Summer Stream of Consciousness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We now return you to your regularly scheduled program.

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

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

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

Peace out!

 

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It’s Not Easy Being Zen

I started this blog over 2 years ago. I had no idea when I began it that I’d be where I am at this point of my life: mentally, physically, spiritually. It’s been a rough and gritty road, with some sizable potholes. It’s also been a while since I actually wrote about what’s going on with me, fibromyalgia-wise. So let’s address that.

First, let me update you on my medications list, which is quite a feat to be able to recite the names, doses and such. Much longer than I’d like it to be, but I am thankful that every med seems to be doing what it’s supposed to and that makes life better. So let’s make a list of what, how much and what it’s for:

AM Meds:

One Gabapentin (Neurontin), 300 mg, for neuropathy; also acts as a mild anti-depressant
One Hydrochlorothiazide, 25 mg, for swelling; it’s a diuretic
Two Hydroxyzine Pamoate, 25 mg each, for anxiety; prescribed to be taken up to 4 times a day as needed
One Hydrocodone APAP, 5/325, for pain (aka Vicodin); prescribed to be taken twice a day for pain with an extra few for those really bad days when I need 3)
One Venlafaxine, 225 mg, 24 HR SA, for depression
One Lamotrigine, 25 mg, for mood stabilization

PM Meds:

Two Gabapentin (makes the daily total 900 MG; the two at night help with sleep)
Two Hydroxyzine Pamoate (also helps with sleep)
One Omeprazole20 MG for acid reflux/GERD
Two Trazodone, 50 mg per tablet, total is 100 mg; for sleep (specifically)
Two puffs, each nostril, Fluticasone, 50 mcg, for sinus and upper respiratory decongestant

And I have Clonazepam, 1 mg, as an “emergency” anti-anxiety, to be used as needed, but no more than one per day

Wow. Heckuva list. So let’s make a synopsis of what I’m taking all these chemicals for: I take two different medications for pain; I take two different medications for anxiety; I take one medication that is specifically for depression, but I have another that also has anti-depressive effects. I take one medication to help with the swelling in my feet and hands. I take one medication to keep me breathing (well, at least not as stopped up in the nose as I would be otherwise). And I take one medication for mood stabilization.

Let’s talk about that one for a moment. Lamotrigine is what my Beloved but bi-polar husband takes for his mental illness. He’s taking a way massive more amount than I am and it works well for him as long as everything else stays reasonably stable. He’s fortunate that in his being bi-polar, if things get out of whack, because the illness is brain chemistry, he can literally “reset” his emotions by taking a nap. (We all do that, did you know that? You reset your brain when you go to sleep. Probably because it runs on Windows 95, haha.)

So about a week after the Worst Thing happened (NO more LTD for me), I got a letter from the SSA with the date for my adjudication hearing with the judge. I have gotten a new lawyer, as the one in VA has formally relinquished the case–and waived her fee. I feel bad that she lost a lot of money on me and am very, very grateful for all that she did, for both of us. My new lawyer spoke to us for about half an hour, 45 minutes–and it was sort of an audition on my part, to see if he would take the case. He did, and seems very competent. I also figure that he wouldn’t take a case he thought he would lose.

[EDITED]

He did make a really good suggestion which is a better way to describe my disabilities, rather than just saying I have fibro. Frankly, that’s what my psychologist should tell me, but hey, I’ve only had one meeting with him and maybe he will talk with me about it. What I’m supposed to do is speak about what is currently disabling, in a functional (or in this case, non-functional) manner. This is going to be hard for me, because it basically is a list of all the things I cannot do, or cannot do without great pain or effort. I’m going to have to face up to the reality of my disability, which I have been kidding myself that I was doing, just by covering it with the word “fibromyalgia”.

My husband said to me, “You’re supposed to be a good Buddhist” and I replied, “I TRY to be a good Buddhist”. So I can use this as a chance for advancement on my spiritual path as well, if I can frame my life to be “in the moment”, which is very important to me. I believe in the NOW, each moment passing, never to be repeated, to try to live each moment to the fullest, with awareness and focus on that moment. (And then let go and move on to the next moment which has come.)

