So…what was I doing during the 5-week series on writing?
I’ll tell if YOU will.
- Continued to research bariatric surgery. I still have a seminar to attend so I’ll hold off pontificating on the subject until I’ve gathered as much information as possible.
- Bought four new tires. (Hey, it’s not all fun and games.)
- Because losing 10% of one’s highest body weight of the current year is a prerequisite for my insurance to cover bariatric surgery, started Weight Watchers with my daughter Esme on August 1st. And have lost 11.6 lbs., thank you very much.
- Secretaried and scored a sold-out horse trials at River Glen Equestrian Center in New Market, Tennessee with my CPA & Excel buddy, Julie Burns. Knowing I had that job on my plate was my initial reason for setting up the 5-week series. There is a LOT of very time-consuming detail work that goes into preparing for these events in addition to the four days away from home, glued to a series of spreadsheets.
- Listened when Debra Taylor, the RIGHT kind of girlfriend, told me in the nicest possible way that I needed some serious styling and introduced me to former Miss USA runner-up and image consultant extraordinaire, Sharon Harper. Miz Sharon told me the argument against coloring my hair was over and I lost. That will be taken care of tomorrow. And, ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you, I my wardrobe has now been styled. And it didn’t empty Sir Shining’s bank account either. (Ok, sometimes it is fun and games.)
- Received an update over lunch from an author I’m mentoring, a rare one who has actually followed through and completed his first draft! And inspired his wife to do the same!
- Tracked down a teacher who had a tremendous influence on me and told her thank-you.
- Went to a $5.50 movie and then dinner with Sir Shining. His pick: The Bourne Legacy.
- FINALLY finished going through over half a century’s worth of photographs, getting them in chronological order, and taking them to Wolf Camera to have them digitized for the ridiculously low price of $60 per 450 photos. (The second reason I set up the 5-week writing series. I wanted my dining room table back.)
- Was profoundly grateful that an air-conditioning part it will take a week to get broke AFTER the temps had fallen into the 80’s rather than WHILE they were in the 100’s.
- Took advantage of the 5-week hiatus from producing new blogging material to let a miracle-working, board-certified plastic surgeonremove my extra chin.
- Took to heart the admonition of the aforementioned Julie Burns that all blog posts must take at least 5 minutes to read and the admonition of the aforementioned Debra Taylor that all blog posts must last as long as it takes her to sip a cup of tea.
Drink up, Debra.
Not that we have a lot of choice in the matter but I imagine most of us have thought once or twice about how we want—or do not want—to die.
At my house, Sir Shining and I are at opposite ends of the spectrum.
I want to die the day before I can’t read and take care of my bodily needs. And, with my children grown, I’ve reached the point where no one—not me, not my family, not my insurance company, and not the U.S. taxpayer—needs to spend a fortune to keep me alive for another few weeks or months or even for a few years. Besides, if you believe the Bible (and I realize many don’t so, for non-believers, this point is moot), what comes after death is supposed to be the best part, right?
My husband could not disagree with me more. If there is any sign of life—or if a sign of life can be engendered through defibrillation, epinephrine injection, a bucket of cold water, whatever—then he wants to be resuscitated and kept alive by all means possible. He has seen at least one person be written off by the doctors, only to wake up and start cracking jokes.
“The Crushing Cost of Care” by Janet Adamy and Tom McGinty ran in The Wall Street Journal earlier this week. It’s about the last year in the life of a 41-year-old man on Medicare. A year that cost well over $2 million paid by the U.S. taxpayer through Medicare, plus reimbursements made by the U.S. taxpayer through Maryland’s Medicaid program, plus over $700,000 in unfunded charges absorbed by Johns Hopkins Hospital. But, far more importantly, also a year that saw his nurses file notice with their hospital’s ethics panel that they were “feeling ‘moral distress’ in caring for Mr. Crawford … due to his overwhelming pain.”
A relatively fit non-smoker, Scott Crawford was diagnosed with idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy—an enlarged heart that doesn’t pump efficiently—when he was 26 years old. Drugs controlled his condition for a time and he was able to continue his heavy-lifting job in a tire warehouse. But he was told he would eventually need a heart transplant.
Eleven years later, Scott qualified for Medicare disability which then paid out over $325,000 over the next three years to keep him alive while he waited for a heart. In 2008, his first transplant operation was aborted mid-surgery because the donor organ wasn’t performing to standards. In February 2009, Scott underwent a second transplant operation. This time, the transplant went well. But nothing else did.
