43 and 44 offer two contrasting years. 2017 was the least eventful year of the decade, by which I mean lacking in major turning points and with few highlights. While 2018 was chock full of them. But both years were heavy with emotions, particularly grief, stress, and anxiety.
2017/43--A Grieving Year
I remember that winter as being one where I struggled to sleep, experiencing chronic insomnia.
One reason was the Trump administration, which of course weighed heavily, bringing some ruin and devastation to pretty much every day. Professionally we clergy were wrestling with how to do our jobs well in these troubled times. In 2016 and 17 I attended the Festival of Homiletics and those worries dominated the presentations and conversations.
The one big new thing in 2017 was getting Nash! We had planned a dog for Sebastian's big second birthday gift, and found Nash early, in March of that year.
That year we also took a grand trip for our family vacation--the Black Hills. It was our first big road trip with young child and dog, and so we invited Mom to come along with us. Having three adults sure helped.
Grief lay over everything that year, particularly all the holidays and big Sebastian moments, after having lost my mother-in-law at the end of the year before. In August, Michael became overwhelmed with it and spent a few days in the hospital.
That autumn we were frightened by the possibility of even more grief when Mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. At the time she was living in her lake home in Grove (my step-dad was already institutionalized for his Alzheimer's care). Since the state-of-the-art Buffett Cancer Center had recently opened six blocks from my house, the decision was made that Mom would move in with us for her cancer treatment. At the time we didn't know how long her residence might be or what all might be involved in her care. We made the best of the holidays for Sebastian, but we were grieving one mother and anxious for the other one. And, then, when she had her surgery, they discovered that it wasn't cancer! Talk about a radical change in emotion. And so after a few weeks recovering from surgery, she moved back home to Oklahoma.
Through some of 2016 and most of 2017 I had been working with Literati Press getting the book ready for publication--editing, copy editing, cover design, and figuring out exactly when we wanted to release it.
2018/44--The Stressful Year
That winter I was home sick in bed, when Michael walked in in the middle of the work day and announced he had just quit his job. While he had long been overworking and frustrated and burning out, he had talked about looking for something else but had never actually started a job search.
Two weeks later we were to be in Oklahoma City to celebrate the pre-launch of my book. A small number of advance copies were being printed, and the publisher would hold the first public event where I read from the book and discussed it, to begin the promotions for the full release that September.
I ended up going alone for that event. While Michael had planned to take those days off, when he turned in his notice, his final days of work conflicted with the event.
While driving home from the pre-release, when I was still about four hours away, I got a call from Michael that he was going to the emergency room. He had experienced a series of seizures while home alone with Sebastian and had blacked out apparently, for how long, he wasn't sure. This led to a battery of medical tests that never did find any underlying cause except the stress of his quitting his job, but created much worry since his medical insurance was soon ending.
Fortunately he was only two months unemployed, but his new job changed our lives more radically than we realized at the time. He was now working for the County Election Commission and was making less money. But the biggest changes were that he did not have flexible working hours and had half as much vacation as he had had before. Whereas we had previously had a more equitable sharing of getting Sebastian to and from daycare, or staying home with him when he was sick, it suddenly fell almost completely on me. Also, he no longer had the time off for the kinds of trips we had been used to taking. And a final major change I didn't fully realize until a few years later--I became unable to take the time away I had been used to taking, including for work conferences. And all of this was made even worse during election season, when the amount of overtime was incomprehensible.
We had no family vacation in 2018, but took a handful of little excursions to places nearby. Sebastian also began to travel with me to work events, and we added fun stops along the way, the first one coming that year when the Nebraska Conference of the UCC held its annual meeting in Ogallala. And that was something new that started in 2018--me and Sebastian traveling together.
A huge part of that year's stress was potty training.
At the end of August my step-dad Revis entered his final illness. I had made one quick trip to Oklahoma as we expected he was dying. While sitting in the hospital, Michael called to tell me that our former foster son had showed up at our front door, with luggage. So, Alex re-entered our lives for a season. He stayed with us for a bit, and we got him set up at college, I even went with him to do all the things--housing, financial aid, enrollment, buying books, etc. We helped him move into and decorate his dorm room. And throughout the autumn he was in our lives again, until the next winter went he drifted away again.
Revis died a week after I had been in Oklahoma with him and Mom. We didn't leave immediately to return to Oklahoma, as we already were scheduled to be there a week later for my book release. The day we left town, we stopped at Alex's dorm to drop off something, and while sitting in the parking lot, Sebastian vomited all over himself. We got him cleaned up and waited a while before driving again. In Nebraska City, he did it again. We had left our house three hours before, and weren't even an hour's distance from home, and clearly Sebastian was ill, so we turned around and went back home. Michael would stay home with Sebastian and I would travel to my book release alone.
Which I did the next day. I made it for the first event Friday night, and we had another bigger event planned for Saturday. But, before that big event could be held, Michael called to say Sebastian had appendicitis and was being rushed into surgery. I told Mom that I couldn't drive back alone, so she threw a few things in a bag (remember her husband had just died too), and we rushed back to Omaha, where Sebastian spent six days in the hospital.
Think of everything that happened in less than a month's time--it was the most stressful weeks I've ever been through.
A few weeks later we had a fun book event here in Omaha that wasn't interrupted by a medical emergency. And that October I went on a very limited book tour, and though it wasn't originally planned this way, I had to take Sebastian along with me, because it was election season, and Michael was working overtime and couldn't care for Sebastian. And after all that had happened, I never even scheduled any of the other promotional trips I had planned to.