We’re Gonna Dance

This past Saturday provided a small but much needed “life break.” We had a wedding to attend for D, the daughter of one of Mom’s college friends. Mom’s college friends are her best friends and these get togethers are always ridiculous and full of laughter. They all have kids around the same age so needless to say there have been a lot of weddings the past few years between everyone’s kids. They are always fun and we always look forward to these occasions.

But this wedding weekend felt a bit different because of everything that had gone on the past 2 weeks. My family was tired. We were nervous. A Saturday day trip brought a lot of unknowns. I wasn’t sure how everything would work with Mom. Sister K kept telling me I shouldn’t worry about it, I just needed to let it come. She said if I worried I would work myself up before anything even happens. In hindsight she was right. I shouldn’t have been so worried about it, but I still was. 

With the rules of Mom’s rehab facility she can leave during the day after PT/OTbut has to be back by midnight. D’s wedding was taking place here, where Sister K and I live. What was going to be a fun weekend trip became a day trip. The original plan changed. With Sister K’s help, Mom planned a big lunch for everyone at a restaurant in the afternoon so we could all spend time together before the wedding. Mom is the planner of her group. That is where I get it from.

Mom and Dad arrived in town, we met everone for lunch, Mom went and rested, then we met back up with everyone at the church for the wedding and reception that evening. As usual we were late for lunch, barely on time for the wedding. I now say that with a smile on my face. A smile because we are doing the best we can and I am learning to roll with that. If we are only 30 minutes late then we have succeeded. We may be late but we do make it and that is all that matters. Mom used her wheelchair Saturday and we took turns pushing her around. Her friends were so excited to see her and you could feel the energy change when she showed up. They all took turns sitting next to her at the reception, sharing stories, gossiping and laughing. Dad loved that they kept sitting in his seat to talk to her. This night was important for Mom in more ways than we know. It revitalized her. She got dressed up. She did her hair and put on make up. She had on her nice jewelry. She looked very pretty. I was so proud. I knew she felt good. Look good, feel good. Our whole family needed it. 

There was a moment during the reception though when Maroon 5 Moves Like Jagger came on. Sister K and I were already on the dance floor. Sister K knows how much everyone in our small family loves this song (even though she does not) and proclaimed, “We gotta go get Dad!” So we ran over to the table, interrupted Dad’s conversation and made him come out on the dance floor with us. Sidenote regarding my family: This isn’t exactly an odd thing to happen. We are a dancing family. Dad and I danced to Abba’s Dancing Queen at my wedding as our Father/Daughter dance. We love to dance. In fact Sister K and I had already decided ahead of time the best way to avoid having to talk to other people about Mom was to never leave the dance floor. We had decided “We’re going to avoid everything and we’re just going to dance.”

But this moment of dancing and smiling felt different. I had an overwhelming feeling of admiration for my family.  Here were three people who have had their lives turned upside down in the past 2 weeks. And it’s not over. Things will still continue to be a rollercoaster. But in that moment we were full of smiles. Holding hands with Dad on the dance floor. Acting goofy. Full of life.  

This weekend was not without its stressful moments. We haven’t been given a magic wand to make life stress free just yet. There was the trickiness of moving Mom around in her wheelchair, getting her in and out of the car, trying to appear that everything was seamless to others, making sure Mom was feeling comfortable, etc. But even with the tiny moments of stress, the memory and the feelings associated with Dad out on the dance floor felt like a small reward for the tough moments of the past few weeks. It also reminded me that my family is tough. We are strong.

I believe only the strongest families can handle MS. I think everyone needs to remind themselves of that when things get tough. MS families each have their own qualities that bond them together. MS doesn’t break them but makes them stronger. Everyone pulls this strength from their own unique family personality. In their own ways everyday. For us, some days it is from laughter. Some days it is from random comments. But on Saturday night it was from dancing. I looked at Dad and Sister K and I said we are going to make it. We are going to get through this.

And we will.

How does your family cope with tough moments? Do you find strength in things as simple as laughter or dancing? Do you love a good wedding reception dance floor as much as I do? Have you ever caught a bouquet? Sister K actually tried instead of hiding in the back for the first time ever, and she failed miserably…  

30 Minutes of Bliss

Three way Calling.  It has been around forever. In a world of new inventive ways of communicating over the past 10 years I can say that three way calling was here long before texting and instant messaging. I remember using it in high school and am laughing because 10 years later here I am using it again for different reasons. 

