The World Didn’t End (But it May Yet)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ongoing Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Compassion for Others Begins With Compassion for Yourself

“Compassion is the keen awareness of the interdependence of all things.” ~~Thomas Merton

“Compassion is the greatest form of love humans have to offer.” ~~Rachel Joy Scott

“Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace.” ~~Albert Schweitzer

“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.” ~~Lao Tzu

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” ~~Brian Tracy

“It’s not what you say out of your mouth that determines your life, it’s what you whisper to yourself that has the most power.” ~~Robert Kiyosaki

I have tried, my entire life, to be compassionate to others; to offer a listening ear, a hug, or whatever else seems the appropriate response for their suffering and need. I would like to think that I have achieved this…but lately, I have realized that I never offer myself that same compassion. In my head, I speak to myself in ways that I would never dream of using to another person. I am my own worst critic: cold, judgmental, harsh, unfeeling and uncaring. Since I have become disabled, it seems to have gotten worst as I blame myself for not being able to do the things I always have, even though my debilitating pain is a valid reason for the inability to do them. I just don’t cut myself any slack.

I believe I have mentioned Toni Bernhard to you before. She is the author of three books aimed specifically for those of us who are chronically ill, who have the most valid reasons for not living “normally” because of our health. She consistently mentions self-compassion, being kind to yourself and forgiving yourself for not being able-bodied or doing the things “that need to be done”. She planted the seeds of learning how to be loving and compassionate in my head–but more importantly, in my heart. I follow the Tibetan Zen Buddhist path, with all of the selflessness that entails. It’s very easy for me to be kind to others, to do what I can to alleviate their pains. However, it had not occurred to me to turn this way of living inwards, to my own soul.

And so I have begun to incorporate this into my daily life, as best as any imperfect being can. I don’t always succeed, but that’s part of the joy of both self-compassion and the practice of mindfulness: you acknowledge the lack, then let it go and start again. I am learning to have the patience for myself that I have never had before, to acknowledge my limitations without judging and without blame. My limitations just “are”; they exist without any connection to something I did or didn’t do.

In making this a part of my daily routine, I have discovered that I am also losing the rather judgmental way I had been perceiving the strangers on the street. Specific example: I am embarrassed, even humiliated, that I do not shower as regularly as I used to (every other day),  nor do I shower as often as I need to. For someone who sits quietly most of the time, I sure can get stinky–and my hair gets greasy. Being showered and well groomed has always been important to me but I no longer have the ability to do it on anything approaching a regular basis. I simply lack the stamina and flexibility it takes to wash my hair or to bend and twist to wash my body. Some days, a shower is my greatest–and only–accomplishment. I think I had accepted this as just part of my life as a chronically ill person, but I was not self-compassionate about it.

Now when I see people on the street and they are less than my idea of groomed, I know from  my own experience that it’s not from a lack of caring about how they look but rather from not having the ability to do so. Eureka has a fairly large homeless population…so there’s a whole segment of our society that doesn’t have consistent access to a shower. I know that this does not mean they are somehow less of a person than someone who can. I just didn’t apply that mindset to myself.

It’s not just about showers. It’s about anything for which I can condemn myself. I have always said that I have a great deal of patience for everyone else, but never for me. With the onset of chronic illness, with symptoms that prevent me from holding a job, I am being forced to learn this patience for me and my (perceived) short comings. Our society makes a lot of perceptions about its members, some of them valid but I think mostly mistaken. Perceptions are judgments–and who am I to make judgments about others when I have enough issues of my own?

I am wrestling with more than not having a paycheck job. My mother raised me to be a Southern housewife, to take care of my husband, keeping house and cooking meals. Add to that cooking the fact that before I became this ill, I was working towards having my own business as a personal chef. I feel disappointment in myself because I cannot clean the house as I want to. I am particularly unhappy at my inability to make basic meals, never mind the “gourmet” dishes that I so enjoyed creating.

These feelings, while valid (because all feelings are), are neither useful nor self-compassionate. I acknowledge the concepts of using our minds to (help) heal ourselves but what I have cannot be “thought” away. I  have structural damage in my spine which cannot be easily remedied. Any sort of treatment that would work, could work only for a while; there’s a reason it’s called “degenerative” arthritis. I do believe that with mindfulness–but especially with compassion for my own being, I can reduce or relieve a great deal of my pain and various lesser ailments.

For example, I must acknowledge the limitations my body has now, not what it used to be able to do. If I refuse to accept the true state of my body, I may be able to “push through” and do the thing(s) I want to–but I will pay for it in greater pain and even less ability for a period of time exponentially larger than the amount of time those actions took. Simple facts are simple facts, and the truth is very simple: I am very limited as to what I can do now versus what I did *then*.

Another aspect for self-compassion that I need is to stop the self-deprecation. I forget something–a word that means just what I am trying to convey or a task that needs doing. Then I chastise myself for being “stupid”…when it just a state of being. I understand that being in pain means less attention to focus on anything other than that pain–but I am still working on allowing myself the compassion to not fret about it and certainly not to punish myself. I am attempting to retrain my mind such that I accept my state of being, at whatever point I may be, on any given day, just as a state of being, with no particular emotions tied to it–and certainly not negative emotions.

The only time we can be sure of is this moment…and this moment…and this moment, for all of the moments of our lives. Trying to live at any other time, past or future, means that we aren’t living NOW. NOW is all we truly can have, can experience in “real” time. To live in the now is very difficult sometimes, maybe more so for some people. All of us have connections to the past and hopes for the future but if we let those connections and hopes replace the moment, we are not living our lives to the fullest, nor being the person that has this moment. “Be here, right here, right now. Everything else is just a dream.”

What is so important about self-compassion? As with real and abiding love, we cannot be truly compassionate (or love) anyone else until we know that feeling for ourselves, within our minds and hearts. It needs to be a natural and inevitable part of each moment, something that we don’t need to think about, or have to do any specific ritual to bring about this behavior.  We “fake it until (we) make it”–and it only takes 21 days to establish a new habit. At first, it may seem contrived and even foolish to speak to ourselves with compassion. But if you will persevere and continue the practice of being kind to yourself, I believe you will find yourself both feeling happier as well as being a better person for that practice.

“If you believe it, you will act on it. If you continue to believe it, you will act on it again and again.” ~~Hugh Prather

Our minds create our reality–what we think the world is, it is to us. So if part of our world view includes negative ideas about who we are or what we are, we will continue to behave in ways that will support, even validate that view. We create a mindset that establishes a certain point of view and we can become locked into the view, no matter if it is actually true or not. A quote from Doug Adams says it all: “He was amazed at how different the world looked from a point three feet to the left.” That world view includes our own being; sometimes we need to step “three feet to the left” to get a new angle, a fresh perspective on what we thought we knew–even about ourselves.

If we are seeking to make our lives more fulfilled, if we want to create peace in our lives and to maintain the practice of loving-kindness and truly living in this moment, we must start from the point within ourselves that is the core of our being, the “who” of who we are. It is one thing to require real changes to ourselves because we are making poor choices in how we live–and quite another to berate ourselves for things beyond our control. Would you blame a person for being blind? Would you belittle someone for being elderly? Of course not. Then why would you–or do you–blame and belittle yourself for circumstances beyond your control?

And life is always about choices–and the magic of choices is that you can always choose a new way to go or do something. You are not bound to the past unless you CHOOSE to be; you are not endlessly longing for the future unless you CHOOSE to be such. Self-compassion is for those times when you are in pain (mental, physical, spiritually) and you want to lessen or alleviate that pain by understanding that all beings suffer and so the choice is the manner in which you deal with the problem.

Through compassion for our own state of being, we acknowledge our connection to the rest of the world, to everyone else around us. And we then understand that we are no more and no less than any other being–and compassion is the natural response for the human condition, even unto ourselves. The act of self-compassion opens us to a deeper relationship with those we meet. It encourages diversity and tolerance, mutual respect and a sincere honoring of the sacred being within each of us. And it begins with acknowledging our own sacred being, warts and all.

I close with this link: Self-Compassion from Toni Bernhard, in which she shares some thoughtful and inspiring quotes about self-compassion.

Namaste!

The Circle of Life (With a Disability)

Forget Area 51. Don’t worry about crop circles or anal probes. You need not look for UFO’s or any other-worldly phenomenon. The aliens are already among your population. You just haven’t recognized them.

What do they look like? Well, pretty much any person who has a disability is an alien. Anyone who cares for the disabled is maybe an alien, maybe human but definitely controlled by the alien for whom they care.

And I’m not completely joking when I say this. People who are disabled will get what I’m talking about instantly. Those who are fully able will not have a true understanding simply because they cannot begin to fathom a life lived within the confines of disability.

We’ve talked several times here in this blog about how life revolves around our individual disabilities. Everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING, has to be passed through the disability filter before it can be acted upon or allowed. Some things seem obvious: a blind person cannot drive; a paraplegic cannot be a ballerina; an amputee cannot do the usual things a person with all their limbs are able to do. Medical science and technology have come a long way with a variety of devices or treatments that allow a semblance of “normal” to many obviously disabled people.

However. There is a hidden population of people with less obvious, maybe even invisible disabilities. My dear readers, you probably know pretty well what I am talking about. Diseases like lupus, fibromyalgia — and yes, it IS a disease, don’t let some ignorant person tell you differently, not even your own healthcare provider — diabetes, narcolepsy, the list goes on. And on. Far too long, far too many diseases that are disabling the people they affect.

And it’s this hidden group that has the hardest time trying to fit into “normal” society because the rest of the community fails to see the disability. They cannot accept it, cannot understand how it is just as debilitating as losing a limb, eyesight, or any other of the visible disabilities. These hidden folk also have the added burden of trying to continue to function in society as if they were not sick–and frequently paying a dear price for that masquerade.

We grow up thinking that we will always be able to do the things we want to, the things we must do, without any thought about how a myriad of daily activities can be accomplished when the body fails us. Pretty much everyone I know that has any disability goes through the stages of grief as described by Dr. Kubler-Ross: anger, depression, denial, bargaining and acceptance. She originally used these stages to describe the mental processes of someone dealing with death but they are just as applicable to those with disabilities. The catch is, someone with a disability will go through these stages more or less continuously their entire life. They can begin on any step, miss one (or more) to the next step…and just when they think they’ve found the final acceptance, something changes and the cycle begins again.

Anger. Depression. Denial. Bargaining. Acceptance.
Anger at just having this disability, or the group of symptoms that adds up to disability. Anger at your body failing you, anger at not being able to do the things you used to and by association, anger at not being able to make the most casual of social plans (let alone maintain a work schedule) without careful planning and fall back plans. Anger at the cost of disability: doctor visits, medications, peripheral assistance devices (like a scooter or a cane), time missed from work — if you’re even holding down a job. Anger, pure black blind rage, destructive and yet wholly justified. It will eat you alive if you don’t learn how to let go of it and not let it rule you.

