Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Like salt and pepper.

i have a friend. She inspires one to exercise greatness. Well, at least she inspires one to watch exercise greatness.

Recently i rejoined the gym i used to belong to, and that she has belonged to all this time i've been struggling with the whole fibromyalgia thing. She's over 40, toned and terrific looking. i am in awe. But the fact that i feel good enough to go back to the gym says much for the mighty and miraculous workings of Cymbalta.

She is sweet enough to come down to my level and join me on the treadmills. Side by side we walk and talk--she at breakneck speed, her incline at heart-strain steepness, me wandering slowly, which is all it takes to keep my heart rate in the goal range.

i was on the treadmill recently when she was taking a step class. Do you all know what a step class is?? There's a wide free-standing and stackable step in front of each participant. The work-out consists of various bouncy, constantly moving steps and turns and arm motions, all set to disco beat music. Think "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" on Ritalin. Friend Sabrina-Frugalina was a-boppin' and a-movin' through the routine with a spring in her step and constant motion for an hour. i gazed in amazement from my ambling gait on the treadmill.

It occurred to me what different roles in life we take--she is the spiciness of pepper, jazzing up anything nearby. She's a full-on participator.
i am salt. i count on simply enhancing other flavors, my life is more like a slow-simmer. Crock pot cooking.

Our gym and life soundtracks would greatly differ as well. Hers is the sound of an energetic disco Christmas, mine is the sound of Brahm's lullaby, slow and lulling.

i'm not judging the different styles, but she gets way more done. And has a tighter butt.

Monday, December 01, 2008


The face of too much shopping.

Of goofy faces...

and happy faces.

The face of being played out...

and of girl-play...

and total cuteness.

The face of frustration...

of exploration...
and autumn leaves...

and leaf-play.

The faces of family.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The 50s Thanksgiving celebration.

Me playing at being the consummate 50s hostess.

left to right: Daughter Corinne's hubby Luis, his brother Fabian, Corinne in front of them. Son Jarel, barely peeking out from the back with my hubby Dean at back center. Dorothy (Candie's mother-in-law) with daughter Candie to her right. Fabian's girlfriend Hanna peeking out between them. Candie's husband Charles at back right, and their two lovely girls, Cassidy and Haley. Note the lovely cranberry gelatin mold in front. ;-)

Cassidy and Haley dressed up to match Grandma Julie's 50s theme.
i believe a good time was had by all.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Things that make you say "hmmm..."

The weirdest thing heard today over the loudspeaker at my local thrift store:

"There's a black BMW in the parking lot with its lights on."


Monday, November 24, 2008

A 1950s Thanksgiving.

Well, i've been back from England for nearly a week now, and my body and brain might just be getting back on the right time zone. Between the usual loads of laundry and piles of dishes, i've been looking up recipes. When thinking about the Thanksgiving menu, daughter Cori came up with the idea of casseroles--from there we jumped to the idea of a 1950s theme. Jello mold anyone?

So i've been cruising the internet for foods in gelatin. What else says 50s like Jello with grated vegetables in it? i've found some great sounding recipes, though, to my surprise! i mean, for me personally, if it contains cream cheese i will come. Or cranberries and pineapple. These sound good to me.

i also need an interesting dessert, besides the pecan pie i can't help but make. Any 50s desserts ideas?

Oh--and i will be wearing my pearls and best apron.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Not my cup of tea.

Tea is a big thing here in England. i've known since i was a little girl that tea is very English and queenly, pinkies held high, full of mannerlyness and whatnot. And aren't tea parties pretty much the symbol of childhood imagination?

Tea is no imaginary happening here in the damp U.K. And tea has rules. To do tea properly there should be a teaPOT, not just a cup. Aforementioned teapot should be heated before making the tea, milk should go in the cup at a certain point... It's not simply a drink, it's an event. And there must be biscuits. And how much do i love a place where a "biscuit" is a cookie!

The weather is overwhelmingly conducive to the idea of a warming beverage. The boiler man comes in from the average gale force wind and rain to fix your boiler, and you offer him a nice hot cup of tea with biscuits. The moving men carrying boxes in the rain are offered tea. It is a polite and thoughtful country that way.

During this visit to England the house's boiler went out. Now, a boiler going out in winter England is like the time we rented a convertible in mid-summer Las Vegas--a bad idea. In England, the boiler is the source of not only hot water for bathing and dishwashing, but heat for the radiators. So, no boiler, no heat. No heat in this passage of autumn to winter in England? A bad idea gone tragic.

So the boiler guy comes in from one of the more thoroughly nasty days i've seen--freezing cold rain coming sideways, trees blowing, wind howling. He's covered in mud from waist to toes from his previous job.

"It's been quite a day!" he greets me cheerfully, wiping his feet. i am wearing two shirts, two sweaters, jeans, a scarf, two pairs of socks and am clutching a blanket around me.

Daughter Shawn says to her English hubby that she's going to offer the boiler man a cup of tea. Jon says, "Let me make the tea." Apparently there is some discussion in this household over what constitutes the proper cup of tea. Shawn has had a bad experience with tea-making for her fully British husband. He explains.

"When I have tea, I want it strong. And you should never use full fat milk, that's too creamy. You should taste the tea." i flashed back to a memory of my first cup of tea at his parents' house when we came to meet them years ago. His grandmother offered us tea and after pouring asked if we cared for milk in it.

"Oh no," i casually waved the idea away, "i usually drink it black," i smiled at her. One sip and i understood the offer. A serious cup of English tea peals the taste buds right off your tongue.

For Shawn and i, a cup of tea is sweet comfort. Creamy with milk, sweetened with honey, warm and soothing. i guess that for any proper Englishman or woman, if you come away with taste buds and without extra hair on your chest, you haven't had a proper cup of tea.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A very cool gift.

i'm quite sure Ellie decided to hold off on walking until Grandma Julie arrived from America. On her first birthday, November 7, she decided it was time. Lucky, lucky Grandma!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Need i say more?

Ellie (just turned 1) & big brother Elias (5 1/2)

mum Shawn with Elias & Euan (4 in January)
Ellie the charmer

Grandma julie's wet hair is pretty interesting.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Those sturdy English.

i arrived today in England.

It just so happened to be the day they're celebrating Guy Fawkes day and Bonfire night. Having been told "layers, think lots of layers," i put on 2 shirts and a sweatshirt under my coat, and 2 pairs of socks under my new warm boots. i topped the whole ensemble with my recently purchased scarf, gloves, and cute hat. If not prepared, i was at least adorable.

We drove tthe 3 kids to a friend's house to park, then several families set off in the pitch black muddy evening for the field where the celebration would take place. i was handed an umbrella and fell into step behind numerous strollers with babies and rain baggies over them, and countless more small school children in wellies (rubber boots) and raincoats. The cloud of well covered adults and children moved off in a large gnat-like cloud to the field. The cloud grew larger as excited children and parents gravitated toward the rope separating us from the huge bonfire in the middle of the field.

Did i mention the whole "pitch black" thing? Here were families upon families, chatting and playing and standing bundled in the freezing rain like they were having a tea party. In the darkness, everyone looked the same to me--tall and short dark bodies with vaguely seen faces above, cheerfully saying "hello" to me as i was introduced.

Normal, it was all perfectly normal to these sturdy English. Rain, blowing like ice needles into your face? Normal. Slogging along a country road through muddy piles of leaves in the pitch black? Normal. Fireworks in the rain? All normal. Me? i kept wrapping and wrapping my scarf around my neck and wishing for a third pair of socks under my new boots.

i looked around at the crowd and asked Jon, my son-in-law, "how many people do you think are here?" He said, "Oh, probably a hundred, hundred-fifty." He laughed and said, "You'd probably have a thousand!" (i do after all, live in a populated area in California.) i said, "Oh no-we would have totally called it on account of rain!"

A good time was had by all, and on the bright side, i think i will only lose the one toe to frostbite.

Here's a fun link to explain the Guy Fawkes celebration.

i'll wait for daylight to get photos of the grandBrits to post.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Talking life more than politics.

This election year has fascinated me.

i must admit to being pretty uninterested in years past. Partly that was a function of the party going on in my head, filled with parental voices and doubts that i could indeed live a viable adult life. i couldn't hear myself over the noise until my 3rd round with a mental health professional. (i view this process of understanding myself as peeling off the layers of an onion. It appears i'm a slow peeler, still peeling after 55 years.)

