Happy Second Birthday, Lexi

2/16/14

Dear Lexi,  Happy 2nd Birthday.  I love you, sweetie-pie. What a good, good dog you are,  so cute and affectionate.Lexi1

You were a nasty, wild, hurtful puppy, weren’t you? Don’t look so sad, you didn’t know better. I know you are sorry. You were just an oral devil dog, digging those demon sharp puppy teeth into our arms and legs and clamping down. We probably tasted better than all the chew toys we bought you. Our welts gave you texture, right? Grandma kept telling us to “give you back” every single day but I couldn’t do that. Many trainers tried but they all said “You’ve got a really willful puppy there but if/when she grows out of it you’ll have a really great dog.”And, sweet girl that is who you have become.(Thank God)

At about eighteen months, from one day to the next while we were busy doing other things you became a dog, an amazing dog. One that cuddles and protects us, hugs us and plays with us. You are the dog we always wanted, we just needed to give you and ourselves a little more time.

It taught us all about being more patient, didn’t it?

Right now you are sleeping with your head on my knee, nuzzling, a part of you always has to be directly on me.  You know each member of the family so well. With Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain I do spend a lot of time in bed and that’s where you come, leaping on the bed, to be with me, happily. When “Dad” is around you get the leash, go to the front door, and start whimpering. You get instantly wild when your brother comes to visit, but we know he provokes you. He allows you to be wild, we don’t. Yes, I know, YOU are WAY cool when you rough house together.

Oh, but when your sister comes home from college you hear her parking her car and you run to the front door and start crying until she comes in.  Yes, our daughter, your sister, will kneel down to your level and you hug each other while you cover her with kisses. That picture of the two of you on the ground stays in my heart forever.

Have a Happy 2nd Birthday, thank you for choosing us at the shelter to be your family.Lexi2

Love, Mom

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*Woody Allen’s Other Sister

English: Woody Allen in concert in New York City.

English: Woody Allen in concert in New York City. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was practically BORN thinking about my mortality. It is amazing to talk to people older than I am (and I’m pretty old) that go into a sudden depression realizing they are getting old for the first time. Did they not know this was coming? I was born to be old, born worrying, born afraid. I could definitely be Woody Allen’s little sister. *Relax lawyers, I KNOW I’m NOT but I am so like him, it’s scary. I’ve always been a pessimist despite years of therapy. I thought for sure I failed every test when I aced them and any irregular (or regular) symptom had to be cancer. Describing myself as a “worry-wart” is too kind.

I have tried prescription drugs to alleviate my stress and anxiety but nothing works all the time. Even with medication I still see gloom and doom. I was fortunate to hide it from my children when they were younger, I tried so hard and it worked. Why can’t I do it again?  As they got older, they knew me better and have seen the real me. Plus, it’s a more dangerous world now than it was twenty years ago. I can’t hide anything from them, especially my son, who picks up vibes about me with just a “hello” and vice- versa. (He got that from me). My mother used to call me “over-sensitive” a word which I have always hated. I may not have known WHAT was going on but instinctively I knew something wasn’t right. I can sense things before they happen.

There are some days where I wake up and automatically go through the Rolodex (Google it) in my mind. It can go from a doctor’s appointment, a friend who is dying to security issues (the world is coming to an end, pork has salmonella, don’t eat at any restaurant (did YOU see 20/20?) a plane crash….) I categorize them all under the umbrella of: Health and Safety.

I’m my own damn movie and I can’t ever seem to have a happy ending OR  when I do, I’m afraid I will jinx it. I always play out different scenarios in my mind. What if “my fill in the blank”_______ husband, daughter, son, mother, sister….dies? What if I die first? Will my children be alright, how can I do this to them, I’d feel so bad, and guilty too. I’m feeling pangs of anxiety in my stomach even writing this….just so you know.

