“Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.” Joyce Kilmer
This is my tree. No, it isn’t in my yard; it lives in a small walking park down the street. Why is this tree so special to me? Let me explain …
Four years ago, we got the cutest puppy ever, Daisy Florence! Energetic puppies need, unless one desires to have their couch and undies eaten, a lot of exercise, so she and I, on one of our million walks, stumbled upon a little park where my tree lives.
In my little park, some days, I am singing loudly with my ear buds in, while I walk the winding path around my tree. My Abba tribute phase was something else, but the Christmas season is an especially dangerous time to be in proximity of my park. Sometimes, I am giggling about a funny podcast, or something ridiculous.
Occasionally, I’m crying while I’m walking. This is, without a doubt, a season of my life that is heavy with letting go. As I have attempted to process all that life is flinging at me, the good, the fun, and the down right shitty, I have watched my tree also manage change. My tree has become my mentor, as it so gracefully surrenders to each new season … giving, taking, growing, losing and renewing over and over again. My tree gives me courage, as it bears all with such dignity and confidence.
I also began to hear a voice on my walks … calm down Amanda, you can postpone taking me to the home for the confused and dilapidated. I only hear the voice inside my head (well … mostly). It whispers to me over and over, “Take the space in your heart for what will never be, and create something new to fill it”. Okay, that’s a super-duper, awesome idea … but what do I fill it with???
Can you guess whose voice that was? Well … it was the voice of Inspiration! I like to imagine that Inspiration takes the form of a delightful, little, fairy that flits to and fro on adorable, tiny, gossamer wings. If you are lucky, and you invite her to, she swoops in close, so only you can hear and she whispers ideas in your ear. This is what I imagine my personal Inspiration fairy looks like. My dad suggested I name her Helena, how perfect! I was blessed with a Mother who has a whimsical, creativity; I called her and asked her to draw a fairy for me, she didn’t even ask why her 50-year-old daughter wanted a picture of a fairy, she just created my lovely Helena!
I have named her Helena because after writing about my angelic Helens for the last few months I found out something surprising. My Dad sent me a message that said, “I don’t know if we ever told you but we named you Leana with your Oma Helen in mind. In low German Helen is Helena and all her friends called her Lena. So that’s how we came up with Leana!” Ummm … no I had no idea. Not only that, but my Dad checked and found 5 Helenas on his Mom’s side!
One day, Helena had an idea, “You need to start a blog!” “Uggghhh …”, I said, “Not a blog. Everyone and their cow has a blog! There is even a guy who has a blog called Lonely Cheetos (it’s literally pictures of Cheetos he finds on the ground). I mean, I feel sad for the poor little Cheetos and really hope they find friends … but seriously?” “I’m in charge of the ideas here, and a blog it is … plus you hate Cheetos”, replied Helena, firmly. “But no one will read it”, I said. “YOU WILL!”, she replied, “That is more than enough reason! Take all your hurts, happies, jokes, and ideas, and create something that’s all you”. “But … IF people DO read it, they might think it’s stupid, and I’m crazy?”, I whimpered. “It’s none of your business if people think it’s stupid, and … people already think you’re a little odd … so? … “odd people” just don’t care about conformity”, said Helena.
My darlings, never ignore inspiration, regardless of the outcome. Inspiration is absolutely enthralled with the idea of creating with you; work with it, and together you will open doors to your soul.
So … I listened to that fanciful, sprite, Inspiration Helena, and I started a blog. I knew my tree was going to be involved, I just didn’t know how … yet. While I was weaving together thoughts, ideas and dreams, I kept seeing an image of Dennis and I dancing, without his ever imposing, three hundred pound wheelchair. Inspiration, had a plan all along … I was going to dance with my love suspended from my tree!
