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Here’s what you (the reader) and me (the author) know about me (the narcissist) after 4+ years of ingesting eatingatme content:

  1. I’m consistently inconsistent.
  2. I’m often unsettled but work diligently to live a positive life.
  3. I over think. Some may say I over share. (Fuck you, haters.)
  4. My potty mouth’s a passion. So’s my sarcasm.
  5. I’m originally from Buffalo, New York.

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 5, at least in my case. I confirmed this last weekend.

I flew to Buffalo to surprise my sister, Kristen, for her 40th birthday finale (she, her hubby, and their two kids live in Las Vegas but were back home for a visit). I was raised in Buffalo alongside Kris and her brother, Robbie, who, 36 years later, I still refer to proudly as my siblings. Kris’ loved ones orchestrated a celebratory week that culminated in a Sunday Funday around the city on a party bus. I popped out behind balloons; there were laughs; some tears of joy sprung (mostly from me). There were renditions of Alanis Morrisette’s “Uninvited” and some Barbra Streisand song. There were many drinks.

This – plus copious amounts of hang time with my elementary school bestie, Kate; my extended family; and other longtime friends – occasionally evoked feelings of hiraeth, or a homesickness for that which is no longer (see Regina O’Callaghan’s post on this very topic, executed beautifully). I left Buffalo for college at age 18 and only returned for visits that were very much dictated by my mother’s scheduling. I rarely had an opportunity to enjoy the geography I knew as my birthplace and cradle. I always felt like an outsider and never thought it possible to reclaim my identity as a kid from the Nickel City.

Half way through the visit I decided that drudgery – a behavior that is VERY Buffalo – was no longer acceptable. Buffalo is my home and I want connection, dammit. I experienced love in that city. I danced professionally there. Hell, I learned to read and write in Buffalo. Now, my mother and grandparents are laid to rest there. This all means something very deep to me.

There’s a renaissance occurring in Buffalo; the excitement is palpable. Driving through Canalside and the Elmwood Village with Kris, Rob, our friends and family, and witnessing happiness and a love for life was electric. Eating fucking fantastic Cajun food at Toutant and revisiting my favorite hot dog joint, Ted’s, collided the new and eerily familiar brilliantly. Hanging with Kate and her husband, Jack (my Grade 5 crush), while their daughter, Emma, sang for us…this built a new structure for my hometown around my heart and headspace. I left feeling slightly more settled and invigorated. I also exercised my sarcasm muscle adequately and learned a few new profanities to share with you in later posts.

Hey. It’s Buffalo. It’s what we do.

Cruel Mystery

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“It’s a god-awful small affair

To the girl with the mousy hair

But her mummy is yelling, ‘No!’”

~David Bowie, “Life On Mars”

 

World Lupus Day 2016 has come to a close. Two years ago, I couldn’t even tell you when it was.

A woman who battled daily with the cruel mystery of this chronic illness raised me. The number one rule in our household was to treat SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythematosys) as an enemy that didn’t deserve acknowledgement for the tyranny it imposed over our lives.

Fuck you, Lupus.

My mother was diagnosed in 1975, around the time I was born. With understanding of its reach and effects still in development, she was given a life expectancy of seven years. For someone as ambitious as my mother, this was unacceptable.

She lived an additional 34 years. Fuck you, Lupus.

My rearing was entirely impacted by its effects, reach, and development. The drug cocktail my mother consumed daily, multicolored and multifaceted. Being loved unconditionally during childhood but pushed to be stellar just in case my mother’s life expectancy was accurate. No siblings (…not complaining). Raising myself at times during high school because she desired to check out. Having the coolest mom on the block because she had a great perspective on what was truly important in life. Hoping my mother would make it through the night or weekend.

And the pain; witnessing that pain…

If you knew my mother, or have a loved one with Lupus, you know what I’m talking about.

FUCK YOU, LUPUS.

