Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Short Blog Addressing Recent Events

Here is a short blog to address recent events of the last few months.
To all who have:
prayed for us
visited visited us
made us laugh
helped Z graduate
wiped our tears
fed our hearts and our bodies
gave financially
gave emotionally
reached out
hugged us personally and virtually
transported us to the hospital
took care of us while one of us was in the ER or hospital
loved David
put Davids best interests first
had Davids back
had my back
had Z's back
cheered us on
listened even when there was silence
cried with us
smiled at us when we were down and......................
did all of this without judgment,

You all know who you are! 

Monday, May 19, 2014

David Will Have a Pool

Z has said so many times of late that he really doesn't like people very much anymore. His starry eyed optimism of youth is quickly turning into the well deserved cynicism of becoming an adult. I have tried to temper his burgeoning jaded outlook with positivity, but sadly even I lose a bit of faith in mankind at times.

If you follow our daily exploits on facebook, then you will know that the last few weeks we have been dealing with "the saga of the swimming pool." We have an above ground pool that we have had for years. This pool has been extremely important in Davids summer physical therapy routine. Water therapy is one of the best therapies going for kids with cerebral palsy and since we are on the road to David walking....it is even more crucial now. After having a rough go last fall and winter, our pool did not get winterized properly, however a wonderful group of people from a local church group came and helped us drain and clean the pool out a couple of weeks ago. With a clean pool we then began to fill it. By the next day, the liner had slipped and about a thousand gallons of water had soaked into the ground. We refitted the liner and tried again....same outcome. Thinking that the third time was the charm, we tried again. This time not only did it slip but it also started to cave the pool in and then the Kansas winds joined in and left the pool fairly mangled. We then learned that our pool pump/motor was also toast. I was really devastated as we had just gotten the okay for David to begin his physical therapy in the pool and the doctor was both ecstatic and hopeful that by summers end he would be walking. 

The night we gave our pool last rights....I came in the house pretty defeated. I had no pool and no money to buy another one. I remembered that a friend of mine had found an really nice pool on Craigslist in the free section. The homeowner no longer wanted to deal with the up keep, they just wanted it gone. I thought maybe I could find one too. While I didn't find a free one, I did however, find one that was right here in town and was like a dream come true. It was bigger than our pool and had a  3/4 deck along with every bell and whistle you could imagine. It's most amazing feature was the "grand staircase" steps it had that would make getting David in and out of the pool a breeze. Add to that a solar cover, leaf cover, winter cover, vacuum and pool toys galore and it was a deal worth well over $20,000 for just $2000. I fell in love immediately but knew it was nowhere in my league. After all....it was over $2.00 which was all the money I had to my name. I did decided however to put it in God's hands and if for some strange reason we were to have this pool....He would show us the way. The very next day, I saw God hard at work. 

While on fb, I got a message from an amazingly kind individual who stated they wanted to help David get a pool. This Craigslist pool got brought up and they told me to go look at it and if I liked it, to let them know. On seeing the pool in person, we were in love. After such a crappy last few months, this pool seemed like the happiest thing we had had in our lives in a while. I immediately contacted my fb friend who said if we liked it to tell the lady that they money was in the mail. Unfortunately my poor fb friend and I had gotten our wires crossed in the process of talking about a pool motor vs the pool and they misunderstood thinking the price of a pool motor was the price of this pool. Once we realized the mistake, I had to go back to the pool owner and tell her we couldn't get the pool. 

This was a heart breaking process for all of us. We had let ourselves get attached and dare to dream about spending our summer with David in this pool, watching his legs getting stronger and having a much needed vacation away from all that had been a part of our last few months. The pool owner was so kind and she nearly cried as she had seemed very happy that her beloved pool was going to our beloved David. While we were there she had called her daughter and then she came back in and we had a really wonderful conversation. She said she felt that this pool was still going to be ours and that she was going to just hold it for a week. She said that a lot could happen in a week and by the next Thursday, she was just sure that I would be calling her with good news or she would be calling us with good news. At any rate, she just knew this would be Davids pool. I still had no money and no prospects of money, but her words gave me hope. 

On coming home that evening, I posted on fb that we would not be getting the pool. When I told people about the pool originally, many had posted that they would like to help disassemble and reassemble the pool and deck. I literally had about 50-60 people willing to give up a couple of weekends to help David have his pool. I wanted those who had volunteered to know that unfortunately we would not need their services. As I finished the post, I had decided in my head that for whatever reason, this pool was not in the cards for us. I had also decided though that this pool was brought to us, because for some reason we were suppose to meet the pool owner. She was kind of an amazing person and someone who you walked away knowing that they had touched your life in a special way even though you weren't sure what that was at the moment. 

Within a short time of posting my sad news, a very kind young woman in my town had decided to take the lead on a fundraiser for David so that he could get this pool. I was also getting messages from others offering to help any way they could. Hope began to rise again. God was obviously still working.

The weekend was crazy with graduation and people in from out of town. I had no computer time and was not able to keep up on the fundraiser. Then today (well actually Sunday) when all was quiet, I took a peek. Many had donated and the number was rising. I was hoping that Monday or Tuesday I would be able to go to the lady's house and present her with cash for Davids pool. I had even discussed with several today about the logistics of preparing my yard for the pool and dismantling the pool and deck at her house. I was so excited and I couldn't wait to see David's face when he saw his new pool. Then the young woman who headed up the fundraiser checked in with me today and suggested I touch base with the pool lady to let her know where we were at. Since in our last discussion she had given us until Thursday, I really had no plans of contacting her until either Thursday or when I had cash in hand (whichever came first) but was so excited I decided to go ahead and call her. She did not answer but then called me right back. 

