Two Little Girls in Green Dresses and…

This is about two little girls in green dresses, families, a school dance and how it changed lives, and its reverberations.

Amazingly, at least to me, this story starts 50 years ago.

I grew up in Levittown in the era of large families.  It was a time of stricter Catholicism and an innocent optimism. Birth control was restricted and popping a pill was not yet a common thing. There were these huge, iconic families with children in every grade. People said that Levittown looked alike.  It wasn’t the houses.  It was the children, families of  little rubber stamps.  About 10 years ago, I went to a party of Levittown people.  One of the men asked, “Do you know who I am?”  An interesting question that I have heard throughout the years. There were at least 3 – 4 of them, one older than me, one my age, one my brother’s “You are one of the P brothers.”  We all laughed and he told me which one he was.  He was my age.

Another family was the Gs.  I don’t know how many there were but there was my age and brackets. B had a crush on  me when he was in kindergarten and I must have been in third grade.  Upon seeing me at a reunion decades later, he asked, “Don’t you feel anything between us?” “Yes, I do.  Your wife.”  His brother T was/is my age.  The family was large, popular and unbridled.  I remember Mrs. G writing a letter to the local paper about her children being able to look into what passed for a strip club at the time, at 9:30 at night!  My thought was why were they out then when that was my bedtime.  T was popular and arrogant with that teenage boy swagger.

He was part of a crowd of those boys.  Every school has them, in every year.  They band together in their adorable cuteness.  Girls love them, for the most part unrequitedly.  Teachers pander to them in order for their classes to be unencumbered with chaos and testosterone. They rule the halls, the classrooms and the schoolyards for that brief, shining moment in their lives.  It’s been my experience, for the most part, that those charmed boys and girls, once school is behind us, morph into fatness, polyester and, for the guys, baldness. I had liked T in 2nd and 3rd grade but outgrew it.  By the time junior high school rolled around, I steered clear of him and those boys. They weren’t part of my world and I didn’t want them to be.

I met Sue(no initials here, we share the same name) in the fall of 9th grade. She had transferred from Catholic school.  We were introduced because we had the same name. 9th grade is a cusp between the child and the young adult.  We shared a name so we must have similarities. Well, we did both have brown hair, wore glasses and were “nice” girls.

There was a holiday dance that year.  These were simple affairs. It was in the cafeteria.  There may have been crepe paper.  The lighting was dimmed.  There were records with pop tunes.  I had attended the end of school dance the previous spring, worn white lipstick for the first time and had had fun with my friends.  We were nerds although the term was not in use then.  I believe we were known as  weirdos.  We were the advanced class and in many cases had known each other all our lives.  When you grow up as closely as that, you have a defined role and place.  However, there was still the remote possibility that things might change. A dance held magic, unnamed possibilities for a girl like me.  Glamour was an undercurrent. It was still the era where girls could not wear pants, let alone jeans to school.  Mini skirts had arrived but were not yet micro. 

The afternoon of the dance, E asked me if I wanted to go?  Sure. I didn’t take it as a date.  My first real date happened on the last day of 11th grade. I had known E since we were both  7.  He was funny and nice.  He liked comic books.  He was thin but was gaining a bit of weight  He was blond.  I don’t particularly care for blond guys.  Apparently, E saw it as a date, as I found out later.  We were driven separately.  In those days, once you arrived at the dance, you stayed.  Your coats were taken and left in the gym.  It was only E and I from our regular set that night.  As soon as the coats were locked and we entered the cafeteria, E had a severe asthma attack and had to go home. This apparently was brought on by the pressure of the “date”.  Instead of telling a teacher, we had come together which would have allowed me to call my parents and leave; I was adolescent, awkward. embarrassed and found myself to a folding metal chair at the edge of the dance floor.

I had been excited about going to this dance. It was an occasion.  Since, it was late notice, my mother let me wear her green sheath. Since it was hers,  I felt it was the height of sophistication.  She gave me a long chain necklace with green stones.  I had graduated from white lipstick to pearlized pink.  I have always had my own specific sense of style. In my mind’s eye, I was adult and glamorous. Teenagers at that time in Levittown went to Mays Department Stores for their clothes.  Everyone wore the same thing.  This was not me.  It accentuated my differences. The houses may not have been the same but at times, it appeared the people were uniform.  So, there I was in my version of sophistication, sitting on the edge of the dance floor, counting the hours and minutes until I could escape.  Counting the minutes is something that I later learned from Sue to do correctly.  A group of about three of those boys approached.  The only one I remember after all these years was the ringleader, T.  Those boys mocked me, asked me to dance, grabbed at me, made apelike motions.  It was awful.  I sat there, mortified. The chaperones didn’t materialize.  A was a stocky boy.  Boys are not fat.  A was middle of the road.  He was smart. A was also brave.  He stepped up to those boys.  “Leave her alone.  Just leave her alone.” They were stunned. And then, Sue swept in.  “You are in a green dress, so am I.  C’mon and dance with us.”  Sue was in a moss green chiffon dress that had been cut down, if I remember, from a wedding. An age of glamor, mystery and possibility. Two little girls in green dresses;  she led me by the hand to a circle of girls dancing .  The evening eventually ended.  I went home, cried hysterically and threw up.  My parents declared I was never to go to another dance again.  I never did until I reached college.

the green dress

It was the start of a decades long friendship for Sue and I.  She has taught me so much about how to live my life.  I carry those lessons with me. Counting the time lets me cope with infusions and MRIs.  Okay, I also sleep through MRIs. She taught me about connecting to life and to others.  Reaching out and being brave can change a life.