As Scott’s cascade of medical catastrophes—gangrene, multiple infections, kidney failure, respiratory failure—kept coming, his transplant surgeon steadfastly touted the successful functioning of the new heart. And Scott’s parents latched on to that one piece of positive data like lifeboat-less Titanic survivors clinging to a tiny sliver of floating debris. When Scott’s nurses reported their “feelings of dread and guilt in taking care of the patient,” his parents responded that “[i]f the nurses couldn’t handle their son’s care…they should transfer out of that unit.”
That response rendered hospital administrators “speechless” but, since Scott was incapable of speaking for himself by this point, they were also helpless.
This went on for ten months with Scott’s parents digging in their heels when Scott’s insurance benefits were exhausted. From that point on, the parents received every suggestion to consider what was best for Scott as an attempt by the hospital to talk them into killing their son to save money.
Finally, in late December, Scott’s father had an epiphany. “‘Something just snapped in me that said, This is the end,’ Wayne Crawford said.” And just like that, he allowed the hospital to take his son off life support. Scott Crawford died December 22, 2009.
Scott’s case is unusual only because of his relative youth. “Medicare patients rack up disproportionate costs in the final year of life. In 2009, 6.6% of the people who received hospital care died. Those 1.6 million people accounted for 22.3% of total hospital expenditures, the Journal’s analysis shows.”
Never mind the money for the moment. (But only for the moment because we can’t afford this.) Do you want someone other than yourself, someone caught up in a maelstrom of powerful emotions rather than crystal clear logic thought through in advance, making end-of-life decisions for you? If not, you need three things:
- a very frank discussion with your physician
- an advance directive (i.e., living will)
- a medical power of attorney
Your discussion with your physician can’t cover everything and your advance directive won’t cover everything. Which is why you also need a medical power of attorney. Choose the healthcare agent named in your medical power of attorney very carefully. It doesn’t make any sense to me to choose someone who doesn’t share your views on end-of-life treatment.
Which brings us back to “when end-of-life opposites attract” a.k.a. “a house divided”. I’m not Sir Shining’s healthcare agent and he’s not mine. We’re both terrified that our love for each other would color our decision-making if/when we’re faced with these sad choices.
I’m not campaigning for you to make one choice over the other. I’m just campaigning for you to make a choice, preferably a well-reasoned one.
Last month, I posted a Sermon in a Sentence. Today I share with you a sermon in a book. Would that I had the power to make it mandatory reading for the universe.
If I could only recommend one book to be read by everyone…my head would explode because I couldn’t limit it to just one. But if I can choose more than one, then This Is How would definitely be at or near the top of the list.
There’s isn’t much this life can throw at you that Augusten Burroughs hasn’t experienced. (If you doubt me, read Running with Scissors and A Wolf at the Table: A Memoir of My Father, too.) He’s gone through most of the self-inflicted travails as well and lived to tell all the tales, which he does with an almost reportorial detachment and a positively arid sense of humor.
Coddle the afflicted he does not. But if there’s anything in your life you’d like to change—or if there’s anything you feel entitled to whine about—and you can take your medicine straight up, this book’s for you.
Recently, as I was finding my way on Twitter, I stumbled across one of my sisters-in-laws. I immediately clicked to follow her, and she immediately messaged me that she showed a side in her Twitter feed that I hadn’t seen at family gatherings. Well.
My brothers and sister and I did not grow up together. That is, they grew up together, but I didn’t grow up with them. My parents were divorced when I was four years old. My mother remarried when I was fourteen but never had more children. My father remarried when I was seven years old, and he and my stepmother went on to have three children who are almost ten, just over eleven and nearly eighteen years younger than I am.
Me & newborn Matthew—June 1969
Aside from the age difference—we’re all but different generations and in fact my sister is only six months older than my stepson—I grew up an only child of a single mother with whom I shared a bedroom in my grandparents’ house while they grew up with their parents in a house in the ‘burbs.
My brother Mark is a Pied Piper and my children always want him to stay—Christmas 1995.
My mother had a GED, her parents had blue- and pink-collar jobs, and my mother’s younger sister was the first in the family to earn a college degree. My father was a CPA and lawyer, my stepmother was a teacher, and my father’s parents—including my grandmother—and siblings all had advanced degrees.
