Dear Stoma…..

You saved my life. Thank you. Thank you for doing your job and for making living possible without a colon. I wasn’t the person I am today until you came into my life. You brought me from the edge of death to a world full of hope and joy. As in all relationships, there are a few things that you could work on though.

Sometimes when we are in public, you start spouting out loud obscenities. I’d appreciate it if you’d stop that. I know I can’t control when you decide to speak, but I don’t think it’s very convincing to others when I chuckle and say my stomach is rumbling, I must be hungry. Trying to cover your mouth to stop you is like dealing with a five-year old child who refuses to quit. It’s really quite horrifying.

Also, please don’t fail me at my most vulnerable moments. If my supplies are about to let me down, if the seal hiding my secret is about to break free, let it happen at home. I thought I was done with those embarrassing and panic-filled moments of possible public humiliation when you came into my life. My prior relationship was full of them and I thought those times were long gone. I know you are not like the last one. The one I let go because of the havoc that toxic relationship caused in my life. You are a gift to me. Let’s keep the blips private.  It’s better for both of us.

Okay. I know this is a weird request, but here goes. I prefer if you don’t need a change of “clothes” for six days. It saves on “laundry time” and money, because your “clothing” isn’t cheap. Not to mention the antics you sometimes pull during changes. Going for DISTANCE, doesn’t make you cool. It makes you annoying. Just keep it mellow and act like an adult. Keep your  moutn shut for five minutes. it’s really not that much to ask. I’ll always love you, but sometimes you really get on my nerves.

That being said, you keep me on my toes.  You always smell like the last thing I ate. Sometimes this is good, and sometimes this is bad. On the bad days, you can drive the most tolerant of people out of a room. In a hurry. This creates the problem of trying to exit the room without being seen and identified as the offender. Occasionally, you smell like nothing I have ever eaten.  More than once  you have smelled like a Christmas tree, and I wonder where you’ve been without me. You can make the biggest, and most unique bubbles I have ever seen, and I am always in awe, but who do I  tell that to?!

Despite your flaws, I love you. You have changed my life for the better, and I will never forget that. I will always be grateful for what you have given me.   For the second chance you have provided, for the freedom you have allowed me, and for the joy I have felt since you came into my life.

Yours Forever,

Livy

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Second Mom Love

My husband is playing loud, peppy, music on the Amazon Echo, the 12-year old is trying to comfort me with talking, but what I need is silence. Today has taken a sharp turn for the worse. That day has come. It’s the day I knew was coming for a very long time, but I pushed it to the back of my mind. The day I have to prepare to say goodbye to someone I love. I guess I am lucky, at least I get to say goodbye.

She did not give birth to me, I did not live in her home, I did not give her snarky, teenage lip, but she is still my mother. She’s had more influence on my life than she’ll ever know. She gave me plenty of advice when I was younger, a reprimanding when necessary, a hug when needed. Without saying a word she has taught me to be carefree whenever possible, and that worrying wasn’t something to waste time on. She taught me that kids running in and out of your house are a blessing, and the more the merrier. That if your best friend’s six-year old daughter shows up at your door looking for one of those yummy yellow apples you always have in your refrigerator, invite her in for one. She’s taught me so much that it’s hard to separate it from what I learned from my other second mom, or my actual mother.

There were three of us. Families that lived on the same street in a time when kids were outside playing until dusk.  Between all three families there was someone for everyone to play with. Mrs.Ps kids were my brother and sister’s age. My other second mom, Mrs. E., had kids that were my sister and my age. The youngest, Lynn, has been my best friend since she was born the year after me.

They called themselves The Three Musketeers. They did everything together. Every week they would go bowling. They would throw all nine kids into the back of an old “Woody” station wagon and head to the local alley. We would go to the in-building daycare while they played a few games. They only left a kid once, and only for a few minutes, but lesson learned to count before leaving.

