Friday, September 9, 2011

Journey toward minimalist/simple living, part 3

We got to Texas with high hope and optimism.  The trip was long, we'd had some car troubles, but were able to rejuvenate along the way staying at various family member's houses.
My dear hubby got offered a job, only to find that it was commission only pay, and that we'd have to shovel out a few hundred dollars as an initial "investment."  No thank you.
After a month of sleeping on the air mattress on my aunt and uncle's living room floor, my husband got a real job.  Hallelujah!  We had been pre-approved for an apartment, but since we hadn't had a stable living situation in quite some time, they wanted first and last months rent, plus a deposit, equal to one months rent.  That came to about $1800.  Sure, let me pull that one out of the air!  The good news about it was that we had filed our taxes, and with two children, were getting a good sized tax return.  So the apartment complex agreed to hold it until the next Friday, when our return was supposed to be deposited into our account.  They also needed my hubby to get his employer to fax them proof of employment on his first real day of work.  That was a Friday.  My aunt and uncle were having some family ordeals so we moved into an extended stay motel for the week until everything came through the next Friday.  The next Tuesday, my husband got a call from his new work telling him his first day would be the next day, Wednesday.  Everything seemed to be coming together.  About an hour or so later, we swung by the post office, I think it was to send off a money order, but htat little trip to the post office changed everything.
I waited in the car with the kids while he went in "real quick" to take care of everything.  He went in with his normal bouncing energy and excitement, then stayed in there for a good 45 minutes!  He came out staggering, groaning, and making abrupt demanding statements for me to drive and not make any noise.  He was complaining about everything and not making any sense.  At the time it was just annoying, until we stopped at a red light and he opened up his door and threw up all over the road.  Then I knew something was really wrong.
Quick background story to tie it all in:  my husband was born three months premature, one of the results of that was hydrocephalus, which means water on the brain.  Everyone's spine produces spinal fluid that then goes up into their skull and helps keep the brain working smoothly, and then when there's too much, normal people's spinal fluid will drain off on it's own.  My husband's does not.  It just builds and builds in his head.  When he was a tiny baby, they had to do surgery to put something called a shunt in his head.  Basically, they drilled a hole in his skull, and put a little almost ball valve in the hole, the valve is connected to a tube, which runs under his skin into his stomach.  The had to replace several when he was a baby, then again when he was about 7 or 8.  It's never a permanent solution, and the parts have to be replaced periodically.  He hadn't seen a neurosurgeon about it in years because, as you can imagine, that's pretty expensive.  So you're not in total suspense, that was what was causing the problem.
It saddens and sickens me that when someone without insurance comes in to the emergency room, claiming to have horrible pain and saying that the medications aren't touching the pain, that he is treated as a drug addict who's trying to get more drugs.  My husband never takes medication, and he's insanely tough, but nothing they were doing for him did any good.  He had to call in sick his first day of work, and second day, and then he tried to go in on the third day and they sent him home because they could tell something was wrong with him.  That Friday our tax return was not deposited as planned.  Things really seemed to be falling apart.  We went to an emergency clinic first, and saw a physician's assistant who made me wonder if he had even taken any anatomy classes, he said it was the beginnings of a chest infection, there were tons of symptoms, but the first thing my husband told him was "I have a shunt for hydrocephalus, and I think it's failing from what I remember about it failing the last time."  But I guess neurological disorder don't cause any serious problems in this particular P.A.'s book.The next day we came back and saw a different doctor at the same clinic who said I think it's his shunt, we don't have the equipment so you need to go to the hospital and get a CAT scan.  So we went.  They ignored him, treated him like a drug addict, and sent him away (but they tried to get us to pay a "deposit" of $2000,  they didn't get it because we didn't have it.)  A few days later, my husband blacked out in church and my uncle jumped up and caught him right before hi sliced his head open on a chalk board tray.  So we went to a different hospital, they admitted him, did a CAT scan and full body X-rays, then he was there for almost 3 days before he even met the neurologist, he said he couldn't "tap" the shunt to really test if it was failing, but he figure it was just migraines and prescribed my hubby a $600 medication.  I think by this time we had just over $100 left from the renters insurance claim from getting flooded, so that didn't help.  My husband was released from the hospital is just as bad a condition as he went in, if not worse.  He tried to tough it out the next few days, and with the horrible pain it was like have constant migraines for almost 2 weeks straight.  He couldn't handle light or sound, and we were in a little motel room, with a toddler and an infant, which infant decided that now might be a good time to grow 4 teeth at once.  At night he either slept in the tub with and empty Gatorade bottle under his head, the drain unclogged and water constantly flowing over his head (he said it help relieve some pressure) or we'd stack all the pillows on one bed because laying down all the way made it worse, then my daughter and I would sleep in the other bed (he would thrash in his sleep too) with the baby between us, using an extra blanket as a pillow, and I would basically nurse the baby all night to keep him quiet.  After a few days of this my husband said he still felt like crud but wanted to get out.  He was sitting on the side of the bed and I was looking down, packing the diaper bag.  I looked up at him and he was laying back on the bed, all the way down, with his eyes open staring off into space.  I went over to him and asked him if he was all right, he said "I;m here, but I;m not here."  I asked him what and he repeated it.  Then he started biting his tongue and moving his hands around in a very rigid  manner, like someone who was crippled.  Then he sat straight up and started singing at he top of his lungs "I'M DREAMING OF A WHITE CHRISTMAS!  I REALLY WANT THIS PAIN TO STOP..."  Then he almost seems to "come back" and grabbed his head, I could tell he was light headed again and all he could say was "Sorry I scared you."  I told him that we were going to the emergency room again.  On the way we called his uncle, who knew a doctor who recommended we go to Parkland hospital in Dallas, which turns out to be one of the best neurological hospitals in the country.  On the way, my husband started getting a little emotional, telling me that if "something" did "happen" that he wanted me to know that he loved me, and make sure the kids knew that he loved them, and get remarried to a guy with at least a Master's degree and a really good job so that he could take care of me and I could still stay home with the kids, and he told me to tell his family, especially his aunt, uncle and grandmother that he loved them.  I just told him I would if need be, but that he was going to be fine.It's been years, but that still brings up emotions when I think about it.
Parkland was where we needed to be.  They did a CAT scan and full body X-rays too, and they could see easily, that the cord had broken and was clogged and that there was definite pressure building up in his head.  They even showed the X-rays to me and I could see it, and I have no medical background, why didn't someone catch that earlier?  It was the weekend so they decided to do surgery Monday morning.  To give you an idea of how much pain he was in, they were giving him the highest legal amount of morphine they can give someone and it still wasn't helping, the only good it did was make his arm burn enough to think about that for a bit instead!
When he came out of surgery, he was  groggy, but after that faded he said the worst pain not was the pain from the nurse yanking out the catheter!
The released him 24 hours after getting out of surgery (we actually stopped by a restaurant on our way to pick up hte kids so he could tell people "I had brain surgery yesterday, that got some interesting reactions!).
Because they had to replace the tube that went into his abdominal cavity, he had an incision on his tummy, which meant that he wasn't allowed to lift anything heavier than 10 pounds.  He called his job to update them and they said they couldn't work around not being able to lift heavy things (it was a different tire shop that he works at now) so they let him go.  Thankfully we had our tax return by then and we had to live off that.  Even if we hadn't decided before we had children that I would be home to raise them, it wouldn't have made sense for  me to go to work because my husband couldn't even lift my baby, and getting a job where we could hire a babysitter not only went against our convictions but was impractical since I had no professional looking cloths anymore (ruined in the flood) and anything else that I could get at that point in that economy wouldn't have made enough to PAY for a babysitter, so we lived in a motel, off our tax return.  It was an extended stay motel so the rates went down after the first month.  We ended up living in that one little room with a kitchenette and a bathroom for three months (in case your curious, that made a full year of living with other people or in motels, some people call that homeless, it sometimes felt that way, but we always had a roof over our heads and food in our stomachs, so we better not complain!).
I was so grateful that we had a fridge and a sink and some stove burners.  Such a blessing.

