Happy Holidays

I know it’s only the second week in November but I have had the privilege of hosting Thanksgiving at my house for the last 4 years. Thanksgiving is my all time favorite holiday as it occurs in the fall, entails food and doesn’t require gift-giving of any kind. Plus, it’s non-denominational and is celebrated by everyone in America. How cool is that.

So this week I started sending out text messages asking individual family members who would be attending this year and who wouldn’t be able to make it. This process is necessary for two reasons. One is to get an accurate head-count so I know how much food to plan and secondly we parcel out all of the dishes from turkey to pie to different people so that one person doesn’t get stuck making the entire meal. This has worked well for the last 25 years of my marriage and I saw no reason for it to not work out this year. I was wrong.

It seems I inadvertently stepped into a huge pile of poopy by sending out individual texts to adult  children no longer living at home.  You see, unbeknownst to me there is trouble brewing between several members of my extended family. Uh-oh. Now at this point a little back story is in order.

While some of you may know this, many of you do not. My parents divorced when I was 13 years old and my father remarried about six months later into a family with 3 boys that were around the same age as my siblings and I. He then had another son with his second wife (hey Andy) and we were supposed to become a big blended happy family. You know, like The Brady Bunch. The problem with this was that my mother was still alive (and so was their father although involved to a lesser extent), and so began over 20 years of family holiday drama.

Also, I never got along well with my step-mother. At the time I thought it was because she was an evil, horrible person. But let’s be honest here. She was a great wife to my father and stayed with him while he was dying from cancer. She nursed him and took him to clinics around the country. She kept him at home and made him comfortable when others would have put him in hospice. He died at home like he wanted to because she had the courage to make it happen. So no matter how our relationship may have been strained over the years, she has earned my eternal gratitude for this. Also, hers was the first condolence card we received when Joes brother died. This woman has class.

But back to the story. I have received conflicting texts from various members of this feuding family and second-hand information from other family members who should mind their own business. But even worse than that, I think I may have upset someone whom I  care about deeply. And worst of all, I can’t call anyone involved in this to tell them I understand their position(s) without making it worse. So what am I going to do about it?

Well the answer to that goes back to the excellent training I received in my blended family. Nothing. That’s right folks. I’m doing nothing but writing this blog post in the hopes that the offended parties read it and know that I truly had no idea what was going on. All I wanted to do was figure out who was coming to Thanksgiving. Honestly. I am the least clued-in member of the family. Mostly by choice.  I learned a long time ago to stay out of volatile situations and keep my opinions to myself.  If people want my opinion they can ask me. And as the only member of this family who actually had a blended family, I actually have a unique perspective on the whole mess.

And then there’s the other part of this that has me upset on a very personal level. It brings me back to the years when I felt I had to choose between warring parents and siblings. When one persons view of an event wasn’t necessarily another persons; or even mine. When I was asked to make compromises that didn’t seem fair in order to see my family. Many time as an adult I opted to simply not see them. I went to college in Boston for this reason and lived in Connecticut for 2 years afterward just to avoid these situations. I had hoped with the death of my father 12 years ago that these feelings of loss and abandonment had gone away. Turns out they can come back to haunt you in unexpected ways.

I hope that all parties concerned can come to an amicable solution and we can spend some time together at Thanksgiving. My son and his wife will not be making it this year which is a real bummer. My sister is in the middle of a nasty divorce and will be spending the day with my mother, brother and his family and Stephen will be conspicuous by his absence.

Wish me luck on dividing up the Turkey Day menu. I think I’ll be in charge of the Prozac.

Mom vs. Steve Jobs

Although Steve Jobs passed away a month ago, my mother is still rather annoyed with the man. Since she’s been ill she’s had a lot of time to kill and has spent a great deal of it watching television. One of the stories circulating through the news cycle has been the death of Steve Jobs and I should have known something was up when she informed me that “Steve Jobs was not a genius, he was an evil man for inventing Twitter”.

Now under normal circumstances I would have found this funny considering this is a woman who refuses to even own a cell phone, but at the time I was dealing with other issues. In retrospect; and upon repeating this story several times, I’ve come to see the humor in her statement. But I’ve also had time to think about her statement and all it entails for us as we grow older. At what point do we decide that we are done growing and adapting to the new in society and retreat into the old and familiar?

I started thinking about my Grandma Bouc who was born in 1904 when Edwardian values and expectations for women were in high form. By the time she was twenty and came to the US in 1924 much had changed. We had endured a world war, skirts were shorter and women could vote. I’ve never seen a picture of her before her marriage, but on her wedding day in 1926 she was dressed in a typical “flapper” style dress of the time and had cut her hair into a short page-boy style; a style she kept until she died.

