An Open Letter to Keysa

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Dear Keysa,

I’ve tried to avoid making my search for you so public.  Ever since I felt compelled to find you, and told The Hunk I would try, I thought I could find you easily through social media.  After all, almost everyone – except, ahem, The Hunk – uses Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other sites.

But you have been elusive to me.  I am pretty certain I found you on Facebook.  You have an obscure profile photo that might be stock art.  You have very little public information visible.  But there is enough for me to think that you are the one with the photo of a woman standing on what could be a sand dune, arms outstretched.  I’ve sent countless emails and Facebook message requests asking people with your name to contact me. Several women named Keysa have written me back, politely explaining they aren’t the one I seek and wishing me luck.

What I’ve been able to piece together is this:  you have a child with a disability, you struggled with fertility about 13 years ago (your middle child should be about 12 right now), and you worry about your kids.  You might be a domestic violence survivor, and you have a serious beef with the military.  You support an organization that helps special needs children.  Your ex-husband obtained a child support judgment against you five years ago. You likely live near your hometown of Fallbrook, CA.

It’s been a decade or so since you changed The Hunk’s life.  I’ve known him for nearly seven of those years – or more than half that time – and he just recently told me the entire story.  The woman he married about nine years ago (and who left him two years ago) didn’t know.  His current girlfriend doesn’t know.  His parents, children, colleagues and friends are completely in the dark.  Only a male friend and I know the full story.  And I’m sure that I know more than anyone else, because guys just don’t talk about feelings with other guys.  That’s why I want you to contact me.  I’m the only one who knows the whole story, and the only one who can help.  It’s a huge responsiblity, and I take it seriously.

You met him on an online dating site and he fell hard for you.

“When Keysa responded, I thought for sure her pic was a fake.  She was drop dead gorgeous.  I’m talking head-turning kind of beautiful,” according to The Hunk.

When you finally met, he learned that you really were a beauty.

“My jaw dropped,” he told me. “I literally felt my jaw drop and my mouth was hanging open.  She giggled and I couldn’t believe she was real.”

I’ve never heard him talk this way before:  “She was SO much fun —  down to Earth, real (or so it seemed), highly intelligent, personable, no airs or thinking she was all that, just…perfect.  I fell head over heels for that girl.  She was 32 and I was 38 at the time…I was smitten.  It was October and we went EVERYWHERE together.  We cooked together, we took trips, we were all over town wining and dining and seeing movies and dancing and just having the times of our lives.  We were inseparable.  We couldn’t take our eyes off one another.  We spent Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year’s together and had a phenomenal time.  It was the best time of my life.  I have never been happier or more content.”

He thought you fell for him, too.  When he told me the story, I sobbed.  I still cry when I think too much about it.  But after he told me, I suddenly understood him even more completely than before.

Keysa, you were The One.  You were The One who changed his life.  Most people would say you ruined his life, but I know better.  For the first time, when he fell in love with you, he let his heart triumph over his head.  Before you, and since you, his relationship decisions have been made based upon logic – the head wins, every time.

That is the real tragedy.  Not the horrid aftermath of your romance.  Not the abrupt ending of a promising career, or even the heartbreak he suffered from losing you.

You changed him for the better.

That’s why I have to find you.  He needs to know how the story ends.  He tried unsuccessfully to find you a few years ago.  He heard that you fell on hard times, that your children don’t live with you, and that you had some very serious struggles.  Maybe you still do.

Your kids were easy to find.  They seem to be doing well, and I get the impression you aren’t part of their lives.

I have to admit, Keysa, I doubt the sincerity with which you entered your relationship with The Hunk.  I know that he is incredible – tall, lanky, and handsome with dreamy blue eyes.  He is intense.  And he has certain attributes that women talk about with other women after they have had too many cocktails.

He’s also incredibly kind, generous, and a good friend.  He has an unflappable, amiable personality.  He’s a lot of fun – unassuming.  He tends to attract needy women who take advantage of his kindness and generosity.

He’s an amazing guy, and you caused him irreparable harm.  Yet he holds no grudges.  He’s not angry.  He’s thankful for the time he had with you and your ability to open his heart.

