Category Archives: Driving

Tiresome Travel Troubling

I have known for the last 4-5 years that traveling tends to exacerbate the impact of my narcolepsy, in terms of both my sleepiness and its impact on my overall health. The situation makes tons of sense when I think about it — my schedule gets thrown off, driving and flying for long periods put additional stress on my body, I am not in my own bed, and even changing one time zone can affect my biorhythms. As a result of this reality, I do try to allow myself extra time for recovery when I take a trip. I also do my best to balance my activities while traveling so I do not exhaust myself. Even in the best scenarios, my efforts are only mildly successful, but this current summer has put me into an entirely different place.

Because of my new job, I have already spent far more of my summer working like mad to get things ready for the next school year. So, even before my extensive travel started, I was already run down. Added to that is the fact that my daughter is in between grades 11 and 12, so college visit trips have filled up the second half of our summer. My wife, my daughter, and I visited 6 schools in 4 days during our first circuit after spending a long weekend with friends. The experience was awesome in every possible way, but it also left me reeling for the entire week after our return. And, during that week, we decided that my daughter and I would head to 2 more schools this week preceding a conference my wife is attending. All three of us think this current trip is a good idea, but it also heightened the stress level in our house, particularly as my daughter and I reworked almost an entire week of work. And, I was (and am) painfully aware that the cold I got from our first trip continues to linger. Truly, my sinuses are a mess, and I am definitely worried that I will be paying for these trips with my health well into the coming school year. Underscoring that concern is the fact that our busiest trip is yet to come. My daughter and I will make our third and final trip in the first week of August when we plan to visit 8 schools in 4 states during a 5 day window.

Although I do fear what all this flying and driving will do to me physically, I am thoroughly enjoying the experience. Just today, my daughter and I toured a school in the pouring rain. We would definitely have preferred a sunny day, but we still had a great visit. The school impressed both of us, but even better was the fun we had with each other. We took a train there and back, navigated the local bus system, and even found our way to an Ethiopian restaurant (that my daughter wanted to try) near our hotel. We are both exhausted, and we are getting up early for another visit and tour tomorrow, but we are being good to each other and appreciating the experience. In fact, the trek from our hotel to the train station this morning took us across the campus of a college she had not been considering, but tonight she added it to the list because she was so impressed by it. Our final trip in early August will require me to do a lot of driving (since we will be hitting 4 different states), and that makes me nervous because I know how draining the car travel will be. Yet, knowing that the two of us survived our wacky experiences today, I firmly believe that we can make that last trip work, especially if we are conscious of being kind to one another.

These interactions with my daughter are the thing that makes me the most frustrated about how travel tires me and lowers me ability to stay healthy. She is amazing, and I love spending time with her. I just wish the toll for these trips was not so steep for me. That being said, I would not trade these opportunities for anything. More than anything, I need to step back and recognize how choosing to take these trips does have repercussions. And, I need to remember the importance of this time with my daughter when my health, sinuses, and sleepiness continue to spiral on me over the next few months. I also know that I must be more attentive to taking care of myself to minimize as much as possible the negative impact of these college visits. What I must avoid, though, is letting my compromised health steer me into short-changing my wife, my daughter, or myself in our daily lives.


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Filed under Balance, Driving, Exhaustion, Family, Frustration, Gratitude, Humility, Illness, Insights, Joy, Love, Narcolepsy, Parenting, Scheduling, Sinuses, Stress, Travel, Wisdom

Driving and Droiding

We are now on the road home (Interstate-35 South). Even though I have had this WordPress app on my Droid X since last summer, I am using it for only the second time. Some of that is the result of Bite Size Life disappearing from cyberspace, but it also a result of how easy it is to fall into old patterns in my life. I become heavily focused on daily survival during the school year, and that tendency has only increased during this current school year. I expend soooooo much every day at school, not only to make sure that my classes are functioning, but also to mitigate the negative impact of my one negative colleague. I have no doubt that the experience would drain anyone, but adding narcolepsy to the mix makes for a ridiculously stressful existence. And, it gets harder and harder to think outside of the box, in terms of finding healthier ways to balance my life. Even as I am typing this post, I am realizing that I could easily post an entry after a stressful day, or even during my 45 minute break between classes. On most days, I am helping students during those times, or I am trying to get something done for our class, but remembering that an outlet and escape sits on my hip. While I am a huge advocate of utilizing technology, I know that I remain a digital immigrant because it takes me months to integrate fully technical solutions into my life. And, my narcolepsy often benefits from using technology to make my life more efficient.
Again, this post is a perfect example of my point. Usually, I would be drifting in and out of the music and conversations in the car. Instead, I feel good that I am using a few minutes to process life with narcolepsy. The more I can allow myself the chance to step back from my day, the better I am able to cope with this disease. I remember how important it is to breathe. I remember that my fatigue and sleepiness is normal and okay. I remember that I am far more than this disease, my job, my frustrations. If nothing else, taking the long view helps me to embrace the moments of joy that do come into everyday. I think that is a pretty good result from recognizing that I can blog from my smartphone.