Depression. Denial. Bargaining. Acceptance. Anger.
Wow. Depression is a BIG one. First, anger (see above) turned inwards, towards yourself, leads directly to depression. And depression is not the same as sadness. Or feeling blue. It’s not a monkey on your back…it’s more like a 300 pound gorilla. (Which is the average weight of a wild male gorilla–not some random number.) It’s a different shade of black than anger. It’s black like a tar pit, or the utter bleakness of lonely place on a cloudy night. It’s drowning in molasses: slow, messy but inevitably leading to death. It’s being totally ostracized from all society except those who are also disabled with depression. Yes, it is one of the invisible disabilities just by itself–but it frequently hitchhikes on the back of another disability.

Denial. Bargaining. Acceptance. Anger. Depression.
Denial…oh no, not me, uh-uh, no way no how. Can’t be about me, can’t be me. There’s the all too obvious denial of the disability, of the disease/s straight out. But there’s other, more subtle denials. One of my favorites is not accepting how truly limited I am, trying to do something and paying for it in pain the next day. There is always a price to denial and it’s usually a fairly expensive price. Denial is also the failure to explain to the people around you just what life with your disability is like, to help them understand the reality of your disability and to be compassionate when you cannot be who you used to be, B.D. (Before Disability)

Bargaining. Acceptance. Anger. Depression. Denial.
Bargaining is never a good choice when your collateral is…well, negligible. And bargaining directly with your disability is a sure way to lose it all. Bargaining can mean setting a limit on the restrictions…”Okay, I’ll take it easy, not lift and move all those boxes today…then I will go shopping with my friends tomorrow.” I have news for you, Sunshine. You can take it easy, rest up, trying to bank energy against a future activity…and still be too disabled to attend the function, do the task, whatever you were resting up for.

Acceptance.
It is a tremendous blessing to be in a place where you have truly accepted this life of being disabled. It’s a place where you do what your body permits, without pushing the limits. It’s the gentle refusal of an invitation to anything that would smash the limits of your disability and leave you in a state of panic, depression…or just so damned worn out that you must leave and you’ve only been there 30 minutes. Acceptance is the graceful (and grateful) allowing others to do for you things that you cannot do. And knowing that you will (always) be the one who receives and not the giver. “It is more blessed to give than to receive”, we’ve been taught. Well, someone has to do the receiving or there’s no way to give. Acceptance is a balanced, spiritual, sacred–and even happy–state of mind. It only shows up minute by minute, so it’s worth watching for, to be in the state of acceptance whenever you can identify it.

Because…

Anger. Depression. Denial. Bargaining. Acceptance.

It’s a cycle, never-ending but always changing so that you can, perhaps, find ways to skip the first four, acknowledging them but not letting them take charge of your life, to be in the state of acceptance for as often as is possible for you.

Disabilities affect us at pretty much every level of our lives, from being able to dress ourselves through unimpaired functioning at work, through attending gatherings (which strengthen the tribal bonds). Like everyone else, we have lots of choices throughout our day…but ours generally are of a particularly mundane level. Can I take a shower? Can I go out? What do I want to eat, or what can I eat? Am I able to concentrate and focus enough to do a craft, read a book, surf the Interwebs? Can I load the dishwasher, sweep the floor, wipe the counters? We the disabled have to consciously make choices that most people make without a single thought of whether they will be able to do it…or not. Everything we do requires some amount of conscious thought, a directed choice process, always and always weighed against the limitations our disability has bestowed upon us, a cursed blessing that is part and parcel, sometimes an entirety, of the disease/s we suffer from. We do suffer…but we don’t have to stop living–even though some do make that choice, based on all that we have discussed above.

Making it personal now, I will tell you that it has been a bad week for me, state of mind-wise. I have been very depressed (not directly suicidal, but feeling hopeless and without any way out). It hasn’t helped that my body has been particularly achy…or right out painful. I am at the edges of where I can be with my Vicodin…but there’s been no word from the pain management team in San Francisco (our main medical center and not where I receive care) about my getting a Fentanyl (Duragesic) pain relief patch–3 days of level pain reduction and not the roller coaster I ride now. You know, take a pill, wait for it to work, it works then begins to fade out, take another pill, wait for it to work…ad infinitum.  So I am essentially not properly medicated for pain–which technically is against the law, a law I am so thankful for every day of my life.

The weather has been nice, which sort of helped. Beloved made it his mission to help me get a bit out of myself by taking me out to eat. You know, the requirement to dress, get out of the house, be around other people (which is not always a good idea for me, with my social anxiety problems). I can tell you that we’ve had some interesting things happen. Just yesterday, there was a horse, eating the dandelions from my lawn. I don’t live out in the country. I don’t own a horse. I was not aware of any stables nearby. But there it was, big as life (well, of course it would be) and nibbling my lawn. I got to pet Cooper and talk to his rider–and forgot to get a picture. Only in Eureka can you find a man walking his turkey, a horse eating your lawn, “Captain America” doing the walk of shame after a costume party the night before. It’s never boring, that’s for sure. At least, not outside of my own personal funk.

I would definitely describe myself as “at step 2: Depression”, thank you very much, Dr. Kubler-Ross. I am wallowing in the inescapable truth that I am even more limited than I admit to being. I resent the fact that I have to push every decision, every choice or possibility through the triple damned “disability filter” before I can do anything. I am grateful that breathing is NOT one of those choices and I hope that remains true.

Things are being accomplished. I had my intake appointment with my back-up, urgent or acute care doctor–my husband’s care provider and not part of the VA system. We’ve both got referrals out in the medical ether–me for cardiology and acupuncture, him for dermatology. He’s gotten his appointment with same, but not me. Yet. I am in the process of getting the medical notes from the independent evaluation back in March–the office will not, cannot issue those records directly to me. Seems the contract the doctor signed from my insurance company specifically forbids it. BUT they can be released either to my lawyer or my doctor. Guess what? Both of them are requesting the records. I want them in my records because they are part of the history of my disability. My lawyer wants them for further evidence as we move through the SSDI application maze. And either my lawyer or the VA will give me a copy because I want to know what the doctor found and wrote about–especially since it made the insurance company give me a “total disability” status.

I have also been the very grateful and very gleeful recipient of a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 (tablet). My father loves me a lot! It’s really good for watching movies or Kindle. I’m still getting used to the touch screen, but I must be successful because when I come back onto my laptop, I try to touchscreen things…and then get mad that they don’t move…duh. Uses a mouse, it does! I’m looking forward to a day that we feel up to it, and go to the coffee shop to spend some hours there. My Surface will go with me and I can cruise the Interwebs from there.

I’ve even been doing some cooking–got a recipe for Turmeric chicken that will be a more or less steady item on the menu. Same goes for a recipe of a Szechuan peppercorn marinade, really nommy on pork ribs (country style, no bones). Figured out how to make pumpkin-cranberry bread in my breadmaker. And that will also be repeated–as soon as I can clean out the pan for the breadmaker. We’ve gotten a replacement for the rice cooker we lost in the move and are cranking out rice pretty often–at least once a week, sometimes two.

So I’m blue at about the azure stage–not navy blue. But definitely more blue than pastel blue. And I know that eventually this will pass. I truly suspect a lot of it is based more on the anxiety of pain unrelieved and the “normal” anxiety of income and making the bills. I think that if I can get my pain better controlled, a lot of the side symptoms may leave. I hope.

So thank you for reading this, and I hope that you’re in a good place, a good state of mind.

Namaste!

 

Karma Is Not Always Bad

Karma Sonnet

Pain, suffering and sorrowing I have been through
Anxiety, endless worry have been mine, in full score
Limitations and disability, the things I can’t do
No cooking, no singing, the loss of much that I adore

But the pendulum will always reverse its swing
Things will change and thus we are assured
Bad times do end, happiness will be our blessing
Good in equal measure to all that we have endured

The Universe does not do things in a haphazard way
There is a reason, a lesson to be learned in every act
A reward to be given, a price we must pay
But the balance between the two is always exact

I persevered through the troubles that have come my way
And I tell you: the darkest night leads to the brightest day

~~KGC

We’ve talked a lot about how shitty things have been for me, as it often is with those who suffer from a chronic illness/chronic pain. Well, today I am very, very happy to tell you about what has happened in the past 4 weeks. This is my list of thankfulness:

1. I got a phone call from the insurance company that handles my long term disability benefits. You remember my two part blog about going to Redding…well, apparently the doctor’s evaluation was on my side. So the agent that had been handling my case called to say that the decision to *not* pay me had been reversed and that a check for the back payments (nearly a year’s worth) was going to be cut and sent that week. I had to keep asking Beloved if I had actually received that call! Talk about a 180 degree change in mood–and the disappearance of an enormous load of anxiety…

2. We got the check and immediately began using it for things that we had needed money to accomplish, like paying off the balance owed on the van. So our vehicle belongs only to us! We got the bills all up to date and are setting up auto pay for all of them, so we don’t have to keep track of that in quite the same way as having to send checks or go online to pay. We also celebrated the doubling of our income by going to Stuft Potato for incredibly good German / Austrian food. The chef, Ivonne, is absolutely world class!

3. We had been waiting to move into the downstairs apartment (see here for why and how that would be possible), however Beloved fell down the stairs (missing the bottom step and then landing on his knees) 3 times in 2 months. I had also reached the point where I dreaded going out because I knew there would be the Bataan Death March Up the Himalayas to get back into the apartment. With the chunk o’money we could afford to move (deposits and etc.), so I began to cruise Craigslist and Zillow (rental/real estate company). I found several houses, all managed by the same company…who never replied to my application, emails or phone calls. Too bad for them. I found a likely apartment on Zillow and I did the online “I’m interested, please contact me” form on the site and then eventually, called the phone number on the listing. I had to leave voicemail, so I didn’t have much hope…but the property manager called me back! So we went on a Saturday to see the place and on Monday, paid the deposit, and on Friday did the walk-through and took possession of the keys. We moved in on the following Monday (since we had to set up a moving company) and here we are.

The old apartment was a glorified studio, with doorways but the only doors were the bathroom and the entrance/exit door. Ostensibly 3 rooms, but still only about 650-700 square feet. And those double damned stairs. Oh, and a bathroom shower stall that measures 31 inches, square. The toilet is back in a corner and requires sitting sidesaddle to do your business. (Even if you’re a super model or a child…but certainly not for Beloved and me, both of us being “of size”.)