She grew up on a farm near Prague with plow horses but ended up learning to drive a car. They didn’t have electricity or indoor plumbing but she lived to experience radio, moving pictures, talking pictures, color movies and television. I asked her once what it was like to hear a talking picture and she told me it was “loud”. But she adapted and liked to go to the movies well into her 80’s.  She probably put on pants as soon as she could and never looked back.  In fact I don’t remember my grandmother ever wearing a dress unless she had to go to the grocery store. I bet if she was alive today she’d even know how to use a cell phone and a computer.

And then there are the people I know who like to talk about the “old days” or “the good old days”. I wonder if that was when we institutionalized our mentally and physically handicapped. Or maybe it was the time when being a color other than white and a sex other than male automatically made you a second class citizen. Perhaps they’d like us to go back to hiding in closets and marrying someone we don’t love (0r at least like) so we can have children. I’m not sure any of those “days” can be classified as good.

Others like to point to computers and the internet as necessary evils that are ruining our families and relationships. But like every new technology, all that has happened is a difference in the way we communicate. I can now keep in touch with my friends and family instantly via text or Facebook. If  I’m lost I can “Mapquest” directions or find out where I am via GPS. And I can call for help on my cell phone too. Best of all I have the free app for Solitaire which gives me something to do while I’m waiting for kids in the car or suffering through another night of insomnia. Three cheers for more ways to waste time!

Finally, as my mother found out later in the news cycle, Steve Jobs also invented the Mac Computer and paved the way for other technologies that allow  handicapped people to communicate where once they were mute. By pushing a few buttons on a screen with pictures of familiar objects and words, children with severe handicaps can now tell you about their dog or their day.  These technologies allow school children who could never afford to travel to Japan or China talk to other children from there via Skype.

It is perhaps the fact that technology makes the world a smaller place that highlights it’s true value. We are no longer people isolated in our little countries or states, but people free to meet anyone in the world. In doing so we are seeing that we are more alike than different. I am hopeful that as the world grows smaller we will decide to stop trying to dominate and kill each other and instead try to find a way to work together.

Musings On Marriage

Today marks the  25th Anniversary of my marriage to Joe. Yup folks, it’s been twenty-five fun filled and exciting years since I stood at the alter and promised to love, honor and obey (oh yes I did), ’til death do us part. And for anyone who still doesn’t know, I had just gotten over morning sickness the day before our wedding, so Joe and I have never celebrated a wedding anniversary without children. This year will be no exception and with everything else going on in our lives right now we will be staying home, eating chili and watching NCIS, NCIS LA, and Castle (thank you DVR) . In other words, a perfect and perfectly normal evening.

I suppose if I had actually stopped to consider how long 25 years would be I would never have imagined getting here. My parent’s were divorced after 15 years of marriage and I actually made my vows figuring that if things didn’t work out I could always get a divorce. I clearly had no idea what I was signing up for if  I had such a naive idea of what marriage actually entailed. It turns out it’s not just about sharing your stuff. It actually involves sharing every single part of your life. The richer and poorer. The sickness and the health. But most of all the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s not just about sleepless nights with babies. It’s about sleepless nights when your teenager comes home from college, borrows the car and proceeds to disappear (and not answer his texts) for the night.

And then there are the in-laws you may or may not like. How do you get through the holidays? Does everyone go? Does one go and the other one stays home and fumes? These are the things that can make or break a marriage. And I am here to tell you that there are some things in a marriage on which you finally agree to disagree. These are sometimes the hardest things to negotiate in any relationship.

Many people have asked me if I am happily married and I never know how to answer that question. What is happiness? Is it really relevant when discussing marriage? I refer again to my friend Michelle; my Matron of Honor, spiritual guide and great friend. She believes marriage is designed to make us better people. To make us the people we were meant to be. And in that respect I am perhaps one of the happiest people alive. I can’t speak for Joe, but I am a much better person now that I was 25 years ago.

I’ve learned patience, respect, tolerance, kindness and how to think before opening my mouth.  Some of these things I’ve learned by living with Joe and some of these I learned from Joe’s example. And quite frankly, my children would have died in infancy if not for their father. With 6 brothers and sisters he was a pro at feeding and changing diapers. I didn’t have a clue. He also taught me how to live in the moment and stop worrying so much about the future. In fact, he’s the one who taught me it was OK to leave dog hair on the floor and dishes in the sink.

Does he drive me nuts? You bet. I’m sure I do the same thing to him. But at the end of the day (and hopefully our lives) it will be the two of us in our RV cruising the highways and bi-ways of American looking for the world’s largest ball of twine.  Wish us luck getting there.

