Father’s Day 2013 (Updated on Jun 28)

So I scrolled through my Facebook feed this morning, reading status after status of Father’s Day greetings.  Some were for fathers who have died but are still being acknowledged for the influence they had on their children.  Some were for the fathers of their children, even if they aren’t still a husband–and the fact that, once you have kids, you are connected to this man forever, no matter what you think or feel about him.

These messages were, almost 100%, positive and affirming, thanking men who had great influence on lives beyond merely donating genetic material for their lives.  Many posters changed their profile picture to one of their father, or of their father and them.  Several talked about the continued interaction they have with their fathers, even being adults themselves, and how this continues to make their lives more meaningful.

I guess you can tell that we’re not going to have that kind of conversation here.

I’ve blogged before about my father ( My Daddy ) so I won’t go into long details about my childhood here.  But I got to thinking, as I was reading my friends’ comments, that while I love my father, I feel no particular connection to him.  I may not even call him today because frankly, he’s getting old, he doesn’t hear well, he’s hard to understand on the phone–and he wants to talk about health issues and what I should be doing about mine.  There’s not much left for us to talk about; computers, how my car is doing, health.  When I do call, if he answers, once he realizes it’s me, he hands the phone over to my mom almost immediately.

I haven’t seen my father in almost 4 years; the last time I saw him (and my mother) was when they came to Baltimore to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary with me, my children, my brother and his family.  We tried to make the trip as pleasant as possible and they both just complained about everything.  (Minor side not here: choosing the restaurant for the anniversary dinner was horrendous.  Suggestion after suggestion was made, internet research was done and menus were compared.  It finally came down to my father telling my mother, “ML, just pick one because you’re not going to like it anyways.”  Prophetic words.  They both groused about it later, how the food wasn’t that good and so on.  I thought it was really good and so did everyone else at the table.  Sigh.)

It is entirely possible that I will never see either parent again.  And when they die, I am not going to TX to the funeral(s).  I cannot afford it and I see no reason to go visit someone if they don’t know I’m there.  Hmmm visits.  I got to counting how many times I’ve seen my father after I left home to go into the AF (1980).  He visited MY house exactly ONE time.  I think the total is 8.  And one of those is actually the 3 month period when I lived with my grandmother (who lived just 5 minutes walking from my mother, her daughter).

So in my adult life I continued the pattern of my childhood–my father loves me, provides what he can, whether it be advice or material things, but he’s just not around.  My father is NOT my friend.  And I don’t mean that in a nasty way.  But you hang out with friends, you see them and call them regularly, you know what each other likes and dislikes.  I don’t do any of that with the man whose genetic information I carry.  I look like my father.  I cannot tell you what his favorite color, food, band or TV show is.  I don’t know what size he wears, or what kind of shirt he prefers.  In fact, there’s an awful lot about my dad that I don’t know.  And that’s true the other way around: he doesn’t know an awful lot about me.

So there’s no connection beyond that DNA thing.  Not really.  We might pretend that there is.  We can talk about “remember when” from a history of 18 years together–but I don’t remember the first 3 or 4 real well and to be blunt, he wasn’t there for a great deal of the other 14 years.  Not until I was in high school was he truly a routine part of my routine.  And folks, it’s been 34 years since that time existed.  We’ve all forgotten a lot about it, so there’s a few highlights that get mentioned whenever we’re talking about the good old days.  We don’t have any current congruent events to discuss.  And no upcoming common events to plan.  So no connection of the normal social interaction that defines friendship and family.  (You can have lots of family that has NO common DNA with you–it’s the family that you’ve chosen rather than the one you were born into.  And generally, these are better and more assured places for support, resources and emotional bonds.)

He IS my father.  As I said, I look like him.  Even with him being gone so much of my childhood, my mother has told me that in many ways, I act like him.  I believe that personality has at least 50% of its basis in your DNA; you are born with a personality framework that is in your genes.  THEN your environment either brings out or suppresses various parts of the personality.  So I can act like him without knowing how he acts.  He has many characteristics that I respect; he has done many great things in his life.  He has had an interesting and exciting life (and while it’s not over, I suspect that the drama factor has dropped substantially.  The biggest event now is driving up to San Antonio for his doctor’s appointments.  LOL).  But I do not have a bond with this man whose genetic traits I carry.

Father’s Day.  I honor my father for all that he has given me, for all that he has taught me, for the example he has been to me and my brother.  I respect him for the life he has led, even though I cannot tell you most of it.  I love him in a way that I will never love another man, but in many ways, he is still a stranger to me.  And all I can tell you for sure is that he is my father.

So I scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed, reading about fathers and feeling sad about these truths I hold about my father when I read my daughter’s status.  Like many others, she mentioned her biological father as well as the father of her children.  I read that status a couple of times and while I would have loved to click the “Like” button on this status as I had on so many others, I just could not.

Here’s why.  She could have mentioned a third man, honoring him for being another person in her life who loves her and is a resource for her–emotionally, physically, financially.  Someone who is there to talk to, who visits and who also loves her children.  Someone who has no children of his own, will have no grandchildren that look “just like grammpa!”.  A man who wanted nothing more than to be a part of my family–my husband.  It’s not that there is a nasty scene with high drama that explains why she didn’t mention him.  She CHOSE to preclude him from the status of “step dad” of her own free will and without any cause from him.  And this makes me both incredibly angry and terribly sad.

It affects me because it affects him.  I talked about this in my earlier blog, “Changes, Choices and Chagrin” and obviously, nothing has changed since then.  Today’s status was just another emotional slap in the face and frankly, I am not in a condition to deal with it.  Which is why I’m writing it here.  If I can write it down, share it with you, perhaps I can let it go out of my heart and not continue to cry about it.  He never wanted nor meant to replace her “real” father in her life.  And I truly believe that we can never have too many people who love us.  So it always makes me sad when people choose to refuse offers of genuine love and support.

I was told that it would get confusing to the granddaughter to have all these grandparents, that the biological father’s wife wasn’t being called “grandma” either, so my husband didn’t have to feel that he was being singled out.  Well, guess what?  No child can have too many people to love them, either.  And just exactly WHAT do you call the husband of your grandmother or the wife of your grandfather?  I was initially told that the title also could not be used because we weren’t married.  And the impression I got was that there was this conga line of men going through my life, and it WOULD get confusing if Grandmom had a new grandfather with her every time she visited.  Not sure where that impression was based, because Beloved was the first man I had dated in several years, and the first man I moved in and was living with since a relationship that had died in 2002.  We’re not talking conga line.  We’re barely talking MEN plural.  And regardless of that, we ARE married now.  Have been for quite a while.

And it’s not confusing to the kids if you say “Grandmom Lisa and Granddad John are coming over.” And then there’s Granddad Bill and his wife, Grandmom Julie.  And considering that my daughter’s quasi-in-laws are also divorced and there’s 4 of them as well…it’s just the way things are, and there’s a lot of families that are having to use this same kind of naming system because divorce occurs so often.  This doesn’t even begin to include the “greats”–the still living parents of the grandparents.  Or the dear, dear family friend who is too old to be “Auntie” or “Unk”.  And when a small child is referring to this one as a grandparent, do they call the spouse by their first name?  Unless said spouse has indicated that’s the preferred method of naming, it’s kinda rude.

“The child will pick their own name for the (not) step-grandparent.”  Really?  Then we’re in real trouble, especially considering that my Froggy calls his other grandmother “Nut Nut”.  And my granddaughter calls her (not) step-grandmother “Poopie”.  No thanks.  I’d like SOME control over what I’m going to hear out my beloved grandchildren’s mouths for the next oh 18 years.  Truthfully, I’m not caught up in the title part.  I really am okay with my grandchildren calling me by my name.  It’s short, it’s easy, even a child can say it without too much problem: Kate.  But that denies the social nicety, almost necessity of that title, which defines my relationship to the child.  Which is why I’m peeved that my husband is going to have to be explained–and the explanation comes down to, “This man is my grandmother’s husband, but he’s NOT my grandfather.”  Fuck that shit.

And up a generation, the introduction sounds like this: “This is my mother’s husband, but he’s NOT my father.”  Wow.  Really?  What’s wrong with, “This is Jim, my stepdad.”  Because there are step-parents who are as bad (or worse) than your biological ones.  It’s a title, it explains the relationship between the two people without having to make someone feel bad because you talk around the connection.  Oh connection.  That’s right, it has been chosen to refuse that connection.  And in refusing to make *that* connection, the grandchildren are also denied the connection.  It could not be made any clearer that my Beloved, MY husband, is not a part of my family.

My family, that I have loved and thought was strong, my children who I also call my friends.  Seems like I was wrong and I’m not sure where I lost that.  But it’s gone.  I have to acknowledge that while we have a different relationship than if we were just parent and child, we really aren’t friends any more, for the reasons listed above about why my father and I aren’t friends.  Same reasons, same results.  And if I have to choose between my children, who are grown and have children (and lives) of their own–and my husband, there’s no choice.  Why should I give up my happiness and my love to sit at home and wait for my children to visit me at their convenience?  They have lives of their own, it is not their responsibility to take care of me nor to be at my beck and call–or even to be a regular part of my life, given the geographical distances there are between us.

