1

A Death in the Family

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My mommy died.

After about 18 long, grueling months of downward spiraling health, she passed away on 13 June 2016 at around 4.45AM. She had been diagnosed the previous month with terminal lung cancer, and we were told that it would be days, rather than weeks.

Dad called me the day after I got back from a trip to see them at the Beach, and told me that he had called EMT because he could not get her O2 level above 81%. As it had to be in the 90’s at all times, and he could not get it regulated, he decided it was best if she was taken to Hospital. She was hooked to O2 to try and get the level up. For the past couple of years, the whirr of the oxygen machine was a constant noise in the house. It was on 24/7/365 to give her the breath that she could no longer take. We learned how to relegate it to background noise, to the point where we no longer could hear it. It was simply another noise in the background. Like a washing machine, or a clock ticking, or a dog barking outside. It moved wherever she was. Boone. Raleigh. Cary. The triangle of places to stay. It was her version of an American Express card.

After a short stay in Hospital, Dad and I brought her home, with the help of Hospice, so that she would be in a comfortable place, surrounded by the people who loved her and who would be there to help her transition from this life, to the next. I moved in with them, and told my Dad I would be there until…whenever, whatever.. Dad and I learned to feed, care for, bathe, comfort, love, and medicate her. To make her comfortable. To ease her pain. To make her days to come easier. Hospice came every day, except weekends, to help, and they were a true blessing.

Mom never once complained about anything, in fact, kept most of her humor the entire time. Her ability to speak, fractured from a stroke a year previous, suddenly became absolutely clear. It was the strangest thing.

I learned how to change a diaper, for the first time in my life, and I realized how utterly awful I was at it. Completely pathetic, but I did my very best. Dad would lift up mom’s torso, and I would complete my origami underwear in record time. It was a funny, yet sad, group effort.

Eating was a struggle for her. Nothing tasted good, but her love for sweets, especially Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups  existed until the very end.

She died 37 days later, around 4.45AM in the morning, after a long, difficult night where she could not catch a breath, and could not catch a break. It was a long night for Dad, who came upstairs at 3.15AM to tell me she was having trouble breathing. I pulled on my robe and I went downstairs and gave her some Morphine and some Lorazepam, to try and ease her breathing. Dad sat up for a while, with her, just to listen to her breathe. I went to bed and he came up around 4.45AM to tell me that she may have passed, shortly after he fell asleep. He woke, when he could no longer hear the sound of her breathing. I came downstairs and checked her, and had to tell my Dad that she had died. There is no easy way to tell someone that their mate of 54 years, 360 days has passed away. I went upstairs and threw up, and dressed. and then I called Hospice.

I never thought about life without my mom, because I could not comprehend a life where she would not be in it.She was such a forceful whirlwind of humor and nature that the world is a lesser place without her. We argued a lot, as Mother’s and daughters are wont to do, and sometimes I feel like I was simply not good enough to be her child. She was a lithe dancer in her young. I am a short, squat, fire-hydrant shaped artist. She was simply beautiful in her youth. I am what one would call “interesting looking”. It’s okay. I have my own talents. I learned, in her illness, that I had a infinite capacity for caring and love for her.

 

TBC

 

2

The Perils of turning 50, and other fun recreational things..

50 Things that I managed to learn in my life…thus far..

I woke up the other day with the mind-numbing realization that I turned 50 years old. I sat up in bed and wondered how in the hell I managed to amass so many years under my belt, and in such a short period of time. It’s scary. It feels like I went to bed one day and I woke up and I was suddenly eligible for a FREE Senior Water at Wendy’s.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my life and I genuinely LIKE the fact that I am now 50. I don’t have to watch my mouth as much and EVERYONE calls me “ma’am”, I am almost eligible for AARP, and I get all kinds of free shit now that I am 50.

HURRAH!

Oh God…I said it. I AM 50. I take a couple of deep breaths in and I let them out slowly, as if taking stock of the situation and trying to decide if it something I can live with…without panicking. Much. It’s strange to say that I am this old. Most of my life has been lived already. I have lived it really, REALLY well. I fell in love with someone who is deeply kind and wonderful, considerate and enormously strange and we got married. Babies didn’t happen but aw lawdy, the kitties and dog we love so much!

I have learned a LOT in my First Fifty Years on Planet Earth.

