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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Balancing Act

Ok. It's been a while. For that I am terribly sorry. I got busy. A lot has been going on. Blah, blah, blah, a million excuses. There is always a reason why I don't get something done. The reason may not be convincing or even feasible, but I guarantee there is always a reason. However, when you boil all the excuses down, there is really only one reason that matters. I haven't made time to write. Granted, the amount of time I could devote to writing has shrunk in the past 2 months, but there is always time. Choosing how to spend my time is where I constantly find myself in trouble.
You may or may not, (if you've known me for less than half a minute) be surprised to find out that I am a procrastinator. I run with the big dogs on this particular character trait. My ability to pull things off at the last minute is a bit like magic. I just repeat to myself my magic words, “fill in undesirable task du jour  will get done; it always does.” Poof! It always does.
Why I don't get into trouble more often is beyond me. Perhaps, it's the fact that I am well aware that I am in charge of the choices I make, and therefore have to adjust to any consequences of said choices. Problem is, since I've become visually impaired I am realizing the importance of planning and preparation in one's daily routine. Procrastination is no longer even an option in most facets of my life.
All the plans I have to have in place just to leave the house each morning for work is incredibly aggravating. and frustrating. I have to know who is taking Emy to daycare, who is taking me to work, who is picking me up from work, what time & where will pick up occur, who will help  pick E up from daycare, who will take me to grocery store because we ran out of milk, again? ARGH! The list just goes on and on. What I wouldn't give for a little spontaneity.
Because I rely on so many wonderful people, so frequently, I have stopped doing things for myself. I rely on no fewer than 10 people each week for assistance with crucial transportation needs. Work, daycare, doctor appointments. I am uncomfortable with the amount of scheduling currently required to pull that off each week. It is too much for me (and the lovelies who transport me) to add frivolous destinations into the mix like Target or the Y. Along these same lines, I no longer make movies, restaurants, libraries, coffee shops, or malls places I frequent occasionally, or ever. 
This deprivation state I entered into when I began working apparently had one other domain that it affected greatly. The time I spent writing has also greatly diminished.  
I am well aware that as a working mom I should not just be attempting to balance my kid and my job, but my husband (yes, I still have one of these) and myself. However, in my current mind set and experience, adding accommodations for a vision impairment to that mix weights the "Have to"s a lot heavier than the "Want to"s.
Don’t get me wrong. I have absolutely no desire to be a martyr. I am just a visually impaired woman trying to figure out how to balance motherhood, a teaching career, and a husband, all the while hoping to make time for writing, yoga, and the occasional cocktail with girlfriends.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Here We Go Again

The anticipation started building mid-July, as soon as those crazy big box stores starting moving the home and garden section to make way for school supplies. The wheels had been set in motion months prior but that's when it started to become real. The first time I saw no. 2 pencils all neatly lined up on the shelves.  Shopping trips began to take longer, because an item can't be placed into the cart without first analyzing how I might use it in my classroom. Impulsively I stock up on school supplies, adding random items here and there. Shopping the sales, exchanging items if a better price is found, clipping coupons, the chore to reduce my overall school budget is a constant challenge. 

August flew by. Why is always that it feels so much shorter than February? The days just slipped into hazy memories of sun soaked skin, the crisp tang of cold pinot grigo, balmy nights in the backyard, and the scent of barbeque wafting in the air. Around mid-month the dreams began. It's no coincidence that they started as soon as emails regarding the upcoming year infiltrated my inbox. Preparation and planning is no longer restricted to daytime hours. Ideas and solutions reveal themselves unconsciously. I awake feeling excited and far from rested. Every minute that Emeline is asleep or away from me I find myself focused on school. By last week the dreams no longer resemble productivity. Rather, they became full blown nightmares. Irrationally, ridiculous visions startled me awake every night for the past 8 nights. Josh reminds me that I am like this at the start of every school year. My anticipation for the upcoming year is always so great that all the hopes, worries, and fears I have seep into my unconscious mind every night. It might not be "normal" but at least I am consistent.

I am not sure I completely agree. This year it seems different. Everything is magnified. I am so excited about returning I am practically jumping out my skin. Every minute spent setting up my classroom, collaborating with teammates, researching best practices, preparing letters, signs, and labels has been absolutely joyous. I’ve always loved my job and look forward to starting a new year, but this year I am happy in a way that I've never been before.

I am returning to a place where I am well-known by staff, parents, and students. To some degree, most people are cognoscenti of my vision loss and the events that surrounded Emeline's birth. Being comfortable talking about my experiences and my vision I am okay with this.  I look forward to educating my students (and their families) about vision impairments, but I can't help feeling as if I have something to prove. I am not the same person I was 15 months ago, nor am I I the same teacher. How could I be? Most days I am quite content with the person I have become. The trouble I am having is that I don't know what kind of teacher I am now.

Perhaps, my dear husband will turn out to be correct; this is a year like any other. We'll just have to wait and see.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Graditude


Have you ever met a person  and regardless of the length of time you spend with them a connection has been  made? Sometimes that connection is immediately apparent, it's impact glaringly obvious. But more often than not,  you aren't cognizant of the effect until sometime in the future, when it hits and you and you  are left stricken by the power of humanity.

Over the last 15 months I have been extremely fortunate to see a side of people that is not always clearly visible. How people empathize, console, encourage, and support differs greatly, and is often quite personal. Many don't want to intrude or overstep while others come out of the woodwork to and in ways you might not have even known were required. There isn't a right way to show you care about someone. Being a fiercely independent person who hasn't always felt secure in leaning on others in time to need; I am incredibly thankful for the diverse ways that people love and care for one another. Although my disability often leaves me feeling alienated and alone, my experiences of motherhood and blindness has given me such a deep respect for people and an overwhelming sense of gratitude for every single friend, family member, colleague, acquaintance, friend-of-a-friend, stranger who has supported me on this incredible journey of life. I wish I could personally thank every one of you and express just how much your efforts have meant to me.

LM I'm Coming Home!

An unpublished post from June 2011.

I am going back to teaching in the fall. I couldn't be happier about this decision, although the new school year is still three months away the butterflies in my stomach are causing more anxiety than they should. My primary goal in attending the MCBTC in Kalamazoo was to reach the point where I'd feel comfortable returning to work. I'm as comfortable as I'm ever going to get.

