Hoarding, buried alive — or in my lamps

There they were again, or maybe there she was.  Staring me down as I pulled into my garage this morning.

These two lamps were given to me by my late sister probably 20 years ago, just seven years or so before she died in a car accident at 36.  She gave them to me when her budget allowed her to upgrade her lamp status and when my budget was in need of free lamps.

I probably thought they were way attractive at the time, but they’re really not.  Or at least not now after years of use and an inexpensive foundation to begin with.  My sister would almost suredly agree.  They’ve served us well as bedside lamps for many years.  I have wanted to change them out more times than I can count.  In the last few years in particular they’ve seemed a tad sketchy electrically speaking.  The one by my side of the bed even had a habit of turning on in the middle of the night sometimes.  Was it electrical?  Hmmmm.

I have just enough belief in what’s out there in the spiritual world to be swayed  by a psychic I once saw in an effort to communicate with my sister.  She told me that my sister tries to communicate with me through lights and at night, in my dreams.   I know you’re thinking – well sure, that’s a classic easy reach that anyone desperate to believe might make a connection with.  I even thought so.  Or did I?

As a true skeptic who even tries to set psychic types up to fail,  I also yearn to believe that maybe — just maybe — they really can help me talk to her.  There are just so many things I would ask her.  There are so many memories from my childhood when I lived with my mom and my sister (the Three Musketeers)  where  I can’t quite recall all of the details.  Who would have imagined my sister would be gone and my mother would end up with Alzheimer’s so advanced that she hardly even speaks?  Who would have thought I should have been taking notes for goodness sakes?   They say it is this kind of love — and love lost — that flames our endless desire to communicate with those who have passed on before us.  Especially those that weren’t supposed to.

Back to the lamps.  So, I religiously watch the Hoarding, Buried Alive television show, which to my family’s amusement is what causes me to go on mad purging binges – clothes, furniture, you name it.  My unneeded hoard finds its way to my donate bins and designated areas at least twice a month.  Afterall, it’s just stuff.  And if I’m not using it, someone could.  Plus, from what I witnessed in the homes of  my late grandparents on both sides,  I’m afraid I  just might have a tad bit of a hoarding gene in me somewhere.

So, finally I decided it was time to donate these lamps and get real “grownup” bedside lamps.  My husband appeased me and accompanied me to many stores in search of the perfect bedside lamps, which we found.  I still don’t feel like a grownup, but that’s beside the point.

But what to do with the lamps? I  regularly give most of my donation worthy items to my housekeepers – furniture and all.  They strike gold at my house at least monthly.  Or I like to think they do. I just wish I could understand what they were saying to each other whenever they bag up my donate bin that I keep next to the vacuum.  For all I know it could be “Look at this crap this lady thinks we want…”  But I like to think it’s not, especially since they take it enthusiastically. At any rate, I didn’t want to give them these lamps in case they really did have electrical problems.  That would keep me up worrying for sure.  And I knew that Goodwill probably has to test everything before they sell it.  Or that’s what I tell myself.

So, on three different occasions I have loaded these lamps in the back of my car to take them to the Goodwill donation center along with my other purge-fest prizes. It’s always right at the moment when the guys helping me unload my Hoarding Buried Alive load of treasures point to the lamps and say “these too?” when I freeze.  I tell them not to take the lamps, just everything else.  Then I carefully drive the lamps back to my house and set them at the front of my garage again until I can figure out what to do with them.

I also have a purse my sister gave me that I will never carry again because it’s such a bad luxury brand knock-off.  But I vividly remember how proud she was to buy it for me and how excited I was to have it (same spot in my budget timeline as the lamps).  I remember how much she smiled as I modeled it.  I will never donate it, even after a hoarding series marathon.  I also have a cheesy belt that she gave me that I will never wear, but that reminds me of us going through each other’s closets and making fun of clothes in need of purging. Both items hang inside my closet where I can see them and just know they are there.

Maybe these lamps are my sister’s way of staying in my busy life when I try so hard to keep her memory alive but life gets in the way. And for that I’m grateful.  I think I’ll find a place for them afterall.

Gratitude Experiment: Day 4

Today I am grateful that my writing coach is a fabulous cheerleader and quasi therapist. And also just a terrific and compassionate person. Despite all my best efforts to concoct many complicated and even compelling excuses not to write over these last few months (other than the usual mundane words I use to describe underground gasoline tank monitoring systems and electronic health records), she has been able to push me over my mental hurdles and hold me accountable.

Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you that holding me accountable for something for which I think I have perfectly good excuses not to do is a TALL order. Some might even describe me as a stubborn procrastinor with undiagnosed attention deficit disorder who will alphabetically organize her entire pantry before performing the task at hand.  I’ve long convinced myself that my procrastination techniques are uber productive and help me produce better writing.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Despite this daunting duel of wills, my coach did not throw in the towel.  She has encouraged, prodded and even tried to trick me into writing by getting me to forget about my excuses.  As a result, I have submitted an article to a magazine (which is getting published next month) and I am writing this blog.  My list of articles, essays and books I want to write is extensive.  It’s been growing for years.

I have pushed through enough losses and obstacles in life to know that there is a reason for it.  And that reason is to help others face their own obstacles.  And to keep their eye on the gratitude all the while.

Best to be first born, second wife and third realtor

I just learned this saying from a real estate agent who was passing out flyers in my neighborhood the other day. He mentioned it to me after I asked about the house down the street that was taking a while to sell.

The house has a very taste specific exterior paint scheme and interior furnishings. And a less than desirable lot size and angle. I’m not thinking they obsessively watch as many “Get this Sold” HGTV episodes as I do. Not sure if that’s anything to be proud of.

Which is why today the house has a new listing agent and sign …. and a reduced price.

Gratitude Experiment: Day 3

Okay, so I think this gratitude experiment is definitely working because I can’t narrow this down to just one thing to be grateful for today.

Thoughts include:

A fortuitous and great conversation I had with a mother I barely knew at my sons’ haircut place yesterday which tipped me off on college coaches.  I seriously believe there are no accidents in life.

A wonderful call from my son’s tennis coach late yesterday. These tennis coaches continue to impress me with their genuine concern for the boys’ success.  And my son is making me proud.

The fact that my youngest son actually wanted to snuggle with me last night like old times (he is quickly getting way too cool for this so it was an unexpected treat).  And that he actually liked his haircut yesterday.

The fact that my kids can forgive me when I lose my temper sometimes and that I have the ability to apologize and help them realize that we are all human.

Gratitude Experiment Day: 2

I am thankful for my dear niece.  The one positive thing that resulted from losing my sister suddenly 13 years ago is the fact that I have the most wonderful relationship with my niece one could ever imagine.  She is not only my niece, but also my sister, my best friend and a daughter all rolled up into one human being.  Oh, and my doctor (she’s a med student who gets some wacky medical questions from her Aunt), my therapist and parenting counselor.

She is truly a treasure.  I am grateful that my sister gave birth to her and made me an Aunt in 1987.  I still vividly remember shouting to my friends that spring morning in my high school parking lot…. “I’m an Aunt! I’m an Aunt!”  My sister would be so proud of the woman she has become.

All clear on the concussion front

Gratitude experiment day 1 continues:

My oldest son was officially released to play sports after four months of concussion recovery!  Glad to have this chapter complete.

A few things about concussions I wish I had known:

Myth: A concussion only occurs as a result of a direct blow to the head. (My son’s was the neck) Fact: A concussion may be caused by a direct blow to the head, face, neck, or elsewhere on the body if the blow is transmitted to the head.

Myth: Only athletes in aggressive contact sports like football, hockey and lacrosse suffer concussions. Fact: While football has the highest number of concussions, and concussions are common in hockey, lacrosse and wrestling, concussions also occur frequently in boys’ and girls’ basketball and soccer.

Myth: A concussion occurs only when an athlete experiences a loss of consciousness (LOC). (My son was never knocked out) Fact: Concussions can occur with or without LOC. In fact, the vast majority of concussions (more than 95% in a recent study of concussion among high school athletes)5 do not result in LOC.

