I’M JUST FINE. THANKS FOR ASKING.

BLAST FROM THE PAST:

A mere two years after a double mastectomy, I’m facing another medical crisis. I’m not handling it gracefully. Too many crises. Dozens of surgeries. I can’t bore you with details; I have, thankfully, forgotten them.

Fake breasts

I’ve spent more time in the hospital than most interns. I’m a professional patient with the scars to prove it. When I die, they should stuff me. Put me in some kind of museum proving with enough medical attention, even the totally unfit can survive. Each doctor who redesigned some portion of me can tattoo his signature along the appropriate scar, assuming all the doctors are still alive. Probably they aren’t because I started my career on the wrong side of medicine while still a teenager and apparently am not due for retirement anytime soon.

I need a new mitral valve. I used to joke and laugh, saying the only major system in my body that continues to work is my heart. I laughed too soon. Probably jinxed myself.

I go into each surgery with fear and resignation. I know how I’m going to feel when I wake up from the anaesthesia. I will hurt. I will be sick and disoriented. I will realize I must have survived because I’m aware how totally miserable I am. Again.

Last time I woke up and the first thing I did was look down at my chest to see if I had a semblance of breasts. I did. Lumpy, not flat. Though I knew they weren’t original equipment, I was comforted by the familiarity of the landscape. With all the pain, drains and anger at my body for betraying me, it was nice to know I would at least appear — on the surface — female.

75-BostonView__09

View of Boston and Fenway Park from the Baptist Hospital

That was when I said: “Never again. I’m never going through this again.”

I should just shut up. How stupid am I? I can’t remember how many times I’ve woken from that weird deathlike anaesthesia sleep and have fought my way back up to the light. Each time, just a little weaker, a bit less sure of the future — but alive. Hanging on.

Lobby of the Dana-Farber in Milford

Lobby of the Dana-Farber in Milford

It’s too soon. I’m not ready. Maybe this time the magic won’t work. My first husband died following complications of mitral valve replacement surgery. I watched him die. After the surgical accident that killed his brain, he remained technically alive, but in a vegetative state for 9 long months. I took care of something that looked like him, but whose eyes were empty. When finally he passed completely, I and the rest of his friends gratefully wished him well on a journey he should have taken nearly a year before.

Probably no surprise that this particular surgery holds a special terror for me.

Less than two years since I vowed “Never again,”  again has come. I suppose I’ve already made the choice to let them fix me, or try anyhow (does “or die trying” sound too ghoulish?). The alternative — slowly dying while my heart becomes less and less able to pump blood — doesn’t sound attractive. An attractive option does not seem to be available. But, there’s no advantage in waiting. I won’t get younger or healthier. The older I get, the more dangerous surgery is.

75-UpwardsNIK-31

Glass shaft at the Dana-Farber.

I gave myself a little gift of time. I put off my appointment with the surgeon until the beginning of September. I need to get my head into a better space, to settle down emotionally. A few weeks of denial before I tackle another scary reality.

So for the next three weeks If you ask me, I will tell you. I’m just fine. Thanks for asking.

IT WAS A MIGHTY RIVER – GARRY ARMSTRONG

The Mumford is normally a powerful little river. It’s the largest of the Blackstone’s tributaries.  The Mumford’s wrath has more than once been felt as it overflowed its banks and turned the town into a lake.

Mumford Dam - May 2014

Mumford Dam – May 2014

Mighty no more. The Mumford is barely a stream. Until the dam in Uxbridge, where the river crosses Route 16, the river looks more or less normal.

72-Heron-GA_056

That’s because the dam contains the water, allowing only a small spillway and a tiny overflow to pass the dam and flow into the Mumford. Immediately in front of the dam, there are a few inches of water – enough to sustain a few small fish that can feed at least one blue heron.

Mumford River - September 2014

Mumford River – September 2014

Just across the overpass formed by Route 16, probably no more than 200 feet from the dam, the river becomes a series of shiny, reflective puddles. Not a river at all. Unable to sustain fish or other water-based life. No turtles. No ducks, geese, or swans.

One heron, waiting for a fish

One heron, waiting for a fish

The drought to which no one is paying attention, which is being ignored by TV stations and newspapers alike, is taking a terrible toll on wildlife. If it doesn’t start to rain soon and steadily, it’s going to take a similar toll on people, especially those of us who get our water from private wells.

