Thursday, June 30, 2016

The hypocrite...

I was standing in the kitchen working on emptying the dishwasher so that I could wash the dishes that have been in the sink for two days when I spotted my neighbor walk out into her yard.  Again, I wanted to just hide inside, but I didn't.  I forced myself to go outside and see if she wanted to talk.

She did.
I listened.

Does that make me a hypocrite?  Seriously, I am asking.  Because I didn't want to listen.  Given what I have bene learning in my deep and thoughtful (and slow) study of Dr. Brown's research on shame, I understand the power of listening and I know one of the barriers to empathy is judging.  I am not unaware of my own judgment toward my neighbor.  I've listened to her ask the same advice for over five years and for over five years I've watched her ignore it.  I struggle with empathy for anyone who is wallowing and, boy, is she wallowing.

She is so angry at her husband dying, eight years later, that I am often frightened by her anger.  I listen, though, if that's what she wants to talk about.  She is so ... paralyzed over his death that she just cannot handle what needs to be handled.  Sometimes I walk her through things.  Other times I just watch her fail to do what needs to be done and then listen when she bewails her failure.

I know that I listen because I want someone to listen to me.  I know that I listen because the good little evangelical in me commands me to serve my neighbor.  I know that I listen because she literally has no one else.  But I also know that I don't want to listen.  And I know that when she gets angry with me over some perceived perfidy I am ... now ... thankful for the reprieve in having to engage with her.

One of the things that bothered me about the counselor is that she kept ridiculing me, in small taunts, about how slowly I was reading the book.  I am studying it and trying to learn shame resilience.  I honestly believe that this is the second most important book I've ever read ... wait, actually, it is tied for the most important book with The Courage to Heal.  I am learning and I am changing ... me ... the person who doubted change was possible.  So, I don't care, honestly, if anyone thinks I'm reading I Thought It Was Just Me [But It Wasn't] too slowly.  I am learning.  That is enough.

When I realized how important the book was going to be to me, as I have written before, I started taking comprehensive notes from the beginning.  I read, highlight, sticky note, take notes, and then special sticky note the chapters.  So, I am reading through each chapter five times ... but really it has been more.  And that is okay with me.  It is absolutely okay that I am only in chapter six.  After all, given that chapter six is about speaking shame, I am ahead of the game because I have started doing that based on what I have learned in the earlier chapters.

Still, I do think about what Dr. Brown shares about empathy and, with my neighbor, if I am not feeling the monster, I am feeling the hypocrite.  I wouldn't be sorry if she sold her house.  At all.  Well, maybe if it were for a difficult reason.  But I would be relieved.  Awash is abject relief.

I walked outside and listened.
Forced myself because I absolutely didn't want to do so.
Am I a hypocrite?

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The monster in me...

A few weeks ago, my neighbor tells me about someone at her work who has been sexually harassing her son,  22 and autistic, who is also working there.  She asked me what to do; I counseled her to report it.  More than really wanting advice, my neighbor wanted my comfort and consolation, wanting me to agree with her that the situation was all her fault. Only it wasn't; the fault lies with the abuser. As for the comfort, I do not want to hug anyone and have made that patently clear to her that that is about me and my need for a specific boundary.

My neighbor was terrified she was going to lose her job for making a report.  I advised her to 1) call the Indiana hotlines for sexual harassment and for whistleblowers and 2) to make a report with the police.  She did none of those things, but the abuser was eventually terminated and her job remains intact.

Again, I couldn't agree with her fears.  All I really had to offer her was the truth (about being fired ... if she was then she would have an open and shut case for wrongful termination ... and about it being all her fault, something she repeated many, many, many times as she texted and asked to come over for comfort).  I was all reason and rationale, offering consolation only in how overwhelming emotions can be.

Flash forward three weeks and I get this emergency text from her asking for help.  This time, again, I could neither offer her comfort nor commiseration.  Her adult son had met someone online and made arrangements to go to a furry convention in Pennsylvania.  He withdrew money from his savings, packed his bag, and walked out the door despite his mother yelling at him to stop.  If you don't know about the furry community, you probably don't want to, but it is not a dangerous community, to me.  Just a .... confused one.

My neighbor is sobbing rather hysterically and shouting that it is all her fault.  She kept moving toward me for a hug and I kept moving away, whilst slowly questioning her to get the pertinent facts. The key ones were that her son never mentioned his plans and that the only chance she had to counsel him on the lack of safety of getting into a car with a stranger to drive a couple of states away was right as he was leaving.  With someone with autism, a single conversation about a complex issue is not going to cut it.  She was trying to reason with him like he was not cognitively and socially challenged.  I calmly pointed that out and also refuted her claims of being able to prevent this because for a month her son planned in secret.  How could she be at fault for something she did not know anything about.

What I did not say to her was Why did it take you 22 years to think to teach your autistic son about stranger danger?  Was not the experience he had a few weeks ago at work a clear warning sign for you?  I kept my mouth shut along those lines.

Instead, I talked about emotions and how they are normal and natural and not something she could control when she was as overwhelmed as she was.  I talked about how it was not her fault.  And, before asking me for help, my neighbor had tracked down the phone number of the young man her son was with and the phone number of that young man's mother.  She also had the phone number of the hotel where they would be staying.  So I reminded her that, even in being overwhelmed, she had taken what positive steps she could in a difficult situation and all she really could do was wait five days for the trip to end.

With my neighbor continuing to wail about her son being murdered soon, I suggested the other serious, but unpleasant alternative.  She could call for a welfare check on her son and she could file for guardianship of him.  My neighbor immediately and vehemently rejected that idea, stating that he was an adult and could do what he wanted.  I wanted to ask, Why then are you raging against and wailing about his choices, putting all the blame on yourself?  But I all I did was, again, to offer her the options, wait for him to return or seek to have his independence curtailed by guardianship.  Given his cognitive and social abilities, I believe she would not have a problem gaining guardianship.

The point is that I believe that I could offer her the reasoned advice she said she was seeking, but I could not offer the comfort and consolation that she clearly wanted.  Heck, I was dancing away from her much of the time.

When someone is utterly overwhelmed with emotions, that scares me.  My first impulse is to disassociate.  So, with my neighbor, I was battling that process even as I was trying to remain present for her.  And I was battling my own fears.  You could also add that I was battling my own shame at not being able to be the comforter.

I have struggled with wondering, over the past five and a half years, why she has not worked to provide her son the social and work skills he clearly need.  Her preference is simply to provide everything for him, but even as she tries to be his social companion, she is not.  This is not the first time his having a secret life online has come to light.  It is just the most ... dangerous one.  Well, one time the FBI came here, but after a while, that was worked out.  This ... this could be truly innocent or prime grooming.  Only time will tell.

The weird thing is that I have been asking my neighbor if she would go out and have a meal with me for years.  She always either outright declines or asks for a rain check that is never redeemed.  When I found out she was on vacation all this week, I asked again if she would like to go out to eat with me.  So lonely am I, I am asking someone who regularly takes her anger out on me for months at a time to socialize.  SIGH.  When she told me she didn't have time this week—this week in which she already said she was doing nothing but relax—it struck me that she was never going to do anything social with me.  She will occasionally go to the store with me to help with shopping.  But other than asking me to cut her hair or to have a drink (from my stock) on my front porch (a truly relaxing space), my neighbor only really engages with me when she has a problem and wants my advice ... always predicated by, "You've had counseling so I know you'll know what to do."

I am not her friend.
But neither am I a counselor.

I feel such pressure about that, knowing so much of her struggles with her son (and work) and bouts of depression.  I think I feel as much pressure about her desire for counsel as I do about her desire for physical comfort when she is distraught.  I believe it is healthy for me to try and keep the boundary of helping to calm her down and then encouraging her to seek help from a counselor.  I also believe it is healthy for me to try to keep the boundary of no physical comfort.  But the latter boundary, in these situations, makes me feel the monster.

Wouldn't a real human being just give her distraught neighbor a hug?

Last night, when this all happened, I was cheering myself up with cooking, and so I did not want any company.  However, after I left her to go back inside and finish my new recipe, I texted her an offer to come over if she did not want to be alone.  Thankfully, she declined.  This morning, I texted her wishes for peace as she awaits her son's return ... mostly to remind her that I was thinking of her and praying for her.  I mean, that is what I would want ... to know that I was being remembered in my struggle.

