My Anaphylactic Allergy – And the 500% Price Hike for an Epi Pen

EpiPen

My allergies started out gradually and crept up on me.

First, there was a metal taste in my mouth like I was chewing aluminum foil whenever I drank red wine, ate a handful of assorted nuts, a few cherries, or a side of mixed vegetables.

Then, in addition to “metal mouth,” it seemed like certain fruits I ingested, like apples, peaches, plums, and even raisins, would tingle my tongue or itch my throat. I had no idea what was going on.

Plus at night, I would writhe around for hours with abdominal pain, severe nausea and such intense stomach palpitations that I thought there was a jackhammer digging a crevice inside of me.

I went through untold numbers of laboratory, radiological, ultrasound, and endoscopic testing.  I suffered through a colonoscopy, a cystoscopy, and a CT scan.

After months of tests, my gastroenterologist sat down with me to tactfully explain my problem: It was psychological. He suggested I try a psychologist.

Really? All those raucous parties in my belly were caused by crazy?

Turns out he was almost deadly wrong.

I eventually discovered the reason for my “problem” the hard way—by snacking on a bunch of raw baby carrots, which caused an allergic reaction that almost killed me.

I had somehow developed a “priority allergy” and was little by little becoming deathly allergic to carrots. I had also developed a severe case of fruit-pollen syndrome.

I was later told by an allergist that in addition to having the fruit-pollen syndrome, my priority allergy to carrots, triggered a systemic reaction in my body that induced a near fatal outcome when my severe tongue swelling frightfully cut off my ability to breathe.

The way it was explained to me, is that my allergy to certain tree, grass, and weed pollens is why even a sliver of a carrot has become my mortal enemy.

The pollen molecules of weeds and certain trees like birch, alder, poplar, are so similar in structure to the proteins in certain raw vegetables and fruits that one of the body’s natural defenses against allergens—an antibody called immunoglobulin E—can’t tell the difference.

So when the antibody binds to a fruit or vegetable protein, anyone allergic to the pollens I described above, may develop an immune response that can cause metal mouth, itching, and tongue tingling.

The reaction can actually bypass the mouth and enter the gastrointestinal tract, causing severe abdominal pain, stomach palpitations, and nausea.

And my gastroenterologist didn’t know this because?

Now that I am allergic to birch pollen, I have also developed an oral allergy to apples, pears, peaches, plums, apricots, cherries, hazelnuts, cashews, almonds, and kiwis. And it seems that every day I discover another annoying food I’m allergic to.

I recently ate a slice of rye bread and spent the next few hours itching and coughing, while clutching my at-the-ready EpiPen.  And then there was the lip swelling and tingling I experienced after drinking a Corona beer. Go figure.

I am also severely allergic to mold, which triggers my asthma, as well as dust mites, and pet dander. All three cause me to cough, wheeze, become dizzy and lightheaded, and run for my Epi.

Wool, many laundry detergents, sunscreens, eye shadow, nail polish, face makeup, mascara, shampoo, conditioners, perfume, and most fabric softeners give me severe hives. But the good news is—they won’t kill me.

But the worst allergy for me is called weed mugwort and has caused mild to near fatal allergic reactions in my system to carrots, bell pepper, caraway (thus the rye bread), coriander, aniseed, fennel, cinnamon, paprika, chamomile, green tea, and cumin.

There are a few foods I can still enjoy without my stomach cramping and my mouth tasting like metal. These foods include broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, peanuts, green onions, cabbage, watermelon, bananas, melons, citrus, tropical, and berry fruits.

So far, that is.

I have been warned that based on my allergic reactions to so many foods, and my anaphylaxis allergy to carrots, that there is an increased chance of my allergies progressing to a more severe reaction.

The bottom line for me is that I have a 50/50 chance that if I accidentally eat a carrot, I will go into anaphylactic shock and I could die.

So I carry two EpiPens and a bottle of liquid Benadryl with me at all times.

It was strongly suggested to me by my allergist that I purchase several EpiPens for home, in the car, in my purse, and in the office. Because, believe me, I can now attest to the fact that once the tongue starts to swell, your breathing passage gets blocked very quickly.

Most EpiPens come in a set of two. And EpiPens should be replaced every 12-18 months. My expiration date states 18 months, but last time I replaced my Epis at 12 months. Why would anyone take a chance and wait 18 months?

The last thing you want to do is stab yourself in the thigh while your breathing has all but stopped, only to find out that your EpiPen has expired and is too old to work!  That means death folks. I’m not joking.

I can’t even fathom how I would handle having a child with a deathly allergy. It must haunt parents 24/7. The only thing that can save your child from an anaphylactic allergy attack is to stick them in the leg with an EpiPen. But what if you’re not around? What if they’re at camp, in school, at a friend’s house?

