Month: November 2015

Skin is Boring

I have two tattoos. I got the first one on my shoulder, on Mother’s Day, when I was 40. It’s a dragonfly, my talisman, with my kids’ names in different languages: my daughter’s in Japanese and my son’s in Korean. I’d explain, but it’s personal. My second I got just over a month ago. It’s on my right wrist, the molecular structures for dopamine and serotonin. I’m bipolar. The tattoo is symbolic and helpful.

When I got my first tattoo, my Mother freaked out. She sent me an email basically saying that she never expected me to act like a Redneck tramp, the kind who lived in a trailer park and set the worst kind of example for her children. I didn’t speak to her for weeks and when I did, I called her out. She was immediately contrite. I don’t think she had changed her opinion, but she realized that she had jeopardized her relationship with me.

What she didn’t understand, even though I tried to explain, was that I had spent years thinking about that tattoo. And that it was heavily symbolic and important to me. I put my children’s names on my skin … forever. I didn’t go into that tattoo, either of my tattoos, spontaneously. They both are important to me. And I have my next tattoos planned: one each for my Grandfather, who is 102, and my Mother for when they pass.

Sweet girl is desperate for a tattoo. I have spent ages lecturing her about how serious a decision it is. No one should be spontaneous about a tattoo, especially one that is visible in everyday situations. Tattoos can still sway employment decisions, as ridiculous as I think that is. I hope she doesn’t consider a tattoo, at least a visible one, until she’s 30. I doubt I’ll get my wish. I’ve read that my generation will be the most tattooed generation ever. And I’m proud of that.

Big Dude really doesn’t like tattoos, but he’s good about letting me be me. He’s not crazy about my hair, either, the color of which changes with the wind. The style can be mohawk like and he doesn’t complain. I’m really lucky that way. And while part of me would adore being with a man who’s covered in tats, I recognize how fortunate I am to be with someone who is ink free and therefore can have a highly responsible job.

The bottom line for me is that tattoos are a personal decision. I’m for them. I gravitate to folks who have them. I lose respect for people who judge those like me who do have tattoos. I think they make me a better Mom, teaching my kids that they should express their individuality, but only after making sure they’re able to deal with the consequences.

I’d say that I can’t wait to get my next one, but that will mean that either my Grandfather or my Mother has left me. And while I’m prepared for those tats, I’m not prepared for what will bring them.

Things to check out: Blue Rose Tattoo This is where I got my first tattoo. If you’re in the Huntsville, AL area or surrounding, check them out. The Pulse Tattoos This is where I got my second tat. In the Athens, AL area? Check out these guys. Need to find a tattoo shop? Check out Tattoo Shop Finder. 

Book Recommendation: Science Ink Looking for something like a dopamine or serotonin tattoo? Or “I Am Starstuff” written in DNA sequence? Check out this book. Good pics and descriptions with personal stories.

Music for this post:  “Tattoo” by Hunter Hayes

Sandwich of the day: The Grilled Cheesus using this press. None of the Christians with tattooed Bible verses or Christ on the cross seem to recall Leviticus 19:28 which explicitly admonishes against tattoos. So might as well eat a grilled cheese with the face of Jesus imprinted.

 

 

Bonus Post: Stocking Stuffers

When I was a kid, my Mom did the most amazing stockings. A tangerine tucked into the toe, the rest would be filled with small toys, pencils, a pretty pair of earrings, stationery, and always Goetze’s Caramel Creams. Mom’s stockings were so fun and so elaborate that they became my favorite part of Christmas and I have carried on the tradition. This year, I’m putting together nine, including one for Mom. To that end, I thought I’d share some things I picked up and where I got them. Happy stuffing!

Perpetual Kid has a ton of great stocking stuffers. Here are some of my favorite things I picked up from there:

World Market carries everything from earrings to ottomans. I got some great stocking stuffers and the customer service was wonderful.

Sephora is a heavy hitter and you’re likely to shop there, anyway. But here are a couple of my favorite ways to do Sephora in stockings.

  • L’Occitane Hand Cream I like to buy this large set of ten and then break them apart for stockings. There are enough neutral scents in here to throw at least one in each of the boys’.
  • L’Occitane Almond Showering Oil This is some of my favorite stuff ever and for less than $10, I can share 2.5 oz of it with my Mother in Law.
  • Jack Black Soap on a Rope Classic.
  • Make sure you get your samples at check out! I collect Sephora samples all year with certain people in mind for stockings.

