Wishing Everyone a Happy 2010

12/31/09

I woke up this morning watching the snow lightly fall on the branches of the trees outside my window. I was immediately delighted and relieved. It felt like the fresh snow was covering all the mishaps, medical illnesses, and hard times of 2009. At least, that is what I hope it means.  I choose to interpret the crystal snow powder as some kind of healing balm, for the human spirit and the soul.

I have no regrets that 2009 is over. None. It was a year filled with illness, sadness,  disappointment, unemployment and marital disputes and too much fighting among family members.   I say good-bye to 2009 with no regrets but with hope for the future. I have taken chances this year, some for the very first time and I hope they will be worth it. But, nonetheless, the act of taking them is, for me, is a significant accomplishment in itself.

Last night I lit the Kaddish candle, a candle of remembrance on the anniversary of my father’s death.  He died on New Year’s Eve 8 years ago, a day before my parents wedding anniversary. This time of year for me and for my family has always been fraught with sadness and emotional upheavals. Instead of lighting the candle this morning when I awakened, I lit it at 12:10 am, last night, in order for the flame to burn brightly during the early morning and through today, but extinguish quickly after the New Year has been rung in.

This is my fervent prayer, that 2010 and the snow that is bringing it in, will heal your pain and bring, if not better relationships, different relationships. If not love, than like. If not better health, a calming spirit. There are some things we have no control over and for those things I wish for patience, and understanding, better coping skills and peace.

Here is a wish for you, my friends and family: I wish you happiness and good health, I hope any gaping wounds you feel inside will be less raw and heal soon.  I hope that if you know your dreams, they will come true. And, if you don’t know what your dreams are you will not look at that with anguish but as a time of taking chances and new opportunities.

I wish for all of you, love, peace and the feeling that you are loved and cared about. I hope you feel that you belong, with someone, or something or some religion and community. Kindness and taking care of others is a universal religion, one that I am proud to be a part of. Please join me.

Happy 2010 for all my family and for the friends that I have and those that I have not yet met.

Love, Laurie

Advertisements

Kaddish, In My Own Way

It’s the night before New Year’s Eve; almost 8 years ago plus a night that my father was proclaimed dead at 10:20 pm. In virtually 25 hours from now. I thought, perhaps, that I should write tomorrow instead of tonight, but I’ve learned the hard way that when you want to write just do it, because otherwise the thoughts and feelings will not be able to be resurrected. Funny word to use, resurrected. If only.

I miss my dad more than anyone will know. I miss his gentleness, his soft hands, his blue-gray eyes and his always reassuring smile. I miss him telling me “not to worry” and that it does get better with age. I miss having in my life and in my children’s lives.  More importantly, I miss him in my mother’s life because what she is without him, is not someone I really know.

I remember a time when my father was very depressed, clinically depressed and my mother became nasty, and angry and also very depressed.  I remember saying at the time that I felt “like I had lost my father and my mother.”  It wasn’t far from the truth and I’m sure not uncommon. But it was incredibly painful to be a child mourning two strangers, two parents.

I wrote earlier how I didn’t know my mother anymore; her nastiness, bitterness, anger.  I recognize this time of year for her, of course,  but I also do not know this woman I call “Mom.”  A once-gracious,  charming, likable and happy woman, that still can charm any stranger she meets; but, now, also a woman who holds the pettiest of grudges, all the time, and for all time.

My father was the ying to her yang, he was the soothing, gentle part of her that we knew and loved. Without him smoothing out the ripples, there would have been many more fights and disagreements, as they are now. I knew he played the game all along, but apparently my mother never knew that he listened to both sides of stories and adapted to each one, in order to have peace in the family.

There is a significant hole in my heart and soul that nothing can replace.  I miss my dad, because once you lose a parent, you are never, ever the same.  Not ever.  Maybe because my dad and I were so alike that missing him is so much harder for me. I’ve often said that he was the one that understood me, that could read me like a book, that we could know each others  thoughts or feelings in a second’s glance. He is not here anymore, nor will he ever be but sometimes I can see him in the actions and deeds of my son. He lives on in my son, his gentleness, his stubbornness, his capacity to love, his ability to read me as if I were made of glass.

