Saturday, May 21, 2022

The Tomorrow Envelope


See that squirrel on the tree?


Learning to live around anxiety is similar to learning how to live with that damn squirrel. This little rascal lives in a tree just on the other side of the fence in my yard. He chitters and runs the fence line, downright taunting my life stock guardian dog, exciting the poor old man into a loud false alarm around the neighborhood. 

We've learned a lot about anxiety and continue to come up with some pretty creative solutions. I've adjusted my schedule to help keep more consistency for the Impossible Girl. It's a new challenge to truly feel the weight of being the 'anchor' for the family in a way that is both a place of honor and the challenge of a lifetime. 

Night time seems to be when the worries come out the most. So after a few rough nights of worries magnifying themselves into unsolvable riddles and bad dreams, I took The Impossible Girl out of bed and into the kitchen. It was late, and cluttered, so I grabbed an index card and a black sharpie. We sat down and I asked her what she was worried about. We wrote out each worry on its own index card. Then I needed a place to put them and physically leave them in the kitchen, so I grabbed an old Amazon envelope out of recycling and wrote on it "Tomorrow Envelope". 

We put the cards in there and used a glue stick from her craft station to glue it closed. 

I told her that tomorrow, over breakfast, we'd look at the cards again, and figure out what to do about them. That worked for that night. 

We did look at them in the morning, and it's funny - under the morning light, it's just a chittering squirrel, not worth losing sleep over. 

So far this method has been helpful during a couple of nights when things feel bigger than they are.

I am not willing give the Pandemic credit for any of the challenges of Childhood anxiety - or even credit the pandemic for making it worse. We would have likely faced this foe regardless. Part of it is somewhat typical of many military kids.

 But we're building a better tool box every day.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Managing the Magic - WDW Vacation - Our Unwelcomed Hitchhiker

 Like most good Disney Park goers, we woke up early (or tried to) to be at the Animal Kingdom park at Rope Drop. Our DAS (Disability Access Pass) ride reservations weren't until later in the day, but we were hoping that Guest Services could change them for earlier, or we'd be able to do a few things with minimal waits in the morning. 

Animal Kingdom is probably one of my favorite Disney Destinations. It has a rich atmosphere and is usually far less crowded. It has a pace that feels like a refreshing breath of fresh air, but at the same time exhales the anticipation that comes with the prospect of great adventure. Needless to say, I'm a fan and it's always my first go-to upon hitting up Disney World for a vacation.

Knowing the Impossible Girl through our previous Disneyland trip, we figured the slow strat that the Animal Kingdom afforded would be a great place to start. 

WE MADE IT!
Well, our previous early morning arrival took it's toll on everyone and our West Coast bodies were never going to be ready for Rope Drop. We arrived at the Animal Kingdom shortly after the park opening.

 She was feeling a little bit anxious and we wanted to be able to walk quickly, so she hung out in the carrier to start the morning off. The Impossible Girl and I hopped in line for the not-yet-open Kilimanjaro Safari attraction while My Sailor ducked into a nearby store and saved the morning with Starbucks for breakfast. The line moved quickly and was outdoors and pleasant. We made it into the boarding area and that's when The Impossible Girl suddenly didn't want to go on the ride. We kept encouraging her and let her out of the carrier right at boarding. She sat next to My Sailor and hung on until she got her barings and saw the animals.

It was a GREAT safari. I'm so glad we went first thing in the morning, rather than taking our DAS pass up for a 3pm safari. We also set up DAS for the Navi River Journey (a calm boat right through the night time jungles of Pandora) and we had a DAS set up for Flight of Passage. 





The Safari was fantastic. It's definately an early morning attraction. I'd been on it in years past, and this was the most active safari with the most animals I've ever seen. It was beautiful. (I mean, we missed a photo of a giraffe that crossed the path right inches away from our vehicle.)

The Impossible Girl had still opted not to eat much yet, so My Sailor stopped and grabbed a snack he knew she'd go for (some sort of chocolate filled pastry, if I recall correctly, and a dole whip to share). After we bought her a buddy for the rest of the day (Simba) she sat down and felt like the world was too loud. Noise cancelling Galaxy headphones to the rescue! Who could blame her? An African inspired precussion group starting playing near by. I couldn't stay in my seat. My Sailor sat with the kiddo while I jetted over to the stage to listen, watch, and shimmy along to a song for a couple minutes. He realized that we weren't going to get this oppurtunity again, and I'm so grateful for a partner who is incredibly helpful.

