Sharing Stories & Supporting One Another

In the last six months I’ve written two stories about interesting and persevering women who deserve to have their stories told. These stories were submitted to an informative and thought provoking site called GirlTalkHQ for their Wonder Women series. The Wonder Women series was a call to writers to share stories about women who inspire us, have overcome adversity, and can teach us a thing or two based on their personal experiences. When I first saw the writing prompt Calling All Wonder Women, I couldn’t wait to get to work on these stories.

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Bon Voyage! The Adventures of Traveling Solo With My Kids

Traveling alone with children is a feat in and of itself. When it’s over, you’re ready for a real “vacation”. On our latest adventure, so many unexpected things took place…

It had been exactly 4 years since I had traveled on my own with my two sons. I’m not talking about driving a long distance, I’m talking checking luggage, waiting in the security line, and flying on an airplane kind of travel. I didn’t really think much about it, I just went for it and hoped for the best.  This is sort of my MO and sometimes it gets me into trouble. While flying by the seat of my pants when making plans can cause me some of the usual parenting strife, undoubtedly, my kids always have a blast. Whatever discomfort or stress I sometimes need to overcome as the parent,  it is typically worth it on the other side of the adventure.  In the end, these experiences will be tucked away pleasantly in my sons’ memories for them to look back on fondly.

This close-my-eyes-and-jump travel decision with the kids, was quite a learning experience for me as a mom. So many unforeseen hurdles cropped up, by the time we returned, I was ready to hit up Home Depot to buy some lumber and build myself a lady shed in the backyard where Enya played on repeat and a masseuse was on call.

My sister had recently moved back to Chicago. I had initially decided to help her paint, hang stuff, and unpack without the kids in tow. However, the price was right, and it had been so long since I had brought the boys to their grandma’s house in Illinois or to visit Chicago, that neither of them remembered it. If they came along on this trip, they would get to see Grandma’s house, see their Aunt’s new house and maybe even visit with a friend or two and their kids also. These reasons were solid enough for me to make the decision to bring the boys. It would be another mom and sons adventure! So why not?

Fear of Flying

Upon mentioning the trip to both my boys, my 9 year old was elated. My 5 year old- not so much. He told me he was afraid to fly and that he was not going. When I told him it was not a joke, and we were really going, he burst into tears. This continued on for the whole month and a half anytime the words “fly”, “airplane”, “Chicago”, or even the words “Disney World” would come up. He would shake and cry and say again and again how afraid he was to fly.

Because his reaction was so severe, I decided to bring him to my EMDR therapist. He completed one session of therapy, and by the end, he was excited about flying. This alleviated his sudden breakdowns about flying. However, I only brought him to therapy once. It was not quite enough to solve the issue wholly. Unfortunately, there was no way for me to know this, until seeing how he reacted while boarding the airplane.

Luggage

My mom offered some pretty good advice regarding luggage,”Just bring one large suitcase and one carry on bag.” I took her advice and it worked out much better than trying to have the boys bring their cutesy roller suitcases.

When packing stuff for three people, one has to watch out for the weight so that there are not charges for oversized bags and so that you are not forced to pitch stuff due to it being overweight. Learn from my mistake, and check BOTH airlines if you are taking two different ones. It turns out one of the airlines had a 10 pound difference with their weight restriction than the other.  So on the return home, I had to throw away some of the gifts my sister gave me and shove all of the footwear we had brought into my already overflowing over-the-shoulder bag. Take it from me: mail extras, souvenirs, and gifts home. Otherwise, you’ll be frantically deciding what you can and cannot live without in order to get the weight of your bag down.

De Plane! De Plane!

The crying started once my husband pulled into the drop off lane at LaGuardia. My son was suddenly behaving the way he had been before the therapy session. He clung to my husband and begged to stay behind. We knew this meant boarding the plane was going to be a nightmare. My son latched onto my leg throughout the security line and whimpered quietly. I tried psyching myself up by telling myself in just a few short hours it would be over and we’d be in Chicago. I would help him get through this-it would be fine. We got to the gate and the attendant issued our seats. I saw that they were the last three seats on the plane and thought to myself, um, no way. I knew how loud it would be in that last row, and my son hates loud noise. I also knew that walking to the last row of a large plane with a frightened child would be like running the gauntlet. I let her know about his fear and she said she would absolutely help. Thank God for nice people. She moved us all the way up to row 14, and for a moment, there was relief.

