Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Better Half

There's something missing from my last post.  In a committed relationship, it takes two people to make the important decisions.  So where is Ken in all this?

Ken's rule is that I can write anything about him in my blog, as long as it's true.  I was going to leave him out of the discussion, based on the urge to protect him from being blamed or scapegoated, but this topic is incomplete without him.

The bottom line for Ken is: he doesn't want to have kids.  He doesn't have moments of waffling, when he's around adorable babies or watching perfect families share warm moments on TV.  He doesn't even want to produce offspring as insurance against being alone in his old age.

Why is he so unmoved by the prospect of raising a family?  Because he spent too much time taking care of other people in his youth, and now he wants to have his life to himself.

Ken's older half-brother, now 38 to Ken's 34, is both physically and mentally disabled.  He has cerebral palsy, and has the intellectual age of a four-year-old, approximately.  Ken was made responsible for looking after his older brother, Gabe, ever since he can remember.  

Ken and Gabe's parents decided to put Gabe into the regular school system with other kids close to his age, perhaps in the hopes that this would stimulate his development.  Ken went to the same school.  Almost every day, the older kids would make fun of Gabe and push him around.  And every time, Ken would step in to try to defend his older brother - from the bigger kids.  Ken took abuse, both verbal and physical, from these older kids almost every day of his early school years.

He told his parents what was happening.  They were going through a hippie phase.  Their response: they advised Ken to be a pacifist.  I get angry every time I think about it.  They let him continue going to school to get beat up by older kids every day.  What's worse - the pummeling, or knowing that your parents aren't going to help you deal with it?

Ken didn't even get time off during summers.  Instead of enjoying leisure or having fun at summer camp, he was signed up by his parents as a volunteer for Gabe's "special" camp.  He spent all his summers helping disabled kids, who didn't all have sweet and sunny dispositions.  

When he grew to young adulthood, Ken often felt lost in the world.  He never had a chance to live for himself, to develop his own identity.  He didn't get a chance to try things out and decide what he liked or disliked, like most kids.  He started from a disadvantage, and he still feels like he's trying to catch up.

As if this wasn't enough, Ken's dad got really sick in 1999.  When I first met Ken, I was told that his dad was dying of cancer.  For two whole years, Ken's dad hovered at death's doorstep.  When he finally overcame the cancer, his liver and kidneys shut down due to a drug interaction, and he almost died from organ failure.

Ken took a minimum-wage job with flexible hours so that he could care for his father.  He spent every weekend for a year driving his dad to Buffalo and back again for special cancer treatments.  He couldn't afford to stay in a hotel while his dad spent the night in hospital, so he'd drive back home with just enough time to sleep, and then leave early the next morning to drive back, pick his dad up, and drive him back to Toronto again by nightfall.

When the cancer treatments were done, Ken spent hours by his dad's hospital bedside, throughout another whole year, praying and giving his dad hands-on energy healing.  His dad was in the palliative care ward at St. Michael's hospital. It's almost unheard of for patients to leave that ward alive, once they've been transferred in.  But Ken's dad inexplicably recovered.  His organs, slowly but surely, regenerated and began to work again.  The doctors called it a miracle.  Ken's dad attributes it to the hours of prayer and energy transfer.

Obviously, Ken is an incredibly caring and devoted man, when it comes to his loved ones.  No detail is too big or too small for him to attend to.  He has always treated me like royalty.

When we were first dating, he would bring me armloads of roses.  One dozen was never enough.  He would bring two or three dozen, in different colours.  I had vases all around my little apartment that were constantly filled.  He kept track of when the blooms would start wilting, and brought replacements.  I didn't know this at the time, but he sold almost his entire CD collection to the used CD store to pay for all the flowers.

Nothing much has changed to this day.  Ken bends himself over backwards to be the best husband he can possibly be.  He listens.  He volunteers backrubs.  He cooks fantastic feasts just for the two of us, and then insists on doing the dishes too.  He does more than his share of the housework.  He tucks a blanket around me while I'm on the sofa, watching TV.

Sure, he's not perfect.  We have fights a few times a year.  We get on each others' nerves sometimes.  But boy does he aim high!  I trust him completely and I never doubt his love.

