My silly and wonderful Mom

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Mom has been gone two long years now.  Maybe the longest two years of my life.  Rather than post something sad or tearful today (even though privately I may feel that way today) I decided to make a list of random and amazing facts about my mom that ya’ll most likely did not know about her.

Random Mom/Mary Anne Facts:

  1. Wanted to be a forensic handwriting expert when she was younger at one point
  2. Was a history buff and wished she had a degree in it
  3. Did not like studying
  4. Took ballet when she was little
  5. Spent a summer at the University of Hawaii with a friend taking 2 easy courses in the morning and spent the afternoons at the beach
  6. Spent a summer in Europe with a friend traveling in the 60’s
  7. Ate peanut butter out of the jar constantly
  8. Favorite music was Christmas music and Patriotic music
  9. Loved watching sports, especially baseball
  10. Went to the first World Series game ever played in Texas
  11. Had a college degree in Special Education
  12. Her favorite sweet was fudge, especially peanut butter fudge
  13. Hung every ornament ever given to her by a student in the 20+ years she taught on her Christmas tree every year
  14. Collected Hummels
  15. Had the same 4 best friends since childhood
  16. Had 2 half-brothers and 1 half-sister
  17. Her favorite book series was the Elsie Dinsmore series which was written from 1867-1905
  18. Her favorite colors (especially to wear) were brown and green
  19. Her favorite song as a child was Little Bunny Foo Foo
  20. Never pierced her ears even though her grandmother had pierced ears
  21. Was left-handed
  22. Kept and had every wiener dog gift from student’s over the years displayed around the house…ALL OF THEM

Mulishness & Surprise Spreadsheets

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I apologize for the gap in posts, I’ve been sick (at home, not the hospital), had Captain Man-Bun break his arm, had a little visitor for a week who answers to Charli, and then was sick again this last weekend.  Fortunately, I’m feeling human again just in time for my one year labs/scans for my liver anniversary! 

I was cleaning up files on my computer this morning and I came across a rogue excel sheet.  Anyone who knows me well knows I love to make lists, especially if they are color coded and on a spreadsheet.  Don’t judge me.  But I found a list of questions I made for my doctor at UTMB late last August during the week and a half I was discharged.  (To recap…I got sick late August, started looking yellow and was in the hospital at UTMB for a week and a half, then they discharged me.  Then they had me follow up in 2 weeks and was readmitted then for the long haul).  So this list was me at home…swollen with edema, bright yellow with jaundice, weeks from death (to be blunt) trying to make sense of my condition. Trying to figure out how I could fix it with questions and still very very concerned with convincing myself, along with everyone else, that I was healthy, had no problems and could continue with my school work.  Because as we all know, if you can convince everyone else there is no problem then the problem doesn’t exist right?  Yea, nope.  Hard nope.  As I’ve said before I was raised my stubbornness was a good quality and would motivate me in life to succeed, but I let it get the better of me and has become one of my absolute worst qualities.  I’ve let stubbornness almost kill me and kill relationships romantic, platonic, and familial.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, don’t be me. 

Also, as a side note and as a more weathered hospital patient.  This list shows me how naïve and how much I just didn’t pay attention to anything the doctors and nurses told me the first stay in August.  I knew nothing of what was going on in my body, didn’t care, didn’t listen.  I just wanted to convince everyone I was ok, and wanted to know how I could spin my condition into something that didn’t verbally sound serious.

So here’s the list I found…   

Questions for Doctor:

What is my official diagnosis?
Is brown pee still normal until the swelling and all the excess liver bile leaves my system?
Are the spots on my back the same as what was on my arms and face in the ER – bile leaving my system?
Am I safe to return to my normal school duties (describe school duties)
if the edema is from alcoholic liver disease that is normal and will go away with time correct?
if the edema is not from my liver but from sitting that will go away with time and movement correct?
note: the edema is painful, if I sit without my legs up too long they swell up to sausages
is there anything I can do to help the edema go down faster?
I need a note for my chair and dr. nichols regarding returning to school duties and vaguely describing my hospital stay/length and problem
note: I don’t want the official diagnosis or mention of alcohol in it per my hippa rights and my chair said I did not have to disclose anything I wasn’t comfortable with
             they just need something to get an understanding of what went wrong, what is being done to fix it and if I can be cleared for school work
            trying to avoid a forced medical leave of absence next semester
what is going on with my spleen – why is it swollen, how does it de-swell, how long will that take?
what were my liver enzymes?
they said I was anemic – does that go away?

