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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One Year Later, On His Birthday, A Very Different Letter To My Father… (Not The Man Who Killed Him)

This post means as much each year… but my perspective on my father, keeps growing and getting richer. Thanks to all the wonderful readers who have supported this piece!

TALES FROM THE MOTHERLAND

29337_420030823000_607453000_4537396_5567814_n-11 My father loved us very much… and he lost us.

One year ago, I published a letter on my blog: On My Father’s Birthday, A Letter to The Man Who Killed Him. It was Freshly Pressed and had nearly one thousand hits, in a few days. It was published in Huffington Post and was huge there too. People sent the most amazing responses from all over the world. They shared their own stories of loss, grief, and forgiveness. Many told me I was incredible, for forgiving. Others understood my true intentions. Still, others thought the title of the post was misleading: the man I was writing to wasn’t really a killer, per se; they felt duped. Publishers in Australia and Europe asked to repost it; many other bloggers shared it. I was named a “Voices of the Year 2015” by BlogHer and SheKnows Media, based on the piece, an…

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Giving Thanks

This has been a hard year; I can’t spin it any other way. I’ve been nursing a sudden, frustrating injury since February. After working up to daily workouts and feeling fitter than I ever have, the plunge into bed rest, limited activity, ongoing physical therapy, and now gradually building back up, has been daunting and deflating on so many levels. It sucks. That all nudged me into a depression that spun me sideways and left me feeling suicidal, depleted, and digging out of a blue hole.

While many people think we’ve been living in an empty nest (read this first post ever) for ages, this year was really the start of it–– having seen all the fledglings off, in the past year, and working through issues from the past, has left me feeling haunted and troubled, as I come to terms with reality and things I thought I knew… but didn’t. I could blame all of it on Trump and it might not be that far off the mark; God know I’m not alone. Working on change, aging, and trying to navigate relationship changes that have been painful, frustrating and challenging has added to a general state of blues that has lingered far longer than I might have imagined. Yeah, it’s been a hard year.

All of that has made it daunting for me to write–– when I probably most need to write. Every night I struggle with sleep, my brain spinning and words lining up to be written. I lie there and think: tomorrow I’ll write this down, or this the next day… But, I don’t. Writing has been my thing for as long as I can remember. For the past six years, writing this blog, it has been something I share with others as well; I was putting out 3 posts a week, and it was easy. Now, I struggle to write one every month or two. The words tug at me and point alphabet fingers, and I don’t sleep.

Here I am, it’s 1am and I’m writing. The words pushed me out of bed, as I thought about the things I’ve just mentioned, and… gratitude. Yes, despite a long list of challenges, there is so much to be thankful for. Never mind that a holiday forces us all to think about thanks every November. It would be easy to call it what it is: Hallmark blackmail: be grateful, be thankful, or you’re not American. There’s something wrong with you, if you can’t give thanks.

But really, there’s something so meaningful about stopping and being thankful, individually and collectively. We should all be thankful daily for so many things we often take for granted. There are countless articles about taking a moment each day to record words of gratitude. No doubt, when I was doing that, it was humbling. It’s hard to stay down, when you stop to think about all the up in your life, and there is in fact always something to be thankful for. Always. Life can certainly be hard. We all struggle, and while it may seem like others have it easier, or pain free, no one goes unscathed. We all bleed.

I have so much to be thankful for; I’ve written way too much lately about struggles, and not enough about all the good. Despite some pitfalls lately, my health is still something to truly be grateful for. I see friends grapple with true health issues, and I know I must give thanks. I spent hours and hours hiking the trails in the Pacific NW this fall. I learned that I love to hike solo, something that for a long time intimidated me. This fall I hiked mountain trails, my two dogs racing along with me, and I felt like a million dollars. I spent hours in solitude and scenery that takes my breath away, every time, and I felt strong and capable. Thank you health. Thank trails.

