Passing Over Passover

Day 337 - Tuna and Salad Sandwich

Image by JoeGray via Flickr

It’s a big year for change and not something fabulous like: “OMG, we won 230 million dollars in the lottery.” I wish. My husband, after two years of unemployment, finally found a job three months ago. “Be careful what you wish for” because at the moment (and for a few more months) he is working in Buffalo, NY coming home only on weekends. “Not that there is anything wrong with that” as Jerry Seinfeld used to say but it’s about an 8 or 9 hour drive away from home or a one hour plane ride away and another hour and a half for traffic. Good news: he has a job, Bad news: location, undesirable. Having a job is the most important thing, of all people we know that. Trust me. However, I have a chronic pain disease, Fibromyalgia and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and being home with two teenagers and a dog, all the time is hard on me physically.

My son is graduating high school in less than two months. This is a big change, HUGE. Our first child going away to college is an enormous change for the entire family and yes, especially for me, his mom. I burst into tears at random times and yet when he is taunting me and acting arrogant I think, ‘it’s really time for him to go.’  I KNOW he is ready to go and he can’t wait. It’s just a little more difficult for the parents and sister he is leaving behind. All I want for him is to be happy but I can’t help feeling a little sad, selfishly for me. My daughter will be a senior in high school next year, only one grade year apart from her brother but in actuality almost two years apart in age. I can’t wait for her to have the limelight in her own family. I was also the youngest sibling in my family; I know how she feels.

Another change: my nephew is  graduating college this year and when I heard him say on the weekly radio show he hosts that there were only 3″ Grand Avenue Freezeout”  shows  left, forever, I burst into tears. Thank you Jon, for playing and dedicating the song Birds to me by Neil Young.  At least when one cousin goes to college, another one will come home. There is a little comfort in that.

My mother has had a horrible year so far because she first broke her wrist and several weeks later she fell down two stairs and broke two of her vertebrae in her back. Right after that, she got a nasty flu with a high temperature. Then she had to take some medicine that she really didn’t want to take. She has never had anything like this before and it took a great toll on her. This was a horrible and long time period and we were all very worried. Finally, she’s a little better but it was frightening.

It’s Passover and while we are not a religious family  my mom was right when she said “Families should be together on all holidays” this was generally our tradition until the cousins got older and one by one are in college. With my husband away, my kids spending all their free time with their friends on their Spring Break, sharing a tuna sandwich with my dog, Callie, did not cut it. I missed everyone and felt sorry for myself. It wasn’t the religious aspect as much but it was more that I was alone and the lack of loved ones sitting close to me that I dearly missed. It’s hard to be home alone on any holiday. Mom, I understand that more now. You were right and I was wrong, this one is for you, with great love.

I Will Pay For This (But I Don’t Care)

A poster with twelve species of flowers or clu...

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This afternoon was a day that gave birds reason to fly and sing. The budding trees are smiling with green flowers, the sky is light blue with puffy cotton-candy clouds. I wanted to do something that I haven’t done for so long because the pain I have from Fibromyalgia stops me. Today I wouldn’t let it; I refused. I went to the tiny patch of garden we have in the front lawn and replanted a pot full of old flowers into the ground. Granted, I couldn’t kneel because I knew I would never be able to get up but I improvised. I admit digging the dirt with just a little hand shovel was too hard but I gave it my best try. After that I hauled my eighteen year old son out, who cursed the entire time, to dig deeper for me. He doesn’t get gardening, doesn’t understand the point of it but he doesn’t have to; he just needs to help me when I ask. I also bought a little plant  at the grocery store today that looks like a round puffy white ball with red and white edges. I planted this little sweet flower by myself.  I pointed out a worm to my son, forgetting he’s 18 and not 7, and that amused me but not him.

After that I went into our shed and got out bird food for the cardinals. I have wanted to do that, literally, for years. Today, with the weather encouraging me, I did it. I felt bad in the winter when I couldn’t go in the backyard for fear of slipping in a foot of snow and ice but I knew the birds would forgive me. There are black sunflower seeds now in the lopsided bird feeder and some on the grass and the table because I don’t mind feeding squirrels either.