Pictures can be jerks sometimes

 

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        This post is a follow up on my quick one last week about finding a roll of film from a loved one that has passed away…I also hand wrote this in my doctors waiting room this week, good times 

I’ve read surprisingly little about suicide in terms of recovery, self-help, guilt, etc.  Instead I’ve taken a more childish, you could say, approach to blindly dealing with new suicide/mom/death situations and subsequent conversations as they arise.  Most of the time it just comes out as verbal vomit on some poor unsuspecting soul who just wanted me to say “oh I’m doing good, you?” and we both keep moving along in our intentionally separate ways.

This might sound weird to you guys, but until today I had forgotten about mom’s erm…”death anniversary”? ( … there has to be a better term for that).  I think I exerted so much emotional energy on her birthday, then spent the following two weeks in the hospital that I thought somehow that was the “big day” emotion wise for a while and I could resume forgetting she was actually gone and referring to her in the present tense. 

My last post showed a wonderful picture of mom smiling and playing with her grandchildren.  That photo is on my refrigerator now.  But something has changed in the last week.  I pass the photo, look at it, and still smile initially at the happy memory, but then I find myself wanting to scream at her.  I want to tell her in the photo that in 3 years she is going to do something that none of us will ever truly recover from.  I’m sure that even applies to some of you reading this that knew her in the classroom.  Where you can’t even begin to make sense of the bubbly, happy, sing-songy Mrs. Dierking you knew, with the woman she was when no one was watching.  A woman who was capable of committing such a violent act.

Every happy memory of her I have, every picture, now bears with it a tinge of sadness and suspicion… was that smile real?  Was she scared thinking dark, depressed thoughts before that smile?  Did she know she was always going to do this?

On good days I have a completely different answer to this than bad days.  Today I am comfortably on the fence.  No answer.  One comment of hers that always comes to mind when I think about her and her choice of exit strategy will always confuse me as well.  For as long as I can remember, she always would make the comment, “I hope your Dad goes first when it’s time because I don’t think he would survive if I went first.”  ….Great mom, where was that thought when you pulled the trigger?  All disagreements or quarrels you had at the time with Howard or I, both spoken and unspoken, aside…where was that thought at least…

All that to say…memories are complicated and sneaky.  It is almost as if they have their own agendas to bring happiness, sadness, or fear depending on the moment. 

The common sentiment to make sure your loved ones know you love them because you never know what will happen is not exempt from this.  We’re taught that this should bring a magical peace, when in reality it doesn’t.  Mom loved me, and she knew she was loved in return.  Despite what area(s) of my life she disagreed with and vented about to some not-so-discrete individuals, I know she loved me.

Yet …here i am…good memories, a loving mom gone, and more questions than I know what to do with.  My next-step on this logic train is the question that when i look out at everyone in my daily life (especially on Facebook – where we tend to only show the highlight reel of our lives on what is literally called a “Wall” so our real selves can stay safely hidden behind said Wall) …is wondering who is dealing with the same demons my mom was but outwardly looks like Captain Has-My-Shit-Together to everyone else ...

A picture is worth a 1,000 somethings

film

I was going to post a different blog a few days ago, but I got sidetracked by something that I’m still mulling over in my mind.  On Friday I got a roll of film back from being developed (yes they still do that) from Summer 2011.  The roll of film contained pictures of my mom, dad, me, Howard, Jenn and their kiddos at the children’s water park at Moody Garden Galveston.  The pictures kept me pretty nostalgic all weekend thinking about how much fun we all had that day and how happy mom looked in the pictures.

The pictures made me think about this question:  If you could leave your loved ones a random roll of film for them to find after you are gone that would make them smile and be filled with wonderful, happy memories – what would it be of?  What trip, event, family ritual, etc would it be?

Mine would be twofold….for my dad and brother it would be pictures from our road trip across Texas when we were little and dad kept driving into these giant safari parks for us to feed animals out of our car…usually when we had fallen asleep.  And for Sean, it would be pictures from our first camping trip putting up our summer tent while it was snowing in shorts and flip flops at 2am.

