Tag Archives: thanks

The World Didn’t End (But it May Yet)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Once a Mother, Always a Mother

I miss my children. It’s not the miles (we live across the country from each other), but it’s the passage of years. I am proud of them both. They’ve made good lives for themselves, with jobs and partners and children of their own. They have grown up to be what I had wished for them: responsible, independent, compassionate people.

But lately, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about those years when they were young. (And I was younger, but that’s not the point.) Looking back over all those years, it’s like a slideshow in my mind. Flickering images, passing in succession, of babies and toddlers and tweens and teens. I have come to realize that I loved every moment with them. I’d like to be able to relive some of that, to have a second chance to enjoy all those “firsts” for those new beings.

I had only the first 3 days of my eldest child’s life as I gave her up for adoption. While that was a hard decision, I have never doubted it, have always known that it was the best thing for her–even if it wasn’t what I would have wanted for me. But my circumstances were such that I was not able to have a child in my life at that time. I am still in contact and I am happy to report that her mother did a great job–I’m also very proud of her and her accomplishments.

W, my son, was born in the year of the Texas sesquicentennial (150 years) of statehood and the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty. I was 8 months pregnant with him when I watched Challenger blow up. Ronald Reagan was in the White House. We were listening to “That’s What Friends Are For”, “Addicted to Love”, “Rock Me Amadeus” and Prince was giving us a “Kiss”.

Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos had fled the Philippines, leaving her thousands of shoes behind. 1986 was the year of the nuclear accident at Chernobyl, Chicago won the Superbowl and the Mets were the World Champions. Science was giving us the first Hep B vaccine and superconductivity; Voyager passed Jupiter and sent back photos that answered some of our questions about it. Fox channel was born on our TV and Oprah had her show.

I was busy with more important things. W was born at the end of March. I watched him lift his head and turn it over while in his layette at the hospital. His father and I took him home and began our life as a family (not just a couple). Because I breastfed him, we had a lot of “face” time. I talked to him and sang to him–not unlike the mariachi bands that wander through the Mexican restaurants while you’re trying to eat. There were so many firsts, those remarkable moments of new actions, new abilities. His first smile was wonderful, all gums and happiness.

Now, looking back, it seems like the time went by like lightning…a flickering moment and then on to something else that was new. He learned to drink from a straw. He tasted strawberry jam for the first time. He laughed, that deep and wonderful belly laugh that only babies have. He went to Mother’s Day out, leaving the house as it had always been and then coming home to an empty house; then he crawled all over, looking for our things. He (and I) lived with his great-grandparents for several months until we left for Germany. His first Christmas filled the floor with presents from the grandparents / great-grandparents. He preferred his father’s optic orange golf ball.

He got a stuffed animal for his 2nd birthday, a duck we named George. W still has George and he still sleeps on W’s bed. Apparently his wife cuddled with George when he was on sea duty. He would take all of the toys out of the footlocker (toy box) and then climb in his…boat? Spaceship? Maybe it was his car… He had a toy phone and he would hold it up to his ear and hold a conversation–complete with pauses while the “other person” was speaking. He was a loving baby, happy to get hugs and kisses, which he learned to return with great enthusiasm. There was a certain feeling of awe to realize that I was the center of his Universe–at least for the first couple of years.

His sister (L) was born in 1988, when W was 2.5 years old. That was the year George Michael sang about his “Faith” and it was the first time we were Rick Rolled. (We didn’t even know that was what happened, those first few times of hearing Rick Astley singing.) And we all knew the words to Bobby McFerrin’s song…”Don’t Worry, Be Happy”. Reagan was still President. Pan-Am flight 103 exploded from a bomb, to crash in Lockerbie, Scotland. Benazir Bhutto was elected as the first Islamic woman to be Prime Minister in Pakistan; she said of her two terms in that position: “The government I led gave ordinary people peace, security, dignity, and opportunity to progress.”

Michael Dukakis and Lloyd Bentsen were the candidates for the Democrats; George Bush and Daniel Quayle were the GOP’s choice. Washington won the Superbowl; LA Dodgers were the World Series winners. CDs were outselling vinyl and Ted Turner created his own TV station. “The Last Emperor” won the Oscar for Best Picture. Oh, and the US Navy shot down an Iranian airliner after mistaking it for a jet fighter.

L was born in the middle of November, just in time to get Christmas presents that year. She was also born in Augsburg, Germany. The first stuffed animal she was given was from her father and brother–a little orange tabby kitten. Last I heard, L still has it.

Each of my pregnancies were different except for the morning sickness that lasted all day. This time, with L, I had a toddler to chase after and couldn’t just sit quietly, hoping for the queasiness to pass. By the time I was about 6 months along, poor little guy had to climb the four floors up to our apartment by himself. I wasn’t able to balance him and my tummy without feeling like we’d all go rolling down. The only question he asked me about the sibling that was coming along was “how does the baby get out?”. Whew. Missed the big one, “how did the baby GET IN?”