As an adult, I can handle the realization and stress that I can die anytime, anywhere, anyplace. But there is no way in hell I could accept that kind of fatal possibility with my child.

I don’t know how a parent lives with the worrying all day every day. I do know they must buy a shit load of EpiPens to ward off any and all possibilities.

If I had a child who had an anaphylactic allergy, I would buy Epi sets for school, all the cars, friends and relatives houses, camp and wherever and everywhere else.  And this is where a psychologist would probably come in handy.

Now comes the ridiculously unfair and outrageous part of the whole situation.

In 2013 I paid $264.50 for a two-pen set. I thought the price was absurdly expensive, particularly since I wanted to purchase at least four sets.

Now? The current price is about $640 a set.

The company Mylan, has a monopoly on the product for at least one year. That is when a generic competitor will hopefully enter the market.

Until then, Mylan is just straight up greedy, and is just another example of what happens when a monopoly situation ends up in a company’s lap.

It’s morally wrong, and shame on Mylan for putting innocent children at risk of death. Not to mention me.

Now, if I want to purchase a set for my car, my husband’s car, my purse, and my office, I need to shell out approximately $2,560. Will I get reimbursed? No, because I have a high deductible health plan.

And how about the families who can’t afford even one set? Or worse, who have no insurance?

If I had a child with anaphylactic allergies, I would buy as many as I needed no matter what the cost. I couldn’t and wouldn’t take any chances whatsoever with the life of my child. Who would?

But for my personal situation?

I carefully safeguard my two measly EpiPens and my bottle of liquid Benadryl, and take them everywhere I go. And I’m already at 16 months with the same pens.  Stupid decision, I admit.

A letter to Congress called “Stop the EpiPen Gouging” asks that there be an investigation and regulation into the 420% increase (adjusted for inflation!) in the price of EpiPens since 2004. And so far, 116,620 letters have gone out. Take that Mylan.

Please click on this link and fill out the form right now?

Your letter might not save all of the people who die from anaphylaxis this year, but it might save the life of one person.

anaphylaxis-symptoms-food-allergy

Yep. I made it to my 45th Staples High School Reunion!

Reunion 45th

To go or not to go? That was my Staples High School Reunion question.

But after all the handwringing, I came, I saw, I conquered.

After I had written my blog post about whether to go or not to go, I received tons of e-mails and postings from hundreds of people—many of them were former classmates but many were not. There was an incredible outpouring of support, but more importantly, so many of those who wrote to me opened up about their own heartbreaking high school experiences.

So I want to thank all of you for your honesty and compassion. Because in the end, you were the reason I decided to suck it up and go.

And sure, it was the same old reunion-type dialogue. We talked ad nauseam about the good and bad old days. We reminisced about this store and that restaurant. We told horror stories about our drunken forays from Portchester to Westport. Sit-ins, Cardinal Puff, detention, lots of pink and green, Devil’s Den, Steak and Brew, the girl from uncurl, blah blah blah.

But here’s the thing.

We also asked each other the deeper more meaningful questions. We talked about our parents, our siblings, our children, our grandchildren and our feelings. Nobody really cared about how we made our livings. It was more about how we made our lives.

And it was cathartic. Because for a brief few hours, I was able to go back to that time and place and rediscover that naïve teenager, with unlimited promise, within myself. I would like to think we all went back to that young girl or boy who possessed enormous opportunities; full of hopefulness, and youthful ambition and dreams that were actually possible.

It was restorative to hear stories about that young Teri I once was, and I was grateful to meet her again—this time through the eyes of others.

As Paul Simon so eloquently put it: “What a time it was, it was a time of innocence, a time of confidences.” But my time of innocence has long past, so it felt good to celebrate who I was back then, and now as I enter my twilight years, to give me pause to reflect on who I am now, and how my life has impacted the lives of others.

I drove by what was once Mario’s, Oscar’s, the Red Barn, and Sally’s Place. I made my way to the spots where the Big Top, the Ice Cream Parlor, and the Remarkable Book Store once stood. And despite the sweltering heat, I walked the length of the Staples football field and then took a peaceful stroll through the Nature Center. I drove by my old house—three times. And then I pulled my car over and wept. A mixture of tears of joy for all that I have and tears of sorrow for all that I have lost.

As I shared stories with my fellow Stapleites, I realized that we walk a similar walk. And talk the same talk. And in our conversations, we all agreed on this: that our lives were rich, precious, painful, complicated, beautiful, miraculous, cruel, messy and loving.