When I occasionally bring up my broody impulses, he meets my eyes, and says with all the generosity he can muster: "I'd be a Dad for you.  I'd do my best."  But I know that he's burned out on that intensity of care-giving, maybe for the rest of his life.  A baby screaming at all hours of the night, financial stress, disagreements on parenting: I fear it would all be too much.  That could be what it takes to break us up.

So this is what it feels like: if love and happiness were money, I have been scrimping and saving all my life to finally amass a small personal fortune, i.e. my relationship with Ken.  I have a chance to gamble the whole thing on one spin of a roulette wheel.  Red doubles up my love and happiness.  Black - I lose it all.  It truly could go either way.

I'm not a gambler.  I never play the lottery: neither the pick-your-numbers variety nor scratch 'n' lose.  And I surely have no desire to struggle as a single mom.

If Ken had even 50% enthusiasm for being a parent, we could put that together with my 50% and maybe make a go of it.  But as it is, between the two of us I just don't think we have enough. 

Of course, I could turn around and change my mind tomorrow.  The urges of biology are powerful.  I can feel the undertow of maternal instinct trying to pull my logic off-balance.  In the end, only God knows what the future has in store.  Either way, I'm in His* hands.

*(His/Her/Its as you prefer.)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Broody Hen

It took me many years, but I have reached a point of being 99% satisfied with my non-parental status. I have written before about this decision.

But every once in a while, maybe once or twice a year, I get all broody. It's typical for this to happen over the Christmas holidays, when families with young children all seem so magically happy. I spend time with my grandparents, and see what joy their children and grand-children bring to their lives. I worry about being old and alone, with no one to look after me.

For the past week, I went through this familiar emotional cycle. I don't like to talk about it, because the answer most people will give me is "No problem! There's still time! Hurry up and have a baby!" That's not what I need to hear. I KNOW in my gut that having a child would not be a good idea for Ken and I. It's just not an easy decision to live with all the time. Just like having kids isn't always easy, but that doesn't mean you give them up for adoption because you've had a bad week.

Ken and I are like two playing cards, leaning up against each other to form a somewhat stable triangle. Neither one of us is consistently "the strong one". We take turns supporting each other through life's trials. We both came from childhoods that were difficult, and we're both sensitive, some would say oversensitive, emotionally, psychically, and physically. Just getting through life as it is now often overtaxes our resources. We can comfortably look after ourselves and each other, but start adding demands on top of that and the effort can only be maintained for a few weeks or months before either of us might start to crumble. I speak from experience.

If I try to willpower my way through more than I can handle, my body starts to seriously malfunction. I have a knack for somatizing my feelings.

I have a history of depressive phases, which can be triggered by too much stress and insufficient sleep. I think I'd be the perfect candidate for a truly horrifying post-partum depression.

In a perfect world, if I could trust myself to be as resilient and adaptable as I would like to be in theory, I would love to experience motherhood. Some people have told me that I should take the plunge, because I'll be surprised at what I can accomplish, when I have to. In my life it's most often worked the other way. I've optimistically made grand plans, assuming that because I'm committed to my goals I will be able to tolerate any hardship to achieve them. I truly believed that if my mind could conceive it and my heart could believe it, I could achieve it. I overestimated myself time after time. Experience proves that the best of intentions, positive thinking, and all my willpower (and trust me, I'm stubborn!) can't overcome my limitations.

Therefore, once again I must confirm to myself the wisdom of not becoming a parent. I'd rather keep the hard-won stability and happiness that I've finally achieved, than risk it all for a high-stakes gamble. In the meantime I'll keep volunteering at Babyland, and satisfy some of my maternal instincts that way. I promise not to steal any of the babies.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Holiday Hilights

Thanks to all who commented on my previous post with such genuine care.  I got all weepy, in a good way.  My heart overfloweth!

So much has gone on in the past three days that I know not where to begin.  Because I doubt my ability to organize it all into any kind of coherent narrative, I present to you: holiday highlights.