The same Delta agent asked me to get on the plane first with the kids. She said this would likely ease his anxiety versus waiting in a long line. This made a lot of sense because waiting in a line would only allow his fear to fester.  We got to the front of the line and started down the ramp. This is when my son came undone. I knew instinctively his first move would be to make a run for it, so I was already latched onto his wrist with a death grip. He kept sharply turning and trying to dash back to the boarding area but without any luck. Somehow I got him down the ramp and as we stepped onto the plane. This is the part we’ll all never forget. He lost all control and started kicking, biting, punching, and worst of all, screaming in what I can only describe as an animalistic like terror. The pilot and two flight attendants stood and stared aghast.  The one flight attendant had this look just dripping of judgement-I felt like she rolled her eyes with all of her face. She kept looking at her flight attendant buddy and I wanted to shout at her for having the empathy of a gnat. She would have never heard me over my son’s screams.

I finally got him in his seat by dragging him by his wrists with his back, bottom, and legs dragging down the aisle. I still had my carry on bag over my shoulder as well as my purse, so I was basically pinballing off the seats as I pulled my poor child to our row. As if the demon that had just possessed him was suddenly excorcized, he sat down, buckled up, and said, “I faced my fear mom.”

Huh?

We hadn’t even taken off yet. I was confused, but I smiled and hugged him and told him I was proud. In my head, I was concerned that this had just traumatized him worse than anything else I could have ever imagined. My older son turned to me and whispered that he could not believe what he just saw his brother do, and that it really scared him. He also confided that he was now feeling very afraid to fly himself.

I gave them both a pep talk while they fought over the window shade being up or down, held their hands, and hoped for a good take off and smooth flight.

Silently, I was cursing the world for my having to give up alcohol and coffee that week for a health issue I was having. Either one or both mixed together would have really helped in that moment.

The Airplane Lavatory

You may be wondering if the flight attendants came by to check on us or ask my son how he was doing. The answer is no. And as if to add insult to injury, when he had to go to the bathroom, I walked him up and asked if he could go in by himself with me standing there in case he needed help. Nope, the flight attendant said. I either had to go back to my seat while he was in there, or I had to go in with him. I could not block the galley.

So I squeezed into the bathroom with him. I also had to use the bathroom, as I had been holding it for the last hour. He refused to stay in there with me, and to his credit, we really didn’t fit in there together.  I poked my head out and asked if he could stand right outside the door while I went to the bathroom (his brother was using the bathroom at the other end of the plane), I was nervous about him making his way back to his seat on his own. Nope. He could not block the galley she told me coldly. I walked him back to his seat and realized, I was actually going to pee in my pants if I didn’t sprint back up to the bathroom. As I ran back up, I see the flight attendant stand with her arms above her head in an “X” like manner blocking the bathroom and looking at me. I cried out, “Are you kidding me right now?”

I wanted to scream, and I’m usually a pretty calm person. She made me walk my child back to his seat and was now blocking me from going to the bathroom? What kind of jerks do they hire to be in customer service these days? I thought to myself.

Turning and running to the bathroom in the back of the plane meant that the faucet was starting to drip if you know what I mean. I finally went and when I was finished it was upsetting because I basically partially peed my pants thanks to that flight attendant.

As I exited the bathroom, I was immediately met by the cold flight attendant, who was standing right outside the bathroom door, waiting to greet me.

“Ma’am, do you know why I was blocking you from using the lavatory? It’s important that you know why I was doing that. I saw that you were upset.”

To which I replied, “I have a bladder condition. You told me I had to walk my son back to his seat before I could return to the bathroom, then you blocked it. I was already in discomfort, and then I had to run to the other one and basically peed my pants.”

Unmoved and stoic, she said with that same face where she’s doing an all body eye roll, “There was a law implemented after 9/11 where if the cockpit is open for any reason, no one is allowed to use the bathroom closest to the cockpit. That was why I was blocking it.”

“Thanks for explaining.” I went back to my seat with her staring daggers at me. What was I supposed to say? I get that there are rules and laws, but did she really have to be such a jerk? I should have just made my son wait outside the lavatory and not even asked her.

After an uneventful flight, except for me kind of peeing my pants, we made it in one piece.  What did I learn? It’s really hard to fly with kids by yourself. You feel weird leaving them unattended, when you have to use the bathroom it’s a real hassle, and you have to constantly apologize to the people in front of you for the kicking and tray slamming.

The Pick Up

When we approached my mom’s car at the airport pick up, I unexpectedly broke down. I hugged my mom and sobbed like a baby. It’s hard to articulate the emotions that overtake you when you force your child to do something they don’t want to do. Could that  cause them trauma? But could it also help them to face a fear? The emotional aspect is heavy.  Once I had a good cry which thankfully was behind her open trunk, I pulled myself together and got in the car. About ten minutes into driving, my older son starts shouting that my younger son is going to throw up in the back seat. I look in the back seat and sure enough he’s got his hand over his mouth and his cheeks are full. He has somehow managed to hold his vomit in his mouth. We were in rush hour traffic, thankfully, so I told him to roll down his window and stick his head out to empty his mouth. He did this and we later learned it all went down the outside of the car door. Still, I was impressed with his ability not to get it all over the interior of the car. When I asked him if it was because of his scary morning, he said no, it was because he decided randomly to stick his finger down his throat and it made him throw up.

