Monday, December 24, 2007

A Christmas Eve I will Never Forget

When I was 20, I was renting a room off a lady named Pat. Pat was great, she was fun, always had a smile, or a joke; she was also dying from Emphysema. When I moved in, she was pretty much bed-bound and on oxygen, but, none-the-less, she was still a great mom to her 15 year old son.

At the time, I was working a minimum wage job and going to college, which meant I had no money. She was barely scraping by, so we decided to forgo a Christmas tree that year, even though she loved Christmas. She was pretty sad about not having a tree, but when you need to buy food, it just seems like an expense you can live without.

Pat stayed in her bed on the second floor of the little apartment we lived in. She could only get up for a few minutes a day, and even then, she needed help.

One of her sons had just been released from jail and came home on Christmas Eve. When he came home, he asked why we didn't have a tree. We told him we couldn't afford one. He told us that his mom loved Christmas and he was going to get her a tree, and he left.

He came home about an hour later and had a worried look on his face, like he was being followed. He went outside and when he came back in, he had a Christmas tree. The tree was pretty small, but it was a tree. I noticed it had a few strands of tinsel on it. I thought it was odd that there would be tinsel on a new tree, but I didn't ask about it.

We wanted to surprise Pat so the three of us quietly decorated the tree with a handful of ornaments that we scrounged up and ONE string of lights we found. When we turned the lights on, it was actually kind of cute, like in a Charlie Brown tree sort of way.

When we were finished, we moved the tree to the base of the stairs so it would be easy for her to see. Then we went upstairs and told Pat that we had a surprise for her, but she would have to get out of bed and go downstairs. The way the apartment was set up was, you walk up a half flight of steps, go to a landing, and they turn around and walk up the other half. Since we put the tree at the bottom of the stairs, we just needed to get Pat to the half-way mark, or the landing.

The three of us helped her walk down the stairs and we made her close her eyes. We had her stand on the landing and open her eyes. When she opened them, she saw her little tree with a few ornaments and a strand of lights, she didn't say anything. She had a huge smile on her face as she stood there and stared, and then started to cry. She told us it was the most beautiful tree she had ever seen. She asked for a chair so she could sit and watch "her tree" as she called it, and that is what she did, she just sat there gazing at that little tree. She watched it most of the night.

I will never forget that night, ever. She was so happy to have that little tree, I think it meant the world to her. I can't think of another Christmas where something so little brought so much joy.

Pat ended up dying later that year. The one thing I learned is that if you have the chance to ever give someone one last chance at a bit of happiness, no matter what, make it happen for them. I don't think there is a greater gift to be given.

I hate to tell this part, but I guess it isn't really that big a deal. Her son took the tree from a front lawn of a church. He said he had to get a tree for his mom and no matter what, he was going to get a tree for his mom. He said that if anyone was ok with him taking a tree for his dying mom on Christmas Eve, he hoped a church would be and he hoped they would not have minded.

Somehow, I have always hoped they did not mind, but after the way it turned out, I wish I could have told them how much happiness it brought, as then I know they would not have minded. That night was one of a kind; I will never forget it.
(c) 2007 Cindy Breninger All Rights Reserved.

Friday, December 21, 2007

My Heart Goes Out to Caretakers

For the last few days, I have pretty much been the caretaker for my nine-year-old son. For those of you who have never had to do this, trust me on this, it is exhausting.

My son had surgery a few days ago and could barely walk for a few days. This meant that he spent a lot of time on the couch and anytime he needed food or anything, I would get it for him.

The first day wasn't too bad, except I was extremely tired as I didn't sleep more than about two hours the night before. He would ask for pancakes, or toast, and/or juice and I would happily, but groggily get it for him. Heck, I might as well have been whistling a happy tune as I lovingly made him the pancakes, toast and/or juice. I was his mommy and I was taking care of him. Awwwwww.

The second day, still not much sleep as I would check on him, oh say, every couple of hours throughout the night. I was very sleepy, and a bit grumpy, but still trying to keep his spirits up all the while getting his pancakes, toast, and/or juice. It seemed that every time I would finally get a chance to put my feet up and rest, it would happen. I would just get my eyes closed and get all relaxed when I would hear, "Mom. Would you please...." and it was either food, drink, or restroom. Ummmph. "Ok son, I will be there in a sec..." and I would about crawl to help him.