This year i have finally been able to watch and learn and listen to the issues. i have people around me voting opposite sides for various reasons. Problem is, i've been unaware of so many of the issues it's been a huge undertaking to try to understand even a portion. Foreign policy, wars, environmentmental issues, pro-life, pro-choice, issues of the economy as it heads for the Big Flush, and much more. i "get" more than i did, but i still understand merely a crumb from the cookie.

Foreign policy: i know little of foreign policy, other than the fact the U.S. has apparently ticked off a lot of other nations with our adolescent superiority. Not a good thing for getting along with the rest of the planet.

War: i know only a tiny bit more about war--and only from a personal-life basis. Between the war's effect on my father and the imbalances of my mother, my siblings and i grew up in a domestic war zone. i never heard of my father's training time in Australia, i only knew the horrors of combat in Korea. i knew the man who sat us down in the living room with a gun and threatened to put us all "in the ground." My sister tells me he was a bright and accomplished student. i'm sorry i never met that man--that would be a good memory in the mix.

Environmental issues: Again, a tiny bit. i grew up in the lush beauty of Portland, Oregon. When i see the green of a forest or woods my soul sighs with happiness. i'm pro-happy-environment. Now, at 55, i have many things floating about in the attic of my head--one is the childhood memory of building a snow woman (complete with breasts) in our front yard, another is the Snoopy on his doghouse i snow-sculpted one winter. i could honestly think i'm losing big chunks of brain cells, because now if i talk about the snow of my childhood, people act as if they should humor the crazy lady--it doesn't snow in PORTLAND. So my personal experience says the environment is changing. i don't know much other than the junk in the air bothers my asthma, AND IT DID SO USED TO SNOW IN PORTLAND!

The Economy: Experience tells me it's hard to get by. Partly because i'm not willing to give up satellite tv and other niceties, admittedly. Partly because our adolescent country is in that "I want to learn it the hard way!" stage. Two hundred years plus is pretty young as countries go, but the bad part about that? What takes a teen 4 years to learn takes a country decades. The me-first mentality hasn't been curbed in our adolescent economy. People are suffering, and not just the big guys who have to make do with two vacation houses instead of three, but the regular folk who just need to see a dentist but have no coverage and no extra money beyond their day to day costs of living.

Pro-life, Pro-choice--always an issue for me. i know my sister dealt with a childhood that was far less than affirming. Mine wasn't so great, but i was the baby and skated by more easily. But having grown up in an environment filled with the toxicity of cigarette smoke and anger, i still don't regret having the chance to live. i'm thankful i've been on this earth long enough to go to school, make friends, give birth, adopt, do foster care--and oh yeh, marry a really good guy.

Though formerly a girl who thought marriage was for suckers and child raising frightening, i had the chance to meet someone who changed my view on marriage. Then i learned i loved the nurturing-growing-teaching-loving parts of child raising. i know that none of them have found the path to adulthood a peachy-keen-no-sweat road. But they're all amazing, and make my soul sigh with pleasure, almost as much as those forests and woods. (KIDDING!) i'm beyond thankful for the opportunities i've had to nurture those lives.

i'm grateful for the chances i've had to care for foster babies and teens in distress, hopefully giving them some sense of self-worth by being loved without condition. Our son, now 20, was born nearly 3 months premature to a cocaine addict. 28 weeks gestation, a big 3 pounds, he fought for 5 months before being released from the hospital. He was the age of pre-born children some would still consider disposable. He's a tender-hearted boy with learning disabilities and his share of difficulties. And like my other children, i cannot imagine my life without him. i do worry about some of the changes in the U.S. Some have been a long time coming, but i do worry about the issue of "choice." Whose choice, the baby's or the mom's? i'm thankful, even with the difficulties i've faced, to have had a chance to live and grow.

Anyway, if you've made it this far through my mental life/political purge, congrats. If you had to skim a LOT, just read below.

Skimmer's recap: i'm glad i had the chance for this life of mine. i don't understand a whole lot about world issues, but i've gotten to do some pretty great stuff. And that includes building snowmen in Portland. Seriously!! i can show you pictures!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

What's wrong with this picture?

i'll give you a hint: it's a cookbook and i've been using one.

i've been cooking lately. Purposely. And enjoying it.

Anyone who knows me well is aware of my many kitchen casualties. i've eaten the burned cookies/burned toast so often over the years that now if it doesn't taste like carbon it doesn't taste right. My children will not be gathered after the funeral saying "I only wish I'd learned to cook like Mom--"

But lately i've been cooking, making meals, trying new things. i've always loved cookbooks and recipes in magazines, and have ripped out more recipes from magazines over the years than there've been days in my life. i've thrown away piles of recipes i've never tried. But like i said, "lately..."

i've organized my recipes (again) and tossed a pile of them (again.) But i'm feelin' it, i'm feelin' the cooking vibe. It may be the season--the change to autumn brings visions of hot chocolate and pot roast with gravy (well, not together.) Possibly that's inspired me to look for new cold weather dishes. i actually made a pork tenderloin roast with a lovely orange and honey glaze with its accompanying chunky homemade applesauce. Don't remember what i served with it, i'm just so impressed with myself over the roast. Twice that week i cooked from a real recipe and twice it was good!

i refuse to discuss the other meals that week.

Monday, October 06, 2008

When credit cards amuse.

i received one of those "Important Notice of Change in Terms" papers in my credit card bill.

i must admit that sort of thing is usually filed without reading. What compelled me to read it this time i don't know. But what i now realize is that had i known how amusing these titillatingly titled missives could be i would have been reading them all along.

Paragraph 1 included many Boldfaced and Capitalized words along with this friendly statement: "Please see below for the Summary of Changes and your right to not accept the changes to your APRs." Oh! A choice! How very American of them.

Paragraph 2 gave the rundown of rediculously high rate changes for Overdraft Advances and Cash Advances. This included the invitation to accept their graciously offered rediculously high new Default APR with its new variable rate. Hmm. Such an offer.

Paragraph 3 told me of my "Right to Opt Out (not accept) the changes in the APRs." Very decent of them! All i need do is write them a letter politely declining: "As tempting as your offer for unbelievably higher and unpredictable rates sounds, I think I'll stick with your previously merely laughable rates."

Paragraph 4 clarified "What it means if you choose not to accept these APR changes." Ah! Let us see what provision has been made for this: "These APR changes will not apply." Cool. My letter changes everything. i'm pleased. Next sentence: "Your account will be closed and your card will no longer be available for use."

Huh. So much for "Options."

Skimmer's recap: When a credit card says you have options, it really means you have none.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

On turning 55.

i turned 55 on the 9th, and the 11th was our 32nd anniversary. We had the anniversary date loong before it became a week to be filled with tv shows about the Twin Towers and terrorists.

i'm weirdly happy to be 55--i can get the Tuesday Senior's discount at Ross Dress for Less, and i'm sure other good things will come. i'm even celebrating the big 55 by making a scrapbook called "55 Things About Me" which i will fill with a list of stuff i like, places i've lived, stuff like that. i am "marking the occasion" rather than letting it slide by.

So today i thought "wonder what i'll get if i do a Google search for images about age 55?" And here's the first thing i found, thanks to Gosnell Realtors--

i am SO done looking.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

"Good morning" takes on a new meaning.

poplar tree in our backyard

i've been having some good mornings lately.

i say this because i've never really been a morning person, but morning has been less friendly with the fibromyalgia. If you've read this blog before, you probably remember that i've whined heartily about the Fentanyl withdrawals and the fact of that experience leaving me with even less energy than before.

But changes seem to be in the wind--i've taken adrenal support supplements for a few months, and am now on Cymbalta, the pharmaceutical recently proclaimed on commercials as the answer to my fibro pain. We shall see how it goes, but whether from the time passed from initial withdrawals till now, or the adrenal improvement or the Cymbalta, i'm finally able to wake up at a decent hour and get out of bed! (By "decent" i refer to hours starting at 7, not the indecent time my hubby gets up-- 4:20am.)

