Monday, May 31, 2010

Welcome Home Mickey

Last week the little guy on the left came to live at my house. I have known him all my life. He spent the last twenty or so years at my mother's house and before then, his entire "life" was spent at my grandmother's in Silver Spring, Maryland. He is 66 years old. When my mother was just twelve years old her father took her to a store that we loved in Kensington to pick out a gift. My mother chose this Mickey Mouse cookie jar. He has a small belly and never held that many cookies but he stood faithfully on the counter top and we were always rewarded with cookies in her kitchen.
My grandmother had wanted me to have him, knowing how as a young child, I loved him so. She gave him back to my mother and told her that when something happened to her, I should receive him. My grandmother passed away back in October and right away my mom said I could take him home. It was just too soon and I couldn't do it. Bringing him here signified that my grandmother was truly gone. Last week I summoned up the courage to go and get him. He has a new home, very safely above my kitchen cabinets. I would love to display him lower but Smokey the cat is a very curious soul and I wouldn't want to risk anything happening to him. Besides, after all Smokey is a cat and well Mickey is a mouse.
I'm sure somewhere there is a collector who would love to have him. To me, he is priceless. One look at him and I am transported back to so many years ago. My grandmother loved to bake and I loved being her assistant. She made matching aprons for herself and I for Christmas when I was about six years old and I think I still have mine somewhere. I have her rolling pin which she must have used for forty years. So many things that all remind me of the unconditional love she dispensed along with her cookies. I don't know if any of you have ever heard the song "I Know You by Heart" sung by Eva Cassidy. It reminds me of my grandmother. In any given situation I know what she would have said. Sometimes I hear her voice in my mind. I knew her by heart.....and her heart was golden.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Saturday.....Memorial Weekend

OK for those of you who were curious this is a picture of the flip flops. They look cute in the picture but they are a size 10-11 and I wear an 8 1/2 my toes were really covered by the grapes and they were over an inch too long in back. They didn't seem as cute in person. (I admit my attitude has been tainted with negativity this week with the illness, bills etc.) They went to a "closet" for families who need clothing and it's run by a wonderful woman called Pepsi. I guess because of her high energy and sweetness. I try to donate all I can there because I know she helps anyone in need. There are local charities here that really frustrate me. I have a neighbor who is supporting a family of four (two teens) and she makes $13 an hour and works thirty hours each week. She was told to apply for a local food bank and she did. They made her provide more paperwork (bills for the last six months etc.) and when she went there after swimming through the sea of red tape, she was given a gallon of milk and a frozen chicken. This woman has a mortgage etc. I know other people who received help there and got more while they went for just themselves. I won't donate to that one anymore. I love to help charities but only the ones who get the help where it is needed and without making the recipients feel badly about themselves.

When home I try to watch the Rachel Ray show. This week they had two of the New Jersey Housewives and they were both cooking their meatballs. The winner was Caroline Manzo's meatballs which I will be making tonight. If you want to try MAMA MANZO'S MIRACULOUS MEATBALLS (named by her sons which abbreviate as mmmm) the recipe is as follows. In food processor put cloves of garlic and bread (hey no store bought breadcrumbs for mama's recipe). Grind together and add that with salt, pepper and one egg to a mixture of beef/pork/veal. (I get this at the meat dept of local supermarket and it makes great meatloaf as well). Add milk as this will keep meatballs very moist. Roll the meatballs to a nice golf ball size and you can either fry them in a skillet as MM does OR use my method of heating in the oven at 400 degrees for half an hour. MM does not serve hers with sauce (or as the JOISEY Italian cooks say gravy). Nelle's will be with the sauce and on top of pasta. A few days later we will use them for meatball subs. Warm and smothered in mozzarella cheese. The other housewife's recipe used regular ground beef, parsley and a handful of pecorino/romano cheese. I might try MM's with the cheese added to them. You know, the more cholesterol the better the flavor.

Rained last night. I got up at 4 a.m. to go put my windows up (they were down a few inches on both sides of the front.)

