Puzzled

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For many years I’ve enjoyed puzzles as a way to spend time with my family and friends,  as well as a quiet way to think things through and chill. It started more than fifteen years ago, always in summer. I’d put a big puzzle out on our dining room table, knowing the kids were home and we’d have hours to fill, and that there were no big holidays, so we wouldn’t need the larger table. Anyone who visited, or was here, could join in.

It’s a surprisingly great way to connect with people. Puzzles require that you sit (or stand) in one general place and concentrate, yet it’s easy to talk and as you search for pieces, as well. People tend to chat more with each other, and really listen, without outside distractions; with a puzzle, there’s no TV or screen to get lost in. It’s also a nice way to just sit with someone and be quiet. People can sink into their own thoughts, while working side by side with others. When my kids were teenagers, they didn’t particularly like doing puzzles, but occasionally I could lure them in. It often was a pathway into their world, when I most wanted and needed to connect with them. We’d sit quietly looking for missing pieces, and if I was patient and listened, I’d get to hear about their lives and what was happening in them.

I’ve generally invested in large puzzles (one was 5,000 pieces! A one-time thing; don’t try it at home!) which tended to last all summer, and sometimes into the holiday season. I never choose a puzzle that’s less than 1,000 pieces. Sometimes the whole family picked out our next project; other times I picked up a new puzzle on my own. Over time, I bought a few large pieces of Styrofoam to build them on. Styrofoam keeps pieces from moving around too much, and you can lift a puzzle and move it, if needed. In those rare years when summer puzzles became Thanksgiving puzzles, this solution was perfect.

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This is supposed to be one of “the hardest puzzles… in the world.” There’s a special hell for people who give this as a gift.

Forever an ocean person, many of the original puzzles I picked were underwater scenes, almost always by Ravensberger. Over time, however, I’ve branched out and chosen planets and galaxy, world maps, and now subjects vary completely. People know I enjoy them, so over the nearly eight weeks that I’ve been sick and healing, folks have delivered puzzles as get well gifts, and general items of torture. There’s a stack of puzzles waiting for me, including one that my nephew and his girlfriend nefariously sent for Christmas. He researched “hardest puzzles in the world,” and thought that would make my foggy-meningitis-brain feel better. Or, he was getting back at me for some horrible thing I must have done when he was little. Hardest puzzles in the world, really? I put it aside until I feel better, and then got blindsided by a seemingly sweet puzzle–– with the image of Harlequin dancers–– delivered by a friend, right after I got out of the hospital.

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This is what puzzle hell looks like. Each time I think I’ve figured something out, a piece goes somewhere else. Puzzle. Hell.

I’ve never spent so long on one puzzle, but this one is hell; I’ve been working on it since just before Christmas! Individual pieces work in more than one place, much of it is a dark blackish-blue color, and depending on the light, it’s hard to see the variations in tones–– but those shades and tones matter. I’ve never had a puzzle before, where the edge is one of the hardest parts to do. Though I finally thought I’d worked out the edge  (after completing large “easier” sections), we’re convinced that much of at least one side,  is all wrong. Serious mind-fuck. I can only wonder about the friend who gave it to me and her real intentions; she knows who she is.

Over the years so many people have joined me for puzzle time. My kids have joined in; my husband drops by intermittently–– usually to drop in pieces that I’ve carefully collected, and am waiting to connect. My three exchange student-kids (China, Denmark, and Germany) all joined in, for the year each of them was living here. At times they and my son, Man-Cub, would spend hours laughing, teasing, and arguing about life at school, things at home, and their own private issues. Some of my happiest times were listening to them debate issues over a puzzle in the other room. Friends and family visiting for summer vacations, sat at the table on rainy days, or over weekends. They all joined us in our dining room to do puzzles. Today, at Hospice House, where I regularly volunteer, puzzles are left out on a table in the “family room.” We have learned that families who are grieving find peaceful distraction in puzzles. They are able to step away from feeling overwhelmed, and quietly work on a puzzle, or process feelings and thoughts. All of those tiny pieces can provide peace.

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This past Thanksgiving, we did two puzzles. They were not “the hardest in the world,” but we had fun together! That might be the evil nephew.

People tend to find one area of the puzzle that resonates with them, and they work to solve that section. Side by side, you can work and visit. I started asking summer guests to sign a part of a puzzle, so I could remember who shared in the fun. I got it in my head that I’d glue the finished puzzles, have them framed and hang them in our game room; they’d be reminders of fun times, as well as decorative art for bare walls. Over time, however, that became a misadventure. Large puzzles don’t stay glued very well; frames that work for puzzles are hard to find, and over time, finished-mostly-glued puzzles began to pile up under beds and sofas, collecting dust and adding to my list of long-delayed projects.

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Puzzles from the past

The collection of dusty puzzles hidden under spaces, collectively forced me to accept that I’d probably never get them framed or hung. They became silent reminders of so many undone things, and I felt guilty about not following through in one more area of my life. Then recently, I pulled one out and found myself running my fingers over the uniquely finished-puzzle surface that I love so much. I traced the names of people I love, people who have shared special time with me and my family, and realized I’m not ready to give up entirely on this project. There are several that have no signatures, and no real meaning–– other than the hours spent on them. Those can go back into their boxes, and on to other homes. But the ones with with love and memories, evident by the names written in corners and on sea turtles and jellyfish, still matter to me. They are a time capsule of happy times; they can be dusted and rescued.

