Happy Birthday in Heaven

Today would have been my dad’s 91st birthday if he were still alive. This is no joke…even though for many years, with his birthday being on April 1st, we always told him, he was born a fool. We were joking of course, cause my dad was no fool.

I remember him when I was a little girl, he was so handsome and I loved the way he smelled. Old Spice and tobacco. When he started smoking a pipe, it was the sweet tobacco smell I just loved.

He was always a hard working man. He would, at times, work two jobs. Even when I got older, he would work on cars in our garage. It seemed the only time he had free time was on Sundays, when my mom would make a large pot of sauce and all my cousins would come over for dinner. The men would sit and watch football, baseball, whatever sport was on TV and the women would be in the kitchen. Those are happy memories.

My dad was the youngest of 4 children and the only boy. He was born to an immigrant father but his mom was born here. My grandparents married at a late age, they were in their 30’s which is old in those days. I’m not sure if my dad ever knew his grandparents or if they had died before he was old enough to remember.

My grandfather was a butcher but he loved to gamble on the horses. My grandmother was a housewife and when they needed extra money, she cleaned houses for rich, “white” women. Back in those days, prejudice against Italians was rampant. In fact, my great grandfather was a merchant marine who, once he saw America, fell in love with it. So, he went back to Italy and told his wife and six of his nine children, they were moving to America. They went through Ellis Island and set up home in Kings County, New York. My great grandfather worked on the docks in NYC, as did my grandfather once he was old enough. But he was also a skilled carpenter.

My dad was a Golden Glove boxer when he was younger. If I remember correctly, he won several trophies. My memories of life with my parents came after they purchased their house on Ryder Street in Brooklyn, I moved there when I was 2 and we stayed there until I was 9, so that makes sense. I remember when my dad worked for a mechanic shop. There were so many Sal’s they had to call my dad by his middle name, so I heard him being called “Tony” alot. He drove a yellow cab in Manhattan on his off time and he was so likable, he had many friends.

The guys used to come over for coffee and sit around the kitchen table. I enjoyed that. I was young but I still remember it. We all talked with our guttural accent that only New Yorker’s have. My parents had several couple friends they did things with on the weekends. The place to go in NY at that time was the Playboy Club. They would go for dinner and drinks and possibly entertainment. As I got older, they would allow me to babysit their friends kids. And the goodies they left for us were too good to pass up.

Because my dad was in the car business, not only was he a master mechanic but he was also a good customer service guy. He was also in sales so many times he came home with different cars. Porches, Audi’s, Ramblers, Chrysler’s, Fords, all depending on who he was working for. He left early in the morning and was usually home by 5 pm. He didn’t want my mom to work outside the home, but there was one time, she really wanted to get out of the house since all the kids were now in school. I was an unruly teenager, rebellious, so once I knew our house was empty during the day, I would ditch school and have my friends over for a party.

That didn’t last long as a group of kids decided to rip us off one day and that was the end of that. My parents decided to move us to California. I was going into my junior year in high school. Once we got to California, my dad started his own business, he purchased a lease for a Mobile station and he worked on cars and sold gas. He was always at work. He did purchase a ’62 Volkswagon Bug for me to drive only it was stick shift and I didn’t know how to drive a stick shift. He kept telling me he would teach me, but the business was growing and he didn’t have the time. So one summer day, I said the heck with it. I grabbed the keys and took off determined to teach myself how to drive my mode of transportation. I picked up two of my girlfriends, Pat and Gail, and we took off, driving around Mira Mesa. We had a blast in that car. Back then we had a drive in theater off of Balboa Avenue. My Bug had a moon roof and we would pile 4 of us in the car and go to the drive in.

My dad made more money in California than he had his entire life. He was doing really well. So well, he purchased two more gas stations. My mom and he would go on lots of cruises for their vacations. And once I had kids, they would spend time with them because let’s face it, I was now working all the time (2 jobs) and my parents were having fun. They purchased a motorhome and went camping all the time with their club. The kids loved it and it gave them something to do while I was working.

When my dad got Hepatitis from a trip down to Mexico, he got really sick. He was so sick, it ended up ruining his liver and he was never able to drink again. He didn’t know he had Hepatitis and my aunt and uncle had come out to visit and they drove to Las Vegas. He was too sick to even leave his room. He had to take off work for several weeks, but to see my dad laying on the couch was a new site for me.

Because his business was doing so well, they decided to buy a piece of property in Jamul, CA on top of a hill and build their dream home. However, shortly after moving in, my dad announced he was going to retire. He sold his business. Things were good for a while, he invested his money and he was enjoying his retirement. Until the recession in the 90’s hit. Most of his investments were with one guy who ended up having a Ponzi scheme. He milked hundreds of thousands of dollars from many people in San Diego and my parents ended up having to sell their motorhome, their house, just about everything they had. They moved to Florida where they were able to buy a piece of property and have another house built. But after a few years, my dad was over living in Florida and he wanted to move back to be closer to his family. Luckily, one of the investments they had did not foreclose and when it sold, they were staring at a large enough check that if they sold their current home, they could purchase another one in California. So they did it.

They moved to Riverside CA as they were able to afford a home in a senior community. My dad seemed pretty content there. He made lots of friends as he sat in the driveway with his dog, Velvet. He enjoyed the warm weather which didn’t consist of humidity. He was around his family once again.

In 2003, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My dad took it very hard. We didn’t know how long I was going to live and I do know, my parents did not want to bury their daughter. I was dad’s little girl after all. Meantime, my dad was going to the VA docs on a regular basis. At the time, we didn’t know why because he didn’t tell anyone. But apparently, he was having heart problems. He was tired all the time, he slept alot. He didn’t have much energy. Although, he helped me when he purchased me a mobilehome in Hemet. I was going through my last treatment phase of radiation, but he would come over almost every day and help me fix the place up.

