Tuesday, November 29, 2011

There Must Be Some Misunderstanding. There Must Be Some Kind of Mistake.

2011 is drawing to a close, and my team of physicians still haven't figured out what the hell is wrong with my system. The team includes a gastroenterologist/internist/primary care physician (all in one little Polish man!), a cardiologist, an electrophysiologist, an endocrinologist, a psychologist, an OB/GYN and a pancreatic/liver disease specialist.

During the course of the year, I fired my old primary care physician and eliminated my psychiatrist, because the PCP was a clueless resident providing sub-par care under a HIPAA-violating, nasty proctor (the downside of Medicaid), I've been assigned a new psychologist and the cocktail of bipolar meds is sufficient such that my internist is comfortable Rx'ing them to me, which eliminates a tri-monthly, 15 minute appointment with the shrink who would do nothing but dole out the new Rx's anyway and, per former blogs, couldn't comprehend why I needed to be on anti-anxiety medications.

From a cardiac standpoint, I'm good to go. I have Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, characterized by a very low baseline blood pressure coupled with a ridiculously rapid heart rate, which I've had for years. It wasn't discovered until my old PCP noticed that every time I came in for a checkup, my heart rate was between 110-150 and my typical BP was 80/50-90/60. I underwent a battery of cardiac tests, the electrophysiologist diagnosing the POTS, with me following up with my cardiologist, who put me on a low dose of Propranolol, a beta blocker, that keeps my pulse down to a normal rate of 60-80. It's at the expense of a still-low BP, but that's ok. I function just fine.

It was around Fall of last year when I was at a reasonably healthy, if not a little thin weight for my height. In the mid 130's. I started having bouts of intense vomiting, which at first I chalked up to stomach flu. But they persisted to where I was throwing up nothing but a ton of bile and having intermittent but out-of-the-stratosphere upper epigastric pain, just under my breast bone. My mom was on vacation at the time, and my PCP admitted me to the hospital. I remember my cardiologist coming into my room early the first morning there, as I have to be on a cardiac telemetry floor to monitor the POTS, and me asking him what the hell was wrong with me. "Pancreatitis," he said. "Huh?" Pancreatitis is common in people who abuse alcohol, which I hadn't in 3+ years. He said there were over a dozen idiopathic causes of pancreatitis, though, and no one could figure out its origin. Unbeknownst to me, toxicology screenings were being done without my knowledge or consent, and I always came back clean and sober. (I'd sooner lie my son down on a slab of concrete and sacrifice him at the bequest of my Lord and God than take another drink.)

Had a good month or so, though my gallbladder went south and quit functioning, so I had to have it out. Soon thereafter, developed pancreatitis again, this time with even more severe epigastric pain and more bile vomiting. Anyone who's had pancreatitis will tell you (and I know of 2 people) that it's one of the most painful illnesses to endure. The pain is so severe that you break out into a sweat. You're pumped with Dilaudid or morphine every 2 hours into your IV, on complete bowel rest and nourished only with IV fluids. I started losing quite a bit of weight, into the 110-teens.

Eating caused pain and frequent vomiting, as well as diarrhea. Bile was just pouring out of me, clearly stop-gapped somewhere in my ducts. I underwent an ERCP with another gastro, who opened up the bile duct, which relieved some of the problems, until I came down with pancreatitis again in December of last year, again with no clear reason. I was referred to a pancreatic/liver specialist at a different hospital, who put a pancreatic stent in, which again helped for a while, but could only stay in for a month. I haven't had pancreatitis since, though I still vomit a lot and have diarrhea, which doesn't help me with my weight, and after a few months of no pain when I ate, which is always relieved by vomiting, the pain came back, hence the Norco I have to take as needed, which I don't like taking and by design, *should* constipate me, but doesn't at all.

Enter another diagnosis of hypoglycemia, low blood sugar. This nonsense had been going on for a couple of years, seriously, with me not knowing why I'd get so sleepy and out of it, word-slurred and needing immediate rest, at the most inopportune times. I'm not trusted behind the wheel of a car for any distances, I have attacks at work and it's a huge pain in the ass. The endocrinologist did a 5 hour glucose tolerance test, during which my sugar dropped to 35 and I passed out. A consult with the endo and his nutritionist, in order to start a low-carb, high-protein diet and a medication to block carb absorption, proved fruitless and frustrating. I have no forewarning of when a hypo attack will occur, though I watch my diet with great care. Sometimes it's just easier not to eat anything at all rather than risk a hypo attack. On the carb-blocking med, as I've said before, I lost 17 lbs in 2 months and had constant GI troubles, so my gastro told me not to take it anymore. The attacks are still sudden, getting more frequent and more severe. If I'm at home, I surrender to the sudden exhaustion and sleep for sometimes 3-4 hours in a coma-state, unable to be roused by my family. If it happens at work, I try my best to eat something small and drink copious amounts of apple juice to counteract the low blood sugar. The endo doesn't know why it's happening. Another medical mystery.

I fight the attacks at work SO hard, you can't imagine. After being randomly drug and alcohol tested, and NOT glucose tested during a severe attack on May 9th, my birthday, coming up, yet again, clean and sober, an agreement was made with the docs and my supervisor that I would clock out and take a break if I had an attack. When I feel one coming on, I start pumping apple juice to stabilize myself, but usually my supervisor happens upon me and tells me to clock out, because to the untrained ear on the phone, I sound half in the bag. Admittedly, I do. I can't write. I can't speak clearly. It's an unwelcome irritation to say the least, and costs me and my company time and money. Yet it is a legitimate, documented disability. Just like they don't know how many times I may or may not slip into the bathroom to get sick. I keep on pressing forward, maintain my composure and do my job. The office tries hard to make me feel like it's not *my* fault, but then I get snide comments from my (not their fault either) co-workers who chalk it all up to me not eating enough, when that's not simply the case. They tease me about eating mac-n-cheese, or whatever big, carb-rich meal they can think of, and debate all the drugs I'm on to try and reason why I'm a) so thin and b) can't eat and c) walk into walls.

I had my pharmacist cross-check EVERY medication I take, and I'm on plenty, to see if hypoglycemia is a side effect, and it's not. So that was ruled out. And no, it's not because I smoke. It doesn't help that my pancreas is essentially shot, the only reasonable hypothesis being that it's an after effect of the years I was drinking.

I weighed myself this morning, and I am up 2 lbs, thanks to eating generously at Thanksgiving. 115 today. By eating generously, that equals what a normal person might eat at a dinner, not gluttonous. After Thanksgiving, my cardiologist asked me how I ate at Thanksgiving, and I said I ate like a "hog." "Yes, but did you keep it all down?" he asked. Valid question. And I did keep it down.

My normal eating routine is this:

Breakfast: one whole grapefruit and an Atkins meal bar (1g of sugar, 10g of protein, 2 net carbs), or sometimes a Greek yogurt
Snack: An Atkins protein shake
Lunch: An apple
Dinner: A decent portion of whatever Ma makes, or something small if I go out, tea and a single cookie (by dinnertime, it's highly unlikely that I'll have a hypo attack. Mid-to-late morning is my worst time. Though if I want to fall asleep at night in under 10 minutes, I'll have a bowl of cereal.)

By standards, I'm still almost 1000 calories below what my frame needs to gain weight on a daily basis. I haven't felt a hunger pang in over a year. My stomach is probably really small, I don't know. When I'm stressed, I eat even less. I get a litany of well-meaning friends telling me "Try eating this or that" or "You should do this or that," none of which helps. "See a nutritionist." I did that already; that's where the low-carb, high-protein diet came in. (By the way, if you're interesting in losing weight, the Atkins diet TOTALLY works, I must say.)

Even my son says, "I'm chubby and YOU have some weird-ass disease that makes you super thin."

A well-meaning friend asked me not to get mad at her, but assumed I subconsciously enjoy being the weight I am, for it makes me more attractive, assuming to the opposite sex. I told her that truthfully, yes, I'd rather be thin than fat, but I'm not thin BECAUSE I am trying to attract men. I'm so tired of the "How do you stay so thin?" Questions from my patients when I put them on the scale at work, that I've been reduced to simply saying, "I just don't eat food" or "I am kind of sick." I know full well what it's like to be quite overweight, and no, it's not somewhere I would ever aspire to be again. Being teased for being either over or under-weight is hurtful and difficult to take. Yet somehow I think this friend thinks it's easier on me to be ridiculed for being too thin as opposed to overweight, and that's simply not the case. I find myself, because I'm so open about everything, especially in my blog, being harshly criticized or told off, or dispensed advice when I don't solicit opinions, though some of them I do appreciate and know it's done with love.

So perhaps knowing more about the medical side of my story will be helpful to those of you who care to gauge whether or not I'm a grown woman, capable of caring for herself. I'm small but mighty. Pancreatitis can suck it, so can random drug tests, fibromyalgia and hypoglycemia, and POTS. I'm just trying to live a productive life, simple as that. There's a lot getting in the way of that, which sucks, but what SHOULD I REALLY do? Live and let live.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Beautiful Noise

First of all, Neil Diamond tickets for Chicago go on sale at 10am. I texted my supervisor at 5:30 am asking her if I could clock out at 10 and order tickets online at work. She doesn't get half of my texts amazingly, but she damn well better have received this one, because my mom and I are going to this concert come hell or high water. We have a notoriously slow internet connection at work, so I'm hoping for the best. (Addendum: As it turned out, Luke woke up sick and is staying home. I decided to stay home long enough to order my Neil tickets.)

