It’s a Monday night in mid-May. The boys are sleeping, pup is outside, kitty is asleep on my bed, and hubby and I are watching the Celtics playing in the playoffs. I’m half-watching as I write – I have a story in my head, a story I need to tell – and the words have been flowing nicely.

We’re still in-between – no definite timing for our move, yet we know it’s happening. We’re working on paring down our stuff. We need to get rid of the baby toys, as the kiddos are six-and-a-half and three, and we have no need for them. I need to sort through my books and set aside those I don’t plan to read or re-read, and truly, I need to get rid of more than I typically would. When it comes to books, I tend to hoard more than I read, because I feel like I will get to them eventually. while I know I probably won’t, I still feel the need to keep them all – and I need to change that.

Let me know if you want to go through my books before I bring them to Goodwill or the like – I know I’ve already had a conversation with a couple people about the books I have and the plan to get rid of them. I think that will be the most difficult piece of going through all of our stuff – getting rid of books. I’ve always used books as an escape, both when I was really young and in school, and then later before I met my husband. I was painfully awkward for quite a while, and didn’t quite know how to deal with it. I used books as my escape. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Hubs and I are trying to narrow down an area to look for houses, and it’s tricky being here in NH when we know that we are looking in IL. I can’t see neighborhoods. I can’t see what the area is like at 9pm. I can’t see how busy it is at 2pm on a Saturday, when the boys would love to be outside riding their bikes. We’re going to head out there to see what we need to look out for as far as areas go, and while it’s not an ideal situation – house shopping from over 1000 miles away isn’t ideal in any situation – it’s what are doing.

I’m excited, yet apprehensive, for our move. Luckily we have some people out there we’re friends with, and I’ve met another friend through my CPST groups that is local. Of course, I’ll miss our friends and family here, but thankfully, it’s a quick, inexpensive flight to Chicago from Manchester.

We’re incredibly lucky to have some great support. It’s a big change. It’s a lot of work, and a lot to do in a short amount of time. I’m thankful for the down-time I’m able to take, to decompress and get some words on paper (electronically or not), and for the boys to be able to play with their many cousins whenever we have the opportunity. Things are changing, yes. Sometimes, change is good.

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Journey on…

They say life is a journey, right?

Other than a brief stay in Le Mans, France fifteen years ago (how has it been 15 years already??), I’ve always lived in New England, never straying too far from my hometown. Life has taken us from NH to Maine and back again. We have been in NH for almost 4 years now, and have seen our share of changes: our second son was born in May 2015, we have a dog, and now a new cat. We bought a house in fall of 2015, and have settled in an area close to my family. I work nearby, and the boys go to school close – the oldest is six and in first grade, and the youngest in almost three and in daycare. It’s a busy life, with a lot going on: Tae Kwon Do and Cub Scouts for the big kid, with multiple other events tossed around.

We visited the Chicago suburbs in mid-January, bringing the boys on their first flight. They absolutely loved the airplane and being able to “take to the skies,” as the wee one crooned for the majority of the two and a half hour journey. They were incredibly well-behaved for the entirety of the flight, through the airports (both here at home and in Chicago), and on our way to the hotel. It was a very early morning flight, and I was astonished at the high level of good behavior they exhibited. They tolerated the long drives well, and we were able to check out the Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops in the area. There’s a lot to do in the surrounding areas, even without venturing into Chicago itself.

The journey has recently brought us in a new direction. Husband o’ mine has earned a promotion and will be starting a new position at the US office of his current company – in Aurora, Illinois. This means that we’ll be moving at some point over the next year, settling in the Chicago suburbs. It’s a huge change. I am excited for the new adventure. It’s funny, because though we have talked about it quite a bit over the past few years, it’s actually becoming a reality.

We don’t have a timeline yet, just a vague at some point soonish. There are a lot of moving parts, and we have a lot to consider. But I’m looking forward to our next adventure.

And don’t worry, NH, we’ll be back to visit.

safety is my middle name

Passion is relative.

