Ch-Ch-Changes (Turn and Face the Strange)

Where did the summer go? Time flies when…you don’t keep track of it.

I had my Functional Capacity Evaluation as foretold. I did what I could. The very first test was a grip strength test of both hands. The right hand can grip for up to about 25 pounds; the left, 35. A woman of my age should be able to grip 57 pounds. So I pretty much failed that first off. I sat, I stood, I picked things up and moved them around. I turned over wooden discs in a tray with first one and then the other hand. I walked, I knelt, I squatted. No, that’s a lie. I cannot squat. I can TRY to squat…but I will fall on my ass and never be able to get back up again in one smooth motion. So I demurred…because I didn’t want to fall and hurt myself, let alone have to scramble like a turtle, turning over and then kneeling to rise back up to standing. So everything I didn’t do because I knew that I would hurt myself trying…got recorded as “self-limiting”. I like to think that if I had gone ahead and done things, I would have flustered and upset the therapist administering the evaluation…blood has a way of doing that to people. Part of the reason I didn’t want to fall is not just having to get back up–but all the pointy hard objects I could fall into on my way down.

If you have nothing to do and want to waste 6 hours of time…find something other than a Functional Capacity Evaluation to do. But even with all of the “self-limiting”, the end result was pretty much what I’ve been saying all along: I am disabled, given enough medication and therapy (like literally years of it), I might return to some semblance of “normal” (at least as normal as I’ve ever been) but that is not going to happen any time soon. The evaluation itself was bad enough. The therapist had recently completed a course on a new therapy, “Dynamic Neurological Therapy” I think he called it…he described it to me in great detail. Not just once. Not just twice. Not even just three times. Oh no, he explained it to me in excruciating detail FOUR times. And he explained it using the same words to introduce it each time: “Now, your pain is real…but…it’s all in your head!” Then he’d go on to explain about the chemical process of thought, sensation and pain levels. Well, I had just finished my Introduction to Psychology a couple of weeks prior, so I understand about using mindfulness of the moment as a therapy, without any religious/spiritual context. My unhappiness with this is not just the repetition. When you say a sentence, then say the word “but” and add whatever, you have just negated the original statement. “Your pain is real…BUT…it’s not really, it’s all in your head and you’re just making it up.” Is what his statement ended up meaning.

But I did the evaluation and it’s over with now. I don’t expect to ever have to do it again. <fingers crossed>

That was in June. July…we stayed in for the 4th because it was overcast again this year. We went to the fireworks show last year when it was overcast; “ooh look, a red glow in the clouds! OOoooo!. We didn’t do anything particularly noteworthy the rest of the month either. Doctor appointments, swimming (pool therapy) for both of us, game nights. Eating out occasionally, going to the store, doing laundry. LOTS of time on the computers, since that’s our major form of entertainment / connection to the outside world. August also flew by at the speed of light as well.

I did finally make it to our local zoo one nice Sunday. I was restless and not wanting to stay in; Beloved was tired and not wanting to go out. So I gathered myself together and rode over to Sequoia Park which holds the zoo. It’s about a 10-15 minute ride to get there. As a veteran and a resident, I got $4 off the entrance fee! Woohoo! It’s not a large zoo, but what they do have is well done and the animals all look very healthy. There are some raptors–a couple of bald eagles and a falcon, all living at the zoo because they were injured (car strike) and couldn’t return to the wild. The biggest thing there are the two yaks. They have a decent flock of flamingos, a couple of gibbons, some spider monkeys, and some other small and harmless creatures. One of the most popular displays is the “river” area–there are tanks of salmon, looking at with their fishy eyes–or, as I like to think, staring with horror at the animals across the path from them: the River Otters. The display is built in such a way that there is a plexiglass tunnel under the river part, so the kids can go in and look up, at the otters swimming overhead. Very cool. I got some sweet potato fries at the zoo cafe (open to the public!) and perused the gift store. I was out for about 2, 2.5 hours–all on my own!

The wheelchair continues to be a godsend. I can ride it over to Henderson Center, about 2 miles NW of us, which I’ve done a couple of times now. I had to take my laptop to the computer repair store as the memory sticks were dying and things were not running well. Both sticks needing replacing, but now I have a computer that works, yay. I also got a chance to look in the “Big and Tall” men’s shop and will take Beloved there when he needs new clothes. The manager was telling me about the store, I asked how large his sizes went up to…he told me 10X. He asked me if I wanted to see a muscle shirt in a 10X; I pointed out that it would look like a tent without poles, haha. Fortunately my dear is not that large…and they did have a bathrobe a size larger than he that I think he should have. He’s okay with his robe being bigger…and aren’t we all?

I also discovered the Japanese market, 3 doors down from the clothing store. Yes, I bought stuff, yes I bought stuff I didn’t need, but you should see the adorable baby tongs I got for picking up tsukemono (Japanese pickles). I also got the makings for miso soup, which came out real well. And yes, I will be going back.

Tsukemono is a new thing in my kitchen. It is the catch-all term for any pickled (vinegar or salt cured) vegetable dish that accompanies Japanese cooking. A bowl of rice, a little piece of fish and some tsukemono can be considered an entire meal. The idea is to make small amounts of fresh pickles–none of them will keep very long, unlike Vlasic or Claussen’s. And because they are fermented, there are probiotics and so they are a good way to get raw veggies. My entire family has a *thing* about pickles–we eat them, we eat pretty much every kind, and we will devour them to the last–so I am enjoying trying out various ways of making them. (That don’t involve lime, cooking, mason jars or pickles for an army.) I made a sort of cabbage/carrot/ginger salad with a soy sauce, rice vinegar and sugar dressing; I made a salted pickle out of baby bokchoy and green onions. I also took thin slices of Persian cucumbers and rubbed a little miso and water over them, then let them sit about 6-8 hours, and rinsed the miso off very well. They were good–salty and sour. I want to make some with Daikon radish, although I have some regular red radishes now that I could slice thinly and do something pickle-y with. Hmmm.

