Thursday, August 27, 2009

Southern Yankee's European Vacation Part 2

Enjoy part two of my decade-old-journal. And if you missed, part one, you can find it here.

Friday, April 30th, 1999

The days have all melded together. I figure it's a different day because yesterday I was on a plane and today I am on a train. I've had dinner and then breakfast. But, my outfit is the same. Jeans and a bright pink t-shirt with a navy blue cotton cardigan

The ride to Brussels is smooth and slow. Green lush grass lies to each side of the train, sometimes scattered with neighborhoods, sometimes with wooly sheep. I see one particularly fat sheep with two babies close behind. The sun is bright and the grass is the greenest green I have ever seen. We are told the weather is unusually beautiful for this area.

We pass one neighborhood that is so lovely I am sure it will never leave my mind. Boys with cherry red shirts play soccer on a field atop a hill, high over the pure white houses with deep, chocolate brown roofs. It is so picturesque and reminds me of a photo you would see in a guidebook.

We pass alternating neighborhoods and sheep. I am surprised at how often and how many sheep we see. I drift in and out of sleep (must be the sheep) until we finally arrive in Brussels. We are the last people to get off the train and are a little surprised to see all the signs in a foreign language (though I don't know why this should surprise us). Most of the signs do have English somewhere, so we do manage.

At some point while in London, we realized that we needed to walk along the left side of the sidewalk instead of the right. But in Brussels, it switches back to the way it is done in the U.S. so once again, we adjust. We wait in line to get our passports stamped and I am annoyed that they stamp mine on page 13 rather than next to my stamp from London on page 5. We go down an escalator and Anita and her husband Johann (pronounced "yawn") are waiting for us. They kiss S. and they shake our hands as V. and I introduce ourselves.

They ask us about our flight as they lead us to the car parked along a downtown street. We pile our backpacks into the trunk and the three of us girls share the backseat while Anita and Johann roll down the windows in the front seat of their tiny car. Driving in Brussels is crazy. The streets are extremely narrow, the cars go fast and everyone cuts each other off. This part of Brussels is not beautiful, but we do pass an amazing cathedral with young students dressed in black shorts and leotards, obviously outside for gym class. The weather is warm and sunny, the first nice day Anita tells us. It is unusual. V. and S. and I keep nodding off in the car due to our jet lag. We need a good night's sleep.

The drive to Terneuzen takes almost two hours. When we reach the border of Holland, I can't stop looking out the window. There is lush green grass surrounding either side of the road. The road signs are painted in primary colors, houses have thatched roofs and look like gingerbread houses. Tall trees closely line the street. Some houses are in rows, but Anita and Johann's house is a single home at the end of one these rows. It is bright white, tall and made of brick. I love it instantly.

One of Anita's sons, Louie, who is 18, answers the door. He is smiling and friendly and takes us out into the beautiful backyard for some Heinekens at the picnic table. Our pampering begins here. Anita and Johann join us with drinks and cigars. We stay out there in the cool sunlight and watch Anita's hens run around the yard until it is time to shower for dinner. Johann has carried our bags to our rooms for us. V. and I share a room with two twin beds and a TV. S. takes the single room with a sink.

Anita is an amazing chef. She teaches cooking classes and has made us lasagna. Dinner is delicious. The lasagna has the freshest cheese, peppers, sausages and tomatoes I have ever eaten. We also have wine and salad and ice cream with homemade syrup and traditional Dutch cookies. Tea comes with sugar and no milk, tiny spoons made of coiled silver and a teapot complete with a basket and cozy.

We must have been dozing off at the table because Anita sends us to bed at 9:30 when it is still light outside. She urges us to leave our dirty laundry (which we are happy to do). We watch some American shows on TV and drift off to sleep.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Southern Yankee's European Vacation - Part 1

You might remember a few weeks back that I wrote this post about finding my old journal. I'd purchased the journal in London when I was traveling with two of my college roommates during our last year of college. I didn't fill it up during our trip so I used it to write bits and pieces during my first year of marriage. And then I completely forgot about it. I was so excited about finding it and read the whole thing from cover to cover. As I was reading, I was struck by two things: 1) how very different yet very similar the writing style of my former 20-year-old self is to that of my current 31-year-old self and 2) how much common sense I lacked while possessing more wisdom than I gave myself credit for.

