Current Events and Forthcoming Appointments

Life goes on, as it is wont to do. Sun rises, sun sets; minutes, hours and then days past.

My life tends to blur at the edges. Without a set schedule, going to bed and then getting up whenever I want to is decidedly a luxury. The only downside of this arrangement is that I lose track of the days and am always vaguely amazed that the weekend has come around again. If it weren’t for our appointments, I would never know what day it was. I keep the date on my computer specifically so that I can determine day of the week as well as its numerical annotation for the month.

We have had relatively few appointments this past month. I went to the acupuncturist, my psychologist, and for some testing. (More on that later.) Beloved had a couple of extra appointments, but his main obligations are group therapy followed by his game night. He is the God of the dungeons, the Game Master (or Dungeon Master, depending on who you ask) for a group of 8-9 folks who gather to play his game of make believe. Everyone seems to be having a good time–and it’s really good for him. He needs the activity to give him something to do. He has to prepare the next session’s events during the week. He will print out the cards that show the items the group can find or buy. He has a book that has a rough sketch of each encounter, but he works with it, modifying and adding as needed. This game has also given him a circle of friends…which the gods know is not the easiest thing to do when finances are limited.

I continue to be very grateful for the people I interact and communicate with on Facebook. I belong to several groups and have Pages of my own that I share with the world at large. So between the groups and my own timeline, I stay pretty well up to date on current events and world happenings. Of course the major subject these days is the upcoming election. I will be so glad when it’s over. The anxiety of not knowing who will be the President is a real and bothersome thing for me. If the GOP candidate wins, Beloved and I are not in a position to ignore the consequences of his campaign promises. Any substantive change to taxes, Federally funded social services and the economy in general could be catastrophic for us. Like so many Americans, we live on the verge of poverty. We are both fortunate to have healthcare. Beloved is on Medicare because of his disability and I get mine from the Veteran’s Administration. Neither of us can live anything resembling a meaningful life without the medications we require. If they become too expensive for us, our quality of life will disintegrate. I have enough things to worry about without the political uproar…less than 40 days and the question will be answered. Now if I can just keep my head together.

I’m going to go through my various diagnoses–bear with me if you’ve seen this list before. I have as a major diagnosis, fibromyalgia; I also have degenerative arthritis specifically in my spine, in two main spots: the lumbar part (right where the waist twists, where you bend over, near the kidneys) and the worst example of this disease in the neck, where 2 of my discs have completely disappeared. I have some other minor physical issues: asthma, GERD, IBD. that sort of thing. I also have clinical depression and a stress-anxiety disorder. Both of them interfere with me almost more than the physical problems. Depression has been a pretty constant companion for years, although untreated until 4-5 years ago. The stress-anxiety disorder is rather new and really bothersome to me. I can no longer be among large groups, any place with a lot of noise, or lots of children running around being loud. It overloads my brain, so to speak–and I begin to freak out and cry. The irony of this is that I used to be out with large groups of people, with lots of noise and children running around and none of it bothered me “back then”.

I also tire easily, but that’s more or less to be expected with the decrease in activity and the pain and then the meds for the pain. But life isn’t all bad–it’s worse than it was, but I’d still rather be living this life than being alone. I can’t imagine being alive without Beloved being with me. I do think that part of my unexpected trip down the road of disability stems from that while I was still working, still being the only one paying my bills, I was pushing through signs of the upcoming storm–but when I found Beloved, a part of my mind said I could relax and not worry about the roof or the food and then, bingo!, there I was…busted and no warranty.

The VA has been amazing about taking care of me. I’m beyond grateful for them. I cannot imagine having to deal with Medicare (MediCal, they call it here) with all the things I have needed and the meds I take. I know that I would not be on morphine to deal with the pain–the public healthcare does not give out opiates. And I can’t imagine life without them.

So I think I mentioned in my last blog that I had gotten a new pain–and the X-rays verified an impingement in my right hip. I also think I told you that when I finished getting my neck MRI, the technician pulled me out of the machine and for some reason, I’m not sure what, the table dropped about 2-3 inches–and caught me right across the middle of the back. I think that has done something to that impinged hip, since the pain is worse since that day. I go see my PCP on Monday and we’ll talk about it. I’m due to have an MRI for my hip within this month, so we’ll be able to compare that to the X-rays and see if there is anything worse.

In the meantime, after my last visit to the doctor and based upon our discussion, I have been measured and trained for my new form of transportation. I am going into an electric wheelchair. I wanted the ease of a joystick rather than having to reach out and manage the mobility scooter. That got tiring and painful, using the parts of my body that hurt the most. I also decided that I’d rather save the energy that I currently use up walking in the house for other things, like being able to do more complicated cooking. And with the hip hurting, I am really sure that this is a good thing. I’m not upset about it and maybe I should be, but I have always figured I end up in a wheelchair.

The occupational therapist and I think the physical therapist–anyways, 2 people from the VA clinic came to the house last Thursday and brought a “training” wheelchair. I did a little driving around, learned how to manage the curb cuts (where a driveway goes out into the street) and seeing how I’d manage in the house. I could get into the bathroom, but not back out…not surprising considering its layout. They measured–our van’s back hatch, fully open. They got the numbers off of the crane lift I already have to ascertain the weight capacity of it. They measured me, to see how high my foot support had to be, which chair would work the best for my ass and back. Then we talked about accessories! I don’t know for sure what will or will not be added as extra, but I asked for a visibility flag, a backpack that fits on hooks behind me on the back of the chair (and the hooks, of course); if there’s a lap desk, I want one. I also got to pick out 2 colors–so I might get a purple wheelchair!!! If not, then it will be red. So the 2 therapists will fill out and submit the paperwork, and it begins its travels through approval and procurement–and then it will be built just for me. So I’m looking at about 2-3 months before it shows up. Of course I’m hoping for sooner rather than later, since I sure could be using it now. Until it arrives, I will limp around the house.

I have also gotten my shower bench! YAY! and a gel pad for the scooter (which will go in the wheelchair in its time) and a clothing assistance device—basically a dowel stick with a cup hook on one end and a larger hook on the other. I’m supposed to use it to help pull up pants, get sweaters on, and so forth. So far, I’ve used it to turn off or on the overhead light. LOL

I do admit that while I’m not unduly sad at going into the wheelchair, it is a reminder that not only am I already disabled, but that I’m not going to get better–and may get worse. A person in a wheelchair is very often not even seen, since they are below the average eye level. People treat the handicapped very differently than the able-bodied and not always in a good way. The folks around here are amazingly kind–but there is some personal chagrin when someone who is obviously in their 70’s asks me if they can help. It will be interesting–and educating–to see the difference between being in the mobility scooter and in a wheelchair, in how I am treated and what unimagined things may happen. But I do know that if there’s a real problem, it’s theirs and not mine. I do what I have to do, in order to have some semblance of a life. And if that means riding everywhere, then so be it.

Thank you for letting me share. Peace and blessings to you all!

Getting Poked and Mauled

I have mentioned going for acupuncture before–but it had been about 8 or 9 months since I had last seen R to be stuck with needles. I got my new referral and this one is more realistic: I have 48 visits and 365 days to accomplish them. At the current rate of twice a week, it won’t take me that long.

