Category Archives: Vulnerability

Vigilance, My Constant Companion

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Vigilance, My Constant Companion

Well hello blog friends. I’ve been pretty quiet since I got back from the hospital 12 days ago. Don’t let that fool you, my thoughts have taken on a squirrelish  pattern, darting between cars on a 6 lane highway during rush hour.

Hard to know how successful the surgery was at this point. The surgeon proclaimed it “perfect” so I’m counting on that to be accurate. My zombie arm has improved greatly – now I’m afraid of accidentally undoing all the good the surgery did. Plus I have weird sensations in other areas. Hoping it’s just my nerves coming down from some fairly traumatic events.

Recovery from surgery is a strange place to be in mentally. I expected the physical pitfalls – pain, medication issues, potential blood clots, physical restrictions, general discomfort and overall ickiness. I was not fully prepared for the anxiety, mood swings and FFS tears (who am I).

Before I give you a glimpse into my particular rabbit hole of recovery I need to first state the obvious…I’m very fortunate. I am relatively young and healthy. My recovery is projected to be months and isn’t terminal. The surgery I had was to correct a problem and prevent further damage. It was to relieve the chronic, relatively short term pain (months, not years) I experienced and hopefully prevent further damage.

This isn’t terminal cancer or some chronic debilitating disease that I have to manage for however much time I have left on this planet. I am mindful of this and deeply grateful. I also recognize that the fickle finger of fate has the option to change her mind at any point, even the best strategic plans and intentions can implode at any moment. I’m aware of the transient nature of life and my blessings are abundant.

Some things I have observed about myself…

I’m pretty much a rule player. Sure I may wax poetic about what a rebel I am but when the rubber meets the road, I’m a by the book gal. I want to follow discharge directions to the letter, sadly the letter is fuzzy.

Having more questions and curiosity than the discharge papers accounted for, I took to Google to quench my thirst for knowledge. Probably not ideal. There is a wide range of opposing opinions by medical professionals in regard to Anterior Cervical Discectomy & Fusion.

To brace or not to brace? Collar or no collar? Movement or none? When can I drive? When can I safely load the bottom rack of the dishwasher or put a fitted sheet on the bed? I feel safe pouring dry kibble into the dog food bowl but filling the water bowl seems like risky business. These are the activities that stump me daily.

I’ve already contacted the surgeon’s office about a potential blood clot and difficulty swallowing (which to be fair, are valid concerns and warranted calls) I draw the line when asking about specific mundane household chores. I see the surgeon next week for my first follow up visit since my surgery, I’m making a list.

I’m afraid of breaking myself. My biggest hurdle right now is the mental bandwidth I’ve handed over to fear of botching this surgery. Some is valid, some is unlikely. I find myself in a place of fear more often than I anticipated. It takes months, perhaps up to a year for bones to fuse. During this time of healing I will need to be mindful of what I do and do not do physically. Which activities are considered high risk and should be avoided? Vigilance will be my constant companion for the foreseeable future.

Some people don’t appreciate gruesome neck scars. I was able to drive yesterday for the first time since the surgery. My first errands out included dropping the kids off at school and getting some thank you gifts for my friends. My scar is supposed to air out so I didn’t cover it. There was a definite look of disgust on one clerks face when I came back into the store to borrow a pen. Her exact words were – “Take this pen, we have 100 of them. Now get out.”

Do you have a surgical recovery story? Any pro tips? Feel free to comment with your words of wisdom.

 

 

Fixed It

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Fixed It

Well hello my blogging friends. I am happy to report that I got through my ACDF with all parts in tact and a few extra…two discs replaced using a combo of my bone and donor bone and a nifty titanium plate with 6 or 8 screws. I feel frickan’ fantastic and I’m not high right now. Got out of surgery a little over 24 hours ago and I am amazed at how good I feel. I suspect there will be some pitfalls along the way but wow what a difference. My right arm is my arm again, not some alien appendage that causes me pain 24/7. I forgot how good it feels to not feel bad all the time. It’s like a rebirth. Anyway, that stuff is nice but boring so let’s get on to the funny stuff before I go night-night.

The hubs and I got caught in traffic on the way to the surgery check in. The traffic was so bad I grabbed my backpack and walked the remaining 4 blocks. I did that to get there on time only to encounter an empty desk upon arrival. That was unsettling but I had faith in the surgeon so I didn’t walk out the door. The vacancy lasted long enough for me to call a general service number to confirm the room number, yup I was at the right place. So much for my efforts for being on time. I just got seated in registration when the hubs came through the door.