So Beloved has lost about 3-4 of his Friday night gamers…and set about to recruit me. Yes, I caved in and agreed to play. So now I shall be gaming two nights a week. This game is based on Dungeons and Dragons, (Pathfinder to be precise), so there are lots of dice with lots of dots to count. I am Rowan Morhana, a Shoal Elf arcanist. (Think sorcerer or wizard without elemental or religious associations for the magic I can do.) Beware, evil doers! He’s still looking to get 2 or 3 more folks in, so we may have a quiet couple of weeks as the 3 of us still there do minor things while waiting for a party of adequate size to go back into the dungeons after the good stuff. The Star Wars game continues to be fun. We’ve added another female gamer–one of the guys’ girlfriend, who we cajoled and pushed into playing instead of just watching. The two of them might be interested in playing on Friday as well…

Turning now to more medical things. I have mentioned being in therapy (have been for most of the past 3 years); I think I also mentioned that my therapist had identified my parents’ methodology for child-rearing as abusive. I’m still trying to get my head wrapped around that. I can understand it logically, but to really have it apply to me seems…like overkill. I mean, it was abusive. AF. My parents were, and still are, very controlling, very authoritative and still trying to tell me how to live my life–after I left their house almost 40 years ago. Sigh. They stayed in Corpus Christi for Harvey and frankly, I didn’t worry too much about them. Yes, they survived, and better than a great many other people…my mother was bitching about having to clean out the fridge and freezer because of the food all spoiling…I pointed out that she still had a house. Shaddup. I can’t get too choked up about their dying because I know that it’s the very thing they are hoping for.

Although my mother did inform me that she wouldn’t be dying, Jesus was coming back and getting her Himself, when he comes for the Rapture. In her lifetime. I pointed out that every generation had thought Jesus was coming back at their time, since the Apostles’ time. She insisted that the “signs are all there, if you just look”. I didn’t try to point out that every generation had said *that* since the Apostles. And now, get ready for the sneaky screwball pitch she threw next: “I’ll be gone, Daddy will be gone, your brother and his wife–and their sons–will all be gone (in the Rapture), so you’ll go to Texas and take care of our house and stuff, right?” Pardon, what? Actually, what I replied was, “You’ll never know, will you?” and let it go. Regardless of just how the world ends, regardless of when the Rapture takes place, if ever, regardless of pretty much everything else, one or the other of us may be very surprised at what the afterlife actually looks like. I’m betting it will be my mother. But don’t take my word for it.

From psychology to psychiatry: the new psychiatrist is trying to kill me. He tripled my Wellbutrin (bupropion) to 300 mg and upped the Cymbalta (duloxetine) from 90 to 120 mg. So when I was having visits with my primary care doctor, and they take my blood pressure…it’s going up and up, to reach a stunning 167 over 92. WTF??? I get put on Lisinopril (high blood pressure med) and HCTZ, a “water” pill. I’m taking my blood pressure every day and it’s still pretty damned high. A dim lightbulb went off over my head, and after I wiped all the dust off of it…I went over to WebMD and looked up the side effects to my two psychiatric meds. Both have HUGE warnings about not (that is “not” as in, Don’t Do It) combining those two particular drugs. Because (wait for it) they will cause high blood pressure. I’m happy to not be suicidally depressed, but I don’t want to stroke out and die–or worse. And yes, there are worse things than dying after a stroke and I’ve taken care of people who have survived theirs…but are now hemiplegic (paralyzed down one side) and require a lot of assistance–and may not be able to speak or feed themselves or go to the bathroom alone. I’d rather not.

Sooooooooooo Dr. Kate made some med changes. Some MAJOR medications changes. Here’s what that looks like:

1. I went to MediCann and got my 215 card, aka Medical Marijuana. Then I went to the “pharmacy” (real name: The Humboldt Collective, which can be abbreviated as THC, hahaha, get it?)and got me some medical weed… and it’s a freaking miracle.

2. I stopped taking morphine, and have not had any since the end of June. I am back to using Vicodin for the “breakthrough” pain which makes everyone happier. The marijuana actually deals with all of the incidental pains, leaving me to isolate and identify the spinal pain alone–and handle it with Vicodin. I am more pain-free now than I have been in quite literally YEARS.

3. The strain of marijuana I am using is very high in CBD (which is the medicinal property part) and low in THC (the part that gets you high), so this is definitely medicine and not getting stoned. On the other hand, I’d rather be stoned than in pain.

4. I do take some pure THC products –that specifically deals with anxiety and pain. I am generally sleeping better and longer–because I am not being woken in the middle of the night by pain. The doses are still lower in THC than the bud that’s being sold for *ahem* recreational purposes. 

5. I am using edibles. For CBD purposes, I have a little bag of bud, to eat raw; I have a small bottle of an oil-based tincture that is sublingual. I also have a super-concentrated oil that uses a “serving” about the size of a grain of rice and is rubbed over the gums and tongue. For THC only, I have mints and hard candies for when I am out and cannibutter for when I am home. (And “cannibutter” is cannabis and butter; it’s concentrated enough that the 4 ounces of butter has 230 servings. I put about 1/2 tsp on a Ritz cracker (okay, an organic version of the Ritz, from a company called “Late July”) and eat that right before bed.

6. I reduced the Wellbutrin to 150 per day and the Cymbalta to 60. My blood pressure was 116/72 at the doctor’s the other day. No more morphine, no more Tramadol (trazadone, sleep/anxiety med).

With the chain of never-ending pain finally broken, I am nowhere near as depressed as I had been and my anxiety is also a bit lower. I can actually think about what I might have to do if I don’t get approved for SSDI without totally freaking out. I am not as foggy, I’m able to concentrate a little better–although I do have severe mellowness that might seem like being foggy. 😀

Life is definitely at a higher quality than it has been in a very long time.

I see the psychiatrist this upcoming week and will inform him of the changes I’ve made in the meds and why. Hopefully he will help me find a better answer than continuing to take meds that interact so badly–even though the Wellbutrin has worked very well for my depression. (And the Cymbalta was doing good for the fibro…but together in large enough quantities were bad, m’kay?) I saw my surgeon last week about (finally) getting the varicose vein in my left leg taken care of (the procedure is called “ablation”, here: https://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=varicoseabl). It’s been long enough I’ll have another ultrasound test of both legs, to ensure that there are no deep vein thromboses, and to pinpoint the vein/s that need to be ablated. I have a real problem with swelling in both legs so it will be good to have this done and over with. I have a follow up appointment with my PCP after speaking to the psychiatrist (to adjust meds if necessary after psych meds are adjusted so that I don’t have a massive brain hemorrhage from them) and then my regular podiatrist appointment (he cuts my toenails for me). I am waiting for a new (further) approval of pool therapy to get back into the pool. Oh, and I STILL do not have the wheelchair ramp. One more thing to mention to the doctor when I see her.

