Her Eulogy

A little over a week ago we lost my beloved grandmother.

Some of you may recall that I’ve written about my visits with her every summer. Getting Old is not for Sissies  She was 96 years old and passed peacefully in her sleep.  It’s a blessing to know that her passing was quiet and quick.  It’s heartbreaking for me to accept that she is no longer with us.  A physical and emotional presence that reminded me every day to be my best self, even when I wasn’t.

This past week our family came together in her hometown of Bloomington, Illinois to celebrate her life and lay her to rest.  We are a family strong in Catholic roots, and my Nanny was a devout Christian Catholic woman to her core.  So, as you would expect, her service included a Catholic mass in the church where she was raised, and where she also raised her family.  I was baptized in this church.  My parents were married in this church.  My grandfather was memorialized in this church.  Our family’s life is intricately entwined with sacraments and services that took place in this church.  I spent countless Sundays sitting in the pew next to her, learning how to participate in the Catholic mass by watching my grandmother.  Memorizing the responses, imitating her motions of kneel, stand, sit.  Kneel, stand, sit.  This particular house of God has immeasurable significance for me in terms of emotional and physical memories.  To stand in the sanctuary, in front of her casket, was almost more than I could bear knowing it would most likely be the last time I ever had cause to visit this place.

When the service started I was beside myself with emotion.  As were the rest of my family.  My Nanny meant so much to each and every one of us.  We were all trying to manage our grief.  The service was lovely, but something was missing.  The priest gave the eulogy for my grandmother.  This is not common.  Typically, a family member would do it.  But for some reason no family member had been identified or asked prior to the service to give the eulogy.  I don’t know why, and wouldn’t dream of questioning the decision because I was not the one responsible for planning the service.  But it felt incomplete.  The priest did his best to honor my grandmother, but he did not know her. He could not convey with any depth of emotion or real intimacy the woman that she was, or what she meant to all of us.

I know I wouldn’t have been able to stand at the alter and talk about her without completely breaking down, and I’m talking about some serious ugly crying.  And because I need closure I decided to write my own eulogy, of a sort,  honoring her and my memory of her.  So, this is what I would have wanted people to know about my grandmother….

Kathryn, or Kay, as most people knew her was born in June of 1921.  She was an Irish Catholic Midwestern girl who grew up during the Great Depression.  She often told stories about the depression, describing food shortages and what little money most families earned at that time.  She talked about having one pair of stockings that she had to wash out by hand every night so she could wear them again the next day.  She told these stories in an attempt to help us understand how good we had it growing up.  I’m embarrassed to say that at the time we were just horrified  to learn that she had to live without things like Doritos and Taco Bell.

My Nanny was very meticulous with her appearance.  She wasn’t necessarily vain, but it was extremely important that she always look her best.  Perhaps this was something learned during the depression, as she had so little material possessions or clothing.  She learned to work with what she had.  She did her hair and make up every day.  She pressed her blouse and her slacks.  She sewed clothes for herself and her children.  Once, she made herself a beautiful camel colored wool-lined dress coat.  She loved cashmere turtle-neck sweaters and wool blazers.  She once made my cousin and I matching plaid, wool, pleated skirts to wear to Christmas Eve Mass.  I would give anything to have that skirt back.  She also slaved to ensure that her husband and children went out into the community every day as representatives of her household.  They were meticulously dressed, pressed, and laundered.  At her funeral service my cousins and I were laughing and trading stories.  One cousin told me that she came to Nanny’s house one day wearing a pair of ripped and torn jeans.  Nanny asked her if she bought the jeans like that, and when she confirmed that she did, Nanny said, “Poor girl.  Can’t even afford to buy a whole pair of pants.”

She kept her home in the same meticulous manner.  She made her bed every day.  Hospital corners.  She cooked and baked almost every meal from scratch and she always had a cake or pie prepared in case someone dropped by and she needed to offer them something.  She knew how to refinish wood floors, kept a garden, and everything had it’s place.  She tried to teach me the importance of these things.  As a teenager I would laugh.  Make my bed every day?  Well, that was just crazy talk.  But when I stepped into her home I would breath in the smell of freshness, with a hint of bleach, and it was comforting.  I loved knowing that I would crawl into a bed that night with freshly washed and ironed sheets.  And that I would wake up to the sound of eggs frying in the pan and the smell of biscuits coming out of the oven.  My own childhood home was often chaotic and unorganized, so being in her home provided a sense of old fashioned comfort.

Given that my Nanny was a devout Catholic woman, she was truly a servant of God.  She took her responsibility as a Christian seriously and every moment was a teachable moment.  She prayed openly for everyone.  She and my grandfather organized and coordinated a prayer group every week, and they were huge members of the charismatic movement within the Catholic church.  No one loved Jesus more than my Nanny.   Last summer when I was visiting her, she was worrying quite a bit about family members, and I said to her, “You know what you need to do.  Just give it to God and everything will be ok.”  That’s what she would have said to me.  She looked up at me with wide eyes and said, “You have been listening to me all these years!!!!”  Even when I didn’t want to, I was listening.

I have a strong personality, much like my grandfather.  Nanny would always remind me that my tongue could be sharper than a sword.  She would say, “Mind your words.  They are like feathers, and once you let them go, the wind takes them and you can never get them back.”  I didn’t want to hear it at the time, but over the years I found myself measuring my actions and words by whether or not she would approve.  I can honestly say that in those moments where I held back, or didn’t do something impulsive because I knew she would disapprove, I never once regretted the choice.  The thought of doing something that might embarrass her was unacceptable.  She would often say to me, “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do, and that covers a lot of territory.”  Of course, I often did thing she wouldn’t do, and in my adult years I would sometimes tell her stories of my bad behavior.  Sometimes she would laugh and other times she would roll her eyes and say, “Well, I will pray for you.”

