Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Why Did Grandma Put Her Underwear in the Refrigerator? -- An Explanation of Alzheimer's Disease for Children

   I just finished re-reading Come Back Early Today – A Memoir of Love, Alzheimer’s and Joy by Marie Marley, Phd. 
   Max Wallack had invited me some time ago to co-author his children’s book,  Why Did Grandma Put Her Underwear in the Refrigerator? An Explanation of Alzheimer's Disease for Children.  He sent me Dr. Marley’s memoir last winter, as one way I might prepare for our work together.   
   Last winter was a profoundly difficult time. Roughly four months after my husband Jonathan’s diagnosis with Multiple Myeloma, an incurable cancer of the bone marrow’s plasma cells, I found myself in the dead of a snowy January, housebound alone for a week. Our daughter Abby was away at college in Salem, Massachusetts, battling the snowy front closer to the ocean.  Her Dad was off at Dana Farber for daily out-patient collection of stem cells to store for a future stem-cell transplant.  This is typical front line treatment for his disease.  He was staying nightly at our son Zachary’s place in nearby Watertown. 
   The collection process occupied an entire week rather than the one or two days we’d planned on.  Some of his aggressive autumn therapies had suppressed his body’s ability to produce stem cells, so different techniques to stimulate stem production were employed.
   It was at this time that I began poring through Dr. Marley’s memoir and a strange thing happened.  Rather than enjoying this precious chronicle as one way to prepare to co-author a children’s book, I found myself relating to its author.
    Marley, too, struggled with the shock and awe of living with a profound and incurable illness, then processing the illness itself, and its various challenges. She even shared, in a very early part of her memoir, her struggles with employment, as was I!  More precisely, the two of us were getting acquainted with ‘unemployment.’  In her case, she was a new PhD struggling for a university position.  Mine was a bit more self-imposed as I embraced the role of caregiving and medical research.
    The pinnacle of our parallel was a stalwart love that kept everything forward-moving.  For Marie Marley, her love for Ed and his for her was the bedrock from which she moved out of her sadness, toward a healthful self-identity and an evolving, beautiful relationship with her life partner.  Marley writes in her third chapter:

“He could have ended our relationship, and no one would have blamed him, least of all me, considering how unpleasant and stressful those depressions must have been for him.  But as far as I know, he never considered that option.  He was there for me no matter how far away I was from him.  He wasn’t able to make the deep depressions go away, but his steadfast love, caring and support made them far easier to bear.  I have often shuddered to think how I would have managed those dark days without him.”

   The passage above was steeped in irony.  At the time, I was trying to emotionally navigate the unthinkable: the prospects of my husband’s battle with an incurable cancer.  That week, he was at a myeloma center at Dana Farber, receiving harrowing treatments while I was snowbound at our home, with endless chunks of solitary downtime.  Reading this poignant love story was meant to be an academic exercise for a writing project.  Instead, it drove home how lucky I was to have a similarly stalwart love in my life.  Ed was to Dr. Marley what Jonathan was to me.
   But the irony was troubling: the patient himself in both cases was responsible for bringing their women comfort. 