The third day I was so tired but he still needed help so I did what I could to make him comfortable. It was weird to me that I was getting irritated that he needed help and I just didn't want to make the food, drink, or restroom trips as I wanted a break too. But, he is my son and I love him so much so of course, I helped him. But, I was surprised to feel almost bothered that I had to help. I felt like a jerk. Cripes. This is my son, my little man, my cutie boy, and here I was getting irritated that I had to be bothered to help. Again, I will say it out loud, I felt like a jerk.

I can't imagine being elderly and having to help a sick spouse, yet I know there are people all over the world who are in that predicament. I am betting they want a break, a day off, or some rest and relaxation; but that day will never come. I never knew how exhausting it could be taking care of someone. I am lucky that I am in pretty good health and I knew that there would be an end to my being his caretaker for his every need. What about the people who are sick themselves? Who aren't strong enough to lift a person? Who know that they won't get a break? I wonder if they start to feel resentful towards the person they are caring for.

I didn't resent my son, but I can see how that could happen if it went on for a very long time with no end in sight. I wish that anyone who is caring for someone, I hope that a friend, relative, or anyone who cares, I hope that someone offers to sit with the sick person and give the caretaker a break, even if for only an hour or so. How sweet would it be to even let them go in another room and take a nap? I think it would give them a much needed break and lift their spirits so they can give the care that is needed with a happy heart, not a bitter one.

My son is much better now, but I really learned a lot this week. Caring for someone is very demanding and exhausting. It does feel good to know I took care of him when he needed me, but it was a lot of work. My heart goes out to caretakers.
(c) 2007 Cindy Breninger All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Older Than My Mom. It's Not Right.

Another birthday has come and gone. Ho-hum. I could do without them, really. Lately, the older I get, the less excited I am about having them. I don't mean to be a kill-joy, but what bothers me about my birthday is, when I was 16, I lost my mom to cancer. She was 35 when diagnosed and 42 when she died. It will be so weird when I pass her age and am older than she me the shivers.

I remember my 35th birthday, two years ago today, and I remember thinking that it was odd that I was the same age as my mom was when she found out she had cancer. I was so freaked out that I went and had a mammogram just to make sure I was fine. I was. I also remember as a kid thinking she was so old--gawd, 35, she was ancient! Somehow, when I turned 35, it didn't seem so old, I didn't feel ancient.

Now that I just turned 37, it is with an odd sadness. I am only five years away from the oldest my mom ever was. I am not supposed to be older than my mom, it isn't supposed to work that way. This is messed up as she was supposed to get old first and I was supposed to follow.

Sooooo, that is why I am not fond of my birthday as every year I get a year closer to the oldest age my mom ever was, and I don't feel right about passing her up. Someday, just knowing I will be older than my mom me the shivers.
(c) 2007 Cindy Breninger All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Out for a bit

Hi all,
Well, my 9 year old son is having surgery tomorrow. It is not a major surgery, but it is still surgery none-the-less. I know he will be fine, but inside, I am still scared. I shouldn't be and I can't let him know that, but as a mom, surgery is the last thing I want for my son.

Anyway, I will try to write, but if I don't, I will get back when I can. Hope you all have a great day and since Thursday is my birthday, I might not be around on that day either. But, I will try.

Ok, I am just rambling as I am nervous about tomorrow. He will be fine...he will be fine...he will be fine.......

Take care!

Dry Your Jeans and Eat a Pizza

Anyone on a diet, listen up, this is im-poor-taan-tey!

When on a diet you might exercise (yuck), eat low-fat/low-carb/low-taste foods (double yuck), or even try some new fangled diet. Now, that is all good and such, but I have some advice that may just help so you don't get frustrated. Being frustrated leads to more eating, which in turn leads to more dieting, and no one wants more dieting than is necessary.

