Dec 15, 2017

Crying, Cardiac Rehab, and Joy

source: www.hopedalemc.com
At first my insurance denied coverage for cardiac rehab. Woohoo!!! More time to watch The Crown.***

Even though I was secretly thrilled at dodging rehab, the lawyer in me couldn't stand for my insurance to reject anything, so I looked into the rules and figured out a way for my insurance to cover rehab. I learned a lot taking care of my Mom....

Last week I started cardiac rehab. I go 3 days a week. The first session was an assessment -- 2 to 3 hours of sitting with a nurse answering a million questions, and being told how great exercise is. I started crying before I even left the house and cried throughout most of the assessment. The rehab folks wanted to call my doctor, but really, what would my doctor do other than add a note to my file "patient nuts," so I said no.

I showed up for my first day of actual rehab and burst into tears when I walked into the room. They brought me back to the assessment room and I sobbed for 15 minutes. It took 3 sessions for me to completely stop crying and wringing my hands. The staff was very patient with me. I'd make them some of my chocolate peppermint bark to thank them, but they are all about Heart Healthy Everything so that it seems like a bad idea...

Why the crying and the anxiety?

I'm not sure. It could be that, even though I'm on a heart monitor during exercise, I worry that my heart will go into an arrhythmia again. Or maybe it's that rehab is located in the heart unit of our local hospital, where I spent hundreds of hours with my Mom. Just driving into the parking garage makes me nervous. Or maybe it just reminds me that 2017 was not my favorite year.

Whatever the reason, I've stopped crying and, shockingly, now look forward to going. I'm still a little anxious, but yesterday I did the bike for 30 minutes and the treadmill for 20 -- that's 50 minutes of exercise, or 49.5 minutes longer than I've done in years.

The surgery did its job. I don't get out of breath when my heart rate goes up. I had no idea how limited I was before the surgery. I'm grateful to be better. I'll have to live with heart issues the rest of my life, but that life should be much better for, hopefully, many years. Any tears I shed now are tears of joy for my improved heart. This came at a cost -- and not just the money, but the toll it took on Mike. He went through a lot and I hope to make it up to him by being able to accompany him while he does some of the things he loves -- roaming around cities and checking out museums.

Now it is time to get off the sofa and finish my Christmas cards. And then, later today, walk on Mike's treadmill. Yes, I'm even exercising at home on the days I'm not at rehab. Now that really is nuts!
___

*** Are you watching The Crown? I love this show, particularly the guy playing Prince Philip. Such an interesting portrayal.

Dec 13, 2017

Hello hi


Fast card -- Stamped Hello from the Double Take set by The Stamp Market in Versafine black on this fun Alternew patterned paper (it's part of a kit) -- I got it on sale a few weeks ago. Dried with a heat gun but that didn't dry it enough, so I left the stamped panel to dry overnight.

Stamped hi from the same set in Versamark and embossed in white. The card needed more white, so I added some white Nuvo drops between the letters. Adhered paper to A2 card and done!


MOOD WHEN DONE = Happy! Needed a break from Christmas mania. Hoping someone will enjoy receiving this. 

Dec 10, 2017

All Good Things

When I googled "social media envy," I noticed that most of the articles tell us not to be jealous because social media does not reflect reality. That smiling family gathered around the perfect Thanksgiving table? Their son is on probation and just stabbed his sister with a fork. And Aunt Betsy's daughter just moved back home after deciding that working was for chumps. So feel better -- their perfect life is actually horrible. In fact, I pretty much focused on that point in this blog post.

But I got to thinking. I don't want to feel better just because I know that sometimes your life sucks.

I know that life is like a blender, with stuff that just keeps flying out, settling in our homes and our hearts in ways that fit perfectly and bring joy, and in other ways that are sharp and very painful, sometimes devastating. And my brain knows that it's not worth 10 seconds of my life weighing how much of the good stuff comes flying out of my blender compared to yours or some stranger I think I know on the internet.

So this season I hope your life is churning out all good things, and if you want to share them on social media, I will enjoy them. And if your life includes a few sharp or painful moments, I'm sorry. I hope those moments are very few and that you find some peace and joy this holiday season.

