On Being Female…



On Being Female:

When I was a little girl I really thought I must be adopted. Out of five children I was the only girl. It was, needless to say, a masculine household with footballs flying in the living room and tighty whities always bunched up in the corner of the bathroom.

Obviously I was a tom boy, active in sports of every kind. It wasn’t long though before I realized the playing field wasn’t stacked up on my side to win. After playing with a baseball in my backyard with my older brothers, it was finally time to sign up. Only I wasn’t signing up for baseball. No girls didn’t play baseball they play with SOFT balls. It just seems so rediculous to me that little boys and little girls start out playing  T-ball together. Then the next year we give Johnny a little rubber coated hard ball to play with and…

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Grief is a funny thing. Sometimes it just jumps up at you in the middle of the night and won’t let go.

I’m having a hard time with my Dad’s death lately. It’s not regret. I know I did everything I could do for my Dad. I know he knew how much I loved him and cared for him and worried about him. And I knew how much he loved me back. I think that is what is tough for many people when their love ones pass. I was lucky to have such an understanding, loving father. And I guess I’m lucky not to be feeling regrets.

I just miss him is all. It’s really that simple. I tried to explain this to my husband tonight but he reminded me of all the times we went to see him in the last couple of years and we would drive an hour and half only to find him sleeping peacefully. Neither one of us had the heart to wake him, so we would just watch him sleep for awhile and then just turn around and go home. But I remember the visits much more clearer when we had actual conversations. Well, let me rephrase that… I had actual conversations sometimes with myself and he listened and after a time would respond with one of those little pearls of wisdom …well don’t worry, she’ll grow up soon or everything will be alright. I guess I just loved to hear his comforting words albeit short and sweet. I would kiss him on the forehead and tell him to be good for the nurses and then I would slide home. I never left there feeling empty inside and always happy he was still with us.

I was so in awe of his character. How could someone with a feeding tube, dialysis three times a week and completely bedridden want to go on and live his life to the fullest? When I went to see him he gave me strength to carry on. NOTHING I could face in my day to day life could be as bad as what he chose to endure..nothing. And no bitterness. There was no sitting on the pity pot for Jimmy. He faced everything so bravely. I always told him, Dad this disease can take everything from you but you still have your mind. For the most part, he was pretty with it all the way to the end.

I just miss him. I get up in the middle of the night and wrap that warm blanket he had on his bed around me and I can almost feel him. I guess I was so busy in the beginning with the funeral and settling his estate, I didn’t have the time to really get it. I get it now. He’s gone.

Little things trigger an emotion…like giving Amber, our cat, her insulin shot. Just like Dad. Riding the expressway and seeing the exit for Hammonton. The smell of the brim of his hat. I can still smell his scent. Sitting eating a piece of toast and having Kodi, our pup, beg for a drop like he did with Dad. And although I know the hospice people mean well, I really wish they would stop sending me things in the mail. I know it’s meant to help reading about the stages of grief but I’m living them right now and no amount of words on paper are helping.

Of course it’s the holidays now, and I think about what I’d be doing for him to prepare for Christmas. He had me every year buy gifts for the great grand babies that he was so proud of. I sincerely miss doing that for him too. I guess I miss doing for him period. Of course there are plenty of people in my life I can do for and enjoy taking care of them. He just was always my special man in my life, who needed me and appreciated my help so much. He never missed the opportunity to say “I don’t know what I’d do without you”. I just miss hearing that from him. I just miss him period.

I’m sure with time things will get easier but right now with every waking moment and sometimes in my dreams I still feel his love. A good thing for sure. And I know he’s in a better place with Mom. I just hope that cloud is big enough for the two of them!Image

Peace to you.

Kodi and Me


Kodi and Me

My Myasthenia Gravis puppy and me

It all began in January 2012. My husband had arranged for a surprise trip to the Pocono Mountains for some skiing. He had taken the dogs for shots and arranged for a kennel. It was a great trip AND we didn’t break our necks skiing!

When we returned home we noticed that Kodi was doing this weird thing on his walks. He would lift his leg to urinate and then continue urinating while he walked away. My husband thought I should contact the vets. I thought maybe it was something older male dogs did. He was a mature 8 years old now. The stream of urine began to get heavier and then he began to do this peculiar thing. He would walk a few steps then sit. It was the weekend and I thought we should take him in. My husband said lets take him to the University of Penn. So we did.

