The Time Has Come

Well, it was short and sweet. I managed to get in a whole month off furlough before being asked last week to return to work on Monday, July 6. I was hoping for another month, but I’m optimistically taking this as a sign that things are looking up for our organization and that there won’t be more layoffs.

While off, I did manage to get a few things done, in spite of being sick and spending a week in bed.*

  • I cleaned out my closet.
  • I cleaned out one of the rooms downstairs that had become a catchall.
  • I deep cleaned my shower downstairs. It doesn’t sound like much, but it feels so good.
  • I cleaned.
  • I napped (bit just while I was sick.)
  • I read.
  • I crocheted very little.
  • I boxed up clothes off Mateo’s to give to Benson.
  • I bagged up 9(!) bags of clothes, shoes and purses to donate.
  • I helped Jason pull out and clean the rocks along our sidewalk. He put mulch in there instead.
  • I supervised and provided emotional support to him while he worked on making an arbor for our side gardens.
  • I helped him plan what we’re putting in the side garden when it’s ready.

I got some of the things on my furlough to-do list done, but found other things that needed doing along the way, so some other things didn’t get done. Plus, some of the things were lofty goals anyway.

I still have to finish going through Mateo’s clothes and old toys for either selling (he gets the money and is excited about having a yard sale), giving to Benson or donating. I still have that craft room and all the painting to get to. Those are more daunting tasks, but, at least for the outside painting, I might enlist one of my brothers.

I’m excited to see my coworkers on Monday, but wish I had more time at home to get more things done and also to figure out my health issue. I’m a little nervous going back, too. I don’t know why.

Arbor we’re building.
Re-landscaped sidewalk area.

*(I feel like every time you are sick these days, you have to clarify whether it is COVID related or not. This was not. It is most likely something related to my autoimmune disease and we are still trying to figure it out. I’m feeling quite a bit better.)

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Furloughed

Due to all of the stuff going on in this world in the last week, I haven’t really talked about this publicly on social media or even really talked about it with people outside of my immediate family and my co-workers. The one exception being my sister-in-law, Yvonne, whom I asked for advice about what to do. Today, June 1st, is the first day of a two month furlough for me. I actually volunteered because I know that at some point I will likely be forced to take a furlough and this seemed like a better time to do it for financial reasons. Plus, that means I get to be off for the majority of the summer.

You might ask why, when we are in a global pandemic, would they be furloughing nurses and medical assistants. It seems counterintuitive, right? I’ll explain as best I can with how I understand it. Medical organizations really rely on hospitalizations, surgeries and, more specifically elective surgeries to pay the bills and keep the rest of the organization running. That’s probably a bit of an oversimplification, but, that’s my understanding as someone who did not study business or hospital administration post high school. (Or during high school, for that matter.) Add to that, at the beginning of this pandemic, we told people to stay home. Don’t come to the doctor unless we tell you to. Call first. We called people with non-essential appointments, and surgeries, and told them we wouldn’t see them until further notice. We closed our specialty clinics to all but emergency appointments. Also, people were, to be honest, scared to come into a clinic of any kind. For instance, in my particular case, I work for a very busy pediatrician who usually sees 30+ patients a day, in normal times. In COVID times, there have been days where we’ve seen as few as 3 patients. It has not been good. Things are starting to pick up again, but it might be a year or more before we are back to something resembling normal. It’s a scary time in many ways.

So, what am I going to do with my time? Well, here’s a short list of things that need to be done around this house:

  • Clean out and plant the big garden in the side yard. This is something that has needed to be done since the spring after Sam died. I still haven’t gotten to it. (I really dislike gardening. I don’t like to be outside. I hate being hot. I don’t like bugs or getting my hands dirty. The sun hates me and tries relentlessly to burn me alive. As my friend, Sue, tells me, I’m a delicate fu©king flower. I even have the socks to prove it.)
  • Plant the small garden in the front yard. (This is a small garden, in the shade, so I probably can manage this one.)
  • Clean, organize and get rid of stuff in my craft room (Emily’s old room).
  • Clean out my closet.
  • Get rid of a ton of stuff in my basement. Well, really in the whole house. If anyone knows of someplace that is taking unwanted usable clothes and other items, please let me know. Last I heard, Goodwill is still closed.
  • Clean.
  • Paint the outside of the house. I mean, I might as well put it out there for the world to know it’s on my wish list. If I don’t get it done, at least I had lofty goals.
  • Clean.
  • Paint kitchen and kitchen cabinets. Again with the lofty goals. This might actually need to happen on the next furlough during the winter.
  • Clean.
  • Take some walks.
  • Spend time with Mateo.
  • Clean.
  • Nap some.
  • Crochet some.
  • Did I mention clean?

