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Finding Purpose

Hi everyone!

So much has been on my mind lately (what else is new?), and I’ve made multiple attempts to write, only to save my posts as drafts for one reason or another. (Mainly because I think they are all dumb!)

Today I finished up a course called Coretography, which was designed by Tracy Otsuka to help people develop a roadmap for their lives. Of course I already know a lot of things about myself, but I’ve always had trouble figuring out what road I want to travel down, and where exactly I want to end up.  Her course helped me narrow things down a bit. I figured out:

My top 8 core values: Creativity, love, brilliance, humor, authenticity, health, environmentalism and mindfulness.

My passions: Being creative, being authentic and self-improvement.

Combined with my top talents: Empathy, humor and intelligence.

And my skills: Writing, grammar, and teaching.

Plus a few other things… resulting in my PURPOSE: to share my own life experiences in order to help people going through similar things.

At this point I think my best way of doing that is to continue with the blog, so I had better get writing!

The most prominent life experience I am currently experiencing is watching Mom go through chemo. At first it was so scary to know that she had cancer and that the prescribed course of treatment was to pump her full of hazardous chemicals.

Watching her lose her hair, lose weight, become fatigued and worn out has not been fun. I feel pretty helpless, and as a result I worry that I am not being supportive enough. I suppose one positive aspect of the whole thing is that we have been communicating a lot more than we used to.

Her treatment is progressing nicely though. Since February she was one one chemo cocktail, and today she just started a different cocktail. I probably shouldn’t use the word cocktail because that sounds like a fun drink garnished with fruit on a plastic sword. In reality, it’s about as opposite of that as you can get. One of the drugs they gave her today is nicknamed the Red Devil. She was warned to expect nausea, among other things. Fortunately she is only getting 4 doses of that, so I am crossing fingers and toes that she can bear it and get through it as quickly as possible.

It’s so mind boggling to me that in order for a person to fight cancer, they have to take in such toxic chemicals. I suppose there is a metaphor in there somewhere, but I’m not sure what it is. She has been doing what she can with diet and supplements to help her body stay strong, and I am sure that is helping her. I even started taking one of the supplements myself (tumeric cucurmin) and I am about 90% sure it is helping my eyes, but that is a topic for another post.

I hope you, whoever you are who is reading this, is well. Thanks for reading, and please check back soon.

<3

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Live EEC Q&A on Facebook

Hi guys! I just did a new thing! I went live on Facebook to do a Q&A about EEC! There wasn’t a lot of Q’ing, so I mostly rambled on about life with EEC, but despite my internet connection cutting out a little bit, and my occasional “uhh” moments, I think it went pretty well!

Check it out!

I wish I could figure out how to change the preview so I don’t look like I just sucked a lemon.

I will definitely do more live videos in the future, so if you would like to hear me talk about something in particular, please let me know!

And don’t worry, I WILL blog again… with words and pictures… I promise. 🙂

Meet the Queen

This is our cat, Autumn.

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Uh, what?

Autumn is the queen of our household. We joke that if the house caught fire, Dave would grab Autumn and leave me to fend for myself. It’s really not even a joke, but a fact I’ve come to terms with.

Autumn was rescued from the streets of Springfield, Ma, along with her daughter Reeses. My brother Kris and his then-girlfriend adopted them both from an animal shelter. From the beginning, Autumn and Reeses did not get along. It was so bad that Autumn stopped eating because she was so stressed. The vet said that if she didn’t start eating again they would have to put her down.

Luckily, she rallied and ate a couple of bites of food just hours before the deadline. Kris decided it would probably help Autumn to be away from Reeses for a while, so that’s when she came to live with us.

Dave had never had a pet cat before, and he was a little reluctant. I told him it was just temporary, so if he didn’t like her, we could send her back to Kris at the end of the summer. That was 11 years ago.

 

 

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I’m the third wheel in this relationship…

After we’d had Autumn for a few years, she began having some issues. The vet did an x-ray to check for a bowel obstruction. There was no obstruction, but they found an airgun pellet lodged at the base of her tail. They performed surgery to remove it, just in case it was causing her pain. She looked so funny with the bald spot on her tail. But my heart ached to think of how much pain she must have been in, and how scared she must have been when she’d been shot!

