Thursday, May 23, 2013

Wake Up Call

29 mornings ago, I woke up a new woman.  Refreshed.  Energetic.  Clear-headed.  Awake.  

And I made it past 10 AM without needing a nap. 
Me and naps.  We go together like peanut butter and jelly.  Napping was just something I always did – as soon as I was done classes or work, I’d go home and fall asleep in a bean bag chair, a recliner, a couch, a futon, a bed, or a papasan that was probably a stupid purchase but that I had to have.  It kinda became a joke actually, how much I napped, especially on the weekends when I would nap at mid-morning, mid-afternoon, and early evening.    

I thought I was just lazy.  Which was weird because I didn’t feel like I was lazy.
At least I could function.

I never seemed to have much get up and go.  And when I got up and went, it wasn’t for long and it usually ended up with me napping on the couch.
At every doctor’s appointment that I’ve had since college, they would ask how I was feeling.  And I would say – great, except that I always feel tired.  Blood tests indicated that I was perfectly healthy. In college, my doctor told me that it was normal to be tired – I was carrying a full course load and working almost full-time.  After college, it was because I worked third shift.  When I started back to grad school it was because once again I was working and going to school.  When grad school was over, it was because I worked a lot.  Then it was because I got a new job and I was learning the ropes. 

It just seemed like it was just supposed to be this way.  This was just who I was.  But I watched friends and colleagues who worked the same amount I did, some who were juggling kids and jobs and 102 other obligations and who didn’t seem to need a nap when they got home from grocery shopping.
Bt at least I could function. 
Last summer, at my mom's urging, I went for a sleep study to find out if I had sleep apnea.  Sleep apnea is apparently a common problem for people with my syndrome on account of our small airways but I don’t follow the message boards like my mom does so what did I know?  So, I went on two nights and had my sleep observed which was all sorts of fun, I can assure you.  Afterwards, I was diagnosed with a mild case of sleep apnea – 7 apnea episodes or something. 

That’s so mild, I scoffed; seriously, why bother?  Then a lady at work told me that they were diagnosing everyone with sleep apnea these days.  And that’s all I needed to hear because I like my medical conditions to be unique.  1 in 50,000 unique, you know. 
Besides, I was functioning. 

Things started to change a few months ago.  It was harder to get out of bed.  It was harder to make it through the day.  It was harder to do much of anything.  Weekends turned into more naps than being awake.  I couldn’t even stay away to watch 48 Hours Mystery on Saturday nights.  I started to have headaches a lot.   I felt like I was walking around in a fog most of the time.

Quite frankly, I felt like I couldn’t get my shit together. 
I started to try to eat better.  Take walks at lunch time.  Try vitamins (again).  Go to sleep at the same time every night.  But nothing seemed to be working.  If anything, my need to nap seemed to be increasing.   

Then one Sunday, I woke up and didn’t want to get out of bed at all.  What was the point?  I’d just be napping in an hour anyway. 
I have a friend who has said about me that I don’t do anything until I’m ready.  And when I’m ready, I’m ready.  After that Sunday, I knew I was ready to make a change. 

I called the sleep doctor who renewed my never-filled prescription and 30 days ago, I brought home a CPAP machine to use when I sleep.  I asked the technician if I should use the CPAP when I nap – not just at night.  He told me that I wouldn’t be napping once I started CPAP therapy.  I rolled my eyes skeptically and then yawned.   

The first night, I only used the machine for three hours - not much but the results were astounding.  When I woke up, it was like I had slept for days.  My head was clear and I had energy to spare.  The spring that had been missing from my step was back and more springier than ever.  Everything seemed brighter, crisper in a way.  And I was famished.  I ate so much those first two days! 

It's been 29 nights and I've been feeling better every day. 

Those naps?  They are few and far between. 