We ran into A at a reunion some years back and thanked him for that evening.  He remembered! He also remembered that he was slightly scared because he, too had to go against those boys.  It was the right thing to do. He is still a lovely man.

T is in my life.  We saw each other at our 10th reunion.  We spoke.  I met his wife.  He was adult as was I. Years later and I don’t remember how, he asked me to read a play he was writing and subsequently had produced.  He knew that I read tons and attended lots of theater.  We became distant friends on Facebook.

All three of us have faced  significant health issues and situations.  It has been a true and deep comfort to share with people who knew you when and before. We weren’t always broken.  When we talk, I picture us as we used to be. We are young and healthy.

T is now my health insurance broker yet we speak of many things.  “Of shoes — and ships — and sealingwax —. Of cabbages — and kings —. And why the sea is boiling hot —. And whether pigs have wings.”  We have a common past.  It’s not only a shared geographic past but of a certain time and place, a shared youth.  We have never spoken of that dance.  I don’t even believe he remembers it.  We talk of people.  And if you are reading this T, this is what I want to say, not what I should say. We have had conversations around that topic. I love that my life moved on and can still include that boy.

I recently came across that green dress.  Yes, I still have it although I had forgotten.  It looks so tiny.  It’s hard to imagine my mother wearing it; let alone me.  I kept it for all it represented to me – sophistication, pain, strength, deep and abiding friendship.  Two little girls in green dresses at a dance  and a lifetime.

In Which a Gypsy Contemplates Another Move

I lived with a man once who derogatorily declared that I was a gypsy and could move my life in a cargo van.  True.  But was that a bad thing?

I have moved very few times over my life and each time, the move has evolved and reflected where I am in life, not just physically. As I prepare to move again, I look back.  My days of gypsy moves are gone.  My youth has passed.  My mobility has become impaired.

I really didn’t move initially  in a real sense but lived away in college.  My second through fourth years were lived in Rogers House, a brick 4 story house across from the university.  It was a walkup. My first year there was on the 2nd floor.  It was emergency housing for me and I believe my friends helped me move in possessions and clothes. It was already furnished.  Every year, I had to leave and come back.  This involved travelling back and forth with my father only.  There was never enough room for my mother.  The third and fourth years, I lived on the fourth floor.  My father must have helped me.  I ran up and down those stairs several times a day.  It was a very modern apartment for the times. It had a trash compactor.  Well, as fit as we all were,  45 pounds of compacted trash were slightly beyond us.  We became known as “the girls with the garbage” because any time someone walked us home and walked up those four flights with expectations, they literally left with garbage.  I had to sit with hats on my lap in my father’s car when I left because there was no space. I can’t believe how easily I ran up and down those stairs and with stuff.  Who knew 40 years later that I would not be able to manage unaided the two steps up to my home.

I came home to my parents  and stayed put for years.  My postal worker and I started to look for a place to live together.  We couldn’t come to an agreement so I found my own place.  It was the 2nd floor of a house.  I absconded with my bed, my parents’ black and white TV, my bedroom set which had been theirs originally and my childhood desk.  My brother must have done that move.  My boyfriend certainly did not.  I bought a room divider at Ikea and lifted it in pieces up the stairs.  I acquired a color TV and VCR one Black Friday  which I also lifted up myself.

I became engaged, not to the postal worker.  We rented a cottage in another town.  My fiance rented a cargo van.  His brother and my best friend came along to help.  We should have known there was trouble ahead when a piece of furniture couldn’t get out the door. D’uh, take the door off the hinges.  Girls knew about that?  Yes, “girls” in their thirties knew that.  Girls had their own tools provided by their fathers and girls knew how to remove hinges.  A van and two packed Escort hatchbacks did the job.

Of course, the marriage was doomed. My brother knew this the night of the wedding when he came back to the cottage and I announced, “This is John’s room and over here is my room.”  I became almost clinically depressed.  My father said he would not help me with the move.  I had to hire a mover even though I was broke.  I packed 17 boxes and piled then in the living room before my then husband realized I was serious.  The mover expressed condolences to me on dealing with my parents and said “I give you three months.”  It was more like three years.  My father had cleared the garage for me and then decided he needed it back.  Rent storage space; load up the Escort and stack boxes.