I was determined not to let my cancer dictate my life. So, I started looking for a job in June. By the end of July, I was working full time again. My dad seemed pretty happy about it. I remember one Friday night, my parents invited me over for dinner. While I was sitting around their dining room table, my dad sitting at the head of the table surrounded by all these widowed women. My uncle had passed just 6 weeks prior, and as I sat there looking at all these women, including my aunt, I kept thinking how lucky I was to still have my dad around.

That Sunday, my mom called and invited me over to dinner but I was too tired and told her I had just been there on Friday. So they enjoyed dinner with my brothers. On Monday, I had to work in San Diego, so I turned off my phone so I wouldn’t be disturbed. It wasn’t until 9 pm Monday night when I remembered my phone had been off all day. When I turned it on, I had 15 messages.

My dad had woken up early Monday morning and was feeling nauseous. While he was in the bathroom, he broke out in a cold sweat. Coming out of the bathroom, he lay on the bed and told my mother to call 911. He was having a heart attack. When the paramedics got there, they prepared him for a hospital trip. The VA was full so they couldn’t take him and the local hospital wasn’t prepared for heart attack victims so they transported him to San Bernardino, which was a good hour away. All my messages were from different family members trying to get a hold of me all day. At 9:00 pm, I drove over to my mother’s house where my brothers and neighbors had gathered. I got caught up on what was happening. He was stable but was not a good candidate for surgery. Apparently, his heart had started doing it’s own bypass. But where the bypass had ended up, there was a clogged artery and so, he had a heart attack. He wasn’t able to take in much oxygen because he was suffering from emphysema, which no one knew about.

He didn’t like anyone to fuss over him so when he became ill, he never told anyone. He didn’t tell anyone he had emphysema or that he had a bad heart. He kept it all to himself. I remember when we celebrated their 50th anniversary, we took a cruise to Alaska. He fell asleep on the train going up the mountain. I thought that was odd or maybe he just was tired. Some of the symptoms he had, lots of pain in his shoulders and neck, always asking me to massage them for him. Swelling in his ankles, all signs of a bad heart.

He went into the hospital on Monday and on Thursday, when we were all in his room, he was sitting up an said he felt pretty good. Told my mom to bring his shorts and sneakers, he was going home on Friday. We told him only if he improved could he go home. I got to the hospital in the afternoon and planned on spending the rest of the day with him. My kids had flown in, one from Washington the other from Boston. They had gone down to the cafeteria to get something to eat, and I was just in the hospital room, holding my dad’s hand and watching him. They had him on morphine and I wasn’t sure if he knew I was there until he opened his eyes and asked me to adjust his bed, his back started hurting him and he thought it was due to where the bed was positioned. I moved the bed and all of a sudden all these bells and whistles went off.

They pushed me out of the room and started working on my dad. At one point they came out and told me he needed more oxygen and wanted permission to put a tube down his throat. I told them no at first because he was on a DNR and I didn’t want him suffering by having them shove a tube down his throat, but they assured me it wasn’t life support it was just to help him breathe. Well, they lied to me. It was life support. Apparently, he had had another heart attack which was why his back was hurting him. They then told me to start calling the family back as he may not make it through the night.

So, I called everyone and told them what had happened and they all needed to come back to the hospital. Everyone started trickling in at different hours. Most lived in San Diego so it was a three hour drive for them. My sister in law and 2 nieces were the last people to come in which was around 11:00 pm that night. Once we were all there, we gathered around a circle holding hands and prayed. We all said something to my dad, hoping he could hear us. The doctor came in and removed the breathing tube. We all stood around in silence. Most of us were crying and then one by one, we went up to my dad, laying there on the bed, and gave him one last kiss and hug goodbye.

He was right that afternoon when he said he was going home. It just wasn’t the home we thought he was talking about. The next morning, I awoke to thunder. Now as most of you know, living in Southern California, we never get thunder. It was so loud, it was shaking my house. The kids were asleep in the living room, and I ran out there and opened the front door and said, “Listen?” They heard it too, loud, thunderous, earth shaking thunder. I turned and said to my kids, “He made it! He’s in heaven and he’s fighting with Uncle Tommy!” That was August 12, 2004. I love you dad, and still miss you…I will always miss you until we meet again.

RIP – April 1, 1928 – August 12, 2004. Wonderful husband, father, grandfather, son. Love you to the moon and back! Happy Birthday in Heaven!

Noom-ing is a real thing

Several months ago, well, maybe more than that, (time flies when your trying to lose weight and don’t), I wrote about trying out Keto. Well, Keto did work for a while until we went on vacation. Even though I tried to stick to it, I ended up going off it once we got home. I don’t know why, I just did. After speaking to my hairdresser, who had lost about 20-30 lbs, I asked her what she was doing. She gave me the name of her nutritionist, who I contacted.

She told me she worked in Keto, Macros, and Mindful Eating. Sounded good to me so I hired her. She then gave me an eating plan with my total amount of macros I was allowed in a day. The calorie portion of 1500. From past experience with my body, I knew it was too much food for me. I have never lost weight in the past by eating over 1200 calories. I know that about my body. However, she is the expert so I gave it a try. I gained 12 lbs. I was devastated, of course, as I had never weighed that much in my life.

We went over what I had been doing and even though I wasn’t following it to a T, there was no reason for me to gain 12 lbs in a month, none! She told me my body had been in starvation mode for so long which was why I was gaining weight and eventually it would reverse itself. I was discouraged, depressed, wanting to throw in the towel. But really, that’s just not me. I am determined I am going to beat this.

Another friend of mine told me about a program she was doing: Noom. Huh? What the heck is a Noom? She told me she lost 22 lbs in 4 months and she is like me, it’s hard for her to lose weight. So I did some research on it. They had a free 14 day trial and if you liked what you were doing, you could sign up for a 6 month membership for $149. Okay, I’ll bite. I put a reminder on my phone and it said, “If this doesn’t work, do not buy it, cancel it today!”

They gave me a coach and access to their food logging system and exercise log, thousands of recipes, and some psychological encouragement. They also put me on a 1200 calorie per day “diet”. It’s not really a diet, they break food down into 3 groups, Red, yellow, and green. Red you eat limited amounts of, yellow is good but not as good as green. You can eat anything you want as long as you stay within your calorie range. You have to weigh every day and log it into the system. They want you to develop healthy habits.