She loved the Lawrence Welk Show.  She would sing at the top of her lungs while cooking or doing housework.  She made me homemade mashed potatoes and gravy every Sunday because she knew it was my favorite.  She helped my grandfather manage their drive-in restaurant.  She coached the young people who worked for her at the restaurant on how to mind their manners, develop a strong work ethic, and represent their employer and community with pride and dignity.   She was an old fashioned, fierce, Godly woman who loved her family and loved her Jesus.  She refused to talk poorly about others because she felt it was a terrible sin.  She taught me about faith, unconditional love and how to respect myself and others through her actions.  She could talk the talk and walk the walk.  She held her loved ones to a high standard, and she voiced her disapproval when we fell short.  But there was always love.   She was love and light, with a little bit of sass.

The last time I saw her prior to her passing was last July during our annual summer trip.  Her Alzheimer’s was progressing rapidly and she had become more emotional and confused.  I knew it was the last time we would make the trip as a family.  Too many people in the room made for a rough afternoon.  As I was leaving and saying good-bye, she was the most distant she had ever been,  like she was saying good-bye to the mail man.  At the door as I was about to walk out, I turned around and said, “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”  In an instant she lit up from the inside and said, “And that covers a lot of territory.”

She was laughing as I closed the door behind me.

Tis’ the Season to Eat Sh*t on the Stairs

What is it about the holidays that seems to accentuate the possibility for bodily injury and harm?  Are we more merry, and therefore less inclined to be wary of potential hazards?  Is it the alcohol?  The parties?  Are we overly distracted by all that needs to be accomplished?  Or is it simply more notable because when you become injured over the holidays it affects the entire season with regard to how you enjoy it?

Two weeks ago I was attending a holiday party at a friend’s house and as I was walking through a gated entryway into a courtyard the entire world tipped itself over and I found myself crashing down onto both of my knees and then face down on the sidewalk.  What the hell just happened?  I sat up, but couldn’t get up.  The pain in my knees and shins was instantaneous,  yet after a few moments I knew nothing was broken.  After a quick assessment of how and why I fell, Dan hoisted me up and I hobbled to the front door.  It turns out there was a very tiny step, about three inches deep right where you entered the courtyard from the gate.  Apparently I missed that step.  My cousin visiting from Michigan was with us and at one point she said, “I’m not gonna lie to you, that wasn’t even a little bit graceful.”

After walking into the party and greeting the hosts, I asked if they had a security camera on their front walkway.  They said they didn’t, but they were curious as to why I would ask.  So I said, “Well, I just ate shit on your front step and I wanted to be sure no one was going to watch that on instant replay or put it on You-tube.”

About thirty minutes later I could feel my heartbeat in my knees.  They were throbbing terribly and stinging like crazy.  I excused myself to the restroom and discovered that I had skinned both knees pretty badly.  I was bleeding under my pants and the skin was already swelling and turning purple and blue with bruises.  I had to mostly sit during the gathering because standing was so painful, and I wasn’t about to draw more attention to myself by asking my hosts for a bag of frozen peas to help with the swelling.  Good times.

After we got home, I grabbed four Advil and two large therapy ice packs from my freezer and got comfortable on the couch.  Dan and my cousin weren’t done having fun yet, so they walked to a local bar to have a few more drinks.  About an hour later I got a text from Dan saying, “I ate shit on a curb in solidarity.  I’m ok.”  It turns out he missed the curb when he was walking home and did a full body yard-sale into the street.  His knees were also skinned and bruised.   We make quite the pair, don’t we?

It’s been two weeks since I fell and the bruising is almost gone.  The skin has healed, mostly, but I still have tenderness in my knees.  The other day I forgot about the injury and tried to kneel down on the wood floor to light the fireplace.  That was a mistake.  I ended up flopping over like I was having a seizure to take the pressure off the injury.  It scared the hell out of my son.

And yesterday, my neighbor texted me that she was at urgent care.  While walking down her stairs she missed a step and took a tumble.  Thankfully, her ankle wasn’t broken but they sent her home in an air cast.  My mother-in-law also recently fell and she did break her knee cap.  Just cracked her patella right in two.  She now has metal screws holding her knee cap together.

So seriously, I think I’m going to start a club.  I need help thinking of a name though, and more members.  A club has to have more than four members.  So if you’ve ever eaten shit on the stairs, we want to hear your story!

Happy Holidays!  🙂

That Time I Lost My Sh*t On the Dance Floor

It’s Saturday at midnight in the bar and I’m out with the girls enjoying a 90’s cover band and some ice-cold beer.  The 90’s is my favorite decade, and every song brings back memories of high school and college, in such a good way.  I felt nineteen again, and although I wasn’t drunk on alcohol, I was definitely drunk on memories and music.

You know that feeling, when all your favorite tunes are being played and your body has an almost involuntary reaction.  It becomes this sort of instinct and rhythm combined.  My nineteen year-old self was really into rock music.  Imagine some air guitar, arms in the air, hair being thrown in every direction, and a complete and total disregard for the other bar patrons around me, other than my friends.  It was just me, the band, my girls and the music.

Image result for dance like nobody's watching meme

I don’t do Zumba, but you get my point.

Now picture a middle-aged woman, married with two kids, who drives the weekly car pool and volunteers in the PTA, throwing her long hair and rocking out to Alice In Chains, Metallica and Nirvana.  The dance floor wasn’t overly full, so I stood out.   I think at one point I might have screamed, “I’m with the band!”  Except, I’m not with the band.

Good times.

It was so fun, and in the moment I had no regrets.  It was a great night.  I mean seriously, when anyone plays Enter Sandman by Metallica, you throw your hair to that shit.  It’s just how it’s done.  I think the point where I really peaked and just let my shit go all over the dance floor was when the band played Man in the Box, by Alice In Chains.  One of my favorite songs, and when I became aware of my environment toward the end of the song, there were a few dudes thrashing next to me, so I guess it was good.

Except, in the light of day, when I woke up with a very stiff neck and a screaming headache, I had a moment of thought that said, you-are-too-fucking-old-to-act-like-you-belong-in-a- White-Snake-video-and-oh-my-God-you-are-such-an-asshole!  I woke up embarrassed.  I know we all like to pretend that we don’t care what other people think, but the truth for most of us is that to a small degree, we do.