He made some changes while I was gone. He hired a massage therapist, C. So the new routine is to start with R, getting needles wherever needed. Then he paints me with the “Chinese Ben Gay”, points the heat lamps at my feet and wherever else I particularly need it and he leaves. I lay there and contemplate whatever comes to mind. After a while, C comes in and she smudges me with mugwort. (Smudges means she lights the herb on fire, then blows out the flame. The smoke that comes off is what she then lets “fall” on my body. Think of it as aroma therapy.)

Once she’s done that, then she takes out the needles and proceeds to give me a mini-message, from neck to hips–which is where I need it the most. Yesterday’s session went just a little differently at this point. Those of you who think like I do will understand; the rest of you just have to stop giggling over the New Age “Woo-Woo” stuff and try to understand.

C was massaging my back and she stopped, her hands still on me. “You want to be healed”, she said. Duh! She told me that most people just want to feel better. Then she placed her hands on me in several different places–the feet, the nape of my neck and the small of my back, and on my shoulders. She didn’t massage–she sent energy into me. I could feel things opening up that hadn’t flowed in a very long time. It’s the sort of thing that just happens and when you try to put it into words as I am doing, loses something in the telling.

It was profoundly spiritual. I am an empath, I heal others in this same manner. But I cannot heal myself. So to have this done for me, from her generosity of spirit, was a very emotional moment for me. I find it hard to even know which are the right words to describe what happened. It felt like she opened the doors to my own energy sources and set them free again. I could feel the energy flow in from her and then…I could feel my own energy moving around.

I am using the words I know and I am sure not everyone who reads this will understand what I am trying to convey. For those of you who follow a more “mainline” religion, think of it as a healing from the Spirit. More of a response to a request than a miraculous rising from the dead, but still, as I said, very spiritual. A sacred moment, indeed.

There were hugs all around when I came out of the treatment room. I told R that hiring her was the best thing he had done–and he agreed. I went out to the car where my beloved was waiting and tried to explain to him what had happened. He understands it, in a more secondhand way–he does not see or feel energy the way I do. All he does within the Craft, he just does without conscious focusing. But he got it. And then, poor man, he had to listen to me burble and chatter from my energy high.

We went to get something to eat–getting centered and grounded again by putting food into me was a good idea. We went to the local Mexican restaurant and I ordered a grilled chicken salad. The food was amazing. Not that it was any different from any other time, but I could taste it differently, if that makes sense. All of my taste buds were …enhanced?…more awake? Whatever it was, the meal was especially delicious to me. I managed to eat a lot more than I usually do.

And per R’s suggestion at some time in the sun, we rode out to the beach. We opened up the windows and just sat in the car, watching the waves. We had a seagull land on one of the big rocks (that separate the parking lot from the beach) right in front of our car. He stood there watching us for some time, before finally flying off to do some fishing.

That was yesterday and today I am still “buzzing” to a certain extent. It’s not that there is suddenly no pain. Pain has always been, and I’m fairly certain will always be, a constant companion. So I wouldn’t say there was some miracle cure for my body. But I feel better in my brain than I have in…forever. If all C can do is help drive out the depression or at least shut it down so that it doesn’t ooze over all of my thoughts, I will consider it a blessing and more than I could have ever hoped for.

The change is internal, within my mind and heart. I see them again tomorrow and it will be interesting to experience what else can happen when you have two people who are both walking a path very much like mine own. Their world view coincides with mine, so we are, as the saying goes, in simpatico. It always amazes me how I am led to those who understand me when I talk about the esoteric things like energy flow and my connection to the Universe–and thereby, my connection to everything and everyone within that Universe.

Let’s see if I can explain that a little better. When I first met R, it was like greeting an old friend. There was no hesitation, no guarded speech; just the meeting of minds that think very similarly. Likewise with C. I don’t have to be “discrete” about my Pagan life. (Like with my parents. We never talk about it because if we did, they would have to question their own religious views–or — and this more likely, just shut me down because I’m going to Hell.) His office and treatment rooms are very welcoming to me, with Pagan symbols and “rocks” (chunks o’ crystals) all over the place. He has music going all the time, best described as “New Age”. You’re not going to hear anything you really recognize unless you listen to the same sort of music.

Apparently I’m still burbling. Let’s just bring it down to this: I went and had acupuncture and massage and I’m feeling clearer and better in my head because of it. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s session.

Namaste and Peace!

Once a Mother, Always a Mother

I miss my children. It’s not the miles (we live across the country from each other), but it’s the passage of years. I am proud of them both. They’ve made good lives for themselves, with jobs and partners and children of their own. They have grown up to be what I had wished for them: responsible, independent, compassionate people.

But lately, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about those years when they were young. (And I was younger, but that’s not the point.) Looking back over all those years, it’s like a slideshow in my mind. Flickering images, passing in succession, of babies and toddlers and tweens and teens. I have come to realize that I loved every moment with them. I’d like to be able to relive some of that, to have a second chance to enjoy all those “firsts” for those new beings.

I had only the first 3 days of my eldest child’s life as I gave her up for adoption. While that was a hard decision, I have never doubted it, have always known that it was the best thing for her–even if it wasn’t what I would have wanted for me. But my circumstances were such that I was not able to have a child in my life at that time. I am still in contact and I am happy to report that her mother did a great job–I’m also very proud of her and her accomplishments.

W, my son, was born in the year of the Texas sesquicentennial (150 years) of statehood and the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty. I was 8 months pregnant with him when I watched Challenger blow up. Ronald Reagan was in the White House. We were listening to “That’s What Friends Are For”, “Addicted to Love”, “Rock Me Amadeus” and Prince was giving us a “Kiss”.

Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos had fled the Philippines, leaving her thousands of shoes behind. 1986 was the year of the nuclear accident at Chernobyl, Chicago won the Superbowl and the Mets were the World Champions. Science was giving us the first Hep B vaccine and superconductivity; Voyager passed Jupiter and sent back photos that answered some of our questions about it. Fox channel was born on our TV and Oprah had her show.

I was busy with more important things. W was born at the end of March. I watched him lift his head and turn it over while in his layette at the hospital. His father and I took him home and began our life as a family (not just a couple). Because I breastfed him, we had a lot of “face” time. I talked to him and sang to him–not unlike the mariachi bands that wander through the Mexican restaurants while you’re trying to eat. There were so many firsts, those remarkable moments of new actions, new abilities. His first smile was wonderful, all gums and happiness.

Now, looking back, it seems like the time went by like lightning…a flickering moment and then on to something else that was new. He learned to drink from a straw. He tasted strawberry jam for the first time. He laughed, that deep and wonderful belly laugh that only babies have. He went to Mother’s Day out, leaving the house as it had always been and then coming home to an empty house;then he crawled all over, looking for our things. He (and I) lived with his great-grandparents for several months until we left for Germany. His first Christmas filled the floor with presents from the grandparents / great-grandparents. He preferred his father’s optic orange golf ball.

