My parents married in 1969. A few years later mom was sick with, what she thought, was an ongoing stomach bug. She had been told years earlier that she would never be able to have children, so they tested her for everything under the sun (including lead poisoning)… until my father took her to see his physician, who was “a country doctor”. When she said, “I can’t have children?” when he started quizzing her about her symptoms, he replied with, “Did God tell you this?”. A few minutes later they told her that she was definitely pregnant. Oops!

On a mild January evening (I’m from Missouri… the weather changes from minute-to-minute! But I love it here!) I made my debut into the world, kicking and screaming… and I’ve never stopped kicking and screaming, much to the dismay of those around me! Dad had 3 sons from his first marriage, and he was thrilled that he had a daughter to complete the family (although I don’t think he ever expected having to deal with someone like me!).

My brothers are quite a bit older than I am; the 2 older ones have their families (3 children each, and those children are having children)… the younger brother is the “Token Gay Guy” in the family. It’s just like having a sister! He loves to cook (and he taught me a lot of what I know!), and he’s great to take clothes shopping (more than once he’s said, “That’s awful! Get it off!”). And, occasionally, we fight like sisters… but I love him, and he’s the only one in the family that I average talking to 4 times a week (if not every day!).

My childhood was mostly boring, except for a few random medical issues (diabetes since age 3, asthma, arthritis) until the fall of 1994- when I was involved in a severe head-on car wreck. After spending a few months in the hospital, and going through a few years of physical therapy, I’m still in a wheelchair, but I’ve exceeded the expectations of my physicians (who said I would be bed-fast for the rest of my life). The wreck added a few more medical issues to my life, but I thank my lucky stars that I’m still alive and I’m willing to accept what I’ve been dealt! Although, being in a wheelchair has proven interesting… “Handicapped” facilities aren’t really for the “handicapped”. Toilets are too low, doors are too narrow… leaving home is always an experience.

My dad was diagnosed with kidney cancer in the fall of 2004. He fought the fight, enduring removal of his kidney, chemo, radiation, dialysis (the surviving kidney wasn’t in good shape) and finally lost his battle with it on January 12, 2006. Mom wasn’t doing well (at first we thought it was grief) and put the property, which I had basically grown up on, for sale right after dad died. One person had inquired about buying the property, and she had told them ‘no’; a few months later I was in Florida with Russ when we learned that she decided to sell part of the property to the person that had originally inquired, and that others were looking at the remaining property. We immediately said, “No! We’ll buy it!” and rushed home to stop her from selling her house and the property it sat upon.

So we bought the property from her, then started pondering building a home. We obtained the cash for the house, so we have a home on the ‘farm’ (where I grew up) in Missouri… and Russ has a home in Arkansas (where he works during the week).

As time progressed, she started making more and more irrational decisions. We finally learned she had dementia, which explained a lot, but also started us on a very interesting path. As the dementia worsened, she became increasingly violent and distrustful. She was always accusing people (whether it be me, her housekeeper, her friends, her caretaker or her hospice nurse) of stealing things or hiding things from her. Anytime I tried to take her somewhere (like the doctor, for which she had an appointment) and she didn’t want to go, she would hit on me during the whole drive. When someone would first meet her, they wouldn’t see this side of her… but the more ‘familiar’ they became in her life, the more this ‘side’ of her started to show. Several times I had folks call to apologize to me for ‘doubting’ me when I would tell them that this is what was happening. Even SHE knew that something wasn’t right… occasionally she would say, “I think I’m going crazy!”. But that was always early in the morning, while her mind was still somewhat clear. Her health was compromised, anyway… she was diagnosed with COPD in January 2000, and had been on oxygen since she was diagnosed. She had a case of pneumonia hit her in late September, and she never really recovered from it. She passed away on October 28th, 2008.

For those curious about how “MadamMoo” came about… several years ago I was trying to think of a screen name for a website, and everything in the form of “moo” (which has been my nickname for years because I collect Holstein Cows) that I could think of were already taken. The TV was on in the other room, and Phil Donahue was interviewing the “Mayflower Madam”. I thought, “Heh, I wonder if MadamMoo will work?” and it did. Then, a few years later, Russ came home from work, on a typical day, and announced he had a surprise for me that required me to go to the computer. After a few seconds, the ‘welcome’ screen at madammoo.com popped up.

A few months after my wreck, I started on the next chapter of my life… although, at the time I had no idea that I was embarking on a new journey. But, here begins the tale of “Us“…