Image result for dance like nobody's watching memeI’m a person who typically embraces the immediacy of a good time and enjoys being in the moment with my friends.  We’ve been at weddings where Dan and I are the only ones on the dance floor, while the other couples are engaged in far more dignified conversation and interactions.  Not shaking their asses to Baby Got Back.  I always look back later and self-consciously think, damn, did we take that one too far?  Shouldn’t we be past this sort of behavior yet?  So Sunday morning, as I reviewed the events of the previous night, I thought to my self, are you honestly going to be the crazy lady that loses her shit every time someone plays some AC/DC?

Fast forward a few hours, and Dan and I are in attendance at a lovely baby shower/brunch for our dear friends who will soon welcome twin boys into the world.  After a brief cocktail hour, where a few mimosa’s were going a long way to soothe my misplaced embarrassment, the father-to-be takes up the microphone and begins to welcome his family and friends to this celebration of babies, and also discuss some important events of the past nine months.  He said shortly after they discovered they were pregnant, he received a call from his doctor and learned he had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

He said he spoke with one doctor who gave him “good odds” with a 60% chance of survivability.  He decided that wasn’t good enough, so he fired that doctor and got another one who told him with 100% certainty that he would live through this cancer.  That he could beat it.  And he did.  Over the past nine months, he fought his cancer while his beautiful wife managed a complicated pregnancy with unbelievable grace and strength.  They kept the cancer diagnosis to themselves, for the most part, telling only a few people.  Dan and I found out about a week ago, after he finished his last chemo and was able to share the good news with everyone that he was cancer free.  We were all so grateful for his outcome, and we celebrated his health as much as we celebrated the babies!

Image result for dance like nobody's watching memeA short while later there was a moment during the party and the DJ was playing some great dance music.  There wasn’t a dance floor, just good music playing to keep the party lively.  Dan and I were sitting by the bar and the father-to-be, along with another friend began an impromptu dance-off in the space next to us.  Then the grand-father joined in, and these three grown men began taking it to town in front of everyone.  It was crazy and awesome and hilarious and I started to cry a little.  I was actually laughing first, and then found the emotion behind the laughter.

Here he is, grateful to be alive, lucky to have two beautiful babies on the way, and he wasn’t embarrassed by his super sweet dance moves.  He wasn’t concerned about what anyone thought of him, or whether or not he looked silly.  All three men were simply enjoying the moment, making the most of the mood and the occasion and the love.  It was quite simply the most amazing celebration of life I’ve seen in a long time.

Image result for dance like nobody's watching memeI found my perspective and some unnecessary but welcome validation in that moment.   The truth is that I AM the mom and friend who will dance in the bar, or in my living room with my kids.  I AM the person who sings at the top of my lungs when the song is good and the company is better.  I AM the person who isn’t afraid to live in the moment and  doesn’t care what strangers think because my life is not about them or what they may or may not think of my Saturday night amateur rock show performance.  I’m done feeling insecure about this, and as we all know, insecurity is an asshole, and we do not choose to be friends with assholes!

So when I ask myself  if I’m really going to be that middle-aged mom who loses my shit every time my jam comes on?

Well, this isn’t me, but you get the idea!

Birthdays and Blessings

Today is my birthday!

I’m 42 today.  I just need to say it out loud and embrace the hell out of it!

The day started amazing.  Dan got the kids up early and they were all ready and waiting to celebrate the morning with me before school.  I had my coffee and opened some very thoughtful gifts from my kids and husband.  We got the kids off to school and I sat down to work on my blog, while receiving several phone calls from family and friends.

I’m a lucky girl.

I then met Dan at one of our favorite local Mexican restaurants for lunch.  We had an awesome meal, and although he had to get back to work, neither of us really wanted lunch to end.  We really enjoy each other’s company, and today was one of those days that just felt perfect, in the moment.

I’m a lucky girl.

We said good-bye and I walked to my car.  I climbed in, closed the door and looked at my phone to answer a text message.  Suddenly, my entire car was shoved up and lifted forward, then to the right.  It was a hard slam and I was bounced in my seat as the car settled.  Somewhat stunned, I got out of the car and saw another car slowly driving away.  The driver seemed to stop, then started driving like they planned to leave, then stopped again.  The driver backed up, then pulled into a parking spot.

Dan was immediately out of his car and walking toward the other driver.  It was a woman in her 60’s and she appeared to be experiencing symptoms of a stroke.  She said she lost sight in her left eye right before she hit me.  Another witness said she hit some private property at their store the next parking lot over.  Dan called the paramedics and the police, and the entire experience of processing the accident began.  The woman was taken away in an ambulance and Dan and I were left to deal with the mangled mess that was the back of my car.

This is the first accident I’ve ever experienced in one of my own vehicles since I got my driver’s license at 16.  As I was speaking to the police officer, answering his questions, several things became clear to me.  I was parked.  I was safely inside the vehicle when she hit me, when ten seconds before I was standing at the back of my car.  I wasn’t injured.  The air bag didn’t deploy, which would have punched me right in the face, and could have potentially broken my nose, as they often do.  I have insurance.  It’s just a car.  No one else was hurt, and she didn’t hit any pedestrians as she was careening toward my vehicle.  Again, I wasn’t hurt, and it’s just a car.

I’m a lucky girl.

It’s the little things.  It’s perspective.  My kids could have been with me, and they weren’t.  I don’t take this life Dan and I have created together for granted.  Again, it’s the little things.

I’m a lucky girl, and I know it.  🙂

Life is Good.

Hello, world!

The summer has flown by, as I knew it would, and as I predicted, I only got about three posts up all summer.  Figures.

