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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Holly Jolly Christmas Count Down

Well, the turkey carcass is in the can and waiting at the curb. MIL showed up at my house, on my first T-Day at home, with her catalogs to gather ideas for her Black Friday Reconnaissance. As my children reveled in commercialism, and Christmas hunting and gathering, rather than the family card game I had planned, I watched a recorded episode of "House" (The one where he threw out the Christmas decorations and threw a Secret Santa, for his staff, that only included his own name.)

House's grinchy cynicism was working it for me. It reminded me of a little bit of Christmas "poetry" I attempted a few years back. Soooo, I went to my Myspace and pulled it off to share with my dear friends (that's anyone willing to suffer through reading the drivel I pour out after consuming large quantities of coffee, wine, and/or vodka.)

Christmas Days

The day's nearly here, the time's nearly come, like last year and last year back past 2001

But something is changing,

The scraggaly crushed mushed up lists are all gone,

covered with dog hair and cheezits and gum.

Instead, in their place, with neat cursive writing,

New letters to Mom & Dad (who was that guy Santa?)

The times are a' changing the children aren't begging

It's now organized, well timed, thought out,

plain old pleading.

And under the tree, (and in Daddy's wallet)

oh the changes we'll see...

From Barbies and airplanes to Wii's and I Pods

From pink fluffy slippers to Aero ensamble

From $2 make-up to spa days and haircuts

It's all enough to make Dad just sick in his gut.

The gifts are all smaller

The wrapping is less

But not all is changing....

We don't love them less

and I in my Martini and Dad in his cups

Will pay January's bills with the usual stress.

and look forward to next Christmas

with the usual fuss.

Yessssss, I'm something of a Grinch. I guess the thing is, Christmas in "my day" was different. Life really was a little simpler. We stayed kids a little longer than our own will I think... We ideolized Laura Ingles Wilder, not ICarly (no mom and dad at home) or Hanna Montana (lying to the world). Our video games didn't save. You had to commit to beating Mario Brothers, I mean COMMIT. I remember my mom shutting it off after my Sis and I beat the game through and were part way through the second, harder version that came after. I still don't know why she did that (after we had played for 18 hrs straight) I mean we were SHARING after all.

In our time, boys had to put some effort into locating, reading and replacing dad's Playboys before being caught like miniature 007's, and girls had to secure and skim mom's romance novels always prepared with a good excuse if caught "I really liked her haircut on the cover, it's so pretty I thought Fantastic Sam's could copy it on me." Now kids just Google "big boobs" or "Cosmo sex stories" or "celebrity crotch shot images" and bam, there they are. And hell, my 10 year old knows how to clear the history on the computer.

We would air pop pop corn and RUN to watch Rudolph the Red Nosed Raindeer and other select holiday favorites which we had carefully noted on the calendar in order to be certain we would not miss them. My kids DVR what they want to see and they didn't know what an air-popper was until recently (I'll save that for another blog).

Methinks things are now too easy sometimes.

This Christmas, as I cringe at the impersonal gifts we spend hundreds of dollars on for our kids, and wish I could still pick out dollies and race cars, I will imagine them as parents. With any luck, technology will one day stump my little angels as they try to raise their own little angels. It's only fair. Oh, and I won't imagine them as the intensely cool parent I myself have turned out to be, but more along the lines of the goofy parent my own mom was... is.

And maybe I'll download some Little House Christmas Episodes to share with them.

The Christmas Countdown is on. Isn't that link so cool? Just click that and whammo, you are whisked away to a site that counts you down. Fantastic, I know.

Best wishes,


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Blood is Thicker Than Water?

There has come a time in my life where I’m looking around at the people who are family, and the people who I choose to call family and thinking it all over.

An ounce of blood is worth more than a pound of friendship. ~Spanish Proverb

They say blood is thicker than water. I see that, I would do anything for my sisters and brothers, be they full si
blings or half. I would also do anything for Navy Guy, my chosen brother. He came into our lives and has been the best family anyone could ask for.

There's an awful lot of blood around that water is thicker than. ~Mignon McLaughlin

How do these people, best friends, children of people our parents once dated, sisters of boys we once dated who now live 3000 miles away, or sisters of friends we knew in high school, become family? And how is it that the people we choose as family can often warm our hearts so much more than people who are tied to us by blood or marriage? Well we often just plain like them more. At the same time they are often the people
who care the most for you when they don’t owe you anything.

I’ve learned our place in a family, and the traditions we hold dear, should not be dependant on who we are married to. We can love people like family because we’ve married into them, we can leap gung-ho into their traditions forgoing building our own, but we need to know we’ve left ourselves open to losing that if our marriage falters.

Where are we when we are left out? Well, we’re at our best friend’s brother’s house roasting marshmallows and oogling his wife's beautiful hand made Jewelry (take a look WOW!), playing Rock Band with someone who has become a brother/uncle, chatting endlessly with an old co-worker, hanging out with cousins and aunts and an uncle we always wished we had spent more time with. We’re wondering how 15 years can mean so little so suddenly and amazed at the people who still consider us family.

Building a life no one can take away from you will protect you in a storm. I’m thinking about that today, the day before Thanksgiving. A Thanksgiving with a family I almost lost after Summer Implosion 2009. And I think, after all of the sadness thinking about how what I lost, though I didn’t lose it in the end, I’m ready to build my own traditions, in my own home, with my children, my husband if he so chooses, a
nd anyone who wants to be a part of my family.