At first she acted like she wasn't sure who I was. I could feel an uneasy feeling crawl over me. I kept thinking though, Surely not again. Surely we aren't going to lose this pool a second time. My worst fears were confirmed as she said, "Well honey....I sold that pool. They are here right now taking it down."  I reminded her as nicely and non-panicky as I could that she had given us a week and she said that they had offered cash. Feeling defeated I hung up. First I cried a bit and then I pulled up the big girl panties again and looked for a plan B!

Plan B started out as a thorough scouring of Craigslist and the local classifieds. There was nothing even remotely close to what I had just lost. Most were too small for David to get any therapeutic benefits or way over priced. I was so frustrated and sad. I wanted to ask WHY, but then I knew the answer would be....WHY NOT? My second thought was What lesson am I suppose to learn here? I would say right off hand, patience. Then there is the fact that just because we want something doesn't necessarily mean we get it. (I really thought I had learned that lesson a long time ago) Then there was that old stand by, that maybe this whole pool thing is a journey and that this particular pool was just a stop in the journey but not the actual journeys end. Whatever the case, I handed it ALL back to God and promised that I would let Him handle this pool thing from here on out as I was sure He knew better than I about it all. 

No....I have not given up. There has to be the perfect pool for David out there. I just haven't met it yet. This pool was obviously the perfect pool for some other family and I am okay with that. Now Z, he was a little upset. I know he was disappointed as he was so looking forward to helping with this project and giving David what he needed to walk. I saw his cynicism creep in and his dislike and distrust for most of the human race rear its ugly head as I told him the pool was gone. Then I reminded him of all the people who volunteered to help us with the pool. I reminded him of those who started and contributed to the fund raiser and I reminded him of all those who have helped us emotionally, physically, financially and most of all....all of those who have prayed for us during the rough patches of our life....especially the last few years. I could see his face soften and the realization that not all of the human race deserves his disdain. Not even our little pool lady...God bless her heart.

The bottom line is, this is just another speed bump. At the end of the day we will survive this one just as we have all the others that now reside in our rear view mirror. We are blessed by kind strangers and amazing friends. Most of all, I have complete faith that God has this and in the end....just like he will walk.....David will also have a pool!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Into Hell and Back....The Story of Z

So today I would like to say a word (or a hundred) about anxiety, stress and medication. You may notice as this goes on, that you might possibly read a little anger between the lines. I have no idea what is going to come out as this is the first time I dare put words to emotions and speak of the last two months.

Those of you who know me or who follow my blogs know that when my 18 year old was five, his father died suddenly of a brain aneurysm. Z was home alone with his dad for five hours before I arrived home. It was July 2nd and I thought they were out getting fireworks. Z had been told by his dad not to touch the phone or go near the door as Tim was about to take a shower before the aneurysm burst. Z did as he was told and there he sat for all those hours, by himself trying to make sense of the senseless. After this, I took Z to see a therapist for awhile. Finally I was told that he had gone as long as was necessary at that point. He had processed all that he could for a five year old. She told me to take him home, make life as normal as our new normal could be and just watch him. I was cautioned that as hormones took a hold or certain life experiences happened, that it would be a good idea for him to see a therapist again just to reprocess, but that he would be fine.

The therapist was right and a couple of times over the years when hormones hit or in times of extreme stress (remember he was bullied for almost an entire year), I would take him back to a therapist and he would do the work of reprocessing and then when he was good, he would move on again. We have been fortunate over the years to have therapists that were actually in it to help and not just for the paycheck. When they knew Z had gotten to where he needed to be, they didn't insist he keep coming back. On the contrary, they would send him on his way with their number in hand to call if he needed to. Neither therapist that he has seen in the past is still in the area though, so about two months ago when Z started feeling a bit stressed and anxious, he decided he would like to see a therapist again. For Z, it was as much an act of independence as it was a need to process. He is 18 now and when he knew he was starting to feel the signs of stress, he reached out to a therapist on his own. Other than informing me of the decision, he wanted me to sit back and let him handle everything from finding a therapist to making the appointment and getting himself there. I was both proud and a bit apprehensive over his ability to take the bull by the horns with this situation. Being mom though, I did caution him that many therapists want to take a medicinal approach to therapy as a first line of action rather than giving a person coping tools. He assured me that he was only interested in talking and processing and not band aiding his stress with medication.

Now here I should tell you a little about what brought Z to the decision to go to a therapist. He is a senior and it is/was getting close to finals. We had just come out from under four months of extreme stress in all our lives with Davids surgeries, hospital stays and health issues.....not to mention Z's stress of being afraid to ask for anything school or non-school related because he knew that I financially couldn't give him much help. He was a senior who was having to cut corners and make do and I know it was hard. It was a culmination of both past and present events that were closing in and he knew he needed someone completely neutral to confide in and give him direction. I marveled at what a smart young man he was and wondered how many other 18 year olds would recognize this kind of stress and take proactive measures to fix the problem? He wanted to enjoy what was left of his senior year, the summer and ultimately start college feeling good about life and the world around him.

On the outside, the only thing I saw as far as Z's being stressed was that he had a quicker temper and a sharper tongue. Even then though, he would catch himself and say I need to be by myself for a bit. He would go downstairs or outside for a few and then he would come to me, apologize and be fine. I chalked it up to his being a senior.