These three are next in line

The kids are gone; our house is generally very quiet now. I’ve spent nearly eight weeks in this quiet house getting my strength back, processing hard things, thinking about goals and the next phase of my life, and doing puzzles. I do them on our kitchen table now; we only need two seats, so there’s lots of extra space. This time has been challenging; it’s been hopeful, sad, scary, and peaceful, depending on the day. And as I come out of this phase, and my healing is finally progressing in ways that allow me to jump back into my life, I find that I’m grateful to puzzles. I needed to focus, as well as spend time quiet and distracted. I needed to spend time to let go of things that don’t fill me anymore, and to grab on to new things. These have been hard weeks, and they’ve been weeks of deeper meaning. This time has been sacred. I’m coming into a new place in my life, and while I can’t wait for the next puzzle, I’m no longer puzzled.

Sweet puzzle memories remain

Are puzzles your thing, or do they make you crazy? Or, do you figure they’re something only grandparents do? (Well, I got that one covered too). Leave a comment and share your thoughts! 

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GIPYKAPOW! Have you stopped by Tales From the Motherland Facebook page to spread some fairy dust? I’m grateful for each Like. Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (for real)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email,  no spam.

©2011-2018  All content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and Link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

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50 Happy Things 2018: Bloggers Unite to Flood the Internet With Gratitude

STOP THE PRESSES! Just when you thought it was too late to join the 4th annual #BloggersUnite for #50HappyThings challenge, I’ve gone and changed the deadline. Yes, you read that correctly; there’s more time to be happy and grateful! In fact, until the end of January.

You’re wondering why? I had a deadline (chosen a bit arbitrarily) and all, so why up and change the game now, when it’s come and gone? Well, it’s easy: 1) There have been some wonderful new blog posts added, just in the past couple of days. That makes me think that other bloggers will see those ones and be dying to join in. Who am I to keep more gratitude from flowing?
2) It’s a happy thing to share gratitude. Positivity begets more positivity, and who am I to keep us all from enjoying more positivity, when heaven knows we need it!

So, I’ve extended the deadline until the end of January. You’ve got another chance to join this happy party; so do it! Trust me, once you start typing out your list, you won’t believe how wonderful you feel. If you read a couple of the posts already added, pretty much every blogger says that: they’re so glad they did it. And you will be happy too. So, don’t wait; don’t put it off any longer, because this deadline will be the final deadline. I’m not going to extend the deadline again, despite all #1 and #2 just provided. Now, go forth and set timers!

TALES FROM THE MOTHERLAND

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Last year I opted out on New Year’s resolutions and decided to go with intention. It wasn’t an ideal year, and this year I decided to wait until after the New Year and focus on gratitude; it’s always timely.

For the fourth year in a row, this is an opportunity to hit pause and focus on all the good things that each of us has in our lives. The holiday season has a way of rushing in, every year, and making it hard to remember that throughout the year, there are blessings. There are so many things that bring joy, so many happy things; yet it’s easy to find to lose sight of this fact, as we manage busy lives.

In 2014 I followed in the footsteps of Jen over at Jenny’s Lark, and wrote a list of 50 things (in 10 minutes) that I was grateful for…

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My Meningitis Purge

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Life is challenging. Even if you’re one of those amazing people who always see things positively (and I know some of them), or you’re one of those folks who wrangle challenges better than others (I know them too), we all face hurdles. Only hurdlers handle that one.

This past year was hurdle after hurdle for me, and I found myself mired in dark stuff that I wanted to wrap-up and pack away. But I was stuck. Then, as the year was ending and I felt like maybe I was finding my groove again, December opened with meningitis in Israel, and now three months of recovery. And trust me, I’ve challenged that number–– because three months seems like a very long time, but every time I try and jump back into normal right now, it is incredibly clear that normal is still a ways off. So 2018 is opening with impaired speech and processing skills, lots of doctor’s appointments, anxiety about how to manage it all, and my impatience in dealing with any of it. My impatience and frustration are stumbling blocks I put in my own way, but I’m still working on that one too.

It’s hard to explain what it feels like to be unable to do and say what I want, for more than six weeks now, as I get through this recovery. Stunted, impatient, sad, frustrated, stuck, inspired, sedentary, angry, lonely, insecure, needy, anxious, tuned in, resentful, hopeless, hopeful, static, abandoned, excited, comforted, nurtured, disappointed, grateful… ok, that makes a dent in expressing what this is like. Dented.

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I’m not a patient person. I’ve had a really hard time accepting that I can’t do a lot of things right now, that each day feels static, and I sometimes need help. I’m not good at asking for help. It’s hard to ask when I know other people are busy, or, I don’t really know what to ask for. I feel frustrated with myself and everything that’s happened–– still shaken that everything transpired the way it did, and shaken by fractured traumatic memories, and a passage of time that feels surreal at best. I’m disappointed in people I’ve reached out to in the past, or been there for, who did nothing for me, people who count a Facebook comment as support. I’m hurt by friends and family members who haven’t given a shit enough to call and connect, or be here when we–– I needed it. Asking for help is harder when you’re feeling vulnerable and scared; I needed some of those people to step up and just be here with a phone call, card, meal, or something tangible. It’s amazing when people just get it and don’t need the explanation–– folks who brought by a meal not because we asked, or offered specific help, and understood when I didn’t feel like saying hi. Admittedly, some of the “do you need anythings,” were answered with, we’re fine, thanks, because it was just too hard to think beyond the mountain of needs, and give a thoughtful suggestion. Need, needs, needy. It was constant.

