Catching-Up is Hard to Do

Happy New Year!

It’s New Year’s Eve and our house is full of modest activity. Bossman is cleaning off his desk, The Queen of English is probably watching a Hallmark movie or is at her desk editing bird pictures from today’s sit-outside. The Man-Boy is in his bedroom meditating after trying to figure out all the problems with this blog over the last few days. I’m sitting here, drinking a Pumpkin Spice Latte with Wild Turkey. Don’t judge.

A lot has happened this past year. Good and Bad, of course. The Queen of English has been afflicted with Meniere’s Syndrome for almost a year. It’s horrid. Her POTS, postural orthostatic, tachycardia sydrome has been pretty steady at being just ‘bad’. The good news is that she’s finished her novel and has gone through three edits. I’ll keep you all posted when it goes off to agents. Her birding has also been pretty steady. 99% of her sightings are from the backyard and she’s ranked 6th in the county for species sightings for the year.

The Man-Boy, 43, has moved from Oregon to our spare bedroom. He’s job searching and ready to start over in the south where the weather is warmer and brighter. He’s a helper to all of us and has lifted his sister’s spirits quietly by just sitting and watching Hallmark movies with her during the holidays.

Bossman has played golf two to three times a week in good weather and enjoys poker night with the neighborhood guys once a month. He keeps busy with tons of bookkeeping and paperwork, shuttling The Queen to therapy and appointments, finishing handyman work around our house and anyone else’s who needs it.

Our ‘chosen’ grandkids are the lights of our lives. Kate is almost 17 and Cannon will be five on our birthday. Such fun with these two!

Last year started out with a bang for me. I had basal cell surgery on my nose in February which took six hours because the wonderful, amazing Doctor  William G. Stebbins rebuilt my nostril. I love showing it off. I stick my nose up in the air at a lot of people. In March I had two wisdom teeth removed. The only outcome of that was the tattoo I decided to get of Bernie Sanders. (get it?)

I’ve been active in my three writer’s groups, one which Bossman has now joined, and another with just chicks. I also am a leader in our church’s Poets and Writers group.

I attended two family weddings and four graduations in Mississippi, New York and Atlanta. I traveled to EUROPE!!! It was a dream-trip~ France, Switzerland and Italy. Words fail me. I went with 14 others from the Journey Church Arts Collective and we had an experience of a lifetime. The bonding was unexpected and is still so very strong months later.

Last February I was approached by my friend and Creative Pastor, Brett Mabury. He asked if I thought I could write lyrics. “Sure! I think I could do that.” Meanwhile a little voice was yapping at me, “What? What? You? Write lyrics??? hahahaha”.  Well, those lyrics were for a song that was hopefully going to be included in a movie; which opened this December, and had music from Journey Church people, including my song. I took all my friends and family to the red carpet premieres in Franklin and Nashville. I had to join a union. I met the actors in the movie, Believe, and we have three songs, including mine, that are three of 91 songs submitted for nomination for an Academy Award for best original song in a motion picture. We will find out January 24th if we’re nominated. One song, by Rachael Taylor is Number One on the Christian Music Charts right now. She sings my song, Mother’s Theme (I didn’t name it that), in the movie and on iTunes. The DVD should be coming out in January of 2017.

The trip to Europe and the song have been highlights of this past year. What a blessing to have these happen late in life. I’ll turn, cough-cough, the magic age of Social Security benefits in May. It’s never too late to have some exciting firsts. God has plans for us that we never see coming, sometimes.

Florence, Italy
Florence, Italy

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Hangin' in the Paris Metro.
Hangin’ in the Paris Metro.
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Overwelming to Overwhelmed

 

o-ver-whelm-ing adj. 1. So great as to render resistance or opposition useless; overpowering.

o-ver-whelm v.t. 1. to overpower in mind or feeling; overwhelmed by remorse. 2. to overpower with superior force or numbers. 3. to cover or bury beneath a mass of something. 4. to burden excessively.

 

 

Where do I start? I like to think that I roll with the punches, so they say, when challenged with hurdles thrown in front of me. I think I handle them pretty well when they’re my hurdles.

In January, I had a medical problem that my regular doctor couldn’t quite fit into a category. After having a physical exam and a CAT scan that showed no abnormalities he diagnosed a pulled groin muscle and told me to rest, don’t lift, apply heat and take ibuprofen. (I rarely do anything strenuous enough to pull a groin muscle. Honestly.) Three months went by and I still had terrible pain in my lower abdomen and both groin areas. So, I went to see a young woman from church who is doctor of kinesiology and chiropractic. She helped me with, what I called her ‘voodoo’, aromatherapy, and weird and wonderfully painful pressure-point torture procedures. Today, I am pain-free and I thank God for her. Hurdle cleared.