I announced this pregnancy to my grandparents (the “greats” for my kids) when I told my grandmother that I could not come to the US for their 50th wedding anniversary because the airline wouldn’t let me fly with a newborn. Instead, they came to Germany for Christmas and New Year’s. It was the first time they had ever been out of the US.

I got to see my children interact with my grandparents–the youngest and the oldest of the family. My grandfather took out his dentures to show W–who promptly ran to me and held on. I guess he thought he’d get bitten. For various reasons, I was bottle-feeding L and it has been a cherished memory, the sight of Grandmom, holding her and feeding her.

W took his position as the older brother seriously and was always helpful–bringing me diapers or a burp rag. He was always gentle with her and I enjoyed watching the two of them, learning about each other. BUT! L’s personality was already manifesting itself: she could be extremely vocal about the things she wanted (even if it only was in baby-babble) and I told her father that one day, our child would come running into the room, crying and saying, “SHE hit me!”. (I was not wrong.)

As a stay-at-home Mom (SAHM, so I’ve heard is the acronym), my world revolved around my children. Taking care of them (and their environment) was a major priority. I wasn’t chained to them, there were no bad feelings about being at home. As a matter of fact, I thoroughly took pleasure and joy in being with them, in the daily routine. And a daily routine with a baby and a toddler is a study in changes and discovery. (I don’t mean diaper changes, although we had those, too.)

I tried to mark in my own mind each of the many milestones, for both of them. The first food, the first drinking from a cup, the first step…so many “firsts” it could be overwhelming. I’d be marveling at one and then BOOM! We’d have another. Even the “firsts” I had had with W were different than those same things with L. And I loved every minute of it.

The whole world takes on a new, lustrous and exciting feel when you are seeing it through the eyes of a child. Even explaining and talking about the mundane things they were doing, I knew that “mundane” was my word and “wowee” was theirs. I took the time to explore their world as they explored this big world they were living in. The trees are a little taller, the grass a little greener, the dog or cat a little fluffier and softer.

As time passed (as it is wont to do), the “first” events slowed down a bit. I had a chance to really savor it and even catch my breath before the next one came along. L was my dramatic child. Supporting evidence: she was in the high chair, W and his friend were seated on the bench and W says to me, “Mommy, (L)’s face is blue.” Mommy went into freak out mode because when I looked at her, by the gods, she was blue. A blue that no human face should ever be. I pulled her out of the high chair and that action knocked the food loose so that by the time she was in my arms, she was breathing again.

She wasn’t done with us and high excitement. Not too long after the high chair episode, she was coughing and hacking around the house. Friday afternoon, of course. Did I mention we were living in Germany and had military healthcare? No appointments over the weekend. So her father and I both agreed we would be taking her first thing Monday morning. That apparently did not meet with her agenda… I was downstairs at the neighbor’s house when the husband knocked on the door, holding L. “You need to go back upstairs to be with W. I’m taking her to the ER. I was changing her diaper and she stopped breathing. I had to resuscitate her.”

These are not words you ever want to hear. The wait was horrendous. Husband came home, without L, about 10 pm. The hospital had done an xray of her esophagus. If this (      ) is the normal esophagus, hers was like this (XX|XX) where the “|” is the actual opening for air. No wonder she was not breathing well. Turned out, she had the croup. Poor baby got shots in her thighs every 6 or 8 hours…and the medical team had asked her father to help hold her down for the first couple. When I went to see her, she very pointedly refused to look at her father. I think I lost some popularity when I didn’t grab her up and take her home. Scary, scary times for a mom (and a dad).

It’s not like W didn’t have excitement. No, his was of a different style. When they were tweens, we accompanied their father to an office party at the boss’ house. There was an above ground pool. It is pertinent to the story to understand that in this circular pool, in the center, there was a slight dip so that all the dirt would collect in that one place. My son dove in and found himself standing within that dip. It made the water just *that* much too deep for him. I saw him, thought he was play-bobbing up and down and then I realized that he was in danger. It’s true: people who are drowning are NOT yelling for help. Their arms go out, up to shoulder height and they spend all their energy trying to catch a breath. I had a glass glass in my hand and didn’t want to drop it (making another hazard) and by the time I found a place to set it down, I heard a splash. Husband had gone into the pool (clothes, watch, wallet and all) and got W out of the water. Let’s just say that W didn’t dive in again and it took a while before he got back into the water.

I know it sounds melodramatic, but…except for the quick response of their father, there would be a very good chance that both of my children would be dead. And that thought still makes me shudder. I don’t want those scary times. But you don’t always get what you want…

At 14, L broke her arm, rollerblading. When he was about 3, W fell and cut the skin on his forehead/hairline. Head wounds bleed a lot, but a simple butterfly bandage fixed him up, no problem. I don’t remember any other medical emergencies, so I guess we were blessed with reasonably good health and a bare minimum of dramatic sickness or injury.

