Only in Walmart

If you are a Facebook follower, you will, from time to time, see a Walmart cartoon or photo posted. Usually, they are not nice- someone ill-dressed, shall we say?  I don’t mind going to Walmart most of the time. Mornings are usually the time to go , if you must – not many people who go to Wally World are up yet. 

I happened to go today, Monday, in the afternoon. Never have I seen so many ill-mannered folks in one place at one time. Because there are generally merchandise stands in the middle of the aisle, there is room for one cart on each side of that stand. Why in the world am  I always behind the people who stop in the middle of the aisle with no way to get around them. I swear to my soul they think they are the only one visiting the store at that exact moment. I patiently waited  and waited and waited and finally decided to back up and go around the other way. I reminded myself I wanted to get some grapefruit and right there , in the middle of the aisle between the avocados and the grapes, were two women stopped. Avocado woman was on her cell phone, picking up and dropping avocados , while grape woman  fiddled and fussed with each package of grapes until she found the perfect package. Another lady was to my right, watching them and then looked over at me. I kinda gave her “the look.” I felt like jumping for joy when Avocado woman found the avocado she had been looking for all her life and grape woman returned to her basket. 

Folks ought to look before they block you in. They ought to. But, don’t hold your breath.

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Pregnancy , Morning Sickness and Texas Heat Spells Hot Fun in the Summertime? Not So Much!

My baby was due in December, meaning most of my pregnancy was in the hottest part of the year- summer, and to a lesser extent, fall. To be honest, I don’t think it would have mattered if it had been in the wintertime.  I was very sick the first six- yes , six months of my pregnancy.You know they say that after a couple of months, a new behaviour becomes a habit. Let it be known, it did not take two months for me to figure out that when I awoke every morning, I would be sick. So, as if I didn’t already rush to the bathroom in the mornings when I first woke up, it was now becoming a double or nothing bet that I would be there even faster than before. Barfing first, peeing next. Funny how your priorities change when you’re expecting.

We didn’t have any books like “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” Consequently, many things happened that I never expected. Throwing up every day wasn’t necessarily one of them. But, throwing up several times a day for six months- now, that was totally unexpected. Even if someone or some book told me it would have been that long, I’m not sure I would have believed them.Because I was so sick while I was expecting, I only gained 16 pounds. Some people might say, “What a lucky duck!” But, no, nothing lucky about throwing up all the time. At each doctor visit, I complained about throwing up so much. At first, I was instructed to put crackers by my bed – saltines to be exact. When I woke up in the mornings, I was to eat one or two. So, I did . And then, promptly went and threw up. Next month’s appointment, I reiterated my complaint. I was finally given a pill to take the very first thing when I woke up and then I was to eat the crackers. I then proceeded to the bathroom and threw up. Suffice it to say that nothing really worked and throwing up was my least favorite sport.The drug I was given was called Bendectin, which I learned later caused birth defects in some kids, but since I threw it all up, I had no worries. Despite all the nausea and vomiting, I really did love being pregnant.

In 1974, if you were pregnant and wanted to swim- there was an overabundance of the ugliest swimsuits you ever saw. Of course, they had bikini bottoms and very long tops so no one could see you had a baby there! oops. One would not want to let anyone see that part. Maternity clothes were not the fashion statement they are today, I can tell you. They were more like the fashiono faux pas !

 

I Digress- Epilepsy Revisited

Everybody has something. One might have a birthmark, another glasses, somebody else might have a leg shorter than the other. Something. These are things people can see with their eyes. They are “normal” , everyday things. When one has something that is unseen like Bipolar and other mental issues, brain tumors  or in my case, Epilepsy, that’s when the fear sets in. Not from me, nope, I’m not afraid that I have Epilepsy. But, other people are because, well, they are mostly afraid of the unseen, the unknown. Isn’t that funny? Not funny haha, funny odd.

I remember my mom talking to my dad at the dinner table one night.