When Gram died at the end of 2012, I inherited her black cat, Ebony. We felt awkward calling her Ebony, so we renamed her Sophie. Autumn was pissed that we brought a younger, slimmer cat into the household. For months we had to keep them physically separated so they wouldn’t fight. Even today, the occasionally lash out at each other, although very recently they’ve come to share the couch – as long as they are at opposite ends. Progress!

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It’s a jungle in here.

Today, Autumn spends much of her day sleeping. Additional hobbies include eating, pooping, and torturing Sophie.

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Autumn has the terribly annoying habit of waking Dave up multiple times in the night (this is where I’m grateful for being deaf in one ear), and waking me up about 10 minutes before my alarm goes off. She wakes us up in one of two ways.

Most commonly, she will sit in the doorway of the bedroom and make a variety of noises, ranging from huffy little grunts and chirps to operatic crescendos. Sometimes she accompanies her vocal stylings by picking at the baseboard moulding with her claws.

Her second wake-up method is to sit on the pillow and gently, yet threateningly drag her claws across delicate areas of skin, like the forehead, eyelids, and lately, the throat. Of course this wakes me up right away, and not pleasantly.

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I will cut you.

I usually wrestle her off the pillow and get her to cuddle with me for a few minutes, but inevitably she will pop up moments later, claws extended, to try again. Sometimes, if she’s not up for wrestle-cuddling, she’ll get back on the floor and belt out some more tunes.

Living with Autumn isn’t all poop-scooping and fitful sleeps. She is a champion purrer. She purrs louder than any other cat I’ve ever known. She will purr for just about anything, whether you’re simply talking to her, petting her, preparing food for her, or just lying in bed snuggling.

Some of my favorite moments with her are when we are lying in bed, about to go to sleep at night. She will nestle down in between Dave and I, purring gently. Sometimes she’ll lie on my chest, and I will pet her with both hands and she’ll give me little kisses with her cold, wet nose.

Having a cat is a lot of work. It can be tough on the allergies (thank God for Zyrtec), tough on the sleep, and tough planning a vacation. (Our cats are very spoiled, okay?) With that responsibility comes reward, though. The eager greeting upon arriving home (even though that’s mostly about food), the wet-nose kisses, and the soft, soft fur… it all makes every 5am wakeup meow worth it.

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Minimalism – The Struggle is Real

If you’ve been with me for a while, you’ll recall that I have a fondness for the concept of minimalism. I’ve never gone on a rampage and thrown out all of my stuff or anything, but, section by section, I’ve gone through the house and pared down.

The truth is, it’s not that easy to keep it up. I’ll visit Walgreens during my lunch break to pick up more allergy medicine and by the time I leave the store I’ve got a new bottle of lotion, or a new nail polish, and of course a snack to take back to work with me. It’s possible I’ve even forgotten to get the allergy medicine because I was so enamored with all the shiny trinkets in the store.

When I go grocery shopping, I make a list of what we need based on the recipes we plan to make for the week. Yet every time, I end up walking out with at least 5 additional things I hadn’t planned for. Sometimes it’s legitimately a need, and I had just forgotten to put it on my  list. But more often than not, we could have made it through the week without an additional can of diced tomatoes, or another bag of frozen veggies, when we’ve already got a freezer full of them.

The worst is when I’m about to embark on a new life adventure and I get the urge to buy something to prepare myself for it. For example:

  • I’m going to take up running for exercise; I need to buy new running shoes before I can start.
  • I want to eat healthier this year; We should get a Ninja blender with food processor attachment and smoothie cups.
  • I need to write more; Let’s buy 5 notebooks and a 12 pack of pens, just in case the hundreds of pens I have around the house all stop working simultaneously.
  • The seasons are changing; I need new clothes.

I know I’m not the only one who does this, and in re-reading this list, nothing is really too crazy or expensive (besides the Ninja), but it just goes to show how quickly and easily we can fall out of the routine of being a considerate consumer.

What’s something you have a hard time resisting? Have you figured out a way to avoid the temptation? For me, I limit my trips to Walgreens as much as I can. I try to buy everything I’ll need for the week during my weekly shopping trip, because I find that it’s usually those quick little Walgreens trips where I end up with a spontaneous purchase that I didn’t really need.

Oh, and Amazon. I have to make a conscious effort not to buy every little thing I think of on Amazon. It’s just so easy to impulsively search for something and purchase it before your rational mind can catch up and stop you.