How has all this affected my life? Well, I’ve been cooking dinner 3-5 times per week, instead of barely making it once in that same amount of time. I am making meals that are a little more complex; for example, we’ve had Japanese (Tuna ahi sashimi, tsukemono, and homemade miso soup), Mexican (fajitas burritos with frijoles); Chinese (stir-fried rice); and Italian (twice: once it was fresh-made red sauce with Italian sausage, garlic, onions, tomatoes; the other time, white clam sauce on linguine). We went to a BBQ at one of the other gamers’ home a couple of weeks ago and I made fried corn and homemade hummus to share.

Hummus Recipe:

There is no reason to buy hummus. It’s VERY easy to make. It does require a blender…

Use:

1 16 oz can chick peas, drained

1 16 oz can chick peas, NOT DRAINED

1/4 c sesame seeds

1 clove of garlic, or to taste

salt and pepper

2 T olive oil

2 T fresh lemon juice

Blend until smooth and combined. Pour out onto a dish and drizzle a little more olive oil if you like.

Using this as a base recipe, you can then have alternative flavors by adding any of the following:

1 T curry powder

OR

2 tsp basil

1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese

(when complete, drizzle with oil and sprinkle pine nuts on it)

OR

Make original recipe, then stir in chopped roasted red peppers

OR

2 tsp basil

3 or 4 sun-dried tomatoes, rehydrated in a little bit of hot water and then chopped into pieces; blend with other ingredients and then drizzle oil, add some saved pieces of tomato on top

OR

1/4-1 tsp cayenne (depending on heat wanted)

Put in refrigerator overnight; cayenne takes a little while to bloom!

OR

Increase lemon juice to 1/4 cup; blend as usual, and then add 2 T poppy seeds

OR

Substitute 5-6 roasted* garlic cloves for the fresh cloves and blend as usual

OR

Blend as usual, then add chopped nuts

OR

Use your imagination!

BON APETIT!

And Fried Corn: 

Fried corn:

2 cups of corn kernels (frozen, not canned)*

2 strips of raw bacon

Salt

Pepper

 

Cut bacon into thin slivers across the short side. Put into frying pan and cook until crisp. Using about 2 T of bacon grease, or whatever is in the pan, add in corn and stir occasionally until corn is cooked. Salt to taste, add lots of fresh ground black pepper.

*You can use fresh corn: 2-3 ears, shucked and de-silked. Wrap in a towel that has been wetted but wrung out. Put into microwave for 4 minutes. Be careful taking them out–it WILL be hot. Let corn cool and then cut from cob. (Cut the stalk end to be flat; stand the corn on that end and CAREFULLY, using a sharp knife, cut from the tip of the cob, down to the bottom, cutting just at the bottom of the kernels. Done properly, you should see only an empty cob when done. If not, scrape the knife from top to bottom, dragging out the bits and pieces that were left.

Serve immediately or prepare ahead of time and then reheat. Makes a good dish for a potluck, increasing quantities:

6 cups frozen corn kernels

1/2 pound of bacon, cut into thin strips across the short side

Salt and pepper

Serving size: 1/2 cup, makes 4 servings. (Potluck size makes 12 servings)

So more cooking. I am also actually making some progress on the sorting of shit I mean stuff. I still tire easily; no muscle tone, no endurance. I’ve been told that the changes are obvious, that I am looking better. I guess so, if I’m not sitting there grimacing in pain all day. Apparently I even sound better, as my psychologist and I have agreed that I will continue to see him until the end of the year, and then we will make a decision about whether to continue or not. He may very well retire then, so it may not be much of a decision for me. I think I’d like to find another therapist. I like the guy I’m seeing, but I do get the feeling that I am giving him therapy almost as much, possibly more, than he does for me. And I’m not getting paid for it.

Oh, that reminds me–I have been following a writer on Medium (dotcom) who is blogging about her therapy and new diagnosis of disassociative personality disorder. She’s about 6 years older than I am and we’re talking about trauma that occurred when she was 7 (sexual abuse at the hands of a neighbor) that shattered her and has caused problems for her all her life. It’s an amazing story and I am very much respectful of the effort this requires at any age, but especially at a later one. So I often comment on her writing, and recently I mentioned how my childhood had been and that I was also trying to deal with the idea that my childhood was NOT normal (as hers was not). I told her that “I am an empath”–and she replied to me, saying that when she hears someone say that, what she really hears is that this is someone who had to develop an ability to predict what someone else meant or wanted and to meet (or exceed) their expectations and to never, ever make them angry–in fact, to prevent it at most any cost. So I am also trying to absorb the concept of being an empath as a childhood survival skill. I can’t argue with the idea of it…makes sense to me!

We’ve had some really beautiful summer days–clear, blue skies, 80+ degrees (which is a freaking heat wave for Eureka!!) and have had the house open to let it air out. I just wish the traffic wasn’t so loud–we live right on the corner of our street and the main road, so we get to hear all of the commuting traffic. It’s enough vehicles that they’ve just erected a new streetlight at the next corner. This is the time of year that is particularly lovely here and will last into almost October. Then it will get cooler again and it will be rainy season (or winter) all too soon. Time does insist on moving forward.

That should bring you up to date on what’s been going on. I’m off to make beefy mac’n’cheese for dinner. Laundry to do tomorrow. And then being an elf again on Friday. Just the regular routine of normal (okay, what passes for normal in MY house) routine.

Peace and blessings to you! (Two photos of our beach; one from 2014 and one from 2017. We’ve lost a lot of beach real estate.)

From the van, looking at the ocean, 2014
From the van, looking at the ocean this year

 

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Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch…

Hey look, I’m a whole 2 weeks earlier than I was last time…only 2.5 months between posts.

I am still rocking the wheelchair. We got the lift adjusted so that Beloved can stow and un-stow it for me. I’ve been food shopping with him at the Co-op for the first time in months. And I’m actually doing more of the food shopping because I go across the street (and down the block) to Murphy’s to pick up what we need. They carry about 40-45% organic items, so it’s easy to do our shopping. They also have an “international” section with British food–and I get us British candies. They are generally all natural (nearly organic), using fruits and vegetables to give color and / or flavor. They are not as sweet as American candy, which he and I both like.

