Tag Archives: University of Georgia

A Parallel Universe

Second Annual “Blogging for TSC Awareness Month” Day 29

by guest blogger Sara Weathersby  (Decatur, Georgia) 

At a UGA football game circa 1999.
At a UGA football game 1998 or 1999.

Unlike many who have blogged about TSC, I am not diagnosed with it or caring for someone who has the diagnosis.  I became aware of TSC and the havoc it wreaks through my friends Becky and Chris and their son Connor.  Becky and I went to college together and remained friends in the following years.  We were delighted to find out we were pregnant at the same time.  Connor was due just a month before my second son, Malcolm.  My older son, Max, was a young toddler at the time, so I would share product recommendations and advice with Becky over the next several months.

One day, Becky told me that the doctors found something irregular with Connor’s heart on an ultrasound and were going to observe him more carefully and call in a specialist to examine him once he arrived.  I honestly, confidently believed with every fiber of my being that the doctors were being overly cautious.  If ever there’s a time for doctors to be so cautious, it is certainly when the health of a baby, particularly my friend’s baby, is at stake.  Neither of us were very worried as we talked about ponytail holders and chapstick going into the bags to go to the hospital.

When Connor was born, Becky and I texted back and forth.  The delivery went well and she and Chris were just waiting for the nurse to bring him back to them after some observation.  They waited to hold and cuddle their precious new son.  I waited for the obligatory pictures to pop on my phone.  They waited to gaze into his eyes and memorize every inch of his perfect face.  I waited to hear once and for all that everything was great.

Becky's wedding reception 2010.
Becky’s wedding reception 2010.

But it wasn’t great.  While in the nursery a nurse noticed Connor was having a seizure.  While Becky and Chris waited, the nurses and doctors were trying to figure out what was going on with Connor and how to treat him.  They diagnosed him with TSC and kept him hospitalized for a month.  They determined that he would need neurosurgery to remove a tuber from his brain to hopefully stop the seizures.  The doctors expected him to have developmental delays but didn’t have a clue what that would look like.

This is not the kind of thing that happens to me or my friends.  We work hard, pay taxes and make good choices.  How could this be happening?  How could someone that I know and love have to go home from the hospital without her baby?  What could I possibly say to Becky and Chris?  I certainly had no “been there, done that” mommy advice to offer.

Somehow, Becky and her family were absorbed into some kind of parallel universe where you don’t get to room in with your newborn and take him home to his new nursery in a day or two.  Instead, my friend stayed at the side of her baby’s incubator surrounded by tubes, wires and machines that allowed the doctors to best figure out a plan for his treatment.

Meanwhile, I’m waddling around, near the end of my own completely healthy pregnancy with my completely healthy son.  I wondered what in the world I had to offer this friendship while Becky was going through so much.  I felt a strange sense of guilt and sadness.  All the while I shared in Becky and Chris’s joy that their son was born.

Sara's wedding 2009.
Sara’s wedding 2009.

If I was feeling all these emotions, how much more intense it must have been for Becky and Chris!  I grieved for all the expectations, spoken and unspoken, I had for this new phase in my friendship with Becky. We were both moms now and our sons were supposed to play together.  But what now?  How was TSC going to change our friendship?  I determined that it was better to show up not knowing exactly what to say or do and risk putting my foot in my mouth than to do or say nothing.  Becky and Chris sat in that parallel new parent universe where nothing comes easy.  They were so sad that Connor was having seizures and had been diagnosed with TSC but yet overjoyed to have a son.  They were devastated that there son is not typical but hopeful that his growth and development will come along such that TSC will not put any limits on what he can do.

In the universe I’m accustomed to of course parenting is tough and an emotional roller coaster.  In the parallel universe where Becky is, it seems more intense.  There are more doctors and appointments to keep, more worry, more money to spend, more resources to find.  Everything is just more.  Meanwhile, my own little one made his way into the world and disrupted everything in just the way you expect.  How do I step into this strange place where Becky and Chris are without sounding trite or lacking compassion?

