Archive for May, 2017

Project 52, Week 47, Part Three – Bloggers, Books, and Butterflies

Friday, May 12th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 47!

47 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I’m taking one year of my life and blogging about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 47 — June 14, 2011, to June 14, 2012.

Last time, I talked about the long process of recovering from my stroke – and the big family gathering that happened in Oregon when my brother Robert got married on September 4, 2011.

I’m not sure if I mentioned it this week, but I was back working in the library after spending six months working in the Office for Children during Year 46, due to budget cuts. However, I was a Librarian I working in adult services, rather than a Youth Services Manager, at City of Fairfax Regional Library, where I still work. The good thing about not being in Youth Services – I think it was easier for the library to do without me while I was recovering from my stroke and not working very many full weeks. There was less stress as well. And, spoiler alert, eventually I got the Youth Services Manager position at Fairfax – the RIF that brought me there probably helped me get that promotion in the end.

And I had another trip to the Pacific northwest coming up! This one was also booked before I had my stroke. KidLitCon was in Seattle this year, and I couldn’t resist going. Only very dedicated readers will remember – but I lived in the Seattle area when I was very young – and still kept Seattle as my ideal of the best place to live, with my youth-biased memories. So what a great excuse to visit.

(Also, I see from my journal entries that I was trying to do many more things than I was physically capable of doing so soon after the stroke. Take some time to heal, Sondy! Oh well, before long I started making trips to the E. R. when the vestibular migraines started up and I was afraid they were another stroke. Anyway, that got me to slow down a bit.)

Here is Melissa Fox, who I first met at KidLitCon ’09, my roommate Lisa Song, and Farida Dowler – whom I’d corresponded with for years – meeting because of Sonderbooks!

And at lunchtime, we’re joined by Maureen Kearney and Liz Burns:

On a break, I visited the Seattle Public Library:

I blogged about KidLitCon (of course!) and how it gave me Connection, Encouragement, and Fascinating Information!

For a long time, I’ve seen my website Sonderbooks and the associated blogs as a major part of my calling, of who I am, and of who I am as a librarian. Even though I write them on my own time. KidLitCon is about blogging about children’s books, and at the time I was temporarily not a children’s librarian – but I was still one in my heart!

And then came yet another book-related, even children’s book-related event – the National Book Festival! I blogged about that, too. That year, it was blistering hot! But I got to hear some great speakers.

Lois Lowry:

Kadir Nelson:

Patricia McKissack:

And Gary Schmidt, whom I honestly hoped would win the Newbery that year with Okay for Now:

Sara Lewis Holmes joined me in talking with Gary after his talk.

My calendar still shows lots of sick days and doctor appointments. I had another MRI on October 4th. My right vertebral artery was still blocked – no blood getting through. And yet in my journal, I said I thought I had healed from the stroke, and was just worried about a cold I’d had. Oh, Sondy, you’ve actually got a ways to go yet!

But meanwhile, I’d applied a second time to be a judge for the Cybils Awards (didn’t get it – that year) and a third time to attend the William Morris Invitational Seminar on Book Evaluation happening at ALA Midwinter Meeting. (I did get that!) I was taking an online class on the Printz Award. And I was even taking time to get out – on October 9, I visited Meadowlark Gardens and took some pictures.

Fall color was just beginning.

Well, years go by – but I still enjoy walking among flowers, butterflies, and fall leaves.

Now it’s getting late. This week’s going to need yet another Part.

Project 52, Week 47, Part Two – Family!

Thursday, May 11th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 47!

47 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I’m taking one year of my life and blogging about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 47 — June 14, 2011, to June 14, 2012.

Last time, I covered the start of Year 47, when I had my cerebellar stroke.

I have often laughed at myself for saying, at the end of 2010, that 2011 couldn’t possibly be worse than 2010 had been. I was tempting fate – because then I had a stroke! But the truth was, having a stroke (at least one that I survived) wasn’t even close to as bad as my divorce. And I’d gotten RIF’d in 2010 as well.

And, believe it or not, there were good things about the stroke. It is no small thing that it really took my mind off Steve. My journals at the start of 2011 were still all about Steve and still praying that God would work in his life and he’d have a change of heart. Well, when I had the stroke, I had other things to think about.

I spent a lot of time on sick leave that summer – which my co-workers generously donated – and I got lots of quality time with my son Tim, the last summer before he graduated from high school. Not to mention that after the year I’d had, having lots of time where I just needed to rest and get well was good for my mental health.

Now that year ended up having a whole lot of great things happen. But I think I’d like to talk a little bit first about the recovery process, which extended throughout the year and beyond.

I did not have the stroke because of lack of fitness or high cholesterol or anything like that. I had the stroke because of a neck injury, a vertebral artery dissection. However, having the stroke destroyed my level of fitness. (I finally worked on that a couple years later when I moved into this home and started a walking program. But for a couple years, I was pretty out of shape.)

They automatically put me on statins in the hospital as soon as I had the stroke, before they’d figured out why. A few months later, after my cholesterol tested to be super low, I quit taking them. My stroke didn’t happen because of high cholesterol. Protocol for “regular” strokes didn’t fit my case.

Cerebellar strokes only make up 3% of all strokes that happen. Honestly? I don’t think the medical community knows a whole lot about them. (And a lot of them don’t get diagnosed in the first place.) I was evaluated in the hospital, and they decided I didn’t need physical or occupational therapy. I could walk a straight line, and was doing fine. Or so I thought.

But there were two problems I was up against. One was dead brain cells in my cerebellum. The other was a blocked vertebral artery – which later healed to be a teeny-tiny vertebral artery. Some blood does get through. We have two vertebral arteries, so they generally don’t intervene in a case of vertebral artery dissection – the blood goes around the other way. I was on Coumadin for six months to keep from getting any more clots. After six months, they figure however much healing you got – that’s your new normal.

It did hurt to turn my head to the right for a good year after my stroke. Though it gradually got less and less and now it’s fine. For a long time, I noticed it when I drove and tended to turn my whole body if I wanted to look right. It also hurt for a few months to hold a telephone with my right shoulder while typing on the computer. Something I used to do automatically.

I don’t know why my neurologist kept trying to find other explanations for my neck pain, like arthritis in my neck. Really? When you know full well I had a neck injury and still have a teeny-tiny right vertebral artery, and the pain is only on my right side, and precisely where the right vertebral artery is? Anyway, since about a year after the injury, that pain when turning my head is completely gone. Ummm, it wasn’t arthritis.

I still to this day will occasionally wake up with neck pain if I have been sleeping with my right side up. What I think is happening is that I’m lying so the blood can’t really get through the left vertebral artery and wants to go through the right one – and that artery is too small. Whether or not my theory’s true, usually if I readjust how I’m lying down so that the left side of my neck is on top and unobstructed, the pain goes away. (Though it does freak me out if the pain is strong or if it lasts through the day, like it did a couple weeks ago.)

I do get far more right side headaches than left side ones, since the stroke. If the pain is centered in my neck, behind my right ear, I do start to freak out.

