Thursday, March 26, 2015

Project 52 - Doctor's Appointment - Week 12


I took plenty of pictures this week, but none of them seemed fitting for this weekly project. Then today, as I was about to head out to my second doctor's appointment this week I grabbed the camera determined that I would take at least one picture there that represented what the appointment was about. I was a little bummed that I didn't take my camera to my earlier appointment since it was with the eye doctor and it would have been cool to get a picture of one of those eye contraptions. However, that appointment was a whirlwind of tests and at one point I had 4 medical professionals in the room with me. No way would I have worked up the guts to ask someone if I could take a picture.

So today's appointment was a follow up, in a way, to Monday's appointment. I've been dealing with dry eyes for some time and in the last couple years it's gotten a little out of control. So recently I checked in with my eye doctor and he suggested I see a dry eye professional. I was very excited for this next step - feeling like I might have some more options. That was the appointment I had on Monday.

The doctor was great because he didn't just ask about my eyes - he got the low down on my other health issues and suggested I get tested for Sjogren's Syndrome. I've always thought that there was a relationship between some of these issues so I like when doctors try to look at the whole picture. I was tested about 10 years ago for Sjogren's and came up negative, but I've heard that the test wasn't always accurate back in the day and has advanced since then. Plus, my symptoms have changed (gotten worse). Basically, Sjogren's is an auto-immune disease and its significant symptoms are dry mouth and dry eyes. Check and check.

I won't know the results for another week or two and it won't actually change the way we treat my dry eyes, but it might give me some answers. Oh, and the eye doctor did give me some new treatment options so I am hopeful that they will provide me with some relief.

At any rate, when I showed up at the eye clinic today I snapped off the following picture in case I was too chicken to ask the doctor to let me take a picture in the office.

Riveting, I know.

While in the waiting room I snapped off some more pictures, but they were crooked and blurry because I was trying to be sneaky. But then I met with the Physician's Assistant and she was so informative and pleasant and it made it so easy to ask "do you mind if I take a picture of that?" The test involved a finger prick where she needed to collect quite a few drops of blood to evaluate. So that is what I took a picture of.

Sorry if you are squeamish about blood. I probably should have given you more warning. My husband gets a little faint just talking about blood so he found the picture a little disturbing, but I think it's interesting. It just blood, right?

So now I wait for the results. Part of me doesn't want it because it's an auto-immune disease (who wants that?), but I have so many of the symptoms (besides the dry eye and dry mouth there are about 5 other things I could check off) that it would sort of be a relief to have an answer and start working with a rheumatologist.

At least I can check this off my list - asking someone if I can take a picture in my doctor's office. I have a long way to go in the bravery department when it comes to this, but it still feels like a big step to me.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Long lost letters

Memory is a funny thing. How do we remember some things and not others? I notice Riley remember things that I never expected, but then forget things that I think she would remember - like who her daycare provider was just a couple years ago. I think about my own memories from my childhood and wonder what Riley will remember when she gets older about her childhood. Will she remember our weekend road trips up north? Will she remember all the books she reads each night? Will she remember who her preschool friends were? Will she remember how she feels about her life at this age?

My understanding is that we don't have the ability to remember much before the age of 3, but turns out it isn't as simple as that. New studies show that kids actually do have the capacity, but at around age 7 our memories begin to fade - referred to as "childhood amnesia".

I think back to my earliest memories and find that they were a mix of good and bad. In fact, the earliest memory I can think of must have been when I was three or younger as I think my parents were still married, but not happily. I remember standing at their feet while they argued about my brother. I remember we were standing around a short, kid's height round table and I was looking up at these tall adult parents of mine yelling at each other.

1975 - year of the divorce

The memories grow after the divorce when I lived with my dad, but had weekend visits with my mom. I remember styling my dad's hair and thinking he looked like George Washington. I remember playing Crazy 8 and eating black olive pizza with my mom. I remember going to McDonald's on Fridays with my dad, but then making a request to change the day we did that because it sometimes made us miss parts of the Dukes of Hazard on TV. I remember my mom curling my hair and saying I looked like Shirley Temple. So many good memories with both my parents.

