My Grandmother, Pauline Baker Foote, 1914 -1992

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Money Can’t Buy You Love

But it sure helps with everything else.  On the other hand, it keeps showing up in time for the most pressing of bills, so I cannot and do not complain.  I am grateful beyond words to those who have handed me money because I don’t own jewelry, Krugerrand, Old Master’s undiscovered paintings–in other words, things of enough worth to be worth selling.

We saw the doctor yesterday.  My blood pressure was 169 over 92.  Oops.  New pill added–high blood pressure pill with a diuretic which should help with the swelling and get the BP down.  Got all of our paperwork filled out and the doctor’s nurse was faxing the long term disability papers as we were walking out.  We took the papers for the insurance on our credit cards/loan to the bank and let them fax that–so that was a load off of our mind and I’m hoping that I can get a response from Matrix Absence Management (read “a disability benefit CHECK”) very soon.  A most productive day and one that removes a certain level of stress for both of us, especially Beloved, who cannot handle money stress at all.

No obligations until Friday, which is head-shrinking day.  We have some things we want to get done today and tomorrow, but nothing completely onerous except maybe the dishes.  If anyone knows either where to get them or how to attract them, I sure could use some dish fairies.

I have been asked to speak at the International Day of Prayer for Peace for the 3rd year in a row.  I have agreed, so I will have to find something to present, with a 3-5 minute window.  At least we are holding it in a Manassas church and I won’t have to drive to Woodbridge this year.  I’m thinking something about the divisiveness that is showing up in every area of our country, let alone religion.  I’ll post it up here after the event.

Need to call my parents as it’s been a while since I’ve talked to them, and “things”, as they say, have happened.  I also would like to hear from my daughter but with her work schedule it can be difficult to reach her.  Ditto the son.

We’ve reached the point where Beloved and I acknowledge that visitors, to change the look of our four walls, or outings (especially with friends) are an almost champagne-worthy event since we’re not getting that much of a break from staring at our four walls and each other.  (“I saw what you did all day.  What on earth do we have to talk about?”  LOL)  We have made the commitment to attend BRUU and the new interim minister is awesome, so that is at least one outing a week that does not involve a doctor.

So our paperwork has been accepted at the Social Security Administration and has been sent over to the first line of approval.  (Fingers crossed).  Dear gods I would so appreciate this going smoothly and quickly, as neither of us can really stand much more stress and worry about our living situation.

So that’s pretty much what’s been going on with us.  Will post again as things happen or in the next couple of weeks, depending on which occurs first.


Making a Difference

So things have happened since we last talked.

I saw my physician and he has changed my meds up a little.  Increased the Cymbalta and instead of Xanax, I am now on Klonipine.  Been taking them for 4 days and there is an appreciable difference already.  The pain is decreasing to very bearable limits, only coming back as I tire.  He also diagnosed plantar fasciitis.  Basically the fat pad on the heel thins and spreads out as we get older…and it becomes painful.  Heel cups (with gel soles) are a godsend.  Walking (foot) pain-free for the first time in months.  Means I need to find a pair of shoes to wear only in the house as I have gone bare foot a lot more than I wear shoes…and slippers will not support sufficiently.

The Cymbalta does take time to build up, but in only 4 days I have already had a serious improvement in my mood.  (Since it’s used to fight depression.)  I feel better than I have….well, since I can remember.  At least a year and maybe longer.  I have also made the conscious choice to stop letting the negativity overwhelm me.  Yes, we’re in a bad spot financially.  Yes, we’re both ill but we are getting better.  Yes, we are both being recommended to try for SSDI (Social Security Disability) so yes, we are both considered to be prime candidates for permanent disability (not something you really want to win.)  But I had made the mistake of looking beyond this moment and fearing what I perceived as being possible.