I expect them to be smart enough to know that the last sentence works both directions.  I have a life of my own, with my own Beloved and this is the life that I choose.  I do NOT choose to exclude my genetic offspring.  I would prefer to see them often, to have time together…but it’s just not the reality of our lives.  I have offspring by choice–young people who do seek me out, that I spend time with, who are my friends.  I consider them family just as much as the 3 I pushed out of my body and into the world.  That genetic bond will always, always be there; I do and will always love the children of my body dearly and would do anything I could for them if they needed it–BUT I will also live my own life, with my love, with the family of my choosing.  I hope that I will choose wisely and always welcome into my life the people who will love me, support me, be a resource and a help to me.  I know that people will come and go; there is a tide to who is in the family just as sure as the tides of the ocean.  Being related means that you get first dibs, but you don’t get the only dibs.  And if you don’t maintain the other relationship ties, the genetic tie can end up not being enough to say that you are family any more.

I say this even as I acknowledge that I have both a mother and a father, still living.  I have a brother (who has his own family).  Are the original four members of the first family I ever knew still a family?  No.  Not really.  Being family requires effort, it’s a relationship, same as being in love, or being married, or being friends.  It requires the expenditure of time definitely and money possibly.  It requires commitment…and I am feeling very unhappy that my daughter and her love, the parents of my granddaughters, will not accept my commitment to my husband nor do they welcome the chance for a new commitment to someone who would be another person to love them–and their children.  I feel very unhappy that my son apparently has some of the same hesitations, although our interactions with him have not been as strained or requiring as much conversation as I have had with my daughter.

I cannot tell if this is just a part of their concern for me.  The rapidity with which my Beloved and I went from meeting to married was…well, whirlwind.  (See “The Case of the Disappearing Queen“)  I can’t tell if the timing of my decline in health and our being together has seemed too coincidental and therefore, it’s *his* fault.  Which it’s not–and apparently, no one has considered where I would be health-wise if I did not have him with me.  I shudder to think what state I’d be in, physically and mentally, if I did not have him to help me, to care for me when I need it and to have been a financial resource when I couldn’t work.  OMG, I’d probably have a dreadful life of work and sleep with no ability to do anything else–and I would not be diagnosed, so I’d be getting sicker and sicker, taking more and more OTC drugs to try and handle the pain…don’t want to think about it.

What began as a routine Sunday has been changed into a long rant about fathers, family and what constitutes both–and what doesn’t.  I think I feel a bit better, although sadly resigned to the way things are in my life, both in the direction of my father as well as in the direction of my children.  I am going to be posting another blog pretty quickly behind this one, as things have been happening and I haven’t been telling you about them, but they are separate from this one.  Thank you for listening, maybe this has started some introspection of your own about your father and your family.  As I told Beloved, the best definition for enlightenment is probably this: Learning something you really didn’t want to know, but knowing that it’s true.  Sigh.

Namaste, and Happy Father’s Day!  (We all have one, no matter what!)



So.  Things have happened, conversations have occurred and I need to make an update to this blog.

I owe some apologies to people who were mentioned earlier.  First, for “airing dirty laundry” in public, “all over Facebook”.  Even though I don’t use names, if you know me, you know who I mean when I talk about my family.  So it’s not as discrete as perhaps it should be.  On the other hand, this is MY blog and while the link gets posted in FB, I find it really hard to believe that EVERYONE reads it.  If they do, then I have a larger audience than I ever imagined.  

Second, I apologize to everyone that I “pushed” my husband on.  In my love and enthusiasm, I wanted everyone who knew me to love him as much and accept him as someone with a greater claim to association than perhaps they felt comfortable with at first meeting.  He was also enthusiastic about having instant relationships, again, simply by association to being with me.  He is a generous man, who believes that if he has it, does not need but you do, will then give said item(s) to you for your benefit.  It may be something as simple as sharing the names of his favorite sci fi authors, or the information he has gained about organic foods.  It can also include physical things, from a shared meal that you don’t have to pay for, to a book that he thinks you will enjoy, even up to expensive electronics that are on “permanent loan” until it can be paid back over time–and the cost is always at a loss to him.  

Unfortunately, his bipolar disorder causes some behaviors that may not be understood by others.  He loves to talk about his gaming, or military history…and when he knows about a topic, he KNOWS about a topic.  And the more enthused he gets, the louder he gets.  (Doesn’t help that he’s got moderately severe hearing loss in both ears.)  He is also particularly susceptible to emotional swings (he’s bipolar, remember?) and a casual remark that seems slighting to him can push him into depression faster than Superman changes his clothes.  If he were diabetic, I’d warn people not to give him sugary things.  There’s no nice or easy way to warn them about the various manifestations of his disease–which is mostly controlled by his meds, but the stress anxiety disorder rears its head up and makes some visits with people really interesting.  Let’s just say that he needs ALL that he can take for stress before going to see his mother…a major source of anxiety every time we go.  

So he’s not “normal”, does not react to things the same way as you or I.  He was thrilled to think of my family as suddenly being “his” family too.  Neither of us considered that relationships don’t spring into being…and we should have.  We’re not around children very often…and even though he would love to have a child, it’s obvious that we’re not going to.  So he lacks some of the social skills for interacting with the little ones.  Watching him hold a newborn was amusing because it was very apparent that he felt like he was holding a piece of dainty china!  I also suspect that his size can be a bit intimidating to the little people, and as a person they’ve just met, or met before but not seen very often, they may not initiate interaction with him–and he has no idea how to start up playing with them.  He has really very little experience with anyone younger than about 15-16 years old.  But he does enjoy contact when it occurs; he tries to be welcoming to them and having a good time with them. And children are much more accepting than adults.  

Having said that, it is important to tell you that it was never meant for him to supplant an already present family member.  NEVER.  But he is not considered to be a part of the family at all.  He’s just “my husband”.  It’s apparently irrelevant that by being “my husband”, he is MY family.  He and I are related, by love and by law.  

I think that my biggest problem with this, even as I understand the reluctance to give him not even the same, but similar name, to other family members is that I never hesitated to consider various other people who came into our lives over the years as family members…I have a “son by another mother” and a couple of daughters that I did not give birth to.  I’ve had sisters by another mister…and even some older friends who felt like aunts, uncles or even grandparents.  An insistence that only people related by blood and DNA can be given familial titles is something that I find extremely limiting.  And in limiting them by title, you do the relationship an injustice–and can end up not realizing just how much like a “true” family member they are.

You are related to some people by blood and DNA.  And they may not be good for you; they may be abusive, or neglectful (its own sort of abuse) or they may simply just not want the very best for you and are nothing but a negative influence in your life.  They may be leeches, in subtle ways as they wear you out emotionally, or in more obvious ways as they live off of your efforts, including your money.  They may have all sorts of bad, unpleasant or obnoxious behaviors–and if they weren’t related to you by blood and DNA, you would have NOTHING to do with them.  So why do you accept behavior you find deplorable from someone, just because they are “related” to you?  You don’t have to.

And other the hand, there are people that you meet–in the grocery store, at the library, in a bar; you might meet them by being introduced to them by a friend or your blood relative.  And the Universe has put them into your path because they can help you, they can be a resource for wisdom–or money; they can be a sounding board for your new ideas because you know that they will give fair assessments and plausible suggestions to make those dreams come true.  Sometimes, they do end up replacing a “real” relative who has died because they have taken on the role that relative was for you.  

“Home is the place that when you go there, they have to take you in.”  And home is not a specific building, just to be clear.  There are plenty of folk who have been kicked out the home they thought they had, told never to come back.  Or when they need to return because their life hasn’t gone well, they are grudgingly allowed back, and served up a litany of how rotten they are, what a loser they are… So sometimes being blood related ain’t worth shit.

Which is why I have said, over and over again, that you have family that you are related to, but don’t HAVE to endure…and you have the family that you choose.  These are the people that you KNOW have your back, that will welcome you into their home no matter what time of day, to let you stay as long as you need to.  They will give you money, food, clothes and their car without question.  They will comfort you when things get bad, and cheer you when good stuff happens.  And in this family that you’ve made, there might actually be several “moms”, a “dad” or two…some uncles, some sisters, some whatevers…it’s just about having a group of people that love you, just as you are.  They are a resource and a refuge whenever you need them.  And it’s always a joy (and generally lots of fun) to be with them.

Frankly, I do not understand why anyone would want to limit this chosen family, to keep the familial titles for those who share DNA–even when those DNA sharers aren’t worth the time of day.  I don’t, and won’t.  So I guess I tend to forget that not everyone wants to just add people in, willy nilly.  So I apologize for that as well.

I never meant to make anyone feel unhappy or uncomfortable at any point since meeting my Beloved.  I can only point to my enthusiasm for finding the love of my life as the reason for wanting to include him at every level with my family, related and chosen.  I failed with both and now there’s just him and me.  Which may be sad, but perhaps as it was supposed to be, so that the move to CA would not be as heartbreaking, having to leave everyone behind.  Even the ones I thought might be going with us will not be going at the same time…and things can change, so we shall have to wait and see.  

I hope that we can continue to communicate with those we leave behind–yay for the Interwebs, Skype and FB. And maybe, just maybe…people will at least come to visit?

Namaste once again, my friends–and my family.

Where Did April Go?

Okay, so I lied in my last blog.  We are not speaking “soon” because it’s “later”.  Quite a bit later, to tell the truth.  Sorry about that.  So let me catch you up on all the news and what’s happened in the 2 months since we last talked.

First off, we are NOT getting the car.  My appeal to SSDI has been accepted, but because of the glorious sequestration, has not even been assigned to a caseworker yet, which means…no answer for a long time, maybe a year or more.  (I hope not, but I’m not holding my breath for a rapid answer.)  Beloved’s appeal for LTD (Long Term Disability) has been accepted and they have from 45 to 90 days to make a decision.  We’ll see how that goes because with two separate government agencies assessing him as permanently disabled, the insurance company would have to be completely stupid and a prick to turn him down.  But it’s been known to happen, so again, no holding breath.  MY appeal for LTD has been awaiting medical information which the lawyer should have this week, and that will go to the company once she has it.  So we are back to playing a waiting game for almost any income that might occur.