After about half an hour I was sent to hospital purgatory. It’s a holding pen before you get to the specialized OR area. This was a fun place. It was set up like an ER with curtains for privacy between beds. The first lady took basic information when she asked me my weight I told the hubs to cover his ears. She said I could whisper it to her, so I did. He said she’s probably lying and sonofabee I was but only by like 2 or 3 pounds and I rounded down so shoot me.

Anyway, I happened to get my period that morning because WTF not. I am 51 years old folks this should be in the rear view mirror and yet here we are…I mention this to another nurse who had the task of rubbing me down with antiseptic cloths (this would be the worst porn scene ever). Anyway I mentioned the menses to my new friend and she gave me mesh underwear and a sanitary pad that could double as a mattress. It was YUGE. I kind of felt bad for the pad, there was no way it was going to live up to it’s potential. I’m at the trickle stage this pad was worthy of postpartum tide. Oh and on one trip to the bathroom part of my gown went into the bowl so I had to explain that mess and get a new gown, at least I entertained the staff.

It was clear that I had at least an hour to go or so in purgatory so I encouraged the hubs to go get something to eat. He was already on Yelp looking for options, he didn’t fight me when I made the suggestion. Mind you it was noon and I didn’t  have anything to eat or drink since Midnight. I would have given my still tingling zombie arm for a coffee at that point. Half an hour after the hubs leaves…

Me: If you send me food pics I will cut you.

Hubs: I literally had my finger on the send button,

Me: Get yo fine azz back here…it’s moving day.

Half an hour later I was sent to OR prep and he was sent somewhere else, a waiting room.

Hubs: I miss u

Hubs: OK, just remembered u don’t have ur phone, so I’m talking to myself.

Once I got settled into my room I sent him home to be with our kids. My friend Kristy dropped by to bring them dinner – a chicken parm sub and a Brooklyn Pizza from our favorite local place.  I also got soup from Lisa, my Rocky Horror partner. And Amy just went full on ridiculous she made soup, cookies, orzo salad and salmon….oh and my friend Iris made me a spectacular chicken soup with matzo balls and magic. I am blessed beyond measure friends. I hope you all have people like this in your life.

Anyway back to the hospital stay. People joke all the time that hospitals are no place to rest and damn that is so true. I had a roommate Joan, 83 years old. She was in so much pain they had to take her for an MRI to see what was going on. Her surgery was way more complicated than mine and I felt guilty for feeling so good. We chatted a good chunk of the night because neither one of us could sleep, too much beeping, plugs coming undone, the compression sock alarm that nearly gave me a heart attack. Every time I needed to pee I had to be untethered by a nurse, it was an ordeal.

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Rare pic of me wasted.

The lab lady came in at 4am to take blood as if that’s a normal thing…we can’t wait until 8am for this? My surgeon came by for a visit at 5:57am, he must sleep 4 hours a night, max. I was glad to see him though he said the surgery went “perfect” and I believed him because my arm was feeling awesome. I got to shake his hand and thank him and ask weird questions about bone grafts. I won’t bore you with those details let’s just say I have some cadaver parts and I’m totally cool with that. I plan to donate my body to science when I die so perhaps I will be able to return the favor.

So in-between the chats with Joan, vitals being checked, alarms going off and the 4am Vampire – the man across the hall from my room threw several tantrums throughout the night. I heard him being abusive to staff, screaming without regard for any of the other patients and just all out acting like an enraged toddler, it was ridiculous. He was at least 20 years younger than Joan who was in extreme pain and was pleasant with everyone she came in contact with – this guy was the opposite. Needless to say I didn’t sleep much.

I got discharged at 11am and I walked out the door, no wheelchair. First stop was a Starbucks to supplement the tepid weak coffee I got with breakfast. There was a lot of food for breakfast, I only ate the grits (Paul I’m sure you would make better grits). Got a Chai and walked the three blocks to the car, it felt good to be outside. Things were going pretty good, until they weren’t.