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And yet, I’m very grateful for so many things that happened during the challenging weeks, so far. While I’ve felt over-whelmed, I’ve also felt deeply moved by friends and family who called; quietly sat with me; drove me to appointments and waited (sometimes for hours); or hosted the Christmas gathering I planned (before I got sick) for a big group, and did it with humor, love and grace. I’m so grateful for a few close friends and my kids, who texted me when I was in the hospital in Israel, and felt scared and alone. They glued me together with their words, and let me know it would all be ok. I’m grateful for my son, who told me that this will all go away and I will be myself again… when I most needed to hear that, and feared it wouldn’t happen. I still go back and read his message on days when I feel anxious than I’m not myself yet–– when my stuttering, and failure to think of words; or my inability to drive myself more than a mile; or handle more than easy activities; or the hours and hours of binge-watching shows gets to me; or I realize I haven’t been out in the fresh air or taken a walk in so many weeks; when people who don’t know, and can’t see the problems, look at me strangely, as I try to say something, or freeze in confusion; when I feel like this stupid immune system of mine, that is going out of its way to challenge me, will never let me be the strong, healthy person I want to be–– on these days, in these minutes, I read that message from my son, to remind myself that this will indeed end, and I will be myself again. My. Self.

I’m grateful for my husband, who was there holding my hand and reassuring me, when things were so scary and sideways. He missed out on time with your beloveds as well, but he never threw that my way. We both missed a long-planned visit in Israel with our daughter, son-in-law and incredible grandson; it was beyond painful and disappointing. We missed spending Hanukkah in Jerusalem; we missed playing with our grandson, or treating our daughter and son in law to dinner out, while we babysat; we missed so many cuddles and kisses that we wait months and months for, and instead had days of scary hospitalization and daunting decisions. My husband, a physician, was also able to explain all the medical terminology to me, which would have been so overwhelming without him. I couldn’t have flown home, for better medical care, without him. Could not have done it. I was too weak, to unstable, and could not have navigated airports, delays, and my miserable situation. He was amazing, and I’m so grateful he was with me. The seriousness of it all definitely drew us together.

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I’m going up and over these challenges!

It’s been hell at times; it really has. As I get stronger and delve into processing everything, it’s hard not to feel stuck on things that are still lumps in my head. I feel sad that I missed being with my baby; I can’t quite wrap my mind around all that occurred. I feel done and over people and situations that don’t support me, fill me, or haven’t reciprocated mutual connections. Done. But despite all the disappointing things that have been heaped on this New Year so far, I also feel very positive about this New Year. I feel hopeful. I believe this is going to be a very important year. Admittedly, I’m a believer in signs, the mystical, that feeling, and magic. I believe in magic. And while I can’t put my finger on it, I feel like this year is going to be a good one. I’m going to be myself again, and I believe I’m going to be a better self, for having thought through some things that came up during this crisis, and for circling back to gratitude. For all the painful things I noticed and can’t un-notice now, or the hard things that happened, I’ve been surrounded by love and I’m grateful for every magical thing that’s happened.

Check out the Daily Prompt for more posts on static.

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GIPYKAPOW! Have you stopped by Tales From the Motherland Facebook page to spread some fairy dust? I’m grateful for each Like. Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (for real)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email,  no spam.

©2011-2018  All content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and Link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

 

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50 Happy Things 2018: Bloggers Unite to Flood the Internet With Gratitude

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Last year I opted out on New Year’s resolutions and decided to go with intention. It wasn’t an ideal year, and this year I decided to wait until after the New Year and focus on gratitude; it’s always timely.

For the fourth year in a row, this is an opportunity to hit pause and focus on all the good things that each of us has in our lives. The holiday season has a way of rushing in, every year, and making it hard to remember that throughout the year, there are blessings. There are so many things that bring joy, so many happy things; yet it’s easy to find to lose sight of this fact, as we manage busy lives.

In 2014 I followed in the footsteps of Jen over at Jenny’s Lark, and wrote a list of 50 things (in 10 minutes) that I was grateful for in 2014. The list actually became 60 things, because I still had time, and a lot to be grateful for. The exercise was originally a spin off a Daily Prompt challenge. Those Daily Prompts are something to be happy/grateful about, if you haven’t checked them out yet, do it now! Jen and I had so much fun with it in 2014, that we added links to each other’s blogs, and other bloggers followed suit.

In 2015, happy-gratitude exploded as I invited a few bloggers and suggested we all come together and share gratitude. Bloggers begat more bloggers, and it grew… and grew… and grew! And once again, Jen had another great idea: focus on happy and be grateful. It’s about choosing happy, choosing positive, over the negative things that we could focus on. Gratitude or Happiness–– Chicken or egg?

The 2015 project included 74 bloggers–– something I thought would be small and easy, turned into something huge. I met so many cool new bloggers, and my happiness and gratitude grew exponentially. In 2016 a lot of bloggers bowed-out. As the inauguration loomed; many said they just weren’t up for it. There were 30 bloggers who chimed in, and shared their happy thoughts and gratitude. Both years I read every post, to see what we have in common, and how we differ. Those places where we meet, and where we are unique, are a beautiful thing and a great way to start the year.

