STUMBLING DOWN THE WINDING ROAD

They warn you when they send you home it will be hard, especially the first few weeks. They warn you about depression. It seems to be part of the heart surgery package and hits pretty much everyone to some degree. Some of us worse than others. The emotional healing component is a wild card. Assuming that physical healing proceeds without incident, there’s no predictable pattern — or much available help — for handling feeling.

There’s a sense of loss, that “something is missing,” though you don’t know exactly what it is. A sense of dis-empowerment, that you’ve lost your dignity, a part of your self-hood. There’s a sense of having been raped, assaulted, beaten down.

72-PathARTO-LG-2

Some feelings result from the very real physical assault of all that surgery. Your body has been invaded, redesigned, twisted, opened, broken and put back together. You may not have been conscious when it was happening, but your body remembers even if your brain can’t recall details.

Waking up after the surgery, I knew something was missing, some part of me was gone and I was afraid to awaken until I found the lost piece. Eventually I bowed to the inevitable and woke up, but becoming conscious was accompanied by a profound sense of loss. I’m not who I was. I know I am — at least technically — better, but it’s hard to imagine ever feeling whole again.

Even after breast cancer and having both breasts removed, the sense of loss was nothing like this. There was pain, confusion, fear … but surprisingly little sense of mutilation.

The complexity of my feelings combines with a sometimes overwhelming physical misery. It makes me wonder why I went through all of this. To what purpose? I know the correct answers to these questions, but as the days wear on and evening approaches, it feels as if I am wearing a too-tight iron brassière. I can feel the hard metal straps cutting into my shoulders and my chest feels crushed. It’s hard to breathe, hard to even think.

I whimper and wrap myself in a heating pad, trying to soothe cramping muscles and twisted bones.

All systems are messed up. Digestion, breathing, skeleton … everything feels off. Sleeping is difficult. Finding a position that doesn’t hurt is a major challenge. I have a headache much of the time. The headache isn’t so bad … it’s just the “insult to injury” part of the process.

I have a little mantra I keep repeating to myself. “I can do it,” I say. “I CAN do it. I can do it. I can.” Whatever it is, I do it.

I can shower on my own. Thanks to one wonderful friend, I can do my bathroom stuff and actually get up and down from the toilet without the humiliation of needing help. I can do small things. Make myself a sandwich, toast an English muffin. Read a bit, Write a bit too. My back took a beating. Whatever they did to me in the operating room, I came out of there with new problems in new places. Oh well. I guess it will heal. Eventually.

My other mantra: “It will get better. It will be better. I will be better. I will be better. The future is worth living.” I mean it. But it hurts.

If it were not for friends and especially for Garry who bears the brunt of both my physical inadequacies and my emotional messiness, I’m not sure I would be able to go on. I know this is taking a lot out of him and it adds just one more layer to that invasive sense of helplessness.

It will be better. I can do it. We can do it together.

I just hope it’s worth it.

 

IF YOU CAN’T FIX IT, COMFY FURNITURE HELPS

Ouch! That really hurts! My back’s been a mess since I was a kid. Fell off one horse too many. Rebuilt in 1967 — fusion and laminectomy using saws, drills and chisels — long before micro surgery and instrumentation. I’m not special because I deal with pain. I’ve got plenty of company. Sometimes, too much company. We’re all squished together in an over-crowded lifeboat.

96-Me-Young-HPCR-1

Me at 20, a year post spinal fusion.

I’ve had a lot of problems with my back over the years. The fusion, made from bone paste taken from my hip, began to disintegrate about 25 years ago. Nature kindly replaced it with a sheathing of arthritic calcification. That’s not such a bad thing because without the arthritis, I’d (literally) fall apart.

Looking at pictures of me in years gone by, I got to wondering how life landed me here. How did the bright-eyed woman become this creaking achy old thing fighting to keep moving under her own power?

Who is this person?

She doesn’t look or act like me. I can vouch for this because I used to be her, but now I am not at all sure who I am or whose body this is. Maybe while I slept, someone gave me an impostor body. I would jump right on the impostor theory except being me is not something a sane person would want. If I had a say in the matter, I would be healthier, wealthier and younger. Some other body, but I’d keep the brain. I like that part of me.

Life changes, sometimes in a split second.

Remember Christopher Reeve? One minute, he was a big, handsome, strapping movie star. A dreadful split second later, he was someone else.

My down hill slide occurred at the pace at which bones and joints calcify. I broke my back when I was a kid. I was reconstructed when I was 19. For the next 35 years, I refused to pay any attention to my spine. I was not going to be disabled. Not me. It was mind over matter and I am strong.

Turns out, mind over matter only takes you so far. Seven years ago, I began to have trouble walking. My balance became erratic. I lost sensation in my feet and miscellaneous reflexes disappeared. (I didn’t yet know about the heart problems which no doubt contributed.)

I went to doctors, orthopedic hot shots. All of them said I need a new spinal fusion, the old one having fallen apart over the long years. Diagnosis: Horrible spine. Solution: New fusion in which I get screwed together using metal rods. After surgery, I would be in even more pain than now, but my spine would be stable. Say what? This surgery would be the 21st century version of the surgery I had in 1967.

I said Hell no and took my case to the top spine guy in Boston, the Supreme Court of spinal diagnosis. He said I don’t need surgery. More to the point, he said the surgery wouldn’t solve my problems.

