26 December 2015

Sometimes when I write about me, it's really for others::Anxiety

I can really empathize with my friends and family who experience heightened anxiety.  Perhaps my own experiences will help others, in some way.  Sometimes, folks just need something they can relate to.

While I was listening to a friend the other day talk about the paralyzing anxiety she feels at times when she is least expecting it, I was reminded of the horrible anxiety and panic attacks that I suffered from throughout most of my life.  I've not felt it quite so much nor quite so often within these past few years, to that degree.  But starting in my midTeen years and lasting to my early forties, anxiety and panic lurked, loomed, seized me, and basically made my life pretty unpredictable.

Anxiety, fear, panic; those can be good preservation skills, protecting you from danger.  But when that anxiety begins to escalate and spin out of control, when it affects your ability to function; then it is passed the "pay attention" stage and can be debilitating.

My first experience with unbidden, unstoppable, out of my control panic that seemed to come completely out of the blue happened on my first day of tenth grade at a new school.  I was fairly sensitive as a child, but as an adolescent, I would become volatile at times and by the time I in neared sixteen, explosive rage would consume me.  I generally had pretty good control of it, that I wouldn't lash out and hit or scream others was remarkable because I certainly felt like it an amazing amount of time.  I think that not investigating those feelings in a safe place or way led to some other problems like overwhelming panic that implodes with little to no warning.

I totally freaked and lost my shit, on the school bus, at the end of the day.  It was alarming to me, to all the other students on the bus, and to my bus driver.  The level of the noise that triggered it was so bad that my bus driver pulled the bus over and parked on the side of the road.  Since the driver decided to assert and establish her domain on the bus by telling us that she would not move the bus until we all quieted down, the students' noise escalated, and I could feel myself getting dizzy, short of breath, sweating, and so I tried to get off the bus.  The bus driver blocked the way and I lost my shit.  Was it handled well?  No.  But the thing is, it was only a matter of time before the anxiety got the best of me.  If it wasn't that day, that incident, that bus driver, then it would have been some day, some incident, some body.

The next day, I could not make myself get back on the bus.  It felt horrible that I was having this reaction and I was miserable.  I went home, crying, and woke my father with my panicked sobs.  His reaction was to ask me if I wanted to be like my crazy aunt, who everybody knew was a hypochondriac, and that I best get control of myself right.NOW.

Over the next few years, I became hypersensitive to everything.  Sensory overload made me feel like I was aware of every.single.thing.  Every detail of every nanosecond bombarded me.  That's when I became aware that time is taffy, stretching and shrinking, but mostly streeeeetching.

In my twenties, shopping became a nightmare.  Too many options and choices would overwhelm me to the point I would flee and return to my apartment, shaken and feeling cowardly and bewildered.  In my thirties, I would awake in the grips of a physical panic attack, blood racing, mind revving, nerves jangling, unable to catch my breath.

That was an especially horrifying and frustrating time.  It was frustrating for me because I couldn't figure it out.  It was also frustrating because counselors would say that I must be worried about something and it was my mental state that brought about the physical state.  In actuality, I tried to explain but was often dismissed, it was my physical state that brought about the mental anxiety to match the physical anxiety.  Regardless of the chicken or the egg, I wanted it to end, or at least to understand it so that I could somehow figure out what to do to get thru it.

The secret?  Sometimes the only way out is thru.  I am not the first to have said that, but it certainly seems to be the case for panic attacks.  I had begun to fear the fear itself.  I would panic because I was panicking and that never seems to end well.  So instead of trying to stop it, get off the train barreling down the track; I'd reassure myself that this is not going to kill me and most everything that can happen during this moment is fixable.  I also learned not to care quite so much about not embarrassing others who were with me when it happened, because it's not about them, and they are the ones choosing to be embarrassed by something they have no control or ownership of.

For a time, thru my thirties, I took medication that was specifically aimed at reducing anxiety and panic.  I still do, tho the medication that I take now is not quite as strongly sedating.  I don't like that drugged feeling and that would actually cause me to be more anxious rather than less so.  I also stay away from highly addicted medications that are for acute panic attacks, like Xanax.  The thing with that is that the effect escalates quickly, peaks, and then drops just as suddenly.  Which then means that folks are more likely to feel they need it more often and that can be not only habit forming, but ineffective, and not the best way to cope with shit.

I also was receiving counseling.  Still do, most for maintenance and reality checks.  I've a complex set of disorders that require lots of self monitoring, which I manage pretty well.  But sometimes I need to make sure that something was an appropriate reaction or just to check in and have a more objective observation than my own.  I'm in my own head, so I can't exactly get out of it in quite the same way that someone who is outside of me can, ya know?

I learned a ton of coping skills that work for ME, because just like my experience with any one drug is going to be mine and not necessarily everyone else's, some coping mechanisms work for me that won't work quite as well for others.  And I learned what my triggers were more likely to be, so that I could prevent a building of anxiety by avoiding those triggers or limiting my exposure to them.

Sleep became a hugely important issue and diet and exercise also factor in as well.  Do I still get anxious?  Yes, of course.  Some anxiety is normal and to be without it means that I would be dulled and affectless which is not desirable at all.

The thing about this sort of anxiety that becomes panic is that it can happen for NO discernible reason what so ever.  That's the thing that most people don't seem to understand.  Chances are that you aren't choosing to panic, you aren't choosing to be anxious.  And it becomes extremely frustrating for you and those around you.  Your spouse might be completely puzzled and not get that if you could control this, you would.  Oh you so would.

I understand their confusion, because I felt that way too.  As a child, I had been raised to value logic and reason above intuition or feelings.  I was constantly told in a myriad of ways that being sensitive was a bad thing and that I needed to toughen up.  So I often ignored those things about myself, until they became so explosively overwhelming that they demanded my attention.  So I would ridicule myself in an attempt to make myself listen to reason and stop all that nonsense, what am I crying about anyway?  It's just noise, it's just a crowd, it's just this and that, it's only ...

But the truth is, sometimes, enough is enough is enough and this is just too much.  So the next time you're handed a straw, it might be enough to break your back.  So if you feel this approaching, sure, do what you can do to head it off.  But you might also be to the point where there is no building up, there is no approaching to sense; because you go from calm to being panicked in a nanosecond, much like a vehicle that goes from a stand still to 120 in one minute.  You're not meant to move so fast, and that can wear you out and break you down.

Being balanced in many ways allows me to function and flourish.  Find your balance range, in your ways.  It took me a looooooooooooong time, with more than a few setbacks, and lots of assistance to get to where I am now.  Your journey does not need to be nearly so long.  Resources are available, you can do this.  I have the utmost confidence in you.

19 December 2015

Winter Solstice~~I wish you well.

Lena in the Snow
David Garrabrants
Earlier, when I was writing the close to sixty holiday cards or thank you cards or condolences cards, I was thinking a lot about how our autumn has been, how are Decembers have been, how the winter season is for me personally, and how the past few years have been in general.

I also thought about cards that I love, which are usually blank inside.  One of my favorites became one of my mom's favorites.  It reminded her of me, as a little girl.  I had a coat much like this, and I used to twirl about in the falling snow. Mom felt the card should be called, "Christmas in Shohola", because that was the name of the tiny town in PA we lived near when I was about nine or so.

Let me share my take on winter and why I don't usually experience the depressed side of bipolar at a time when most people are struggling with melancholy.  Traditionally, winter is a time when the earth is dormant, trees are bare, most plants wither and die off, the harvest of both animal and vegetation is past, and life slows down for humans too.  Animals slumber and hibernate, passing time in deep sleep, their systems slowed to a point that allows them to live on their reserves, fats stored in their bodies.

It really is only within the more contemporary times that human's in developed countries continue with the same hustle and bustle as the rest of the year; in the past, we slowed our activity too.  Winter was a time to repair or replace tools and implements that we used throughout the rest of the year; a time for us to stay indoors as much as possible, out of the elements, focusing on activities that we may have put off until we would be more dormant too.

