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Hope Grows in Rocky Soil, Part II, The Storm Hits

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“When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person that walked in. That’s what the storm is all about.~Haruki Murakami

Hello, my littles! Last we chatted, Dennis had woken up in a state of great, confusion and distress, in Winnipeg, MB Canada. We were one hour north of the city, in cottage country, far from any medical help, and Dennis was insisting on getting up and walking! He had a crazy look in his eyes, like he wasn’t quite sure of what was going on. I tried to explain to him that he couldn’t get up and walk, but he was adamant that he needed to move, so all of us at the cottage took turns rocking him. He seemed mostly lucid, but was always agitated by his need to move. Dr. Harry Janzen is a retired obstetrician/gynecologist, and lifelong family friend, who has a cottage down the street from my parents. Surely, a lady parts Dr. would be able to fix what was going on neurologically, with an advanced MS patient. Perhaps Dennis was going through “male menopause “? Harry had a look at Dennis,  and instructed me to call his neurologist in Atlanta and give him a Xanax. Nothing changed. So, I took the Xanax (just kidding), maybe … At this point Dennis started feeling nauseous, probably all the rocking, so I gave him a Zofran. Zofran is a cannabis based medication used for nausea after chemotherapy. That, mixed with the Xanax, plus being confused, made him a little goofy. Seeing my distress, he told me to take some Zofran, “All the cool kids are doing it”. Finally he drifted off. Thank goodness, we all thought. I started eating pancakes and relaxing, when not even ten minutes later, I heard a voice from the porch “LEE! I need to get up now!!!” Damn …

Time to get medical help! An ambulance was called from the nearest “emergency room” (as in a great place to go if you broke your leg, or had poison ivy on your ass, not for complex neurological events).  The emergency doctor, Dr. Ali, assessed Dennis and gave him a sedative, which only made him crazier. We needed to go to the actual city, which was 90 minutes away. Dr. Ali was a kind man and wanted to accompany us to the city; he was very concerned about Dennis. Dr. Ali told the ambulance driver he had to get a few things and to pick him up at his house on our way. So, we stopped by the Ali’s on our way.  It was hilarious … there were 3 cute, little, brown kids jumping up and down yelling, “Bye, Daddy! Feel better, Mr.” Dr. Ali jumped  in, and we were on our way.

I was wedged up front between two paramedics, and I quickly realized the girl driving was TRAINING! I know, without a doubt, that the 90 minute ride to the city took years off of my life, and probably added grey hairs to my head (thankfully, we’ll never know)! Dennis was in the back blabbering to Dr. Ali about needing to walk, and I was in the front frozen in terror as the paramedic told the rookie driver, “Don’t worry, they’ll stop. Just keep going through the red light.” He was, however, nice enough to hold my sweaty hand and supply tissues the whole way to the city. What a mess. Somehow, by the grace of God, we made it to the emergency room. By this time, Dennis was in full blown hysteria, banging his good arm up and down on the side of his stretcher until he was bloody. I had chosen my outfit very poorly. l was dressed like I was going to Coachella, not the Emergency room, in ripped, jean shorts, a gauzy peasant blouse, and sandals (accessorized nicely with silver, boho, jewelry, BTW). I was freezing, covered in blood and heading towards hysteria right along with Dennis.

You know how some Dr.’s have the gift of being able to calm you merely by their presence? The neurologist they called in, Dr. Brian Schmidt, was blessedly one of those. He showed me Dennis’ MRI, and the entire posterior of his brain was covered in what looked like dark, ominous, storm clouds. This was very serious. Dr. Schmidt told me later, they didn’t know who to sedate first, Dennis or me! Dennis was declining, going in and out of consciousness, and still very agitated. At this point we had been at the hospital for two days. They attempted to start a central line but Dennis was so dehydrated they couldn’t. The Dr.’s decided Dennis was in imminent danger and needed to be put into a chemically induced coma with a ventilator to breathe for him and a feeding tube, so his body could rest while they tried to figure out what the heck was going on. They sent me for a cup of tea, still in my bloody outfit, with a blanket wrapped around me. I must have looked super pathetic because the cashier told me the tea was on the house. When I came back to ICU, this was the scene awaiting me. hell3

And, I lost my shit …

Dennis has always assumed he will leave this planet before me; sometimes, just to prove him wrong, I hope I go first (I can be a sassy pants). Dennis is generally a loving and caring husband, and he worries excessively about if I will be OK in his absence. It occurred to me, at that moment, looking at him unconscious, condition spiraling downward, that perhaps this was some spiritual plan on Dennis’ behalf. I was back in Canada, among my people; all my siblings, parents and much extended family live here. I know if Dennis had the ability to pick his exit strategy, it would be here where I had a lot of support. Well! If he thought I was going to go back to GA, with him in a Tim Horton’s Coffee can, he was sorely mistaken! The next 28 days were a blur of  doctors, nurses, tests and one surgery. At the worst point, Dennis, 7 days after his surgery, had still not woken up! At night, his blood pressure was spiking to stroke levels. His body had quit digesting food from his feeding tube, and his kidneys were beginning to fail.

Journal Entry August 16, 2014

Stream of Conciousness from the ICU

What is this alternate universe we have landed on?

a 12×12 torture chamber, of blinking and buzzing lights, assaulting the senses.

I feel like a wounded animal trapped in a cage, the pain is so fierce.

breath by breath, test by test, waves of alternating hope and despair

And yet my love lies there quietly, in the shadowlands between life and death 

 you are not done! we are not done! don’t let go!

Come back , come back, Damn it come back to me!

Just once more come back from the edge, come back to our life.

No, not letting go, we are not finished!

Love can, indeed, make us freaking, fierce warriors!

Thankfully, due to our windfall from Unum Insurance, I could afford to stay at the hotel connected by a tunnel to the hospital. I would usually stagger in around 4:00 or 5:00 am. Typically, Dennis’ blood pressure started spiking dangerously high around midnight and finally settled down when the sun was coming up. There were many, many angels that helped us through this month. Kindness and care were in great abundance, and Dennis received extraordinary care. I will be forever grateful to the staff at Health Sciences Centre, Winnipeg.

There are way too many people to thank … family, nurses, doctors, and friends. But, I want to thank one in particular. Many moons ago, when I was still living in Winnipeg, Kyle and Amanda’s Dad and I went through a fiercely painful time. To help get through those tough days, I listened over and over again to Steve Bell, a Canadian Christian singer.  To be perfectly honest, I’m not usually a big fan of Christian music; it’s just not my jam. Steve has a very different style. I would describe it as humble, plaintive, and comforting. Steve’ lyrical and beautiful music was like a lifeboat for me to cling to, in the midst of a violent storm.

My brother, Andrew, is an independent film maker, and he has done a documentary on Steve called Burning Ember, so they are friends. One day, in the ICU, I got a text from my brother to go up to the Starbucks. Looking like road kill, I headed to the Starbucks. Whhhhhhaaaatttttt!!!! Steve Bell was standing there!!! Of course, in my mind, we were total besties; I mean, we had spent countless hours together! I completely forgot he had never met me and didn’t know what I looked like! While waiting for his coffee, he found himself wrestled into an intense bear hug from a tall, (slightly crazy from sleep deprivation), weeping woman. He was so very gracious! We had coffee and talked and talked. I couldn’t believe it. I was having a conversation with someone whose angelic voice had soaked my soul in hope through a very dark time. Here he was, in the flesh, encouraging me again … what a sweet, humble, human being. That day, Steve Bell was an angel for me. I just wish I had at least had mascara on!

Burning ember

I remember Love’s first light in me. 

I was cold then

like a stone when I saw your flickering

Burn forever.

Let me never curse the pain You bring

Somehow I know

I will be whole in Your burning

Steve Bell, album: Burning Ember

My parents and my children will tell you that they had no idea how serious this whole episode was, and that I didn’t really share what was going on. I don’t remember consciously deciding to withhold anything, but I do remember feeling that if I verbalized all my fears and how close to death Dennis really was, some invisible layer between internal fears and reality would be broken. The truth exposed … I would no longer be able to control things and would completely unravel. I know, I know Dibbuns, that’s crazy talk. Fear makes us all a little crazy.

I began to wage my own little war. I prayed and prayed, and begged and begged for Dennis to wake up. I’m embarrassed to admit I resorted to trying to blackmailing an unconscious man! I gave Dennis a list of scenarios that I felt might inspire him to regain consciousness:

  1. If you don’t wake up I’m going to get a breast reduction; generally, that would work on most husbands.
  2. Katie is engaged to a high school dropout who is in a Garth Brooks cover band. WAKE UP AND STOP THE WEDDING!
  3. It’s 2016. It’s an election year, it’s a tie, and your vote is needed to break it!!! (This threat proved to be very counter productive once he woke up.) 😑
  4. I’m NEVER going to forgive you if you die!!!
  5. If you wake up, I will go to any country concert you want to, yes, even Marty Stuart! We went 2 years later, and (don’t tell Dennis, but I loved every second of it)!