In case you’re wondering, he’s doing very well.  He hasn’t changed much at all in 10 years.  He’s still hot and fit.  He still runs.  He has a successful second career, terrific kids and grandchildren, and a beautiful girlfriend.  She’s a blonde, too.

You can give him closure, Keysa.  Even if the story is a bad one.  I’m fairly certain you are still alive – obituaries usually surface, and I can’t find one for you.  Even if you aren’t, he needs to know.

He needs to know how you are, and how this story ends.  He deserves that.  Please contact me.

Warmly,

Ginger

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Remembering Mopsey

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Almost  a year ago, my mom’s dog Mopsey came to live with me and my partner, Tim.  Mom was in the hospital in another state, and her neighbors who were taking care of him were about to be too busy to look after him.  We didn’t know when Mom would be home or able to take care of him; my sister had two small children to care for (one of whom is terrified of dogs), so we took him in.

As I camped with Mom in her hospital room in Morgantown, WV, Tim and Mopsey headed back to Williamsburg, VA.  None of us knew that Mopsey, Tim and I would be a permanent family.

We thought Mom would be released from the hospital to a nursing home for rehab, but would get to go home where she and Mopsey would once again be roomies and best buds.

It soon became apparent that Mom’s physical disabilities and cognitive decline meant she could no longer live independently.  Mopsey was ours, as the assisted living facility where Mom now lives only allows pets if the resident is able to care for it.  Mom — wheelchair bound — is unable to take a dog outside.  Mopsey was ours.

Both of us have had dogs as pets in the past. My partner left his dogs with his ex-wife when he was transferred to Puerto Rico with the military several years ago.  I had lost both a Doberman mix with a seizure disorder and a Boston Terrier with heart failure.  I gave away my Chow mix when I moved to Virginia in 2009 — because my first home here was a second-floor walk-up apartment, a total of 835 square feet.

Several times, when we babysat my partner’s daughter’s dog, we vowed never to have a canine.  Getting up early to go for walks, having to come home right after work, boarding at kennels during trips — our lifestyle wasn’t cut out for a dog.  Or so we thought.

Mopsey’s addition to the household was quite an adjustment.  My cat, Nala, was so displeased with the new addition to the family she fled to the second floor of the house and still refuses to come down, nearly a year later.

We couldn’t give Mopsey the attention Mom did.  She took him out every two hours, whether he wanted or needed to go or not.  He rode with her in the car everywhere when the weather wasn’t too hot — the supermarket, hair salon, church — Mopsey was riding shotgun.  At her house, his spot was on the sofa.  She covered her white carpeting with towels to absorb any dirt he tracked in.  She carried his food to him wherever he happened to be:  the sofa (as children, we were never allowed to eat there) or the floor, it didn’t matter.

And it was a fall while walking Mopsey that led to a broken wrist and her rapidly declining health.

Several months ago, Mopsey had an episode that I described to the vet as “he acted like a person with Parkinson’s Disease.”  My vet advised that I should think about putting Mopsey down, and recommended that I keep track of his good days vs. his bad days and think about his quality of life.  She put him on two medications, which cost a total of $165 per month.  He ate them happily every day in Greenies organic pill pockets, which he loved.

Mom strictly regulated Mopsey’s intake of people food.  She insisted it would make him sick.  We ignored this advice.  Every meal, there he was, sitting at the table begging.  We made sure he had his own plate.  We learned our lesson on some meals — pork fat and cashews caused gastronomical disturbances from which our carpet will never recover.  But usually he just appreciated the attention and the few bites of people food we tossed his way.  It was the highlight of his day.  We also switched him to a better grade of dog food that was easier for a dog with few teeth to eat.

When we recently replaced the carpeting with wood laminate flooring, poor Mopsey couldn’t adjust.  There he was, “swimming” across the floor. We put down rugs and scraps of carpeting to give him traction and a path through the house.

After joining our household, Mopsey was boarded at a kennel for the first time, ever.  We enjoy traveling, and Mopsey didn’t seem any worse for wear by spending time at the pet resort.  I paid extra for cuddle sessions and “outdoor adventures,” where he got to run around outside off a leash.

