Saturday, December 22, 2012

Facebook, Christmas, Monsters Oh My!

People who know me know that I am absolutely ADDICTED to Facebook.  Yes, I'm one of those people who tends to post every thought that enters my pretty little head, and I'm not ashamed of it. First, because anyone who doesn't like it is free to unfriend, block or just stop following me.  But also because sometimes even the most trivial thoughts mean something to someone.

Case in point:  A few weeks ago my cousin posted asking if anyone had any ideas as to where she could take my uncle to see Christmas lights.  He's in a wheelchair, so it couldn't be anywhere he'd have to walk around.  Well I remembered that, and when I noticed that a park nearby was beautifully lit up and open to car traffic, I let her know and invited her to pick me up and we'd go together since it is so close to my house.

Well in the meantime, I had posted asking if anyone knew of a good place to take The Boy for dinner on Christmas Eve.  I mentioned that I would like to take him to the 100th Bomb Group but it was a bit steep for this single mom's budget.

So she brought my uncle over, still very much sound of mind but not of body, and we thoroughly enjoyed driving around looking at Christmas lights.  This experience, in and of itself, would have been something to thank Facebook for. Not only did the idea come from her Facebook post, but we re-connected through Facebook after years of not talking.  But as she dropped me back off at home, what does my cousin hand me but a gift card to the 100th Bomb Group!  It was a gift my uncle received years ago which had been sitting around unused.  For whatever reason they had no use for it, she saw my post and wanted me and The Boy to have a nice Christmas Eve dinner.

A little Christmas miracle, all thanks to Facebook.

I've been an avid Facebook user for (checking my timeline for confirmation) five years and 15 days and I could tell you story after story where Facebook has brightened my life in ways big and small.  I have reconnected with friends and family without whom my life would be far less rich and enjoyable.  These relationships, both in-person and online, have not only pulled me through some very dark times but have enriched my life, even in good times, beyond measure.

This is not to say that there haven't been times when I've been tempted to deactivate my account.  There are haters.  There are truly miserable people out there who enjoy nothing more than giving someone a piece of their mind at the slightest perceived provocation.  There are people who will truly believe they know you because of this tiny, digital open window into your life and will find ways to try to hurt you.  This is what the unfriend button is for.

And, of course, there was the time an ex boyfriend and "Facebook Friend", on the very evening I changed my status from "In a relationship" to "Single", hit me with the best pick-up line ever "He just made the biggest mistake of his life.  I know, I did the same thing 30 years ago". It's ok ladies, go ahead and swoon.  I did.  If you've been following me that long, you know him as "Texas".  Lesson learned...some of the relationships that can be rekindled via Facebook are better left for dead.

The last few months have brought more of these "I'd be better off without Facebook" moments than usual.  I don't think anyone who has any more than just a passing familiarity with Facebook will argue that the 2012 election was a time when most of us wanted to just shut it down.  Between the inevitable pre-election rants by people who I adore but with whom I strongly disagree politically, then the "we are all doomed" post-election posts by some, it was just a total bummer to be around.

But the worst of it was the recent apocalypse.  I may have been able to laugh off all of the mostly-joking end of the world posts if they didn't hit so close to home.

If you are a frequent visitor to Blog Over Lunch, you may know that I've been having a tough time.  I didn't really go into it except to say that I had a lot to worry about.  Now that the crisis is over, I am a bit more free to talk about it.

During the fall of 2011, The Boy had some friends over to have a bonfire.  I had brush to burn and he had been talking about having a fire so we killed two birds, so to speak.  The brush, and our fire pit, are in the way-back, near a creek, which is adjacent to a large empty field and some woods.  There is much wildlife back there.

Well while he and his friends were sitting around, late at night, drinking pop and making s'mores and basically acting younger than their 16 years (something I secretly wish happened more often) there was a noise in the dark. Probably an owl.  Someone asked what it was, The Boy said "That's the North Ridgeville Monster".  Some time later the NRM, or North Ridgeville Monsters, was born.  They call themselves a "Gang" which is unfortunate, because that brings images of kids going around bullying people and committing crimes, which can't be farther from the truth.  These are good-hearted kids.  Not especially interested in schoolwork, and maybe a bit more rebellious than some, but kids who wouldn't hurt a fly.

What most of these kids had in common was a firm belief that 12/21/12 would mark a new beginning for the Earth.  They believed that a chain of natural disasters would cause "The end of the world as we know it", because we, as a species, are not living in the way God intended, and that it would be really bad for quite some time, but this cleansing of the planet would give way to a more peaceful, harmonious, beautiful existence.

