Sunday, July 30, 2017

Point of law...


I like British television and discovered Acorn.TV, which has British, Australian, Canadian, New Zealand, and Scottish shows for a bargain basement price of $4.99 a month.  One of the shows that I discovered was "Crownies," which is continued in "Janet King" (though the third series is not quite like Series 1 and 2).  It is an Australian legal program.

What fascinates me most is the long, in-depth arguments that those in the justice system have about the rule of law.  I do not quite understand their justice system.  I mean, you have a solicitor, who gives instruction to the barrister who argues in front of the court (I think).  Ultimately, the accused is represented by the solicitor, but the barrister is the one whose efforts keep that person from jail.  The police make recommendations to the Department of Public Prosecutions, but the DPP is who decides if cases are actually tried.

Confusing.

However, as I mentioned, the basis of it all is the rule of law.  Is there a point of law that has been broken for the accused to stand trial?  Is that point of law provable within the rules of the court?  The law drives the wins and losses in court, if the case for the breaking of the law is made based on the point of law.  The discussions the lawyers and investigators at the DPP have amongst themselves are so very fascinating.  On one hand, the show has the bit of salaciousness that all current programming needs to survive.  But on the other hand, it is exceedingly erudite.  The discussions are sometimes brief, but sometimes not.  They are passioned and dispassionate.  They are complex battles.  They are complicated puzzles.  I have actually watched the two series twice just for the love of the exercise of thought they take.

On CBS, one of the summer shows is "Doubt."  It is also a legal program, but set in America, where emotions are just as important, if not more so, than the rule of law.  I was watching an episode tonight and found it such a sharp contrast to the Australian system.  The case was a man who was caught with a vial of cocaine in his pants.  His defense:  his wife bought them at a second hand store (not my pants).  It turns out that he was an illegal immigrant with a new baby.  His lawyer argued the Not-My-Pants defense, but let slip that he was an illegal immigrant who would get deported away from his good job and his loving family and his tiny baby if he were found guilty.

Is the possession of a vial of cocaine illegal?  Yes. 
Did he have cocaine on his person?  Yes.
Was he found guilty?  No.

Sympathy overruled point of law.

Besides the fact that you, once again, have Kathrine Heigl in the role of a pretty woman having an inappropriate, unethical, and lose-her-license affair (think "Grey's Anatomy"), the show is disappointing to me because the point of law does wholly not matter.  The feelings of the jury does.  Its sympathy or empathy or outrage.

Basically, it struck me tonight what a stark contrast there was between American legal shows and the Australian ones:  the American shows have a distinct lack of jurisprudence.  To me, they have a distinct lack of justice, too.

This might not make sense, but as I was watching "Doubt," I wondered what forgiveness means.  What does it mean to forgive someone and how is that different (or is it not at all) from Christ's forgiveness?  Mostly, I was thinking of the first question.  I mean, it seems to me that forgiveness shouldn't be a feeling, but how do you escape the feelings associated with things that need forgiveness?

If I set aside the seemingly impossible act of forgiving your rapist or abuser, what about forgiving someone who was to care for you and, instead, betrayed you in very profound ways? How do you stop feeling such terrible hurt from such a thing?  Does forgiveness mean that you do not feel those feelings anymore?  Is it possible to forgive and still feel hurt?  Or if you struggle with those wounds still, does that mean that you have not forgiven?  I often think that I have no forgiveness in me because I have such deep wounds.  And I feel pressured to have forgiveness, as if that will heal the wounds.  When I hear such things, though, I want to scream, But what about justices?

It occurred to me recently, thinking about something the therapist said briefly before moving on to a different point, that I think it is possible for outsiders to confuse a desire for justice to be a desire for vengeance ... and, thus, chide the survivor for wanting justice.

I have heard other survivors talk about the pressure to forgive an abuser because of a familial relation.  I had one woman tell me about how her pastor made her publicly forgive her male relative for raping her, go to the altar with him, and sit down to a meal with him.  She was young and submitted beneath the pressure from her pastor and her family, but as a grown woman, she was deeply wounded and found little reason for the church to exist.

I know of another family, staunch Lutherans, elder in a church, whose daughter was raped and became pregnant.  The rapist was a part of their local community, so they hid from him the fact that he had fathered a child.  There was no forced forgiveness going on in that family.  The judgmental part of me kept thinking how hypocritical it was to be a leader in your church and to actively work to hide the existence of your grandchild from certain folk.

Now, there is a terrible problem in our society in that females who are raped and become pregnant and chose to keep the child are not protected from future contact from their rapists.  Rapists have the right to visitation if a child is fathered.  There is no point of law regarding this problem.  There is only a family court judge's opinion on what is right for the child, perhaps, or what rights the rapist has.

You commit a felony and you lose the right to vote.  You rape a woman and you retain parental rights over any child that comes from that assault.  SIGH.

So, there is that.  But have I strayed too far from the thought I am trying to capture?  Perhaps.  Perhaps not.  I am thinking about one singular act: being assault in church.  I told an elder.  His response was that were I to make it known, the church would be hurt and if the church was hurt, then I would be hurting Jesus.  Did I want to hurt Jesus?  Damn silence.

The therapist asked me how I felt.  I cannot identify the feelings. I mean, I do not remember being in that moment.  I just know that I wrote and wrote and wrote about it in my journal.  It is a story about myself that I have collected (though the journals were burned a while ago in an attempt to make those things about my past disappear).  I told her that I have a thought about it, but then I immediately can hear others tell me that such a thought was not constructive and that I need to leave such things in the past.  My thought?  I told and there was no one there for me.

