How I Deal With a No Good, Terribly Awful Bad Day

Growing up, my dad taught me several things:

  •   ALWAYS make sure the ladder is secure before climbing onto the roof.  If you DO find yourself in a free fall, try “tuck and roll.”
  •   Installing an ironing board that folds down to sit over the toilet in the laundry room is a bad idea, even if the room is super small (it took ONE pant leg in the toilet to make him take that thing down).
  •   Stuff your face when in the orchard picking apples.
  • There is nothing better than a dog.
  • You get what you pay for.  Buy quality.
  • There are a lot of schmucks out there (“You know.  Ronald Reagan. President. Actor. Schmuck.”  That’s a direct quote.  I do not feel strongly about Reagan one way or the other.).
  •  Adding red wine to chicken will turn it purple (not an issue, since I don’t eat meat, but knowledge is power!).
  • Driving a speedboat onto the beach like a maniac, will, indeed, get rid of SOME barnacles on its hull.
  • Wooden roller coasters are the best kind.
  • If you find yourself in the drugstore with odd implements in your hair because you let your kid play hairdresser and she didn’t take them all out before you left the house…just roll with it (it was a butterfly barrette, ok?  It was pretty.).
Dad and I- obviously, this was the 80's.  And interior decorators, my parents were not.

Dad and I- obviously, this was the 80’s. And interior decorators, my parents were not.  It is also possible I am drooling in this picture.

Above all, though, what I learned from my dad was the power of humor and the importance of hope.  Growing up, my dad was the consummate ladies man and bad boy.  He was an all-star baseball player, a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and a chronic flirt with a penchant for numbers.

Appearances can be deceiving, though.  He was deaf, he had juvenile onset (Type I) diabetes and later, he would find out that he had Friedrich’s ataxia, a disease that erodes the cerebellum.  Eventually, this would rob him of his ability to walk, and the dexterity that allowed him to take a car engine apart and put it back together (he could build ANYTHING). When my dad passed away, he was blind from diabetes complications, profoundly deaf and confined to a wheelchair.  He was on dialysis from kidney failure (another diabetes complication) and he was hospitalized again and again as infections and other complications wracked his body.

I write this not to make you pity him, but I tell his story so that people can understand how truly amazing it was that he had not lost hope.  Hope that his life would improve.  Hope that he would be able to rejoin society.  Hope for his children.

For the last few years of his life, communication was exceedingly difficult.  He was trapped in his body- he couldn’t hear, but he had plenty to say.  When we first realized he was going blind and would no longer be able to read lips or see sign language, I had to think fast.  When I was a child we played a game before bed time where he would trace letters and words on my back.   So, I told his girlfriend (he was in FL, I was in RI at the time) about our game and told her to give it a try.  She called me later that day and reported back that she started tracing out the letters of my name on his back, and he started to cry when he realized what she was doing.  He remembered.

It was our game that became his lifeline.  Other than “two taps for yes and one for no,” every sentence was painstakingly spelled out on his back.  At the time of his death, he was learning morse code, hopeful that this would make communication easier, and that he would be able to travel with a companion (his own Annie Sullivan, if you will).  He had turned down my offer of a kidney if we were a match, but was hopeful that dialysis would continue to work.  He talked about the future.  He still laughed and joked.  Often, he’d poke fun of himself.  Sometimes he would tease me (mostly about my love life and shoe obsession).  Sometimes he’d tell stories of his youth (he was an incredible story teller and very very funny).  I would rest my head on his shoulder or if we were sitting on the floor, on his knee so that he could feel me laughing as he spoke.   Towards the end, it felt as though he was cataloging his life- getting the stories out while he still could and making sure his history would carry on.

It does carry on.  Even though it’s been six years since I’ve heard his voice, his laugh, or gotten one of his really really great hugs, it is always, always with me.  I watched my dad die.  I sat and held his hand with my brother holding the other.  I was with him when he went out of this world like he was with me when I came into it.  It changed me irrevocably. I lost 80 pounds and turned my life around.  I take better care of myself. I take chances.  Every single day, I am thankful I can see, I can walk, run, do a cartwheel, ice skate, ski, play volleyball, walk on the beach, and so many other countless things. When I complain about the small stuff, I try to remember my dad- quick-witted and sharp minded as ever, but trapped in a body that didn’t work, and how he refused to quit.  He refused to accept that this was the hand he had been dealt. He had his rough moments, but he handled it with humor and he even handled it with optimism, when optimism was hard to come by.