I am STILL waiting for the wheelchair ramp…6 months later. I see my doctor in another month and I’ll let her know it’s not shown up yet. I go for a “Functional Capacity Evaluation” in a couple of weeks; it’s a 6 HOUR testing session, without breaks. I’m figuring I’ll break…maybe an hour or two into it. I’ll do my best, but I AM disabled, no matter what anyone else thinks. And I am already anxious about the fact that the exertion WILL cause a fibro flare–but it is worth the price if I can get an unbiased, professional opinion/evaluation report to give to SSA and the LTD insurance company. I am NOT making this shit up–believe me, I wish it wasn’t true, but it is and I get very worn out, trying to prove it to people who just want to stop (or never start) paying me a disability check.

I have started pool therapy–which mostly involves going into the water (heaven!) and moving around without gravity pushing on me. The staff uses an electric lift to put me into and out of the pool, which means I don’t have to walk the length of the pool (40 ft or so) to get in OR out–which is what stopped me from going the last time I tried this.

I saw the neurosurgeon and he suggested it. Of course the first thing he said to me was, “I’ve looked at your MRI. It’s not good.” DUH! So I got to see my innards…I have bone spurs all up and down my spine. (And probably anywhere else there is bone, from degenerative osteoarthritis and spondylosis.) I am basically missing 2 discs in my neck (that used to be next to each other) as well as having a slipped disc in the lumbar section of the spine. No surgery, because if the surgeon were to fuse the missing area, it would be bolted to the vertebrae above and below–and put more stress on them. They also have the arthritis. So instead of helping, it could very well end up hurting me even more than just leaving it alone. Leaving it alone is what I’m gonna do!

I have a new psychiatrist as my “old” one retired. The new doctor took me off of 4 anti-depression meds (that I had been on, ostensibly for mood augmentation and stress/anxiety) and left me on just one. (Wellbutrin, 300 mg each day.) I still don’t have anything for panic attacks and apparently, that’s just fine. For everyone else. I get anxious about having a panic attack… So my latest medication regimen goes like this: Pain, Morphine, 5mg; Fibromyalgia, Duloxetine, 60 mg; Vitamins D and B12 all in the morning. Bedtime has another 60 mg Duloxetine, the Wellbutrin, GERD med, my omeprazole, 20 mg and for sleep, Trazadone, 100 mg. It all seems to be working pretty well and getting rid of unnecessary anti-depressives means I’m able to concentrate better, not as foggy in the brain, and not falling as often. (I fell TWICE within 5 minutes of each other about a month ago. It was not fun.)

I am also the poster child for using the safety glove that comes with a food mandolin. I didn’t, and was trying to cut jicama. Being a root vegetable, it was hard, hard and then flash! through the blade. I cut my right hand, at the base of the thumb (where thumb and palm hang out together) — cut it about an inch long and deep enough that I won a trip to the ER to get stitches. 5 of them pulled the wound back together…and I removed the stitches myself 2 weeks later. Sigh. I WILL be wearing the “almost uncut-able” glove when I slice veggies from now on. Or my husband will beat me. Wait…that could be a good thing…nah, it wouldn’t be *that* kind of beating, HAHAHAHA!

I’ve done 2 more courses on Coursera.com–Introduction to Psychology and oh boy, was it really different from the first time I took it, 30 years ago. They’re into something called “evolutionary psychology” now, and we actually spent time discussing the physical make-up of the brain and HOW feelings/thoughts are transmitted. It’s all chemicals and cells that receive the chemicals and turn them into electrical impulses. I also did “De-Mystifying Mindfulness”, which was totally awesome. I am just starting 2 more classes: “Magic in the Middle Ages” and “Healing Through Art”. I enjoy learning, especially about subjects that already interest me (like Psych) and the cost (free!) is just right for me.

I am continuing to do most of my writing on Medium.com–which isn’t saying much. Most of what I “publish” is responses to other authors’ posts. I’m sitting here trying to think of what I have been doing and other than putting together 630 piece puzzles on a regular basis…not much of anything. I am working on crocheted blankets for the grands…I like to give blankets to the kids on their BIRTH day and I’m 3 kids behind. In fact, the grandson turns 6 and hasn’t gotten his yet. Part of what takes time to make them is the size I make–about 6’x8′ — large enough to go to college and fit on a dorm bed. Eventually. (Or as a great afghan on their new sofa when they move into their own place. It’s a forever blanket!)

The weather has finally stopped raining and raining and raining…we’re actually seeing the big yellow ball in the blue room. And we’re also able to open up the house, with temperatures in the low to mid 70’s. It still gets chilly when the sun goes down; I turn up the heat in the morning to take the chill off the house until we can open the back door and let the sunshine in.

Beloved has been running his RPG on Friday nights for over 13 months–and was apparently not getting enough gaming. He’s now also running a Star Wars RPG on Tuesdays–and I’m playing in it. So far, so good. The rest of the players are pretty much okay, although we have one who argues with everything the Game Master says. Bad idea. The Game Master is God in this game universe and bad things might happen to someone who is an ass. As he said, “(This player) likes to split the group up–and bad things can happen when you wander off on your own.” <snicker> But at least this player’s energy is not toxic, as was the one player in the game we were in a couple of years ago–that I had to leave because I just couldn’t withstand an entire evening of being around them. Harmful energy–lots of anger in them and that came out during the game. I don’t have the strength or the desire to put up with that crap.

So the story for this game goes like this: The captain (played deftly by the GM as a “non-character player” (NCP)) has a freighter and has hired the rest of us to be the crew. I am the ship’s doctor who just “happens” to also be pretty good with a computer–which means I am also the one who can break into or out of security systems, find information and locate likely sources of whatever we’re looking for in any computer that just happens to be around. (Okay, so I’m a hacker and a quack(er). HAHA) Here’s the photo of what I look like (in game):

My name is Q’ez’ru and I am of the species called “Chiss”. We have the distinction of being the only real ally of the Empire–but not me. I’ve been exiled from Csilla (home planet) and will end up fighting with/for the Republic. It may be hard to see, but my eyes are red–all of the eye–the skin is obviously blue and it gets darker the more oxygen is in the air.

We’ve had our first bit of adventure this week: going to a planet to deliver something the captain had on board when we signed on…and finding out that there’s a person here with a bounty on his head. Did I mention that we like money and turning in someone for money is a great way to make it! We’ve had some fighting–and my pistol was set to “stun” because I’m not a soldier, dammit, I’m a doctor. But I was very happy to drug the bad guys into telling us all we needed to know and then put them to sleep for about 2-3 days and hid them in a convenient dumpster.

