Flu 2018: How it Progressed

Embracing winter mind (see prior post) is all well and good until the smallest member of your household contracts the very bad, horrible, no good, really quite awful flu of 2018. Here’s how it progressed (to date):

  1. Sunday (2/4)–Flu came on suddenly with sore throat, chills, extreme fatigue, lack of appetite and low grade fever.
  2. Monday (2/5)–Fever climbed from 101 degrees to 104.2 later in the day. My child, who never naps, slept almost all day. No appetite whatsoever. Difficult to get fluids in him but I roused him periodically for sips of water. Still, I saw his lips getting dry. As the fever crested over the 104 point, I finally gave him Tylenol. This child has a mild clotting disorder (in addition to bilateral hearing loss and asthma), so Ibuprofen is not an option. In general, I let fevers run their course, but above 104 (and climbing), I was ready to move into action with a fever reducer. Tylenol brought the fever down to about 102 within two hours. With his sleeping schedule so off and feeling better on fever reducer, he was up for a few hours in the middle of the night. He urinated two times this day. Very dizzy. Needed help walking to bathroom.
  3. Tuesday (2/6)–Wakes feeling a little better. Fever hovers around 101 to 102 all day without fever reducer. At 8:10 am, while lying down, a nose bleed starts. Nose bleeds are difficult given his clotting disorder (not hemophilia). It took one hour to quell bleeding. Two times in the two hours thereafter, the clot was disrupted and we had more bleeding, but both were resolved in 20-30 minutes. This took us up to about 11 am. Slept most of afternoon. Woke up with fever down to 100 degrees. Yay. My husband came home from work early to spell me. Yay. And was here in time to witness and clean up the vomit of mostly blood and water. Child spends evening panicked about throwing up again. 3rd day with virtually no food.
  4. Wednesday (2/7)–Sleeps in as possibility of school is still out. Nose bleeds starts almost immediately upon waking. Bright red blood all over our light colored, eco-friendly wool carpet. My husband had only just pulled out of driveway. Called him back to deal with nosebleed while I scrubbed all of the blood spots on the carpet with mineral water (very very useful in getting out blood stains). Fever down to 99.0. Mostly a better day with some appetite returning. Cough begins late in day. Because my son has asthma, we started him using his nebulizer. Anxiety about potential of returning to school the following day (yes, this child also suffers from anxiety) and so he was very late falling to sleep. Peaceful sleep, however, once sleep comes.
  5. Thursday (2/8)–at least so far. Wakes up late. I let him sleep in (for him, this is 7:45 or 8). Wakes up with quite a cough. No fever. Use nebulizer. Almost normal appetite. No nose bleed. Yay! Epsom salt bath in warmest water he can tolerate to help start clearing toxins out and loosen lungs.

Meanwhile, I have the latest, greatest (I hope) version/revision of my memoir-in-progress due to a writing mentor tomorrow.  Yes, it could be rescheduled but it might get worked into her schedule much later and I have a pitch fest coming up in April. I want this done by then so need to stay on track. I’ve been working in tiny bursts this week. I’m trying to listen to Natalie Goldberg’s words, told to those of us who attended a Q & A session with her at The Loft Literary Center (Mpls) : Don’t let your writing be tossed aside.

Because it’s been such a tough week, its especially important to become intentional with my gratitude. I’m grateful for these things:

  1. My husband and I are remaining healthy (we think he had the flu in November and me in September);
  2. Although we’ve been on the brink of going to the ER a few times, we’ve managed to deal with this flu at home.
  3. I’ve been able to be home with my son this week.
  4. My husband wasn’t traveling for work this week.
  5. Our highly demanding kitten, Bilbo, has seemed to understand he needed to be extra good this week.
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Bilbo would not be tossed aside; on Monday, high fever day, Bilbo insisted on being right next to Josh, purring. I’ve read cat’s purrs are healing. I think Bilbo was trying to help my little guy out.

