Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Life Currently

Listening to: Lizzo and Podcast Sooo Many White Guys
Goal in Life: Figure out a way to pay for all of Dan’s medical needs. Like, LEGIT. Not 5 year payment plans. :(
What I’m Avoiding: Cleaning the litter box, cleaning the bird cage, cleaning the hamster cage ...Cleaning at all?
What I’m Loving: Our bedroom! (See photos) 

Thinking about: This post I wrote in 2009 (and how I quickly BLACKED OUT my diagnosis mentally a year later—seriously!) :
“I have officially weaned off of Prozac and I am only taking a mood-stabilizer, Lamotrigine (generic for Lamichtol) at 200 mg daily for my illness. This life-long illness has yet to have a stable definition, as if it seeks to echo my tumultuous moods. Dr. Cirino, my current psychiatrist, said I have bipolar disorder, heavy on the mixed episodes but also rapid cycling, so no, I am not textbook. This means my illness is defined as Bipolar Disorder NOS (Not Otherwise Specified), a catch-all diagnosis used in cases such as mine. Even if it is ambiguous, I cleave to a diagnosis at last.
BDNOS. Bananas drive north or south.
We were vigilant about my drug swap-out. Three months ago I began to slowly reduce Prozac while beginning and increasing Lamichtol. In the past, I have not proved exceptional at swap-outs. I get extreme. As I have lightly referenced, I have not been drinking alcohol for a while, and I see in hind-sight that this was key in maintaining as close to a level mood as possible. I have done very well over this time, particularly given the surprises of grief, travel, unemployment, and challenges with my FMS (Fibromyalgia, or, finches move slow.) Dan is there for me, silently, like a guardian angel. You know, a really HOT one.
But he’s not a guardian angel, as much as my mom thinks he is. He’s a man who is my husband. Every day his phone rings and there are hundreds of clients, totals, notes, plants, crewmen, machines, or weather to consider. He handles a lot of money and a lot of people from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. In the evening, he wants to chill, read or listen to music, watch some TV, eat some food. He’ll fall asleep at about ten o’clock on the nose. Where does a partner fit in this picture, when on occasion she starts to cry in the middle of dinner or a light comedy? When she cries with no apparent reason and shuffles off to lay in bed, motionless but with her eyes open in the dark?
I never have answers for him. I don’t know what is wrong; it just so happens the world opens up in a swell of numbness and swallows me as it closes. When I feel far away in its grasp, I’ll have him touch his hand to my back. Flesh to flesh seems to work best, like an infant that needs touch as it grows. If I cry he waits for me and holds me. His hand finds a circular motion and settles into the repetition.
This is all we have worked out so far. It is not insignificant. This is life. Bananas drive north or south and finches move slow. This is the first step to being as healthy as I can possibly be. We will walk these baby steps.
Processing and accepting life is something I do with tattoos. This tattoo was done a few months after my mother died. She is represented by both the rabbit and the cardinal…I see myself in them too, as well as her mother, Ethel. The slice of cake is because she loved dessert. The poppy is the beauty of life. Thanks to DAN JOHNSON!

I could have NEVER imagined I would be struggling to accept my diagnosis again and that my health would still be a main source of struggle in our marriage. And I NEVER would have thought Dan would become a stage 4 cancer patient at home on disability and STILL have to worry about me, too.
LIFE, people. It’s weird.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Keeping Our Sense of Humor

The Birth of Venus, c. 1485, Sandro Botticelli, EPCOT

Luncheon of the Boating Party , 1880–1881, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, EPCOT