It was hard not to go back and edit my list, each time I found something wonderful on other lists… but it just gave me things to focus on for this year. If I express gratitude, I find myself feeling happy, and if I list happy things, I inevitably feel grateful–– either way, it’s win/win! I guarantee, you’ll find yourself smiling, feeling grateful and happy if you spend 15 minutes reflecting on positivity. Couldn’t we all use more happy and more grateful? Think of this as a blog party, to share happy, grateful thoughts. Find the full instructions below my list. 

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Set a timer

This year, I’ve made a few small changes based on feedback. Ten minutes was not enough; I heard that over and over. This year set a timer for 15 minutes; but timing this is critical. Once you start the timer, start your list. The goal is to write things that make you happy, or things you feel grateful for. Don’t think too hard; just write what comes to mind in the time allotted. If you use the numbered mode and just type what comes to mind, it’s easy. When the timer’s done stop writing; finish whatever sentence you’re on. If you haven’t written 50 things, don’t worry. If you have more than 50 things great; you can’t feel too happy or too grateful! The number doesn’t worry. Add the photos, links, instructions, etc after you finish the list––the timer doesn’t matter for getting these details down; it applies to the list only. Be sure to link back to this post, so that others can find the instructions and join in too, we can promote each others’ blogs, and so I can read them all, and enjoy the fruits of my labor. This is a feel good project; if you don’t want to do it, don’t, but the more the merrier, so I hope you will.

A grateful, Happy New Year to you all!

 

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2017 Gratitude list (not in particular order):

  1. My two year-old grandson– Every. Single. Day!
  2. My husband and children
  3. Love, giving and receiving it
  4. Music, and dancing in my kitchen each day
  5. Hiking & walking- especially in the woods/mountains/shores of WA state
  6. Friends- thank you!
  7. Family
  8. Reconnecting with my brother & healing our relationship
  9. Participation in the March on Washington
  10. Strong women and folks willing to protest
  11. #MeToo knowing we are not alone & strong voices calling for justice
  12. Miraval trip
  13. The Desert
  14. Jumping off a 35’ pole with my husband
  15. My work with high school seniors, on their college essays
  16. My dogs. Every day.
  17. Solo, long-distance hikes
  18. The first snow each winter
  19. Blogging friends
  20. Friday Fictioneers
  21. Great books, that sweep me away, and inspire me to write
  22. Facebook, for the connections and the ability to share
  23. #ThinkBigSundaysWithMarsha the most positive place on Twitter
  24. PP&M and meeting Peter Yarrow on a flight from Denver to NYC
  25. Great movies
  26. My 100 year-old Christmas cactus; it blooms 3x a year!
  27. The Pacific NW
  28. Israel
  29. My pillow, especially when it’s cool
  30. Feeling strong and fit
  31. My aunts
  32. My father
  33. Summer vacation with my grandson, daughter and son-in-law
  34. My son-in-law, Alex, who we all love so much
  35. Emmy, who I love, and who my son loves more
  36. Legalized marijuana
  37. Seeing Hamilton and Dear Evan Hanson on Broadway, NYC
  38. My nieces and nephews
  39. Spending time with my sister
  40. The Redwoods
  41. Sushi, anytime, but especially each Friday with my bestie
  42. Good health, especially after my meningitis scare
  43. Travel
  44. The Internet
  45. Clean, fresh water
  46. Rain
  47. Hummingbirds each day at my window, year round
  48. Writing
  49. Kindness
  50. Seaglass, and Port Townsend, where I find so many treasures
  51. Yellow Posted™ notes & lined yellow note pads
  52. The ocean
  53. Puzzles
  54. Art
  55. Christmas ornaments & my menorah

(all those links will take you to more fun story-telling)

How to join in: write your own post and publish it. Copy the link from the post. Then click on the frog below, and follow the instructions to add your link. If you have any trouble, please let me know, and I’d be happy to help. I will also add a link to each post on my own blog post, as they are published. For extra fun, please add the hashtags #BloggersUnite and/or #50HappyThings… because, well, everyone loves a hashtag! The link-up expires January 15th at 11:59pm.

Bloggers who have contributed so far: Jackie, Dawn Miller, Rochelle, Mrs. Dash, Dale, Kasturi, Louise, Jen, teen soul, Heather, Sakeena, Diana, April, Carol, RaCorina,

Now it’s your turn. Add your Gratitude Blog Post Here:

Please share your thoughts in the comments. I’m grateful for the feedback.

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GIPYKAPOW! Have you stopped by Tales From the Motherland Facebook page to spread some fairy dust? I’m grateful for each Like. Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (for real)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email,  no spam.

©2011-2018  All content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and Link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

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My Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad December Left Me Speechless… Literally.

Warning: this will be a long post. No doubt about it. I haven’t even written it yet, but I now this much is true. Long. It’s been an ordeal, and so many questions and requests for updates, writing it down seemed the best approach. I’m putting it out there this once. But it’s not a short story, and it’s not a Q & A; this is it. If the answer isn’t here, you’ll have to keep wondering. If you want to skim, just read the purple bits. You’ll miss the juicy stuff, but save a lot of time. Some of you know that things have been hardER the past few weeks; that December has been a shit storm of well, shit. It’s been hard in a PTSD kind of way, and that is just one of the diagnoses I’m processing right now.