W went to Kindergarten and I had two school years of having just one child at home all day.  Then it was her turn and L went off to get some edumacation, too. For the first time in 7 years, I had days of being “single” again. Odd feeling and I got a lot of reading done. And handicrafts. And I could grocery shop without threatening my offspring for getting away from me. Or having to explain 469,756 times why I was not buying (X). I missed them.

Christmas time was always fun. I decorated our house and as the lights went up on the other houses, we’d ride around at night time and “ohh” and “ahh” over them. When they were little, we had some serious discussions about what they would like Santa to bring. The ToyRUs catalog would arrive and they both did the “I want this…and this…and this…and this”–you get the idea. So I would ask them the Big Question: “If Santa could only bring you ONE present, what would you really, really want to have?” They generally got whatever that one thing was–and Santa did bring some other things, too. But Christmas morning, Santa’s presents were always wrapped in Santa paper. The other gifts were from Mom and Dad. (And then we’d go over to the husband’s parents house for Christmas with the whole family. And when I say whole, I mean siblings and their spouses and children as they came along…and considering the number of siblings was 7…lots of family!)

We’d let them stay up long enough to see the ball drop on New Year’s Eve. There were a number of years where they didn’t manage it and had to be carried to bed. The Easter Rabbit hid eggs and treats all over the house. (I didn’t want to encourage animals coming along and eating them.) One year, he left plastic eggs with hints left in them–and when they got to the end of the treasure hunt, there was one special gift for each of them. (Actually two hunts, if I’m remembering right–one for L and one for W.) Halloween was also celebrated and one year I made their costumes–Robin Hood for W and Maid Marian for L. They were adorable. But the amount of work was too much to try and repeat it–and they were happy with the Power Rangers costumes from the Halloween section of Party City.

We had one Halloween tradition that saved them from sugar comas. Keep in mind that we lived on a street that had other children, and they were allowed to go around the block and across the streeet, around the block. So that’s about 40-ish houses. Once they had gotten their loot, they brought it home and we dumped it out to make sure there were no razor blades. Then I would have them pick out the ones that they only had singletons of, as well as the candies that were their particular favorites. These candies (probably 25% of their take) went back into their bags and no one else ate them. The remaining pounds of candy (not kidding!) would go into my 26 cup Tupperware bowl…and fill it to brimming. Anyone could eat out of that. While their bag had candies, our tradition was that they could eat all the candy they wanted for 20 minutes. Then they had to go brush their teeth…not quite 20 minutes, but certainly enough to get the sugar coating off! Sometimes that might mean just 1 candy–something larger, or a lollipop that was to be sucked on.

And I had candies to nibble on for the next month. (They nibbled, too…but you know what I mean!)

They played tee ball; W went on to play on a team but L decided that baseball was not her thing. They learned to ride bikes, rollerblade, swim (not just walk into the water and get wet–or dive in). They went fishing at the family cottage near Dundee in the Finger Lakes. When we visited my family in Baltimore, they went to the National Aquarium and the Science Center in the Inner Harbor. (L tried to jump into the beluga whale tank. She is and was always a Water Baby, like her mother and her great-grandmother.)
(Ed. note: Here is the story, “Water Baby” , which is where I got that term)

We only had one computer, back in the “old days”. Which saved me from having to buy TWO computers and never seeing the kids because they’d be up in their rooms, surfing the Net. Nope, we had one, and it sat in the corner of the kitchen. I could keep an eye on them and they could go pretty much wherever they wanted–and there were sites that wanted a parent’s “signature” to ensure that the child was allowed there. The three of us learned about Internet research–and Google, when it came along. I answered all of their questions, but when I didn’t know the answer, the 3 of us would go on the computer and find it. They weren’t the only one who was learning new things!

We started getting the Nintendo gaming consoles, starting with the SuperNES and Mario. All 3 of us played–my time was mostly at night, once the kids were in bed. And if it was a rainy day, I’d let them play most of the day…but on nice (not raining, maybe even some sunshine) days, I’d let them play for a couple of hours. Then I’d say, “It’s time to quit and save!” — and I always got the cry of “Mooooom, it’s SAVE and quit!!” And back in those days, I could rent the games for a week–and sometimes, if the game was involved enough…I’d spend most of my free time playing.

When they were tweens, their father and I split up. (It took 3 YEARS to get the final decree, but that’s another story.) I moved out and took them with me, getting an apartment about 20 miles away from our old home. I was working nights, so I’d get home after they had left for school. I’d sleep until they came home. Then we’d spend a couple of hours together, have dinner–and I’d go back to bed for a 2 hour nap. I discovered that I couldn’t sleep for 8 hours, be up with them and then try to work an 8 hour shift. I needed the psychological effect of getting up and going to work. (Even if it was just a nap.)