Dec 6, 2017

Advent Calendar Extravaganza with Taheerah Atchia

So happy to be part of the tremendously talented Taheerah Atchia's Advent Calendar Extravaganza this year! (Prize info at the end).




The Advent Calendar Extravaganza is "the" festive event of the season. This "hop with a twist" was dreamed up by Taheera Atchia and features surprise destinations each day! Joining in the fun with Taheerah are ONE HUNDRED special guests -- each serving up some fantastic Christmas inspiration! Just like an Advent Calendar, you'll never know where you're going to be visiting next until you "open the door"!


And that's not all! 

With 25 amazing sponsors taking part as guests as well, your crafty wish list is bound to get a boost with a chance to win a prize EVERY SINGLE DAY!


Join in the fun every day at taheerah-atchia.com to see what special surprises await behind the door!

Taheerah asked me to use products from my stash of Flora & Fauna stamps.  Since they are among my favorites, I was happy to say yes. I ended up making a Christmas and a birthday card.

I made this cute card way back in early October before surgery. I hope it will warm the recipient's heart. Love these penguins and sentiment from Flora & Fauna's Cozy Cuddles Penguin





Simply stamped them in Memento Tuxedo Black ink and colored with Copics. Hand cut a little banner for the sentiment.

And then I needed a birthday card the other day, so I made this quick, very CAS card. Love getting back to stamping.






Stamps from Flora & Fauna's Birthday Set and Texture Two. Colored that little bird with pencils and Copic marker. Paper strip from Altenew. 

PRIZES!

It’s not a party without a prize - and with prizes every day there are several chances to win!

Today’s prize is generously supplied by Flora & Fauna, so you’ll definitely want to win! Simply leave a comment on this post - then head back to taheerah-atchia.com and leave a comment there too! You must leave a comment on Taheerah’s blog as well as mine in order to be eligible to win! Don’t forget to grab the other surprise destinations from Taheerah’s blog and head over to them to leave comments there as well to improve your odds even more! You have until 23:59 EST on December 31, 2017 to enter.

Don’t forget Advent Calendar Extravaganza runs from December 1st-25th inclusive so make sure you visit taheerah-atchia.com every day for fabulous inspiration and amazing prizes every single time! 


MOOD WHEN DONE: Happy!

Dec 3, 2017

I Hope You Made It

It was early November, and three days in as a legal aid lawyer, the intake sheet indicated that Henry and Mae (not their real names) were married and here for a "domestic relations" matter. I went to the waiting room and spotted them. Sitting together, they looked tired. May was in a maid's uniform that was a little too tight and Henry, thin as a reed, in baggy gray overalls, looked older than his 34 years. 

I brought them back to my office, and had them sit down as I walked around my big desk. I was 24 and looked 18 so I needed that big desk to give me some gravitas. I introduced myself, and asked them "what I could do for them." 

Mae handed me a picture of Kay and Keri (not their real names), their twin 9 year old girls, and then started to cry. I had yet to experience crying clients and had made the rookie mistake of having no kleenex in my office.

Henry looked lovingly towards Mae, and then handed me some paperwork. It was a custody case scheduled for an emergency hearing the next day (ugh). I didn't even know where the courthouse was. The State (in the form of the local social services agency) had sued to take custody of the girls. I might have been green, but I at least knew this was very serious.

Henry and Mae had been married for 12 years, and lived together in a 1 bedroom apartment with the girls. Henry towed cars and Mae cleaned motel rooms. They had no health insurance or other benefits and their income was low enough to qualify for legal aid. 

In order to take the girls away from Henry and Mae, the State would have to prove that my clients were unfit -- that their parenting caused serious harm to the girls. It wouldn't be enough to show that it was in the "best interests of the children" to live with someone else. And if the State succeeded, in order to get the kids back, my clients would have to show that they were no longer unfit. 

They seemed lovely. Immediately I thought that this was another example of injustice towards poor people. You can't take kids away from their parents just because they are poor! There was always someone else with more money! Without a free lawyer, Henry and Mae would have to go to court alone. Now this is why I became a lawyer.