The reason I lived with my dad was because my mom had some mental health issues (think delusional disorder like schizophrenia). Most of the time my mom was just my mom to me and not someone who had irrational thinking, but I wasn't totally oblivious to it either. I knew something wasn't quite right. I remember one weekend having to be extra quiet on Sunday night when my dad was supposed too pick me up from her apartment only to never have him come. My mom knew I had Monday off of school and she wanted me one more day. Turns out my dad planned to have me stay at my mom's apartment, but she forgot that and didn't want to let me go. Another time my mom up and took me to see family in Missouri when my dad told her she couldn't do so. Yeah, she essentially kidnapped me for 2 weeks.

My dad started dating Ann (my step mom) around the time I was 6 or 7 (they dated for 6 months and married when I was 7 - in 1979). My mom didn't take well to this and I remember her screaming at my dad that she was still his wife. Things went downhill from there. She wasn't happy about this new woman in my dad's life and would come over all the time, call all the time... write letters. Eventually, a restraining order was put in place, and then a judge determined that it would be in my best interest to have no contact with my mom. My dad had some say in this, but wasn't really sure what was best and followed the court orders. It was during this time that my mom wrote me letters - usually everyday, sometimes twice a day. These letters were mostly kept from me so I had no idea of their scope. In high school, I found a suitcase of them and read them, but never went back to them as I didn't want to get caught for having snooped in the basement.

Dad and I with my step-mom

When Riley was a baby my dad gave me some of mom's letters that he found. I think they were actually in one of my step brother's attics as they had a fair amount of mildew. I knew these weren't the letters I had found in high school, but appreciated having them - mildew and all.

More time passed when I recently got a call from my sister-in-law sharing that she and her husband (another one of my step brother's) had found a box of my step mom's in their basement that they had been storing for her for many, many years. In it they found letters from my mom to me. LOTS of letters. I'm guessing there are about 400, but that might be conservative. My step mom was the one who intercepted these letters and stored them away. I have no idea why she didn't throw them away as I am certain she never planned to give them to me.

I've been reading the letters all week. At first I was hesitant, unsure how they would impact me. Would they be too depressing? Were they better left unread? Would I unearth something I didn't actually want to know? In the end it was good for me to read these. Yes they were depressing and at times disturbing. She accused my dad of some horrible things, she repeatedly mentioned that crimes we being committed against us and evilness was inflicted upon us, she begged my dad to let me see her, but it was perhaps the amount of letters that expressed how much pain she was in.  They did, however, confirm that my mom loved me an immense amount - it's not really something I doubted, but beside all the paranoia, that came through loud and clear with every letter.


Mom with my siblings. I have one like this with her, but could not find it anywhere. Makes me want to do one of these with Riley.

It makes me wonder what I would do if I was told I could no longer see my daughter. Would I lose it? Of course, my situation is different from my mom's. Just for background, my mom had a somewhat normal life (although grandma shared that mom was a little paranoid in high school) and then something flipped. I guessing it was carrying two babies to term only to have them die hours after birth. I think this was the trigger that set everything off and it just got worse as the years rolled on. So here's a woman who already lost two babies, one of her kids was pregnant at 17, another was in juvie and then prison, and then her youngest daughter is taken away from her. I guess I might flip a bit too if I were in her situation.

My mom and brother in 1962. I had a hard time finding many pictures of her as she
must have been behind the camera a lot (note to self: get in more pictures with Riley).

Luckily, I'm not. With all the crap I went through growing up I'm so grateful for the life I have now. I have the best husband and kid... and my dad has always been there for me. He's a huge part of me getting through those times and while I read those letters I thought how hard it must have been for him. My mom would make wild accusations against him and then turn around and tell him how much she loved him. What a life he's had.

Again, about 10 years before my time.

My sister, who is 12 years older than me, assured me that it really was best for me at that time to not see my mom, and in many ways these letters confirm that.  I'm not sure it was really the best decision for me to be kept completely from my mom, but I do believe it was a different time and there were likely a lack of resources. I asked my dad if anyone had suggested supervised visitation at the time and he didn't recall that as even an option. I do know that our family doctor at the time became involved - something my mother was not happy about, but something I appreciate. She spoke up multiple times to help me and to help my family. I actually looked her up, hoping I might find a way to contact her - to let her know that her outreach did make a difference in my life, but she passed away in 2008. I wonder if she knew how much her letters to the courts helped shape my life.