After Z's first appointment with the therapist, he came home pretty pleased. He said that he liked her and that he thought it would be really good for him. Apparently my son, who is not much of a talker on personal issues and who keeps things pretty close to the vest, opened up to this therapist and I was happy for him. The following day, Z had a major panic attack. He had never had one before and it scared us both. Once he was through it, he decided he should call his therapist. She wanted to see him the next day. She said she wanted to make sure he was processing properly. He went in to see her and he came home saying that she was putting him on meds. In the course of 48 hours, he had gone from first time visit, to a panic attack, to a second visit, a trip to his MD's office and now he stood before me with anti-anxiety medication. Lexapro to be precise. I was not pleased to say the least. I asked him why she did this and he said because she felt that it would help with his therapy. It was here that I asked just what his therapy was. I didn't need details, all I wanted to know is if she was allowing him to bring all his stress to the surface but not giving him any tools to emotionally deal with that stress. This is exactly what happened. What followed in the next few weeks has been a nightmare that I wouldn't wish on someone I hated.

Z's independence and stubbornness made him so want to handle this situation on his own. He wanted to keep me out of the loop for a couple of reasons: 1) He didn't want me to feel like I had more on my plate to handle and 2) He definitely saw this as a way to be in charge of his own life and his own destiny. However, he quickly learned that from that first dose of Lexapro.....he was in over his head. Within a week of his first therapy visit, he had three anxiety/panic attacks and he began getting really sick. He was either throwing up, dying with a headache or both. His therapist simply said, this is normal. I made him go to his MD who also said.....this is normal. I was wondering how normal it was for him to go into a therapist to process some stress and a week later, be having multiple panic attacks and sick as a dog. Still Z wanted to handle it all.

By week two we not only were still dealing with the attacks and the sickness but now I was seeing someone emerge who looked like my son, but was definitely not my son. The panic attacks were turning into fits of anger. You could actually see a physical transformation when they would come on. He would become extremely pale, his fists would clench, he would start to sweat and his blue eyes would literally go dark. The first time I saw it happen, it terrified me. He suddenly had a hair trigger temper and he didn't care who he lashed out at. It was affecting every aspect of his life....home, school and friends. I was trying desperately to defuse and redirect all day every day just to keep Z from imploding his life. He would send me texts from school telling me that some kid was making him angry and he just wanted to beat him bloody or that he was just going to walk out of school. He was too close to graduating and I wasn't going to let whatever was going on derail 12 years of hard work. I finally had to have a conversation with the principal and vice principal and see what could be done. I told them a little about what was going on, but I was not about to ruin their opinion of Z with all the gory details. Luckily, they like Z and were willing to let him finish the year with home bound schooling. Why or how this all came about I am not sure as it was not the norm at all for seniors just weeks from graduating. I can't help but think this was a God thing all on it's own.

By week two and three, life in my house had become a war zone. Z's anger would go from zero to a thousand, in the blink of an eye. I never knew what would set him off. It was as if he lost any ability at all to control his anger and he had stepped across the threshold to rage. While he never physically touched me or anyone else that I know of, his words became vile and my house took a beating. His episodes became more and more frequent and they always either started or ended with a panic/anxiety attack. The attacks alone were taking a toll on Z's physical state as his body would tense up to the point of causing him back spasms and muscle knots. He was throwing up and when he wasn't acting out, he was suffering with his head. When the episodes had run their course, Z was always apologetic, confused and he was starting to fear for his own sanity. He really thought he was going crazy. I never thought that was the case, but I knew something horrible was happening and I was fighting to find out what it was.

Things continued to escalate and Z's rages included him yelling every four letter word he had ever heard to the top of his lungs. I know our neighbors had to be wondering what was going on and a couple of times I was afraid things were so loud that someone might call the police. They never did but I ended up calling them a couple of times myself. Our local police have what they call CIT officers (I think that's what they are called anyway). They are specifically  trained to help in situations like what we were having and since I had no one else to turn to, I had no choice but to turn to them. The CIT officers would come to the house and basically talk Z off his emotional ledge. It probably helped that they were men too. It was one of the CIT officers that first brought up the Lexapro and the possibility that this was the culprit. They gave us some mental health resources to look into, along with crisis help lines. I really couldn't believe that our lives had come to this in just a few short weeks.

In Z's non-episodic moments, he was trying desperately to fix what was obviously broken but he was getting more and more terrified that he was unfixable. He went so far as to wait in the psychiatric ER one night for five hours just to get some answers. He refused to allow me to go with him (he was 18 after all) and apparently he was not treated very well during the wait. Once there he was not allowed his phone, he could not leave and they couldn't guarantee that he would be able to see anyone. Once he did get to see the doc, it was only for about 10 minutes. She did tell him though, that she had concerns about the Lexapro and she was very unsure of why the MD had put him on the highest FDA approved dosage. Since she was just an intake doc, she didn't change anything and told him to talk to his MD about the meds.

Z did not see this as a win, especially when he talked to his MD and was told that he had not had the Lexapro in his system long enough to have any results from it one way or another. The episodes continued and you could see them taking a physical toll on Z. They were taking a toll on me too. I was not sleeping, I was walking on egg shells trying not to set him off and I was terrified every time he walked out the door, not knowing how he would come home or even if he would come home. Life was a living hell and neither Z nor I had anyone we felt we could talk to or go to over all of this. I started wondering if this was going to be the thing that broke this family. Amazingly though (another God thing I know), Z only had one episode when David was home. It happened while David was asleep and he never budged during the whole thing. I was so grateful! So was Z.

My days had become nothing more than watching Z and trying to read what might be coming next. I was seeing less and less of the young man I knew and more and more of this person who had no impulse control and a hair trigger temper. Finally after a particularly horrible incident, when he had calmed down and was as much the old Z as he ever was anymore, I asked him to let me help. He was frustrated with his therapist and his MD who kept saying that there was nothing wrong and that the Lexapro just wasn't to full therapuetic levels yet and the ER was no help at all. I knew that although Z thought of himself as a man, that these people saw him as a kid and therefore, he was getting nowhere with anyone. I told him that he had done his best, but sometimes when we run out of skills, it is time to turn it over to someone with "more" skills and I pointed out that I had years of experience dealing with doctors and hospitals. He gratefully handed it all over and I took him to a crisis center. This was the beginning of the end of the nightmare.