Along with the other neighborhood kids, we could always be heard and seen hanging out on the block after school, on the weekend, or on a hot summer day. I remember once when we had  a massive rain storm,  Mrs. P’s kids pulled out the fishing boat, and we rowed around in the flooded ditch. It was the highlight of the year on our street, at least for us kids.

Eventually all three families moved, and we had to stay in touch from afar. Same state, same county, different cities. We visited plenty, but no more walking down the street for a yellow apple for me. Even later still, my family was the only one left in the state, but no matter how far apart or how busy our lives got as we grew older, the bonds have remained strong. They are my family. They always will be.

One of my mommies is leaving this Earth soon and I’m not ready. I never will be. I thank God that He put her in my life though. She will always be a part of me, and always have a piece of my heart.

 

Guilty Pleasure

I am a rule follower. I have not taken, sniffed, snorted, or smoked any illegal or dangerous substances. Ever. I have never even smoked a cigarette. I DID hold a lit cigarette once, but I didn’t inhale. I didn’t even hold it to my lips. I do drink alcoholic beverages, but not everyday, nor to the point of being all out drunk. The few times I have, I have hated it. I don’t like feeling that loss of control.  I could never be an addict.  I do, however, have one guilty pleasure.  I LOVE getting anesthesia.

In the last few years I have had a few surgeries and procedures that required sedation. While this makes many, maybe even MOST people apprehensive, it makes me giddy. I love the feeling of the medication when it starts running through my  blood. The seconds before I am out like a light. When I go from all the medical personnel and commotion in the room to waking up in  recovery. It’s like Christmas morning for a kid, and then the disappointment that it is over.

I have known about this strange attraction of mine for many years, but have not needed to have any procedures requiring it again until recently. I hope I don’t have any more soon because I’d rather have unquestionable health, but if I do there will be no fear from me.  Bring it on, but only if it’s legal. I am a rule follower, but with a very strange guilty pleasure.

“How Fast Are You Going?”

Yesterday my parents and I were on our way home from the hospital after my mom’s major back surgery two weeks ago, and a subsequent rehab stint.  She was sitting in the front passenger seat, and due to restrictions from the surgeon, could not lean over to see the speedometer. My mom likes to have control of every situation. She is a worrier. As we were heading down the expressway towards their home she patted my leg and asked me, for the second time in 5 minutes, “How fast are you going?”  I was not speeding and there was no clear reason why she was asking, but she is my mother, and I have known her all my life.

After spending two weeks sitting in hospital rooms for long hours, making special meals due to her restricted diet and incessant worrying, and more time with my strong-willed mother than I am used to, I was reaching my limit.  In the end, that comment in the car was a reminder for me. I have seen how stress affects her and promised myself years ago that I would not do that to myself. Life is too short to sweat the small stuff. Appreciate what you have. Look for the positive side of everything. Find  beauty in the world.

My parents are only in their seventies, but at some point in the last few years I realized that my time with them is limited. Many of my friends have already lost their parents, so last night when I tucked them into bed, and I mean that literally, I felt pretty lucky. My dad was already laying down, and I finished helping my mom into the bed, covered her up, and turned off the lights. Oh, and I offered to read them a bedtime story, sadly they declined. For me, it was a moment I won’t forget. Coming full circle.  Role reversal at its finest.

In the wee hours of the night she called from the bedroom in a small voice….”help!” I stumbled out of bed to assist her in the journey to the bathroom, reminiscent of the kids’ younger years,  but for her I am a spotter of sorts. As I walked behind her to make sure her legs didn’t go out on her and held  on to a safety belt wrapped around her chest, she pushed her walker across the carpet while comparing the pile to a field of corn. Her arms were weak and it was tough work. We had to take breaks along the 30 foot trip for her to catch her breath, yet she was also impatient to get to the destination. In her rush, she was a terrible driver. Banging the walker into everything, she failed in her mission to allow my dad to sleep and she giggled all the way. She’s pretty cute in the middle of the night, making me laugh, and unknowingly saving herself just like a child does. When she starts giving me step-by-step instructions for a menial task today, I will remember those late night antics.