Good times…good question though, what would ya’lls be?

mom

Donor Letter Thoughts, part 2

vg-at-eternitys-gate

(Artwork: Van Gogh’s “At Eternity’s Gate”)

“The hour of departure has arrived, and we to go our separate ways, I to die, and you to live.  Which of these two is better only God knows.”  Apology, from the Dialogues of Plate, Volume 2

I haven’t written in a few days for which I apologize.  This letter to my donor’s family has been weighing heavily on my mind.  I don’t want to keep putting it off, but at the same time I don’t want to rush it and make everything sound manufactured.  In reality I am writing this letter to thank my donor’s family, but really I am thanking my donor through them.  When I think about it, it always ends up with me weighing my actions this year and leading up to this moment.  There is some dark humor in a former addict trying to defend their bad decisions with clever rhetoric and attempting to make promises to lead a pure, better life after their child’s gift to me.  My life was my donor’s last action on this earth.  They gave me the gift of life. 

So how do you truly thank someone that has already left this earth for what they did for you?  Traditionally families and friends pay for permanent markers, gravestones, monuments even as a physical place to feel like they are still connected to the person they have lost.  Others, like my father, leave little hints still in place around their home to remind them that the person is not entirely gone, and definitely not gone forever as they believe will see them again one day.  To this day my dad still hasn’t moved my mom’s purse from where she left it in the kitchen the evening before she died.  Some people leave their loved one’s entire room untouched for years.  What are we afraid of that we require so many visual cues of those that have passed away?  Do we believe that if we have something tangible to see and touch then the person will still be here in some way?  What will our loved ones leave around to remind them of our impact on their lives?   All questions that keep circling my mind as I work on my donor letter.  

I wish I knew what kind of person my donor was.  Not that it would change anything, but an article I found online that a heart and lung recipient wrote to her donor made me think about it.  It also reminded me of the movie Seven Pounds.  Great movie if you haven’t seen it.  I know that alot of people check the donor box without thinking or because they don’t want the person at the DMV judging them.  Or they buy into the urban myth that if EMT’s see that you’re a donor when you’re in an accident they will let you die.  It’s probably too much to ask, but I wish everyone that has checked the donor box to really, truly understand what that means and how that one action will be one of the greatest things and impacts on this world that you could do.  

Here’s a link to the article in case anyone’s curious:

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/may/01/letter-to-heart-transplant-donor

Naïve Women & Mad Men: Sunday musings on addiction

bottle

 


Driving at night
Sunlight in the early morning hours
Smells never noticed
Colors never noticed
Writing without rambling (work in progress)
Incessant (renewed) need to draw, paint, create
Sleeping calmly
Waking without shaking
Retaining memories
Remembering the endings of movies
Eating spicy, new foods
Eating a meal instantly, without needing to drink first
Much less argumentative
Introspection
Appreciating the love and support in my life
Keeping the house clean
Showering/hygiene in general

All things that I’m newly appreciating with my recently extended life.  A life where I don’t wake up trying to balance drinking alcohol first thing in the morning to stave off my withdraw in between throwing up because nothing will stay down from my looming liver, kidney, pancreas, spleen problems and constant severe acid reflux.  Between all of that it would take me on average 2-3 hours in the morning to get enough alcohol in me to function and act as a temporary buffer for my health problems and allow me to get to be a semi-functional member of society.  Most of the time it was the routine of throwing up, then taking a shot to try to find the balance of being buzzed enough to make my stomach pain and vomiting stop.

I never drank growing up except a few times in high school to try to appear cooler than I was the few times the “cool” kids allowed me near them or at dances senior year with my significant other.  But still each time was an effort to try to prove I belonged somewhere I didn’t.  Which, on a funny note ended with me being dumped the day after prom for doing exactly that haha – best story ever.  C’est la vie…life goes on.  In college it began to be a problem that laid the foundation for my adulthood Olympic gold medal career drinking.  I’m not making excuses and I take full responsibility for my choices and actions.  I’m just backtracking and reminiscing where exactly I slipped off the edge of social/socially appropriate drinking in order to make friends to becoming a full blown, day drinking addict.