So here goes:

Hi, I’m Kate and I am disabled. I can no longer stand or walk for more than about 15 minutes without excruciating pain in my back and down my legs (sciatica); I also have neuropathy in my legs and arms. I have swelling and pain in my hands to the point where I am clumsy holding things and I have to be very careful with heavier objects or I will drop them. I cannot twist my hands to empty an ice tray without pain. While I am on the computer for most of my day, I have several different types of activities that I do which changes up how I am using my hands–I mouse for a while, I type for a while and I use a game controller to play computer games. I also stop and stretch my hands, or flex, then rub them, to ease the pain. I have both Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Irritable (Stress) Incontinence, which means when I have to go to the bathroom, I HAVE to go. I have very limited range of motion in my arms and can seldom lift them above my shoulders. Things put on higher shelves are no longer accessible. Pulling on clothing over my head is done by putting my arms in the sleeves and pulling everything up to the shoulders, then ducking my head into the neck hole. Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) are difficult for me; combing my hair is tiresome because it requires me to lift my hands to brush the length. I shower when I have the energy to deal with all of the bending and stooping, scrubbing and hair washing. I have stopped wearing a bra because I cannot put it on by myself. I have also stopped housecleaning for the most part, only dealing with dusting, sweeping, cleaning the bathroom and etc when the filth passes my point of being able to ignore it. And I still do it the way I have for the past 20 years–do about 20 minutes of cleaning, then sit and rest for a while, then do some more cleaning and repeat the pattern until the task is done. Or I’m in too much pain to continue.

I have depression because of my pain and the various occurrences related to my disability, such as losing the LTD disability benefits. I have contemplated suicide more than once and have thought about how I would do it. My most recent suicidal ideation (great term, huh?) was when I got the notification that I had lost those benefits. If the Pacific Ocean wasn’t so damned cold, I’d have just walked into it and kept going out to sea. Truth: I don’t want to be dead. I just want the pain to stop, I want the uncertainties about money and our lives to settle down. I want peace.

I have anxiety, duh. Problem is, it interferes with my life. I am developing social anxiety; I hate to be out in a crowd of more than about 8 people. Small crowd. And very ironic, since my life has been filled with people–I have spoken to large crowds, I was responsible for the local Pagan group back in VA, I had a weekly dinner date with my friends–and we could be as few as 3 and as many as 20. Now I begin to freak out if there’s more than about 3 or 4 people around me, like you would have at a dinner table. I often don’t really want to leave the house–not quite agoraphobic, but definitely not good. This limits me in so many ways–I have no friends here, just the wait staff of the various restaurants we go to, or the staff at the grocery store. But nobody that we say, hey, let’s get together.

I would attend services at Humboldt Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, but all too often, one or the other of us is not up to going. So neither goes. Lots of nice people–completely overwhelming to me. But probably our best chance to meet friends, people we can hang out with and do things with. Beloved wants to get back into his gaming (table top RPGs, with paper, pencils and dice; NOT D&D). If he does, I’d probably go along and play, if only to keep myself from becoming totally a recluse.

I can no longer play the piano. I cannot knit or crochet or do other fine motor crafts for more than the time to do one row of knitting or crochet, or about 20-ish minutes of fine motor work like making chainmaille or jewelry. These are all things I used to do. I can’t talk on the phone comfortably if I have to hold the receiver to my ear for more than 15 or 20 minutes. (Which means when my mother calls, I switch hands a lot.) Even if I were not taking narcotics, I would still be very careful about driving since I have limited range of motion with my neck–you know, turning it left and right. Looking back over my shoulder is almost impossible. With my limitations, I am always afraid that I will have an accident because I cannot react fast enough, or fully enough, to avoid it. Beloved does almost all of the driving. Only on his really bad days do I get behind the wheel–and he helps me watch out for possible dangers.

There’s also the whole loss of concentration and ability to deal with details as well as a certain amount of short term memory loss/lapse. I am easily distracted from whatever I am doing–and just going from the bedroom to the kitchen (about 20 feet) means I can forget what I’ve gone in there for–and cannot recall it, no matter how I try. This is particularly vexing for me, as I used to have nearly photographic memory. Well, my shutter speed is way down, let me tell you.

I’d love to be able-bodied, to do the things I used to do, to do the things I want to do. But that’s not my reality. And I don’t write this all out for you to feel sorry for  me, or to gain your pity. I’m just trying to explain what my life is now, in this moment.

There are good things as well, really! We’ve been going to the beach more often now that the weather has warmed up. We’ve seen pelicans, a seal, a fish that made the mistake of biting onto the bait of the surf fisherman. Lots of dogs, since there’s no prohibition on them being on the beach. We’ve seen a horse and rider enjoying the fun of trotting through the edge of the surf. I’ve even managed to pick up some driftwood and seashells–razor clams and even sand dollars.

