Monday, November 20, 2017

The Monster MRI Machine

"You'll need an MRI," said my doctor in the most nonchalant voice imaginable.

"NO, THAT'S NOT POSSIBLE!" came my panicked reply.

To him, an MRI is no big deal. I'm sure he sends hundreds of patients to their doom to the imaging center for this valuable diagnostic test each year.

But for me, it is a big deal. It's a HUGE deal.

An MRI to me is akin to being buried alive. Trapped forever in an enclosed tunnel with no escape in sight. No, there had to be another way to diagnose the nerve pain that has plagued me on and off for the past decade.

But wait, I've read about these new fangled Open MRI machines that don't require your body to be forced inside a tunnel just big enough for a Barbie doll to lie comfortably. An Open MRI would be so much easier because, well, it's OPEN.

"No dice," came my doctor's firm response. "Open MRIs don't produce good enough scans."

Seriously?

If the  Open MRI means I won't have to suffer through crippling, anxiety-induced claustrophobia, then who cares if the scan does something as insignificant as produce an accurate report?

In fact, who cares if I get diagnosed at all. Sorry to have wasted your time doc. I don't need any tests.

I'll live with the pain.

But then.......... the doctor uttered those magical three words.

"I'll prescribe valium."

Valium, you say? Well perhaps I can consent to forcing my body into a vaccum tube if I can take valium.

Reluctantly, I scheduled the MRI.

On the day of reckoning I enlisted the support of my loving and patient husband Bob to take me to the imaging center, knowing that the valium would render me incapable of driving home

I swallowed the magic pill about 30 minutes prior to the test....and the effects were nearly instantaneous. A warm, comforting wave of oblivion made it's way through my body, settling into the part of the brain that controls claustrophobia (as well as the ability to function - which really didn't matter.)

I handed my insurance card to the friendly lady at the registration desk (or it might have been my credit card, or my library card, or a photo of my daughter - I'm honestly not sure). Then I handed my valuables to Bob and followed the technician  to the back where I entered the.....

(cue Twilight Zone Music)

Chamber of Horrors!

The MRI sat there, looking innocent enough. But I knew that its wide, open mouth was just waiting to swallow me alive.

But thanks to the valium, being swallowed alive didn't seem to be such a terrible fate anymore.

The technician had seen cases like mine before. Seems that crippling claustrophobia is not a unique problem.

She placed a blindfold over my eyes, shielding my view of the belly of the beast. In addition, ear plugs helped drown out the sound of the machine's terrifying knocks and booms as it digested its latest prey.

Thanks to the valium, the blindfold, and the ear plugs, the 15 minute test seemed to last a mere 30 seconds. When the technician entered the room and pulled me out of the belly of the beast, my foggy brain soon came to the realization.

I had survived!

I bid farewell to the kind technician, then allowed Bob to guide me to the car, drive me home, and put me to bed so that I could sleep off the effects of the valium.

The Monster MRI Machine put up a good fight, but was no match for "Loopy Lisa", who lived to tell the tale.

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Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Love/Hate Relationship with My Glasses

I listened in horror as the eye doctor uttered those now infamous words to my mother....

"It looks like she's going to need glasses."

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

This is pretty much what my
glasses looked like!
And with those words, the eye doctor sealed the horrible fate of a shy, gawky 10-year old girl. I would forever be known as "Four Eyes" by my peers. I would forever be forced to hide my small face behind the large, thick, round, devoid-of-style frames that were so popular in the mid-70s.

At least until the eye doctor gave me the green light to switch to contact lenses at the age of 15, which might as well have been 974 years away!

I don't know why the myopia diagnosis came as a surprise. After all, both my parents wore glasses, and my younger brother Steven would soon follow suit. Only my sister Bev was spared. She wouldn't need assistance with her vision until much later in life.

It didn't matter that I suddenly had the ability to see the classroom blackboard. It didn't matter that I had stopped bumping into walls.