Mumford River, just down from the dam

Mumford River, just down from the dam

We all share the same aquifer. Not just in the Blackstone Valley. All over the state and across state lines into Connecticut and Rhode Island. The aquifer, a series of interconnected waterways that run through the base rock of New England, doesn’t know about state lines.

72-Heron-GA_025

Your well, my well, the wells belonging to my neighbors up and down our street and wherever the aquifer runs … they are all connected. Your well may be on your property, but the water belongs to all of us. Your water use affects me as surely as does the lack of rain.

Pretty reflections in the shallow puddles of the Mumford

Pretty reflections in the shallow puddles of the Mumford

Even if you are on “city water,” where do you think your water comes from? We are the watershed.

The water source is here. If we are drying up, so are you. Whether you know it or not.


As many of you may know, our well recently went dry. It was a chaotic moment for us. We did not have the money to renovate our well. I had no bright ideas. We had one option. I didn’t like it but we didn’t have a choice. We had to ask for financial help. It probably was the most depressing moment of my adult life.

I was surprised by the response. I am still shaking my head in wonderment at the generosity of friends and strangers. We’ve received enough money to schedule the renovation of our well.

Thank you doesn’t seem adequate to convey our gratitude.

Thank you!

WAITING FOR WATER, HOPING FOR RAIN

DAILY PROMPT: READY, SET, DONE - Free Writing In the Morning

This is a dark morning. It looks like it’s going to rain. That’s a good thing and I hope it will rain for real. But it’s often dark and gray like this in the morning, yet no rain comes. By mid morning, the sky clears. The ground stays dry.

It’s been like this … if I think about it … since last summer, the summer of 2013. That’s the first time I went to Manchaug and saw the dam was dry. It was far dryer this year, the lake being nearly gone. The mallards and swans are gone too. The turtles are living in brown puddles.

75-home-108

The dams were had already been closed and dry by the autumn of 2013 and have not reopened. Still locked up through this entire year. We had a moderate amount of snow — along with plenty of ice and cold — but the amount of snow didn’t make up for the lack of spring and summer rains. No autumn rains, either. Makes for beautiful foliage, but dry wells.

Dealing with our own personal drought, we’ve gone in just a few days from total panic to a kind of zen acceptance. You can’t do without water, of course. Whether you live in a grass hut or a modern house in the suburbs — or our ranch house in the valley … water is the bottom line in necessities.

Not just any water. We need clean water. Drinkable water. Water with which we can wash and cook. Now … after 4 days … we have a little bit of water in the well. Not much. It’s a fragile thing. No laundry. Hand showers and don’t leave the water running even for a few minutes. Bottled water for making coffee, cooking, drinking, even for the dogs. That stuff coming out of the faucet is not a color water should be. Brownish, yellowish. Unhealthy. Until the well is repaired … which we hope will be soon … we are on rations.

This is Mother Nature reminding we modern folk how little power we have if she wills otherwise. We can have all the technology in the world. Software, hardware, the fanciest smartphones, computers, and cameras … but when the well is dry, nothing help. We know no magic that can make the water flow, only basic technology to try and clear the natural fissures in the rocks through which water passes and fills our holes in the ground. Which is all a well is. A deep hole in the ground with a big pump to bring it to the surface.

We are in waiting mode, waiting for the well fixers to get back to us with final number, hoping those numbers we get and the money we’ve collected work together. Because we have to get this done. Soon. Before the ground freezes.

Each morning now, it’s a little colder than it was the day before. Autumn is here. For real. Winter cannot be far behind.

READING THE BOOK OF ALL-ANSWERS

Not Lemonade - When life gives you lemons… make something else. Tell us about a time you used an object or resolved a tricky situation in an unorthodox way.


The implications of this prompt are so far-reaching it boggles my mind. You mean there is an orthodox method for doing … everything? Is this written somewhere? I mean … you know … is there a book? Or maybe even a checklist? Does this require church membership and/or attendance?

In all my years on earth, I never heard about this and it perturbs me. Something so important, knowing that all things can be resolved by following some structured, orthodox rules … well … where were these rules when I needed them?

It reminds me of all the times in my life when I have found myself in one of those messes life tends to dump on me from time to time. No work, no money, no hope and oh, yeah, I’m dying. And there I am, without a clue as to what I’m supposed to do about all of it. Finding myself thinking and rethinking ways to save my home, my brain, my life … then eventually, sometimes through sheer serendipity (there’s that word again), discovering a way out.

magic-book-burning-247

Never once did it occur to me I had done something unorthodox. Clever maybe. But unorthodox? As far as I could tell, what I mainly did was not give up.