The simple act of being able to wake up and get up is one i haven't been in touch with for a while. The fibromyalgia, diagnosed about 3 1/2 years ago, has changed my usual world of "i really don't want to get up" into "i feel really exhausted still and i'm too sore to move anyhow, so i really don't want to get up." They're simply different by degrees--did i mention i've never been a morning person??!

The extra good part of mornings lately is that in this end of a Castro Valley August, the weather is clear and even on the hot days the mornings are lovely and breezy. The balcony outside our second floor bedroom invites me to sit and listen.

my treehouse nook

i am a lucky girl. (Okay, a seriously over 50 girl, but still...) When our second floor was added and the balcony made, it had no covering over top. Me, being the delicate flower that i am, suggested that protection from the elements would be good. Dear hubby did that. So now i have a lovely treehouse nestled in the branches of the poplar tree, or so it seems.

Do you notice the sounds of morning are different than later in the day? And the sounds carry through the air differently in the summer? My nest asks me to shhhh and listen.....the constant soft swishing of the traffic on the freeway a mile away, the rhythmic thrum of my bedroom ceiling fan...the workman's tools two doors down...the rustling of the poplar tree's leaves. Listening has become a calming practice of feeling outside my own body and its pain, of being strictly in that moment, a meditation of sorts.

Skimmer's recap: Not a morning person. Mornings improving. Good morning to me.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The softer side of SWAT.

Enrico Colantini in Flashpoint
Apparently i'm drawn to Canadians.

First there's my dear friend Equichick8 and her totally enjoyable family from Manitoba, then came Corner Gas--introduced to me by my Canadian friend. Hubby and i have become quite addicted. It's light, it's funny, one of those things that makes me laugh out loud. Now there's Flashpoint, the new Canadian series on CBS. Here's the write-up from AOL television:

Inspired by the real-life Emergency Task Force of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, this taut police drama chronicles the efforts of the Strategic Response Unit (SRU), an elite and highly skilled group of cops charged with rescuing hostages, defusing bombs and breaking up gangs. The series title comes from another part of their job, however: getting inside a suspect's head and discoverying his emotional "flashpoint" that triggered the crisis in the first place.

i wanted to see this because i love the actor Enrico Colantoni--most recently seen as the father on Veronica Mars, the show where one could gain satisfaction from watching the cute high school outcast say all the things you always wish you'd said.

The curious bit to hubby and i in Flashpoint is the extremely sensitive overtones to the show about hard hitting SWAT team members as they go through their daily business of catching bad guys and saving lives. Now, SWAT and sensitive don't seem to readily go together in my brain, but who knows? Maybe SWAT teams regularly have the touching moments as shown on Flashpoint. Now, i do love Colantoni, but this jury is still out on the subject of the softer side of SWAT. But Corner Gas is here to stay.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

My life as a toothpaste tube.

If the picture above symbolizes my energy level before the Fentanyl, Oxycontin, Morphine, & Methadone experiment....the one below is my energy level after.

From barely there to totally twisted, tweaked, and wrung out. (And a different brand and color, but who's counting?)

This week i have helped paint the house's front porch from top to bottom (new siding so new everything-gets-painted) and today i will help with either painting the trim on the house or cutting siding for the third outside wall of the house.

above: the new roof & dormer construction, with new siding, new windows, and new paint.

Therefore, i must assume i am beginning to come back from the dead! Maybe i will live past this Opiate Interruption after all. Woohoo.

Skimmer's recap: Ah come on, buck up!! This one was stinking short!!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Apricot Thoughts.

The bible verse that kept me going during my recent Fentanyl withdrawal experiment was the one about the vine and the branch, where Jesus says, "I am the vine and you are the branch. If anyone remains in me and I in them, he will bear much fruit. Without me you can do nothing." (That's a loose-ish paraphrase of John 15:5.) While i was feeling so detached from life i needed to feel attached still to my Creator, so i would repeat it but from my end of it: "You are my vine, i am your branch." It's yet another version of something i've said to God in the past while going through what seemed an impossible situation: "i may not be able to see You right now, but i will not turn my back on You."

You see, i remain aware of His thoughts toward me, and his persistence in loving me even when i don't seem to be able to carry off my end of the deal. Sometimes simply voicing that desire for connection with God has helped me hold on.

Anyway, later in reading a random bible verse i read something written by the apostle Paul to the Christians in Colosse, "Let your roots grow down into Him and draw up nourishment from Him so you will grow in faith, strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught." (Colossians 2:7.) These thoughts meshed for me. i choose to remain attached to the vine that is Jesus, and that is because i will then stay rooted to the source of nourishment, and will stay strong.

Recently i picked apricots from my daughter's tree with the help of her two girls, Haley and Cassidy. A few branches here and there had been broken away at their place of connection to the bigger tree. The only apricots they held were stunted and dried up, inedible. Other branches were heavy with apricots, growing vigorously from their solid connection to the tree, and were ripe and plump and beautifully colored.

Even i get the visual there--remaining strongly rooted to the source of nutrients grows plentiful, enjoyable fruit. The interruptions of life that we may let break us away from the tree causes dryness and immaturity of fruit.

Good stuff.

Skimmer's recap (and no, hubby of mine, i cannot set this blog up to send you only the skimmer section, sorry--): Attached to the tree= healthy growth. Not attached=little growth if any growth at all.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Habits of Happy People.

First off, welcome back to me! i say. Nearly a month is way too long for any self-respecting blogger to go between posts--

Friday i went back to the Chronic Pain Management Class at Kaiser for my 2 month follow-up day. Other than the nurses trying to kill me by having us do ALL the strength exercises i have not been doing faithfully, it was a good day. Even an encouraging day.

The last thing of the day was time spent with the psychologist--she spoke of Intentional Happiness. What is that, you ask? Why, i would be *happy* to tell you, i answer.

The psychologist started out by commenting that for all the years there have been studies to define the many types of mental/emotional illnesses and their treatments, no studies had been done on people who are well-balanced and happy in their lives. Surprising, you comment? Truthfully i had never given it a moment's thought, i respond.

This study was done with a goal of ascertaining what differentiates a person's capacity for happiness or unhappiness, thriving or failing. It encompassed people who had lived through horrible circumstances and events: the holocaust, loss of children, illnesses, etc. Those who survived and thrived had several habits in common. But first to set the stage:

If you draw a circle representing 100% happiness in your life, what percentage of that circle do you suppose genetics plays a part in? Take a guess--no really, just guess! i was totally off. It's FIFTY PERCENT! This would include things such as coming from a long line of family members with depression and/or anxiety, other illnesses both mental and physical such as a predisposition toward cancer, diabetes, etc. So HALF your happiness is affected by genetics. (Again i apologize, dear Corinne, child of birth--you are so screwed.)

Now, of the 50% remaining, what percentage do you think you are solely responsible for? This includes your behavior and habits, that sort of thing, the parts only you control. FORTY PERCENT!! That's right. A whole hunk of it is up to us. Our choices. Our habits.

This leaves 10%--that is the percentage determined by circumstances: events, disease, pain and such. A mere 10%. BUT, and here's the kicker, when that 10% starts taking over our thinking and actions, it swallows up the 40% that is our behavior and habits to become FIFTY PERCENT. Holy negativity, Batman!

So--this brings us to the answer to the original question: What are the common habits of happy people?

*Intentional happiness. This is the choice to look for the good--what happened today that was good? What went right? (NOW who's talkin' smack about Pollyanna, huh?)

*Support. The habit of seeking support and working to maintain and improve those supportive relationships.

*Hobbies. Those who thrived in the midst of bad circumstance had hobbies! Since i am a big hobby person i understand this one. My hobbies focus me on the immediate. i have no thoughts of past failure or present pain, i'm lost in the moment. And lest you think a hobby means craftiness, a hobby can be many things that don't mean having shelves full of yarn and scrapbooking supplies and fabric and....yeh. That would be me. A hobby can be as simple as reading a library book, or watching a movie. All hobbies don't require huge amounts of supply space and/or money, they simply are an activity that gives you something to focus on other than your circumstance.

*Flow. This was an unfamiliar term. As soon as the psychologist explained it i understood--that feeling you get when you're doing something that absorbs you and puts you in the moment? That's flow. For me all those hobbies i mentioned, the reading/creating and such, those put me in "flow."