So the first 14 days, the scale went up a couple more lbs, even though I was logging everything I ate. And like I said earlier, I am determined to win this, I am in control, not my body! So, I continued with the program. I mean I’ve already thrown a ton of money into my weight loss these last 15 years, whats another $149? But on the third week, I saw the scale go down. In fact after the 4th week, I had lost a total of 6 lbs! Big thing for me!

Here is what I have noticed from the help of the nutritionist and NOOM. I am very MINDFUL of what I am eating. I am making better choices and in my head I’m not saying, “oh, one of these won’t hurt” cause yes, it will. Ask me how I know this….Saturday we had company for the first time since starting this and I had two old fashion high balls, it made a big difference in the scale of 2 lbs. Those 2 lbs took days to lose and now I am almost back to my Saturday weight. I am putting too much work into this to blow it on a silly alcoholic drink. So, I learned my lesson. A lesson I would not have learned if I hadn’t been weighing myself every day.

I measure everything! I don’t trust myself just yet to “guesstimate.” I am also eating the same foods, some may think this is boring but I don’t think it is, in fact, I do change it up a bit but make sure macros, the fats, proteins, and carbs are equal or similar. I do no carbs at night with dinner, another change I made where I am seeing a difference. I am eating fish, cod, mahi mahi, salmon, shrimp, chicken and a veggie or salad for dinner. Breakfast I have a low carb tortilla with 2 scrambled eggs and 2 pieces of bacon and for lunch I have a Prophorma 1 chocolate protein shake with either 1 T of peanut butter or 1/2 avo. My snacks are 1 cup sugar snap peas, or 2 T peanut butter with 3-4 celery sticks, or 20 almonds. Dessert at night is 20-40 frozen green or red grapes, or a JOJO bar. This is working for me.

Having found my sweet spot with my food intake has caused me to start seeing results. I had to limit my workouts because I hurt my knee but today my doctor told me I could ride my bike, or do squats without weights. No dancing to Zumba or doing any Shaun T workouts. They cause me to twist my knee and then it’s hard for me to walk. My goal was to lose 55 lbs, but my doctor told me to make it 25 lbs, baby steps.

So here I go again on my own….wait, that’s a song! But it’s true. NOOM says I will be at my goal weight by August. I hope it’s right. I’ll be happy with “almost” at my goal weight, anything is better than where I am today. My doctor told me I could be a nutritionist! She’s right. I know so much about food at this point, I know I could coach someone else. However, we are all different. What works for one person may not work for another. I found that out this past year. As always, I will keep you updated to my progress and maybe, no promises, I will post pictures!

Until next time!

The Gall of some people! Have you no shame???

More drama in the family. This is really getting old. Just when we think things have finally settled down, something new pops up!

We found out today, our son’s one sister called him up to borrow $5,000 out of his inheritance money. The same money all of them have been fighting us on about using for his special needs. They fought us when we wanted it to go into a “special needs” account. They refused because first of all they would have to keep track of it and report it to the Feds, secondly, they didn’t want it all to go to his special needs. Why? Well, we found out today. It’s so they can have access to his money whenever they wanted it.

She called him up this morning at his group home and asked if she could borrow $5,000 to move. She’s been living in a condo which was purchased by her now deceased grandmother. She stopped paying her $800 portion of rent back in October because after having a contractor in to fix some leaks in the bathroom, they found asbestos in the walls. Their heater then went out, to which her aunt gave her a space heater until they could get that fixed. Their washing machine went out as well but that is not the responsibility of the landlord to fix. So, she just decided to stop paying rent.

This past month, her aunt sent her a notice to move out so they could fix the problems in the condo and of course, she doesn’t have the money to move. Because rather than save the $800 a month she wasn’t paying, she pissed it away like she did her portion of her inheritance. Now, she asks her brother, who is 18 but naive to facts on money, due to his autism, if she can have $5,000 of his money! We call bullshit as did the Director of his group home. She saw immediately how deceptive and how she coerced him into saying yes. The aunt who is in charge of his money, or trustee if you like, told her she would need a phone call from our son to get his approval. Unbeknownst to him, he just said yes. I’m thinking this may be illegal.

After hearing about this, the Director called APS and the police so we can protect his money as well as himself from predators like his sister. My husband placed a call to his ex sister in law and told her we were calling APS on his behalf, of course we had to leave her a message because she wouldn’t pick up her cell phone or her house phone. See how these people roll? His daughter also refused to pick up her phone because she knows she is in the wrong! She skirts on other people’s money and has her entire life. She squandered away her $80,000 inheritance and has nothing to show for it. We paid half her rent when she first moved out to CO for 6 months because she thought she was going to move in with us. She had asked her sister several years ago to borrow $5,000, which she was given, but she was able to pay it back because she had another inheritance she was getting. However, the money has run out and now we want to know how she is going to pay her brother back. She isn’t. And there will be nothing he can do about it.

This is just wrong in so many ways. Like I had published before, these are family members who didn’t care about their brother until he was sent away. They never attended any therapy sessions, nor did they ever call to take him out somewhere fun. Never. In four years! But now that he’s 18 , they feel they can take advantage of him. And we saw through this. From the very beginning when our son gave his permission for them to be involved in his progress, he did it out of love, they did it out of greed.

We have since advised him to rescind his yes answer and we told him why. We also told him he really should consult with another adult before telling someone they can borrow that type of money from him. We told him not to feel bad about it but he didn’t have to say yes just because she was his sister. We told him they were taking advantage of him and his good nature and it wasn’t right. He needs that money for himself. I mean that’s what they all have been preaching to us all this time. So, once again, patience has paid off. We now see their true colors that we have been talking about all this time. And I will repeat this until I am dead. Our interest is Daniel having a successful life and being able to live on his own even though he is autistic. The lies being told about us are unreal. Some have reached my family and for some God awful reason, they are being believed by certain family members. This makes me sick! Unless you were here, and saw it with your own eyes, don’t fucking judge me.

