Iowa

Corn Festival Fun

My husband Tony and I have been together 18 years as of this coming September. Over those years the love of my life has held a respectable day job and has been a working musician. He has been in variety of bands in a variety different genres. When we first started dating in the late 90s he was in a rockabilly band, but has been in rock, country and blues bands as well.

I think it is best to say that my husband is a musician through and through who has a pesky regular job that occupies his days. We have traveled all over Iowa, our home state, and many other midwestern states for gigs. There also many times where things do not work out with other bands and they need someone to fill in the guitarist slot for a show or two. Quite a few times this has happened and Tony will get a call asking if he can play.

That is what happened this last week. Tony got a call from a friend and onetime bandmate asking if he could fill in for two shows because their guitar player had a death in the family. Luckily his regular band was not already booked to play shows at those times so he was free to help out. It is good to help someone in need but it is even better when you get paid! With two days to learn this country bands set list my husband got to work.

10426658_772770716077120_3900609912621251311_nCedar Rapids is a city with a population of around 130,000 people and is about an hour away from our home. It was there that the Saint Judes Sweetcorn Festival was being held and Tony was to play a show. For those of you who do not know Iowa is an agricultural state-corn, soybeans, hogs, cattle, etc. One of the best things (in my opinion) is the sweetcorn that is ready towards the end of summer.

I am not the only one who loves the corn 14022284_1177499242270930_6446184124476234210_n.pngbecause for 41 years St. Jude’s has been hosting a sweetcorn festival to raise funds for the catholic church and school. It is a pretty big deal and there is so much more than just eating corn…they have funnel cakes too! As you can see from this years flyer a whole day can be spent having fun for a good cause.

Tony, the two older boys and myself went to Cedar Rapids for the fun and the show. It was hot but not unbearable, and had partly cloudy skies which really helps with the heat-especially when you have a small tolerance for it.

While my husband set up and during most of the time he was playing the boys and I saw all that there was at the festival. We played bingo, ate ice cream, shopped, and of course ate some corn. The day was very pleasant. Later that night I got a message from a family member asking if I saw the news. No I don’t really watch tv at all. Turns out Malcolm, Ian and I was on the news for 2 seconds! Lol, it is like we are famous!

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Just goes to show you that when you are hunting for funnel cake you may miss what is happening around you.

 

Being Goldilocks and Bearing the Weather

Everyone knows the storey of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. The tale of the little girl with the golden ringlets who commits criminal trespassing and theft at the home of the bear family, while the bears were out for a stroll. She breaks in their house, tries out their beds and partakes of the porridge that mother bear lovingly slaved over a stove to make for her family.mama bear.jpg

The little girl tastes each bowl of porridge, spreading germs may I add, until she finds one that is satisfactory. Papa Bear’s porridge is too hot. Mama Bear’s porridge is too cold. Then finally Baby Bear’s porridge is deemed just right, so she eats the poor infants food all up. Depriving a child of nourishment.baby bear

Even as a child I had misgivings about the little girls actions and thought the Bear family would have been fully in their right to eat the selfish little Goldilocks. But I digress…

With Multiple Sclerosis I find a parallel between this Mother Goose tale and how  I deal with weather in all of it’s variants.

During the peak of the summer months  the weather is just like Papa Bear’s porridge-too hot! If the weather is hot and humid I have all vigor of a limp noodle. Once the temperatures creep over 83 degrees my legs feel so heavy that simply walking across the yard makes me feel like Sisyphus eternally pushing that boulder uphill.

According to the National M.S. Society these temporary changes can result from even a very slight elevation in core body temperature (one-quarter to one-half of a degree). An elevated temperature further impairs the ability of a demyelinated nerve to conduct electrical impulses.

Granted these heat induced issues are just a temporary worsening of the symptoms, but it does suck when you want to enjoy the season. There are measures to be taken when I know I will be out in the heat. Wearing body ice packs on my torso, wrists, ankles and neck- while not stylish does keep my core temperature down thus staving off the the weak, wobbly and woozies.