I grew up in Pennsylvania, where winters are cold and snow is the norm.  January marked the midyear for academic schedules.  Holiday rush was over, Thanksgiving and Christmas travel was behind us, and snow days could be counted on.

So when winter comes now, those months of January, February, and March, I expect to slow down.  I look forward to the time to rest, the time to allow my brain to breathe and my body to repair from all the damage stress has worn.  I know that the days will grow longer, yes, but so slowly that the dark seems to settle early in the day, late afternoon or early evening.  Dark signals me that it is time to rest, to slow, to sleep.  Coldness creeps in, and you may find me layered in short sleeves, long sleeves, jackets, or thermals.

I expect to be quieter, more reflective, less likely to schedule myself with lots of commitments and obligations.  Perhaps because I do expect an ebb in the pace of my life, I am less likely to fight the shift into stillness.  I seek the deep slumber that my body craves, not because I am depressed, but because this to me is the natural cycle that fits.

Not everyone has these options, I know.  But, I do.  So I take advantage of the ability to breathe, to be calm and still, to rest, to surround myself with peace and pleasantness.  To be.

16 December 2015

Birthday's & Deathdays

Happy birthday to my father, the first man of my life.  Yesterday, he completed his 69th year, having been born in 1946.  Dad, I hope your 70th year is frabjous, you deserve to enjoy each moment.

Also yesterday morning, my mother~in~law, Carolyn, died.  We'd been expecting this, so most of us had the time to be somewhat prepared.  She'd been home with us since last Tuesday.  There was such a hurry up and wait, start and stop, quiet calm and chaotic fervor all through the week that all of us are now slightly stunned, sorta tired, and a lil absent brained.

So it was a great idea to have written the obituary beforehand.  She had prearranged her funeral just months after her husband had died in October 1991.  There were only a few details to see too.  Welch's Funeral Home has an online book of memories and they've used the obit as I've written it.  It's slightly unconventional in form, but lives start with birth and end with death; and it's not about whether the readers need to all the details of the services immediately, it's about Carolyn and her life.

Here it is:

Minnie “Carolyn” Wolf, nee Sanders

On Tuesday 5th March 1935, a baby girl was born to Grover and Jenny Sanders {nee Hunt} here in the Starkville area. She was named after Jenny's twin sister, Minnie; but everyone would call the little girl “Carolyn”. An only child, Carolyn grew up on her parent's small diary farm, just west of Longview. She attended school near what is now known as the Longview Opry. In the 1940s, area schools consolidated and Carolyn finished her high school years at what is now the Greensboro Center.

Carolyn married Fred Wolf and moved to Macon, Mississippi. Their son, Jerry, was born in 1955. Daughter Barbara was born in 1957, completing their family. In 1960, they moved to McKee Street in Starkville and Carolyn lived there for over thirty years.

Over the years, Carolyn greeted seven grandchilden, five are Jerry's children and two are Barbara's. Along with welcoming future generations, Carolyn had to bid goodbye to some of the most important people in her life. In October 1991, her husband Fred died due to lung cancer at the early age of 56. This changed her life in a myriad of ways that she did not fathom at the time.

In 1998, Carolyn moved back to the homestead where she grew up, so that she could take care of her aging parents. Her son had retired from the military and returned with his family to the Longview area as well. Soon, Carolyn's daughter moved back to the homestead and rejoined the rest of the family. So Carolyn was able to be present for her mother and father, as well as her adult children and their children.

In 2003, Carolyn's father, Grover “Big Daddy” Sanders, died. Just two years later, Carolyn's mother, Mama Jenny, died as well. Grover was 98 and Jenny was 97. These losses were devastating for the entire family, Carolyn most of all.

As Carolyn's own health worsened, she became focused on how much she missed Fred, and her loving parents who were pillars throughout seventy years of her life. She loves her family, as it has expanded over the years. Carolyn is now eighty, with two children, seven grandchildren, thirteen great grandchildren, and her first great great grandchild is on the way.

On Tuesday 15 December, Carolyn died at home, surrounded by the soothing, peaceful love of her family. Now, Carolyn has gone to rejoin her Fred, Big Daddy, and Mama Jenny. Visitation, followed by the services will be held at Welch's Funeral Home, beginning at 11a on Thursday 17 December. Carolyn will be interred at Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church's cemetery, next to Fred, near her parents. She will be missed.

13 December 2015

Dying, Death, and Respecting Final Wishes

It's been a few weeks, but they have not been unnoteworthy.  Mid~December is upon us and we're barreling to the end of the year rather quickly.  In many ways, it doesn't feel like December, certainly not as far as the weather is concerned anyway.  At seventy degrees outdoors and oh so much warmer indoors {we were using the oven as well as forgetting to turn off the heaters}, I felt as tho these past few days were a lil too unseasonable for my taste.  The ACs been on for the last several days.  I hope it's the hurrah for the year.

But in other ways, this December feels appropriately dreary and mournful.  Jerry's first wife had died ten years ago ten days ago; and that's when we learned that Jerry's mother failed her partial barium test {this measures and gauges the swallow reaction to the various thicknesses of fluids}.  At first, Jerry felt that this was bad timing in general {not that he was saying that his mother could have picked at better time, she couldn't have, because she didn't choose to stop swallowing, ya know?}.  But I felt a bit differently and when I explained to him my perspective, he thought that made some sense.

Last year, my mother died on December fifth; and lots of folks said about it being so hard for the holidays for those of us mourning her death.  I felt differently.  I felt like December is an entirely appropriate time for death to occur, because it is when the natural world in the northern hemisphere is lying dormant, having "died" for the year.  I felt like the dreary weather of damp, cool days and foggy nights was in keeping with my frame of mind.  I felt like it was suitable that the world around me was a reflection of my inner world.  It felt like it would have been wrong for June's warmth and sunniness and laughter and happiness to be when Mom died, so to me, it felt super appropriate that my mom died in December.

So this year, with the combination of two important women's deaths and another impending death of a woman who is loved by us both; what would be a better time for death to occur?  Dying is the process of death, and death is a necessary part of life.  Lots of folks tend to forget that death is inevitable and tend to prolong someone's misery well past the end of any meaningful quality of life for that person, so that that person is just existing for some one else's peace of mind or benefit.  That's pretty selfish, especially when that is NOT your own life but someone else's life you are messing about with.

Jerry's mother is dying.  We brought her home, to a calm loving environment where we can see to her comfort and focus on seeing that her wishes are respected and carried out.  We know that not everyone agrees with her do not resuscitate orders or her advanced directive that specifies her wishes.

We are also aware that many folks really are not very well educated on the process of dying and how smart the body is.  There is a reason that the body ceases swallowing when it does, and that is because the systems are shutting down so that stress is minimized.  Swallowing is associated with taking nutrition and processing that food and liquid is demanding, it puts a huge burden on the body and incorporates everything from the mouth to the anus.  All the stages of digestion, producing acids to breakdown food, and extracting the nutrients, and using them where they are needed and storing them, and eliminating the waste involves a huge expenditure of energy the body doesn't have the ability to produce because various systems are either malfunctioning, shutting down, or shifting into another stage due to the dying process.

If you feed someone who cannot swallow, you run the very high risk that they will aspirate that liquid or food into their lungs and that sets up infection, fever, and other demands the body is not capable of addressing at such a time.  You are putting that person thru great discomfort, pain, and anxiety in order for YOU to feel better about providing nourishment.  Feeding tubes are perhaps appropriate at certain times, but not so when a person is dying and in the end stages of life.  Again, the demands you are placing upon the body are enormous.