I am going back to work part-time. I will be job sharing a 4th grade classroom. Yes, it's a new grade-level and yes, I will have to learn how to share space, students, and responsibilities with another teacher, but I this is the exact opportunity I need to transition back to teaching.  It will truly be my ideal situation to return to work.
I had never planned on taking anything longer than the last two weeks of school year and spending all of summer vacation with my daughter before returning to work full time in the Fall of 2010. Obviously things didn't go as planned and I ended up spending the 2010-2011 school year on medical leave.

Quick interjection - Not to get too political but I am eternally grateful for the health-care and short-term disability rights that my REA union collectively bargained for. Without exaggeration, if it weren't for health care and medical leave my husband and I would have incurred over a million dollars in medical expenses in 12 months. I am proud and thankful to be part of a union that fights for rights to protect their members.

Being a stay-at-home mom wasn't something I thought I'd be cut out for. Domesticity and traditional wifely roles aren't my style. I had a lot of misconceptions  about what motherhood would entail. One of the  biggest  was that I wouldn't find it challenging enough and I'd be bored. Since returning from Kalamazoo in April I've quickly learned that nothing could be further from the truth. There isn't a moment of my day where I feel bored. In fact, it's been so long since I've felt boredom I don't think I'd recognize it anymore. When I have a few spare minutes to do something for myself, the list of things I wish to partake in is endless - catching up on the world of news, pop culture, music, television, returning phone calls, working out, reading, writing, planning for next year etc. . . Literally I could write pages of the ways I'd spend my time. As far as challenging goes, I don't think I've ever had a job that is more demanding, more fun, and more rewarding.

My favorite past time is simply to stand back and watch Emy observe and take in her surroundings, examining every inch of new objects and recalling  previous objects by name or sound. These activities are fascinating to both of us. Part of me is reluctant to give up any of the time I currently spend with her. But the part of me that loves watching her learn and grow is the same part of me that adores my job. Nourishing this part is a must.

Although I am so anxious about returning to work and facing all the "What ifs. . ." that race around my brain and tie my stomach into knots, I know that I will never be more ready mentally, emotionally, or physically to return to teaching. I am so grateful that I get to return under conditions that will undoubtedly help my succeed all the while being  surrounded and supported by the most amazing colleagues.

To my Long Meadow friends and family - I will see you SOON!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Momentary Blind Panic

Since retuning from the MCBTC in April, I've felt quite confident in my role as mother. While, I tend to get overwhelmed by the task of taking care of a toddler, a husband, a house, and myself from time to time (OK, daily), I almost always chalk it up to being a new mom and the recurrence of my perfectionist addiction, than my limited eyesight. Although I like to think that my daughter is just as safe in my presence as she would be in that of any other loving and caring adult, today I was reminded that may not always be the case.

This afternoon I was attempting to turn our third bedroom/study into a usable space by tackling the enormous pile of boxes and random objects that currently reside there. Emeline had decided to help in the way that only a toddler can - by removing objects from piles and redistributing them at random. Occasionally, she'd pause in her assistance to examine the contents that I'd uncover in the chaos. One of the items that she found fascinating was a potted cactus. The cactus we have is one of those pesky ones with the tiny, not so sharp, but very prickly, nettles that attach themselves to numerous parts of your skin if you so much as graze it. Noticing her fascination I placed the cactus out of her reach (or so I assumed) on the desk until I could find a more suitable place for it.

While unraveling a mess of tangled cords I was startled by a shriek. Immediately I discarded the wires  and leaped to Emy's side. Being the tough little girl she is, she was more startled and upset than hurt and calmed down as soon as I came to her aid. Upon examination of  her palms and fingers I  didn't see anything poking out  but brushed them off to be sure. The moment I touched her fingers on her right hand they were yanked away and she began screaming. I could feel several spots on that hand with nettles that needed removing. I couldn't see them, and she was squirming so much that I couldn't grasp them with my fingers to remove them. Realizing that tweezers would be useless without being able to precisely see where to grasp, I began to panic.

 My first thought was to call my mother, my husband, or the paramedics.  Even though I was feeling panicky I knew that this situation really didn't merit a call for help - even to my mom, whom I am sure knows of an easy way to remove cacti from teeny fingers. Discarding the idea of calling 911, I regained some composure and decided I should be able to handle this. It's not like you need a medical degree to remove nettles. So I scooped up Emy, sat her in my lap with one arm around her body to keep her still and one hand holding her injured fingers to my mouth, and I pulled those tiny little suckers out with my teeth, getting a few of them stuck in my lip as I did so. She hollered and wriggled and I cried right along with her but after running her hands under cold water I was fairly certain her  hands were cacti free.

Alright, I know Emeline wasn't in grave danger. No blood, broken bones, or anything of that nature had occurred. She didn't even knock over the damn plant. She simply grabbed a cactus and most likely if I didn't do anything at all they would have worked their own way out.  Not a true crisis by any normal standards. But for those five minutes it warranted crisis status. My child was hurt, there was an easy solution, and I couldn't help her because I couldn't see well enough to remove the source of the pain. This feeling of helplessness is terrifying.

Additionally, the whole situation was my fault. I was too blame for her injury. Not only because I'm her mom and should have been watching her more closely. As irrational as my self-induced guilt and panic might be I do realize that it's impossible to watch a child every single second and accidents can and do happen all the time.  No, the reason I am to blame is because I thought I removed the source of danger by placing the cactus out out of reach. In actuality where I placed it was quite close to the edge of the desk. Easy grasping reach for the long limbs of my daughter.  My inadequate depth perception and spatial relations make my low-vision the culprit this time.