The Lord Giveth, The Lord Taketh Away

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes the hardest part about writing is finding a good beginning. And since I can’t find a good beginning, I’m just going to start in the middle. I had my appointment with the MS Specialist on Monday and he is fairly certain based on my physical symptoms that I don’t have MS. He still wants to see the actual MRI pictures but unless he sees anything on the pictures that weren’t annotated on the radiologist notes I can scratch that off of my list of worries. We still have a lot of work to do trying to figure out these continuing migraines and find a way to treat them along with the brain lesions, but things are certainly looking up. But enough about me, since I don’t find myself all that interesting.

One of the worst things about getting older is that you start to lose people from your life faster than you accumulate them. As if my mother’s continuing illness weren’t enough we received a call early this morning that Joe’s brother Stephen had passed away from a massive coronary. He was 51 years old and lived his life exactly as he wanted. A huge man with a huge personality you always knew when he was in a room. He was a great dancer and had a dry/sly wit. And whether he was directing it at you or someone else he was always spot on with his insights; whether you liked it or not.

During the 26 years I’ve been a member of the family I have watched while Steve struggled off and on with drug addiction and all of the demons that go with it. And yet for the last six months or so he was clean and sober. He was working and putting his life back together. Just yesterday he had spoken to his siblings and his mother and seemed upbeat and happy. So perhaps it is fitting that during this upswing in his life his heart finally gave out.

As I sit writing this my youngest son is having his 14th birthday party in the basement and I am reminded of how quickly time goes by. One day they are born and the next they are apply for grad school at MIT (way to go JJ!!!). In between the days go by and we think that tomorrow we will find time to enjoy life when our job is demanding or the house is less messy. The truth is that whether we have 51 years or 100 years there are never enough of them.

So  go out this weekend and enjoy the sunshine, rain, leaves, clouds…whatever. Call the people you love and a few you just like. Leave a few dirty dishes in the sink and dog hair on the floor. Count your blessings and enjoy all of your days.

Oops..I Did It Again

When I was a little girl, my mother often accused me of being overly dramatic and sensitive. Of course, I didn’t agree with her then, but I’m wondering now if she may not have had a point. In my last post I attempted to explain why I hadn’t been around in awhile and in doing so I think I may have set off a few unintentional alarm bells. Yes, I’ve had some health issues to deal with but I figure that anything that doesn’t end in my eminent demise is a good thing.

Having said that,  words can’t begin to convey my emotions at all of the encouraging messages I’ve received from friends and family over the last few days. I guess that sometimes we live in our own little slices of heaven and never stop to think that others might be even the slightest bit interested in how we’re doing. And, like most people, I’ve never gotten the hang of imparting bad/mediocre news without it sounding weird.  How does one mention that they are ill; but not critically so, without sounding melodramatic. If anyone has some good ideas, I’d love to hear them.

Now on to the latest news about my mother. She has what’s called Hemalytic Anemia which means that every 6 weeks or so she has to go in for a few pints of nice fresh blood. So today we went over to Northwest Community Hospital where they were kind enough to spend about 6 hours topping off her tank. She went in weak, tired and white and came out looking and feeling much better. In fact she was feeling so good she was hoping to stay up long enough to watch NCIS and NCIS, LA. She really has a thing for Mark Harmon.

I was there for about half of the procedure (she made me go home for lunch and a nap) and was able to spend some quality time with her. As I’m going through this process of watching her life wind down I keep remembering a conversation I had with my old friend Michelle. Michelle is one of those people who everyone should have in their life. Grounded, smart, thoughtful, kind, and above all compassionate. She really lives the ideals of a Christian life. But I digress. When her mother was dying a few years ago from cancer she spent time with her in hospice and was able to come to terms with many of the conflicts that we invariably have with our parents.

I remember thinking at the time what a gift it was for her to be able to do this. And even more than that was her ability to find closure in the conversations. In talking to her mother and coming to terms with the answers her mother gave her and not the ones she wanted to hear. I mean let’s be honest here. What are the odds that we are going to hear what we want to hear? So as I watched my mother sleeping and dreaming I realized that once upon a time she was a helpless infant and child. I wondered how anyone could look at this little person as her mother had and not want to do everything in their power to protect and nurture them. And yet, that hadn’t happened with my mother.

When she woke up I asked her about it and her answer was simple. She said. “My mother, fed, clothed and educated me and that’s all most parents did back then. That’s what they did”. I had never heard my mother utter words of acceptance or forgiveness for her own mother and yet there it was. She had finally given me a response that was totally unexpected and proved that you can learn even as your life is ending.