I asked them, "Even if you disagree with them, why does social services think the kids are at risk by living with you?" 

"We are heroin addicts."

$%^***!

Both my brothers were, even back then, addicted to drugs. I coped by making believe I wasn't related to them. I really was the wrong person for this case.

I babbled, "Could you get off heroin to keep your girls?"

Henry told me that they were trying, but that it was really hard. They had no health insurance, and didn't know what to do. 

Henry and Mae were scheduled to spend 30 minutes with me. They were my last appointment of the day. They stayed 3 hours. I ended up just talking with them, getting a better idea of their lives, and how the heroin addiction affected the girls. If they weren't buying drugs, they could likely afford a bigger apartment. But, the girls were healthy and went to school.  Kay was on the honor roll and Keri was a solid B student. They both had pink ribbons in their hair and had big happy smiles. Not bad. Henry and Mae were warm and honest and clearly loved the girls. Maybe you could be addicted to drugs and be a good parent at the same time? Not possible, but why did I like them?

Then it suddenly occurred to me to ask the most important question -- how did social services find out they were on heroin?

Did I mention that I only been on the job for 3 days?

Desperate for a fix, Mae had turned to prostitution. She was trading sex for heroin for her and Henry. She got arrested but, although the charges were dropped, the police notified social services.

Words failed me. 

After what seemed like minutes, but was probably 20 seconds, I told them that I needed a moment to discuss their case with another attorney. He told me that I should argue that the heroin and the prostitution had no effect on the kids -- that social services should spend its scarce resources on providing drug addiction care for the parents rather than tearing the family apart and that living with their parents, as troubled as they were, was better than rolling the dice on stranger foster parents. Sounded good to me.

I got the more experienced attorney to come with me so I could at least find the courthouse, and the next morning we were in court. The State presented its evidence. It was bad. Then, Henry and Mae both testified and admitted to the worst of it. But, I also had them carefully describe the girls' day and how they had friends and went to school, etc. The girls slept in a fold out sofa in the apartment and were otherwise doing fine. The addiction and prostitution, though awful and serious, were separate and apart from their parenting. Not bad for a rookie lawyer. I was satisfied and sat down.

The State's attorney asked one question -- "Did you ever have heroin in your apartment?" It wasn't even a leading question, but this guy knew what he was doing.

Henry told the truth. Once the judge heard that there were drugs in the apartment, he ruled that the girls would go into foster care and set a court hearing for 45 days later. He spoke directly to Henry and Mae:

"I'm giving you a chance. You will see the girls every weekend. When you come back to court I want to hear from social services that there are no drugs in your apartment and that you are not engaged in any criminal activity -- no heroin or other drugs and no prostitution. Don't waste this chance."

And then he turned to Social Services and said "Let's get them into the methadone clinic."

There was a methadone clinic?  Yes, and it had a long waiting list, but they would get moved to the top.

The way the Judge put it sounded good -- I felt like we had won even though we had lost.

I met with Henry and Mae for 2 hours at 1 pm every Sunday in my office for 6 weeks. They gave me a status report and we practiced their testimony over and over. They were doing well. They saw the girls every Saturday, moving their work schedules if necessary. They went to the methadone clinic every day and the clinic staff signed a log indicating that they were passing their drug tests. They even looked a little healthier.

On the Sunday before the Court hearing, I told Henry and Mae that I'd meet them in the courthouse for the hearing, and that they should wear the type of clothes that they would wear if they were going to Church.

A couple of days later -- about a week before Christmas -- I spotted them as I walked into the courthouse. Even though there was a light cold rain falling, Mae was in a pink suit with a matching pink hat and matching pink heels. She had a white feather boa around her suit jacket! But Henry took the prize. He was in a dark gray suit, with a bright yellow tie, and was sporting a hat with a yellow feather sticking out of the band. I was expecting simple, quiet clothes. I couldn't decide whether this was good or bad, but in we went.

The Judge kept it informal. He swore in the social services worker and just let her tell her story. She confirmed all the good things but felt that 45 days wasn't enough to ensure the children's safety. She wanted the see Henry and Mae clean for 6 months before the girls were returned.