Because my memoir has exploded into a generational memoir over the last few months, I’ve been seeped in research. I’ve been very mindful this week that my Great Aunt Teresa died 100 years ago, of the 1918 flu epidemic. I’m also grateful for life, mine and my lovelies.

 

Embracing Winter Mind

First, listen to “The Snow Man” by Wallace Stevens to help you get into “a mind of winter.”

Then, here’s some examples of how I’ve been embracing winter mind:

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Lighting candles against morning darkness.
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Making silly snowmen with my son.
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Rising early to photograph the blue, blood #moon.
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Walking on frozen lakes at dusk.
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Noticing how light and shadows play together. Photo by HFP
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Stopping to listen to hearty, old winter buskers. Photo by HFP
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Hanging out in winter sun with Bilbo. #catsknowbest Photo by HFP
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Wearing cozy flannel #RedandWhite polka dot pajama pants.
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Celebrating #winterblooms, however small.
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Figuring out how to write while balancing a cat and computer on my lap.
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Reading a good book while enjoying a hot mug of tea. #amreading
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And, best of all, writing every day in January. #amwriting

Now I Can See

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I live across from a cemetery now; the neighbors are rather quiet.

The corners of the sky glow pink and red as the last of this New Year’s daylight slips away.

I’ve just come through one of the more difficult parenting months of my life. The months ahead do not look less difficult, but perhaps unknown light will emerge around the edges of the darkness. There is, in any situation, always room for hope.

Last night, I journaled about the low lights and highlights of 2017, a practice I learned from Sister Karol Jackowski. I was blessed to take both Spiritual Writing and Nature Writing from “Karol” during my MFA program. From Karol, I not only learned to write better, I learned to live better.

In accessing my low and highlights, I recognized (which I think is the point of this exercise) the kernels of grace that exist in each down turn, each dark path. Many of the seeds of my highlights were germinated in the low lights.

Whether fortune or foe, who is to say, goes a familiar Buddhist teaching.

“Barn burned down, now I can see the moon.”  Mizuta Masahide

Now I can see.

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And sometimes, the barn can be salvaged.

Ann Klotz on The Writing Life

Sometimes, you meet a person who just opens your heart and soul. This past October, I met writer Ann Klotz at a Kate Hopper retreat. Ann and I had known one another online for a while, but this was our first in-person meeting.

Everything Ann wrote at that October retreat was a heart song. Ann seems to possess an almost natural ability to spin words into gold. Not only a writer, Ann also is the Headmistress of Laurel School in Cleveland, Ohio.

Ann writes in her latest essay, “Writing is Everything,” about the struggles she has with finding writing time. I relate to everything in this essay at a deep soul level. Yet it seems that Ann, when she does write, has no trouble dropping right into the kind of soul writing I wrote about a few blog posts back, after I returned from the October Kate Retreat.

These days, whenever I see that Ann has published a new essay, I drop everything and read it, right away. I know it will move me, I know it will be important in a way that elevates the everydayness of life into a heart-gripping tale of my own life. Ann has an uncanny knack at tapping into the universal. If you too are trying for a writing life, I hope you too drop everything and read Ann’s latest essay up on Brevity today.

via Writing is Everything

I’ve Been Holding Back

I’m always holding back. I hold back my writing, because maybe I’ll use it somewhere else someday. Maybe there will be a better time or place to put my words out into the world.

I hold back feelings of hope in a futile attempt to tamp down the potential for disappointment.

I hold back feeling joy, in an effort to stave off feeling sadness.

I hold back love. I’m not sure why I hold back love. I sense it has something to do with trying to keep chaos at bay. For me, love and chaos were once intimately linked. At the very least, I know I hold back love when my world is at its most chaotic. For example, whenever my youngest son’s health issues creep into the forefront of our lives, as they have this fall, I fold deeper into myself. My capacity to show love to those in my life declines. My life becomes singularly focused on trying to control the uncontrollable: my son’s health.

