Powering Up

timeSometimes when sitting at my desk, I become engrossed with what I’m doing, and though I have a readout of the time on the bottom right-hand corner of my computer screen, as well as a clock hanging on the wall right in front of me, I lose track of the time. Consequently, I forget about lunch. I forget about eating.

The other day, I was having a conversation with my six-year-old granddaughter. She’s reached the age where she can actually converse and she’s interested in everything, always full of questions.

This day we were talking about batteries, and how their function is to provide power. We discussed all sorts of batteries, from toy batteries to car batteries.

“Where do you get your power?” I asked her.

She thought for a moment and then shrugged, downcast. “I have no battery,” she said.

We happened to be sitting at the dinner table alone, my husband and her mom both delayed at work that evening.

“You have power right on your plate and in your cup,” I told her. Her big brown eyes got even bigger as they took in her chicken, rice, broccoli and apple juice.

“I’m eating power?” she asked, incredulous.

Back in the day, what mostly powered me through my work shifts was a healthy dose of adrenaline. In all the years of hot-footing it on cold, hard hospital floors I can count the times I actually got a lunch break.

I mean a real lunch break, where you leave the unit, walk to the cafeteria, fill your tray and then sit and eat leisurely like they show on TV. Or walk outside, find a bench and eat your bagged lunch under the healing heat of the sun. I think I got to do that maybe five times in all, and that might be an exaggeration.

On rare occasions, I got to go across the hall to the nurse’s lounge (an oxymoron of the first degree) and try to eat what I’d brought with me, or what another kind soul had gotten for me during a food run. The only problem with that was that there was a phone on the wall and everyone knew where I was.

A lot of the time lunch consisted of a bottle of Pepsi, from which I’d take a swig as I rushed through the nurse’s station on my way to another ICU room. It had power: sugar and caffeine.

In President Vicente Fox’s memoir, Revolution of Hope, he writes about his time as a truck driver for Coca-Cola saying, “In Mexico, poor people drank Coke and Pepsi as food.” It seems surreal that I would end up doing the same, only in my case it wasn’t for lack of money. The currency I was short of was time.

I still see myself practically running headlong down a never-ending, solitary corridor that was enclosed with green-tiled walls. I, too, was green. A new nurse dressed in green hospital scrubs, my scrub gown flowing behind me like a green cotton cape as I sped along. It was the middle of a long twelve-hour night and I’d reluctantly left the familiar confines of the ICU.

It was my turn for a food run and the vending machines were in the basement of this 1000-bed hospital. I power walked through that corridor not only because it was spooky down there, but also because the minutes I was allotted were precious and few.

My fuel of choice was usually a slice of pecan pie. It offered a delicious concoction of power: sugar and calories. As a result of this frequent indulgence, I ended up gaining the freshman 15 after I graduated from college.

I think of all this sometimes when I finally take time to eat in the course of my day. This year, I’m spending Thanksgiving in the Deep South, awaiting the new arrival. I think I will request a pecan pie be added to my son’s table, just so I can savor the memories.

Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving surrounded by your loved ones. Don’t power up too much y’all!

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Plantar Fasciitis and Me

Imagine a translucent marble stuck between you and the floor. It’s settled within your left heel and it goes everywhere you go. Most times it rolls into the inner aspect of your heel, other times it plays in the middle, and then just for fun it will toy with the outer rim for a bit.

You’re never quite sure where it will be, or if it will be. In the mornings, you sit up in bed and study the benign tile floor. The floor that used to feel so cool and smooth beneath your naked feet. Can I chance it, you think. Can I, should I, try walking the six steps to the bathroom without my shoes? It’s such an innocent request, to indulge a penchant for walking barefoot in the house.

You swing your legs over and gingerly place your feet on the floor. You stand, and oh, there it is. The marble says hello, and your shoes are in the closet, so you hobble on to the bathroom, careening and holding on to the wall, the vanity, the doorjamb of the bathroom door. To anyone looking, you would appear to be really old, or really drunk.

Once done with your morning ablution, you sway into the walk-in closet to retrieve your shoes. Ouch, ouch, ouch. Every step is a penance but what you are paying for you do not know.

You slip your feet into the warm embrace of your shoes and find that your prayers have been heard. You can walk upright and steady again. For the moment, the marble is neutralized.

(Some info on this condition and on foot pain with RA)

crocsI don’t mean to sound like an advertisement but, truly, these Crocs are the only shoes I can walk in for long periods. They have a cushioned sole akin to a shock absorber, an arch support, a heel cup that cradles and protects, and beading that massages my feet. The straps are elastic so they can never bind. And best of all, they are light, practically weightless, unlike me.