   Early in my husband’s diagnostic process, I was SO busy distracting us both with research, collecting a rainbow of bottled supplements, joining website support groups and sites for myeloma trials -- ultimately speaking and writing in medical jargon.   Or in alternative-medical jargon:  hatha, vinyasa, bikram yoga, acupuncture, curcumin and alpha-lipoic smoothies.
   None of that frenetic activity provided the strength I needed to move forward with confidence and faith.  That all came from my husband.
   I relate deeply to Dr. Marley’s words, “I have often shuddered to think how I would have managed those dark days without him.”     
   Fear of life without my spouse caused trepidation in the first place:  how ironic that he was the antidote for my fears.
   But it's also been through the writing process (email shares, journaling, my blog) -- but especially my work with Max Wallack in this beautiful educational children’s book -- that I continue to educate myself.  And any teacher will tell you, education is the real antidote for fear.
   A seven year-old protagonist named Julie spans three years of her own young life remaining stalwart, holding faith and constant love in her heart.  Part of this young character’s “hope” is her future, a word that, to many caregivers, is the enemy.
   But there young Julie hangs her hope: hope to grow up to engage in Alzheimer’s research; hope as she watches her grandmother participate in exciting new clinical trials; hope that one day there can be an end to the “incurable” side of Alzheimer’s.
    I was honored to help breathe life into Max's character.  It was through Julie that I was reminded of bravery, love and hope. 
   If a seven-year old protagonist holds courage to enhance her present by ‘living strong’ inside it and embracing her future, so can the rest of us.
   Seventeen year-old Max has actualized Julies’ dream in real life. He currently studies in his junior college year at Boston University and works in the Alzheimer’s research field.  This children’s book is autobiographical for Max.  At a tender age he became a companion and caregiver to his own great grandmother following her diagnosis with Alzheimer’s.  And ever since he’s devoted each day to easing patients’ suffering by inventing adaptive equipment, recreational supports, and ultimately searching for a cure.
   We all do battle in one way or another with fear and foible:  overall I feel lucky to have in my arsenal my husband, four kids, the writing process, and friends such as Max who give me as much time as I need to “learn.”
   Today marks a special day:  I must say farewell to a fellow traveler I only knew through support groups, firefighter John Knighten, whose battle with an aggressive sub-type of myeloma finally ended peacefully last evening.  The end of his journey was apparent to all of us about eight days ago, but now that it is here, I feel no fear.  Just gratitude to have known of his strength and stalwart love of his own family.  
   In the end, the strength of love is all that matters.  Even fictional seven year-old Julie knows this.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Don't Scratch or You'll Get a Cigar

My good friend Max Wallack and I just collaborated on a children’s book that teaches about Alzheimer’s disease.  It has been a wonderful experience, learning about this disorder and appropriate caregiving strategies from Max. The working title will be Why Did Grandma Put Her Underwear in the Refrigerator? and it is due for release later in July. But don't worry about marking your calendar. I'll be writing a LOT MORE ABOUT OUR BOOK IN IMMINENT POSTS read about Max here

Max Wallack of, Why Did Grandma Put Her Underwear in the Refrigerator?
The writing process never ceases to light me up from the core.  Max and I were working together on phrases and word balance when the copy editor in me kicked in.  Max is breezy and fun to work with, because I’ll explain why something needs work, and he finds strategies to rewrite.  Some authors require hard edits, but I’m a teacher so the 'process' is important and Max is a process person. After a long back-and-forth over one section of the book, the final result satisfied us both and I said to Max, ‘NOW we’re cookin’ with gas.’

And I immediately wondered how relevant this idiom would be for him.  It wasn’t even relevant to me when I was little – hundreds of years ago – when my father spouted it. I was in fourth grade and he had just retired, and together we’d either complete an oil pastel painting or cover a living room wall in new paneling.  I’d hold the panel up, he’d pound in a million finish nails. 

“THERE we go, Carolyn.  NOW we’re cookin with GAS!”

“We ARE?” I wondered.  We had an electric stove.  The only kinds of gas I was familiar with included petro, laughing, and intestinal.  But I sort of assimilated the expression through context and never asked specific questions.

Idiomatic etymology fascinates me as an adult, so I looked into this one. It seems gas cookers began to replace wood burners in 1915, so that’s when the concept of ‘cooking with gas’ began. Owning a new gas cooker would be in vogueall the rage.  The phrase itself was first linked to Bob Hope in 1939 when he began using it in his Hollywood radio show.  But it was coined by Deke Haulgate, founder of the Haulgate College Football Ranking system, who worked for the American Gas Association -- but that is not what today’s post is about.

Today’s post is about chicken pox.  And children.  And books from which children learn.

Writing a children’s book with Max and thinking about idioms brought to mind the many phrases young kids ‘hear’ before they learn to read.  Any parent can tell you tales of their kid’s impressions and imagery regarding common phrases. Even the idiom An Old Wives’ Tale caused one of my kid’s to believe that when a woman reaches a certain age, she grows a tail.  

Another of my kids wondered how to spell ‘kosh’ which he pronounced very carefully. So I could spell it.  Which I did.  “K O S H.”  Then I noted helpfully, "The word doesn’t exist."

“Yes it does. You know!  Like, when you throw ‘kosh’ into the wind.” 

It was interesting to me that he didn’t want to know what a kosh was.  He wanted to spell it, so he could use it in his fiction writing. When he was six.

He did grow up to be an English major.

Which brings me to chicken pox, which this particular child contracted in the late 80s at summer camp.  And he brought a contagious case back to his brothers. I apologize to them in advance because I am dating myself and them. Two of my four children would later be vaccinated for chicken pox.  But before the vaccine was invented, two of my ‘earlier kids’ erupted. 