The damage to my cerebellum has been a little harder to recover from. The cerebellum is the center of balance. That summer, if I stood for more than a few minutes, I’d start to feel woozy. It wasn’t dizziness like the room-spinning that happened when the first stroke hit. But “dizziness” was the best word I could come up with to describe it. Generally feeling off-balance. I didn’t like to call it “light-headed,” but “heavy-headed” fit well.

Basically, I think my brain needed to make some new connections for keeping my balance to replace some that had been lost.

I do remember that it was much worse shortly after the stroke than it is now. I was working with the babies in the church nursery, and I was holding a baby when I stepped over the side of a play fence – and almost lost my balance and fell. (I took a break from working in the church nursery.) But my sense of balance slowly recovered.

I think it’s interesting, though – to this day I can’t stand and sing in church, in an auditorium with a slanted floor, without holding onto the seat in front of me to get extra balance cues. I can do it – but I will get really dizzy. Also, I don’t close my eyes during the singing, because that’s a bad idea, too. (I definitely wish they’d let us do more singing from our seats.)

And after I’d gone back to work, I would get some dizzy spells that really scared me. I’d get a sudden wave of severe dizziness – and then I’d have that wooziness and feel awful. I went into the ER quite a few times about episodes like that. The fact that the hospital had missed my first stroke made me extra jittery. But I couldn’t get them to take me seriously when I clearly wasn’t having a current stroke.

Finally – months later – I went to see a top neurologist at Johns Hopkins. He told me that my migraines had changed to vestibular migraines. I was a little skeptical at first – but as I watched how it worked, that totally fit. An initial wave of dizziness was a new kind of aura – and then that weird sick wooziness was replacing the headache. The pain level wasn’t nearly as bad as a regular migraine, but it really did act like a migraine – just with dizziness instead of pain.

Unfortunately, Maxalt didn’t work well for vestibular migraines, so I did get some super long ones at times. But fortunately, Zoloft did help prevent them – once I was basically healed from the stroke. And in 2017, menopause seems to have mostly cured both my regular migraines and my vestibular migraines – though just last week, I made myself carsick by not paying attention when I was driving a winding and hilly road – and started a days-long vestibular migraine.

In general, I get motion sickness much more easily now, and it hardly takes any alcohol for me to feel tipsy. In fact, that may be a good description of this “dizziness” I get – how your head feels when you’ve had a little too much to drink. But now even the slightest bit of alcohol can set off a vestibular migraine for me. (And a doctor I mentioned this to said it makes sense, because alcohol affects your cerebellum. And I’ve already got a deficit in my cerebellum.)

Though I do remember that one thing that helped the dizziness get better that first summer after the stroke was when I stopped taking blood pressure medicine. If your blood pressure is too low, it can cause dizziness. Well, mine without medicine is slightly elevated – but I was getting dizzy a whole lot less than on the medicine. My theory is that it takes a little extra pressure to get the blood through my teeny-tiny artery. I don’t know if I’m correct, I just know I feel better when I’m not taking blood pressure medication, and my blood pressure isn’t super high anyway.

Oh, the other weird thing I discovered after the stroke was I started getting double vision – but only when I look up and to the right. At first my neurologist thought that meant I’d had another stroke. But when I saw a neuro-ophthalmologist, he said it was Brown syndrome, which is generally thought to have other causes. I’m a little skeptical. It’s the eye on the side that would have been affected by the stroke, and the nerves to the eye are super close to the area where I had the stroke. But anyway, I can solve the problem by either closing one eye or turning my whole body to the right so that my left eye doesn’t have to turn. This is why I try to always sit on the right side in an auditorium – so I’m looking to the left. I also prefer to talk to people to the left of me. It’s possible to have surgery that sometimes works to correct this problem – but I might as well just close one eye.

At the same time I noticed that, I noticed that I see halos around lights. But it turned out that’s truly not from the stroke – no, I have a genetic progressive eye disease, Fuchs’ syndrome. But here’s hoping it will progress slowly enough that I won’t need surgery for it. I guess I was now hyperaware of how my body was working.

Anyway, I slowly started back to work. On my first week back, in fact, we had an earthquake! And I was super-relieved when people started milling around and I knew that the building was moving for them, too. For a second, I’d thought I was having another stroke! That’s what it was the last time I’d seen the building move. As a California girl, I was very proud of myself for getting under the table by the stairs (and away from the shelves, where I’d been heading to get a book for a customer). I didn’t tell anyone to join me – I just got under the table and thought about how I was doing it right and everyone heading for the exit was doing it wrong.

It was months, though, before I made it a whole pay period where I worked the entire pay period. Many months.

But first, when I thought I should be back to work – it was time to go to Oregon for my brother Robert’s wedding. ALL my siblings were going to be there! And I’d get to see Jade! (Then called Josh.) Josh and Peter and Josh’s girlfriend Sunny had all moved to Portland while I was in the hospital. They were rooming together. My youngest sister Melanie had moved to Oregon at the same time, for a job with Intel. And Robert had moved there the year before to be near Laura, his bride.

And I got to stay at Grandma’s House! My Aunt Susie still lived there, and let Tim and me stay. Oh my, it brought back old memories! And Aunt Susie was kind enough to let me do a lot of resting on that vacation.

It was great to see Josh! And for the first time, I visited Powell’s City of Books in Portland.

Tim and I took a day trip up into Washington State, near Seattle, to visit Evergreen State College, and I got another flood of nostalgia. I remembered the road from Oregon to Seattle – at least those green bridges – from 40 years before!

We saw a deer on campus, which would have been enough to hook me!

Forest in Washington State fits my idea – formed in childhood – of what a forest should be.

Later, a bunch of siblings and cousins and an aunt went hiking with us at Silver Creek Falls.

Here’s my brother Randy and his wife Vickey.

Marcy and her husband John:

Tim and me:

And here I am with all of my sisters!

Finally, Robert and Laura’s wedding was so beautiful!

Here’s my whole family with our new member, Laura!

All my siblings:

And here we are in order, from oldest to youngest!

I love this picture of Mom and Dad. Mom seemed to pretty much know what was going on at this time.

Here’s the whole family with the children and spouses who were able to come to the wedding.

My sweet kids!

With Dad and Wendy:

Robert and Laura had a Disney “Tangled” theme, which could have been hokey, but turned out magnificent. This picture shows off their great outfits.

All my brothers:

All of us siblings:

All of us sisters:

Becky, Wendy, and Abby being especially charming!

So – Year 47 started with something to thoroughly get my mind off Steve, then a forced rest time and quality time with my son. Then I had a wonderful vacation to thoroughly refresh and reset myself. I was ready for a surprisingly excellent year….

Project 52, Week 47, Part One – So Glad to Be Alive!

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 47!

47 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I’m taking one year of my life and blogging about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 47 — June 14, 2011, to June 14, 2012.

Last time, I covered the year the divorce became final, in November 2010. The year I was 47 began with excitement. Tim finished his junior year of high school a week later, on June 21. Then on June 22nd, he left to spend two and a half weeks with Steve.