Anyone want to come help me with some really fun projects? 😜 Socially distanced, of course.

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Sounds of Silence

Yesterday, I talked about how we are not seeing very many patients right now. Today I thought, I bet they’re wondering why we aren’t seeing many patients when it should be the opposite, with a lot of people being sick with Covid-19. well for the last month or so, we have been “scrubbing” our schedules of any non-essential appointments. We are only seeing children for well child check-ups, children who are 18 months and under because those are the check ups where they get their primary series of vaccinations. Anyone over that age are being told to reschedule in a couple months or to call in May to see if we are scheduling non-essential visits at that time. Many of the other types of visits are being done virtually, either by phone or video. Finally, all respiratory illnesses are being seen in our urgent care department and our clinic has been segregated into non-respiratory and respiratory sections. The provider I work with has gone from seeing approximately 30 patients per day to 5-10 per day and one day last week he had zero patients on his schedule. We either have done a good job educating our patients to not come to the doctor unless it is necessary or they are too terrified to enter the building.

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The screening starts when you pull into the parking lot. As you can see, The Surge hasn’t started yet. This picture was taken in the middle of the day. The parking lot would usually be packed at this time of day. This was last week, but looked similar today.

This is the employee parking lot today. As you can see, there are more employee cars in the employee parking lot than there are patient cars in the patient parking lot. This parking lot is actually less than half as full as it usually is. It’s actually pretty creepy to see either of them this empty.

Today went ok. The black fog cleared from my brain. I think what helps is that I truly love my coworkers and my patients. My regular patients make me smile and warm my heart thoroughly. My coworkers are some of my best friends and we’re all on this journey together, so we know how each other feels. We’re just trying to get through it so we can get back to normal life. I want my office, my desk and my Belinda (my work partner) back. I hope it’s over soon.

Yesterday, Mateo got some sidewalk chalk in his Easter basket. He said, “we should write, ‘GO AWAY CORONAVIRUS’ on our driveway with this chalk.” I like the way the kid thinks.

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Hello, Darkness, My Old Friend

I was feeling a bit dark today, this day that should be about light and rebirth and celebration. Instead, there is darkness inside my head.

I’ve had a few panic attacks in my life. I can count them on one hand. Since this pandemic started, I’ve had several of them. I am not looking forward to work this week. On Friday, eight of my teammates were furloughed. It’s a one week furlough, to be reassessed as the week goes on. They may be called back if we hit The Surge. This time the furlough was voluntary, and will leave only nine of us in clinic and we are being mandated to work five days when most of us usually only work four days per week.

I know that had people not volunteered to be furloughed, they would have chosen people with less seniority, who likely would have been less financially able, to be furloughed, but I still feel abandoned in some way. I don’t blame them, I don’t. I just feel sad that they won’t be there. Maybe I feel abandoned by admin. I know that they can’t afford to continue to pay all of us when we aren’t seeing hardly any patients, but I’m just sad that they won’t be there with the rest of us.

Then, there’s the what-ifs. What if we hit The Surge? What if we don’t have enough staff to handle it? What if we have numerous sick calls? What if we don’t hit The Surge? When will we all be back together again and who will be furloughed next? That’s when the panic sets in.

I see my therapist (virtually now) on Fridays. I need her now more than ever. Now that I have to work on Friday, I might not be able to see her. I need my team more than ever and I won’t have all of them, either. I was thinking the other day that this is a time when we all need more hugs from one another and now we aren’t even allowed within 6 feet of each other at work. It’s just all kinds of suck.

Tomorrow I will go to work, I will put on my happy face, even if you can’t see it behind my mask, and I will give my best to my patients and their parents. Today, I am going to let the darkness swirl for a little bit before I sweep it away.

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I Worry

I was going to start this is post by apologizing for being a catastrophist, but, you know what? No! I’m not doing that. I’m going to own my worries, my anxiety. Life is really hard right now and I’m willing to bet that a lot of you have a lot of the same worries.

So, here they are, in no particular order:

  • I’m a afraid I’m going to lose my husband to coronavirus. I don’t know if I could survive and raise Mateo by myself while trying to grieve the second greatest loss of my life.
  • I’m worried we’ll lose Mateo. He has some health issues that may affect the way his body would respond to this disease. I don’t know if Jason and I would survive losing Mateo. Even though we try to make sure he’s his own person, there’s so much Sam that we see in him. It would be like losing him all over.
  • I’m afraid I’ll lose one of my girls. How could I possibly live through losing another child? I know there are people who do, but I don’t know how.
  • I’m scared about losing my other grandchildren. Knowing how painful it is to lose a child and watching my child go through that while trying to grieve and be supportive all at the same time would be so very difficult.
  • Last summer we lost one of our coworkers to a car accident. I worry that I will lose one or more of my coworkers to covid.
  • I worry that I will get sick and bring it home to my family. If I were the one to give it to them, I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself.
  • I worry that I will make my animals sick.
  • I worry about my family if I die. How will it affect my girls, my grandchildren, my husband? How will he be able to raise Mateo by himself?