1. It’s better to sing off key than not to sing at all

2. Promptness shows respect. Lateness shows lack of respect. Be on time. Always. In fact—BE EARLY

3. If you offend—apologize

4. Master the art of Pictionary

5. Tip at 20%

6. Be Fair, Be Honest and Be Kind

7. Prejudice and bigotry are have to overcome. If you feel you may be, you probably are. Try and straighten that out

8. Hang around people who share the love of the same music, art, poetry, etc. You will never lack for conversation

9. Dream

10. Always say Please” and “Thank You”

11. Learn to fake it

12. Always buy the best tires you can afford

13. Never yell at a cop

14. Political Correctness is bullshit. Pure and utter BULLSHIT

15. Learn to accept criticism

16. Fall in love. Hard.

17. Steaks are best medium rare

18. Write “Thank You” notes

19. If you don’t know; ask….

20. Time heals most wounds

21. Don’t be afraid to fail. Several times

22. Judge not

23. Always ask the tough questions

24. It’s “AMUSE BOUCHE->HORS D’OEVRE->APPETIZER->SOUP-> SALAD-> ENTREE-> DESSERT”- in that order. If it seems like too much…Order Dessert first

25. Smile

26. Say “Hello”

27. Learn how to speak in public without peeing yourself

28. Learn to say “Where in the bathroom” in 5 languages

29. Drink Orange Juice

30. See the Dentist. Be his friend. He has good drugs

31. Gdzie jest łazienka?

32. Get up 10 minutes early and JUST BE

33. Always keep your car half-filled with gasoline

34. Keep a list of referenced plumbers/electricians/ etc. They come in handy, and good ones are worth their weight in gold!

35. Drive your dream car. Once in your life

36. Dance with wild abandon to the music in your head

37. Wo ist die Toilette?

38. Pay it Forward. EVERY DAY

39. If you have not used it/worn it in 6 months—donate it to charity

40. Sit and pet a cat. Your heart rate will go down

41. 洗手间在哪里?

42. Buy GENERIC.

43. Learn to make THE PERFECT MARTINI

44. Don’t lie. Eventually you will be discovered

45. Où se trouvent les toilettes?

46. Keep a diary

47. Be PASSIONATE about what you love

48. Dónde está el baño?

49. Tell the people you love, that you love them. Never waste time, and never think “Well, I will tell them tomorrow”. If you have not called someone in a while. CALL THEM. Tell them that you love them. Tomorrow may be too late….

50. Readers love reading long-ass lists. I see you made it to the bottom of this one. Congrats.

Mazel Tov.

5

….and if I knew….

What if you knew the date of your death. You were told that in 30 days, you would be gone. Nothing but a memory in the lives and memories of your friends, and those who loved you. What would you do? Would you live the last 20 days differently?

A friend of mine, that I have known since I was about 11, is dying. Granted, he is almost 84, and has had an extraordinarily great life, a wonderful wife, son and grandson, it does not make the impending loss of him any more acceptable, or less acute. It’s painful to know that in less than 30 days, he will be gone. It has caused me to think of my life and my giant list of shit I want to do before I leave this earthy plane. I have to admit that I have done a lot of things in my life, but I still have small list of stuff that I have on my “Bucket List”. You know, that list of random crap you wanna do before you get too to do it, or you die. Everyone has a Bucket List. You can’t truly live, unless you have goals in life. If you have no goals, you are rudderless…like a boat on the ocean with no way to steer yourself. What if you were to die tomorrow? What would you wish you could do before you die? What would you want to do? Where would you go? Any countries you have dreamed of visiting? Goals? Experiences? Moments? I don’t know. Some people dig sky-diving. I hate to fly, so flinging myself out of a perfectly good plane is a stupid, nonsensical idea. So what would your Bucket List contain? Travel to India? South Africa? Learn a new language? Salsa? Rumba? Tango?

           Lost time is never found again…

Benjamin Franklin

Life is short. Yeah, and sometimes/most times it is fair, and there are certainly times when it sucks. In between running to work, and running home to make dinner, pick up the kids, go to soccer practice/dance/etc please remember that this isn’t a dress rehearsal. Do something every day, every week, every year. Even if it scares you. ESPECIALLY IF IT SCARES YOU. 

Here is a slightly non-daring list. I invite you to Live out Loud.

