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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Rosy Cheeks And All

I have had rosacea for a number of years. I remember hearing about it years before I got it, and not much of what I heard before or after my diagnosis was very informative. Since lupus and rosacea both cause facial skin redness, there were occasions when I was working in retail and customers would ask me if I had rosacea. The most memorable was a woman who was one of three or four sisters, some of whom had rosacea. They had a tough time remembering the name of the ailment, though, and created a way to help themselves remember. Which is why she looked at me and asked me if I had Rosie O'Shea. I thought it was a clever way to remember the name, so it sort of stuck with me.

Naturally, since I already had a red face, I ended up with rosacea as well. I have read that it isn't uncommon for people with lupus to have secondary diseases that may or may not be immune-system related. Among these are fibromayalgia and rosacea, both of which I have. When I was diagnosed, and even before, all that I had ever heard was that it was red skin and acne. I knew that some people are treated with antibiotics, and I had also heard about laser treatments, but that was about it. When I asked at my doctor's office about going on antibiotics, they were against it because of the potential for super-infections. I was given a prescription for a topical antibiotic, but when I went to get it filled, it was seventy-five dollars for a teeny-tiny tube, which just wasn't available in the budget. So I just dealt with it. 

Just like with lupus, having rosacea makes people pay attention to your face for all of the wrong reasons. Having never been the prettiest girl on the block, I experienced none of the vanity crushing that might have come from having my beauty marred by Miss Rosie O'Shea. But all of my life, until lupus came into the picture, I had really lovely skin. I didn't deal with horrible acne or uneven skintones or such. Yes, I had oily teenage skin and some pimples, but never more than a few. With rosacea, I have found myself, at this mature stage of my life, with all of the skin problems I never had before.

Yes, like with the lupus, my facial skin is red. But now, it is even redder. And it is covered with areas that are even more red, and full of blemishes. To add something interesting to the mix, in between the blemishes there are often patches of dry, flaky skin. It's almost like my skin has no idea what it wants to do, so it just does a little bit of everything. When I experience physical or mental stress, the rosacea flares up just like lupus can. (Although I didn't know this was the case until just recently.) For example, when I went to Europe, my face turned even more red and broken out. I thought it was because of the humidity and warm temperatures. But when I was hospitalized last December for vertigo, I began to suspect that there was more to it than that. When I came home, my face was covered with literally hundreds of blemishes, most of which were bleeding. I washed them off in the shower, but by the afternoon, there was another crop, and by bedtime my face looked like it had been hit with buckshot. That will make anyone feel hideous, even if they've never been a beauty.

Trent had a special treatment in January to help prevent future facial carcinomas. Transplant patients have a tendency to get facial skin cancers, and this treatment helped rid his face of precancerous cells. He was supposed to go for a followup in February, but both of us came down with an intestinal bug, so he had to reschedule for the first available time, which ended up being in April. First the MA checked all of his paperwork and took his vitals, commenting on how wonderful his skin looked. When she left, I told Trent that I wished we could afford a laser treatment for my face, because I was just tired of how awful my skin looked. A resident checked him out, and was soon followed by the doctor. She always recognizes us when she comes in, and her face lights up, which makes us feel really good. Trent had a little spot on his scalp, an area not treated in January, that they wanted to remove and biopsy.

When Doctor Pacheco returned to the room in less than a minute, we were both surprised that a treatment room was available so quickly. She looked at Trent and told him that it wasn't time for his procedure; she wanted to speak with me. As luck would have it, the hospital was going to start using a new laser treatment system in May, and needed a demo patient that had rosacea. I was thrilled. Seriously, I felt like a kid at Christmas. I was going to be getting a free laser treatment! The treatment was only for redness, but she would be able to prescribe antibiotics after I became her patient. I was even more thrilled.

During the few weeks between then and the treatment, I got online and did a couple of searches for information about rosacea. And started to learn a lot of things. First off, rosacea is not acne. It does not respond to acne treatments or medications. I know this to be true, because I tried to use acne treatment/cleansing wipes on my face. All that happened was that my skin swelled up a bit and then peeled. And the blemishes were still there. Apparently nobody really knows how rosacea works or what it really is. But there are the blemishes, and the redness which is caused by there being too many blood vessels close to the surface of the skin, which is called telangiectasia, which is what the laser treated. But there were other things that I was not aware of, like people having triggers that will make their symptoms worse.