The Judge looked at me. What did I have to say?

In my head I pictured the ruined family moments caused by drugs. I agreed with social services. As much as I liked Henry and Mae, I'd seen my brothers "get better" only to "get worse." These were little kids, and going back and forth between foster care and addicted parents could make an awful situation tragic.

So I stood up and did what I had sworn I would do when I became a member of the bar -- I zealously advocated for my clients. My brothers weren't in the room and my clients weren't Kay and Keri -- they were Henry and Mae. I laid out all they had done and emphasized how difficult it is to be in foster care and how returning the children would make it more likely, rather than less likely, that Henry and Mae would stay clean. I spoke non-stop for 5 minutes, painting a picture of parents who would do anything to get their kids back. I reminded the Judge that the law required that social services and the court do what was needed to reunite the children with their parents and indicated that Henry and Mae would welcome surprise inspections to their apartment as well as random drug testing.

But then the State's attorney reminded the Judge that Henry and Mae had only been clean for a few weeks. He urged the Judge to keep the kids in foster care, but increase visitation and slowly reunite the kids with their parents. He made sense to me. I looked at Henry and Mae and they were just staring at the Judge, holding each other's hands tightly.

Henry and Mae won. The Judge ruled that the kids could return immediately. Foster care had its own risks and he wanted to give them a chance. There would be close supervision of the family, but on December 19th, Kay and Keri went back to Henry and Mae.

A few days later, I found a box of chocolates on my desk with a Christmas card signed by Henry and Mae and Kay and Keri. I shared the chocolates with my coworkers, but saved that card for years.

We went to court every 6 months for the 2 years I remained in that particular job. Henry and Mae stayed clean and the kids stayed with them. They even managed to move to a 2 bedroom apartment. I lost a lot of similar cases as the years went on and saw many parents fail, but this was a win.

At Christmastime, I think of them on that rainy day in December when I walked out of Court with a crying woman wearing a white boa and a smiling man with a yellow feather in his hat. It was a good day.

I often wonder what happened to the girls after I moved away. Did Henry and Mae stay clean? Was there an eviction, a job loss, or a car accident that pushed them over the edge and back to heroin? I would never know.

Merry Christmas, Henry and Mae and Kay and Keri. I hope you made it.

Dec 1, 2017

It's December 1st Folks

source: www.ishouldbemoppingthefloors.com

There are probably people somewhere who do not stress about Christmas. And most of those people would be men!  In my house, I'm it -- gifts, cards, cooking, etc. If it wasn't for the Mom/Wife here, December 25th and the days leading up to it would be just like November 25th and the days leading up to it. 
 
Wait, that's not fair to men -- in September I met a woman at a crafty get together who had made all her cards, signed them, addressed the envelopes, and put the postage on them. I knew we had nothing in common and went and got a brownie.

So here it is, apparently 24 days to the big day, and I have a few cards made.  And I bought a couple of gifts. That's it, and I don't care. Oh, I'll get around to sending cards and I'll buy and wrap the gifts, because it really isn't that hard and I enjoy it anyway.

But here are my priorities --  

-Connect with someone who is spending Christmas without his wife for the first time in over 50 years, and to a friend with a very serious illness.  

-Be here when our son comes home, with his favorite Brownie Cheesecake fresh out of the oven. 

-Make lasagna for Christmas because that's what the husband loves and turkey and mashed potatoes for the son because that is what he loves, and fried cauliflower because we all love it, even though there will only be 3 of us.

-Walk every day because it's good for me.

-Play board games that I don't really understand because my son loves them (and loves to beat me!).

-Eat too much.

-Finish reading Beneath a Scarlet Sky.

-See the Stars War movie with husband and kid even though I have zero interest.

-Find time to spend with friends.

-Be grateful every day for every blessing.

-Hope that everyone else's life is as amazing as it looks on social media, even though I know it isn't possible. 

-Listen to Christmas music and watch all the lights.

-Obsess about political stuff because I cannot help it. 

-Stay out of the hospital!!

-Be hopeful for 2018.


How about you?  What's on your list?