The NEW apartment has TWO bedrooms (both with their own doors), a decent sized bathroom–and a BATHTUB!!!–, a kitchen and large living room. We have a dishwasher (rare in this area for some reason, but a godssend to me) and a 5 burner stove. “Five?” you say…yes. Two “regular” sized burners on the left side; a tiny “simmer” burner and a “power” burner (get that water boiling!) on the right…and in the middle, an elongated burner that takes up the space of two burners, clearly made for a griddle (or a very large roasting pan, so that you can make your turkey gravy in the pan the turkey cooked in, getting all the good brown chunks and drippings). We have a doorbell for the first time ever. There’s more cabinet space than I can possibly use–which is good, as a lot of it is well above my level of reach. 5 good sized drawers, and a cabinet that opens on the opposite side of the kitchen (by the door) because that part of the cabinet is not really accessible from the kitchen, being in the back corner of the peninsula. The kitchen itself is sort of “J” shaped, with the tall stem of that “J” being along the wall and the short side being where you walk in from outside, being very open to the living room, which makes that whole expanse bright and pleasant. And glorious icing on top of all of this is that we have a sliding glass door at the opposite end of the living room…which opens into our very own backyard–that no other tenants may use. It belongs to this apartment, and by association, to us.  Beloved’s office is set up in the 2nd bedroom and he has a window out onto that yard view; I sit in the living room and have only to lift my eyes to see the greenery.

There is a young grey-striped (possibly tabby) cat that comes through the yard–and watches me, comes towards the door…I think if I played my cards right, I could have my own kitty! But I can’t, for 2 reasons: I am highly allergic to cat dander, and we aren’t allowed to have pets. Oh well. I think I saw a hummingbird and once I can confirm it, I’ll figure out how to place a feeder within my usual line of sight and lure it into my yard!

The speed with which this all occurred was astounding. In just 8 days, we went from living “here” to living “HERE”. I’m already trying to decide how I want to decorate, what furniture I want to put into this place…which I never did at the old apartment. It feels like home, even with nothing but boxes sitting around.  Well, and my computer, which was the first thing unpacked. Of course.

4. My daughter, who lives in Baltimore, made it through the rioting–even though the apartment building immediately next to hers (like 20-30 feet away) burned completely. The firemen ran water over the roof of her building to keep it from bursting into flames from the heat but everything is fine now, no damage (fire, smoke or water) to her stuff.

5. My fourth grandchild, a girl, was born on May 19th to my son and his wife. I am waiting to hear what her older brother thinks of this addition to the household.

6. Beloved and I went to the beach 2 days ago…and we saw a whale, puffing a plume of water mist and moving in parallel to the shore. It’s the first time, but I hope not the last, for seeing a whale. Even with only being able to see so little…it was a moving, exciting, WOW! event.

There are other little things that are moments of serendipity…you know that when the bad happens, it seems that everything, even down to the tiny details, is bad. Okay, but when the good happens…it overflows, it drowns everything in good, joy, healing. GOOD Karma shows up in some of the oddest places…like having the two rolls of drawer liner fit exactly into the 5 drawers of the kitchen…without my having measured before buying the liner. The 3 large canisters that hold flour, sugar and rice…will fit in the alcove between the master bedroom and the bathroom–just 10 steps or so from the kitchen, but not taking up room within the kitchen itself. And they look nice, so it’s a good thing. (Again without measuring prior to moving…) The closets in both bedrooms have built-in shelves and boxes; not gorgeous, but highly functional. The closet in Paul’s office (2 bedroom) has a stack of cubby holes that are exactly the right size for him to put his papers away, protected and accessible. Even our fortune cookies have changed their tune from things like “You are strong and able to withstand even the hardest times” to “Your business will be successful and you will be famous”. LOL!

Anyone who knows us (and our circumstances) would agree that Beloved and I have been through a LONG, hard time of testing, troubles, and general bad stuff. We’ve been together for 5 years; 4 of them have been … not good, except for each other. I know we had a whirlwind romance..meeting on a Sunday and 8 days later, living together–and not being apart since except where we couldn’t help it, like his two hospitals stays. (Very similar to the 8 days it took to get our new apartment…hmmm, I sense a theme here!)
But it also feels like we’ve had the trials and tribulations inherent in any long term relationship … but 20 or 30 years of occasional problems crunched into that 4 years. No breaks from the next problem…everything piled on at once. I figure that means we should be relatively problem-free for the next 20-30 years of our marriage. (Fingers crossed and sincerely hoping that is so!) We’re certainly off to a good start: assured disability income for both of us, which means that the SSDI limbo I am in is much less of an issue; new and very acceptable apartment, with a landlord who lives upstairs and would be happy if we stayed for years; a vehicle that belongs to only us; a bathtub and shower that greatly eases the effort required to bathe; a dishwasher, so that I don’t have to choose between doing the dishes or cooking the meal; a green space that is ours, for container gardening and grilling (or as I call it, “Making burnt sacrifices to the fire gods”).

Karma Haiku

Good needs bad to show
the cycle of our life flow
to learn all we know

The moral to my story is this: for those of you in bad, anxious, depressing, and any or every other negative situation…hold on, keep walking (or crawling, wherever you are in the dark times of your life) through the storms. There IS rest, joy and good coming for you–in the time frame of your life. Stay balanced, even when everything around you is chaotic; peace will be your reward. The Wheel keeps turning, life moves on in that ever-widening spiral…and we will be blessed in at least equal measure to the burdens we have had to carry…and usually blessed in greater portion for our efforts.

Peace and blessings to you all, Namaste!

New Year’s Observations

It’s 2015 and the last year is now just in the history books. It’s the time of year that people make their resolutions and start dieting, running, giving up smoking/drinking/wearing a purple monkey suit to work. Well, I don’t make resolutions, but I think I’d like to make some observations.

We moved from Northern Virginia to Eureka CA one year and two months ago. More than enough time to get settled in, find our land legs (so to speak) and get an idea of what we had gotten ourselves into with that cross-county change of address. There’s only so much you can learn from Internet research and there’s a lot of things that never make it to “meme” level.

The cold hard facts: Eureka is located 5 hours north of San Francisco, 7 hours south of Portland, nestled with its twin city, Arcata, along the shores of Humboldt Bay. With the mountains to the east and the ocean to the left, Eureka enjoys a moderate climate, referred to as “cool-summer Mediterranean”. It has a population of about 30,000 which swells to 45,000 during the business day. It is the only deep water harbor between SF and Coos Bay, WA. And apparently everybody within 3-4 hours comes here for July 4th.

And now, for your reading pleasure, observations I have made in this 14 month period, in no particular order:

In our first week here, we saw a man in a finely tailored green silk suit (steampunk style). He was wearing a matching hat, also made of green silk; a top hat with an exaggerated brim, not unlike the Mad Hatter’s. It was at least 3 feet tall and at least that wide.

The fireworks on July 4th would put any major city to shame: over 20 minutes long, lots of incredible bursts–and all hand fired. I also got to see Captain America doing the walk of shame the morning of July 5th. I’ve seen a man walking his turkey. I’ve seen enough dreadlocks and tie-dye to wonder if this is really 1967. I’ve seen more than one dog sitting quite happily in the trailer on his master’s bike as they roll down the road. I’ve seen our local grocery store clerk, wearing his steampunk top hat to work (regular size), with trimmings to coordinate with the holidays. I’ve seen parts of the kinetic sculpture parade.

I have also seen the ocean as often as we can get out to the beach. Each time is the same–but different. When we got here, there was a little spit at our part of the beach. Nine months and countless tides later, it’s moved about 300 feet north. And at the beach, we see (and watch AND watch for): pelicans, seagulls of all kind; various other unidentified sea birds–and a pair of ravens who have staked out this stretch of sand for their own. We have seen seals, but no whales. Yet. We’ve seen people surfing and people trying to surf. Crazy children in the water (cold water!!), and lots and lots of dogs.

As my Beloved would tell you, on the East Coast, when you go to the beach there is a billboard of “Thou Shalt Nots”–no glass, no animals, no tents, no no no no. And the beaches are still wall to wall of oiled bodies…but here? There are three rules: Beware of the riptide (and you can see the difference in water color where it is); don’t turn your back on the ocean and if you feel an earthquake, think tsunami and go to high ground. Oh, and no parking from 10 pm to 6 am. (To discourage people from sleeping there.)

So on our beach there are dogs, happy happy dogs, running, fetching, splashing, then running up on the blanket to shake off on everyone. I’ve seen dogs from “Are you sure that’s a dog? Looks more like a rat.” up to “Are you sure that’s a dog? Looks more like a horse.” and every size in between. Just so you know: dog poop on the beach dries out (probably makes a great fire starter) and looks like brown rocks. Be careful in your stone collecting.

We’ve seen horses and their riders, trotting happily on the sand–or just like you see it in the movies, in the front edge of the water, running fast enough to make the ocean spray rise up as they move along. And of course the steel horses: ATVs, SUVs and Jeeps all passing by. I’ve watched kites flying in the ever-present wind (really never gets below about 4 mph). Children of all sizes and colors, gender irrelevant in the joy of being at the beach. Playing in the water, running shrieking as the waves come rolling in, making sand castles and digging out moats.

The beach is a happy place for us even though we can’t get very far down the beach. (It’s not the walk *down*, it’s have to come back *up* the hill, exacerbated by the fact that it’s not a nice solid stone hill, but a sand dune. In the “winter”, when it’s too chilly, we sit in the van and watch from that warmth. In the summer, when it’s cool but the sun warms you up…we drag out folding chairs out a few feet from the front of the van, set up and watch. We might bring some donuts (the best I’ve ever had, made by Asians…who knew?), or a sandwich. We’ve been known to bring beer–and so do other people.

And yet…there is no trash, no broken glass. The only detritus is the ashes of a fire pit (yes, you can have FIRE on the beach–and in fact, there’s a guy who drops off old pallets, just stacks them on the beach for anyone to use)–and the aforementioned “brown rocks”. The day after 4th of July, there was a lot of firework waste…and a young man, with his lady friend, were walking along the beach, picking it up. They filled their car with trash and beer cases. They didn’t belong to the city’s sanitation department, they had no connection to the county waste program. Just two citizens, doing their part to keep things clean.

And that’s something I could not find on the Internet. People take personal responsibility for keeping things neat and cleaned up. There are trash cans–and recycling cans–all over town. And people use them! Even the children know which kind of trash goes where. And the citizenry is HOT on recycling. Most of the people I see at the grocery store have brought their own (reusable) bags–and not just because the store gives a nickel’s credit for each bag. The UU fellowship we attend has two buckets to scrape potluck leftovers into–one for compost, the other is meat and other non-compost-able items.

