Category Archives: Love

You Never Know

You never know when you leave home what things are going to transpire without you. You imagine life will go on as it always has. You imagine you will be missed, but that time will pass and then things will return to the before.

I knew that leaving home for two months would shake things up a bit. But things are different now; there is less to shake up. It’s only my husband and me at home. And he’d gone away and left me behind countless times. Times at sea, business trips, times at sea and now back to business trips.

I said to him, now I’m not going to be left behind. Now I go with you. “Yes,” he said. There are no small children at home anymore. I have only two cats that my neighbors are happy to feed. There is no job to request time off from. I’m a freelancer now. I work when I want. My work is portable to boot. Have WiFi, will travel.

He’s had to make one day trip so far, a meet and greet with the other Directors. “If you were with me, I’d make a weekend out of it and stay in nearby St. Augustine,” he said. I regretted that couldn’t be so. I do so want to see that city. But knowing there will be future trips to headquarters was consolation.

I thought that would be the worst thing that could happen during my time away from home. That he might have to take trips I couldn’t partake in. Sadly that proved to not be so.

While I was away, he decided to move his mother from California and place her in an assisted living facility close to our home. She’d been suffering from dementia and worsening rapidly. He found her a highly rated, top-notch place. The best that money could buy. “It’s so nice, I want to live there,” he said.

During my short trip home, I had a long talk with his sister. Explaining to her what was happening to her mother and promising that I would look after her. When I get back, I will fix up her room, I said. I’ll hang some family pictures and brighten up her room with flowers and mementos. Things to keep her grounded to today.

My husband planned to take her out for the day once she’d settled into her new routine. Shopping, dining, walks in the park. He was upbeat. She liked it there, she’d made quick friends. The reports on her were positive. She was always an ebullient personality. She’d made her living in sales. A people person.

Five days into her stay, she was transferred by ambulance to the hospital. Pneumonia it turned out to be. She’d smoked for nearly sixty years. Her lungs were weak, but she soon recovered and was scheduled to be discharged within the week. Before that could happen, she had a massive stroke. There was a high likelihood of another stroke, the neurologist said. And there would be no recovery from that.

She left us on Sunday, June 15th. Father’s Day. We all think she just wanted to see her son once more. That somehow she knew what was happening to her mind and didn’t want to live that way.

I can not wish that her life had been extended artificially. I would not want that for myself. I’ve seen too much of that kind of suffering during my Nursing days. My husband did not want that for his mother either.

I know that the room, at the appropriately named The Palace, is empty of her spirit now, but I still feel the need to go fix it up for her. I will do so in my dreams during the moments I can sleep. And in my prayers during the time that I’m awake.

I have had to hit the Prednisone bottle more often than not these past few days. My body and my spirit are torn and aching wanting, and needing, to be in two different places at once. There is no Tylenol for the soul.

And while I try to adjust to this momentous change in all our lives, I am informed that our cat, Tigress, is no longer. A sudden illness took her. It will be strange to go home and not see her welcoming shiny, green eyes staring up at me as they did for nineteen years.

Tigress 1995 - 2014

Tigress, born in my home June 19, 1995.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Godspeed, Mary

Once upon a time I met a sailor. A sailor in the making. It was a dreamy night, hot and humid as south Texas can be. I was not impressed, with the weather or the sailor.

In spite of that, a friendship developed. Almost against my will. I was not ready. Not ready. Not ready.

One day I let him convince me to visit his mother. We drove to her one-bedroom apartment in Houston. I was unsure what to expect. I was a divorcée with a five-year-old son. This sailor was her one and only son. The sun and the moon rose with him.

She accepted me with open arms. Boisterous, talkative. There were no corners in her home where dull moments could hide.

She spent that night in the living room with her son, giving up her bed for me to sleep with mine.

In the morning, unbeknownst to me, she caught her son staring at me through the partially open door. I was asleep, he said, with my long hair spread out all over the pillow. “I couldn’t take my eyes off you,” he said.

She made fun of him later that morning. Perhaps because she knew. Knew that her son was hooked.

And that she would be part of my life for 34 years.

RIP, Mary. Godspeed.

 

Mary, on her wedding day.

Mary, on her wedding day.

Be a fountain . . .

. . . not a drain.

I had this terrible habit of writing down sayings that stopped me in my tracks and then not noting where I’d gotten them. Thus, I cannot attribute this particular saying, but I know I didn’t write it. And I give thanks to whoever did.