Everyone’s level of passion for one thing or another is set at a different level – and while I may consider myself to be relatively passionate about something, you over there may think I’m over-the-top crazy about it. And that thing I’m “relatively passionate” (over-the-top to you) about may be of little importance or concern to you, be it because it has no relevance in your life, or because you either don’t care or aren’t informed.

My big passion is car seat safety – child passenger safety.

Not long after I found out I was pregnant with littleman, the recommendation came out from the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) to rear-face children until they reach at least 2 years old, or until they reach the height or weight limits for their rear-facing child safety seat. With a bit of research, that limit could be extended to 3 or 4 years old quite easily, depending on the seat that is used. My goal was to rear-face littleman as long as I could – at least 2 years – but I didn’t do my research all too well. I bought a seat that was very, very convenient for installation and harness adjustment. It was awesome – until littleman was about 13 months old, well ahead of 2 years old. He has always been a tall boy. At birth, he was 21.5 inches long, and by the time he was 13 months old, he had reached the rear-facing height limit of his seat. At that point, well, I begrudgingly turned him forward-facing (FF). With the seat we had, it was the only safe way for him to ride.

I came across The Car Seat Lady and The Baby Guy NYC (two awesome resources for parents and families – both are on Facebook – TCSL and TBGNYC, Twitter – TCSL and TBGNYC, and have their own websites – referenced above). I also found Car Seats for the Littles (there is also a Facebook page), a closed group of child passenger safety technicians (CPSTs) and parents that are incredibly knowledgeable about car seats and safety recommendations. In this closed group you can post pictures of your installed seat and get feedback on the install; additionally, they will let you know anything you have questions about. It’s great.

It was in the CSFTL group that I found the initial mention that children should remain rear-facing as long as possible – as close to age 4 as possible. Before age 4, the bones in the neck and spinal column are not mature enough – strong enough – to support significant injury. The risks of neck and spinal injury are significantly higher for younger children than older – this article from the CSFTL people does a fabulous job of explaining why it’s extremely important to keep kids rear-facing as long as possible. What it comes down to, though, is the ossification (closing/hardening) of the spinal vertebrae.

Once I found the information stating the importance of Extended Rear-Facing (ERF), I did more research and found out that I could potentially rear-face littleman for a bit longer. This was about 10 months after I had switched him FF – but I knew that he would be safer the other way. I took all of the loose change I could find, and bought two new seats. These seats are some of the longest rear-facing seats on the market – and with my extremely tall boy, he would definitely hit the weight limit prior to hitting the height limit. 10 months after he outgrew his RF Evenflo Triumph and began FF, I switched him back RF in a Graco MySize 70. He’s extremely comfortable, and significantly safer. For my peace of mind, and for his safety, and thanks to the Child Passenger Safety Technicians I dealt with, my son is safe in the car. Very, very safe.

The only other way I could ensure that he is as safe as can be, in addition to keeping him in a rear-facing seat as long as he fits, is to make sure I know a) how to safely install his seat, b) how to safely buckle him in, and c) when he outgrows his seat rear-facing. Once he hits the limits, it’s no longer the safest way for him to ride. He knows now that to be safe, his top of his chest clip must be level with his armpits, and he lifts it there himself if I don’t do it soon enough. He also tries to tighten the straps, but can’t quite get it there – can’t reach far enough once the straps begin to tighten!

My goal, due to everything I have learned in the past 18 months, is to Become a Tech with Safe Kids Worldwide. I want to be able to help others as I have been helped in the past few years, and I want to be able to make a difference. There is an abundance of incorrect information out there – even with pediatricians. The vast majority of pediatricians are not CPSTs, and are not up to date on child passenger safety. It’s scary when you find the science to prove that your child is safest rear-facing at LEAST to age 2, but your pediatrician – someone that most people will trust without any question, and someone that a lot of people will take the word of with no question – tells you that it’s “safer to have your child forward-facing at age 2” (this was straight from our pediatrician – word for word).

The majority of parents don’t know how to correctly install a car seat in a vehicle.

Many parents don’t understand how to correctly and safely buckle a child into a car seat.

