Category Archives: Friends

Middle School (pssst….it NEVER ends)

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Middle School (pssst….it NEVER ends)

Today I witnessed something that made me shudder and think….G-damn this middle school mentality never ends. I was visiting an elderly client, she isn’t quite 80 yet, so not that old (the definition keeps getting pushed back…..pretty soon everyone will be young or middle aged until they reach triple digits then and only then will they be considered elderly). I was slightly horrified to realize how much an assisted living facility (ALF – wait, wasn’t that a TV show…) can mirror middle school.

The hallways are filled with seasonal decorations. Each apartment door is decked out for whatever holiday is up next. Some of these people get carried away and I think there must be some kind of secret contest or perhaps it gets discussed at dinner. Dinner is a big deal. The time and table placement of the reservation reflects some kind of ALF hierarchy which I have not yet decoded. My clients aren’t regulars in the dinning room and I think it’s decreasing their stock.

There are popular residents and those that struggle with physical issues and/or social anxiety. Don’t get me wrong, some of the more outgoing residents deal with physical and social issues, they just soldier through it and show up at dinner and bingo every chance they get. The introverted shy gals like my friend can get lost in the shuffle. Pair a quiet  personality with a touch of dementia and the friend list gets anemic.

As we often do, Helen and I were playing table top shuffleboard in the lobby. We do this about twice and week and we both enjoy it. We were having fun, talking smack to each other and taking turns playing poorly, when a group sat at a nearby table. It started with just two people – Janet and Bob. Janet was talking about a recent hospital stay. She and Bob compared notes on blood thinners and MiraLAX. It was entertaining to listen to and not an uncommon conversation given the demographic.

Soon the two were joined by 3 more and the topic changed to a recent party. One of the ladies just had a blow out celebration for her birthday, a surprise party. Over 50 people attended and it took her more than an hour to read through all of the cards….she mentioned that no less than 3 times. I wanted to shout “we heard you the first two times Marge” but that seemed inappropriate. I could tell my shuffleboard partner was not happy. We played one more round, hearing details about a cake and how good the food was, then we headed upstairs to the apartment she shares with her husband.

As we were slowly shuffling out of there, my friend whispers “have you ever felt out of place?” to me. I knew she was upset about not being invited to the party. I got her upstairs and we talked it out a bit. I handled it the way I would with my kids who are both deep in the throes of middle school. First I validated her feelings. “Yes” I said, “I have felt out of place and it sucks. I’m sorry you are feeling that way.” Then I suggested a few things and gave the other people the benefit of the doubt. I said, “I don’t think they were discussing the party to make you feel bad. They were probably just rehashing the experience and not considering how it might make others feel.”

My friend was grateful but was still upset and I wanted to help her beyond this 20 minute conversation, if that is even possible. I suggested the same things I have to my daughter in similar situations. Insert yourself into the activities so you are not overlooked. Make it a point to go out and try new things. Go to dinner, bingo and think about focusing on one or two friends instead of trying to get into a larger social group.

The only thing worse than talking to your kids about the horrors of socializing in middle school….is talking to a nearly 80 year old about the same damn things. It broke me a bit but I kept it together. I gave her a hug, told her I loved her and that I would be back on Friday. Oh and I gave her a big bowl of ice cream because sometimes, ice cream gets you through the tough stuff.

 

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Last Call

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Last Call

I encountered a situation yesterday that was a first in my ten years as a hospice volunteer. A couple of days ago the Volunteer Coordinator sent out an email asking for a volunteer. She gave a summary of the case including the town, first name of the patient and a description of the requested visit. The patient was in my town so I responded immediately that I would like to help this family. The next day a secure email was sent to me with the patient name, address and contact information.

Last night I called the patient’s wife to schedule the visit. A woman answered the phone and I asked if it was Helen, my contact. “No”, the shaky voice replied. I explained the reason for my call and a slight sense of dread was building. “No need to visit, he died about an hour ago. He’s still on the floor waiting for the funeral director to get him.” I could hear the tears in the voice on the other end of the phone and then it clicked, I know this person.

“Jan, is that you?” I asked, sure that I knew the person on the other end of the line. “Yes” she replied. I gave my full name, said how sorry I was and asked if there was anything I could do in that moment. There wasn’t anything to do, except to express my deepest condolences which is what I did. She thanked me for the call and we said good-bye.