Neil is an unlikely but significant presence in The Band's "The Last Waltz," incidentally. He sticks out like a sore thumb, and is the only one in the film who doesn't act completely coked out. Whether or not he was high...I should hope he had better brains than that, but The Band's Robbie Robertson did produce 2 of Neil's albums, including "Beautiful Noise," so I guess Robertson can't be all that bad, though he comes across not only in the film, but also in life in general as a pretentious prick. We'll see what TOC thinks of him after the film on Wednesday, but his general impression of Neil is that he's a cheeseball. What does he know? It's not like I'm buying Andrea Bocelli tickets. Puhleeze.

I heart the Neil. I've seen him no fewer than a dozen times live in my life, my mom NEVER having seen him, amazingly enough. So procuring tickets for this concert is really, really important to me. I realize it's during one of our most frantic times in the office, but too fucking bad. That's about the extent of my participation in Cyber Monday.

Had a dream about having to have sex with my ex-boyfriend that woke me up at 4am, but I was able to fall back asleep until 5:30. Thank God.

I've been reading the book accompanying the George Harrison "Living in the Material World" documentary and have to completely agree with a statement by Ringo Starr, made recently. With regard to the beauty of Indian music, Starr said, "Over the years, I got to love the music myself and now I'm a Christian Hindu with Buddhist tendencies. Thanks to George, who opened my eyes as much as anyone else's." I'm a practicing Christian but I have to side with Ringo on his philosophy. I take a lot from Eastern religious tradition and Buddhist thought, much to my congregation and pastor's chagrin. I highly recommend the Harrison book--it's 400 pages of rare photographs, many taken by George himself, or his family members, with recollections by his most trusted friends and family. It's tits.

Came across this quote this morning, to remind myself:

“…Your light is seen, your heart is known, your soul is cherished by more people than you might imagine…If you knew how many others have been touched in wonderful ways by you, you would be astonished. If you knew how many people feel so much for you, you would be shocked…You are far more wonderful than you think you are… Rest with that. Rest easy with that. Breathe again. You are doing fine. More than fine. Better than fine. You’re doin’ great. So relax. And love yourself today.”~~Neale Donald Walsch

Time to rouse Luke from his slumber. Oh, to jam this Diamond tune and rudely awaken him. Produced by Robbie Robertson, ugh.

"Beautiful Noise"

Sunday, November 27, 2011

If God Will Send His Angels

My Stephen minister from church and I met and went over "Those Three Words" yesterday. She recognized the importance and validity of having my friends and family describe me as they saw me, and didn't think it was an exercise in self-absorption whatsoever. Those who participated in the list didn't think so, either. Everyone understood that I was going through a bit of a self-esteem crisis and that my ex-boyfriend was at the forefront of my thoughts recently, and all the negativity he brought to my conscience that I was programmed to believe about myself. "YOU are bipolar. You behaved in such-and-such a way, but that was before you were medicated..." he'd say. "When you were still drinking, you blah blah blah...." He defined me by my illnesses and neuroses and failed to see me as a person with a heart and soul, too self-absorbed himself to appreciate how hurtful his blanket statements were. And I believed them all. Gaslighting.

My minister read through that list, and I told her about the Biblical list my dear friend Lorri had sent me to read over. My minister encouraged me to replace the "I am" with "Annie is." So she emailed me that this morning, and I'm printing that one out too to remind myself of all that I am that's good and positive and lovable and worthy.

Everything that I was worried about with regard to "The Last Waltz" got worked out between my friend and I. Our seemingly precarious situation that left me with self-doubt and worry and frantic projection turned out not to be the case. He's not bringing his daughter, is more than happy to accompany me just the two of us, and we're looking forward to having a fabulous time. So naysayers be damned!

Annie is God's treasure (1 Peter 2:9-10)
Annie is dearly loved (Colossians 3:12)
Annie is being transformed (2 Corinthians 3:18)
Annie is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Annie is forgiven (Ephesians 1:6-8)
Annie is an heir of God (Romans 8:17)
Annie is a friend of God (John 15:15)
Annie is free (Romans 6:16-18; 8:1-2)
Annie is capable (Philippians 4:13)
Annie is spiritually alive (Ephesians 2:5)
Annie is God's workmanship (Ephesians 2:10)
Annie is welcome in God's presence (Ephesians 2:18, Hebrews 4:14-16)
Annie is sheltered and protected in God (Colossians 3:3)
Annie is valuable to God (1 Corinthians 6:20)
Annie is a member of God's family (Ephesians 2:19; 1 John 3:1-2)
Annie is chosen for success (John 15:16)
Annie is complete (Colossians 2:9-10)
Annie is secure (Romans 8:31-39)
Annie is confident (Philippians 1:6)
Annie is gifted with power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Sheriff John Brown Always Hated Me. For What, I Don't Know. Every Time That I Plant a Seed, He'd Say "Kill it Before it Grows."

8:00 am: It's Thanksgiving Day and I'm bound up in a deep depression that I'm getting good at masking as merely a tepid but snippy funk to those close to me.

Church was alright last night, having had a laugh with Luke while singing the insipid verse to one of the hymns which had the following line: "First the blade, and then the ear. Then the full corn shall appear!" Trying to behave since Pastor's family was right behind us, we just looked at each other strangely, elbowed one another in the side and snickered. Luke was supposed to be doing a sermon summary for Confirmation class, but instead he was drawing a pictorial, captioned rendering of the humorous verse, which only made me laugh harder. Reading over his sermon summary after church, before he handed it in to the DCE, he wrote, under the question: "What is the point of the sermon?" or something to that effect, "If you don't believe in God, you will burn in HELL!" Seeing as that's sort of the point of *all* the sermons, I let his unusual banality slide, because in all honesty, I hadn't paid enough attention to the sermon to answer the question in detail myself. I was distracted, by lots of things.

The pie social after church was challenging, however. Luke ran off to sit and eat pie with his friends, which was fine, and I was relegated to my mom's table full of fogies who watched me pick at the cherries in the piece of pie I slapped onto my plate. When I went to get something to drink, I ran into my friend Wes en route back to my table. He asked me if I liked the 3 words he used to describe me when he participated in my self-esteem experiment. Wes' answer was "a trusted friend." "Were you having kind of a down moment? You look great, by the way..." he asked. "Yeah, I said, a down week or so. Honestly, it's been really hard lately," I said. "Chris?" Wes asked. "Yeah, to tell you the truth. He really did a number on my self-esteem," I answered. "What a scuzbag that guy was, but he seemed *so* nice!" Wes said. I told him how cunningly perfect my ex-boyfriend was at charming everyone, winning the affection of the masses, seemingly really friendly and outgoing, but that I felt that deep down, he was full of the devil inside him. I explained that he and I have no contact with one another anymore but that I was having a hard time processing all the awful parts of our relationship that still haunted and scared me, and I took the time to explain what some of those things were, which incensed Wes, who's always been very protective of me. "Who are you with now?" Wes asked me. "No one," I said. "Flying solo for a while." "You need time to regain your sanity," Wes said and I agreed. "You like tough guys, Andrea. Too bad all the tough guys I know are jerks," he quipped. "I wish I could find you a nice guy." "Yeah," I sighed. Needing to get back to our pie, he hugged me again and we went back to our respective tables.

The chairman of the congregation approached me at the beverage area and said, "I see your name's not in the bulletin anymore!" (That means I'm no longer included in the "which-members-to-pray-for" section.) "Nope," I said flatly. "That must be a good sign!" he said. "It must mean you're better." I told him, "I have my good days and my bad days. I'm still not well. Having trouble gaining weight. Still a lot of stuff wrong that they can't figure out." "Well, you look great," he said, and I thanked him. "I haven't been in the hospital for a while, so yeah, I'm not in the bulletin anymore. Either that, or everyone got tired of praying for me," I said as I stirred. He laughed. Sorry, Mr. Chairman, but the pathetic and sickly thin (though I look fucking better than any of the other 39 year old women in my church, married or single) drummer for your Praise Band needs to eat the denomination-consuming ritual pie, gather the chattering family and get the hell out of there, STAT to go home and take all the drugs that keep me on what's lately a very uneven keel, since I forgot to bring them with me to church and it was already approaching 9pm.

Hang on, I gotta go throw up again.

Well, we're all set to go see The Band's "The Last Waltz" on the big screen on Wednesday night. Too cool for words. Hell, if he didn't go, I'd either drag along another friend, force Luke to sit through it or go alone, which is something I've never done before--see a movie by myself. I want to see it in a movie theater THAT badly and oh, to have it critiqued by Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot, it's a music geek's wet dream.

Before I left last night, I reminded him about the film: when and where it was, what time we'd have to leave work, et al. "I'm working on it," he said. "Working on what? What's there to work on, I thought we were going," I replied. He then announced that he'd invited one of his daughters (which one, I don't know...he has 3, and I don't know which is which) and her friend/friends to come with us. Surely he must have seen the surprised look on my face. Trying to process that, he went on to say that she's out of school until January something-day, and she might like the film, though I maintained it's likely she has no idea who The Band is, and that it was "music for old people," like him/us. By "working on the details" of the evening, I didn't realize it was the inclusion of one of his children, whom I haven't met before. I didn't have the heart to tell him that it would've been nice if he'd asked me first if I thought this was ok, so I brushed it off and said where it was and that tickets were available at the door, so whatever.