This time I heard: “Your back has got you through this far, it’ll take you the rest of the way. Pain control, gentle exercise, and recognize your limits. Don’t do anything stupid.” Like fall off a horse? Lift heavy packages?

selfie 23

There are a lot of members of the back pain club. After you join the club, you usually get a lifetime membership. I finally discovered I have a problem I can’t fix. No amount of persistence, research, medical attention or cleverness is going to make it go away. So I’ve designed the world to make my back happy. We have a back-friendly home. From our adjustable bed, to the reclining sofa, our place is kind to spines.

There’s no moral to this story. It’s just life. If you don’t die young, odds are you hurt. The years roll on, pain gets worse.

I’ve had to accept reality but I don’t have to like it. Sooner or later we all face an intractable problem. Or several. It’s a nasty shock, especially if you’ve always believed you are unstoppable. When you hit that wall, I recommend buying very comfortable furniture.

Ogunquit, Maine: Sunrise, Sand, Rivers, Feathered and Other Friends – Marilyn Armstrong

Autumnal equinox in the northern latitudes. September. A week in Ogunquit, Maine. A tiny place but close to the beach and the river.

There are more people on the beach to see the dawn than I ever expected — there just for the peace and the beauty. Before the sun is up, the mist hangs on the sand.

Quiet this time of year. Most tourists are gone, now, so the streets aren’t crowded.

The moment there is a hint of sun, the mist disappears in a matter of seconds.

There is no more perfect time to be on the seashore of Maine than the very earliest part of Autumn.

Comes the sun …

If you are a photographer, you make take it as a sign that God loves you when having hauled your reluctant body out of bed while it’s still dark, then hike half a mile carrying all your gear to the beach while all the starving blood-sucking insects in the state gather to enjoy you as their breakfast buffet.

Suffer for your art? But you get a reward that is more than worth any and all of your efforts, because before you, as the mist burns away, a sunrise and a golden sun so breathtaking rises before you … and you are there and ready.

People of all ages walk along the water before dawn.

This is a day when your camera works perfectly, your batteries don’t run out, your lens is in perfect alignment, your eyes see and you capture exactly what you want to capture … and everything is in focus.

Then come the birds … terns, plovers, and gulls … Breakfast for the feathered residents.

Tiny plovers comfortably share the shore with one Great Black Backed Gull.

It doesn’t happen often. When it does, when it all comes together perfectly … then you must treasure it … savor it … and share it.

At times like these, it makes you remember why you started taking pictures in the first place.

The rising sun reflects on the sand as if it were polished glass.

That morning I discovered wet sand reflects light like a mirror. You can see the way the tide changes the shape of the sand along the shore.

The big seagull seems to be waiting for the sun to come up dissipating the last of the early mist.

The colors change from one second to the next.

Each moment is more beautiful than the one before it. Really, the entire time is probably no more than half an hour, but it’s a lifetime of beauty.

Then, final gold before full sunlight.

Later, I walked to the river and found this house. This is the Ogunquit River, just about a quarter of a mile before it joins the ocean. The house is virtually part of the river.

The only way I could find to get across the river to the house was by this “bridge,” really just a piece of wood across the rapids and falls. I declined to test it.

What happens in times of flood? Interesting place to build!

And finally, on my way back to our room, I found a hint of autumn near the beach in a small woodland area between the marsh and the shore.

ARE YOU READY FOR THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE?

It has been two years since I discovered this fabulous piece of real estate. It’s still on the internet, but is it actually for sale today? No way to know, but no matter. I bet if you make the right good faith offer, you could snag this ideal piece of real estate for your anti-zombie compound.

- – -

Until I a couple of year ago, I never much worried about the zombie apocalypse. Was I merely naïve? Probably. After following a variety of blogs, not to mention social media sites, I have come to realize I’ve been failing to pay proper attention to this threat.

zombie-walking (1)

In my innocence, I worried about health care, the environment, extinction of species, loss of water resources and the fate of the Monarch butterfly. I spent far too much time trying to survive cancer and trying to keep a roof over my head. Someone somewhere said you can only worry about seven things at a time. If you add one more, one of the first seven disappears, drops off the list. It’s possible I didn’t have enough room in my brain to worry about zombies and thus failed to see the dangers of the looming Apocalypse.

That failure has been rectified. I dedicate an appropriate amount of mental energy towards planning against the attack of the brain-eating undead. Don’t ask me how much time that is. I won’t tell you.

As soon as I saw this property, I knew it was the solution. I can’t afford it on my own (I can’t afford anything at all) but I’m sure if we get together — maybe collect all the money Nigerian princes have been offering us — we could easily buy it. It would be the perfect safe haven. No zombies will eat our brains! 

It looks perfectly normal from above.

A second view of the house and it’s sub levels.

It’s when you start going down to lower levels that you realize what a peach of a property this really is — although it’s actually a gorgeous location, even if the zombies never attack.

Aerial view

Aerial view

A beautiful house in the Adirondacks is all you see from the air. Woods, lakes and streams, it’s downright idyllic. It’s got everything including a runway and hangar for private aircraft.

It gets better as you descend.

BelowGroundZombie

Underground, it’s a world of its own. How about that media room, eh? I’ve always wanted a room dedicated to electronic media. And maybe movies. Music, too. So maybe a little fixing up to make it perfect. It’s doable.

Really great media room!

Want to be safe? Secure? This is secure!

And, just in case the apocalypse never occurs, you’ve got a lovely estate not far from Saratoga with plenty of room for company.

