The Ol’ Ticker and TIA

Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to have a heart attack?  Yeah, I never did either.  It was not something I ever wanted to imagine or think about.  Heart attacks happen to other people, older people.  They don’t happen to me.

In May of this year, I did start thinking about it, though.  And I realized, it could happen to me.  While I’m not “old”, I’ve had to accept the fact that I’m not young anymore, either.  But my mind still thinks I am young.

I remember the day I realized that I am getting old.  I was 51 years old and had gotten down on the floor.  As a young person, when you want to get up from the floor, you jump right back up!  That is what I was used to doing, get down, get right back up.  But this particular day, I got down on the floor and when I “tried” to stand, my knees retaliated against the abuse I was surely trying to inflict upon them.  They would not lift me up!  I had to try 3 times before I finally crawled over to the couch and used it as a weight bearing device, and was able to stand.  In between those 3 attempts, I was sitting on the floor, laughing like a mad woman.

Why was I laughing hysterically?  Because, in that moment, that VERY moment, I realized, “I’m getting old.”  My day job consists of providing case management services to elderly and disabled people.  Not even a week prior to my knees staging a protest against me, one of my clients told me that her first realization that she was getting old was when her knees would no longer support her weight to lift her from the floor.  This was an 80+ year old woman.  She told me, “Sweetie, it will happen to you one of these days.”  She just didn’t realize how quickly her prophetic statement would come to pass.

So I sat on that floor, laughing for a good 5 minutes, tears streaming from my eyes, because the first time it happened, I was confused.  “Is something wrong with me?  Why aren’t my knees working?”  The second time I tried to stand and my knees didn’t work, “This is just ridiculous!  My knees have always lifted me before.  Why have they stopped working now?”  The third time, “Oh my gawd!  She was right!”  In that moment, I faced the infallible truth, “I’m getting old!”  And then I crawled to the couch, used it to support my weight, and lifted myself from the floor.  That was almost 2 years ago.

What does this have to do with ol’ ticker?  And TIA?  In May of this year, I think I had a heart attack.  I was driving, out visiting clients, and was in the middle of nowhere.  There were no houses around, no traffic on the road I was on, and I would not be able to tell anyone where I was.  I often just plug an address in my GPS and go on my merry way, but sometimes you can see roads that cut off and still go in the direction you want to go in, but there are no names, just a line.  This particular line looked like it would be a shortcut to where I needed to go, and I took it.

Halfway down that road, I felt a pressure in a sort of band across my chest.  It followed my bra line perfectly, and I wondered, “Why does my bra feel so tight all of a sudden?”  I start adjusting it, pulling it away, trying to get the pressure off my chest.  Then I got a bad pain in my back, between my shoulder blades.  “Ouch!  This hurts!”  Thinking that maybe my posture had been bad while driving for the hour and a half that I’d been driving, I try to sit up straighter, taking the pressure off my back and chest.  Then the right side of my neck, jaw, and shoulder started hurting and down into my right arm.  “No, this isn’t a heart attack.  That’s always your left arm, right?”  Throughout all of this, I’d noticed that I was extremely hot, sweating hot, but I had put that off to my air conditioner in the car not working properly.  While I had been hot before, this had hit as suddenly as the pressure in my chest, in which I became overwhelmed with the heat.

I call the office and ask the receptionist to look up heart attack symptoms in women.  I describe to her what I had been experiencing and she said, “You sound like you are having the symptoms.  Do I need to call an ambulance to get you?”  I look at that line on the GPS, the one with no name, the one I am now on.  “Umm, I wouldn’t know where to tell anyone to go to find me.  I’ll just keep driving until I get somewhere.”

In case you are wondering, heart attack symptoms in women can be atypical of those that are often used to describe heart attacks.  For women:

1. Chest discomfort—including pain, tightness, squeezing, or pressure.

In women, it may be more likely to manifest as a sense of pressure or tightness

2. Pain or discomfort that radiates into the jaw, shoulder, neck, back, or either arm.

3. Shortness of breath, especially if it’s new.

Women may notice they are getting short of breath easier, for weeks leading up to a heart attack.

