In Memoriam

The doctor is not in. He is no longer accepting new patients. He is gone. There will be no referrals. You’re on your own. It’s just as well. No one could fill his shoes anyway. His title was honorary. He wasn’t really a doctor. He was a pipe-fitter, master mechanic, automotive hobbyist. He was known as Dad, Uncle Tracy, Mr. Tracy, and Honey. (His grandkids call him Honey.) To me, he will always be Dr. Tracy – the brain surgeon who earned his title teaching his teenage daughter how to drive a 3-on-the-tree manual transmission pick up truck as I sat between them. “If this truck is in first gear, then I’m a brain surgeon!”

When Dr. Tracy called me back in January to let me know that he was terminal, I was at the high school doing volunteer work. He seemed matter of fact and could just as easily have been telling me that he’d sprained an ankle.  Being the walking Kleenex commercial that I am, I sat down and started to cry.  He got upset that he’d upset me. I guess that’s always the way with any terminal disease, isn’t it? The person who is doing the dying always spends his last days consoling those who aren’t.  He said, “Now see? I shouldn’t have told you. I knew you were at the school, and I’ve gone and upset you. I didn’t call to make you cry or beg sympathy.” Well, then the tears were replaced by anger. (Yeah, I’m an emotional funnel cloud some days.)

“Look here, Old Man!” I told him (without shouting because he is still my elder.) “I love you almost as much as I love my own daddy. So, you’ll allow me the privilege of crying for you.” Aside from my dad, husband, and brother, there is no other man I’ve loved more.

It took a few weeks to arrange things here in Texas before I could get down to see him. While my five children are mostly grown, there are still 4 in high school, one of whom is “special needs.”  My siblings took turns heading from here to Mobile to visit with him. And then it was my turn. And I think for each of us it was similar. We arrived at the house and had something to eat at the kitchen table with him. Then we held down that kitchen chair talking to him, laughing with him, reminiscing with him until it was time for us to head back to Texas. Our cousins from Alabama, Mississippi, and even New York, traveled down to Mobile to sit on that chair and love on him these past few months.

Aunt Ginger and Wendy have both told me how “tickled he was” that we took the time to come visit with him. And I think that I speak for all of us when I say that we wished we could have done more. You see, Uncle Tracy was not our “blood relative.” He married our Aunt Ginger more than 54 years ago and he seemed to think that he was an “in-law” to all of us. He seemed genuinely surprised by the number of his nieces, nephews, and grandnieces and grandnephews whose lives had been touched by him. Most of us had known him as long as we’d been alive and had gotten advice from him about various mechanical issues, or home repair issues, or just chewing the fat. He’s family. However it was that he joined it, by birth or by marital bond: He’d been part of it longer than any of us.

Our family is short by one tall member today. And while we mourn our loss of him, we rejoice that he is no longer suffering the pain that he endured for these last months. The good doctor will always be with us in spirit and in memory. And every time I start to drive after accidentally putting my car in third gear rather than first, I know that there is a brain surgeon smiling down from Heaven at me.

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Judging Books by Covers

The following was written by my friend, Joli Crow. (It’s shared with her permission.) And it speaks volumes as to the body-shaming and judging and the ridiculous lack of manners that seems to be rampant any more. I read this this morning on her Facebook status and the more I read, the more my heart broke for her. I honestly don’t know what I would have done were I to have been in her place. I would like to say that I’d have called him out on it out loud. I’ve done this in defending my daughter during her autistic meltdowns and people are staring or making rude remarks. But I don’t know that I would if I were the target of mean comments and bug-eyed glares.

Joli, you are an amazing woman; a survivor. Keep strong. ~N

****

Dear Mr. Chiseled Jaw,

I heard you this morning. Standing behind me, on your phone. I heard you tell the person on the other end that you can’t stand fat people. I heard you tell them you thought something was wrong with me, because you can see the scars on my arms and chest. I heard you tell them that “a little hard work and some plastic surgery and she MIGHT be a 5 someday.” And the comments about my hair. And the laughing.