At the crisis center, after hearing his story the therapist immediately told him to lose his current therapist. She also told him that he wasNOT crazy and this was not something he had done, but rather something that had been done to him. She said that she believed everything he had gone through was due to the high dose of Lexapro he was on. She went on to say that you never give a first time anxiety patient the highest dose of any med. It gives you no where else to go. She said he needed a psychiatric MD to start weening him off the med. Then she made an appointment for him that was three weeks out. While it wasn't a cure all, it did give at least me, some peace of mind.

That afternoon, Z went through the another bad one. It was all the usual x 10 plus, which resulted in destruction....and then he just walked out the door. After several friends had seen him walking and tried to talk to him with absolutely no response, they came to the house worried about him. They were not even sure he heard them although they were standing right next to him. I was at my wits end and terrified. My own nerves were shattered and I didn't know what else to do but call the CIT officer. Knowing Z and what was going on, he went looking for him. He found him at the local convenience store and he "detained" Z in front of a dozen people or so. There was no fight, he just didn't want Z to try and run, especially not knowing what his frame of mind might be at any given moment. However, by the next day....the story was that Z tried to tear up the store. Had that been the case, he would have been more than detained! Oh well...you gotta love the small town life.

Once back home, the CIT officer was ready to cut through all the red tape and get to the bottom of Z's issue. It resulted in an ambulance ride to the ER and we ended up spending eight hours there. In the process Z had two panic attacks and I prayed like I had never prayed before. At the end of our night, the doc gave us a plan of action as to seeking out a therapist and told Z he needed off the meds. The next day I called and got an appointment with a therapist who worked along side an psychiatric MD. They couldn't get us in until the next day, but it was progress. Then....the worst episode of all time happened. It resulted in a horrid panic attack that I was afraid might actually be a heart attack and for a bit his actions went to a new level that could potentially have ruined his chances for graduating and even his immediate future. When it was over, he was beyond terrified and I had an awful lot of smoothing over to do. We were both beyond exhausted and so over this. We needed help! 

Going to see the therapist and MD were not the miracle we hoped for, but they were the catalyst for the light at the end of the tunnel. They agreed that the Lexapro had to go and told Z how to ween off them. Then immediately they began talking more meds. Z refused. He told them he was through with anxiety meds and asked what would happen if he went cold turkey. Of course the worst side effect could be suicidal tenancies and physical sickness. They gave him some options for therapists as these two were just intake and they sent us on our way with information pamphlets. On the way home Z was quiet and then he spoke up. Once again the take charge young man was back. He had his own plan of action. He decided that he was going off these meds cold turkey. He felt that the side effects couldn't be worse than what he had already gone through. He had learned that the Lexapro was not killing his anxiety as it was suppose to, but on the other hand was killing any impulse control he had and causing rage. He felt that knowing this information was half the battle. As for therapy....he still wanted to go, but he wanted me to help find him agood therapist. One that would give him tools to deal with life instead of meds.

Since that day which was about two and half weeks ago, my Z has slowly returned. The first week was the worst for him as he was physically pretty sick. I gradually saw his episodes have less and less fire and more and more he was taking control of them, instead of them controlling him. His language became less sailorish and more Zish and then the day came when he actually laughed. I had no idea how much I missed that laugh and then I heard a song coming from the basement. It was the first time that I realized that I had not heard Z sing in almost six weeks and he was down there singing. I cried.

Yesterday as I walked outside and saw my pool sides twisted and caved in from the wind, I held my breath in fear that this might set him off. Instead he said, "Grab a side and see if we can fix it." Again there were tears and I grabbed him and hugged him right there in the yard. He didn't even realize the magnitude of the moment until I hugged him.

Z is still struggling with a bit of anxiety as the meds finally leave his system. His impulse control though seems to have been restored and when the anxiety starts to hit, he just removes himself from the situation. I have helped him pick out an amazing therapist and all involved feel that with a little anxiety therapy and some coping tools/skills (all he ever wanted in the first place), that he will be absolutely fine.

These last couple of months have been a nightmare, but they have also been an education. I know that there are those that need anxiety and depression meds and I don't discount them at all. What I do discount are therapist who use meds as a first line attack rather than a last resort on someone who is simply stressed. I discount MD's who are not psychiatrists dispensing these kinds of meds. Had we not been as proactive as we were and just sat back and listened to the therapist and the MD, likely Z would have ended up on several different meds, each trying to counteract the other and really screwing with both his mind and body. This hell that he went through was not necessary and never should have happened. That being said, Z and I decided to take all of this negative and try to make it a positive. We have talked at great length about what positives we can pull from this individually and as a family. Z decided that he doesn't want this moment in his life to define him but he doesn't want to discount it either. These last couple of months have made him much stronger and given him a much better view of what he is ready for in life and what he still needs guidance on. Most of all though, he wanted me to tell his story as a cautionary tale. He feels that maybe this experience can help someone else and give insight into the importance of researching a therapist or any mental health provider. Never get anxiety or depression meds from anyone other than a psychiatrist and most of all.....don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it.

As a family, we have only grown stronger over this ordeal. What I though might actually break us, has ultimately made us better. I also found strength I didn't know existed, pulled from faith that I wasn't sure was there and in the end.....I got my Z back. We are blessed and once again we pull ourselves up, brush ourselves off and move forward into the future. This upcoming graduation is going to mean more to us as a family than anyone will know. Not just for Z, but for us all.....we are closing a chapter of our lives and anxiously awaiting what the future has to hold.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

If Momma Ain't Happy....A Mother's Day Blog

Today is the day when many will be given flowers, jewelry or breakfast in bed by their loyal subjects who know all too well....When Momma ain't happy.....Ain't nobody happy! The reason for all of the gifting? Why Mothers Day of course! Truthfully though, I do believe that moms deserve a day where someone remembers and appreciates what they do the other 364 days of the year.