4. Feeling faint, lightheaded, or dizzy.

5. Sweating that comes on suddenly.

For women, my age especially, if we start sweating, getting hot, we think of hot flashes.  But those are flashes, they come and go.  But if you start sweating suddenly, and it doesn’t go away within a few minutes, then you need to talk with your doctor about it.  It could be a sign of a heart attack.

6. Nausea or vomiting.

Don’t automatically assume that you ate something that didn’t agree with you, especially if you have discomfort in your upper abdomen region.

7. Unusual fatigue.

I never went to the doctor after that episode.  The company I work for is extremely small and doesn’t offer health insurance.  Out of pocket cost for health insurance for me is, you know, along the lines of giving an arm and a leg, or at the very least a kidney or two.  I have a pre-existing condition which makes the cost extremely high and well, I’m a social worker.  Much like teachers, we aren’t truly paid for the work we do.  I earn too much for assistance but not enough to pay out of pocket.

Since that time in May, I’ve been getting a lot of “skipped” heartbeats.  Every single day, the ol’ ticker decides to do the Funky Chicken but is out of step with the music.  I’ve always said the only rhythm I have is the beating of my heart and even it gets out of step every once in awhile.  That “every once in awhile” was before the suspected heart attack in May.  Now?  The ol’ ticker is like a stumbling drunk, who thinks he can walk in a straight line but is actually performing amazing acrobatics in their attempt to remain upright.

I’ve had two recent Emergency Room visits to deal with chest pain, shortness of breath, and palpitations.  The first one, my heart decided to straighten itself out and fly right.  By the time I got to the ER, the symptoms had stopped.  They told me to follow up with my doctor and a cardiologist, that they did see “something irregular” but nothing of major concern.

The next time, I was working my part-time job, delivering pizzas, when I developed chest tightness and shortness of breath.  My heart was on a dancing frenzy that evening, too.  I also had a pressure in my head and could hear my pulse in my left ear.  I went to Urgent Care and my pulse was 105 and irregular, it was acting all drunk again.  The doctor pulled the triage nurse out of the room and told her to send me to the ER because I may be having Afib.  They reimbursed me the $100 I had to pay upfront to be seen.

I was going to go, I really was, but my heart must have worn itself out from all that dancing, because it finally started walking in step with me again.  Knowing if I got over there with no symptoms, they would just tell me to go home and follow up with my doctor and a cardiologist, I didn’t go.

A day or two later, I wasn’t feeling good, pressure in my chest, drunk heart again.  I’m worrying about the cost of these ER visits, no insurance remember, but if I was having a heart attack, the cost wasn’t important.  So I went to the ER.  This time, I went to a different hospital that actually has an emergency department for cardiac events.  They got me back right away and did a lot of lab work and testing.  They scheduled an appointment for me with a cardiologist and told me that I would need to wear an event monitor and have a stress test done.  That appointment is now scheduled for the 20th.  (Two days from now.)

In the meantime, the ol’ ticker is still doing its drunk acrobatics off and on and I’m learning to live with that.  I have a plan in place, see the cardiologist, and we’ll go from there.  But 4 days ago, my left eye decided to get into the mix.  I guess I wasn’t paying them proper homage or something because the night of the 14th, I was watching television, and I suddenly lost the sight in my left eye.  Now, I’ve neglected to mention that it’s done that before, about 2 or 3 times before, but it was always just for a minute or less, and I put it off to an ocular migraine.  On the 14th, it lasted about 20 minutes, which I’ll be honest, scared me.

I had been noticing the drunk acrobat was performing again, much longer and more frequently than usual, so I thought I would just take it easy that evening.  I was watching television, when I felt dizzy, sort of the kind of dizzy that’s more like your head is swimming, and all of a sudden, my vision was all wonky.  With both eyes open, I could still see the TV but it was like there was a part of it missing somehow.  I closed my left eye, and my right was fine.  I closed my right eye, and there was a grey shadow over the lower half of my vision.  I could only see partly out of that eye, where the grey wasn’t covering it.  It didn’t move when I moved my eye, so I knew it wasn’t an ocular migraine.  I also felt a pressure in my face and head, which was really weird.