My father was no saint. There were a lot of things he did that I did not understand or like. No one is perfect, no-one is expected to be. The reality of all this is while I mourn for my father, I am also mourning for a  mother who has become a stranger to me. I say the prayer for the dead, Kaddish, in my own way. I remember my father, I remember how much he meant to me and I give thanks for having him in my life for as long as I did. There are some people who never have had a dad in their lives, much less a good dad.

I pray that my mother will try and come back to who she was, at least with me. I hope that she can see that how she is acting is not doing her any good; only harm. So when I say good-bye to my dad tomorrow at 10:20 pm, I would love, at the same time, to be saying “hello” to my mother, a loving mother whom I seemed to have lost.

Welcome HOME ??!

We’re back in NY in a blustery blizzard of snap, bite, whip of the wind, tears in our eyes after 30 seconds outside.  While I dearly miss the sun kissing my skin and the water of aqua blue, I do not miss the 3:30AM arrival of our upstairs hotel-mates every single night. We knew they came home early in the morning and then continued moving furniture, or should I say scraping furniture across the room.  After sleeping 12 hours in my own, comfy bed,  I was happy to be home.

Until…..I called my mother this morning to talk to her and I could tell from her “hello” it wasn’t going to be one of those warm and fuzzy discussions. Of course, for those of you who know my mother, I’m not entirely sure we’ve ever really had one of those before!  Last night, knowing my mother worries a lot about us traveling I asked my daughter, Jillian, to give her a quick call from the airport last night to tell her we had landed. Nice, right? Sensitive.  I think she was happy we had called.

This morning when I woke up at 12:30PM I called my mother to talk….to “shmooze.”  Surprising, even to me, I was met with 5 if not 6 references on how we were NOT home for Christmas. Again.   What? I thought that had been settled a long time ago and she was ok with it. I mentioned it to her and she said “well now I’ll tell you again…for the 7th time you weren’t here for Christmas!!”  Basically, her anger at our going, even strengthened when we returned. Mom, don’t you get it, I thought to myself…don’t you want your children to be happy, even if for ONCE, it means they go without you?  I didn’t have the nerve to say it, call me a weakling but I know trouble when I hear it in the intonation of  of her voice.  She told me how my niece and nephew were going to take her to dinner for a Christmas present and I thought that was absolutely lovely (probably engineered by my sister but who cares??!!) I was happy for my mother that her “other” grandchildren were being so loving. Good for them, good for her.

She then proceeded to tell me how she somehow got an OLD email from my husband from a year ago that resurfaced on her computer and how upset she was and how nasty he was. What?  She apparently had read this email a year ago, was mad at him, forgave him (my husband is one of the sweetest most helpful men on earth) and then reread it, and got mad all over again.We don’t even know what the email was about anymore; frankly, we don’t care.  It was over a year ago, why bring it up again?? Even my husband has finally had his fill, once I told him this. He drives there all the time to help her with her computer, he brings her food but she is losing everybody’s respect with her unwavering desire to hold grudges.  What has happened to her? Where has she gone?

My mother used to be a very likable, loving, even tempered woman. Truly she never, ever held a grudge. I remember telling my grade school friends that when my mother was wrong, she used to apologize, something unheard of in the 60’s.  I do the same thing with my children.  Although I remember her always having a fight with someone when I was little, it passed. Now,  the grudge never goes away and apparently can resurface at any time. Especially, to me and my family. Nothing is ever enough, and when we bend over backwards to please her she finds fault in something else. I give enormous credit to my sister and her family for their graciousness about our decision for once to go away over Christmas, truly. And, I thought my mother and I had worked it out before we went, actually I know we worked it out before we left. But to come home to her nastiness, again, is really  just too much.

I told my mom that there were a few disappointing aspects of our vacation and I got the impression she was thrilled. Yes, I was disappointed over a few things that happened with friends and family but that’s okay. My mother went after this like a dog with a bone. “So, she inquired,  it wasn’t perfect!!!!??”  No, it wasn’t perfect, but really, mom. What is?

She is losing us with her bitterness and her nastiness. Can’t she see that? Can’t she learn from that? My sister told me she bought my mother a work book about “How to let go of grudges” something she so desperately needs.  Will she work on it? I doubt it, because even though some people get bitter and resentful as they age,the woman I  call my mother is simply unrecognizable anymore. I’ve lost the woman I love, or to be more honest, she has lost herself.

dedicated to my sister Emma and my friend, Elise.

What Do Words Really Mean?