Oh, OK.

Don’t Touch Anything- My Sister’s New Place

My sister had shockingly done almost everything on her own related to moving in. She had hired painters, and set up all of her furniture and emptied all of her boxes. The only thing left to do was hang pictures and set up her balcony furniture. Her whole place was decorated in mostly white and her walls were a very light, freshly painted color as well. I don’t know about your kids, but mine love to run their dirty hands along the wall. She also had new flooring so we had to be careful on that. We mostly had to try to stay out of her new apartment because it was so beautiful, clean, white, and new. This meant we hung one picture out of the 10 she planned to hang while we were visiting and we set up her balcony furniture. That was about the extent of my “helping” her.  Her place was so nice it reminded me of a museum. Remember that kid that broke the museum statue and the parents were fined $132K for it? Yeah. It was very relaxing at my sister’s new place with the bulls, I mean kids.

A trip to Urgent Care

There is an amazing pizza place in Chicago called Lou Malnati’s. I have to get it everytime I visit. It takes awhile to make the pizza and since my kids don’t behave in restaurants, we preordered it so that when we arrived we could sit and eat right away. My little one and I decided to meet my mom, sister, and older son there since his shoes were soaked from him running through playground sprinkler  in them. They were taking forever to dry, so I wrapped his feet in plastic wrap and stuck them in his wet shoes. We walked to the restaurant and sat down at the table with everyone. Just after they served us drinks, my little guy started playing with his straw. He decided to drink a bunch of his apple juice quickly. Then he sucked it into the straw and blew it out and all over his Grandma’s shoulder. Just as I started to scold him, his face turned red and he put both of his hands to his throat. He started coughing and gagging and crying in a panicky sort of way. I asked him if he was choking and he nodded. I picked him up and brought him into the bathroom (which was right next to the table,thankfully) and gave him the heimlich maneuver. He started crying harder and pointing to his throat. He could talk which was a bit of a relief. He said something was stuck and it was sharp. The only thing it could have been was a piece of ice, I thought. The waiter came over to set down the pizza on our table, so I asked him to bring warm water quickly and he nodded. I called an Uber to take us to urgent care. My son drank the warm water to try to melt the ice, but it was no use. Whatever it was appeared to be lodged in his windpipe and not the throat. It was not something that could be washed down per se.

We ran down to the Uber and it felt like an eternity before we got to the urgent care facility. He cried and held his throat the whole drive. It was about 15 minutes before we got there. Another 15 in the waiting room. Finally we were seen and they took an X-ray to see if there was a foreign body lodged in his throat or in his lung because now he was saying the pain worked its way down to his lung. We stayed for two hours and the doctors listened to his breathing and heart and asked lots of questions. They had me find out if the straw had broken into fragments somehow and if it was either lodged or cutting into his throat. The answer was no. Fortunately, my sister and mom thought to inspect his cup and straw thoroughly along with the Manager of the restaurant and text me those details. That was the missing link that the doctor was waiting to hear. After observing him and debating on whether or not to send him to the ER, followed by the X-ray coming back with no liquid in his lungs and no foreign bodies lodged in his throat, he was cleared to leave. It was deemed that he had aspirated apple juice. This can cause a sharp burning sensation that feels like something is cutting your throat or is stuck. Because it was not enough fluid to show up on an X-ray he was released. If it had shown up, he would have been admitted to the ER. Parents beware of your kids playing with straws.

I do have to say that both the urgent care center and Lou Malnati’s were amazing. Both followed up later that night/the next day and Lou Malnati’s covered the cost of our meal. My son and I ravenously dug into our delicious pizza later that night.

When I See Others Traveling Solo With Kids

This is my message to single parents or parents traveling alone with their children: You are brave and you are no doubt, physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted.  What I wish for you is nice, compassionate people along your journey. May you be surrounded by understanding strangers, family members, and people in customer service positions. And may your children enjoy and appreciate all of the fun adventures you take them on.

Talking To Strangers Is Not So Bad As An Adult

No one likes waiting in line. Most people also don’t like talking to strangers. So it probably sounds a little off to say that talking to strangers while waiting in line is actually enjoyable. In the last year, especially these last few months, I’ve come to notice that strangers are randomly chatting with me, while I’m in line, and surprisingly, I’m loving it.

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When Your Child Discovers The Big Lie

Standing in the toy aisle in Kohl’s and concentrating on which item to buy for a friend’s son’s birthday, I hesitated before asking my son to repeat what he had just said.

