27 June 2011

Woven History

One's graduation party was a success, due in no small part to the heroic efforts of Erin and the Captain. M.I.L and F.I.L were pressed into shopping service, which ran the gamut from food to tacky decorations for the all-season tree, and flowers for my planters.

I had managed to get a little done before the surgery, but we were working up until the first guests arrived. At one point on Friday, while Erin and M.I.L. were at Costco, my house contained the plumbers, the window cleaners, and the electrician. We ended up with two working toilets, although I forgot to buy a seat for one of them, so that bathroom was reserved for "boys only." I always said we'd be better served just installing urinals, so I got my wish.

One had a personal aide throughout his high school career, a lovely soft-spoken woman named Toni, who accompanied him during his day to help if necessary. Each year, at our annual review, she would tell us how he was maturing, and all the wonderful progress he was making in school. In actuality, she spent more waking hours with him in a day than we did. But we weren't jealous, just relieved, knowing that a kind-hearted soul was guiding him in our stead.

We invited Toni and her husband, Glen, to the party, and One waited up at the top of the driveway for them to arrive. Then he gathered his brothers one by one to introduce them to her, so she could place faces to the names she'd heard all these years. Four gave her a hug, because he's snugly like that.

Toni and Glen stayed for the whole party, and One visited with them almost the whole time. It was very sweet to see him so attentive, interested in gathering together the important people in his life. As One opened his gifts, I looked around the room at all the people who have influenced my life: my mother and step-father, my aunt and cousins, my siblings, the Captain and his family. Although our visits are sporadic, the ties that bind us defy time and distance. Ours is a shared history, generations of light and dark moments, triumphs and failures, more joy than tears.

After dessert, the next generation of the family ran outside to catch fireflies. The sound of their laughter and excited calls to one another carried across the warm breeze. It intermingled with the conversations inside the house, braiding new memories with the old. Someday they will sit together, and weave this night into their own chapter of our history.

24 June 2011

Graduation Day

One graduated from high school last night. It was a rainy day, that cleared at the last minute to permit an outdoor ceremony. It made the day extra-special, because my mother was able to attend. She's been recovering from an upper respiratory infection, and was advised not to lock herself in a hot auditorium full of pathogens. Instead, she and her red chariot got prime seating in front of the podium. There were damp eyes all around as her first grandson strode across the stage.

He is now sleeping soundly, having safely returned from "Project Graduation," an all-night graduation party that the PTA hosts at our local community college. I awoke every hour last night, perhaps from some adverse Percocet reaction, but more likely because my boy was off with hundreds of seniors, most of whom don't know him.

One spent his high school career in self-contained classrooms. This means he was educated with adaptations for his needs. All students are required to follow the same curriculum, but in some cases, the pace of the work was modified, or abridged versions of texts were used for instruction. Usually, his classes had no more than ten pupils. His high school is teeming with 1600 students. He participated in some mainstream classes, such as phys ed and computers, but for the most part he has a very small group of "classroom friends," as we call them.

The Captain and I were worried when we dropped him off for the party. All the kids were clustered outside the school in groups, and One wandered a bit, before stopping to talk to a young man, who smiled and answered his questions as we drove away. I have no idea if the boy knew One, or if he was just being polite. As we left him, I decided either was acceptable. One was socializing.

We sent our lad with his cell phone, with instructions to call if he wanted to come home.

At 12:30 I texted to ask if he was having fun.

At 2:30 he answered, "Yes."

"Do you want Dad to come get you, or are you going to stay?"

"I'm staying."

So, he's not unlike my other teenagers, in general non-verbosity.

When One arrived home, he told me he wasn't tired, because when he was hypnotized, they told him he would awake from the spell feeling well rested. Yikes. I didn't get many more details of the night, because I persuaded him to climb in bed. I hope he had fun.

And with that thought, I am reminded that my concerns for my special guy aren't that different from parents of all children. I want him to have friends, to be accepted for who he is, to go enjoy life. But I will always worry more about him than some of my other sons. I am so proud of what he has accomplished. I hope I can let go of some of my fear, and let him achieve even more.