And so … with Inspiration, and the help of a lot of dear friends, I planned a “Rose colored glasses” themed event. Now when Inspiration gives me a theme, I run hard with it, some might say obsessively … whatever! We had pink glasses, Rosé wine, almost everyone wore pink, and we danced to La Vie En Rose (Life With Rose Colored Glasses) by Louis Armstrong and Rose Colored Glasses by John Conlee.
What an amazing day! It was indeed! The love at this event was so palatable, I swear I could taste it. What does love taste like? Well, to me… it tasted like warm cinnamon, sweet honey, fresh apples, and …. well … eternity. It felt really wonderful to hold my husband standing up(ish), and all kinds of emotions flowed freely. Thoughts of what never was, and never will be. Thoughts about everything Dennis and I have gone through, the great and the tough, together in the last 16 years. Mostly though, thoughts about this amazing moment in time, when inspiration became reality, and Dennis and I lived in the beauty of a moment that was magical, fragile and perhaps slightly dangerous (no worries, everyone is fine).
When Inspiration and I plotted out our dance, I thought the point of the whole thing was to substitute an experience (dancing standing) with a flawed facsimile, a guy dangling from a tree. Nope … wrong … again … I realized that the whole project was really about something else. It wasn’t about trying to produce something we couldn’t have! It was inspiration helping me create something new. Sweet peas, you know that sound your cell phone makes when you get a new message? Well, my brain went BLING, new message;
Dennis, exactly how he is, is your Muse. That is his gift to you !
Fondly, your heart
Definition: Muse/ noun/: A person or personified force who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist. Yes, I’m owning the title creative artist. Well … Damn … . All of our obstacles, and struggles are in fact, forcing my soul to fully express my own creativity. Loving Dennis has helped me to unearth more of my true self … and people think Dennis is the lucky one. What a gift his love has given me!
My dearest hope, sweet readers, is that you will find the thing, person, cat, book, city, supportive brassiere, roller derby team, circumstance … whatever it is that unlocks the passions of your heart. Then, I’m hoping you will find the courage to share your passion.
So … what is Inspiration whispering in your ear that you’re not listening to!
Oh, and take heart, we’re all in this together!
Love Mum, Auntie Lee-Lee, Tart, Goose or Dennis’ favorite Naner
Hello, my wee, merry band of Dibbuns. Last we chatted, I was in a dark place. Loving big also means you hurt big sometimes too, but do you really want to love small? It’s okay … and I’m okay. Thanks to all of you, I had a safe place to let all of the yuck out. Ignore the yuck in life at your own peril! You think your fine, and suddenly you find yourself at a Braves game, screaming at a bunch of strangers to, “To get their lazy, *********, ********, asses off the elevator and take the stairs, SO REAL HANDICAP PEOPLE CAN GET ON!” I heard, some crazy person did that once … , she may have even been escorted out of the stadium … ?
Anyways, I poured out my heart to you, and released rivers of pain. In return you filled my heart back up with life affirming, love and support. I was reminded, Dennis and I are only alone as we choose to be. I have no words to express my gratitude for the notes, phone calls, and flowers (xoxo Wittens), and that’s coming from a girl who is full of words, said every report card I ever got! So, once again I am a silly, sugary marshmallow. As a matter of fact, after an extensive and challenging competition, I have been named Marshmallow Queen of 997 Market st.! I handily beat out the other competitor, Daisy Florence, due to her lack of opposable thumbs, which kept her out of the baton twirling portion of the competition.
Before any of that happened, though, I received one last surprise related to my story on angelic Helens. This, true story began 4 blog posts back, and chronicles, what I believe to be, my Oma Walls efforts to help me from the mystical hereafter. Grab a treat for yourself, cuddle up on the sofa, or a hammock, and allow me to telll you a story!
I only go to one nail place, Woodstock Hair Salon and Spa on Arnold Mill. I mean yes, a lot of places can do your nails, but how many nail shops can soothe your soul? Woodstock Hair Salon and Spa, is run by Cindy, her sister, Linda, and her mother (everyone calls her Mama) work there as well. The family are Americans via Vietnam. Cindy’s father worked with the American military during the Vietnam war, so when the U.S. pulled out Cindy’s father was imprisoned for six years. Eventually, after he got out, the family was able to emigrate to the United States.
