A few of you recently made comments about my lack of updates.   The major reasons for that are:  Fibro fog, Fibro fatigue, and pain (caused by Fibromyalgia, herniated discs, pinched nerves, torn rotator cuff, etc.).  It’s a miracle I can hold a job and get meals on the table.  My online journal, or blog, or whatever you want to call it, is simply not a priority for me these days.

Anyway, I have the day off because of a snow storm, so I decided to devote some of it to a review of 2010.

January: Went to a welcome home dinner for a young man who was kicked out of the armed forces and sent home from Afghanistan after someone blew the whistle on him for being gay.

A furnace repairman might have saved our lives… He discovered that the hot water heater exhaust flue had been knocked off the flue vent.  It must have been off for quite some time because the flue gasses melted some of the pipe insulation. According to him, we were in danger of dying from carbon monoxide poisoning.

February: As I was going up to bed one night, I lost my balance and fell down a couple of stairs, twisting my right leg in the process, and landing heavily on it.  X-rays at the ER the next day revealed bone contusion and bruised muscles.  I just love adding more pain to my life.

In an unrelated incident – you know you’ve had too many MRIs when the technician recognizes you and greets you by saying, “Back for more?”

March: One of Leigh’s dear friends died during heart surgery.  Rest peacefully, Quicci.

Leigh had to have her cat, Simmy, put to sleep.  More heartbreak.

Daniel and I celebrated anniversary #5.

Developed an addiction to Chobani pomegranate Greek yogurt.

April: Had a “Scary headache” for the entire month.

May: Had the front porch painted, which turned out to be a very good thing because that’s pretty much where I spent my summer vacation…

June: Refinanced our mortgage to go from 6.25 interest rate down to 4.875.

July: Went to Seaside Heights.  Would have enjoyed it more if not for the god-awful heat. It should be against the law for temps to get that high (102).

My grandmother turned 99.

August: I was trapped at the chiropractor’s for two hours because of a devastating storm that passed through the area. Five cars in the parking lot were crushed under trees. One car belonged to my neighbor, and another to my cousin.  That storm was a sight to see!

The city damaged our driveway when they cut down the tree in front of our house.  They failed to respond to my letters, so a legal consultation will have to be the next step.

The front page of our local paper featured an article about a 17 year old girl I knew very well who was killed in a horrific accident the previous morning. In another section of the paper there was an obituary for a good friend of mine.  In three days, I lost two people I loved.  Rest peacefully Natia and Bob.

I turned 56.

While I was standing in the parking lot of a restaurant, a guy yelled, “Shorty, shorty!” When I turned around he asked, “Are you married?” I have to say that being called “shorty” made my day.

September: Adventures with ambien – Objects in photos seem to move just like they do in Harry Potter! Freaky, man.  I also discovered that I sometimes indulge in online shopping while under the influence of ambien. Definitely not a good thing.

Found out that the stabbing victim in a recent homicide was my father’s best friend.  Rest peacefully, Ron.

The results of my skin test revealed that I have perivascular dermatitis.  Because of the effing rash, my legs were so swollen I had elephant knees!

Reconnected with old friends (one of whom is Snooki’s mother).

Our community lost yet another young person who died much too soon. Rest peacefully, Zach.

October: One morning when Daniel was getting ready to drive me to work, we found a dead cat under the front tire. (No, it hadn’t been run over – it must have crawled there to die.) Not a good way to start the day.

This year’s Dress Up As A Literary Character costume – Esmeralda (from THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME by Victor Hugo)

Had a very enjoyable time at the Sheep &Wool Festival. Chatting with some llamas and alpacas (actually, they were humming) was the best part.

Four years…I miss you, Mark. Rest peacefully.

November: An old high school friend died after a long battle with cancer. Her brother (who was a very little boy at the time) gave me the only nickname I’ve ever had – “wild eyes.”  Rest peacefully, Beth.

A former student and friend of my daughters died unexpectedly. Rest peacefully, Peter.

I found out about a whopper of a lie that was spread about me 25 years ago… Apparently, I was a coke addict!  Diet coke, maybe, but certainly not the white powdery stuff.  Sheesh.  I guess there’s a statute of limitations on slander/defamation of character, huh… Oh well, at least I got a good laugh out of it!

Was stunned to learn that an old online friend took his own life. He was such a kind person and gentle soul, not to mention a brilliant mathematician and skating enthusiast. I’m really going to miss his nickname for me (Stephanova) and the praying mantis warnings (personal joke). Rest peacefully, Robby.