Dieters, this one is for you:

When on a diet, never, ever, under any circumstance, ever, ever, ever, put your freshly washed jeans in the dryer. I repeat, DO NOT put your jeans in the dryer. Don't do it. They will be so tight that all the exercise and eating healthy will not have done any good and you will get discouraged and you will then order a pizza and eat the entire thing out of frustration, thus, making the jeans even tighter. This can and will lead to more frustration and another pizza. It is a vicious circle.

Who knows, you may have lost 10 pounds, but you sure wouldn't know it once those jeans have left the dryer and you attempted to put them back on your body. You could stop eating for weeks and those damned jeans would still be tight. FYI, it can take up to a few good months of stretching them out just to get them past the ankles.

So, dieters, this has been your warning. Trust me on this one, I know what I speak of. Oh good, the pizza man just got here, I have him on speed dial.
(c) 2007 Cindy Breninger All Rights Reserved.

Friday, December 14, 2007

This is from my friend Billie-she needs some support

Hi all,
I have an internet friend, whom I have never met in person, but I have gotten to know through blogging. Actually, we met in a diabetes chat room, but she has always been very kind and supportive. Today, I received an e-mail from her saying she is going to be admitted to the hospital tomorrow and I thought that some of you are such kind people, maybe you would stop by her page and wish her well. The following is her blog address, I don't know how to shorten it so here is the long version:

Anyway, here is her first post, I copied and pasted it. Her name is Billie and I think it would be cool to help support her. The internet is a fascinating place. People who you have never met and probably never will can touch your heart. :)

FROM BILLIE'S PAGE: Now what do I do? Just where do I start? Usually the beginning is a very good place to start, but as I search, I’m just not sure where that is.

Got it all done, and now cannot get it published. Oh me, oh my. Simplify. That's what I need to do. Simplify. Let's try that

Myasthenia Gravis. It is for sure we cannot go much further until you, too, know what it is, how it affects me, and what in the world is it doing here? This blog is supposed to be about recalling and telling of events throughout the past sixty-five years of my life that I want to pass along, day one to the current day. Sometimes day one is clearer than today. MG is a rare, incurable, autoimmune, neuromuscular disease. It can affect any voluntary muscle of the body, at any time, to any degree, in all races, both genders, and at any age…… hmmm alive, you are eligible. *s* Common symptoms can include: Drooping eyelid(s) ( Ptosis ), double vision ( Diplopia ) and/or blurred vision, slurred speech, difficulty chewing and swallowing ( Dysphagia ), weakness in the arms and legs, chronic muscle fatigue, difficulty breathing.

One of the treatments for MG is the IVIg. Intravenous gamma globulin coming anywhere from 3,000 to 10,000 blood donors. I have been receiving a treatment every four weeks until this upcoming treatment which will have been two months, and I am more than ready to get that drip started this Saturday, December 15th. A treatment consists of an infusion for a period of three days in the hospital. Now, this is my treatment plan; it is different for MG patient. The last time we talked to the neurologist he said he thought he was going to stretch it out to four days, and at a slower drip rate because of the side effects.

This blog is to involve you in my daily journey toward reaching for remission of my Myasthenia Gravis. Friends. It is 1:30 a.m. and as I was reading through this, it dawned on me that is what I am looking for…….. friends to go along with me, talk with me, listen to me, just whatever. This is a crazy disease, changing as frequently as within an hour, especially within a day. Two good days in succession can be reason to rejoice! I found a forum in the UK, but though it feeds me with knowledge, I find I need people to just talk to. I am nervous about “telling it all” to you, but I am determined to try. The good is easy. The bad, no, for I don’t think anyone wants to hear my “complaints”. This will be facts, and my interpretation of things happening with me as they relate to MG. One thing I am afraid of doing, and that is talking too much! This is my world at the moment, and it is different from most other’s world (don’t we each have our own world? :). Myasthenia affects approximately 20/100,000 people, all to varying degrees. I have no one to talk to; my laptop is my contact with the outside world, so when I have an audience I tend to become a blabber mouth. At least you can click on the little red “x” and shut me up if you get tired of hearing me. LOL I *do* hope you will hang around, though, and as I move along day to day, I hope you learn more and more about this hideous disease. We need people to learn about it, and we need a cure! Goodness, we could even use some more medicines developed for MG When I started going to the hospital for the IVIg treatments even the nurses were not familiar with it, and not very familiar with the IVIg treatment itself. I invite you to ask questions. What I do not know, I will go looking for the answers. Next week I will be in the hospital so I can ask my doctors whatever is needed.