EvenlowerZombie

A LITTLE BIT OF SUGAR

Daily Prompt: Pour Some Sugar on Me

I’m not a big sweet eater anymore. It has nothing to do with discipline or self-control. It just happened. Especially chocolate. I was a fanatic about chocolate, but these days, other flavors have more appeal.

I can’t eat a lot of sugar anyhow. My blood sugar and I made a deal. I lay off the heavy sugar fixes and it won’t make me sick. It’s pretty basic. I know if I eat more than a little of anything sugary, I will pay and I won’t like the terms. It’s enough to make me think twice.

dessert Island

I can eat a little, more in the morning. It sits better early (rather than late) in the day. I’m sure there’s a reason for that, but don’t know what it might be. In compensation, I spend an inordinate amount of time planning to bake. But I don’t. I also plan to buy sweeties but inevitably forget to put them in the cart. If I bake or buy, I eat and grow fat. Which brings me to the next issue.

I’m watching my weight. Mainly, I’m watching it rise. I know for a fact (popular diet mythology notwithstanding) plans and intentions don’t make one fat. You have to really eat the stuff. Sniffing it, being near it, looking at and longing for it — all free. Despite my best efforts, I’ve been putting on weight slowly but steadily for a few years, ever since the drugs I took following breast cancer killed my metabolism. After the surgery and the drugs, my body changed. I eat the same — same stuff, same amounts — as I did before. It kept me thin for a long time, but now, not.

96-OragnesHannaford_12

I made peace with my rounded self. I can’t eat much less. The injustice of it keeps hitting me. If I’m going to grow round anyhow, shouldn’t I get to have an orgiastic eating experience?

In lieu of other sweets, I eat fruit. With or without Splenda, depending on season and fruit. This time of year, the only good fruit we get is citrus. Grapefruit and oranges. I eat a lot of them. Fortunately, I love fruit. And vegetables.

My non-standard digestive system doesn’t like this stuff nearly as much as my mouth does, so I have to be careful. Moderation. I keep it down to two pieces of citrus and one order of veggies per day. That same picky system also doesn’t care much for carbs. It’s okay with modest quantities of rice and potatoes, is intolerant of pasta and bread. I can eat some. One slice of bread. A few forks of pasta. More gets dodgy.

Beverages? Nothing with sugar. Make me sick. Fast.

In self-defense, I’ve learned to enjoy a little bit of whatever I want. A tiny amount of jam on an English muffin. A dribble of syrup on a waffle. A half a cookie. A bite of cake. If I ate more, it wouldn’t taste better, right? And — I eat desserts ever so slowly. When everyone else has washed the dishes and gone off to watch TV or whatever, I’m still working my way through a dollop of pudding.

Our bodies are forever changing. This is Truth today, but who knows what it will be in a few weeks? Everything changes. If we aren’t dead, we are changing, metamorphosing into whatever we will be. I can handle it.

Well, I think I can. I am definitely going to try.

Pingbacks of the day:

  1. Not quite but almost “Limericky.” | thoughtsofrkh
  2. Addiction | Kate Murray
  3. Something To Remember & The Daily Prompt | The Jittery Goat
  4. Safest for Me | Daily Prompt: Pour Some Sugar on Me | likereadingontrains
  5. Daily Prompt: Pour Some Sugar on Me. And Salt at Another Time. | seikaiha’s blah-blah-blah
  6. DP Daily Prompt: Pour Some Sugar on Me | Sabethville
  7. Pour some sugar on me: Daily Prompt | ALIEN AURA’S BlOG: IT’LL BLOW YOUR MIND!
  8. Daily Prompt: Pour Some Sugar on Me | tnkerr-Writing Prompts and Practice
  9. Surprise pudding | Sue’s Trifles
  10. My Little Bag of Heaven! | B.Kaotic
  11. Daily Prompt: Pour Some Sugar on Me, 15.03.14 | Markie’s Daily Blog
  12. Blue Magic Can | The Bohemian Rock Star’s “Untitled Project”
  13. Innocence Insults My Intelligence | Bumblepuppies
  14. Daily Prompt: Pour Some Sugar on Me | trioldman
  15. #Making Donuts | It’s a wonderful F’N life
  16. A Greek Treat | Lifestyle | WANGSGARD
  17. Daily Prompt: Put Some Sugar On Me- Psychological Perspective of Disease | Journeyman
  18. Daily Prompt: Pour Some Sugar on Me | Awl and Scribe
  19. Daily Prompt: Being Sweet! | All Things Cute and Beautiful
  20. Pour Some Sugar on Me | Lisa’s Kansa Muse
  21. Pour Some Sugar on Me | Knowledge Addiction
  22. De-constructed Bounty… | Steve Says…
  23. AB + CC = D | mamangerie
  24. Here is to my mom’s honey buns sugaring it up in the grand old sky! « psychologistmimi
  25. An Ode to Frozen Yogurt | Never Stationary
  26. In Good Company | 4 The Sensitive
  27. Sweet, Sweet Sugar | Step Into My Head
  28. Saltine Cracker Bark | The Pinterested Parent
  29. sweet thing yummy yummy | eastelmhurst.a.go.go
  30. Daily Prompt: Pour Some Sugar on Me | My Extraordinary Everyday Life
  31. Food Food Food | Life Confusions
  32. Delivered By Ferry | Exploratorius
  33. The Sweetest Taste | Finale to an Entrance
  34. Pour Some Sugar on Me | dandelionsinwind
  35. Goodbye Sugar | Under the Monkey Tree
  36. Daily Prompt: Pour Some Sugar Over Me | CHRONICLES OF AN ANGLO SWISS
Status

I’LL BE BACK

Daily Prompt: Never Surrender

Like a lichen on a rock, I cling. Like the sun, I rise. Like the earth, I renew.