22 June 2011

The Incisions at the End of the Road

This is the official post-operative post. Yes, I am sans gallbladder. I got to go to the nice surgical center, where the uniforms clash, but the staff is lovely. And once again, my doctor was incredibly late. Something about emergency surgery, blah blah blah.

I had arrived with a headache, which got progressively worse while waiting. Finally, the anesthesiologist saw me crying in my glass-enclosed room, and shot me up with some pain reliever, which got rid of the headache, but made me nauseous. Which is how I stayed for the rest of the day.

The operation went well. Before I went under, I told them all to take good care of me, because many people rely on me. The nurses all said "Awww..." and the surgeon said, "Don't worry," which is what one wants to hear. And then they knocked me out.

Apparently  I was white, with a slight green tinge, for quite a few hours after surgery. It was disconcerting to hear the nurses discuss my pallor with such a degree of alarm. But my "color" has returned. I have two more incisions than I thought I would. I definitely didn't ask enough questions, or perhaps, the surgeon didn't explain in great enough detail, so I look a bit like one of the boys' haphazardly patched stuffed animals.

Erin flew in late Sunday night, and Janet drove in yesterday, to minister to me and manage all the moving parts of the household. They are good women.

In other news, the bathroom renovations are progressing nicely, and it looks like we'll have new, functioning toilets for One's graduation party on Saturday!

Now, I'm off to take some Advil (we called for clearance), because that Percocet makes me nauseous. Then, I'll drink some more water, to try and de-puff my face while I sleep.

This concludes our gallbladder journey. Feel free to move about the cabin.

20 June 2011

Father's Day

I just left the Captain in bed, reading to the little boys. They looked adorable, tucked under the covers, as they listened to another exciting chapter of  Hiro's Quest. It's late, because we had everyone over for Father's Day, and the last of the cousins just left. It seemed like a ridiculous idea to host the celebration, considering what we're up against this week, but frankly, we have possession of the Captain's father, and we didn't want to deny his sisters access to their dad. It turned out to be a lovely day, full of food, fun, and  family, which is the most important part.

Naturally, I think of my own father on this day. He died when I was nineteen, so there have been decades spent without him. My memories of him are like excised scenes from a movie-brief, and incoherent.

I recall sitting on his lap, before he went to the hospital to have surgery.

I have a vision of him driving the Winnebago on our summer trip across the country. We stopped somewhere to go fishing, and he helped us take the Sunnies off our bamboo poles.

I remember dancing with him at my sister's wedding.

And of course, there are less benign memories, of anger, disappointment, and drinking. Once, my sister and I went to an event with him, and we ate dinner twice, hoping it would soak up the alcohol before we had to drive home down the Parkway.

I've certainly heard stories about Dad, from my mother, and his friends. They all describe him as smart, funny, and loyal. He was a New Jersey State Trooper, and he wrote a book about that organization. I have an autographed copy, inscribed to "My Blondie Blue-Eyes." Over the years, I've met men who worked with him, and each one has told me what a great man he was, and what a pleasure it was to know him. Their recollections blend with mine, and my fading portrait of him grows a little more detailed.

The truth is, my father died before I could fully take his measure as a man. It takes time, and perspective, to view your parents as individuals, possessing the same feelings and faults as our own. I didn't get to know my father beyond the narrow definition of "parent," and now I feel like I'm struggling to hang on to even those remembrances.

I went to check on the Captain and the boys, and they are slumbering in our big bed. Five's head is resting next to his dad's, and Four is tucked up against him. Sleep washes the years away, and once again they are babies, safe in their father's arms.

I hope they'll remember.

17 June 2011

Can I Be Me In A Different Universe?

Today I am the guest blogger over at the BettyVerse. Well, I suppose I'm not a guest, just a blogger, because the BettyVerse is owned by everyBetty. It's a unique site, a spin-off of LucyMarch.com. Sort of like "Rhoda" from the "Mary Tyler Moore" show.

 Lucy's blog was a very personal account of one woman's journey of self-discovery, and the community of women that rallied around her. The 'Verse is populated by those funny, strong, empathetic women, now posting their individual stories. I recommend a visit, not just to read me, but to share in what is always a positive experience.