Carolyn is not capable of sustaining a feeding tube.  A few years ago, her aging body's inner tissues were slow to heal and infection would easily set in when she had an internal bleed such as a scratch on her esophageal sphincter during an endoscopy.  That scratch which was not a tear or leak, but a relatively minor scrape resulted in a two week hospital stay due to the slow healing time and the infection that developed.  A feeding tube that is inserted into her stomach via an incision in her trunk is more likely to be a greater danger, involving completely unnecessary stresses and demands on her body.

There are many other things that can be addressed, but the absolute bottom line is that Carolyn expressed her wishes to an attorney who drew up her advanced directive, and also discussed those wishes and concerns with several others, including my husband {her son} and myself {I was her caregiver for a few years}.  I urge YOU to discuss your own wishes with your loved ones, and be sure to clearly state your wishes in a living will or advanced directive.  Encourage your loved ones to do the same.  It eases the decision making process for you and your loved ones when that time comes, as it does for us all.

A few weeks ago, before this development with Carolyn, but after her health was already in swift decline, a distant family member had voiced to Jerry that he should make sure that I didn't arrange Carolyn's funeral, because "after all Debra didn't even have a funeral for her own mother".  I will do exactly the same thing for Carolyn as I did for my mom:  RESPECT THEIR WISHES.

My mother did not want the obituary, the viewing, the memorial service, the casket, the headstone, the burial, etc.  She opted for cremation, and counted on us to notify whom we wished, in whatever way we wanted to.  So that's what I did.

Carolyn prearranged most of her funeral details in 1992, months after her husband had died.  More recently, she discussed with me often what suit she wanted to wear, how she wanted to be arranged, that she wanted a viewing, memorial service in the funeral home, and a graveside service.  She discussed so many details that I have very little doubt that for her these things are of great importance.  So I will be sure that I do those things that she wants when the time comes.

In the meantime, we see that Carolyn is as comfortable as she can be.  She is bathed, lotioned, powdered, and her linens changed so that she has fresh sheets and night gowns next to her thin skin.  She is given appropriate medication via appropriate methods, so that her anxiety and pain are addressed.  She is soothed and comforted, with familiar music that she prefers, temperature that is not extreme, light that is not harsh, darkness that is restful, and a limit to any commotion that might be taxing and stressful for her.  Sometimes we talk to her, she doesn't respond verbally and sometimes doesn't do so at all~~but the auditory system is one of the very last things to shut down, because it is a receptive skill and not requiring a response.  Sometimes we give her quiet because that is what she seems to prefer at times, especially when deeply asleep.

So our main priority at this point is to see to her comfort.  Hospice is involved, so we can ask any questions, express any concerns, and seek assurances and advice.  We got this; we love her and feel that she deserves our love right through to the end.

AGAIN:  I urge YOU to discuss your own wishes with your loved ones, and be sure to clearly state your wishes in a living will or advanced directive.  Encourage your loved ones to do the same.  It eases the decision making process for you and your loved ones when that time comes, as it does for us all.

26 November 2015

Implements of Destruction, American Blind Justice, & the Group W Bench

"you can get any thing you want, at Alice's restaurant"  ~~ Arlo Guthrie

Several years ago, and by "several" I mean "twenty", I was a thousand miles from home, having just moved to Valdosta, Georgia and started working on a grad degree, and had a four day weekend which included Thanksgiving Thursday, Black Friday, and just the normal weekend of Saturday and Sunday.  It was my first Thanksgiving away from home, well, at that distance, and also my first Thanksgiving in the South, so it was with bittersweet mixed feelings I headed down into North Florida to be a guest at my friend Spencer's house.

South Georgia and North Florida should be its own state.  Folks have more in common with each other than they do the other folks in their own states.  I mean, Atlanta folks disdain the folks in South Georgia and the folks in South Georgia, well, they don't really care too much for those folks up North.  And by "North", I mean "North Georgia".  But they tend to like North Florida folks, who feel sorta the same way.

Florida is one of the few states I know where the further south you go, the more northern you are.  I'm not exactly sure what they'd call a state that would break off just south of Tifton, Georgia and run all the way to say, Gainesville, Florida, or maybe a county south of that yet.  I'm thinking something like Spanish Moss, perhaps.  Probably not tho.

I was glad to be going to Spence's, for a few reasons, one being that he was a friendly guy, and nice, and sorta funny, and sweet and kind too.  Two, I was glad to be there because I was missing my own family and didn't think that I really wanted to spend the holiday alone.  Turns out that was an incorrect assumption on my part and was later glad to get back to my efficiency where I could be alone, but not lonely.  But had I not gone, I probably would have been very lonely, thinking that I should have gone.  But we'll never know for sure, now, will we?

No.  Third reason, I was interested to see how Thanksgivings would differ, between the North and the South.  When I'd arrived to Valdosta, Georgia in September of 1995, it was vastly different from northeastern Pennsylvania.  In just about all the ways that you'd imagine yes, but in case you aren't familiar with Catawissa, PA or Valdosta, let me tell you about a few.

It was warm in PA, when I left.  Short sleeve weather, sure.  But summer was over and school had started, and autumn was well on its way.  As I headed south, it was like traveling back in time; the year reversed and summer came back and all of a sudden I was in the sweltering heat of a muggy July day.  Later I'd find other ways the "traveling back in time" metaphor and simile applied.

It was late when I checked into a hotel in Tifton and had I realized how close to Valdosta I was, I probably would have kept going.  Distances are measured differently when your in the hills and mountains of PA, miles mean nothing, it's all about how long it's going to take you to get from here to there.  But in the flat south, miles and time are about the same, so a distance of thirty miles takes roughly thirty minutes.

Not that Valdosta is thirty miles down the road from Tifton.  It's forty~five.  So less than an hour of driving time would have gotten me exactly to where I was going, even though I'd only been to the apartment, where I was renting a room from a corrections officer named Kim.  We won't discuss that.

If I had just driven straight through tho, I would have been in the dark.  Because I'd been on the road, driving from Catawissa, PA for over fifteen hours by then and even tho it was September and before the time change, it was dark when I pulled off the interstate in Tifton and found a hotel.  Probably because I'd eaten supper that evening in Cracker Barrel, probably in southern Virginia.  Because I considered Cracker Barrel to be uniquely southern and at that time, it was.  Now, there is a Cracker Barrel in Buckhorn, PA, just about ten or fifteen minutes from Catawissa.

So if I had driven straight through, directly to Valdosta, it'd have been in the dark and I'd have missed those first southern impressions I gathered in the morning when I got back on the road, in Tifton.  It was a good thing that I did spend a few hours sleeping, for a couple of reasons.  But let's not get into that now.  The main thing that I noticed was that it was like there was a chalkline snapped right across Tifton.  Everything north of there looked more or less familiar, but south of Tifton, all of  sudden I noticed big changes.

Sand, instead of dirt.  And when I did see dirt, it was red clay.  Lots of odd plants and bugs.  Ya know, kinda tropical.  And the heat and humidity was the sort that I would eventually come to know as normal, altho I never quite got used to it.  My car, a 1986 Ford Escort, two door, hatchback, with extensive repair work, but not extensive enough to unite the several different paint jobs from several different vehicles after it was totaled out a few years before that, but the frame wasn't bent and the axles weren't twisted, so dad and I went to Harry's You Pull It and replaced some parts, had no air conditioner.  The car was grey with red stripes and accessories, before the elderly gent plowed into it.  And it was grey with a red left front fender, afterward.  But it ran and that's the main thing.

No air conditioner in the south is like having no heater in Alaska.  You pretty much need one.  So it got really hot, really fast, even tho it was early in the day and I was driving down the interstate with my windows open.  Breathing sand, bugs, and heat.

In addition to the topographical differences {it was flat and sandy}, the vegetation {Spanish Moss, Live Oaks, Pecan trees, and way more}, the insect life, and animals {alligators, armadillos, and koala bears ~~ no koala bears, but just checking to see if you were still with me, this getting long and I haven't even gotten to Alice's Restaurant by Arlo Guthrie, stick with me kid, we're going places}; I was to find the food was oh so much different.  I'd no idea there were so many types of beans and peas.