The clinical term is  “anticipatory anxiety” it’s no fun but it doesn’t happen all the time. I can’t help it when it does but I do try; sometimes deep breathing works or focusing on something else or playing with my dog, even walking. If you don’t have it, consider yourself blessed. Try to be an optimist or as my dad used to say “Worry when there IS something to worry about, not before.” Try and look at the glass half full, as the expression goes, not half empty, cracked and overflowing with mold and deadly chemicals, like I do. You’ll be happier and have an easier life. Trust me, I know.

Carry On Tuesday – In My Room

italian food

italian food (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I moved to Boston from NY in the eighties, alone, after deciding I wanted to live there. I found a job, and looked for lodging that was near a train line so I could commute to work. Luckily, I found a room available at a local inn. I went to meet the manager, Barbara, who was a woman about my age. I felt a warm flood of relief fill my body slowly as she showed me my room. I felt like I had a safe, temporary home for as long as I wanted to stay.

That night, after I had settled in, there was a knock on my door while I was unpacking in my room. It was Barbara, “Hi,” she said with her sparkling eyes and her open, deep, friendly voice “I’m making dinner for a bunch of my friends, wanna come?” I couldn’t even start to get shy and make excuses because she took me by the arm and led me down the stairs. Without her, I would have likely stayed in my room the entire time. I was  invited to an impromptu home-cooked dinner: I met Teddy,  Barbara’s dog, Rami-Pastrami, a girl named Nancy, a guy named Steven/Stella and others. Within ten minutes even I had a new name. Teddy, could not remember my name; he called me Lisa, he called me Laurie, he called me Lisa-Laurie, shortened that night to LL. I didn’t know that Barbara was an amazing chef; the smells from the kitchen were tantalizing. We had home-made tomato sauce, pasta, carmelized chicken, so sweet and tender it fell off the bone.

On my second day there I knocked on her door after work to give her a check and I read sadness in her face. “Are you okay?” I asked. She said “yes” but it was not convincing. “Really?” I asked “Do you want me to come in so we can talk” She pulled me in her apartment and the façade of her happy face started to crumble. She told me about her upcoming divorce from Teddy, pain etched on her face, like a pear, getting riper with each word. She allowed me to see how she really felt, something that did not come easily for her. I stayed a long time, by the end of the night we were best friends.

After a few months I moved to a studio apartment down the street. She came over once and all I had to eat were Ritz crackers and peanut butter and jelly and she proclaimed the meal “the best peanut butter and jelly with Ritz crackers” she ever ate. That was Barbara. We went on adventures every weekend, sometimes to Parker’s Maple Barn in New Hampshire for blueberry or banana pancakes, or to look at discounted antique furniture. Ba, as I called her, came to my wedding in 1988, when my husband and I still lived in Boston.

Barbara had moved around so much I no longer had room in my address book to keep up with her; I had at least eight addresses that were no longer current. We kept in touch occasionally, two Libras always exchanging birthday wishes, wherever we were. My husband and I moved to a house in the suburbs of Boston which Barbara visited once. Years later, after having children, and elderly parents, we moved back to New York. Barbara was on her own journeys to Florida, North Carolina and back.

Our children are seventeen and nineteen now. Our son is in his first year of college, our daughter graduates high school this June. My husband had three vacation days that he needed to use in March or he would lose them, we also had five nights free in a hotel. Our beloved dog had passed away unexpectedly; when the time felt right, we decided to go.

I called Barbara and she talked us into staying at a hotel in her town, not the one we had looked up in a book. It just felt right so that is where we went. It was delightful to spend time with my husband. The ocean, sand and seashells are my favorite things and I could heal here, physically and emotionally. The weather was good for my Fibromyalgia; we took long walks, we picked up seashells and swam in the ocean. We still grieved the death of our dog but we were no longer in shock.

We saw Barbara the next day when she burst into the hotel room, cradled my face between her two hands and in excitement, burst into tears. We hugged and she didn’t let go. We saw her again at her house when we were supposed to go out to dinner and I got to meet her famous mother, Lucille, and her dog, Daisy. I thought seeing Daisy would make me sad, but Daisy opened my heart, instead of clamping it shut. I think my dog Callie was telling me it was okay to love another dog and when we are ready, I know we will. I had teasingly asked her if she would “cook for me” like the old days but her health and strength was not very good either. When we got there she surprised me and served her famous pasta sauce with carmelized chicken that I remembered from the past. I was so grateful, so honored and so touched. I still am.

