Unchaperoned Meals

When I was young, my dad traveled on business trips regularly. My mom traveled less frequently, usually to Las Vegas to play some Black Jack or chat with the counterfeit characters lingering on the street corners about what they plan to do with their lives when they decide to climb out of their costumes in the dangerous heat. Ok, not really, but it’s a funny image thinking of my mom counseling strangers in Elmo-ish costumes. None the less, my mom DID travel…just not to Las Vegas. And everyone knows we played our Black Jack games at home.

These brief experiences with single parenting correlated with some culinary adventures.

When my dad was gone, tuna casserole was invariably made, complete with the potato chip topping. My dad HATED tuna casserole (or ‘hot dish’ if you prefer), so it was our opportunity to partake in this traditional midwestern delicacy.

When my mom was gone, we ventured into Spam and beans – previously only a camping cuisine. My dad and I quickly determined that Spam and beans tastes MUCH better 3 days or more into a backpacking trip and should be reserved only for those occasions.

When my husband travels, I venture boldly into child oriented meals. ‘Chick’n’ nuggets, macaroni & ‘cheese’, ‘vegan pigs’ in a blanket, plain noodles with margarine, grilled cheese sandwiches…you get the idea. We’ll also take the super lazy route of having cereal for dinner – enticingly called ‘Breakfast for Dinner! Yay!’ Last night, my children decided to make our evening meal. We had toaster waffles and ‘sausage.’ These meals aren’t particularly healthy, but I’m certain we’ll recover. We survived the tuna casserole and the Spam and beans after all.

What are your favorite culinary adventures when you are left unchaperoned?

Seizure Disorder – My Rules for Daily Life

First – let me be clear that I understand Seizure Disorders are serious business. They change people’s lives, restrict certain levels of independence, require daily medicine that have side effects, and in some cases can be deadly. I have the risk of death myself thanks to the new lesions and screwed up electrical connections in my brain. BUT sometimes you have to laugh and poke some fun at your situation and let’s face it, those of you with seizure disorders will likely relate. If we don’t laugh, we risk falling into a pit of despair (eh, see that Princess Bride reference there? Don’t fret, there will be more.)

Daily medicine – keeping track of when and whether you’ve taken your medicine. This includes using medicine organizers, alarms, back up alarms, texts from loved ones, and perhaps more. We also keep any emergency medicine on our person at all times – educating loved ones about when and how to shove it in our gobs (chocolate coating not necessary.) We remind our friends and teach our children that calling 911 asap is essential if we’re likely to have a status epilepticus experience. This may only be necessary for those of us who have tonic-clonic (or grand mal) seizures.

Traveling can be stressful – making reservations, packing, arranging care for your pets and/or children, and beginning to adjust your medicine timing if you’re changing time zones on your trip. One thing that most of us with seizure disorders do (I assume) is research where the nearest hospital is at our destination, just in case. Booking accommodations near the hospital might be a little excessive, but somehow it doesn’t seem weird to me.

To tell or not to tell, that is the question. It’s always a challenge deciding who you tell and what you tell them. I volunteer at my youngest child’s school – should I tell the office staff, the librarian, and/or my child’s teacher? And if so, how much do I tell them?  Education is always a good thing, but I haven’t had a seizure in a year. I wear a medical bracelet, but let’s face it, there’s only so much information you can put on that little ID Tag. If you tell, you may have to deal with the nervous anticipation, the sideways glances, the pity (in some cases), and the eggshells they’ll be walking on around you. The Fire Swamp is tricky to navigate.

Phones – everyone has a cell phone these days – well there are some hold outs, but generally everyone has a cell phone. I’ve been instructed explicitly by my husband that my cell phone is to be charged, NOT on silent mode, and on my person at all times. Not being able to reach me causes fear and panic and that’s no fun for anyone – especially my husband (I can only say ‘as you wish’.) Portable charging devices are a nice addition to this plan.

Eating, snacking, hydration, and sleep are all critical for me to avoid a seizure incident. Different people have different triggers, so knowing your triggers is important. Yes, I carry a snack and a bottle of water with me everywhere. Yes, I have no problem taking naps, sometimes 2 naps if I feel tired (get some rest. If you haven’t got your health, then you haven’t got anything.) Yes, I eat regular meals. I think these things are generally common for all of us with seizure disorders. Anxiety can also be a trigger and I always wonder if you can worry to the point where you actually trigger a seizure while you’re worrying about having a seizure…

Strobe lights are bad. Very bad. Some people think they’re cool, but these people clearly don’t have seizures. Come to think of it, any flashy lights are bad. Just don’t go there, it’s too risky. Take the time to enjoy the view (outside), have a cup of coffee, read a book or chat with a stranger while your friends go into the flashy light experience.

A simple swim is no longer a solo activity. Swimming now requires the buddy system. Pick someone you like. Think twice about skinny dipping. Just sayin’…don’t try to go into the Fire Swamp alone, that requires teamwork.