How does that thought make you feel now? she asked.
Sad.

That elder was a brother in Christ to me.  Did I forgive him ... do I forgive him ... if there is such deep sadness within me?  If the wound of his question still stripes me?

Am I lying if I pray, Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us?
What is the point of law for me?
And the gospel?

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Top of the lake...


I was watching this British show that was sort of dark.  In a way, it was like "Criminal Minds," but with just one man.  "Cracker" is an old show, with the proverbial mess as the lead character.  I liked the psychology part of it and, frankly, I like the functional mess part.  However, I did not watch the last season because I saw a familiar story-line coming.  You see, in America, the cop/detective/lawyer (main female character) is not actually raped, just almost raped.  In British television, the rape happens.

I can think of four shows, "Cracker" included, where this happens.  I wouldn't be surprised if there are more.  I've watched three, but I did not finish "Cracker."  I just couldn't.  I know it was earlier than the ones I had seen and might have been the first, but I felt it a cheap, manipulative stereotype, especially given the psychological bent of the series.  And, frankly, I just couldn't go there.

I started watching a series, "Top of the Lake," and WHAM.  I discovered that it was about a 12-year-old who was raped ... and pregnant.  Damn.  I really didn't want to go there.  I watch, almost compelled.  I learn the detective was gang raped at 15.  Damn.  I keep watching, almost without will, caught up in her anger.  Then I learn that the community service the youth of the community are sentenced to is actually being pimped out.  More sexual assault.  Damn.

I was not surprised when I learned that the series was created by Jane Campion, who wrote and directed the movie "The Piano."  Man!

One might think that that was just too much sexual assault for one series, but, to me, in a way, it was not, because we live in a world where sexual assault is just so darned ignored.  I mean, it's a bloody weapon of war used even by UN peacekeeping troops!  It's everywhere.  And nothing really happens to those who use that weapon, whether on the supposed battlefield or in our own homes, schools, institutions of medical care, churches, etc.  EVERYWHERE.

I like the stereotypical guru played by Holly Hunter, the spiritual leader of a bunch of women come out to the wilderness to find themselves.  Maybe, given their stories, to find a sense of personal justice.  GJ spouts off some pretty interesting mystical commentary.  The part I liked best was in Episode 5 of the first series:

GJ: Are you dying?
Jude: Yes
GJ: Nothing wrong that that. Very natural. The body knows what to do. Just go with the body. [long pause] Are you frightened?
Jude: Yes
GJ: You're not going to experience this death of yours. [nods toward Turangi] He will.
Jude: [surprised, relieved] I'll be dead.



I liked what she said about death, about trusting the body, and what she said about experiencing death.  I mean, Jude was the person who was going to die, but GJ basically redefined what it means to "experience death" it that death is "experienced" by those left behind.  I thought that makes a bit of sense in a way that gave me food for thought.

The series is so full of stereotypes that it is a bit campy in a theatrical sort of way.  I can understand it's criticism as much as I can understand its success.  I mean, you have the mother dying of cancer and the teenager who will not talk to anyone, only show the "yes" or the "no" written on the palms of his hands.  The men in the show are all misogynistic, the women are all broken or lost or sold out, the teenagers sullen and rude.  The dogs are violent.  Alcohol flows freely.  Corruption runs a deep and complicated web throughout the story.  I could go on and on, but I suppose there is no real point to that.

The point, for me, was that it was a show that shoved rape culture in the face of its viewers, in a world where the idea of "rape culture" of oft denied as if it the very idea was some sort of offense.   And yet, just today, I read about a teenager who was raped by two males, then raped again by the  driver she flagged down for help.  

Call me strange, but I think I want to become someone who has the words "yes" and "no" on her hands and no longer talks.  For there is the hurt of what happened to you and then there is the hurt of what happened to you being something that is ignored, dismissed, or excused away.  Both hurts are almost too much to bear.

If not actually too much.

I think I'll go back to watching cheesy sci-fi for a while.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

For want of a formula...


A while ago, I created a spreadsheet tracking my expenses on my credit card.  I have everything either directly pulled from my checking account or I charge it so that I can earn points.  I know what I am supposed to be charging on my card, my budget amount, but when I go over, I didn't have a good idea of why.  So, I created an expense tracking spreadsheet where I list the charges and then categorize them.  This way, I see a running total of my spending, and I also see subtotals in my categories.  I pay off my card every month so that I do not accrue interest on my credit card, but I wait until the due date to earn as much interest on the payment as possible. That means, I have to subtract last month's total from the balance to get my current spending.  The tracking spreadsheet , with its running total, makes that task moot.  And, as I said, it shows me where I am spending.

Because I am trying to be extra, extra, extra lean in my spending and did not get where I wanted in July, I got the idea that I would put in all the fixed charges and the ones I knew would come on the expense tracking sheet so that I could start August knowing what I have left.  I kept subtracting the running total from my budget number, working the sums in my head, and became more and more worried.  Last night, I was in bed trying to fall asleep when I remembered another two expenses I hadn't added yet.  I was down to $78 for my August spending and it hadn't even started!  That's $78 for groceries, household, gas, and extra medical expenses!!

