Friday, June 24, 2011

It's All Behind You

It's been a long time since I was cheered on while sitting on a commode, over 50 years to be exact. I think I was two.

And yet, today I found myself cheering silently for me (while my husband murmured his own encouragement from the living room "you'll get through this, honey").

And that's what preparation for a colonoscopy does for you. It reminds you of those toddler days when a diaper was quite often the best option: with every form of laxative known to man lined up on your bathroom counter, and a corresponding time chart taped to your bathroom mirror, life as you knew it (as a grown adult) is about to end.

It's not just the lack of food that makes a grown woman (me) want to cry, but the recognition that there is no where in the world she would rather be than within 10 feet of a bathroom, newly recognized as Laxative Heaven.

And that is how my past 36 hours were spent - NO diapers, but always within 10 feet of our tiny bathroom. However, in our 640 square foot, 1-bedroom condo that means I could be in any of our three rooms and STILL make it to Laxative Heaven in just a matter of steps, so I probably should not complain. Doing this in a 5,000 square foot home would add another level of difficulty.

In all seriousness, the past 36 hours were much less uncomfortable than I had imagined they would be during the past six years. Yes, I have been dreaming of this day that long. Why, you must wonder. Well, it's simple. Six years ago I turned 50, the recommended age for your first colonoscopy screening. I've put it off that long.

And yes, dreaming is probably a bit of a stretch. It was more like a nightmarish fear of the unknown. If you've read Dave Barry's Colonoscopy Journal, you can understand how unknown and imagined expectations (17,000 feet of tube) can feed an unnecessary fear which will grow and fester inside us until the only cure is a regimen of laxatives and a colonoscopy.

Reading Barry's column was the best medicine I could have taken, I laughed and laughed late Thursday evening as I read his hysterical "journal" of his colonepic experience (yes, that's a new word - colonepic).

But, leaving the humor behind, here are the details. I have survived a colonoscopy and I am here to tell you about it. Read along.

Per the good doctor's orders, I stopped eating solid foods on a Wednesday at 7 PM (dinner). This was easy since I was tired and ready for bed at 10, and I was not hungry after dinner. I sipped some water in the middle of the night and slept well.

The following day, I started seriously drinking clear liquids at 7 AM (Thursday). I am a Starbuck's junkie so I hit my favorite haunt and ordered several iced drinks to go. I enjoyed green tea, and passion tea, and water all day long as I was running errands and keeping appointments. I was never hungry. And certainly never thirsty.

In the evening on Thursday I had a few Popsicle's, one bowl of clear chicken broth, several cups of green and red jello, and more passion tea and water. I still wasn't really hungry, however, I discovered that habitually I would get off the couch and check out the frig every hour or so, looking for anything I might want. It was rather enlightening to see my own habits in action, and not be able to act on them.

Earlier that day, at 2 PM on Thursday, I had taken the prescribed laxative pills. At 5 PM on Thursday I drank a full bottle of laxative, followed by a large glass of water. And again at 5 AM on Friday, I drank a full bottle of laxative, followed by a large glass of water. All per doctor's orders.

Word of CAUTION: the liquid laxative is dangerous, I was very happy the doctor's directions included a suggestion to be VERY close to a bathroom after (while) drinking the bottled laxative. And without any gruesome details, let's just say I lost more than a few pounds that night.

And I'm not going to lie and say it was a great night's sleep. It wasn't. I slept, but I also woke up to visit Laxative Heaven several times. But it wasn't miserable or painful, it just wasn't all that restful.

It is very important to remember that you should not have ANYTHING (liquid or solid) within 4 hours of any type of surgery requiring anesthesia (with the exception of doctor ordered laxatives and liquids - in my case, the 2nd laxative bottle and a large glass of water).

Early Friday morning, we drove to the hospital, where the nurses were professional, quick and thorough with the paperwork. And eager to share the locations of all nearby bathrooms.

I was then presented with a lovely hospital bracelet and designer backless gown - I felt like a princess.
Well, not really, but so far this had not been a terribly unpleasant experience. Of course, it wasn't what I would term a pleasant experience either. But I was resigned to the fact that it needed to be done. I was not nervous or anxious. I just wanted it over. And I was dressed for the occasion.

There wasn't any "real" prep (like when you have major surgery), just vitals, an IV drop (for the anesthesia) and a warm blanket over the legs (absolutely say "yes" when they ask if you want one).

The anesthesiologist wanders in, makes sure you are who you should be and are there for the same procedure she thinks you're there for, then explains that it's an IV anesthesia, no needles in the arms, no tube down the throat, simple, easy. A nap of sorts.

And then the doctor arrives, looking all dapper in his crisp cotton shirt and silk tie, to say hello, make sure you are who you say you are and are there for the same reason he thinks you're there ("I have 3 questions for you: What's your name? Who's your doctor? Why are you here? Perfect. Thank you. Good night.")

And you're out.

And then you're awake. About 30 - 45 minutes later.

And surprisingly, feeling just fine. No memory of what just happened (which is nice, because you can pretend that your dignity is in tact and nothing at all happened while you were napping).  And there are no lingering signs of the long feared procedure either. A smiling nurse offers you juice and pretzels, and compliments your hair (which I always find hysterical in a hospital bed).