( I have completed the ones in BOLD)

1. Renew your wedding vows

2. Solve a New York Times Crossword Puzzle

3. Learn to juggle.

4. Jump off of a waterfall

5. Go to Chicago for St. Patrick’s Day

6. Visit Abbey Road in London and re-create The Beatles’ cover with your friends…or stuffed animal

7. Take pictures with your friends in a photo booth

8. Scuba-Dive or Snorkel

9. Learn a new language

10. Visit a Communist Country

11. Try Haggis

12. Win a giant stuffed animal at a carnival.

13. Personally thank a firefighter/police officer/military veteran for their service

14. Pet a chicken

15. While at Disneyworld/Disneyland, hug the everloving SHIT out of Mickey Mouse/ Donald Duck/Goofy. You can try a “hat trick” if you want ( hug all three)

16. Drink a 100$ bottle of wine

17. Ride on the back of a motorcycle

18. Ride a Vespa/Moped

19. Get ice cream from a neighborhood ice cream truck.

20. Write your name in wet cement

21. Make a tie dye shirt and wear that bitch proudly

22. Be the house on the block with the most Christmas lights. Life is short. BE OBNOXIOUS

23. Have a pair of titty-pink plastic Flamingos in your front yard. Dress them up for the holidays

24. Own the Crayola 120 count box, and color a picture using every color in the box

25. Learn a card trick. Entertain all your friends. 3-Card Monty notwithstanding

26. Grow a garden…and then EAT IT

27. Have sex/fall asleep in a hammock. In THAT order.

28. Buy a lottery ticket. Good Luck!

29. Eat Sushi with Wasabi. Belch fire.

30. Grow some gorgeous sunflowers

31. Take Yoga

32. Crash a wedding

33. Attend a 3-day Indian ( South Asian) wedding

34. Get Henna-ed…(( See #33))

35. Ride a cable car in San Francisco

36. Jump into a pool fully clothed.

37. Ride a tuk-tuk in New Delhi

38. Eat Gumbo in New Orleans

39. Ride a river boat on the Mississippi

40. Have a Swedish Massage

41. Dance in the rain

42. Learn to say “I Love You” in at least 10 languages

43. Go on a hot-air balloon ride

44. Learn to knit/crochet

45. Go Commando

46. Fart out loud….and laugh

47. Drive/Own a convertible ( Julie!! )

48. Sing out loud

49. Touch your toes on all 7 continents

50. Swim naked in the ocean

51. Belch out loud….and laugh

52. Volunteer for Habitat for Humanity

53. Tell someone you love them. Every day. Mean it.

54. Write a letter/Send a card to a friend.

55. Dance in the house naked

56. Learn to juggle

57. Learn to make a balloon animal

58. Crowd surf

59. Photobomb someone’s picture

60. Eat Fried Pickles

61. Learn to make a origami swan

62. Learn to use chopsticks like an adult. Without the rubber band

63. Walk on the beach with the one you love

64. Dye your hair green/blue/pink

65. Write and Publish a poem

66. Kiss a frog

Life is worth living every single day. I hate that Don is dying. But I like the fact that he will be at home, surrounded by loved ones, and passing on his terms. I asked him the other day how he feels about it ( dying) and he shrugged and said “it’s part of life. Sometimes it’s a surprise and sometimes you can plan”. He’s made his peace with everything in his life, his family, and his friends and I have to respect a man who can face it with the huge amount of bravery that he is. I couldn’t do it. I am just not that brave.

He is a good man with a great attitude. I hope I have that when my time comes.

My hat’s off to you Don. Mazel tov, my friend. I love you.

5

Oh Please….Just stop….

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This is COPD

It isn’t pretty, or cool…It’s killing my mother. Day by day by day, and I am mad as fuck about it. To my friends who still smoke—please…STOP. Immediately.

I am BEGGING you.

My mom had a stroke on 5 April 2015. One of the complicating factors is her COPD. For those who are unaware of COPD, it is Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It is a disease of the lungs ( pulmonary system) of which tobacco smoking is the main cause. The rate at which COPD worsens varies with the presence of a variety of factors that predict a poor outcome, including severe airflow obstruction, little ability to exercise, shortness of breath, significantly underweight or overweight, congestive heart failure and continued smoking. There is no cure for COPD and the prognosis for chronic COPD sufferers is poor.

I am pissed at this. I am angry. I hate that she smoked and I hate that this fucking disease is going to kill her.

TBC

13

Oh, Menopause….You Hateful Bitch….

You are WARNED… the following blog post contains coarse language regarding perimenopause and menopause. Men…You may wish to avert your eyes and pick up a HUSTLER magazine or something….. Seriously……

Ladies….READ ON…

hot flashes

When I wore a younger woman’s undies I would sit around and listen to my older female relatives chat about what they called, back then, the “Change of Life” ( henceforth indicated as “COL”). Sounded good to me at the time. I mean, my life was pretty much mundane at that point and I thought a little change would do me good. Sounds interesting. Tell me more. They spoke of not having their period anymore and suddenly I because super psyched!  I was so on board with this shit!!