It’s my turn to singe the turkey and forget the squash is still in the oven until everyone’s finished their pie.

And thank you for a house full of people I love. Amen. ~Ward Elliot Hour

Best wishes,

Compassionate Living

One of my dear friends lost her father not too long ago.

He was a lovely man. I am sorry for her.

I am also very jealous that she had such a thing as a loving father for all of these years. My father died in the line of duty as a fireman when I was two. My sister was born just a few weeks later. I spent so many years thinking my father was burned and died because of his wounds. I really don't know almost anything about him.

Seeing my husband be a dad to our kids has healed me quite a bit. His fatherhood has given me a glimpse of what might have been had my dad survived.

Back to my friend, I feel so bad that she is sad, and continues to be at every occasion that passes with out him, but she is so lucky to have had him at all, that it blows my mind.

I'm really not the one to lean on in these situations. It's hard to be supportive when you're whole body is rejecting the topic all together.

The lesson I remember from this is a simple one, don't complain about your kids to a woman who can't have any, don't tell your best friend that your mother is driving you crazy if she has lost hers. Never ever wish away something someone else wishes they had.

This is a compassionate way to live, and taking that moment to think before you speak allows you to be more compassionate to your friends and family. Hopefully I'm able to remember that as I blog and hopefully we can all remember this as the holiday season commences....

Best wishes,


Sunday, November 22, 2009

On Anxiety Meds, Inhibition and Dirty Texting

Almost immediately after the inception of Implosion 2009, I went on Lexapro. The first week, I felt kind of floaty aroundy, and I yawned a lot. At the end of the second week, after spending the evening at the County Fair with the kids and DH who had been absentee *MLC for a while at that point. I watched him leave with my babies, and was feeling pretty despondent when I hopped into the mini-storage solo. But an amazing thing occurred, instead of spiraling into an anxiety attack, I felt a wave of calm.

I called *DF Garden Mama, an experienced medicationer, and she said it was good. I was feeling normal. That’s what the drug is supposed to do. I thought “HA, nothing about this sitch is normal. It is abnormal to respond as though this is an acceptable normal thing, this implosion.” But I had to admit it felt good not to feel like the world was ending (see the movie 2012, that’s what Summer Implosion 2009 felt like to me).

With fall came reconciliation, for which I am eternally grateful. Thank God DH came back when he did… because interestingly enough, the meds are having additional effects on me. I envision anxiety and inhibition buddied up in my brain, like frat brothers slobbed out on an old sofa, buzzed and not caring about a thing, because both of them seem to be on vacay in my Becca Brain.

Essentially, I feel like I could dance on table tops Coyote Ugly style.

I'm not so inhibited and "OMG I would NEVER" as I used to be. Texting, pic and video messaging have become a favorite foreplay hobby of mine. Though my back is still healing from my spinal surgery this summer, I’m pretty able to channel my inner contortionist in my efforts to snap erotic photos with my cell camera. I even procured a wig and an alter ego. We will call her Nadia. Naughty, naughty, Nadia.

his infusion of aggressive, suggestive foreplay has been like an H1N1 vaccine against marital tedium. There is nothing like getting a hot little text before you head into a teacher conference, or while you are selecting yogurt at Aldi’s. It’s like a dirty little secret. I may look like a
member of the PTA, but I’m really a one man nymphomaniac contemplating a quick duck into the ladies room to snap a naughty response pic.

No, you can’t judge a woman by her looks, or a marriage by the actions of one partner. There are hidden aspects and different perspectives on almost everything in life. I just hope I find a good balance before I find myself on YouPorn.com or something.

Best wishes,

*MLC: Midlife Crisis
*DF: Dear Friend

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Slander, Blow Jobs, and promises

So, my *DH is a little goofy about me blogging.

He likes to pop in and look at what I’m working on. As for me, since reading The Five Languages of Love I stop what I’m doing and give him the love, after taking our self tests, I know we are both physical. It’s so nice to get into the habit of hugging and acknowledging your spouse when they address you. I had no idea. Thanks to my little *IC.

I’ve never made it a habit to keep things just between my DH and I. I have no good excuse for why I discuss my problems with him with others other than that I’m a chick who overanalyzes and likes feedback. This bad habit has made him somewhat nervous about my public blog attempt, which of course he saw when I posted a link in my Facebook…

Post His Mid-Life-Crisis me is trying to be reassuring and recognize that even though he is a big strong guy with strong opinions, that doesn’t mean he is impervious to my words, and it doesn’t mean he doesn’t hurt when I turn them into daggers or darts or when I spew and vent like a chick to whomever will listen. I don’t want to be that girl anymore, even if I don’t get the feedback from him I’d like.

So I got up from the puter’ and huggled him tonight and sweetly promised “If I blog about you I will tell you and you can see it before I post it” to which he replied, “You have to or I could sue you.” He was smiling or he might have been clocked by my coffee mug (the closest heavy item I had at hand).

Sue me for what? Blow jobs every night? Because everything I have is yours!” I mean honestly, you know?

DH likes to start the wife-fire, because he thinks I’m cute fired up. At the worst point in our 15 year relationship-marriage, I was a screaming and a shouting, and with my hair on ends and my arms flung out wide, I asked “is there a single thing you like about me??? A single single SINGLE thing?” to which he replied coyly, “you’re feisty.”