Following your awakening, you "stabilize" for maybe 15 minutes, the nurse checks your vitals, the smiling doc comes in to tell you all is well,  and you're done. Discharged. It's over.

In and out (please pardon the pun) in less that 2 hours. Check-in to check-out.

And it's off to brunch, cuz you are hungry. Nothing spicy, please.

In hindsight, I suppose if I had it to do all over again I should have done it at age 50...

But then again, you know what they say about hindsight - it's all behind you.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Just Bury Me in a Moving Box

I can't count the number of moves I've made since I  married my children's father in January 1976. However, I am certain my children can.

It all started because I married a building contractor. You know the type - "If we build it, they will buy." Anyway, that was the theoretic plan. We would build a home, move in, and then sell it for a profit which was to be applied to the purchase of our next home. Somehow, no matter how good this sounds, it never really happened, but we managed to move around from one Hi-land Mountain Homes new-build to another for two decades (from Lake Arrowhead, CA to Running Springs, CA to Lake Arrowhead, CA to Crestline, CA to Lake Arrowhead, CA and to another home in Lake Arrowhead, CA...) I hope you get the picture.

And we weren't just accumulating and moving belongings over the years. We were accumulating and moving children.  Often, or more accurately, almost always, I was pregnant when we moved, or had a newborn. Such fun. So each move included at least one more child, until we were moving our six children from house to house.

And then we weren't. When I moved from California with the kids, the number started dropping. (we moved from Lake Arrowhead, CA to Provo, UT then to another home in Provo, UT).

Karynn was the first to bolt. I can't say I blame her. The divorce between her Dad and me had been hard on everyone, but our children took the brunt of it - as children of a divorce always do. She was ready to head off to college and didn't waste a minute doing so. And it was there she met her husband. Cedar City (home of Southern Utah University - SUU) has been her family home ever since. Her four children were born there, and there have been less than a handful of moves in their 14 years of marriage, and all within a 5-mile radius. Lucky for them! Karynn has a successful photography business, Bloomshoot Photography and continues to be an amazing mother and wife. (we had moved from Provo, UT to Holladay, UT to Cottonwood Heights, UT to another home in Cottonwood Heights, UT and then back to Lake Arrowhead, CA while Karynn was at college). 

And while I was moving around, her Dad and his wife were doing the same, so the kids always remind me to DOUBLE the number of moves I've made when calculating their individual moves.

Kurt was next. He was off to Honduras (yes, he preferred the stability of a third world country over mine). Two years later, returning with a newfound appreciation for our country, he wasted no time before heading off to Cedar City, UT to attend SUU (and meet his wife), before landing at BYU to complete his Juris Doctorate and Masters in Accounting. Since then he has traveled the world with his wife and children, visiting Europe, Guatemala, Honduras, and beyond, then spending several years on Wall Street and dedicating six months to an economic program in Chile before returning to familiar territory in Utah.  He manages his two successful online businesses Rocket Relief and Settle My Tax. We will see how long the former homebody (although he was never unadventurous) stays planted (we had moved from Lake Arrowhead, CA to Yucaipa, CA while Kurt was in Honduras).

Kollin didn't last much longer. He bounced back to California with me, after our five years in Utah, but was soon out and about as an 18-year old living on his own. Florida beckoned and he accepted the call to serve a two-year LDS mission, working with the hearing-impaired and speaking through American Sign Language. From there, he traveled to Washington state to visit Hal, Kelly, Kalen and me, where he met his soon-to-be wife on a road trip from Washington to Provo at the beginning of a school year. Since then he's bounced back to Lake Arrowhead, CA once, but has landed  firmly in Salt Lake City, UT with his wife and two girls, where he hangs his 3rd degree black belt at his own Jeff Speakman's Kenpo 5.0 studio. His classes include young children (he is the best martial arts instructor I've ever seen with children especially), teenagers, young professionals, mature adults, and he also teaches the hearing-impaired. (we had moved from Yucaipa, CA to Roslyn, WA while Kollin was in Florida). 

Kyle might have stuck around after high school, but decisions (not mine) about college funding effectively led him to leave family behind and head out on his own. He went north to Arcata and Humboldt to start his college education, then back to Southern California and UCLA to finish his degree. He supported himself through college and is quite an amazing person. Following graduation (and I mean immediately following graduation, we had barely swallowed the celebratory dinner) he was off to DC for a new job, with his girlfriend soon to follow. And he has been in DC and at the same job, ever since. I think he will move west again someday, but for now they are happy and love the DC life. They have good friends and a beautiful penthouse apartment - Kyle has been featured in an online apartment magazine for his keen decorating skills (URL coming soon!) (we had moved from Roslyn, WA to another home in Roslyn, WA to Salt Lake City, UT and then to another home in alt Lake City, UT while Kyle was in school).