And many parents don’t realize the importance of working with the maximums – not the minimums. Don’t rush your child to the next step. Keep them safest by working with the maximum allowances for moving to the next step – rear-facing to forward-facing, forward-facing to seatbelted booster, seatbelted booster to seatbelt. It’s just not worth the risk.

I am a runner… but only in my dreams.

I have always wanted to run.

I’ve wanted to be a runner.

To outsiders, it appears to be something of a brotherhood… to insiders, well, I have no idea – I’m not on the inside.

I dream of running.

Literally. I regularly have dreams that I can run longer distances (I’ll run miles – long miles – and not be winded – and make it the whole distance – without hurting).

I bought a jogging stroller shortly after munchkin man was born, and fully intended to use it. I had plans to complete the C25K program, and seriously, honestly thought I would do it.

I checked in with my PT, whose response infuriated me, yet motivated at the same time: “Are you CRAZY???”

Then, just a few weeks ago, reality set in.

I’ll never be a runner; I’ll never run that 5k.

I’m realizing that, as I get older, my joints are a lot less stable than they were even a year ago.

I dislocated my wrist closing the car door.

I dislocated a pinky (in two different places) putting on Munchkin Man’s coat.

I dislocated my jaw eating.

I know that there will be those people that will read this and think, “she’s just lazy. why doesn’t she exercise? why doesn’t she make it her goal to run that 5k and, well, just DO it? why doesn’t she make herself stronger, make her joints more stable?”

It’s not that easy.

For me, exercise = pain.

For me, a lot of the time, exercise = injury.

Also – people with EDS are believed to have decreased muscle tone, which means that it is difficult to keep things in place (even more than it already is).

EDS is like that. I was given my “diagnosis,” which consisted of the rheumatologist writing the phrase “Ehlers Danlos Syndrome Type III” on a piece of paper, handing it to me, telling me to do some research, and walking out the door. When I requested my “notes” from this office visit (“Ehlers Danlos Type III, Hypermobility, if pain, then injury. Be careful.”), I was surprised – he hadn’t given me much information, but what he had given me, finally, was an answer. I had always known that there was something wrong, but of course, in the back of my mind I thought it was all in my head. I wondered if I was a hypochondriac, if I was just over-sensitive. But this was eye-opening. There is a lot of joint instability, pain, injury, and therefore uncertainty with this condition. I didn’t realize just how difficult it would be to find a good doctor that could explain to me what everything meant (EDS is a connective tissue disorder – the connective tissue I have contains damaged or incomplete collagen, and that’s irreversible). I didn’t know what it would take to find a doctor that was willing to educate him- or herself to know how best to treat me… I’m still looking for a good primary care doctor to take care of my everyday needs, someone that is willing to learn or that already knows about EDS.

After my quack diagnosis from the “if pain, then injury, be careful” doctor I went down to Boston for a second opinion (with direction after the fact that my primary care doctor would continue my treatment after I left). It was the right choice, because they were able to tell me what to watch out for, and how best to keep myself from hurting myself (splints and braces). Gentle exercise (walking and swimming), nothing high-impact. And best of all – one of the real reasons we went down to see the Geneticist in the first place – it was safe to have a baby. It would mean that I would be considered high-risk and I would need more close monitoring to be sure I wasn’t going into premature labor, but I would be able to carry a child.

We have had our (first) child; I had an uneventful pregnancy and carried to 39 weeks. Throughout my pregnancy, from week 13 through week 30, I was closely monitored to ensure I would not go into labor early; this meant monthly ultrasounds and extra genetic counseling. I got to see my baby more before he was even born, and I knew I was healthy and progressing normally.

One of the risks with EDS is the chance of passing it along to children; there is a 50% chance is passing it to my children because it is an autosomal dominant gene – you only need one copy to have the condition. It’s still early, but we will likely know by the time he is in early adolescence whether munchkin man also has EDS. Because of the nature of the beast, there’s no GOOD genetic test right now for type III, because the gene has not yet been isolated. The test is mediocre at best – a 50% chance of accuracy – and because it is still so new (and not yet very accurate), insurance won’t cover it. It’s rather expensive.