I will not let the little things get to me.  Instead, I will pick the moments  I never want to forget. These  are the memories I will treasure when they are gone.

Will you do the same?  “How fast are you going?”

 

 

I am a Teenager Stuck in a Middle-Aged Body

I am 16 years old at heart, but I am stuck in a middle-aged body.  I may not wear bootie shorts and crop tops, every calorie I eat goes right to my hips, and can’t dance to save my life, but in my heart and soul I am still a teenager.

There is nothing more satisfying than sleeping in on a Saturday morning, and a weekday sleep in makes me giddy. I prefer to stay up late at night, and even if I didn’t, I have a hard time going to sleep at all, much less early. My body, however, prefers not to hang out at a movie, restaurant, bar, or party into the wee hours. It would rather plant itself firmly on my bed in the comfort of home, with my husband next to me, and the dog curled up under a blanket at the bottom of the bed.  I am a teenager stuck in a middle-aged body.

I will never fill my closet with black and beige, and I refuse to wear “mom jeans.” There are certain styles of tops I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole, and I was once told (by a slightly older friend) that the cute brown and pink hoodie I was buying looked like it was for someone younger. Recently, I was at a shoe store and the sales associate took me over to the clunky, white, walking shoes. My body was suddenly (and horrifyingly) taken over by a rude teenager who shouted out, ” I’m not wearing those ugly things!” I spent the next 10 minutes apologizing for my alter-ego. I am a teenager stuck in a middle-aged body.

When my husband goes out-of-town for work I sleep with a stuffed animal  that we got while on a date night. We were at Build-a-Bear and he pulled all the cloth hearts out of a large tube and put them back in the top until he got to the only one we could find that said “I Love You” on it.  I won’t change the sheets on the bed until he gets back, and before he leaves I change my jammies every night for a few days so I have several pairs to wear while he’s gone that I have worn with him by my side. If those get dirty, I resort to his t-shirts. He is my movie star. I am a teenager stuck in a middle-aged body.

A few years back, I was driving my son and a friend’s daughter to school, we were talking about a specific person and I said, “She’s OUR age.” I was a 40ish year old woman talking to a 16-year-old girl. I am a teenager stuck in a middle-aged body.

Although I appreciate many genres of music spanning over a number of decades, I will also listen to (and enjoy at a frightening level) the music my pre-teen and teen listen to. Some songs I will play over and over, never tiring of them. I will sing along, and may even dance. If only the dance moves matched the age of my heart and soul. I am a teenager stuck in a middle-aged body.

I would rather feel young at heart, with the knowledge and experience of a seasoned adult than be 16 again. Being a 40-something kid has plenty of advantages. The most important being an appreciation of and love for life.  I’ll take being trapped in this middle-aged body any day of the week. It has been through many trials and tribulations, and it has made me who I am today.

 

 

 

 

 

Into the Darkness for Dinner…….Memories of Shanghai

Original post: Saturday, October 25th, 2008, on a blog that no longer exists.

Last night we ate at a restaurant called “The Black Cafe” with our friends Andrea and Patrick. It is a restaurant geared towards allowing its patrons to step into the shoes of someone who is blind.

The first level is a bar called “The Visual Zone.” It has dim lighting, and is a comfy area to have a few drinks. It is also where you look at the menu, make your dinner selections, and stow your belongings in a locker, in anticipation of the mess you’re going to make eating in the dark. Once you have prepared yourself, you are led up a narrow and winding staircase to “The Dark Zone.”

When you arrive at the top of the stairs, you are introduced to your blind waiter or waitress, who leads you and your party choo-choo train style, through a dark curtain to your table. Each person is directed to their chair, and once all parties are seated, the waitress will tell you where each and every item on the table sits. Silverware, cups, water bottles, napkin. The meal is served as in every other restaurant, bread and drinks, salad, soup, main course, then dessert. Bill and Andrea had chosen the beef filet, Patrick and I, “the mystery meal.” Each course would be a surprise, but we were assured it consisted of items we had seen on the menu.