However, what I really wanted to do was pack up and go away and hide somewhere until her son returns and she is no longer battling her guilt and fear.   Instead, I sent the text and then mostly hide in the house, puttering a bit at the raised bed, in case she wanted to come out and talk at the fence again (her usual M.O.).

I do not know how to not see myself as a monster.  Recently a friend was struggling and I felt so very honored because she talked to me.  Her tears and overwhelming emotions triggered me, but it was ever so much easier to remain present for her and offer her the simple words I had.  Of course, maybe that was because she was many states away and therefore wasn't wanting me to hug her???  Her bringing up a struggle is not something she does much.  Our relationship is rather one-sided in that regard ... it is all about my struggles.  So, being able to support and encourage her and then pray for her specifically was ... special to me.

But I still battled disassociation.
And I still felt the monster.
So cold-hearted am I.

I don't even have to ask what a counselor would say.  I already have had two tell me that my neighbor should not be coming to me for counsel and my trying to direct her to professional help is appropriate given her situation.  Still, often, in counseling, I would want to scream, BUT THAT ISN'T THE WAY THE REAL WORLD WORKS!

Like ... setting boundaries with my last boss.  My first real success at setting boundaries.  Only that is why, in large part, I lost my job.  She had the ammunition because of my failing cognition, but her trigger was that I stopped doing all her personal stuff that was so inappropriate that, to this day, I feel deep, deep, deep shame at all that I did.  Some things I've never told another soul.  Things I do not think I could bear to admit that I let her bully me into doing.

What I did was was healthy and right and, oh, was I ever punished!  Often, that is my outcome.  It seems that when I try to strike for a healthy balance in an interaction that is making me feel pressured and uncomfortable, I end up being punished in some way.

I think I would like to add, though it might seem ... petty ... that my neighbor has received such praise over her latest hair cut that she's been mad at me because I cut it.  That might make no sense, but it it how her mind works.  I am thankful I've learned not to take that on when it happens, but it seems a bit unfair to have her mad at me and then have her needing me.

Ah, but there's the rub.
There's my sin.
I'm tired of being needed by people who often are unkind to me.

Gosh, I wish I could read a book ... no, wait ... I wish I could read an encyclopedia about what it means to turn the other cheek (and give clothing and such ... you know, those verses).  In counseling, I heard ... break off interactions with those folk.  In this case, to avoid my neighbor as much as possible.  But, to me, I cannot reconcile that with the biblical charge to turn the other cheek.

With my boss, turning my cheek led to abuse.
That's happened many times before.
Here, turning my cheek leads to unkindness.

Am I the monster because I don't really want to be turning my cheek either?  No hugs and no slaps.  SIGH.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

New tastiness...

I tried a new recipe today:  Chili Lime Grilled Chicken!

While the chicken breasts were marinating in lime juice and cilantro, I put together the rub.  I am not sure why I've never tried to make rubs before.  I think, mostly, the very thought of them intimidates them, but I know that Two Peas and Their Pod always post topnotch recipes.  This was no exception.

Since my Oxo sure grip zester makes the curls, I always mince my zest before using it.  Since I had to mince the garlic, I ended up mincing them together as finely as possible before I started putting the rest of the ingredients into the bowl.  As you can see, I still have some smaller chunks of garlic, but the end result was really, really, really great.

I've been having trouble with chicken sticking to the grill, so my friend Emily suggested I try Pam Grilling Spray.  I couldn't find it at the store and ended up bringing home the Crisco version.  The chicken definitely was not problematic come flipping time, so I suppose it helped.  Doesn't it look just lovely?

Why grill chicken?
For more salad, of course!

I am pretty tickled pink over how this turned out.  The chicken was moist and very flavorful.  I used my romaine lettuce, applewood smoked thick-sliced bacon bits, Trader Joe's corn, black beans, extra sharp cheddar cheese, and Hidden Valley Farmhouse Originals Southwest Chipotle dressing.

I wanted a totally different salad than I have been making lately.  This fit the bill and then some.  I am looking forward to eating the other three breasts of grilled chicken, though only two I plan for more Southwest Chicken Salad.  The other I am going to have chili lime grilled chicken tacos.  Mmmmmm!

I also found a new potato recipe I hope to try.  I say hope because I forgot to get the potatoes, so I have to remember those before I can try the recipe.  It is a mustard recipe.  I adore mustard.

Although I am rather sore from my fall yesterday and have remained quite distressed over messing up my medication this past week, once I dragged myself to the kitchen and began cooking, I was cheered by the process.  I do like exploring new recipes and I do like eating them!  I have fallen away from cooking since the new year, mostly trying to deal with life with dysautonomia and a pacemaker.  I would like to try and become a bit more regular with cooking again.

Yesterday, when texting me his meal from his extensive garden, my cousin told me that his lettuce stopped growing a month ago.  That made me even more thankful for mine and at first I felt honored by my crop.  But then I realized that he probably planted his a month before I planted mine.  So, it remains to be seen how much longer into STINKING HOT weather my lettuce will last.  He told me that the fact that my raised bed is in part shade helps (and I actually planted the lettuce in the shadiest part).  I also think the watering is helping.

I might sort of gripe about eating now nearly a month of salads, but I am rather thankful for the bounty.  I certainly could not have afforded this much lettuce.  And, if I may say so, I make rather  tasty salads!

I wonder if I will ever learn to make homemade dressings....

Monday, June 27, 2016

Stupid me...

When we were little, we were not allowed to say the word "stupid."  I don't remember why, but we were not.  Still, I was rather stupid today.

It was 91 degrees when I set out to get some shopping done on this the first day of my budget cycle.  The temperature is to be 17 degrees lower on the morrow.  I cannot figure out why I did not go then.  Seven stops.  Probably about three too many.  Maybe four.

I did well with my shopping, budget-wise, but not memory wise.  I didn't get the lemons because Walmart did not have a single lemon (I had a $15 gift card for Walmart so that was my grocery store choice this time round).   I started off at Walgreen's where I bought graham crackers on sale.  When I am really nauseous, I oft nibble on these, bit by bit, so that I have carbs going in me and my blood sugar doesn't get too low.  Since Keebler stopped selling their Honey Graham crackers, I did a taste test of every generic brand I could try to find one close enough.  Walgreen's won.  Normally, I don't go to a store for just one item, but that was most of this day.

Then I headed up Jefferson to Fresh Market, in search of more vanilla paste, but they were still out.  Already planned, I bought a second of the insulated grocery bags they have.  Since I can put them over my shoulder, carrying in milk has just gotten immensely easier.  No more exceedingly painful pulling on my elbow joints.

Then, used my new-found short-cut between Jefferson and Illinois to pop over to Menard's, where I used rebate money, in part, to purchase more Nature Valley Granola bars.  They are cheaper there than even Amazon's Subscribe & Save program.

Then, back down Illinois to Target for a prescription and then across the parking lot to Lowe's for stakes for the very, very, very beleaguered new variegated Maple tree (I am worried I am going to lose it).  I probably should have stopped there, given that I spent time lying on the floor of Lowe's, much to the dismay of folk around me.

I turned off Illinois to head into Walmart, where I also lay on the floor for a while, back in automotive, where no one noticed.  Someone who was in my car folded my sun shield in half, breaking it.  Granted, it was something in the manner of 10 or 12 years old, but if it had not been bent, I could have nursed it a few more years.  So, that was one replacement item ear-marked in this month's groceries & household items budget because I am tired of a hot car.  I am a firm believer in using a reflective sun shield.

Then it was back down to Jefferson where I could head home, stopping for gas (and wanting to lie down again except I could smell gas everywhere) on the way.  I was soooooooooo glad I ran my tank to empty this time round because the gas was over 40 cents cheaper than my last fill-up.  Was that because of Brexit?

I tried. 
I really did.  
I tried resting. 

But that was not enough. I fell up the back porch steps, before then falling back down.I hit my head. I bit my tongue. I scraped my elbow. I put a hole and two runs in my compression stockings. And I totally, utterly ruined my black flowy skirt.  SIGH.

After all that, I realized that I forgot to put ginger ale on my shopping list. I am running VERY low on that ESSENTIAL item.  I also, for the third time, forgot to get a replacement propane tank at Lowe's.  The bothersome thing about the ginger ale is that Walmart is the most economical place for that and I am not interested in going back there and then going to Meijer's for lemons and then going to Lowe's for the propane after going all over the place (in a very economical driving loop) today.  

