Thursday, June 30, 2011

Day 305--Hope and Promises

I have had type 2 diabetes for most of my life.  I was diagnosed in 1992, and I know I had insulin resistance from my early teens.  There are certain signs you can look for that indicate insulin resistance, and in hindsight, I can easily identify them.  One of the biggest signs is discolored skin around the neck, armpits, and groin areas.  I remember scrubbing my neck as hard as I could to rid myself of that ring, only to have my skin dry red and the discoloration still there.  I even tried bleaching my skin...with Clorox.  I didn't know what that ring was or why I had it but I wanted it gone.  None of my friends had it, and some of the kids at school had noticed and made fun of me for it.  It would be years before I would wear my hair up without wearing a turtleneck or collared shirt of some kind.

Being overweight, I'm hardly a candidate for Best Diabetic of the Year award.  I eat what I want, exercise if I feel like it, lose my meters and ignore them if I don't feel like testing.  Yep.  I'm THAT diabetic.  As I've walked the last twenty years with this disease, I've learned that I'm not alone.  There are plenty of diabetics out there who are just as "bad" or even "worse" when it comes to caring for their diabetes.  I'm fortunate--my doctors stumbled upon a good mix of medication that helped to lower my blood sugar, and while it's still a bit higher than it needs to be, it's not nearly as bad as it once was.

A few months ago I ended up in the emergency room after a vicious round with the stomach flu.  The doctor was afraid I had appendicitis.  The ER doctor did not find any evidence of appendicitis but threw a new diagnosis in the mix.  He was certain I had gastroparesis, a condition where the stomach does not digest the food quickly enough and the food literally rots in the stomach.  I had my doubts about that diagnosis because vomiting wasn't my only symptom, if you know what I mean.  But he brought up the need for me to do what I'd been putting off for years--finding an endocrinologist.

The first appointment I had I cancelled.  I didn't feel good.  In all fairness, I really didn't feel good, but I was afraid.  Endocrinologists are scary folks.  I sometimes think that when people specialize in some form of medicine they kind of think they're a demi-god.  The last endocrinologist I had seen had grabbed my shoulder, punched me in a tender point and asked if it hurt.  Yes, dear, and I hope it's okay when my foot flew out and kicked your scrotum.

So today I had an appointment.  I couldn't bow out of it no matter what I wanted to do.  I have this strategy to get through scary or painful things.  I tell myself it will be over in x number of hours, and I can do anything for x number of hours.  Really, there are a lot of things I don't like that I can manage for a few hours.  Right?  So I got myself ready and my mom and I headed over.  Helpful hint--if you are in pain or have some sort of illness that makes it hard to pay complete attention, it's an excellent idea to take another person with you.  Often, they will remember things (and may even take notes) that you don't remember because you're so focused on the pain or that ungodly blood pressure cuff or trying not to watch them suck out a liter of your blood.

And shocker--this doctor and his nurse were absolutely awesome.  Nobody told me I was going to die.  Nobody treated me like a "bad patient".  Nobody asked me why I hadn't been to the endocrinologist in a long time.  They just treated me normally, like a real human being, and we discussed options to provide better control.  They didn't even lecture me for my lack of a meter.  And best of all, nobody made me feel like a bad girl.  The doctor noted that it may be helpful too, to get my blood sugar a bit more stable to help me feel better.  I really liked that idea.

Yesterday my therapist said something really important to me.  She told me that as I go forward in this process, I'll learn my own unique tricks to manage my fibromyalgia.  That I won't always feel this badly. This is kind of the bottom, and it will get better from here.  It will get better.

And I wasn't sure if I believed her, but it sure was a good bit of hope and promise.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

See Ya Around, Detectives

My day sucked a big fat ostrich egg today.  Well, that's more polite than saying it sucked something else.

More pain, more tears, slept too long, frustration from the kids, made my mother mad, what else could go wrong?  Oh, I decided to be a stubborn bitch and not take any medication today because I felt too "drugged" yesterday and I slept too long.  Brilliant idea, by the way.  My trigger points are killing me today and I spilled near-boiling water on my shirt making a fucking pasta salad I didn't even want to eat because my mom asked me to do it.

I was ready to go to bed at six...

but I couldn't...because my favorite detectives were fading to black tonight.  Supposedly.

I'm kind of waiting with baited breath that USA will renew their contracts for eight more episodes next season.  Eight episodes seemed to be the magic number.  Now, I'm not by any means praising EVERY episode this season.  What has been different is the groove.  Goren and Eames felt like, well, Goren and Eames.  Like partners.  Like partners who had worked together for ten years and knew each other well, and not only knew each other but WANTED to work together, because there was magic when they did. And the quirky, sharp, and intense moments we had come to look forward to had returned.  Bobby was less damaged (finally...thank God...anyone else who had suffered all he had would have swallowed his gun by now).  Alex was more interactive with him, more like she had made peace with herself and with him.

In this case, it's clear the magic is also what goes on behind the scenes--writers, cameras, producers, directors.  Was that Gloria Allred tonight?  And Cynthia Nixon last week in a fabulous role.  Obviously James van der Beek--yes, Dawson--was there tonight, playing the devious Rex.  You know, the guy you wished had done it but unfortunately was too self-involved to care enough to kill anybody.

A lot of fans have talked about the "cliched" moments between Goren and his psychologist, Dr. Gyson, played (in my opinion) brilliantly by Julia Ormond.  I've thought Julia was a fantastic actress ever since I saw her in "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" almost twenty-five years ago.  And she's been the perfect intellectual and emotional match to get into Goren's head (wtg, writers!).  She spoke truths about Goren that we all knew but he failed to acknowledge, because of the obvious--fear.  It's his achilles heel, matched with his anger, and what draws fans like me to want to turn a fictional character into a real live man to rescue.