We will now use every tool in the book to get Daniel to move with us to Savannah. He needs to be protected from the greed in his sisters who are poisoning his thoughts. There is no way I will feel comfortable leaving him here in Denver so he can be coerced and deceived by his family. As parents, that is our job and we will do it until the day we die.

It Doesn’t Take Body Parts to be a Woman

Donna: “You think that if you got no uterus and no breasts, you’re still technically a woman?”
Erin: “Sure you are. Yeah, you just…you’re actually a happier woman because you don’t have to worry about maxi-pads and underwire.”

This quote from the Erin Brockovich movie resonated with me to the core.  In 1991, due to female complications, I ended up having a total hysterectomy.  I would tell my girlfriends, “It’s the best thing I ever did for myself.”  But in 2002, when I found a lump in my breast and the doctor’s misdiagnosed me, I ended up having an advanced stage of breast cancer, causing me to have a double mastectomy. As I was being wheeled into the operating room, these words played in my head.

At the age of 47, I was single for the first time in a very long time, an empty-nester, working a job I hated but going to school to start a new career I was excited about. 

It was surprising, once I heard those words, “you have cancer” how nothing else would permeate my mind.  Even though I had been getting mammograms every year from the time I was 40, the outcome was always normal.  How could this be?

Once the shock wore off, I got to work.  I started doing research on my cancer, Invasive Lobular Carcinoma.  I saw the words, “Mammographically occult…”

I remember when I found the small, pea size lump at the 8:00 position on my right breast.  I was doing a breast self-exam (BSE) and when I found the small hard invader, I immediately made an appointment with my primary care doctor.  She felt it too and sent me over to the radiology department to get a mammogram and an ultrasound.  The radiologist, a woman, told me she wasn’t able to feel a lump and asked me to place a lead bb where I “thought” it was. 

After the results came back, she told me it was a fluid filled cyst, come back in a year for a follow up.  That was in April of 2002.  In December of 2002, I felt the lump had gotten bigger.  Now it was the size of a quarter.  I wasn’t worried, after all, it was a fluid filled cyst and probably had more fluid buildup.

By April of 2003, the lump was now the size of a large lime and the skin around it was itchy.  It had been a year so it was time to call the doctor and schedule my follow up.  When I called to make the appointment, I told the scheduler about the lump and how it had gotten bigger.  She immediately found me an appointment for that day.  My primary was on vacation so I had to see a different doctor.  As I sat on the table, wrapped in my paper gown, he came into the room.  He had a kind face and a professional demeanor.  He asked me a few questions regarding my past appointment the year before and then he moved the paper gown to the side and started doing a clinical breast exam.  As he was examining me, he was asking me questions regarding family history and personal habits. He sent me for a mammogram and ultrasound that day.

The same radiologist who had examined me the year before and claimed she couldn’t feel a lump, could now feel the lump.  While she went over my file, I could tell from the look on her face, she wasn’t happy.  As the technician was doing my mammogram, she was extra careful to be sure what she was getting was the entire lump, so much so, I was bruised from the machine squashing my breast so hard.  But the pictures came out clean.  Nothing showed up on the mammogram.  She was just as puzzled as I was.

Next stop was downstairs to get an ultrasound.  And there it was.  A large, black mass that seemed to have fingers coming out of it as if to say, “here I am, come and get me.”  A core needle biopsy the following week confirmed our fears, it was breast cancer. 

Treatment was surgery, aggressive chemo, and radiation.  I opted for a double mastectomy because lobular breast cancer is not detectable with a mammogram.  Nineteen lymphnodes were removed from my right side, and seven had cancer.  My tumor was 7x6x3 cm, stage 3B.  Six rounds of chemo and 60 rounds of radiation and life expectancy was two years.  So much for finding that true love; so much for working that dream job; so much for growing old and seeing grandchildren.

The support of my family and friends was phenomenal.  We cracked jokes, they cleaned my house, they cooked me meals, they kept me company.  They formed a team “I love Lucy” and we walked 60 miles for the cause.

I wrote my first book “One in Eight” and did a workshop in high schools for seven years telling my story to young women so they could become their own health advocates.  Everything I didn’t know then, I taught them now.

This year I will be celebrating 16 years of being cancer free.  I found true love five years ago when I met my husband; I went to school and graduated Cumma sum laude with a BA degree in Creative writing and English (my dream job, to be a writer); and I have several beautiful grandchildren, thanks to my kids and my husband’s kids.

It doesn’t take body parts to be a woman, it takes a fighting spirit, a loving family, and a good heart to be all we can be.  I can honestly say, I am one lucky woman.

Red Lipstick just ain’t my thing….(the new edited version) Flash Fiction

For years I didn’t understand what was happening to me.  Young women, brutally murdered, appearing in my dreams.  It wasn’t until I finally accepted the fact, dead people were talking to me, did they start appearing during my waking hours.

Invading my head like the Americans did on the beaches of Normandy, nothing I did could stop it, no matter how hard I tried. 

Getting drunk and passing out; kept them at bay for a while longer; but when I got high, well, that was a different story. The voices became louder, demanding attention; placing images of their desperate last moments into the mind’s eye.

I’m not sure when it all began; my earliest recollection was in ‘51.  I was 7 at the time, living in Brooklyn.  My mom, a stay at home mom, as were most of the mom’s back then, wasn’t home one day when I arrived from school. The door was unlocked.

Our house was shaped like a railroad flat, my room was in the back.  Facing the mirror on my dresser, I saw a man’s reflection by the front door.  He looked like Fred Astaire. He had opened the front door just a tad, enough to lean his head in, black tux, black top hat.  Tipping the hat, just slightly, he smiled.  Thinking I heard him say, “Ready to go?”  Turning from the mirror, he was gone. The door still ajar.

Walking slowly towards the front door, heart beating rapidly, the thought of fainting was pliable. An electric shock coursed through my hand and up my arm as I touched the doorknob, watching as the long, black hairs stood straight up.  He was gone.