What’s your secret compulsive purchase? As you can see by the header image of this post, mine is nail polish. And I don’t even have 10 fingernails to use it on!

 

The Hermit Life

I haven’t felt much like writing lately. I have felt more like burrowing deep into my home and not coming out for an indeterminate amount of time.

I suppose we could blame my melancholy on the time of year, although I am hyper-aware that each successive morning and evening is a little brighter than the one before, thanks to the ever-changing rotation of the earth’s axis. Yeah that’s right, I have a science degree.

Perhaps we can blame it on my mom’s cancer, because you know I’m already milking that for all it’s worth. “Sorry, that thing you invited me to? I can’t go, because… my mom is sick.”

Meanwhile, she’s 300 miles away, so it’s not like I can do much for her from my own home. But, I did go up to visit her last week. At this point my function in visiting her is to bring tidings of comfort and joy. I brought books, magazines, games, and of course, my winning personality.

We shared a hermit-like existence for a few days, which are my favorite kind of days. Introvert life! We sat around reading and drinking tea, slowly plodding away at a puzzle, and when she took her naps, I worked on my artsy things or took the dog out for a walk. In the evenings, we’d enjoy dinner while watching a movie. It’s the lifestyle I wish I could live every day. Except for the cancer part, of course.

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A blue evening on Lake Champlain

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what to do next. I’ve been trying to nurture my artistic side as much as I can, and my writing, although many days it’s a challenge to come home from work and plop down in front of my laptop, or at my art table, although it pains me more when I neglect to do so.

Lately, I feel like I am frustrated so much of the time. I feel like there’s never enough time to do the things I want to do. (See above paragraph about reading, puzzling, making art and taking long walks…). I feel like there’s got to be a better way to balance my life.

Speaking of balance, one thing I have done to improve my life lately is join Weight Watchers. I lost 2.4 lbs in the first week, so that was cool. I’ll have to write more about that in another post because my eyes are ready for bed now. It looks like tomorrow will be a work-from-home day, thanks to the storm that’s coming.

So stay tuned, friends, and let’s venture into the unknown together… or, we can just hang out in the same old, predictable middle-class lifestyle…  eww, just kidding. Let’s check out the unknown.

Life Rerouted

Let’s do a family video chat soon,” Mom wrote in her email. “Let’s pick a time when you can all be available next Sunday.”

How lovely, I thought. We haven’t done a group chat with Mom in ages! A moment later, a pang of fear struck me. Something is wrong, my gut warned, We haven’t done a group chat in ages.

Dave chided me for being so dramatic. “She just wants to talk to you guys, is all,” he assured me. “Don’t assume the worst.”

Still, the next day I sent Mom a text. “Is something going on that you need to tell us?” I remembered at Thanksgiving she had mentioned that she and Kathryn were working on their wills. I told myself it could just be an update on that.

Maybe they’re going to take us on an all-expenses paid trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter? I joked with my youngest brother, after I’d stirred up his anxiety by texting him and asking if he knew what was up.

Mom wouldn’t cave under the pressure of my probing texts, much to my frustration. “Tell you what,” she wrote. “If you can wrangle the boys, we can do a call tonight and I’ll tell you what’s going on.”

By this point I knew it couldn’t be good. If it was a benign thing, like going over details of a will, or discussing plans for next summer’s family get-together, why wouldn’t she just say so and alleviate my worry?

After a flurry of text messages between the siblings, we agreed on a 7 pm call. Whatever it is, I hope it’s treatable, I thought to myself.

Just a few months before, Cara’s uncle had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. He went from having a pesky cough to being in the ICU at Dana Farber in Boston within a month. His condition quickly deteriorated and he died the day after Christmas. It was shocking that it happened so fast, and left us all pondering just how abruptly life can be taken away from you and turned upside down for those left behind. This was still fresh in my mind as I fretted over what could be going on with Mom.

At 7 pm, I began dialing and connecting Mom and Kathryn to Kris and John and Nick. We greeted each other cheerfully, happy to hear those familiar voices across the miles. I can only assume my brothers all waited on the edges of their seats, as I did, for Mom to tell us why she’d wanted us all together.

“I have breast cancer,” she said.

“Fuck,” I breathed, my voice colliding with those of my brothers, all of us releasing exclamations of dismay at once. I thought first of my brother John, whose wife had just lost her uncle to cancer, and whose two close friends were also battling cancer. Just a few months before, they’d been talking with some concern about how many people they knew had cancer.