I felt awkward. Unappealing. Ugly.
This is how I viewed the middle school
dance when I refused to wear my glasses
.

So ugly, in fact, that I hid my glasses in my pocketbook during middle school dances. True, I couldn't see my fingers if I held them in front of my face, but without my glasses, boys wanted to talk to me. Without my glasses I felt popular. Without my glasses I felt, dare I say...a tiny bit pretty.

Finally, I turned 15 and with it shed my glasses in exchange for contact lenses, which I refused to take off.

Ever.

I wore them when I slept. I wore them when I swam. During one summer as a senior counselor at Nock-a-Mixon overnight camp I only wore the right contact because the left lens had torn in half. It didn't matter if I could only see out of one eye. The alternative  - wearing my glasses in full view of my new camp boyfriend - was not an option.

As the years wore on I reaped the benefit of disposable contacts, which allowed me to change them every few days. I also stopped wearing them to sleep, as I grew tired of waking up with my eyes glued together by the force of dried out lenses.

My eyesight, while quite horrible, remained unchanged throughout my 30s. As 40 rolled around, I received the added diagnosis of an astigmatism, which occurs when the cornea becomes irregularly shaped. It became increasingly difficult to find an effective contact lens prescription. What's more, the eye doctor suggested I switch to glasses - but not just any glasses - bifocals!

I refused to stop wearing my contacts, but agreed to at least try the bifocals after work during the short evening hours at home, prior to bed.

I couldn't do it.

While my husband Bob managed to get used to trifocals, I experienced the sensation of walking through a carnival fun house while wearing bifocals. A "normal" glasses prescription would have to suffice.

Even though I could see much better with glasses, I insisted on wearing my contacts the majority of time. True, my stylish frames were a far cry from the thick lenses of my childhood, but my vanity still got the best of me. In addition, my glasses simply were not comfortable. After an hour or two they dug into the back of my ears and irritated the bridge of my nose.

As I crossed the threshold into my 50s, my eyesight continued to worsen. Night driving became downright difficult. I had to squint to see my bedroom TV.  I changed the font size on my iPhone and computer to jumbo, but still,  I continued to wear my contacts.

Little did I know that those trusty contacts that had kept me from the petrifying fate of wearing glasses for the past four decades would soon meet their untimely demise at the hands of an unlikley enemy.

An enemy commonly known as (cue theme from Jaws)......ALLERGIES!

Nothing worked.

Allergy medication.
Over-the-counter eye drops.
Prescription eye drops.

Nothing.

As soon as I put my trusty contacts in my eyes, goops of allergy-induced gunk would stick to the lenses, making them uncomfortable, and oftentimes, even painful.

My eye doctor gave me a prescription for stronger glasses. I picked out new frames that felt much more comfortable on my nose and ears. I put on those new frames and marvelled at finally being able to see a crystal clear version of my world....and I never looked back.

Today, at age 52, the desire for clear vision far outweighs the desire to feel pretty. Although, I must admit my husband, daughters, colleauges, and friends all insist that I look really good in my new frames. So the next time you see me, there's a pretty good chance I'll be wearing glasses.

Unless, of course, I'm attending a middle school dance!


Yours truly (center) wearing glasses while I happily take a selfie with my daughters
Melissa (l) and Jessica (r).

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Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Cancelled Trip to Washington D.C.

There are three things that are exceptional about Washington, D.C.

No, it's not the White House. It's not the Smithsonian. It's not the Memorials honoring Presidents Lincoln, Jefferson, and Washington.

It's not the Capital Building, or the Supreme Court, or the majestic Kennedy Center.

The three things that draw my husband Bob and me to our nation's capital time and again are Melissa, Miles, and Jessica.

Melissa, our college girl, is in her sophomore year at American University. Jessica, our oldest, lives across the Potomoc River in Virginia with her husband Brian and their son Miles.... our precious, precocious, two-year old grandson who "visits" us several times a week thanks to the modern miracle of Facetime.