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My family is so important to me, and I’m grateful I get to see my children and loved ones more than some people do. Granted, having my daughter, son-in- law, and precious grandson––three people I adore–– living 7,000 miles away remains a challenge. Traveling there is long and hard; they come once a year. I’m so thankful we can afford to go when we want to, and have them come here each summer. I’m thankful my oldest son and his love live an hour away, and we’ve been able to see them, go to a concert, and share good times. I’m happy he’s found such a wonderful woman to love, and that we love her as well. I’m thankful my youngest son is doing well at college, is graduating in the spring, and likes us to visit. I’ve fallen in love with Denver, and it’s been fun getting to know his world. We were lucky to have two family bar mitzvahs this year, which allowed us to visit extended family and see so many people I love. I’m thankful that my father in law is in good health, and can see his grandkids and great-grandson living happy, successful lives. I am so grateful I have such amazing nieces and nephews; it brings me so much joy watching them become adults and cool people. Being an aunt is one of my favorite things! I am so lucky to have two aunts nearby who remind me where I come from, with patience and love, and who teach me how to be an aunt. There are cousins near and far who dance with me, do shots with me, laugh with me, and keep me linked and tied in, to so many special memories––new and old. I’m so happy to see my sister happy and smiling her brilliant smile. I’m grateful every day for 30+years of marriage. Thank you family.

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I have amazing friends. In a world where many people feel alone, I’m so grateful for friends who have sushi and laugh with me each week; friends who join me in Portland or wherever our adventures lead, and always answer the phone with a smile; friends who share dinner parties and Cards Against Humanity with me; friends who write with me; friends nearby and friends too far; friends who listen, hug trees, celebrate, play, and love, and hug and laugh. Thank you friends.

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I’m so fortunate to have traveled so much, to so many incredible places. I’ve met wonderful people, and seen magical things. The Grand Canyon calls to me; the salty  beauty of beaches has filled me up. Mountains have moved me, and deserts have given me peace. Seeing new places always challenges me to think about how I interact with others, and what I take away. Thank you for the privilege of destinations and wild places.

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I’m grateful for my work at hospice. What a strange twist of fate, that I found my way to work that fills me up so completely. I love every shift, every time. I love the patients who are thankful for my presence, and the staff and other volunteers who share time with me. Thank you awe, compassion and purpose.

I’m grateful that I’m free to write and say what I want, always with the intention to do no harm. I’m so thankful to an honest, generous, skilled writing community who never sugar coats or leaves anything out; their support and editing means the world to me. I’m grateful for each and every Word Press reader who takes the time to read my words, and so happy when those words make a connection. It’s a bonus when you leave a comment and share your thoughts; don’t sugar coat them. I’m still awed and amazed that I got to stand with millions of inspiring people, this past January for the Women’s March on Washington, DC (check out that post for lots of cool photos!) and speak out against a president who I cannot respect or support. It was humbling to hear so much wisdom, vulnerability, and power, crushed amongst so many others who were equally moved and humbled. It was empowering on so many levels, as I work on becoming the woman I’ve always wanted to be. I’m am deeply moved and grateful that so many women and men are (finally) feeling free to stand up and share their stories of sexual assault and abuse, and so many caring people are saying: I hear you; I believe you; you are not alone. It’s an incredible thing, at fifty-four years old, to say #metoo and not flinch. Thank you Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Thank you Freedom of Speech.

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I’m thankful for my puppies, who have cuddled me, hiked with me, loved me when I’m down or up, and constantly whispered: It’s ok, we see you, we love you. I’m grateful for great food, good times, gray days to be quiet, and blue days to explore. I’m grateful for fabulous art; dancing with people I love; dancing, dancing, dancing each day in my kitchen, and not caring if I embarrass the pups. Thank you Gracie and Luna, and Luke who still hikes beside me. Thank you creativity and art.

