i make no excuses about who i am! love me, hate me, just read me!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

How Alzheimer's Robbed Me Of An Adult Relationship With My Mother

I don't really like writing about my Mother, Ruby....not for the reasons you might think. Lately I have been thinking of her a lot, more than usual. I wonder if she were alive today how different my life would be. My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 1992 the same year that my daughter Destinee was born, the decline of my mother was quite rapid spanning a 10 year period. In that ten year period she went from a shy but active woman in her late fifties who worked outside of the home and cooked, cleaned, who had always taken great care of her family, to someone who could no longer do her normal every day job duties that she had done for 25 years. I noticed about a year prior to her diagnosis that she seemed to be more down then usual, becoming less interested in things that she used to love. Cooking, she either never cooked anymore or practically set the house on fire because she had forgotten a pan of beans on the stove. Decorating for the holidays, she decorated for every single holiday especially Christmas, but the Christmas before my daughter was born she just didn't even care, no stockings, no creche, no decorated table ornaments. She stopped crocheting and sewing too, things she did beautifully. I had told my oldest sister that something was wrong with her in June of 1991 by November, my Aunt who worked with her also noticed she was confused by the things she had done hundreds of times everyday this led her to quit her job of 25 plus years. My sister and Father saw for themselves as I had moved out of state. I was only gone for 3 months and when I came back she was being seen by the Alzheimer's Institute in Fresno California, before my daughter was born in May of 1992. My Father Robert, my sister Loretta, and my brother Kenneth and I sat down at a big long table with doctors from the Institute who said she had Alzheimer's, early onset to be exact. They also told us that there was no cure and really only a handful of medicines they could give her. They told us also that the type of Alzheimer's she had meant my sister or I had a fifty fifty chance of getting it too. This news devastated our family and from that day on I tried to learn as much as I could about it, this was pre-internet, and Alzheimer's research was barely beginning to be relevant.

There were times I would care for her so my Dad could go to the races or get some errands done, and I would go to his house with my young daughter and make sure she would have lunch or dinner and would be ok. Sort of like babysitting, babysitting my own Mother. She would try to leave and walk out the door and yelled, "Robert! Robert! Robert!" in a constant succession and when she could not find him she would go into a cussing tirade that consisted of rapidly repeating "Goddammit Goddammit Goddammit Goddammit!" looking back at that is quite comical, especially if you knew my Mother. A demure, petite, gentle woman who hated foul language of any kind! I would try to calm her or distract her. Often she would repeat the same story of her brother, Manuel and how he had went to World War II and how once he came home to visit and she could see him walking from a distance as he kicked up dust she knew it was him through the dust clouds because of the shiny epaulets on his shoulders and she ran to greet him. Other times she would get mad at me and tell  me to "Shut Up" she had even pushed me a few times. The conversation or the battle would inevitably come to an end and her sundowning would stop and she would go to her room and I would tuck her in but she refused to take her tennis shoes off, for fear my Dad would come home and she would not be able to leave with him again. My oldest daughter was only 4 at the time and she would peek into my parents room and watch me put  Grandma to bed. One day she asked me "Mommy why does Grandma Ruby go to sleep with her tennis shoes on?" I looked at her and told her "Because when Papa Robert gets home she will be ready to go."

When my daughter started going to daycare so did my Mother, she went to respite care during the day so that my father could have a break and take care of things he needed to do. He cared for her most of the time, refusing to put her in a nursing home. I would pop in at the Cay Dare as my daughter Destinee used to say and visit. They had about 6 clients total in varying stages of Alzheimer's, some were calm and quiet, some were active, some had good days and some had bad. The respite care provided meals and activities. They all seemed to respond to music and loved when records were played, my Mother especially loved Kenny Rogers. The door to the Respite care was painted in a Trump L'oil bookcase so that clients would not try to leave the premises. This did not stop my mother from walking out and getting 3 blocks away before they found her. That was our biggest fear, that she would wander off somewhere. A year after that situation when I had my second daughter Kassidee she declined more.