About 20 minutes into a 45 minute drive I had to vomit. Told the hubs to pull over, he didn’t. Instead he handed me a Mutt Mit (dog poop bag) and I used that, tied the bag to avoid spills and repeated the process two more times. The fact that he had the foresight to think of this raised his stock considerably. We handled that like champs all the while doing 60MPH headed home like we practiced it. Now I’m waiting for my neck to be sore from that mess so tomorrow may be a rough day.

Anyway, it’s been smooth sailing since then. Fingers crossed we stay the course.

 

 

Confession

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Confession

I’m terrified. There I typed it, now maybe that useless-hell-bent-on-turning-me-into-a-raging-asshole emotion will take a respite now. I’m not terrified all the time, just when I try to sleep or allow the distractions of daily life to melt away so I can concentrate exclusively on all the shit that could possibly go wrong during my surgery. Actually it’s the post surgery chance of blood clots that gives me the willies. Blood clots are sneaky MFers and they do not discriminate. I’ve had some close calls with the bastards before so unlike the Boogeyman, I know they exist.

Obviously I haven’t shared this particular scenario with my kids because I suspect they have their own fears and I don’t need to add to that. So this is my safe space for venting the truth. My husband and I discussed it briefly, it’s amazing how much that man pretends to forget. Whenever you are asked to gather your Advanced Medical Directive, it’s a stone cold reminder of how temporary this life is for all of us. Having those reminders in my face is jarring.

It’s weird how we beat ourselves up, at least I do. I’d like to be some stoic champion that flows through life chakras all aligned and shit no matter what curve balls smack me in the face. Spoiler: I’m not that person. And while I’d like to pat myself on the back for not deep diving into a pity party about my “situation”….I know how ridiculous that is given how fortunate my life has turned out.

I do miss exercise though. I’ve been a gym rat for 30 years. My husband joked about that the other day, the monthly gym fees that have been paid – the very gym which likely exacerbated this condition. I’d still do it all over again. Exercise has been my mental health regime my entire adult life. I don’t drink alcohol or do drugs (though I am dipping into the Xanax this week so I can sleep) and I haven’t gone on a killing spree so clearly the gym was working for me. I haven’t had that since August and I can feel the depression nipping at my toes.

So I’ll walk because I can still do that. And I’ll walk after the surgery because moving is the best way to prevent blood clots. I’ll remind myself that this is temporary. An expensive (really f*cking expensive) and painful inconvenience. I’m actually grateful for the pain in my arm because it reminds me why I’m letting someone cut into my neck and replace some parts. Otherwise this whole situation would seem insane. The near constant pain in my dominate arm coupled with the knowledge that doing nothing could send me into Depends a few decades earlier than anticipated is my motivation.

I’ll remind myself to not worry about the things that will be out of my control like driving, getting kids out the door for school, my clients, my mother, the dog, feeding my family, weight gain, the 2020 election, the fact that my daughter has blue hair now (it’s really cute), do we have enough toilet paper… All that shit will be out of my hands starting Wednesday until I’m well enough to pick them all up again.

I did order myself some socks for the recovery…

Screenshot_2019-11-03 Amazon com Mom off Duty, Ask your Dad Funny Socks - Cool Pink Fuzzy Novelty Cupcake Packaging for Her[...]Screenshot_2019-11-03 Amazon com If You Can Read This Bring Me Coffee Socks (Coffee Black) - luxury socks for Mom, Dad, fam[...]

 

 

The Oh Sh*t List!

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The Oh Sh*t List!

Hello friends, I haven’t posted because things have been kind of icky and who wants to read that mess. For those that have been following along my neck surgery is next week. I went for all the pre-op tests yesterday so it feels real at this point. I haven’t been stoic about this situation but I’ve tried to keep the public bitching to a minimum. I’m struggling a bit, I suspect some of my emotions are to be expected. I don’t know if I’ve learned anything through this process but I have made some observations along the way…

I have really good friends. I’m putting together an “Oh Sh*t List” – this will house the names and phone numbers of people that have offered to drive, feed and/or shelter my kids while I’m in the hospital and during recovery. These are people that mean what they say and say what they mean…they will show up if needed. Some of them will show up even if they don’t get a call. I hope you all have friends like this in your lives, I am profoundly grateful for mine.

It isn’t just about meal prep and Muber (Moms that Uber for free) some friends are just there when you need them. Last Saturday I texted a friend around 5pm and asked her if she wanted to go see a local production of Rocky Horror at 9pm. My daughter bailed and I didn’t push it because I thought it might be inappropriate (spoiler: it was COMPLETELY inappropriate).