Still, my handsome husband continued to slumber on, like sleeping beauty. Time to bring in the big guns! I called Dennis’ life long friend, Phil Holdbrooks, and said “I need Katie, Dennis’ baby, here, now!” Within an hour, this true friend had Katie booked on a flight to Winnipeg. I told Dennis, Katie will be devastated if she comes and you’re still in a coma. You better WAKE your red neck ass up!

Hallelujah, praise be! I came down at 6:00 am a few days later, 22 days after arriving in emergency, and Dennis had opened his eyes! Dennis had one on one care in the ICU, so the nurses and I had been together so much that they felt like family. We were all hugging and smiling. Thank heavens!!!! Katie got there that afternoon. My body and soul were depleted, and I needed her. They took his breathing tube out, and slowly in the next days, his kidneys and stomach began to function properly again. What an incredible relief! Dennis had turned away from the light (or maybe I dragged him away from it). There were only two problems; one, he was completely paralyzed, and two, his brains were scrambled eggs. He knew who I was, but was confused about everything else. He kept saying it was 2016! (I told you that was a mistake 😑). He also thought we were in Greenville, South Carolina? None the less, imminent danger had passed, but … we were 1,600 miles from home (remember we drove). Dennis’ complete paralysis made him unable to drive his wheelchair. There was no way to know if he would get the function of his one working limb back. Oh, and he was having a lot of bizarre delusions. One he repeated for several days was he was convinced he had accidentally killed a innocent, little, Hispanic boy, and the Federalis were after him!? Over the next week, a lot of crazy, mysterious things happened. The gong show portion of this crazy journey had begun …

Coming soon … part 3, The Long Way Back to Georgia …

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              Come celebrate La Vie en Rose, as Dennis and I dance! April 28th, 5pm,                           The Wellstar fitness park (beside Woodstock Elementary)
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It’s Spring!!! … Time for a story about guardian angels!

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Shhh … I’m Here

Angels seem to be everywhere lately!  My neighbor, friend and artist, Jo Petty, gave me this beautiful, “bright, shiny” angel for my 50th birthday.  The title of her painting, Shhh … I’m Here, was both poignant and instrumental in my desire to share with you, my dibbuns, my guardian angel story of miraculous events. I am hoping and praying that you will all have miracles, both small and big, in your lives and that you will allow yourselves to be awed by the mysterious workings of the universe.

Hope Grows in Rocky Soil!

The hard, cold ground and the woolly, sharp winter is giving way to a new season. Spring sings the chorus of rebirth and new life. All around us are colors and smells of sunshine, warmth and freshness. Possibilities seem endless, and the sweet scent of hope is in the air.

Oh, wait … before I begin, a word of warning. It turns out that for me writing is much like throwing up. Once I start, it is impossible for me to stop until everything that needs to come out is out! So, I have decided to break this story up into three parts. Think of this post as a box of fun-size snickers as opposed to one big one. Of course, you’re going to eat the whole box, but somehow it feels like less! So, little chickadees, get a beverage of your choice, and if possible, go sit outside in the splendor of spring and let’s talk about angels and miracles!

Oma: Noun. Grandmother, Grandma among people of German ancestry.  (Interglot .com)

I was unbelievably blessed in my life to have two Omas. I thought of them as my “country” Oma and my “city” Oma. My “country” Oma (my Dad’s mom) lived on a farm in the small prairie town of LaSalle in Manitoba, Canada. The “city” Oma lived in the big city of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The house in the city was an amazing three-story house … complete with a turret room that seemed like a castle to us grand-kids.

Some day, we will talk about my “city” Oma, but this story is about my “country” Oma … Oma Wall. Oma Wall passed away when I was 13. I have nothing but warm, lovely memories of her. I’m sure she was human and had faults, but my experience as a granddaughter was that she was a sanctuary of love and comfort. Going to the farm to see Oma Wall was so very special! Oma was an amazing cook and baker of all the ethnic specialites from my culture … platz, porzilche, and unbelievably soft and delicious zwiebach. These were always readily available, and indulging was encouraged.

Oma and Opa’s country house was a rural wonderland for my cousins, siblings and me. There were soft baby kittens and chicks in the Spring, a huge garden full of vegetables, and fields of cheerful, smiling sunflowers. During those frigid, cold Canadian winters on the farm, my Uncles and my Dad took us snowmobiling and skating on the creek.

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Me, my cousin, Julia, my Uncle Edwin, my cousin, Carolyn … Who isn’t jealous of that awesome furry hat?! … my cousin, Christine, and my big sister, Carla. How Canadian are we?!

When you got to spend the night at the farm, after filling your tummy with warm, comfort food, Oma Wall tucked you into bed with cozy flannel, handmade blankets. Sounds of crickets filled the air and the stars shone their brightest at the farm, uninterrupted by harsh city lights. Drifting off to the land of dreams in Oma’s plump, downy beds are some of my loveliest childhood memories.

Fast forward … oh, about 35 years. I am married to Dennis and living in Woodstock, Ga. Dennis had been working as a para-professional in the special ed department at Woodstock High School. In the winter of 2014, Dennis starting unraveling physically. One day at school, the teacher he worked with couldn’t wake him up; he had fallen asleep in his chair helping a student. He was exhausted and his MS was progressing.

We made the painful decision for Dennis to go on disability. He had worked for years when no one else in his condition would have worked. We thought between his Social Security Income and his disability, which we were informed would be 60% of his paycheck, we would be OK. Unfortunately, we were misinformed about the projected 60% disability amount, and it would end up only being $100 a month.  Because the disability payments were significantly less than projected, we felt like our world had crumbled beneath us.

Being disabled is unbelievably expensive! Just a few examples … the chair Dennis rides around in costs $26,000. His Botox (no not for his face, for his withering arm) is $3,000 a treatment, every three months. Now that Dennis has had pressure sores, he has necessary expensive bandages. And, our accessible van costs double the price for a conversion van. It’s estimated that it costs $4.1 million dollars in a lifetime for someone to live with Multiple Sclerosis in the United States. I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

We have been very fortunate in our lives.  Most people in our situation are barely making it; they usually cannot afford the equipment and medications they need and have next to no help.  We have had help from family all along the way, and we have done whatever we could to help make ends meet … catering, a tile business, massage therapy, eBay store, working for the tax assessors board, and even running a coffee stand at the local farmers market. We want to support ourselves as much as possible.

We had two choices … one was Dennis could go back to work full-time (which physically wasn’t going to be an option) or, two, I could go back to work (which would involve getting someone to stay with him while I was gone), making it hardly worth my while. Never mind, I would be so exhausted I would have unraveled like a skein of yarn. Dennis and I were so confused; all the signs had pointed to him retiring. Oh, what to do? I remember, vividly, being in the shower looking out my little window that looks up to the sky and saying out loud, “OK, gang up there supporting us … Mimi, Pop, Omas and Opas … any chance you could shake some change loose and do something down here?” I was anxious, but as an unrealistic, optimist wearing my rose colored glasses, I was sure something would work out. How right I was!

Two weeks before this shit show all unfolded, Dennis had a phone call from a woman from Unum Insurance Company. Apparently, she had been looking for us for at least the last 5 years. At our old house, we had received some letters from them, but Dennis knew nothing about the company, so we threw them out! The lady said that Unum had bought out a company where Dennis had taken out a policy 20 years before … a policy he had forgotten all about! It had been a policy his employer had insisted Dennis take out; being as cheap as he is, he bitched about the small cost to be deducted from every paycheck. Unum was doing an audit, and they needed some information. She sounded rather vague and neither of us thought much of it. It seemed like they needed to file some paperwork for their audit, so I filled out the paperwork and sent it back in.

Back to figuring out how Dennis and I were going to live.

A week after the bad news from the county, the lady from the insurance company called back. All those years ago, Dennis had signed up for a policy that would pay if he became a quadriplegic (among other things). WOOOOHOOO! Pop the corks and fire up the pig cooker!!! We were entitled to an extra $800 a month! We were still short, but it was doable. Praise The Lord and pass the Cannollis! Oh wait, she said there is more! What could be better? I thought maybe they were going to send me a nurse entirely devoted to rubbing our feet and watching Masterpiece Theatre with me! Dennis was sitting in bed with the phone on speaker, and I was standing in front of him listening to the conversation. “We sincerely apologize that we have been unable to find you until now, and we also owe you back payment. DRAMATIC PAUSE … … … no, really … she took a very DRAMATIC PAUSE. “You will be receiving a check for $98,000!” I literally fell to my knees crying. I knew something would work out, but not it my wildest dreams did I anticipate this freaking miracle. I remember my entire body was tingling, and Dennis sat there in disbelief … pale and shaken, as if he had seen a ghost. I’m not sure I have ever seen Dennis speechless before!

The name of the Unum Insurance lady who so diligently tracked us down long after others would have given up and checked the can’t locate box, was named Helen Cordosi. OOOOHHHH!! I got chills throughout my entire body when I made the connection. This woman who saved the day, came out of nowhere, and granted my wish shared my Oma Wall’s name … Helen! And, my dibbuns, here’s another tidbit for you … Helen means “bright, shiny” one.

