My Teenage Self

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about who I was as a teenager. I dont know if it’s because Jedi’s 13th year ends Sunday and so much of my teenage self started at 14…

When I was first inspired to write about my teenage self, I thought it would be fun. I dug up old pictures and listened to old music. It soon left me in tears and trying to wrap my head around it all mostly because my teenage self was a fucking mess.

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Just before turning 14, something happened that changed me forever. It turned everything I knew to be true to that point about love and family into a completely, useless shitstorm. It left me raw with emotion and not wanting to think. I was love sick. Desperate to know that something I had once known. I was silly and fun like what I imagine most teenage were like all while being sullen, pained and full of angst at the same time. Not your normal teenage angst, but one that still affects me now. It wasn’t that I never felt joy, but as a teenager, I felt happy through other people. If I could make someone happy, I was happy. People pleasing was my drug of choice.

I was also full of raging sexual curiosity. This wasn’t new to me. I can remember thinking and desiring sex at a very young age. I’ve written about that before. It was just that as a teenager, I was hell bound and determined to have it which was much to the dismay of the angel on my shoulder. Believe me, she was a real thorn in my exploration. Such is the life of a teenager who has grown up in an ultra religious home. I made a bargain of sorts with her. I reasoned that if I was in a committed relationship while having sex, it was ok because I wasn’t a whore.

No relationship + sex = bad, no-no. Relationship + sex = A-OK.

That’s how I became a serial monogamist. Having explained this…I feel the only real way I can tell the story of my teenage self is through relationships.

The first relationship, was a non-relationship.

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Kevin was the first, heart-aching crush I ever had. I was thirteen. I would walk nearly a mile out of my way to 7-11, knowing that he would be outside playing basketball with his friends. Just to walk by. I would never acknowledge him first. I’d pretend to be to involved with my Walkman even though it wasn’t even on. I mean, if he said something, how else would I hear him? On my way TO 7-11, he would always go on playing basketball and as far as I knew, didn’t do anything more than give me that slight, upward thrust of his jaw to acknowledge me. Then on my way BACK he eventually started tossing the ball to a buddy and would hussle over, all sweaty and stinky. I didn’t care. His buddies would complain. I loved it. He had a nerdy girlfriend who I did not concern myself with. He obviously like me better anyway because he broke up with her after I let him feel me up at a school dance. He put his letter jacket around me when it was cold and kissed me with his this annoying, turtle tongue, but I was certain that’s what love felt like. It wasn’t long before I found out that it wasn’t. This is just what he did with all the girls. So besides dressing pretty skanky and making him walk over to my house to get his stupid jacket, just to give him enough of a look at me as I threw it at him before slamming the door in his face, that was that. I was certain this is what women in charge of relationships did. Even though it wasn’t one.

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Jason, was the first guy who pursued me. I was certain this meant true love had found me and since it was true love, I was certain this meant we would be together forever and I would lose my virginity to him. Only one of those turned out to be true. Sex with Jason was not inspiring but we were in sweet, sappy love for almost a year before his best friend cheated on my cousin and he *tried* to do the same to me.
Pffft. I was devastated, but wanting to remain on top of  the spin control so I brought Chris into the picture.

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Chris was trying to make his recent ex-girlfriend jealous and this seemed like a splendid idea to me. Aside from using one another he introduced me to rock music for which I will always be thankful. He was a couple years older, in a band, hot as hell in his navy uniform and if it weren’t for that stupid angel on my shoulder and if our couple, hot and heavy make out sessions were any indication, that boy would’ve had his way with me and I would have loved every two minutes of it. No such luck though as I had made my deal with the bitch and I would stick to it. We were not in a relationship which meant no sex for us, but it was all for the best since he served his purpose and Jason and I kissed and made up.
IMG_5697 Compared to Chris though, he was pretty goofy. I loved him as much as any fifteen year old loves their first true love, but was pretty bored. I remedied this by creating drama and making him feel guilty. I have about 100 handwritten notes from him to prove it. I guess he was bored too because he suddenly decided to be a “gangsta” and started selling weed. My angel shoulder and I were having none of that so I broke up with him certain this would motivate him to do better.

I turned to my long time guy friend and neighbor growing up, Darryl. He was always the guy who I talked to in depth about everything and vice versa. We vented about parents, school, whoever we were dating at the time and I found it endearing that he walked me between classes just because. He picked on me as much as he playfully flirted with me during our basketball one-on-ones.

That guy always had a basketball. To this day, if I hear a basketball ball bouncing, my first thought is him.