George. My best friend.  We did everything together.  Though no one else could see or hear him, we always had a fun time. He was around for quite a while and then he wasn’t.

Oh, and the basement. Something was there. It lived behind the heater in the darkest corner. Just a dark shadow with long spindly fingers, always tripping me as I ran up the basement stairs. It knew I knew.  Never did see its’ face…I hate basements.

As I got older, the hissing in my ears was a clear indicator someone was trying to contact me.  At first, it was only every once in a while. The quieter the house got, the louder the hissing.  Always playing music whenever I was alone and falling asleep with the TV on.  God forbid I acknowledged them.

The 1970s and 80s were the worst decades for me.  Many women were brutally killed.  Bundy, Berkowitz, Kemper, Bittaker, Norris, Bianchi, Buono, BTK, Gaskins.  There is no rest. Even those I couldn’t understand came to tell me…what? I don’t know…little sleep and the hissing just got louder…

Eyes…the eyes of their killers…empty, crazy, soul less. And red lips.  Lipstick? Blood? Didn’t matter, red was fear.  And now, it’s my turn.  Peace finally. The hissing has stopped. They came to help me.  My ending, red with fear.

Though finally at peace, I can’t rest.  Another chosen one. Strong, sane, believable, unable to have written this on her own. She, too, has inherited the hissing.

Another year

It is amazing how much can change in a year.

For instance, my step son was taken out of our house a year ago due to his violent outbursts and meltdowns. The progress he has made is monumental. It’s like he is a different person. We don’t see the anger in him any longer, and he seems more at peace with himself. We don’t believe this would have happened if we had not taken the drastic steps needed in order to get him to where he is today. He is actually a pleasure to be around and we can have a conversation with him. He got the help he needed from professionals and he continues to get help from the staff at the group home where he currently resides. Trust me when I say, don’t try to do this yourself if you have a child who needs mental help. Leave it to the professionals, this is what they are trained to do.

I just celebrated my 63rd birthday yesterday. Thank you. So grateful to be able to say I hit another year milestone. After someone has been diagnosed with cancer, and you have death staring you in the face, every birthday is a miracle in your life.

This coming year holds many changes for our family. We have decided to relocate to the South, the low country. We’ve had enough of the high country in more ways than one! Hubby and I are both experiencing a hard time breathing. So much so, it wakes me at night, it feels like I’m drowning but it’s just my lungs telling me I need more oxygen. So now, I use an inhaler every night before going to bed so I don’t wake in a panic.

Of the seven kids we have together, only 3 are speaking to us or me anyway. I’m being blamed for my step son having to leave the house so I’m the POS who has been negatively influencing my husband. The only thing I can say about that is, you didn’t live here when the shit was hitting the fan. And when you did live with it, you just ignored it. I am the one who insisted on the testing and the real diagnosis. Because we are moving away, yes, I’m being blamed for that too, the adult girls believe we are abandoning them and his grandchildren. Yes, one adult daughter is telling her kid I’m not her real grandmother. Which is really too bad because I love that little girl. I never professed to be her “real” grandmother. Her “real” grandmother died so when her grandpa married me, I just took over the role. But I’m not welcome into that role any longer. Grandpa will have to remember the birthdays, the Christmas presents, etc. because I’m not the grandma any more. And whereas it does hurt our feelings, we will get over it. When those kids are older, they will realize what they were forced to miss out on. We can only hope their children don’t do the same thing to them in the future.

My writing is finally going somewhere. Yes, I’m a published author but I haven’t had anything published since 2012. Not for lack of trying. I have been writing, in college I had to write an essay every week and my last year of college included all my creative writing classes, so sometimes I had to write multiple stories. My co author and I have been writing a serial killer novel for the last 6 years and I do believe we will be done with it this summer. Then the real work begins. Finding a publisher interested in it, after all the edits, and if I remember correctly, the last book was a real pill while it was in the publishing stage. It was more stressful and frustrating than it was to write the darn thing.

I recently submitted two of my stories to contests. Women on Writing holds several contest every year, so decided why not give it a try. Even if I don’t win anything, at least I gave it a try. One was a creative non fiction piece and the other was a flash fiction piece. I will post them on a separate blog and maybe you can tell me what you think of them. I’m always up for some creative criticism, especially when it comes to my writing.

Even though we have some strife in the family dynamics, we are very much looking forward to the changes we are facing in this next year. My husband and I are partners, we support each other. We love each other. We are a team. We will continue to move forward in our life because you just never know what the future has in store for you. You have to take life by the horns and make the most of it. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. I refuse to die with regrets! L

A Million Little Pieces….

There has been a little family drama around here the past 2-3 days because we informed the “kids” we were selling our house and moving to Savannah, GA. My hubby will be 65 this coming February and we are getting tired of cleaning all the snow off our driveway in the winter. He is also the one who gets the wood and tends to the fire. In fact, he does alot of the work around here because he won’t allow me to do it. Whereas, I think that is awfully sweet of him, I am still capable of hauling wood into the house and just may be good exercise for me, but he refuses to allow me to do it.

As you all know from my past posts, my husband has a mentally disabled 18 year old, who has been out of our home for almost a year now. He is autistic, ADHD, PTSD, ODD. All things we are not professionally capable of handling on our own. Last year during one of his violent episodes, my hubby called 911 and after the police talked with not only him but us, they decided to take him down to a mental facility. After being there a couple of days, we had a meeting with the therapist who was handling his case. His anger was still extremely apparent and so we decided it would not be safe for him to come back to our home.

We found a facility who would take him and work with him. It was a residential mental hospital for kids his age, he was 17 at the time. My husband is retired military and we live on a fixed income. However, we had some money in savings and we had been using that for his care prior to him being put into a mental hospital (therapy appts, medication, and other alternative treatments, none of which were working.) When we found out the insurance would pay for care we were very much relieved but a copay of $900 per month was a stretch for us. Since his mother is no longer living and his grandfather, who also passed away, left him some money, we contacted an attorney to see if we were able to use some of the inheritance money for his care. Absolutely! In fact, that is what the inheritance money can be used for, his care.