I’ll be back.

DawnLateWinter09-300-72

Friday’s the big day, though I’ll be in the hospital as of Thursday for cardiac catheterization. Hopefully they won’t find anymore stuff that needs repairing. Garry will try to send updates, but he’s going to be busy and tired, so be gentle with him. This is hard for him too.

Stubbornly, determinedly, I’ll come back. Until then, I will miss you.

Other entries:

  1. Daily Prompt: Never Surrender- Between Resilience and Stubbroness | Journeyman
  2. The Trial, Not For the Weak of Faint of Heart: Part 1 | jlaneb
  3. No surrender on Mental Illness | ALIEN AURA’S BlOG: IT’LL BLOW YOUR MIND!
  4. There are just some things I like a certain way. The right way. | thoughtsofrkh
  5. Stubborn as a Mule! | meanderedwanderings
  6. Pardon me for everything I’m about to say | Attempted Human Relations and Self
  7. Welcome to the jungle | The verbal hedge
  8. Daily Prompt: Never Surrender | My Extraordinary Everyday Life
  9. Health Goals, Easy Going Or Stubborn? | Because It Calms My Nerves:
  10. The Conundrum | Each Feather, A Freedom
  11. Java, Joe, Carbon Remover, Plasma | Exploratorius
  12. Tweet, Tweet, Twitterfiction | My Little Avalon
  13. Steadfast in my integrity: I am my mother’s daughter « psychologistmimi
  14. How Do I Get My Son To Go To School | A mom’s blog
  15. I am not bossy, I AM the boss | IvyMosquito
  16. Daily Prompt: Never Surrender | Finding Life
  17. Stubborn Love | peacefulblessedstar
  18. Daily Prompt: Never Surrender | Life is great
  19. Stubborn Dutch | Lisa’s Kansa Muse
  20. Daily Prompt: Never Surrender | Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss

WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH, THE TOUGH ORDER PIZZA

Daily Prompt: The Heat is On

The high-tech world is fueled by pizza. If it had not already been invented, a group of developers trying to meet a deadline would have had to invent it.

I could have invented it myself. As the only non-engineer on a development team, I was supposed to know about things like food. And complete sentences. And the difference between active and passive forms. Whew. That was why they paid me the big bucks.

The world in which I worked most of my life required tons of creativity and productivity. To keep these going, three key ingredients were needed:

  • Computers
  • Coffee
  • Pizza.

We could have posted a sign outside the offices which said “We work for pizza!”

75-work-for-pizza

Because essentially — not counting salaries — that’s what kept us going. I never missed a deadline. No one else did either. When our efforts seemed in danger of flagging, copious amounts of pizza appeared in various permutation. Of course, there were plenty of computers and endless amounts of coffee too. That went without saying.

I do not believe any developer I know would work in an office where one actually pays for coffee. Blasphemy!

Question: How do you know when your development team has been working too much overtime?

Answer: When someone says “Can we have something to eat that isn’t pizza?”

No. Not really. And don’t forget to make fresh coffee.

Other Entries:

  1. The Daily Prompt & Eric’s Aria – Part 1 (short story) | The Jittery Goat
  2. Procrastination Insults My Intelligence | I’m a Writer, Yes I Am
  3. The biggest appointment | MC’s Whispers
  4. Under Pressure | A mom’s blog
  5. pressure | yi-ching lin photography
  6. DP Daily Prompt: The Heat is On | Sabethville
  7. Cops | Views Splash!
  8. the pressure is the same | y
  9. Men | Hope* the happy hugger
  10. One Crazy Mom » The Heat Is On
  11. Student hurrying to catch the bus (Daily Prompt: “The Heat Is On, Show Us Pressure”) | Photo0pal Photography
  12. I’ll start tomorrow. | Attempted Human Relations and Self
  13. DAILY PROMPT: Pressure | cockatooscreeching
  14. Life Confusions
  15. Daily Prompt: The Heat is On – Perspective of Medical Student | Journeyman
  16. Daily Prompt: Pressure | Captured By Kylie Photography
  17. The heat is on – turned down to low! | Sue’s Trifles
  18. Pressure | The scribbles in the margin
  19. Pressure Points and Implosions | ALIEN AURA’S : IT’LL BLOW YOUR MIND
  20. Daily Prompt: The Heat is On | CHRONICLES OF AN ANGLO SWISS
Image

I AM A PEBBLE, LIFE IS A RIPPLE

I am a pebble. Drop me in the water and ripples spread along the surface, marking where my pebble began its descent. Then the water closes. The ripples vanish, leaving nothing to show where the pebble sank.

Unlike the pebble, I plan to resurface. I’m just not sure when, exactly.

75-Ripples-NK

We all sign up for stuff with full intentions of fulfilling our obligations. But sometimes — often — life gets in the way of art. Shit happens. We have to adjust. Commitments and projects are set aside for later or for others to do. A lot of stuff I planned will have to go on without me for a while.

I like to think you will miss me, but I know the Internet is rich with bloggers, websites and news. It moves on. I’m just a pebble on that huge beach strewn with millions of rocks.