Cindy’s shop is a quaint, tidy, little shop, cheerfully decorated in peaches and corals. The Bible verses and inspirational quotes on the walls, give evidence to the owner’s faith. The proof of their faith however, is in the way they treat their customers.
There are times, when Dennis isn’t doing well, and we are knee-deep in the mire of Multiple Sclerosis. During those times, going to Cindy’s for a little self-care may be the only fun thing we can do. When Dennis and I walk, (roll) in, we are greeted with warm smiles and genuine interest as to how we, and our whole family, are doing. Dennis gets his hair cut there, but he is also just happy to come along and watch me get my nails, done while he chats with the ladies. If I try to sneak out to go to Cindy’s without him, there will be considerable pouting. It’s just a happy place to be! Mama is a neck rubbing machine, and although her English is a little shaky, she is fluent in the language of loving care. Linda, is so friendly and fun, she always has me laughing about something! Cindy, is always kind, energetic, and dressed smartly, like you are worth the effort to look nice!
One day it was pouring rain (Dennis couldn’t come and he was pissed), we had already had 3 doctors appointments that week and I was getting grumbly, so I went out to Cindy’s for a manicure. After my nails were done and I was paying, a young lady walked in. This girl had never been in the shop before and had come in search of a new look for her long, straight hair. Cindy was chatting with her about what kind of hairstyle she was going for and she asked the girl, “Do you want it short like Leana’s?”. The girl paused and looked at me for a minute then she said “Hmmm … Helen can you turn around so I can see the back?” …Helen??? Again! Like Helen, my sweet Oma Helen, like Helen the lady who got us $98,000, like Helen the massage therapist with angel hands? I have no idea what made her call me Helen, I checked and the name Helen peaked in popularity in 1930!. Once again, I got that twinkly, buzzy, warm feeling, that happens to me when there is unusual energetic vibrations going on.
I went home, and all night, my little brain tossed around, what had happened, I started to think maybe my mind had played tricks on me. I couldn’t take it anymore, so the next morning, I went to back to Cindy’s and asked her if she recalled the girl calling me Helen yesterday? Immediately, she said yes and she had thought it was strange because Leana sounds nothing like Helen!
MY GLAM SQUAD AT WOODSTOCK HAIR SALON AND SPA, MAMA, CINDY & LINDA AREN’T THEY GORGEOUS! – p.s. if you go in to see my gals, say hi from me and Coach!
Well … Wow … ! I feel like I am being given tiny delicious, morsels of miracles, to keep me not just going, but to reassure me I am on the right path. Maybe you don’t believe in anything beyond this realm? Understandable … but do you believe that love changes things? Well, something seems to be working to create an awful lot of coincidences. I believe it’s love.
Honestly, I am in awe, and I wonder, am I seeing all these signs because I asked for them, or because I’m looking. You know what my little turtles, it really doesn’t matter. Today, I have hope and strength for the journey. Tomorrow … well that’s going to be a new story, with new hurdles. I have confidence that brand new people will be placed on my path to ease my journey. Hopefully, I in turn, will be given the opportunity to glam up someone else’s road. I mean really, if you can’t make something easier … you can always make it prettier! When my sister Carla and I were lazing about, my Mum, (Oma Irene), used to always say, “Girls put some lipstick on, you’ll feel better!”
Up next … I will tell you all about achieving task #6, Dance with Dennis standing up(ish). YAAASSSSSS, he lived!!!
Until then Sashay and Frolic on!!! We’re all in this together!
Love, Mummy, Auntie Lee-Lee, Goose, Tart, or whatever you call me!
