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The heart attack

17 Mar

I have not been posting as often as usual.  I’ve been a bit busy, which sounds like a very trite excuse.  For those who don’t follow me via my radio program or Facebook, I have decided that I had best explain myself.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband had a massive heart attack.  We did everything wrong, starting with not recognizing it as a heart attack and not seeking immediate medical attention.  When we did seek medical attention, we never did get a clear answer on whether it was another one or the aftermath of the first that caused Greg to become unable to breathe easily, but that was the symptom that sent us to the local ER.

Fortunately for us, especially Greg, he survived, despite our mistakes.  The bad part is that the longer it takes to get medical attention, the worse the damages to the heart are.  He had complications, and despite angioplasty and stents being put into place, his heart wasn’t going to magically repair itself.  He had a very large blood clot in the apex of his heart where the blood had pooled when the artery was clogged and the flow of blood stopped.  That required a week of heparin drip, as well as starting him on a blood thinner to prepare him for release.

What didn’t get prepared was our minds.  Greg wasn’t in a high risk group for a heart attack, and we weren’t prepared for the changes that it has brought to our lives.  I am already disabled and limited in what I can manage physically.  Compared to Greg now, I’m the able one.  I had to figure out how to do things that he had done before, somehow. I still haven’t gotten the trash cans out for our trash pickup.  That’s for tomorrow night!

Then, there were the dietary changes.  We already ate mostly low sodium meals, and we did monitor fat content, but suddenly, all of that became more critical.  In addition, I soon learned that our vegetables were all “high” for Vitamin K, and as a result, needed to be restricted as much as the sodium or fat content.  In fact, it was perhaps more critical for the short term because it directly and immediately  interferes with the blood thinner.  Now, grocery shopping was a huge undertaking, as was meal preparation.  I’m a very skilled cook, but this was a new facet and I found myself seeking out recipes online that would serve as starting points to create the foods that we could enjoy eating.

Greg isn’t “out of the woods” as the saying goes.  He’s still adapting, and there are concerns about his physical well being.  Even more important, is the non-physical aspects of his recovery.  He seems to have lost the optimism that always was his trademark.  His temper is often on a hair trigger, and inanimate objects seem unusually capable of causing a melt down.  His chivalry is assaulted daily, as I struggle to do things like carry in groceries, laundry, or whatever physical task I’m tackling.  I have to argue with him, and it isn’t a quick argument, since I have to break it down into smaller steps, usually requiring many trips rather than one or two.

It isn’t possible for him to reasonably help with daily routine activities.  He’s exhausted by the simple things, like walking from the house to the car.  He doesn’t want to go anywhere, perhaps because of the exhaustion that the trip would result in.  Last week, we had a relatively simple appointment to keep, which required an extensive wait in a reception area.  We followed it with a short stop at a small grocery store.  The result was he was so exhausted that his speech was slurred and he staggered as he walked from the car to the house.  It’s as though his brain starts shutting down too, and he then becomes quite childlike at that time.

For those who know Greg, that’s a shocking change in personality.  As his wife, I find it more than merely shocking, it’s horrifying.

I had talked to his cardiologists assistant last week about his medications and expressed some concerns about his physical well being, particularly the level of exhaustion that was resulting from even below the approved level of activity.  (His restrictions were to walk around the house, short store trips, and to lift nothing over 25 lbs.)  We haven’t tested his lifting ability–it’s pointless when the house walking exhausts him.  Sitting in his chair at his desk exhausts him, and where he used to work for hours there, now, he is forced to retreat to bed, where he can recline and use his laptop.  The assistant said it could be adjusting to the medications, but to continue monitoring his activities and responses.

Some things, I know are exhausting.  Showers and baths, once accomplished so easily, are always difficult when confronted with physical disabilities.  In my own case, I know that I can’t jump out of bed, into the shower, and then run off to a long day of driving, shopping, and appointments.  Once I considered that normal, even desirable.  Now, I’d be in trouble at the jumping out of bed portion.

Since I had my accident, I had not driven much, and avoided distances of any kind, usually just driving locally if I was “going solo.”  Now, I don’t feel Greg is up to driving himself, because the exhaustion is as hazardous as being impaired by medications.  I know which medications I use that cause me to be less attentive than usual, and on the days when I drive, I don’t take them.  Granted, this results in some discomfort, and I do have alternatives to help take that discomfort down a notch, such as a very expensive topical NSAID my doctor prescribes for me to use.  I do the driving, and the used SUV we bought last year has features I need to make driving safer and easier for me, such as most of the controls in the steering wheel, good visibility, easy access in and out, and easy to operate doors.  I’m very glad that I annoyed the car salesman that day with my insistence that I tried every single door, got into the back seat, laid down the back seat, put it back up, tried the hatch several times, and then did a test drive to check the visibility and ease of operation.  I was having a hard time with our wheezy old mini-van, with everything from visibility to getting into it, and found the back doors and hatch almost impossible to manage.  While we still have the van, it hasn’t been anywhere in a while, and I have no intentions of trying to drive it now.  It’s sort of a “back up plan” more than a used vehicle now, especially with Greg out of commission.