Another thing that I learned is that untreated rosacea can cause permanent thickening of the skin on the nose. This redness and thickening is like the kind we associate with heavy drinkers who get a red, bulbous nose later in their life. When I read this, I thought, "Oh, a nose like W.C. Fields." And guess what? Mr. Fields, who was indeed a drinker, also had rosacea. So his nose wasn't red from the booze, it was permanent disfiguring from rosacea. The next day I happened to spot some photographs of myself from about fifteen years ago, and there is a bit of a change in the size and shape of my nose. This is not as common in women as it is in men. We do like to say that if it's uncommon, it'll happen in our house!

On my next search, though, I learned something that sort of stunned and scared me. From time to time I get this inflammation at the base of my eyelashes, with little bumps and scales. My eye doctor said it was probably an inflammation in the follicle of the eyelash, so I chalked it up to luck and just dealt with it as it happened. Then I read that this is actually a symptom of rosacea. It can cause burning, irritation, and bloodshot eyes, along with the feeling of having something in your eyes a lot of the time. Left untreated, it can possibly cause permanent changes to your vision. That blew my little mind, let me tell you.

So I went and had a free laser treatment, and not just for reasons of vanity. It wasn't horribly painful, but the next day my face was so swollen that my lower eyelashes were resting on my eyeballs. And if I tipped my chin down just a tiny bit, it was resting on my chest. Twelve days after the treatment, there is still a bit of swelling, but not a great deal. And although I will always have a blush due to living with lupus, Trent and I, and our friends, think that it's noticeably less red, and more like pink. And my doctor did prescribe antibiotics. But the mail-order pharmacy, which has the exact antibiotic listed on their "90 day supply for $10" list, wanted to charge me more than $200 for a one-month supply because we haven't reached our deductible yet. (Don't get me started on the costs of medicines!) So I cancelled the prescription because we really have grown attached to eating on a daily basis around here. I know, some people are so weak and selfish!

So, after all is said and done, I still have rosy cheeks, but maybe not so red as they were before. I still have breakouts, but will discuss a more reasonably priced treatment plan with the doctor when I go in for a followup visit. I'm hopeful that in a few weeks' time, I will feel like I am back in my old skin again. I'll look, feel, and be a bit healthier, even though with lupus it will be rosy cheeks and all!

A shot of me just before treatment:




And five days after treatment. Still not photogenic, but that's life!



Sunday, May 25, 2014

Jealousy

It always happens the same way. I walk over to the mailbox to pick up the day's delivery, and I see a neighbor who has gone there with their dog. I ask for permission before I engage in any petting or interaction with the dog; some people don't care for others to do so while they are out for a daily stroll. Of course I sometimes run into dogs that I have seen before, so we immediately have a little visit. In case you didn't already know this about me, I love dogs. And they seem to know it. Even dogs that don't understand a word I am saying (because their humans don't speak English) seem to know that I like them a lot. And it isn't limited to dogs. Numerous cats have been drawn to me, and I have been told by their humans that they are not normally social. Heck, I've had a horse come up to me and nibble on my hair before laying its head in my lap. And I have had wild goats and two wolves come up to me and lick my hand. I think they just know I respect them and will not hurt them. Or as I often say, dogs like me because they know I am almost as smart as they are.

When the neighbor dog has been sufficiently fussed over, patted, and given scratches in the spots that they can't reach, I gather up my mail and head home. When I get inside, I go straight to the bathroom to wash my hands. Why? Habits die hard. Even though our dog Paris has been gone for nearly two years, my natural instinct is to try and wash the smell of the other dog off of my hands. When Paris was alive, if I visited with a dog during my mail check, she would sniff intently at my hands, her tail wagging in quick, short wags. And then she'd get up on her hind legs to smell my face. Because it was okay if I patted another dog. But she was checking to make sure that none of them had given me doggie kisses!

When we first became friends with Marie and Thayne and their family, Paris would sniff both of us thoroughly, but especially her mommy. She would put her nose against my pant legs and snort air in and out, smelling Bowie on me. After numerous times visiting with our friends, Paris became accepting and tolerant of the smell of Bowie on our hands and clothes. She knew that this other dog was not going to replace her in our hearts. All was well. 

When I checked the mail the other day and had a nice visit with one of the neighbor dogs, I immediately washed my hands out of habit. But it made me think fondly of our little girl. And it started me thinking about jealousy. Pets can feels jealousy, just like humans. Yes, there is the jealousy or envy over something someone else has that maybe we don't. That, I think, is an age-old feeling that will continue as long as there are those who have what others don't. But I think that the type of jealousy that Paris had for other dogs is similar to some feelings that humans have.