I could picture my acquaintance on the phone. Tears, that keep coming when you think you’re all cried out. I could feel her concern for her newly widowed mother. I wondered if she ate dinner or if she would sleep over her parents home to ease the adjustment of that awful first night. I imagined a fitful night with not much sleep, except for an hour or so when the emotional exhaustion just overwhelms your body and forces you to rest despite your mind’s best efforts to keep you up. I could sense the headache, the nasal congestion and the scratchy throat, remnants of many tears shed. I felt her grief and I took a little piece with me. I still have it.

Alternate Universe

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Alternate Universe

I’ve managed to create this nice little alternate universe for myself via my blog. I have a handful of in the flesh friends that know about it, but not many. My blog followers, select few that you are, have come here like a gift from the blogosphere (that’s a legit word). I get a slight tingle when I see a new country highlighted in the WordPress stats. Today someone from Japan read one of my posts. No idea how or why they got here but isn’t that cool? I’m in Pennsylvania, typing away and someone in Japan just wandered in. It’s fascinating to me probably because at my age, I can still remember when none of this was possible.

For those of us over 30 (OK well over if you’re going to get particular about it) doesn’t it blow your mind how much technology has changed in the past 20 years. How much more will change in the next 20 years? I suspect we will have autonomous flying cars, artificial intelligence that can learn beyond human capability and a staggering unemployment issue and oh yes, Mars isn’t off the table – thanks Elon Musk.

What are we losing with all of this technological advancement? Do we have to lose something, is that required? I don’t know but I have observed a some things that concern me – instant gratification, loss of privacy and a lack of creativity and freedom.

I have two kids a tween and a teen. They have reasonable restrictions on device time. There are no devices allowed in their bedroom at night. For one kid it wouldn’t even be an issue as he doesn’t care at all. My daughter, on the other hand,would be up all night on Instagram, chatting with friends, making bad musically videos and would be busy not sleeping.

The ability to text, tweet, post and communicate instantaneously has helped to create a generation that expects instant gratification. Midlifers, remember when we would call our best friend in 5th grade on the corded phone on a table or attached to the wall? The phone was always located in some public space in your house and you had to push down on buttons or worse, stick your finger in the circle of the corresponding numbers to spin the phone wheel and call? And, gasp, sometimes no one answered or the phone was busy so you had to try to call them again later and move on with your 10 year old life. Kids don’t do that today. They rarely have to wait more than a few minutes to hear back from a friend and if they don’t hear back immediately, a bit of panic sets in. It’s kind of crazy.

I remember being bored plenty as a kid and I would go outside or write in a journal. We had to make up our own games to pass the time and if we were lucky we got some local kids to join in. We played spontaneously and we figured stuff out. You didn’t like everyone and everyone didn’t like you but you could usually make it work long enough for some variation of tag or cops and robbers. I don’t see that much where we live, sure it happens but it’s special when it does because it isn’t the norm. The usual here is organized activities and sports.

Kids aren’t off the leash much either these days. We need to know where they are all the time because there are bad people out there (and no sh*t, there really are bad people out there). Hell there are sneakers with tracking devices in them now….it’s kind of like Little Johnny is on house arrest or maybe block arrest. Their expectations for privacy are at the bare minimum. They don’t want you to walk in on them while they’re getting changed but most anticipate some level of monitoring of their electronic activities. Late 70’s and early 80’s kids wouldn’t stand for that. We kept our stuff private and if someone read our journal there was hell to pay. Our parents didn’t know where we were half the time and we couldn’t be tracked with a Find My Phone app. If they asked where we were we would either tell them or make up something that sounded reasonable. It was kind of awesome.

Here’s a little something to make you laugh, courtesy of YouTube

 

 

 

Missing My Friend

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Missing My Friend

Today is my friend’s 47th birthday….only problem is she died nearly two years ago so the celebration will be “low-key”. Grab a chair, your coffee and some tissues and I’ll tell you about her.

I became friends with Christine when our boys were in preschool. I had heard about her from a friend who lived down the street from her. I even stopped by her house once or twice when I was visiting our mutual friend. This woman held an open house every day. If you or your kids were around you were welcome to visit, stay for dinner. She had an entire family move in once for a few months as they prepared to move back to Europe.

Christine was smart, kind and generous. I know everyone says this about their friends but I’m telling you she took it to a whole other level. She was also an M.D. so validation on the smart comment. I bet she was the best doctor ever. I can imagine her listening to her patients with love and humor and thinking of them well past the visit. She was definitely the kind that would check in on her flock.