I know what the statistics say about Eureka, unemployment and homeless population. Yes, there is a much more visible homeless population than we had in NoVA. I think because there, the problem is swept out of sight. We don’t want to acknowledge that there are people who don’t have a place to sleep at night…so we turn away and don’t see them. It’s hard to do that here since it is not this city’s goal to hide the problem. Oh, they occasionally get told to “move along”, but by and large, as long as they’re not hassling anyone, fighting or breaking the law (in the same manner that you or I might, NOT “breaking the law” by being poor and homeless), the police leave them alone. They sleep in the cover of the bushes or move up into the hills for warm weather. They have backpacks or shopping bags, or some even have discarded baby strollers. No baby, just their stuff–or, maybe their dog.

A lot of our homeless have a dog. And while the man may look thin and undernourished, the dog never does. The most common breed? The American Staffordshire Terrier (or as we all call them, “pit bulls”). And they are friendly, well behaved and utterly devoted to their human. Remember, this is the breed that used to be known as the “nanny dog” because they look out for their people. I have never seen two dogs get nasty with each other when they’re passing…like the people, they are kind and polite to each other as well as to the humans. (Lots of opportunity for a major dog fight out on the beach quite often. It’s never happened.)

And I’ve seen enough homeless people to know that this is the opening wave of what may very well be a lot more homeless people if the world (and our economy) continues to ignore the fact that if you kill off all the “not rich” people, there is no one to do the work or buy your products. So I’ve seen men and women, adults only–haven’t seen any children who are obviously homeless, but they must exist. I’ve seen young and old, veterans and civilians; black and white and red and yellow; in wheelchairs or scooters. They know when they should congregate out back of the Department of Health and Human Services for the guy who brings a truck with hot coffee (and food).

The homeless in Eureka make “stone soup” every night. Each person brings what they have and they share with each other. There is a food pantry in town where they can get a box of food for the month–something from each of the types of food: protein, vegetables, fruit, grains, dairy. It may not be the best of things, but it’s food. I know, we get our box once a month, too. Never thought I’d be doing that, but when there’s no income for me and we’re living off of Beloved’s SSDI…you take what you can get.

And here’s another funny thing about the homeless people here: they are polite, friendly and do NOT scream profanity at you if you don’t have any money. Oh, and they just ask for “spare change”. If you can’t, then they say, “No worries, thanks man.” And they go on with their day.

It must be something in the water, or perhaps it comes from the ocean air. All of the people here are polite and kind. They are patient, happily waiting until you can clear the register, no one in a hurry and getting irate. If you ask a question and they don’t know the answer, they will find someone who does–or stand there, talking to you, to work it out. The grocery store clerks will very happily pack and then take your bags out to the car–and put them into the car. Without holding their hand out and there’s no sign posted about”No tipping” (like Wegman’s in NoVA).

This extends to their driving. Rush hour here is a joke, compared to the soul-searing hell of rush hour everywhere in NoVA. In Virginia, we measured distance in time: how long will it take you to get there. Problem with that is if you live 20 miles from work and can travel on roads that are 55 mph, you can get there in as little as 30-35 minutes (depending on the lights) BUT it can also take a couple of hours without an apparent reason for that. And you never know, until you’re on the road, which kind of a day it is: half an hour or 2 hours.

Here in Eureka, rush hour means a little slow down, letting more people turn onto and off of the main road and dealing with the lights. When we first got here and were using the GPS to find our way around, we were coming down the road and the GPS bonged. Then the nice lady voice said, “Traffic congestion ahead, 2 miles. Time of delay: 2 minutes.” Beloved almost crashed the car because he was laughing at that so hard. I was too…traffic congestion in VA is like miles and miles of parking lot, with a delay of hours, not minutes. Better have your book and a bottle of water to pass the time.

The 4th of July weekend had about double the normal amount of traffic–and you could tell who was from out of town, because they drove like maniacs. Natives just go with the flow, letting people in and not sweating getting to their destination 5 minutes after they thought they would.


Okay, so I suck at coming back and finishing up a blog article. It’s now the 17th of February. But I am just going to add this to what I had started because it says what I wanted to say then and I wouldn’t change it now. I’ll just write some more about what’s going on now.

I’ve had my follow up appointment with my PCP (finally!). He’s still all hot for me to go see a neurosurgeon because of the issues with my spine–but I’m gonna kind of take it slow and try some other forms of treatment before going under the knife. It’s not just that I’d have to go to San Francisco to have the surgery, but that arrangements would have to be made for my convalescence. I cannot come up the stairs and then lay in the bed for a month or 6 weeks while things heal up. My Beloved cannot take care of me with all the things I’d need.

Part of my delay for getting cut open began today with my in-take evaluation at the physical therapy place here in town. (Called “Vector”, which is how I’ll refer to it from here on.) I’ll be doing water therapy in a pool that is kept at 84 degrees, in a room that is kept at 80 degrees. If I do nothing else, I can at least get gravity off my spine for a while. Pain relief is the main goal for me, so we shall see how it goes. I have already made the request for a TENS unit–a little box of Heaven which I look forward to with great anticipation.  Beloved also goes and so we’ve got a handful of simultaneous appointments “in the pool” for the next month.

I start with 7 visits: 1 in-take eval, 5 therapy sessions (in the pool!) and a 2nd eval to see if the therapy is having any results. It’s stupid because obviously, this therapy should be like my Vicodin: ongoing and maintenance levels. Not “take it for a week and then you shouldn’t need it any more”. But the therapist says that the VA will probably then allow 12 visits, so that’s another couple of months at once or twice a week. One small step at a time.

I have also gotten a change in my anti-depression medication. As you may remember, I have been taking Venlafexine (Efexor) and had come to realize that it’s just not doing as good a job as one could hope for. So we (the psychiatrist and me) are sliding me off the Venlafexine and slowing building me up on Welbutrin. We’ll see if that works. I hope so, otherwise I get to do this process again with another (different) medication. But I am willing to do whatever it takes to stop having suicidal thoughts.

We are eagerly anticipating a 10 day visit from Beloved’s parents. They will be staying in a motel, as we have absolutely no room to put them up in our apartment–and we’ll be introducing them to all the good places we’ve found to eat. I think they are more than ready to get out of NoVA and they want to live close to their children, so this visit is almost a house-hunting, get familiar with the town sort of a trip. His sister is in IL, and she would then just come here for holidays and rest trips, being able to see all of the family in one go instead of having to fly to the East Coast and the West Coast. I hope that Eureka meets their expectations–and then exceeds them, same as it did for us.

Nothing much else going on. Still waiting for the LTD insurance company to decide if they’re going to reinstate my benefits. They want an independent evaluation and that may mean a trip of up to 150 miles (one way) to see a doctor who will accept the job. Fortunately the company is willing to provide transportation and lodging. I need to ask if they will also be willing to give us some $$ for food. But this evaluation means that a decision about yes or no isn’t going to happen within the next month, maybe even two or three. The anxiety about money is a big one and it’s not getting any better until LTD comes through or, miracle of miracles, SSDI gets approved. I’m not holding my breath for either of them because I’d be long dead if I did.

So that’s about it for me now. It’s mostly SSDD, but I do like to check in with you all on a somewhat regular basis. I still have fibro, life is still pretty stressful, but I’m still hanging on and hoping for good things to come along. Peace out!

Summer Vacation (In Place)

Back story: Beloved’s sister, my sister-in-love, hereafter referred to as “SIL” is a costume designer. An amazing, creative costume designer. Who is 2/3 of the way through grad school in IL to gain the paper proof of her abilities known as The Master’s Degree. She’s not only been burning the candle at both ends, but in the middle and anywhere else the wick dared to peek out. So Beloved and his parents managed to convince her to come visit us as a well-earned and much-needed break from the grueling millstone of school and shows and summer jobs. And after talking to her, Beloved got the vacation extended from 4-5 days to 9 full days in beautiful, calm Eureka.

And the curtain on our Summer Vacation goes up:

We picked her up at the local airport (a single baggage claim area, one gate, and everything but the Pepsi machine closes at 8 pm) on July the 2nd. She looked tired and from more than a full day’s travel (a 7 hour layover in Sacramento to catch the puddle jumper up to here). But she was happy to see us and we were happy to see her. We grabbed a bite to eat at the almost only place open 24 hours, the local family diner, then took her to her home away from home motel room. (Trust me, there’s no room in my house for her, and besides, she has some modicum of privacy, of which there ain’t none at all in my house!)

Next morning (or later that same day, depending on how you look at it), we gather her up and the meals begin…during these 9 days that we had with her, we took her to all of our favorite places to eat, carefully planned so as to maximize the number of restaurants we could fit in with us only eating 2 meals a day. We hit Walgreen’s and Target for some of the little things she forgot, to replace an extension cord that the TSA absconded with on her flight out here, and beach paraphernalia such as a chair, bucket (for seashells) and a hat. We hit Old Town one day, having lunch at the Cafe Nooner and then she and I walked around the shops. Well, she walked, I rode my new(ish) scooter; Beloved went back to her motel and hung out until called to fetch us for dinner at the next restaurant on our list. We repeat that process a day or two later to hit the local thrift stores–which she may have actually enjoyed more. SIL has been thrifting most of her clothes for a long time. She found some great stuff–and I didn’t do too badly myself!

We had Chinese food, Vietnamese, Thai and German. We had Mexican food and California sushi, as well as Japanese (traditional) sushi. All of it fresh, most of it local, some of it organic. A better quality of food than most people eat and a sure fire way to help her restock her body’s energy. Lots of sleep and days of doing nothing in particular, just what the Doctors Brother and His Wife had ordered. I have to admit, living right by the ocean, the only kind of food we didn’t feed her was seafood (other than in the sushi and that’s not everyone’s idea of seafood, even if it is fish!)–Dungeness crab season ended as she arrived, so we’ve put that on the “To Eat” list for the next time she’s here.

We showed her Eureka, our Costco which has a lot of organics (probably due to local demand for it), our house and the little town we live in (south of Eureka). We went to the fireworks show on the 4th–first one I’ve been to in years. For a small town, it was downright impressive–about 20 minutes long, with fireworks I’d never seen before. We sat at one of the Boardwalk down on the channel where the boats go through to the ocean–and the marina resides. Lots of people, but all of them happy and pleasant. We even had a puppy cuteness overload with the people next to us having 3 puppies, maybe 2 months old…awwww.

We took her to the beach. Four or five times in the time she was here. The first time, we hit the jackpot with the wild life. She was happy to see all of the dogs, which we also enjoy. (Or as Beloved points out, there are only 3 rules for this beach: don’t turn your back on the ocean, beware of the rip tides, and if you have an earthquake, assume tsunami and move to higher ground.) But some of the other things we had talked up to her also showed up–a flight of pelicans, almost in slow motion, passed over our heads, a serious photo op if ever there was one. She got to see not just one, but FOUR horses, being ridden on the sands. We also saw those little bobbing brown heads that are seals. And of course, the surf fishermen, the kites, the terns and other shore birds and, last but certainly not least, the ever-changing, ever-eternal ocean.