As promised, here is the first installment of my adventures from a decade ago:

Thursday, April 29th, 1999

We should've predicted the disorganization that was to come when we left Gainesville to head to the Atlanta airport. None of us were prepared for what we were doing. We were less entertained with the fact that we would be in Europe in 15 hours and more entertained by the fact that the night before, when we were packing, we threw our carpet out the window because it was easier than carrying it down the stairs of our sorority house.

When we get on our British Airways flight, they tell us our packs are too big, so they must "go in the hole". We check them at the door of the plane and the whole ride I worry that they will be lost. I left my return ticket in my bag and V. left her wallet. I am also terrified of losing my passport and I keep checking my pocket over and over to make sure its still there. The flight is long but not unpleasant. The stewardesses (er, called flight attendants in the year 2009) pampered us from the moment we got on board. We are given socks, headphones, a menu, a sleeping mask and a blanket as soon as we sit down. Then we are given a glass of orange juice. Then a snack with a complimentary cocktail from the bar, then a really delicious meal. Our stewardess is extra friendly and wears bright pink lipstick. We eat chicken, onion and leek souffle, pasta salad and cheese cake.

After we eat, I sleep uncomfortably with the British Airways blanket and mask. We arrive in London at 6:00 a.m. with dry skin and static-y hair. We see our bags on the truck heading to the terminal and we are instantly relieved, although the panic returns while we wait for them on the carousel for what seems like a really long time. When we are finally reunited with our bags, we are immediately overwhelmed. We have no plans. No agenda. No hotel. No idea where we are or what we are doing.

S. has family friends in Terneuzen, Netherlands and they said we could stay with them for a few days. We need to get to Brussels where Anita will come to pick us up. We are completely lost and disoriented. We are on neither London time nor Florida time. All we know is that it is some time of the day.

There are not as many directories as we hoped there would be. We find a British Airways counter and the price for a flight to Brussels is 120 pounds, much more than we wanted to pay. From there, carrying our heavy packs and bumping into people constantly, we find an information booth and book a Eurostar train to Brussels that leaves in two hours, but we are at the wrong station, so we must get to Waterloo Station via the Metro. I exchange a substantial amount of dollars and get very few pounds in return. We are directed to platform #4 and hop on the first train that arrives. It doesn't take long for me to realize that we are on the wrong train. We stepped on the train that arrived at 8:38 instead of the train that arrived at 8:42. The later train would have brought us to Chatham Junction where we would've connected with a train to Waterloo. Now we are pressed for time and I begin to get nervous. I think there is no way we will ever survive this trip.

I am panicked inside but try to remain calm and sensible on the outside. My backpack is extremely heavy and uncomfortable. I'm not used to its bulk so I keep hitting people with it at every turn I make. We ask the ticket collector for help and she points us in the right direction. It is scary being on a train and not knowing where it is going. The air is thick and gray and the sky has a yellowish tint. The ride is ugly and disappointing with the exception of a few cathedral tops poking over the graffitied brick buildings. WE are in the south of London and hope that the north is better.

We get on the right metro to Waterloo and at the station I must pay 20 pence to use the restroom, which is surprisingly clean. I buy a croissant and water and have no idea how much I spent in U.S. dollars. Once again, we find ourselves struggling to find the right platform. We ask for help (again) and although the conductor shows us the right way to go, we find ourselves on the wrong train again.

I still am bewildered by the time changes, by the fact that I am halfway across the world. I can't comprehend the time change. It is neither day nor night for me.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Things We Do Not Say

As if Ethan and Eli heading off to school were not enough, I also had my first day of school. (If you don't already know, I'm attempting my hand at nursing and am trying to complete the pre-requisites so I can apply to the nursing program at Kennesaw State.) I started classes last spring, but my class was online so today, my first class in an actual classroom on campus, felt like my real first.

As I dropped Ethan off at school this morning and then fought traffic, I worried that I would be the only adult learner (such a lovely PC term) in my class. When I arrived, I was thrilled to see that not only was I not the only adult in the class, but I wasn't even the oldest adult, probably by a decade! Yay for the two forty-somethings in my class! They will never know how much good they have done for my bruised ego!