We’ll pick where we left off on next Tuesday–on another planet, looking for our bounty prize. So far we’ve managed to waltz in–we had the password for the planet security system (funny that…it was just there, on a data pad we found on a dying droid) and we’re going to bluff our way in–and out with the mark, if we’re lucky. I don’t count on that! I am enjoying this–and a lot of that has to do with the way my Dearest runs a game. He’s OCD about stuff, and gaming is one area that it really shows up. He made each of us a name sign, in a plastic frame, that sits in front of us with our real name on top and our game name across the bottom, with our picture in between. He’s got tokens to represent us, the bad guys and blood spatter tokens to represent the dead. The system for the game is a new one–it’s still got the ubiquitous dice, as any D&D/Pathfinder game would, but no dots to count. There are symbols–some are Jedi, some are Sith. The same symbol but opposite sides cancel each other out. There is success, advantage, and triumph — or failure, disadvantage and trouble. I’ve been rolling pretty well for my medical actions as well as the computer ones. Not having to remember how many dice of what size (4 numbers, 6 numbers, 20 numbers) and having to count the dots makes it a game that I can participate in without the anxiety of keeping up with everyone else and their counting the dots.

It also lets me get out of the house and be social (in a regimented sort of way) AND spend time with Beloved, doing something he loves (and I like pretty well). Of course it’s me and 5 guys … and most of them are just as socially apt as you’d expect a gamer to be…which is not much at all. But it sure beats staying home and putting together yet one more puzzle!

I’ve got some projects I want to do–including those kid blankets. I need to purge my closet and get rid of whatever I am not wearing regularly. I’ve been moving things around in the kitchen so that the foods–and the dishes/glasses I use–are more accessible to me. I got a shelf system that goes over the top of a door, and have loaded it with food that I got out of the cabinet, which leaves me more room to rearrange what’s left in there better. I have moved my spices–I once had a rolling cabinet that had 7 drawers and I put my spices into that. I had forgotten (but have since remembered, obviously) that I really like to have the spices laying down in a drawer–you can see what you want to use without having to paw through other bottles. So I now have all my spices in 2 drawers, easily accessible, in the dark (the best place to store spices/herbs), and neatly organized. Yay me!

Went on a date with the hubby last weekend, to the Minor Theatre for a movie and late lunch. It was an experience! The Minor is the oldest movie house in the entire US for feature-length films. It was built in 1914 to be a movie house and has not been anything else, ever. We saw “Wonder Woman”–I recommend it! We’ll do that again sometime since we enjoyed it so much. There’s nothing else of great importance coming along, except for that evaluation. So life goes on, as it just happens to do…I’m still breathing and that’s enough for me. Talk to you all again … maybe in only 2 months!

Namaste!

Time “March”es On

Okay, so it’s been 3 months since I last blogged. And I didn’t fulfill my promise to tell you when my chair came. Here comes the excuses, or as I like to call it, “a new blog to bring you up to date”.

Wheelchair first. It was delivered to me (first mistake) in January. It was supposed to go to Western Rehab, so that the tech would come out with the chair to my house, make sure everything was set for me–arm height, foot rest position, joy stick, etc. But it wasn’t…it came straight to my house, delivered by the (duh) delivery driver, who didn’t have a freakin’ clue about the chair, let alone the knowledge to adjust it. It had no seat. Really. Just a flat piece of steel, bolted to the rest of the chair. Theoretically (as I was told later), this is because the back of the chair folds down forwards, so that I can get it into the car. I put the gel pad (that the VA had given me several months earlier to go with the scooter) onto the steel platform and climbed into the chair.

I haven’t gotten out since.

Not really, of course I have to get out, to use the bathroom and go to bed. But I do sit in it all day, everyday, and use it to get around in the house. It makes a huge difference, letting me store up the energy I’d have spent in walking (to the kitchen, to the potty) and use that for other things, like cooking dinner. The chair is PURPLE!!!!! (And those of you who know me, know that this is all that’s really important. Right?) It has a lift–and when the chair is in the highest position, I am taller than when I stand up. I had the joystick put on the left (many years of playing console games had trained me for a left hand manipulation of same). The chair can actually go pretty damned fast. I keep it on the very lowest speed almost all of the time. I only turn it up about 2 more notches when I’m going down the street and it’s a straight shot.  (BTW, that “light” shining on the side? Is the reflector, reflecting the flash.)

I am using the individual leg rests instead of the central platform for my feet. I can raise the leg rests to a comfortable position. The platform requires me to put my feet further back than the knees are located, which is not only not comfortable, it is damned UNcomfortable. Overall length is still shorter than the mobility scooter.

I eventually got the “real” pad for the chair. I have had the bracket installed that lets me have a safety flag flying overhead when I’m out. Oh yeah…out. I can go all by myself to the drug store, about 1/2 a mile away, or to the grocery store, down the block and across the street. ALL BY MYSELF!! Wowwee! So far I’m about 5 for 5 in getting into trouble when I go out in the chair. I’ve run it off the sidewalk pretty much every time–one time, I got axle-deep in mulch and couldn’t get out by myself. Two angels came over and lifted the chair back up on the sidewalk. In fact, each time I have needed help, angels have arrived. Have I mentioned just how much I love Eureka?

The tech from Western Rehab (Brian) is working on my desk for the chair. (He’s having to modify the one that was ordered; it was NOT workable as it was for my chair.) The tech from Broadway Medical, the people who are contracted to install lifts for the VA came over on Tuesday and spent 4 hours trying to get the lift pieces installed on the chair and then get the chair into the van. It fits, but just barely. It needs some minor tweaking–the crane’s arm needs to be lifted about an inch, shortened about an inch and the base raised about an inch, all of which will make the chair lift up high enough to be much easier to just push into the van. The biggest problem is getting it over the bump of the bumper. Beloved helped the guy grunt it into the vehicle twice, but everybody knows that he cannot do that by himself–and I cannot help him. So we’ve got to get the lift perfected. I will be doing some research to see if I can find an organization who will feel sorry enough for me to provide a “real” wheelchair-sized van. (The VA will pay for the cost of the modification, like putting on a lift.)