“Can you repeat what you just said, but can you whisper it to me?” If it was what I thought it was, I didn’t want his 5 year old brother to overhear.

“I know that Santa’s not real, Mom.”

The color likely drained from my face as it was probably the last thing I was expecting him to say at that moment, but it was, in fact, what I thought he had just said.

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“Ok, if you want to have this discussion, it has to be in private, with both me and your father. It needs to be away from your brother.”

“Oh! So you’re saying he isn’t then? I knew it!” His voice getting more shrill with each word.

“I said let’s talk about this later. Now is not the time.”

Thankfully, he forgot about it.

Two weeks later, after walking in the door from school, he reminded me that he wanted to have that talk. He said he knew about Santa and the Tooth Fairy because he had set up his iPad to video us sneaking around.

“That’s bologna.” I said. He smiled and admitted to fibbing.

“Well, I know they’re not real because you say you will tell Santa if we are misbehaving. That made me realize you’re lying. How could you tell Santa? It’s not like you have his phone number. What you think you can fool me by saying you’ll just dial him up? Or email him! It’s lies!”

“We’ll talk about it at bedtime.” I silenced him for the moment.

At bedtime, his father and I sat down and told him in so many words that he was right. Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny were pretend magical stories to make the holidays and losing teeth more fun and special for children. It was a lie coming from a good place (uh, confusing), and he would understand one day and do the same for his children.

Anger was the emotion that seemed to settle right in when we confirmed the bad news. He got emotional and went on to say he was hurt and surprised we had lied to him for 8 years. Then my husband corrected him and said, “Well, actually 9. We lied for 9.” Thank you, husband.

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He pushed us away when we tried to hug him. We didn’t “deserve” hugs. We were horrible parents. He was sulking like an irritated teenager. Then he asked about Elf on the Shelf which we only started doing these last two Christmases. He seemed more upset about the Elf for some reason. We gave him the ol’ “you can help keep the magic going and be part of it for your brother now…” spiel and it simply ignited more upsetment.

“How can you ask me to LIE to my own BROTHER? What kind of parents ARE you?” The drama was over the top. I wanted to laugh, but then I couldn’t, because he was so genuinely upset, the humorous vibe evaporated. We explained that he better not tell his brother or his friends.

The saga continued as he ran into our bedroom and grabbed his framed baby picture off of my nightstand and stared at it. I felt like we were in REM’s “Everybody Hurts” music video except it was, “J’s found out there’s no Santa.” This was like a made for TV moment.

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For the first time, we didn’t get a warm goodnight (he’s a lovey dovey kid), and we were sad about this phase being over. We shuffled back to the living room feeling a sort of grief only parents that have just gone through this experience can understand. It was the end of an era, which is sad for parents too. As your children go through different phases, some good and some bad, when the phases come to an end, there is a small sense of mourning. Not really for the bad phases though… adios to those!

We thought about any possible way to lift his spirits. Since our son had stayed home sick that day, we didn’t know if he had made drama club.The school had a lottery system in which they select children who are interested at random and there are a limited number of spots. My husband posted on the school’s parent group on Facebook to see if there was a way to find out and wa-la (thank you Facebook and the parent who got right back to us) we found out he had made it!

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We agreed to tell our son right away in hopes to cheer him up, but he was pretty stoic after we shared the good news. He wanted to crash in our bed for the night which he hasn’t done for years. He kept saying he didn’t know how he would fall asleep because this was the worst day of his life.

The next morning he was still thinking about it and said to his dad, ” So what’s up with the Santa tracker then?” It was obviously still on his mind. So much for hoping it would pass!

I guess with parenting, one never knows how much something will impact their child until it actually happens. My son clearly believed HARD in the magical things we told him about. For that I’m glad because those years were SO MUCH FUN. This was definitely a learning experience. The anger carried on the entire next day, but slowly it dissipated and we got him to agree not to tell his friends or his brother. I do believe we just witnessed his first major disappointment in life. Sure he’s had other let downs, but nothing to this degree. Of course there will be many more to come. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s so interesting what we learn from parenting. It’s a front row seat to the growing changing of the human being you’ve created-physically, mentally, and emotionally. You can’t help but be riveted, worried, and grateful simultaneously during the whole experience. Hopefully, we can still get a few more years of Santa, the bunny, and the Tooth Fairy with our youngest!

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My Identity Crisis:Financial Dependence

She works hard for the money, so hard for it honey. She works hard for the money so you better treat her right.

But what if she’s no longer bringing in that money? OK, maybe it’s a shift in the amount of money. Does that mean we don’t treat her right? How would that song go if THAT were the case? I don’t know the answer. I’m asking myself the same thing…that’s the crazy part!