During class, I recognized one of the girls that I'd met during our nursing program orientation. I went up to her after our chemistry instructor had dismissed us and started chatting, reintroducing myself, telling her I remembered she'd had a new baby just before we'd met. At first she didn't remember me, but then I could see her eyes brighten with recognition and our chat turned into the kind of conversation that typically only happens between long-time friends. Or at least between people like me who have no sense of privacy (My mother often tells me she will never understand how I am so free with the most intimate details of my life - but lucky for me and my blog there are people who are curious about them!)

As we talked before our next class she told me how'd she'd had a terrible summer. She'd taken a full load of classes but had also decided to take herself off of the medications she was taking to help her with her Post Partum Depression. I know that some people hear PPD and recoil. I am not one of those people. Very shortly after I'd given birth to Ethan, I got hit with a fast (and furious) case of PPD. And I kept it to myself. For all of the reasons that you would expect for someone to keep it to themselves...shame, an unwillingness to burden other people with my issues, a fear that people would think I was ungrateful for my beautiful and healthy son.

I tried to treat the PPD with anti-depressants but the physical side effects of the medications were unbearable for me (shakiness, sleeplessness, anxiety) and I was forced to battle through on my own. Slowly, the fog lifted and it was only then, when I began to feel better, that I realized just how badly I'd felt. I never tried to hurt myself, but I surely fantasized about it. The only thing that got me through those scary days was the deep and consuming love I felt for Ethan. He made the despair and sadness dissipate enough to at least let me function normally each day. When the fog lifted, I mentioned Post Partum Depression to anyone who would care (or not) to listen, at any opportunity that presented itself (or that I created). And what I found both comforted me and infuriated me. Many of the women I spoke to responded with "Oh, I had that! It was awful." WHAT!? They did!? Why, oh WHY, didn't they say something to me!? I was terrified and alone and ashamed for months. And I didn't have to be. What a waste.

So today, I was so proud of my new chemistry friend. I was so proud of her for speaking up and telling it like it was. In fact, I was so touched and impressed by her honesty, that I shared the story of how I miscarried a baby in between my pregnancy with Ethan and my pregnancy with Eli and how I battled with infertility for a year and how heartbreaking it is trying to get pregnant on the heels of a miscarriage. Immediately, her face softened and she shared the story of her three-year-battle with infertility and her heartbreak over a miscarriage. Now, it may seem a little odd, two perfect strangers sharing their fertility and pregnancy loss sob stories. But I was comforted and uplifted by our discussion. I know, that because of our honest and emotional conversation, we became fast friends. We cut through the B.S. that takes years to muddle through sometimes and found out what was at the core of each other. And only because she had the courage to open up. I like to think that maybe there was something about me that she knew she could trust, but really, I think she's just the kind of gal who speaks about what's on her mind.

But I had to wonder...why don't women do this more often? Why do we keep all of our pain to ourselves and only share it when it becomes unbearable? Why do we feel dramatic or embarrassed or ashamed when we fully experience our emotions? Why have I never told anyone (other than my husband) that I still feel hot tears in my eyes when I'm filling out paperwork at a doctor's office and I write "3 pregnancies, 2 live births"? Why do I feel like I can't say that out loud and that I need to push that sadness away?

I'm not sure what the answers to my own questions are, but I do know that while the subject matter was a bit depressing, I loved the authenticity of our exchange today.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Digging for Details

Ethan, who is typically a man of many, many words, is tight-lipped when it comes to sharing the details about his days in Ms. K's class. We are only three days into school and already battle lines are being drawn between the two of us as I struggle to get him to eek out even the smallest and most minor detail while he struggles to do his best to pretend not to remember (or at least make the prying painful enough for me to give up and find something else to do). He obviously hasn't figured out how stubborn his mother is, but I refuse to surrender. Even if it means bribing him with a variety of rewards in exchange for him to drop a few tidbits about his day. Yesterday, I bribed him with an offer to clean up the crayons he'd left scattered on the floor, which he immediately took me up on. Today was a particularly lonely day for me and because of my desperation for details of how he spent his day, I offered up an extra 20 minutes playing the WII. (Worked like a charm). Sadly, I'm not even ashamed of my underhanded tactics. But the following dialogue is what I was able to coax out. It may not look like much, but let me assure you friends, this was some pretty intense questioning.

Me: What was the first thing you did this morning at school?