Southern cookin' is good, tasty.  Lots of new things for me to try, with all you can eat buffets everywhere, and lots of stuff fried, deep fried, pan fried, battered, coated with crumbs, and sauces, gravies, and sugars were entirely different.  I got to the south, weighing about 130 and standing about 5'7".  Twenty years later, I'm tipping the scales at 290 and I've shrunk to about 5'4" or so.  Southern cookin' will do that to ya.

So Thanksgiving that year, just about ten weeks after I'd arrived in the South, I was going to have dinner with a southern family, eating southern cookin'.  And by "dinner", I mean "the meal you eat at noon".  I was looking forward to it.

First off, I overdressed.  In a group of folks who were wearing shorts and t~shirts, I alone was wearing slacks and a turtleneck.  Good thing there was air conditioning in this house.

My First Southern Thanksgiving meal is mostly forgotten, tho I do remember having rutabaga for the first time ever, and I'm pretty sure there were collard greens and black eyed peas, probably some cornbread.  Sweet potato casserole is ubiquitous in the south, so I'm sure there was some there then, at Spencer's.

These were God Fearing folks, I was not.  They were more godly perhaps then your typical southern family, which is a pretty godly bunch typically.  Spence's father was a preacher.  Being a preacher in the south has its own identity, that's why there are Southern Baptists and not just baptists.  Southern has its own version of nearly everything.  In many ways, that's a good thing.

I'm just saying that it was a bit confusing for me to sit down for Thanksgiving dinner at the table, with food that The Missus spent days preparing, only to see her husband scoop up his plate and silver ware after giving a blessing for the food, friends {me}, fellowship, and something else I didn't quite catch {I figured it out later}, and head into the living room to watch the football game, the Florida Seminoles versus someone.  By "watch", I mean "participate in, with loud and frequent curses aimed at the referees, coaches, players, and opposing team's fans".  Turns out the extra something in the Thanksgiving dinner prayer was a command to god to bless the Seminoles.  And I was a bit uncomfortable with the idea of a preacher being so loud with the "are you shittin' me"s, the "goddamn"s, and the "getcher head outta yer ass"s.

It was good meal; the food was wonderful, I enjoyed my visit with Spence and The Missus, and was glad to have been invited.  Southern hospitality is a wonderful thing, you should try it.  Experience it and see if you don't start practicing it.  I did.  Still do.

But I was also glad to thank them and leave, get in my ragtag 1986 Ford Escort with its dings and scratches and head to my own efficiency.  At first, when I got "home", I enjoyed  the quiet.  I took a shower and changed from my sweaty turtleneck and slacks into cooler shorts and a comfortable T.  But then the quiet got to be loud.  You know how loud quiet can be.  Especially to someone who is used to music, constant music, I was 25, music was a must.

So I turned on the radio and there, on my favorite classic rock station, was Alice's Restaurant.  All eighteen and some minutes.  I sat down in my folding chair, I was a grad student, these are the things that you furnish your apartment with...a radio and a folding chair.  And I listened to Arlo strumming and telling his story.

Now, it wasn't the first time I'd heard Alice's Restaurant {which wasn't really about Alice, or her restaurant, which it wasn't her restaurant anyway}.  No, I remember hearing it several times throughout my childhood, because my parents were hippies of a sort and if we happened to catch it, it was usually Thanksgiving, and we usually listened, gathering around the kitchen table, while it played on the radio from another room, sometimes my parents' bedroom {Shohola, PA} or the living room {most of the other seven or eight other places I'd lived as a child}.  I didn't understand it all, I didn't understand lots of stuff when I was a kid of ten or so.  But I had the warm fuzzies from being with my family, my folks laughing along with the recorded audience, while this dude with a sing~song nasal sliding voice plucked strings of his guitar and others' compassion as well.

So when I heard the tale again, all those years ago, when I was a young adult, a thousand miles from home; I listened and remembered feeling close to family, the warm fuzzies of nostalgia, and listened and understood the story, probably for the first time.  Since then I catch it when I can.  For a few years, a local radio station would play it several times throughout the day, on Thanksgiving Thursday.  But I hadn't heard it recently until earlier today.

It made me think all sorts of thoughts, the way you do, thinking thousands of things in just a few minutes.  It's amazing how eighteen minutes can take you back forty years or more, and bring you right back to where you were all along.  How the world has changed, but still stayed the same in so many ways.  How faces change, how those near and dear remain so only in your heart, no longer alive anywhere but your mind.  How happy you can be, with the way you are now and who you were and who you are are still essentially the same, but better.  How you wish the world would be better, the best it can be, the best YOU know it can be.

Happy Thanksgiving.

19 November 2015

If you do not first succeed; try, try again...

and yet again.

I'd written a bit about attempting to learn "R" and then move from that into some of the online free courses involving data analysis using R.  And commented about a week later that it was not going well.  I sent off an eMail detailing my attempts to retrieve data files to the instructor of this archived exploration course, a remedial introduction to R; he's a professor in Sweden who happens to love all things R~related.  I hadn't heard anything from him, but I am not surprised.  There are a multitude of possible reasons he hasn't responded to my plea for assistance, by explaining what I might be doing wrong.

Then came SSsssssinusssss Sssurgery.  Mucking about in R didn't seem to be a priority during the first week of recovery, since my brain was not functioning at its best and I'd already been having issssssuess with R.  But then today, I decided to give it another whirl.

I'd downloaded "Data for the Life Sciences" textbook and started to read through the preface, which is prior to the forward, which is before the introduction.  Good thing I did; although most folks skip all that ~~ THIS is exactly why I do not.  There is a reason authors, editors, and publishers include these things; generally there is information included in there that is not explained elsewhere ~~ like what sorts of knowledge you should already have and if you do not have them, then where to find them and become familiar with them.

In this case, since this textbook is meant to be used for a specific online course, it has helpful hyperlinks that connect you to those resources, along with directions in what to do once you get to that site, what and how to download, and other suggestions.  So I added the RStudio, rTools, and an assortment of packages {data sets} to what I'd already downloaded a few weeks ago.

One of those tools is "swirl".  It comes with all sorts of lessons on how to do this and that AND the other thing in R.  It's step by step format, offers encouragement {"excellent job!"}, correction {"not exactly what I was looking for; try this instead..."}, and examples of what else you might want to try.  It's just my speed at the moment and I think this will nicely dove tail what some of the other instructional videos cover.  So I'm back in R.  sorta.

29 October 2015

Sophie Sleeps

Of course I am biased and think that Sophie is cute and adorable.  But she is.  It's no secret that I am not particularly skilled with a camera and taking wonderfully composed pictures, showcasing my subject as its best.  So when I try to capture the cuteness, the result is often not what I intended.

This picture was somewhat successful.  I did manage to show that Sophie uses the pillows to prop her head up, because that's what pillows are for.  She sees us doing that, so surely, that's what you're supposed to do.  And she does that really well.

I did wait til she closed her eyes and laid her head back down.  Altho I also ended up with a multitude of shots of her eyes slit open, her mouth open in a huge yawn, her head perked up as she watched me watching her.  Thankfully, it's digital and I'm not wasting film, as I might have done in the past.

But I failed to show that the rest of her body is stretched out on the sheet covering the couch cushions.  I didn't photo those minutes of her pulling the tail end of the blanket down off the back of the couch, then tunneling under the pile of disarrayed soft throw, and arranging herself just right.  I didn't show that she heaved a deep sigh, as she snuggled her shoulders into the pillows, the blanket draped over the lower part of her body, her feet and tail tip sticking out from under the blanket.

I did not manage to show that she is copying my ritual of teasing out a portion of the top sheet from under the pile of sleeping dogs, pushing my pillows into the right places, tucking one just under my neck, as I lie on my side, my foot hanging off the edge of the mattress, exposed to the cooler air because it's too warm under the cover, but some cover is needed...then heaving a sigh and closing my eyes when I'm all arranged, just right.

