Sunday, April 26, 2020

Unprecedented Times


Everybody and his brother has already declared it so, and I will reiterate: We are living in unprecedented times.

I've been trying to journal some about the situation as I see it, as it effects me. I'm not doing a good job at it.

I'm working from home, which is weird. I'm doing the same work but in a different environment.

 

I have a grandson who turned two months old yesterday. I have held him in my arms exactly one time. The current "normal" is me going to my daughter's house and walking with her (at an acceptable distance) while she strolls the baby. I'm grateful her baby came early and they were able to get home when they did. We were able to visit with them in the hospital, before all the limitations were placed on hospital visits.

I visit my parents by sitting outside on their patio (while staying the acceptable distance). I am grateful to be able to do that. My sister has not been able to come see my parents for over a month now.

I've watched far too much TV (Little Fires Everywhere, Almost Human, Bosch, Tales From the Loop, in case you need any suggestions).

I've participated (loosely) in a couple of writing groups centered around the things we are currently experiencing. I've take a free online collage class and I'm looking forward to taking a second (paid) class with the same instructor.


I ordered a kit to make clay bowls with rose transfers on them. That was a class offered on Zoom.

I've cooked more often than usual.

I've eaten more junk and moved less than usual.

I've made about a dozen cloth face masks. 

My various appointments at MD Anderson have all been rescheduled for June 1.

It's a weird and difficult time for the entire world. If I think too much and too broadly about the possible repercussions of this time for the world, and for our country, I worry. What helps most is bringing myself back to this present moment. That's all I have. That's all any of us have. That is always the way it has been.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

The Much Longed For Five Year Mark!

Today was my day to hear results from my CT scan. Everything was clear and looking good. I was worried because I had been anemic. I tested positive for blood in my stool. My colonoscopy was clear. But because of the anemia, they did an upper scope, where they saw mucus (fatty liver doctor had a fancy word for this). Then they decided to do a camera pill endoscopy. I'm not good at swallowing pills so that was an anxiety producing procedure. I was able to swallow it and (possible TMI alert) saw the blinking flash of the camera after I passed it. That didn't show any definitive answer. The fatty liver doctor thought my bleeding might be due to anastomosis. I'm no doctor, but when I looked that word up, I decided that was probably not the problem. By the time my team finally got together and discussed this, they also decided that wasn't the problem, because the surgery had been done so long ago.

By the time they arrived at the conclusion that this looked like dried blood (how can it be dry in such a wet environment?) my anemia had disappeared and I was back on track. They told me the blood could have been old, could have been from a hard stool, or severe diarrhea (again, maybe TMI for the average person). Keep in mind, I never saw any blood. I was anemic. They had to check it out.

It's hard when these possibilities are being discussed, when it feels like they take so long to let the patient know what is going on. This patient has an active imagination and has to do a lot of pre-worrying, and is generally convinced that this will be the time they are going to come back and tell her she's a goner for sure.

The patient firmly believes she finally got a direct answer from the fatty liver doctor because, after sending several patiently polite emails, she sent an email saying she assumed this was not a matter that need to be taken care of in a timely manner. Patient also mentioned that she was having trouble quelling her anxiety about that might be happening with her body.

Also, this patient loosened up on her healthy eating habits and was not as active as she had been. To be fair, the holidays are a challenge to most of us when it comes to trying to keep healthy habits. Additionally, this patient is sure everyone has noticed the entire world seems to be in a dark place right now. The patient might have spent a moment or two wondering "what's the point?"

I read somewhere about a hockey coach/player who had colon cancer. He was going through chemo and had decided he'd had quite enough. But he talked it over with his wife and he thought about how it was for him with hockey—when down 7-1, he still played to the end. That's what I want to remember, to play to the end. I sat around a little too much and I ate far too many sweets over the holidays (and before, if I am honest). I got discouraged and thought I'd never get to this five year mark, thought "They" would always find something else. Yet, here I am, having made it. And now I need to remember that even if I am down 7-1, I need—I want—to play to the end. The sad thing is, I've never actually even been down 7-1! That problem has always been only in my head, a product of my over-active and melodramatic imagination!