Growing up, there was a girl I went to school with, who had a habit of punching me on the shoulder and calling me marshmallow. It was kind of annoying, but …actually, I think marshmallow is a pretty accurate name for me … sometimes. Marshmallows are soft, sugary, sweet and silly. They are sort of sweet nothings, the ultimate in frivolousness, neither nutritious nor essential, just sugar spun into fun!
I suppose, we are born into this world with a certain disposition. Mine is, generally, well … marshmallowy. I am definitely soft, too soft, most of the time. I am sensitive to a fault, and easily manipulated by tears. I am also sugary, I love sappy things, books, movies, poetry, anything sentimental. I try hard to be sweet, and most of the time and it comes fairly, naturally.
Silly, well … I see that as a life goal! In my pursuit of silliness, I have dressed up in a southern belle get up (an exact reproduction of Scarlet O’Hara’s picnic dress, none the less!) to pick up family from the airport.
Every year, I host a pajama Christmas party full of silly games. I have also, along with my really fun daughter, hot glued daisy’s onto bathing caps and goggles, and created a synchronized swimming masterpiece, to a song from Rent. Just a few examples, but … obviously, silly is a large part of my personality.
Yet, like everyone else, my personality is contradictory, and multifaceted. Tonight, I am between marshmallow moments. Tonight, I feel as if I am a jagged rock, heavy, cumbersome and difficult to carry. Tonight, I am not made of lightness, and sweetness. Tonight, I am hard and heavy … I am a stone, as heavy with grief and sadness as a grave marker.
I am writing, hoping some of the deep scarlet, sadness will flow from my heart, thru my blood stream, into my fingers, then leave my body and float, invisibly, into the air. Once the thoughts and words released, I hope I will feel lighter and able to breathe.
I cannot think of one part of Dennis’ body that is not falling apart. This week he fractured his ankle … a guy who can’t walk broke his ankle! This is so ridiculously unfair. I find myself recoiling inward in pain. We also found a place on his bottom that has lost it’s protective fatty layer. The skin on his body is wearing thinner, and thinner becoming almost translucent. Bruised and battered, torn, and cut into so many times, it is losing it’s ability to regenerate. It is all going, yet … his brain and heart continue to carry on. The vehicle for his soul is breaking down, and my heart is breaking with it.
Last night, right before he fell asleep, Dennis said “My compass has nowhere to point”. He is finding it difficult to use his passions and gifts, without a working vessel to execute them. He feels like a useless, burden. I am hardly the first person to walk this path with someone. Tonight, however, I feel completely alone. Alone in the way, even if the house was full of friends, I would be alone. Inside of me there is no silliness, just solemnity.
Sadness for the eternal cycle of loss and grieving we must all endure on this earth. Sad to see the man I love hurt so deeply, on every level possible. Sad, my powers to make him feel content are weakening. I can see it when he looks at birds flying in the sky, that more and more often, he is longing to escape the prison his body has become, and fly free like the birds. Dennis’ ultimate healing will be my heartbreak, and I fear the pain intensly.
These are the moments between hope and joy where I go to somewhere extremely lonely; that place is … despair. Why … must everything end? Why … must things be so very hard right now? Why … can I not lay down this calling just for one day, and then pick it up again when I am renewed? Why … is this not happening to someone who deserves it? Why … does it take so much sadness to bring such clarity? Why … does it sometimes seem no one cares?
Tonight is a night for grieving and exorcising pain. These nights do not come often, but when they do they blanket my world in grey and sadness. I used to fight these times, gloss over them with distracting, lightness and silliness. Time has taught me to pay due reverence to these hard moments of reckoning. They will not be ignored, they may hide, but they will always be found. I attempt to shield Dennis from much of this, his own battle is hard enough. Sometimes, however, the mask slips and the tears roll down. Then I feel even worse because my pain hurts him so.
I have never regretted this path I have chosen. It’s actually quite freeing to know I bear no responsibility for it, all I did was answer the call. This is God’s plan, not mine, and not answering would have been far more full of regret, and self-denial.