Next move.  I met a man my parents detested; he of the gypsy comment.  He rented the cargo van and I loaded the Escort up yet again. It was 1 floor.  It did not work out.  I quietly found an apartment on the top floor of a house and just as quietly began to move things out.  I did have a problem.  I needed someone to drive the van.  My friend had a business with workers who liked me.  They would help.  However, her husband said he liked the man and could not take sides.  I took the man out to dinner and he knew immediately I was leaving him.  He drove the van cementing forever his version of the gypsy life with the cargo van.  My friend’s workers met us and it was the easiest move I ever had.  

Next move was from that apartment into a home of my own with my new husband. His 18 year old son and friend helped.  Just worked part time for “Joe the Mover.” He borrowed a box van.  We couldn’t rent something to let him drive.  He was too young.  The box van didn’t do it.  I had every Bon Appetit from 1984 -2006.  I had to resort to “rent a wreck” and a cargo van.  And I drove it and it was easy.  There was a basement with “mad crazy stairs” and an upstairs.  I didn’t even take a day off from work.  It appeared my gypsy days at ended.  I had a husband, furniture and a mortgage.

As my condition progressed and the neighborhood deteriorated, it became apparent it was time to move on.  There were no more cargo vans in my future.  The projected move was out of state and to the South no less. Let’s be real, a move to another country, just one without a passport.  A real mover.  As much as I advocate change, I still consider move and pack ugly four letter words. Moving requires an evaluation of where you have been, where you are and where you think you are going.  The destination is never clear or defined until you actually alight.  It’s painful, at least to me. Think about the optimism when one starts.  There is a reason the move is taking place.  It is a leap into an unknown.  There are simple things such as “Will the sun still make my walls glow?”  What is the library really like?  What sounds do you hear in the still, quiet of an evening? Then the most important questions – “What do I take and what do I leave behind?

A good friend and I have had this discussion in terms of the migrant experience.  What do you take in your grip? And what’s left behind?  As I contemplated this move, I had to reflect yet again on my grandmother and what she brought with her; how she brought  it and what she left behind.  Grandma brought crystal, champagne glasses with stems so thin, they break if you breathe.  Only one is left.  Other crystal that was her mother’s.  Silver service for at least 36 people.  It was for a way of life that no longer existed.  Tea cups. undefined Vases.  Trinkets.  A crystal heart with a silver cover holding a lock of her dead sister’s hair. The silver sandwich tray that the servants would put sandwiches out for Sunday supper.  The paper cross that held the rose rosary beads given to her by my grandfather. undefined Pictures of relatives; some lost to the mists of memories.  What was left behind?  Fiestaware dishes.  A way of life.  Friends.  Family.  Home.undefined

So, I was faced to evaluate what was worth sixty cents a pound to me. Definitely most of my books.  My great-grandfather said that books are your best friends. They represent the times in my life. There are the childhood books: Heidi, The Secret Garden, A Little Princess, Little Women, the Bobbsey Twins. College: Victorian poets, Fanon, Marx, TS Eliot. Life: Cookbooks, Dickens, Rhys. I would be leaving my life behind. My umpteen sets of dishes for every occasion.  This is  a fetish inherited from my grandmother and filtered through me.  A dining room set that I had to acquire when I bought a home.  All of a sudden, I am no longer a cargo van gypsy but a woman of substance; of nearly 12,000 pounds of “stuff” and a tractor trailer.

And I could no longer lift things or pack  due to my condition.  No more footloose and fancy-free days for me. It’s sobering.  Is this “weight” I wanted?  What do I leave behind?  It’s a new era so my friends and family are only a telephone call or video chat away.  I definitely lose a sense of place and time.  I knew the rhythms and scent of my life; the hot tar city smell, the salted beach sand, the magnolias, the mums, the roads.  And am I ever going to be that life packed into a cargo van gypsy again?  She has been left behind and I miss her terribly.

Only Connect – Howling and Mortality

A long read but somethings I needed to get out.  I read “Howard’s End” my senior year of high school.  “Only connect” was embedded.  Truth be told, it makes more and more sense, the older I get.

Lately, there seems to be a lot of death.  A friend has suggested that it’s our age.  I don’t think that I am that old.  In fact, an “ex-sister-in-law” said at the funeral of one of my exes, that anyone nowadays who dies under the age of 80 is young.

Having this condition makes one focus more on mortality. It becomes even closer.  One of the first things I was told was, ‘you don’t die from it.” Ha, but the complications can kill you. Oh, well.  You become aware of the fleeting nature of time and its quality. And is it the principle of reflection and all around you people start to die?

I guess I could be considered rather stoic.  I barely cried when my parents died.  I gave both their eulogies with dry eyes and an unwavering voice.  I wept when my friends Chris and Scott died.  They were much too young.  They were supposed to outlive me.

I have had three “significant others” die.  My parents didn’t believe in euphemisms.  Dead was dead.  The first was just before we were thirty.  It was AIDS.  I was stunned and furious.  The second was a year or so later, cancer.  Again, stunned.  The last was three years ago, heart attack.  Again, stunned.  I mourned each one of them in my way.  Since they were “ex”, regrets, “Bell Bottom Blues”.