Myth:The signs and symptoms of concussion are always apparent immediately after injury. (In my son’s case it was two days later) Fact: While signs of concussion (those characteristics that can be observed by people other than the athlete) and symptoms (experienced by the athlete him or herself) are often present or observable at the time of injury, they may not appear until several hours later. In fact, delayed onset of signs and symptoms is more likely in younger athletes.
5. Meehan W, d’Hemecourt P, Comstock D, High School Concussions in the 2008-2009 Academic Year: Mechanism, Symptoms, and Management. Am. J. Sports. Med. 2010;38(12):2405-2409 (accessed December 2, 2010 at http://ajs.sagepub.com/content/38/12/2405.abstract?etoc).
11. Mickalide AD, Hansen LM. Coaching Our Kids to Fewer Injuries: A Report on Youth Sports Safety. Washington, DC: Safe Kids Worldwide, April 2012

Read more: http://www.momsteam.com/health-safety/debunking-common-sports-concussion-myths?page=0%2C1#ixzz23Y4D6Pb4

Keeping the Glass Half Full: My 100 Day Gratitude Experiment

Today begins my 100 day gratitude experiment. As completely cliché as it sounds, I am compelled to do it. To test how being grateful can affect my life and those around me.

Each day for 100 days I will blog about something or someone or someplace that I am grateful for. I know gratitude can change how you see absolutely everything in life, even when your chips are down. I have experienced it. But I don’t do it enough. And, as a side benefit this will help me teach my kids more about gratitude because I am thankful that my parents taught me about it (and so it begins).

Gratitude Day 1: Today I am grateful that I have two hands and that I am able to type in the dark, since I am typing this at 4:37 a.m.  Side note: I am also grateful that I can remember where the numbers 4, 3 and 7 are on the keyboard without looking  – this helps ease my Alzheimer’s paranoia.

Oh, and thank you for reading this.

Pantyhose and purple power suits

I think the color of pantyhose I used to wear was actually called “suntan.”  Did we think we were fooling anyone?  I guess tanning lotions and tanning salons on every corner came about long after panty hose became passe.

And my old pals still chuckle about my early nineties (or fashion ideas left over from the 80’s) brightly colored “power suits.”  This one was purple, yes purple.  I wore it as a full suit and actually thought I looked like a bad ass.  It had large shiny fake gold buttons that looked like earrings.  And I may have worn the earrings to match but I’ve blurred that out of my memory for good reason.

What’s even more hilarious is that I thought these suits made me look older so I could run with the big dogs in the ad biz as a junior account executive at age 23.  I so desperately wanted to be accepted and climb that ladder, fast.  I even drank Jack and Coke a few times and pretended that I liked it.  And I acted like the cigarette smoke filling the building didn’t bother me either.

Last week at a client meeting I was reminded of all of this.  My client’s young, chirpy, quick- to-answer-with-a-better-answer assistant was in the meeting, taking notes on every word I said (yikes). She’s freshly a year or two out of college and smart as a whip.  She really did have terrific ideas for our campaign brainstorming session — trying so hard to prove herself that I tried not to be annoyed.  Was I secretly a little jealous that she got to be the young perky one now?

Toward the end of the meeting I made some kind of old school reference and then realized she probably didn’t know what I meant. I corrected myself with the newer term and made a mention of her youth and how I was showing my age.  She quickly corrected me and told me that she wasn’t that young.

I immediately recalled that feeling of irritation she was experiencing and I tried to explain. My client and I giggled as we recalled just how much we missed being the young one in the room and being the target of those “you’re too young to know” comments.  And I really do.  Especially now that no one checks my ID no matter how desperately I try to signal to them that they should.  She just looked at us and smiled, letting us think we were funny.

She’ll probably be in a modern day, corporate casual version of my purple power suit at the next meeting when I see her, sans the suntan hose.  Maybe a purple cardigan and tangerine skinny jeans.  But I bet she won’t have my fancy, shiny earring buttons.

Cheerleading tryouts not required

I was a cheerleader in 5th grade.  And that’s because tryouts weren’t required that year.  Oh, and my friend’s mom was in charge.  Sad, but true.

My mother tried to help me understand before I tried out the next year (when there actually were tryouts and it was school-organized) that perhaps it wasn’t the sport for me. My sister and I always joked that it was amazing we turned out as positive, able and accomplished as we did despite our mother’s ability to pop a hole in any balloon filled with aspirations of challenging new heights we hoped to achieve.  Now I know she was just trying to protect us from getting our hopes up, but I have to slap myself when I catch  myself doing the same thing with my boys. Because most of the time I proved her wrong.

Nevertheless, she had a point. And I didn’t make cheerleader that year. At that point my legs were longer and skinnier than a baby giraffe and I had the grace of newborn foal.  And I couldn’t even pull off a cartwheel which was a beginner move for my agile, better proportioned cheering peers.