As parents we teach our children, from a very young age, to see please, and thank-you. We teach our children to respect their elders, to give up there seats on trains or buses for the elderly or the handicapped or women who are pregnant. We drill, over and over that “there is a word missing……”  We hope that they will eventually do this on their own. It’s what we expect from them but recently I’ve realized it doesn’t always work out the way we think it should. Maybe our expectations are too high? Maybe we are totally wrong. It could go either way.

We even prompt them sometimes and my children are not children anymore, they are 15 and 17. Something you would like to say we ask lightly? Did you forget anything? It’s really nothing more than a step up from “what’s the missing word little Susie?”

My husband and I took our teenagers to Aruba over Christmas holiday. We barely saw our son much less heard from him. He was safely ensconced in his “bachelor pad” pool house of his best friend’s grandmother’s mansion. Our daughter, being stuck with us in our room and without the amusement of fighting with her brother non-stop, tended to be sullen, and critical. When my daughter was 2, it was all about her. She is now 15 and everything still has to revolve around her. She has a lot of compassion for animals, I hope she will learn compassion for people, other than her friends, too.

We try and lead by example, my husband and I are both very polite individuals; both of us having grown up with European parents. We tended to be stricter than any of our friends who have children. Even my niece and my nephew never had curfews and their parents hardly ever knew where they were. This is not acceptable in our house. There are a lot of things we DON’T know and many things we have already have conceded, but we still feel children still need some structure.  Is that too old fashioned or being sensible?

My husband and I are betting if the children will thank us for this vacation. He thinks they will not. I think my son might and then my daughter will murmur her agreement.  So far, we haven’t heard any “Thank you’s” for meals, expenses, the trip…..Do the words replace actions?   I don’t think so. It’s something, but it certainly is not enough, not nearly enough. I know I have to give them slack, a lot of slack because they are teenagers and their worlds do revolve around themselves….

Am I being too harsh?  Is it wrong to expect teenagers to have manners? Am I fooling myself?  Honestly? I really don’t know.  Our son spent the entire time with his friend in Aruba without so much as an e-mail much less a phone-call  to us.  He only came to visit here when he and his friend wanted to use the gym OR when his friend’s father made them visit for a little while on Christmas Day.

This is our first encounter with teenagers at this age and we’re lost. Both my husband and I were not typical teens (whatever that really is). We were highly respectful and gracious and always had good manners. Call us boring but that’s what we were.  In the soon to be near future, my husband and I plan to go away on vacation sans teenagers and enjoy each other all the more.

Mmmmm, Mojito!

My regular cream cheese complexion has salmon and caviar mixed in. Yes, I am a little sunburned and my freckles, (thousands I never knew I had) are dotted all over my body. My lips look like I have 24/7 lipstick on but the truth of the matter is, they are burned too. After a few days of the potent sun of Aruba, even the palest person can be reinvented.

The palm trees sway to give you the occassional breeze, the ocean is amazingly beautiful but to go in you need a lot of dexterity which I simply don’t have. There are pitfalls and ridges, inclines and declines before you are close enough to get in the water and swim. Once in, however, it is everything you have dreamed of and more. Being a water baby, just the feeling of the cool, dreamy blue-green water is enough to make me swoon. You float, on your back, and get carried away by the soft white ripples. When you look down to the sand, there are some beautiful shells. You can see lots of coral but you can’t take it home and with such an amazing environment, you wouldn’t want to take anything away to spoil it for even a second.

Yesterday, we went snorkeling with friends. While my back got twisted and my foot was reinjured, it was worth every second of pain and suffering. There were pretty electric blue fish, fish with yellow and black stripes,  big gray-white fish and a variety of others. To me, snorkeling is the best of both worlds. The world of water and fish and the world of sand and shells. I would not have missed that for the world.  My husband and I had a similar experience 23 years ago in Hawaii where we got engaged.  There, you could feed the fish (approved food you could buy) and they would swarm around you like Bambi and all his friends in the forest. We felt like we were part of the fish community there, not intruders. The fish swam with us not away from us and it was a world that was new and similar to a Jacques Cousteau special; except we were in the movie not watching it from the couch!