The most major change, and a new decision on our part, is that we are moving to Eureka, CA at the end of October, when our lease expires.  Beloved asked me, “If you could live anywhere in the US, where would you go?”  So I began to reject states that are too cold, too hot, too wet, too dry; we also decided against those states whose local governments have lost their freaking minds (anti-women legislation or mandated religious affiliation for residents of that state).  Once you have cut out those things, you’re pretty much left with the West Coast.  No SoCal; I lived there before and will NOT live there again.  WA is a little on the chilly side.  So I looked at what was left and there was OR, and there was…I FOUND IT!  Eureka!  (You know that’s what “eureka” means? “I found it”.)  

Beloved was interested so I began to research it.  Everything I found just made it more and more obvious as the place for us to live.  The cost of living there is about 30-35% cheaper than living here in VA, even as far south from DC as we are (50 miles or so).  Our cost of living is about 125 of the index for median cost of living.  If 100 is the average location, than it is obviously more expensive to live here.  NYC is about 180, if that helps.  So Eureka is 94.  We currently live in a 1 bedroom apartment; I can rent a 2 bedroom house in Eureka for the same  amount.  There is no tax on food and the costs for organic are about 1/3 of what they are here at Wegman’s.  And the main local grocery store is Eureka Natural Foods–it’s ALL organic and they tell you where everything came from.  

Eureka is in Humboldt County, home of the Happy CA Cows.  So milk and milk products (even RAW, sold at the grocery stores) are local as is the beef.  Almost no carbon footprint for hamburgers or steak.  Agriculture is one of the main industries here and almost all of it is organic.  CA is working on making Monsanto label all of the GMO foods and doesn’t seem inclined to let Monsanto spread its unholy evil GMO seeds anywhere in this state.  Organic food is a cash crop here and GMOs would totally fuck that up.

Eureka has a population of about 30k, surging up to a roaring 45k during the work day.  Most people who live in the feeder towns have about a 10-15 minute commute.  That won’t matter to us, of course, but it’s nice to know that mostly everything we want is within a 10 minute drive.  There is public transportation 6 days a week.  Eureka has a surplus of water and electricity; a monthly bill for the average 1 bedroom apartment for electricity is about $10-15.  Gas is the more common utility for heat, hot water and cooking.  

Heat is a bit of a misnomer.  Every place that I’ve looked at has one central vent, set in the wall, about 30 inches by 4 feet, that heats the entire home.  The lowest temperature ever recorded in Eureka was 24 degrees; the average winter low is about 35 degrees.  The highest temperature ever recorded was 85 degrees with the average high temp in the summer running about 75 degrees.  The average temperature YEAR ROUND is 65.  There’s about 3 days each winter where you might get a freeze, maybe up to 3 inches of snow.  There are essentially 2 seasons: fall/winter, or the wet season, with up to 6 inches of rain and spring/summer, or the dry season, with lots of sunshine.  No one has an AC unit.  And the fact that the weather doesn’t change every 15 minutes like it does here will be an immeasurable relief for my poor barometric bones.

Eureka is right on the Pacific Ocean.  That alone makes it THE PLACE for me.  I love the ocean and have missed living near to it, let alone NEXT to it.  Eureka is also the only deep water harbor between San Fran and Coos Bay (WA).  This means SEAFOOD GALORE!  Salmon, oysters, Dungeness crabs, shrimp…other kinds of fish and a sushi diet for Beloved and me!

Eureka is also the #1 Small Town for Art and Creativity in the US.  They have an annual parade of floats built on bicycles, called Kinetic Sculptures.  There is an Old Town section and Victorian is the most common house style, with the Carson Mansion, an incredibly glorious example of the style, as a tourist site and hotel.  There is the Samoa Cookhouse, which preserves the food of the “good old days” with a museum of photos and cooking related objects and a restaurant that serves the olden time recipes family style.  (Side note: apparently the food ain’t that great, but it’s an awesome place to take out of town guests for a taste of the Gold Rush days.)

Something else about Eureka that makes Beloved so happy he could wet his pants: they have one of the largest, best known game stores on the West Coast: North Coast Roleplaying Game Store.  (He and I have both heard of it, mentioned in some of the science fiction we read–Larry Niven and John Ringo.)  He anticipates being able to game several nights a week, and perhaps even getting a little part time job there.  We have also located an ongoing wood working class at one of the local middle schools where for $15 a session, you get to learn how and then to actually make wooden stuff.  Beloved is already drawing up plans for our computer desks.

Going to CA would mean leaving BRUU (Bull Run Unitarian Universalist).  But I have found HUUF (Humboldt Unitarian Universalist Fellowship) and the website shows a group of people that I am eager to meet.  Between the game store, HUUF, the woodworking class, and the grocery store (where we ALWAYS end up talking to lots of people), I think we will be able to find a new social circle.  I certainly hope so, as I also hope that our health, particularly mine, will have risen back up to levels of being able to do things again.

Going to CA means leaving family and friends behind.  We have talked long and hard about this, and have had to come to the reality of our lives and the fixed income we have.  We cannot live on the edge of poverty, one car repair or serious illness from actual poverty, here in VA, waiting for friends or family to visit.  (Or feeling well enough ourselves to go visit them.)  As much as I would like to stay near all of my grandchildren, the truth is that we don’t see any of them often enough to merit staying.  And it’s not like this a new idea in my family: my mother moved far away from her mother for many years.  We were fortunate enough to live very close to my mother’s parents for my high school years so that I have many memories of them.  I moved away from my mother for many years and then when I moved back to the area she lived in, she and my father moved to TX for their retirement, with most of the same criteria as we have used for our decision to move.  

There are the Interwebs, Skype, email and Facebook for us to stay in touch–and indeed, that’s how we basically interact now.  And in time, there may even be the opportunity for my children to bring their children to Eureka to see us and visit.  Or maybe we will save up enough to fly back East.  I don’t know that these things WILL happen, but I will be open to watching for them if they occur and taking advantage of them when they do.  The same thing applies to our friends.  Beloved’s best friend actually travels to CA 4 or 5 times a year and is very likely to add Eureka to his flight plans–and his fiancee indicates that he “loves” CA, so who knows?  Maybe in a few years, he’ll “retire” out to Eureka as well…take a new job there or maybe freelance as a consultant (he’s a server engineer and in great demand).  

So by all indications, Eureka has a better climate, better food, better cost of living, better housing, better life for us.  All of these things mean that our health has finally got the chance to improve to livable, bearable levels.  Or so we believe and we are beginning the process of getting out there.  I am impressed with how much Beloved is willing to get rid of, willing to sell or throw away…all we’re taking is what will fit in a small moving container (like a PODS, only not that brand); our two 70 pound suitcases (each) and our carry-ons.  We will begin our life in CA in style–we are budgeting to fly out FIRST CLASS!  Beloved is a large man and will not fit a coach seat.  Although, truth be told, I don’t fit a coach seat well enough to be comfortable with a cross country flight.  So we’ll have luxurious seats, a real meal, drinks, priority boarding and disembarking–and the privilege of taking TWO suitcases stuffed to the gills.  (But not heavier than 70 pounds.)  

In the meantime…I was astonished to receive approval from the VA for health benefits (considering the backlog of applications).  That means I have health insurance again, thank the Maker.  I have the first available appointment, July 17th.  Just a little backed up there, are we?  And the clinic is in Fredericksburg, so we can go to the Waffle House.  Or to South Vietnam Restaurant, that our friend introduced us to–or the incredible kabob place we discovered last time we were in town there.  I am hoping that they will give me back the Lyrica, because I’ve just been going downhill…

There is HUGE news on the fibromyalgia front: UIC College of Medicine has researched and found the biomarker for fibro–and they have determined that it is an AUTOIMMUNE disease, not a neurological one as has been thought.  What does that sentence mean?  It means that there is now a BLOOD TEST FOR FIBROMYALGIA!!!!
It can be proven with a medical test and is NO LONGER a “self-diagnosed” disease.  It also costs $744–so it’s another thing I’m going to ask the VA about paying for.  I’d like to have it done so that I can use it as evidence for my various disability benefits.  When I read about it, I burst into tears…it’s not in my head, it is REAL.  Like I’ve been trying to tell you bastards, this is not laziness or lack of initiative…it’s a disease and it affects me!

I’ve been doing badly enough that Beloved insisted on taking me to our PCP, and paying full price for the visit.  The doctor is wonderful–he charged us for the cheapest visit, and the office policy is to give a 40% discount if you pay in cash, in full, at the time of the visit.  So what we had budgeted $200 for ended up costing only $96.  Which was good, because the doctor gave me a new script for Neurontin (for pain) and then UPPED the Vicodin dose to twice what I had been taking…and those two medicines cost us $120.  I have scripts for 2 other meds, but no money to get them yet and I may just wait and take them to the VA and see if they will fill them (or re-write them and dispense me the meds).

The Neurontin helps, and of course, double dosed Vicodin also manages the pain MUCH better.  I am starting to feel a little more…awake, alert…not locked in a glass box made of pain.  I am hoping to be able to do stuff around the house, which has deteriorated to the point where I just want to blow it up and be done with it.  Sigh.  Little bits, little efforts done when I have the energy…rest when I need it and things will get done.  

