Wednesday, June 30, 2010

STAY GOLD AND WRITE LIGHTLY

A person's education may vary immensely depending upon the schools that were attended, what priority education played in the person's life and how that person defines education in general. For me, education was not only accomplished by going to school and reading books, it was accomplished in a much broader sense. I viewed life as an educational process that would end with my last breath.

At a very young age, I developed a curiosity that has certainly tested many boundaries. I read, explored and ventured out beyond my yard to find myself and see what the world had to offer. At first, the journey was new and exciting. Even the obstacles were fun and challenging. Often times, I felt like there wasn't anything I couldn't do if I set my mind to it. I think my delusions of grandeur started to fade as I learned about life...how things really are and not how they should be. It's certainly easy to see an injustice, but how many people actually can say they have righted a wrong on some huge scale? Certainly not me! The closest I can say I came was by participating in groups that advocated change in various ways.

My logic always seemed to follow that if enough people got together for a common cause, then they can change anything. I grew up believing that when my generation was old enough to be in a position of power, the world would change and be a better place. It was great in theory, but that's not how it happened. The intense passion my generation felt at one time mellowed in time. We all got older, some of us grew wiser and some became part of the machine that runs life as we know it now. Is the world a better place? In some ways I can say yes, but in many ways I have to say that life has become more complicated, harder to manage and more difficult to find individual freedom and happiness. It's as if as we age we lose something other than just youth. Do we lose the spirit, the fire that once burned within us?

I think back to a time when that flame burned bright. I think of all the people I knew and have to admit, it's those people who know me best. They are my roots. They are the people with whom I shared the upheaval of youth. They saw me blossom, become curious and explore... we learned about life, love, happiness, disappointment, death and how each day is really a new beginning. We learned how some clichés are true and those that touched our lives we kept with us...

I read The Outsiders when I was much younger and one thing I took with me from that book was the concept of "staying gold". As I grew older I forgot how incredibly right it felt to depart by telling someone to "stay gold and write lightly". Today I was reminded that staying gold is all about what happens within the mind and not the body. Yes, we all will age, grow old and someday die, but until that time, each of us can and must stay gold.

Gratitude statement: I have organized a reunion for the people who grew up in my old neighborhood in Maine. In August, we will come together, laugh, cry and pay tribute to the good old days and to the people who are no longer with us. I'm grateful for the 9 hours I will be amongst these kindred spirits.

All gibberish within ©2004-2010 Mildred Ratched Memoirs.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

In celebration of Gay Pride Month, here is an entry originally written and posted in 2005 on my original blog, Abnormally Normal People.

The cage bird sings for freedom. It sings as a disguise. It sings because if it remains silent, it will fade away and die. Many times I have tried to place myself in other people's shoes especially those people who feel as if they have to hide or cover up who they really are or conceal the lifestyle they have chosen to live because they fear the stigma and rejection attached to it. I grew up being the black sheep of the family, but even the antics of a black sheep doesn't come close to type of reaction created by someone who is homosexual. I can almost understand why some people try to lead a straight life, be something they are not and never feel comfortable enough to reveal who they really are. The inner turmoil must be devastating. Yes, I know all those who say horrific things about homosexuality. I've heard all the arguments...all the pros and cons!!! I guess my views on the subject allow me to see the person as a human being and not as some perverted demon or freak of nature.

Several years ago my mother made a strange statement to me one day. She told me that I had changed her views on homosexuals. Me? I'm straight....how did I do that? She asked me if I remembered the day I first learned that one of my female cousins was a lesbian. I thought back to that day over 30 years ago and remembered what an uproar within the family that announcement had caused. Hey, at the time I probably felt relieved because the focus wasn't on me and the gossip was centered elsewhere! Yes, I remember being told! My mother asked me if I remembered what I said to her when she told me about my cousin. I thought back, but I couldn't remember my initial reaction. My mother refreshed my memory by telling me that I informed everyone in the room that my cousin was the same person as she was the day before they all knew she was a lesbian. As far as I was concerned, nothing had changed.

