Friday, April 16, 2021

My Brother Donated His Organs. (Day 106)

There was a very clear moment when my brother lay in a frozen, medically induced coma that I knew he would not be okay. I had been bargaining with God and praying over the phone with my husband's Aunt. I wanted him to live--I wanted him back--and I'd make whatever trades I could. 

But, that specific prayer of mine kept feeling wrong--like I was hitting a brick wall. It was not just that it defied all the medical signs or that I felt discouraged. It felt like the words of my prayers were wrong. I was asking for the wrong thing. 

I needed to ask for a miracle--but that miracle would be the one that had my brother leaving this world, while someone else's brothers lived. I know this sounds like a trade-off; but to call it one would be oversimplify the miracle of organ donation. 

Somewhere, as I prayed for my brother, there was someone praying for their brother. They were praying for an organ--and I know, probably grappling with the truth that their prayer would be answered when another prayer--a prayer for a life to be saved--was not answered. It's complicated. When someone donates their organs, the hope is already gone for their survival. I've heard so many people justify organ donation by flippantly saying, "well I am not going to use it anymore, so why?"

But there is so much more involved in the process. It begins with registering to be an organ donor and then, also, if you are older, registering to donate your body for research purposes. Then, you need to discuss your wishes with your family and give them the emotional permission to make these arrangements for you, if they placed in this situation. 

I felt driven to actively ask about organ donation for my brother early on in his stay. Of course, I wanted him to live, but something compelled me to ask, repeatedly, because if he was going to die, I wanted his body to continue to work for living donors and research. It was a hard conversation to start with his medical team--and I know they would have started it with me eventually (David was a registered organ donor.). But, truthfully, there was so much peace in taking charge of this--when everything else was out of control. 

Part of the process involves sacrificing a normal death--there is not a bedside wait; but instead, last goodbye's in the operating room.  For my brother, who could not donate his heart because it had stopped several times, we had to say goodbye in an operating room. Our sacrifice was not my brother's organs; our sacrifice was our final moments with him. 

We had to scrub in and wear protective clothing. My brother, in his final minutes had to be prepped for surgery. We had to wait for the transplant team to arrive and we had to pray my brother would be stable enough to make it from his ICU room to the OR. We had instructions on how long we could stay after his heart stopped. We had instructions on how long he had to die--if he took too long once support was withdrawn, the donation was off. 

When I look back on those moments, the sight of the transplant team lined up against the OR wall was a reminder that life goes on. It was the one thing that made the intolerable moment of his death, just a little bit tolerable. Even after my brother's death, pieces of him would go on. David donated his eyes, his heart valves and both his kidneys to living donors. He donated his lungs to research. So, when I replay this trauma, the bright, shining angelic part of it will always be those transplant doctors who take death and turn it into life. 

I've never received out to my brother's organ recipients. I am just not ready--and I don't know if I ever will be. It is enough to know that their lives go on--and hopefully they are also sharing their story--and inspiring others to make final arrangements that lead to more days for someone else. 

Since my brother died, I've encountered so many amazing people who have received organ transplants. Knowing them--seeing their beautiful lives miraculously saved by the gift of another--gives me so much joy for the heroic gifts my brother's life made possible.

Donating organs is not about death--it is about life. 

Today is National Donate Life Blue and Green Day. If you are not registered as an Organ and Tissue donor, you can register in just a few minutes using this link. 

Thursday, April 15, 2021

The Timeline of a Nervous Breakdown (Day 105)

Today, I found out that a nervous breakdown, while not a medical diagnosis, is definitely a thing that can happen on a Thursday. Remember in the 1990s when people would talk about nervous breakdowns? Like it was a real thing? Well, now Mayo Clinic refers to it as a "so-called" nervous breakdown (as if imaginary!) 

Well, I think the nervous breakdown is alive and well in 2021 along with several new and mysterious variants of COVID-19! 

According to several very official medical websites, they now have more official names for nervous breakdowns. I researched those things and I definitely don't have those. 

But, I did have a very, very, very nervous breakdown like day, today. It all started early. 