Mopsey was never a vocal dog. Even when he was young, he didn’t make much noise.  He would get excited when people (like me) visited my mom and stepdad, but he never barked, howled, or whined.

The oddest adjustment we had to make with Mopsey was the way he signaled he needed to go outside.  Other dogs would bark or whine.  Not Mopsey.  He would walk to the door, then walk back and look at you.  This system was not effective if you were asleep — or busy and simply not noticing.

Mopsey never barked.  Not ever.  Occasionally — very occasionally – he would whine.  Usually that involved riding in the car, or during the few times we crated him at night and he wanted out.

There were many times throughout the years I thought Mopsey was depressed.  He was the most lackadaisical dog I knew.  He never got excited about anything.

After he came to live with me, I realized that was just his personality.  He was even, calm.  He was sweet — but didn’t want to be loved on too much.  He would tolerate being on a lap for a few minutes, but not for an evening.  We respected his wishes.

That’s how I knew that today was the end for him.  After his incredibly long and very scary seizure, he climbed onto my lap.  I had been sitting on the floor beside him, petting and soothing him during the seizure.  Tim was on the other side of him, doing the same thing.  He pooped.  He peed.  He slobbered and foamed at the mouth all over me.

Then Mopsey climbed into my lap — something he’s never done before — and then he bit me. On the breast.  And he wouldn’t let go.  I know this was some sort of reaction to the trauma, and not aggressive behavior.  It was surprising, and I dismissed it.  A couple of band aids and some Neosporin and all is well. But it wasn’t the sweet, calm Mopsey we knew. He was obviously very scared, possibly in pain, and it was his way of saying “Hey, lady, I feel like crap!  Help me!”

We wrapped him up in a towel, got in the car, and headed to the emergency veterinary hospital.  I knew it was 35 to 40 minute ride in the car, and I tried to make it as comfortable as possible.  I held Mopsey and stroked him, but still he howled regularly — a mournful howl that was loud and disarming.

When we go to the hospital I had to fill out a lot of paperwork.  Tim took Mopsey, who was very agitated, outside.  He set him down in the grass, and he sprawled out, stopped making noise or moving around, and seemed to relax.  I went and got them when it was “time.”

The technician took Mopsey  to a back room to have an IV catheter put in.  They then brought him to us — in Room Zero — to spend time with and say goodbye.  I held him in my lap and loved on him.  Tim snapped a few photos with my phone.

A tech stopped by and asked if we were ready.  I confirmed we were.  Several minutes later a vet appeared with syringes.

He asked if I wanted to put him on the table. I looked at the cold stainless slab and declined.  I held him in my lap and the doctor pushed the various drugs through the IV catheter.  At first he seemed “high,” then a few minutes later the euthanasia drug was dispensed.

“It will be quick,” the doctor advised.

It was.  The vet had to leave the room to retrieve his stethoscope.  He inserted the device between Mopsey’s chest and my arm.  “He’s gone.”  He reported.  I gently handed my baby brother to him and he left the room.

I paid the bill and made arrangements to have him cremated and sent to my veterinarian.  $257 ended his life. It seems surreal.

He will live on in our memories.  He loved his people, especially Dale (my stepfather) and Tim, my partner.  He was a sweetie, who never was angry, aggressive, or even upset.  About anything.

Farewell, my sweet baby brother.  You deserve an eternity of rest and relaxation.

 

Father’s Day: Tribute to Jim Thompson

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Dad and me when I was about 4 years old.

It’s no secret that Dad was my favorite parent.  I was “Daddy’s little girl.”  I was a superstar, and could accomplish anything I wanted.  To have not had sisters — or a mother that he could remember — Dad had a knack for raising girls.

It was Dad who was the nurturer — the one who kissed the boo-boos, affirmed me, told me I was smart and beautiful.  He was kind, loving, and steady.  Even when he was angry, he wasn’t prone to outbursts.

It was Mom who spanked, yelled, and always found something wrong with me.  My hair, my clothes, my makeup, the condition of my room — nothing was ever good enough.  It didn’t matter what I did, it wasn’t right.  Oh, sure, she praised me when I brought home straight-As or other successes.  But she didn’t love me like Dad did.

