Category Archives: Humor

Double Drat

A few days ago, I woke up and hit the ground running as I usually do. I don’t mean to imply it was at the crack of dawn. I’m a night owl, sometimes up till 3 a.m. when I get involved with whatever I’m reading, writing or studying. After my “morning” ablutions, I stuck my feet in my sandals and proceeded to walk out of my room.

My brain was aswirl with all the deadlines I had pending, finish writing an exam, critique an article, plan a Chinese New Year‘s quilt and finish a Christmas quilt that was promised, ye gods! for Christmas. As I walked out of my room, there was pain in my right foot. But it didn’t really register. The pain was like the squeak of a mouse clamoring to make itself heard above the roar of lions and tigers and bears, oh my.

It wasn’t until a few hours later when I got out of my car and gave that first step to cross the parking lot that the pain shot high enough to solidify in my brain. Surprised, I immediately began to favor my right foot as my nursing assessment skills automatically kicked in.

It couldn’t be my shoes. I’d just been bragging to my husband how comfortable they were. “Most shoes begin to bother me after an hour or so,” I’d said to him. “But these, I can wear all day long.”

“They’re Eccos,” he’d said, as if that settled the matter.

The day before I’d been dancing and jumping around the living room to my favorite reggaeton music. Dancing is one of my preferred methods of exercise. And since I had my granddaughter with me it doubled the fun. My feet were fine while I gyrated barefoot for almost an hour.

What could it be, I wondered? How did I hurt my foot and not know it? How was it that the feather-light suede strap across my foot was suddenly intolerable? As I limped up and down the grocery aisles it four-letter-word hit me. Neuroma! But no, it couldn’t be!

Back home, I managed to unload the car while dodging my demanding 17-year-old cat, Tigress. She can be so annoying when she wants something, wrapping herself around your feet. Once done, I kicked off my sandals and pressed down on the top of my foot below my third and fourth toes. And zing! An exquisitely painful electrical impulse shot forward and the side of the toes facing each other went numb.

It had to be another case of Morton’s Neuroma. I’d suffered from that many moons ago. I knew the drill, but even so I looked it up. One treatment is administering cortisone shots, which is how I’d been treated. The other was surgery. No, thanks.

Me, being me, I decided to up my Prednisone dose. Do a hit and run like my rheumatologist suggested, take a bolus dose and then wean down, all within six days. “It’s easy with you,” he’d said, smiling. “Cause you know what you’re doing.”

Yeah, a little ignorance could bring some much needed bliss my way.

I really, really don’t want to go see my podiatrist again. Last time I saw him was eighteen months ago when he had to cut away an ingrown toenail. I’d spent the year exercising my brains out and since my left foot twists in a little, it can make my second toe lie up against and partly under my big toe with continued stress. I didn’t know the nail was going to end up forcibly embedded, else I would have eased up on my activities.

I’m still smarting from the shot he gave me to numb my foot prior to taking what looked like a pair of pliers to it. It hurt so bad, I called a friend. But, after six or seven follow-up visits, he patted my foot and said, “That’s it. You’re all cured now.”

“You mean the relationship is over?”

“Yes,” he said, still sitting by my feet. “It’s over.” Then we both laughed.

Believe me, I never wanted a relationship to be over so badly. And now it looks like I might have to set up another date(s). I’m not at all interested in receiving his “caresses.” They’re delivered at the end of a needle while I lie in a pseudo dentist chair.

Double drat on that!

Agoraphobia

Standing in the lobby of the multiplex, the word hits me like a cement wall. Agoraphobia. I find myself instinctively dodging the oncoming and bypassing foot traffic. I glide hither and yon as people approach, concentrating on keeping several feet of distance between myself and others. As the crowd ebbs and flows around me, I bob and weave like a buoy swaying with the waves.

My hand tightens around the paper cup of chocolaty coffee and I glance down to make sure it’s not spilling. The sickeningly sweet odor wafts up to me and I cringe. How can he drink this stuff? Mentally I tick off the seconds as I size up everyone who comes near. My anxiety rises making the couple of minutes I wait seem like eons.

Finally my husband exits the bathroom; I hand him his coffee cup and we proceed to our particular theater. In a dark sea of red, I follow him up and up and up the carpeted stairs. As though sensing my need, he selects seats in the center of a row with no one else close by. I’m relieved to see this theater sparsely populated.