Why would a dog feel jealous? To put it simply, I think it is a sort of fear. Not a fear like the one of making their human angry, but a fear of losing the love and companionship of their person or persons. Dogs smelling other dogs simply know that while we were away from them we were socializing with another canine. Does that mean that we don't love our dog any more? Of course not! But does their mind rationalize the way ours can? We will probably never know. Paris always seemed to know that a scent of another dog was just a passing thing - nothing was going to come of it. She sniffed out the situation and moved on. All was forgiven.

How sad that humans, with our highly developed brains, can't do the same. No, I don't suggest that if someone has violated the trust of a relationship that the other party should forget it and just move on. I am talking about the jealousy that comes from fear. This fear, like the fear a dog might have when they realize that you have been with another canine, is bred from a lack of understanding. Love does not diminish when it is spread around. It grows even larger. Love is not a finite quantity, but an endless supply.

This, I think, is what can cause some of the uglier instances of sibling rivalry. Children do not seem to understand that when a new child is added to the family, they are not being replaced. It was the root of many problems between me and my sister Liz. She was the youngest in the family until I showed up six days before her sixth birthday. I think that the fear of rejection plagues her to this day, so many years later. And there is still plenty of love to go around. This is the same fear that makes her not want to share her family with others. After we went to Hungary and met our relatives, I thought briefly that I might be able to make another visit to see them again. I knew that Liz wouldn't be able to go, and that it was bad timing for Marie, So I asked Julie, who was also on that trip, if she might like to go. When I told Liz, she was furious. She informed me that if I went with someone other than her and "let them stay with her family," she would never speak to me again. I replied by asking if she'd rather have me go alone, or skip the trip entirely. Her answer was that she would rather have me do that that have other people spending time with our family.

For various reasons, the trip fell apart, but not because of my sister's threats. She doesn't seem to realize that if the family loves me, there is still enough love left for her. And if my close friends are also loved by my family, it doesn't mean that she will be loved any less. Unfortunately for Liz, if I have the chance to go and visit my family again, I will. Her threats will not stop me. I will still love her, as will my family. If she follows through on her threats, the greatest loss will be hers. As Iago said in William Shakespeare's Othello, "Oh, beware, my lord, of jealousy. It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds upon." The jealousy we might feel hurts us more than it hurts others. I only wish that she could escape from that pain.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Microcosm

Trent and I needed to go into Downtown Denver last evening, and even though I looked like someone who might soon be changing her name to Quasimodo (more about that some other time), I stuck with my commitment. We knew that the Colorado Rockies were having a home game, making parking and traffic in the area a potentially frustrating experience, so we decided to ride the bus. The ride downtown was almost boring. There were perhaps a dozen riders, all quietly absorbed in their plans for the evening. We made it to where we were going, and went about our business. 

When it was time to go home, we had the choice of two different locations at which to catch our bus home. We decided to go to a different station than the one at which we had arrived, and walked briskly to catch the bus which would be leaving at 10:27. We knew that if we missed it, the next, and last, bus was an hour later. Naturally, when we got to the station, there was a sign on the door saying that the station was closed and we would need to catch our bus at Union Station. Since it was almost 10:25, we knew that we'd be missing our bus. This didn't really bother us, though. We waited for a shuttle to take us to beautiful Union Station.

Union Station is what it sounds like - a train station. This lovely station opened in 1881, and has been a hub of train travel ever since. It still serves that function, but has had some ultra-modern additions. It is now a major hub for public transportation. In addition to being a major stop for the light rail system, it also houses an underground bus station that looks like a bit like an airport concourse. These pictures (which I found on Google) show the front of the old building, the light rail area, and the bus station.






We enjoyed our time waiting in the station for our bus to arrive. Instead of the station being deserted because it was so late at night, there was a whole lot of people-watching to be had. Numerous people who would not normally have been at the station so late were there to ride the bus home after the Rockies game. We saw a young woman who had gotten upset with her companions and ran dramatically through the station to sit on a bench. We heard some of her companions behind us asking if someone shouldn't go and check on her. They were answered that she would come back when her moment of drama was spent. Sure enough, within about a minute and a half she got up and walked calmly back to her group of friends. 

There were groups of people who were enjoying their post-sports high. We saw a pair of boys, who may have been about ten years old, carrying baseball gloves and racing each other from one spot to another in the station. There were older couples walking slowly, hand in hand, savoring the time until their bus departure. I learned that if a really tall young woman has cut off her jeans way too short, tugging them down doesn't make the situation any better, it just makes it more obvious. For several minutes it seemed like every young woman who walked by had had a slip of the scissors. Let's just say we saw a lot of "smiles" walking away from us, accompanied with the surreptitious tushie tugs in an attempt to cover things up. Several fashionably drooping sweaters helped their owners with their coverups.

