I woke up feeling like I had something stuck in the back of my throat. I couldn’t see or feel anything with my finger so I ignored the sensation and went about my somewhat hectic day. It was my oldest son’s family birthday celebration and I had thirty to forty people, most of them small children, coming for dinner. My family is laid back and fun; hosting a birthday dinner for them isn’t as stressful as entertaining that many other people would be. Besides, I’ve totally embraced the idea of “scruffy hospitality” (I’ve been meaning to write about that). But still, it makes for a busy day. As the dinner was winding down and people were drifting off to the backyard, front porch, or living room to relax and socialize I realized my throat hurt more than it had earlier. I went to the bathroom and AHHH-ed in the mirror to see what I could see. There, way in the back on the left side, was a white mass at least a couple centimeters across. WTF?!? So of course I tried to touch it.
Whenever I see white bumps in my throat I think strep. It’s happened before, it could happen again. I’m not very good about taking care of myself and regular medical care is something I definitely slack on but strep throat motivates me to seek medical attention asap. Plus I was scheduled to volunteer at a low-income dental clinic the next day and shadow a geriatric dentist the following. Even when I ignore my own health, I try to be conscientious about protecting other’s, especially the elderly. So, after everyone left, I trucked myself off to urgent care for a throat swab. I wish they’d just start selling those rapid strep tests over the counter already. But they don’t.
Turns out it wasn’t strep at all. I had an epitonsicullar abscess. Basically an infectious mass was sitting on my left tonsil. Not contagious, but still requiring antibiotics. After asking about my gag reflexes and some reassurance that I would not, in fact, vomit on her, the ER doctor poked the mass and then swabbed it for a culture. She lectured me on the importance of following up in the next couple of days, saying that if the abscess didn’t go down with antibiotic treatment it may have to be lanced. That sounded simultaneously cool and dreadful. Downright cool to see on someone else, maybe not so cool to actually experience. So I followed her instructions.
The abscess did respond to the antibiotics. I was dragging for a couple days but at least I could still get my shadowing and volunteering hours in that week. I was really pushing to finish the required hundred by the end of July. I did not have time to deal with an infection! After that week the shadowing hours were done. It was a giant relief but my kids’ 4-H fair was immediately following. There was a bunch of craft projects to finish, horse show stuff to gather and prep, and parenting time logistics to haggle over. We got everything done in time but jut barely. There was a Thursday to Friday to Saturday morning that was downright insane. I may have broken my previously impressive record for Least Sleep in 48 hours. But things and people got where they needed to be and we all survived fair.
Since late April and the end of the winter semester, I’ve been hustling to complete all the necessary items for my dental school application. I’ve been hurrying along to check all the boxes and get the thing submitted in as little time as possible. People would ask when the application is due, my reply was “As soon as possible.” Sure the deadline isn’t technically until October (January for some schools) but early applicants get first consideration for interviews and with a couple thousand prospects vying for a couple hundred spots you need every advantage you can get. Those applications though, there’s a lot to them. It’s tough to get a hundred shadowing hours in when you’re in school, parenting five kids and their struggles, dealing with an ongoing change of custody hearing and you still have to work…because someone has to fund this rock n’roll lifestyle!
Originally my goal was to be ready to submit that bitch by the end of June, first week of July at latest. I quickly realized that just was not realistic. My self-imposed deadline for the shadowing hours got pushed back to the end of July with hopes of application submission very early August. It was touch and go for a while there but goals were met, the application was submitted at 1am on August 7th.
All summer my mantra has been Make it to August. Just get through to August and I’d get some summer. There would be relaxing, crocheting, reading actual books, and as many beach days (preferably at a Great Lake) as I could squeeze in. Last week was the second in August. On Monday my kids (well, three of them plus one friend and one cousin) and I went to Lake Michigan. It was awesome, relaxing and enjoyable on so many levels. But we were out pretty late and the drive home included dropping the extra kids off and collecting the dog. We got home after midnight. As the only adult and the only driver on the trip I was exhausted. Three of us had to be up early in the morning for one of the many, many appointments we’ve had this summer.
Seven-thirty came way too soon. I dragged my sandy, dirty self out of bed for a much needed shower, woke the two boys who had appointments that day and rushed around like the insane person I sometimes am. Part of me desperately wanted to call and cancel the appointments. Traffic was going to be terrible and we were already running late. I didn’t even have time to make real coffee and where the fuck had all my little guy’s underwear disappeared to? But those aren’t viable reasons to cancel at the last minute.
Really I blame the underwear.
We left the house late. Again. I was exhausted and felt frantic and frustrated. Again. After fifteen minutes of driving slightly above the speed limit we were at a stop. And then a crawl. And then a stop. Cars as far as the eye can see. Ugh!
Maybe if I got into the right lane I could exit and take a short cut. When does that other freeway split off? I think that’s on the left. There had to be a quicker way to get there. We were twenty minutes late two weeks ago. Once is okay, twice is embarrassing. I really don’t know this area well. Is getting off the freeway actually going to save me time? Maybe Google Maps will have the answer.
I picked up my phone and hit the “recent places” tab in the maps app. My stupid fat fingers hit the wrong thing. I glance down again to find it, look up and OH SHIT! Mother Fucker!
The Ford Taurus in front of me had stopped. Instantly I know I can’t in time but I sure do try. Foot slams on the break pedal as I hear more than feel the crunch. Crap crap crap. I knew I should have cancelled these appointments.
After asking if the kids are okay and pulling well off the freeway onto the left lane shoulder, I jump out to assess the damage. Radiator fluid is flowing out of my car in large quantities. It would almost be impressive…if it wasn’t spewing forth from my car. The new one that I just financed three months ago. Fuck me! I’m not even sure who to call or what to do here, I’ve never been in an accident before let alone caused one. The guy I hit looks petty pissed as he begins making phone calls, not saying a word to me or even making eye contact. I can’t blame him, I deserve it.
In fact, I really had this whole craptastic situation coming. I could have listened at the first or any of the many smaller signs that I was just barely holding it all together and slowed down. The infection was the warning shot, I paid it no attention. Now the Universe was taking me out at the knees. It was working. Perspective was being gained. Things look very different when you’re flat on the ground looking up.
My pace of life the past couple months has not been sustainable, eventually something had to give. While I wish it wasn’t my Volvo I’m glad the only damage done was to my car (and possibly my already tenuous finances).
In two weeks things get more than a little crazy again. I’ll be starting my last semester of undergraduate classes. My class schedule is not good but my choices here were limited. My five kids will be back in school at the same time; it’s my oldest’s senior year. The fall is also cross country season. I’ve signed on to be my kids’ school’s middle school cross country coach. I’m simultaneously excited and intimidated. Part of me is wondering what I’m thinking taking that on right now…it’s a lot. My life is always a lot and I continue to add to it. I need to simplify, to slow my roll. The question is how?