I currently own four pairs, two pairs stockpiled for later, because I don’t know how long this condition might last and I don’t want to run the risk of not being able to replace them. I use one pair for home, and one for running errands. They look great with my jeans, but even if they didn’t, I wouldn’t care.

It’s been several months now, and from my reading I find that I can be careening and swaying for up to one year. During my NYC trip last month, I had to take one day off to rest my foot. The pain was exquisitely excruciating, or excruciatingly exquisite, but definitely well worth it.

In two weeks, I will be on the road again, hopefully in time to welcome  a new grandbaby, and to reconnect with my lovely Carmen. There won’t be many opportunities to sit still with my feet up, but again, so very, very worth it.

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The Most Important Item

“If you don’t have time to meditate for 20 minutes, you should meditate for an hour.”

I ran across this saying a few days ago. At first read, it made sense, but then I did a U-turn. Say what?

I had to reread it several times to finally get it. Of course! If your life is so hectic, if you are so busy, if your to-do list merely gets longer and longer with each passing day, then you won’t be able to find the time or space for 20 minutes of downtime.

And if that is the case, then it’s condition critical. You have become a prime candidate to self-combust. It happens to many of us. It’s happened to me. The first time I noticed it was a long time ago.

I was a young wife to a husband who traveled constantly, a young mother of three children, and a young nurse manager of three departments. By the age of 33, I had acquired 24-hour responsibility in all three aspects of my life.

Looking back, I don’t know how I did it, but I can still see myself in my hospital office taking a few moments at the end of each full day to think about what had been accomplished and what needed doing the next day. My last act for the day was to write down what I had to attend to the following day, by priority, the most important item taking number one on the list.

But before I did that, I would soberly assess each listing from the previous day and cross it out if it had been taken care of. If not, it carried over to the next day and was re-prioritized, triaged, as to what position it should take on the new list.

I would then leave the notepad open with the list in full view right smack in the middle of my computerless desk so that it would be the first thing I’d see upon entering my small office the next morning.

Those few minutes, with my office door closed, were the only moments of solitude, of reflection, that I had each day. Once I grabbed my things, threw open my door and flew down the stairs to my car, I was already in transition, planning for the needs of my family.

Needless to say, this didn’t end well. For me. At the end of two years, my departments were running seamlessly and the answer my successor gave to my staff’s question, “What are you going to change?” was: Nothing, Irma changed what needed changing.

And now Irma was going to change herself. I felt proud of having worked hard to improve things for all, but in the process, I had ignored myself. I became ill and ended up needing major surgery. When my husband’s company wanted to transfer him, and he told me there’d be less travel involved, I said yes, and gave my notice.

We moved cross-country and I cut back on work hours. I also cut back on responsibility, preferring to work as staff, and saying no politely for several years when approached about management positions. I concentrated on my family and our newest blessing, a baby girl.

I tried my best to manage the stress of everyday life and then one day, RA came calling. And that underscored the fact that I definitely had to stop at the end of my day. I had to make time to review what had been accomplished, and what had not, in the quest for regaining my health. I had to reflect on what had worked, and what hadn’t, in order to make plans for the next goal.

I had to learn a new form of triage:




Think about what truly matters.

The most important item on the list is you.

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Blue Food

blueCommon dietary advice for both eating healthy (healthily) and maintaining your weight, and your waistline, is to fill your plate with color. Half of it should be fruits and vegetables, they say, the richer the colors the better.

I’ve also read that to lose weight, you should not only downsize the food portions, but should also downsize your plate size. The theory being that you trick your brain into thinking you’re eating a lot because your salad plate, serving as your dinner plate, is heaping, seemingly overloaded, with food.

These are good ideas to not only trim your size, but to keep it trimmed. Not to mention improving your overall health.

As a quilter, I love color. And not only do I love splashing color onto my fabric palette, but I also love adding it to my food palette (palate). I marvel at the colors nature has bestowed on us, the translucent slices of red and white radishes, delicate slivers of orange carrots, shiny green leaves of romaine lettuce, light green slices of succulent avocado, luscious rounds of red tomatoes and the deep, rich red of my favorites, strawberries and watermelon.

I could go on, but you get my drift. It seems that nature has provided us with edible colors of many shades and hues, except for one. Blue.

Yes, the word blue is half of the name for blueberries, but they are not truly blue. They are more of a purple violet. The only “blue” food that I’ve eaten (overeaten) is the food that I eat when I feel blue, whatever its actual color might be.