I talk about being a worry wort, but I actually had a FULL BLOWN worry wort episode. I absolutely do not regret lavishing myself (relatively speaking) with 50th Birthday presents, but I wanted to get out of the hole I dug by year's end.  Not seeing how I could get through August, I started worrying about how to get through to December wiping that slate clean.  I went back downstairs and started number crunching.  Over the next 17 hours, I spent 12 of them working and re-working the numbers, using three spreadsheets and my banking/savings register program.

Even if my austerity plan holds for the rest of 2017, I am going to be around $350 short of my birthday spending. I have been working on stopping castigating myself for falling short. I have a ways to go in that area. I sort of blame extra medical, but also I did discover that barbecue. SIGH.

[Maybe barbecue should be my month's end reward if I make my austerity budget for the month??]

Realizing that I failed my goal, I started to really panic about 2018.  

For 2018, I have a slightly less austere budget, because I do not believe it is possible, with medical stuff, to be as tight as I am trying to be through the rest of this year. But I still have a fairly tight budget because I am trying and trying and trying to manage all my spending on a fixed income.  Plus, several years ago, I set out to build cushions into my checking account and all of my small savings accounts that I created as a way of saving monthly for the larger one-time expenses that hit me throughout the year. Year End 2018 is the target for them.

I am thankful that I will make the cushion goal for my real estate taxes (a year's worth of taxes as a cushion). And I will easily meet the car account's goal of $1,500.  Ideally, I wanted it to be $2,000 because I always hear about $2K car repair bill coming at the worst time, but I am on a fixed income with a large amount of medical expenses, so I had to lower my ideals. Getting blood from a turnip comes to mind. I wanted $500 in Amos and Household and that will take some stretching because Amos was an expensive dog in his 6th year (I already lectured him about the need to reverse that trend). And I wanted to get $750 in checking, a goal which I wish had been $1,000. 

One of the ways I work on budgeting, as I have explained before, is to enter all the expenses for the next year into my register before January begins.  I put hard numbers for the set expenses and estimates for the fluid bills (estimates based on several year averages, including rate increases).  This way, I can tell you on any given day how much money I will have in checking.

Though normally a task for December, I entered every transaction for checking and the savings accounts into my register program since I am rather worried. To make my savings cushion goals, starting in January 2018, I increased the monthly automatic savings transfers to Amos and Household. And I will have to do a bit of make-up transferring from checking to those accounts in December 2018. To do that, I need to be fairly austere all throughout the year.

I use the register to help populate my Year End Over/Under spreadsheet.  Even though 2017 is not yet over, I went ahead and created the chart for 2018.  That's how I can know if I will make those goals.  As the hours passed, I kept trying to work out a budget that would meet my goals and have some sort of hope of still paying the ever-increasing medical expenses that I have to pay from an ever-dwindling supply of funds.  Twelve hours later, I finally thought I came to a workable plan.

I want to tell myself that it is only 5 months of severe austerity and 12 months of strict discipline, but really what I mapped out for 2018 is what I'll need to follow going forward, because I have yet to make realistic room in my budget for not just managing to pay medical bills, but to start to create a savings account for them. I still have no plan for the next hospitalization, although all the testing is what's been killing me since March 2016. I should have a Medical Tests savings account! Only HOW THE HECK DO I MAKE ROOM FOR ANOTHER SAVINGS ACCOUNT???????

SIGH.

I do feel more settled, having done more math and projections and budgeting and planning in those 12 hours than I thought possible.

I did have another Come to Jesus talk with myself.  You see, I used to be on a competitive mental arithmetic team.  I admit to being rather prideful about it.  I spent my scholastic years getting in trouble for not showing my math work except for when I was helping to win competitions!  As I mentioned, when I was trying to figure out what my current spending total was, I would work it out in my head, even after I created a spreadsheet where I could have just stuck in a formula for it.  

Seventeen hours after my panic began, twelve hours of number crunching later, I decided to finally put in a formula on my tracking spreadsheet that subtracted my running total from my budget number.  I was my way of sort of polishing off the evening-turned-into-day.  When I did that, I discovered that I didn't just have $78 for August.  I have $251!  WHEW!!

I make so very many mistakes with my bill paying and my medications, it was foolish of me to cling to my gloried past.  And really did laugh when I saw that I had erred so greatly.  If I had that formula in there, I could have avoided a whole lot of panic!  Silly Myrtle!!

However, I now have a projected Year End Over/Under for 2017 and 2018, a banking/savings register filled through December 2018, budgets for 2017 and 2018, and a new template for my monthly expense tracking spreadsheet ... and a whole lot less worry about how I'm going to get through August!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Distance...


I've spent hours and hours and hours trying to write about a thought I had.  It just occurred to me that I should just write about something else ... only I'm exhausted from trying to write for two days.  So, I thought I would be brief.

[It's okay to laugh at the thought of my being brief.]

A while ago, I tried writing about how I do not really have a sense of time, since I do not remember my life, just flashes here and there.  I carefully collect and, perhaps, hoard the stories of my life, but they are just that stories and not memories.  Three decades and a bit more have passed since I set out for college.  Yet, for me, were I to remember, it would be like I left yesterday.  Only, I suppose, if I could remember, then I would have a sense of time.

To be more blunt, it has been almost seven years since the last time I was raped.  That is a marvel, actually, such a long time without an assault.  Only, for me, that day is yesterday for those seven years mean just the same as if it were seven months or seven days.  In that sense, then, it might be understandable that I do have the sense that that part of my life has finally come to an end, that re-victimization—a terrible commonality for the majority of children who are abused—is no longer the hallmark of my existence.