But life continues to be busy.  Since I got home from my grandparent’s house at the end of July, I hosted my college roommate and her family for a few days, was sick for two weeks with a nasty virus that closely resembled strep throat, threw a birthday party for my son and twenty of his closest six-year old friends, and got both of my kids back to school.  So yeah, life and children continue to dominate my time and attention.   Blogging has been on the back burner for a long time, and I’m hoping now that I have both of my kids in school full-time that I’ll have more time and attention for both myself and all of you.

cold germsBeing sick for two weeks wasn’t fun.  I went to the doctor about five days into it and she ran all the typical tests to rule out bacterial infections.  It felt like my head was going to explode, and every time I swallowed it felt like my eardrums were bursting and I was trying to swallow crushed glass.  Fever, fatigue, and all the glamorous parts of feeling like total shit.  My husband had to be out-of-town for work for several days, so taking care of the house, kids, and all the pets when all you want to do is lay down and die was no picnic.  Unfortunately, the doc couldn’t give me any drugs because it was a viral infection, and it took a solid two weeks before I felt human again.  To add insult to injury, going to the doctor in the first place is always such a mind-fuck.  I already felt like shit, and have you ever noticed that going to the doctor makes you fat?  Seriously.  I walk in and immediately feel like I’ve gained ten pounds.  Then the nurse puts you on the scale and you realize that in the two hours since you got dressed and hauled your sick-ass to the clinic, you really must have gained ten pounds because their ancient scale, that must be counter-balanced with massive invisible boulders, says so.  Why don’t doctors use modern digital scales that will weigh me the same as when I’m at home?  And now that I feel like a sick, ginormous, fat cow, I have to sit, forever, in the little room and wait.  imageAnd there’s a mirror in there that is now confirming what the scale said.  Somehow my face looks heavier.  My ass seems to be climbing up my back and my muffin top is more muffin-y.  And now I want to cry because my throat hurts, my ears hurt, I can’t get any meds, and just walking in the door made me feel like Martha Dump Truck.

Damn, I’m glad that’s over.

My son’s birthday party was fun, and humiliating.  But I found my self-respect at the top of a bounce house, so that was an unexpected bonus.  We had the party at Pump It Up.  If you’re unfamiliar with the Pump It Up franchise, it’s basically a party venue with giant inflatables.  Each room is a massive, two-story room with multiple indoor inflatables, like bounce houses, obstacle courses, rock climbing walls, and things like that.  We had the Glow Party, which is like a super cool rave for kids with music and glow in the dark everything.  I had promised my daughter that I would do some of the inflatables with her because as the big sister, she was the oldest kid at the party and didn’t really want to hang with the six-year olds.  Thank God it was dark in there.  I was a little dressed up for the party and my nice jeans were somewhat confining.  Also, you have to wear socks in these things, and I quickly realized that with

This looks a lot like the structure I was attempting to climb

This looks similar to the structure I was attempting to climb. The picture doesn’t do the height justice, though.

socks on it’s hard to get any grip on the structure with your feet.  So,  I was attempting to climb this two-story monstrosity that was part rock climbing wall and part slide in tight jeans and slippery socks.  You see where I’m going with this?  You had to put your feet on these small squares and then use alternating tether straps for your hands to climb up.  Well, the tiny-made-for-five-year-old-feet squares would collapse under you if you didn’t move fast enough.  Half-way up there was this ledge you had to get over, and then another ledge all the way at the top.  I fell trying to get over the first ledge.  Kids were flying past me and laughing as I flailed and dangled by the tether straps.  Did I mention it was also pretty steep?  And also that I’m not a ten-year old?  Anyway, I dug deep and hauled myself to the top, and as I was struggling to get over the second ledge, and considering saying fuck it and just letting go, my son’s friend from his class was sitting at the top of the ledge, and she was watching me as I hung on the tethers.  She’s an adorable little girl and she says, “Keep going Mrs. B!  You can do it!”  Sweet Jesus.  How do I fail in front of her now?  I couldn’t, and it was ugly, and I’m glad it was dark in that room, but I managed to get my fat ass over that ledge and to the top.  I was sweating and tired, and when I went down the slide it was so steep and fast it actually launched me out of the shoot and I landed in a heap in front of several parents watching from below.  There was no way to play it cool, so I laid there like a lump, catching my breath.  Thankfully, several parents said how impressed they were that I even attempted to get to the top, so at least I got some street cred out of it.  Or they were just trying to make me feel better.  Either way, only one other parent attempted the same structure and made it to the top, so that makes me one of the cool moms.

My kids went back to school on August 31st, so I had three days last week of blissful alone time.  I’ve never had that, and I savored it.  I read several of your blogs, did some housework, ran errands without children, and met friends for lunch.  It was heaven.  I’m really looking forward to this school year.  And for the first time since my oldest daughter started school eight years ago, I didn’t cry at drop off on the first day.  I fucking celebrated and went out for sushi!

Life is good, people.  Life is Good!!!!!!

Getting Old is not for Sissies

At least that’s what my 95-year-old Nanny (grandmother) tells me, and after spending a little over a week with her in Illinois last week, I would whole-heartedly agree with her.

My daughter Bryn was going on vacation with her grandparents, so I flew her to St. Louis from LA, handed her off to her grandparents who were driving to Florida for a week of fun in the sun, and then drove the three hours north to my grandmother’s house in Bloomington, IL.

Upon my arrival, my grandmother burst into tears and announced how happy she was to see me.  I had just been to visit her the month before as part of our annual summer vacation, but sadly, at 95 years of age her memory is not what it used to be.  Although it had only been a month, she was unable to recall my previous visit.  This always breaks my heart.  She will say things like, “No one ever comes to visit me.”  I gently remind her that I see her every summer, and although she believes me, her reality is such that she cannot remember the visits, so for her it’s like it never happened.

10422269_10153164412434668_2062150226730818813_n[1]While my Nanny is very healthy physically, her memory loss and diminished capacity for independence grates on her self-esteem.  She hates that she can no longer stand at the stove and prepare full meals or bake the delicious cakes and desserts she always enjoyed having in the house.  Every time I came to visit she always had a cake, pie, or some amazing sugar creation waiting for whatever company happened to stop by.  She was always prepared for company.  Now, she is still able to care for her own physical needs, prepare light meals like sandwiches, and also do some very light housekeeping, but for the most part her recliner in the living room occupies most of her attention these days.