It's been amazing to me how much they've been able to show multiple sides of these characters that we didn't know in just eight episodes.  One of my favorites this season was when Bobby and Alex stopped by her dad's place.  We saw a different side of Alex--one that was frustrated with her father's shortcomings.  For eight years we heard about her dad, her father, her old man.  The cop that fell short on the job and everybody knew it, but his daughter seemed to love him anyway and often shared anecdotes about him.

And Bobby?  We're still left with wondering where Donnie went, how he's related to little cousin Molly,  but understand that his psychologist is going to challenge him to find the man inside the cop...which sums up Goren nicely.  Maybe if he was more comfortable with the man he was rather than only the cop he is, his glimpses of personality wouldn't be so aggressive or violent.  (I worked on a degree in social work and have a bachelor's in psychology.  I'm programmed to analyze.  So sue me.)

At any rate, I remember sitting here a year and a half ago, watching some form of hideousness that somebody tried to play off as a goodbye to two iconic characters.  Granted, not everybody likes, or can even tolerate, Goren.  But those of us who do tend to love him, or even love both of them.  Goren without Eames would be like peanut butter without jelly.  And vice versa.

Despite my misgivings that this is REALLY the end of the show, I have to admit that I felt sad watching two characters that I have loved so much fade to black.  I'm thrilled that this ending allowed the partners to not only stay together but to continue to fight crime.  Heck, there was even hope that Bobby might find himself, and STILL be able to fight crime.

I had to remind myself that the end is never the end.  I've long held that I'm not really a huge D'Onofrio fan (actually I really appreciate Kathryn Erbe's skills to play the not-so-bigger than life partner and do so without disappearing into the background).  But the magic of Bobby and Alex--for the most part--has been not only amazing, but damn fun to watch.  Her snarkiness and his physicality, and their protectiveness of their relationship as partners was nothing short of moving.  And this last episode, despite the fact it seemed to bounce as much as Eames alluded to Rex's naked butt, gave a wonderful opportunity to give us exactly what we love about our detectives.

Favorite line-  It has to be when Eames is explaining what "Kismate" is and Goren asks her if she has a subscription.  The "no" she replies with is nothing short of the snarkiness we'd expect.  Fabulous.

Goren squeezing into the seat next to Rex and using his entire body to squish Rex as much as possible was classically true to character.  Perfect, almost as much as his mock improvisation of a caveman "foraging" to PJ, the boy in the blue knit cap.

The scene with Dr. Gyson, where he accuses her of lying to him but without his usual anger, was a wonderful summary of where he has been and where he is going.  And the fact that he insisted she see's true, our Bobby can trust more people than Eames.

But the finale wouldn't be the finale without the final scene.  Eames waiting for Goren outside of his therapy session was a classic twist on Season six's second episode, directly after Eames' kidnapping.  What's good for the goose, I suppose, right?  And the look of sheer pleasure on her face at seeing him, and his shy return of the same look...wonderful.

"Let's go!"  And they did.  The only fault I could find was the damn're driving to a DOA.  Shouldn't you put on a seatbelt, folks?

One thing that struck me so fantastically this season is how energized both D'Onofrio and Erbe seemed to be, as though they were thrilled to be back.  Personally, I don't think that either of them expected such an uproar from their fan base.  Knowing that despite the politics that went on at their departure, they were wanted back by Dick Wolf, by their old crew, and by their fans must have made for a brilliant homecoming of sorts.

Detective Eames will always be there, in my mind, to balance out Detective Goren's more daring nature, and he will be there to urge her to stretch out of the box.  For several years I have welcomed them into my home, and i will continue to do so with reruns and DVDs.  Thanks guys, for giving me such pleasure for so long.  Thanks a lot.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Day whatever it is--More Tears and Exhaustion

So I had planned to get up today and run a few errands.  Three to be exact.  I was going to go to Old Navy to buy my daughter two dollar tank tops, Costco because my mom needed to pick up some things, and back by the City's Health and Wellness Center to buy a membership for me and my daughter.  I had been trying to get these things done but had written them off over the last few days because I was tired and felt bad.  Aside from my normal achiness and exhaustion, I've got some sort of sinus ickiness going on.  I know myself well enough to know that I needed to trap myself into going, so I asked my mom if she would go with me.  There is no telling my mother no, and I knew that when I asked her to go with me.

So what did I do to ensure my success this morning?  Does taking a Zyrtec last night count?  Because I didn't take anything for the incredibly nasty overabundance of mucous I have going on, and i didn't go to bed on time either.  So when it was time to get up, not only did I have my normal "feel like being dragged along by a moped" feeling, I was working a "hit by a MAC truck" feeling.  I dragged my sorry ass out of bed around 9:40 (knowing we were leaving at ten, haha) to shower and dress.  I knew as soon as I hit the shower this was a bad idea.  My back was killing me, I was exhausted, and I wanted nothing more than to crawl back in bed and sleep.  But I dressed and went to sit on my mom's bed.

My mother was fixing her slipcover on her settee, talking to herself.  She always talks to herself.  A minute later she heard the jingle of Gabi's collar and cheerily sang, "I hear you!"  Then she spun around. "Oh!" she exclaimed.  "You scared me!"

I started to cry.  I cry all the time--my family is fairly used to seeing me in tears these days.

She assured me I would be okay, and we'd stop to get coffee on the way out.  Did I want to drive?

Hell no, I didn't want to drive.

Now that right there should tell you exactly how shitty I felt.  My mother is almost seventy now and drives like it, too.  She drives like she has some sort of palsy, shaking the wheel back and forth.  I was already nauseated (shocker again) but I felt so bad that was no way I was going to drive.  I'd have to risk it in Katherine Hepburn's shaky hands.