My husband is not the executor of his estate, my step son’s aunt is so we contacted her. We informed her of the situation and how dire it was and from speaking to the experts, it was the best thing for him. In fact, they continually told us why had we waited so long to get him the help he needed? Our only answer was, we didn’t know the extent of his disability until a jr. high school principal gave us the information to get him tested. We then did what they suggested, weekly therapy, IEP for school, medication. Unfortunately, the medication was only for his ADHD not his autism anger. (We had no idea they had meds for such and his doctors never told us).

My step son is extremely stubborn. What should have taken 2 months in the mental facility, took him 5 months because he refused to listen to anyone, including all the doctors he was seeing. He had to be refrained physically several times because he lost his temper, destroying an office. He was given a shot which knocked him out and when he awoke, he was restrained to his bed. It only took them a few times to do this before he realized he needed to start following the program. Each week, my husband and I made the 2 hour trip there for family therapy sessions and the 2 hour trip back. It wasn’t until he got a new therapist who specialized in autism, that he finally started getting it. She used smell therapy, sound therapy, poetry, and music to dig deeper into his psyche. We did role playing during our therapy sessions, and we finally started seeing a light in a very long and dark tunnel. He did extensive work on dealing with the death of his mother and all the anger he had pent up inside over it. This was the thing that bothered me the most. And by bothered, I mean always brought me to tears because I can not imagine the pain he was in having lost his mother whom he was very close to, well as close to as was possible, because she worked nights and did lots of traveling once she found out she had a brain tumor. Regardless, this was his mother and he would never see her again.

But he did the work and when we went in for a therapy session, he informed us on how he had worked through it. In fact, one of his assignments was to write a letter to his mother. He showed it to us. He not only wrote a letter to his mother which was 2 sentences long, but he wrote me a letter as well which was 2 paragraphs long. He explained how he wasn’t very happy with me when I took away his shot ’em up videos but now he understood why I did that. He told me he loved my cooking, and how, because of me, he loved to read, and he missed me. I cried when I read it and I gave him a huge hug and thanked him for it.

Everyone hates the step mother no matter how nice she is or no matter what she does for her step kids. He actually thought it was my fault for us moving out of California and living in Colorado. I had to remind him how it was his father who wanted to be closer to his mother, his other grandmother, as she was getting up in age and he wanted to spend whatever time she had left on this earth with her. Of course that didn’t happen because as everyone hates the step mother, well, she hated me too, didn’t know me, but hated me. There is nothing I can do about that, I am me and if you don’t like me, I’ll move on. There are plenty of people on this good earth who do like me and it’s not my problem, it’s theirs.

Once he finally got ‘it’ at the hospital, there was still much work to be done. My husband and I are not mental health professionals and they suggested he go to a residential group home where he could learn some life skills and prepare him for the outside world as well as continue extensive therapy. We agreed and hoped they could find something our insurance would cover. Unfortunately, they do not cover residential facilities so it was one of the cheapest facilities we could find, with the help of his therapist. It is non profit so all the money spent goes to a good cause. He has been there since July and has made lots of progress. We are so proud of him. He finished high school in November and will graduate in May. He is learning how to apply for jobs, he is on mood altering drugs and is learning how to live a productive life. Yes, things were going very well and in the right direction, until we told everyone we were putting our house on the market and moving to Savannah, GA. That’s when the shit hit the fan.

The aunts don’t want to pay for his housing anymore. They want him on state assistance so he has money in his inheritance for “his future”. What they aren’t getting and neither is my step son’s sisters, who have now taken an active interest in his care, is the money IS going for his future. His future to lead a productive life without living in a group home, which by the way is the best place for him to be because he is around others who are like him. He feels less than when he is around only normal people including family. His one sister called us today and said she wanted to take control of him…really? And what experience do you have besides being a nanny to two children who were autistic and a little bit of research? When my husband asked her what her plan would be if he suddenly had a melt down and started beating up on her two babies, her answer was, “I’ll handle it when it happens.” Sorry, you need to have a solid plan in place as to how you will restrain a 6’4″, 200 + lb kid from beating all of you to a pulp.

Everyone thinks they are an expert when it comes to my step son’s mental illness. Not one of them ever attended a therapy session with us. Not one of them ever came up, in the four years prior to him going into a mental facility, to take him to the movies or do something with him. Not one of them cared enough to help us out when we needed it most. Now, I’m the bad guy and guess what, “it’s none of my business.” Really?? I was the one living with him for the four years prior, I am the one who has been by my husband’s side while this has affected both of us. I was my step son’s biggest advocate, helping him with this school work, helping his dress for a school dance. I was there when a girl broke his heart. Sure, I blew up at him at times, what Italian doesn’t raise her voice, and this is where we are not professionals to handle his illness.

I feel bad that my step son is going to be ripped out of his group home where he is making such good progress because people who don’t know shit about his condition are worried about spending his money on his future. We know the money isn’t an unending well. But we were also hoping and we encourage him on a weekly basis when we speak to him, the money would last until he finally got enough knowledge to go out on his own. He isn’t going to get the help he needs by living with his family. Hoarding runs rampant in my husband’s kids lives and my step son also has that problem. We don’t need him going from an environment that is clean and tidy and teaching him not to hoard to a house that has crap all over it. That isn’t healthy for him nor is it a smart decision on our part.

There are a million little pieces that affect this situation. It isn’t just one. With the professional care he is getting now, they are addressing the majority of them because they know what they are doing. We love our son and want the best for him. Ripping him away from a situation where he is thriving is not the selfless thing to do, it’s the selfish thing to do. We aren’t abandoning our son because we are moving to GA. We want to enjoy what little life we both have left, and if that is being selfish, then so be it. We are exhausted fighting with people who have no clue as to what is happening in his life. And I’ll be damned if we will allow them to ruin all the work that has been done this past year because they are worried about his inheritance. If push comes to shove, we will involve the lawyer we consulted with last year to finally put an end to all this bullshit.