So he said, “I could sue you for slander.” Then he went out and finished frying the pork chops. He makes me nuts. Honestly, there is not another man I have less in common with in the whole wide world. The only thing we agree on is living room furniture and not letting our teenage daughter out of our sight. The things we do have in common are private and can’t be posted publicly.

We went to a marriage councilor this week, purpose; learn to communicate better. The guy asked me, “why are you with DH?” Now we’ve been through a whole lotta stress and hell over the years my DH and I, especially during summer implosion 2009, but there was only one answer to that, “because I love him.”

I hope he doesn’t sue me for slander…. (o;

Best wishes,


*DH: Dear Husband

*IC: Individual councillor

Gucci or Once Again?

I’ve noticed there are a lot more people perusing my local church run thrift shop. Maybe it’s the economic slump driving penny pinchers in. At the same time, the pickings are pretty slim compared to just a year or so ago.

, Chickadee and Double A saw fit to meet Auntie K there this morning with me. (You know you are country when the kids are so into getting out of the house they’ll go to the thrift shop.) When they were little, a trip there meant an adventure, and the acquisition of a “new” toy, or book. Now 14, 12, & 10, they will look around and pick through bins with me half heartedly, and if they actually find an item they want to bring home, they point it out like “hey, I don’t really want this but we’re here sooo….”

ouble A is currently pissed at me for making him try on the BRAND NEW (looking) Levi’s I found (2 bucks!). You would think I just gave him a blanket infested with small pox germs.

I found a Gucci purse too. All purses are 50 cents. I didn’t buy it because I don’t need it, but I photographed it with my cell phone for you guys. A Mennonite lady was looking at me in confusion, but being an intrepid new blogger, I was all, “this is for my fans.” Check this thing out. The Once Again is where old Gucci’s go to die. The next time you pay $500 for a hand bag, I want you to imagine it hanging here in five or ten years! Can you guess which purse is the brand namer? (It's the black one on the right).

I also found a nifty book that is sure to cure ALL of my problems.

bought a crock pot there last week $3. It’s kind of avocado green, it works like a charm, and I’m almost certain it’s safe and won’t burn my house down.

igging through boxes of stuff and finding treasures is so fun. It’s like guilt free shopping. How can you feel bad when you hook yourself up with a bunch of kitschy Christmas stuff for on “bag sale” for $3? After all 9/10’ths of what I buy seems to be decimated by enthusiastic children, DH, pets, or even siblings (you know who you are) so these items kind of pay for themselves in the long run, and fulfill my need to create a holiday atmosphere.

ince I’m not working and currently relishing my life on unemployment (I did have SPINAL surgery this summer for Pete’s sake ~ resting and recovering is sooo nice) my income is limited and I’m thinking I’ll make home-made gifts for Christmas. It could be genius, or it could be disaster, I bought cute tins to pack gifts in, and ribbon to decorate them with ($3 bag sale!). So, except for the actual hand made gifts I’m good to go.

selected some neat-o belts for 50 cents, which is cool because her current bid to go to the mall is somewhat out of my monetary radar at this time.

hickadee didn’t find anything and she immediately slopped herself with Purell when we got in the mini-storage, but I think she had fun sifting through other people's old Stuff.

I really like the concept of re-purposing, and finding trash in treasure. I also like the idea that if my kids find themselves knee deep in some problem that leaves their cash flow low, they will know what to do. I know kids who’ve headed off to college thinking the only place to buy jeans is at Abercrombie and Fitch. They are the same people who will wind up in credit card debt before they are a quarter of a century old.

My first job out of high school was for Key Bank. It was a great place to work and I learned a lot from the ladies I worked with. I can remember Rosalie pointing out a lady and saying “watch this; she juggles credit and income like a clown on a tightrope.” My husband and I have no unsecured debt. No debt at all except for the Mini-Storage and the Lil’ yellow schoolhouse. If we purchase an item it’s with cash. I like that about us. I want my kids to grow up understanding that their credit is important to protect and finding joy in buying the occasional used belt, crock pot, decorations, Pyrex bake ware, or puppy kitten salt and pepper shaker set is a part of that.

Best wishes,


Friday, November 20, 2009

Uveitis ~ When Your Child has a Chronic Illness...

Whatever it takes

It was late, past 11 o'clock, when she came bumping down the hallway. Her head was tilted to the side, she had one wrist to her forehead, and her other hand trailed the wall. I was curled up on the sofa, reading.

"What's wrong?" I asked, as she came to stand in front of me with a serious look on her face. The look kids get when there is something on their mind that's keeping them up at night. Something they've thought over that's rolling around in their head. "Are you sick?" I asked. She shook her head no. I could tell she hadn't been asleep yet. "What is it?" I asked. Her answer changed everything. It changed me, and her, and our family and the way we view the world and my faith. It took us places I couldn't imagine, and gave us experiences we would find nowhere else and that we might not even take back if we had the option.

"Mommy, are you always supposed to see out of both of your eyes?" She was eight, and that's what she said that changed the whole world. She had been for new glasses not two weeks before so my answer was swift, "What do you mean, your glasses aren't working?" I asked. "No mommy, I asked Gabby (her best friend) at school, and she said she can always see out of her eyes. I can't."

I grabbed a magazine and flipped through it, selecting a two page sale ad spread, featuring a red mini van surrounded by the Rugrats. Angelica, her favorite, stood right out. "Which eye is better" I asked. She pointed to the right one. "Cover it" I commanded. I spread the magazine wide and stood across the room. "Can you see the picture?" I asked. She shook her head no. "Tell me what you see" I said, walking slowly toward her, finally settling the magazine in her lap. Fear settled in my belly. "What do you see now?" I asked, as I wrapped my arm around her shoulder. "A pink circle" she said. With the other eye, she could see that it was a vehicle, but couldn't make out details, even with her glasses on.