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Filed under Balance, Blessings, Blogging, Driving, Family, Frustration, Gratitude, Hope, Insights, Joy, Narcolepsy, Travel

Family Fun

My parents are in town, so my wife, my daughter, my parents, my sister, my daughter’s friend, and I all made a trip up to Duluth to see other family members. Technically, we made two trips because everyone except my parents and me headed north on Friday. My parents drove me up Saturday. The weekend has been fun, but as always travel is exhausting for me. I am more than a little worried about the impact of driving up on Saturday, seeing lots of relatives, and then driving home on Sunday at midday. Given my stress level from the past week at my job, my time this weekend might have been “best” spent collapsed on a couch in Saint Paul. Because the intensity level in my classroom will only increase in the coming week, I will no doubt pay for pushing my body on the weekend too. I certainly am feeling far more tired today than I have on many other recent Sundays. And, we still need to get in the car for the trip beck home. I will do my best to stay low key today, but there is much to be done in the house too. It has been great to get away, but I hate that life with narcolepsy makes even a weekend trip overwhelming. The other piece that makes a weekend like this tough is that no one in my family fully “gets it.” My wife does have the best level of understanding, but even she had a list of chores I needed to do before leaving for Duluth on Saturday morning. My complete lack of energy on Friday meant that I needed to work like mad on Saturday before my parents arrived. I did a good job of cleaning, but was sweating profusely by the time I finished. For my parents and my Duluth relatives there are always a lot of questions, which I appreciate because it shows that they all care, but narcolepsy rarely makes “sense” to anyone other than other people who live with the condition. I need to get ready to head home now, and tension levels are rising in the hotel room, so ending this post is definitely in my best interest regardless of how tired I am.

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Filed under Blogging, Cleaning, Driving, Exhaustion, Family, Frustration, Gratitude, Honesty, Narcolepsy, Support

Happy Homecoming

We had a fantastic day on the road today. We experienced little heavy traffic, avoided any and all foul weather, and got from Hammond, IN to Saint Paul in LESS than eight hours. That includes two pit stops (one of which was also a re-fueling stop) and an hour long lunch at the Norske Nook in Osseo, WI. My wife did a bulk of the driving, but I also took a shift. While it taxed me, I handled the situations and my mood better than I did yesterday.

I drove from just across the Wisconsin and Illinois border until the first Dells exit. It turned out to be more than we had planned on me driving, but part of that was how frazzled I was at the end. Most of the stretch was good, but traffic got boggy around Madison (which frustrated me again). I also struggled with the argument that my wife and daughter had around the same time. My daughter is amazing, but she is also twelve (soon to be thirteen). She has a HUGE heart, but is prone to defensiveness whenever she is forced to confront uncomfortable issues. My wife was suggesting that our daughter start practicing her trombone soon. That did not go over well, and the ensuing conflict resulted in our daughter (once again) being disrespectful to my wife. I did not explode, but I wanted to do so. I fumed about it, though, which made my wife nervous. To her credit, she gave me space (and encouraged our daughter to do the same). My wife also confronted our daughter about the disrespectful language – in a calm and appropriate way. While I did wind up pushing 20 miles farther than I had initially planned (due to a cruddy set of circumstances – poor lane changing and an unhelpful exit configuration), we all stayed grounded.

Other than that one moment, the rest of the trip was fairly low key. All three of us were thrilled to get home, but also had a blast on vacation. I truly can’t remember another trip that ended this well. My wife and I both got some work done tonight, and we created a rough plan for the week. She needs to get a presentation planned, so she is likely going into her office tomorrow even though she took the day “off.” I am hoping to get one or two small things done around the house, but I am making a conscious effort to keep Monday and Tuesday light because I know I need to recover from the trip, particularly the realities of spending two long days in the car. Our daughter was scheming plans for herself three days ago. She even went to a friend’s house tonight. I am looking forward to spend a least two or three days with her during the next two weeks. It should be fun to “goof off” with her even as I get myself into school mode.