I received an email from the RN Care social worker that she set up an appointment for me on Friday.  So, I hope to just rest and rest and rest and rest and then try to fetch the missing things after I go meet the fourth team member on Friday to talk about counseling options (I am not real hopeful about this because my Medicare co-pay is $40 and that is simply not doable for me).  Still, my M.O. has been to try and respect the process of this program my GP nominated me for to see what helps might possibly come of it.  For example, if it is true that Pfizer changed income requirements, then getting Celebrex would be a significant help for me.  I have had a positive experience with the first three team members thus far, so I am hopeful about Friday's appointment, if not about its outcome.

What I liked about my shopping was that I did not buy a single thing not on my list.  I know I'll need more groceries before my budget month ends, but I did really, really well with my spending.  I still have $100 left in my budget, despite getting a higher number of household items than usual, and believe I can make it on half that.  So, that would give me money to pay toward the new mattress.

Which I still love.
So does Amos.

A scraped elbow really hurts.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

A home....

I've been trying to write no matter what, but I was so tired from both the work and the giddiness of the success of adding feet to my antique trunk in the living room that I just ... laid down on the couch all evening long.

This was another of Mother's ideas for the living room.  At first, she offered to have a metal frame with legs built if I found a welder here in Fort Wayne.  That search was not quite so successful.  So, I got the idea of making a wooden platform with legs, trimming out the sides, and she liked that.  Then, after much more thought, I wondered if I could find the perfect kind of feet to just add directly to the bottom of the trunk.

I did!

I was waiting on Firewood Man to come help me because, measuring on the top, I thought I would need to drill through the brass end cap.  Since he's working seven days a week right now, I was not sure when he could come by with his hammer drill.  Only, yesterday, when I finally turned the trunk over to look at it, I discovered that the bottom of the brass end caps was smaller.  The bracket fit just off the end of the cap.

I still had to drill through the trunk because the bolt in the leg was higher than the ones you find in Waddle furniture feet and legs.  And I was using the Waddle brackets because they worked so well on the table I created for the back porch.  But, with Mother's help, I chose these bun feet because 1) they were perfect and 2) they were already stained!

Because the bracket was resting on the brass cap on one side and the bottom of the trunk on the other side, I had to work out how many washers I needed on the front two screws to built up the bracket so as to level the feet.  It was a LOT of screwing and un-screwing as I did that.  I think I might have installed the first bracket at least a dozen times and screwed on the leg at least eight times.  I am very, very, very thankful for my beloved six-inch level.  With the help of that great tool, I figured out how to build up all four brackets to level.

Mother's idea, modified by me, makes the antique trunk now look like a piece of furniture!  I just LOVE how it turned out!  I've had the trunk for nearly 30 years and it's never looked so good!!

I admit that I was shocked at the height at first.  I had to adjust to it and wondering if I had made a mistake.  But Mother's Interior Design ideas are spot on and after adjusting to the change, I realized just how much I LOVE having the trunk off the rug and how much easier it is to use the trunk as a coffee table.  I mean, gee, it is crazy easy to fetch a remote from the antique butter box now!  And setting a drink on top.  Less of a bend for me.  Less dizziness.

Amos is not quite sure what to think and has been either circling the trunk or squatting in front of it and just staring.  Poor puppy dog.  Such change he's had to absorb in the living room!

i'm still extra exhausted.  Maybe it is because of a particularly difficult spate of writhing in abdominal pain and violent waves of nausea this early morning.  Or maybe it is because of that hour's worth of installation work.  Whatever the case, I am struggling to do much more than sit (I'm trying to remain upright) and ... just ... exist.

Even when I am feeling miserable, though, I remain in awe of the blessing of the beautiful, beautiful old house were the family antiques I've been hauling around my entire adult life have finally found a place where they belong.  Their owner, too, if one can be said to belong to a house.  A home.  My home.

[Should I mention that Mother wants me to move the painting over?  Instead of being centered on that wall, she wants it centered between the window and the front edge of the book case.  Maybe some day.  Possibly.]

Friday, June 24, 2016

From where I sit...

The cattle prod to my back has ceased.  Thankfully.  This was a short nerve pain flare and, when I could be quiet enough in my mind to assess the matter, slightly less painful, though I believe pain in your back is almost as bad as pain in your head.  A backgraine?

I am so very, very, very thankful to have a GP willing to try and make some parts of my life better, if possible.  I remain in ... shock ... really that she would even bring it up, would know that my hair hurt and not laugh at that.  Not call me "anxious" or "stressed."  Gabapentin might very well join the lofty ranks of Celebrex and Zofran as being my best friend.

Since my mother's visit, I have been wearing, at home, a flowy skirt with my hoodie, instead of my beloved men's lounge pants.  It is my effort to look less like a sick person and more like a regular person.  The flowy skirts I got on Amazon for a bargain price and now I know why.  After just two years the elastic is out.  So, I am trying to wear them with just the thin drawstring.  That is not going so well, but Amos is really the only one to see me hitching up my skirt all the time.

When I was trying to explain to my mother about why in the world I would give up my beloved GREEN chair, I mostly said it was because I found myself lounging in it more being anywhere else.  It was easier.  Took less effort.  The path of least resistance to my body.  Only I have been trying and trying to sit up more since getting the pacemaker and the chair was just too much of a temptation.  I think, though, she might have understood more that it didn't fit with how I was envisioning my more-welcoming living room.  More comfortable first and foremost.  But, after that, also more welcoming and inviting.

Along the lines of foregoing the ease of the GREEN chair, I decided that I wanted to try and take my meals at the dining room table, instead of on a TV tray whilst sitting on one of the sofas.  This is the view from my seat.

Only on Day Two of this goal, I was already finding it difficult and lonely, so I thought I might could treat myself to a floral placemat (not worrying about something matching) the next time I went shopping.  But, then, VOILÁ!  I remembered that a while ago someone gave me some vintage placemats.  I dug them out, having never opened the box, and discovered that they were sort of floral. Really they are more botanical.  And, honestly, it is not that they do not match.  They just match less than the chocolate placemats that coordinate with one of the colors in the chairs.

So, today, I ate at the table using the placemat.
Still lonely though.
At least Amos cannot steal my food when I'm there.

The other goal I started yesterday, though not really about being less of a "sick" person, is that I am trying to drink a medium glass of water before each time that I eat.  Now, with the gastroparesis, I eat between four and six times a day to help with my ssssssssllllllloooooooooowwwww digestion.  Being very much of an anti-water person (ICK), I was not really looking forward to that goal.  But I have persevered.  For two days.

I deserve a medal.

I am drinking the wretched stuff because I read (don't laugh at me, please) that if you drink cold water before you eat it can help with your digestion.  Given that I take five different things to get my bowels to move along, I am all for things to help with digestion.  Like the medical hooey of taking apple cider vinegar every day (in pill form now because drinking the stuff was wretched).  I am sort of to the point that if you told me wearing a purple ribbon around my wrist at night would help with my digestive nausea, I would try it.  Well, I would try because what could it hurt?  I am trying the water, though, because I need to drink more anyway. I depend too much on Gatorade and home brewed, lightly flavored tea (and milk, of course) for my daily liquids.

I dug out this half-pitcher that I got for orange juice (thinking I might start making it from concentrate like my grandmother always did and then forgot that I got the pitcher) and stuck two lemon slices in it before filling it up.  I thought if I could work up to finishing that each day, I'd been on that medal podium for sure.

No, I haven't finished it either day.
Yes, I poured some in Amos' bowl just to pretend that I did.

From where I sit, taking apple cider vinegar pills and drinking cold water before you eat are not all that outlandish.  Because sometimes, when you are chronically ill, you do whatever you need to do to try and make life easier on yourself.  You know, like sit on the post office floor when the line is long.  And sell your grandmother's jewelry (and a million other things) to buy more comfortable (and welcoming) living room furniture.  And say thanks over your pills just as frequently as you do over your meals.  And ... maybe ... put purple ribbon on your shopping list.  Just.  In.  Case.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

What it could be...

My friend Caryl is laughing at me because I don't know what a cucumber is.  But, gee, I've never attempted to grow one before!