Zingerman’s

Redbubble has thousands of stickers. We’re talking high quality, put on anything, removable stickers. You’ll find cats and ninjas, TV show characters and rock bands, flowers and birds. They’re funny, they’re beautiful, they’re quirky … they’re anything and everything. Once you buy 5, they’re 1/2 off, too. Check ’em out.

I certainly picked up more things at each place. And shopped at many more places, notably Target, where I grabbed lots of travel sized toiletries, socks, lip balms, and candy. That’s also where I picked up a few Moleskins (on sale) for Mom, hoping she’ll use them in the New Year to keep track of things.

If you stuff stockings, I hope this helps! If you don’t, I hope you find a couple fun things for yourself or the people in your life.

Perception is Everything

For as long as I can remember, my Mother’s family has been gathering around Aunt Peacock’s home for Thanksgiving. While my little family stays here in Alabama, the larger family still gathers in North Carolina every year. This year was no exception and Mama, as always, went.

The good news came quickly: Mama did very well. Aunt Puzzle called on Friday to say that Mama seemed almost her old self: she wasn’t confused or addled, she didn’t repeat herself too much, she completed simple tasks without trouble.  Aunt Puzzle was delighted, relating details of the visit with an almost frenzied laugh. And even better, Aunt Peacock had good conversation with Mama and Blue Man about moving.

My Aunts were tooting the horn of Aricept and I was cautiously optimistic, but admittedly waiting for the other shoe to drop. I talked to Mama on Thanksgiving night. To me, she sounded happy, but tired. And she told me the same few things several times. “Ok,” I thought, “that’s ok. I do that, too.”

And then Friday, the shoe dropped. Mama and I talked and she had no memory of talking to me on Thursday. And then today, Saturday, she asked if she had spoken to me since she had gone to Aunt Peacock’s for Thanksgiving. “Yes, Mama. Yes.” And then she told me about the weather at the beach, where they had just been. The problem is that Aunt Peacock doesn’t live at the beach. She lives quite inland. It’s just that she used to have beach houses and we used to go to her beach houses a lot. And now that Mama’s living in the past, it doesn’t surprise me that she’s associating Aunt Peacock with the beach.

So while everyone else can look at Mama in brief moments of time and say, “See? She’s really not bad,” I don’t get that luxury. It’s all about perception.

Things to check out: Paranoia Wines When I’m manic, a little paranoia creeps in, altering my perception of what is real. The way the eyes look on the labels of these wine bottles is so spot on for how I feel in those times that it’s worth your checking out. And the wine’s not bad, either. I caught a good sale last week at Kroger.

paranoia wines

 

Book Recommendation: Falling Into the Fire: A Psychiatrist’s Encounters with the Mind in Crisis by Christine Montross  This is autobio and the doc talks a bit about admitting patients from the ER to the psych ward and dealing with various mental illnesses. She also talks about the state of being a psychiatrist in these situations. It’s all about perception.

Music for this post: “Tear Down the House” by The Avett Brothers for this lyric:

Bulldoze the woods that I ran through.
Carry the pictures of me and you.
I have no memory of who I once was,
and I don’t remember your name.

Read more: Avett Brothers – Tear Down The House Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Find it on Amazon Prime Music here.

Sandwich for the Day: A vegetarian hot dog. Some of these are really good and it’s all about perception. I take mine with ketchup and a bunch of onions.

 

Appointments and Acceptance

My Mom went to see her primary physician on Tuesday morning. A while ago, after I sent him a three page letter voicing my concerns and asking him to help us, he called her and she gave him permission to talk to me. We have never spoken of that, probably because she is such a proud woman, but maybe she just forgot. At any rate, I talked to him on Monday and described how much worse she’s gotten since he last saw her, knowing she wouldn’t tell him many details and knowing how good she is at snowing people. Interestingly, she called me immediately after her appointment and this is how the conversation went:

  • Me: Did you have a good appointment?
  • Mom: Yes. I felt good about it.
  • Me: Did you talk to him about the Aricept?
  • Mom: (sounding confused) Um, no, because I’m not taking it.
  • Me: I thought you liked it?
  • Mom: No, I didn’t like what it does to me.
  • Me: Now, that’s the drug the neurologist gave you.
  • Mom: Oh! I’m crazy. That’s right, I just call it something else. Yes, I told him I like it very much.
  • Me: Ok. Anything else?
  • Mom: Yes, he gave me a shot.
  • Me: What kind of shot.
  • Mom: Um, I don’t know.
  • Me: Well, was it a B12 shot, maybe?
  • Mom: I really don’t know.
  • Me: Ok ….
  • Mom: Oh, you know what? I’m crazy. He didn’t give me a shot, he took blood.
  • Me: Oh ok. What did he take blood for.
  • Mom: I don’t know.
  • Me: Alright. Well when will you see him again?
  • Mom: I don’t know, because I’ve lost my calendar and I went back in there, but they didn’t have it ……….. *Cue frantic conversation re: lost calendar.*

I talked to my brother later in the day and related this conversation. When I share these things, he begins to get a better picture of what’s really going on. I think he hasn’t fully accepted where we are with Mama. When I slammed the reality yesterday that she *will* become incapacitated at some point, he had a hard time responding. I think it will happen sooner than Blue Man, especially, is ready for, especially since she’s going under general anesthesia in January, for the second time in six months. But it’s going to happen sooner than my brother is ready for, too, at least at this point. Maybe when he spends a week with her at Christmas he’ll gain a greater acceptance. I never would have imagined that I, the emotional one closer to my Mom, would be more realistic and accepting than Cool Dude, living in his academic ivory tower, more detached from any of us. But life throws us curve balls, doesn’t it?

Things to check out: HIPAA privacy rules. Who can speak to whom about what. This is very important if you’re caring for a loved one. I have a permanent release on file, for instance, for Big Dude to speak with my shrink about me in case I’m committed suddenly and unable to consent. If you haven’t already designated someone close to you to whom your physician may speak about your medical needs, do so. And think about contingents if you’re old enough that your spouse may not be in the picture.

Book recommendation: Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande. I knew I wanted to recommend this at some point and this seems as good a time as any. My therapist, who works with the families of Alzheimer’s patients and who lived through both of his parents’ deaths from the disease, recommended this to me. To oversimplify greatly, it’s an argument for my position of quality v. quantity in end of life scenarios. But it is so much more. I highly encourage you to check it out.

Music for this post: “Night Changes” by One Direction. Seems an odd choice, yes? But it’s here for this lyric:

We’re only getting older, baby
And I’ve been thinking about it lately
Does it ever drive you crazy
Just how fast the night changes?
Everything that you’ve ever dreamed of
Disappearing when you wake up
But there’s nothing to be afraid of
Even when the night changes

Here they are performing it live.

Sandwich for this post: Nutella on wheat, of which my daughter has become particularly fond, because I want to forget this atrocity just like I want to forget these disconcerting conversations with my Mom.

 

Grandmother’s Dressing

I’m a vegan. I say this in the least pretentious way possible as my choice to not eat animals and the products they produce isn’t wrapped up in some grand philosophy. The fact is that my body hates me and won’t break down animal protein. While I am sympathetic to the animal rights movement and have at times in my life been an ethical vegetarian, I wouldn’t choose to be an ethical vegan. If I could still have bacon and eggs for breakfast, you bet your ass I would. Alas, I’d spend the day curled up in a ball of pain when not in the toilet.

There are days when I risk the consequences, load up on Pepto, and eat a few bites of food I know might temporarily ruin my life. One of those days is Thanksgiving and one of the foods I simply can’t resist is my Grandmother’s dressing.

For you Yankees, let’s be clear that there’s a difference between that mess y’all call stuffing and the glorious dish we call dressing. I don’t buy that a word is a word. If you cook it inside the bird, it’s stuffing and that’s just not right.

I’m gonna treat y’all to something special right here. This is my Grandmother’s dressing recipe and we have it every year. It’s simple and requires much tasting, love, and the long tutelage of mothers and aunts to get perfect. In our house, everyone eats it, but Little Dude and I love it best, with a nice coat of gravy, of course. Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.

Grandmother’s Dressing

The night before you’re going to make the dressing, place the innards of your turkey, a few stalks of sliced celery, a couple of large diced onions, and a stick of butter in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for about an hour to make the broth for your dressing. Let sit overnight. In the morning, remove the turkey innards and discard or keep for frying. Also, the night before, make a small pan of Jiffy cornbread.

