In Sickness and in Health…

Here’s a little insight into how I work: my sacred times of day are naptime (roughly 1-3 PM) and bedtime (after about 7:30 PM, depending on how long it takes the girls to unwind), and it’s during those times that I sit down at my laptop and write things for this blog. It’s also during those times that I clean the house, prep meals, and work on any other household projects. (And shower, although not very often). But lately, the thing I’ve been enjoying most is writing these posts. That may not be saying much when the other option is scrubbing toilets, but I truly love writing. I’ve always loved writing, but now that I’m home with three girls it feels particularly necessary. It feeds the creative part of my brain, as well as the adult conversation part of my brain — even if the conversation is one-sided most of the time. I suppose it’s kind of like writing in a journal. The “social media” aspect is nice, because I’ve never been much good on the phone, so this saves me having to make 50-some phone calls. But even if nobody read this blog, I’d still keep writing it.

Because my brain is usually dealing with about 50 things at one time, and maybe also because of pregnancy hormones (Georgia’s not one yet, I can still blame pregnancy hormones, right?), I really need to write things down right when I think of them. So that means that I have a lot of partially-completed drafts for this blog sitting around, waiting to be freed into the blogosphere. I was going to post one of the more generic drafts today. But then I decided to go ahead and be real. Because the truth is, it’s been a rough couple of weeks at Casa Gong.

As often happens in winter, there are a LOT of sicknesses going around here in Vermont. Thus far, we’ve been lucky; we even (knock on MacBook) managed to avoid the STOMACH BUG that was so bad they sent an email out to the entire Middlebury College community telling everyone to wash their hands. (Which made me chuckle; the only time Erick got those emails at Berkeley was when there was a bomb scare or an armed vigilante on campus). But this last bug got us, and it got us good.

It’s an upper respiratory thing, marked by a sore throat, post-nasal drip, a horrible cough, and loss of voice. I was Patient Zero. I don’t often get sick, because frankly I don’t have time. But this virus got me when my guard was down, because Erick’s parents were visiting. The first weekend they were here, Erick and his parents took all three girls to the aquarium in Burlington for FIVE HOURS, which meant that I had FIVE HOURS ALL TO MYSELF! The last time that ever happened was well before we moved to Vermont. So there I was, able to breathe normally for five hours, and my blood cells apparently just sat in their lounge chairs with beers and said, “Hey, let’s let this friendly-looking virus in!”

And then everybody else got it. Amazingly, this is the first time that every member of our family has been sick with the same thing. I’ve always heard about this happening, but it’s never happened to us — until now — because on the whole our family has been blessed with very good health. Which is something that I will never, ever take for granted again …for at least two weeks.

The three sick Gong girls with Granddaddy and Grandmommy at the end of their visit.

Here’s how the various members of our family get sick (in the order of sickness):

Me: I mostly just keep doing what I normally do, but I just feel extra sorry for myself. The problem is, I don’t have a good model for how to be a sick adult; growing up, I can’t ever remember my parents being sick. Certainly I can’t think of a single time when they took to their beds because of illness. The only exceptions: when my mother broke her pelvis falling off a ladder, and this past November when my father broke 2 vertebrae and 4 ribs falling off a ladder. My family is TOUGH, and if they’d just keep away from ladders, they’d probably live forever.

Georgia: Poor Georgia is like an adorable sick puppy dog. She doesn’t get fussy when she gets sick, she just snuggles up to you and moans. When she got sick this time, her eyes and nose got red and swollen and started oozing. Turned out she also had an ear infection, which is the first ear infection we’ve ever had in our family (knock on MacBook).

Fiona: Fiona loves the drama of being sick, so she kept reminding me throughout the day: “I still feel sick.” Unfortunately, this particular bug was just gross enough to keep her grumpy and home from school for a whole week, but not enough to wipe out her energy. So she was like regular Fiona, just grumpier and with frequent illness announcements.

Campbell: Campbell gets sick like me — she just denies it. “I’m NOT sick, Mommy!” she’d say. I’d take her temperature and it would be 102. “I’m okay!” she’d insist, “No medicine!”