Sadly, by the time we got close her days of practicing medicine were in the rear view mirror. Though she would still yell at you and make sure you got treatment if she thought you needed it. She could be stubborn and persistent. One time I mentioned that the back of my right knee felt swollen. I was immediately told to drop my pants so she could exam me. You didn’t say no to Christine. Since I had a history of pregnancy related blood clots she sent me straight to ER and placed some calls to make sure I would get the A team regardless of which doctors were actually on call that day. Truth be told she would have done that for anyone that crossed her path.

She collected people in the manner that others collect bells, stamps or whatever the hell people collect……except no one was left on the shelf, ever. If there was a party everyone was invited, EVERYONE within a 50 mile radius. Her parties were big, loud, fun and filled with her people.

She treated everyone with kindness and generosity. She could make friends anywhere – playground, waiting room, hospital, gas station….anywhere. Once you were her friend you were in the inner circle which was rather large. The only flaw I can find beyond the persistent stubborn nature was she liked to hear gossip. Whenever we spoke on the phone one of the first things out of her month was “what’s the latest gossip?” This was in no way to be mean she didn’t have an ounce of mean in her she was just inquisitive by nature and probably wanted a change of scenery from her daily grind of personal medical issues.

Soon after she gave birth to her son, she found out she had a rare cancer. Surgery was performed and the cancer was determined to be severe and rare. By the time we became close she had been through years of chemo, radiation and every other aggressive treatment known to mankind to treat her. She was a fighter. Unfortunately, the aggressive treatments permanently harmed her heart. To the point where she had some extra parts inserted inside her chest to keep things pumping. Even that didn’t go smooth as one of the “parts” was determined to be defective and was known to fray in which case she would have about half an hour to get to the hospital if she had any hope of survival. She was 35 when that happened.

Can you imagine? Here you are a beloved MD with a thriving private practice…….you have a young daughter and a new husband, with whom you have an infant son and BAM your world implodes. To make matters worse her father was diagnosed with a different but equally aggressive cancer within a week of Christine. WTF universe?

So when our boys were in the same small preschool class she had been dealing with this medical shit storm for 5 years. She had a damn good handle on it but at this point her father was dying. I never met the man but my God in the descriptions he sounds like Santa Claus, Jimmy Buffet and your favorite comedian wrapped up into one fun loving kind soul. The first day I met Christine’s mom was the day he died…..I hugged mother and daughter with everything I had.

A few days later there was a memorial in Christine’s house celebrating her father’s life…..hundreds of people were there. Two weeks after that the annual Christmas Party took place on schedule because these people knew the value of living in the moment and celebrating life…..right here, right now…..do not postpone joy.

I remember one day we joined our boys on a preschool field trip and she told me some of the details of her medical situation. She flat out told me “I probably won’t make it past his 10th birthday”. Of course I didn’t want to believe her but I trusted her judgement….she was after all a doctor and a level headed woman. That conversation is burned in my brain. Sadly her predication was pretty accurate.

When the boys were in 1st grade the world started to crumble yet again. I think it was the spring when she called and told me she had cancer again. Different area same shitty disease. She cried on the phone I just said how sorry I was that she was going through this again. Not sure of what kind of a cheer leader I was but she knew I was available to do whatever she needed.

At one point I went to visit her in NYC at Memorial Sloan Kettering. I just wanted to let her know I was there for her with whatever she needed. As I was leaving she asked me if she was going to be OK…..I put on the best game face I had and without hesitation I said “absolutely” with a certainty that I didn’t actually have but wanted so bad.

The last two years of her life were incredibly difficult and fraught with a series of medical issues that would have taken a lesser person down in an instant. She went through broken bones, blood clots, countless chemo and radiation treatments. All the while she kept her kids on track. She was planning her daughter’s college prep sending her to Ivy League summer programs when she was a Sophomore in High School. By the way that girl was Valedictorian at her High School Graduation. She is a kindhearted genius like her mom and if anyone has a shot a curing cancer my money is on her.

She made sure her son had a close circle of friends and family at all times. We are still around loving him like he is an adopted son….and his father is doing a great job in the parenting department. In her last years, she planned and attended multiple trips to Disney, Hershey Park, Atlantis……she made as many happy memories as she could while she was here…..because she knew she only had a short time to squeeze in a lifetime of love and laughter.