Most people would like, you know, call an ambulance or something.  But me?  The cost of another emergency room visit, the cost of an ambulance drive… I can’t afford any more.  So, I rode it out for the 20 minutes or so, and my vision came back just as quickly as when it went out.  I had a slight headache on the back of the right side of my head, and wrote it off to that.  But about 2 days later I talked with a nurse friend who said it could have been a TIA.

As a medical social worker, working with elderly patients, I had seen TIA before as one of their diagnoses, but didn’t really know what it was.  So teasingly, I said, “A TIA?  Is that like a secret government agency, like the CIA?  You know, I may enjoy a good conspiracy theory, so let’s hear it.  Are they sending out microwaves?  Or do they use sound waves to disrupt my left eye?  What is it?”  It got serious when she said, “Mini stroke.” … But I wasn’t like paralyzed on one side of my body.  My face didn’t droop, I don’t think, not that I can look at my face while I’m lying on the couch watching television, but I don’t think it did.

So I talked with my boss and she wanted me to call my doctor, to make sure I was okay to drive until I saw the cardiologist on Monday.  You know, because if I were to lose my sight while driving, yeah, that would be bad.  I call my doctor, but of course, that was a Thursday, my doctor’s half day.  They put me through to a triage nurse instead.  She told me to go to Urgent Care, as she was more concerned there could be an issue with my retina.  I trudge off to Urgent Care and the doctor came in and I explained what had happened, that the triage nurse was afraid it was something with my retina and I just wanted to get my retina checked out.  He said, “She doesn’t know what the hell she is talking about.”  😮  He told me that with my symptoms, with the issues I’d been having with my heart, and with my history of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism, that he thinks it was a TIA.  There’s that acronym again.  He said that essentially a clot could have blocked a part of the veins that feed my eye, and once that clot moves again, or is resolved, the vision will come back.  He explained that one of the hallmarks of a TIA is that it comes on suddenly, and the symptoms will leave suddenly, and that yes, it can affect only your vision without any other typical stroke hallmarks.  He told me to make sure that I have the cardiologist check my carotid artery for any blockages.  Then he asks me, “Did they tell you that you had a heart attack when you went to the ER after leaving her last week?”

Umm….Hmm….  Sheepishly, “I didn’t go.”  Doc:  “WHAT!?  What do you mean you didn’t go?”  Me, sheepishly again, “Umm, the symptoms stopped after I left here and I was afraid I’d go and they’d just tell me to follow up with my doctor and the cardiologist and it would be a waste of money and I really can’t afford to go for symptoms that come and go only to have them tell me to follow up with someone else and I was afraid they wouldn’t believe me since I wasn’t having symptoms right then and…”  Doc:  “Brenda!  I ought to spank you!  It doesn’t work like that.  They know heart attack symptoms can come and go.  They know what to look for!  I can’t believe you didn’t go!  You are smarter than that!”  Me, looking down, saying nothing.  Doc takes a deep breath, lets it out slowly, “Next time, you go, whether you still have the symptoms or not.”  Me, quietly:  “Yes, sir.”  I felt properly chastised.

This brings us to today.  I sit and wait for the cardiology appointment on Monday and wonder how in the heckles did I get to the place that I’m having to see a cardiologist for a possible heart attack and possible mini strokes.  My only answer is, “I’m getting old.”





Prince Retweeted Me

In the UK, a documentary just aired about the last year of Prince’s life.  I’ve been a huge fan for many years and was able to attend his last two concerts in Atlanta, GA.  The concerts were incredible.  I had tweeted the above to Prince two days after his last concerts.

The day that Prince left this world was a day I will never forget.  I was still on a purple high from the concerts.  At the time, I was training case managers for a state agency.  That particular day, I had woke up feeling very off about something and tweeted, “Thank you, Heavenly Father, for the birth of this day.  Your will always, not mine.”   I felt like something was going to happen, something I wouldn’t much like, but that I had to find some way to accept it.