 

Today I was grateful and maybe a bit surprised when they told me I was ready to move to survivor care. I no longer have to do yearly CT scans and I only need to do colonoscopies every five years.

I came out with mixed feelings. I have a colonoscopy scheduled for April. I still need to work on getting back on the eating healthier and exercising regularly wagon. I still have several years of mammograms to get through before I'm ready for survivor care with breast cancer.

I felt whiny, felt like I was saying in my head, but, I still have all these other things hanging over my head. It's true. I have that and more hanging over my head. BUT, the word I need to use is not "but," it's AND. 

I'm still working on my breast cancer issues. I still need to work on building stronger bones. AND, I am a five year colon cancer survivor.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

That Time My Younger Self Visited

I'm doing a project that is designed to foster a mindful beginning to the coming year. One of today's assignments was to draw a map of a neighborhood you lived in. As I was drawing my map, this memory floated to the surface and I wanted to write a bit about it all. It's still such a visceral memory/experience. 

We moved from this neighborhood the summer before my 4th grade year. They were buying everyone out so they could sell or tear down the small frame houses and build bigger homes. It was a move up for our family, to be sure. But my mother mourned this move deeply. We often went back by to see if our little house was gone. One day it was gone and there was an empty lot. Sometime later, a nice brick home stood in the place where our little frame home had stood. The home where we hung out on the porch to wait for my father to come home after work. The home that had a heater with a vent in the floor that kind of scared me. It could have swallowed any of us up if we'd stepped wrong and fallen. Maybe I thought the devil lived down in there? It was also the home that heralded the arrival of my younger sister and brother. My first "best friend" lived across the street. The place itself, the land where our house was, holds many sweet family memories.

The neighborhood is not that far away. One day I was in the area and had time to kill so I drove by. All but one of the older homes have been torn down and new homes are on most of the old lots.


I circled around to the back of where our house was. That lot was empty so I stopped there. I was in a meditative mood and looking across to the gully when a young girl appeared, as though she had crossed the gully from our old backyard. It was like seeing a young doe in the woods. We were both a little unsure of what we were seeing and maybe we were both a little wary. But our eyes met and I knew she was my younger self.  The vision lasted only a few moments longer. It was such a sweet communion. I felt so loved and at peace afterwards. I cried. Tears well up as I write this now.

Sunday, December 08, 2019

Rambling Sunday Thoughts

It's been eight years today since we lost our son. It's hard to believe it's actually been that long.

On Friday, I went to the Student Art Sale and bought two pieces of pottery. I've been pondering how much long I will keep this ritual/collection going. The rituals of grief do change during the years and it may be time to let this particular ritual go. Life seems to be an ongoing process of figuring out what works for you, noticing when the thing you figured out is no longer working for you, and then adjusting your course accordingly. I've been really deep in that work lately, though I'm not sure I am making any measurable progress.



I kept this piece for my desk at home. It's holding a portion of my various colorful pens I'll be using in my planner/journal. I'm trying to color code things. Sometimes the different colors seem chaotic to me. Color choices in my planner/journal doesn't really matter much in the grand scheme of things. It's one of those distractions that I need to dig a little deeper into, and ask myself a few questions. For one thing, what more complicated or difficult task or decision am I avoiding by spending so much of my time and energy on choosing colors for my planner/journal?


When I first considered choosing this piece, it reminded me of one of those beehive drawings that show the hive hanging from the tree. Looking at it now, it also reminds me of the pot my mother used for baking beans! I think she probably still has that old pot.

I looked up beehive symbolism and found this. It's more about bees than beehives and I'm too lazy to dig any deeper into the accuracy of the sentiment but I like it very much and aspire to be more like the honey bee in my own way thinking. Lord knows, we certainly have enough (too many?) ants and spiders in our current world.