So it’s been another tough December. December has become a month I dread. I want to just be excited for Christmas; I want to look forward to the lights, and the eat, drink, and be merry, but it’s become shaded by several years of tough things, that seem to multiply in this lights and magic month. Some of those things have been public things, perhaps impactful to some of us and not others. Princess Leia, Carrie Fisher, died on December 27, 2016. I know, a celebrity. But she was a heroine I could wrap my head around. I loved her as a character, and admired her bawdy, dry, in-your-face self. I liked her authenticity. Her death felt like one last slap in the face, in a year filled with cultural losses: David Bowie, Prince, Alan Rickman, Muhammad Ali, Umberto Eco, George Michael, John, Glenn, Gene Wilder, Debbie Reynolds, Leonard Cohen, Gwen Ifill, Elie Weisel… this list is short given all the names from 2016. My names may not be yours, but Carrie Fisher felt like one last sucker punch.

The other December challenges have been personal. December 27th (there’s that date again), 2015 we had to put our beloved yellow lab, Luke, to sleep. It’s such a horrible decision, and miserable timing, but it had to be done. December 2013 I was hospitalized, and was in recovery until the end of January. December 31, 2011, My mother died, after a long, hard deterioration from Huntington’s Disease; New Year’s Eve will never be the same. We had two exchange students living with us; I didn’t know if I was coming or going. That whole December was spent at Hospice, and our family was caught up in a painful maelstrom of grief. December. Feh.

This year, December blindsided me. While a little part of me is wary of Decembers now, it still blindsided me. I guess I expected something a little less brutal, but this December really sucked. It’s not over yet, but it has sucked since day one, so my expectations are low for these final days.

The month opened with such exciting expectations. We had tickets to Israel, and we couldn’t wait to see our grandson; we were departing December 2nd. December 1st I had a terrible headache that wouldn’t go away, but I knew I was leaving to see my grandson, daughter and son-in-law, and I was too excited to let a that get in the way. I figured some Tylenol would knock it out. Then that night, I got a low grade fever, but my husband and I were convinced it was just a cold. A little voice warned me that it was more, but honestly, I didn’t want to listen. I knew I’d be playing with the Light Of My Life in 48 hours. Big trip; I just wanted to get on the plane and see them.

When we got up early the next morning, to drive to the airport, my headache was crushing (imagine the worst headache and add multiples), and I felt feverish, but off to the airport we went. I brought a thermometer, lots of tylenol, hand sanitizer, and face scarf. My temperature got up to nearly 103 en route. I shivered intensely from Seattle to Israel–– it’s a long way to shiver. I kept my face covered and used lots of hand sanitizer; I tried not to touch things. I was more worried about passing it on, than whether or not it was serious, but I don’t get fevers, so I did think it might be more than a cold. Mostly I just wanted to get there, get some sleep, and feel better.

We arrived, and my gorgeous little grandson (aka: light of my life, sparkle in my world, Yummy Guy, sheer perfection) was just what the doctor ordered, but I felt miserable. Everything ached––I could barely move my neck; I couldn’t get warm; I just wanted to stay wrapped in a blanket and lie around. But he cuddled me, and brought me toy after toy, and I thought I would rally. The 2nd day, my fever came down, but I was wrung out. I felt exhausted, and achy all over. I was pretty sure I had a sinus infection. The third day we went to the shore and had lunch, but I was dragging, and the headache came back. I didn’t sleep at all that night; intense pain in my head kept me awake. As soon as my husband woke up, I told him we needed to see a doctor.

When you’re traveling and you get sick, it all seems much more daunting. Is it a waste of time? Who to see? What will insurance cover? Why didn’t we buy travelers insurance! My daughter lives there, so she had suggestions for local physicians, but I new in my gut this was an ER trip. My daughter made it happen by insisting an ER would assess everything, while a local doc would just give us antibiotics. That seemed simpler, and was tempting, but I listened to my gut and my girl. Before we left, my little guy sweetly covered me in a blanket and crawled under to cuddle with me. He stroked my cheeks and kissed my forehead–– sweeter than sweet. He didn’t want to go to preschool; he wanted to stay with me. It was awful. Awful. He cried, and followed me back to my room–– where I went to hide, so my daughter could get him out the door. He grabbed my leg and wouldn’t let go. Really awful. I told him to got to “Gan” (Hebrew for preschool) and promised I would be right there when he got home. So very aweful!

My headache was crushing (have I mentioned that?); I could barely walk. Once we were at the ER I remember turning to my husband and saying: I feel like I might die. It felt possible. It was overwhelming, and I was sure things were not going to go much better in the ER. They didn’t. My daughter was there to translate, thank goodness! The nurses had a hard time getting an IV in; they had a hard time getting blood. My veins were a mess, from the start. They sent me for a CT scan, and told my husband he had to take me for the scan… across the street, in another part of the hospital. Yes, he wheeled me outside, across a busy side street, through security gates, and over to CT, with my IV attached. Our stay at this hospital in Israel was surreal from the start.