So first stop, Starbucks.  I love Starbucks.  I am addicted to Starbucks.  I like to pretend it pays me to indulge because they send me free stuff once in awhile.  Because you know, if you buy ten or fifteen five dollar drinks and you get one for free, that's an awesome value.  I try to ignore my mathematical and common sense abilities when I drink at Starbucks.  I know people who get drunk for less than it costs to indulge at Starbucks.  And God forbid I take my kid.

So I got my grande iced mocha and a piece of coffee cake.  Don't ask why I got the damn cake.  I don't know.  Because I could and I wanted it.  My mother still can't order at Starbucks.  She just reads something off the menu and hopes it tastes good.  If I'm with her she always says, "I'll have what she's having."  So they gave her an iced mocha too, and she wanted to sweeten it with splenda.  Uh, too late, mom...they put in a shitload of chocolate syrup.  Oh, she said...uh, okay, this isn't what I got yesterday...

I don't doubt that a bit.

Old Navy was already about out of their tank tops.  I got four in basic neutral colors for my daughter.  Then we went to kinko's.  I sat in the car counting people going into the new restaurant while my mom went to have two posters made.  Six people entered 'HIBACHI GRILL SUPER BUFFET'.  The building was huge.  I wondered if the super buffet lived up to its name.

Finally Costco.  I had already downed my coffee.  It figured.  Whenever I get a venti I never finish it, and whenever I get a grande I suck it down like a camel in a desert.  I also try to kid myself that it's not bad for me.  See, I get lowfat or nonfat milk and no whipped cream, so clearly the sugar and calories in the chocolate syrup count for nothing.  And we're not talking about the coffee cake, that was still sitting in my purse untouched.  And because I was dizzy, sore, exhausted, and lightheaded, my mother had to forget her costco card.  She started in to her routine lament-"Dammit, I left my card at home!"

Then I always say, "Calm down, can go to the service desk."

And then she says, "Will that work?"

And I say, "Yes...remember last time?"

So we get the copy of the card and put the things we need in the cart.  I sampled a few things while there. A meatball with teriyaki sauce, a salmon burger, a peach, some sorbet, a taste of acai berry juice.  The meatball was good.  The peaches weren't ripe.  I didn't care enough about the other stuff to note it.

I went to sit down while my mother wandered the rest of the store.  I'm always fascinated by the people who make their way to Costco at lunch time.  My cousin used to joke that he'd go at lunch to do his shopping because he got a free lunch of samples as he shopped.  I guess if the samples are scarce on a given day, you can stop and order the hot dog and drink for a buck-fifty.  I remember when my dad would pull that on us--make us go to the store under the guise of buying us lunch, and lunch was a hotdog and drink at Costco.  Is that thrifty or just damn cheap?

Finally we finished the errands and came home.  I grabbed a few things to go inside.  I think I left my mother talking to her car.  I'm not really sure.  Like I said, she talks to herself, so what do I know?

I cried in the car and I cried when I got home.  Pain and fear are the worst parts of this illness.  Everyone keeps saying "You have to make yourself fight it."  Okay.  Let me karate kick you in the lower back, yank your arms out of their sockets, keep you up half the night and bury your nose in superboogers.  See how you feel.

Knowing they're right doesn't help.  I have to figure out a way to get up every day, get dressed, and go DO something.  ANYTHING.  Even if I don't want to.  It's hard and I don't like it.  I don't like it at all.

Boogersnot.  Bleah.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Hey, You're My Best Friend

There's something inherently sweet and innocent to me about pets.  I've had a variety throughout my life and each one has had a unique personality, just as people do.  When I was born, my parents had a cat named Frisky.  I have a few memories of Frisky, all of which are linked to some kind of intense emotion--the night Frisky got hit by a car, the day Frisky, in his old age, scratched me.  Finally Frisky being put down.  

As a young child I had a hamster.  I was always afraid to handle him.  Brownie bit, but he was MY hamster.  Until he ran away, that is.  Buh-bye, Brownie.  Gerbils were next, then a guinea pig named Gin (don't ask).  The gerbils cannibalized each other and Gin died of pneumonia.

Wow.  This is not going well.

Our first dog was a puppy that was literally disposed of in our babysitter's front yard along with five of her littermates.  Lady was half Irish Setter, half Golden Retriever.  If you know anything about dogs, you know that's a combination for a pretty big animal.  We loved Lady but puppyhood is a short time in a dog's life.  My parents never really had Lady trained, so she barked, jumped fences, and ran away.  She finally ended up being given to a family on some farm land.

Our next dog was a Wheaten Terrier that some genius in the family named Curly (apologies to my mom--I think it was her).  Curly and I never really got along well.  He was definitely my mom's dog.  In the meantime, I made friends with the neighbor's outside cat.  One day I opened my walk-in closet to find Tigger the cat and her new baby kittens.  She had definitely found a safe place for her babies.

When I was sixteen, I was leaving the mall with a friend and we heard a cat crying in the parking lot.  It was a rainy, windy day and the cat was so pitiful, I picked up the animal and brought her home.  After trying diligently to find its owner, we gave up and kept her.  I named her Puss (apparently bad names run in the family).  Thus began my real attachment and love for animals.  

Somebody had forgotten to inform that cat that she was an animal.  She became my best friend, following me everywhere.  She even met me halfway on my walk home from school each day.  She surprised us a year later by giving birth to a single kitten in our dryer.  I named him Pops.  Pops did know he was a cat, and never was bonded with me like his mother.  One day he just disappeared.