12019820_907152482686906_3905592130149668443_n[1]My Nanny is 95 and my grandfather turns 97 this week.  They don’t have computers, internet, Wi-Fi, or even a DVD player.  They have cable TV, but that’s about it for modern technology.  Their day consists of rolling out of bed around 9am, and sitting in their chairs in the living room all day long, watching baseball, Mass, Fox News, and AMC movie classics.  That’s it.  I imagine I will find that life pretty enjoyable if I make it to their advanced age, however, for a 41 year old active woman, it was enough to make me want to throw myself from a cliff.

I wanted to spend quality time with them, so that meant sitting with them in the living room.  For hours.  Every day.  For nine days.  Watching Fox News.  And Lawrence Welk.  For the love of God, Lawrence Welk.  Watching her sing along to songs she has known for fifty years was heartening, but it was also like nails on a chalkboard.  My grandmother sings beautifully, and it made me happy to see her happy, but an hour of Lawrence Welk is enough to make me want to grind my ears through a pencil sharpener.  Now imagine a week of that.  (If you are reading this and you don’t know who Lawrence Welk is, google it.  Right now.  Then drink a bottle of wine and thank your lucky stars you weren’t me last week.)  I used to watch it with her when I was in college, just because it made her happy.  I did the same thing this week, just to make her happy.  Damn, I’m a really good granddaughter.  One night I came upstairs to find them watching AMC Classics, and Animal House was on.  OMG!  Talk about awkward!  But I sat through the movie because it was two hours of something funny and relative to my age group.  At the end, my Nanny declared it to be “junk” and she stated that if people actually thought this movie was good, then she held little hope for the future of our country.  I informed her that Animal House is a cult classic and almost everyone loves this movie.  She was thoroughly disgusted with humanity and went to bed.

11870911_511767202313147_6626111183102035627_n[1]Oh, and did I mention that many people tend to lose their filter when they hit advanced ages?  Well, my Nanny is no different.  This is a Christian Catholic woman who took her responsibility as a Christian seriously, and my whole life she refrained from talking trash about others because she felt it was a horrible sin.  However, that is no longer the case.  She has become brutally honest and says whatever pops into her head.  For example, among other shocking statements, she told me one day that I was the fattest she had ever seen me, and what the hell did I think I was doing letting my body go to shit like that.  I’m totally serious, and this is a woman who never cussed.   I reminded her that I’m not 25 anymore, I’m almost 42 years old and I usually work out 3-4 days per week.  She said, “Well, whatever you’re doing, it’s not working for you.”  One day I came upstairs wearing fashionably distressed jeans.  She said, “Are those the best clothes your husband can afford to buy for you?”  So I said, “Yes Nanny, and can you believe I bought these jeans with the patches already sewed into them?”  She rolled her eyes in disgust.  I winked at her.  We both laughed.

Due to her memory loss, we also had many repeated conversations.  She would ask me the same questions every few minutes, and I would give her the same answer, every time she asked.  We did this every day.  Several hours per day.  I was kind to her.  I was gentle.  I tried to remind her that she was still pretty and valuable.  Whenever I told her she was beautiful, she would say, “Yeah, pretty ugly, and pretty apt to stay that way.”  I’m laughing as I type this because her sense of humor is awesome.

IMG_1163I had to leave the house for a little while each day to maintain my sanity.  I found myself falling asleep on the couch with them at 6:30pm.  I was sleeping until 9am in the morning.  I was becoming an old person.  One day I looked at my VivoFit and saw that in the entire day, I had only walked 892 steps.  In a whole day!  The next day I went for a four mile walk just to combat the sedentary inclination.  I also went to the local campus, Illinois State University, my alma mater, and walked the quad.  It felt good to see the buildings, the new renovations and the efforts made to beautify and modernize the campus.  I found myself thinking, “Damn, I went to a nice school.”  I relived a lot of great memories that day and refreshed my old lady soul.

One day, Nanny let me take her for a drive.  She was alive with excitement driving around this town where she had spent her entire life.  She was seeing old and new buildings, construction and modern architecture, as if she were a young child in a new and enchanting land.  She was filled with memories and emotion as we drove past homes where she lived as a young woman with my grandfather, and cried when she observed new buildings where her old favorites no longer existed.  She lamented the time when she also would no longer exist, torn down and forgotten like an old, worn out building.

The day I left we said a tearful good-bye.  We are both painfully aware that at the end of each visit there is a very real possibility that it will be our last.  Before I left she looked at me and said, “You know I may not remember you at all next year.”  I held back my tears and said, “Yes, but I will remember you.”  And I drove away watching her in my side mirror as she stood in the driveway, beautiful and proud, with her hand raised in the air.  As she always does when I leave her.

So yes, whether you are 41 or 95, getting old is most definitely not for sissies.

Physical Therapy is Hard

10325771_10152178862025945_3803660742779114138_n[1]If you’ve ever done physical therapy, this won’t come as a surprise to you.

I’ve been in PT for about four weeks now trying to address the issues with my knees.  It’s going well, but it’s painful.  I’m working to strengthen my hips, legs and knees in order to help my knees maintain their alignment and also alleviate the pain associated with the loss of cushioning and cartilage.

My first active session with my therapist was both embarrassing and torturous.

First, she put me through a series of hip and leg exercises that were expected and not all that different from working out with my trainer.  It felt like a workout, but that was good.  Afterwards, she “stretched me out.”  This is where it gets embarrassing.

Like this, except laying on or your back with a therapist looming over you.

Like this, except laying on your back with a therapist looming over you.

She had me lay diagonally across a therapy table, and positioned my legs so that one foot was braced on her shoulder, and the other was bent as far back as possible under the table.  She leaned into me so that my knee was almost touching my shoulder, and she used her body to stretch my other leg back under the table, stretching my quad and hip flexor.  Outside the context of a PT room, this would have looked like some serious girl on girl action.  I was so embarrassed by the positioning, and we were not alone in the room, I had to stare at the ceiling.  I could not look her in the face while we were in this ridiculous position.

