Monday, December 30, 2013

My New Years Wish



About a year and a half ago John and I purchased a vintage canned ham camper. I grew up camping and have always loved spending time off the grid, but John, a native New Yorker, prefers vacations spent in hotel rooms. As it turns out, a camper was the perfect compromise for us. I get my fill of hiking trails and campfires, while he doesn’t have to sleep on the ground. Win/Win

Shortly after our first excursion, John and I started talking about hitting the road for good when our retirement rolls around. An introverted life, roaming wherever our desires take us, on our own schedule, sounds perfect for both of us.

There’s just one hitch in our plan… (See what I did there?)


Because of my terrible blogging habits, you may not have been introduced to Bronx yet. After Jack’s heart failed earlier this year, it didn’t take us long to realize that our family wasn’t complete without a big block-head dog in it.

Enter Bronx…

She has big, derpy ears, and wears a heart on her shoulder. She has a scary bark if you don’t know her, but also an enthusiastic jump for joy, that lifts her three feet off the ground, when she sees someone she loves. She tenderly cares for my daughter’s hamster when it’s out of the cage, and has no idea why the kitty won’t be her friend. She’s a sixty pound lapdog who knows she is loved, and returns that love one hundred-fold.

In short, she is the second most amazing dog you’ll ever meet. The first most amazing was her predecessor.

Now back to our dilemma…

Bronx is technically a mixed breed dog. Some people would label her a Pit Bull Mix, which I wouldn’t disagree with, but that’s also kind of unfair. Without DNA testing, we have no idea what her lineage is. Sure, she could have some APBT in her, but she also looks remarkably similar to a Dalmatian/Boxer mix. She has no papers or pedigree, she’s just a block head.

I look Irish, but I’m not. It’s human nature that we want to label things, and put them neatly in boxes, but sometimes things just aren’t what they look like.

Now all over the US there are places that have BSL (Breed Specific Legislation) or BDL (Breed Discriminatory Legislation). Some states, cities, towns, parks, and campgrounds won’t allow me to travel through or stop there just because of how my dog looks. This isn’t just unfair to my dog, who may or may not be what she looks like, but all of the pure bred restricted breeds who are good dogs in spite of what their appearance implies. Like Jack. He was a papered APBT, and he was a good boy, going his whole life without snapping and biting someone’s face off. There’s no such thing as a bad breed, just bad owners and a select few bad dogs.

So lets think about this. If I were restricted from being in a place because I look Irish, would that be fair? Even if I were Irish, we wouldn’t stand for that type of discrimination. It’s not about how you look, it’s about how you act. My dog deserves to be put on even footing with every other domesticated canine living in the US today. She’s not a wild animal waiting to pounce. She’s just a dog.


And sometimes she’s a coffee table.

John and I have to be careful when planning trips. We make sure we research where we’re going and what dog laws are in place. We avoid places where we’re not welcome, and we’ve already had to cancel plans to attend rallies for a vintage trailer group we belong to called Tin Can Tourists, because they’re held at campgrounds that have breed restrictions in place. Frankly it stinks. We’re being excluded because of something that only a tiny percentage of the population of dogs and dog owners are responsible for. And by tiny, I mean about .001%. Think about that…

So today, as I was reading a blog written by a full time RV’er, looking at the photos of her and her dogs hiking together, and dreaming about the day when that will be me; it occurred to me that it may not ever be me.

My life will never be complete again without a block head by my side. So until our society learns that a dog is just a dog, and a person with red hair isn’t always Irish, my retirement dreams aren’t realistic. My hope for the future is that they will be, before it’s too late for Bronx and all the good dogs like her. Before it’s too late for me.



Thursday, August 22, 2013

Dear God,

I know that when we talk, I’m usually asking you for something. I ask for forgiveness, I ask you to help me through an emotional time, I ask you to watch over my family. I know it must get tedious hearing about my needs all of the time, so today I’m going to take a moment to just say thank you.

You see, the truth of the matter, and I’ve been honest with you about this in the past, is that I don’t really trust you.

Maybe it’s just a product of my anxious brain, but I don’t trust that your grand plan for me doesn’t involve some huge tragedy that will ultimately make me lose my mind.