E: Lots of sighing and hmmming. More hmming and sighing. And finally, "I'm not sure." Okaaaay.

After a long pause he remembers that they colored.

Me: What did you color?

E: "A house and some trees with an owl peeking out and the sky and the sunset. That's what I colored." So it's not that he CAN'T remember the details..

Me: What did you do after coloring?

"Uh. Let me think. Do I have to tell you or can I just think?" And then, after a pleading look from me, " Well, I think we went to a center! I think I went to the block area."

Me: What did you do after centers?

E: "Hm. Good question. I think we went to the media center." And then in an effort to stave off my next line of questioning, he adds, "And I DEFINITELY do not know what we did after the media center."

Me: Not about to be outmaneuvered, I say, What did you do IN the media center?

E: "The lady [I can only assume this is the librarian] read a book to us, but somebody scribbled the pages. So the lady couldn't read it. So she just stopped reading it because she said she couldn't see the words and she didn't read us another book."

Okay, is it just me, or does this librarian sound like she could use a nice stiff margarita in exchange for her mid-morning coffee?

Me: What did you have for lunch?

E: "Okay. Um. (Clicks tongue). Eh. Um. Uhhhh. Remember I told you I had chips and cheese and those little bumpy sausage things. Yeah, the bumpies. And pears. And chocolate milk. And that's it."

(long pause)

"And I think I had something else."

"Oh! I remember. That little cherry icy. And that's it. That's all I had for lunch. Hey! Are you writing down what I am saying!?"


Monday, August 10, 2009

Kindergarten, Ms. K and KCafeterias, Oh My!

Even though the calendar tells me otherwise, yesterday marked the official end of summer for me because of the simple fact that Ethan started Kindergarten today. My baby officially became a big boy today (and you know how I feel about this all official school stuff...).

Speaking of official school stuff, shopping for Ethan's school supplies proved to be no small task. First of all, I didn't expect the stores near me to run out of Crayola crayons, or every other item on the supply list for that matter. I went to no less than five stores to find the coveted "2 boxes of 8 thin Crayola Crayons" finally finding the last two packs that an out-of-the-way Rite-Aid had in stock. And if not for my friend Julie telling me what a "primary paper tablet" was, I would've sent Ethan off to school with a bound pack of construction paper rather than the writing journal we were supposed to send. I read "primary" and immediately thought "primary colors". I guess I stretched the interpretation a little too far. But the "8 large Elmer's glue sticks" still eludes me. Five stores. Zero large glue sticks. I found glue sticks, just not large glue sticks. And I found lots of single-packs of large glue sticks, but not eight. And not Elmer's. And also not priced at an amount of money with which I am willing to part for a glue stick.

But back to today. The drop off went as smoothly as I could've hoped. Ethan was bounding toward to the school doors with glee, encouraging Adam and I to "hurry up" behind him. His new teacher was as kind and friendly as you would expect a kindergarten teacher to be. And my eyes filled up with tears at all the appropriate times. Like when I was driving home yesterday afternoon. And before dinner last night. And during dinner last night. And when my alarm went off this morning. And when I put on my seat belt to drive to school. But thankfully, the tears remained tucked away while we were at school. And stayed away after I returned home. For a whopping 80 minutes.

And then I managed to keep them away for a few hours longer. Until I realized it was lunch time and began imagining all sorts of horrific scenarios unfolding in the cafeteria. Like the lunch lady not understanding Ethan when they asked his name to verify that his lunch has been prepaid and that because I sent him with no money, he would starve. Or that he wouldn't be able to reach any of the items on the food line and would starve. Or that he would need help opening his milk and no one would be there to help him. And he could starve!

Of course, all of these fears were unfounded. Ethan informed me later that his thoughtful and lovely teacher had the kids "practice" carrying a lunch tray during their "planning ahead" time. Sigh. I think I'm smitten with Ms. K. Planning ahead time!? She had me at hello.

But back to lunch. Ethan reported the following information in regards to holding the tray:

"I handled it with two hands! That's the important part of holding a tray." Very important, indeed.

Here is some more commentary direct from Ethan regarding the rest of the day outside of managing a cafeteria tray.

The first thing they did this morning after being dropped off:
"I got to find a place to sit and then we colored gum balls. We also had story time on the magic carpet."