After wards, we tried to capitalize on a good experience on the Safari (and having some sugar on board) and go on the Maharaja Jungle Trek to see the tigers (one of The Impossible Girl's favorite animals) up close and personal. 
Though she had a great time on the safari, and we encouraged her bravery for enjoying it, the environment was still new and different and getting more crowded.
We stopped to take a couple of fun photos before delving into the Maharajah Jungle Trek.

We flew by most of the exhibits and really enjoyed them. It was a little busy but not too crowded. 
When we got to the bat house, it took us about 45 minutes to get her in the door. The bat carvings above the door scared her a lot. 
Dad, once again, came to the rescue, bringing in a Mickey bar onto the trail. We sat down and talked and worked to help her feel safe enought to walk through the exhibit to check out the tigers on the other side. It sounds like a lot of sugar - I know. But we were on vacation and we knew the effect it can have on anxiety (hello dopamine!). So, yes, we were relying on those dopamine highs to get us through the day post-overnight flight.

We ended up seeing 2 napping tigers in the shade before heading out. We didn't attempt the Aviary. It was indoors, and that, at that moment, felt like too much.   

We headed over to a Guest Services tent to reshuffle some of the DAS reservations we had for rides. The Cast Members were wonderfully helpful, going above and beyond to ensure we had a good visit. Next on the DAS list was the Navi River Journey attraction, which was all the way across the park. The Friends of Flight bird show was starting soon, and that was on The Impossible Girl's MUST DO list, so we popped in to do that. 

Dad helped quell the anxiety that was sneaking up while we waited by engaging in fatherly funny face photos. My Sailor has always been very connected whenever he can. 




By this point, we were starting to realize that this trip would be different. Not just because we had The Impossible Girl along to share the experience, but we also had a hichhiker. Anxiety was along for the ride this trip. 

After the bird show (which was a huge hit, and I highly recommend making time for it), we headed across the park to Pandora, passing by Dinoland USA. The Impossible Girl was begging to return to the hotel, but after seeing the Triceratops Spin and the Dinosaur themed playground, she couldn't wait to play for a bit. 



The pace was slow and relaxed. We still had our DAS pass for the Navi River Journey, and I'd heard great things about the Santuli cafe for lunch. After some time in Dinoland, we headed into outter space - er... Pandora.

Pandora was astounding, but it was hot and decidely different. Lunch at the Santuli Cafe did not disappoint. It was great that it was simple counter service. We did a mobile order and hung out in an air conditioned shop while we were waiting for our order. We thought food might help our hitchhiker quiet down so we could enjoy the peaceful boat ride that is the Navi River Journey. 

Well, anxiety had different plans. Dining inside the large cafeteria was fun, but ended up feeding the hitchhiker, rather than starving it. Soon, The Impossible Girl was feeling fearful. She'd barely eaten most of the day (Mickey Bar aside). The hitchhiker was in the way.

It was clear that the Hitchhiker was in the way. While we hoped we'd be better at reigning it in, the usual devices weren't working quite as well as they had in the past. The world was louder, bigger, hotter, and more crowded. 

That's when I realized that I had a choice. 

 A choice that could make or break the rest of this trip for me.

I could adjust my expectations, or I could keep pushing to do things our hitchhiker clearly was making next to impossible. 

I choose to accept that this trip was different. That it wouldn't be anything like what I'd prepared for. And I choose to have fun with my family, and course correct my own expectations. 

We talked her through her fear so we could finish our food and then headed back to the hotel, canceling our DAS appointments on the way out. 

We made it through 3 attractions - the Safari, the bird show, and the tiger trail.

And for today - that was enough.

