Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Graveyards

My husband and I went down to Hazlehurst, Mississippi this morning to tend some of the graves of my ancestors. Actually, my husband does most of the tending now, while I give directions.

The stones bring stories, both good and bad. My maternal grandparents buried their first born daughter at the age of 3 days. Great Uncle Louis lost his teenage son Louis Jr., to leukemia, in 1952. Great Aunt Eula Mae introduced my parents to each other at Hardy-Wilson Memorial Hospital when she was a patient there under the care of my mom.

Aunt Belle was called "Little Aunt" because she was under 5 feet tall. I still have letters that she sent me, typed on her old IBM Selectric. That was her "handwriting" as far as I knew. My maternal grandfather died 5 days after my second birthday. My precious paternal grandmother passed away 11 months after my grandfather. All she wanted for those 11 months was to go and be with Papaw and Jesus. We could not be totally sad at her passing, knowing that this was what she wanted.

My husband I and I have chosen to leave our bodies for medical study and not be put in a cemetery. We have no children to tend our graves, and we probably would not want them to feel like they had to. Sometimes I have a pang of regret that I will not have any tangible reminder of my life out there to tell stories to future generations.












Sunday, June 27, 2010

Tangled Trees


Today, I finally finished a painting I had been working on for almost two weeks. It ended up being considerably more detailed than I anticipated, but painting it helped me work my way through the tangled emotions and situations I have dealt with lately.

I painted my way through hurt, anger, pain and rejection. Through Dad's heart catheterization, watching a dear friend deteriorate from Alzheimer's, and waiting with a friend for results of her lung biopsy, which, unfortunately, came back positive.

This looks more difficult to do than it really is. The main requirements are patience and persistence. Sometimes I get lost in my own forests.

But I always find my way out.

Cousins

I had a wonderful reunion with some of my first cousins yesterday. I don't think we ever really intended for as much time to go by between visits, but life has a habit of getting in the way sometimes.

I grew up in a time where all the cousins came to visit the grandparents and sometimes stayed for days at a time. Even though most of them are older than I am, they made time to play with me and take me out for ice cream at the local malt shop. There were no computers, video games, or cable TV back then, so we entertained each other. I have to wonder if cousins today bond like we bonded back then.

Some of the cousins have been knocked around by life. One has appeared on the 6 o'clock news more than once. Another is about to embark on his third (I hope this one is the charm!) marriage. One could not make it because she is undergoing treatment for cancer.

We all left with updated contact information and a resolution to not let this much time elapse before we get together again.




Saturday, June 26, 2010

Invite

I received an e-mail this week inviting me to consider submitting a painting for an upcoming art show in Jackson. The theme is "Paris" and I tried to think of what I could do with my present capabilities to paint something that would, at least, be in keeping with the spirit of this city.

Since my grape paintings have been popular, I decided to try adding a bottle of wine to my grapes. I was pleased with the result and submitted it for consideration. To my delight, it was accepted and it now sits, framed and ready for its' journey.

Now if it will just make its' way from the show to someone's home. And some money make its' journey into my pocketbook! :)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Peace

I made some decisions last night that have brought me a sense of peace that I have not had in weeks.

Peace is good...


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Unraveled

I saw a familiar name yesterday on Facebook. She had responded to one of my Facebook friends. She was an acquaintance of mine a number of years ago. At the time, she was young, fairly newly married, and seemed to have a pretty good life.

Out of curiosity, I clicked on her name. Most of her profile was viewable, so I started reading her wall. What I read made me sad. She and her husband have divorced and it sounds like she turns to alcohol for solace more often than is healthy. She has money troubles. She mentioned spending Christmas Day at a casino while the children were with their dad. She breaks up and goes back with a man who she herself describes as not being good or healthy for her.

I have not seen this woman in 20 years or so. I have to wonder what happened to make her once promising life unravel so.

I pray that she can figure out how to knit the good parts of her life together, find ways to cope with the bad, and find happiness once again.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Struggling

Trying to stay positive is a struggle right now. I am trying to just keep a low profile until I can be perky again.

I have to wonder if my many friends who love to read would take it well if they could not read more than about an hour a day, and that not all at once. I am not taking temporary here, but permanent.