It was so easy and relaxed with Barbara that it didn’t seem like twenty years had passed; it was if we had been in touch every day consistently. How could I have forgotten that feeling? I felt like I had a new, old, best friend. Someone to share memories with, someone to confide in, the one person I could always trust completely; I could ask her anything, tell her anything. She would never judge me nor I her.

We came on vacation to get away, we stayed on vacation for pure joy, we left the vacation begrudgingly.  I left crying, not over my dog’s death but saying “good-bye” again to Barbara. Tears dripped down my face as I sobbed. How much time had we wasted or had we? Maybe we weren’t meant to reconnect before this, I have to believe in that.

We’re home now, back with both kids home for spring break. I woke up this morning and started to write a note to Ba, only to find there was one from her already waiting. Everything makes sense if you pay attention to the details: A knock on your door, watching someone’s sad eyes,  holding hands with your best friend, every detail in life is important. Trust yourself to pay attention. Be someone’s best friend. For life.

This is dedicated to Ba from her best friend, LL.

Mountains Versus Marathons

Participants in the 2010 Boston Marathon in We...

Not Everyone Is An Athlete

Would I rather climb a mountain or run a marathon??!! Neither. I would rather watch someone climbing a mountain as I sat in a lodge holding my cup of steaming hot cocoa with melting marshmallows between my chilled hands. I cheer people on who are running a marathon. At the Boston Marathon I would stand on the street as the marathoners ran by and hold out orange slices or cups of water. I would yell encouraging things until I was hoarse. Nothing about me screams extreme sports (chronic pain condition aside.)

I give enormous credit to people who are athletic and love it, that must have been a missing gene in my family. We’re not athletes, we’re not even into sports. Forgive us, not everyone is athletic but in a way, I wish I was. Maybe this year (ok, next year, I can get myself in shape to take up SOME sport that I enjoy and am eager to do. For now, I have to force myself, especially in the winter, to take a walk and the only thing that makes me do it is my overwhelming love for our dog.

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Blowing Off Steam (Plinky: How Do You Blow Off Steam?)

LifeLife’s Lessons

I find walking my dog as one great way to blow off steam (and I have had a lot of steam to blow off the last few weeks!!) I’ve tried doing deep breathing but that doesn’t really help me as much as it should. Listening to music and singing out loud works well too. As lousy as I may sound, it makes me feel happier. I don’t want to spread my anger and bad mood around…..I try the best that I can but I’m certainly not perfect. My teenage daughter blames “my bad mood” on everything. Life will have to teach her how to claim and work through her own bad moods, I’ve tried my best but failed. Time and life’s lessons will teach her, of that, I have no doubt.

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9 And A Half Minutes

Shark

For those of you who are new to my blog (welcome)  I want you to know that I occasionally write a blog post called 9 and a half minutes. It’s basically a shorter, nicer version of Andy Rooney on 60 minutes. I do complain, wonder, question and kvetch ( to be disgruntled or complain) but not in an insolent, condescending way. In no particular order here are today’s topics:

My one true love is the ocean, now I am concerned with sharks and jellyfish and scary biting fish. Now people are dying because they swam in the lake. Did I hear correctly that the news said “brain eating amoeba”in the same sentence? I love water, a pool has lots of chlorine and to me, it is not as much fun. Soon just soaking in a tub will be off-limits.

I can no longer watch the news because it puts me in a depression or I feel hyped up with craziness and worry. There are too many atrocious things happening: bombs, terrorists, fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, tragic accidents, cancer and hundreds of thousands of other diseases. There are perfectly innocent and beautiful sick children, children who die from one second to the next with no explanation. What kind of fair is that? I know someone whose son, age 6, passed away and they still haven’t gotten the autopsy report and it’s been three months. That is just plain wrong.