I was very glad to have this time with her. It’s the first chance that SIL and I have had time together without a major holiday and everyone else around. And lest you think that I monopolized her time, I made sure that she and her brother had time together without me as well. Maybe not as much as she and I did, but hey, they already knew each other. Even with the limitations of our disabilities, we had a great time having her here and found that we could push ourselves to the point of being able to spend as much time with her as possible. We only had to beg off from a couple of late night talk sessions–and she allowed as she was tired, too–so that wasn’t too bad.

One of the last things she did while here was something that she had asked me to check out and go with her–she was ready for her first tattoo!! I did my research around here and found a one man shop, with a tattoo artist who is amazing to be her first. (But not her last, as she already had plans for several more tattoos in her head…which I think will find solid form on paper now that she knows what tattooing is all about.) And of course, I couldn’t let her go all alone…so I got my 14th tattoo, as seen here:
Purple Butterfly

This is my purple butterfly for Fibromyalgia Awareness, a permanent sign of both my disease and a hope for a cure or at least better treatments for the conditions it brings with it. Amazing scrollwork, very fine lines for the outline, just great work all around–to the point where I may have to start saving up for (and doing in stages) the half-sleeve tattoo I’d like to have on my right arm. The left is saved for a military-style “flash”, where badges are located on the uniform, for a personal tattoo that represents me and the Beloved. The half-sleeve will be a compendium of my life, my children and grandchildren, things that are important to me. I feel that I have finally found an artist I can work with, whose style is very complementary to what I want my tattoo to look like.

So SIL and I bonded through ink and needles, as well as some amazing meals. She is seriously considering basing out of here once she’s out of school, as she will essentially freelance costume design–this keeps her from being limited to one company, one place. I also suspect that her (and Beloved’s) parents may also end up here, having both retired just this past May. They are already making tentative plans to come see us at the end of summer, beginning of fall–and I think SIL’s report will only encourage them to visit us. They want to live near their children, and since Beloved and I are already out here…and SIL may also be, just stands to reason that we will soon all have CA addresses.

This was the closest thing to a vacation we’ve had, almost ever, in our 4 years together. It was fun and tiring, happy and way too short–and I’m so glad we got to share it with her. We are looking forward to repeating the formula of good eats when the parents come out–and Beloved’s best friend, who is to visit us next month. How lucky are we, to have all this good food around us–and to be able to share it with the people who mean the most to us?

Now we rest up and recuperate, back to the usual schedule of doctor’s appointments and preparing for my SSDI adjudication the middle of August. Lots of memories were made this week and a half–and the last place we took SIL to, before putting her back on the airplane back to IL? The beach, of course.

Bay Drive Beach

A Kinder and More Gentle Life

I never promised any regular posting–which is good since I let all kinds of time slip past me these days. We all agree, Beloved and our two housemates, that time does not move in the same way here as it did in VA. It goes fast and it goes slow and we’re never really sure exactly what time it is. The days are long and short; it seems like we have several days before we have to be somewhere and then suddenly, somehow, another week has passed. So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

We are still getting used to the Life Pacifica. We are very gradually losing the frantic and hassled outlook on life. There’s something about living near the ocean that lends itself to a more natural pace. Life in VA was lived under the direct influence of Washington DC, with all of the characteristics of that blighted place. Too many people, too many of them so sure of their superiority, with the attendant arrogance in their attitude when dealing with anyone else. Too much hurry to get to the next thing, no matter what it was. No time for anything that wasn’t tied to the need, the driving urge, to move up the food chain–and the very well defined food chain of the citizenry.

If you make a lot of money, it’s not a bad place to live. If you don’t make a lot of money (in this case, we’re only talking about 50-60,000 dollars income per year. Only $50,000? Might as well be $500,00  or $50 million for those who don’t make it), anyway if you don’t make a lot of money, you’re totally screwed. You have to pay what you can for rent, never mind where you end up living–and then commute to work, which is another soul-searing, humanity killing part of living in the area. It’s not healthy and it’s really not meant to be for humans.

I tell you this so that you’ll understand that after more than 10 years of *that*, it’s taking me a while to let go of old habits and return to living in a better way, a more healthy way. Beloved and I still laugh about “rush hour” here, a daily occurrence that any driver in NoVA would sell his soul to be able to have–it might back traffic up for 2 or 3 extra minutes’ drive time. Not the 2 or 3 extra HOURS a bad day’s commute can give you back there. When we eat out, the wait staff is unfailingly polite and generally kind. There is no rush to get us out of the place, we can sit and talk without disturbing the routine.

I generally end up fumbling something when checking out of the grocery store. The people in line behind me wait patiently, without rude comments or flashing evil looks. And when I apologize, I get the same answer each time: “No worries, it’s okay.” And they MEAN it. They are genuinely willing to wait without letting me know that I have so inconvenienced them that I probably shouldn’t be allowed to even continue breathing.

Have I mentioned that we have a visible homeless population? (I won’t say sizable because I don’t know how many there truly are–but  it seems like a lot because as I tell people, we “don’t have homeless people in Northern Virginia”. Well, we do–but they are shamed, ignored, made to move on and generally pushed by the cops to go away and disappear.) So anyway, even the people who are asking for money are polite and kind about it, and if you tell them you don’t have anything to give them, they thank you and tell you to have a nice day. Not like the people who hang out at the metro stations and call you names if you don’t cough up some change. Not that I really blame them for having that kind of attitude, since the only thing worse than living at the poverty level in NoVA is living IN poverty there.

Money was a major factor for us deciding to come to the West Coast. We knew that there would be other benefits, like organic food and a steadier climate but the costs of living were the big reason to make that big a change. We hoped that it would be a slower and easier way of life but as I said, it’s taking a while to really accept that it is precisely that. I am trying to shed Virginian habits and become a true California Girl. I should remind you, or tell you if I haven’t, that I was conceived just down the coast in Monterey. My first assignment in the AF was also in CA, down way south at March AFB, Riverside — about 45  miles east of L.A. It has been like coming home. There was never any doubt that I belong here, that I will spend the rest of my life here. VA seems like a dream sometimes…

I have been mostly medicated for pain for a month. I still have yet to meet with the Pain Management Team and set up the full plan for dealing with my pain. It’s mostly focused in the degenerative arthritis in my spine. This means I cannot stand or walk for more than about 15-20 minutes at a time without having sciatica and neuropathy. It’s annoying to realize that I am being more active, doing  more–and it’s not seldom-used muscles that are giving me trouble. It’s a part of my body that exercise will not diminish the pain, that I can do much about at all. I wrote in my last blog that I had finally got to see my PCP. Well, she got things rolling for me on several levels. I have new wrist supports; I have seen the therapist and will soon be showing my ability to deal with an electric wheelchair (having determined to be a better match for me than a scooter for mobility assistance); I have had my lady part visit with the Women’s Health specialist at the clinic. I have an appointment for my hands (which hurt and are swollen more mornings than not) and I’m waiting to find out when I can get a new MRI for my back. The MRI and the hand clinic are both in San Francisco, at the central VA medical facility and I will coordinate the appointments so that we only have to drive down once to do them both. I am also waiting for a local appointment to get my eyes checked for the first time in almost 3 years. (I need new glasses…)

It is all progress, especially after losing healthcare insurance coverage before I was able to get into the VA system. And the VA medical care here is WAY better than what I was getting in Virginia. I call my care givers by their first name–which levels the playing field and makes me a part of a healthcare TEAM instead of being low man on the totem pole when it comes to making decisions about my care. The people all seem to be genuinely concerned about the care they are giving and view it as a service to veterans. I did NOT have that opinion of the staff at the Fredericksburg clinic. So anyway, let me update you on my meds, because except for the pain, it all seems to be working well. I am taking Vicodin 5 mg for pain, which is the limit dose because they are so afraid of addiction–and there is a real problem with it, so I understand that. I take Lasix for the swelling in my hands and ankles. I take loratidine for allergies; trazadone for sleep; gabapentin for the neuropathy. I take Venlafexine for depression and Hydroxyizine Pamoate for anxiety. The two psych drugs really do work well. The Hydroxizine used to was an antihistamine, but it’s being prescribed for lots of Vets with PTSD. It’s gentler than the “–zepams” (Valium, Xanax, Clonazepam) and doesn’t seem to have bad side effects. Now you know.

Beloved is also getting his health back in order, thanks to the ACA and expanded Medicaid. He is in physical therapy for his physical ailments, which means he gets to get into a pool kept at 92 degrees and do therapy twice a week; he has adjustments and stim/TENS with heat once a week. He reports that it’s making a difference after only 3 weeks of going. He is also getting his mental health in order, with weekly sessions with the psychologist, as well as two different group therapies, one for anxiety and one for bipolar disorder. He will finally get to see his psychiatrist on April Fool’s Day. No hidden meaning there, I’m sure! Beloved does agree with me that no matter how bad any one day may be, we are truly happy to be here and are content with the decision to move. No regrets…

Odds and ends:

We received a surprise gift of some money from Beloved’s godmother–she died from cancer and while that’s sad, we were glad to receive the bequeathed check. We have used it to get some things that catch us up to pretty much where we had hoped to be before we spent an extra week in the motel and had a rental car for 3 weeks which ate up our savings upon arrival here. Beloved has been very, very sweet, getting things to make the kitchen easier for me to work in and for him to help me with meal preparation. The single biggest improvement for us has been the appearance of new computers for both of us. Our old machines were ummm well, old. Mine was almost 7 years old, which in technology is practically another era. So we’re trying to get used to Windows 8 — after 4 years with an HTC Evo smartphone, I find it’s not that difficult. I am just not real thrilled at how we are moving more and more towards icons instead of words. Indicates a greater level of illiteracy in the general population, never a good thing.

We’re trying to make it to HUUF (the local Unitarian Universalists) more often. Went this week to find out that Starhawk (The author of “The Spiral Dance” and a Pagan celebrity) was going to lead OUR fellowship in the Spring Equinox ritual. As I said on Facebook, I knew we lived in a cool place; I didn’t realize it was that cool!

The weather has turned beautiful. The days are just cool enough to merit a light jacket, but sunny and it’s great to be out of doors. We live in a teeny tiny little village that has no lights so the night sky is amazing and awe-inspiring. I can see the moon from my window (when it’s out). It was raining this morning, but that’s cleared off and the sun is out. We’ll have temperatures between 45 and 60 degrees all week. This steadiness and constancy in the temperature means that when the weather changes, it’s not the sword-stabbing pain in the long bones of my legs like the extreme and sudden changes in VA caused. I can live with this!