26 October 2015

'tis the season

For years, I considered my mother's birthday to be the kick~off for my holiday season.  Her birthday was October 25th.  She died last December and as this October progressed from start to middle to now, I wondered if I would still consider this the start to my holidays.  The answer is:  probably not always; but for right now, yeah.  Perhaps not even next year, but for this year, yes.

This year has been a year of firsts, in many ways.  When a loved one dies, it's their absence that is the most noticeable, especially within that first year of death; at least that is how I felt much of this year.  I'm still saying good bye, still grieving, still adjusting to traditions that now don't include mom's physical presence.

In my family, we'd often call the birthday person and sing "happy birthday" to them over the phone.  Sometimes we'd do that on a recording, if they were out.  Sometimes we'd get the other folks who might be visiting us to join in.  One year, I kept the recording of my mom, dad, and brother singing happy birthday to me over my voice~mail for the entire year; because listening to them sing to me made me smile and feel loved.  It felt strange not to be picking out a birthday card or to be calling mom today.  I'll miss going to Red Lobster to treat each other, once for her birthday in October and once for my birthday in November.  We didn't go last year, either; because we wanted to wait til she was feeling better.

Even tho I knew that today might be tricky, difficult, that I might laugh over memories and then start crying because they were memories; it was a better day than I'd hoped.  Several folks really made that possible for me.  Thank you, I appreciate you so very much.  Also, I knew mom would have wanted me to not dwell on things; tho I knew she'd definitely understand my tears too.

Mom never really made a big deal over her birthday, it's a day, just a day, she'd say.  But I could count on a telephone call at about 4:55pm my time, on November 16th, from mom; because that's when I was born.  So even tho mom didn't consider October 25th to be all that important, I did.  As I said earlier, to me, mom's birthday marked the beginning of the holidays.

Why?  Well, there's mom's birthday, then Halloween {which in my hometown meant a big parade, costumes, candy, bands {including bagpipes}, trick or treating, bean soup, and hot chocolate...for the past six years, it's been my wedding anniversary, which means that it's the most special day of the year for me}, then a few weeks later is my birthday, and then a week or so later is Thanksgiving {which in my family was THE holiday,  bigger and more meaningful to my family than even christmas}.

That's the first half of the holiday season to me.  Last year, during that time, my mother's heart was faltering and her health was failing.  She was dying, tho we didn't realize that for sure at that time.

She died December fifth.

So last year, during the second half of the holiday season, which includes my father's birthday on December 15th, christmas/yule, and welcoming the new year; I was just so hugely relieved that mom was no longer dying.  I was so glad that she didn't linger for an incredibly long period of time, struggling to breathe, being miserable while prolonging her existence.  I was relieved that she was done dying.  One of her favorite characters in one of her favorite movies, Sipsy in Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, said, "a true lady always knows when it is time to go."

This holiday season most likely will be a lil more teary and tense for me, in some ways.  Because I miss her.  I miss her lots.  I feel her absence in so many ways, so deeply.

Calavera, a sugar skull often seen
during the celebrations of
El Dia de los Muetos
In other ways, I think I will enjoy this holiday season 
in ways that I haven't in several years past.  There will be less stress overall this year, because I made time and cleared my schedule of commitments and obligations earlier this autumn.  I have the ability to sit with my grief if I need to, without feeling guilty because I "should" be doing this, that, or the other thing.  I also have awareness, so I can monitor myself to make sure that I'm in an ok space/place overall.

My husband is so supportive, usually; but even moreso now.  He's able to be here with me, with a bit less stress himself {he retired in the spring from his second career}.  He misses my mom too, having loved her and her ways, even when she told him, "ya watch weird shit, Jerry, ya watch weird shit."

This year, there is a new grandbaby whose mom, sister, and nan/aunt decorated pumpkins over this weekend.  I see this baby often and get to sing, "I'm gonna get the baby, I'm gonna get the baby" in a joyous, yet bragging, way to my husband {even tho when I get the baby, he does too, silly me}.  She'll be spending her first thanksgiving with us, bringing her mom too {wink}.  This tiny creature just blows me away and makes me think of all sorts of things; some deeper ponderings {like at what point do we stop being so pleased with just being and start to have criteria that must be met in order to be happy} and some not so deep~~like what color will her hair be?

We have plans to see the majority of the family at some point over the next few months.  But also plans to relax with each other, as Jerry watches football and I finish a few knitted projects.  These holidays, we have plans, but we also have enough flexibility to adjust and take things as they come.

After all, 'tis the season; no rush, we've got time to enjoy the days ahead.

14 October 2015

Mom's Rolling Pin

I remember mom's rolling pin from my childhood, tho I think she'd had it even before then, when she herself was a child.  She had two, I think one was her mother's and one was hers.  When I was a child and thru my teens, I used one and she used the other.

In the spring of this year, Jerry and I had went
thru mom's kitchen, packing most of it to return to my father and brother.  We removed perishables, and used them.  Most of the dishes, pots, pans, bakewear, pie pans, cookie sheets, utensils, etc, we packed for my brother~~my mother and I had talked about how my brother does way more cooking than I do and would use those things.

Mom was all about utility; beautiful items that are functional were the optimal gifts for her to give and receive.  But there were sometimes when the aesthetics of a piece trumped its practicality.  At such times, those pleasing aesthetics were indeed the function of that item; truly a piece of art, in whatever media, falls squarely in this framework.

There are a few things from the kitchen I brought home.  One of them was mom's rolling pin.  Jerry had asked me if it was ok, if I would want him to do some wood burning to it, because he wanted to and he misses mom, he loved her too.

Of course it was a great idea.  So he discussed with me various ideas regarding designs, what information to include, her maiden name, and so forth.  And then he spent a few months giving it lots of thought.

This past week, Jerry worked on the rolling pin for days.  Today, he finished up the display board.  I love it.

07 October 2015

Cheese, please!

Kroger's and Murray's partner
to bring cheeeeeeese!
to twenty states' Kroger & affiliates
I've heard our new Kroger's expansion includes a cheese counter, so I asked my husband to pick up some cheese, please.  I really didn't know what I wanted and figured Jerry makes excellent choices as my personal shopper for clothes, so with my warped logic, I then surmised that he would also make excellent choices of cheese.  Besides, I love cheese and rarely have a met a cheese that I didn't like.  Remember cheese kisses?  If you do not, I am not surprised.  Cheese kisses were not popular and only were on the market for a very brief time in the 70s, apparently because I was the only one who liked them.  It's become part of family lore, retold by others with shudders and cringes.

Chianti with no fava beans
Jerry came home with a lovely assortment of six cheeses and a Chianti salami, as well as some crackers to cleanse the palate. We've lots of wine, but I had just poured myself so green tea that I'd steeped slices of turmeric root in...besides, noon is a tad too early for wine for me.  Most days.

This salami is a dense meat, but not too dense.  It is encased in a skin, with a fair bit of oil.  The texture is pleasant, and so is the taste.  I didn't eat much of it, since it does have so many flavors that it stands as its own treat and I wanted to focus on the cheese more so than the salami.  One thing that I enjoyed about it tho was the use of spices.  I like spicy foods, but sometimes salami can have too much and it feels to me that all that spiciness is to cover for something else.  Like folks who use way too much perfume might be disguising other less pleasant odors.  So I'd rather that my salami have a nice blend of spices, but let's not go overboard, shall we?  No, we shalnt.