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Because it wasn’t about THAT with us and I was well aware he was a player, we had a very reality based, platonic relationship. But as fate would have it, right around the time a girl tried to pin a fake pregnancy on Darryl, Jason and I’s relationship met it’s final demise. Jason had started playing nice again and I was sure he had seen the error of his ways even though Darryl was not and minced no words in telling me so. But before I had made up my mind about making it official again, one of my friends spotted Jason at another girl’s house. They were in her pool together and being much more than friendly. I hung up the phone and walked out the door just in time to seeing Darryl pulling up from work. I walked up and got in the car asking him to take me to my friend’s house to see for myself exactly what the hell was going on. On the way there, every emotion I had ever felt boiled. I shook uncontrollably while Darryl assured me everything would be ok. When we pulled up to the house Jason was at, I walked straight into the backyard. He was so involved in making out with this ugly, heffer in her pool that neither of them noticed me until I was walking back out. When Darryl saw the look on my face, he unlocked his trunk and grabbed a baseball bat and started towards me. I ran into Darryl arms, crying. All it took was him wrapping his arms around me and pointing that bat at Jason, saying only the word “No” to make Jason turn around and retreat. We just stood there in the middle of the street, me crying and Darryl rocking and SHHing me.

That was what I remembered of love. Pure and undiluted. This is what I wanted … and it scared the shit out of me.

I avoided him for a couple days afterwards, not knowing what I could ever say to him again.

A week later, I grabbed the mail from the box at the end of the drive when I got home from school, as I always did, but found only a single rose and a hand written note that read: If you’re going to avoid me, I had to find another way to make you smile. Darryl.  I looked up to see him sitting on his porch with a basketball wedged between his legs. So, I walked over and sat on his porch. I couldn’t look at him, but I was trying to find words when he stopped me. He said he knew everything had changed between us and while he didn’t ever want to lose me as a friend, he couldn’t have this as a “what if”. I told him I knew too much. I knew all about the girls upon girls, I couldn’t trust him that way and then he promised me he would never do that to me. He told me I wasn’t other girls.

It was everything my little girl heart had ever longed to hear and I gave in. Darryl treated me like a queen. He was the first guy who ever taught me how I should be treated as a woman.
IMG_5708 I felt like I had just walked on the set of rom-com where two friends who grew up together finally realize they’re in love. In fact, we shared a lot of movie-worthy moments that I’ll always hold close to my heart.

But everything outside of us was so complicated. My Dad hated our relationship even though he treated me better than anyone ever had. He almost had him arrested when he found out we were having sex. His friends, who were once our mutual friends, began to hate the seriousness I brought about in him and all the time we were spending together before he left for Air Force basic training. He wrote me everyday. He started to talk about getting married when he finished tech school and got his first orders. I traded in my extra credit to graduate early so I could be with him. Then, I went to see him when he graduated from boot camp just after I started my senior classes. He was different … suspicious. Asking me about Jason of all people. I couldn’t understand how he could think I could even find a place for another boy in my life, much less why I would want to when his brother had classes with me, his family lived on one side of me and his best friend was on the other. Yet the thought of him doing anything had never crossed my mind until I heard his own accusatory tone. After all, where the hell was all of this coming from?

I left on good terms, but full of doubt. I didn’t sleep for days on end. I didn’t eat. I went through the motions at school and work while my mind wondered. Then I became full of resolve to be completely selfish. Start doing me. Bought all new clothes. Sporty Spice was a thing of the past. Hello Sexy Spice, all day, everyday. Fuck being good. Bye shoulder angel.

It got me the attention I needed while Darryl did whatever he was doing in the background. In fact, every time I looked up in English, this guy across the aisle, which faced me, would meet eyes with me and then try to look away. His name was James. I started to toy with him little by little. He started to dote and spoil me. But while he was lavish with gifts, he was stingy with vulnerability, something that I never could seem to get past.  So things between us were very sexual. It was good and I was in charge. I got sexual with him in ways I never had before. I didn’t think any teenage guy would dislike the arrangement , but before I saw it coming, he was in my heart.

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I could act unattached and not bothered by the lack of intimacy, but once I was alone, behind the wheel of my car, I would cry. All the way home and then crying myself to sleep. I had been foolish for ever trying to convince myself my feelings weren’t on the table. I now knew no matter what I did, I was going to hurt someone. Darryl, James or even myself.

About a month after graduation, while James and I were driving back from a Hootie and the Blowfish concert, with my head on his shoulder, his fingers playing with my hair and Mariah Carey on the radio, it hit me hard. I was IN love and I wanted James. Everything was about to change and just like I wanted, I would call the shots. Except this meant for the first time, I was actually ending a relationship.