Inability that equates to inadequacy is a tricky feeling to overcome. Especially, when there is no way to control or improve my inability.  I am relieved that the incident that occurred this afternoon was not serious, and will eventually forgive myself because it wasn't. However,  I am left feeling terrified about what unpredictable event will occur in the future that could have been prevented if only my eyes were the way they used to be.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Encounter

I just had my first former student encounter as a resident of Rochester Hills. I am sitting in Caribou Coffee, using their wireless, drinking delicious iced coffee, and relishing my freedom. All of a sudden I hear, :"Hi, Mrs. Landefeld!"Startled by being called a name I haven't been referred to in a long time, I look around. At the counter I spy a group of kids from LM, one of whom is a sweet  girl I taught the school year before my medical/maternity leave. My first thought was honestly, aren't they too young fr coffee? But quickly recovering, I smiled with enthusiasm and excitement at seeing some little lovies.

Many teachers deal with these encounters on a dally basis, especially many of my co-workers, who have long been residents of the community in which we teach. Rochester has always felt like my home and my community because I grew up here and my parents are still residents.  All my schooling - Pre-K - Twelfth Grade - wait, make that Graduate School - has been here. In fact, my kindergarten teacher was the principal who hired me for my first teaching job. Occasionally when I've been out and about with co-workers after work or with my parents. I've run into students or family's of kids I've taught. Not often though. Certainly not often enough for it to become an expected occurrence. However, residing in a different community, I have always felt a little set apart.

Catching up with the  group of sun-bleached hair,freckled faced kids about their summer, I got a little thrill sharing the news that I now live here. Of course they had no idea that I didn't, but I enjoyed the sound of  those words coming out of my mouth. It felt like coming home.

Explanation of My Absence

It's been over a month since my last blog post. I have half a dozen partially written posts can be found in my laptop, iPod, and backs on envelopes, but haven't been able to find the time to complete, edit, or post them. Shockingly the amount of time since my last post happens to be roughly the same as my little darlin' has been fully mobile. Hmmm. .  . coincidence? I think not.

Every evening I collapse on to the sofa just long enough to catch my breath before hopping up again to tackle all the things I can no longer do while she is awake, ergo moving. I am not complaining = well not much anyway. Nothing gives me greater joy than to follow Emeline around watching her take in her surroundings, test new boundries, and become more and more adept at walking on two feet. But the constant chasing, policing, and cleaning is utterly exhausting. She doesn't stop moving. Ever. Not even while eating or sleeping (both of which she does extremely well). My little whirlwind can not be deterred or contained from whatever task she is intent on completing. Whether it be emptying every single feminine product out of their boxes, along with anything else that might be under the bathroom sink, or climbing all over every inch of furniture we have in our house she is hysterically adorable - but unpredictable and destructive.

Normally, I'm not one to be overly picky about finding tampons in my shoes or that my purse has been emptied all over the living room floor for the fourth time that week. An awful lot has been going on to divert my attention to other aspects of my life other than motherhood. With my focus and time being more divided it's been increasingly more difficult to maintain my patience.

In the last two months Joshua and I have been busy making decisions to get our life back on track. This past year really waylaid all of the plans we had. You think we'd be used to feelings of general upheaval. After all, the only thing that has remained predictable over the last 6 years is that any plans we put in place are going to need to be changed.

Just to give you a sense of what has precipitated the life-changing events that have occurred in the last few years I've created this handy reference list.

1. Spent a gazillion (rough estimate) dollars getting pregnant
2. Got tremendously and critically ill
3. Had baby
4.  Lost vision, while having said baby, and getting tremendous and critically ill.
5, Spent next 3 months in and out of hospitals.
6. Spent the next 7 months learning how to adjust to being a legally-blind mother while simultaneously getting physical strength and emotional stability back.
7. Spent 2 months in Kalamazoo learning how to adapt to being legally blind and learning skills that would one day enable me to return to work.
8. Spent the next 2 months reveling in being a mother and loving every single minute.

This brings us to June 2011. In June, I decided I would return to teaching, part-time in September. I am  confident that this decision is the best for me, my family, and my students. I will be returning to Long Meadow but not third-grade (where I've taught for 6 years). My heart is in teaching and Long Meadow is filled with families and co-workers who are like family to me. I am thrilled about the opportunity to job-share in 4th grade and return to the career I love.

However, deciding to return to work created a few obstacles. I can't drive and currently live 16 miles from work. There is one co-worker  and good friend of mine who lives nearby whom I might be able to carpool with, but the logistics of coordinating our schedules along with our collective three children makes my head spin. The responsibility of transportation is just too much for one person, and I wouldn't feel right asking, or allowing,  a dear friend to take that on. Josh and I kicked around several ideas and we made the decision to put our house  up for sale and look for a house to rent in Rochester.

Once this decision was made things moved very quickly. Our house was listed on July 8th. That same day Josh and I went to see a rental that had accidental fallen into our lap and decided instantly that it would be perfect for us. Within 24 hours we were approved by the rental company and told we could move in the following Friday. So within 7 days, I had to simultaneously keep my house clean for showings and pack up all our belongings in preparation for moving.

In the midst of all of this Josh heard about a job opportunity within his current organization, interviewed several times, and was offered the position. While nothing is set in stone yet, at this moment it appears that he will be starting this new job at the beginning of August.

Please don't get me wrong, I am not complaining. These are all VERY good changes. Josh and I are truly excited and positive about our future for the first time in over a year. It just feels like it's happening quickly and I am still processing. Add an active, almost 14 month old to the mix and you can understand why my patience has been a little thin.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Stuck

Every now and then I forget that I can't drive. I am no longer struck by the oddness of gazing out the window and seeing only one car in our driveway. My 2007 Green Tea Honda CR-V, the first new car I ever bought,  no longer feels like mine when my dad is driving me home from dinner at my parents' house. I am used to scheduling appointments and errands around the availability of others. I even enjoy the freedom to have another glass of wine after dinner, because the responsibility of driving home never falls on my shoulders.

Then I am reminded. Like, the breath has been physically sucked from my lungs, I realize that I can't drive. Because, I can't see well enough to. As much as my vision has improved, it remains full of holes. Holes that blur the details. Details like distance, speed, the color of traffic lights, the name of street signs. Details that are somewhat important to heed while driving. Weeks may go by between these realizations, but every time it feels brand new. Like I've lost my sight all over again. I've gotten used to a lot over the last year.But I will never get used to this. 

Every little thing requires planning. Planning that doesn't always come naturally to me. Impulsivity and the need to plan are always colliding in my life. I want to be prepared, know what is going to happen next, predict my next move but I like the freedom to change my mind; to decide on a whim that I am going to do THIS instead. This internal conflict makes me, me.