We stopped for a quick photo in front of the Tree of Life -
and napped in the carrier on the way back to the bus stop.
Once at the hotel, we recovered from a long day, ate dinner, and spend some quality time in the pool, hoping with a little extra rest behind us - tomorrow's Hollywood Studios day would be maybe a little more magical.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Managing the Magic - An Educational Vacation to Disney World - Arrival Day


Just before the start of Spring Break, my family took off for a long awaited Disney World vacation. We hopped on a red eye non-stop flight to Florida from chilly Washington State to see some incredible attractions, get some much needed sunshine, and make some memories as a family. Knowing that things like Disneyland can seem big and overwhelming to the Impossible Girl, we prepared for the trip by watching youtube videos and vlogs of attractions. We made lists of must do attractions. My Sailor and I got up at 4am and stayed on hold for over 5 hours to get her a couple advance choice Lightening Lane passes for her DAS (Disability Access Pass).  We had 2 sets of noise canceling headphones packed, glowing goodies to make dark spaces brighter and less intimidating, hats, sun screen, sun glasses, carriers and Magic Bands. We were ready to go! 
  Or were we? 
Being a Disney fan pretty much my entire life, this isn't The Impossible Girl's first foray into the Theme Park World.
Seeing the Castle
2017
Her first trip to Disneyland occured in May of 2017. It went off without a hitch, going on as many attractions as a kid of her size could muster. At about two and a half years old, she soaked everything in with a sense of wonder and surprise one would expect from kids and, well, Disney.

Her next trip to Disneyland was a year later. In May of 2018, I shed a tear when the Impossible Girl, who wasn't trusting of others, approached Elsa and hugged her, unbidden, for about ninty seconds (and God bless that Elsa for not letting go until she did and not showing a bit of impatience). She grew so much during that trip as a human and it was amazing. 

Okay, I will call a spade a spade. A family vacation is really parenting on the road. It tests your parenting strategies, skills, and patience. Can you keep a kid occupied and safe under new and different cicumstances? Can you handle behavoir issues you may not see at home? Do you have any idea of who to call if a medical emergency occured (they are, afterall, called 'accidents' for a reason)? Can you share a hotel room and single bathroom with a 6 year old for over a week? What eating habits will you indulge in? Will you enforce veggies before sweets or will 10am ice cream be a thing? And in the wake of Covid, will you wear masks? Eat outdoors only? There are a LOT of extra decisions made that can make vacationing with a family less care-free than a typical, adults only trip.

2019 Trip to Disneyland

But I have been and will always be a fan of "Take the damn trip." Even trips to theme parks allows kids to interact with (and see parents/role models interact with) the world around them in a completely different way than they do at home. The sights and sounds and tastes are stimulating and, especially at big tourist destinations, you'll come across people who don't look like or sound like you. You come across foods you may have never tried or heard of. And, if you know me or you've been following me, you know I believe travel broadens our world view no matter what age we do it in. So, no matter what I say from here on out - Take the Damn Trip. 

So, with that out of the way, let me say I'm incredibly grateful that we had the chance to take this trip together. After pandemic life since 2020 (which, for our family, included about 17 months of submarine deployment life), we are glad everyone is healthy and the world feels safe enough to move about a bit. But, as you may be able to guess from this excessive preamble, this visit to the World's most Magical place, didn't go as any of us expected. 

Our first day, we landed at about 6am. We found our transportation to the resort thanks to the generousity of a rental car shuttle driver, who took pity on us and drove us to the Sunshine Flyer terminal on the other side of the airport. There had been a mix or reports about this new company but generally treated us well. The Impossible Girl was excited to board our bus train to the resort. She slept better than the adults did on the flight, and she loves airports, flying, and traveling. She wheeled her own suit case and carried her own back pack through the airport. She sipped at an early morning hot chocolate from a Starbucks stand while we parents caffinated for the day before pick up. On the way to the resort, we watched old 1920's cartoons and learned some train trivia from the video provided. We had the entire bus to ourselves. Not a bad way to start the magic (despite being exhausted from the flight).

We spent most of the day exploring the resort - Port Orleans Riverside. It lived up to it's peaceful reputation. The only down sides were the rooms were loud (we heard our neighbors every morning and I'm sure they heard us). The Princess theme Royal Room was just what the doctor ordered to add a little extra magic to our stay.

Now, here is where I'm going to start something. Every day I write about, I'm going to include the accomodations we found profoundly helpful and NECESSARY for enjoying our vacation. Honestly, I debated even writing about the challenges right now. This story isn't just 'J's Journey' now. This story belongs to my husband and my daughter as well. But as a mother in this situation, it feels very lonely and isolating to be managing this - especially when it peaks at Disney World of all places. So I've decided to write this in case there is some other parent out there who is feeling like they are the only person in the world managing this. I know I can't be alone - and if you are one of those parents reading this - know that you are not alone. You, special reader, are not the first, nor the last. Here's what helped us. Maybe it will help you too.