As my husband and I slathered them in calamine and baking soda pastes (I love concocting a good witch-poultice), tossed them into Aveeno oatmeal soaks and smeared them with Benadryl lotions, I recalled one of those Old Wives' Tails. 'Don’t scratch or you’ll get a scar.' To this day I hear folks advising children not to scratch at a mosquito bite, lest they get a scar.

Well, as far as chicken pox goes, scars are related to the depth of a particular ‘pock.’ That ‘old saw’ about scars comes from the Dark Ages, before the invention of Neosporin or the microscope.  So when pioneer children scratched a rash with their microbial black fingernails, I’m sure amputation would result.

Fortunately, when my offspring contracted mosquito bites OR chicken pox, I also slathered them in Neosporin. And checked their nail beds with my Home-Kit Hypochondria Microscope.

Back when I had chicken pox, I was four.  This was way back in an era when humans emerged from caves speaking in grunts and Old Wives Tails, like “Don’t scratch or you’ll get a scar,” which I definitely heard from my ancestors' mouths and which definitely terrified me.

Before I go on, the story of my chicken pox always makes me feel like I was the victim of child abandonment JUST BECAUSE I erupted in a contagious body rash and, days later, was shipped off to my Aunt and Uncle. 

But it wasn’t like that. 

My parents both worked for the Quaker Oats Company and there was an annual convention in Chicago they attended for as long as I could remember. The year I contracted chicken pox, I was recovered from the worst of it during this annual convention. So I was packed up for my annual visit with any number of family members I used to ‘vacation with’ for that week.  This year, my calamine lotion and I got to visit my Auntie Barbara and Uncle Phil because their kids had already had chicken pox. Anyway, my Uncle Philip always reminded me to “Not scratch or you’ll get a scar.”

I was four and had no idea what a ‘scar’ was, but my Uncle Phil was very good at articulation. So what I heard was “a cigar.”

For some reason I knew more about cigars than scars.

I definitely didn’t scratch my healing pox after that.  Uncle Phil to me was a giant of a man with dark hair, brilliant eyes and behind them, vast knowledge.  If he said I would get a cigar if I scratched, then I definitely would get a cigar – so I did not scratch, lest each pock sprout a tiny lit cigar.

It was horrifying.

Anyway, Max and I finished our educational children’s book about Alzheimer’s disease, Why Did Grandma Put Her Underwear in the Refrigerator? and we were really cookin with gas, the world was our oyster, life was a bowl of cherries, and don’t scratch or you’ll get a cigar – which will be the title of our NEXT award-winning children’s book.

We each bring our personal passions to the writing table. Teaching young children about Alzheimer’s disease is Max’s passion and my honor to co-author. Ensuring pre-schoolers not envision lit cigars popping out of old mosquito bites?? That’s mine.   

Friday, June 21, 2013

"A thing of joy is a beauty forever" --The 2013 LOVE PARTY REVIEW

Our son's wedding, The Love Party '13, was a triumph!  I cannot say with complete confidence that it was "The Wedding of the Millenium" or even of 2013, because theirs was the first of five extended-family weddings on tap, all for people we love dearly. But I will say that, of all the weddings involving the marriage of our offspring, this one was the BEST.

<----Oh, here are samples of the dozens of wedding-white throw pillows at the beautiful residence in Burlington, Ontario where their nuptials were held.  Each had been liquid-embroidered by the bride's sister in either BOS or YYZ to represent the airport codes of Toronto and Boston. Our two memento pillows are nestled at home in Douglas next to a book entitled, A Day in the Life of Canada so I can sit in our sunroom, scroll digital photos of our son and daughter in law's day, glance back at those pillows -- and smile.

And that book about Canada.  A few years ago we "borrowed" it from our family lake house at Winnipesaukee to "decorate" the Douglas guest room for Nick and his future bride's very first stay here for American Thanksgiving. I was so excited ... and so nervous. 

Our home has multiple slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune:  doors with actual holes, a shower stall where water runs downhill, 'away' from the drain, and as I'm sure you recall, one renovated bath with glass pedestal sink whose broken faucet perfectly matches the tub's broken scalding gusher that our plumbers, Roosevelts I and II, are unable to repair.

But I was determined to make the guest room beautiful.