Later that morning, I was at work and had a room full of social workers and nurses who were starting their careers as case managers with our agency.  For some reason, I wanted to share Prince with them.  Prince had released a song from the recent Atlanta shows, “Black Sweat”, and was working on a live album of that particular show, stating that it was the “best” of the Piano and Mic concerts.  I played that for the case managers and then I played his version of “When Will We B Paid?”  I had never started my trainings with music, and haven’t done it since.  But it brought me great joy to see this room full of case managers, celebrating Prince, singing along, dancing.  Only Prince could do this, I thought, bring people together like this, cause them to celebrate in this way.

Once the songs were over, we got down to business.  A couple of hours later, one of the state workers came into the training room and began rubbing her hand along my shoulder, as she handed me her phone.  I remember thinking how strange that was.  Why was comforting me?  Why was she handing me her phone?  I looked down and read the headline.  I handed her phone back to her, picked up my phone, and began seeing all the texts that had been coming in from people that knew I was a Prince fan, offering condolences.  I looked at the news on my phone and said, “No.  I don’t believe it.  I won’t believe it until the man himself says it.”  I walked out of the room, went somewhere private, and tried to compose myself.  I managed to complete training that day, but I think the only way I did was by convincing myself that the reports were wrong and Prince would come out any time to state that the reports of his death were greatly exaggerated.

But he didn’t do that.  He was gone.  I cried myself to sleep that night.  I called out of work the next day as my eyes were almost swollen shut.  I continued to watch the coverage and just when I thought I couldn’t cry any more, CNN was reporting the timeline leading up to Prince’s passing.  In the midst of it, my tweet, that Prince had retweeted, appeared on television with the reporter stating that Prince had said he was feeling “hashtag rejuvenated”.  It was like being punched in the gut, since I knew Prince hadn’t tweeted that, I had.  I called my ex and told him what had happened and said, “I should not be a part of the timeline leading up to…I should not be a part of THAT timeline.”  He said, “You were always a part of that timeline.”

I tried to get to CNN to make a correction, but they ignored me.  So, I finally let it go.  No choice.  But I had put it out there that Prince had not said that, did not write that, he just didn’t know how to retweet and would copy and paste tweets instead of retweeting properly.

Tonight, someone sent me a link to a documentary that aired on Channel 4 in the UK on 1/2/18 about the last year of Prince’s life.  I did okay through the documentary, until the last 10 minutes or so, when my tweet suddenly appeared on the screen with the narrator stating, “he tweeted that he was feeling rejuvenated, inspired, and loved”.  I thought I was okay with them putting my words on Prince, that I had moved past it, but seeing it appear now, in a documentary, I realized, it still hurts.

You see, Prince hated his words being misrepresented by the press.  I know he would not like them putting words on to him that he did not say or type.  And the fact that they are my words they are doing it with, really bothers me.  So, here is the original tweet.  If someone says to you that Prince said that, you know the truth.


#MeToo Movement Not Enough

benni at 14

For the past two months, there has been a movement that has gained wide attraction. #MeToo. When the story about Weinstein began to grow and more and more folks came out about the systemic abuses in Hollywood, Alyssa Milano encouraged people to spread the #MeToo message as part of an awareness campaign. She did this through Twitter on 10/15/2017.

She later stated that there had already been a Me Too movement that was started in 2006 by Tarana Burke. That particular Me Too movement started on MySpace to promote “empowerment through empathy” among women of color who had experienced sexual abuse, particularly within underprivileged communities. However, that Me Too movement never gained the wide audience of what occurred when Milano encouraged people to spread the message.

By October 16th, #MeToo had been tweeted more than 500,000 times. On FaceBook, it had been used by more than 4.7 million people in 12 million posts within the first 24 hours of Milano putting that message out there. FaceBook even reported that 45% of users had a friend who posted #MeToo.

There has been some criticism of the movement, such as it puts responsibility of PUBLICIZING sexual harassment on the victims, which can be retraumatizing. Others found the hashtag inspired fatigue and outrage.

I have my own criticism of this movement. I wanted to give you the background first, because I think it’s important to note that the movement only gained attention after someone rich and famous stated that we should use it to bring awareness to how prevalent this issue is. While I agree that it is important to note the prevalence of this issue, just how deeply this issue is a part of our society, the hashtag movement makes me angry, and it hurts.