Me: Any chance you want to go to Rocky Horror tonight?

Lisa: Daughter Bail?

Me: Yup

Lisa: Sure. What are we wearing? Sedate Janets or wild Rockys?

Me: I don’t think I have the wardrobe for either. I can probably put together a party goer outfit…black pants/jacket, shiny shirt (maybe) and an obscene amount of makeup. What have you got?

Lisa: Corset, high heel boots, red wig?

Me: Of course! I need a wig.

An hour goes by as I frantically search through the Halloween boxes looking for anything that will pass for Rocky Horror fabulous. What I find is Thing 1 & Thing 2 toddler costumes which makes me want to smile-cry and sends me to my bedroom closet which leads to…wardrobe disappointment. I did manage to find a cool jacket I purchased in Turino, Italy in 1996 and a hat I wore last year when I went to a party as Captain Obvious.

Me: I look more steampunk middle-aged hooker than Rocky Horror party-goer.

Lisa: Sends me a picture of herself looking fabulous in a zebra inspired pimp hat, gorgeous long deep purple velvet jacket, red wig, corset and boots for days. Too much?

Me: Hells no you look awesome! I put eye shadow on with a Q-tip. I’m not fit to be in your presence.

We had a great time at the show!

 

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Another observation…your family will squeeze every drop out of you until you make them stop.

Yesterday I had to drive to Philly for my pre-admission testing. The drive wasn’t bad and I managed to score street parking which is a bargain. I walked 4 blocks to the first appointment (Cardiologist) then had to get to the remainder of my appointments another 4 blocks away. Naturally it was raining and did I mention I woke up at 2:30 that morning just for giggles. So I was tired, cranky and in considerable pain. I find it ridiculous that people need to jump through these physical hoops for medical procedures to fix an orthopedic issue. The other patients I encountered yesterday were in tremendous pain and having to navigate city blocks and multiple buildings was a lot for their worn out broken bodies. Seemed like an unnecessary obstacle course – put it all in one building preferably on the same floor, oh and GET OFF MY LAWN (just threw that in because I sound like a grumpy old lady).

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Any way after 5 hours of that nonsense I was looking forward to a nap cuddled up with my heating pad. I just got my self nestled in when I hear footsteps approaching my bedroom door…next thing I know my mother is barging into my bedroom.

Mom: Your husband told me you were resting. How are you, are you OK?

Me: I’m in agony mom, I just want to nap. I’ve been up since 2:30 this morning, long day.

Mom: Oh so it hurts, huh.

Me: Yes, yes it does. Is there something you need?

She then rattles off two things that she needs which causes me to get out of bed and go downstairs. I gave my husband strict instructions to lock all the doors from now on and set the alarm.

Naturally Rob and Laura are concerned about me and wondered how they would manage while I’m out. Super woman friend, Vickie, saved the day. She met the family and shadowed me one day this week on outings. Rob & Laura will be well cared for in my absence.

So my – Oh Shit List – is filling me with gratitude. The people I encounter in real life and my cyber friends have been very supportive. Seriously, you need these types of friends in your life.

Pain in the Neck…

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Pain in the Neck…

What’s new my friends, lots happening here. I’ll give it to you in bite size pieces, it’s a lot to chew on.

Rob & Laura Update

My nonagenarian friends are still on this side of the dirt which is a good thing. Dear Rob has had two TIAs (min-strokes) in the past 7 weeks and he is starting to slip cognitively. Laura lost her hearing aid which caused her great frustration until she finally relented and posted bail to get a new one (just under a thousand dollars and that was with the discount, YIKES). There was a lot of shoulder shrugging, exasperated sighs and general annoyance until that got resolved.

Rob’s family is originally from Virginia, last week he told me that when his grandfather was about 8 years old his family had a special guest over for tea, Robert E Lee (yes that one). Then we had an interesting discussion about the confederate flag, Civil War statues and reparations. Oddly enough that afternoon he got a call from a member of his Quaker Community that was eager to change the name of one of their member organizations currently known as the “Overseers”. Rob was hesitant to change the name and he referred to himself as a curmudgeon which is not how I see him at all. He was brought up in a different era, in a geographic area which has a complicated history. A lot of things have changed in his 95 years on the planet and it is refreshing to see someone remain adaptable this late in life.

