Merry Christmas!

So if I thought that Christmas was complicated with divorced parents of my own I was a fool! This year I've got two new families: BF, the little man, and BF's mom and my dad's newly acquired family. While I adore having all of these new people in my life they do tend to complicate things.

When my brother and I were younger Christmas plans were pretty easy. My dad has a very small family which he doesn't really interact with; we used to have Christmas Eve with my dad and his mom at his house and then he and my brother would go to Christmas Eve church services and I would go to my best friend's family Christmas Eve party (being the black sheep that I am) and hang out. My dad and brother would join the party after church, we'd go home at 1:00 or so, sleep, wake-up the next morning and open presents and then go to my mom's house. There we'd do the gift exchange thing again with her and her boyfriend (he's been around for almost ten years now - I like him and he's never tried to be my dad - they're never getting married). After a couple hours of hanging around the house, getting some brunch, relaxing a bit and playing with new presents, we'd go to my mom's big giant family Christmas gathering. My mom's one of five who all felt the need to be fruitful and multiply; my grandmother has twelve grandchildren.

This year things are getting more complicated. Now my dad actually has family; my brother and I have SOs; and my SO has a son. So we're not doing Christmas day with either of my parents. We're going to spend Christmas Eve afternoon/evening with my dad, my brother and my new stepfamily, then my brother is coming to my mom's with us when my dad and his new clan go to church at 6:30. We're going to do presents and a late dinner there and then BF's ex is going to drop off the little man with us after he spends the day with her and her family across the river, probably around 11:00 or so; last year it was midnight. Christmas morning, BF's mom and ex-wife are coming to our house to watch the little man open presents and exchange gifts with us (the ex relationship is coming along beautifully, I'm actually okay with her being there and she actually invited us to spend Christmas Eve at her family's gathering). After that the ex is presumably leaving and we'll have lunch and hang out at our apartment with BF's mom for a while. After that it's off to Quakertown to my mom's family's gathering for the rest of the evening, hopefully BF's mom will come with us.

Busy two days and it made me cry more than once trying to figure out how it was going to work out, but now that it is, I'm pleased.

This Christmas season has been awesome.

The little man was only 20 mos. old last Christmas and he didn't quite get the whole tree/santa/presents/Christmas thing, but this Christmas has been totally different. He went to see Santa at the mall and was totally excited about it, told him he wanted a fire truck and a video game, though he was too amazed to smile for the pictures, just stunned looking. He was thrilled when we put up our Christmas tree last Saturday night (it's fake and gorgeous; one of the best purchases I ever made). He helped put ornaments on and directed me about where to place them up high. It was adorable and such a joy. When I let him press the button to turn on the lights, he gasped as if it was the most wonderful thing ever.

BF and I have also been having a great time on our own. I've been pretty sick for more than a month, but the last two weeks have been much better. My semester at school is finally over so I've got more time to cuddle (passed everything, luckily). He also took this week off, so Monday and Tuesday we just hung around the house and enjoyed the time alone together and Wednesday morning we drove to Washington D.C., where we are now.

We've been having a blast. Our hotel is all retro fabulous and it's really just nice to be away. We got here too late yesterday to do anything; apparently there isn't anything to see in this town after 5:30 - the Smithsonian museums close, the national buildings all close, even most of the chain food places close at 7:00. So we went out for dinner and came back to the room with ice cream and snacks, climbed into be and watched the Discovery channel. Mythbusters rocks.

Today was a bit more productive. We got out early planning on hitting the museums, but we found out they only give out a limited number of tickets for tours of the Capitol building, so we headed over there. We got there just as the 12:15 tour was leaving, but nabbed tickets for the next tour and headed across the street to the House of Reps building for food. After twenty minutes of going from one closed food shop to another in that building, we were directed to a connecting building. We got to the cafeteria there just as everyone in the two buildings was taking their lunch break; it was packed. We didn't get to pay for our lunch until the tour that we had tickets for was beginning, so no Capitol tour. We walked to the Air and Space museum instead and had a good time there. The American History Museum, which is right up my history-geek alley, is closed for renovations. We knew this before we came, so I was prepared to not get to see it, but the Air & Space museum had an exhibit that was a mini-American History museum; it was awesome. I got to see so many incredible artifacts. After Air & Space we went over to the Natural History Museum, picked up some cool Christmas gifts and spent an hour browsing the Gems & Minerals exhibit, which was very cool, before the museum people kicked us out and we hiked our badly aching feet back to the Metro and then back to the hotel.