It's WHY he wants to bring his daughter that has me confused. If it's honestly because he has met my whole family and would like me to meet his, that's marvelous and fine and I'd gladly have her meet us there, which I told him via text last night, to which he didn't respond. (See "Not Talkin' 'Bout My Generation: Being Friends With a Boomer," August 2011.) I also told him that if it's because someone perceives me as an intruder into *his* world, whether that's his wife, his kids, or what'd be the worst, HIM, then no one gets it. I told him, "We are friends. Period."

Does he want to bring her because he doesn't feel comfortable being alone with me anymore? Then be honest with me about it, share your apprehensions and we'll work through them. That'd royally suck, because I don't see myself as a threat to his pleasant, yet seemingly sort of lukewarm existence. As a friend, I bring a unique perception of the world, of the arts, of intellectualism, of humor and intelligence to a like-minded man who has shown me support, strength--he's my rock--encouragement, compassion and Christ's true vision of agape love. I am deeply grateful for his having befriended me when I needed someone like him to be able to talk to, especially with the PTSD, which I'm still reluctant to talk about with him. I trust him implicitly, and feel comfortable telling him difficult things, knowing he won't think any less of me if those things are fucked up or unconventionally weird, dangerous or scary.

If it's to appease the wife, whom he TOLD me when I asked him a long time ago, that she doesn't mind him having opposite-sex friends, then the two of them need to have a discussion about his friend Annie who yes, is single and full of vim, but who respects her role in his life as long as she respects mine too.

He has his sports fan friends, his medical community friends, his church friends, his old pals from God knows where...and he has his artsy-fartsy friend Annie who's into all the same music as he is (though I made him a Flaming Lips fan by myself), with whom he can debate ethical credos and religion, rock trivia, Ernest Borgnine, my situational eating disorder, drug addiction and alcoholism, mental illness, writers, artists, et al, who works furiously to maintain a professional relationship with him as is necessary, but whom enjoys social time with him as well. I don't see what the big deal is about it all myself. Yes, I'm anti-puritanical, not a prude, unconventional, liberal, free, openly affectionate and someone who just happens *not* to have a boyfriend right now...probably a lot of things that simultaneously scare and engage him. I fully admit that I enjoy upsetting the apple cart, but his apple cart? I'll call a spade a spade (have you watched "Annie Hall" recently, anyone?) but I'm not about to wreck a bunch of important shit in either of our lives.

I sought the advice of one of my girlfriends, who doesn't know him or frankly, much about our history together. She thought me crazy to have bought 2 tickets to a movie and to have expected him to accompany me, when again, it was HE who said that he wanted to do more together, things we both enjoy, like live music, that our other friends don't necessarily like to do, hence I excitedly emailed him a link to the show and said "we HAVE to go see this!". My friend said I read too much into his proclamations and that he wasn't thinking clearly when he said them (yes, because I pried him at a bar with Diet Pepsi to get him to tell me the truth 3 weeks after we'd been at a concert together). Her opinion is that he's going to the film with me because he read my blog about him (the August blog) and feels guilty and awkward and unable to decline in favor of sparing my feelings, and that inviting his daughter and her friend was the way to help with how awkward he feels about going out with me. If THAT is the case, that also royally sucks, because we're both grown ups capable of handling our friendship without the need for a 20-year old babysitter. Or at least I am. I hope honestly that it's just me being paranoid and melodramatic and that he just wants me to meet the kids, and thought this would be a good avenue to do that.

He said he'd stay in better contact over the weekend, so maybe this can all get sorted out in the next few days, which would be good, because it's internal tension I don't need right now. I just want to go out with my friend, see a great movie and I wanted some time to talk openly and honestly with my wise, pragmatic, sympathetic buddy about the shit I've been going through lately dealing with my memories of Chris and how that's affecting my psyche and functioning, which affect my concentration and my general health, and he's not only my friend and my superior, but he's my physician and I haven't had access to a competent therapist in months.

I was *going* to suggest to him that when he (finally) decides to come and see my band play at church, that perhaps that would be a good venue during which I could meet his wife. I can't think of a more benign situation than meeting one another at church. He's literally met close to everyone, my band being the exception (and Kate) who is important to me, including the man I'm closest to, who turned out not to like him much because he was jealous of him, but that's my friend's problem, not mine or his. I've not yet met anyone in his family, and I would like to, though maybe THIS Weds it's not on my agenda because I did want to talk with him about heavy shit, which I didn't get a chance to explain, too flabbergasted. We'll see how the weekend goes.

Luke just left for his Dad's for the holiday afternoon, returning tonight after dessert to go home with my brother and nephew for the weekend. The poor kid hates having to trade holidays between Mom and Dad annually, and expressed that he wishes he could spend every Thanksgiving with me instead of having to go to his Dad's girlfriend's house. It was hard to explain to him why things are the way they are, which he intellectually understands, but it hurts nevertheless. Especially because we celebrate my nephew's birthday at Thanksgiving too. Jake is turning 19 this year.

This year it's only my brother and his son, sans my brother's soon-to-be-ex-wife and sans Luke. So things will be a little weird.

It doesn't help (TMI alert for the fellas) that I'm having physical female issues yet again. Doctor says that if this crap keeps up, I have to go in for a D&C, which I've never had. And my first mammogram is scheduled for early December. Men get their assholes tapped into (I think, I don't even know what happens at a prostate exam) once in a while and their balls clung to but that's about all the chronic ick they have to deal with in their lives. We bear children. We bleed a lot. We cramp up and get irritable. We break out. Month after month until our bodies decide that we're finally old enough to stop suffering. That just compounds the irritability and general sense of blah that I'm feeling today.

I don't know if I have an appointment with The Useless Therapist tomorrow or not, but I'm not going until she quits and I get my new therapist. And I don't know if I'm meeting my Stephen Minister tomorrow for our weekly pow wow either; she hasn't answered my texts asking. So tomorrow could be crazy busy or dead in the water until band practice.

Midnight: So for what am I most thankful this Thanksgiving? As I told a few friends and my Pastor this morning, I am most grateful for the many times I was really sick in the hospital, or at home, or at work, and I prayed fervently that the Lord would just fucking call me home already and release me from my suffering, and He decided not to honor that prayer. God belched at me again. "Not your time, Annie, not your time... He said. I think it's largely just that voice of Chris in my head that tells me I'm not, in fact, good enough, smart enough and doggone it, not enough people like me that made me pray to be whisked on the fast track to Heaven. But goddamnit, the list of songs I want played at my memorial service is getting really fucking bitching, Steven Gregory Drozd, so make sure you sling your guitar and keyboard over your shoulder and do fly in to give me a proper send-off, m'kay?

Thanksgiving dinner with the family, though it was just the 4 of us, was great. I mean, it was great once the food was on the table and we started eating it. Beforehand, when Ma was multitasking and cooking, I was ready to crush an Estazolam and put it in her ginger ale. Most fortunately, when my big brother is around, it's 2 against 1 and we can usually outwit her and joke around with her enough to have her calm the fuck down. At least Steve can. But he doesn't live with her. We celebrated my nephew Jake's 19th birthday, a Thanksgiving tradition, ate like hogs, sprayed whipped cream across the table at one another (Ma did that to Steve), and Steve critiqued my (now hidden for the last several months) online dating profiles, as he's edging closer to getting into the dating scene since he and his wife filed for divorce.

Steve's just a fabulous guy. He's 43 but looks 17, is really cute, good at what he does (he's a food service manager at NIU in De Kalb for a big dorm), loves the Lord, a devoted father, kind, funny and offbeat. He's also one of the best drummer/percussionists I've ever heard. To know him is to love him. He totally deserves to be with someone who thrills his soul, whose soul he thrills, without abandon. It was so refreshing tonight to have him here and he could be himself, without walking on eggshells around his cranky, introverted, unfriendly wife who never talked to us unless we talked to her first in the 20 years we've known her.

Steve just signed up for match.com, his first venture into thinking about starting to date. A veteran of rejection by interesting men and rejection of serial killer types from South Dakota in the online dating world (as well as an abuse survivor at the hands of someone I met online), I had some tips for Steve and let him read my dating profiles, all of which have been hidden or removed for the last several months as I have zero interest in dating anyone yet. He thought my profiles were certainly interesting and witty, and I had cute pictures posted, but he couldn't figure out why I am so damn undatable online in the first place. I told him it's a hell of a world out there for almost-middle-aged divorced moms. I pity the poor woman who was divorced with kids and took the risk of becoming Chris' new girlfriend. Once they got to know one another, a mutual friend told me Chris said the girlfriend had gone "off the rails" and that things were rocky, and that they unfriended one another on Facebook. That was the last I heard about their relationship, but naturally whatever went wrong had to be her fault, her neurosis, because nothing is EVER Chris' fault. Literally, every argument or disagreement ends with the woman having to apologize to him for something, because he plays his cards in such a way that he, like Satan, twists everything around to blame a woman for any transgression he can grasp that surely outweighs any wrongdoing of his. They met on OkCupid.

