It's a dreary day here - the sky is gray, and it's a little chilly. It's just dark enough outside to justify turning on the lights on the Christmas tree. I've spent the day doing volunteer work, and soon I'll head to the high school to get my two teenagers. In another time, this would be a boring start to a blog, but the idea of school and children has a resonance now after last Friday.
We spent the weekend with family in Tennessee. It was arranged well in advance of the horror of Friday. Our weekend meant we spent hours upon hours in the car together - Mom, Dad, two teenage sons. And it was rare that my thoughts did not turn towards Connecticut. We discussed music, and I thought of how blessed I was to have my children safely with me. And later we talked about movies, and I would think how blessed I was to have my children with me. And later yet when we talked about football, I would think how blessed I was to have my children with me. Each time a prayer would head to heaven for the families who have lost their little ones, and for the families who have lost their loved ones - the teachers and administrators who were true heroines that day. But my thoughts also turned towards the gunman and his family. And I said a prayer for him and his family also.
When my oldest son was six, he wanted to be a fireman. When my younger son was six, he wanted to be a soldier. At sixteen, my oldest son is learning Chinese, and has found Accounting to be an easy course. He's interested in how he could combine learning both. At fourteen, my younger son is still deciding, and anyone who has been a teenager knows they both could change their minds a dozen times before settling into a career. Each child that was lost was a loss to each of us. Their potential gone before it could happen.
The word evil is used so much when these horrors happen. Certainly what happened is an illustration of an evil act. Nothing can justify such an act. But my heart breaks as a mother for all who were lost, and that does include the gunman. Raising a child to be an upstanding person is simply the hardest act I've ever attempted. Sometimes a child is born broken. If you have not read this article by a mother of a broken child, please do - "I am Adam Lanza's Mother" . We do not know the circumstances, and nothing can justify the act, but my heart cries out also for someone who at 20 somehow thought this was something to do. Why may not ever be answered. I do know that there is never a simple easy answer. Mental illness needs to be a part of the conversation. But simply throwing out a diagnosis such as autism is using too broad a brush - a brush which paints those who don't deserve it.
All I can offer is prayer - for each of the victims, their families, for the first responders, for the gunman, and his family, and each person affected by the horror. May God bless and provide healing.
Monday, December 17, 2012
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
One beautiful sunny morning during the summer of 2011, my then doctor shoved me, metaphorically of course, into my very own Twilight Zone and since that day I have been fighting to escape it. I wasn't going to go down without a fight, I had no intention of being hurled into the abyss, and aged before my time. No, this intrepid explorer of hormones was on an expedition to find my way out and nothing was going to stop me. Like many women (I am absolutely 100% sure about this) I was not going to take the news that I was post-menopause lightly. For heaven's sake, I wasn't even 45, had only missed one period, and this news implied that I was ultimately over the hill, dried up like a shriveled prune, no longer of service to the reproducing human race. As you can tell from my descriptions I wasn't too happy about the news, but you can't argue with blood tests and a sarcastic YOUNG nurse now can you!.
I cried for days, checking in the mirror sporadically just in case the excess water loss from my tears was making my parched state even worse, I couldn't afford to lose any more body bits! All I could think of was Samantha in the movie, "Sex in the City 2." I had always dreamed I would grow old like her; disgracefully running around enjoying being sexy, wise, and beautiful (yes, I get top marks for having a vivid imagination). For God's Sake, I did not even get a chance to use hormone creams, pop placebo pills, or eat humongous amounts of Hummus due to its medicinal properties. I felt cheated, I wanted to stamp my feet, and scream loud at everybody. The only problem was I was too embarrassed. It felt like I had menopause engraved on my forehead, I didn't want to go out or communicate with people.
I started to notice things too, changes on my body. I was convinced my boobs were sagging, my waist was disappearing, my stomach was growing flabby, and yes the ultimate blow, I saw the dimples appearing like chicken pox on my thighs. What a nightmare. I spend hundreds on the strongest-you-can-buy skin creams, applying a thick layer each night, which quite ironically make me look like a zombie according to my husband. Obviously, I was hoping by the morning my cheeks wouldn't have dropped into large jowls and my neck wouldn't resemble the turkey we serve at Christmas. My Twilight Zone was a living hell, but what made it worse was that each month I was having pre-menstrual symptoms. My weight would increase by at least seven pounds, my hunger was out of the universe, my boobs became swollen, which of course delighted me as they didn't sag as much, and I got the occasional pimple or two. On top of all this my under-active thyroid symptoms steadily got worse. My thyroxin pill strength was increased every four to five months, but to no avail. I began to feel like a physical wreck!