Then there is Mama Bear’s porridge-i.e. the way too cold winter season.winter poem

Living in the midwest we have
the full gambit, from way below freezing temps, sleet, wind and loads of snow. While the cold does not cause anything like the heat of summer it has it’s own ‘lovely’ way of making your body miserable in regards to M.S.

With the very cold my nerve pain goes throught the roof. Those icy tingles that one gets from too much exposure to me feels like daggers delving deep into my hands, feet and thighs. It is as if everything is amplified tenfold. My muscles are stiffer and thusly walking on icy surfaces is a particular feat. Imagine a giraffe on rollerskates, that is me.

Of course you plan ahead for the weather. Additional layers are a must, especially on the extremities with lack of feeling. Keep moving also helps, if your blood is circulating well you will feel marmer. Either way you do it you have to be conscientious at all times of how your body is doing.

Then there is Baby Bear’s porridge, like Spring and my absolute favorite Fall–just right.springandfall.jpg Not too hot and not too cold. The happy body weather. The weather where a sweater or light jacket is the only thing you need when going out of doors. I love being outside any time of the year but unfortunately only certain times work for me.

It’s those other times of the year…where you can only get so many layers on before you cannot breath or (for decency sake) you can only get so naked. So for now I am content sitting in my air conditioned home drinking iced coffee and dreaming of the Fall to come.

 

Suck It Up Buttercup

There are responsibilities taken in life that you never expected or wanted. That is how the last 6 weeks have been. My grandmother had her knee replaced and that meant I had to step up and try to fill her duties while she was gone. No biggie? Wrong.

The matter of cooking and cleaning at her home was taken care of for the most part by my uncle. He made sure Papa was fed and the dishes/laundry was kept up. It was all of the other things that became my burden, I was happy to do it because  it is my family and I love them. When a bill came in I would get out Grandma’s check book and forge the checks to make sure the water and the ‘can’t live without’ cable was paid. I ran errands and picked up meds.

Every other day I would go out to the managed care rehabilitation place and visit Nana to see how she was doing and keep her abreast of what was going on at her home and mine. Often bringing at least one of my three kids along so they could regale her with their tales of summer exploits. After a half hour to an hour we would leave so she could rest, go to therapy, etc.

Her being in the care facility post surgery was a God-send. She could have all of her needs met at the moment she needed them. She didn’t need to be taken to appointments doctor or therapy. It was all right there for her which made it easier on everyone and took the worry and strain off of me. There was no way I could be taking care of her at her home and still be able to take care of my family at mine.

The hardest thing, the responsibility I did not want and somewhat begrudgingly to admit hated was the care of my mother. Do not get me wrong I love my mother and there is always my familial duty towards her.

The relationship I have with my mother is complicated. Complicated by our past as much as the present. I shall give a heavily abbreviated history to give a little insight.

My parents separated when I was three. My mother left Sheboygan Wisconsin with me and came home to Iowa to be by her parents. My father an engineer would visit Iowa one to two times a year my whole life. He would come home for my birthday and a holiday such as Christmas or Easter, bringing me gifts like a bike, barbie ferrari or a radio boombox. Those visits were hard on me and I would be weepy and moody for a week or so after he returned to Wisconsin, I didn’t realize at the time how much it hurt not having a father but that realization came years later.

I grew up living in low-income housing developments as my mother and I lived on child support payments of $330-something a month. Sometimes food was a bit lean but we never starved and my mother would not apply for any food assistance and the like. I never had the fashionable clothes or the latest (you name it). I had regular visits and stays at Nana and Papa’s which was like some glorious holiday. They had cable, a yard full of green grass and trees to climb, and she always cooked big delicious meals and deserts-she also expected you to take seconds!

It is funny that as a kid you do not fully comprehend when things are not quite like they should be. Once you get older and looking back you can see the wrong that was in front of you all along. My mother slept a lot, I mean a lot. The appartment was always blacked out from the sun with thick lined curtains. When she was awake she could be loving and quickly change to teary or very angry. I spent as much time as I could playing outside rather than being inside in the dark with her. She could be abusive but I did not realize that it was abuse at the time. I would be spanked, a few times with hangers, for the smallest of infractions. Compared to the marauding gangs of near delinquent unsupervised youth in the ‘project’ complex I was an angel.