The thought I had was this:  Perhaps one of the reasons I struggle so much with the shame of my past is that the past is not really past for me.  There is no sense of distance.  The then is now.

SIGH.


I did have one small victory today.  I was talking with my best friend whilst I walked Amos (Becky was so kind to keep me company via Sprint) and we got on the topic of the black and white photos I took.  She mentioned the contrast between the color and black and white version of the photo of the stump.  And I found words!  I mean, it seems I rarely find the right words, the words I wanted to find these days.  My response was that the black and white photo of the stump showed its character better. And then I mused:  I think I see the world in black and white.

I didn't explain.  I knew what I meant.  It is not that I see the world as black or white, that I fail to understand that we live in a world of greys, even though are world is bound by absolutes.  It is just that I think that I see the world as if flipping through a stack of black and white photographs ... that I oft see beauty and character that you wouldn't notice if all you ever saw was in color.

I am glad that I took the second photo of the stump.




I see history and age and perseverance and life and death and remembrance.




And I am glad that I took the photo of the lilies.

I know what I see.
What do you?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Black and white...


I usually hide for days on end after therapy, but I thought, since I did something that I liked tonight, that I would try not to hide.




It was just with my phone, but I took some black and white photos again.  When I was rather young and enjoyed photography, I started with black and white film in my beloved Minolta X-700.




This is one of my favorite.  All I ever shot was 100 speed film, so I loved how I caught the water as she played in her bath.



I sold this photo. I think it was the first one I ever sold.  I sold it to a psychiatrist in Waco, who wanted it for the office walls.




I sold this to a reading association and it turned it into their logo.




I took a lot of photos when I was a missionary, though most of them are in slides.  I've always wanted those to be scanned somehow.




Most of my photos in Africa were taking on the compound, where I taught school.  This was during a cockroach race.  Yep.  You read that right:  cockroach race.



I just loved this little guy.  He was from Norway.  A real crack-up.




The last work I ever sold was a permanent exhibit at a girls school.  I spent several weeks there photographing the students, and the school created a massive multi-story wall of my photos.

I also sold photos to several textbook authors, but I do not have those.  Mostly, all I ever did was dabble.  And, mostly, all I ever did was take photos of children.




Most of the buds are gone on these and I did not catch one closed, but these are called box flowers.  I think that I almost like them better in black and white than in color.




But in this photo you can see the box-shaped bud there in the bottom center.




The same is with my favorite stump.  To me, it is as if the black and white photo captures what I see in the stump better than the color one did.




Though ... I admit ... in both black and white and color, I do find this stump rather beautiful.




I did snap a photo of my beloved Fluffernutter.  I think he is a rather pensive dog.  It saddens me, though, when I see photos of him where his tail can be seen.  He is so afraid other than when we are in the safety of our home.  You can see his fear in how he keeps his tail plastered downward.




I also took a photo of one of my lions.  I just adore them.  Such a steal they were, but more the victory was not so much a shopping one as something that speaks to me each and every time I lay my eyes upon them.  I am glad that I refused to let the movers refuse to move them.  They were in my quote, which I pointed to a dozen or so times as I argued for their inclusion.  They were the very last items placed on the moving truck, and, fittingly, they were the first items moved into my new home.




If I could go back to this photo, though.  I think that it is beautiful and its beauty reminds me of something from my past that was good ... my love of black and white film and the years I spent with my beloved Minolta X-700.

It was a good thing on a hard day.

It struck me today that whilst I have learned so much about shame from Dr. BrenĂ© Brown's research in I Thought It Was Just Me [But It Isn't], the learning is ... not enough.  By that I mean, I have started to learn about building shame resilience to be able to move through shame as I encounter it going forward.  However, I do not know how to bear the shame of my past that fells me so.

The first couple of months with this therapist have been my pouring out how I am so very utterly overwhelmed with the ills of my body.  I am struggling to endure them and to endure how much it takes to manage the symptoms and my medications and my appointments and what it means to live with chronic illness.  But now we are starting anew, where we should have, and are doing the intake history.

Each question is hard to answer without tracing the lines between things, which means jumping around. The questions are hard to answer. Stark facts that oft are triggers.

Normally, afterwards, I try to talk with a dear friend of mine. I love the way she says my name. I love to hear her stories. I love the way she speaks the Gospel to me. I love the way that who I am, the whole of me, doesn't matter to her. But I couldn't reach her today. So, here I sit, drowning in shame from the answers I gave today.

I wouldn't go if I had the choice. Or rather I wouldn't go save for to discuss the seemingly impossibility of living with chronic illness ... wanting to live with chronic illness. This past week, I battled two pudendal neuralgia flares, one trigeminal neuralgia flares, three bad episodes of dysphagia, two blood sugar crashes, and one asthma attack, along with the daily nausea, low BP, dizziness, pre-syncope, neuropathic pain, and the like.

I get now why all of my favorite dysautonomia blogs start with frequent entries and then trail off, some into permanent silence.  Life get so very overwhelming.  It becomes too much to face and do near anything else.  I absolutely and utterly loathe that I have such gaps here in my online rememberer, but writing is so difficult, concentrating is to difficult, and slogging my way through the sadness and loneliness and despair chronic illness brings is so ... difficult.

And to that shame ... enormous shame ... that smothers and suffocates me.  Well, how do I even breathe, let alone write.  And what words can I find to explain that which binds me so?