"Okay" I said, in my mommy tone, the setting things straight tone that all loving mothers develop after a few years. You know the one, "Okay, go to bed" "Okay, don't hit your brother" "Okay that was good, try again." So, I sent her to the bathroom to brush her teeth. I don't know why tooth brushing, but it came to mind, and she didn't ask why. She's my river child. As soon as the bathroom door shut, I called my husband at work on the night shift and began whispering feverishly. "You need to come home, Kelsea can't see and it's really bad. I don't know what's going on. You need to come home. No, nothing is in her eyes. No her glasses are fine." He was confused, he kept talking and asking questions but my mind wasn't working. The water in the bathroom stopped running. "I need you, come home now" I whispered. Then I hung up on him.

Some children are sweet and simple. They take to life like a giant rubber inner tube does to a lazy river. They don't cry much as babies and they enjoy what you put in front of them, be it an interesting toy, or a set of car keys. Other babies fight to learn to walk, pushing their mother away in their eagerness to find their footing. They scream in the grocery store and insist upon their way. Not a river baby. You might have to coax her with a sip of root beer to get her to her feet. She's happy to ride in the grocery cart, smiling at kindly strangers. Butterflies will land on her head and perch there long enough for you to take a lovely photograph. Life for her is warm and interesting and it will come to her when it's ready.

That's my Kelsea. The oldest of my three. My Hakuna Matata child.

The opthomologist began treatment immediately after his diagnosis, applying drops to her eyes as he said, "10 years ago, people simply lost their vision due to Uveitis. Today there are options. We'll start with steroid eye-drops to lessen the inflammation and atropine to dialate her eyes. We don't want them strained and working too hard."

Ten years ago, I was a Sophmore in high school dating her father. At that moment, as a young parent with an 8 year old kid who had suddenly gone virtually blind, the doctor's initial evaluation was daunting. I was lost in worry. I wanted to throw up. I had put on lip gloss and combed my hair into a neat pony-tail and adopted the calm, alert, professional demeanor of bank tellers and doctor's office receptionists, mixing it liberally with my mom persona to come up with the woman sitting in that opthomologist's office. I had done this with great thought, in order to generate appropriate and non-hysterical responses. "Okay, then what?" I asked calmly.

At the time, we were renting a semi-dilapitated home surrounded by vineyards. Scrimping and saving and dreaming of the day we would buy our own home. I visualized flowerbeds full of perennials and bird houses on posts covered with climbing clematis. The kids could pick any color they liked for their bedrooms and I would have parties, setting tables just like you see in "Home & Garden" magazine.

Before Uveitis, I didn't have my you-know-what together. I was that mom who brought the dog to the vet the day the kids were due at the pediatrician. I spent the whole day finger painting with them, and ended up rushing to make canned chicken noodle soup for dinner, because suddenly it was 7 o'clock. I saved every piece of artwork they made at school, but couldn't find their birth certificates. I always had a camera with me. My friends called me the "cub reporter" and "the picture mom." My closet shelves were stacked high with boxes of pictures that I had never put into albums and I had huge pickle jars full of unprocessed film. I wore Pooh bear sweatshirts, and my sneakers were falling apart. Life was peanut butter and jelly with no holes in the bread. My husband seemed surprised at his choice of wife, shaking his head at the overloaded laundry hampers and paint splattered children. But I was oblivious. I made mud pies in the driveway when it rained. In many ways, after settling down at the age of 18, I was growing up with my children.

The first year there were over 40 eye doctor appointments to our regular opthomologist, 8 or so at the big hospital in Rochester, and several out of state. We spent more time in doctor's offices than at home. If I could string the empty bottles of eye drops together, I think they would reach the moon, or Disney land, or at least to the Statue of Liberty.

I got a $5 organizer from Wal-Mart and planned our days. I kept every little appointment card, and could pull them out to prove my appointment times when the doctor's office messed up and thought I was there on the wrong day. Kelsea and I learned who the best blood drawing person at her pediatrician's office was, and scheduled her bi-weekly blood draws specifically with her. I discovered that HIPPA meant the results didn't get to her doctors in a timely fashion, and delivered copies manually.

Kelsea's eyes were poked and prodded and evaluated and exhausted. Nobody could tell us what caused her uveitis, or what her outcome would be. She couldn't read print well. Sometimes she could see and sometimes she couldn't. Her disease is strange like that. Little tiny cells filled her eye, like a sunbeam full of specks of dust. "I see white spots, falling down" she would say when asked. I imagined a snow globe, and tried to keep her from being shook up.

Finally she hit an emotional wall, and we had a nasty fall-out over the application of her drops. She was a little kid who was tired of being sick, and tired of being on multiple hourly medications. That frustration came out in a heated screaming-mimi one evening. She lost her temper over the way I applied her eye-drops. To my shame, probably because I was a young mother in somewhat over her head, I too melted down, and shouted, "fine you do it then!" To both of our surprise, she yanked the little bottle from my fingers and perfectly applied her own drops! We laughed at that until we cried. She was 9 and a half and it turned out that applying her own drops gave her an empowerment over her disease that she desperately needed. Parents, school nurses, doctors, grandparents, aunts, and even the parents of her best friend, had been more in control of her medication than she had been, every time they applied drops. From then on, I showed her each medication she was on, explained what it was for and taught her the names and dosages of each one. She liked to be the one to order her medication refills from the drug store as well.