A few years, a few months, hell, even a few weeks ago, I would have broken and faltered under your harsh words and judging gaze. I would have gone home, curled up under my blanket, and cried myself to sleep. I would have started comfort eating, or hide myself in a book, or done ANYTHING I could to pretend I never heard you.

But I’m going to tell you something. Are you listening? Probably not, but I’ll tell you anyway. This “fat” body? Carried life inside it. It protected a tiny human, one who now could pick your ass up and toss you aside without a second thought.
This “fat” body? You act like it is unlovable. Yet not only do I have an amazing partner who loves it and all its curves, but I have two children who love to cuddle it; who think my softness is a source of comfort. It’s a body people are not afraid to touch, to hug. It’s a body that has lived.
My scars? The ones you said made me look like a junkie or an AIDS victim? I never chose them. They chose me. Each scar was carefully applied with hate, malice, and savagery. Each BATTLE SCAR is a reminder of each day I have survived; each war I have won. Each scar is a reminder of the victories, both large and small, that I have earned in my life.
I may not be YOUR perfect 10. But I know my worth. I know who I am. I know and love each of my demons. I have survived and I have won!

Today, you could have hurt me. You could have undone all the hard work I have put myself through to love myself more. But you’re not worth it. You are no one to me and I don’t have to answer to you or your opinions of me. Because at the end of the day, are you the one putting food on my table, clothing my children, paying my bills, loving me and each of my scars and every pound of me? Are you the one jumping to my side when I need a friend? Are you the one I turn to for comfort?

NO.

So, have a nice day. Enjoy your life and learn to be a little less of an asshole.

K? Thanks, bye!

From,

The Woman who no longer gives a damn what you think.

PS. I will admit a certain satisfaction when you were refused service because of your statements. Gotta love small towns!

Precipitation-Induced Win

After having had such a busy summer where I felt as though I’d achieved only 10% of the tasks I’d given myself due to the unbearable heat, I feel like all of that has changed today. Why today? you ask. It’s been raining for the last 2 days and, as anyone who knows me can tell you, the rain is my jam.

It’s in the high 80’s now and I don’t feel like I’m trudging through hot mud. I have managed to wash 5 loads of laundry (complete with folding and putting away!) I have disinfected the kitchen sinks and counters after washing up all the “midnight snacks” dishes that TWO OF MY ROTTEN TEENAGERS LEFT FOR ME IN THE SINK! I have already started slow-cooking dinner, made my bed, had breakfast and figured out what my afternoon errand list looks like. Thank you, Rain.

I know that the rain of late has not been kind to our neighbors in Louisiana. Last I read, there were 8 or 9 parishes underwater. I do continue to pray for relief, safety, and a very long dry spell for them. But here in North Texas, I am grateful for the cold front that has brought rain our way.

And for those of you kind-hearted souls who would like to help out those people who have lost their homes, vehicles, pretty much all material possessions due to this flooding, please donate to the American Red Cross by CLICKING RIGHT HERE! Thank you for your kind generosity. 20160817_134925

 

Overbooking and Aging

I’m not really old. But I’m no Spring chicken, either. And for those of us who have been in the “over achiever” category all our lives, this whole aging thing is just ass-kicking. No, not a little tiring. I mean, beat-down with a baseball bat, friggin’ leaving you taking 3-hour naps in the middle of the day, exhausting.

When I was 18, I lived in an apartment with my sister. We both worked several jobs in order to pay the rent, utilities, phone bill, gas/maintenance on our cars, and our part time college tuition and books. And by several jobs, I mean that we were like that overworked family from the West Indies whose members all had multiple jobs on “In Living Color.”  I remember at the time working 5 days a week for my office day job from 7:30 am – 4pm and then from 5- 9pm bagging groceries on Ft Meade 3 days a week, answering the switchboard at (the now closed) Laurel Toyota and Jaguar in Laurel, Maryland from 4-9pm twice a week and all day Saturday and loading boxes onto trucks for E.I.Kane Office Movers on Sundays and days off with the other jobs. I sometimes worked overtime at my day job watching over contractors to keep them out of the “off-limits” corridors or working for our own internal office movers.