His favorite classroom activity:
"We got to go to recess and play on the playground! I played General Grievous by myself. All the kids were playing by themselves." (I don't know about you, but this sounds like the saddest recess I've ever heard of, though Ethan seemed to be truly fine with wandering about the playground solo. However, I've encouraged him to approach some kids tomorrow to see if they might like to play with him.)

Ms. K's funny antics:
"We were getting ready for rest time and she took out two towels. [They rest on towels from home rather than mats] One was Batman and one was Spiderman. But she called the Batman towel Spiderman and the Spiderman towel Batman. It was so funny! We laughed and laughed!"

But Ethan would only let the one-sided interview I conducted last for so long before he turned the tables around on me.

E: So, what did you do while I was at school?

Me: Went to Ms. Amanda's house.

E: What did you do there?

Me: Drank coffee.

E: That's it? Was it boring? That's all you did?

Me: Mm hm. That's it.

E: (Now incredulous) The only thing you did was have coffee!? Nothing else! That sounds so boring! You're so boring! No joke!


The sharing about our day promptly ended when Ethan looked at me seriously and very politely asked, "Should there be a reason that you're talking to me all this time?".

We returned to our coloring without talking. And tomorrow morning Ethan will return to Ms. K's class. And hopefully I won't cry.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Crazy over my car seat

My (er, Ethan's) car seat is driving me batty. It's a Britax Frontier. I purchased it not quite a year ago because I had to play around with the boys' seating arrangements in the backseat. To make a long story short...or maybe longer come to think of it, Eli had outgrown his infant carrier/car seat combo and Ethan had long outgrown the Britax Roundabout. I was very happy with the Britax Marathon that Ethan was in but Eli needed it because I didn't want to buy another Roundabout since they outgrow them so quickly. I had to purchase, at the minimum, two new car seats (both for Ethan) while Eli went into the Roundabout in Adam's car and into the Marathon in my car. Are you with me still??? No? I don't blame you...the car seat craze at my house is enough to keep my head spinning. Suffice to say, I did tons of research and lots of mathematical projections to come to the conclusion that I needed to buy a combination booster (a booster that provides you the ability to use it as a five-point-harness car seat AND ALSO a belt positioning booster).

So saving you the boring math and reading recap, just know that I wound up buying a Graco Nautilus for Adam's car (Even though I HATE the way the Graco seats buckle. The clasps are always wonky to me.) and a Britax Frontier for my car. Why didn't I buy identical seats? First, I love the Britax product so wanted to make sure I at least had ONE Britax, preferably in the car that Ethan spends the most time in. They are admittedly expensive, but also the safest seat around. All my Britax seats have worn well, have been easy to install and worth their weight in gold. Why didn't I get two of them, then? Because they are admittedly expensive. The Graco Nautilus had the same safety ratings that the Frontier had and since Adam has Ethan in his car so rarely, I couldn't justify the hefty price tag for a second Frontier.

As if the decision making process for these darn seats didn't seem complicated enough, fast forward to the installation of said seats. The Nautilus, which I considered to be the stepchild of car seats, was an absolute breeze to install. I barely had to glance at the directions and was able to install it correctly on the first try.

Not so much with the Frontier. I think it took me two hours. Maybe that's not true. Maybe it was three. Seriously. HORRIBLE!!! First off, the LATCH clips are situated in a horrible way where you are required to thread them through the front of the seat to the back. Which would be fine, except the pathway for the clips and the part that you tighten them with is too narrow. So it is impossible to tighten them all the way because they get hung up on the back of the carseat. UNLESS you position the seat the way you would if you were using it as just a belt-positioning booster. And then wear a red shirt while you install the seat on the third Tuesday of the month and spin around three times before opening the box.

But seriously, going against the safety instructions really freaks me out. So, in order to position the seat the WRONG way to make it work the RIGHT way, you have to flip a platform underneath the seat in the the opposite direction you are supposed to flip it for the five-point-harness seat installation. Have I mentioned I don't like going against safety rules? And it took me two hours to figure this out. I finally won the battle with the car seat and emerged from the garage sweaty, my hands and fingers scraped and bleeding practically beyond recognition and my patience was nowhere to be found. I think I kicked things on the way into the house.