There is a video going around on the internet about a job interview for the toughest job in the world. People think they are applying for some job or another and the interviewer goes down the checklist of job expectations such as being on call 24/7 and no pay. The interviewees are just speechless and outraged that someone would expect so much out of them for so little in return. In the end, the bomb is dropped, the job they are interviewing for is Mom.... and yes, it hits home quite effectively. I am sure many have watched this video and  immediately turned around to call their mothers just to say thank you! The rest of us just wish we could call our moms.

If you ask a mother if they are excited to have a day such as Mothers Day, I think most would feel the same way. While the sentiment is wonderful and who doesn't love a nice Sunday brunch with the family, some lovely roses or a new vacuum cleaner, we would much rather that one day be sprinkled out over say......52 weeks instead of just 24 hours. Ungrateful? Why would someone take these loving gestures and ask for more? Well lets break it down.

First and foremost, there isn't a one of you reading this that would be here if it wasn't for your mother. I don't care what her faults are.....she chose to quit drinking wine, chain smoking or riding roller coasters for nine months out of her life to ensure a healthy you and as if that weren't enough, she then went through one of the most painful experiences known to anyone (childbirth) just to see that you made it into this world. For anyone else, this very act would have won them accolades and rewards for the rest of their lives. Not for moms though. For moms.....it is just the beginning and within 24 to 48 hours of this momentous act...they are checked out, hurried home and handed a helpless little person and asked when will dinner be ready? Then, for at least the next 18 years this person will be permanently attached to them both physically and emotionally and will require their constant and undivided attention not to mention enough money to rival the national debt. All this must be done while moms carry on with their jobs, homes, spouses and the rest of their normal family life. They learn to survive on no sleep and little food. From this day forward, they will never take another bite of anything without someones eyes being on their food or someones hands being in their plate. Bathing and brushing their teeth will became a luxury. They learn to become proficient at cooking, cleaning and doing laundry all the while having a toddler holding onto their pant leg screaming......"Tookie! I wants tookie!" They get peed on pooped on and puked on....sometimes all in the same day and must carrying on as if they had not just had to clean up such vile smelly stuff....and still they are expected to make supper. They learn to survive childish meltdowns and judgmental stares at the store, the doctors office, at church or any other place that is both inopportune and will draw a crowd. They take in stride the teen years, full of deceit, anger and more meltdowns....and the kids can be pretty rotten too. They learn to protect their hearts through the "I hate you moments," and the "Johnny's mom is better," declarations and they eventually have to come to terms with the fact that all they do as mother's is not always as appreciated as they would like it to be at times.

Today I want to honor the mothers who really do give it their all. To the women who feed you, clothe you and never let you forget to brush your teeth. To the ladies who nag, gripe and drive you crazy so that you won't miss the bus, be late for school, work or forget your geometry assignment. To the moms who work inside the home or outside the home....and still make sure you make it to every practice, every game and every recital. To the mothers who sit in the stands every Friday night, Saturday mornings and any other time their baby is playing quarterback or just sitting on the bench all the while, loudly cheering their kids on. To the women who love you enough to argue with you, tell you that your clothes don't match or are willing to lick their thumb and wipe food off your face in public so that you will not have to face food face embarrassment in front of your friends.

To the women who have to teach you literally every skill you have from wiping your tush to putting on eyeliner, from hygiene to the birds and the bees and most of all.....the important stuff like how to get out of a ticket (only works if you are a girl) or how to mend a broken heart. To those moms who smile through tears when you learn to walk, talk, attend your first day of school, go on your first date and finally graduate. To the moms who are there for your joys and for your sorrows and are willing to hug you through both. Yes, this is for the women who sacrifice everything, nag mercilessly and love unconditionally every day of your life.

So yeah, a card is nice. Flowers are great. Brunch is amazing and I am sure that even that vacuum will come in handy, however......if you really want your mom to know she is special and loved.....try telling her so every once in awhile. Remember that although she is MOM and she does do it all and usually makes it look pretty easy, she is still human. She gets tired and even a little cranky at times. Can you blame her? I guarantee that she would love to find your socks and underwear in the laundry basket instead of the floor, your dishes in the dishwasher instead of the sink.....and remember.....that load of laundry isn't going to fold itself. A nicely folded shirt says I love you like you wouldn't believe. Like I said earlier....If Momma ain't happy..... and you would be surprised just how happy clean folded laundry makes a momma!

Okay, so for all the moms, single moms, step moms, foster moms and yes....even you dads who are both mom and dad, I wish you all a blessed and Happy Mothers Day....and I say thank you for all that you do.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Laundromat

So I went to the laundromat this last week. Yeah, 10 washers and 12 dryers later, I was done. I hated every second of it. Not because I am a laundromat snob, although I actually think I might be a little bit, but mostly because I despise doing laundry. Maybe it is because my laundry room in is in the basement and I currently have a hate/hate relationship with my basement. It still remains unfinished with drywall, flooring and paint spread out everywhere and this irritates my senses every time I go down there. Perhaps it is the fact that my Christmas decorations made it to the basement but never actually made it to their respective non-holiday spots or maybe it is because I simply hate doing laundry. Ding! Ding! Ding! I think we have a winner.

I was spoiled for many years because laundry was the one household chore that my late husband didn't really mind doing. He liked to do laundry and to iron. I think it had something to do with his time in the military. I actually had to watch him though or else the kids and I would end up with starched and ironed underwear and nobody wants to wear starched underwear.....ever! His years though taking over the piles of laundry that our family produced left me to worry about other house hold chores and I always had clean if not starched underwear. I found this to be a win/win!

