My People

My People
My matched set of grandchildren - Oliver and Cosette

Monday, August 31, 2015

Monday Photo/Info Dump

Happy New Week today and Happy New Month tomorrow! This week started out about as good as any in a very long time. I got a call from Social Security confirming that things are moving right along, much faster than I expected. I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am at the prospect of having my *own* money to spend! My family has been beyond generous and I have truly not wanted for anything, not in the least but being able to have a few little splurges... well, it's just awesome!

How cute is this baby girl? Seriously. She is growing her personality so much lately. If you say, "do you want to spend daddy's money?" she breaks out a huge smile. She's cuddling things, really loving her little chair/prop thing and getting so long that she's going to have to have a bigger car seat before long.

Today my newlywed brother turns 37.

Yesterday my middle child turned 25.

A few leaves here and there are showing the earliest hints of Fall and the air has just a tad cooler feel to it. There are flowers planted all along my porch and they've grown so big that they frame my view of the lake perfectly. There are even figs on my fig bush! I pity the deer who tries to steal my figs!

Uncle John and Aunt Gerri will soon be here for a visit so there will be lots of fishing... for the folks who like to fish, which isn't me but I still enjoy knowing that others are enjoying themselves. There's a house just down the road from us that is owned by their church (or something) so they can visit during the day and have their own space at night.

Last week I got my nieces to dance to the "Watch me whip and watch me nae nae" song. I have only heard it by seeing Youtubers get their kids to dance to it. The girls wouldn't let me film them because they didn't know it that well... which is a good thing, I think... but they were still hilarious!

All about clasping her hands together over her head like this. No idea why.
Last Tuesday I had an appointment with my Primary Care Doctor. I am holding onto a lot of fluid, especially in my belly. I look about six months pregnant and my hips feel like I'm nine months pregnant. Walking is insanely painful. My dr. has me taking a water pill which is not that fun if you're the kind of person who pees every hour on the hour anyways. I'm just grateful for the ability to see a good doctor who is consistent and remembers me so that when things like that change, he has a frame of reference for what my "normal" is.

Also last week... Oliver turned a month old and Cosette turned four months old. Still working on getting my babies in the same zip code but hopefully soon!

In other news... I scored a new high score in my sudoku app so there's that. I'm feeling quite accomplished.

I made my monthly "big" grocery trip last week with help from Austin, Tasha and Cosette. It helps to have someone along to get the heavy stuff and the stuff up high. It's also nice to have company.

Also, we had a busted water heater last week that soaked part of my carpet in my bedroom, ironically the only room in the Whine Cellar that hadn't previously suffered water damage. Fortunately we caught it early, got the carpet up and dried, got the slab dried off, replaced the pad with a brand new one and reinstalled the carpet. When I say "we", please know that isn't a literal description of who actually did all the work. It was mostly Mawmaw doing the drying, Pop doing the buying and Austin and his friend Pat moving furniture and laying the carpet. Since they had to move the furniture anyways, I went ahead and got them to rearrange my bedroom, which is basically my walk-in-closet because I can't sleep in a bed for more than an hour or so. Mom also took this opportunity to paint my dressing table that I've had since I was seven. It's made every single move with me all of my life. I still have to sort out the bookshelf and odds and ends but this gives you an idea of my purple walk-in closet.

Somehow Stubby the 3legged Wonder Cat has a cold. He keeps sneezing VERY loudly. Every time he sneezes it startles Little Kitty and he does a vertical jump about six inches in the air. Quite funny. Little Kitty got his feelings hurt this morning because I was holding the dog in my lap. He protested by becoming monorail kitty on the back of my recliner.

Pain wise, more for my record than anything, the gut pain has now been with me for three solid weeks? Or two? Now I can't remember. I've been taking less percocet and larger doses of Advil and become best buds with the heating pad. Once my medicare is in place we'll explore a better solution. I had a face numbing migraine last night through this morning but thankfully it's been gone since about 8 am.

And I guess, that's about it for now. I'll leave you a few more photos... and will add Ollie photos whenever his dad sends me some newer ones... Have a good week y'all! Love and hugs!

 New sewing project. Little Kitty extends his front paw across anything that takes my attention off of him. Today it was my sewing.
 He's wearing his angry eyes.
This is what he wants to do. He lays belly up and wants his tummy rubbed. Never had a cat before who loved getting his belly rubbed so much.
 "what's up, Nana?"
Nana-razzi photo....
This elephant sleeper is her favorite. Ok. It's more Nana and mommy's favorite but she's already got one in the next size up.

