Category Archives: Family

OH, she’s fourteen.

Miss O.H.,

Back in the spring semester of 1998, I strategically placed my classes to avoid Fridays, as most graduating seniors tend to do in college. That meant Thursdays were bogged down with classes.

However, I will never forget returning from the long day of classes on the first Thursday after spring break. There, on the voice mail, was your mother letting me know you finally arrived, at home, of all places. I noted the distinct difference in her voice after giving birth to you in her place of comfort as opposed to what I heard following your brother’s birth in the hospital a few years earlier. It made me smile and ended up making you special in your own way amongst all my nephews and nieces.

A couple days later, I saw you for the first time, with that full head of hair!

Speaking of hair, do you remember giving me a “fancy hairdo” that week I spent watching you and your brother? I am so very glad I got that chance to spend some time with you, as I missed out on so much before and since. (That will change soon, I promise.)

Even if you choose something else in the future, I am delighted that you have stayed as interested in science as long as you have. Despite being quite a few years younger than your mom, not many girls my age pursued heavy science and even though I tried, I could not keep up. I cannot wait to see what your generation produces as far as that goes. It is totally okay if you end up doing something else, because I know you will still always have an open, curious mind.


Aunt Rachel

Peace, hope, love.

Peace, hope, and love – those words just sound so much better than anger, despair, and hate.


It is possible to achieve. Sometimes it comes slowly, that acceptance of new realities, but it is totally possible.


It is possible to do. Sometimes it comes with difficulty, with fear that nothing will ever change, but it is totally possible.


It is possible to feel. Sometimes it comes when the world seems the opposite of peaceful, when all hope is lost, but it is totally possible.

Peace, hope, and love – that is what I am filled with this holiday season.

So much has happened the past two years, and I cannot fight off finding some peace any longer. Being unhappy, being unable to accept reality – it has worn thin. Instead, I see the light at the end of the darkest of tunnels, beginning to see hope in what the future might bring. Instead, I see the love with which I am surrounded, not only from family and the closest of friends, but even from those who have only known me a short time.

Peace, hope, and love - I wish everyone who has been there for me in the midst of all the chaos, even with the smallest of gestures or the simplest of words, these three things as well.

Coat trading.

3:15 pm.

Back in Colorado after a weekend away.

One of Mom’s winter coats came back with me.

I left mine hanging on the front hooks at my brother’s house; only realizing once we returned back to Mom and Dad’s yesterday morning.

It’s okay. It all worked out. No need to ship coats back and forth. No need to wear the neon pink and purple coat from high school meant strictly for snowshoeing, either.

I keep Mom’s coat for the next few weeks, having her smoky old lady smell* close to me, carrying me through until Christmas when I return back to Wisconsin.

It’s okay. I like it this way. I need it this way.

*Don’t worry, I am not offending my mother – she admitted to both of these smells over the weekend.

Eighteen. Years. Old.


How did the sweet little boy grow to be eighteen and into a young man already? Seems like just yesterday that I met you at your ripe old age of five days old. Those days watching The Lion King together at your Auntie L’s house (19 months old) and visiting the Shedd Aquarium with Grandma and Grandpa (4 1/2 years old) seem so fresh in my mind, even though you may not remember them.

Always proud of what you accomplish in soccer and school, I am even more impressed with the lovely words you spoke earlier this month for your mom and M. You brought so many happy tears throughout the crowd at the wedding, both for what you said and for being such a good kid without giving my big sister much trouble during those tough years you all faced.

You may be considered an adult today, but I know from experience there is still so much to learn and so many more ways to grow. It can be scary, though I think you will do just fine with that process, especially if you keep that sense of humor alive. I cannot wait to see how everything transpires from here on out, from this last year of high school to college to everywhere beyond.


Aunt Rachel

Two years old!

Dear nieces C and L,

Wow – what a year. The two of you have gone from toddlers to little girls, from barely walking to running all over the place. A baby brother, first haircuts, and the beginnings of potty training, too.