Laundry was the first household chore I taught each of my kids to do. I always told myself that the reason I did this was to make sure when they left home they could do their own laundry. I actually think though, that a more accurate reason was because if they knew how to do laundry.....I didn't have to. My two older step kids really weren't around as much in their older years to get the full benefit of my laundry training, but the other two were. Of the two, my older son could do laundry as good if not better than myself and he really didn't hate it. Z on the other hand, inherited his mothers distaste for the chore and would avoid it at all cost. This kid would go so far as to deliberately do it wrong in hopes that I would give up and do it myself. Little did he know, I was good wearing pink underwear if he was. It has been a long standing chore of discourse in this house and the question is always.....who is going to break first? Who will break down and do laundry first is always in direct correlation to whoevers underwear supply can hold out the longest.

All this laundry stuff is probably not helped by the fact that this family's laundry seems to procreate while sitting on the laundry room floor. Between the three of us, we make more laundry than most families double our size. We also have a crappy washer and dryer. The washer is a hand me down from my mother. It was hers for several years before she died and we have been using it since 2002. The dryer has also been around equally as long but came from someone who set it out on the side of the road to be carried off, as they had purchased a new one. I have nursed these machines through clogged hoses, bad timers and complete breakdowns. Last time a repairman was here he wanted to give both machines last rites, but I refused and optimistically believed that they would be good for another 500 loads or so. Apparently I wrong. 

Of late, my washer refuses to drain after it initially fills up. It takes banging, slamming and a whole lot of prayer to get it going again. The dryer is no better as it takes three drying cycles to dry 5 socks and a dryer sheet. Yeah, both have seen better days and I personally am no longer invested enough in either of them to continue the relationship. So, as the laundry room floor was no longer visible due to the umpteen piles of laundry and as it was taking me an entire morning to get one load washed and dried.....I finally decided to bite the bullet and head to the laundromat.

The entire back of my van was full of laundry baskets as I headed out. No, we are not talking about the back of my van behind the bench seats. We are talking about the entire back of my van with all the seats removed except for the two front seats. Luckily, I hit the laundry mat at a slow time. There were just me and three other people and each of them was in the dryer phase of their journey.

It literally took me fifteen minutes to unload my car. I had optimistically brought my computer as the place has wifi and I thought there might be some down time between washing and drying. Silly me! My 18 laundry baskets took up six regular washers at $2 a pop, two extra extra large washers at $6 each and two extra large washers at $4 each. By the time I got the last load loaded, the first load was ready for the dryer and as I loaded the first dryer, all the rest followed suit. As the last dryer was loaded (12 in all) then the first was ready to fold. I literally never stopped, never sat down and never even had time to take a drink of water. It was a non-stop 3 hours of clothes!!!! Did I mention I hate to do laundry????

As I positioned myself at an entire bank of folding tables, more people started to come in. Now this laundromat is in the next town over from mine. My hometown laundry closed many years ago and never reopened, so yes, we have to travel about six miles to the nearest place. It is not huge but as laundromats go, it isn't horrible. It is open 24 hours and it is fairly clean. It has tv's and wifi, a bathroom and soda machine. It is serviceable and I don't feel as if I am going leave with bed bugs or some other laundry born vermin. The machines seem to be clean and pretty well kept up and if something drops on the floor I don't get completely grossed out.

Even though, I never stopped the entire time I was there, it didn't keep me from people watching.
These places are literally one of the most interesting places to people watch, second only to malls and McDonalds. You have people like myself whose home machines are on the fritz and therefore have to haul their butts and their laundry to the laundromat. You can tell who these people are as they check each washer and dryer before they put their clothes in, often wiping out the insides of the machines with Clorox wipes before their clothes are allowed to be put in. They make as quick work of this "ordeal" as they can and look at everyone who comes near their clothes, very suspiciously.

Then you have those huge families who make the laundromat their weekly visit. You can always tell these people because they come in as a family. Usually it is a mom and several kids. At least two or three are older and then there are always two or three younger. Each child comes in either carrying a laundry basket or a younger sibling. Mom already has all the clothes sorted by basket, has quarters as well as laundry detergent in hand and the process begins. Mom and the older kids quickly and efficiently load the washers while the younger kids play hide and seek around the washers and the other customers. Once the clothes are loaded, Mom picks a folding station and sticks her empty baskets on it claiming her territory, then she loads her brood back into the car for a quick trip to McDonalds. Within 15 minutes they are back, the little kids are set at a table to eat and Mom has timed their return to coincide with the final spin of the washing machines. She and the older kids grab available dryers and start loading to capacity.....and then some. They toss in a handful of quarters and then they all sit down to eat and watch tv. As the clothes finish.....they toss them all into laundry baskets and head home to I assume....fold them there. I can honestly say that I have never been to a laundromat that some form of this family did not show up while I was there.

Then there are the college students/young people who come in to do their laundry. Most come in pairs and they take up maybe two washers together. They throw their laundry in, sit and text, laugh or depending on the time of day, lay their head down on the table to catch an extra 10-15 minutes of sleep. When the wash cycle is finished, they share a dryer, then toss their clothes....unfolded into their baskets and head off to do whatever it is that young people do with freshly washed laundry.