*Meaning. Finding meaning for life is a habit of a happy person. For me there have been many things that contributed to that--none of which i can do as easily any more, given my energy-free life. Once upon a time i loved providing infant foster care, i loved being a part of students' lives for the years i worked in the church high school department. i loved providing a safe space for the occasional teen who needed a place to stay. i loved (and still love!) loving my kids. i find that i am in a time of redefining what i can do, given the change in health. But that's okay--no place does it say i have to do the exact same things to have meaning in my life. For me it has all been driven by the unconditional love i have known from my Creator God, and the desire to share that in my actions toward others. i need to accept that i will do this in my flawed way, but the desire is there and always has been. i just need to do some thinking to find a different way to perform the acts that give me meaning and purpose.

As simple as this all seems, the practice is the key. My choice to look for the good, to seek support, to find ways to be focused and absorbed and in the moment, to find meaning--these choices are the key to thriving in the midst of crappy circumstance. Crappy circumstances are the things we often see as interruptions in our real life, when in fact they are our life at that moment.

Skimmer's recap: Half your potential for thriving in life is determined by your genes. Only 10% is determined by your circumstance. That leaves 40% dependent on your personal choices and habits. That's a whole lot of control.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Farmers Market chats.

Okay. So i couldn't figure out where the apostrophe goes in the title, so i left it out.

A few Saturdays ago i went to our Castro Valley market held in the parking lot of the BART, our local Bay Area Rapid Transit station. The market had recently opened for this year's nicer weather, and it was my first time attending this year.

It's small, just two shortish rows of vegetables and fruit, with a third row of ready-made yummies such as scones, meat pies, and fudge. (Notice the sweets got two mentions?) A few artisan stands run along the end of the food rows, selling things like jewelry and local honey. One of those stands held necklaces of brightly colored, playfully decorated handcrafted ceramic whistles. i stopped to see the whistles and stayed for the conversation (as i tend to do.)

The whistle crafter was talking to a passerby about relationships, and as soon as i stopped they included me. The subject seemed to be men and the longevity (or lack thereof) of the relationships they'd had, both being divorced. i was the stand-out, nearing our 32nd anniversary in September.

The whistle crafter began talking of the recent reconnection with an old boyfriend of 50 years ago. "Back in the '50s, when you had sex it was in the car with all your clothes on," she said.

Being but a mere babe in the '50s and obviously more shy than she, i managed to mutter an embarrassed "Oh! i did not know that."

"Oh yes," she said, "and he remembers exactly what I was wearing that night--all I remember is that I was shoved up against the steering wheel--"

i honestly can't spell the exact sounds i was making, trying to utter something showing interest without appearing as surprised as i felt by this naked flow of information.

The conversation continued, as i love learning about people's lives, seeing things through another's eyes. The conversation was just the frosting on the cake of my morning full of fresh greens and berries and squash, and the smells surrounding me of the sharpness of arugula and the contrast of a woman's heavy perfume as she passed.

"i loved this day!" i thought as i gathered my bags of fresh romaine, strawberries and golden beets. i was taking home farm fresh squash and the stories of romance past and present of an energetic 70 year old woman. It was the story of two paths diverted and once again crossing because they're both involved in the boards of their local farmers' (farmer's??) market associations, proving that "local, sustainable, and renewable" applies to relationships as well as produce.

Do you have any local market stories of your own? Chance encounters? Favorite fresh foods? Share, please!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Surprises. Good ones.

Yesterday hubby and i went to church at our previously attended church, and had a lovely morning. Changes in the leadership of the church have made an obvious difference--there's a strong emphasis on being sure to teach the congregation, and beyond that to be sure the people understand what's being taught. And then the adult class we attended (and used to attend) has had a new teacher/co-teacher (not sure which, haven't been there in 3 years) and he was good! Intelligent, approachable, all the stuff i look for. That was "good surprise" number 1.

Good surprise number 2 was when hubby and i went to eat lunch out and ran into friends we haven't seen in a long time, with the BONUS of their daughter and her kids who are visiting for the summer from the midwest (sorry Jenner, i never get the state right!!!) She is the daughter of my good friend and boss Adele, who died of cancer in 1999, changing some things in my life forever. That was some walk we took together, Adele and i, she was diagnosed just as we were starting a church volunteer job together in June, and she was gone by Thanksgiving. If that walk was rough as friends, i can only guess at the surface of what her family went through... i remember saying to her hubby, "Boy this seemed to happen fast" and he answered with weary, sad eyes, "Not to me." He has since remarried an amazing woman who i loved watch being Grandma to Jenner's children. i'm pretty excited to get to see Jenner again since she has a whole summer here! And her kids are too much, too cute--her son has a great imagination and filled me in on his love of Legos and the possible scary stuff in the attic, while her daughter drew amazing little pictures that were quite good for a 7 year old. The first picture i saw was of a "BullDog"--it has horns like a bull, and feet like a bull, but it's a dog too ;-) There could be a future for this little lady down the road in the political cartoon arena... Wonder what she'd draw if i told her about our little "hot dogs"....

SO, Jenner! email me or something so we can set up a time to get together!! And i loved finding out you are one of the masses of 5 people who read my blog ;-)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Ant Brigade.

Did you know ants can survive being microwaved?

i wasn't too happy to learn that bit of information. And the reason i learned it was because we had The Infestation of all Infestations. They were marching in from the kitchen's East wall--coming in one line, and splitting into two separate forces. i used my Lysol 4 in 1 to immobilize the troups, and Raid to make their entry and escape route unpleasant (well, deadly was the intention.) As i turned, full of the joy of my successful attack, to my dismay, what did i see but more ants looping the bottom of a cupboard on the North wall, clever devils. So again, i came in strong with my Lysol 4 in 1 with its Raid chaser--but further down the North wall more were attacking silently from the West end. While i took a break to reconsider my counter attack techniques, i put a cup of water in the microwave for tea, and lo and behold, little ant soldiers were scoping out the inside of said microwave.

"This oughta fry 'em!" i said. i mean, i know they're God's little creatures and all that, but death is a reality for all of us, right?

Pulling the cup out, i noticed the undaunted (though likely sterile) ants still marching around the edge of the microwave. Huh.

Adina cleans my kitchen/bathroom/family and dining areas every 2 weeks, so i asked if she would deal with the microwave for sure, telling her about the persistent ants. When i spoke with her later (should i tell this, Adina?) she said, "Ants die at 20 seconds in the microwave!"

In confusion i said, "Oh--it must have been because i had something else in there to absorb the waves..." To which she replied, cheerfully, "Well, if they are on a plate in the middle of the microwave, they only live to 20 seconds."

My hubby said, "So, a little experimentation, hmm?" Yes.

At the moment i've given up on the whole ant brigade, just immobilizing (with my Lysol) and relocating (down the garbage disposal) the troups as i find them, but i hear there's some great stuff in a bottle over at Home Depot that i can buy for my hubby to spray around the windows and foundation of the house (right, honey?) But what do i do about the 8 million little buggers in my yard?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

In honor of Father's Day!!

FIRST (and partly for my own amusement)

stupid things some people's parents have said:

The logic of this one has eluded me for years and years....OH! Maybe because there IS no logic to it.

"WHEN I SAY JUMP I WANT YOU TO SAY 'HOW HIGH?'" This used to drive fear into my heart when my father would say it, but now it makes me giggle. i'm sure he would have preferred a snappy salute and a "SIR!" at the end of the "How high?" Oddly, i'm pretty sure that neither myself or my siblings ever actually answered this request.

One of my personal favorites from a father of a friend:
"I WANT WHAT I WANT!!" Okay, you and every 2 year old in the nation--what makes you think you're special?

SECOND (and because i really really mean this and it's the real point of the post)

HUUUUGE blessings and kudos to all the men out there who avoided those sorts of inane statements, and who have instead provided loving encouragement and guidance. Not to say that you never raised your voice or got frustrated, i mean come on, we're all human...
So, HAPPY FATHER'S DAY TO ALL THE GOOD GUYS AND ROLL MODELS OUT THERE! i hope you know who you are, and know how much we appreciate you. That includes you, my dear hubby.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

FENTANYL: The Withdrawal Experiment.

GOOD things about Fentanyl:
  • It's a cheap drug on my medical plan.

