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raysMy memory has always been something of a moving target. I’ve actually thought about leaving my brain to science – while I’m still alive. It won’t do much toward medical progress to take a look at my grey matter under a microscope after I’m gone. No, you’d have to observe me in my natural habitat to see how my mind works (and sometimes doesn’t work) to really get a feel for how I process life and experience the world.

Even in my twenties, I knew my sense of recall left much to be desired, so I signed up for a course called “Improve Your Memory in 30 Days.”

Of course, you can probably see the punchline coming a mile off… Yep, you guessed it. I plum forgot about the class. Not only did I not attend, I actually went out with friends that night, and in the middle of our evening, a tiny light bulb dimly flickered on. “I was supposed to go to a Memory Course tonight. I forgot!” My friends thought it was a joke; we all laughed drunkenly and ordered the next round.

After I became a mother, I heard the term “Mommy Memory,” which implies that the added responsibilities of motherhood also chipped away at our ability to recall things we needed to do. 

Then I found out I had MS, and it, too, impinged upon my cognitive faculties. 

So I decided that you can’t fight city hall.

I can’t be a Great Rememberer (to coin a phrase); instead, I’ll strive to be a Better Forgetter.

This means selectively sifting through memories and choosing to remember only the experiences that enrich, embolden or entertain me.

There isn’t room anymore to hold onto snippets of bygone days that were dark and dreary. There’s only space for what’s bright and beautiful. As I see it, there’s no need to live in a cold, windowless basement when you can sit in the sunroom and soak in the light and warmth.

To tell you the truth, I really don’t give half a hoot about the way we were. It’s all about the here and now, the beauty and the blessings, from this point on, and – thank Heaven! – every day is a fresh start.

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As I was making my son some Ramen, we sat in the kitchen and chatted. I told him the story of the first time I ever cooked anything for his father, some twenty-five years ago.

Oh yes. It was Ramen Noodles.

So I told my son that back in the days of yore, I made his Dad the Ramen, poured in the little seasoning packet, and put it into a bowl.  At that time, Ramen wasn’t as ubiquitous as it is now, and I had never had it before. I looked at the package. It showed a bowl filled with noodles, but I didn’t see any broth in the picture.

Is this noodles? I asked myself.  I thought it was soup, but based on the picture, maybe it’s just a noodle side dish.

I drained out the liquid.

Serving it to my then-husband, he looked puzzled.  “Something is missing here….” he said, explaining that it usually has broth in it.

My son laughed as I told the story.  Now, back in our time, I finished making his Ramen and poured it into the bowl. I handed him a spoon.

“Something is missing, Ma,” he said, smiling.

I had forgotten to pour in the seasoning packet!  Dagnabbit.

So I admit it.  I often order out or bring home meals from food places in our town. My son will actually get a better meal this way, with all of the ingredients included.

I used to feel guilty about this. But now I see that I’m doing the best that I can with the hand I’ve been dealt. My MS affects my memory and my cognitive abilities. For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled to get my side dishes to be done at the same time as my entrée.  I remember once during a dinner party years ago, forgetting the two-cups-of-water to one-cup-of-rice ratio and reversing it. I was embarrassed that I couldn’t seem to master this skill that is so important in the life of a family.

Cooking, gathering over the meal, savoring tasty dishes.  It just isn’t something I’ve ever been able to do well. Some people who don’t do well with plants have a black thumb.  I guess I’ve got a black oven mitt! I’m sure Martha Stewart would look at my caved-in casserole, shake her head and say, “I’d rather go back to jail than have to eat this! It’s a bad thing.”

I’ve come to the conclusion that everybody has something to deal with. Don’t give yourself a hard time for what you can’t do; focus more fully on your gifts, and give that your all. Do your best to work around shortcomings – black oven mitt and all – and trust that God will take care of the rest. And put the pizza place on speed dial.

Sometimes God puts a big dream in your heart, and you survey the breadth and depth of it… and promptly talk yourself out of it.

For years, I’ve had a vision of starting what (in my mind, at least) I’m calling the “Block Project.” I’ve thought of naming it “Here to Help” or H2H.

So many people on my block are unemployed or on a fixed income. Many mouths to feed/bills to pay/never enough. Struggling to get by.

What if, instead of having a Neighborhood Watch, all of the neighbors watched out for each other?  