I am cranky, disgusted and fat. My chronic pain illness is getting worse and it’s an effort for me to get out of bed, walk downstairs and feel stiff and in pain all the time. I’m getting worse, not better. Doctors are putting chronic pain patients in chronic hell because now doctors don’t write out a prescription for medication WHEN YOU ARE SUFFERING AND NEED IT. Dear Doctors: we have no intention or interest of becoming drug addicts, we just want medication when we hurt so much we want to scream and throw plates at the walls. I know a doctor who prescribes vicodin by the mouthful but when it doesn’t help and the patient would prefer something less strong, he won’t do it. Does that make any sense?

What’s next? Going out in the sun of course can produce melanoma. Sitting inside during the winter can produce SAD, (Seasonal Affective Disorder) that makes you depressed. Go out for a walk, just be careful that there are no bears in the neighborhood or coyotes who swoop our precious little dogs and eat them for dessert. I will not let my dog become a wolf’s brownie.

Lastly, my baby tooth (I know, I know) has a chip and a cavity and will eventually have to be replaced with some expensive artificial tooth, I miss Gray’s Anatomy and I don’t think I will ever get over losing Oprah in her time slot. I actually miss Oprah too much to even try watching OWN. I’m trying to eat dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate bu, to me,t there is no comparison and it is a complete stretch. Meanwhile mosquitos are french kissing my skin and I am scratching at my arms in desperation looking like a coke addict.

Tomorrow the workers come back with their little demolition derby and our four-day respite will be over. It’s Sunday night and I have always hated Sunday nights. I need to love my dinner on Sunday nights which includes dessert. When we came home tonight I was eagerly looking forward to tasting the cake batter ice cream that I bought for the family. There was none left, my son ate it all today. So much for a pleasant Sunday night, I’m already dreading Monday. Truly.

The Worst Flight I've Taken

_ People _

My husband and I and our two-year old son were flying home from a vacation in Oregon headed home to Boston, Massachusetts. Normally, we are the loving, sweet family but on this trip we were the couple to HATE. I wish I was kidding but I am afraid I am not. There are always people who roll their eyes, make nasty comments or try to change seats when there is a baby crying; we were the couple with the child that you wanted to stay far away from. I promise you, we tried EVERYTHING possible to stop our wailing, crying and screaming son and show you the quiet, tranquil, Buddha baby that he usually was.”Yeah, right” I’m sure you muttered under your breath. I know, you hated us; you even hated our poor innocent child. Frankly, I don’t blame you. Just remember, we tried so HARD; we walked our son up and down the corridors, we tried pacifiers, bottles, new diapers, toys, anything and everything to, well, put it bluntly, shut him up. I know you, fellow passengers, felt angry and bad but honestly, we felt worse. We didn’t want to inflict this pain on anyone, including our precious boy.
My husband and I (now that the precious child is 18 and graduating) still make faces when there are screaming children aboard, but we always remember the plane ride when we were the family to HATE, the couple from hell, and We try to have a little more patience and understanding.

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The Sum Of Me

Henri Matisse, The Dance I, 1909, Museum of Mo...

Image via Wikipedia

I am part of an internet group of dear friends who also have Fibromyalgia, a chronic pain disease. We generally talk about the effects of this leech, this parasitic illness and how it makes us feel and how it affects our lives. It is what brings us together; and we truly care about one another. Imagine, a group of people who you have never met yet you trust them, seek out their advice. These people really do know how your pain feels.

We could discuss things we used to do but cannot do now. For me, I would talk about gardening and how I used to have a big vegetable garden many years ago when bending down to my knees and getting up was no problem. I would reminisce about the bright green English peas that grew, the fiery red cherry tomatoes that bathed in the sunlight, two kinds of lettuce and thick, orange carrots. I could also talk about the three miles I used walk in under an hour with my work friends each day, outside, around a blue-green reservoir. Maybe I would confess I was a size eight for about two minutes and twenty years ago while I was struggling with infertility issues and the deep, emotional pain of that process. “If I couldn’t have children, I was going to be skinny” was my mantra as I made myself march outside.