You see, back in 1980, a scared, confused, hurt 14-year-old came forward and spoke of the abuse she endured at the hands of her father, a cousin, her uncle, and a best friend’s brother. At first, she only told why she had ran away from home, which was that her uncle had started to touch her inappropriately. It was nothing overt, a pat on the behind every time he passed her, and once his arm swung out and his hand grasped her breast, to which she pushed it away and said, “Don’t you ever touch me again.” She knew, however, that she could not go through it again. She could not go through having one more person abuse her sexually, physically, mentally. If she had to endure it, just one more time, just one more person, she would take her own life. She began planning on running away, trying to find a way from the family, from the abuse.

The actual date that she ran away was August 11, 1980. That was the first night she told. The reason that date stands out is because it was the night of The Perseid Meteor Shower. She sat in a ditch, close to her home, around 10:00 PM, when she noticed the first meteor. She watched in amazement as other meteors streaked across the sky, and she believed it was a sign from God that her life was about to change for the better. She was waiting for her ride to show up, to help her escape from the hell she had been living in.

Her ride didn’t appear, so she went back home, to where her aunt and uncle had been looking for her, because her little sister had noticed she’d disappeared. Her aunt was yelling at her. Asked her where she had been. She finally cried and said, “Do you really want to know why I left? Do you?” Inside she was a mess. Her stomach felt like it was weighted down with lead. Her throat felt like it would close up at any moment. She was terrified. She was terrified to say what she wanted to say. Her aunt finally said, “Yes, I want to know why you left!” Slowly, this 14-year-old raised a hand, pointing a finger straight at her uncle. “Because of him,” she whispered. “Because he would touch my butt, because he touched my breast. I can’t go through it again.” Her aunt, filled with anger, and I suppose hurt too, said, “I’m leaving! You two can stay here and work this out, but I’m leaving.” Her aunt walked from the room, with her little sister following close behind her, begging her aunt to stay. You see, her aunt was the only mom her little sister had known.

She followed her aunt, too, into her aunt’s bedroom, where her aunt was getting together some clothes. She said sadly, softly, “No, mom. You stay. I’ll leave.” Her sister turned from one to the other, begging them both to not go, so confused because she loved them both. She was only 7. This young 14-year-old hugged her sister, told her that she loved her very much, and that she knew “mom” and “dad” would take care of her, that they loved her, and then she turned and walked away. She went down the basement steps, to the basement door, walked across the yard, down the hill, and hid back in the ditch, waiting for her ride to appear. An hour later, after seeing all the lights on in the house, seeing her uncle go down to his brother’s house, knocking on the door, asking them if they had seen this young girl, seeing a car leave the house, the 14-year-old, walked to an older couple’s house and asked to use their phone. Though they were neighbor’s and she knew their names, they did not know her. They asked her if her car had broke down for her to be out so late and she said, “Yes”. They invited her in, offered her something to drink, and then told her she could use their phone.

It was a long distance call, to the friend that she was waiting for, and when she called him, he said simply that he would not be coming, that his car had broken down. Now, unsure what she was going to do, the couple offered to let her spend the night. They showed her to the spare room. The little girl sat on the side of the bed and thought about her choices. She knew that no matter what, she could not go back to her aunt and uncle’s. It was no longer an option. She had no where else to go. Then she thought of another friend, her mom had always been so kind to her, and had always welcomed her to her home. So the little girl called that friend, who told her to talk with her mom, but stated she had another lady there that night and they would come get her. She talked with her friend’s mom and explained what happened, why she ran away, and asked if she could stay with her for a few days until she figured out what she needed to do. Her friend’s mother said she could.

She went back to the ditch to wait on her friend and the other lady. In the meantime her heart broke over leaving her little sister. She suddenly had an image in her mind of her sister standing at the screen door of the house, looking out, and calling for her. It broke her heart to imagine that, but she knew she would never be welcome in that house again.

Her friend finally arrived and they got her in the car and the lady told her to duck down as they were driving past her aunt and uncle’s, but not before this young girl saw her sister, standing in the doorway, looking out, and she knew her sister was calling for her. She cried.