It was two weeks before I was supposed to fly out to see Darryl again and I was freaking out. I asked James to give me space, but since he was just as freaked out as I was about the whole thing, he couldn’t do it. So I ran. I used my graduation money to buy a ticket to Louisville to be around my extended family and stay at my Nana’s. If I was going to do this, I had to get distance from James and figure myself out. After two weeks, I decided that it was more than possible that James was holding back because of Darryl and that Darryl and I were better off as friends. So I flew from Louisville to San Antonio to see Darryl and say our goodbyes, with love, as friends.

James and I ended up being together for over two years and were even engaged, but my teenage years ended with me starting a relationship with a man who was awful. Even after meeting my first husband, I hung to hope with James. It didn’t help that we couldn’t stop coming back for more sex. But I learned in a very harsh way that it was just sex, not hope and I married the horrible man because I fell in love with his son, Pickle, perhaps as my way of punishing myself for my own transgressions.

I don’t know. I guess that’s just a lot of water underneath bridges I have burned.

The only happy ending that came of all these teenage dreams is that I still remain friends with Jason, Darryl and James to this today.

Now, I wonder what teenage me would think of me. I mostly wish I could let her know that for all the struggle we thought was in vain and mistakes that were made, it did get better. Id like to tell her that it’s ok to be immature and make mistakes. It doesn’t mean you’re a horrible person and unworthy of respect and love. It’s a part of growing up. Even as a grown woman, you’ll still have that little girl heart that wants to be kept safe and treasured. Being vulnerable isn’t something you grow out of, it’s something you must learn to lean into. I’d tell her that we found out who we really were all along, good and bad, and we made a life worth living. This life now, this love, these children were our collective dream. Its not what we thought it would look like, it’s better.

I hope she’d be damn proud.

Fat discrimination in healthcare

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I have to vent. I have to say this. This needs to be said.

I am sick and tired of doctors associating and dismissing everything if you are a patient who is overweight, to you being overweight.

Yes, I am overweight by medical standards. I know that. I know how much I weigh, I know my BMI. But I also know that I eat well and I exercise. So, while my weight may not fit into your box, if you actually looked at the food and exercise I log, instead of down your nose at me, you might discover something else. You know, something you might discover if you actually PRACTICE medicine. What if fat is a symptom and not the cause?

I have PCOS. I have autoimmune antibodies. Antibodies attacking my optic nerve. Antibodies attacking my connective tissue, scleroderma. Scleroderma has caused me to have gastroparesis. Gastroparesis makes me eat a low residue diet. Low fiber.

So when Im suffering from excruciating stomach pain and you look at me and assume I need to eat better, eat more fiber, that’s actually the WORST thing I could do. That would cause an obstruction. It could kill me. I know it goes against everything you’ve been taught about how the body works and what we should eat, but guess what? Its how MY body works. Try actually living against all the things you’ve been taught about eating.

All bodies are different and should be treated as such. I know you’re taught to look for horses and not zebras, but zebras exist. A zebra is never going to be a fucking horse no matter how much you try to make it one.

Rant over.

Flexing my courage muscle

Despite my little setback in the emergency room, I remained determined to flex my courage muscle this weekend. Yes, I was scared but I wasn’t going to let anything stop me from doing something, anything, that gave it a work out. So that’s what I did.

Yesterday I decided to submit a recent blog to one of my favorite websites, elephant journal. It really is one of my favorite corners of the inter-webs. It’s all about living a mindful life. The idea that something more is out there than just ourselves and what we can do to make the world a better place. I don’t know what really made me do it. I’ve never considered myself a great writer. I just happened to go to the website, like any other day, but I saw the word WRITE in the left-hand corner. Write what? Upon clicking it I learned that you can submit your own writing. DUH! I dont know why this didn’t occur to me before, but really? Me? But then I thought ‘What the hell, let’s do this.Let’s be courageous.’ As it turns out they liked it. I made a few minor changes, submitted it back ASAP per their request and we shall see what happens. Even if nothing happens, Im hella proud of myself for taking a chance.

Today, I needed to get my 5k training in. This is something I signed up to do in a moment of courage. I figured if I paid for it and got a friend on board, I would have no choice but to follow through. Great principle, hard practice. It was just way to cold and icy outside. After the ER thing, I had a solid excuse to sit one out but I knew I would always have excuses, good ones too. So I did the thing I fear. I used the inside track and ran out in the open for everyone to see. Yes, I realize when I run the 5k it will be a public event. I just figured by then Id be in a groove and look as though I belonged there more. Not skinny, thats not ever gonna be on my agenda, but not gasping for air. LeBron James is a member of my gym. He’s an athletic beast. I trust you can see my point here. It’s intimidating. But guess what? I did it.
THEN, I threw on my swimsuit and walked past three different pools to the warm water therapy with … WAIT FOR IT… No. Towel. Gasp!
Just for good measure, after swimming, I got completely naked in the locker room without attempting to shield myself from others.