"Papa Bob and Mommy Weesa, will you come to my house?" asked Miles during one of those "visits" as he took time out from splashing in the tub to acknowledge that his grandparents' faces had suddenly appeared on his mommy's iPhone.

"We're going to see you next weekend," said Papa Bob. "Would you like that?"

"Yes!" came his enthusiastic response, while he attempted to pour water onto his mommy's head.

It had only been two weeks since our last visit, but Bob and I just couldn't say no to Jessica's invitation to make the trip yet again. Brian would be going out of town and she could really use the help with Miles.

Our plans were set. We would leave Friday after work. Break up the three-hour drive with a dinner stop. Spend the night in Jessica's comfy guest room, and connect with Melissa on Saturday.

I counted the days . Oh, who am I kidding. I counted the hours.

Monday passed without incident. Same for Tuesday. Wednesday began as a seemingly normal day...until I noticed something sinister. A feeling deep in my throat. A tickle. An irritation. Surely it was just allergies. Surely it would go away in a day's time.

As Thursday dawned, I found it a bit harder to ignore that "irritation", as I turned to cough drops to help ease the pain when I swallowed. By Thursday evening, the "irritation" had made its way to my nose, which decided to close up shop altogether, obstructing my ability to breathe.

I could not ignore it any longer. The "irritation" had developed into a full blown cold.

My caring, compassionate husband responded by ensuring I had piping hot chicken soup for dinner, and insisting on sleeping on the sofa to avoid his germ-infested wife.

"Maybe we should cancel the trip to Washington," he suggested.

"No!" I replied with stubborn determination. "I'll take cold medicine. I'll feel better. It will be ok."

He looked at me with skepticism, and retreated to the living room couch.

I woke up on Friday coughing and sneezing and blowing my nose. Bob again, strongly suggested I reconsider our trip.

Once again I insisted I'd be fine. My desire to see my girls and the boy far outweighed a silly little cold. I'd pump myself with Tylenol, and all would be well.

Or so I thought.

I showered and dressed, ate breakfast, and started to walk out the door for work. However, the pounding in my head could not be ignored. Neither could the sudden onset of the chills.

The thermometer confirmed my suspicions. What started as an "irritation" had now become a full blown fever.

I couldn't risk getting my family sick. Plus my "oh so caring" hubby wasn't looking forward to spending three hours in the car with the wife he now called "Typhoid Mary".

Begrudgingly, I called Jessica and Melissa and explained the situation, then retreated to my bed, which became my home for the next 24 hours. It turned out that both Jessica and Miles were also struggling with a cold, so the cancellation was for the best.

However Melissa expressed her disappointment. Although I'm not sure if she was upset at not getting to see mom and dad, or not getting the package full of groceries and other goodies we had planned to bring her way.

On Saturday I felt well enough to venture out with Bob to the post office to mail Melissa her package before retreating back to bed, where I watched six hours of Harry Potter movies.

By Sunday morning I no longer reached for the tissue box every five minutes. I had regained the ability to breathe, and the coughing had returned to a mere "tickle" in my throat. What's more, the thermometer once again read a normal 98.6.

Great. Just in time to go back to work.

Now I'll count the days until Thanksgiving when I get to see my girls and the boy again. Oh, who am I kidding. I'll be counting the hours....and minutes....and seconds.

Pictured during a recent trip to Washington D.C., (from l to r) Melissa, Jessica, Me, Bob,
and the handsome dude in the stroller, Miles!







Thursday, October 26, 2017


I am honored to be a guest blogger on my friend Allison Lazicky's blog Top Notch Teams.



Life is “Bluetiful” When…  

With these words I accepted a challenge from my friend Allison, who invited me to become a guest writer on her new blog, Top Notch Teams. The play on the word “beautiful” is a tribute to Crayola’s new crayon color – “Bluetiful”.