Visiting my brother at juvie 12/25/77

The thing is, mental illness is more prevalent than we probably care to think it is. My mom's case was a little more on the extreme case (she was committed to a medical facility at least a couple times), but many people fight mental illness and so many don't get the support they need. I'm guessing the resources back in the day were limited, but it's not like they weren't there. My mom refused most help given to her, but if she had been open to it I'm certain she would have been a wonderful mom. Between all the chaos was a woman who wanted the best for her family and loved them fiercely.

When I was 18 I saw my mom again. It had been about 11 years since I last saw her. Too long for sure, but by that time her life had changed. I didn't know it until later, but she was on medication. Actually, she didn't seem to know it either and when she found out she wasn't happy about it, but it allowed me to spend the last years of my mom's life with her without the chaos of our early years. When she passed away shortly before my 24th birthday I was sad, but also relieved that she didn't have to live in this world anymore. I don't know what happens after death, but I hope she's found the peace that she deserves.

This all seems like a lifetime ago. In some ways it's good to put it behind me so I can focus on the now, but it's always there. It helped shape me and for all those years I worried about my ability to one day be a good mother - I have no worries now. As far as I'm concerned, Riley has the best parents out there.

What ever Riley remembers when she gets older I feel confident that they will be good memories, not always perfect, but still good.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Project 52 - Rainbow Park - Week 11


It's not often that I go on a walk by myself on a Sunday morning. Usually my people are with me, but this past week they went on a bike ride. My body wasn't up to that, plus it was super windy. I could have stayed in my pajamas, but felt like I should be doing something so I headed outside. I didn't get far before I ran into Jesse and Riley. Apparently, they also thought it was too windy so they were headed home. I headed forward though, and had a couple cameras with me - my Nikon D7100, and the Zeuss Ikonta 521/16. The Ikonta is a film camera from the late 1940's/early 1950's that I've been playing with lately. I have a collection of old cameras and finally decided to use some of them. This one was gifted to me by a co-worker. Her father had an interest in photography and when he passed away she said she wanted me to have one of his cameras. I was really honored, and until last week it sat with the rest of my cameras on display. I don't have any pictures from that camera here, because I don't even know if it really works, or if my pictures turned out... and the pictures take a week to develop so I won't have anything for while. Lol. How did we ever survive without the immediate satisfaction of the digital camera? (Side note: my dad's friend donated some old cameras to me this week! I'm going to have to buy another cabinet for my growing collection.)

At any rate, my walk day eventually got up to 70 degrees, but it was gloomy, a little chilly, and as mentioned above, windy in the morning. Everything looked a little grey - not anything that I initially thought would make 'pretty' pictures, but then I was struck by all the different textures, patterns, and bright against blah that was around me. It felt a little like a challenge - how can I make any of this interesting or picture worthy? They may not be the most stunning pictures, but what I like about them is that they capture a part of our life. I can't quite remember the name of this park (Louisiana Oaks, maybe?), but that's no matter because we call it 'Rainbow Park' which is way more fitting. We spend a lot of time walking around the path here, playing at one of the three playgrounds nearby, checking out the Christmas lights in the winter, and sometimes we'll even hit the splash pad up the hill in the summer.


Manually focused through a floor to get this effect.

Reminds me of playing softball as a kid. I wonder what sports Riley will end up playing.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Project 52 - Puddle Jumping - Week 10


The weather the past few days has been fantastic. It feels like winter has broken and spring is moving in. I'm ready to get out the lawn furniture, but know better than to think we won't have any more snow this season. It will come, but it will also melt fast - that I know.

This past weekend was daylight saving time and Jesse and I actually had the transition to ourselves while Riley had a grand old time at her grandparents. Jesse and I went to the camera store to pick up some film. Yup, I got film for a couple old camera's of mine and hope to play around with that (more to come, but it hasn't started out easy). We also went on a long walk and then went to a newer restaurant, Bonefish, that we've been meaning to check out. We've actually avoided it because it looked a little spendy and there were no prices on the online menu, but turns out the prices are fairly reasonable. We had a good dinner and got to sit next to the most stylish 80 something year olds I've ever met. One lady with her stars and stripes scarf and jeweled star earrings and the other with her super large gold hoop earrings (it may sound tacky, but these ladies really pulled it off)... and me in my ill fitting jeans with no makeup and a need to wash my hair. Lol. Maybe I will re-invent myself when I am 80 too. These ladies (and the gentleman they were with) put me to shame, for sure. Anyway, Jesse and I had a lovely night together and ended it with a couple episodes of Game of Thrones. It's always nice to get some alone time with the hubby.