Everything became visually noteworthy. To me, everything in the world suddenly seemed like a neon sign screaming "look!" "See the sunset guys?" I would ask in the mini-van on the way home from the opthomologist. I took them on walks, "look at this caterpillar, how yellow his stripe is." "Look, do you see how the water ripples when you throw a rock in the lake?" Nothing was beyond my fear of her losing her sight. In the cereal aisle, I asked her which box she thought had the best cover. My best friend Melanie flew Kelsea and I to Seattle and we gasped at Mount Rainer through the airplane window. She took 220 photos of clouds when I fell asleep on the plane and another 220 when we flew by Mount Rainier (see photo above). We met Melanie and her daughter in Seattle and watched the most beautiful sunset over Puget Sound. We rode a fairy in the hopes of seeing dolphins. We walked through the evergreen woods deep in the state of Washington, where the pine needles keep your footsteps quiet. We fed the goat in Spokane and saw our first IMAX movie. We went on an organized crazy spree to see everything everywhere.

She knew what I was doing. I know she knew. Sometimes I closed my eyes and pressed on them until I saw rainbow colors. Wondering what her life would be like blind. When her medication made her pass out at her brother's lacross game, I pulled him from the field and quietly raced to the ER, with three children under the age of 9, where the doctor wasn't familiar with her disease or her medications. I didn't sign the kids up for sports after that. Instead we went fishing together, and took walks. We became very close as a family. Kelsea's little brother, two years younger, and her sister, four years younger, adapted well. My husband and I just wrapped a little cocoon around our lives. Friends and sports, sleep and our own interests took a major back seat to the hourly drops and constant appointments. The children and I learned to play verbal waiting games, like "would you rather" and the alphabet game to keep from going crazy in the doctor's offices. I know that my kids have a character of understanding about them that most young children don't. They also know to stop and make the best of what you've got in the now.

When nothing was working, we found a doctor in Boston, 7 hours from home. I emailed him with a synopsis of her situation. Two hours later he emailed back, "can you come tomorrow? Can you come this week?" Over the years, we actually let the electricity get shut off instead of missing an appointment with him. I just gave the food in the fridge away and we left town. Trips to the city are not inexpensive. The doctor is an intense personality. He has made me ecstatic, and he has reduced me to tears. My kids like the free snacks and candy in his waiting room. This Doctor likes to say we will all do "Whatever it takes" when it comes to saving vision. "Whatever it takes." I often repeated this to myself when the chips were down and I wasn't sure if our next paycheck would come before the cupboards were bare. Uveitis has taken a lot from my family, financially, emotionally and in countless ways that may or may not ever add up into a full fledged explanation. But here we are today, all in one piece and all of us watching fireworks together on the 4th of July.

Regularly visiting the city of Boston changed our lives in so many ways. The tallest building in our town is 4 stories high, and the fire department practices getting to the top of this building with their ladder truck, because that's as far as the ladder will go.

Learning to love a big city was an adventure. And just like in life, there are things that you see, that you wish you had never seen. My children saw homeless people, sleeping on benches and beggars on the sidewalks. They were upset by the farmer's market, where leftover fruits, haggled over just moments before, were thrown in the street and literally bulldozed away. At home, somebody somewhere would can that stuff or get it to a family who needed it. But, just around those corners they saw tall buildings that amazed them, and tucked in with skyscrapers, they were awed by buildings that grounded them in the history of our country. They reveled at suspension bridges and subway musicians and street vendors and art and architecture and the giant aquarium. They ate octopus on a pizza. They sat in hotel hot tubs and we went on a whale watch. They took cab rides with their gregarious father, who got to know each taxi driver's home country and plans for the future. There were surprises, like finding the Holocaust Memorial around a corner one day, and the impossible to explain explanation of what all those names etched in the glass meant. There was the mundane drive week after week and people watching on the thruway. All of those things let us take another look at our own easy, small town lives. Horizons fell away, unveiling endless possibilities and a big wide world. And yet, through it all, we were there to save her sight.

Kelsea had her ups and downs. She developed cataracts. Then glaucoma. Her first surgery was on the day of the Boston marathon. It took hours longer than expected, and the doctor found another problem, plars planitis. It was another confounding disease. In the recovery room, before she woke up, my husband cried over her and gently picked her hair out of the bandage that covered her eye and face. There have been surgeries and recoveries, failures and new attempts.

Throughout her illness, I made it a habit to tell her the truth. If a procedure was going to be painful, I was honest. If she asked me a question I couldn't answer, I told her I didn't know, which meant we could find out together. After surgery, when she asked me how her eye looked, I said, "like hamburger." A lot of parents thought my approach was, ill planned, to say the least. But it worked for us. I didn't let medical professionals, teachers, or anybody lie to her. When she came to me and finally asked, "Am I going to go blind?" I said, "Not if we can help it, but I can't promise you anything." The honesty thing has been a boon as she has hit her teenage years. She knows I don't lie to her, if she asks a hard to answer question I tell her the truth. It's a trust thing.