Life caught up with the most talented, the most beautiful, the best dressed, the most popular, and the most famous. And finally, after 45 years no one gave a damn who was the loser, how many times someone was married, who was the sports star, who was the captain, who was the smartest, or who was the reject.

Because at our age, we finally understand that no one has escaped the pain and disillusionment of loss, outer beauty, disappointment, illness, drama, death, poor decisions, bad relationships—you name it, we’ve been through it.

We spoke of our children, and grandchildren, of siblings, wives, and husbands who were taken away from us way too soon, parents who committed suicide, and a son in desperate search of his birth mother. Doctors, lawyers and Indian Chiefs. A pastiche of 1971 spirits cloaked in 2016 bodies.

Yes, I made it to my reunion—the one and only Staples class of 1971. I was surrounded by compassion, confidence, vulnerability, and genuine interest in what I have been doing with myself for the past 45 years. With no awkwardness and no judging.

Okay, there was one moment of awkwardness when a former classmate excitedly pointed to me and exclaimed “OH MY GOD! YOU’RE ALIVE!!!”

“Uh, yeah, last I checked,” I responded warily. She proceeded to explain (as best she could) that she had been telling people I was dead because my photo was on the deceased table.

The deceased table?????? I sprinted over to the table and to my relief there was no Teri photo. Whew.

But on the serious side, we lost so many classmates. A heartbreaking reminder that life is short, and that if you believe in God, He most certainly works in mysterious ways.

And how about that Reunion Band? Wow. A bunch of 60 somethings dancing and grooving to outstanding music thanks to the talented Charlie Karp, Brian Keane, Mike Mugrage, Bill Sims, Bubba Barton, Bonnie Housner Erickson, Rob McClenathan, Julie Aldworth McClenathan, and Jeffrey Dowd. And a shout out to the incredible singers Kim Sullivan and Linda Satin Pancoast. And of course, let’s not forget David Jones on the spoons.

And who knew that Charlie had recorded with Buddy Miles, opened for Jimi Hendrix, and toured with Aerosmith? Or that Brian was the winner of four Emmy Awards?

And I don’t know about anyone else, but they really got me with their last song of the evening: Forever Young. Oh, if it were only possible.

The photo booth, the hand painted rocks from Compo Beach, the old time candy, new friends, and old friends. All in all, it was an incredible couple of days thanks to the tireless and I’m sure often thankless effort by Joanne Romano-Csonka and Bonnie Housner Erickson. Without the two of them, I don’t know if we would even have a reunion. Time and time again, every five years, they put their all into making a beautiful event for the rest of us.

At the end of an incredible Saturday evening, we all said our reluctant goodbyes, full of bear hugs, kisses, and good wishes, promising to keep in touch. We probably won’t.

And the woman who thought I was deceased? Well, she wished me well and reiterated that she was thrilled that I was still alive. Me too, girlfriend!

So for anyone stressing out over an upcoming reunion—and who, like me, keep going back and forth anxiously asking themselves the “to go or not to go” question. I say go. Take a chance. Reach back in time. Feel like a kid again.

And God willing, I’ll see my 1971 buds in 2021!

Long ago it must be
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories
They’re all that’s left you
~ Paul Simon

Reunion 45th Deceased Table

My Staples High School Reunion—to Go or Not to Go

Nervous woman

As of right now, I plan on attending my 45th reunion from Staples High School in Westport Connecticut next weekend.

But to be honest, over the past few weeks I have gone back and forth and forth and back about whether to go or not to go.

At 63, I see myself as independent, confident and strong willed. But I wasn’t always that way.

My looming reunion has me going back in time to my 1968 self—anxious, teased, meek and weak.

Taunts like “Theresa the Greaser,” “Olive Oyl,” and “The Mod Martian,” were some of the names I painfully recall when I look back on those not so wonderful years.

I wasn’t invited to any of the fancy schmancy parties, although I would strain to hear the popular kids excitedly talk about them before class, in the gym, and at lunch.

At dances, I was the perpetual wallflower, sitting in a corner uncomfortably observing high school life passing me by.

And the fear of having my name “Theresa” be forever associated with the word “Greaser,” was the reason I decided to drop the name altogether and use my nickname, “Teri.”

I grew to hate my own name. If anyone called me Theresa, I refused to answer to it. As a result, I haven’t referred to myself or been called Theresa for over 48 years.

Now, I don’t want you to think I had zero friends because that wasn’t the case at all. I had some really terrific friends, which is why I’m on the fence about going to the reunion. But what if they don’t show up? Who will I talk to? Who will I hang out with? To go or not to go.

And I also don’t want you to think there were hundreds of haters out to get me. No, not hundreds, but enough to make my 10th year in high school unbearably lonely and downright miserable.