When I came home on a visit from college, I found out that Puss had died.  She had been outside a few days before in the rain, and we guessed she contracted pneumonia and died.  I was devastated at her passing.  For several months after I pondered getting another cat, and finally gave in.  A tiny black kitten who looked a lot like Puss, Peru was typical independent cat (the names start to get better now!).  I was in college and did a lot of moving all around.  Eventually I landed back in my parents' home, and so did Peru.  Around me, Peru wasn't interested in playing or snuggling or anything else, but around my mother, she was a completely different cat.  My mom and Peru had such a tight relationship that we jokingly referred to Peru as "the princess" and my mother's "second daughter".  She had found her forever home--with my mother--and there she stayed for ten more years before she passed away.

Enter Amanda.  My brother had adopted a dog from the shelter, but decided he couldn't keep her, so she ended up with me.  Amanda had lived a difficult life before us; whenever she heard a man's voice she would shake and hang her head.  Several times she urinated on the floor due to fear.  She needed love and attention to heal, and that's what I gave her.  She never left my side and I loved her unconditionally, as she did me.  Eventually Amanda grew more comfortable around all people.  She was a huge part of my life for seventeen years.  She saw me through two degrees, a marriage, a cross country move, and two children.  She was kind and patient and loving.  When it became clear that she was in too much pain to continue on, I sat with her, petting her head and telling her how much I loved her as the vet administered the shots to end her life.  I remember thinking how quickly those medications stopped her heart, the heart that I loved so strongly.  And when the vet left me alone with her to say goodbye, telling me to take my time, he was hardly out of the room before I began sobbing, burying my face in her soft coat for the last time.

Amanda's death was incredibly hard on me.  I cried for three weeks straight, it seemed, mourning her loss and feeling the loneliness her death left.  After three weeks I couldn't stand myself anymore, and I made the decision to get another dog. My husband and I had agreed on the qualities we wanted in a pet and so I went to the local no-kill shelter.  I told the volunteer at the desk what i was looking for and she brought out two dogs and encouraged me to spend time with each one.  It felt funny to me, almost like trying out a new shoe or something.  Neither dog felt right to me, and the thought that I may never find another dog as special as Amanda was weighing on me heavily.  

One of the volunteers followed me outside as I was getting ready to leave.  She was holding a curly fluff ball barely bigger than her hand.  The dog had just been brought to the shelter the day before, she said, and before they could adopt her out she had to be on a medical hold for ten days to ensure her health.

I called the shelter every day for a week, checking on the puppy's progress.  The more time went on, the more I grew attached to the idea of this puppy.  I had never even held her, never spent any kind of quality time with her, but somehow I knew she was the one.  I was convinced.  And after a week, when the volunteer placed the tiny puppy in my daughter's hands, I knew I had been right.

The kids actually chose her name.  I had narrowed it down to Sophie or Gabriela, and both kids unanimously chose Gabriela.  It took only a few hours for us to begin to call her Gabi.  She went everywhere with me, including work.  She was a complete delight and was housebroken within six weeks.  One of her favorite things to do was to chase squirrels in the backyard.  She had a hilarious run where she would leap and cover large amounts of ground.  During that early puppy time, her leaping run was one of the things that kept us in stitches over her.

Gabi came to us with a whole host of health problems, including worms and kennel cough as well as a broken tail and ongoing allergies.  After several months, we had a happy, healthy puppy whose only reminder of her life as a stray was the broken tip of her tail.  It gives her character.

One of the things I love so much about Gabi is how smart she is.  This dog learns training commands extremely fast.  She understands several words as well.  She still is impulsive and we have to watch her around doors to make sure she doesn't get out.  

She's entirely different from Amanda.  Where Amanda was a quiet, obedient dog, this one runs in circles and loves her toys.  If we play with her and she has an urge to rough house back, she runs to get one of her "babies".  We call her toys her babies, and she loves to get in playtime every day.

Recently, she has become more able to control her impulses, but not without letting us know how she feels.  If we tell her no, she will stop but talks to herself.  She makes funny noises in her throat and looks at us as if to let us know she's none too pleased herself.  

If she knows she's going "bye bye", she'll run over and jump in her carrier and sit.  I've never before seen a dog so excited to travel!  Yesterday, she saw me putting on my shoes.  She followed me to the door and I told her goodbye.  As I entered the hallway, my mother was approaching.  When my mother opened the door, Gabi flew out and ran down the condo hall with the speed of lightning before jumping on me.

Whereas Amanda was my sweet girl, Gabi is my buddy.  It never ceases to amaze me how affectionate some animals can be.  Some of my favorite times include those when Gabi is resting in my arms, sleeping lightly as I hold her..

Gabi is a blessing, for sure.  She will never take the place of Amanda, but I wouldn't want her to.  She's her own unique animal, and I love her for that.

Day 314-Irony

One thing that never ceases to amaze me is how life twists and turns.  Just when I think I've mastered the whole thing, there we go again.

I had to babysit overnight the other night, and I had woken up with what I call classic fibro fog--it's kind of an out of body experience--and I didn't want to go.  It didn't take long for the tears to start and I cried off and on before I got there, and then after the children went to bed I cried some more.  Sobbing is more accurate.  Big, shaking sobs.  My whole body was in pain by that point and I was dizzy and nauseous, pain radiating through my back and shoulder muscles.  The intensity was horrific, and through my sobs, I found myself wondering if I would ever be able to work again.  Sometime around midnight I called my mother, a hair shy of hysterical.  I was scared, I told her.  What if this is my life and it never gets any better?  What if I end up on disability?  I felt so useless.  My mother assured me that I wasn't useless, that things would get better.  And that it was okay.  After several more tear-filled minutes, I hung up the phone, only to hear a little voice beside me.

"Mama, you're not useless."

My daughter had come with me to babysit.  She didn't understand why I was crying (hell, I didn't understand why I was crying), but she knew I was suffering and she wanted to make it better.