I leaned against the wall and stared at the familiar features of the kitchen, suddenly recalling similar anxious phone conversations with my siblings when Dad had been unexpectedly hospitalized years before. Why are kitchens always places of such intense emotion? I wondered.

We all held it together on the phone, as each of us expressed our concern and our support, and our promises to help out however we could. She explained that they didn’t know much yet, other than that they could tell it was cancer from the x-rays. It had spread to her lymph nodes, but they didn’t know yet if it had spread further. She would be going for a biopsy the next day to determine what kind of cancer it was.

After hanging up, I sat numbly. I knew it would take some time for the news to sink in. Cancer. It’s what I had feared, although somehow breast cancer seemed a little less scary. Breast cancer is so common! Breast cancer is pink ribbons and t-shirts and it’s something that can be beat, right? I realized then just how little I actually knew about it.

The days slowly turned to weeks – each day spent waiting for something else. I can imagine that for Mom these days of waiting were absolute agony. We tried to help keep things light by sending funny text messages and emails, and mailing cards for her.

I cautiously googled information about breast cancer. I remembered a young woman I knew who died from breast cancer in her early 30’s. I reached out to my former boss, who had just finished up chemo for her breast cancer. I mentioned it to a couple of friends and learned that both of them had breast cancer in their families – that their grandmothers and mothers and aunts had gone through chemo or surgery and had come out the other side.

While of course, I still nursed the lurking fear that Mom’s cancer could have spread and become more deadly, or that her particular kind of cancer would be incurable, I did find comfort in realizing just how many women have been through this.

Finally, after weeks of scans, x-rays, MRI’s, blood work and whatever else they could think of to check, it was clarified. Invasive Ductal Carcinoma that had spread to the lymph nodes, but, hallelujah, not anywhere else in her body.

Last week she had a port installed, and tomorrow she begins chemo. She will have to do chemo, followed by surgery and then radiation. I wish they could just do surgery and leave it at that, but I trust that her doctors know what is best. Obviously I don’t, as I literally just learned about breast cancer from Google in these past few weeks.

So, that’s where we’re at right now. I am focusing on keeping a positive attitude about it, and trusting that this will be yet another interesting chapter in our lives. Writing about it is therapeutic for me, but I’m trying to balance it with respect my mom’s privacy, as she is not the kind of person who would blog about her problems and post it all over the internet like I do.

For those of you who know my mom and want to follow her progress, she has created a Caring Bridge page, which is kind of like a blog.  Just go to www.caringbridge.org and type in her name. Or, ask me for a direct link.

Namaste, friends.

Hello from the Other Side (of the Atlantic)

I was just thinking that it’s been about 2 years since I’ve been to Amsterdam. I really liked it there. I felt like I could live there. Maybe I did, in some previous lifetime.

Anyway, let’s revisit my thoughts about being a homebody who likes to travel. The struggle is real.

The Radium Girls

Below is another Toastmasters speech I gave – just last night, actually! It was inspired by a book I read recently, called The Radium Girls; The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women, by Kate Moore. I’d known of the Radium Girls before, but I’d always been curious to know more. Her book is a very moving look at the lives these women led, many cut extremely short by their radiation poisoning. If you’d like to know more, I highly recommend the book.

Also –  I notice that when I write my speeches, they don’t really follow the same cadence that my writing does… maybe because I’m not writing for anyone to read it, but to hear it, and I find that when it comes to speaking, I’d rather use simpler words so my tongue doesn’t get tied up.

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It was a beautiful spring day in 1922, but Mollie Maggia barely noticed the weather. She had been suffering for months with an intense pain in her jaw. It had all started with a toothache. Her dentist pulled the tooth, but instead of healing, the wound became a festering blister. More teeth began to ache; in fact, her whole jaw ached. Her dentist treated her for a common inflammatory condition to no avail. He continued to remove her teeth, one by one, until one day when a piece of her jaw came out in his hand. Upon examination of it, he saw that it was brittle and full of holes. He was baffled, and still, could offer nothing more than strong painkillers.

Mollie was a dial painter for the US Radium Corporation in Newark, NJ. She had been working there since she was 19. Now, she could no longer work at all, due to the blinding pain in her mouth. She would die months later, when the necrosis reached her jugular, and she bled to death. She was 24 years old.