  • It's legal, thus keeping me from skulking around alleyways looking to score my next hit. (do we even have alleyways in Castro Valley?)
BAD things about Fentanyl:

  • Well, so far, pretty much everything.
  • Wearing the Fentanyl patch means you must not get overly hot or it will dump ALL it's medicinal goods into your system at once, causing major overload and some nasty symptoms. Ways to get hot? Have a fever. Work in the sunny garden, then get in the hot tub (with the patch carefully above the water line) to soak your sore muscles from working in the sunny garden.
  • Fentanyl sedates. EVERYthing. Your pain sensors, hopefully, but also your brain, your creativity, your internal workings, your....well, things best left unsaid, since this is a family friendly website. Plus, anybody who knows me is aware i'm already no Bundle of Energy. i've always worked at a lesser speed--clean part of the floor, sit down and read a magazine. Finish the floor, sit and read some more. Start on the kitchen tidying, sit down and have a cup of coffee and draw designs on a napkin. i always thought i was a bit lazy, but now it turns out i was "pacing." Who knew.
  • Fentanyl withdrawals are a bi----i mean, a trial.
i originally wanted to name this post "Fentanyl: treatment for pain, or an evil plot to kill my creative mojo?" When i said that to my hubby, i followed it with, "but i thought that was excessively long for a post title." He leaned back in his chair and said, "That's never stopped you before." i guess, given his proclivity for skimming, i would have had to do a skimmer's version of the title as well.
Just a brief overview of my withdrawal symptoms to date:
  • Very sick tummy, but on the upside i've lost some weight. Granted, it was weight i'd previously lost two years ago, but what the heck. i am getting tired of saltines, though.
  • Creepy feeling of crawling out of my skin. Hard to explain, worse to go through.
  • Excruciating pain on some days, for instance Wednesday being the worst i've had, worse than my most painful fibromyalgia day, 9 on a scale of 10, where 10 means "hospitalize me or shoot me with rhino tranquilizers, please."
  • Extreme anxiety. But then, the whole opiate experiment had that same effect. So, let's see: March, April, May, and now into June, anxious, anxious,anxious, and anxious.
  • Hypersensitivity to sounds. That also came along with the higher doses of Fentanyl, and again on the withdrawal path. Yesterday was the first day in months i'd been able to listen to music (well, besides American Idol, which goes without saying.)
  • Fits of temper
  • Personality changes
  • Zombie-ness, in varying stages and amounts.
So, as you can see, symtoms aaaaall over the charts! Dr God at the pain clinic wanted me to wean from the Fentanyl by dropping from the 125 mcg dose to 100, then 75 for 6 days, then 50 for 6 days, then just take the dive. When i did not replace the 50 mcg patch quickly enough i had a long bad day of withdrawal, so i decided to use my remaining 25 mcg for three days, then my 12 mcg for another three to slow down the process. i felt that i was Dr God's child being taught to swim by being thrown into the deep end and walking away. No support, no "this is what you can expect to happen" or "this is what you can do to cope." Just throw me in and head for Starbucks.

i grew up in Portland, Oregon, and puddles are more my size, so my plan was to wean off to the point that i could simply drop into a puddle at the end where i could still keep my head above water. If this withdrawal is a puddle, what the heck must the deep end be like???

While looking up symptoms of withdrawal at the beginning of this ride, i saw ads for private clinics where you could stay to withdraw. Basically they keep you unconscious for the worst of it. i see why it's no big deal for those actors who love their Oxycontin and such--when it becomes a serious problem, just spend a tiny portion of your fortune and check into a clinic! Virtually no pain and all gain, for a measly 10 grand or so-- BUT, if they had to go through the actual pain of withdrawing, they might think twice before popping them bad-boys again.

My state of discomfort is odd even to me. In the early days of fibromyalgia i remember trying to find a position for sleep. i arrived at sleeping on my back with a pillow behind my knees as the only way that didn't hurt. In these withdrawal days, i'm so crawly uncomfortable that i find myself in bed doing the rotisserie chicken: on my back for a few minutes, then my right side, then my stomach, then my left side, only to start the spit on its next rotation. NOTHing is comfortable! Sitting up is no better, even in my nice thrift-store LazyGirl chair, place of all comfort.

It's a curious state of being. Soon to be behind me. Then i can at least simply deal with the fibromyalgia pain again. Woohoo.

*OH--forgot to add the skimmer's recap: Fentanyl: little good, mostly bad, withdrawal is hell. There ya go, it's short, but you miss the clever analogies/metaphors--whichever they are, i can never remember. *sigh*

Friday, June 06, 2008


The lovely Brits below are Ellie, age 7 months; Euan, age 3 1/2; Elias, 5 years; and one more adorable Ellie for good measure. ;-)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The best stuff: puppy Blue and grandkids

top to bottom: Haley (age 10) Cassidy (8, and with cool new haircut) and Trevor (nearly 16!!!) all the first day they met Blue. ;-)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A small moment of clarity.

For those of you who have wondered where i've been other than Blog-land, i must say i've been in a very strange place. This strange place, Opiate-land, has messed thoroughly enough with my brain chemistry to send me Through the Looking Glass. i've been in some alternate place, close enough to be recognizable, but different enough to be a little frightening.

The super weird to me part is that i didn't even realize i was walking these different sidewalks. They were maybe a bit bendier than the usual sidewalks, and the other people beside me a little less recognizable. But still my streets, right?

Apparently not. i had a scare or two where i came very close to fainting--realized something not right was happening in my head, and went down to my hands and knees so as to not break furniture. Twice, i did this twice in a couple of days. Dean said later, "I think those were anxiety related." i just thought i was getting the flu, or getting a weird reaction to the higher dose of Fentanyl. i called the advice nurse who felt i should go right away to the emergency room. So we did, along with the rest of the patients on gurneys lining the halls. A bit busy. But once my blood pressure was checked in several positions and my pulse and my pee were taken (both of those in just usual positions) and then an EKG was done, it was determined i could go home. "If anything changes, let us know." i took home a smaller 112mcg dose of Fentanyl, which i've used in the week since.

Weird things in this new place i was living: i couldn't remember last week. i knew that in somebody's last week i did a few things--barbecued, picked up my granddaughters from school, showed them our new puppy, went back for a follow-up visit at the pain clinic, visited a friend. But it was like thinking about something someone else had told me, not like my own life. Bizarre. And i had spent a week doing crazy gardening--Must Dig! Must weed! Must trim all bushes on property! To the point that i've hurt my right shoulder so that i'm still feeling it.

So i decided to pass out again--hubby said, "Why are you panting like that?" joining me in the kitchen. "i don't know!" "Are you going to faint again?" "i'm getting that weird feeling again!" "You're hyperventilating, that's why." He helped me to the couch.

i then found myself in full panic attack mode, a place i have visited before and sworn to avoid forever after. And yet there i was on those dark, dark streets. i could feel the stripe of "fight or flight" adrenaline lightening run from toe to head, over and over. Hubby is reminding me how to breathe deeply, and dang it i was trying but it was so hard to do... All was dark and scary, and i couldn't see what scared me, there in the dark.

When i could finally track the course of events, i realize that when wearing Fentanyl patches, if you get hot, such as by doing yardwork in the sun then soaking sore muscles in a hot tub, the drug dumps into your system in a jolt. Bad business. But even before that final opiate indignity, strange things had been brewing.

Hubby and i went back over some of the strange actions of this person walking the streets of Through the Fentanyl Looking Glass and we enumerate: (hubby) growing detachment, confusion, dizziness and fainting, manic, (me) increasing sensitivity to sound like tv or my ipod's music, inability to remember recent times and events...the list went on. And none of these are things i want to cozy up with in a Crazy Land coffeehouse for a latte.

Not wanting to end up in a long list of not too mentally/emotionally stable people in my bloodline, i call the pain clinic and ask them to please begin to wean me off the Fentanyl.

i am now on my way to weaning. i will probably hurt. In fact i did this morning on my 100mcg patch. i will gladly use ibuprofen for my pain if it means i get to leave those dark streets where i lose my creativity.

It's been a long week. i'm still anxious--better at some parts of the day than others. i'm still walking, walking, walking (the dogs are loving it) and doing my exercises, both physical and breathing.