Caring for them when I’m in physical pain myself is getting exhausting. I know that if I saw one of them about to fall, I would hurl my body in their direction to mitigate the damage likely to my own demise. It would be a visceral reaction and I doubt I could control it. So I have to find them some additional help while I recover, it’s hard to find another me.

Medical Update

I saw a surgeon this past Monday to review my MRI and discuss the options. My options are do nothing and put myself at risk of falling off a metaphorical cliff at some point…potentially losing balance and control of (coughs) bowels and micturition (new Scrabble word). My issue is progressive and will not improve with physical therapy, vitamins, a Chiropractor, voodoo, acupuncture, lavender oil, your cousin Stephanie’s smoothie blend or CBD oil. So surgery it is folks, Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion in case you’re bored and want to Google that mess.  I “get her done” in early November.

I texted my twin brother to discuss it –

Me: Guess who has two thumbs and a new neck in her future – THIS gal.

Him: New neck???

Him: Get a giraffe one and freak people out

And this is one of a thousand reasons that I adore my brother. Then he immediately offered to drive twelve hours and care for me post op. Heart of gold that one.

Marital Bliss

The other night my husband hydroplaned on the way home from Newark, New Jersey Airport. He called me from a sketchy neighborhood to report the news. Bear in mind his car is a Tesla Model S with a Pennsylvania plate, he did not blend in. I told him I would get him so he could take all of his personal effects out of the car and wait to get it towed. It was an hour and a half for me to get there in windy conditions which caused me to have a death grip on the steering wheel for about 3 hours in the middle of the night.

Physically my husband was fine and I am incredibly grateful for that. That said, I’m going to blame his brazen stupidity on the way home on the the two 360’s he did on Route 78 which landed him facing the wrong way on a typically busy highway. He bitched about my driving on the way home at least three times. I was so pissed and in so much physical pain at the time all I could do was grunt, like a bull. Yes, I was in the left lane traveling at a safe speed. It was 1am with little traffic and a wind ban on the turnpike at the time.

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The next day I bitched to my brother about the situation, via text.

Me: Something off about fetching your man from a sketch neighborhood in the middle of the night because he had a car accident AND then listening to him bitch about your driving all the way home while you are in INTENSE pain.

Him: Yikes. How many cars has he messed up and how many have you?

Me: 3 him, me 0

Him: That’s a pretty solid data set to support your argument.

Did I mention that I adore my brother?

 

Kids

Told the kids about my surgery and downplayed it as to not panic them. One kid asks how I am the other takes a different approach…

Kid 2: UGH, my foot fell asleep! (hobbles into kitchen)

Me: Bummer, that’s how my arm feels all the time now.

Kid 2: We get it mom, your arm hurts.

Me: Went to bed so I wouldn’t do anything rash it was 8pm.

For some reason that little exchange reminded me of Erma Bombeck’s tombstone which has “I Told You I Was Sick” on it.

 

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Not sure whose tombstone this is but you get the point.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fingers Crossed…

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Fingers Crossed…

Muthafuckah. Got some not great news today…for my regulars you may recall a post from last week when I waxed poetic about my crappy health insurance. I begged my doctor’s office for a script for an MRI but they declined because my insurance (sucks) needed me to go through more hoops first because they’re assholes.

I figured an x-ray would be useless because the pain I have seems nerve related. Pins and needles, like when your foot falls asleep. The foot thing usually passes after a few minutes, the situation I’m dealing with is 24/7.  The pain ranges from a 3 to an 8, it’s never gone completely. I’ve had about six weeks of this now and I’m starting to get cranky. However, the insurance company needs a checklist ticked off before it will pay for an MRI so basically we ALL work for the insurance company now – the doctors, medical billers, patients, hospitals, labs – they own us.

Anyway the planets aligned and I got the referrals, made the appointment, and saw the doctor. The appointment was with a non-surgical Orthopedic at the Rothman Institute. The office ran like a well-oiled machine. They even took an x-ray of my neck for $20. which is the best deal I’ve gotten since well, ever. My PCP wouldn’t send me for an X-Ray because she’s scared of my insurance.