Being with Beloved is always fun, even if we’re just doing the parallel play thing, with both of us on our computers and no particular interaction until one of us wants to share a meme or an article. We go out to eat when we can afford it and we enjoy sharing the meals and making our critiques of the food.

I am especially grateful for a healthcare team that works with me to deal with these realities of my disability–my Primary Care Physician, my psychiatrist and my psychologist, the PCP’s nurse (who is a dear!); the front desk staff, and just everyone I’ve come in contact with when I’ve gone in for an appointment.

I enjoy the view out my window. I watch the birds, occasionally get a glimpse of an egret flying by. I watch the trees blow in the wind and I’ve watched the flowers blossom, each according to their time. Rhododendron is a major “thing” out here and there’s lots of it, in different colors. It’s time for hydrangeas now. I’ve also seen a hummingbird. I’d like to put up a feeder for it, but haven’t gotten around to doing what that requires. C’est la vie.

Thanks to Facebook, I am actually in touch with my friends from VA almost more than when I lived there. Daily posts and shared items make my day better.

So I’m reaching the limit of what my hands can take and rather than save this as a draft, I’ll finish it up and post it out. Yes, I have my limits. So does everyone else. My biggest goal right now (behind winning my adjudication hearing) is to find something that I can do for fun, just for me. See, my psychiatrist asked me the other day, “What do you do for fun?” and the first answer (which you should always go with) that popped into my head was “Not a damned thing.” Time to change that. I’ve got several possibilities, just a matter of seeing if I can manage them within my limitations. I want to try watercolor painting and even have a “how to” book to start it with. I’m also trying to do some sketching. Nothing major, just little doodles to get used to drawing again. We’ll see.

So this is where I am, and with the oh so helpful chemicals in my system, not doing as bad as I was a week ago. I’m Kate, and I’m disabled. But I can still enjoy the perfection of each moment as it comes along, whatever comes with it.

Namaste!

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!

Upsetting the World View

I wanted my Facebook profile to show my employment as this: “Works at Upsetting the World View”…but FB wouldn’t let me do it because that was not a “real” company or business.

So…I started creating the FB page for this “business” just to have it as a list-able place.  The questions that were asked required answers, so I did.  And in the process, ended up starting my own business.  Sort of.  I now have an official site for what I’ve been doing all along: ministering to those who need an ear to listen and someone to ask the questions that will help them find their answers.  Or need healing from a non-Western medical viewpoint.  My REAL job on this planet is to minister, to heal, to teach.  And suddenly, without prior thought or planning, I have essentially put out my shingle.  I don’t have a tax number, I haven’t gotten a “doing business as” paperwork from the commonwealth, I in fact have not consulted a single “legal” place or municipality about doing this.  Might be a problem somewhere down the road, but in the meantime…I will just do what I’ve been doing anyways, and maybe, just maybe find a little income from it.

Income.  That’s an interesting concept about this whole thing.  I don’t feel right taking money for using my gifts, things I do without conscious thought or effort.  Doesn’t require special equipment (usually) and I’m not paying off school loans for some degree…since I don’t have diplomas for this either.  I realize that from a certain point of view, this could be viewed as trying to sell snake oil off a traveling wagon…but I’m not offering miracle cures.  Actually I’m not even offering any cures, just whatever help I can give–which is more about the state of mind and beliefs of the person seeking the help than anything I am or do.  But if someone wants to repay me, well…I take $ but I’ll also take barter and “in trade”.

My take on how this happened?  I think all I’ve done is made myself available to a wider spectrum of people who might benefit from contact with me.  No promises there, just a willingness to help where I can.  Some of what I do can actually be done “long distance”, over the internet and through messaging or emails.  I am more than able to be a silent and listening person who will act as a sounding board for others to hear themselves out loud, so to speak, and perhaps offer a different point of view that helps them find their answers.

I was a little surprised at how fast this all went together, how easy it was to get the page created and the continued ease with which I have updated the site and the things I’m finding that are appropriate to share.  I have found that when things go this easily in my life, it’s where I was supposed to be and doing what I was supposed to do.  I do not decline to accept this challenge and hope that the page will grow as it needs to, that it will be as useful a ministry as I could hope for.  This may be the thing that I was destined for when I first stepped back from other ministerial duties for my sabbatical.  Which lasted way longer than I planned, but I am waking up and starting to be in a physical shape that will allow this while also finding myself in a spiritual place that almost longs for this.  I have missed my ministering.