Our lives have changed.  I’m not going to say for the worse, because change doesn’t always come down to good or bad, and trying to decide that while you are still adjusting is just not the brightest idea.  We’re having to learn how to ask for help.  Nobody likes to do that, especially when they have a lifetime of self-sufficiency behind them.  Now, we’re struggling with everything from financial difficulties to difficulties doing yard work, house work, and repairs on the house.

Usually, when our son in law and daughter come to visit, we’re at a loss for what to keep him busy–he’s somewhat hyper and becomes bored if we don’t have a project to complete.  Now, I have a list of things for the next visit, ranging from replacing a light fixture to some digging and trimming I need completed outside.  The real trick will be keeping Greg from trying to help, something that is apt to result in disaster right now.

I have to take a more active interest in everything from his medications to his activity levels now.  We had always had a somewhat independent view of each other, supporting each other but not interfering.  Now, I have to interfere and nag, and the nagging is something I really don’t like having to do.  I’m going to also have to take a more pushy attitude towards interacting with the doctors, including calling tomorrow to ask for an explanation for why he cannot do the walking he is supposed to be doing, and double checking the levels of his prescribed medication compared to that of what the assistant thought they were.

So yes, I have been busy.  I’ve also been scared and worried.  I’ve been concerned, and I’ve gone through every other emotion that a person can experience.  We’ve had to change everything from dreams  to hopes to our present reality from what it had been even a month ago.  We’re still adjusting.  At the same time, we’re still trying to keep doing the things we had always liked and enjoyed.

Greg missed one radio show (he hosts Voice of the People on Saturdays at 6 pm Central)  while he was in the hospital.  The first show after his release was the first Saturday he was home.  He intends to keep doing them too.  Yes, it did leave him exhausted.  Even so, I had beat him on exhaustion level, as I had planted 1 blueberry, 8 peppers, a rosemary plant and 2 tomatoes yesterday, as well as preparing two meals.  I’ll confess, after we ate dinner (after his show), I passed out trying to watch some program.  I  think it was something about ancient Alexandria.  I slept for two hours, and felt much better afterwards.  Of course, a late “nap” like this meant I had trouble going to bed, which then rippled out even further to a late start the next morning.

For now, its just a case of adapting to the things we can’t change.  It’s also a case of exploring the parameters of these new restrictions, and identifying permanent and temporary ones.  Maybe it is always a case of your point of perception.  I have decided that it isn’t so much a case of “can’ts” as it is a case of “how”?  It’s a new experience, and the things we learn can help expand our own world as well as be shared with others to help them escape things that can be so restrictive.

I love Greg, I want him to be as healthy as possible, I want him to live as long as possible, and I want to share the things that make us both happy with him.  We aren’t giving up dreaming, but we may adjust those dreams to deal with the people we are now and the ones we will become in the future.

Nobody enjoys lessons in humility, and perhaps that’s what we are now experiencing.


Turning back time

26 Feb

“Some people want to turn back their odometers, but not me.  I want everyone to know why I look like this, I traveled a long way, and some of the roads weren’t paved!”

I don’t know the author of that quote, but it appeared in my Facebook feed this morning.  I think it’s true.

Yeah, I look very little like the twenty-something I once was, and most days, I don’t even resemble the person I was even at 40-something.  That’s okay.  I even did one of those things that gauges our health and lifestyle to give us our true age.  It seems I’m going at ultra-high speed through life–I’m fifteen years older by their calculations than I really am.  Maybe that makes me a time traveler?  Or just high mileage?  More dirt roads than the average Joe or Jane?

I’m not perfect either.  The whole thing about our appearance, our age, and our life experience isn’t to end our lives looking as though we were never touched by our living it.  We cannot escape this life alive in our physical form.

I sure hope I don’t have to carry that worn out form as I continue my journey either!

I have had some wonderful experiences.  I’ve had some that plunged me to the depths of hell too.  I’ve felt betrayal, and I’ve felt immense gratitude.  Happiness, sadness, wonder, anger..I’ve tried all of the emotions on, more than once.  Some fit me better than others, I’ll admit.

I especially like contentment, happiness, and joy.  I wish they would hang around longer every time I get to try them out.

Another confession.  I don’t have a bucket list anymore.

I made one of those, back when I was young, angry, and optimistic.  I was eighteen.  It seems like a century ago now, and I’ve traveled a lot of miles.  I just discovered that I’ve done all of the things on that bucket list.  Now that doesn’t mean I’m done living.  There are plenty of things I still want to do, it’s just there is no more bucket list of them.

I still want to see the Atlantic.  I want to visit New England, and if I’m really lucky, it will be when I can see the changing leaves, to see if it’s any different from any other area’s changing of leaves as fall swallows up summer.  If I don’t make it then, well, the other three seasons  have appeal too.