The last few weeks have been filled with death.  The elder brothers of two women I grew up with died.  They were older than me so I didn’t know them but felt the pain of lives ended early. Then a few Sundays ago, I read on the ever important Facebook  that Matt F had died. He is frozen in my mind like this picture. Susan Sontup and Matt Ferber 70's Reunion 2001 Pictures are deceptive.  We were never friends.  He was younger than me.  This was taken at a Classes of the 70’s reunion at the end of the evening.  He was not my date but we had gotten to talking in that buzzy , blurry alcohol way.  He insisted on the picture.  We all ended up at an after party at some bar.  He grew on me.  I decided he was my story.  He wasn’t.  However, he was so vital and so much fun.  I was just stunned to find out he was gone, way, way too young. I reeled  I understand the turnout for the wake was huge. The time between the picture and death was negligible.  At a dinner the night before the reunion, Joey K looked around and said, “We are in the last third of our life now.  We need to make it worthwhile.”  Huh?  Speak for yourself.  I was so not there.  Now I get it.  I am staring down the barrel of my mortality.

Next death.  This one occurred earlier and reaches farther back.  I didn’t find out till months after, just in the last month.  I knew Judy as a child.  We were in day camp together.  She was a very pretty, sweet child with pale blond hair and huge, dark blue eyes. As we aged, I was in the advanced class and she wasn’t.  Somehow, we stayed friends.  I can remember cutting high school with her and taking the bus to the mall.  It was there she told me about the truant officer.  I had always cut school.  It bored me and I was bullied but I had always just gone home.  Those days set the pattern for the rest of my life.  If I didn’t like something, someone I walked it out and away.  It frustrates me that I can no longer do that.  Judy had a job after school in a grocery store.  She tried to get me in.  No one ever wanted to hire me.  I was a hard sell, even then.  I am very much my own person in terms of style and opinion.  Senior prom approached.  In the way that teenagers just know things, I realized my first week of high school that senior prom was not going to happen for me.  Judy met Joe at the grocery store.  He was older than us and already out of school. They suggested I go to prom with them.  It’s not like today where you can go stag or with a group of friends.  My parents and uncle volunteered to fly my cousin up to accompany me.  I voted no.  Shortly thereafter, scandal swept the school as Judy married Joe before graduation. Again, in those days you could not be married and be in school.  It was only two weeks prior to graduation so the assumption was that she was pregnant.  In later years, when it came up, I would always remark, “That’s why the baby was born more than two years later.”  Judy and Joe came by my parents in early summer.  My mother remarked, “How nice of Judy to bring her handicapped brother.”  They were simple souls.  Joe died this January after 46 years of marriage.  I cannot even begin to imagine that void.

Only connect.  Judy and Joe could not have another child.  They tried to adopt but were told they could not.  The story goes that they were denied because of their limited capacity.  My best friend’s mother knew Judy as she grew up behind my friend’s home.  She was angry as she said that Judy and Joe had so much love to give and why deny a child love?  S and I were firm friends from 9th grade.  It started as one of those intense teenage girl friendships. The Thursday after Matt died, I received a text from S that her sister, J was dying and not expected to live. I sat at the dining room table and sobbed and  howled.  S had older sisters.  J was 9 years older than us  and was in the Airforce. She was stationed in Orlando where Disney World had just opened up.  J took a part time job there which entitled  her to reduced admission.  She invited S and then me to join her for spring break!  In Florida! With Disney World! In retrospect, this was insanity.  It became one of the seminal trips of my life.  There were many life  lessons learned. We were very excited and as our mothers had to remind us, Florida was still part of the United States so we did not have to pack every single thing we owned.   Somehow, our flight changed from direct to a changeover in Atlanta.  The travel agent thought it was a good idea.  Really?  Neophyte  girl travelers switching planes.  We did fly first class. I had not flown since I was a baby.  S had never flown.  We were told to make sure our luggage transferred.  Indeed, we saw the blue (hers) and the red(mine) being wheeled across the airport.  We were two shy, sheltered girls.  We found the airline for the connection at the far end of the terminal.  It was a trailer which set off a fit of giggles. More giggles when a boy our age asked, “Dad, should we call the flight now?”  It was a puddle jumper.  S had an ear infection but had been  cleared to fly jets, not puddle jumpers.  First life lesson learned – if something can be timed, it can be endured.  I have used this one so many times.  Surprisingly enough, not for MRIs which I tend to sleep through but I do advise it.  On the flip side, this disease/condition cannot be measured so…

Despite seeing our two bags toddle off, they did not arrive with us.  This created a problem as J and I were larger than S.  Remember teenage girls?  This appeared to be catastrophic.  Second lesson learned – always have one change of clothes and a nighty in your carry on luggage,  Again, a lesson that has served me well over time.  Eventually, I was able to do business trips that way.  I did an overnight to Chicago once with  just a briefcase.