But i'm starting to think i may live. i'm starting to think i will be able to create again. These are good things.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


Introducing BLUE, hubby's new little guy, a red miniature dachshund. He's 3 months old now, and we found him near home in Modesto! It was a lovely experience--we were able to go sit on the floor and play with the him and his siblings and mommy and daddy for an hour before picking him out. He was the most rambunctious of the bunch, and seems pretty fearless, which is a good thing considering he was coming home to two big brothers. ;-)
It doesn't take away all the pain of missing Dynamo, but he is a lovely new addition, and helping us heal. As my friend LimboLady said, "there's no denying the healing power of a baby!" (She has a new grandbaby boy.)
So, all of my blog friends who have been wondering where the heck i've been, THIS is what i've been doing! Watching a new baby dog, and helping his big brothers get used to him. When i want to work in the back yard (which i've also been doing a lot of this past week) i put him in his doggy playpen out there with me.
And a Happy Mother's Day to all you moms out there!!!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Long time no see!

Wow. Some time has passed, things have happened to make big changes around here. Let me attempt a brief overview. (i hear some of you laughing at the word "brief" out there..)
i actually went back to attend my last week of how-to-be-a chronic pain class. The Monday found me in fear and trepidation, calling my hubby before class to say "i don't think i can do this!" He said, and rightly so, "if you just go in you'll probably be fine!" and i was. i guess i figured that in the land of Pretend and All Is Good that i'd have a tough time dealing with my grief. As it was the doctor, the nurse, and the psychologist all assured me i wasn't strange to grieve over a dog--the doc said, "they're part of the family" (true) and "you don't have to like it, you just have to do it" about grief. Think i'll quote him on that. i was pleasantly overwhelmed by their kindness.

The really really cool thing of the week, besides getting a nifty signed diploma of graduation, was inspired by a fill-in psychologist. The Wednesday "group" meeting was covered by the supervising psychologist of our usual young, sweet Dr G. He asked if any of us had questions, and went over the "This is what we can talk about, this is what we try to 'check'." Everyone was quiet, just looking at each other, or at the floor. He laughed and said, "Is this how it usually is in here?"

After a couple of tiny polite questions, i asked, "Can i ask you a question about the program itself?" He nodded. "Well, there's just stuff i don't get--like, today, Beverley said 'God bless you' to somebody who sneezed, and she got called out on it as 'helping.'" He leaned back in his chair and laughed. "Honestly, i just don't get why some of the things we're 'redirected' on are wrong."

He gave us the best talk on the sympathetic nervous system and the "Fight or Flight" syndrome, explaining how even positive comments can knock a person out of their neutral state into a state of heightened arrousal, which can also awaken their pain. Anyway, it was very comprehensive, and made the nurses' attempts at redirecting make some sense, in our positive as well as negative comments.

The psychologist asked me, "So, how have you seen the positive talk idea work in your regular life?" My response, "Honestly, i'll still in my regular life say the name of the movie and games 'Resident Evil," bringing T-shirt Boy awake--"My first day, right?" He had worn a shirt with the Umbrella Corporation on it, from that series on his first day. i had commented on it, since that's my son's favorite movie series ever, but when someone asked what movie or game it was from, when he said "Resident Evil" he was "redirected" on the word "evil." He's seen it as his personal mission to test the boundaries of T-shirt statements each day since.
"But on the other hand," i continued, "it's given me some freedom to tell people when i need to change the subject because i'm getting anxious due to what they're saying. And it's helped me see where times i think i'm helping somebody, i'm not AND i'm hurting me."

The doctor liked that.

At the end of the discussion, i said, "THIS is what i needed for all this to make sense! THIS needs to be part of everybody's experience in this class!" He laughed and said, "I'll take that suggestion to the powers that be." That made me happy, but on the Friday i got even more happy.

When i went to see the doctor on Friday, and mind you, this is the guy who heads up the program, he said, "We've taken the suggestion, and we're going to incorporate it into the program." i made some happy garbled noises, and danced my way out of the office. Then i graduated! Woo hoo!

i was proud of myself for returning to class, finding out that i could indeed do something when i thought i could not. And i was thrilled with the positive aspect of the whole "how your brain works" suggestion taken. i felt powerful for a day!

And now i'm home, and on my own, and tomorrow i will tell you the turn THAT has taken.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

i may live.

i'm beginning to think i may live.

Today i finally could feel the other dogs. i've had other times like this: depression so deep my senses shut down. Sadness so complete i couldn't feel/see/hear/anything around me. Now at least i recognize it for what it is. When there is information coming in that i cannot process at the time, i'm cocooned in a silence of the senses.

My mother dying and leaving me with pages of angry and hurtful words: silence. Losing babies to miscarriage: silence. And now losing our Dynamo dog to a sudden onslaught of cancer cells: silence.

For a few days i could hold the other two dogs in my lap and even pet them, but my senses were silent. It was as if i could not actually feel their fur, or their licks, or their sighs as they nestled into my lap. Silence. i guess that's what shock is about. When the interruption hits that carries a sudden overwhelming pain, the senses say "no more" and stop working.

i know i'm reacting this intensely to what some folks might say was "just a dog." But Dynamo was never "just a dog." Dynamo, brought home at the size of a smallish meatloaf, tried to run our home like a toddler does: Pick me up. Put me down. Feed me. Hold me. Love me. Gimme. And in the fashion of doting parents, we did. He fascinated us with his 6 foot tall personality stuffed into a three pound body. And when he seemed lonely and i felt unable to fulfill his needs, we even got him friends. Well, honestly, the second dog was a friend for Dynamo, and came in the tiny package of Barnaby, a sweet and loving brown and white piebald miniature dachshund with blue eyes. The third and extra "friend" was more for me--a little chocolate boy being sold as "pet only" since he was not good enough for AKC standards. "OH but you ARE good enough for ME!" i said. i called him Morris, after the Morris the Moose storybook character. Morris is a bit big for a miniature dachshund, at full size he is about 17 pounds, and "mini" is supposed to be no more than 11. But he was chocolate (my favorite food ever) and spotty, like he'd been front and center when a chocolate factory exploded. He had a lop-sidey nose and mouth, and i knew he was meant to be mine.

Three dogs could not have more different personalities--Dynamo, large and in charge, first in line to bark at any intruders, even if said "intruder" was simply the same guest who just stood up. "Same person, Dynamo," we'd say, "Same person, he just stood up--" And Dynamo would feel the need for the last word, the last growl. We knew who was in charge. Barnaby, the people pleaser who loves everybody, would follow Dyno's lead and bark, then prance over to the person for petting. Morris, the Moose would bark his deep bark, also following Dynamo's lead, but all the while pressing back into the safety of mom or dad. Morris the Timid is more his style.

Dyno, never one to back down, once actually bit the nose of a large pitbull mix. He was clearly in charge in all situations. On a walk he wanted to be first, and with two other dogs on leashes this is a difficult thing. When mornings came, bringing time to go outside to do their "business" Dynamo would hold back, sinking further into the bedsheets of our bed. "Naw, you guys go ahead, I'm gonna catch a few more zzzzz's," his body language said. We would either have to force the point and drag him out of bed, or like the bad parents we often were, we'd let him stay in bed. "Okay, sweetie," we doting parents would say, "you can wait." Bad, bad parents. But after all, Dyno was in charge.

It feels so odd to have only the Two Amigos, missing their Numero Uno. And we are definitely feeling the loss of our Numero Uno. But i'm thankful to at least be feeling something besides the blankness. i think i may be on the way to healing. And i can only keep praying for Dynamo's daddy to start healing as well.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I Want.

I want
to rant and rave and scream.
I want
to throw his Goddamn useless expensive low-fat kibble into everyone's faces.
I want
to take every green bottle with Dynamo's pills
throw them to the ground and smash them and grind them beneath my feet.
I want
to erase the last two months of his sliding health
from my brain
including his lifeless little body stuffed with cancer
I want
my baby-dog back.

The "i don't know how to feel" Tuesday.

As i journaled my way through the craziness that was my mother's death, i seem to be blogging my way through Dynamo's death. Now, i know there are some people that think grieving the loss of our dog is just rediculous. Perhaps at the present, my blog is not for you. But my blog/my feelings. My little kingdom.