Beloved and I went up to Baltimore a couple of weeks ago for the Lizard’s baby shower.  She is not going to make it to the end of May and in fact, I expect the phone to ring almost any time now.  It’s a little girl (if I hadn’t told you) and so now Dad is seriously outnumbered in a house full of estrogen!  It was good to see EG–she’s getting tall and she speaks so clearly!  Nice to not have to try and figure out what she’s talking about.  And she’s excited to be the Big Sister–hope that stays true, since EG is used to being The Only Child and the center of the Universe, at least in her world!  I think it will–my son never expressed any resentment of the new baby and he and his sister have grown up to be very good friends.

We’ve been telling everyone why they should move with us…I’d love it if all my people came with me, and we were all living in this wonderful place with wonderful lives!  Minimum wage in CA is $9 per hour and Eureka has a ballot item to raise their minimum wage to $12 in January 2014, with it tied to the cost of living index, which means an automatic increase each time the cost of living goes up.  If I had to get a job, this would be an acceptable wage–since I was only making $14.48 after 6 years at my former place of employment.  Even with SSDI, we can each earn up to $1k per month, as long as we don’t go over a total income of almost $20k together, for the year.  So we can certainly do a part-time something for what Beloved refers to as “beer and skittles” money.  There is also a rumor that CA gives an additional state SSDI benefit to make up for the cost of living–about 20% of what the government is paying.  That would be a nice little addition to our lives!

So that’s about it for us.  No buying a car here because we’ll get one in CA.  Health benefits for both of us (mine is VA, his is Medicaid/Anthem), thank goodness.  Lawyer is still working on LTD benefits, so fingers are crossed for those to be approved and paid out.  The house is disgustingly dirty and messy…but I am finally starting to feel a little bit better and plan to take care of that, one little step at a time.  Most of our time now is focused on getting ready for the move by sorting and making decisions about belongings.  We’ll sell what we can, donate what is usable but not sellable, dispose of properly that which is neither usable nor sellable…and reduce our belongs to fit into a 6 x 7 x 10 foot box.  This will also help get the house into a better shape for us to live in, even if it’s only for a few more months.  

We are looking forward to the pool opening on Memorial Day weekend.  We swam a lot last year and Beloved really enjoys it.  It helps with toning muscles that couldn’t stand any other form of exercise or working out.  It is part of our plan to swim at least 3 times a week in Eureka–there is a wonderful community center that has a pool and hopefully won’t be too expensive to belong to it.  We did go to Black Bear for Beloved’s birthday lunch and then went to see “Iron Man 3” when it opened as a late present.  I’ve already asked for steamed crabs for my birthday in August–probably the last time I’ll get those BLUES…but the good part about Dungeness crabs is that you can really only eat one, maybe two–they are MUCH larger.  Slightly different taste, but I can buy them live and cook them with the Old Bay seasoning…

Life goes on, some days good, some days bad, some days terrible…and the occasional great day that makes up for the terrible ones.  Trying to get healthy (hard to do without insurance, but now we can…), not doing anything major or earth-shattering except moving!  I’ll keep you updated on the process and bitch about the horrors of moving (which I actually hate)…


Had a knock on the door and the FedEx man is standing there, wanting a signature.  Small package, no idea what it is, no visible return address.  I sign for it and then take scissors to open up this unknown delivery.  And what to my wondering eyes should appear?  My LYRICA from Pfizer…a 90 day supply and I can get a refill, so for at least the next 6 months, I will have ALL of my meds.  I am looking forward to more energy and more ability to do things, since there are things that need doing!
WOOHOO!  I will take this as a sign that more good things are on their way…

A Lull in the Holidays

So Christmas has come and gone already.  I’m not really sure where December itself has mostly disappeared to…I know that we spent a lot of time getting paperwork to the requesting company or governmental department.  I also managed to work up an abscessed tooth, so ended up at the free clinic in Fauquier County.  It wasn’t what I was expecting–no overt “poor”-ness, the staff was amazingly kind and helpful (and they are all volunteers).  As they took my health history, they of course asked for medications I’m on–and the first question out of the nurse’s mouth as I began to list them was “Do you need any refills?”  Not yet, but that’s something I’ll be doing soon, as things are beginning to go low–and I need another doctor’s note to appeal the insurance company’s decision to stop paying Long Term Disability (LTD).  Since my health is “self-diagnosed” (no actual blood test or MRI/X-Ray to prove I have it) I have to KEEP proving I have it.  Like it’s just going to go away because they won’t pay beyond the end of the month.  I wish.

So let’s see…what has been going on?

Black Bear Bistro runs a weekly contest–Chef gives a particular kind of meat and then asks for recipes using that ingredient, serving it as one of the specials on Friday night.  The week before Christmas, he said “duck breast”.  I said, “brine in throwback Dr. Pepper and then smoke, serve it with a cranberry salsa and sauce it with a Dr. Pepper/bourbon reduction”.  He said OH YEAH! And I won the contest that week–and the prize?  Getting my recipe made up as dinner for free.  Needless to say, we went to BBB and had it.  Apparently it was very popular that evening.  I know that when they brought mine to me, a man sitting nearby said, “Mmmm what is that?” and then he ordered it.  And it was amazing.  I don’t know what kind of a contract Chef made with the smoke demons, but anything that man makes that comes off the smoker is just beyond words.  Moist, tender, smoky….and I like smoked foods, so I’m a sucker for anything he cooks that way.  (Note: if you like ribs, get the half rack.  It comes and you can just pull the bones out, like playing Jenga–and when you’re done, the HALF rack leaves a pile of meat about the mass of a softball–it’s at least 2 cups of meat. NOM!)

And then we hit the holidays…

We went to Beloved’s parents’ house on Christmas Eve, and Ri and Froggy (and my son, BB!) met us there for the Polish custom of “vigil”.  It’s a tradition where you begin about 6 pm (we started earlier to accommodate Froggy’s 9 pm bedtime) and then eat until midnight when everyone goes to Mass.  MIL made a special (Polish) mushroom soup, and we had pierogies–about 4 different kinds.  So we ate, and ate well.  No one went to Mass, but Beloved and I did spend the night to be there for the Christmas festivities in the morning.

We obviously didn’t have money for presents, but I made 3 kinds of candied nuts and some peppermint bark as a sort of gift.  I made Buttered Rum Almonds, Toffee Pistachios and Ginger Cashew Toffee.  All three were very popular, and MIL ate most of the cashews.  I think FIL like the almonds and the pistachios, so that works out well.  I made enough of the peppermint bark that there was some still at home for Beloved, who has nommed it all down.

Since his parents have been helping us so profoundly the past 4 months, they had warned that it would be a “small” Christmas.  Well, if it was their idea of small, I’d be completely overwhelmed to see what a big one would be.  I had given them a list of gift ideas, links to things on Amazon that I liked…I think they bought almost all of them.  Beloved had also given his list, but included some things that he thought I would like–which they also got.  And we both got gift cards with a generous amount on them.  They gave both of us a Kindle Paperwhite, and it’s wonderful.  I am really enjoying it.  Beloved gave his (old) Kindle to his father and I gave my old one to his sister.  So 4 people got Kindles that day–and his mother was not unhappy because she got her iPod, HAHA! So my haul for the day was 4 shirts, a cotton terry bathrobe (long in length and with a hood, used for actually drying myself off after a shower); a ceramic santoku knife, a couple of specialty chocolate bars (one with chilis and cherries, the other with pieces of ginger), 2 gift cards, a USB Nintendo 64 controller/game pad so that I can play N64 on my computer (and I’m using the heck out of it, playing Ocarina of Time); a framed picture of one his sister’s costume designs that she says “got her into graduate school”.  She gave a different one to each of us, so Beloved and I have to figure out where to hang our two pictures.  And of course, I got the Paperwhite.  WAY more than I expected, WAY more than they should have done–I was totally prepared not to get any gifts at all.  So to get that much was overwhelming.

MIL made a turkey dinner since the sister missed Thanksgiving with us, so we ate that Christmas evening and stayed another night there.  Wednesday, we took said sister and all our booty and headed home.  It was 24 hours of doing nothing, hanging out, reading our new Kindles or in Sis’s case, her new book (the first of the “Hunger Games”–she got the trilogy).  We did go out for Mexican food for dinner, but other than that, we spent our time being complete couch potatoes.   M- & FIL came out to our house to pick her up early Thursday evening.  We made dinner out of the turkey dinner leftovers MIL had sent home with us.  Friday, we ran errands in Warrenton–dropping off the bank statements for Social Services, faxing the lawyer the SSA paperwork I still have to fill out and send back, depositing the last LTD check in the bank and getting the rent check.

Between being out of our own home for 3 days and then having Sis over (while great to see her, and pleasant to be able to offer her the chance to de-stress) and then running errands, we were “done wore out”, as they say. Saturday and Sunday have been sent doing as little as possible, sleeping and playing on the computer.  We both need it–and the weather changed, so I was in bad pain for Friday and Saturday.  With the help of my Beloved, who analyzes everything, we managed to abort a migraine yesterday for me–but he insisted I take a muscle relaxer and they tend to make me…high.  So I made sure I did not do any driving!  LOL

It looks like we will have a quiet, just the two of us kind of New Year’s.  This year has gone by in a blur–and not necessarily because it was going that fast, but because I was so “out of it” for great portions of time.  Don’t remember much of February or March… When you don’t have a schedule, when you’re not having to go to work, it’s very easy for the days to slip by, one after another and then it’s a week gone, then a month and before you know it…seasons change and you have no idea what happened the past 60 days.  It’s part of the reason I am very careful to check the bottom left corner of my computer screen–time, day of the week and the date prominently displayed.  Or I’d completely lose track of “when” it is.