He got a stuffed animal for his 2nd birthday, a duck we named George. W still has George and he still sleeps on W’s bed. Apparently his wife cuddled with George when he was on sea duty. He would take all of the toys out of the footlocker (toy box) and then climb in his…boat? Spaceship? Maybe it was his car… He had a toy phone and he would hold it up to his ear and hold a conversation–complete with pauses while the “other person” was speaking. He was a loving baby, happy to get hugs and kisses, which he learned to return with great enthusiasm. There was a certain feeling of awe to realize that I was the center of his Universe–at least for the first couple of years.

His sister (L) was born in 1988, when W was 2.5 years old. That was the year George Michael sang about his “Faith” and it was the first time we were Rick Rolled. (We didn’t even know that was what happened, those first few times of hearing Rick Astley singing.) And we all knew the words to Bobby McFerrin’s song…”Don’t Worry, Be Happy”. Reagan was still President. Pan-Am flight 103 exploded from a bomb, to crash in Lockerbie, Scotland. Benazir Bhutto was elected as the first Islamic woman to be Prime Minister in Pakistan; she said of her two terms in that position: “The government I led gave ordinary people peace, security, dignity, and opportunity to progress.”

Michael Dukakis and Lloyd Bentsen were the candidates for the Democrats; George Bush and Daniel Quayle were the GOP’s choice. Washington won the Superbowl; LA Dodgers were the World Series winners. CDs were outselling vinyl and Ted Turner created his own TV station. “The Last Emperor” won the Oscar for Best Picture. Oh, and the US Navy shot down an Iranian airliner after mistaking it for a jet fighter.

L was born in the middle of November, just in time to get Christmas presents that year. She was also born in Augsburg, Germany. The first stuffed animal she was given was from her father and brother–a little orange tabby kitten. Last I heard, L still has it.

Each of my pregnancies were different except for the morning sickness that lasted all day. This time, with L, I had a toddler to chase after and couldn’t just sit quietly, hoping for the queasiness to pass. By the time I was about 6 months along, poor little guy had to climb the four floors up to our apartment by himself. I wasn’t able to balance him and my tummy without feeling like we’d all go rolling down. The only question he asked me about the sibling that was coming along was “how does the baby get out?”. Whew. Missed the big one, “how did the baby GET IN?”

I announced this pregnancy to my grandparents (the “greats” for my kids) when I told my grandmother that I could not come to the US for their 50th wedding anniversary because the airline wouldn’t let me fly with a newborn. Instead, they came to Germany for Christmas and New Year’s. It was the first time they had ever been out of the US.

I got to see my children interact with my grandparents–the youngest and the oldest of the family. My grandfather took out his dentures to show W–who promptly ran to me and held on. I guess he thought he’d get bitten. For various reasons, I was bottle-feeding L and it has been a cherished memory, the sight of Grandmom, holding her and feeding her.

W took his position as the older brother seriously and was always helpful–bringing me diapers or a burp rag. He was always gentle with her and I enjoyed watching the two of them, learning about each other. BUT! L’s personality was already manifesting itself: she could be extremely vocal about the things she wanted (even if it only was in baby-babble) and I told her father that one day, our child would come running into the room, crying and saying, “SHE hit me!”. (I was not wrong.)

As a stay-at-home Mom (SAHM, so I’ve heard is the acronym), my world revolved around my children. Taking care of them (and their environment) was a major priority. I wasn’t chained to them, there was no bad feelings about being at home. As a matter of fact, I thoroughly took pleasure and joy in being with them, in the daily routine. And a daily routine with a baby and a toddler is a study in changes and discovery. (I don’t mean diaper changes, although we had those, too.)

I tried to mark in my own mind each of the many milestones, for both of them. The first food, the first drinking from a cup, the first step…so many “firsts” it could be overwhelming. I’d be marveling at one and then BOOM! We’d have another. Even the “firsts” I had had with W were different than those same things with L. And I loved every minute of it.

The whole world takes on a new, lustrous and exciting feel when you are seeing it through the eyes of a child. Even explaining and talking about the mundane things they were doing, I knew that “mundane” was my word and “wowee” was theirs. I took the time to explore their world as they explored this big world they were living in. The trees are a little taller, the grass a little greener, the dog or cat a little fluffier and softer.

As time passed (as it is wont to do), the “first” events slowed down a bit. I had a chance to really savor it and even catch my breath before the next one came along. L was my dramatic child. Supporting evidence: she was in the high chair, W and his friend were seated on the bench and W says to me, “Mommy, (L)’s face is blue.” Mommy went into freak out mode because when I looked at her, by the gods, she was blue. A blue that no human face should ever be. I pulled her out of the high chair and that action knocked the food loose so that by the time she was in my arms, she was breathing again.

She wasn’t done with us and high excitement. Not too long after the high chair episode, she was coughing and hacking around the house. Friday afternoon, of course. Did I mention we were living in Germany and had military healthcare? No appointments over the weekend. So her father and I both agreed we would be taking her first thing Monday morning. That apparently did not meet with her agenda… I was downstairs at the neighbor’s house when the husband knocked on the door, holding L. “You need to go back upstairs to be with W. I’m taking her to the ER. I was changing her diaper and she stopped breathing. I had to resuscitate her.”

These are not words you ever want to hear. The wait was horrendous. Husband came home, without L, about 10 pm. The hospital had done an xray of her esophagus. If this (      ) is the normal esophagus, hers was like this (XX|XX) where the “|” is the actual opening for air. No wonder she was not breathing well. Turned out, she had the croup. Poor baby got shots in her thighs every 6 or 8 hours…and the medical team had asked her father to help hold her down for the first couple. When I went to see her, she very pointedly refused to look at her father. I think I lost some popularity when I didn’t grab her up and take her home. Scary, scary times for a mom (and a dad).

It’s not like W didn’t have excitement. No, his was of a different style. When they were tweens, we accompanied their father to an office party at the boss’ house. There was an above ground pool. It is pertinent to the story to understand that in this circular pool, in the center, there was a slight dip so that all the dirt would collect in that one place. My son dove in and found himself standing within that dip. It made the water just *that* much too deep for him. I saw him, thought he was play-bobbing up and down and then I realized that he was in danger. It’s true: people who are drowning are NOT yelling for help. Their arms go out, up to shoulder height and they spend all their energy trying to catch a breath. I had a glass glass in my hand and didn’t want to drop it (making another hazard) and by the time I found a place to set it down, I heard a splash. Husband had gone into the pool (clothes, watch, wallet and all) and got W out of the water. Let’s just say that W didn’t dive in again and it took a while before he got back into the water.

I know it sounds melodramatic, but…except for the quick response of their father, there would be a very good chance that both of my children would be dead. And that thought still makes me shudder. I don’t want those scary times. But you don’t always get what you want…

At 14, L broke her arm, rollerblading. When he was about 3, W fell and cut the skin on his forehead/hairline. Head wounds bleed a lot, but a simple butterfly bandage fixed him up, no problem. I don’t remember any other medical emergencies, so I guess we were blessed with reasonably good health and a bare minimum of dramatic sickness or injury.

W went to Kindergarten and I had two school years of having just one child at home all day.  Then it was her turn and L went off to get some edumacation, too. For the first time in 7 years, I had days of being “single” again. Odd feeling and I got a lot of reading done. And handicrafts. And I could grocery shop without threatening my offspring for getting away from me. Or having to explain 469,756 times why I was not buying (X). I missed them.

