Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Please don't correct my grammar!!

Welcome new readers.

I must admit I'm a bit shy about people reading my postings.  I like to write about random thoughts and events in my life.  I always fancied myself as a bit of a writer.  However,  I never did well at spelling and grammar.

My dad kept a journal throughout his whole life.  His writings were concise.  He would give me a journal every year and I wrote daily.  It was highly personal. My mother read my journal one day and our relationship was never the same after that. I got in a huge amount of trouble for what I wrote.   I never kept a daily journal after that.

I also wrote newsy letters as a teenager.  I would send them to my friends and family.  Once I sent a letter to my brother.  I have a family of academics and he was at Marquette working on his masters in Medieval Literature.  He sent back my letter marked in red pencil with all my grammatical errors corrected.  He said I wrote in cliches.  I never wrote to him again.

Some time later, I was an instructor for a college in St. Louis.  It was a small seminar class in a masters program.  Two of the seven students wrote an identical paper.  I detailed the incident in
a letter to the dean.  He returned the letter with my spelling errors circled in red.  I misspelled
plagiarism.  This was before computers and spell check.

Since then I haven't felt like folks would be interested in what I have to say.

So, I can spell check these days.  Just don't correct my grammatical errors.

Monday, May 6, 2013

I hate getting old but I'm still rocking

I hate getting old.

I have the world's worst hair.  It's more like straw.  I used to have this long mane of hair, thick
and envied.  Now I look like the version of the scarecrow from Wizard of Oz.  My young 20 something daughters tsk, tsk me.  It's why they call me "Frankenmom."  If I don't comb my hair when I get out of bed, it sticks up everywhere. It is downright scary.  I've seen it!  And, then I've got this thinning hair in the front.  Last fall everyone old woman I saw in Germany had the same thinning going on.  Yuk.

Norah Ephron hated her neck.  Me too.  It's all wrinkly with those skin tags and a double chin.  Do
you know that over your life time your nose grows.  I didn't know that until I read about the
returning serviceman who kissed this woman in Times Square after WWII ended.  They aged his
face and grew his nose.  How disgusting is that?

Let's talk sagging breasts.  I remember when I was in my 40's and a friend remarked about us "full breasted" women.  What did that mean?  Oh, yeah, it's the kind that comes after breast feeding but don't go away.  In my 20's when all the young women would go braless because that was the fashion, there was the rule that if you could hold a pencil under your boob, you shouldn't because you have too much.  I did.  It's why I always hated running.  Too much frontal action.

How about the wing flaps?  You know that saggy part under your upper arms.  You know you're in trouble when you try on a blouse and it's tight.  When did that Happen?

Now that I've covered the old body, let's talk the mind.  Sheesh, I hate forgetting names, dates and what stories I've already told.  It's always the really good stories that I want to tell again but nobody wants to listen.

Now let's talk music and us old ladies liking younger male artists.  I recall when my cousin and I wanted to see Danny Gokey and her daughter thought we were nuts. (Danny was a 20 something male on American Idol).  I'm the older demographic the marketers hate because we're so old and we got buckets of money but they don't want us.  Those poor guys on Idol;  it's us old women who buy their music and go to their concerts.  They have dreams of young, eager women screaming at their concerts.  Instead they got us.  I recall seeing a comment by David Cook saying he was surprised at his followers' ages, even having a couple of 60 something women purchasing cd's and merchandise from his fan site.  Yeah, Pat Graf, he means you and me.

In my 20's I couldn't afford to go to concerts.  Now I can but I can't wait in line and then stand the whole time at those crazy General Admission Concerts.  So, now, I go and sit in the back with all the old folks.  I sit with David Cook's dad, who is the same age as me.

So, here I am in my 60's, with my thinning, grey hair and sagging body parts, going to rock concerts.
We can rock it out with the best of the youngsters, just in a different way.

But, and here's the best part:   I would never want to go back and relive my life again.  I kind of like where I am.  I do kind of wish I could have taken some of those youthful body parts with me on the journey but I like the wisdom in my face and in my mind.  I did some really dumb things in my 20's and if the dumbest thing I do in my 60's is go to Danny Gokey and David Cook concerts, then so be it.

Rock on.