Now throughout history, people whose beliefs were outside of the mainstream have been vilified.  This group was no exception.  And it didn't help that they had chosen the name "Monsters".  The name itself didn't exactly project the innocence under which it was born.  It instilled fear, even in the hearts of this mother.  It wasn't until I sat down with The Boy and asked for an explanation as to the beliefs of the NRM that I learned that they saw themselves as a group that was warning people of this impending change, in the hopes that they would be prepared, and they hoped to help people once the change began.

Then someone stole some guns out of a house in my little town.  Soon after, someone called in a threat to the High School, indicating that something bad was going to happen on 12/21, that The Monsters and the missing guns were involved.  The members were all questioned by the police. I had a long talk with a police officer.  I don't have to tell you that I was scared out of my mind.

During this time I saw several Facebook posts, from other concerned parents, addressing the threats that had been made against the school.  Inevitably someone would say "It's the Monsters!".  And I just wanted to scream.  If you haven't had a child who has been wrongly accused of being somehow evil, you can't imagine the Mamma Bear this brings out.  I didn't act on my impulses to verbally lay into these people, because I was afraid it would draw attention to exactly WHO the monsters were made up of, and could possibly bring violence to my home.  If The Boy had any anonymity, I wanted to keep it in tact.

I can say with certainty that The Boy did not steal the guns.  I have personally turned his car and my house inside-out and upside-down and found not a single weapon except the ones which belong to me.  And he makes a valid point in his own defense: why would he have to steal guns from others when he could easily obtain an arsenal, including ammunition, just by breaking the glass in his father's gun cabinet or busting the lock on my gun case.  He knows how to shoot.  He is a hunter.  But he also has a respect for guns and knows they are not toys.

During the weeks since that phone call from the police I have been terrified.  Not that The Boy was going to do something bad, because I know my son and he is sweet and loving.  He sticks up for the underdog and has no patience for bullies.  He is respectful to me, other parents, teachers, faculty and police.  He loves his parents and his friends.  He enjoys life and understands its value.  But my fear was that some misinformed person would try to hurt him or his friends, or that the police would come crashing into my house and take him.  And yes, it occurred to me that he might not be the first basically good person who was manipulated into doing something horrible by mentally ill but intelligent individuals.  I was mildly suspicious, but mostly just worried sick.  And 12/22 couldn't come soon enough.

Then a crazy man went into a Connecticut elementary school and started shooting.  Of course there wasn't a parent in the country who wasn't affected by this tragedy in some way, but it raised my already off-the-charts anxiety to a dangerous level.  I developed a twitch in my right eye. I started crying at the drop of a hat. I had chest pains and insomnia.  What little sleep I was able to steal was riddled with nightmares.  

The Ex called me on the 19th and asked if I knew that the mother of one of The Monsters was the sister of a boy I dated in high school.  I didn't know. I reached out to her, you guessed it, on Facebook and was somewhat comforted to know that I wasn't alone in my anxiety, fear and feelings of helplessness.  I hope this connection remains strong even now that the crisis has passed.

I took the 21st off work.  I don't think I slept an hour the night before, and I was sure The Boy would be angry with me because I had no intention of letting him out of my sight until an hour after school let out.  I didn't believe he had any plans to hurt anyone, but if anyone did anything I wanted to be able to say honestly that he was with me all day.  He balked initially.  He wasn't angry, more he seemed hurt.  He felt that by keeping him home, away from his friends, I was punishing him when he hadn't done anything wrong.  But in his normal easy-going and ultimately respectful way, he made the best of it.  We went to lunch, and Christmas shopping.  What I was afraid would be a miserable day of him locking himself in his room, refusing to talk to me, turned out to be what any parent of a 17 year old can attest is a very rare occurrence; a nice day with my kid.   

As we were leaving for our little outing we saw our next door neighbor pull into his driveway.  We've been friends for ten years and they've always been good to The Boy.  The dad owns a business and gave him his first job.  The daughter, three years younger, has always had a bit of a crush on The Boy.  He mentioned "They probably hate me now".  When I asked why he said that they were outside when the police came to question him about the missing guns, and they probably know that he's one of The Monsters, and blame him for the threats against the school.  He's probably right.  If not about the neighbors, then about many others in our community.  It makes me sad.  Even though nothing happened, there will be those who will blame him and the other boys for the fear they felt.  