Not driving is by far the hardest thing about losing my vision. I want to be able to take Emy to Mommy and Me classes, to the beach, to see my grandparents. I want to be able to call friends and arrange to meet for lunch in an hour, go to grocery store when I am inspired to cook a real meal for dinner. (a VERY rare occurrence, therefore one that shouldn't be discouraged), I want to be able to take my daughter to the doctor without my husband having to take the morning off work.

I want to be free.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Peace, Love, and Cupcakes

We celebrated Emeline's 1st Birthday yesterday with several of our closest friends and family. It was a memorable day and fun was had by all. Especially, Emy. I was fearful that she'd be overwhelmed by the noise, people, and general chaos that arises when you mix 15 adults and 9 kids in a small space.Once again, I found myself amazed at the adaptive skills of my daughter. Emy relished in the attention and completely held her own while playing with everyone. Several times throughout the afternon, I tried to take a few minutes to observe how she interacted with all the people who know and love her.
This party was about  more than just a kid's birthday party. It was a celebration of the love and strength our friends and family have given freely and unconditional over the last year. It was a celebration of surviving the last year. Not just my survival either, but everyone who journeyed with us, providing love and strength along the way. I can't make any predictions on what the future might hold nor can I speak for anyone other than myself but I believe unequivocally that we are in a far better place than we were a year ago. It was just as important to me to celebrate that as it was to celebrate the birthday girl.
A long-time friend of the family made amazing personalized decorations, cupcakes, and a small cake for Emy all around the theme - "Peace, Love, and Cupcakes." She is so creative and amazingly talented. She is available for hire, so let me know if you'd like her contact information. I have included some pictures of the event to show off her handy work as well as some of my favorites for the day. Thank you Erin for making our house look as festive as possible!









Thursday, June 9, 2011

Back in a Gown Again

As you may recall, back in April, I had an unexpected trip to the ER while residing in Kalamazoo. You can read about it in this post: A Drama Free Existence. Since that day, I have been undergoing "further investigation" since that time. "Further investigation" has consisted of appointments with my primary care physician, my internal medicine doc at U of M, and the gastro-intestinal specialist she referred me to. I met with this specialist, Dr. E.two-weeks ago and like every specialist I have encountered at U of M, found hr to be exceptionally qualified, compassionate, and knowledgeable.

Dr. E hypothesized that the semi-constant pain I feel is caused by "chronic pancreatitis." Basically, when someone has had a case of pancreatitis as severe as I had it can lead to permanent damage to the pancreas resulting in pain, often after eating. In order to confirm her hypothesis, an Upper GI Endoscopic Ultrasound would need to be performed. During an EUS a small, lighted tube, approximately the diameter of a finger, with a camera attached to the end, is inserted into to your esophagus in order to get detailed pictures of t digestive track and surrounding organs. In my case, Dr. E. was most interested in my pancreas. Twilight sedation is required for this procedure and the benefits of accurate diagnostic information highly outweigh the minimal risks associated with an EUS.

My EUS was yesterday. Tuesday night, I was a wreck. Every time I am faced with a diagnostic test or an appointment with a new doctor occurs all logic and reasoning goes out the window and is replaced with crazy, spiraling, worst-case scenario possibilities. Basically it comes down to this: I am TERRIFIED of getting sick again. The idea of hospitalization, intense pain, and the months and months of recovery I underwent sends me into a full on panic attack. Voluntarily going to the University Hospital, putting on a hospital gurney, having an IV put in, waking up in recovery to a worried looking husband; it is awfully difficult to get psyched up to endure these events once again. But I've been in pain. I am in pain. Sometimes so much so, that I have trouble sleeping and eating. Things that is kind of necessary for survival.  Or at least sanity. As little as I was looking forward to the EUS, I knew it was a necessity to gain information required to move forward.

Everything went very smoothly. Dr. E. is a pro and I felt safe by the precision her team ran the procedure room. She came and talked to me and Josh in the recovery room to present her initial findings. Apparently, there are nine criteria for "chronic pancreatitis" and I only meet 3 of the 9. Additionally, Dr. E. was pleasantly surprised at the overall appearance of my pancreas. The severity of my complications did relative minor damage overall. These are both good things. However, that means the causes of my abdominal pain and tenderness is still undiagnosed. Dr. E. wants to treat me with digestive enzymes. Hopefully, by taking enzymes prior to eating or drinking, I will suffer less. We'll meet again at the end of the summer to analyze the effectiveness.

All in all, I was reassured by this experience. It's nice to know that I am not in dire straits again. I've spent so much time in hospital gowns this year that reaching a steady level of health still seems a ways off. It's good to know that I might be closer than I think.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Birthday Letter

May 27, 2011
My Sweet Emy Joy,

I am in complete shock at how quickly time has gone.  Not too long ago, you were a distant dream that your father and I thought would always be just out of our reach. Now you have completely hijacked our house and our lives and we couldn't be happier. Don't ever doubt for a minute you weren't wanted. You were loved and cherished from the second we learned our dream had become a reality. Plus, you are way cooler than either of us could have imagined.

I am grateful that you won’t remember this year. There are definitely parts I wish I could forget, but you are not involved in a single one of those moments.  We've spent an awful lot of time apart. Even when we were able to be together in those first few months, I was so sick that it was impossible for me to care for you.
Luckily, I think this has affected me WAY more than you. You spent your time with people who adore you, and took such good care of you, especially, your daddy. Have you realized yet how incredible a man your dad is? I never worry about you when you're with him. If there is anyone on this planet who loves you more than I do, it is him. He would do anything to make either one of us happy. Plus, he makes the best popcorn. Just two of the many reasons why he rocks.

For the longest time, I worried about whether or not you and I would bond.  I was certain we'd never feel comfortable around one another. I never could hold you just right in those first few months. You sensed my fear and frustration and would holler, until I’d hand you over to a more competent set of arms. Silly to think about that now, huh? As I got stronger and more confident our bond strengthened too. We're thick as thieves these days. Our days are full of snuggles, games, giggles, hugs, kisses; moments I treasure and wouldn’t trade for ANYTHING.