Then, with my leg jacked up to my shoulder, she digs her forearm into the top of my other thigh and says, “Your hips are so tight.  Your quads and hamstrings are strong, but your hips are really tight and weak.”

Gasping through the pain of her shredding my muscle with her tiny arms of steel, I said, “No way!  My hips aren’t weak!  My hips are bangin’!”

Just kidding.  I didn’t say that, and my hips aren’t bangin’.  Well, at least not in that way.  My hips are awesome in a good-Midwestern-stock-breeding-hips sort of way.  I actually had a doctor tell me once that I was “good Midwestern stock.”  I probably should have been offended by that at the time.

Anyway, this freaky, painful stretching escapade lasted for several minutes and then she moved me into the same position with the other leg.  At one point I had to put my arm over my face and turn away because I refused to allow anyone in that room to see how much pain I was in.  I kept chanting to myself quietly, “Don’t cry in public, don’t cry in public.   Only candy-ass, wussie girls cry in public!”  The next morning as I was getting dressed, I noticed multiple bruises all over the tops of both my thighs.

I don't know this guy.  It's a stock photo, but an accurate depiction of pervy guy.

I don’t know this guy. It’s a stock photo, but an accurate depiction of pervy guy.

This physical torture has continued for four long weeks.  The stretching has gotten better and less painful, although there is one dude also receiving therapy who seems to enjoy watching my stretching sessions with more enthusiasm than I’m comfortable with. I’m pretty certain he’s a pervert and probably getting off on the visual.  I secretly hope the therapist gives him an extra dig with her elbow when she’s manipulating his muscles.

I wish I could say that I’ve noticed a significant difference between the knee shots and therapy, but so far, it’s mostly the same.  Pain, grinding, and more pain.  My therapist admitted to me that some people don’t experience any pain relief from the shots.  That’s disheartening considering that I only need one more shot to complete the course of my treatment.

So yeah, physical therapy is not for sissies.

Holiday Rant

It’s been a rough week around here.  My family had a nice Christmas, and I’m thankful for that.  But for everything else that has happened in the past ten days or so…well, all I can say about that is, “Hey world, go fuck yourself.”

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

The entire week of Christmas my son was terribly sick with RSV.   For those of you who don’t have young kids, that’s a nasty respiratory virus that likes to linger and can often cause hospitalizations.  Bryce didn’t need to go to the hospital, but he did require round the clock breathing treatments and he had a fever for six days.  We were pretty much house bound the entire week of Christmas.  My husband and I started coming down with symptoms on Christmas day.  It only makes sense given how Bryce repeatedly coughed in our faces while we were caring for him.  He can’t help it.  He’s five.  The upside to this was that during our quarantine, we binge watched all the Star Wars movies and all eight Harry Potter movies.

We then had to cancel our holiday travel plans due to the respiratory virus that began sweeping its way through our house.   Our relatives thanked us for not exposing them to our hateful contagion.

10981156_901959096513277_5750103026687627852_n[1]Two days after Christmas, while this virus was happily laying waste to my holiday cheer and energy levels, I got on Facebook and found that the world had turned itself upside down.  You know those moments in life where your reality sort of tips over and sends you free-falling?  Two days after Christmas I discovered that an old friend whom I had known for more than twenty-five years had passed away.  We went to high school together and we kept in touch mostly through Facebook.  I know many people wouldn’t call that friendship, but I went to a small school, and many of us keep in touch with each other through this medium.  We post pictures of our kids and laugh with each other over the trials of parenting.  Well, this friend was a beautiful human being.  She radiated sunshine and light.  She was 40 years old and a mother of five beautiful children.  And, as it turns out, most of us didn’t know she was suffering.   I had no idea she suffered from depression.  I think most of us didn’t know.  She was always happy smiles and kind words, always giving of herself to help others.  She was a great mom and the kind of parent you sometimes envied.  You know, the one who seems to find the time to make everything from scratch and still look beautiful and like she totally has everything together. The day after Christmas she took her own life.  My heart is broken for her family.  For her children.  I can’t even  imagine the emotional pain she must have been suffering to make that choice.  To feel like that was the only option left to her.  Depression is a dirty, rotten, lying mother-fucker and it has claimed another beautiful soul.

Yesterday, my husband called our plumber out to the house because he noticed our hot-water heater was leaking.  Well, not only does the water heater need to be replaced, but unbeknownst to us, it had been leaking for a while, and we discovered black mold growing inside the wall and under the flooring.  We had a crew working all day yesterday, ripping out moldy drywall, wood boards and flooring.  We had no idea it was inside the wall.  I now have an industrial size de-humidifier in my house that sounds like a damn jet engine.  And because of the holiday and drying out/treatment process, nothing can be done for about five more days.  Half of my garage is tented off and part of the stairwell inside as well.  The noise from the de-humidifier is deafening, and I have no hot water for the next week or so.  I know, first world problems.  Blah, blah, blah.

Last night, I went to urgent care to deal with this respiratory virus that seems to be getting worse.  My lungs feel like they’re on fire and my throat feels like I’ve been swallowing glass.  The doctor at the urgent care was super hot.  (Huge sigh, accompanied by an eye roll.)  I look like death warmed over and I’ve got that awesome bright red ring around my nose that’s all chapped and painful.  I accidentally coughed in his face.  I’m sure he gets that a lot.  Whatever.  He says I have bronchitis. He gave me good drugs, so I’m thankful for hot doctor.

12208257_554026368082052_6033707881857329575_n[2]Today, after not sleeping much and dreaming about friends lost, I was woken up at the crack of dawn by the sounds of the moldy men crew using electric saws to cut apart my walls, once again.  After they left, my husband left for San Diego.  He’s going to the Holiday Bowl with his best friend.  While I’m home…sick…with two kids…all the pets…in a house that sounds like it’s sitting on an airport runway.  He’ll be home tomorrow.  He’s staying with his friend in San Diego tonight because it’s a night game.  That means he’ll get a hot shower tomorrow before he comes home.  I can’t shower.  Because there is no hot water.  For a week.  I think I hate him a little bit right now, but it’s not really his fault.  But I’m going to act like it is because I need someone to blame.  I know, it’s the bronchitis talking.