I am so very glad, and very grateful to the VA, for my wheelchair. It makes such a difference, even Beloved has commented on it. We are both a bit exasperated by not being able to put it in the car yet, but even as it is, is better than not having it. I still have to walk into the bathroom–no way in hell to ride the chair into there, and into the office, ditto no way in hell. Otherwise…it works great. I have a variety of reachers and grabbers to get things out of arm’s length.

I am still waiting for the ramp for the house, to get the chair in and out with a little more grace than I do right now. I can hump it over the threshold, but going out, I feel like I’m going to fall on my face with the chair on top of me. Coming home requires a bit of a “running start” and having the power up a couple of notches to have the “oomph” to get back into the house. A ramp will be nice.

Other excitement: I have applied for Social Security Disability for the second time, from the beginning step. Again. And they have already refused me. Apparently they have come to the conclusion that I can go back to work again. WTF? So I immediately requested a Reconsideration — which meant filling out the application form again. This time, I also filled out the Adult Function form, which in 6 pages explains why I just cannot go back to work, idiots. My lawyer from the first unsuccessful attempt is with me again…

And right after I got the news of denial and restarted the SSDI paperwork, I got the annual (you know, every 9 months or so) request from my Long Term Disability Insurance company, wanting to know if I’m STILL disabled. Same paperwork as SSDI, different forms so of course it’s not as easy as cut’n’paste from one to the other. BUT I R a smrt kitty, S M R T. I retained a copy of the annual report from 2013 (don’t ask me what’s happened to the ones in between) that I could just update with how much more pitiful I have gotten. The SSDI forms have gone to the lawyer, so that his office can mail them in and the LTD form has been emailed to the agent handling my case. I am DONE with forms. I have been having MAJOR anxiety with these hanging over my head. Now, everything I can do, is done. I can only wait for answers and they will either be “yes” or “no” and I will deal with any “no” answers when they get here. My stomach is already MUCH calmer and happier.

Anxiety is not a diet I would recommend.

Meanwhile…I am working with my primary care doctor to determine if I have myalgic encephelomyelitis. (ME, usually written as ME/CFS, where “CFS” means Chronic Fatigue Syndrome”). I see the Occupational Therapist sometime in the next couple of weeks to have a function evaluation. I have an appointment with a (ha, “a”, more like THE) neurosurgeon the first week in April to evaluate my neck and what we might be able to do with it. (He’s the only neurosurgeon in this area.) I’m hoping that he can also maybe do some neurological diagnosing of neurological problems…if not, then I will have to (oh dear gods and Dread Cthulhu…) make the fekking trip 5 hours down (and back) to the VA hospital in San Fran. The only neurologist I can see is down there. There is NO neurologist here in Eureka. So we’re talking 10 hours in a vehicle, staying over night because there is no way at all that I can go, have my appointment and then get back in the vehicle and come home. Beloved will not go with me; I will be taken in the VA shuttle bus/van. I will have to figure out how to carry all the things I will need on me and my wheelchair. I will not go to SF until I can get the wheelchair in the van because that’s how I need to get the chair to the Clinic to get on the shuttle. Oh, and all of this for what is probably a 15, MAYBE 30 minute appointment. Even if it’s an hour, the cost in my time, effort and subsequent PAIN is only worth it for the diagnoses of neurological disabilities I (may) have.

If I do end up going, I had better come home with a nice list of diagnoses that explain a lot of my symptoms: tremors in my hands; the whole body shaking I do if I stand for more than 10 minutes; the loss of concentration, memory issues, and so on. I will take all of the medical evidence I can get, to get Social Security paying me and the LTD people to leave me the fuck alone.

I also need to figure out how to explain to both of them that the reason my medical records don’t say, “she can’t walk, can’t stand, has panic attacks, hurts, hurts, hurts, has disturbed sleep” and so on is that *this* is my norm. Your doctor doesn’t write “patient is healthy, doing well, can walk, stand, has no pain” every time you see them. All that gets written is the changes in the norm and any new problem/s. Sigh.

Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?

The weather has been cold and wet, which has added to the “blahs” of having to deal with paperwork that will determine if I have to go back to work or not. (My doctor and I were talking about this and she said to me, “But what kind of work can you do?” Ummmm duh. I can’t.
Anyway, Beloved and I have both been ass-dragging for the past…12 weeks? Something like that. (He had a doctor’s appointment today and has lost 20 pounds in 6 weeks. And his blood sugar, which is what they were checking today, is back down to normal, not elevated into the “better start picking out which test strips you want” level. YAY for him!!)

I have been doing some writing for Medium.com. There’s a larger audience possible there, and so far, I seem to be well received. I have also finished my college course about Ancient Egypt (Penn State) and am now doing “Buddhism and Modern Psychology” (Princeton). I may have told you about this before, but I don’t remember, so here it is (again): There is a website called “coursera.org”, which offers literally hundreds of courses–for FREE, if you don’t care about the credit hours. You can get a completion certificate (credit hours) for about $49 per course. (Some courses have a different pricing because there are multiple classes in a “specialty” curriculum.) There are many schools that participate. The good part about not paying for it is that if you cannot finish the class, you are not out any money. It’s all computer based, so far I’ve only seen video lectures as how the information is taught. Ancient Egypt had a short quiz at the end of each week’s lecture. Buddhism etc has a midterm essay, which was done last week, and there will be a final essay in 3 more weeks. Total class time is 6 weeks. When I’m done with this, I’ll pick out another one. At some point, I may feel able to take 2 or 3 classes at the same time. But until then…one at a time is just fine.

So I’m over 2000 words and I’m running out of steam. Rather than throwing more coal on the first, I’m gonna stop this here and let you get back to your own life. Nice talking to you, I’ll try not to be so long til the next post!

Namaste!

The World Didn’t End (But it May Yet)

The election came and went, I know that you all are aware of who won. Major, major shock to many people and I was one of them. I spent about 3 weeks going through the Kublar-Ross grief cycle: anger, depression, denial, bargaining, acceptance. I’m hanging out in denial until we have actual proof in January that Lord Little Hands (AKA President Pussy-Grabber) is the Anti-Christ and the world begins to truly go to hell, driving in the fast lane and speeding, with the trunk full of TNT and a maniac at the wheel. I have nothing to bargain with and I don’t think that acceptance, full and peaceful acceptance is going to happen, at least for the next 4 years.