A year without Matt

   It's hard to imagine this year, 2013, without Matt.
   A year of firsts.
   January 16,  our first birthday without you.
   No Happy Valentine's Day, Ma.
   No Easter Basket filled with your favorite skittles and
   No Happy Birthday, Ma.
   No Happy Mother's Day and another mirrored mother's day item
   No Culture Camp with a smiling Games Teacher
   No 4th of July with someone shooting off all his fireworks at our Spread Eagle home
   No SeaDoo going flat out dragging his brother on the tube
   No fishing from our pontoon
   No Gorilla handing out candy on Halloween
   No Sunday Packer games together
   No stuffing made at Thanksgiving
   No more skittles in the stockings for St. Nick's Day
   No Christmas gifts
   No New Year's Eve

I will always miss your smiling face.
I will always miss your intensity
I will always miss how obnoxious you were when you didn't get what you wanted

I won't miss the hospitals

Saturday, January 5, 2013


I am a feminist.  Back in the 70's, I worked in the Lucy Stone Women's Center at the University of Wisconsin Green Bay.  I have a dual major degree in Women's Studies and Business Administration.  I never classified myself as a bra-burner type of feminist but I believed in choices for women. Choices with no judgment attached.    Choices in getting married or not married.  Choosing your partner.  Choosing to have a family or not.  Choices meant to work at home or to work outside the home.

I like going to the Optometrist because it's a doctor that doesn't hurt me or involve me taking off my clothes.  In the pre-screening office, the intake specialist is updating my record.  Age.  Height.  Weight.....pfft... I can lie easily because they don't have a scale.  Place of Employment.  I tell her I work in the home.  Oh, she says, "you're self-employed."  "No.  I say.  I stay at home and take care of my home and kids."  She's baffled.  There is no category.  "Retired, " she asks?   Nope.  Then, she says, "you're unemployed, then."  "No," I say, "I am choosing to stay and work at home."  She's dumbfounded, "I have to put you in a category and there isn't one that you fit in."

Every time our taxes roll around, I must admit that I cringe when I have to categorize myself on our tax forms.  I am listed as a "housewife."  Interesting category.  A housewife is what all of us baby boomers   had to be when we grew up.  Our choices involved being a teacher, secretary, nurse and, ultimately, a housewife.  In the heartland here, you got married early and had your babies right away.  It was a profession that was valued.  Now, in casual conversation, when a person asks what I do for a living and if I reply that I'm a housewife, I am devalued.  I see the look on his/her face; she is an uninteresting person who is stuck in her viewpoints, stuck in the values of women at her age.

I reflect back to the 70's where we thought that all women should be valued for the work she chose to do--in or outside the home.  Those were heady days when opportunities were opening in management, law and medicine.  Women supporting women.  Now, I see divisions among women.  Women staying at home and working outside the home.  Young vs Older Women.  Blue Collar vs White Collar.  Rural vs Urban.  I suppose the divisions are inevitable but I see judgment on both sides of the divisions.

Instead of looking at the divisions within our lives, I think about our similarities.  All women work very hard.  I tell my kids that the hardest job I have ever had is working at home.  It's hard physical labor doing laundry, cleaning the house, hauling out the garbage, cutting the grass, grocery shopping and chauffering.  I chose to homeschool my children, so I saw that as my additional job.  Having an outside job, means all this work inside the home as well as outside.  I haven't even mentioned the part about nuturing the relationship with your partner business.  Or parenting.  All this work is exhausting for us women.  Instead of seeing commonalities, we see divisions.

I ponder the question from the intake specialist at the Optometrist office.  I could say teacher, since I teach my children at home.  I could say that I am retired university instructor (true statement).  In the grand scheme of life, it doesn't really matter what I classify myself at the Optometrist's office.  I am who I am: an interesting person with life experience.  It's just a question that doesn't need analysis.  What does it matter really?  I tell her to mark, "unemployed."

While the eye doctor is peering into my eyes, he asks, "what kind of job are you looking for?"  I snicker and answer, "I'm quite happy with where I am at, right now.  Being unemployed."

Sunday, July 22, 2012

My Dad...... and how he's still here helping

I have to talk about the influence of my dad.  He was truly a pioneer in his day; a bit of a maverick when it came to health care.  After starting out his career as a barber, he changed careers to Swedish Massage.  He worked for a number of years at a spa and then in the early 1950's he opened up his own business in Green Bay as a health center with steam baths and massage.  He was always curious about the role of nutrition and vitamins in a person's health and began offering vitamins to his customers.  Over the years he became a Chiropractor.  He retired at the age of 75.

Following his retirement and my mother's death, my dad met and married a woman who had a healing ministry called Impossible Miracles.  Norma Jean had previously toured the country speaking about the healing of her back and praying for others to be healed.  My dad joined this ministry and offered a unique perspective about how to pray to be healed by using his knowledge of anatomy.  Together they toured and lectured for about 25 years.  He was 98 years old when they quit their ministry.

His curiosity never wavered and he was always exploring new avenues of healing.  He found a nutritional program based on biblical principles called the Hallelujah diet.  It is a raw foods, vegan diet. He basically followed this diet for the last 15 years of his life except for the vegan part of the diet.  He enjoyed dairy and meat far too much but ate it sparingly.  He juiced carrots and took their Barley Max formula for years.

