Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Friday, November 22, 2013

Black Friday

“Black Friday should actually be called  The Hunger Games. People kill each other and the winner gets a $20 crock pot.” ~ Unknown

I will freely admit that I have never – not once – gone shopping on Black Friday. It’s a streak I plan to keep unbroken. There is not enough money on this earth to make me stand in line in the cold waiting for a store to open so I can have the privilege of fighting other people for stuff I don’t really need. So, yeah, I’ll pass.

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

# winning

I know some of you have been following my splash into gluten- and caffeine- free living (now approaching the one month mark!) and recently you may have noticed that I add the #winning hashtag to my updates about walking.

Why #winning?

Well as most of my long-time friends know, back in 2009 I was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) stemming from a viral infection that attacked the muscle in my heart. I was really sick. Like almost needed a heart transplant sick. My heart function was really low (15; normal is 60). I had a left branch bundle block (say that three times fast!) which means, basically, that the right and left sides of my heart were not beating in sync and my heart was significantly enlarged. After 8 days in the hospital, fighting with my cardiologist to get more personalized care since I'm not a senior citizen and when I talked to him about long-term I meant at least 20 years and he was all 3-5 years. Yeah, all set with that! Fired him not soon after and found the most amazing doctor in the world (RIP Ken).
I didn't have any underlying heart disease. No blockages, no high blood pressure, nothing but the heart of a very old, very sick woman. But I was determined to beat it back and not let it define me or my future. I was one of the lucky ones. In six short months my heart function was back to 50, the left branch bundle block was completely resolved and my heart had returned to it's normal size without any valve or muscle damage.
Cardiac rehab saved my future. I'm convinced that the program at Jordan Hospital is the reason that I was able to not only make a full recovery but by 2011 I was considered "reversed" and I, along with my family, were overjoyed! I had my life back but more important than that, I had my future back.

That was then. As of August 2013, I'm looking at a new future and I'm really not liking what I see.

My heart function is going down. 42 at the last visit and the left branch bundle block is back (that's even harder to say!) I go back in January and if I continue to lose function of the bundle block gets worse, it's an implantable device, most likely a pacemaker. They have some theories on the backslide but nothing definitive; we may never know.

So what does this have to do with #winning?
It is my new outlook. My one and only chance to have a healthy and long life is to work as hard as I can now to get myself as healthy as I can. That means walking, eating healthy, and knocking off all the bull. I came pretty damn close to dying in 2009 and this is the last wake up call I'm going to need.
I will win against whatever is attacking my heart.
#winning because it's the only choice I have.
See more here and here

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Girls Like Us: Chapter 3

               I pull the covers over my head as I push Patrice onto the floor. “I’m not ready to get up, P! I don’t care if I’m late. Honestly, it’s just a stupid game!”

               “Pammie!” Patrice yells as she tries to pull the covers off me. “It is not JUST a game; it’s the Thanksgiving game. The biggest game of the year! Plus, totally delish food after. Sharon’s going all out this year! Oh, before I forget, she totally wants you to come over later for food.”

               I stick my head out from under the covers. “Is she making her pumpkin cake?”

               “Duh! It is Thanksgiving.”

               “What time should I be there?” I ask.

               “Doesn’t matter. Just come when you’re finished eating here. Plan on staying over. We can watch movies and just hang out.”

               “Awesome idea Princess!” I say as I sit up. “Guess I should get in the shower so we can get out of here sometime today.”

               “Hurry up!” Patrice says as she pushes me out of bed. “You have 28 minutes. Exactly! I’m going to pick out your clothes. No arguing. Now, GO! Don’t make me come in there and wash you myself.”

               Laughing, I run down the hall to the shower. I love spending time with Patrice and in a little while I’ll get to see Tommy playing football. I love football pants. They’re really the best part of the whole game. Things have been so good between us since we got back together. We – I – never fight with him. We’ve even started to get a little more physical again.

               When I get back to my room, Patrice has a couple of choices for me. I’m envious of her sense of style and I’m surprised how great my clothes look when she picks them out. I have to decide today between jeans with a light green turtleneck sweater with combat boots or dark brown corduroys with a cable-knit sweater and brown riding boots. I decided on the corduroys and heavy sweater. I added a down vest and gloves since it would be chilly at the game. I also added my Andover scarf to show some school spirit.