Spent over three hours at the ER – Leigh’s myoclonic seizures caused her to fall down the stairs AND on the driveway as we were guiding her to the car to take her to the hospital. They did NOTHING, and we finally announced that we were leaving (but not before I created a bit of a scene).  As Leigh pointed out, a Veterinary Clinic wouldn’t treat an ANIMAL that way. They wouldn’t just throw a cat or dog in a crate and let it seizure for three hours. Unbelievable!

Another ER visit  – for me, this time.  Diagnosis: mesenteric lymphadenitis – inflammation of the mesenteric lymph nodes. Causes pain that mimics acute appendicitis. I hope I never have to experience that kind of pain again.   That was the most agonizing experience of my life, and I’m no stranger to pain.

A former student (and Leigh’s childhood friend) celebrated the release of his first book. Congratulations, Daniel!

December: As usual, I hosted the Christmas festivities.


My former mother-in-law died on December 28th.  She had just been at my house for Christmas, and was in fine spirits, and seemed to be in good health. During the early hours of the 27th, she had a hemorrhagic stroke and had already suffered irreparable brain damage by the time she was found.   The all-day bedside vigil before she passed away was heart wrenching and draining. Rest peacefully, Marj.

All in all, it was a pretty shitty year with far too many deaths.  Which is another reason why I didn’t update.  So there you go.

Song of the Day: Bad Year by Sicko

Enough is Enough

October 18, 2009

A lot has happened since I last posted here.  Right before I went back to work in early September, my grandmother was admitted to the hospital.  She was there for quite some time, and it was touch and go for a while.  She ended up getting a pacemaker.  As you can imagine, that was a very stressful time.

Last month, I participated in our annual  “Dress Up As A Literary Character Day”  at work.  I went as Jacob Marley from A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens.  What a trip that was.

On Tuesday, the husband of a much loved co-worker died unexpectedly.  I went to the shiva house after work on Friday, and was dismayed to see how frail and fragile my co-worker looks.  She and her husband were married for 41 years, and they were incredibly devoted to each other.  My heart aches for her, as it does for my darling LA, her fiancée, and his family as they deal with the very recent loss of Mick’s grandmother.   Please keep them all in your thoughts and prayers.

A little over a week ago, my father had a total knee replacement.  At present, he is in a rehabilitation facility for physical therapy, which means that my 98 year-old grandmother is alone.  Michele, Mike and I have been running around like those proverbial chickens with their heads cut off.  I am beyond exhausted, and in extraordinary pain.  I don’t know how I’m going to walk to work every morning this week (Daniel is visiting his family in Canada)… The walk home isn’t too bad, but I am especially stiff and achy in the morning.  This is going to be very difficult for me.

Yesterday, Leigh had to go to a walk-in clinic because she thought she had a UTI. Turns out that she has an unusually high amount of protein in her urine, which the doctor said can be indicative of kidney disease.   He wants her to follow up with a urologist.

To top things off, Tuesday will mark the third anniversary of my brother’s death.

As I said on Facebook, my “downer” quota has been filled for the month.  No more, please.

Song of the Day:  Downer by Nirvana

My brother, Mark, would have been 42 years old today.  These “significant days” are harder to bear than regular ones.  Mark’s twin, Mike, will have his own particular pain to deal with today.   My heart goes out to him, and to my parents and other siblings.  We all miss Mark so much.

As for physical pain, I’ve been suffering even more than usual lately.  The worst of it is that the scary headaches are back.  Living with chronic pain takes so much out of me.  By the time I get home from work, I’m too exhausted, both physically and mentally, to do much of anything.  Weekends aren’t much better, although I do push myself to get out of the house as much as possible.  It’s too easy to fall into a depression when I’m trapped inside for long periods of time.    It’s bad enough to be trapped in this pain-ravaged body.  I need all the distractions I can get.

Something else that is causing me stress (which adds to the pain) is that I will only be receiving one more paycheck until September.  This is quite disturbing because we can’t live on Daniel’s salary alone.   I applied for summer school about a month ago, and have been anxiously awaiting word about whether or not I got the job.

On Wednesday, My Friend informed me that she had received an email from the summer school principal informing her that she had been recommended to teach summer school.   I became distressed upon hearing that, and emailed the principal to ask if a decision had been made about the summer school Teaching Assistant position.  I reminded her that I have held the position since it was created, with the exception of the past two summers when I was unable to work because of back pain that was the result of a work-related incident.   (It should also be noted that the principal at the time the TA position was first created lobbied for it with me in mind.)

Ms. Summer School principal responded to my email by asking how many years I held the position, and saying that she has to check the “union issue.”  I suppose that means that the person who was assigned the position during the summers when I was unable to work has applied for it again this year.  However, it is my understanding that seniority is a factor, so I should get the assignment.  Also, I should not be penalized because I was unable to work due to an injury I sustained on the job.