Cheese us, yes!  Let's focus on the cheese!  My go~to cheese tends to be Swiss.  I love swiss and remember my dad and I eating baby swiss slices when I was a child.  Right around the same time that he and I also would go outside and eat sardines from the can, with crackers.  I remember a few types of sardines, but I think that I liked the kind in mustard best.  The last time I had sardines, they were bigger with fewer in the can than what I remembered.  So cheese, yeah, ok~~of the six cheeses Jerry brought home today, the swiss is what we tried last, because we're somewhat familiar with swiss.  This was a Jarlsberg Lite, which made me wonder what the different is between this and the regular...is the nonLite version more full~bodied?  Fewer holes?  Is the difference comparable to the baby swiss vs swiss?  Not sure, but will explore the matter further in the future!  This Jarlsberg Lite was a bit more dense in consistency with lots of bubbly holes dispersed in small bursts rather than huge gaping holes that you can drive a smartCar thru.  The kick actually hits you more so at the end of chewing, then lingers as an after taste.  Very nice!

Piave Vecchio and parmgiano reggiano are often compared,  The piave surprised me because as I bit into this drier cheese, lush tropical fruit scents wafted up my nose and then as I chewed it, I tasted a blend of citrus fruitiness that confused me but I liked it.  I was confused, since the cheese is a more crumbly sort and the fruity taste was juicy.  It takes lil to confuse me, apparently.  I definitely liked this and can see it being grated on salad greens or even a fresh fruit salad.  Very good!

The Parmgiano Reggiano is considered the "king of cheese".  To
me, what I noticed the most, was a sweet & salty taste with a gritty texture.  I enjoyed it, but think I would love it more so pared with some thin sliced ham or turkey wrapped around it and perhaps even slightly melted.  Not sure, exactly, so I will be trying it with other foods in the future.

Both of the last two cheeses are usually served in a grated, shredded, or powdered form here in the USA.  We tend to shake it from its can onto spaghetti, pizza, lasagna, and other dishes we think are Italian.  But I thought of the holidays past and sitting around the table, playing a boardgame, dominoes, cards, or yahtzee while snacking on fruits, dips, veggies, cheeses, and ring bologna with my friends and family.

Speaking of the holidays, Murray's Black Pepper BellaVitano reminds of some sort of traditional holiday dessert.  I couldn't put my finger on it, but then I remember that AllSpice contains black pepper and that is usually added to most fruit pies.  My mom made pies every year, usually pumpkin and apple, but sometimes cherry, peach, mincemeat, and others.  This cheese is great on its own, and even better with apple/raisin pie.  It was by far the most popular with both Jerry and I this afternoon.  We loved it!

The Jamaican Jack cheese called No Woman was the first cheese we opened and we both enjoyed it,
tho Jerry like both it and the black pepper cheese pretty much equally.  I like it, but was eager to try the other cheeses.  Although I did find it tasty, I was disappointed in the overall lack of spiciness.  It smells spicier than it tasted and with a name like that, I was expecting that extra jerk spice.  If I didn't have that expectation, I think I would have liked it lots more.  I think that it would melt nicely and in that case, it would make an awesome grilled cheese, with ham or turkey, on some really good bread.  With tomato basil soup.  Yes.  It would.

Chipotle Jack put us back on more familiar territory, which came both as a disappointment and as a Yea!  It was a disappointment to be on familiar ground, because our cheese adventure was drawing to a close, much like this post.  But the cheese itself was tasty and moist, a bit on the softer side, as we americans tend to prefer our cheese...I think it's mostly because that's what we know and how we were brought up.  If we were, as the French are, surrounded with cheeses as children {omg, I love that phrase, cheeses as children, so fun to say and fun to write/type too.  just imagine the short story you could pull outta that...cheeses with children, set in a sunday school...too delicious!}; if we were surrounded with cheeses as we grew up, we'd all be getting all riled up over our preferred cheese as we sometimes can over bbq, sweet tea, or any other regional food that differ from that same food prepared in a different way.  You'd have your american vs provolone, vs cheddar, vs brie, vs blues...to the nth degree.  We'd have cheeses with names like Metallica and the heavy cheese, versus the hard rockin' cheese, versus groovy tastes.  We'd be putting peanuts and blackeyed peas in cheese and caramel swirls.  We'd be doing things that other countries would feel are profane and crimes against god, and then again, we'd be having marches dedicated to not letting the big cheese stand alone.  We'd be all freaked out by who keeps moving our cheese, there'd be children's books devoted to finding the cheese in the marbled rind, and we'd wonder where our misspent youth's cheese went to.  We'd have folks wanting lactose free cheese in all the varieties and we'd have way more revitalization in the Make Your Own Home Fermented Cheese movement.  We'd again be saying, "cheeeeeeeeese" while taking pix with our friends, our family holiday shots would be with us saying "brieeeeee" because we think our family is unique and smarter than other families.  Wisconsin, Vermont, and other cheesy locales would become more popular than the Napa Valley wine tasting tours.  And we'd have children writing reports about their favorite cheese, and school projects revolving around each class raising goats to milk versus the other school's fixation on cow's milk as the base for various cheeses.  Then you'd have the avant garde groups making cheese with coconut milk, hemp milk, and almond milk.  And you'd have the herpetologist grad students doing their theses on snake milk cheese.  Some group of mothers weaning their toddlers would decide that donating their extra frozen pumped milk to neonatal units, they'd make cottage cheese for their tykes to transition easier to semi~solid foods.   In short, if we grew up with a variety of cheeses regularly consumed, the USA stance would be ohh! SO! different than any other society's reaction to cheese's presence in their culture.

{i had to slip the culture in, what cheese entry would be complete without it?!?}

06 October 2015

Work in Progress & Resting Scowl Face

Here lately, I've been catching up on some of my fiber projects, mostly knit.  Nothing too wild and creatively cutting edge.  Just some regular knitting, in this case, 1x1 ribbing, using a strand of worsted weight and a strand of variegated fuzzy fur to give it some depth and subtle shadings within each color way.  I worked on it some yesterday, and used a few other colors than the original grey and blue that I started with.  This lacks only the final swath done in dark blue, which is what I am doing now {well, not NOW, now I am typing, and I am not yet talented enough to type and knit at the same time; and I don't think I want to learn that particular skill set}~~you might see the top line of dark stitches, and that is the final color I'm working with.  At this point, the throw is about 3'x4'.  It'll be more square, I think, when I'm through.  I anticipate that I'll be thru by week's end.  Then on to the Not Quite 50 Shades of Green chevron throw.  Yea!

Also, I just realized I look kind of pissed off in this pic.  I'm not.  I have resting scowl face, which is somewhat different than resting bitch face.  I think that in resting bitch face, you are simply not smiling and you look like you are just keeping your thoughts to yourself, or keeping yourself from smacking the shit out of someone.

With resting scowl face, you actively look angry, like something is really irritating you and you are not bothering to keep your reaction in.  You look furious over seemingly nothing.  My daughter in law told me a few years ago that she was really worried that she'd done something wrong or that I was disapproving of something going on around me.  Nope, that's just my face.  I started off with resting bitch as a teen and it's developed into scowl and by the time I am an old woman, I'll have crotchety crochet face.  You whipperschnapper you.

28 September 2015

Dr. Kutz, paging Dr Kutz

When I was a child, about ten to twelve years old, my mom and I spent a lot of time at the Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, PA.  We made frequent visits during those three years, the year before my surgery and the two years following my eye surgery.  It's a complex system, even then; with shuttles and multiple buildings, halls, suites, levels, and elevators.  We'd rush and get there early, so that we could allow time for everything from finding parking space to catching the shuttle to finding the right office, only to then wait for the doctor.

While waiting, we'd listen to the pages over the loud speakers {yes, they didn't even have "pagers" at that time, let alone cell phones; you young whipperschnappers you}.  We'd giggle over the names and whisper to each other what they probably did, based on those apropos names.  Dr Kutz, of course, was a surgeon.  So must Dr Butcher be.  We weren't sure what Dr Beatem did, but had I known about sports medicine, I would have said that s/he works with patients who play full contact sports.  But I was ten, or eleven, or twelve and not a huge sports fan.  We thought that perhaps Dr Pokem was a children's dr, but then again I didn't know about proctologists at that time and mom didn't tell me about that, THANK YOU mom, for not feeling a need to nibble away at my childhood innocence.