Today, our last day, we had a hut with shade and lounge chairs at the ocean.  It was more perfect than perfect could bewith the highlight being a Mojito served to us on the beach. For ALL those who know me, you know I never drink alcohol. I don’t like the taste of any kind of alcohol, it makes my stomach feel queasy and I just don’t like the way even half a drink makes me feel. That is, until today. The perfect mojito, served at the Marriott on the beach in Aruba was just a piece of heaven in a frothy glass. The perfect proportions of mint and lime, rum and some sort of soda. I loved it because you could not taste the alcohol and it was perfectly blended with a whole bunch of fresh mint that you could smell before the glass was handed to you.

I know I could start ordering a Mojito back when I am the States but without the sun, the waves, the crunchy sand between my toes and the armchair with my book “Have A Little Faith” beside me, it just wouldn’t be the same. My husband and I shared one drink but every sip was a perfect balance of all the ingredients, except this time they were kissed by the sun and serenaded by the rippling tides of the ocean music.

PSAT: The Beginning

Lugubrious, Nefarious, Eviscerate. What do these words have in common?  You say nothing? Wrong.  They are all words to be studied for the infamous SAT’s my son will take in March.  The dreaded PSAT’s,  for anyone who doesn’t have a Middle School or High School student, are over. There is “before”  in the college process and then, there is” after”. This goes on for a very, very  long time.

At the moment, my son completed his PSAT’s taken with more than a little arrogance and plenty of time. “It was way easy” he proclaimed. Not so much when he got back his test scores (which I thought were pretty good). My approved quote to any mother that might ask how he did was “he was disappointed he didn’t do better.”  We now talk in code.

The kids can or cannot talk about their scores, this is individual. It may be alright with SOME friends but definitely not with others. Why, who or when is completely unknown. This is for KIDS ONLY.  If  I casually ask how a particular friend had done, I am met with an annoying glare, translated to “why on earth do you want to know and no way am I telling you.”

I’m not sure if it’s the age (okay, it is DEFINITELY the age) but communication, affection, closeness and manners all decline; this is from my own experience and those of my mom friends too.  We KNOW you have to separate, we KNOW you are going to college in a little under 2 years but really, there is nothing to prove to us. Ah, I see, kids are really doing it for themselves. We know it’s a process called individuation, but they don’t and that’s why they act up, guard their territory, communicate less, condescend more and basically act as if they have already packed up and left home. The only unknown is where their dorm room is, does it have a stereo system and which college they will be attending.  Other than that, they are pretty much done.

Except for the fact that the process is just beginning. After the PSAT you need to study for the SAT; many children (children?) go to tutoring. It’s just not that simple as that. There is SAT tutoring in large groups, SAT tutoring in small groups, and SAT private tutoring. For those who knew nothing about it and waited too long with their oldest child, (like us) there is also SAT tutoring on-line and no, silly, it is NOT free. Nothing is. You even have to pay for  the test….every single time you take it!!!   And, truth be known, students take it several times to see if they can better their score.  At some point, the parent or the child will just have to stop.

The next paragraph is pure conjecture on my part and in no particular order but from what I have been told, the tests just multiply after this. There’s the ACT (instead of or with the SAT) there a re subject tests (no clue how many) then there is the “Common Essay” that you use as your general essay submitted to a multitude of colleges. In addition, there’s the separate college essay that’s geared to a particular school, and they all want them. There’s the interview, the alumni interview, the visit- the- college- and- show- them -how- interested- you- are -interview and several others.  It’s not easy for the kids and it’s definitely not easy for the parents or for that matter, the younger siblings.

You CANNOT book a vacation or make any plans from halfway through Junior year to halfway (minimum) through your Senior year. You will be visiting schools with your parents, visiting schools with your friends, wanting to go to visit schools and of course not wanting to go at all and wish the decision could be made without you.

So far, we are at the very beginning of the process. My son puts his hands over his ears and screams Nah Nah Nah at the very thought of going on a college tour. Some of his friends have been on tours already, some already know which college they want to go to, if they get in. Then, of course, there’s early admission where you sign your life away and many other admissions after that, delayed, delighted and dismayed.

Hang in there with us. We’ll take you with us on every step of the prep. Enjoy your early High School years, they really are a lot of fun. But, think to yourself, as soon as second semester sophomore year approaches, it only goes downhill from there. They up the work load, pile on the homework, test your skills, dedication and ethics just to get ready to start the process from the very beginning, the PSAT.

