Category Archives: Parenting

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

Magic Moment

First and foremost, I finally made it back to work today – way to go, me. Thankfully, the day was relatively low key. I still am struggling mentally and physically, but I know that getting back into some level of routine will help me in many ways. We also were introduced to an interesting program today – the Green Dot initiative (www.livethegreendot.com). The program targets power-based personal violence with strategies to encourage bystanders to become allies. While the presentations left something to be desired, I love the core concept and the message of one small action at a time is a tangible and powerful one. Hopefully, it can be one more tool in the constant struggle U.S. society, in general, and schools, in particular, use to combat bullying and verbal, emotional, and physical violence.

While the day was tiring, the highlight came at the end of my work day. A dear friend (and former co-teacher) shared an exciting event from break week. This teacher has been accepted into a doctoral writing program. Like me, this person has also had a difficult year; in fact, I would argue one that is much worse than mine. Thus, I am thrilled that this colleague will have options moving forward. The individual still needs to hear from some MFA programs too. Another piece of our discussion made my heart race even faster, though. One possibility is that this friend could join my teaching team again. If that were to happen, I would be elated. In fact, this person even proposed an option that would involve me arriving each day at 7:30 AM, and I am actually considering it. One, I would do just about anything to work with this person, but two, I have an incoming ninth grader in my home who needs to get to school around that time any way. For grade school my wife has been the primary morning driver, but I was already worried how our family would handle the change to high school. Clearly, many other things could happen, but I am feeling more hopeful today than I have in a long time about what the future might hold. It is amazing how a single five to ten minute period can make such a profound impact on me. I also love that narcolepsy has made it more likely that I am able to appreciate those moments. Rather than dwelling on a multitude of negatives from the rest of the day, I can cherish a shining instant of joy.

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Filed under Blessings, Education, Emotions, Excitement, Family, Friends, Gratitude, Hope, Insights, Joy, Narcolepsy, Parenting, Wisdom

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

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

Slow Startup

Today is our last day in Tennessee. We will rise early tomorrow and hit the road. While I am not looking forward to two days in a car, I am looking forward to getting back home. I feel good that I still have two weeks before I am back at school. I have oodles of things to do – at home and for school, but I will continue to approach them at the pace that I can handle. Today definitely feels similar to that. My wife went on a driving loop last night by herself. She enjoyed it immensely, but came home even sicker than she was. Thus, I am the only one up this morning. Hopefully, we will still try to visit some of the craft shops today, but I love that we can have such a relaxed start to our “final day.” Far too often, a day like this is treated frenetically, cramming in activities for each waking moment. Instead, we will take in what we can and simply appreciate the chance to spend time together.

I find myself grateful for the many opportunities to slow down my life and expectations. My brain continues to push me, but I am getting better at letting go. I am even able to appreciate the fleeting moments when I do achieve a level of balance. Those moments are not nearly as frequent as I would like, but the fact that success brings joy rather than regret is a huge improvement. For years, a moment of serenity would bring angst rather than relief. I would berate myself for my inability to “feel serene” more often – how screwed up is that? Thus, I am highly content to lounge this morning, at peace with my upbeat outlook.

That said, I do need to find a bit more structure to my days when I get back home. The start of school is still three weeks away, but I need to begin adapting my schedule and routine now, since I know that a radical shift will not sit well with my brain or physical health. I also need to find a physical routine. The hiking and rafting has been great, but my body hurts all over as a result. More than anything else, I need to strengthen my knees. They are hurting constantly these days. I must spend some time over the next three weeks to get them ready for standing frequently during the school day. If I don’t, it will be a LONG year. I find juggling exercise, my family, my sanity, and my job one of the most frustrating aspects of narcolepsy. All of them take energy from me, but all of them are vitally necessary.