I follow a lot of you. I don’t always comment, but when you allow it, I leave a “like” as a calling card. Those of you who don’t accept “likes” do yourselves a disservice. Many folks — including me — don’t always have something to say. It doesn’t mean we didn’t like your post. Sometimes I just don’t have anything valuable to contribute. Other times, there are hundreds of comments in place which have covered the bases. I’m not going to add anything to the dialogue. If you let me click “like,” you will know I was there. If you don’t … well … your loss.

Now, about my site. Exactly how I’m going to keep it going while I’m recuperating, I don’t quite know. I know part of it. Garry will write more, Rich will pitch in more too. I’ll try to create some posts to go up when I’m not up to doing new material. I hope you won’t stop coming by. Rich and Garry are great writers and deserve your support, especially since they are supporting me on top of their other obligations.

For the blogs I follow,  everyone will be set to “no mail” until I’m well enough to deal with it. I’m afraid my inbox will explode otherwise. It will be bad enough with only bills and junk mail. When I think about how much could pile up in weeks and months … well, formidable doesn’t cover it. I will also set my scheduled posts to “no comment. “

You will still be able to leave a “Like” because I love knowing you visited. All of this is intended to keep my email from overwhelming Garry, who is going to have a lot on his plate. When I get back on the computer, I don’t want to be faced with thousands of notifications. I’ll just delete them en masse anyway. That’s what happens when I get back from vacations, too, and I always lose stuff I would I wanted. Don’t take it personally. It has everything to do with me and nothing to do with anyone else.

I have turned off a lot of stuff already and I don’t have time to do much visiting. I’m sorry about that. It’s become so much a part of my routine to go and see what all of you are doing … but there’s no more time.

I’ll turn off the rest shortly. I need to use what time I have to get things in order. There’s lots still to do. The time has come to get my house in order, literally and figuratively.

If this is leaving you puzzled because you missed part one of my ongoing medical drama, you can click the link and read THE HEART SURGERY UPDATE

AN OVER-CROWDED LIFEBOAT

Ouch! That really hurts! My back’s been a mess since I was a kid. Fell off one horse too many. Rebuilt in 1967 — fusion and laminectomy using saws and chisels — long before micro surgery and instrumentation. I’m not special because I deal with pain. I’ve got plenty of company. It’s just sometimes, I feel like I’ve got too much company. We’re all squished together in an over-crowded lifeboat. Sinking. Together.

96-Me-Young-HPCR-1

Me at 20, a year post spinal fusion.

I’ve had a lot of problems with my back over the years. The fusion, which was bone paste made from a piece of my hip, began to disintegrate about 25 years ago, to be replaced by a sheathing of arthritic calcification. That’s not such a bad thing because without the arthritis, I’d (literally) fall apart.

Looking at pictures of me in years gone by, I got to wondering how the long winding road of life landed me here. How did the bright-eyed woman become this creaking achy old thing fighting to keep moving under her own power?

Who is this person?

She doesn’t look or act like me. I can vouch for this because I used to be her, but now I am not at all sure who I am or whose body this is. While I slept, someone slipped in an imposter body. I would jump right on the imposter theory except being me is not something any sane person would want. If I had a say in the matter, I would be healthier, wealthier and younger. Some other body, but I’d keep the brain. I like that piece of me.

Life changes, sometimes in a split seconds.

stages of spondylolythesis

I’m grade 4, considered a miracle I can walk. It’s only part of the problem. That’s the way it usually works. You don’t have a single problem, you have a basket of related problems.

Remember Christopher Reeve? One minute, he was a big, handsome, strapping movie star. A dreadful split second later, he was someone else.

My down hill slide occurred at the pace at which bones and joints calcify. I broke my back when I was a kid. I was reconstructed when I was 19. For the next 35 years, I refused to pay any attention to my spine. I was not going to be disabled. Not me. It was mind over matter and I am strong.

Turns out, mind over matter only takes you so far. Seven years ago, I began to have trouble walking. My balance became erratic. I lost sensation in my feet and miscellaneous reflexes disappeared. I went to doctors, orthopedic hot shots. All of them said I need a new spinal fusion, the old one having fallen apart over the long years. Diagnosis: Horrible spine. Solution: New fusion in which I get screwed together using metal rods. After surgery, I would be in even more pain than now, but my spine would be stable. Say what? This surgery would be the 21st century version of the surgery I had in 1967.

I said Hell no and took my case to the top spine guy in Boston, the Supreme Court of spinal diagnosis.

He said I don’t need surgery. More to the point, he said the surgery wouldn’t solve my problems. Now I heard: “Your back has got you through this far, it’ll take you the rest of the way. Pain control, gentle exercise, and recognize your limits. Don’t do anything stupid.” Like fall off a horse? Lift heavy packages?

There are a lot of members of the back pain club. After you join the club, you usually get a lifetime membership. I finally discovered I have a problem I can’t fix. No amount of persistence, research, medical attention or cleverness is going to make it go away. So I’ve designed the world to make my back happy. We have a back-friendly home. From our adjustable bed, to the reclining sofa, our place is kind to spines.

75-GoodNight-CR-66

There’s no moral to this story. It’s just life. If you don’t die young, odds are you hurt. The years roll on, pain gets worse.

I’ve had to accept reality but I don’t have to like it. Sooner or later we all face an intractable problem. Or several. It’s a nasty shock, especially if you’ve always believed you are unstoppable.

When you hit that wall, I recommend very comfortable furniture.