I want to take my granddaughter on a road trip/camping trip, along with Greg too, of course.  I want to watch her experience the joy of slow travel, random stops, and brand new things.  I love seeing her face light up with pleasure, to be honest.  She is a little too young to enjoy it yet, but soon she’ll be old enough.  Nothing beats the joy of a child’s face as they discover something new.

I still want to see a moose, in the wild.  From an appropriate distance, of course.  I spent two weeks once in active pursuit of one.  I followed every local lead as to where they “always” could be found.  Never saw one.  I’m half convinced they are surely fictional, because I’ve never been able to prove their existence.

I’d like to try off shore fishing once.  I have a bit of a boat phobia, I’m afraid.  I’ve managed to conquer it, by and large, but…I still haven’t done that.  I’ll admit, I’m a bit afraid of it. What if I hate it, am miserable, and ruin the trip for my companions?

There are so many things I still want to do.  I’m not done.  I’m not too old and worn out by a long shot.

Today, the glow I felt from my novel being released on Kindle has faded.  Now, that little green guy is up on my shoulder having a field day with feeding my self-doubts.  The little green guy is sure everyone is going to hate it, and that I’m going to be tarred and feathered for writing it.

I tried telling him that tar and feathers are out of  style, forgotten like hoop skirts and corsets, but he isn’t buying it.

That little green guy, I call him Fear, sits on my shoulder and whispers in my ear all of the time.  He’s been there my whole life.  When I was younger, I listened to him more.  I was often afraid to try things that were too far from the  norm or that weren’t socially acceptable.  Maybe that’s part of being  young, that Fear can control you more.  As I’ve gotten older, he’s had less influence.  Maybe because I have faced my worst fear, and realized that I could survive even that.  Since that Worst Fear was conquered, after a fashion, how much can just plain little green guy  named Fear really influence me?  Now he’s like a cranky old friend, whispering into my ear, but half the time I just laugh at him and go on doing what I wanted to do.  Sometimes, his warnings make sense, and that’s when I should pay attention.  Other times, he’s just afraid of things becoming uncomfortable for him.

Yes, I talk to him sometimes.  Does that make me crazy?  Heck, compared to the Ladies of Fate, the little green guy named Fear riding on my shoulder is mild stuff.  Even HE is afraid of what the Ladies of Fate can do.  Surely, I’m not really crazy…everybody needs a few imaginary friends traveling through life with them, don’t they?  They provide me with entertainment, advice, trials and tribulations, and once in a while, a real thrill.

But, I don’t want to turn back time.  I’ve had a really interesting life so far, and I’m anticipating more.  Who’d want to risk ruining that?


Holidays and health for me

29 Dec

Well, the holiday season means sharing experiences with family and friends.  I’ve had a wonderful Christmas holiday, and have a couple more holidays approaching rapidly.  Greg and I are very happy in our little house.

That doesn’t mean that everything is wonderful and easy though.  I’ve had a couple of weeks of headaches that have grown steadily worse.  I have an appointment to see my doctor next week, which is unfortunately also very over due.  I’ve had a few other symptoms appearing lately as well, and while they could be side effects of medication or related to known health issues, they could be something else entirely.  It’s time to consider the possibility of changing my current medications, perhaps.

Today, it’s been kicking my butt.  “Out of Commission” is my sign, apparently.  With a bit of luck, I’ll be back in fair form in a day or two.  Who knows, maybe I’ve just got a sinus headache aggravated by our cold, wet weather.

The world’s greatest psychic

6 Nov

I know the world’s greatest psychic medium.

She knows everything, or used to.  For some reason, her amazing powers have diminished with age.  Maybe it’s reduced desire or need that has caused her powers to begin to withdraw from the heavy duty work she saw in the 60s and 70s.  She was amazingly accurate most of the time.

Even so, few people have heard of her.

She was my mother.

Well, she still IS my mom.  She’s just not as busily psychic and being mom as she used to be.

Do I have proof of her abilities?

Of course not.  Like anybody documents the stuff their mom says!

Things my mom said that came true:

  • Someday, you won’t want to help me anymore.  Yep, she was right.  Someday, I was going to have other things I considered more important than helping her with housework or cooking dinner.
  • Someday, you are going to grow up.  This one was true too, but she forgot the growing “out” part.  Why didn’t she predict I’d have a slim waistline and never have to worry about it?
  • You are going to get hurt if you keep doing that.  Oh, I can’t count the times that she was right on this one.  I have scars on the top of my head from a rake colliding with my head after I had the idea of hanging it in the tree.  I have assorted scars and aches and pains from other occasions when she was right too.  She really called this one.
  • You are going to have a daughter who gives you ten times what you gave me.  Oh, why couldn’t she have cursed me with a docile and obedient daughter who was good looking, smart, neat, well mannered, and socially adept too?  That perfect child like all my friends supposedly had…instead of a blond headed little firecracker who knew what she wanted and would figure out how to get it.  Then again, I’d have missed the opportunity to be loved by that blond headed firecracker too.  Even so, I have plenty of gray hair to attest to that ten fold remark.
  • One day, we’re going to have a black president.  She was right here too, but it wasn’t because she voted for him.  At least I don’t think so.  Maybe she did?  I’ll never know for sure, now will I?