I should have known better and I am ashamed to realize that I let go of all I had learned over the past 10 years so easily.  I fought this battle before and won it but apparently the victory was not as enduring as I had thought.  I identify as a Tibetan Zen Buddhist.  Zen.  You know, the Zen moment.  This moment, now.  This moment, right here.  That’s all we can be sure of.  It is what we are experiencing and can identify, acknowledge and know is true.  It’s the only thing we can know is true with absolute surety–which is why part of my spiritual practice is to constantly verify my truths.  And I somehow forgot this.  I allowed past conceptions and future anticipations to overshadow the reality of this moment, this now.  In so doing, I missed the now–the fact that I am getting better, slowly–but better.  Better than I have been for a long time, which is a major accomplishment.

I recognize the human fact that I may very well have to keep on fighting this battle and I am grateful for the help the right meds, in the right doses, are giving me.  Depression creates its own chemical template in your mind and you actually need the antidepressant medications to help reset the brain to its normal, not depressed state.  Force of will is not sufficient and there is no embarrassment in asking for that help if you need it.  (As an aside: this is true of all mental diseases; they are chemical insufficiency or excess and medications are needed to regulate them and help the person so afflicted live a more normal life.  JUST LIKE a diabetic needs insulin or a hypertensive person needs high blood pressure medicine.  No shame, no need to hide it or lie about it.)

Today was the first day that I really felt good for ever so long.  We got up early and went to the chiropractor to get folded, spindled and otherwise mutilated.  Picked up our mail from the post box and had a bite to eat at Roy Rogers.  Decent breakfast at a cheap price.  Then off to the bank to deposit our sole form of income, my short term disability check…sigh.  Then we drove up to Chantilly to go to the Korean supermarket and get our hair cut.  Yes, that’s what I said.  It’s called Lotte Plaza and it really is a supermarket.  You can also get siding for your house, clothes, a massage, jewelry and get a hair cut–or color, perm and so on.  Both the beloved and I had our hairs cut and we look a little less shaggy which also helps with feeling better generally.

Then shopping…getting perishables, meat and some specific items not available anywhere else.  We love to shop there because they have the best selection of the specialty items we use in ethnic cooking.  I am learning how to do Punjabi (think Indian, but from the area near Pakistan, so it’s a “dialect” of Indian food) and we get all the (wonderful!) spices like Garam Masala, green cardomom, cumin seed and such there.  We also get shrimp–$6 per pound, 25-30 count.  (Heads off because you can buy WHOLE shrimp there if you choose.  I do not.)  They also carry Halal beef–if you cannot find or will not spend the money on pastured/grass-fed (and finished) beef, Halal is another option.  The animal is tended and butchered according to the Jewish/Muslim law; it’s much more humane, the animal is essentially thanked for the sacrifice of its life before it is thoughtfully and carefully killed.  The meat is handled a little differently–and it is my understanding that the quality of life for these animals is also more like grass fed (and may actually be)…so the meat is very flavorful.  And at Lotte, it is not expensive.  We also got ground pork, $3/pound and some nice little pork short ribs (also $3/pound) that I am going to cut into their individual parts and marinate in a Chinese style sauce before broiling them.  (We don’t have a grill or I would sacrifice them to the BBQ gods.)

Then it was time to head home, which was good because it’s been such a busy week and the day was long and busy on top of that, so I was tiring out.  But I still feel good emotionally.  My body is TIRED, not wrung out or feeling beat up.  The pain levels are a little up from where they were this morning (when I could actually “sink the chi” –start with your hands at your sides and then lift them up in an arc over your head, then lower your hands straight down in front of you — which has been so painful for me for so long I am surprised I remembered how to do it) but not unbearable.  A single Vicodin will deal with that and in a while, I will go off to bed with the nighttime meds and sleep.

Our friend is coming over tomorrow with his new dog so it will be another day of activity–and of a pleasant sort, which always makes things go well.

The clouds are rolling away and the sky is clearing up to show me the majesty of the sunset and the mystery of the stars in the black inky darkness, followed by the sunrise and the glorious blueness of a clear day.

Or as James Brown would have sung, “I feel GOOD….I knew that I would…I FEEEEL GOOD!”.