To ward off the haters, I reinvented myself in the summer of 1969, in preparation for the 11th grade. To give credit where credit is due, my best friend at the time showed me the wealthy way to fit in: the latest and greatest hairstyle, expensive, somewhat revealing trendy clothes, push-up bras, and makeup. Lots and lots of makeup.

I called it my war paint. To this day I despise wearing makeup and still refer to it as war paint. I artfully paint it on whenever necessary and wipe it off as quickly as possible.

But in the summer of 1969, I wore that war paint proudly—and often. And with the makeup, along with all the other superficial fixes, I succeeded in throwing Theresa far far away.

And I won the war. Because guess what? The haters stopped hating. Which was weird, because I was the exact same person. Okay, to be sure, I had way nicer clothes, straighter hair, and at least the appearance of bigger boobs.

My early high school experience definitely shaped who I am today; steadfastly intolerant of bullying and totally and utterly unimpressed with the rich and famous.

And all of that rejection was forever ago, so in preparation for possibly attending my 45th reunion, why is it that I can’t stop feeling like that anxious, skinny, homely girl back in 1968?

Which is why last night I made a final decision not to go.

Only to wake up this morning and decide to just suck it up and go already.

I don’t know if I’ll show up or not. I guess I’ll wait until next Friday and see how I feel.

At least I don’t have to worry about getting a huge ass pimple on my face. That was so 1968.

But, to all my fellow Stapleites: if I do happen to show up for the reunion, and you happen to see me sitting in a corner—wallflower style, pretending my phone is blowing up with activity, please say hello and let’s remeet each other.

Because I’m Theresa, hear me roar.

Teri Gatti 1971

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue or Bust

donald-trump
Something YUUUGE happened to me this weekend. The harrowing and disturbing thought occurred to me that Donald Trump might actually end up in the White House.

I really thought that his over-the-top pontifications, offensive, misogynistic rants, narcissistic proclamations, beyond-belief exaggerations, self-adoration of all things Trump and lies heaped on top of more lies would be wearing thin with his supporters right about now.

Hugh Hewitt, a well-respected conservative radio talk show host, said it best: “Ignoring Trump’s flaws is like ignoring Stage IV cancer.”

But Trump supporters are all in. At all costs. A “shove it” to “the rest of us.” To hell with cancer.

According to the professional fact checkers, Trump is the most compulsive liar to seek high office.

The nonpartisan Politifact has rated only 2 percent of Trump’s assertions as 100% accurate. The Washington Post has rated 70% of Trump’s statements as lies. Instead of self-reflecting, and making some presidential tweaks (vs. non-presidential tweets), Trump barred the Washington Post reporters from campaign events.

I am so sick of the Trump show all the time. Every time he opens his mouth with another one of his Trumpisms I can’t help but respond under my breath.

But there is zero point in muttering to myself. So I have decided to mutter out loud to hopefully get some of my frustration out in this blog post.

Trump: “If I decide to run for office, I’ll produce my tax returns, absolutely, and I would love to do that.”
The Teri Tome: I would love for you to do that as well.

Trump: “I know more about ISIS than the generals.”
The Teri Tome: Yeah, okay.

Trump: “I never said Japan should have nukes.”
The Teri Tome: Uh, yes you did.

Trump: “There is no drought in California.”
The Teri Tome: Liar, Liar. Presidential wanna be pants on fire.

Trump: “The unemployment rate is 42 percent.”
The Teri Tome: Last I checked, the unemployment rate was just under 5%.

Trump: “Students who participated in Trump University were provided a substantive, valuable education.”
The Teri Tome: In the words of the late Will Rogers: “It ain’t what you know, it’s what you know that ain’t.”

Trump: “It’s very possible that I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it.”
The Teri Tome: Okay, I concede, this is probably true.

Trump: “Putin is a nicer person than I am.”
The Teri Tome: Okay, I concede, this is definitely true.

Trump: “Crime in the United States has gone through the roof.”
The Teri Tome: Violent crime has dropped by 50% since 1990.

Trump: “When the pound goes down, more people are coming to Turnberry.”
The Teri Tome: Not if the rising seas swamp Turnberry first.

Trump: “I have a club in Palm Beach that is open to everybody.”
The Teri Tome: Trump’s club is open to everybody who pays $100,000 to cover the membership fee.

Trump: “I think the only difference between me and the other candidates is that I’m more honest and my women are more beautiful.”
The Teri Tome: Do you think I have the IQ of lint?

Trump: Trump Winery is the largest winery on the East Coast.”
The Teri Tome: Trump Winery isn’t even the largest winery in Virginia where it’s produced. I prob have more wine in my liquor cabinet.