But I didn’t have time to mope about missing Tim, because I was making plans to go to ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans, and I was super excited about it!

Oh dear, when I blogged about the first day of ALA Annual Conference, there’s an ominous reference to “a crick in my neck.” Sigh. I believe that is when my right vertebral artery was badly injured with a vertebral artery dissection.

Here’s what happened. I was flying to New Orleans through Boston. I didn’t bring a neck pillow, because I was flying during the day, and I planned to read, not sleep. (I now ALWAYS fly with a neck pillow.) Anyway, I stayed awake on the flight to Boston, but on the flight from Boston to New Orleans, just couldn’t stay awake. I had a window seat and leaned against the window. I believe the plane encountered turbulence while I was sleeping in a bad position, and gave my neck a bad jerk, which jerked me awake. I remember that my neck hurt badly when I woke up. And I had a headache, which I attributed to needing food as soon as possible. I also remember that through the whole conference, my shoulder hurt – all the way up to my neck – on the right side as I was filling my bag with free books.

[This is why I got a doctor’s note for all ALA conferences since then to bring a wheeled cart onto the exhibit floor. Carrying heavy bags of books is not a good idea when you have a vertebral artery dissection. I am absolutely sure that didn’t help.]

But – I still had a lovely time at ALA! I had a roommate this time – April Pavis (now Schroeder), who I’d connected with through Susan Kusel’s KidLit Book Club. She was delightful, as youth services librarians so often are. Here’s April with her friend Katie when we went out to eat.

That first night on the exhibit floor, I met Laini Taylor!

And the next day, more authors!

Marilyn Johnson wrote a book about librarians, This Book Is Overdue!. She’d given me ten copies to send to each member of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors during the budget cuts.

I met Tom Angleberger again. In just a month, his book may have saved my life! (Stay tuned.)

Franny Billingsley! She had been at the Writer’s Retreat I went to in Paris in November 2005. She didn’t remember me, but she did remember the conference. I believe this was her first book since the conference – and it was worth the wait.

After watching a movie in the evening about children’s books, I met Grace Lin again.

And I accosted Maureen Johnson on the streets of New Orleans! I knew her especially as the funniest person on Twitter.

In fact, when I got back to my room, I tweeted: “I bet @maureenjohnson was surprised when she was accosted on the street. But that’s what happens when celebrity authors come to a city full of librarians.”

Imagine my delight when she tweeted right back, “I liked it!”

And more the next day!

Here’s Catherine Gilbert Murdock, signing an ARC of her newest book:

And Mo Willems! Since I was wearing a t-shirt with his characters, this seemed only right to get a picture.

Ingrid Law!

Maureen Johnson again, this time signing a book!

Kirby Larson!

And that night was the Newbery/Caldecott Banquet! More schmoozing before the banquet.

I saw two bloggers, Travis Jonker of 100 Scope Notes, and John Schumacher of Mr. Schu Reads. They were on ALSC’s committee on Children and Technology, a committee I was just joining (and my first ALSC committee).

And I met James Kennedy again – but this year, I’d been reading his book, The Order of Odd-Fish, on the plane on the way to ALA Annual Conference. It was the copy he’d signed the year before. (Hey, when a book doesn’t have a due date, it doesn’t get read until I go on a trip and don’t want to bring library books.)

And here are some of the librarians at my banquet table.

And there was still another day of the conference. I met Brandon Sanderson.

And Nnedi Okorafor:

The conference finished up with the Printz Awards Reception. I met Paolo Bacigalupi.

And Marcus Sedgwick, who writes good books, and has a gorgeous Australian accent. (His speech was fun to listen to!)

That was the year I got my favorite sleep shirt!

I didn’t get as much loot that year, since I had to ship it home. But I still got plenty!

I got home on June 28, and went back to work the next day. I was getting lots of small headaches. At first, they just get mentioned in emails and my journal as little annoyances. I marched in the July 4 parade that year. I remember that it was very hot, and the little headache I had got worse. (I have never marched in the July 4 parade again, because I connect it with that year as the headache lasted weeks and got worse and worse and worse. Walking in a parade on a hot day did not help.)

By the 9th of July, I started writing “Headache” on my calendar. (I do that when I have a significant headache to keep track of trends.) Then I continued to do so each day right up until July 24, after which I stopped writing in my calendar for awhile, because I was in the hospital.

By July 15, I started praying about the headaches in my quiet time journal. I noted that Zoloft wasn’t working any more. I was seeing a doctor and asked for wisdom for them. On the 17th, I read, “This headache is bad.” And I was scared I was going to run out of sick leave. (Mostly I was going to work during this headache because if you get a headache that lasts for weeks, you can’t stay home the whole time.) I did take Sick Leave on the 18th, though, and had a doctor appointment. I noted that I tried Maxalt (a migraine-specific medication) – no effect.

On July 19, I say, “Father, I have such a headache! Please grant me relief.” I do remember that this headache was centered specifically in my neck, behind my ear, which seemed very odd.

On July 22, I took sick leave again, because I had menstrual cramps on top of the headache. And that meant that on Sunday, I’d start up on birth control pills again. I’d been taking them to end the ovarian cysts I was getting each month. But I’d let the prescription expire, so I’d been off them the last month. I did have some pelvic pain with that cycle, so on the advice of the gynecologist, I got a new prescription refill and planned to start again after my next period started.

Dear Reader, you may not remember, but long before, when I was a young mother, I’d asked about birth control pills and had been told that when migraineurs take them, they are at higher risk for a stroke. When I’d brought this up with my new doctor in 2011, she said that birth control pills are lower dose now, and it’s no longer a concern. Well, maybe if you don’t have a vertebral artery dissection….

So, to sum up, I’d unknowingly injured my neck (this was determined later) when sleeping on a plane going to ALA June 24th. My neck hurt a lot at the conference. When I got back, I was getting lots of small headaches, and they progressed to a constant, very bad headache beginning July 9 – and continuing on and on.

But here’s how Tom Angleberger’s book, Stonewall Hinkleman and the Battle of Bull Run may have saved my life.

The 150th anniversary of the First Battle of Bull Run was coming up. I purchased two tickets (for Tim and me) to attend a reenactment on Sunday, July 24. But the forecast was over 100 degrees. And I’d had a headache for 3 weeks. I started reading this book, and in the book, Stonewall Hinkleman is a middle school kid whose parents drag him to reenactments. He thinks they are stupid!

Stonewall – plus my headaches – convinced me. I’d stay home and read the book instead. I was feeling bad enough, I didn’t even go to church.

It did get to 104 degrees that day. You had to park and take a bus to the reenactment site and then stand around a lot. I had a stroke the next day. If it had happened that day, when I was in the crowds at the reenactment – I’m not sure what would have happened. So I’m really glad I didn’t go! And the next time I met Tom Angleberger, I thanked him for his book!