Christmas Eve:  
Birthday Party for my grandmother, at my mom's house

On account of the warm weather and rain, combined with snowdrifts clogging the storm drains, any dip in the street was filled with water.    On my way there I waded through ponds of over 100 square feet and four inches deep.  Passing cars tossed six-foot rooster tails of dirty spray into the air behind them.  I was lucky: only my feet got wet.  My mom loaned me a pair of dry socks.

I shovelled the driveway so my grandparents wouldn't slip on their way in.  The melting snow was ridiculously heavy, and I had to toss each leaden shovelful at least four feet in the air to get it on top of the existing snowpile on the lawn.  I must be tougher than I thought, because I managed to do it without screwing up my back.

Inside, there was roast brisket, homemade soup,  cucumber salad, green beans with mushrooms, sesame ginger roasted squash, pickled beets, and, of course, potato latkes with homemade apple sauce.  The best dishes and glasses, twinkling silverware, a bouquet of fresh flowers surrounded by colourful dreidels and silver-foil-wrapped chocolate coins as a centerpiece.  Happy people.  Lively conversation.  Homemade strudel, coffee, chocolate birthday cake.

The temperature didn't drop back below zero until after midnight, so we all got home safely.

Christmas Day:
Turkey Lunch with Ken's parents and brothers

Ken's younger brother had a bad cold.  He hunched over his plate, shoveling in food, then lay down on the sofa and fell asleep.  At one point he half-woke, opened one eye, announced loudly in a slurred voice: "Merry Christmas!"  And then fell soundly back asleep.

After lunch I felt restless, so I went for a walk while the others settled in for some tryptophan-induced drowsiness in front of the TV.  The path I took through the neighbourhood alternated slicks of glassy ice with mountians of frozen snowdrifts.  I picked my way carefully, at times placing each foot with studied care as I navigated particularly dangrous passes.  I kept my hands curled in towards my body, reminding myself not to catch my weight on a wrist if I should fall, but to curl and drop sideways like a ninja.  My ex-mother-in-law broke her wrist on a patch of ice just like these ones.  I didn't fall, but I saw a girl across the street go down on her butt.

Christmas Day Part II:
Turkey Dinner with my Father, Step-Mom, and Sister, and friends

The house was beautiful, filled with soft light, flickering candles, and designer bowls heaped with shiny christmas tree balls.  My sister was cute as a button in a red dress with white polka-dots.  She mixed up a batch of tasty pomegranate martinis.  Guests arrived, handing over their coats and plastic-wrapped platters of homemade desserts.  The dog hung around hopefully, wagging her tail and licking her chops in anticipation of someone dropping an hors d'oeuvre.

Hannukah candles were lit, and Christmas gifts were exchanged.   

I sat next to a fellow I'd never met before: a poet, whose most recent book won the 2008 Governor General's Award for poetry.  This is a pretty big deal in Canada.  It's the oldest and most prestigious literary award we have.   Jacob presented us each with a signed copy of his poetry collection. 

In person, he came across as a pretty average guy.  On my way home, on the train, I opened the book, expecting not to be impressed his poetry.  Let's face it, the world is filled with lacklustre writing by well-meaning authors, and some of it is hailed as genius by other well-meaning authors.  I don't always agree with the judges of literary awards.  But, this time I liked what I read.  That was some solid poetry.  Good poetry makes me happy, even when the subject matter is sad.  That was one of the best Christmas gifts I got, and it came as a complete surprise.

It was only thanks to my sister's yummy pomegranate martinis that I managed to get through that last event, capping 1.5 days of non-stop socializing.  My poor frazzled brain.  I'm just not wired to handle that much conversation, no matter how lovely and interesting my conversational partners are.  The following day, I lay on the couch, staring in the general direction of the television, dozing in and out of consciousness.  I feel almost back to myself.  A little more time spent comatose, and I'll be right as rain.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


It's the morning of Christmas Eve.  I'm at home in my jammies, eating oatmeal with dried apricots.  There are presents waiting to be opened, there's food in the refrigerator to see us through the next few days, and tonight I'll be celebrating my grandmother's birthday with my family.

However, this Christmas is bittersweet.  There have been deaths in the past few weeks.  Ken's grandpa passed away in mid-November.  

The next week, I heard, through my mother, that one of my grandfather's few remaining friends had died.  