Trump: “I have more employees than anybody in the state of New Jersey.”
The Teri Tome: P p p poker face, p p p poker face.

Trump: “Look at these hands. Are they small hands?”
The Teri Tome: Call me sight impaired, but they look smallish to me.

Trump: “I think Judge Curiel should be ashamed of himself.”
The Teri Tome: Hmmmmm, I’m pretty sure Curiel is good.”

Trump: “Just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke, ok?”
The Teri Tome: Sounds like someone’s been living under a rock.

Trump: “I alone can fix it.”
The Teri Tome: You’re killing me here.

Trump: “I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created.”
The Teri Tome: Whoever told you to be yourself gave you the worst advice ever created.

Trump: “I will build a great great wall on our southern border and I’ll have Mexico pay for that wall.”
The Teri Tome: I’ve never seen such a small mind inside such a big head.

Trump: I’m really rich, I’ll show you that in a second. And by the way, I’m not even saying that in a braggadocios.”
The Teri Tome: Show me the money already.

Trump: “I am a constitutionalist. I am going to abide by the Constitution whether it’s number 1, number 2, number 12, number 9.”
The Teri Tome: Sounds like a lot of number 2 to me.

Trump: “I will be so good at the military your head will spin.”
The Teri Tome: Now I get why some animals eat their own children.

Trump: “If I get the nomination, I’ll win the Latino vote”
The Teri Tome: NO WAY, JOSE.

Trump: “As usual, Hillary and the Dems are trying to rig the debates so two are up against major NFL games.”
The Teri Tome: The debates were scheduled back in September 2015 by the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates.

Trump: “I got a letter from the NFL saying ‘this is ridiculous, why are the debates against’ — because the NFL doesn’t want to go against the debates because the debates are going to be pretty massive from what I understand.”
The Teri Tome: Joe Lockhart, an NFL spokesman, confirmed the NFL never sent a letter to Trump.

Trump: “I like three debates. I think that’s fine. I think it’s enough. If somebody said, “one debate,” I’d rather have three. I think they’ll be very interesting.”
The Teri Tome: Believe me, folks, the debates are going be interesting! And let me tell you, they’re going to be YUUUGE, okay? I am expecting tremendous things during those debates! Great stuff. The best ever. They are going to be unbelievable. Think big things. Great. Big. Things. Unreal. Big league. Many people are saying this. They’re going to be something never before seen in this country. Never ever seen. They are going to make your head spin. Ladies and gentlemen, we are talking yuuger than yuuuge.  

It’s sadly obvious that Trump’s supporters don’t care if he is a pathological liar and missing a few screws. But the rest of us should.

Dane’s Room

Mother & Son A

Our old, in-desperate-need-of-a-facelift house is way too big for the two of us, but we simply don’t have the heart to sell it.

Back in the day, with five bedrooms and four bathrooms, it suited our family of six—three daughters, one son, and me and my husband, very well.

As one-by-one our four children moved out of the familial nest, we anointed each bedroom officially and forever theirs.

When we refer to a bedroom, it is always by their first names. “The lamp in Amy’s room is out.” “The fan in Amelia’s room isn’t working.” “We need a new mattress in Elsa’s room.”

But any mention of Dane’s room is always a painful reminder of the decision our son made to disown us.

There have been sightings of Dane by some of us, here, there and everywhere. A painful reminder that he is so close, yet so far. I once spotted him on a train, and it broke my heart to sink down low into my seat for fear he would reject me.

But he made a decision a long time ago to walk away. To try to explain how his decision affected our family would take several chapters in a clinical perspective. Our loving family unit of six was now painfully and heartbreakingly down to five. Besides me, the remaining four family members have their own personal and painful degrees of hurt. But I can unequivocally assure you that Dane’s decision to leave us in his past was the single most agonizing event of my life.

But I can only speak for myself. The rest of my family have their own tales to tell. Or not.

I realized that Dane was never coming back when he stopped sending me an obligatory text two times a year. To be clear, I waited months upon months for those two texts. Even though the slightly veiled brusqueness and unsigned texts of “Happy Birthday” and “Happy Mother’s Day,” showing up on another mother’s phone might send them into the depths of despair and depression. But they lifted me up. They made my whole birthday. They completed my Mother’s Day. I felt near to his heart for 2 out of 365 days.

Five words over twelve months painstakingly and slowly turned into 50 words over 120 months. Ten long, mournful years.

And then in the eleventh year, no birthday text. I was devastated but convinced myself Dane simply forgot it was my birthday.