The other day though, I saw something that I didn't expect to see in this small town down the road laundry. I saw what looked liked two homeless men doing their laundry. No, I am not judging....simply observing, and why this struck me is that this laundromat is not in an area where you have a lot of homeless or even transient people. I never saw whether they had a car or if they walked. Both men had a small plastic grocery bag full of clothes. The men were unkept with long straggly hair and beards. Each wore stocking hats and the clothes they were wearing looked as if they hadn't been washed in a while. Their exposed face and hands were dirty and when one of them walked up to me and politely asked me if I had change for two dollars (he couldn't make the change machine work) it was obvious that he had not bathed in quite some time. I had no idea what the story was behind these men and I certainly wasn't going to stand there and mentally judge them. Instead, I merely smiled, found the change he was looking for and knowing that he wasn't likely going to count the money I handed him, I threw in a couple of extra quarters. The two stood outside as their clothes washed and dried and came back in only to switch out laundry or remove it from the dryers. As they walked out the last time, I couldn't help but wonder who these men were, how they got here and where they were going, but I still had five dryer fulls of laundry that I was waiting on and two dryer fulls that I was folding. I had little time to wonder too long.

Finally, as I folded clothes and put them into the appropriate laundry baskets, (no I may not like to do laundry, but I am very OCD about how it is done when I do do it) a lady sat down in front of my folding station and just watched me. She was older and just looking at her I would say she had been the recipient of a rather difficult life. She fidgeted back and forth, crossing and uncrossing her legs. She twisted and turned in her seat all the while watching my every move and my ever growing baskets of folded laundry.
Finally she said, "You gotta alotta damn clothes there." 
I laughed and said, "Yes I do!" 
She shook her head and I'm not sure if it was a sign of disbelief or disgust that any one person would have so much laundry. I continued folding and she continued watching.
"Why you got so damn many clothes?" she then asked, never taking her eyes off me.
"Because I have kids and a broken washer and I put off coming to the laundry mat until we literally had nothing left to wear," was my reply.
Then she smiled. "My washer is broke too," she said. Then she proceeded to tell me how her washer was pulling in sewer water and that she had been wearing sewer water clothes. All I could think of, was how grateful I was that I had already washed my clothes and that mine would not be following hers. Ick!!!!

She apparently felt that the ice had been broken and that we were now friends. She inched ever closer to me as I continued to fold the clothes and told me about where she lived, her sewer issues, the need for a lagoon and finally as I was pulling my last load out and she was now just inches from me, she let me know how sick she felt. She said she had felt bad for a couple of days (perhaps the sewer water clothes didn't help that much), that she had been throwing up and that she really shouldn't even be at the laundry mat right now, but she needed to get out of the house. REALLY???? And she chooses me...to become buddies with? All I could do was pray that whatever was making her sick didn't cause her to throw up in my vicinity or to pass on her germs to me so that I in turn could pass them onto Z and David. Perhaps she started feeling worse, as she watched me a couple of more minutes and then she grabbed her clothes from the washer, stuffed them into a duffle bag and left. She didn't even say good bye. Hmmmm......

So I finished my last load and loaded all the baskets back into the van. I am sure as the laundromat was filling up that those people in there were very glad to see me and my epic loads of dryer consuming laundry leave. Trust me, no one was happier than I was to be on  my way home with all my laundry washed, dried and folded.

As I drove home, I couldn't help but think about the laundromat and the people who pass through it on a daily basis. Young mothers, old couples, homeless people, college students, large families and people with sewer issues. It is a melting pot of people from all walks of life, incomes and ethnicites. While there can be many situations that cause us to go to the laundromat, we all have the same goal once there.....clean clothes. 

Well there you have it.....another exciting adventure in Lisaland! Clean clothes, laundromats and people watching. Now I call that an afternoon!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Fear vs Common Sense

I started school in the late 1960's. I know I sound much younger....but I'm not. I have survived, free love, mini skirts, tie dye, Disco, spandex, shoulder pads, big hair and spanx.

I was a post 1950's baby where the worlds biggest fear was communism and class rooms had bomb drills like kids today have fire drills. Believe it or not, when I first attended school in kindergarten, they still had the occasional bomb drill. Yep, a bunch of 4 and 5 year olds huddling under our desks with the express belief that if a bombed dropped on our school, those desks would save us. We pretty much had the same drill for tornado's too. Apparently they expected a lot from those desks.

My mom was a child of the WWII era, and like all who lived through that wartime, the fear of communism was very real. By the time I was born, communism didn't seem to be as much of a threat, but we learned about it none the less. In fact, the slogan Better Dead than Red was still a popular one clear up until the 1970's. I think the world was cautious, but also realistic. Being just a couple of decades out of WWII and seeing other wars like Korea and Vietnam and with the new found ability to have a front row seat to war every night on the evening news, we were aware that war was a possibility, but my generation really didn't fear it. School, as well as our families taught us that we lived in the most powerful nation in the world. It was not us who should fear, but others who should fear us. It was because of this, that I had such a phenomenal childhood.

In my growing up days, summers were amazing. We went outside after breakfast, when we heard our mothers call, we came in for lunch, went back out, came in for supper, went back out and finally came in for the night when the street lights came on. We played in our neighborhoods (mine was about a two block area) and it always felt safe. Mom's were usually home during the day, but kids were expected to play outdoors. Everyone's yard was fair game for hide and seek, driveways for hopscotch, the street for kickball and if someone was watering their yard with the sprinkler, chances are their yard was full of kids playing in it. I remember fearing nothing and apparently our parents feared little too.

I remember the first moment that I realized the world could be scary. I was walking home from school and some guy in a car tried to get me to get in with him. He chased me all the way home. Luckily I was only a few houses away and I screamed to the top of my lungs all the way home. He drove off and Mom did call the police. It seems that I was not his first attempt that day. I couldn't tell you if they ever caught him and although I remember the moment, I don't remember long lasting fear from it because my folks didn't dwell on it. I later learned that until we moved from that house, my mother never took her eyes off me when I walked both to and from school, but she never let me know that. She didn't want me to be afraid.