I bought a six-pack of cucumber plants, thinking I would put them in the raised bed.  Then, I realized that they would be too large for the raised bed and decided they should go live in Firewood Man's garden.  Only he kept forgetting to take them with him.  Not wanting to waste the whopping $1.99 I spent on them (so penurious am I), I put them into a pot.  Only that pot did not have drainage, so all the rain filled up the pot and it became rice paddy.  Then we had that crazy cold weather, so the plants began to freeze.  I needed a solution QUICK.

Back in the fall or maybe even last summer or last spring, I bought some diamond drill bits to try and drill holes into the bottom of the remaining old pot that I had.  The pots were from the woman who grew up here when her parents built this house back in 1920.  I had left one out too long in the winter and the water in it froze and shattered the pot.  I bought the bits so that I could use the other pot.  I actually had them when the pot broke.  I was just too nervous about trying to use them.  LOTS of You-Tube watching and still I couldn't manage to gird my loins.

Well, the sight of those wilted, freezing plants spurred me to attempt the awesome feat of drilling through porcelain.  I turned the pot upside down on the grass so as to minimize its movement as I drilled.  I tucked it beneath my two feet.  I held the hose with running water with my left hand (water helps drilling through porcelain), and I held the drill with my right hand.  It was a miraculous event in that I actually succeeded in drilling holes!

I put fresh Myrtle's Soil Mix into the pot and relocated the poor, beleaguered plants.

They are no longer beleaguered.

I knew that before you can have a cucumber, you have to have a flower.  It was my hope that the plants would use the fence as a trellis (two of them have) and I did get some flowers.  Then I waited.  What comes next??

Oh, my!  At the base of several of the flowers are these thickening spiky things.  Those are baby cucumbers!  I am soooooooo very excited!

My excitement wore Amos out.  He had to take a nap.

Of course, his exhaustion could be from chomping on all the lettuce.  Yes, he prefers the leaf lettuce to the left.  Baby Bunny eats on the romaine hanging over the edge.  And I have been eating a whole lot of butter lettuce on the right.  When I take Amos outside to tend his business, I regularly catch him taking a bite or three out of the lettuce.

It looks like I have barely dug into my lettuce crop, but in the past three weeks, I have only not had a salad twice.  That's 19 salads.  Clearly, I need a lesson on crop management!

From everything I read, the lettuce should be gone now with all the STINKING HOT weather we are having, but after wilting terribly, most of it resurrected with a huge rain we had.  I need some visitors who are craving salads to stop by.

I am also trying my hand at growing carrots, in addition to my usual herbs, but those are a little disappointing to me, so I haven't been taking any progress photos.

Today, I had the home visit with the social worker from the Parkview RN Care program.  I was nervous about it ... worried really.   I was afraid of being judged for things I have not done for myself.  What didn't help the situation is that this morning I discovered that for the past three days, I have taken double my dose of thyroid medication and half my dose of blood pressure medication.  The pills are different and I mixed up those two medications.  I remain very, very, very discouraged about that, a first for me, and wondered if it would be a Red Flag about my living on my own.  But her visit was not about judging me.  It was about supporting me.

I want to try and get Parkview to start a support group for chronically ill patients, maybe even an invisible illness group.  I know the need is profound all over the US, so it would be here, too.  I am going to try and write up a ... crap ... well there is a word for a one-page sheet outlining a funding messaging for a new project.  I want to try and write one of those to use as a way to approach Parkview's Foundation.  

We also talked about other needs and how I might possibly be able to qualify to have them met another way.  That discussion was not fearful or condemning in any way.  I actually enjoyed the home visit immensely.  And I welcomed the chance to talk through, once more, my meltdown and how I learned to process it.  Baby steps for me.

I admit that I had been stalling on the application for medication assistance because forms really overwhelm me these days.  I know I have a tendency to miss sections and put in wrong information.  I get overwhelmed before I start filling out forms, but as I work my way through them, the stress becomes a bit unbearable.  Well, the social worker told me to take a close look at all the different applications because most were filled out by the medication assistance specialist!  She mostly needed my signatures and my supporting documentation.  I had already fetched the summary of prescriptions from Target, so I really just needed to print out a copy of the tax return I eFiled.  So, this evening I opened the packet, finished my part, and put it and my documentation back in the mail for tomorrow's pick-up.

Since Parkview is trying to care for me holistically, I thought I would expand upon my M3C campaign and tackle one thing and attempt another.

I had yet to deal with the lack of proper cord management by the sofas ... mostly, because that would mean bending over and partly because the Cold From Hell knocked me flat and I am really only just now no longer so exhausted from it.

I ran the power strip behind the couch and behind the back leg.  I wrapped the cord around the leg a few times to shorten it, leaving the power strip right in the center of the couch.  I then separated the computer cord and the USB hub cord by wrapping the computer cord around the front leg of the couch and wrapping the USB hub cord around the front leg of the love seat.  That way they are separated and should not tangle as much.  I do so enjoy having skirts on my sofas so that they hide the cords beneath them.  

[Please ignore the need to vacuum.]

Back when I was working, I always took such pleasure and peace from wrangling all the cords beneath and desk and establishing proper cord management.  I used to have co-workers ask me to come do their desk.  Of course, I obliged.

The best part of the visit with the social worker was, when she entered my home, exclaiming, "Your living room is so inviting!"  Yes, my cockles were warmed.  She also asked me quite a bit about Amos (who wouldn't want an Amos in her life?) and about why my house was so ... clean.  I pointed out that it was not exactly clean but that it was picked up and we spent time talking about visual rest.  That is one aspect of the new living room arrangement I had not noted before:  It has greater visual rest because the things I have in it all have a specific place now and the space is even less cluttered.

I really am very, very, very pleased with how my living room turned out.  It is much, much more a space for me, as is the solarium.  I feel stronger for having claimed those rooms, working to make them what would serve me best and make my home more welcoming.  In a way, each time I look at the living room or the solarium, I think, "You did this, Myrtle.  What else can you do still?"

Yes, I have lost much.
Much more than most realize.
Or acknowledge.

But I still have bits and pieces of my to offer the world ... even if it is merely a comfortable living room where visitors can gather and rest. Or, perhaps, the encouragement to claim space in your own home and make it what it needs to be to best serve you.  Set aside what it has always been.  Explore  what it could be.  

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Vulnerability as strength...

Regardless of the words we choose, recognizing and understanding our triggers is essentially the same as recognizing and understand our vulnerabilities, and this is a source of strength.  Vulnerability is not weakness.  Sometimes were are afraid that acknowledging that something exists is going to make it worse.  For example, if I acknowledge the being perceived as a good mother is really important and if I accept the fact that motherhood is a vulnerable issue for me, is the same around this issue going to grow?  No. T his is simply no true.  When we feel shame about an experience, we often feel some overwhelming combination of confusion, fear and judgement.  If it happens in an areas where we know we're vulnerable, we're much more likely to come out of that confusion, fear and judgment with an instinct about what we need to do to find support. (Dr. Brené Brown, I Thought It Was Just Me [But It Wasn't], p. 77)

I wouldn't have thought about it before my latest meltdown, but I am very vulnerable when it comes to being medically homeless.  I cannot express just how frightened I was to have a pacemaker installed without a GP.  My specialists stepped up and kept my maintenance medications going, but that did not assuage my fear or concerns.  I thought that January 26th would never come.  But it did.

Even though I now have appointments with my GP scheduled through the rest of the year, a move she made to make me feel more secure, being medically homeless once more was the driving fear when I heard that I would be losing my appointment.

When we experience shame we often feel confused, fearful and judged.  This make sit very difficult to access the awareness we need to evaluate our choices.  We're in a fog.  That's hose shame makes us powerless.  (p.78)

Throughout her book, Dr. Brown repeats things over and over again.  Here, you see she did from just one page before.  It is actually an educational approach I learned as "spiraling."  If you think of the shape of a vertical spiral, each curve dips back down into the one that came before it before expanding to the curve above it.

Racing to the GP's office, finally free from the train delay, I was confused and fearful and most definitely judged.  I had words of judgment spoken in my ears as to how I was being rude and such to other patients, with my patients, depriving them of their medical care, as well as wrecking my doctor's schedule.  I had past messages of being "bad" reverberating in my whole being and was fearful of my impending punishment.  And I was actually confused because I was not even yet late!  I was just trying to be considerate with my phone call and WHAM!  SHAME!!