TODAY'S ACCOMODATIONS NEEDED: Headphones and carrier. 
LOCATIONS VISITED: Port Orleans Riverside, Disney Springs, T- Rex Cafe, Morimoto Asia

View from our hotel room

The Arcade was a big hit and a great way to pass some time.

The Resort offers a Water Taxi to Disney Springs, the main shopping area.

We promised the Dino-Loving Impossible Girl that our lunch would be at the T-Rex Cafe, so we went off to Disney Springs to make good on our promise.
Checking out the cool sculptures in front of the Lego Store.


The dino roars are a little loud, and the place is a little dark, but she enjoyed it! 

Enjoying an adult libation. Yeah vacation!

Cashing in on some Build A Bear Bucks from Christmas, she built a Triceratops friend! She proudly asked for what she wanted inside of it as well (which is a big deal!).

Welcome to the family, Rainbow Heart Triceratops!
Our room was ready after lunch, so we went back for some R&R. We changed into more Florida Friendly clothing (ie shorts) and returned to Disney Springs to explore some more and have an amazing dinner at Morimoto Asia.
 The food was amazing. We had a Chef's Choice Nigiri Sushi platter but by now, The Impossible Girl was exhausted and hot, so we got to break in the new carrier! 
Running late to our reservation - this makes it quicker!


The Girl Grabbed the Camera and Took our photo on the Water Taxi back to the Hotel


The water taxi is so soothing. It was a tiring day for all, but we enjoyed getting back to the hotel and getting into those comfy sheets for bed time - Ready for our first park day, Animal Kingdom! 
  As exciting as it sounds - that was also the day we realized just how crippling anxiety can be.  Even when you're 6.5 and you've been excited and prepped about this trip for months...
  If you're wondering if someone without a visible challenge should qualify for DAS, follow our adventures, and decide for yourself. 

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Today, I saved My Daughter's Life

 Tonight, I was tucking in the Impossible Girl. As usual, I gave her a kiss goodnight and left her with positive words. Something along the usual (yet heart felt) parental lines of, "I love you. You're an amazing daughter just the way you are." She surprised me tonight but saying, "Thank you for all you do for me, Mom." 

This morning, we were playing board games together at the coffee table and sharing probably the best citrus fruit on the planet - a sumo tangerine. Maybe it was the Hungry Hungry Hippos we were playing. Maybe it was just the fiberous fruit, but she stopped playing after taking a bite and started hopping up and down adamently. I looked across the table, thinking she was being goofy, but she wasn't giggling or making any sound. At all. She started trying to hit her back and I realized what was going on. She was choking and couldn't remove the obstruction herself. 

I didn't bother with finger sweeps. I tried a couple firm hits on the back, but that was useless. So I shifted into the Himlich as she started to crumple in my arms. On the first thrust - nothing. I called out her name as I felt her crumble towards the floor again, but on the second thrust the bundle of orange fibers dislodged and she coughed. I dropped to the floor catching her on my lap. 

The offending blockage was on the floor - a ball of orange fibers about the size of the tip of my pinkie. Just big enough to get lodged in a breathing tube... It wasn't even a seed.

She was breathing though. Terrified. Crying a little. But breathing. 

I breathed a sigh of relief and hugged her, validating us both in the moment. "That was scary, huh?" She nodded, not ready to find or test her voice so soon after the offending orange momentarily silenced it.

 "Yeah, it was. I was scared too. You did the right thing. Thanks for showing me you needed help."

 I held her for a while, helping both of us calm down a bit. 

She hasn't turned blue since her infancy. The first time, we were trying to get her into her car seat after a hike. She was under a year and fighting the car seat, crying and crying. Most babies scream and cry so hard they aren't making sounds, then they gasp and take a deep breath to continue their intense protest. Not my kid. She never took that recovery breath. She just suddenly stopped crying, turned blue and purple, and went completely limp and incoherent. Passed out entirely.

 It was only about 10 seconds, but it was absolutely terrifying. When we called our doctors and discussed it, we learned about Cyanotic Breath Holding Spells. 

The cure? Try to avoid triggers (like, ya know, car seats apparently in our lives... she hated being strapped down to ANYTHING other than a carrier snugged to a human.) and know CPR in case she doesn't come around within 10-15 seconds. 

That's it. So from that moment, our lives probably became different from 'most parents'. Or from what I envision 'most parents' experience. Every kid/family is different with their own unique challenges, of course. From talking to my mom friends, we are definately, well, unicorns. Or Narwhals... or Elves... or whatever.