She would have to tell her story again and again over the days following that night. She had to find the courage to tell the truth. And it took every ounce of courage she could find to be able to tell what she had went through in her short 14 years. She had to pull that courage from deep inside of herself, and it literally felt like pulling it from some reserve way down deep, a reserve she never knew existed until she needed it. She first told the police that came to her friend’s home later that night when her friend’s mom called the police to report that she was staying with her. The police informed her that her aunt was saying she was on drugs. The shock on her face must have spoke volumes because one of the officer’s patted her shoulder and said, “I don’t think you are on drugs. You just look like a scared little girl to me.” She had to tell the social worker. And then she had to tell the juvenile officer.

The juvenile officer didn’t believe her. “Your uncle is a fine, upstanding citizen of this community. He’s willing to take a lie-detector test to prove his innocence. Are you sure you don’t want to change your story.” To which she replied, “I’ll take one, too.” The juvenile officer sighed and said, “It’s going to be difficult to bring these men in to testify against themselves. You realize accusations like this can ruin these men’s lives? Are you sure you want to ruin their lives?” To which she whispered quietly, so quietly that she knows he didn’t hear, “And what about how they ruined my life?”

She’d already felt worthless. She’d already felt she was nothing. The Juvenile Officer made her realize just how worthless she truly was, not just to her family, but to any one that met her. She didn’t matter.

That young girl grew up. During that time, she never lost her voice and would speak out about the abuses she endured, hoping that it would help others, hoping that it would shine light on abuse, because she knew that in silence, abuse perpetuates. It grows. It continues. She struggled through life. She struggles now. That reserve strength she found within herself, stayed with her, and she has fought her way through life, trying to overcome the issues that arise when you are a survivor of sexual abuse.

And this brings me to the #MeToo movement.

When this movement began, that girl, woman now, remembered all those years ago when she first found her voice to talk about the years of abuse that she endured at the hands of first her father (starting when she was just 4 years old), and then her cousin (after she moved in with her aunt and uncle when she was 8 due to the loss of her mother when she was 7, and the abuse started from her cousin when she was 8 and went through the next 6 years), and then her uncle, who started touching her bottom in passing when she was 13. She thought about how she had told, how hard it had been to tell, how scared she had been to give voice to something that she had endured for years in silence.

And then she wondered, “Where was the movement for that little girl, and all the little girls and boys that had endured for years in silence before 2017? Where was the support from the world, from the public, when she endured the horrors and finally told, or when other children came forward and told of the horrors they endured? Where were the awareness campaigns then?”

You see, the #MeToo movement isn’t even about those that endured sexual abuse at home, it’s about sexual harassment and assault in the work place. They have an opportunity to shine light, not only on sexual harassment at the work place and those in power taking advantage of those without power in the work place, but on sexual abuses of all kinds.

At first, I thought the #MeToo movement was a good thing, shining light on a situation that has gone on for too long, but then I became angry. You see, I remember that night when I was 14. I remember the meteor shower and thinking about how maybe this was God’s message that my life would improve. I remember the fear, the pain, the anxiety, the terror in telling finally, and the heartbreak of not being believed. I knew what I had went through. I remember how I had tried to drink bleach when I was 10, because I was just too tired, too alone, too hurt to go on. I remember the shame I felt in admitting that someone had touched me without my consent. The guilt. The self-blame. I remember finding the courage to tell, to speak up about what I had endured, and how I had to pull that courage from some place deep inside. I remember that weight in my stomach, my throat feeling as though it was going to close up at any moment. Most of all, I remember the feeling of my chest crushing inward, because all I had ever wanted was to be loved.

And I was angry at the #MeToo movement, because these women who felt powerless had more power than I did at 4, than I did at 8, than I did at 13, than I did at 14. They, who felt powerless over men, had more power than I did as a child to speak out, to shine a light where no light had been shone before. They were in the public eye, and could speak out, and garner the support of their fan base, of the general public to whom they had become a household name. They were afraid of never acting again. They were afraid of losing their corporate jobs, or other positions within their companies. They were afraid of being fired. There were nights, when I was afraid that I would be killed by my dad.