The ER doc there diagnosed him with an orthopedic problem and sent us home with pain killers. In 24 hours the situation became worse. He now could barely walk he had so much weakness in his hindquarters. There was no tenderness or pain associated with touch however. We returned to the ER. They then got it right. Myasthenia Gravis. I said WHAT? They gave him a tensilon test to further bolster their hunch. This is a good video of a positive tensilon test. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7YX9kuWrxA

They started Kodi on Pyridostigmine bromide (mestinon) and he responded well. Within a couple of weeks he was walking normally. We also started him on a regiment of Prednisone. By March 2012 he was back to normal completely. He had another titer test done and it was within normal levels (normal is 0.6)

In May he relapsed badly while trying to wean him of the prednisone. He had a whopping titer of 5.0. He was totally out on all 4’s, unable to even sit up. We brought him home from Penn, essentially paralysed. Bob carried him upstairs and sat him on the deck to urinate. He picked himself up on all 4’s and walked on his own to the patio doors and in the house. We were in shock. Then later when I said “treat” he lifted himself up and stood and trotted into the kitchen after me then collapsed. From there he steadily improved each day.

It is August 2012 and it looks like Kodi has made a full recovery. He is still on mestinon and a small amount of prednisone but he is functioning normally. You can read more about MG here: http://www.vetinfo.com/dmyasthenia.html

Myasthenia Gravis appears to be rare. Most local vets have had very little experience with it. In dogs, when caught early, they generally go into remission from 6-8 months. People with the disease are not as fortunate. Kodi was very lucky. His MG seems to be generalized and not focal. Focal MG takes on a whole other group of muscles that include the esophagus. The enlarge esophagus or Megaesophagus, can cause aspirated phenomena and cause a dog to die if not treated immediately. Dogs with Megaesophagus must be fed vertically in a “Bailey’s Chair” so that the food goes down to the stomach. They must remain vertical for 15-20 minutes after eating. We are thankful that didn’t happen with Kodi.

We love our puppy and we are so glad to have him healthy and owe a world of thanks to the University of Penn for getting him better. We are participating in a research project from the UCDAVIS School of Veterinary Medicine to help identify dogs at risks of the disease. No-one or no dog or cat should go through this anguish. Perhaps it will help in some way in the cure of MG in pets and humans.

Peace to you!

And he took my hand…

We were about to take the surf. The waves looked huge. My heart began to race. He took my hand and said hurry, come with me over the breakers. He took my hand. That’s all it took. The waves suddenly didn’t appear so fearful. We held hands and we dove together under the surf and emerged unscathed.

Since I’ve met my husband that’s all it’s taken to over come all life’s tribulations and to celebrate our joy and triumphs. We been hand in hand in life threatening situations with my father, our children, births of our grandchildren, tribulations with our children and mother and jubilation with our loved ones. We approach it like a team, in full support of one another. I’ve never known such friendship, such loyalty, such mutual adoration. Such love.

We are blessed so for finding each other in mid-life. For finding each other period. I can’t help but believe that my dear Mother in Heaven had a part in finding me my good ole Navy boy just like hers.

I love you Bob.

A Young Girl’s Dreams

It was the fall of 1969 and I was in the 6th grade. We were sitting in our Social Studies class with Mrs. Goergen. She was like a breath of fresh air to many of us. First of all she wasn’t wearing a habit and secondly we all felt like we could relax in her class. She literally showed us the world and opened our minds. Unfortunately, since we had begun “departmental” program we only had her for social studies. Departmental meant we switched classes and had different teachers for different subjects to help us get ready for high school. It really was sort of comical. The little nun with her bell would come out and ring the bell. We lined in single file-no talking and switch classes across the hallway. There were 8 classrooms for 8 grades in this school. 5th through 8th grade switched classes.  Under Mrs. Goergen we studied the Constitution, Latin America, Russian Communism, World War I and II, the stock market and current events of every kind. We talked about the year “2000” and she said she probably wouldn’t be around for it but we would only be in our 40’s. I remembered thinking first how sad it was that she was eventually going to die and then thinking -my 40’s-I’ll be like ancient!  I can still remember her standing in the front of the class in her plaid skirt and Georgette chiffon blouse all tied up with a bow and those God awful old lady shoes. She had a deep voice with a hint of a southern accent. I always thought she came from Georgia but maybe that’s because her name sounded like that. We were asked to bring in newspaper clipping about current events and after we discussed them they were promptly pinned to the bulletin board. Over the four years we had articles about the 1968 Olympics and Black Power Salute, President Nixon holding up the peace symbol for Peace with Honor in Vietnam, the Munich Olympics and the terrorist attack that ensued and the one article that had the most impact – Neil Armstrong walking on the Moon. Man had gone to the moon in the summer of ’69. Anything was possible. Mrs. Goergen would say “Each and every one of you has a bright future. You can be anything you want to be. Even the President of the United States or an astronaut like Mr. Armstrong”. That’s when the little engine that could started down the track for me…I think I can…I think I can……I think I can….