 We were out of cell phone range the first time it happened (though only about 20 minutes from town, and there were houses near by). So 911 was not an option.

It taught me that we don't go out of cell phone range without a plan to get emergency help right away. When we travel, I usually have an idea where the nearest help is and how to get it/get to it.

She recovered from the spells, but it was absolutely terrifying when they happened.

So glad we're beyond those years.

  Once she was calm and I was calm, we talked about other (more globally recognized) ways to show you're choking. We practiced the hands to the throat. And I said, "What if you're at a table and you're doing that, and you are choking and can't get any air out, but no one notices? What can you do?" She shrugged and we brain stormed. "Well, it's really important so..." I slammed the flat of my hand over and over on the coffee table. She startled for a moment, and then giggled. "It's loud, right? Could you ignore that?" She shook her head no. We tried it a few times and then stayed there until she was ready to move on with the day. She decided she was done with the poor Hippos, and we shifted gears into something else. 

She spent the rest of the day literally glued to me. We played video games together, watched a movie, ran an errand, did art, did hair and nails (spa day at home style). 

Moments like these remind me that I'm incredibly grateful I was raised by 2 nurses (my mom and my grandmother were both nurses, and my grandmother lived with us from when I turned 5) where conversations like first aid, injury treatment and prevention, and choking came up regularly at the dinner table. And I'm grateful for the first aid and CPR training I've had over the years for various positions. And this is where the ask comes in - PLEASE if you are a parent, loved one, or a care taker of young kids, take the time to learn CPR and other child first aid and emergency response. ARM YOURSELF WITH THE TOOLS TO SAVE YOUR KIDS!Be sure those that watch your kids are armed with the tools to save their lives. Because kids are kids. Accidents happen. And who knew oranges were dangerous?

So The Impossible Girl and I had a laid back mom-and-daughter day, where I didn't accomplish a damn thing on my To-Do list while My Sailor went off to the big city to spend some time with his family.

 Sometimes, plans go awry. 

Sometimes the detours leads to where we're supposed to be - not where we planned to be. And that's okay.

"I've got you. You're okay. We got this. Good job." 

Monday, February 28, 2022

Tonight, I Apologized to My 6 Year Old

Tonight, I apologized to my 6 year old. 

I mean, it's not the first time I've done it. We live in a house where people make mistakes and The Impossible Girl is getting first hand modeling of how we handle and resolve mistakes and conflict. So kids, obviously, get a front row seat to what's going on. 

She's heard me apologize to her before. She's apologized to me before. And this time, it bought me pretty low. 

I've grown into a pretty confident parent of the 4-6+ set (so far). I always had a feeling I'd do better with older kids, rather than babies, and that intuition seems to hold true. Or perhaps it's bias confirmation... but either way - it's true. 

For the past week, when she got in the car after school, The Impossible girl told me 2 boys at school chased her at recess. I thought it was like a game of tag that had become a regular thing. She'd mentioned the boys before and being friends with them, so I'd ask her, "What would they do if they caught you?" She said they never did. She was always too fast. In passing, she said she didn't like being chased, and then the conversation shifted to something else. I'd encourage her to tell the boys she didn't like it and go play something else, but that was where the topic usually ended.

Yup. I missed it. 

I was hearing the words, but I wasn't really listening - 

The fact that it came up nearly single every day... 

The fact that she dropped so quickly and suddenly wouldn't want to talk about it.  

I missed it.

Today, I got an email from the school that one of The Impossible Girl's friends was upset and reported to her parents that being chased was making my daughter sad and she didn't like it. 

Basically, I missed that she'd found herself the target of bullying - again. 

I was bullied from about 1st grade through about 8th grade. It made my small private Christian school years absolute hell. While the values instilled in me kept me out of trouble, the only thing that kept me from suicide was knowing it would make my parents sad. Yeah - it was that bad. And here we are, in just about 1st grade, and she's been the target of 4 different bullies in about 2 school years. (2019, 2022 - we're not counting Covid years) This time, I'm grateful for a world and a school that is looking out for these kids and is willing to empower the victims of bullying, while pushing to end the behaviors. 

I do NOT want a repeat of my formative years. 

I want different for her. Doesn't every generation want the next to be better? 

She already deals with military kid truama. That's more than enough.