As incredibly sad as we are about our little Dyno the dachshund, i'm glad we didn't lose a child! But Dyno was special from day one--my hubby was having a hard time with work-- the events of 9-11 caused the Oakland leg of United maintenance to be closed down. i had just been downsized from my job, and he had been cruising the internet looking at puppies. He'd wanted a black and tan dachshund since having a full sized black dachshund during his growing up years. i'd harrassed him for years about them not being cuddly dogs, why did he want one of those?

He found one he could see locally at a petshop. i didn't even know there was still such a thing as a petshop with actually cats and dogs around anymore. We asked to see the little black mini dachshund, and Dean sat down on the floor. This little 3 pound puppy dog ran around in circles, in and out of Dean's lap. It was a picture i'll always remember, this big ol' tough mechanic guy sitting cross legged on the floor, playing with the tiny bundle of energy running full tilt around the petshop floor. i just looked at the two of them and melted. That puppy was ours.

We picked up a few things neccessary for the care and feeding of this bitty little meatloaf sized doxie, and headed home, me driving so Dean could love on the dog. And thus began the love affair between Dean and Dynamo.

Dean carried him everywhere in his coat jacket for a long while--bundled into his neckline, tucked into his pocket. We went on several trips in the motor-home that month of October 2002, and Dynamo prouldly rode along in my lap in the passenger side seat. When not on my lap, he managed to weasle his way into his daddy's lap or coat. He was the proudest, most loved puppy in the universe just then. We watched him play with toys and eat his kibble and took photos of every tiny move he made, just like the parents of a new baby.

It was beyond a doubt the match made in heaven. The two of them absorbed and reflected their love and admiration for each other. He slept up against his daddy's back in our big California King sized bed. i walked ever so carefully while preparing meals in the kitchen, as he was such a little bit i was always afraid i might step on him.

He grew into king of the castle--one or two daintily placed licks on his daddy's nose when he got home from work, and he had his daddy's heart all over again.

Probably all of that doesn't sound that amazing to a reader--but how do i put into words the amount of sanity that little dog meant for his daddy coming home from the craziness of his job? i don't know that i can. How do i express the amazing feel and smell of his fur and his neck as we held him in our laps and snuffled into him? i don't think i can.

There was just so much we loved about him, and so much he gave back in love and cuddles and the little squeals to say "pay attention to me!!" He could be demanding. He could be bossy. He could be many things one could call signs of the "unbalanced dog" Cesar Milan "The Dog Whisperer" style. Dogs aren't supposed to rule the grown-ups. They aren't supposed to be the ones to call the shots. But Dynamo did. And you know what? Those were many of the reasons he wedged himself so firmly into our hearts and our lives.

A few people came by to share our pain last night: friend Sabrina who upon hearing the news said, "Where are you? I'm coming right over!" And friend Adina, who loved Dyno and loves us, came and brought flowers and cried along with us. Our youngest daughter, Corinne, and her hubby Luis came over and spent a long time just talking and listening and sharing our feelings, and they made waffles for dinner, the RIGHT way--you've heard of the EZ Bake Oven? My cooking style is how they named that. i am an EZ Bake Cook. i just throw all the parts of the recipe into a mixing bowl, mix it, and call it waffle batter. They followed the "separate the egg whites and beat till stiff" part of the recipe, and came out with these amazing fluffy waffles you could just eat straight off the waffle grill with nothing added.

Jarel is having a hard time too, frustrated at not having been able to say goodbye to Dynamo. But we are simply trying to share our grief among all of us, it definitely lightens the load for each individual to share this huge stone castle's worth of pain and loss we are feeling. The castle has lost its King.

i know we will heal, i know we will one day simply be able to look back on Dynamo's short 6 years in our life with only the great memories. Right now that time looks to be somewhere so far beyond reach. i need to just rest in the comfort of my God and my family and friends. And thanks to those of you who have reached back to me in this blog.

i feel oddly devastated. But it got me out of Pain Class, at least temporarily.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Dynamo is gone.

The surgery showed he was filled with a huge tumor of cancer, winding through his intestines etc. They advised us to come to the vets as soon as we could. He was still sedated from the surgery, and we were given the rundown on what had transpired, and given the option to let him go peacefully. We sobbed pretty loudly, and petted his head and kissed his sweet ears and the top of his head. The doctor used a injection into the i.v. and let him slip away.

i don't know when we will ever be okay again. Can't ever explain all he meant to us.

Just plain struggling.

Hubby of mine, just skip this one...

Having a little trouble here remaining positive--i came home early from class because i don't feel well, only to find that our doggy Dynamo's bloodwork is good news, bad news. The good news: his pancreatitis is better, in the proper range. The bad news? Well, his thyroid still is on the low side, but even worse, he's anemic. And not the kind that is low iron, the kind that means he probably has internal bleeding.

So we took him back in. The doc explained all that, and suggested she do an ultrasound in the office this morning. It showed his spleen is enlarged, and probably has been for some time. This suggests he may have cancer in it. i'm confused, because she said the bloodwork showed it was unlikely he had cancer causing the anemia. But maybe that means he could have cancer that isn't the cause of the anemia? Anyway, this afternoon we are waiting to hear about the surgery he is now having to check the spleen and surrounding areas. Does he have cancer, does he not? Why else could his spleen be enlarged? Most importantly, will he be okay?

Meanwhile the cash register is merrily "kaching"ing away, and our sadness and anxiety meter is running off the charts.

So please, if you believe in praying for doggies, please do--if you do not, please pray for this doggy's daddy, and if you have an extra, throw one up for me.

Monday anxieties.

i find myself on this Monday morning wishing to remain cuddled in my bed with my doggies, reading some hours away. i do NOT find myself wishing to jump up and run off to spend 4 more hours in a circle of chairs meditating or on a mat on the floor doing stretches or at a table making careful conversation with a bunch of strangers who care not where i go or what i do in my free time.

i am repeating to myself, THIS IS MY LAST WEEK. THIS IS MY LAST WEEK. And i am a tiny bit happier. The past 4 weeks have gone quickly enough, but is this chronic pain class level 3 supposed to leave me anxious, wondering what i will say THIS time that is "wrong"...

There is the added anxiety of our doggy, Dyno. We had to get his bloodwork redone, so i took him on Saturday. He freaked out BIG time, and acted very ill all the rest of the day. Trauma, apparently. i think he was just trying to get the easy-to-digest meal that includes chicken.... But now, results of his bloodwork came in, and HE'S ANEMIC. Could it be his losing 3 pounds, or 1/7 his total body weight, in 2 months? And apparently he's still on the low-thyroid side. So the doc thinks he's maybe bleeding somewhere internally? That's scary. And that all adds a HUUUGE component of anxiety to my dysfunctional-self salad.

So, anybody want to join me for a nice plate of anxiety, with maybe some nausea on the side?


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Something fun for Sunday.

My sister sent these photos she found of when she and i were just young things living in Vail Colorado.

i am the dark haired one above, my sister is the lighter haired one below. OH how i loved those bell bottom pants, AND our way cool coats!

i was so danged cute back then--but i'm still about the same amount sassy. ;-)

God bless the 70's.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The randomness of it all.

My hubby said my last post was somewhat unintelligible. Upon re-reading it i must agree somewhat. But it was morning, and i was dreading the pain clinic class, and had many odd dialogues running through my mind. And possibly i was influenced by last night's viewing of Criminal Minds on tv, about a Behavioral Analysis Unit of the FBI who profile perpetrators of crimes. And perhaps i was enjoying the thought of myself as one of their crazy criminals. Whatever.

The odd thing was, even with all my anxiety about going to class, and all my crazy criminal thoughts, it was actually a good day. My young friend "T-shirt boy" wore one today saying "Prisoner of Love."Apparently the word "Prisoner" canceled out the word "Love." He had another cover the t-shirt with the heavy sweatshirt days. A couple of the other guys were so incredibly quiet i sort of missed them, but they claimed to be trying to stay out of trouble. i attempted to find out whether or not the two women who started a week after i did are just gone, or are they coming back? They've been missing for days now. i asked the psychologist during group whether or not i could even ask her that, and she said, "I probably shouldn't, as they may have personal reasons." i said, "i wasn't going to ask their reasons for being gone, just whether or not they'll return while we're still here." She answered, "Well, I hope so." Something to ponder. Maybe the two ladies are being held in a back room somewhere...or possibly they have dug their way to freedom and have not been found yet.