The blessing that that day was, aside from being the first time I processed shame successfully and the first time I did not punish myself for melting down, is that I now know another area of vulnerability for me.

I admit that I fear I am some sort of junkie, terrified of losing access to my nausea medication and my pain medication.  I am not even taking anything for pain that is a narcotic, but Celebrex is for me what I suspect an opiod is for some.  And now add in the Gabapentin.  Although, I might possibly, now, place Zofran higher on my food chain than Celebrex.  The nausea is just so ... overwhelming.

Dr. Walther is giving me Gabapentin to try and address the nerve pain.  Certainly it has mitigated, to a rather large degree, the bee-stinging pain that has been in my pacemaker incision scar.  I still get felled with fresh pain there, but it is no longer constant.  Christ be praised for that!

I have progressed from taking 100 mg to 900 mg daily without any side effects.  For me, that is extraordinary.  But I believe I am only just begun on the journey of diminishing the nerve pain.  At least I hope that is the case.

Last night, for the first time, the flare of nerve pain began in my back.  As with every other flare, the pain in only on one side, this time the left side.  Burning pain.  Searing pain.  Fiery pain.  Pulsing pain.  It feels like someone is regularly poking me with a cattle prod.  I was up all of last night and have not napped today.  The pain is too overwhelming to sleep.

Usually, at least with all the flares to date, the pain is usually gone in four to seven days.  So, I know this will end.  I just ... I am just caught in the wash of this current wave of pain.  The last being the first few days of June and in my left forearm.  SIGH.

I like to read fantasy books.  Robert Jordan's  Wheel of Time series is a favorite of mine.  I admit that I skim some of the more scary parts, where the bad guys are conversing and engaging in terrible things, but as a whole I like the series.  Jordan created not just an entire world, but a world filled with various races, each with their own fully fleshed out cultures and histories.  One race, the Aiel, have this ... philosophy of embracing pain, if it comes your way, taking it in and making it your strength.

With the bouts of nausea, the writhing in abdominal pain, the nerve pain, and migraines, I try to do that, as hokey as it may sound.  But I have also, to my very small world of Facebook peeps, have also been speaking my pain and misery, caught in the throes of it and feeling frightened and alone.

I admit that doing so, that being vulnerable there, makes me feel weak.  I mean, NONE of my Facebook peeps do the same.  NONE of my friends do.  NO ONE I know personally posts such moments of nakedness.  Only Michelle Rogers, of the dysautonomia blog Living with Bob does so on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  [So brave is she!]  The day before this one, in the wee hours of the morning, the abdominal pain was especially fearsome.  I posted.  My friend Emily replied that she was praying.  Seeing her words really and truly helped me get through some of the worst moments that morning.  That is why I post even though I feel shame and weakness in doing so.

For most of us to successfully begin recognize and understand our shame triggers, we first need to accept that acknowledging our vulnerabilities is an act of courage.  We must be mindful in our attempts not to see vulnerability as weakness.  I'm very lucking when it comes to this difficult endeavor.  My mother taught me a tremendous lesson about vulnerability and courage.  In the late 1980s, my mom's only sibling, my uncle Ronnie, was killed in a violent shooting.  Just months after his death, my grandmother basically checked out mentally and emotionally.  Having been an alcoholic most of her life, my grandmother didn't have the emotional resources she needed to survive a traumatic loss like this.  For weeks, she roamed her neighborhood, randomly asking the same people over and over if they had heard about his death.

One day, right after my uncle's memorial service, my mom totally broke down. I had seen her cry once or twice, but I certainly had never seen her cry uncontrollably.  My sisters and I were afraid and crying mostly because we were so scared to see her like that.  I finally told her that we didn't know what to do because we had never seen her "so weak."  She looked at us and said, in a loving yet forceful voice, "I'm not weak.  I'm stronger that you can imagine.  I'm just very vulnerable right now.  If I were weak, I'd be dead."  In that split second, I knew my mom was probably the strongest, most courageous woman I would ever know.  She did more than give us permission to use the world vulnerable—she taught us that acknowledging our vulnerability is a true act of ordinary courage. (pp. 81-82)

I want to be more mindful of how I think about my vulnerabilities.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

You don't have to understand here...

I like to watch thoughtful television, shows that make you think, that explore deep topics. "Life" (I'm re-watching for the 4th time) is an exquisite look at living a life with trauma set in a standard sort of cop show. I just love it. Damian Lewis does a fantastic job playing Charlie Crews, a cop who spent 12 years in jail (think of all that happened to him), much in solitary, because he was framed. A condition he set on his settlement was his detective badge. No one understand why he returned to work with all his millions. The writing (and acting) around his trauma, which is an interesting setting for the plot of each episode, is bloody fantastic. I highly recommend this show.

"You don't have to understand here, to be here." 

Charlie Crews speaks all this Zen stuff, weird stuff, that makes little sense on the surface and drives his partner nuts.  But, throughout the two seasons, what he says paints an exquisite portrait of how he survived what he survived and how he navigates a world few will ever experience.  

"You don't have to understand here, to be here."

There is this really, really, really great episode with a teenage boy who turned out to have been kidnapped when he was very young and spent his life locked in by his captor.  Windows with bars.  Interior doors with locks.  There is this profound and beautiful scene where he talks with the boy about how (gosh I wish I could remember, though I've typed it out here before) no one is going to understand the captivity the two of them have experienced, that he wouldn't have the same life as other boys, but that he could have a life.  It was one of those scenes where so many words were not said and those that were said were perfect.

"You don't have to understand here, to be here."

This is a line from the first episode, which I re-watched today.  It struck me that it is a close cousin to what I wrote from Dr. Brown's research on shame Sunday:  "I can hear this. This is hard, but I can be in this space with you."   I don't have to understand this space to be in this space with you.

Part of what I have learned from Dr. Brown about empathy is understanding the other perspective, stepping outside of your shoes to hear what is being said rather that what is in your head.  But another part is being willing to listen in the first place, to be in that space. 

"You don't have to understand here, to be here."

Charlie's experience of captivity and isolation, of brutality and suffering, of hopelessness is not something many will experience, but what I love about the show is that living with trauma is something that millions and millions experience.  You don't just go on with life.  You don't just get over it.  Life isn't about walking some healing journey that will make you whole again.  You will never be whole.  But Charlie Crews story, the one he tells even when no one is listening to him, is that you can still have a life even if it isn't the life you expected or wanted, even if it isn't a life anyone would expect or want.  Even if it isn't a life other think it should be.  It is your life and you can live it.

"You don't have to understand here, to be here."

To me, this is what the creator of this series is speaking about befriending and loving folk with trauma.   Be there with them even if you don't understand.  But also, in a way, it is what the creator is saying to those who've survived trauma.  Be here, stay here in this moment, even if you don't understand it, understand yourself, understand your life.   Be willing to live.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Another sale...

I sold the mattress/boxspring set from the bed I removed from the solarium today.  Well, actually, I sold the barely used mattress/boxspring set from the servant's quarters and moved the more used mattress/boxspring set from the bed I removed from the solarium into the servant's quarters.  Confusing, I know, but not really.  The good news, besides the cash, was that I had set a deadline of when the donation folk came to pick up the full mattress/boxspring set as the final date for attempting to sell this spare bedding set on Craigslist.  When are the donation folk coming?  On Wednesday!  Two days to spare.  And $75 toward paying off my new mattress.  I logged onto the zero interest account and made a payment immediately.

In my quest to downsize, I have donated quite a bit over the past few years.  I probably could have sold some of that, but I was not as skilled at Craigslist selling as I am now.  That and I actually like the idea of donation.  However, with wanting to better my comfort level, I needed to sell all that I could in order to (mostly) make that happen.

Today, my grand achievement (other than my sale) was to track down where I had put the box of doohickies for the bottom of furniture because the table I moved to the living room was rocking.  One leg seems to be short (probably the floor is crooked there).  I simply haven't used that stash since I moved.  It was in the utility closet, where I thought they would be, but not where I thought they would be.  Digging through the box of all the different types of furniture protector doohickies, I found one the right thickness and was able to get the table to stop rocking (more effective than the proverbial matchbook beneath the leg).

