Sunday, January 28, 2018

In Defense of Silence and Solitude

Good Sunday evening.

I have three pieces of news, so let's get right to it.

First, I have a new nephew. Trey's sister & her husband welcomed Kristian Dow Eldridge on Thursday afternoon. 

Mom & baby are doing well & are home now. Reagan is eager to get her hands on her newest cousin, & if all goes as planned that should take place tonight (update: it took place tonight). 

For the health of all involved, we opted not to take Reagan & Henry to the germ-infested hospital to possibly pick up germs or to spread germs they may've picked up at their germ-infested school to the baby's newly minted immune system. When newborns &/or diabetics are involved, the motto during flu season is I love you, but from waaay over here

The short version of the second piece of news is this: Reagan will, the Lord willing, soon be getting a new insulin pump. Here's the slightly longer version: Animus, the company that manufactures her current insulin pump, is closing its doors. We learned of the impending Animus closure months ago. The plan was to wait until this summer, when I'll be home with Reagan all day, to make the switch to a new pump manufactured by a company named Medtronic. We've been pumping with the Animus pump nearly four years. It's been a pretty good pump, but even before the Animus announcement I'd considered looking into a Medtronic pump because of some of the fancy features of their pumps. 

Last week the low battery indicator lit up on the pump. When he went to change the pump's battery, Trey discovered some corrosion in the battery chamber. At present, the pump is working, but we're working against the clock now; the corrosion was the kick in the pants I needed to go ahead & begin the process of obtaining the new pump. Process is too small & simple a word to describe this whole event. 

There were two reasons I wanted to wait until this summer to make the pump switch: First, Reagan would be with me almost constantly while we learned how to navigate the new pump, & second, there are a few hurdles to jump before the pump is in our hands, & I wanted to jump those hurdles during the summer when I get more sleep & have no teaching responsibilities. I am my best self in the summer, & I'd prefer to be my best self when taking on both our insurance company & the FDA.

That's right; Reagan will, the Lord willing, soon be the owner of a Medtronic MiniMed 670G. This is a brand new device that has only recently become available to Type 1 diabetics in the United States. It is not officially approved by the FDA for diabetics Reagan's age, but her endocrinologist was overly enthusiastic about us obtaining this pump for Reagan when we last saw her. The doctor is going to sign all manner of letters & forms attesting to the fact that Trey & I are good, responsible parents who have managed Reagan's disease well for four years, & we are mentally & emotionally equipped to handle & appropriately guide the power of this device Medtronic has created. 

I used the word power in that last sentence. I know, power may sound like an odd word to use, but it is not inappropriate in this case. I can't talk about this device without crying, so if you ask me about it in person, I'll probably cry. You can click here to read more about what this device can do. I'm not going to elaborate much further at this point. I've rambled on long enough, I still have a third piece of news to share with you, & once the device is ours I am certain I'll have more to say about it. I'll say this & then shut-up about the new pump: It's not correct to call it a pump; it is more than a pump. Reagan will wear a sensor that feeds the machine her blood sugar constantly. When her number begins to drop rapidly or reaches a predetermined threshold (a number I can program), it will suspend her insulin. It will stop giving her insulin before she ends up bottoming out; it will do this in the middle of the night while Trey & I continue to sleep. You know what else does that. A PANCREAS, that's what. I am crying again.

The Medtronic pump has many other features about which I am beyond excited. Pray that our doctor's word is enough for the FDA & the insurance company. Either we'll have the new pump soon, or you can catch me on C-SPAN addressing Congress about the need to get insurance companies & federal bureaucrats out of the way of pediatric endocrinologists who, you know, went to medical school & treat young diabetics every day. So either way, big things are ahead for me. 

Okay, the third & final piece of news is likely not news to some of you, but I feel like until I've blogged about something, it isn't official (next week maybe we'll address my mental state). It was here I shared the news I was pregnant with Henry, it was here I told you he would be a he, it was here I told you of Reagan's diagnosis, it was here I told you I was going to be a published author, & so I feel it's time to state, for the official record, that my tenure as a high school teacher will end in May of this year. 