She would let me get some new to me (often thrift store) clothes and I would feel so good until she would make on of her regular down putting comments leaving me feel like I was fat or unattractive. She tried to instill religion in me by the fire and brimstone method. So I feared any misstep under condemnation to burning in hell. I never did sleepovers with friends or get involved with any extracurricular school related activities. We didn’t have money to spend on those or a car to get me there. All this and more left me so socially inept that couldn’t even talk in front of class at school without tears forming in my eyes.

As I aged I saw the irregularities of my home life compared to my peers and I saw injustice that was put upon me. I grew quietly angry. Internally I would steam over the fact that she never did anything. She never tried to better our life, get a job or education. She seemed content to hide away from life and responsibility. As soon as I graduated high school I moved out, not even telling her ahead of time for fear she would try to stop me with anger or more than likely guilt.

You may wonder about my father through all those years and why I didn’t reach out to him. Well, he was mostly an acquaintance, granted one that I loved and craved affection from, but we didn’t know each other very well. When I was nearing my teens he had remarried to another woman and my relationship with her was more than a bit strained. She came with her own set of issues and I already had more than my fair share. At that point the few visits a year were enough of a strain.

Over the years my view of mother changed, not that the anger completely dissipated but it was largely replaced with pity. She had been suffering from undiagnosed depressive disorders for years. She never sought any help with them so I in part still held some contempt for her inactiveness in even caring for herself. Then some 11 years ago my mother suffered a stroke. At that point and still to this day she was living with her parents, again a way of dodging responsibility for herself. They found her on the floor of her roonmin a near vegetative state which would last for a long while.

I was at my in-laws house having a pleasant visit when an uncle called with the news. When I hung up the phone everyone around me was hugging on me and showing genuine concern. I feel guilty about it but I was angry. It was her own fault…sleeping away her life, never doing anything to get the blood pumping, sitting and eating, getting heavier and heavier…she did it to herself-right? We left the kids there and my husband drove me back to town. During the 45 minute drive to the hospital I was quiet, trying to convince myself that I should not be mad I should be worried, that’s what a good daughter would be.

Over the weeks and months she slowly came back-somewhat. She eventually regained her ability to talk, remembered my name and gain her movement to a certain extent. These days she can talk and walk but with some definite disability. She hit the jackpot of not having to be responsible. Monthly disability payments, her aged mother to care for things at home and people to chauffeur her where she needs or wants to go. It frustrates me but at least I didn’t have to be responsible for her or feel guilty, she had all of her ducks put in a row by somebody else.

That was until Nana had her knee surgery. All of the insurance stuff and changes to Medicaid that happened this year became my job to fix and figure out. The fact that she never filed for Medicare when she turned 65 has created such a complex mess I cannot tell you how many hours I’ve spent on the phone trying to get things sorted out. Then there are all of the errands to appointments, pick up prescriptions, or going to the store to spend her money. Granted I was usually the driver for her and Nana for these day trips. But now my health issues, the kids out of school for summer, Nana’s surgery and all the rest it was seriously becoming the straw that was threatening to break the camel’s back.

I fully believe as I write this that I just may be an awful person. I am tired and tired of feeling put upon. I have gotten to the point where I am letting responsibilities at home slide. When I do get to just sit I want to do nothing but lose myself in a book. Then the phone rings and I dread answering it because what in the world does the world want me to do now. I answer it of course and wait for the next piece of straw to be placed.

I am glad to be able to help my family and I love them. So even when I am worn out and resentful of the phone ringing I take a beep breath and tell myself (often out loud), “Suck it up buttercup and get to it.”

 

 

 

 

My Meandering Mind

We are all busy with what life has going on for us. Jobs, kids, budgets, chores, to-do lists of all kinds and schedules can keep our brains working overtime. It can be a real effort to keep it all straight.

I gather it is a common occurrence to lose your train of thought or to misplace your keys. Then again…I think for some of us it may be a chronic issue.