Though now for the timing I blame the birth control pills. Though as bad as the headaches were before I started back on the pill, I didn’t have an actual stroke until I started them again. But who knows? The headaches were getting progressively worse.

So I stayed home on Sunday. By that time, my Quiet Time journal said, “Lord, I have such a headache! Give me strength to overcome. Show me what I should do. Should I quit caffeine? Maybe go to the E.R. and beg to be put out? I want to overcome – but it’s hard to focus on anything but the headache. Have mercy, Lord. Show me what to do – or not do.”

The next day, July 25 was a late day for me at work, so I got to sleep in. Here’s an email I wrote to a friend that morning.

Alas!  The headache is still going strong.  This is about the 4th week.  I’m not quite sure what to do.  I tried calling the neurologist I saw a year and a half ago, and she doesn’t work there any more, so I would need a whole new referral.
 
I am really thinking about going to an emergency room and begging for a shot to give me at least temporary reprieve.  But I would have to find someone to take me and bring me home.  And I don’t have sick leave left.  And my next day off is Friday, which is Timothy’s birthday, so that would not be a good day to go in!
 
It actually is better than last week, so if I could just chug on, ignoring it, that would be good.  But it’s really worn me down, and I’m having trouble thinking about anything else.
 
Now, I’ve only been on the birth control pills for two days, and my period is just finishing up.  So maybe things will settle down soon.  But my fear is that now my headaches just settle in.
 
I do think maybe I should try cutting out my caffeine intake, as long as I have a headache anyway.  But I know I wouldn’t be able to work if I did that, and I would want to have some kind of way to get rid of the headache.
 
Sigh.  I was doing so good, too….

Otherwise, I’m getting more and more obsessed with the card game Tim & I are playing every day. [This, folks, was when I got started on my obsession with Dominion!]  Yesterday we played twice.  We’re both really enjoying it, and I like doing it together.  The game changes every time, because you use 10 sets of cards for each game — out of a possible 50 different sets.  I bought Tim two more expansion packs for his birthday, so then there will be even more possibilities.  The game DOES distract me from my headache, though I wasn’t playing it for a couple weeks there because I didn’t even want to think about playing with a headache.  As it turns out, it’s a nice distraction.
 
Anyway, on the good side, the whole ovarian cyst thing seems much better.  I may cancel the appointment next Monday with the gastroenterologist.

Because of my low sick leave, I did go to work. I was thinking about going home early, but once I got to dinner time, I figured I might as well stay. I had leftover spinach casserole for dinner. (I learned later that spinach has lots of vitamin K which helps blood clot. I wonder if that was a factor.)

Then I was working at the Information desk during the 6:00 hour. Just minding my own business. When suddenly, the whole room started spinning. I said to Ivelisse, who was working next to me, “I feel really dizzy.” I thought I was sounding casual, but she immediately said she’d help me get to the back and lie down. Well, then a customer walked up to me and asked for help looking for a book in the YA section. I motioned to Ivelisse. I knew I couldn’t walk to the YA books. I tried to close the windows on my computer, but only managed to close one and gave up. I put my head down until Ivelisse came back, and then she helped me get to the back room. I couldn’t walk straight.

I was still completely coherent – but the room was spinning. I laid down on the couch in the break room – and the room was still spinning, even when I was lying down. After about five minutes, I remembered about birth control pills and strokes, and since the dizziness wasn’t stopping, and since I’d had a bad headache for more than 3 weeks, and since I’d never experienced anything like that – I did ask my hovering co-workers to call the paramedics. Gari Plehal, the branch manager, was especially helpful and got my purse for me from my office.

When the paramedics came, just moving my head to scoot into a position so they could examine me made me vomit. (But we had time to get a bowl from the kitchen!)

I did describe the night in my blog, written a few weeks later.

Riding in an ambulance wasn’t nearly as fun as it looked when I was a kid watching Emergency!. Of course the ambulance moving made the dizziness worse, though the paramedics gave me an IV with something that was supposed to help that.

They took me to Fairfax Hospital, which is supposed to be a stroke center. By the time I saw a doctor, the dizziness had just subsided. By that time, it was probably 45 minutes from when it had first hit. I did hear the paramedics report that I was negative on the stroke scale, which soothed my worries.

They did a CT Scan, which came out clear. What I didn’t know at that time is that cerebellar strokes are in an area surrounded by bone, and they don’t necessarily show up on CT scans when they’re first happening.

I told the doctor that I get migraines and that I’d had one for the last three weeks. They decided this must be some sort of change in my migraines – and sent me home! I could barely hold my head up as I waited for my friend Marilynn to come drive me home. I was nowhere near feeling good enough the next day to figure out how to get the prescriptions filled they gave me.

No – they should not have sent me home. I’d never had a headache remotely like that. More on that later…

Here’s the note I sent to my small group the next day. I was clueless and feeling dragged out and awful.

Hi Gateway folks!
 
I just thought I’d update folks on what happened yesterday, and ask for your prayers for some kind of resolution.
 
Some of you know, I’ve had a headache for more than 3 weeks now.  It was a little worse last week, but mostly it’s been pretty low-level.  Yesterday, it seemed low-level again, but it had gone on so long, it was hard to stop thinking about it, and I felt a tiny bit nauseous.
 
I have been doing fantastic, headache-wise, since I started on Zoloft in January 2010.  Hadn’t even needed headache medicine during my periods, which was a first.  But I had started on birth control pills because of the trouble I was having with ovarian cysts.  After 3 months, that’s mostly, but not completely resolved.
 
Anyway, what I suspect happened was at ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans, I didn’t get enough sleep and missed a “dose” of caffeine and got headachy again.  At the same time I finished up the birth control pills and let them lapse for a month.  (I had an appointment and started them again on Sunday, so I was hoping that would resolve the headache.) [So I knew it had started at ALA, but didn’t realize the problem was a neck injury that happened on the plane.]
 
I’m guessing that a long, long headache is my new “normal”, since that’s what was happening before I went on Zoloft.  Just not sure how to resolve it.
 
Anyway, last night I was scheduled 12:30 to 9.  I wasn’t focusing very well, but was doing okay.  About an hour after dinner, just sitting at the reference desk, I suddenly got hit with severe vertigo.  I could hardly even walk straight.  My coworker helped me get to the lounge and lie down on the couch.  The dizziness didn’t pass at all, and if I moved my head at all, the room spun.  I was also in a cold sweat.
 
I started thinking that birth control plus migraines could mean I’m at risk for stroke, so I did ask my boss to call the paramedics.  When they came and I moved my head just a little bit, I vomited up all my dinner.  They gave me an IV to help with the nausea and the dizziness finally went away about the time I got to the ER.
 
They did an EKG and a CT scan, and it wasn’t a stroke or a tumor or heart problems.  So that’s all good.
 
They sent me home with a neurology consult (I think I probably still have to go through tricare first) and prescriptions for headache drugs and antinausea drugs, which I still haven’t filled.  Marilynn gave me a ride home.  Thank you so much, Marilynn!
 