Driving is a privilege. Don’t abuse that privilege. IF you feel wonky, don’t drive. If you’ve had a seizure, be prepared to implement plan b, c, d, or e while you wait for the 3 – 6 months without a seizure (fingers crossed) before you can drive again. You may have your license suspended for longer or revoked altogether, so have a plan to get your kids to and from school. Learn your local bus routes, get your bike all tuned up, tag along with your neighbors/friends while they run errands, and get used to walking. Not driving is inconvenient, but its better than being dead or even mostly dead.

Since I discovered I had a seizure disorder (by having seizures) I’ve become WAY more conscious of my underwear decisions. At the risk of over sharing, I follow that advice ‘Wear clean underwear just in case you have an accident.’ I tend to lean more toward the standard chonies rather than the fancy, lacy kind. I know if I land myself in the hospital, I’ll end up without my underpants and those nurses who remove them have seen it ALL before…but somehow I like to know I won’t be embarrassed by the condition of my underpants (‘I just want you to feel you’re doing well. I hate for people to die embarrassed’.) In addition, if aliens come down to add to their collection of underpants, I’d like to offer a nice option (this is not a reference from The Princess Bride, but it’s still funny. Well, I think it’s funny.)

Note: if you’ve not yet seen or read The Princess Bride, do so immediately.

Bright Lights, Big City

Travel Anxiety?  Check

Comfy pants that nearly fit? Check

Medication counted again…and again? Check

Confirmed legal identification not expired? Check

Grandparents set with Dr’s phone #s and releases? Check

List of things to do that would take longer than the time  we have? Check

I think we’re nearly ready to check something off my bucket list. Now if I can only survive the red eye flight.


Waves, Sharks, And Flying Fears

‘Worry is a misuse of imagination.’  Dan Zadra

When I was little and we moved to California, I had recurring nightmares of tidal waves (or, if you prefer, tsunamis). We’d be driving along the shoreline and a wave would rise suddenly out of the ocean and overtake the VW van we were driving in. We never had a VW van – we had a Bug – but it was ALWAYS a VW van in the dream. Even still, I have always loved the beach – the feel of warm sand, the soothing sound of waves, the pelicans and occasional seal, tidal pools full of alien creatures. I remember playing in the waves when I was young – learning to respect the power of the ocean after getting sucked under time after time. But that odd fear of giant waves remains…a shadow, perhaps, but it’s there.

I also had a somewhat unreasonable fear of sharks. I’d go into the ocean quite willingly, but somewhere in the back of my mind I imagined being eaten. We, of course, have sharks on the California coast, but shark attacks are not an every day occurrence. I even freaked myself out on occasion in the pool – absolutely ridiculous, I realize, but what IF a shark came through the plumbing! I was young and silly.

Flying has always been something I just don’t think about too much – if I do, I’ll be certain that we’ll fall from the sky at any moment. I’ve flown A LOT in my life, but I’ve been able to push those anxieties looming in my mind back so that I don’t think about them. I’ve never been a white knuckle flyer and I’ve never needed to take anti-anxiety meds to get me through a flight – even one over the ocean. But still…

I have mentioned before that I’m a worrier – a ‘what-if’ kind of thinker. My imagination can get the better of me sometimes. I’m also a list maker – and now one with memory issues. So here’s how I cope before I travel to Hawaii with my family: I make lists, I check them twice – and then I start filling a laundry basket with things that we don’t need daily now so that I won’t forget them. I remind myself that we’re not going into the jungles of Borneo – there WILL be stores if we forget anything. I find out where the nearest hospital is, I make a plan for adjusting my medication timing, and I count my pills for the third time. I pack extra sunscreen and some earplugs (the plentiful roosters on Kauai can’t tell time.) I make sure that I don’t watch ‘The Impossible’, ‘Flight’ or ‘Jaws’. Then I let it go and I get excited about spending a week on a beautiful beach with my family.

I don’t express my worries to my kids – especially those I’ve mentioned here, knowing they’re unreasonable and unfounded. But yet, my youngest is now worried about flying over the ocean. He’s expressing some anxiety about the beach – and he LOVES the beach. He’s 6, so it’s not entirely unusual for these new anxieties to show up as he becomes more aware of himself in a broader world. My eldest is more worried about going in the water – I suspect it has to do with unseen creatures, because the beach where we’ll stay is protected by a reef and there are no waves, but it’s creature rich. Maybe some of these worries are coming out because of the other things happening in our life – they don’t want to express worry over my health, so they worry about ‘safer’ subjects.

We’ll keep talking it through and remind them that the Scared is scared of the things you like. We’ll keep them busy on the plane. And we’re confident that as soon as they see that beach, they’ll be in bliss and forget all of their worries. As will we.

‘There are moments when all anxiety and stated toil are becalmed in the infinite leisure and repose of nature.’

Henry David Thoreau