Tag Archives: Life

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.

Dancing Shoes

photo (1)On my way to New Orleans six weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised at the TSA check.

“You don’t have to take off your shoes,” the lady said.

It was like Christmas and my birthday rolled into one.

Imagine how such a small thing can mean so much.

I prefer to travel in tennis shoes. They are comfortable enough to be worn for long periods. The drawback is they don’t slip on and off.

That means that besides having to hurry and stuff my laptop and tablet back into my carry-on, grab my purse before it whizzes by, all while holding onto my boarding pass and ID with one hand, I have to go find somewhere to sit to put my shoes back on.

It’s a travel nuisance, but when you have fingers that have a tendency to not cooperate the second you want them to, it seems to be a little more than that. Stress makes my fingers sluggish. Or maybe they just get sluggish when they have to do things I don’t want them to do.

As luck would have it, I had to go home for a few days after three weeks of being here. And again I got the same gift. I began to feel special. Wow! I rated being on the OK-to-not-take-your-shoes-off list.

But returning to New Orleans once again, I was rudely awakened to reality. No more special treatment for you, RA Lady. This time I not only had to remove my shoes, I had to submit to being x-rayed. At least I didn’t have to wear one of those designer gowns they hand out at doctor’s offices and hospitals.

It must have been a fluke, both times. I’d hit the shoe lotto and now I was broke again.

But you know what? After almost two months of being away from home, I’ll take my shoes off and walk barefoot all the way to my gate if they want me to. I’m tired of seeing green grass and green trees out the windows. All the windows. A big green 360.

I want to kick off my tennis shoes and slip on my dancing shoes.

I want to go to a club and hold a drink in my hand.

I want to dance to slow reggae.

I want to feel the dizzy creeping up from my feet all the way to my head.

I want to close my eyes and sway the night away.

I want one more blissfully . . . blissful . . . moondance.

 

 

A Ten Milligram Day

Yesterday I had one of those under-water-death-fatigue day. I treated it with an extra dose of strawberries and whipped cream. And while scarfing that down I wondered, if strawberries have anti-inflammatory properties and sugar exacerbates your symptoms, do they cancel each other out?

At the moment I didn’t care. It tasted so good, it made me forget that I was moving in slow-mo. And that it’s kinda hard to chase a toddler in slow-mo. But I figured out a solution to that, too. I don’t.

She loves being chased. It’s a game, but not to Abuela. At least not on these kind of days, so I just stand still and say, bye bye. She comes running back to me because the one thing she loves more than being chased is being included.

Bye, bye is what I also say to RA, but it too comes running back to me. Sometimes with a vengeance.

I am not an athlete, unless you count raising four kids, running a household and keeping up with a profession athleticism. Nor am I a warrior, though I like to think I have warrior blood in me.

photo (15)So I don’t know how to classify what happened to my right hand two years ago when it swelled up to the point of being useless for a month. Is it a sports injury or a war injury? But injured it is and every so often it swells up again to remind me.

I keep yearly photographic evidence of my hands. To see how they are holding up under duress. Today I can see the lumps and bumps between the metacarpals, the joints at the base of the fingers. The swelling is obvious.

The pain not so much.photo (13)

The dilemma this morning was how to untwist the cap and break the seal off  a new gallon jug of tea. I’d decided to up my Prednisone from the daily 2.5 to 10 mg. A veritable shot in arm, you might say.

But first I had to grip that sucker and twist for all my hand is worth, today. I can tell you it hurt like a **** but I am nothing if not persistent. It took three attempts that left me with the reddened imprint of the cap on my palm.

photo (12)

The Arthritis Foundation sent me a little gadget to open stuff. I remembered I’d packed it and ran and got it. Unfortunately,  it doesn’t work on caps this size.

photo (14)

 

 

I could have used this back in the day when I had to ask my nursing staff to open my bottles of lemonade. I hated the thought of having to ask for help, but RA makes you humble.

It also makes you stubborn and determined. I would have my glass of tea!

And I did.

Now to wait for the extra dose of Prednisone to do its job. I think I feel it working already. Or maybe it’s the hot water I ran over my hand for five minutes. Who would’ve thought washing dishes was therapeutic? Or maybe it’s the typing. Exercising my fingers goes a long way toward reducing the pain. Idleness is the bane.

photo (17)But there is no time for idleness now.