When I was thirteen, my mom was about forty-one, or my age now.  I remember my dad going on a business trip and me being alone with my mom while she wept from stress.  I remember hugging her and feeling scared and helpless.  I had sworn I would never do that to my children.  Yet here I was, shaking and crying in the middle of the night, with my twelve-year old holding my hand and reassuring me that I had a purpose.  And all I could say to her was, "I'm sorry."

I'm sorry.  I'm sorry for crying?  I'm sorry for sucking as a mom?  I'm sorry that I'm always too tired or too sore or too pitiful to do anything anymore?  I'm sorry that I'm being such a baby.

I seem to spend a lot of time dreading the time I have to spend doing something I don't want to do.  I spend a lot of time worrying or working myself up into a tizzy.  I spend the time I have that could be good dreading the time that will inevitably be bad.  I don't know how to change that, but I don't want my kids growing up with the same attitude or the same struggles.

unfinished; published 6/23/11

Friday, June 17, 2011

Day 318--Tears

My biggest challenge this week seems to have been exhaustion, combined with a sore back.  I don't know what the back issue is.  It's not bad enough to go to the doctor but is just kind of irritating.

Things have settled down here with the children.  It has become clear that the children need more time apart and my daughter needs a safe place to land.  So we'll be working on getting her set up with a therapist too, and trying to have the children spend as much time apart this summer as needed.  We had a good therapy session today, my son and I, and I am hopeful that now we can get to the real work.

I have been feeling anxious more, lately.  My own therapist has said I need to focus more on myself, talk more about myself in therapy.  Part of my anxiety is that I can't really separate myself from my children.  For over ten years I have been their primary caregiver.  I have taken them to school and to sporting events; I have arranged and followed through with all of the doctor and dentist and psychology appointments.  I spent all my free time taking the kids with me to the park or the movies or the store.  Yes, I came to my parents' house a year ago in a state of exhaustion.  And it has been a tough year--one of the toughest in my life.  But I feel as though I'm on the verge of being able to pick up and begin to put me back together.  The process, however, frightens me.  What if I don't know how?  Moreover, what if I become lost in trying to define myself and find that I can't?

Tonight I was catching up with some friends on facebook and ran across a post from a former student.  This student lost her infant to SIDS in February.  She has been blogging and found the courage to write about her last day with her child.  As I read her words, sobs caught in my throat.  My biggest fear, for the last ten years, has been that somehow our children would be taken away from us.  That fear is paralyzing, thinking that you will never see your child again.  But I have never lived that horror; even in our worst moments we were imagining a change of custody, not a death of a child.  I could not read her words without sobbing openly.  I know I will forever be changed by her story.

As a teacher, one of your roles is to work with parents and build positive relationships with them.  Often I hear both parents AND teachers comment on being able to understand one another's perspectives.  Teachers who don't have children often think they can understand a parent's perspective.  To some extent, they can.  Teachers love the children they work with; they make connections and bond and join forces with parents to create the best learning environment possible.

I used to believe that I truly understood a parent's perspective.  After all, my closest friend was a parent of two beautiful little girls, and I spent a good deal of time with all three of them.  Parents even assumed that I had children because I worked so well with kids and knew how to communicate positively and proactively with parents.  It wasn't until years later when I became a mother that I finally understood what it means to be a parent.

Being a mother made me more passionate than I had ever been.  The expression "mama bear" was created for women like me, who become fiercely protective of their young.  I never experienced a love like I have as a mom.  There is no human relationship that even compares to how you feel toward your child.

I cannot imagine facing the horror of finding one of my children dead.  Of remembering that last hug, last bottle, last kiss goodbye.  It is one of the biggest nightmare any parent can imagine.

I pray that my former student finds some peace and solace in her process of sharing her story.  The bravery it took to share her last day with her child was tremendous and deeply moving.

And I'll continue to pray that she is comforted, and that we find a cure for SIDS.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Day 321-Anger

I am so absolutely horrified by feeling this letting this illness steal the best and the rest of my life.

Helen used to ask me "Who promised you easy?"  Well, nobody...and they seem intent on making sure that I don't GET easy.

I lay in bed all day today.  Every inch of tissue in my body hurts, inflamed with this fucking illness.  I cancelled two interviews I had this week because I couldn't get out of bed.

Scratch that.  I didn't try to get out of bed because I hurt so much.  I just wanted to lay here and snuggle my daughter.  I just wanted to focus on her, on my love for this little girl and to forget everything this damn illness is robbing me of.

It's robbed me of my self-esteem, most of all.  Limiting what I can and cannot do.  Okay, so I've given myself a walk on any jobs of major hours or importance.  I have things I need to do though.  A sleep study.  Physical therapy.  Xrays and ultrasounds.  And visiting my therapist every week.

So if I'm going to slack off on the work and give myself a free pass for the summer, then I need to toughen up and get the things done that my doctors have told me to do.  That has GOT to be my job.  Getting in the swimming pool.  Taking a walk.  Getting healthy sleep and balancing my days.  I KNOW I have it in me to survive and beat this.  No amount of tears will ever fix it.  I have to dig myself out of this hole of self-pity and live my life.  I have to appreciate what I have.  Nobody has an easy ride.  Everybody struggles and I am not any more special than others.

Giving up those potential jobs today may or may not have been a mistake.  I don't know.  I don't think it would have been fair to the children to have someone who is so sore and stiff to care for them.  I don't think it would have been fair to me either.  Whether I like it or not, I have a very difficult illness and I have to accept that and work with it.  There may never come a day that I feel super great all the time.  But maybe there will come a day I feel super great.  Or even good enough to take my daughter to the theme park, or to the movies, or out shopping and enjoy it.  Maybe there will come a time, soon, that I can make myself breathe in the air and appreciate its feel.