Christmas time was always fun. I decorated our house and as the lights went up on the other houses, we’d ride around at night time and “ohh” and “ahh” over them. When they were little, we had some serious discussions about what they would like Santa to bring. The ToyRUs catalog would arrive and they both did the “I want this…and this…and this…and this”–you get the idea. So I would ask them the Big Question: “If Santa could only bring you ONE present, what would you really, really want to have?” They generally got whatever that one thing was–and Santa did bring some other things, too. But Christmas morning, Santa’s presents were always wrapped in Santa paper. The other gifts were from Mom and Dad. (And then we’d go over to the husband’s parents house for Christmas with the whole family. And when I say whole, I mean siblings and their spouses and children as they came along…and considering the number of siblings was 7…lots of family!)

We’d let them stay up long enough to see the ball drop on New Year’s Eve. There were a number of years where they didn’t manage it and had to be carried to bed. The Easter Rabbit hid eggs and treats all over the house. (I didn’t want to encourage animals coming along and eating them.) One year, he left plastic eggs with hints left in them–and when they got to the end of the treasure hunt, there was one special gift for each of them. (Actually two hunts, if I’m remembering right–one for L and one for W.) Halloween was also celebrated and one year I made their costumes–Robin Hood for W and Maid Marian for L. They were adorable. But the amount of work was too much to try and repeat it–and they were happy with the Power Rangers costumes from the Halloween section of Party City.

We had one Halloween tradition that saved them from sugar comas. Keep in mind that we lived on a street that had other children, and they were allowed to go around the block and across the streeet, around the block. So that’s about 40-ish houses. Once they had gotten their loot, they brought it home and we dumped it out to make sure there were no razor blades. Then I would have them pick out the ones that they only had singletons of, as well as the candies that were their particular favorites. These candies (probably 25% of their take) went back into their bags and no one else ate them. The remaining pounds of candy (not kidding!) would go into my 26 cup Tupperware bowl…and fill it to brimming. Anyone could eat out of that. While their bag had candies, our tradition was that they could eat all the candy they wanted for 20 minutes. Then they had to go brush their teeth…not quite 20 minutes, but certainly enough to get the sugar coating off! Sometimes that might mean just 1 candy–something larger, or a lollipop that was to be sucked on.

And I had candies to nibble on for the next month. (They nibbled, too…but you know what I mean!)

They played tee ball; W went on to play on a team but L decided that baseball was not her thing. They learned to ride bikes, rollerblade, swim (not just walk into the water and get wet–or dive in). They went fishing at the family cottage near Dundee in the Finger Lakes. When we visited my family in Baltimore, they went to the National Aquarium and the Science Center in the Inner Harbor. (L tried to jump into the beluga whale tank. She is and was always a Water Baby, like her mother and her great-grandmother.)
(Ed. note: Here is the story, “Water Baby” , which is where I got that term)

We only had one computer, back in the “old days”. Which saved me from having to buy TWO computers and never seeing the kids because they’d be up in their rooms, surfing the Net. Nope, we had one, and it sat in the corner of the kitchen. I could keep an eye on them and they could go pretty much wherever they wanted–and there were sites that wanted a parent’s “signature” to ensure that the child was allowed there. The three of us learned about Internet research–and Google, when it came along. I answered all of their questions, but when I didn’t know the answer, the 3 of us would go on the computer and find it. They weren’t the only one who was learning new things!

We started getting the Nintendo gaming consoles, starting with the SuperNES and Mario. All 3 of us played–my time was mostly at night, once the kids were in bed. And if it was a rainy day, I’d let them play most of the day…but on nice (not raining, maybe even some sunshine) days, I’d let them play for a couple of hours. Then I’d say, “It’s time to quit and save!” — and I always got the cry of “Mooooom, it’s SAVE and quit!!” And back in those days, I could rent the games for a week–and sometimes, if the game was involved enough…I’d spend most of my free time playing.

When they were tweens, their father and I split up. (It took 3 YEARS to get the final decree, but that’s another story.) I moved out and took them with me, getting an apartment about 20 miles away from our old home. I was working nights, so I’d get home after they had left for school. I’d sleep until they came home. Then we’d spend a couple of hours together, have dinner–and I’d go back to bed for a 2 hour nap. I discovered that I couldn’t sleep for 8 hours, be up with them and then try to work an 8 hour shift. I needed the psychological effect of getting up and going to work. (Even if it was just a nap.

They were good kids, taking care of each other and not having *too* many fights. Then I was invited to share my friend’s house and get a (better) job in VA. That was well out of the range that I could take the kids. It was a tough, tough, tough decision. But I finally figured that if I could get myself in a better place, I would be a better mom for them. So I left them, living back in the house with their father. It was only 8 months before he allowed them to move back with me. Rather, I should say, that he asked the children if they’d like to live with me and he barely got the question out of his mouth before they were both saying “YES!”.

So South they came. We lived with my friend, her 2 kids, her boyfriend and his 2 kids and then me and my 2 kids. We counted 11 people for Christmas (boyfriend’s ex-wife and mother of his kids and a friend from work with no family in the area). We couldn’t afford to buy presents for everyone…or so we thought. My friend came up with a brilliant idea and I pass it on to those of you who find it helpful. We loaded up everyone and went to the local Dollar Store. We bought 11 big gift bags and everyone split up to go into different aisles. The idea was that each person would buy one thing for each of the others–and so in the end, we each had 11 presents to open.

Eventually the three of us moved out of the commune (haha) and got our own apartment. I got a new job (I had been working at a place called Dominion, making flash memory) at the local assisted living center. I started courses on Network Security and Administration. One of my fellow students suggested trying for a job at the place he was working. I did, and thus began my tenure as a Customer Service Rep, making reservations for teleconferences. I left for about 18 months to work at the help desk of a company that was contracted to provide computer support for Congress. There was no place to move up, and so I returned to being a CSR at the same company. I had not burned any bridges when I left.

The kids continued growing up and it seemed like it had only been a few days before that they were being born and being toddlers… They both participated in the Junior ROTC program at school; they were both actors in several of the school’s plays. W actually got the high school version of an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Modred, King Arthur’s nephew (and son) in the musical, “Camelot”. L got her starring chance in her senior year with “The Hound of the Baskervilles”.

In the twinkling of the eye, in the space of time for one breath…they went from helpless, wide-eyed newborns to being teenagers and on the verge of going out into the big wide world on their own. I loved every stage. I was and still am grateful for the discoveries we made together. I was the best Mom I knew how to be and I must have succeeded because my two wee ones are all grown up now, with wee ones of their own. And I look into the face of my daughter’s older daughter … and see my daughter there. I can do the same with my son’s son. Both of those grandchildren have a younger sister. I am blessed with a foursome of proof that I did a good enough job that my kids were willing to try that role for themselves.

And yet I still miss my own little ones. Even the throw-up and backtalk and bickering between them. I’d like to go back in time and visit them again–and I’ve found a way to do that. I simply close my eyes and let the images scroll through my mind. My son. My daughter. And the 20 years that flew past like an express train. They were both very good children. They are both very good parents. I can only wish them the same joy with their children as I had with them.