It has continued, to a certain extent, even while I’ve been dealing with my physical health.  I still have the wandering souls show up at my doorstep…so perhaps this is just an escalation of effort, not something entirely new.  Which brings me back to the new Facebook page…I have, in full glorious meaning of the phrase, “hung my shingle out” to a global community.  Exciting times ahead.  And it’s something that I am actively looking forward to.

Let me upset your world view, because as Doug Adams wrote, “….was amazed at how different things looked from a perspective just three feet to the left”.

Namaste!

I Pray These Words, That Thou May Hearest Me

What is prayer?  Prayer, as found at dictionary.com is:
1. a devout petition to God or an object of worship.
2. a spiritual communion with God or an object of worship, as in supplication, thanksgiving, adoration, or confession.
3. the act or practice of praying to God or an object of worship.
4. a formula or sequence of words used in or appointed for praying: the Lord’s Prayer.
5. prayers, a religious observance, either public or private, consisting wholly or mainly of prayer.

I would add one more definition: Prayer is the VISUALISATION for the manifestation of the ACTUALIZATION you desire.  In other words, you just think the things you want or the change in the real world that you are hoping for.

Let’s start with the Christian concepts of prayer.  There’s The Lord’s Prayer, the Hail Mary, and the prayer that the pastor does to lead sinners to Jesus.  There’s prayer in church, at meals and over the sick or dying.  There’s the blessing prayers at a baptism, child dedication or a wedding.  And for many, there is the daily prayers of their lives, an ongoing communication with their God.  As a Christian, there are so many ways of prayer, so many types of prayers, that it can lose its meaning in the hum of the automatic repetition of words that have no thought behind them, no visualisation for the type of result that is desired.

Prayer is a mighty and powerful thing, but so many people tend to use it either as a way to get God to give them all the things they want or as the Pharisee did in Jesus’ parable: “Look at me God, see what a great person I am”.  And sadly for too many Christians, the pat comment of “I’ll pray for you” is a rote and meaningless response to disaster, need and a request for help.  It’s a way to sound like you’re doing something when you’re asked to pitch in.  Jesus DID things throughout the Gospels and only PRAYED near the end of his human life.  I have always liked Mother Teresa’s praying–done as she was helping others, active physical praying with hands that were working, eyes open to see the sacredness in the people she was caring for.  Her entire life was a prayer.  THAT is the kind of praying that will make a change, not the mouthing of words that mean nothing to the one saying them and certainly not when the pronouns being uttered are I, me, mine.

I want to specifically address memorized or “group” prayers, such as the Our Father (The Lord’s Prayer) or the Hail Mary.  I’m going to start with a dissection of the Our Father, to start you thinking about what it is you are really praying when you repeat the words you’ve said so many times.  I will warn you that I am not a Christian, but do believe in a Supreme Deity.  Whatever words you use to speak to YOUR concept of Divinity, YOUR god or God, this prayer is still a good one for you because of what the words mean — to you.  I am only offerring my ideas of what they might mean, so you are free to agree or disagree, but as long as it makes you think, my job here is finished, my friend.  Where was I?  Oh yes…

“Our Father, who are in Heaven” — naming the Divine (such a futile practice, but it’s like saying “Hi Mike” when you call your friend.  Lets the person on the other end know that you are talking to them) and opening a dialogue with that Being.  This, by the way, is completely for YOUR benefit.  It actually opens your awareness, alerts your mind and soul, that you reaching out to the Sacred One (Or Ones, or God, or any god.  Once you realize that this bulky and awkward method of naming the Divine/Deity/gods/God/Allah/Jehovah means ummm ANY Sacred Being to which you turn for help, we can stop using it and get on with our discussion of prayer.  I’ll just use the shorthand of “G/god(dess) to cover it, ok?  Just saying.).

“Hallowed be The Name” — acknowledging the Sacred and the fact that even while the naming of the Divine limits it to that concept, any name used for it is a Sacred Name.  Doesn’t matter whether it’s Jesus, God, Allah, Jehovah, Ishtar, Horus, Odin, Brigit, Quetzacoatl, or Harvey.  Whatever (name placeholder) you use to describe/name/address your G/god(dess)…you acknowledge and state the sacredness of that name.

“Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven” — Things would just be so much better if everybody honored the sacred and lived their lives according to the knowledge that ALL is sacred.  Compassion and respectful conduct towards not only other humans, but animals, the environment and the planet becomes second nature when your attitude is one of honoring the sacred within all.  Earth could become Heaven if we all behaved that way.

“Give us this day our daily bread” — Not a demand for things we want.  Let me say it again, so that it really sinks it.  This phrase does NOT mean I can demand that G/god(dess) give me all the things I want or think I “need”.  This is an acknowledgement that we are provided for, on a very basic level, if we ask for it–and in fact, we are blessed with an (over)abudance if we will adopt the posture of grateful begging.  Look to the Buddhist monks for this.  They do not always fix their own meals.  They have what are called “begging bowls” which they take out into their community and each person gives them some food.  In this way, the people who are giving receive the blessing of sharing what they have–and they never share more than they can afford to give.  They are not pauperized, giving up their “taxes” to the monks.  It’s not a demanded thing.  They either have food to share or not.  The monks are blessed with food for their body and the honor of receiving those donations.

Small side note here: As Americans and as Christians, we have it drilled into us that it is “more blessed to give than to receive”.  I call bullshit.  Giving can be a wonderul blessing–as long as it’s not an ego stroke, doesn’t inflate the person’s concept of self because they are oh so generous.  Receiving can also be a great blessing.  You are allowing someone else the blessing of the giving and you learn how to accept with a full and happy heart, grateful without being embarrassed or ashamed of the need, without resentment at having to ask in the first place.  It is no small thing to know how to receive honestly, openly, in perfect harmony with the giver.  It is a blessing for both sides of that equation.  Now back to what we were talking about.

One more comment of the concept of “grateful begging”.  For a long time, I have used this analogy when talking to people about having things and abundance: how do you hold the most amount of sand?  If you grasp it, it will slip through your hands and be gone.  BUT…if you hold your hands out, cupped together, the sand will fill them and overflow.  This is the abundance that G/god(dess) wants to give to you.  If you grasp at things, you will never have as much as if you stand with your hands held out, in this attitude of grateful begging, ready to receive the amazing and overwhelming abundance that will come from the Sacred Being you are connected to.

“Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil” — frankly, if your life is dedicated to honoring the sacred, if your goal each day is to mark and show respect to all that is sacred as you encounter it in your daily routine, temptation and evil are not going to be problems for you.  Well, not as much.  Temptation, being tempted…happens to everyone, but needs to be acknowledged for what it is: the desire to have something that is not yours.  Whether it’s an actual item or an intangible like a lifestyle or position, it’s still not yours.  And by desiring more, you are in effect denying all that you have been given….turning your nose up at the G/god(dess)’s gifts.  Stop it.  (And I say that to me, as well.)  Delivery from evil…I believe in evil.  It does exist.  It occurs any time and anywhere that the sacred is NOT honored, not respected.  Evil is the opposite of the sacred and frankly, I don’t think that it’s scaled.  There’s no such thing as “just a little evil” or one act being a “lesser” evil.  Deny the sacred and that’s evil.

“For Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory for ever, Amen” — A reaffirmation of the Sacred and all that comes from the G/god(dess), forever and ever.  Amen.  So Mote it Be. Namaste.

Having “deconstructed” the Our Father…let’s turn our attention to the Hail Mary (and all other memorized, repetitive prayers).  I would offer the suggestion that rote prayer (any prayer that is a set, memorized bunch of words) serves the same function as a mantra–and indeed, IS a mantra.  What is a mantra?  Let’s go back to dictionary.com and see what it says:
Mantra:
1. Hinduism . a word or formula, as from the Veda, chanted or sung as an incantation or prayer.
2. an often repeated word, formula, or phrase, often a truism: If I hear the “less is more” mantra one more time, I’ll scream.

So it’s a word or formula (string of words) chanted or sung as…a prayer.

The object of a mantra is to focus your mind on the task at hand.  The Little Engine That Could (“I think I can, I think I can”) and Dory’s “Just keep swimming” are both mantras for our daily lives, a formula for getting through or succeeding where we need the extra focus to achieve.  But when you repeat a mantra specifically within the precepts of sacred space (in English: saying Hail Mary in church), you are focusing your mind, your consciousness, on the sacred, on G/god(dess) and your connection to Him/Her/It.