Growing up I was rather active – I played softball and soccer, and danced ballet (even making it en pointe for a full year before the pain in my knees made me stop – well, that and my orthopedist telling me that one day my knees would just go. Full disclosure – the orthopedist was right – they just started to give one day, walking across the road). Even at the height of all my activity, I was in constant pain and because I didn’t know any different, I thought it was normal. I pushed through it. I didn’t realize how much harm I was actually causing to my body. Since my senior year of high school I have had 4 joints operated on – both knees, my left shoulder, and my right ankle. Both knees were essentially rearranged and fixed to make them more stable (they no longer give out with no warning); my left shoulder was repaired after a fall, though it was not successful; my right ankle was repaired after I turned it standing (see this, this, this, this, and this for details). I still have extensive pain in all of my joints – especially the surgically-modified ones – and my hands are getting worse every day.

I love, love, love to crochet. I recently finished an afghan for my new niece (at the beginning of October), but because of the pain in my hands, have not yet started my next project. Due to the progressive nature of EDS, I shouldn’t be surprised; however, because I am still relatively unfamiliar with everything that comes along with this diagnosis, I know that I have a ton of research still to do before I understand it as much as I should. I recently picked up this book by Dr. Brad Tinkle, which multiple people have recommended to me. It should be arriving soon.

The pain in my hands is exacerbated by the fact that I sit at a computer all day; I also enjoy writing (with a pen and paper) and do it when I can. I keep a journal (both one for myself and one for L), and hand-write each. Because of the pain that keeps increasing, I notice more and more how much my fingers hyper-extend. I try not to let them, but it’s rather difficult. I noticed on my drive home last night that even while driving they extend in ways they shouldn’t – in ways that cause me intense pain. I have been looking into these – they keep fingers from bending in ways they shouldn’t – and have schedule appointments with an occupational and physical therapist; she was actually the one that pointed me in the direction of rheumatology in the first place, and suggested I find out if I did in fact have increased hypermobility. Hopefully she will be able to point me in the right direction of things I need to do to ensure that I don’t hurt myself more, and perhaps even help stabilize my hands and fingers.

I will never be a runner. I will never dance ballet again. I will never be able to play basketball (not that I ever could anyway!), or climb a mountain. It’s not recommended, it’s not smart, and the amount of increased pain and daily difficulties it causes me is immense. I apparently hide it well. I’m lucky – I have a very, very supportive husband. He gets it. He sees me living with it day in and day out – and does not try to push me in ways that he knows would hurt me.

I may love the idea of running, but I will never, ever BE a runner… unless you count running in my dreams.

A belated birthday wish.

Munchkin man turned two last Thursday. I just… yeah. Still speechless over this fact. He is an amazing boy, such a joy. He is cuddly and loving and smart and silly and wow, does he keep us running. He’s always moving, always doing something. He is very self-aware, and loves his “kitty brother.” He gives awesome kisses and when we’re in the grocery store and I’m struggling with the self-scan checkout line and the register is misbehaving and one of the people has to keep coming over to allow me to continue to ring up our groceries, he loves to pull on my arm and pull me in with both hands so he can just hug and hold on and not let go. I’m still in awe of the fact that he’s ours. I don’t need to give him back. I get to keep him. He’s ours. He’s half me, half hubby, and we don’t have to give him back. I had always dreamed of this day – the day that some little one would yell for me – “Mommy!!” – while I was still getting out of the shower in the morning, before it was time to get up, before the day had even begun – and I’d be happy and more-than-willing to go gather this sweet-smelling boy from his bed and kiss his still-warm cheeks and just live in the moment. I need to remember that he’s not little for long… to live in the moment. To enjoy the time we have while we have it, because, cliché or not, he’s only little once, and it won’t be for long. To put down the electronics and play with the trains and make silly pictures and paint without worrying about getting dirty and dig in the sandbox and splash in the “cuddles” – the puddles – because it makes him happy. This love I feel for someone so small, so tiny, yet oh-so-big in personality and generosity – he gives me his favorite train to play with! – and kindness and love – this love I feel is boundless. It is never-ending. It is amazing, and makes my heart pound and skip a beat… literally. Who knew that the dreams I had years, years ago, would come to fruition in such an amazing way? This boy stole my heart just over two years ago, and has relentlessly held onto it since – and I’m okay with that. He’s my little man, my sunshine, my “babyman,” my munchkin, my monkey. He is my world. Happy birthday, monkey man.