When I offered to write for the BettyVerse I struggled to choose a "topic."  I was a little intimidated by Lucy and Alastair, the administrators of the site. Lucy is a witty author, and Alastair is her brilliant, professorial husband.

My claim to fame is my uterus.

How was I going to impress readers, if all I brought to the table was my propensity for gender-specific procreation? What could I write about, that would be worthy of the sophisticated denizens of the BettyVerse? Who am I, and what am I trying to accomplish in my life? An identity crisis ensued.

My trepidation about guest writing dovetailed with my recent contest-induced self-doubt. I was feeling pressured to make my manuscript appeal to the expectations of a specific group of readers. Finally, I decided to just continue writing my book about a single mother and her autistic son, and how a summer spent with her large, loving family--and yes, a hot sheriff--changes her life. Maybe it will be called a "romance." Perhaps it will be considered "women's fiction." Genre guidelines change, so I can't worry about bending to fit them.

With that in mind, I submitted a story to the BettyVerse that is just like the ones I tell over here. Well, I talk about the penii more over here. And I curse. Because of the penii. But I am The Lone Woman, no matter where I go. My life is a chaotic blend of teaching, doctoring, taxi-driving, and writing. I am a mother, amazed and exhausted by my children. I am fifty percent of a married couple, but have never felt like "half" of anything.  I have always been fully, exclusively, uniquely Megan Coakley. I don't think that will ever change, no matter the venue.

15 June 2011

Mean Mother

After the Captain left for Dallas, I individually spoke with all of my boys, and told them what the next two weeks had in store for me. I laid it all out: the bathroom renovations, the gallbladder surgery, One's graduation and party. I told them I would need their help. I implored them to please get their homework done, clean up their messes, anticipate what I needed, and do it. At the very least, to go to bed without me nagging and/or snuggling.

Four said, "Okay, Mom. Why do you need your gallbladder taken out?"
Five interrupted, "See, Four, it's not her bladder, it's her goal bladder."
"Yes, I know. What does it do, Mom?"
"Well," I answered to the best of my ability, "my liver produces bile, which helps digest food. And my gallbladder works with it. But now it's sick, and my liver can sort of do the job without it, so the doctor is going to take it out."
"I wouldn't want to watch that! I would pass out if I had to see all that blood," Four shuddered.
"What will happen if you die?" Five asked.
"I'm not going to die having my gallbladder removed," I reassured him. I thought.
"No, but what if you do? What would we do? I would die, if you die. I mean it, Mom, I would just end my life if you died. That would be it," he added dramatically.

And all this time, I thought he didn't care. That night I had to snuggle, to scare away the death dreams.

In contrast, here is what I got from the teenagers:

One said, "Okay, Mom." And he's been great. He's taken the girl dog out, a lot, and otherwise basically hidden in his room, away from the fracas.

Two bent way down to pat me on the back, and answered, "Whatever you need, Mom." Thus far this week, he's left his plate and cup downstairs, food wrappers in his room, had me drive him to a Confirmation party and a school event he forgot about, and stayed up incredibly late to finish end-of-year portfolios.

Three forgot about one assignment, and left all his notes in school for another. For the past two nights, we've researched, color-copied, and assembled projects. Then, I've stayed up even later to clean the kitchen, before passing out for five hours, just to drag their sleepy asses out of bed.

Two swore he would do better for the rest of the week. No promises from Three. And I've got to tell you, readers, I've lost my shit every night. I know I'm tired and overworked, but I've been downright mean. Like, if-I-was-Catholic-I'd-go-to-confession-mean. And I don't want to be mean. I want to be like Julie, and practice the "don't hurt" message. Don't hurt feelings, bodies, or stuff. I want to stop threatening to send Three to military school, because "they'll make damn sure you're organized!" I know he has ADHD, but I've run out of ideas, and now I'm running on invective.

I was a teenager once, so I get that Three's social calendar is full. He doesn't have a job, with a mortgage and family to support, so he should go have his fun. But holy cow, dude, if you have a week to do the project, at least allow three days! Don't make me check your assignment book before I give you permission to go out. Own it; do your work; grow up!! That said, I really shouldn't blame him for my grey hair, or tell him that he "really is, I'm not kidding, going to give me a fucking heart attack."