Our vacation was Easter week and the next day was Good Friday.  J had one more day of work. Because S had nothing to wear we did not walk outside.  The air was warm and scented with oranges.  We wanted to tan and walk. Teenage girls have to have “the” outfit.  We stayed in awaiting the luggage.  We did have a look round to see if there was any way we could cannibalize J’s clothing.  No luck.  But what we did find was her boyfriend’s underwear.  It is important to note that this was 1972 and living with was not a norm, especially for an intensely Catholic family. Lesson learned :  Everyone has private lives that no matter how close you think are, are theirs.

Unfortunately, that was not the end of our lessons for the day.  I was already beginning to believe this one though being a teenage girl clouded it a bit.  Lesson learned:  Everything happens for a reason.  In later years, my mother said that this was one of two phrases that would be engraved on my tombstone.  On that Good Friday, an horrific plane crash occurred, yards from J’s house.  (Good Friday B52 Crash ).  We would have been outside had our clothing arrived.  J saw the plane appear to crash on her house, with her baby sister and friend inside.  Many, many tears.  Until well into my twenties, I shook any time a plane flew low.  Because of that, I cannot even begin to imagine the trauma suffered by the 9/11 downtown survivors. However, as I write this today, the Blue Angels are in town for an airshow and every time they fly over the house I tense, nearly 50 years later.  Cars kept us awake all night long, driving and gawking by the crash site.  Lesson :  People feed on others sorrow.In retrospect, J was incredible.  Despite the death of her friends, she gave us the best time.  Last lesson for that trip:  A good haircut changes everything.  J took us for our first adult haircuts – ducklings to swans.  I used to reflect on how brave she was but as she was passing from this earth, I had to acknowledge the profound effect she has had and will continue to have on my life.

As I have been reflecting and writing this, someone else from my childhood has died.  It appears I am living in an epidemic of death.  A was younger than I. We belonged to the same arty, hippie circles.  There is a picture in the yearbook of Students for Peace.  We are both in it.  People look at the picture and frequently mistake her for me.  It’s a bit eerie, especially now. Once again, I howled and sobbed.

Only connect.  Again, the ever present Facebook.  Synchronicity.  Someone posted about the ’50’s classes in my high school.  A fellow replied that his father taught English then and later.  Right, the teacher who taught “Howard’s End”.  Only connect.

Ocrevus, the Future and the Past

I have had a helluva time getting my first infusion of Ocrevus instead of Rituxin.  No, my doctor is not the problem.  Indeed, she has been a champion.  What happened?  Well, I was initially scheduled to have the 2nd bit on December 21 in the afternoon.  This means that I would have been in Penn Station, late on the Thursday night before Christmas.  Everyone agreed this was a bad idea.  I began to lose strength.  I scheduled for January but it was just above zero degrees, not healthy or positive.  I really began to weaken.  We decided to try and find a local place to do the infusion only. This became problematic.  I had to sort insurance out.  The place we eventually chose wanted me to become their patient.  I didn’t want to change my doctor.  They started asking for all sorts of things.  Every time we gave it to them and they wanted more.  Despite having authorization, they told me I had no prescription.  Then, they said Ocrevus had no idea who I was.  Back to my original doctor and back to NYC.  However, a combination of factors led to my being unable to walk for any distance with or without walker, no escalators.  We determined we would need car service to get into and out of NYC.  Why didn’t I just do this one way December 21?  Hindsight is a great quarterback.

Now, every time I have been to the infusion center, I have been offered a wheelchair.    Our plan this time was to take them up on the offer.  Well, the best laid plans….  None were available.  And we went up the elevator bank on the wrong side of the building.  We discovered this when Reception had no record of my appointment.  More gimping along.  They did intercept me in the hall though and put me in my “room” straightaway.  I was assigned my favorite nurse, Nicholas.  He understands my phobia, terrors, and how my body works or doesn’t.  I have really bad veins.  Luckily, I saw the shooting heroin film in fifth grade and decided needles were not for me.  I used to do alright with shots and blood until my college roomie said she always became faint.  Not me, I was the big sister.  Until my roommate opened her mouth.    I cannot look or deal.  My husband gives platelets on a regular basis.  This is a several hour process. I had to use the restroom once and it was  comic to see me try to walk and not look.  After one of his operations, I nearly passed out when they tried to show me how to change his blood bag.  Nicholas “gets” me.  So, bad veins, infusion and Nicholas.  I used to have a doctor who could find my one good vein.  He died.  For this treatment of several hours, they insert it in my hand.  Nicholas knows where my vein is.  Just typing this is making me lightheaded. Well, Nicholas missed.  It wasn’t really a miss but a malfunction.  He announced he had to go in again.  At this point, I felt  myself going out – cold sweat, hot, red faced, nauseous. The guys tell me no.  Seriously?  Deep breathing and ginger ale.  He gets it in.  Mind you, I keep my head averted the entire time, not just the sticking but the infusion.  Nicholas is good so even when my blood pressure goes to 95 which is not bad for me, we keep on going.  I did get the slight metallic taste with the steroids.  It finished faster than the Rituxin.  I was kept for an extra hour to make sure I was alright.