THE NOT-SO-HALCYON DAYS OF YORE – PURE TRASH, BETTE A. STEVENS

There are so many television shows and movies, not to mention sappy posts on Facebook and other social media sites about “the good old days” … kind of makes me a trifle queasy. As someone who grew up in those good old days, I can attest to their not being all that great. There were good things about them, but it was by no means all roses.

Good is a relative term, after all. If you were white, Christian and middle class … preferably male and not (for example) a woman with professional ambitions … the world was something resembling your oyster. A family could live on one salary. If you were “regular folk” and didn’t stand out in any particular way, life could be gentle and sweet.

The thing is, an awful lot of people aren’t and weren’t people who could blend in. If you were poor, anything but white or Christian, or a woman who wanted to be more than a mother and homemaker, the world was a far rougher place.

author-bette-a-stevens

Pure Trash: The Story: Shawn Daniels in a Poor Boy’s Adventure: 1950s Rural New England is set in rural New England in the mid 1950s. It’s a sharp reminder how brutal our society could be to those deemed different or inferior. Not only was bullying common, it wasn’t considered wrong. I remember how badly the poor kids in my class were treated when I was going through elementary school. How the teachers took every opportunity to humiliate kids whose clothing was tattered and whose shoes were worn. I remember feeling awful for those little girls and boys. Not merely bullied by their classmates (who oddly, didn’t much notice the differences until the teachers pointed them out), but tormented by those who were supposed to care for and protect them. Bad enough for me and the handful of Jewish kids as Christmas rolled around. For them, it was the wrong time of year all year round.

In this short story, Shawn and Willie Daniels set off one Saturday in search of whatever they can find that they can turn into money. One man’s trash can be a poor child’s treasure. Bottles that people throw away could be collected and turned into ice cream and soda pop. Shawn is excited. It’s going to be a terrific day. Until the real world intrudes and Shawn is sharply and painfully reminded that he’s different … and not in a good way.

The story is about bullying, but more important, it’s about being different and being judged without compassion, without understanding or love.

It’s a very fast read. Only 21 pages, the story flies by. I was left wanting more. I want to know how the boys grow up. I want them to become CEOs of big corporations so they can thumb their noses at their whole miserable society. An excellent short story leaving plenty of room for thought.

Though set in 1955, the story is entirely relevant today. Despite much-touted progress, we still judge each other harshly based on appearance and assumptions. Everything changes … but maybe not so much.

For lots more information about the book and its author, stop by the authors’ website: 4 Writers and Readers. Pure Trash is available on Kindle and as a paperback from Amazon.

OUT SICK BUT STILL TRYING

As I sit here, burning with fever and wheezing, I realize that the timing of NoBloPoMo is more than a little unfortunate. Our doctor called us and told us we had to come in because we are SICK. All I’d done is call to renew a prescription, but the hacking cough was probably a giveaway. She asked if Garry had the same symptoms. I said not exactly. His version of this seems to have gone into his ears, mine into my chest.

out-sick

To say that this is putting a bit of a crimp in my creativity is an understatement. We were getting better and then started getting worse. To me, that screams “secondary infection.” I’m hoping it isn’t pneumonia. Again. I’ve managed to avoid it for more than 5 years, but the painful, deep cough is an old friend.

So I’m going to do my best to keep on blogging, but I’m having problems. Big ones. I can’t breathe and everything hurts, head to toes. It’s also the first time I’ve been seriously sick like this is years. I apologize for not being a good trooper. Maybe the doctor will have a magic bullet. That would be good.

I’m posting this early. I’m going to bed. I feel like I’m going under for the third time.

BLAST FROM THE PAST -The Best Medicine

Life in shreds? Out of work? Evicted? Hiding from the repo guys? Other half dumped you? Bank threatening to foreclose? Don’t take it personally. It’s just  a joke. No, really. Disaster is life’s cute and funny way of pointing out how little control you have over your fate. Don’t cry. No one likes a cry-baby. Smile! That’s it! Go on, now, no suffering allowed. This personal disaster is your cue to laugh. No one wants to hear your sad story … unless you turn it into a funny story! Then everyone wants to listen.

The first time my world went to pieces, I walked away from a dead marriage, gave everything to my ex and moved to another country. The joke was on me. I promptly married a guy so much worse I get dizzy thinking about it 30 years later. When that fell apart (though it lasted longer than it ought because I wouldn’t admit what a horrible mistake I’d made), I staggered — bloody, dazed and penniless — back to the USA. When I stopped feeling as if I’d gone through a wood chipper, I married Garry which I should done in the first place, except he hadn’t asked. Minor detail.

All that seemingly pointless pain and suffering was not for nothing. Stories of hideous mistakes and horrendous outcomes are the stuff of terrific after-dinner conversation. A few drinks can transform them into hilarity. Misery fuels humor. It’s a fact. Misery, mistakes, and disasters are high comedy. Funny movies are not about people having fun. They’re about people in trouble, with everything going wrong, lives in ruins. The difference between a comedy and a tragedy is the ending. Tragedies usually end with a pile of corpses; comedies (usually) don’t. Otherwise, it’s just a matter of timing and style.

Funny stories weren’t funny when they happened. Now, well, yeah, they’re funny. After I was told I had cancer in not one, but both breasts (they were having a two-for-one special at the Dana-Farber), I had them removed and replaced by silicon implants, but stopped short of adding fake nipples. Previous surgeries having left me with no naval, I now present myself as a space alien. You don’t believe me? It’s true.