“Paul, I think Paula may be having some spells. I think I have noticed those little seizures in her.” That’s about all I remember of that. My mom took me to a doctor; a neurologist, who told her it could be a possibility since it runs in families. An appointment was made for me to have an Electroencephalogram or EEG – a brain wave test.  What I don’t remember is feeling afraid. I was escorted to a room, where a technician began combing and parting my hair, putting glue in it and hooking up little round things on my head. After all the electrodes were placed, the lights were turned out and I was instructed to close my eyes and try not to go to sleep. It was hard to keep my eyes still, but i was supposed to. I could hear the pencils marking the paper, showing what my brain waves were doing. On occassion, I could hear the technician circle the paper and scribble something, Soon, I would hear the technician say,”Paula, wake up- you have to wake up.” It sure was hard to stay awake while in the dark.

Clicks, next, I could hear clicking. “Now, what you are going to see will be some lights. some will go slow, then fast. Just keep your eyes closed and try to relax.” Strobe lights began to flicker before my closed eyes and it made me nervous and kinda scared.

Next, I was instructed to breathe through my mouth as fast as  I could- hyperventilating, she called it.

These two things have been known to cause seizures, so they want to make sure to test – just in case.

After the test, I was escorted back into the wood paneled waiting room. This appointment would take the better half of the day as far as I can remember. It was a long day and boring at that.I was glad I’d brought a book.

After a while, we were called into the Doctor’s office where he sat at a desk in front of us, whipping back and forth through the pages of what looked like a long book of scriggly lines. On some of the pages, the circles and scribbles I had heard the technician  writing were visible. The whole thing was weird.

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So, even though the doctor couldn’t see many seizures, it was certain I had epilepsy. Petit mal kind (now called absence).

Now the bevy of meds, the trial and error began. Other than taking medication, nothing changed for me. I was the same little girl having the same fun I’d always had. There were side effects with some of the meds , so that had to be dealt with. Some made me sleepy, some made me angry, some worked, some didn’t.  I don’t remember it all, but my family was there for the long haul .

In junior high school, I had to take  medicine at lunchtime. Back then, you just carried your medications with you and took it when you were supposed to. I hated taking medicine at school. All the kids made fun of me. Suddenly, because I took medication, I was different. Suddenly, because I had seizures no one would notice in a million years unless I told them or they knew how to tell , I was game for fun making.When kids asked me why I was taking medicine for, I would tell them I had Epilepsy. I didn’t know  it was going to become the ruckus it was.

“What? Do you have FITS?”

“No, i just stare.”

No one could  see it. But, they had sure heard about it. Fits, huh? So seizures were called Fits? Whoa. A fit is, to  me, an archaic term from the middle ages or longer ago or something clothes do . I really detest that word.

I understand now, that people are most afraid of things they cannot see. Had I had a leg shorter than the other and a limp was visible, no one would pay much attention because they could see it, comprehend it. Not the case with Epilepsy. Yes, one is capable of having a convulsion (not a fit) and it is a scary thing to witness. How much better would it be for folks to read about and learn what to do should someone have a convulsion? That would be putting the fear to good use.

If you are not familiar with epilepsy, it is nothing more than a short circuit, of sorts, of the brain. With this short circuit, messages get confused and the seizures ensue.

seizure

It does not mean one is some kind of monster because they have it. It is a disease, an imperfection of the human brain. That’s all. It does not change who your friend is, what they stand for, how funny or serious they are-it doesn’t change their quirks or whatever that you love most about them. It’s not like that- unless it is not under control .

Whatever you do, please, please don’t call a seizure a fit. No one likes that.

I’d rather be told that I ‘flopped like a fish’ than told I’ve had a FIT. Yep, sure would.

