I MIGHT LIKE LIVING IN A BUBBLE – Marilyn Armstrong

LIVING IN A TRAVELING BUBBLE

I don’t like to talk about pain. So many people are in pain and many are worse off than me. My problem is mine is constant and can’t be fixed. The repairs they did back in 1967 crumbled decades ago. No one is willing to go back in there. It’s messy.

It hurts, but so would a surgical replacement. Take your pick. Naturally growing pain or surgical pain. I think I’ll go with natural. Because the cut to my septum (to repair my heart) never healed (that would be the cartilage that didn’t glue itself together  — the bones are fine) hurts when I breathe, when I lift, and sometimes, it just hurts.

It’s movable. Sometimes I can press here and there and make it settle down for an hour or two. Again, nothing they can do for it except open me up, cut it loose and wire it tighter. Somehow, I don’t think that is going to make me feel better. I’m a bit resistant to more surgery. I can’t imagine why.

An awful lot of people tell me it’s all a lack of exercise. The exercise I get is cleaning. The house. Washing the floor. Vacuuming. Changing the covers on the sofas. Hefting my  10-pound PC 100 times a day from my lap to the side table. I have strong upper arms, but my wrists are fading.

Constant pain is tiring. I walk. I could get a wheel chair but there’s no ramp from up here to down where it would need it. The chairs are not good on grass and other “rough” surfaces, so it wouldn’t take me where I want to go.

As long as I have legs that get me moving, I’ll will have to use them.

Some stuff doesn’t improve, especially at this late stage, but if I’m lucky, it might not get worse.

Medication helps, but there’s only so much I can take. Prednisone helps a lot, but it’s dangerous. It lowers ones ability to heal from injury, even very minor injury. I have problems with that anyway because of the heart surgery. Prednisone would make me feel better temporarily, but it wouldn’t cure anything. Though I think I deserve a two-week Prednisone break at least annually. Like a vacation, you know?

There was a time when a shot in both hips and my spine would give me weeks — sometimes a month or two — of living normally. It was heavenly. The more often one gets the shots, the shorter the relief from them. Despite rumors, they wear off. Unless you are dealing with a temporary injury or irritation, one day, the pain is back.

I hate the disappointment of the shots wearing off. I feel like Charlie in “Flowers for Algernon.”

I could also take pain medications earlier in the day, but they make me drowsy — which I don’t like — and they also wear off. Addiction is not on my agenda this year.

Some problems don’t go away. I get tired of people telling me it’s all “mind over matter.” These days, it’s too much matter and not nearly enough mind.

About that bubble. If I could get a bubble to carry me around, wouldn’t that be cool? A traveling bubble. A trans-continental bubble. An up and down the stairs bubble.

We aren’t going to be Mr. and Mrs. Popularity like this, I’m afraid.

And here the final irony: the thing that hurts most is just standing around. Not working, digging, lifting or walking. Standing in one place, waiting. If I am moving, even slowly, I can make my body do it. But standing still and waiting is a killer.

That and miniature golf.

A “NEW” OLD FRIEND IS AN OXYMORON

 

The red finches are back – old or new friends?

We were watching a show on TV last night and someone was about to dump one of his old friends from childhood. His father pointed out that as you get older, “old friends” become fewer, so if you want to still have anyone to talk to as you age, maybe you want to think about that.

“A new ‘old friend'” said dad, “Is an oxymoron.” Like “senseless violence” (when is it sensible?) or “an instant tradition,” you can’t have a new “old friend.”

Other favorite oxymorons —  if it’s “free for just $5,” it costs five dollars. Even if it’s “free” with shipping and handling, it isn’t free. When AT&T offers you a “free phone” and then tacks on $75 in taxes and fees … it’s not free.

Free means “costs no money.” Not “costs less than it would at retail.”

Probably, so is an upgrade that removes half the functionality you used to depend on. The people who run WordPress should ponder that.

MR. CASTEN’S CLUTTER

Stuff, by Rich Paschall

Only his neighbor Jorge knew the old guy was sick.  In fact, Mr. Casten had been failing for almost two years.  Whenever Jorge saw the old man, he asked if there was anything he could do to help.  When Mr. Casten was not seen for a week, Jorge would go knock on his door.  If the old guy felt well enough he would stand in the doorway and talk for a while.  If it was morning, he would invite Jorge in for a cup of coffee.

By the time Casten had passed away, Jorge probably knew him as well as anyone.  Their little chats on the stairs, in the doorway or at the kitchen table revealed a lot about an old guy who had lived alone in the same small apartment most of his adult life.  The place was stuffed with memories and memorabilia.