You can say it was a coincidence; that’s fine with me. Sometimes, it seems that life is grey and hard and nothing more than a series of unrelated misadventures, and … sometimes, I might even agree with you. Most days, however, I really truly believe Dennis and I were the blessed recipients of an other worldly movement. Later on in this story, I will add another piece to this.

In my mind, the soul definitely does go on, and if that’s true all those souls floating around us must move things in our favor once in awhile … don’t you think? Sometimes, if you pay attention, you may even be able to feel the feather light, celestial touches of angel wings brushing us as they pass by. I know I felt it on the day Helen called.calm

Now, I know my dear dibbuns, right now you are all on your knees praying to any dead relatives you can think of, politely asking for some sort of payday. I’m sure you are all imploring Old Aunt Netty who smelled like cats and cough syrup, your Grandpa Winston who had a glass eye he loved to take out at parties, or whoever it is up there, to open their purses and rain down money from heaven, but get up! There is more to my story!

After the BIG news from good old Helen, Dennis and I were on our way, by van, to Canada for a month. Ya, that was my brilliant idea, taking a quadriplegic 26 hours to another country sounds awesome; I mean what could possibly go wrong? Turns out a lot! I literally put a signed check for $98,000 in the night deposit box on our way out of town. Financial crisis averted! I had the love of my life wedged into the van between a toilet chair and a Hoyer lift, and we were on our way to my favorite place on earth, Victoria Beach, Canada. We were giddy with relief, and I checked our bank balance every chance I could just to make sure it had not all been a dream. Oh, and kids, this is very important!! What goes around, most definitely comes around. Right off the top we gave 10% to charity. Not because we are saints, but because that is how the universe works. I don’t make the rules, I just try to follow them.

We entertained ourselves on the long drive by coming up with marvelously frivolous ways to squander our money. Dennis wanted to go to Vegas and put it all on black. I (as usual) was far more reasonable (not). I thought we should take all our money and produce the one woman show I have long dreamed of. Well … no I can’t sing, dance or act. I figured I would put a tiara on my head, take a shot of tequila and wait for the muse of entertainment to arrive. Plus, I JUST WANT TO! And, we’re temporarily rich!!! So many great ideas, and we had lots of time to figure it out, right?

We had been at the cottage for two weeks, and my son and his girlfriend arrived on Saturday night. It was time to fish, play guerrilla monopoly, enjoy my son and family, and bask in the joy of life and stunning prairie sunsets over vast Lake Winnipeg. Sunday morning, Dennis woke up and said “Lee, I have to get up. I have to get up and move, I HAVE TO WALK NOW!!!”. He was frantic and extremely serious. Dennis hadn’t walked in 14 years. Alarm bells were going off inside me; something REALLY scary was starting. The real drama was just beginning …

I am stopping here. Obviously, Dennis is fine. He is in the other room watching some dreadful show with country singers in toupees, who are a breath from death and wearing more sequins than Vegas show girls. He is yelling, “Lee-Lee, when is it time for cookies, cuddling and Netflix?”  The rest of this story changed Dennis and I forever … and spoiler alert … more surprises ahead. So until next time, here is an invitation to come see Dennis and I complete task number #6 … Dance with Dennis standing up! Anyone who wants to come is more than welcome, April 28th at 5:00 p.m. in the Woodstock Elementary School park.  Please RSVP so I have a ballpark idea of what to expect.

We have figured out a way to hang Dennis from a tree … oh, that doesn’t sound good! We have figured out a way to suspend Dennis from a tree using a harness! Please come join us as we dance in the park. I would love it if you wore pink, but I’m not going to require it (I may secretly think you’re a party pooper though!).

See you then, nuggets!hustle

La Vie En Rose: Life in the pink, or life with rose colored glasses

April 28th, 2018 at the Woodstock Elementary Park at 5 p.m. RSVP: leana67@hotmail.com

And, never forget …chicks

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Millennial Mayhem.

When I lived in Calgary, Alberta I took an aquacize class once a week. It was a bit of a strange class in that the teacher stood on the side of the pool, fully dressed, and shrieked orders to us through a headset. One of her favorite things to do was to point her finger at a specific student and bellow, “Dig hard.” This was our cue, we were the star of the moment, time to hit the gas, step it up and paddle, flail, kick, bob, or fling our pool noodle, as fast as we could. For about 30 seconds everyone else floated like turtles on their backs, while you attempted to raise your heat rate, splashing like you had bees in your bathing suit.

One day, we were swimming away, working on a particularly boisterous move of treading water while waving our pool noodles back and forth above our heads. The whistle blew and it was my moment! The amazonish instructor pointed at me, and it was on! I could barely see her through all the splashing I was doing, but I could see she wasn’t satisfied and kept pointing at me aggressively and repeatedly. Ok, I thought, I will kick it up a notch. I gave it even more but she just kept pointing. “For heavens sake woman I’m giving you all I have!” More pointing, more splashing. Weirdly, the other turtles seemed really impressed with my efforts, and were watching with their mouths open. Finally, when I was completely out of breath and almost ready to call Uncle, the instructor  covered her mic up, bent over to the edge of the pool and said “Mam, your breast has come out of your bathing suit!” Ohhhhhhh I got it!. I had being swinging my rogue breast all over the place for the last 30 seconds, like a  bingo ball in one of those little bingo ball cages.

Alas, this (true story) is an excellent metaphor for my life. I think I’m doing great, totally winning at life, but in reality all everyone else sees is, well ……a boob, flailing around, not accomplishing much. Oh well, the maximum amount of people to witness this display of grace, was probably 30, if that. Today, if this happened, somebody would have pulled out there phone for sure. By that evening I would have had my mono boob plastered all over social media. #areolaaquacize, #momfail, #unaboober

This is the world our millennial have grown up in. A 24/7 global world, of constant documentation. Technology has shaped their psyche and infiltrated their thoughts to their very core. The world is barely recognizable from my big haired, Commodore 64, landline phone, youth (aka generation x).

Thus, I have embarked on a journey to a better understanding of this brave new world our kids inhabit. I looked for a millennial to interview in search of some insight, and as I told you, Hailey Hannigan walked right in through my door! Serendipity!F281ECDA-FCED-4B68-A3F1-57CBC78A702E

Task #5 or De-Mystifying the next generation or the Misunderstood Millennial

Hailey Hannigan, is a long time family friend. I met her when she was a cutie patootie with blonde braids, big blue eyes and was in the second grade. Hailey, graduated from Georgia State and then went to Thailand to teach English. When she came back her parents were moving to Charlotte, so we asked if she would like to stay with us while she decided what her next move was.

Dennis feels I’m stacking the deck by picking Hailey as my millenial representative, she is beautiful, funny, smart and kind.  I tried to interview this guy, Brandon,

gamer-stereotypes-lazy-and-unmotivated
Urban outfitter jeans 90$, Haircut 50$, Gap t-shirt 20$ Xbox 360 $500 tribal tattoo $800 Annual income: $0

Brandon is 32, he lives in his parent’s basement, he calls it a his “private apartment” (although he pays no rent). He has a degree in communications (after six years and three colleges). He’s thinking about being a Dolphin trainer or starting an online global business.

The last time Brandon actually spoke to a live human (his Mom, Lorraine, doesn’t count) was in 2015. If you would like to hire him, Lorraine says to contact her, Brandon doesn’t do phone conversations due to his social anxiety (thus the heavy weed consumption). His mom was extremely busy when I talked to her about interviewing him, she was applying for jobs for him, doing his laundry, and heating up hot pockets to take to him in the basement. She told him to call me but he never did.

So, I had the pleasure of going out with Hailey for dinner a few times, while she lived with us, and I got a chance to ask her all kinds of questions.

To be honest I was quite surprised by her answers. First question was, “what do you think of the world today?” Hailey: “It’s amazing!” me: “No sweet girl, not the one in your head.” In the world in my head, animals can talk and ride bikes and everyone gets a fairy to keep in their pocket.

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Prunella, my imaginary fairy!

“The world we are really living in”.

                                                                 Not this hot mess ⬇️

phones
Pictures with the cell phones removed

So, I composed a letter. Hailey was confused by this concept and we lost time on this project as she kept looking for a text from me. The actual physical letter came back to me as Hailey wasn’t aware there was “stuff in that box”. So I typed it out and sent it to her cell phone in text.

Dear millennial, next generation representative, Hailey,

It’s strange to think I have moved into the “older generation” category. Just yesterday I was young, fired up and ready to change this giant ball of spinning matter. I am watching you launch into adult life, and to be honest, I feel like as a group you are struggling. Geez, so much angst and FOMO (fear of missing out). I don’t know, but it seems like you guys are struggling to make decisions and get your adult lives started.

My generation (Gen X) definitely shoulders some of the blame on that. At times we were  definitely waaaaaaaaay too involved in your life. Shoot we practically put out an Amber alert if we couldn’t find you after ten minutes. We knew pretty much everything going on in your lives (since we creeped you on all forms of social media). When we even got a whiff of the smell of failure we swooped in and talked to the teacher, talked to the kid’s parent, helped you with the homework, bitched for more playing time for you, stalked you at every sporting event and practice, basically whenever you were uncomfortable we moved heaven and earth to fix it.