And about those fake tits: I own tee shirts that say “Yes, they are FAKE. My real ones tried to kill me.” I’m wearing one right now. It’s a killer at parties and is the high point of my cancer experience.

Fake breasts

When life goes to Hell in the proverbial handbasket, a lot of folks who were sort of friends eye you with suspicion (is bad luck contagious?), but also with a subtle hint, a light whiff, of profound satisfaction. They wouldn’t be rude enough to say so, but they are overjoyed that it happened to you, not them. Sorry about your life, really. (Furtive, slightly smug grin.)

If you are a writer, out of the wreckage will come a book or at the very least, a Freshly Pressed badge from WordPress. Yay! See? It wasn’t for nothing!

Our personal traumas are collateral damage in a Darwinian battle of the fittest to survive. No one gets through unscathed. So mindful of whatever tragedy lurks just over your personal horizon, why not prepare some clever repartee? You can give it a test drive at the next get together with your more successful pals. It will give you something to look forward to. And, as a bonus, you will really appreciate the irony when your friends’ lives go to pieces later on. You’ll be able to give them great advice on how to survive their personal Apocalypse! Cool!

So no matter how horrible things are right now, don’t worry. You will stop bleeding and screaming. Eventually. Black depression will ebb. You won’t always feel you can’t breathe. That crushing weight on your chest will be replaced by a permanent sense of panic and mild hysteria you will call “normal.”

Start laughing right this minute.  No tears allowed. Tragedy is hilarious. Heaven may be droll, but Hell?  Everyone is yukking it up down there. Watch out for the flames (OUCH).

Daily Prompt: STILL WAITING TO EXHALE

Still waiting. Still holding my breath. The loss of my job when the company went bankrupt — my career when my health failed — and my husband’s after 31 years for no good reason and at the same time. The loss of 100% of our income. Two years, zero income, no help from anywhere or anyone.

My son’s career crashing with the towers on 9/11. Huddling together. Three generations trying to survive as the world fell around us. Me, a botched surgery — getting sicker and sicker. No medical care until so close to dead I felt the reaper’s wings brush my face. Then — a miracle. Help! Better (is the siege really over?) until cancer. Surviving again, feeling better — NOW it’s my heart. But we don’t have the money to fund the surgery and rehab.

All lights are headlights of oncoming trains.

75NK-Train-36

Still waiting to exhale. It’s been more than a decade and my breath is tight and painful in my chest. Or maybe it’s my heart. Who can tell?

Yet we laugh. Often. Because life is absurd, hilarious, crazy, mad. Laugh or die sad and full of tears. After all, we shall all die of something eventually … I prefer to do it laughing.

Daily Prompt: On the Road – Adopt me please!

If you could pause real life and spend some time living with a family anywhere in the world, where would you go? Photographers, artists, poets: show us TRAVELS.

I want to be adopted by a family with no heirs and a great deal of money. A family who have been searching for people who need their love and resources. It’s important that they also love dogs (we have four and aren’t going anywhere without them) and have a yard for them. Preferably a doggy door. And a good veterinarian on call.

Location doesn’t matter, though we’d all prefer someplace without snow … but willing to compromise. Just please, pay my bills and love me.

I like this house. I could live here. Especially if someone else will take care of it!

I like this house. I could live here. Especially if someone else will take care of it!

 

I come with an entourage so these generous souls will need to stand ready to adopt the rest of my family. That includes my son, his wife, my granddaughter — and most important, my husband. He is an undemanding soul, requiring little more than a comfortable bed, a recliner, a fast WiFi connection, food, coffee, a large screen HDTV with a good cable package … and lots of love. Hugs are important. Essential, in fact.

Hugs make the world go round.

A Secret Love

See on Rarasaur. My first guest blog! 

GoTo Rarasaur

I confess, though I will celebrate my 23rd wedding anniversary tomorrow, I have another love in my life. It is no passing infatuation. It’s the real thing. Deep, true, forever. Undying.

It’s been the center of my world for more than a decade and I’m still as cow-eyed and misty with passion as I was at the start of this romance. My husband understands and we share my love between us, making an odd threesome perhaps, in some eyes. But to us, it’s the way it ought to be.

Better than anyone, he knows this relationship gives me something he cannot. It has been part of our lives longer than anything else — other than each other. Almost as long as the house in which we live. You might think after so many years, familiarity would lessen the passion I feel at the thought of the touch, the warm embrace. Yet my love is as strong as ever. Maybe stronger than ever.

In some ways, it was love at first sight. From the moment three brawny guys hauled those humongous heavy boxes into the bedroom and assembled it in place, my passion for our adjustable bed has been unceasing, unrelenting.

My adjustable bed. Ah, The Bed. With the wonderful pure latex foam mattress that cradles my sore spine, supports my aching hips. Rises up to let me watch television, use the computer or read, then settles gently back with the push of a button.

When first The Bed came into our life, Garry didn’t get it. Then, one day, shortly after having rotator cuff surgery, he looked at me. He said, with a quaver in his voice and a tear in his eye: “I love this bed. I really love it.”

I nodded. Yes. I understand. Because I love it too. When we are away, no matter where we are, no matter how luxurious the hotel or the guest room may be, we long for our bed. There is no other place on earth where we are completely comfortable.

The best moment? When we get home from vacation and finally, after unpacking all the stuff — there’s always more stuff after the holiday than you packed in the first place (how is that? it’s as if it reproduces in the trunk of the car) — we nod to one another and adjourn to the bedroom.