In the midst of my grieving my mother’s passing, it dawned on me that one way to move through, move on would be to look the enemy in the eye and understand it. Not dismiss the bastard with a cavalier, ignorant “fuck you” but get the why and how behind its unpopularity.

The front lines:

Difficult to diagnose, masks as other illnesses.

Prednisone is its partner in crime.

The immune system goes on the attack.

Precarious positioning of the kidneys; brain or central nervous system; blood and blood vessels; skin; lungs; heart; and joints.

Bringing up the rear:

Deep depression and anxiety.

Heightened obsessive-compulsive disorder as a result of medication.

Life screeching to a halt because of a flare.

Constant fatigue.

Manic behavior.

There’s comfort in knowing my mother wasn’t alone, and that our family unit wasn’t either. It helps to know others understand. Today, I’m embracing that hell. It trained me, maybe a little later in life than is desirable, to be strong and put things in perspective.

Lupus, we’re not friends and we never will be. But I can’t change the past, just how to improve the future.

If you’re the child of a parent diagnosed with Lupus, please reach out to me at rebecca@redletterdays.biz. I’m interested in hearing your story.

 

(Visit http://www.lupusresearchinstitute.org/lupus-facts/lupus-fact-sheet and www.worldlupusday.org for more information on Lupus and its effects.)

My Goliath

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Photograph: Lori Krause

“Hey, Mamacita. It’s me.”

“Oh, my lineage. How are you?”

“Good. So, I had a thought. I’m okay with Justin Timberlake as the new king of pop.”

My mom would most likely agree with me. She’d also grill me on how thorough of a listen I’ve given the new Radiohead songs and the virtues of attending Oldchella in October.

I miss those conversations. A fuckload.

 

 

While in Sweden, I worked – like full-time-everything-I’ve-got worked – on facing and harnessing my grief over her passing. I believed that after six years, I really should be over it; I didn’t understand why I wasn’t.

Then it dawned on me one day in AnnaKarin’s kitchen, pouring coffee, observing a murder of crows flying overhead:

Nanos gigantum humeris insidentes. Standing on the shoulders of giants.

My opportunities, my possibilities, the foundation of my being…it all came from her. She was my first and favorite goliath.

My grief had been rooted in profound thanks all along. Although I wasn’t blind to that, I was too distracted by making sure I was checking the appropriate issues boxes to embrace my sadness, to view my mother’s ascension as a celebration of her widely-felt positive impact.

My deepest appreciation for everyone who’s reached out over the years to share how my mom made a difference in his or her life. It’s how her gifts keep on giving; it’s been my foundation for change.

My love to each of you this Mother’s Day.

Sisters From Other Misters, Brothers From Other Mothers

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I’m an only child by birth but that’s where my oneness ends.

For over 40 years, I’ve adopted siblings – some my blood relatives, most not – and created a family that is heart-focused, smart, formidable, diverse, and stunning. This tribe, consisting of approximately 60 people, has saved my life, taught me about commitment, proven that love is above all else, and gifted me the opportunity to share in their miracles and challenges.

The whole is the sum of its parts; my world is rich because each of these individuals is gold to me. I burst with pride daily because of their accomplishments. I thank God for them before I sleep and when I wake.

Happy Siblings Day to my sisters from other misters and brothers from other mothers. I love you with every molecule that makes up my bag ‘o bones. Please know that you make a difference, always.

March 10

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“But nobody wants to hear this tale

The plot is clichéd, the jokes are stale

And baby we’ve all heard it all before

Oh, I could get specific but

Nobody needs a catalog

With details of love I can’t sell anymore”

~Aimee Mann, “Invisible Ink”

My mother knew when I was bullshitting; her intensity kept me honest, at least with her. Today’s her birthday. She would’ve turned 66.

Since her passing, I take time on March 10 to run an authenticity evaluation in her honor and for my sanity. It ain’t fancy; it’s an opportunity to check in with brutal honesty. I moved to Sweden as a result of last year’s findings.

