Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Bubble Santa

When I was five, we had a Bubble Santa.

Made of Japanese plastic, it was the Jolly Olde Elf in his red suit smiling happily. He had
one hand extended and you could put a bulb in the hand and the light would come on
when you plugged in the cord that stretched out of Santa’s back. Ours had a bubble light (the original version was shaped like an old time lantern with holly leaves on the glass on all four sides, and a two inch glass rod sticking out of the the top with the red liquid in it).

Santa was originally placed in our darkened hallway of our large home in Troy and he’d bubble away all night. 

In those days, the Martin holiday parties were held at our house and they were lavish affairs that stretched three rooms (kitchen, dining and living rooms) long.  Food and drink (especially drink) were plentiful.  Conversation was loud as was the laughter depending on how much everyone had had.  Teenagers played music (that rock and roll stuff), or watched Christmas specials right through to the Pope's Mass at midnight.  I was the youngest person in the house by far as both my brother and sister were quite a bit older than me.  So, there was too much noise to sleep and wait for presents (I had already been disabused by my sister about that Santa thing), and since I had no idea what everyone was talking about, I would wander around the house, grab a snack and eventually end up on the stairs that went up to the bedrooms.

But I wouldn't go all the up the stairs to my bedroom.  I'd sit on the steps about halfway up and watch in the dark as this piece of plastic shaped like the now discredited Santa would illuminate the entire hallway with his one light, and this liquid would bubble away serenely. And Santa would smile.  Sometimes my dog would find me and plop herself down next to me and watch the light as well, as she also hoped for a snack from the small paper plate I'd normally have.

A parent or sibling would look up now and then, ask if I was okay, and then return to their own gaiety.  I was fine.  We were fine.

And then Christmas would be over and Bubble Santa would disappear into a box, only to return in early December of the following year.  Same routine. Party. Loud. Booze. Laughter. Escape. Sit. Dog. I'm fine. And again and again.

We moved a few years later and Bubble Santa took up a post of honor near the manger scene in the living room.  I'd still find time to sit with the lights off (except maybe the tree lights) and watch him and listen to Christmas music on the stereo (Perry Como, etc).  Even during the Dark Years, Bubble Santa was there (sometimes during my mother's darkest depressions, all that there would be of Christmas was Bubble Santa). Two more moves and I am with my wife.  Sometime during the middle 80s (I'm old now and I don't remember what year) Bubble Santa disappeared.  We were in our first apartment and we searched for days, but Bubble Santa was gone.  I was bereft, depressed and teary eyed.  But then the next year he reappeared.  I have no idea what happened but I guess he needed a year off.

Now, in 2012, he still is here, fifty years later, through disease and death, breakdowns and bipolar disorder, MS, and all the other detritus of our lives, he bubbles.  He has outlasted parents, siblings, friends, pets, and nine Presidential administrations.

And those parties are done as well, or at least as far as I know.  I never cared for them, as you can probably tell.  I just wanted to get home. And watch him.  Now I just curl up with my wife, look at the tree lights and watch Bubble Santa.

He's like this:

He's been under at least 14 or 15 trees in 5 or so homes, and he is the last and longest throwback to my being a kid.  He is the Peace of the years, the quiet contemplation of time passing and remaining the same.  Wow, how Zen is that?  I knew those years with the monks would come through eventually.

We wish you peace and love during these days, and every day.  Each one is a gift, I know more now than ever. And I hope you have Bubble Santa somewhere, someplace you can turn to for quiet thought when we note the birth of a man who said it was all right to love your neighbors, to be good and kind, to show compassion to all.  Joyous Solstice.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Holiday Carols for Bipolar And MS

When I was gainfully employed, oh so long ago, I did an annual carol around the Holidays for fellow staff members in my Social Services Department.  You might guess that these songs were less than serious, and, I will admit, just a bit snarky.  You can click on the actual song name to see a You Tube version of the classic.

So you have been warned. Here we go....

"The First Lesion" (The First Noel)

The first lesion,
my neuro did say,
was attacking the mylar
in my brain that day.

In my brain a cure
it then did creep,
And destroyed all the MS
whilst I did sleep.