Well, apparently, there is another food association with the color blue. According to a study referred to in the October/November edition of AARP Magazine, if you eat off of a blue plate it will make the food look unappetizing, and ahem, put you off your food.

I’ve had many sets of dishes over the years, in different colors, but never blue. I can’t think of ever seeing blue plates. I’m sure there must be, I just haven’t been looking. Perhaps there was a subconscious reason for that, but now that I’ve read this, I think I shall go shopping for a small blue plate to eat off of during my feeling-blue days.

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Who Ate the Lampshade?

lampWith what appeared like two uneven eyes set above the ragged edges of its gaping maw, the lampshade peered toward the entrance of the restaurant.

Seeing it, I forgot I was hungry after a long day of shopping in Manhattan and jostling through the city in its underground subways. We were back in Brooklyn, home. Or at least, home to my daughter.

With her guidance, we have sampled many restaurants on our trips to the city. Each restaurant unique in its own way. Each one a culinary adventure. Most places making the most of their tiny share of real estate. This time we stopped at her favorite Japanese place.

While I attempted to decipher what the items on the menu were, I kept stealing glances at the lampshade. It hung over the long center table of the restaurant, smack in the middle of the whole place. Booths lined the wall on one side of the small venue.

We sat in one of the booths across from where the lampshade hung. I wanted a picture of it. I wanted to know what had happened to it. Had someone had too much sake and taken a big bite? And why was it still there? Why hadn’t it been thrown out, replaced to match its two whole companions hanging on either side of it?

The need to decide what I wanted from the unfamiliar menu kept me from taking out my phone to photograph it. That, and the young couple who sat directly beneath it occupying the space of one person on the bench, so close did they sit sharing their food from the bowls in front of them.

In between bites, he would give her gentle kisses. On her cheek, on her forehead. I could see his profile when he turned toward her, his features softened with tenderness. He ate with one hand, his left arm wrapped around her waist, pulling her even closer to him. In return, she smiled at him and bent her head toward him to accept his kisses.

They ate slowly, delicately balancing food on their chopsticks as they laughed, seeming to meld into one another, oblivious to the misshapen light fixture right above. When they finally left, I hurried and took some pictures before anyone else came to sit in their spot. Even though, any new customer would have had the choice of the entire restaurant, as ours was the only other table now occupied.

As I dug into my tempura shrimp and noodles, I wondered why the lampshade intrigued me. Was it because it hung there resolute and unashamed that it was lacking when compared to the other two? Was it because no matter that it was missing a portion of itself, it did not appear deficient or defective?

Or was it because even though it was not “healthy,” it was still capable of doing its job? That it was complete in its incompleteness, still able to diffuse the brightness and shield young lovers from its glaring light.

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At The Met

At The Met

An editing client/friend called me peripatetic. It sounded like a disease so I rushed to my reliable helpmate, my dictionary. Though the sound of the word brought up visions of dyspepsia, it turned out to only mean one who travels a lot.

He called me that after I’d returned from St. Augustine, Florida for the third time this year and found out I was soon to leave for New York City. Again.

Interesting that the word also means “given to walking.” I’d forgotten that I had downloaded a health app onto my phone. While lazing in bed with my feet throbbing from all the city walking one day, I decided to open it to see what it did. Imagine my shock to discover that I’d walked 12,000 steps that day. And climbed twelve floors. (My daughter’s apartment is two steep flights up. And down.)

I was flabbergasted to see how my activity level had spiked tremendously since I’d left home. It had literally gone from sloth to cheetah level. I bored everyone with my new-found information. Look what I can do! In one day. And live to tell about it.

After my excitement died down, I admit I was a little weirded out to know that my phone was tracking me. How rude. But I had asked it to, I suppose. I don’t remember what day that was, but it could have been the day we spent at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. I have no words to describe the treasures it holds within. You must see it with your own eyes. We only got to see barely half. We shall continue on our next trip.

Now that I know what that app does, I will use it to my advantage in my battle with RA. It can’t catch me if I don’t stay still. I know I haven’t beaten it, and most likely never will, but at least I win some of the battles. And that’s good enough for me. 12,000 steps, booyah!

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How To Be a Better Blogger

Step 1: Blog

Step 2: Blog

Step 3: Blog

Oh, my gosh, I’ve been forgetting to blog!

In truth, I think about it often, but thinking doesn’t get it done.  Before I know it, it’s a week later and the idea flew the coop. And I have so many, ideas that fly the coop.

Right now, I’m flying a desk, trying to keep up with two online classes and two editing projects. They soak up all the extra grey matter. Or is it white matter?