The summer before I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, and my children were at camp, I would take the train to New York City and relish being surrounded by people from all over the world, hearing them speak, watching the beautiful, colorful outfits that so many people donned in shades of rose, green, yellow, blue, shades of white and grey. Perhaps I would see a Broadway show for half price, go to a museum, or back to the Village and try to recognize it after many years. Going in to the city was like having an international picnic without even leaving the gleaming Grand Central Station.  I didn’t worry back then about getting to the city and how much walking I would have to do and whether I had to take a cab because I was so tired and drained that I couldn’t put one burning, aching, painful foot in front of the other.

Many blogs I read are about chronic pain and diseases, and I wonder at their brilliance. It’s a dilemna for me because while I do write about my chronic illness or two, I write about everything else in my life.  Am I doing myself a disservice? It could be. I write about food, depression, fun, family, television, friends, travel, grief, cheesecake, chocolate etc.  It’s a mix and mash-up of a blog, like a patchwork quilt with different patterns and colors. Do I need to define myself more clearly?  I may have just answered my own question. I am all things, not just one.

I am a patient, a parent, a friend, wife, mother, teacher and student. I love many things: reading books with beautiful covers, writing, taking photographs of children or benches or boats. I love to watch red cardinals and yellow finches at my bird feeder and butterflies winking by me. I love to eat good food, I am sweet on sweets, I dislike alcohol; coffee, orange juice, chocolate milk or Diet Coke are my beverages of choice, I drink them all at different times.

I could choose to pick one subject to write about but, it would not be my true self, of that I am sure. I am all over the place with emotions and experiences, flying, sometimes crawling, like red, yellow, blue and black kites sailing in the gusty wind, all tangled together, or in peaceful harmony, sometimes independently flying free. I am a person, with many  facets. I am as many pieces of my puzzle as I want. It’s my puzzle, I need to make the pieces fit,  for me.

“What Music Do You Work Out To?”

Simon and Garfunkel Mrs Robinson UK EP

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Non-Work Out Music?  Sure.

Oh, be serious, not EVERYONE works out. I am not speaking just for myself but on behalf of some friends of mine…..well, we don’t work out at all. We walk. I can’t honestly say this is a work-out though it is well-intentioned but speed walkers we are not. We stroll, we talk, we share and we don’t listen to music but to each other. It’s our time to be with each other, when the wind is a gentle breeze, when the sun is not intense and when it is not cold out. Are we particular when we want to walk outside? You bet! Besides, I am the most particular since I have a chronic pain disease called Fibromyalgia and usually I have to conquer my aches and pains to even get out the door. It isn’t easy.

If I was to walk alone or use the treadmill ( LOL) the songs I would listen to would be “Story” by Sarah Ramirez (from Grey’s Anatomy), a 1980’s song by the group, Red, whose name I have forgotten entirely and possibly anything upbeat from the Beatles, James Taylor, Carly Simon, Simon and Garfunkel and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. I am stuck in the 1970’s with my taste in music and when CD’s were not born yet and I listened to records, over and over again. Unfortunately, my chubby body is still stuck in the seventies as well! The best thing about being in your fifties, is image matters less and quality of life matters much, much more. Enjoy your life, whether you work out or not.

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Extreme Sports? Bring it on! (NOT!)

Inês, a Girl walking in the beach. Porto Covo,...

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You Jump, I’ll Watch
Extreme sport? Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha. You have got to be kidding me. I tremble at the word “extreme.” Sure, some of you will write about hiking mountains, and bungee jumping, massive triathalons and motorcycle marathons…..but for me? I’d be happy if I could walk every day at a consistent (medium) speed. Right now, with Fibromyalgia, I can’t even count on a slow, measured walk, twice a week, because of joint and muscle pain. I have no interest in “extreme sports” but to be honest, I never did and never will. I never was a big risk taker and the adrenaline I would get from fear alone is enough to make me pee in my pants. When I was much younger I once thought about sky diving or “parachute jumping” where you are shoved out of an airplane with some cord to pull so that the parachute opens. The trouble with me is, when I am stressed I forget things. Forgetting to pull that cord for that parachute? Not a wise choice. I’m staying home.

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