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I’m grateful for personal growth and the hope that I will one day be a wise old woman, who feels good in my skin. I’m so very grateful for my grandson, who’s in my  thoughts every day. I’m grateful for his sloppy kisses, his inquisitive mind, and perceptive heart. I’m grateful for hours spent watching the big machines at the junkyard and recycling center, and exploring tide pools on a gorgeous beach. He lights up my world. I’m grateful for hot showers and a cool pillow each night. I’m grateful for hummingbirds at my window, and owls that make the night come alive. I’m grateful to my great great-grandfather Ferguson, who planted a Christmas Cactus and never imagined its blooms would make his great great-granddaughter feel connected and happy, more than 100 years later!  Thank you moon and stars and sun, rain, wind, and snow. Thank you flowers and natural beauty that fills me up. Thank you Life; it is good and wondrous.

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What are you thankful for? What brings you joy or contentment? Leave a comment and share some gratitude. And a very happy Thanksgiving to you all.

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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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Truth Roars Like A Lion

(Baby steps, friends. Exactly 2 months ago today, I wrote my first new blog post in ages. Then I recoiled. This started as a draft… nine months ago. Baby steps.)

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Huntington’s has robbed me of so much, but the hardest thing it’s stolen is truth. Losing my grandmother (70), my mother (68), and my aunt Pam (at only 49) were visceral losses–– concrete in their finality. Now, watching my younger sister struggle with it, keeps that loss perpetually in front of me. But before these three powerful women in my life died–– before they disappeared in bits and pieces, we lost clarity and truth. We lost the potential for healing through honesty. Huntington’s Disease cheated me of the chance to heal that, by robbing me of the chance later for honest exploration and putting some pieces back in place.

As children we speak honestly, with truth, unless we are scared or silenced. As a very young child, I knew truth. I knew sweetness, and the security of people who held me close and loved me deeply. For a short time, when I was young I felt cherished. I trusted the adults in my life; I felt safe and loved. And then so much changed, and I lost all of that–– lost to lies and trauma. I grew up with people who loved me, in a place that became my home. But, there was another family, and another home, that has followed me all my life.

Several months ago we saw the movie Lion, a 2017 Oscar nomination for Best Film. (I will not give anything away here, as this is a film really worth seeing.) I went into the theater thinking I was prepared; I thought I knew the story. As a huge movie fan, I go for many reasons, but often it is about escape. This looked like a great movie to get lost in. Lion was just stunning! Stunning. Everything about this film moved me. It was visually gorgeous. The story is heartbreakingly beautiful, and I was swept away on so many levels, for two hours. But I also left the theater completely shaken, and thrust into many nights of hard dreams.

In Lion, Saroo Brierley (the main character) faces memories he’s pushed down, through recurring flashbacks, which eventually lead him to the truth. For all of my life, I have experienced nearly daily pieces of memories–– flashes to moments, scenes, images, experiences–– many of which didn’t fit with the stories my mother told me. The math never added up, and I’ve struggled to make sense of it all. Like Saroo, it took a triggering event to send me on a similar journey to find the missing pieces. Saroo then goes on a journey to find the truth. I’ve been seeking the same thing for most of my life, but the journey changed directions two years ago. The movie Lion crystalized so many details that I’ve been grappling with since spring 2015.

Before Huntington’s robbed my mother of the chance to live out her days and find honesty, or let me unbury truth, she was already a broken woman. She was broken as a girl, and she never healed. Instead, Huntington’s dealt her one final blow, and robbed her of the chance to ever really heal. When she was diagnosed, in her fifties (as I am now) she was already deeply lost in dysfunction and lies. She deserved better, and I wish she could have learned that in her life. No child deserves to have their childhood stolen, for that I have enormous compassion for my mother.

But, she in turn stole my childhood. She robbed me of safety; she took me from the arms of sweetness and love, and took it all away. She lied to us, and led my brother and me to believe our father didn’t love us… enough. She abandoned us, literally (for 18 months) and metaphorically, just as she’d been abandoned by her mother. She was not there for me when I needed protection, so buried in her own history that she missed the one unfolding for her children. She did to us, exactly what she herself had spent a childhood and lifetime trying to recover from. At 54, I still struggle with the cruel irony of it all.