The x-ray didn’t show much (shocking) so I got my script for the MRI. The RI office staff managed to get an authorization code from my cheap ass (yet freakishly expensive) insurance company so I got my MRI a few days ago. This morning I got a call around 9:15am from an unknown number so I let it go to voicemail. It was the Orthopedic doctor. Well, that was unexpected. I called the office told them I would be available after 12:30. I got another call from the doctor at 12:32, this is highly unusual. Doctors calling as soon as they get the results to discuss it with you…

Doc: Hello, I wanted to let you know I got the MRI and it isn’t terrible.

Me: (nervous laughter) Great, not terrible is good, maybe.

Doc: We compared this MRI to the one you had in 2010 and the same area is involved (cervical).

Me: I’m glad you were able to hunt that down.

Doc: I’m recommending that you see a surgeon.

Me: Oh.

Doc: There’s some compression around the spine and some fluid. (barely audible) Myelomalacia

Me: Mya-what?

Doc: Myelomalacia, don’t Google it.

Me: Of course I’m going to Google it, you just told me not to.

He then proceeded to name some doctors that are spinal surgeons. I got off the phone and promptly cried for 45 seconds. Then I started Googling, then I took a walk because I can’t do anything else. He told me to hold off on physical therapy until I see the surgeon. Oddly enough I had a physical therapy consult scheduled for this afternoon.

I talked to my husband, I talked to a friend, I talked to God and my dog. I made the appointment for Monday which is a miracle in itself. Hopefully, I’ll have more information and the start of a game plan this time next week.

I put my gym membership on hold. That was when it hit me, shit got real. Exercise has been a physical and mental release for me for 30 years. Now I have restricted exercise (walking) and constant pain, it’s not an ideal combination. I’m trying to not think about it too much until my next appointment, easier said than done. Fingers crossed…

 

Bananas

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Bananas

Sweet Geezus the bananas are out of control…AGAIN. Those pesky peels are showing up everywhere. Real damage is being done, people are dying slipping on those damn peels. Even the schools are not safe. Teachers who went into their chosen field to educate and enrich the lives of their students have to carve out time to teach students what to do in the event of a banana peel emergency. And an emergency is bound to happen, they always do. We’ve already had a handful of banana peel incidents this year and it’s only February.

Great minds have been debating this banana peel issue for decades and still no solution for the problem. Some people say that all bananas should be removed from circulation. Others argue for more restrictive banana rights. Others say “hey leave my bananas alone, our founding fathers fought so I could have a right to my bananas.” Maybe some people can’t handle the power of the banana, maybe not everyone needs one. Perhaps there should be a consistent test to determine if someone is within the right frame of mind to carry a banana?

We could make public places safer to avoid unwanted banana entry. Schools should probably be built more like prisons to keep the bad bananas out. That makes sense right? Really high fences – 20 feet high with barbed wire, a few guards at the entrance a banana pat down on the way in, maybe a retinal scan, we have the technology. Sure schools are going bankrupt paying for pension funds and a push to redistribute property taxes. Put all that aside for a moment…I’m sure Congress will loosen up the purse strings so we can keep our bananas AND make schools safer. We do after all value the safety and well being of our children as well as a free and accessible public school system.

There is a lot of speculation as to why the banana problem exists: poor family values, antidepressants, a lack of love & God, mental illness, video games, the pro-banana board which spends gobs of money keeping bananas accessible. At one point Australia had a banana problem and they just said “turn in your f*cking bananas.” Apparently that’s working for them. That couldn’t possibly work here. The UK, Japan and Germany also have a low tolerance for bananas. Shocking as that is, those countries have fewer banana fatalities than we experience in the USA. What could it be? We need our bananas we aren’t like those other countries.

I don’t know what the answer is…I mean I guess you just have to say a prayer and hope your kids don’t slip on any peels when you send them to school. That seems to be working out just swell…as long as it isn’t your kid slipping on the peel.

 

This was originally posted on a sister site in February of 2018 after the Parkland mass shooting. It’s September now, that time of year when parents wonder if the bullet resistant backpacks will hold up, teachers try to anticipate which kids will have panic attacks during the “active shooter drills” (the new fire drill except this “fire” mimics when a maniac comes into your kid’s school with an assault rifle) and teachers mentally calculate how many more months they have to deal with this insanity before they can retire.

Sadly, the post is still relevant. Thank you teachers everywhere for still showing up under these obscene conditions. Kids I don’t know what to tell you, I’m so sorry we haven’t collectively done better. You deserve a safe place to learn, all of you.