We've been riding around in Britax bliss (well, blissful except for the safety recall as well as the issue with consistently twisted straps, which I believe is related to the recall) for the last 10+ months. Fast forward to today. I had taken Ethan's seat out (which I NEVER do. For obvious reasons.) and had to reinstall it on the fly this morning. It did not go well. But I didn't have time to fool with it because we were running late (me!? late!? how odd!!). I decided at the moment where I scraped my hand and hit my head on the ceiling of the car that no car seat is worth the aggravation (or the injuries) that the Britax Frontier has caused.

Plus, the stupid cup holders (which is a feature I LOVE since my oldest son is always "completely thirsty" in the car) are BOTH broken. All in all, the Frontier is not a good design and a big disappointment. I should've stuck with the Nautilus. And in a fit of irritation, I strapped Ethan into his improperly installed Frontier to run to the store to purchase my second stepchild of carseats and am now the proud owner of two Graco Nautilus seats.

My friend over at asked me today, all this over installation? Well, yes. With Ethan starting kindergarten in the fall August 10th, I foresee many play dates in his future and I can't fathom having to repeat this epic battle of the Britax. Plus the straps will not remain untwisted for any extended period of time and to properly fix them, I need to uninstall the car seat which then puts me in the unfortunate position of having to reinstall it yet again. So yes, all of this over installation issues. So stick a fork in me because I'm done with the Frontier. PLUS, the Nautilus converts into a backless booster, so it is actually THREE seats in one (a five-point-harness car seat, a belt positioning booster and a backless booster). So now here's my question. How did I miss all this the first time around?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Closing the chapter, for now

A few weeks ago, while in New Englad, my dad hosted dinner at his house for my two aunts, his girlfriend and of course, me and my boys. During dinner, we caught up on the latest goings on with all of our family members, including the health of my uncle who recently had a heart attack. As my aunt Diana gave us all the details of his heart attack, the procedures that he had during his hospital stay, and his care and rehab after his release from the hospital, I realize that as a thirty-one-year-old woman, I know WAY too much about cardiac patients and cardiac care. Sometimes I wish I didn't know so much, sometimes I see this knowledge as a badge of honor, depending on the day.

The immediate weeks and months following Adam's open heart surgery were frightening. I worried every time he took a shower that he could pass out (and with good reason, since he actually DID pass out about one week after being home from the hospital and the only reason I think we avoided a serious scenario was because I happened to be in the bathroom at the moment he passed out in the shower. One call to 911, one ambulance ride, three days and nights and one blood transfusion later, we were able to return home again). I worried if he didn't answer his cell phone right away his first few days back at work when he was far along enough in his recovery to return to his office. I worried if he didn't wake up immediately when I said his name in the morning. I worried when he walked into another room. I worried constantly.

And then the daily worry began to yield. But what replaced it was the dread that I felt when I thought about how closely we had danced with disaster. I knew I should feel relief, but somehow it was feeling that very relief that scared me the most. It was as if, somehow, my relief was heavy with weight of fear, so instead of a reprieve from fear, I felt fright. The anticipation of the crash of coming down from the high of relief was so jarring that it made experiencing those moments of consolation almost disconcerting. Sort of the same way you feel when you just barely avoid a car accident. Initially, you are so thankful that you avoided an accident, but that "holy crap, I could've killed someone" feeling always follows, along with a sharp stab of that "what if" feeling.

And then I became obssessed with thinking about the months before and after Adam's surgery. I couldn't stop the thoughts from coming. I'd be driving along and then my fingers would grip the steering wheel and thinking about those "what could've been's" that would flood my mind literally took my breath away. And then I began to think that maybe I'd made it seem worse than it was, that maybe I was being overdramatic and maybe I was imagining things. I've had a constant struggle between this idea of overdramatizing our (his) experience and allowing myself to understand and admit the seriousness of our situation. Was it real?

I thought about the days I spent sleeping curled up on the couch in Adam's hospital room, my pregnant body rebelling against me, communicating through constant contractions that I needed a break (and a real bed), my heart breaking because I wanted to be the one to put Ethan to bed at night but knew that Adam needed me by his bedside so much more, my soul aching because the man that I loved was scared and in pain and there was not a damn thing I could do to make any of it better, while my innermost thoughts whispered, "How am I going to manage this? What if he doesn't get better?". And horribly and guiltily, a small part of me thought that being almost 8 months pregnant, I should be the one that was being taken care of. It is a thought that shamed me then, and shames me now, but a thought that I couldn't push away.