Of course we had visits from Ri and Froggy, since they got here the first week of December.  Froggy is 14 months old, thinking about walking but crawling very well.  He’s a happy, easy going child, like his father was—and seems to remember us (fondly) each time we see him.  Skype has paid off!  Now if I could just get my Lizard to install it so I can see the EG once in a while.  On the other hand, having a mobile baby here meant a certain amount of rearrangement to child-proof and protect the technology from little fingers.  That has had the unexpected benefit of opening up more space and making the main room feel larger.  I suspect that when we are completely done, and things are where we want them, we have the furniture that we want, etc… it’s going to be unique and very different from anything I’ve ever lived in before.

We already have the bed in the living room–and super smart engineer-minded Beloved made the point that we need walk space all the way around it, so why not put it down by the patio door, where we also have to have walk space in the same pattern?  We regain about 65 square feet of usable space that way.  Might not seem like a lot, but when you’re only talking about a 13 by 24 room, you’ll take all the usable space you can get!  That also puts our desks down at the end with the windows, no one is sitting in the pathway to the patio, and we can arrange our desks together better than if they were across the room from each other.  (As they would have been with the bed in its current position.)  Now if we could just get the boxes sorted and taken care of…

Still working on the hellhole of a kitchen.  I am running dishes through a dishwasher that needs replacing since it doesn’t really work the way it’s supposed to.  So it gets clean what it gets clean, the rest I try again and then I’ll hand wash.  It is reducing the amount of things to hand wash to a stack that’s not so completely overwhelming.  I know the knives and wooden things never go in the dishwasher, so I’m okay with doing those…but there are some things that just will NOT come clean in the machine and I’m going to have to do them manually.  Sigh.  I HATE to wash dishes.  Really HATE.  I’d rather do almost anything instead of washing them, so it’s VERY easy to find something else to do and let them go another day.  Did I mention that I’ve got a bit of problem keeping track of time?  Can’t put it off any longer, but doing it in clumps of energy rather than making myself insanely in pain doing it all at once.  And I’m rediscovering counter tops….

Also trying to do more cooking.  We had eggs, sausage and whomp biscuits (canned) for breakfast yesterday; dinner was (premade) Jamaican Jerk chicken breast and sweet potatoes (Beloved also had some white potatoes, mashed up).  It’s quinoa and sausage for breakfast today, and I’ve pulled a marinated in mesquite pork loin out of the freezer to thaw.  Not sure if I’m actually going to roast it, or just make BBQ sauce and braise it (boil it in the sauce, basically) and make pulled pork.  If I do, I’ll get Beloved to make some rice to go with it.  We need to go grocery shopping soon…but not today.  I expect the stores to be busy today with people preparing for tonight…

I guess that’s about it for now.  Have a safe and Happy New Year this evening–do not drink and drive!!  And may your New Year be joyous and blessed!


Thank Goodness for Everything

It’s that time of year again.  The air is crisp, the trees are showing off their autumn colors, football is in full swing and Turkey Day is upon us.  It’s the one time of year that so many people remember to be thankful…oblivious to the need to be thankful all year round.  Oh well.

What am I thankful for?  Every day that I wake up breathing.  My granddaughter, sitting on my lap and talking to me about Elmo.  My deeply and dearly Beloved, bringing me white chocolate peppermint kettle corn (at Wegman’s, OMG good) and a cinnamon pretzel because he knows I like them.  A roof over my head and food in mah belly.  A computer that lets me connect with my family and friends, and make new friends.  And play endless hours of mindless games when I cannot do anything else.  The ocean.  The sunset.  (I don’t see sunrises, I’ve heard that they can be just as magnificent.)  Water when I’m thirsty.  Wine when I’m with friends.  Black Bear Bistro.  My purple PT Cruiser.  The quiet stillness of a forest clearing, carpeted in pine needles and glowing green.  Fireworks.  Hot tea.  My children and the fact that they are my friends as well.  My children’s significant others.  The beauty of the first snowfall and the fact that I can see it from inside of a warm house.  Rocks.  Technology.  That Mr. Obama is our President and has four more years of bringing us together as a nation.  That women voted and made their voices heard.  Froggy.  The generosity of strangers.  Life.

We have so much to be thankful for, Beloved and I.  We’ve received letters stating that we applied for SSDI.  We knew that, but everyone wants a copy of that letter.  Mine actually went out to some place in West VA, to be sent to me through the kindness of the poor person who had it tucked in with their correspondence from SSA.  We have a signed lease, which means a secure place to live for at least another year.  We’ve gotten the paperwork to fill out for HIS Long Term Disability (fingers crossed that it will be approved, it means Mo’Money and that’s always good).

We haven’t been very good about moving forward with our plan to simplify things and move them all around.  We did get rid of our large microwave, trading it to his mother for her little one.  “Are you sure?”  Oh yes, yes we are.  Take it and heat things up in good health and with our best wishes.  I’ve got the big cabinets almost emptied of stuff so that we can dismantle them and put smaller, more usable things in their place in the kitchen.  And we may not have to drive to IKEA for that kitchen cart–our Target has something suitable, with a folding shelf that makes it into a breakfast bar or adds work space if needed.  We borrowed a dolly cart from his dad and hopefully, when our friend with the muscles comes over this week, she will be willing to move some things for us.

So Thursday is Thanksgiving and I am responsible for the star of the show–I am cooking the turkey.  Well, first, I am brining the turkey, using a much altered version of Alton Brown’s brining recipe.  He uses vegetable stock and water.  I am going to brine my Tom in Dr. Pepper (and water).  The throw back version, made with real sugar.  Did you know that Dr. Pepper has like 26 different and distinct flavors in it?  So Tom will swim in Dr. Pepper, pickling spices, sugar and salt and ice.  It’s called osmosis and when he’s done swimming, he will be a most moist and flavorful bird.  And we’re just beginning.

On Thursday, I will weave a magical blanket for Tom out of…BACON!  YES!  A bacon blanket, to cover his turkeymanboobs.  Then, I will wrap his tender trusting legs in more bacon.  I will not wrap his wings in bacon because I will tuck them up behind his neck….  I might carefully powder him just ever so slightly with Old Bay spice, since everyone loves an Old Bay Spice TurkeyMan.  I will lovingly insert aromatic vegetables into the thoughtfully available cavity between his bacon-wrapped limbs.  And I shall follow the Kitchen God’s (Alton Brown’s) instructions for roasting: 15 minutes at 500 degrees, then 350 until the correct internal temperature is ALMOST reached.
(Because when you take him out of the oven, Tom continues to cook; take him out a few degrees below done and by the time you are ready to carve, he will have reached the exactly correct temperature and will NOT be overdone and inedible.)

And he shall sweat and simmer and gently roast, bathed in the slow gentle rendering of bacon fat.  His skin shall crisp and brown, the bacon will also crisp but the meat…shall be so sweet, so succulent and melt in the mouth tasty.  It will be like eating the food of the gods and we shall rejoice and be thankful for the generous bird, who gave his all, so that we could feast upon him.  And I’m also making cranberry SALSA to take along with Tom to the in-laws for the meal.  The recipe is actually on the back of the cranberry package…but basically it’s like any salsa, except that you substitute the cranberries for tomatoes.  I have sesame/flax chips to eat it with.  The rest of the meal is up to the MIL–she mentioned mashed potatoes, yams and pureed turnips.

Our friend of the muscles is bringing her daughter with her on Wednesday and if Mom has to work Thanksgiving, Daughter will be going with us to Beloved’s parents.  Could be interesting, but it’s always fun to have more people around.  Doctor’s appointment tomorrow, mandated by the damned but necessary paperwork for disability.  I have to be almost continually re-approved, to prove ongoing medical care.  This is going to get very expensive if I have to do it more than 3 or 4 times a year, since it’s about $200 to see him without insurance.  Sigh.

Thanksgiving.  Then 2 weeks later, the RainBat drives up from GA with my Froggy to spend the holidays.  She, bless her heart, has also promised to help move and organize.  We’ll get this done eventually, I hope.  Otherwise, I’m getting a snow shovel and just shit canning it all.  Then comes Yule/Christmas and the New Year and before you know it, it’s the end of the world.  Or at least the end of 2012.  I am a little concerned about the coincidence of Twinkies dying off just as this year comes to an end…but how did the Mayans know?

The change in weather has of course affected me.  The fibromyalgia is pretty much same as it ever was, same as it ever was.  (Talking Heads allusion)  I am clumsy and Beloved says it’s because I haven’t had the chiropractor put my hips back in alignment lately.  Ah well, that’s another doctor bill we can’t afford now.  (Well, ok, after the 30th.)  Incidentally, because fibro is a “self reported medical issue” (I don’t have a blood test result or MRI to prove that I have it), long term disability will last only 2 years.  Too bad the fibro will go on the rest of my life.  Slight discrepancy there.

So that’s about it for us now; paperwork, Thanksgiving, stirring our stuff around in the attempt to instill some order and simplicity to our lives.  May you be blessed with a wondrous feast, surrounded by family and friends or family that is friends; may you have the wisdom to see how much there is to be thankful for–and remember it more than just one day a year.  And may Dallas lose.  (I’m a long time Redskins fan, it’s an old habit.)



Turn and face the strange…

So I blame my son.  He has been kind enough to let us share his sign in for NetFlix and Beloved has been watching documentaries.  Lots of them.  On a variety of subjects, but many of them are about food.  And he is (justly) inspired and eager to try some of these new ideas about eating in our own diet.  Me, I’m feeling overwhelmed by it all.  Raw food, Vegan agendas, making juice, eating 6 times a day.  Good grief.  As I told him, I’m NOT spending my whole day in the kitchen.  Oh and green products for cleaning.  We’ll talk about that in a minute.