A large basal cell carcinoma on my nose was my hurdle in February. My left nostril was rebuilt by my surgeon, Dr. William Stebbins at Vanderbilt Dermotology. I had eleven shots in my nose, was at the surgery center for six hours, had three biopsies and a partridge in a pear tree. It was overwhelming for a day or so when I’d see the quilting job he did on my nose,but I moved on. Those stitches were a hurdle I had to reckon with, and I did it. I reckoned that the surgery probably saved my nose and maybe my life. Hurdle cleared!

On March 23rd I had my two upper wisdom teeth out at the age of 63. They weren’t doing me any good, wisdom was fleeting and they were harassing the teeth in front of them, so I figured, “What the Hell. Get rid of them!” Dentists had been after me for at least three decades to get them out, so I finally gave in. It was a no brainer and I recovered quickly and completely. Hurdle cleared!

April was a reprieve for me, but Bossman had basal cell cancer surgery on his neck. He’s joined the Skin Cancer Survivor Club with The Queen of English (our daughter who has a Masters degree in creative writing), and me.

May was my birthday month, so Bossman gifted me his cold that had staked a claim in his chest producing a barking cough. My present just made me feel lousy. We missed church for the first time in forever. Then all Hell broke loose.

On Wednesday, the 18th of May, I woke up, rolled over to look at the time and couldn’t open my eyes. Damn that Sandman. I felt my way to the bathroom, turned on the faucet and prayed I didn’t have pinkeye. The soaked heavy warmth of the washcloth felt good on my now scratchy eyes. One was pink. Thinking I could catch it early, I treated each eye as an individual. Each one had its own fresh washcloth for its warm water compress and individual towel. I researched which Essential Oils I could use and placed them in odd reflex spots on my toes to help my eyes. (I don’t get it either) I was going to tough this out. Hell, I was turning 64 in less than a week and this childish pinkeye hurdle was not going to get the best of me.

So, later that evening it was close to 10:30 when the ER doctor, Dr. Handsome, ordered a shot of antibiotics in my hip, put antibiotic drops in my eyes and handed me two scripts for drops and 1,000 milligram capsules for a week by mouth. My painful eyes, almost swollen shut, and the disgusting goop being manufactured at a pace that would rival China’s iPad production were a challenge for the medical staff to contain their “Oh, that’s really gross” face. Zombie PinkEye. I looked as if I did a few rounds with Mohammad Ali and lost. But, I was much better by my birthday on the 24th. Bossman and my semi-pink eyes and I went to lunch and picked up Gigi’s Gluten Free Cupcakes to share with the Queen of English. Then I took a nap. Hurdle cleared!

Little did I know that those hurdles were nothing compared to what lay ahead for our adult kid.

Our medically disabled daughter was diagnosed with POTS [postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome] a few years ago and falls down frequently because of low blood pressure. That’s a twenty-seven foot tall hurdle in itself. She has also been suffering from vertigo over the last few months – a double-whammy if I’ve ever seen one. With her POTS falls, she’ll yell, “I’m fine!” when she goes down like a pile of bricks and we’ll continue to watch TV or eat our dinner as we reply with a mouthful of mashed potatoes, “Okay. Thanks.” If we don’t hear the “I’m fine”, we yell, “You okay?” and she might eke out a weak “yes” and one of us will run or hobble up the stairs anyway. Hurdles everywhere.

During all my temporary medical drama this past year, we’d hear her POTSie falls, later mixed in with the Vertigo crashes, coming from the second floor where she lives. SuperDad/Bossman/ManNurse would fly up the stairs to check on her. I’d cover my head with my soft blanket and pray.

We need a better system.

Lately, her vertigo has become violent. Tests start on Monday with an MRI of her brain and we’ll go from there. Her saving grace has been the nurturing and photographing of our abundant, civil war battlefield/ backyard birds, ducks, turkeys and squirrels. As she pushes her walker to the back door to feed the yard birds, all too often it looks like some ghost of a Yankee or Rebel soldier is pushing her sideways or backwards. She’ll slam onto the hardwood floor, and while I move to help her I yell, “You bastards!!! Leave her alone!!! Sons of Bitches!!!” It feels good to be able to blame someone for this stuff.