That's all, folks!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Reasons To Love Whatever Day This Is...

There isn't much news from here in the nest - at least not anything without the designation "not for social media". I have such a bad reputation for the occasional overshare that almost everything the family shares with me is given the disclaimer of "NFSM". I mean, can I help it that my friends all live in Cyberspace? There is only so much info I can share, re-share, lather, rinse repeat with my usual Whine Cellar visitors: Sarabeth, Jamie, Cosette, Tasha, three cats, two dogs and my mom. Pop will occasionally approach the dungeon of doom but usually only long enough to toss down some chow.

I've been pretty stagnant here lately. The discomfort previously known as "evil gut pain" has overstayed its' welcome in the past week. Since last Monday I have been having such horrendous pain.. the kind of pain that makes you shaky, nauseous and anxious. What I wouldn't give for half a bottle of xanax right now! After having a really rough weekend I was determined to call the gyn doctor and say, "take it out... take it out NOW" but ultimately I don't have enough fight in me right now to extend any ultimatums, especially those that could potentially include leaving my nest. I'm trying to be super cautious about the use of my magical pharmaceuticals and have been trying some alternative pain relief. Not pot, if that's what you were thinking. I mean, ibuprofen instead of percocet, heating pad, changing positions, listening to music with the tv, computer and lights off. Does it help? Notsomuch. Well, maybe just a little.

I haven't seen Oliver or Cosette over the past week. Hopefully I'll get some quality cuddle time tomorrow with Cosette. Both have parents who are good to share photos with me almost every day. That helps.

I finished my latest embroidery project. I have two ready to be made into pillows, just need mom to have a day where she feels like dragging out the sewing machine. I can't wait to put those in the mail to two deserving people. I have two projects that need some finishing touches but I don't trust my pain addled brain to not mess up a project that is close to being finished so those are on standby waiting for a day with less distraction. I'm searching for my next project but nothing has really inspired me over the past few days while I've been browsing patterns.

I've been trying harder to sleep part of the night in the bed instead of the recliner and I've had some luck with it. There is this one very specific, highly supported position that is comfy enough to at least sleep a few hours. I'm afraid I'm going to be one of those people who has to be physically cut out of a recliner and carried out of the house with a crane. I've been trying to change positions often enough to avoid that HOWEVER once I find a position with less pain, it's tempting to not move a muscle or risk losing whatever bit of comfort I've found.

I did leave the house on Friday morning long enough to take Austin to work (still doing awesome! still hasn't missed any work! still putting money in savings every week!). I ran into the store long enough to get the necessities of life: gatorade, luigi's mango italian ice, lean cuisines. I need to make my big monthly stock up grocery trip but that will involve standing up straight and climbing stairs and being able to safely operate a vehicle so... maybe I'll make it into town sometime before Oktoberfest starts in September.

The good news is that I got a notice in the mail today from Social Security that confirmed that my case had been approved. The judge had said it would take 4 to 6 weeks for him to write his decision but instead it has been only 19 days. Hopefully that means there will be money (and Medicare) available sooner than I thought. Yeehaw. I am so grateful that my case was approved - you have no idea how grateful! But there is a huge reality check in the realization that people who know about this kind of stuff - like doctors and lawyers and judges - all agree that I am no longer fully abled. Like, I knew it already but it's still a bummer to have that validation. And it feels great to have that validation. All at the same time.

I'm also really struggling with not being able to see my babies as often as I would like (every day). It's discouraging to not be able to go where you want and do what you can. A good friend of mine from way back when lost her husband to cancer last week. So in all of this, "poor me, I can't see my grandbabies everyday" self-pity, there is also a big "I'm so blessed to be alive to see them ever and to hopefully watch them grow up." Life, even when it's not all that you want it to be, is a precious gift not to be taken for granted.

And that's it. I think it's Monday and Monday needed some love. We all do... so... love and hugs, y'all!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Life As The Nana of Two

When we last left this story I was just coming off of a "more social than usual" weekend and getting ready to head South by 100 miles, give or take, to visit with Ollie and his parents for a few days.