This particular guest room is accustomed to being transformed. In the past 27 years it has been a master bedroom,  Zachary's Toddler Suite, Newborn Abigail's Nursery, Jake's Bachelor Pad, Nick's Garage Band Practice Space, and Abby's middle-school homage to The Color Purple.  It has been spray-painted black, sponged in blue, and bordered in floral to enhance a hue called "lavendar-violence" that Abby selected in 8th grade.

It was overdue for 'freshening,' so I bought some white floor-length drapes that I 'tossed' at the curtain rods then allowed to flow elegantly to the floor. Into two outlets I plugged pure ambiance: mini lava lamps with softly-roiling glitter. On the night stand I placed a crystal and silver jewelry box with wedding-bell relief-art I'd received at someone's bridal shower years ago.  This I filled with romantic Chapstick.

And I stole all of Abby's heart-shaped pillows and tossed them about the guest room. The largest one -- in hot pink -- the size of an inflatable raft -- I pinned to the far wall to cleverly disguise a hole.

And in the center of the queen bed's new comforter I positioned a Beanie Baby Turkey to commemorate the holiday.

We adorned the vanity with belts constructed of fabric and metal hearts, and I placed some college portraits of Nick on the dresser. As a finishing touch, I lit purple candles moments before they walked in with luggage. But there, in the corner, as a beacon of Leah-welcome, was a captain's chair bearing the book, A Day In The Life Of Canada, so she would not miss home.

The total effect ... was not unlike stepping into a brothel.

Abby's Beanie Baby Collection up on an armoire meant that dozens of artificial eyes were trained on the bed and its turkey... adding macabre notes of voyeurism that even I could not anticipate in my most inappropriate musings.

Did I mention the college portraits of Nick were photos of him drinking Jack out of a bottle wearing nothing but a size 5 ladies' thong?

It was the mini lava lamps that put the whole thing over-the-top.  Neither Nick nor Leah slept a wink.  But that is not what today's post is about.

The Burlington, Ontario residence where Nick and Leah were hitched
Today's post is about the OPPOSITE of home hideousness.  The venue for our son's wedding was of monumental elegance and understated beauty, as was the bride and her attendants, her parents, and the host and hostess of the candle-lit evening, Gary and Katie.  Even the town of Burlington had rolled out her red carpet, sprucing already gorgeous store-fronts, quaint shoppes and the Ontario Waterway in preparation for the annual Sound of Music Festival.  In fact, Burlington's brand new pier and magnificent tower -- the culmination of nearly a decade of struggle -- happened to be completed the day before the wedding and was lit for the first time as wedding guests from out-of-town drove into the city.  And each night the sky was alight with celebratory fireworks.

First Kiss as husband and wife

Burlington put on her best show for our our son and daughter-in-law's most cherished day.  Even the weather was picture-perfect for the rehearsal, then the June 15 ceremony.

A glimmer of 130+ guests in attendance, amid resplendent foliage
Beauty of nature, beauty of heart -- of intent.  The beauty of "future." These were the hallmarks of the day.

Graeme and Doz, both musician friends of Nick and our family (from Bang Camaro and The Vershok) turned to soak it all in, and Graeme commented to me, "You know, Canadians are beautiful people!"

"I know!" I gushed.  "Aren't they generous and sweet?"

"Well, yeah, that, Carolyn," said Graeme.  "But I am talking about physical beauty.  These are the most gorgeous people I have ever seen."

Doz nodded enthusiastically. These guys are both from the UK.  Graeme is from England and Doz is from New Zealand so I said, "Canada can't be that different from the rest of the UK, can it?"

I have visited New Zealand and, frankly, found everyone there quite fetching.  And my long lost relatives hail from Cornwall and pictures of them are not un-flattering.

But essentially, Doz and Graeme were right.  Everywhere we turned, beauty abounded:  the maid of honor, (she technically lives in New Zealand!), is jaw-droppingly beautiful.  And, like the bride, her two sisters have contagious, brilliant smiles and faces you don't want to look away from.  Plus, you know the adage that if you want to know how a bride will look in a decade, look at her Mom?  Well, theirs is gorgeous.

 I met a beautiful girl named Moira and another named Petra, three of the most handsome young gentlemen triplets on earth, their relatives, Stefan and Julien who not only spoke French in front of my daughter sweeping her off her feet, but were gentlemen to the core and as handsome as the triplets.