So I worry.

I worry that the people I love will get hurt, or sick, and I won’t be able to help them. I worry that my kids will be harmed by someone with bad intentions. I worry that my husband will be killed in a fiery crash on the highway during his daily commute. My worry consumes me some days, and I can’t get the horrible scenarios and the accompanying visions of gore out of my head.

Then I pray.

My prayers are often tear-filled pleas. Please God, let them be safe. Please God, have them answer my text so I know they’re ok. Please, please please, don’t take any of them before you take me. Because I just don’t think I could keep putting one foot in front of the other each day if I had to do it without a single one of them.

1236320_10201632432111885_1033043567_nImagine my surprise when the phone rang out of the blue this morning, and I learned how close I’d come to living a shattered life. There was no premonition on my part, no overwhelming sense of doom. Just a phone call asking for a ride home.

I don’t know for sure how close he came to becoming a tragedy this morning. How long it would have been before his brake line melted, or if he would have been able to stop if it had. I don’t know if another driver would have flagged him down soon enough if the guy in the little red car hadn’t. I don’t know if a shift in the wind would have pushed the fire into the passenger compartment hampering his escape. I just don’t know…

20130822_085136I do know that seeing his burnt out car, windshield shattered from the heat, tires and dashboard melted into surrealist representations of their former selves, made me feel like it had been a very close call indeed.

I guess, dear God, I owe you an apology.

I’m not saying I’ll change. I’d love to, but as much as I try to leave my anxiety behind, I’m a slave to it some days. I will concede that today, while I was going about my morning worry free, you had my back. Thank you for that.

20130822_085245I don’t take my life for granted. I’ve lived enough and seen enough to know it can all be taken from me in the blink of an eye. That’s why I don’t care so much about the things we own, or the accumulation of digits in our bank account. I can fight my way through anything as long as I have them, as long as I have ‘him’ by my side. The only thing in this life that really scares me, is loosing them.

So thanks, dear God, for sending that driver to flag down my husband on the highway this morning. Thank you for not letting his brakes fail when he pulled over to see what the problem was. Thank you for blowing the fire in the opposite direction so he had enough time to get out of the car and walk down the road out of harms way.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, for all the tiny details that came into play today, just so that my husband could come home tonight.

In the future I’ll do my best to remember that you’ve got my back.



Monday, March 25, 2013

The Post I Didn’t Want To Write


Jack had it rough from the start… Born with the dubious distinction of being his own uncle (yes, his half-brother was also his father), he was the runt of the litter, and had to be bottle fed to survive.

He didn’t let a little thing like having the odds stacked against him get in the way of his survival though. He knew there were important things waiting for him in life, couches he needed to hold down so they wouldn’t run away. And somewhere, there was a family out there waiting for him, though they didn’t know it yet, a family who knew nothing about pit bulls, or even dogs for that matter, who needed to have their lives changed irreversibly…


“I think we should get a dog” I told John.

John was not unaware of my love for animals, and over the years we’d always had the staple cat(s) living with us, along with guinea pigs, snakes, hamsters, hedgehogs, etc, but this statement still caused him to raise an eyebrow. I had never expressed any interest in having a dog before that day. In fact, I had always thought of myself as a cat person. Something had been nibbling at the back of my brain for quite some time though, a feeling that my life was missing something.

“You don’t know anything about dogs” he told me, eyebrow still raised. “I watch Victoria Stillwell on TV” I replied, “How hard can it be?”

He looked at me for a moment, shook his head, and went back to whatever it was he was doing at the time. He didn’t say no, but he hadn’t said yes either.  It was time for some strategy on my part. Over the next few months I went to work on Operation Canine Reciprocal Acquisition and Partner Persuasion, or O-CRAPP.

So what was my plan to convince John I was capable of taking care of a dog? Easy, I trained the cat to do doggie tricks. I taught MacDuff to sit on command, beg, stand on his hind legs, and also to dance by turning three circles on cue. I did it using the positivity method of dog training, and of course it worked. Why wouldn’t it? It’s not like cats are a different species or anything, right?


