Duck and cover!

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Copyright 1997, Hollywood Pictures.

There have been three times in my life when I was under crushing stress for such an extended period of time that when it was over, I truly had no idea what to do with myself. The first time ended in medication and therapy. The next two times, I have been much better equipped to deal with it.

I’m sure everyone knows what this is like on a small scale, if not on the uber-repetitive world-crashing life events scale I seem to have perfected. You work yourself up over something huge — whether it’s a work project, a surgery, the impending death of a loved one or something good like a wedding. It goes on for weeks, maybe months, and your mind and body is just constantly engaged in whatever it is. Even if you are enjoying yourself, you are under the stress of that thing, whatever it is. Then, the thing is over.

Then, what?

Here is a stress re-cap* of my last year: In May 2011, I was brought to my knees in pain that was explored for about a month before a diagnosis of gallstones happened. I had my gall bladder removed June 10, 2011. Anxiety over figuring out what was wrong. Anxiety over impending surgery. Anxiety over money. Anxiety, anxiety, anxiety.

A few days after surgery, I followed up on a lump in my armpit thought to be an infection, but after a quick biopsy, turned out to be a recurrence of breast cancer. I was scheduled for and had my lymph nodes removed in mid-July. Anxiety over the recurrence. Anxiety over the new surgery. Anxiety over living to see my kid graduate from college, high school, middle school. Anxiety over money. The surgery ended up being a GREAT DEAL harder than I had expected. It was my 9th surgery, after all, and I was told it wouldn’t be any worse than anything I’d already done. HA. Liar, liar, pants on fire. It was way worse, then I got an infection which SUCKED ASS and hurt like hell. It also delayed the start of radiation.

Meanwhile, I fell behind on my mortgage. Anxiety, anxiety, anxiety.

Finally, the infection was healed and I got to start radiation. Anxiety over what that was doing to my body. Daily anxiety of lying there trying not to think about cancer. Anxiety over missing work and making even less money. Anxiety, anxiety, anxiety.

Radiation ended at the end of October, then I had to get my ovaries removed as part of the treatment in November. (My 10th surgery, in case you ever get that question on Jeopardy.) Anxiety over what THAT was going to do to my body. Then, medically induced anxiety from hormones flipping the fuck out.

I eventually sighed a bit of relief that maybe now life could get back to something quieter. Of course, I had to mess that up by starting a new job (at my old employer) that involved more driving and learning new skills. Anxiety over whether it was the right thing to do. Anxiety over spending less time with my kiddo. Anxiety over the price of gas. Anxiety over still not having enough money to pay my mortgage.


Remember, too, I’m leaving out A LOT of ordinary stress. Medications. Getting to the grocery store. Making sure boyfriend is healthy. Car repairs out the ass. That stuff, plus, plus, plus.

I was starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel by the end of January. Starting to feel better from radiation. Starting to feel like I could do this job. Starting to get my house cleaned up. Then, we had the pediatric cardiology appointment.

The kiddo would need to have open heart surgery this year.


Yeah, we have known it was coming for three years. Yes, I had convinced myself there would be some sort of miracle and she wouldn’t need it. Bleh. Four months of stress later (much of which was managing HER stress levels) and that surgery is history! And the kid is beautiful and perfect and recuperating AMAZINGLY well. You wouldn’t know she even had surgery, except for the fact she can’t get in a pool for a few more weeks, can’t lift above five pounds and sleeps for 13 hours a day. It will be two weeks ago tomorrow and she isn’t even on any pain medicine.

So, to re-cap the re-cap: three surgeries for me, radiation, medication(s), side effects, new job, serious money issues and, finally, the kid has surgery. All within 12 months.

So, here I sit with no scary surgeries on my schedule. (Yes, I’m doing physical therapy to help some shoulder issues caused by radiation. Yes, I’ve got a weird pain that won’t go away, but I also have a CT scan from this month saying it’s nothing visible, like cancer or kidney stones. Seriously – this stuff is NOTHING to me.) No scary surgeries on the kid’s schedule. She is practically back to normal. A very clean house (because that’s how my mom dealt with the grandkid having surgery). A mortgage modification in the works (and nothing to do but wait to hear about it). And a clear schedule because the kiddo has to stay close to home for several weeks.