I've been a mean-spirited, belittling Mom, and that's not the example I want to set for my children. I want peace, for all of us. So today, I'm going to try and pause a moment to remember that I love my children, before I threaten to break their fingers if they touch my iPhone again. One day at a time.

13 June 2011

Woe Is Me

It's 11:43 PM and I want to cry.

Tomorrow my contractor arrives at 7:30 to rip out one-and-a-half bathrooms, in a desperate attempt to have them completed before One's graduation party twelve days from now. It will be great to have new bathrooms, so I can retire my duct tape and plungers. But the timing sucks.

The Captain is away in Dallas. He got home from San Francisco Thursday morning, and left Thursday night to go to Macy's "Go Red for Women" charity golf outing. One really can't complain about combating heart disease, which is the number one killer of American women. But I am going to whine about having two business trips scheduled within three days of one another. He'll be back Wednesday.

A week from Tuesday I have my gallbladder removed. Yes, two days before One graduates from high school. The first available date was actually July 8, but I looked so crestfallen, the receptionist went back to talk to the surgeon, and got me in sooner. I'm tired of feeling like someone is inside my stomach straining to get out, and making it difficult to breathe. I don't want to live in fear of being sidelined by an attack during the graduation, or the RWA conference.

So, this scheduling nightmare leaves me with eight days to get everything ready for the party, including trying to clean my messy house, which will, as a bonus, be covered in construction dust.

The good news is that it will be impossible to write while the renovations are underway, so I'll have plenty of time to de-clutter and organize. I'm so excited. I'm pretty sure I just heard my muse confirm her flight to Europe.

I would weep right now, but I have to go cover my hallway in protective plastic sheeting. Forgive my shallow moment of weakness.

09 June 2011


Twenty-three years ago, on June 9, 1988, I went to rehab. It was a bit like the Amy Winehouse song: my family tried to get me to go, I said no, no, no, but I changed my mind because I didn't want to spend my life alone. I spent thirty-three days at a bare bones, no celebrity-frills treatment center, followed by eight weeks at a Salvation Army halfway house. Then I made a series of particularly bad decisions, but someone must have been looking out for me,  because I didn't use. As of today, I have spent exactly half my life clean.

The Captain and I dated while I was using, and he hung around after I got clean, even though I broke his heart. More than once. Two years after I stopped using drugs, on June 9, 1990, we got married. So, today is my double-anniversary.

Each year, I remember that the blackest of my days eventually brought me to my most glorious, and I am grateful. It's very, very difficult to battle addiction. More people fail at staying clean than succeed. I celebrate my success each year with the greatest gift it has brought me: the Captain. Without him, nothing else would have been possible.

That was then...

...this is now.

And every day in between has been a lovely gift.

08 June 2011

And The Answer Is...

The Captain is away on business. This means I have extra time at night, because I am not engaged in the sexy sex. That's why I can blog. Unfortunately, it also means I have to deal with all the children alone, which is why this post is so late. But it will be a fairly short one, because it is the medical update.


I felt like I should let you all know, because I've held you hostage through this journey. I got the results back from the HIDA scan on Friday, and my gallbladder is only excreting at 26%. The gastro guy said when the percentage is less than 35% they recommend surgery to remove that sad sack. He makes no guarantee that my symptoms will disappear, because they can never be completely certain it's all the gallbladder's fault. However, it appears I am a classic gallbladder disease candidate, as described here:

Gender. In medical school, the "five F's" help doctors to remember the usual patient with gallbladder disease: "fair, fat, forty, fertile, and female." Sexist as it sounds, it describes the group most frequently affected by gallbladder disease: overweight middle-aged white women with a history of several pregnancies. Excess estrogen may be implicated, since hormone replacement after menopause increases the likelihood of stones.

Well, we all know I'm fertile. I am also fair, and could be considered overweight, or at least fat-laden. I make no pretense that I am eating anything resembling a healthy diet, and I'm sure that has something to do with my attacks. But I also think the gallbladder, like me, might just be tired. We've been working hard these past few years, and I'm certain many of my body parts would like to shuffle off to Buffalo. Or Miami.