So, yes, go ahead and hate me. I’ve been told I’m not your children’s real grandmother anyway, so keep poisoning them, it’s what you all do best. After all, you had a good teacher. I know you all blame me for your brother not living with us anymore, and you know what, that’s okay. Because I stand behind my husband and his decisions. I will keep advocating for your brother as well, because he deserves to have the best care he can possibly get. He didn’t have it for years because everyone was in denial. Well, our eyes are all open and for once, we are doing what is best for him, not what is best for you all. He is the important one in this situation, so get over yourselves!

Same old, same old….

If only my scale said “120 lbs” I would be very happy…but that isn’t the case. So, here I am a new year and still the same old weight…I may have put on a few lbs since last writing about my weight…I did do Keto for about 6 months and then we went on vacation…that is a keto killer for sure, especially when your vacation is down South! Grits, beer, bourbon, corn on the cob…need I go on?

For the past 2 months I have been trying to follow a new plan with a wonderful nutritionist, Megan, who runs Macro Mini out of Arizona. It isn’t her fault I’m not following her directions, it’s mine. I don’t know why I can’t eat all the food she has instructed or mapped out for me to eat. Am I rebelling against myself? Do I have ingrained in my mind that I am the weight that I am and there is nothing that will change that? She asked me once if I had a fear of food…my answer….yes and no. Every time in the past whenever I have lost a significant amount of weight, it was by starving myself. When I did Keto, it was IF (intermittent fasting), but with her eating plan, I have to eat like 5 x’s per day. It’s all about Macros and balancing it out.

Since I wasn’t losing any weight (I paid for a 12 week program) she decided to put me on a Mindful eating program. Well, you know what that did? I mindfully ate pasta, pizza, fried foods, cheese cake….need I go on? Portion controlled though I may add, but I thought I was balancing out everything. Wrong! This way of eating will not allow me to lose weight. So last night, she sent me an email, and told me how she really wants to help me lose weight and get into the right mindset but I keep ignoring her suggestions. And she’s right. It was the kick in the ass and reality check I needed.

I paid her to help me, why aren’t I allowing her to help me? So today, I did what she suggested for breakfast. I had one cup of oatmeal with cinnamon, 1/4 cup of almond milk, unsweetened, 1/2 orange, 2 pieces of bacon and 2 scrambled eggs. THIS SEEMS LIKE A LOT OF FOOD FOR ONE MEAL TO ME!! In two hours I will have a snack of almonds and yogurt, for lunch I will have a chicken patty with a salad, cottage cheese, and some avocado, for dinner I will have salmon, broccoli, and salad. For dessert, I will have a JOJO bar and 12 almonds. That will put my macros at 70-75 grams of fat, 30 grams of carbs and 70 grams of protein…her program has me at totals for a day, 60 g Carbs, 100 g fat, 100 g protein and 1311 calories….DAILY…

And so, yes, my fear is it is too much food for my body and I won’t lose weight. But I have to give it an honest try in order to see if I can do this. It is the RIGHT foods not the wrong foods. I have increased my cardio which I will do 5 x’s per week, and I won’t stress if I don’t get it in in the mornings, I can workout anytime during the day. I will still do weights as well 3 x per week but on my own as I am not signing up this time with the trainer I have been using. I need to do this for me!

So, here we go again….another year, another eating plan, hopefully a new, healthier me when 2020 comes along.

Merry Christmas, 2018

It’s been two years now I have been writing my blog. Lately, I’ve been so busy I haven’t written in quite some time. 2019 will be different. I will be writing more about different subjects and hope to include a little advertising.

My writing partner and I continue to bang out our serial killer novel, The Purple Lily. I think it’s going on seven years now? We said last year, let’s see if we can get it done by December. Well, that’s not happening. So, I say we push for June, 2019. Grant is having a hard time staying in the shadows now that he’s dating the homicide detective and a young beer slinger up in Oregon. Charlotte continues to write her true crime novel on most of Grant’s victims, and Tonya, Charlotte’s girlfriend, continues to paint and sculpt beautiful African art pieces for her clients. Daniella, the homicide detective with the insatiable sex drive, thinks she is getting closer to solving all the cold cases Grant has left behind. Though she doesn’t really love Grant, she is with him to get to know him and how he operates. I wonder who his next victim will be?

Jumping from serial killer to Women’s Fiction, my Broken Promises novel is still a work in progress. I’m still not sure if I want to write it in 1st person or 3rd. I’ve done two drafts and I still can’t make up my mind. I guess I’ll keep both versions and talk with an editor on which one sounds better. Since this novel’s setting is in Alaska, my husband and I went there this past June. I visited several areas I have included in the novel and I’m so glad I did, it gave me an even clearer picture of the surroundings and will make for a more accurate description for the reader to picture.

After visiting Savannah, GA twice this year, I’m thinking I may want to tackle a historical romance set in the time of the Civil War, before, during and after. Not like a Gone With the Wind, but something that will have a little mystery or even a supernatural feel to it. Savannah is one of the most haunted cities in America and I can’t wait to go back and do their haunted tour which will be most helpful while thinking up a plot.

My vision for 2019 is to finally get the publication of The Purple Lily in the works and then work on finishing up Broken Promises and get that over to an editor for publication. It will give me a good excuse to go back to Savannah and learn more about her history and start writing a new novel.

Merry Christmas everyone and my wish for you all next year is to find what makes you happy, and do it! We are only here for a short while and we need to stop wasting our time on sweating the small stuff. Don’t leave here with regrets. Happy New Year and thanks for hanging with me this past year.

Why does everything have to be a fight?

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These days no matter what the situation, it seems that everything has to be a fight.

If you follow my blog, you will remember the posts I have written about mental health in this country.  With elections drawing closer next month, gun control is again on the ballot.  Everyone thinks guns are the problem and yet not one person running for office has actually looked at the real problem; mental health.  With the anniversary of so many mass shootings, Vegas, Parkland HS, San Bernardino, Orlando Night Club, Columbine, and others coming up, the scab never seems to heal but it may be time to place the blame where blame belongs; mental illness and not the cold hard metal of a gun.