Part of the problem is that I do agree with him on a great deal of these changes.  We need to eat organic–in fact, if you didn’t know, here’s the hierarchy for buying your food, especially produce: organic over non-organic.  Local over imported organic.  Local organic trumps all.  Pastured beef, pork and poultry, including eggs.  Organic meats are not necessarily the same as pastured; organic means they can’t pump them full of antibiotics and they’re probably not all piled on top of each other.  Pastured means that animal walked and grazed, you know, like back in the olden days, before industrial food.  In other words, the animal is eating what it was designed to consume, making it healthier and therefore better for you.

Beloved has been a sponge, absorbing lots of information.  Most of it good, some of it questionable, some of it … well, not agreed to.  After much discussion and negotiation, here’s what we’re going to do add, one small step at a time–because trying to add it all at once makes it unsustainable.  And this is about sustainability–both for us, in our habits of eating, and in the foods we eat being sustainable and healthy in their production and (lack of) processing.  We are going to eat more raw food, aiming for 51% of our food (by weight) to be raw or at least not heated above 110 degrees.  This does not include just fruits and vegetables.  We are both very fond of sushi and rare beef (even to the extreme of steak tartar) so there will be some raw animal flesh in our diet.  We have a juicer now (thanks to his mother, who got it as a gift and never used it), so we will make juice out of the vegetables we cannot consume in sufficient quantities to get the nutrition from them, such as leafy greens.  Beloved has a problem with leafy greens because of his lap band surgery.  The idea is to juice the vegetables and then use that as the liquid in the Vitamix blender, adding fruit for a more nutritionally complete smoothie that is easier to drink than one made all in the blender, which has been too thick from all the pulp.

The pulp that we are separating out with the juicer can be used as an additive in cooking, or I can just compost it, so all that rich plant matter does not go to waste!  And we will benefit from all the nutrition that is in the juice, which we have not been getting.  We’re looking more closely now at vitamins and minerals, in addition to things like protein, carbs and fat counts.  We take a multivitamin because we’re not getting all of our nutrition from our food–in fact, no one is.  The food we eat today is nutritionally deficient to the same types of food from 1950.  Why?  Because of industrialization and commercial preparation of most of our foods.  Let’s talk about this for a moment.

99% of all the corn grown in this country is NOT eaten by us.  It’s also not shipped overseas to be eaten by any human.  Instead, it’s processed.  And processed.  And processed.  Into things like High Fructose Corn Syrup, Xanthan gum, ascorbic acid, maltodextrin, monosodium glutamate, caramel and caramel color, polyvinyl acetate, stearic acid, and so on.  Hundreds of products, not many of them look like food.  But they are IN your food.  If you really want to freak out about corn, watch “King Corn”, a documentary that will make you flip.  And stop eating corn products.  You CAN eat CORN–but it must at least look like what we all think corn looks like, or obviously come from corn, like pop corn, tortilla chips and etc.

Monsanto (http://www.monsanto.com/Pages/default.aspx) is quietly genetically modifying all kinds of foods–and has been for years–without any idea what that will do in the long run.  It’s more about making produce that won’t spoil before getting to market, plants growing to a uniform size with uniform sized fruit or vegetables so that they can be commercially (mechanically) picked and handled.  Like the long stemmed roses you buy, you get one thing but not two–the roses have long gorgeous stems, beautiful flowers…and NO smell.  So these genetically modified foods are also lacking, usually in taste and often in both taste and nutrition.  Most of Europe refuses to have Monsanto products and in fact, Poland has completely banned them–but here in the US, most consumers don’t even know who they are and how very much they are affecting our health.

So let’s look at the average American’s circle of life:
1.  The agribusiness, industrialized farms produce fruits and vegetables that are deficient in many nutrients.  They are sprayed with petrochemical pesticides and weed killers; in fact, some of the plants themselves have been genetically modified to exude pesticides from every surface (which in at least one case has led to human male sterilization after ingestion of same).  They are harvested by machine without regard to optimum ripeness, shipped distances and kept long enough that any nutrition they might have had is generally gone before they are sold.

2.  The industrialized meat production is worse.  Animals are packed together in spaces so small that they must be mutilated (chickens have the top half of their beak cut off; pigs have the tips of their tails removed) to avoid damage from attacks from their neighbor.  This closeness increases the incident of disease, so that 80% of ALL the antibiotics made in the US are given to animals.  It is in the meat and we ingest it, increasing OUR resistance to various antibiotics and we wonder why.  The animals live a life of squalor and torment and are killed in a state of terror, which floods their bodies with all kinds of chemicals, affecting the taste of the meat–and the nutrition it might–MIGHT–have.

3.  This industrialized is sent to factories for further processing into convenience foods, or shipped to your local grocery store.  Either way, when you buy it, you have no idea how much nutrition it really has, what other chemicals it might contain, and what it is going to do to your body if you consume it.  Americans also have no idea what real serving portions look like, so are generally eating way more of this stuff than they are supposed to.

4.  You cook dinner or you eat out.  You try to be healthy by having a vegetarian or even vegan diet, but you’re still buying stuff that is industrially produced.  And then you can’t explain why you feel tired all the time, why you’re always sick, why you’re fat or not losing weight…well, the next bit is going to make you scream!

Everybody lives with stress, right?  What does stress do to your body?  Apart from the obvious things we all know, stress and the “fight or flight mode” we all tend to live under destroys your body’s vitamin C.  NO WONDER we all get sick!  So to counter stress, take mega doses of Vitamin B-3 (Niacin) and MEGA doses of Vitamin C.  I mean mega, above and beyond the RDA, like 2 or 3 times the amount at least.  You CANNOT overdose on Vitamin C.  Large amounts of niacin can cause flushing, like hot flashes from menopause, so go easier with that.  Just try it for a week and tell me I’m not right.

We have found it makes a difference, and Beloved’s sister bought her vitamins on Sunday and then texted him on Monday that she didn’t think it would work that fast.  Just saying.

We had already made the switch to organic and pastured food wherever possible.  Adding raw is less of a problem for me, who was subsisting on veggies in a bento box long before we met…HE, on the other hand, will have to learn to eat them.  Leafy greens as mentioned are a problem; other certain vegetables can be an issue as well so it will be a lot of trial and error to find out what works and what doesn’t.  We’re also looking into spirulina (blue-green algae) as an additive, plus hemp powder and flax seed/oil.  I have discovered that he will eat chopped salads, regardless of what is exactly in them. (Made one with chopped zucchini, onions, tomatoes and an Oriental style dressing).  He and I both will eat summer squashes (zucchini, yellow) that are hot but NOT cooked–so stir fries and barely steamed.  I don’t mind winter squashes (pumpkin, acorn, butternut) cooked and mashed.  I also like root vegetables (turnips, rutabaga, parsnips) either raw or cooked and mashed.  Now I’ll have to figure out how to sauce them to add interest and variety for us to eat them.

We’re eating Raw Revolution bars and prefer the lemon flavored one.  One of them can serve as a snack; two would be a meal.  Probably the single largest change for Beloved will be learning what is really a serving.  He has years of his mother serving a large plate, filled with protein and carbs, with a small little plop of vegetables (that he often wouldn’t eat since she cooks everything until it’s beyond dead).  He’s discovering that 3 or 4 large scallops are actually a serving and that 1/4 pound of salmon is, when presented properly, almost more than he can eat.  (Meat portions should be 3 or 4 ounces or the size of a deck of playing cards).  So we are going to try to live with a more Japanese approach to food: small plates, measured portions, more fish then meat.  (Side note: yes, the fish costs more, but you are buying less.  6 – 8 ounces of good quality fish, depending on what kind and we like tuna and salmon, runs between $7 and $20 per pound.  So even at $10 for 6 – 8 ounces of the most expensive, it’s actually only $5 per person and that makes it incredibly cheaper than buying that same fish if someone else cooks it for you. And it’s healthier.)

We are also using the European shopping method–although we’re not going quite daily on what we need for that day’s meals, but we will be shopping for less items more often, to ensure that we’re getting fresh fresh fresh!  This serves a dual purpose–aside from getting food, we will have impetus to shower and dress and go out more often.  It’s very easy to just sit around in your robe day after day without realizing that’s what is happening.  So having to go out to forage will be a valuable part of our stated desire to walk more.

I did say that we would talk about green cleaning products.  The documentary to watch for this is called “Chemerical” and it convinced us that getting rid of commercial cleaning products would benefit us, especially me with my fibro.  It’s an accepted fact that housewives have a 54% higher rate of cancer than other groups–because of all the contact they have with those household cleaners.  I was a stay at home mom for 13 years, so I’ve had my share of exposure.  Beloved believes that if we can reduce the chemicals, both in our food and in our environment, we can reduce the inflammations of my disease, perhaps even to the point where I might not require medication and wouldn’t that be amazing?