Us gen Xers told you that you could do anything you wanted. That’s not true. Everybody has some inherent constraints to what they are able to achieve. My parents, told me I could be a white, Mennonite girl from Canada. So I guess you could say I’m a grand success! The truth is you can do some of what you want. We told you, you were special. You are special, to the people that matter in your life. The world on other hand, is rather indifferent to you. We constantly wanted you to be happy without much effort, as if happiness is something you can buy at Starbucks. “I”ll have the Venti Double Happiness, please”. You must learn to create your own happiness, sometimes out of thin air and even when people and circumstances are working against you.

I fear, maybe, we made adulting sound like some grand adventure with no hardwork, dissapointment or failure. Hard work, disappointment and failure are a lot of what ADULTING IS! The adventure is mastering them and crafting a meaningful life. That may not sound like fun, and yes it’s boring alot. Behaving like an adult though is so much more than fun, it’s finding purpose. Fun is just the dessert you get to have after eating the main course of finding your soul’s path.

We told each other, at the time, that everything we did was for you. That’s not entirely true either. Absolutely, we loved you so much it hurt. Truthfully, however, we felt like we were reluctant participants in some sort of the parenthood Olympics. It was, travel this, travel that, programs for the “gifted” kids, trophies that weighed more than you did. Who could have the best and the brightest kids, who could volunteer the most, who could never miss one single game, practice, show.

None of these things are bad in moderation, but my generation took it all to a new level. I mean did any of your teachers really believe you guys made those projects on your own??? A scale reproduction of the space shuttle (complete with rocket blasters) from a first grader? Somehow we thought any failure or weakness on your part was a reflection on us and how well we parented you. We were living vicariously through you kids and it felt really, really, normal.

What we should have emphasized was that, you are on your own journey. And as much as we want to, so badly it makes our hearts constrict, we cannot take this journey with you. Our role as parents is to guide and support you, but it’s your responsibility to find your way. The hardest thing for us is we may not really like the path you choose and that’s okay (providing it’s not harming anyone). It is in this way that YOU are our greatest adventure!. Learning to step back and take our own feelings and expectations out of the equation and let you discover yourself, the hard way, is our greatest challenge. I am absolutely positive this will be so until our dying breaths.

That’s where I feel our generation went wrong (despite loving you more than you will ever understand, until you have your own wee dibbuns). What do you think? What do you think we got right? How are you feeling about your generation taking over in the next 20-30 years? Tell me what you would like me and my generation understand.

millennials???
I had to make a trophy for Hailey so she would participate!

P.S. did someone tell you that there is a device in your phone that will trigger a nuclear war if your phone is further than 20 feet away from you? Why on earth do you post pictures of the food you eat? And what exactly does “hooking up” entail? (keep it PG, Oma is reading.

P.P.S Can you try and put your parents in the same home as me? I really like them, they would probably put up with me pretty well and they are used to going along with the games I make people play at my parties!

Sincerely,

Leana aka Generation X representative

Dear Leana and Generation X,

First and foremost thank you for the opportunity to guest write on your blog. To start us off I wrote this poem:

being a millennial

is a lot like being a perennial

because if you’re a millennial

right now, today

that means you’ve lived more than two years

Now that you’ve read the worst analogy ever written, I’ll continue. My name is Hailey Hannigan, I am a millennial who lived with Leana, sheltered for one month when I returned from teaching English in Thailand. I am friends with Leana through means of her lovely daughter Amanda who is my #Bestie4ThaRestie.

Being a millennial is finally awesome because we’re now at the stage in our life when generation Z (the one after us), gets collectively dumped on by the nation and we get to watch. We may be unable to afford mortgages but at least we don’t eat laundry detergent pods.

Personally, I enjoy being a millennial. However, I’m blind to all of our generational weak spots because that part of my brain holds the memories to my YMCA soccer awards ceremonies. I say “PARTICIPATION”, you say “TROPHIES.” Go team orange.

I’ll admit, we do have a big weak spot. Our collective Achilles’ heal is voicemails. Watching a millennial try and leave a coherent voicemail is about as much fun as watching your generation takeover the Facebook.com. We also have a strange aversion to doorbells. We just text, “here” and expect you to greet us at the door. Don’t ask me to knock on your door or leave a voicemail.

Generation X, the kids are all alright. We know that we can’t do anything we want, but we’re learning that we can do some of what we want. And what we want is a lot of Netflix.

But above all, I would like to thank your generation. As parents, you guys loved us a lot. When we were toddlers you would bring us to restaurants even before the invention of the iPad!

Because of your hard work, millennials are the most educated generation of all time. More people are able to attend university and pursue higher education degrees than every before. Beyond that, you guys taught us to care about our fellow man. Millennials donate more money and spend more time volunteering in our free time than any other generation. We also are better at saving and budgeting than generations before us.

You guys stayed at so many 4 hour swim meets for a 1 minute race to ensure that we were happy, healthy, challenged, and socialized and that didn’t make the world a worse place! But it most definitely did use up a lot of your Saturdays and for that I would like to say thank you. When I think of the generations before me and their sacrifices, I think of this:

“We are an immigrant nation! The first generation works their fingers to the bone making things, the next generation goes to college and innovates new ideas, and the third generation goes snowboarding and takes improv classes.” – Jack Donaghy, 30 Rock

I know that everyone in my generation has heard that we are the worst people to ever exist. We stay on our phones too much, we aren’t buying houses or diamonds, we eat too many avocados, and we’re moving back in with our parents. But on the other side of that coin is the INTERNET! I think that we are living in an unprecedented age where the Internet has allowed us to connect in ways that were not possible.

The spread of ideas and knowledge through the Internet has allowed for exponential growth and improvement in tons of arenas. I can’t think of a single sector of humanity that has not been impacted by the Internet.

For a millisecond after typing that sentence I thought, “Well, what about religion? Pretty sure Catholic mass hasn’t changed in literally hundreds of years.” And then I remembered I follow the pope on Instagram.

New industries are being born everyday, and olds ones are getting improved in tons of ways. Because we are better connected than ever before, I believe that we feel more responsible for other people. We want to leave the world a better place. We see natural disasters moments they strike. We make our own websites for the online businesses we create. We teach English online to kids in China for $16/hour as a side gig. We learn how to create apps. Generation Z is learning how to code in elementary school now!

The world is a different place but it’s not a bad place. Now, to answer some of your questions:

“Did someone tell you that their is a device in your phone that will trigger a nuclear war if your phone is further than 20 feet away from you?”

how-people-ignored-each-other-before-smartphones

All that human interaction we’ve missed out on thanks to the invention of cell phones. There is an inverse relationship between my personal happiness and how much small talk I have to engage in throughout the day. Also, as recent events have proved, cell phones were the only thing warning people of the threat of imminent nuclear war! BOOM.

“Why on earth do you post pictures of the food you eat?” 

Money can’t buy me happiness or a boyfriend but it can buy me a burrito bowl so

“…and what exactly does “hooking up entail?”

Don’t tell anyone I told you. The phrase “hooking up” comes from secret “hooking up” parties. At these parties, millennials take their non dominant hand and curl it into a hook. They then thrust their hook hands upwards as a means to get closer to heaven.

depositphotos_1898231-stock-photo-young-woman-with-hands-ina millennial “hooking up”

” Can you try and put your parents in the same home as me?”

OF COURSE! Rumor has it that geriatric hooking up parties are on the up and up!

Love ur Millennial Friend,

Hailey

Turns out this group isn’t so bad after all. Millenials want to work smarter not harder so they can enjoy life. They are independent thinkers, who want experiences not material things. Technology has allowed them to see the bigger picture, and understand things from a global perspective.

These kids, generally, really want to make the world a better place.  You know what, I believe a lot of them are going to! They are, however, going to do it their own way and in their own time. They will probably be taking selfies of their hipster beards while listening to wrap music that makes your ears bleed and drinking craft beer but these kids are going to shake things up. Maybe us in the older generation need to quit focusing on the negative and celebrate what makes this generation unique. Because you know what they are the only future that we have. Plus, I personally know they could hold us all hostage by refusing to help us with technology, I for one would like to be able to have my drone do my laundry (and you know they will have to show us)! Also, they will be raising our grandchildren so we can’t give up on them. Let’s be supportive, let’s listen to their ideas, let’s understand EVERY generation bemoans the one coming after them, and you know what the world keeps on spinning!

Now for some millenial speak.

IMO, BTW, I’m SMH and LMAO , how OBV negative towards millenials we have been. TIL, and got WOKE, IRL these kids are GTG  more than we think, even though they aren’t on fleek . So Yolo, don’t be salty, get on board the millenial bus, it’s going to be turnt

Translation from Millennial into English

In my opinion, by the way, I’m shaking my head and laughing my ass off, how obviously negative towards millenials we have been. Today I learned, and understood, in real life, these kids are good to go more than we think, even though they aren’t perfect. So you only life once, don’t be bitter, get on board the millenial bus, it’s going to be awesome!