The older I got, the more part-time jobs I held down after my day job. I worked as a cashier
for Rite Aid, Romano’s Restaurant, (the now closed) Rumblefish Nightclub, Damon’s Ribs (closed down within a year of my leaving allegedly due to the owner embezzling), and various babysitting jobs, tutoring jobs, and once as a free-lance maid.

Once I got married and had kids, part-time jobs were a thing of the past. I couldn’t juggle all the schedules of five children and work plus a second job. So I made up for the “not enough to do” feeling by over-achieving at housework and cooking. I learned to sew. I would scrub down the walls and shutters and windows every month. I would scrub area rugs and wipe down cupboards and appliances. I scrubbed floor tiles and hung my laundry out to dry on the line.

I’m in my 40’s now. Screw all that shit. I keep a tidy house…mostly. I still cook amazing foods…because we can’t afford to feed a family of seven at a restaurant frequently. I now over-achieve by volunteering all the time and this Summer, my kids decided to kill me slowly by signing up for Summer School to take accelerated Physics and Geometry. That would be fine ordinarily….except they signed up for different sessions. The two taking accelerated Physics took it in the first session. The one taking accelerated Geometry signed up for the second session. Ugh. Also, the two that took the first session now both have jobs so I feel like I’m constantly behind the wheel of a car. My rotator cuff is threatening to go on strike…permanently, due to all the gear changing and u-turns required in a car that does not have power steering.

I’m currently attempting to set up 3 different fundraisers for a non-profit organization and I’m running into brick walls while trying to meet the deadlines I set for myself thanks to all the driving. Today was supposed to be a “get the house CLEAN clean” while the kids were at work and school. I ended up losing in a battle of wills with my bed that kept taunting me. I took a 3 hour nap.

I think I’m just going to admit that I’m too old to take on all of the things like I used to do. The sooner that my family can just learn to applaud when I’m able to fold and put away a basket of towels AND get the dinner made, the better. And so what if I’m getting all this accomplished while still wearing pajamas? At least I remembered deodorant and I’m remembering to put actual pants on before going grocery shopping. What more do you people want?!

 

My Body is a Traitor

Rotator cuff is screaming at me and has been since January that it is being overused. I tried taking it to the doctor and all she prescribed was NSAIDs and ordered an x-ray which didn’t show any bone issues. I took it back in April and said, “Hey, this thing is worse.” She sent me to physical therapy. I did the prescribed exercises for a week regularly. Then for two weeks irregularly. And then I got busy. And now my rotator cuff is threatening to just go on strike or worse.

The plantar fascia in my left foot has been quiet lately. I’m pretty sure that it and the diminished cartilage in my big toe have been waiting for a surprise attack once ole rotator cuff chills out. Stupid arthritis has been just gnawing on that cartilage all this time without any problems thanks to your brain only being able to recognize one severe pain at a time while drowning out the sounds of the others.

Through all of this, my eyes and skin continue to dry out regardless of the copious amounts of water that I drink daily. And you’d think with all this stinkin’ sweat that is pouring out of me day and night, regardless of clothing, air-conditioning, or temperature outside, that I’d obviously have some sort of moisture in my body. (Aside from the urine that escapes with every step, sneeze, cough, laugh, or wrong move.) Yeah, not so. Menopause is just life’s way of backing that dump truck over a woman following mowing her down the first time during menstruation and childbirth.

I always heard that aging is not for the faint of heart. I can attest to this. But as good as I’ve been to my body over the years, I find this treasonous blitz the last two years to be a huge betrayal. After all of the exercise and good foods and even those cheesecake treats I’ve given it, that it could just turn on me and cause me constant agony makes me sad. But what does one do? Aging is NOT for the faint of heart. And I guess it beats the alternative.