Now, I’m not only functioning - I’m wide awake. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Tipping Point

Sometimes I think all of us are walking along the edge of a precipice, some of us a little closer to the brink than others; but all of us are walking along in a single file, stepping one careful step in front of another day after day after day. 

When I picture this, I think about how close some of us are to falling right off.
One decision.  One moment.  One missed step. 

What’s the thing that finally tips some of us over? 
And then I wonder about those of us who stay steady on the line.  Those of us who keep walking, who never fall, no matter what.

What keeps those people from tipping over?
Inner strength?  Faith?  Love?  Good balance?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Where in the Continental United States Is Denise?

The car is filled with gas AND oil, my AAA card is buffed and in my wallet, and the coordinates have been entered into my GPS system.  By the time you read this, I’ll be off – driving the highways and byways of the open road.  It’s just a day trip but where in the continental United States can I get to in a day?!

Here are some clues about where I’m headed –
You’ve got a friend in here - well, actually, in the whole darn state!

It’s coordinates are 40°19′22″N 78°55′15″W.
I might be able to find All the Right Moves once I get where I'm going. 

It was a dam shame about what happened there (more than once!) but McCullough did a good job writing about it.
Happy Sunday!  I’m headed off on an adventure!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Listen Up

Tonight is a very special night.  It’s a night when girls who can’t hear – and maybe some girls switched at birth – will gather around the television to watch the show that has made both groups of gals part of the mainstream (if ABC Family counts as the mainstream).  They’ll be watching a very special episode of “Switched at Birth” that’s inspired by the Deaf President Now protests that occurred at Gallaudet University.  The episode will be presented entirely in American Sign Language (ASL) – the first mainstream show to ever do that. 

I expect it to be a very quiet episode.  Except when they play the music in the background over the really intense parts.  That always makes me wonder if deaf people hear music in their heads when they’re signing.  Especially when someone robs their taco truck. 
It’s kinda like how I hear the music in my head nowadays.

So, I have a confession to make.  I haven’t been listening to you.  It’s a bit of a switch – it used to be that I couldn’t hear you.  Now, I’m just not listening to you. 
Not when I’m in my cubicle typing away.  Not when I bee-bop down the hall.  Not when I grab a jar of applesauce in the supermarket.

If you happen to talk to me and I don’t respond, it’s not because I didn’t hear you or even that I was ignoring you.  I’m just not listening to you.  I’m listening to the music to my head.  And sometimes voices. 
Have I gone crazy?  It’s up for discussion but I think not. 

It’s a recent development, you see. 
A couple of months ago, I got a new-fangled hearing aid complete with a streaming microphone.  So, I can plug it into to my iPod and stream the Top Gun soundtrack right into my hearing aid.  And as long as I’m within 20-30 feet of my receiver, I can hear the music.  Which makes going to the printer so much more fun. 

But the music is one thing – I mean anybody with an iPod and ear buds can do that. 
The major thing – that is both technologically amazing and loads of fun – is that I can clip the microphone to a willing friend’s shirt (they’ve all been willing which goes to show that no one minds having a girl with a hearing aid around) and when they talk, their voice is literally right inside my head.  Which comes in handy when I need answers for spelling tests.  I’m just kidding.  I have ethics! 

While I don’t use it day-to-day – except to listen to music – it does open up a whole new world of possibilities.  Okay, mostly just in the area of seating arrangements or when walking down the hallway with people.  As one friend pointed out when I showed her my new device – it doesn’t matter what side she’s on!  Left, front, back, she’ll be right there in my right ear.  Pretty cool, right?
On a serious note, I’m pretty lucky that I can hear with the assistance of a hearing aid – and even without my new fangled accessories, I made out pretty well.  Even if some of my friends did have to stay on my right side.    

But being one of those girls who can’t hear, I’m excited about tonight’s show although I won’t be able to understand a word of it since I don’t know sign language.
I guess I’ll just have to listen closely. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Being 33

Last April, I heard a news report that a survey found that people over the age of 40 reported that 33 was the happiest age.  Well I’ll be, I thought to myself, that bodes well for me since I just turned 33!  Come on 33, bring it on!  