They were good kids, taking care of each other and not having *too* many fights. Then I was invited to share my friend’s house and get a (better) job in VA. That was well out of the range that I could take the kids. It was a tough, tough, tough decision. But I finally figured that if I could get myself in a better place, I would be a better mom for them. So I left them, living back in the house with their father. It was only 8 months before he allowed them to move back with me. Rather, I should say, that he asked the children if they’d like to live with me and he barely got the question out of his mouth before they were both saying “YES!”.

So South they came. We lived with my friend, her 2 kids, her boyfriend and his 2 kids and then me and my 2 kids. We counted 11 people for Christmas (boyfriend’s ex-wife and mother of his kids and a friend from work with no family in the area). We couldn’t afford to buy presents for everyone…or so we thought. My friend came up with a brilliant idea and I pass it on to those of you who find it helpful. We loaded up everyone and went to the local Dollar Store. We bought 11 big gift bags and everyone split up to go into different aisles. The idea was that each person would buy one thing for each of the others–and so in the end, we each had 11 presents to open.

Eventually the three of us moved out of the commune (haha) and got our own apartment. I got a new job (I had been working at a place called Dominion, making flash memory) at the local assisted living center. I started courses on Network Security and Administration. One of my fellow students suggested trying for a job at the place he was working. I did, and thus began my tenure as a Customer Service Rep, making reservations for teleconferences. I left for about 18 months to work at the help desk of a company that was contracted to provide computer support for Congress. There was no place to move up, and so I returned to being a CSR at the same company. I had not burned any bridges when I left.

The kids continued growing up and it seemed like it had only been a few days before that they were being born and being toddlers… They both participated in the Junior ROTC program at school; they were both actors in several of the school’s plays. W actually got the high school version of an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Modred, King Arthur’s nephew (and son) in the musical, “Camelot”. L got her starring chance in her senior year with “The Hound of the Baskervilles”.

In the twinkling of the eye, in the space of time for one breath…they went from helpless, wide-eyed newborns to being teenagers and on the verge of going out into the big wide world on their own. I loved every stage. I was and still am grateful for the discoveries we made together. I was the best Mom I knew how to be and I must have succeeded because my two wee ones are all grown up now, with wee ones of their own. And I look into the face of my daughter’s older daughter … and see my daughter there. I can do the same with my son’s son. Both of those grandchildren have a younger sister. I am blessed with a foursome of proof that I did a good enough job that my kids were willing to try that role for themselves.

And yet I still miss my own little ones. Even the throw-up and backtalk and bickering between them. I’d like to go back in time and visit them again–and I’ve found a way to do that. I simply close my eyes and let the images scroll through my mind. My son. My daughter. And the 20 years that flew past like an express train. They were both very good children. They are both very good parents. I can only wish them the same joy with their children as I had with them.

Karma Is Not Always Bad

Karma Sonnet

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

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

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

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

~~KGC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Karma Haiku

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

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

Peace and blessings to you all, Namaste!

A Family Vacation, Complete With Mooses and Other Excitements

Starting before the vacation: I took Beloved to the hospital on Friday, Feb 28 with a fever of 103 degrees, chills, vomiting and pain. Before he was done, he had been given about 14 litres of fluids (IV), pain meds (IV) and super antibiotics (IV). He figures he got stabbed with needles about 40 times in the 5 1/2 days he was there. If he wasn’t needle-phobic before (and he was), he is absolutely needle-phobic now. Doctor’s diagnoses: strep throat and cellulitis. (Medical note: cellulitis is an infection (“-itis”) in the cellulite layer of the skin. It has nothing to do with weight as both fat and skinny people can get it. It hurts like hell.)

We were concerned that he would not be out of the hospital before Thursday, Mar 5, but he managed to come home on Wednesday. So he got a better night’s sleep in his own bed before we began the Grand Tour of Local Restaurants.

Because of our disabilities, and especially with him just out of the hospital, we can’t really “do” all the tourist-y things when people come to visit. We can’t walk up the Avenue of the Redwoods, go into most of the shops in Old Town Eureka, or any other activity that requires standing/walking for extended periods of time. (And for us, extended is pretty much anything over about 15 minutes. Sigh.) But we bygods make sure that our visitors are well fed, and in a wide variety of cuisines.