I ventured out to others for help. I was desperate. By this summer (2012), I knew something was not right. I had done my homework and had, on two occasions, a little light breakthrough. I saw an Endocrinologist who told me in not so many differing words to these, "Get used to it. You have gone through menopause, you can expect to put on five pounds of weight approximately each year, and no, you are not too young for this. Sorry you have wasted your money coming to see me." Nice lady (can you hear the sarcasm?) She is definitely not on my recommendation list of doctors. I also went to see a Chinese doctor. She took me off wheat, introduced me to coconut oil, and gave me instruction to hold an incense candle to my ankles twice each day for five minutes at a time. In addition, once a week I would go and have at least 20 needles placed in certain parts of my limbs and torso to alleviate my symptoms and to improve my circulation. To be fair, this was at the time, the best result. I did lose a little weight, I did feel a little better, and I wasn't so 'hormonally disturbed'. But, I have to admit, I love wheat, and this was diet was not sustainable. Naturally, I failed and this added to my post-menopausal feeling of uselessness.
My road to redemption started quite unexpectedly at my once-a-year ladies check up. The doctor, a different one this time, but very nice all the same, innocently asked me how I was feeling. That was her mistake, fourteen months of frustration, anger, and humiliation let rip. After about 45 minutes, she sat there with a look on her face that said "Looney" and to appease me, she sent me on a referral to another Endocrinologist. Four weeks later, I was sitting in his office.
Now, for a moment, let me take you on a visual journey. Close your eyes and imagine Mr. Magoo, with yellowy wax like skin, and a creepy smile of a serial killer. Got it? Yep, I was ready to run. I found myself quite suddenly accepting of my situation. But, would you believe it, I wasn't quick enough to escape. Obviously old age had slowed me down, and I was there, stuck in the room face to face with THE DOCTOR!
I was somewhat distracted but managed to relay my story to him. I got a bit, well actually a lot, creeped out when he stood behind me massaging the front of my throat with both hands. I gulped literally and he told me to relax. Instinctively, I pulled away and he chuckled asking me if I liked being choked. Um, hello? The room instantly just got smaller; I was with a psycho, trapped and convinced I was going to end my life as a not-wanna-be-post-menopausal victim of a modern day Dr. Jekyll. As it turns out, he was a good listener, wrote many notes, and looked at my book of blood tests that I had brought with me. He explained he had seen many cases just like me, and that he would perform some tests (an ultrasound and blood work), but he felt sure the problem was with my medication. He explained that if you are on a generic medication, especially of thyroid replacement, there can be a 20% swing in strength from one supplier to the other. Therefore, if your pharmacist is in the habit of switching suppliers your medication can be unbalanced. Five days later, after my results were in, I switched to a slightly higher dosage of the brand named drug.
At first, there was no change in my condition and it seemed Dr. Jekyll had failed, but after ten days, I began to feel nausea, a bit like morning sickness. This went on for some time but I knew I couldn't be pregnant, after all I was post menopause. I made an appointment at the doctor, but soon cancelled it as I found my answer to my problem. My period had arrived, and then four weeks later another period, and today four weeks after the second, another. My cycle has returned, normal and healthy.
What I have not told you is that two weeks after initially seeing Dr. Jekyll, a blood test was re-performed to confirm my hormonal state of play at my original doctor's surgery. Funnily, I got a call from that surgery during my second period. The nurse, nicer this time, was ecstatic, she was proud to announce I was not menopausal at all. In fact, it didn't look as if I had started the process. I told her I sort of figured that one out on my own, but thanked her for her information. Oh, I was so proud of myself for not losing my religion with her. I mean, seriously, had my husband not had a vasectomy years ago I could have been, once again, barefoot and pregnant, rendering me an eternal slave to the kitchen and washing machine into my old age. Oddly enough, I now recognize that I don't want another baby and now miss my non-period days.
HORMONES ARE SO CONFUSING!!!!
Saturday, December 8, 2012
“How old is that range top?” Regina, the middle sister of the three of us looked over at me this past Tuesday evening, “That range top was here when Mama and Daddy built on the kitchen to this house. What year was that?”