Communication was a problem from minute one. I don’t speak Hebrew, and while we were told most of the staff and all of the doctors spoke English, they didn’t. My problem, not theirs, but a problem for sure. They did a lumbar puncture (spinal tap), which hurt a lot; lots of blood work, that hurt; IVs and more IVs when veins burst, oh so owy; a painful sinus exam to get cultures; a blood gas, they always hurt. I’m not super brave, but I didn’t flinch. They sent me for a chest x-ray (painless) without explaining to my family, that they needed to bring me back. So, when the imposing Russian tech was done, she wheeled my bed out into a busy lobby, barked more words at me, and left me there. I lay there totally confused, and increasingly woozy. A kind Filipino woman finally asked me if I spoke Hebrew. When I told her I didn’t, she explained that my family was expected to wheel me back to the ER cubicle. I lay there feeling totally overwhelmed and confused. I didn’t know where i was, where my family was, or how I would get back there. Thankfully–– after lying there long enough for people to walk by, look at me, push my bed out of the way, or grumble about me being in the way–– this same kind woman, found someone to wheel me back to the ER. Thank you, thank you, thank you kind stranger, with the face and voice of an angel.

That’s when they let us know that the spinal tap had come back positive for meningitis.  Things got scarier from that point on, and moved faster. They admitted me for meningitis and an acute sinus infection; they blew more veins and started IVs in other places; they drew more blood. I felt like a pin cushion, as bruises started forming all over my arms and hands; I white knuckled it and tried not to complain. My head hurt so much, and because I’m allergic to most pain meds and nearly all antibiotics (due to an immune disorder) the doctors were afraid to give me anything. My husband was overwhelmed, my daughter was worried, and to be honest, I was numb.

It was miserable–– the needles hurt; the conversations all sounded like a foreign blur, even the ones in English; everything was confusing and yeah, scary. By the time they got me to a room, with two roommates, and got the antibiotics going, it was nearly 9pm. We were all relieved to get things settled, even if settled was overwhelming for all of us. When my husband and daughter finally left (jet lag was still an issue for me and my husband, and I hadn’t slept the night before), the IV antibiotics were flowing, and  I just wanted to sleep.

But the going sideways wasn’t done. I knew within about twenty minutes that I was having an allergic reaction to one of the antibiotics, and so I hit the nurse call light. When the nurse came, she didn’t speak any English. Neither did the next two nurses, or the doctor they paged. My hands swelled, and the itching had me drawing blood on my scalp, from violently scratching. I tried pulling at the IV; I tried medical charades. I tried not to panic, and focused on getting the message across, afraid of anaphylaxis–– something other antibiotics have caused for me. It took a scary amount of time, but they did figure it out and gave me IV Benedryl and steroids to counteract the reaction. This too was terrifying, as I couldn’t understand what they were saying, and wasn’t sure what they were giving me.

The Benedryl, combined with jet lag, illness and an incredibly exhausting, stressful day had me delirious for sleep. However, the room was small, and the two elderly women in my room were moaning and wailing loudly. One of them kept reaching through her curtain and grabbing my arm, calling out the name of what I believe was her dead husband. She was speaking in Russian (there are a lot of Russians in Israel); I’d met her two sons and grandson earlier. Neither of them was named Boris. It was more surreal, more scary. I eventually dosed off, but they came and wheeled me to another room at 3am, with no explanation. Later I learned that one of the women was contagious, and with my immune issues, they were worried about me sharing a room. Go figure.

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The lovely vent that blew on me day and night.

The new room was a nightmare. It was small and cold. Beyond the peeling paint, the torn curtains, and overall disrepair, the actual temperature was so cold. A friendly nurse brought me another blanket, after telling me how cold it was, but I couldn’t get warm. There was a large vent at the window that blew on me constantly. It was totally covered in black mold, that covered the entire vent and up the ceiling and wall. I felt like I was taking in toxic air with every breath. The room looked out on a series of vents, and then out to the street, where I could watch people coming and going. It was a very Hassidic neighborhood, and I was there over Shabbat, so it was that much more surreal at times. At night none of the staff spoke English, and they’d come in to take blood, get stats or check on me, and explaining things in Hebrew. I felt disoriented and scared each time. In the dark, it was extra confusing, and scary. One night, the nurse didn’t clamp my IV, and when I woke the IV line was filled with my blood. The nurse took it out, and hung it up. The next morning, the bloody line was still hanging there, when the day nurse came in. When she tried to insert it back into my arm, filled with clotted blood, I refused and demanded a fresh line.

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Things just felt worse daily. My family brought food and visited, but nights were awful. My headache improved, but I was still really sick. The Infectious Disease docs were amazing, and we were grateful each day when they checked in, but everything else felt confusing and scary to us. On day four I woke shaky and tearful. My son happened to text me from home, right when I started crumbling, and I was so grateful for the connection. I sent a text to 4 friends and reached out. They kept me afloat for a couple of hours. with texts and a phone call. They were anchors, reassuring, and calming me. . They helped me feel less isolated and… scared, until my husband arrived to talk through the situation.