So tonight… this sad, lonely heart, is trying to write out the words, weighing so deeply inside me, I can no longer keep silent. These words feel sharp and hard, keeping me from joy, keeping me fearful, lying to me that this is a burden I bear alone. Afraid, angry, desperate, confused, alone, hopeless, resentful, and most of all completely exhausted. May these dark words go out in to the universe and when they touch the light of love, manifest themselves into something smaller, something lighter and grander. May they become transformed into stars by which the dark night finds hope and light. Something … I can bear the weight of.
Never fear my dear ones, I will be a marshmallow again, just not tonight…
Well, my hello, my little friends! Where were we? Oh … yes, the last part of my story about angels, otherworldly happenings, and Dennis’ health crisis in Canada 4 years ago. Last we spoke in part II, Dennis was still in ICU, but, praise be, he had finally regained consciousness! Once they removed Dennis’ breathing tube and he was finally able to speak, the first thing he said was “Leana, I saw The Light and it was spectacular! I turned around because I just couldn’t bear to leave you and the kids yet. Heaven is amazing and never again, shall I fear death! I heard your prayers, when I was asleep, and so did the angels. God himself, is sending you a special angel, her name is Sprinkles! For the rest of your days on earth, she will constantly be by your side guiding and protecting you! You can cast all your fears and anxieties into the pit of doom, I have returned with the answers to the universe!” … No … NOT really …
What actually happened was, Dennis looked at me, and in a really weird voice said “Lee, I reckon, what I really want me is a mater samich and a Coca-Cola”. Translation for my International Dibbuns, “Lee, I really would like a tomato sandwich and a Coke.” Huh … well… ok, at least he was alive, I guess…
Dennis did seem different though, due to our situation (I am his 24/7 caregiver), we are kind of like Siamese twins, thus I know every gesture and every face he makes. I also know the cadence of his speech, even better than I know my own. It took me a few hours but I realized, that the way he sounded and the way he moved his mouth was just like his Dad. It was unbelievably, bizarre! Dennis’ dad, Glenn, was a wonderful human being, but he had a very different energetic presence to him than Dennis does. Glenn was witty, sweet and gentler. Dennis is witty, strong-willed, and has a much bigger energetic presence. Dennis was using words I had never in all our years together heard him use. Dennis, called my nephew a “tar baby rascal” ??? Ummm …a what? I Googled it and it is a reference to a character from an old book, The Story of Brer Rabbit. Dennis was also referring to every woman who came into the room as “Lady”, which was totally a Glenn thing. Glenn, like many older Southern men, had a way of mumbling through his lips and drawing out the words. Dennis was doing that too! I mean, more than usual.
Doctor after Doctor came in to gauge Dennis’ mental orientation. Each one asked, “what is your name?” He usually got his first name. “Who is this lady?” (me) he always got that right. “What year is it?” 2016 … dang my bad (never tell lies to someone in a coma). “Do you know where you are?” “Yes’m Greenville South Carolina”. Yikes! Slowly, after a few days back from la la land, the mimicking of his father faded, but he was still saying really strange things. He kept telling me “Lee, I feel so bad, you know I wouldn’t have done something like that on purpose. I really didn’t mean to kill that little Hispanic boy. Now the Fedaralis are after me!” He also was hallucinating (he was on no drugs). When the nurse came to get his stitches out, she apologized that she was here to do an unpleasant task. I proudly told her she had never met anyone as tough as my husband. “This will be a snap” I boasted! First stitch was pulled … “OWWWWWWW ” Dennis shrieked, like a little girl! He kept on shrieking and giving the nurse filthy looks, he also told her she shouldn’t have her kids with her when she was working. What kids?
Every time I left the room for more than a few minutes, Dennis would get all pissy at me. “Well, where have you been? you have left me here for days and they made me sleep out on the curb and they won’t give me any coffee. This hotel is horrible!” When I tried to explain we weren’t in a hotel, Dennis would get mad and tell me, “How would you know, you’re never here!”.