I’ve done a lot of stuff other people thought was stupid, brave, or weird. They condemned me, admired me, envied me, and hated or loved me according to their natures. Never once did anyone imply there had been an alternative solution had I but followed the path of orthodoxy. Typically, most everyone was surprised I found a solution at all. I was usually as surprised as they were.

If you don’t believe in coincidence, my life won’t make sense to you. Not that it makes sense to me.

Here’s how it goes. There’s this guy. He knows a guy, who knows about a procedure. Which leads to a doctor, who has a lot of influence at a major hospital and finds my case interesting. So he invents a surgery, gets the hospital to do the whole thing for no money because naturally I have no medical insurance and am destitute. Donates not only his services but those of two other surgical teams … and I get fixed. I don’t die. I live so I can have yet another crisis. So far, so good.

I don’t know when I have used an unorthodox solution because I don’t know what an orthodox solution might be. If someone will send me the book, I promise I’ll get around to reading it, eventually. Maybe I’ll review it on Serendipity. Something this important shouldn’t be a secret!

 

NO BUNGEE JUMPING THIS WEEK, THANKS

Fearless Fantasies - How would your life be different if you were incapable of feeling fear? Would your life be better or worse than it is now?


If I could not feel fear, I’d most likely be dead of doing something stupid and dangerous.

Just as pain warns our bodies that something is wrong, fear warns our brains to be cautious. Excessive or unreasoning fear can cripple us, make us unable to do anything at all. Phobias can eliminate some activities entirely.

75-MountainsStream-HP-1

If you are terrified of heights, sky-diving and mountain climbing are likely to be non-starters. If you are scared to death of insects, forget that jungle exploration trip down the Amazon!

But normal fear based on a sensible understanding of a situation keeps us from doing dumb stuff. From climbing that rickety ladder, from diving off the cliff into the rocky, shallow water below.

I think, in the context of my life, I have done many things other’s would have thought dangerous, but which weren’t. They may have been totally stupid and wrong-headed, but not dangerous.

I can’t think of anything I would have done (that I wanted to do) but rejected because of fear. I pretty much did what I wanted. Mostly, it worked out okay.

The stuff that didn’t work out?

Fear wasn’t the issue. It was poor judgment, usually of person or people. Nothing to do with danger and everything to do with street smarts.

 

DON’T BE AFRAID TO LET THEM SHOW

Thoughts on your true colors by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

“You with the sad eyes

Don’t be discouraged

Oh I realize It’s hard to take courage…”

It’s hard to grew up with the perception that you are different from everyone else, even if it is not really so. When you do not know much about the outside world, the world inside you can make you sad. “Why am I not like everyone else?” you may wonder.

“Why am I so different?”  Thoughts like this can lead to sadness. Even though you try to act happy on the outside, your eyes might give you away. 75-RainbowNK-2 There is no way to know that being different is not necessarily wrong when your emotions are telling you otherwise.  Worse yet, other people are telling you that different is wrong, even if only in an indirect way.

“Cut it out.”

“Be a man.”

“Grow up.”

“Stop crying.”

“Why can’t you be more like your brother, cousin, sister, uncle, ____(fill in the blank.)”

“Don’t you like sports?”

“Don’t be a sissy.”

“Only a queer would wear that shirt, pants, shoes, ____(fill in the blank).”

Some seem hard-wired to accept the criticism as they grow up. They look like everything just rolls right off of them. They smile while they hurt. You may think, “Every kid is teased as he grows up. It’s just part of life.” Yes, we all get teased, but some of us are different from the majority … and can’t cope with the teasing.

“In a world full of people

You can lose sight of it all

And the darkness inside you

Can make you feel so small…”

With a limited view of the world, and lack of experience dealing with the emotions tossed your way, you can feel small, insignificant, different. And different seems bad when you are trying to find your way. What is inside you has dark colors and no glow.

“Dear god,” you may silently cry in the loneliness of a dark room just down the hall from the regular people, “please make me like everyone else.” The prayer might be repeated until you are empty of tears and they no longer wash down your face.