Still, John was not so eager to jump on my band-wagon. I had to break down his resistance even further, and so I began sending him pictures of available dogs. It didn’t matter what breed they were, if they were cute and helpless looking their picture landed in his in-box. I took Tiana to play with puppies at the pet store, and sent him pictures of the event so he could see how happy she looked with a little bundle of fluff. In short, I wore him down until he was putty in my hands. Now it was just a matter of finding the dog that was meant to be ours.


They called him moo-moo. They thought his markings made him look like a cow. Personally, I didn’t see it. What I did see though, was that there was something not quite right about him. John saw it too. He leaned over and whispered in my ear, “He walks a little sideways.” “So does your daughter!” I hissed back, and before you knew it, he was leashed up and riding on my lap in our car. We knew he wasn’t quite right, so he needed a family that wasn’t quite right either; we would love him no matter what. Little did we know that it would become our mantra. Vet: “Your dog is not quite right.” Us: “We know, but we love him anyway.”


“I am going to KILL that damn dog!” I yelled as John walked in the door. “He ATE my dining room chair!” I pointed to the adolescent dog sleeping peacefully on the couch, totally oblivious to my screaming. “That wood is a half inch thick!” I continued to rant, “How did he manage to chew THROUGH it in the thirty seconds I had my back turned?!?!?” John stood silently at the door, work bag still in hand, a bemused smirk on his face. I eyed him with a scowl, if he dared laugh at me, I was gonna punch him!

IMG_2900Training Jack, as he was now called, had been a test of my patience. He spent the first few months in our home either leashed directly to my belt, or tethered to a piece of nearby furniture so I could keep an eye on him. Because if he wasn’t eating something in the house, he was peeing on it. He kept me chasing after him so much, that I felt like I was running in an exhausted stupor, barely able to care for my kids because I was so intent on keeping the dog out of trouble.

Most days I wasn’t even sure I liked him, let alone loved him, but then a funny thing happened…

Well, not funny in a ha ha way, but a curious kind of funny.

Among the many physical ailments Jack was born with, one of the more noticeable was a deformed spine. It didn’t hamper his mobility to any large extent, but he didn’t run much, and he was never terribly agile. One morning, as he was going out to the bathroom, he fell down our front steps and injured himself. He didn’t show it at first, except for a torn up ear, but he had wrenched his back pretty badly. About a day later he began to show us he was hurt, when anytime he was touched he screamed in pain.

It was the first time, of several, that I was majorly concerned for him and his well being. I curled up next to him on the floor, and I cried. I realized at that moment in time, that he had become so much more than a four legged piranha intent on destroying every article of furniture I owned. He was a furry child. Sure, he would never grow up and go to college, would never be able to care for me as I grew old and infirm, but on the flip side he would never ask me for money for a prom dress or wreck my car either. From that moment on he was, without a doubt, my baby, and it was my job to protect him.

So that’s how it was, and everyone knew where they stood. Jack eventually stopped gnawing on all I held dear as he grew older, but his health continued to plague him. He was prone to all sorts of infections; ear, eye, sinus, and yeast. In another heart wrenching emergency run to the vet, he was diagnosed with pancreatitis that was brought on by eating an entire pigs ear in thirty seconds or less. He only had one visible testicle, a condition which caused me to nearly faint when I saw the estimate to get him neutered (apparently they have to go exploring in the abdomen for the other one), but in the end it didn’t matter because each time we’d schedule the surgery he would either get sick or hurt himself and it would have to be postponed until he was healthy.

It never happened…


During the summer of 2012, Jack began fainting every time he stood up. We rushed him to the emergency vet’s, and eventually he was diagnosed with a heart condition. Expense wasn’t even discussed, we just threw enough money at the vets to start sizable college funds for all of their children, and told them to fix our dog. Medications were ordered, and we were told to cross our fingers and pray, which we did.

I performed CPR on him one beautiful warm August morning. I begged him not to leave me while my kids looked on in horror, and he didn’t. Maybe he heard me and knew I wasn’t ready to let go yet, or maybe he was worried that the couch would run off if he wasn’t around to hold it down.