We climb into bed and like a couple of cats, we nestle. We look into each others’ eyes. We sigh. “Aah.”

We smile. We say, in chorus: “Oh, I LOVE this bed.”75-GoodNight-CR-66

Sneer if you like. Hug your cell phones and computers. Brag about your high-definition television, your stereo system. Nothing you say about your camera, car, newest totally cool gadget can match the intensity of our love for The Bed. Oh blessed day I bought you, my bed. My friend.

Twice in its life, The Bed has failed to respond to the control. The first time, I nearly went into cardiac arrest. I went online and found the original manual, inadvertently discovering that my bed is under warranty for life anyhow (I didn’t remember that) … and discovered I needed to reboot the bed. Which meant unplugging it, counting to 10, then plugging in back in. All fixed.

It isn’t natural to feel this way about something inanimate, but … it’s my guilty secret. And if you have an adjustable bed, you understand. The rest of you … I hope someday you too can experience a passion this profound.

I think I’ll go lie down for a while. My bed is calling me.

Some additional information:

This bed is an AdjustaMagic. We bought it when the company had just opened for business, so it was really reasonably priced — about $2500 for the bed with a nice, finished base and the most amazing full natural latex foam rubber mattress. Breathtakingly comfortable. A dozen years later, AdjustaMagic is a luxury brand. The mattress would cost more than the entire bed cost when I bought it in 2001.

But do not despair. There are many more brands than there used to be and local bedding places have sales. My best friend just got one for her birthday (what a good husband she has!!) and the mattress is one of those sleep number inflatable ones made for an adjustable bed — the whole thing came in for around $3000. Minus some decorative stuff, but you can pay that or more for a regular bed.

These beds are wonderful for sleeping but also for other stuff. You can finally watch TV, read, or use a laptop comfortably. In bed. It’s a life changer for anyone with asthma, a bad back, breathing problems of any kind … or people who want a bed that’s genuinely comfortable. More than okay. Wonderful.  It makes a huge difference in the quality of life, one of the few improvements in life you can buy with money.

I love my computers too. And our car. I love our reclining love seat and our amazing Sennheiser wireless earphones … but OH the bed. It’s so deliciously tactile!!

Daily Prompt: Non, je ne regrette rien … Well, not much, anyhow.

If I have any regrets — real regrets other than “gee, it would have been nice if I’d gotten around to doing that” which is not a regret, just something that got missed …. they are about money. The personal mistakes? They are part of life and although they may have been regrettable, they became a piece of who we are … and you can’t go back and fix life.

On the other hand, I wish we’d been better about money, a little more savvy. We didn’t expect to be unable to work so young. I’m not sure we ever really thought about it in a clear-headed way. It was always far off in a misty future, a “someday” that might never come. We planned to be young and healthy forever.

Sunlight through bright maple leaves by the lake's shore.

Then, one day, bang. There it was. I was disabled. Garry was retired. Where an income had been, we had a donut hole. We’d used our savings to buy the house we could no longer afford, which seemed like a good idea when we believed we had another decade of income from work. Not such a good idea without those salaries.

We had worked and paid taxes for a collective 75 years between the two of us. We worked until we couldn’t work any more. It was time to start collecting. Retirement was supposed to be the end of stress, the beginning of the rewards.

There are rewards. The freedom of time is the big one. You can go to bed and get up on your own schedule. You can do everything, more or less, on your own schedule. I don’t know what day of the week it is most of the time. If you don’t have a job, one day is very much like another. Weekends take me by surprise. If you are in a good marriage, you have time to really enjoy each other. You get to know your grandchildren. You read, watch movies, pursue hobbies, pet your dogs.

We worked hard, played hard, so our memories are a treasure trove. We did almost all of the things we really wanted to do and hopefully, there are still a few surprises to come. Good surprises, not the other kind.

Sadly, though, retirement has not turned out to be the end of stress. Just a different kind of stress. It’s no longer about meeting the expectations of the workplace. It’s about meeting the bills.

Our pension plans are inadequate to the world in which we find ourselves. When we planned them, they sounded good and probably were … then. But the cost of living went way up and what it takes to maintain a life that would free us from stress is probably about twice what we really have. After making huge cutbacks and eliminating many (most) things we used to do, we hang on. Barely.

So I wish we’d been smarter about money. The irony is we thought we were being smart. We did what we thought we were supposed to do. It just didn’t work out as planned. What made perfect sense 20 years ago doesn’t make sense today. We didn’t grasp that pension amounts stay the same, though the cost of living continues to rise. The meaning of “fixed income” hadn’t really grabbed hold. It has now.

We have adapted, but life after paychecks is not what we intended. Being poor is like walking around in shoes that are just a little bit too tight. They almost fit. Sadly, with shoes and budgets, “almost fits” is surprisingly different than “fits.”

But looking back … we had fun. I had fun. Garry had fun. We had fun together. We still have fun. We just need to fit our fun into an incredibly tight budget, taking into account our arthritic bodies and diminished energy levels.

Few regrets and great memories. We didn’t do everything, but we did a lot. More than most. We made some unfortunate — maybe stupid — choices, but we didn’t wimp out. If life were a movie, we would be on schedule for a previously unknown but fabulously rich relative to pass away leaving us gazillions of dollars and a mansion on a cliff in Ireland. Pity a team of Hollywood script writers isn’t in charge of our lives.

In the deathless words and music of Edith Piaf, I would like to say this about that:

Non, je ne regrette rien ... or at least, not much.