Well, no matter. I will do better. Now that I’m back from actually flying around.


Downstreet view in Manhattan.

Skyline from Central Park

Skyline from Central Park

A sister yacht while on jazz cruise down the Hudson.

A sister yacht while on jazz cruise down the Hudson.

It was a bit nippy, but a welcome break from tropical heat.

It was a bit nippy, but a welcome break from tropical heat.

Thank you, dear Reader, for the moments you spend with me.

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Remodeling Lows

Five years ago, I embarked on a remodeling plan. It took effort. It took concentration. It took determination. And most of  all, it took sweat.

I sculpted. I trimmed. I toned. I selected a new veneer to put on the finished product.

The journey was awesome. And I had so much fun doing it. Watching with ultimate satisfaction the almost daily changes as they gradually occurred with regular frequency over a period of exciting months.

But enough about me.

Now I’m remodeling the guest bath. And the difference in the experience is astronomical.

There is sweat, but it’s mostly the result of a blood pressure spike every time they show up late for a day’s work. Or worse, fail to show up at all. Without a word.

I asked the demolition/rebuilder man to let me know when he was coming over and to not just appear at my door. He said OK. The next morning he called me from my own driveway. I had to laugh. Maybe I should have told him to call me from his driveway, you know, before heading over to my house.

The project is going at a sloth’s pace. It was supposed to be a one-week job, Boss Lady said. She did my kitchen nine years ago. Beautiful. Looks like the day it was finished. So, I entrusted my bathroom to her.

Our house is old with its own little quirks. There’s always surprises when we start digging around, so I cleared two weeks on my calendar. When we entered the third week my patience began to run thin. In two days, it will be a month since the job began. We’re halfway there. Only ten more things to do!

Boss Lady called me yesterday, told me she’d misunderstood. He was on vacation this week. Not next week, as she’d told me when promising it would be done this week. Her promises now have echoes.

We threw in the towel and called in reinforcements. Tomorrow an electrician and a plumber come. I will have a working sink once again. Even that turned into a mission when she made the vanity beautifully wrong for the vanity top I had. crtree

Right now I wish I was with my Costa Rica roving,
tree climbing, travel-writing daughter.
She looks so carefree.


But I won’t lie.

What has been done is gorgeous.


Love my new floor in my gray and white bathroom.

Love my new floor in my gray and white bathroom.

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Nightgowns and Shoes

I’ve been on a nightgown-and-shoe-buying kick lately. I know, strange bedfellows. I don’t think I want to know how many nightgowns I’ve bought, but I know how many pairs of shoes, three.

Why this particular bent? It does go deeper than mere materialism and is far more consequential than just acquiring more to stuff in my closet, for I soon realized I’d been subconsciously heeding the call for rest and comfort.

What triggered this consumption? The Great Prednisone Failure of 2015. My failure, my 2015. The experiment was a total bust. The pain came back. The hands, the feet, the general malaise. After a few weeks off Prednisone my body sat up and noticed. Hey! What happened to Pred?

It didn’t just beg the question; it screamed it. So I scurried into the safety zone, the metaphorical orange-cone ring made up of little white pills.

“You know what to do,” my rheumy said when I confessed my shortcoming. He proceeded to share how he handles flares with the help of our common little frenemy.

I nodded. Yes, the tiny, precious pills that can wreak havoc within your body in so many ways, and in the process grant you the ability to get up in the morning without feeling like a tin woman who needs a squirt of oil into every single cell.

“I want quality,” I said. “Not quantity.” Now it was his turn to nod. I’d rather have five good years and not twenty bad ones. He understood.

In the midst of renewed pain, sleep took supreme importance. Sleep is a great pain reliever, if you can get it. And so in direct correlation, I concentrated on updating my sleepwear.

Nightgowns are the only thing I like to sleep in. Sometimes I prefer silky soft, sometimes cottony soft. The style must needs be flattering, comfortable, and not bunch up under me. Sometimes I swear I’m related to The Princess and the Pea character. Every little wrinkle in the sheets drives me mad and I have to pull it straight. I’ve made my husband promise that he will keep my bed tidy when the day comes that I can’t do it myself. I doubt he will, but it makes me feel better to know he promised. :)

The brand matters not, so much as the cut and the fabric. Color matters in that it affects mood. I tend toward black, so refined, so elegant and sexy, too, because why shouldn’t you look nice while you’re sleeping?

And if sleeping is important, getting up and staying up is much more so, and that’s where the shoes come in.