Other than that, I spent the day recovering after each trip outside with Amos because it is STINKING HOT outside.  SIGH.

I would remain in the air-conditioning until the temperature cools back down, but I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow.  Across town.  And a long, long walk from parking to the actual office.  Have I mentioned how much I hate sweating?  And fainting?

This whole spring was really weird in that we had a few warm days and cold that lasted late into May.  Having to use the heat cold.  Now, we have August heat baking us.  Or rather steaming us.  Even Amos didn't want to be outside today.  I didn't blame him.

I fervently hope that it is not too hot outside for me on the morrow.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Shielding ourselves...

Another of the GREEN sticky notes on I Thought It Was Just Me [But It Wasn't] that I had wanted to to discuss was:  Shield Ourselves.

Often, just hearing about someone's shaming experience can cause us to want to shield ourselves.  We don't want to hear it.  It's too painful just to listen.  One reason empathy and compassion are so powerful is the fact that they say to someone, "I can hear this.  This is hard, but I can be in this space with you."  (Dr. Brené Brown, p. 56)

Being heard ... when it comes to sexual abuse ... is profound.  I mean, all too often your experience is layered in silence.  You are threatened to remain silent.  You are punished if you do not.  You are shamed if you do not.  You are avoided if you do not.  You are labeled if you do not.  Going back to the concept of power over, where an abuser or society presses upon you his/its idea/agenda until you accept it as your own.  Power over is actually something I think I'd like to talk about.  Nevertheless, the universal pressure to keep silent about sexual abuse is so pervasive that it is, sadly, rather easy to adopt that silence as your idea, your preferred practice.

I have written how, in college, when I first spoke about my past, I was confronted with the fact that I was no longer a virgin.  I was judged and found wanting because of that lack.  I was impure.  And that response, another example of power over, became my own.  I was impure.  Fast forward a couple of decades, during which I was incredibly silent about my past, I try speaking once more.  I tried to a new friend I had made, a Lutheran, in part because what I had heard about Lutheran theology to that point and in part because I was starting to unravel, to come to a place where I could no longer hold onto all the fractured pieces of myself.

Her response, literally, was "Oooo, gross!  I don't want to hear that!"

I was crushed.
Truth be told, I remain crushed.

I think, honestly, that as a whole this is the response of society.  Keep that talk to yourself because it's gross in our ears.  Actually, the idea of an adult having sex with a small child is gross.  The sight of it unbearable.  But what about those who experienced it?

I've written before about that awesome multiple episode story arc on "Grey's Anatomy" with a girl who escapes from a man who held her captive for years ... as his sex slave.  There she is in the hospital, a place of healing, and everyone keeps shushing her each time she, rather matter of factly, brings up her experiences.  Each shushing is shaming.  Those around her teach her the shame of her experiences even as they tell her it was not her fault.  Confusion galore there!

The teenage girl speaks matter of factly about her experiences, because that is the way her world works(ed).  It was her normal.  And she needed to speak of it.  She needed someone to listen, to be in that hard place with her.  But her parents and caregivers and the friend she made in the hospital all shielded themselves.

In reality, going by statistics, several of those females around her had been sexually abused themselves.  So the shielding could have been understandable, although that was never part of the plot.  But at the very least, her parents needed to listen.  And her doctors and nurses and other medical personnel who were her daily companions for weeks, months, as her physical body healed.

I have found myself shielding myself in other ways, so that phrase leapt out at me.  By this I mean that I have not been able to endure the anguish of others.  To bear their burden and comfort them.  For example, my neighbor's cat was dying and she wanted help making arrangements for it.  Her grief was so great I could not even stand near her.  I understand ... now ... that I was not being a monster.  I was protecting myself.

I suppose those who shield themselves from shame stories might also be protecting themselves.  But I would also proffer that many of them are refusing to listen because of convention, because "those things" ought not to be talked about.  Because of the silence surrounding sexual abuse and suffocating  survivors and ultimately perpetuating the cycle of sexual abuse.

I do want to be able to speak about specifics, about my experiences, about what I learned from them.  I want to speak because I want to figure out what I learned wrong, what lies I absorbed into my very being, that I might be free of them.

I would give most anything ... anything to hear:  "I can hear this.  This is hard, but I can be in this space with you." 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Dollars and cents...

The new GP referred me to Parkview's RN Care program.  From what I understand, it is about looking at a patient holistically and seeing what services she needs.  I had a home visit with a nurse last week and I have a home visit with a social worker this coming week.  I had a phone interview with a medication assistance program specialist.

The latter is trying to find ways I might qualify for help with my medications, even though the income from disability is above the national poverty level, which precludes me from any assistance programs that have been presented to me to date.  It doesn't matter that I spent about half that income on medical and live on the other half.  What matters is what comes in the door.  Honestly, it still boggles my mind that I am living on ~$9,000.  Of course, it helps that I pulled money out of retirement to pay off the house.  Still, real estate taxes, car insurance, house insurance, health insurance, gas, and utilities are quite a chunk of change. All those fixed expenses leave very, very, very little for things like groceries, household, and clothing.  When my mother was here, she brought up going to the movies.  That is such a foreign concept for me now.

The absolute best news that Pfizer changed the income limits for its program.  If she is right, I could qualify for getting Celebrex.  That would be just plain awesome ... a huge relief.  Of all the things that I take, she only found one other program for my asthma inhaler, but I had to prove that I have spent $600 out of pocket on prescriptions for the year.  No problem.  Well, problem.  I couldn't just submit my spreadsheet.  So, I got my beloved pharmacists at Target to print me out a summary of my prescriptions since January 1st and went to fetch it today.

My goal this weekend is to fill out the application that the specialist sent in the mail and that arrived today.  I still have to figure out how to copy my disability statement as proof of income.  You know, when you are no longer in an office, making copies of all the things that everyone seems to want is quite difficult.  And costly if you are on a poor woman's budget.  After all, if you are spending oodles on copies, how in the world could you afford COSTCO pizza once a month?  Or shredded carrots in your salads??

I did have very, very, very good news regarding the pacemaker surgery bill, though I am mightily conflicted about it.  You see, Parkview gave up on arguing over the bill.  They received ~$9,000, the surgeon only getting a measly $270.  That meant that instead of the $2K-$3K bill I was expecting, my cost was only $159.11.  That made my monthly statement from Parkview $266.67.  I remain in shock.  But I think Medicare played dirty with that pre-authorized surgery in a pre-authorized facility.

I actually cannot pay that bill yet because I am paying the last of my sewage repair installments.  Well, I cannot pay it until the 27th, which would make it come due in August, since July's bill has the last of the sewage repair installments.  Initially I was thinking, so giddy over the bill, that in July I could start buying groceries again like a normal person, something I haven't done since the sewage disaster at the end of January.  However, with the larger than normal Parkview bill, I won't be able to start regular grocery shopping until August.  I mean, gee, it would look silly, I think, to divide that $159.11 into installments, even if it is a bit hard on me having several doctor's appointments each month.  Still, it would be rather churlish of me to grouse over paying off the pacemaker surgery, eh?

All that money stuff makes the brown edges on the leaves of my completely un-economical birthday tree (an Acer campestre Carnival) even more worrisome.  I really didn't bat an eyelash at the investment of the tree, although perhaps almost every other poor person would have, because it is most lovely and definitely added "curb" appeal to the back yard and much yard happiness to my life.  After all, shouldn't a 49th birthday have a bit of special to it?  Pool all that money and plunk it down (along with cashing in reward miles) without looking back.  Only if it dies (surely there is a warranty?? I never thought to ask!), I will drown beneath the guilt.  There would be no sense about those dollars and cents then.

All sorts of thoughts are plaguing me and chief amongst them is how most variegated plants require extra-special attention and then I wondered about shade.  However, I Googled enough to learn that the soil is fine and the full sun is fine.  So, my fingers are crossed that it is just water ... that I dropped the ball on watering and my throwing down some hasty mulch last night and watering the past few days will ... save it.

After all, I just cannot get enough of the sight of these magnificent leaves!  [I refuse to photograph the brown and curling edges.]  Is not the joy of such glory worth a non-economical purchase?  SIGH.

I think ... I think a part of me is feeling punished.  Like I reveled in the small hospital bill instead of thinking only humble and grateful thoughts about it so I have to now lose my tree as penance.   I know that is not how God works ... or the universe since I am not exactly feeling it is God punishing me so much as ... well, Murphy's Law. 