So fast forward to my recent adulthood...my husband is a HAHhuge Dr Who fan.  My brother was, I think, but I really don't remember a whole heaping lot about that as a child.  We didn't really watch much TV, if at all, for most of my childhood.  Then, I think there was a gap of time when the timelord was not featured on TV; during my twenties and into my thirties.  That was alright, cuz I was living my life and so TV was not a priority at all.  But now, if my husband's home, the TV's on and I may be listening or watching; and even when I am not, actively paying attention, it's babbling or cheering away in the background.  Depending if Jerry's watching football or Dr Who or FX or whatnot.

So I tend to pick up way more than I thought I would ever know about all sorts of stuff.  Like Tom Baker's scarves being iconic, but varied.  He was the 4th Doctor, and very Very VERY popular.  This generally isn't the scarf most folks think of if they know about "the Scarf", but it is ONE of the scarves he favored.  I saw it today, when watching one of the old episodes and thought, "aha!"

AHA! because what started out as a scarf turned into a wrap of sorts, that I've been knitting in a 5x5 rib for a friend of mine who is just now {or soon within the next hour or so} coming out of surgery {which is why I thought of the aforementioned Dr Kutz and Dr Butcher}.  Here's a picture of the current state of the wrap and it bears a striking, yet unintentional, resemblance to Dr Who's reddish scarf that I saw in today's "Breakfast with the Doctor" episode.  I'm finishing up the fourth of five small skeins of the ruby acrylic that is the base fiber for this project.  I anticipate that by the end of this week, I'll have finished this and it will be on its way to my friend, about six hundred miles away.

Speaking of which, I must get crackin' ~~ wrapping up the wrap!

12 September 2015

my eyes, my eyes, my everlovin' eyes

About two months ago, my glasses flew off my face because I am tremendously klutzy and should probably wear one of those elasticized sports straps or the librarian chain to keep my glasses attached to me when I do things like trip over my own feet.  The glasses and my driveway's gravel met, fought, and the glasses were scarred.  The protective coating was gouged exactly in the spot that my right eye typically is lined up to view the most often.  So I tried a variety of methods to fix it, then began to tilt my head and look thru my lens at various angles.  This didn't really help.  So I switched to my old glasses which have a slightly different prescription and stopped by the iDoc for an appt.

He was really booked up so I made an appt for a month out {are ya noticing a trend here?}.  Monday is my appt and it is not a moment too soon.  My long distance viewing is ok, which means that driving is fine.  But my close up vision is badly blurred, which means that knitting, reading, computer stuffs, etc is not always an option.  Cuz my arms are not quite long enough for my eyes.

I do read, without my glasses, just holding the book very near my face.  Which probably is not good either, but I cannot not read.  I've tried, and it hurts.  I must read.  It's not an option to not do so.

So in the meantime, whilst waiting for the appt to roll around; I've visited zenni.com and perused their selection.  I've been getting my glasses from them for the last five or six years.  My husband and Daughter Donna both get their glasses thru Zenni now too.  I love Love LOVE them {my husband, Daughter Donna, and Zenni}.  I keep coming back to this style, available in two color combos.  I might do both options, one as sunglasses and one as regular wear.

Whacha think?


04 September 2015

not THAT kind of nose job

I love where I live so much so that I've chosen to make this my home.  It's not perfect, but it suits me well and fits just fine.  However, there are areas that Starkville could improve upon.  Our 'burg has ONE ENT.  The guy is booked way Way WAY far out,  It's a huge change from when I was there four years ago and there were NO other patients in the office at all.  My appt this morning was for 6:45a.  Yes, 6:45...not usually a time associated with doctor appts; but whenever works is whatever works.

Looking back over my blog for the past ten+ years, I've noticed there were lots of times when I was not well, feeling punky, blocked nose, upper respiratory infection, ear infection, strep throat, etc.  Given that I just got over a hellacious ear infection for which I ended up going to see said~Ear/Nose/Throat dude, reviewing the number of times I've had the crud seemed fitting.  Turns out, there is a good reason for my frequent fitlessness, one that doesn't involve me being all wimpy when it comes to illness.

A few weeks back, I had blood taken and sent off to a lab for allergy tests.  I take Zyrtec daily, and have been for awhile.  I knew that some pollens and spores irritate me, including the decay that occurs to the leaves and plants in the fall, when they go to seed.  I knew that I was allergic to cats {wish I would have known that as a child, but did eventually find out and that's what's important}.  Various molds and weeds made the list, and turns out that I've mild reactions to Oak and Birch/Alder trees.

I also had a CT scan of my facial sinuses done.  I thought that maybe they'd find a pea, bean, or slice of carrot that I'd passed from my mouth up into my sinuses as a child who could not complete a supper meal without choking on laughter, as my brother and his best friend told hilarious stories.  That's a long time to be harboring a pea or bean, but my grandfather always warned me that I'd grow a watermelon from swallowing the seeds, so I figured they might find an entire bonsai version of a garden camped out in my sinuses.  Kiddin'.  Tho that would have been interesting, I'm glad they didn't.

not me, generic sinuses
What they did find was a mess.  Apparently, my septum is deviated {whose isn't?}, polyps have grown, a bone spur grew in there, my meatuses {meati?} are clogged, and my turbinates are swollen and misformed.  Who knew?  A third of my lower left sinus cavity is blocked, my sinuses' lining has been irritated over the years and most of them are blocked.  So when I think that I am breathing freely thru my nose, it's because I can breathe directly from my lungs, up my throat, past the back of my tongue and soft palate, directly out my nose instead of letting that air swirl around in the sinuses like it should.  It most likely is for this reason that I do NOT have sleep apnea, the back of my soft palate is actually not all that soft, oh the things I take solace in...a strong soft palate that does not collapse and create sleep apnea, weee for me!

So this year, for my birthday, yea! in November, I get to have surgery, yea! That just happens to be when the next available appointment is for the procedure and I declined the waiting list route, because I can wait til then.  The surgery is outpatient, because there have been a ton of advancements in medicine, including surgical techniques.  Wahoo!

An endoscopic instrument will be inserted up my nose rather than peeling my face back to clean, scrape, trim, unblock, reopen, shape, remove the bone spur, and otherwise do what needs to be done. I like the endoscopic instrument and am considering procuring my own set.  Just seeing if you were paying attention.  It's called "Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery", including septoplasty {removal of the bone spur} and turbinoplasty.  Whilst they're tinkering with my sinuses, they are also going to place a tube in my right ear {tympanostomy~~cuz they slit the ear drum and insert a tiny tube into the Eustachian tube to help it stay open}.

I think the surgery will be pretty straight forward.  It's the after care that promises to be a bit long.  However, considering that these things didn't get this way overnight, I totally understand it taking awhile to heal up after surgery.

But!  I'll be able to breathe much better, hopefully have less sinus and ear infections, and taste things a bit better too.  Yea!!

29 August 2015

kenya hear me now?

Repost from October 2011

There's an app for that.

So after drinking a large travel cup of coffee, I was thrilled to see restrooms at a lil scenic overlook in the Smoky Mountains.  I quickly zipped up to the door, where a woman was scowling intently at her phone, while standing in the doorway.  Finally, she moved, heaving a huge sigh.  I flew in and realized that it was just a potty, like those in an outhouse or porta~potty.  No sink.  "That's ok," I thought, as I plunked down on the toilet~lid covered hole.  Right before I realized there was no toilet paper.  None.  There was an empty cardboard roll where toilet paper should be.  But no paper.  I clawed up in the holder, thinking, hoping, that there was some squirreled away.


So when I went back to the car, I passed a woman getting off a motorcycle and I told her that she might want to take some tissue or a napkin with her as there was no paper there.  Then I said that it would have been awesome if the woman before me would have said something to me about it.

Then again, she was scowling at her phone.