There were other theories and the one that he was most interested in during his latter years was Nutrition Response Testing.  Essentially, this theory checks your major systems and then attempts to get them back into balance with proper nutrition and vitamins.

Over the years, there were some basic principles that he believed in and passed on to my family:

   ~~ Be responsible for your own health~~
 Live your healthiest life by choosing carefully what you eat, take quality vitamins and take care of your body.   He enjoyed an occasional piece of pie or meat -- but only rarely and it wasn't part of his daily diet.

  ~~Stay away from doctors, hospitals and pharmaceuticals ~~
    His second wife forced him to have an annual physical.  One doctor told him at age 90 that he had the heart of a 40 year old.   He was proud of the fact that he wasn't taking any prescriptions.  At one point in time he was diagnosed with low thyroid function and was prescribed synthroid.  He hated taking it and figured out a formula that worked.  His next test indicated a healthy stable thyroid level.
   When he was 79, he was diagnosed with advanced stage prostate cancer.  Instead of taking the typical route, he went to Oasis of Hope and was treated with laetrile.  He was healthy until his death at 101 years of age. 

~~  Stay away from vaccinations  ~~
    My mother and dad were actively opposed to all vaccinations starting with the polio vaccine.  He would see patients who were adversely impacted by vaccines.  He also did not believe in flu vaccines for the elderly saying that it was an excuse for not taking care of themselves.

~~ Use it or lose it  ~~
    He believed in exercise and walked and worked out every day.  He used a small trampoline to stimulate the lymphatic system.  

~~ Be intellectually curious  ~~
    He was always reading, taking notes.  He was religious in his later years and read the bible.  He was always reading about the latest health news.  

~~ Live simply ~~
    For most of the last 30 years, he lived in a 5th wheel trailer.  He always said that he could move if he didn't like his neighbors.  The sum of what he had when he died fit in a few small boxes and most of what he had were books and papers.  

He was 101 years old when he passed away.  On his terms.  He had a physical 6 months earlier and he was very healthy.  But, he was done living.  He often said that part of the problem with being as old as he was that alot of people he cared about had died.  He had had enough living on this earth and moved on.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Cancer

 For those who are new to this blog, my second oldest son had a rare liver cancer -- Fibrolamellar Hepatocellular  Carcinoma.  It typically strikes young adolescents and adults between the ages of 15 and 35.  It is so rare that there are approximately 35 cases diagnosed in the U.S. annually with about 200 cases worldwide.  If you are interested in learning more about this type of cancer, I've provided a link from the FCF (Fribrolamellar Cancer Foundation).

Adolescent and young adult (AYA's) cancers are rare.  I've seen statistics that indicate as a population, they account for about 10% of the cancer population or about 70,000 a year.  As a patient group, they typically fall between the cracks of our health care system.  If a cancer patient is under the age of 18, they can be treated at many of the specialized cancer departments for childhood cancers.  As an adolescent and young adult, you're grouped in with the older crowd:  folks that are in their 50's and older.   

AYA cancers are often detected later because physicians are less likely to look for cancer.  Additionally, lack of health insurance plays a role in getting a diagnosis and in treatment.  

Fibrolamellar is so rare that Cancer Centers don't know how to treat this type of cancer.  When it comes to treatment, you have to go to a large Cancer on one of the coasts.  Locally, there is nothing in a small community.  It is likely that a Cancer Center would never have heard of this type of cancer.

When Matt received his diagnosis, I remember the Cancer Center in La Crosse, WI, director saying, "I'm sorry your son has Fibrolamellar cancer.  And, we can't treat it here. You will have to go somewhere else."  Okay.  Now what?  No direction.  No compassion.

This unfortunately happens to a great many young adults not to mention Fibrolamellars.  They are faced with a life threatening disease in a health care system set up for treating the majors:  breast, prostate, colon, lung and brain cancers.

The disease occurs in young adults who are looking ahead.....   to careers, to family, to more independence.  Instead many must leave their independence behind and move back in my mom and dad, leave behind college and/or careers.  Some lose friends or boy/girl friends who can't deal with this kind of illness.  They face an uncertain future and lose many of their dreams.

As parents and caregivers, we walk a fine line with our young adults.  Many have led independent
lives as adults.  Now our son/daughter comes home and we have to carve out new relationships with them as we deal with their life threatening illness.

Unfortunately, Fibrolamellar is always fatal.  No known living survivors.  His dad and I knew it when he was diagnosed.  Matt refused to accept that he could not beat this type of cancer.  He fought this cancer till the end.

In my opinion, it was the chemo that killed him.  But, this subject is for another blog..... when I'm