I feel lucky that your parents post so many pictures and videos on the internet, so even though I can’t visit as much as I’d like, I can still watch you and your brother grow up. Not that long ago, when your cousins were younger, I patiently waited for photographs and videotapes to arrive in the mail to watch them grow. (I’m glad it’s easier and faster these days!)

I will never forget the day when your daddy wrote to me to tell me that he and your mommy were having two babies – and then the day when they found out you were two girls – and most special, the day when you finally arrived two years ago today.

Happy second birthday, sweeties. I miss you very much, but I will see you very soon.

Love, Aunt Rachel

Mother’s Day, and all its meanings.

Mother’s Day. Did you know that it started in the United States not necessarily to celebrate mothers, but as a pacifist measure way back in 1870 as Julia Ward Howe issued her Mother’s Day Proclamation?

It wasn’t until 1914 that it was officially recognized by the United States Congress after a tireless effort by Anna Marie Jarvis, and the intention was still to honor mothers who had lost sons in wars. Soon, it became commercialized, and Jarvis “herself became a major opponent of what the holiday had become”.

I know how difficult Mother’s Day can be – some people’s mothers are no longer with them, or there is significant estrangement. (I know because my mother lost her own mother as a teenager, and there are people close to me who are estranged from their mothers.)

And then there are those who are not mothers, for whatever reason, by choice or by circumstance (or sometimes a combination of both, like me). This can be a bittersweet day, as we continue to celebrate our own mothers and mourn what has not yet been or what will not ever be.

Lissa Rankin, MD, is one amazing woman who has not only practiced OB/GYN, but has also written a book entitled What’s Up Down There? and is now a “Pink Medicine Life Coach” along with running an awesome website, Owning Pink.

She honored those of us who are not mothers with a great piece about the “aunties” who surround her and her daughter, touching their lives with grace and love.

This is the kind of woman I strive to be on Mother’s Day. Celebrating the mothers in my life, along with the children in my life – being an aunt to my nieces and nephews, being an auntie to the children of my closest friends. It doesn’t even have to be about sending a card or flowers or whatever, just greeting each mother I know with a “Happy Mother’s Day” seems to be enough.

What helps.

Help is a four-letter word.

Frustration, complaining, anger, and crying may all take place before I dare ask for help.

The thing is, I carry on my shoulders too much worry and too much fear. No wonder I possess a two-year-old diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder; no wonder I possess a memory of worries and fears going back nearly three decades.

I am beginning to accept that I need to move past the worries and fears and ask for help to avoid frustration, complaining, anger, and crying.

One of the biggest obstacles is my hatred of the telephone, my fear of the telephone. A couple therapists ago, back in junior high, gave me “homework” that entailed calling a couple of my classmates just to chat. I did it, laughed it off when time with that therapist was over, and never really got the hang of conversation on the phone, other than for work purposes.

Before long there was the internet and bulletin board systems and chat rooms and message boards and Twitter. Who needed to talk on the phone, when all emotions could be spilled onto the computer with people just waiting to support me? I thought that was help.

For several months now, my mother and I have chatted on the telephone almost every week, as I navigate through this latest rough patch. Not that long ago, I might have spoken with her maybe once a season. She insisted that the more she hears from me, the less she worries. Because helping others is not foreign to me, I relented; so began the weekly phone calls. Maybe she cannot understand or relate to what I am going through, but at least I hear her voice across the thousand miles between us. It helps.

Then, last month, I managed to divulge some of my troubles over the telephone to a trusted friend, more than I could express in an e-mail or in a message board posting. It felt good to speak out loud about these troubles to someone outside my psychiatrist’s office. It helps – and now I know I need to hear the voices of other friends, near and far.

Last week, I joined Team WILD (Women Inspiring Life with Diabetes). I am realizing that, this time, I cannot lose weight and I cannot gain back diabetes control without the kind of help this organization provides; not just through interactive webinars, but through one-on-one telephone calls with coaches and certified diabetes educators. I am seeking out help with something I thought I could do on my own, but has instead been filled with frustrations and complaints and anger and tears.

Slowly, I am coming to accept that it is not quite so crude to ask for help.