Roles were reversed and when my second daughter was two she was pretty much bedridden. My father had set up a hospital bed in the living room for her. She spent most of her time there or in a wheelchair that was used to sit her up and feed her. She did not speak now, but I would look into her eyes and try to see a glimmer of the woman she once was...sometimes I would get happily surprised because she would respond as if she was still in there! She was wearing adult diapers and would get mad at me for changing her! My oldest daughter noticed she wore diapers, and I had to explain to her that Grandma Ruby could not go to the potty anymore. She shrugged and said "Oh she has accidents?" There were days after caring for my Mother that I would go either home or to work and feel like God had forsaken me. How could he let my Mother, a woman who would and never did hurt anyone get this terrible disease. How was that fair and I told him one day that I Hated Him, that I would not believe in a God who would allow my Mother to get ill like this.

I did not get to enjoy my adult life with my Mother as I should have. She did not even know my youngest daughter Makenzee at all. She would have fawned over her beautiful Granddaughters, she would have baked cookies with them, taught them how to tie their shoes or brushed and braided their hair. She would have babysat in a pinch and made them grill cheese sandwiches or told my dad to take them to McDonald's for a Happy Meal. She would have made them frilly dresses and crocheted hats or slippers for them. She would have been the proudest at their school events, dried their tears when they skinned their knees or comforted them when a someone made fun of them. She would have been their champion like she was mine. Instead my daughters either vaguely remember her or don't remember her at all and that is the cruelest thing this disease does. It robs not only the Alzheimer's sufferer of memory, but robs those left behind in its wake of any opportunity to have future memories, cherished memories.

I have some friends who occasionally complain about their meddling, nosey, pain in the ass Mothers and when I hear that I get so mad and most times I say to them at least you have your Mother. To which they drop their jaw and in apologetic tones tell me they are sorry....I tell them, "Don't tell me your sorry. Go hug your Mother."

What I would not give to have her here again even for one day so we could catch up on the last 10 years, so she could offer me comfort and tell me she loved me, or share a good laugh or even a good cry. My Mother was eventually put into a nursing home where she lived the rest of her days. My father visited her every day and I saw her often. She passed away on May 2, 2002, my oldest Daughter's birthday due to complications of rectal polyps that were cancerous, but her real death was years before.
I have since come to terms with God and I have forgiven him for taking my Mother from me and my daughters, clearly he needed the angel that she was more than we did here on earth. I know she is constantly watching over me and her Granddaughter's and Great Grandson and that makes me content, but it does not mean I do not miss her every single minute of every single day.

September is World Alzheimer's month. I want to urge all of you to be involved in turning Facebook purple, the signature color for Alzheimer's Awareness, coincidentally one of my Mothers favorite shades! Turn Facebook purple to support Alzheimer's Awareness on September 21st, go to this link to learn how..... thank you for honoring the memory of my mother, Ruby Gonzales and those affected by Alzheimer's, it touches us all.

Friday, September 9, 2011

I want to live in the now! "observance of 9-11 will be as varied as those who were shaped by this tragedy"