I had a back ache and have been awake since. Now I feel a little siesta coming on. If you make the recipe, would love your feedback. Let me tell you Jersey girls can cook. I lived in Maryland until I was in fifth grade. When I tasted pizza here I went crazy. It's so different. The best are "bar pies" which are often a very thin crust and just delish.
Have a great weekend and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. On Memorial Day I often think of Uncle Jack. He was my mom's uncle who was only 19 when he went to war. That was sixty some years ago. He left wearing his mother's wedding ring and after marrying his sweetheart. Two months later she learned she was pregnant with Jack Jr. He learned when his son "JR" was born but never saw him. He is buried in Anzio, Italy and his mother took the loss of her baby son, the youngest of her eight children very hard. His wife and son lived for several years with my grandmother in her house. His wife never remarried and passed away just last year. So the price paid was very dear for all of them and all the other soldiers and their families.
Thank you Dad, for serving your country and for teaching us, your children, to have pride in her.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Depression thy name is Copays

I am just now starting to have the bills rolling in. OMG is about all I can say. I owe 10% of what is IN network and 30% of what is not. There is not ONE in network doctor in either of the hospitals I go to. They will pay as IN network for the emergency part but what will not be processed as in network is all the after care. I must pay the first $1250 and then they will pay 70%. Oh I am going to be shelling out about 5 grand for this last hospitalization. At times like this I get very depressed. It's enough to fight for your health but then to be broke afterwards trying to pay it down. It's just not fair. I go to work and work hard everyday and then when I am sick I go into debt. Thing is this has been going on for the entire year. Last year I shelled out 8 grand and my pay was cut by over 50%. It's a lot to deal with. If I go in network only I get crappy doctors who have probably worsened my health by poor care. If I go out of network I can forget anything else like a vacation. Where is the help Mr. President cause I need it NOW. Yes, I am grateful to have a modest home and a roof over my head. I am grateful to have reliable transportation and some other things but I don't have my health and now I have to pay because of that. This is why people try to get on disability and quit their jobs so they have paid medical. Sorry, but this really has me down.

Know what else has me down? The fact that I had so many friends previously. As my available time to do lunch and then my health tanked most of them have taken huge giant steps away. Yes, I know. They weren't real friends right? Well remember some of them have seen me in poor health at times over the last thirty years and they get tired and complacent about it.
Last week one of my friends whom I have known since the age of ten mailed me a box. This past year throughout all my illnesses I have not gotten so much as a get well card from her. I was excited until I opened the box. In it were the ugliest pair of flip flops I have ever seen. At first I thought it was just my disappointment but when I showed them to neighbors who came by they had the same, or a worse reaction. I sound like an ingrate don't I? Trust me, I am not. My neighbor Stacey has been wonderful and just stopped by to give me a hug and that made me so happy. The friend who sent the box wants to tell me about her life when she calls. Her life is owning two luxurious homes and then going to another state for the winter. There she has all kinds of activities to enjoy her days. I am happy for her. I really am.
I just don't want to hear about that when my life is so difficult and I don't want to receive a gift which took absolutely no thought or in fact, reflects that she doesn't even know what I like after so many years of friendship. The flip flops were covered in plastic fruit and insects. I just can't do them justice with words. At times, I feel badly that this is my attitude but I am just keeping it real as I always do.

I feel terribly alone in my problems here. My husband needs a break as he suffers along with me. I just wish a friend of forty years would be there for me and show me some real thought. Is that too much to ask?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Summer least for now

On Facebook there is a page you can "like" called NJ is the only state where you can experience all four seasons in one day. There's a lot of truth to that. Last week it was winter like. Yesterday and today beautiful and sunny about 80 degrees. I decided to take a chance and wash the down pillows yesterday. It did recomment dry cleaning them but because of all the chemical used, anything that can be handwashed instead I try to do. They came out lovely except that now, 24 hours later they are still wet. I have been trying to dry them outside in the sunshine so perhaps they will have the fresh air/sunshine smell I enjoy so much. Rob was not happy not to have his usual pillow last night. When the weather is that nice we have many teens who seem to want to stand on the street corner across from us to talk. While I remember doing that myself, when you have to get up at 5:30 a.m. and people are chatting until 11 it's a problem. Sometimes they begin to laugh and that can get very loud. Often we are forced to close the windows or even put a radio on softly to cammoflage the noise. They are good kids and not doing anything wrong.