Some of her predictions haven’t come true…yet.  Things like:

  • We’ll have a woman as president.  We have only had a few even run as vice presidential candidates, and the only serious contender for the president was Hillary Clinton.  Personally, I doubt she is going to run again, but…I think she was a capable person who would have likely done a good job.  After all, she had the rare opportunity to do eight years of back seat driving, now didn’t she?  I’d probably vote for her too.  On the other hand, the vice president add-ons that were women weren’t that impressive.  I can’t remember even what Geraldine Ferraro looked like.  I didn’t even realize she had passed away in 2011 until I looked her up online.  Sarah Palin…well, I’m not a conservative of that flavor.  I wasn’t enthusiastic, to say the least.  I honestly thought John McCain made a critical error in choosing her as a running mate.  I still think so.  The media turned Palin into a clown, and he was her puppet as the campaign progressed.  I have no idea who the next woman candidate would possibly be–no one has emerged in the political news that has caught my attention as a “oh yeah I can vote for her” kind of candidate.  Like a lot of people, while I’d love to have a feminine president, I’m not willing to vote for anyone wearing a skirt to make that happen.  It’s got to be someone who can do the job.
  • We’ll have a colony on the moon and Mars.  We’re a long ways from this one.  We’ve not been to the moon in decades, and never have sent a man to Mars.  I’m not so confident about this one.  We may likely have a woman president before this happens.
  • There will be another world war, and we’ll be in it.  This is one that I hope she was wrong about.  Really wrong.  I’m going to work towards having peace and making her wrong.  No one in their right mind wants this one to be correct.

Moms.  They are all the world’s greatest psychics, but what makes a great psychic?  In my case, it was the fact that my mother usually found out about any shenanigans I’d been involved in pretty fast.  Sometimes before I got home, other times before the following school day ended, and she knew.  Then, there was the consequences to face.  I think the worst one was when she was disappointed in me.  I still do.

I consider myself lucky to have my mother.  I love her, I admire her, and I think of her as my friend.  She’s known me all my life, after all.  No matter what I do, she still loves me, even when she’s upset at my choices.  We disagree on a lot of things, and agree on a lot of other things.  Often, we merely agree to disagree, and leave the topic alone.  Some sleeping dogs are best left that way, it seems.  She’s not  young anymore, and it’s just as hard to accept that as it is to realize that I am also “ever so much more than twenty.”  Heck, even my own daughter is now “ever so much more than twenty.”  I’m a grandma, and my mother is a great grandma four times over, with three great granddaughters and one great grandson.

I’ve learned over time.  When I was angry because of the decisions that she made that weren’t the right ones, she still was trying to make the best decision she could with the information that she had available to her at the time.  None of her decisions were made because she didn’t care, ever.  I learned this by walking in those same shoes, and making decisions that maybe weren’t the best ones, but they were the best ones I could make with the available information.  I learned that some of the things she chose weren’t because she didn’t believe in me, but rather that she couldn’t believe that other people would betray either her or me in that situation.

I couldn’t learn these things without being a mom myself.  For some perverse reason, it was one of those things that there is no class to take, no book to read, no list of rules to follow.  You have to do it the hard way.  No kid arrives with an owner’s manual, and they are all different models.  They usually have entirely different operating systems too.  You wing it, learning as  you go.  You do the best as you can, worry a lot, cry some, laugh some, and sometimes, you are as proud and thrilled as can be.

Not even the greatest psychic in the world could have predicted that I’d lose a child myself.  She couldn’t give me an owner’s manual on how to cope with the grief and guilt and sorrow and everything else that floods you while you are grieving.  She did prepare me to cope with what life sent my way as best as she could though, and was always there to share the pain and joy alike.

I had my day as the world’s greatest psychic too.  I don’t think I made as ,many momentous predictions as my mother did.  I know I did repeat the ten fold one though, and guess what?  I’m the grandmother to a little blond haired toddler that shows signs of being a firecracker too.  She reminds me a lot of the uncle she never got to meet as well, with her ability to love so unconditionally, without prejudice or reservation.  I love that little girl to death, and I put my flour out of reach.  I still remember how far her uncle could spread a few cups of flour through a kitchen…vividly.  The vegetable oil is up too.  I remember having to figure out how to clean up a few GALLONS of accidentally spilled vegetable oil off of a kitchen floor.  (Spread newspapers over the mess, soak it up, bag the papers, and repeat.  When it’s no longer slippery with oil, lay another layer of paper on the floor and leave it there for several hours before scrubbing the floor with soap and water.  Voila!  It’s all gone!)  Crayons are kept on top of the refrigerator, and issued one at a time.  I didn’t need to remember this one, she’s illustrated her imagination at home a few times.  I’m too old to make a toddler stand and scrub it all off of the wall while crying these days.  Besides, I’m the grandma now, I get to say things like “that’s okay honey.”  i can let her have cake for breakfast too…even if she only eats the frosting off of the top.  I don’t have to be responsible anymore.  That is what parents are for!