I’ve spent most of my life trying to understand my mother. I wanted to heal her and protect her, when I was a young child and should have gotten those things from her. I tried to forgive her, as the years went on and I watched her slowly die, though she never really heard my pain. Without knowing any better, I emotionally buried truth to preserve a false reality that she pressed on us. As children, we deal with trauma in the only ways we know how to. We push it down; we hide it; we create stories to help us feel safe. As adults, we either stay stuck in those patterns, or seek to move beyond them.

I’ve spent most of my life trying to move on. I’ve looked for the truth, to fill in gaps that have haunted me. I struggle with the knowledge that my fractured past, and broken pieces, have in turn impacted my own three children. I went into marriage and parenting knowing that I wanted to be a very different mother than my mother was to me. I wanted to break cycles of abuse and neglect that have been a part of my family history. But I didn’t have the tools or knowledge needed. My kids are grown now, and I have discussed much of this with them. It’s not easy; I don’t want to burden them with old pain, but I want them to know their mother as a fully fleshed person. I want them to see that I keep moving forward; I keep trying to change, grow and heal. If we don’t heal from trauma, I know we are bound to pass it on.

Sadly, many of the people who might have answered questions for me are gone. I’ve asked myself over and over: does it matter? Does the truth matter anymore? It all happened so long ago, and I am where I am. I struggle with how to let go of all the lies and simply embrace the truths I’ve learned. The truth has allowed my brother and I to finally begin to heal. I now know that he’s spent an entire lifetime feeling lost to the same lies I buried. Now that we can talk about them, and untangle all the knots, we realize that we were simply children, doing the best we could… albeit very differently, and without realizing we could have helped each other.

As I watched the final scenes of Lion, my response was visceral. I was no longer watching a movie, where a young man unwinds his own knots, but reliving my own fears and loss. I found myself talking to myself, reliving painful times that happened forty-four years ago. I cried and cried, and cried some more. Later, my husband told me that watching this same movie scene was the first time he really felt like he could understand what I’ve described for our entire life together.

I wish I’d heard the truth when my mother was still alive; I would give anything to ask her some questions that follow me everywhere. I wish she could have seen this same movie, and maybe realized what her lies have done to my brother and I; we all might have found some healing sooner. I wish she and I could have explored those truths, and maybe both healed… if wishing made it so. Instead, she took her pain with her, and I am pulling apart knots, and seeking peace. A movie reminded me that healing is always possible. I am a…

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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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Flat-Lined

In my last post–– the one that marked my first baby step out of the hole I’ve been in, I acknowledged that I’ve been depressed. I shared that writing and blogging has been hard. I wrote a post to restart my engine and move forward, even if I’m not sure how much gas I have in the tank.

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I generally share my posts on both my personal Facebook page and the Tales From the Motherland Facebook page. I was taken aback by the friends who left comments, many sharing love and support, and letting me know they can relate to the sense of depression and stagnation that’s held me back. You all responded with so much love and support. Honestly, it was a bit overwhelming. Humbling and touching.

I also found myself a little startled. I felt naked. I forget that my invisibility cloak doesn’t actually work. When I put myself out there, well… I’m out there. Exposed. Vulnerable. Raw.

I’m not good at accepting help, support or loving words. It’s part of the reason I’m in this hole in the first place. My mother left me with a non-stick, life-time guaranteed Teflon™ coating, that deflects compliments, reassurances, loving words of support–– the kind of incredibly supportive words that so many of you have shared with me, since I put myself out there.

But the reality is not as uplifting. I read your words, and they slide right off. They linger for a moment, and then dissipate.

Don’t take it personally. It’s my shit. I deflect instantly, because I don’t know how to absorb that good stuff. I learned a long time ago, not to count on good things, and despite all the enormous positive in my life, I get stuck in a hole.