Dad wrote me letters while I was in college, carefully printed on yellow legal paper, using yellow correction fluid to fix his mistakes.  He would visit me periodically.  He bought me my first car — and took out a credit life policy so that it would be paid off if he died.  Which he did.  I wonder now if that was foreshadowing.

When Dad died suddenly at age 60, I was on the phone with him.  It’s a fact few people know, and something we never talk about.  Ever.  I still wonder whether I did the right thing, if I waited too long to call for help.  By the time the rural volunteer paramedics arrived, he was long gone.

When it came time to plan a funeral, choose a burial plot, and other such tasks, Mom was a mess.  I was the rock, the one who ushered her along to make the necessary decisions.  I remember standing with Mom, staring at Dad in his casket, and her whispering, “It’s OK to cry.”  I didn’t cry at all.  Later, with my friends, on a dark night outside my parents’ house, I cried until I threw up.

And I still cry today.  There have been many times I’ve thought that Dad was the only person who truly loved me.

While I know that’s not true, it remains a fact that he loved me best.

 

 

Embracing “Voodoo Medicine”

dollI’ve started seeing a witch doctor.

No, I don’t sneak off during the full moon to chant incantations in the graveyard.  I go to a modern medical office in broad daylight.  And I don’t have to bury bodily fluids and sprinkle potions on the spot  — but I do have to mail them off to a lab on the west coast.

“Black magic never stops. What goes from you comes to you. Once you start this s—, you gotta keep it up. Just like the utility bill. Just like the grocery store. Or they kill you.”

 

Minerva in “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”

The health care practitioner I’m seeing wouldn’t appreciate being called a witch doctor or his practice voodoo.  That’s what traditional medical practitioners call their brethren who embrace homeopathic or alternative medicine.  Not to their face, but behind their back.

The purveyors of non-traditional therapies call their practice “integrative medicine,” and there are official organizations that provide board certification and continuing education for the high priests and priestesses of homeopathic treatment.  They combine evidence-based (traditional) medicine with homeopathic or non-traditional treatments.  To the hard-core, traditionally trained medical doctor or osteopathic physician, it’s a betrayal of the brotherhood (or sisterhood).

I didn’t find this new-age doctor in a voodoo shop.  I clicked on a Facebook ad offering relief from my thyroid disorder.  I had rapidly gained 20 pounds, feel fatigued all the time, and suddenly developed high blood pressure and high cholesterol.  Despite taking synthetic thyroid hormone, I still feel like crap.  My primary care physician, a graduate of a traditional medical school who operates within the usual volume-based practice, refused to prescribe natural thyroid hormone.

When I went to the voodoo appointment, I went with a healthy dose of skepticism.  While I’m not in the health care field, I was previously married to a provider.  Therefore, I have about six years worth of second-hand medical training.  What I was going to experience would have been called “hooey” by my Ex.

I felt like I was in a college biology class as the doctor explained the relationship between the liver, brain and adrenal function.  I had read about “leaky gut syndrome,” and was ready for the lecture.  I have a colleague who has undergone a similar regimen.  I was ready for the spiel — the sales pitch — for a treatment that is likely not covered by my health insurance.

When I walked into the office for the $49 consultation, my plan was not to buy into the program, but to walk away with the info.  However, the program was dangled in front of me, and I felt bad enough that day to say “I’m in,” and plunk down a credit card to pay the fee.

The new dining room suite can wait a bit.

Tomorrow I embark on the big step of the program:  The Diet.  The philosophy is this:  if you cut out everything that can cause inflammation in your body, you can rid yourself of toxicity and heal from the problems caused by the bad foods and chemicals that cause it.

This morning, I drank my last cup of coffee.  At lunch, I ate my last sandwich and drank my last diet soda.  I’m preparing to cook the last meal of shellfish and processed frozen vegetables (broccoli with cheese sauce).  I’m sipping on my last glass of wine.

For the next 30 days, I can eat only poultry, beef or fish (no shellfish or pork), certain vegetables (no potatoes, beans, corn or peas) and specific low-glycemic fruits.  No gluten, grains, nuts, caffeine or alcohol.

Yikes!!! I can live without gluten, grains, sugar, artificial sweetener, preservatives, or nuts.  But caffeine and alcohol are the foundations of my existence.  They are how I cope.  How will I survive?!