No way, No way,
No way, No way,
Pharma won't do it
unless it will pay....


"A Great Bi-polar Christmas" (Holly Jolly Christmas)

Have a great bipolar Christmas
It's the worst time of the year
People share
that they don't care
Why you live in stress and fear.

Have a nice bipolar Christmas
Is it manic or depressed?
Drugs or booze
May help you lose
And send home all your guests.

Oh, gee, is that for me?
No, no not again
Advice that's meant as nice
"Lazy," says Aunt Gwen

Have a great bipolar season
And I have to make it clear
I'm just heading
Under my bedding
So wake me next year!


"It's beginning to look a lot like MS"  (It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas)

It's beginning to look a lot like MS
Every time I walk
Take a trip to the left or right
Not sleeping through the night
And now I can't remember how to talk

It's beginning to look a lot like MS
Pain in every cell
Taking drugs for this and that
Emotions still are flat
And the Holidays might just as soon be hell

A shot of Betaseron just once more and gone
is the wish of Bonnie and Ben
An MRI free of lesions to see is the hope
of Tom M. and friends
And my neuro wants me to go and not come back again

It's beginning to look a lot  like MS
Though for me no drugs
So the peace that I must find
Rests just solely in my mind
and my dear ones hugs.


That's it.  I might do more, he said as an idle threat.  Recent events have certainly shown the need for greater access to mental health treatment.  I have a feeling that will be a big part of the support group meeting tomorrow. 

Over 2000 hits. Thank you all very much.  More to come. Peace. Remember the children.


Monday, December 10, 2012

We Are Not Alone, Charlie Brown

It happened today at the DBSA support group.  I was sitting in my car getting a quick sip of latte from my Dunkin Donuts mug when I saw the door to the church where we meet swing open and a young lady I'll call Elise came out.  She was running toward another young lady who was just getting out of her car, a trim young woman with long black hair, and I watched them hug.  I'd never seen either of them before at group, but they were long time members, as I was the new kid.

The two young ladies took seats near me and we began the group with the usual reading of the rules (be nice, etc.) and introductions.  The young woman with the skinny jeans (whom I'll call Michelle) was fourth on the list and she began to talk about problems with meds and doctors and shrinks, and pain in her legs, numbness in her hands.  Getting the idea?

I had thought I might be the only person with bipolar, PTSD, and also have MS in the area.  Turns out no.  Michelle as well. There was a bonding immediately.  Michelle has RRMS and different challenges than yours truly due to age, income, and past challenges.  But we face the same demon every morning, determined to wrestle that demon down, even if its just for the day.

It was said in the group that more people show up as the days roll closer to The Holidays.  Happy Hanukkah, by the way.  You can understand it.  We can sound like Charlie Brown very easily.

Charlie Brown should be in our support group.  He would find his answers without having to direct the play and find a role for the Christmas Queen.  But we'd miss the Snoopy dance.

The fact that Snoopy is cowed into not being joyous by Lucy and Schroeder is more telling than most in the story.  Snoopy has to hide his talents (animal mimicking, etc) because "it's not called for."  He is threatened ("I oughta slug you"- Lucy) and remains slightly apart from the group through the whole special, even when he joins in the laughter at Charlie Brown and his tree, or in singing the carol at the end.

We need to dance and be as joyous as we can.  We get so short a time on this planet that we have to celebrate ourselves, recognize our faults, and be open to new things (like Charlie Brown at the end, realizing the true meaning of Christmas [whatever that means to the reader]).  Right now it seems like a time to celebrate a family, one long ago, and one established just this morning. I met a sister.

More holiday stuff to come.  Almost to 2000 pageviews. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

My Support Straps are Showing!

Wow, I seem to have disappeared for a bit.  It seems that in Bloggerville you can disappear for months or years at a time and not be missed because there's always another blog someplace else to read.  I gotta keep up the quantity, and you'll decide the quality.