This past week has really kicked the shit out of me.  I’m exhausted, physically and emotionally.  So instead of writing a Happy New Year post filled with bullshit optimistic resolutions, I’m just going to be thankful for my life.  I’m thankful for my family, my recovering health (Yay for drugs!), that I have a house and the resources to fix what’s broken.  I’m thankful for my friends, both real and imagined (that means you WordPress!).  I’m thankful for hot doctors and urgent care centers.  I’m thankful for pharmacies, pizza delivery guys, Advil, coffee and that box of homemade fudge my neighbor brought over.  I’m thankful for endless boxes of tissues and Carmex ointment to put on my chapped nose.  And lastly, I’m thankful for the heart that beats in my chest.  The heart that fills with joy at the sight of my family and also breaks with sadness at the loss of a friend.  I’m thankful for my ability to feel and love and grow from the hard things in life.

11822851_10207260211610394_4385503862862472382_n[1]

Happy New Year, world.  Wherever you are, may your New Year be filled with light and love.

Cheers,

Wanda

This is how I know I’m getting old, Part 2

Several months ago I wrote a post titled, This is how I know I’m getting old.    I talked mostly about how my attitude and perspectives about various things have changed over the years, for better or for worse.

Well, my attitude is not the only thing that’s been changing.  As my 94 year-old Nanny would say, “Getting old is not for sissies.”

Here are a few more tell-tale indicators that I am officially old.

1.  When I was younger, if I had a weird pain in my abdomen I wouldn’t think twice about it and blamed it on the pizza I ate for dinner.  Now, weird pains in any part of my body makes me worry about kidney stones, ulcers, cancer and any number of horrible diseases that seem to be an inevitable part of aging.  I’m 41, and it’s logical to think my shit is going to start falling apart.  I didn’t worry about my liver in my twenties.  Now, with every cocktail, I worry that my liver is 41 years-old and may not appreciate my love of wine and margaritas.  The same holds true for all my other organs.  I think to myself, “Damn, my lower back hurts, I hope my kidneys aren’t about to have a mid-life crisis.”

2. I have sun spots on the back of my left hand, but not on my right hand.  My left hand is my driving hand and the hand that gets the most sun exposure when I’m in the car.  Now I hate myself for not putting sunscreen on that hand before driving every day for the last 25 years.  No one thinks about sun spots or sun damage on their hands when they’re 25!

11195999_s3.  When I was eighteen, my mom warned me that as I aged the elasticity around my eyes would be one of the first things to go.  Her intention was to provoke me into a routine of good skin care.  Thankfully I listened to her, for the most part.  But she was right.  The skin on my eyelids isn’t as tight as it used to be, and I can no longer wear any type of shimmer eye-shadow because it accentuates the loose skin and makes me look like an old hooker.

4. Saggy boobs.  Sigh.  I won’t go into too much detail about this because, you know, TMI.  But I will say two things on this subject.  1. I would kill to have my 25 year-old boobies back, and 2.  Gravity combined with Age is a double whammy of a mother-fucker and I hate you both.

5. More often than I care to admit, I will walk into a room to do something and realize I’ve completely forgotten what I entered that room to do.  My short-term memory is for shit at this point, and it never fails.  I will walk all the way back downstairs and then remember what I walked upstairs to do.  So then I have to walk back up the stairs, which is hell on my knees.  And this leads me to #6…

If you're too young to get this reference, then I feel sorry for you.

If you’re too young to get this reference, then I feel sorry for you.

6. About two years ago, I noticed my knees were starting to hurt when I walked up stairs.  Then it was my ankles.  I went from being able to do jogging intervals during my workouts to low impact incline intervals because my knees and ankles couldn’t handle the impact from jogging anymore.  Also, whenever I bend at the knees or ankles, twist or pivot those joints, everything goes snap, crackle and pop.  The other night my knee popped so loudly it sounded like bone snapping and my husband looked at me and said, “Holy shit, was that you?”  Arthritis runs heavily in my family and my mom and grandmother have both had knee replacements.  After multiple workouts with my trainer that resulted in extreme pain in my knees and ankles, she insisted that I stop ignoring the problem and see an orthopedist.

About two weeks ago I had my first appointment with the orthopedist.  During the appointment I was shuttled between various techs, X-ray,  and the doctor’s physician’s assistant.  At one point, two techs got into an argument over which one of them was to assist me to an exam room.  Here’s how the conversation went:

Tech 1:  I’ll be taking you to exam room 4.

Tech 2:  No, she’s with me in room 6.

(I’m standing in between these two guys who are towering over me.  They’re young, perhaps in their mid-twenties.)

Tech 1:  Are you trying to steal my patient?  She’s with me.

Tech 2:  Dude, she’s with me.  She want’s to be with a better looking guy anyway.

Me:  Boys, settle down.  This isn’t a bar and you don’t need to fight over me.  And by the way, everyone here is good-looking, so that’s not a qualifier.  (I live in LA.  The staff in this doctor’s office all look like they stepped off the cover of some trendy health/fitness magazine.  And the fact that they were arguing over me and I was annoyed by it is further proof that I’m officially old.  It wasn’t flattering.  I wanted to knock their heads together and tell them to grow the fuck up.  See, I’m so old.)

20686060_sThankfully the physician’s assistant came to my rescue and directed me to the room she wanted me in.  When my doctor walked in my jaw almost hit the floor.  He did not look like a distinguished orthopedic surgeon.  As my husband so aptly described it, he looked like a Swedish porn star.  Tall, definitely younger than I expected, athletic, easy on the eyes.  I could imagine him more clearly in a wet suit surfing on the beach or posing in a photo shoot for a men’s health magazine before I would imagine him in an operating room. (I realize this information is completely irrelevant to the topic of my post, but when your doctor looks like he could be working in a strip club, that certainly adds an element of holy-crap-I-have-veiny-legs-and-I-have-to-let-hot-doctor-touch-them stress to the situation.  Hot doctors are not a good thing, and they add to the discomfort of the situation.  I already feel old.  Now I feel old and self-conscious about whether or not I shaved my legs good enough that day.  The struggle is real, folks.)