On Mother’s Day, I checked my phone every few minutes, until late into the evening, when I finally gave up. And the reality of the horribly sad situation finally sunk in. It wasn’t possible that he had forgotten about Mother’s Day. Dane’s refusal to send me a Mother’s Day text could only mean one thing: I was no longer his mother in his eyes.

As I write this, the pain sweeps through my entire body, and I find breathing difficult. My beautiful and once loving son is gone from me.

Back to our old house.

We now have four beautiful grandchildren, the oldest is seven; the youngest is one. And several times a year Dane’s siblings and their ever growing families sleep over for a weekend of chaos, lovefesting, and bonding.

Each of the siblings bedrooms has a particular plus: Amy’s room has the crib, Amelia’s room houses all the games, Elsa’s room has a king size bed and a cotton-top mattress.

And Dane’s room has the most impressive collection of classic children’s movies you can imagine. At least a hundred of new and old, which has been the delight of all of the grandkids since they were born. Each one has their favorites; each one takes pure delight in the movies in Dane’s room.

For years now, every time the grandkids visit, they immediately invade Dane’s room to pick out movies and insisting no matter what time of day or night it is—that we watch together, and I make them popcorn.

On the family weekend sleepovers, the bedrooms are parsed out by their given names. Amy’s room goes to the daughter who needs the crib, and the two other girls fight over which will get the king size bed. The two youngest grandkids sleep with their parents.

The two older grandkids enjoy the privilege of staying in Dane’s room by themselves, which not only houses the revered collection of movies but also has an enormous pullout couch so that they can curl up, lay back and enjoy a show and some popcorn before going to bed.

And that is how Dane’s room came to be deemed the grandkids favorite.

Sometimes after the grandkids have gone to sleep, we all hang around, drink wine and reminisce. Once in a while one of the siblings will ask: “Why?” “What happened?” And when my tears start to flow they try to reassure me. They try to soften the blow. “He’ll be back.” “He knows we love him.”

On a recent visit, as my seven-year-old grandson helped me put sheets on the pullout couch, he couldn’t stop talking about Dane’s room. He chattered non-stop, revisiting and extolling its virtues.

“Dane’s room has the best movies ever.”

“Dane’s room has a secret door to the best bathroom.”

“Dane’s room has the best television.”

“Dane’s room has all the cool blankets.”

“Dane’s room has so many awesome trophies.”

Every sentence that my loving grandson threw out there was like a stab in my heart.

As my grandson stared at a photo of Dane as a young boy, he quietly asked, “Do you love Dane more than me? Is Dane your favorite?” The look on his innocent face just about broke me down. I tenderly explained that I could never pick a favorite. And that my whole family was my favorite.

I was weary. I’d had enough memories of Dane for one day.

“Come, we’re done here,” I murmured softly as I took his hand to leave Dane’s room.

“Can I ask you one more question?” my grandson queried, as I shut Dane’s door, hoping to also shut down my inner screaming.

“One more,” I answered him, the all too familiar pain sweeping through my body; my breathing quickening, praying that his question wouldn’t send me over the edge.

“Who’s Dane?”

 

The Fledgling Bird – Was It Pushed out of the Nest or Did It Fall?

The-baby-bird

My daughter stopped by today to explain as lovingly as she could to stop trying to fix things. She asked me to listen to a podcast about accepting that some things aren’t fixable, nor should they be. It’s part of life. Situations happen. Things aren’t always meant to be fixed. Accept situations for what they are. Accept people for who they are.  Face it. Mommies can’t fix everything.

After my daughter left, I decided to spend a little time trimming back some flowers. Chillax. Reflect on non-fixing.

As I hummed along, I thought I heard a faint cry of a bird. I looked around and couldn’t see anything so I resumed my trimming.

As I reached to pull a weed out from under one of my Leyland Cyprus trees, there it was—a tiny fledgling, struggling to fly and crying. I immediately and angrily looked up into the trees. Where was its mother? Couldn’t she hear its call of distress?

The phone rang, and it was my girlfriend. I told her about the bird. “Leave it be,” was her advice. It’s not me to leave anything be.

I ran into the house and pulled apart a slice of bread and ran back to the tiny bird who was still crying helplessly. I was fairly cognizant of the fact that the fledgling probably couldn’t eat bread, but I was in the fixing mode.  Podcast shmodcast.

I cooed softly to the baby bird asking “where’s your mommy?” I inspected the ground to make sure there were no ants or other bugs that could hurt it. And then I went into my office to try to finish up a project I was way past deadline on.

But every couple of minutes I had this nagging pull to go outside. To see what was going on. Look around for the mommy. And make sure no cats or squirrels were lurking about.

All afternoon I ran in and out of the house watching this stupid little bird. Why wouldn’t it just fly away? Jump onto a bush already, get to higher ground. Why didn’t it stop crying and try to help itself?