I wrote about today on Facebook, though on the friends setting, so as to limit my ... exposure.  I wrote about it because I do not know how to handle the shame that arose from one particular answer I gave today.  I think of the answer and then I think: What Gospel is there for someone who did that?  

SIGH.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Roots and leaves...


Friday, I received some fairly distressing news and I haven't been in a place to try and write about it.  There is a plus side.  Once more, I discovered just how great my new GP is:  she let me do another  trial with the Celebrex full dose just to be doubly, triply certain it is the culprit with regard to my kidneys.  You see, when I went to a half-dose of Celebrex every other day—something that brought arthritis pain on a daily basis back into my life—my kidney blood work moved back into a much better range.  I took the Celebrex twice a day, but I still did not have a single ibuprofen pill.  I was certain I would be fine, that it couldn't really be the Celebrex that was a problem.  However, after just two weeks, the numbers that have been ruling my life for a few months now started their downward trend again. It was crushing to see the test results posted up on my online chart.

I wrote a sad message to my GP thanking her for the trial and saying that I would go back to skipping doses. I did, however, propose one small change. Skipping as I was resulted in 7 days of 14 being at half dose. I suggested that instead of every other day, I do MWF. That would result in 6 days of half doses out of 14. I would like to see if that would work. Actually, what I want is to try S/TH and just do 4 days of 14 and work upward. However, given the depths of my numbers, I know it is safer to work backwards rather than forwards. My GP wrote back herself and agreed to my proposal. So, tonight, I'm missing another dose.

It is crushing to think about having to deal with yet more pain.

It is devastating to have definitive proof that the Celebrex is the culprit because, if things are par for the course, this means my body is starting to develop a dislike for (intolerance to) Celebrex and eventually I won't be able to take any at all.

I have tried so very many arthritis drugs. Celebrex works. Nothing else has. I am not sure I can endure another loss. And, frankly, I see absolutely no way of surviving a complete lack of Celebrex. SIGH.

I was surprised to see the GP's note, but sort of not surprised.  Twice now, she has called me at the end of the day and talked for about 45 minutes about the things we are following.  She is interested in the whole of me, not just my physical self, so I have felt a bit more comfortable talking about attempt No. 5 at therapy.  I thought I was No. 4, but I was wrong.  Three times at the free place and once at the low-income place.  Free meant two counselors who left and one who was ... not healthy.  Low-income meant a time limit.  What I want ... what needs to be ... is long-term.  

The therapist I have found is, I think, what I have needed.  She was a nurse for 15 years before turning to therapy.  So, she gets me.  She understands that I am drowning in being ill.  And she specializes in sexual abuse.  With the co-pay, I could only afford once a month, but I was ... I am ... a bit desperate.  And when she learned of the co-pay, she said that she would see me for half, so I could come twice a month.  After seeing her twice, I think, I about begged to come weekly, throwing financial caution to the wind.  After seeing her a while more, she said something that sounded like I wouldn't have to make the half co-payment.  I couldn't quite believe that, given being someone who is long-term.  It wasn't until this past week, when we started over since I leapt right over intake and started telling her just how overwhelmed I am, that I dared to ask her what she really meant.  The guy at the desk had not taken my money for the past three sessions, so I was looking at having to pay $80 that day.  

She looked at me and said, "I wiped the books."
"How can you do that," I asked, "when I am ... long-term."
"This is why I work here.  So I can do precisely that when I want."

It is ... odd ... that I went from such a conversation such as that to, the following day, staring at what felt like my doom on a computer screen.




I felt the need to DO SOMETHING, especially since I made the executive decision that I would no longer try to walk Amos on the weekends, to give myself (and my terror) a break.  So, this is what I did.




Can you see the carrot seeds?  [Yes, I braided my hair today.  I've missed my braids.]  My broccoli was all nothingness, which my friend Emily confirmed it had gone to bolt.  I didn't know that it is a cool weather plant.  Anyway, I pulled up four the the six plants (before I chatted with Emily and realized I should pull up the last two) and planted carrot seeds on either side of the two remaining plants.  I really, really, really want to plant carrots, but I just don't know how to do so. I know my failing in this area—at least for now—is because I haven't made a good faith effort yet.  I planted the seeds differently on both sides in the hopes that I will end up with carrots. 




This is my new raised bed over by my haven.  It is a bunch of herbs (thyme, sage, basil, oregano, marjoram, and parsley), my second attempt at carrots, and three young summer squash plants that I most fervently hope will bear fruit (my first attempt at summer squash last year was a ginormous bust).  I had dill and cilantro in there, but they went to bolt and so I pulled them out and dried them.  [The rosemary is over in the two back corners of my haven.]  I am hoping that one or two of the carrots might actually grow in this bed.  I think one of my failings has been that I do not properly thin them.  

But maybe the problem is that I do not know how to grow roots.  
I am merely good at growing leaves.  
In all things.

I was all hot and sweaty by the time I finished pulling up and planting and watering (including rinsing and filling all three bird baths), but it felt good to be in my braids.  And to have done something.

Thursday, July 13, 2017


Yesterday was the anniversary of the pit bull attack.  A hard day.  A lonely day.  A sad day.  It is hard for me not to spend part of the day reflecting upon just how much the attack changed Amos and me.  And how it was so very, very violent.