Kelly made Washington state her home. She graduated from Cle Elum High School where she had discovered her passion for customer service and hospitality while also working at Suncadia Resort. She still calls Cle Elum her hometown, although she left Washington soon after graduation, having only lived there for a few years (I sobbed for two days straight when she left). She headed to Utah for school, landing in Cedar City and graduating from Southern Utah University. She met her husband in Cedar (do you see a pattern here?) and they have chosen to make their home in Cedar, with only two moves so far in their less than two year marriage, the last move landing them in a gorgeous new home that we all love to visit! Kelly is a personal trainer and photographer (URL coming soon!) :) (we had moved from Salt Lake City, UT to Albuquerque, NM (and Kalen had moved to Brazil for one year) while Kelly was in school).

Kalen, although my youngest, left the roost relatively earlier than her brothers and sisters. I cried my eyes out when she left for Brazil at the age of 16 for a year-long Rotary Exchange. She bounced around in Brazil from host family to host family before returning to Utah and the scattered reality of her Mom (and dog) living in Albuquerque, her Dad living in California, her step-dad living in Utah, and her brothers and sisters dotting the country in DC, NY, CA and UT. I am certain she felt a bit homeless. It didn't take long for her to stubbornly choose to live "on her own" and state clearly and firmly that she wouldn't be living with any of us, all at the age of 17. If she was going to move in the future, it would be her choice, not ours. So off she went from Utah, to California, and  finally to DC in February 2011. So she's in DC, where I thought I would live for a decade or more, but instead I am leaving. Life is putting me on the road again. So sad. So sad. But Kalen loves it here. She is finally launched; attending NOVA until she figures out her major, and working as a full time manager at Real People. She's found a great guy and I am feeling as if maybe I can finally let loose of the apron strings, the same strings she cut long ago and I tucked carefully into my pocket. Kalen's sense of style is flawless, and a future as a bilingual designer/buyer or personal shopper is inevitable. Brazil has stuck with her, both the couture style and the Portuguese language, but she will always be my baby. (URL coming soon!) (during Kalen's time in Brazil I moved from Salt Lake City, UT to Albuquerque, NM).

And there you have it, the saga of my many, many moves and the reactions of my children - either to plant their feet where they landed, or explore the world, but wherever they are each one has chosen to become an entrepreneur. No one's going to move them around the country, they will move when they want to. They are in control. They have no fear. They adapt. They are unlimited in their energy. And they are bright, optimistic, ethical, hardworking, grounded adults. I couldn't be prouder.

I will mention that nearly every move in my life has been because I had been recruited for a new position with a new organization, or found a new a single Mom with six kids, better opportunities were difficult to turn down. I am ever grateful for the offers that came my way, but the long-term effects of all those moves are very real. Some of my children say they are grateful for the experiences, it made them who they are; some don't quite feel that way. And I agree with both positions. As for me, I have the paper-cut scars on my heart to live with, knowing that no matter how  many positive effects there might have been, there were also negative effects that linger here and there with my kids.

Life is rarely what I expect it to be. And now I am off to another adventure in Henderson, Nevada with my husband Hal (who is no longer living in SLC, but is right here with me in DC - and the official moving truck driver). My kids don't have to move with me this time and they don't have to move me either (believe me, they are cheering right now), but I will be leaving two of them in DC, and there will be tears flowing down my cheeks for days.

I've loved getting together with Kalen and Kyle. It's been good to spend time with them, especially since Kyle has been so far away for so long. What a joy he is and how proud of him I am. And Kalers, well, what can you say about your youngest child who happens to be a beautiful, willful, strong, fun, intelligent daughter? I can only say one thing. She lights up my life and I love her to pieces. I will miss them both terribly.

But as I leave (again), Kalen and I can look back on some unique segments of time when it's been just the two of us - Cle Elum in the hotel and our first rental, Salt Lake City in our rental and the condo, and then the long drive from Victorville, CA to Washington DC and the time we've spent together since she's been here. In spite of the many moves in her life (over 20 and she's only 19), we've had some pretty precious time together, something none of my other children ever really had - with the exception of those first 3 years with Karynn which I remember much better than she will.

But there's always a silver lining, and now I am looking forward to being close to more of our kids and grandkids. We won't be in the same city, but we will be within driving distance. I can go to baseball games; I can be at birthday parties!  I can attend concerts; I can enjoy my grandchildren! I can hug my kids! I can take them to Disneyland or to California beaches. And DC is a flight away...and I will visit as often as I can.

Life is so crazy, it's never calm. At least mine isn't. And now I'm back to packing. But I'm excited and can hardly's a new challenge, a new opportunity. Honestly, I don't know what I would do without all the fun memories of my past life, in all the wonderful places I've lived, with all the amazing people I've met. I have very few, if any, regrets. It hasn't been smooth, I've hurt myself and others along the way, but it's my life and I own it. And truth be known, I love it.

My kids are incredible. Patient, long-suffering, strong, valiant, honest, loyal and brilliant. They have made my life joyful, as I have bounced around from place to place. I will be eternally thankful.

And when my moving days are over, I will have the memories of friends and family to keep me going until it's time to just pack me away for good.

And when it is time...just bury me in a moving box. That's where I will feel most comfortable. And who knows, you might find a better plot for me someday... and I will already be packed. For the move.