Why am I afraid of being in a crowd? I don’t want to catch what it might be offering. This year’s flu is making itself felt throughout the country. New York has declared an emergency and I visualize my daughter trapped twice a day in the tubular sardine can that is the subway. “Keep hand sanitizer on you at all times,” I warn her. “Don’t touch your eyes or mouth unless you know your hands are clean.”

I’ve already decided I will hop a plane, recycled air and all, and go to her if she gets ill. The mother instinct will protect me. But, I have a sneaky feeling that if she gets sick, she won’t even tell me till she’s better. Kids. Anyhow, it makes me feel better to know I have Plan A in place. Plan B is to stay home and worry.  Wait, that’s always Plan A.

You would think if she was ill I’d want to stay away. But as a mother, I traveled within a force field making me, in my mind at least, invincible. Mind over matter. History shows that even when the whole family was lying about sick as dogs, Mommy just kept on going and going like the Energizer Bunny. Who had time to stop and be sick!

But now I’m an empty nester and I have plenty of time. Plenty of time to think and imagine. Imagine how the virus slithers toward me while growing exponentially like The Blob. I know my force field has sustained some damage, courtesy of RA. Holes have been ripped through. It is no longer impermeable to danger, in my mind or in fact.  How will my immune system stand up to this current mutation of a virus? I don’t want to find out.

Y’all stay healthy now.

Food for Thought

I was just thinking, if the world is really going to end on December 21st of this year, then I don’t have to worry about turning 60 or losing weight! I can eat all I want for the next three days, or is it two days?

But with my luck, December 22nd will dawn bright and warm like every other day of my life, so I better get a move on.

Besides, Christmas is almost here!

Plus-Sized Woman

plus2

If I can still get into my size 8 jeans that stretch up to a full size, am I still a size 8?

They are snug, but I don’t have to hold my breath to zip them up or anything. And once on, they don’t bind; I forget I have them on even.

There’s just no forgetting one fact. I’m fatter than I was when I bought them. They were loose on me back then. My husband would stick his hand in the gap that swelled at my lower back and exclaim, “You need a smaller size!” And he was right, I was constantly having to pull them up; actually I still do though not as much, or as often.

But, the mirror and the scale do not lie. This year, I have added ten pounds to my physical repertoire. And the extra weight has two favorite places to settle on my body, my tummy and my caboose. My jeans, being low-rise, are not much affected by my fuller waistline, but the other side, well; let’s just say a certain hand doesn’t fit in there anymore. Though I have to admit to not hearing any complaints.

Regardless, I have one. A complaint, that is. Or maybe I should say I have ten, one for each pound of added weight. The view might have improved from his perspective, but not from mine. As much as I dislike what I see, I have to remember that the mirror is my friend. And it’s telling me it’s time to get serious about some deletion. Would that losing weight could be as easy as hitting clear-alt-delete. I’d be hitting those keys ten times in quick succession.

Since that’s not gonna happen any time soon, I am left with only one alternative. Hit the exercise bike. It’s been sad and lonely out in my patio waiting for me. My exercise gear is stowed away somewhere in this house; I’ll have to see about digging it up while it still fits. It doesn’t come cheap. Another motivator.

And it’s not that I eat a lot or eat the wrong things. It’s that I listened too intently to my writing professor. She suggested we buy lots of chair glue. You know, to keep us in that chair, writing. I spent all summer doing that, reading about writing and writing about writing. As a result, my knowledge has improved tremendously. I just don’t want to measure my progress as a writer by the size of my ass.

Besides, I read that each extra pound of weight puts ten pounds of stress on your joints. And with my RA that is not good, not good at all. So, the amount of chair glue will have to be counterbalanced by an amount of bicycle seat glue. I will try an eight to one ratio for starters.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not fixated on weight so much as my health. I have never been and will never be the size of those emaciated runway models. It seems the fashion industry considers anyone who isn’t a size zero, a plus-sized woman. Well, I’m proud to be on the positive end of the number line. As long those size 8 jeans fit like they use to.

Like Loki

An unfunny thing happened to me once I got home. I began to hurt.

While I was away those four weeks, my body settled into a rhythm of its own making. I’d expected that being in unfamiliar surroundings for that long would raise my stress level and thus make my disease rear its ugly head.  But, that didn’t happen. Instead, I found a calming, physical peace. A peace that I now miss almost as much as I miss holding my new grandchild in my arms.

Maybe it was sharing the first few weeks of her life that had me feeling so high pain could not intrude. There was no time and no room for it, no portal left open for it to enter.