This blog will be the diary of my penance.

I’m putting my faith in “voodoo medicine.”  I’m turning my health over to a so-called “witch doctor.”  I’m also investing a significant amount of money in this program.  But it’s time for a change.  Traditional medicine isn’t serving its purpose.

Stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am a 50-year-old woman!

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“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” ~ Winston Churchill


 

Today I turn 50 years old.  Half a century.  Over the hill to many – especially the youthful.

If I were born in Sierra Leone, I could already be dead.  The average life expectancy for a woman there is 46 years old, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).  If I lived in Angola, Chad, or a dozen other African nations, I would be within a decade of death, statistically speaking.

If the WHO is right, I’ve got another 31 years to go.  That’s good, because I’m not going quietly.  From exploring family genealogy, I know that women often didn’t reach the age of 50 in the 1800s and even the early 1900s.  My own paternal grandmother succumbed to illness at age 38 in 1938.  She was Grandpa Thompson’s second wife – the first died in the flu epidemic of 1918.

I work for an organization that celebrates those who are age 50+.  Honestly, if I didn’t work for AARP, I might be a bit more depressed about this milestone birthday.  But from a vantage point in a state office, I have seen how people over age 50 – and especially women in that category – can make an amazing difference in the lives of their contemporaries.

My maternal grandmother – who was a central figure in my life – was 54 when I was born.  My mother was 52 when my father suddenly dropped dead at 61.  Being 50-something is not generally associated with youth in my immediate family.

As I transition to the second half-century of my life, I’m like many of my contemporaries. I’m a professional with a demanding job.  I’m a daughter and a caregiver for my mother.   I’m a big sister, and an aunt to two small children.  I’m a partner to my significant other (who turned 50 a couple of years ago).  I run a household.  I have a cat and a dog.

I share the January 15 birthday with some big names, including Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., who didn’t live to see his 40th birthday. When I look at his achievement — he won a Nobel Prize, among other things, I feel terribly inadequate.

A few years ago I set some goals to achieve by age 50.  Let me acknowledge that I’ve not attained most of those goals.   I weigh more than I wish I did.  I have fewer dollars in the bank than I had hoped at age 50.

That’s OK.  I’m lucky.  I’m a middle-aged, upper middle-income woman.  I’m officially a caregiver to my mother, but she’s currently lucky enough to live in assisted living.  Despite the lack of marriage license, I’m a partner in a household with an amazing guy with a family that accepts me as their own (and vice versa).

I’m almost an average American woman.  If I had children at home or in college I’d be more average.

I take more prescriptions for more ailments than I wish.  A couple of decades ago, my grandparents would have been trading stories about these conditions in the grocery store.  Today I do it with my high school and college classmates on social media.

I’ve prepared for my birthday celebration.  I didn’t wait for someone to throw a party.  I made reservations at a charming inn on a vineyard where I’ve always wanted to stay.  I made reservations at the winery’s exclusive – and quite fancy – restaurant, where I’ve always wanted to eat.

Additionally, I bought myself some jewelry, and even sent myself 50 long-stemmed roses in the colors I prefer.  This shouldn’t be sad or depressing.  What it means is that I KNOW what I want and I’m personally and completely able to give it to myself.  I’ve got a terrific romantic partner who will go along on the 50th birthday adventure and even pay for it.

At 50, I know what I want.  And I don’t have to rely on anyone else – even my longtime romantic partner – to provide it for me.

I love my partner.  I also love myself.  To avoid any chance of disappointment on this monumental occasion, I made sure that I made all of the arrangements that I fantasized about.

What is the moral of this story?  I’m 50 years old!  I’m an amazing and mysterious creature!  And I don’t have to wait for someone else to give me what I need.   I can provide for myself; whatever else comes along is icing on the cake.

In 2016, turning 50 isn’t the beginning of the end. As Winston Churchill said, it’s the end of the beginning. He was talking about war — I’m talking about life.

Milestones such as this give us the opportunity to take a look at our lives, analyze where we are making a difference, and make significant changes.

Fifty years.  It’s a long time; it’s a number of years that matter.

Embrace it! Celebrate it!  I certainly am!