This week has been filled with a bag of mixed emotions, the media is pushing the "We will never forget" phrase into our homes. Today Rudy Giuliani, "Americas Mayor" was on "The View", and children whose parents were lost in the 911 tragedy were seen in a promotion for news show 20/20 that the inimitable Barbara Walters will be a part of. People on Facebook are posting patriotic profile pictures and asking questions like "where were you on that tragic day", and posting a copy and paste "rolling" flag as their status. It was under one of those on a friends post of that flag that I read someones comment, "I can never forget, I was there!" The wording in that cut me deep. I thought yes, those people that were there will live with that memory every single day of their lives, try as they might to live their lives in some realm of normalcy, that day left them anything but normal.
I know where I was and if you follow my blog you will know that I had just been incarcerated for domestic violence. The day that I heard the news I was in a holding cell, with other women getting ready to go to court. It had just happened and the officers were in shock and at that moment they seemed more human to me, then when I had been arrested, and they somehow I think, saw us as more human. They were quieter, more reserved, and struck as hard by the image they had just seen on the Good Morning America telecast as we were listening to their second hand accounts. Immediately I thought of my daughters and wondered if I would see them again. I thought "my God I just want to feel their little hands in mine and hear their laughter, smell them and kiss them.." I, like everyone else around me felt the world would come to an end. Would I ever tell them I loved them again? Here it is 10 years later and they are growing up. I am a grandma! I was released 1 month later and from that day on I vowed to get my kids back home where they belonged, and I did. I look back on that day with the same feeling as my friend's friend, not because I was there in New York on that fateful day, but because I was already going through something I never thought I would.
His tone resonates with me...maybe some people don't want to remember, and that's not to say that out of any disrespect for the souls lost on that day or to any of the survivors or surviving family members who have carried on under the weight of their enormous loss. I just understand...wanting to forget. September 1st had come and went and I did not realize until days later that it had been the 10 year anniversary of the incident that I went to jail for. Not until I caught a glimpse of a local headline "Woman Stabs Boyfriend" in the local newspaper. When I saw that, a flood of emotion shook me to my very core and it was as if everyone around me was going in hyper speed as I stood still in their vortex. I felt anxious and sick and walked to my bus to cry. That headline had taken me back to the whole moment in time my life changed. As I write this I am flooded with emotion and feeling for those survivors of 9-11. How must they feel? Emotions so close to the surface everyday. How do they react to a trigger? An image, a sound, a smell, a word, a thought, feeling, a headline that takes them back to that day.
I will put a patriotic wreath on my door Sunday morning and I will have my moment of silence, and prayer for those lost and still living, but I will not tune in to the shows that will bombard us on the news or the net. I know most of those stories are stories of hope and survivors, but I just will not fuel the media frenzy, well meaning or not. I don't want to go back to that day, I want to live in the now. I want to go to church, hear my kids laugh, make them a Sunday dinner and sit and watch movies. Hug them and kiss them and love them. That will be how I observe 9-11.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Sharing your cleavage on Facebook is inappropriate if you are over 40.....ahhh bite me!

So at what age are we supposed to stop being sexy? When is it that a woman has to watch for the type of profile picture we put on our Facebook page. Just a thought today as a friend of a friend had someone report her profile picture as inappropriate, yet I myself have seen the offending picture and it is quite harmless! So a lil cleavage shows and its not much by the way...its a tasteful picture of a woman who is also a MOM, a single mom at that, who just turned 40 and looks and feels great about who she is. So whats wrong with being sexy over 40....well shit then I better go hide my cleavage away since I am not only a mom but a granny too!

I am 45 and feel that I am way more sexier now than I ever was before...even if I have grandma arms and some extra fluffiness. I'm pretty confident and feel good about myself most of the time. Then there are days like today where I look and feel like a frumpy roots have not been done, my skin is showing sun spots, I'm in jammy pants and a grease stained tee and heaven forbid my most mortal frump I have dreaded swapmeet feet! There is nothing that takes away more from a pretty woman who looks great and is dressed well, than when she has on sandals or flipflops and her feet look like she walked through the swapmeet. You know you have seen them,dry cracked and craggy heels, polish chipping on overgrown toenails. Let me just add this footnote bwaaahhaahahh! I love my feet, I have a big foot fetish and love beautifully pedicured feet! I have terribly neglected them for 4 weeks now and they are horrid it took a lot out of me to post the following pics but hey if you've seen me at my worst then you will appreciate me at my best!Wow writing that makes me want to go dye my roots and give myself a pedi! So yeah today is not my sexiest day.