Everyone has walked into a room and then wondered why you came in there in the first place. The other day I traipsed through the house to the kitchen with great determination. Once I got there I had no idea as to why I went there. There had to be a reason I went, right? Looking around the room I saw nothing that triggered why I needed to be in there. So I left feeling a bit baffled.

Returning to the other room hoping for a clue and finding none I gave up. After sitting for two minutes it came to me that I wanted something from the junk drawer. Getting up I headed back to kitchen certain that once I looked in the drawer I would instantly remember the ‘thing’.

On the way my phone rang and I stopped and spoke to the person calling for two to three minutes. After the call ended I just stood there. What was I doing again? Oh, yes..junk drawer.

Five minutes of rummaging through paperclips, child safety locks, broken action figures(to be fixed…eventually), bread ties, keys to God knows what I was no closer to finding out what the heck it was. And to this day I still do not know what I was after.

The same thing happens with conversations. On occasion I will be going on a nice roll and then hit the mental wall. Sometimes it is a speed bump but other times it is a wall. I’ll be darned I was trying to make a point or tell a story and *Poof* it was gone. My wonderful husband and friends are used to this and they either wait for me to find the thought or they help me remember where I may have been going with it.

The one that really ticks me off is when I lose a word. Now this word is not unfamiliar to me and I have probably used it a million times but at that moment I cannot pull it out for anything. I really believe that my mind is full of sink-holes or quick sand. The thought or word is happily skipping along my grey matter when suddenly it is sucked down and buried.

Then there is the times my brain switches gears from one thing to another leaving whoever I am with a wee bit lost in the lurch. We will be going along just fine when suddenly I see something or remember something from prior and it will instantly fly out of my mouth. My best friend has had me do that to her so many times now it is now a joke. In the animated movie “Up” there was this talking dog and it is me in a nutshell.

So during those silly moments either I or my dear friend will just holler out “Squirrel!” 

It is far more embarrassing having those moments out in public or with people who are less used to your whatever you call it-Cog Fog, Brain Farts, Senior Moment, Space Out, Meandering Mind, or Case of the Dumbs. Over the years I’ve gotten used to it and can laugh it off but that doesn’t mean I like it.

I take solace in the fact that I’m not the only one suffering from moments of mind flatulence. 

Little Things to Smile About

As I get older I get the biggest charge about the little things. That is the way I think it should be. The newest, biggest and best is okay I guess but over the years I find more joy in the little overlooked things.

Today just reaffirmed this thought. With spring on its way the slowly warming weather has rapidly melted away the snow. This reveals the hidden life waiting to recharge under the sun’s glorious rays.

In one of my garden beds the little mother hen and chicks look just as good as they did before the feet of snow blanketed them for months. This simple discovery brightened my day. Who would have thought finding small succulents in the yard would have taught me a lesson I nearly had forgotten.

When things seem bleak, cold or hard it is not permanent. It is merely a stage, a moment in a life of many moments. Those days of hardship will too pass and brighter days will return…if we look for them.

 

Nerves Misconducting

The saga of getting my prescription Multiple sclerosis medicine, as I shared in earlier posts, was finalized as of last Thursday. I was simply overjoyed when the UPS man came bounding up the porch steps with my package in hand. By that point my walking was terrible and many of my old symptoms come roaring back. Now I wish that I could report instantaneous relief and normalcy after taking the first pill but I cannot. After lots of rest and sheer dogged determination I am certainly getting around better but the other things are lingering.

It is amazing what you get used too. A person can deal with much and manage just fine. It is when one new thing is added or an old thing changes that creates the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

I have had issues with paraesthesia, a kind of pins and needles, numbness, and maddening crawling sensations on my back for years. It will increase in intensity sometimes due to stress, weather changes, fatigue and Lord knows what else. As long as I take care not to absentmindedly claw my skin raw I can usually deal with it.

Then there is the MS Hug. It is definitely not a sweet as it’s name leads people to believe. Anyone who has experienced this can attest to that. For me it is as if a 800 lb gorilla is embracing me around my lower ribs & abdomen area. While the gorilla is not crushing me he is also not letting me take in decent sized breaths and thus I’d feel as though I could faint.