The task seemed fairly straight forward. Write a blog post about anything, as long as it starts with the words “Life is Bluetiful When…”


Only problem is, I’ve been having a difficult time finding beauty in life of late, and that difficulty has caused me to search deep within to find meaningful, insightful words to fill the page.



Sunday, October 1, 2017

Selling Our Home - One Year Later


I sat on an old, uncomfortable folding chair in my husband Bob's home office, staring wistfully out the window at the inviting autumn sunshine. Our southern New Jersey community offered a host of Fall festivals and pumpkin picking, but Bob and I had other plans.

Wonderful plans!

Exciting plans!

Plans that would make the entire population of the United States seethe with envy.

We had the incredible good fortune of spending our entire October weekend going through the 9,756 bags of receipts, invoices, bank statements, medical records, exterminator bills from 1996, used napkins, gum wrappers, apple cores, and other fascinating specimens  that littered the floor of Bob's office.

Yes, we had embarked on the first step of what would become a year-long journey towards selling our home.

How hard could it be to sell? Sure, our house was built over 50 years ago. Sure, we lived on a busy road with heavy traffic. But still, how hard could it be?

Our single family home offered 3,000 square feet, an in-ground pool, five bedrooms, four baths, a family room with fire place, an eat-in kitchen, living room, dining room, two-car garage, and a huge yard. Surely everyone who set foot in this fantastic suburban "paradise" would immediately fall in love, just as Bob and I had done 12 years earlier.

Of course, to us, the house had always been much more than a real estate listing. Bare walls were transformed into a place that provided the warmth and shelter we needed to help our shy first-grader evolve into the confident, college student she has become today.

We knew, we planned, we told ourselves when Melissa went to college we would put the house on the market. After all, what did two people need with 3,000 square feet? We could stay in the area but downsize, saving on mortgage and utilities so that we could fulfill our dream of travelling the world allocate every penny for tuition.

The first step towards selling our new home? Purge.

Purge.

Purge.

And purge some more.

Bob's office was just the beginning.

We soon filled the township dump with Weinstein wares that had outworn their welcome. Broken lamps, abandoned stuffed animals, obsolete electronics, cracked bowls, mismatched tupperware...you get the idea.

Next step?

Paint.

Paint.

And paint some more.

Next step?

Hire a realtor who researched the selling price of "comps" (a real estate term to describe similar homes in the areas) and priced our house accordingly. Based on this amount, Bob and I foolishly anticipated a financial windfall to land in our lap within a few short weeks.

We prepped for our first open house with nervous anticipation. I cleaned the place from top to bottom and concluded, in our 12 year occupancy, it had never looked better.

We vacated the house and left our realtor in charge, expecting to return three hours later with news of throngs of people vying for the chance to make an offer. (Cue the diabolical laughter.)

Our realtor, instead, shared feedback that went something like this:
"This house is way over-priced."
"It needs updating."
"I don't like the floor plan."
"The kitchen border is old fashioned."
"The bathroom fixtures are disgusting."
"This place isn't fit for a family of fleas."

I digested the opinions of these ignorant people with a heart full of denial. They were crazy, insane, full of crap. What did they know anyway?

The next open house came two weeks later, where we received feedback that went something like this:
"This house is way over-priced."
"It needs updating."
"I don't like the floor plan."
"The kitchen border is old fashioned."
"The bathroom fixtures are disgusting."
"This place isn't fit for a family of fleas."

Next step? Lower the price.

The next open house produced more feedback that went something like this:
"This house is way over-priced."
"It needs updating."
"I don't like the floor plan."
You get the idea.

Lower the price again.

Endure more negative feedback.

Install a new sink and toilet in the master bathroom.

Edure more negative feedback.

Lower the price again.

Endure more negative feedback.

Remove the wallpaper in the upstairs hall.

Endure more negative feedback.

Lower the price again.

Endure more negative feedback.

Remove the kitchen border and lower the price again, and again, and again, and again, and again.

Endure more negative feedback.