This weekend my sister will be coming to help my Mom out. I find myself in a difficult situation as far as going to my Mom's. She has never been a great housekeeper and these days she barely rinses her dishes in lukewarm water. I have been warned by the doctors that my immune system has taken quite a beating and I must be careful. My Dad has COPD and chronic bronchitis. He coughs nonstop. He may have germs that could get me sick again. One doctor suggested I wear a mask around him but both doctors said that if my mother does not use a dishwasher I should not eat or drink anything from her dishes or utensils. I asked her to start using her dishwasher but she refuses. So now, if I go there, I take paper things and plastic utensils with me. I avoid eating anything there to be truthful.

Yesterday I had a wave of energy that lasted two hours in the morning. I cleaned my two bathrooms and kitchen counters. I did a bit of laundry and I actually started a book. I tire easily still. I am starting to cook again and this past week I made chicken marsala and lasagna. I also bought some Romaine lettuce and have been enjoying some nice salads.

On Tuesday I called my dentist after finding a cavity I could see. They had a cancellation and he fit me right in. He didn't want to give me a needle despite my antibiotic premeds so I had my filling without novocaine. It wasn't a deep cavity and I was fine. On Wednesday I went and had my chest x ray. I love that they put it on disc so that I can let both doctors see it when I go back. If all goes well, I will have pulmonary function studies done on June 3. Hoping for some answers from them. I am hoping and praying that the run of pneumonia is done with. This last bout in both lungs was terrible.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Feeling a Bit Anxious

First thing this morning my mother called with some bad news. To explain it, I need to give some background first.
I only have one actual aunt. My Dad was an only child and my mother had one sister who was about ten years younger than her. My aunt was about ten years older than me. Almost between our ages. When my Dad was in the Navy, we stayed for lengthy times at my grandmother's small house. I always felt my aunt was more like a big sister to me. I have always wished my mother was more like her. She is a friend as well. About ten years ago my aunt's husband died rather suddenly after years of heart problems/attacks/surgeries. I was with her (and of course her children and my mother) as they turned off the machine once they knew my uncle had no brain function at all. It was the right thing to do and what he would have wanted. My aunt went on alone, working hard at her job. About three years ago she decided to sell her home and buy a place in a senior complex even though she was in her early sixties. In between those homes she lived with her daughter for about a year until she retired. Last January when my grandmother was so ill, my aunt who had waited for decades to retire, went to live and help care for my grandmother. Even though hospice came most days, it was a major undertaking for her. She is diabetic and has health issues herself. My grandmother was confused and at times unkind. Still, my aunt appreciated the time they spent together and stayed focus on all the good. Finally, when my grandmother passed away in October my aunt could return to her home. She still had my grandmother's estate to deal with: an entire house and it's contents and paperwork. Sometime during the months after losing her mother, she was befriended by a neighbor named Frank. He had lost his wife to cancer two years earlier. They enjoyed having dinner together and as time went on seemed to be spending more and more time together. Lately, they were together nearly everyday. My aunt began to confess she was in love with Frank and some days she sounded like a teenager. We were happy that she was finally enjoying life again. This morning she took Frank to the emergency room when he had back pains. Shortly afterwards Frank had a cardiac arrest caused by an aneurysm. I am still in shock over this. I cannot even process how she must be feeling. I have just sat here waiting for the shock to wear off. We don't even know the arrangements yet. Someone has to be with my father 24/7 so if my mother goes that would be me. At this point, my mother doesn't know what she wants to do. Judy was here visiting a few short weeks ago. You never know what life will throw at you. It just hits me so hard because I have been so sick this year and makes me appreciate that I am still here.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Good things...:)

Okay there was one not so great thing...the hospital bill arrived. I will round it off $130,000. Remember that is just the facility bill, not doctors. Fortunately, I think I will only owe about $1500.00 of that. I think. Now on to the good stuff......