I do try ... no ... I do work very hard at being thankful and grateful for the things that I have.  I think my friends my be just a tad bored of hearing about just how thankful I am for both my Mother's surprising help and for how the living room turned out.  And my mattress.  Oh, the mattress!!  Quietly, daily, I work to thank God for the blessings I have since I have far, far too many thoughts bewailing my wretched physical condition.  I work, honestly, to thank Amos for his love and affection since I sometimes take him for granted and sometimes get to perturbed with him when he is, after all, just being his very normal canine self.  I take the time to be thankful and grateful for rain and sunshine, both.  For this magnificent house.  For the tastiness of the recipes I have learned.  For doctors who are tying to help the near un-help-able.  For music.  For my friend's art.  For chocolate.

But the sight of those brown leaves scream condemnation at me.  I am a bad gardener.  A bad yard investor.  A bad steward of the monies God has provided me.  And bad people are punished.

Ah, my mind.
Stinks, doesn't it?

Friday, June 17, 2016

What defines you...

I still struggle with the idea of identity.  I heartily wish I still had access to counseling ... well ... healthy counseling.

“Trying is fine. Failing is inevitable. Don’t let it devour you.” Michelle Sagara, Cast in Shadow.

Kaylin defines her life by her failures, one in particular that was not, technically, her failure, although she doesn't see it that way.  Much of the first book touches on failure as much as it touches on shame where Kaylin is concerned.  I like that about the author, having her main character be so very aware of her flaws and struggle against them.  In a way, the entire plot is more of a background to Kaylin's development.  Odd that.

I went 92 days without a meltdown.  That ended at my last GP appointment.  So, count started again (keeping track of dates, both days until and days since, is something I have found particularly helpful of late).  I have gone 8 days without a meltdown.

What I am proud of is that, once the weeping and fear and the overwhelm-ness of it all ended, I was able to be thoughtful about the meltdown.  I took what I have learned thus far from Dr. Brown's research on shame and navigated my way through the meltdown in such a way that I do not see it as a failure ... at least I do not now.

I took Engle Road to my appointment.  I really should avoid Engle Road when I have appointments.  There are trains that cross Engle Road.  Trains that cross Engle Road rather frequently.  Even if Engle Road is the easiest and quickest route over toward the medical locations in that direction, it is not, in truth, the fastest way to arrive.  Yes, I got stuck behind a train.

A long train.
A colossal train.
An 18 minute train.

Of course, maybe part of that was how the traffic was caught by the train and the traffic lights together.  But, in any case, the 15-minutes that I was arriving early to my appointment were actually spent waiting on a train.  So, being the polite person, I called the doctor's office to say I would be a few minutes late.

I was put on hold.
I was told I would lose my appointment if I am late.

No matter that the doctor was running late herself.  No matter that I had a 40 minute appointment.  No matter that I called before my appointment was even to begin.  I was already "late" in their eyes and so my appointment would be forfeit.  And my being late would be hurting other patients.

I was confused.
I became scared.
I started weeping.

I tried to argue the logic of losing my appointment before I even arrived, but my tears and my lingering congestion made my throat tight and "unpleasant" to the person on the phone.  I was told to just "hang up and drive."  I did that.  Drive.  I drove the rest of the way weeping and trembling and worried about losing the appointment.

I actually walked into the building only 3 minutes late.  So, I was able to have my appointment. However, it was not all that great in that I wept the entire way through it.  My new GP was great in that she worked to stay focused on why I was there instead of how I was.  Yet I felt that (and I still do) my weeping and trembling changed how she saw me.

I was weepy, trembly, and off-kilter for the rest of the day.  However, the next day, I sat down to try and figure out what was my trigger.  Why was I afraid?  I realized part of it was my lingering fear of being medically homeless, having experienced what it is like to be fired by a GP.  But the reality of that possibility was not the whole of it.  The words and phrases I heard on the phone, the shaming words and phrases, led me to think that I was a bad patient and was being justly punished because of that.  And then the weeping in front of the GP and badly fumbling her questions about my experience seeing neurologists in Fort Wayne called up every single instance of doctors telling me I am "just fine" and "only anxious" because they were IDIOTS who did not look at me from a physical standpoint ... or know much about the autonomic nervous system.

Gosh, just a month or so after that awful replacement GP told me that all I really needed was a good psychiatrists and a few meds I was having a pacemaker installed because the failure of my autonomic nervous system to help my heart function had reached a tipping point safety wise.  Yes, well, a psychiatrist certainly cannot install a pacemaker!


I realized that I felt that I was a bad patient.
I am not a bad patient.
Thought corrected.

The thing is, I do not feel guilty about melting down.  I think, maybe, at this point I do not even feel ashamed over melting down.  If I had not called, I am 99% sure that I wouldn't have even heard anything about being 3 minutes late.  I certainly wouldn't have heard all the stuff about ruining the doctor's schedule and hurting other patients and being irresponsible and thoughtless and all the things that were used to communicate how the receptionist thought and felt about my being late.  Had I not heard those things, I would not have taken up the chorus I have often heard about being a bad daughter or a bad employee or a bad (fill-in-the-blank).

Yes, I should not have taken Engle Road.  But that was not a heinous act on my part.  I have to work so very hard to think and to plan and to manage and to cope that automatically taking that route is most certainly understandable and even forgivable.

Having labeled my feelings and identified my shame trigger, I was able to transition out of that moment to a place where it was over.  A victory, for sure!

I wish, however, the rest of my life were that way, for I, like Kaylin, do define myself by my failures. Yes, I have had them draped about me by others.  Relentlessly so.  It is hard not to see them, think about them, wear them when they are the chorus in your life.   I honestly do not know how to mute those voices in my head.  How to change the pattern of though riven in my being.

“Success and failure are two edges of the same blade, two sides of the same coin. To fear one is to forever deny the possibility of the other.” Michelle Sagara, Cast in Courtlight.

In the second book, failure remains the primary way Kaylin defines herself, despite being the key to saving Elantra in the first book.  But she is learning there is another way to view life.  Slowly.

Would that it were I could find another way to define myself, too.

Thursday, June 16, 2016


I just finished the last book in my favorite series, The Chronicles of Elantra.  And I am tempted to do what I did the last time I finished it:  start the entire series again.

That is so ... odd ... for me, the once owner of over 2,000 books.  Yes, I have always been a re-reader, but I have primarily been the one who carts home a few dozen books from the library, after sitting on the floor for a few hours hunting through the bookshelves.  The last time I went to the library I fainted.  That was nearly five years ago.  SIGH.

Being slow on the tech-uptake, a couple of years ago I finally learned how to borrow Kindle books.  The problem is that I have no real way of figuratively browsing the shelves for eBooks.  And the selection is limited.  For example, I did attempt to read the Heroes of Olympus books, but I had to wait a few weeks to a few months between books because of holds on the eBooks.  No longer a literacy professor and no longer able to stand and bend and sit and stand and bend and sit and stand and bend and sit before shelves and shelves and shelves of books, I am woefully out of touch with what is out there for me to read.

Over the past five years, I have begun rereading all of my favorite books at home in earnest.  Then, I started purchasing a few of them on Kindle, my most favorites, because it is very, very, very difficult for me to hold a book for any length of time.  I adore my Kindle Paperwhite.

Over the past two years, I have begun reading solely on my Kindle.

Over the past year, I have begun reading solely The Chronicles of Elantra. [Not counting my study reading.]

I love the series because I identify so very strongly with Kaylin, even though I am not her, I am not an officer of the law, and I have no magical abilities.  I love the series because Kaylin struggles mightily with her past, with shame, and with a longing to hide who she really is from those who have become her friends.  I love the series because the magic she wields has to do with words.

Not this time, but the last time through, I started highlighting (I am still unfamiliar with highlighting on Kindles) and bookmarking every reference to shame, to hope, and to words (and language).  This second reading of all eleven books (the twelfth is due out in October),  I was a bit surprised at how much about words (and language) that I had missed on my first round of highlighting.  I suspect I am still missing key passages.

Key passages were I still capable of writing about these books.
Key passages for weaving together the message of words.
Key passages to demonstrate why, I think, these books are the ones I'd pick for the deserted island.