I have to wonder if my friends who love to sing would take kindly to not being able to sing a recital or concert anymore? Again, permanently.

How many people who truly cherish the ability to send handwritten, heartfelt letters to friends and family would be able to see typewritten correspondence as a genteel substitute?

Which of my artist friends would be content to have to paint in painfully slow increments? Not much is more frustrating that having to look at that unfinished painting while the desire is so keen. No end in sight for this one either.

Picture the above as being the things you most love to do and they are all limited at best, impossible at worst.

I am looking for options. Ways to adapt without going stir crazy. They have to be out there.

Somewhere.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Doc Roulette

A discussion I read yesterday about doctors and medical care got me to thinking about my own batch of doctors and whether or not I could do away with more of them.

My most important doc is probably my neuromuscular diseases specialist. After taking an antibiotic prescribed by a doc not versed in MG and ending up in University hospital in crisis, I don't think I would want to do without this one. Keep.

My pulmonary doc is probably second on the list. Breathing is kind of important. Due to multiple respiratory issues (moderate, persistent asthma, so far benign spots on my lungs, and moderate to severe sleep apnea) my insurance will only pay for stuff like my C-Pap, nebulizer, and multiple, pricey asthma meds if they are prescribed by a pulmonologist. Keep.

My PCP is probably the next most important doc. He is very good about keeping up with what all my other doctors do. He is a preferred provider and can do my blood work without it costing me an arm and two legs. Keep!

My gastroenterologist would come next. With the history of bleeding ulcers, GERD, and pre-cancerous colon polyps, I think seeing him once a year is pretty reasonable. Keep.

My GYN is still pretty important, even though I had a total hysterectomy years ago. Because I have no family history of breast cancer, I choose to take HRT to help protect my heart and bones (as well as keep me fit to live with). According to him, precancerous cells can occasionally reoccur in tissue surrounding the cervix, even after said cervix has been removed. I can live with one visit a year. Keep.

Without my chiropractor, I would be screaming. I could live without him, but I might not want to! KEEP!

Otolaryngologist is a keeper on an as-needed basis. I am a singer. This guy has the equipment to look at my vocal cords. Hearing and balance doc is still on tap if my 30 year on and off dizziness decides to come back. I think I can get my PCP to prescribe my Epi-Pen. No real need to go to the allergy doc. He can't do a thing about the food allergies. Arthritis doc? Jury still out. I do want to protect my joints as much as possible. This has gotten fairly severe in a fairly short time.

In this litigious society, a lot of PCP's and Family docs are afraid to tackle anything but the basics. At least around here. I can't say that I blame them. Insurance requirements also play a part in making doc decisions.

I guess my top six stay. At least for now. :P










Friday, June 18, 2010

Good Grips

A trip to Bed, Bath, and Beyond brought me an unexpected happy this week. I went in for some other things, and, as always, I have to browse through the kitchen gadgets.

Whilst browsing, I came upon a section called "Good Grips." These tools have handles that are thicker, softer, and easier to grip than conventional tools. Of course, they are also a bit pricier.


One that I decided to invest in immediately was this jar opener. I was a bit skeptical, but I figured that $7.99 was an acceptable gamble. I took it home and tried it out.

This thing is like a miracle. I was able to get the lids off pimento jars (pretty much impossible for me) with no problem. My new jar of Hellman's mayo? A snap!

Best of all, I can get the lid off the "Yes" paste I use for making art collages. That alone made it well worth the price.




Thursday, June 17, 2010

Routine

The older I get, the more I find myself comforted by routine things. Maybe it is the Methodist in me. While some rail against the structure, I never tire of responding to the preacher's "The Lord be with You" with "And also with You." I never tire of the Apostles' Creed or The Lord's Prayer.

My dear Episcopal priest friend has called me the "Chinese Soprano" for over 20 years because my license plate says "I SING." I can't imagine him greeting me any other way. My friend Teresa and I have a routine of responding to most statements with a line from a song or a movie. Henry, (God Bless Him) will pose for a "geek shot" of the Vulcan "Live Long and Prosper" salute when we are together. My friend Andie and I both love pie and exchange "pie shots" by cellphone.

