12/20/14

30

What happens this Sunday? I turn 30, which is both strange and a little sad for me. Internally I feel much older, like I've lived two lifetimes. I am also sad that my 20's didn't include more fun. I certainly accomplished a lot - I got married, finished college and graduate school, and had four (four!) children.

Leave it to Primary Children's Medical Center to give one perspective. I suppose not if you're a medical professional, but if you're a mother, there isn't a harder place to be. At this time last week, around 11 PM, Eloise was finally sleeping soundly enough for me to slip out and eat something. I love food, so naturally eating in the cafeteria at Primary's is a disappointing experience. I vowed never to eat there again once Eloise was discharged last March, but what could I do at 11 PM, shaky and exhausted and alone?

So it was just me and two construction workers in the cafeteria, under those flickering halogen lights, eating icky food, with that same aged Chinese check-out lady who I've never gotten to smile even once for me in all the times I've been there. Inexplicably someone had placed a karaoke machine in the corner of the cafeteria, and it was blazing Elvis's 'Blue Christmas.'

I started laughing, and couldn't stop. That specific moment in space and time had to be the most depressing scene I could conjure! Eating bad food, alone, in a place I hate, after a grueling day caring for my recovering child, with 'Blue Christmas' blazing at 11 PM. You can't make up stuff like that! How horrid!

So here's to my next decade - it has to beat my last one! I am due for some adventure...If I could, this is where I would be celebrating:
That would be a listing I found on Air B&B in Marrakech, Morocco. I would be wandering the streets of the market, discovering exotic spices, hearing dozens of foreign languages, marveling at the architecture, exulting in textiles, and just maybe find time to read in this quiet courtyard, after a swim!

12/15/14

transformations and triumph

I have been thinking a lot about Malala Yousafzai. Not her book or her recent Nobel peace prize, but this story:
Malala visited the current art exhibit in Oslo highlighting the new Peace Prize winners. The clothes she was wearing when she was shot in the head by the Taliban were in a display case, and when she saw it, she wept. Malala Yousafzai is one incredibly composed young woman, so the fact that this brought her to tears is deeply moving.
First I imagine it must be an out-of-body experience to see the clothes you were wearing on the most traumatic day of your life in a museum display. It must have brought to mind all she has endured, how her life has transformed, all she lost and all she has to gain. She also likely remembered her recovery, her many hours in a hospital bed,  physical therapy, medications, and leaving her childhood home forever.

We are coming up on the first anniversary of Eloise's esophageal repair, and all that went haywire after that. The infection that almost took her life on Christmas Day. It all feels so fresh, and with this recent surgery and hospital stay at Primary Children's Medical Center, I had my own out-of-body experiences when I felt like maybe Eloise and I had never left the hospital - maybe everything else was a dream!

But of course so much has happened since then. Eloise and I have both undergone some major transformations. So much has changed for us, and our entire family, and not all of it has been positive change. There have been some dark, painful chapters.

Eloise has spent more time in the hospital than Malala Yousafzai, who took a bullet to the head. I want to know how she transformed the darkest chapters in her life, and turned it into a powerhouse for girls' education. How did she embrace society, and not shrink from it? I'm sure there is a part of her that wishes none of it had happened, that she was still that young girl in Pakistan. But so much good has come from her since then, and I want to know where she found that energy.

How did she turn trauma into triumph?

12/10/14

Shelley William's Guide to Hospital Fashion

What to wear in the hospital:

  • Everyone else may be wearing scrubs, but that doesn't mean you should too. You will be required to interact with dozens if not hundreds of people, from surgeons, nurses, secretaries and even cafeteria ladies. If you are kind and look lovely, they will all treat you better. Its worth putting effort into looking good at the hospital.
  • But obviously, don't overdo it. I have found that solid, dark colors, or stripes work best, because you never know what might land on you - blood, vomit, medications, you name it. Along those lines, don't wear anything with sentimental value. "Oh this? I found this at a flea market in Dijon. Oh, uh, yuck, and my baby just threw up black blood all over me." Believe me, the stain will never come out.
  • Don't wear anything that catches. Your legs will pass by operating machines, hospital beds, hard plastic chairs with rough edges underneath. Leggings, tights and jeans are fine, but never wear long skirts or anything lacy. 
  • Go very light with make-up. Lights in the OR can be very hot, and the last thing you want to worry about is your mascara is melting. You also don't know what to expect - you may cry, or even sob, so don't wear anything that runs. Go lightly. 
  • Hair? Its impossible to have great hair in a hospital, I am convinced. The air is dry, and you are moving around a lot. So I suggest simple styles that are easily maintained - like buns, or just curls on the ends. And at some level, you have to accept the entropic landscape of a hospital.
  • Layers. Make sure your undergarments are comfortable and easily covered, you don't want to worry about revealing too much. This is a problem most moms in the NICU have. Your first layer needs to be comfortable, and not too hot. Bring a pretty sweater (that can handle blood stains).
  • Hospitals are rife with stinky odors...*shiver.* I always wear perfume in discrete places so whenever I lean over, or pick up my child, or even hug someone, I smell Jo Malone's fragrance Wild Bluebells, and it reminds me that I am a woman, that this experience doesn't define me, and I don't belong here.  Jo Malone's Wild Bluebells belongs at a cafe, a bookstore, an art gallery, it is not at home among the antiseptic smells of a hospital. 
  • Just don't wear jewelry. Don't.
  • Wear comfortable shoes, but don't go so far as old lady sneakers or clogs. 
Packing for a week at the hospital is tricky, and unfortunately this fashion advice comes from waaay too much experience!

12/9/14

I don't want to be a medical groupie!

Eloise had her sedated echocardiogram yesterday, and everything went smoothly. As we were leaving, the hospitalist said to me, "Hey you come back whenever you want. You are like, one of us!" I know what he meant, I can rattle off medications, I know how hospitals run, what supplies we need, the sizes of needles and tubes. Between my twins in the NICU and Eloise, I have spent an entire year solid in the hospital, and it makes me feel like half an expert.
I smiled at the hospitalist, but in my mind I thought, No! I don't want to be a medical groupie! I wish I had spent that time in the Musée du Moyen Age, or the Cloisters in New York, or writing a dissertation. But for the sake of my children's health and wellbeing, I have worked hard to learn as much as I can about medicine, procedures and hospitals. I've even done my own studying at home, so I could be knowledgeable when making decisions about Eloise.

So I feel like half and expert in nursing, and half an expert in art, which together amounts to nothing. But I am an expert in my children. That has to amount to something, right?

12/7/14

Living nightmare and Culture weights

I have the same nightmare over and over. Eloise and I are at Primary Children's Medical Center, and I'm rushing through the labyrinthine hallways trying to make an appointment. We are always late, and never make it to the appointment...
This week will require nerves of steel. Eloise and I are heading back there, for quite a long haul. Last Christmas was dark for us, and the fact that I will have to be in that hospital, worried about Eloise, during Christmastime (and my birthday!) again for another round feels deeply unfair.

But that's not what I'm in the mood to write about. My dear friend Alison sent this text to me just the other day, concerning her sweet four-year-old:
"Yesterday Bea was playing with an Eiffel Tower trinket and she asked me if it was yours - for real! I don't know when that idea entered her head but I loved it. She must have heard me say something. I told her that in general the Eiffel Tower belongs to you. :)"