Me & Mary Ruth at her third birthday party—February 1980
When my mother remarried, she married a small business owner with an 8th grade education. Everyone in my father’s family for generations is or was an educator.
We followed in our forebears’ footsteps. I graduated from high school a year early and then dropped out of college after a quarter. My brothers have PhD’s and my sister has a masters at the moment but will probably—one day after her adorable daughters are a little older—eventually emulate her brothers. For me, the third time was the charm, and my husband is a businessman. My siblings are married to their first spouses who are all teachers and artists.
If you subtract the facts that we’re all humanoids with some shared facial features and were born with the same last name, we could not be more different. But you’ll notice I haven’t once referred to them as my half-siblings. That’s just not how we do things. I only refer to my stepmother and stepson as “steps” to avoid confusing people: “But wait, how can Will be your firstborn if Geoff is the oldest?”
Matthew was the last of us to marry, just a little over a year ago, and his wife Moira is a multi-national, tattooed, and pierced women’s studies graduate, artist, and blogger. When we met her, she had purple hair. (My youngest child, Patrick, thought that was so cool.) So when she messaged me that I would be seeing a side of her on Twitter that I hadn’t seen at the dinner table, I responded—when I finally stopped laughing long enough to be able to type—that her “camo” wasn’t exactly high-hide and that I’d started reading her blog as soon as Matthew told us she would be joining the family.
I also told her that the world is a big place and that minds should be, too. I cannot express what it meant to me when Matthew emailed me this morning to say my comment caught his eye, he had looked for it on the web to source attribution, concluded it was probably original to me, and wanted to know if he could use it in the classroom (he’s a college professor). More than my day has been made.
That’s how we celebrate Father’s Day, which happens to fall on Sir Shining’s birthday this year. We also celebrate Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, our anniversary, my birthday, New Year’s Eve, and anything else we can think of with beef Stroganoff.
Ingredients at the ready
And beef Stroganoff is one of the reasons I married Sir Shining. We met on the phone and before we even laid eyes on each other, he offered me dinner: beef Stroganoff at his townhouse. One, I didn’t know him well enough at the time to go to his home alone nor was I free to do so. Two, the words “beef Stroganoff” conjured up visions of cheesy 70’s restaurants where waiters set stuff on fire way too close to the customers. I declined.
Cut tenderloin into strips
Then my life exploded, and Sir Shining, instead of running for the hills like any other sane man would have done, strapped on his armor and took up my colors. Months later, he finally talked me into trying his beef Stroganoff. He assured me his recipe did not involve flambé. One mouthful and I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life eating more of it and that I would spend whatever time I had left on this earth mourning all the times I could have been eating it during those first few months of our relationship.
The marinating beef bits look like a bag of meal-coated worms
As a bachelor, Sir Shining stumbled across a recipe for beef Stroganoff in an old cookbook he found in a used bookstore. By the time he met me, he’d tweaked it beyond recognition and made it his own.
Add chopped onions & sliced mushrooms to browned tenderloin pieces.
But it’s back to the kitchen for me right now to put the finishing touches on our celebratory meal. I’ll steam some asparagus as an accompaniment. I always serve something as a side dish even though it’s just a distraction. The Strog is the undisputed star. And I always aim to have leftovers. As exquisite as the dish is fresh, it’s exponentially more so after the flavors procreate in the refrigerator overnight.
What it looks like after cooking, before sour cream & vermouth
Subscribe to the blog via email and I’ll send you the recipe!
Happy Father’s Day, Sir Shining!
P.S. The other reasons I married Sir Shining?
- He is a believer.
- He has oceans of integrity.
- He is an excellent father (he had a child when I met him so I could tell).
- He is fiercely intelligent.
- He is ridiculously handsome with twinkling blue eyes and a seriously cute…oh, excuse me, I forgot where I was there for a minute.
The real dish in my life. At Lady Bird Lake in Austin, Texas for the 4th of July Concert in 2009.
If you have known me since I was three years old or even if you just know me know me now, you may be scratch your head at some of the names you’ll see in this blog.
And if you know me know me now, you also know that I’ve written a book that will be published next fall by Abingdon Press. Dear Will: The True Story of a Mother Who Never Gave Up is a memoir about a very bad thing that happened, and I hope it will comfort people who have gone or are going through something similar, change the hearts of people who are contemplating doing what was done to me and my son, and, just maybe, inspire some people to realize they don’t have to play the hand they’re dealt. They can create a new pack of cards and play their own game by their own rules.