I pitched the idea of decommissioning my uterus to my gynecologist. There is no other part of me more deserving of a champagne toast and caviar dreams. I thought we should relieve Ms. Stretch Armstrong of her monthly commitments, and let the fundus go have some real fun. But the doc wouldn't sign off on it. Something about being thrust into menopause, blah blah blah.

Well, on Thursday I'm going to talk to a surgeon who is more than willing to divest me of my pear-shaped bile repository. I did read some articles about how changing my diet could prevent surgery, but I think that ship has sailed. I honestly believe the gallbladder started failing after I had Boy Three, which is when I first experienced real pain. I think thirteen years is a good run for a hobbled organ.

I'll let you know when I'm going under the knife, or the laser, as the case may be. I hope it's soon, because I would like to feel better for One's graduation, and be at my peak Bettiness for the RWA convention. I'm  relieved to have an answer. Now, on to the it's-not-my-heart pain. Aren't you just on the edge of your seat?

07 June 2011

A Baseball Post for Daniel

When I wrote about Five's first baseball practice, Julie commented that her husband, Daniel, was so excited to read it. Daniel loves baseball, and misses watching the young folks play, now that their kidlets are grown. So, whenever I write about Five's team, I know that at least one reader is pleased! Here you go, Dan:

Tonight, Five played in one of his last baseball games of the season. It's been a horrible, rainy spring, and many of his games were cancelled. Other times, I chose to send him to Thursday Tae Kwon Do instead of practice. Once or twice, another brother had a commitment, and I kept Five home, because I still haven't figured out how to be in two places at once. Suffice to say, it's been a challenge to teach the little guy the intricacies of America's pastime.

Three and Four went with me to watch the game. Four and I have a routine now, where we flip the rear seats of the van, and use them as a desk to do his homework. Tonight, we also packed dinner, because I spent the afternoon laying on the couch, ill, and didn't quite get the food to the table. I gave Three money, because he loves the snack stand hamburgers and slushies. Four finished his homework just in time for us to make it to the stands to watch Five step to the plate.

The first time I watched one of his games, Five wanted to quit because he "embarrassed the team" by failing to make it to base all three times at bat. The next time, he fouled or struck out each time. So, I was a little apprehensive as he took his stance in the batter's box. And then his coach corrected it. And told him not to choke up so much. Okay, he was finally ready. On the fifth pitch, he made contact, and ran to first base!

I'm being kind when I say he "ran."  Five has no "kick." Or even a "stride." He runs a bit like an Irish dancer-it's all from the knees down. The coach has taken to racing alongside him in the baseline, to make him pick up the pace. Then he stays there to remind Five to sprint to second when the next batter hits the ball. I almost fell out of the bleachers laughing, when the kid running from first base passed Five, running from second, to home plate.

Five hit five times in five at-bats, which I am pretty sure means he will be highly recruited. And I haven't even talked about his fielding! He dove for two balls in the outfield, but caught neither, because he's still nervous the ball is going to hit him in the face. However, he did have an outstanding play at shortstop, where he threw himself in the dirt to stop the ball. He stood up, filthy and proud. After he threw the ball to the pitcher (almost all the way!) he shook the dirt out of his glove, and got back in the ready position, steely-eyed and freckle-faced.

When we got in the van, I told Five he would definitely need a shower, because he was covered in baseball dirt. He said, "Oh, yeah, Mom, I do! I was like Derek Jeter out there!" And then he did the play by play for his brothers, just in case they had missed any of his highlights. Despite all the hiccups in the season, he had learned, improved, and was happy.

There's another Captain in the house.

03 June 2011

Time Management

I have seen my general practitioner more times in the last six months than I have in the last six years. Yesterday, I stopped by his office to talk about chest pain. After my bout with the as-yet-undiagnosed-abdominal-pain, I noticed that I had persistent tenderness at the top of my rib cage. This was combined with an ever-present feeling of being poked from inside my stomach, which occasionally progressed to a stabbing pain right where one places their hand to pledge allegiance to our flag. Throw in an occasional fluttering sensation that travels up my throat, and ...strange, right?