 

Woodbury, Minnesota- our quaint home away from home

I don’t even have a photo of it- the white wood frame house we all lived in. There was a living room, equipped with an old pull out couch  (read sofa -sleeper), a small kitchen with a toilet that wouldn’t flush, hiding behind a curtain. There was a bucket in there that one filled up with water and poured it into the toilet it , thus making it flush. There was a dining room table with a room off of it where Mrs. Pottratz lay all day. I never understood what her illness was or if she was just a depressed individual , who lay in bed day after day , night after unending night with very long toenails. She smiled at me from time to time, but I was kind of afraid of her. I couldn’t understand how she lay there day after day and I never asked. Les was always good to her as was his father. He seemed to be a patient sort, making comments only when he realized we couldn’t live off of them forever. He was a smallish boned quiet man from what I remember. But, he did from time to time let us know when they were running out of supplies and needed to chip in. Those trading stamps we got at the gas station came in quite handy when supplies were low as we could trade the, in for Hamburger Helper and it’s new companion Tuna Helper. yum, yum! Les and Doug went to school together I think and I liked Les. He was real about who and what he was- just a hard working guy- overweight with a beard and a sweet side to him. He loved his mother and dad and I had to admire him for that. 

Outside, close to the lake, was a wooden outhouse. I’d never really seen one. It was basically a tall building with a toilet with no end to where the bodily fluids went. I guess it was convenient, in case you were out fishing or shooting a rifle (which i tried.) At 99 lbs, that gun threw me backwards and Doug thought it was funny. I didn’t and I had not been warned about it, I kicked him where it counted. I didn’t know what damage it could do- i was a 16 year old virgin , who was only copying what I’d seen in the movies. I was keenly naive- no sense of these things at all. All i knew was I thought he was kidding me when he bent over and fell to the ground. I never did it again, that’s for sure.

Generally, when we went to bed on that comfy sofa couch, we would engage in a bit of pillow talk. Even though it was pitch black when we turned off the lamp, I could see his eyes becoming bigger and looking at me with the whites showing. Suddenly, in a voice not his own, I heard an eerie question come from him- “How does it feel being married to a schizophrenic?” What did that mean? Was he trying to scare me? Was he really mentally off? For the first time since our journey began, I was afraid of him . What had I done? What would I do? Confusion abounded . I was far away from the safety of my family. Just what had I gotten myself into ? I turned over and fell asleep- a natural defense for a long while in my life.

My parents had left a message on the Runaway Hotline. They would drop all charges if I would give them my address so they could send me all my medicine, I had no reason not to believe them and they remained true to their word. My medicine1 got there in just the nick of time. I could tell they were heartbroken over my choices, but knew they were happy I had been responsible enough to think to take my medicine in the first place. Whether one knows it or not, when one is a hot tempered person, the thinking is not always rational. I didn’t want to take any chances with any sudden withdrawals of any anti seizure meds. It didn’t take long to get the meds and it didn’t take long before I found out I was pregnant. I was ecstatic. I would have someone who depended on me, who loved me no matter what- someone I could teach, love, learn from and cuddle. When I called my mother to tell her the blessed news, she was less than excited and suggested an abortion. I was horrified, but too young to realize that the reality of a pregnancy at a naive , tender age of 16, to her, signaled the end of my youth- a time in which I should be having fun and living life to the fullest – school dances, proms, college. For me, a time of celebration . For her and my dad, a time to grieve what could have been.

Snow was still on the ground when we left for Texas the second of June- right after we married that Sunday at the Justice of the Peace’s house in Luck County , Wisconsin. Beautiful area, but still cold as it could be. I was so excited to be going home. I would imagine Doug was a bit scared. I could not wait to see my parents. What a great day it would be.

Hello? Runaway Hotline

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I didn’t much like the friends Doug had in Minnesota. To be honest, I didn’t like Minnesota. It was freezing cold, dirty snow outlined the streets , my throat was sore and to top it off as if it was a cherry or something, I was homesick. I was lonely  here in this God-forsaken land. Oh, and I was running out of seizure medication. I had been diagnosed with Epilepsy at the tender age of 10- a time when a kid should be footloose and fancy-free. They were not grand mal seizures or “fits” as some called them. Just little staring spells. No one would know I had it unless I told them. Those little “spells” as we called them only lasted about ten or twenty seconds. The only evidence something was awry might be if I was in the middle of a sentence when I had “the spell.”  If that were the case, I might slur the word I was about to say or forget what I was talking about all together.I had never missed any scheduled doses of medication because my mother always made sure I had some on hand. Indeed, I had taken my medicine with me, but didn’t think about the fact that sooner or later, I would run out. I decided I should call home. I wanted to hear my mother and father’s voices anyway, even though I knew they would be mad at me. I had watched enough television dramas to know that calls could be traced and I didn’t want them to know where I was yet. I set out to find the nearest phone booth.