As this magical evening wound down and an Ontario sunrise threatened, I had one disparaging moment where all the beauty and the tall and the amazing made me feel a little weathered and un-tall.  Maybe even un-waif-y. But there was no need.

I looked around again and realized the Canadian beauty wasn't specific to Canada.  The Bostonian best man and our sons were pretty difficult to not stare down and the groom, of course, glowed.

Abby, below, caught the beauty bug.

                                                                 Our second oldest son's
                                                                 Alexandra,         ------>
                                                                 was fashion-model      

                              I couldn't stop re-applying lipstick.

What all of us were experiencing -- was genuine joy, everywhere.  Joy is a powerful beauty-accessory.

The happy couple had named their wedding the Love Party. It was.  And that brand of love made everyone FEEL and exude sheer beauty.

Thank you to my daughter-in-law for falling in love with our son . . . and bringing joy & beauty to each of the 130 people at that Burlington home.

Most of all, thank you to our son Nick, for growing into this profoundly beautiful man and husband who deserves nothing less than the best.

We are so happy you both found the best, and continue to create the best in each other. 

Of all the beauty we were privileged to witness in these last days and years, this has been the most beautiful.  You continue to enhance each other . . . I've never seen anything like it.

Enjoy Costa Rica and Happy One Week Anniversary in a few hours~! 

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Monday, June 10, 2013

30 Day Weight-Loss, Fitness Success, Guaranteed!

So shhhhh: we are down to HOURS before we board an airplane, bound first for Niagara, then days later, Ontario. Jonathan and I will stay at the Niagara Sheraton with a view of the Falls where we plan to ride the Maid in the Mist!

Oh stop, not that kind of ride. The mariner kind. We’re doing a pre-wedding vacance and viewing the Falls from the ship, Maid In The Mist. Before I continue ‘speaking over your head’ let me teach you of all things nautical. This vessel is named “maiden” because, as pirates know, all ships are female, although no female may board a pirate ship – and although Maid In the Mist endured many a seafaring journey, ours will not be her Maiden Voyage.

But that is not what today’s post is about.

Today’s post is about how I can FIT inside my Mother Of The Groom dress, after it went missing for 48 hours.

I am not kidding. 

Recall Glinda, the Good Witch Seamstress Hoarder who took my dress last weekend for alterations? Her job was to hoist the mainsail, batten the hatches and shiver me timbers, remember?

After being unable to get Glinda to answer her phone six times on the day my dress was due for pick-up, or 22 times the day AFTER, Jonathan and I drove to her house.  

I was the one who broke into it.

I am not kidding.

She didn’t answer the doorbell or my knocking or the shouting-out of her name through the screen door.

Glinda doesn't lock her doors because Glinda is a hoarder and can’t find her door-locks.

After knocking and ringing and shouting, I eventually ‘pushed’ the screen door to see if it might open. When it did, I peered around like a guilty home invader because that is what I was.  But I decided to pretend I was the star investigator in an episode of CSI.  I even brought along a scarf to wrap around my nose to mask the smell of de-comp.

I was also ready to write out a check to the decedent’s family for alterations -- but I  didn’t know Glinda's last name (it is White. She is Glinda the White) -- then I’d plow through all the Hoarder Rooms until I found my dress, feed her 37 cats because God knows how long Glinda’s been dead, then spirit myself and the dress to the gangster-getaway car Jonathan was idling magnificently, at the curbside.

I couldn’t have been more proud of him for being my criminal accomplice.

As he waited for me to rouse or unearth Glinda, he crouched all low-down in the seat... wearing a hoodie -- one arm on the steering wheel doing the gangsta lean.  His friends Melinda and John had just sent him an early birthday present and they went PERFECTLY with his crime spree:  sleek mirror-finish sunglasses.

Having never been a mother of the groom before, I did not realize the depths to which a mother will plummet to acquire her missing dress. Lifting a car off a crushed toddler? Foreplay. I'd have lifted Glinda’s Hoarder House off its foundation, rummaged through her bloated, leaking corpse for my dress, then dug out her nail-beds for trace-evidence of blue fabric proving she had, in fact, hoisted its mainsail and battened its hatch.

Turned out this was unnecessary.

Glinda finally answered my signature-screams in her squeaky I GUESS I FELL ASLEEP [by my cocktail-trough surrounded by 70 cat skeletons] Voice ... "Yes yes yes I'm coming" and anyway – the POINT is that she didn’t even notice my hair.