So Beloved’s parents (hereafter referred to as “MIL”, Mother-in-love, and “FIL”, Father-in-love) landed in Sacramento on Wednesday the 4th, spent the night there and then drove up to Eureka on the 5th. They got in about 5, giving us just enough time to get them settled in the hotel and then taking them out to the beach for the sunset. (A tradition for us, since the first thing we did once we got settled in the hotel upon *our* arrival was to go the beach for the sunset.) And then we took them to the same place that was our first introduction to Eureka, Annie’s Cambodian Restaurant. Amazing and good, not quite Vietnamese, not Thai, not Laotion, but a sort of blend of all three. Annie’s crab puffs are the best we’ve ever had. Of course we also established the sharing all around of every dish, something done pretty much everywhere we ate in the 9 days they were here.

Because MIL and FIL had a car, they could do some sight-seeing on their own and they did so enthusiastically. They drove north to the Avenue of the Redwoods; walked up the hill and back down again, went on the skyway tram to view the trees from above. They were going to drive on up to Oregon (a short jaunt) but the fog came rolling in so fast and so thick that the decision was made to come back to Eureka. What’s the point of going anywhere when you can’t see anything?

They did a lot of poking around in Eureka on their own. When we joined them (mostly at meal times) we rode with them, rather than taking two vehicles everywhere. So MIL, who does the driving, got a good feel for the traffic and how the streets are laid out. That’s a really good thing because they are considering moving out here, to be near to us and to get out of the hell most people refer to as “Northern Virginia”, or NoVA for short.

EurekaSailorWe got to see the old sailor sculpture in the harbor, something I had only seen pictures of before. He is much bigger than I was imagining and I had Beloved take some photos so that I can attempt to paint or draw him. I’m sure that he’s been recreated in pretty much every medium, but I haven’t done it yet so I’m not worried about other people’s paintings or sketches of him. Driving up to the sailor took us through some protected wildlife lands, actually fenced off with signs about not crossing over the fence. We saw a pair of elk, which my MIL laughingly refers to as “mooses”. So now we’ve got a new word for when we drive out looking for wildlife… we are looking for those mooses!

Like I said, we began with Cambodian food. We also fed them Chinese (two different restaurants, one which does “comfort” Chinese, the sort you’d be used to if you ate Chinese food in the 1970’s; the other is familiar but doesn’t fall under the “comfort” heading. They also do sushi, which we made his parents try…and it was not something they really wanted. That removed the two sushi restaurants off of our list.); we fed them Vietnamese, Thai, Mexican, Greek, German, GREAT steaks, “American Diner”, pizza and one place for organic breakfasts and another for incredible bagels. We also showed them our donut shop which is run by Asians so you can get an order of Chinese food and then get a couple of donuts to go with it. They are, by far, the very best donuts I have had in a very long time. Dunkin’ Donuts got NOTHING on “Happy Donuts”.

We did show them some mundane things, like Costco, Walgreens, RiteAid and our Co-Op grocery store. If they move here, they’ll want to know where things of that nature are located. We also did some looking online at some rentals, to help them understand that with the enormous decrease in the cost of living (by coming to the West Coast, specifically Eureka), they can afford a 3 bedroom house for significantly less than they are paying for a 2 bedroom apartment in NoVA. And by significant, I mean anywhere between 4 and 6 hundred dollars per month less. We were not subtle in our hard sell, trying to encourage them to make the decision to move here, even though our friend had suggested subtlety. We don’t do subtle.

We were glad to see them–it had been almost a 1 1/2 years since we were last together, right before we moved. We had a really good time with them (and we ate really well!) but the physical toll was tremendous for both of us. I figure a healing and restoration time of at least 3-4 days, possibly longer. Fortunately, we have a minimum of appointments this week.

We had actually started our physical therapy (pool therapy), but with Beloved having a bazillion holes in his skin, I cancelled our sessions for last week and this week. We are scheduled to return next Monday, and we’ll see if we can make it. I need to call my psychologist and get an appointment with him, since I had to cancel the last one. Beloved sees his PCP, partly as a follow up to his last appointment with her, but also as a follow up from being in the hospital. He also has group therapy and his gaming group on Friday. So it’s going to be a very quiet week.

MIL and FIL took us shopping on Saturday at Costco and Co-Op to refill our larder and refrigerator. So we’ve got food–and we’re still working on leftovers–but how much cooking either of us is up to…is a good question and I don’t have an answer for that right now.

When they arrived, MIL handed me an Adroid tablet that FIL had gotten as a “retirement gift” and they couldn’t make it do very much. I’ve got it up and running, with various apps that I wanted and I’m pleased with it. Except for one thing: I cannot, CANNOT, make the damned thing acknowledge the 64G SD card I put in it, except as a storage unit for music and photos. And I’ve got enough apps that the internal memory is pretty much full; I’d like to move some of that over to the internal (already there, can’t be changed out) 4G SD card, but it doesn’t seem to want to let me do that. There’s got to be a way, otherwise no one would take the tablet because it wouldn’t/won’t hold all the apps wanted. Oh well, it’s an IT conundrum that I will continue to wrestle with.