Summer Stream of Consciousness

So here I am, in my usual position of sitting at my desk and being on the computer. I am so grateful to those who created this electronic marvel that lets me interact with others who are, quite literally, all over the world. If I didn’t have a computer, and Facebook, I cannot for the life of me imagine how I would be living.

I have already been careful to add non-computer activities to my life. I am still coloring pages. It’s such a nice, relatively mindless activity–almost like a meditation, with no thought beyond what I am doing at that moment. (Stay in the lines, stay in the lines!!)
IMG_20160713_110848I have FINALLY learned how to make an origami crane (and a 4 point box). I need to go find another pattern to learn. This is also a very focused activity, another type of meditation. Now I have a stack of cranes and boxes…which I am leaving, like a trail behind me, when we go out. I leave a crane on the bill tray or the table. I haven’t been in the grocery store lately, but when I do go, I’m going to put cranes in all sorts of places for people to find.

I’m still working on the loom knitting, doing that when I’m watching a movie. I have some pictures (in my head) that I would like to make happen through Fresh Paint, the newer “Paint” from Windows that lets me do oil painting. I can also do watercolors, colored pencils and crayons/pastels?. But I have always wanted to do oil painting, and this works out very well for me. I can stop at any point, I don’t have tubes of paint and (spill-able) cleaning solutions. Of course, there is the irony of printing it out. Although I have heard that you can actually get canvas that will accept printing. If I paint the next Mona Lisa, I’ll look for it then. In the meantime, I have them on my computer and I share them on FB.

The sister-in-love (and her sweetie) visit went well. They spent a lot of time doing tourist things, so we’d meet up with them for a meal each day. I told my Beloved I was caught between “I thought she said she wanted to see US” and “Thank the gods I have time to rest between visiting without having to say that I have to go rest now.” I’m glad that they were able to see so many things; I am jealous that they got up to Agate Beach. I found about it when I was doing my research prior to our move and I wanted to go there very much. The reality is, I can’t ride my scooter and I can’t walk on an uneven surface. Helll’s bells, I can’t walk on an *even* surface very well.

Speaking of walking, which leads to my general health: my neck shot didn’t work this time. And apparently that means it can never be used again. I had 6 months of freedom from the pain, for the first time in many years. The pain management doctor showed me the X-ray he took and it looks something like this:
:   :
:   :
:   :
Where “&%^” is the lack of discs. It really was just a black blob on the film. No wonder it sounds like a string of firecrackers (quietly, inside my head) when I turn my neck. The doctor is sending me to a neurosurgeon to discuss possibilities for surgical repair. I don’t know how that would work, because the usual procedure for fixing this type of problem in the back is to attach metal rods to the good discs above and below the bad one(s), giving the patient excellent posture. Unfortunately, after about 10 years, according to my sources, that begins to fail. Which makes sense. If your spinal column has problems due to degenerative arthritis, it’s not going to stop just because you put metal rods in. So eventually, the discs that the rods were in also deteriorate…you see where this is going? And doing this in my neck makes me VERY nervous. There’s not a long stretch of back to work with, only the neck. The neck, with essential blood vessels and nerve paths (like, oh I don’t know, the SPINAL CORD??!??). Would it also “freeze” my neck, like the sections of back are locked into place? Would I not be able to turn my head at all? Unless the neurosurgeon can convince me that this is the only way to go and the risks are not as bad as I think…I would rather not have surgery. I am very willing to wear a fitted (specifically to me) cervical collar to help support the floppy neck. (No, it doesn’t really flop. But the muscles of my neck are as tight as a violin string all the time. It tires out the muscles to do the work the support beam structure (spinal column) is supposed to do.) I’ll let you know what happens.

Otherwise physically, we are maintaining the status quo. The cortisone shots in my back, for the sciatica, seem to be efficacious, although the left leg still screams at me down the L3 nerve path if I stand too long. (That nerve path goes from the spine at hip level in the back, around the hip and down the leg, from the outside of the hip to the inner side of the knee.) There is still always pain; there has been for pretty much all of my life, and barring some incredible medical breakthrough, will always be mine. The morphine works. I’m still taking bupropion (Wellbutrin) for depression; hydroxyzine pamoate for anxiety; duloxetine (Cymbalta) for fibromyalgia; trazadone (Tramadol) for sleep; omeprazole (Prevacid?) for reflux; and lamotragine (Lamictol) for mood stabilization. My psychiatrist also added B12 and Vitamin D supplements, which I take daily. The last set of lab work I had came back with nothing bad, which is always what you want to hear. My A1C (blood sugar) is still a bit high, but until I am officially diagnosed as diabetic, I’m not worried about it. Diabetes comes down both sides of my family (to me) and I expect that I will probably get it eventually. I am hoping the eating organic will slow down or prevent that.

I make a conscious effort to either stay off of FB on really bad days (for me), or restrain myself from posting on any political item. You know that I am verbose, and there’s so much I want to say about the election situation…but I find that I am repeating myself and that’s just too much involvement for me. I make a point of looking at all the non-political posts for a break in the anger and fear–not just mine, but those in the articles or other posters. Hooray for kitteh pictures. And for friends who post thoughtful, spiritual things. It’s still a while until the election; I cannot, will not, maintain the negative feelings that the whole thing creates in me.

I cook dinner when I can. My last masterpiece was a pork tenderloin roast, wrapped in bacon and roasted. The trick to putting bacon around pretty much anything is to make a “bacon blanket”, weaving the pieces together and then wrapping the “blanket” around the thing you are improving with bacon. Like this: PiggyinaBlanket

The pork was about 1 pound. It took 5 slices of bacon to cover it. I put spices (thyme, garlic and onion powders, salt and pepper, basil) on the roast and then wrapped it. It cooked at 340 (convection) for about 40 minutes. Because the pork we get is local and we know how it is raised, we can eat it at about medium-medium rare. And it was delicious and oh-so tender. We had it with rice, cooked in chicken stock.

My cooking these days is very different from how I cooked prior to becoming disabled. The hallmark of my recipes is simple preparation and easy cooking methods. I have a basic recipe for meat and rice in sauce, which I modify according to what I’m cooking. For fried rice, I use Chinese spices and ground pork; for meat and rice in a Continental style, like a la francais, I use the spice palette that matches it and cook it pretty much the same way as the fried rice. I can also make meat and curry rice this way. (And the way to do it is to saute onions and or garlic, then add the meat and brown it off, with the associated spices. Then add the ingredients to make your sauce; I generally use half and half or cream. For Chinese, I use a homemade blend of soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, fish sauce, a bit of water, and Chinese spices: garlic, ginger, Szechun peppercorns, coriander, cilantro, and so forth, picking what I want from that group.)