When I am asked how I am, my standard response is "I'm Doing!" I can't remember who I stole it from, but it has come in handy. It is a graceful answer to a question whose answer would bore most people to tears. It is my routine response.

One routine I desperately miss, even after almost 20 years, is my mom's routine response when she answered my phone calls. I would give anything to hear "Hey baby girl" just one more time.

I think there is a difference between "routine" and a "rut." I don't want to get so rigid that I cannot flex.

But I crave the warmth and comfort of routine.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Layers

*****Warning***** This post may been seen as whining. You might want to skip it. :P


FIrst of all, I promise I am getting to the end of these posts. Still just mostly talking to myself.

I have been in some degree of constant pain since I was 13. I am 50 now, so that it 37 years.

It started when I had my growth spurt. As I grew, my back curved. This was before routine scoliosis screenings in schools, so I was not diagnosed or treated for a condition that could have saved me much of the pain I experience now.

When I was 18, I was in a bus crash that fractured my back between the shoulder blades. I still have some level of chronic discomfort from that. Add that to the scoliosis.

About this time also, I began having symptoms of GERD. Anyone who has ever had severe reflux can attest to the fact that this can be quite painful. Especially in the days before medications for this condition were common. Add that to the scoliosis and back injury pain.

All of this was manageable. No big deal.

In my thirties I began to experience more severe problems with my back, aggravated by the scoliosis. Bulging discs in my lower back left me unable to walk at more than a shuffle, put on my own shoes, or lift my feet into my car without help. Thankfully, I have been greatly helped by a wonderful series of chiropractors who have kept this pain manageable for the past 15 years. Add this to the scoliosis, the back injury and the GERD.

Shortly before I turned 40, I began experiencing severe pain down my arms. I was unable to hold a glass, so everything I drank had to be through a straw while the glass was sitting on a solid surface. This went on for a year until doctors finally discovered the ruptured disc in my neck and did surgery to remove this and fuse my spine.

My forties began a merry-go-round of medical odysseys. Now I added cervical spondylosis (arthritis of the neck) to the mix, as well as degenerative disc disease ( the discs have eroded, leaving bone on bone), and spinal stenosis (a narrowing of the bones surrounding the spinal cord, leading to irritation of the nerves).

Add short term pain from a total hysterectomy, an appendectomy, a spinal fusion, a complicated tonsillectomy (included some severe hemorrhaging), surgery to wrap my stomach around my esophagus, and injuries to both knees from a fall, I have rarely had a real break from pain in a very long time.

I have been experiencing pain in my hands for about a year that gets bad enough at times to keep me awake at night. Monday, when I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in my hands, it was just one more thing. And I was bummed.

I will put on my big girl pants and deal with it. I just have to get it all in perspective.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Safe Place


*****Warning***** Talking to myself again. Some may see this as whining. You might want to skip it. :P




Some days I feel like my "safe places" are becoming smaller and smaller. This applies to both physical and mental places. The places I am feel safe going, especially at night, are getting fewer and fewer. I used to feel pretty safe going almost anywhere, but not anymore. I am especially missing that sense of safety now that it is getting hot and nighttime would be my preferred time to get out.

My loss of mental and emotional safe places is even more keenly felt. I am hesitant to ask for support or prayer because others have "REAL troubles." Any expression of real feeling constitutes "drama" to some. I am afraid to express my feelings to any but the smallest handful of people now. I spent years in therapy being encouraged by my therapists to acknowledge the feelings I spent my whole life stuffing down until I was close to ending my life to end the pain.

I don't want to become a whiner. I don't want to dwell on the negative. I try to be the supporter, rather than the one who needs supporting. But, sometimes I am the one who needs support and understanding.

I pray to find safe places and safe people.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Validation

*****Warning***** This might be construed by some as whining, so you might want to skip it! :P I am more just thinking out loud than anything.


When I was in counseling school one of the things I learned about was the validation of feelings. This involved truly listening to the client and honoring their feelings without judging, whether I agreed with these feelings or not. To judge, try to fix, or belittle these feelings resulted in something called "secondary wounding." Often, this hurts worse than the initial event.

