Saturday, February 25, 2012

The good, the bad and the f'ing ugly

I consider myself quite lucky in life, despite things that have been beyond my control.  Choices I have made along the way have not always been the best but have taught me important lessons that have helped shape me into the woman who stands before you today, although leaning slightly to the left (literally!  Ask anyone who knows me).

I love my parents, accept their views on things that do not coincide with mine no matter how difficult at times, consider them some of my closest friends and know I can depend on them.  I have two brothers whose strong opinions, values, morals and way of living their lives have influenced me more than they probably realize and for this, and many other reasons, I love them and respect who they are.  I have more cousins than I can begin to count and all I can say about most of them is THANK YOU FOR BEING MY FAMILY!  Yes, I did say "most of them" because as we all know, family is family and we can't always get along just because we share the same blood.  But for those who I am so fortunate to call my family AND friends, they are priceless to me and their children (who, for Hispanics, are nieces and nephews) are ones I carry in my heart each and every day.

I'm not one to have friends just for the sake of having friends, so the ones I have are TRUE friends in my life and ones I know I can count on when I need them most or, other times, just because we want to catch up.  My best friend in the entire world has been in my life since the 7th grade and I hope we will be best friends forever, which I feel is a very distinct possibility.  Unfortunately, she moved to Iceland (her mother is Icelandic) when we were in the 8th grade, but this did not stop us from continuing our friendship through letters and visiting one another later on in life.  But to look at us, you would think we were complete polar opposites.  Me, being overweight and having dark, curly hair while she is far more svelte and has straight, dark blonde hair.. yet we were sisters from the start!  I have a few other good friends who I care for very deeply and the good thing is that they live much closer than Iceland!

Ahh, how could I forget to mention three of the most important ones in my life?  My little girls!  Yes, my cats are three precious little gifts in my life that I am thankful for, which I tell them each night before going to sleep.  Hey, I never said I was completely sane, did I?

OK, so those were all the some of the good things in my life.. but life isn't always wonderful and I believe I've had more than my share of heartache and heartbreak.  I've been a very angry, overly emotional, sad, hurting, depressed person for as far back as I can remember but it wasn't until I was 20 years old that I was diagnosed as Manic Depressive (now called Bi-Polar), but I wasn't in complete agreement with this diagnosis.  I had all the lows, but none of the highs, so it didn't make sense to me.  A few years later, I was re-diagnosed as having Major Depression, which I feel was the right diagnosis and was able to receive the correct medication for my condition.

One year after the Manic Depression thing, in May 1990, I began having trouble with my eyes, mainly the left one.  A couple months before this, I had gotten new glasses and was confused and scared as to why I was almost blind in this eye from one moment to the next.  I was told I had Optic Neuritis (after being told I was probably diabetic, being that I was overweight.. had the glucose tolerance test and I was NOT diabetic!).  Well, this was not to be the end of my problems for the year.

During the next few months, I had two complete separate episodes that affected my legs.  By that time, I had already seen an opthamologist for the eye problem and then was sent to a neurologist for reasons I didn't quite understand at the time but once the leg problems kicked in, I was seeing the neuro more and more often.  On November 12, 1990, I knew the answer to what was happening in my body and why I was barely able to walk.  I had MS.  Multiple sclerosis.  And I would have it for as long as I lived.  I was only 21 years of age.  FUCK.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Snap, crackle, thump!

I awoke this morning to what sounded like branches, boxes, perhaps even the entire sky falling onto the roof of my house.  What a way to be frightened into consciousness!  I'm sure what was happening was far less dramatic, but it felt as if my home were being attacked and I was afraid my ceiling would cave in at any moment.  After a little careful consideration, I remembered how it had rained last night, probably snowed during the over night hours, and now the sun's heat was melting some of the ice/snow off the tree branches that hang over my house, particularly above my bedroom.

I am the first to admit that I am not the best housekeeper, but even so, I really do love my little house.  It has two bedrooms, a decent sized bathroom with a handicap accessible shower (love it!), a large living/dining room combo that is surrounded by windows, a smaller kitchen than I would like and laundry area.. all on one floor!  I have a good sized permanent shed, large deck and a fantastic ramp my dad built for me a few years back.  I love my home.  I like my neighborhood.  Where I live is very quiet, peaceful, and although I'm slightly out of town, I enjoy driving that extra little bit since I do not get out of my house too often.