I am a nervous wreck about this situation.  If I don’t get the summer school position, we are up the creek without a paddle.  Even if I do work summer school, it will only be 16 hours a week for six weeks.  We still won’t be able to make ends meet.  But, without that extra money, we will be in serious trouble.

All positive thoughts will be much appreciated.

Song of the Day:  Get a Job by The Silhouettes

I went to Lloyd’s funeral this morning.  It was a gut-wrenching experience.  As I had feared, there was an open casket.  It killed me to see Lloyd’s lifeless body lying there.  And when they closed the casket and his relatives wailed their grief, I thought I was going to lose control.  I did cry, pretty much through the whole service.  But I managed to suppress the sobs that were on the verge of bursting out of me, and ended up with an excruciating headache from the effort.

I almost lost it another time when service programs were passed out, and there was a photo of Lloyd on the front.  It was taken at his high school graduation.  He had a smile that could melt the most hardened heart.

I attended the funeral with two co-workers.  One of them was Lloyd’s English teacher.  When we received our programs, she leaned toward me, pointed at Lloyd’s picture and said, “He wouldn’t have been able to wear that cap and gown if it hadn’t been for you.”

I guess that’s true.  In order to graduate, Lloyd had to turn in an English Anthology – a portfolio project that is the equivalent of a final exam.  Lloyd was having a lot of trouble with this project.  His teacher tried to help him, but she became frustrated because she couldn’t give him the one-on-one attention he needed.  (She had a class full of needy students, and there’s only so much time in a day.)  Since Lloyd was a special pet of mine, I made it my mission to help him with his Anthology project, which would ensure that he would walk the stage with his class on Graduation Day.

For weeks, Lloyd came to see me every day during his free period.  We worked together to find the required components of the project, and I helped him to write his essay.  (I made him write it, and then I made corrections and suggestions.)  I helped him to create a Works Cited page.

After the projects had been graded and returned to the students, Lloyd raced to the Computer Lab to share the good news with me.  There, at the top of his Anthology folder, was a big, beautiful 98.   He was so happy and proud.   It was the highest grade Lloyd had ever received.  And he earned it.  I didn’t do the work for him.  I just helped him to understand the requirements of the project.  While we were working on the Anthology, Lloyd would frequently say that he didn’t know what to write.  I would then ask a question about how the magazine article or artwork or song lyrics related to his theme.    He would tell me, and I would say, “See?  You do know!”

So many of our students doubt themselves.  They don’t want to answer questions or join class discussions for fear of looking foolish, or, even worse, stupid.  It’s terribly sad.

But, on the day he showed off his 98, there was no sign of self-doubt in Lloyd’s shining eyes.  There was pride and there was joy.  And there was gratitude.  He gave me a hug that lifted me off the ground.  He thanked me for everything, especially for helping him to graduate.

Sadly, all that potential will not be lived up to.  The streets have claimed yet another young life.

My spirit is so heavy.  I don’t know how many more young people I can bear to say goodbye to.  This one leaves a really big hole in my heart.

P.S.  Right after I posted this entry, I checked the online edition of our local newspaper and was dismayed to read that two former students were shot around 2:00 pm this afternoon.  I sat next to them at Lloyd’s funeral this morning! Fortunately, their injuries are not life threatening.   Still, this is too much.   Much too much.

Song of the Day:  Candle in the Wind by Elton John

Bad News Travels Fast

December 24, 2008

Ms. T, one of my favorite co-workers, had been trying to reach me since Sunday.  She left a message on my answering machine saying she had to tell me something.  I returned her call the next day, but she wasn’t home.  Then I was out when she called back.  I was finally able to reach her yesterday morning.   My stomach knotted when I heard her speak the words, “I’ve got bad news.”

Lloyd, one of our former students, died last Friday.  Ms. T knew that Lloyd and I had a special connection, and she wanted to be the one to tell me about his death.  I really loved that young man, and was devastated upon hearing this terrible news.

The facts of his death are sketchy.  Some people are saying it was suicide, but Ms. T and I don’t believe that.  Others are saying it was a drug overdose, and, sadly, that seems more likely.

Lloyd was a victim of the streets.  Back in high school, it was well known that he sold drugs, as well as used them, but it was just weed, nothing stronger.  I guess he moved on to crack after he graduated from high school.

Before his descent into crackhead hell, he tried to go straight.  He came to visit me at the school a few times, and one of those times he was so excited and hopeful.  He told me he was “going legit.”