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Filed under Blessings, Driving, Family, Friends, Gratitude, Honesty, Hope, Humor, Joy, Marriage, Narcolepsy, Parenting, Sharing, Travel

Travel Tension

>On the whole, today has been great, but as was the case on the way down to Tennessee, narcolepsy did choose some choice moments to rear its ugly head. In an attempt to create a smooth departure this morning, we all packed last night. Ironically, that effort paid off for us (those things usually backfire in some way). We were on the road by 6:25 AM – a significant improvement from a week ago Friday (when our 6 AM departure turned into 8 AM). My wife was on edge as we left, but I knew that she was definitely sick still, and her angst quickly passed.

The problem, though, was that due to my wife’s illness I needed to drive more than I had on the way down. I took my first driving shift right after we entered Kentucky. I managed to get us passed Lexington, which was over 100 miles of our trip. I drove for nearly an hour and a half. Unfortunately, I found myself in heavier traffic toward the end of that time (no doubt due to passing through Lexington). Still, I handled things well, but I could feel some tension building. My wife definitely gets worried as I begin to fade behind the wheel. Still, I was pleased that I drove that far and helped out that much.

Because it was so early, we continued to push on. My wife drove us into Indiana. We finally stopped for lunch at this great little restaurant in Scottsburg (Jeeves & Company). Our lunch was wonderful, and I took my second dose of amphetamine right after we ate. My wife definitely needed me to drive again. I knew that I was already exhausted, even with the stimulant, but felt I had no other choice. Thus, I got behind the wheel and knew that I would be fine in terms of safety. The problem was that driving would take all of my energy. My wife dozed during some of the time, but she woke up as we began approaching Indianapolis. Like Lexington, traffic began to get dicey as we approached the metropolitan area. Finally, a truck cut into the left lane (at 65 mph) when the car in front of me and I were both moving at 80 mph. Needless to say, I was furious. I then drove through the next 30 to 40 miles in rapid, lane-shifting traffic. I wanted to get us around Indianapolis before switching. But, the speed and my bad mood made my wife more and more anxious.

When we finally reached an exit that would allow us to switch, I was attempting to explain my awful mood to my wife. Sadly, the gas station we wanted to reach was not immediately at the exit, AND the bottom of the ramp was incredibly confusing. I did make the correct decision, but had no way to know that at the time. Because every ounce of energy that I had was going into keeping the car on the road safely, I derided myself for the rotten signage. This only upset my wife more. After the mile had almost passed, we were approaching a different interstate and could not see the gas station. Because I was so far gone, I cut my wife off as she was attempting to “help” me. I plead with her to say nothing and to let me figure out how to find the gas station. Seconds later, I spotted it just passed the other interstate, but she also saw it and chose to let me know where it was. That definitely sent me into a tailspin.

I got us to the station, and we snapped at each other about the situation. We soon reconciled, but as I got out right after the initial exchange, I was literally shaking aas I was pumping the gas. I had nothing left from the driving. In fact, I nearly exploded when the pump failed to print my receipt. Fortunately, my wife had already apologized to me. I managed to walk (or stomp) inside and nicely ask for a copy. I then apologized to my wife and again attempted to explain how hard such a situation is for me. It drives me nuts that my energy is so limited in moments like that. I truly did not have the ability to interact with her (or myself) civilly because I needed all of my mental accuity to keep us safe in the car. That is crazy, but it is also reality.

Fortunately, my wife and I are exceptional at sharing, listening, and forgiving. I know that she meant well, and she knows that I truly did not try to upset her. She also appreciates that I did much more of the driving today. She still did the majority, but I did drive for over 3 hours and handled over 200 of our miles. Narcolepsy will certainly continue to be a bane – in my travels, in my marriage, in my life. But, I must simply continue to accept what it gives me and make the best of each day. Gratefully, we got to our hotel by 3 PM and have had a slow evening to gather strength for tomorrow. We are all excited to get home. I hope that tomorrow goes well and that my narcolepsy lets me have enough strength to drive and to be kind even when the roads are tense.