Friday, March 15, 2019

Visiting the ER at Disneyworld

It was our first day visiting parks and after plenty of fun in the sun at Animal Kingdom, we returned to the resort to eat a snack and make cocktails. I flopped onto the hotel bed and opened my laptop to watch “The Bachelor” (don’t judge). Meanwhile, Dan went with Raine to the hotel pool.
After I finished the episode I had missed, I wandered out to the pool to hang out with them. I was cursing myself because somehow my swimsuit didn’t make it into my suitcase! It turned out I would be glad I wasn’t wearing it because I had an ambulance ride and ER stay in my future.
After I opened the gate to the hotel pool, I found a crowd of people huddled around Dan and Raine while they were sitting on one of those plastic white lounge chairs. Hotel staff, lifeguards, and hotel medics were in front of Dan asking him questions. I didn’t know if something had happened to Raine or Dan. Raine sat quietly with a towel but he was shaking. They all looked at me when I walked up and Dan pointed at me and explained I was his wife. Everyone turned to talk to me and someone informed me that they had just been trying to call me.
A young lifeguard started to share with me her account of Dan on the waterslide, arriving in the pool with a splash and then not coming up for air. She said he was struggling so she jumped in to help him. By the time she reached him (2 seconds according to Raine—”she was like a superhero!” ) he wasn’t breathing so she had to get him out of the pool and clear his airway. He coughed and regained consciousness.
Daddy went down the slide. He was swimming toward me and then he stopped swimming.”
The lifeguard was still shaking as she spoke with me and I couldn’t help but wonder how someone roughly the same size as me managed to get an unconscious Dan out of the pool. I wanted to hug her and thank her but suddenly all of these people were asking me questions.
“What medications is your husband on?” “Does he have a history of seizures?” The lifeguard had mentioned he appeared as if he was having one. I was surprised because Dan was, in fact, on an anti-seizure medication ever since his first (and only) seizure three years ago. They informed me that an ambulance was on its way and returned to Dan with their questions and concerns.
My beating heart felt like it was leaping from my chest as I sat down with Raine and hugged him. I pulled him into my lap and wrapped his towel around him tightly, rubbing his arms quickly to warm him up. I asked him what he had seen and felt. He explained, “Daddy went down the slide. He was swimming toward me and then he stopped swimming.”
Before I knew it, the ambulance medics were there and testing Dan’s oxygen. It was lower than usual and because he had been unconscious, they recommended he go to the hospital. I called Char and quickly told her to come to the pool. A hotel staff member brought Raine an ice cream bar and I told him I’d be going with daddy to the hospital and he could stay up playing Fortnite with his cousin. When Char arrived, I had her take him and I boarded the ambulance.
On the way to the ER, I made as many jokes as possible and followed Dan’s oxygen level. His arms and hands were blue and he was shaking in his wet clothes. I hadn’t packed a hospital bag for this trip … because, you know, he had already been to the hospital in January and I wasn’t expecting another one so soon. But that is our situation for you. We should be getting hospital frequent flyer points.
Doug would later bring us clothes and dinner while we waited it out. By midnight he hadn’t been admitted but he was having no seizure activity and basically just tired. I had to go back to the hotel to Raine and to get some sleep. The following morning, we expected him to be discharged due to no seizure activity over night and a normal oxygen level. A night’s sleep did wonders for him.
The hospital situation became a nightmare and Dan wasn’t released until our last day at Disneyworld. They had no reason to keep him but they did. They were slow to get a CT and even slower to get an MRI, both of which ended up showing no change than the MRI Dan had just had in December. Being stuck in a hospital is pretty common for us but this situation was the worst we had experienced. We feared he wouldn’t get released until the next day and we would miss our flight home. So I cried in frustration, which made Char cry, so she pleaded with staff in tears until the doctor finally showed up and let him go.
This is our last day of vacation and my grandson is playing basketball in my son’s hospital room with a balled up sock and garbage can. They are supposed to be having fun at Disneyworld!
It was time to go. Dan and I firmly agreed the accident was due to his vertigo and NOT a seizure. His follow-up at home supported our thought and he has been doing absolutely fine ever since. There has been time for us to adjust to what a scary experience it actually was and Dan is doing well coping by using his sense of humor and talking when he needs to about it. We check in with Raine and answer questions he has. Mainly he wants to know what it was like when daddy stopped swimming.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Death Is Nothing At All

Two year anniversary of my mother’s death

Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Nothing has happened. 
Everything remains exactly as it was.
I am I, and you are you,
and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
Call me by the old familiar name.
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was.
There is absolute and unbroken continuity.
What is this death but a negligible accident?
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval,
somewhere very near,
just round the corner.
All is well.
Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!


Thursday, November 1, 2018

Simple Pleasures || October 2018

Grandview Drive this autumn

At the funeral of Dan's grandmother, Delores Karpiak, pictured here on her wedding day with Alexander.

My gift shipped to Boulder for sweet Eva

My little Halloween Raccoon

Yes please

Monday, October 22, 2018


for robyn
I am grabbing at life today
silhouettes of dogwood,
white ash, and tulip poplar
a delirious pleasure
the light through the trees
illuminates particles
i know we are the dust of it all.
harper can smell the fragments
in green blades, smoke, and vermin miles away.
her dark wet nose and keen mind
will know up to forty feet
what is buried below the ground
only she knows what is stale
in the rafts and scurf
the biological richness
of my human debris.
isn’t the devastation and the
trauma of grief tangled into
the molecules
the bits and seeds
of me?
we share the bed now and i know
sometimes i would be there
with my love in the ground and beyond
if it weren’t for her—the urgent muzzle
in the morning at my chin
the soft whine.
harper squints
at the sun greedy with
the blue-rich sky
her coat against my cheek
feels warm and soft
like fresh laundry pulled out
and hung to dry
her tag reads her name
still with both of our phone numbers
and both of our names
printed on the back.

-Leah Herzing

Monday, September 17, 2018

The Niche

On September 18th, four years ago, incurable cancer became a part of our story. I had to write about it in order to cope. Writing felt like the air I needed to breathe.

On September 8th, only one year ago, the remains of my beloved mother were sealed inside a niche in a columbarium at Glendale Cemetary in Washington. It had been eight months since her death.

At the time, I couldn't write about this.

I have been bereft and I have been silent.
I would like to try to find my way into a new space of writing. I'm not sure what that will mean, but I do hope those of you out there in the world that follow this blog and keep me and my family in your thoughts will stay with me.