Nov 8, 2017

The Crash

NOT MY HOUSE, BUT THIS REALLY HAPPENED TO US
I was 14 and in the bathroom, brushing my teeth. The bathroom was a few feet from the living room. We lived in a tiny Cape Cod style house, built after WWII to house veterans and their families.

My mom was constantly painting or wallpapering the rooms. She made coordinating curtains and slipcovers and bedspreads. She would make things like placemats and dust ruffles and covers for the toaster so that everything matched. One day I came home and she had covered my shoes with the same fabric she used to make my bedspread. My mom took matchy/matchy to new levels.

She went through color themes like some moms changed hair styles. At one point every room was beige (maybe she was depressed?). Then everything was orange and green. Once she finished the last room, she'd start a new color theme and begin ripping out wallpaper. I guess house decorating was her hobby. On this particular day, the house was decked out in pale blue and cranberry.

The bus was coming in about 10 minutes and I needed to hustle. Suddenly, there was a loud boom, and the house shook. I wondered if there'd been an earthquake. My parents yelled to see if we were ok. We were and we all ran to the living room where we could see the front of a car that had crashed through the wall, ruining the white and blue and cranberry wallpaper.

This was problematic for several reasons. First, none of us was ever allowed to be in the living room. My mom wanted one room that was ready "in case the priest came by" (the priests used to go door to door unannounced once a year for a church census). And, most importantly, the car ruined my mom's pride and joy -- her pale blue wool wall-to-wall living room carpet. She had saved for years for that carpet and had decorated the living room around it. It was a great source of pride to finally cover up the hardwood floors. (Back then hardwood floors were considered low rent.)

This was a disaster.

This week has felt like another version of that day.

My recovery from heart surgery has been slow, but steady. I left the hospital weak, covered with an awful skin infection, and very nervous about the potential for a return of the atrial fibrillation (abnormal heart rhythm) that had kept me at Mayo longer than planned. It wasn't easy for Mike to take care of me, particularly in those first days after discharge. As he put it, "I can't do what you did for your mom." But he did, and we flew back home four days after discharge.

Since then, I've made a point to move around as much as possible -- despite some pain and shakiness, I took a shower, got dressed, and walked outside every day. I did a little cooking. I took myself out to lunch in the neighborhood on a particularly beautiful day. I went up and down stairs, and finally late last week I was able to sleep in our bed. I even learned to use Uber so I could get to doctor appointments on my own!

But this past Sunday night, a pain in my neck and shoulder that I thought was caused by tension skyrocketed. Every time I breathed in it felt like a knife. I was in an ambulance and shortly diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism, fluid on the lungs and heart, anemia, and a partially collapsed lung. Eventually they also identified a blood clot in my leg.

The ER doc told me I was lucky that the clot was small. It travelled through my heart, but did not damage the heart. I was lucky to be alive. YIKES. I still haven't finished my Christmas cards so death is not in the picture. Plus, I owe a ton of thank you cards to dear friends and family and I think I'd rather die before buying thank you cards.

I'm sure you understand.

After the car hit our house my mom had the pale blue wall-to-wall carpeting removed. She got back out the braided rug that had been in the living room; the one she cleaned by putting it over the clothes line and beating it with a broom; the one that made her feel tacky and poor. But, eventually she decided that the hardwood floors were gorgeous and easier to keep clean. The braided rug looked "colonial" and therefore was wonderful. She and the living room recovered from the crash. She put up new wallpaper and sat in the redecorated living room (alone!) and called it her happy place.

I feel like those clots crashed into me in the same way that car crashed into our living room. My careful recovery feels ruined. I'm sitting on the sofa most of the day, too afraid to move, tired, and depressed. I've got my own ugly braided rug around my neck.

So, tonight I decided that 3 days of this pity party are enough. I can't sit here waiting to get better. The less I do, the weaker I get. So tomorrow I'm getting dressed and going outside -- even if it is just to sit on the bench in front of our house. The stairs are hard again because the temporary lung issues cause shortness of breath. But I can just climb them more slowly.