I was very glad to have it because it was a calming thing for me to be able to use it, thereby tuning out all the people around me. My pain this week was high enough that even my Vicodin didn’t do much more than tone it down; with high pain comes a vague nausea, so I was eating just a little bit of this and that most of the week. I have had tremors most of the week, but especially during times of higher anxiety. When we went to get steak (at a place that is very carefully designed to look like a dive bar–but it sure isn’t because the bathroom is immaculate!), I actually had to put in my earbuds to block all of the noise. I was on the verge of tears without them. They worked so well, I have gotten a box of actual earplugs, in pink because they’re made for the ladies (we have smaller, more dainty ears!) and they came with a holder, so I can keep a pair in my purse and use them as needed.

Regarding the tremors: I talked to my dad about 2 weeks ago and we got to comparing ailments. He has tremors (bad enough that he can no longer make jewelry) and he suggested that what I have are Essential, or Familial, Tremors–something that is inherited 50% of the time if you have a parent who has them. The doctors don’t know what causes them and there’s no real treatment, although there are some medications for people whose tremors have gotten significant enough that they are embarrassed by the shaking, like when you’re out with people at a restaurant. I know that I have problems holding a fork steady without being stressed… add in the anxiety and I can barely get any food in. Takes two hands–one to hold the fork and the other to hold the food on the fork. I use my natural eating utensils whenever possible–you know, my fingers!

I will be asking about my tremors at my next PCP visit, if only to get the proper diagnosis added to my (ever-growing) list of diagnoses. And speaking of doctor’s visits, my long term disability  (LTD) insurance company (Reliance) has found a doctor who will do an independent evaluation of my condition so that the company can make an assessment about whether I am really disabled or not. And if I am really disabled, according to them (because I am, whether they want to say it or not), they will send a check with a year’s worth of backpay, and then continue with a monthly check. And if I get SSDI, the LTD will pay the difference between SSDI and the insurance benefits, which means about $400 per month more. We sure could use it.

I have two weeks to gather any paperwork (like my health records) and fill out the forms the doctor’s office sent me. I think it’s the new patient forms–and there’s all kinds of mentions of being able to go after the patient for money if the insurance company doesn’t pay for it. HAH! They can try. We already have about a quarter of a million dollars in combined *unpaid* healthcare costs. We’re going for bankruptcy… hate to do it, but we need to “wipe the slate clean” so that we can eventually qualify for a mortgage. I have a pre-approved VA loan, as long as what we want to move into meets their requirements. Needless to say, we need our home to be ADA compliant–and I might start looking around to find out what kinds of grants we can get that would help with the costs, especially since we’re talking about getting a new house. We’ll buy land and then have a manufactured home delivered there. The VA’s requirement for railings on every stairway will not matter, since we’re going for a single floor.

I’m not sure what was harder to deal with this past couple of weeks: the pain or the stabbing awareness that I can no longer do a LOT of things I took for granted as recently as 2 or 3 years ago. Watching my MIL (65 years old) and my FIL (almost 80) walking into the stores, carrying OUR stuff upstairs so that we wouldn’t have to…real slap in the face, let me tell you. Makes it very easy to slip into despair, since I’m already chronically depressed. I really appreciate my meds because without them…and I don’t mean the Vicodin. So recuperation, such as it is, consists of keeping my movements to a minimum to help control the pain as well as doing meditation and some self compassion exercises to help control the negative feelings. (Check this out, from Toni Bernhard: How to Talk to Yourself . Toni suffers from chronic illness, but also uses her Buddhist beliefs to find that Middle Road, even for us, who are having to ride an accessibility scooter on that road.

So that’s where I’m at, just trying to keep on making it through life, one day at a time.
Namaste!

 

Getting Along Like a House On Fire

To paraphrase Garrison Keillor, it has NOT been a quiet week in Lake Woebegone.

I still haven’t heard any decision about SSDI and whether I need to start looking for a job or not. I did talk to the paralegal for my attorney, who explained that the moment my case’s change in status is officially entered into the computer, they will know–which is about 7-10 days BEFORE I’d see any hard copy snail mail. And the office checks that computer every morning–and they will call me the minute (more or less) they find out. Which means I can relax (somewhat) and not keep trying to check the mail on something approaching a regular basis.

In the meantime, I try to find other things to do with which to occupy my mind and keep me from running like a hamster in the wheel of indecision and dangling answers. Beloved and I have taken sandwiches and donuts to the beach for a quasi picnic lunch a couple of times, as the weather in September, in Eureka, is amazingly wonderful. Or at least it has been for us.

My in-laws generously arranged for the bed frame to appear. What a difference 14 inches in height can make for getting out of bed! Instead of trying to rise up from a deep knee bend (thighs….of steel), now we can just sit up and put our feet on the floor. The change in sleeping level is inexplicable but definite. And the ability to get in and out of bed without a plan for escape–or what I have always referred to as the “wench winch” is priceless. It is worth the flare-up that putting it together cost me. Sigh.

