Fun! With Shingles!

Over the weekend I decided I was completely o.v.e.r. the seemingly eternal cold that had me sneezing and sniffling for well over a week. Pressure in my head was building and a strange burning sensation had developed under my right eye. Urgent Care deemed it a sinus infection (plausible) and cellulitis (celluwhat?). Prescriptions in hand, I felt so glad to have an answer to the strange heat radiating from below my eye. Intense weariness had plagued me during the week and through the course of the day the burning under my eye began to spread down my face. Before dinner time I was packing my ipad to head over to the emergency room. My chief concern was the increased pressure and pain that developed around my right eye. My face was half puffy, red, burning, and curiously itchy.

I was home by midnight freshly unplugged from the iv fluids with antibiotics that flooded my veins and a positive CT Scan showing slight swelling in the tissue around my eye. The pressure in my face remained and it was not the best sleep that ever was. In the morning I got in with my general practitioner. At this time my symptoms had gotten worse. Bumps had sprouted throughout the entire right side of my head from my hairline on back. Within 5 minutes she slapped a 'shingles' diagnosis on my hot mess of issues.

That's right, my friends. 35 years old with shingles. If Mike ever leaves me, it's going to be my tagline at eHarmony. And you know, it's a funny one. I think it would work! You can use it if you want to.

I just need to take a moment to document the kind of pain this illness delivered. If it needed a yelp rating it would be five stars in the pain category. I was rolling around on the bed, holding that hot, burning side of my face with my eyeball pounding out of its socket groaning to Mike, "I need an epidural. I can't handle this any more". Only, this time I wasn't in labor. So he just sat there watching me with pity and calculating the number of hours until he could collect more Ibuprofen. It was the kind of pain that induced a converted (non-pure blooded) Mormon like myself to exhale the eff word subconsciously. Because no other word or sound could adequately emit the level of pain that was happening.

It was the sort of pain that left me considering the quickest way to rid of it in most illogical ways. It spread down into my mouth, wrapped around my jaw and crawled across to the front of my teeth. I was partially convinced all of the teeth on the right side of my mouth were rotted and needing root canals. I kept flossing and brushing my teeth, looking for any evidence of malice. You see, it turns out this shingles of mine on my face and head would not cross mid-line. The left half of my face looked and felt completely normal. Thank goodness, because dreaming of  pulling 14 teeth to alleviate the pain instead of my entire mouth was plenty to consider. At one point, the thought of removing half of my jaw would be a great solution. Sure, there would be blood and pain, but it would scab over and end. The shingles had a radiating, unstoppable, writhing pain that needed to be cut immediately from my body.

In sum, if you want to know what shingles feels like, have someone smack you repeatedly with a cast iron skillet to the side of your face. Ensure fierce contact with eye socket and jaw for full effect. Then, pour bleach over half the face and burn gingerly with cigarettes on the eyelid, side of the nose, etc. Additionally, ram several long, thick needles into the eye and tap the temple with a small hammer, but use great force. After all that, I won't bother to tell you about the itchy bumps in my hair. Those were nothing compared to all the rest.

I am super duper over the moon that I have not developed black scabs on my face like one doctor advised may or may not happen. Go ahead, Google image that bad boy. It looks like the freaking plague and somehow I didn't get that. High five to the Illness Fairy for sparing me that nasty detail.

Thanks to modern medicine I am feeling a lot better and still have all my teeth and both sides of my jaw!


Runaway Stroller

When I first met Lindsey Johnson we were both living in New York and attending a Father's Day picnic at a mutual friend's home. I was new to the area of Westchester and my lovely memory has no idea where she was living right before being planted in the same town as me. The name of the town is Tuckahoe, which a hilarious friend later suggested might as well be called Slapab*tch.

I remember being struck with two things:
1) her amazing hair
2) that she was a New York Nanny and moved there all alone to try it out!

I was immediately impressed with her story of what I consider heroic bravery to take on such an adventure and completely alone. Fate had it that she would meet her husband, Fred, in New York and he turned out to be even more quirky than I initially imagined. He was highly educated, well dressed, and a young, official librarian. Mike and I had found a perfect friend match with Lindsey and Fred- they were delightfully different and we wanted to know more and more about them. The men geeked out on talk about history and war while us girls eventually began to talk of our swelling baby bumps.