Doing these things made me feel alive even if now I am so stiff and achy I can barely move.  My back already hurts on my right side and my trusty old heating pad is in its proper place. I know I wasn’t standing or  bending the right way; but it doesn’t matter. This was good for my spirit: earth, grass, flowers, birds, sun and the wild wind bouncing off the houses and trees and through my shiny brown hair. Today, I felt normal, human,  real and I felt happy.

I had forgotten how much I like to put my hands in the earth, smell the musky scent, feel the softness of the dirt intertwined with harsh roots. The earth didn’t mind that my fingers were swollen and even my joint pain got swallowed up in the beauty of the sun-kissed daffodils. I will not complain tomorrow even if I am twisted into a painful pretzel. Today, I needed to do this, I needed to feel like I was part of the world. I wanted to feed the chirpy bright red cardinals that wake me up in the morning and even the fuzzy, fat squirrels that my dog wishes she could play with.  I wanted to replant something that was old and try putting something new and dainty in the ground. I brought out my empty plastic jug of pomegranate lemonade, filled it with fresh water and tended to my two plants. My knees are stiff and I had trouble walking down the stairs to get to the kitchen tonight holding on to the banister with every ounce of strength that I had left. Today, I learned, that maybe more pain is worth it if it means feeding your own soul.

I Can Barely Find My Shoes

NYC - Metropolitan Museum of Art - Abduction o...

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The darkening skies have lifted to show off a mild blue sky and yellow buds on naked trees. I was up all night suffering from IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) which seems to have some connection to my Fibromyalgia though I don’t really understand it. At 4am, being a mother of two teenagers I became a child myself. I was alone in the house except for my dog and the children fast asleep downstairs. I was in a lot of pain and sometimes pain takes away my judgment. I go online to see if any of my friends are there because I need to talk to someone calm, motherly.

Luckily my friend, Michal, who lives in a different country, is awake and I ask her the same things I know deep inside. It is the same advice I would tell my children or friends or my spouse to do. The fact that she is awake and talking to me calms me immediately. She tells me to drink Coke and to stir the bubbles out with a fork or Alka-Seltzer, baking soda and water…..I tiptoe down the stairs and I am overjoyed that I have found a dusty yet unopened bottle of ginger ale to drink. In my race with pain I had totally forgotten the right things to do. It was her being there that made me feel better, more than the few sips of soda that I swallowed in the dark.

We all need people sometimes, whether we have a chronic disease or if we are perfectly happy and healthy. I have Fibromyalgia and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Narrow Angled Glaucoma but it took these diseases to learn to ask for favors. A few weeks ago I asked my friend Sarah to go with me to the city because I would not, without someone’s help, be able to make it home if  my eye doctor needed to do surgery at the Eye Hospital. It was hard for me to ask her, but I did, and I needed her help desperately. It taught me the balance between being independent and dependent and the fuzzy middle line we all try to achieve. I don’t think twice about offering help to a friend or an acquaintance but feel awkward asking. I have relied on my husband for the last two years, when he was home, unemployed,  to such an extent that I needed to relearn my own skills and find my independent self again. I had lost her, she was hidden in piles of soft, flowered comforters, next to pre-made cups of coffee and the security of my husband’s endless amount of hugs.

I am glad I have found my old self again because I  need to make decisions and be responsible for myself. At the same time I am glad I can finally ask for favors when I really need them. I don’t like having all these illnesses and I don’t like that my husband is working five days a week far away from me. I do like knowing I can handle things myself, even if I do need help once in a while from a friend. There are so many decisions to make in a single day, so many minute details that I actually trip over them every so often. I get out of bed in the morning, slowly, with aches and pains and I do everything I need to do when in fact I can barely find my shoes. Sometimes there is a strength that we all have inside that enables us to pull ourselves together and go through the day and the long nights. I am not always able to do everything on my own and I do need help at times but I am happy that I have rediscovered me, balanced albeit sometimes unsure.