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Early morning ramble at the retreat.

I attended Kate Hopper’s Motherhood and Words writing retreat in northern Wisconsin two weeks ago. It was my fourth time attending this retreat and I always come away with new insight and new words. I’m still shaping some of the essays I started at that retreat and I’m mulling over the direction I received from Kate, other attendees, and my inner guidance: Overhaul your entire manuscript. Begin again. Rewrite it a fourth time. This time, actually retype the whole thing. I’m kind of resisting the direction right now. I know this because I started applying for editorial jobs. Wouldn’t it be better to be an editor again, rather than a writer, I ask myself. I ignore the writing contract that I made with myself last May, when I graduated with my MFA, when I agreed to let my “writing self” have a year before my “get-shit-done self” stepped in and told writing self to get a real job.

Even in my resistance, I’m still thinking about the rewrite and how it will be done, how the manuscript will be shaped so differently this time around. I’m reading about five other memoirs right now (not unusual–I live my life juggling numerous books). Reading to observe structure, more than to absorb content. That said, I’m sucking the marrow out of Claire Dederer’s Poser: my life in twenty-three yoga poses. I’ve come late to the Poser party, but am so glad I came.

Another bit of wisdom I brought back with me from Wisconsin is an idea that another writer shared. This writer shares a first name with me, so it’s only natural that her wisdom would resonate deep within. She told us she was trying to move from “ego writing” to “soul writing.” She described the difference. Ego writing resists going deep and, instead, slips safely along the surface. Soul writing, in contrast, dares to reveal the shadow side, dares to become all it can be. In other words, soul writing doesn’t hold back.

It feels scary to me, but I am going to watch for the places where I am holding back. In those places, once observed, I will ask myself if I can give a little more. I will take small steps until it no longer seems so scary to give myself to my writing, my loves, my life.

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The fog always lifts, eventually.

Like birds do, I want to enter each day with a feeling of abundance and generosity. I’m tired of living small; I’m tired of holding back.

 

 

On Manifesting One’s Dreams

Just over 15 years ago, I got divorced. At the time, I was a perfectionist (and still in recovery today). Divorce didn’t fit into my story about perfection. To complicate matters, in high school, I’d been voted “Most Likely to Succeed.” I’d taken that silly vote as a directive: You must succeed. Plus, I held a very narrow definition of success back then (case in point: I went to law school when I wanted to get my Masters in English, focusing on creative writing). A divorce certainly didn’t sound anything like “success;” instead it reeked of failure. After the divorce, this straight-A student (although law school cured me of my straight A streak), felt like I was walking around with a huge red “F” on my shirt.

But life goes on. You eventually move on. You become kinder with yourself (and hopefully with others) and you give yourself more grace. You develop new goals, like becoming a certified yoga instructor and going back to school and getting your MFA. You begin making lists of venues where you’d like to see your work. One of those lists (written in your journal, where you are known to create many different kinds of lists) included getting published on Jennifer Pastiloff’s The Manifest-Station. (Jen happens to be both a writer hero of mine and a yogi hero!)

Woo hoo! Woo hoo!

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Profile of my daughter watching Polica at Eaux Claires Fest 2015

 

Completing my MFA; Entering the Void

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Photo credit: Heyli Howard (photo taken at E’s high school graduation).

Normally, by this point in the school week, I would have long since written the requisite blog post for my Immersion in Publishing class. This week, however, I’ve been dragging my heels. When I paused to assess the reason for this uncharacteristic procrastination, I realized it was because I was putting off an ending.

With this post, I am completing my last assignment for this class, which is the last class of my MFA program. The moment I post this on my blog (and in Canvas, the online platform utilized by Bay Path), I will essentially be done with my MFA (aside from a few final responses to classmates and one last class this coming Thursday). As much as I’ve looked forward to (even counted down the weeks) to the ending of my MFA program, now that it is upon me, I feel myself hitting the brakes. Why is that?