Gabby Gifford was shot in the head in January, 2008 by Jared Loughner who also killed 6 others and injured 13 in AZ during her campaign for Congresswoman or whatever office she was running for.  (I honestly pay no attention to her because she is one who believes in gun control rather than mental illness.) Where I feel badly this incident happened to her and the others, why hasn’t she looked into the mental state of her attacker?  Here is what was written up about this guy:

“The man who shot former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was unraveling in the months before the rampage, issuing paranoid, expletive-filled Internet rants about government conspiracies, suicide and killing police, according to new law enforcement documents.”

“Loughner’s deteriorating mental state before the shooting has been chronicled in previously released documents, psychological reports and media interviews with witnesses, but the FBI files released Thursday provide some new details.”

“Loughner ranted on his MySpace page about the government spending illegal money, how he couldn’t trust the police and referred several times to suicide and killing authorities. On Dec. 20, 2010, he wrote: “I HAVE THIS HUGE GOAL AT THE END OF MY LIFE: 165 rounds fired in a minute!””

A week earlier, according to the FBI files, Loughner wrote that he was glad he hadn’t committed suicide.

“I’ll see you on National T.v.! This is a foreshadow…why doesn’t anyone talk to me?” Loughner wrote.

In another online post about a month before the shooting, Loughner wrote about strange dreams he was having.

“There are important figures in my dreams that accomplished political aspirations: Hitler, Hillary Clinton and Giffords to name a few,” he wrote.

One report indicates that a witness called the FBI the day after the shooting to tell authorities that Loughner had often been seen at a city library watching videos and that he “would repeatedly talk loudly to the computer causing a disturbance to others in the area.” The witness told authorities they remembered “looking over to his computer and noticing he was watching Giffords speeches online.”

Loughner also argued with instructors and disrupted classes at Pima Community College, leaving one instructor intimidated. A witness told the FBI that Loughner once had a strange reaction to another student’s poem, saying it was about abortion, wars and killing people. “He said, ‘Why don’t we just strap bombs to babies,'” according to the FBI files.

One FBI file dated the day of the shooting says an agent interviewed a woman who once worked with Loughner at a store.  “She advised that Loughner would talk about zombies, guns and things that she and the other employees could not relate to,” according to the documents, (Associated Press, April 11, 2014).

And this is only one mass killer’s background.  Can you imagine if we focused on the others?  What we would find is these are very disturbed individuals, who friends/family/acquaintances (fill in the blank here),  thought were disturbing and yet not one person ever did anything about it until it was too late.  Why?  Because mental health is never dealt with in this country and as long as we allow insurance companies to make decisions for doctors, we will continue to have this problem, we will continue to have mass shootings.  And as long as people keep their mouths shut rather than telling someone about odd behavior, these things will continue to happen to innocent people.

As far back as 1955, our government has been trying to sweep mental illness under the carpet.  According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), “Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year. Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S.—9.8 million, or 4.0%—experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities” (2018).

According to WHO, World Health Organization, “Over a 12-month period, 27 percent of adults in the U.S. will experience some sort of mental health disorder, making the U.S. the country with the highest prevalence. Mental health disorders include mood disorders, anxiety disorders, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and substance abuse. Over one’s entire lifetime, the average American has a 47.4 percent chance of having any kind of mental health disorder. Yes, that’s almost one in two. The WHO data does not take into account eating disorders, personality disorders, and schizophrenia; the incidence of these disorders together is about 15 percent in the U.S., according to the National Institute of Mental Health.”

In the U.S., only 41.1 percent of people with mental health disorders receive treatment. In other parts of the world, treatment is highly correlated with how developed the country is, and with how much of the country’s gross domestic product is spent on healthcare. Better treatment rates are generally seen in nations with universal healthcare. In the U.S. it’s not the lowest socioeconomic class that has trouble (they have Medicaid, which usually covers it), it’s the second-lowest socioeconomic group that can’t get care. While treatment rates have gone up in recent years (especially for pharmaceuticals), the rate of mental health disorders has not changed much, (Walton, The Atlantic, 2011).

This is staggering!! And yet, when one finally does acknowledge they have a mental illness and their doctor prescribes a drug for them, insurance companies are denying access to them. WHY??

In the majority of school shootings or mass shootings I have researched, every single one of the perpetrators had some type of mental illness.  Whether it be they were molested as a child or withstood years of child abuse, or had an arrest record, or were being bullied in school, were loners, introverts, obsessive, social outcasts, stalkers, some were ordered to receive more therapy once released from a mental hospital with no follow up, suicidal, becoming increasingly distant from family and friends, spending money obsessively, unstable….are you seeing a pattern here?  All of these odd behaviors are a form of mental illness…when, as a nation, are we going to wake up?

So if 1 in 5 Americans can experience some type of mental illness in any given year and 1 in 25 Americans experiences a MAJOR, life altering mental illness in any given year, I’d say we have a very big problem in the US and the majority of people are ignoring it.  Something has to change, and I don’t think it’s gun laws, it’s making our insurance companies liable especially if someone has a history of mental illness.  Or better yet, holding  family members of the mass killer responsible for not reporting them sooner.  I say this because in my research, all family members of mass killers stated their loved one was “odd”, “displayed erratic behavior”, “had violent tendencies”, “were social outcasts”, and yet they did nothing about it, turned a blind eye.

As a society, as a nation, as a people, of which has the worst history of mental illness and mass gun shootings, need to come together as a collective and demand changes in our health care system to insure anyone who needs help can get it, no matter what the age or circumstance, without a fight.  The health insurance companies are the ones getting away with murder.

References:

National Alliance on Mental Illness, 2018.

Tucson gunman before rampage: “I’ll see you on National T.V.”  The Associated Press, April, 2014.

Walton, Alice G.,  “Why more Americans suffer from Mental Disorders than anyone else.” The Atlantic, 4 Oct 2011.

W.H.O.  World Health Organization, 2018.