It actually turned out to be pretty easy to be maintain our friendship.  We just kept texting and talking about our boys.  Connor’s milestones look different

Connor in the cow costume, Malcolm as the monkey, Max as the big pirate, and their friend David the pirate.
Connor in the cow costume, Malcolm as the monkey, Max as the big pirate, and their friend David the pirate.

from Malcolm’s.  Connor has to work so much harder to get from milestone to milestone, but he’s doing it.  I was afraid Connor’s diagnosis would put awkwardness in my friendship with Becky because I just wouldn’t understand how different it is to parent a child with special needs.  When the boys play together (as much as they do as young toddlers) it’s clear that Becky and I have a lot more in common as moms of toddlers than there are differences in parenting a special needs child and a typical child.  The fact that Connor has special needs actually didn’t alter our friendship all that much.  Perhaps that’s because Becky and Chris love Connor so completely and have managed to accept that TSC is a part of their lives now.   They haven’t let TSC cast a shadow on their lives or rob them of the joy of parenting.  They have made it easy to ask questions about TSC and what it means for Connor.

As the months went by, I started to realize the idea of the parallel universe where families with special needs children live wasn’t really accurate.  We buy the same diapers, and clothes for our kids.

Malcolm doesn't mind crawling around with Connor, even though he can walk already.
Malcolm doesn’t mind crawling around with Connor, even though he can walk already.

We live with the same healthcare system.  Instead of thinking of families with special needs children living off and away somewhere doing mysterious special needs things they don’t want people like me bugging them about, they’re actually at the same Target store I go to.  We live in the same world but unless you know someone whose child is ill, you can keep going along in your own circles and never hear the stories of these families and their precious children.

In Georgia, we recently had an opportunity to legalize medical marijuana for children with seizure disorders.  Our state representatives failed miserably to pass the very popular bill.  This experience made it clear to me the importance of raising awareness of TSC and the reality faced by families with special needs children.  Just because a policy, or law or healthcare plan works for you or at least doesn’t hinder you doesn’t mean that you don’t have a voice in improving the lives of our most vulnerable children.  Those of us who are blessed with healthy children owe it to our friends, relatives and the people in our communities who are raising special needs kids to keep investing in those relationships even when, and especially when, a child is diagnosed with an illness or syndrome.  We can make our healthcare system work better and our government more responsive.  But first, we all have to be aware.

In the dorm -- Myers Hall at UGA -- in 1998.
In the dorm — Myers Hall at UGA — in 1998.
Both pregnant at Becky's baby shower 2012.
Both pregnant at Becky’s baby shower 2012.

 

Advertisements

Losing my Athens, Georgia

Ever since I found out last week that Junkman’s Daughter’s Brother in Athens is closing, I have been listening to R.E.M.’s Out of Time and feeling that lovely combination of nostalgic and depressed, which is a little weird because R.E.M. actually predates my time in Athens. Nonetheless, I did spend four years trying to spot Michael Stipe around town and was the only one of my friends that never did. Very disappointing because I had the perfect line to approach him since my initials at the time were R.E.M. He would have been charmed, I’m sure.

courtesy theredandblack.com
Junkman’s Daughter’s Brother courtesy theredandblack.com

Another significant Athens business closing? I really can’t take it. I’ve yet to recover from the loss of the greatest coffee shop I’ve ever known and the hits just keep on coming. I know everyone thinks their era was the best, but I can assure you, it was all about 1998-2002.