I don't know why but I just thought about the commercial where the grandparents arrive to visit the twin babies and the parents rush out with their suitcases while the grandfather drones, "don't leave us with the babies....". Visiting Ollie was NOT like that but we definitely all took turns bouncing, singing, walking outside, cuddling and developing our own recipe for soothing him. Cody said that he had been doing that bouncing comfort move so much that he found himself in Wendy's shaking his chicken sandwich up and down. I find myself randomly rocking from side to side whenever I'm standing up. After 21 years of no babies, I now have two babies and it still blows my mind! I use basically the same method of calming both Cosette and Oliver which is... swaddle their legs, hold them where their tummy is facing in toward my tummy and hold the paci in their mouth. This method only works if they're not hungry or in need of a change. My mom has a few tricks up her sleeve as well but the one that worked best was buying Ollie a swing!
 He loves his little swing buddies! Also, he has amazing neck control for a tiny baby! My boys all sat up by six months and walked by eight months and I think both babies will be on similar development paths. 

I remember when we brought Cody home from the hospital as a newborn... I was so excited to have two children at two different stages of development! Ryan was 3 years and 9 months old when Cody was born so I had the fun preschooler and the precious tiny little baby. On our first evening home their dad had to run out for supplies and I was alone with both boys for the first time while trying to sort out the laundry situation. They were both crying and all of a sudden it hit me... I had two kids who not only would be at two different stages of development... I had two kids who would both need me at the SAME TIME!  I leaned against the washing machine and slid to the floor in a moment of frightening clarity.

Having Irish Grandtwins carries a little bit of the same panic for me. It's so important to me that both babies know me and know how much I love them. It's important (probably more important here at first) that both sets of parents know how much I love their baby and that they feel supported and encouraged by me. I want to give the same amount of attention to both but the hard truth of the matter is that one baby is a few miles up the road and the other baby is a hundred miles away and I don't travel well.

Just for the record, riding in an RV is not the cushy, float on pillows experience I had thought it would be. There was a slight mishap with a little bump against the RV that hurt like a hot poker in my spine before we even got on the road. The comfy seats that I thought would make for a fabulous opportunity to prop my feet up - so my knees and ankles don't swell - were not as comfy as I thought. I had been warned that the bed in the back was the least comfy spot to ride in but about 3/4 of the way down I decided to try it out and it was better than the dinette seats if I propped myself against a pillow but it was painful enough to make this face. Lugging luggage - enough for a couple of days - meant more stress on my spine.

Respecting the difficulty of the journey made me want to soak up every drop of Ollie-love that I could while I was there. By the time we left on Friday I was one big bag of hurt. I'm still worn out - worn out enough that I had to postpone my usual weekly Cosette cuddle session today. I just don't bounce back like I want to. Factor in a round of Evil Gut Pain combined with a few arthritis flaring rainy days and... you've got a Two Naps A Day Nana situation.

But how sweet is this little fella with his arm up by his face? Cosette and Oliver both want their hands out of the swaddle. I'm more confident changing Oliver than I am Cosette because my three babies were boys. Girls have all those crevices and stuff. I've been left alone with Oliver but not with Cosette yet. Both are nurslings and both have maternal grandparents who are very involved in their lives. I'm glad that they are both loved so very much by people besides just Nana.  

  I could (and do) hold both of them past my comfort level because I just want to soak up as much of them as I possibly can! Both prefer being held up in a vertical position rather than being cradled in a horizontal way. Both have mine/their dads' lips and chin and you would think they are the fitting image of their fathers until you see their moms! Cosette looks a lot like Tasha and Oliver is Marquee Jr! They are both absolutely adorable and I love them so very much.

So much that I want to make everything as fair as I possibly can which is completely contrary to my parenting style. I NEVER set out to do all things equally for all three boys when they were growing up. I didn't want to hold out on things that I couldn't do times three and there were uh-LOT of things I couldn't do times three as a single mom. I wanted each boy to have their own unique bond with me and truly, that's what we have. 

Oliver sitting propped up on Nana


Cosette and her doll, Eponine. 
My greatest desire right now (always) is to have all of my eggs in the same basket. There are five people on this planet that wouldn't be here if I hadn't lived and I want them all together as much as possible. I want Cosette and Oliver to grow up together. I want pictures of them together - even dressed alike - as soon as possible. I feel frantic, almost, about having them get to know each other.

It's scary. My nephew Caleb and my niece Jamie are about the same distance apart as Cosette and Oliver. Their first photos together were when they were a year / nine months old. I took dozens of pictures of the two of them together and was soooo looking forward to watching them grow up together. But my brother has been estranged from our family since Caleb and Jamie were around 3 years old and I doubt either one remembers the other. I watch Jamie and try to imagine what Caleb is like now and grieve the loss of him and his siblings even still.