I am in a hospital bed at home, and use a wheelchair when I go out. Extreme fatigue and weakness are a major part of MG; sleep is an excellent medicine for it. Therefore, I sleep a lot, much more than I like because I am used to being a very active person, and feel sleeping a lot is a waste of time. I see so much around me that I would love to be doing. It is only recently that I have regained my ability to type.

The use of the affected muscles causes them to weaken, in some cases to non-use. My eyes are most notably affected when I am fatigued, the muscles unable to hold the eyelids open enough to see clearly. I have 20/20 vision, but the lids partially cover my pupil, making what I can see appear very hazy. Sometimes I tape my lids up to be able to read my computer or a book. This is improving with the IVIg treatments, though, and one way I can tell I am definitely ready for my next treatment. THIS is my road to remission! It is what I am going to be sharing here, hopefully every day. Occasionally MG knocks me low and out for a day, but once I get the blog going, I *think* I can add at least a note each day, but one thing I have learned since having this disease is not to make promises. We often have had to cancel doctor appointments just hours before because I would not be able to get out of bed to dress and make the trip.

This disease involves my husband Jim 24 hours a day. He only leaves the house for short errands. I’m not supposed to be up and about without someone here because of my tendency to fall. Sometimes he must actually hold me as I walk; other times I can hold on to things as I walk along, but I cannot walk unassisted by some means. Overall, since my last IVIg I think my ability to walk alone has improved. This also means that Jim must do all the cooking and washing. The cooking has been a real challenge for him since I am also diabetic, and we must count carbohydrates because I use an insulin pump. That means that some of the things we were used to eating – nope, no more. Things that are quick and easy – nope, usually. Labels, labels, labels. He has learned to read labels! I try to give him ideas from my bed, but you know, that can sound like butting in, being bossy sometimes. The kitchen had been my domain for forty years, and it has been a hard thing to give up.

There has been much I have had to give up, making a true 180 degree turn in areas of my life, and it has not been the easiest thing to do. Jim thinks I've been in denial of the disease, and am just now facing reality. Whatever it is, I need to form a friendship, support base because I want to fight this into REMISSION, and I guess what I'm needing is a cheering squad. And, yes, I really *am* going to be telling my stories of the past (present, too). Once established, maybe breaking into separate blogs, but for now, this will have to be the way. I *plan* on posting more than once a day. However, with Myasthenia Gravis, it is difficult to make solid plans. Prior to diagnosis this was a real problem, but now that we know to expect the unexpected, it has helped us relax more. Stress is one of the top reasons to bring on an MG episode! Any kind of stress, especially that of talking to people, sometimes even talking over the internet can stress me out, and I have to take a break, a nap for restoration.

Now you know a little bit about me I am having trouble saving this to post it, so whenever I am successful this first post will appear! Finally!

See you later..... hopefully! ;-)

'Ragdoll' Billie

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Loaves & Fishes

Today I went to Loaves & Fishes, which is located in Sacramento, CA. This is a place where the homeless people can go to get food, services, and are treated with respect. Everyone there is considered a guest.

I met with the Executive Director and she showed me all around. We went to one outdoor area called Friendship Park. This is a private park for the daytime use of their guests and they only have four rules: 1. No Drugs. 2. No alcohol. 3. No violence. 4. No threat of violence.

At Friendship Park, they have clean and fully stocked bathrooms, day storage, breakfast, showers and free telephones. They even have a Library with a computer learning center for their guests. We walked around the park and people would smile and nod and say hello. I have driven by this park many times and often thought it might be scary, but after walking around and meeting some people, I felt very safe, comfortable, and welcome.

They have several services at Loaves & Fishes, some of which include: a free mental health program for those who do not have insurance; an on-site free legal clinic to help with things like illegal camping, trespassing and light rail tickets; a dining room where a full course, home cooked noontime meal is served every day of the year; a day care kennel with pet food, vaccines, medical care and spay & Neuter programs are available; and several other places that help homeless women and children. There is even a school for homeless children.