Fate herself is helping out with distractions…if you want to call it that. Last Sunday, all four of us at home (me, Beloved and the roomies, G & M)…He in our bedroom, G in their room, with me and M in the kitchen–I was making late lunch/early dinner and M was doing dishes. (Better someone else than me…I HATE doing dishes.) Then G says, “There is smoke coming in the window.” Why yes, yes there was…in fact, look–it’s starting to come into the kitchen window, which is on that same wall.

G & M run downstairs to see where the smoke is coming from. Oh my! Oh dear! Conniptions and spasms! Flee! It’s OUR house that’s on fire. (It used to was a house; now it’s 5 apartments. We’re upstairs.) I turn off the GAS stove and grab my phone and iPod. (Oh the things we choose when we have to save our most precious belongings.) Beloved picks up the house phone and is dialing 911 even as he exits the building. The roomies, being young and spry, run around the house, banging on doors and making sure everyone is out of there. Beloved moves the van from in front of the house and we stand on the sidewalk across the street. Definitely smoke…and hot enough inside that the front window has already cracked. Which, for those you who are neither firemen or arsonists (or fascinated with fire), means that the heat is already reaching dangerous levels. I’m trying to think about where we could go, with our van and the clothes on our backs…and our phones…if the house goes up in flames.

A crowd gathers and we are avidly listening for the sirens. Now you must realize that the fire department here is volunteer–and up in Eureka–we live a couple miles outside–so we’re not talking a 5 minute response time. On the other hand, to get everyone to the firehouse, in their fireman’s suits and out to us only took about 10-15 minutes. Acceptable. When they get here, the guys are off the truck almost before it comes to a stop, yanking hoses off and going up to the house to see what they are facing. Within moments, they are inside and knocking the windows out. Axes, ladders and … chain saws? Oh my.

Beloved had called the landlord right after he hung up with 911. “Hi, landlord? Yes, it’s your renter…and your house is on fire.” Needless to say, the landlord arrived before the second fire truck. By the time it was all done, we had three fire trucks, including the brand new hook and ladder, at the house. People were taking pictures and video but no one had the bad manners to bring a Jiffy-Pop popcorn pan and make it…on our house.

So as we’re standing there, one of the other tenants comes up to us and asks what’s going on. We know which apartment he lives in…and have to tell him, “Dude, your stuff is on fire.” He and his son (5 years old) stood there with the same expression on their faces: big eyes and a growing realization that…their stuff is burning. The child was aghast that the firemen were breaking the windows. I told him that it was okay, they were already cracked.

I’ve been coughing since we walked out of the house–and it’s just getting worse, to the point that Beloved steers me over to the fire chief to find out if EMTs are coming to this housewarming party. And they were! They got me hooked up on oxygen and starting taking information. Then the actual ambulance arrived and the paramedics took over. They suggested a ride for me, and off I went, to the ER at the local hospital–which I have now been to 3 times in the past 6 months. They’re going to think I’m a hypochondriac or something. Oh well.

A breathing treatment (albuterol inhaler on the oxygen mask) on the way to the hospital. And the paramedic inserted an IV port–while we’re speeding down the highway. (By the way, no siren for me as I was not dying.) I have to tell you, that was the best stick for medical purposes I’ve ever had. We get to the ER and were whisked straight back to my own room. Great service, let me tell you. No waiting out there with all those sick people.

Another breathing treatment and a nice shot of anti-anxiety medication since I told them that if I had been at home, I’d have been taking my own. Answered lots of questions, which is not easy to do with an oxygen mask on. Only slightly better than talking to your dentist when he’s exploring for your tonsils. Got a chest x-ray. Beloved showed up to tell me that the cause of the fire had already been determined.

Modern technology is a wonderful thing. If this fire had occurred 10-15 years ago, the firemen would not have had the thermal scanners and such that they used to deal with the fire. Not just the water and the chain saws–yes, they used them on the outside wall, to open up the room where the fire started–but thermal detection of just how far the fire had gotten and if the house was safe to go back into. The fire chief told Beloved that our quick calling to 911 had made a real difference. Three minutes more and our apartment would have gone; three minutes more after that and the house would have gone. There’s a small and often fine line between utter disaster and a great story to tell your friends and family.

So in the course of ascertaining that the fire was indeed fully out, that it had been contained within a specific area and there was no further danger, the cause of the fire was discovered…a wood burning tool, left on, under the plastic table. The son had gotten a hold of the tool and was using it–and jumped up to run out with dad and go skateboarding. They had literally only been gone about 20 minutes. Oops. I guess that tool really lived up to its name. I wonder what brand it was…

The smoke that had gotten to me was not plain old wood smoke…it was the chemicals from the plastic table, along with everything else that was burning. No wonder it irritated me and gave me bronchial spasms. Adding insult to injury for the tenant who is now homeless…all of his textbooks were on top of that table, “were” being the operative word. But there was a little ray of sunshine for them–the pet lizard (in another room) survived to tell the tale.