               “Excellent choices as always P. Thank God you’re here since I would have just picked something lame.”

               Patrice smiles. “Just hurry up, Pammie. Please.”

               We finally find a spot at the stadium and join the mass of people heading toward the gate. I already texted Lenore to have her save us a couple of spots. Thankfully, they have a small section for player’s families behind the bench. Really though the families consist of the girlfriends and a couple of the dads. It’s a great spot and it’s always fun since all the girlfriends are friends.

               “Hurry up Patrice, we’re going to miss the beginning.” I say as I tug her closer.

               “Seriously, Pammie. It’s going to be MY fault we miss kick-off. Oh, I don’t think so.

               We finally manage to get to our seats and squeeze in with Lenore and Beth who were smart enough to bring blankets to sit on. Tommy turns, looking for me and I wave. He waves back and turns his attention back to the field where they are just announcing the players. I settle in to watch what should be a good win for the Archers, happy for the noise and the crowd so I can watch the game in peace.

               The first half of the game passes quickly and the Archers are winning 21-7.It’s an exciting game and now that it’s half-time I’m looking forward to getting a giant hot chocolate and warming up. Patrice is busy talking so I decide to head off on my own. No one else wants anything so I start to make my way down to the concession stand maneuvering around students and parents. Pausing to say hi and trying to watch the half-time show the cheerleaders and dance team puts one. I’m not paying attention when I walk right into the back of the guy in front of me.

               “Sorry” I blurt out before looking up.

               “Watch where you’re going, Pam. Wouldn’t want to scratch anything.” Ryan calls out.

               “Shut up, Ryan. Why do you have to suck so hard at life?”

               Before he can respond I pivot and walk away; my hot chocolate forgotten in my haste to get as far away from Ryan as fast as I can. I still hate that he can make me feel stupid over something that happened months ago. I really should thank him since Tommy and I are back together because of that night. Nope, he’s an idiot and I hate him. I manage to get back to my seat without further incidence but Patrice has made it back yet. The rest of the game passes without much fanfare and Andover wins easily.

               “Beth, have you seen Patrice since half-time?” I ask.

               “I left her in line for the ladies room since I didn’t want to stand and wait. I’m sure she’s around here somewhere. Did you drive with her? Of course you did, what kind of dumb question is that, you two are practically married.”

               “Thanks, I’ll text her later. Tommy’s driving me home. I’m going to go wait over near the locker room. Happy Thanksgiving. I’ll see you Saturday night, right?”

               “Gobble, gobble!” Beth laughs. “Looking forward to Saturday.  Bye!”

               I leave the stands and wander over to the locker room so I can catch my ride with Tommy. I try texting Patrice again but still nothing. I call Sharon later if I don’t hear from her soon. Sitting on the bench outside the locker room thinking about nothing and everything all at once, I’m glad that things are going well between us. I’m not as filled with doubt about why we’re together like before but there is that nagging feeling about Tommy’s insistence on the future – both our futures. Married right after college, house, kids. Can you say, Hives! Every time he brings it up I can feel myself getting a little more bitchy and I hate that I just can’t come out and tell him without hurting his feelings. I just want to date and go to parties and enjoy senior year. I don’t want to talk about weddings and, ug, babies.

               “Hey, Pammie, you ready? I’m starving.” Tommy interrupts my thoughts and I’m grateful for that.

               “Yes.” I reply as I stand on my tip-toes to kiss him. “Let’s get out of here, I’m freezing.”

               Driving through the parking lot, I notice that Patrice’s car is still parked there. “Tommy, something’s wrong. I haven’t seen Patrice since half-time and her car is still here. She’s not answering my texts, it’s not like her.”

               “I saw her after the game. She was talking to Liam and Beth. Liam’s still in the locker room, maybe she’s waiting with Beth.”

               “I’ll text Beth. In the meantime, what time are we going to the party on Saturday? Do you have to work?”

               “Work until 3. I can pick you up at 6 or I can come earlier and we can hang out?”