The day just unfolded pleasantly (i have to give some of the credit to a nice chat with cousin Lea Ann on the way to class using my hands free head dealy--and the two Ativan--) and fairly uneventfully. Nurse Anya was in a great explaining mode, and i always enjoy that.

i've struggled all day and all evening to stay awake when i wanted to be asleep, so i think i shall stop writing and give in to the sleep. And hopefully tomorrow i will wake up in a more coherent state of mind.

Things to get out of my system before today's Week 4 Day 4.

"Oh, times where someone has pissed me off by 'correcting' me?" i say, with a little giggle to myself. "Oh i could tell you stories--" Thoughtful, pleased look at the memories. "But," i say with a new innocent look on my face, "the medication has really helped with that," i say, nodding.

i sigh at that fact.

"Okay, onto the next lunchtime topic then!!"

This is an editorial comment after being told by a couple of people that they didn't "get" this. i was simply in a Jack Nicholson sort of mood....telling the story of what has happened in the past when i'd been "corrected," as has been happening in the pain class. i was just playing out a scenario in my crazed head, as it were.

Does that help, DoTheLimboLady?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Why i will never be Teacher's Pet.

Yesterday after a lovely weekend, i walked into pain class, the Room of Positivity. i saw the tripod and camera set up to video our weekly progress to be shown at the Friday friends and family meeting. Immediately i did what i normally do when faced with a camera: "oh no! Taping!"

"We don't say that--" the nurse said sweetly in a passing comment sort of way.

Damn! "Right--too negative--" i said, trying to step out of my pile of verbal chewing gum on the floor, trying to think how to move on. Of course, i do this by continuing to talk (poor choice.)

As we start pulling our chairs into a circle for the morning meditation, i say, "Looks like we're missing a couple of people."

"That's focusing on group-care, rather than self-care. We're trying to learn to focus on ourselves in this class--" the nurse points out.

"Oh, really? Didn't realize that," i said. Damn! Again!

Somehow within the first 4 minutes of the Monday morning class, i had stepped from the pile of verbal gum only to stumble into the larger pile of elephant poo behind me.

i always intend to remain quiet after those moments, but i never seem to be able to. i mean, i cannot possibly be asked to live in silence for 4 whole hours, but i can't stay out of the quagmire for 4 minutes.

And then, come Tuesday. We have three newbies. One is a very fit looking woman in stylish Victoria Secret yoga pants and an adorable short sweatshirt with a pink dotted lining in the hood over a casually stylish long tank. i look down at my hugely oversized gray sweatshirt and Walmart sweats. The second is a woman of indeterminant age in a pink high necked sweater and pink pants, who seems determined to meet nobody's eyes, seemingly wishing the rest of us were not there. She wears some jingly something on her wrist or somewhere, adding an annoying punctuation to all her moves (even during meditation. Why does she need to move so much during meditation??) It was bad enough for one day, i'm seriously hoping she loses it on whatever deserted island she wishes she were on.

The third is a mid-twenties guy who was totally pleasant and friendly, wearing an Umbrella Corporation t-shirt. For those of you without video game crazy 20 year old sons, that's the symbol used in the Resident Evil games and movies. At lunch i mentioned to him that my son would be tearing it off his back if he were there. When one of the nurses asked what it was about and we answered, she said, "You'll have to leave that word out, we can't use that word--" Evil. She was talking about the word evil. Okay then.

These are some of the things that baffle me. Stuff like my "oopsies" yesterday--we clap for ourselves as a class when we do some things, we clap for the graduating class students. And yet observing we are missing some of those members is a negative thing. And "evil" as a word is apparently banned. So, if a word can carry a negative connotation it is not allowed, we will have to develop some sort of code when discussing movies we've seen etc. i think i shall start a list of words that could be questionable, and start working them into positive comments, just to use at lunch and test the waters. Possibly i will stay awake better.

It looks like i am being somewhat negative about a class that is overall a positive experience. There are good things, a lot of them. i am being much too analytical, and unwilling to simply accept the edicts from above. i want to understand them, or even better, i want them to make sense.

i'll work on writing something more positive tomorrow. "Why i WILL be a winning student!" or some such thing. But tomorrow. Tonight my thinker is too tired, and terribly disappointed about the whole Teacher's Pet thing.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Yet another reason i would make a lousy druggie.

i realized that since oxycodone has received publicity as a white-collar addiction, people must receive some perceived-as-positive effects, right? It looks like its feelings of euphoria are the main reason people abuse this little pill.

Me? Euphoria? Nope--the most positive thing i received out of the feelings of oxocodone has to be that i was feeling kind of hyper, so i reorganized my underwear drawer.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Why i failed Drugs in the '70's.

Apparently i was never meant to be a druggie back in the day, or here in THIS day.

My new drug was oxycodone, otherwise known as "Hillbilly Heroin." Now, if that doesn't bring a smile to a person's face i don't know what will. i didn't realize the side effects that were slowly creeping into my body and head until today. i got up for class after sleeping maaany hours, and had a lot of trouble coordinating my movements and thoughts. These are the days i worry i will show up somewhere with my bra worn on the outside of my clothing.

As i drove i realized i should NOT drive the freeway at all today, my judgement being a bit impaired. All around and inside my head things were floating, and i wasn't actually sure what was a real life thought or a piece of a dream. And i hurt more than i have in months! Dang.

Determined to talk to the nurse or doctor early today, i grabbed Anya before we even got to the room. She said, "Well you will definitely talk to the doctor today--" i was hoping for sooner than "today." Like, NOW. We sat down for meditation. With crazy feelings in my body and brain i could not do it, so i quietly left the circle to get my pills and took something to calm me down. As we crossed paths putting away our chairs, i told Anya i needed to go. We stood in the hall and i said, "i feel like i'm climbing out of my skin.i really need to leave and go home and sleep." She said, "Let me talk to the doctor, I'll be right back." She reappeared, smiling. "The doctor says that definitely sounds like you're having side effects. He wants you to stop the oxycodone immediately and go back to the patches. Go home and we'll see you Friday." "i don't have enough fentanyl patches for the new dose" Again to the doctor. "Just go sit in the waiting room, and I'll come talk to you." i wandered to the waiting room feeling quite thoroughly crazy, and wondering about needing a new prescription that i would now have to walk to the pharmacy and wait for.

Bless the doctor, he came to the waiting room with 3 boxes of the patches! i was saved from the pharmacy!

i drove home, feeling very unsure, but very relieved--and with extreme driving care. i was in a huge amount of pain, physically and mentally.

i've slept most of the day and evening, in my half dream state. i even managed to do a tiny bit of my current knitting project, and hope that tomorrow when i see it i will not find a mess.

So, bad day. And how can i enjoy the kind of drug known on the street as "hillbilly heroin" if i'm in too much pain? Something's just not right here.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

This is my brain on drugs.

Yes, i have scrambled eggs for brains these days.

i am on pain medication trial number four. The patch is a thing of the past, 2 little pills 3 times a day are in.

i talked to the doc yesterday: "Well, it seems that the first few days of the increased dose of the fentanyl patch i am very dizzy. Like right now. BUT, my pain number is not any less than it was. At all."

He agreed that's not helpful. He said i am obviously getting something through of the medication, since i am having the dizzy side effect, but it would be better to have pain reduction. So, since i am not getting that, we should try again. Off with the patches, in with the pills.

Something i am learning while in this make-a-note-of-my-pain-number time of my life is how to observe and rate my pain. This has shown me that there are several distinct sorts of pain involved. One is the arthritis pain. That responds at least in part to ibuprofen. This is good. Then there is the general fibromyalgia pain, which generally stays in a 3 point spread. It responds to very little. Then there is the fibro muscle fatigue from exercise, which seems to respond only to stopping the activity. And last, there is the all-encompassing fatigue from the fibro. IT only responds to being asleep, the only time i'm not aware of it.

So perhaps i should be keeping 4 charts? Or at least have 4 rating columns on my one chart? "Current activity: strength exercises. My arthritis is complaining but hanging in there, my general fibro pain is discussing whether it wants to be a '6' or a '7' on the pain scale, but says the shoes are comfortable. The muscle fatigue is screaming, and the Just-Plain-Fatigue would like the muscles to shut up so it could take a nap."

i'll be curious to see whether or not the new medication will speak to more than one of the 4 at once.