The day of, crumble the cornbread into a large bowl and add a small bag of Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing Mix. Shake in some poultry seasoning, about five or six shakes, and mix well, keeping the poultry seasoning handy. Begin adding the broth, vegetables and all, to the bread mixture and mix with your hands. You don’t want it too wet, but you want it to stick together nicely. Taste as you go and add poultry seasoning and salt as needed. When the dressing is ready, press into a greased 9×13″ pan and bake at 375 degrees for one hour. Dressing does not necessarily need to be served piping hot as hot gravy will warm it right up.

Things to check out: Pepto-Bismol I live on this stuff. I don’t mind the taste ’cause I great up with it, I guess. Little Dude hates it, though, so I was glad to find the caplets you swallow with water.

Book recommendation: Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappe This book will make you an ethical vegetarian. Heritage by Sean Brock, one of the best young chefs in the country. Brock is a Southerner and this book is all about the South.

Music for this post: “They Killed John Henry” by Justin Townes Earle. This dude just has that Southern mountain voice and I love it. You can check it out on Prime music here.

Sandwich for the day: Leftover turkey with a think slice of toasted dressing, a smear of cranberry, and some mayo on toasted sourdough. ‘Cause it’s Thanksgiving, y’all.

Learning to Back Off

I’m a doer. Got a problem? Let’s get in there, get our hands dirty, and fix it. I research, brainstorm, collaborate (this can justifiably be debated), make lists, take action. Mom has Alzheimer’s. This cannot be fixed. But the collateral damage can be minimized, daily life can be managed if we just. take. action.

My version of taking action, however, is being met with major resistance. I need to fly to my Mother’s and start cleaning out their home so they can move. She isn’t ready. I need to send her tile to help her keep track of her things, but my brother isn’t ready to help her set that up when he’s there at Christmas. I want to set her up with PillPack so that she never misses a dose of anything, but she seems content to continue using those plastic daily pill containers.

With all the pushback, I can’t do any of these things. I have to back off and it’s terrifying because this, the taking action, the researching and the planning and the list making, this is how I manage my fear of this disease. Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only one who really understands and is willing to face the reality of what’s coming. Maybe I’m just the only one who’s terrified.

Things to check out: tile: Never lose your things. Attach to phone, keys, Kindle, iPod, etc., use the app, and never lose anything. PillPack: Order your medication sorted into packages stamped with the time you take them. Most insurances accepted at normal co-pays.

Book recommendation: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I loved this book, sent it to Mom, and she didn’t understand it. Sort of symbolic.

Music for this post: “How to Forget” Jason Isbell on Prime music here.

Sandwich for this post: Fried spam and American cheese on buttered and toasted white bread. Because one should be terrified of this and should definitely eat it hidden away by oneself.

 

Abandonment.

For thirty some odd years, my Mother taught school, both high school English and a gifted resource program for grades four through eight. She taught in the gifted program for probably twenty years. As my Dad was also a teacher and then, for many years, a teacher trainer, I know a lot about teachers and the art of teaching.

While my brother went the Ph.D. route, I chose not to teach myself because I didn’t feel passionate about it. Teachers have so much to do now beyond simply, well, teaching, that being in a classroom without the passion for teaching seemed suicidal.

I was thrilled this year when Little Dude seemed to have gotten a passionate teacher for homeroom. I’ve known this teacher for a few years now and she seemed a very good fit for him. Thus far, that’s been true and the year has gone well. Today, I got stunning news: she’s abandoning her kids after the holidays for a job in the library.

I’m so angry, I could spit nails. All year, this teacher has talked about how passionate she is about these kids and teaching them. She and Little Dude have worked well together and we’ve gotten him to a good place. And now, we have to start all over again. I have little confidence that they’ll be able to hire a decent teacher mid year. If you are one or know one, drop me a line or check out the job posting below.

Things to check out: Job Posting for Little Dude’s class.

Book Recommendation: Learn Me Good by John Pearson. I need a laugh right now and this book delivers. The autobio of an engineer who became a teacher. My Dad thought this book was hysterical.

Music for this post: “Fuck You” by Lily Allen. Yeah, I’m a little angry. I kinda lose respect for teachers who abandon their kids without cause (like having a kid or getting sick). Just choosing to take another job because it’s “exciting” doesn’t count. I’ll calm down.

Sandwich for this post: Liverwurst. ‘Cause I don’t like it, either.