I had six more months with my beautiful boy before his heart gave out on him for good. Each day was a blessing, and while I was hopeful that the medication could stabilize his heart, a voice inside of me kept telling me to prepare for the worst. In my gut I knew that Jack’s shining star was meant to burn bright, not long.

20130225_125459-1I was with him for as long as they allowed me to be, practically pushing me out the door because I wanted to see it through to the end. I kissed him over and over as he fell asleep in my arms, whispering I love you, I love you, I love you, as I did.

If you had told me four years ago that a pitbull would come into my life and change me forever, I would have laughed at you. The truth of it is though, his absence has left me shattered. An empty crate, an empty collar, a pitbull shaped hole in my heart. I wonder if I could have done more for him, if I should have done things differently, despite the vet’s reassurance that we did more than anyone ever expected of us.  There was something not quite right about that dog, but we loved him anyway.

He changed my life, he changed many of our friends and families perceptions of pitbulls. He was a good dog, who never bit off anyone’s face, and looking back through the many, many pictures I have of him, he was a happy, silly dog most of the time.


When I picked up his remains from the vet’s office a few weeks later, they gave me a ceramic tile with his paw print on it. I took it home, and after shedding a few tears over it, I scanned it into the computer and cleaned it up. I then asked John to help me do one more thing for my dog. I didn’t even have to launch a secondary movement of O-CRAPP, he agreed with a simple nod and a couple of phone calls…


I miss you Poopy dog, but it turns out that you’re not the end of the story. You opened up my heart to the fact that without a dog it wasn’t completely full, and you opened my eyes to the plight of millions of good dogs out there just like you. I think that might have been the important thing you survived against the odds for, and I’m so very glad you did. Do all the things you dreamed about but couldn’t do here on earth while you wait for me. Run, jump, play! I’ll be with you before you know it, and we’ll play a game of fetch.

I’ll love you forever…


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Building a Salon in Pictures

Over the last six months I’ve been regularly taking pictures as we worked on the salon.  If you’re friends with me on Facebook, you’ve probably seen the frequent posts. Yea, I’m sorry about that…
Anyway, the place is small so there are only a few strategic places to take photos from, which means I have a folder filled with progression type pictures. So today, as we’re nearing our grand opening,  I was looking through the folder and decided to post some in a chronological format.  Now you can see for yourself just how drastic the change to the space has been.
All of these pictures were taken from the same basic spot in the salon, the southwest corner, even though some of the early ones are a little off because there was a wall blocking my view. Many are taken with my Blackberry camera, which is admittedly crappy, but I didn’t want to take my good camera over there with all of the dust and construction debris flying around.  So please excuse the quality of some shots.
With that being said… Here we go…
Just before we signed the lease:IMG_3664
The first day of construction:IMG00085-20110530-1534
The start of a new subfloor:IMG00104-20110618-1904
Ready for drywall:IMG00115-20110625-1713
Drywall being completed:IMG00133-20110714-1931
Finished painting:IMG00171-20110828-1637
A new floor:
We’re finally finished!IMG_3906
We just have a few things left to do in the suite before we open, and hopefully we’ll be able to check off everything left on our list while we wait for the construction on the building to be completed.
It’s been an amazing journey filled with tears, frustration, and anger, but also a lot of pride in what we’ve accomplished. My family has been a tremendous help, and it couldn’t have been done without them.  The kids sacrificed an entire summer to sit at the salon pitching in when they were able, and John did the bulk of the heavy duty construction by himself, on top of working his regular full-time job. When you add in the fact that he’s footing the bill for all of this, it’s safe to say I have an awesome husband.
I can’t wait to open, and if you’re ever in Racine, I hope you stop in for a cup of coffee and a manicure.  I’d love to see you!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Remembering 9.11–John M. Moran


I signed up to participate in a program through the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, which allows them to use my facebook status to remember and honor a victim of 9.11.

The person I will be honoring is John M. Moran.

I didn’t want to honor a name though, I want to honor a person.  So I did some digging to see if I could find out who John Moran was…

John was a New York Fire Department Battalion Chief, Detailed to Special Operations Command, Battalion 49.  He was one of the first responders to the World Trade Center attacks, and is believed to have been killed in the collapse of the South Tower.  His body was never found.