You are so busy. Exploring, observing, testing - you are a little scientist. Everything you see, touch, or hear is part of your experiment. My absolute favorite moment of every day is that "AHA!" moment when all the pieces fit together. You look at me, with the widest grin, just beaming with pride because you know you've figured something out. I couldn't be prouder.

You love books, music, and animals - real or otherwise. You are a magic combination of wild and gentle. You are an amazing sleeper (THANK YOU!!) and such a charmer. You greet everybody with a big old smile, a wave, and a chipper, “Hi!” I hope you always stay this social. There are amazing people in the world that you might never otherwise get a chance to meet.
You have the best fake cough I have ever heard. From a simple throat clearing to a dry hack, you can mimic them all. I could listen to your fake coughs, maniacal laughter, and every other sweet sound you utter all day.
You hate having your nose wiped, or being waylaid in anyway, so not surprisingly you hate to be told no. Your fierce independence, stubbornness, and opinionated spirit will take you far. I marvel at your personality and silently curse all the power struggles the future holds for us.

There are moments of every day, where I want to freeze time because it couldn't possibly get any better. There is no way you could get any cuter, or sweeter, or funnier. But you do. Every day. And every day gets even better than the one before and I love you more than I ever dreamed possible.

I know you won't always find me funny and entertaining, but I hope that you'll always find solace in my arms. When you snuggle close, head on my shoulder, thumb in your mouth, I am afraid my heart will burst with happiness. You keep me in the moment and I am so thankful to you for teaching me how to slow down, enjoy, and focus on what’s important. Honestly, when you pat my shoulder or bite my nose what else could possible matter? You're it, Baby. You're it.
Happy Birthday Emeline Joy.

Love,
Mama

Friday, May 27, 2011

Small Improvements

When the doctors first realized my vision had been severely altered I was reassured multiple times that my vision would return fully, in 3-6 weeks, or when the fluids behind my eyes receded. None of these proclamations came from ophthalmologists these were uttered by the surgeon, internist, and various residents who were responsible for my care. Of my body. Not my eyes. Although I should have known better, I believed them.

And my vision did improve. But as the fluid had receded and my eye pressures returned to normal, and six, then eight, weeks passed, and my vision didn't go back to "normal," I knew I was in trouble.

During my fourth and final hospital stay I requested a consult with a retinal specialist. I was at U of M after all. The Kellogg Eye Center is renowned and I would be a fool to pass up the opportunity to get another opinion while in such close proximity. I was referred to one of the few doctors in Michigan who not only heard of Purtscher's Retinopathy, but had researched, AND published papers on its correlation with childbirth. Unfortunately, experts such as Dr. J. don't usually have large gaps in their schedules waiting for potential patients to schedule an appointment. There was good news however, after meeting with one of Dr. J's interns and a fellow, strings had been pulled and I had an appointment. In six weeks.

At the time, this was an eternity. It had already been 8 weeks since I lost my vision, if something could be done to cure my eyes it had to be done now. How was I supposed to function for the next 6 weeks knowing that help might be out there, but it was "impossible" to arrange an appointment sooner? (How I managed is a whole other story.)
He was worth the wait. As I've mentioned before, Dr. J was the first doctor to speak candidly about my condition. His honesty, supported by empathy was grounding. Ever since our first appointment, I've learned to be grateful for every improvement, not matter how small, that occurs. And improve I have. 

The changes in my vision have developed slowly, but when I look back on this year it is remarkable how far I have come. Over the last 365 days I have gone from seeing shadows, with streaks of light, to light and dark, to large shapes, to colors, (I was so happy to see color again!) to minor detail, to letters, to words, to more distinct detail. My vision is such that if you aren't paying close attention you may not even realize that I am legally blind, unless of course we are in a low-lit restaurant, then it becomes pretty obvious, especially when I am required to read a menu.

I saw Dr. J for the third time since August of 2010 on Thursday, May 26, 2010. 364 days from the day my vision changed. As always, Dr. J and his staff were patient, kind, and got right to the point. Just the way I like my medical professionals. Carefully choosing his words after my exam, Dr. J said that in the nine months since I became his patient, my vision has improved beyond his initial expectations. He also said, without the slightest bit of irony, "That we can expect changes, until we no longer can." Translation: as long as my eyes keep healing and getting stronger, then there is no reason to expect that they won't continue to do so. There isn't a time limit on progress. Being that there is nothing to do to speed up any recovery, time is the only thing that will determine where my vision will end up. A year ago, this would have driven me crazy. "What do you mean, you don't know?!?" I can imagine myself shrieking. Now, I am thankful for the lack of ceiling and the tether to reality. I wake each morning thinking that this is as good as it is going to get and eternally grateful that I can see the wide grin and smirking eyes on Emy's face. I am prepared to see the way I see right now, forever. I like knowing that I can hope and dream, but I am relieved that I no longer expect change. My vision has exceeded my own expectations too, and any improvement from here on out is a bonus. I'll take it. Either way.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Little Vitamin D

It is not the least bit surprising to me that I've had a Vitamin D deficiency over the last year. After all, I spent an entire season indoors. More than a season; for close to 5 months my skin rarely saw the sun. I began to feel strong enough and confident enough to venture outdoors regularly just in time for one of the snowiest Michigan winters I can remember. My new vision impairment and icy conditions caused me to spend yet another season largely indoors.

As if this is news to anyone who was in Southeast Michigan last weekend. The weather was idyllic. It was if I personally contacted Mother Nature and requested my preferred weather conditions: sunny, high 70's, low humidity, gentle breeze. Perfection.

Every opportunity possible I spent it outside. Weeding, planting flowers, spreading mulch, introducing Emy to the pure joy of reading in the grass under the trees, hour long walks with Emy in the stroller around our neighborhood, hour long walks with Emy pushing the stroller up and down the driveway, I relished every moment outdoors.

All the Vitamin D and exercise did me good. As I crawled into bed Sunday night, mildly sunburned and physically sore from all of the gardening, I felt peace. Michigan summers are the greatest and I can't wait to spend this one outdoors. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Permission to Blog?