Blue Sky. Oh, Blue Sky. Admittedly your Mocha Freezes weren’t always consistent, but the way we’d smell after studying there for a few hours sure was. The walls were always covered in original art that ranged from amazing to downright terrifying at times. I was there to hate on the new Starbucks when it showed up next door and while all the silly freshman who didn’t know any better trekked into that corporate box, we Blue Sky patrons packed the house and basked in the comfort of knowing we were better and smarter. Sometime after I graduated, you decided to expand and serve alcohol in addition to being a coffee shop. My heart sank a little as you betrayed your true calling, and soon you were gone from us forever.

courtesy cooltownstudios.com
courtesy cooltownstudios.com

Mexicali. You were basic, standard Mexican food and almost fully staffed by students, or at least people in that age range. You were so busy that a portion of your staff was dedicated to “chipping.” Yes, just making sure the tables had chips. But you left it to your young staff to make the pitchers of margarita instead of using professional bartenders. And for that, your hammered patrons thanked you.

courtesy jrheimbach http://photos.igougo.com/restaurant-photos-b147629-Athens-Mexicali_Grille.html
courtesy jrheimbach http://photos.igougo.com/restaurant-photos-b147629-Athens-Mexicali_Grille.html

Caliente Cab, you were awesome outdoor eating. Incredible Cuban sandwiches and we could bring our own booze or run into the gas station next door. I hear you may still exist in some form somewhere else, but I don’t have to go to know it’s not the same.

One the location of Caliente Cab. courtesy flagpole.com
Once the location of Caliente Cab. courtesy flagpole.com

One of my favorite freshman memories is of the 80s disco at Georgia Theatre. It was from 2 am to 4 am on the weekends after concerts cleared out. On those rare occasions we weren’t in the mood to go out at our usual hour of 11 pm, we’d set our alarms, take a nap and wake up at 1 and get ready. Then came the new closing time ordinance. Might as well have become that little town in Footloose the way it hurt so bad to lose our weekly dose of Prince and Michael Jackson. Of course, Georgia Theatre isn’t actually gone, despite a major fire that gutted it in 2009. But it’s all clean and colorful outside now which makes me fear that the interior no longer properly reeks of stale beer or boasts a floor you wouldn’t sit on even if both your legs were broken.

courtesy Brad Kuntz
courtesy Brad Kuntz

Molly O’Shea’s Irish Pub. Your Amaretto Sours live on in my heart.

Unknown

The Winery. But NOT the recently closed Broad Street location. I liked you before your plastic surgery makeover — the original and smaller location a couple blocks away. Once you moved to the main street, everyone from Milledge Ave. found you. And ruined you.

5047a397ce2a0.preview-200

“I think you ladies are in the wrong bar!” was how we were once greeted walking into Lunch Paper, the punk bar. It was understandable confusion since most of us looked like we had walked out of a dressing room at Express or Old Navy. But we still loved you. I even remember how we used to go every Monday to watch the new episode of The Osbournes which you always took care to have on the TV. Kids these days probably don’t know that the first season of that show was super awesome and beloved before the family was crammed down our throats from every conceivable angle and Sharon was on six shows at once (not hating, just saying).

Unknown-1

I didn’t actually realize at the time that Five Star Day Cafe was new when I was a freshman. But damn, fifteen years of that that mac and cheese.

courtesy fivestardaycafe.com
courtesy fivestardaycafe.com

Farewell, Schoolkids Records. Damn you, technology.

courtesy onlineathens.com
courtesy onlineathens.com

Now my guilty pleasure. The place that probably won’t show up on many, okay any, best of Athens lists. AMF or Athens Music Factory came about after I started school with cheap drinks and dancing. You have had about a hundred names — Fifth Quarter before you became AMF, Last Call after. I can’t even find one picture of you online. But you are burned in my memory. Sort of. Actually it’s kind of hazy. You actually sold liquor drinks to minors for a quarter with a fallible wristband system. We saved them all and had every color in our purses ready to go. I don’t know why. I don’t think you really cared. But you did give us Thursday 80s night in a beguiling attempt to fill the hole left by Georgia Theatre.