My issue with my home is more of an issue with how people see it.  I live in a manufactured home or mobile home, but most prefer to call it a trailer.. which is a description I do NOT accept.  I have seen trailer parks but I do not live in one.  I also do not like to judge people for where they live, yet saying "trailer" automatically brings to mind countless episodes of the Jerry Springer Show and this makes my skin crawl.  My home is my house.  It does not need more of a title than that.  If you own a ranch style home, do you tell your friends, "hey, lets go to my ranch house"?  NO!  You would probably just invite them to your house without thinking twice about labeling the sort of home you have compared to a Colonial or other type of house.  I don't understand why mine needs to be labeled by others, because I won't do it.

OK, so why am I explaining and ranting about my home?  Well, I suppose if I had a "regular" roof, I would not have been able to hear the sky falling overhead, but this was one of the things I had to get used to when I first bought my house.  I can hear every single raindrop, icicles melting from my trees onto my roof, the wind blowing against the outside of my home and that darned woodpecker outside my bedroom window pecking louder than anyone can imagine!  But I'll take all these little inconveniences because I love my little home and I love my independence.  And best of all, my three little girls have many windows to look out at the world.. and believe me, they do!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The beauty of my babies

1.- peel for me!  2.- tie for me!  3.- pin this up for me!  4.- cut for me!  5.- grrrr tear it open for me!  6.- comb me!  7.- but there is one thing I never have to ask my mom to do for me..  8.- love me!
I'd thought about starting a blog for some time but hadn't had a real inspiration to do so until a few nights ago and the above "pic" was what did it for me.

As silly as it may sound, this cartoon made me think of my cats and how they communicate their needs, wants and love.  It actually almost bothers me when I see stories on the news or posts on Facebook where parents are praised for how they raise their children (or people say how wonderful it is to be a mom or dad) but no one thinks of those of us who were not able to have human children.  First, I don't call my cats my KIDS.  I find the word "kids" to be somewhat degrading and disrespectful, so I do my best to not use this word if at all possible.  My cats are my girls, my babies, my daughters, my angels, my world.  How is this different from actual "motherhood"?  Sure, they weren't born of my body, but I adopted them as so many other's adopt their children and that does not take away from their being parents.  But there I go allowing my mind to wander off subject, which you will find I do quite often!

My three girls are very different from one another.  Emmi Sue is my oldest.  She'll be 15 on March 11th, which will mark 14 years since I've had her in my life.  Jinger and Allie are 13½ and will be 14 on July 15th (I adopted them at 7½ weeks).  But just as children have distinct personalities, my cats do, too.  Emmi Sue is what I call more "needy" and very jealous, while Allie is more shy and skittish and Jinger is a little more happy-go-lucky in a "Phoebe Buffet" from the sitcom "Friends" sort of way.  While Emmi Sue and Allie understand the word "no" the first time I say it, it takes Jinger two, three, four, SEVEN times before she lets it seep into her head to stop whatever it is that she is doing, but then she stops.
my Emmi Sue, sunning herself in the bedroom window
Emmi Sue is the kitty I love to hold the most.  I pick her up and she throws her little body back and lays in my arms as if she is truly a little baby, reaches her tiny hands up to my face and caresses my cheeks.  She has been known to stay in my arms until my arms are hurting so I have to put her gently on the floor.  But many times, she'll cling to me to not let her go.  And every single night, as I'm trying to fall asleep, I hear this terrible, deep growling type of meow from down the hall.. and it's my Emmi Sue approaching the bedroom with a toy mouse in her mouth.  She loves to bring me "presents" and needs me to say THANK YOU or else she'll howl the entire night.  It sounds annoying, but I love her so much!
my little Allie, waking up on my pillow
Allie is the one I like to call my "secret angel" since no one has the chance to see what a wonderful little girl she is, except me.  She is gentle, loving, very sweet and trusts only one human being.. and I'm so lucky to say that is me.  Of my three girls, Allie has the prettiest little voice and the biggest eyes!  My nickname for her is my Allie Bug.  Recently, she has chosen to crawl under the covers, right below my pillows, a few moments before I go to bed, as if waiting for me.  When I gently pull the covers back, she gives me a soft meow and curls up next to me for a few minutes and it's a little piece of heaven to have her there.
simply my Jinger.. pic taken with  my phone
Jinger is basically beyond words.  When she was a baby, she drove me insane!  I didn't think I would ever be able to bond on an emotional level with her, but after my 2nd divorce, something in her.. or in me, or both.. changed.  All I have to do is look at her or begin to say her name and she is next to me a few seconds later.  A couple years ago, Jinger started doing something that means the world to me.  Once I am in bed and Allie is no longer under the covers, she comes to my pillow, headbutts me a little, purrs, and then nudges me to lift the covers up so she can crawl under and spoon with me all night.  The amazing part about this is that many times, I have terrible, violent, full-body spasms, but yet she stays with me, as do my other two girls.  They never leave the bed once they are settled in.  And I wake up each day to find my three little girls on the bed with me, just as they were when I closed my eyes the night before.