It’s good advice I am trying to follow.

Be a fountain of giving. Giving of my time to my youngest granddaughter. I have moved into her home for a spell. She needs me. I need her. She has astounded me with her vocabulary and her comprehension. At eighteen months old, I expected her to still be more of a baby than a toddler. Well, she’s having none of that. Her development is in fast forward.

Be a fountain of words. My work of course came with me. I even found a piece of luggage called “Office” to lug it all in. An office on wheels. The advertising copy promised it would fit under an airplane seat, but when I tried to stuff it in there, it wouldn’t go. Too tall and too wide.

Then I realized that the compartment under the aisle seat was narrower than the one under the middle and window seats. I had no choice but to stuff it in the overhead compartment. I’m short and the thing was heavy, but the worst part was that it had my laptop in it and I prefer to keep that with me.

We landed in New Orleans with such a bang that it would not have made any difference where my laptop was. It would have shaken, rattled and rolled wherever it was. The flight attendant joked, “Don’t forget to check the seatback for any belongings. In fact, check all over the aircraft for your belongings.” That was funny, but note to self: no more aisle seats.

Be a fountain of love. What else but love could compel me to leave the people I love to come be with the people I love. I will miss my other baby. I gave her extra kisses and hugs the last time I saw her and I lost track of how many I love you’s we shared on the phone before my flight. Her tiny little voice almost made me not want to leave.

Be a fountain of health. My personal pharmacy came with me as well. Have pills will travel. My hands are not happy that I’m not taking Prednisone anymore, the left more than the right, but since I’m right-handed, it’s not that bad.

And it’s really not that bad overall. I expected it to be worse, but I’m glad it’s not. If I keep moving, the rest of my body feels fine. It’s only when I sit too long that I feel stiff, but that might not be RA. That might just be me. One thing I know, having to chase after a toddler will inoculate me against sitting around.

And be a fountain of youth. Of course. I keep telling myself how young I still am. And nowadays, it is young. But I just have to keep reminding myself. Inside, I still feel 20. And outside, I’m glad I’m not. If I could be 20 knowing what I know now, maybe.

Hanging out at South Beach, obviously not missing Na at all!

Hanging out at South Beach, obviously not missing Na at all!

Watching Abuela work and ripping apart her Post-its.

Watching Abuela work and ripping apart her Post-its.

 

My Mother’s Kitchen

I am always looking for my mother’s kitchen. The scents, the sounds. The tastes, the textures.  The colors, the flavors. The love she used to stretch each meal so that we were all left satiated once again. Each meal a true labor of love, whether it was a simple dish of eggs scrambled with tortilla bits, called Migas. Or a grand presentation of Mole Poblano, chicken in a spicy chocolate-based sauce.

I doubt I will ever find even a semblance of it, not even in my kitchen as my own table pales by comparison. She is cooking in heaven now and I am left with memories that propel me to keep looking so that every time I walk into a Mexican restaurant I wonder, is this it?

Chips and salsa

An occasional treat. If I eat too much corn, I notice swollen hands the next morning. RA imposing its limitations. The salsa has several health benefits, but what is salsa without chips?

wine

White Zinfandel. Something not found anywhere in my mother’s kitchen. Or my own actually. I keep Moscato around, and I found a strawberry Moscato that hits the right spot after dinner. Who needs dessert?

avocados

Guacamole. Avocados were a mainstay of my diet growing up and are a frequent part of my diet now. Avocados are loaded with vitamins and minerals, plus they are delicious plain or mixed to make guacamole.

Beef Tacos

Beef tacos. Another thing I don’t indulge in often, red meat, especially when it comes in a corn tortilla embrace. Another staple from my childhood was rice and beans, though  I gave up white rice a long time ago. The beans (B vitamins and Folic Acid) remain an important part of my diet, minus the sour cream and cheese topping. 

Pinata lanterns

We were enchanted with the star-shaped hanging lanterns. When we asked our server where we could buy some he said, “Guadalajara.” Hmm, that’s a ways away; maybe I’ll check online. 

Though this was a lovely place, the food delicious, and we received excellent service, it was not quite my mother’s kitchen. I know it no longer exists, but I can’t help wanting to find it.