#squadgoals #millenialsmakingwaves #hopeforthefuture

Lots of love my  kittens,

Love Mummy, Auntie Lee-Lee, or Goose

xoxo, oh and don’t forget…

duck
Take Heart, we’re all in this together!
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Well I guess I won’t have any secrets left after you read this! NOT a task, just a little chat, from Auntie Lee-Lee, about ‘The Imperfect Art of Care-giving!’

confessions-e1511461301161This post isn’t on my list of things to do before 50, but I have been feeling nudged by my intuition to write a post on this subject. If you have any form of attachment whatsoever to another human being –  Congratulations!!!! YOU WILL BE A CAREGIVER AT SOME POINT IN YOUR LIFE. So, perhaps I can help, if only as a what not to do cautionary tale. My intuition, I call her Gert, can be quite the nag. Gert, has been tickling the back of my brain with thoughts of a little chat about caregiving. In my mind this is what Gert looks like (below).  These are some of the typical faces she gives me as I stumble through life.

gert5
“Are you sure you want to do that, Possum?”
gert4
“OH YES DO IT LUV!!!” YOU WILL BE GLAD!
gert8
“I’m telling you, I don’t care that person is saying nice things, they’re full of shit, Gumdrop!”
gert7
“This might be hard but it’s the right thing, you’re doing good Petunia.”

Whenever I ignore her, she’s impossible (and yes this is all going on in my head on a daily basis). So to make Gert happy, let’s have our little talk, Oh, one more thing, although we have established that I am a natural caregiver, just because the intention is there doesn’t mean my efforts don’t get screwed up, ……often. In preparations for what you are about to read, I want you to know that I checked with the National Disability Abuse and Neglect Hotline (before you try and report me) and they said that while they may consider taking Dennis out of my care, you should know they will be placing him in yours! True, Dennis has a great sense of humor, is easy on the eyes and doesn’t complain much,  but do you really feel up to the challenge of full time care for a quadriplegic. Are you prepared to be on call 24/7, can you mix an arctic cold Martini? Can you recognize 11 medications just by their size and shape? Are you willing to cook bacon naked just because it makes him smile? (I think it’s the mixture of danger and sexiness he likes). How much country music can you really listen to before going postal???? With that in mind, in the words of Usher, “This is my confession.”

DARK TALES FROM A FULL TIME CAREGIVER (PLEASE DON’T JUDGE!)

  1. I sent Dennis out with his shirt on inside out.
  2. When washing Dennis’ hair, I over did the purple shampoo for grey hair and created a bluish, purply, hue to his hair. Usually this hair color is only rocked by old ladies who sit in the front pew at church.
  3. Once shortly after I had helped Dennis on the toilet, Amanda called and asked to be picked up at school. I completely forgot where he was and left for Woodstock High. I had, at least, left him with a cell phone. Dennis called after 20 minutes, wondering when I was coming back and, “Why did it sound like I was driving”?
  4. After giving Dennis a shower, I used self-tanner moisturizer by accident instead of regular and turned his mustache and “man parts” orange. He is only going to find this out when he reads this, I claimed to not know why this happened. Fun fact: the foreskin on a man’s penis simply doesn’t change with self-tanner. Unfortunately, other parts of the penis do! Who knew?
  5. Four years ago, we got a Labrador retriever puppy, Daisy. During the early months we crated her at night, whereas now she sleeps right on top of us. One morning, I let Daisy out and was immediately distracted by the doorbell ringing. Normally, given the time, I would raise Dennis up in the bed with the remote and bring Daisy to give him a few good morning licks. Unattended, Daisy bounded on to the bed, Dennis was completely prone, his good arm trapped under a blanket and totally at the mercy of a wildly affectionate puppy. When I finally came back to the room, Dennis was covered in dog slobber, and I mean in his ears, nose and mouth. He was laughing hysterically and the more he laughed the harder she licked! I’m still not sure what the kids these days call “hooking up” entails, but I’m pretty sure by old school standards, Dennis and Daisy went to second base together.PUPPY DAISY

(Gratuitous puppy picture to keep you reading!)

6. I put Dennis’ shoes on the wrong feet and sent him to work. One of his special education student pointed it out. Just last week, I sent him out to the local pub, with two different shoes on. I don’t feel like that was such a big deal  because they were both Converse just different colors.                                                                                                            7. While “helping him” smoke a cigar I singed his mustache and dropped the ashes on his crotch, he shrieked (like a baby). Once, while trying to keep him out of the Andy Rooney look-a-like club, I cut off half his eyebrow while trying to trim them.
8. I mixed up his a.m. and p.m. pills. Taking Ambien at 9 a.m. makes for a looooonnnnnngggg day. I even told him to perk up!

I could go on and on with stories of my screw ups but I think you get the picture. Also, please bare in mind this all happened over a period of 15 years and change. If you’re still with me, and aren’t on the phone to the NDA, here are some hard earned tips on care-giving that may help you in the future.

CAREGIVING for THE CAREGIVER (that’s all of us)

  • YOU MUST TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF! After 13 years of numerous migraines, illness’ and pneumonia, I have realized the world doesn’t need another Martyr. You know why? Martyrs DIE and you’re no good to anyone dead! Get the help, screw the cost, go for the massage, keep your own doctors in the loop about your situation. Both my general practitioner and my “Lady parts” doctor are aware of my situation and take the time to ask questions and provide help for my situation. If your doctors aren’t that thorough give them the boot.
  • Make your home a cozy haven for you both. Get it decorated just how you want it and make sure to have a spot set out just for your relaxation, with no visible signs of illness like equipment or medications. Buy the good scented candles and invest in a great sound system to play your favorite music. During a hospital stay when Dennis was dangerously septic, I told him, “When we get out of here I’m buying a hot tub”. He was completely supportive (true, he had a temperature of 104 and thought his black nurse was his (very Caucasian) Aunt Ninny, who had passed away a year earlier, but I just knew he was totally on board! It helped me to visualize something positive for the future, while trying to sleep on what the hospital refers to as a “bed” but what felt like a very large, hard maxi-pad. I can sit like a Queen and gaze at the stars. Side note – Dibuns, did you know that stars live about ten billion years, and the earth was formed approximately 4.5 billion years ago.  I think of all the things that have gone on on this planet under those stars and my trials seem small and fleeting. I mean, in comparison to stars my life has the briefness of the light from sparkler. I just want to try and sparkle as brightly as I can for my brief moment of illumination.
  • Get a hobby you can do at home as well as at the doctor’s office or hospital. Knitting, crosswords, reading or write a blog you force your children to read and get excited about. Become a pen pal for someone who is in jail! Wait, scratch that I’ve heard that sometimes leads to weird romances. Find anything to do while waiting,  besides scrolling your social media staring at pictures of your friends at Oktoberfest with their panties on their heads and their Lederhosen unlaced. Even worse are other peoples vacation pictures on Bragbook. Dennis and I stopped being able to travel several years ago, it’s just way too complicated and tiring. I am truly happy for my friends being able to go on vacation but there is no point in torturing myself with what’s been lost.
  • Remember the person you are taking care of is not their disease. When Dennis has symptoms like double vision, fatigue, or pain, that affects my quality of life and  prevents me from doing things, I curse the disease not him. I have named his Multiple Sclerosis, Mark Scott and there are times when I curse the f****** bastard like a prostitute in prison. It helps me remember Dennis isn’t trying to make my life miserable, the disease that occupies his body is making US miserable at the moment.
  • Nurture friendships with people you can be unflinchingly honest with. I cannot stress this enough! You need people who will encourage you and listen without judgement.

Now kids listen up, this is the most important one, it’s not your thoughts that matter it’s your actions. Kyle, I really, really, didn’t want to clean you up when you pooped in your snowsuit and then hid in the closet. You told me you were “busy think, think, thinking like Winnie the Pooh” but you were making a mess of epic proportions! I am your mother and I love you, so I did it. Human nature is selfish and our mind almost always wants to default to what is comfortable for us. When we choose to care, when we choose to be patient, loving and understanding with someone who is ill (I promise I fail at this more than you think) and may be being annoying and difficult, that’s where the magic happens!

I have a dear friend who had a crappy dad. He left her mom and her when she was small and never fulfilled his role as her father her whole life. Fast forward, he’s dying of cancer and guess who get’s to take care of the unrepentant, grumpy dying old man?  Bingo, his daughter, who turned out absolutely fabulous despite his neglect. She didn’t have to, but she did it anyway. My friend moved him in until he got very close to death and did her very best to make him comfortable. I met with her for a glass of wine in the middle of all this, she was exhausted, frustrated, and bitter. I told her I was proud of her for doing the right thing and with tears in her eyes she said “But does it count if I don’t want to?” YES, YES, YES it does because you’re making the choice. There is a poem by Mother Theresa that sums it up far more eloquently than I ever could.anywayIt’s no wonder that super awesome gal was named a Saint!  It usually doesn’t seem like it at the time but from personal experience I can tell you that when you can push through the feelings of frustration and anger (sometimes Gert practically has to hit me on the head with a her very large handbag to recognize the right thing to do), the entire universe takes on a new level of meaning. The only way I can put it is, I have felt my soul evolving during this season of intense care-giving, much like it did when I became a mother. This may not be your experience, caregiving may always feel for you like having someone salt your eyeballs, and that’s ok, but doing it anyway will let you lay your head on your pillow and rest the ethereal slumber of the purposeful heart.