My step-mother, whom I love dearly, lost her mother just a couple of weeks ago.  I only met Ivy a few times, however it broke my heart to see my family grieving her loss.  My sister lost her grandmother.  My step-mom and her brother had to say goodbye to their mother.  My father also grieved.  I attended the beautiful and moving memorial ceremony, and there was not a dry eye in the place.

Last night, my mother called me.  Only that morning, a dear friend of hers had passed away from cancer.  This friend, Cara, had not been diagnosed yet one year ago, when my mother's world was shattered by the news that my step-father was having an affair and would shortly leave her.  I only learned last night how Cara insisted upon calling my mother every day to check up on her and support her.  Cara left for a vacation to Florida later that same winter, and continued to call my mother every day, long-distance.  They hadn't even been close friends until that time.  Cara, generous woman that she was, saw that my mother was in need, and so she stepped up and gave her love.

Later, after Cara's cancer diagnosis, my mother returned the favour, calling daily to support her friend.  Although they were friends for a relatively short time, two or three years, they each had a huge impact on each other.  I am so grateful for the support that Cara offered to my mother when she needed it.  I'm sorry that I never had a chance to thank her in person.  Last night I offered up my gratitude to the ether, with a prayer that the message would be delivered to her spirit.

My mother will attend Cara's funeral today, and then rush home to complete the preparations for my grandmother's birthday.  I will be there to help her.  I suggested to my mom that she might want to cancel the party.  She insisted that life must go on, and she'd rather have the family there with her than sit alone.  She probably won't even have told them that anything is wrong.  We'll see how that goes.

I really hope it's not a repeat of how my family learned about my parents' separation.  I found that pretty hard to take.  I have to admit I'm not heading into this evening with 100% enthusiasm.  But no matter what happens I will be 100% there for my mom.

So this Christmas is most certainly bittersweet.  Being surrounded by deaths makes me all the more conscious of how lucky I am to have so many beloved friends and family still with me.  I intend to appreciate and love all of them to the maximum of my ability.  There's nothing like loss to make one appreciate what one has.  Truly.

Monday, December 22, 2008

More Glad Tidings

Good news # 1!

San has been ever so kind, and honoured me with a very flattering award:

To quote San's blog, The PREMIO DARDOS award is "given for recognition of cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values transmitted in the form of creative and original writing." Wow. That's one classy recommendation! I feel truly humble.

Of course an honour like this must be passed on. After deep and searching thought, I have chosen the following honourees:

1) Ron at Warped Mind of Ron, because he writes in so many styles: poetry, fiction, and memoir. How much more literary can you get?

2) Whatigosofar because he's definitely transmitting his personal values through original writing. No punches pulled on this blog.

3) Nilsa at Somi is never afraid to speak her mind. She does so charmingly and gracefully.

4) Keera at A Roll in the Universe posts snapshots, both literal and literary, of life in Norway.

5) Dianne at Forks Off the Moment is deserving in every way, especially with regard to ethical values.

Congratulations to all y'all! ;-)

Good News #2!

Slowly but surely, I have recuperated from my spell of ill health. The aches and pains are gone, as is the shortness of breath. My hands no longer require five minutes of warm-up exercises before they can be used in the morning. I'm not breaking out in hives either. I'm still more tired than usual, but other than that, I'm back to my normal self again.

Of course the blood tests didn't show any significant results. I guess it was just my body's wild and crazy way of responding to stress. This whole past year has been pretty challenging, what with my mom and step-dad's divorce and me being caught in the middle. I don't think it's any coincidence that my health crumbled shortly after my mom finally said that she was starting to feel alright again. I was running on empty, and when I learned that she didn't need me to be strong for her anymore, I just went down like a puppet with my strings cut. 10 months of accumulated tension was finally released.

I'll be taking it easy for a while longer. I can feel that I need a long rest. A few days off for the holidays couldn't have come at a better time!

Friday, December 19, 2008


At my own risk, I volunteered to be interviewed by Ron. This is actually a really cool, customizable meme, which any of you may volunteer to participate in. Ron's interview is here.

Question #1:
How were you inspired to start blogging and how did you choose your blog name?

