheduling: follow ups with various doctors, getting me onto dan's health insurance, counting down the days to surgery. we flew to Mexico City for my beloved Nathan's wedding to his beloved Carlos. my surgery was scheduled for May 7th, which was also the last day of my employment.

my entire thyroid was removed, along with 21 lymph nodes; of these, it was determined that 11 were actual malignant, so following surgery, i immediately went on the low/no iodine diet in preparation for radiation.

thyroid cancer, my endocrinologist maintains, is the easy cancer to have: you take out the thyroid and replace thyroid hormones with a pill. the surgery was not bad; i was out for 5 hours, and woke up to a neat incision that has healed quite nicely. you really have to look to see the scar, to be frank.

radiation consisted of me swallowing a little pill, and then driving home to stay away from Dan for a solid week. i couldn't go into the kitchen, had to use a separate bathroom. dan had to do all my cooking for me. but i'm officially cancer-free. or at least as cancer free as anyone can be, i suppose. i'm sure there's some straggler hanging about just waiting to be found again. who knows.

i started looking for work about a month ago now, when i was finally able to sit upright for any length of time without falling asleep. i'll never know what narcolepsy feels like, but dang, i came close: i could drink 3 cups of coffee and then immediately take a 4 hour nap. wake up, lunch, back to sleep until dinner...and then an early bedtime.

i probably should have started looking for work sooner, but recovery was more exhausting than i had anticipated. and now that i am looking, finally, i am once again in the boat i have always been in, the good ship All Grown Up but No Idea of What to Do With My Life.

i'm sure i'll figure it out. severance only lasts for a bit longer; i have an end date. it's hard to transition, but in reading through what i have written here, just today, i find that this last twelve months has been a lesson in change and acceptance, another in a long and unending line of such lessons.

chaos, i find, is the only constant.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

i try to remember

i try to remember
the last time i was this
blood humming in my ears, even the
deaf side, so loud
that i remember the atlantic ocean
one young summer.
my heart pounds and instead of
considering why
i recall the pow-wow, feet thudding,
color swirling, the steady beat of each drum.
air catches behind my ribs,
an invisible hand tugging it down,
further and further, and
the kite swoops towards tree,
red and light,
caught by tangled green branches,
and i cannot remember
how to breathe.


when i was a kid i used to hyperventilate on a semi-regular basis. my mom would hand me a brown paper lunch bag and tell me to breathe in and out, and remind me that my grandpa did the same thing. clearly i recall this on my first day of second grade, so many years ago now.

as an adult i cope better with nerves...but apparently not much better. buying my first home is...terrifying and wonderful. i'm excited to make the house my own, but at the same time, my "what if's" list expands with each minute, spiraling down and out of control, and i'm transported back years to the last time my breath escaped and i worried.

it comes and goes, these nerves, that scratchy feeling of fear, much as seasons whirl around, out of control. i know that it is within my capabilities to snatch it back and make it mine, make it useful, but today i cast my mind back, trying to find that anchor, and i'm adrift.

time to do something--activity always helps, no matter the kind, reminds me that life will continue, regardless of if i am at the helm.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

estates that are real. aka, real estate.

so for a long time now i've been looking at houses online. it's been interesting, to see what's out there and also, perversely, to see how other people decorate their homes. *shudders*

at any rate, we've looked at 16 houses so far now--actually walked through with our realtor. saw two that were possibles...both of which had offers that were accepted before we could even formulate questions. i suppose that's to be expected.

where before it was interesting to see the houses online--pry into bedrooms and dens, peek at kitchens, wonder why on earth someone would put forest green carpeting with hot pink walls--now we get to actually go into it. we've seen some really...different places. one had a shrine to jagermeister, one had what appeared to be a flood in the basement, another had a shower that qualified for its own show on The Discovery Channel. nothing, yet, has been "the one."

everyone says you'll know it when you walk into it. i suppose that is true; i think of it in terms of other things i have acquired: shoes, purse, earrings, jeans. i see it and i think: that looks like something i would wear. or: that looks like it belongs in my house.

now i need to find that house that says: this is where i want to live. this is where i want to store all that other stuff that says "me" all over it, in shades of blue and green and pink and whatever other colors seem apropos.

i usually think of myself as going with the flow--accepting life as it comes, whatnot. it's strange to realize that you're exceedingly picky.

i was soothed tonight talking to dan's sister and bro in law; they looked at over thirty houses before finding the right one, and i'm guessing that we'll have to do the same.

years ago when i wanted something hard to find--a book, the right dress--i used to ask it to come to me, and then let go. just ask the universe at large--whatever you call it, spirit, god, jesus--to send that item my way. i haven't done that in a long time, mainly because i haven't needed anything in a long time. i need a house now, a place i can call home, where i can plant flowers and gripe about mowing the lawn and cleaning the gutters.

so here it is: home, find me.