August 26th, 2009

Wednesday morning. The Small Boy goes off to Kindergarten with R. (Have I told you? Can you believe it? My Small Boy goes to Kindergarten four mornings a week.) I walk across the driveway with the Boychen, knock at my mother-in-law’s door. It’s Wednesday, she is taking the Boychen for the morning. I walk back to our house, come down to my studio, pour a cup of coffee into my sunshine yellow mug with the white spots. I put on some internet radio, open half-a-dozen tabs, see that Crab Orchard Review is accepting submissions for a special issue featuring Illinois writers. I’m an Illinois writer; far-flung, it is true, but I lived there for the first 21 years of my life. I think it would make an interesting line in a cover letter: “I am an Illinois native now living on a farm in Switzerland…” I think it would be enough to make somebody keep reading. I have my task for the morning, the boys are away, I have these two quiet hours in my studio, and I have a task. I close the windows, go to work.

Chaos, in a good way

August 16th, 2009

We’re in the house. We’re unpacking boxes. (Opening scores of boxes with a Swiss Army knife while on blood-thinners does give one pause…) We’re having a heat wave. My studio on the ground floor is the coolest room in the house. I am almost all set up in here. I love the walls and the sage growing outside my window and the organization forced on my desk by the act of packing and unpacking. (I am determined to keep it this way.) I haven’t actually written in my writing studio, because there are other room to organize and other boxes to unpack. Boxes and boxes to unpack. We have too many things, R and I, and the act of moving made me realize that the boys have more than enough toys. We have, all four of us, more than enough. It is my project for the rest of the year: to pare down, to simplify. And, once the last moving carton has been flattened, to write within these four walls.

Emotions, like water, seek their own level

August 6th, 2009

The following things have reduced me to tears this week:

I couldn’t find my key.

There was no paper on the toilet paper roll.

Boychen mashed a brown lump of Play-Doh together with a purple lump of Play-Doh and now we have browple- colored Play-Doh.

The boys and I missed a bus. (This is not a big deal, it’s Switzerland after all – there’s another bus in six minutes.)

My husband offered to pick up Small Boy from the grandparents’ so that I didn’t have to.

I special-ordered compression stockings and started crying right there in the pharmacy.

Small Boy and I found a dead songbird and set it under a tree and covered it with leaves and branches. “Good-bye, pretty song bird,” we said.

Too much on my mind

August 5th, 2009

Poet Mom recently asked how much social networking is too much? I guess the answer is going to be different for each of us, but for me it seems to be “when I forget my SheWrites login two days after creating the account.” Thanks to the kind people at Ning who helped me find myself again.

Painting the studio is on hold for a few days. For some strange reason, my husband doesn’t want me inhaling paint fumes two days after discovering I have pulmonary emboli. I think he’s being unreasonable, but you know loved ones, what are you going to do?

Since I’m not painting, I’m trying to get other things done. I donated two bags of clothes today and sorted out where to donate several large bags of books before the move.

Many journals, journals associated with colleges and universities, don’t read over the summer. A whole bunch of journals I’m interested in are about to start reading again and I haven’t finished all the revisions I wanted to make. I should be doing that right now, I suppose, instead of bloging. 

And yet I blog.

A sudden shortness of breath

August 4th, 2009

Late last week, on Thursday or perhaps Friday, I noticed that I was winded after walking the stairs to the first floor of our apartment. I have felt tired for some time now, but winded from a flight of stairs is something I usually am not. Yesterday I took the boys shopping and had to stop and rest as we walked home from the bus-stop, a walk of all of three minutes that I make nearly every day.