One of the surprises in this post … shhhh … is only PARTLY my amazing nuclear blue rhinestone infested sleevless strapless backless floor-length slattern-dress.

The other is my hair.  I had it shorn … like a sheep … then dyed to match my plutonium dress.  No, really!  Just not in blue.  I dyed it plutonium platinum, jet-black, neon mauve, with lowlights of ash, cherry and oak.

From the out-of-doors, onlookers viewing me breaking into Glinda’s house would have seen the back of my head.  Here is an action-shot captured by my husband from the getaway car using a telephoto lens.  It is blurry because I am busy breaking into Glinda’s house.

The last time Glinda saw my hair, it was two feet long, light brown, with a few highlights.

It is now the color and length of a disco calico cat.

Once I realized we’d dropped off the dress in a heat wave last weekend -- so I'd put my hair in a ponytail with beige clamp -- I forgave Glinda for not noticing my new cut and color.

After I retrieved my dress and forced Glinda to study my hair, she told me she, herself, had ALSO just cut her hair!  Only she meant this literally.  With pinking shears.  Bent over her sink. 

This, in fact, was the reason Glinda was unconscious when I tried to rouse her by phone and by rattling her foyer door and screaming her name at the top of my lungs.

You probably recall that Glinda the Seamstress has magical breasts that grow a sixteenth of an inch, each week, since the day she got married 45 years ago. She is like Rapunzel. So when she stood back up, she kinda lost her balance. 

Fortunately, she fell into one of her piles of hoarder prayer rugs and was uninjured.  But while she was down there, she decided it was pretty darned comfy, so off she went to a different hoarder room to nap on other prayer rugs.

First thing I did in the car was huff the dress to see if it smelled like rug dust, or prayers, or cat pee.

 Weirdly, it still smelled like Lord and Taylor’s!  Thank you, Lord and Taylor, for smelling like expensive, elegant joy.  Amen.

The dress looks great...  I tried it on at home – there was no room for me to move my arms in Glinda’s house, due to the 6-foot stacks of things like silver tea pots and prayer rugs.  Getting this garment on requires a great deal of arm flailing and shimmying.

In the comfort of my stack-free home, I shimmied it on and it is very clear that in the 35 days since I tried it on at Lord and Taylor, my excess poundage from a sad run-in with Italian Cookies has melted off.

Now, I use the phrase “melted off” tongue-in-cheek. This discredits the hard work I‘ve put in to meet my fitness goals. I have been on a stringent workout routine.  Due to a recent elbow-tendon tear from a foolish choice to skip the warm-up and stretches prior to operating a manual can opener, my physical therapist has me on a brutal regimen where I squeeze a stress-ball SIX times, and place a rubber band around my finger tips and ‘OPEN, close, OPEN close’ ANOTHER six.  I do two sets of each.  Every day.

It has been EXHAUSTING.

Then came “legs.” 

This I performed without the assistance of a physical therapist, which I regret. Eight days ago, I shopped for new shoes for FOUR HOURS and you cannot tell me that marathon runners don’t train by shoe shopping at Marshall’s.  Bending over and standing back up between 40 and 300 times in four hours works EVERYTHING. Glutes, hamstrings, quads, core. 

The actual walking in stilettos for 30 miles was more like ‘the cool down’ -- so I won’t even mention it.

All last week my body was SO sore, it was all I could do to use my stress ball and rubber band.  But I forced myself.  I knew it was important.

Hey, so in kinesiology, I learned that my workouts consist of both “positive” and “negative” forces.  SQUEEZING the stress-ball, for example, is a positive force.  RELEASING it is a negative.  Same with the rubber band.  Some people call ‘negatives’ “resistance training.” 

For DAYS, I have been a positive and negative force and resistance machine.

PLUS, my health and fitness routine involved working out VERY hard to not eat. This is the crowning-achievement in resistance / negative training.

After absconding with my dress yesterday, Jonathan and I resisted the negative desire to buy and eat frosted cat treats at the Pet Store we were at.  We were STARVING. Our spoiled cat Bridgette does not do well being abandoned for a week, so to ply her into not knocking down lamps while we are in Ontario for our son’s wedding, we shopped at a specialty store to get her ‘the good food’ and the ‘best treats’ – and even Swheat Scoops.  Her favorite litter.