 

Now That I Can Breathe Without Tears

This was my post on Facebook the day following the tragic and brutal assassination of five police officers just 20 miles east of me in Dallas. I thought I would share it here and then expand:

“I spent the better part of last night with my ear glued to the radio. I feel like a giant rock is on my chest, I am so heartbroken that this happened here. And I am bracing myself to hear what weak attempt to link this cowardly and brutal assassination of our police officers to either the “open carry” side or the “stricter gun restrictions” side of the argument.
Our police force is NOT a means to anyone’s political end. These were good people who were hunted by a sniper’s rifle while they protected peaceful demonstrators who were exercising their 1st Amendment rights to express their solidarity with people of the other communities who lost young black men in violent deaths at the hands of a few bad cops.
That said, I also firmly believe that every one of those black men who were killed by police officers throughout this country were also good men whose lives were taken out of the fear, prejudice, bad judgment, overzealousness, incompetence, or power-drunken arrogance of a select group of police officers. Just as black criminals do not represent the entire black population, those bad cops do not represent law enforcement as a whole.
My heart hurts today and I just do not want to deal with Trump or Clinton or anyone else’s politically motivated soundbites to further their own campaigns on the backs of Blue or Black coffins.
‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬
‪#‎BackTheBlue‬
‪#‎UnitedWeStand‬

I am still “in the feels” about all of this. I have been since Trayvon Martin was shot four years ago. I’ve watched from the sidelines and spoken my peace in support of my fellow citizens from within the African-American community. I cannot ever understand how they must feel, having to worry every time their young men step outside the safety of their own homes.

I can only imagine that it is similar to how I feel every September 11th; how I go about my day with my butt cheeks clenched and acid burning a hole in my stomach as I wait for all my children and my husband to return home at the end of that day. How every time there is a shooting, hostage situation, or explosion within our borders the first thing that pops into my mind is, “Dear God. Please don’t let it be a Muslim that is committing this terrible act.” Only this anxiety for my black friends is one that they must endure in the backs of their minds EVERY day and not just annually or during some heinous event.

I want to cry out for them and I want to hug them and I want to scream. I want to be the one who organizes some sort of training program to run through all of the law enforcement academies from coast to coast and make sure that our police officers can learn to see our human sides and not affiliate skin color with criminal capability that crosses all racial lines. How do we turn off that hate? Is there an app for THAT?

I am the person who sees the good in others. I am excited that at my children’s high school on the lower socio-economic side of town, there is a police academy training program where the local community college and police academy choose from our predominately minority population to eventually protect and serve our community. This is affecting positive change in our city. I want this for all the cities. I want to see communities working together to improve the economy; opening and supporting small businesses within the poorer neighborhoods so that money is put back into the community and helping to cut unemployment rates, increase local spending, create pride.

I am not Pollyanna. I know that these things will not solve prejudicial views of all or fear due to racial misunderstandings by law enforcement agents. I know that there is no magic wand to “fix it” in the short term. But I know that what I would like to see happen would definitely contribute to a long-term fix of what’s broke in our country. I will continue to push for education opportunities within my own community. I will continue to teach my own kids empathy, fairness, and to stand on the side of right. I know that the genuinely good people of the United States will continue to do the same. And we can support our brothers and sisters of all skin colors, backgrounds, religions, cultures, and still support our law enforcement officials. I’m going to keep doing my part.

Regarding Beyonce’s Half-Time Show

I didn’t watch it, save a few clips posted on social media. I didn’t watch the Super Bowl. I don’t give a crap about American football if one of my kids isn’t playing in the game….unless it’s the Alabama vs. Auburn game. And then Roll Tide.

I digress.

I have nothing to add to the commentary on what this artist was thinking or trying to say. How could I know? But I’ll leave this for you to read about it. The blogger who wrote it is
someone very dear to me for whom I have the utmost respect. She clearly lays out for the reader what so many of us stumble around trying to perfectly word and cannot.