When the bus pulled up fifteen minutes before departure time, we knew that if we boarded the bus we would be waiting on softer seats than the metal benches in the station. So we bid the people-watching goodbye. Or so we thought. The people on the bus ended up being a microcosm of many parts of the Metro area. There were some people on their way home from work, like the adorable young woman who sat across the aisle from us, wearing the fishnet tights and "Stay Sexy" shirt she had worked in that evening. There was the couple who had been at the game and were being cute and cuddly, but totally wholesome and relaxed. 

A lot of the riders had their cellphones in front of their faces. It occurred to me that nowadays cellphones can also do what books and magazines and newspapers used to do years ago. They act as a wall, engaging the user and shutting out the advances of any potential interlopers. The back of the bus was full of young men who were loudly discussing various teams, and insulting or commending one another based on which college they had attended. We heard stories of who had majored in what, and how many times they'd had to take the required science courses before passing them. They were afflicted with what I jokingly refer to as alcohol-related deafness. It seems that the more people drink, the harder it is for them to hear. Why else would they be so loud?

Let me interject something here - when I was younger, I thought baseball was pretty boring. I had only seen it on tv, and commented many times that I had far better things to do with a couple of hours of my time than watch a bunch of men spit tobacco juice and scratch their whatevers. And then I went to a game and was entranced. The field was so beautiful, and the sound when the bat cracked against a ball which then went flying by your eyes, on the third level, no less! It was magical. I have said ever since then that the best dog and a beer are the ones you have while watching a baseball game. Something about the sunshine and fresh air just makes them taste better. I leaned over and whispered to Trent, "These guys had too many beers and not enough dogs!" He chuckled and agreed.

I noticed that the young woman sitting in front of us was quickly texting. I wasn't trying to invade her privacy. So much of what people do is so public these days, and right on the large screens of their smartphones. As she held the phone right in front of me, I quickly figured out that she was trying to call her significant other, Jose. How did I figure that one out? Because when she pulled up the screen to dial him, these words (or something very like them) were on the screen, "In a sea of people, my eyes search for you." Being cursed as I am, with both romantic and realistic tendencies, I had two thoughts almost simultaneously. One, that the quote was so sweet and romantic, and two, that the guy was probably a complete jerk.

Sometimes I hate it when I'm right. She tried to dial a few times but apparently the call didn't go through. No surprise, right? We were in a bus parked in an underground station, surrounded by concrete and steel. As soon as the bus departed, she tried to call Jose again. And my suspicions were confirmed. "Well, because I was in the station and I couldn't get a good enough signal for the call to go through. I called as soon as the bus started to leave the station. Well, I texted because the texts were going through when I couldn't get a strong signal. Okay, I'll resend the last test. Oh, I should have called you so that you could drive down here to Union Station, and by the time you got here the bus would already be leaving?" I am pretty sure that either the possibly suspicious jerk or the harried and resentful woman hung up, because the call ended pretty abruptly and the phone was put away. 

I spent the rest of the brief ride listening to the sounds of the happy guys in the back of the bus interspersed with quieter conversations and snippets of brief phone calls. Even though the bus was semi-dark, several faces were glowing in the lights of cellphones while others were calm and relaxed and lightly sleeping. I was full of wonder that this random group of people represented so much of the larger society of which we were all a part. In an odd way, it was magical, this microcosm of modern life. I drank it in and savored it like cool water on a hot day, and wished I was an artist capable of depicting this rich, brief bounty. I knew that all I had were words, and hoped that they wouldn't fail me, or I them. If I managed to convey even the smallest portion of what I saw and felt, I guess that will suffice.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Book Was Better

Maybe my friend Marie is smarter than she realizes. When there's a popular book burning up the best-seller lists and an announcement is made that it is going to be made into a movie, she almost always decides not to read the book until after the film is released. She knows that some people might find this odd or quirky, thinking that she is denying herself the chance to read and enjoy a really good book. I, however, have listened to her reason for doing this, and I know why she takes this approach. It's because the book is usually better. She doesn't want to spend the time and money to go watch what is probably a fairly good film, maybe even an Academy Award winner, and be sitting in the theater thinking about how different it is from the book she so thoroughly enjoyed.