The evening consisted of plenty of feeling around the table and your plate. There was a water bottle and bread basket for Patrick and Andrea, and one for Bill and I. ” Is this our breadbasket?” “Where’s my beer?” “Oops, there wasn’t actually anything on my fork that time.” ” I’m trying to figure out if there is anything left on my plate.” “What are you handing me, Bill? Oh, another tomato…..I see that you can even sniff them out. No fooling you.”

The food was extremely tasty, and for those of you who are wondering, the mystery meal was the same as the others for the salad and soup, and the main course was a very pleasant surprise. Chicken, smoked ham, shrimp, beef filet with a convenient bone handle, veggies, and a potato. The only thing I couldn’t identify was in my salad, and may have been a mild piece of fish…….but I don’t want to know, nor think about it.

We adjusted to being in the dark, and even stayed around to chat after we finished our meal. Nothing was spilled, and they kindly supplied napkins that were much bigger than your average China napkin, which is usually a cocktail glass size, or tissue (literally). It was a great night, and we would do it again in a heartbeat. All in all, a great life experience!

Author’s note: Unfortunately, this restaurant has since closed for business.

 

Why Me? Why Us?

There have been times over the years when I have said “Why me?” “Why us?” Why did this happen to us and not somebody else. Sometimes it just seems that no one else has the same misfortune. I know that isn’t true, and our situation could be much worse, so I don’t dwell for long. I thank God that it isn’t, and for the blessings He has given us.

A majority, if not all, of these events have been medical in nature. My health, and the health of my family. Severe allergies as a child, Crohn’s at the age of 29, which progressed at an alarming rate, cataracts at the age of 32, removal of my colon at the age of 33. Most recently, the Essential Thrombocythemia diagnosis at 42.

The last few years have been no exception to this question. It has floated in and out of my brain, off and on, for months, but after a few moments of self pity, I remind myself of our blessings. This time, though, it was the health of our children.

In 2014 my daughter was bullied, as I wrote about in the post titled, “Until the Scars Fade” (https://superfiveshanghai.com/2015/09/20/until-the-scars-fade/.) At the time, a number of the parents who learned how she attempted to cope were scared of her. They didn’t want their children to be around her. Their ignorance on mental health astounded me. These were well-educated individuals, who must have known that depression isn’t contagious. This is a 10 year old child we’re talking about. She was literally shunned. She had left for the school year and was being tutored, while receiving therapy, and I was encouraged NOT to bring her back for any school functions, so as not to upset other parents, while the bully continued in school with no repercussions.

It has taken two years to be able to take a deep breath. To feel like she is back on track to health. From the outside, it is not apparent. No one else would know what she has been through, and the resulting depression she experiences. No one would know the struggle it has been. As a parent, it has been stressful and heartbreaking. Why my baby girl? Why does she have to deal with this?

Last spring, my oldest son, who suffers from ADD, had some serious anxiety issues. This had never appeared to be a problem before, but it escalated quickly. He was working his first job, taking a few too many college classes, and the pressure and responsibility overwhelmed him. He has always been very independent, and doesn’t like to ask for help. Up until recently, he preferred that we didn’t. We knew he was skipping some classes, and calling in to work, and we had decided that it was time for him to learn the hard way. We had no idea it was due to anxiety until the end of the semester, when he finally told us. After four months of keeping it to himself, he finally released himself from carrying the burden alone. The semester was a bust, and he left his job, but we could, and would, help him.