Yesterday my disability check arrived. Finally. I almost dropped to my knees with gratitude. I had charged groceries (remember my last paycheck was back in mid March) and that bill was due in a few days. SO, I was able to sit here and write some checks and pay some bills. Oh what a great feeling. Rob and I have lived frugally the past month. Now we can have a few things that we have done without. Nothing extravagant. This past year has taught me not to count on next month's paycheck but to try to save anything I can, never knowing when it will be needed. I slept better last night.
ALSO my blood thinner is back to where it is supposed to be. That is finally under control again. I actually had some energy yesterday. It doesn't last...I begin to wind down in the afternoon but at least I don't feel terribly ill as I had for the last month.

I did learn that the hospital reversed all my insurance information. They billed my husband's insurance as primary and the claims were all rejected. Now they have to rebill mine, after I spent about an hour calling them all and giving them the correct information. I know I told the lady who came to get that information how important it was she get it right.
She even copied the wrong addresses where to send the claims off the card.

It's the weekend. Even when I am not working, I rejoice at weekends because that means that Rob will be home with me. When you don't feel well, it's so nice to have someone here. Many days I just don't feel up to driving to the store and I will do without something until Rob can go. My appetite is still off. My sister-in-law made baked ziti and called to offer me a dish (she had made an extra). I couldn't even think about it. Right now the only thing that appeals to me is grilled chicken or a salad. Sometimes an English muffin appeals but anything with a distinct strong flavor is a no no. I wonder how long this will last. Last time I was on steroids I had the same problem. Some people gain weight but I actually lose weight on them.

I am going to take a nap. It's cold and damp here today and I woke up way too early when Duffy had to go out and would not be convinced to wait another hour. Have a wonderful weekend.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Not the best day

Left to right: my mother, myself in the middle and on the right my sister, Dottie. Seated: my niece Vicki (she has a
degree in chemistry and is considering pharmacy school.)
Mother's Day didn't go exactly as planned. My sister had wanted to take my mother to a small restaurant for brunch with her two daughters and myself. I was reluctant to go for several reasons and my sister didn't make reservations, by the time she tried to she couldn't get them. I volunteered my person chef, Rob to make waffles. We told my mother we would come over as soon as we got up. When we arrived she had already gone to the local farmer's (and flea) market. We waited about 45 minutes for her to return. My sister made a nice bowl of fresh fruit and a berry bowl to top our waffles. We also had whipped cream. I opted for the sugar free syrup.
My son had told me the night before he was waiting for a man to come about noon who owed him money and was going to pick up his ride on tractor that he had repaired. After that he would pick up lunch and come over. The man never showed and when he called him, he said he would be there around 4. By the time Tom got home and showered and called me it was 7:30. I wasn't feeling well and told him just to wait for the following day. I didn't feel well all day and I suspect I have some type of virus. I am tired (my eyes are bothering me too much to read even) and I am making frequent trips to the bathroom. I feel light headed at times. After our breakfast Rob and I came home and I just laid on the sofa like a slug most of the day.
It has become rather cold here in NJ. I defrosted steaks for dinner and am hoping it wont' be raining. Rob is having a lot of problems with his back hurting.
I am going to return to my sofa now and put some music on and hopefully drift into a nice catnap. I just can't seem to do anything else.