He was 42 in 2001, and was possibly the youngest Battalion Chief in New York at the time.  He lived in Rockaway Beach, NY with his wife and two young sons, and also his mom, who lived in the apartment above him.

John’s younger brother Michael was, and still is, also a member of the NYFD, Ladder 3.  He was not on duty on 9.11, but like so many other brave men and women, showed up anyway.  In a recent interview, Mike gave his account of the day, and tells of his frustration of being made to wait at the firehouse for several hours, all the while not knowing if his brother was alive or dead.

Additionally, Michael gained a little bit of notoriety in October 2001, when he said what we were all thinking at Billy Joel’s televised benefit concert for New York, and invited Osama bin Laden to “kiss my royal Irish ass!”  In fact, Mike Moran seems to have a way with words that I can really respect.  In a eulogy for Capt. Patrick Brown (also killed on 9.11.01), he predicted that the terrorists would not get to meet Allah in the afterlife, there would be no seventy virgins, and instead they would meet one pissed off Fire Capt..

I can get behind that.

What is very clear about Mike, who has been a voice of remembrance for the fallen heroes of 9.11, is that he dearly misses his brother John.  He maintains a memorial for him in Rockaway, on Chief John Moran Way.

I find it’s hard to tell the story of a person without also including a little bit of the stories of the people who love them.  I often tell my kids that whether they like it or not, they are the sum of the people who surround them.  John seems to have a plethora of friends and family surrounding him who have also dedicated themselves to the protection and service of their fellow humans.  He came from a long line of firemen, and even his wife was a flight attendant.  John himself earned a law degree from Fordham University, but chose instead to work for the fire department, and put himself in danger in an effort to help others.

In fact, on Father’s Day in 2001, just a few short months before the WTC attacks, John was injured in an explosion at a hardware store fire that left three other firefighters dead.  So he was no stranger to the risks he took in his job, and was fully aware of them when he geared up that bright September morning.

While it would be easy to just say he was a firefighter, and leave it at that, it would be erroneous to sum up his life as his job, and maybe a little too easy.  John was much more than a fireman.  He was a father who smothered his boys with love, a son who made sure his mother was always taken care of, and a good friend to all who knew him.  It appears that all of his friends considered him so much more than a good friend, they considered him part of their family, and many say they were better people for having known him. 

Coincidentally, John met his wife Kim on September 11, 1990, while standing outside of his firehouse.  “I was stood up on a date,” she recalls. "Some guy just didn't show up. I gave up at about 10:30, changed into some jeans and tennis shoes, and went down to get some pizza for myself and my roommate.  He was standing on the apron of the firehouse, and I just fell in love with him instantly. He's the love of my life.”

John enjoyed kayaking, playing piano and guitar, and singing.  On Saturday, September 8, 2001, he and his cousin, Congressman Joseph Crowley, jumped on stage at a Rockaway block party, and performed “The Star of the County Down,” to the delight of the local audience.

Sunday, September 9th, he was at the beach with his wife and boys.  John had built a wheeled cart to transport his kayak, but on this day he pulled his sons in it instead.  I can imagine them laughing as it bumped across the rocks and sand.  His wife grabbed her camera and snapped a picture, capturing their smiles for eternity.  One last happy memory.

On Monday September 10th, John was back at work.  He pulled a 24 hour shift, and at 7am on September 11th when his shift was done, he decided to hang around his unit’s Roosevelt Island headquarters and shoot the breeze with his friends and co-workers.  When the call came in from the North Tower on that bright, sunny morning, John asked his chief if they needed some help, and suited up before jumping on the truck.

He spoke to his brother Mike while in route to the towers.  Mike told him to be careful, that we were under attack, and John responded by saying he had seen the second plane fly overhead before hitting the South Tower.

After the attacks, John’s wife and sons held out hope that he would return home.  After having survived the hardware store explosion, it was difficult for them to believe that a handful of terrorists could defeat this resilient man.  However, John was never heard from again.  On October 4, 2001, John’s memorial service was held at a church in Queens.  His brother Mike gave the eulogy, and Mayor Giuliani called for a standing ovation for the fire veteran of twenty years. The mayor said that while Moran's two young sons may not fully comprehend all that happened, "The thing I want them to understand for their entire life is that their father is a great man."