We adopted the doctor's saying, "Whatever it takes." Fighting insurance companies and school special education departments took tons of my time. When they wouldn't let me leave work to take Kelsea to an emergency appointment, I made the hard decision to quit my job to focus on getting to doctors, and getting insurance and school problems straightened out. When we shut the cable off, cut every corner, spent our savings and still couldn't afford to pay the bills, we always got to the doctor. When the local doctor and office we were comfortable with developed a negative attitude toward the specialist in Boston, we let him go and found a doctor further away who would better fit our team. When the school wouldn't cooperate I cried and shouted and then read the state regulations and got them to blow up the size of her work. When the watch I bought to beep when drops were due didn't have enough beepers for all of the different drops and pills, I bought another. "You are going off" people would say. Indeed I was.

My river child had her moments. There was a point when she went through the steps of grief. Anger was first. I let her break things. I let her scream. I didn't know what else to do. When she started leaving "five stars" on her siblings, (this is the cool kids way of saying a big hand print from a slap) I knew she needed something more than I could offer. A great therapist, Maria, helped her focus her feelings and work through them.

Denial was also challenging. On a school night, at the age of 11, she informed me she was no longer "doing drops." She kindly explained that she was done with uveitis, and wasn't "doing uveitis" anymore. She missed a set of drops. She was about to miss the next dose. Internally I was freaking out, worried about her eye pressure, worried what would happen if she didn't go back to normal and take her darn pills and drops. Externally, I was trying to understand what she was going through, she had never behaved this way. Finally I convinced her to talk to a doctor and ask whatever she wanted. We called the doctor's answering service in Boston. Her favorite head intern called back. Thank God. We privately called him our "cute doctor" and he was wonderful. He works in NYC now, lucky NYC. I don't know what they talked about. My easygoing girl asked me to "go somewhere else" and they talked for about 45 minutes. When it was over, she put me back on the phone. He said, "Kelsea will take her medicine now, and she won't stop taking it. She is a really nice girl. She knows a lot about her disease and I don't think she needed education. She was just having a rough time and she's okay now." Kelsea was in the kitchen, taking her drops. That Doctor's wife was due to have their first baby at that time and I have great confidence in his ability to be a great dad.

Kelsea is 13 now. I was at work at my new job when the doctor called me to say she could stop her immunosuppressive therapy. I cried through three tissues at my desk, and then cried at lunch. I cried tears of joy, and fear that the remission might not last. When I went home and told Kelsea, she started crying. Then we jumped up and down in the kitchen holding hands. She is as tall as me now, and she can jump higher. Her first set of bi-focals make her look so grown up I sometimes do a double take when she walks through the living room. And yes, she can see. She can even read print!

Her disease is in remission and for the first time in 6 years, she is off all medications. After hourly drops, and every two, four, or 12 hour medications and drops, being med free is astounding. I keep feeling like I am missing something, forgetting something, but I'm not. I have fallen out of the loop, I don't know what the pharmacist's kids did last week, or when his next vacation is. I haven't read a large print doctor's office version of Reader's Digest in ages. In a lot of ways, we all have our lives back. The kids are all doing sports again. Funny though, I realize that a lot of the quality time we all had together was in a waiting room and I almost miss it.

My son played lacrosse and football this year, he is 11. He was in box lacrosse when he was 6, so there is catching up to do. My youngest is 9 now and she is joining 4H. She plans on raising a lop eared bunny for her first project. I have a great job as office manager for a not-for-profit agency. Kelsea can spend the night at friend's houses now, because she doesn't have to worry about meds. We finally bought a home. It's an old rebuilt school house by a creek. Kelsea painted her bedroom orange. Lime green is her accent color. I bought the paint. I am thrilled she can choose her own colors.

Doing "Whatever it takes" isn't easy, but in our case the results were worth it. I know I will never look through a camera lense in the same way again. Capturing the world isn't necessarily about taking pictures, and it's not about having it all or trips to Disney Land. Life is about recognizing when something is really worth doing, it's worth doing "whatever it takes." If each of us could find something worthwhile to invest our energy into, a great deal of good could be accomplished. One doctor decided to stop uveitis, and my daughter can see because he did whatever it took. Doing whatever it takes in the fight against uveitis brought my family together in ways we would never have imagined.

The biggest lesson I learned, is that the strongest, worst, most astounding, most insanely frustrating things in life, can lead to the best lessons you will ever learn.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Anxiety & Panic, a bane.

After our house fire, I had my first panic attack. You would think the actual fire would have caused me to panic, but it didn't. It wasn't until weeks later the whole thing closed down on me. Post traumatic stress. Fabulous. They blame it on my father the fallen fireman, but I'm not sure that was it, I think it was realizing I wouldn't graduate college because I had three kids under the age of 5 and we were suddenly homeless.

Since then it seems that I always find myself with things to fix. They are never small things, but the sort of things you ruminate upon and worry over and regret for years because of all the could have beens.

Right now? I'm hiding. From everything that's good in my life and every spinning whirling thought I have in my head. I can't remember a time when things didn't worry me and my head wasn't full of gyrating concerns. I've cleaned the bathroom and it's spotless. I'm thinking of who I would want to raise my children if I were gone. There are enough ghosts in my past to make worry about that. I hope everyone feels this way, because if not, I must be crazy and I work so hard at making things orderly that I would rather die than be crazy.

"Anxiety is the space between the 'now' and the 'then'" ~Richard Abell

Earlier, after I cleaned the bathroom, when I felt like a panic attack was coming on, I got in the closet because scrubbing the shower and the toilet didn't help. I like that closed up muffled feel of being encased. It helps. It probably makes me crazy but it helps. One can breathe in a closet, with all those walls everywhere.