In a state of confusion

Life has been upside-down lately. Many things have changed significantly; many things are completely the same. Much like my almost-two-year-old, I’m used to order and crave structure.

Life is a roller coaster; I understand that. There should be ups and downs – without them, there would be too much monotony and frankly, life would be completely boring.

I like boring.

When life isn’t boring, I become stressed.

When I become stressed, I internalize my panic and nerves and worries and strife – and out come health issues.

Gluten sensitivity to the point that I need to consume a strict gluten-free diet.

Headaches so intense I can’t function well.

Depression.

Pain.

This roller coaster, it’s a jarring ride.

I have been able to buffer the “jarriness” of the ride with books, my crocheting, and my family. It’s difficult, but with the anticipation of my sister’s new baby arriving (any day now!!!!) and crazy workdays (I’m back working in the office – after 3.5 months of working at home, at the beginning of June I headed back in for my hour-long commute and am back in the office. Oh, and I changed my hours – I go in -and therefore get out- an hour earlier. Good in the long run, sucks getting up early) and stressful coworkers and too much craziness and not enough wine, well, it has been extra jarring.

When I’m going through a gluten sensitivity bout, I have extreme issues with consumption of anything containing wheat, barley, hops, and anything else in the category; I also get sick if I use a toaster to thaw my gluten free bread that has previously been used for gluten-filled bread. It doesn’t take much to make my insides want to just explode.

I had been exclusively gluten-free for about 3 months. A short bit ago, I realized that the “medicine” that I had been taking to help me consume gluten a little bit better (aka, eat gluten free but if I needed to be sure I didn’t get sick from cross-contamination, take two pills and call it good, and later, a box of macaroni and cheese or a calzone and some  onion rings – all full of gluten) had zero active ingredients. Zero. I decided to attempt some gluten, knowing that it was likely going to be absolutely no different than with the “medication” – and I was right. I had no adverse affects.

I started eating gluten again.

My stress level has not changed. Nothing in my life has changed to allow my stress level to decrease – things have actually gone in the opposite direction. My stress level is through the roof.

And my chronic pain is back. I woke up a few days ago and my hands were on fire. I actually started this post just over a week ago, but after typing all day at work, the last thing I want to do when I get home is type. I’m crocheting an afghan for my new niece, and that’s taking up all of my hand strength. That, and caring for an almost-two-year-old. When I stand up at work after sitting for a while, I can’t walk upright for a few moments – I look like an 80- or 90-year-old woman.

Life is crazy. Life is full of give-and-take, and making sacrifices.

As much as I love gluten, I believe that I need to make some (permanent) changes – I need to significantly reduce the amount of gluten I consume, and I need to regularly work out. I need to focus on my health, and I need to increase my strength and stamina. I am tired of always being tired, always being in pain, always needing to stop what I’m doing because my body won’t let me. I understand with EDS that I need to take it relatively easy on my joints, that there are some things I can’t do, but I need to make myself stronger. I just need to do it, and I need to do it now.

For my family.

For my sanity.

For me.

Officially official

I officially have a WIP. Scratch that; I have two. Never expected to officially have one, one I’m really fleshing out, let alone two!! One is a children’s book, one is a novel.
I’m excited. Excited to get this dream of mine on paper, excited to get these books out of my brain and in ink. Or, well, in pencil and on the computer. Or note cards for now. Fleshing things out from there is weird, but it’s working nicely.
Dreams are funny, especially those that may seem impossible to attain; it takes a lot of heart and sweat and boatloads of motivation and little sleep. I need to find that extra motivation around – the fact that I am able to carry around one of my WIPs with me wherever I go helps.
And to that note, while I wait for my car, time to work on it.

On healing: 7 weeks out

Today is (finally) Friday.