And I'll go upstairs to my 4th floor craft room, even if all I do is sit there and take in the scene. I miss my stamps. I miss being around them, and the dies and the paints and inks and papers. I miss my box of adhesives and the sequins that end up everywhere except on my cards. I miss the view from the 4th floor, even if it is just an apartment house. I even miss the ugly wall-to-wall carpeting in that room.

It's my happy place and I can't wait to get back and sit there (alone!) enjoying a bit of my old life.

I'll let you know how it goes!









27 comments:

  1. You are deserving of a short pity party, but you have the right attitude to move on now! Remember, that you can do strength exercises even in sitting!! (Drop me a note if you need some instructions. I can even email you specific illustrated ones!).
    You got this! Perfect goal: one day at a time. Doesn’t matter where you start— just take one step, do one more activity than the day before and you’ve already improved!

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  2. You can do it, Joan. And remember, you can turn around and sit down on the stairs if you need a rest while you are climbing. Just take one step at a time and be kind to yourself. And you're allowed a pity party, just don't unpack and live there.

    Sending you love - I look forward to hearing how your walk outside went. XO

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  3. Old friend, I wish for you many more hours in your happy place as you work to recover your ability to play there.

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  4. You and your body have been through so much. It is so hard to go from "doing fine" to feeling like road kill. Most people would have just said I feel awful, but you gave us a powerful story so that we could really feel what this surgery and the complications have done to your life. I especially related as my mom was like your mom and we had the cranberry and light blue bathroom to prove it. After finishing redoing a room she would put her rocker outside the door of that room and just sit and admire what she had done. We never reached wall to wall carpet status. i know I will sit in my craft room today and think of you and pray you get to sit in your craft room, too. It is not a lot to ask after all you have been through. Thank you for sharing your story in such a powerful way. Judy

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  5. Thank you, Joan, for taking the time to share more of your journey with us. Clearly, all that’s happened hasn’t affected your writing ability one jot. What a powerful story of perseverance in the face of incredible frustration! Big hugs, big prayers, and much admiration for how you are taking care of yourself.

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  6. You poor thing! I wish I could help. I pray you are back on the fourth floor soon - and have no doubt that you will be. You have a great attitude and a strong spirit. Sending prayers and healing thoughts your way.

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  7. You conquered over a pulmonary embolism! You were so smart to pay attention to your symptoms and go get help. This is a setback; but definitely one that YOU were able to overcome. Isn't the quote, "whatever doesn't kill you, makes you stronger"? You were already pretty formidable; you are only going to get stronger every single day. You ROCK!

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  8. Thank you for sharing with us. I am praying for you to have a quick recovery. It sounds like you are improving if you want to start stamping again. You have moved beyond Step One (feel too bad to do anything and too bad to care!) and into phase two (want to do things that make me happy - just don't have enough energy yet!). You'll get there if you take it slowly and steadily. It sounds like your mother had the same desire to create that we card-makers have. I'm glad I can get it "out of my system" with markers and paper. Even though it's an expensive hobby it's much cheaper than redecorating with new colors.

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  9. first off, you scared the cooty out of me with that photo - and in a New York minute, you had me smiling, frowning, fearful, and sorry - that you've had this very scary setback, and sorry we can't all come - even if you think you want to be alone.
    If I never have to take down one more sheet of wallpaper, I will be satisfied for life. One day at a time, sweet girl...
    =]

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  10. Thank you for sharing, Joan. You have a huge support system beyond your home and were all sending out prayers, hugs, good vibes for your recovery.

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  11. The way you tell a story, Joan, is something else! I’m so sorry to hear about your setbacks but you’ve got the attitude right. There’s nothing else to do but keep on trying and being brave. Hurting for you and cheering you on. Give your hubs an extra hug today.