Before they were born, we decided our kids would have an arranged marriage. Getting that amazing hair of hers into my posterity's eventual gene pool thrilled me. Side by side we stumbled into the joys and bumps that accompanied the newness of motherhood.  Our friendship filled the gaps in my heart where my husband was working hard at a full time job and night school getting his MBA while I fumbled into parenthood muchly solo. We could laugh and cry together about our kids' diaper blowouts, getting puked on in public, and the first time our babies were screaming their heads off in line at the grocery store check-out. These were all new experiences to us that were strangely funny when we could share them with one another. Experiences that truthfully were flat-out gross and unwanted, but we eventually learned were par for the course as young moms in the trenches of raising kids.

Not only was she funny, smart, brave, laughed at my jokes, could relate to my motherhood snags, but the girl could cook and bake. I will never forget when she invited me over for lunch. She made this amazing tortilla soup and then busted out the most amazing variety of cookies (homemade- all of it!) that have ever entered my mouth. I didn't know what it meant to be a foodie, but I had just landed in friend jack-pot y'all. YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW GOOD THIS WOMAN'S FOOD IS! ps. When she invited me to see Willy Wonka and we both snuck in 10 pounds of candy each, I knew we were a match made in heaven.

She made me feel so normal at a time in my life when I felt very much lost. We have so many great memories. Some are of learning how to take care of our new babies on the go (The Met!) and others of meeting up for a slice of pizza with our laundry quarters just to escape cabin fever on a wintery day.

Aside from my short-lived career and baby boy, her friendship was the best gift New York gave me. To put it simply, it sucked when we decided to move away.

I have learned and been so inspired by her near and far. It's been such a treat to see her many talents explode on the internet with her photography skills, writing ability, intelligence, cooking and baking perfections, and great sense of humor. I love my family and all of my friends, but I would say if I had to be stuck on an island with one person, she would be one of the people at the top of my list. Mike's name would be above hers, but mostly because I like to have nookie with him. I wish I could be sitting next to her hearing her laugh at that line. She has the best laugh.

Today is Lindsey's birthday! As I picked up the phone to call her my throat choked and tears welled in my eyes for the friend I miss so much. I wasn't expecting to get emotional over a phone call, but I think it says a lot about the kind of friendship we got to have.

I have several close, best friends here in Arizona that took me some time to find. I think they are all special and I adore them all equally for different reasons. But nothing ever mends the tears left in your heart when you have to move away from a best friend.

You can find her amazing food blog here.
She is also a regular contributor on Design Mom here.


Of Stake and Steak

Instead of the trip we had planned for Barcelona, just the two of us, we are home getting Mike's brain tumor(s) evicted. This was the week we would have been exploring a little bit of Paris and a lot of that town in Spain we have heard so much about. The oddest thing is I haven't thought much about it until our kind friends felt bad for us and sent us delicious cheese. It's one of many acts of kindness our family has received during the past several weeks. Barcelona isn't going anywhere. We will see it one day. This just wasn't our time for it.

I have packages of adorable thank you cards to complete sitting on my desk. I have great intentions of filling them out, but always feel overwhelmed by the volume of names that comes to my mind when I think of all the support we have been offered by friends, family, neighbors, and people from church. While Mike was in the hospital and during early days home my kids were driven to school, grandparents spent the night or tended to my kids, my house got cleaned by friends, treats were dropped off, meals were brought in, flowers were left on our counter, prayers were offered, our names were placed in the temple prayer roll, emails were sent to us, and calls of concern came in. I am certain there are more acts of kindness I may be forgetting.

It reminds me of a tree we have in our front yard. When it was newly planted, it needed stakes placed in the ground around it so it could sustain the strong winds that may come. Large, wooden rods were driven into the ground to surround the tree. Wires connected to the wooden stakes wrapped around the trunk of the tree. They remained until the tree was able to weather wind unsupported. We felt supported much like that tree in our front yard that required some help for a bit of time. When something difficult happens in a family, the love and kindness people offer really does keep you strong. Those people were like the stakes next to the tree while the winds came and it was as if their actions whispered to us: We are here to catch you and hold you up. We will not let you fall.

