The season of snuggling, sniffling, baking and raking has arrived. The black walnuts are bopping me on the head and rolling under my boots as I walk the driveway. The giant sycamore leaves come drifting down like crunchy, brown and red parachutes. Manic squirrels chase each other from tree to tree and hop the tightrope telephone wires over our heads as I sit on the front steps with my daughter in the early morning, waiting for her school bus to squeak to a halt in front of our house.

Kids are bundled in added layers, and my dog and cat are fluffy and frolicking joyfully in the falling leaves. There is change in the air. I almost expect any minute now to look up and see Mary Poppins floating in for a landing.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that I am afraid to turn on the heat because we cannot afford heating oil. Everyone has the beginnings of a cold. The garden is showing signs of giving up the ghost–tomatoes either rotting on the ground or firm and green on rotting vines. I can’t decide whether to pick them and hope that they’ll ripen, or leave them for the birds and bugs. Soon, it will be time to till everything under and mulch. I plan to cover it all with newspaper until next season. But that seems like such an effort on a chilly day. I’m such a wimp when it comes to the cold weather.

All week long, I’ve lived in my UGGs, two oversized sweatshirts and a pair of huge, khaki shorts. Since I spend most of my day sitting on my butt in front of the computer, I don’t much think about how I look, but every now and then, I have reason to make an effort not to embarrass my family. Yesterday, for instance, I got a call from the school nurse about my son. He needed to come home, and I was halfway to my car when it dawned on me that I could ruin his life by showing up at his school looking the way I looked. I had been working in the garden and helping to carry fenceposts for the new fence, so I had actual dirt smeared across the front of my Cape May sweatshirt, but it was the khaki shorts and snow boot combination that really worked the look. That, and the fact that I had not brushed my hair in a couple of days. You just don’t think of things like that when your office is in the attic of your house!

Anyway, I made a few quick adjustments, pulled my hair back into a ponytail and changed into a pair of dirty sneakers with no socks–a compromise between looking the way I usually look and looking like someone’s disheveled, but otherwise normal mom. I was too lazy to change the dirty sweatshirt, but they stuck a “visitor” sticker over the smears when I got to the school, and my green around the gills kid barely looked up at me as I took his hand to lead him to the car. Back to mommy role–chicken soup, warm blankets, the back of my hand on his forehead, my palm cupping his cheek. We watch television together on the sofa–our feet sticking out of the blankets at opposite ends of the sofa. I put my UGGs back on and tread to the kitchen to make him a snack, and I’m glad that I work from home so that I can be there to comfort my kid when he’s not feeling well. Messy appearance notwithstanding, I am proud that I am able to be with my son when he needs me. And I love wearing shorts, sweatshirts and UGGs in the Fall.

Another Day, Another Pancake

I hate to introduce myself this way, but here it goes…

Yesterday was my 9th wedding anniversary, but I didn’t get to celebrate it because I was, at the time, in a hospital bed recovering from something called a “TIA” or “mini-stroke.” I am 45 years old. Tonight, my husband and I went out to a movie and dinner at a Hibachi Steakhouse, so there you have it….That’s why they call it a “mini” stroke. No permanent damage. The “T” stands for “transient.”

My symptoms may be of interest to you, just in case, God forbid, you should find yourself in the same situation and are unsure about what to do. I was pouring a glass of milk for my daughter when I noticed an extreme weakness in my left arm, hand and fingers. It was difficult to grip the glass, and my hand was trembling. My heartbeat felt faster, and I became a bit breathless as I called first my mother, then a neighbor and finally (thank God!) my doctor’s office, at which point I was told that I needed to be evaluated immediatly in the ER.

I’m telling you, it really didn’t feel all that serious–just strange. So I took my sweet time about getting to the hospital, and I was expecting that they would probably just look at me and send me home. Instead, they performed a CT scan and determined, after several hours of investigation and bloodwork, etc. that I had suffered a mini-stroke, or TIA. I was given aspirin and sent home with instructions to rest and to call them back if I experienced more symptoms.

No sooner had I gotten back to my house and begun to pour myself a soda, my left arm became weak again and began to tremble. I could not make a fist, and my speech felt labored as I told my mother, who was still there, thank goodness, that it was happening again.

Back to the hospital, where I was admitted for 24 hours, during which time, I had an MRI of my brain, an ultra sound of my neck arteries, an echocardiogram and several neurological workups.

Today, they sent me home. After doing a bit of research on the Web, I found out that I am very likely (1/3) to have another episode in the near future–that, or a full-out stroke. I am terrified. I want to be here for my children, and I feel like a walking time bomb now. I am afraid to watch the news because I frequently get upset over speeches, election lies, bickering.

At the hibachi house tonight, I jumped every time a startling flame surprised me at one of the tables in the room, and I worried about the salt content in the food.

This sucks, but I’m grateful to be alive. And not in Galveston.


It’s a new day, and I’m still here, thank God!

My three year-old charged into my room this morning before 7am, kicking the door open with her foot with such force that it slammed against the wall. She was happy to see me. And hungry. “Daddy” was snoring loudly from his used to be temporary abode in the guest bedroom and showed no signs of being ready to wake up and handle one very manically happy and hungry three year-old and one sleepy, grumpy 7 year-old, so I shuffled down the steps and into our freezing cold kitchen to make breakfast.

Did I mention the mini-stroke that I had three days ago? Actually, it was the least exciting ailment this year. Last September, shortly after moving into our new highly unaffordable “dream house” in the country, I experienced a cluster of tiny heart attacks that kept the ambulance circling our block for a few weeks. In and out of the hospital for most of the Fall, I was finally starting to feel confident again when the TIA pulled me right back in to the worried that i won’t be there for them mom mode.

By the way, my little heart attacks were NOT caused by a blockage, but rather by a phenomenon called a coronary vasospasm associated with a rare condition known as “Prinz Metal’s Angina Syndrome.” Most people with this weird little syndrome don’t actually have heart attacks-just chest pain–but I was one of the lucky 3 percent with the condition to actually have the blood supply to my heart shut down for long enough to cause a bit of damage. Three times.

So now I’m on calcium channel blockers, and according to my cardiologist, that should do the trick. If I don’t die from a stroke, that is. God forbid.

My kids are young, and I have so much to do. Like go downstairs again and make pancakes. Later