The bottom line is that love carries a risk, whether it's romantic love or the love you have for your family or the love you have for your friends. There's a saying that "to be a mom is to have your heart walking around outside of your body." Being a grandmother takes that to the next degree. I'm not a control freak but there is so much anxiety for me in not having any control over the lives of these babies. I mean, I am quick to suggest things when Cosette or Oliver are upset but I do try to defer to their parents' preferences for things like what I post on social media and - well, everything!  I'm pushing myself beyond my physical comfort zone to spend time with them. I'm also putting myself beyond my emotional comfort zone by loving them as much as I do. I've lost a lot in my life and I'm reluctant to develop or trust in relationships any more. Loving these kids makes me feel so vulnerable! Wanting them to know and love each other feels like the best legacy I can leave for them. No matter what the future holds for all of us, I hope they will find their way here and know how much I love and treasure them both from the very beginning.

Tasha told Cosette she was mailing her to Nana's and Cosette smiled... didn't quite catch the magic moment but still! Baby girl loves her Nana! She also loves her feet which she has just discovered.

Ollie-pop gave me a little smile last week but I was nowhere near a camera at the time. It might have been gas... but I want to believe it was a purposeful expression of joy!

Life as the Nana of two babies is beautiful beyond what I could have imagined and much more scary than I ever anticipated. I'd love to hear from those of you who are grandparents if you wouldn't mind sharing if you had the same kind of anxiety/delight that I'm feeling. Thanks for reading here. I've been working on this blog post for three hours so I'm gonna go watch some youtube videos and eat my italian ice. Love and hugs, y'all!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Cosette This Weekend, Ollie This Week

There are a few things I want to share but there's no logic or order to them so we'll call this a "random stuff" blog post.

Last Wednesday, on our way home from the hearing, these deer ran across the road in front of us in the same place they ALWAYS cross. It's not that we haven't seen deer anywhere else in our neck of the woods but this particular spot is ten times more reliably a spot of  "Deer Xing". The baby deer were about the size of a dog. Super cute! And taken through a windshield at a long distance.

Living here never gets old.

Since my court date I've been through a big old long exclamation point of misery that completely validates the judge's decision. It's not like I thought winning would immediately make life better (because that's not logical, is it?) but in a way it seemed like having that struggle behind me plus having some validation from the judge would make life... better. Seriously. I completely accept that as convoluted thinking but honestly, it's a bit of a let down to realize that the pain is still a constant companion.

I have been just a tad bit more social over the past few days, though. My Aunt and Uncle brought their RV up here and have spent the past week exploring things around here and visiting with us. Saturday night we had dinner with them, Jim and Angie and the girls, Austin and Tasha and Cosette. I did a lot of holding Cosette and took like, zero photos of the gathering. Angie got a few that are really sweet and I know she'll make good use of them. She does a photo calendar for us every year and it's always fun to look back at events like Saturday night. I was atypically social and stayed upstairs for way, way longer than was comfortable. Cosette had a busy day Saturday so she was a little fussy and my mom and I took turns (i.e. stole her from each other) holding her. I sat in some uncomfortable places and was beyond exhausted at the end of the night but I got some great quality visiting time in with the fam. And, of course, had fun with my nieces.

Sunday my "other son" Josh and his wife Megan came up to meet Cosette. Josh is a friend of my sons' from way back when. He's probably in more family photos than I am! Cosette was delighted to meet them. No really. She was. Actually she was still tired from the day before and had three decent naps cuddled up with Nana. I love seeing her grin and be outgoing but I also really love having her squished up against me napping. She likes soft people and I am really soft! I tried several times to get a "framer" of Cosette with Josh or Cosette with Megan and... well, I'll let you see...

She did this with her Uncle Ryan when she met him... wouldn't make eye contact with him. Notice how long her legs are?
 and in this one, you'd think she was focused on the picture taker but, no... she's looking at the tv behind me.

Then there's this one with Megan. I cropped Megan out because she wasn't thrilled with this one. I get it. I've had more pictures of all my chins and all my rolls than I'm comfortable with lately. Cosette was briefly being sweet and smiley and then...

"Just hurry up and take the picture, Nana!". Megan looks lovely in this one, though. Cosette handles picture time like her dad does... "get it over with".  Cosette seems to be developing a little touch of "stranger danger". She took one look at Uncle Bubba (Jim) Saturday night and started wailing. She is very adept at communicating her feelings!

