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Saturday, May 5, 2012

To dream or not to dream.....

It never ceases to amaze me how I can come to my blog with the idea of writing on a particular subject, when I suddenly find my mind taking a complete different direction than I had imagined.  This is what happened with my last post, although I am quite satisfied in how it turned out.

A few days ago I started writing about how when I was in high school and began college, my dream was to either be an English teacher or a writer and how the dream was sidetracked by my self doubt and other happenings in my life.  It seemed my so-called dreams never came to fruition and I always blamed it on things beyond my control.  But was it really not my own fault?

I will never blame myself for not returning to college right away as it probably would have been a tremendous waste of money for both me and my parents.  I did, however, decide to enroll in a travel program which took only four months to complete but the classes were long and very in depth.  I LOVED travel school!  I began travel school in September 1992, but how was I to know this was going to be one of the most difficult times of my life?  I remember so clearly the moment the worst exacerbation of my life began, thus far.  My entire family and I had gone to Chicago (three hours away) to attend my cousin Randy's wedding.  On the way back, I was in the car with my dad (we had taken two vehicles) when my legs began to stiffen up and hurt as they never had before.  I was listening to one of my favorite cassettes, Little Earthquakes, by Tori Amos and the pain became so unbearable that I asked my dad pull over so I could step out of the car.  The intense heat and humidity of the day didn't make me feel any better so I got back in and we kept driving forward until we arrived home.

A month and a half after beginning the travel program, I lost almost all my eyesight and spoke with my instructors, who "owned" the program, and they allowed me to drop out as long as I promised to restart as soon as I was well again.  I was devastated and depressed beyond belief that I could hardly see and had lost almost complete use of my legs just two years after my diagnosis.  All I could think was how crippled will I become if it's this bad already?
In December of 1992, my parents gave me one of the best gifts ever.  They told me if I went back to school and promised to do the best I could do, they would send me to Iceland to visit my best friend, Krissy.  Are you kidding me?  I finally had inspiration to do whatever I could to feel good again!  My eyesight had already gotten somewhat better so I had re-enrolled in the travel program and finished by the middle of April 1993.  A few days later, I was in Iceland for five wonderful weeks with my best friend.  I was walking with a quad cane and took my wheelchair in case we went on any long outings, but I was thrilled out of my mind to finally spend time with her and her family.

OK, so I went to travel school and know what?  I've never used the knowledge I gained in going there.  I SHOULD have used it, but just never gave it a chance.  I tend to do that a lot in my life.  I suffer from a terrible thing that I have found many others do, too.  I am not afraid of failure.  I am afraid of success.  Wait.  Allow me to reword that.  I used to be afraid of success.  I don't believe I am that way anymore.  But I also don't have dreams now so I honestly can't say for sure if I am still that way or not.  It's funny how we change over time.

I don't find it sad or disheartening to say I no longer have dreams.  It's just the way it is for me.  I suppose I find myself engulfed in too much reality to allow myself to dream anymore, yet I find happiness in the tiniest of things.  Am I making any sense to anyone but me?

Once upon a time, I dreamed of seeing as much of Europe as possible but I know that is no longer a possibility due to lack of funds and lack of mobility.  I have accepted this.  And how I'd love to see Egypt, especially Alexandria and see the places Magdy had seen and walk the streets he must have walked hundreds of times.  Instead, I choose to live vicariously through the travels of friends and family and revel in their happiness as I hear of their adventures.
At the beginning of my blog I said something about blaming things that didn't work out on circumstances out of my control.  I mostly did this with my weight and appearance.  Why didn't guys like me?  I wasn't thin enough and that was it.  What I didn't realize was that confidence is sexier than physical appearance and dieting and then failing wasn't getting me anywhere.  Yes, I needed to lose weight and become healthy (and still do), but not to get a boyfriend!  I needed to do it for me or not do it at all.  I didn't want to take command of my own life whereas now, I take responsibility for my own actions whether the outcome was positive or just the opposite.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

MS.. the year of my diagnosis, 1990

When I was in high school, my dream was to, someday, become either an English teacher or a writer.  I began junior college immediately after graduating in 1987, taking general courses, but thoroughly enjoying the rhetoric class I took.  My instructor praised my writing skills and was very encouraging and I felt I could follow this path in the long run, but yet I was also lost inside myself as to where my life was going and chose to not continue in my education for the next year or two.
I wish I could explain this to the younger version of me and save myself from years of heartache and pain. 
My parents, along with a close friend of theirs, decided to open a home-town ice cream and popcorn store later the following year, which made the decision to not continue with school a bit easier.  The friend contributed the financial side of the store while my parents did the work, including making all the ice cream and popcorn.  Wow, it was the BEST ice cream I have ever had to this day!  It was called Heartland Ice Cream & Popcorn Factory and it was probably one the cutest, most colorful places anywhere nearby.  I loved working there, had many employees who eventually became friends and many of our patrons became daily visitors.  It was terribly disheartening how our business was not able to stay open nearly as long as we would have liked, largely due to another local ice cream store/company that has been in business for many years.  They have cornered the ice cream market quite nicely and not even Baskin Robbins has been able to stay in town for too long in our area.  It took me many years to be able to stomach their ice cream but I am, once again, a fan of theirs.