Unknowingly or instinctively, I scheduled a buffer, a few relaxing days in Key West. A cushioning, so to speak, between There and Here. Between Away and Back. Between Dream and Reality.

I related all this to my rheumatologist, my confessor of all things physical. And he said the strangest thing. Sitting across from me at his desk, he stopped his note-taking and looked at me. “When I travel I feel fine, it’s when I come back that I start to hurt,” he said.

I could only nod mutely. I am always taken aback when someone understands and verbalizes exactly what I am trying to say. I’m more used to being misunderstood or ignored even.

And then I remembered; my confessor and I share the same disease. Of course he knows what Rheumatoid Arthritis feels like! How it can grab you and swing you around and slam you into the ground time and again, sort of like the Hulk did to Loki in the movie, The Avengers.

That was a funny scene, more so because it was quite unexpected. The audience couldn’t help but laugh out loud. Loki deserved to be treated that way, but as a god, puny though he might be, he was left unfazed and unhurt. All that was wounded was his pride. For the moment.

Unlike Loki, we are neither gods, nor descendent of frost giants. We are warm and human, and don’t deserve to be treated this way; no one’s laughing.  Yet like Loki, we stand defiant, sure that we can withstand anything, before we find ourselves flying through the air being swung by our feet, helpless.

And like Loki, we get up. We don’t stay down. We fight back. Once that look of surprise leaves our face.

Needing a Fix

While in the midst of bonding with my new granddaughter, I find myself going through withdrawals.  It is a painful process, I assure you. The frustration builds day by day, the raw need claws at you with a razor-sharp edge. You don’t realize how much you depend on something until it is no longer there. Or, as in my case, intermittently there.

As a writer, I have been rightly spoiled. By my high-speed internet access. I got used to being able to log on anytime, anywhere, anyplace that had Wi-Fi available.  No matter when or where inspiration hit, there was my trusty laptop, drowsing, waiting for me to wake it up.

Or whenever I felt the overwhelming urge to interact with friend and foe alike, there was nothing to stop me. Nothing to prevent me from running off at the mouth, or should I say, at the fingers. Now there are trees, millions of them, surrounding the home I’m in. Green silent sentinels forming a protective barrier, holding me in and my signal out. (I don’t know if that’s true, but I’ve decided to blame the trees.)

And then one day, there was the weather. Apparently it got too cold for the satellite. It even sent me a message; it was experiencing weather related problems it said. At least it didn’t leave me in the dark about that, but if my Miami blood can handle the near freezing temperatures, why can’t this man-made piece of metal?

I didn’t know how good I had it. I thought walking the length of my house to plug in was the greatest inconvenience. No, I thought carrying the cord across the house from my bedroom to my office was the greatest inconvenience. Ha! What would I give to have that “problem” now.

The pain is real, I tell you. Especially for this political junkie. How can I keep up with the state of the world if I have to wait 30 minutes for a page to load? Staring at the screen does not help; I know, I’ve tried it. I guess a watched pot doesn’t boil.

It is so bad that I even have time to read, entire chapters, while I wait. And to add insult to injury, I can’t watch clips, can’t run video. If I’m lucky, I can read the text of an article, but streaming, fuggedaboutit. Thank God for YouTube. What I missed will be waiting for me when I get home; I will get my fill, gorge, overdose.

I know I should be happy and appreciative. When I hear the baby cry, my heart twists, I will miss that sound. I will miss seeing her grow up on a daily basis. But, she is surrounded by people who love her dearly, for within the trees are the hidden homes of extended family. I am extremely glad I had these first few weeks with her. She is a joy.

And I am appreciative, but Lord, I do miss my reliable internet. I need to write, I need to research, I need to stay in contact, I need to find a beta reader, or two or three. And by God, I need to gossip!!!

My Lover, My Friend

I’ve been trying to say goodbye to my friend called Prednisone. Or at least, so long. He’s a good buddy to have around at your beck and call, as long as he knows his place. His place in the medicine cabinet, that is. But, I think he loves me more than I love him, because he’s gotten a reprieve. Not only will our connection not be decreased, he will stay on board a bit longer.

I was all set to start our goodbye process, a process that can take weeks, even months. We’ve been intimately involved since March when my right hand suffered a blow, or rather a blow-up. It became so swollen and painful, it was basically rendered useless. My left hand jumped into the fray and compensated as best it could, but the only thing that tore at the devil called Pain was my bestest friend.

