Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Six weeks in review

I've spent an embarrassing amount of time today trying to figure out how to represent the last six weeks of my life as a line graph. Tonight was the last session of my running class and I realized today that quite a lot has happened since I began.

I was hoping to create a graph with the horizontal axis listing dates from mid-September til now, and the vertical axis showing my stress level on a scale of 1 to 10. The goal was to show how CRAZY and STRESSFUL and OFF THE CHARTS my life has been lately. A veritable emotional roller coaster.

But I'm no master of excel, so I'm going to have to stick with my normal method: the long winded essay.

Let's go back to the week of September 12th, shall we? That was the first night of my running class. I ran a 10:22 minute mile. Awesome. Very happy and proud of myself.  A new way to unwind is always a good thing. This came in handy when, later that week, Hubbins and I had an uncomfortable but necessary conversation about our spending. Mostly mine. And how it was excessive. Or something like that, the details are hazy.

On September 21st, Hubbins started school! HOORAY! He's pretty much a genius full of untapped mental resources. He's talked vaguely about going back to school before, but never very seriously. This year, with prodding from his boss, he decided to make it happen. He's working toward a four year degree (estimated graduation date: Spring 2013). His strength is numbers so he's nervous about all the reading and writing it's going to require. I keep reminding him that this is why he married an English major. And why I married a math whiz who can budget.

The next week, Hubbins left town for three days on a business trip. I decided not to go (having saved nothing for a weekend at the spa). It was just as well I stayed home.

On Thursday the 29th, I got an email from my dad saying that the nursing home we visited had an opening and Mom could move in immediately. Gulp. On Friday, my sister and I packed a suitcase and gathered a few mementos from home for Mom to take with her. This was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. Mom was emotional about leaving home, and it took all the strength we could muster to stay positive and reassure her the change would be a good thing. We smiled and rubbed her back and promised she'd be in good hands and that we'd visit often. But all I wanted to do was cry in her lap. I desperately wanted Mom to reassure me that everything would be OK and that she understood our good intentions. It was a terrible day, and I went home to an empty house.

When Hubbins came home, we worked on his first few homework assignments before I left on vacation. My co-worker and exercise buddy Michelle and I took off for PALM SPRINGS! We shopped, got facials, read, laid in the sun by the pool, and ate at an awesome new restaurant downtown Palm Springs. Sunshine never felt so medicinal.

My first day back to work was uneventful, until I got home to a waterfall over the front door.

A week later, once the fans and de-humidifiers were finally removed and the floor-to-ceiling plastic pulled down, we thought the worst was over. Then our oven blew up. Hubbins and I were watching TV on Monday this week when we saw a blazing light coming from inside the oven. We peeked through the oven window and it was like looking directly into the sun. I thought a biscuit had fallen off the cookie sheet and burst into flames. But the the heating element had split in two. Repairs pending.

Throughout all this, I've attended the running clinic twice a week. Tonight was our last session. I've been reflecting today on how much running has helped me cope. Even when my preference was to curl up on the couch in my jammies, I ran. Every night felt like an accomplishment. My head cleared, my muscles ached, and my perspective improved. I did a lot of emotional eating over the last six weeks and gained back several pounds, but I kept running. Tonight, my mile pace was 9:56. SUCCESS!

The next series of classes begins in two weeks. We'll be running after dark, so we get to wear headlamps. I don't know what wild and crazy things will happen between now and mid December, but running will help me take it in stride.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


You are never going to believe what happened last night. It involves firemen and flooding.

On the way home from work I dropped Hubbins off at a coffee shop near our house so he could do some homework (he recently went back to school!). I came home to change out of my work clothes and unload some boxes we had in the trunk, to make room for groceries. I said hi to the kitties and filled the bathroom sink with a little cold water and closed the drain to give Rajah a little drink (he loves drinking out of the sink). Both faucets were off (this is important).