Saturday, May 08, 2010



Wishing the Moms a Happy Mothers Day

Tomorrow will be low key for us. My sister had made inquiries into a local small restaurant and had planned for my mother, her, her two daughters and myself to go for breakfast. Reservations were required which she didn't make and today it's too late to make them. Rob will be making belgian waffles for everyone at my mother's and my sister will be making fresh fruit salad. It will be very low key Sometime in the afternoon my son will be arriving with my favorite salad for lunch. I am still coughing and my side muscle seemed to start hurting yesterday after a rather prolonged coughing session. Rob weeded the two flower beds for me today and put down mulch. They look so nice. It's very windy today.
Just wanted to take a minute and wish all the mothers, step-mothers, grandmothers and nurturing friends who fill that void for many others a

Happy Mother's Day.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Mother's Day is Approaching

This will be a difficult Mother's Day for me as it will be my first without my grandmother. My grandmother was the one person who gave unconditional love. Everyone in the family felt it and I learned as she was dying that each of us thought we were the closest to her. She made each one of us feel so special. She might not have liked what we did and she would tell us about it but then just as quickly she would tell us how much she loved us. My grandmother also loved her Heavenly Father. Many times when my faith was shaken to the bone she would tell me that we just didn't/couldn't understand why things happen but God has a reason in his long term plan. To be honest, at times that answer just frustrated me. The thing with my grandma was that she not only believed this, but she lived her life in this way. My grandmother's faith never waivered as the buried her seven siblings, their spouses, her husband and most of her friends. When one of our cousins so many years ago had an interacial marriage my grandmother was the first to tell her that God loved us all, regardless of the color of our skin. She did not judge people as many "religious" people do. Instead she showered all that knew her with love. In the last year of her life she dealt with breast cancer. Although diagnosed earlier it was slow moving until the final year. She faced her illness with dignity and courage, refusing to leave the house she and her husband had built about seventy years earlier. My aunt moved in with her the last nine months and the hospice was there making it possible for her to have her wish. Her home was very small but I assure you it held more love than many mansions. It was filled with her treasures, gifts and pictures of her beloved grandchildren. My Dad was in the Navy for the first ten years of my life and during that time when he shipped out, we often lived with her. Much of what I am I credit her with. I have tried to be the person that she was but those are big shoes to fill. Last week I went into a store and picked up cards for my mother and mother-in-law. I saw the cards that said grandmother on them and it felt like my legs were going to give out from under me. I will never send her another Mother's Day card. I had to remind myself that ever since I could use a crayon, my grandmother received a card on every holiday. As years passed she must have received thousands.

As uaual, my grandmother has given me yet another gift of her love. For several years I planted bleeding heart plants but they never bloomed. She had a beautiful garden and yard and took such pride in her plants. Two years ago when she came she brought me a dozen of her iris. She said they were assorted colors. They never bloomed last year and when i told her, she told me not to be discouraged because she was sure they would bloom this year. When I arrived home from the hospital I found FOUR bleeding heart plants all blooming beautifully. That made my heart smile. Yesterday I walked outside on the pation and guess what I found. The irises (all of them) are going to be blooming soon. They are all going to be lavender or a purple (lavendar was her favorite color.) I feel as though she is still sending her love, through nature.
I know she is at peace and in a better place but I still miss her so. There are so many reminders of her everywhere.

Today will be a busy day. I have to run in one direction to the hospital for a blood test. I will stop and pick up a few groceries and then come home for a few hours. This afternoon I will be going to see the pulmonologist. Yesterday I coughed a lot again and I am hopoing that was a fluke.

I hope all the MOMS out there have a wonderful Mother's Day. A special salute to stepmothers. It's a big undertaking to take on the children of a spouse and I see what many of my friends have gone through. They deserve special recognition.

Stop and notice the beautiful flowers today.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

A Day to Celebrate

Today is my baby's birthday. Yes my baby boy that was born thirty years ago. In my deffense, I was still a teen when he was born. ( I turned twenty three months later but hey technically I was a teenage Mom!) At the time he was born I had a strange feeling that he would be my only child. When I told his father that as I held him for the first time he looked at me like I had lost my marbles. In hindsight, I believe it was a premonition of sorts. Three short years later I was diagnosed with Hodkgins Disease. At that time the treatment was massive radiation. Chemo was still very new and unproven. I had the maximum radiation I could have from my ears down to my navel. I never could get pregnant again. I always comforted myself with the knowledge that at least I had one child...and he was the picture of health.