And it’s her mom’s turn to become the world’s greatest psychic.

What can you say?

10 Oct

Today is my brother’s birthday.  Unfortunately, it’s also the anniversary of my father’s death, which really probably puts a damper on my brother’s celebrations.  It also happens to be a milestone birthday this year for him.

He’s reached the big Five Oh, as they say.  I remember when thirty was practically retirement age, at least in my opinion.  Forty was really ancient, and fifty, well…you were just occupying space until you died.  After all, what could you do when you were half a century old?

Little did I know then, right?

You can do a lot after fifty.  Most of the nation’s population is now at that age, and we’re doing a lot of stuff.  We hike, bike, backpack, tour, write, read, make movies, do business, create, innovate, and a lot of other things.  I’m now suspicious of those without a few gray hairs, because after all, what can someone without a bit of experience under their belt possibly have to offer me?

What can you say?

It seems I suffer from prejudices.  Pretty arrogant of me to not want to admit it too, actually.  It takes a two year old, or rather an almost-two-year old, to remind me of the things that youth has to teach us.

Like in the purely sensual pleasure of taking a mini cupcake frosted with luridly colored “buttercream” (it actually contains no butter and way too many chemicals to possibly pronounce) and licking it with a rapidly flicking tongue as though you were a lizard is pure delight.  You don’t notice the greasy texture of the frosting, but your tongue will positively spasm with delight at the sweetness.  It takes a good fifteen minutes to enjoy that tiny bit of frosting that way, compared to the two bite “adult” way of eating a mini cupcake.  Then, you still have the cake to enjoy too.

You don’t have to worry about what to say then either.  She isn’t into verbalization much, it’s all about sound, facial expression, and tactile expression.  Jabber a bit, laugh a lot, smile more, and give hugs and kisses with total spontaneity, and hey…life is good.

What can you say about that?

Grief.  There are no words to ease that pain.  I know that, I’ve been there.  I’ve mourned a lot of people, from childhood friends to my son, to my father and all of my grandparents and great grandparents.  Aunts and uncles, cousins, co-workers, acquaintances…I’ve lost them too.  It hurts, and it’s different each time.  With the intensity of the grief, people are under the misconception that it gets better over time.

Hogwash, total hogwash.

About all I can say about it is that you get used to it.  It’s like a scar, it’s always there, you never forget it is there, and it never goes away.  You just get used to looking in the mirror and seeing it.  When my son died, it felt as though I had this massive hole through the very center of my being, and part of me was shocked that the sun still shone, the birds still sang, and I still breathed.  How could that be, when my world had ceased to be?

Now, it’s been over ten years.  Longer than I got to have him, I have grieved for him.  I still feel tears well up sometimes when I think about it, and we still talk about him, as well as talk about “That Day.”  I still will cry, and I still remember him, every day, not just on the anniversary of his death or his birthday.  I still miss him.  We still laugh about some of the things he did, as well as some of his idiosyncrasies, and that’s good too.

I grieve for my father too.  Not in the same way, for we know from childhood that our parents are probably going to die before we do and that we’ll have to grieve for them then.  Part of my grief with my father is over our rocky relationship, which we had managed to repair in the last years of his life.  I grieve for the fact that there were so many missed opportunities, so much more that the relationship could have been, if only things had been different.

Grief comes with guilt too.  You second guess yourself, you wonder what you could have done different over time, if you could have changed some of the worst parts of the relationship in some positive manner if you had been that perfect person we all strive to be.  That’s normal too.

But it’s also normal to be normal and not that perfect person.  I think the perfect person, the one that I hold as a mental image of who I’d like to be, would scare me half to death.  Who could be that calm, that rational, that loving and considerate, and not have angel wings and a halo?  Most of us don’t interact daily with angels, and if I suddenly became one…well, I’m not sure anyone would see me or even admit that they had seen me.

Come on, what would you say if you saw an “angel” walking down the street or shopping in the local store?  What could you say that didn’t have your family wanting to lock you up?

That doesn’t mean we should quit striving for the impossible goal of becoming that perfect person we’re striving towards though.  I may not be an angel, but sometimes, you don’t have to be perfect, don’t have to have a halo, and you don’t need angel wings to make a difference to someone else.  Angels come in many forms, you know.   Sometimes, they are a middle aged woman bringing groceries to a single mother who is struggling to feed her children.  It might be coats for someone who can’t afford to buy coats that actually fit their kids.  It might be stopping to help someone change a tire on a summer Sunday morning, getting dirty and making yourself late for church in the process.  It might be helping a neighbor move in or out.  It might be giving some bread to a man standing on a corner begging, or to a young homeless couple that is probably addicted to drugs.  It might be helping an old woman get her groceries from her car to her door.  It might be hiring a guy who has been looking for a job so long that he has nearly given up daring to hope that his application will ever get any attention.