I will leave it to you to do the Internet research for more information about green cleaning products, but I will tell you what supplies you need, to make your own and you’re going to be shocked when you see how simple it is:

Tap water
White and Cider Vinegars
Arm & Hammer Baking Soda
Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
20 Mule Team Borax (by Dial Corporation)
Isopropyl Alcohol (Disinfectant/Sterilization)
Hydrogen Peroxide (Mold and mildew killer)
Castile Soap (Dr. Bronner’s)
Liquid Castile Soap (Dr. Bronner’s)
Tea Tree essential oil (Disinfectant; kills virus, germs and fungus)
*Optional: Lavender, lemon and/or peppermint essential oils

From those things you can make each product you need to clean everything in your house, including you and your clothes.  I have already begun with a 50/50 solution of water and white vinegar as a spray kitchen cleaner.  It does not leave a vinegar smell, which I thought it would, and everything I wipe is amazingly clean and smooth.  I am using liquid castile soap to do the dishes and they are really “squeaky” clean, with no detergent haze.  I am using the borax/washing soda/salt mixture for the dishwasher and putting white vinegar into the rinse aid receptacle.  It’s doing a bang up job.  I can hardly wait to make the laundry soap.

I know I sound like a hippy convert, but…we did just fine back in the day with the natural ways of growing our food and cleaning our house.  There’s too much money in industrial food, industrial cleaners and the healthcare BUSINESS for the corporations to be concerned with minor things like nutrition, sustainability and keeping us healthy.  Far more money can be made if we stay sick than if they cure what ails us.  Fibromyalgia is a relatively new disease, and there are other diseases that we never heard of before the Industrial Age…why is our country, with its ability to grow food, the pollution laws that limit what companies can put into the environment, why is our country filled with sick people?  Have you LOOKED at the size of the medication aisles in any store?  Lots of things to treat your cold or your allergies, but no cures.  Why not?  All this time scientists have had…where is the cure for the common cold, for AIDS, for diabetes…oh, that’s right.  Not enough money is curing, much more to be made in treating.  Have a pill.

So we’re making our choices, one step at a time.  I feel better when I’ve had my niacin then when I haven’t.  I like the idea of cleaning the house with products that won’t send me into asthma attacks (like chlorine does).  We’ll try all the things he’s learned about and we’ll keep the ones that work for us.  And do you have any idea how completely pissed I will be if I could come off of my meds while I am in my own home because my nutrition is correct and I’m not breathing in volatile compounds from cleansers?  If it’s the industrial world around me that’s making me sick?  If it’s the industrial world that’s making all of us sick–and we don’t have to be except that someone, somewhere is getting rich off of it?

Sorry, don’t mean to rant but it’s dreadful to think that somehow there is this conspiracy to keep us fat dumb and happy–and ill.  I can only do what I can for myself and share this blog with you so that you can, perhaps, choose for yourself a better way–not even necessarily MY way, but to know that there are options and choices for how to treat your fibro, things you can do that may make you feel better and isn’t that worth it?  This does require a commitment to being even more hyper aware of what’s going into us, adding being aware of what’s going on around us and generally choosing to live a life that is healthy, sustainable and makes us happy.

Namaste, and I hope you find what makes you happy!



Current Events: What is Going on Here?

So I finally got around to calling my mother (my parents live in Corpus Christi) to let her know what has been going on with me and the beloved.  After the conversation, I realized that we’ve actually been doing quite a lot, especially for two people who are having health issues that prevent them from working or going out much.  So I figured I’d update anyone who was paying attention to this blog.

(I am sharing medical information because it’s good to know that it can take time to work out what works for you, and to get names of meds perhaps you haven’t tried.  If you have fibro, keep trying out everything that might work to find what does work for you!)

We saw the specialist and got an “all clear” for my blood work.  No rheumatoid arthritis, all other blood levels were within norms.  Always good to hear.  She suggested increasing the Lyrica (fibro med) and finding a pain specialist or accupuncturist to deal with the ongoing levels of pain.  We went to our primary care physician two days later.  We talked with him and I made it clear that the specialist is fine for consultation, but I want all of my healthcare to be focused in his office and he and I will chart my course for health.  It gives me a central place to call for my prescriptions (so I don’t have to call all over the place getting refills) and since it IS central, if there’s bad interactions, the doctor will be able to see that within my records.  It makes a more holistic, overall health care plan of action which I want.  So he and I have mapped out a combination of Lyrica, added back the Cymbalta (which handles pain of fibro more than fibro and melds with the Lyrica beautifully).  I’ve dropped the Tramadol (the worst for side effects of my pain meds) which will now be my “go to” med when I need some extra pain relief.  I’m still taking the Celebrex as a maintenance (twice a day) pain pill, and Vicodin is still my friend, but usually 2 a day instead of 4.  That relieves my doctor…

He also takes care of my husband, and we both go to each other’s appointments so the doctor is used to seeing us together.  I like this as well; I believe you always need an extra set of ears to hear the conversation.  Paul is also very observant of me, so he can tell the doctor more of the external signs of my health/behavior.  And since the doctor knows what is going on with BOTH of us, he also handed me a prescription for Xanax, to relieve the stress we are both living under.  Amazing how fast the tightness in my chest (which I thought was a recurrence of my asthma) went away with that little yellow pill.  It’s not a long term med, but for right now, it’s a necessary and important part of getting me healthy again.

And according to Paul, I am doing so well that it’s disorienting.  I am, to quote him, back to being a smartass.  YAY!   I have actually taken my kitchen from piles of dishes hoping for some kindly friend to wash them up to getting them washed and put away.  And I am keeping up with them as we eat and make more dirty ones.  I have rearranged my kitchen into a more cook-able arrangement.  The appliances that I use regularly are lined up like a display in Bed Bath and Beyond….the Cuisinart food processor, the rice cooker, the toaster, the convection oven.  The counter that they had all been huddled on is now clear except for my cutting board and the crock that holds all the kitchen utensils.  In other words, a clean area to prep food and conveniently next to the stove.  (Which by the way has my induction plate on it–if you haven’t cooked on induction (by magnetism, basically)…well, you should.  Faster, hotter, shorter cook times makes it easier and CHEAPER to use than a regular gas or electric stove.  Just saying.)

And with all of that in order, I am (drum roll) COOKING again!  It’s something I do very well and enjoy doing…but haven’t had the energy or focus until recently.  Of course it means more dirty dishes…sigh.

So what other excitement have we had?  Both kids came to have dinner with us to celebrate my son’s birthday.  We went to Black Bear (his first time, but not the last time he wants to go there!) and Paul got to see their interaction for the first time.  We’ve had them both visit, but never together like this.  My sweet Froggy looked at us and SMILED…he remembered us!!  Which was awesome.  We also got to spend time with him and his parents over two days, which was wonderful.  Another one of those simple days, nothing special, just family hanging out–we ordered pizza for dinner–and yet was a truly wonderful day.

We also have a young friend whose mother recently died, so we’ve been a quiet place for her to come and sit, talk to us and just hide from her own life for a little.  We both minister, it’s what we do…helping others is a vital part of our own lives and it’s been missing, lost in the crush of poor health and the realities of the insurance companies who dictate whether or not you are approved for your claim.  Or as my friends have said before, all the lost puppies find my house.  Nice to be helping others again, especially having been on the receiving end of other’s helping us.

I made country-fried steak for dinner last night, compete with white gravy, Texas style.  I think of it as library paste with sausage, but it’s the traditional topping for the steak…no seriously, it does taste good, but it is NOT a demiglace or anything that fancy.  Real country cooking.  Fried rice of some sort for dinner tonight, I think.  And it’s nice to be able to plan and then prepare actual meals.

So life is definitely going a lot better.  I still tire easily (loss of muscle tone, of course) and I am still trying to go slowly while ignoring the feeling of malingering.  We’ve decided that we need to create a real schedule instead of “eat, sleep, computer” at any hour without regard to the normal cycle of time.  Can’t go food shopping at 2 am when the store closed at 11 pm.  I think we also need to get back into a routine of doing specific things at specific times to create a sense of order that will help us on the path to good health.

For the rest of you with fibro, I hope this helps you find a way out of your flare ups, offers some idea for meds to try and lets you know that once you can get the pharmaceuticals right, which will treat the issues of fibro appropriately, there is a nice, normal life waiting for you as well.  Excuse me while I go load the dishwasher.


The Chef, the Bistro and Amazing Food

This is the story of how I fell in love with Black Bear Bistro.  (www.blackbearbistro.com)

Black Bear is located in Old Town Warrenton, right on Main Street, across from Iron Bridge and next door to Molly’s Pub, down near the courthouse.  The first time I went there was after I had met my beloved and he took me.  We had Lobster Mac’n’Cheese, French toast made from Great Harvest bread (Great Harvest is just down the road from Black Bear), and other things I can’t remember now, only that they were awesome.

Living in Manassas meant that we didn’t go out there very often.  One time when we went, Paul asked Todd (Eisenhauer, the chef) what bribe it would take to get his curry recipe.  Todd just grinned and said, “Let me get a pencil and some paper” and proceeded to give it to us.  He actually SHARES his recipes!  Most chefs do not, and in fact would be horrified if you asked for it.  And just so you know, it’s amazing curry.  He actually does several different kinds–and this was his yellow curry, served on a bed of rice with a choice of meat.  And what meat!  Paul got it with beef–pieces of beautifully grilled flesh, laid on top.  I took a bite of this meat that hadn’t gotten any sauce on it yet and couldn’t believe the taste.  When Paul tasted it, he said, “It’s fruity” and that’s when Todd (who was walking past) told us that it was grass-fed beef.

I blame him for the fact that the only kind of beef we buy now is grass fed.  It’s sweet, it’s tasty–and even though it costs more, it is worth every penny.  For one thing, you don’t have to eat as much.  And for another, it’s healthier for you, since there’s no corn in it.  It’s always better to eat something that has fed on its natural foods instead of being given something that will kill it.  (And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch the documentary, “King Corn”.  It will make you sick and make you switch to organic, grass-fed, pasture-fed…in other words, back to what your meat was eating before he corn industry came along.