My mother said my words stuck with her and she knew what I had said was true. She stopped labeling my cousin and allowed her to continue being the person we always knew her to be. That acceptance broadened in time and allowed my mother to view others with different preferences and lifestyles as being just as human as she is and it made me smile knowing the black sheep can be pretty sagely at times!

Gratitude statement: I'm truly thankful for being able to view people's differences as differences and not in terms of making one person better than another.

All gibberish within ©2004-2010 Mildred Ratched Memoirs.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

THE FIRST CUT IS THE DEEPEST

Several years ago, I started having bouts of back pain lasting from a few hours to a few weeks. Also, the intensity of the pain would fluctuate. At times, I was unable to bend to tie my own shoes or even maneuver getting dressed without being helped. Other times, I just felt stiff and less flexible than I had been in years past. Being the stubborn person I am and having a Wonder Woman complex, I refused to slow down or seek medical help to find out what was wrong until the problem started to effect the quality of my life. My symptoms gradually worsened until the pain had gotten to the point of not being able to ignore.

About 7 years ago, I noticed that not only was I suffering from chronic pain, but I was also losing strength in my arms and at times, my arms and hands had no sensation at all. Not only was my strength being effected, but I was also experiencing a deficit in my fine motor skills like being able to grasp a pen to sign a check. This may seem like a simple task to most people, but for someone whose “wiring” was being effected, the task seemed to be as challenging as climbing a mountain.

Anyone familiar with the pain chart that hangs in most examining rooms, my pain never dips below a 5 and hovers most of the time in the 6-7 range. The fact of the matter is that I never have a completely pain free moment. At least once or twice a week my pain level spikes higher than a 7. What most people ask is how I deal with being in constant pain. I think anyone suffering from chronic pain grows accustomed to the pain over time. We learn to block it out and to function anyway we can. It isn’t until the times when my pain spikes that I am acutely aware just how much I truly hurt.

When I finally had gotten to the point of accepting that whatever was wrong with me was not going to improve without medical attention; I sought advice from my family doctor. She ordered a MRI and x-ray. Based on the results of those two tests, she referred me to pain management and then to a neurosurgeon. The following things were revealed on my Radiology Consultation Report:

1.Reversed cervical curvature (it looks like my head was put on backwards and no, I wasn't Linda Blair's stunt woman in The Exorcist)

2.Herniated/bulging discs

3.Spondylosis

4.Spondyloarthropathy

5.Bone spurs

6.Spinal stenosis

7.Pinched nerves

8.Scoliosis

The pain management doctor, looked at my MRI and x-rays, examined me and then concluded he doubted that epidurals (shots given to block nerve impulses) would work in my case because I had too many things going on at once. I immediately made an appointment with the neurosurgeon because I was at the point of understanding why some people commit suicide who suffer from chronic pain. He scheduled me for more tests before he set me up with a surgery date. The myelogram and CT scan were supposed to help him pinpoint which disks were the worst ones because he didn’t want to repair all of them. He explained that 6 of my 7 cervical disks were bad and that my most severe problems were located in my cervical region. If he repaired all of the damaged disks, I would have no mobility left in my neck.

The thought of surgery and a 3-month recovery period didn’t thrill me, but I did what I thought was necessary at the time to ease my pain. Two disks were removed, bone fusions were done and a titanium implant was screwed into my neck to keep the bone fusions in place and give my neck some additional stability. The procedure is called an anterior cervical discectomy. Looking back at the whole thing, I know having surgery again is out of the question. Is that a result of an unsuccessful surgery? To be honest with you, I don‘t know if my surgery was an unsuccessful or not due to all the other spinal problems I have.