I deflect with sarcasm.

I deflect with thank yous and praise-back-at-you.

I deflect because my self-esteem is on life-support, and stats are low.

I deflect because I am taking baby steps, and figuring out how to process and absorb the positivity you all sent my way–– the positivity that surrounds me. But it’s just too much.

I’m grateful; don’t get me wrong.

I deflect because I’m hard wired to do that.

Pay no attention to that (woman) behind the curtain! I am the great and powerful Oz!

What you see, is not who limps along, digging out of the hole. Second guessing every compliment and kind word that comes my way.

I’m plagued by insecurity and dark thoughts. This isn’t something new, it’s me for as long as I’ve known me. Putting on a confident face, that hides the real stuff. Making jokes and filling up space, to hide.

Blogging has been my safety net for a long time now. But it also comes with lots of personal potholes, and I trip a lot. If you don’t read me; I feel like I’m not good enough. If you don’t hit like; I’m questioning why. If you used to follow me, and now you don’t; I take it personally. I second-guess it all. It’s a sticky, dark, internal game that messes with my head. And it isn’t about you; you can’t change it for me.

It’s my shit.

Please don’t reassure me, or tell me otherwise. Please don’t try to explain that I’ve got it all wrong. Please don’t try to assuage my internal shit-maker. This is my head and I know it’s a mess. I’m working on it. Just be patient with me.

I’m working on letting go of the Teflon™. When I hit bottom in May–– and it was a dark, self-destructive bottom which I’d assured myself I would never see again, I was really shaken. I was disappointed in myself for not pulling the parachute sooner. I was embarrassed by my own fragility. I felt shaken by the sense that I may never purge the dark stuff and really live in the light.

I shared it all with my kids, for the first time ever. Really shared. I told each one of them (and this is edited, because some things are still private): “I am wired differently. I’m acknowledging my childhood traumas make it hard for me to interact and connect in the ways I want to. I know I don’t respond and react the way others want. I have broken pieces (they) can’t understand, because we come from such very different places. I’m working on it. I keep working on it. But it’s exhausting, and I slip sometimes… into a dark space, where I feel infinitely hopeless. And climbing out is hard.” I told them I love them, and I am in it to win it.

I wanted my now (mostly) adult children (one with a child of her own) to know me not just as “Mom,” but as a person who sees her flaws and vulnerabilities and is asking for help. My kids responded with love and acceptance, and more shocking: they each thanked me for sharing all of this.

I was deeply moved. Inspired. Loved.

 

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And I felt a similar sense of hope and support in the responses to my last post. Watching all the comments come in the other day, and all kind words–– so many thoughtful, truly inspiring words, I also saw my stats jump for the first time in months. And the image of those colorful bars reminded me of a heart-rate monitor, blipping out my writing days. My emotional pulse, visually represented by my blog life.

Beep, beep         beep             Beep                    Beep                            Beep!

Flatlining, and then getting a jolt, when I took that step back in to the world of blogging and writing. The bright orange line, there on the right of the graph–– that’s you! And you nudged me forward.

I shared all of this with my kids, and now with many of you, because I’m acknowledging I can’t do it alone… but baby steps require patience all around. I’m owning my shit, and asking for grace. I don’t want pity. And kind reassurances only bounce off, because, well… Teflon™.

I know you all mean well, your words have really touched me these past few days. But for now, I’m really just grateful you’re here. I’ve always said this: I write to be read. I write to reach out. I write to connect. That my words connected with many of you this week, means a lot. It means everything, at a given moment.

My flat-line stats jumped this week, when I wrote something that connected with many of you. And while I’m not good at taking in the love and support you sent my way, I’m grateful for it.

Thanks for being here. Thanks for the support.  For now, just say:

Write on.

Beep        Beep       Beep      Beep

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And now for the marketing part of the show!

GIPYKAPOW!  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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