The post Thanksgiving family-thon waned and so, strangely, did the screaming nightmares.  It's not that the family themselves caused it, but the routine of our nights, and yes, bathroom use, had to be adjusted and while I was my usual quiet self, the thought of people not married to me being there all night freaked me out and sent my subconscious back to the years of my father wandering the house at three in the morning, banging furniture demanding to be dressed.  All it takes is one little push, and down and down I go.  Staying up here where I am just so much smoke and mirrors sometimes.

But talking about it helps, and that's a major thing I wanted to share today.  Last Monday I attended my first DBSA (Depression & BiPolar Support Alliance) meeting at a local church.  There were five people meeting in the church's choir room.  I was the youngest.  But the age dies not matter, in fact there are people who have had to deal with BP for over 40 years in this group, which shows that it can be done.  You have bad days (and there are people in this group that are having bad days, I mean real bad) and you can come here and have a cookie and talk and no one will judge you.  We proscribe no drugs, we provide reassurance - at least one of us has been there.  (Yes, I see small objects at the side of my glasses.  Yes, I can hear voices in an empty room).  No one will say "Snap out of it" or "Get a job", except in jest, because we've all heard it from the "Normals".

This is the first group for Bipolar support group that I've ever attended, and it already feels like home.  Discussions were made about psychiatrists, and psychologists, and where some of us may find a better fit.  (More on my psychiatrist later).

My physical and water therapy have been extended through most of December, and we're trying things to work with specific muscles in various parts of my legs, with weights on in the pool.  Looks like I'll be headed back to the pool in early 2013.

On Wednesday of last week I had  a meeting with my neurologist who said my walking has improved, and that I seemed to be doing quite well, ahem, considering.  I agree.  A new MRI was ordered and completed that week.  Further details on what it may show will be shared later this month.  This one in Saratoga doesn't have music like the one in Troy.  Here's another good reason for support groups. Everyone there has probably already had one.

Earlier that same day I had gotten a note from one of the Albany, NY's writers groups inviting me to join them.  As my local group will soon be ending for a few months, it's a chance to change scope, and get a fresh look at what and how I write.  Unless of course they don't like it, then the heck with them (kidding, kidding).  This support group does judge your work, not you, and they do it because they want you as a writer to succeed.

I wrapped up the week with physical therapy, and new exercises that I can incorporate into just about anything whether I'm moving or not.  One thing I have changed is that I'm writing this post at my kitchen table and not my desk, sitting in a wooden chair so that I am at 90 degrees for my back, my lower torso and with feet on the floor, limiting strain, and keeping me concentrated.  My den chair allows me to slouch and that normally leads to zoning out and minutes fly by and I'm staring at useless web pages.  Keeping focused is better.  Slouching comes in still, but when I'm talking to you, slouching is not allowed.

A few months back I told you of my first psychiatrist's legal problems, which are apparently still pending.  The new psychiatrist has shown some enthusiasm but has chronic office staffing problems, such as the office manager oversleeping and keeping three patients waiting (me the longest) and not the hint of an "I'm sorry" because, after all, we don't work, what else do we have to do?  Oh, and please wait on the co-pay until I get back from Dunkin' Donuts, OK? Just sit there.  Sure, after all, what else did I have to do? I don't work.  And they write the prescriptions.

Support can come from many areas, some you didn't even know you had.  I've gotten good wishes from old high school friends I've not seen in years, until recently, and from folks on line.  It's one of those George Bailey moments (you know, George Bailey[Jimmy Stewart], It's A Wonderful Life?) when George realizes who he touches as you go through life.  In my DBSA support group, one lady told us that she had remembered something I had said, and that it had helped her accept her situation more.  You just need to be your own Clarence sometime.  Now Clarence was... oh, go watch the movie.

And when you're done with that, see if you can, whether you are Bipolar or have MS, or whatever your situation, think on the invisible lines that tie you to others.  What you did or did not say that may have been a more positive response to any situation?  You can't see the strings of support, but they are there.  And for some of us, those strings can keep us upright, standing, or if loosened, falling into an abyss.  And we have strings too.  We can drag many down.  But the vast majority of the challenged like me and others in support groups of all kinds look to hold those strings together with everyone.

For that is community, that is working towards peace.

More soon.  Thanks for reading.  Heading towards 2000 page views.  Wow!