And oh, what they’ve done to my dorm with their renovations. Those kids. They don’t know the true Myers Hall. The true Myers Hall didn’t have air conditioning or fancy, modern “up to code” features. Reader, you may wonder why I would choose such a dorm. The reason was my inability to read between the lines back in 1998 during my senior year of high school. The other buildings in the community were described in the brochure as having AC, while it was pointed out that Myers housed the air-conditioned computer lab. You see, it did not occur to me — IN 1998 — that a dorm would not have air conditioning. In Georgia. In August. When I discovered my blunder, I waited to be murdered by my friend since 8th grade, Giovana, who was to be my roommate and trusted me to make the decision since she didn’t give a crap and I was obsessed with the matter. Fortunately, she missed all my major arteries and we went on to have two great years there. No AC meant everyone’s door was always open and it attracted an interesting array of people. But these kids now are living in chilly asbestos-free suites, never to know the amazing feeling of kicking your sheets off in the middle of the August night and turning your window fan to high. This generation will be so entitled.

Back of renovated Myers Hall and quad. courtesy collinscoopercarusi.com
Back of renovated Myers Hall and quad. courtesy collinscoopercarusi.com

I guess nothing lasts forever. And sometimes that just sucks.

110922AthensGaPage

So, The Grill, don’t even think about it. Ever. Seriously. My heart couldn’t take it.

courtesy thequickanddirtydirty.com
courtesy thequickanddirtydirty.com

College pics…just cuz.

The Good

599569_10151363468744372_1311546202_n-1

Myers Hall - Fall 1998
Myers Hall – Fall 1998
Myers and the Quad - 1998
Myers and the Quad – 1998
My favorite shot I took of College Ave.
My favorite shot I took of College Ave.
Quad activities!
Quad activities!
Freshman Christmas gift exchange on 4 North.
Freshman Christmas gift exchange on 4 North.
Fries and feta at the Grill.
Fries and feta at the Grill.
Does the hot dog guy still come to campus?
Does the hot dog guy still come to campus?

IMG_6768

IMG_6769

IMG_6759

IMG_6771

IMG_6770

The Bad

The day I learned dishwasher soap and dish soap are not interchangeable.
The day I learned dishwasher soap and dish soap are not interchangeable.

And the truly ugly…with some beauty.

IMG_6760

IMG_6763

IMG_6764

IMG_6765
IMG_6766



The worst job I ever had.

The worst job I ever had was not actually the worst, but it was exceptionally stressful in my 20-year-old mind that cared too much what other people thought.

It was a thankless job — the kind of job you keep a secret. The kind of job you lie about and claim you’ll be busy studying when you’re actually scheduled to work a shift. The kind of job you swear your friends to secrecy about.

Was I a stripper? A drug dealer? An operator of a webcam sex site, as an RA in my dorm community was found out and fired for? Please. All of those are far more socially acceptable on a college campus than what I did.

I worked for parking services.

Yes. I wrote…wait for it…parking tickets!

Potential social suicide, but you try finding a decent part-time job in Athens anywhere near campus when you’re deathly afraid of waiting tables (never been a waitress because I don’t have to try it to know I would suck at it–I’m sorry. I just realized I wasn’t listening when you ordered. What did you want?)

The job was so easy. You were assigned specific lots to monitor and given a handheld device to check plates. I had to make sure the proper parking pass was displayed and then run the plate for other violations if it wasn’t. If the machine barked at me, yes, literally barked, I had to radio my supervisor for a boot. It was great because we were specifically instructed to sit in our cars during class changes. We struck as students were getting their learn on. So suck on that, kids trying to get educated! I never ceased to be amazed how many students were on a first name basis with my supervisor. They’d rack up the tickets, get booted, daddy paid, then get the boot removed. They literally drove themselves door to-door.

My saving grace was that my assigned lots were graduate student and faculty. I did not want to work commuter lots under any circumstance as that was where I was most likely to encounter other undergrads that I might know. Then one day, my supervisor radioed me with a horrifying request that I monitor the commuter lot near North Campus where all the business majors park. In my time at UGA, it seemed like everyone majored in business but me, the journalism major. All my friends parked there, which was fine, because my good friends knew my secret.Problem was, a whole lot of casual friends and acquaintances parked there, too. It was like a stealth operation. During class change, I fought the urge to hide in the trunk and slunk down in my seat. As I made my rounds, I was prepared to throw myself over hoods to go into hiding.