I am both amused and grateful for how much organic food the local Costco carries. We get our apples there (Gala and Fuji); coconut oil is less than $25 for a gallon of it. We’ve discovered KettlePop organic kettle popcorn and are working on the 4th bag I’ve bought (A 20 oz bag, which for popcorn is a BIG bag!) I bought a case of Amy’s Organic (Vegan) chili–added grass fed pastured beef to it, of course. Organic produce, meat, snacks, cereals and a lot of other things that people who eat organic will look for, like chia seed, hemp oil, and etc. They have an amazingly wonderful organic vanilla ice cream from the local dairy (Humboldt Dairy brand) and it comes 2 half gallons in a box. NOM.

Beloved has two pans that look similar–they are both heavy cast aluminum, and the overall shape is almost square. The pan itself is what is different–it looks like a maze piece, with a “W” (or “M”) shape making the pan what it is called: The “All Edges” pan. We have one for brownies and one that is slightly larger and deeper for lasagna. I can report that they work very well, especially for the lasagna–they came with matching spatulas that fit precisely in the “tracks” of the pan and each piece you lift out is a work of art. Well, mine is anyways because I make kickass lasagna. Just saying. We’re having a conglomeration pasta dish today–left over meat sauce, with ricotta and mozerella cheeses mixed in, some sliced chicken sausage and of course, fresh grated Parmesan (both mixed in as well as laid on top). Baked for 50 minutes and then run it under the broiler to toast up the aforementioned Parm cheese.

We have the super duper bread maker from Breville, home of our super duper convection oven. It will of course make bread, but it will also make jams/jellies. I am looking forward to trying it out–and we’re going to have to, soon because we’re running out of bread and I’m not buying any more. If I can only restrain myself from eating it hot out of the maker, with butter dripping down my chin. Probably not…

The continued political and religious assaults on women is starting to really annoy me. It’s not about abortion or birth control; it’s about relegating half of our population down into second class citizenship. And once you can establish a lower class, you can throw anyone who isn’t “your type” down there: gays, immigrants, people of color. I like the meme that defines homophobia as “the fear that gay men will treat you the way that you treat women”. (Although frankly, you’re just not that cute.) Now I have to wonder if that concept needs to be expanded upon. Are men actively seeking to subjugate, limit, entrap and otherwise deny women equal rights because they’re afraid that if we women get those rights, we’ll treat them the way they’ve always treated us? If we can make our own choices for reproduction (or the prevention thereof), we will become as sexually indiscriminate and promiscuous as so many men are? Will we redefine ourselves, seeking our own kind of beauty and not pandering to the trophy status ideal? Will we be able to pursue a lucrative career, possibly shutting them out of promotion opportunities based on our superior abilities (and not on how well we can suck dick, as you all seem to think any successful woman MUST do)? Will we refuse to take on other people’s ideas, including yours, of what makes us women? Will we decide that being an unpaid housecleaner/cook/maid/nanny/sex object is no longer our dream? Will we stop needing men?

I can only hope so. And there’s nothing wrong in NOT needing men. The shame and the wrongdoing come from the necessity to “have a man” in order to be considered a “real woman”. More and more females are choosing to pursue their dreams–and their dreams don’t include that infamous “Mrs.” degree. I kinda suspect that this is the part that makes those men seeking to control women go crazy. I’m not even going to ask why a man wants to control a woman. No, the deeper and more meaningful question is this: What is about you, as a man, that makes you so afraid of females that you must ensure their total enslavement as necessary for civilization to go on? Are you afraid that women will take over and treat you in kind? And the gays? Will they do that too? And anyone who is “not you or your type” is a threat to this part of you.

As with the rape culture (dear gods, why did we even have to come up with this term?), the onus must be placed on the correct and originating source in order to actually fix the problem. In the rape culture, we HAVE to teach our females to protect themselves, but we NEED to teach males to NOT rape. That simple. The force that stops a rape shouldn’t have to be the victim. The perpetrator should never commit the crime. Likewise, in the war on women, we women are only reacting to an offensive (in every sense of the word) attack. We either have to so utterly triumph, so completely overcome the attack that the offender is smashed and defeated, unable to retaliate or launch another attack…or this will never end. Not from our side of it. The males who are firing the volleys, suggesting and enacting legislation to control women (and gays, and immigrants and etc) are the only ones who can end this war without the utter destruction continued attacks will eventually bring about.

What is it within you, Rand Paul? Paul Ryan? What is it within all of you men, elected representatives to your state or Federal governments that requires these outrageous and frankly insane attacks against 50% of your constituency? What is it within you, you pastors and ministers, that makes you act in a way that will drive someone, ANYONE, away from the Christian message of love and forgiveness for all? Why do you take Paul’s words (“A woman should learn in silence, don’t let women speak from the pulpit”) over the words of Jesus who instructs his followers to “love one another as I have loved you”?

And can we please get this settled before we blow up our own country with this ludicrous and dangerous divisiveness?

So I rambled off topic, sort of. I just ramble. Going to halt this one here so I’m not competing with “Gone With the Wind” or “War and Peace” for length. Life is good, life is sweet, even with disabilities and I hope your life is blessed and happy and peaceful. Namaste!

What Color Wetsuit Should I Get?

EverythingYouNeed

California diary, day 95: After 91 days, one unnecessary trip to the clinic and several phone calls, I FINALLY got to meet my new primary care nurse.  I was originally scheduled to be seen on the day after Christmas.  Which was cancelled without telling me, so I showed up for the appointment and had to turn around and go home.  Next attempted date of take-off?  January 22, the earliest window with a flight path for me.  Also cancelled.  Third time’s a charm, so they say and February 4th was mine.

So as a literary device and to get everyone updated on what happened while I was waiting, let’s step back into time and talk about January, since I’ve already told you about December.  (More Adventures and Updates from CA)

Beloved and I had a quiet dinner at the local Indian restaurant for New Year’s Eve.  Great food and then back home, when the ball dropped in our time zone, we had bubbly drinks, kissed and welcomed in 2014.  A week later, our friends from VA arrived after their cross-country trek and now we’re all living together.

Oh stop thinking those naughty thoughts!  It was always our intention to share living space with each other.  Like trouble, bills shared are bills halved.  When the original plan was formulated, we had no idea that the two of us, the path blazers and first away team (no red shirts, thank gods) would have to choose a place that is at best suited for two rather than four.  So it’s been an interesting month, getting the four of us settled into limited space within the odd layout of the apartment.  Compromise and a certain Japanese ability to politely ignore the genuine lack of real privacy are both being used as well as tested and adjusted to being used again.

Yes, it’s cramped and we sort of have to step over each other.  We go though their room to get to the kitchen; they come through ours to get to the bathroom.  Hmm bathroom; yeah, one toilet and one shower means a certain amount of planning for health and hygiene.  Ear plugs are de rigeur as we each have our own technology–and preferred websites.  With the minimalist approach to kitchen items, a favorite  dish or cup is often…in use by someone else.

On the other hand, there are extra hands to help with the things we either cannot do or have to plan carefully to do, like trash removal and washing the dishes.  Meals at home are much easier and more usual with help in the preparing and cooking of same.  Grocery shopping is shared, which also alleviates some of the anxiety for me, particularly when I’m having a bad day.

It’s also nice to have a concrete reason (so to speak) to at least make the effort to be more social, to make the efforts of conversation and discussion with someone besides each other.  It’s also been a benefit to them as they arrived without employment–and you cannot count on getting your dream job the first place you apply for.  (Or even the 10th, 27th or 136th.)  They have had the benefit of a place to live and food to eat without having to go into panic mode about the basic human needs.  (They also arrived with a good cushion of savings, the result of working 70 or so hours per week for the prior 3-4 months.)

So let’s segue into my doctor’s appointment.  Remember that my first VA PCP had removed me (cold turkey) from Vicodin last May?  And I have had to fight, scream and threaten (almost) to get anything resembling a regular amount of it since then?  And when I got here, I needed to have an appointment within about 4-6 weeks in order to have all medications as prescribed, without running out of them?  So it’s not a shock to anyone when I say that of course I ran out of medications?

Ergo, my condition as of 10 am yesterday morning was something along these lines: no Vicodin for most of January; no Gabapentin (Neurontin) for about 2 weeks.  That means no prescription pain medications for long enough to make me bitchy.  (Sorry, housemates and my mate.)  Instead, I was taking 4 Alleve per day.  And every medical person (or medically informed person) reading this just flinched.  Naproxen sodium is hell on your stomach and most doctors prefer that you do NOT use it as a maintenance drug.  I know this, but figure 4 of them is better than 12 to 16 Tylenol in the same time period.  (Which frankly does not stop my pain.  And I am allergic to ibuprofen (Advil) or I’d have to take about 6-8 of those.)

Therefore, I was unmedicated for pain.  In plain words, I hurt like hell, with knives being stabbed into my back (the arthritis) and general body aches and tender pressure points (all of them for the fibro test) hurting and making themselves heard.  I was anxious and stressed because I figured I had a battle on my hands to get back the pain meds I had used (been using for over 2 years) that worked.  (“Worked” being the most important word here; I tried Celebrex, a fairly hardcore pain med which did very little for me.  I’ve done all the OTC stuff and have had codeine, no effect and Darvocet, no longer made nor distributed.  Limits my choices.)

As with the psychiatrist and social worker, my healthcare provider is called by her first name.  I would suggest that everyone go to that method of interaction…because it puts the patient on a more equal level with the care provider.  Having to call the physician “Dr. Jekell” while s/he calls you “Fred” imposes a hierarchy of perceived authority and imbues the doctor with a certain godlike power.  And besides, my name’s not Fred.

It’s my body, it’s my life.  I will have at the VERY least a 50% say in what happens to both.  I view my healthcare providers for both my mental health and my physical health as working FOR me, and WITH me, to assure the very best, most appropriate plan of pain management, symptom alleviation or cure and general overall well being for ME.  This means that I have the final say in what I will (or will NOT) take from the great wide world of pharmacopoeia and what course of treatment or therapy I can and will follow.  I listen to the expert’s advice; I have the good fortune of having been in healthcare, so I have some experience in the field of my own to use as part of the information of my decision-making.  I do my own research about the healthcare I receive, to include the medications I am on.  And I don’t just look at one website to dismiss or verify it; it may be a shock to some of you, but not everything on the Interwebs is true or real.

Now back to the original story: it’s 10 am (yesterday) and I’m sitting in the Eureka VA clinic.  Alone because Beloved had his own doctor appointment at the same time.  Stressed and anxious because I’m alone and having to do this without an extra set of ears and eyes to help me; stressed and anxious because I fear having to battle for my own health and well being–and it’s really important to me to have a life as free from pain as I possibly can, within the limits of modern drugs.  (Herbal, natural and “old time” remedies are still possible for me but as a part of the Federal Government, the Veterans Administration cannot give me some leaves to chew on and a chunk of medicinal incense to burn.  Or even more plainly than that: if marijuana would replace every single one of the pills I’m on, I would consume only that–but I will not get it from the VA until such time as pot is legalized at a national level.)