My single goal at this point is to make myself better.  Whatever I need to do, whatever I need to take and participate in, I need to do it with the gusto of a woman hanging on for dear life.  And it starts tomorrow, with a shower upon waking to loosen up my muscles.  Then my priorities are to fill in paperwork for the Y, take my daughter to auditions for her camp, and in between to schedule a sleep study and make a PT appointment.

If I'm going to grab my life back, I might as well do it with all the gusto I can.

this is not how i want to live my life, and i reject that it is God's plan for me.  God plans great things for me, brilliant light and beauty.  This is not his plan for me, but it may be part of his plan to get me there.  To prove to myself that I am worth that work and dedication and love.

I am worth loving.  I am.  And I will get better.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Day 322--Perseverence

It's been a long, exhausting weekend.

Attachment disorder mixed with hormones is not a pretty picture.  I feel as though I've been fighting a demon for days and I never know when it will rear its ugly head again.

I could try to describe the reactions of an attachment disordered child, but it's far too complex and would require me to relive the random dissociative threats he makes, as though they make perfect sense.

I saw a show one time about psychics and the skeptic on the show talked about cold readings.  Basically the psychic throws out a bunch of generic information very fast until he or she sees some sort of recognition, and then goes from there.  That describes my son very well.  He throws out tons of emotionally laden sentences very quickly with the hope all of the bat swinging will eventually hit the ball.  And, of course, sometimes it does.

One of the things many of my friends who have special needs children talk about is acceptance.  I may have posted about this before, but there is a movement in the special needs community to accept children how they are, rather than trying to "fix" them.  I can't imagine NOT wanting to fix my child.  I can't believe it's in his best interest to live this way, in a rageful impulsive fashion.  I simply don't believe that. I believe that my son wants to feel at peace but has no idea how to get there, and it's my job to help him figure that out.

Sometimes it does feel like you are literally battling the disorder to save the life of your child.

Attachment disorder, along with most emotional disorders, is something that I have a hard time wrapping my mind around being acceptable.  The anger, the manipulation, the lying and stealing and rage isn't acceptable, not only to me but to our society.  What's going to happen in four years when he's legally an adult?

If I admit to myself and to the world that I could see him becoming a stalker, or a theif, or a drug addict, does that make me a bad mother?  If I admit his behavior is beyond my control or help, does that make me a failure?  If I admit his behavior is devastating to his sister's development, does it mean I'm giving up?

Acceptance that this is his life is difficult, just as the idea of accepting that I cannot change him is difficult.  I honestly do not believe at this point I can change him.  He is always going to be impulsive.  He is always going to angry and see himself as a victim.  And he is always going to want his mother.  In his words, his "real" mother.

My daughter is struggling to live in our home right now because of her brother's behavior.  This weekend's blowup upset her tremendously.  I don't think she feels safe in her own home.  And after watching my son's absolute rage as he literally snarled at me, I can understand why.  Nobody should have to live in a home like that.  Nobody should have to live with so much anger and fighting.  I feel her pain and frustration and it makes me want to cry.  My loyalty cannot be to just one child when I have two.

I never imagined in a million years I would be fighting such a devastating illness and losing against it.  I never imagined that I could raise a child who presents as angry, selfish, and entitled.  I always imagined I would deal more with the problems I see with my daughter--occasional rudeness, disorganization, sorting out who she is.  You know, kid stuff.  Correcting her when she swears, insisting that she clean her messy room, dealing with piercings or hair dye.

But I'm not.  Instead, I'm dealing with depression and fear.  She feels separate.  She feels alone.  She feels that she's missing out on time with me and on having a normal life.  She's angry and hurt by his behavior, and has expressed a desire for her brother to leave.  She's never done that before.  Ever.

And so we persevere, but question if perseverence is even the right course to take, and what the other courses would be.  And of course, considering other options means considering the idea of the loss of this child from our family.

I have wondered if it would be in his best interest to be with a therapeutic foster family, a family who specializes in working with troubled children.  I just don't know.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Day 325--Slowly but surely

I'm rebuilding my life.

My pain has become far more manageable lately.  I still have some days that I wake up sore or have some lingering pain, but after taking my meds it is much more manageable.  I'm not vomiting as much as before, which is such a relief.  I did get ill today, but with the exception of that one time, the rest of my body felt pretty good.

I took my son out today and bought him an iced mocha at Starbucks.  This was a milestone for both of us in a few ways; first, it was his first real coffee drink and second, he got it as a surprise reward for remembering to turn his light out in his room more consistently.  I had written him a note that I was going to take him and left it on his bed.  Then he called at the end of school.

He asked for his dad first, who was asleep.  When I told him so, he hesitated, then told me he had missed the bus.  Apparently he had to go back to get his backpack and the bus was gone when he came out.  I told him it was okay and I'd come get him.  He thanked me and apologized, and it occurred to me how hard it is for me to cut this kid a break sometimes.

Over the year, he's missed his bus exactly two times--once in the morning and then once today.  For a kid his age who's never ridden a bus before, I don't think that's too bad.  In fact, it's pretty damn responsible.  We had talked to him about how he needs to turn the light off in his room when he isn't in there, and despite some very difficult days this week, he's been trying to do that, as well as to clean up after himself.

I'm a little ashamed to admit that I heard relief in his voice when I told him it was okay and I'd be there in a bit.  It served as a wake up call to how my child perceives me.  He expects to be chewed out for every mistake he makes.  He expects me to be angry and hostile toward him.  Where's his margin of error?  I don't give him one.

I can't remember the last time I took him to Starbucks.  I can't remember the last time the two of us went out to do anything together and didn't argue.

In the car, he began to get frantic and argumentative during a conversation we were having.  I told him that the way he was talking was frustrating to me.  And he stopped.  He stopped arguing and changed his response to one of semi agreement with me.  Just the fact that he stopped was amazing to me.  It made me feel valued by him.  The two of us have a long way to go in our communication but maybe...just maybe...we might make it.