I've always loved to write. I wrote journals for many years, but eventually I got sick of being my own audience. With no one else to read what I wrote, I was prone to lots of complaining and being a Drama Queen. I was also not motivated enough to try to get any of my work published. When I learned about blogging I realized that it was the perfect solution: I can self-publish for free, get instant feedback, and participate in a community of other writers. How cool is that?

I can't remember how I chose my blog name. It was a passing whim that became permanent.

Question #2:
If you can only do one family tradition/decoration for the Holidays (Christmas or Hanukkah) what would it be?

I love decorating Christmas trees. I don't have one in my home this year, but next year I'll get on that.

Question #3:
What is your idea of a dream vacation?

My dream vacation would involve being instantly teleported to my destination, without any jet lag or lost baggage. I would like to go somewhere that's not too broiling hot, with tap-water I can drink without getting sick. I think being pampered half the time and touring beautiful, historic sites and natural landscapes the other half of the time would be a good balance. If anyone knows where I can get a package like this, please e-mail me.

Question #4:
If you saw a man that was obviously a criminal drop a big bundle of cash while running from other criminals and you picked it up, what would you do with it?

I wouldn't pick it up, because the other criminals would chase me down and beat me until I gave it to them.

Oh, you mean that the other criminals didn't see the bundle of cash drop? So it's just found money? I'd have to be a goody-two-shoes and either hand it in to the police or donate it to World Vision. I have a very sensitive conscience. I don't keep gifts like that for myself. I have to pass it along to someone who needs it more than me.

Question #5:
If you had a small thermonuclear device and it was counting down to zero (quickly) which wire would you cut the red one or the blue one and why?

RED! No, BLUE! No, BOTH! *snip* **KABOOM** Uh, sorry, I guess that was the wrong choice?

ummm.... #5 may be a little arbitrary if you want you can use this one instead

Question #5
Does your family know about your blog and if so are they supportive of you talking to strange internet type people?

Some of my family (a minority) know about my blog, and read it regularly. That would be my sister, my biological father, and my step-mom (Hi Guys! I love you! :-). They are supportive of my writing, and let me know that they're missing it if I go through a phase of not writing much. This gives me the warm-n-fuzzies, and keeps me motivated to write even when I might otherwise get lazy.

The rest of my family hasn't been introduced to my blog, and for now I'll be keeping it that way.

Oh, and Ken reads my blog. He's very supportive. His only condition is that I'm never allowed to post a real picture of myself because he thinks I'm so gorgeous that weird cyber-strangers will stalk me. Then I'll unwittingly give away too many clues regarding my identity, and they'll show up one day and kidnap me. Or something.

Dear Ken, I love you! Thank you for believing that I am so irresistibly attractive that the mere sight of me might drive the men of the internet crazy with unwholesome desires. And thank you for referring to Milla Jovovich as "that girl who looks like you". You really know how to flatter a woman.

End of interview. That was fun! OK, who wants to be next? Here's now to participate:

According to the rules I must link back to the post I got this from.

1. Leave me a comment saying, “Interview me.” (And your e-mail address, please.)
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Glad Tidings

The office Christmas party was remarkably civilized this year.

Last year there was much drunkery. Clerks gave their bosses lap dances. A "respected colleague" of mine stuck her tongue in Ken's ear. Bonuses were handed out at the party. One spoiled young lady decided she hadn't gotten a big enough bonus, threw a tantrum, and tore the cheque into little pieces. When she went to the management the following week, claiming she lost her cheque and could she please have a replacement? they told her she'd made her bed and she'd have to lie in it.

I did write a post about all of the above, but I can't find it. I did, however, find this one with the pictures of Scary Santas. The hobby shop that had these guys in the window has since disappeared (the owner retired), so those are truly historical pictures now!

This year, the Christmas party was like the last three Christmas parties, minus the shenanigans. The menu was exactly the same. (Potato and Leek soup; followed by fish fillets, salad, and rice; followed by steak, tater tots, and steamed veggies; followed by ice cream; pause for dancing; then at 11:00 pm they bring out giant platters of seafood - lobster, crabs, shrimp, mussels- nothing that wears a shell is spared. All the food is high quality and very yummy. I have no complaints about the predictable food. I like to know what I'm getting.)