What if the carpenter across the street used his skills to fix the fence of the widow down the road?  What if she, in turn, gave the carpenter’s daughter piano lessons in a kind of barter/honor system?

What if, instead of talking about Mrs. Jones’ overgrown weeds, someone stopped by her house to make sure she was okay?  And maybe even offered to mow the lawn for her?

What if the guy with the green thumb helped every neighbor plant a tidy little garden, so they could eat well in the summer, and can for the winter? What if people having a hard time paying the heating bill could receive help from a general emergency fund?

But even though I’ve thought about this for years – even going so far as to discuss it with my teen-age son and ask if he’ll be the Computer Tech for the database (what people need help with/the skill set of each neighbor/resources available) – I have yet to do a single thing to put this idea into motion.

I did a little math in my mind and decided that having a disability and no resources meant that this was just a pipedream, but still.  The idea keeps coming back to me. 

It just seems that even though I can see putting my heart into it, how do I put my back into it? After all, I’m limping around from the effects of MS and spend many an hour sick in bed.  How do I even begin?  Where would the money come from? How would you get people to “buy in” and help out?  I guess the naysaying-critic in my mind is asking: Who am I to claim this scale of dream, anyway?

So I thought I’d write a post about this and see what you dear readers think. Any thoughts?  Even if you don’t have an idea about logistics, would you kindly do me a solid (as we say in Jersey) and like this post? Sure, it’s a big dream, but a little encouragement would go a long way. Thanks, dear people!

I’ve got an iron-clad faith in God, to be sure, but my friends know that I’ve also got a lot of new-agey ideas and curious quirks.  I tend to see signs from God in almost everything.  I also believe that I’m supposed to learn from hardship, so I analyze everything that happens like a CSI investigator.

My theory is that I was scheduled to develop MS at 63, but due to the stresses of an awful job, it came on early, at age 36.  I had put the memory of that terrible workplace behind me, until a few months ago, when the cab brought me to the door of the Infusion Center where I’d be receiving treatment every month.

This can’t be right.  Can it?  I didn’t realize I had said this aloud.

The cab driver said, “Yes ma’am.  This is the address you gave me.”

I didn’t speak for a moment.

“Ma’am?  Are you all right?”

I nodded, but I wasn’t sure.

Even though I’m generally somewhat shy, I actually felt the need to pray out loud.

“Is this where you want me to go, Lord?”

The cab driver was unfazed.  He felt comfortable answering for the Maker of All Things, apparently.

“Do you need what they give you here, Miss?” he asked quietly.

The answer was obvious to me.

“Yes.  I really do.”

“Then that is your answer.” 

New Jersey may be the world center for Wise Cab Drivers.  He got a very nice tip, and I thanked him.  I felt comfortable saying “God bless you,” which I’m very cagey about saying to anyone.  It has, on occasion, offended a person or two, so I don’t offer it freely.

You see, this was the place where I had worked for fourteen years, and for the last few, it had been a nightmare.  It was where I first started to notice that the headaches never went away, and that my fingers were starting to go numb.  It was where a deep depression set in, and a constant state of anxiety took hold. It’s where everything in my life seemed to start to unravel.

But it was no longer the same place.  I tossed a coin in my mind and decided to see it differently now.  It was a place of healing.  It had been totally revamped and reconfigured, and the place that had been my office was now a large room where patients sat with their IVs, being tended to by the caring nurses.  There were pillows and reclining chairs, relaxing music and fresh coffee.  If you didn’t know better, you might even mistake it for a day-spa.

“I used to work here, kind of…” I said to the receptionist after she signed me in.  “Really?” she asked.  I said, “It used to be a different company, and I sat right over there by that window.”

“Weird!” she said, and looked over at the window.  “Does it look the same?”

It didn’t.  And I decided it would no longer feel the same.  I realized that God moved in mysterious ways, and maybe He was allowing me to achieve some kind of closure on that era of my life.  That place doesn’t even exist anymore, my child.  Those days are over, and all I have for you here is healing.

I sat back in my chair, feeling the cold liquid coursing through my veins, grateful for so many things: Cab Drivers with an Inordinate Amount of Life Experience; the medicine that would bring back the feeling in my feet and hands; open doors and second chances.  I thanked God that hearts and minds can be revamped and reconfigured, and that even after a deep, dark night, joy still comes in the morning.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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