Mr. Casten had collected and saved things throughout life, but in the last few years he tried to de-clutter his small existence.  He gave things away to charity resale shops.  He sent pictures he had from his parents on to other relatives.  He even sold some items on eBay.  It was all too late to clean up the house, however.  Mr. Casten’s small efforts were not enough after a lifetime of accumulation.

Since there were no siblings, no children, no mate, the matter of cleanup and disposal was left to a crew of cousins.  Jorge know just who to call as Mr. Casten had prepared a list of contacts in case of his untimely demise.  Although Mr. Casten was only in his late 60’s, his death arrived right on schedule the way Jorge saw it.  Mr. Casten has gone as far as he could.

When the cousins arrived one Saturday morning to clean out the apartment, Jorge was waiting with the key that had been entrusted to him by Mr. Casten.  Four cousins and two of their teen age sons figured they would make fast work of the four room apartment.  They figured wrong.

“Oh my, who knew one person could collect so much stuff,” cousin Raymond declared.  “This could take all day!”

“Mr. Casten said to tell you guys to be sure to take for yourselves anything you want, then give anything else that is still good to charity.”

“And did you take something, Jorge?” cousin David said in a rather accusing tone.

“Yes,” Jorge replied calmly.  “I took the coffee cup he always gave me to drink out of.  It was the only thing I wanted.”

“Well, I heard he had a good baseball card collection,” cousin Jeff chimed in.  “I would like to have that if we can find it.”

“He’s got a lot of CDs here,” Raymond said in amazement.  “I think I will see what I need.”

“Hey dad,” one of the teenagers shouted out to David.  “He’s got a lot of DVDs. I am going to see if he has anything decent to watch”

As they randomly picked through the goods, cousin John grabbed one of the teenagers and said, “Let’s get to work.  With those guys working so hard out there, we will never get out of here!”

So John and a bored teenager went to the kitchen in search of large garbage bags.  “Under the sink,” Jorge instructed.

Armed with a box of bags, Jorge, John and the teenager went to the bedroom to empty closets and drawers.  John told the teenager to take everything in the closets and put it in bags for donation.  If it looked in bad shape, he should put it in a separate bag for the garbage.  John decided to do the same with the dresser.

As John and Jorge took items from the dresser, they found many new things in each drawer.  There were clothes with tags, new socks and underwear in packages, pajamas that were never worn and sweaters that looked new.

“I thought the old guy could not afford much,” John said in amazement.

“I think he was always afraid of running out of something,” Jorge said.  “He told me more than once that he was afraid to be poor and have nothing, so he kept everything and did not use anything until he needed it.”

“If he lived another 10 years he would not have to buy any clothes,” John said somewhat incredulously.

“Yeah, I think that was the idea,” Jorge noted.

Mr. Casten’s mother had grown up in the Great Depression.  She had nothing, so in her adult life she saved everything.  Anything that had value or possible use, she would save for whenever she might need it.  Of course, she had many things she never used, but they were there “just in case.”

When Casten was young, he knew they did not have much and he saw how his mother managed to get through the years with what they accumulated.  He naturally took on the same habits.  While everything may have seemed a jumbled mess to outside observers, especially cousins who never came to call, it was an organized home for Mr. Casten.

After many runs to the resale shop and the outside garbage cans, the crew had made a good deal of progress.  John declared he would return with one of the boys to finish the job the next day.

“That box in the corner marked pictures should also say ‘Cousins’ on the top,” Jorge remembered to tell them. “You should take that with you.”

“What would we want with a box of old pictures?” David said rather sarcastically.

So Jorge explained that collection.  “Mr. Casten thought that maybe someone would want to see them at a wake or service to remember how he looked, since he had not been invited to any family event in years.  I would guess you guys would be in a lot of those pictures from long ago.”

The cousins said nothing.  John grabbed the box on the way out.

Jorge closed the door.

See also: “The Accumulation of Stuff,” Reducing Clutter

MEANDERING THROUGH LIFE

I love posts about whether to take the traveled or less traveled path.

As if we get that choice. All paths are untraveled until we walk them.

Choices? When I was 18, I had a choice to go to Cape May and spend the summer with my previous boyfriend (good sex, bad everything else) or marry my first husband (meh sex, but great conversation and social life) including a real opportunity to never have to spend another night under my parents’ roof.

1990 in Ireland

I went with the husband. It was what they now call “a jail-break marriage” and it worked surprisingly well. I wasn’t the only one who needed the jail break. He needed to break out of his prison too. We urgently needed to make a life. We might not have been the most passionate of lovers, but we were very fond of each other. We had tons of shared interests and many mutual friends. We liked the same books and loved history, cats, and dogs. We even had the same taste in furniture and houses. We got along well and what we lacked in fervor, we made  up for in affection and caring.