This year, I’m in the midst of my unconventional reinvention. I’ve decluttered, unplugged, and let go to a staggering degree. This really ain’t fancy, but starting from scratch never is. However, I’ve never felt more authentic, less mucked down with bullshit. And as I look in the mirror today, I see the resolve that was missing from my eyes; I’m confident my mother’s struggle to raise me right hasn’t been wasted.

I’m creating a new book, not just a new chapter. Pattie would be proud.

I Love Sverige (Part Two of Many)

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Winter is alive and well in Åstorp. The neighborhood looks like a scene from a children’s mythology book, driving the point home: THIS – Sweden – is the real deal. Nothing fabricated, duplicated, or imitated.

I’ve been overwhelmed by the history of the country. Helsingborg is, and likely will be, the largest city in Sweden that I visit during this stay (I’ll devour Stockholm in August or September when I return). My experience has been in small coastal towns and on vast acres that aren’t overly developed or internationally homogeneous in appearance. I’ve rarely witnessed anything that’s conjured a feeling of familiarity or made a remark about how I’m reminded of x or y in the United States. I feel American in Sweden; it’s a sensation of being a naïve teenager.

Because me, with my flashy 1776 wearin’ history, is just so funny compared to Sweden’s 1397 swagger. That swagger has a poise and calm that I simply don’t possess.

I learned to identify this difference as lagom. (If there’s any word in Swedish you should know in addition to fika, it’s lagom.) Like much of the language, lagom has several definitions but the best sense of the word in English is “balance.” It’s with everything even that Sweden has maintained its internationally recognized culture of gender equality, the truth of which I can vouch on a day-to-day basis. There’s a way of being and communicating among women and men that’s level; it doesn’t matter if it’s a man or woman performing a job or raising a child. Is the task accomplished or the child well cared for? That’s what matters. Just right. Lagom.

As I’ve previously mentioned, some Swedes with whom I’ve broken down this concept have rolled their eyes in annoyance over its existence. There’s irritation that what it’s created is apathy. (The country’s neutrality on the world’s political stage seems to run through the blood of its people too thickly, they say.) Although I get the concern, and appreciate a little Viking fire rearing its head in debate, I admit without apology that it’s been a welcome break to live in a society that avoids drama whenever possible. (Nobel Peace Prize for the win.)

And it’s to this that I attribute my bold declaration from my previous post about Swedish children being better behaved than those in the United States. I’ll modify that statement slightly because since making it, I’ve in fact seen a few kiddo meltdowns while out and about (hey, kids are kids in any country) but seriously…let me give you an example.

The first weekend I was here, AnnaKarin and I were at IKEA, feasting on meatballs, mashed potatoes, and lingonberries in the store’s cafeteria. IKEA: the place that evokes an anxiety attack from just the thought of it.

Not in Sweden.

I sat for an hour among at least a couple hundred kids who were eating lunch with their parents. NO ONE screamed or cried. NO ONE. Children conversed with their parents, parents laughed with their children. I honestly wondered what planet I moved to. And I’ve seen this time and again over my two plus months here.

Children play an equal role to adults in the Swedish societal dynamic. The only titles that are formally used for adults by children are “mama,” “papa,” “grandma,” and “grandpa.” Aunts, uncles, teachers, neighbors, etc. are all addressed by first name from the moment a child can speak. Everyone here is an individual and is treated with the same respect. I mentioned to AnnaKarin and her friend this week that I’m surprised when a parent shares with me that she was just disciplining her child; from body language and tone of voice alone, it sounds as if they’re just discussing that evening’s dinner menu.

Here’s the deal: I don’t have babies and have barely a clue as to what it takes to raise one, let alone many. But I’m struck by what peace, priority, and respect do for relationships, within the home and in society. It’s impressive. It’s made an impact on me.

Lagom + David Bowie rock ‘n roll attitude = perfect pairing for my 40s

 

Up next on I Love Sverige…

What I’m now eating thanks to Sweden. Awesome.