So, yeah.  Maybe I had a bad day. That’s ok.   It’s relative, really.  It’s ok to wallow for a bit, but sooner, rather than later, I know to pick myself up and dust myself off.  I have to believe that things will get better.  I have to try not to sweat the small stuff.  How can I not?  After all, I AM my father’s daughter.  Happy Father’s Day.


How to tell your love life needs work.

We’ve all been there.  You suspect your mother is thinking about raising goats for a dowry in the hopes she can get you married off; your “coupled up” friends are digging deep into the bowels of their Facebook pages in the hopes of setting you up with their mud pie making partner from nursery school that they haven’t seen in 25 years (who was reportedly also a nose picker, but don’t worry, they’re “sure he’s grown out of that by now!”).  Wait.  Is that just me?

So, this week’s “How To Tuesday” seeks to help answer a burning question: Besides the obvious, what sort of litmus test is appropriate to deduce the state of your love life?  Obviously, this has been scientifically tested for accuracy, unlike those ridiculous Cosmo quizzes.

If you answer yes to MORE than one of the following, you may have a problem on your hands:

  • Your friends want you to meet a “really smart, really tall, really cute” guy at their party.  He comes down with the flu that’s going around and you yell, “THANK GOD!” upon hearing the news.
  • A teenaged boy states, “Maybe you’re just not the marrying kind.”
  • A small child suggests that you get the funeral home directors son’s phone number at her grandfather’s wake.  After all, “he’ll run this place one day!”
  • A small child screams from a chairlift (while clearly waving her arms in your direction) to any male skier passing by underneath, “This is (your name here)!  She’s single and ready to mingle!”
  • Your bra fitting last week with a rather brusque older Russian woman was the most action you’ve gotten in a frightening amount of time.
  • People start telling you that dating again is like, “riding a bike.”  You worry it’s like a motorcycle- you have no clue where to start with the damn thing.
  • When asked about your love life in the vicinity of another, guffaws/snorting from said third party ensue.
  • You embarked on a date in which, on the first (and only) date, he explained in great detail that his ex-girlfriend is holding his cats hostage.
  • You were sandwiched between “that uncle” and a distant cousin of the groom with bad breath, dandruff and a self-proclaimed, “AWESOME” Chewbacca impression at the last wedding you attended.  You fear that BOTH of them were intended set-ups.

Amended Bogart

It’s scary to put yourself out there.  Maybe you have to have a whiskey smash before you do.  I’ll admit to being absolutely wretched at it.  Odds are, if I am remotely attracted to someone, I tend to shut up faster than a venus fly trap (no, biting is not part of some weird mating ritual of mine, you know what I mean).  This means that I end up getting asked out by men I am able to be myself around (read: I’m not attracted to).  So, short of alcoholism, what’s a gal to do? Time to put on my big girl panties.

But I think that what a lot of single woman forget is that being alone doesn’t make your life less meaningful.  Being with someone doesn’t mean you will automatically be happy.  There are merits to both, but if hunting down a partner becomes the sole reason for your existence, odds are probably reduced that you’ll a.) find someone; and b.) find someone who isn’t also desperately seeking someone, anyone, to partner up with for the sake of NOT being alone.  There’s a difference between being proactive/putting yourself out there and devoting yourself to the search like a monk to the monastery/becoming a stalker.  So, if it happens, great. If it doesn’t, that’s ok, too.

I’ll leave you with this gem from (almost) perpetual bachelorette, Fran Fine of “The Nanny.”

Fran Fine: When you fill out your taxes, what do you put in Marital Status: S or M?
Maxwell Sheffield: S.
Fran Fine: All right, so you told Uncle Sam you’re single. Maybe it’s time you told yourself.
Maxwell Sheffield: But I want to be an M again.
Fran Fine: Yeah, well, I want to be an M too. But first you got to get out there and make an S out of yourself.