Vertigo is an evil hurdle to tackle. The attacks come as if they are set up on her old high school track where she ran miles and miles for years. One after another after another… . When an episode happens, it’s as if she’s being slapped on the forehead. Her head jerks back, she loses her balance and down she goes. Again. She recalls her college days occasionally while she’s on her knees hanging over her fuchsia walker. “I used to enjoy feeling this way once in a while.”

It’s overwhelming.

I am useless. I freak out. In my rush to get to her I might trip and fall on the bed or bang up against the wall. She smiles and shakes her head. When she has an attack in front of me, I automatically turn into Kramer from Seinfeld. That makes her laugh. I try to help her get up and either tickle her by mistake or grab her somewhere inappropriate. We laugh again. “Just helping…” I mutter.

The Queen of English says we’re a sitcom.

We are.

I’d call it, Overwhelmed.

Everyone Has One

I’m talking about a nose.

I’m also talking about a quirk with some bodily task, function, obsession that might partner with that nose or your choice of body part. You might have the desire that your fingernails be trimmed to a certain length. All the time. Or maybe it’s your toenails. What if that big toe catches on your sock and tries to push through to freedom? Does it make you crazy enough to throw your shoes and socks off, race to get the clippers and take care of the little bugger? Not that that’s ever happened to me, mind you. But does that bother you?

Ears. Do you need to inspect your ears and Q-Tip them until they’re pink? Or could it be the eyebrows with the willy-nilly antennae reaching for Mars? Do you snag the strays and release a relaxing breath?

My personal quirk is that I enjoy a clean nose. It drives me crazy to feel any material in my nostrils. I have issues, so I have tissues with me at all times. I try to be discreet in public and will excuse myself to take care of any debris I’m suddenly aware of. I will drill to China for a clean nose. It’s become an art.

But, I’ve been challenged for almost a week now. I had surgery on my nose to remove a be-damned basal cell cancer. A tumor was hiding down where that cute little bump connects the nose to the face. It was large enough that the surgeon had to rebuild my little bump and nostril. I’ve endured swelling, many stitches, of which Doc would win a blue ribbon in a quilting competition, and a closed nostril due to said swelling. No clean nose for days. Now, almost a week later, there is still a partial blockage to access material. I’ve devised a plan so I don’t hurt my nose and still get some satisfaction of clearing the material, which we all know are boogers. I hate boogers in my nose.

So, there you have it. My confession given under extreme circumstances of not being able to take care of a personal hygienic issue, of which I’m handling, not so much with grace but with humor and extreme stress of not being able to let go and blow this nose to kingdom come. Soon. Soon enough. The stitches come out tomorrow.

Random February Ramblings

Home Snoweet Home

Aunt Shari's Porch
Yellow house, five steps up to Aunt Shari’s Porch.

I was born and raised in the Northeastern part of the United States. All my family has lived up in upstate New York or northern Massachusetts for decades upon decades. Hearty people who can handle the cold, hard winters and appreciate the beauty of the four seasons. This year has been a record breaking snow year. My cousins in northern Massachusetts and fraternity brothers over near Boston and Maine have had 5.5 feet of snow in three weeks. My sister in upstate New York (picture) and the rest of our family has drifts of snow almost up to my Aunt Shari and Uncle Mike’s porch which is about 4 feet high. I could ask my cousin Mike exactly how high it is since my sister and cousin Greg convinced him he could fly off of it when he was five, which is just a few years short of a half-century ago. Broken leg for Mike and the other two went into hiding. But, I digress… Snow. Lots of it and newsworthy. Yes, it’s the north and we expect snow, but not all at once for three consecutive weeks. It would be like having 105 degree weather, day and night, for three weeks in August here in the south where we now live. Stay safe and hearty, my Northern Family and Friends. I’ll visit in August.

(cousin Mike,53, runner/athlete had successful quintuple emergency bypass surgery last month. Genetics… He’s doing very well in recovering)

 

Tornado Season

While the north was getting forecasts for more snow on the first Saturday in February at 1pm, sirens sounded in our neighborhood. I froze and listened; observed the sunshine and brilliant blue sky out the patio doors and realized tornado season is now upon Tennessee. Oh joy. Tests of the tornado warning system on the first Saturday of each month during Twister Season have begun. Time to restock and clean the shelter in the garage.