I've never been a big fan of Christmas.  I've always approached it with a Bah Humbug attitude, less due to the true meaning of the holiday than just because of what it's turned into.  It's a time of stress, and this year it has been that and more.  Not until yesterday, when the snow began to fall and I was able to have a thought in my head that didn't revolve around my son's future, did it start to actually feel like Christmas.  My shopping and wrapping is done.  I'm off work until the 26th.  Maybe it's the contrast to the unbearable pressure I felt up until yesterday but I feel like, in this moment, I am truly at peace.

If you're reading this, it's most likely because you clicked the link on Facebook.  I'm not sure if anyone outside my circle of friends really follows Blog Over Lunch.  But even if you're not one of my friends, Facebook or otherwise, I wish you a peaceful, joyful, CALM holiday.

Edit:  If anyone reading this is in the group of people who posted about The Monsters on Facebook, I mean you no disrespect.  I just hope it gives you reason to reflect, and realize that not everything you hear is true, and when you repeat it on Facebook it can hurt people you don't even know.  The people you talk about behind their backs, people you often don't even know, are human beings with feelings.  Fear born from misinformation and ignorance only multiplies when it's shared online.  I pray you never feel the way you made me feel.  

Sunday, December 16, 2012

I Slept Through the Sunshine

This morning I slept in.  Yeah, shocking, I know.  I had my alarm set for 8:30 but when I was still awake coughing my fool head off at 1am I changed it to 9:30.  Then I hit snooze until 10.

It's December 16th.  And when I finally dragged my fat, lazy ass out of bed and put my dogs outside I realized it was unseasonably warm.  My handy-dandy thermometer said 59.  FIFTY-NINE and sunny in Northeast Ohio nine days before Christmas?  Wow.

Last night my mindset was "Yay! I can do anything I want tomorrow".  This morning it shifted to "Crap...what am I going to do today?"  Funny how a fitful night's sleep interspersed with coughing fits can mess with ones outlook.

So there I stood, in my jammies, in the opening of my patio door, basking in the sunshine, as the dogs ate at my feet, making a to-do list in my head.

1) Walk Boo, for sure.  This may be the last opportunity until spring to do so without risking windburn, slip and fall injury, frost bite and death.
2) Take The Pug to get her nails cut.  Boo got his cut at the vets this week, so only hers are going clickety-clack on the linoleum and scratching my legs as she jumps up to my lap.
3) Straighten up this house.  It's a mess.  Seriously.
4) Go to the gym.  If I go for a long enough walk I may not work out but the hot tub and steamroom may help my cold.
5) Redbox.  Return Lawless.  Don't forget, bonehead.
6) Make mini omelettes for next week's breakfast.  I have all the stuff and it's not going to keep forever.
7) Wrap presents
8) Blog

Yeah, so not necessarily in that order.

This is the kind of day I usually like.  Puttery days.  Days to not be running around trying to accomplish a million things that never seem to get caught up (like cleaning and laundry) but to do things that will make me feel like I actually accomplished something.  As I eat mini omelettes this week I will be glad I took time to make them on Sunday.  Seeing presents under my sad little 3 foot Wal Mart tree may make this place a bit less gloomy.  A trip to PetSmart, just me and my baby girl, is one of life's little pleasures.  She's an old broad now and who knows how many more of these she has in her.  A walk with Boo...The Pug doesn't do walks any more but he loves it and it clears my head. A little time to try not to turn over the problems of the day over and over and over again in my cluttered mind.

They say worrying is like rocking in a rocking chair.  It accomplishes nothing.  But when the problems are this big, they can't be ignored.  I don't know how to fix them.  So I rock.

But I slept too long, and I rocked and worried, and now it looks cold and gloomy out and the wind is making the patio door creek.  I went and slept through the damn sunshine.  Great.

This is the story of my life, as I planned, the moments passed.  As I made my to-do list, my opportunity TO DO passed on by.

So as strong as the pull is to go back to bed (I have been up for a whole two hours for crying out loud) I'm going to dig out the wrapping paper, put some presents under the tree and clean up this damn house.  I can't control the doom and gloom outside, but I can sure as hell brighten it up in here.

Be well my friends, hug your loved ones and pray for peace.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The F Word

So to update since my last post:

Rheumatology thinks the problem in my shoulders, ankles and feet is all just tendinitis, just like my elbows.  She thinks my low weight/high reps workout routine, combined with too-much-weight-bearing exercises like push ups and planks, has pushed my biceps tendons from their usual state of chronic irritation to extreme inflammation and debilitating pain.

She did a few more blood tests and the results are pending.  She said the ANA results that brought me there would seem to indicate lupus but it's an unreliable test, she feels that was a false positive and is re-testing.