The Ugly Side of Karma

Do you know the feeling when some thought, usually a guilty and  bad one,  creeps into your mind but you’re not ready to accept it yet?  It flits in and out and by the time you are ready to accept the thought, grab it,  and call it your own, you’ve pretty much learned the lesson you needed to learn.  The lesson may be learned at that very second, but for me, it’s usually not owned until it has been written and most probably read.

Our whole Christmas vacation in Aruba was first discussed  over a year and a half ago. Times were tough, I had been very sick with numerous illnesses, one after another, for over a year and a half.  Our marriage had been in trouble the whole summer.  My husband and I were miserable both together and alone and I felt betrayed. The key factor that used to hold us together was trust, but I felt that trust was broken. Verbally. At that time,  I remember vividly asking my mother “if this all works out and we can make it through together, do you mind if the four of us go away together over Christmas break?” Knowing what we all were going through, and the fact that the children were very upset,  she reassured me that it would be fine: “You definitely deserve it! ”

That was then, a year ago. After getting through the summer and my husband and I working our problems out, again, I asked my mother if it was still ok. “Yes, she said, definitely.”  What I had forgotten to do and this was totally my mistake was share these plans with my sister which was my fault. We talked and I apologized and she was gracious.

Going to Aruba had been a yearly discussion since my seventeen year old son had been invited a multitude of times to stay with his best friend at his best friend’s grandmother’s house in Aruba. Huge house. Ok, mansion. We  had never seen it but all of my son’s other friends had been there with their families.   Tim was not able to go several times because we all had plans and, I didn’t want Tim to be away without us at Christmas.  It just never felt right.

The tradition of Christmas with a Jewish family is an unusual one. My parents raised us with no religion, other than culturally Jewish, but we celebrated Christmas.   When I was very small I remember having a Christmas tree, ornaments;  Santa Claus, reindeer, the stuff that dreams are made of.  The only real tradition in our family was that we spent it together. It wasn’t easy all the time. People would fight, or act immature, gift-giving and receiving became an angry or sullen event at times, my sister would think we gave too much or not enough but the 4  cousins were together and that, at the time, seemed enough.

It seemed to be enough until 8 years ago when  6  days after Christmas on New Year’s Eve, my dad passed away. It was also the day before my parent’s wedding anniversary on New Year’s Day.    After that, nothing was the same, ever.   Christmas for me, and probably  others was absolutely depressing and horrible.  I wanted to move Christmas to my house but apparently there was no wiggle room for any other alternative.  In my estimation that was a major mistake.

Once my sister and her children went on a cruise paid by our mother but in the end, my mother and brother in law decided not to go. My family stayed behind to be with our mom on Christmas, we didn’t want her to be alone. Surprisingly,  she was furious at our decision.  It was another one of the countless, “we want to be thoughtful and be with you actions” that always seems to blow up in my face and I become the evil one. Part of my life back then. Part of my life when I accepted it. Not anymore. It was a pattern and I tried to crush it with every bone in my body. Progress.

The Fessler, then Fessler-Bernsein, then Fessler-Friedmann  Christmas tradition in our family,  is that we have store-bought, refrigerated cinnamon rolls that come in a tube with  a container of vanilla icing; the best part.  This has been a tradition since my sister and I were children and we finally passed down the tradition of icing the cinnamon buns down to our children many years ago. We also had scrambled eggs and bacon, hard rolls that now have turned to bagels and presents; too many presents or too few, name in a hat, no way. Just for the children? My sister and I were jealous, after all, we were children too. But not having the sound of the Christmas bell ringing in the holiday by my father was key. One can’t replicate a tradition if a big part of the tradition is not alive anymore. But so it went….until this year.

This brings us to the present when we were scheduling our flights, the four of us, to go to Aruba. The grumbling started gaining momentum and soon my mother was hysterical trying to make us cancel it at the last moment and “guilting” us beyond belief. It wasn’t fair to anyone but when feelings are hurt, fairness flies quickly out the window along with the early morning singing doves?

So, we are here in Aruba, having a lovely time, entitled to have a good time after my health problems, our marital problems and now my husband’s unemployment status.  We had paid for the trips many months ago and we decided we did not want to cancel; it had already been paid for.  Our son, Tim,  is staying with his friend Aaron in his grandmother’s mansion and Jillian, Dan and I are staying at the Marriott and enjoying ourselves immensely.  The sun is hot, the breeze is beautiful and the water, my most beloved element, is light blue and sparking. Everything is great here. Except it isn’t.