So we got used to having to have EVERYTHING picked up and put away as much as we could, and my hubby finally got a desk job so he could recover and still earn money.  Then we finally got an apartment!  Not the one we'd almost gotten before, but this one was much cheaper.  It was a duplex, and was a whopping 600 square feet!  Compared to the motel with much less than 200 square feet, this place was HUGE!  Our next obstacle came from an outpouring of blessing from others who had tons of stuff to give away, so much stuff!  But we pared down what we could and made it work.  People seemed surprised that it was as "clean" and "neat" as it was.  I think they were thinking that it was because it was so small and we had little ones, and then we had little ones and I was pregnant, and so on.  The only things we didn't like about that place were: lack of washer and dryer, the only times we had to go to the Laundromat were generally late at night, and we lived near the Cowboys stadium, you do the math; the stairs, they were not only very steep and narrow (not up to code at all!) but they were in a place by the front door that made it impossible to put up a baby gate.  My older boy fell down them, even though the kids weren't supposed to go upstairs (the only thing up there was our room, and they knew that) but then our baby started rolling and getting close to crawling, and he's to little to teach about the stairs before the possibility of a bad accident.  Then, after recovering and getting a better job at the company he works for now, my husband got transferred to another store, so we figured this would be the time to move.  Now we live in an apartment that is 950 square feet.  It feels so big!  Our living room is separate from the dining area, the hall to the bedrooms doesn't double as a kitchen, it's great!  When we move into a house we probably won't need much bigger than this.  The only thing we will need is three bedrooms.  Right now we have two, but when we had three the kids would sneak in each others rooms in the middle of the night to sleep with their siblings, so we just put them in the same room.  I figure though that when puberty starts to hit, my daughter will not want to be in a boys room.  So you can see how all this parring down to keep things manageable and all the moving and having to let go really had helped to minimize our material possessions and it had also seriously decreased our desire for material possessions to a large extent.  It's easier to get rid of stuff because it's not THAT special or because it's voluntary.

This is how I've gotten so interested in minimalism.  I really like the concept of only having what you need and not burdening your life with "stuff."  I guess the main area I differ in is things like food storage.  In Washington, we were extremely stressed because it was so difficult to get money to buy food for the week, if we'd had adequate food storage, we could have gone a long time between grocery tips. In Washington and when we were in the motel, other people shared their food storage with us because they knew our budget was so tight.  The reason I bring this up is that most of the time a minimalist will only have what food they need for that particular time and then will o to the store in a few days when they run out to get some more.  I like to be prepared because I like to eat, and when finances are low, I like to eat even more, especially if there's chocolate involved.

So I guess I take on the desired lifestyle of "Simple Living."  It's kind of like minimalist in that I try to only have what we need and not get caught up in extra fluff just to fill up space, but a little different because it also involves having food storage (that is put away, not sitting in bags or boxes in the least that's my goal) and a vase of flowers on the table, plus a picture or two on the wall.  Just a little something to make it feel more like "home"(hey! That's what my blogs about! :) )!

Part 1
Part 2

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