Courage muscle – flexed. Check me out.

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(Thanks for the inspiration, silverliningmama)

An American Emergency Room

I spent eight hours in the emergency room last night and the early hours of this morning. It was by far one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had at an emergency room. This is saying a lot since I have a lot of experience with emergency rooms due to my chronic health conditions. Usually when I go to an emergency room it is because I need fluids or antinausea meds and sometimes even pain medication.

It started Friday morning. I went to the bathroom and my urine was the color of tea. Obviously, your urine shouldn’t be this color. Anyway, about an hour or two later I started experiencing stomach pain. Because of my gastroparesis this isn’t something I thought I much about. Stomach pain is just something that I deal with every day. A little while later though the pain started to wrap around into my upper back. Then I got nauseous. Couple all these things together and I was pretty certain that I had another kidney infection. This is something that happens with scleroderma. I knew that if my doctor couldn’t see me this was going to mean a trip to the emergency room for fluids and antibiotics. Such is my life. I called my doctor and she referred me to the emergency room.

It was dead when I arrived. I was so grateful for this. They took me right back and started it work up. The doctor came in to talk to me. He was a complete ass. (sigh) Unfortunately this is something I also have a lot of experience with. I knew this meant nausea meds but nothing for pain and not to mention it because then Im drug seeking. Thanks, pillheads. Whatever. I would wait for the test results and go from there.

Turns out it wasn’t my kidneys. He said it was my liver and that I needed an ultrasound. Anytime you think a new organ has begin being compromised by scleroderma it hits you really hard. My brain function became compromised. He began telling me that because I was at a satellite emergency room from the main hospital, that their ultrasound tech had gone home for the evening and I would need to go downtown to have the test completed. He wanted to send me by ambulance which I was not down for. He told me he would call ahead and let them know that I was on my way. The nurse came in with my discharge papers and started to remove my IV. I inquired if I was going to need it again when I arrive downtown. She wasn’t for sure but said that if I wanted to keep the IV I would have to take an ambulance. Say what? Is it just me or does this make no sense?

When I arrived downtown I was sure that it was a full moon even though I had paid no attention on the drive because the emergency room was packed full. There were people sitting in wheelchairs with obvious broken bones, people throwing up into plastic bags, a woman in a chair who I wasn’t even certain was alive anymore, it was plain crazy. People were getting Jimmy Johns delivered. They took me right back to be triaged by a nurse. I thought that maybe I was getting to bypass the crowd. But no such luck. The only people who were bypassing the immediate waiting room were women who were in labor. Eavesdropping on some conversations I found out that people had been waiting there in excess of six hours. What on earth is the point of having satellite ERs if you don’t staff them to the point that avoid sending people to the main campus and over extending the staff?

I waited nearly 2 hours to be taken to have the ultrasound. Then I was taken back to the waiting room. I started to entertain myself by guessing what people were coming in for as they arrived and brainstorming their diagnosis by listening in on the symptoms they would report. I can tell you this much, I have been watching way too much “House” on Netflix.

Two hours later a nurse came out with a file and called my name. She led me and a man I was sure was homeless and just looking for a place to crash for the night back into the elusive exam areas. She didn’t even attempt to settle me into my designated area. She more or less pointed and then mumbled the number 13. At last I had a bed. I wasnt given a gown. I did not have a blanket. I did not have a pillow. Hell, I did not have a way to contact a nurse should I need one. I just curled up in a ball and waited. And waited. And waited…

Eventually, my mother, the sweetest and most reserved person I know, became so agitated she walked to the nurses station to ask exactly what it was we were waiting for. She inquired why if the test was done and I didn’t need to see a doctor would they bother keeping me there, occupying a needed bed and also if it was important, how they could let someone with a liver complication wait so long to be seen. They told her that the doctor had my file in her hand and would be in ASAP.

An hour later the resident doctor came in and started to talk to me about the findings on my ultrasound. She used a big fancy word and then started to talk about my gallbladder. I don’t have a gallbladder. I had it removed in 2001. I had told the doctor at the first emergency room this. I had told the ultrasound tech this. And now I was explaining to a third person the same thing. She apologized, saying it had been a very overwhelming night. She said that she would need to review my file with her supervising doctor and he would be in to see me.