***One of my favorite novels: Like Water for Chocolate, (Como Agua Para Chocolate) a luscious love story with a bonus of delectable recipes preceding each chapter, written by Laura Esquivel and translated into English by Carol Christensen and Thomas Christensen

 

Coffee, Tea or . . .

My mother plied us with hot tea whenever we ailed from whatever. If tea didn’t work, it was doctor time. And even if we’d been carted off to the doctor after all, the tea still formed part of the care plan.

Stepping out the door of one little house we were assailed with the fragrance of mint, growing right beside the front steps in my mother’s herb garden. Later, in the back yard of a slightly larger house grew the tall orange tree from which my mother plucked young tender leaves. And of course there was always the mainstay, which my mother bought in bunches, Manzanilla (chamomile).

None of these brews were accompanied with the requisite teaspoon of sugar to help it go down. It was only the force of my mother’s love that made us swallow the bitterness. And though I completely understand that, nevertheless I was left with an aversion to hot tea of all kinds.

Coffee, I barely remember growing up. I know my dad had his cafecitos (with milk and sugar) and maybe my mother, too. But as an adult, though I found the aroma intoxicating, I couldn’t get with the program of drinking coffee on a regular basis.

I would only crave it when I felt bad, had a tummy ache or something else was awry. Then I would find a hot cup of coffee as soothing as a liquid emollient. A throwback to the hot teas perhaps? For though I could not tolerate the actual hot tea, I was still left wanting the emotional hug it had given me.

A few years ago, I began receiving coffee in bed. I felt like royalty, being catered to and allowed to lounge in bed half the morning. I knew I was being offered more than that cup of coffee and I accepted it, warily. A lot had happened prior to those mornings. Coffee, in a way,  was now being used as a cleansing solution. Perhaps even a bonding agent.

Whatever its use, whatever its purpose, it opened some doors and I became addicted to starting my mornings that way, filled with that ardent, flowing embrace. Now, on the mornings when it cannot be brought to me, I get up and fix it myself and then take it back to bed with me. It feels almost sinful, akin to a sensuous luxury, though not quite as sweet.

Today I came across this article posted in honor of Valentine’s Day, I suppose.  It lists several points on how to keep a relationship humming along. Number 5 made me almost choke on my java: “Know how she takes her coffee.”

Hmmm . . .

I’ve since learned that coffee is a healthy beverage, in moderation, and has some good attributes. But I never realized it could also be used as a wooing agent.

From hot tea to hot coffee. Who knew that love could be spelled in so many ways?

 

In Her Own Words

Today’s Daily Prompt: Happy Happy Joy Joy

The subject matter hits me straight in the heart. My youngest, world-weary traveler, was home for the holidays. I hated letting her go back to the frigid north, but alas, what’s a mother to do but pray. And come close to a nervous breakdown!

I wanted to write it all out and relieve myself of the increased cortisol production my stress induced, but my little writer says it best in her own words:

After 33 hours of travel, which includes three delayed flights, two airplanes, two layovers (if you count 15 hours in Boston), the longest lines I’ve ever queued in, a number of subway trains, AND one bus ride later, I’m finally settled in my Brooklyn apartment.

And she still has to go pick up her suitcase, which made the trip without her. She is in the young, invulnerable stage of life. I must do the worry duty for her. I do try to remind myself that at her age I thought nothing of blizzards and zero degree weather and try to ease back on the worry throttle a bit.

But, those hours were no fun for either of us. They lasted forever, and I was eternally grateful for the umbilical cord I still have, her cell phone.

I’m extremely happy that she is back safely after that arduous trip, but I stressed that more bad weather is coming and she must take care.

I pray that everyone in those freezing temperatures stays safe. And warm.

The Naked Truth

So, I pulled out the scale this morning and hopped on. Well, hopped on gingerly. I’m still favoring my right foot. It has its moments where it prefers not to bear me up.

Anyway, I was disappointed to see I lost ground. Or rather, gained fat. Since returning from my L.A. trip in June, I was making steady progress down the number line. I was so pleased, ten pounds and counting. Soon I would be able to zip up my size 8 jeans again. I have a closet full of clothes waiting for me.

But, this latest trip cost me three pounds, and I’m not talking English currency.

It couldn’t be helped I suppose. It started with the beignets and went downhill from there, or maybe I should say uphill. That same day I was served what appeared to be a mere taste of an entrée. Four jumbo shrimp stuffed with crab laid out artistically in a row on a long, white rectangular plate. I should’ve taken a picture. Surprisingly, I could barely finish it. It was deceptively filling.