He had enrolled in college, and wanted to get a real estate license, just like his stepfather.  His stepfather was a very positive role model, and Lloyd admired and adored him.  Unfortunately, his stepfather became ill and died not long ago.  I guess that was the beginning of the end for Lloyd.

I mentioned Lloyd in an entry I wrote on May 13, 2006, back in my Diaryland days:

A couple of weeks ago, Lloyd and I were having a conversation during which he said, “Miss, I need a shorty” (girlfriend). I assured him that he was a good-looking guy, and shouldn’t have any problem in that department. He went on to say, “Yeah, but you don’t understand, miss. I need an older woman.” I swear I did not see where this was headed. I figured he meant he was looking for a twenty-year-old. Therefore, I told him to go for it. He gave me a big smile and asked, “So, how about it?”

Rest peacefully, Lloyd.

Yesterday brought more bad news.  During a routine exam, Leigh’s gynecologist found a lump in her breast.  She’s going for an ultrasound today.  I’m sure it’s nothing serious, but would still appreciate any good vibes you can send our way.

P.S. I just received some more sad news.  GBW’s beloved father passed last evening.  All I can do is offer sincere condolences to her and her daughter.  My heart goes out to them.

Song of the Day:  Bad News Travels Fast by The Fuzztones

Spirits In the Night

October 9, 2008

Our high school has been celebrating Spirit Week, which will culminate in the Homecoming Game and Dance on Saturday.  The festivities kicked off on Monday with “Decades Day.”  I already did my part for the Twenties, so I decided to wear something more comfortable this time.  I chose 1990 grunge.  My outfit consisted of ripped jeans and a flannel shirt over a Nirvana tee.

Tuesday was  Mismatch Day.  I wore green and white checked seersucker pants, a pink and white striped tank top under a patchwork shirt, one black boot and one brown boot.

Wednesday was Twin Day.  My Friend and I wore jean skirts, black boots, off-white tank tops and our identical corduroy jackets.   (Hers has been worn and washed more than mine so it’s a bit faded.)

We’re off today for Yom Kippur. I have an appointment with a pain management doctor this afternoon, and, for once, the appointment coincides with a full-blown flare-up. The stress of waiting for a response to my request for a health-related accommodation has exacerbated my symptoms, and I’m in terrible pain.

By the way, I was looking online for information about how quickly an employer should respond to an accommodation request, and found that employers should respond “expeditiously.”  Furthermore, “Unnecessary delays in responding or implementing an accommodation can result in a violation of the ADA.”  The EEOC provides an example in which an employee submitted two requests (I have submitted four).  “Yet, two months after the initial request, nothing has been done. Although the supervisor never definitively denies the request, the lack of action under these circumstances amounts to a denial, and thus violates the ADA.”

Tomorrow is School Colors Day (blue and white), but I’m taking the day off to have Sacroiliac Injections..  Again, the timing is uncharacteristically good.  My back has been killing me the last several days.

Stress at work is not the only factor that is wreaking havoc with my body.  The 20th of this month will mark the 2nd anniversary of my brother’s death.   Tuesday evening, Leigh left a hysterical message on my answering machine.  I was sleeping, and didn’t hear the message until yesterday morning, just before I left the house.  It sent me off to work in quite a state.

The message had something to do with a medium who visited her campus, and a question Leigh asked about Mark.  She was crying so hard it was difficult to understand what she was saying.  I called her yesterday afternoon to get the whole story.

Paranormal Investigator, Chris Moon, uses “Frank’s Box,” a device that allegedly can communicate with the dead.  Of course, I am skeptical of such things, and so is Leigh.  Others in attendance at the college event were quite skeptical, as well.  One young man challenged the voice coming through Frank’s Box to tell him his nickname.  It did.  Then a girl who wanted to contact her grandfather asked the voice what he died of.  The voice answered, “Disease.”  She pressed it to tell her what kind of disease.  The voice responded, “Lung.”  Her grandfather died of lung cancer.  The girl sobbed.

Leigh asked, “Is Mark P**** there?”

Voice:  “Yes.”

Leigh:  “Is there anything you want to say to my mother?”

Voice:  “I’m sorry.  I… (unintelligible).”

Now I know that some of you are rolling your eyes, and, as I said, I too am a skeptic when it comes to these things.  Still, “I’m sorry” strikes me as a rather strange response.  I would expect something more along the lines of “I’m okay,” which is what you typically hear during these episodes.

Regardless of whether this is real or fake, it shook me up because it caused me to relive what we went through two years ago.  It slammed the fact that my brother is not with us anymore right smack in my face.  It ripped my heart wide open again.

I’m sorry, too, Mark.  I’m so sorry you are gone.