By then, the dentist suspected that Mollie’s work with radium had caused her gruesome demise, but he couldn’t prove it. Her autopsy was performed by a doctor hired by the radium company, and the official cause of death was marked as syphilis.

Working for US Radium Corporation had been considered a privilege for the women who’d been hired there. This was the company that had invented Undark, the luminous paint applied to dials, watch faces, and instrument panels used by the military in WWI. The company had advertised for young women with “nimble fingers” to perform the delicate task of painting the small numbers and fine lines. The young women, ranging in age from 14-20, came from working-class, immigrant families. They felt fortunate to find the dial painting jobs, which was easy and fun work and paid well.

As for working with radium, there was no reason for them to be concerned. The girls had no reference for the hazards of exposure to radiation. Radium had only been discovered 20 years before and had been given positive monikers like, “The Wonder Element” and “Liquid Sunshine.” In fact, Radium was marketed as a tonic to cure everything from impotence to dull smiles. You could buy radium lingerie, radium butter, radium toothpaste, radium water and even radium-laced cosmetics. Of course, most of these products did not actually contain any radium, as it was far too rare and expensive, but it made for some great marketing campaigns.

Undark, the luminous paint, was mixed several times a day by the painters themselves. The recipe was simple: a pinch of radium powder, which was a mixture of radium + zinc sulfide, a dash of water, and a dab of adhesive combined in small crucibles at the workbench. Then, the girls would dip a fine-point brush into the mixture and settle into the task of painting the tiny numbers on the watch faces. Even a brand-new brush would soon lose it’s fine point, and so they were taught a technique called lip-pointing to keep the brush in top shape. It was simple – they’d just put the brush to their mouths and shape it with their lips, just as you’d point a piece of thread before putting it through a needle.

Many times, they asked if it was safe to do this, and each time, they were reassured that it was. Radium was not harmful, they were told. In fact, it would be good for them! It took a while to get used to the grittiness of the paint on their tongues and lips, but it didn’t taste bad, and so the girls soon became used to the routine – lip, dip, paint. Every few strokes repeat – lip, dip, paint.

The studio where they painted had a large expanse of windows and skylights, and so it was a bright, cheery room. The girls chatted happily as they worked, feeling positive about the direction their lives were going. Thanks to their salaries, they’d been able to ease the burden on their working-class parents. They were paying off debts and saving money for the future.

At lunchtime, the girls would put down their paintbrushes and push their work to the side. They were allowed to eat lunch at their work tables, as long as they didn’t get food on the dials. The dust from the radium powder covered everything in the room – the tables, chairs and floor continually hosted a light coating of it.

In order to check their work, the girls would bring their trays of painted dials into a darkroom to have them inspected. It was there that they noticed each other’s lips glowing in the dark, and that the powder that had fallen onto their dresses gave them a luminous, otherworldly glow.

Everything about the girls glowed – they were happy young women, at the cusp of their adult lives. Newark was a bustling city with a lively night scene. The girls would wear their best dresses to work so that they would be dusted with the luminescent powder, and at the end of the day they’d paint their fingernails and sometimes even their teeth with the leftover paint, so that when they went out in the evening, they would literally glow in the dark. On some occasions, they’d even bring the leftover paint home to share the novelty with younger siblings.

It wasn’t until Mollie Maggia died such a horrible death, that the girls began to really question the safety of radium. By then, many of them had moved on from the US Radium Corporation and were working in banks or stores, or had gotten married and stopped working altogether. Many, like Mollie, began having tooth and jaw pain, while still others found themselves with inexplicable aches and pains in their hips and knees. These once-radiant young women were becoming decrepit, as if they had aged an entire lifetime in just 5 years.

The Radium Girls in New Jersey were not alone in their plight – there were also radium dial-painting factories in Waterbury, CT, as well as outside of Chicago. The conditions were the same – the girls all lip-pointed, and worked in ignorant bliss of the dangers of the radioactive paint.

In each case, it took years before the true cost of their professions would be realized. One by one the girls became ill, and eventually it became clear that the common denominator in their afflictions was the radium paint. It may have been too late to save themselves, but they would not go down without a fight.

Filing lawsuits against the powerful radium companies was not easy. Each company fought back hard, their lawyers using every trick and loophole they could to evade responsibility for the girls’ troubles.

