And Then That Happened…

I have a lot of empathy for students who have major family tragedies. I have colleagues that have joked about how grandmothers tend to die around major exam times, but I’ve also had a few students experience the death of someone close to them over the last year and my heart just aches for them. I lost my own mother as a sophomore in college and it really threw me for a loop.

Mentors aren’t excluded from tragedy and, just as we hopefully show mercy when our students experience tragedy, we often have to look to them for understanding when our own families are touched by death and illness. This last month has been a real doozy (I admit I had to google the spelling of that) for my family. About a month ago (I think), my children lost their great-grandmother. This was Mr. I’s grandmother and my children knew her well. My heart hurt for the loss of this special lady and Mr. I’s loss, and hurt harder for how deeply my children have felt it. It’s not easy to see your children hurt and know that you can’t fix it. Just hug and snuggle them.

Just after that, I tweeted that a member of my family was hospitalized. He’s a type I diabetic and my dad came home and found him unconscious. He spent a week in the ICU, on a ventilator. My heart broke for him, his mother, and my father, and it broke at the thought of having to tell Tiny Diva that he was so sick. Tiny Diva adores him. It broke at the thought that he might not wake back up and she’d have to face that. The anxiety of worrying for him and my own selfish worry ate away at me. Thankfully, he recovered and is doing well.

Last night I came home and spent most of the night away from social media. The lab was on a marathon of abstract submissions, I spent time with the kids, and we watched the debate. Little I fell asleep on the couch and Tiny Diva and I went to bed and snuggled. We woke up and I took the kids to school. Then my dad text me that his partner died last night. So matter of factly. Just that she was dead. I assaulted him with a barrage of texts, trying to figure everything out. He remained matter of fact, in typical dad-like stoicism. He came home from work and found her dead on the floor. And, she was a recovering addict.

Dr. S. is away seeing his kids. Tiny Diva and Little I are with Mr. I tonight, and I’m just here trying to untangle my feelings. Sometimes my dad’s stoicism is more painful than raw emotion. I got a glimmer of what was inside when my mom died, and I know it’s there. Yet, either because he’s so private and has experienced so much tragedy in his own life, or because he feels some sort of duty to not show his emotion, he keeps his emotions very close to his chest.

The result is, not only does he not share, but he also doesn’t invite sharing and I feel so distant from him. I know what I’m feeling, so I can only begin to imagine what he’s feeling. I’ve never lost a significant other. He’s lost two. But, we restrict our interaction to the brief.

“Are you ok, Dad?”

Dr.. S. reminds me via text message that my father is not the only one in our family with an “event horizon.” A radius beyond which emotion and intimate thoughts do not pass.  I’m more like my father than I care to admit, but only because the idea of sharing raw emotion and private information with most people makes me uncomfortable. Maybe it’s why I’ve always written a blog.

My head is also swimming with thoughts of how to tell my children. Little I is the opposite of my family. He feels everything so deeply and wears his heart on his sleeve. I love that about him. The last time we were at my dad’s house, Tiny Diva and my dad’s partner made oreo cheesecake bites together, painted pictures and watched fireworks. She adored her. I can’t even imagine how words will come out of my mouth.

“Are you ok, Dad?”
“Yeah. I went to the funeral home with her parents. They wanted to make arrangements.”

So, I’m going to watch hunker down, watch Chelsea Handler, and try to let this wash over me. I think I’ll take a day away from the lab and be with family. Get the insides of myself back together.

Addiction is really a hell of a thing. This is an unformed, stream-of-consciousness thought, but I have played it over and over in my head that, as I was watching the debate last night, my dad was finding the woman he loved, dead in their home. One of the candidates blames an entire group of “others” for the crime and drug problems in our country. These things happen in the “inner cities” The thing is, people from a different country aren’t necessarily responsible for the deaths in my family, and they don’t all happen in the inner cities. Addictions like those originate from the tip of a physician’s pen or the easy conversion of over-the-counter medications to an addictive substance.  They touch all kinds of people.

When I had shingles last year, my doctor sent me home with 60 oxycontin. I took 3. My dad’s partner had surgery a couple of weeks ago and got a small nation’s worth of pain meds.

It’s easy to blame people that look different for our country’s addiction problem, but the cause of our pain is so much closer to home – in our careless management of our pain.

Financial Freedom and Stuff That Is Changing My Life…

Now that we are on the other side of our debt free journey, I’m gently tip-toeing into living like a human again. We were so nuts about meeting our timeline goals that, when the light bulbs in our house started burning out, we didn’t replace them. The month I paid off my student loan, we were down to one light bulb. Little I commented that it was like living in medieval times and I tried to find humor in the situation. We went pretty nuts with our intensity to get our finances in order, but I’d like to think that our priorities didn’t get quite this nuts….