I'm lucky. I've been loved. By my mother and sisters and brother. By friends. And by the boy and men I've loved in return. I wonder who I would have been if I'd never let them in. Why is it that men shape women's lives to such an extent? Why is it that they come in and have the ability to alter our courses so inexorably? Please appreciate the subtle hint at pregnancy, it's intentional. I would like to say that I influenced them right back just as strongly, but that's not true. They walked away unscathed, even when their time on earth was through. And me, I'm freaking out in my bathroom.

There are days, when I'm driving my mini-van, heading out to work or to buy toilet paper or cat food, and I feel like *HSBFOD is sitting in the passenger seat, amused by how grown up I've gotten. I can feel him smiling. The girl in me belongs to this boy-man who never really grew up, and who took the course of my life and choked it into what it became. Stupid boy, sitting there smiling at me. I knew he loved me, even when he did what he did. It haunts me, wondering if maybe as he realized no one was going to save him, he might have looked up at the sunlight slanting through the water and thought of me and our baby and wished he had stayed true. He could be alive today if he had.

need to shower and get dressed. And I do. It's a holiday and my family is chomping at the bit to get to grandma's house. My mind is not on the job though. It's circling around and bringing me back to places I wish I could fix.

hen my husband comes to see if I’m ready, and smiles his little smile at me that says “aren’t you pretty,” I roll my hair into a twist, clip it up and I’m ready. Living life well is about learning how to focus on our blessings. Being married to someone who can calm you with a smile is a blessing.

or those of you who have anxiety or panic attacks, breathe. Breathe. BREATHE. This too shall pass. Focus on something positive and be strong.

*HSBFOD: high school boyfriend father of daughter

On Home Improvement

After settling in to our first home (one with a mortgage and not a rent) I installed a small chandelier in my dining room.

I bought it at a going out of business sale and because it was a display model I had to wait while the salesman climbed up a ladder and unscrewed the whole mess. dust bunnies floated from the display rack as he completed the process.

I brought the dusty thing home at 80% off and buffed it up. It was missing the sconces. I bought replacements for about $10.

The internet is a beautiful thing to a woman with a lazy man in the house. I’ve learned to go on “thisoldhouse.com” for lessons on producing high quality home improvements on my own.

On Chandelier day, I printed out some directions, and after DH left for work and couldn't stop me, I began the installation. I shut off all of the breakers for the whole house, just to be safe. (It was years before I honestly believed one can shut off just the breaker to just the light one is wiring. In those days, I shut them all off for safety)

I paid my 11 year daughter $1.00 to stand on the dining room table holding up the fixture while my 9 year old son held the “deer spotlight” toward the ceiling and I wrapped wire in electrical tape, twisted on wire nuts and closed up the mess.

"We all walk in the dark and each of us must learn to turn on his or her own light." ~Earl Nightingale

I honestly have never been so proud of myself in my life. I felt like I moved a mountain on Chandelier Day. And all I had moved was one little light fixture from the floor in the dining room (where it had sat for over a month), to the ceiling.

I was jubilant.

The next day I put in a bathroom wall light. All women should do home projects like this. If you are the sort of woman who feels that such things are insurmountable projects, solved only by hiring someone, or calling in your man, trust me, you should DEFINATELY, tackle some sort of home improvement project. Of course, the man of my house couldn't understand why I was so proud of myself, commenting, "Anyone can install a light fixture, it's no big deal."

Oh, but it was. And didn't he know it.

Best wishes,

Rebecca Flys

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

On Motherhood

This woman I know, who happens to have been a boss of mine, has made mention several times that she wishes she'd never had children. She has great girls, and she is the first to tell you how easy they have been to raise, how she doesn't help them with their homework and how they succeed at everything they try. They are going to good colleges soon, and are currently vacationing in Europe. Why anyone would say they wouldn't have had their children when obviously it worked out so well for them really bothers me. This woman has degrees up the who-ha, she is educated and cultured, and yet she continues to make mention of this desire to have not had children. It's weird. I wish I could get inside her head to find out how much of what she is saying is truth, and how much is desire for a path the rest of us didn't know she could have taken. I wonder if her husband is a very nurturing man. He must be. In my mind it's all very odd.

know another woman, girl-woman really, who continually says she wasn't supposed to have children. She has two children by different fathers, one of which she won't acknowledge except with a certain racial slur, which is odd because it is negative toward her actual child, and odder yet because the kid is not of mixed race, really. Anyhow, she says she wasn't supposed to have had kids, medically. Yet she had two, and neither of them resides primarily with her. She is one of the smartest-quick learning women I know but she picks the worst men. Really bad men. And her children's feelings, she just walls them right off from her soul. The situation is sad really, because if she always did what was best for them, it would do nothing but improve her own life. Very paradoxical.

I've worked a lot of different sorts of jobs. And at one of them, working in an assisted living facility, I liked to read the patients files. Doing this is always encouraged; it helps aids understand the people behind the dementia. You can better plug into a person and have things to talk about if you know who they are. Anyhow, my favorite lady at this place, I'll call her Daisy, was an old woman in her late 70's or early 80's. Sweetest lady ever. Polite, with good manners and used to being kindly in charge. Daisy had been a bank executive. Probably one of the first women to work her way up like that in America. She had had a fulfilling career. Never married or had children. Her job was her life. Her friends even came to visit one day and threw her a birthday party. They had all gone to Catholic school together and had stayed in the area and remained friends for the entirety of their lives, though they saw each other rarely. Not long after this, we found out that the bleeding Daisy had been having was due to advanced uterine cancer. She was dying. And she was dying with strangers and didn't really remember the friends and job and life she had lead anymore. I saw other Daisy's in my experiences as a Nurse's Aid. There are tons and tons of Daisys.