At any rate... this is a good one of Josh and Megan and Cosette isn't screaming so we're going to call this one "success".

My Aunt and Uncle got her a little tummy time play thing - which she hasn't quite mastered yet - and her first little baby doll. We named the doll Eponine. If you're not familiar with Les Miserables, Cosette is the heroine of the story and Eponine is her rival and foster sister, of sorts. Eponine (the doll) is just the right size for Cosette to cuddle. I've posted a half dozen pictures of Cosette and Eponine between Facebook and Instagram. Here's one more because it's just so cute!
She's gotten where she really love skin to skin contact. She cuddles best if I've got a short sleeve shirt on where she can lay her head on my bare arm. She also reaches up to touch whatever bare skin she can. I've been working on teaching her sign language for "milk" which is like making a fist with your thumb side on top and squeezing, like if you were milking a cow. Any time she's hungry I ask, "do you want milk?" and I squeeze her hand in mine. Austin thinks that's why she reaches up to squeeze bare skin when you cuddle her. I don't know but I'd be thrilled to know she's already communicating that way.

Have you ever tried to type with a cat putting his paws between your hands and the keyboard? Not. Easy. Apparently Little Kitty needs some attention today. Maybe he's caught on that I'm leaving him for a few days. My Aunt and Uncle are heading back down South tomorrow and I couldn't imagine a better way to travel than in an RV so my mom and I are hitching a ride and going to spend a few days with Oliver and his parents. I haven't seen him since he was a day old so I am beyond excited to have some good bonding time with him! Pop will come pick us on later on this week. I'm really drained today and battling some nasty pain but I can curl up in Cody's recliner as well as I can curl up in mine and just can't pass up the opportunity to spend time with Oliver without having to make the hundred mile drive to his house and back. I'm still really eager to get both of my grandbabies in the same place but I'm being patient. For now.

How cute is this picture of Austin and Cosette sleeping in the exact same position?

I've been trying to wrap my head around all the things that have happened this year. It's mindboggling how much things have changed! And... it's also weird how much is still the same despite the drastic changes from this year. I'm keeping a "wish list" on my phone of things I want to buy when I finally start getting my disability. The judge said it would take 4-6 weeks for him to write up his decision so I know it will be that long plus however much longer it takes for the checks to start coming. My disability is backdated to March 2013 but it looks like, based on my internet research, that the checks don't start until six months after the date of disability. So assuming it's September or October (and I hope not much longer) before I get my initial payout, I'll have about two years of pay coming. The lawyer gets his chunk, I intend to repay my parents as much as I can and I've got some dental work that I've been putting off that has to be done before I end up drinking all of my food. After that there will be a little mad money for me and my kids/grandkids. Medicare kicks in after two years of receiving disability which would be September/October-ish so I've got to do some research on how that will work and if my current doctors accept it. But honestly, it doesn't feel real yet.

And... I guess that's about it for now. It's been a Pajama Monday for me because today is a "barely functioning" day for me. Recovering from the weekend and resting up for the week and excited to take lots of Ollie pictures! I'll be sure to share! Thanks for reading, love and hugs, y'all!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

My Disability Hearing and Decision

Spoiler alert: I won my disability case! Most of you have either seen it on Facebook or gotten a text from me by now but for those who don't know... I won! For those of you who want to skip the novel below, that's the gist of it all.

I wanted to jot down as many details as I could remember today because so many of you have been along for this crazy ride with me and because I think it might be helpful to people who are in the process of getting Social Security Disability. Ironically, this is one of the really bad pain days thanks to the post ablation syndrome (PAS) formerly known as evil gut pain. It may have a name but it's still evil. I just tell you that as a disclaimer in case this blog post doesn't make sense or isn't up to my usual (very low) standards of punctuation, spelling and grammar.

Just to recap the process I've been through... I filed for disability using a large national group that specializes in disability. They are one of those advertised groups that doesn't charge unless you win your case. They got me through the initial application and the first two (was it three? #painbrain) denials and then dropped my case. They said I didn't have enough documentation to be able to win. (How do you like me now, first disability lawyer?) That was the lowest of the lows on this journey.