She prescribed physical therapy and a change in my anti-inflammatory medication.

So I went back to the miracle workers who helped me with my elbows.  After two years I was happy to learn that the same PT's are still there.  The one I saw remembered me, and her comment was "Ok so the shoulder pain had already started when you were here for your that's been going on for two years.  The shoulders and elbows are both bilateral issues.  As are the knees and ankles.  Your RH factor came back negative.  And why do they think it's not Fibromyalgia?"

My answer:  "Uhhhh...I dunno?"

Before that nobody (well nobody with a degree on their wall) had brought up the F word.  Has it occurred to me?  Sure.  Have well-meaning friends said "It sure sounds like Fibromyalgia to me"?  Yup.  And even though I know this would be a rough would be A DIAGNOSIS, which would be a relief, and would offer a path toward resolution, or at least management.

I mean yeah, tendinitis is a diagnosis.  And nobody is discounting or refuting it.  But why the hell does this keep happening?  Why are all of the tendons in my body flaring up?  And why the hell is tendon spelled with an O but tendinitis is spelled with an I?  It's all a mystery to me.

But of course my PT stresses that she's not a doctor and not qualified to make any diagnosis.  But she loaned me her personal copy of What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Fibromyalgia and urged me to do my own research.

So far I'm a couple of chapters in.  I'm not convinced either way.  I do have a good many of the symptoms.  But these are symptoms that I've always chalked up to being 47 and overweight.  Or to typing too much.  Or to poor form lifting weights.  Or to 'my shoulders have always been my weak spot'.  I mean what 47 year old woman doesn't have fatigue, nervousness, depression, apathy, listlessness, anxiety, insomnia, frequent waking, nonrestorative sleep, pain and generalized morning stiffness (the first 20 steps or so are agony), TMJ (this one surprised me...since my early teens), muscle twitches, feelings resembling electrical pulses in the muscles, leg and foot cramps (I haven't had 24 hours without a foot cramp in probably 20 years), undue sweating (I blame this one on being fat), eczema (since my early 30's), prickling of the skin, hypersensitivity to touch, gas, pain, bloating, constipation alternating with diarrhea (IBS, which I was pretty sure I had years ago but has subsided, is also called "fibro gut"), acid reflux (diagnosed 3 years ago), frequent urination (I'm up at least twice every night), poor balance (since childhood), dry eyes, blurred vision, post nasal drip and nasal congestion, late in life onset asthma (very mild, since last year) & hay fever (for the past 10 years), weight gain (duh), morning eyelid and hand swelling.

These are just the fibro-related symptoms I have.  There are half as many that I don't.  My point is that this is very general, so I'm not entirely convinced.  I'm still reading the book.

Meanwhile, I have been told I can not plank, up dog, down dog, do any exercise that strains or excessively stretches my shoulders for the next four months.  And for the foreseeable future I will meet with Israel the massage therapist for massage that I'm told will be closer to torture than relaxation on Mondays and I will have ultrasound therapy (which feels wonderful) and yet more painful massage from the PT on Thursdays.

Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Back when I thought I had IBS I did a lot of research on the subject.  Some doctors said IBS stood not for Irritable Bowel Syndrome but for I'm Basically Stumped. When they can't figure out why you always either have diarrhea or constipation, they call it IBS.  It's a diagnosis of exclusion.  Right now, so is Fibromyalgia.  And while I recognize that it is a real thing, I also think it is sometimes over-diagnosed.  Some doctors think they're getting closer to a test that will detect it, but we're not there yet.  So I can continue to push doctors to tell me why I have tendinitis but they will come back by telling me it's because I lift weights, because I type too much, because I sit too much, because I'm overweight, because I wear the wrong shoes.  But the bottom line is that it's because my body is not cooperating with what I expect it to do...and I want to know why.  I'm 47, not 87.  So I'm also on the hunt for a doctor who knows about fibromyalgia but who doesn't consider himself a fibro expert, for fear of ending up with a doc who puts everyone who has pain in the same box.

In happier news, this has been a nice weekend.  I spent the day yesterday with The Girl.  Remember her?  I love her lots.  Today I got a massage, the relaxing kind, and I'm spending the rest of the day paying bills, blogging, wasting time on Facebook, washing my slipcovers (it's like having new furniture!) and dabbling in a little payroll stuff.  I like this kind of day.  I like project surfing.  I don't even mind that it's rainy and gloomy.

Today's lunch...comfort food.  Nuf said.