2 a.m. One child wakes up screaming about their locker combination and has to be carried from their bed to avoid waking up sibling. 

2:45 a.m. I am back asleep. One child kicks me in the ribs 3 times and then takes my blanket. 

4:30 a.m. I am up with the moon for Crew. Rowing child has nervous stomach ache. I immediately believe this is a shunt malfunction, while quietly panicking

4:45 a.m. As I perform my amateur neuro check, I am relieved to realize that my child has a nervous stomach. But, the panicky feeling won't leave. 

5:00 a.m. I planned to begin working; but after the 2 a.m. locker combination/bed removal situation I am tired and sore from lifting 90 lb child.  I go back to bed and have nightmares about my own locker combination. Does anyone know if it starts with a 36 or a 39? I'LL NEVER KNOW AND I AM GOING TO BE LATE TO CHEMISTRY. 

7:00 a.m. My third week-up call of the day. I consider showering, but I realize I cannot do it. I only leave my bed because all three children need to go to school. So, I change out of my flannel pajamas into leggings. 

7:15 a.m. Nervous stomach refuses to go to school, citing ongoing nerves. The 2 a.m. child is still complaining about her locker combination. The rib kicker is already dressed and getting in a quick round of Fortnite. I sleep at dining room table for 15 minutes. 

7:30 a.m. I write a letter to school explaining nervous stomach, shunt fears and make it clear no one has COVID. 

7:45 a.m. I find flip flops and shake out hair and use a napkin to wipe eyes. I mouthwash with coffee. 

8:00 a.m. I leave with two children. One forgets lunch. The other forgets iPad. 

8:05 a.m. I leave again with same two children. Both promise they have forgotten items. One is lying. 

8:10 a.m. I observe parents at the Middle School dropping off their children in the one spot directly by door. I drop my child off far away and ask her to walk while reciting her locker combination. 

8:14 a.m. The liar is revealed and there is no lunch box. 

8:35 a.m. Have first call of day with a delightful colleague. We get a lot done. I feel like maybe I am not having a nervous breakdown!

9:20 a.m. Receive two emails from school recommending a COVID test for nervous stomach. I delete them and I will deny receiving them. Of course, I just wrote my intentions here. (may this is a test to see who reads my blog!) 

9:35 a.m. Receive mysterious call from mother who is at the credit union and needs to know how much she paid in state taxes in 2017. I explain I do not have those figures at my fingertips. She explains this is a business question and I need to be more professional. I begin yelling things that make no sense. Panic builds again. 

9:45 a.m. Decide mother has dementia and the universe is out to get me. Cry at dining room table, while realizing dining room table has basically become my bedroom. Cry more that I sleep at a table. 

10:00 a.m. Pull myself together for second call of day and behave professionally! Keep wanting to share all my problems with my colleagues, but realize this is not the school drop-off line and I need to save my problems for the dining room table. 

11:00 a.m. Hang up from very productive call. Send some emails. Drink more coffee. Realize there is glass lodged in my foot. Google: "How long can you live with glass in your foot?" The results scare me and I begin Googling "Foot Amputation." Decide to cry more at the table. 

11:30 a.m. Realize I have napped at my table bed, again. Remember need to bring lunch to the lunch box liar. Order Wawa curbside, because lunch is missing. 

11:45 a.m. Deliver lunch. Fall while tripping over thin air next to my car. Quickly do an inventory of injuries from the day: sore back from locker panic; glass in foot from walking; sore legs from thin air tripping. Wonder: "Will I make through the day?" 

11:55 a.m. Arrive home after driving very quickly to get to my table bed. 

12:00pm. Old friend calls. Day is saved. 

12:30 p.m. Arrive to middle school for pick up. There is a concert like vibe to the pick up line. Wait in line 20 minutes. Finally retrieve child on street corner. Child remembered locker combination!

1 p.m.-3 p.m. I don't remember this time period. I think I did some work? I certainly thought about it. 

3:15p.m. Return home from school up. Notice very few infractions at elementary school! Briefly feel like a hero. 