Recently Sister K and I have been spending more time 3 way calling with our family in the evenings. I am obsessed with these 3 way calls. They are hilarious and fun and make me dizzy with laughter the entire time I am on the phone. There is something about them that is thrilling. An adrenaline rush of a phone call.  To know we are all on the phone together. At the same time. But not in the same place. We fill an entire 30 minutes with nonstop talking about nothing at all.  There is laughter, there are interruptions as we talk over one another, there is even Dad randomly popping in when Mom hands him the phone to make us laugh.

Just a few more minutes turns into more and more minutes. These converations are never short and quiet, they are long and loud. Husband actually left the room to go close himself in the bedroom because he couldn’t take much more last night. But these 30 minutes. These 30 minutes leave me absorbed into a happiness high, full of love as I hit the pillow at night.

I may no longer be able to run around the mall with Mom like I used to or go places as easily but we can still talk and we can still laugh.  I have noticed I have talked a lot about laughing recently. I think I am realizing how much laughter is a large part of the foundation of my family. Our inside jokes, our silly moments, these things are part of the roots that hold us together. The laughter has changed over the years. What was once full of Dad swinging his little girls high up in the air upside down is now filled with moments of talking about life in an upside down kind of way. And when our world feels like it is upside down most of the time it is harder to fight it than embrace it.  And how do we embrace it as gracefully as we can? We laugh.  

Have you ever just sat back and laughed at your life? Does your family have silly inside jokes that bond you together? When was the last time you three way called someone?      

Dear Wasps, Thank you.

This past weekend Sister K, Husband and I drove home for the weekend.  It was “Celebration Station” as my sister called it at our house- a belated birthday for me with my family, Cinco de Mayo and the Kentucky Derby all rolled into one. 

Our Plan: Sister K and I began the afternoon pulling the cover off our patio table and chairs.  Mom had bought a new one and wanted us to change them out.  This was a very small task that took less than 5 minutes.  We were then going to wipe the table off and spend the day relaxing with the family outside by the pool with homemade margaritas.  For dinner we were planning to grill steaks and eat outside for the first time this year.  Sister K and I had told Mom we would take care of getting everything out there because we know that usually is a stresser on Mom to deal with moving things from the kitchen to outside.  Eating outside is relaxing and creates a positive mood for everyone that it is worth the extra effort. 

Reality: My family is learning to go with the flow becuase of MS.  I say my family, really I am learning more to go with the flow.  Plans change on a whim, things don’t work out and you have to roll with it.  Well our plans got turned upside down but this had nothing to do with MS.  It had to do with wasps. 

After taking off the table cover we were setting up the lawnchairs and I began to notice 2 bugs flying around.  They seemed to be almost circling the table.  I thought they were moths and didn’t pay much attention but then Sister K said, I think those are wasps.  We were confused and then thought to ourselves, is there a wasp nest on the table cover?  So what do two girls who are grown adults in their 20s do? Try to solve this for themselves? Absolutely not.  We yelled inside for Dad. 

He comes out and upon further inspection of the cover we realize there is in fact a tiny wasp nest attached to it.  There weren’t any wasps near it because we had already moved it away so Dad crushed it.  But, we still had the issue of what we thought were 2 wasps.  A typical family is probably prepared for these things and has RAID or some other powerful product laying around.  Not mine.  But determined to not ruin pool day Sister K begins googling and realizes furniture cleaner will kill them as well as most household cleaners.  So we get a bottle of Windex.  We then proceed to corral our dogs and watch as Dad kills these 2 wasps.  Success.  We are in the clear.  Let’s resume pool day. 