The other mention of bees comes from Frances Bacon (1561-1626). He uses a parable of the ant, the spider, and the honey bee to describe the best method of attaining knowledge. 
The ant, he says, works hard, collects data, and makes a big pile of data. The spider takes the substance from within and constructs a beautiful web - a pure theorist with little regard for empirical evidence.

Bacon claims that we philosophers should not be like the ant or the spider, but like the honey bee that goes out and collects data, mixes it in with his own inner substance, and then spits it out to build a gorgeous honeycomb of knowledge. 


We brought Christmas flowers yesterday. I like the basic arrangement but felt like I could have used some ribbons or bows around the base of the arrangement. I'll tuck that idea away in my little head for future times.

Flowers and hair, I am no good at arranging either. I suppose I am learning as I go. I've figured out to handle my hair. I go to bed with it wet and let it arrange it's own self. I'm sad that I've been forced to learn to arrange flowers for my son's grave. That's one trick I never would have bothered learning on my own. 

Circling back around to Frances Bacon, I found his quote here.

“The men of experiment are like the ant, they only collect and use; the reasoners resemble spiders, who make cobwebs out of their own substance. But the bee takes the middle course: it gathers its material from the flowers of the garden and field, but transforms and digests it by a power of its own.”

Francis Bacon



Saturday, August 10, 2019

Seeing the Good, For a Bit

For several years now, I've known about and lusted for a Traveler's Notebook to use when I journal. Some of them are expensive (and that's the ones I liked best) and I was never able to justify the money on something as seemingly trivial as a notebook. Plus, I didn't know for sure what size I wanted and since it was such an investment, I did not want to take a chance on being wrong!

Then I discovered a group on Facebook where they bought and sold the brand I wanted. The first one that popped up at a price I was willing to pay was the larger pink one in the picture. Someone had tried to decorate it with ink circles and splats and didn't use permanent ink. I expressed my interest and ordered it. Then I began to sweat bullets because the owner had put a sticker on the front (that I did not want to keep on it). I'd asked her if she would remove the sticker so I could see how bad it was underneath. Although she said in her original posting there was no damage to the leather under the sticker, she wouldn't remove the sticker for me, saying she didn't want to damage anything. So while I waited for my shipment to arrive, I imagined how ugly whatever that sticker was hiding was and chided myself for being so foolish as to purchase the darn notebook (years, I tell you, years I looked at these notebooks*). But it was love at first sight when the notebook arrived. I carefully pulled the sticker off and what was revealed was nowhere near as bad as what I had imagined (isn't that so often the case?).

On that very same day, the smaller pink one was listed. I ordered that one too (though I had no idea what I was going to actually do with it)! This one was very new and had no blemishes on it. That made me nervous (and still does).

The green one was listed about a week later and I decided I needed that one too. I'm using it for a wallet and that is working out very well.

What I like about buying used is that they notebook already has a bit of character to it. I don't have to worry about protecting it like I do with the pink one. I really doubt I'd ever buy one brand new for that reason.

So I've been busy writing and doing collages and other things for my own entertainment in these notebooks. It's therapeutic!



The pages in the larger book are long and narrow, so I am somewhat limited as to what I can do in the notebook, but I do enjoy adding color here and there. This is a page I did not long ago.

The quote is "What is the good of your stars and trees, your sunrise and the wind, if they do not enter into our daily lives?" (E.M. Forster)


* When we were first married, I found some bedroom furniture that I wanted. We couldn't afford it at the time, and I visited my furniture at Sears many times. There was one old guy who would always come and try to sell the set to me. I told him I wasn't ready to buy just yet, but when I did, I would be sure and ask for him (at the time, my husband was selling and getting commission so I wanted this guy to get the commission, if there was any). I'd go look, come home and measure our teeny-tiny bedroom and ponder just how many pieces I could fit in the room.

The day finally came that we were ready to buy. My husband and I went together to Sears. We got there, and asked for the salesman who'd been so patient with all my looking. Poor guy had up and died on me! Another salesman got lucky that day. I hope he breathed a silent thanks to the other salesman.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Therapeutic Ramblings

Last weekend I was in Houston. I thought sure I was going to be told I had osteoporosis (the doctor told me that was what was going to happen). I had myself a big plan to build bone density. I made a list and a check off chart and everything. I kept up with the list and the chart for a few days but somewhere along the way I totally fell off the wagon. I quit caring if I even tried to exercise or watch what I ate.