Neither of us was prepared for the display of dog and cat cookies. They put Lofthause to shame. 

As I salivated all over the glass counter, the store owner said, “I know. They really DO look delicious! By the way, sugar cookies are on sale next door at Shaw’s!” 

“Oh gosh, we can’t.  We have a wedding in six days so, we’re busy not eating.”

“Ha ha ha…   Being ‘busy’ not eating, I love that.”

She had no idea how much work this is. 

Every time an advertisement for a Whopper or Taco Bell Grande comes on, we had to GET OFF THE SOFA and leave the room.

Bending down to acquire ice to freshen our lime and lemon seltzer beverages involved flexibility and endurance.  It’s better than YOGA.

And shopping for lemons, and slicing them up?  Well.  I don’t want to run on about our collective physique.  We’ll be flaunting ourselves all over Ontario soon enough and I will taunt you with pictures in a week.

Meanwhile, before I go squeeze a stress ball, I want to share one last thing: poor Abby eats what we do so... now I have to alter HER gown.

My nerves are shattered from Glinda so I am going to do these alterations myself.  It’s not for my own dress so I won't get nervous and stick myself and bleed on the fabric.  Although, because I am now a professional felon   breaking into Glinda’s house and stealing vinyl Hazmat gloves last Tuesday at Dana Farber  – I can sew up the side of her dress so it’s more snug, and IF I stick myself, the glove won’t permit a breach!

Now that I've boosted chemotherapy gloves, I can probably get rid of the Neosporin and Band-aids in my sewing box and make room for more spools of thread.

Let this be a lesson:  crime DOES pay, I CAN sew, shaving then dying my hair purple, black and white to go with my atomic-blue rhinestone backless, sleeveless dress were GREAT ideas for my first Mother Of The Groom wedding, and combining a rubber band, lemon seltzer water and missing-dress stress CAN result in a tip-top (or 'topsy-turvy') physique in less than 30 days!

See you in a week.  



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Saturday, June 8, 2013

Excuse Me... I've Got a WEDDING to Squeeze Into

First of all, I want you to know that the subject of today’s post was not of my doing.  Several bloggers and actual human beings started this conversation days ago. 

The subject is bodily appendages that must be decorated for special occasions. I think everyone is caught up, of course, that our oldest son Nick is getting married in a week, so ‘tis the season to decorate our appendages! 

My next-door-neighbor, Sue, for example, just visited me sporting a new hole in her nose with a precious gem inside it! 

Coincidentally, seconds before her visit, I had been on Darcy Perdue’s blog, 'So Then,' where she was discussing her husband's Father’s Day gift.  She was thinking of buying him an …  appendage sock

It was a joke gift, but what resulted was no laughing matter. It seems the appendage-sock is being marketed as Bathing Suit Apparel for men, and Darcy would like equal opportunity. So Darcy invented a sort of … breast thong.  An appendage sock for women so we may avoid pulleys, winches and flying buttress-straps in the heat of the summer.  Just wear the breast sock.  Or two.  To the beach.

She did not discuss what women might wear as beach-accoutrement on their lower half. But I gave it thought whilst shopping yesterday for wedding-relevant hosiery to adorn my legs and those of my daughter, Abigail, for her brother Nick’s wedding.

Deep within a Mouldering Hosiery Clearance Bin resided four boxes of something called The Buty-Pad:  rubberized underpants with pads on the buttock-haunch for booties needing special-occasion enhancement.  An underpant for the disabled derriere. 

Which reminded me of my friend Emily, who writes blogs such as urban mermaid and insomniac's kitchen, because Emily had just sent me a Calvin Trillin quote: “Recently. . . describing the tendency of older men’s hindquarters to flatten out, I spoke of a condition called D.T.S. — Disappearing Tush Syndrome — and mentioned that it could cause an otherwise respectable senior citizen to walk right out of his pants. So far, nobody else has mentioned D.T.S. Still, there’s time.”

Emily and I went on to discuss a variety of similar disappearances:  triceps replaced by papery arm-dangle, days before one's son gets married, from the makers of Invasion of the Buty-Snatcher.