I googled what to do if you find a baby bird out if its nest. What I read was that maybe the baby fell out of its nest or maybe it was pushed. Pushed? What mother would do that I asked myself.

After some reflection, I answered myself. Okay, I suppose it depends on the child, or in this case, the fledgling.

No matter whether it fell or was pushed, I frantically continued to run back and forth from my office to the fledgling. The hell with my deadline.

On my way out of the house for like the fiftieth time, I saw the mommy, perched on my deck. I got very close to her and was able to take a photo. Okay, it was a little blurry because my hands were shaking but she never moved. This mother was defiant.

The-Momma-Bird

When I tried to get close to her baby, she swooped down but kept her distance.

I felt tremendously relieved that this baby bird had someone who cared after all. The mommy was hopping closer and closer to the fledgling while keeping an eye out for me.

I went back into the house, but I couldn’t focus on work at all. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t focus on anything but that damned baby bird. How long was it going to hop around? Was it hurt? Was it incapable of flying? Was it hungry? Please stop crying already.

Was there anything I could do to fix it?

I poured myself a glass of wine to calm down a bit. This bird had me all nerved up. I had been at this for five hours already! If you’re wondering, yes, I recognized the ridiculousness of the situation, but I simply couldn’t control myself.

That’s when I decided the only thing to do was write this blog post. Try to calm myself down and record it.

In between running in and out of the house checking on the bird situation, I was writing this post—cell phone in hand, should a photo op present itself.

The mommy bird was edging closer and closer to its baby but not fast enough for me. What was she waiting for? Come on. Help out your crying kid already. Fix the situation. Solve the problem. Avert disaster.

I finally had them both in my window view so I could now stay comfortably inside my house and go from window to window between the baby and the mommy. Willing mommy to come closer, I couldn’t stop going back and forth, window to window, the glass of wine still in my hand.

My husband warily observed the absurd situation and just shook his head in amazement. Nothing surprises him about my behavior any longer. He knows my MO.

I finally gave the bird fiasco a break and forced myself to try to burn some of my energy on the recumbent bike. All the while forcing myself to stay put—to keep peddling. Willing myself not to think about the fledgling. Leave the worrying to someone else. Someone else? Get a grip Teri. We’re talking about birds here.

Okay, so forget about working out. I jumped off the bike to check on mommy. She was still standing guard and hadn’t budged.

I thought about getting back on the bike, but I just couldn’t. I was too anxious. So back on the deck, I went.

The mommy was gone! But the baby was still crying. My husband, relaxing on the outdoor swing watched in astonishment as I ran in and out, out and in.

And then I saw the mommy! She was hidden in the tree coaxing her baby bird to join her, teaching survival tactics. Showing her baby how to blend in and conquer a dangerous world.

The sound of the ringing phone brought me back into the house. It was my girlfriend again. “You’re still screwing around with that bird? It’s been over eight hours!”

While on the phone with her I ran back out to the deck listening for the crying bird, my husband now in tow. And to my relief, the baby was still crying but high up in the tree this time.

Kudos to the mother. She had done her job. She had fixed things. Her baby was safe for now.

 

My Fam—My Pot O’ Gold

Heart shaped cloud and a rainbow
The tornado that is family touches down.
Dustbusters, bubbles and mouse trap.
All the swirling love reminds me
of the circle of life.
So fleeting.
I wish I would have known
way back when.
But for now
monkey bread, dirty diapers
and hugs and kisses
are my pot o’ gold
at the end of
my rainbow.

For Some of Us, It’s Fatherless Day

Father & daughter

For me,  a photo can be so much more enduring than words. And since I live and love by the written word,  images need to shout volumes to scorch my soul.

As someone who never knew my father, I have always had a painful relationship with Father’s Day. There’s nothing worse than seeing so many happy father people when I have absolutely nothing but regret, and fatherless loneliness to celebrate.

And yet I found the following presentments beyond words,  which stirred me in indescribable terms. The power of the images below filled me with heartache and okay, a lot of sadness. I hope they stir something in you too. And for all you fatherless friends out there, take comfort in knowing you’re not alone.

Fathers Day

Fathers Day B

Fathers Day C

Fathers Day G

Fathers day H

Fathers Day I

Fathers day J

Fathers Day K

Fathers Day M

Fathers Day N

Fathers Day O

Fathers Day L

Fathers Day P

Happy Father’s Day to My Constant Gardener

Man saving woman in garden

I am the gardener in our family. I love the process of transplanting, weeding, giving life to seedlings, watering, and pruning long after my masterpieces have faded.

