I don’t quite know where to begin with what happened over the last week, at what should have been a lovely MidWestern conference, maybe the planets skidded out of alignment, maybe it was my turn to get rained on, I’m certainly overdue…
I came into this trip sick, I started taking an antibiotic the night before I left. The cancelled flight to Hancock MI didn’t help, and then ensuing Amtrak/Greyhound adventure making my travel time to the Upper Peninsula more than 28 hours. Not being able to sleep for 36 hours straight put more stress on my body that already was suffering from a virulent cold/sinus/respiratory ailment. But I could have dealt with all that. I am good at what I do, I arrived in Hancock at 8:30 in the morning, dropped onto the Main Street in town in the rain, and was quickly picked up by someone in the conference, and taken right to the judging area for the fashion show. I worked diligently through the day, finally coming up with the award winners near dinner time. I was completely exhausted, and after a couple of glasses of wine with friends, I crashed. My bags still hadn’t arrived from Chicago, but I tried to reason that there was a midnight flight and surely they would be on it even though I couldn’t get a seat.
Word came the next morning that in fact that only one of my bags arrived, the other was still in Chicago, and it contained all the samples for the one day class I was about to teach. I went for breakfast, and tried to scramble to come up with everything I would need for the class that was absolutely critical, Robyn donated some floss for heddles for the inkle loom class, and I thought I might be able to pull this off. The rental looms fortunately were in the bag that made it. But not the shuttles.
All started well, but I just wasn’t feeling myself. No surprise. I’ve taught under some pretty nasty conditions, but I had confidence I could carry on. I gave the first lecture and felt increasingly bad, to the point where I started getting worried. I had already made a few unusual trips to the bathroom, and something was definitely wrong. I started another lecture and realized to my horror, I needed to get to the bathroom immediately where I proceeded to hurl my guts out kneeling on the bathroom floor, I’ve never been so sick, no way around it, I had food poisoning, probably from the rounds of bus/train depots from the previous day.
Now, each of the individual calamities that befell me in that 36 hour period were annoying but not debilitating. I could carry on. Lying on the public restroom floor wanting to die, unable to move away from the toilet, I had the notion that it was time to quit, that the universe was trying to tell me something and that for the first time in my 25 years of teaching I wouldn’t be able to finish a class. I prayed like my life depended on it, to whoever or whatever was with me in that restroom.
Somehow I managed to clean myself up and stagger back to my class, and actually having lost everything from my entire digestive track, I felt better. It goes like that with food poisoning.
Since the students had carried on in my absence, God bless them, there were a number of mistakes, I set out trying to fix and repair and get everyone back on track. I spent the two hour lunch trying to redo loom warps that couldn’t be salvaged, and getting everyone ready for the afternoon lecture. I moved slowly and deliberately. I was so weak. One of the conference committee members went out and bought me my favorite family remedy of honey and apple cider vinegar to mix with water so I could start to heal my system and gain back some of my strength, enough to get through the remainder of the class.
By the afternoon I was reasonably sure I was going to live, and one of the students, who knew someone at the Hancock airport, was able to connect with them and I was assured my second bag with all the samples for the class was in the air and would be arriving just before the end of the class. Life was looking up.
The bag did arrive, and the students in spite of the morning difficulties did actually learn the techniques I had planned, and they got to see everything I had brought to inspire them. I didn’t eat dinner, and kept sipping my honey and vinegar.
My new coat/dress was in the bag that finally made it from Chicago, and I was able to change and head over to the fashion show. I was giving a presentation at the end, and the awards. By this time, the original ailment I came in with had settled in my voice box and I had full blown laryngitis. Could this week get any worse?
I taught my two three hour lectures on Saturday, with no voice, but I have to say that the Midwestern audience I worked with all weekend could not have been kinder, more caring, more supportive, and more helpful, and it was because of that support I actually managed to do my job and complete my classes. I don’t know how I did it, I’m sure all the prayers I said kneeling in front of a toilet in a cold public restroom didn’t hurt, but I got through it, which is something I never wanted to say about a teaching experience. I love what I do, and I love my students and I felt so incredibly bad for the series of unfortunate events that kept me from doing what I do with my usual focus and enthusiasm. Thank you to all who held me up and kept me going and trudged right along with me.
I’m following this sad story with a much more happy one, I didn’t return home immediately, I went instead to Marquette, MI with my friend Ginnie to rest and recover for a couple of days at her house. Stay tuned, it gets better… (And there will be pictures)