I am going to attempt my first book (that is not a children's book) and it is going to be about the homeless. I am very excited because if I get the book done and it gets published, I am going to make sure some of the profits go right to Loaves & Fishes. This would be my little way of helping.

They do not solicit or accept government funds, but rely on private donations. They help homeless women and men, and like I said, they even have a school for homeless children. They really do care about their guests and I think it is a good place to help. They don't know I am writing my blog about them, but I feel it is important and I want to share. Every month they have over 1000 volunteers and I think that is fabulous. I hope someday there won't be a need for places like this, but until that day gets here, let's help make someones day a little more bearable and help them out.

If you would like to send a donation, their address is:

Loaves & Fishes, P.O. Box 2161, Sacramento, CA 95812.

P.S. Some of what I wrote came directly from their brochure. Some of what I wrote didn't. But, it is good stuff so I made sure to include what they had written on here and wanted to make sure they got credit.
(c) Cindy Breninger All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Cindy's Christmas Song Game (c) (Updated-Repost)

Cindy’s Christmas Song Game (I originally posted this a few weeks ago, but the game starts at midnight, so here is a reminder):

It's almost that time of year again....Holidays, ornaments, giving, presents,and all the good that goes along with this time of year. I love the holiday season. I love almost everything about it, everything, that is, except three certain Christmas songs.

When I was ten, I went to the mall with my mom to buy Christmas presents. While waiting in one of the mile long lines to pay for our presents, I heard White Christmas, Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire, and Little Drummer Boy. There was a guy behind me who was whistling the songs along with them. Nothing sounds worse than a Christmas song being whistled. Drove me nuts.

The next store we went to, we ended up in another mile long line, and we heard the same three songs! Uggg!

The third store we went to, we ended up in yet another mile long line, and we heard the same three songs again! I vowed from then on, I never, ever wanted to hear those three songs again, especially while standing in line buying presents, and hence, Cindy's Christmas Song Game(c) was born.

This game does not start until December 1 of every year, and it goes until Christmas. The rules are simple, and since it is my game, they are not to be broken, bent, twisted, or anything else, unless express written permission from me is granted; but, it won't be as I don't allow anyone to deviate from the rules. The goal is to make it to Christmas without hearing your three songs. If this happens, you win. If not, you lose.


1. Pick three Christmas song you do not want to hear from December 1 until December 25.

2. If you hear one of your songs, whether on the radio, the television, a commercial, the mall, the post office, the grocery store, if your in-laws put in a holiday song CD that they randomly decide to play, or anywhere else, when you hear your song, you get dinged and only have two songs left. If you hear over three seconds of any of your songs, THREE SECONDS ONLY, you are dinged and that song is out. No second chances. None.

2. Once you hear your first song, it is kind of a warning and you are on notice that you only have two songs left. Laugh now, but it gets stressful. You might be fiddling around with the radio and think, "I hope I don't accidentally click on a station playing a commercial with one of my songs." Or, "What if some carolers show up and sing one of my songs?" Or, "I hope the car next to me isn't blasting one of my songs." See? Stressful. That could give a person an ulcer.

3. Once you have heard all three of your songs and been dinged, you are out. Done. Total loser. Don't feel bad as I have been playing this game going on 26 years and once was out on December 2, not a good year. Only once have I made it Christmas only to have my in-laws play a CD, unknowingly, with my last song. Doh! Dinged. Out. Loser.

So, any questions? I originally posted this a few weeks ago and gave you time to pick your three songs; hopefully you have done so. Since the game starts on December 1, when the clock hits midnight, there is no turning back. So, go pick your songs and make sure they are good ones as once you pick them, you cannot change until the next year. If you get the kids involved, they are awful and will make sure to point out your songs, just in case you missed one of them. Helpful little buggers, aren't they? So, no cheating and I would love to have any updates and hear how many days you lasted or didn't last until you got dinged on all three songs. Please keep me updated! :)
(c)2007 Cindy Breninger All Rights Reserved.