I get it. But loving books as I do, I have a rough time not going for it. But I've been burned, too. I have seen commercials on the television for a series that is based on a book from one of my favorite authors. I have "read" the book in audio format, and more than once. Each time I've dipped into the story, I've had thoughts about how fantastic it would be to see it on the screen, whether it be the small screen or the big screen. I even pictured some of the characters looking like certain actors that I thought would be great at portraying them. But when the series began, I didn't last very long. Heck, even when I saw the commercials, I had a bad feeling. Major points of the story were so radically changed that I felt no connection to the story at all. I halfway expected to hear the voice of Sgt. Joe Friday telling me that "the names have been changed to protect the innocent." Except that the names were still the same, and all of the characters and their behaviors were completely different than in the book.

The series has been a very popular one, but I only lasted about two episodes. It was so different from the book that I enjoyed so much that I couldn't stand to watch it any more. I know that lots of people who haven't read the book yet have enjoyed the show immensely, and I am happy for them. I hope that they read some more of this fine author's works. Someone I know asked Santa for the book this past Christmas. I wonder from time to time if he wanted to read it because of what he had seen on tv, and if the book disappointed him as a result because it is so different than what he's seen. It happens. Just remember, the book was (usually) there first! 

I think that one of the first times I really was stunned at the difference between book and screen versions was when I saw Gone With the Wind. I read it when I was about twelve or thirteen, so when it came to a local theater for a brief revival when I was in high school, I just had to see it. Let's face it, Margaret Mitchell wrote over a thousand pages, and the movie was more than 3 1/2 hours long. (I must interject. When I said I wanted to see it, Gram said that she'd drive me to the theater, but she wasn't going to sit through the movie!) Even with it being such a long movie, I was surprised at some things that were left out. In retrospect, what difference did it make if they left out Scarlett's first child? It didn't change the outcome of the story. Although, to this day, I find it interesting that nobody ever mentions that her husband Frank was shot at the "political meeting" of a group that is known for the white robes and hoods that are worn by its members to this day. It would definitely put a little tarnish on the romance.

Oh! I can tell you of a time when I definitely preferred the movie to the book. Like many people, I was entranced by the movie Forrest Gump. Forrest was an innocent, sweet person who flowed along through life, trying all sorts of things and having amazing experiences. He was no genius, but his willingness to try things allowed him to have a very rich life, and to enrich the lives of others. After I saw the movie I just had to read the book. And the Forrest in the book was so different from the one in the film! Compared to the gentle character I adored, I felt that this Forrest was crude, insensitive, and vulgar. Yes, he was open to all sorts of experiences, but not in the innocent, childlike way of the movie character so many people love. 

A relative who didn't know that I had the book in the house gave it to Gram for her birthday. In one of those weird child-as-parent moments, I had a little chat with Gram. I told her that she could, of course, make her own decisions, and that I would support her no matter what. She could read or not read the book, it was her choice. I had already told her how I felt about it, and my disappointment in the titular character. And then I jokingly forbade her to read it. She knew that if I felt that way about the character she probably would, too, so she decided not to read the book.

Of course I will continue to read books. I might love them, or I might find them to be just okay. Or I might actively dislike them, in which case they will probably not be finished. And I will continue to see movies based on books that I may or may not have read. I will try to view the movie as an individual piece of work rather than compare it to the original story. Oh, who am I kidding? I'll probably be sitting in the dark, munching on my popcorn and thinking, "The book was so much better!"


Monday, May 12, 2014

Just Don't Be, Okay?

I have mentioned one of my favorite former coworkers, Danielle, in a previous blog post titled Honestly?, in which I talk about how honest we may or may not be with one another. Ever since I wrote that piece, I wanted to share something else about my old friend Dani.

I had known Danielle for quite some time before we began sharing an office. She had been a telephone banker like I was, and was then promoted to the position of Service Quality Analyst. When I was promoted to a training position, she and I shared an office with my fellow trainer, Brooke. When you start to work in closer quarters with people you already knew, you get to know them on a deeper level. You may have known that one of them has children and that another is engaged, but that is often as far as it goes.

Then you end up hearing them make phone calls, or they mention something that is going on in their lives. I had seen one of Danielle's children a couple of years earlier at a department function, and he had created a lasting impression. We were spending a day at Elitch's amusement park here in Denver, enjoying free rides and the lunch that was provided for us. I was sitting at a picnic table enjoying a hamburger when I heard uproarious laughter. Danielle's toddler had found a tube of sunscreen and decided to use it when mom and dad's back were turned. His arms, legs, and tummy were thickly slathered with the stark white sunscreen. Dad immediately said, "I have to go to work, I can't take care of this." To Dani's credit, she just laughed at the hilarity of the situation, and then ran her arms and legs over the sunscreen to transfer some of it to her own skin. She then held him up and offered sunscreen to anyone who might need it. It was a sweet parenting moment, and I respected Dani for being so awesome about it. I remember telling Gram about it later, and she got a kick out of it as well.