Yes, sexual harassment and assault is wrong and bad and it needs to stop. I am not begrudging that aspect. Yes, this movement is important in shining the light on that. But we need to remember, there are children right now, 3 years old, 4 years old, 7 years old, who are enduring in silence. There are children 10, 11, 12 years old, who see this movement happening, who hear about these reports on the news, who are wondering, “Where is my support? Where are my rescuers? Who is going to save me?”

It is time that a light is shone on all abuses that are endured, not just those in the work place. Women feel that they have been sexualized for years, there are children that are being sexualized now, at home, in their own beds, where they should feel safest.

Where is their movement? Where is the light for them?



My Most Meaningful Photo 2017

My son had marched in the Veteran’s Day Parade with his JROTC squad.  His goal is to join the military once he has graduated high school.  He will turn 17 in 2018 and will be a senior in high school.  My daughter will begin her 9th grade in 2018.  This picture shows both children walking away from me, my son slightly ahead of my daughter.  In a few years, they will both be living their own lives, developing their own relationships and creating their own families.  I can only hope that I have given them enough tools to be a success in their own lives.

2017 Favorites Photo Challenge

Christmas Past

It was Christmas yesterday.  My two children, who are still young enough to live at home, had a fairly good Christmas.  However, as I do every year, I worried about whether they would have a good Christmas.  “Did they feel loved?”  “Did I get them enough?”  “Did I get them things they wanted?”  And those inevitably, turn into other questions, “My gawd, how much did I spend?”  “How am I going to pay my bills?”  “Was I nuts?  What was I thinking to spend that much?”  “What am I going to do now?”  “Can I get a third job?  I’m going to have to get a third job.  Where can I fit it in?”

Every year, this is how it plays out in my head.  Every year, I spend more than I can truly afford to spend, and once Christmas is past, I spend the rest of the time until the next Christmas, worrying about paying bills, buying groceries, keeping my head above water.  Around Halloween, I remind myself of the previous Christmas, the months of worry following that Christmas, and I swear to myself, “This year will be different!”  It never is.

Today is the first day of Worrying Season.

Why do I do this to myself every year?  I suppose it could be related to my own deprived childhood.  One Christmas in particular, I was told we did not have enough for Santa to bring presents that year.  I was little, didn’t understand.  Santa always brings presents to good girls and boys, what did us not having enough even mean.  All I knew was mom and dad said Santa would not be visiting me.  Since I was not going to get anything from Santa, I asked for one thing, “A Christmas tree”.  Christmas Eve came, and we still did not have a tree.  I remember thinking that maybe that is why Santa would not visit me, because we did not even have a tree up.

Christmas morning, I woke up with a candy necklace around my neck and a long stick of rope gum in my hand.  I got excited because it meant Santa must have visited me.  I walked into the living room and lo and behold, a Christmas tree was sitting on a table, lit up with the most beautiful and colorful lights.  Santa had came to visit me after all.  It was the most magical Christmas for me, though I didn’t get any toys.

But what I remember is the confusion leading up to Christmas.  Had I not been a good girl?  Didn’t Santa love me, too?  And I guess, I have gone without most of my life, and I never wanted my children to experience that.  So every Christmas, I buy what I can, more than I can honestly afford, just so my children never have to experience that kind of confusion.  Even though, I can’t really afford it, I always find a way.

Except this year.  This year is different.  I did purchase my children gifts for Christmas, but I am on the verge of losing everything.  My house, my car, everything I have fought and scrimped for.  Every little scrap that I can call mine.  I knew it as I bought them their Christmas presents, with cash.  I knew it as I watched them open their gifts on Christmas morning.  I knew it as I watched them “ohhh” and “awww” over their gifts.  I know it now, as I see them enjoying their gifts.  This year, the worry remained throughout Christmas, throughout the entire year.  I have managed to keep my head above water, but in January, it is due or die time.  My daughter turns 14 in February, but there may not be enough to buy her a birthday gift.  My son turns 17 in July, but we may not even have a home by then.  I knew it, but I got them Christmas any way, because this may be the “final hurrah” until the thread completely unravels.

We’ll see where things go from here, but until I lose it all, I’m going to put it all out there.  My thoughts, my prayers, my dreams, my hopes, my despair.  I was once told, “The world could use a good shaking by you.”  It’s time to get shaking.