The final thing that day involved the woman who was cleaning. She came in with a bucket of strong-smelling (ammonia) chemical water. She said nothing, and then threw the entire bucket of water across the floor. It splashed on me, and my bed; it went everywhere. She got a second bucket and did the same thing, as I sat on my bed stunned. She took a third bucket and poured it over my IV. I didn’t know it, but apparently I was supposed to have waited in the hall while she cleaned. Instead, I had to walk through about 1/2 an inch of this water, to leave the room. It was the final straw, in what was a horrible experience all around. While the doctors I dealt with were all good, compassionate,and thoughtful, and most spoke English so they could explain things to us, by day four I was medically weak and exhausted, and mentally pushed to the limits. We decided to fly home right away, and my husband booked a flight for early the next morning, and we left against medical advice. While I was relieved to be leaving that hospital, the idea of leaving our kids and grandson early, was devastating. I waited months for this trip, and spent virtually no real time with them. I wanted so badly to wish it all back to normal, but everything was completely sideways.

That was easier said than done. This story is long enough; I’ll spare you the unbelievable details of getting me home. It involved stopping at the hospital for one last IV, before the airport; an intestinal bug the morning we flew; 2.5 hours on the tarmac for ice on the wings (in Israel! This doesn’t happen, and they have no de-icing machines) and then 5 hour flight to London. There were delays in London for a snow storm, and then another 10+ hour home. The British Airways staff were incredible! They knew how serious things were, and they could not have been kinder and more supportive. We arrived home, got through customs with all of our luggage missing, and faced rush-hour traffic for our  drive to the local hospital, where they were waiting to re-admit me for continued treatment.

I’ve never been so happy to see a hospital in my life, as I was when we arrived at our local hospital. It was more IVs, more blood draws, more people, more details to tell–– but everything was so clean, professional, and familiar. I’d been awake for about 40 hours, and was spent. After days of not flinching, I completely fell apart when the admitting doctor asked me to detail everything that had happened in Israel. Completely. Fell. Apart. I could not stop crying. I was shaking violently all over, and couldn’t stop. All that pent up anxiety just spilled all over, and I was a wreck. I was so grateful when they gave me IV Benedryl (after yet another allergic reaction), and was taken to a quiet, isolation room. Since none of the cultures were back, and I had GI symptoms, I was treated as a contagion risk for the full four days I was in the US hospital–– this meant full paper gowns, masks, and gloves for anyone who entered my room, beyond the curtain at the door, or anyone who had to touch me. It was a mind-boggling contrast to the lack of precautions and supply limits overseas. There are advantages to both places, with bad food in both (better in Israel), but it was a relief to be in home.

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An Israel breakfast, complete with fresh Israeli salad, greek yogurt, and cream of rice

 

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and my first US breakfast, distinctly not Kosher! That’s all pork!

(Hospital humor, once I was home… I sent to my kids late at night. I couldn’t make it smaller)

Where are things now: I have two partially collapsed lungs, that still have a ways to go, and lots of follow-up appointments. My balance is not great, and I’m slow to respond, overall. Last Friday, in one final cosmic twist, I began struggling with speech and some processing–– couldn’t find words, couldn’t think of what I wanted to say, slow processing, and not entirely making sense. Back to the ER we went, where they blew more veins, threw around scary words like stroke, encephalitis, and readmission. They ordered more blood work, and a new MRI, in that scary closed MRI–– if you haven’t had one, imagine being in a small casket, awake… for 45 minutes, trying not to open your eyes and see how small the space is… while a loud machine hammers away. The MRI showed no infection. The doctors explained that there is still swelling around the brain, and that is probably impacting my speech/processing right now. It translates to stuttering; hesitating with words and sentences, and some other struggles. For 2 very scary days, I could not write. Every other word came out twisted around on the page. I was writing my brother birthday letter, and it was like some garbled alphabet soup. I was fixing every 2-3 words. Scary. Scary! The language is upsetting. It’s embarrassing and hard to explain to people. It’s a great opportunity for my husband to say “honey, you probably don’t remember; you weren’t making much sense,” whenever we disagree about anything from the past few weeks. For the record, I do remember things. The speech is the most challenging right now. It makes it hard for me to want to see people or talk… hmm, something I do a lot of, normally–> Universe—> Twisted.

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I’m spending LOTS of time in my house, binge watching things… because books are harder right now. That’s improving, but has been frustrating. December 28th I had a PT appointment, less than a mile from my house. I figured I could finally drive myself somewhere. No; big mistake! I was nearly in a head-on collision–– and by nearly, I mean blaring horns, swerving to avoid hitting, and me tearful and shaken. I did not stop at the bank afterwards; I went straight home and went back to resting. It’s a bit like being drunk, and horribly sober all at the same time… all day.

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My final major bruise… wraps around my arm. Blown vein from 8 days ago.

I’ve been accepting help (something I’m notoriously bad at): meals, friends with movies, rides to appointments, hiring someone to wrap my gifts and do some shopping, and letting friends do the entire Christmas dinner. Friends have made this amazing. They have been there in ways I can’t fully thank them for. It’s dizzying who shows up, and who doesn’t; who calls, or offers to help, or isn’t around at all. Friends become family sometimes.

Way too many people wanted updates. They all have the best of intentions; we know that. However, while I get it, we could barely deal. Extra, extra! Sick people don’t feel like writing updates, and their spouses have no interest at all. We were in survival mode, not fill people in mode. Man, we’re still treading water. It’s getting much easier, but it’s deep water. So please don’t take it personally when I don’t answer texts, or I cut and paste from text to text, or I post an update on Facebook–– which seems super impersonal, or attention-grabbing, but is really just survival. Survival.