All it takes is to care actually.  To do more than merely go through the motions.  Sometimes it means not only doing the letter of our “job” in the course of the day, but actually putting real effort into it, going an extra inch or two to help someone.  Other times, it cuts into our “play” time, or means giving up something that we’d rather be doing in order to make someone else’s journey a little bit easier.  Other times, it may be as simple as reaching into the groceries that you just bought, and taking out the bread you don’t really need…and handing it to someone outside the store that does need it.  Another day, it might mean that you simply do your best to solve your own problems.

Sometimes, it is also a case of minding your own business instead.  That is especially the case with gossip.  Too often, gossip is mostly fiction, but presented in a manner that makes it sound perfectly plausible.  It may seem innocent, but the problem is…it can seriously damage someone’s life and cause them a great deal of problems, all for something they never did or said.  It can lead to real financial hardship on occasion as well.  I know in my own case, I was once upon a time merely amused about gossip about me, never realizing the damage it was doing and would continue to do even years later.  (Gossip had my life far more interesting than reality ever was!)  Ultimately, it almost cost me my job, and had repercussions that pursued me for over a decade, and the truth is…none of it was even based on truth.  I was judged guilty, plus never had the “fun” of committing the acts!

What can you say?  Your mother was right.  If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.  If you don’t know that it is true, don’t repeat it.  In addition, sometimes, things aren’t exactly what they appear to be.  Be kind.  Be considerate.  Try walking in the other person’s shoes.

If all else fails, along with words, there is always the option of opting for non-verbal communication too.  And no, I don’t mean giving someone “the finger”, but rather a smile.  Don’t wait for Washington to bring us change, be the change yourself and be the change.

It takes something, someone, some act to be the catalyst for change.  It can be you.

New season, new phases…

17 Sep

It’s September, and this summer has practically passed in a flash of mosquito bites and sweat.

Not that the day-to-day portion seemed to go that fast, but we were frantically busy between family and house hunting, and now, it’s fall and we’re frantically busy finishing moving.

We found a house!

In all of Mississippi, I never anticipated the woes we had in finding a house for our budget.  We saw some absolute wrecks that I couldn’t believe that anyone, let alone a real estate agent, was calling a “house.”  Ruins were sometimes a term that was overly optimistic about some of them.  We also encountered some less than wonderful agents along the way, but…not all of them were slimy snakes-in-the-grass.  Some were some genuinely NICE people who were really trying to help us find a house that we could live with, whether it was one they were selling or not.

So, we’re now the proud owners of a small house in Laurel, Mississippi…a town I’d never visited before we looked at the house.  We’d always just driven THROUGH Laurel, never stopping except for a horrible experience at a Huddle House.  It was my first, and likely last, “dining” experience at a Huddle House.  (We never saw the waitress after she delivered an appetizer we’d ordered, nor got a second cup of coffee.  NOBODY in that place would even look at us, once they realized we were waving and wanting something!)

I like it, so far, and since it’s a permanent relocation…we better continue liking it.  Liking it doesn’t have anything to do with the problems we’ve encountered.  They also don’t have anything to do with the location.

It started with trouble finding an insurance company, a problem that plagues many in the South.  Insurance was high when we finally did, a problem caused by the age of the house, as well as the potential for wind damage from both hurricanes and tornadoes.  Next, it was a refrigerator that came with the house still containing food…and the plug had come out of the wall some time between our tour of the house and the closing.  The aroma was something that no one wants to smell, and it brought back not-so-fond memories of those first few weeks home to Greater New Orleans after Katrina to me.

The refrigerator situation was awful.  I couldn’t even walk into the kitchen, let alone think about how we were going to get it out.  We didn’t know a soul in Laurel, and this was a HUGE old side-by-side refrigerator.  (I’d seen smaller compact cars, I’m sure!)  How could we get rid of it?  The smell in the house was so bad there was no way to just work around it until we had help.

An angel appeared in the guise of a man who was stopping by to give someone else an estimate for some work on the house.  Out of the blue, I asked him if he would be interested in an old refrigerator.  He asked if he could see it.  I obligingly led him through the chaotic house (it was bought from an estate and came complete with a lot of junk) to the kitchen.  There it stood, in all of its burnt brown glory, in the center of a massive puddle of stinking goo with mold floating on top.  I couldn’t even enter the room, but he bravely marched up to the front of it.  I quaked in fear that he would ignore my rule that he was NOT to open the doors, but the man turned to me and said,

“How much?”

I couldn’t believe it…couldn’t he SMELL that stench?

I calmly responded with a smile, “If you come get it before 5 pm, you can have it.”

He nodded and headed out the door, telling me he’d be back with a truck and some help.  In about fifteen minutes, our angel had returned, with a truck and two men to help him.  I repeated the do not open the door rule, and they went trooping in after Greg to retrieve his prize.

Now the angel we’d made the bargain with repeated the don’t open the door rule to the two men with him, but there is one in every crowd, that guy who just can’t resist defying a “don’t” with an “I’m going to do it anyhow.”  There was one with him too, and the smell amplified so intensely that I had to evacuate the opposite side of the house for the outdoors to escape the stench.  It was so thick, I would have sworn it was colored green and could be cut with a knife!