It’s been a good week to contemplate the nature of endings. My son, Ethan, just completed his last college class on Friday; he’ll be graduating with a BFA in painting and drawing next weekend. For me, that is an ending to celebrate. Back in 2007, when my ex-husband lost everything (thankfully we were already divorced five years at the time and so my finances were no longer tied to his—with the exception of losing child support payments for a time), I had no idea how I’d manage to pay for our two kids’ college educations (although still four and six years ahead). It had always been my goal (was once my ex’s goal too) to do this for Han and E.

In the end, everything worked out. We lived frugally and (thanks to a promotion at work) I saved lots of money in CDs when interest rates were still high. Remarrying helped free up my savings towards Han and E’s college. Plus, my ex was finally able to help out with E’s college. Now, I’ve (*we’ve) done it. I’ve put Han and E. through college. Ethan—bless his heart—knew this distinct goal of mine and he congratulated me (Yes, he congratulated me!) on the day he completed college. So, I’ve done what I set out to do, a commitment made when my ex and I divorced. I’ve completed the raising of those two kids (which is not to say that Han doesn’t still call me every weekend, seeking advice). The rest is up to them.

It’s interesting how easily I celebrate the end of my children’s college years, but my own grad school completion, not so much. I think this is because my own ending creates a void. It’s the void of “what’s next?” especially when you’re a creative and the path is not obvious (as it might be to someone graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering). I see Ethan entering the void as well; he spent yesterday updating his artist web site. Anticipating the void, Kate Whouley, the instructor of my two publishing classes, asked us to draft and submit a signed writer’s contract. My professors have done their part. The rest is up to me.

The void created in the absence of the MFA program is mine to fill. To fill the void, I will keep writing.

The truest thing I’ve learned over the past three years of this MFA work is that I am a writer. Submitting pieces and receiving rejections is a part of the game. Having an essay or poem rejected is an ending (of the hope you had). It creates a void. To fill that void, I’ve learned to do one of three things: revise the piece (again), put it aside to mature (and then revise), or submit it immediately to another publication. This game is always half terror, half hope. But the act of writing (into the void) is what I love and that is why I’ll keep writing.

In honor of this ending, I compiled a list of my top ten hardest endings (in no particular order):

  1. 1999: A soulful friendship lost
  2. 1979: My black tuxedo kitten—Uncle Beethoven—run over by a car
  3. 1986: End of gymnastics career with back injury sustained during a vault
  4. 2016: A soulful friendship lost
  5. 2009: Putting my daughter Hannah on a plane, heading alone to Japan, effectively ending her childhood
  6. 2005: A soulful friendship lost
  7. 1988: The summer before college, when I was too entrenched in a binge eating disorder to feel (or understand) my high school losses
  8. 2014: My mom selling “our share” in the family cabin that my grandfather built and my last visit as an “owner”
  9. 2002: The end of my parent’s marriage, because it came the same year as my own divorce and their ability to parent me (as an adult child) came to an end exactly when I was in need of extra support
  10. 1984: The year my brother Scott headed to California on his red Kawasaki motorcycle, my brother Rob moved to the Twin Cities, and my brother Chris returned to college, leaving me home alone to referee my parents’ chaotic marriage

Not all endings are necessarily negative. And even with the “bad” ones above, I can now see what eventually came in to fill the void (except when Uncle Beethoven died). To end on a positive note, here are my top five endings (in no particular order):

  1. 2002: End of my marriage
  2. 2009: Remarriage ends my years of being single
  3. 2017: Second child of my first marriage completes college and I achieve one of my top five lifetime goals by seeing my oldest two kids through college
  4. 2010: Han home from Japan (end of Rotary year)
  5. 1998: End of short career practicing law

And now, I enter the void; I enter a time of waiting for new structures and experiences to add shape to my writing life.

*My husband, my ex, my ex’s spouse, and me