Somewhere in Ireland

We meandered along for 13 years and if he had not been an alcoholic and so terribly depressed all the time, we might still be together — and he might still be alive. I don’t know if the alcohol and the depression were linked, but probably were. Back then, these connections had not been made.They hadn’t invented Prozac and going into rehab wasn’t a “thing.” So we meandered along, had a son and a life. Garry was his best friend which is how Garry became Owen’s godfather and eventually, his stepfather. It isn’t as complicated as it sounds if you realize that we were all really good friends.

Most of my life has been one or another kind of meandering. Over the years, maybe a handful of distinct choices got made and I am happy with how they worked out, though are often times when I wonder how the other option might have gone.

In some other world, I made other choices. I’d love to chat with the other me and find out how it went. But — never was there an option to choose the “less traveled” or “more traveled” path. That’s a poem, not reality. When we need to choose, all paths are equally untraveled.

For most of us, there also comes a time when we get to say: “Okay world, I’m up for something different” and we have an adventure. Every life deserves adventures. I hope you are having yours  now — or delighted with the memories of those you had.

What Happens In One Lifetime?

This seemed particularly appropriate for this birthday.
At age 71 — what happened? How many hours for how many different activities?  I think I’ve had fewer baths and far more Netflix!


In a lifetime, you will produce enough saliva to fill anywhere between 180 to 360 bathtubs, cry 1745 times, and make 146,801,613 steps. This video from AsapSCIENCE takes a dive into things most of us will accomplish during our trips around the Sun. It’s pretty amazing.

Video via – AsapSCIENCE
Further Readings And References:WHOLWW, and The Telegraph

THE SIMPLICITY OF SLEEP AND WAKEFULNESS

COME SLEEP, O SLEEP …

Come, Sleep! O Sleep, the certain knot of peace,
The baiting-place of wit, the balm of woe,
The poor man’s wealth, the prisoner’s release,
Th’ indifferent judge between the high and low;
With shield of proof shield me from out the press
Of those fierce darts Despair at me doth throw!
O make in me those civil wars to cease!—
I will good tribute pay if thou do so.
Take thou of me smooth pillows, sweetest bed,
A chamber deaf of noise and blind of light,
A rosy garland, and a weary head;
And if these things, as being thine in right,
Move not thy heavy grace, thou shalt in me,
Livelier than elsewhere, Stella’s image see.

Sir Philip Sidney


I remember when going to sleep was simple. I changed into a nightgown or pajamas. I took off my jewelry. Brushed my hair. Brushed my teeth. Washed face and hands.  Plumped up the pillow, pulled up the covers — and went to sleep. Sometimes, I read for a while … and then fell asleep.

Last night, I went to bed. I did the whole nightgown, hair, wash, brush thing. Of course. Then I adjusted our electric bed trying to find the angle which would give me the least amount of pain in my back while keeping me sufficiently upright to continue to breathe.

I then took the various medications I take before bed — some for blood pressure, others for pain, and one for actual sleep. That was when I realized my rash was acting up. Damn. I put some cortisone cream on it, but that didn’t do it. So I went into the bathroom and used the other, stronger gunk. I stood there for a few minutes waiting for the gunk to dry, then went back to bed.

I realized I couldn’t breathe. I used the daily inhaler. Still couldn’t breath. Used the emergency inhaler — twice. Breathing restored, I realized my eyes were dry enough to feel like I had gravel in them. I found the eye-drops.

“Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch,” I said as the liquid hit the gravel. Garry couldn’t hear me. He had the headphones on and was deep in a western.

I tried another round of eye-drops. “OW!” I yelped. Two rounds of eye-drops later, the gravel had diminished. I realized I needed to do something about my incredibly dry lips. One round of chap-stick. Another round of chap-stick. One more round of chap-stick and by now, I’m wide awake. And my back was killing me.

I found the lidocaine cream. Applied it to my right hip. My left hip. Up and down the spine. Then — again — I waited for the most recent gunk to dry.

By now, a full hour had passed since I put on my nightgown and brushed my teeth. I had been sleepy, but by now, I wasn’t sleepy. Not a bit. I thought wistfully of those long ago days when going to bed was just … going to bed.

Worse, I still had to look forward to the thrill of getting out of bed. Convincing my legs and arms to wake up. Making sure my spine was going to let me stand  up and hopefully, walk.

Eyes – very dry!

The getting up ritual is a whole other thing, starting with around four in the morning when I start readjusting the bed. Because during the night, my spine will congeal into a solid lump of misery. I have to decide what — if any — medication will help. I have to be careful because I can only take a specified amount. If I take meds at four in the morning, I can’t take them later.