Candy, I used to call him, though he is a bitter pill to swallow, literally. Every morning he’s there, waiting patiently for me. I want him, but I don’t want him, even though he does make me feel good, spry, nimble, young again.  Like a lover, he gives me a good feeling all over, once that initial swallow of tea takes him down into my innermost.

We will have to continue our relationship through the rest of the year, I suppose. He has a new area to caress and concentrate on. My chest, right over my heart. How ironic is that?

Costochondritis, my doctor calls it. A fancy word for swelling of the cartilage that connects each rib to what is commonly called the breastbone. This pain is not as severe, but then I don’t use my chest like I do my hands. Though one thing it does have in common with the hand pain is that it’s there all the time. All the time.

So, when I leave for The Big Easy in a few days, my good buddy will be first and foremost on my list. I was going to take him along anyway, as insurance. Now, he will go with me as assurance.

Touching the Moon

I hold her little hand as we walk the four blocks to the park.  My cat, Tigress, follows us part way until I tell her to go home. Tigress sits on the grass and watches us cross the street.

“Stay home, Tigress,” she admonishes. It’s 6:30 in the evening and the birds are chirping. A whistling symphony seems to be coming from the trees themselves.

“Listen to the birds,” I say.

She looks up and scans the treetops. “The birds,” is all she says in her tiny little voice.

We turn the corner and cross another street.

“Your mommy went to this school,” I tell her, as we walk alongside the Elementary.

“My mommy’s school,” she says.

We reach the park and make our way to the playground. Her eyes light up when she sees the jungle gym. I find myself shadowing her every move. I was never such a mother hen with my own kids.

“Let’s go on the swing.” There I will have her in a confined, safe place.

“The slide?”

“No, the swing. Come, I’ll show you.”

We slog through the sandpit that is the playground and I lift her into a baby swing. She grabs on with a death grip. I get her going and then sit on a regular swing. I stick my legs straight out and lean back as far as I can, so that I’m horizontal as I stare up at the blue sky. I’m amazed at how quickly I feel like a little girl again. We swing until darkness surrounds us.

“Time to go home now.” I reluctantly get off the swing.

“I want to slide.”

“Tomorrow. We’ll come back tomorrow.”

We shake the sand out of our shoes and cross the parking lot on our way to the sidewalk. She points at a burgundy minivan parked close to the park entrance.

“I want a car.”

“What?” I bend toward her not sure I heard right.

“I want a caaaar.”

“You want a car?

“Yes.”

“That’s not our car.” I can’t help laughing.

We walk half a block in silence.

“I want a car.” Her little finger points at a gray sedan in the school parking lot.

I start laughing again. I understand now; she doesn’t want to walk. She wants a ride.

“But, that’s not our car either. Are you tired?”

“No.”

She is walking nimbly, her little hand in mine. But, I will carry her if need be. The moon is a translucent ball straight ahead.

“Look, let’s go touch the moon.”

“Touch the moon?”

“Yes, we’ll touch the moon.”

She concentrates on the moon as we walk again in silence. Rounding the school we pass a black F-150.

“I want a car.” Her tiny finger points toward the truck.

This time I don’t answer. I can’t. I’m laughing too hard. She thinks you can just take any vehicle if you don’t want to walk anymore.

I’m about to pick her up when she looks around concerned.

“Hey, where’d the moon go?”

“It’s right over there.” I point to our left. Her little face relaxes and she settles back into an easy stride. Someone is walking toward us and she becomes absorbed with the woman and her dog.

We turn the corner to our street and as we walk toward my house we pass by three cars parked near the sidewalk. Each time we near one, her little finger points and she makes her demand again. I haven’t laughed this much in years.

Finally we reach my driveway and she marches straight to my car. “I want a car,” she states.

I unlock it and open the back door. She climbs in and settles herself behind the passenger seat.

“Get in the car,” she says, pointing to the driver’s seat.

“But, we’re home now. It’s time for your bubble bath.”

She shakes her head and pulls the seat belt around her. Her face is resolute; I’m to get in the car. I only meant to let her sit in the car for a moment, to satisfy her want; I hadn’t expected that she would order me in as well.

I have no car seat so a drive around the block is not an option. Besides, I’m too much of a worrywart to chance these crazy roads with my precious grandchild. I have to come up with something much more attractive than a car ride.

My car is parked near the front door on our circular drive. I unlock it and turn around to find her still struggling to buckle the seat belt. I know she is as hot and sweaty as I am.

“Hey, let’s go inside and have some juice.”

Her head snaps up. “OK,” she says.