The transition has begun and He is already breaking campaign promises. Instead of “draining the swamp” (of all the old, corrupt, useless politicians), he has, as one poster on FB said, “Drained the swamp of swamp monsters, in order to restock it with newer, stronger swamp monsters.” There is not a single person on his Cabinet list that is not reprehensible in some way. And it’s either the height of stupidity or the most craven machinations of That Man to have assigned departments to the very people who will do all they can to destroy whatever cabinet they lead. Such as putting a very rich, very elitist woman in charge of Education, when her children all went to private schools and she doesn’t think that public education is necessary. (End result: only the rich will be educated, and I’m talking the 3 basic “R”‘s: reading, writing and ‘rithmetic.) Originally choosing a white supremacist as Chief of Staff. (I think that’s the right position. I don’t want to go check.)

The list goes on and is filled with billionaires and millionaires. So much for the “normal” people in this country. All of these people are a part of the 1% and have absolutely ZERO, zilch, nada, NO connection to the rest of the citizens. Life is about to become like the Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.”. My fears hover, ready to bloom into full-time terror and anguish; I try very hard not to think about what pushes the fear. So let’s move on to something more interesting, namely: ME. (hahahaha)

Last blog I told you about having an x-ray to find a hip impingement. It was there, on the film. I had gotten back to seeing my acupuncturist. In the time I hadn’t seen him, he had added a new person onto the staff. She is a message therapist, and what Pagans would instantly recognize as an Earth Mother. That’s someone who is motherly (caring, treating boo-boos, watching out for her children — even if they are neither her children nor even a child) and generally has healing powers, although these can be on a spectrum of specific healing. It may not be just physical healing. There’s still emotional, mental, and spiritual healing…and Earth Mothers can deal with all of them, although usually not more than one or two kinds per Mother. If that makes sense. Anyway, there was also a new routine for the session. R, the acupuncturist, stuck the needles in, put Chinese “Ben-Gay” on me and left. I laid there and let those needles do their work. Then C, the message therapist, came in and smudged me with mugwort. (Think aroma therapy, with the smoke of the mogwort being directed at my body. Mugwort has healing properties.) Then she removed the needles and gave me a short message, from hips to head, which is where my pain mostly exists. The first time it just felt great. I mentioned that I had fibro and she instantly asked if she was pushing too hard. I told her that I was hovering somewhere between “Ouch, stop” and “Oh baby, don’t stop.”

The next appointment went pretty much the same way. Except: as C was giving me the message, she suddenly stopped, one hand on my shoulder, one hand in the small of my back. “You want to be healed”, she said to me. “DUH”, said I. She explained that most of the clients just wanted to stop hurting. Then she said, “You BELIEVE you can be healed.” I just said yes. So then she did, for lack of a better term, a laying on of hands. C is a reiki master; reiki is a specific form of healing, with classes being taken from a reiki master, who leads their pupils through the process of learning about it and when they have achieved whatever it is that needs to be done, they are awarded the title of Master. (I don’t “do” reiki; my son and his wife do, having taken the classes. I have been “accused” of being a reiki master…I do healing, but not in any particular specific order of operations.)

So, as I was saying, C is a reiki master, and she placed her hands on several places–my feet, my back, my head; maybe others, I wasn’t paying close attention. What I was paying attention to was the new flow of energy through my body, that I haven’t had for several years. Think of it as stopped up drains. The water cannot get moving in a specific direction, so it just puddles around.  She “cleaned” the drains, and the water began to flow properly again. I know that not everyone understands this or even believes in it; that’s okay. I do, so of course it worked for me. Let’s just say that I have been in a better head space since then.

I let R know that I had been diagnosed with the hip impingement (you remember that? We talked about it way up^^^^there.) So he focused the needles to deal with that area because I was having terrible pain and could actually feel the hip “impinge”–like a burr on a cog, or perhaps a missing tooth on that cog–it goes around and when it gets to the imperfection, it slows things down for just and instant and then, with a little “jump”, moves again–until it comes around to that imperfection again. That’s what walking was like. So he did his needling, haha, and then when C came in the room, she told me that he had asked her to do some directed message (healing) therapy at the hip. When she was done, I could have cried in relief–there was almost no pain and I could walk with that little “click” of the impingement. Between them, the cycle of pain upon pain was broken.

Pretty wonderful, right? “But wait…there’s more!” I went and had an MRI of the hip for closer inspection and evaluation. About a week later, I have an appointment with my doctor, who reads the report of the MRI and tells me: “There is NO impingement!”. Coincidence? I think not. Believe it or don’t, I believed she could heal me; she believed she could heal me, and the impingement is no longer visible. And it’s not causing the pain it had been, at all. Trust me when I tell you that I am very grateful, however the healing actually occurred.

I got my flu shot at the same time I found out about the MRI. (Monday, November 6th.) I voted on Tuesday (with Beloved, of course). By Wednesday morning, I was in “full flu” mode: body aches, stuffy head, general “blahs”. And I had gotten my shot in the pad of muscle just to the side of the hip, above the butt. I’ve had shots there before without any problem. This time, I had an area that size of my palm (about 4″ square) swell up to about 1/4-1/2 inch above the rest of the skin in that area. It hurt like hell. That part lasted about 4-5 days. The results of the election also caused sufficient mental upset that I spend the better part of November being sick; sick enough that I didn’t do much of anything at all and couldn’t really tell you any of it because it was that foggy for me. Sigh.

I did cook Thanksgiving dinner, in small chunks with a lot of rest in between. Boiled the sweet potatoes to make mashed potatoes. Made sage-sausage dressing. Cooked two turkey thighs and a leg (for Beloved). I saved my Thanksgiving meat for the next day, because it was a major undertaking. Beloved had bought me a Dungeness crab! Here he is, prepared for an intimate dinner for moi. As you can see, he was 8″ from point to point and Beloved had asked for the biggest, heaviest crab…so he weighed in at almost 2 pounds. (With all of his shells, of course.)thanksgivingcrab-dismantled Now I’m going to assume a certain ignorance from my readers as regards crabs and the eating thereof. Those of you who know, bear with me. To eat a crab, you have to pull all of the legs, including the claw legs, off of the body. Then you flip it on its back, and begin pulling off what is referred to as “the apron”. These are the sexual organs; in the male, the apron is shaped like an upside down T and is relatively small. The females have a larger apron, with visible “feathers”; this is where she holds the eggs. After removing the apron, there is a small opening now available between the body itself and the top shell. You hold the back and front of the body in your hands, and with your thumbs in that little opening, you pull the back shell off of the rest of the body. Once that has been removed, you remove all of the gills (the “feathers”) and (optionally; there are some who eat this part) take out the intestines from the middle of the body, which is clearly divided into a left and right part. You break the two halves apart and just begin eating, working your way through all of the body. Get ALL of the meat, in the bodies and in the legs/claws. With a Dungeness, there is some meat in every section of the legs and it’s all worth getting. Claw and leg meat is slightly sweeter than the body. If you get good at it, you can get the claw out in one whole piece!