So here I am, sitting, watching crappy sitcoms, while my dear love is out at Whole Foods getting us some sandwiches for dinner. The one negative part about having lupus and traveling to a place where you're expected to walk a half mile here and a half mile there and up and down Capitol Hill and around museums and on tours for hours at a time is that it hurts like a motherfucker. Of course it hurt an hour after we left the hotel and only got worse throughout the day. Walking from the metro station to the Capitol Building was exhausting - about a third of a mile up-hill. The worst part is that sitting down doesn't do a damn thing to make things better or stave off the inevitable limping. I could hardly get back to the hotel after being on my feet for six hours and now I can hobble, barely, but I'm basically stuck on the couch for the rest of the night, hoping that I can walk tomorrow and do it all over again. I could skip this kind of thing. I could do two hours and then back to the hotel for a rest, but as I said, everything closes after sundown. I refuse to live my life like a cripple. I refuse to see half of a museum. I refuse to listen to my body and stay home. So I suck it up and hobble my ass around and I'm glad I do, it just hurts, but that's my hand to play.

Okay, well that was extremely long and I have to go eat the sandwich my wonderful man has procured for me.


My Poor Bronchioles!

I am seriously motherfucking ill. Excuse the language, but my chest feels like it has tiny daggers in it that go just a little bit deeper each time I breathe. This has been coming on for a month now but the doctor said "it's just a sinus infection, viral, nothing we can do about it but it will go away on its own." That was something like two weeks before Thanksgiving. So for the past month I've been feeling congested, achy, and generally just shitty. Then, yesterday the proverbial shit finally hit the fan. I woke up after three hours of sleep with sharp pain in my left lung. Went to the doctor, who promptly sent me to the ER. With a medical history containing the words "pulmonary embuli", that's doctor-speak for multiple blood clots in my lungs, pretty much any chest pain I get, from a pulled muscle to bronchitis, is treated as if it could be life threatening. A very nice way to get through triage fast; I didn't even see the waiting room.

So my wonderful BF brought me my (brand new) PowerBook (that I'm entirely in love with)and some school work. Then he whisked the little man off to spend the night at grandma's house and came back to sit and wait with me. My mom came too, she rocks and her skills as a nurse came in quite handy when they removed my IV, gauzed and taped it, and a minute later I was dripping blood all over myself and the floor. One of the wonderful side effects of taking blood thinners is that you never know whether or not you're going to bleed like a stuck pig. I get blood-work done routinely and there's never more than a drop or two on the gauze when I take it off, but Jesus Christ, this big fat gauze pad and the tape that was holding it in place were a lovely shade of deep red, soaked through.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Something was obviously wrong. Beside the pain, which I'd reigned in with the help of my good friend Darvocet, my blood oxygenation level was below 90% (not good) and my heart rate was hovering around 130 beats per minute (also not good). So they drew what seemed like a gallon of blood to test the hell out of, gave me a nebulizer treatment, which never does a damn thing, gave me a chest x-ray, and followed that nice little dose of radiation with a massive dose courtesy of the CT scanner. The worst part was that I wasn't allowed to drink anything. I didn't give a shit about eating, but with my sinuses full of gunk, the constant mouth breathing left me feeling like my mouth was the Mojave. Their solution: ice chips. Now as any woman who's done the whole childbirth thing knows, ice chips suck. They are a poor substitute for actual hydration, which is what I was really craving. And the bag of saline that they were pumping into my veins didn't do the trick either. So it just sucked.

All of my labs came back normal. The chest x-ray and CT showed nothing. Diagnosis: Bronchitis with a secondary helping of pleurisy. Now bronchitis I can deal with, but pleurisy is one of those things that you'd wish on your worst enemy. From what I understand, the membrane surrounding your lungs has a gel-like substance between it and your lung tissue. Usually this is highly viscous and acts like a good lube when you breathe. Pleurisy is when that substance becomes sticky and creates lots of painful friction with each breath. Think about sex without lube. Not good. That's what this feels like with every breath.

So now, on the eve of finals, with my European history thesis still unwritten and much studying to do, I feel like shit. I did, however, get a paper revised while I sat waiting for my results, so there's a plus. I really must crack the doctors and nurses up in the ER though. I can rate my pain on a one to ten scale like a pro, I speak their language (bilateral PEs, lower left quadrant, palpate, acute pain, diffused throughout the lung), I can predict with pretty good accuracy what tests will be run, and generally know how to be a patient. Hell, I've had years of practice. But what they seem to like the most, and are the most surprised at, is my demeanor. I run down my medical history, my list of drugs, my symptoms, all of that, and all the while I'm friendly, smiling, helpful. It's something you just get used to after a while. It's like "Okay, I have chest pain, this is going to mean a 5 hour trip to the ER and there's no getting out of it, so I suck it up and deal." And I do. I see no reason to be uncooperative or unfriendly to the staff there, and I learned long ago that this is my hand to play, I can be miserable about it, or I can accept it with a smile. So that's what I do and let me tell you, it makes the whole experience far more bearable.