So my dear Christine I wish you a happy birthday in heaven where surely you have collected more friends and are nurturing the other angels around you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep on Truckin’…….Part 7

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Keep on Truckin’…….Part 7

Sometime in the summer of 1978 my brother and I finally moved back into a place with our mother. She had spent the last year getting settled into a job and a new apartment. While she was getting settled my brother and I stayed with our maternal grandparents. That living situation was prompted by a disastrous year in Florida with my mother, her boyfriend, Frank and my twin brother and me.

When we came back to New Jersey my brother and I were excited about seeing our father again. He lived in a shore town in New Jersey and we were both looking forward to reconnecting. Before we left for Florida we saw our father and his bride on a regular basis. They even tried to gain custody of the two of us. I remember having someone from the court ask me who I would rather live with….which was a ridiculous question for me…that question was a 1,000 pounds on my 7 year old shoulders. I answered with trepidation….something to the effect of I love them both but I guess I’d rather live with my mom.

The truth is I was torn. I kind of fantasized what it would be like to live with my father and his new wife. I really loved them, they were good to us….her whole family was good to us. On the other hand I had my mother and I recognized that she was wounded and I felt like she needed me. I also knew with every fiber of my being that if I went to live with my father she would be lost to me forever.

She frequently said bad things about my father and step mother which made me question my loyalty on a regular basis. I felt good when I was with my father and his new family and then when my brother and I would get home our mother would interrogate us. She would look for the smallest sliver of anything she could use against him. How many drinks did so and so have, who was there, what was on tv? It was intense. And I’m not sure exactly when it started but sometime early on my mother started referring to my father as “shithead”. She did this constantly used shithead in place of his name or a pronoun. Textbook definition of how not to behave after a divorce.

So naturally when we went to see our father for the first time since returning to New Jersey, my brother and I were nervous. We were also excited. He called us weekly while we were in Florida and we were under the impression that they missed us. So when he answered the door and didn’t invite us in my world caved in a bit. He said something about not being able to just come over unannounced and blah blah…..I don’t remember the exact words. I just remember shutting down and closing him off. Of course my mother reinforced how awful that was when we told her what happened.

Even though my mom was crazy it was hard for me to be apart from her. So when the three of us starting living together again I was happy. We started 5th grade that year in an elementary school which was maybe six blocks away. I had been to plenty of new schools by this point so I was pretty good at making new friends and observing situations.

Not sure how far into the school year it happened but one day I got into a verbal altercation with someone.  Before I could blink I had half the class threatening to beat me up after school. At which point I became more bravado than brains and started to assign people numbers something like “oh yeah I’ll fight you first, you second, you third….” pointing out the kids I would fight and in what order. Somewhere before I got to double digits an angel stepped in. She was the class jock and everyone adored her and even then she was cool enough to not give a shit about what people thought of her. She announced that if anyone fought me they would have to fight her as well. They all backed out of the fight and I got a new best friend.

I’ll never forget the day that Shelly stood up for me. After school I was determined to go to her house. I went up to the door and from that day until high school I spent many hours there. Her family was crazy but in a good way. They were loud, all the kids cursed but they loved each other. There was always food, snacks, dinner and all the Nestle Quik you could drink. Those were luxuries for me then…..hell we couldn’t afford Devil Dogs. Her mom didn’t work so she was often driving her kids and their friends around. I was always welcome there.

This was such a stark contrast to my family life. My brother and I were latch key kids. We came home after school to an empty apartment and I always had a long list of chores including getting dinner ready most nights. My brother and I fought all the time. That caused problems because we lived over a business so my mother had to hear about our behavior a lot. That did not make her happy and if mom isn’t happy no one is happy.

We never knew what kind of mood our mother would be in when she came home. When we heard her coming up the steps we would scatter like roaches when the lights come on. Scurrying off in different directions, tucked away until we could determine if it was safe to come out.

To be continued…..https://wasthatmyoutloudvoice.com/2015/11/12/keep-on-truckin-part-8/

I’d Like To Thank The Academy…….

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I’d Like To Thank The Academy…….