Not with these footsies to keep track of.

 

 

 

My Daily Bucket

photo (7)When I arrived to care for my toddler granddaughter a month ago, I was presented with this bucket. It bears a butterfly made with her footprints. “I will put it in my office,” I said, immediately wondering what kind of plant I could put in it once I returned home.

Meantime, I placed it on the dresser in my room, and it occurred to me that it was the perfect place to hold my pill bottles. Up and away from curious little fingers.

I’ve reached a point in my life where I don’t have to worry about where I place my pills. Though they each have a certain “home” in my house, it mattered not where they went. Now, I have to be conscious about the whereabouts of my concoctions.

What’s in the bucket? Prednisone, my frenemy, 2.5 mg once a day. I’d weaned off, but after a week my hands were hurting so bad I had to cave and go back on it for the duration. When I was young and raising my children, I had no idea the workout my hands took. Now every twinge reminds me that caring for a toddler is manual labor. Though with great and bountiful rewards.

There are days where my hands still hurt, like today, and my wrists as well. Foreseeing that, I packed a wrist brace, which I’ve had to use several times. I wear it at night and in the morning the pain is gone or diminished. Perhaps it’s mind over matter, a placebo effect, but I’m not questioning its efficacy.

Also in the bucket is Folic Acid, the rescue drug for Methotrexate. Nuff said. I take MTX on Wednesdays so it doesn’t rate a place inside the bucket.

There’s my eye vitamins, prescribed by my ophthalmologist. They contain Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Zinc Oxide, Copper, Lutein and Zeaxanthin. I’m supposed to take them twice a day, but usually take it once. They are mostly prophylactic. My “apple” a day, you might say. Or maybe, the apple of my eye.

There’s Vitamins B1, B6 and B12, prescribed by my PCP to treat shingles pain. It is now almost 14 months since I had shingles, but the pain is not completely gone. On a scale of 1 to 10, it is a one, sometimes a two. It depends on how that part of me is affected by my activities. But it took its sweet time climbing down that ladder. I was scared  to death worried it would be a 10+ forever.

Also in the bucket is acetaminophen (the ingredient in Tylenol). Since Naproxen and/or Plaquenil gave me tinnitus I have to stay off NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).  So, hello, acetaminophen, which I take once or twice a day. Some days none at all. The good days. The tinnitus is practically gone. I only hear it when I concentrate on it. And I don’t have much time to concentrate on it right now.

And of course, Vitamin D3 and calcium  supplements, which also contain D3. I’ve been on Vitamin D since 2006 and I give it much credit for my turnaround that began in 2009. I know it was a mix of things that allowed me to rise to the surface and breathe again, but Vitamin D was a major factor. I take 2000 IU’s a day. Each calcium tab gives me another 500 IU’s, so I end up with 3000 on most days.

It would be nice to say that is the extent of my personal pharmacy, but no. photo (2)

In a large Baggie in my unmentionable’s drawer are:

Gabapentin, in case of more severe shingles nerve pain,

the MTX,

Naproxen, if bursitis rears its ugly head again, I will have no choice but to bite the bullet,

the Fosamax, which I’ve yet to start. I know, I’m bad,

and most important of all, cyclobenzaprine (generic for Flexeril, a muscle relaxer). My rheumy prescribes it for sleep. And we know if we don’t sleep, our pain is that much worse. I take 5 mg nightly and when it’s been a painful day I take ten.

No longer in the bucket, its empty husk having joined the inhabitants of Baggie World, is Acyclovir, the antiviral my rheumatologist ordered for a year to prevent a shingles recurrence, Lord forbid. I ran out a few days ago, but I’ve crossed the year mark and now I cross my fingers. We shall see what, if anything, develops.

 

 

 

Tethers

My internet connection is now new and improved, and I can actually get some work done. That also means I can stream my Pandora stations at will and I find that I keep going to the same one. My two dozen stations range from Big Band music to Mariachi music, from Tex-Mex to Reggaeton, from Disco to R&B. Yet I find myself going to the same Reggae/Bob Marley station. I must be homesick.

Amazingly, it’s been two weeks since I left home. Things are easier now; a routine has developed and though I’ve had to dip into the honey/poison jar (the Prednisone bottle) all is going fairly well.  Carmen and I have acclimated and assimilated to each other, with each other?