To my credit (and my new anti-anxiety med), I am NOT talking like Russell Brand.  And once my appointment started, things went…amazingly well.  The nurse did took my vitals, started my (new and local) medical file.  A little more waiting, and then the nurse (I think she’s actually a nurse practitioner) came herself to escort me back to the treatment room.  She and I had a genuine conversation (we both got to speak!) about my medications.  She had already pulled up my records and taken some notes about what pills I was on.  (Unlike Beloved’s new doctor, who was handed HIS information in hard copy; Beloved is OCD and has enough medical stuff–history, med list, etc–that he writes it all down and gives it to EVERY health care provider he sees.  She didn’t even look at it but then she wanted him to answer questions that would have been completely covered by 5 minutes of reading those papers.  We are probably NOT staying with her once we can find someone else, hopefully recommended by a real person who loves their doctor and is willing to share.)

After my PCP and I talked about medications, I also told her about my other concerns, such as an eye exam and that desired mobility scooter.  We discussed everything and then, as the end to my appointment, she did the “doctor” thing of listening to my heart and lungs and looking into my ears and eyes.  You know, the basic check up stuff.  And I walked out of her treatment room…with stress and anxiety left behind.

Here’s why: nurse or not, she can (and did) write new scrips for every one of my medications.  Including the pain meds.  She also gave me immediate supplies of those pain meds to hold me until all the drugs can be sent from the central dispensary in San Francisco–takes it about a week to get to me.  The VA clinic here has a small pharmacy, with a limited inventory but they had the Gabapentin.  They do NOT carry and cannot give out Vicodin.  However, she wrote a scrip that the VA clinic pharmacy faxed across the street to the CVS where I went to pick it up (at no cost, of course).

We had agreed on the amount of Vicodin I would be given–which is 2 per day, with a bit of spare added in as an emergency 3rd pill on those days when the pain is that terrible and that prolonged that 2 just don’t cut it.  No fuss, no argument from her, no “I am not comfortable giving you that” like I had gotten from the VA doctor in VA.

Relief, blessed and prayed for relief of my pain.  Lack of anxiety because I can request refills or modifications to those pain pills as I need or want them.  Pretty much an immediate mood changer, to know that if I hurt, I have medication that works and I can take to stop the hurting.  (Or to be honest, stop it as much as it is ever stopped.  There is still a certain level of ache and pain, always has been.  No idea if pot, massage therapy, acupuncture or any other alternative therapy will truly and completely remove all the pain.  Not sure I’d know what to do with myself if it did.)

But wait, there’s more!

I had to see the clinic vampires…4 vials of blood and a pee in the cup to check pretty much everything of basic functioning, as well as test the thyroid (an all too common problem in women) and take a look at my blood sugar levels (and make sure that I’m not peeing out protein, a bad thing).

I have been given referrals for:
1.  Having my eyes checked for the first time in 2 years.  My new anti-anxiety med also causes blurry vision, so I spend most of my life with everything in a soft focus anyway.  Will probably end up with new glasses.
2.  Meeting with the pain management team to assess my pain and come up with my own, personalized pain management course of action.  We’ll start this as a video conference; if that doesn’t get the results we want, I’ll end up having to go down to Frisco to the central VA facility there.
3. Getting new parts for my CPAP machine.  Another video conference, this time with the “Chest” team, who apparently handles things related to breathing.  I hopefully will not need a new sleep study or it’s down to Frisco for that as well.
4.  A mobility scooter.  At least, she’s requesting it for me.  I will find out if it’s been approved…whenever they call me and tell me to come pick it up, or give me a voucher and I go pick it out at the local medical supply store.  However it works, so long as it works.  I’ll figure out how to get it in and out of the back of the van.  (And probably ask if the VA helps to pay for any modification to our vehicle required to make that possible.  Thank the gods we have this van, the perfect car for us that we didn’t know to specifically ask for.)
5.  A new medication for my GERD.  I have been taking ranitidine, which just doesn’t deal with all of my stomach issues adequately.  I am back on the med I took when I was first diagnosed with reflux, that little purple pill Prilosec.  Except that my bottle says “omeprazole” and the pills are pink and white.

Can you imagine how light I felt, leaving there yesterday?  Can you imagine how happy I feel today, having had my Vicodin and knowing that if I still hurt or the pain increases again, I can take another one and not have to meter them out because I’ll run out before I can get more?  That small, simple white capsule allows me to let go of the myopic view of life, focused through a lens of pain.  It allows me to refocus on other things.  And I’m sitting here, thinking about all the things I want to do now.  And if I’m not careful, I’ll end up hurting worse by doing too much all at once.  Sigh.

Hope and fear are so very closely related…one leads to a positive ending and the other a negative, but the general feeling is about the same until the results are known.  I was so afraid that I had to continue what had been an uphill, unwin-able battle to deal with my fibro and all of its attendant issues.  I was terrified that I would have to continue living in nearly unbearable pain, which has makes it very hard to have anything resembling a “normal” life–including personal hygiene and activities of daily living.  It was nigh unto impossible to feel hopeful, with the expectation of a good outcome given the prior experiences I have had with the VA health system.

All I can tell you is that while they may all be under that vast umbrella called the VA, the two clinics could not be more disparate.  And I absolutely prefer this one; ALL of the staff is genuinely kind, pleasant and trying to do all within their power to help.  They seem to view their jobs as happy and willing service to the veterans in this community and NOT as metering out a few paltry pills from their WWII stock to the “takers” who are trying to get all they can from the teat of “Uncle Sugar” (like they did in VA; this attitude difference occurs in almost everything *here* versus almost everything *there*, not just at the VA).  They work for and with the veterans to ensure the best possible care for each patient, to help the vet have the best quality of life within the limits of their health issues, both mental and physical.

And I have never been more glad that this (unexpected) benefit of my time in the Air Force was worth the effort of applying for it and continuing to use it.  Without it, I would have had no pain medications for almost a year now.  None at all.  Zip, nil, naught, zero.  They have given me all the medications I need; I have a new blood pressure cuff (to replace one in a box somewhere in the storage locker or the in-laws house in VA).  If my blood test does turn up diabetes, they will give me all the paraphernalia for that.  They will provide me with a scooter if I qualify–and I both understand and approve of a qualification requirement, as there is only just so much money in this pot and it should be used according to need.  While mine is great to me, how much greater is the need of a soldier returning from war without legs?  If there’s only enough money for one scooter, give it to the soldier.  I realize that this is a little simplistic, but you get what I’m trying to say?

Instead of having limitations set by pain and the fear of more pain after exertion, I can focus on doing the things I want and need to do.  I will try to pace myself so that I don’t end up in more pain through my stubbornness or asserted ignorance of the effort required.  I may very well end up making a list of all that I want to do and then categorizing and prioritizing it by what can be done now, with the small energy I have–and what will have to wait until later, when I have more days in a row without that insistent, all-consuming pain, riding on my back like a leech and blocking any chance of doing something without it hurting.

What will I do?  I want to clean up our room.  Like, move things around, sweeping the floor and then mopping it.  I want to rearrange my desk and the Pelican cases I use as a dresser.  I want to stand and cook an entire fabulous meal without having to stop in the middle–or hand off to my sous chef to complete.  I want to explore the local thrift stores, which requires walking and lots of it.  (Or a scooter, carefully driven through the aisles.)  I want to go to the beach and look for stones and shells.  (Probably NOT on a scooter, so this one requires some time to work back up to being able to walk longer than 5-10 minutes and especially on a surface that is not stable nor firm.)  I want to be able to go to HUUF every week because the prior days have not sapped all energy and ability to get around out of me.

Nothing particularly earth-shattering or even particularly requiring of tremendous effort.  Just the small moments of life that we each live, but having them without the terrible pressure of untreated pain.  And for the first time in almost a year, I feel…hopeful.  I have more faith in a positive outcome because I finally have healthcare providers that are providing my health CARE.  I did not move to CA to spend all my life inside the four walls of my home.  We did a great deal of that in VA and the desire to get out, to be outside, to be out among other people, was a prime consideration in the decision to move.

Now I have the ability to make that decision real.  And Beloved’s doctor’s appointment went just as swimmingly as mine.  His was for the psychologist and was very rewarding for him.  There will be support group meetings as well as individual counseling; they will help him find more coping mechanisms, as well as alternate behaviors for handling the effects of his mental disease.  The doctor gave him a more precise, more detailed label for his disability–and the better you can define something, the greater the chance you have of finding how to accommodate the reality of that disability.

Accommodate the reality of the disability.  That’s the only way, really, to live a life that has limitations beyond the norm.  I’ll go out on a limb here and say that, truly and universally, we ALL need to live in a way that accommodates the reality (the REAL reality) of our lives, whether we have a disability or not.  How many people you know are unhappy or angry because their lives are one reality, but their minds (and emotions) insist upon another?

Beloved and I are slowly, with the help of other generous, knowledgeable and caring people, gathering up the tools to accommodate our reality.  And we shall eventually, perhaps sooner than I can imagine, have a life that is peaceful, balanced and (dare I say it?) normal.  HA–I don’t want to be normal.  But I would like a life that allows me to do the things I want to do, the things I need to do, without using superhuman effort–and failing–to ignore the reality of my disability unaided.

There is a life outside of fibromyalgia’s limits.  There is a life beyond having BiPolar type I, Category B with OCD–and stress anxiety disorders for both of us.  What does this life have?  Anything I want, as long as I remember, understand and accept the limitations of my own health, our own health.

Can I order my wet suit and board now?

The Lost Child

Start here: Miscarriage Stories

And then there’s this:

OrganDonorsandPregnantWomen

So the battle over women, their bodies, pregnancy and the rights of the unborn continues to rage.  You can’t use birth control.  You can’t have an abortion if it’s beyond a certain amount of time, or if you weren’t raped, or if the child is deformed or the product of incest.  You can have the child removed forcibly from your body without your consent (Forcible Cesarean) or if you suffer catastrophic illness, up to death (and resuscitation) and you end up in a coma, you can be kept on life support to be an incubator for your fetus (TX woman in coma) against your express wishes to not have your own life extended by artificial means.

But what about the women who desperately want a child?  Who are actively attempting to become pregnant and have every intention of carrying the child for 40 weeks to a safe delivery–and cannot?  The sheer numbers of women who are not able to maintain a pregnancy are staggering.  (Fertility Data )  A long time ago I heard that 1 in 9 couples are not able to have a child together (which includes male infertility as well).  That’s a lot of people.  It’s greater than 10% of the population–or to put it into more imaginable perspective: if you have a party and invite 10 couples over, at least one of those couples will not be able to have a child.  And most of us know at least 10 couples.