I had my first physical therapy visit a week ago Wednesday, my second yesterday, and I have  my third today. When I saw the doctor last (May 2), I was one day short of 5 weeks past surgery date. He wanted me done with the crutches by May 9, and out of the walking boot by May 23. I would be able to drive shortly after May 23. At that point I was still relying on the crutches completely, as I was being a good girl and following directions.

Well, that information set me free. I have been working from home since February 13, and the last time I drove was February 12. I had had enough. By May 4 I was finished with the crutches, and I haven’t used the walking boot since May 11. I will be practicing driving Saturday (in an empty parking lot), to make sure that my ankle will tolerate it.

I have been seeing the same physical therapist for the past 6 years (not just the same practice, but also the same therapist – he knows my joints quite well by now), and today I will be starting at a new practice. Because I have not been able to drive, my awesome husband has been chauffeuring me around for the past 3 months. To be honest, we’re both tired of it. However, it has to be done. Anyway. The new PT location is a mere 15 minutes away, whereas the old PT location is about an hour away, next to my office. It was perfect when I would go to PT then go directly to work – it cut down on the commute time significantly. But since I’m working out of the house (for another couple weeks), I can’t lose half of a day due to commuting and PT. It’s not quite convenient.

I’m nervous about seeing a new physical therapist, because Dave – the old one – knows me so well, and we have a good friendship as well. We talk books, we talk munchkin and his kids, we talk life. He gets it. He knows me. How will it be with this next person? Will we end up with a good camaraderie, or will I simply go to physical therapy, do my exercises, report on how I’m feeling, and go home? I spend so much time in physical therapy – in the past 6 years, the longest I went NOT in physical therapy was from February (or was it March?) 2011 to now. I spent 6 months straight at one point going to PT at least once a week. It’s just what happens when I so easily injure myself (I’m working on that).

I spent 20 minutes by myself with munchkin Monday night (while he was awake) – the first time I had done that in 2 months – followed by a couple hours later on that same evening (while he was asleep). It was nice to be able to have the ability to take care of munchkin on my own, and to know that I was trusted enough to do it.

***Fast forward 3.5 hours***

I had PT this morning with a new therapist, Justin. Things were very different from the last place. Old PT is one big room with lots of tables, and nothing is quiet. New PT is lots of little rooms for consults, and then one big room for exercises. At first I thought  – Hey! this isn’t normal. It’s weird! – but then I realized I preferred it. I don’t need everyone knowing my business. There was one other huge difference. Whenever I went to old PT, I made sure to bring a book because I was often on my own for a bit icing or with heat. For an hour appointment, I would really only have Dave to myself for about 15 minutes, and it was definitely not 15 minutes straight through. If I needed to ask a question, I had to either wait until he wasn’t with a different patient, or had to interrupt. I don’t know why they book every 20-30 minutes if appointments last 60. With new guy – Justin – I had him to myself. He worked with me, and I had his full attention the entire time. It was a great change. Justin also focused on things that are going to get me back to where I need to be more quickly, and better – I know all physical therapists are different, but it seemed like new PT had a better handle on what I need to recover to the best of my ability.

So here I am, 7 weeks out from surgery, walking in sneakers, and really in a much better place than I ever anticipated. I’m happy, healthy, and on the right track to being 100% healed.

What have you done better than you ever expected you could?

Nostalgia

Paris has always held a special place in my heart: the lights, the language, the romance of it all. Even before I knew what most of it was, I loved anything French – pastries, berets, anything that was typically French.

I spent most of my childhood listening to my mother, her siblings, and my grandmother – her mother – speak French when my sisters or I were around. It was their way of communicating over us – we had no idea what was being said. Hearing the melodic flowing of sounds made me want to learn the language, if only to know what they were saying. It was my first link to anything French, anything Parisian, and I loved it.

Once I entered junior high – 7th grade – I had my first opportunity to take French classes. I loved it. Classes were relatively short – 45 minutes a day – but it was worth it. I picked it up relatively quickly, and continued through high school. I would read anything that referred to Paris or to France, however remote the reference. I lived for those escapes into the country, the city of my dreams, but never thought I would see it firsthand.