I told Steve the story of my adventures on OkCupid, where their mathematical algorithms guaranteed to find you the love of your life fucking 99% compatibility score matched me with not only THE MAN I WAS ALREADY MARRIED TO but also the guy who rejected me and said no to the Homecoming Dance when I was in high school, as well as Rob, the Carpenter Who Hates Me, who has rejected me on every dating site out there, all of which he found hysterical and I found typical of my luck. I'm anxiously awaiting match.com's own algorithms to match me up with another Caucasian, mid 40's white drummer with whom I share most tastes, laugh at the same things, and am a Christian, so the online dating site can suggest I start dating my big brother. That's how marred I think online dating is in general, and half why I took all of my profiles down.

Otherwise, Thanksgiving was fun. Steve taught me how to beat the rhythm of the Purdie Shuffle, a famous drum pattern by Bernard Purdie, who's played most famously with Steely Dan, whose techniques were loaned out to John Bonham of Led Zeppelin on the song "Fool in the Rain." After half an hour of tapping on the floor and the dining room table, I pretty much got the beat down.

And John Bonham's take on it, "Fool in the Rain..."

Wowzers. I need some sleep before tomorrow, which I think is turning into a major snoozefest.

I remain "Dreamboat Annie."

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Another One Bites the Leg

My next door neighbors have one of those snippy little dogs, breed of which I don't know or care, that yelps and jumps and is uncontrollable.

This summer, my brother and Luke were bringing the bikes from the garage to the back porch, and the dog bit Steven in the leg, through his jeans, drawing blood and leaving a big bruise on his calf. How the dog gets off his leash so often and is left to gnaw on the neighbors is a mystery to me. Steven shrugged it off, we cleaned the wound and the neighbors profusely apologized, citing that the dog was in training and it'd never happen again. Steven, being the nice guy he is, didn't raise a fuss, though he was visibly pissed off.

This morning, I was coming back from the alley throwing away trash, and my neighbor had the dog on the leash, taking it out to do its business, which they leave on their property and don't clean up for days, which is really fucking gross. For some reason, she let go of the leash, the dog raced towards me as I was saying "Good morning" to my neighbor, and the dog chewed a nice bruise into MY calf, not drawing blood, but it hurt like a son of a bitch. Thank God I had long pants on. Being the nice person I am, I also shrugged it off, was reassured that the dog has had all his shots, and was told that the dog was kicked out of the grooming salon on Sunday for biting the groomer and couldn't go back. I went back into the house to find the hydrogen peroxide.

This is one of those little shit dogs that people dress up in cute clothing. It's not a giant lab or German shepherd. Clearly, the dog hasn't been trained properly in the months since he bit Steven.

I sort of laughed it off out of politeness, not wanting to put up a stink, went into the house and washed the wound with peroxide, noticing how quickly it bruised up. My mom was incensed, more so than I was.

I'm not one for animal cruelty, but some dogs just need to be put the fuck down and call it a day. If your dog is uncontrollable, and continues to bite people despite training and "nurturing," it's clearly in the dog's personality to bite. And that's not cool.

How many people (Steven, the groomer, me, God knows who else) does the dog have to bite before the neighbors realize the dog is inherently vicious?

Forgive me, but I'm in a foul mood. Violently threw up last night before bed with no apparent cause and no forewarning, woke up with the mother of all headaches, and it's a dark, gloomy, misty day. At least I'm meeting Julia for an early breakfast, so that should perk me up. Then it's off to work, where I hope to God my mood is better than it was yesterday, when everything and everyone annoyed and aggravated me, everything at work was a SNAFU out of my control or design and I couldn't wait to go home.

Praying fervently for a better day today, though it's not looking promising thus far...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Occupy *This*, Motherfuckers. And Welcome Back, Friends.

What the fuck is wrong with "authority?" Bad enough the police is in full riot gear to gang up on a bunch of peaceful protesters, but to pepper spray the gal right in the face, with her mouth agape? What the fuck? What the fuckety fucking fuck?

I'm still not sure what "Occupy Musicians" is going to do, or become, but I signed my name to it and hope it's a successful venture. Let's just not all start singing and get pepper sprayed in the fucking mouth. I'm generally pretty politically apathetic, and signed onto the Democratic party in '92 because Clinton/Gore were the hotter of the candidate choices. These days, I proudly proclaim peaceful anarchism as my vision for the country, though that doesn't seem to be working out terribly well (yet!)

You know who deserves to be pepper sprayed in the open mouth by hostile cops, not to mention down their pants? Men who think it's ok and appropriate, even sexy to slap women in the face. Men who gaslight the sanity right out of the people they claim to love. Men who use their power: physical, mental, financial and emotional, to abuse women. Pepper spray those mofos, and leave the peaceful protesters alone.

Separately, I've decided to open my blog to public commenting again, without me having to approve the comments. I don't hide behind a pseudonym on my blog. You know my real name. You know my story. Those of you who have chosen to comment in the past, apart from a PhD friend of mine who used her real name and one of my public subscribers, have all hidden behind the veil of anonymity, or at best, an initial, and frequently your hateful words get deleted by me. Let's just call this an exercise to see who has any fucking balls left to put their opinions about me out there for the world to read. Maybe those haters have left the building and aren't visiting the blog anymore, which is fine with me. It's especially endearing when the comments are left while I'm at work and have no access or ability to delete them without running the risk of getting in trouble for using the internet in my office. That takes creativity! My blog stat software tells me you're still out there, so....

Pre-Natal Testing: I'd Never Do It Again

The nurses at the doctors' offices I go to always ask me the date of my last menstrual period. I never remember, but I get my period with such frequency that I usually just say "Eh, about 2 weeks ago" and that suffices and is largely true. I'm almost 40...the date of my last period doesn't seem particularly riveting to me anymore. I'm in perimenopause and have not been able to conceive another child, even with the help of fertility drugs several years ago. I honestly could care less about my period, other than its alarming frequency, but I digress.

Flashback to Spring of 1999. I remember distinctly the date of a specific last period: April 22, 1999. I was about 3 months clean of narcotics, from which I'd withdrawn cold turkey (that's another colorful story for another day), and after suffering a miscarriage in August of '98, I felt healthy enough and ready to try and have a baby with my husband. We were shooting for the Millennium Baby: the December 31, 1999 or January 1, 2000 baby and we came damn close. Missed it by one cycle.

I hadn't gotten a period since April 22, 1999, and by mid-May, I was busily purchasing what had to be a dozen home pregnancy tests, all of which came out positive. Never one to believe my own hype, I finally broke down and called my OB/GYN at the time, Dr. Kismartoni, for a serum pregnancy test. Early in the morning, on May 19, 1999, the call came to the house that indeed, "Mrs. Bechtel, you are pregnant. Congratulations."

I awakened Craig, which is a lot like awakening Luke (read: impossible) to tell him the happy news. He roused enough to say "That's great..." and pat me on the head, and he went back to sleep while I called all my girlfriends and my mom. I think Craig had the day off, because the plan of the day was to see "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace" on its release date. (A film that sucked donkey balls, by the way.) By the time Craig was conscious enough to process the pregnancy, he was beyond excited.

I was still smoking at the time, and drinking socially, both of which worried me. I'd had some cheap wine with my friend Stacey just the night before I found out I was pregnant, but the doctor's office told me not to worry about anything I had done before I found out I was pregnant (like the year and a half's worth of Hydrocodone and Demerol? That too?). I quit smoking cold turkey too, and didn't take up the habit again until I was going through my separation and divorce.

The pregnancy wasn't without its drama. Dr. Kismartoni couldn't hear the baby's heartbeat on the doppler at my 13 week checkup, by which time he should've been able to hear it, so I went for an ultrasound, only to find a healthy fetus who stared straight into the camera and looked like an alien on the printout. So all good. I was overweight when I got pregnant, which may have contributed to the difficulty in finding the baby's heartbeat.

Very early on in the pregnancy, I developed bilateral iritis, which caused everything I saw to be in a huge fog and I was super light-sensitive. That was the first time I got the "it's not too late to abort the pregnancy" talk, from a fucking opthalmologist of all people, who Rx'd steroid drops for my eyes and who told me the baby was a foreign body in my system, and my system was probably rejecting him. Uh, not true, sir.

Things pressed forward steadily until about the 15th-17th week, when I consented to the Triple Screen Test, which I could've opted out of, had I done more research on it. It tests for 3 specific hormone markers that predict, with a HIGH rate of false positives, whether or not your baby is at a greater risk of flying out of your uterus with any number of chromosomal abnormalities; specifically, Down's Syndrome. My Triple Screen Test, and I remember it clearly, put my baby at a 1/116 chance of having Down's Syndrome, when for my age bracket, the odds should've been more around 1/5,000. I was only 27 years old. Not wanting to be alarmed at the results, knowing the rate of high false positives, I was freaked out but not panicked, until the doctor referred us to genetic counselors at Lutheran General Hospital's Perinatal Specialists. Then I got scared.

Had another ultrasound at around 16 weeks, I think, and the baby was still growing just fine. The profile we saw on the ultrasound, in hindsight, looked JUST like Luke came out looking like. It was freaky. His little face, his form, was already developed, and he didn't look like an alien anymore. He looked like Luke. It was at this ultrasound that they were relatively certain that I was having a boy. Score!