It's an angry needle.

It’s an angry needle.

He sent me to get an MRI and the results showed that I’ve lost most of the cartilage around my patella/knee caps.  I also have the beginning stages of arthritis in my knees.  The treatment at this point is a series of shots in my knees to replace my joint fluid and lubrication, along with physical therapy.  I almost lost my shit when he asked if I was ready for my first shot.  I’m not thrilled about letting anyone stab me in the knees with a four-inch needle!  So,  I said, “No, thank you.”  He said, “PT is going to hurt like hell if we don’t do this, and it will help alleviate the pain and inflammation in your knees.”

Rock, meet hard place.

So I sucked it up and got the first of six shots.  If you’ve never had a shot in your knee, let me say this….it was unpleasant, but it certainly wasn’t the worst thing I’ve endured.  It was fast and I didn’t scream or curse out loud.  That’s good for me considering I dropped a ‘mother-fucker’ during my mammogram.   But I had to grit my teeth and my back involuntarily arched off the table in physical response to the sensation.  For me, dental shots are worse.  An epidural is worse.  Mammograms are most definitely worse.  And considering I need three shots in each knee to complete the treatment, that’s a good thing.  My knee was sore for the rest of the night and I rewarded myself for my bravery (yes, I’m calling it that) by having wine and sushi for dinner.  It was a treat, and my old, broken-ass deserved it.

In summary…my Nanny was right, getting old is definitely not for sissies.

Wanda Says…Drop and give me twenty!

workout with trainerToday, I had my very first session with a personal trainer.

I was nervous about it.  My stomach was in knots all morning imagining the horrific exercises she would make me do.  I imagined her yelling at me and telling me to get my fat ass on the ground and give her twenty.  Twenty of what, I wasn’t sure, just twenty of something hard, and grueling, and painful.

And of course my insecurities about working out in a gym had me worked up about many different, ridiculous scenarios.  I imagined being the only out of shape, non-muscular woman in the room, among sweaty, adrenaline high gym rats who look down on us lesser mortals for being out of shape and having imperfect bodies.  I realize this is ridiculous.  But that’s how insecurities get the best of us, by mind-fucking you into believe that sort of nonsense.

I arrived a half hour early for my appointment.  I have a thing about being late.  I couldn’t help but notice how busy the gym was at 10am on a Tuesday morning.  Like, so busy, there were almost no parking spaces in the HUGE parking lot.  Doesn’t anyone go to work anymore?   After putting my gym bag in my locker (it only had my purse in it but I brought it anyway because carrying a gym bag might make me look like I belong there.  GI JaneYou know, I was trying to blend in with the natives!) I found a seat in the waiting area where I was told to meet her.  I had only spoken with her once on the phone and although she seemed nice I was still bracing myself for GI Jane to come charging at me in the lobby.  I killed the next twenty minutes by trying to look busy reading emails on my phone.  (I’d already read all my emails, but I was pretending to read them again.  I know, insecurity makes me do stupid shit).

And then, there she was….and she was….pretty normal.  She was nice and friendly and made me feel very comfortable.  I’m guessing she’s in her early 50’s, but I could only surmise that based on the natural lines in her face.  Her body was rock solid and there were no typical tell-tale signs of physical aging outside of her face that I could see that would allow me to say for sure how old she was.  Except when she was writing down my information, she asked for my age and when I told her I was forty, she said, “Oh, you’re just a baby!”  LOL!  If she thinks I’m a baby at forty, she’s got to be at least ten years older than me, right?  Oh, and I want to look that good at fifty!

Anyway, she put me through a fitness assessment and after talking for awhile about my metabolism and my multiple failed diet and workout routines, she determined that weight lifting was what we should focus on.  She felt that was the best way to amp up my metabolism and get everything firing on all cylinders again.  She said I could focus on cardio on my own, but she would work with me specifically on weight training.

So we began to work out, and she warned me that she would challenge me a bit because she wanted to see what I could really do.  And I was like, “Sure, let’s take this girl out for a test drive and see what I can do!”

In times like these, I really need to remember that I’m not as much of a badass as I’d like to think I am, but she had me feeling comfortable and confident and like I could do anything.

And then she handed me ten and twelve pound sets of weights.

WTF????!!!!!!!

woman with weightsWhen I work out at home, I never use more than five pound weights, and after a few reps, I can really feel my muscles working.  She wants me to use ten and twelve pounds?  Is she out of her mind?  Oh, okay.  Here’s where the crazy kicks in.  Here’s where she turns into a sadist and starts screaming, “No pain, no gain!”

Except, she didn’t, and I could do it.  I could and did lift that much weight over various exercises and sets.  Who knew?  Who knew I could successfully lift that much weight with the right guidance and form?  I certainly didn’t!  There was only one exercise she had to modify for me and that was toward the end of our workout.  She wanted me to lunge up on a platform box, but my legs were jelly at that point and crumpled under me on my first attempt.  And I didn’t have time to be insecure about myself while working out among real athletes because she had me so focused on what we were doing, I was barely aware of anyone else in the gym.

It was great.  She was great, and I have to admit, I’m a little bit excited about going back.  I’m excited for the possibilities.  I’m excited for the realization that I am stronger than my fears.  You would think that at the age of forty I would be past that sort of thing.  Past being a victim to the ‘what ifs’ and doubts that complicate something as simple as going to a gym to workout.  But insecurity is an asshole, and I just have to keep reminding myself not to listen it.

Of course, even after my great workout with a great trainer, and after realizing my own potential in this foreign land of exercise machines and athletes, reality decided I need a quick slap to the face.  As I was walking out, a woman stepped into my path to walk in front of me.  And it was impossible not to notice her bouncy butt-cheeks hanging out of her skin tight panty shorts.

(Insert gusty sigh and eye roll here).