We are forming a new and improved bond. The kind that naturally results from daily exposure to each other. She keeps my day full till Mom and Dad come home in the evening, but she also keeps my heart full with her smiles, her hugs and her remarkable comprehension skills. Babies must be new and improved nowadays as well.

I miss my other grandchild tremendously. Though by now I usually see her only once or twice a week, I was her main caregiver during her first two years of life and that bond, that tether, will never be broken or weakened as long as my heart beats, and perhaps even beyond. When my daughter sent me this picture, it gave me a visceral pang.

party

Celebrating at a birthday party.

Of course there is the one person to whom I’ve been tethered to for more than half my life. And though that bond has waned and intensified during the peaks and valleys as the years passed, it seems to remain unbroken.

One of the first things we found we had in common was our love of Reggae. Me, from a little Texas town, and he, from the big city of L.A., somehow connected on a little island in the Gulf of Mexico and discovered many shared likes and dislikes. It was the strangest thing, to find a person who for some reason thinks like you.

That first night, we met at a Disco no less, was spent talking on the phone till the sun came up. Now some of the Marley songs take me right back to that time. He’s not taking my absence well. But lucky for him, I have to make a quick trip home next week, when, I suppose, we shall reinforce that tether.

Meanwhile I dedicate this song to him.

 

 

Ergonomics

–A science that deals with designing and arranging things so that people can use them easily and  safely.

–The parts or qualities of something’s design that makes it easy to use.

Source: http://www.merriam-webster.com

It was after I’d had my third child at the ripe old age of 31 that a pediatrician told me only the young were meant to be parents. I laughed because I felt old already. In nine years I’d tallied up three children and two husbands. Who wouldn’t feel old after that?

I am reminded of that incident now that I can truly relate to what he was saying. Once you hit middle age, it’s no time to start having kids, or running after them on a full-time basis. Nature even made sure of that. I guess you could call it nature’s ergonomics.

This isn’t the first time I take over the care of a grandchild, nor is it the first time after RA made its presence known. But I can hardly remember my first granddaughter as an infant and toddler, and she’s not even five yet. All I can recall is the comforting warmth of her little body as I rocked her before her naps. Emotional ergonomics.

I think the main difference now, in caring for my second toddler grandchild, is that I’m not in my own home, where I have adapted things to compensate for my unpredictable aches and pains. Physical ergonomics.

After one full week of being in charge of her care during the better part of the day, my hands are complaining. Loudly. The challenge in this new environment is that I will have to adapt to it, not the other way around. Personal ergonomics.

washing dishes

I’m opting out of using the dishwasher, and instead washing the dishes by hand. The hot water is super soothing to my aching hands. Though some things will have to remain unwashed, at least by me, as my decreased grip does not allow me to open them. Also, the cooking pots and ceramic dishes are quite heavy and tax my hands, but I bear some responsibility for that as some were gifts from me!

sweeping

Necessity is the mother of invention they say. Having a toddler insist on feeding herself guarantees mess on the floor. My broom at home is very light; the broom here is quite heavy. The answer? Carmen’s toy broom to the rescue  and her toy hoe as my dust pan! She follows me around saying, “Hoe, hoe, hoe,” until I rinse out the hoe and give it back to her.

high chair

Her high chair is beautiful. An Amish work of art given to her by her grandfather. The only problem for me is that it is made of solid wood, therefore the tray is quite heavy and hurts my fingers when I lift it. There’s no answer to that, but I do miss the plastic tray that my other granddaughter had.

I have to say the worst part about being in this small town is having unreliable internet service. Music plays a big part of my day. It’s a stress reliever, an analgesic, and a muse sometimes. One day I wanted to run my Pandora Reggae station; it wouldn’t come in at all, though I tried countless times to start the streaming. Right when my frustration reached its peak there was a knock on the door. Two friendly gentlemen stood there. They handed me a pamphlet and said, “We just stopped by to give you this.”

photo (8)

Spiritual ergonomics?

Pulling Teeth

One day four and some years ago, when I was going through emotional turbulence of the highest altitude, a tooth broke. It was December and I was shopping when I felt something crumble in my mouth.

I couldn’t figure out what it was; my consciousness and subconscious were both drowning in muck. Reality was a fog. Pain was the only thing crystal clear to me.

At that moment I was listlessly going through a rack of dresses. Pounds were melting off me and I needed a new wardrobe. I continued shuffling through hideous-looking garments till rock-hard fragments made their presence known to my frontal lobe.