I remember seeing a dear friend of mine at shul just a few weeks after Adam's surgery. I had gone to services by myself and she came up to me and she told me how strong I was and what a pillar I was for my family and how much grace I was showing. Those were beautiful words, spoken with such sincerity but they were words that saddened me, because all I could think of as she spoke them was the tantrum I had thrown just days before. A full out, three-year-old style tantrum. Where I literally laid down on the floor in the middle of my hallway and kicked so hard my shoes flew off my feet and screamed with so much force, I literally wet my pants and while it is true that a simple sneeze could cause me to do that at that stage of pregnancy, the fact remains that I completely lost control of myself while poor Adam sat and watched, helplessly. I was not graceful. Or strong for that matter.

But then I remembered that there were days that all of this was almost normal. That walking with Adam up and down the cardiac floor with a walker and a tank of oxygen seemed ordinary, not outrageous. That talking about blocked arteries, chest tubes, heart catheterizations, HDL and LDL levels and statins became commonplace. There was even a night where Adam and I curled up in his hospital bed together (where I had to be careful not to yank on his iv or telemetry wires) and watched Seinfeld reruns while eating takeout from one of our favorite restaurants.

There some pretty dark days. Days I wish I could redo. Days where I was surprised that I could behave so badly. Days where I was ravaged with fear. Days where I was just simply exhausted from taking care of everyone else but myself. But there were bright days too. Many bright in fact. Days where Adam and I sat together in his hospital room, grateful that all we were dealing with was, in all honesty, a common condition that was easily treatable (relatively speaking anyway). I whispered a prayer of gratitude every time I walked past the Winship Cancer Institute knowing how much worse it would be if that's were I was headed instead of the cardiac step down floor of the hospital. I remember being at one of the surgeons' offices prior to Adam's surgery. My heart was heavy with sadness and I looked at the floor and at my feet peeking out from my round, pregnant tummy, while everyone else in the waiting room looked at my growing belly. I was feeling very sorry for myself and got up to use the ladies room. As I did, I had to pass an oncologist's office. I was slapped out of my self-piteous reverie and was filled with an abundance of gratitude that "all" Adam needed was some silly old heart surgery. I couldn't fathom how difficult it would be to force myself to walk into the office of an oncologist. Instantly, our situation seemed so small and inconsequential.

The crisis is behind us, even though there are days where I sometimes fear that this happy and medical drama-free life that we are living right now is like the eye an of a hurricane, the calm before the second part of the storm. But I can't worry about that. And I also can't let myself obsess over wondering if my sad memories and frightened feelings are over dramatic or not. Yet, it is something I still continue to grapple with.

Finally, one night, shortly before I left for our summer trip, I realized I needed some closure, I needed to close this chapter. And even if I have no idea what the future chapters hold, I know that this one has got to end. So I did something a little crazy. Even as I was doing it, it felt crazy. But it felt right.

I drove over to the hospital and walked around. I felt like I had committed a crime and was returning to the crime scene. I parked the car in the garage and saw the space where I had parked my car the day of Adam's surgery. I passed the Winship Cancer Center entrance that I passed every day, grateful I could continue past its doors. I walked through the same doors, down the same hallways. All my memories came flooding back, all at once, filling my mind with thoughts and my stomach with just a hint of dread. Finally, I made my way to the ICU waiting room, where I practically lived for two days beginning the morning of Adam's surgery and ending when he was abruptly moved out of the ICU onto the step down floor. And that's when it got to be too much. I saw families, very, very sad families settled into the ugly, familiar room, scattering their belongings and friends around them for comfort, just as I had done. I saw people crying. I saw people with desperate expressions on their faces. And I realized that all the sadness and fear I remember feeling was real, that I hadn't imagined it, hadn't made it a bigger deal than it really was. It was my reality.

But it is behind us. And though I felt a little off kilter for making the trip to the hospital, it was most definitely what I needed to allow myself to acknowledge my emotions and then allow myself to move on from them. Does that mean I won't worry about Adam's health ever again? Probably not. But I'm okay with that because I can handle the future as long as I'm not grappling with the past.