As I shared office space with Danielle, I heard her mention her sons' names. She might get a call from one of them, and I would hear their name. Or she might say something about what one of them did at school. I freely admit that at first I had a hard time remembering which was which among her four boys. She'd say that so-and-so had soccer practice, for example, and I would ask if he was her oldest. And of course I was usually wrong. I didn't want her to think that I wasn't getting it right because I didn't care, so one day I asked her to tell me their names, from oldest to youngest, while I wrote them down. I was determined to remember them, and get it right, whatever it took. 

As Dani told me the names, I listed them on a piece of paper:

Justin
Devin
Brandon
Preston, the sunscreen kid, incidentally.

I looked at the list in my spare moments, repeating their names like a mantra of sorts, "Justin, Devin, Brandon, and Preston. Justin, Devin, Brandon, and Preston." It wasn't really working. I knew the names, but only knew the order when I was looking at the list. So I went back to the drawing board, looking for a mnemonic device, a memory tool, to help me get it right. After looking at the first letters of the names, I came up with:

Justin
Devin 
Brandon
Preston

equals

J
D
B
P.

Hey, baby steps. I searched for a set of words that would begin with the same letters so that I could finally get their birth order straight in my mind. Before long I came up with this:

J = Just
D = Don't
B = Be a
P = Poophead.

Victory! I told Danielle, and she thought it was pretty funny. We occasionally went through the little statement just for giggles, but we also tended to refer to sweet little Preston as Poophead. It wasn't done to be cruel, it just became our nickname for him because of my little memory tool. It got pretty ingrained in Dani's head though. One day she came into work and started laughing before she could even begin telling me her story of what happened the evening before. Without thinking, she had said Poophead instead of Preston. He mustered all of his four-or-five year old dignity and told his mother, "My name is not Poophead, it's Preston P.!"

I see by posts on social media that little Poophead Preston is now in high school. I wonder if his mom ever thinks of him by his old nickname. But if he ever starts acting like one, she'll put a stop to it fairly quickly, I'm sure. It's good enough advice for anyone, I guess, "Just don't be a poophead!"


Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Stories That Remain Untold

There are both rewards and drawbacks to being a blogger whose ravings are so closely tied to her real life. If I want to blather on about something that has piqued my interest, or my anger, I can get on the computer and let fly. The same with something that mystifies me or thrills me. I can type away, trying my best to get the point across about the thoughts or feelings that I am addressing. 

There's also the therapeutic benefits, not just to me but to my readers, I hope, involved in sharing difficult times that I have been through. No life is without both highs and lows. I know that there are many people who have been through worse experiences than I have, as well as people who have been blessed with better fortune. I don't write about things in my history in an attempt to make others feel sorry for me. It goes far beyond that. Sometimes writing about things is like telling someone something in order to get it off of your chest. Just sharing the burden of memories that weigh us down can make the load a bit lighter to carry. And there may be someone who reads what I write and can identify with it in some way. Perhaps they have had similar experiences. Maybe they know someone else who has, and never realized how much it could affect that person, because some things are too difficult to say. It's easier to reveal that someone beat you as a child, for example, than to reveal the permanent physical and emotional scars their treatment left on you.

I also love the opportunity to share what I have long called my childlike sense of wonder. I can tell stories of my travels here in my home country, and in Europe. There have been so many moments of beauty in life that sometimes they overflow and demand to be shared. My sense of wonder allows me to be deeply affected by finally meeting my family. It makes me thrilled by dancing around in the yard, surrounded by butterflies. And it makes my brain short-circuit when two wolves come up to me and greet me with a lick on my hand. I am an unusual sort of creature, I guess. I can see the logical, realistic side of things, and the magical, beautiful, charmed side as well.

I have many stories left to share, and I look forward to writing them. But I am bothered by the stories that remain untold. There are so many things that I would love to share, but simply can't. There are tales of betrayal, of lies told, and then more lies told. There are stories of jealousy born of insecurity, and the lack of knowledge that love grows stronger the more that it is spread around, and that jealousy resulting in threats to cut off contact with me forever. Why do they remain untold? Trent and I were talking about this just a couple of days ago. 