Today it was all day before I could stay vertical long enough to do anything more than eat.  But I am feeling better as the day progresses.  Perhaps from the medicine still in my system?  I do have a slightly elevated temperature — 99.1.  Normal for me is about 97.4, and last night in my cold sweat, it was 95.1.  So maybe a bug?
 
My headache isn’t very bad today, but I am still feeling kind of weak and sick.  Though better as the day progresses.  Though I will probably go lie down after sitting up to type this.  I did take the time to play a game of Dominion with Tim, though!  🙂
 
While I’ve got a headache anyway, I cut down on my caffeine intake and only took one Naproxen instead of my usual daily 2.  So that could affect the temperature, and it could mean that the headache gets a lot worse tomorrow.  But it seems like if I’m going to cut caffeine, I might as well when I’m feeling bad anyway!
 
Tomorrow, I plan to try to find someone to take me to the library (City of Fairfax) to get my car.  I’ll either try to work a few hours (I’m scheduled 12:30 to 9), or take the car to go get the prescriptions filled.  At least if I feel like I can drive — I’m hoping that will be no problem.
 
So — that’s what happened.  I’d really appreciate your prayers.  I’m trying to turn to God about this rather than “wail upon my bed.”  In fact, here’s a meditation about that that works in some ideas from the book we’re going through, plus Pastor Ed’s sermon:
http://sonderbooks.com/sonderblessings/?p=1261
 
An added worry is that I’ve run out of sick leave, and will end up not having enough annual leave to go to my brother’s wedding at the end of the summer, as I had planned and have plane tickets.
 
So I’d really appreciate prayer: 
That this headache would end.
That if there’s a direct cause I should find out about, that it will be found.
That I can go back to work.
And that I’ll depend on God.
 
Oh, and Tim’s birthday is Friday, so you can also pray that we both have a great day!  (That, at least, is my day off.)
 
Thanks for caring about me!  I’m feeling a little overwhelmed, but it’s good to know people care.
 
Sondy

So that was Tuesday after the Monday incident (which was, actually, a stroke). On Wednesday, Kathe drove me in to work to pick up my car. I told folks that I was fine. I had a doctor appointment on Thursday, so I told them I’d plan to come in to work after the appointment.

On Thursday, I woke up needing to go to the bathroom – and got super dizzy and almost fainted in the bathroom. I ran back to my bed before I fell over. Then I noticed that my right leg was numb. Had I slept on it funny? Then I noticed my right arm was also numb. Why, my whole right side was numb.

I lay there, trying to figure out what to do. I didn’t want to call an ambulance. I didn’t want to scare Tim, who was asleep in his room. And besides, with all the piles of books in my room, the paramedics wouldn’t have room to bring their stretcher into my room. (Oh, the stupid things you think of! Sondy, call 911!) But I didn’t. After awhile, I started feeling less dizzy. I was afraid to take a shower. At the very least, I didn’t want to faint while I was naked! But I got dressed. Then laid down. Then went downstairs to figure out what to do. I made breakfast, my usual oatmeal, with frequent breaks to lie down on the couch. I laid on the couch and called to cancel my appointment. I asked the nurse what I should do, and she didn’t sound alarmed – said I should go to Fort Belvoir, the military hospital.

When I started eating my oatmeal, I realized that even the right half of my lips were numb! There was no way that was from sleeping on them funny! I decided I should definitely go to the E. R. I called Marilynn, who couldn’t pick me up, and Kathe, who said she’d be right over. I woke up Tim and told him I’d be going to the hospital, but I’d call him.

While I was waiting for Kathe, I thought I’d get on the computer to print directions to the hospital out at Fair Oaks. Believe it or not, I sent another email to my small group! Here’s what it said:

Well, instead of going to my doctor appointment this morning, I’m headed for the ER at Fair Oaks.  Would appreciate more prayer.  The nurse at the doctor’s office said I could wait for a friend to pick me up, though that was before my whole right side started tingling again.  Kathe’s going to take me.
 
I woke up this morning and got real dizzy when I went to the bathroom.  Then my whole right side started tingling — arm and leg and even my face.  I rested and managed to eat breakfast, got dressed, but didn’t try a shower.  Cold sweat with the dizziness.  Oh, and an intense right side headache, too.  Anyway, I went online to print directions to Fair Oaks, but now think I will lie down until Kathe comes.  I admit I’m freaked out!
 
Sondy

By the time I’d sat up that long, I was feeling really bad again. I laid down, but decided I really should call an ambulance. I called Kathe to tell her not to come – but she was one minute away, so she did drive me.

She had to help me walk out to her van. It was almost comical – I honestly couldn’t walk in a straight line! I wasn’t able to sit in the front seat, so I laid down on the back seat.

So – God showed me all kinds of grace. I so should have called 911 in the first place!

When I got to the ER, they gave me a wheelchair fairly quickly (I must have looked bad) and quickly let me lie down. I was pretty out of it. I blogged about the whole experience later.

They decided to do an MRI because of my right side tingling. And that was what revealed the stroke. I ended up being in the hospital for 10 days.

I called Tim that first day. I felt terrible – because the next day was his birthday! But he was planning to go to Steve’s on his birthday anyway, so I had him call Steve and ask if Steve could pick him up a day early. So at least I didn’t have to worry about him.

It wasn’t until the second day that they did the test that determined the stroke was caused by a vertebral artery dissection, which had caused a clot, which had gone to my cerebellum.

Fair Oaks hospital is cool, because you get to keep the copies of your scans. Here’s my stroke! It’s the white heart-shaped area in the bottom left of this picture. (The images are flipped – the stroke is on my right side. Interestingly, the cerebellum is one of the few parts of the brain that affects the same side of your body.)

I did a heartfelt post answering the question, Was I Scared?

But what really shook me up was a couple weeks later when I read an article about cerebellar strokes. 35% of cerebellar strokes, presenting as vertigo – get misdiagnosed. Because they don’t always show up on CT scans when they’re happening. (Like mine didn’t.) In fact, CT scans only catch 26% of cerebellar strokes.

For people whose cerebellar strokes are missed – 40% of those patients go on to die when they have another stroke! 30% are permanently disabled. So I was in the lucky 30%!

Now, I do have lasting effects from the stroke. A very small one is that when I stand and sing in church, in an auditorium with a sloping floor, I have to hold onto the seat in front of me and keep my eyes open – to give my brain extra balance cues. The cerebellum is the center for “balance and grace.” (Fortunately, I never used it much!) I was very glad my higher thinking wasn’t touched at all.

I did have a lot more trouble with general dizziness in the weeks and months directly after the stroke.

I’ll talk about that more in next installments. Now it’s getting late, and I have a small headache tonight – and writing about this definitely isn’t helping!

In summary – I’m so glad I’m alive!

I did end up staying home from work a couple weeks more – and got some great time with Tim, with lots of playing Dominion. I was so glad the stroke happened during the summer. For one thing, Tim could go to Steve’s while I was in the hospital, but also I got some great time with him. I made him a belated 17th birthday cake. And the cake made a smiley face in the oven! I figured that’s the sign it would be a happy year!