Change realtors.

Accept an offer of $20,000 less than the drastically reduced asking price.

Gasp in horror at the 424-page inspection report which concluded that the house we had lived in without incident for 12 years was not fit for human habitation.

Gasp in horror at the email from the buyer's realtor, which went something like this:
"Our official inspection indicated a 1/4 inch chip in the paint on the windowsill of the 4th bedroom, therefore we demand you give us an additional $3 million to cover the cost of repairs, in addition to your entire wardrobe, your car, your furniture, your cat, and the blood of your first born."

Enter the next step of the home selling proces...the fighting.

"I WOULD RATHER SIT IN THIS HOUSE UNTIL IT ROTS TO THE GROUND BEFORE GIVING THEM ONE MORE DIME!" came Bob's "calm" and "rational" response to the buyer's demands.

After so much time, money, and work, I feared the deal would fall through. What's more, we had put a deposit on a lovely town home in the same area...a town home I desperately wanted to own.

Much yelling ensued. Followed by my ultimate weapon...tears.

Finally, Bob threw up his hands in defeat, claiming he could not handle the stress of negotiations. He put the ball in my proverbial court, closed his ears and eyes and let me run with it to the end zone.

And run with it I did! We even got to keep our cat.

Aside from the some hiccups with our mortgage application for the new home (produce a signed, notorized affidavit providing the reason for the $10 deposit into your passbook savings account on April 23, 1975) the remainder of the process went according to plan.

Today, we sit in the living room on our comfy new sofa. These walls that provide us shelter are now adorned with family photos, representing much more than a mere town house. One year later, Bob and I have transformed this place into our wonderful new home....and we never looked back.

*This post originally ran on October 5, 2016. It has been edited slightly from the original.

Melissa in the driveway of our new home!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Hallowed Ground

The tiny physician lounge on the first floor of a small community hospital in central New Jersey featured a few comfortable chairs, a conference table, cubicles offering computer access, and a large television set mounted on the back wall. The room, located across the hall from my public relations office, required a key code to enter, and only those who had earned their medical degree were granted access.

However, on that morning - that fateful morning - the room played host to a sea of humanity who did not carry the title of "doctor". With the normally locked door unceremoniously propped open, the lounge filled up with nurses, therapists, accountants, administrators, cafeteria workers, housekeepers, and me....all gazing in horror at the incomprehensible images on the television screen.

As the sickening, slow motion video of a jumbo jet deliberately slamming into the World Trade Center replayed over and over, the ticker crawl at the bottom of the screen informed the world that a plane had crashed in Somerset County.

Somerset County?

I lived in Somerset County!

Did the plane crash in my neighborhood? Near my home? Were my husband Bob and four-year old daughter Melissa in harm's way?

Before I had time to even process these thoughts, I read the ticker more closely.

Somerset County, Pennsylvania. Not Somerset County, New Jersey.

My relief, however, was short-lived. People died in that plane crash. In Washington, DC, the Pentagon erupted in flames. In New York City, the World Trade Center came tumbling down.

We were at war.

And the world would never be the same.

Nearly 15 years later, Bob and I turned our car off the highway and wound our way through the rolling hills of the rural, central Pennsylvania landscape enroute to the tiny town of Shanksville, population 245.

The countryside seemed unchanged. Stuck in time.

It was not difficult to imagine this remote part of the world as it had been 15 years earlier.

As it had been on a glorious September morning.

As it had been before these rolling hills became a final resting place for 40 heroes.

A permanent memorial now sits  atop one of these rolling hills, bearing the names of ordinary men and women who decided to go out fighting, on their own terms, in their own way. Their acts of bravery forced the terrorists to bring the plane down in a lonely, deserted field in central Pennsylvania, rather than our nation's capital. The ultimate sacrifice of 40 unsuspecting heroes undoubtedly spared countless lives.