3:30pm Chat on phone with other friend, who has a grill moving emergency. Decide must quit current jobs and focus on gardening. Then decide I do not want to quit jobs; think about becoming a garden writer. Decide I am not a garden writer. End call confused. 

4:30p.m. Shower! Feel like nervous breakdown is making its way out of house.  . 

4:30p.m. until now: do all the evening things. Google Nervous breakdown, while growing very agitated that a nervous breakdown is not considered a real thing! After all, there was nothing so called about today. Think about what blog to write and land on this blog, which might concern some people. 

Decide to remove glass from foot and to embrace life with two feet! Decide I am a bad ass if I can survive this day and decide not to quit anything; just to maybe sleep with ear plugs. . . .

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The Other Words (Day 104)

I started this daily blogging and at the same time I've started another document in which I write the things I don't write here. I felt like I had to disclose this, for some reason. I am not sure why, exactly. But maybe it is because in my heart, Yoke is where I am my most honest and my most true and not sharing that I have another spot for the other words feels a bit like cheating. 

I am not sure who I am cheating on, exactly. Maybe on Yoke? It is a really ridiculous idea that I could cheat on this blog. . but I am a bit ridiculous. I am also very impatient and really want to share the other things I am working on. It is the writer's ego--I want you to read what I write and I don't want to wait!

It's been a long time since I've published anything of my own, outside of this blog. Sure, I write everyday and get paid to do so. And I love the writing I do for my job. But there is something different about writing pieces that are your voice--not the voice of the organization you are writing for. It is not that my "job" voice isn't genuine, it is just sometimes the words are filtered or made to fit within a certain style. 

And I've found those voices for my employers--I know the voice of writing for Alex's Lemonade and Philly Homebrew and even, to a lesser extent (because I don't do that much writing there!) for Happy Family. I know the voice of writing editorial pieces for publications. Yoke has a voice that is very much me, but it isn't all of me. When it comes to my own pure voice--the voice of my stories--I am still finding that. And that is where the other words come in. 

And there are so many other words--and so many other stories I want to share. Like today--today was a bit of a strangely emotional day. I did not expect it, but strangeness has a way of finding all of us. In the end of all the emotions and all the interruptions, I found myself connecting so deeply with my oldest daughter. She's been around for most of my written words--she inspires so many of them--and always gives me the courage to share those words. 

That is what all those other words are--they are more than just secret documents and sloppy notes in my notebook. Those other words come in conversations with new friends and in text message exchanges with old ones. They come in silent moments of connections with my daughter--who is still, even as a teenager, possesses this relentless, quiet grace that says more than I could ever write. They come in the noisy, endless conversations with my son--who is always using his voice to make sense of the world. The other words come from my middle daughter who is always quick to observe and even quicker to comfort. The other words come from unexpected and strange places. 

There are so many other words--it is hard to pick which ones to share and which ones to hold close and which ones to just leave alone. But, that is why this year long daily writing in Yoke experiment is just so good for me--it's a spot where I get to try them all out, until I find the words that are just right to write. (get it?)

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Six Tips for School Drop-Off (Day 103)

Let's discuss school drop-off procedure. 

I do not suggest stopping for a sandwich break in the school drop-off line. 

I think everyone forgot how to make their children exit a vehicle in the school drop-off lane. 

Look, I am not perfect and I often cause major disruptions everywhere I go and every single member of my family, including me, endlessly requires and requests special accommodations to participate in everything. And when my oldest was little, she needed some help at drop off (but not in the drop off lane! I parked!) And I do not follow any rules at school pick-up. At that point in the day, I don't care anymore what anyone thinks. 

So, I get it, we've all got problems. BUT, I really do believe the school drop-off line is not the place for your problems. You can take your problems to a parking spot. 

In all my years of dropping kids off at school curbs, I've seen some things--parents having arguments, cars running out of gas while stopped at a very inconvenient angle at the curb, children sobbing and refusing to exit the vehicle, searches for lunch boxes that went missing in trunks and neighborly catch-ups while other cars line up desperate to deposit their child at school.  

And we all have one bad day, but we must remain dedicated to not all having the bad day on the same day and causing traffic jams and madness! We cannot all fall apart! Put your oxygen mask on first people! 