My advice to anyone facing surgery is to explore alternative options and to get a second opinion before undergoing surgery. Try pain management and physical therapy as a first step. If those things offer no relief, then go to Plan B and ask your surgeon LOTS of questions like what is his success rate, how long is the recovery period, does your surgeon follow up with your progress at certain time intervals post-op, how long is the surgery and hospital stay and what will your long term limitations be as a result of having the surgery done? In my case, I have seen no real benefits from having had surgery because I am virtually back at square one.

Several years later and after getting to know several people who have had similar surgeries, I regret having surgery. I feel as though any repair work done on the spine causes a domino effect. The places above and below the site that are repaired weaken over time. Some people I know have had up to 7 surgeries and if anything, their condition has slowly worsened. About every 18 months, another surgery is required.

Gratitude statement: I am thankful I have reached a place in my life where I can cope with chronic pain without the aid of anything, but learning to redirect my thoughts so I don't constantly dwell on the source of my pain.

All gibberish within ©2004-2010 Mildred Ratched Memoirs.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

DEFINING MOMENTS

Friday was a yoyo inspector day. One of the things we discussed was how one event can alter the course of your life forever. With that being the rule of thumb, I must admit I've had many defining moments. With out them, I have to wonder who and what I might be today. Without them, I believe I would have been a little more focused and wouldn't have spent a lifetime aimlessly wandering, but I like to think of myself as a late bloomer who will eventually find her niche.

Ten years ago, I was in my senior year when my father first got ill. At that time, I was working full time and carrying a full load at school. Because my father and I were business partners, I had to keep the business going by becoming two people in his absence which left me virtually no time for school. Although I made the right decision, it was a decision that made going back to school just a pipe dream.

Now, I'm in the process of trying to make it happen for myself again. I'm trying to get that wind back in my sails. I'm trying to regain that "I can do anything I set my mind to" attitude. Perhaps this time I'll set a goal for myself and actually reach it.

Gratitude statement: Although skeptical at first about whether therapy would help me, I have to admit it has led me to a place I doubt I would have gotten to by myself. For that I have to say, "thank you Amelia".

All gibberish within ©2004-2010 Mildred Ratched Memoirs.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

MILDRED'S SPAWN

With all the generalizations I can make about family structure and relationships, I have to admit I stepped outside the box a time or two by encouraging my children to think for themselves and make decisions based on the available facts. I always believed a person does not develop problem-solving skills unless they are allowed to reason through situations and think for themselves. I tried to guide my children without taking control of every situation unless taking control was actually needed. Sometimes, but not often I had to step in and use my MOTHER trump card. I also, encouraged them to develop their own opinions and to stand up for the issues in which they strongly believed.

They had the advantage of having a mother who allowed them to do much more than most children were allowed to do. You might wonder how that worked out and if they took advantage of my liberalism and leniency. I can easily answer that by saying my whole parental philosophy was centered on the premise "if you act stupid, you'll be treated stupid." As long as their decisions and actions reflected intelligence and some forethought, then life was a like a bowl full of cherries...without the stems and stones! Let me say that I believe my children respect me and not because respect is something expected, but earned. They see I'm someone who can admit when I’m wrong and when I give advice, it's given from my heart and based upon my own experiences. I don't believe in "just do it because I said so” or “just do it and don't ask any questions". So now, as adults, they are people who can give even when the odds are stacked against them. They can love without hesitation and withhold judgment until the jury deliberates.

Gratitude statement: As difficult as it was raising my children primarily as a single parent, I have to admit in many ways I am thankful that butting heads with someone with an opposite parental philosophy wasn't in the mix.

All gibberish within ©2004-2010 Mildred Ratched Memoirs.

Friday, June 11, 2010

HOW DO YOU DEFINE PHYSICAL BEAUTY?

We are taught from a very young age to revere physical beauty. It isn't until we get much older that we figure out it's inner beauty that matters most. That interim time we spend soothing our eyes with what we consider aesthetically pleasing is often times accompanied by mending our broken hearts. For most of us, those wasted days we’ve spent with "eye candy" pales in comparison to the real thing. I think it's a travesty that people are coerced by society into developing meaningless preferences for their most intimate relationships based upon what a person looks like and not what type of character they have.