The DJ's were the same and they started off the dancing with the same slightly irritating medley of 1950's rock'n'roll tunes (Rock Around the Clock; Tutti Frutti; etc.)

As usual there was one girl who's not used to drinking who ended up spending the entire night sitting on the floor in a bathroom stall, miserable, because she got just a little too adventurous with the liqueurs on top of a stomachful of fried cod.

Generally speaking, a good time was had by all. Drunkards make for good stories after the fact, but I didn't miss them.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Noteworthy Decor

On Wednesday I had a surprise phone call at work. It was a girlfriend who I've known since Grade 1, my super-best-friend from Grades 4 through 8. She's now married to a doctor (who I've known since we were all 16) and just had her third child in September.

They live on the west coast, in Nelson, B.C., so I don't get to see them much. I watch the kids grow up in a lengthy, stop-motion animation of infrequent visits. I knew they were due in town sometime around the holidays, but I wasn't expecting a call that day. It was the best surprise I've had in a long time.

We made plans to meet for dinner that same night. Ken and I drove up to Thornhill where they were staying with my girlfriend's in-laws. As we rounded the corner into the cul-de-sac, I had a flashback to 1989, when I had visited that house once before.

Of course, when we first arrived, my friend and her family had all my attention. Her boys, ages 6 and 3, are sprouting up, and her 10-week-old daughter is as sweet a baby as you'll ever meet. Celeste was awake when we got there, so I got the satisfaction of immediate smiles and snuggles. She's just a wee thing at a shade over 9 lbs, but she can already hold up her head just fine, thank you very much.

I even talked Ken into holding the baby for a few minutes - not his preference, but once she was on his lap, smiling gummily, he relaxed. I don't know what it is with men. Until the second they become fathers (and possibly after that, I don't know) they seem to have no inclination whatsoever towards holding babies. All the non-dads I know say "But I'm scared I'm gonna drop it!"

OK, first of all she/he is not an "it". And second of all, when was the last time you dropped anything? These fellows handle sharp knives and power tools with total confidence. How is holding a baby scarier than using a nail gun? I don't get it.

The boys stayed behind with their nana and gramps. The rest of us drove around the corner to Congee Queen restaurant. It's the kind of Chinese restaurant where you can order a whole roasted pig, with enough advance notice. (Large Pig $185, Medium Pig $ 135). There was so much cornstarch in the sauce that our shrimp dish looked like it was covered in a thick layer of clear-dry glue. However, it didn't taste like glue. We had a good feast.

Back at the in-laws' house, I had a chance to take a look around. It was EXACTLY the same as when I was there in 1989. In fact all the decor was pretty much the same as when the family moved in, in 1981. They actually have a parlor, otherwise known as "the room nobody is allowed to go into". The colour scheme is green and peach, with silver-foil-swirl wallpaper. And lots of silk flowers in peach and minty green - the kind with glitter on the petals.

In fact, there are silk flower arrangements everywhere in that house, as many as three in any given room. It's really quite something to see. It answers that burning question: who buys silk flowers anyway? Apparently my friends in-laws buy ALL of them.

I don't want to be mean. They were very gracious hosts. I just couldn't resist telling the story. I figure anything that makes my eyeballs bug out like that is worth sharing.

Monday, December 8, 2008


Today I finally went to see my doctor about the mysterious symptoms that have been plaguing me for the past three weeks.  Like, on Friday my hands were so weak and stiff that I was having trouble turning doorknobs.  Like, on Sunday, at church, I felt faint during the singing and had to go lie down in the lounge.  

Anyway, OF COURSE I felt almost 100% better by my appointment.  I figured I'd better show up anyway, because I could guarantee that if I cancelled I'd be a mess again by morning.  It's like taking your umbrella along to ensure that it won't rain.