This baby I'd been carrying for almost half a pregnancy...I sat there with Craig at the genetic counselors' office while they told me there was still time to abort the pregnancy, which was unthinkable. IF he had Down's Syndrome, Craig and I would've dealt with it. There was no way I was giving up this baby I'd been carrying for 20 weeks. At that point, I consented to an amniocentesis, which carries with it a heightened risk of miscarriage, not to mention has a needle the size of a mack truck and has results that take 2 weeks to come back.

I've been through some scary shit in my time, I'll tell you, but the amnio had to be the scariest. How Craig stood there and watched that needle go into my belly, I have NO idea. I had to close my eyes as the perinatologist punctured into my uterus to pull what looked like half a gallon of amniotic fluid out from my son's cozy cocoon. They watched the baby on ultrasound, so they wouldn't HIT HIM WITH THE NEEDLE, and told me again that it looked like I was having a boy. (I wanted a boy, what can I say? Though at that point, I'd be satisfied with any healthy child.) After the procedure, Craig took me for cheese fries at Portillo's and I went home to rest, sore and nervous.

In the 2 weeks we had to wait for the results, tensions were beyond high. And to top it off, we had to go to New Mexico for Craig's grandma's 90th birthday. All of Grandma Helen's friends and Craig's family were thrilled at the idea of Helen's first great-grandchild coming soon, and I was showing plentifully by this time, but the well wishes and congratulations were taken with a grain of panic behind them. Here we were in celebratory mode, not knowing if our baby was going to come out with any of a litany of chromosomal abnormalities.

When the results finally came in, we received a phone call from the Perinatologist. As we'd prayed for, there was absolutely nothing wrong with our baby, who, from the test, they confirmed, was a healthy XY chromosomal male fetus. "He's a healthy baby, but that's not to say the test doesn't show that something could be wrong with him down the line..." the doctor had to dampen my mood by saying. (Yes, like "Is he carrying the gene for addiction? Will he be bipolar?" Does he carry Craig's genetic mutation of Factor V Leiden, a serious blood clotting disorder? I now wonder.) Apart from exercise-induced asthma, seasonal allergies and a sassy mouth, my son is completely normal (well, as normal as half-a-Miklasz can be).

I guess my greater point is if you're pregnant, young and in otherwise healthy shape, consider the risks over the benefits of consenting to pre-natal testing that is probably going to give you more of a headache than you certainly deserve halfway through your pregnancy. If you're over 35 and have other risk factors during your pregnancy, have a detailed sit-down with your OB or perinatologist about elective genetic testing. It was, for my family, the most stressful period of our lives.

And for those of you who are expecting a baby and are bitching about how tiresome and stressful your pregnancy is? Just wait, folks. The real fun starts when you bring your precious peanut home..... :)

The tension of the waiting during those 2 weeks is something that was unnecessary, to which I never should've consented, and would urge pregnant women to reconsider when their OB's tell them it's time. The Triple Screen Test is elective. You don't HAVE to have it done. And do the research on it first--the high false positive rate should've been enough to make me think twice about it, but this was my first baby (and last, thank you Luke) and I didn't know any better.

Apart from being a double footling breech, with both feet stuck at zero station in the birth canal, and his head firmly planted in my ribs, with no escape route other than a c-section and coming into this world 2 weeks early, Luke was born a completely healthy, beautiful baby, weighing in at 6 lbs, 6.1 oz and 18 1/2" inches long, on January 16, 2000. (We were at the movies the day he was born too, just like the day we found out we were having him, this time seeing "Magnolia." I don't recommend drinking a 44 oz. pop and sitting through a 3 1/2 hour movie when you're in early labor and you really, really, really want one last social outing with your husband before you birth your child. NOT. WORTH. IT!)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Those Three Words

I'm humbled and grateful. Asked to describe me in 3 words, my friends and family said the following:

"Beautiful, evocative, fragile" --SD
"Perfectly imperfect, selfless heart, boldly brave" --CSR
"Troubled adorable genius" --WC
"Passionate, devoted to your son, loyal, sober" --LL
"Beautiful, gifted, loyal, great, exquisite" --KC
"A trusted friend" --WS
"Caring, funny, rebellious" --BM
"Spunky, cute, smart" --NM
"Complicated (or intricate if you prefer that one), witty, brave" --HNC
"Articulate, awesome, amusing. I could think of other words too, such as Proud Mother, special person, caregiver, great sense of humor and intelligent." --BS
"Weird, conversing, colorful" --SW
"Wacky, skinny, clean" --LB
"Brave, articulate, awesome" --PH
"Raw, vulnerable, beautiful" --KRS
"Loving humorous mom" --DM
"Funny, highly intelligent, extremely loving" --JF
"Inspiring" --STM
"A toasted marshmallow: Kind of crackly on the outside, but a softie inside. Way better than a regular marshmallow." --LPH
"Witty, smart, determined" --RC
"Creative, proud, magnetic" --NDP
"Focused, funny, fearless" --CSS
"Beautifully loved by God" --JM
"Entertaining, intelligent, honest. And refreshing, and funny, and loving. Shall I go on?" --ATL
"Caring, smart, funny, hip" --JF
"Strong, loyal, beautiful, dedicated, great mom and friend, talented" --MNG
"Creative, courageous, honest" --JB
"Musical, caring, amazing" --MB
"Herself, musical, daring" --BC
"Tough, crazy, cool." --KO
"Honest, kind, hilarious" AGR
"Absolutely amazingly awesome (as are great!), artistic, ambitious" BC
"Determined, resiliant, perky" --MP

I'll add more if anyone else responds to the question.

If you look at my blog profile, I've filled the space with details of how I perceive myself, which was originally written when I started blogging in 2007, edited when I re-started the blog a few months ago. Seriously, some days I can't get past "ugly, psychotic addict" and that's it. I was encouraged to compile this list and read it over and over again until I finally believed what it said. Time to work on that.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Those Three Words: Part 1

I'm trying desperately to rebuild my self-esteem after it was literally destroyed by HIM, who made me feel that I was lucky HE loved me because who other than a great guy like him would love someone with as many things wrong with them as me? Trying to see myself as awesome, though all I can see are the flaws most of the time.

When I do praise myself and regale my positive attributes in public, I get labeled as self-absorbed. Asking a ? of all my friends and readers out there....what 3 words would you use to describe me? They can be positive or negative attributes. Just the 3 things that stand out about me. I'm working on another blog about it. Thanks for your participation in advance. Facebook friends can comment on the status update on Facebook.

Trying to remove that ingrained negative thought pattern in my head. I will share straight away what my best male friend said, as well as my son.

BMF: Beautiful. Evocative. Fragile.
Luke: Wacky. Skinny. Clean.

One of my dear college friends messaged me with the following, which are all excellent to remember:

Here's some truth to counteract those negative thoughts when they surface. Because all those things (scratch that - LIES that he told you? NOT TRUE!!!!!) Love you!

I am God's treasure (1 Peter 2:9-10)
I am dearly loved (Colossians 3:12)
I am being transformed (2 Corinthians 3:18)
I am a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)
I am forgiven (Ephesians 1:6-8)
I am an heir of God (Romans 8:17)
I am a friend of God (John 15:15)
I am free (Romans 6:16-18; 8:1-2)
I am capable (Philippians 4:13)
I am spiritually alive (Ephesians 2:5)
I am God's workmanship (Ephesians 2:10)
I am welcome in God's presence (Ephesians 2:18, Hebrews 4:14-16)
I am sheltered and protected in God (Colossians 3:3)
I am valuable to God (1 Corinthians 6:20)
I am a member of God's family (Ephesians 2:19; 1 John 3:1-2)
I am chosen for success (John 15:16)
I am complete (Colossians 2:9-10)
I am secure (Romans 8:31-39)
I am confident (Philippians 1:6)
I am gifted with power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Last Waltz: Right Out of the Office and Into My Smoking Sanctuary. Happy Great American Smoke-Out Day!

It was one of those days when the doctors run inexplicably an hour (or two) behind (and the people actually WAIT! I'd so be outta there and would reschedule, swearing under my breath), the patients get restless, grouchy and nerve-wracked, half of the office employees are sick but are there hacking on everything, everyone wants everything all at the same time and the copier jams. Not exactly the best day for the Great American Smoke-Out, when the smokers of the nation are supposed to quit en masse and just say NO. Yes, I have to quit smoking someday, ideally before I get lung cancer. Yes, everyone nags me about it all the time--family, friends, doctors, band mates, all to no avail. Yes, it's costly and dangerous. Yes, I took my last smoke break of the day at 4:45, when there were still 15 people in the waiting room and 3 doctors working. My precious, albeit brief, escape for 15 minutes.

I am happy to report that this nerve-blocker Stosh put me on for the fibromyalgia is certainly better living through chemistry. Neurontin. It's non-narcotic, not sedating and I'm taking 200 mg, 3 times a day. While I still wake up in pain trying to roll over and let out an audible "ouch" when I try to turn, the pain doesn't last as long and I am able to reach down for the morning paper on the stoop of the porch without wincing half an hour after I wake up. Triple mazel tov and 2 snaps around the globe!