“Hello? Runaway Hotline, how can I help you?”  

The voice on the phone seemed so nice and helpful. I had seen public service announcements  (PSA’s) on tv about them and decided that was how I would contact my parents. A runaway could call 1-800-RUNAWAY if they needed help of any kind or just wanted to get word to their parents they were ok. 

“Hi, I’ve runaway from home.”

“Are you ok? Safe?

“Yes Ma’am”

She began to explain the way the program worked. She told me if I would like to get a message to my parents to let them know I was ok, I could just give her their phone number, she would call them and let them know I had called the hotline and  was ok. I agreed and gave her their number. I was then to call the next day and see if they had a message for me from them.I thanked her, grateful for this service and their PSA’s. More than that, I was grateful that I had paid attention to them.

I went home that night, happy to know I might get a message from my parents tomorrow. I was tired and ready for bed. It was such a cold night and I was thankful for a warm bed to sleep in.

Out of money now, Doug went looking for a job. It was a good thing we were staying  with friends since they fed us and seemed to be really happy to see him. I must have been bored during the day – it’s been a good forty years since this adventure and my memory has faded. I felt like a duck out of water, I know that. 

Each time we got gas, back in those days, we were given saving stamps. Back home it was S&H Green Stamps we got.. at the grocery store- not the gas station. Here, in Minnesota, the stamps were redeemable only at the gas station’s store. So, we redeemed the stamps for food, drinks, candy and anything else we might need. We lived this way for a bit until Douglas got a job at some kind of steel factory , boat factory or some such place. I know at one time he worked in a boat factory as I remember he would come home with fiberglass stuck in his arms and hands. That may have been his first job- I remember it was painful to have fiberglass in his body and he didn’t work there long. By this time, we were staying in Woodbury.

 

Might One Wonder Why?

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Someone reading this crazy, mixed up blog might wonder why I might want to relive all these moments in my life. Moments that may not seem relevant for anyone or anything. Moments that I might regret, moments that caused pain for my family, maybe for me as well. 

So, actually, I wondered that myself- wondered who might be interested in my life, and to be perfectly honest, why they might be interested in my life. I decided a few things. First, it’s kinda like the reason I watch General Hospital- it’s nice to see somebody else’s drama for a change. Not that we wish drama on anyone, but the fact of the matter is that everyone has some sort of drama in their life. And the thing is it is not OUR drama. And that is what a reader or viewer relishes. Something that is not our own. A bit of voyeurism into someone else’s life… I know and can speak for my own self when I say that we all crave that little look in the peephole of someone else’s life. Secondly,while no one in this life has exactly the same experiences as another, sometimes we have amazing similarities. Thirdly, and really more importantly, there is always a distinct possibility something I may say or feel may teach someone something.I can say that because isn’t  that really what each one of us does- teach others with our views, opinions, actions, words and thoughts? 

Yet another reason might be even though we may make some terrible decisions in our lives, those decisions might yield the biggest blessings. It’s true! It’s like a scientific formula an action and a reaction yields a product. Depending on how you look at it, it can be the worst mistake of your life or the biggest blessing ever. It is up to each of us to decide. I choose blessings. What do you choose?

So, it is with quite a bit of humility that I write the experiences I have had, the fun I’ve had, heartbreak and so on. I realize that “dredging up old business” might be unpleasant for some involved parties. For that I apologize. The positive part of this is that it will, in the future, be a piece of history for my grandchildren, great grandchildren  etc. and so on. 

Hi Ho. (thank you Kurt Vonnegut,Jr!)