I have interviews on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.  Amazing, huh?  And I feel like I can actually do it...I can go to the interviews and not fall apart.  That I can work two days a week, as one of the jobs has requested, and be okay.  That I might actually be able to bring in some money this summer and spend some time with my kids.  For the first time in months I've thought that I might be able to take my daughter to a theme park tomorrow, should I decide to do so.  It's all good.

Yeah.  Today, it is.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Day 326

My Dearest --,

This blog began because of you and I supposed it makes sense that it should circle around back to you.  It has been a long, hard struggle.  Some days I think the struggle is so long and so hard that I wonder if I do you any good at all.

Today I read an article about a mother who claimed she didn't love her child; in fact, she was repelled by her.  The description she gave, of a child who didn't sleep or eat or make eye contact, resonated with me.  I could understand that description as well as the feelings that go with them.

Dearest, you are the hardest person to like that I've ever known.  You are sarcastic and mean, loud and angry, clumsy and whiny.  Adolescence seems to have magnified these behaviors, making them viciously raw and painful for both of us.  And yet when your defenses fall away and all that is left is my teenaged son, sobbing from his soul, everything in me melts and all that is left is the mother in me, the one who loves you deeply.

Some days I am furiously angry with you and your sense of entitlement.  I am fed up with the obnoxious behavior and I'm certain you and I will end up on a horrific episode of Dr. Phil, with everyone we know sitting around us, sharing their unwelcome opinions of our relationship, baring all the pain that we both try to hide.  Never before have you so openly defied me, and on such unimportant, trivial things, as if just to prove that you can.  On a regular basis I feel overwhelmed by you, ripped open and raw, just waiting for the next verbal blow to fall.  You have the ability to be incredibly mean.

In some moments I see you, the real you, funny and kind and gentle.  Those moments are fewer and farther between these days, and I miss them.  You and I both struggle, two people in pain, trying to live in the same house.

And so I breathe deep again, trying to share the air, and love you no matter what.  Perhaps it's the love that makes it hurt the most.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Day 328--P-P-P-Pressure!

I guess everyone is entitled to a good meltdown every now and again.  Mine came yesterday and it was awesomely powerful.  I examine my life experiences to the nth degree and therefore consider myself a pretty analytical person.  So now in retrospect, I'm wondering how I got from just feeling tired to hysterically crying on my mother's loveseat saying that I wanted to die.

My mother is good at a lot of things.  She's good at nurturing people.  She's good at keeping a clean home. She's good at hostessing, and I'm fairly certain she's good at her job as a therapist.  She's also quite good at reminding me of the predicament I've gotten myself into.

I do recognize that she says the things she does out of love and a sense of needing to know what's going on.  But to some degree, I've found that it's easier to just nod and say "yes" rather than argue.  For instance, when she tells me what I should discuss with my therapist, I say, "yes mom" because it's easier than saying, "It's my therapist and I get to decide what I talk about during that hour, not you.  Stop being a controlling bitch."  See?  This way everyone is happy.  Because it really isn't any of her business.

When I think about the choices I've made throughout my life, I'm well aware that most of my choices--especially the big ones--have come from a place of fear, not of logic.  Most recently, I began trying to make some choices based on what I want, not what I'm afraid will happen.  That's a first for me.  And it's hard to say if that's good or bad, because the decision I made really is not one that most people I know would approve of.  In fact, most people, including all of those whom I've told about it, think it's poor decision-making.  And it may be.  But for the first time in my life I could breathe.  I could smell happiness and beauty.  I've felt things I've never felt before and never knew I was capable of.  Sometimes it intoxicates me to the point of fear.  But that's why I need to do it.

Vincent D'Onofrio has said, when people ask him how he chooses scripts, that he chooses the one that frightens him the most.  When I went to that interview eleven years ago at my last job, I was breathless.  I knew I was capable of the job and met all the requirements.  But it was a new job, a new situation; I was afraid.  And then I took the job, worked through the rough patches, and learned tons of information.

So I was sitting on my mother's loveseat yesterday, bawling over her questions and the inherent pressure of them.  When was I going to move out?  What did I want to do for a job?  Had I talked to this or that person?  What direction was my marriage going in?  What was my husband doing about this or that or whatever?  And yes, in that moment, I wanted to die.  I don't know what's going to happen and I don't have answers for her questions.  I wasn't particularly proud of my histrionics but I was so overwhelmed in the moment.

My depression has been deep and profound for awhile.  I think my mother is finally starting to understand that when I say I want to die it's an expression of a feeling--a scary, desperate one--but it doesn't mean "go hide the knives".

I recently had a falling out with some friends over the idea of suicide.  They looked at the phrase as a threat and that it was a selfish thing to do.  As a person who has dealt with depression the majority of her life, I don't see it that way.  I have a strong belief that people who commit suicide do so with the intent to save those around them from any more pain.  There are times I feel like an anchor that's dragging the ocean floor and my loved ones are the boat above, trying to move, but they can't.  They can't move because I'm holding them back.

I'm not naive enough to believe that nobody ever kills themselves for other reasons.  But I also believe that each of us wakes up every day and makes a decision to live or to die; to embrace life or to push it away.  Some days it's difficult--horribly difficult--to embrace life.  My bed looks very comfortable on those days.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Day 331--the Ins and Outs

Today I slept a lot today also.  I don't know why I've been so tired.  I know sometimes fibromyalgia can do that, as can depression.  And I'm depressed for sure.  I'm struggling to find a job--any job.  I don't know why I'm so desperate for one right now.  I know in my heart that I will have something by fall, so why worry now?  Because I can.  Instead of focusing on physical therapy, talk therapy, appropriate healthy habits to lower my stress, I feel the need to bring home the bacon, so to speak.