I told the doctor my long list of bizarre and seemingly random symptoms, which he jotted down.  Then, as I knew he would, he told me I'd better go down to the lab to have some blood tests.  We joked a bit about (I can't resist this pun) the irony of him telling me to take a potent iron supplement to get my blood levels up, and then continually draining blood out of me.  Then he told me not to worry.  If the blood tests were positive, he'd send me to a rheumatologist.  If negative, to an allergist.  At any rate, he assured me, I'd get to see "some kind of '-ist'".  

I relate these lame jokes not because I think you'll find them hilarious and be all with the LOL in the comments, but more to indicate that I was feeling relaxed.  In fact, I was feeling so at ease, and so confident, that I decided to do something I hadn't done in five years, which was to provide my blood sample while sitting up.

In the past, I had a history of passing out when my blood was drawn.  I got into the habit of telling the lab techs that I need to lie down for these operations.  But the last two times I had blood drawn, which were within the past couple of months, I did so well (from my prone position), and sat up so fast with so little light-headedness after, that I started to wonder if maybe I was over this fear.

The only way to know is to try.  So.  Can you see where this is going?  I thought "I'm gonna give my blood like a big girl today.  I'm gonna sit in that chair and just not look and it'll all be fine."

I was doing great in the waiting room.  I was feeling brave when I sat down in the chair.  I rolled up my sleeve and didn't even look when the lab tech put on the tourniquet, because I get grossed out by the sight of bulging  veins.  I was slightly concerned when I saw her prepare three empty vials.  The last couple of times I only had to do one.  But by the time I realized that there was more at stake this time, I felt it was too late to rethink my bravado.

In went the needle, and a whooshing squeeze of yuckiness swept through me.  I don't know if I could have tolerated it if it had been over after one vial, but, as the endless seconds dragged by, the feeling got worse and worse.  I started to sigh, and then put my head down on my other arm.  I began to sweat, and then my eyes welled up with tears.  Yeah, not much of a big girl there.

By the time the tech had filled her three vials, I was feeling pretty awful.  She asked me if I was alright. I didn't really want to speak, so I shook my head, and the room spun.  The tech took my right hand and told me to press a cotton swab into my left elbow.   Then she told me to put my head between my knees.

Instead of feeling better, I started feeling even worse.  The waves of badness that had taken over my body were becoming unbearable.  I didn't know if I was going to pass out or barf.  In a quiet corner of my mind, where my observer-self was sitting in a comfortable armchair and taking notes on a steno pad, I remarked to myself on the undesirability of puking.  Meanwhile, my outside voice was moaning.  

"HHHHNNNNNGGGGGG" most closely approximates the animal sound that was passing through my clenched teeth.  I debated letting myself fall out of the chair to curl up in the fetal position on the  people-have-been-walking-on-it-all-day-with-dirty-salty-snowboots linoleum floor.  

Tech #1 had hurried off and came back quickly with Tech #2.    Between the two of them they got ahold of my elbows, negotiated me to my feet, then marched me to a room with a full-length examination table, and lay me down there.  Or at least, I lay my torso down.  I was so totally flopped that they had to pick up my feet one by one and place them onto the table.  

Then I heard one of the techs, the kind one with the Phillipino accent, say "Oh no, she let go of the gauze.  Look, there's blood all over."  Lovely.  Just what I wanted to hear.  Obviously I was too distraught to put proper pressure on my needle-stick wound, and now I had bled all over myself. 

While one of the techs swabbed my forhead with a cold, wet paper towel and fanned me with a file folder, the other wiped down my right hand with more wet towels.  At the back of my mind I recalled how I had ignored my instinct to wear black pants today.  Logic dictated that pale grey went better with the sweater I had picked out.  I wish I had gone with my gut.

Finally, after much swabbing, and fanning, and sipping at a Dixie cup of cold water, I started to come back from that desperate state to my normal, conscious self.  When they saw my eyes focusing again, the techs confirmed that I was feeling better, and then they left me there with strict instructions not to move until I felt totally recovered.

It took awhile.  I tried to get up in stages, first flopping one foot over the edge of the table, then the other.  Then roll onto side.  Then lift head up a few inches, to test the waters.  I kept having to lie back down again.  At one point, Tech #1 came back to tell me I could take my time, no rush, they were open until 8:00 pm.  That actually made me laugh.  And then it made me even more motivated to get myself vertical and headed home.