I couldn’t believe it. Pieces of a tooth! I joked to a friend that I was so angry my teeth were self-destructing.

It was tooth #13, in dental parlance. It had broken as if it had been sliced in half lengthwise, the outside half still alive and well. My dentist gave me a temporary crown. Well, half of one. She said I had to do something permanent about it. Sure.

Last month that remaining half said goodbye and shortly thereafter so did the temporary half-crown. Thing is, the tooth had broken off, not fallen out. The root remained.

Lately, my rheumatologist has been on my case to start Fosamax. This tooth was a handy excuse not to start a med I truly hate. The dentist won’t touch me I said. And it was true.

Was true.

Because now my excuse is gone.

I was at risk for infection, I was told. After diddling around with the idea of an implant, one my dentist, a he now, he of bright, compassionate blue eyes, wanted me to seriously entertain. I did. Long enough to call the periodontist.

We start at $1,600 and go up to $2,500, she said. I already knew insurance wouldn’t cover a penny of it, but what really made my eyes bug out was the healing time. Four to six months, she said.

What?

All that plus a metal screw drilled into my jaw?

I went to see Blue Eyes yesterday and he extracted what was left of #13. It took him approximately two minutes. I barely got the chance to enjoy the reggae station they had playing for me.

Unfortunately, I had to go back to him five hours later. It kept oozing, blood-tinged. Where I thought it was draining too much, he said it was “too dry.” He expected more blood to fill, occupy and seal the cavity. So he pulled out his needles again and sutured the site.

Strangely, I feel no pain. Just tenderness.

But then, tenderness is what was offered to me.

Free of charge.

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?

 

The I’s Have It

I chose a very ambitious path for myself this year and I have been mulling over my decisions while keeping my finger on the pause button. I haven’t exactly been idle, mind you. My brain has been working at a furious pace, while my body’s given the impression of languid ease. 

There are so many things to consider as you set forth on a new journey. Even if it’s a journey you imagined taking for years and years. You must visualize the twists and turns of the road up ahead. The inevitable forks in the road, forks not yet taken. Be ready to confront all, or almost all, the obstacles that will plop down in front of you like newly fallen trees. Find a way to sail over them. Wings, you must sprout wings.

Wings of knowledge. Wings of courage. Wings of faith.

I’ve been thinking about all this the past three weeks as I allowed myself to be consumed by a work of science fiction. While I let the story overwhelm my consciousness, my subconscious was left free to think, and to plan.

I was doing all my reading on my devices, laptop, tablet and even my phone. Wherever I was, wherever I went, I had my story with for me. But this method of reading provides one benefit that reading hard copy doesn’t: it allows you to increase the font to your liking, to increase reading ease.

And it reminded me that I needed to deal with one foggy issue. My eyes, or rather my eyesight. At my last check-up I was given a clean bill of health. Mechanically speaking. Everything was working fine, or should have been if not for one chemical variable, Gabapentin.

It was prescribed for me to treat nerve pain when I was diagnosed with shingles back in April. (Can it be almost a year? Where does the time go?) I was to take it three times a day and I did. Initially.

I was copyediting a manuscript at the time and racing to completion when all this occurred. It was through sheer grit that I managed to complete the project on time, although the author was quite supportive and understanding.

As time went on, I noticed things were starting to get really blurry. Until one day (duh), I decided to check the prescription flyer for the side effects. And there it was, in the tiniest print possible: may cause blurry vision.

Aha!

I cut my dosage down to once a day, and since it also said it caused drowsiness I took the dose at bedtime. Things seemed to clear up after a while, but not as clear as I would prefer. I blamed eyestrain, too much reading, too much computer time.

But here I was facing even more computer time, even more writing, rewriting, revising, editing and proofreading on hard copy. So while I read the sci/fi saga, my brain said: Stop.

And I did. I stopped my nightly dose and have solely continued the B vitamins also prescribed for the nerve pain. Nerve pain that by now occurs only rarely, knock on wood. Shingles leaves you in fear of its recurrence. But I say fear begone, because now on a clear day, I can practically see forever!

***

What have I been reading?

 

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Ooops report: I was scrolling through and mistakenly hit the “like” button. I didn’t know you could “like” your own posts. Now I don’t know how to cancel it. Anybody know?