Fulfillment of the Chinese Curse: May you live in interesting times

It has indeed been interesting times here.  I took my husband to the UVA ER last Thursday night on the advice (more like direct order) of our PCP.  They have a bariatric unit and he has had the lapband surgery; he is also on meds that were prescribed at the time of the surgery and never adjusted after he lost so much weight.  Oops.  The doctors at UVA were also outspoken about the fact the meds were not the best ones to choose and quite possibly were not given in the correct dose to begin with.  Double Oops.  So they wanted to admit him for observation and to change/adjust his meds…but they didn’t have a bed.  They would need to look for one.  This was at 1 am Friday morning.  Dearest sent me home because we were told that it would be dawn before they knew–and if I stayed, I would not be safe to drive home.  So off I went, back up to Bealeton to await word.

Nearest bed?  Down in Salem VA, near Roanoke.  Off HE went.  And neatly solved the problem of my trying to go back and forth to see him daily, using up gas and money that we do not have to get there.

So…for the past several days, I have had the house to myself.  And frankly, I don’t like it.  I miss him.  It’s very quiet in a more than just audio sense.  It’s missing his presence in the house.  I have spoken to him each day, and each day he sounds better.  The meds are working, and seem to be working well.  For which I am glad.  He’s doing better, more relaxed and not needing his anxiety meds.  Which makes both of us glad.  This has also given him the documentation he needs for staying out of work, even if it’s just a “personal medical leave of absence”–at which point his company keeps him on the books as an unpaid employee, within the health insurance pool and they will pay their portion–we just have to pay what would have been his payroll deductions for that insurance.  We can live with that.  We have several new avenues to explore for assistance and benefits and income.

So his going into hospital, while at first seeming to be a bad thing, is actually a good thing.  We both agree on that.  On the other hand, we both miss each other terribly.  We haven’t been apart this long since the day we first met, almost exactly two years ago.  And for the past 2 months, we’ve pretty much been together 24 by 7.  So forgive the syrupy sweet mushiness of my saying how much I miss my beloved and he misses me.

And me…I have actually been doing some things around the house.  I got those boxes in order…remember, the ones I mentioned in an earlier blog, that I wanted to sort and move?  I did it!  Slowly, took plenty of breaks, did it carefully but bygod did it!  I can even open the other closet door now–not that I want to, because it’s full of MORE boxes, but hey.  It’s a start.  I even ran the vacuum because there’s enough carpeting to merit it.  Found my box of books and did something I haven’t done in over two years–read a “real” book (not my Kindle).  I found my external hard drive that I had been searching for!  Got all my music now which makes me very happy. Took out the trash!  (All by myself, just like a big girl! LOL)

Oh and I found my passport flash drive (the one with my life on it!?)–well, actually my daughter found it.  I thought it was with the external hard drive, but nooooo, I had put it in a “safe” place.  And promptly forgot that’s where it was.  So talking to her today, I mentioned it and she says, “Is it square and black and says “WD My Passport” on it?”  Yes. “I’ve got it.  It was in the bag with the laptop you’re lending me.” OHHELLSYEAH!  (She has been threatened with a most grievous death if she fails to bring it with her the next time she comes to visit.  Just saying.)

I cleared the boxes from in front of the closet with shelves (as opposed to the one with all the “more” boxes) and rearranged/organized said shelves.  Put some tchotchkes (Polish: knick-knacks) on my bamboo and iron shelving unit.  Cleaned the bathroom (ok, the toilet and sink, but it’s a start).  Cleaned out the refrigerator.  Updated everyone daily on Beloved’s status–and this will amuse you–as well as running maintenance on his Facebook games (Castleville and Dungeon Overlord).  Once I realized how close to Blacksburg he was, made sure that friends he has who still live there were made aware of his nearness–two phone calls and a visit from some of them helped make his days a little brighter.