Song of the Day:  Spirits in the Night by Bruce Springsteen

Tears in Heaven

August 28, 2008

I got some very sad news this morning.  One of my all-time favorite students collapsed on a basketball court at a college in Pennsylvania, and died of an undetected heart condition. He was 19 years old.

Michael was such a good kid.  I first met him when I was working at the Middle School over the summer several years ago.  He was in sixth grade at the time.  Every morning, he greeted me with a hug.  I am heartsick over this.

Rest peacefully, Michael.

Song of the Day:  Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton

Friday the 13th

June 14, 2008

Yesterday lived up to the hype and turned out to be a bad luck day, indeed.  The scary headaches are back after 9 or 10 months of blissful freedom from this particular pain.  These headaches are truly the bane of my existence.  They make my life an absolute misery.  They make me want to roll over and die.

To top things off, yesterday was my brothers’ birthday.

Enough wallowing in the mire.  If I’m going to get anything done today (and there’s lots to do), I need to start now.  It’s going to be slow going with this crippling headache.

Song of the Day:  Friday the 13th by Wardance

The Seasons of My Life

April 15, 2008

Ya Ya’s funeral, held in a Greek Orthodox Church, was a very emotional experience. I found the ceremony to be quite moving, especially the swinging of the thurible (incense holder) over the open casket. My heartstrings were really tugged.

Emmy, my old friend from high school, took her grandmother’s death pretty hard, and the grief on her face did me in. It didn’t help that grief for my brother rose to the surface and grabbed me by the throat.

Something else rose to the surface and grabbed me by the throat. I was overwhelmed by memories of Emmy, her brother, mother and Ya Ya. They were like a second family to me, and I loved them dearly.

As I watched the family during the funeral, I was struck by how quickly time passes. Thirty-five years flew by at warp speed.

I studied Emmy’s face, and couldn’t help but notice the effects aging has had on her. Back in high school, Emmy was The Pretty One. At 53, she is still extremely attractive, but she has deep wrinkles around her eyes, and sagging jowls.

When I got home, I took a long, hard look at myself in the mirror, and had to face the fact that I have sagging jowls, too.

So… not only am I mourning the loss of Ya Ya (and my brother), but I am mourning the loss of my youth, as well.

Song of the Day: Landslide by Stevie Nicks

Can the child within my heart rise above
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides
Can I handle the seasons of my life

Give Me A Break

April 12, 2008

I am now officially on spring break, although I use the term “break” very loosely. The truth is that things are going to be pretty hectic. First of all, I have dinner guests arriving later this afternoon. My aunt, my cousin, Kathy, and her friend, Bob, have had us over for dinner for a couple of weeks in a row, so I feel the need to reciprocate. My mother will also be joining us.

The menu: sauerbraten with gingersnap gravy, potato pancakes, red cabbage and raisin pumpernickel bread. Bob is making spaetzle, and my mother is bringing a homemade Black Forest cake.

Here’s a shot of the sauerbraten in its marinade.

Tomorrow, I have a wake to attend. The grandmother of my best friend in high school died on Wednesday, at the astonishing age of 104. Everyone called her Ya Ya (which is Greek for grandma). I have many fond memories of Ya Ya, especially when she would talk about her deceased husband, who, according to her, was “deelishus.” The funeral, which I will also be attending, is on Monday.

We had news of another death this past week. Uncle Joe (my mother’s brother) died in Florida on Tuesday. He was cremated, and his ashes will be sent here for burial in the family plot. The memorial service will take place at the convenience of the family.

Uncle Joe was a real character. My memories of him include affectionate pats on my “honey-blonde” head, and a pair of shoes he spray-painted electric blue. Joe was pretty much a loner, and carried on lengthy conversations with himself (usually within earshot of others). He was a voracious reader, and had a keen sense of adventure. He was always setting off on road trips, visiting new places and seeing new sights. Happy trails, Uncle Joe.

Tuesday will find me at the office of the pain management doctor. On Wednesday, I’m scheduled for a two hour appointment at the dentist’s office. (The first hour is for root planing and scaling, and the second is to have silver fillings replaced with white ones.) Friday is reserved for my weekly appointment with the chiropractor, and on Saturday I am having my hair highlighted and my body massaged.

I was hoping to squeeze in a trip to NYC during my week “off”… Maybe I can do that on Thursday… Then again, maybe not. I really need a day just to relax and recuperate… We’ll see how it goes.

Enough lollygagging. I have to address the fact that my house is in no condition for guests, so I’d better get a move on. If anyone has any energy to spare, please send it my way.

Song of the Day: Spring Break by Army of Freshmen