Perhaps she was searching for an app for that!

28 August 2015

Tripping down memory lane...

Repost from 2004:  For Mic & Bobbert

My brother is about two and a half years older than I am.  When we were younger, it was not so cool for my brother to have a younger sister.  I did not tag along, so there were very few times past the age of ten that we did stuff together that was fun.
At the time of this story, we lived in a small town in northeastern PA.  The playground was directly across the street from our house.  It was rather small and intended for small children’s play.  Big kids played over there though, taking over the basketball nets and sometimes dominating the entire playground.
For some forgotten reason, quite a few of us kids were playing football.  It was guerilla-style, which meant there were few rules other than getting to your team’s fence on whichever side of the playground was yours.  It was starting to get dark.  Most of us should be getting home, or we’d be catching it from our folks.  But the score was so close and most of us just wanted to cram in as much as we could before we went home.  It was turning into autumn and so it was pretty cool, especially since we were all sweaty.  So we kept moving, ignoring the lateness of the hour as best we could.
This was one of those few times my brother and I were playing, let alone around others!  So, I was pretty happy.  We weren’t on the same team,that was a bit much to ask for.  But, I had the ball and was running hell-bent for my section of fence.  I could hear some kids screaming and yelling behind me.
The harder I ran, the louder they screamed.  I was almost afraid I was running toward the wrong goal.  But I assured myself I was going good.  But they kept yelling, so I whipped my head around fast to look behind me.
Outta the corner of my eye I saw my brother gaining on me.  I knew that it was pretty much over, but I put a bit more burst into my race.  As I turned back to face front, I collided with him and we both went ass over tin-can sprawling.  I ate some dirt and had grass stains sliding down my chest, marking my thighs, and that was the extent of my ahem injuries.
My brother on the other hand had blood rushing down his rather white face.  It was smeared on his fingers, too.  He was warbling, “how bad is it?”  I was apologizing hastily and we (his best friend and I) were pulling him up and under a streetlight.  “Huh?  How bad, huh?”  His best friend was holding my brother’s hands away from his face, saying, “oh it’s not so bad”.  Most of the other kids had already run off towards home.
By the time we got my brother under the light, all I could see was shiny dark purple river running down from the two inch gash under his eye.  When I whipped my head around, I caught him, the corner of my glasses sliced open the taunt skin on his cheekbone, just under his eye.  I looked at his best friend, and he looked at me, and we all knew the fun and games were over, because someone got hurt.
We took him across the street, to mom and dad.  We started to get him all cleaned up.  We were ribbing on him about how his little sister beat him up, without even trying.  He was even starting to get some color back into his face.
That’s when my dad said to my mom, “think it needs stitches?”  Yes, she thought it did.  “Well,” dad says, thoughtfully, “you best get your needle and thread then.  What color do you want?”  he asked my brother.  My brother paled and began to tremble.
Mom and dad assured him that they were just joking, mom was not about to sew him up.  But she did take him to the hospital for stitches.  And when people asked what happened, he told them he was playing football (but not with whom).
Later, after the stitches came out, a thin white scar could be seen.  We tell him it adds to his roguish good looks.  For a couple of years, he told the girls he got the scar in a fight.
Sigh, it’s all fun and games, til someone gets hurt.

Whilst losing sleep...

Repost:  August 2006

Occupying my time

whilst losing sleep.

Georgee Porgee puzzles me.

I'm gonna just assume that the story we've hear is true.  Georgee Porgee did kiss the girls.  They did cry.  Georgee did run away when the boys came out to play.

But, dudes, why?

Why did the girls cry?  Was Georgee's breath really that bad?  Perhaps the girls' tears were joyous.  It could be that Georgee's technique was THAT good.  We don't know.

Why did Georee run?  Was he afraid of the competition?  Or was he running to kiss the next group of girls before the rest of the boys caught onto his prowess?

What's the damn deal about the pudding and pie anyway?  I mean, what does that have to do with anything?  The pudding and pie are not referred to again, later.  Was it pudding and pie as in sweets?  Perhaps the girls cried because his teeth were decayed from the high sugar content.  But, maybe the pudding and pie were of the entry variety.  I know meat pies, shepard's pie, chicken pot pie, and other sorts of "pie" that are certainly not dessert oriented.  But, what does it matter in the grand scheme of Georgee's kissing spree?

I wish I knew.   Cuz maybe it'd help me sleep.  But that there Georgee, he doesn't kiss and tell.

27 August 2015

A Mad, Mad World

What follows is an entry that I had written in the original Debra's Daily Dose, in AOL's J~Land.  September 2004  That's when I decided to begin blogging, online, in a public forum.

Do you think I'm mental (paraphrasing KDLang) 

ok, it's like this...i have no intention of writing my complete memoirs in one sitting.  but there are some things past that help us to understand the present and prepare us for the future.  so, i cannot tell you when exactly my madness began, but i sure fooled a lot of people for a long time.  I was always a tad different and special, gifted, in some way or another, in almost all contexts in my childhood.  As a teen, I did not go through the typical angst period, but i did not really fit in anywhere.  Most of the kids my age thought I was strange.  Most adults thought i was mature.  Then in my twenties and on, as an adult, i was just a tad eccentric.  Sometimes, i would be too far out there, inappropriate in behavior.  But since i moved so often, very few folks got to know me well enough to know that may be there was more going on then what meets the eye.  
Leaving aside most of the details, in sum, early last year, i accepted the diagnoses that classified me as having mental illnesses.  THAT was quite slippery, i had the hardest time wrapping my mind around being MI.  I mean, at the time, I was a graduate student, working on my PhD, with a master's in sociology, and three bachelor's.  I was teaching undergraduate students, doing research, working in a computer lab for the department, and maintaining a very full social life as well.  Being mentally ill was not part of the plan for the big picture.
Now, I had already dealt with having learning disability.  I have dealt with poor health most of my  life.  I had dealt with abuse, surviving, coping, and (I thought) moving on.  What I did not recognize was that much of this was not dealt with at all, rather it was squashed down until I simply lost my resiliency, losing my ability to continue to cope, losing my mind it seemed.
Currently, I am affected by bipolar disorder (rapid cycling), borderline personality disorder (THAT is misunderstood even by psych-peeps), PTSD, panic/anxiety disorder, depression, and compulsive overeating disorder.  No two people handle their diagnoses in the same way, because no two people are affected in exactly the same way.  So, for instance, I do not self-mutilate.  I am not an impulsive spender/shopper/etc.  I hate the mania more so than the depression.  I do not "look" like I have an eating disorder.  I despise whining, abhorring it in myself.
SO, I am learning to go a bit lighter on myself.  I am learning that it is not ok to push myself beyond my limits.  I am learning just where those limits are and how to pull back when I need to.  I am learning that I might not have developed a great sense of self, so now I am doing just that.
I tire easily.  I am not always chipper.  I am not always quick with wit.  Sometimes, I am irritable beyond belief.  Sometimes I cannot comprehend a sentence, let alone a paragraph, let alone an article.  Sometimes, I feel so utterly defeated that I am sure isolation has merits.  Sometimes, I cannot explain myself very clearly.  Sometimes, knowing me, can be pure unadulterated hell.  I try to know myself enough to be able to recognize the warnings, the shifts, the need to be still and quiet, the need to rest, the need to withdraw from social circumstances.  sometimes I am sure that my toxicity spills over, tainting relationships.  sometimes, though, i go too far with my self-monitoring.
and most of the time, people enjoy being around me.  they are glad to know me.  and that's when i know that i am worth all the fuss.  i deserve to be healthy, happy, to know love. 
i hope this has been clear, as i am entering a manic period, not having slept for quite some time. racing thoughts, speed....so, i am off to see if i can't rest before i get much worse.  thanks for listening, it ain't easy, to read some of this, i am sure.  but i am not always maudlin, so serious, so intense.
have a good day.  til next post.