The supervising doctor comes in and tells me that my ultrasound revealed that I had a “fatty liver intrusion”. He explained that this was a chronic condition for which I would need to see a gastroenterologist. In summary, not an emergency. I am stupefied at this point. I’m tired. I’m nauseous. Im still in pain. Im frustrated. So I asked him why if this was a chronic condition had it never showed up on any blood work before and would the symptoms show up in an acute manner. He said that someone had probably messed up. I assured him that with my conditions, constantly getting bloodwork, and having the ability to read the results online, I had never seen elevated liver enzymes and was concerned that this was a complication of my scleroderma. Question ignored. He told me that he would get me medication for the nausea and pain I was experiencing. Then he inquired what I wanted for the pain.

Excuse me? Is this man not the doctor? Isn’t he supposed to make this decision? What am I supposed to say to this? I just stare at him. My mother says that usually the doctors treat me with dilaudid in the emergency room. He tells us that he is limited on what they can write a prescription for. He says he will write a script for Percocet and prepare my discharge paperwork.

I’m allergic to Percocet. All this information is not only in my file but has also been repeated to numerous people at this point. After eight hours all I have to show for my time is an ultrasound, that apparently didn’t even reveal the absence of my gallbladder, the promise of a prescription that I have an allergy to and have been shuffled off to another doctor so THIS doctor doesn’t have to practice medicine. Not to mention that my psyche is now completely twisted.

At that point I put my coat on, grab my bag and tell my mom we’re leaving. I didn’t wait for discharge papers. I just left.

That’s all I have to say about that.

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10 Things

I HATE ABOUT PEOPLE:
selfishness.  stupidity.  disrespectful.  users.   abusers.   whining.
liars.   wasteful.  bullying.  victim mentality.

I LOVE ABOUT PEOPLE:
care.  tenderness.  loyalty.  creativity.  honesty.  empathy.
humor.  thoughtfulness.  love.  resilience. 

Relocation:Pen to Paper; Pros vs. Cons

I spent the weekend in Kentucky with my Mom’s side of the family. There is something about changing my surroundings that deeply affects my psyche. I didnt feel weighed down. Even went for a jog. I breathed easier, slept so much better. Drank a lot of sweet tea. I swear it heals the soul.

Everytime I take the kids to visit at Nana’s and they get to playing with my cousins I hear the same thing: “Momma, lets move to Kentucky.” I always think that would be nice but the reality of it is tough. I sit down with pen and paper and start the pros and cons: Hubster finding a new job, selling and buying a home, changing schools, everything surrounding My Pickle, my doctors, our friends here. There’s a lot.

This time the suggestion not only came from the kids, but various family members and as I went through my list of issues, there were less negatives and more positives in weighing a move. My husband isn’t happy in his current job and layoffs have not only been talked about but happening all around him. He’s already circulating the resume. With his Mom and grandparents having passed away, he has no real family strings tying him here. The housing market is up in our area and our house would likely sell fast and leave us with a hefty chunk of change. We could buy a house with more land like we’ve wanted much cheaper in Kentucky. My Pickle will be headed to college and most college kids live away from home, which will not only be good for him, but if Im honest, it would be good for me to loosen the leash too. Jedi is switching to high school, Diva to middle school. It’s actually good timing where that’s concerned. People travel from all over the world to get treatment at Cleveland Clinic. Id be 6 hours away. And also, my EX wouldn’t know where I live. No more late night drivebys and all the nerves surrounding holidays and his unpredictable behaviors. AND there’s REAL potential for my husband and I’s little idea for our own business. Our friends will travel, we can travel. Lastly, I was raised in the South. Yes, Im pretty liberal but Im always gonna feel more at home with dirt on my jeans and sweet tea in my hand, than all prim and proper lady with a “pop”. Id take a good ol boy, than a suit anyday of the week.

Holy crappoly, ya’ll. This could happen. For serious.

I had a lengthy talk with Hubster last night and reviewed all this with him. He sat listening, quietly. At the end I said, ” Well babe? Whadaya think?

Let’s do it.”

I was in a state of shock. I didnt know whether to be completely terrified of all of this or to jump up and down. We said our I Love Yous and Goodnights. I fell into a completely peaceful sleep.

I woke up this morning with a new resolve to let go and let God. Be vulnerable. Caution to the wind. Jump. Accept it as an adventure.

Husband has already started applying for jobs.

Off we go. Into the great unknown….

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Things kids say

Jedi: What does it usually mean when your Dad says “Ill think about it?”
My Cousin: Depends. What was he doing when he said it?
Jedi: Watching a movie.
My Cousin: Nothing. He just gave you an answer so you’d leave him alone. Ive thought it was a real answer before. It’s just something he says so he can go back to watching the movie. He’s not thinking about nothing.