They broke up with me in November of 2013. By this time I was already having the pain from the PAS and was really struggling. I knew I needed to find a new lawyer but I was really (overuse of the word "really" #painbrain) (overuse of parenthesis also but that's typical) I was really anxious about talking to any other lawyers because I just couldn't bear to get another rejection by either Social Security or an attorney. It took me until February of 2014 to schedule an appointment and go meet with my current attorney. I don't want to put his name here because ... I don't know... I'm not comfortable doing that but if you really want to know, just email me. Basically I used a local guy that was recommended by my pain doctor. I knew the pain doctor had a lot of patients who go through the disability process and I figured if they liked him and recommended him they would be more likely to work with him. Winning strategy, by the way.

So I went and met with my guy in February of 2014. At that point all that was left to do was prepare for the hearing. I say, "all that was left" but truly, he went way, way beyond what the original representation had done for me. We met and talked about my case and talked about the dark, scary things in my past (i.e. Jacksonville) and although he said it wouldn't be EASY because of my age and because my profession was sedentary, he agreed to take my case. The scary part for me was that he was the kind of attorney who you had to pay whether you win or lose. I've had that potential debt hanging over my head with no income since February of 2014. That'll keep you up nights.

From February, 2014 until sometime this Spring (April, maybe? I know it's here in old posts) I didn't hear anything else from my guy or Social Security. I knew there was a long wait for a hearing. I knew there was nothing I could do to speed things along. I settled in for a long wait. Then we got notice of the hearing and it was the day before my brother's fabulous wedding in Connecticut and I already had THEATRE TICKETS! for New Yorks three days before the wedding. I mean, let's be real, Bryan and Helen's wedding was truly a once in a lifetime experience for me and I am so grateful to have been a part of it. I can only describe it as "magical" because it was, in so many ways. But too, plus, also, I was going to see WICKED with my two favorite redheads and we had great seats! It was a huge risk to request to move the date but... long story short, we did and it was and I got to not ONLY attend the once in a lifetime wedding but also the once in a lifetime show.

Along the way since Spring my guy and his very sweet assistant (her name is Natalie and always made me picture my friend Mary's gorgeous daughter Natalie although I still haven't met her face to face) worked very hard to make sure we had crossed all the t's and dotted all the i's. Honestly, I don't think if we had gone to the hearing in June we would have been successful. A few key things happened between then and now, including (but not limited to) getting an affidavit from my last ever supervisor explaining how much difficulty I had working, finally getting a diagnosis for the PAS and being able to tie all of that in with all of the other things that make life difficult for me, getting two really awesomely helpful forms filled out by my pain doctor and my primary care doctor. I complained about the 11th hour doctor visits to get those forms filled out but they made a huge difference.

Ultimately what made a big difference from me was having consistency between the doctors' observations and the observations of my two prior employers. I can't even begin to tell you - no, literally I can't tell you because I am not able to discuss the details of my "unintentional sabbatical" from the next to the last employer - but the way certain things were done made my case. M-A-D-E it. I'm not up to digging up old blog entries at the moment but there was a moment, driving in the rain from the unemployment office, feeling so broken and disheartened and hurt, really hurt by the things that had happened. A voice inside of me said, "what man means for my harm, you use for my good." There was absolutely no way then to know what I know now but I know now that what happened was for my good.

I have been completely out of money for a long time. I spent every dime to my name, literally. I don't know what people do in those circumstances, I really don't. My parents have stood in the gap and made a way for me throughout all of this. I mean, lodging, for one thing, cat food and cat litter and people food, for another. They've paid for all of my pain doctor appointments and all of my prescriptions and that hasn't come cheap. Yesterday my attorney told me that having continued to see the doctor consistently even when it was self-pay demonstrated how very real my pain was. Most people are not able to do that and I couldn't have done that on my own. Seriously, this process is way too long. I know why people give up and go back to work and suffer because it is a long process. Buy private disability insurance, people. For real.

Yesterday I went to meet with my attorney and he laid out the case for me and explained what he had sent in his brief (I think that's the right word?) about my case to the judge. There was the stuff I've already talked about and other things... such as a stable work history. Again, I didn't have a choice about working, I had to provide for my kids and sometimes it was only me providing for them (and my parents, again, who helped out UH-lot). There were times when working was very, very hard for me. My attorney found medical records going back to Jacksonville where I was already having back pain. I totally forgot about those things because I've really blanked out all of the things from back then out of my mind. When I left Jacksonville I was seriously in no condition to work but I had to go to work so that I could have a place to live so that Austin could go to school. And I had to keep working, even when it was miserable because I needed to keep Austin in school. Doing the very hard things that I had to do along the way made a difference for me today.