For those of you who love rice and eat it often: get a rice cooker. Spend the money on a really GOOD rice cooker. I don’t generally try to “sell” a product, but I have to tell you: we have a “Zojirushi” rice cooker. (Model NP-NVC10) It will make white rice, brown rice, GABA rice (sprouted brown rice), sushi rice, rice porridge (“congee”) and make any of them in your preferred texture: hard, normal and soft. We use it several times a week. And I will tell you that it *was* expensive. The usual listed price is about $800–but before you faint, I can tell you that I found ours on Amazon for $400-ish. (Free delivery!) It came with a cookbook that I (someday) will use, making rice dishes with some meats or vegetables cooked into them. And before you argue with me that your $30 rice cooker from Target is as good: no, it’s not. I used to have one. It made rice okay, but it was what Alton Brown refers to as a “unitasker”. And believe me when I tell you that for those of us who eat a lot of rice, the cost of having an excellent rice cooker is well worth it. We also only eat “hamali” rice from Thailand. It has a specific logo of a stalk of rice, drooping down with the rice (seeds) hanging off of it. It’s also known as “jasmine” rice because of its rich, slightly sweet smell. As far as Beloved and I are concerned, it’s the only rice because it’s the best!

We now return you to your regularly scheduled program.

Beloved is the Game Master (GM or Dungeon Master, DM, or God of all that happens) for about 8-9 other gamers and they are having a really good time, running through places killing and looting. He has (and continues to) worked hard on preparing for each game night. He is highly organized–and mildly (haha) OCD–so this is a well-run game. The players make a point of telling him how much they enjoy it. And that’s a good thing for him–he needs the positive reinforcement and recognition of his efforts. So he goes to that on Friday evenings and I stay home and listen to the quiet. Or to my music, really loud. Even though we’re not really joined at the elbows all day long–he has his computer stuff in the “office” (second bedroom) and I’m out in the living room–the house “feels” different when I’m home alone. Not better or worse, just different.

Nothing major is going on. We actually have a very clear calendar for this month. I do see my psychiatrist on the 18th, but that’s all we have scheduled other than Beloved’s group therapy and his game. We do have appointments to get our eyes checked–in October. I’m glad to not be going to a doctor’s office every week-whether his or mine. I think it means we’re okay.

That’s pretty much it for me now. Thank you for reading my blog, and I’ll talk to you next time!

Peace out!


Ongoing Life

It’s becoming harder and harder to see the good things in this world. I know they exist, and are definitely present in my own space. But the rest of the world? Seems to be going to hell in a hand basket. Politics, the economy, Orlando, Jo Cox…so much hate. If I wasn’t already clinically depressed, I would be after reading my FB page and seeing the stuff stream by. Thank the Maker for kitteh pictures!

I’m back on my anti-depressant and feeling better. Hovering around an aqua blue, I think. I continue to heal from my surgery (which could take up to a year or more before everything is back into the “original” place and totally healed). I don’t have a DVT but I do have a varicose vein. It’s not visible through the skin, but it’s a vein that is not working any more. I will have an in-office procedure to “kill” it, which will move the blood flow to veins that have better valves and will push the blood back up into my body, where it belongs.

I went to the neurologist last Monday and got a second shot in my neck. The first one kept me pain free for almost 7 months. I can live with this, for as many years as I can get away with it. I go back to the pain clinic next month to get the two shots, one in each side to deal with sciatica. Hooray for sedation procedures–I sleep through them and wake up to pain relief (within about 3-5 days; it’s not quite instantaneous).

My Beloved did the grocery shopping yesterday and brought me a big surprise–a Dungeness crab, all ready to eat. I tore that sucker up! Just a little pile of shells to put in the trash and I was a very happy, crab-stuffed kitteh! (The crab weighed almost 2 pounds whole. Even if half of it was shell, that would still mean 16 ounces of meat for me.) He also bought me some avocados.

I’m still coloring…branching out into “arty” pictures, like one that I did only in black and grey (and white, where I didn’t color). It keeps me occupied, keeps my mind active (what color next?) and keeps me off the streets. I’ve also continued to watch a lot of Netflix. It may not be much of a life, but it’s my life. And yes, I’m still playing Star Wars and killing things. I did get my hair cut yesterday for the first time in almost 2 years. Woo hoo! My oh so exciting life.

Beloved is a political beast and we have a fair number of discussions on the political uproar of the day. I’ll be so glad, so glad!, when November comes around and we’re done talking about the next President. (Although as he pointed out to me, the day after the election we’ll start talking about who will run in 2020.) The whole situation is pretty scary and the possibility for major chaos is great. Wonder what our nation will look like, this time next year?

The massacre in Orlando has hit me very hard. I identify as bisexual and have always been an advocate and voice for being allowed to love whomever you love, regardless of equipment. But the killings somehow drove it really home that the LGBTQ community IS my community, in a way that I had never known before. The amount of hate swirling around the event is overwhelming. The hate that caused the killing, and the hate of people who say that those killed somehow “deserved” to die. No one ever “deserved” to die. The fact that the club-goers were killed specifically for their sexual identity/orientation is heart-breaking and incomprehensible to me.

I am trying to think of a way, or of ways, to support and show support for all of my community, LGBTQ or otherwise. I try not to label anyone but rather, to accept and love all as my fellow beings on this little blue dot we call home. Life is hard enough without choosing to hate those around you. Hate and love are two sides of the same coin. Strong emotions, feelings that lead to all kinds of behaviors, motivation for our actions. If you truly stop hating, you don’t automatically love the ones you hated. If you loved someone, but have stopped loving them, you don’t hate them as a natural course. The opposite of hate AND love is apathy. You just don’t care what happens to them, what they do, and their life doesn’t impact yours at all.

I think hate requires far too much energy to keep it going–because it is not the normal, “default” setting of our emotions. I believe (and hope) that love is the more natural, the more primal and primary, setting. Love is a verb, an action, a feeling in motion. I love every single being on this planet. Now, before you think I’ve gone off the deep end, let me qualify that sentence. I love all–but I acknowledge that not every being is lovable, not every being behaves in a loving way. I can love the shooter in Orlando as a fellow being, feel sorrow at his obvious pain and anger. I also condemn, without hesitation, the actions he took.

It’s as I told my children when they were little: I love you. But I don’t love your actions/words (when they were being chastised). I separate the “who” of who someone is from the “what they do” actions. Maybe it’s all just a mind game, a fatuous way of trying to be noble or something… but it works for me. I start, try to start, from a default position of love whenever I am interacting with others. However, I do not have to accept cruel words or hurtful actions from anyone. It’s not that I can make them stop…just that I choose not to let it affect my life. (It will and does sometimes, but life is an ever-moving river and sometimes, you fall in. It’s the getting back out that matters.)

Solstice is coming next week and we’ll have the longest day…which will then immediately being shortening back into winter hours. Beloved’s sister, and her beloved, are coming to visit in a few weeks, which will be fun. Lots of eating out and going to the beach! And so my life goes on, in its mostly gentle pace…

Living in an Azure Haze

It’s been a while since I posted about what’s going on in my life, so let’s catch up.

I have joined the Communications Council for the local VA Clinic; we deal with the newsletter and the Townhall meetings. I take the minutes at the meetings and I set up the newsletter, adding the new content and etc before it goes to the printer. I offered to do the newsletter because it’s something I can do at home, in my own time–and it’s something I enjoy doing. I have done newsletters before and with Microsoft Publisher, it’s very easy. Since there are other veterans on the Council, everyone understands those days when I just cannot make the meeting.