So my dear Dibbuns, as we head towards the holiday season of Thanksgiving (apologizes Canadians I missed yours in October) and Christmas. Take Care. Take care of each other and take care of yourself, even when you don’t feel like it and even when you’re not sure how to. Put away your phones and talk to your grandparents and don’t remind them they have told you the story of Uncle Bernard getting stuck in the outhouse with chickens, like a thousand times. Ignore Aunt Velma’s lack of tact, when fresh out of the nursing home for the holidays, she tells you, “You look thicker”.  Sit down, ask her about her childhood, give her a hug, and honor her simply for being a fellow human being. Do your best at caring and rest assured you will enter the never ending circle of care that goes around and around and gives our hearts courage for the journey!

I will be back to Frolicking very soon dear ones!

Happy Happy Holidays, Mummy (aka Auntie Lee-Lee)

Uncategorized

#9 Publish mine and Dennis’ love story

twin flame 3

This task sounds rather vain doesn’t it? I mean everyone has, hopefully, at least one love story. Why would I think ours is special and in need of publication (even if it is just for my Dibbuns*?)

*explanation of the term Dibbun is given on post from July17th

According to statistics, approximately 107 billion people have existed on this earth, I cannot even begin to wrap my brain around how many potential love stories that may have created. Many of these stories are far more glamorous or touching. Also, from a global perspective, despite some difficulties, all in all my family lives a life of privilege. Why then, does this love story need to be heard? Perhaps it doesn’t, but maybe I just need to tell it. Probably more for myself than anyone else.

I have realized, as a long time journal-er, I really only recognize my true feelings when I read them back to myself. I have literally read back things I wrote and thought to myself, ‘who is that crazy bitch?’, or, ‘wow she is so confused’, and sometimes even, ‘way-to-go girl! You made it through that!’

Anyways, one of the lovely things about growing older is with age, a little selfish, eccentricity is to be expected, so thank you for indulging me and listening! If I can return the favor, by all means, give me a call, or better yet, write it out and send it to me. Wouldn’t it be lovely to spark a dialogue about love! I believe there exists a place in all of us that craves to be heard. To feel like our own unique voice may make a ripple in the water. That, just maybe, our story has shifted the patterns of the cosmos in some infinitesimal way.

I have not done extensive research on this; however, generally, I think the typical cherished love story follows a fairly predictable pattern. Two people meet, chemistry (either antagonistic or smoking hot) confusion, obstacles, blah, blah, blah, – cue the music – finally, admission of everlasting love! We feed (yes I’m talking to you Disney, you vermin) courtesan of happily ever after, these stories to our children from babies on. That’s fun, and it makes our hearts flutter but it’s not reality or deeply satisfying. As you guys all know, I am not a cynic, I’m quite the romantic and refuse resolutely, along with my friend Jeannene Ziegler, to take my rose-colored glasses off! Jeannene and I could be sitting in a pile of horse poop and she would say, “Well, I hear camel poop smells far worse!” However, if we are being truly honest, our souls long for a love that’s bigger, rooted, more substantial, more challenging, just more…. Lucky, lucky me, I found that gritty, messy, breathtaking love that makes your soul sing and pushes you farther than you thought you could ever go all at the same time.

Mine and Dennis’ love story has been magical, sweet and lovely, maddeningly unpredictable, downright heartbreaking at times, but mostly transformational. For my younger readers, perhaps, you will be awakened to the idea of love coming in a different package than you imagined.  Relax, my young dibbuns, you will see the goal in life should not be happiness but purpose. Purpose is what brings real happiness. I recently read a great book called The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by by Mark Manson. He explains it this way, “Some of the most difficult and stressful moments of our lives end up being the most formative and motivating.” To my more mature readers I’m hoping you will find companionship with me in our mutual struggles. I will take a bumpy road with companionship any day over a smooth road alone.  So thank- you for listening to our small tale of love. The waters of love are rapid, breathtaking and unfathomably deep. When we choose to dive in everything is changed.

Once Upon a Time. in the real world…


lovestory On June, 17th 2004 Dennis and I were married in Jamaica. It was a beautiful day, there was a sparkling, aqua, blue ocean, and the scent of a thousand exotic flowers laced the warm air. We were also blessed to have great friends with us, all of whom apparently seem to have Indian blood in them! The plan was that we would wait until the end of our week in Jamaica to get married. I imagined that after 6 days in the tropical sun I would be a glistening bronze goddess! Ya, things didn’t quite turn out that way. Each day I added about 300 freckles and a pink tinge to my body that resembled the color of a soft shell crab. On the other hand, each day, my future husband and friends got darker and darker. I don’t want to start any rumors, but I think some of these people might want a DNA test!blog0

Isn’t this a lovely picture of pasty me and my native Jamaican friends on our wedding day!

Anyways, bitterness aside about my Dutch genes, it was an amazing day. We promised each other that we were now sailing on the same boat, wherever the currents would take us, we were on our way with the wind behind us.

What you can’t notice in this picture is that Dennis has secondary progressive Multiple Sclerosis. On the day we met, two years and change before this wedding picture was taken, Dennis drove his handicapped adapted van over to my house for a massage. I was fresh out of massage therapy school and quite nervous. He drove his wheelchair from his van to the door of my massage studio and darn it, if there wasn’t an 8 inch step, I had failed to notice.

No problem he said, “do you have a plastic patio chair?” (at this point Dennis could still walk a little with aide). I suggested we reschedule and I could have a small ramp built but Dennis was undeterred. Slowly and precariously, with much sweat and determination he dragged himself into my massage therapy room. It took him 45 minutes to make it. When he was finally laying down on my massage table and I put my hands on him I knew two things for certain. One, Dennis Conway is a very strong man, and two, I was in deep, deep trouble.  At the time, I wouldn’t have said it was a “romantic” trouble but when I shook his hand for the first time, my intuition was screaming, ‘this is significant’. Now I have let my intuition down many, many times in my life but my intuition has never let me down. I did not, however, have the time or the energy to get involved with anyone in any way, shape or form. So go away tingly, buzzy feeling, I refuse to acknowledge you.

It had only been three short weeks earlier that I had become separated from my then husband. The arrival of a shocking package delivered by Fedex had blown my marriage of 12 years and two children to smithereens. The details are no longer important, so let’s just say mistakes were made and the marriage was no longer repairable. I was wounded and fragile and felt adrift in a sea of pain and confusion.

At that time, Dennis had been divorced for a few years, his wife had left soon after he lost his ability to walk. It had been a bad marriage from the get go and the stress of an incurable neurological disease was the final blow. Alone, fighting to see his children, Dennis’ disease began to progress rapidly. He was taking chemotherapy in an attempt to slow the progress of the MS, so he was 40 lbs lighter, weak and deeply depressed. He also had recently been forced to sell his beloved sporting goods store, his life long dream, as he no longer was capable of running it.

So there we were two very broken people. Completely unaware that our meeting had been orchestrated by something much bigger than ourselves, and that it would chart a completely new course for both of us.

One of the first things Dennis said to me, after he asked what part of Canada I was from (apparently I have a Canadian accent??) was, “You can go as hard as you want, you can’t hurt me!” In massage school we learn this is called Body Armoring. This term was coined by psychologist Wilhelm Reich and it means the armored person does not feel as much physically in an emotional defense to prolonged and intense pain, psychological and physical. So basically Dennis had so much emotional and physical pain he had withdrawn into denial and numbness. Oh boy, just what I needed, someone more messed up than me!

Over the next, months at weekly sessions, I worked very hard physically at loosening and stretching the twisted, tight muscles of his disease ravaged body. The harder work though was helping Dennis to emotionally relax. We talked about everything, marriage, kids, our native countries, jobs, cooking etc… but while he was having instant physical relief from pain I could sense his emotions were still completely bottled up. I finally declared a talking free session. Dennis is a charmer, and damn handsome. Dennis was using his verbal charm as a distraction from experiencing the emotional release that can come with physical touch. Also, I was well aware he had a crush on me and I thought silence would help me work better with less distracting small talk.  Massage therapy is a dance of strokes, kneading, pressure and movement. Touch heals in such a profound way especially when the soul is too broken to use language. That day, in that quiet room in the basement of my house, something on a spiritual plane shifted between Dennis and I. Sometimes, words get in the way of what the soul is saying. In the silence I heard his heart.

A few days later he asked me on a date. I told him I don’t date my clients and he responded, “You’re fired, now can we go out?”. Well, that kind of backfired on me, there went my best customer! So we went on a date and then another and another, and soon we were a “thing”. It was a fun “thing” and a good distraction from the agonizing pain of dismantling a marriage but I was merely dipping my toe in the water, hovering over the surface not committing to get wet.

