Sunday, July 3, 2011

July 3, 2011 ~ Day 205
The Show Must Go On

The 4th of July has always been my second favorite holiday of the year, right after Thanksgiving. This is something that my husband and I share, a common love of this beautiful patriotic day filled with sunshine, fireworks, BBQ and festivity.

I can recall, very fondly, many memorable 4th of July experiences we've had together over the past decade... parties we've dropped into, conversations we've had with beloved friends.

On one particularly memorable 4th of July - just four days before I went into labor with our first child - we spent the entire day walking around my husband's hometown with one of his closest childhood buddies, chatting, laughing and trying to induce labor, as I was sooooo tired of being pregnant in the heat of summertime.

Even at 9 and 1/2 months pregnant, I loved the 4th of July. There's just something about the entire country coming together in happiness to celebrate and give thanks for our freedom and the great weather. Everyone you meet on the street has a smile on their face - at least here in southern California - and nobody needs an excuse to take the day off of work and go to the beach.

Last year, the 4th of July hit at a difficult time for me. I'd started having trouble swallowing solid food about two weeks prior... visited a GP and an ENT who told me it was probably something simple like GERD or a stricture; then sent for a barium swallow study (movie x-ray) where seemingly out of nowhere I was told that my esophagus didn't work, it probably wasn't cancer, and that I might have a serious autoimmune disease. The radiologist and GP said not to eat until an endoscopy could be performed. In three weeks.

So, I went for five weeks last June and July without eating - and on the 4th, my very favorite holiday of the year I watched sadly as my husband, children, mother, extended family and friends prepared and ate hamburgers and fries while I pulverized cooked ground beef with olive oil and zucchini in a blender with protein powder and drank my dinner from a glass.

Yeah, it sucked.

* * * * * * *

How wonderful is it, then, that one year later (thanks to antibiotic treatment for chronic lyme disease) I am much healthier and can't wait to enjoy a wonderful BBQ meal with my family for the 4th of July tomorrow!

I've gained back nearly all of the ten pounds I lost last Summer - not to mention a new outlook on just how lucky I am to take every single bite of food. It really puts things into perspective when you realize how lucky you are to experience basic human joys. Like using your hands to prepare a savory meal... and then eating it while talking and laughing with loved ones.

Simple joys. They mean everything!

* * * * * * *

We've been pretty thrilled about experiencing the 4th of July in our new neighborhood this year. From the first day we moved to this house, our neighbors have been describing to us just how much fun holidays are around here... and just how involved we are expected to be, as residents on the street.

"We hope you know what you've signed on for,"
laughed our awesome neighbors Dan* and Nancy* across the street.

"Our block takes holidays very, very seriously. The parade is going to go right past our houses and everyone on the block will decorate. For the 4th of July you'll be asked to contribute money, time and/or baked goods."

we grinned. "Why not?"

"It's so fantastic for the kids,"
they added. "Your little ones can walk or bicycle along with the parade and when it finishes up at the cul-de-sac there will be pony rides, face painting, tons of food AND a band!"


We weren't actually overwhelmed by the idea of an uber-patriotic, fun-filled, loud and happy July 4th. In fact, it sounded right up our alley!

Over the past few weeks then, my husband and I have chatted happily about our plans.

"I'll fertilize and mow the lawn out front of the house so it looks really good," he decided. "We'll get everything all cleaned up.

"The kids and I will find flags and trimming for the house,"
I agreed. "We'll spruce up the exterior with some red, white and blue. I'll ask my sister for ideas, she's fantastic with holiday decorating."

"Mommy, can we put streamers on our bikes for the parade?"
asked my younger son. "Please?"

We invited our parents. We got excited.

Everything seemed very Norman Rockwell...
Americana unfolding right in front of our apple pie eyes.

Yet family life being what it is ~ namely, unpredictable ~ things haven't quite worked out according to plan.

Lately, we've hosted some kind of unexpected, uninvited holiday guest - who knows exactly what. A virus? A mycoplasma pneumoniae? In the end, four out of five of our family members have ended up sneezing, exhausted and coughing like there's no tomorrow.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, since I've been taking low dose antibiotics and vitamins for four months, I am the last (wo)man standing. So far today is the only tired, achy day I've had - despite more than two weeks spent taking care of sick children and now a sick husband.

That poor guy though. He who *never* gets sick. The one that refuses to go to the dentist until he actually needs a root canal, because he won't admit pain or suffering into the spectrum of his sight; he who underwent a vasectomy yet still wouldn't take a single Vicodin...

This bug hit him hard, and he's pretty much down for the count. He trudged into our house around 3pm today after over a week of intense coughing and said, "Hon, I'm going to lay down."

You KNOW that guy has got to be feeling pretty lousy to do such a thing on the Sunday of his 4th of July weekend.

"Man," he groaned. "This is my favorite holiday of the year, too." Before night fell, he was sound asleep.

The rest of us looked at each other and knew that our evening plans had just flown out the window.

"Mommy, will we still have our babysitter tonight?" asked my elder son. "I've been looking forward to seeing her so much! Are you still going on your date?"

"Oh honey. I know you're disappointed. I'm disappointed too. No, I think we're going to have to cancel date night. Again. Your dad can't help it, he's just sick. Honestly, I think we're *all* a little under the weather today."

"Can we help you bake cookies then? For the parade?"

I looked at their eager, hopeful little faces. I felt exhausted myself, worn down. Ready to sleep or unwind in front of a movie. Not anxious to bake four dozen chocolate chip cookies.

"Please, Mom?"


"Well, it IS the 4th of July..." I began. "The neighborhood is counting on us, so I guess the show must go on."

they cheered.

Which is how it came to pass that for three hours tonight we baked a mountain of warm, chocolate-y cookies while laundering our patriotic clothes. Mixing flour, sugar, butter and chocolate chips. Talking and laughing about funny and silly things we've done for this holiday in past years. Sharing the story with my eldest boy about how much he loved fireworks as a one-year-old... and how he used to call them "Boom Booms".

Yes, there was no date night. No fun babysitter. No excitement or novelty. No fourth of July parties, or out-of-town friends to spend time with.

That said, looking at our heaping plates of homemade cookies and folding the children's freshly washed holiday attire for the parade tomorrow, I'm pretty happy with the way things worked out.

It's late, and I'm spent. My kids have been sound asleep for hours, and our home is fairly silent other than the hum of the electric dryer and occasional coughing coming from all three bedrooms. I'm remembering that we have a lot to be grateful for, on this special holiday. A lot of servicemen and women to thank, that's for sure.

We're so blessed to live in this beautiful, clean country with laws that protect our family, an outstanding and committed volunteer military to defend our rights, the opportunity to work, a warm and safe home to live in, and a wealth of family and friends to love. I'm also incredibly grateful for the physicians who care for my children and my husband when they need a little help to get well; so very thankful for the fresh and delicious food we are lucky enough to eat.

What a thrill to know that this year, I'll be sharing a cheeseburger and fries on July 4th with the people I love most.

There is a lot to be thankful for and -- if you're reading this, wherever you are -- I'm thankful for you too.

Happy 4th of July!

*Names changed to protect the privacy of the people in question

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