The Week From Hell That Made Me Eternally Grateful


My daughter and I just spent a horrifying week at the beach. A wicked sense of humor and deep appreciation for the art of gratitude are great additions to your tool belt in times like these. Fortunately, we were both packing. Plus, we've got something to laugh about for years to come.

Family Vacation

For the past 20 years we've spent the week of Thanksgiving on the Mendocino coast. This year due to schedules and college for my youngest, my oldest daughter and I went a week early.

We had plans. Several walks on the beach. Eggheads for breakfast. A day spent in the little town of Mendocino, visiting all the shops and the local bookstore, a comforting favorite for two decades. Patterson's Pub for virgin Bloody Mary's and lunch. This trip is like coming home for us, and our week is a reassuring check list that all is right with the world.

We had rented a lovely home right on the cliffs in the little town of Caspar, just north of Mendocino. It was our second year in this home and we had decided it was our favorite. The perfect size, with a wood burning fireplace, view of the ocean through large floor-to-ceiling windows and a great kitchen to cook the recipes I'd been collecting in the weeks prior to our trip.

Calling Linda Blair

The first night, while blowing out the candles and turning out lights to prepare for bed, I was hit with a wave of dizziness and had to sit at the kitchen table for a few minutes to collect myself. The room was spinning. Like a Tilt-a-Whirl. In a few minutes I was able to get it together and head off to bed.

By the next morning, I was perched on the bathroom throne with explosive diarrhea and simultaneous projectile vomiting while the room was careening out of control. I was hanging on for dear life. Retching so loudly, I sounded like one of the harbor seals we could hear clearly at night.

"Mom?", I heard Heather tap on the door, "You, OK?" She was using her best babysitter voice. I know this was a struggle for her. Being a consummate smart ass, what she really wanted to say was "You're barking like a seal. Do you need a fish?"

"No." By this point I had collapsed on the bathroom floor. Thank the lord I had managed to pull my britches up. The room was still spinning like a cheap ride at the fair.

"Honey, you're going to need to find some room spray, solely for self preservation."

I know funky when I'm in it.

We hit the Internet, the purveyor of all knowledge, real and imagined:

Holistic. Ear Infection. Vertigo.

Heather was off to the hippy store in Fort Bragg to gather Ginkgo Biloba and ear candles.

I started a regimen of Ginkgo and we gave the ear candling a go. Almost setting fire to the couch, my hair and the house we finally gave up. We need to work on our technique.

Later that night, lying in bed, I felt a repeat of the exorcist extravaganza from the morning coming on. I considered seal barking, our new S.O.S. signal, but in my delusional state decided that sliding off the bed, worm like, then flipping over on my stomach to crawl to the bathroom on all fours was a better plan.

Heather, hearing noises, came from the living room and was momentarily perplexed to not find me either in bed or in the bathroom. Right about this time I came crawling around the dust ruffle.

Assuming the position on the throne I once again engaged in the simultaneous battle of spinning out of control while everything in my body was abandoning ship. And poor Heather made the decision to enter the abyss to place a cold towel around my neck. Bless her heart.

There's a stage in life when you just don't want to see your parents in certain situations anymore. Naked is one. In a hot tub is probably another. Having sex -- always. It's just, well, icky. Where I was, definitely qualifies as one of those situations. Britches down, stringy hair, barfing into the bathroom trashcan. This visual will be burned into her memory for all of eternity. I've no idea what the therapy bills are going to run me.

Proud Heritage

And what's going to be the story at family get togethers in generations to come? My many business accomplishments? What a loving and dedicated mother I was? The obstacles I overcame? Nope. The exorcist vacation. Told by Heather, laughing so hard in between snorts and a giggle so high pitched only neighborhood dogs are getting the full story. My legacy.

As I began to climb out of the funk, I told Heather how sorry I was that she had to play nurse during our vacation. Her reply?

"Don't worry about it. You always taught me shit happens."

I'm not quite sure what to think about the nuggets she gathered from my sage counsel and dedicated mothering. Not exactly the level of wisdom I was going for.

As I continued to mend, Heather went down quick with world-class cramps. It was a comfort for me to be able to comfort her.

Gratitude Wins. Again.

With the week drawing to a close what I noticed in myself was not disappointment or frustration over how the week had unfolded, but a deep sense of gratitude.

  • Gratitude for the ease which each of us rolled with the events.
  • Gratitude that both of us weren't feeling poorly at the same time.
  • Gratitude that I have such a kindhearted daughter.
  • Gratitude that both of us were feeling good enough to travel in time for the trip home.
  • Gratitude for the laughs we had in between the tough times.
  • Gratitude for the relationship I have with my daughter and with life.

We didn't do any of the things we had planned. No walks on the beach, no trips into town, no visits to the bookstore or Irish pub. It had been the two of us, a couple of movies on DVD, a roaring fire and an amazing view. And it was a funny, weird, special week the two of us shared.

When Heather is a mother with a brood of her own, I can see her piloting the minivan, little ones strapped in the back, and she'll happily shout out "What does Grandma Kimberly always say?"

And, in unison, they'll chorus back in their little harbor seal voices "Shit happens!"

For that, I am grateful.

Kimberly Montgomery is the creator of the Choices Notebook and blogger at Fifty, where she encourages people to use their powers for good. Hop on over there to grab some free tools to help you easily add more Gratitude and Thank You's into your life.

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