 

The car service both ways drove past the house I grew up in.  I usually try to avoid it.  After it was sold, it was completely altered.  Driving back, I look carefully and see how the other houses have changed. I am amazed that I am still in contact with half of the people I grew up with on that block.  It’s over 50 years.  Many of   their houses have also changed.  Well, after all that time, of course, houses change.  A couple of things.  I grew up in Levittown where all the houses were supposed to look alike.  They so did not.  The basic floor plan was the same so when people asked where is your bathroom; same place as yours.  What also strikes me is that I used to call it Leave It Town.  Guess what?  I am the one that stayed.  I only live a few miles away.  I only officially moved when I sold my mother’s house.  My life has been so different than what I thought it would be.

My house was across from the parkway with its woods.  I walked everywhere.  I went to the wrong high school.  It  was almost 2 miles away.  I used to walk back and forth several times a day.  Now, I wall surf. I used to walk at night with my dad for hours on the curvy lanes.  It’s too distressing.

 

The following day I didn’t wake up looking like a boiled lobster as I used to with the Rituxin.  I was just a little thirsty without craving sweet things.  And best of all, only half a pound weight gain.  I gained 5 pounds overnight with the Rituxin.  Shallow, I know.

 

I was like the energizer bunny the next day.  For the first time in months, I was able to walk without holding on.  Toddler steps but still big.  Now, I had a slight bump after the Rituxin.  My feeling  was that I was not strong enough the last times to benefit  from the infusions.  So, this time I tired to do more exercise before the infusion.  Physical therapy has been denied by my health insurance as not being medically necessary.  I have not been physically strong enough to go to the gym . My instinct is that if I amp up the exercise, it will push the drug in my body.  Just a thought.  Two days later, as Tom and I are literally discussing this, Ocrevus called.  Any questions?  Yes, is what I am doing helping with making the drug stick?  I spoke to three people and no answer! No one has asked this question? So, I am trying my hardest to power through the fatigue and minor pain to give my body a chance.

 

I appear to have had a minor bump up in stamina and walking.  My therapist noticed and Tom continues to reinforce this.

 

My next one is next week. I wouldn’t say I am looking forward to it.  I want it over and done with.  I am pushing so that I will be able to take the train and hopefully  the  bus there and back. I am hoping for a bigger bounce from the 2nd go round.

 

And my “secret” weapon?  I am going to try some mj after the Ocrevus.  The more I learn about it, the more optimistic I am.  I hear people are walking.  That is my goal.  What do you think? What has been your experience with Ocrevus?

 

Out of Work Summers – Beach and Bleach

I am writing this from my laptop in the backyard.  I am sitting in what we call our screen house so I am protected from the sun.  There is a delightful breeze.  I have been unemployed for 9 months; second longest period so far.

In periods past, I would be just returning from the beach.  Due to this condition that has been closed to me for now.  I can no longer tolerate the heat nor can I walk on the beach.  I used to find solace, peace and joy at the beach especially when I was out of work.

I started my unemployment  career in the garment district.  I went in and out.  Then I ended up at a major company and wa there for almost 9 years.  I loved what I did and was excellent at it.  The 90’s happened as did a merger.  I was treated in a textbook/case study manner.  I stopped getting invited to meetings.  My work was taken away from me.  I was let go with severance.  It was the end of May.  All my associates were let go after me.  I was grateful for this as it angered me and I would have been fired.  They let go a woman who had been there for almost 20 years.  She was paid less than what I used to expense for lunch and dinners weekly.  Ah, that expense account.  For nearly 10 more years, I didn’t make as much as my expense account.  I’d clear out my files and cry as I shredded the expense stubs that were larger than my current pay stubs.

When I lost that job (and I hate that term, I didn’t lose it, it was taken away from me) I was depleted.  I headed to the beach and spent so much time there my naturally dark hair bleached.  I also decided that I was going into business for myself.  I wanted a company that would never treat people like my low paid friend that way.  I have a great sense of what  is going to be popular fashion-wise and I had made connections literally all over the world.  I reached out to my network and received enormous support. What can I say? Great idea.  Wrong time.  Poor capitalization.  I showed merchandise to Brooks Brothers and was told it was too forward; try Paul Stuart. I had an existing relationship with Paul Stuart and was told it was too conservative; try Brooks Brothers.

I became seriously depressed and got married.  Bad, bad choice.  It was not convenient.  I made more money on unemployment than he did working.

I fought my way out and up and ended up part time at a financial services firm.  I was over a thousand hours and forced  to take nine weeks unpaid leave.  It was summer.  I hit the beach and the want ads.  Again, I bleached out.  I had an interview with a company that wanted someone who could do what had been done for my fashion employer.  Uh, that was me.  I came up with a portfolio of designs to show them, arguing the whole time with the late Joebe who wanted to impose his personal taste on the process.  I arrived at the interview deeply tanned from my beach time.  The interviewer took one look at me and said “Obviously, you are not seriously interested in working.”  He wouldn’t even look at the hours of work I had put in.