I have also had a lot of diagnostic referrals–I’ve had a bone density scan done (thinning of the bones, but not quite osteoporosis). I had a chemical stress test for my heart, which looked normal. I had my two umbilical hernias repaired and in the course of the consult, pre-surgery stuff and so on with the surgeon, he has ordered an ultrasound of my legs to make sure there are no deep vein thrombosis. I also have compression stockings to wear, to help with the circulation in my legs and feet. I’ve been telling my doctor that the blood in my legs is black–and that my legs swell so badly I can make deep impressions that hang around for several minutes. None of that is good. The stockings help, but I will be interested to see what the ultrasound shows.

I have also gotten a hospital bed, which quite frankly, I have wanted for a long time. I have acid reflux, so I have to sleep with my head elevated…and those swollen legs also need to be elevated. And you can only do just so much with pillows. I am sleeping fantastically! It also makes for a pleasant way to watch movies or play video games, since I can sit up straight enough to do so.

Our weather hasn’t quite made up its mind to be spring-like. It’s been raining, a lot, and the days it doesn’t rain tend to be overcast. That does not help with the state of mind. I’ve had a change in my medications (we’ve increased the Cymbalta) and a concurrent decrease in my anti-depressant (Welbutrin). I had to titrate off it slowly and now that I’ve been off of it long enough for it to be completely out of my system…I’m completely “blah”. I don’t want to do anything, I can’t focus and everything is seen through a dark blue fog. It’s not quite the depths of black despair and complete lack of function…it’s a bit lighter than that, but still a dark enough color that I have a terrible time getting anything done. I see my psychiatrist in a couple of weeks and we’ll talk about my going back on the Welbutrin or on some other anti-depressant. But I need something more than I’m taking, that’s for sure.

My one constant activity is that I am coloring. I have 3-4 “adult” coloring books and I am slowly but surely working my way through them. I was given a box of 50 markers (so many color choices) and they are beginning to run out of ink. I also have crayons and watercolors, so there’s some mixed media work going on. I watch something on Netflix and color, probably 2-4 hours each day. Imagine what I could get done if I had the energy to do something worthwhile like clean house, with that amount of time. It’s a fairly mindless activity: stay inside the lines and make the color arrangement interesting.

I’m also back into playing “Star Wars: The Old Republic” online. I have actually got a level 65 (highest level possible) character, run up from the starting level 1. Major accomplishment! Too bad it doesn’t pay… I have a stable of about 12-14 characters, various job skills, most of them Sith (Empire) that I can play. Talking to my Beloved about this last night, I realized that I prefer to play the “evil” side because it’s more interesting. The characters seem more real, as opposed to the Jedi side, where there is never self interest or greed…there is no passion, there is only peace. These characters just don’t seem like real people, don’t act like a human being and I get bored doing only the “right thing”. I have actually created and am working with a “Dark Jedi”–which is someone on the “right” side who does “bad” things. MUCH more interesting and I look forward to finding out just how far this can go.

On the whole, life goes on much as it has. Nothing terrible, some good (out of the ordinary) stuff… The weather affects both of us, and I am an empath, so I’m not sure how much of the “blahs” is really mine and how much is what I’m picking up off the hubby, who broadcasts. He has started running his own D&D game (he’s the Game Master, or Dungeon Master, depending on the player’s experience with D&D). He put an enormous amount of time and effort getting it all set up and now he has about 5 players that meet with him on Friday evenings to kill things and gather booty. This is something he’s talked about doing since I met him (6 years ago) and I’m very glad that he is finally able to see it happen.

So that’s about it for me. Nothing earth-shaking going on…which I am thankful for. Now if I can just adjust the dark blue up to at least azure…I’d be happier (really!).


My Grandmother, Pauline Baker Foote, 1914 -1992

Today is my grandmother’s birthday. She would be 102 years old. She died in October, 1992 at the age of 78. It’s been 24 years since then. I miss her as if it were yesterday.

Grief never really goes away. You learn to live with it, you learn that it really won’t kill you, you learn to put it away into a tiny corner of your heart. But then something triggers a memory and the grief comes galloping out, as if it had never been there before. This sudden swell of grief can make you staggered, make you cry, make you angry at a Universe that took someone away from you.

My grandmother’s name was Pauline. Nobody called her that. To most of her friends, she was “Polly”. To a select group of longtime friends, she was “Bunny”. (That’s because my grandfather called her his “Honey Bunny”…and it stuck.) To me, she was “Grandmom”…there is no greater way to name someone like her: Grand Mom.

Without going into the gory details, let’s just say that my parents don’t like children as children; they are supposed to be little adults. Of course, that’s a ridiculous demand; children are children, or they’d be called adults right out of the womb. All that growing and learning stuff to do, you know. I am grateful that they had me (and my brother) but…if it weren’t for my Grandmom, I would have a lot more mental issues than I already do. It’s not that my parents were not caring or loving. But they were authoritarian enough that the military regimens had no horror for me and in fact, I found boot camp to be more free than my childhood years. How sad is that? But let’s not talk about the ‘rents. This is about my Grandmom.

She had a life before I showed up, as amazing as it seems. She was born in Portsmouth VA on February 20, 1914. That’s just a few months before the start of World War I. Her parents lived long enough that I got to meet them…when I was 4. I have a picture in my head of a tall, thin man and a short, round woman…and having to look up up up to see his face. My great-grandmother died in the ’70’s, while we were living overseas. My great-grandfather lived until I was 16…and it was amazing that this oh so tall man was now eye to eye with me.

Grandmom did all the things that people did, back then. She had something called a “Baby Party”, where everyone dressed up to look like babies. Don’t judge, this was before the Internet. (Found a mention of these from the Wheaton College records, where their first Baby Party was held in 1914. It was part of the “moving up” of juniors to their senior year. Apparently something of a tradition.)

She had a younger brother, named Hugh. I don’t remember him, although apparently I had met him, probably at about 3-4 years old. Grandmom told me later that he like to eat mac’n’cheese cold. I tried it that way, and that’s something I still do these days. A connection to my past, even if I began it on secondhand knowledge.

She met my grandfather when she was 16. He knew that she was The One for him. But he was 20 years old, so he waited several years for her before proposing. When Grandmom graduated high school, she went to work for the the Baltimore Steam Packet Company, nicknamed the “Old Bay Line”, as a secretary. (Click here for more about the Old Bay Line ) At some point, she was in a beauty contest and was Miss Portsmouth, about 1930-32. I can’t say for sure, but this may have been a local pageant that led to the Miss Virginia pageant.

My grandfather had a picture of her on his dresser, taken when she was a teenager. It could have been a photograph of me, there was that strong a resemblance. But I’m not tooting my own horn when I tell you that Grandmom was beautiful. Lovely dark eyes, dark brown hair, nice legs…but what made her truly beautiful was the love that poured out of her, that shone in her eyes, her entire life.

I met my Grandmother when I was born. Needless to say, I don’t remember it. I have snippets of memories, like snapshots in my brain, of her and her house from about 4 years old until…I could remember whole movies. My family lived overseas from 1966 until 1971 and again from 1973 to 1976. So a great deal of my childhood was spent too far to see her on anything resembling a regular basis. I do vaguely recall my mother’s friend taking us from the airport to my grandparents’ house and surprising them early on a Sunday morning. They didn’t go to church that day.