But perhaps that cheerleading experience from 5th grade, fictitious as it was, gave me good experience for adulthood as a woman.  Honestly I think cheerleading should be part of the job description to be a mom and a wife.  Even a sister, a friend and a daughter.

Today I was a cheerleader for my husband regarding his career. And a cheerleader for my son regarding his ability to make better choices.  Last week I was a cheerleader for my niece after a humiliating day as a second year med student new to hospital rotations. And yesterday for my friend who was applying for a job after a long professional hiatus.  And on many days I cheer my step dad on after his long days caring for my mother and her Alzheimer’s-addled brain.

I’m actually pretty good at cheerleading afterall.  My mother would be proud.

Thrown to the wolves by his mother

So thank goodness there are really nice moms out there. My faith in humanity is temporarily restored. My post-concussion former lacrosse playing son is now officially involved with his high school tennis team.  But he’s going in bruised and battered.

Once I realized his symptoms had ceased,  I researched and reached out to a very involved tennis Mom I knew from lacrosse.  Here’s the humanity part – she then took the time to talk to one of the main coaches about my son and his concussion situation and what a great athlete he is. In turn, that coach took the time to call me personally about getting him involved at this late date. This I am certainly not used to as it seems many high school coaches are not into parent conversations, to say the least.

After asking about his tennis background (he played team tennis a few summers back and was one of the fastest, though skinniest, kids in lacrosse), the coach suggested I bring him to the camp that was that very day in a few hours.  They had been running morning and afternoon training camps for two weeks.  Wow, I was thrilled, this was happening. He warned that these kids were pretty good but suggested my son ‘give it a shot’ and then come to the next day’s camps as well. It wasn’t too late.

Foreshadowing note:  these are the LAST two days of a two week intensive training camp. And my son’s only sport activity has been three private tennis sessions after a 4 month concussion sport hiatus from a lacrosse injury.

To my amazement, I talked my son into going.  We got there and my stomach began to sink.  These tennis kids looked beyond HARD CORE and I tried not to let the fear for my son’s very life show in my eyes before I left. I drove off afraid for his already fragile post-concussion ego.

At pickup, he was wrecked, both physically and mentally.  I felt horrible.  He felt he did not measure up to these kids’ skills and had no business playing tennis.  I think a few curse words were used, his head hung incredibly low, you get the point.  It was bad.  Fast forward a few hours –  I learned that the coach had failed to mention that the afternoon camps were for area CHAMPIONSHIP tennis players – some college aged.  These kids were lifers, had been playing since birth.  Some even had sponsors and everything. For real. What a great entry for my broken son.  I could not have felt worse.

Thank goodness the coach called that night (again, the humanity) to check on him and encouraged him to come to the less intense session the next morning.  The next day went beyond well (no comparison) and I now can see a glimmer of my son’s former swagger in his eyes, bruises and all.

Tennis to the rescue

Okay, so finally my son’s concussion symptoms have ceased, after four months. He’s not getting headaches whenever he runs anymore. Thank God. All I need now is the final official doctor release.

Not that I blame him (I’m actually secretly thrilled ), but he doesn’t want to play fall lacrosse. I can only imagine how scary it would be getting back on the field after having a concussion wreak so much havoc on your life as a teenager. So we are going to give tennis a try.  He played team tennis a few years ago and was pretty good, but gave it up for lacrosse since the schedules conflicted.

Unfortunately, signing up for tennis at his large high school where 160 other kids play tennis on six teams is no easy task.  Who would have thought starting the process in early August would be late?


Concussions be damned

We all have heard countless stories on the news about the scary “concussion.”  Heightened awareness has been great for all involved – and scary for me.

My son, a fifteen year old, got a concussion like no other last spring, on April 6, to be precise.  He got “slashed” in the neck with a lacrosse stick on the back of his neck, the one place he had no protection or pads (note: other player was kicked out of the game as this is a no-no).

Fast forward four months.  I am rescheduling probably the 18th appointment related to this concussion.  And we are several months past the episode.  The concussion has wreaked havoc not only for my son’s life, but for our whole family’s.

Few news stories mention the personality changes, the depression and the bad choices that can enter a successful athlete’s life when pulled from his sport.  His speed and agility on the field were a source of needed self esteem which was already touch and go as a freshman at a huge high school.  This was the tipping point we didn’t need.

My hopes are that more become aware – not only of the damage to the brain a concussion can cause – but also of these more silent symptoms, and how to treat them.