These things, among others, are what keep me awake some nights.

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18 Months

I want to say so much, but, for a change, I am confused about how to say it. I just know that these days don’t really get any easier. They’re still painful. I still get really angry when I think of you laying in that bed in the ICU. I’m not mad at you, I am just mad that I have to live my life without you. I’m mad that I’ll forever be defined as a grieving mother. It’s like a coat I can’t take off, and we all know how I hate being hot. The anger still makes me want to swear and hit things and break things, maybe even my hands like you frequently did (it’s like the anger you had has been transferred to me). Then when I’ve expended all my angry energy, I want roll up in the fetal position and cry it out. Then that makes me angry because I can’t cry enough.

I wish I could cry more. I wish the flood gates would open. Maybe then I’d feel better. It’s so stupid. I tell other grieving mothers that there is no single right way and that it’s as individual as a fingerprint, but then I get pissed at myself because I feel like I am dishonoring you by not crying enough.

All of these emotions and feeling and expectations and I don’t fucking know what to do with them. Then that makes me angry again.

Preemptively, I’ll say that I see a therapist. I love her. She is awesome. I’m working on all this shit. I think I’ll be done working on it when I am dead. In spite of all of this, I hope that is a long time from now.

I miss you, Samuel. I wish you were here. I wish I could punch you on the arm and call you a jerk and you would respond by saying, “You eat poop.” Which we all know means that you love me.

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Another Piece

About three weeks before our little dog, Delilah, died, I had a dream. In the dream, I was sitting outside on our front step, having a cigarette with Sam. (No, I don’t smoke anymore.) He was on his phone talking to someone and he was charging his phone while he talked on it. He had an absurdly long charging cord. I’m talking about a length that I’m sure that they don’t make because, in the dream, he could literally walk around our whole yard. There were times where he would walk over to the other side of our garage and kind of hide out in the big lilac bush when he wanted his conversation to be more private. It was during one of those times that Delilah ran out of the house and discovered him in the bushes. He was a little perturbed because she was barking and carrying on since she was so happy to see him and also because she had outed him in his hiding spot. Finally, he bent down to pet her and said, “Hi, Delilah. I know, I miss you, too. Yes, I love you, too.”

I remember thinking at the time (we didn’t know that Delilah was sick at all) that he was telling me that he was still here with us, attached by a really long (figuratively speaking) cord. Then weeks later, when Delilah got really sick, I started thinking that while maybe that was true, perhaps he was really trying to warn me that she was coming to find him. Then she did. On February 27, one year and 8 days after Sam died, we had to make the difficult decision to put Delilah to sleep.

Cali, our black lab, was Sam’s baby. I mean, she belonged to the family, but he was her boy and she was his baby. He took her on walks with him down to the creek by our house. He took her to the Mississippi river with him when he went there, too. He trained her and he played with her. It was he who named her. Cali. Short for California. The place he always wanted to go and never got the chance to experience.

By default, because she loved him so much, she also loved his friends just as much. She would jump all over them whenever they came over. When it got to be too much, he would say, “Cali, get where you go!” And she would run and lay down under the table or the bench seat in our kitchen. It was her refuge.

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About 2 months ago, I told Jason that I thought something was wrong with Cali. She was drinking way more than normal and, consequently, she was having accidents in the house. He didn’t really agree with me until she stopped eating. We brought her to the vet and they ran some tests, including two biopsies of her lymph glands in her neck and her hindquarters. Initially the blood work was normal, but the biopsies came back positive for lymphoma. Cali had cancer. We were devastated.

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For awhile we contemplated doing either chemotherapy or prednisone or a combination of the two. Chemotherapy would not have cured her, it would have only extended her life for 6-8 months. That would have given us another death around the time that we already face the anniversary of our greatest loss. Also, it would have meant bringing her to the vet once a month for blood work and she was extraordinarily terrified of the vet. We couldn’t see doing that to her. Then it becomes more about what is best for us and not what is best for her. Plus, the cost was also pretty prohibitive. Prednisone would have alleviated her pain to some degree, but it would also have increased her thirst and her accidents. We didn’t think that was fair, either. So, since she wasn’t acting sick, and, as soon as we brought her to the vet, she started eating again, we decided to just wait and let her tell us when it was time. She was still happy and active and played hard when she wasn’t sleeping.