I, of course, never knew John Moran, but I wish I could have.  I wish I could shake his hand and thank him for his service, and for putting himself in harm’s way.  More importantly, I wish his sons could have grown up knowing him as well.

Thank you John, Kim, Ryan, and Dylan, for your sacrifice.  I wish it had never been asked of you.  Also, thank you Mike, for your continuing sacrifice.  We owe you all so much, and the debt will never be repaid.



Thursday, September 8, 2011

Remembering 9.11.01


When John used to do the Tommy D’s show, they always had a 9.11 special where they would spend their air time remembering the events of that day, what they were doing when the planes hit, how they experienced the attacks, and most importantly remembering the people who lost their lives.  They encouraged people to call in and share their stories as well, so that we might all remember the day a little clearer, and experience it from many points of view.

Those shows were horrible and cathartic all at once.  Terrible, but also comforting as a tragedy shared.  In the spirit of Tommy D (which no longer airs), I’d like to continue the tradition.  I’ll share my story, with the hope that you will too.  Blog about it, post it on facebook, tag me, or email me the link, and I’ll add your story to mine. 

So that we may never forget…

My story actually starts in June of 2001.  I know that may sound like an odd starting place, but I can’t remember 9.11 without also thinking of a beautiful day in June just a few months before.  John and I were in New York, with the kids, to get married.  Our service was in Nyack, NY on the 23rd, but before the big day, we took the family sight seeing.

On June 20th, 2001 John, Alexi, CJ, Tiana, my parents, and I all took the ferry from Liberty State Park to Ellis Island and Liberty Island.  From there we had a spectacular view of Lower Manhattan.  I was mad because I had forgotten the card for my digital camera, but my dad let me snap a few with his, which he promised to send me.  The photo you see above is one I took from Liberty Island.

As we stood at the rail, in front of the Statue of Liberty, looking across the Hudson at the majestic Manhattan skyline, Alexi and CJ asked if we could go see the twin towers.  John and I said no, it was nearing rush hour, there would be plenty of visits to New York in the future to do the normal touristy things, and we needed to get back to Nyack to take care of so many last minute wedding arrangements that had yet to be dealt with.

I said the towers would still be there the next time we visited New York.  Words I wish so desperately I could take back.  If I could do it all over, we’d have gone into the city that day and taken the kids to the top of the towers.  If nothing else, so that they would have been able to grasp the scope of tragedy that happened just a few months later, and have a better understanding of the scale of devastation.

But I didn’t know… How could I have possibly known?

The morning of September 11th was as beautiful here in Wisconsin as it was in New York, and we were doing our usual morning routine of getting the kids ready for school.  I don’t remember exactly why John was home that morning.  He should have left for work earlier than he did, but I suspect it was to take the kids to school for me, and give me a break from the 25 mile (one way) commute I traveled three times a day.

We had satellite television at the time, which didn’t carry any of the Milwaukee local channels.  It did, however, carry network television from New York and Los Angeles.  So, that morning, at 7:46am CST, we were watching the local news out of New York when American Airlines Flight 11 struck the North Tower. 

The news crew immediately switched to “Breaking News” mode, and began broadcasting a live feed of the smoking sky scraper.  They took phone calls from people who had seen the initial impact.  First reports were that it had been a commuter plane, or other small aircraft that had crashed; as more witness calls came in though, more reports of it being a jetliner were aired.  Someone said the T word, but the anchors quickly shut them down, saying it was much too soon to speculate that terrorists were behind the crash.  It was quite a bit more likely that some poor, inexperienced pilot lost control of his plane.

Until 8:03am CST, when on live network television we watched United Airlines Flight 175 strike the South Tower.

I might have let out a soft scream, I know I immediately clasped my hands to my mouth as I watched the explosion billow out of the South Tower on my television screen.  I turned to John who was sitting on the couch next to me, and asked him what had just happened.  My brain refused to process what my eyes knew they had just seen.