My Most Memorable Birthday- 25!!!

bouquet of roses

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IT was my 25th birthday, my parents, sister and I went to a fancy restaurant in New York to celebrate. The food was smorgasbord style but I remember looking at layers of thick orange lox, plump, green, salty capers and huge layers of white onions. I had no idea what I was going to eat. I had always been a picky eater so I’m sure I had bread, butter and an assortment of cheese, which is still one of my favorite meals. The only thing I do remember vividly is the end of dinner when our plates were cleared off the table.

It was dessert time, my favorite time, and my favorite chocolate layer cake had been brought in by my parents from The Homestead Gourmet Shop in Queens. Every year I looked forward to MY annual, traditional chocolate layer cake with raspberry jam filling and creamy milk chocolate frosting with perfect, pink script writing that said HAPPY BIRTHDAY. Roses, pink and green, made out of frosting, adorned the perimeter of my cake.

There were three black and white-clad waiters singing “Happy Birthday” to (an embarrassed) me. All of the waiters were smiling, each had a bright white starched napkin draped over one arm. I remember looking up after I blew out the candles and saw the waiters singing and smiling, reminding me of the penguin clad waiters from Mary Poppins. After a minute, my eyes saw something so unreal that time stood still. One of the waiters was NOT a real waiter at all. It was my beloved “Uncle Teddy” who lived far away in Israel. My father knew he would be in town and my family had arranged for him to surprise me for my birthday, waiter outfit and all. I remember the moment it registered in my brain and I jumped up from my seat and cried with happiness “Teddy!” He came towards me to give me a big hug and from behind his back he produced a bouquet of roses. I will never forget the feeling I had, the sound of my voice as I screamed his name and the sobbing as I stood motionless in time with my very own special “waiter.” He hugged and kissed me, tears streamed down both our cheeks. It was the best birthday I have ever had and one that I will never forget.

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What I Can’t Leave Home Without

Lipstick in application

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Pretty Lips, Clean Hands And Me

I could be boring and say the usual expected things: keys, ID, driver’s license, credit card but those are things I assume I am bringing (at least I thoroughly hope so, especially if I’m driving.) The definitive answer to this question “what can’t I leave home without?” would be lipstick. “Lipstick? You say?” Yes! Having lipstick on or in my handbag makes me feel more secure (how do you spell OCD?!) I USED to have to put lipstick on before I drove, but now I am (a little) more flexible. I have driven without lipstick but I don’t like the feeling. I could go through many years of psychoanalysis to find out the reason, but it’s so much easier to keep a lipstick, or two, in my bag. You know, just in case……My back up answer would be Purell, the hand sanitizer, because IF I can get rid of some germs, I do. Having an auto-immune disease makes me conscious of those things and even if washing my hands is 100 times more effective, I don’t care. I feel reassured with my little bottle of Purell at my side or rather in my bag. I actually LOVE PURELL so much I could be their spokesperson.
Call me crazy, but it is a frightening world out there and if lipstick and Purell are going to make me feel just a tiny bit better and a little more in control? So be it!

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How (NOT?) to Remember Names

Vraagteken

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Names? NO. Faces? ALWAYS.

No tricks, no memory, just really good and prompt improvisation. I have met many people and I used to have a very good memory and would remember someones name immediately and forever. Not Any More. Whether it is age, Fibromyalgia fog, hormones or any combination, it is really hard for me to remember someone’s name (unless they have made a really, special impression on me.)

When my son was little and I got introduced to a team of little guys “Hey, Buddy” worked well. “Sometimes “Hon or Sweetie” came in handy for my daughter’s little girlfriends. But now? I can meet you, shake your hand AND repeat your name out loud and there’s a good chance that in two seconds I will have forgotten it.

The only thing that makes me feel better is that I will always remember your face. Always. Even if I have not seen you in 35 years. My husband still cannot believe that we went to a bakery when we lived in Massachusetts, walked in and I said “Nora?” The woman turned around, she seemed a little flustered, but sure enough she had been my teenage friend in seventh grade back in New York. It had been about 35 years since I had last seen her; at a sleepover birthday party in her parents’ apartment.

