Sunday, January 28, 2018

Decay All Around

Casualties of winter—the pot may be a goner, but spring will return and maybe the fern will too. It's been such a unusually cold winter this year. I was so happy not to be cold this weekend!

And my prayer flags that I made in July of 2015 are showing their age. Leaving them out to rot is an exercise in letting go, which doesn't come easy for me. It also seems like we/I need prayers like these more than ever.

"Be Well," my hope always, and my prayer for my sister. Hope, that thing with feathers that is often hard to hold. I have to include here friend Cyn's encouragement from the time I posted these when they were brand new, "The assault on hope doesn't mean hope is down. Hope is an evergreen. Hope is your shadow. Hope is a forever friend." That's the kind of thing I need to hear often these days.

"Breathe," "Light," "Love," breathe light and love? Breathe? Be light? Spread love? The cotton is fading and fraying.

"Peace to all who mourn." Over the holidays, I knew of a couple of families who were mourning. May peace come to them. 

The first flag in line is "Joy." Joy might have been the first one I made.

Some have suggested it's time for new flags. I say, "not yet." Let's watch these slowly wither and die. 

I'm so ready for spring to arrive.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

When You Fall, Get Up and Begin Again

(Warning: This is long, probably boring, and could certainly be classified as navel gazing (at it's finest?)! But I kind of needed to clear up the fog I've been in for the last month or so.) 

The week before we were to be off for Christmas break, I had the flu. I worked two days before I finally admitted to myself that I was sick. Sick enough to see a doctor. I'd had the flu shot and thought I couldn't possibly have the flu. As I now know, that's entirely possible. I missed a day and a half during that week.

On the 15th, the last work day before the break, I was ready and looking forward to quiet times of reflection, reviewing and remembering 2017, and thinking about things I wanted to work toward in 2018.

We left that evening, heading out to our little place in the country. We stayed there until Thursday (the 21st). While I was there, I finished up a table runner I was making for my eldest daughter. She bought her first house last January and she was going to have us over for Christmas Eve gumbo.

This is the front of the table runner. The red border fabric was an estate sale purchase. The strips in the middle came from Tuesday Morning. 

This is the back of the table runner. This is what happens when you don't plan so well and your top ends up being larger than the piece of fabric you wanted to use for your backing. You add a group of strips in the middle (or thereabouts) of the backing fabric and voilĂ , your piece of fabric is now good to go! 

I was able to spend time with my journal and last year's planner, thinking about and writing about the blessings and the foibles of last year. I thought about the things I might like to focus on in the coming year. I made a list of possible words and themes for the year.

I get overwhelmed thinking about goals. I've about decided I'm just not a goal oriented person, and maybe that's okay. For me. I wonder why I write in journals and why I write here. I enjoy it, that's all. I remember once, at work, the faculty had to set measurable goals showing improvement in one of the areas they deal with. One of the professors said something like, "Do we have to be so specific? Can't we just point in the general direction and hope for the best?"  I think that's a "best way" for me to deal with looking ahead and "planning" for the new year.

Anyhoo...I mostly decided that 2017 was an unremarkable year. There were a few things that stood out, a few blips in the road, but mostly, it was unremarkable.

We came home from the country on Thursday afternoon (21st). On Saturday (23rd), the wheels began to fall off. 2017 began to deliver on The Remarkable. My leg began to hurt. I couldn't stand without pain, I couldn't walk without pain, I couldn't sit without pain. I could not even lie flat in the bed without pain. I struggled through that day. Sunday morning (24th), when I tried unsuccessfully three times to walk to the kitchen to fix my coffee and eat a little breakfast, I decided I needed to get myself to a doctor if I didn't want to spend Christmas Eve and/or Christmas in the ER.

I have never been in so much miserable inescapable pain. I called my aunt to ask her to bring me to Urgent Care. She had to stay in the car because she has a compromised immune system and well... flu. I hobbled in and registered. I could not get comfortable. I knew I couldn't sit. So I did my best to get in a corner where I paced and hoped not to call attention to myself. I set my purse down on the floor to get rid of the excess weight. I discovered as I was bending over to set it down that if my left (hurting leg) was up off the ground a bit and my weight was on my right leg, the pain eased up a bit. So I stayed in that position for a bit. When I stood up and looked toward the waiting room, sure enough, there was a young man staring at me with a look of concern and morbid curiosity. Gah. I had become that person you could not not look at.