But then I heard it. “Becky? What are you doing? You work for PARKING SERVICES?” Oh, crap. Busted by guy I knew from my dorm days. I saw him quite a bit because he had a crush on one of my friends. I went into my usual ramble for when I would get outed, “Blah blah, never heard back from The Gap blah blah pays more than the library…”

“That’s cool,” he lied. Lied, most likely, because he then pointed out that he wasn’t parked in an actual space. This lot was infamous for filling up quickly and forcing people to trek all the way out to the Ramsey gym lots and take the bus back in. He was worried I would write him a ticket. I assured him I wouldn’t, but I also warned him my shift was almost over and that I couldn’t make promises for what would happen then. He seemed satisfied and went to class.

When I clocked in for my next shift, my supervisor asked me into her office. Turns out jerkface got a ticket later that day. And what did he do? Complained to parking services that I had told him it was okay to park there. I assured her that I warned him he was taking a risk by parking there, and I had not made him any guarantee that he wouldn’t be ticketed. They were actually pretty nice in the department and understood that I wasn’t going to write a ticket on the car of someone I knew, especially face-to-face. But he could have lost me my job telling them I was giving permission to park illegally. I should have let him have it, but the on the few occasions we ran into him downtown, I just ignored him and walked away.

There was a big giant bright side to the job though. Remember how I mentioned I patrolled faculty lots? I had one particular English professor that I hated. She was a writer. A writer from Hah=vahd. She went so far as to let her students know how much better Harvard was than Georgia — then why didn’t they hire you? She was like the female version of the guy in Good Will Hunting that likes apples, but doesn’t get Minnie Driver’s number. She supervised a study abroad program in England I was on in which she asserted her superiority daily in class and scheduled a mandatory activity every Thursday night, even though classes ended early Thursday and we had Fridays free to travel and this prevented anyone from going very far.  Almost two months after we returned, my two roommates and I received an e-mail that the laptop we were assigned was “broken.” It  worked when we turned it in, but now we were expected to pay for it. However, we were not to be defeated in a battle of wits by a professor that was still dumb enough in 2000 to post students’ social security numbers on her door, so once she was directed to contact our lawyer (a roommate’s dad) we never heard another word.

Not long after all this drama, she busted me in the faculty lot she parked in. “Ohhhh, I didn’t know you were a meeeeeeeeter maid,” she sneered in a condescending tone. I just smiled. “You move fast. I think you wrote me a ticket last week. I parked on the lines because I only had to run in for a minute…” I don’t remember what I actually said, I only know that for a few seconds I debated my options. She still had the ticket with her unpaid. I could offer to take it, and possibly get it taken care of. Generally, parking services doesn’t do that, but they might if I explained the awkward position with my professor. But no. The sarcastic “meeeeeeeeter maid” played over in my mind. So I walked away after carefully studying her vehicle. I vowed I would ticket it every opportunity I got (sadly I never got one).

I still take joy in that ticket. It was worth every bit of stress.

Nonetheless, I took a 50 cent pay cut the following year to shelve periodicals at the science library. It took less of an emotional toll.

This white powder ain’t for skiing.

I’m going to out myself. The other day I received a package from UPS. There was a powder inside. White powder. I have a problem.

But let us go back in time, to when the problem began. I was a relatively healthy kid, no stick, but not fat by any means. In high school, I officially spent some time as “skinny.” As in skinny enough to get some attention for being “skinny.” It’s like a drug. The attention makes you high. And I got that way because two of my friends threw themselves equally into exercising obsessively along with me. In retrospect, I think I may have qualified as an exercise bulimic because every time I ate something I felt the compulsion to jump, dance, or run around to burn it off immediately. It was a pretty impressive weight loss considering one of the girls in the trio was something of a compulsive liar, and apparently a saboteur as I discovered sometime later in a shop on Buford Highway. My beloved, and as she claimed, low fat, low cal Indian cookies she always had on hand for me at her house were quite the opposite. But how was I to know? It’s not like I could read the label.