I started a new birth control pill two months ago, not out of any reproductive necessity but in the hopes that it would even out my increasingly severe PMS – the last lingering symptom, I think, of the post-partum depression and anxiety I suffered through last spring. I remembered blood clots can be a side effect of birth control pills, though Dr. Fantabulous and I both thought that would be unlikely in my case since I suffer from a Factor VII deficiency. But I ran through in my mind a list of the warning signs he had given me: leg cramps, especially in the calves – yes; headache – yes; chest pain – yes; shortness of breath – oh my, yes. I called Dr. Fantabulous’ office only to find him on vacation. The other doctor in the practice recommended magnesium, lots and lots of water, and to wait and see how it was in another month. I made an appointment to see Dr. Fantabulous when he returns from vacation. I hung up the phone.

I had a panic attack. I called R at work, asked him to come home. I sat on the kitchen floor and asked Small Boy if he knows what to do if something happens to Mama when Dada isn’t home. “Ob Unfall, Feuer, einerlei, in Notruf whale ich eins eins zwei” he recited.* Thank you, two dozen fire department books we have in the house.

R came home. I explained the story, explained that Dr. Fantabulous was away, that I didn’t know what to do next, that I was scared. He called the emergency room and explained the situation and asked if we should see our GP or what.

They said to come to the ER. Now.

We called the in-laws to come stay with the boys. We went to the ER. They got me into a bed right away. They drew vials and vials of blood right away, they administered an EKG and ordered a CT. I had to wait nearly two hours for the CT and by the time it was my turn I had convinced myself that I had just wasted 10,0000 Swiss Francs worth of medical tests over a panic attack. The CT results came quickly – five, perhaps ten minutes – and confirmed multiple pulmonary emboli in both lungs.

I said, in all my bi-lingual eloquence: “Wow. Really. Wow.”

The doctor, who would give brusque a bad name, said the hematologist would be in to see me and left. Really. The entire conversation proceded thus:

“The CT confirms multiple emboli. We’ll need to start therapy right now with a shot. The hematologist will be in to see you.”

“Wow. Really. Wow.”

“A nurse will be in to give you a shot.”

And she left. And I started to cry. And I had a dozen questions. Am I at immediate risk for a heart attack? A stroke? Am I at long term risk for pulmonary hypertension? Am I going to die this year? The Boychen is just starting to talk, am I going to die before I get to hear him say I love you?

The hematologist came in and talked me down off the ledge, explained the treatment (anti-coagulant drugs I have to inject daily for the next six to twelve months depending on how I respond, follow up visits, and those charming compression stockings), explained how little risk there is now – now that we know about the emboli, now that treatment has begun – of serious long-term consequences.

Now that we know. I have been walking around with these emboli that could take me from my sons for who knows how long and didn’t even know. I’ve been painting, decorating my studio in my mind, making lists of all the house and garden projects to start on at the new house, writing poems and ordering books on line, and all the while these emboli – these things – have been digging in and stealing my breath.

Breathe, I tell my boys when they are scared or hurt and crying too hard to stop, breathe. Look at me. Look at Mama. Breathe. As always, I find it easier to dispense advice than to follow it even if it is my own. But it is the only advice there is. Breathe.

* Whether accident, fire or anything, in an emergency I call 112

Blue paint

August 2nd, 2009

Outside it is raining, the sky grey and compressed by low-lying clouds. Inside I am painting the walls the color of my childhood, the color of my heart, the color of my father, the color that comes as close as I could find to the “high blue windless skies”* of an early Idaho autumn without flying to Ketchum and cutting a swatch from the sky to bring to the paint shop.

I am painting the walls of the room that will be my private studio in the house that will be our home in two weeks. We are moving to the countryside, to the farming village where R’s parents live, to a second house on the farm property. It has been a long time coming, this move, something R and I have walked around slowly, circling closer each time it comes up for discussion. I have loved this neighborhood, this city, these views; I have loved this urban life but it is time for a change.

I am excited: excited to paint, to decorate, to have my own studio. Excited to have a garden. Excited to have space, inside and out, to breathe. I am anxious: I have been an urban creature for so many years now. Before this Swiss life, I lived here and here. I will miss things, I know, I will miss this city I have come to love. But the move will be good.

And my walls will be the color of an Idaho sky.

* Ernest Hemingway