So, before you get insulted that I do not remember your name, rest assured when I see you 20 years in the future, in a different state or country, I will know that I know you, by your unique, impressionable, face.

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The Cops Caught Me

Sunset Police Car

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Oh THAT SIlly Thing……..

It was an honest mistake. No really, I swear. I was in the center of town in MA. running to the post office to pick up a mountain of resumes for a freelance assignment I had accepted. The whole project had problems and I knew from my one meeting with the head of the company, this project didn’t sound necessary. I told them what I thought and still they insisted. I knew deep inside that they did not need anyone else and I told them that an in-house person would do, but they wouldn’t listen. I worked hard, really hard but one morning, parked outside of the post office I realized that I inadvertently left my keys in the car only to discover it was locked. Locked solid.

A police officer was near-by and I told them what I had done. I was incredibly mad at myself and felt like an utter fool. My husband and I had two very young children at the time so I did not want to bother him if I didn’t have to. The police officer was nice enough to offer me a ride home in the police car to pick up the second set of keys. I called my husband immediately and told him to bring our son, age 3, outside. He was a huge fan of police cars, firetrucks, and ambulances and I wanted him to see the police car. I felt pretty stupid locking myself out of the car and I don’t really know what the neighbors thought but to my son, I was a rock star and there was NO feeling better than that.

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Swedish Fish Are Mood Elevators

2.28.09

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Sometimes all we need is a change of attitude. Or a good night’s sleep or the morning light that makes evening’s horrific problems seem not so bad after all. It’s hard to wake up grumpy after nine hours of sleep. My back is a little better so that’s an improvement and I  hear the cardinals tweet their beautiful songs right outside my window. It’s raining but the light gray skies look hopeful, almost as if they were encouraging the sun to come out and play.

I found a diner that serves carrot cake by the slice but ever since I saw it I haven’t been back to buy it. Just knowing its available is good enough, well, until tomorrow when I go back, hand them my cash and run.

Writing about my narrow angled glaucoma last night made me feel relieved. It had never occurred to me to write about it before and I find that strange. I can post about Fibromyalgia but this horror, this reality, had subconsciously become my scary secret.  It’s as if before I had avoided a part of my own reality: I’m scared to death of going blind and the procedures themselves are excruciating. Help me. Please.

Tonight I will break apart the multi-grain French loaf that I bought at the store yesterday, warm it up and eat it with olive oil or butter and a chunk of sharp white cheddar cheese, and honey and that will be my dinner. I will drink diet vanilla Coke out of  a wine glass and celebrate being alive, celebrate yesterday being over.

My headache throbs incessantly and will not go away. Weather? Stress? Fibromyalgia? Life? These days I’m a single mother of two active and self-involved teenagers that dance around me. There is no real communication or help, because they are only concerned about themselves and their private worlds of friends.  I lost it today, saying I was not “their maid” and they need to help out. At 16 and a half and almost 18 and a half they should really know better but they don’t. Age appropriate? Probably. Annoying? Definitely.

I am looking forward to watching Modern Family tonight on television while eating Swedish Fish. Yesterday was the first time I ever had a Swedish fish, I took a few out of the bags I had bought my children and tried them. I now know why they love them. The texture is smooth, slimy, sugary sweet and strawberry? I eat them gingerly not wanting to tempt the pain of TMJ. Even so, Swedish Fish (and no, they are not paying me) truly are a delicacy, because other than ginger-lemon cookies, they are all I’ve got.  Sugar therapy. Works for me.

I Have AlwaysImagined Myself As A SINGER

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young at concert, Augus...

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In my own fantasy, I am already a great singer. I love to sing, out loud, off-key and happily. It doesn’t matter to me that I can’t carry a tune or that I am practically tone deaf. Singing can lure me out of a bad mood to a good one (ok, not always, I admit.) I am singing the music from the last Gray’s Anatomy musical show, I sing the songs from Glee, Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, Carly Simon and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. I have been living in the seventies for a long time “Helplessly Hoping” that I will always enjoy these songs and that I will always be able to sing with a smile on my face and a nod to the past.

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