My bone density results are essentially the same as the last time I was scanned. I see that as an opportunity for me to straighten up and fly right. But I haven't straightened up.


(An eerie window photo taken in Houston of mannequins who looked to be made of ceramic.)

Today I spent the day with my mother, my sister, and my aunt. We went to a couple of estate sales, timing our visits so we could get the 50% discount. Tomorrow the discount will be 75% but you're taking a risk in waiting if there is something you really want.

On one hand, I find going to estate sales fun and interesting. There are bargains to be had. Perhaps bargains on things you didn't know you needed, but still, bargains. I found a London Fog rain/trench coat with a removable lining. I'd been looking for something like that for a while but didn't want to pay the prices I'd seen. This one cost me $7.50. I'd also been looking for a used typewriter that worked and I found one today, an electric one, for $12.50. I want to use it to type things for collage work. The thing I found that I didn't know I needed was a four foot level with a ruler along one of the sides. Weirdo that I am, levels have always appealed to me. I have a couple of smaller ones...somewhere. I've played with the one on my phone. I'll use this one to keep track of the poles on my quilting to frame to make sure they are level.

On the other hand, there is something sad about seeing people digging through the detritus of a deceased person. I noticed it is often times older people who are looking for the treasures. Surely they have already accumulated enough of their own stuff? I know I have, and I don't know how to defend myself from my own complaint. Except maybe to say there is something virtuous in buying used goods? I'm there, digging for my own treasures, even as I look at the others with pity and wonder what empty spot they are trying to fill by buying things they didn't know they needed until they saw them at the estate sale.

One of the sales we went to today was that of a family member of the company my father worked for all of his adult working life. They were a kind couple as far as I've ever heard. I'd been around them as a child at company picnics. She gave us a lovely Martha Washington bedspread for our wedding. I still have it...somewhere. In fact, I'd seen in the pictures posted of items for the sale that there was one for sale. Briefly I thought about hoping to buy it if the price was right. Hers was pristine as the day it was purchased. Why do we (some of us) think we need things to remind us of special moments and the generosity of people around us? I'd like to be better at letting go of the physical reminders. Too often those reminders become clutter that weighs us down.

I bought the London Fog coat from their sale. I can wear that and remember those two people who I did not know well, but who left indelible marks on my family simply because my father worked for him for so many years.

He was the first to die.

I bought the typewriter from their sale. There was a paper in the typewriter. The words said something about the typewriter needing assistance. There was a note that the "X" key had gotten stuck but it had released itself. We laughed because we thought another customer had plugged the typewriter in to see if it worked and left the notes for future customers. I kept the note. I thought I'd paste into my journal, my own bit of detritus from the day.

But when I got home, I had time to read the rest of the note. Here is what it said:
I'm glad to have uncovered the typewriter and need to plan to use it more.
I'd tell myself I was glad to have uncovered the typewriter and that I needed to plan to use it more.

But then, this (as typed, she mentioned elsewhere that her skills were rusty):
Now, howdvdr, I need to get some supper ready, and then go to the Guardian House to see Bill. 
I see a poignant glimpse of love. And I feel their loss, as I have felt my own loss.

What I have learned, what I continue to learn, is that fear of loss is no reason to run from love.


Monday, June 03, 2019

52 Weeks April

I got a new laptop several months back. I chose not to have "The People" transfer all my documents and photos over from the old laptop. I did it myself. I also bought a second external hard drive because I was afraid the old one wasn't going to work on the new laptop. It did and now I have my stuff scattered hither, thither, and beyond.

All of that is to offer my excuse for not having put up my March 52 Weeks pages. I thought I saved them somewhere but I can't find them now and I'm just too less of caring to photograph them again. So what we have here are my April pages.