But what if it was, what if I took this beautiful picture and I wanted to share with the world how wonderful I looked in that minute. What if I wanted to let the world know that damn for a 45 year old grandma I look pretty damned good. What if I felt confident and great about myself? What if I wanted to see comments from my friends that said "You Look Mahvelous" or "SEXY MAMA", what if a friends friend saw it and decided that I, as a mother of 3 daughters and grandma to one spirited boy had no business showing you my cleavage, or acting that way at all! What the fuck people! Worry about yourselves...if you don't like my cleavage then don't look at it but don't hate me because I feel good about myself. Maybe tomorrow I won't feel so confident, maybe tomorrow I will stand in the mirror and feel like I am too fat, too ugly and too old to be SEXY. I don't need to let some idiot that I don't even know give me a complex, because damn it took me 40 plus years to love myself. So sorry if you have not gotten there yet! SEXINESS is only accumulated over time by women who have earned the right to their self esteem. If you have ever hated your looks you will understand that phrase...there is no man or no other person that I will allow to define me as a woman....I earned that after having three babies, 1 miscarriage, 1 tubal pregnancy, gallstone surgery, gaining 40 pounds and getting my prematurely grey hair, living through domestic violence and homelessness, surviving my loves addiction, yup for sure I earned the right to feel good about who I am today!

So let me challenge all you NOT UR TYPICAL Glammas and single Mamas out there to love yourself and post the picture of yourself you think you look and felt the most beautiful in... do it already you have earned the right to share your sexiness...this ones for you Denise!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

How PCOS & Menstruation Almost Held My Football Playing Daughter Hostage...

Well many changes happening in the last few weeks that I have not really focused on working on my blog...but here it is football season....and if you follow me you know that my youngest daughter plays football. I am so amazed by this kid o mine! I am proud of her for many reasons. Football season almost did not happen this year. About 2 months ago my daughter who is 11 was sick for about three days with stomach pain, laying in bed, refusing to eat, no tv, no computer, nothing could get her out of bed not even the year end party for the Little League Minors team she was on before being called up to a Majors team. I thought it was the stomach flu. By the third day I decided to take her into the doctor because I began to worry she had appendicitis. So off we went to the emergency room. We spent hours, waiting for lab results which led the doctor to order more tests, her blood work was a little off and the doctor thought it may be appendicitis also. He ordered a lower GI MRI which involves the colon, a balloon and dye...needless to say my daughter was begging me not to let them do this test. I reassured her and told her it was important that this test needed to be done to see if she in fact had appendicitis. She relented and actually did better than some grown men would do. We waited and waited some more and finally when we were put in a room the doctor came in and gave us her diagnosis. PCOS or polycystic ovarian syndrome. He said she had rather large cysts on her ovaries, cysts that form as the egg is released to the fallopian tube. Instead of being released the egg stays in the follicle creating cysts, when these cysts rupture or grow they cause severe pain. This was the reason for her pain.

He handed me a sheet with some information, and basically sent me on my way.....telling her to expect her period soon. With that news she sat in a funk for a while thinking her "thingy" as she called it, was going to arrive and ruin her life as she knew it...playing baseball with the boys....playing football with the boys....hanging out being one of the boys. I was just thankful it was summer and prayed if she did get her "thingy" that it would be during summer break. She had withered, the spark absent from her after this diagnosis.

As I learned more about PCOS I learned that she may never menstruate, that diabetes was highly likely as the body builds insulin resistance over time. I learned that testosterone is at higher levels in girls and women with PCOS, that body fat distribution is more masculine and that this is probably why it has been harder for her to loose weight. I also learned that facial hair, hair loss and acne can occur. I learned that she may never get a period or that she could have problems with fertility. I realized that PCOS had probably been at work in her body for the last few years, had PCOS sabotaged her or enhanced her athletic ability?

I began to understand why my youngest lovee was who she was. My tomboy, sportsnut, laidback go with the flow, likeable, wonderful kid. A girl who could throw a baseball so hard that when it hit her coaches foot his big toenail fell off the next day! A girl who plays tackle football with the boys and who was not just good at it but a stand out. A girl who is known by all the local youth sports teams and coaches for her talent. A girl who was and is admired by little girls and big girls alike.