You get the idea.

Sometimes, the complexity of going to bed then getting up — first for medication and going back to bed. Next, rearranging the electric bed, trying to go back to sleep, hearing The Duke hit the door, knowing if I don’t get up and give everyone a biscuit he’s going to keep hitting the door until the door breaks or I get up and do the “Good Morning, beloved Dogs” thing.

Nothing is simple. Especially not simplest things.

CULTURE SHOCK – RICH PASCHALL

Travelling to America, Rich Paschall


You might think that anyone who moves to a new country might be in for a bit of culture shock.  If the person is coming to America from a wealthy Western European nation, Norway let’s say, you may not expect the shock to be too great.  After all, aren’t we as advanced as any of the other leading nations of the world?  Would we not seem as modern and progressive as anywhere else?  If we leave the political situations out of the equation, you might think those from the most prosperous of countries would feel at home here.  Of course, if their nations are modern, prosperous and progressive, you might wonder if there is much interest in emigrating here.  I have not met any new Norwegians in the neighborhood.

Arriving at Chicago O’Hare

What of those coming from South or Central America, for example? Would the architecture astound? Would the museums and parks enthrall?  Would the restaurants, night clubs and bars amaze? Would the typical tourists spots excite?  Let’s say you are coming to Chicago. Would you be blown away by the skyline? Would the Planetarium be out of this world? Perhaps the things that we would think provide culture shock are not those things at all. So we have a giant bean in the park (Cloud gate, actually), will this surprise a new resident?

In a world where the internet is just about everywhere, a new resident, no matter what part of the planet he or she comes from, would likely have researched the new destination. The immigrant would have seen the famous locales, and then it is only a matter of visiting in person what has been seen online. The tourists spots and infamous towers were already known. They may provide some momentary amazement but no surprise and certainly no culture shock. No, it is other things that brought shock to my new South American roommate. Surprisingly, they were in my home.

Adler Planetarium

For a couple of months I saw my roommate peel potatoes with a large knife. I never thought much of it until one day I realized he should be using the potato peeler. So I got it out of the drawer and took a potato from him and showed him how I do it. Yes, this was one of the many culture shock moments. My kitchen was filled with little gadgets that were not common to a poor household in South America. Imagine what you have in your kitchen that would be a surprise, even a shock to others.

“Rich!” my mate called out one day.  I came running, so to speak, (OK, I wasn’t actually running) as if something was wrong in the kitchen. We had recently been to the supermarket, another culture shock, where roomie had picked out some cans of tuna in oil. He showed me the can and his face told me the problem. They just did not buy canned goods in his area. Getting into a can was a mystery. I handed him a can opener but he returned it with the best “What the hell do I do with this?” look. This gave me the opportunity to demonstrate the fine art of the can opener. While we now know how to open cans, we also had to learn that we do not drain off the oil into the sink. This is why I save certain jars.

While the kitchen is filled with unique gadgets, I did not expect that the coffee maker was one of them. I guess what I have is non-traditional. It is a Hamilton Beach that has a reservoir on top and you dispense the coffee like a pop machine by depressing the lever. Roomie told a neighbor I did not have a coffee maker with a coffee pot. The nice neighbor gave him one for Christmas.  Now we have two perfectly fine coffee makers. I was shocked to find a guy from Colombia who does not know how to make good coffee. Fortunately he does not read me so I can continue to insist his weak efforts at coffee-making are just fine. I have tried to buy coffee that mentions “Colombia” on the package as one of us thinks it is the only good coffee in the world. I do not wish to shock him with coffee from other lands.

He has, of course, seen microwaves, but never actually had one. He had a television with a remote, but not multiple remotes for multiple devices. I am still trying to get him to use the on and off buttons for the satellite remote. The “on” button will turn on the satellite box and TV and when you hit it again it will turn off the television. I frequently find the box is still on while the TV is off. Getting television from other countries was no surprise, but I guess the amount of them is a bit of a shock.

The stove is rather interesting, I guess. It is not two burners hooked to a giant propane tank. It is five gas burners  I have been unsuccessful in explaining that the flame is not just on or off, but you can control the level. Everything is cooked with a high flame which usually means we have another in-home annoyance. The smoke detector is shocking every time it goes off, which is just about every time roomie cooks.

The biggest shock to date is the weather and the temperature indoors and out. The house is not a comfortable 85 degrees during the day as it is in his homeland. Now that my warm weather room-mate has figured out what the up and down arrows on the thermostat are for, I am usually in for a shock when I come in the house from outside. Thankfully it is a programmable thermostat and resets periodically. Wait until he finds out how 85 feels in Chicago in July or August when the humidity is high. Yes, the culture shock will keep coming.