Today I’m Broke

Strawberry

Strawberry (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some days I’m flush and I forget. I forget I have an illness. An illness that never goes away. That can only be contained. I equate it to living on a high wire. One from which you can never climb down. You are always there, suspended. Make a sudden move and you’re tumbling. And the worst part is not the tumble or even the landing; it’s the struggle to get back up onto that high wire. Because that’s where you are safest, on that thin grey line.

What makes me rich is energy. Some days my cup is full. Or at least, half full.

“You look great,” my friend says. We are out, dinner and a movie. One of our favorite things to do. And I do feel great. I treat myself to a strawberry margarita. After all, strawberries are anti-inflammatory. I’ve been doing my research. Strawberries are “medicine,” as is chocolate. And what better way to have strawberries than in a tall, cold, rim-salted glass?

That was two days ago and now it’s time to make another deposit into that good old energy bank. So soon. Perhaps if I had slept more that night I wouldn’t have leaked out so much energy. But the writing bug bit and I stayed up till the wee hours. Writing is medicine, too. Or at least, therapy.

Words have to be my greatest ‘disease modifying drug.’ Reading them and writing them. Forget the chemo; forget the steroid. I take them regularly, my little crutches. Sometimes they make me feel like the women of Star Trek, who became beautiful after popping pieces of colored jelly. As it turned out, that’s all they were. Placebos. It was actually the belief in themselves that made them beautiful.

I know my chemical drugs are not placebos and I know they help me, but I cannot rely on pills to keep me up on that high wire. I don’t want to rely on pills. I prefer to think of them as garnish, a sprinkle here, a scatter there. I’d rather the main course be the things I do that make me happy, make me feel worthwhile. Being productive sends my energy level soaring, gives me the balance I need not to tumble or stumble.

The catch-22 is, of course, that I must spend energy to make energy. Sort of like, you must spend money to make money. The trick is to deposit more than you plan to withdraw or you end up with a negative balance and no overdraft protection.

Which is definitely my case today. So when the question, “What do you want to do tonight?” arose, my answer was, “Rest.” I have learned my limits and more importantly, my limitations. I try to observe them and live within those confines. I have learned after all these years with RA to be faithful to me.

Therefore I will rest and refill my coffers; I have a long list of projects and deadlines requiring my attention. And I have no doubt that tomorrow will find me feeling like a million dollars again. For you know what else they say.

Tomorrow is another day.

And maybe next time I’m out, I will try a chocolate margarita.

Why not?

What Empty Nest Syndrome?

General Electric's "foot candle" adv...

General Electric’s “foot candle” advertising novelty (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The quiet is palpable. Especially of a morning as the sun peeks in through half-opened blinds above my head, one footcandle at a time. They are rarely fully closed, those blinds, no one else peeks in. I sense the light before I see it.

My eyes remain closed as slumber releases my senses, one by one. The fabric of the pillow case rests smooth and silky beneath my cheek. I snuggle further into the pillow relishing the give, as well as the comfort of being held within that cottony bowl.

A coolness grazes my naked arm; the sheet has been kicked aside during the night. The whir of the air conditioner buzzes in my ears. I shiver and pull at the sheet; it’s all I need between me and the blast of air flowing towards me. The warm sheet and the cold white noise envelop me.

When the AC stops, I listen. Some days I can hear the birds chirping, bringing in the new day. But most days not; the thick impact-resistant window panes muffle my outside world. I doze in the silence. A silence so powerful I can smell it. A silence that is both foreign and familiar. For I dreamed of it often, this silence.

The sun inevitably forces its way inside; full daylight teases my eyelids, nudging them to open. And when they do, I see the silence first. It is bright and shiny, reflecting off the mirror. It is dark and somber, ingrained within the furniture.

The door is open; the hallway empty. The silence calls to me, Come, there’s no one here. I feel inherently drawn to it, but I know there are someones there, not here, but there. I grab the gadget that connects me to them and check for messages, none. Good. All is well. The silence glows.

I rise to meet its radiance. It accompanies me during my morning routine, a muted sentinel guarding my every move. It then follows me into the hallway stillness; nothing else is moving, not even sound. My bare feet glide over the cool slick tiles as I pass by other open doors.  Doors that lead into silent static voids lying in wait.

I hurry on into the glorious brightness that bathes my kitchen, sunlight streaming in unabated through the clear French doors. The sunshine visits me often, but this silence is now my constant companion. Today, as well as yesterday. And I suppose, into tomorrow.  I stop transfixed and take a deep breath, inhaling it; its aroma is intoxicating.