I spotted this on the Chronic Perseverance Facebook page I follow:




It has stayed with me, thinking about how much I expect from my friends ... long from them ... that I think they should just know.  Only.  Only they cannot hear what I am screaming inside.  I sort of think that they should.  That they do.  That they can.

Laugh if you will, but it dawned on me that that is probably a bit unfair.
If not downright selfish.
But I do.

Hear me.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Assault...


It is so very, very hard to explain how this is not an exaggeration...




This early afternoon, I had a terrible, terrible bout of dysphagia.  It was another half hour or so of battling to get my food all the way down to my stomach.  Afterward, though, instead of just dealing with the shell shock of the episode, I endured hours and hours of lingering pain in my esophagus.  Every time I swallowed.  In between swallows.  SIGH.

I know the dysphagia will get worse.  I've know that since it started in March of last year.  I've know that since it was officially confirmed last September.  A while ago, I wrote about the worst episode yet.  That was awful.  And I couldn't fathom it being worse.  But hours and hour of pain once the swallowing problem ends is worse.

Most days, it happens here and there, a moment or two or three and then back to a working esophagus.  Some days, I have a bad spell that concerns me, but then it passes and I shove it out of my mind.  But today ... today ... I am felled by the many ways in which my body is battling me.  And it does feel like assault.  I know.  I've been there.  The pain and the sense of betrayal and the despair.  It is so very, very difficult to endure such assault.  It is so very, very, very difficult to continue on after such assaults.  SIGH.

In no small way does it help that I have my beloved Fluffernutter by my side at such times, for to say that I am lonely is a gross understatement.

Lonely.
Weary.
In pain.

Blasted esophagus!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Loneliness...


During my sister's surprise Back-to-2014 50th birthday party, one of the foods we had was the chilorio burras.  Everyone liked them.  Since they are so tasty, I cannot fathom them not likable since they are so tasty.  Even so, something that warmed the cockles of my heart was that my sister really, really, really liked them!




Today, I had some more and spent some time being thankful that I have such great friends who would give my sister an impromptu surprise birthday party and praying for her and them.  This was before I rolled them.  I still have not yet achieved a solid roll yet, but I don't have problems eating all the slop off my plate.

Today, I added sour cream, because, you know, who doesn't love sour cream?  I also used the cilantro lime seasoning on the avocado mash.  Mmmm!  These are just so tasty and so very different from the spicy Dr Pepper pulled pork tacos.  Both are sublime!

Today, I figured something out with the Texas Flour Tortilla dough balls. I make a batch of them (16) and put them straight into the freezer, individually wrapped in waxed paper.  The night before I want to eat them, I take two dough balls out of the freezer and let them thaw in the refrigerator.  The last couple of times that I have eaten them, they were not quite their BLOODY FANTASTIC selves.  Last time, I was thinking about how hard it was to roll out the tortillas because the dough was so cold.  So, today, I left them on the counter to warm for about a half hour.  And, as you can see, they turned out BLOODY FANTASTIC once more.

It still amazes and tickles me pink that I can make such tasty tortillas!

That's really all I did, other than rest.  I am so blooming exhausted all the time.  All. The. Time.  SIGH.

As near as I can tell, the Sjogren's pain flare started around November and ended around March.  At least that was when the pain got so very awful and then finally eased back to bearable.  March is also when some of my autoimmune blood work had slightly better numbers.  But the exhaustion ramped up to a new level before November.  I do not remember when, exactly, but I know that I have written about it and told every single doctor/specialist how much more drained and dragging I am.

Sometimes, when streaming, a show will end and I will just sit there, not sleeping but not doing anything.  I am too weary to reach over for the remote.  Too weary to read.  Too weary to write.  Too weary to think.  Too weary, even, to sleep.  I thought that I knew what exhaustion was, but I didn't.  I sure am being schooled in it now.

I do know that I pushed and pushed and pushed myself during my birthday celebration with my visitors.  And recovery from when I overdo it is a weeks long experience, filled with lots and lots and lots of sleeping.  But this is more.  It is different than what I thought I knew about fatigue.  SIGH.

I read this article about exhaustion related to Sjogren's:  13 Types of Sjogren's Fatigue.  In a way, I am not sure I would have written the way the author did.  By that I mean, I do not think that there really are 13 different types of fatigue.  I think that many of the types in here are actually scenarios that cause an increase in fatigue.  But, then again, I also believe that folk need the space and respect to talk about their experience with chronic illness without having others deny it.

I do believe the article might help to drive home, though, just how Sjogren's folk struggle with fatigue and it for that that I am sharing it.  Because, truth be told, one of the most difficult aspects of being chronically ill is not the pain or nausea or fatigue, but the loneliness.  And so I oft find myself trying to share information with others in my life in the hopes that I might not be so alone with all my illnesses/conditions.

During my appointment on Thursday, I was talking with my therapist about all the celebrating I have been doing for my 50th during my 50 days and how it means so much to me that my sister has joined me, has been sending cards and small gifts.  When I was talking about all the things I have been doing for myself because I wanted to make a big deal about my birthday for once, she interrupted me.  "It's not the same, is it?" she asked.  I stopped short and shook my head.  I really wanted my Facebook friends and in-life friends and family to join me.  To do this silly (and maybe selfish) thing with me.  To celebrate with me, to celebrate me.  That didn't happen.  Hasn't happened.  Without my saying so, she understood that I felt lonely in my celebrating.