I mentioned in a previous post that I am partial to Clarks. One day, I came across the most comfortable pair in the entire universe, not hyperbole I assure you, at least according to these feet of mine.

Their only drawback was that they were only available in white and it was way before Memorial Day, when I would have license to wear them according to fashion dictum. I couldn’t remember the last time I owned a pair of white shoes. It might have been back when I was wearing saddle shoes to grade school.

But there they were, on sale, and they fit deliciously. Or as Billy would say, they felt mahvelous. I took them home and when I went online to search for a pair in my signature black, there were none to be had in my size. I did find a similar style with the same cushioned footbed.  When they arrived I was pleased to discover they fit just as mahvelously. Since then, I’ve added a third pair in beige and am debating whether I need the navy ones, too.

Perhaps I don’t, after all black goes with everything, and pain-free feet go with eeeeverything. My heels don’t hurt anymore, no matter how much I walk in these shoes. And they were. The pain intense, indescribable, every step jarring needles poking me.

These sandals take me everywhere. I dress them up and dress them down. Whether it’s a leisurely stroll down the Art District, a dinner/movie/drinks date or just chugging up and down the grocery store aisles, these babies come through.

I am back on a very low dose of Prednisone, a tiny buffer between me and the pain. He mentioned injectable Methotrexate as a possibility. I said I would take it under advisement. We shall see, but we shall see in comfort.

"I wanna put on my, my, my, my, my, boogie shoes." -- K.C. and The Sunshine Band

“I wanna put on my, my, my, my, my, boogie shoes.” — K.C. and The Sunshine Band

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When I think About Pain

Frida faces me as I work at my desk.

Frida faces me as I work at my desk.

I think about Frida.

Nothing, nothing, nothing that I have suffered compares to what she went through in her 47 years spent on this earth.

Frida Kahlo was born in Casa Azul in Coyoacan, outside Mexico City in 1907, although she liked to say 1910 thereby tying herself in with the Mexican Revolution, a new beginning.

As a young child she had polio which left her right leg stunted. This alone would have been enough to deal with, but fate was not done with her. At the age of 18, while a pre-med student, the bus she was riding in crashed with a trolley.

Her photograph reflecting the light coming in through my French doors.

Her photograph reflecting the light coming in through my French doors.

Frida was thrown, her spine fractured in three places, as were  her pelvis, collarbone and ribs. Her right leg, already affected by polio, fractured in many places, her right foot crushed and broken. She was impaled through the abdomen with a metal hand rail. They gave her up for dead, attending to others first. But her light was not meant to be extinguished just yet.

Subsequently, Frida suffered excruciating, chronic pain and had many, many surgeries throughout her life, some of which required her to be confined to bed for months of recovery encased in a type of corset that supported her spine.

The bus accident took her life as it had been and for the rest of her years she lived in spite of the pain. She fought to keep her right foot, only losing it shortly before she died. Giving up on medical school, she began to paint using an easel set on her bed. She painted flowers on her corsets by using a mirror placed on the canopy above her.

Her pain was physical and emotional for she fell in love with and married Diego Rivera, a gifted muralist who was known for his talent as well as his infidelities. Her own sister counted among his many conquests, something that must have inflicted the deepest pain in Frida. But her greatest tragedy must have been the bus accident robbing her of the ability to bring a child to term.

I imagine Frida found refuge in her painting. She became known for her self-portraits, some that are hard to look at without cringing, without wincing, without feeling the agonizing pain that radiates from the canvas and reaches out to envelop you. “I paint my own reality,” she said.

Today, Frida is a phenomenon with a following. And one of her diehard followers is me. She inhabits my house; she inhabits my thoughts. When I feel down, when I am in pain, I think of Frida and her pain and how she managed to rise above. Frida painted her reality. I write mine.

While in NYC, I visited the New York Botanical Garden where they are holding a Frida Kahlo exhibit until November. Frida loved her garden and had many plants in Casa Azul, but I did not know that she and Diego had made a concerted effort to secure many different species of indigenous plants.

It was eerie walking through the lush garden, knowing that though it was not her garden, her spirit was there. I felt her pain, but I especially felt her resilience. I felt her joy of life and I understood the words written on her last painting, “Viva la vida.” Long live life.

Happy birthday, Frida. May you live forever.

A framed print of one of her works that hangs in my living room.  I was ecstatic when I came across it in San Antonio, Texas years ago.

A framed print of one of her works that hangs in my living room. I was ecstatic when I came across it in San Antonio, Texas years ago.

Though I have several framed prints of Diego's work, this one is by far my favorite.

Though I have several framed prints of Diego’s work, this one is by far my favorite.

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