I know in adulthood it still was a buffer socially for me.  People just seemed to like me better when I was drinking…I was more outgoing and confident.  There was also a part of me that had romanticized it in my head from movies and Tv.  There were countless shows where people are writing or working late in their offices doing something amazing, dramatic…possibly life changing and they always seemed to have a drink with them.  (Thus the Mad Men reference in the blog title) Yet it was that very thought that I got carried away with.  And I wish I could put a finger on the moment alcohol changed for me.  I remember a doctor I saw in Austin for vague stomach issues that asked if I drank daily.  My reply was yes, but only a few glasses of wine.  And I’ll never forget that this Doctor looked at me and said prophetically that even if I just drink a little daily it will eventually become a dependence.

Turns out the doctor was right.  Social buffer drinking turned into angry, can’t stop even if I wanted to drinking.  Hangovers turned into morning drinking because in my failed logic, why deal with a hangover when I can drink it away and feel better.  As it grew, each swallow made me cry because I hated it and I couldn’t stop no matter how hard I tried before last Fall.  Never once did it occur to me that what I was doing could hurt me permanently.  Yea, I could drive and hurt someone or hurt myself mildly like the time I fell during Mardi Gras a few years ago and broke part of my face outside my building…. But I figured I never REALLY hurt myself.  I was wrong…It’s pretty humbling to admit something has that kind of hold over you as an adult.  Something that I put as more important than anything or person in my life.  The world could slide into the ocean and as long as I had a bottle and a floatie I’d watch it all sink away with a smile back then.  It’s also humbling when you realize that you have been judging the very people you have become most of your life.  When you realize that, you realize how truly awful of a person you have let a substance turn you into.

(disclaimer: my thoughts about writing this letter to my donor family has me being more reminiscent than usual regarding my life choices, and what brought me to need a lifesaving organ from a member of this family born out of their own tragedy)

Donor family letter…phase 1

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So I got an email the other day from my transplant coordinator about writing a letter to my donor’s family.  This is something they tell you from day one that you have the option of doing when your one-year anniversary of the transplant is approaching.  It’s crazy to think that it’s almost been a year…that last year this time I had just entered UTMB hospital and had no idea what was about to happen.  I thought I was fine.  Heh, “I thought I was fine” …that phrase never follows anything good. 

My coordinator sent me a “sample letter” to help base mine off of.  It begins with thanking the family for my “gift of life” and saying you are “sorry for the loss of your loved one.”  I know a letter is a start, but it seems so very insignificant of a gesture to represent what truly happened this year.  My one-year transplant anniversary is their one-year anniversary of the loss of their loved one.  My extra year of life was their first year without their loved one.  The first birthday without them, the first holidays without them.  And that is something I can relate to since mom’s death was the year prior to my transplant and it was only 17 days apart from her death anniversary. 

What to say, what to say…

What would you say if you had to thank someone specifically for granting you an extra year of life and you had to defend your actions/choices for this year and account for what you had done with that year.  Seems very “parable-esque”.  I feel like I should have done more this year.  I know that I should be aware that some families would not be too happy about losing their loved one to help an addict, who put themselves in the situation to need a liver in the first place.  It’s a lot of pressure if you think about it.  From here on out, I’m alive specifically because someone died (again very Christian metaphorical I’m aware).  Most people don’t naturally think that way.  They think of it as “I’m here because someone created me and gave birth to me and raised me” …not died. 

As some of you might not know I was adopted.  My mother was a teenager who gave birth to me at the Methodist Mission Home in San Antonio and then a few days later was killed in a car accident according to the records I was allowed to look at by the lovely State of Texas.  My entire existence has hinged on people being in the right place at the right time and having something life changing happen.  My birth mother gave me up then died…either way she never would have raised me.  My parents were at the right place at the right time to adopt me, raise me and allow me to meet all you wonderful people.  Then this…someone else left this world so I can continue to be here, exactly where I am.  No idea what God is thinking because I’m definitely not that important lol…

So back to my letter.  What to write…what to say…what would you say to defend your actions and choices this year as a flawed human?

(P.S. The picture up top is of a bench at the Transplant Outpatient Clinic at Methodist that we all have to go to twice a week.  The tiles are painted by donor families and recipients courtesy of Nora’s Home – http://www.norashome.org/)