I thought it then a bit timely that I the Chronically Hopeful page I follow on Facebook posted this article:  4 Ways to Cheer Up A Loved One Who Feels Lonely Due to Illness.  Of course I agree with the first point!  Every other month I try to send snail mail to those I care about to let them know that I am thinking of them.  I did think that No. 4 was not really a point and that the article could have a few more ideas. Not to come off sounding all critical, but I wanted a few more ideas ... needed a few more ideas that I could try to share.  Or post.  And hope someone listened.  Still, it was nice to read an article that let me know that I am not the only one struggling with loneliness.

Living with chronic illness stinks.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Tasks...


Yesterday was a day when I sought to DO SOMETHING.  It was long and exhausting even though I didn't start on my list until late afternoon.

I awoke to find that Firewood Man finally had time to repair my laundry line.  It had snapped the last time I hung laundry.  I am not sure why.  The line was not even two years old.  But the little doohickies that he used to secure the line have nuts that I couldn't figure out how to open and close without one of those thingamajigs that goes on a drill and covers the nut and spins in on and off.  I think.  Maybe.  But I don't have one of those.  So, I bought new line but had to wait for him to pull the end bits off the old line and put them on the new line.

A repaired laundry line meant two loads of laundry.

My other DO SOMETHING goal had to do with cooking (what a surprise, eh?).  I tried one of the frozen mason jars of the spicy corn chowder and it was rather tasty.  Since I learned that the chowder freezes well, I wanted to make a full batch whilst there is still fresh corn at the grocery store.




Because I was making a full batch this time, I switched to the large stock pot instead of my beloved cast iron dutch oven.  I wasn't sure I would have enough space.  I worried that it wouldn't be as good with the change.  Or that I wouldn't remember exactly how I made it.  But ... well ... it was divine!

You see, when I made the half batch, I used corn from my birthday celebration.  It was leftover and sat around in my refrigerator for five week.  It was fresh when I bought it and I can be a bit caviler about eating things that have aged.  The chowder was so good that I thought nothing of it.

But this chowder!
Man!
Actually fresh corn took the recipe to the stars!!

I had filled eight mason jars and was going to do a ninth, but I kept looking into the pot with longing and ended up having a bowl instead of filling an extra jar (most of my recipes are eight servings).  When I took that first bite, I was so surprised at how much better it tasted.  How much fresher the corn in it tasted.  The bowl was heavenly and I wanted to proceed to the mason jars.  Who needs meals in the freezer? I thought.  Somehow, though, I restrained myself.




My next task was to make more baked oatmeal.

One of my 50th birthday presents to myself was the ability to bake more than 12 muffins at a time because my beloved baked oatmeal recipe yield is 18 muffins and so I have to bake it in two batches, running the oven for an hour.  I wanted a second vintage tin like my grandmother's that I use.  It is a Comet pan.  However, I could only find a set of two 6-muffin tins.  So, technically, I bought myself two additional muffin tins.

This was the first time that I was able to bake the muffins all at once.  Of course, I forgot to put in the blueberries and, well, I forgot how many scoops of oatmeal I had put in half way to putting them in so this batch is less than super tasty, but I do not care.  It only took 30 minutes to bake, and I sort of adore oatmeal so much that a tad dense, a tad plain baked oatmeal is still the tops to me.

It is my hope that, now, running the oven for only 30 minutes, the pans (rather cheap on eBay) will pay for themselves.  Basically, that's a guilt-free self birthday present, eh?




I also made my first ever batch of buttermilk ranch dressing.  I haven't added the recipe yet to my recipe rememberer blog because I am trying to decide if I am totally and completely happy with it or not.  I do really, really, really like it, but I think it needs a bit of lemon juice or something in it.  I am just not sure.  And, frankly, I'm thinking it might take me the entire bottle to decide what I think.

I don't mind.
Tonight, I did some thinking with a small dish of petite carrots.
Tomorrow, I will with some mozzarella sticks.

Today was a whole lot of resting, but I did finish the last of the culinary tasks I had set myself.  The last was to poach some more chicken.  I bought some avocados at the store and wanted to make some chicken bacon avocado melts.  And some guacamole.  And chilorio burras.

If I am going to be so exhausted that hours pass without even managing to pick up a remote to stream something, then I am at least going to have tasty food on hand.  SIGH.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Finally...


I finally finished the airing porch.  It is not exactly what I wanted, but it is finished.  And that is a mighty relief to me.




This was how it looked after three rounds of sanding, using 40, 60, and 80 grit.  I finally realized that the darkness that is bothering me is staining from the mold/mildew (what is the difference??)  I took off a fair amount of wood and was rather uncomfortable with any further sanding.




But the staining still bothered me.




After the final sanding, I did another quick power washing so as to remove all the sawdust.  Normally, with wood, I use a sealer.  When you we the wood to clean it, you get a good idea of what it will look like.  And I just couldn't bear seeing that homeowner failure day in and day out, so I decided to either paint or stain the wood instead of seal it.

Painting would have been the coverage I liked, but once you paint, you are pretty much committed to repeated painting.  Staining affords me the opportunity to use a different stain, go back to a sealer, or try painting.  I read and read and read and read and talked and talked and talked and talked to guys at Mendard's and finally settled on Cabot's Australian Timber Oil.  The guys at Menard's all thought that was the way to go and Cabot's stains had good reviews ... though not so much the Timber Oil.