Yesterday, the unfortunate demon of a hypoglycemic attack once again sidelined me late in the morning and I was half an hour late to work. I laid down at 10:00 am, intending and setting my alarm to only sleep for 30 minutes, though the alarm didn't go off and I woke up at 11:30, due at work at noon. I texted my supervisor to let her know how and why I was running late, a text she never received (so much for her new smartphone). Lucky thing I followed up with a phone call to the office indicating I was running late. I blame it on the bowl of Grape Nuts I ate at 9am. I thought I'd found the perfect cereal for me--only 2g of sugar--as I'm a big lover of cereal--unwittingly missing the fact that the cereal had 28g of carbs in it. Whoops. Thus, best to stick to the Atkins program that keeps me conscious but makes it incredibly difficult to gain weight. I dunno--these attacks are happening more frequently as of late and are more severe--though I'm trying to follow the endocrinologist's advice of a high-protein, low-carb diet. Ack. I tried the one drug the endo recommended, but it wreaked havoc on my GI tract and I lost 17 lbs in 2 months, so Stosh told me to stop taking it. It blocked the body from absorbing carbs. It was like Antabuse for carb-eating fiends: it made you hella sick if you ate carbs on the medication. Ack, I'm just frustrated at this intrusion into my daily life. Reactive hypoglycemia, like fibromyalgia, has no known cause or cure, and I have both.

Tomorrow, I cancelled my session with The Useless Therapist. She's making her exit in a couple of weeks anyway, and the trip into the city doesn't net me much of a benefit, so instead I'm meeting my Stephen Minister for a late afternoon snack. I still don't know, and won't ever likely find out, if my therapist quit or was canned because she's so damn lousy at counseling. Like I've said before, our sessions were recorded for her proctor to review, and surely he had to have heard in our conversations how one-sided they were, with me doing all of the talking, the question asking, the debating. Therapy with her has largely been one long confabulation with myself with no practical strategies, advice or even empathy expressed. This therapist belongs in a laboratory, with little contact with the outside world, at least until she can start employing plural nouns and proper usage of pronouns into her every day vernacular.

This Friday is a hectic day for me: OB/GYN appt at 8:45, special Thanksgiving lunch with Luke at school at 11:45, Stephen Minister at 2, pick up Luke from basketball at 4:45, errands with Luke in the evening to buy a birthday gift for the Bully Who's Not a Bully Anymore Kid.

I had literally zero luck finding a child psychologist who accepted Medicaid for Luke. It was difficult enough to find one for myself, and as it stood, I got stuck with being a grad student therapist's lab rat for a year, which again, I can and can't complain about, as someday I'll be a therapy-dispensing grad student extern myself, most likely working with patients who are on Public Aid as well. I do think it's unfortunate that the working poor are subject, at times, to not-the-greatest-caliber-of-care just because they don't have a cushy insurance plan.

My memory thought that the divorce agreement said something about Craig covering Luke's health insurance, and to be honest, I don't remember why Luke went on Medicaid with me in the first place, other than he was on IL All Kids before we got divorced. But Craig's got a nice PPO, and Section III, #4 of the divorce does clearly state that the husband shall provide health insurance for the minor child. Badda boom. Luke will go on Craig's insurance and thereby have access to any therapist we choose, so that's a blessing.

So The Band's "The Last Waltz" is coming to a special big screening on November 30th at the Music Box Theater in Chicago. I've purchased 2 tickets, and asked my Tatus if he would go with me. (Well, really, I didn't so much ask him as tell him he *was* going.) He's got the chance to go to New York City for 3 days during that time span with buddies of his, I think, but I discouraged his trip on the fact that I already HAVE tickets (I could take anyone, but I'd like to take him) and that the doctor who would have to cover him for 3 days would be really pissed off if he took off right before the holidays, when he's also taking vacation time, so he's still contemplating what to do. I can't believe he's never seen "The Last Waltz." It's widely considered the best rock concert film of all time, recorded and filmed over Thanksgiving, 1976. Anyone who was anyone at the time performed with The Band: Dylan, Clapton, Muddy Waters, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Neil Young, Ringo Starr, Ron Wood, Neil Diamond, et al. He's been to NYC before. He's never seen "The Last Waltz" with me on the big screen with 2 rock critics debating its validity and awesomeness. Seems like an easy decision to me. I'm still waiting for his answer...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Finally, We Were Safe.

Read this from Narcotics Anonymous on my Facebook tonight and thought I'd share the quote below, which I thought befitting of being in the throes of addiction, whether it's to narcotics or alcohol, my two worst vices. Active addiction is a scary, lonely place. Numbing yourself in active addiction becomes your first life priority, because the world HURTS. It's amazing how substance-centered your life becomes. Apart from completing basic, essential life tasks and responsibilities, the rest of your existence is placed upon scoring the next dose, the next drink, until you either face death straight on or let yourself fall off the cliff and into the arms of people below who care enough to help you save YOURSELF.

"The life we lived in the dark world of our disease was a terrifying one. It was as if we were perched on a tiny ledge thousands of feet up the side of a mountain. The drop was straight down. We never dared to look up or down because we so desperately feared falling. All we could do was feed our disease and tremble in fear. We were stuck. There was no room on our ledge for anyone else. We were all alone. Every day, little bits and pieces of our perch would fall off. All we could do was wait.

Finally, out of desperation, we looked up and saw thousands of people urging us to climb. They reached down and created a human chain for us to climb. All we had to do was let go of our perch and take the hands extended to us. We stood, looked up, let go, and took the hands. We were safe."

Eau des Mereveilles and a Desperate Housewife

Most women have a signature scent; a perfume or cologne that is uniquely connected to them. People recognize a woman by her scent; the opposite sex on olfactory overload by a perfume worn with regularity. My scent of choice is by Hermes, Eau des Mereveilles. Famously French and grossly overpriced. If you've been around me for upwards of the last decade, you've come in contact with Eau des Mereveilles. My ex-husband bought me a bottle for Christmas several years ago that I rationed for years, I think, followed by a bottle that my ex-boyfriend bought me for Valentine's Day in '08, I think. It's historically well-received, though when my best male friend smelled it on me the first time, he told me I smelled like "70's shampoo." I couldn't tell if that was a compliment or an insult.

There is precious little left of the bottle from the ex-boyfriend, which I sparingly use on special occasions. On the average day, I revert to the bottle of Burberry for Her that my best male friend bought me for Christmas last year. I like the Burberry, and he bought it for me knowing how much I love All Things Burberry, but it's just not the same as the Hermes. It's stronger and less flowery, more apt for the every day than for the snazzing out, which is why I usually wear it to work.

Sadly, Hermes and I will have to soon part company until I earn far more money, which is sad but inevitable. Perhaps I'll spritz my wrists and just once on my neck in the meantime, as opposed to the additional spritz on the back of my neck that I usually wear.

So last night I had a dream that I wouldn't categorize as a PTSD dream, but the ex-boyfriend was in it nevertheless. We were in the Hermes store and he was buying me another bottle of the perfume. We didn't have contact with one another in the store other than the fact that I knew he was there, while I was looking at the Birkin and Kelly bags on display in the store. His mere presence in the dream awakened me at close to 6:00am, when I had my alarm set for 7:45am. I don't have to be at work until 1pm on Tuesdays, so I thought I'd sleep in, having gone to bed at 10:30pm last night. Wasn't meant to be.

He wasn't abusing me in this dream. He was treating me to something. It certainly wasn't like the last nightmare, where he had one of his small kitchen pairing knives in-hand (that he'd given me to have sharpened a couple of times), and I was outside smoking, and he told me not to tell on social network sites that I was going to be alone in the house and he tried to cut me on my right arm where I used to cut myself. THAT was a nightmare. And yes, I'm still skittish about going out alone to smoke at night, worse going into the dark alley adjacent to my townhouse complex to go to the garbage dumpster.

Wearing the scent doesn't trigger PTSD reactions in me, for I wore it long before I met my ex-boyfriend, though he always said I smelled nice when I wore Eau de Mereveilles. It just reminds me of ME. I guess if I smell like "70's shampoo," it's my own damn fault for wearing expensive French perfume.

Friends, loved ones and doctors all tell me the memories will eventually fade, just as the scent of the perfume eventually does. That's true, to a large degree. It's just the dreams that are relentless. They won't go away because he's still implanted in my psyche, which my present (soon-t0-be-former) therapist was unable to redirect through therapy. And I doubt highly that he'd ever show up at my house and hold me at knife point, though I take my phone outside with me whenever I smoke, ready to dial 911. Seems like my mind has 911 on speed dial too. I just want it to all go away.

Separately, I RSVP'd to a pharm rep talk at the hospital this morning, "Smoking Cessation and Nicotine Addiction: Understanding Both," to be given an hour and a half before I start work this afternoon. I said I'd go. My supervisor encouraged me to go. Brought to you by Pfizer and a cardiologist from another hospital. There's Thai food involved, which is free, but I somehow doubt I'll make it to the session. I think I know enough about nicotine addiction to skip the lecture, even given this week is the Great American Smokeout on 11/17. I'm just not ready to quit, and it's the last vice I do have, so when I'm ready, I'll quit. That day hasn't happened yet, though I'm getting close, having had to sing again this weekend and quickly losing my breath (partly because I don't know how to sing using my diaphragm). Sorry, but the free lunch isn't riveting enough to draw me in, during my pre-work chain smoking and Led Zeppelin-listening ritual I perform before I head into the office.