One of the wonders of my girls is that, although they obviously cannot use "words" to communicate with me, they have their own ways of telling me what I need to know.  About a month and a half ago, I went to my neurologist and told him that I was having much more pain that usual and my night spasms were getting worse.  I explained that my cats had behaved so much more concerned, clingy, nervous than I had ever seen them the day before, so I knew something had happened while I was sleeping.  I'm sure my neuro thought I was insane, but I didn't care.  My cats were telling me that I had been moaning, screaming, practically convulsing that night and I was not about to disregard their message.  You see, as much as I take care of and love my girls, they take care of and love me just as much.  We are a family.  Emmi Sue, Jinger, Allie and me.  And I wouldn't want it any other way.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

G's 39th Birthday

Today is my younger brother Gonzalo's 39th birthday.  I think next year will be harder on me than on him since it will be almost impossible for me to grasp that he's 40, but let me embrace his 39th birthday before jumping too far ahead.
Gonzalo and me, April 2009
If I sit here long enough, I'm sure I'll be flooded with many memories of his birthdays from yesteryear but there is one day that has stood out for me above all others.  This day combines different feelings, emotions, growth and what a brother should be and I don't think I ever really knew it until that moment.

Gonzalo was a senior in high school and had asked me to go shopping with him to help coordinate his outfit to match his date's for the Homecoming dance, which I gladly agreed to do.  He knew he would need to push my wheelchair since I wasn't able to walk more than a few steps at that time, but he didn't mind.  So off to the mall we went and were having a very nice time when he spotted something he liked at The Gap.  Unfortunately, the store had displays just inside the front entrance that were permanent fixtures and were not placed wide enough apart for my wheelchair to get through.  I told my brother I would wait outside the store so he could look around and he could show me his findings from there.  I thought it was the perfect solution as I settled down to wait for him next to a bench a few feet from the store but a few moments later, Gonzalo was at my side.  I asked him what had happened and he said that he told the manager that if his sister could not get into the store then they obviously did not want his business.  This was in 1990, so Gonzalo was only 17 years old but already knew what it took to be a man.

One evening just a few years ago, when he returned home from wherever it is that he was living at the time, Gonzalo said something to me that I will never forget.  He told me that he's always thought of me as his second Mom.  Wow.. really?  My eyes welled up with tears when he said this because, as strange as it may sound, I've always thought of him as more than just my younger brother.  When he succeeds at anything, my heart wants to burst with pride, as if he were my son. When things don't go his way and his dreams do not come to fruition, I hurt right along with him.  I feel such a bond with him that I cannot find words to describe.  So, happy birthday, little brother!  I wish you all the best the world has to offer and so much more.. and I'm so glad you're my brother.  You're definitely one of a kind.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