So I spent a couple of hours in the ER, coming home with orders to take it easy, come back if I had any worsening symptoms or it didn’t improve within a few days and a bottle of cough syrup that has phenagren and codeine in it. The thrice-blessed in-laws threw some money into our account so that we could go out for dinner. (I was making sausage and pasta. Smoked sausage suddenly did NOT appeal.) We hit the local diner for comforting comfort food…and then home again to try to recuperate from the sudden deluge of stress (Oh my gods! The house is burning!) and then relief (Oh my gods! We aren’t homeless!).

The press had shown up and done their stuff, so I went looking for us on Google. Come to find out, we were actually the TOP story for the news that evening. “A house… BURST INTO FLAMES” (film at eleven). Well, not really BURST. But it was a slow news day. (Check out the broadcast, here: Top Story! ) And that’s me the EMTs are hovering over–I look like I must be sprawled out on the sidewalk, but I was sitting on the curb, really! And when the paramedics roll the gurney over to the ambulance, that’s me again! I doubt that I’ll be on CNN, but frankly…living in a town small enough, calm enough that our fire was the first thing on the news…priceless! I would not give that up for anything.

Let’s just say that for the first time since August 18 (the adjudication), I was not thinking about the judge and her decision about my life. Being asthmatic meant that what I had considered a small amount of smoke was actually more. For the first time in almost 10 years, I was reminded what living with (untreated) asthma is like. I have not been on any maintenance medications because I was doing well without them. Now I’m hitting the rescue inhaler like it’s my bong and I’m a stoner. I get hoarse if I talk too long, I get tight in the chest (that belt around the whole body, under the arms but above the boobs…and way snug. I like to breathe, I’ve been doing it my whole life–so this is not a happy state of being. I also had some “infiltration” in my left lung, lower lobe.

This is not a “rest and take it easy for a couple of days” kind of thing. This is more a “keep breathing and if there is any problem, or it doesn’t start to go away within like a week, come back to the ER” kind of a thing. It has a very particular way of removing the focus of my brain from SSDI and more onto “just keep breathing, just keep breathing, breathing breathing”. Three days later and I’m still coughing a bit, still having tightness–and still using the inhaler. I used to have to throw away brand new, unused inhalers because they had expired before I needed them.

BUT

I am safe, Beloved and the roomies are safe. Our stuff might have a little smoke smell, but it’s still our stuff and not burnt then water-soaked detritus. We still have a place to live–and coincidences abounding, the roomies are actually in the process of going to their own place and will be out by the beginning of next week. So we’ll continue to live in our one room until their room can be repaired, where the fire came up the wall. There’s that big hole the firemen put into it and soot to clean and singed wood to replace. It only caught the corner of their room, most of the damage is actually in their closet–so cleaning that out and organizing the clothes just got done a little differently than it would have without fire to change the schedule of completion. And the only things that were damaged were things they were getting rid of anyway.

We are local celebrities–of a sort. We’re getting more traffic on our road than I’ve seen in the entire time we’ve been here–gawkers and rubberneckers, come to look at the “house that burst into flames”. It’s actually kind of funny to sit up at my desk and watch them go by. Gotta love that small town environment!

I am grateful that it was not worse and I acknowledge the protection we were given–a fire of greater magnitude would have really been catastrophic in more than just the loss of belongings. So like a roller coaster, that first great tall hill was scary fun, but I’m happy to be back on the ground now. And as Beloved pointed out, we’ve been through earthquakes (one in VA, and a nearly record-setting one here in CA); we’ve had flooding (in the closet of our bedroom); hurricanes (Irene and whatever the other one was, while in VA) and here we are. He figures locust and frogs are all that’s left. (You know, the ten plagues of Egypt. It’s Biblical.)

So that’s what’s going on in my life now. I hope that yours is not this exciting! (Well, not in this way.) Just another day in the human experience, and hopefully (fingers crossed) not one that has to be repeated. Ever. Take a moment to look around your home and imagine it going up in flames–and then be thankful that you have it. Hug each other and remember that we cannot ever be prepared for sudden disaster, so pause and soak in the moments of peace and love, when life is going smoothly. The time to be mindful of your life is not when the flood waters are coming up over the porch steps, or when the fire is raging across the house–but every day, at any moment. Because a moment, that brief flicker of time, is all that might separate life from death.

This was a scary event as it happened. I am relieved beyond words that it has settled into just a dinner party-stopping story. 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!

What Color Wetsuit Should I Get?

EverythingYouNeed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But wait, there’s more!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can I order my wet suit and board now?