I’ve talked about this before, but we followed Dave Ramsey’s baby steps to get our finances in line. There are seven steps in his plan:

  1. Save an emergency fund of $1000
  2. Pay off all debts (except your house) smallest to largest
  3. Save three to six months of expenses
  4. Start contributing 15% to retirement
  5. Save for kids college
  6. Pay off the house as quickly as possible
  7. Save money

We’re now on steps 4-6, which are done simultaneously, so we can start to breathe a little. Before that, I took a secret pride in being the cheapest bitch alive so that we could get through steps 1-3 as quickly as possible. My favorite phrase anytime Dr. S. suggested spending even a little bit of money was “Kyle! You don’t have any money!” (which is a reference that is absolutely not safe for work or life in any universe). I realize that I was very good at this – being goal oriented. Now that we’re on the other side of the steps that give our family a strong foundation and safety net, it’s harder to set priorities. What’s ok to spend money on? What’s not? Is it ok to spend money on myself again? It was scary to leave my divorce with absolutely nothing (financially), looking at two kids and a student loan. I felt ashamed taking money from my father in order to get settled in our new town. I don’t ever want to feel that way again.

But, it eventually became time to stop washing my hair with the equivalent of dish soap and my glasses had gotten so old that the coating was coming off the lenses. I bought new glasses last month and this month I bought a bottle of my favorite shampoo and conditioner. I tweeted about this but, for real, this stuff will change your life. They also sell an Argan oil which has now made it possible for me to get a comb through Tiny Diva’s mop of curly hair..


Last night I had insomnia and was reading the internet when I came across a tweet that said that anyone with a .mil, .gov, or .edu email address is eligible for a free online Washington Post subscription. When I woke up after a 5am cat nap, I couldn’t find the tweet or the link and was convinced I had dreamed it…until I did a smidge of googling and FOUND THE LINK!!!

So, today I am living the dream. I can see, my hair is shiny, and I have all the Washington Post I can read. Life is good…

A Tale of Two Wedding Dresses…

I tweeted a couple of days ago that I have been having the  realization that I’m getting married in the beginning of January and, other than booking the location we’re traveling to, I have done almost nothing else in preparation. My betrothed, Dr. Strange, and I have been very caught up in work-related stuff. But it struck me the other morning that I have to accomplish at least some things this month – namely, buying a dress and getting passports for my children.

Not that I haven’t given any thought to a dress. I know I don’t want to get married in a white wedding dress from a wedding shop and I know that spending a lot of money gives me palpitations. Dr. Strange and I spent the last year getting out of debt and I am still having trouble spending money (this is a topic for another post). I tried early last week to find a dress, but dress options in my little town are severely limited and I mostly just felt dejected after my day of shopping.On top of this, I am supposed to attend a fancy hospital fundraiser this month and I need a second dress for that. That added the pressure of needing two dresses when I couldn’t even find one….

Then this weekend I went south to see Dr. Strange’s children and realized I might have better luck finding a dress in a shopping scene that serves  a million people as opposed to 50,000. Dr. Strange accompanied me to the local mall, where I proceeded to break into a cold sweat. The idea of spending money made my adrenals hurt and I realized a part of me still worries a lot about being as broke as I was after my divorce again. Dress shopping is also just plain hard. There’s no standard women’s sizing. Each designer’s size has different measurements, so it’s always a crap shoot as to whether something will fit off of the rack.

We went from shop to shop and tried to find a needle that would fit my admittedly curvy body in a proverbial haystack of dresses for women shaped like needles. The first shop only had dresses that one might wear to a club. Not to their wedding or a fancy pants, grown up event. The second shop had a matronly selection and a sales lady in bright pink lipstick who followed me around, peppering me with questions and letting me know that everything I picked would “definitely need to be altered.” I tried to try on a single dress, but mostly just tried to escape at the constant knocking on the dressing room door and questions of whether I “really thought that dress would fit over my butt?” At this point, Dr. Strange started to hit a wall and, I’m sure, questioned the wisdom of accompanying me. I had visions of those old, miserable looking men sitting on the mall bench, holding their wives’ pimg_0713urses and dreaming of escape.

The third shop had a much larger selection and, ultimately, was a success. In a true testament to how bananas dress shopping is, I tried on four dressed that fit – one was a size 10, another a 12, another a 16 and another a 20, with the size being determined by how much room was in the bust. The Calvin Klein dress model is a busty lady. I like her.  I walked away with a dress for the fundraiser and two candidates for a wedding dress, but no ultimate decision.

I tried them both on again this afternoon and felt really bullish on one of the dresses. I could see myself wearing it on the beach at sunset. But, Little I and Tiny Diva very strongly insist that the other dress is the winner. Strongly. They hate the one I love. Feel free to leave your opinion in the comments below.

When I was pregnant with Little I, people would ask if I had chosen a name. I told everyone in the most serious of tones that we were naming him Genghis. I realized that, if you told people the name before the baby was born and they didn’t like it,they were likely to tell you. Then, you could never un-know that they hated your baby’s name. For example, Tiny Diva is named for my grandmother. When I was pregnant, I tried to broach the topic of naming Tiny Diva after her and she confided in me that she always hated her name and had been named after her father’s mistress. Of course, her mother didn’t realize this as they were naming the baby. She learned of it later and hilarity ensued. Someday I’ll tell Tiny Diva that she is named for her great-grandmother, who was named for the stripper her great- great-grandfather catted around with.

With Little I, everyone was puzzled by the name Genghis and, therefore, relieved when I named him something else. If you’ve already named your baby, people are more likely to keep their name opinions to themselves. I’ve now got the equivalent of a baby name wedding dress. I can’t un-know that my kids hate the dress I like, but I can’t change the fact that the other doesn’t thrill me as much. So, I would be glad to hear your opinion, but if you ask me which dress I’m choosing between now and January, the answer is “Genghis.”