Did my stuff on my own Facebook, including the games.  Had dinner with his best friend and the best friend’s significant other.  (Chinese, very good, would do it again–a major coup for me because his friend, like himself, is a “foodie” and finding new places for him that he would go back to is an accomplishment.  Yay me!)  Spoke to his parents each day and updated them.  Spoke to my parents as well.  Talked to my son and daughter (as I mentioned earlier).  Slept 8 -10 hours each night, which is a major feat for me, since I usually only do about 5.  Think the reduction of stress had anything to do with it?  Knowing that he was getting better made me sleep better, yes?

And how is that fibro thing going?  Well, there’s still pain.  I suspect that there will ALWAYS be some pain, somewhere.  Legs are doing better and as I move around, I realize that the soreness (rather than pain) is from lack of use–need to do some serious building back up of muscles that have been let sit too long.  My arms and hands are still the worst part and I do not see how I can go back to a job (any job) that requires me to be on the computer 8 hours a day.  Doing this is taking a while, as I have to stop and rest them.  Do various exercise motions and generally stretch and move them to relieve pain.  But all in all, I don’t feel too bad.  Still limited, and almost giddy when I do accomplish something (like moving the boxes without really putting myself out of action to recuperate from it).

And while it may seem almost childish to someone else, it’s those little moments of doing something that has been un-do-able for so long that makes it noteworthy for those of us with this disease.  Baby steps, baby steps.  Do a little, rest a while, do a little more.  Rest a little more.  Build back up the endurance that I’ve been robbed of, learn how to do things in new ways to prevent pain or alleviate the worst of it.  I am right-handed, but since that’s the one that hurts the most, I am becoming more ambidextrous than I already was, which was not inconsiderable.  And since my ability to do things is limited, I can prioritize better, can learn to let go the things that aren’t as important to me and how to do the things that are in a less stressful and stressing way.

And I get to bring my husband home on the day after tomorrow.  I go to sleep tonight, and I’m here tomorrow, then I sleep tomorrow night and when I wake up, it will be time to go get him!  So in roughly 40 hours, I will have my beloved back home with me, where he belongs.  And everything will be just fine.


Life, Limits and General Stuff

So I’m sitting here, thinking about moving *these* boxes over there and *those* boxes next to the wall and just getting things in order in my house.

We’ve gotten some changes accomplished with the help of our young (strong and determined) friend.  I am no longer sequestered in the corner, in my little kitty nest.  I’m actually sitting up to the desk, in a desk chair–and instead of having to stand up to see my beloved, I can just swirl around in the chair to have a look at him.  We’ve gotten oh about 35% of the furniture into its “final” position, in a (vain?) attempt to establish order and some sense of normalcy.

BUT…we still have stacks of mother effing boxes that at this point, even knowing that I DO need some of what’s in them, I’d be just as happy to toss them into the dumpster if only to be rid of them.  I’m so tired of reading “UHaul” and “Office Depot” when I glance around the room.  And that’s not even counting all the USPS boxes we have (the man of the house inherited them from his father; do not send the USPS box police to my house to arrest me).

So I’m sitting here, thinking about all these damned boxes and wanting to move them around.  And thinking is the most I can do about it because the minute I begin to move, my body reminds me that I am NOT going to be as active as my brain thinks I can be.  And therein lies my greatest annoyance: the dichotomy between the medicated brain chemistry which makes me want to do things and the medicated but still painful body reality that won’t let me do shit.  (Or at least not much more than type this and toddle to the water dispenser for more H2O.)

Since I am no longer sitting with my feet up all day, my ankles are … puffy, balloon-like and otherwise having issues with edema.  Doctor put me on meds for that, but so far, all I do is pee more.  And it’s damned uncomfortable to shuffle on elephant feet to the potty and pee more often than I already did.  (Side note: lived in West Texas for 4 years, learned to drink water all day long–between 1/2 and 1 GALLON daily.  Still do it.  On the other hand, no UTI’s and my pee is almost clear, I wash out the system so well.)