The news anchor answered my question, confirming that, what appeared to be, a commercial jetliner had just crashed into the South Tower of the Word Trade Center…

John started making phone calls.  We had friends and family that worked in the area, though we weren’t sure where in Manhattan their offices were. Phone services in New York were spotty at best though, with the cell tower on top of the WTC being disrupted, and circuits overloaded.  He couldn’t get through to anyone in New York, so we sat, and watched, and prayed. 

John told me about the emergency services that would be responding.  As a volunteer fire fighter in Nyack, he had trained with men who were probably currently working their way up the stairs of Tower One and Two.  They were the city’s best and bravest, going to rescue the trapped, and put the fire out.  I had the utmost confidence in them, and in the buildings ability to withstand the hit.

On the news, they took several calls from people who were trapped on the upper floors of the buildings, up above the impact sites where the air was filling with searing smoke.  They urged rescuers to hurry, afraid they would be overcome soon, and passed messages on to loved ones they had been unable to contact.  The anchors told them to remain calm, and said that help was on the way.  I cried silent tears, and prayed harder.

It wasn’t until the next day that I heard the reports of people jumping from the upper floors of the building.  I still often wonder what happened to those callers I heard on the news that morning.  Did any of them survive?  Did the panicked voices belong to someone who fell to their end trying to escape the hot, choking death on the top floors?  I wish I knew, and yet I’m glad I don’t.  Their voices will forever haunt me.  Part of me wants to believe one or two of them beat the odds, though I know it’s unlikely to be true.

John had to leave, as much as he wanted to stay and watch the reports on television.  He took the kids to school, and then planned to head to work.  We promised to keep in touch, if either of us learned anything new, or heard from any of our friends.

I don’t remember why I called John, I just remember that I was on the phone with him when the first tower fell.  I started to scream as I realized what was happening, trying to form words that refused to come out of my mouth.  As John’s frantic questions over the phone penetrated my brain, I fell to my knees in my living room and cried “The building collapsed, John; it’s gone, it’s just gone.”

I thought of the voices of the trapped people on the phone, the rescue crews making their way up the stairs, and I cried.  I thought of our friends in New York, their families, and the score of people who would never see someone they loved again, and I cried.

I was still kneeling on the floor twenty-nine minutes later when the second tower collapsed, numb from what I was witnessing, but still able to form cascades of tears for the beautiful lives that were ended that day.

I stayed that way for a long time, like Stan’s mom laying on the couch day after day, hoping for news of survivors and Osama bin Laden’s head on a pike.  I wanted to drive to New York, and dig up the rubble with my own bare hands, but all I could do was sit and watch.  When life, and television programing, started to return to normal a week or so later, I still didn’t feel right.  It didn’t feel right that life should go on for me, when for so many it hadn’t.

I still cry, whenever I see a documentary, read an article, or think too deeply about the events of 9.11.  I didn’t loose anyone I knew personally in the attacks, but I know many who did.  I cry for them, I cry for innocence lost and a country that has changed beyond recognition, and I cry for the huge waste of life sacrificed in the name of hate.  It’s likely I always will.

At least I hope I always do…


Now it’s your turn.  Share your recollections of the day, so that together we never forget.



Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The bad thing about getting drunk…


I haven’t talked about anxiety in awhile, and when I first thought about writing this post, I nixed it as a dumb idea.  Then I decided that maybe I should put on my big girl panties and get over it.  You see, I used to say that if writing about my experiences helped someone cope with their own issues, or at least let them know they were not alone, then it was worth the discomfort I felt about publishing it.  I never actually believed anyone was reading those posts though, but as it turns out, they were. If it means something to one other person out there, then it’s worth it.  So…

Since I haven’t mentioned my anxiety in awhile, you may think it went away.  I wish!  I was on prescription medication for it for about three years, but one of the side effects was it made me fat and lethargic, so I decided it was time to try to exist without it.  That was about two years ago, and since then I’ve gotten by on herbal supplements, meditation, and pure German stubbornness.  It’s not the best scenario for someone who has to deal with anxiety, but it is what it is.  At least I don’t fall asleep while eating dinner anymore, and that’s a plus in my book.