I have been complimented on my crab-picking. I had a 1/2 dozen of Chesapeake Bay Blue crabs–and when I was done, there was this tiny stack of shells (relative to the unshelled bodies). The waitress told me that she had never seen crabs picked so cleanly. (Apparently most people do not “work” for the meat. I was taught from an early age to clean it out completely.) Dungeness are a bit easier to clean out simply because they are larger overall then the Blue crab. Now I’m going to explain the “sloughing” process. Crabs are (obviously) a hard shelled creature. But they do get bigger. The process is this: first, the crab stuffs itself full of food, which in turn makes the amount of meat within its body to increase to the “very full larder” stage; this is because during the period of being “soft”, with a shell that is not yet harden and therefore protective, the crab will not eat. The second shell begins to form, like a thin layer of paper, between the body and the top (back) shell. When it is time, when all is ready for the slough, the crab will go to a safe spot and back out of the old shell. It will then be a soft crab, which is also good eating. It will eat its old shell to get the calcium to harden up the new soft back (and legs, etc). After a bit–a day or two, maybe (another fact I don’t feel like looking up), the new shell is battle-ready and the crab, which has not eaten during this period, is starving and goes off to find food.
(Side story: when the female crab sloughs, the male will cradle her in his claws and protect her from the predators who would like to have soft crab. When the male sloughs…she eats him.)

When picking a crab, you can see the evidence of either getting ready to slough, or, with small amounts of meat inside, a crab that had just sloughed. We don’t want to talk about sad things, so let’s talk about the crab that is getting ready to slough. We call that a “peeler”.  It will be noticeably heavy for its size and there will be a reddish-brown “skin” that clings to the inside of the back shell and over the body. There will be plenty of fat visible. We call the fat “mustard” because of its yellowish color. This crab of mine had ENORMOUS amounts of fat–probably 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup. You can see it here:
dungeness-crab-pate-fatYes, it looks gross. But for those of you who like liver pate, you will understand when I compare this “mustard” to pate. It doesn’t taste quite the same as the meat and it has that velvety texture of a pate. My grandmother introduced me to “mustard”, which is generally found up in the tips of the back shell.

There was an obvious and rather thick new shell on this one as well. I would guess that he was within 24 hours of sloughing. In other words, the PERFECT crab to have for a meal. Yes, the meat was packed in, quite full. Since I ate it as fast as I could pick it out, I can’t tell you how much meat there was. I’m guessing at least a pound. The taste was phenomenally and incredibly good; he was probably the best crab I have ever eaten. (And I’ve eaten quite a few. For comparison’s sake, I could eat 1/2 dozen of Blue crabs quite easily. My record is 18 or 19, but they were all relatively small and “light”–not empty like a just-sloughed crab, but certainly not a “peeler”. I have yet to eat more than 1 Dungeness at a time. The Blue crab is the VW Beetle of the crab world; the Dungeness is an 18 wheeler with a trailer. Om nom nom.)

Here’s a Dungeness, with a human for scale:
dungenesscraboldharbor1Please note that this is not a particularly large Dungeness, this is just about the “usual” size.
The only thing I miss is the Old Bay seasoning that is put on Blue crabs, although I have to admit that the Dungeness (usually steamed or boiled) has enough flavor of its own that I don’t miss that enough to get some Old Bay in a small bowl to dip the meat.
Thus endeth my dissertation on crabs. Onwards.

I still haven’t gotten my chariot yet; I do hope it will be here by the end of this month. I could really use it right now–and for the past month. I did see the Physical Therapist at the VA clinic. We discussed how I manage, what is becoming harder to manage, that sort of thing. She’s getting me a new type of sock-put-ter-onner. (I couldn’t make the first one work.) She’s also getting me some foam tubing, of various diameters, to cut into the proper length for such things as to be on my kitchen tools, to provide a larger diameter than the utensil’s own handle. I already have something similar to that for my eating utensils. (I bought 2; I am using one on the spoon I use; the other is on my crocheting needle to help me hold that longer.) The PT is also getting me a jar-opener which will save my hands and wrists when trying to open recalcitrant jars. There was even some talk of a new mattress for my bed–I got it in March. Between have my head up (for GERD/reflux) and my feet raised (for swelling), my butt has created this marvelous hollow, right in the center of the mattress. The new one would ostensibly be better able to deal with the focus of weight in one spot.

Beloved and I are both having more “bad” (achy) days because it’s winter in Eureka. That means a LOT of rain and cooler temperatures. But the difference between night’s low temperature and day’s high is only about 10-15 degrees. We’ve gotten into the mid 40’s for a couple of nights–but we are still getting the 70 degree days, just not as often as we would in the rest of the year. We’ve even had a couple of thunderstorms, which are not common here.

Not a lot on the calendar this month. A couple of appointments for each of us–one of mine is for the radiographic (?) ablation of a varicose vein in my left leg. Basically, it kills the length of vein and the blood then goes back and forth in the artery/veins that don’t have faulty valves.

No specific plans for Christmas. We will probably at least acknowledge Winter Solstice (Yule) and we will definitely talk to his family on Christmas Day. (We talk to them almost daily.) I might even talk to my parents over the holiday time. I suppose we’ll have something special to eat for Christmas Day, although we could as the Jewish people do on that day: go eat Chinese food. (LOL) New Year’s Eve is another “non” holiday; we stay to watch the ball come down (on our computers), share a toast of something bubbly and then go to bed. Or back to our computer games.

So nothing really earth-shaking to report. I will of course let you all know when my wheelchair arrives and how I’m doing with it. Stay warm, keeping getting out of bed every day. Blessings and peace to you all!

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!

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:
:   :
:   :
&%^
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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…
Namaste!

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!