Numbness was one of my first symptoms of multiple sclerosis. All over my body are areas of varying degrees of numbness. I cannot feel anything in the majority of both of my feet, areas of the left side of my body and nearly all of my left hand and half of my right. I once absentmindedly moved a casserole dish without potholders, forgetting it had just recently come from a 400 degree oven. I didn’t feel the pain that I should have when I realized my mistake and suffered burns. Then there are the number of things I have dropped, crushed and broke(once a wine glass) in my hands. Greater caution and the number of burns, messes and lacerations over the years have been minimized.

Lhermitte’s Sign is a strange one. When I tip my head forward, chin towards chest a momentary electric shock sensation shoots down my back and to my finger tips. It doesn’t last long, simply a momentary zap.

The straw that’s trying to break the camel’s back…

The thing that I cannot completely deal with is an uptick in the level of spacticity and pain in my left thigh muscles. The pain as of late has been horrible, a stabbing burn deep into my quads. Bad enough it brings tears to my eyes when I allow myself moments of solitary weakness. I take a variety of things supposed to aid this but for some reason they are not doing their job as well.

The other thing is tonic spasms. Tonic spasms involve the extensor muscles (quadriceps-front of the upper leg & the adductors-inner thigh muscles) is an involuntary straightening of my leg. It is so bothersome and there is no way to keep it from kicking out. I try to mentally restrain it to no avail. The best way to describe it is like holding your breath too long, to the point your body is screaming for a breath until it suddenly gasps, only in this case it suddenly and painfully kicks straight. These spasms interfere with sleep, walking and climbing stairs.

I understood that I was going to have detrimental things happen during the 3+ weeks while I waited for the insurance company to do what they were supposed to do. I also know this is just the right now and may not be my forever. If it ends up being a ‘forever’ symptom I will just have to deal with it. I take solace in the fact that I have learned to adapt to so much already and my rate of success on that has been 100%.

No More Petting Zoo

Why we stopped going to the petting zoo.

Being that my husband Tony was at work and I was at home with [at that point] two boys, ages 3 and 4, we needed to get out and do something. I called up Nana, the boy’s great-grandma, to see if she wanted to go with us. As is often true Nana was stir-crazy and game to do anything. It was a wonderful warm sunny summer day, the kind that is perfect for being outside. I decided to ask if they wanted to go see the animals at the local petting zoo. Nana a farm girl through and through enjoyed the petting zoo as well so away we went.

We had been to this particular petting zoo a couple of times and the boys always enjoyed feeding the donkey carrots and tossing ice cream cones of seed to the ducks and chickens. Nana loved the lazy old sow and my favorite had always been the goats.
This petting zoo is not huge but has a lot of varied animals. Kittens from the animal shelter, a cow, a couple llama, a pony, as well as the fore mentioned animals. When we arrive my boys were so excited they ran ahead of us and nearly trod on some chicks that had escaped through the chain-link fencing of the poultry area.

We had a routine that we went through each time. First and foremost we had to buy the bird seed cones and go to the poultry enclosure. The closure was of a decent size with a shallow cement pond in the center, a roosting house off to one side and a chain-link fence around it with a latching gate to enter and exit. After they had good hold of their bird feed I opened the gate and all of us went in. Being well accustomed to people and the ways of the zoo the birds all recognized what the little boys had in their grasp. The chickens, ducks and that friendly old turkey with a bad foot came upon them like a clucking quacking beady-eyed feathered flood.

Ian my three year old took it all in stride, never the least bit unsettled by the fowl around him. Then there was my poor four year old Malcolm. He started out with a beaming smile until he realized the birds were really insistent on getting the food. One particularly determined white duck hopped up and took a piece of the cone he was holding.

He, in an instant freaked out and in one spastic motion flipped the remained of the cone and seed straight up into the air. This boy was heavily surrounded by birds and now he was being pelted with the seed falling from above. The raining bird seed drew the attention of the flock that Ian was feeding and now they too swarmed near Malcolm. He was definitely off put by it but I figured probably not scarred for life.