I very, very, very carefully and repeatedly checked the weather and found myself a two-day window to work.  However, two boards into the staining process, this storm started heading my way and my app said that it was going to rain in 47 minutes.  I was devastated.

However.

However, I sort of wigged out and decided to "pray away the rain."  Not really, but I did lie down on the airing porch decking and will the clouds to miss me.  Surprisingly, they did.  As did the clouds from three other storms that popped up as I watched and (later) worked.  I could see the rain falling, but it did not fall on my porch!




I miss the shine of a sealer.  And the color is NO WHERE NEAR the sample board on display.  It was supposed to be a warm honey with a hint of amber.




But it turned out so very red!




This is after a rain and I was rather relieved to see that I really did need only 24 hours of drying time (given it rained about a half hour past that mark).  The darkness does hide/cover/obscure the mold stains rather well.  Again, it is not what I would have chosen, but I am pleased with the end result.  Amos is, too!

He's missed savoring the relative safety of the airing porch.  Fresh air, strategic location to keep watch over me, and no grass.  I realized that I stopped going out there because I felt so guilty about ruining the beautiful new decking that Firewood Man had put down for me.  It was a painful lesson about how to care for open air wood.  Going forward, I plan to gently power wash the porch twice a year and re-stain it in 2-3 years when needed.  I plan to power wash all three twice a year, after the pollen is finished in the spring and right before winter begins.




Amos and I have been taking in quite a few sunsets this week!




The airing porch furniture was also a bit neglected.  In some places, the wood shows that neglect, but I can live with that guilt much easier than with the decking.  I re-sealed them and, after 72 hours of drying (an extra day just to be sure), I set it back outside.

And enjoyed another sunset.
With my beloved Fluffernutter.
Savoring the completed labor.

Sadly, I discovered that I did not wash off the steps well enough after using the cleaner up on the airing porch.  The bottom three (or four) steps have white marks on them from the cleaner.  I am hoping that I can just power wash it off, but I have resigned myself to having to sand them, too.

The back porch still needs re-sealing, but it still has a third of the rack of firewood on it and I just do not think I can move it.  Or, rather, I just do not think I should move it.  So, my plan is to burn it down using the fire pit before the temperature turns too cool for sealing the wood.  I've got a few months before that will be a problem!  I figured that I can take care of the steps then.

For now, I am taking a break from all things Wood Restoration and Care!
Finally.

Friday, July 07, 2017

50th Birthday Celebration Part 3...


When so much time passes, I struggle to find a way to slip back into writing when writing was once as easy—if not easier—as breathing is to me.  Writing is now one of the hardest things I do.  SIGH.

What I am determined to do before another day passes is to post about the most magical, magnificent meal I've cooked thus far.  Truly, it was magical and magnificent because I had the blessing of cooking with my friends Becky and Celia.




These were our dishes:  Chicken Tikka MasalaChicken ShawarmaLemon Basil HummusBaba GanoushToumLabneh, Stacy's Simply Naked Pita Chips, and Naan.   We also polished off a bottle of moscato, too!  It was my goal to also serve Basmati rice (but I forgot) and a saag (but I never settled on a recipe and wasn't prepared other than to have spinach on hand).

Even without those two dishes, the meal was so very tasty.  For me, what I enjoyed best was making up little bites of different combinations of dishes atop a piece of naan.  For example, paring the labneh and the baba ganoush was rather refreshing.  I also, oddly, like the chicken tikka masala together with the labneh.  That, sadly, would have perfectly paired with a saag (spinach dish).  I moaned and groaned and threw a culinary bliss fit with just about every bite that I took.

What was best, though, about the evening, as I have said many times now, was being able to cook with Celia and Becky.  I wanted with my entire being for Mary to be there, too.  This was, I believe, my one shot to have a party, to have my three friends together.  But it did not work out to have Mary there.  She would have loved cooking with us, though.  I just know it!

I marinated the chicken for both chicken dishes the night before.  I also made the toum and labneh ahead of time.  The chicken tikka masala freezes and reheats beautifully, so if you wanted to have lots of middle eastern dishes together like this, that would be a good dish to cook ahead of time.  Finally, I also made the naan dough ahead of time.

I will admit that I forgot about how ... fluffy and odd ... that dough is, so I was freaking out over it in front of Celia and Becky.  I also forgot how to handle it (handle it as if a piece of fragile expensive glass, use lots of flour, roll it thin, and cook over a hot griddle pan).  So, my first couple of naan pieces were not all that good.  However, the dough freezes beautifully, too, in the short term, so I have enjoyed the naan, and other leftovers, for the past month.

I tasked Becky to make the lemon basil hummus and Celia the baba ganoush (because she likes eggplant and Becky doesn't).  Celia also helped finish off the (mock) chicken shawarma.  I do not really remember exactly who all did what as far as the rest goes, but Becky and Celia did a lot of prep for me, including the GAZILLION cloves of garlic that we used.  Dozens of them!

The thing is that all of us prepping and cooking together was BLOODY AWESOME.  I have absolutely no rhythm and cannot dance at all.  But this was like a dance.  A magical and magnificent dance.  I was downright giddy having my friends there, and having them cook with me just made my cup runneth over with joy.

They are the best people.  So loving and gentle and kind and accepting and laid back.  They take me and all my ... challenges ... in stride.  With them, I am normal.  It was BLISS.

As I have chowed my way through the leftovers, I have been awash in that bliss again and again, so very thankful for my friends and the mercy they show me.  And, of course, for all that tasty food!