Erick: Oh, Erick. When Erick gets sick, it completely takes him down. This time was no exception — he’s been the sickest of all of us. His cough is so bad that he can’t sleep at night. And, as I type this, he has not been able to speak for four days. Which is a huge problem because this past week was the first week of classes, so he had to teach with no voice. Then he’d come home from work and, after the girls were in bed, we’d sit at our laptops and Google chat about how the day was. Really.

It’s been bad. And hard. And I’ve been grumpy because, as the first one to get sick, I was also the first one to get well…just in time to take care of everyone else. The highlight of my Wednesday was (I’m not kidding) walking down the driveway to bring in the trash bins, because that was the only time I got to leave the house.

What I’ve realized: I’m not very sympathetic when my family gets sick. This kind of surprises me, because I like to think of myself as a compassionate person. I want there to be more justice and peace in this world, I like helping people when they need it, and I try to make my life about loving my neighbor as myself. But then my kids and husband get sick, and I get…grumpy. Why is that? Why is it always so much harder to love the neighbors who live in your house than to love the neighbors who live next door? Maybe it’s because my parents never got sick when I was a kid (although my mom certainly took great care of ME when I got sick), so I never grew up having to be sympathetic to sick family members. Maybe I have trouble understanding why other people can’t power through illness like I tend to do. Maybe because at heart I’m a deeply selfish person and I resent having the needs of others impinge on my schedule in unplanned ways.

Probably all of the above, but to quote G.I. Joe: “Knowledge is half the battle!” I’m going to make a greater effort to be more sympathetic towards my own immediate family. Consider it my Presidents’ Day resolution. Feel free to ask me how it’s going 🙂

6 thoughts on “In Sickness and in Health…

  1. Hee Won

    They need to seriously do some marriage counseling around this particular issue (caretaking of husbands when they have minor illnesses). Another great post Faith Gong!

  2. Annie Thoms

    I love your posts, Faith, and love their increased frequency! I started blogging the year I was home with both girls, and totally understand the desire and need for it. Your writing is moving, honest, and so often something I’ve thought or felt myself — keep it coming!

    1. Faith Gong

      Thank you so much, Annie! I sometimes feel like I’m a living stereotype: the stay-at-home mom who blogs. But it really is a lifeline some days, and it’s good to know that people don’t mind reading it!

  3. Carrie Libeu

    Hi Faith, I love this post and your blog. I feel like we’re talking. I was just devising strategies to avoid germs this am due to frequent illnesses in the household. Its insane and i’m losing patience. It keeps getting me, as if I was traveling in Guatemala! We are going through target sized quantities of pain killers and fever reducers here.

    I am trying my first non-chili crockpot recipe in my new bigger crockpot inspired by your blog (chicken and tomato stew). Would love to swap ridiculously easy recipes with you. I have one for a seven can chili that comes in handy when your fridge is completely bare. Ha. I am trying to use fresh veggies and meat but hey there’s something about the simplicity of canned and frozen things, esp. when everyone has been sick and you haven’t been to the store. Or, even worse, you are at the store and run into your dentist covered in who knows what and you leave early all mom-frazzled and forget half your ingredients…Oops.

    Also want to mention that you write so well that I think that even if it is a stereotype to write a blog, at least you are maintaining your writing skills. Also mental health and contact with the outside world. So who cares.

    And you’re totally inspiring me to try harder regarding cooking, writing something to somebody, and crafting. I am going to try and finish my Alex book this weekend and then want to make fabric covered letters for their room since Noah has gotten way into letters lately. I bet I’ll finish all this 3-4 months from now. Ha!


    1. Faith Gong

      Carrie, thank you so much! Wish I could invite you over for a cup of coffee right now 🙂 Of course, you ARE always welcome. And I hope everyone feels better in your house very soon. No fun!

      Yay for the crockpot! A recipe swap sounds great — one of my best is that pot roast one I put on the blog. I’m not great at repeating things so far: I just go to the website and search for whatever I have lying around. BUT there is a great one for beef bourguignon on there that we really liked, and I’m trying the chicken teriyaki for tonight. Let me know if you find anything fantastic in the meantime!

      Okay, and it’s a little scary to think of me as being the inspiration for cooking and crafting, so I’d advise you to set your sights a little higher 🙂 Those fabric covered letters sound really cute, though — pictures when you finish, please!
      Love from Vermont,

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