When I opened the gate to leave the area Malcolm had one thing to say,
“I think they were really hungry…too…hungry”.

I did my best to brush the seed out of the boy’s hair and we went on to the step of our outing. The larger livestock was to the side of the poultry area. With their carrots the boys eagerly headed to the miniature horse and mule with Nana in tow. That visit was short lived because Ian saw some of the other children walking around holding cute little kittens and we just HAD TO go see them right away.

While the boys pet the kittens Nana walked over to see the sow. She was away only a moment when the boys hurriedly handed me the two fluff balls they were holding to chase after her. After I got the kittens back where they belonged the other three were already moving on to the next thing, the llamas. They were apparently not very interesting and we ambled on to the goat enclosure.

The goats had a nice sized area with things to climb on and it was fenced in with chain-link. Getting into this area was a bit like passing through a lock and dam system. First you enter a latched gate walk a few paces and there lies another latched gate which lets into the realm of the goats. Once within this enclosure you can feed and pet around 15 goats of varying ages and sizes. I for some unknown reason do like goats. They always have seemed to me that they have personalities.

It was after about 8 to 10 minutes that my grandmother had enough and left the enclosure to sit on the bench just outside under a tree. While telling my eldest something about a nanny goat he was petting, unbeknownst to me 3 year old decided to join his Nana. Ian was always been a good-sized boy taller and stronger that his peers, despite that he he has never been supremely fast. He managed the first gate fine on his own.

It was at this time that I caught sight of him out of my peripheral. He had opened the first gate and not closed it behind him. He was opening the second gate with 5 goats in tow as I ran and yelled for him to stop. Too late. By the time I reached him (mind you it was probably about 3.7 seconds) one goat fully escaped. I managed to block one smaller goat with my leg and grab another by it’s horns before they breached the threshold.

So I hollered at Nana to keep an eye on the boys while I wrestled the goats back through the second gate, no easy task let me tell you. By this point my hair was a bit awry and I was sweating, but I needed to find the escaped goat. I didn’t see any of the people who attended theses animals anywhers but I did catch a glimpse of the four legged jail-breaker climbing up a half wall and going behind the small barn.

I take after it hoping that it would not leave the petting zoo and go marauding about town. With very little grace but a lot of determination I clambered up the half wall and wound around the barn. There I found the impertinent goat eating some flowering weeds that managed to grow back there. Not sure how I was going to get him back where he belonged I tried grabbing hold of him so that I may be able to steer him the proper direction.

The stubborn goat was enjoying his ill-gotten freedom too much to have any of that and maneuvered away. I attempted four more feeble attempts to get the goat to go where I wanted. For a fleeting moment I was considering letting him have his freedom. I mean he must really want it otherwise why would he have left his home in the first place.

No, I couldn’t just let this happen. I got closer and secured my footing, leaned in and picked the thing up. He wasn’t that big but he sure weighed a lot. By the time I got my self and the lead weighted billy back down and out from behind the barn. I looked like I went through war. I know because my dear sweet Nana told me so as I grunted by her carrying the goat. With the last bit of energy I had I plopped the goat over the fence. That whole goat fiasco took about 2o-25 minutes.

Now, from out of nowhere appeared an employee and wanted to know what was going on. I was tempted to tell her that we were trying to steal livestock but realized they wouldn’t fit in the trunk so we brought them back.  I did the reasonable and sane thing and let them know one got out and that it was back in. They thanked me and once again disappeared.

I turned around and there sitting on the bench swinging their feet was Malcolm, Nana, and Ian eating ice cream. Oh what a wonderfully sweet image, almost picture postcard perfect. That was it. I was done. I had grassy stuff in my hair, goat hair clung to the sweat on my body and I had a distinctive barnyard smell to me. We were going home.

I love my children but when one of them asked me on the way home, “Can we go there again tomorrow?” I almost questioned it.

They say when you look back on things they are seen in a different light? Well that is true I can see the humor in that day now, but you know we didn’t go back for a looooong time.