I did run out of sick leave – and my co-workers generously donated all I needed. I was really having trouble with no energy, general dizziness, and still having lots of headaches. I was put on Coumadin for six months to keep from getting another clot – but they had to check my blood levels frequently to make sure the dosage was right.

But another wonderful thing about the timing? It very effectively got my mind off of Steve!

And just when I was starting to feel up to going back to work – it was time for the vacation I’d booked to Oregon to see my brother Robert get married.

It was actually very good timing – because I thought I was ready to go to work – but I really don’t think I was. On vacation, I spent a whole lot of time in bed – and got a little bit stronger and readier to go back to work.

And I will write about the Oregon trip – and all of my siblings together for the first time in years – when I tackle the next part of Year 47.

Project 52 – Week 46 – Finally Final

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 46!

46 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I’m taking one year of my life and blogging about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 46 — June 14, 2010, to June 14, 2011.

This was one of the hardest years of my life, honestly. Though I noticed something interesting – thinking about that year makes me happy – because now, six years later, it’s pretty obvious that God did work out those things for good. There are some things in my life that I haven’t figured out what good has come out of them (like my stroke in Year 47). But the hard big things in Year 46 – losing my job and getting divorced – have already had good outcomes.

Not that those weren’t awful things! But I’m here to testify that God can bring good out of anything!

Last time, I covered the big things that were looming. I already knew I’d lose my job at Herndon Fortnightly Library and had accepted the offer of a job at the Office for Children in its place. I’d already taken the big step of filing for divorce. The changes happened fast after my 46th birthday.

My birthday was the Monday of my last week at Herndon Fortnightly Library. That week I had a lot of time as Person-in-Charge, and things kept going wrong! So at least in my new job I wouldn’t have to deal with the ceiling of a supply closet collapsing! At least I wouldn’t have to call the police about a problem patron!

We had a Scheduling Conference for our divorce case on June 17, scheduling a custody/visitation hearing in August, and a hearing on November 22 and 23 “to address grounds for divorce, equitable distribution, child and spousal support.”

But then I actually got good news! After the scheduling conference, Steve signed the latest version of our Custody and Visitation Agreement – so we were able to drop the custody/visitation hearing in August.

And that brings us to Phase 11 of the divorce: Finalizing Legal Details. Steve had finally engaged his third lawyer, so now we could actually make progress coming to agreement – though he was still very angry with me for not going to mediation. (But doing mediation with someone who wouldn’t bring all his financial records really didn’t seem like a good idea. And I still was trying to be nice to Steve – I needed a lawyer to advocate for what was right.)

I mentioned last time that when I tried to do something nice for Steve and sent him a picture of our kids, he told me that I was being cruel, reminding him of what he’d lost. In that same email, Steve told me there wasn’t a single area of his life I hadn’t chosen to ruin.

I wasn’t even tempted to believe that accusation – I knew that I hadn’t chosen to ruin even a single part of Steve’s life. So in that sense, it was easier to deal with than earlier accusations about our years married that were based in the truth that I wasn’t a perfect wife.

However, I think because it was easier for my mind to dismiss such accusations, I didn’t realize that they still wounded my heart. This was someone I loved who was telling me I was despicable. That opens wounds.

So one of the good things about my new job at the Office for Children, Provider Services – It was much, much less stressful. And while the divorce was being finalized was a good time to have less stress at work. I didn’t supervise anyone, and was essentially doing bureaucratic paper-shuffling in support of the USDA Food Program. The job did not require a Master’s degree.

Some good things about it were no more nights and weekends and much less stress. Nice people, too.

Now, don’t get me started about the stupidity of the job. If you have a federal program, you do need to make sure that people aren’t cheating the system, even if we’re only talking pennies per child. But oh my goodness, the amount of bureaucracy to keep people from cheating the system! (The position was mostly funded by the USDA food program, too.)

What really got me angry was that this position of Management Analyst 1 was the exact same pay grade as a Librarian 1. But it didn’t require a Master’s degree, unlike the Librarian position, and it didn’t supervise anyone, unlike the Librarian position. And it was much, much less responsible work, requiring much less intelligence and judgment and skill.

To make matters worse – while I was in the position, they upgraded it from S-20 to S-21 (without giving any raises to people who already were Management Analysts) – so for future RIFs, Librarian 1s would no longer be considered qualified to take a Management Analyst 1 position! (This is so wrong!)

When I asked Library HR about it, they said the Librarian pay grade is based on what other vicinities are paying (though I know they’re paid more in DC) – which just tells me that all public librarians are underpaid. After all, it’s primarily women who hold the positions, so this shouldn’t be a surprise.

Anyway, that’s a battle for another day – I knew I wouldn’t get far pursuing that in a year when the budget is tight, and it hasn’t really loosened up in later years. I later checked all the S-20 job classes in the county, and there is only one other than Librarian that requires a Master’s degree. All the others require at most a Bachelor’s.

But the good side – I had a job! I was getting my same salary! No homelessness or lack of food for me!

I learned at that time that I’m not only detail-oriented, I’m freakishly detail-oriented. One of my favorite things was checking attendance sheets, comparing with what was in the computer. They were marked with Y or N – which are both three strokes and look almost identical when hand-written. But I was crazy-good at spotting errors!

I also, not coincidentally, got a smart phone at this time and loaded it up with music. We were in cubicles, and when some of the people in the office were talking with a provider in a nearby cubicle – it was helpful to listen to music instead. Though I did have to be told to refrain from humming or singing along.

I started working at the Office for Children, Provider Services, one week after my birthday, on June 21.

On June 24, Ruth was in town! We met at Darlene’s house.

Ruth with her daughter Nadia:

And here we are with Darlene’s daughter Michelle:

The day after that, June 25, was ALA Annual Conference. It looks like I took Friday and Monday off from my new job to go. (No, actually, I took that whole next week off in order to have a break in between jobs.) ALA was in Washington, DC, again that year. It felt really good to go, especially after having been RIF’d from the library – because it reminded me that these were my people. It reminded me that I might not have a library job, but I was still a Librarian.

And I was drawn to the Children’s and Teen Services programs, so I could see that I’m still a Youth Services Librarian at heart.

Here’s what I said in my first blog post about ALA:

Going to ALA Annual Conference this year was a no-brainer, since I wouldn’t have to pay for travel (except parking) or a hotel.  And it ended up being a peak experience.  Three years ago, ALA Annual was in DC and I went and was inspired.  But that time, I didn’t see a soul I knew.  This time, every day I saw librarians I’d worked with, bloggers I’d met, and authors whose books I’d reviewed.  I felt like part of the great big wonderful Kidlit community, and it felt good.  I did realize that I am a Librarian by calling, not just by job.

I spotted David Levithan and John Green on the exhibits floor on opening night!

Karen Cushman at SCBWI Drink Night:

I learned lots of good things at the conference.