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  12. You are the BEST storyteller Joan! Keep up the positive attitude, give Mike a big hug and enjoy your tea😄

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  13. Joan thank you for sharing your story and for being so brave! I have to call 911 last December for my mom who we found out had atrial fibrillation as well.I have watched her closely as she still has not fully recovered but I understand the challenges you face. As for the emotions you have about crafting I am there with you. My collarbone break has had me in a sling immobilized for 3 1/2 weeks now one more to go and then I begin physio. I miss crafting and doing life, having my own pitty party while trying to run the tag event. Thankful you are a survivor and you will get back into your craft room soon. Sending big hugs at the end of this super long comment! xoxo

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  14. Even though I am a stranger to you, your story has great value and I appreciate you sharing!
    I think we are all entitled to a small pity party now and again. Sometimes it is the best way to reflect on and process whatever invited us. The trick is not overstaying our visit! Sounds like you have that figured out, found something positive in your life to focus on and are moving in that direction. Just remember, One step at a time, one day at time!
    Praying for your recovery!

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  15. Your mom was an interesting person -- partly the times, partly the east coast Catholic way of life (so foreign to this west coast girl), mostly her. I see where you get your strength and determination. Thank goodness you took immediate action when your symptoms developed. You will overcome this. You will. Your story was like turning pages in a picture book, illustrating your heart and soul.

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  16. So, have you been outside today? I hope so. I hope that the day dawned sunny so that you could feel the warmth of the sun on your face as you sat outside on your bench. Thank you for the update. I'm sorry to hear of your setback, but so glad that the clot was a small one. Recovery is a series of baby steps, both forward and back. Hang in there. There are a lot of folks out here thinking of you and rooting for you. I am one of them.

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  17. Gosh, Joan. My heart just about stopped too when I saw the picture. So nice to see another side of your mother. I recall your stories of helping her with admiration for you. As for you, thank goodness you are coming out the other side of quite the ordeal. Thanks for sharing with us in blog-land. Sending hugs and kudos to you and your husband.

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  18. As you read this, I hope you are feeling better physically and emotionally. You tell a story like no other! Thank you for sharing with us, and even tho you have had a setback, you still know how to entertain with words! I am hoping you will recover quickly, and get back to your happy place: your craft room.

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  19. So happy to see Dear Paperlicious in my In-box today. You have been missed. Sorry for The Crash, but glad you took action. Please continue to follow your MD's instructions. Stairs are hard, but take your time. Don't forget to do your deep breathing exercises and keep moving. There are so many lovely stamps coming out now---perhaps some retail therapy is in order.

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  20. Oh Joan! Wish you'd be closer, I'd go up to your craft room for you and bring you some things to color, cut and/or stamp. Of course, it would take me a bit, stairs aren't my favorite thing these days! But, maybe Mike could fill a basket with things you might want to do and bring it down to you?

    Take care, friend. Sending you more Purple Power, do you have a purple hat you could wear when you go outside? Hugs and healing wishes.

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  21. I am sending you best wishes for sunshine and fresh air and healing. Thank you for sharing your story and letting your readers "join hands" to support and cheer you on. We feel as if we know you and care deeply for your well being.

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  22. Oh Joan, I am so sorry you are having to go through this. Sending you lots of love and wishing I could (gently) give you a hug.

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  23. One day at a time, one minute at a time. Recovery is never as quick as we would like. Sending many good thoughts your way.

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  24. Oh, Joan, I kept wondering how you were doing! I'm sorry it's not better--keep your spirits up! Take pleasure in little things--the turning leaves, a pretty sunset, a song you like. Find joy and hope in little things! All best wishes to you!

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  25. Oh Joan!! I'm so sorry about the complications. Clots are horrible, I saw that with my SIL. Rebuild your happy place inside your head as well as getting up all the stairs. Smiled at you saying that the lady looked sceptical when you needed help opening the door; I remember a friend saying she'd had to ask for help lifting something down from an airplane cabin locker ( after a double mastectomy), to be greeted with a look of total incomprehension because she looked so well. Take all the time you need to heal and ask for help every time you need it. And plan cards in your head ;-).

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