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Don’t ever depend on anyone for money. Specifically, a love interest aka a husband. Mom taught me that at a young age. I was raised to work hard and always fend for myself financially. The song Miss Independent was my jam. Ne-Yo should have collaborated with me for the video. I could see it vividly — a dance number in a chic suit, taking calls on a sleek retro phone, while swinging around a briefcase, and kicking up my heels on a fancy desk. But in the version I’d star in, the desk I’d be dancing around on would be covered in credit card bills if we were really being authentic! Making it rain white envelopes in a sassy outfit sounds attractive doesn’t it? But hey, I was the one paying those bills-wasn’t I? At least THAT part actually is attractive. I’ve been responsible for a long, long time and making my own money has always been an important part of who I am.

Are there things about you that are hard wired and likely impossible to change? Yes, I think so. It made me wonder just how much a part of me is tied to being financially independent. For men, it’s been tied to how they define their worth over many decades. For women, we couldn’t even open a bank account in our own name until 1975, so it’s doubtful our worth was tied to our own hard-earned money until maybe the 80’s. Perhaps over time we’ve grown to feel in a similar fashion to men. Or perhaps it’s our experiences related to money and stress that linger on. Particularly because these occurrences were most prevalent during the most impressionable years.

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Could Teaching Empathy Start With Bugs?

Here’s my latest on Medium. Be sure to clap for my article if you enjoy it and follow me on Medium so you don’t miss my future stories.

I used to think it was a little much. My husband was firm with the kids when urging them not to hurt or kill the ants, spiders, ladybugs, or any other random bug they were toying with outside. Over time, I grew to love how gently they would handle the ants that were building their little sandy huts on our patio in the backyard. They would pick them up with great care, and talk about how cute each one was, while it scurried in between each finger across their little hands. This little teaching about being respectful to bugs, seems to have stretched across all living creatures for the kids and it seems to have stuck. Our sons treat our cat with great care, express concern when someone gets injured or sick, and have randomly shown empathy for birds’ “feelings” as of late. Maybe this “be nice to the bugs” business has transformed into more than we could have imagined in the way of teaching life lessons.

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Working Parent Guilt-What I’ve Learned May Surprise You

Going from a full-time to part-time working mom has been an enormous shift. One that is reshaping our family and how we do things pretty much on the daily. Big change brings about learning and a fresh perspective. Over the last 8 months I’ve learned quite a bit- not only about myself, but about my children, my husband, and about my expectations for the extra time I would have with my kids. A recent realization prompted me to write one of the more shocking things I’ve come to understand.  Something that I hope will give full-time working parents a splash of cold water on the face of guilt they wear each day as they trudge off to work.

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Second Opinions and Intuition Are Vital To Health

Many of us have been in a situation where a diagnosis completely missed the mark or we left the doctor’s office knowing the information we were given didn’t seem quite right. For some, questions have been left completely unanswered, and it’s resulted in their condition worsening. For others, obtaining a second or third opinion uncovered the correct diagnosis thus saving their life or improving their quality of life immensely.  It got me thinking recently just how critical it is for all of us- old, middle-aged, and young to be not only our own advocates, but our loved one’s advocates as it relates to health. Here are three scenarios that may help you to ask more questions of yourself, your loved ones, and your physicians.

Solving The Issue On Your Own

When it comes to our kids or loved ones, it tends to be easier as the observer to pinpoint what may be contributing to their health problems. Think about how one small change in someone’s food selection could benefit them if they were to discover they had an allergy to a food they often ate? Recently, my son was complaining of a stomach ache 3 -4 times a week. He’s never been formally tested for lactose intolerance, but I figured it out early on by process of elimination.  He used to cry and complain of stomach aches after he’d have cow’s milk in his cereal or drink chocolate milk from the time he was a babe. I also happen to be lactose intolerant myself, so I figured his chances of having the same issue were pretty good.

After asking him what he’s been eating recently to try to uncover the reason for all of his stomach aches, I came to realize it was in fact lactose related yet again. He would complain after eating Cheez-its, Goldfish, smoothies, milkshakes, and occasionally pizza. Since our kids aren’t always with us when they’re eating (school, after school programs, friend’s houses, etc.) it’s not always obvious what is bothering their stomach. Honestly, I was buying the goldfish and cheese flavored crackers and not thinking twice. The powdered cheese in those snacks must have been contributing to the issue. For the last week, he’s stopped eating those snacks and you guessed it, the stomach aches have completely ceased. If only every health problem were that easy to solve! Sometimes, we can actually solve health issues on our own.