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Filed under Balance, Emotions, Exercise, Family, Gratitude, Honesty, Marriage, Narcolepsy, Parenting, Wisdom

Internet Interruption

I love that I am constantly learning new things about myself. While a portion of that statement is facetious, I do like that I am open enough to recognize important factors about my mental and physical health. So, we are on vacation. Gatlinburg has been great, but my sinuses has not. I am also furious that my resort DOES offer an internet connection, but for a fee. I realized this after returning from McDonald’s on Sunday. My rage only increased when I learned that the resort’s internet is provided by Wayport. While Wayport has been around for a while, apparently the company is now owned by AT&T. The irony is that I am supposed to be able to connect to AT&T wifi because of my own internet connection at home. In fact, I used the Wayport connection at McDonald’s! I finally caved in and paid for 24 hours on our room connection. I needed to do that.

My health woes have made for a long week, but it has also been hard because I don’t do well when I have “unstructured” time. We have done some hiking, gone white water rafting, and visited the Aquarium of the Smokies. Those activities have been awesome. Unfortunately, those things drained me (because I have narcolepsy) and left me sitting around our townhouse at the resort. When I don’t have ways to distract myself, I tend to get stuck in my own head. To avoid that I have watched a ridiculous amount of TV. I would have done far more productive things had I had an internet connection, but that was not possible. I also knew that trying to DO other things would be a disaster, since my limited excursions have left me wiped out. That might be the most frustrating aspect of this. This trip is the first long one that we have taken since I have begun to figure out how to live effectively with my narcolepsy. Unfortunately, I was not prepared for it. The lack of the internet connection, coupled with how much two LONG days in the car took out of me, has made it difficult for me to be upbeat. I also know that I am bring down the moods of my wife and my daughter. We are having fun, but my limited participation certainly impacts them.

I am now in hour 30 of a killer sinus headache too. It improves at times, but on the whole, the dull and constant pain in my left temple is getting old (to say the least). I skipped the hike this morning in hopes that I would feel better, but it made no difference. I am also afraid that I will get worse when we spend two days in the car driving home. Hopefully, tomorrow will be a good day. We plan to visit some of the shops on the craft circle – an eight mile loop of various artisans. It should be a blast, but all of us are under the weather. We certainly will not push ourselves, but it is definitely a burden on my wife. She clearly has a cold, but is trying to pick up my slack. I am doing my best to stay positive and engage with my wife and daughter, but there is only so much that my body can give. I will attempt to keep smiling and give everything that I can!

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Filed under Exhaustion, Family, Frustration, Illness, Love, Marriage, Narcolepsy, Parenting, Relationships, Travel

Meandering Moodiness

While today was slightly better than yesterday, I have yet to find any traction this week. That said, I did enjoy my day. My daughter and I continued to enjoy her new Wii game. Animal Crossing is ridiculously silly. You essentially fish, catch bugs, run errands for your neighbors, and dig up fossils. At the same time, it is hilarious. I must admit that the best part is spending time with my daughter. Although we did manage to limit the Wii time, it was still past noon when we “finished.” We then went to lunch and took in a movie together. I do believe that things went well, but I still worry that I am not connecting with her enough.

I did manage to do one thing for my wife today. I got groceries, which we desperately needed. At the driving in the afternoon, I was a tad worried about driving again, but I rested for an hour before going shopping. Still, the trip to the store finished me for the night. I was able to let go of my anxiety over the things that I have not even started yet for my meeting in the morning. I think I can get a couple things done when I wake up, but I doubt I will have it all finished. Hopefully, my colleagues will understand and forgive me. I also have an appointment with my sleep doctor tomorrow. I need to pull together some questions for him. The appointment should go fine, but I also wish I had a firmer grasp on my current mental state. I am not sure how well my meds are working, but worry about trying to ask for anonther stimulant. We will see.

This needs to be short tonight because I need to get to sleep. I am painfully aware that my own inability to re-establish any sense of a schedule has been reeking havoc with my entire state of being – mentally, physically, emotionally. The good news is that I still have a week and a half of July. Then, I will get three weeks of August before school starts. That is a tremendous amount of time, but I must start moving in a better direction.

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Filed under Balance, Depression, Exhaustion, Family, Frustration, Honesty, Love, Narcolepsy, Parenting