I wonder if part of it is because those who have experienced real pain aren't always willing or eager to inflict pain on others. Although someone may have hurt me deeply, making them feel pain as well is not something that I want to do. How could I, knowing how terrible it feels? The fact that the person in question isn't even reading my blog makes no difference to me. What if someone who knows them reads my posts? What if it changes their feelings about that person, even though they were not the ones wronged? Worse still, what if my stories about lies told and wrongs done get back to others who have been lied to without realizing it? What then? How could I deal with the guilt if my story was relayed to someone who might react abusively? 

So I carry some things silently inside me. Of course I share them with my husband, who gets angry and upset about his wife being ill-used. I know that there are moments, very brief ones, when his anger makes him want to say, "Go ahead, write about it. It serves them right." But he understands why the stories can't be told. A small chance of hurt or retribution is large enough to stop me from telling all, or in some cases, telling anything. So be they large or small, the stories remain untold.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Tacos And Traffic

Over the years of living with Gram, she told me all sorts of stories about her family. There were stories about her father and his family, and some even went back to the time when her father's family lived in Ireland. There were stories about her children, both when they were young and as adults. And there were stories about her husband, Hiram. She met him when she was sixteen years old and he was working as a projectionist in a movie theater in downtown Denver. Less than four months after her seventeenth birthday they ran off and got married. They were devoted to one another, and were married for thirty-eight years, when Gram found herself a widow at the age of fifty-five. She was a widow for thirty-five years, and I don't think she ever gave another man more than a glance, because she always loved her husband.

Gram and Hiram had to deal with his heart disease for a number of years. She often told me that it was difficult for him to stick to the dietary restrictions his doctors ordered. As with anyone who has blood pressure or coronary problems, his doctors wanted him to restrict his sodium intake, along with other things like fat. Gram often said that Hiram like his food "white with salt and black with pepper." I find it interesting, in these days when doctors advise a glass of wine daily for one's health, that his doctors wanted him to have a small tot of whiskey every day. She said that when they traveled they needed to carry a letter from the doctors so that they wouldn't get in trouble for carrying whiskey across any state lines. I imagine that may have been a problem if they traveled through any "dry" states.

Gram told me that at this time they had quite an interesting dog; I believe her name was Cindy. This dog was a little bit like The Tramp from the Disney movie Lady and the Tramp. No, she wasn't a stray, or unlicensed. She was a very social dog, and liked to go on her little meanderings on a daily basis. She would wander off by herself, visiting various people and businesses. There was a Mexican restaurant that was her final stop on these daily excursions, and apparently they liked Cindy a lot. Every time that she went by the restaurant, someone would give her a taco wrapped in paper. She would bring it home, lay down on the living room floor, and unwrap and eat her taco. 

One day Cindy came home, carrying her taco, just as Hiram was telling Gram how hard it was for him not to eat the things he liked. He missed all of the flavors that he used to enjoy but couldn't any more because of his healthier diet. Gram said that Cindy came into the living room and looked at Hiram. She walked over to him and laid her wrapped taco on his feet. She somehow knew that he really wanted a treat, and she gladly game him her favorite snack. I am fairly certain that he didn't eat the taco, but I still think it's one of the sweetest stories of kindness from a pet that I've ever heard.

Gram also told me of a harrowing experience she had once when Hiram had a heart attack. It was a warm day, and Hiram had come home from work and was leaning against the kitchen door frame while Gram was cooking dinner. Suddenly he slid down to the floor with no warning. She knew it had to be something to do with his heart. In those days, nobody knew about CPR like they do these days, so she didn't know of anything to do for him other than call an ambulance. She told me that she never knew why, but in her fear and distress, she pulled back her arm, made a fist, and hit him hard on the chest. She had unwittingly given him a bit of CPR, helping him until the ambulance arrived.

Gram got into the ambulance to ride to the hospital with her husband and the ambulance crew. I am pretty sure the hospital wasn't terribly far away, but unfortunately it was the height of rush hour. She told me that the ambulance was soon caught in a sea of traffic. Even though they had the siren blaring, all of the lanes were jam-packed with traffic. There were no gaps in the traffic for any of the cars to move out of the way. How could they possibly get Hiram to the hospital in time? Gram told me that the ambulance driver said, "Dear God in Heaven! Please open up a lane for me so that we can save this man's life!" Gram watched from the back of the ambulance as a single lane suddenly cleared in front of them. The ambulance crew was able to get Hiram to the hospital, where the doctors worked aggressively and saved her husband's life. 