The next day, after we met my in-laws for lunch at Snuffy's Malt Shop and Riley got a nap, we went on a puddle jumping adventure. Amazing how far a kid will walk when she gets to wear her rain boots and jump in puddles.

ISO 500 ~ F/3.5 ~  SS 1/1250 

We also hit up the local park - it's been so long since we've been able to hang out here. The neighborhood was a buzz with people out on walks. It's been so long since I've seen so many dogs out in our neighborhood.

It was such a nice day overall with the family. I can't wait until the trees start budding and the snow is completely gone. Love this time of year.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Project 52 - Dancing Queen - Week 9


I found the weather this week to be a little deceitful with all the sunshine and the chirpity chirping birds. It looked and sounded  like spring was on the way and it tempted me to spend time outside, but it was still cold, even bracing at moments with that darn wind. Sure I could have bundled up and braved the great outdoors to take some ideallic winter wonderland pictures with the fresh snow we got on Tuesday, but why would I do that when my barefoot, yoga pants wearing self could stay inside the warmth of my own house and photograph my child showing us some of her new dance moves.

Riley has dance each week - it started last September and runs through June when it ends in a recital.It feels like quite the commitment, but she really enjoys it. I see other kids in her class cry and throw fits about being there, but Riley can't wait to run into the dance room when the door opens. I feel for those other parents - the ones with the very reluctant children. We've been there in other situations (with the very reluctant child) so no way am I going to gloat about Riley loving dance because I know what it feels like. Just tonight there was a girl, who has always seemed to like the class, decide she was over it. She walked out and wouldn't return. Her mom pleaded, demanded, gently coaxed, and finally gave into her daughter's decision. At one point she mumbled that she didn't know what to do and I thought "me neither". 

At any rate, Riley loves dancing and turned on some music one day recently while Jesse and I were doing other things around the house (we must have been cleaning since the vacuum is behind Riley in one of these pictures). I stopped to watch her and realized that she wasn't just doing her random kid dancing stuff, but that she was doing moves from her dance class. She was doing a routine. It just made her seem so much older all of a sudden.

Eventually, Riley demanded that Jesse and I sit down and watch her dance for a song or two. I video taped her and then accidentally deleted the best video. I'm bummed, but I'm pretty sure I might get a repeat performance soon so I'm not at all worried that I will capture this girl and her moves.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Catching up

I have a number of random items that I realized I never blogged about. Some of it is old news... some not, but still wanted to document it for the records.

Feel Good Jar

I realized I totally forgot to talk about going through our feel good jar at the end of the year. This was our second year doing this and actually our first full year as I think we started 'year one' in March. At any rate, I didn't peak throughout the year which seems like it would be hard to do, but wasn't after all. During the first year Jesse didn't add many slips so I tried to encourage him throughout the year. In fact, during the first year there were a couple slips that mentioned Riley and I, but other's were along the line of  "wine!". So yeah, I gently prodded him to add more during this past year, but he actually added less. Three to be exact. *sigh*

Ok, maybe this isn't his thing, but this was the year that Riley embraced it full force. I loved how throughout the year she would randomly state to Jesse or myself that she wanted to add to the feel good jar. Some she wrote herself (with a little spelling help from us) and some she would dictate a list of things to us.

It was fun to sit down at the end of the year and relive some of the activities of the year through this project. Although, during last winter's horribly cold weather there were a lot of pieces of paper that simply said "the sun!" as if we (me) were really trying to find something to feel good about during that brutal cold or one that mentioned how grateful I was for the weather to get back up to 50 degrees or something after 5 months being below that. Anyway, lots and lots of weather related comments.

My favorite comments, though, probably came from Riley. There were at least four comments about how much she loved hugs from mommy. That kid is too sweet.