I have a lot of unresolved issues from my last job.  Well, technically I've worked at the community college in the spring, but I'm not really counting that.

I want to know why all of the power at an entire preschool was put in the hands of one person, particularly a person with NO experience in lab schools.  I want to know why I wasn't allowed to collaborate anymore to improve the school.  I want to know why I had to continue to do the same job I had done as interim director, but without the pay.  I want to know how she got away with treating me so badly.  I want to know why nobody consulted me with or for anything, seeing as I was the only one there who knew how the school ran, how the budget worked, how our school had been run.

I let the last semester I had at that school destroy nine years of hard work and dedication.  My biggest regret is having played it too safe--of not calling people directly on their BS.  Why didn't I?  Because I was trying to be professional.  I was trying to be a good girl, a good staff member, a good team player.  The problem was that I wasn't on the team...I was the ball girl.

I miss my friends, but more than anything, I miss feeling useful.  I've thought of writing books, even a memoir of my time there, but I don't think anyone would buy it.  I miss feeling like I make a difference, that I'm touching somebody's--anybody's--life.  I believe with my whole heart that God has brought me here for a purpose.  There is a reason that I'm here, and I believe it's more than just spending time with my father.  Is it to go to school?  Is it to further my career?  Or is it something else...supporting my mother or father as they go through these changes...or is it to do something more, something different.  I don't know what my purpose is right now.

The last time I remember feeling this confused was before I started my master's program in social work.  I remember crying regularly, unsure of what I was supposed to do an unable to make a decision.  So I finally decided to do the thing that made the most sense--go back to school.  I just happened to choose a degree that wasn't a good fit for me.  Social work takes a special kind of person, although I suppose most degrees do.  I didn't have the stomach for it.  But I did have the ability, the calling, to teach.

The idea of trying public school both frightens and intrigues me.  I'm afraid of the extensive paperwork, of being able to create lessons regularly that will give kiddos the knowledge they need.  My one real experience teaching in a public school was a nightmare and I don't want to repeat that.

I've applied for a couple director positions but i'm not holding my breath.  I interviewed a few months ago for one of those, and I was fairly appalled with the state of affairs.  There wasn't enough for the children to do.  It was then that I understood I had become spoiled.  I had gotten whatever i had needed at my previous job.  Not anymore.

Ideally?  I'd open my own center.  Or I'd open my own business for training and workshops.  So maybe that's what I'm supposed to do this summer...workshops and trainings?  I really wish I could find a job as a resource person or a mentor.  That would be my ideal, I suppose.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Day 333

I slept a lot today.  Actually, I woke up in the middle of the night, convinced that it was morning, until I saw outside and realized it was still dark.  For whatever reason, I've been really tired this week.  I've just tried to go with the flow, something I probably shouldn't do, but I have.  I've walked with the dogs a few times, made my therapy appointment, had lunch out with my mother, and spent a lot of time thinking about how I'm going to make peace with my former job.

For a year I avoided posting anything negative about my resignation out of an attempt to remain professional.  I finally gave in to my pain and posted some information that was still anonymous--no names or identifying information--and was stunned by the responses I have received.  Students that I never even thought I affected posted ways that I had impacted their teaching.  My cynical side wonders if some of what people said was just an effort to make me feel better.  Even if it was, though, it means I achieved exactly what I aimed for--building a trusting relationship with my students.

I'm so humbled by so many expressions of caring and love; of these young women writing me both publicly and privately how I enhanced their lives and their teaching.  One of the things I've always had in my mind is how many people I was ultimately touching.  By teaching future educators, I'm leaving an imprint on all the children they will one day teach.  It was critical to me that all of my students were well prepared for the classroom.

Every educator has certain aspects of teaching they focus on more heavily than others.  We all have a "lens" that impacts what we do or say and how we see things.  Our experiences form that lens.  One of the more difficult aspects of teaching adults is helping them to see learning through a new lens--the child's.  Sure, we've all been kids before, but often our experiences are so removed from us, so far away, that we don't accurately remember how it feels or how we thought as children.  My job was to help students dust off the old pictures and examine them in a new light.

And for many of them, I helped them to do just that.  After several years together, you get to know people and appreciate their personalities, their strengths, and their struggles.  I got to work with some wonderful people.  In turn, they have spread love of learning to many, many children.  That's a fantastic prospect.

I know God has a calling for me here.  I just haven't figured it out yet.  I'll be happy when I do, though--extremely happy to do His work again.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Day 335--Healing

Fighting fibro is one of the hardest things I've ever done.  I'm a type 2 diabetic, and for whatever reason, controlling my blood sugar seems almost easier than this.  Ironically, I'm sure how I feel physically--all of my fibro symptoms--cause kinks and problems with my blood sugar.

When I first found out I was diabetic I froze.  In that moment, what I had believed to be true had been confirmed, and I was convinced I was going to die with the next mouthful of food that I ate.  If I ate bread or drank juice or God forbid, tasted ice cream, I was doomed to a life of amputation and early demise.  That was nearly twenty years ago, and through the wonders of modern medicine (and the occasional push from myself) I'm still here.

Fibro, though, is so much harder, because managing my stress level isn't just an option anymore.  It's a need.  And in facing that need, I'm having to face some open wounds that I've left alone for too long.

We all know that infection can set into a wound that isn't treated appropriately.  And thus I find myself contemplating a variety of old injuries that are still laying heavily on my soul.  Most importantly, the one injury I can't seem to walk away from--my last job before we moved.  The anger, the injustice, and even the sadness overwhelm me when I think of that job.  I can't let it go and I can't hold my head up because of the way things were left.  I chose to accept somebody else's reality when I was there to make an easy exit instead of standing up for what was right, and I've had to live with the guilt and disgust ever since.