A couple weeks ago, she started showing signs that she wasn’t doing so well. While playing fetch, her legs would give out. She would have a hard time getting up from the floor or getting down from the couch or bed. Her legs started to just randomly give out, too, in the last few days, and she was in increasingly more pain. Listening to her cry out in pain is more than we could take, so we made the decision that it was time. Since we couldn’t fathom bringing her to the vet for her last few moments on earth, we decided to have them come to us. If you have to face the end of life for a beloved pet, I suggest that you look into this in your area. It was a beautiful experience, in as much as it can be, and it was peaceful and humane. In Minnesota, we used Minnesota Pets. They came out and we all sat in the grass and petted her while she went to sleep and took her last breaths.

Today, she went where she belongs. And we lost another piece of our Sam. But, she belongs with her boy. Run and play and kiss his face for us. We’ll miss you, Cali-girl.

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2017…2018

I look at this evening with mixed emotions. I’ll be leaving the absolute worst year of my life. You would think that it would make me happy. Happy isn’t exactly the correct word. Maybe relieved is more applicable. And yet, it’s with some measure of sadness that I leave 2017 behind. People who haven’t experienced what Jason and I have this year may not understand. This is the last day of the last year that my son was alive. He lived 50 days in 2017. Obviously, he will not have lived one day in 2018. I feel like I am leaving him in the past. Alone. In my head, it’s irrational, but my heart doesn’t understand what my head tries to tell it.

I love you, Sammer. Stay with me.

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Wary of Enjoyment

We were at my sister-in-law’s house. It was 18 years ago on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1999. We were all squeezed into her living room, singing karaoke. A good friend of ours, Tom, was doing some really silly moves and he was making me laugh so hard, I had tears running down my face. I don’t know if it was that everyone thought the world was going to end at midnight or if I had some awful premonition, but I remember thinking that it was going to be the last time I laughed like that for a long time. The next morning, my mom called and said she was taking my dad to the hospital because he was in severe pain. My dad was strong and stoic. He never had severe pain. I met them at the hospital. That day, the most difficult 6 weeks of my life began and after they were over, my life was never the same again. My dad died from pancreatic cancer on February 15th, 2000.

Flash forward 17 years. It was February 17, 2017. We were in Las Vegas to celebrate Jason’s birthday. I was at the roulette table, again with Tom* . I had never played roulette in my life, but Tom encouraged me to try. He asked me for a couple numbers and placed a bet on those. He said if I won, the money was mine. I chose my husband’s birthday, 11 and 16. I hit it. I won $180! I hit again for smaller money and soon everyone we were with in Vegas that was at the table were asking me for numbers. We were having a great time. The next morning, we all went to the Venetian to find some coffee. As we were walking there, we were laughing and being super silly. Jason bought me the best coffee of my life. We were staring in wonder at the ceilings at the Venetian and our friend, Amy, took a picture of me and Jason, smiling, on a bridge by the water inside the Venetian where the gondolas would start their day in a few hours.

My phone started going off and Amy said, “That’s just me sending you these pictures.” I looked at my phone and, in that split second, my life changed forever. It was a text from my neighbor saying that there were multiple emergency vehicles outside of my house back in Minnesota. In that very instant, I knew it was Sam. I fell to the floor and Amy and one of my sisters-in-law  helped me to sit down by the wall. I feel like throwing up just thinking about it, much like I felt that day.

Ten and a half months later, I can smile. I even still laugh. I do find enjoyment in things. However, more and more often, I approach true enjoyment with some wariness. I find myself, when I am not feeling some guilt for being happy in that specific moment, wondering if or worrying that something bad is going to happen. I know the metaphor of life being like a roller coaster. I’ve never been a huge fan of roller coasters. I am afraid of heights and I don’t really like the plunges. Now I feel like, even though surely I must be at the bottom of the roller coaster, I could drop even further if I am not careful. If I’m not wary.


*(Tom is a good family friend. All of us–Jason, his siblings, their spouses and various other friends that have become family–have hung out together since high school and we do many things together, including family gatherings, parties, camping, vacations, etc.. It would appear that moral of the story is to not spend anymore time with Tom. I don’t hold it against him, though. 😉 )

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Six Long Months

Six months ago today was the last time I saw my son awake. It was the last time I spoke to him when he could answer me. It was the last time I could’ve hugged him and he could hug me back. I didn’t because, when we left, he was smoking a cigarette. I spoke to him one more time on the phone once we were in Vegas and that was it. The next time I would see him, he would be in a hospital bed on life support.

These next few days are going to be extremely difficult. I know I’ll get through it, but I wish, more than anything, that I didn’t have to. If you could just think of us, or take a moment to say a little prayer for us, if you are someone who prays, I truly believe it will help us in some way. Thank you for all the support from family and friends these last six months. We couldn’t have survived this without such wonderful people in our lives. I’m sure we’ll need you in the months and probably even years to come.

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