My steps to Atheism

My parents live 15 to 20 minutes away from me (perfect distance!) and a few weeks ago I was at their house when our chat went to religion, mostly Christianity.  I freely admit that many times, I'm the one who starts this sort of conversation, not to change their views but rather to challenge their thinking so they'll examine why they believe what they do.  My mom is more comfortable than my dad with this type of conversation and sometimes it gets a little heated, but not always.  On this particular evening, my dad looked straight at me and said something like "becoming an Atheist was an easy decision for you."  It wasn't difficult, but Atheism was a decision that took many years to reach.  Having grown up Catholic and going to Catholic school for 12 years and actually BELIEVING what I was taught in my youth, both at school and at home, made my decision a bit more complicated for me.  I became Agnostic in my early 20's, went back to Christianity in my late 20's through my mid 30's but always felt unsure of it after having questioned god/Jesus to the extent that I had.  In my late 30's, I was open to being Agnostic once again but it still wasn't enough.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am not always the most logical person yet I do have some standards and Christianity felt completely illogical on too many levels for me to even consider real anymore.  I remember very clearly the moment I knew it was all untrue.  It was during the summer, it was deathly hot (easily over 100°F), my parents were at my house, and my dad decided he would go outside to do some work (either on my roof or yard).  My dad had just had a heart attack less than a year prior to this day and my mom and I kept asking him to please not go outside!  But as many men seem to feel, he said we were overreacting and he knew what he was doing and blah blah blah.  Of course, he went outside but it was far too hot and came back in much sooner than he had wanted, which gave me a chance to tell him what I needed to say. I told him that mom and I loved him and needed him alive, not dead on my lawn.  If I could protect him from hurting himself, I would do it, because he was that important to us.  And then I said to him.. "Dad, if you could have saved me from having MS, wouldn't you have done it?  You're my dad and you'd protect me from anything possible!  That's all we're trying to do for you.  Please let us help you when you don't see you may be endangering yourself."  And it was at that moment that I realized god was a lie.  If he/she/it existed, as Christians describe him, he's supposed to be my father/protector and he did nothing to protect me from a life with MS, even though he had the power to do it.  MY dad would have given his life for me not to have this fucking disease because he IS my father.  god is just an illusion.

Which leads me to the conversation I was having with my parents that night in their home when Dad said that becoming an Atheist was an easy decision. It's not that it wasn't easy, but the responsibility that comes with it is huge. I'm the one who is in charge of my life, which includes all my accomplishments, failures, joys, triumphs, pain, total fuck ups, insecurities, happiness, fears, and so on and so forth.  The only one who can forgive me for my mistakes is me.  I don't rely on anyone to lay hands on me or pray for me.  Pray for me if you wish, but I promise that the outcome will be exactly the same whether you do or not.  My life is in MY hands and when I die, it's over.  That may sound horribly pessimistic, but the wonderful thing is that I DO live on!  I live on in the memories I leave behind, the smiles that will come across the faces of my loved ones when they remember me, and hopefully, I will have touched many lives along the way.

Embarking on a new endeavor

It didn't hit me until, maybe two hours ago, that I should start a blog about a few things in my life that may interest others.  I could very well be deluding myself in thinking this way, but I really have nothing to lose, do I?  Whether or not anyone will read this, aside from me, almost doesn't matter at this point.  Blogging may be the sort of "therapy" I have needed for a long time.
Emmi Sue, all twisted up
I suppose starting out with a brief explanation of how I came up with the name "MS, 3 cats and Atheism" for my blog would be in order, so here goes.  I am 42 years old and I was diagnosed with MS (multiple sclerosis) 21 years ago, so it doesn't take a genius to figure out that it was half my life ago that I learned I would have this damn disease inside my body for the duration of my existence.  It has already been quite an interesting journey which, in no way, has come to an end nor has taken me to my absolute depths of despair, even though I thought it had done this to me many times in the past.  It's funny how, as I think back and reflect on what life has brought or taken from me, I realize it could have been better and most definitely could have been far worse.
Allie in a box!
The second part of my title is dedicated to the three most amazing little girls in my life, my cats:  Emmi Sue, Jinger and Allie.  They are truly my daily inspiration to smile, laugh, giggle and have taught me the true meaning of unconditional love in all its glory.
fabulous Jinger
The last part is what has led me to being free to be myself.  Atheism.  Saying I'm an Atheist somehow sounds more harsh in English that it does in Spanish because the word atéa is so much more gentle to the ear, even though the meaning is obviously the same.  It wasn't until I realized that depending on myself and being responsible for my own actions and its consequences did I become the person I am today.  I'm secure in myself and need only to forgive myself for any wrongdoing I commit and not depend on anybody to "bless" me in the name of anyone else.  I am whole because I am me.

Believe me, I'll elaborate on all these topics at a later date (maybe even later on today) but being that it is very late, I need to start getting ready for bed.  I'm happy with my first post and will be back soon.