I have completed exactly 1 post since I have been home from Kalamazoo. ONE. In over a month. Pathetic.  I have half a dozen partially finished posts typed up and probably a dozen snippets on topics jotted down. Excuses of why these haven't reached posting status are many, but ultimately there is only one. They are not completed, therefore NOT fit for anyone’s eyes but my own.
Every day I talk about writing. How I want to, need to, have to finish that piece. But I haven’t made it a priority. Many friends, family, acquaintances, friends of friends have mentioned this blog that my head has been spinning (and slowly inflating) from the generous and heartwarming words of encouragement and praise. That, this little hobby of mine has sparked anyone’s interest is remarkable. I just needed an outlet to process the events of the last year in the best way I know how - through writing.
A friend asked me why I chose to write a blog as opposed to a journal. It's a fair question. She has known me a long time and has witnessed firsthand the devastation the last five years has inflicted on my life, as well as the attempts made (time and time again) to emerge from the rubble as unscathed as possible. Through these attempts I haven't always been the most forthcoming about how I felt. I’m kind of known for the statement, “Well, it's hard, but what are you going to do?” It’s always been very difficult for me to allow myself to be viewed as vulnerable, incompetent, and unsuccessful in any way. Unless copious amounts of alcohol have been consumed, then I'll spill my innermost fears to just about anyone who demonstrates the slightest bit of interest - like making eye contact. Vodka always equals too much information when I’m part of the equation.
This false armor I created was dismantled completely last summer. Perhaps it was the humiliation of being incapacitated in a hospital bed, with extreme bacteria attacking my digestive system. Perhaps it was that no matter how I portrayed myself I couldn't hide the fact that I couldn't take care of my daughter. Maybe, I was simply tired of partially hiding the parts of my life that define who I am today. Whatever the reason, I made a conscious decision to not be ashamed.
Not one of the so-called kinks the universe has thrown in the spokes of my life plan is or should have EVER been a cause for shame. Infertility, depression, anxiety, communication issues, pancreatitis, vision-loss, prolonged illness, mommy-guilt, more depression, more anxiety; all of these are completely valid (and uncontrollable) causes for the current identity crisis I find myself partaking in. The one controllable factor is how I handle it all. I'll be the first to admit that some days I don't handle it well. Some days, it takes so much effort to get out of bed that I am left wondering why I bothered. Other days, like today, I totally have this blind, crazy, momma thing down. Yes, I am being facetious but seriously, I feel as if I have it all under control. I am happy, competent, and confident.
This brings me to the point of today's post. As a result of making the decision to be honest and forthcoming about the events and experiences that have made me, me, I am giving myself permission to be honest and forthcoming in my writing. Writing has become a necessity to me. Just like the meds I take every day to keep my body from going haywire again, I need to make time to write so I don't go haywire as often as I could. This involves giving myself the permission to post incomplete pieces or rough paragraphs. Those of you who are familiar with the perfectionist side of me knows this is not an easy task. To realize that this is a blog, not an essay that will be graded is HUGE. Lil Miss Perfectionist is shuddering at the thought that a misplaced comma or a misinterpreted thought might squeak its way into your brain. "OMG! What might you think?” she is shouting. Not to mention, “I just used the acronym OMG, what am I 14?"  I will do my best to quiet her with promises of revisions at a later date. You all can help by being just as supportive as you have been thus far. By reading, following, or commenting on this blog, and my ramblings, you repeatedly tell her, “Shhh. . . it’s okay.” Which is so important because polished or not, I’ve been dancing around my reality long enough and I have a LOT to say.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Everything is Different, Yet Nothing has Changed

It is amazing to think that just less than three weeks ago I was residing in Kalamazoo. My experiences at MCBTC seem like they happened to someone else is some other lifetime. Most likely the biggest reason for that is I am no longer the same person I was prior to arriving at the Center. Nor am the same person I was almost (gasp!) a year ago, when all the craziness went down. In fact, there have been so many versions of myself during the last 18 months that I have no idea who I truly am today or will be tomorrow. 
One thing that I do know is there is a drastic difference between the person who entered the MCBTC on February 27, 2010 and the one who sits at this crummy laptop currently. In a lot of ways I am more equipped to handle the daily challenges my low-vision brings but in several other ways I am even more impatient with my situation.  


My first few days at home were spent in a state of delirium. I had left Kalamazoo feeing that vision-impairment be damned, I could do anything. I spent a ridiculous amount of time planning all the activities that I wanted to do now that it was spring, and I was home and healthy, Together Emy and I would attend story hour at the library, join a multitude of classes like, sign language, swim, and maybe even a play-group/Gymboree to meet other moms and babies. I would be sure to carve out time for myself to maintain my sanity - I'd go to the Y regularly, take a yoga class, find a ceramics class, look into going back to school - yada, yada, yada. My mind swirled with the possibilities. Then reality hit. And it hit hard. 


Regardless of the level of independence I feel I am capable of. I am still very limited by my location. There are ZERO options of fordable transportation in the Waterford area. There are no buses, Para-transit, community groups, or even senior centers that will assist me even with running errands locally. There are cab companies but none of them seem willing to negotiate a regular-customer rate and consistently paying their exorbitant rates is just asinine. I do have friends and family who are more than willing to cart me and Emy around which is amazing and generous but the feelings of dependence and guilt are often difficult pills to swallow. 
Te reality is that I left the MCBTC feeling as if something deep within my soul was repaired. I felt healthy and strong in a way that I haven't in a very, very long time. It's awfully frustrating to feel so changed internally and arrive at the realization that situationally nothing has changed. 


 I feel awful complaining about this because there is so much positivity to focus on about the status of my emotional, physical, and visual health. Additionally, I am well aware that any parent who stays at home with their child feels lonely and isolated from time to time - (why do you think Facebook and Mommy Blogs are so popular?) but the inherent difference is that most people have the option of loading their kid up and going to run errands, see friends, have lunch out, or whatever., when they just can't take their house/yard anymore. That spur of the moment action is unavailable to me. 


 I am terrified that this feeling of BEING STUCK will never subside.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Pardon Me While I Gush

 I spent my first week home saying to various friends and family members, "Have you seen Emy do this?" and "You'll never guess what Emeline can do now!" only to be told that yes, they did know and had in fact been doing _______ for days/weeks. Ugh. As if I need a reminder of how absent I've been and all the moments I've felt cheated out of.