He spent seven months after the failed-semester ended, in twice-a-week therapy, having medication adjusted, and spending hours and hours in his room. It was, once again, heartbreaking to see one of our children suffering. We spent most of 2015 worried that he might never come back up for air, while his therapist told us it would just take time. She had enough faith for all  of us. She was right. In November, he got a new job, and he started classes in January. He comes home from work happy and talkative, something we have rarely seen from our quiet boy. He goes to class, and has been getting high A’s. Once again, I feel like I can take a breath.

After the events of the last few years, I look for ways to spread awareness about mental illness, and mood disorders. I need to do more. Obviously, I have written about some of it in the blog. I hope that readers will share my posts to spread the word. My Facebook page, Sunrise Strong-Mood Disorder Awareness and Acceptance, is a another step, but it is not enough. As stress at home continues to decrease (fingers-crossed and a bunch of prayers), I hope to have time to find other ways to spread awareness. Maybe that’s why……..why it’s me, why it’s us.

“A Storm’s a Brewin'”

We have had a house guest this week. A nasty and violent visitor reeking havoc where it is not wanted. We have been free of its wrath for several years. I guess our time was up. Stomach flu, we abhor you.

Bill stayed home Tuesday, to keep tabs on me…..from a distance whenever possible. I had spent the night with the porcelain prince, and although he proved useful, I did not ask for, nor want, the date. It had been years since I had spent such time with him, and hope it’s years before we meet in this manner again.

Shortly after 9am, Bill came running to the bottom of the stairs in concern. The visitor was raging again. Loudly. Once he found me resting peacefully, he started searching for the source. The youngest child was at school, the sleeping, middle child,  was fine, and the oldest was at chemistry class….or not. Ethan had made it to school, taken a quiz, turned in a paper, and told his professor that he was ill and would have to make up the lab. He raced home at break-neck speed, pulled into the driveway, grabbed his bag, opened the car door, dropped down to the ground, and decorated the front lawn with his breakfast. He was driving my car.  Bonus points for keeping it outside. Number one child, was the second victim.

It was at this point that Bill and child number two started to bond in brotherhood, to protect their right to health.  The Clorox wipes and Lysol came out. Lines were drawn. We are here. You are there. Do not cross this line.  They went to the raw juice bar, and downed immunity ginger shots together, then questioned their sanity as the intense spice burned its way down to their bellies. They each had an extra large green juice chaser, cooling the flame,  and cleansing the body, in hopes of further protection. They swore their allegiance to health. They would not fall.

Yesterday, for whatever reason, after 24 hours of reprieve, it felt safe. I don’t know why I thought it was okay to take a deep breath, but I did. I continued washing the linens, towels, and bacteria-laden clothing, optimistic that a full family infection had been avoided. Unfortunately, as I walked past Brennan late in the afternoon, he angrily mumbled….”a storm’s a brewin,’ and I blame you.”  Dad walked in minutes later, pumped his fist in the air as he saw Brennan, still residing in the land of the living, and shouted “Solidarity, son! You’re still on the island!” He was answered with doubtful head shakes. As I write this, the second child is the third to go down.

There were only two left on the island. Father and daughter allied. Fist bumps ensued. Who would be the last family member standing? How long would they last? Realization hit. The allies became competitors.

At 3:12am, unusual activity is heard from the bathroom, and lights are being turned on. From a dark bedroom the sounds of the third child…..”Hey, Dad?! Are you off the island?! I imagine a fist pump may have taken place n that dark room. The fourth has succumbed. Survival of the fittest.

Carleigh is still going strong. I fear she may be dripping in germs, but she has a reading at mass today, and she has no signs of illness. May God protect her and her classmates from our unwanted visitor, and me from their parents, if things go awry.

 

 

Hiding in the Bathroom

Let’s face it. We’ve all done it at one time or another. You just can’t handle it anymore, and you head into the bathroom for a few minutes of peace and quiet. It’s one of the few rooms in the house where you can lock the door, and convince all but the smallest of children, that it’s best to give you your privacy.   If your lucky, you can sneak in with a glass of wine and a good book. Turn on  the shower, and  up the music, to block out noise (and claim you couldn’t hear, if called), and you never know, you could get mommy-alone-time for…..and I may be overestimating……….10 minutes?!