On my son's sixteenth birthday he began to lose weight. During the following month he got chicken pox and was very ill. He was having all kinds of bizarre symptoms and I knew that drenching night sweats were a bad sign. I took him to the doctor (a pediatric hemotologist) late June and she said that he had experienced "bone marrow blowout" but his counts were coming back. She wanted him to see another hemotologist/oncologist. That doctor agreed with her but warned us that this was something often seen in children before they developed leukemia. They told us to wait a month or so and see how he was doing. He had continuous blood tests during that time and the doctor said he needed to have a bone marrow aspiration on September 4th. I was a wreck having had one myself, I was so reluctant to have him experience it.
The doctor finally agreed to give him some mild sedation in order to do it. They would also hospitalize him for the day.
Shortly after the procedure the doctors came in and told us, there was no doubt he had leukemia. It would be about a week before we would know what kind. They told us ALL or "childhood' was easier to treat.
Thus began our three and a half year ordeal with that long chapter of our lives. There is a happy ending to the story. :)
Tom is alright now. Yes, he does have some difficulties which we believe were caused by the agressive protocol he had. I consented to let him be in a trial program with NIH. It was his ONLY hope of a cure. Without a sibling, a bone marrow transplant was unlikely. He had been registered and there was noone that was a possible match. So today while I celebrate the birth of my only child, I also celebrate his second chance at life. I don't know why some children lived and other's didn't. It's something I will probably never understand. I just know that things were so scary at that time. My ex couldn't handle it and I was like a single mother making all those decisions and hearing all the bad news. He didn't go into remission by the time they wanted him to. That was a bad sign. I learned that EACH patient is a unique individual and we don't work on time charts. There is ALWAYS hope.
So today my baby boy, who is now a man, I thank God each day that you are still here with us. You have taught me so much about life. Many times you are the teacher and I am the student. I am so proud of the kind and caring person that you have become. Of all the things in my life I feel the proudest of you. I hope that all the days of your life will be filled with love and kindness and a sense of well being. I am also so grateful that I lived long enough to see you grow into the man you have.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Feeling Whiney

On Friday I pushed myself and then I really paid for it on Saturday. I am not sleeping well. Coughing wakes me up and then I ache from coughing and my muscles are sore. I hate feeling so miserable. Even when I sleep ten hours I do not wake up feeling rested. I have been awake since 4 a.m. It's now ten and I need a nap soon.

I feel like all I do is complain and I hate that. What is really odd is that friends who virtually ignore me for weeks or even months are calling a lot. I don't really feel up to talking. I have nothing to say and I am tired of repeating all the medical information over and over. Besides, there are no concrete answers. they were never able to culture the organism that has wreaked such havoc in me. That means it may not have been treated with the best antibiotic for it. I must patiently wait and see how I feel. Yesterday we went to a diner to get something to eat. My appetite is off and I have lost weight. I could afford to lose it, but I am just not eating nor do I really want to right now. Ordered a favorite meal and I was able to eat about half of it and brought the rest home. They had the a c on and I was chilled to my bones. Rob and the other diners seemed comfortable. I just never feel comfortable and that is something that we take for granted. There seems to be no position that feels right. I keep telling myself this will pass. When???? My mother is having a meltdown of sorts. Her main caregiver for my Dad quite with no notice. She is having many strangers there.Most of them cannot move him.
Many days he is stuck in bed and this is not good. She was never happy with the former guy and complained nonstop. Now she is still complaining about the new people and paying a lot more money. I don't think she can ever be content.
I dont' know how she can stand it. I am normally a happy person. Just feeling sick for months on end has really gotten on my last nerve. I debate whether to post or not. I don't want to bring anyone down but this is just how it is for now. I keep telling myself that this will pass. I just need to be a bit more patient.