Writing, which has always been my greatest and easiest of skills, has become so very difficult for me.  Gone is the girl who blew threw her dissertation in two months time.  Gone is the girl who wrote dozens of A+ research papers the night before they were do.  Gone is the girl who could whip together a marketing piece (content) on an hour's notice.

The laboriousness of writing, the loss of my pen, was the handwriting on the proverbial wall for me.  I knew my time at work was limited.  I knew the devastation that was taking place in my brain.  For I was making mistakes in grammar and construction.  And I was struggling to finish projects by their due date.  I worked harder than I have ever worked to mask those errors.  I begged friends to proof my work for me.  But that handwriting was impossible to ignore.  As it is when I try to think about writing about the power of words in this series that I adore.

When my friend Mary and her husband where here for his graduation last month, I tried to talk with them about the concept.  They listened (maybe politely), but we did not delve into the concept.  There was no academic exchange.  There was no bending of acumen.  There was only my fumbling to speak why it is that I love how the author is using words in magic.

Not any words.
True Words.

True Words have power and life and have meaning that never changes.  What Kaylin, and those who walk with her on her path, struggle to do is understand that meaning with the words they have in their own language(s).  And—the irony is not lost on me—the bulk of the dangers Elantra faces is from arcanists and magicians trying to create their own True Words or trying change a True Word.  As in End-of-the-World dangers.

In this last book (or maybe the one before), for example, something new I noticed is Kaylin realizing that she doesn't need to speak the True Words to speak them.  Her voice is not required.  Just as her eyes are not required for seeing them.  Seeking Truth and allowing it to ... be ... is what using the words ultimately is.  But all my words about True Words and power and life and strokes and dots and walking amongst the pieces of words to restore or to move or to take hold of them are mere dross.  They all fall short in my head.  And they most certainly fall short each time I have tried to even think about writing about the books.

But maybe I will just start adding quotes to my entries.  Things that I like, thinks that speak to me, Myrtle.  Things that speak to my scholarly mind ... the bits of it that are left.

"The room was invaded by scent: rose and lilac, honey, water new with spring green; sweat, the aroma of tea—tea?—and sweet wind, the meal of green.  The green.  Behind her eyes she could sense the bowers of ancient forest, could almost hear the rustles of great leaves.

"But here, too, she found silence.  The silence of the smug, the arrogant, the pretentious; the silence of concern, of compassion; the silence of grief too great for simple words; the silence that follows a child's first cry.  She found so many silences, she wondered what the use of langue was; words seemed impoverished and lessened." ~Michelle Sagara, Cast in Courtlight, location 4330.

I like the exploration of silence and I like Kaylin's thought about how words seemed impoverished and lessened in silence.  This is in the second book of the series.  Kaylin is new to the use of her power outside of her own off-hours work of healing children in the orphanage and helping the midwives in difficult births.  What she knows of True Words, here, is absolutely nothing compared to the eleventh book, although you could argue that a year and several disasters later, she still knows nothing.   Although, because I really do not understand highlighting in Kindle, I cannot show you how Kaylin discovers (or perhaps embraces) that the power of True Words is not dependent on what she knows.  Meaning is not made in her understanding.  Nor does her understanding either bind or loose that power.

Sometimes, when I am reading, it seems like I am glimpsing, just for a moment, what the power of the Living Word really is.  This is NOT a Christian series, nor am I trying to co-opt it as one.  I am just utterly and absolutely fascinated by a magic wielded not by some powerful magician, but by one chosen to bear True Words writ on her body.

I will write here one more quote, that I emailed to a friend but got no response, because it struck me so ... deeply:

"You are a vessel.  A container.  You are the parchment on which the words might both be written and preserved."  ~Michelle Sagara, Cast in Sorrow, page 350. 

Maybe once day I might write about the wonder I felt at reading the metaphor of a vessel (one used in the bible), morphed into paper so as to fully extend the depth of what it means to be a vessel—no, not merely a jar of clay—coupled with the thought of how when something is written is it preserved.   Wondrous thoughts not based on the context so much as to words and concepts special to me in the Living Word.

In context?  Kaylin had grasped and thus preserved a True Name an enemy was trying to destroy lest it be lost forever.  For Barrani (one of the immortals in Elantra, a city with a mixture of mortal and immortal races) life begins with the reception of a True Name, taken from the waters of the Lake of Life.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Misery upon misery...

Around 1:00 AM last night, my blood sugar crashed.  It was really difficult to get my sugar back up.  And then, when I was just thinking I could see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, stool moved against my vagus nerve and my blood pressure started tanking.  I was sweating and shaking and dizzy and nauseous.  I was so ill that I could not stand, vomiting on the bathroom floor.  Hours of misery upon misery and just when my vagus nerve calmed down BAM I was hit with the excruciating pain of a migraine.  Building and building as I scrambled to stand up to dig out my migraine medicine, my emergency stash being downstairs.  The thing about my migraines now is that I absolutely cannot bear any light at all or any sound.  It is horrible to be so isolated with only your pain.  But one really does need light to get out medication.  More hours of misery upon misery and then I finally could sleep.

Life with chronic illness STINKS.

Friday, June 10, 2016


The cold that I shared with my Mother has left me with quite a bit of congestion in my head and in my chest. So, yesterday I was given a new prescription, azelastine.  My!  Does it pack a drowsy wallop.  I took the second dose early in the morning to hopefully sleep it off.  Sleep, I did, but I have been drowsy all day.  It's time to take another dose and I wonder if I am going to acclimate to this or not.  Wow!

Today, I woke to calls from more team members from the Parkview RN Care service.  I had messages from a social worker, with whom I got to talk to later, and someone from the medication assistance team.  I already know that I do not qualify for medication assistance—disability is over the Federal poverty limit—but I am actually looking forward, I think, to meeting with the social worker in a couple of weeks.  I have longed for a support group for chronic illness.  Such doesn't exist at Parkview, but I wonder if there is any way for me to help get one started.

The weather is turning unbearable tomorrow.  The 90s fell me something fierce.  So, I shall be spending my days huddling with the air-conditioning.  And Amos, of course.

The timing is just awful, but the alum blossoms are nearly gone and if I am going to figure out which bulbs are alum (as opposed to the tulips), I've got to do it soon.  Certainly not tomorrow.  But maybe we will have a tiny respite from the weather.  I really would like to transplant them out of the tulip bed and into another location.

I am trying to soothe my gardening impatience with reveling in the loveliness on the front porch that Mother helped me to do.

I have been putting annuals in the six pots on the front ledge of the porch, but I decided to put succulents in them in the hopes that I could winter the plants in the solarium and eliminate the cost of replacing plants every year.

This one is the only one that was tall.  It is so spindly!

A good gardener would know what all of these are.  I think, though, that this might be Hens and Chicks??

I liked how delicate this one looked.

This one looks prickly.  But mostly it already is growing toward the light, so I rotate the pots each day.

Of course, I cannot resist anything that is variegated!

The rest of the empty pots are filled with annuals.  Mother picked out six different types and filled the rest of the pots.

And the two hummingbird planters.

Mother also helped me get all the wintering plants down from the solarium to the front porch, like my beloved String of Pearls.  I just LOVE how much it LOVES spending the winter in the solarium.  This grew from a 4-inch pot a few years ago!

Three of the plants will be remaining in the solarium year round, now, because of their size.  One is my jade, which has grown from a tiny three-leaf, withered, neglected misery into this splendid specimen.  My staking is not all that impressive, but the Jade certainly liked being supported over the winter.

I don't know what this is, either, but it is from pieces that broke off from my succulent hanging basket.  I put two small pieces in the pot two years ago and now it is this fat, happy plant.  Actually, there were two more lingering pieces to the plant, but I cut them off to give to my mother so she could make her own pot.  What I find interesting about this succulent is that it sure does like water.  This pot has no drainage, but that has not been a problem.  Clearly.

Someone admired my GREEN thumb on Facebook, but I quickly let her know that I have killed my share of plants.  I just focus on the ones that do not die.  For the most part, my giant spotted begonias and succulents do well in the solarium.

I actually have two pots still empty.  When I find the energy, I want to put a few cuttings from the hanging basket to make more of these plants.  That way, I'd have more permanent plants on the front porch and less potting to do in the late Spring.

Still, I love that I have a porch full of greenery.
Happy greenery.
Contented Myrtle.