To be honest though, 33 wasn’t much different from 32 and 34 probably won’t be much different from 333.  It wasn’t the happiest and it wasn’t the saddest.  It was just 33. 
But there was something else about being 33.

In November, I read the Dear Marilyn column in the PARADE magazine.  A reader asked her “at what age are you twice the age of your child?”  Her response was “When the child reaches the age that you were when he or she was born.” 

My mom at 33 and me
So, up until Wednesday, my mom was exactly twice my age and I was exactly half her age.  Because, you see, she was 33 when she had me.
33 was her happiest age. 

Or so I like to think.    

But I could be biased.
My mom at 33 and me at 33 – it’s something that I’ve thought a lot about this year.  This year of 33. 

Going through my baby book, I came across a card that my aunt sent with a cute baby outfit (long-since outgrown, of course).  She wrote “Couldn’t resist it.  It better be a girl!!” 
So much anticipation in those exclamation points.  So much expectation.     

As we now know, it was a girl.  Me.  And I was so not what was expected.* 
At 33, I only just began to understand how hard it really was for my mom. 

At 33, her life’s trajectory took a bit of a left turn.  But at 33, she never wallowed in grief or asked why her or why me.  At 33, my mother was stronger, wiser, braver than I think I’ll ever be. 

She relied on faith and love and a steely determination to make sure we made it through.
The road hasn’t been easy.  There have bumps and hurt feelings and a few staples and scars that don't ever seem to fade.  

But for 33 years, we’ve traveled the road together.  And we made it through. 
Tomorrow, I will turn 34; but today, I’m celebrating 33.   

*I didn’t turn out so bad though, right?! 

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Memory Keeper's Cousin

The day after Christmas my mother found out that her mother’s cousin passed away right before the holiday.  That news came just days after my mom attended the funeral of her oldest cousin.  In just a matter of days, my mother’s large extended family lost two of its senior members – women who possessed knowledge about events and people in our family’s past about which the current generation knows little. 

They were the keepers of our family’s collective history. 
And no one kept that history quite like Frannie, my mother’s mothers’ cousin.  In a sense, she was a little like me – a much younger cousin who was actually the age of her cousins’ children.  I wonder now if she ever got lumped in with great-granchildren like my brother and I did.           

I’m not exactly sure when I first met Frannie but I do know that she was the first genie that I ever met.  And I don’t mean the Barbara Eden kind of genie.  I mean the genie who understands the difference between researching family history versus just searching for a name on the Internet – she was a genealogist.   It seemed as if she had tracked down practically every branch of our family tree and she kept all that information in massive binders of loose-leaf paper on which her lengthy notes were hand written.  She was a genealogist at a time when searching for family history wasn’t done with a click of a button but instead required hundreds of hours combing through dusty tomes or sitting at microfilm readers looking for that one name to buried on the page. 
Her work was all very admirable but that’s not the reason why I liked Frannie.  I liked her because she was the first person to make my family’s history come alive.  My mom and I went to visit her and her husband, Harry, and I remember being in her kitchen when she told me an amazing story about my grandmother being an air raid warden in World War II.  Her memories were a window to a past that has largely been forgotten. 

The sad part is that past has been forgotten because there aren’t many around to tell us about it.  My mother’s family is not a long-lived one.  Her father died at 49.  2 of her siblings died before they were 60.  Her oldest brother died at 62.  By the end of 1990, my mother had lost that brother, her mother, and one sister within three years of each other.  A lot of our family history was lost with them – some missing parts only filled in by a great-aunt here or a cousin-once-removed there. 
People like Frannie. 

The past continues to slip away. 
People like Frannie continue to slip away. 