Finally I got upright.  I assessed the damage to my pants, which wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, but bad enough that they could still be considered "ruined".  I apologized to the lab techs for making such a fuss, and thanked them for their kindness.

By the time I got home the bloodstains had started to set.  Ever-helpful, Google suggested that I spit on the stains and then rub them.  The protein enzymes in saliva break down the proteins in blood.  Which is kind of a weird equation, like two wrongs making a right: bleeding AND spitting on your clothes leaves you with a wearable item.  Or maybe it's like the Rock, Paper, Scissors of bodily fluids.  Spit beats blood.  What does blood beat?  

I couldn't get the stains all the way out.  We'll see what happens once my pants go through the wash.

The moral of the story for me was: Don't try to be a hero.  Now and forevermore, I will be a compliant wimp and will lie down to have my blood taken.  

On the other hand, I'm really proud of myself for facing my fear.  That it was an unmitigated Fail doesn't discount the fact that I tried.  Now I know for sure.  And I swear I'll never do it again.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


I'm getting better, slowly but surely.

When I put my feet on the floor first thing in the morning, I don't feel pain.  My soles are still a little spongey upon waking, but that's a big improvement over last week's grinding and aching.

The hives aren't blooming up with quite such alarming frequency as last week.  There's still the odd one here and there, but generally they seem to be fading.

My back is still giving me the gears.  Yesterday, I was ready to break down in tears at my desk.  Doing my usual stats data entry, right hand on the number pad of my keyboard, was torture.  I tried using my left hand to type the numbers.  That was ridiculously slow.  Then I smartened up and remembered that I had Tylenol in my desk drawer.  Later, I was grateful to score an emergency appointment with my massage therapist.  Today ez mucho improve-o.

At my massage therapist's advice I bought a two-pack of Hot Bags on my way home today.  You know, those cotton sacks full of beans or grain or some such that you can microwave for heat therapy.  On the first try I overheated the neck bag and seared my skin, but after I got the temperature sorted out, I fell in love.  I would like to duct tape the Hot Bags to my body and wear them all winter long.

My big challenge in the past 24 hours was fighting sneaky panic attacks.  They come out of nowhere, like when I'm sleeping peacefully or innocently doing yoga poses.  All of a sudden I feel faint, nauseous, and completely freaked out.  I recognize the symptoms for what they are, and I can calm myself down with a little sensible self-talk in short order, but dang it's no fun.  Especially waking up into panic in the middle of the night.  That is extra no-fun.

I find myself feeling nostalgic for an herbal product that is no longer on the market.  Botanozac: it was a mix of sedative and nervine herbs.  Thirteen years ago, my life was in transition and I wasn't coping very well.  I was working in a health food store.  I started taking Botanozac.

This stuff really chilled me out.  You have to understand where I was starting from; when the store staff played the game "If so-and-so was an animal, what animal would he or she be?", the consensus for me was "squirrel".  So, yeah, straight up I was a little jumpy.  But when I was on Botanozac?  Eeeeeeverything was just peachy keen okay!

A customer returned a large jug of some corrosive chemical.  I can't remember what exactly, but something that should be diluted down to 1/10 strength for washing pesticides off produce.  The lid was loose.  I picked up the jug to take it back to the stockroom, and a big splash of the stuff slopped onto my foot, burning the skin instantly.  I had taken Botanozac that day.  I looked at my foot and thought "Huh, that's interesting."  I could feel the pain and yet I couldn't feel the pain.

Yup, that was good stuff.  I told two of my co-workers about it, and of course because they were young people who thought it would be hilarious to get stoned at work, they took some.  They didn't count on how strong it was.  Within an hour they were both swooning against the walls, and complaining about how they wanted to just lie on the floor and sleep for ten hours.  I guess if you start out at "squirrel" Botanozac takes you down to "human".  If you start out at "human" it takes you down to "slug".

Now that I think about it, I don't really want to take anything that would make me sleep any more.  I'm already needing 9 or 10 hours just to get by.  I keep thinking of all the things I could accomplish if I just had that extra hour or two back in each of my days.  Speaking of which, I'm passing out.  I'm off to bed.  Goodnight!