Gosh this is long. I'd do a two-parter but I hate having to wait for details, don't you? Take a break if you need to. I'll wait.

Anyways... so yesterday was a review of the case and practicing answering questions and watching a video of the process with my attorney. We went in early today for more of the same. My attorney told me this morning that there was practically no way I would have a decision today, in fact, he thought it would be 2-3 months before a decision! Ugh. He was going to request to leave the case open so we could get additional info on the PAS stuff because it's a very important link in the chain of stuff wrong with me. He said that if the judge asked us to amend the disability date from my last day of working full time to towards the end of me working part-time it was a very good sign.

I am no longer an extrovert. Pain has made me less enthusiastic and outgoing. I am much more self-conscious and much less articulate than I used to be. I have never had stage fright or had a hard time talking to strangers... I'm the girl who will chat with a stranger in the stall next to me in a public bathroom... but it's harder now for me to make things make sense. (Obviously, five hours into this blog entry). I didn't allow myself to dwell on the fact that I was going to have to talk to a judge before my meeting with my attorney yesterday. I couldn't allow myself to allow that anxiety to build any bigger than it had to be. Even after practicing with my attorney I was really not looking forward to the hearing today. And then as we sat outside the courtroom my attorney cautioned me not to make any jokes to the judge which, if you know my family, you know is hard. Real hard. We're not always funny but we try really hard to be.

So we were called into the hearing. It wasn't like a tv courtroom... it was more like a conference room with a judge sitting behind a pulpit at the end of a long oblong table. My attorney and myself sat at the table with microphones in front of us. The court reporter sat at a desk off to the side. There was a vocational expert teleconferenced in with us.

The first question the judge asked was if we could amend the disability date from the end of working full time to closer to the end of working part-time. I knew that was a good sign but my nerves didn't let me process that quite then. My attorney asked me a bunch of questions about basic things like name, birthday, family specifics like how many kids I have and where I live. He asked me a few - but not many - questions about how my health problems impact my ability to work. I thought I must be doing a bad job because he didn't ask me many questions.

Then the judge asked me to explain about the PAS - post ablation syndrome - in layman's terms. That was difficult because I was discussing stuff that I would normally hide behind clinical terms to make it less personal. I gave him the best explanation I could and apologized (unnecessarily, of course), for the TMI. I actually used the term, "TMI" with the judge. My attorney told him we had requested documents from the diagnosing doctor but had not yet received them.

THEN the judge talked to the invisible vocational expert (via phone) and gave him hypothetical scenarios for someone in my profession asking whether or not the conditions I have would make it impossible for me to work. The vocational expert said that there was no type of work of the kind I was trained for OR of any other kind that a hypothetical person with my hypothetical health problems could do. I was still processing that statement when the judge gave his decision. He didn't wait... he just said something to the effect of finding that I was disabled by the standards set by Social Security and I was eligible to receive benefits and that I was also eligible for medicare. Then he said, "I'm sorry that you're having to live with this kind of pain and I hope that you'll be able to get some relief in the future". He explained that he'd have to write up his decision which should take between 4-6 weeks and they would pay me for disability starting back to the end of March 2013. And we were dismissed.

I heard what the judge said but I didn't fully comprehend it... like I knew what it meant but I couldn't quite wrap my mind around it. I honestly thought I'd never get approved because ... I mean, rejection has happened a lot in my life. And even if I did get approved I thought it would be months down the road before I heard. We had a little victory discussion with my attorney and... that was that! My attorney said he didn't ask me many questions because he knew from the opening discussion that the judge had already decided in my favor just based on the evidence submitted. I say "just" but it was a lot of stuff.

My phone was in the car because we weren't allowed to bring them into the courthouse (never felt so lost in my life!) so as soon as I got in the car I started texting people. I was shaking... partly because of the emotion of it all and partly because I'm for-realz in a lot of pain today and I didn't take anything because, you know, having to talk to a judge and all. I texted back and forth with folks most of the way back to the house and then settled myself down in my nest to rest and recap.

I feel like I should give some sort of profound observation here but I'm still so stunned. It's a game changer for me. In a good way. Thanks for all of your support and encouragement throughout all of this long process! So much love for all of you!

And, right on schedule, Cosette laughed out loud today for what I think was the first time! Happy days are here again! Maybe they never really left...