I am also reminded of Amelia Bedelia's adorable book series where she is a character who takes directions literally. When Amelia is asked to stake the beans, she ties steak to them. This is a symbol of the joy we have had as a family enjoying the silly things our kids say and do. Mike and I don't normally have the luxury of enjoying our children together on weekdays as my husband travels for a living. He was home for a total of 6 additional weeks and during that time had a lot of pain and healing to do. He also had the opportunity to spend solid bonding time with each of our children. We have had the pleasure of quality family time that sewed our hearts together in ways we never experienced before.

It's been worrisome, this tumor situation, to say the least. However, we have also felt The Lord's hand with the kindness of others like angels on earth surrounding our family. The love in our home has grown exponentially with all the time we have been able to spend together. I hope to remember the things we have learned and always have our stakes ready for another family that might need them.


The Middle Child

 Middle Boy and I

In our family, our middle child is between a princess baby girl and his unique older brother on the spectrum. He's got it a little different than a family of typical kiddos as a Middle Child. Not better or worse, just different.

I think about each of my children often and speak regularly with my husband about their needs, strengths, areas of struggle. We identify together ways to make them feel special and have one on one time with each of when we can. I give him tips through the week if one of the kids is having an especially hard time so I can prepare him for what's coming once he is back from being away. He comes home filled with energy and ideas for how to spend quality time with each of them. This has taken time for us to get this right. It's not a perfect system, but it's working in a way that we both feel pretty good about.

Tonight I stayed up a little later with my middle guy. We lay together on the trampoline looking up into the night sky. The stars were twinkling brightly and the crisp air was just right; no need for a blanket. With our shoulders pressed together and holding his strong, soft-skin hand in mine we talked about our favorite stars. It was nice to slow down and enjoy his company. I took great pleasure in the peace and quiet of the still evening as we were surround with fresh air and softly chirping crickets. We talked about this great place we live on earth and about how far away those stars are. We laughed together as we though of a silly moment we shared with his dad over the weekend. He told how much he loved building awesome Lego spaceships with him. It was good moment to explain a little how his dad isn't always home every night because of the career he has, but that he is a really good dad. We agreed that we both missed him. I just watched our middle child smile as his eyes searched the sky while he was thinking about how much he loves being with his dad. It was a beautiful thing to see.


Joy and Beauty

I recently had the privilege to visit my friend who has breast cancer. She is in the starting phase of rigorous chemotherapy sessions on a regular basis. My mind has trouble wrapping itself around the idea that a) my sweet friend who is the kindest soul in the world would have this trial b)someone I actually know has breast cancer c)she is so young to have something so terrible to face, isn't this an older ladies' issue?

Of course, cancer (as with many trials such as tumors, etc.) knows no discrimination.

As we arrived at her home I was struck by her beauty. They say pregnant women glow, I have not seen that very often. My friend with breast cancer, she was glowing a beauty I want to try to explain. She was in the midst of a good week, not as tired as the past two. It's my understanding when chemo hits her, it hits hard and she gets very tired. On this day when I arrived she was so happy. Her hat hid some of it initially, but once she took it off her shaved head was revealed. She worried it would scare my children. It did not.

When I looked at my friend and her long, curling eye lashes it was as if they stretched for miles. Her skin tones blended evenly from her face to the rest of her head,  a natural blend no tanning effort could try to replicate. Some of her soft stubble was growing back, which looked to me like the kind of fresh life you see in the spring when the buds of flowers make their appearance on stark branches. She was comfortable with her perfectly shaped bald head. She was confident in it. She was smiling. As she moved about her kitchen I couldn't help but notice the grace of her long neck. She was like a gorgous swan. She was truly grateful, most of all, for the small amount of energy she had to attend to simple tasks such as preparing salad and playing hide and seek with the little children buzzing around. She was eating up life with each moment with a kind of joy I rarely appreciate with such minute tasks. She spoke of the bounding happiness that accompanied a great day in contrast to the slow, sleepy days when the medicine killing her cancer slows her down. She spoke of the true understanding gleaned in the thought only through knowing hard times will we appreciate the good. Her words were more eloquent than this, but the way she said it zapped in me a little glimmer of her beauty that was truly radiating from within, as well.

A heavy sadness filled me, despite her beauty and energy; when we sat for dinner. I queried her on the long road ahead. It is paved with hard medical procedures that will be far more challenging to overcome than shaving her hair off and weariness. It seemed unfair to sit with my hair in a bun and no appointments of my own to face. I could not lift her burdens or lighten a single one of them in ways I wished I could. I can only love her, learn from her, and appreciate life more sweetly.