During the time my family owned Heartland, we had a huge dry-erase board on one of the walls where I would write the names of the 36 flavors of ice cream we featured.  One evening I was working with a girl named Angie and as I was sweeping the front room of the store, I looked up at the sign and it was completely blank.  I called out to her and asked why she had erased it.  Angie looked at me, giggled and said it had not been erased.  I was confused so I walked up to it and ran one of my fingers across where some of the words should have been, and sure enough.. my fingers had marker on them.  What was going on?  Angie looked thoroughly dumbfounded as I stepped back and still could not see a damn thing on the sign EXCEPT the silver frame that held the white dry-erase board.  I was frightened.  I immediately called my mom, who drove to pick me up that evening, and made an appointment the following day with our family doctor.  This was my first symptom of MS.. Optic Neuritis.

When I was told I had Optic Neuritis, it was simply that and nothing more, although I was sent to a neurologist after seeing the eye doctor.  Over the next few months, I had two more completely separate issues that led to my diagnosis of MS on November 12, 1990.  Although those six months seemed eternal, compared to most, it really wasn't long at all.. but in those six months, I matured far beyond my 21 years.
Studio pic of my Abuelito in his younger days.
Not too long before making the appointment when I received the diagnosis, my mom had booked a flight to go to Bolivia for November 13th.  Her father (my Abuelito) was very ill and was only expected to live another 2 or 3 weeks.  After the news of my having MS, my mother felt very conflicted as to what to do so I knew I had to be strong for her and not let her see me cry, no matter how much I desperately wanted her to not leave me at that moment.  Yet I knew she needed me to "allow" her to go to her mother and be there for her so I kept my feelings to myself and never shared this with her until a few years ago.  I needed to be strong for my mom just as she needed to take on a different role with her own mother as they both cared for my Abuelito as he died before their eyes.  He lived until February 14, 1991, so Mom's trip lasted much longer than we all anticipated but it was necessary and I understood.

In my mom's absence, I was given the roll of manager of our store and it was a huge responsibility for me.  At the same time, I was also dealing with fatigue, numbness, pain and still getting used to the thought of living with MS for the rest of my life.  It was a difficult time, to say the least.  One other thing happened while Mom was gone, too.  We had to put our beloved dog, Tootsie, to sleep, after many years of her health diminishing.  1990 was just a bad year!  But as I always say, life goes on and we have somehow moved on and become stronger within ourselves and as a family.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

I hope to hear from you!

During the last few days, I've been experiencing discomfort in my abdomen which somewhat resembles the pain I had one month ago when I began to pass the kidney stone.  My urologist warned me that the pain could begin once again, indicating the stone finally making its way down to my bladder so it can pass out of my body.  It hasn't gotten bad enough for me to take the emergency room doctor prescribed pain medication, but I will take it as soon as I feel the time has come.  And I do hope that moment arrives soon!  It's waiting for the unbearable pain to begin that's making me insane.  I see this doctor again on Friday to find out where the stone is, in case I haven't passed it by that time.  Ugh, such a hassle for such a tiny little stone!
My neurologist's nurse called me this afternoon and informed me that the x-rays taken of my lower back and hips came back relatively normal.  They showed some degeneration in my hips (I believe she said it was mostly in the right hip), but there was nothing significant to show anything in which to be terribly concerned.  My neuro had made some notes suggesting either seeing an orthopedic doctor or having me see a physical therapist once again, and I agreed with the physical therapy.  Being that I am not able to drive at this time, I can have visiting nurses come to my home to help me in this for at least a short time.  Besides, I am sure that some of the pain I am feeling in my mid-section is due to the kidney stone I have yet to pass.  Until it is out of my body, I don't feel pursuing anything too in depth would be the most intelligent decision right now.

Dorraine, my very good friend, was a wonderful help to me today.  As I've mentioned before, cooking has become an impossibility for me in recent weeks so she kindly prepared two batches of macaroni and cheese.  Ah, but I don't make my mac and cheese as most do!  For me, it's an entire meal so it needs to have much more than just the ingredients which are in the familiar blue Kraft Macaroni and Cheese box, as Dorraine soon learned.  I like to pour in a lot of dried onion flakes while the water is reaching a boil so they taste almost as if they're fresh onions when I'm eating my dinner later.  Then, to the cheese mixture, I add quite a bit of Mrs. Dash Southwest Chipotle seasoning (yes, I like it spicy!), a can of tuna AND 6 ounces feta cheese.  Hey, this is a meal, remember?  Then the macaroni with onions is added and voila.. dinner!  I asked Dorraine to have a taste when it was finished and she really loved the flavor and I somehow have the feeling she may prepare this at home sometime and surprise her hubby with this concoction a la Lucy.  Seriously, it's delicious.
Emmi Sue and Dorraine a couple weeks ago at the vet's office
I have been making some new friends on Facebook who have been brightening up my days beautifully as of late.  Some find me inspiring, others think I'm cute or sexy, some think I'm funny as can be.. but all just enjoy messaging or reading the posts on my "wall."  I'm not much of a chatter but prefer to connect with people via emails on Facebook or eventually talking on the phone with a couple of them, but only after getting to know each other well enough that we feel comfortable in doing so.  I'd like to extend an invitation to those who read my blog and use Facebook to feel free to add me as a friend on that site.  I ask that you include a message with the friend request so I know where you saw me, since I do not add people without knowing who they are first.. but since you know me, I would love to have you as my friend.  You can find me athttps://www.facebook.com/wlrios   I do have another profile on Facebook but rarely use it, so please do not try to contact me there.  This is the one I use on a daily basis and I hope to hear from at least some of you. :)