I have to say, it is nice to deal with "normal" problems (like parents feeding their children a 3-course brunch buffet at drop-off while their abandoned vehicle blocks the drop-off circle) versus the pandemic things like mask shaming, screening surveys, cohorts and how to mute on Zoom. But, as we progress to our new world of sending our children to school and therefore, dropping them off, I'd like to provide some veteran school drop-off tips:

1. If your child is unable to exit your vehicle without extensive assistance, the school drop off line is not for you. Unless of course, your child really needs to be dropped-off curbside and assisted, then do it. But, I know this is a small population and not the 50 parents who provided full drop support to their child this morning. And if your child does not need this level of support, you need to move out of the way for those who do! 

2. Practice makes perfect! If you feel that you or your child is unable to manage jumping out of a partially stopped vehicle with their backpack and lunch bag, you can practice! Take your car for a spin around the block and then do some practice drills. Be sure to time them and encourage them to keep aiming for a PR. Children love competition and stressful, judgmental games! You can also pit your children against each other, which is what they recommend in all the parenting books from back in the day. 

Be sure to focus on:

a. unbuckling

b. door opening 

c. exiting the vehicle while holding necessary school items. 

d. shutting the door properly

e. keeping emotions in check, squashing down all self-doubt and saving the hysteria for school pick-up (or future therapy sessions)

3. DO NOT STOP AND EXIT YOUR VEHICLE FOR ANY REASON (except if it is on fire or an assassin pops up behind your seat and is trying to strangle you. These are both very unlikely situations).  If your child forgets something, you can just throw it out the window or bring it back later or never! Children need to learn responsibility! If they don't close your door properly, first scream out the window at them or another child passing by to close the door. Or simply hit the locks and pull ahead. You can stop somewhere and fully close it later. Make a mental note to increase your practice drills to 5x/week until they improve. 

4. You can park and walk your child to the front door. In fact, the vast majority of parents in my district are very, very, very fixated on keeping all neighborhood school open because they are in walking distance! So, really, show us all how much you are dedicated to this cause by walking. (we cannot walk; we live 2.5 miles away). Plus, if you walk you get closer to closing the rings on your Apple Watch! It's efficient! 

5. The school car drop off is not the time for the following things:

a. hair braiding 

b. last minute breakfast

c. abandoning your vehicle

d. dispensing life advice

e. conducting an emotional affair 

f. reading the Gettysburg address

g. doing a TikTok

h. catching up with old friends while sipping a latte

The school drop-off line is like the line to jump out of a burning plane. Your altitude is rapidly decreasing--and you've got to get out so you have time to deploy your parachute. JUST GO, no stopping for anything! 

6. If you are a compliant person, it is important to remember many people are not compliant. You must have patience. And it is critical to have other compliant friends to complain too. You won't survive otherwise and you certainly cannot begin honking/screaming/behaving hysterically at drop off or someone will write a blog that begins. . ."Let's discuss road rage in the school parking lot". . . and you really do not need any bad press! 

Monday, April 12, 2021

Napping: An Addiction (Day 102)

I've become addicted to a daily nap, like I am toddler. 

Or an old man. Or a cat!

It started out of desperation--the first week of early rising nearly killed me and I had to nap or I feared I'd pass out on the way to dance class pick-up or begin snoring during a Powerpoint presentation (this has happened before. But at least I was off camera). 

But, now, it has been three weeks and I have to take a nap daily. In fact, sometimes, I feel like I cannot even stray too far from my bed. 

I am addicted to napping! 

A month ago, I was 100-percent not a napper. In fact, I often told my husband that napping was for losers and babies. 

I hated missing out on my day when I could be accomplishing something very important like scrolling through my Facebook feed or reading a book or working! 

But, now, I have to nap. Today, I did not even have to get early. (Lily had a race yesterday, so we got to rise with the sun like human beings). But, today, I had to nap. 

My children will remember me as the mother who napped! And I am not super pleased about that. I mean will they tell their kids: "My mom napped a lot when we were kids! We could not interrupt her during nap time!" They will probably think I have some invalid-like condition that causes me to fatigue easily. Or that I have a mental disorder or I am addicted to pain killers or something. 