There was some discussion as they wondered whether the compressor was bad, and I became afraid that they’d opt to NOT take the refrigerator.  I had $5 in my pocket, and I handed it to Greg, telling him to tell them the money was for their gas if they’d take it as-is and not bring it back.  They’d win, whether it worked or not, and I’d be rid of the foul smelling thing.  They hauled it out of the house, thinking they had a great bargain, and I was equally sure that I had a great bargain at getting rid of it without Greg & I killing ourselves with something too large and too heavy for us to handle.  (Not to mention the smell was sure to result in me being very sick.)  Problem solved, total cost of only five bucks, right?

No air conditioning was another problem, and we had the attic fan running and every window we could unstick open to help air out the smell.  The refrigerator was barely gone when the cable guy arrived to install our internet connection.  Poor guy had just eaten lunch, but he bravely entered where few utility men would dare to go while Greg was cleaning up the puddle of moldy ooze mess in the kitchen.  We gave him a model airplane and a talking fish for his agreeable nature.  (We had no need of either one!)  He was thrilled, and I was thrilled that we had one more thing accomplished with the house.

It was hot, we were tired, and the entire situation was overwhelming, so we opted to call it a day and head to our daughter’s house for a shower and rest.  We did that for a few more days before deciding that ready or not, we were going to have to start camping in the house.  The big thing was the window air conditioner…it was the end of the season, and the selection was less-than-wonderful at the local retailers.  We knew what size we needed and we knew we wanted an Energy Star model, but there were none to be had, resulting in me ordering it from Sears, with delivery in Hattiesburg.

Of course, that interrupted our day, but with the women heading to pick up the air conditioner, the men doing what men do…we managed.  Installation didn’t happen that day, but soon…it was in place, and the temperatures went from suffering sauna to tolerable cool.  With that addition, it was possible to stay the night in the house.  We could really get to work then, without the expense and time of commuting over two hours a day.  Paint is a first step, followed by trying to get things ready to actually move in.  Lots of cleaning–buying it as is saved us money, but meant a lot more work.

We had chosen a date to do the deed, but then…the Ladies of Fate looked down on us and cackled.

Hurricane Isaac was coming to call.  The trucks were being moved away from the coast, and we were running out of time.  The big move was postponed, with just a single load coming on a small trailer behind our Trail Blazer.  Everything else, including our mini van, was staying behind to weather Hurricane Isaac.

Now Isaac wasn’t a big storm, and Mississippi wasn’t it’s target for landfall, but we did live just outside of Pascagoula, where the storm dumped incredible amounts of rain.  That meant flooding, not only from storm surge itself, but from the rain that had no where to go.  We’re assuming it didn’t invade the storage unit, and we know it didn’t bother the mini van or the travel trailer–it only got about six inches deep there.  But still, there was a delay, and now we had to wait until the ground dried out enough to get a truck in to pull the travel trailer out without bogging down in muddy, saturated soil.

Another day was selected, reservations made, and away we went again.  Greg went down to pack up things and bring back some items with him.  He had the trailer again, hitched behind the Trail Blazer.  It took him longer than planned, leaving me stranded afoot in Laurel, with little in walking distance.  Finally, after three days, he was on his way home again, only to call me at about two in the morning.

“I’m broke down,” he said, giving me his approximate location.

I half heartedly hoped he was joking to get a rise out of me, but that wasn’t the case.  A sensor had apparently gone out, leaving the Trail Blazer running but refusing to accelerate beyond an idle.  He called AAA, and we discovered I had purchased the wrong plan…the plan without towing included.  Well, it had three miles of towing, but he was about forty miles from home…with a trailer hitched behind the vehicle.  Thankfully, someone responded eventually–AAA’s service was less-than-stellar in this case, which was much different than previous occasions we had dealt with them during a roadside emergency.  Three hours later, a tow truck arrived, and he was home before dawn.    Greg was hot, tired, and hungry–it had been an unexpectedly long night for him.  I wasn’t exactly thrilled either–it’s not like I could just sleep peacefully while knowing he was stranded in the middle of nowhere waiting for a tow truck!

With the trailer and SUV parked in the middle of the front yard (the only place the tow truck could deposit it) we tried to get some sleep.  The phone started ringing though, and as I was dealing with the calls, I also had dogs that wanted out.  Much to my surprise, it had begun drizzling.  That meant hopes for sleeping in a bit were dashed–the tarp over the trailer was not going to protect anything in a serious rain.  We couldn’t move the trailer into the carport by hand, and we had no running vehicle to use to do it either.  That meant unloading the boxes and stacking them in the car port.  We still have to deal with that stuff, and we have a truckload arriving in two days.

YAY, right?

We’re stranded without a functional vehicle, we need to find out which sensor did the dirty deed and get a new one, then install it.  We also have to be on the coast on Wednesday morning to finish the move.