We overlook anything that may have depth just to possess beauty for a fleeting moment. We’re so hoodwinked into believing that outer beauty is the important thing. We’re not told that physical beauty wanes with age and then in hindsight during some brief moment of clarity, we suddenly get it. Aging no longer seems scary when vanity is put into its proper perspective. Gray hair and wrinkles no longer are dreaded. Some people wear them well and like a fine wine, they become better with age.

Many people alter their appearance thinking that a youthful appearance might grant them the key to happiness by cheating the aging process when in reality all it does is buy their plastic surgeon's a Porsche and helps put his children through college. So why does aging scare people? Why do we feel less desirable? When we turn 50 is it really necessary to look 30 in order to feel the happiness we so desperately seek?

Vanity is such a powerful force that rules supreme from our early years right up until the time we realize vanity is a waste of time. Physical beauty is so subjective and filled with individual preferences. If asked to name the three most beautiful women in the world and the three most handsome men, the list would vary from person to person. What we might find out by comparing lists is how we differ in our definition of physical beauty.

No wonder so many teens develop eating disorders and remain confused and unsatified with their appearance for years. When beauty is defined in terms of the picture below, what we strive for is not only unhealthy, but is a hideous facade as well. The picture features a model who looks anorexic. Because most of us have too much meat on our bones, it makes us ugly by society’s standards. Yes, physical beauty is governed by our preferences. What looks hot to one person might make someone else run away in search of a paper bag and a Phenergan suppository.

Gratitude statement: After looking at this picture, it makes me thankful vanity has passed me by and the only use I want a paper bag for is to cover this lost soul until she gains alittle weight.

All gibberish within ©2004-2010 Mildred Ratched Memoirs.

4TH DOWN AND INCHES TO GO

I grew up the kid sister of 3 jocks. Being in that position and growing up in a rather small town, it gave me a certain celebrity status that I hated. From the time I became interested in the opposite sex, I was faced with the dilemma of "Oh, you're Brian's or Jeff's or Carl's baby sister!"

You see, no one appeared to want to chance my brother's wrath by appearing interested in me. I learned clever tricks like losing my last name and becoming just "Karen" at an early age. As a result of being the youngest and only girl, I also developed a keen sense of what men are really like at an early age. I never went through a giggly stage or one that I was shy around boys. I learned early on that in order to survive a few things were necessary:

1) Be fearless and adventurous

2) Stay 2 steps ahead of them or else you'll get trampled to death

3) Learn to love sports, so you'll never be a "football widow"

My love of sports has carried on throughout my life and now, I can look back and see that what I was learning went so much deeper than developing a love of sports. The real lesson I learned was to find things in common with a potential mate. I've always remained open to trying new things and have felt my horizons were broadened by having an open mind. Whether it's watching the World Series on TV, being in a stadium during a football game, camping out under the stars in some remote spot or attending opening night at some new art gallery each event has brought me a certain amount of pleasure by simply allowing myself to soak in the moment.

Gratitude statement: When I see how narrow life has made some people, I'm thankful that life has always made me more compassionate and open to new and different things.

All gibberish within ©2004-2010 Mildred Ratched Memoirs.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

MY KIND OF NORMAL

Does anyone have what might be considered a normal, well-adjusted family or is the well-adjusted family just another myth or figment of some psychologist's overactive imagination? Are more people products of the Hatfields and McCoys mentality than being from the endangered species list with a name like Walton, Huxtable or Cleaver? I often wonder if anyone has a solid foundation and basis from which to boast about their lineage like some perfect award-winning thoroughbred that wins all the blue ribbons year after year.

Life eventually teaches us that all families have strange uncles and skeletons meant to be kept in the closet. We all have black sheep and over-achievers. We have myths and legends. We have teetotalers and drunks! We all have those outspoken individuals who proudly stand up and defend the family name any chance they can. We have people who cringe in embarrassment whenever any family story is revealed to any outsider.