Earlier this year, after conversations with some cousins, I decided to set up a website dedicated to our family history - to capture what we are slowly losing as the years go by.   It’s a place where we can share our family records – I am an archivist after all, our photographs, and our stories.  It’s where we can recall our shared history and keep our memories from fading too far into the past.  It’s a way to connect with our past and reconnect with one another.

I have been blown away by the response.  All the work paid off when one of my cousin’s daughters emailed me and said “Our family had a bar?!  I never knew that.”  That was a good night.  I’m also having tons of fun doing it – it’s all the things that I love – writing, history, records, making the past come alive.            
Even though the past will continue to slip away, I am hopeful that our stories and our memories will not.

I think Frannie would like that.   

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Life Lessons on Mighty Wing(men)

I have to keep today’s post short because I need to run out to buy my copy of Top Gun 3D Blu-ray – not to mention a blu-ray player so I can enjoy the awesomeness that is Top Gun in the comfort of my own home.  On February 7th, Top Gun returned to theaters for SIX DAYS ONLY.  And this time it was in 3D!  I may have seen it more than once. 

I have a long history with Top Gun – and no, it’s not because I had a huge pre-adolescent crush on Tom Cruise, although, I can admit now that there may have been a time in my life when I was convinced that I was going to be the next Mrs. Tom Cruise.  Katie Holmes scuttled all of those plans.  Sigh.   
This was the free reprint poster they
gave out at the movie.  I had the
original taped up on my bedroom
wall when I was a pre-teen!
Top Gun has it all – speed, danger, romance, tragedy (summed up in three words – “Goose is dead”), and ultimately, of course, there is triumph.  Even if the other side doesn’t admit it happened.  Oh, it also has a helluva soundtrack. 
When I heard Top Gun was going to be back in theaters after 23 YEARS, it was a no brainer that I’d go see it.  I mean – I’ve only ever seen it with commercials!  I ordered my ticket as early as possible and on opening night I got to the theater an hour before it started.

I was so excited.  And shocked.  At how few people there were to celebrate this epic film!  Seriously, opening night – it was me, my friend Lugnut, and seven other folks.  Sure, it was a Thursday night but it was Top Gun, people! 
In the end, it was actually better that there were just a handful of people there – it gave you freedom to bask in the movie.  To really feel it.  To experience it.   To sing along with the music.  As I watched though, something interesting happened – and it wasn’t the weird feelings I started to develop towards Tom Skerritt who by now is pushing his 70s, I think – no, it was realizing that Top Gun wasn’t just a cinematic blockbuster.  It’s actually a cinematic masterpiece filled with lessons that we can all use in life. 

Before I go on – I just want to say that I have the utmost respect for members of the U.S. military, especially naval aviators and amateur volleyball players.  I know there’s a lot in that film that probably doesn’t happen in the real U.S. Navy (starting with the horrible posture of the students in class!) but I still like it anyway. 
Many people are going to say that the most important life lesson from Top Gun is learning how to perform the perfect muscle flex while playing with the boys or where to find the plaque for the alternates – but they’re wrong.  The most important life lesson is this – you never leave your wingman. 

Let’s talk about the wingman.  I love this concept.  You don’t have to be besties with your wingman – I’m pretty sure Kazanski and Mitchell weren’t ever gonna kick it in the Gas Lamp District together but you knew at the end of the film that there was a respect and a trust that had developed between them.  You knew that they’d have each other’s back – or wing, as the case may be. 
It got me to thinking - in life, you need wingmen. 

You need a wingman who will talk you down – or through – the danger zone.  Sometimes you need a wingman to remind you that life isn’t all fun and games and you’d better buckle down, act responsibly, grow up, and stop buzzing the tower.  And then there are the times that you need a wingman who doesn’t blow sunshine up your ass and tells you flat-out that you have a confidence problem.  And sometimes you just need a wingman who will start singing songs from the Righteous Brothers because the Righteous Brothers are awesome. 
You need those wingmen.  They need you.

And you don’t leave them.