~"The grass is greener where you water it."~

When the women I know wish away their children, I remember how it felt to watch Daisy die alone. It's not something that's comfortable to explain, the relief I have in my heart, knowing that I know I won't die that way. I have daughters and a son. I am someone’s mom, and I'll be someone's grandma someday, but it explains why I shake my head when women explain why they wish they didn't or wouldn't have or don't want their children, even as they explain away the rashness of their comments.

Best wishes,
Rebecca Flys

Finding Fly

At some point in my youth, probably the same point you did, I was sure I would have life completely figured out by the time I was 30. Being young seemed mundane. I would flip through the pages of the JCPenney catalog and imagine myself as an adult. Snappy business suits and form fitting casual wear paired with big gold jewelry. It was the 80’s. Girls like me were raised to believe it was our due to have it all. Susan B. Anthony had given us the right to vote, and our mothers had burned their bras, giving us the freedom to shop in Victoria Secrets.

We never questioned the fact that we could grow up to be anything we wanted. Geraldine Ferrara ran for president. She lost, but we saw the shine and allure of the yellow brick road. While we tied our Keds, we imagined the power pumps we would one day don, click our heels, and knew our turn was coming. And it couldn’t come fast enough.

All these years later, I find myself sorting laundry, trying not to argue about the actual physical completion of someone’s 6th grade homework assignments, and scrubbing dog pee out of the living room carpet. One moment I find sincere satisfaction and gratification out of my three kids, and the next, I feel I would hop a bus and live anywhere, anywhere, but here in this small town, in this life, at least until they are old enough for a glass of wine. How, how did this happen to me?

What would I do if I could do anything? What if I could just do ANYTHING? I don’t know. Maybe I’m just not brave enough to figure it out. Maybe if I could take back 30, rewind the perpetual motion, I would go back and change everything. There is not one decision, one indecision that I would re-write in indelible ink.

~Do not be deceived: "Bad company ruins good morals"
Corinthians 15:33

I have told people that if I had my life to live over, I would start over in the ovary. Literally, I would begin again as the egg to be fertilized and repeat nothing. But that’s not totally true, I would repeat motherhood, I would be a mom again, but it’s the only thing I would repeat. Nurturing a person into reality is a must-do-over. Meeting people you have nearly single handedly brought into this world, is a must-do-over. It’s just that I would select my circumstances instead of letting them select me.

The Valedictorian and Salutatorian of my class were both girls. I took an AP English class with them and though I knew instinctively the Mormon dressing, but very sweet Valadict and the upper crustish, well coiffed salutator were my intellectual superiors in everything else, they didn’t hold a candle to my love of literature and my insatiable need to prove myself. I think I understood literature because I had lived a little more than they had. It’s easy to understand Roscolnocov’s impulse to murder his landladies, when disfunctionary living leaves you breathlessly ready to commit homicide on a daily basis. Easy to understand the bittersweet flight of Soloman, or the Gumplike tragedy of Owen Meany. Did you know the BBC created a list of books, and bet that most Americans had not read 6 of them? It’s true, I read the check-list on Facebook. I greeted many of the titles like old friends, I checked 50. I read many of them while I was a 20 year old stay at home mom of two, waiting for the birth of my third.

The undercurrent of our classes was this: the quiet girls with the polite and appropriate answers would outdo the boys. We believed in scholarships for sports and academics, but the truth of that became abundantly clear soon enough. Scholarship money is small and far between, and it counts against your state aid. Grades counted, but just because you got into a school didn’t mean you could afford to attend it. These are facts my step father reminded me of quietly, in hushed whispers, “you know we can’t afford to send you to college right? It’s expensive and we just have no money for it.” I wanted to go to Harvard and attend law school. A big dream I know. I also wanted to become a model and pose for Avon make-up catalogs. I wanted to be the girl with the white teeth and slightly open mouth selling eye shadow, or a new perfume. I had big pouty lips, come you know what me lips, the kind adult men comment on when you are just shy of 17 and bagging their groceries. I knew I could do it.

Enough. Finding Fly has to be about more than my girlhood dreams and sordid past. It has to be about what I’m going to do with my life, who I really am now and who I will be in 8 short years when my youngest is 18 and I am 42. That woman, looming out there ahead of me, the one who never let her hair go naturally gray. What am I going to give her? What am I going to prepare her for now? God knows the girl I was never gave the woman I am now a chance. It’s up to me, now to prepare 42 year old me for her future. After all, the country is in an “economic slump” everyone, even 35 people at my husband’s plant have been laid off, I spend every Sunday night reminding myself I am lucky to have a job, even if I hate it (since writing this~I am no longer employed). My BFF is living 300 miles away from her husband who left the state to find a job, and I am living 3000 miles away from her because her mother put on her pumps and moved her away when we were in high school to climb a ladder and built us girls a ramp.

So, after hemming and hawing and failure to launch myself, it’s time for me to take one more glance over what I loved and hated about myself in the past. I think, if I do that, I can finally, finally, unearth the yellow brick road to my future.

But, where do I start?