I was sitting in the corner of my horses stall weaving a piece of clean straw through my fingers babbling on and on to my closest confidant. I could tell her anything. Everytime I would say “Penny isn’t that right”? she would flick her head up out of the hay bin, snort a bit, stomp her left back leg and swish her tail. That was a “Yes she totally agreed”. I could tell all my secrets about the boys I liked, how much I couldn’t stand my Mother, even talk about my girlfriends and the answer was always the same. It was every pre-teen’s dream. I decided right then and there I was meant to be with animals. They were not complicated to understand, they loved me and life would just be a whole lot easier not having to deal with humans. So I set a course to be a veterinarian. I had been to summer camp and learned, I thought, all there was to learn about the horse anatomy and I was a close observer to everything the veterinarian did, even assisting him when I could. I mean I was a natural-how could this go wrong. 8th grade came and the counselor came from the high school to set us up with classes for high school. I swiftly and proudly told him what my plans were. He then outlined the course studies I should take over my high school years. Calculus, Chemistry, Geometry, Biology, Physics —WHAT????? It was hard blow …the little engine was beginning to run out of steam….

Switch gears…I loved to sing. That is an understatement. I LOVE TO SING!!!! My earliest memories of my Mother was her sweet soft voice singing me to sleep at night. Growing up in seemed me and girlfriends were always singing. There were plays and recitals and Mass. We sang silly songs on the playground. We sang to amuse ourselves, to soothe ourselves and well just to hear ourselves sing. I played the organ and sang. My biggest thrill as a little girl was playing O’er the Waves in front of Larry Ferrari  on the Organ. I even got his autograph. My cousin sang and played this humongous horseshoe-shaped organ for a living. I sang and played for my brothers friends (which were way older than me)-my brother said “maybe with the right acoustics?” I sang for my boyfriends all the time-sappy songs like Olivia Newton John’s I honestly love you” They would say maybe a back up singer? If there was a band that had a microphone at a party I was grabbing it and bellowing out Peter Frampton’s Do You Feel like I Do. This pre-dated Karaoke. I was in the my high school Chorus but not a stand out by any means. I sang a scale for her and she placed me the “altos”. I was a soprano. I was sure I was. Then came my big break. Every year the band held a spring concert. Mr. Sutnik, the band director-nice guy, very bad toupee, had gotten my name from somebody that I could sing “Send in the Clowns by Judy Collins”. The little engine started…I think I can… I was to audition for him the next day in the band room. I went home-sang that song in the shower, jump on my bed and grabbed my hairbrush and pretended I was standing there with this beautiful flowing long dress with a scarf around my forehead singing my heart out. I think I sang it in my sleep that night. I could hardly concentrate the whole day in school-the song just played over and over again in my head. Finally it was time to prove myself. I sat next to him on his piano bench, heart pounding. He played the melody, I opened my mouth and just a tiny screech came out.. Isss n’t it…my eyes filled up. He said just relax and will start again. He didn’t get “again” out before I was gone. Chickened out…Where was my 20 seconds of Courage? I couldn’t let him down though. I found a senior girl who looked a lot like Carly Simon and kinda sounded like her too. I went that night–she was beautiful. Just like I pictured myself.

Switch gears…And there was a time when I thought I could be a cartoonist. They always had this advertisement in the magazines about “can you draw this cartoon”. So I did and they thought it was swell.  I had Talent! I remember making my Dad build me a drafting table and I dreamed of living in NYC, suave and sophisticated with my kerchief tied around my head like Rhoda Morgenstern from the Mary Tyler Moore Show. When I was in college I took a Fashion illustration class and my professor really took a shine for me. Well I thought in was my artwork. Turned out it wasn’t.

The little engine that could is still roaring down that track to this day with everything I do. Thanks Mrs. Goergen! Shall I be a Baker, a Photographer or a Story Book Maker?