Following The Commonalities When There’s No Diagnosis

Sometimes, our loved ones notice more than we give them credit for. Many years ago, I became very ill while on a business trip. I was having a lovely time at an event  party until the wee hours of the night, and while chatting with co-workers, I started to feel extremely tired. I took inventory of what I had eaten..mostly chicken wings. It didn’t help that I had also been drinking cocktails, so I assumed it was a bad combo of the drink and food choice. I called it a night earlier than I had expected and headed back to my hotel room.

That night, I seriously thought I was dying of food poisoning- the pain was so bad. I started vomiting around 3 a.m. and didn’t stop until it was time to check out and head to the airport. Everyone assumed I had had one too many celebratory drinks, but I knew there was no way this was a hangover-it felt different. I ended up in the hospital for two days following my return. They discharged me and said they thought it might be pancreatitis. It was pretty much an unknown diagnosis.

What my then boyfriend (now husband) pointed out, was my symptoms seemed to weirdly mimic the same ones I had about six months prior after a meal at a hibachi restaurant. Following that meal, I had also landed in the hospital for a few days, only to have been discharged with no answers and the doctors scratching their heads.

We visited that same hibachi restaurant a few months after I returned from that business trip.  And again, this time even faster than the last, I could not even walk to the car.  I was weak, sweaty, and vomiting profusely only 10 minutes after eating. My mouth felt funny and my tongue felt puffy, which was a completely new symptom. I went to the ER, spent the night, and again, was discharged with no answers. Again, my boyfriend spoke up about what he noticed. I should add here that him being a chiropractor (who has studied a thing or two about the body) also helped. He had figured it out.

“You’re allergic to sesame!”

He pointed out my reaction was much more severe when it was in oil form. He had to be right! For as long as I could remember I would get stomach aches when I’d eat sesame bagels- I chalked it up to my lactose intolerance because of the cream cheese. Low and behold, it was the seeds! That business trip I had been on- I had eaten chicken wings lathered in sesame oil and seeds. The hibachi place we had dined at had cooked our meal in sesame oil.  Also, it answered questions for me that went way back to my youth. There were these crackers that our neighbors always put out at parties called Sociables. I would eat like the whole box – I loved these crackers so much! And EVERY time we went to their parties, I wound up in their guest room crying and writhing pain until the wee hours of the night. We could never figure out why my stomach hurt so bad at their parties! Turns out,  those crackers are sesame crackers. What an a-ha moment!

Three visits to the hospital and none of them resulted in answers. My husband had figured it out just by going through the foods I had eaten each time- and drawing a conclusion based on the most common denominator. Take note that with each allergic reaction, the symptoms worsen. Further down the road, a year or so later, I ordered Chinese takeout and double checked with the staff to see if they had cooked it in sesame. They confirmed they did not. Three bites in and it felt like I had swallowed gasoline. My throat felt like it was closing and the stabbing pains started in my stomach. This time, we avoided the hospital and waited it out to see if it would be over by morning. Thankfully, it was ( but I DO NOT suggest waiting it out- the pain was unreal).  If you have these kinds of stomach aches that land you in the ER, and have also had doctors scratching their heads, think about getting tested for a food allergy, or going to a specialist to run further tests. This, for some reason, had never crossed my mind or my parent’s minds for that matter, when I was young. Sometimes the answers are literally right in front of us!

When Intuition is Critical And So is A Second Opinion

Many of you are caring for ailing parents. You’re driving them to their doctor appointments or tagging along to make sure the right questions are being asked. This is what one of our friends was doing with his father when his eyesight began to decline in one eye, along with the white of the eye turning very red. They started with a top neurologist at a local hospital and were told it was allergies. When the eye began to turn out and they returned, they were told it was an auto-immune disease. The CAT scans continued to show nothing abnormal. But something wasn’t adding up. His father’s teeth started to ache, which lead them to having three teeth removed, and the medication he was on didn’t seem to be helping the symptoms at all. When he  began to see his father’s overall health rapidly decline over the next few months, he sought more answers. He decided to take him to a specialist at a university hospital- a neuro opthamologist. They had a special CAT scan machine that looked at the eye in ways that other CAT scans could not. And this was when they discovered there was a cancerous tumor that was crushing the sixth nerve. The sixth nerve is a cranial nerve that is responsible for the outward gaze. They also discovered that this cancerous tumor had stemmed from a melanoma that resided on his cheek and had metastasized to this nerve behind the eye. It was a serious diagnosis and treatment had to be aggressive to save his father.