I recently saw this and thought it very pointedly correct: Prayer is when you talk to God.  Meditation is when you listen to God.  So I prefer meditation as a regular activity over prayer simply because I need to listen to what G/god(dess) is trying to tell me.  If prayer (or meditation) is a conversation with G/god(dess), it should be a two way street, not a monologue of “I want this” and “I need that” and “Give me all the good stuff”.  Have you ever started talking to someone, with the point of asking them to do something…given a long list of why they should do it, pleadings about doing it quickly…only to have them look at you and say, “But it’s already done, if you had given me a chance at the beginning of your speech to tell you…I could have saved you the breath and effort you just made.”?  I suspect that’s how it goes with G/god(dess).  As Infidel Guy says, “What is the purpose of prayer?  What can a finite being on Earth possibly tell an omnipotent, omniscient, Universe-creating deity that he/she/it doesn’t know already?  If prayer actually worked, the Pope would live forever.”

The only argument I would offer him is that prayer does actually work.  All that we ask for, all that we seek is given to us, beyond our wildest imagination.  We just need to remember that sometimes, the answer is “NO!”.  And sometimes, the answer is “Yes, but you’re going to be sorry.  Learn this lesson well, My child.”  As I said up there in the opening paragraphs, prayer is a mighty and powerful thing.  Be careful what you pray for, because you may get it.  And think your prayers through very carefully.  Mark Twain wrote a story called “The War Prayer” —   (http://www.ntua.gr/lurk/making/warprayer.html for the entire story, totally worth the read, please do!)  — which clearly demonstrates what happens when you pray for things without thought for the consequences.  Your prayer for wealth might cause poverty for someone else.  Your prayer for health might lead to a physically able life filled with spiritual dis-ease.  (Yes, “DIS – ease”…lack of ease)  Your admittedly benevolent prayer for someone else might actually create hardship because you interfered with the sacred progression of their life as it was to be.

Prayer is a lot more than just some words strung together and flung out into the Universe, with the faint hope that *someone* out there will hear and answer us.  Prayer is the creating of the image in our minds (VISUALIZATION) of the events we hope to see come true (ACTUALIZATION).  Remember?  That’s where we started this conversation.  And here is where I am going to get controversial: Prayer most often seems to be about these three pronouns: I, me, mine.  Even when it’s ostensibly for someone else, it’s still “Hey G/god(dess), *I* want you to heal Joe/help Kerry/guide Sam to You.”  I think it’s a really good idea if You listen to me and do what I think is best.  Arrogant, just a little?  I am not saying that all prayer is like this, just that enough of it is we ought to really reconsider even praying at all.  Leave G/god(dess) alone, He/She/It has enough to do without listening to our pathetic whining.

If you must pray, do it in motion.  Do it with the attitude that you seek what is your life’s path, the life that the G/god(dess) gave to you, to find the sacred in all.  Pray by planting a garden of vegetables that will feed your family…or feed hungry people in your community.  Pray by preparing a meal for family and friends.  Pray by tending to the sick, fighting for the downtrodden, holding the hand of the dying, greeting the baby that has just been born.  Pray by walking as you are able to cut down on the use of fossil fuels.  Pray by recycling to reduce the strain on this planet we call home.  Pray by giving time and money to those who need, within your neighborhood or city…or across the world.

Pray by being honest in your business transactions.  Pray by doing your job faithfully and diligently, striving to achieve by being the best *you* and by your effort.  Pray by listening to your child and really paying attention to him/her.  Pray by knowing where your child is and what they are doing–and by being a consistent and fair disciplinarian.  (If you discipline, punishment is generally NOT necessary.)  Pray by honoring your parents and all of those who were there to help guide you in your life–whether through just your actions or by taking care of them, in turn, in their old age.  Pray by showing your true and living devotion/faith to G/god(dess) to those who do not believe as you do–without denigrating their beliefs and with the understanding that there are many paths with just one destination. You can pray with your entire being, by seeking the sacred with any action or thought you have, with every moment in your day.  If you do that, you will pray by living a holy life.  You will be praying by honoring the sacred wherever you find it and therefore honoring with every act and every word, the connection between all of us.

And at the end of the day, meditate….to hear what G/god(ess) will say to you.

And I close this with the Sanskrit word, Namaste.  It means this:
“I honor the place in you where Spirit lives.
I honor the place in you which is of Love, of Truth, of Light, of Peace,
When you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me,
Then we are One.”

Namaste, indeed.