I was very, very blessed.  I have never had to go through the agony of a miscarriage; I got pregnant three times and I have three children.  But I know far too many women who have had to deal with this–and sometimes, more than once.  Even my own mother had infertility problems.  The fact that she and my father were married for two years before I was born (and no birth control during that time) and my brother is 7 years younger than I am indicates a less-than-optimal chance for pregnancy for her.  And she had a miscarriage between the two of us.

My father’s mother had a miscarriage between each of her 4 children.  My mother’s mother carried to full term a daughter with esophageal atresia  where  the esophagus does not grow down to the stomach correctly–and this was in the 1940’s.  So the surgery they do to correct this today was barely out of its own infancy at the time.  My grandmother comforted herself by thinking that perhaps my aunt’s surgery, even though it was not successful for her, gave the doctors greater knowledge and ability so that they could save other children.  

And when we visited the cemetery where my grandparents were eventually buried, we always went to look at my aunt’s tiny grave, in a row of children’s graves.

Of course I have also had friends who miscarried.  So I have been a bystander in the sorrow of losing the promise of child, the hope of a baby that you’ll never know.  I cannot imagine the feelings involved and I prefer not to try.  Once I had my own children, I couldn’t bear to even think of anything bad happening to them.  I would weep just from news stories or magazine articles that dealt with childhood traumas and accidents.

A friend share the article above and coupled with the photograph, set me to thinking about all the “stuff” that goes on around pregnancies.  I can understand why there is a hesitation about announcing a pregnancy until the child has settled in solidly (so to speak).  It begs the question of whether this generation of women is having more miscarriages than women did before all the industrial agricorp foods, with the myriad of chemicals added to everything, the state of our environment and the lack of pure, unadulterated drinking water.  I’m not even sure where to start that kind of research and find numbers to put in this blog.

Regardless of why it happens, there are many reasons for miscarriage–or what can also be accurately called “spontaneous abortion” because the body itself will expel a fertilized ovum when the zygote has no chance of survival out of the womb.  (One of the odd biology class facts I’ve retained since high school (back in the dark ages, haha) is that 80% of all conceptions end in spontaneous abortion. So the fact that we even can get pregnant and stay pregnant long enough to increase our population only attests to how much loving is going on.)  The reason for your miscarriage may be different than the reason for your friend’s–or maybe there’s no understandable or knowable reason at all.  The point is, miscarriage is a very common occurrence…but that doesn’t make it any easier for any woman who has to go through it.

I ask you, then: why are so many women silent about what has happened?  There is no shame in a miscarriage; no stigma in the loss.  Or did I miss something?  I seem to remember my mother, and her mother, talking about miscarriage in a normal tone of voice–not a hushed, secretive voice.  Someone had miscarried and while that was very sad, it wasn’t a rare or unknown event (sorry to say).  When did it go underground?  And assuming I’m not wrong about that, WHY did it go underground?

If  we wait until after that first trimester to announce our pregnancy, what do we do about the pregnancies that turn into miscarriages?  How do we honor the life that was lost? How do we acknowledge the miracle of a beloved (but unknown) soul that didn’t make it onto the Earth? How do we mourn, when there is no grave to visit? No pictures to look at, no memories of the face of our child?

Even a very early miscarriage, when it is really just a blob of cells, hardly identifiable as being something that will be a person some day…even that blob holds the hope of a child, OUR child.  Please note that I am NOT getting into the discussion of when life begins.  I have VERY strong views on that which contain such phrases as “viability” and “live outside the womb unaided” and most especially “quality of life”–for the mother AND the child.  But every act of sexual intercourse without birth control contains the idea, the dice throw of possibility, of the starting point for the creation of life, which culminates with the bringing a new person into this world, planned for or not.

It is an inalienable right for every woman to decide what she tells anyone at all about her body and its condition, and pregnancy certainly falls under that right.  So does miscarriage.  Letting them know and NOT letting them know are both good, solid options.

But silence about something this life-altering may not be the BEST choice.  And I mean both states of being: “pregnant” and then “not pregnant”.  I’m not going to discuss silence about being pregnant.  That’s for another blog someday.  So let’s move on to the silence that very often surrounds miscarriage.

There are many, many reasons not to talk about a miscarriage.  Like any other tragedy, having to repeat it endlessly keeps it fresh and dreadful in the mind and heart.  And to put it bluntly, there are just some people who don’t need to butt into your business and don’t need to be told.  Those Helpful Hannahs will talk your ear off about THEIR miscarriage, and how THEY felt when all you want to do is scream your anguish and throw china dishes at the wall.  They are worse than those whose eyes tear up and they hold you close and just keep saying, “I’m so sorry.  I’m so sorry.”  Sympathy can be tolerated; clueless nattering about their pain without so much as a “I feel ya” to acknowledge yours is beyond bearing.

There’s also a sense of following the old adage of  “Least said, soonest mended.”  It’s over and done with, why keep talking about it?  No point in going on and on.  Move on with your life.  It’s not like it was “real baby” anyways…  It was just a miscarriage, for goodness’ sake.  REALLY?  I don’t care if it was an accidental pregnancy and now you don’t have to pay for an abortion.  (But you will pay in guilt and remorse for feeling relieved…and that’s not necessary, either.)  I don’t care if the woman had a history of “female problems” and was told she’d never even GET pregnant, so what did you expect anyway?  (Try to have hope that the doctors were wrong, that you can have a child of your body with your beloved…and then lose that hope in a gush of blood and pain.)  I don’t care if this was a carefully planned, carefully thought out pregnancy that ended in miscarriage through nobody’s fault, it just happens that way (and more often than one might think.)

Whatever the reason for becoming pregnant and whatever the cause for the miscarriage, you are going to have strong, sustained feelings about it.  Trying to mash them into a box in the back corner of the attic of your mind only means that they will pop out, like a Jack in the box, at the single most inopportune time and place.  Promise.  That’s how mashed feelings are.  Doesn’t matter what they are: relief, pain, sorrow, anger, whatever.  You’ve got’em and they ain’t going away.

So you lock them down and go back to “life before the pregnancy”.  Except that you WERE pregnant and now you’re not and everything has changed.  It’s like losing an arm or a leg, or suddenly being struck blind.  The world is completely different than the one before sperm and egg combined.  You can’t hide from babies in strollers, toddlers on swings, children playing tag on the grass.  You can’t pretend that you don’t see the fathers and the mothers, all with their children, living their lives together.  You cannot completely fool yourself into thinking that you’re just fine and this has not changed you in the least.

You may think to yourself, “But I DON’T want to talk about it.”  And then you get into the company of  a (any) group of women and the topic comes up.  One by one, the stories come out.  And friends you’ve had for years admit that they have a Lost Child somewhere out in the Universe, a child whose face they never saw.  And you…can either tell them or not, but you know that you are a part of this category of women forever, the Women Who Have Had a Miscarriage.

I am not advocating the wholesale blurting this out to everyone you meet.  (Although I suspect that there are women who do indeed deal with their own miscarriage by doing precisely that.)  What I’m saying is that who you tell is up to you.  It may just be to the child’s father.  Or your mother.  Or your doctor.  Doesn’t matter.  But you need to talk to someone who will listen to you without interrupting, who can offer you comfort and support, who can help you grieve for what was lost and can never be recovered, only replaced.

There is an easing of pain in this sharing of miscarriage and loss.  Trouble shared is trouble halved, so the saying goes.  I don’t know about that, but I do know that finding out that you are not alone in your sorrow, that others KNOW what you are going through…makes it possible for you to go on.  Just knowing that someone else has climbed this mountain means that it can be climbed, that you can do it as well.  Sometimes, that’s all we need to make through another day, to keep on with living until the pain subsides to a dull roar and then a faint echo that only catches us occasionally instead of constantly.

With every tragedy there is also a lesson we learn, a strength we are given or a willingness to accept what is and find a way to live with that.  Your Lost Child may guide you, through their very absence, to an aspect of your own being that you did not know you had, or had not given enough attention to its formation and growth.  It may be a chance for someone in your life to become closer to you, love growing out of like and friendship into something more, in the common bond of the grieving.  It may strengthen the relationship with your significant other; if you can weather this dreadful a storm together, clinging to each other and coming through the other side more committed to each other…then you can face anything together and win.

I would also suggest that you talk frankly, and openly, with any siblings the Lost Child might have had, in an age appropriate manner of course.  Even if it’s a bit awkward for you, even if everyone cries…this is life, it’s not always like you see on TV.  Sometimes bad stuff happens and this is how our family deals with it–together and with love (and information!).  If you don’t, you do a disservice to your children.  If they are old enough to understand it (even if it’s only that something bad happened), they are old enough to talk about it, even in the most simple terms.

My son was five years old when my grandmother died–and we were at her bedside for that last weekend of her life.  She waited until everyone had left the room on Monday morning and then departed for the other side.  So we then had to go into action, getting the body out and preparing the funeral, etc.  He went out back and was sitting on the porch when the next door neighbor came out and asked what he was doing…he told her that Grandmom had died and he was sad.  She agreed that it was something to be sad about and later on, told me what had happened.

Talk about guilt.  He felt that he couldn’t come to me, because I was up to my eyeballs in stuff and I hadn’t even realized he was outside.  So the moral to this particular little story is that even a fairly young child can understand when something momentous occurs, good or bad.  And as their parent, it is up to you to help them absorb it and express the feelings it creates.  And it’s always good to let them know that you also have feelings about it, and what those feelings are.

There is so much that can be associated with this Lost Child of yours.  The Lost Child may not have ever had a name but you will carry them in your heart for the rest of your life.  The Lost Child is a dream, the best and most perfect child one could hope for.  The Lost Child is the one that would fulfill all of your plans for offspring, would have succeeded beyond measure, would be all that you were not or that your other children could not accomplish.  The Lost Child will tease your thoughts with “What would he/she have looked like?”  “What would she/he have accomplished, would they have been like me or my husband?”  All the “what ifs”, all the unknown events and all the uncelebrated milestones belong to that Lost Child.

I offer you this bit of solace for your Lost Child: wherever the Lost Child goes, whatever your beliefs about afterlife and souls…they are never alone.  They are with all the other Lost Children, playing and singing and occasionally, whispering in your ear to remind you that once upon a time, they were YOUR Lost Child.

We each handle things in our own way, for sure. But sometimes silence is not the answer and we need to share the pain to make it easier to bear. Blessings of comfort and peace to all who have had this happen to them; my sisters, we are here to offer whatever you need, if only to listen to the story of your Lost Child.

Namaste!