New Orleans

The girls share a moment while we wait to be seated.

Then there was the trip to Sonic; my daughter had to stop there. The commercials are so appetizing and we don’t have a Sonic close by at home.

And then The Shed, where they served barbecue chicken wings that fell off the bone, with French Fries, of course. The food was delicious, the place eccentric and the girls had a blast playing with rocks.

bbq chicken

The Shed. Pretty awesome little place.

grandchildren

Rocks. Best toys in the world.

There were the tiny star-shaped sugar cookies sent from Texas that melted in your mouth and went fantastic with your morning coffee. And of course, you could never eat just one. They were barely an inch wide; how many inches could they add to a waistline?

And the must-have trip to the family-owned restaurant to have crab cakes cooked in the shell. Oh, how I wish I had a taken a picture of them. The sight of those crab cakes would hold me until my next visit. Not to mention the hush puppies, yum, and the appetizer of fried crawfish and jalapeño peppers. Strange combination, but tasty.

And then of course, the birthday cake. Delicious. Followed by the lollipops I snagged off Alyssa’s collection garnered from the burst piñata.

And last but not least, the pepperoni and mushroom pizza on our last evening at my son’s home.

No, the truth cannot be denied. I ate too much!

 

A Glow

It is eerily quiet in this house now that we two are the only ones left rattling around. For almost two weeks we had a little person around us 24/7. In preparation for our trip to celebrate my younger granddaughter’s first birthday, I kept four-year-old Alyssa away from daycare. Though she loves school, I was afraid she would pick up some germ surprises to take to Carmen, who does not go to daycare.

Sometimes I wish I could stop thinking like a nurse, an infectious disease nurse, no less. But that doesn’t seem to ever become a possibility. And of course, I can never stop being an overprotective grandmother. But my plan worked well. Alyssa remained healthy and she fell in love with her little cousin. And for her part, Carmen loved toddling around after her big cousin.

Though RA went with me, and made sure I knew it was with me, I stubbornly refused to give it any quarter. Instead, I focused on enjoying a whirlwind week with my two grandbabies. From having them pose together for a professional photographer, to our trip to New Orleans, a fun day spent touring a children’s activity museum, then stopping at a pumpkin patch to pick out 25 pumpkins to serve as party favors for the birthday fiesta.

It was a little bit of heaven while it lasted and now that I am home, I miss all that activity. I especially miss that little voice and the little hand that slipped into mine at regular intervals, wanting to make sure that I was still her Na, even though she was having to share me with someone else.

We are back to “normal” now; all of us back to our routines. After a day of rest, it’s time for me to get back to work. But I have fresh memories to keep me company. To keep me warm and my heart aglow

Birthday fiesta

All Things Being Equal

wean sheet

My doctor is so conscientious. He made out this steroid wean sheet for me on my last visit. I’m making my way to Day Zero.

As I slowly say goodbye to my frenemy, Prednisone, my body is realizing something’s up.

This is a for-keeps kind of thing. I suppose it needs time to adjust. And it has started sending me signals, namely via hands and ankles.

Since I have a sore right thumb, I’ve taken to Ace-wrapping it, and of course my hand, for the night. Two mornings ago I woke up with a very painful left hand, but my right was A-OK.

I thought nothing of it, unwrapped my hand and got up to meet my day. I massaged my left hand at intervals and it took several hours for the pain and stiffness to go away. RA’s signature.

At the end of the day it hit me. Warmth. I’d kept my right hand warm encased in its Ace wrap all night. There was visible swelling along the base of the metacarpals, a definite RA calling card. But, it didn’t hurt and it didn’t affect my mobility.

 

Aha! I thought. What took me so long to figure that out? Nurse heal thyself.

sewing glove

I’ve had these gloves for many years and they still give my hands and wrists great support when I sew or quilt.

 

Since I was already in bed when the revelation hit me and my other Ace wrap had been left in my office, I opened my bedside drawer and grabbed my sewing glove.

It would have to do.

And it did.

This morning my hands felt equal. A little stiff, a little swollen, but barely sore. And most importantly, functional.

It’s all I ask.

 

 

 

And what makes me feel warm all over?

My little medicine  munchkin.

manicures

Blowing on her nails after Na did them. Another reason I need agile hands. To give my baby her manicures!