Rejuvenating my dormant plants and encouraging new growth and flowering, is more creative and peaceful than anything I know.

As a gardener, I know that the best starting point for any living thing is to remove dead, diseased, or damaged stems as soon as I see them. Because any gardener knows that dead stems attract insects and invite diseases to develop.

And I have gardened enough over the years to know that relocating a plant hidden and strangled by weeds allows it to bloom and shine and flourish once again. But once that plant has been moved to a new location, it needs constant care, and lots of water, but ever so carefully, so as not to drown it.

Repair and renew.

As I tend and toil in my garden, my husband basks in the sun. When it comes to our yard, I am the queen of green.

But in our relationship, my husband is the gardener.

He is the caretaker, the stable one who waters and nourishes. And I am the thankful recipient of his protection, soaking up his love and attention.

While I shine, he tends. When I’m sad or weary, he encourages. When I’m down, he pulls me up.

I am his garden favorite so to speak.

Our unlikely paths crossed randomly, during a rainy period, before the leaves covered everything and the ground froze solid enough to break our spades.

I was the fiercely independent and untrusting woman. He was the problem solver, with a gentle and steady demeanor.

I was the perennial in desperate need of a transplant. He was the constant and consummate gardener.

His protective method of pruning and cultivating was vital to ensuring my productivity, my longevity, and my strength. And his special care and attention over the years reinforced my optimal growth.

He’s charming and witty, but in a quiet, subtle way. He wears with pride the same t-shirts and socks he’s had for 20 or more years. I used to be embarrassed by the holes in his socks and the greyish aura of his used-to-be-white shirts, but I understand now.

It took me years to realize that he can’t throw them away because he’s loyal. The most loyal man I have ever met.

And he is selfless. Caring nothing for himself.

He’s disciplined in a way I could never be. A pillar of strength and support and as solid as a mighty oak tree.

He refuses to acknowledge his birthday and makes me promise to say and do nothing for him on the day that should be a celebration of his life.

And he doesn’t want any accolades on Father’s Day, so as not to put any pressure on anyone to recognize or do anything special for him at all.

That kind of stuff breaks my heart because he’s a terrific father, husband, and grandfather, and deserves to be honored and recognized for all the wonderful things he is and does for his family.

And he repeatedly reminds me that he is not my father, so I should stop with all the Father’s Day hoopla.

No, he isn’t my father. But I can’t help thinking how blessed my life would have been if I had a father who was a fraction of the man my husband is.

I thought I needed a broken man who could relate to my broken parts.

But in the end, I found a most amazing and truly whole man who painstakingly repaired and renewed me.

I always thought I was the constant gardener, the caretaker, and the provider who could handle anything.

But I was wrong.

I was wrong about a lot of things.

But I was right about him.

Happy Father’s Day my love.

Bless Me Father

Bless-me-Father-AB

Your mother
is a sinner.

And so are you.

Go now
and confess.

The girl
was terrified.

Not sure what
to say.

She just had
her
First Communion.

But never confessed
any sins.

The confessional
was dark.

And she hated
it.

The dark
was always
merciless.

The priest
was barely
visible.

Bless me father
for I have sinned.

How long since your
last confession
he asked.

Never.

What have you
to confess
my child?

Adultery.

Lord please have
mercy
on my soul.

The priest
moved
swiftly.

And opened
the curtain
to reveal
himself.

She knew him and
he knew her.

He sat the girl
in a pew
and held her hand.

It was still wet
from blessing herself
with the holy water.

Why would you
confess such a thing
my little one?

Because Mother Superior
ordered me
to
beg for
mercy
and repent.

He took her hand
and they walked
to the school.

In silence.

She was in trouble.

Maybe she was supposed
to genuflect when
she came into
the church.

Who would ask a child
to confess such a thing
asked the priest of
the nun.

Her mother is
excommunicated.

She pointed at the girl.

And she doesn’t belong here.

Perhaps it is you
who doesn’t belong
here, he fumed.

The mother arrived
quickly.

Dressed in a yellow
mini dress
and fake pearls.

Her hair in a bee hive
her cheeks a rosy pink.

Her heels high
and her scent lovely.

The nun was dismissive
and merciless.

But the mother
was fierce.

Protective.

And ready to
rumble.

Adulteress?

This is what you call
my daughter?

You are a sinner,
and so is she
the nun spat out.

The priest gasped.

The mother moved in
for the kill.

And cut the nun to size
with her biting
humiliating
words.

No mercy.

The nun was quiet
humbled and ashamed.

The mother was triumphant.

Vindicated.

The priest was pleased.

He did his best to
hide his smile.

The child trudged back to class
knowing the
consequences
would be merciless.

Bless me father