So when my lovee announced she did not want to play football on the heels of this diagnosis my heart was heavy and I was sad... Menstruation had taken another female hostage. I was probably sad for selfish reasons because as I have said before my kid is just that dang good! I love to watch her play on the offensive and defensive lines smashing them boys! I had the registration papers for football and even asked her more than once. Hmmmphh, there I sat resigned that she would not play this year, she said maybe next year. I was content, at least we still had baseball, right? A few weeks passed and still no arrival of the "thingy". I took her to her pediatrician and I got a referral to the Endocrinology and Diabetes Clinic at Childrens Hospital in Madera, a wonderful hospital that we are so lucky to live close to. I had to really press the doctor for a special referral. But Mamabear gets what Mamabear wants when it comes to her cubs. My girl was returning out of her slump...blossoming into the girl she once was.

I had read in the paper about the last bit of signups and still held out hope. I had planned to go to college night classes since she was not going to play and it was when her sister told me that she had mentioned playing again but that she knew I was doing something. That something being school. So I asked her if she wanted to play? She sheepishly said "Well I wanted too...but", I stopped her in mid sentence and said OK. So I raised the money for her $75.00 registration fee by selling BBQ rib dinners and the next day, the last day of sign ups we made it down to the park to sign her up.

Today was her first game and she took the field as a co-captain with two of her team mates and I was beaming with pride. As fate would have it we just moved into a house across from the high school stadium where ironically games are being played this year instead of at the neighboring Jr. High. So I made this great sign to greet everyone especially the team they were going to play today. I sat in the stands and cheered her in this terrible miserable heat and my chest was filled with pride as I watched my three year old grandson cheer her on! I lost my voice and sweated like a pig as I watched her break from the triple teaming the other team was imposing on her, because lets face it two ole regular boys were't gonna take her down, as she broke and made a run for the quarterback pressuring him he threw it right into the hands of her team mate. BEAUTIFUL! Nope PCOS or the "thingy" will not hold this baseball, tackle football playing girl o mine hostage again....The game was a tie and thats ok we will take that, it was a hardfought game, but you better be ready next time boys!

My daughter Maks journey into treatment for PCOS.....

Today is the first day of PCOS Awareness day and the first day of my 11 year old daughters ongoing treatment for PCOS.....hope you follow our journey!

Well today was a long day. I took my daughter Mak to her first appointment with the endocrinologist at Children's Hospital. I am feeling quite good about her being treated there. We have a barrage of tests, blood work and ultrasounds ahead of us. I am glad that I was insistent and advocated for my child to be placed in the clinics care. It is called the Diabetes and Endocrinology clinic. Though Mak does not have diabetes, the likelihood that she develop it is high. Not only due to heredity but also because PCOS or polycystic ovarian syndrome creates insulin resistance in the body. Insulin resistance leads to diabetes.

We learned that PCOS can be treated to lessen the symptoms with metaformin, a drug used to treat diabetes. We learned diet and excercise are key to helping PCOS symptoms lessen. So sports will definitely continue for Mak. We spoke to our endocrinologist at length today which reassured me that Mak getting diagnosed early was  a blessing for us. The earlier you diagnose it the more treatable the symptoms are!
Seems we will conquer this PCOS and not let it run her life! She is such a great wonderful kid who has a lot of potential. I would only hope that others who suffer from this advocate for themselves, be insistent find the right doctor or physician. PCOS was not that diagnosable 20 years ago but great strides have been made in this field.
So it is with hope and positivity that I write this post tonight that my daughter will not be prisoner to PCOS that she will have wonderful treatment and a great outcome! From time to time I will update you on her treatment and pass along any information we learn...PCOS is so common yet not talked about often or even considered in girls my daughters age, which is 11. Usually sufferers are not diagnosed until they are in their late twenties, or thirties. To learn more about PCOS please visit these links   or join this Facebook support group!/pcosfight.