I find myself incredibly grateful for that little girl reporting, and for the parents for talking to the school about it. 'See something, say something' protected my daughter. 

Because it takes a village to protect our kids.

And because I missed it.

And I would have kept on missing it until probably tomorrow. 

Today, I got an email about the situation, what the school is doing to handle it and keep my daughter safe, and some steps they are taking to shift the bullying situation in classes. I am all for it, and asked if there is anything I can do on my side to further instill confidence in her. (My guess, if there is a 'reason' she attracts this it's probably because of her anxiety. Kids seem to sense it and pick on easy targets. So, while I'm not victim blaming here. Kids are strange creatures sometimes.)

I probably wouldn't have missed it tomorrow though. 

After I got the email, I asked her about it, and it turns out another boy had joined the chase, and the other two told them to punch her if this boy managed to catch her. 

Tomorrow, the three of them may have succeeded. 

THEN I would have known. 

But in hind sight, it shouldn't have taken me so long to raise an eyebrow.

May The Impossible Girl always have good friends looking out for her when I can't. 

This weekend, she started her adventure in horseback riding - just one of the steps where we see her confidence shine. One the back of a horse, her positive self talk and courage out weighs her anxiety. Hopefully that will continue to carry over into every day life.   

But today - I apologized for not really hearing what she was trying to tell me. For not listening to what she was telling me. For minimizing her fear of what would happen if she got caught.... And I encouraged her, if I ever do that again, to THROW A FIT so I HAVE to pay attention. Because her feelings, her fears, her anxiety IS VALID. 

As parents, it's easy to write off kids experiences and feelings as 'kid stuff' but I've found that, when kids share their feelings (at least when mine does) it's because they are looking for us to take action or guide them through to an action they can take. 

While she's learning to fight her anxiety, wrestle through her speech challenges, communicate as clearnly as stuttering allows, and deal with emotions of missing one parent deeply, she doesn't need bullies toughen her up. Life does a good enough job of that on it's own.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

A Symbol of Acheivement

 

This week I did a thing. 

A simple thing.
An unremarkable thing to many.
A thing that isn't a big deal to most. 

I read a book.
I read this book in fact. 
I started this book in December of 2021. 
It was a gift from a Jólabókaflóðið, an Icelandic tradition a friend of mine included me in. 
I once left it on the bathroom floor after a bath and the dogs ended up getting bored enough to play with it before I remember to pick it up. 
That's why it looks like that.
But regardless, I didn't replace it.
All the pages were surprisingly intact. 

It took me over a year. 
It's not a difficult book to read. In fact, the language is easy to fly through. The characters are familiar and compelling, and the plot is well paced to hold my interest. 
So why did it take me a year to finish it?

Because that's the amount of free time I've had to read it. 
In fact, I didn't even have the free time to read it.
 I made an appointment with myself to make a habit out of reading it every day. 
Even if it was just 2 minutes. 
Even if it was just 1 page or paragraph.

Two days ago, I finished the first recreational book I've read in about 7 years. 

SEVEN YEARS. 
Possibly longer. 

It's not that I don't like to read. 
I actually enjoy it. I love learning from a good writer and creating new fictional characters in my mind. An adept storyteller is priceless.

But it's one example of how challenging it is to make time for my growth when I'm surrounded by the intense needs of others. 
As a military wife and a mother, I often misplace my first responsiblity is to my own wellbeing. The intense vaccum of Need that flutters around me constantly often leaves me feeling too 
drained to persue anything that doesn't result in keeping the family afloat (emotionally, financially, etc).  
My Sailor has known me for about 20 years at this point of my life. 
He used to say, "The only thing I'd change about you is I wish you weren't so hard on yourself." 
I have no doubt that he'd add to the list, "and you weren't such a responsibility hoarder."

So this tattered, chewed up, completed book is a big accomplishment for me. 
It's a tangible reminder that taking time out for me, for fun, for growth - even if it's just a few minutes a day - can add up to big things. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Smoldering Embers of Weaponizing Gratitude

Me and My Sailor, Christmas Day, 2019

When we went on a Very Merry Christmas Cruise over Christmas in 2019, My Sailor had concerns. What would we do about presents? What about a tree? What about all of the expectations of extended family?

No doubt, they were legitmate, but I wasn't honestly worried about any of it. As much as I love traditions, I love adventure more. Needless to say, we had no idea just how much of an investment in our sanity that trip would be. 