I could not WAIT for it to get here!

Now, roll the tape forward about 30 years until now. I’m 49 and in the fifth full year of my own perimenopausal/menopausal/COL experience and I think to myself ,“I’d gladly take that period back if it meant no more hot flashes.” Sometimes, my little honeys, the grass is greener on the other side and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it is mind wiltingly crappy and hotter than the face of the fucking sun. I wish I could take back the words I said about getting rid of my period so I can go through menopause. I do NOT have any pom-pom’s cheering on menopause any more. My grandmother warned me. I was listening to her and her sister-in-law talking about the COL and I said that I was looking forward to it. She adjusted her glasses, and her beehive, and she smirked at me.

Be careful what you wish for…”.

Truer words have never been spoken in the Twentieth century. Holy Shit. The truth?

MENOPAUSE SUCKS.

I am not gonna sugar-coat it. It sucks. It sucks balls. The nasty truth is that sometimes your poor body is ill-equipped to deal with all the wackiness that ensues when you go through perimenopause/COL. My Grandmother and her s-i-l made it seem all like a big old walk in the park, replete with rainbows, kittens and balloons.The shiteousness has never been so evident in my live-long days. The ugly truth is that I am completely ill-equipped to deal with this.

Holy Shit….. Here’s what your grandmother, mother or friends never told you:

  Menopause is not just for little old ladies. My symptoms started appearing at the age of 45 and have been a near constant presence in my life and is there to remind me that no matter what I do, my body is in charge. And in change. Not me. Sometimes life is a mean, hateful little bitch you want to jack up and kill. Daily.

Go downstairs and turn your oven on 400 degrees and sit in the oven. “Wow, that is some serious kind of hot”, you think. Heh Heh. Heh. Now, have someone lock the door of the oven and adjust the temperature to broil for about 10 minutes…5-8 times a day. The heat is stifling. Water beads on your brow. Your shirt becomes so wet you can wring it out and water a garden with your sweat. I swear to god it is like swallowing the Sun. Welcome to the wild, wonderful world of hot flashes. Someone jokingly referred to them as power surges. In that case, I could most likely power a small european nation. It’s misery and it’s not funny. Well, for the most part. Okay, it’s funny at times.

An article in The Huffington Post says that, on average, perimenopause/COL can last “as long as 14 years”, whith the average being 7.5 years.

Excuse me?

WHAT.THE.HELL.

Congratulations on your ability to make drama out of absolutely NOTHING! Seriously. You turn into the Empress of all Drama Queens. Everything is either absolutely tragic and tear inducing, or everything is evil, in which case something must be stabbed ( repeatedly ) until dead, or at least until mortally wounded. My Emotions? All over the map. I can cry at the drop of a hat. I can scream at the TV and the next minute, dissolve into a puddle of snot and tears. My husband probably thinks I am nuts.

He’s probably right.

 I have such dry skin that I feel like I am going to peel like a snake. I have tried every lotion known to man, and nothing alleviates it. I look in the mirror and I swear to God that I look just like Bea Arthur and the look is NOT PRETTY. I want to cry,and then slater myself in coconut oil. and sit in the oven while I spontaneously burst into flames.

My ability to multi-task went out the door completely, along with my memory. I can barely get one task done, much less the 20 a day that I used to manage. If I can find my car keys AND scratch my ass, then it is a fanfuckingtastic kind of day. I have to write EVERYTHING down except peeing and breathing. My house is a fucking rainbow of Post-It notes. I constantly forget what I am supposed to be doing and I have to check my surroundings to see where I am and if I have a reason to be there. Sometimes I just treat it like a surprise, like, “BOO! You are at Kohl’s…Now… WHY?”.

I woke up one day last week and noticed them. They attacked me in the night and became part of my very person. Bingo Wings. Truckstop Lady Arms. Bat Wings.  They go by many names, depending on where you live, but suddenly you have them. Flabby arms that wave goodbye when you raise your arm. I could knock myself out. Cold. And since I am now suddenly vain about my arms, the long sleeve shirts stay on. Even if it is 97 degrees outside and I am THISCLOSE to bursting into flame.

I have always had insomnia issues, but perimenopause/COL has kicked this shit into high gear. Sometimes I can sleep like the dead for 9-12 hours straight and some nights I am up and down more than a 2-Dolla Ho. Ambien can’t touch my inability to sleep and I read somewhere than anxiety escalates during perimenopause/COL. Wow. I did not believe it. BELIEVE IT. I have always been an anxious person, and I am petrified because now I am even MORE anxious. I toss and turn and chatter in my sleep, and I get up and go into the other room at 3.23AM. I have no idea what has made me so anxious, I can now name you what comes on TV on every channel with the America’s Choice Package on Dish Network because I have seen EVERYTHING ON TV.  In case you were curious, TV after 1AM sucks.