I'm a huge fan of "Desperate Housewives," the only current television show I watch religiously with my mom every Sunday night. Luke knows he's on "Do Not Disturb" from 8-9 on Sunday nights, though the show's getting hard to watch. One main character's husband just turned into an alcoholic, and at the end of the episode was heading off to rehab. Meanwhile, another female main character, who is a recovering alcoholic with 5+ years of sobriety behind her, having helped her alcoholic son recover, fell off the wagon at the end of last Sunday's episode. I begged the question, "Why did she have wine in the house in the first place?" Another couple on the show is divorcing after 22 years of marriage, which makes me sad. The women in the show all have themselves in a highly precarious place, having covered up a murder, and there is Bree, falling off the wagon with a sip of chardonnay and a look on her face as if she'd just run into her best friend in life. It's just a stark reminder of how close we alcoholics are to that one drink that will ruin everything we worked so hard to achieve. I know the show isn't reality, but it speaks to me in understandable terms and is starting to make me uncomfortable. Luckily, this is the finale of the entire series, so I only have to deal with it until the end of May. And there's enough intrigue and humor to keep me on edge for the coming months, so I keep watching it anyway.

There's this "Occupying" everything lately...and I joined the united front of occupying musicians. That was good, to be included in that. However, I was rejected from the petition for occupying writers, because my medium of writing is a blog. I sent a link to my writing to the moderator of the petition site, and he politely responded that despite my prolific ponderings, I would not be included in the petition because I blog and am not published. They were super-polite about the exclusion, so that was good, and wished me well in my writing ventures, but it's still kind of a bummer. Unlike my friend Mimi Smartypants, my blog has yet to be turned into a book, nor do I expect it ever to, but it would've been nice to have been acknowledged for the writing that I *do* do, regardless of the medium in which it's published.

Til next time!

Monday, November 14, 2011

But Who's Counting?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Understanding Life.

Rated "M" for "Momblog"

I've been accused of being, but vehemently deny, that I am a helicopter parent. My son is warranted freedoms typically given only to children much older than 11. I don't hover over and follow him wherever he goes. Unlike some parents in his 6th grade class, I don't walk him into school in the morning and make sure he gets to his classroom. I let him go out and ride his bike alone around the neighborhood, confident he'll come back eventually. I entrust him with privileges and usually receive reciprocal respect as a result. I let him make a lot of his own decisions and deal with the fallout or successes of those decisions. I'm firm but not overbearing. I discipline but I don't condemn. Carl Jung said, "We cannot change anything unless we accept it. Condemnation doesn't liberate. It oppresses."

I encourage and reward good behaviors and call him on and punish bad behaviors. We speak to one another on an intellectual level reserved customarily for adult-to-adult interactions. He is continually praised by other adults for his level of maturity and things like his sardonic sense of humor. We always say he's an old soul, and he is. Craig would say he's been coddled, but my impression is that he's been through more in his 11 years than most kids go through in their entire childhoods, and some of that stuff is really difficult to deal with. It's tough to remember that at heart, though, he's still a young kid, subject to young kid emotions and challenges.

I fully admit to spoiling him by my own accord materialistically, purely out of the feeling that I want him to be afforded a lot of what I felt I was missing out on when I was a child. I want him to be happy. Craig disagrees with how much I cave in and let Luke get his way, and thinks our son should be learning more about disappointment and the ills of the world than he now comprehends. It's so hard, though. You want to be generous with your child, especially when circumstances were different in your own childhood and you *didn't* always get what you wanted when you wanted it. Today, our kids are obsessed with instant gratification, and that's something I have to work on delaying in Luke, and I am, slowly. And it's a cliche, but today things are different. Children have access to and are encouraged to HAVE so much more than we did as kids. Whether that's fashionable clothing, the latest electronics or games, or whatever, they just want everything, it seems. Peer pressure for children these days (and I'm speaking about pre-teens, which is my knowledge and experience base at present) is intense.

A new video game came out this week, Call of Duty: 3. Most of Luke's friends pre-ordered it from a store, and got it the day it came out, Tuesday. We pre-ordered ours online, largely because I had to wait until I paid my credit card bill, and this annoyed Luke. He said that his friends would make fun of him at school because he didn't have the game the day it came out. I explained to him that this was of those instances where he'd just have to wait and be patient, and that he'd get the game whenever it arrived. Thus he waited until it arrived yesterday, and all was well. If I had half a ball, I would've told him to put it on his Christmas list and wait until then. But I frankly didn't feel like dealing with the fallout of that decision. So I caved and bought it for him now, which Craig would probably like to bop me upside the head for doing.

Through teacher/principal and parental intervention, Luke mended ways with the first bully who was bothering him this school year, and now they're good pals. I even had the child over to play last Saturday for the whole afternoon and the kids got along famously. The child was polite, respectful and friendly. So super! I was happy for Luke that their differences had been resolved.

Meanwhile, the bully who's been abusing Luke for the last 4 school years has started abusing him again, physically and verbally. This abuse is a relatively new development at school for this year, but Luke told me about it the other night. My knee-jerk reaction was to spout off a rather abrupt, angry email to the teacher about the bully and about a situation at school where someone stole something that belonged to Luke, due to the negligence of the teacher. Not saying the bully in question stole the Lego mini figure out of Luke's book order at school, but someone in the classroom did, and no one fessed up, even after a desk and backpack check. (The teacher is ordering him a new book, not at our expense.) This bully likes to call Luke "stupid" and a "dumbass," and physically knock him around, kick him, grab the fat around Luke's waist and twist it until Luke screams out in pain, tackle him and just generally can't keep his hands to himself. He's a snot-nosed little brat who threatens Luke not to tell on him or he'll have his mommy, the cop, arrest Luke. (Which come on, Luke should know that's bullshit, but it intimidates him nevertheless.) Craig and I have gone through 4 teachers and 3 principal changes regarding this particular bully, and nothing ever gets resolved to anyone's satisfaction.

Not saying that the bully's behavior is in ANY way excusable, but Luke needs to remember that it's not really about Luke and who he is or might be like. It's about how the bully feels about himself, and the way he feels about himself is torn up inside. His parents are divorced, with the father living out-of-state, and the couple is currently embroiled in a serious custody dispute over where the child will live. Luke needs to understand that this kid's going through some heavy shit, and that his parents don't get along like Dad and I do. He needs to realize that the kid is grasping at straws to make himself feel better about himself, since his parents don't seem to be instilling in him a great deal of self-confidence, if they're tugging him from side to side.

I forwarded the angry email I'd sent to the teacher to a few close friends, and Craig, all of whom thought my tone was over-the-top and definitely an angry, accusatory outburst. That much I'll agree to. What most of them (apart from Craig) missed was the conversation and all the emails that followed that angry email, where I apologized to the teacher for being such a hardass and she apologized for her negligence in watching the kids and the book that got vandalized. She and I are on fine terms now, and I owned up to my anger and she said it wasn't displaced or unreasonable. I got a wrist slapping from Craig and TOC, so the teacher won't see any more angry emails from me in the future. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry.

Meanwhile, my therapist, to whom I was assigned (Medicaid, what do you expect?) a few months ago has been largely useless to me. I have to do all the talking in the sessions and she either agrees with me on everything, saying "Exactly" over and over again, or she doesn't comprehend what I'm talking about at all. We've been talking about the Luke situations at home and at school, and she cannot GET why it's impossible for me to offer objective advice to my son. I'm biased. So is Craig. "Why you not objective?" she asks me her foreign vernacular. "He is kid." (Yes, I know that, but must you constantly refer to him as just plain "kid" and not "Luke" or "your son?") I've been trying desperately to find a therapist for Luke, who finally accepted that he should and needs to have someone to talk to about issues in his life, other than Mom and Dad. We had a family meeting the other night to discuss things going on in Luke's life, and we encouraged him to be as open as he can be with us, but that we understood that there might be things he wants to tell an objective 3rd party and NOT share with his parents, and that that is ok. It's someone he can fully trust with his secrets who'll tell no one and furthermore, not judge him for how he feels about things. My therapist didn't grasp that proposal.

My therapist also erroneously assumed that my counseling from my Stephen minister through church was a conflict of interest with her therapy, when my Stephen is a spiritual adviser who can offer me God's perspective and the Christian perspective on my problems and issues. She's there as a supportive, prayerful friend who helps me work things out according to God's plans, not mine. I need that. I appreciate her a lot. My secular therapist felt threatened by my Stephen minister. I told her I still need a licensed clinical psychologist for my mental illness-the bipolar, the general anxiety and the PTSD. I need my spiritual counselor to help me with living with reality of my issues as a child of God. They're mutually exclusive of one another. Even that she didn't understand. She wanted me to counsel my son and didn't think he would benefit from therapy and I had to raise strong disagreement with her regarding that issue, more than once.

The therapist asked me a strange question today. She asked me if I HAD to choose between the secular therapist and the Stephen minister, whom would I choose? What an unfair question. They serve totally separate roles in my therapy. I told her in all honesty that at this point, I'd pick my Stephen minister. There is absolutely no cause for me to choose. She's just weird, what can I tell you?