But eventually I got bored, hungry and spent more time with other friends, so the exercising waned, I put on a little weight, but not too much and all was fine for my senior year. Then I went to college. Forget the image of the starving student surviving on ramen. I had the meal plan! All you can eat, all day long. And here I was, with more freedom, booze and food than I knew what to do with. (disclaimer: The University of Georgia did not provide booze in the dining halls. Mean students who peer pressured me into drinking 😛 did) I love the pictures we snapped of ourselves that first semester at 11:00 at night as we got ready to hit downtown Athens, mostly because those are the only ones I look good in. Because then I gained the freshman 15. Three times.

After graduation, I used my journalism degree to obtain a high ranking position at Barnes & Noble (see cashier, bookseller). The inability to find a full time job left me with lots of time to exercise again and so I began shedding my college souvenir weight. After about a year of being shocked at how stupid customers in a book store could be (I stupidly assumed we’d get a better clientele than Wal-Mart), I decided I was tired of hearing people whine about how we charged tax on newspapers and that this latte surely wasn’t decaf, so I took a teaching job in Daegu, Korea. I worked out here:

No, seriously. I walked into that building and paid them money with no expectation of being murdered. The movie Hostel hadn’t been released yet. I was innocent to the ways of the world. So despite a lifestyle of being surrounded by countless peers in their 20s who had expendable income to burn on food and drink. And drink. And drink. I did manage to keep from porking up.

I left Korea to face reality…oh, wait. No I didn’t. I went to Spain for two months and took Spanish immersion classes, as I had many Korean won to spend.  This is where I started to mildly derail again. Fortunately, being in Europe entails lots of walking, which helped me somewhat fight the effects of Spanish hot chocolate. If you aren’t familiar, hot chocolate there has a consistency of cake batter. It’s thick and amazing. I want to get all Augustus Gloop around it and shove myself into the mug. I’m pretty sure I started to put a couple pounds on again.

The real trouble started when I went home. I started my master’s degree in education and also worked at Starbucks. We’ve already established that higher education makes me fat. Now I also had (unofficial) access to all the mochas I could ever want. I swear I had put on 20 pounds within three months of starting work there. And for those of you who order sugar-free syrup and fat-free milk but keep the whipped cream, well we laugh at you. Starbucks isn’t using Reddi-whip. The whipped cream alone will have Jerry Springer knocking your wall down before you know it. FYI: It’s made with heavy cream.

And so, by the time I began my student teaching I had once again gained a significant amount of weight. As I started my career, I once again began to hit the gym regularly and shed pounds. And I did great. I maintained. I ate well. I discovered that truly the best way to take weight off and keep it off is to make it about eating well and nutrition, not just weight loss. It was the best I ever felt as far as my weight goes. But then I met my now husband, and we ladies know how that often goes. Why go to the gym when you can go out to dinner. And so weight crept on again. This time I decided to reign it in before it got to hideously out of control, and began to lose weight. After some time I decided what better way to lose weight than getting pregnant? Sigh. I love my baby, but not this tummy. And that bring us to the present. I’m nearly 8 months from having Connor and I’ve been at a plateau with the leftover baby weight for about five of those months. I can squeeze into one pair of jeans, and I own about eight. I’m sick of wearing the same flowy shirts over and over. Even though I don’t believe in it, even though I’ve said there is no point in losing weight in a manner you can’t maintain, even though we bought an elliptical and stationary bike, I’m so flipping frustrated that I’ve decided to try the white powder.

Meal replacement shakes. Be afraid. Be very afraid. I like the art of chewing. This could get ugly.