When asked what his advice is for those that are currently searching for answers, he says to opt for university hospitals- not necessarily your local hospital. University hospitals study thousands of diseases and have more specialized advice, machines, and treatments to suggest versus a local hospital. Your local hospital studies less diseases at a time and may not have the answers because they’re not exposed to as much info. You are better off going there for things that aren’t as complex. It’s also a team dynamic at a university hospital. Why? Because a university hospital is a teaching hospital. All different kinds of doctors are invited in to give their opinion and take a look at what is going on. You’re not getting the services of one doctor with one opinion. Another helpful piece of advice he gave was making sure to track down a specialist.  When something quirky is going on with one specific area of the body, it’s best to go to a doctor that specializes in that area of the body, rather than your primary care doc. The clock could be ticking on your loved one’s health when you’re not getting the answers you need from the right source.

Too often we all hear stories about people putting off going to the doctor only to later find out something is gravely wrong,  or getting a misdiagnosis and being put on the wrong medication, or having no answers with worsening symptoms, etc. Always continue to search for answers for yourself and your loved ones, because when you really peel back all the layers of life that we all stress about, there is truly nothing more important than our health.

 

He Said

He said you girls will always be my number one most important thing in this world. It felt very true, until it wasn’t anymore.

He said we are going to have to kiss on the playground. But only because they want us to. No choice. He didn’t want to either. The crowd surrounded us, pushing, cheering, smiling. The teacher’s whistle blew and it was time to return to the 6th grade. The back of my arm wiped the saliva from my upper lip, chin, and cheeks.

He said it again, and again, and again. The words hissed and hung in the tan leather of his extravagant car. Weekend after weekend the words repeated and washed over this brain. Women who have sex are whores. Never have sex.

He said take this necklace, I will miss you after you move. Let’s be pen pals. His sweet second grade hand-writing a precious memory tucked away in the pages of my childhood journal.

He said do you want to go to the football game with me? New school and a new crush. The innocence; the electricity of our knees touching while shivering on the bleachers. The smell of high school concessions and crisp leaves in the fall air. The lights over the field shining down on the athletes as we watched. The familiar car lights pulling up to retrieve us. Hands interlaced, but only for a few seconds. Comforted to sleep by images of his pretty face; pointed nose, thick dark eyebrows, sharp cheekbones. The anticipation of the bus ride palpable. The rush of excitement as my shoes met with the bus stairs. The sounds of the whispers. The name in the whispers was mine. The blood draining from my face. The lies washed over me, like a bucket with too much water poured over my head, into my nose and mouth. Drowning in the feeling of betrayal. The sentences with our names were horrible lies. The ruining of my reputation in an instant. Confused by his kind, hand-holding innocence. Long term damage by untrue words spoken from his lips like wildfire in a matter of seconds.

He said you girls should come back to our hotel room. We’ll play cards and drink beer. He left the sliding glass door to the balcony cracked. The sliding glass door, his one mistake, and the only viable escape. Come out and look at the stars with me he said. Crashing of balcony furniture,aggressive scuffling, ripped clothing. His friend, a living angel, walking toward that sliding glass door, opening it gloriously wider, tilting his head quizzically at his red-faced, attacking friend. Running, running, running through that beautiful space between the sliding glass door. Running through the humid Florida night clinging to my sweat soaked skin . Running to freedom through the lobby, away from that hotel, and that strange, scary, teenage boy.

He said you have a gift, you should keep writing. A teacher that was otherwise insignificant in this life, in this mind, were it not for this statement.

He said nothing as he used a fleeting moment in a pool filled with people to rip my bathing suit off and grope me.

He said she’s my number one now. Sometimes things change. You girls need to listen to her because she’s your stepmom now. And then everything changed.

He said you’re no longer my daughter. You’re nothing to me. It was truth.

He said I’m sorry for what you have been through. I’m glad you’re here. You’ll always be a sister to me, I’m here for you and so is my family. This was truth. Truth that felt good.

He said of course I’ll sign. If it will help you buy your first car, or help you in any way, I will do it. You’re my niece, I’d do anything to help you. And because of this and because of him, I bought my first car.

He said just hang out with my older brother while I’m upstairs hanging out with N. He thinks you’re pretty; he remembers you from that party a few months ago. He was 21 and I 13. My friend later descending the stairs, jovial, beautiful, content. My state of mind a flagrant contradiction to hers. He got up and waved good-bye. We walked back to her house. I wiped his saliva from my chin, my face.

He said among the hundreds of tulips of every vibrant color covering every inch of my teenage bedroom, with white lights woven in between, will you go to prom with me?

He said That prom dress you wanted, it’s yours. I’m buying it because you deserve it, and I love you. And the dress of my dreams became the dress I wore to prom. Forever grateful, this I hope he knows.

He said I’m sorry for what you’re going through, we’re always here. You’re a good kid and I hope you know this. He was a man of few words and his few words meant the world to a sixteen year old girl. It was never forgotten, heartfelt, and so uplifting in that moment.