What … the … hell???

No bullets to dodge? No boogie man to punch in the throat? No war to wage? No hundreds of miles to drive? No trash to pick up in my living room? No laundry to do?

After a day where I slept for 15 hours with one pee break (last time I did that: um, never) and the next day where I walked around wringing my hands like some sort of 1950s housewife stuck at home out of Luckys while her man is at work with the one family car, I started to put all of that combat energy to good use:

DIY projects.

First, I attacked a sad piece of trash table on my deck that was a freebie I intended to turn into cool deck furniture. That intention was more than three years ago and the weather has not been kind to this table. I have stared at this table for years considering my plan of attack, but I had no money, energy or physical ability (depends on what time period we are talking, although some all at once) to do it. I just knew I could salvage it with a bit of lumber and a can of paint. So, I knocked that monkey off my back and got started.

When I hit an unexpected snag with the table that is taking a few days to resolve, I started attacking clothing. Again, I had a pile of my kiddo’s clothes sitting around waiting for me to do something with them. This past year, she popped out of the … shall we say “upper body” area of a few dresses, it seemed about five minutes after we bought them. I was determined to turn those gorgeous dresses into something useable or wearable. I refashioned two dresses and fixed a third in less than two days.

And last night, I was walking past a blank wall when a sudden stroke of inspiration hit. I grabbed the drill, which was nearby due to the table project, and a rusty screw that fell out of the table, the kiddo’s 4-H fine arts project from last year, and I spun that sucker into the wall.

She was studying Georgia O’Keefe.
Can ya tell?

That’s right, after 11 years of living in the same house, I hung up a freaking picture. IT IS GETTING CRAZY OVER HERE.

I am trying to relax. Really, I am. But I just have a lot of adrenaline-induced energy that has nowhere to go at the moment. I hope to get a handle on it soon, but in the meantime, I am more than happy to pour it into home repairs and fancy projects!

I plan to blog about it because, along the way, I’ve uncovered a couple of super-awesome blogs I want you to see, too.

So, here is a sneak peek.

Do not judge me by my deck furniture.

Don’t you look at this table and think, “icy cold beers with friends on a warm summer night under the soft glow of tiki torches?” No? Whaddya mean it says, “abandoned trailer home in the woods where murders may or may not have happened”!?!?!?!? Oh, I am going to change your mind, folks. Just as soon as I deal with a little bit of a board cupping issue.

And this dress. Well, let’s just say I was super proud of the outcome, until I learned it wasn’t a dress I was supposed to chop into pieces.

This is a gorgeous dress – that won’t even
remotely zip up in the back.

This dress we bought for about $6 on a clearance rack at Target and the kid wore it maybe two times before she put it on and it would no longer zip. Awesome fabric. Gorgeous. Well-constructed. I couldn’t let it go. I don’t know a single soul who is this size, so I knew I had to do something with it.

I was in love with this because it was
gorgeous AND was originally a steal.

So, that’s the preview of coming attractions. Come back in the days ahead to see how I rework this stuff.

Oh, and if you see a really overweight, middle-aged, pink-faced woman out for what some might call “running,” who appears like maybe she thinks she is going a lot faster than the 1 mph she is actually moving, don’t worry. Just trying to burn off some of this excess “fight or flight” response I’ve got going on.

To be continued …

*After writing this entire post, I started thinking this re-cap of my year sounded awfully familiar. I thought maybe it’s just because I complain a lot. However, I haven’t seen a lot of my friends in the last year, so I haven’t had a lot of people to whom I could complain. So, hmm… Oh, I know, I already wrote about it. So, yeah, you’ve heard this before, but with different details. ENJOY! hahahaha.

Author: rosie

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