“But I see your true colors shining through

I see your true colors and that’s why I love you…”

If you are different, but not in a bad or destructive way, unlike the majority, you need someone to reach out and tell you it’s all right. Someone, anyone, needs to explain that different can be okay. Each can possess unique characteristics that make them special, important, creative, fun. And everyone is worthy of love.

“So don’t be afraid to let them show: your true colors…”

Encouragement is needed to let friends, neighbors, and especially young ones know that each has his own gift. We can’t all be the same. We can’t all do the same things. There is nothing wrong with singing a different tune, being a different kind of person. Diversity can be strength. All the pieces can come together to form a perfect picture. When all the colors are put alongside each other, they can bring everyone joy.

“True colors are beautiful like a rainbow.”

If all this seems a bit cryptic, then let’s just say it is tough to grow up different and hiding who you are. The song “True Colors” has taken on a rather symbolic meaning in some circles since it was first recorded by Cyndi Lauper. Contrary to what some belief, it was not written by Lauper and was in fact the only song on her True Colors album she did not have a hand in writing. Nevertheless, it resonated with her and years later she co-founded the True Colors Fund to wipe out LGBT youth homelessness.

John Legend sings this for kids and teachers. You can find a Cyndi Lauper version and some thoughts on Pride in who you are on the Sunday Night Blog today.

THE WACKOS ARE COMING, THE WACKOS ARE COMING

I’ve been exploring the Internet longer than most people … basically since it became accessible to “regular” folks. Those were the days when you had to buy special software — Netscape — to get on the net. Protocols were more rigid and frankly, once you got on, there wasn’t all that much to do.

The most useful thing about the Internet was being able to work remotely from home via modem. I had a very fast modem — 2400 BPS! Imagine that. No high speed connections yet, so logging on was a project and not always successful. While your modem and computer square-danced in another room, you could prepare dinner, eat it and wash the dishes … by which time maybe you’d be connected. Maybe not.

Now, of course, connecting is fast, generally easy and everyone does it all the time on every kind of device from computers, tablets, and telephones to DVD players, and cameras. WiFi rules.

Technology has come a very long way in a remarkably short time … but people have not. The same crazy people who were out there 25 or 30 years ago are still out there. Now though, they’ve brought their wacko friends to the party. All the original nutters are with us still – along with their buddies. Men and women of all ages from nations around the globe, all out there promoting a lot of weird shit. I’d call it something else, but frankly, I don’t have a better name for it.

unabomber-sketchCyberspace is home to a rich cross-section of whack jobs. Most are probably harmless cranks. But. There are some scary people out there too. Conspiracy theorists who believe Aliens, the CIA, FBI, NSA, President Obama, the Democratic Party or Fox News are controlling our government and it is our duty to overthrow them. Kill them. Nuke them. Get a big gun, find a nice high building, and start shooting. Or build bombs and blow them up. We have more than enough wannabe unabombers looking for their 15 minutes.

For reasons I cannot fathom, a percentage of these people are my followers. WordPress lets you spam commenters, but we have no choice about who follows us. The sneakiest of the crazies become followers so they can access your site. They scare the crap out of me.

Just because they are “out in cyberspace” doesn’t mean they can’t find me and drop by for an up-close and personal visit. It is why I am so determined to control who has access to my site and why I am ultra careful about strangers “advertising” on Serendipity. I had one yesterday. I gave him the benefit of a doubt, though I had that itchy feeling I was making a mistake.

unabomberHe came back to lecture me on how I was a fraud. Not a true believer in the media-CIA conspiracy to control us and strip us of our freedom. Especially the right to be armed to the teeth and kill bad guys (bad guy = anyone with whom he doesn’t agree).

He explained I was obviously determined to remain ignorant of The Truth — of which he was In Possession — and which he would very much like to share with the world. Truth like “What Really Happened on 9/11,” and how ALL THE MEDIA IN THE WORLD is controlled by the CIA.

Alrighty. I should have trusted my gut the first time I encountered this loony. He’s been trying to get on Serendipity for a while and each time, I’ve deleted his comments. Until yesterday when I gave him a brief pass.

It’s a cautionary tale. We want to be fair, kind, give the other guys’ opinions airtime. We are open-minded, reasonable people. Problem is, they are not. They are dangerous and often psychotic. You don’t want them on your site or anywhere in your world.

Watch out. Err on the side of caution. They can find you if they try and some of them will.

I have this on good authority. That voice in my head … you know, my secret contact in the CIA  … he told me.