Also recently, my mom and I were trying on clothes at Old Navy late one evening. A girl is never too old to ask her mom for fashion advice, so I showed her the outfit I was trying on. She said I looked 'very French.'
I thought to myself, There is no way I can look French. I am trying on clothes at OLD NAVY in OREM, UTAH. Clothes on SALE, even. So it must simply be the 'aura' I present that makes others respond, "French!" I've had some fun lately making mental lists weighing my choices and actions, whether they would be considered more American or French. Results:
On the French side:
  • I make fresh baguettes from scratch 2-3 a week. I eat them with brie and blackberry jam, thick-cut deli ham and muenster, or pear butter and goat cheese. Its routine for my kids.
  • I spend 45 minutes a day driving the car to a school in another district because I want my girls to speak French.
  • I go to my local grocery 3 times a week, for fresh fruits and vegetables. Including vegetables like leeks. I usually come home with fresh flowers.
  • I shop locally, in small independent stores. I don't venture to Walmart. In fact, all my Christmas presents were either made by hand by local artisans, purchased at local shops, or I've sewn it myself.
  • I adore lingerie, and I'm quite picky about it. Read: classy, not sleazy :) I wear it every night. 
  • I have a Master's Degree in the History of Art, specializing in tapestries. Much too impractical for most Americans...
  • I researched my thesis here
For the American:
  • My sense of humor. I doubt any European laughs themselves silly over this SNL sketch: https://screen.yahoo.com/googly-eyes-gardener-000000217.html
  • There aren't many things from my childhood that survived all the moves we made growing up, but I kept my baseball mitt. I love playing catch, with my great old mitt. 
  • I am way too enthusiastic about my passions to pass as French. 
  • I don't judge people by the way they look, and I'm not rude to people. But I'm pretty sure that's a Mormon thing, not an American thing.
  • Along that vein, I have four children, and I'm a stay-at-home mom. Definitely LDS. 
  • I don't like Nikolas Sarkozy or Carla Bruni, or Marine le Pen. But from what I read there aren't a lot of French who love Sarkozy, and most Americans don't know much about politics in their own country, let alone another!
  • I don't drink or smoke, and I love Diet Coke.
  • I have a huge, happy yellow labrador, and throwing the ball for him is a big stress reliever for me. So is snuggling into his soft fur in the evening!
I named my firstborn Josephine after both Jo March in Little Women, and after Josephine Bonaparte, which I think is fairly revealing. I'd like to think I hold onto the best of all cultures I encounter, and in the end its all just me!

12/1/14

Art Talks and the Beastly Cold of Death

Over the past week, I have not been downright suicidal, but I have wished at some point everyday that I could just be dead. The events, in order:
  • Spend 3 hours on the phone with nurses, secretaries and doctors at Primary Children's Medical Center. The night ends in hours of crying on my part.
  • All my plans fall apart.
  • More phone calls ensue. Remember how I hate talking on the phone?
  • The day before Thanksgiving, all the children fall prey to The Beastly Cold of Death. 
  • All my plans fall apart.
  • Josephine wakes up with pus flowing out her ear - must go to pediatrician's.
  • Josephine gets a second degree burn.
  • Eloise has an actively runny nose and a sore throat, which is made infinitely worse because of her constant reflux. She throws up 2-3 an hour, and usually on my pants, because she doesn't want anything except to be on mama's lap. Remember how she has blue spells when she gets really upset?! I am her slave for four freaking days. 
  • My hands smell like vomit no matter how often I clean them.
  • So do my pants.
  • No one gets much sleep.
  • All my plans fall apart.
  • These words flow forth from my Amelia's mouth, "Whoa...its too quiet in this house! AAAAHHHHHHH!"
  • I go to bed with a roaring headache every night.
  • Because Eloise is sick, I have to cancel her echo cardiogram, which may very well endanger the second rescheduled date for her major surgery.
  • And all my plans fall apart.
However, (miracle!) I actually have something to look forward to this week. Art Talk "The Nature Theater of Christo and Jeanne-Claude" by Professor Jonathan Fineberg at the Kimball Art Center in Park City this Thursday, with my dear friend and art aficionado Alison. I have no doubt this lecture is going to be spectacular, and mmmmm how I love Christo and Jeanne-Claude. One night without children, one night with no one throwing up on me, one night when I can actually DO something with this relentless passion.
Oh those glowing, flowing saffron textiles...
I tried (and failed) to convince Trevor that Christo should be at the top of the list if we ever had a boy, but we never had to face that argument!
I hope hope hope this project finally becomes reality, I could actually experience one of their works in person!!!