Another thing I learned is that most responses to events are not created solely by that particular event. Responses are filtered through a maze of past experiences, both good and bad.

I am recognizing that my reaction to my arthritis diagnosis has its' roots in several things. One is a fear that this could be the start of another massive body breakdown like I experienced at 40 with the onset of my MG, food allergies, and asthma. Another is flashbacks to seeing the gnarled hands of my nursing home patients that left many of them with sharp minds, but the inability to do the simplest tasks (wiping their butts, for example) for themselves. Another is losing the ability to paint that I have come to cherish so much. I am not Van Gogh or Monet, but this is something that has allowed me to give back something to my community and helped me build back up the self-esteem that has been lost with my career and ability to sing for more than very short bits of time.

So, now I am doing with myself what I used to do with my clients. I have acknowledged my fears and honored them as MY fears. Now I am in a position to dispute what is not really rational.

Osteoarthritis, unlike rheumatoid is not autoimmune. Although I have a better than average chance of developing another autoimmune disease (my asthma, MG, and allergies are all autoimmune) this is no harbinger of what might come.

With better treatments, there should be fewer people in the shape that my precious nursing home patients are in now. They did not have access to many of the things that can make a big difference now.

And hopefully, on the art front, no matter what happens, I will find some way to express myself.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Arthritis Part 2

*****Warning***** This might be construed by some as whining, so you might want to skip it! :P I am more just thinking out loud than anything.



I want to preface this with acknowledgment of the fact that arthritis is not cancer. It is not Lou Gehrig's Disease. Nothing that drastic. And I am duly thankful not to have any of the aforementioned diseases.

Arthritis is a common, treatable disease. There are a number of things that can be done for it, IF one is an otherwise healthy adult. However, if one is not an otherwise healthy adult, things get a little trickier. With my history of bleeding ulcers, NSAIDS are not recommended. A regular increase in my steroids can cause problems with blood sugar and osteoporosis. Pills need to be avoided so that my liver does not have to handle the stress of yet more medication. Some of the treatments can cause problems with my MG or asthma. Some things can't be used because they are related to foods that I am allergic to.

After brainstorming, we decided on a prescription topical gel that hopefully bypasses all the potential pitfalls and will help manage the symptoms.

It has taken me a day of tears to get used to the idea of managing one more thing. i will deal. I just have to get used to the idea.

And I will.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Arthritis

I haz it. Fortunately, I was thankful that it is not rheumatoid, but the more common, degenerative, osteoarthritis. It is in multiple joints in both hands.

I was kind of hoping for some fluke thing that would be temporary and would go totally away with some easy treatment. No such luck.

Not wanting to take any more pills than I already do, I was prescribed a topical cream that may help the pain some. But, the pain is not the main issue for me.

The issues for me are the loss of my ability to write legibly for any length of time. To be able to button my buttons. I have given up using brands of things which have caps too difficult to remove. I slide my money across the counter, rather than risk dropping it on the floor.

Of course, painting is where I feel the loss of function most keenly. My hands shake too much to stay inside a sketch (even if I could SEE said sketch, which is another story.) and I can no longer do detail work that requires exact placement of my brush. This has been a blessing in some ways, because the styles that have evolved from my disabilities are selling and getting me noticed.

I have to admit, I was hoping to be just a bit older before I had to deal with osteoarthritis on top of everything else. But, now that I have a name, I can set about finding the tools that will enable me to function the best I can with what I have.

But, I would like a break before anything else develops.

kthxbye

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Hallelujah!

After 2 weeks of almost literal weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth, our church website is back on line.

This process involved people in 3 states and two continents. We had to free ourselves from a company in Australia (I have no earthly idea WHY our previous website was hosted by an Aussie company) with lousy customer service (6 days to answer an email request for support???) before we could transfer over to a reliable US company with good customer service.

Being the most tech savvy (and I use that term loosely!) of the people dealing with the new website, it fell to me to sort things out and get us up and running again. I learned a lot in the process. I may not be the sharpest tool in the techie shed, but, by golly, I am the most tenacious!

Visit crawfordstreetumc.org and see what all the fuss is about!