So here’s the deal. I try to live my life like glass: totally transparent. I figure if people see the good and not the bad, they might think I was just in the right place at the right time or that I’ve never made a stupid decision in my life or that I was born with every advantage. None of those things are true. In fact, they are all—galactically—NOT true.
And since I find it inspiring to read biographies and memoirs to see how real people overcame—or, equally as instructive, failed to overcome—real problems, and since I can’t think of a better use for my mistakes than letting them serve as a warning to others, and since the fact that “a very bad thing” happened and we survived it is precisely why I wrote the book, the good, the bad, and the ugly will all be in black and white and read all over.
But not everyone wants to pour their messy life—and all lives are messy; see epigraph at the top of this post—into a crystal goblet, place it on a high stage, and train a Klieg light on it. And some people are even less inclined to showcase the messy life of a loved one. Such is the case in this instance.
To protect the identity of my son’s father and his family when the book comes out, my son asked me to change his, his wife’s, and his wife’s family’s names as I blog. To protect his memory of my mother, my son asked me to change my maiden name. And to protect her memory of my father, my stepmother asked me to change my maiden name, her name, and the names of my siblings, siblings-in-law, and my nieces and nephews.
They say you can’t judge a book by its cover. No matter how hard you stare at this portrait of a happy family, I’d bet money you can’t begin to imagine the story behind it.
On the surface, the image is my dream come true. I was a toddler at the dawn of the Mad Men era so I was too young for the Swinging ‘60’s or even the Psychedelic ‘60’s. Instead, I hit high school as the Me Decade took hold.
According to the expectations of the day, I should have set my sights on the Oval Office or the corner office or at least the front lines of a military campaign. Alas, I failed my times. I can’t remember ever wanting to be anything other than 35 and happily married with four children, a pool, and a maid. Although I fully expected to have to work for a living, being a wife and mother was my only real ambition.
As it happened, I achieved my goals, just not quite the way I’d envisioned. The day I turned 35, I was happily married to My Knight in Shining Armor (a.k.a. Sir Shining)—but he wasn’t my first frog, er, husband. I had four children—but one was a stepchild and one child’s story would take more than a blog post (or several blog posts) to tell. As for the rest, I’d (sort of) changed my mind about the pool and didn’t have one, but I had not changed my mind about the maid and did have one although she prefers to be called a housekeeper which I am happy to do since she cleans the toilets so I don’t have to.
By 35, I had even found a “career” and understood why I hadn’t been able to articulate it as a teenager: “Volunteering” wasn’t on my guidance counselor’s list of the options. I have had my share of jobs to pay the rent and put food on the table and have enjoyed most of them but my most satisfying accomplishments by far have come through service to others. Thanks to Sir Shining’s career, I’ve had the great privilege of being able to devote more time to those endeavors than many people can.
Fortunately for me, neither I nor Sir Shining turned into or back into a frog when I turned 36, and we’re still living happily ever after. Not that the sun shines all the time but I see my glass as not only half full but as overflowing—and flooding the building.
But then I choose to focus on the positive just as I made choices all along the way with an eye toward fulfilling my ambition. Anyone can do the same. You might not end up exactly where you thought you would or how you thought you would and you will take some hits along the way but remember: A “scratch ‘n’ dent” fairytale is still a fairytale.
My name is Deborah Katherine Lovett, Debo for short. I’m a wife, mother, and grandmother, and I live with my husband and our two Jack Russells.
We all have a story, and I’m no different. This is what my life looks like now.
Or at least this is what it looked like in July 2002 when my family sat for this portrait. The story behind this particular photograph, though, is about as grim as stories get without everybody actually dying. And the road from 2002 to 2012 has continued to have its ups and downs—including one particularly precipitous cliff and one truly glorious mountaintop—but we still look like this. Two kids have ditched their orthodontia, my youngest son is taller, and I have more grey hair and more padding but we all look pretty much the same. My husband looks exactly the same eleven years later which, as all women know, is most unfair.
The moral of my story is that no matter where you start, even if it’s in one of Dante’s Circles of Hell, faith, hope, and love—and forgiveness, grace, grit, honesty, humor, sacrifice, and service—will yield a life abounding in…more of the same.