And although I’ve been slowly coming to terms with my own relationship with my mother over these last few months I’ve never had more admiration and respect for her than I did today. We talked about how long she wanted to continue with the treatments and how she wanted to end her life. For all the pain her going will cause, I am eternally grateful that she is willing to talk so candidly and openly about her passing. It is truly inspirational.

And so although I’m going through a rough patch now I know that it won’t always be this way. As with most things in life, this too shall pass.

Long Time…No Post

For anyone who actually reads this (all 3 of you) it has been a long four months since I last posted. In an effort to only share good news I’ve waited to post until I had some, but good news has been in short supply these last four months. When last I posted I was off to get more tests with the idea that I could nail down this illness and start moving on. Well things didn’t work out exactly as I’d planned.

The good news is that all the blood tests and the spinal tap showed that I don’t cancer or a brain tumor. That was a huge relief. But further testing; including an EEG, showed that I have seizure activity in the left side of my brain. Another MRI showed that the lesions were active on the left side of my brain, a sure indication of MS. Not good news. In the meantime, my short-term leave expired on August 15th and after 11 1/2 years I am no longer employed at Ampere Media. It has been financially devastating for my family and assuming I ever get cleared to go back to work it will certainly be a challenge to find a job. Let’s just say that statistically the job prospects for an unemployed 52 year old woman with a BA in English are not good. Would you like fries with that?

In related news, during this whole thing my mother had to have emergency heart surgery to repair a valve in her heart and have double by-pass. Originally it looked like the surgery was successful, but two weeks after, the valve started leaking and she required a transfusion. In a very short time we had to move her out of her apartment into assisted living. She will never get better, but for now she is holding her own and her blood pressure and blood sugar are doing well.

So, what started out as a simple blog to chronicle my path to going gray has turned into something completely different. But I have learned some really great lessons these last few months. First, you never know how many people really care about you until you need them. In my family I have always been the go-to person for getting things done. This is probably due to being the oldest. But when my mother became ill, my sister-in-law Elyse took care of getting her moved and into independent living. We couldn’t have done it without her.

My older son, JJ and my middle son Will have been a constant source of emotional support and without my mother-in-law Virginia I would be living in the streets babbling to myself. But mostly I’ve learned that we are not born alone and sometimes we have to lean on others when things get tough. I’m seeing an MS specialist on October 3rd and continue to see a neurologist to fine-tune my meds to keep the migraines somewhat under control.  Most days I’m still to wacked-out to do much, but I am hopeful that at some point I will get this thing jigged.

And finally, on a lighter note. After almost and entire year of being gray, I’ve decided to have some fun and start experimenting with fun colors like purple, pink and red. And I don’t mean “Emma Stone” red. I mean Rihanna red. According to Ann; my stylist and friend, the gray parts will be bright colors and the rest will just remain dark. Ever since the early ’80’s I’ve wanted purple hair and now I’m going to get it. I’ll post a picture as soon as I get the color done in October.

This Is Spinal Tap

Several posts ago I mentioned the migraine headaches I’ve been getting for the last three months and my hope that this was just another one of those annoying symptoms of “menopause”. After a number of tests and two MRI’s I found out a week ago that I had three lesions in my brain of 5 cm’s each. When my neurologist first suggested an MRI, neither of us expected anything to show up. She had already done an exam to make sure I didn’t have Alzheimer’s, MS or other neurological disorders. So it was a huge surprise to both of us to get this abnormal MRI.

So starting a week ago Monday, I had a more extensive exam for MS as well as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. I also had another MRI to make sure I didn’t have any lesions in my upper spine. The good news  was that the lesions weren’t in my spine and I don’t have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. The scary thing about this though was that I had to have a lumbar puncture.  In other words…a Spinal Tap. Now there’s a word that inspires fear; or laughter, depending on what side of the fence you’re on. I’ve chosen to look on the mockumentary side of the issue.

First, a few words about the actual spinal tap procedure. I made the appointment for the spinal tap a week ago along with tests for hearing and balance.  All of these tests required a few days of prep which included drinking 3 quarts of water, avoiding pain killers, allergy meds, sleeping pills and Xanax. Needless to say the weekend was not a lot of fun. Between the itchy eyes and two days of sleeplessness, I finally had the spinal tap today. And you know what? It wasn’t that bad. In fact, the worst part is for the next 24 hours where I have to lie at a 45 degree angle and sit still as much as possible. I’m bored already. I have to do this to equalize the pressure in my spine. If  I don’t do this then I run the risk of excruciating migraines; which is kind of funny since that’s the reason I was sent to the neurologist in the first place.

Tomorrow is my last test and I hope to have a diagnosis by Friday. In the meantime, I like to count my blessings. My family is healthy and my guess is that any issues with my brain are purely mental. Let’s turn life up to ELEVEN!

Previous Older Entries