Fellow Americans do you remember when drunk driving was a HUGE issue in this country? In the 80’s grass roots organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) got fed up and pressured the government to do something…the legal drinking age was changed to 21 across the nation. Drunk driving laws were tightened and strictly enforced and the public’s behavior changed. People still have a cocktail with dinner, they just plan for the drive home with more caution now.

Why can’t we use a similar common sense approach to guns? Thorough, consistent background checks, close the purchasing loopholes, be a little more selective about who can purchase a weapon. I have to show ID to purchase allergy medicine can’t we have at least that much scrutiny for a military grade weapon? Or shall we just continue to traumatize the generation we’re supposed to protect? Is that better because that sounds bananas to me.

Venus on the Half Shell

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Venus on the Half Shell

I had a wonderful outing with Rob and Laura today. When I arrived Rob presented me with some spoon bread that he made special just for me. When a 95 year old man puts himself through the effort to cook for you, it’s very humbling. Honestly anytime anyone cooks for me I’m thrilled, this was just extra sweet. Spoon bread tastes like cornbread and I marvel at how someone who eats this stuff on the regular hasn’t succumbed to heart disease. It’s filled with the artery clogging goodness of butter, milk with more butter for good measure, eggs and cornmeal. It’s tasty and lethal to mere mortals like myself. I took a few bites, proclaimed it delicious and took it home to savor later. Seriously this dish should come with a defibrillator.

As we were driving to the grocery store we had our usual carefree chatter. I was discussing travel because I’m leaving for a cruise this weekend. We got on the topic of paintings and I mentioned my all time favorite was Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli. Rob mentioned that his mother used to refer to that painting as Venus on the Half Shell and in that moment I felt such regret for having never met the woman. Now whenever the question of which person, living or deceased, would you like most to converse with, my answer will be Rob’s mother. Raise your hand if you agree….that’s a lot of hands in my imagination.

When we got to the grocery store, Laura asked Rob if he wanted his walker. He hesitated a moment and then agreed. I got the shopping cart and gave it to Laura as Rob went on his merry way. Here’s the interesting bit…Rob agreed to that for Laura’s sake. Laura has been struggling more with mobility and refuses to upgrade to a walker from her cane. The grocery cart is basically a socially acceptable walker in Laura’s mind. Rob figured this out in seconds and I pretended not to notice.

As I was getting them tucked back into their home after our outing, Rob took a moment to look me in the eye and tell me how much he appreciates me and that I am like a third daughter to him. I assured him the affection was mutual. Then two minutes later I threatened to brawl with Laura if she didn’t surrender the grocery bag that was half her body weight. She gave me a steely gaze as I took the bag from her.

Me: Let me get that Laura, it’s really heavy.

Laura: Grabs bag with determined look.

Me: Seriously, I will fight you on this.

Laura: Steely gaze.

Me: (Struggles to take bag, maintains eye contact and smile the entire time) Thank you.

 

Because I Can

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Because I Can

I am quietly sitting in the main level bedroom of a nicely appointed house that dates back to the 1890’s. It’s insulated well enough that air conditioning isn’t required despite the high summer temperatures outside. The windows are open and I can hear the chatter of cows from the farm that borders the back yard. I can hear those same cows from my own home which is within walking distance. Here though, I get to eavesdrop on the more nuanced conversations, beyond the distressed mooing that occasionally travels to my patio. The cows are conversing in more hushed tones.

Each room in this house has been lovingly filled with precious items.  Long ago gifts, remembrances and highly sought after antique flea market finds that probably took months, perhaps years, to procure. The individual pieces are meaningful, eclectic and likely filled with sentimental value. A lot of love went into decorating this home and perhaps a twinge of obsession, the result is a timeless casual elegance.

The items themselves are a bit worn around the edges. Faded like the lingering scent of fabulous meal after the dinner dishes have been cleared. It seems more poignant with some of the newness ebbed away by time, longevity has it’s own allure which, something shiny and new can’t quite grasp.

After several minutes Thelma, jumps down from the bed and visits me at my corner chair. A petite orange tabby, she sniffs my feet for a few minutes. I attempt to pet her which yields a do not touch look so I stop myself and decide to ignore her. After a few minutes she bites my knee because that’s what cats do. My involuntary jolt sent her scampering away for the remainder of my visit. Her sister, Louise, is out in the yard somewhere planning her next kill or rolling in the grass, sunny side up. I won’t hear from her unless she wants to come in which, she will announce by jumping 4 feet up, onto the screened porch door. Thelma & Louise keep things interesting around here.