My first year of college, I took a semester of conversational French. I got okay – not great, definitely not fluent. But it continued my knowledge of the language. That semester I decided to change my major from English to Biology; at that point, I knew that I would no longer be able to take any further French courses. I had taken 6.5 years of the language, and I could hold a decent conversation. I enjoyed speaking in French, and luckily found that the French Club at my college took trips to Montréal and to Québec City on a regular basis (one per semester). It wasn’t France, but it was an opportunity to speak the language in a foreign place, and a chance to travel a little bit.

My sophomore year, I was still a part of the French club, and had since enjoyed two trips to Québec City, and one to Montréal. The first semester of my sophomore year was difficult – I was taking multiple science courses and a math course, in addition to two other required classes. I had no options for any additional French class. That fall, a friend mentioned that there was a meeting she wanted to attend for the study abroad program. It was something that I had never considered, but I decided to go with her, just to lend support.

I left the meeting determined to spend the following spring in France.

The only difficulty would be in convincing my parents that it would be a good opportunity, that I would be fine, that it would be worth it.

One weekend in the fall of 2002, I went back home. I had been thinking about how best to approach my parents, but I didn’t have the guts to do it. I finally cornered my parents in the laundry room, and told them that I wanted to spend the next semester in France. I had the paperwork, I had the information, I had the details. It wouldn’t cost anything extra (except spending money for traveling), and my loans and scholarships would cover everything; I even would get a stipend for food. My parents gave a collective sigh of relief – I later found out that they had caught on to my following them around the house (which I didn’t realize I had even been doing), and thought that I was going to tell them that I was pregnant. The desire to spend a semester abroad was a much easier discussion to have.

I left for France in early January 2003. January 3. I spent 4 months with awesome people; we took classes, drank beer, explored Le Mans, traveled Europe, and ate wonderful food. I saw Paris, London, Rome, Amsterdam, and multiple parts of Ireland, and it wasn’t enough.

Paris was astounding. The lights, the sounds, the smells, the food – it was all as I had hoped, had expected, had dreamed of for so long – and it was more. I enjoyed the touristy areas more than the less-populated areas, mainly because I had a mere 4 days in Paris, and who can see all of Paris in 4 days? Certainly not I. I saw some things that I will return to (La Tour Eiffel, L’Arc de Triomphe, Montmartre, La Cathédrale Notre Dame, La Basilique du Sacré Coeur de Montmartre), and some that I won’t (Les Catacombs). I would love the opportunity to walk through the streets of Paris with no destination, no deadlines, no need to be somewhere by a certain time.

I wanted more time; I wanted to travel more; I wanted to see more of the world. I had originally planned to extend my stay, but in early April, my grandfather fell and his health took a severe downturn. Instead, I left with the group on April 28th, the original departure date.

It has been just over 10 years now since I left France. I haven’t been back since (though I was able to score incredibly cheap non-stop flights to London from Boston, and spent New Year 2004-2005 in London with my mother); I haven’t been back to Québec City or Montréal, either. I transferred schools (and changed my major again) when I returned from studying abroad, and squeezed a full degree program into two years. I had zero time for French courses (though the school I ended up at didn’t have them anyway, just French 101 and 102 – the basics).

My mother doesn’t speak French anymore. My grandmother passed away 19 years ago, my mother’s brother – the one she spoke French with the most – passed away 17 years ago. There’s nobody for her to speak French with, and she has forgotten most of it.

Life has changed, has interfered.

I no longer speak much French; I have nobody to speak with. I am currently using an app to attempt to brush up on some of my vocabulary, but it’s not the same. I just don’t remember much of the language.

What had always brought me such joy now leads to such an intense longing, such heartache. I watched Midnight in Paris recently, not for the first time. I had purchased it unseen, and I have since watched it numerous times. It is one of my favorites. It reminds me that life is short, but there is such history. Where we walk, many others have walked in the past. Where we live, others have lived. Where we love, others have loved. We will never be the first to do something, nor will we be the last. But watching Midnight in Paris has reminded me that because of choices I have made – choices I would not change for the world – I will not be returning to Paris anytime soon.

I love Paris.

I crave Paris.

But I can’t have Paris.