And the YA Author Coffee Klatch (like speed dating with authors) was when I first met James Kennedy, who was later responsible for my starting my Sonderling Sunday blog posts.

I met more authors that day! Here’s with Jessica Day George in the exhibits hall:

And Tom Angleberger, author of The Strange Case of Origami Yoda:

Author Superstars Mo Willems and Jon Scieszka:

And I went to help with a recording, reading a page from The Wizard of Oz – and Grace Lin walked in behind me! She was due to get a Newbery Honor Award that evening!

But by far the highlight of the day was the Newbery/Caldecott Banquet, the second one I’d attended. This time my friend Susan Kusel, whom I’d met at KidLitCon and whose kidlit book club I attended, had bought ten tables, so I could sit near the front! And I talked some folks from Fairfax County Public Library into attending the banquet with me, including my former branch manager, Nancy Ryan.

I did lots of schmoozing before the banquet! It was so much fun meeting authors!

Here’s Brian Floca:

Laurie Halse Anderson!

Jon Scieszka!

And Nancy and I accosted Mo Willems!

Here’s the whole group of us from FCPL:

Here’s Sara Lewis Holmes, whom I’d first met at KidLitCon:

Just to be in a picture with the stunningly handsome Jim Averbeck felt good! He’s an author and a nice guy, too!

Tanita Davis!

And the sweet Soroj Ghoting, a trainer in Early Literacy techniques for ALSC:

See why going to ALA Annual Conference was hugely therapeutic to me after having just been cut from my library job? I felt so connected!

Here’s Susan at the end of it all, clearly frazzled from organizing ten tables! And I think I was bubbling over and couldn’t stop talking!

And that wasn’t all. There was still another day of the conference!

I met M. T. Anderson in the exhibit hall:

And that night was the Printz Award Reception! I was sitting right behind Diana Peterfreund and Ally Carter! And that’s John Green in front of them.

And then I met the brilliant Libba Bray:

And my conference started and ended with meeting John Green!

And when the conference is in DC, Oh the Loot I collect! I don’t have to ship any of the free advance reader copies – just make trips to my car to put them in the trunk! So here was this year’s loot!

I can’t say that Tim was impressed by my loot, but I think even he was surprised by how far my biblioholism had progressed, when confronted with piles of free books.

That week I had off, I handled some errands like getting our ID cards renewed and applying for more librarian jobs, but I also managed to go hiking with Tim again in Shenandoah National Park.

Tim was a good traveling companion. I noticed I wasn’t as perfectionistic when I was with him. Our hike went long – as you can tell by the sunset picture. But Tim was so laid back about it, I managed not to beat myself up about having not planned it perfectly. We had a nice day. And Tim turned 16 years old that summer!

The summer was hard, though. I kept applying to librarian jobs – and not getting them. I even got an interview, but didn’t get the job. In the meantime, I had a dream where I was hoping to get to talk with Steve, and then he turned away when he saw I was there. After all that, I still missed my husband.

But I still felt like God was speaking to me, reminding me that He was with me.

At the end of the summer, August 27-28, I went to the “Women of Faith” conference in DC with some ladies from church. This wasn’t something I was able to do when I worked at the library, because they always needed me to work either Friday or Saturday, but it was no problem now. I was blessed and encouraged.

Here’s a note from my journal that weekend:

Zephaniah 3:17 —
“The Lord your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing.”

Lord,
Four different times this weekend, speakers referred to this concept that You delight in me and will rejoice over me with singing.

No matter how much I knew in my head, the battle as I was hearing so much rejection from my husband was always against feeling utterly unlovable. And God was helping me with that.

In September, Tim began 11th grade at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. Wow!

October 1-3 had a big event for me – I went to Boston to attend the first Simmons College/Horn Book Award Symposium. Unfortunately, my flight was delayed 5 hours – and I missed the Horn Book Awards on Friday night. But I did get to attend the Symposium the next day and do sight-seeing in Boston on Sunday.

My hotel was near the Boston Public Library. (It was very easy to get around using public transportation. I passed the library going to the subway stop.)

Helen Oxenbury was on a panel! She’s the author and illustrator of the Tom and Pippo books that J. loved when they were small. I love the way she looks like one of her own illustrations.

And I met Megan Whalen Turner! Her books are some of my very favorites! I had brought A Conspiracy of Kings on the trip and reread it and had her sign it.

After the Symposium, I walked back to my hotel, and was able to mostly stay in parks while I did.

The next day was just for sight-seeing before a late flight. I had to do a Make Way for Ducklings pilgrimage to the Boston Public Garden!

I walked along the river and headed toward Cambridge.

I had fun walking on M.I.T.’s campus.

The museum of technology at M.I.T. was fascinating!

But by far the highlight of the entire weekend happened when I got to the airport an hour early for my flight. Because after I checked in, I saw Megan Whalen Turner! She was also an hour early for her flight. I was planning to get dinner at the airport. So – we sat down in a small restaurant and talked for an hour! I got dinner, and she got a coke. And we just had a lovely, friendly conversation!

It turns out she’s only a year younger than me. It should be obvious that she’s a kindred spirit – I enjoy her books so much! But it was just such a treat to get to talk like friends, even though I’d just met her that weekend.

Meanwhile, though, our divorce court date was getting closer. My lawyer issued discovery against Steve – basically the same questions she used two years earlier, which he had never answered. She was still telling his lawyer that if Steve would give us copies of his pay stubs, maybe we could work out an agreement. It was nice that now Steve at least had a lawyer.

While working as a Management Analyst, I had a lot more time that I could go to county training I was supposed to attend without leaving my co-workers with low staff. So I caught up on training. One training I attended was Domestic Violence Awareness – which is often a problem in the work place.

That class had the effect of making me more afraid of Steve and what he might do if he badly lost the court case. Especially since he’d told me that in the past he’d had a plan to kill me. I decided to use our employee assistance benefit to see a counselor for six weeks, to get me through the divorce. That was very helpful – and another thing I wouldn’t have had time for if I’d been working library hours.

I did go on some lovely hikes that Autumn (again). This picture of glowing leaves in an S shape made me feel loved. Hey, it’s the little things!

Meanwhile, I went to another small YA literature conference and met Catherine Gilbert Murdock.

On October 24, I hiked at Manassas Battlefield Park.

And Tim and I went to the Rally to Restore Sanity in DC! I was reminded that I really don’t like crowds! But it was fun to be there and read the signs.

My own sign had to do with library funding, of course.

More hiking. I still love Fall Color so much!

And the tree out my window was simply beautiful:

Meanwhile, we were preparing to go to court. My lawyer said she couldn’t fathom why Steve thought a judge wouldn’t award me half the marital portion of his retirement plus guideline child support.  That this case should NOT be going to trial.  And she was going to ask for 100% of my legal fees from there on out as she and her staff prepared for trial.