So please, y’all…. CLICK HERE TO READ !

(Thank you. And come one, Baseball Season!)

I’ve Got Some Decisions to Make

I had a doctors appointment today. I like my doctor. She’s soft spoken and has warm hands and a lovely smile. She’s very kind and patient. Today she stared me down and said to me straight out, “You’ve got some decisions to make.”

Apparently, Carb-ageddon has kicked the crap out of my usually fantastic numbers. Okay, so the scale numbers are always yuck and the cholesterol has always been kind of high. But my sugar levels have always been great and my heart’s always been in good condition and my blood pressure low – low enough to win at limbo low. So today when I went in for my check up and to discuss the labs I had done last month, I’m now about 100 lbs overweight (I knew this already,) my cholesterol is terrible, and I’m pre-diabetic and about to step across the line into shitty full-on type II diabetes. My blood pressure was still low. At least my heart still likes me.

So, I am going to give up my love of grapefruit now and start taking my damn cholesterol medication. She said I can always come off of it if I can lose the weight and bring my levels down. I’m meeting friends at the park tomorrow morning to restart my walking mission of 1,000 miles that I quit doing back when I came down with bronchitis in November. We’re going to walk as fast and as far as we can while running our mouths about our lives as moms and wives and we’re going to get all those endorphins and benefits of natural antidepressant without all the side effects of Prozac.

I have to do this. I’m not happy. I’m not as healthy as I once was. I’m hurting all the time and I’m not sleeping which is just putting this whole weight gain and depression thing on a semi-permanent loop. My doctor is right. I’ve got some decisions to make. And I’m pretty sure that I’ve already made them. I can’t take care of my family if I can’t take care of me. So, that Carb-ageddon thing? It’s about to meet Health-pocalypse.

Sick Sucks

A friend of mine in whose office I volunteer several hours per  week, came in for about 9 days straight coughing and hacking and sounding just awful. Her colleague and I both encouraged her to go to the doctor and get antibiotics. It was obviously bronchitis.

Fast-forward 2 weeks. I have it now. No one else I know has it or has had it. I stayed on my couch for 2 days straight (with the exception of hauling teenagers from campus to campus) and then went back in to assist with a letter of appreciation and she called me “Typhoid Mary.” Excuse me? Hmmmm.

I could not possibly have caught this crap at a worse time. We don’t have health insurance and our indigent service at a local hospital had run out (because I couldn’t remember what month to renew it.) Anyway, I’ve since reapplied and am waiting for approval but so far, I continue to hack my lungs up which pisses off my Autistic daughter who has hyper-sensitive hearing and she yells, “STOP THAT COUGHING!” because my cough hurts her ears terribly.

Being that I have that hallowed name “Mom,” I’m apparently also a superhero, who, in lieu of a cape, comes with set of car keys and a spatula and the super secret code that starts the washing machine. My supermemory power leaves me in charge of finding phone chargers, backpacks, hair scrunchies, the shoes “you know, that I wore last week?” and the lyrics to every rock, pop, or rap song that was played on the radio from 1977-2004. Unlike Dads, I don’t get sick days where the world stops due to a cold or worse, a hangnail. Dishes still need washing, groceries still need purchasing (and on a shoestring budget), dinners still need cooking, and bills still need paying (see: remainder of shoestring budget.)

I’m catching sleep and delegating authority as I can, without giving away my secret identity (frizzy-haired woman with graying roots, corduroy marks on her face where she passed out on the couch after accidentally taking too much cold medicine, and really bad breath because the toothpaste ran out 2 days ago and she can’t remember, or give a shit, to buy more.) One of these MOFOs in this house is going to have to take a walk to the grocery store a mile from the house and stand through the terribly loud mariachi music on the PA and buy some more 88 cent Pepsodent because I just CAN’T, y’all. Also, they’ll need to buy more pads because we’re out because I’ve been using them as incontinence pads due to all this coughing.  Thanks.