I’m tearful when I talk about it, but everyone has questions. So I’m writing it down, getting it out. It’s taken a while to process enough, to do that. And this PTSD thing is real. I still cry easily, and get stuck in a moment. Things overwhelm me. I agreed to go to the movies on Christmas day (Star Wars and all) and I felt like I might melt down right in the midst of all those people, out in their festive pjs. Too much. I’m tired and frustrated with the situation and myself (and yes, I get that I can’t change things), and I also get that I can’t rush this. If the doctors say it will be about 3 months for a full recovery, I need to slow down and accept that. I can’t do crowded theaters, drives into town (yet), or socialize in big groups. I can’t talk a lot, it hurts my head. Silence is my best friend right now. Baby steps. The Universe has some lessons for me. The Universe is a fucking riot… but she’s met her match.

That’s it; don’t ask me any more… this is the one and only, very, very long update of this hellish month. You don’t have to be down in the dumps with me (I’m climbing back up and out). Share your merry and bright moments from Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, or whatever you do or don’t celebrate in December. Or, just tell me this was too long. And hit Like. We all need a good like now and then. Now AND then would be good! Either way, I’m glad for the company.

If your not a comment reader, read this. I responded to a friend regarding the writing of this post, and realized it’s worth highlighting, as it’s something I think about often–– what to share, and what not to. This could be a blog post itself! I told her: It is not a nightmare to retell. It’s cathartic, as someone said to me. One of my docs reads the blog, and while I was in the hospital, he urged me to “write it down, get it out!” It’s always a quandary in my mind: is it self-serving or too much, to put things out there, or is it connecting through words and experience. I believe it’s the second, but struggle with the decision, each time I hit post. It’s also self-preservation. Each time I get an email, or text, or phone call (few people actually call anymore, but there are a few rebels left!) asking how I am, it’s draining and hard to share. The speech thing is exhausting, but the processing and explaining really does hurt my brain right now. So, here it is… a personal account of this experience. Not a nightmare, but a beginning of healing. Thanks for being there, and sending love.

PS) the next post is almost done, and I promise, it’s a very happy post… lots of gratitude!

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GIPYPlease share your thoughts in the comments. I want to hear what you have to say.

KAPOW!  I didn’t meet the 2016 goal for Likes on the Tales From the Motherland Facebook page; missed it by 14! So this year, I’m not setting a goal. I’m grateful for each Like I get. Have you stopped by to spread some fairy dust? Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (yes, for real)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email,  no spam.

©2011-2017  All content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and Link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

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Christmas Tripping

As I work on recovering from a serious illness, writing has fallen by the wayside… once again. I’m spending a lot of time just resting.

This year we got our tree the day after Thanksgiving–– a first in this house! All but my daughter were home, and they would all be gone for the weeks after Thanksgiving and leading up to Christmas. Extra special, my niece, who had never had a Christmas tree (she’s Jewish), and another nephew, were both visiting. So there was a full house, as we picked our tree and the decorated it. Diana Krall was playing, just like in this piece… but this year, I feel no sadness, no sense of loss. My kids are where they are; they can’t be home each year. My mother has been gone for 6 years now. I am adjusting to the passage of time, and the changes that come. But I still sit in the living room, alone by the Christmas tree, and remember.

TALES FROM THE MOTHERLAND

A favorite: hand-blown glass with spun glass inside A favorite: hand-blown glass with spun glass inside

Tonight we finally decorated our tree. I wanted to do it a week+ ago, but Smart Guy was visiting our daughter in Israel and Middle Man is off at college. Neither Little Man or I wanted to decorate the tree without them; it’s a family event. Middle Man let us know that he won’t be home until the 24th (who decorates their tree one day before Christmas?), and it took a few days for Smart Guy to get a little beyond his jet lag and get off work early enough to help. In a perfect world, all of my children are home; carols are on the stereo, and we decorate the tree together. However, as my children grow up… I have to re-examine “perfect.”

Disney joy and hand strung beads Disney joy and hand strung beads

Tonight we put on Diana Krall’s Christmas Carols; we pulled out the…

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Friday Fictioneers: End of the Road

It’s been a long time, looking at photo prompts each week and feeling stuck. This one just spoke to me, and the story wrote itself in ten minutes–– a sweet spot, after a long dry spell. Great shot, Russell! If you’d like to read more stories, or join in, check out Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s blog, Addicted to Purple. As always, honest constructive feedback is appreciated; please leave a comment.

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©RussellGayer

 

End of the Road

Maggie lifted the last box and headed for the door. Her back ached from loading the meager but heavy belongings from the crumbling house.

“John, can you take this one to the truck; I need a minute.”

“Take your time.” Her husband ran is hand down her back, glanced around, and left her alone.

Years of financial struggles, no health insurance, and job worries had lead to a steady disregard for home repairs, in the house they bought when they married.

Now there was no hope.

“It’s all in the toilet,” she murmured as she walked out into the cold.

(exactly 100 words)

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GIPYPlease share your thoughts in the comments. I want to hear what you have to say.

KAPOW!  I didn’t meet the 2016 goal for Likes on the Tales From the Motherland Facebook page; missed it by 14! So this year, I’m not setting a goal. I’m grateful for each Like I get. Have you stopped by to spread some fairy dust? Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (yes, for real)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email,  no spam.

©2011-2017  All content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and Link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

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