Journal Entry: November 4, 2002

Dennis is so much fun to be with but very, very scary! Incurable neurological disease, confused, damaged children, 13 years my senior…. He rattles my psyche to the core. I am afraid to watch his decline, afraid to hurt him, afraid to upset my children. Hell, I am afraid of getting hurt! Shit- ton scared, yup that’s me.

I cannot pinpoint the exact moment I fell in love with Dennis, but fall I did. I understand why we say we “fall” in love because that’s what if feels like. One moment you’re standing on firm, sensible ground and the next you feel weightless headed into an unknown destination.  Everything looks different from your airborne perspective and you have no idea how far down the earth is! I can remember being in the staff room at Salon and Spa Vanessa with my friend Dina and I was talking about Dennis and she said, “Look at that smile on your face, you are in love.” I got straight up cold chills and was blushing like a priest at a strip club! Ridiculous, love is not on the menu today, no thank you ma’m!  But…she was right! How royally inconvenient, ill-timed and terrifying.

We went on a cruise together in Spring and at dinner Dennis said to me “Leana, I love you and I want to marry you. I know you aren’t ready but when you are, just say the word. Until then I won’t say another word about it.” He then proceeded to ask me to marry him every day after that. You know when you are little and your Mom or Dad are in the water trying to coax you into jumping into their arms? That’s how I felt for many, many months. His eager, confident face urging me to jump and me not sure whether to jump or beat feet.

One evening after being home from our cruise, I was sad and depressed. I was now seeing my children less than I used to as they now had two homes. Two homes was something I just never expected my children to have to contend with. This fact causes me to feel like a failure more than anything else in my life. I asked Dennis to read to me from one of my favorite books, A Prayer For Owen Meany. Books are my panacea. I could tell this was way out of his comfort zone but he didn’t hesitate. I lay with my head on his lap and listened to his velvety, baritone voice. Dennis’ voice can melt your heart like butter on a hot biscuit (yes the south has rubbed off on me) and it just clicked, there it was, I was in love.

Dennis and I celebrated our 13th anniversary two months ago. When we met he was living on his own, driving, and eating and showering with no assistance. Today he can do none of those things. We are constantly battling pressure sores, muscle wasting, swollen feet, double vision and a host of other complications. Not to mention the 7 very scary  hospital stays and the 11 medications it takes to make life bearable for him. I am the vessel that keeps him alive and I really do feel like I have two bodies to care for. I have no doubt if we were not together he would be in a nursing home instead of being busy coaching lacrosse, helping special education Sunday school, running for city council in Woodstock and most importantly, simply just being here for our kids as a cheerleader and an example. I also have no doubt if we were not together my life would be much, much poorer without all this lovely mess.

Please do not get me wrong, its not all Reese’s peanut butter cups and pink champagne over here at our house. Some days we feel exhausted and defeated. Nights are a wrestling match of limbs and pressure points with only small periods of peaceful rest. We also get on each others nerves sometimes because we are together literally 24/7 most days of the week. At times we are just plain pissed off at our situation and what can be a very, cold and indifferent world.

Journal Entry, May 19 2013

I write to push back the walls of our shrinking world.

The outside world is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate.

My love, my Dennis is shrinking in his abilities, leaving behind the shoreline of capable living.

We are huddled together as we draw a chalk line around our remaining strength as we rage “NO YOU CAN TAKE NO MORE!!!!, WE CANNOT BEAR IT!”

And then more is taken and we do bear it. Once again we redraw the line around us, staking claim on our life together. Fiercely defending our life.

I feel as if I am trying to hold water in my hands.

It seeps through my fingers. Tiny drops evaporate or are blown away by the wind

All that seems left sometimes is a deep, calm, current pushing us together and keeping us afloat.

This all being said, I would marry Dennis again and quicker this time! I have struggled in the past to articulate why this marriage works and why I love Dennis so much. The term soulmate just doesn’t fit.  One definition of soulmate is : ‘A person who strongly resembles another in attitudes or beliefs’, ya… not so much! Other words have seemed inadequate and underwhelming in trying to explain this unlikely connection.

It took a complete stranger, who was trying to help us get better prescription medication coverage, to hit the nail on the head, freaky right? We had been with her about 2 hours going over all our prescription stuff, chatting and such, when she stopped cold and said “you two are twin flames!”. Oh, Oh! perhaps the drug insurance lady has been dipping into her own stash of “medications”. I went home and looked it up. After some research I’m still not sure exactly where this concept originated but generally this is the idea. Unlike soul mates which are our perfect matches, twin flames are perfect mirrors! Think Ying-Yang. Twin flame relationships tend to be intensely passionate and sometimes intensely painful. Twin flames awaken us like nobody else and there purpose is to reveal who we really are. Well darn it all there ya go! Carol, the nice insurance lady, gave me the words I have been looking for, and a great prescription plan to boot! I know, I know, it’s kind of ” New Agey” and I am a Christian but I have a very fluid spirituality and I beleive the universe is unbelievably complex. I don’t even want to try and pretend I understand it all. All I know is Dennis and I fit 17 out of the 18 criteria for “twin flames”. I’m thinking we should start wearing matching twinny outfits, don’t you?!

Dennis and I are well aware that we have most likely only weathered some difficult smaller storm squalls and the real hurricane lies ahead. Yet, we are on this boat together. The opportunity to bail out is long gone and the shore is nowhere to be seen. Surprisingly, we are OK. This is good- hard, but good. Actually most of the time it’s really, really good.

So, that’s it Dibbuns. I’m not sure how many of you made it to the end of this epistle of long-winded musings, it’s OK if you didn’t. My will shall be adjusted accordingly. Just maybe some day when you are farther down the roads of your lives you will think, “Hey, Mum wrote all that stuff about her and Dennis and went on and on about her blog, and maybe I will read it again?” Maybe, or maybe Amanda will make good on her many threats to have me committed and this blog will vanish. She’s been telling me,  for years, she has plenty of documentation to have me put somewhere where I am “no longer a danger to myself or anyone else”. There is one thing for sure though, diving in, I mean really leaping, with audacity, ignoring our reservations, for real love, is the game changer. Since the beginning of time has anyone won a swimming race with one foot still on land?  So surrender and leap with love because LOVE changes everything. It literally keeps us breathing even when we are under water.  Continue reading “#9 Publish mine and Dennis’ love story”

On to rest of my tasks!

Oh Shit, it’s already the middle of July!

dibbuns

DIBBUNS

My darling Dibbuns, for those few of you who are not my biological children, a Dibbun is a small, adorable, furry, creature of all species. These fluffy, mischievous, notorious pie stealers and balls of joy reside at Redwall Abbey in the marvellous children’s book written by Brian Jaques (see picture above). When Kyle and Amanda were little, I loved calling them my Dibbuns, we read the books piled in my bed together and they squealed with delight as they listened to the shenanigans of the little woodland creatures.  Clearly, I am quite a maternal person; when I was little, I used to tuck all my stuffed animals and Barbies in my bed and then sleep on the floor beside them. I am pretty sure at some point during the night I returned to my bed, half asleep, and unwittingly asphyxiated my charges, but you get the point.  Now, along with my own children, I have collected a string of unofficially adopted kids to satisfy my motherly cravings. I have my two blonde daughters, Alexa and Lauren whom, to be perfectly honest, are a hybrid of what I figured my own daughter would be like, tall, blonde and bubbly.  I have been delighted to have instead given birth to a petite, dark haired little girl, who is far smarter than I am and definitely much more down-to-earth, she has been such an unexpected delight in my life. Since my own sweet Son has flown to the great white north, I have been forced to find son-like emulations. Of my American adoptees, there is my Lacrosse superstar with the gorgeous  red hair, Hunter Forbes and Kyle’s good friend Brian Martin, who is as cool as a Winnipeg, winters night. My selection of faux children is also quite international, there is Jose Gomar, the Guatemalan son I love but never wanted (he lived in my pool house for several months and I didn’t even know it)! Sheryar Ali, my Pakistani son (even if he and Amanda break up, I’m keeping him); and last but not least, my Colombian son, the one who keeps me on my knees praying. He is too good looking for his own good, and full of Latin fire, Esteban Suarez. And now you know that no matter what your age is, whether you are older than me or not, since you have chosen to take this journey with me regardless if you are doing so  willingly or coerced, you are my Dibbun too! If you do not feel comfortable being referred to as a Dibbun, we are not kindred spirits anyways so feel free to delete my blog from your universe. Thus, here we are my Dibbuns, five months from fifty with much frolicking left to do on my list.                                                                                                                                                                                                                      #3 the piano recital, was a smashing success! Not due to my musical prowess but because of the good cheer (liquid and spiritual) and warm support from all in attendance. In order to distract from my playing I convinced Mandi Strachota, an extremely talented local singer, to sing while I played. Mandi definitely earned herself a star in heaven for this one, trying to follow my playing was like trying to teach a cat to pole dance.  I must say though, I felt my parents stole the show, they were marvellous! You would have thought their daughter was a child prodigy performing at Carnegie Hall. When in actuality she is a middle age woman, muddling through two beginner pieces of music to a room full of alcohol lubricated friends and family. My shy mother, looked fabulous in a lovely outfit she bought while they were in Italy, and had prepared the cutest, funniest speech on how “I became a concert pianist”. My dad was taking pictures like he was a paparazzi following Adele. So many times in my youth I backed out of things like being on a basketball team, performing anything in public, doing recitals etc, out of fear of looking stupid and embarrassing myself. Guess what! I did look “stupid” and I had an absolutely wonderful time. That night while I was drifting off to sleep I told Dennis I felt like a princess wearing a crown of  love and, wrapped in a blanket of accomplishment. Dennis said I am a princess, (isn’t he splendid and under the influence of Ambien) so I must be because he is amazing and in fact the true hero of this story!

concert
Mum and Dad, poor things this may be their highlight of raising me!