Height disappears as well.  I learned this at my doctor's office two days ago. To be 'at my best' for Nick’s Nuptials, my physician and I agreed to find a festive beta-blocker to reduce my blood pressure and my 'special myeloma-thoughts' (the wedding is coinciding with my husband’s new anti-myeloma treatment with a JUST-approved drug that sometimes -- as in almost never -- causes cardiac death… which it has NOT, of course, caused. Meanwhile, all of this has made my blood pressure ‘festive.’) 

My blood pressure, however, pales by comparison to the number of inches-in-height I apparently no longer am.

A new computer program at my doctor's office spits out everything in hard copy from each visit, which gets presented to me by my physician, her assistant, the vital-signs nurse, facilities management staff and the booking secretary when I try to leave after giving her my co-pay.  "Wait.  Please take a copy of today's visit-data."  "But I already--"  "TAKE IT!!!"

In case I lose any of the five sets provided, they thoughtfully mail out a fresh one within 24 hours.

I have been witness to the same data-set six times in 48 hours -- so the evidence is irrefutable.  In two years I have lost one inch.  That's eleventy-two THOUSAND micrometers.

Fortunately, I have Emily to find "counter-balance" to all this vertebral and tricep shrinkage. According to Emily, there is a percentage of women who, as they enter their 60s, acquire fresh, new cleavage!

Just when my buttocks atrophy to pita-depth and spinal discs compress to the consistency of my tub’s drain flange, I can look forward to having what looks like a second ass on my chest. 

It seems to be a question of migration.

I even MET someone who discussed this phenomenon the same day that Emily did! I will call her Glinda.  Because she is a witch.  She can use needle-and-thread to make magic happen on a mother-of-the groom dress.

Glinda is the seamstress who came highly recommended by our Dry Cleaner, and if you can’t trust the folks who use toxic waste on fine silk, who can you trust to create counter-balance for atrophied parts?

In 24-48 hours, I will pick up my Mom O’Groom dress, professionally altered by Glinda. (Oh, when I was growing up, we never referred to 'neutering' or 'spaying' animals.  We had dogs 'altered' -- like my dress.)

Glinda is somewhere between 67 and 74, claims to have shrunk three inches since high school, has five cats and could star in an episode of Hoarders.  I love her.

When Glinda and I discussed how ‘we’ would ‘alter’ my dress and its breastplate and the spot where it plunges toward Cuba, I explained, “I am not a fan of cleavage.  I want the bodice to rise ABOVE anything Moses might part.”

Glinda smiled knowingly. "Honey, up top in high school -- all I wanted was a little 'more.’ I was a late bloomer.  But after I got married, I blossomed.  Then I continued to blossom – and look at me now.  Oy.”  We paused to marvel at her breasts which were, indeed, formidable. 

I decided that Glinda was just the right person to sew up my cleavage.  How could I go wrong with someone whose mother-of-groom advice included,  "And practice a lot of exhaling this week. You've got a WEDDING to squeeze into."

We're also shortening the straps to hike the bodice.  I described this in my earlier post as an anti-gravity maneuver. But as a professional seamstress, Glinda refers to this as 'precision hoisting.'  "It's gotta be perfect.  Too high, and there could be slippage... right under the built-in bra. But too low and the whole bodice droops like an abandoned dog's eyes.  The ASPCA has Sarah McLachlan for marketing, but YOU? You have a wedding!"

Therefore, Glinda shall hoist the straps and breastplate so everything rises above the masses. 

I love Glinda, her attitude toward cleavage and her house that has JUST enough space for a 'pathway' from her foyer to the dining room. I have no idea where she's going to perform the stitchery magic.  I think a secret room BEHIND the area we were in.  One even more crowded. Glinda seems to be a collector of silver tea pots, silver necklaces and prayer rugs.  Perhaps she used to be an Arabian Vampire Slayer.  Dozens of rugs were all folded neatly and stacked against a wall adjacent to the crowded table that housed my gown, now glistening with silver pins.  Probably pure silver.

Thank goodness for Glinda and her compressed stature with ample cleavage she hates.  She will help mine be appropriately decorated for this special occasion. And now if you'll excuse me, I have to practice exhaling because I have a WEDDING to squeeze into. 

Hey, thanks to the makers of The Buty-Pad and the  $*&@  Sock for helping me understand it is my duty to enhance appendages for special occasions. And Special-Occasion Thanks to Darcy Perdue for the breast-sock concept that inspired my nautical-dress hoisting.  Avast and shiver me chips ahoy...  this sleeveless dress be chilly.  Arrrrr.

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