My Birthday

My birthday fell on a Monday so Jesse, Riley and I went out to dinner on the Saturday before. I wasn't feeling the greatest so I scrapped a plan to find someplace new to go. Instead we went to an area near our house that has a number of restaurants and can be quite busy. We went early to avoid the crowds, but even then there were 45 minute waits at the first two places we went to. Eventually, we found a place with immediate seating and then followed dinner up with some frozen yogurt. Not much different from a regular day, but still nice.

I never take my birthday off of work, but had planned to this year and treat myself with a massage or something. As the day neared, I actually debated working since I was still in the hole for PTO from getting sick at the end of December. I still wasn't feeling well so in the end I decided to go to the doctor on my birthday. I guess that could be considered a way to pamper myself since I was taking care of myself, but not really what I wanted to do. I still had a cough and asthma symptoms so the doctor put me on some new meds to address it. One doesn't do much, but the other lets me breath normal again so that's pretty exciting (and as of a couple weeks ago my cough is finally gone). Now that I've been on the medications for a month I need to check back in with my doctor to see what the plan is moving forward. I forgot to take it one day a couple weeks ago and went right back into having issues with breathing. I hope this asthma thing isn't a long term issue. I appreciate the ability to breath normally soooooo much.

Oh, and Jesse didn't get me a gift again this year, but did get me a card which was an improvement over last year. Yeah, we had a talk about it. Not sure why it's so hard for him, but I think I might just have to plan a getaway for myself next year... or I might invite him or go with a friend. Whatever it is I will just have to take control to make sure I feel special on my birthday. And to be clear, he wasn't a jerk - he was actually really loving and attentive on this day so I don't want to paint him to be a total jerk, because he's not. He's actually a really awesome guy.

Also, while I am totally ok with being 43, it's weird to know that I am way closer to 50 than I am to 25.

My Birth Family

We've been invited to a couple birthday parties in my birth family recently and were able to make one of them. I feel bad that we missed my birth grandma's birthday party, but it was on my dad's birthday. The following weekend we did make it to my niece's 2nd birthday party for her 'pool paw-ty'. She loves puppies so the party was dog themed, including snacks in dog dishes. They have a couple large dogs and my sister in law is a vet so it seemed like it all tied in together.

The party was at the AmercInn so I wasn't sure how it was going to work, but they had a party room right off the pool so it was a pretty decent set up. It was determined that I would be the designated pool parent for Riley which was fine with me. I enjoy floating in the water with my kid.

Riley's still pretty hesitant about being in the water and really needs more experience. We keep talking about getting her in swimming lessons, but these dance lessons turned out to be such a commitment that I think we are waiting until it warms up a little and for the end of the dance lessons to be in sight. At any rate, Riley basically clung on to me in the water and would freak out if I tried to move her a little. Apparently, she doesn't trust me much and must think I'm going to dunk her or something. Eventually, I did get her to stand in the shallow part and she was delighted once she realized the could touch the ground and still have her head above water. She somehow gained the courage to let go of me and would walk back and forth to me as I was a couple feet away. Eventually, she started raising herself out of the pool and then sliding back in while Jesse and I gave each other gazes of amazement.

Her armpits were in a death grip on my hands
since she thought I was going to drop her.

After playing in the water we ate cake (or Riley did) and watched Rowan open her gifts while also watching my other niece, Maddison, explore the room.

Riley was very proud of the card she made Rowan and Rowan seemed especially drawn to the ninja book we got her.

Miss Maddy

Riley and grandpa Leo

 Riley has requested to specifically go back to this pool since she can touch the ground in it. Hopefully, our gym pool is the same way. We just need to make it a habit to go to the pool more often.

Edit: I totally forgot to mention one of my favorite parts of this day. My, um, step-birth niece? - My birth sister's half brother's daughter? Anyway, she's a twin and I never see them enough to know who is who, but one of the twins was saying her goodbyes and came right up to me to give me a big hug and a kiss. It was so sweet since she barely knows me and it totally made my day.


Since Diablo passed away a few weeks ago we are all getting used to life without him. Since I no longer have an elaborate food prep for him in the morning I have to constantly remind myself to fill the water dish with fresh water (it was just part of the old process) for Lucy. Poor Lucy has probably had a little stale water here and there, but I'm getting better at it. A couple weeks in we decided to reset the cat feeder to really crack down on her food consumption. We want her to lose some weight for health reasons and it was hard to control when we had two cats on very different foods. She's absolutely obsessed with food and will create great destruction - mostly with toilet paper when she doesn't get food when she wants it. However, while there have been some damaged TP in the house, her favorite thing to do when hungry is get right in my face. Lucky me.