He said get in the f-ing van you slut! Gripping my wrist, my body hanging out of the open passenger side door, the van accelerating through the parking lot. Pulling, spitting, shouting obscenities, the man pulled as hard as he could to get all of me inside. A strange man, in a van, nude from the waist down. Pull, pull, pull away. Asphalt, hot, trip back to work. Call police to report. Horror, horror, saw you again; your smile, your stare searing through my flesh. Off to Boston, go, go, go, press the gas; leave this real life nightmare behind.

He said through tears and the kind of hug that makes it hard to breathe, I read your diaries while you were gone. Please don’t be mad. The sounds of the airport loud and distracting. Wrought with emotion, he continued on You don’t have to worry anymore in your life. I want to marry you… I love you and I want you to know I will never leave you. It was truth.

He said Congratulations it’s a boy! And the universe, God, love, and all of the emotion that embodies being human swept through this mind and body. Entangled experiences that shaped my unique world falling, falling away from me. Paradoxical.

He said I love you, Mom. Then later, They said I love you, Mom. And no more beautiful words were ever spoken to this mind, this heart, this human, this spirit. And I believe it to be truth.

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Colorful thought bursts and unfiltered ideas in a child’s mind are endlessly humorous. Who doesn’t love to share or hear stories about the random and sometimes shocking sentences that tumble out of children’s mouths? Living on my phone, in the Google Keep app, is a list of both of my sons’ hilarious and interesting ponderings for their father and I to cherish forever. I highly recommend keeping a log of the funny things your child says so you can go back and revisit it as they get older. It was so entertaining to type the list out and re-live the hilarity. From food to movies to general observations about life…their quips are little snack packs of funny.

Let’s talk about food and drink

E: “I like avocado.”

Me: “What do you like most about it?”

E: “It helps you survive earthquakes.”

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J: “Mom, I’m ready to stop being picky now. I’m ready to try new and exciting foods. Make me a salad.”

___________

E: “You can get arrested for bringing food into play areas. That’s why the signs say ‘NO FOOD ALLOWED’.”

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J: “You can’t drink Mom’s Diet Coke.”

E: “Why?”

J: “Because it’s wine.”

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E: “I know what food they give you in jail!

J: “What?”

E: “Spinach.”

___________

Commercials, Famous People & Politicians

A commercial comes on the television and J exclaims, “Mom, come in the living room- quick!”

“What? What is it?”

J: “This stuff is for you! You should get it. It’s for hair loss.”

___________

E: “I’m five now. Do you know what that means I can do? I can watch the movie IT.”

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“Who has a birthday party at THAT age?” said while watching the Spiderman movie and hearing Jamie Foxx’s line about his birthday party.

___________

E: “I want to watch Deadpool even though it’s inappropriate. Can you tell me again why it’s inappropriate?

Me: It’s inappropriate for lots of reasons. For starters, there are lots of bad words.

E: Well, I’m going to be the Director of an inappropriate movie about Washington D.C. and there will be lots of bad words.”

___________

E: “Why can’t Donald Trump just be nice? His ties are nice. I like his ties.”

___________

E: “Can we steal a body from that graveyard? I want to make a real Frankenstein.”

Everyday Observations

“Why is that guy trying to make you fall in love with him?” Said my eight year old about the restaurant manager of a diner we frequent.

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E: “Mom, I got sweaty AND handsome today…. just like Harry Styles.”

___________

At bedtime, as I’m getting into my son’s bed to lie next to him, he says, “Stop, wait!”

“How come?” I ask while giving him a death stare and wondering what he’s trying to negotiate for now;more snacks, water, bathroom, etc.

“Take a load off. Go get your comfy cozies on so you can relax while you’re putting me to bed.”

____________

J: “Mom, your memory is so bad.”

Me: “I know, I forgot I already got the milk out and just opened the fridge to get the milk again.”

J: “Mom, what did I just say?”

I repeat back what he’s just said and give him a quizzical look.

J: “Just checking your memory.”

_____________

E: “I got sent to the principal’s office and I didn’t run away from her! I wasn’t even scared!”

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J: “Is there such thing as kid jail? How bad is it?”

____________

E: “Mom, can you go away and never come back? I only want Daddy now. It’s better that way.”

____________

J: “What’s re-incarnated mean again?” We explain reincarnation….

“OK, then I’m definitely reincarnated. I think I’m the last survivor of the Titanic. She died a few weeks before I was born.”

____________

“Who is Harvey Weinstein?” my five year old asked after overhearing an NPR news bite.

Me (so many different ways to approach this one): “A man that says inappropriate stuff to women.”

He sits quietly with that answer for a minute. “Oh, yeah. You mean like the stuff Daddy says to you?”

____________

While the family is busting out dance moves in the kitchen, “Stop!” J says.

“Why, we’re having fun?” I ask.

“Because only I can be the cool one.”