Monday, April 30, 2012

I'm goofy, serious, talk too much.. but I'm always Lucy

When I began my post yesterday, I had no idea I would write about what I did but my thoughts tend to go in different directions most of the time.  I fully intended on dedicating the entire post to my cats but as I wrote, I realized it wouldn't be right to forget about the person who had made such a difference in my life, even though I have rarely spoken of him to anyone.  Magdy has been my little secret, though I'm not sure why that is except that many people do not seem to understand or give as much meaning to love when someone has not physically met him or her in person.  I suppose I did not want to need to explain things and I have left his memory in my mind and deep in my heart but found it absolutely necessary to mention him.
A few years after Magdy passed away, I met a man who has MS but is paralyzed.  I am not sure if he is still alive or not, but I will write this as if he's still living.  He has primary progressive MS and is classified as an MS quadriplegic.  I didn't know what the difference between a "regular" quadriplegic and an MS quad was until he explained it to me.  He was living in a state funded apartment complex for the elderly and those with physical disabilities, so there were a few people there who were quadriplegics.  He asked me to look at their power chairs and the people all had belts around their waists and straps holding their legs in place because their legs would spread open or their feet would slip off the foot pad and they could fall out of their chairs.  He, on the other hand, had nothing holding him to the chair.  His legs were quite rigid and this helped him immensely when he transferred from his chair to the couch or anywhere he needed to transfer.  It was truly amazing to watch him live his life from a power chair and how he had adapted to that life at a young age.  We had been diagnosed around the same age and became paralyzed by his mid 20's.

We dated for about a year and a half, with me living with him and his pesky cat the last year of our relationship.  He was only allowed one pet at the apartment he lived in so my sweet kitties stayed with my parents and this was killing me!  I loved him very much and his MS had gotten much worse so I knew he needed me by his side and my parents understood this.  By the end, I knew it was more than just his body that was paralyzed.  It was his mind that kept him miserable.  I am not down-playing the magnitude of what it must be like to be paralyzed in the least.  It would devastate me beyond what I can even comprehend.  But when you finally have someone in your life who will do pretty much anything to be with you and she wants to take care of all your needs, and you say you love her too, why would you choose your parents over her when they have told you time and time again how much they disapprove of almost everything you have ever done in your life?  It was beyond my comprehension and we finally broke up in the ugliest of ways and it was after that break up when I realized I needed to make changes in my life.
One of the first things I did was change my nickname.  I had been using a different nickname from the age of 20 until that moment, when I was probably 38.  It may sound like a meaningless change, but for me it was anything but insignificant.  Even now that it has been a few years since I changed my name, the only time I think of the other nickname is when I hear Magdy saying my name.  For the most part, however, I have few good memories attached to that name and I was more than happy to let it go.  The girl who had that name had little confidence in herself while Lucy is a much stronger woman who prefers to look forward and go on with her life with only a few occasional glances at the past.

Although I'm happy with the woman I have become and feel sad when I remember the pain I felt inside at the frightened, hurting younger version of the me I was many years ago, everything I have experienced has brought me to this exact point in my life.  I don't believe everything happens for a reason but we do learn things along the way and either fall into deep pits of despair or soar to new heights.  I was in hell far too many times to fear anything anymore yet I also know things can always get worse but I still believe it will get better.  I try not to regret all the stupidities of my past and yes, there were many of those!  But what does regret bring me?  Nothing but guilt and sadness when I cannot change anything that has already happened.
So now I am Lucy and the sky is the limit.  I feel more lighthearted.  More secure in my own skin.  Much more true to who I am.. and it all started with a simple change in my nickname.  Sure, I'm still the same person I was before and maybe I put too much significance in my name but this small change opened up all sorts of new doors for me within myself.  There's a confidence I never I had.  I have a voice I wanted for such a long time and now I feel free to say what's on my mind and it seems as if some are actually willing to listen.  Amazing!

I've had a few relationships since the break up with the "paralyzed guy" but I've also come to terms with my need for independence.  I no longer feel a man has to be in my life in order for it to be complete.  Somewhere along the way, I learned to love myself and realized I'm a pretty interesting person!  My mind is scattered much of the time, I tend to talk too much, I'm silly, kind of goofy, overly serious, but all in all I really like who I've become.  Know what? Time really does heal wounds.