Paul and I had no problem agreeing on going out to Black Bear after our wedding, for the celebratory feast.  When we wanted to order champagne–and explained to Chef Todd why, he told us that the splits he had weren’t that good, so he’d open a bottle of the good stuff and sell it to us by the glass.  He brought the bottle to the table and sabered it open–cut the top off the bottle with a knife (well, okay, so it wasn’t actually a sabre) which was impressive.  And by the time dinner was done, he told us that he was paying for the bottle.  Not only a good chef, but a very nice man.

I called my daughter during our wedding dinner to tell her that we had gotten married (the ceremony was Paul, the minister and me.  VERY small wedding).  While I was talking to her, I happened to look up and see Todd walking by.  I said to my daughter, “The chef has just gone by in a Pittsburgh Steelers jersey….with the number 75 on it.  Do you know whose that was?”  Well, she’s a little young to know about Mean Joe Green, so I told her.  And then I told her, “And the jersey is SIGNED.  And the chef is wearing it like a regular shirt!”  She asked me to knock him down (gently) and take it–since she’s a Steeler’s fan.

When we moved out to Bealeton, Black Bear was on our way home from work in Manassas.  Oh, the torture…having to stop in Warrenton for dinner.  We started going  regularly enough that most of the staff knew us by name—and we knew theirs as well.  The menu changes each quarter, for as Chef Todd so eloquently says, “It’s local.  If it’s not local, it’s from Virginia.  If it’s not from Virginia, it’s from the East Coast.  If it’s not from the East Coast, it’s from the US.  If it’s not from the US, it’s not in my kitchen.”  He also has a very, very vegan/vegetarian friendly menu, so even though I gush about the organic grass fed beef, he does have more than one choice for those who eschew their meat instead of chew it.

We enjoy taking our friends and family to Black Bear.  Each time, we are rewarded with yet another meal that proves our enthusiasm and verifies our opinion.  The ribs…oh dear gods, the ribs….either on a sandwich or as a (half) rack for dinner.  Let’s put it this way, they run out of ribs on a regular basis.  Get there early if you want ribs.  Chef Todd apparently has one of the fire gods on his side, because the ribs defy human explanation.  Smoky, sweet, still juicy, like the ribs you’ve dreamt about…but in real life.  Not too heavily sauced, perfectly fall off the bone done…something to be experienced because the words do not manage to describe them adequately.

Of course that’s true about pretty much all of the menu at Black Bear.  Smoked crab and cheese dip…lobster mac’n’cheese (which the chef took off the menu for a while because he was “so tired of making it all the time”—popular just a little?).  Probably the only thing on the menu that neither Paul nor I like is the Andrew’s Bacon Habenera Sauce.  But neither of us likes habeneras, so you’re on your own for that one.  Chef has a sausage supplier that is fabulous…and because they are handmade, there can be a little difference between them from one visit to the next.  And he’ll give you that supplier’s business card so that you can go buy a boxful of your own.  Even the honey he serves is local (from an apiary just outside of Culpeper, about 35 miles away) and it’s name is Wicked Bottom–and it’s RAW honey.  Almost time to buy some and begin eating a tablespoon of it every day to help with the allergies.  Oh and they also sell the Wicked Bottom lotion bar–it’s a solid lotion, beeswax, shea butter and I don’t know what all else, but Chef swears by it and I am finding out that he’s right.  Anyone who is washing their hands as often as a chef…and still has nice hands, no cracked skin…must be using something good.

Chef does the cooking, but doesn’t do the baking (he can bake, says he…he just doesn’t want to).  So the desserts are made locally, also organic and farm fresh.  Amazing desserts…flourless chocolate cake; white chocolate cinnamon mousse; pies of all sorts.  One time, Paul got the sweet potato pie for his dessert.  Now Paul is a Super Taster.  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supertaster) So when he describes food, he uses some of the same terms you might when tasting wines.  And this sweet potato pie, while earthy and sweet and the crust was nice…was hitting all of his taste buds except for one part of his palate.  We had a lively discussion with our waitress about what could be added to the pie to hit that spot.

Oddly enough, his parents were taking us out to lunch the following day…at Black Bear.  So I got up that next morning and went shopping.  Buying local or organic, I got the ingredients for the results of the discussion we had had the night before.  I made a ginger-lemon caramel sauce, adding finely chopped organic Granny Smith Apples and pecans just after the caramel formed so that the apples would not be soft.  Paul tasted it and agreed that it was just right but for one thing: black pepper.  Yep, it needed just a dash of pepper.  I added it and he declared it “just right”!

When we got to Black Bear, I asked our waiter if the the Chef was in–and when I found out that he was, asked to have him come see me with a piece of the sweet potato pie in hand.  Chef Todd found us at our just desserts…and so he tasted the pie naked, and agreed that it needed “something”.  I put some of my apple chutney (can’t think of a better descriptive name) on it…and the chef ate it.  Then went back for seconds.  Success!  I held out the container with the rest of the chutney and he (accurate word here) GRABBED it from me…and ran off to the kitchen, clutching it and saying as he left that anyone who ordered the pie that night would get this on it.  (And a few weeks later, we were in and mentioned it to our server who told us that the staff in the kitchen were wondering where that came from and that it did, indeed, go out on the pie!  I am very proud that I made something that he considered good enough to serve to his customers).

And one last story: we finally got to take Liz, my daughter to Black Bear just last week.  We stuffed her full of good, good food (and a grapefruit mimosa!  Better than orange mimosas, from fresh squeezed and organic grapefruit…omgnommy!)…and when Chef Todd came by, we introduced her to him–and told him that she had said I should take his Steelers jersey.  He laughed and said that yeah, he wore it.  What was he supposed to do, hang it on the wall?

What Happened Today

Today was a wonderful day.  I didn’t do anything spectacular or earth-shattering, but I did do something that was, well, in a word, wonderful.  I spent the day with my daughter.  And it was worth the spending…we had a glorious brunch together at Black Bear Bistro in Warrenton.  (Shameless plug for it: www.blackbearbistro and it is amazing!  Farm to fork, fresh! In the category of “nommy” it is the NOMMIEST.)  I had bagel and cream cheese with gravelox (smoked salmon), and the incidental garnish was fresh (and sweet) pineapple and fresh blueberries.  We shared a smoked crab and cheese dip on crunchy hot bread.  She had a club hoagie and the husband had something they call the “Concordia”–imagine a Monte Cristo (essentially a French Toast sandwich) but instead of turkey, ham and swiss, it’s filled with chopped roast beef and ground beef (all free range, grass fed beef) in a marinara sauce.  First bite, it’s like oh Sloppy Joe but wait a minute, no it’s not.  Words fail me to describe it; it must be experienced.  We also tried the multigrain waffle–still light and fluffy while filled with whole grain goodness.

We then came home and spent the rest of the afternoon chatting and almost more importantly, getting more things sorted and moved around.  We moved in last November and while it’s not *quite* as bad as when we first started, it still looks like more shit than this bag was meant to hold.  In our defense, we did go from a 3 bedroom down to a 1 bedroom–and well, we’ve been sick lately.  So it was a great blessing to have her move boxes and take out trash and sort stuff to open up some more real estate.  We really do have wall to wall carpeting and we are gradually reclaiming it.

She is seriously contemplating moving back to VA and after the fabulous brunch, particularly thinking about living in Warrenton.  I think the food had something do with it, although she did indicate that the charm of Old Town Warrenton attracted her.  It would be totally awesome to have her (and by association, our granddaughter) living closer than MD.  I am very happy that my daughter and I are friends.  Related by circumstances and family by chance but definitely friends by choice.  And I’ve missed having her around because she’s fun, intelligent, good to talk to, and generally pleasant to be with.  She’s also doing a wonderful job raising her daughter and I’d like to think that I had some little part of that…although I saw how she disciplined her dog and I wasn’t worried about her parenting skills.  (So get miffed, but really?  Training a dog and raising a child have a GREAT deal in common.  If you can do one well, you can do the other one pretty well, too.  Although the cops do get unhappy if you crate your children to go out for the day, no matter how much food or water you leave with them.)

It is no small matter of pride to see how well she is doing in the world.  She holds a job, cares for her child, is a responsible human being…it doesn’t matter that she has had to change course midstream, so to speak…first with the discovery of being asthmatic which prevented a Navy career path and then the normal changes a child brings to anyone’s life, the stuff you can’t prepare for but have to handle.  And while she was always the child who had to do it the hardest possible way, she has persevered each time.  Stubborness runs deep in our family and she is blessed with more than her fair share.  🙂  Hemingway referred to it as “grace under pressure” and she does indeed maintain her grace even in the face of the most trying times.  I suppose as her mother I could say that life has not been fair to her, but both of my children know that you don’t say that “f” word in front of me.  Life is NOT fair.  And she doesn’t expect it to be.  In that way, she’s miles ahead of most people who expect some sort of parity in their experience.

It was a deeply satisfying day, to reconnect with her even as I missed seeing my granddaughter who stayed home with her father–specifically so that we could have our own mother-daughter time.  No drama, no earth-shattering topic of conversation, just the gentle pleasure of small talk, the kind that fills the chinks of our souls, the small bites of normal living that bind us together in a more profound way than the greatest crisis faced or roaring emotional storm weathered can ever hope to do.  A normal day, a gentle day, nothing to write home about…but something to write about and share with you to remind you that our lives are made of such normal and gentle days, the small talk and trivial chatter of “this’n’that” and they are, after all, worth noting.  Consider today so noted.  Thank you, my darling daughter.  Thank you, most benevolent Universe for giving us this day.