When we finally came back to the States to live, my father gifted my mother with living close to *her* mother–and when I say “close”, I mean 5 minutes’ of walking across the elementary school’s property and up through the alley, then down the alley to Grandmom’s house. My parents had actually sent my brother and me home in the summer of 1976 so that we would be in the US for the start of school. So he and I lived with our grandparents all that summer and into the fall, until my parents came home.

My grandmother was the most loving, most patient person I have ever known. I try to be like her. She had the amazing gift of “just listening”. People, all sorts of people, would come to her and pour out their lives. She just sat and listened. The few words she would speak were always loving and wise. She would babysit for anyone she knew, so there was a crib permanently set up in the back bedroom. She kept clean sheets on the double bed that was in the same room, as well as on the single bed in the other bedroom, just in case they were needed. That smaller bedroom was my room whenever I was there.

When I think of “home”, it’s always her house that appears in my mind. It was (and still is) a red brick “row home”, the Baltimore term for what is called “townhouse” or “condominium” in other places. It had a wonderful basement. All sorts of things, on shelves, in boxes… A couple of chest freezers (she had begun with one, but when it no longer stayed cold enough, she added the second and used the older one for things that didn’t require deep cold, like bread) that could have been used to hide bodies… A player piano, the old fashioned kind with the feet pedals to pump the air to make the music. It sort of worked…until eventually the bellows got so full of holes, it wouldn’t play on it own. I learned to play the piano on that.

There were stacks of comic books, a favorite activity for any child–and even for teenagers. There was an old Lionel train set…had to use steel wool to get the rust of the tracks before you could even hope to run it. And there was a bench that had storage inside of it. Flip up the seat and enter Fantasyland…that’s where she kept all sorts of things for “dressing up”. My friends and I played with those quite often.

The first floor was your basic kitchen/dining room/living room set up. The kitchen was smallish, with limited counter space but in a way that was good, because it meant few steps between tasks. In one corner there was a hutch…and on that hutch were 5 glass jars, with glass lids, in graduating size from about a gallon, down to about 2 cups. In each jar there was some type of candy: Hershey’s mixed small chocolate bars (milk chocolate, milk chocolate with almonds, Mr. Goodbar and Krackle); M&Ms (always) and then the other jars held whatever else sweet they wanted, like spearmint leaves or Canada Wintergreen Mints (or as we called them, “pink mints”, for they would leave your tongue Pepto-Bismol pink). My granddad kept some bull’s-eyes, a caramel wrapped around a white sugar icing. Sometimes there would be a package of Oreos or sugar wafers in the biggest jar.

Upstairs were the three bedrooms and the bathroom. And there was a set of stairs in the hallway ceiling, the kind you pull down and can then go up into the mysterious attic. Not quite as much fun for kids as the basement (and the candy in the kitchen), but still an adventure to have. Just a regular row home, nothing special about it…but because my Grandmom lived there, it was MY home,and it was also the childcare center, the hotel for wayward souls, the counseling center…

If someone knocked on the door, they were always invited in. (Thank goodness we didn’t have vampires in the neighborhood.) My Grandmom always had a pitcher of “Southern” iced tea–you know, with sugar–and everyone would have a glass of it. She actually crocheted what we called “pants” for the glasses–think coaster with a wall, going about halfway up the glass. Kept the condensation off the furniture. Any time anyone needed something, they could usually get it from Grandmom, if it was within her power to do so. A bed, a meal, someone to cry on, someone to share the joys of life with, a person so good, so giving that no one ever said a bad thing about her. Ever. And there are still houses today (that if I knew where they were) I could go to and say “I’m Polly Foote’s granddaughter and I need a place to stay” and get invited in without a second thought.

She and my granddad were both extremely active in their Presbyterian church. (I mention the denomination because she had been Baptist and my grandfather Episcopalian…Presbyterian was the halfway point between those religions, so there they were.) Grandmom’s service to the Lord was often, almost always, done in the kitchen. She helped with church dinners, wedding receptions, and the Thursday Pancake Breakfast. For several years, the church offered teenagers pancakes before school. I first went when I was about 9 or 10. I helped my grandparents carry in supplies, I ate pancakes and helped them load the car back up. Eventually I was one of the teens eating pancakes on Thursday mornings. And it was free. The church paid for it all.

She was so much a part of the kitchen that when it came time to buy new dishes, she was the one who chose them. She taught Sunday School when she wasn’t attending her own Ladies’ Group. She worked at Vacation Bible School. She was, as they say, a “good person”, a “good Christian”. Yes, she was. But she wasn’t good because she was Christian. She would have been a “good Buddhist” or a “good atheist”…she was good. She just happened to be Christian.

Her heart was huge, large enough to hold the hundreds of people she knew as well as the strangers she met on the street, in the store… She glowed with love. No other way to put it. She was Love, personified. It drew people to her, to bask in the love of her heart.

And for me? Well, it’s not that I *don’t* love my mother. But when I think of Mother, the source of all wonderful-ness, the person I want to be good for…I think of Grandmom. She let me prattle on about anything and everything. So did my mother. But Grandmom’s listening had a different feel to it, an intensity that my mother’s lacked. Sometimes I wonder how my mother can be as she is (another blog someday, when I’ve had my mood stabilizers, haha), coming from that home.

My Grandmom loved cardinals. She had one that she fed peanuts to…and if she was sitting out front, the bird would come and chirp at her. So she’d say “All right, I’ll meet you out back.” And by the time she went through the house, got a peanut and stepped out on the back porch, he was there, waiting for her. She also loved Canada geese and I cannot see a “V” of them without wanting to show her. She loved purple, something I obviously inherited from her! Being born in February, her birthstone was amethyst. Lucky! I now wear her amethyst ring, as well as an amethyst pendant and her gold bracelet…all the time. (I wear other jewelry all the time as well; getting any imaging done {x-ray, especially MRI} is a study in removing a pound of metal off my body. Okay, I’m exaggerating…but the count is impressive: 7 earrings, a tongue ring, 2 rings, 6 bracelets, 3 necklaces, an ankle bracelet and a toe ring. I’ll be able to trade with the natives for food and blankets when I’m on a trek.)

Grandmom was not a trend-setter. She dressed like…any other grandmother. (Side note: she still had her wedding gown, a glorious, gorgeous heavy satin gown; I tried it on when I was 17 and thin…could not get the waist of the dress past my shoulders.) She was petite, standing only about 5’3-4″. She, like so many of us, weighed more than she had as a young woman…but she was a joy to hug. She was a champion back-scratcher. Even after 50 years in Baltimore, she still sounded like she had stepped off Tara just yesterday. Soft spoken, Southern accent…when I worked at an assisted living community, all those little old ladies, with their white hair and their Southern accents always reminded me of her.

She was generous in a way that has nothing to do with money. She was generous with her love; she was generous with her home, but most of all, she was generous with her time. That’s something most people do not, cannot, do. She was thoughtful and she was wise. She was kind, the sort of kind that we sorely need in the world today.

She was my Grandmom and I miss her. Happy Birthday, Grandmom!