My hands are also swollen and both hands and feet are still painful in the joints/digits.  (As opposed to the back of my hands and the tops of my feet, which were hurting me a couple of weeks ago.)  I can barely hold my water bottle (32 ounces or 2 pounds) so moving boxes that weigh a whole lot more is just nonsense and out of the question.  Which brings me to my conundrum: the meds I’m on are fixing the mental part of fibromyalgia, but not so much the physical side.  I am improving there as well, but not nearly as dramatically.

Speaking of which, my husband says that the changes he’s seeing are so much, so quickly that it is disorienting for him.  I am rapidly returning to the person he met two years ago and in some ways, even better.  I was headed down this road slowly without him and would probably have ended up in the same sticky situation — we strongly suspect that living for a year in a house that we only discovered had black mold 1 month before the lease was due for renewal is what accelerated my (already headed to) downward rush into truly bad health.  I am so glad that we are together because if I was like this, if I had to live on my own the way I’ve had to live the past 18 months…I might not be living.  I could not have done this without him.  Lots to be grateful for and I am, really.

So I’m learning to deal with this huge mismatch of thinking about doing and not being able to do.  I am also finding out that those things that I can do still need to be done slowly and carefully.  I must not overdo and it’s very hard to find that line since it’s so close to my “not doing” starting point.  I do things, feel okay, keep doing and then end up spending the next day having to rest because I overdid.  It’s a very fine line.  And I’m not talking about doing major earth-shattering stuff.  I’m talking about unloading and then re-loading the dishwasher and fixing a meal.  I’m talking about doing 2-3 loads of laundry (with the time between loads as things spin around in their respective machines to rest).  Normal, daily chore type stuff.  Don’t even talk to me about dusting or vacuuming…what is that?  And the bathroom….oh gods the bathroom.  I hit various spots of it on a semi-regular basis, but the whole room really needs to be cleaned.

Which then leads me to the idea of doing other things, like actually opening and using the oil paint supplies I bought like 8 years ago and I have no idea if the paints are even still usable.  I have several crochet projects going on and find that just a single row on a blanket is almost more than I can take.  I hope to have Froggy’s blanket ready for him before he goes to college…but at this rate, maybe not.  I would read but holding a book is not a comfortable position for the hands.  Guess I need to install Kindle on this computer and read online.  I haven’t had the energy or the ability to even think about that until recently.  Or as the man of the house says, “Is it a good sign that I am getting bored with playing games on Facebook?”  Why yes, yes it is.

I’ve been told that I have the most patience in the world…but never for me or my own life.  Maybe that’s the lesson I’m being taught.  To learn how to accept my limitations, to learn how to do the things I want to do, need to do within the parameters of fibromyalgia.  Not to ignore the disease and then pay for it later with MORE pain, but to gently, slowly, ease back into doing things.  And the hardest part of this?  Not being apologetic for it, not feeling somehow less as a person for not doing more.  To ask for help when I need it.  To be grateful for that help and to not think it’s a black mark against me.  That I am not a slacker or lazy.  (Part of the leftover baggage from the first marriage, before the diagnosis and without realizing that I was ILL not lazy at that time.)

We’re still having guests on a regular basis–spent a chunk of yesterday helping a friend bitch slap her laptop and desktop computers into working if not at their best, at least better than they had been.  And had to impart the bad news that when you drop a hard drive and then it makes a clicking sound…you’re talking professional data retrieval at a price that is not affordable for her at this time.  On the other hand, put that drive on a shelf and when you have the $$, go get it read out.  It’s not going anywhere.  Socializing and technology, a good meal together and a lovely evening was had by all.

We will also have a houseful tomorrow as my daughter and our friend are both coming to help us celebrate the beloved’s birthday.  My granddaughter may or may not make an appearance and the plan is for strawberry ice cream cake.  He found a cake that had a layer of ice cream between the cake, rather than a cake made out of ice cream…and if that’s what he wants, that’s what he gets!

So life goes on; still no word about either disability claim so stress about money is climbing, but we’re doing our best with that.  Hopefully we will get some resolution with at least one claim this week or next.  We’re both doing better and so the upward motion of health is a good sign, an omen that we are indeed regaining a “real” life once more.  One small step for me, one giant step for my health.