Since I stopped taking anti-anxiety medication, it has been slowly increasing with each of life’s traumatic event’s that pass my way.  John’s dad’s passing, quickly followed by Tiana’s spinal fusion, got it rolling on the tracks like a freight train, and it’s just been gaining momentum since then.

Recently, after a ton of debate and discussion, John and I made the decision to open a nail salon, and with that decision my sanity went screaming out the door.  My anxiety is now nearly completely in control of my brain function, and it’s a speeding train charging downhill.  I just hope it runs into an incline to slow it down soon; hopefully before it hits a sharp curve and completely derails my life.

So, the other day I decided to imbibe in an adult beverage.  Alcohol is a great relaxant, and if you’re familiar with the pain caused by muscle tension that comes with anxiety, you probably also know that a couple of drinks relieves it almost immediately.  It’s probably why so many people with anxiety and depression end up with alcohol addictions.  Luckily that’s not a problem for me; I hate losing control way more than I hate feeling anxious all of the time.  So getting drunk on a regular basis is never going to be the cure for my crazy.

Anyway, as I felt the tension run out of my neck, I relaxed into the sofa, and thought how nice it was to have a reminder that the pain wasn’t real. I don’t have some weird neck cancer that’s preventing me from turning my head to the right.  It’s just muscle pain that would go away if I could ever find a way to relax enough to let it.

Then, after a couple of drinks I had effectively bound and gagged my anxiety.  It was now crouched in the corner, slobbering around the big red ball gag in its mouth, whimpering like the little bitch it was.  The problem with that is my anxiety takes up a lot of space in my consciousness, and when you remove it, it leaves a vacuum.  That space must be filled with something…

“Oh, hello self-loathing, haven’t seen you around these parts in awhile.  Can’t say I missed you very much, but hey, as long as you’re here you might as well settle in and destroy my self worth for a few hours.  It’s ok, I have the time.”

Apparently I only have two modes currently, anxious or depressed.  Yay me!

So, as it turns out, the great thing about getting drunk is that it eases the physical pain caused by anxiety.  The bad thing about getting drunk is that it ushers in the self loathing often caused by anxiety.  It’s a lose-lose kind of thing…

Now, these posts always come out sounding so depressing, and that’s really not my intent.  Don’t feel sorry for me, I’ll be ok. I still get up every day, get dressed, and do what I have to do. I know this won’t last forever, at least not at this level. I constantly remind myself that I am not the sum of my crazy, and I won’t let anxiety define me. So I keep moving, keep active, and keep reminding myself that this too shall pass.  I still feel joy, I laugh with the kids and John daily, and I’m really good at making fun of my own dysfunction. 

The point is that if you struggle with anxiety, or depression, alcohol is not a cure; it only makes it worse.  Neither will drugs, illicit or prescription, ease your pain.  Those are stop gap measures, to help you cope for a single moment in time, not a cure, and if you rely on them without addressing the root of your anxiety, they will only increase the problem.

So what’s a serotonin imbalanced person to do?  Look beyond the easy fix.  Get off your ass and get moving.  Exercise helps tremendously, it spurs your brain to release chemicals that counteract the serotonin, and within days of starting even a light exercise regime, you will feel miles better.  Don’t give into the urge to stay in bed, no matter how much it feels like you can’t face the day.  Inactivity only compounds anxiety and depression, get up, get dressed, I promise you’ll feel better.

Additionally, look into Mindfulness Meditation Therapy.  Standard therapy practices don’t work terribly well for people with general anxiety disorders because there is no way to confront a non-specific fear, especially if that fear changes from day to day.  So traditional cognitive therapy is a complete and total bust for people like myself.  Mindfulness Meditation Therapy can help you address your anxiety instead of trying to push it into the back of your mind.  Once you confront it, and stop trying to hide it, it looses its potency and becomes much easier to manage.

Life is a freight train, barreling down the tracks, and we’re just strapped in for the ride.  Some days it feels that there are more downhill, out of control stretches than ups, but be aware that it’s impossible to fall forever, and no, that doesn’t mean you’re going to crash at the bottom.  The track will turn, and you will level out.  Today may be a bad day for you, tomorrow may be worse, but the day after that you may see a glimmer of hope. 

It gets better; I promise.