I am bloated like a Beluga Whale. I read that fluid retention and excessive intestinal gas are all part of perimenopause/COL. Everything bloats me, but I swear to GOD that the noxious odor is because of the dog.

blame the dog

….to be continued

2

It shant be named!

Reading my friend Julie’s lasted blogpost ( http://musingsfromaworkaholic.com/2015/02/04/its-that-time-of-year-again/) I had to chuckle. She and I both share a complete and total aversion to Valentine’s Day.  Her aversion is due to the fact that for some reason, that particular day, for her, is a fucking accident magnet of near-epic proportions. She is either sick as a dog, in hospital, broke something, fractured something, something is bleeding ( and it is not supposed to) or something went left, that would-a, should-a, could-a went right. The list of epic fails for her, for Valentine’s day, is a funny, funny read. Do yourself a favor.

valentin's day

I hate Valentine’s Day because I am cheap. I know my husband loves me. I don’t need some tacky flowers and some thoroughly disgusting chocolate flavored matter from him to tell me he loves me. I can tell he loves me because he works hard to provide for us, is concerned with my happiness and my safety and he tells me every single day that he does. I don’t understand how an over-priced meal for two at Frou-Frou Bistro can possibly demonstrate something I already know. He is wonderful and every day is kind of like Valentine’s Day anyway. Yeah, you can throw up if you feel the need.

He loves me. I love him. It’s not a single-day event. It is 365 days a year. If you love someone, please take 5 seconds out of your day and tell them you love them. You are never guaranteed a tomorrow. Don’t wait. Please never wait.

wolowitz

Because nothing says I love you like over-priced, mostly dead vegetation and fat-saturated sugar products.

6

The World’s Best Chicken Soup…according to me

wbcs

The stuff of LEGEND…

A lot of people are aware that currently, I am not working. In order to save time and stretch those food dollars as far as they can possibly go, I make a lot of home made soups and casseroles and simple meals involving chicken and lesser used meats, like turkey. This is my (nearly) World Famous Chicken Soup that I make about twice a month. It freezes really REALLY well, so the stretchability (?!) is pretty far, usually 3-4 meals depending on appetite ( of husband) and size of the narrow-face ( chicken) involved in the recipe.

I usually get my cooked chicken at BJ’s. A lot of people start with just a regular fryer, but I find that the rotisserie cooking imparts a delicious spice to the base of the soup. Bj’s always has these wonderful chickens cooking, all day. They are huge, juicy and at $3.99, a real bargain. For the two of us, Dear Hubby and I, it is a smorgasbord if numminess because there is enough to make a wonderful pot of soup AND some chicken salad for the hubby to take to work. He loves the stuff.

The first thing I do when I get it home, is remove the skin from the chicken and throw that in a pot with 2 cups water, some salt, pepper, rosemary, oregano and 3 bay leaves. Then, with near-surgical precision, I take all the meat off the chicken and I divide it into 2/3 in one bowl, 1/3 in another bowl, wrap them up and put in the fridge until later.

Take the leftover bones, gizzards ( if present) wing tips, et al, and throw them in the pot with the skin, salt and pepper. Add one cup diced Vidalia onion, 1/2 cup diced celery and 1/2 cup diced carrot and toss in the pot. Turn the gas on medium and cover, and simmer about 4 hours, occasionally stirring and letting the stock reduce.

wbcs2

AVENGERS ASSEMBLE !!!!!

Now is the really fun part, the gettin’ down to buziness part!

Strain the chicken bones and crap out of the boiled chicken and return the veggies to the pot. Add 1 cup water and salt and pepper ( to taste) and add the following:

The picked through 2/3 chicken, either shredded or diced

5 Carrots- washed, peeled and cut up- throw in pot

1 large Leek- washed, and patted dry. Cut off leafy part and tip- discard, chop up- throw in pot

3 Parsnips- washed, peeled, and diced- throw in pot

3 Bay Leaves- throw in pot

1 large Vidalia Onion- washed and diced- throw in pot

1 large Red Pepper- washed and diced- throw in pot

1 medium size container of fresh Mushrooms- washed and dirt removed- throw in pot

2 large baking Potatoes- washed, peeled and diced- throw in pot

Dashes of Italian Seasoning, Oregano, some Rosemary

** Roiling boil until taters are completely cooked**

Salt and Pepper to taste