Today, I put on my hoodie and I noticed that it was from Oktoberfest 2019 - the last time I traveled with my Mom. 

In June, I got to spend some time with my family in California. 

I am not in dire need of housing or food or any necessities. 

(And, ya know, there is a pandemic going on.)

I am very grateful for all of those things and more. I am deeply truely 100% grateful. (Okay, not for the pandemic. Rona can go F* itself. I'm so over that...)

But that does not mean that I am not alos feeling a million other things. 

Here's my cold hard pandemic realization. 

I can be completely grateful for all of the comforts of my life - I have an essential worker in my life. I'm at no risk of losing my home although I stand at constant risk of losing said family member. I have a job I love and clients I can bolster through this storm. I have an awesome kid whos medical issues are considered mild. I have friends local and abroad who care about me. I have a lot of reasons to feel gratitude. And I count my blessings throughout my day. 

And...

I am frustrated with my inability to confidently book a family vacation! I'm accustomed to coping with the insane Navy scheduling I have to contend with to make these relationship building trips a reality, but this time, I also have the state of the world during a pandemic to consider. So far I have 4 plans, and I can act on any of them, depending on what the world looks like then. 

And...

I am terrified by the current state of affairs. I told my kiddo, who was bouncing around the house as she does in the late afternoon, that she needed to be careful. She asked why and I am always honest with her. "We might not be able to get help quickly if you smash your head into that window. The doctors and hospitals are very busy right now. There might not be help for us for a while." Our local ER has been seriously backed up. She understood and toned down her bouncing a bit. 

Now, The Impossible Girl's medical issues are mild. Her stutter, her speech, her asthma, and her Central Sleep Apnea and newly labeled tachycardia. are all considered very mild. We go to speech therapy to help with her speech. We have an inhaler for asthma should we need it. She sleeps with an alarm that goes off and wakes her up if she isn't getting enough oxygen. The tachycardia is her body's way of getting enough oxygen to her tissues when her O2 levels drop. It's all stuff that someone else might just assign away to "My kid has never been a good sleeper." But we dug deeper and we know why now.

That's all stuff we can do something about - even a little thing. 

We don't have to use her inhaler much at all, since it's viral induced asthma. 

Read that again friends. Viral Induced Asthma.

That means that when she gets an upper respiratory infection, it's likely to turn into pneumonia. 

If you haven't held a 6 month old wracked with pneumonia, let me tell you - the experience stays with you. The sweating, the shaking, the coughing that doesn't stop... Scary is an understatement. And it literally happened over night.  
Since then, she was diagnosed with pnuemonia 2 more times before she turned 5. Luckily, since that first time made us cautious, we know the signs and catch it early now, and once the world closed down and people started wearing masks, she got sick a lot less. It gives her developmental stuff a chance to catch up. Her sleep and her neurological ticks are closely linked. 

And....

I am exhausted. I've been dealing with the majority of the pandemic on my own, knowing that My Sailor is out there protecting our family. Between the political upheaval of the last 2 years, the pandemic, the deployments, the old house, and keeping a small business alive during all of this, it's been a hell of a lot. And sometimes I'm just plain exhausted doing it all myself. Sure, I ask for help from my few local friends. I call my mom weekly to chat, and I connect with friends when I can - and I am generally not one to complain about being lonely. I made friends with that strange emotion decades ago. 

But I am a mere mortal, and doing all the things, all the time, is just plain exhausting. I do believe we as a family and we as a society will find a way through this, but some days I'm too tired to do much than sleep on the promise that 'tomorrow will be better'. And sure, solo parents are dealing with the same thing all the time. I get it. I should count my blessings, and I do - which brings me to - 

 More than one thing can be true. 

We are beautifully complex beings. I took some time today to recognize all of it - grateful, frustrated, angry, confused, exhausted and terrified. Yes, you can still be an optomist and see the world for what it is. It's feeling all the feelings and deciding to choose hope when you can - while completely honoring the other emotions as valid. 

Me? I'm looking forward to other gatherings with my entire little family some day. I realize I am privledged to be able to look forward and scream "I need a break!" despite having had some days away in June.  I realize all of that, but it doesn't change the fact that some part of me is angry and exhausted. 

All of that is equal and valid. 

 For tonight - I'm grateful for the memories we've made, frustrated by the state of the world, and exhausted enough to go to bed. 

Stock photo