When, the real truth is, I am addicted to my afternoon nap! 

Today, I tried to go cold turkey and power through nap time without napping and I ended up like this:

Asleep on the dining room bench, like my family's own in-house hobo. 

So, I think I need a sponsor! Or an intervention! Or a pillow. . . 

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Building Something New (Day 101)

Tomorrow in our school district, the cohorts officially combine and our children are sort of going back to some sort of normal in-person, 5-day a week learning. 

Of course my high schooler and middle schooler will only attend for half the day and my son will attend for four full days and half a day on Wednesday. There are several forms and checkers I have to fill out before they can enter the building about their symptoms or exposure or travel. They will be masked and most likely seated at desk surrounded by clear walls. Lunch for the second grader will be 6 feet apart. The older kids cannot have lunch at school and will return home for lunch and afternoon work. Hallways will have directional arrows. Quarantine guidelines are in still place--you travel, you quarantine; you are sick,  you quarantine; you are exposed, you quarantine. 

While I can watch lacrosse, soccer, flag football and baseball games for my youngest two; I am not permitted to watch my oldest row down the Schuylkill River (even though the stadiums are open and business is booming.) We've been encouraged, this Spring Break, to find time to gather with family and friends, but not to leave the tristate area. 

And while Mike and I are vaccinated, there is no real immediate life changing benefit to this--our children are not, so they cannot go anywhere beside PA, NY, CT and DE without having to test or quarantine. 

But, otherwise, everything is back to normal! 

It all makes me laugh. And it is all a contradiction. I think I am happy, selfishly, that my kids will be in school more (sibling fighting during the school-work day is not for the weak). However, this also just feels like one more change and we've had 14 months of change. I am ready to remain steady. My kids are ready to be steady. 

I know our collective end goal is "normal," but my own life experience outside of pandemic tells me that we won't ever return to the who's and how's of what we were before. I am not sure that we should, frankly. The nice thing about recovery after a trauma is that you can rebuild your life however you want. It does not have to look exactly the same as it did before--and it can't. 

If your house burns down and you rebuild, maybe the exterior walls look the same; but there will be newer, different things inside. These points of difference are the change and shift that an unexpected event left behind. 

And when we try to resist these differences--by returning to the old--we just end up building a house out of old, broken things. 

So, I am not looking for a return to normal. I am looking forward to something different for all of us. I am not sure what that is--and I often wonder, how did the world change after the last pandemic a hundred years ago? 

But, I don't have to look that far to find some insight. When I look at the pandemics and pandemonium  in my own life, I can see some of the new building that has happened--with Lily's premature birth, it was understanding just how capable I could be at motherhood--and embracing that side to myself. With Lily's brain tumor diagnosis, it was realizing how critical and capable a little family could be and how important it will always be remember that Lily's battle is repeated in the live's of other families, everyday and it is our moral imperative to never stop fighting for other families. With Chloe's premature birth, it was realizing that my career needed to be my girls for a while, because there is no greater accomplishment than raising them. With my father's death, it was realizing who really loved me and who really was my friend.  With the surprise of Nicholas, it was a reminder that I needed to be ready for anything--and that our once little family, could be just as strong when it turned loud and big. 

With the death of my brother, well, I haven't built something new, quite yet, but I know I will. 

Nothing friends, will ever return to what it was, because that is illogical and impossible. We are not returning to anything--we are discovering something else, entirely. 

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Taking a Bite Out of the Year (Day 100)


Today marks 100 straight days of writing here in Yoke!

It's so amazing. To honor the occasion, I woke up with the moon (did I mention I now get up early?), attended a very exciting partial  kid pitch (but the coach pitched) baseball game, made Italian roast beef for lunch and chicken parmesan for dinner, talked to my seedlings, did many crew parent things, like attending a meeting in a parking lot and packing snack bags in a backyard and endlessly worrying about my baby girl on the scary river in another state tomorrow (pray everyone! pray!), and of course, pulled out my lucky $100 bill and took a bite out of it!