How Should I Spend a Gift of Time?

It’s week 5 (could be week 6, I’ve lost count) of being home and feeling dreadful.  I don’t mean to sound like a whiner, but frankly, this constant pain is getting to be a drag.  The new fibromyalgia medicine seems to be helping with the rest of it–my general mood is better–but even with all the pain meds I’m on, I hurt.

It’s getting to be truly annoying, to feel good emotionally and mentally, want to do things and then (re-)discover that my physical self has gone on vacation to the 9 circles of Hell.  I’ve got nothing to do because nothing is what I can do.  I am very thankful that I can go to the bathroom by myself and fix food (although even that has to be carefully thought through and done in little steps).  Just taking a shower wipes out my ability to do anything more than dry off and sit down again.

The one thing that I have lots of is time.  Endless amounts of time.  I’ve watched the first 6 of the Harry Potter movies and spent an inordinate amount of time playing useless flash-based games on Facebook.  If I was getting paid for killing gloom creatures, solving hidden picture puzzles and domating the world, I’d be rich at this point.  I also have scads of time to think, to ponder, and to meditate upon my current situation.

Thank the gods for friends.  SC came over on Monday and has graciously volunteered to come back on Friday.  Need I tell you that I am counting the hours until then?  We had a lovely day, chatting and sharing the time together.  And we also shared Lester the duck, for whom my piscaterian (Spelling?  A vegetarian who also eats fish and seafood)…had one of her rare “meat lapses”.  We are going to have shrimp on Friday and I know how I want it cooked.  I’m also thinking we can put a pot of rice on to cook earlier in the day so that we can have the GABA rice Paul and I love.  (Google: GABA rice; read it and you’ll want to have it as your main type of rice as well as we do.)

But I don’t expect other people to entertain me while I am out of work–and more than that, I don’t expect them to put up with me.  I am not exactly in the best of moods these days.  I try to not let the pain overwhelm my interactions with other people–and sometimes, it’s not the pain that gets me, it’s the sudden and dramatic drop in energy.  I go from be a social butterfly (so to speak) to being a weepy, pathetic child, who wants nothing more than to crawl into bed with her Puppy and snuggle up to him as she falls asleep.  As I have mentioned before, I resent this very much.

So here I am, with lots of time.  What is the purpose of this time for me?  Why have I been given this time, and what am I supposed to do with it?  Given the physical limitations, what mental or spiritual work should I be doing, instead of spending hours online?  I have begun taking naps.  One of the side effects of the fibro medicine is a severe attack of the sleepies, and rather than fight it, I give in and sleep for a couple of hours.  The dreams are interesting and I only remember them first thing as I wake up…they fade through the day and vanish in the next nap.

I am finding opportunities to minister that would not have occurred if I was at work.  Ministry is really my main job, even though I don’t get paid for it.  I am healer and those who are ill or in pain–but more usually in the mind or soul than physically ill–tend to seek me out.  I ask the questions they need to hear, whether I hear the answers or not.  I offer what I can from my life experiences and try to help them find where they are supposed to be.  There is no more sacred duty than this and being housebound means that I really do focus on the specific task without the distraction of “normal” daily living.

This gift of time also allows me to contemplate my house.  Still looks like 10 pounds of shit in a 5 pound bag–but it’s improved from the original 20 pounds of shit…  We are starting to get the furniture into the arrangement we’ve got in mind for how it’s all supposed to fit in here.  I’ve been moved from one side of the room to the other and now I can see my beloved on his computer instead of trying to talk over a wall of furniture to the back of his head.  In my head, I’m sorting out the things I want to get rid of and once I can move around again, will have a more solid plan of action for that sorting which will hopefully let me get rid of more things.

Like the other gifts the Universe has given me, I am overwhelmed with the abundance…I can only hope that I will use the gift and use the time to the best possible effect.  And I want to learn the lesson that I am being given, both with the time and with the pain.