Elizabeth, our eldest sister, and I started to back track the years. I was only four when we moved out of that house, the first place that I knew as a home. I told them it had to be before (aw poo, I’m giving away my age here) 1964 when we moved. Regina asked if that was after Kennedy was shot, and Elizabeth said it was.
I told them I remembered where the TV console stood in the room and how I recalled Daddy watching the news, shaking his head, saying he knew it would happen while my Mama cried. Elizabeth and Regina nodded saying it was just that way, and then they told me that I was only a little thing, on my knees, crying in front of the TV. From that we figured the old kitchen range had been in that house, working hard, plucking away since 1963 or before. We sat at the kitchen table in that same house, now my sister’s home, plucking away together, reminiscing.
My sister Regina looked around at us and said, “This is good.”
“What is?” Elizabeth asked.
“This.” Regina gestured around at the three of us, together, talking, being sisters.
Families are weird. We get along, we don’t. We bash each other, but if an outsider tried, watch out. I can’t count the times I got on Regina’s nerves growing up. There were countless when times I stole her make-up and denied it. She knew I had, you couldn’t miss the lipstick stains on a six-year-old’s shirt collar. Elizabeth was always the other Mama, taking care of us, lending a hand, singing me to sleep. I wouldn’t trade all the ups and downs, the arguments, the sibling rivalry for anything. Not even the saddest moments. They are my family, my history, my present, and God willing, a part of my future.
It’s funny that something so innocent as sitting around a kitchen table can make you aware of what is important. I hope I hang on to it, appreciate it, and realize, just like my sister said, this is good.
Monday, December 3, 2012
Forget the clock and just give me a white flag to hoist up the pole. I can’t seem to do anything in a timely manner at home. I’ll have keys in hand and be ready to hit the door only to have my son remind me that I was supposed to do something, or that I really should stay home and do the night-night routine. I’ll run up the stairs to get my glasses only to pick up the discarded shoes, socks and the new roll of toilet paper that didn't make it up the stairs in the first place, and put them away. Half an hour later I still won’t have my glasses and I’ll be in the laundry room loading the dryer. I suffer from failure to launch what I need to launch, when I need to launch it.
I come by it honestly. At some point after age 60 my mother stopped worrying about when the Christmas decorations went up, and when they came down. One year when my Aunt Magdalene was visiting my mother, she called their sister, my Aunt Kathleen, and told her it was so beautiful being at my mother’s house. Everything was always so beautiful to Aunt Magdalene. Her rich European accent would have you spell bound, believing that even the New Jersey Turnpike was a thing of beauty. The conversation between them went something like this:
Aunt Magdalene: “Oh ya! It is all so lovely.”
Aunt Kathleen: “Are the flowers still in bloom there?”
Aunt Magdalene: “Oh ya, ya, and the Christmas tree is so beautiful!”
Aunt Kathleen: “Christmas Tree? What are you talking about? It’s JULY!”
Yes, it was July and Mama had decided enough was enough. She kept the eight foot tall, fake, flocked, Christmas tree up all year that year; occasionally dusting around it. She didn't care what anyone thought. When the heat of the summer seemed to stifle all the spirit out of you, she’d light the tree. Fake as it was, it pulled you back to where the days were crisp and the warm glow of home prevailed.
Maybe I need a fake, flocked Christmas tree. At this point I’m willing to try anything to get things off the ground, or to have some semblance of a schedule. I should be in bed around ten every evening, but I usually hit the sheets around 11:30 or later. I wash a dish, or fold a load of clothes, or see a chin hair or two that needs plucking, or a button that needs to be sewn on. Making my way to bed becomes an obstacle course of things that I didn't get to in the day. Mornings are worse. It’s all the above, done in a breathless rush between hugs, and goodbyes, and where the hell are my glasses! I make it into work by the skin of my teeth, panting and disheveled. It’s a frightening sight.
Now that Christmas is just around the corner, I’m struggling with boxes full of decorations. My five-year-old son is full of enthusiasm, wanting every decoration out for the entire world to see. I try to be upbeat and smile, well, it looks more like a grimace or maybe it looks more like someone who got hit up with too much Botox, but I try. Maybe I’ll take the decorations down this year, and maybe I won’t, but first I’d like to get them all up, after I find my glasses.