Bob and I walked silently through the Visitor's Center, where an exhibit gave a detailed account of the day's events. Thanks to evidence recovered from the passengers' calls to home as well as the black box recorder, officials were able to conclude, with near certainty, what had happened during the final few moments of Flight 93.

Fifteen years later, people come. Every day they come. They come from near and far. Hundreds of people winding their way through the small farming communities of Somerset County, PA.

They come to listen. To learn. To understand.

They come to gaze at a peaceful field once ablaze with an act of war.

They come to pay their respect.

For on September 11, 2001, the beautiful, rolling hills of Somerset County, PA, became hallowed ground.

*This post was originally published on September 11, 2016

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Melissa Goes Back to School

Last September, Bob and I bid farewell to the single family home where our daughter Melissa had grown from a shy first-grader to a confident, college co-ed. New adventures awaited in a smaller house a mere ten minutes away, where picturesque, tree-lined streets and welcoming neighbors made us feel right at home.

Well...most of us.

Bob and I unpacked and settled right  in, but Melissa, a freshman at American University located three hours away, felt more comfortable and at ease in her college dorm than the place where her parents now called home.

I often walked into her bedroom, where our kitty cat curled up on the brand new comforter that lay on the hardly slept in bed. Unlike the room in the house we had just sold, this room's bare walls lacked the dozens of posters that defined her childhood. The carpet did not play host to piles of dirty clothes and at least six or seven half finished water bottles. No guitar sat in the corner, waiting for my talented daughter to express herself through song. No sounds of laughter echoed down the hallway. No little girl snuggled under the covers, eagerly listening to me to read a story, and begging for one more kiss goodnight.

I missed her terribly, but found distraction in the comfort of home. We bought new furniture, hung photos, installed a new sound system for the big screen TV (a mandatory request from Bob), and enjoyed cozy evenings together as the weather grew colder.

For Melissa, the first semester passed with all of the adventures and anxiety one would expect from a college freshman. Finally, as December blew in, she packed up her things and headed back home for winter break..... to our home, not her's.

Although it took less than a day for the dirty clothes and water bottles to once again cover the floor, she still had trouble embracing these new walls as her own. Especially because she knew that her stay would be temporary. Indeed, the holiday festivities came and went. She returned for a new semester, leaving her mommy behind to face the long, cold, winter months without those late night sessions where we talked for hours about friends, family, hopes, dreams, and of course....boys.

Not a day passed where we didn't talk, but still, I counted the weeks until the semester's end, when my baby would return for the long summer months.

Sure enough, on a sun-drenched day in the middle of May, Melissa and I strategically forced clothes, sheets, blankets, pillows, posters, storage containers, toiletries, towels, and yes, her guitar into every last nook and cranny of the car and headed away from the college campus towards the home that I hoped she would soon embrace as her own.

Before long, the guitar took it's rightful place in the corner, the clothes littered the floor, empty water bottles covered the desk, and the cat curled up next to his favorite human who happily shared her bed with him each night.

Evenings were spent taking long walks in our new neighborhood, where we resumed our deep conversations about all aspects of her life, and mine. She also grew closer to Bob, even consenting to laugh at his jokes instead of the typical rolling of the eyes.

Her presence filled the house, as our tight-knit family shared laughter, love, and unexpected loss as we mourned the death of my mother who passed away in July.

Yes, these walls had finally, truly become her home.

Yet, all too soon, sophomore year beckoned, drawing my cherub back to Washington, D.C.

I thought saying goodbye again would get easier the second time around.

It didn't.

With a sigh I threw away the last of the half-finished water bottles that remained on her now clean bedroom floor. The cat looked at me with confusion in his eyes, as if I were to blame for the empty bed.

Bob and I will undoubtedly go back to our routine, once again enjoying warm, cozy nights cuddled together as summer's warmth gives way to the crisp autumn air.

And I'll be counting the days to December, when Melissa says goodbye to school and comes back home.....to my home, her home, our home.

Melissa in her college dorm, ready to start sophomore year.
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