Nevertheless, the Radium Girls persisted. Groups in Newark and Chicago rallied together to fight for compensation. The newspapers chronicled their plights, giving the groups names like “The Ghost Women” “The Living Dead” and the “Women Doomed to Die.” It took years, and many of the women died along the way, but in the end they won compensation and brought light to the issue of workplace safety. These women championed women’s rights, workers rights, public health and environmental justice. Thanks to the Radium Girls’ efforts, there began a legacy of labor standards that persists today.

7th Grade Gym Class Hell

“Get it! GET IT!” my teammates shout as the gleaming white volleyball hurtles toward me like a meteor.

More defensively than athletically, I stick my palm outward to shove the ball away from my face. My face – always the target of flying objects – as if all the surgical trauma wasn’t enough.

The ball makes an unsatisfying thwack sound as it makes contact with my hand. Seconds later it hits the floor.

Everyone groans. The gym teacher’s whistle blasts piercingly and we rotate. I shuffle into the next spot, praying that the ball will somehow avoid coming anywhere near me.

The other team’s server can’t get the ball over the net. At least I’m not the only gym class failure here today.

Our team serves. The more athletic girls volley the ball back and forth over the net. They actually seem to be having fun. What is that like? I wonder.

Suddenly, the ball is coming my way again. My pulse quickens as my brain tries to decide the proper course of action. This time it is to step out of the way to avoid being hit.

The ball sails out of the court and my teammates groan and roll their eyes at each other. Why is this girl such a loser? I can hear them asking each other.

I allow myself to feel empty. Feeling nothing makes it easier to bear the shame and embarrassment of being so physically inept. If I could vaporize into thin air, I would do it.

The minute hand on the clock moves ever so slowly. I consider that the clock might actually be broken. It will surely be an eternity before I am allowed to change out of the unflattering gray gym clothes and feel the comforting weight of my books in my arms.

Throwback Thursday: A Cursed Weekend

It was a busy Friday at work. I was the receptionist at a small insurance company – a job I loathed, but was too insecure and full of self-doubt to do anything about it at the time. I’d been ignoring the urge to pee so I could finish distributing the mail and putting people’s used coffee cups into the dishwasher before my boss could find something to nitpick about.

When I finally made it to the bathroom, I was surprised that, although I felt like I had to go urgently, not that much came out. And it burned a little. Weird, I thought, but I ignored it and made a mental note to drink more water.

By the end of the day, after multiple uncomfortable peeing episodes, and a few WebMD articles later, I realized I was likely coming down with a bladder infection. I’d never had one before, so I figured I would just make sure to chug a bunch of water and flush it out. It would be like a having a cold, right?

I hopped in my car and drove straight to Vermont. I’d been looking forward to spending the weekend with my family. I sipped on water as I drove, but was careful not to drink too much because I didn’t want to stop too many times. By the time I got to the rest area in Vermont, I thought I might die. I rushed into the bathroom, only to struggle painfully to release the contents of my bladder.

Nevertheless, I persisted. I continued on my journey to the family home, which was another hour and a half drive away. Once there, I was relieved to be in close proximity to a toilet at all times, and I made an attempt to drink more.

The next day was the same. It was uncomfortable, but I could bear it. I chatted with my parents, and played games with my brothers. We ate lots of food and took a leisurely walk down to the pond and back again. I convinced myself that it wasn’t really a bladder infection and that I was probably fine.

That night, I tossed and turned. I got up to pee multiple times. In the morning, I felt horrible. I went downstairs to have breakfast but the nausea was so intense that I couldn’t keep sitting upright. I was also freezing cold. I wrapped myself in quilts and lay on the couch.

My parents looked at me with concern. I told them that I thought I had a bladder infection but I wasn’t sure because I’d never had one before. “It hurts to pee!” I cried as I shivered uncontrollably under the blankets, unable to get warm.

After a little convincing, I agreed to let my mom take me to the emergency room. I must have looked like death warmed over. When we arrived and explained the situation, I was given a collection cup and told to provide a urine sample. I stumbled to the all-inclusive unisex/handicapped/family party time bathroom that was just off the waiting area and squeezed out what I could into the cup. It was the color of apple cider. (Sorry if you like apple cider.)

The nurse laughed when I handed the cup back to him. “Uh, yeah, looks like you have a bladder infection!” he said. Then he told me to sit and wait.