When they called me in, the lovely doctor decided she couldn't give me a steroid shot because my blood pressure was too high. Well, duh. I was h-u-r-t-i-n-g! I asked if I could sit and try to get it down but she decided she's give me a shot of something else and prescribe a steroid pak. But as she was going out the door, she said, "You're not diabetic, are you?" I told her I was taking medicine and my a1c is well managed and my regular doctor seems to mostly think of it as pre-diabetic but nope, she wasn't buying any of that. So she prescribed a pill you take once daily (and it can take up to two weeks to build up in your system). Can I tell you how helpful that was?

I made the effort and went to my daughter's house for Christmas Eve. I couldn't stay long. I hated that. I visited a bit, ate a little gumbo, and went back home to bed. I was hurting worse on Christmas Day and decided I just couldn't get up and go for Christmas. I've never missed a Christmas Day at my parents' house. It was sad. So Christmas came and went.

At some point after Christmas Day, I called my doctor and she sent out a steroid pak. I also started taking some leftover pain pills I had. They were prescribed to me and I checked with my pharmacist to make sure they were okay to take with my steroid pak. At that point, I was desperate for relief. I didn't quite trust myself to make the wisest choices for myself. Slowly, and I do mean slowly, I began to feel a little better. Meaning I could lie in the bed without involuntarily moaning and groaning in pain.

On New Year's Day, I felt good enough to go down to my parents' house and visit for a bit. Mostly I laid on the couch and they sat around while we talked. I'd get up for a bit and eat a bite, then I'd go back to horizontal. The visit brought me some happiness in spite of the pain.

I had an appointment with my doctor on the 5th. I called to see if I could get in earlier and I was able to go on the 3rd. She did an x-ray of my back and sent me home with two prescriptions. The x-ray showed arthritis in my back, which I already knew I had. She scheduled me for an MRI on the 12th.

In the meantime, work had started again on the 2nd. I was still unable to move much. I worked for a few hours on the 8th because I had paperwork to be done. I had appointments at MD Anderson on the 9th and 10th for a CT scan and checkups. I was walking a little better by then and fortunately I didn't have to do much walking for those two appointments.

The very excellent news from that trip was that my scans were clear and my tumor markers were normal. We visited with another patient while waiting for the CT scan. She and her husband both have cancer. One of them is terminal. But she talked about how people don't understand some of this unless they've been through it (or have helped someone close to them walk through it). Sometimes things start happening, and you can't help but wonder if those things are related to the cancer. I'd wondered for a bit if my leg pain was a sign of something new happening with the cancer. So I was more than usual grateful for the "all clear" news.

And that brought me to a sort of mantra/theme for the coming year: "begin again." I'd been seeing it in various places on the internet and in my reading. I'd gotten off track with my exercise and my eating. So, one of the things I am pointing in the "general direction" of this year is the idea that I can "begin again" to take better care of my body.

I think I worked Thursday (11th) and I came in after my MRI on Friday (12th). Then we had a long weekend for Martin Luther King Day. I laid around and recuperated some more. We were to return on the 16th, but we had a weather closure. I laid around and recuperated some more. We were to return on the 17th (today!), but we had a weather closure. Guess what? I am laying around again and recuperating some more!

The pain is less than what it was but it is still with me. The MRI shows a mild to moderate bulging disc. They are referring me to a pain management specialist. There is an injection that helps some people and not others. He will evaluate my situation to see if that might be helpful for me.

And now I have a few things to say to 2017 and 2018.

2017, seriously? That's the note you chose to leave on? Debilitating and unrelenting pain? Geez. That's how you want to be remembered? You just listen to me. I'm upset now. I'm angry. But I'm going to tell you right here, right now--you are more than pain. You're the year I went to the Houston Quilt Show. You're the year I made it through with all good reports from MDA. You're the year that brought so many good times with family and friends. You're the year I pulled out projects that were over 30 years old and I finished them.You are another year for which I can be grateful. But, good-bye, 2017. And yes, thank you.

2018, seriously? This is the first impression you want to leave on me? This is how you want our relationship to begin? In pain? You're just going to follow in the footsteps of 2017, and deliver up more pain? If 2017 went and jumped off the Calcasieu River Bridge, would you follow mindlessly along and do the same?? Let me tell you something, 2018. We have gotten off to a crappy start. But I'm feeling better. I have stumbled out of 2017 and I have fallen into you, 2018. And I'm feeling grateful. So we're going to grab hands (metaphorically don't have hands...I do) and we're going to walk together. We're going to get to know each other and we're going to become dear friends, 2018.