Filed under Anger, Driving, Emotions, Exhaustion, Family, Frustration, Honesty, Humility, Love, Marriage, Narcolepsy, Stupidity, Travel

Craft Craze

I had an excellent time today going to look at crafters. Unfortunately, my wife was too ill to join us, so my daughter and I ventured out alone. We needed to exchange a shirt at the aquarium first, which was also an excuse for my daughter to get an awesome funnel cake (it looked like a pound of powdered sugar!). Then, we headed east for the eight mile artisan loop. Since it was hot, we knew that we could not go to many places, but we did check out a few shops.

The woodwork and art that we found blew my mind. I am glad that we made the trip because I will now push harder to make it a priority the next time that we come here. Gatlinburg has amazing talent in this eight mile loop. We did make a few purchases, but I was tempted to get far more. Wisely, I realized that my wife would need to okay the larger purchases. It simply means that we need to return here again.

The best part of the day, though, was simply getting out. My sinuses definitely seemed to be better today. I felt good being more alert and having the chance to connect with my daughter. I continue to worry that narcolepsy will prevent me from knowing as well as I might. Gratefully, days like today remind me that I can find windows. I am excited to head home, but feel like I had a great vacation in spite of my medical woes. We have already packed most of our stuff, allowing us to plan for a 6 AM departure. I hope that I can be ready since I was the delay on both days of our driving down here. Tomorrow is definitely the “longer” day, but we should hit our worst stretch (Pigeon Forge – 5 miles in one hour) before anyone else is actually awake. We will stay in northern Indiana again, but booked a hotel slightly closer to Chicago. I like that I am ending this trip on an upbeat note. That has not been my previous experience very often.

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Filed under Balance, Driving, Excitement, Family, Gratitude, Illness, Marriage, Narcolepsy, Parenting, Relationships, Sinuses, Travel

Wild (weird) Week

I am struggling to believe that I went aq week without posting. Sadly, that is in fact the reality, though. I found myself overwhelmed by meetings and events for most of the past week, and on Friday morning we departed on our trip. The strategic planning meetings on Monday and Tuesday were incredible, but they overwhelmed my body on Wednesday. I did still manage to get some housework and yard work done, though. Unfortunately, that effort coupled with more meetings and errands on Thursday left me FAR behind in my trip preparations. I stumbled out of our office on Thursday night around 11 PM, took one dose of Xyrem, and knew that I would need to get up as early as possible without a second one because I still had far too much to do. It was also the second night in a row with a solo dose.

I did manage to get up between 4:30 and 5 AM, but I still delayed our departure by nearly an hour and a half. Fortunately, my wife and daughter remained calm. I did do some driving (about an hour and a half in the middle of that leg), but it wiped me out. We also got stuck in ridiculous traffic around Chicago. Being the car so long and the fact that I was baking on my side of the car left me with a horrific headache. Fortunately, my wife and daughter still went and enjoyed the dunes on Lake Michigan. Unfortunately, I was unable to awaken for my second dose that night, thus it was three nights with only one dose of Xyrem. The trip from northern Indiana to Tennessee was even longer than Friday’s drive. Again, my wife did a bulk of the driving, but I again took a 1.5 hour section in the middle. I was fading badly at the end, and we wound up snapping at each other, but reconciled over lunch. The worst part of the trip came at the end. After 550 miles of driving, we spent nearly two hours covering the final 30 miles because traffic into Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, TN is so awful. Again, I was shot and baking.

I did get an okay sleep last night, but am also frustrated because our resort only has ONE internet computer available for guests. At some of their other resorts, they at least make wifi available in the lobby of the clubhouse, but at this one they CHARGE for it! So, I am sitting in the parking lot of a McDonald’s using my new Qwest WiFi (available through AT&T). Of course, it took forever to make the connection work right, so I am only going to get a couple of chances to write on my blog. Worse, I truly had hoped to do a little work while I was here. Hopefully, I will work something out. I certainly plan to enjoy our vacation, but this is the first long trip that we have taken with me trying to cope honestly with my narcolepsy. I functioned poorly today (at best). We are going hiking tomorrow and rafting on Tuesday. While I am excited about those activities, I am also worried that I will be unable to do much else. I know that will frustrate my wife and daughter. We will see what tomorrow brings, though. I need to run now. I need to get gas for our car and to get groceries.


Filed under Balance, Chores, Depression, Driving, Exhaustion, Family, Fear, Frustration, Honesty, Loss, Narcolepsy, Relationships