No sooner have we layed one towel on a lawnchair does another one appear.  Once again, what do we do? Yell inside for Dad.  He reappears, Windex in hand.  We kill another one.  We go back to lay out our towels.  Another one appears.  We call for Dad again.  This time he and Papa (our Grandpa was also over for Celebration Day) both come out.  Sister K turns on the camera of her iPhone just as it disappears.  So instead of just going back inside, I begin interviewing Dad about this experience and “mid-interview” a wasp appears.  He goes after it.  I am sitting here starting to laugh just remembering the sight of Dad strategically moving with a Windex bottle.  All of this while Papa just sits silently with a little smile. A chuckle.  A chuckle I think he has because he knows we can do this all day. The wasps are going to keep coming back.  This was their home base.  There will constantly be another one.  Finally we declare pool day has been a bust.  We go inside to eat chips and queso, drink our margaritas and laugh. 

While all of this was going on Mom was asleep because she is on some strong medicine for the spasms in her legs that have been causing her painful leg cramps.  The medicine makes her very dizzy, tired and sort of “out of it” for lack of a better description.  She knew there was something going on with wasps because she couldn’t help but hear it from the bedroom but she was in and out of sleep during this. 

At our steak dinner (in the kitchen, not outside) we were describing the afternoon to Mom when we remembered we had the live video Sister K had taken.  It was the most special thing in the world watching her see it, reliving it and laughing hard with her over how funny it was: Picture a 28 year old girl with a sombrero on her head and blue mumu dress (that would be me) interviewing her Dad, then watching him with a can of windex trying to kill wasps and chasing them around, strategizing about where they are going.  It was a sight to see. 

The point though is we live day in and day out with Mom’s MS being in the background of our thoughts at different points everyday.  We are concerned she is struggling in so much pain.  We could focus on this.  Sometimes we do.  We actually had been discussing it Saturday morning.  But Saturday afternoon we chose to focus on laughter.  Today as I am reminded of my weekend, I am not sitting here sad because Mom didn’t feel well this weekend.  I am sitting here smiling and laughing because of wasps.  I am sitting here feeling a large amount of love for my family.  I may even have a little love for wasps, as twisted as that sounds. 

Lesson learned: Be silly.  Be funny.  Remember to laugh and laugh hard.  Take advantage of technology.  Record these funny moments when Mom may not be there to take part .  She can relive them later.  Today she is reliving this memory.  She feels just as much involved in it as she would’ve had she been standing out on the patio seeing it firsthand. 

At lunch today we had gotten off the phone and I was reading for a little bit before my lunch break was over.  Mom called back and said, “You are never going to believe what I just saw while I was sitting here at the kitchen table- a wasp just flew by on the patio.” And we both laughed.

Do you ever have days of celebration that end up in a series of funny calamities?  Are you good at going with the flow when plans change?  Does your family keep a spare bottle of RAID around?

Music and Me

I by no means consider myself a connoisseur of music or would I even say I have good taste in music.  In fact, I am often made fun of for my taste in music.  My tastes range from pop to country.  Usually the faster and more upbeat, the better.  Sometimes I enjoy slower songs I can relate to the words.  I love the disco era and often believe I was born in the wrong era.  I like music I can dance to and music that brings me up.  I also like songs I can relate to with an occasional slow tune. 

I think I get this from my family, specifically Mom.  We are a dancing family.  I love to dance therefore I love music I can dance to.  Recently there have been a couple songs I have been really into for different reasons. 

One Direction “What Makes You Beautiful” In case you don’t know who they are, meet One Direction, the new boy band sensation.  As a person who was a full blown New Kids on the Block, Back Street Boys and NSYNC fan, One Direction just represents all that I love about music.  And all that I typically get made fun of for music.  As this band played on Saturday Night live this past weekend Sister K and I staged an impromptu dance performance in the living room while Mom sat in the ktichen laughing at us.  Mom had been in pain from her spasticity so it felt good to see her laughing so hard and to be the reason for that laughter. 

Maroon 5  featuring Christina Aguilera “Moves Like Jagger” When I heard this song and Sister K began declaring she wasn’t as into it as I was, I knew there was someone who would be, Mom.  It played on tv one night as I introduced it to her for the first time. Now whenever she hears it in the car, we refer to it as Jagger and she even has Dad into it.  She’ll be sitting down using her hands and singing the words to dance along.  We are working on a coordinated routine between us that involves sitting.  Thanks to music and songs like this I know for a few minutes she’ll be happily lost in the song with her mind absent of stress and body absent of pain.