Yes, it's true. This is not news to me, obviously, but I realize it's news to some of you . . . unless you're close to me, in which case you listened to me go on & on about this for weeks months before I reached a decision.

I made the decision to leave the high school classroom a few months ago, but last week I had a heart to heart with a handful of beloved juniors with whom I was reluctant to share the news. Now that they know, there's no reason not to openly & boldly step out of my Mom/Adjunct closet. As you might imagine, I have a lot of feelings. If you are short on time or just done with me for now, here's the short version: Our family, & my mental state, are in considerably better shape when I am a wife & mom who sometimes maybe teaches a few courses at the local community college.

If you're still with me, we'll now segue to the part where I psychoanalyze myself. My decision can be broken into two categories: the practical & the social. Practically, time-wise, I can't get the work done. I can skate by, but I can't do a good, thorough job of teaching all that I'm asked to teach, & a part of me absolutely cannot stand that. Were I to put in the time necessary to teach all my students — the honors juniors, the seniors, the AP students, & my speech students — I would completely neglect my husband, my kids, a handful of church services, & get little sleep. As any English teacher will tell you: The reading load can be mentally tiring but often pleasurable, the teaching is physically tiring but often pleasurable, the objective tests are a quick pleasure to grade, but the essays? Pardon my bluntness, but essays take years off your life as they suck hours from your day.

Senior English students must write often if they're to receive their English 101/102 Dual Enrollment credit. Honors & AP English students must write often in order to be prepared for the AP test they'll take at the conclusion of their senior year. They need to write often, & they need thorough, explanatory feedback about what is working in their writing & what is not. Last week when I talked to my juniors, I told them that while they think they want me to be their English teacher for their AP year, this would not be in their best interest. I cannot, not without sacrificing things I am not willing to sacrifice, adequately prepare them for their AP test.

So, the practical aspect of my decision comes down to time. This includes the time it takes to grade essays, but also the time I am physically at school every day. I want to go on field trips with my kids. I want more flexibility in my day because my kids get sick & need to go to the doctor. My mom & my mother-in-law are great about helping, however they're both very often busy with their aging parents, & I don't want their time split between taking their parents to the doctor & taking their grandkids to the doctor. Trey is a good dad, & he steps in often when necessary, but he is, you know, a lawyer who litigates & stuff, which pays our mortgage & puts food on our table. I am their mother, & I want to be their mother.

Here's some raw honesty for you: in order to be their mother & do it well & approach them at the end of the school day with a smile on my face, I must make a change in my daily routine. I am not cut out for high school, folks, at least not while I have young kids who demand my time & energy immediately after I've spent all day with swarms of teens who're sometimes loud & ask questions  I've answered. Had I never taught in college, maybe I'd have never realized this, but it is what it is. I saw the above C.S. Lewis quote retweeted on Twitter this morning, & in my head I thought, "Yes! Amen!" I need solitude, silence, & privacy for at least a few minutes daily (preferably like an hour or two) in order to thrive, in order to be a good wife, a good mother, a good ________________. Fill in that blank with whatever noun you please. I need a few minutes to myself during which I am not agonizing over feeling guilty because I should be grading an essay.

My current routine is such that I am almost always surrounded by people; this doesn't work for me. It does not work for me at all. My routine is the same day in & day out. I need some silence, & I need, I've discovered, some spontaneity. Someone get me a "Born to be an Adjunct" T-shirt.