On to #10, do something special with Katie. This has been officially announced as help her PLAN HER WEDDING!!!! On May 30th, Katie got engaged to Jake Walsh in downtown Woodstock. It was a wonderful event and Amanda and I had a great time decorating the gazebo for the big moment. We all truly love Jake and are very happy!

engagement

KATIE THE REST OF THIS BLOG IS JUST ABOUT SURPRISES, MORE BOUGIE  CRYSTAL, SILVER ,DIAMONDS, PRESENTS, AND EXCITING PLANS FOR YOUR WEDDING. DO NOT READ BELOW THIS LINE!!!!!


Other Dibbuns, listen to this crap! I love Katie, she is truly my bonus daughter and I am thrilled she has found the love of her life.  Generally, Katie is a reasonable, sweet and level headed person but I’m afraid we have a Bridezilla on our hands! I explained to Katie that her Dad and I didn’t really have a choice but to elope so as to avoid drama, and I never got to wear a wedding dress when we got married. Then the other day it was like God whispered in my ear the most inspired idea, Katie and I should wear MATCHING WEDDING DRESSES🤗🤗🤗. I Know, perfect right??? but little miss it’s all about me and my wedding, pulled a face like she just licked toad poop. She kept going on and on about how “only the bride wears a wedding dress at most weddings”, “People might be confused and think it’s a lesbian wedding with two brides”, and the rudest one “Aren’t you too old to wear a white wedding dress anyways?” I guess it’s true, you don’t really know someone until you see how they behave when planning their wedding. Thankfully, God whispered in my other ear an almost equally scrumptious idea, I am going to choreograph an interpretive dance piece to be performed (by me, of course), while Katie and Jake read their vows. Can’t you just imagine how my beautifully nuanced, graceful  moves will help bring to life the beautiful, spiritual bond being woven between the bride and groom! I’m sure you agree a simple white leotard and head scarf would set the right mood. Hmmm, some glitter probably needs to be involved here. So, it’s a plan, that’s number 10 well in hand.

Alas, very sad news about #4, find a friend 40 years older. Another potential candidate has gone to be with the angels before we got to be friends 😢.I’m beginning to feel like the grim reaper of the blogging world, this is my third potential “older friend” to pass on. If I call you and ask to be your friend you had better make sure your will and affairs are in order! I am also still working on #5,6,7&8 but will publish # nine next week.

At the half way point of this project I can already clearly see a few things. Firstly, the world does indeed think I’m weird, but by far, the majority likes that! That’s such a relief because normal is so utterly exhausting. Secondly, I have not only been blessed with terrific family and marvellous children but I have chosen extremely well in my choice of friends. In a world full of “social media props” for friends most relationships rarely dip below the façade of appropriateness beneath the surface into murky sometimes gritty reality. I have, gratefully, made real, honest and true friends. My gratitude number keeps climbing as I drudge on! Lastly, its often the unplanned moments that are most memorable. Half an hour before my recital Mason Wren, a relatively new addition to the Conway circus, came a little early. I was in my geisha kimono, rollers in my hair, glass of wine in hand getting more nervous by the minute. Mason (who drove Dennis to every Lacrosse game for me) jumped in to turn pages for me and told me it was fantastic. I was ready to conquer the world!. Also, several people I wrote a  “love letter ” to have told me they were inspired to write their own letters or make their own lists. Just a few of the unexpected emotional gems of this process.

Well, goodbye for now my sweet Dibbuns, it’s 1 a.m. and time to dream, I would tuck you all in if I could. I will be drudging on through my list and keep you in close contact and closer in my heart.

Love Lee-Lee XOXO

-Thanks again to CC, the cutest sweetest editor ever!

 

 

 

 

Task #3, Uncategorized

TASK #3 THE PIANO RECITAL!

Hello my merry wee band of followers. I thought I would give you an update on the progress I have made on my list. I have been practicing piano very, very hard! Unfortunately, I have had a few set backs. Firstly, one of the songs I have chosen to perform at this much anticipated cultural event won the best song of the year at The Oscars! This presents a problem because now people will know what this song is supposed to sound like. Second problem, it turns out I have absolutely no musical talent no matter how much I practice. It’s very strange I am so talented in my head but it just won’t come out! So, why is this task even on my list you ask?  Well in the pursuit of self-improvement and personal growth, a musical challenge targets one of my biggest flaws. An MRI of my brain beautifully demonstrates the problem….

Conway, Leana 12/21/67
MRI of Brain activity, Conway. Leana

 

Left Brain Function

Reason, organization, math/science logic (so overrated)

Right Brain Function

Creativity, Empathy, Imagination, Super fun (ok I added that)

As you can see the left side of my brain looks like an old and dusty walnut you found on your pantry floor. Music, however, is the great equalizer. Creating music requires both sides of the brain through the corpus callosum to communicate. According to science, the brain develops according to what we feed it intellectually. Actual physical nerve tissue forms as we study a new skill! At fifty, when everything else is headed south for the winter, how exciting to actually physically grow!

Another bonus to this task is my teacher, Amy Witten. The Witten’s are the all-American family. Amy is lovely and gracious. Her handsome husband Doug is a DEA agent who risks his life for the greater good (feel free to thank her family for their service if you are unfortunate enough to be coerced into attending this event).  After attempting to teach me piano off and on for approximately 6 years, I am still about a third grade level (this is not her fault!). I have, however, made a friend for life and learned several cosmic truths. Probably the biggest lesson I have learned, other than how to butcher Amazing Grace, is the concept of dissonant notes. A dissonant sound is an unpleasant sound in music that is unstable and has an oral need to resolve. Only once the next notes are played, the resolution, does the entire piece of music make sense and create beauty. I cannot tell you how many times in the hospital when I’m worried or when life isn’t making sense do I remind myself this is just a dissonant note in my life. While the event may be uncomfortable the resolution is coming! It may be beyond the veil of this world, but it’s coming.

To paraphrase Florence Foster Jenkins, “They can say I can’t play, but they can’t say I didn’t.” I have set the date of the recital for May 11th. As you guys know,  I am not shy, but the mere thought of this event makes my stomach feel like its full of squishy lime-Jello. Hopefully,  I won’t embarrass myself to badly.

As far as my other tasks, I have purchased the crème brulee torch and am perfecting getting my brulee to “tremble”. My double first and second cousin/niece (it’s a Mennonite thing), Robyn Barchen, is going to school me via Skype on this.  I have leads on people for tasks four and five, although, I had a tough setback when my first choice older person decided it would be better to go on and head to his reward instead of being the subject of my dumb blog.  Thus I have narrowed my age parameters to an 80 year old friend and a 20 year old friend.  I have completed mine and Dennis’ love story and will publish soon! The dancing with Dennis idea has elicited the same reaction from Phil Holdbrooks, Jimmy Ellison, Doug Stapleton, Jake Walsh and other guys, “I’ve got this!” Hmmmm…. what does that mean exactly? Are we going to suspend Dennis from a crane and a hunting harness? Will we staple him to a board on wheels, or are we all going to stand in a circle and pray that angels are going to come down and lift him up for us? While I certainly appreciate the enthusiasm, I think Dennis is going to want a few more details before we wrestle him into a party suit and dancing shoes. Below is NOT what we are looking to do to him!

d

I have been completely blown away of the support I am receiving for this project! Thank you, especially for the beautiful replies to the “love letters”! It is definitely true that “In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” So, let’s all go out there and make some love! Wait…I’m not sure my mum, Oma Irene, is going to like that slogan, but you get the spirit of the thing. Make your own list and spread some love!

Task #1

Task #1: Make a Blog

 Task#1: Make a Blog

I cannot begin to express how hard it was for me to make this simple little blog. With tech support abandoning me for Vancouver, it took literally, almost two weeks to get this far. I had task #2 all ready to go on Valentine’s as planned but ended up having to hold everything back while I struggled with Word Press which says, “Even someone with basic computer skills can be up and blogging in no time!” BULLSHIT I say. On the plus side, I have made two very nice friends at the Word Press help desk. Darsh told me he thought this was a very interesting project for an older lady to do, I chose to take that as a compliment, and Samar wished me good luck and assured me I was not the dumbest person he had ever helped! So after rubbing a hole in my eyebrow and actually crying in front of the computer I’m up and running. Task accomplished!