This week's installment comes to you from my sick bed. Oh, how the mighty mom has fallen. I can't blame my kids this time - they're healthy as horses. I have a fever, sore throat and my stomach is riding a roller coaster even though I'm sitting perfectly still.
My little one, Eli, just bounced across my bed. When I asked him to stop, he frowned with concern.
"Do you feel like you have to frow up?"
When I nodded, he shrugged. "Well, just go into your bathroom an' frow up then." I wish it were that easy. I've had an aversion to vomit for as long as I can remember. My stash of prescription nausea medication is more precious than gold, and the minute I'm finished writing, I'm popping one and going to sleep.
Just last night, before I fell sick, I took a stress test on Oprah.com. It was an eerie predictor of my near future. It's common knowledge that stress not only weakens our immunity against germs but brings health problems all its own.
I assumed my score of 41 fell nicely below mid-range on a scale of 1-100. Imagine my shock when I saw that anything over 35 was cause for serious concern.
I'm in the category of those so stressed that they're at risk for depression, high blood pressure and heart disease. It suggested making some major changes and that professional help might be needed to do so.
I don't deny that I'm under a lot of stress. But like most moms, I constantly dismiss it as a normal part of 21st century life. It has been an unusually trying summer, though.
My sweet grandmother has needed more help from us recently. We are just eking by financially, but we're hopeful that moving across town to a less-expensive house nearer my grandmother will help ease these concerns. Of course, a move is a huge source of stress itself. We've doubled the children - and the clutter - through the years we've lived in this home. It'll take a work crew and a couple of bulldozers just to uncover what we need to pack.
Our dog died a few weeks ago, and our church dissolved - something that blindsided us completely. Some long-standing friendships were damaged in the process, and it's taken superhuman strength to not smack these aliens who've replaced our old friends. I'd have been less shocked if I'd come home one day and found my cats cooking supper. I just never saw it coming.
My children were devastated over losing their dog and their beloved church. They're ambivalent over the upcoming move. One day they're elated over getting new and improved bedrooms. The next day, they're crying because they don't want to leave the only home they've ever known. Their stress hurts me more than my own.
To top it off, I turned 39 last week. That number echoes the theme of my life right now: just hanging on by one skinny thread, dangling above the unknown.
Everything is being shaken: my home, my friendships, my kids and extended family. Thank heavens for an underlying faith that there's a reason for the trials we endure.
If this column resonates with you, please join me in doing what we can to conquer the stress monster. There is a plethora of help available to worn-out moms. We just have to admit that we need it.
I'll start with cashing in on a promise to give myself some downtime by hiring a babysitter a few hours a week. It seems there are always a thousand other needs that trump perceived self-indulgences such as hiring a sitter. But this time on my back has made me realize that if mama ain't healthy, ain't nobody healthy - mentally or physically.
Eli just popped into my room again.
"If I say I love you, does it make you feel better?"
"Yeah, actually it does, buddy."
"Well then, I'm going to stay here and say it over and over until you're all better. I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you..."
He might be a source of stress sometimes, but my boy sure knows how to heal me.
Kari Apted can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.