We certainly did not have a traditional bonding experience and I could write pages about how soul crushing it was to spend weeks away from her. I could write that it took months to bond with one another, or how spending more time away than with her causes me feel sweaty and anxious every time I say good-bye. But this post isn't about all that. I'll save those topics for a day when I am feeling more self-loathing and melancholy than I do at the present.

On the contrary, this post is intended to be positive and will be about all of the moments that I've had the great fortune of being present for. These moments may not be earth shattering but they were firsts for us. As my husband carefully pointed out Friday while I was pouting about not being present for her first trip to the zoo; Emeline won’t remember these events, but the "firsts" we share are the ones that I will remember. I hate to admit it when he is right, especially when I am pouting, but it's true. So in order to ensure I remember the tiny moments from this week I am going to spend a few moments writing down snippets of the moments Emeline amazed me. Feel free to stop reading here if you don't want to be subjected to a guilty mom's observations. If you choose to continue reading, let's just say you were warned about the sentimentality that follows.
 
 Memory Snippet #1:
This kid doesn't stop moving. Every moment she is awake she is on the go. Her favorite game is to crawl away as fast as she possible can, while laughing maniacally. If I don’t follow she crawls halfway back and/or laughs louder, in case you missed the subtle clue that you were meant to follow. When I would oblige she resumed her escape until she reached her desired destination. Usually the bed or couch. She’d wait ever so patiently (for half a second) until she’d get a little boost so she could climb up. Convinced she has won, celebration would begin by letting out a sweet giggle followed quickly by a hysterical screech, Not wanting me to feel as if I'd lost, she'd reward me with  a sloppy kiss on the nose with just enough bite to make my eyes water. After playing this game a few hundred times this week neither of us are the least bit tire d of it. What could possibly be more enjoyable? Although, I do need to put a stop to the bite/kiss before she draws blood.

Memory Snippet #2:
A smattering of carefully articulated babble provides background music to my days. New consonant and vowel combinations are learned daily; many of them resembling words I've just said. (Note to self: find substitute for damn.) As of today (two days shy of 11 months old) she has over a dozen words in her vocabulary. Words she uses consistently, correctly, and clearly are: hi, daddy, mama, more, book, read, kitty, doggy, milk, bye-bye, woof, moo, yeah, and bath. Her most recent words –are  me, mine, no. Hmmm . . . should I be worried?

Memory Snippet #3 - She already is a little book worm. Adoring books she sleeps with a copy of Goodnight Gorilla every night. Morning begins with her sweet little voice coming over the monitor (almost always 11-13 hours later) More often than not, she is reading her book aloud to herself, flipping pages, looking at pictures, talking to the characters. Nothing makes me prouder.

Memory Snippet #4:
Tonight while I was feeding her dinner, Emy decided she’d help. I was feeding her mixed veggies and not wanting to discourage the hearty eating of vegetables, I handed her a spoon and let her dig in. The spoon was quickly abandoned once she remembered fingers are much easier to maneuver to mouth. My worry about the mess she was creating was discarded as quickly as the spoon. Her diligence in ensuring she got every bite possible from the bowl was hysterical and will provide me hours of laughter in the years to come. Especially because I caught it on video.  
video


I could go on and on, but it’s already taken me 5 days to carve out enough time to write this post. Our entire week has been a wondrous concoction of verbs. Laughing, giggling, smooching, cuddling, chasing, climbing, crawling, exploring, learning, tumbling, napping, tickling, teasing, squealing, talking, feeding, patting, consoling, crying, loving, we’ve shared them all. At the end of the day I am left feeling exhilarated and exhausted.  Like a teenager in love, I am so giddy with adoration that I can't contain myself. I have to tell somebody, usually my patient husband all about our tiny adventures. What she wore, ate, said, and did. All of this has been my main topic of conversation this week. Although I am slightly disturbed by this, I will treasure the gushiness of my words, because forget the teenager in love, I am a mother in love. Deeply and unconditionally in love. It may have taken me eleven months to put aside fear, anxiety and trauma long enough to get here but I plan on enjoying every single second.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Last Night

Tonight will be my last night spent at the MCBTC in Kalamazoo, MI. My stay here has certainly had some less than stellar moments, but overall I truly enjoyed my time here. Today I will be listing things I am giddily looking forward to about going home, as well as things that I will miss here at the MCBTC.

TOP 10 THINGS I AM LOOKING FORWARD TO WHEN I GET HOME
1. Emeline Joy 
2. Joshua
3. Snuggling with my kitty, Luna every night before I sleep
4. My bed, my sheets, my pillows
5. Catching up with friends and family I haven't seen very much over the last two months
6. Springtime walks around my neighborhood
7. Planning my own meals with foods that I enjoy eating
8, The big, green recliner in my living room
9. Eating with real silverware, real plates and bowls, and drinking out of glasses, and mugs
10. Working in my yard (Yes, I mean it)

TOP 10 THINGS I WILL MISS HERE AT THE MCBTC
1. My traveling buddy, Donna
2. The LNC (Late Night Crew) - Dwane, Tony, Donna, Scott
3. Large screen computers in the computer lab, also they're much faster than my dinky laptop
4. Only having to keep aprox. 220 square feet clean
5. The restaurants of Kalamazoo - especially Saffron.
6. Public Transportation
7. The city of Kalamazoo
8. The staff at the MCBTC
9. Most of the staff at the Clarion.
10. The time I've been forced to spend reflecting, learning, adapting, focusing, and healing.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Tase of Reality

I don't need to tell any of you how difficult Mondays (or whatever day you start your work week) are. This is not news. In fact, no fewer than 16,000 images of Garfield sharing his disdain for this particular day of the week can be found when the phrase I hate Mondays" is Googled.