During the olfactory interrogation, I can hear the Serena Williams match on the TV in the kitchen. A man’s voice is giving an unofficial commentary of the match…”Oh no, Geezus!” and “Come on Serena!” are on a repetitive loop. I’m happy that he has a distraction even if the end result isn’t what he wanted. He is passionate about something separate from the care-giving which likely consumes him. In this small way he is reclaiming something important for himself and I wish more caregivers would do that.

Before he leaves for the gym he stops by the bedroom. He tells me that they just got back from vacationing at the beach where they got married decades ago. I wonder if his wife has any recollection of that now as she lay snoring, midday, in the bed they still share. He gives her a long, gentle, emotional hug as he prepares to leave and I try to become invisible in that moment.

I see the hospital bed close by and I wonder which one of the two beds she will pass in. Probably the hospital bed, it will likely happen before the unofficial end of summer. I push against the inclination to imagine a similar scenario in my own life as I silently ask God for another 20 (pretty please make that 30) years of health and happiness with my husband. I am momentarily engulfed in the absolute knowledge that this is all temporary. I’ve seen this situation play out about 100 different ways in the ten plus years that I have been a hospice volunteer. It’s usually some diabolical form of cancer with the wife caring for the husband or the daughter caring for a parent. It always leaves a print of sadness on my soul which gets absorbed and gently tucked away.

When I prepare to leave, I notice the fireplace in the bedroom has writing on the header. “Fairy Tales Really Do Come True…” is painted in pretty cursive. A swirl of emotions courses through me. I don’t believe in fairy tales, I had to rescue myself and yet, my life is blessed beyond anything I could have imagined as a child. For the thousandth time I question why I do this…why do I place myself in the center of someone else’s heartbreak. The answer is always the same, because I can and those that can, should.

 

So Far…

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So Far…

Relationships are slippery suckers aren’t they? Sometimes it’s hard to find the perfect grip to keep them from slipping away. Too much pressure, not enough, longevity comes from the ability to apply just the right amount of pressure, that and dumb luck.

A Facebook friend posted about her insecurity within her decades long marriage. She wondered why so many years and 3 kids in, why do these feelings still show up, when does the insecurity stop? My guess is (23 years in) that it doesn’t? Insecurity isn’t a constant companion in my marriage but that bitch does visit from time to time, completely uninvited.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell if the negative thoughts come from an accurate observed change in your spouse or the internal bad wiring most of us have to diagnosis and re-configure. We’ve been told that half of marriages end in divorce forever, that’s not entirely true. To get an actual percentage, you’d have to study a specific set of marriages over a lifetime to see how many dissolve.

If you’re curious, I found an interesting read on the topic. No proper notes of the specific studies or statistics touted, more of a compilation of weird divorce nuggets put together by a law firm (my guess is they specialize in divorce)Weird Divorce Stats

One statistic stated that the average length of a first marriage that ends in divorce is 8 years. Seems to me that a lot of marriages end once the kids finish high school or after the wife turns 50 which often happen around the same time. Women file for divorce more frequently than men somewhere between 66 – 75%.

According to the weird list I linked above my marriage is doomed. We met in a bar (24% more likely to divorce), my parents divorced (50% increased risk of divorce), we have a daughter (and 5% to the doomed calculation)…Geezus we are already at 79% chance of implosion and I haven’t even gotten to our premarital sexual history and lack of strong religious background yet. Our calculated risk for divorce is somewhere around 200%…But wait, we live in Pennsylvania, are college educated and have children, phew, we might make it. Some of these stats are ridiculous in their specificity.

So what makes a marriage work? Obviously this varies by couple, there isn’t one universal magic formula. Personally, I’m just grateful that I still like my husband and it seems mutual at this point. We still “enjoy” each other’s company (wink) and we know when to give the other space. I try to find new ways to keep him happy…no not that, I’ve already done everything I’m willing to do there. Now I mulch or weed and make the bed, the real sexy stuff no one told you about in early ’80s Home Ec class. I try to take some of his burdens away and when I need help with something, I’m specific and neutral in my requests. That seems to be working so far.