So I ignored it. Because that seemed reasonable, despite the fact that my father died of heart disease at the age of 55. I'm only 46, you know.

Truthfully, I thought it was residual pain from the maybe-it's-my-gallbladder attack. I kept waiting for it to go away. But it hung around, and it's not anywhere near my gallbladder. So, since we all know women with cardiac issues present different symptoms than men, I went to see the doctor. Lucky for me, they have an EKG machine right in the office, and the echocardiagram tech was in for the day! They ran a quick tape on me, and my heart rhythm was fine. Then I walked one room over, and the echo guy did an ultrasound of my heart. I haven't bared my breasts that many times in one day since college.

Quick glance showed the heart looks fine. So, the doctor asked me if I'm stressed. I find this question humorous, and frustrating. Is there anyone who answers in the negative?  I absolutely believe that stress can trigger any number of physical responses, but I would still prefer a more concrete reason for my pain. I don't want to go on anti-anxiety medication, just to see if it makes things better. I already don't have enough energy to do everything that needs to get done, and sometimes meds S-L-O-W you down. I was a coke fiend, people; I'm not looking for the mellow.

I told the doc I don't think I'm any more stressed than I was six or twelve months ago. However, my comparisons are always based on when my anxiety was at near-catastrophic levels--when One ran away; the four months Three was home from school with debilitating anxiety; every day that Four suffered in his public school first grade. In contrast, life is pretty rosy these days.

I am willing to entertain the possibility that I am overextended.  In the past six months, I've started a blog, entered writing contests, attended NECRWA, and made a commitment to finish the novel. Add in managing the herd, cooking gourmet meals, and routinely engaging in the hot sex, and there aren't a lot of hours left in the day. And my schedule isn't going to get any lighter for the next six weeks, as I plan a graduation party, attend RWA National in New York, and pack for the big family vacation. So...I think something's gotta give.

Sorry, Captain.

Just kidding. Actually, it will more than likely be the copious amounts of time I spend catching up with all of you. I love sitting down in the morning and cruising through everyone's blogs, or reading facebook and twitter. When my iPhone alarms at 5:50 a.m., I check my email, and read Julie and Kristel's comments on the Diary. It forces my eyes to focus long enough to get me out of bed.

Now, I think I have to use my social media time to finish the manuscript, which is what got me here in the first place. I'm not slipping the clasp on the Diary, but I may not write in it every day. Because, more than giving you a place to visit me, I want to give you my novel. Soon.

01 June 2011

This Week On "The Writer": Paralyzing Self-Doubt

I am writing thank you notes to contest judges. The coordinator for the Winter Rose contest encouraged it, even going so far as to suggest actual HANDWRITTEN notes, which I thought was quaint. Instead, I am sending electronic ones, which she will distribute. Then, I will do the same for the Dixie First Chapter judges, who gave me much less...complimentary feedback.  I hadn't read the comments since the day I received them, so it's been...bracing.

See how I am struggling to spin this? It wasn't actually all that bad to read the Winter Rose comments, because the criticism was valid.  I've accepted that I am going to have to fix point-of-view issues, as daunting as that seems right now. It's more difficult to read the Dixie First Chapter judges, because now I know I've got work out there that needs fixing.  I want to write to the remaining contests and ask for my entries back!

Right about now, you must be asking, "Holy shit, how many contests did that self-absorbed woman enter?"
I can't answer that. I honestly don't even recall entering the Dixie First Chapter. I know that I had certain criteria for choosing contests that had to do with the age of the contest, and the final round judges. Clearly, I didn't have to worry about the final round of Dixie.

To the best of my knowledge, I'm entered in two more contests. Two more times opening email announcements, and steeling myself for the results. I hope they arrive many weeks apart. Having such  disparate comments arrive in the same week was jarring. Right now, I need less jostling, and more petting.

I'm not usually this sensitive, so I think I'm going to finish the notes tomorrow. I can rise and declare, "I am a great writer!" which I learned over at the Cherry Forums. But I might need to revisit those nice comments first.