(This is a submission for the next Patients for a Moment, hosted by Hayzell at Possibilism. We are asked to write about the subject “Help”.)

On Wisconsin.

Perhaps it is not appropriate for me to talk on and on about the situation in Wisconsin politics on Facebook when I know I am biased. That bias goes beyond the fact that I am liberal and I know that some of my friends are conservative.

I am the only member of my immediate family who does not live in the state of Wisconsin. Of the adults in my immediate family living there, half are employed by the state of Wisconsin. Not only that but many friends are also employed by the state in various capacities.

I consider both pay and benefits to be a person’s salary. Whether you cut someone’s pay without reducing benefits or cut benefits (read: expect an employee to contribute more to pension and health care), it is still a cut in take-home pay. The estimate on this pay cut as proposed by Republican governor Scott Walker is $4000-$6000 per year. For some, this amounts to a 10% pay cut – or more.

Compared to other states, Wisconsin’s budget crisis is middle of the pack. It is not a dire situation, not with what measures were taken in the past couple years under the Democratic governor, including several furlough days in 2009 and 2010 for state employees.

So what exactly does stripping the right to collectively bargain have to do with the state budget crisis? As far as I can see, nothing. It is leading the conversation away from what needs to be done to repair the state’s finances.

Will there still be tough questions regarding state employees, their jobs, and their pay? Certainly, just as there are tough questions regarding spending in every other area of the budget (and tough questions being seen at the federal level as well, but that’s an entirely different can of worms). Because I do not live in Wisconsin, I admit I do not know all the nitty-gritty details of what else is on the chopping block because those items have not made the national news.

But I ask again, what does stripping the right to collectively bargain have to do with the state budget?

I hab a code.

Day #3 of a nasty cold finds me feeling decent enough to attend Ignite Boulder as I planned.  And apparently decent enough to blog, something I skipped yesterday, as I spent most of the day either in bed, splayed out on the recliner, or eating the spicy butternut squash chili I prepared last week in the crockpot.  (Not that I have a regular blogging schedule…)

Feeling better doesn’t mean an end to the sudden desire for Mom’s chicken noodle soup.  When I was a kid, I only had interest in the noodles, made from scratch.  Now I’d love the chicken and vegetables…and the noodles.  Am I a grown-up…or is my diabetes guilt talking to me regarding those yummy homemade noodles?

Surviving the holidays.

Subtitled:  A ChronicBabe Blog Carnival Submission by someone with type 2 diabetes, generalized anxiety disorder, and seasonal affective disorder.

Things I will do during the winter holidays:

  • Travel light on Thanksgiving day.  After twelve years of traveling back to the Midwest to see my immediate family for the holidays, I’ve learned I’d rather fly on the big days (i.e. Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, or New Year’s Day) rather than try to get in early or stay late.  It’s not only cheaper, it is much less stress with fewer crowds, something to especially consider this year with the new controversial TSA procedures.
  • Do all my gift shopping online.  Again, I avoid crowds at all costs, even if it means paying for shipping and handling.
  • Continue the agreement with my siblings and parents that exchanged gifts are not necessary.  Christmas gifts are for the nephew and nieces, not for the adults.  Cutting down the gift list cuts down on the stress.
  • Exercise.  Even if I do indulge a bit too much with all sorts of holiday goodies, regular exercise should counteract any negative effects those may have on blood glucose and weight.  Exercising also makes a huge difference in how I feel emotionally, something that is especially important during the short, dark days of December.
  • Pamper myself.  Bimonthly self-pedicures, splurging on my first massage in over a year, and dressing up with the crowd for Ignite Boulder 13.
  • Be grateful for being relatively healthy this year.  Last holiday season found me recovering from major surgery after a serious illness.  This year, I can truly enjoy the sounds, the smells, and the joys that the winter holidays bring.

Things I will not do during the winter holidays:

  • Lose my cool, even around crowds.  I will remember to breathe and to smile and perhaps most importantly, that there’s a bottle of anti-anxiety medication in my purse.  Always in my purse. Nobody deserves to see the anxiety-filled nastiness that I can deliver at my worst, especially not at the holidays.

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