I miss Tim. I actually am a little upset, sic, hurt, that Tim wants nothing to do with us.  Kind of like my mom probably feels about me? I have no idea.   These are the lessons we are  born to learn the hard way. Tim is probably doing all sorts of things I probably don’t want to know about living in the Bachelor Pad with Aaron, aka “the pool house.”   He stopped by unannounced once with his friend to say hello because his friend’s dad gave them a mini-lecture on how it would be nice to see your family on Christmas Day.

Ouch.    These are the lessons we are  born to learn the hard way.  I do mind that my son is acting invisible, a little arrogant, and very much cool and distant. The irony is not lost on me. His age, 17, is not lost on me  We gave him permission to go and to have fun, not fully thinking that he would,  to the extent of not even sending an e-mail or picking up the local phone to say hello.  It burns and it stings and I feel like a complete idiot. What did I THINK would happen? Well, actually, not this.

We try to teach our children good lessons, life lessons. What have we taught our son about this trip? Yes, we felt he was owed this vacation, yes, my mother said we should go, yes, we love it here in all it’s beauty…….but the truth of the matter is at this moment, I feel like I want to cry. I want to cry as my disappointment as a mom and begrudgingly as a daughter who now feels just the tiniest of guilt.

The Christmas tradition in our family, which is the most traditional thing we do, is that we have store-bought, refrigerated cinnamon rolls that come in a tube. This has been a tradition since my sister and I were children and we have passed down the tradition now to our children who now frost the cinanmon buns.  It really isn’t anything much, the store buns are the same every year, every year we fight about how crispy the bacon should be or how many presents we should buy. But, we’re together and while I love being on vacation, anyplace warm, watching the four cousin  battling over which cinnamon bun to ice and how much wouldn’t be so very bad. We learn from these experiences.  Whatever goes around, comes around, the very definition of karma. It bites.

The Jellybean Dinner

December 20, 2009

Last night my children and I had dinner together upstairs in our bedroom. My husband was off to Western Mass. to bring our “lovey”  dog to his parents for Camp Callie.  Usually,  If we go away our sensitive dog, Callie,  stays at home and our neighbors and friends come in to feed her and walk her but this time the grandparents wanted to have the dog and take care of her. She loves them.

My son was in an absolutely celebratory mood, a Junior in High School, he also works every day after school, with the exception of “off limits Fridays.”  He came home happy, haven gotten a Christmas bonus from our lovely neighbors and he was thrilled. As a mom, I of course was thrilled for him. In addition to money they also gave him a huge selection of jelly bellies and a box of chocolate for the family.  Quite a lovely and thoughtful gift from his employers (our neighbors!)

I gave Tim money to get dinner for us and he went to his favorite place, Villarina’s, to buy some wraps for Jillian and for me. I can’t begin to express the love and fun that was at the meal as the three of us crowded around my bed as we ate and talked. We were excited becauae we were going away for a few days to Aruba, something that Tim had been looking forward to and had not been able to go for years.One of his closest friends, Aaron goes almost every holiday to visit his grandmother.   Our moods were bright with the promise of tomorrow and without the more formal seating of the kitchen table.

For pre-D, (pre-dessert)  Tim opened up his box of assorted jelly beans and started tasting them and of course, threw some to Jillian and to me. There was  laughter and joy and warmth I hadn’t felt in a long, long time. I felt like I hadn’t had this opportunity to just be with the kids for a long time. After all, I had been sick for almost two years. Look at what I had missed!!! The jellybean dinner was the payoff. The opportunity to be with my two teenagers as we laughed, and teased each other and caught up on some old memories. This was worth more than any expensive dinner I could have gone too. This was living; this is what I was meant to do with my life. My life goal.

I was home, with both children around me, not stressed, and full of fun. for a holiday wish, you just can’t get better than this: a memory of fun, closeness,love and warmth and yes, at least 50 different flavors of jelly beans. Happy Holidays to all!

Who, Really, Defines An Illness?

12/25/09

We are on a much awaited for vacation in Aruba. I traveled with about 25 different medications in my wash kit. Some of whom I don’t remember why they were prescribed to me but I keep them as if they were a talisman.  I am taking the same medications here for my Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an auto immune disease, and a variety of other symptoms, fibromyalgia, a torn ligament, excruciating back spasms from having to wear the dreaded but classic “black boot”of the podiatric and orthopedic world for many months.