Fast forward, that  company made me permanent but I left after almost 7 years for the monolithic Bank. Finally, after 10 years was making a little bit more than those old expense account checks.   After 4 years, I was let go.  Back to the beach and back to bleaching out again.  And I married, again!  But this time I knew I would be working in the fall. It was a dream job at a major retailer making more than I had.  I also started moonlighting at the Bank.  What could go wrong?  Chapter 11 at the end of May.  For the 2nd time in two years, I was off for the summer.  Yup, beach and bleach.

Except for the first time at the end, I  was optimistic.  I had ideas and possibilities.

This time, I was let go in the fall after a total of 15 years.  I didn’t have the same hurt I had had with fashion.  My associations were different.  I was optimistic and calm.  I didn’t want to do my own business as I had done previously but actively look for work.

What’s different?  The Internet and my scads of experience.  Even if I was able, no beach and bleach for me.   I spend hours daily sometimes including the weekends looking for a job.  Today is one of the only days I am taking a “break” and writing.  What’s also different this time is that I am getting really good interviews.  What’s the problem?  Well, I am mature.  Experience costs money.  “We want you do but with someone out of college.”  Good luck to ya on that.  Didn’t you hear “You get what you pay for.”  And then, the elephant in the room.  My mobility.  There is nothing wrong with my brain.  I participate in research studies and I can remember the answers I missed the previous year!

It’s summer.  I HATE this condition.  It is taking so much away from me:  no beach and bleach, no walking, no gardening, no JOB!!  I need to channel that sense of optimism and possibility again.  I need to recharge without the beach.

 

June/July 2016 Check In

goofed.  I started this in the first few days of June and then stopped.  I have been blue, angry and pre-occupied.  It should be easier not working to be timely and thorough but somehow it’s not.  I am looking for the spark and the peace that seem to have disappeared.

Wow, I was checking my records and saw that last year I was interviewing and bombing out. too!

How did I feel this past Month?

Still blue.  There was no activity at all job wise.  This is depressing .  I also feel my health deteriorating.  I am not sure if this is a symptom.   The WEDDING  looms.  My stepson is getting married and it’s just going to be ugly on all kinds of levels.  And I continued to be blue through June also although jobs picked up.  I interviewed at three companies in two days and came up empty.  I was reminded I have a major reunion coming up next year.  I want to be able to walk and don’t see that happening.  My friends are retiring and/or having grandchildren so I am fighting regrets.

What did you do for yourself this month?

In May, I  did attend a professional association event.  I was surprised that I liked it.  Goes to show that sometimes you have to let go of assumptions. I also realized  that I had let part of my life go.  I have been  isolated.  I did sign up for two events back to back in June and then didn’t go.  The first one was for a cocktail party at a professional association. It was at a golf club.  The last time I was there was over 20 years ago in a blizzard.  The late Joebe had a DUI conviction and was finishing community service there. It’s beautiful, wooded and slightly hilly.  It was not fun driving his Camarro.   At the last moment last month, T decided to come with me and sit in the car as he thought due to said hilliness, I might need assistance getting in.  It was a beautiful evening with bad directions.  When we finally found the clubhouse there was only valet parking or far parking. I  would have been shot by the time I walked in so we left.  The next night was another professional event but I wimped out as it was rush hour and the Long Island Expressway.  I grew up with parents who had a terror of the expressway.  I have been working through  it but not at my strongest.

Trying to get back in touch with my creativity but feel too cluttered.

What did I eat this month  and how did it make me feel

Still doing my Smoothies.  Cheating a bit on good eating but getting back into it.  When I eat well, I feel well.  When I am blue it just falls apart.

Did I exercise?  What did I do?  How did it feel

The gym has become my new happy place.  However due to blistering in my two day three company interview marathon, I am hurt and can’t wear shoes.  I lost the gym for over 10 days.  I went two days and reinjured my foot.  I am weaker.  It’s a vicious cycle.

For whom or what are you grateful?  What matters most in life?

I am grateful that I am still hobbling along.  I am grateful that despite not working the mortgage is paid and we can eat.  My stepsons came through for me in an awesome way with the blisters.  I am told and shown, I am loved.

Do I have a higher purpose or driving force in my life?   Make a mission statement

No mission statement as usual.  I’ll co opt what I tell my little “elves”- spread joy, do good.

Conventional medicine  Still just Ampyra and Baclufen. I am looking forward to Opera in the fall.  I have just been told about Colostrum and am thinking about giving it a whirl.

Symptoms – Ah, the Raynaoud’s.  The doctor was quackery so I am just coping on my own. Getting weaker in my hands.  My balance may be getting minimally better.

What symptoms are most troublesome  – Independence and mobility.  Hands not working

Do I blame myself for things – Yes, I am still believing it’s food, stress and exercise.

How is stress level?  Very bad.  I think I have reached my limit.  Not working is impacting me on all levels.  I have an enormous amount of anger which I don’t like.

What can I do tomorrow to make it better than today?

Think I am going to get a “tune up” with a therapist.  Amp up the physical therapy, exercise and right eating.