Since Dennis thought we were in a hotel, he couldn’t make sense of who the hospital staff was. He told one nurse, “Well, honey, now, how do you make a living? I hope it’s not as a pole dancer?” After she left and was hopefully out of earshot, he told me she would never make any money “dancing”. Oh, dear, this was getting embarrassing.
One day, an Indian doctor came in, and in his adorable accent said, “Mr. Conway, I would like to ask you some questions. Sir, can you tell me your name?” Dennis: “my name is Dennis” Dr: “Sir can you spell your name?” Dennis, “Sir, I went to school in Alabama, I can’t”. The doctor shut his little, file up and said, “I will come back tomorrow, to reevaluate”. Damn, I thought, we are never going to get out of this hospital. Aye yiy yiye! … and trying to explain to Dennis why the Braves were now in last place in the division as they had been in first before the big snooze, was hopeless. Dennis was taking his confusion personally, as if this was one big cosmic joke being played on him.
They weren’t going to release him until he made sense, so I began coaching him. I repeated over and over it was 2014 and he would repeat it, then the doctor came in and damn if he didn’t say it was 2016. Well, shit. Luckily, one of the doctors was very wise and felt Dennis had ICUitis. A state of confusion brought on by 24 hour lights, no daylight, and a strange environment, all following a serious illness. The doctor felt he wouldn’t completely recover until he got out of the hospital. Plus, of course, half of his brain had been swollen, and although the swelling was gone, the doctors said there would be residual effects that would hopefully all go away. Hopefully???? We got the thumbs up to leave, the doctor gave me his personal cell phone number and told me to not leave the city until he was making complete sense, or at least improving every day, or at least as much sense as he made before the incident. Yes, the bar was set low!
YAAAASSSSSS, we were one step closer to getting back to GA, but now how do we get back was the question. We could take a plane, and someone would have to drive the van back from Wpg to GA, or we could drive. I was pretty darned whooped, plus Dennis was completely paralyzed and extremely physically and emotionally needy. I just didn’t think I could make the 24-hour drive and take care of Dennis. My dad, Fred, stepped up with gusto. My dad is very intelligent, he is an engineer and has his MBA, and he also loves a challenge. However, Fred, is also a big believer in PAPER maps. For my younger readers a definition of Maps (not Google): a representation on paper or a flat surface of the whole or a part of an area, only used by people over 60. We had lots and lots of maps, snacks, a 4′ by 5′ frame my great-grandfather brought back from Paraguay, (I just had to bring it home), enough medical equipment to keep a nursing home going for a month, and a bewildered, beleaguered complete quadriplegic. Yaaaayyy, sounds like the making of a really fun, buddy, road trip movie!!! … or else the makings of a great Dateline special. Cue Keith Morrison, “Two men and one woman found dead in handicap van just outside Wpg. They were covered in paper maps, had a large, antique, ornamental frame, and the one in the wheelchair left a note, he must have written with his teeth, that said, “The Federalis did it”! Was foul play involved, or was this a case of very, poor judgment?” Yes, Keith!, damn it, it was really, really, poor judgment.
My dad and I took turns driving, and when it was my turn I could see Dennis sitting in the back in his wheelchair with eyes as big as saucers, looking incredibly alarmed. I had thought, he would just sleep the whole way home. Wrong again, it was like he didn’t want to fall asleep. Months later, Dennis told me he was terrified that if he went to sleep he wouldn’t wake up. I can see his point, as he missed a month the last time he shut his eyes. At the time, however, he was still trying to process what had happened and the edges of reality were fuzzy and frayed, as was his ability to communicate.
After 25 long hours of driving, stopping only one night, we made it home. When we pulled into the driveway to our adorable little, yellow, ranch, cottage in bustling, quaint Woodstock, GA, I cried. I cried because I was relieved, both of us came back. I cried because I was tired, I had poured my soul into trying to get Dennis back. Mostly, though I cried because I worry how many close calls we have left. None the less, we made it back home. Our wonderful neighbors had cleaned up our yard, put new flowers in the window boxes, and brought meals for two weeks after we got back. Ahhhh home … bliss.