I will teach a handful of Speech courses for Delta Community College in the fall. I'll probably teach on Tuesdays & Thursdays; on the other three days of the weekday, I'll be tucked in a corner in a coffee shop grading speeches, preparing for my classes, & mentally recharging so that when I pick my kids up in the afternoon, I'll be ready to see them & talk about their day. I won't have to spend nights or weekends planning or grading because I will have time during the day to get it done; that last sentence is the crux of how I reached my decision. It is the beauty of being an adjunct, really. The supervisory aspect of high school teaching makes me a little crazy. I want to teach, just teach, & as an adjunct, they are just so happy to have you that's all they ask of you. You walk in, teach your class, & leave. If you finish your lecture early, or if everyone scheduled to give a speech that day has done so & there are twenty minutes left in class, well, class is over anyway. If I am sick or my kids are sick, guess what? Class is cancelled. See you next time, bye! If you want an office, they'll find you a space to work, but you're not required to keep office hours, to advise students, to serve on a committee, to attend a meeting, etc. It's quite glorious.

Oh, & I haven't mentioned this yet, but another draw to teaching Speech as an adjunct is that I have already earned the degree required to do it. I don't have my masters in English, & thus to teach that Dual Enrollment I've taken a graduate course each of the last two summers. I don't know what I'll be doing this summer, but I could cry knowing I will not be taking a graduate course online. I cried more than once last summer when I had to tell the kids No, I can't, because I was trying to keep my graduate record perfect & earn an A in a graduate-level Technical Writing course.

I don't know how often I'll need to be at the kids' school in order to give Reagan insulin. Her new pump is going to do a handful of things that currently fall to me, so we'll see. If needed, I can be there daily at eleven when she eats lunch (I've talked to the second grade teachers about their daily schedule already because I am a planner). Reagan wants to learn how to give herself medicine. We will see how this goes over the summer. At a minimum, wherever she is, I will worry less about lows, & even highs, as this new pump . . . wait for it . . . can, if I allow it, give her a correction dose of insulin when her number is too high. Yes, yes. It is not a pancreas, but it is not unlike a pancreas either.

With the sensor feeding her number to the pump, her world (our world) will suddenly be a new & different place. She may be able to sleep at her grandparents' houses without me or Trey being there (admittedly we do this currently for their peace of mind more than anything else). She might be able to sleep at a friend's house at some point without me camping out on their couch or lurking in their driveway. It was my desire to be constantly near Reagan that brought me to the high school classroom. When I learned what this new pump can do & heard about Animus shutting their doors, thus giving us a perfect reason to petition insurance for a new pump, well, to quote Ace of Base, I saw the sign (sorry . . . I hate me too).

When I am not giving Reagan medicine, or taking someone to the doctor, or going on a field trip with my sweet Henry, or teaching a Speech class, I can run the errands that currently eat up the weekends. Maybe I can have lunch with Trey, or my mom, or a friend (like a real lunch at a table at a restaurant, not shuffling kids out of my room so Trey & I can eat our food in twenty minutes before the room is again teeming with teens). I can take care of most of the things that need to be taken care of, the stuff of life like groceries, vet visits, dog grooming visits, doctor visits, haircuts, insulin refills, etc., while the kids are at school so that when they're not at school, I can be, well, their mom.

So, whew. This has gone on longer than I intended. My sister & I have always joked with my Aunt Donna that she's an Explainer. A waiter doesn't just take her order; he hears about why she's ordering the chicken & not the steak, & then maybe her whole life story (I love my Aunt Donna so, so much & would actually love to sit & listen to her give one of her epic explanations to a stranger right now). I suppose I have a few of Donna's explanatory genes in me. I feel I owe a handful of people an explanation regarding the decision I've made, though at this point most, if not all, of these individuals have potentially quit reading.

Change is on the horizon for us. I am reminded of the final lines of Percy Shelley's excellent "Mutability:"

Man's yesterday may ne're be like his morrow;
Nought may endure but Mutability. 

Translated, that means: Yesterday may never be like tomorrow; nothing is constant but change.

I am excited about more fully embracing my role as Mom. I may even continue to wear the crown I received at Muffins for Mom Friday; it clearly identifies me as Henry's Mom.


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