I was always pretty indifferent to Monday. I enjoyed my job and generally looked forward to each new week. I certainly haven't given much thought to them since I've been on medical leave. Over the last eight weeks that's changed. Buy me a Garfield poster I am an official (albeit, temporary) Monday hater. I have so much empathy for parents whose jobs take them away from home for extended periods of time. Even though I am secure in the idea the skills I am gaining outweighs the effects of my absence it is torture not seeing my daughter's impish smile on a daily basis. Spend less than 48 hours with Emeline and Josh on the weekend is dreadful. Mondays become even more difficult after we’ve spent a wonderful weekend together.

That's the trouble I had with spending such a wonderful weekend with my two favorite people. When I returned - alone - to my hotel room yesterday evening, I was shocked by the silence and loneliness that enveloped me. I felt as if I had just spent the weekend pretending that Josh and I were a normal family on vacation. Kalamazoo was our destination and visiting friend, trying new restaurants, drinking in the afternoon, wandering aimlessly through various neighborhoods and local shops were all part of the experience. For the first time in weeks, I felt as if I was choosing to spend time here based on want, not necessity. As enjoyable as our weekend together was the underlying anxiety of our current familial situation was never completely able to be denied.  

The reality is that we have a lot of decisions to make as a family over the next few months. The majority of them have to be made because of my vision and ability (or lack thereof) to independently navigate the current community in which we reside. Where we should relocate or even if we can is only the tip of the iceberg of uncertainties that wake me at 3 in the morning. The responsibility I feel to make the best decision is overwhelming. I know that I should focus on what I can control and leave what I can't to rest, but I have opportunities that could become reality if I place all the puzzle pieces in the right place. I can't wait to reenter the real world - cook my own meals, sleep in my own bed, and be a mom and wife 7 days a week.  As excited as I am to do all these things a big part of me is dreading the unavoidable reality check that is coming my way.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Last Week!

Tomorrow will be my 8th week here at MCBTC. Thankfully, it will also be my last. I entered here with the naive idea that I didn't have all that much to learn about adjusting to my visual impairment. I'll leave here knowing how ridiculous that thought was.

This week I will be reflecting about the time I have spent here at the MCBTC, the friends I've made, the skills I've learned, the things I missed in the real world, things I can't wait to return to, and the things that terrify me about going back home.

I've learned an awful lot about myself and how I have changed over the last 10 months, as well as how I've grown in the last 8 weeks. I am a different person than I was before motherhood, blindness, and rehabilitation. I kind of like who I have become.

I'll try not to get too sappy, and I can assure you that my journey will not end on Friday evening when I go home. I am not adjusted - mentally, physically, or emotionally, to my new life as a visually impaired individual. Every single day, for the rest of my life I will be learning new ways to adjust.

May 27, 2010 - Part 1

May 2010 had been the roughest month of my pregnancy. In five weeks I had gained 25 pounds, most of which landed on my face, feet, and ankles. My blood pressure fluctuated between too high and almost too high. These two symptoms of preeclampsia landed me on partial bed rest 3 weeks before my due date, and two weeks before I'd planned on going on maternity leave. I left my third doctor's appointment in 5 days, on May 24th, feeling shell-shocked by the idea that unless I went into labor before then,  I'd have to be induced the following Monday. My doctor told me that she initially thought I'd have to be induced that day, but since my BP was lower than she expected and I hadn't gained any weight, she felt we could wait a week, when I'd be 38 weeks pregnant. Being induced was not part of my birth plan, and I hoped that Baby Landebean (as my family affectionately referred to my gender unknown fetus) would initiate his/her own birth prior to then. My instructions were not to be ignored. I needed to spend 80-90% of my time off my feet, preferably with them elevated, and I should be resting NOT stressing. Sure. No problem. I just needed to organize the baby's room, do sub plans for the remaining five weeks of the school year, and prepare myself for the arrival of a tiny, tiny human. Not stressful at all.


Fast forward 4 days. I'd spent the last 4 days on my couch in sweltering pre-summer heat, only venturing out of the house to buy a recliner for the baby's room, get a fetal monitoring test at the hospital, and make a quick Target run to stock up on essentials for before, during, and after the birth. I woke up the morning of the 27th feeling confined and antsy. I had plans that afternoon to attend a "surprise" Baby Shower my students were throwing me and I was really looking forward to seeing them. However, I felt somewhat fluish. My back ached, my stomach and head vaguely hurt, and I was nauseous. Figuring it was just the heat, (secretly hoping it was labor) I readily accepted when my sister suggested we go visit my grandfather in the hospital. Two outings on the same day was pushing the partial bed-rest envelope, but I rationalized it in the following ways:


A: The hospital was air-conditioned, my house wasn't.
B: I could sit with my feet up while we visited.
C: My sister was meeting me and would drive me the majority of the way.
D: Valet parking
E: Would have time for a nap before the Baby Shower
F: If I was in or anywhere near labor, there is no one I'd rather be with except Allison. (Apologies to my husband, but having had two children already her experiences trumped just about everything at this moment)


Visiting my grandfather was more eventful than I had imagined. A month prior he had broken his leg and was having a difficult time recovering. During this particular hospital stay, he was suffering from a yet unknown infection that was manifesting itself as hallucinations and delusions. While at times entertaining, they were also worrisome, and during my visit I felt unprepared to handle them. While sitting in his room I began to feel worse. I began having sharp pain in the top left area of my abdomen, up near my ribs. Being pretty sure the baby hadn't moved over there, I was uncertain if this was a contraction. The pain didn't feel as if it was in my uterus, but what the heck did I know. The only description I could remember about the onset of labor is that it's not like a tiny side street you might miss while you're driving; you know it when you get there. 




I began to feel frightened as the pain intensified and really felt the need to get some fresh air. Allison knew something wasn't quite right and we said our good-byes to Gramps. In the five minutes it took for us to get to the lobby I went from feeling frightened to being downright terrified. The pain was coming in waves and I was having a very difficult time catching my breath. We called my OB, who was out of the office, but her partner immediately called me back and explained that while she didn't have privileges at the hospital I was at, it sounded as if I needed to go to the Emergency Room. Allison had left momentarily to get some assistance and returned with several orderlies and a couple of nurses in tow. I was quickly wheeled to the ER, where they took one look at my nine-month pregnant physique and immediately redirected me to the Mother and Baby Unit.


Things begin to get a little fuzzy from here on out, but I will try to accurately recount the rest of the day’s events in following posts.