It's inherently impossible to be objective when the subject is your own child. The bond you share with that child is stronger than that of any other human relationship, even stronger than the bond between husband and wife, at least in my life. I LOVE Luke, in all caps. He is my first priority in life. I want him to emerge as a healthy, well-adjusted, not mentally ill, productive member of society when he grows up. But I can't do it alone, and neither can Craig. And Craig and I don't have all the answers on how to raise a pre-teen. That's why I'm soliciting advice from other parents with similar aged kids, who are also having problems with their children's moodiness and anger and aggression towards the whole world. Also soliciting advice from experienced parents who've lived through all of this pre-teen nonsense already. Craig and I have to do our part. The teacher and principal need to their parts, and a counselor will have to do his/her part. Our little ones are learning quickly that the world can be an unfair, icky place in which to survive. But you keep on plugging along. That's how you mature and become an adult. A young man, not a little boy.

Coincidentally, I'd planned on writing a note to my therapist's proctor (she's a grad student, and all of our sessions are recorded for her proctor to review) to ask for a new therapist. Well, glory be today! My therapist said she's leaving for "personal reasons" at the beginning of December, and I'll be assigned a new therapist, Erin. According to my therapist, Erin is young, like my last therapist, Elena, who I adored. So we'll see how that works out. Just about anything would be better than the current therapist. My mom, dare I say, gives me better advice on life.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Hey, You.

‎Run your fingers through my soul. For once, just once, feel exactly what I feel, believe what I believe, perceive as I perceive, look, experience, examine, and for once; just once, understand.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

ромкие звуки заставляют меня чувствовать себя прекрасным

The ONE morning Luke runs out of time to put his Right Guard on and spray himself with Axe Excite, his math teacher rants the above, verbatim, which Luke decided to artistically interpret during class. Math is right after recess, and it was a mild day outside, so the kids (obviously) got a little sweated up. I understand the math teacher's dilemma, for a gaggle of stinky pre-teens would likely make me want to wretch myself, but she could've made it a more teachable moment about personal hygiene than just outwardly complaining that the kids reeked like a horse's ass.

The best part? His homeroom/lead teacher watched him draw it during class and told me she just had to chuckle. No, he didn't get in trouble. That's MY boy. Had that been me in 2011, I'd have written a poem about it behind the teacher's back, most likely, then "accidentally" have left it somewhere obvious in the classroom after school. And I would've gotten busted, like I did with Patti in 7th grade when we wrote (sans our names on it, naturally) a "Diagram of a Dick" illustration on some note paper that Mr. Piel found and used to mortally embarrass us.

I think he asked us if we had questions about sex we wanted to discuss with a female teacher or something, which we totally didn't, and we were probably relegated to the punishment of sitting in the hallway and writing sentences like "I will not draw diagrams of male genitalia and use street vernacular to describe it and leave it sitting around the classroom like a fucking dope" 100 times whilst on our knees. If we wanted to learn about sex, we asked Erin's mom, who was a pediatrician and told us no fluffy lies. Either that, or we'd enhance our learning experience by attempting to watch scrambled porn on OnTv late at night. Or we'd ask the one girl in class who, by 6th or 7th grade, had already gotten laid.

(Sexual education at St. Paul when we were kids. Holy crapoly. In 5th grade, they told us that all it took to make a baby was for a Christian husband and wife to love each other very, very much, and they would reproduce, which always made me think that since there were only 2 children in my family, my parents must not have loved one another at all, certainly not in the last 10 or so years since I'd been born.)

Whomever decided to put Patti and I next to one another in class was completely naive. We were best pals. We made an envelope out of notebook paper, taped it together and stuck it in between our desks, filled with nibble-sized pieces of paper on which we could pass notes to one another without talking. During tests, we had to put folders up in between us to discourage one another from cheating and looking at your classmate's paper. Great idea, Dear Educators. The pockets in the folders were incredibly handy in which to hide cheat sheets. The best part of that? We had to take the Illinois State Constitution test in 7th grade. Patti was having trouble with the test. She slipped her test (which was either scan-tron or multiple choice, so handwriting wasn't an issue) to me and I took hers for her, and if memory serves, we both got A's.

At some point in some grade, Mr. Heinze was our social studies teacher. Walking around the room unaware, he missed the fact that I was working on my test with my textbook in my lap. Great move, Annie, right?

(Ok. Maybe I *wasn't* the "smart one" of Patti and I, and she was the cool, stylish one that the boys liked. But I sure as hell as the more pragmatic of the two of us. Academic honesty and integrity weren't my strong suit when I was in grammar school, though I doubt highly that it'll impede my future study towards my doctorate.) And while not the bastion of a good example for Luke, luckily he's a helluva lot smarter than I was as his age, and has no reason to cheat on his work.)

My ma got on my case today about how much I use foul language on Facebook. One of the downsides of having your parents as your Facebook friends, I suppose. I posted a status challenging my friends, asking them what they'd do if I succeeded at not swearing on Facebook for an entire week. One friend commented thus far, citing "It just wouldn't be the same." My cousin Paul left a biting remark earlier in the day that indicated that he thought I was tiresome, vulgar and childish, but hey, that's just how I roll. Foul language is an ingrained part of my typical vernacular. I referred to someone as a "mofo" to my Pastor last night at the Praise Band meeting, and he didn't ex-communicate me from the Lutheran Church. He's one ok guy.

The band meeting last night was productive and emotionally charged. We decided on the future direction of the band, put some thought into fundraising to purchase monitors for us as well as a digital recorder to record ourselves practicing, to get a better feel for how WE play songs as opposed to the professional versions we hear on the CD's we're given on which to learn new songs. One of our vocalists is coming back after a 2 month high-school football season sabbatical, and we all vocalized our desire for there to be more preparation and working on material rather than Mary, our mama bear, having to run after and console a sobbing, hormone-drenched teenage singer when things go awry at every practice. Pastor Dave said that comparatively, our band is tighter and has it more together than a lot of praise bands he's heard, his former church included, which was surprising to hear, given we all feel like we've been operating on fumes the last few months. We were handed commitment agreements to fill out and sign with regard to being involved with the band. I have no problem with that. I've been a dedicated member of the band for almost 6 years now, twice a month, every month. They've been more than flexible during my multiple hospitalizations and illnesses by reverting back to Dr. Rhythm, the awful drum machine that takes my place in my absence.

I tried explaining my approach to learning new songs with the band, that the rest of the band thinks we should have nailed down by the time the actual practice takes place. But I can't do that. I literally listen to the songs dozens of times, get the timing down, though I'm not a technical professional and improvisation, as I've said, isn't my strong suit, so my method of learning a new song is to come up with my parts while my band plays them for the first time. And certainly, I can't replicate what professional drummers play on the CD's we're given featuring the new songs. I can't read music, nor do I have a piece of sheet music in front of me telling me what to play when, like the rest of the musicians do. I write myself notes on the chord sheets I'm given to by the guitarist so that I an at least follow along to the songs. That's about it. The rest I have to make up as I go along. Yes, it takes more practice time, but too bad. The band wanted a live drummer. I volunteered, though I'd never played in front of people before. Had never been in a band before. I never touted myself as being a professional, and it's obvious I'm not, but I can keep time (usually, except when I set a tempo that's way too fast, which is, frankly, my SOP) and I'm getting more expansive with my fills. Anyway, we got all of our ego shit and other shit out in public at our meeting and are a united family once again. Mazel tov!

My cousin Jackie still lie dying in the University of Madison (WI) neurological ICU and it's not looking good. She had another angioplasty on her brain on Friday, and her blood is clotting and bleeding out simultaneously. My ma and her sister, my cousin's mom, had a difficult visit up there Thurs/Fri, and all of Jackie's 5 kids were present. I continue to keep them all in my prayers. The doctors are saying that even IF she recovers, she'll never be the same. That makes me infinitely sad. If her brain doesn't start healing soon, her children will have to make the insanely difficult decision whether or not to let her go. I would ask those of you who pray to keep Jackie and the rest of our family in mind.

TOC and I were talking the other night about the difference between the Catholic church and my Lutheran church. His church, specifically his men's group, seems focused on socially getting together and thinking about fundraisers so they can have more meat-a-thons, rather than on spirituality, The Bible and God's grace and mercy. I hate to start a row with him about the denomination in which he's lived his whole life, but the Catholic church these days seems way for "works based" than "worship based." It's like mass is something you have to attend when you can, as long as you're praying your rosary and saying your Hail Marys, going to confession. Ceremonial praise. The Lutheran church is very different. We're far more Bible-based (it is fundamentalist, as I've previously mentioned) and worship-concentrated than the Catholics are. I respect his choice of religious outlet, but it just seems that God Himself is rather far removed from the epicenter of his church, which is a shame. I gave him a book for his birthday, a year-long devotional book that would literally take him 5 minutes a day to read, 5 minutes surrendered to God each day, and to date, he still hasn't started the book. Talk about irking. Here I am, trying to strengthen his faith walk with God, and he's neglecting what should be an important part of his spiritual life, out of what logic I'm not certain. I'll have to remember to ask him if he has read any of it again on Monday. Giving him that book was me showing him the Agape love I feel for him, when I could've given him 100 different gifts. Ah well.

Enjoy your extra hour of sleep tonight. Have to get up early as Luke's choir is singing in church tomorrow.

"Loud sounds make me feel fine."