Listening to these stories was captivating. I knew from the look on her face and the sound of her voice that she loved her husband deeply. And I know now how fortunate I was that she shared these lovely stories with me. It's strange that I heard more about Gram's family than my own. And that I, of all people, knew more about some things in her life than her own grand-kids. I can only hope that my occasional stories can bring her experiences to life for them. And I hope they bring some enjoyment to those of you who can only know this sassy little lady from the stories in my blog!


Friday, May 2, 2014

Solving The Problems

We have a somewhat ugly chair sitting in our living room. It is a dark brown wooden chair with a padded seat, back, and armrests. What makes it less than beautiful is the orange fabric with which it was upholstered. You know, kind of a 70's vibe. It was one of Trent's dad's favorite pieces of furniture, and since dad's gone, it lives with us now. Trent wanted to misplace throw it away when we moved a few years ago, but I wouldn't let that happen. No, it isn't the most beautiful chair in the world. But it is very comfortable. The seat has just the right amount of padding to let you sink in a little bit, but still be supported. Whenever anyone comes over, I graciously offer them a seat on the sofa, and sit in my comfortable wooden chair.

This made me think of a chair that Gram had in her bedroom. It was also made of wood. It had flat arms and a needlepoint covered seat. The wood was finished with a light, two-toned antiqued paint technique. It wasn't soft or cushy, but it was very comfortable. It was at a right angle to Gram's bed, and I spent many hours sitting in it. Gram might by lying in her bed, or sitting on the edge of her bed facing me, but what happened at those times was what was most important. 

When Liz got married and I became an 'only child,' I would often sit in that chair and have long talks with Gram. It was in that chair that I told her about many of the incidences of pain and emotional abuse that I had suffered at the hands of her daughter, before her daughter sent me to live with Gram. Gram told me that her daughter never learned about beatings from her -  she gave her kids a spanking or a swift swat to the behind, but never the tortures that I endured. She was horrified, and I felt a bit of release from finally telling someone what I had endured.

We would sometimes sit and talk until late at night, and about all sorts of subjects. Gram described these sessions as solving the problems of the world. We covered all sorts of subjects. Sitting on that chair, I heard many stories of her past and her family. Since she wasn't going to be disillusioning me by telling me things about my own relatives, like grandparents for example, I think it freed her to tell me things that she might not have been able to tell anyone else. Even sometimes about her own children!

We talked about books and movies, and often there were books that she mentioned that I found at the library and read very quickly on hot summer days, sitting in the shade in the yard. We talked about politics and world events and the different ways that families did or didn't discipline their children. When I worked across from a Godiva chocolate store and frequently bought her all-dark chocolate assortments (because dark was her favorite and because I loved treating her to Godiva), she'd ask me to bring her the chocolate box. After all, she would tell me with a purposely blank face, she was certain that two or three pieces of chocolate before bedtime helped her to sleep better.

In later years, I would sit on the chair in the morning while she ate the toast and scrambled egg I made her for breakfast, and drink her one daily cup of coffee. In the evening, she would sit on the edge of the bed while I took her through an exercise routine for her arms, with cans of soup as weights. She was using a walker by this time, and I knew that she needed the arm strength to help her get around. Incidentally, during her brief period in a nursing home before her death, all of the physical therapists commented that her arms were quite strong, so I must have done something right.

Over the course of the years, and through all of the changes in our relationship, we still had our sessions of solving the problems of the world. When Gram was young, schooling was only required through grade eight. But she was very well read, and always kept on top of current events. She read the morning newspaper every day, so she always knew what was going on in the world. We talked about subjects from Abortion to Zoology and everything in between, like world hunger and technology and numerous social issues. Sometimes she surprised me with her forward thinking. Maybe it was because she had seen a time when women couldn't vote, and had in fact been told by her father that nice ladies didn't have jobs, they had families. She would tell me things that she didn't tell her daughters, because I think she was actually far more liberal, and maybe even more liberated, than they were. She also had a stubborn streak, and moments of more conservative thoughts and ideas. 

We had many deep and open discussions while I sat in that chair. It was where I told her that I didn't want to go to college. I went anyway, but she listened and reasoned with me. It was where I sat when I was feeling the first ravages of lupus, and had no strength to get up and move for a while. It was there that she admitted to me that when she saw me in the hospital, she saw death in my face. She had been unable to face coming back to see me there again because she was trying to figure out how she was going deal with losing me, and living without me. Many tears and laughs were shared in these talks. We progressed to the point of being able to finish one another's thoughts and sentences, and getting really tickled by that. And though nobody felt any effects from it, on more than one occasion, we solved the problems of the world.