Yes, I know money is very, very, very dirty and we are in a pandemic and yes, my mother would be horrified if she knew, so don't tell her and yes I know yesterday I was in the depths of some sort of intense, psychotic grief and it is all a lot to keep up with it. 

So, I am going to dissect and recap the past 100 days; but not like everyday, because that would take forever and I get up early now, (did I mention this?), and it is almost my bed time!

1. I made some goals! And I stuck to them, except for buying myself a desk and I did miss two days of meditation somehow. I even worked on my book here and there and an essay I want to send somewhere fancy like Woman's Day magazine! (I feel like the fact I was their FAVORITE intern in 1999 should count for something!). I've done an ab workout everyday and while I am not ready to become a fitness model; my posture has improved so much! 

Note: I really need to get a desk of my own. I am like some sort of gypsy with a laptop just wandering the house and taking very important calls in the center of the house and demanding everyone hide (silently) in closets. We have a perfectly good office/den that I don't allow anyone to use, including myself. 

2. I had several breakdowns in Yoke. I am not making light of my admissions and dark feelings,  but the truth is: I've seen some things. After my Sibling Day breakdown, I felt so much more myself today. Sometimes you have to let it out and then let it out again and again and repeat until you have a best seller! (Joking! Sort of! I am 100-percent for sale!). Anyway, I am proud of myself for remaining honest in my writing in Yoke and remaining true to my goal of writing without editing and just letting it all out. You get what you see here--some days I am discussing pornographic regency dramas, other days Jesus, the next day cataracts and then I am suddenly having a full-on mental attack over my personal trauma. 

There is always something to see here, people! 

3. I ordered at least $400 in seeds. My husband likes to repeatedly say: "I did not know you could spend that much on seeds." And I like to say: "YES YOU DO! BECAUSE YOU KEEP MENTIONING IT!" My sweet little seeds are well on their way to becoming sweet BIG plants and I really cannot wait. I've got to clean out our front yard garden and then, finalize the plans for the side yard garden that will be epic (and sure to cause family discord over it's construction) and figure out how to configure my fence strawberry and lettuce hanging garden! Here are our babies all tucked in with their plastic wrap blankets:

4. I put money in my mouth. So, this was just today and I feel I owe you the lucky $100 bill story! At my father's funeral, my cousin Sue, gave me the $100 she won betting on a horse named "Bill's Promise." My dad was Bill and the Carrington's like betting on horses. She told me it felt like a sign and I have no doubt it was! I tucked that hundy in my wallet and kept it close--a reminder of the value of a long shot, the importance of a poker face and that my Dad was always watching out for me. A couple years later, I was plant shopping somewhere and my wallet fell out of my diaper bag. It was never recovered and lost was my lucky hundy. Well, I decided to get a small supply of lucky hundreds and I keep them tucked in all my wallets. When I was trying to think of what to write tonight, I knew I had to share this story!

5. I am no longer an imposter. Okay, I am total imposter when it comes to being a very good Jesusy woman and an imposter when it comes to giving laundry advice. And in 2020, I felt like I was an imposter when I'd tell someone I was a writer. If they asked me what I wrote, I'd say: "Whatever anyone pays me to write!" and then immediately feel like a total fraud. 

While, I will absolutely write for anyone paying me, the truth is, my writing is this: it's Yoke, it's my stories, it's a laugh, it's a cry, it's a complaint, it's a bad joke, it's filled with typos, it's sometimes gorgeous and other times hard to look at. I am a writer. And this is my art. 

So with that, dear Yoke-readers, thank you for reading for 100 days (or maybe like 3 days, I am not tracking your reading habits!). So many of you have seen me in real life and told me you actually read and enjoy my writing. This means more to me than I can express without looking like a total loser. Truly, what a gift your readership is! It makes my heart happy and reminds me that I am a real writer! 

I am not writing for people not to read, so, if you like a Yoke, share it. And then share it again and then demand your friends read it and share it. Just mention that your writer pal Trish is both a hoot and deeply disturbing (and desperate for readers). 

Happy 100 Yokes!