A few weeks after we were home, when I felt comfortable enough to leave Dennis, Katie came over to stay with her dad, while I went to get a massage. Some of you, my friends, aren’t old enough to have felt this way, but I was exhausted all the way down to the marrow of my bones. I went to a cheap (semi-reputable) place down the street that takes walk-ins. I laid down on the table, and took a deep breath. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting too much from this experience. I had noticed the massage therapist’s license on the wall didn’t have an expiration date, hmmm … suspicious, so … they are licensed forever? To my delight, the hands of my therapist were firm but gentle, and they became like the strokes of angels wings, pressing in all the right places, communicating to me through touch, that I was not alone, that I was safe, that I could breathe, this scary chapter was over. I have been lucky enough to have had a lot of massages, mostly at massage school, but also at some of the best spas in North America, when Tim and I were entertaining clients on the company dime. This massage was a revelation. I felt an emotional and physical release that had been building for two months. I doubt this therapist ever gave a massage this good, before or after.
When I got up from the table I felt rejuvenated, Dennis was still very weak, but home and I was ready to forge forward. I asked the Asian, massage therapist for her name, she replied Helen (well actually she said Hewen). I floated out the door and to my car. I turned it on, and then it hit me, HELEN, the name of the insurance lady that found us and gave us $98,000, Helen the same name of my beloved “country” Oma! Oh … my… , what a wondrous, mysterious world we live in. I mean, how many Asian Helen’s do you know!?
Maybe, wee Dibbuns, you still don’t believe in angels, or that Dennis, visited with his father while he was unconscious- that’s ok. It’s not my intent to convince you of anything. We are all on our own journey and each of us are entitled to interpret the world through our own lens. My only bit of advice is, pay attention. Listen and look above the din of the physical world. I myself am sure there is more to all of this than what meets the eye. Understand, that it is only through challenge, that these mysteries are revealed. In between the rocks and the hard places of this world, tiny little seeds of hope sprout and create masterpieces. Because, miracles come amidst the fear, the disease, the mistakes, the broken hearts, and the confusion.
When I finished this post I was looking for a picture that represented, what I hoped, was the big take away from my story, The hard parts in life are essential to creating the beautiful bigger story. I stumbled upon this artist Elspeth Maclean, I was immediately mesmerized by her work. Among other things, Elspeth, among-st other things, takes rocks and turns them into beautiful art! When I had been in the hospital my Aunt Liz had given me a stone from the beach at the cottage, it had been polished, she told me that I was like the stone being polished by adversity into something beautiful. I kept that stone in my pocket until we got back to GA, now it is on a shelf in our house.
So when people and life throw rocks at you, or you are between a rock and a hard place, don’t despair, turn your experience into your own medium of beautiful art!
I learned so many things during our stay at the hospital in Canada. Things can, and will change in the blink or an eye. Hard things come, but always,
xoxo, Mummy (Auntie Lee-Lee)
Next post, back to my list! Photos of task number #6 Dance with Dennis standing(ish)!
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.
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!
I remember Love’s first light in me.
I was cold then
like a stone when I saw your flickering
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:
If you don’t wake up I’m going to get a breast reduction; generally, that would work on most husbands.
Katie is engaged to a high school dropout who is in a Garth Brooks cover band. WAKE UP AND STOP THE WEDDING!
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.) 😑
I’m NEVER going to forgive you if you die!!!
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 …
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.
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.
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!
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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!
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,
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.
“The world we are really living in”.
Not this hot mess ⬇️
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.
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!
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?”
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.
a 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,
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!
This 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.
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!)
I sent Dennis out with his shirt on inside out.
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.
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”?
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?
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.
(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 a 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.It’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!