For whatever reason, men do not have the same problem as us. No one follows them and sits outside the door. No one screams from another room, begging for their attention.  If this does happen, they ignore it, and it goes away. The persistence just isn’t there if it’s not the mom.  In my house, the men use this to their advantage.

Bill goes into the bathroom every morning to get ready for work. He takes his iPad with him, and listens to music, and reads his book. I’m pretty sure he has no intention of spending a long time in there, but he gets distracted. “I’ll just finish this chapter.” “Listen to _______ song.” “Hey! That reminds me of _______song.”    I have to strategically plan my bathroom usage around this habit. Do I go in before him? After him? Or do I just go in once I hear the shower water go on, and screw the privacy rule?!

When Brennan was little, if a situation came up where he was asked a question that made him feel uncomfortable, he would say “I have to go to the bathroom, ” and sprint away from said conversation. As he’s grown, it has continued in some form or another, and although he doesn’t actually leave conversations anymore, he won’t hesitate to avoid them before they begin. He uses this method to escape unwanted tasks, as well. When it comes time to unload the groceries, or put them away……nature calls. Time to vacuum……going into the bathroom may result in parents forgetting for a few more hours, and due to the fact that I can be absent -minded…it works!

Ethan doesn’t even try to hide the desire to flee. If I am going into his room to ask him questions he doesn’t want to answer, and he feels he can’t escape the conversation with half-hearted responses, he will push past me to relocate to the bathroom, and  will hide for as long as it takes, reading, or watching videos, until he feels the coast is clear. He is a stubborn kid, and can outlast the best of us, so this tactic works amazingly well.

After years of finding safe haven in this room, the boys have found that they LIKE hanging out in there, even when not avoiding the wrath of mom. Overall, I don’t mind, but even though we are lucky to have two bathrooms, we do not have an endless supply of hot water. There are nights I hear the boys’ bathroom door close, and I make a beeline for the upstairs bathroom, so I can take a HOT shower. Who would have thought that I would have to worry about my teenage BOYS  bathroom time more than my daughter’s?! No one warned me!

As I sit here writing this post, Brennan is in the bathroom, sucking every ounce of deliciously toasty water out of the hot water heater. He should be out in an hour or so. I will eventually go bang on the door and ask him to save me some hot water, and later I will take a less-than-satisfying lukewarm shower, while the family finds ways to need me, immediately……..if not sooner.

 

The January Vacuum

It pulls everything out of me, and I feel like a deflated balloon. I struggle to function. Hiding in a corner like that lone dust bunny, just trying to make it through the storm. Closer to March, closer to spring. January sucks. It sucks everything out of me.

In Michigan, it is a cold, wet, gray, month.  Long gone are the sounds of college football blaring from the TV, and fall breezes wafting through the open windows. The trees are bare, and the neighborhood children have moved their play inside, away from the winter chill. The holidays are over, and it is too far to the next. There are more overcast days than blue sky days, and warm weather is too many months, or too many miles away. Going out to do errands, on wet and sloppy, or slick and icy roads, is unappealing. Crawling into bed with a good book, or a movie, and a hot cup of coffee, is much more so. Then again, being cooped up brings me down too. I waffle between the safety and comfort of home, and raging cabin fever. I have often felt that there is no way to win the battle of January, at least not in my world.

For years, I let January swallow me whole, but recently I have tried to find ways to overcome the vacuum. We have bought light therapy lamps, and when we consistency turn them on while waking up, they do help. On those days I manage to drag my body out of the warm bed, early morning workouts go a long way to making me feel better, as well. Vitamins. Music. Essential oil aromatherapy. I’ll get there. I’ll find the right mix, and eventually, we’ll move to a sunnier state. For now, I continue to fight for good, for light, and hope for the renewal of life outside my window.