Stands tall, chest puffed, with a flick of my right hand on my left shoulder…..I would like to thank the academy (aka Darla Halyk of New World Mom’s) for my Liebster Award. For those that don’t know what that is (slowly shakes head from side to side with a sad tsk, tsk, tsk)…..it is a fabulous fun way for bloggers to support each other. Without further ado and the elegant wave of my magic wand (no it isn’t a vibrator…or is it?) I present my Liebster Award – Featured image

And now here is the question/answer portion of the award. Thank you Darla Halyk for the nomination and questions:

My 11 questions are as follows:

1) Why did you start writing/blogging? I have a lot of stories to tell and it seemed like the right time. My Facebook friends have encouraged me to start a blog…..and one day I happened to meet a fabulous blogger in the FLESH.  Leah Vidal of Little Miss Wordy and I became fast friends after we met at a school function. The idea started to take shape and before I knew it I had entered into the blogosphere (that’s a word right?).

2) If you could meet anyone, alive or dead, who would it be? Too hard, pass. Oh wait I assume that is frowned upon. I’d probably sit with my Nana for another round of Kings Corners.

3) If you could play any sport professionally what would it be? Roller Derby. I can skate like a dancing queen but those bitches are 100% bad ass.

4) What is your favourite quote?“To thine own self be true.”  William Shakespeare

5) What is your favourite album (front to back) of all time? Damn really tough questions here….honest it depends on my mood. The one I played most consistently was Fiona Apple – Tidal. A close second is the soundtrack from Ain’t Misbehavin’ featuring Nell Carter.

6) Who is your biggest role model? I don’t have one. However, I have been fortunate to have several mentors throughout the course of my life. Sadly the most recent one passed away about 3 years ago at the tender age of 93. So if you know any bad ass females over the age of 90 looking to mold a young whipper snapper let me know.

7) What cheers you up? Music, friends, exercise and laughter. Oh and travel I love to travel!

8) Do you believe in love at first sight? I believe in lust at first sight….a little skeptical on the love at first sight thing.

9) What is the best compliment you have ever received? I have been called a good egg a few times. Anytime I get compliments regarding my children I kind of glow a little (mom nerd).

10) Do you trust anyone with your life? No humans, just a God of my understanding.

11) What is your favourite word? Resilient

And now for the next round of victims bloggers…..should you accept the challenge (of course you should) there are some rules:

  1. Acknowledge and thank the blog who nominated you.
  2. Look for an award image that you like, and post it on your blog
  3. Answer the 11 questions asked by the person/blog who nominated you.
  4. Nominate 11 blogs
  5. Let the bloggers know that you nominated them.
  6. Give them 11 questions to answer.

Now it is my turn to nominate 11 people. Damn don’t hate on me bloggers some of you have likely already done this and I apologize in advance if this is your 2nd, 3rd or 74th Liebster Award Nomination. Just know that if you don’t do this a pack of feral trolls will visit you on the evening of the next full moon and tickle you in your sleep until you pee yourself or maybe ………nothing will happen. Ask yourself if you are feeling lucky and roll the life dice….

1. Jacqueline Whitney of http://www.findingmyverse.com/

2. Kathy Radigan of http://mydishwasherspossessed.com/

3. Denise Thomas of http://callthemidlife.com/my-period-is-like-a-drunk-at-the-bar/#comment-97

4. Leah Vidal of https://littlemisswordy.wordpress.com/2015/05/20/the-red-string-of-fate/

5. Mandy Hoefert Waysman of http://www.ohmandelynn.com/

6. Gena Scott Hassett of http://whatsfordinnergena.com/

7. Nancy Lowell of http://chefslastdiet.com/

8. Sassafrass Meghan of http://sassafrass76.com/2015/05/28/oops-i-did-it-again/

9. Jennifer Connolly of http://www.awellstyledlife.com/

10. Mickey Mouse of http://www.nomoreblogs.com/

11. James Brown of http://www.ifeelgoodimade11.com/

Ok so now comes the exciting part where I reveal the 11 questions for the lucky bloggers I listed above…who are all real by the way (except for maybe 2).

1. Do you have a recurring dream?

2. Where is your favorite place to visit?

3. What do you think is the most underrated quality in modern society?

4. If you could live in any time period, which would you pick?

5. Funny or serious?

6. What is your number one pet peeve?

7. Dogs or cats?

8. If you could have one super power what would it be?

9. Favorite thing about yourself?

10. On a scale of one to ten how much do you hate the Liebster Award (and btw, so so sorry)?

11. What is your number one fear?

Thanks again to Darla Halyk from New World Mom’s http://blogirl.info/darla6/ for passing along the Liebster Award. Apologies for any and all mistakes made in passing this torch. Still new at this and have the tech skills of a 4th grader from 1992.