Before long, they put me in a private room with a bed. I changed into the hospital gown, got into the bed, and collapsed onto the pillow as they covered me with warm blankets. It was a surreal feeling to be in a hospital bed with my mom by my side. Talk about a throwback.

The doctor came in and stood at an awkward distance as he asked me about my symptoms. He agreed that it was a bladder infection, and the urine sample was ample evidence. He said that if I had waited any longer, it would have become a kidney infection. This was alarming news. If I hadn’t been with my parents, would I have had the sense to get myself to a hospital for treatment before it got that bad?

The painkillers and fluids in the IV worked wonders, and soon I was feeling much better. Even the nurses commented that I looked more alive. My dad stopped in to see how I was doing before he headed down to Philadelphia for work. Normally I would have been heading back to CT myself, but decided to go back to the family home and get a good night’s sleep first.

The next day dawned to snowy/icy conditions. I called out of work, a legitimate sick day, and began my drive south. I was feeling a lot better – the violent, painful urge to pee had subsided, so I felt confident I could make the trip. I drove along, being careful on the icy roads, but not fearful. I’d driven in worse.

After about an hour of driving, I began mentally drifting off and forgot to pay attention to my speed. I was heading for Proctorsville Gulf, on Route 103 (if you’ve ever driven to Ludlow to ski, you’ll know the part I’m talking about). It’s a section of road that goes between two mountains, and it’s somewhat steep and curvy. In the wintertime, the sun barely reaches down to the road, so it’s the perfect spot for icy conditions to form.

I came out of my daydream long enough to notice that the road was pretty slick and that I needed to take my speed down a notch. Absent-mindedly, I pressed my foot on the brake, and immediately the car began to slide on the ice. I veered into the oncoming lanes of traffic (fortunately no one was there) and pressed my foot harder on the brake out of desperation. I yanked the steering wheel to the right, anxious to get back in my lane. The next thing I knew, the car was sliding sideways down the road, and I was heading straight toward a guard rail.

I braced myself for impact – squeezing my eyes tight and clutching the steering wheel. BAM! The car slammed into the guard rail head on and bounced back a few feet.

Surprisingly, my airbag did not inflate. I sat in stunned silence for a second. The car had shut off. I quickly restarted it so I could get my car off the road before someone else lost control and slammed into me. I pulled over after the guard rail ended and got out to look at the damage. One headlight had popped out and was dangling like a zombie eyeball. The license plate was bent, but otherwise the car looked unscathed. I could hardly believe it.

Another car slowly drove past and pulled over a few feet in front of me. A young guy leapt out. “Are you ok?” he looked at me incredulously. “I saw you lose control and I was so scared!” I admitted that I was a bit shaken, but physically unharmed. I refrained from telling him about my bladder situation.

He asked if he should call the police or an ambulance, but I said I was fine and I just wanted to get home. He popped the headlight back in for me and went on his way.

Back in the car, I noticed that the bottle of juice I’d been drinking had coated the entire stereo system, the cup holders and the gear shifter, and that all the stuff I’d had on the seat next to me was now on the floor. I wiped up the juice and situated myself as best I could, and proceeded with the journey.

An hour and a half later, I stopped for gas in Springfield, MA. I went to the Pride station just off of 91, which was one I often went to with my brother Kris  when we’d drive to Vermont together. He lived nearby, and I wondered what he was up to as I began pumping gas.

All of a sudden, a gruff voice behind me said, “Give me all your money, bitch!” I froze for a second. I knew Springfield had some problems, but could I really be getting robbed in broad daylight in the middle of a busy gas station? And wasn’t this just my luck – I’d been gravely ill, nearly killed myself in a car accident and now I was being harassed at a gas station.

I turned around warily to face my attacker. I was in such a mood that I was ready to tell them to go rob someone else. It was Kris! I almost cried with relief. I was glad to see him, even if he did try to scare the crap out of me.

I managed to make it the rest of the way home without any more dramatic incidents. Once there, I collapsed into Dave’s arms and drowned my sorrows with cranberry juice and antibiotics.

I never did figure out why that February weekend in 2009 was so cursed for me – was it karma for something I had done? Who knows. I did learn that if I ever feel burning when I pee, I’d better get myself to the doctor ASAP and not assume that I can heal myself with water and a prayer.

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