Where's my food?

I'm not sure what she's feeling, but I have this tendency to attach human feelings to my cats when they probably just see me as the food provider and the person to snuggle with simply to keep warm. Lucy did have a couple days of sitting at the back door and had some weird meow cry out one day in the week after Diablo died, but has been somewhat normal since then. Well, except she wants to be on my desk all the time now and needs a little more attention than before. When I gently try to get her to move (like when she's right in front of my computer or she puts her face right in mine) she get's pissy and will even hiss at me before running off. I guess that hasn't really changed - she did that before. She's always a little moody - wants to be right up in your face and gets mad when you nudge her a inch back.

When Diablo first died I felt inclined to give her extra love and attention, but then she started doing all her annoying 'in your face' stuff. I really want to enjoy her as much as Diablo, but no. She can be super sweet, but just too much.

She's been sleeping in bed with us all the time, which started a couple months before Diablo died. She'd sleep with us before, but not all night like she is now. The big change though, is that before she always slept by my feet, but now I wake up at 4 am with a 13 pound cat on my chest. No wonder I've been having trouble breathing. I'm guessing it's about the time she starts to get hungry so she wants to wake me up, and she does, but I think she gets that she has to wait for the feeder to go off.

Anyway, I think she's doing ok, but may be a little lonely. I think I am her Diablo replacement, which doesn't really surprise me. I am the cat lady in the house, after all.


I've been having a lot of dreams lately and the one I had last night was disturbing. I don't remember a lot of the details, but I do remember living in a different world (in the future, on another planet... not quite sure). Mostly what I remember is that residents were not valued and were often turned into slaves... and when no longer useful, they were disposed of (in a horrible way). I woke up crabby and had a hard time shaking it (and it might be setting the tone for this post now that I think about it - complaining about the hubby and Lucy).

But the dream wasn't as disturbing as the one I had Sunday night. I won't go into too many details, but I remember soooo many it's weird. My brother Scott was in the dream and my current house was his home. In real life, this brother did live in this house as a kid and passed away about 7 years ago. Anyway, I remember sitting at his desk waiting for him to get up when I noticed a small, maybe inch by inch, lined paper that was on a stand on his desk. On the top, it said "Frank" which is my dad's name and below it had the definition of "Frank". I don't remember the entire thing, but I clearly remember it saying "hero" and it might have said "friend". One other part of the dream that stood out is that I found a bunch of yellow legal paper that was written on hidden under the sidewalk. Makes me want to dig up that specific sidewalk panel once it thaws out to see if there is anything there.

There was another part of the dream where my dad and I were helping my brother move out of a duplex and we were going through some stuff in a shed. Scott pulled out an old animal like puppet and commented on how my sister, Karen, and I gave that to him and he had some gifts to give us in return. I don't remember seeing my sister in the dream, but know she was standing behind me. (I also remember the silver and black hair binder that was in the puppet animal's hair - those are the sorts of itty bitty details that I remember in these dreams). oh, and I woke before he gave us the gifts so I have no idea what it was.

I don't know about you, but I feel a little weird when I dream about people in my life that have passed away. People who end up in my dreams normally are those that I just saw or emailed... or even read a blog post about before going to bed. But when dead people who I haven't talked to in 7 years visit me in a dream, I just don't know. Plus, with my dad just turning 87 (and his two siblings dying in the last year) I worry that my time with him is limited and that there was some message in this dream about that. I have to say I wanted to call him right away after having this dream to make sure he was ok, but since I had just talked to him I couldn't think of one reason to call without it being weird -  "Just want to make sure you are alive, dad". Today, I used the snowfall to call him and he sounded great.

Anyway, enough of my rambling. That's what's been happening lately. I think we are all looking forward to some warmer weather soon and are even thinking about the summer getaway we want to go on. Right now we are thinking of the Badlands... Mount Rushmore, Wall Drug, the Corn Palace, Crazy Horse... Have you been? What would you suggest for places to stay or see? It's been probably 35 years since I went and I'm sure some things have changed.