Blake Shelton “God Gave Me You”  I have heard this song several times.  I’ve heard it on country stations and on Christian radio stations.  Everytime I do I think of someone different in my life- Husband, Mom, Dad, Sister K- I think of family.  It is a song I can get lost in. It makes me pause and reflect.  It makes me be present.  It makes me thankful for the people I have in my life even when circumstances aren’t exactly as I wished they’d be and I can always work on being more thankful. 

Are there any songs you relate to right now for silly or serious reasons?  Any memories you have tied to songs that always bring a smile to your face?  Do you also agree I have bad taste in music like most other people in my life? 🙂

Looking Forward

Today I am excited.  I am excited as I always am to be going home.  But today especially because we are all piling into Sister K’s car and heading home to celebrate Easter weekend.  I love this time.  Time spent in the car with just Husband, Sister K and me.  Moments of laughter, usually courtesy of Sister K, teaching Husband about Back Street Boys or NYSNC, or sometimes even deep conversation that surprises us all.  We have become quite the trio since I got married and that’s in large part thanks to Sister K.   

Another reason to be excited, today I get to see Mom. A big “Mom hug” awaits my arrival.  The kind of hug that makes everything better.  Looking forward to a weekend of laughing and talking and teasing Mom as all sisters do.  A weekend with my favorite people.  A weekend with my best friends. A weekend with family. 

Mom, Sister K and I have big plans for shopping Target to be exact.  Sister K and I are trying to think more outside the box than our usual mall spots because Mom is more relaxed and able to do more when we go somewhere that offers scooters.  Target is always a great option.  We’ve always found a way to get lost in Target for hours and leave with lots of things we don’t really need.  Plus have you seen this Target commercial ….it just makes you happy.  It also makes me want to go buy lots of bright colored clothes.  I emailed it to Mom and Sister K to get everyone pumped up for our weekend together. 

So today I am looking forward.  Looking forward and feeling happy.  Wishing everyone a very Happy Easter Weekend!

Smile Through The Pain

Sister K came to pick me up so we could do some Spring shopping together yesterday.  Once I hopped in the car she proclaimed, “I want to call Mom.”  So we called Mom.  We put her on speakerphone and chatted with her en route to our favorite store.  She felt like she was there and it made us feel like she was there too.  We talked about what we were doing, our plans, what we were shopping for and what we had been up to all day.  Mom said it had been a tough day because of her leg spasticity with issues that began in the morning.  We listened as we always do, talked about it a little bit without getting too deep and then lightheartedly changed the subject. 

I often wonder the best way to respond to my mom when she really opens up about her symptoms, when she really tells me how she is feeling.  Do I tell my mom I understand even though there is no way to completely undertand.  Do I pursue my first inclination to be the problem solver, the problem solver who often ends up putting her foot in her mouth.  Or do I do what Sister K and I did, lightheartedly change the subject so she doesn’t have to think about it. So I don’t have to think about it anymore.  This part is murky for me.  Murky because I enjoy relating to people, understanding them and trying to help them.  Murky because for the first time in my life I feel like I struggle with relating and I struggle with responding.  Especially murky because it involves one of the most important people in my life.    

I try to think of myself and if it were me with MS, how would I want people to react, what would I want them to say.  The answer is I don’t know.  I don’t know because I don’t even know how I want people to react or what I want people to say to me about my mom having MS.  I seem to struggle with this because if they say one thing I wish they’d said something else, if they say this I wish they’d said that.  Nothing is good enough for me so I wonder if my mom feels the same way.  I have never asked, never thought to ask.  I don’t know why.  I wonder if she doesn’t know the answer either. 

So what do I do while I search for the perfect response, I change the subject.  I find a silly thing to think about, to talk about and to laugh about.  We all laugh.  Sister K and I take turns finding the silly change of subject and we laugh.  During tough times we keep our conversations lighthearted.  Senseless.  Ridiculous. The more outrageous, the better.  We pride ourselves on these silly comments, crazy conversations, strange phrases only our family understands.  We use these as our crutch.  Sister K and I use these tools to bring a smile to Mom’s face, we can see it in person and feel it over the phone.  Laughing and smiling.  Our family’s greatest weapons against a disease that is trying to attack our laughter and smiles everyday.