               “Oh, that’s Beth. Patrice is with her. Dropped her phone in Danielle’s hot chocolate, she’ll tell me the whole story later. Totally come early on Saturday. Parents will be gone and we can hang with Harry and have pizza.”

               “Perfect!” he says as he leans over to kiss me. Too bad that’s the last thing I remember when I wake up in the hospital three days later.

Girls Like Us: Chapter 1
Girls Like Us: Chapter 2

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The American Experience

I’m kind of all set with the “white-people-are-being-oppressed” trumped up nonsense being peddled by the same mouth-breathing, knuckle-draggers that brought us the “War on Christmas”.

Really. Over it.

I’ve read and listened as people try to define their experience as the “typical” American experience. How arrogant are you? To decide that you define the American experience? More than that, I’m disgusted as they try to deny experiences that are different from theirs or consider them as atypical or not fully American. How reprehensible is that? To deny someone their experiences as irrelevant or unimportant.

There are more than 300 million people in America. Know what that means? That means that there are more than 300 million ways to be American. None of which are more right or proper than any other. Everyone forges their own experiences - their own life story. The commonality we share is that they are American experiences.

Unique. Enduring. Individual.

Watching and reading the reaction to the Trayvon Martin case almost made me lose my mind. Watching as some try to co-opt the African-American experiences of institutional racism and oppression, I’m left thinking: This is evil; you are evil and you need to stop.

You look – and sound – like crazy people and If I hear one more person tell me that racism is dead, I will seriously lose my shit.

A young man was shot and killed. His killer was acquitted and instead of decrying the loss of innocent life, people are celebrating. Fucking celebrating. That a boy is dead. That parents lost a child. They are pissed off that the president dare answer a question about the case in a thoughtful and honest way. How dare he?! He’s a racist. He wants to start a race war! Muslims. Or some other fucking bullshit. By acknowledging Trayvon Martin, the president did not piss on all the other young men and women who have been murdered before or since. He spoke to his experiences as a black man in America and people got pissed and said his experiences were not authentic. Grow the fuck up.

Or let’s talk about this: A New York singer, born and bred, had the temerity to stand up and sing “God Bless America” and because he didn’t look sufficiently “American” racists on Twitter lost their collective shit. Yeah, racism is so over.

Stop it. Just stop. You look like fucking morons.

White people are not oppressed. Not in any way, shape or form. Shop keepers are not following my fair-haired, blue-eyed son around. People do not cross the street when they see him coming. Women do not walk a little faster if he walks behind them.

Because he has the privilege of being white in America.

That makes his life less of a hassle.

I’m not saying that he’ll have an easy life. He may not. I’m not saying that he’ll get everything he wants or needs. He almost certainly won’t. But he won’t be handicapped because of the color of his skin, or by the texture of his hair, or burdened with the “wrong” last name.

Because he has the privilege of being white in America.

If you can’t – or won’t – see that being white in America is still a pretty fucking great thing, you are damaged in a real and fundamental way and I pity you. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

An American Family

Apparently the military has started telling families that their deployed servicemen and women aren’t coming home as scheduled because we don’t have the money. Seriously. Uncle Sam is now your deadbeat uncle that can’t come up with the twenty you lent him last payday. He’ll catch ya next time as he mumbles something about brakes and a demanding baby mama or some other such nonsense. Honestly though you knew you weren’t getting that twenty back as soon as he snatched it from your hand. 

Uncle Sam though, he’s supposed to be different. He’s not supposed to be that guy. Or at least I thought he wasn’t. 

Old Sammy boy needs to pull his head out of his ass and get people home as promised when promised, barring any change in circumstances of a military nature. Being strapped for cash is not a reason to abandon our troops and their families. Not even a little ok. 

I get that servicemen and women sacrifice much in order to serve and protect and they’ve handed themselves over to our military to deploy as necessary. That comes with very specific risk and a tremendous loss over their schedules and lives. They understand this when they enlist, as do their families. The least – the very least – that you can do is not jerk them around. They sacrifice their time. 

They miss milestones: birthdays and first steps and anniversaries and graduations. They miss the mundane: driving kids to school and being scout leaders and making breakfast and yelling at their kids and painting their houses and fighting with their spouse. They miss a lot. For our benefit and protection. Let’s not make it harder for them. 