But she continued to negotiate, and Steve continued to reject the negotiations. When he finally answered the interrogatories, he stopped with the view that I had destroyed his career – because he denied ever having gotten the letter of reprimand for his relationship with Amy. He didn’t want to produce those. Instead, he was claiming that he had to leave me because of my anger management issues. Well, I was going to call Kathe as a witness. She stayed with us for more than a week while our marriage was in crisis and Steve was having his affair – but Kathe never heard me raise my voice to Steve.

I went to the lawyer’s office on Sunday afternoon to prepare for trial. We were talking with Kathe about what her role would be.

And Sunday evening, my lawyer told me that Steve had signed the agreement, with a few minor changes, after all. His lawyer had talked him into it (knowing they didn’t have a strong case). Steve was also planning to file a complaint against his own lawyer.

The agreement continued child support until Tim turned 18. It gave me basically 45% of his retirement, but we put that off for six months to give Steve time to find a job. He didn’t pay my legal fees after all.

I said to a friend:

Tomorrow I still have to go to court, and we will file for divorce on grounds of separation for a year.  Kathe will still need to testify that we have been living separate and apart.  But Steve will not be there!  And since the thing I most dreaded was having to face him, this is fantastic news.
 
My lawyer kept saying it should have settled so long ago.  But at least all this made me finally really grasp that divorcing him is a good thing.  Even this last ridiculous bit made me glad he signed the agreement instead of regretting that he’s getting away without paying my legal fees.  He doesn’t have the money.  I’m going to think of it as paying a wonderful person (my lawyer) who did an incredibly wonderful service for me — dealing with Steve so I didn’t have to!

So Kathe, who had been my matron of honor in my wedding, was also the witness in my divorce. That’s a true friend! Kathe and my friend Marilynn took me out to eat after the short hearing.

It was a good thing to have happen – but it was still very hard.

And this began Phase 12: Officially Divorced

At the same time, though, I learned that a full-time librarian 1 opening was due to happen soon at City of Fairfax Regional Library! I would get back to the library!

Also, my Dad paid for Tim and me to come to Los Angeles for Thanksgiving!

By this time, Jade (then called Josh) and my brother Peter had moved to an apartment in Hollywood. But they came to Thanksgiving and brought Jade’s girlfriend Sunny!

My sisters! (All except Wendy.)

My kids!

When I got back, the news was official. A Librarian was retiring, so I could have her job at City of Fairfax Regional Library. I didn’t even have to interview. It was not a youth services position, but honestly, it was a whole lot less work for the same pay. (I still say that they really need to upgrade the positions of Youth Services Manager at the community branches. It’s a lot more work than other Librarian 1 positions.)

But I was back in a Library! Calloo! Callay!

I began working at City of Fairfax Regional Library on December 6, 2010. I was newly divorced, and had a library job again, and life was looking sweet.

Here’s my Christmas Letter that year. I did make the mistake of telling people that 2011 couldn’t possibly be as hard as 2010 had been. And then I had a stroke in 2011. (Spoiler alert.) But you know what? Even a stroke (that I survived) was not nearly as bad as going through divorce – so I was right.

I will quote this part of the letter:

First, I’ll report that, as of today, my divorce from Steve is final.  Both condolences and congratulations are in order.  He was a very good husband for a very long time, and I’m very sad it came to this.

But I am seeing this was a good thing in my life right now.  It was time to let him go.  Clinging wasn’t going to bring about a change of heart, and it was time to settle legal and financial matters between us.  I’d better not say any more than that.

So I’ll only say that it feels incredibly freeing to be a single adult, responsible only for myself and my son.  There are some wonderful things about it.  Life is good!

When I said “as of today” – I really did get notification that the divorce was final after I got home from the Christmas Eve service. But when I looked more closely, the judge had signed the order on the day of the trial – basically at Thanksgiving.

So – that was the big event of the year I was 46. As the new year 2011 started, I was back in a library – and I was adjusting to thinking of myself as a divorced woman.

I see in my journal that God gave me the verses Hosea 2:14-16 —

“Therefore, I am now going to allure her;
I will lead her into the desert
and speak tenderly to her.
There I will give her back her vineyards
and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
There she will sing as in the days of her youth,
as in the day she came up out of Egypt.
In that day,” declares the Lord,
“you will call me ‘my husband’;
you will no longer call me ‘my master.'”

I felt like God was telling me three things:

1) Stay far away from Steve. (He was in God’s hands.)
2) Treasure this time of singleness.
3) Shine like a star.

Hmmm. Those things still pretty much hold true.

Looking back, though, this all seems happy – and it was – but I can’t emphasize enough how devastating it is to your sense of self, to your feeling like a lovable, valuable person to be rejected so strongly. I’d been injured to my core, and now God was healing me.

Our church had a Ladies’ Retreat in April! That was a lot of fun, and helped restore me.

In the springtime, though, I did have some trouble again with ovarian cysts. Bad enough for an E. R. visit one month. That was when I started using the shorter desk at work, because it hurt to climb up the taller chair. Eventually, I decided to go back on birth control pills to stop getting them. This worked, but may not have been worth the stroke I had later (spoiler alert). But after a few months on birth control pills, I never did get any more ovarian cysts, anyway!

Spring was full of blossoms again, of course!

A significant thing happened on April 29, 2011. I felt very much this was from God. Here’s what I wrote about it:

I was memorizing in Hosea 4, and I usually take a verse from the chapter I’m memorizing for my quiet time.

But Hosea 4 is about Israel sinning and nothing seemed appropriate, so I thought I’d have to look somewhere else.

So I prayed, “Lord, show me what verse you have for me.” And specifically: “Do you have anything to say to me in Hosea 4?”

As I was turning to go to some other passage and praying, my eye fell on verse 17:

“Ephraim is joined to idols;
Leave him alone!”

It doesn’t get much clearer than that!

Let me also clarify that in an earlier passage, I had identified Ephraim with Steve. It amused me that God needed to give me this message with an exclamation point!

The thing was, despite everything, my love for my husband still wasn’t completely dead. And he seemed so miserable! I wished I could somehow help him, somehow show him love.

Well, God made it pretty clear that wasn’t my job.

Since then, there were many times I was tempted to decide this word to me had expired. But I think it would be awfully easy for God to show me that it had. But God has not done that. For that matter, Steve knows where to find me.

Getting that direction from God was also helping me heal. Helping me see that for me, divorce was a good step. That I was not to be partners with Steve any more. And God was showing me how much He loved me.

On April 30, I visited Meadowlark Gardens, another lovely place in the springtime.

Though at the end of May, Steve was supposed to start sending me my portion of his retirement – and we had a problem with the wording of our agreement, so DFAS wouldn’t pay me directly. We needed a slightly reworded agreement to be signed by Steve, for the sake of DFAS – and eventually we had to go to court to get him to do it. That was only beginning then, we were still trying to get it done with written requests. I was still communicating with Steve to arrange Tim’s visits, which were usually every other weekend. But Steve was doing all the driving, so mainly we just had to find out which days.

So – my life was settling down. My wounds were a little less raw. I was submitting my second novel to agents. I was looking forward to attending ALA Annual Conference again, in New Orleans this time. And then I got a big distraction….