Red Shoes, Blisters, Mom

I am fascinated by shoes, especially since I have mobility issues and can’t  wear what I want.  Now I do have my fashion fetishes  though shoes are not one.  That was my mother’s.  She thought of herself as an Imelda Marcos of shoes.  Couldn’t walk past a shoe department.  If I had anything, it was probably the irresistible lure of flip flops.  Still, certain shoes have marked certain times in my life.

I hate now that I have to wear flat, primarily oxford shoes.  My goal is not to look orthopedic or old.  This winter I bought a nice pair of metallic  slip ons at Clark’s.  Normally, this might be a Sunday afternoon jeans kind of shoe but it’s my alternative to my shiny black male bankers shoes.  It’s been comfortable in the winter.

Another factoid about me.  I like to go shoeless and barefoot.  Years ago, I worked for a man who said, “Sweetie, I pay you enough to wear shoes.”  I was known for being in meetings and taking them off.  I used to have really tough feet too due to going barefoot all the time.  The one place I really perspire is through my feet.  So, I never wear hose with shoes, if I wear shoes when it’s warm.  Things have changed and I cannot leave the house without the spectral leg and hence the ugly shoes.

I had interviews with three companies over two days in NYC this week.  In the past, these would have been in great locations and all walkable.  And it was in the 80’s.  Technically, according to my doctor, I am not supposed to be in NYC in that kind of heat.  On Monday, I had to walk 2 blocks and a bit to my 2nd interview.  Caught a cab back to Penn but walked a little further than normal.  I had the beginnings of a blister, the Clarks with no hose.

The other thing that has been happening with this new spectral leg is that the bottom of my foot burns.  It feels as if it’s on fire.  I can’t take the shoes off by myself.  Well, actually I can take them off, just can’t put them back on.  This adds to the irritation as I try and wiggle them around.

Back for the second round on Tuesday.  I don’t want to look too formal but because it’s an interview I can’t wear the gladiator sandals that work with the spectral leg.  Back into the Clarks with bandages.  By the time I get off the train I realize this is not working.  Ever resourceful, I try to shove lidocaine cream and tissues into the shoe.  I have long nails so this isn’t primo either.

The interview is on Broadway, literally a block and a bit from Penn.  However, I don’t want to arrive staggering.  Due to blister I miss the bus and have to stand out in the hot sun for 8 (I counted) minutes.  So, when I take the bus one stop and have to cross the street, it’s not going well.  I then interview with two different people on two different floors. What do I do in the waiting room?  I lust after the other people’s shoes. I see someone with red -soled Louboutin’s.   A beautiful  flat  strippy  sandal.

There is no bus the other way and it takes me almost 40 minutes to walk the block back.  A businessman on 32nd Street asked me if I needed help and when I said “no, one step at a time”, he told me I was still pretty.  Being vain, that brought a smile to my face.  However, by the time I started to cross 7th avenue, I needed help.  An homeless veteran helped me the last few feet and one of the sightseeing bus hawkers helped me to the escalator.  I missed my train but continued to stagger through Penn.  Walk ten steps, rest 30 seconds.  I made it to the wall of the police substation.  They noticed and an officer let me sit on the bench inside.  It helped enormously.  Staggered to the train and then down the two flights of concrete stairs to the car.  I did not cry.  Just kept powering through.  Tom nearly cried when I got in the door and took off my shoe.  He wouldn’t even let me get off the chair for an hour.

My foot is a swollen, infected mess.  I did well on the interviews despite that.

This brings me to a memory.  I lived almost two miles from high school and I hated it.  I did  frequently what I am known to do.  I walk away.  Well, now I really can’t but voting with my feet is the way I have handled my life.  So, I used to literally just walk out of school.  Sometimes, I’d go back.  I was also brought up to be my own person and not go with the crowd.  But high school is still high school.  I bought a pair of red suede baby huey shoes for $3 at Thom McCann.  This was huge.  My allowance at the time might have been $1 a week.  I am also my grandmother’s child.  She was a precursor of the “It’s better to look good than to feel good” school of thinking.  So, I wore my hard as rock red suede shoes with a fine wale lavender corduroy pant and lavender Missoniesque body suit to school.  Decided I didn’t want to be there and left.  Halfway home I felt hurt.  Pre-cellphone plus I was cutting school.  Arrived home and my gran and dad were horrified (Ma was at work).  The hems of my lavender pants were red and matched my shoes.  Not only had I burst blisters but had gone almost to the bone..  I literally couldn’t go to school for three days.

Which brings me to me and Ma.  She always told me she had a high tolerance for pain.  She said childbirth  was vastly overrated.  She used to have her teeth drilled without Novocain.   And the implication always was that I couldn’t.  Yet, look what I have done even going back that far.  I just sucked it up and kept on going.  I do deal with pain and uncertainty.  I need to acknowledge I am brave.  I keep on going and ignore the inconvenient.

On the down side, I was practically in tears going to Penn this week.  I used to walk to midtown in a third of the time it took me to walk one block.  I HATED looking and acting like the fragile elderly.  I REFUSE!