This was brought to my attention by a friend who has two boys serving on active duty. One is a Marine on his second deployment. This time in Quatar; his first was in Afghanistan. He was supposed to be home the first week in March. Over a month ago. They cancelled him and gave him a new date. March 14. Cancelled again. They mentioned April 7th. The family is cautiously optimistic but they’re not sending out invitations to the homecoming party either. 

Their oldest son is in the Air Force. He’s been approved and scheduled for a course that requires tuition assistance but they had revoked that benefit (although according to the most recent news that benefit has been reinstated.) However, that could change at any time which makes it difficult to plan for your future and advance your career. Frustrating and entirely unnecessary. 

I’m discouraged by my friend’s frustration and I’m disgusted with the games that are being played with our servicemen and women and their families. Disgusted that Washington is pitting regular, ordinary American’s against each other in their rush to be the country’s biggest ass. Well done you, you’re all giant asses. 

She mentioned to me that her youngest son wants to follow, not only in his brothers’ footsteps, but in the footsteps of his ancestors. This family’s military service stretches back five generations and they are seriously considering trying to talk their youngest son into not serving. 

How’s that for an American tragedy?

Monday, February 25, 2013

When Irish Eyes are Smiling

In the lilt of Irish laughter, you can hear the angels sing.

It’s been twenty-two years since I’ve heard your laugh.

The big one. The booming outrageous laugh. The one that started deep in your chest and ricocheted off the back of your tongue and seemed to ride every available sound wave, filling a space. That one. I miss it. Every now and then I think I hear it. Faint and lingering. Distant. Haunting.

It’s been two hundred and sixty-four months since I’ve heard your laugh.

Your silent laugh, when you laughed so hard no sound could escape. You would sit there, shaking and turning colors. Strangers thought you were in distress. Remember when they stopped “Shear Madness” because someone in the cast thought you were having a heart attack? We had to explain – because you couldn’t pull your shit together – that you were just thoroughly enjoying the show and to please continue.

It’s been one thousand one hundred and forty-eight weeks since I’ve heard your voice.

All of your voices. The loud and the soft. The happy and the sad. The merry and the mad. Mercurial I think would best describe you. Quick to anger, quick to laugh, quick to smile. I miss our phone calls and our walks. Our arguments and our jokes. I miss hearing you call me Blondie. And Charlie. I think we all miss that.

It’s been eight thousand and thirty-six days since I’ve heard your voice.

Well your whistle, really. I’ve not managed to find anyone else that can whistle like you. Birds envied you. Although I do remember you telling two of your grandsons that you learned to whistle in the war with South America so you could communicate with the birds that helped you be a spy. Seriously, one of your better attempts I must say and those two boys believed every single thing that came out of your mouth.

It’s been one hundred and ninety-two thousand eight hundred and forty hours since you left us.

I was telling someone about your funeral recently and how wonderful it was. I know that sounds weird but you would have loved it. At the wake, the funeral director had to ask people to leave so the folks waiting outside in the cold could come in and pay their respects. But that’s not the best part. The best part was at church the morning of your funeral. It was a beautiful sunny March day. Marie wanted to punch Jane in the face because she was being such a whiny bitch.

Mark gave the eulogy and it was fantastic. He closed by talking about how much you loved Toora, Loora, Loora and that he promised you that he’d make everyone sing it at your funeral. Well, he was as good as his word. At the end of the Mass, he started singing and it slowly built. Shaky, since most of us were crying. But by the time we hit the chorus the entire congregation was rocking as we walked behind you.

I was getting ready to say good-bye to John and Helen since they had only planned on coming to the church. As I was thanking them for coming, John stopped me and said, “This is the best funeral I’ve ever attended. We’re coming to the cemetery since I don’t want to miss what happens next. Helen, this is exactly what I want when I go.”

It was a fitting tribute. I’m never sad when I think about your funeral. I do remember the crushing grief as I sat in the pew but more than that, I remember the hope and the love and the joy of a life well-lived.

It’s been six hundred ninety-four million two hundred twenty-four seconds since you left us and there are days that I have felt every single one of them.

I miss you Dad.