Then I went on my merry way to the farm stand to get produce. I was gone for 30 or 45 minutes.

When I came home, there was a firetruck in the street right in front of our driveway. The neighbor lady was standing in her driveway looking up at our laundry room. There were three firemen outside the front door, and one was up on a ladder, about to break a window on the second story to get in. Hot water was pouring from the ceiling of our entry way, from the bathroom and laundry room (directly above the front door).

I jumped out of my car and the neighbor lady shouted, "Here she is!"

A fireman said, "Hello, Ma'am, do you live here?

"Yes!" I said.

He shouted up to the fireman on the ladder, "We have the homeowner!" Broken glass averted.

I opened the front door. Water was running through the ceiling. There was water at the bottom of the stairs, all our shoes were wet, and the area rug was completely soaked with standing water on top of it.

The firemen and I ran upstairs. In the bathroom, the sink (still plugged) was overflowing onto the floor and the hot water faucet was on full blast. The first fireman turned off the faucet and unplugged the drain.
Another fireman said, "You better call your landlord."

I grinned weakly, "we own this place."

"I think you're pretty lucky," the third fireman said, "If there is a positive side to this, the water just went straight down and out, it didn't ruin the carpet on the stairs."

They told me the neighbor had called 911 when she discovered hot water pouring from our house. Not just out from under the front door, but falling from the second story onto our front step. She knocked on our door and was dripped on by a tropical waterfall.

The firemen and I went back down to the entry way. Water had run down the inside of the wall and created a big bubble in the paint. I've always hated that paint, but it was thick enough to hold probably 4 cups of hot water. The firemen recommended that I pop the bubble and avoid any more damage to the sheet rock. I ran to gather towels.

When I came back, they took my name and phone number. One said, "Well, we're going to leave you now. Good luck!"

I said, "Thank you so much for coming. I would have had a heart attack if I'd come home to this by myself."

I was bewildered by it all but so relieved our house was not in flames. I asked, "Do you get many calls for water?"

"Oh yeah. You'd be surprised." (Little comfort.)

They left. I moved my car from the street to our driveway. I went inside and started cleaning up what I could. I used every towel we own. It was hot and steamy. I was sweating and crying. I don't know what was worse, finding a home owner's emergency or calling my husband and telling him, "The bathroom flooded. There were firemen here. It's bad."

Hubbins walked home while I cleaned.

He found me and about 20 towels, all sopping wet. Mr. Calm Cool and Collected called the insurance company and the water damage cleanup folks.

The cleanup crew spent today dismantling the bathroom, tearing up laminate flooring (which we laid two short years ago) and removing all the damaged drywall. Our toilet and sink are on the back porch. The whole bathroom area is sealed with floor-to-ceiling plastic. There are giant de-humidifiers and fans running.

It looks like ET in here, that scene near the end where guys in HazMat suits quarantine Elliot's house. I have to unzip a plastic barrier to go downstairs.

Former sink location

Former toilet location

Zippered plastic hallway

Please make sure all your sinks have overflow drain holes. Ours didn't. Now it's full of rain water on the porch.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Book of the month: A Grace Disguised

September's reading was recommended on a blog I follow called Team Ewan. Kirsten's review is far more eloquent than anything I can say about it. Her beautiful and heart wrenching writing has been a big encouragement to me. So I took note when she recommended a book about loss.

I loved the book. The honest, raw, vulnerable discussion of grief was really soothing to me, especially this week. It provided a little glimmer of light.

On Friday, we moved my mom to a nursing home. Alzheimer's has done a number on her motor skills and basic functioning, and it reached a point that needed professional attention. Notice how I defend the decision, as if you're questioning the necessity of long-term care. Like I described here, mom doesn't belong among elderly invalids. But she does require more care than my family can provide.

The transition hurts a lot. Knowing she's not at home anymore means I can't pretend, even subconsciously, that life will ever return to normal.

It hurts too much to say anything else at this point.