It wasn't until 1974, that I ever felt any real fear. It was in reaction to my mother's reaction as she
learned that the Otero family who lived within a couple of miles of us had been brutally murdered and there were no clues as to who had done it. It was the first strike of the infamous BTK (bind, torture and kill). This shook up not only my mother but everyone in Wichita and all the surrounding towns. As the murders continued, people began to change. Wichita went from a place where people left their keys in their cars, their doors unlocked and kids played outside unsupervised, to a place of fear, caution and even suspicion. People were afraid to let their kids walk to school, to open their doors to strangers or to even enter their homes after being gone for several hours.

We had lost our innocence and fear was beginning to take hold. However, after a time things went back to a semi-normal life. In the 1970's, we were still not a world and Kansas was not a state where we bowed to fear....even if there was a BTK lurking somewhere in the shadows. Life went on, people used common sense and no one was about to let fear rule them.

I finally managed to make it out of my teens and become an adult in the early 1980's. Fear was not even in my realm of imagination, and sometimes neither was common sense. Looking back to my late teens and early twenties, we lived life on our terms and somehow we survived. Then in April, 1995, reality hit home in a huge way as we learned that the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, OK had been bombed. As we sat glued to our TV's in shock and horror and watched the bodies of men, women and babies being brought out of the building, it began to hit home that maybe we weren't safe. Fear set it's seed that day and those that were children and the generations that would come after would be taught to see this world through very different eyes than those of us pre-1995.

Since the OKC bombing, there have been a succession of school shootings, fatal riots and horrific and brutal crimes even in the smallest of towns which have fed the fear and caused the world to change forever. Possibly the biggest change came on September 11, 2001 when the Twin Towers in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, DC were hit by suicide bombers. What had been fear was now terror and this country would never be the same again.

So the question is now, does fear rule us? Have we let the world change us to the point that we choose fear and because of this....are we also passing this on to our kids? This has been on my mind a great deal of late. I realize that there are parts of our country, especially in more urban areas that crime is a huge factor and both economic and cultural norms make safety a sought after commodity with fear being the only way to survive. However, that is not the entire country and many of us still live in smaller, quieter areas where crime is not a daily way of life. That being said, even those of us who don't live under an umbrella of daily crime still get our daily dose of "bad" every time we turn on our computers or look at our cell phones or even watch the news. Every reported evil deed in this country appears in our facebook and twitter news feeds. We get Amber Alerts multiple times a day and yes, we still have the occasional crime that pops up and rocks our world regardless of where in the world we live. The Boston Marathon bombing is a prime example of this. So even in FarmTown, Middle of Nowhere....we are only the touch of a button away from all that is bad in the world. It festers and it feeds our fears on a minute by minute basis.

I think the culmination of all of this is how we process and handle the fear that lives inside of us daily. In my little town, it is my opinion that one thing that seems to perpetuate the fear is the school district. I don't think it is deliberate or malicious, I think it is simply a reaction to the way the world has become. My kids have been going to school in this town for two decades and I went to school here before them. When I went to school here the playgrounds only had a fence on the street side. It was not to keep "bad people" out, but to keep the kids from chasing a ball or running head long into the street. It was simple common sense safety. No more....no less. The high school had an open lunch policy which most of us took advantage of at least three times per week and if a kid had to walk out to their car to retrieve something, they didn't have to sign in blood that they would return in three seconds or less. There was an open door policy for parents and pretty much anyone else and while you did have to sign in and out of school, it was more for keeping school records than safety. If a kid got on the wrong bus or God forbid missed a bus, the world did not fall apart and people didn't start looking for adult wrong doing. They just chalked it up to.....the kid missed the bus and a parent likely scolded the kid for not getting his/her butt to the bus on time. We did not live by fear. We lived by common sense.

Now, life is much different. Lunches are closed, school yards are fenced and school doors are locked after all kids are inside. Parents and anyone else who have to come to the schools must ring a doorbell attached to cameras and a speaker and people have to be buzzed into the school. Security is tight as are the new privacy laws where kids pictures can't be taken other than for professional school pictures and even unimportant and non confidential information is forbidden to be passed around (yeah like that actually happens) and everyone appears to be suspicious until otherwise proven not suspicious. It is all based on fear and the "what if's" of a town, post Jonesboro, Columbine and Sandy Hook. So I ask, have we taken things too far? Is the school reinforcing fear in their parents and therefore teaching the kids to also be afraid? Are we saying that the only way kids are safe in school is to be locked in while the world (parents, grandparents and everyone else) is locked out? I know for a fact that not every school in this country goes to these extremes. In fact, not every school in my state or even my area does. It is getting so bad that if a grandparent wanders onto the playground....it puts the whole school into a lock down. Have we allowed fear to over ride common sense or are these measures merely a sign of the times and worse....a sign of more extremes to come?

My opinion? Mind you, that and $.25 won't buy you a cup of coffee, but I think that maybe we are going to the extreme. Can bad things happen? Of course. Do they happen? Sadly yes, but often they happen when common sense is over ridden. Just like back in the day when we fenced the street side of the playground. It was common sense to protect a child from running into the street and getting hit. THAT was a real threat. It was not however to keep others off the playground or to keep others from seeing or targeting our kids. There was not even a thought of that.

The world is an amazing place, with much to see and do. However, if we live in fear of the "what ifs" and the unknowns then just how much are we depriving ourselves of? If we instill fear instead of common sense in our kids, how much will they miss out on in life? There will always be BTK's, Columbines and OKC's, but do we let those things win or do we balance them out with a little bit of trust and a whole lot of common sense? I would like to think it's the latter. How about you?

Now....anyone want to meet me in the sprinkler?