Back home, lying in my bed, day after day, I was always tired, achey and filled with pain.  I admit that the plane ride itself was exceedingly painful but I am off that plane now; and I feel ever so fine.

My Dr. a guru in NYC was considering prescribing me (self ) injectable medication, at a much higher dosage than the pill form I still take.   I had been considering it. I had been pondering how much is too much? Wondering if  I was at the half way point for feeling good, by HIS standards, if that wasn’t good enough.  But, what about MY standards? What about my level of pain and misery and feeling , always, like a patient and feeling good enough.

What about the mind/body experience? What happened after I dragged my worn out body, aching foot and excruciating back pain and came here?  I was minus the snow and ice, minus the bedroom I had been living in for almost two years and feeling very sorry for myself. I was determined that this vacation, “if we should be so blessed” would be the start of a new beginning for me. Despite the cane that came crashing on my head during the flight and injuring my eye, this was starting anew.

It was. It is.  So, who really defines what an illness is, a Dr. or the patient?  On the journal I keep for my Dr. at home, 1 being in really bad shape and 10 being something “I can never achieve” at home I am a solid 5, maybe 4.  The same symptoms and diagnosis in a beautiful new environment for a few sun-filled days and I am an 8 if not 9.  Do we look at things differently if we are in a different environment, or do we look at ourselves differently? If there is something beautiful to see does that help beautify the mind and body?  I feel good here, I feel warm here, I feel  something that I haven’t felt in over 2 years; I feel alive. And hopeful.

dedicated to Phylor who makes me think, and wonder.

Selianne and I

Aruba, Merry Christmas, December 25, 2009

In the sparkling diamond crystals of the light blue water in the swimming pool, there swam a beautiful, little girl who decided she liked me. It’s funny isn’t it? Children can sense people who like them and are kind.  I’ve always loved to be around kids, they are so naiive with their blunt honesty. She paddled to me, we made faces at each other; we smiled and laughed a lot. We tried to communicate but it was very difficult. My Spanish is very limited and it turns out she spoke a dialect from Santo Domingo. I needed my daughter’s translation help for that explanation!

Selianne swam under the water, her curly, rippling,  long,  brown hair flowing behind her. She had that wonderful laugh, like tinkling crystal bells,  that innocent, sweet children have. We played a game, using mostly hand signals and a few Spanish words that delighted her. I had my sunglasses on top of my head, in the pool and she felt that it was a game in itself; she was greatly amused. One time she came  upon me by surprise, swimming underwater like a fish,  and lifted my glasses off my head. I think the way I squealed was as great of a joy as it was to actually take the sunglasses from me. It became our game.

Later, since I couldn’t understand her very much, I told her in pidgeon Spanish that I would try and get my “mija” my daughter to come and help us translate.  Jillian, 15 and beautiful,  walked over and I introduced them; Selianne was very excited being an 8 year old girl in the presence of a 15 year old, teenager!!  Selianne was shy at first but then started swimming again like  the cafe au lait little mermaid that she was.  When my daughter Jillian and Selianne were trying to talk and communicate I smiled to myself.  I remembered  Jillian at that young age who had been very shy and scared of all strangers; now coaxing a little girl to play and laugh.

I crept up the baby stairs in the pool, still clutching the children’s staircase to help my, once again, aching foot. Time heals all, but sometimes we grown-ups are supposed to remember not to overdo a good thing after a long illness. Sometimes, I do not act like a grown up at all. We walked half a mile into town and BACK with my foot and heel acting up and my back in occasionally painful spasms.  I loved walking to town, I loved feeling ALIVE after feeling so spent and achy and tired for so long.  I needed and craved the experience. We ended up eating at the infamous Smokey Joe’s BBQ place, Danny and I sharing a combination meat platter and Jillian, our, vegetarian, eating macaroni and cheese.

I admit, walking back to the hotel was murder. I was too proud to admit it and take a taxi so I walked ever so slowly, limping and stopping to watch children play in the street.  Bright green and blue iguana’s slithered across the sand and the bright touristy Christmas lights of Aruba, twinkling  green, red, orange and blue Christmas lights wrapped around palm trees. The only thing I saw in front of us, walking back for a moment or two on the sand at night, were the twinkling brilliance of two hundred  little stars against the deep, dark, black night.