Thank goodness for daughters, right?

She’s our designated taxi cab for Wednesday morning.  She’ll make the hour drive, come pick us up, then drive the two hours to the coast where we’ll get the truck and pick up the van, giving us transportation again so we can fix the SUV.  That’s the plan anyhow, but we have yet to see how that plan will work out in the end.  It seems that Murphy’s Laws are applying to each and every step we take during this move.

Back at the ranch…we’ve been working on yard and house, a bit at a time.  I’ve discovered that I can’t do a lot of things nearly as fast as I used to.  I’ve learned that I have to ask for help more often and not push myself the way I did when I was younger, stronger, and more agile.  I’ve remembered the joy of a hot tub of water laced with epsom salts too.  (It helps a lot with sore muscles and assorted aches & pains!)  The four steps up into the house have proven to be more than I was used to climbing a gazillion times a day, it seems.

We’re not done, not by a long ways, and we’re not moved in either.  We’re merely in transition, as they say.  We have a lot to do, and we run out of hours to do it in.  We have a lot going on, and a lot of problems to solve.

But that is life, isn’t it?

The Big C word

3 Feb

It’s no secret, I hit the big five oh in 2011.  I’m officially an antique now.  What I hadn’t anticipated along the way was some other things.

First, there were my own health problems cropping up.  While not life threatening directly, they have delivered pain by the buckets sometimes.  Other times, like the hypertension, they are silent, and the medication should (hopefully soon!) have it under control.

Then, there were friends.  Today, I found out that a very dear friend, one who I always felt I could pick up the phone and call to share my woes, worries, hopes, and projects with…has the Big C.  Breast Cancer.

I’m devastated.

I cry for her, for the trials she faces as she endures the chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.  I cry for the energy and attention that it will demand from her and those who live with her as she works to heal and recover.  I’m grieving for her, even though I know it won’t help her one iota on this very rocky journey.

I know she’s a positive person, I know she’ll face this battle as she has faced each and every battle in her life, with quiet fortitude, a smile, and complete modesty.  She doesn’t think she’s tough, but to me, she’s a hero, and always has been.  She might be smaller and younger, but I have always looked up to her.  In a lot of ways, she has characteristics that I wish I did.  I also know she’d probably deny that, and claim that I had characteristics that she wished SHE did.  She’s like that.  She finds the best in almost everyone.  You have to really WORK to get animosity out of her directed towards you, she’s ever so much nicer than I am.

I adore her.

The funny thing is…we have never met in person.  She lives far away from anywhere I have ever lived, although I have visited not too far from the place she calls home.  We met a very long time ago in a chat room, and became friends from there.  Even without that face-to-face meeting, she’s still in my “Top Ten” people of the world.  We’ve had many cups of coffee together, we’ve cried over our kids together, and we’ve laughed over them too.

We’ve faced some tough things as we have talked over the years.  Grief, divorce, alcoholism, physical pain, attempted suicide, assault, betrayal, financial set backs, vehicular disasters, computer melt downs, strokes, hospitals, schools, dreams, and nightmares have all been the subject of “what is happening with me right now.”  Sometimes it was one of us, sometimes it was someone in our families, and sometimes it was someone close to us.

We’ve watched each other grow and become someone entirely new from the shy, small town women we once were.  It took years for our transition, but we are both just beginning to become what we could have been all along.

Cancer isn’t fair, did you notice that?

At the same time, it’s made me feel incredibly small and petty.  I think about the days I’ve sat and literally cried, thinking I cannot do this for another day, and I realize…I had a very small burden to carry.  It’s just pain, it’s not who I am, really.  It’s not even fatal, it just hurts.  So what if I can’t do much today…or tomorrow.  I have the day after that.

With cancer, you suddenly are faced with your own mortality.  Even worse, perhaps, is facing the mortality and frail nature of our loved ones.  Having lost someone important to me, in my case, a young son, I already know something.

It’s harder to be left behind.  It’s hard to pick up the pieces and keep on trudging down that path, suddenly with an empty spot alongside of you.  You want to quit.  You want to just sit down and cry until it’s done, until you too can go and quit trying to do this.  Living isn’t easy.  You also feel guilty because you are living.  After all, what did  you do to deserve this?

I feel guilty because I’m not the one facing the Big C.  It’s not fair that someone who is so wonderful should have to.  I’m not wonderful, I’m a continually struggling person who seeks wisdom and grace, and always falls short of the mark I have in sight.  I haven’t always been the best person I could have been.

Sometimes, our friends are like a flashlight.  They might not always be turned on and lighting up the world, but when you need them, they are there.

All I can say is that I hope my tears make it easier for her to slide through treatment and come out on the other side, as strong and delightful as she was when she started this journey.  I wish I lived close enough to bring her casseroles when she didn’t feel well enough to cook, and to hold her hand when she needed it.  I don’t, but my thoughts will still be with her.  The telephone and the computer will stay as our link, and I’ll pray for her in my own way.

Please get well soon, my friend.  The world needs your light too much right now.