I will continue to watch Paris in television shows and movies, and read of it in novels. I will continue to admire from afar, and someday… someday, I will return.

On healing – 2 weeks plus 2 days

Just over two weeks out, and a lot has changed since last Wednesday. I saw the doc first thing Thursday morning, and he (at first) didn’t even realize that there was any reason for me to be in other than that my cast was coming off; he thought it was my normal appointment. Apparently everything looked good? Once I mentioned that I was in because of the discoloration and issues I was having with the hot toes and funky colored phalanges, he looked at how long it had been since surgery and recanted a few statements; I was no longer allowed to move the foot/ankle like he had originally said (need to wait one more week) and I am not yet allowed to  put some weight on the foot (again, need to wait until next weekend).  However, both things happening this coming week are significantly sooner than I thought they would be.

The cast came off, and I’m in a walking boot – because everything looks so good, he skipped the splint and went right to the boot.

Walking boot

Walking boot

This boot is significantly larger than the other one I had been wearing before surgery. It goes up a lot higher on my leg, and is a lot more sturdy. I definitely feel like I’ll have an easier time with this one than the other one. I have to sleep with this on for a while, so it’s awkward and frustrating, but what can you do. It’s better than nothing, I guess. Better than going backwards. Better than the infection I thought I had.

The discoloration and warmth in my toes is due to the fact that I have swelling in my ankle, and when I stand up, the blood pools in my toes, and due to the extra fluid from the swelling, has a more difficult time working its way back up my leg. It makes sense. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it myself (seriously, not being sarcastic at all).

My ankle has been bothering me more frequently lately than originally anticipated, and I have been relying on the meds more than I thought I would still be. I’ve been trying to use Aleve more than the painkillers, but between the increased pain (because of the cast coming off) and the muscle spasms that have begun to happen more frequently, the pain is still pretty bad. I hate taking the painkillers and the meds for the spasms because they knock me on my ass – within 20 minutes of taking the painkillers (with food or without) my short-term memory is shot and I can’t form much of a cohesive sentence. It lasts for a good 2 hours or so. I’m currently scheduled to return to work on Wednesday (working from home for another 6-8 weeks), but I don’t know that I will be able to. I sure as hell can’t work on pain meds. My original plan was to start back April 22, giving me another full week, but it’s not that easy – I’m at the mercy of the short-term disability company, and so far, they want me back on Wednesday. I’ll be speaking with them either Monday or Tuesday to plead my case, but I’ll be getting the doctor’s “return-to-work” date before that. I need my doc to approve when I can return before I am allowed to start working again, and I need it in writing. We shall see.

Friday everything pretty much came to a head. I realized that it has been a full two months since I left the house of my own accord – since I drove last – since I worked in the office. I feel like I have absolutely zero independence. I rely on my husband for everything – preparing my food, making sure I don’t fall while bathing, taking care of munchkin. And I lost it. I cried for a good hour, just trying to get my frustrations out. I knew this would happen, because I’m incredibly independent; I always have been. I’m ready to be able to walk again, to drive again, to leave the house and grab a gallon of milk if we need one. I want to drop munchkin off at daycare, I want to get back to my normal, everyday routine. I miss it. I miss not needing to wake my husband up in the middle of the night if munchkin needs something or if I need to pee – shouldn’t I be able to do that on my own? But I can’t get to my crutches without falling out of bed. So I need him to get them for me, so I don’t hurt myself again. As thankful as I am to have the help, I feel guilty – there’s so much more that he needs to do because of my injury, because of my joints not working correctly. I need to get over this feeling of guilt. I have been apologizing too much.

When I was very pregnant with my son, my mother kept telling me one thing over and over again, and I think that it pretty much (in a roundabout way) applies here too, so here it is (paraphrased): every day/hour/moment that passes in my recovery is another day/hour/moment closer to being back where I want to be. It’s one less moment I have to get through, it’s one less moment I need to worry about. Once it’s done, it’s done.

Two weeks and two days down. At this point, I don’t know how much time is left until I’m back in the old routine, but at this point, in the long run, it’s two weeks and two days less than the total. I’m headed in the right direction. I can do this. I have to do this. I’ll get through it.