Whether our families are too conservative or too liberal, the grass is always greener on the neighbor’s lawn and their strange uncle always makes our strange uncle look as goofy as Uncle Fester from The Addams Family! Some feel their family members are like a bunch of Neanderthals who function solely from some crude, fundamental set of ethics that can be summed up as "dog eat dog" or “the survival of the fittest”…or in some cases, the survival of the most redneck.

The norm amongst family members seems to be that we take each other for granted, don't trust each other's judgment and forget to say I love you until it's too late. Families rarely assess its relationship dynamics and rarely feel the need to improve their communication skills unless it's to see who can scream the loudest or who can spit out the best insults.

Families seem to learn a certain status quo and only rock the boat during a crisis. Families can exist in a rut for years because they see no need to fix something unless it's completely broken. Then the repair is only as complex as putting a band-aid on a gaping wound...if it stops the bleeding, no one sees the need for any further attention unless the wound turns red and starts to ooze from neglect. Most wounds are treated superficially and are subject to a rather slow and inefficient healing process due to the lack of care the wound has received. TLC is more like WTF when dealing with hurt feelings and relationships amongst family members.

Gratitude statement: Although I hate to admit that these things describe my birth family to a tee, the relationship I have with my children is much different. I'm thankful for stopping history from repeating itself.

All gibberish within ©2004-2010 Mildred Ratched Memoirs.

Friday, June 04, 2010

GOOD VIBRATIONS

I remember one time my mother started ranting about my brother and his wife planning a trip from Maine to Florida on his Harley. My mother is from the old school where camping out includes room service, the man always initiates any action and nice girls don't give head. Listening to her talk about her "wild days" is hilarious because it makes me realize just what the sexual revolution did for the world... that is, besides increase the spread of STD's and increase the number of unwed mothers in the world.

My mother went on and on about their road trip with the highpoint of her whole rant being a vivid description of the condition their asses would be in after driving that far. I listened intently and just as I was about to add my two cents worth, I decided against it. I told her that I was going to behave myself. She looked at me in utter disbelief and asked when had I ever behaved myself.

[GOOD POINT, MOTHER!]

I simply went on to enlighten her that riding on a Harley was like having a 600-pound vibrator between your legs and that I didn't believe my brother's wife would mind that long drive at all. In fact, I thought she'd greet all of us with a big smile!

[VROOM... VROOM... VROOM...]

Gratitude statement: I'm thankful for growing up in the era I did because I know the beauty of sleeping out under the stars far away from room service, I know I don't have to wait for the man to initiate anything and I know nice girls do give head, but they say they don't swallow!

All gibberish within ©2004-2010 Mildred Ratched Memoirs.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

THE PRINCESS AND THE NOOK

What started out as being diagnosed as an ovarian cyst, grew arms, legs and developed a head with a brain directly connected to a mouth. Thirty-five years ago, I gave birth to a cyst that grew into being a full blown princess! This princess didn't utter "momma" as her first words...the word "MINE" was her very first word and she demonstrated that she concretely grasped the concept of ownership at a very early age.

Today, my daughter is the proud owner of a NOOK which she named Nookie Nook. Nookie also is adorned with an apple green suede cover. With a photo my daughter took of her son, (my ONLY grandchild) the other day as wallpaper, Nookie is ready to supply hours of unadulterated pleasure. It truly is the perfect gift for an avid reader who has limited space to hold countless books. Nookie holds up to 15,000 ebooks which can be shared with other NOOK owners.

As she petted it and pulled it out several times to look at it during lunch, I realized I had gotten her just the right gift (but I always do)...

Gratitude statement: A simple smile and the sparkle in my daughters eyes when she's happy is enough to light up the whole world. I'm thankful for being able to make that happen every now and then!

All gibberish within ©2004-2010 Mildred Ratched Memoirs.