 

The Day the Music Died the House Got Dirty

Just the other day, as I looked around my living room/dining room/kitchen combo area, I wondered where my get-up-and-go went when it came time to really clean the house. Windows, windowsills, cobwebs, corners, baseboards, doors, framework, floors, upholstered furniture…. Did I leave anything out? I looked at it all and then I left. While preparing to clean up a few dishes later in the kitchen, I thought, “This just isn’t fun. “ I turned on my iPod player and it became easier, still not fun, but easier. “That’s it! The music’s gone.” When Bossman retired in 2005, it was the day the music died. I used to have the stereo blaring The Doors, and other classic rock. Old pop hits like Manilow, Neil Diamond and the BeeGees. Kenny Rogers and Dotty West got me through a lot of housecleaning chores. Bossman doesn’t like loud music or my music. Neither does the Queen of English who lives with us. So, I’d try wearing my iPod and earbuds but would nearly strangle myself getting the wires caught on the broom or mop and the family would start dialing 911 if they heard me singing, thinking an injured hyena had come into the house.
Cleaning is just not fun since the music died and I’m all about the fun. So, a little dirt never hurt anybody, right?

                         Notation:

As I was getting ready to post the above material, I realized how long it had been since my last blog, Mr. Bo Jangles. Billy-the-peeing-guy-dog’s death in September took a lot out of us as a family. Soon after we had another huge and unexpected loss. My husband’s brother, Ross, passed away the beginning of October. Very unexpected. He’d not felt well and went to the doctor who did tests and found cancer in his chest area. Before they could schedule other tests, he was gone a short three weeks later. Ross was 67, a runner since high school who never missed a day on the streets. It’s taken a lot out of us as a family. He’s left his wife and two daughters, son-in-law, his only sibling Terry, me, and our two kids reeling. A stepmom, aunt, cousins and many friends stunned.  Ross

Time moves on and so do we. Never to be forgotten, life continues for us earth-bound beings who fight weather, traffic, illness, dirt, memories, hackers, FB unfriending, unanswered emails and try to make the best out of annoying situations. Be nice to each other and pass it forward when you’re blessed in any way.

Mr. Bill Jangles

A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than you love yourself.
Josh Billings, 19th Century humorist

When Bill-The-Affenpinscher and his human mother, our daughter, moved in with us in February of 2007, he was incorrigible. His twelve pounds of incorrigibleness was filled with bites, barks, peeing, and consumption of socks, underwear, money, all types of paper, cough drops, leaves, staples and only God knows what else. He was five when he entered our home and was lucky to remain alive for oh-so many reasons over these last seven years. His cuteness saved his demise many times.

Billy Blog pic 1

He’s been spoiled on occasion as his heart has softened over the years for his Nana, Paps and Mama. He always loved his mother, even though his personality and snaps were not held at bay because she was his mother. If he was scared from sleep, he snapped to protect himself.

We had family and good friends visit from out-of-town and over time he grew to love all of them as a mutual trust was built. Sure, the occasional pair of underwear would disappear and tissues, receipts and cough drops were stolen from purses, but those guest bedroom and bathroom doors soon were kept closed and purses were always put up high. He welcomed his frequent overnight friends and family with happy barks and stubby tail wagging. They returned the favor with cautious scratches behind his ear.

Billy Blog Pic 4

 

Toys. He loves his toys and has favorites. They are usually the newest toy with the alive squeaker in it. There are baskets full of small rhinos, lions, cows, monkeys and other critters around the house that sit near his multiple beds. I keep a stack of them on my desk that we constantly play the game of “Here, buddy, want to take this present to your Mama?” Over and over and over….  He takes the toy, waits for me to go with him and we present the present to Mama in her bedroom.

In the spring of 2013 he was operated on, not to remove a sock this time, but because of severe weight loss and overall ill health. The vet found a tumor on his liver that he said was set upon it like a grand gift for the taking with no veins or arteries in the way. Doc said he’d never seen one presented like that before. It was removed and he regained his health. He was back to barking, peeing on legs of furniture and chasing small children and grown men from the front porch just by his small presence at the window next to the door.

Billy Blog Pic 3

This past April he got sick again and was diagnosed with inoperable cancer with up to three weeks to live. “If he lives three months, I’ll write a paper about him.”
Today is September 7, 2014 and he’s still here. He’s not half the dog he used to be, though.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

 

Susie’s Note

Today’s date: September 11th 2014.

This blog is incomplete. I edited some bits of it but will end it with this notation instead.

Billy was put to rest this morning. Last night was a tough one for him and his Mama. Without too many details it was evident his time had come and his Mama made the hardest decision of her life. As a family, we took him to see Dr. Bob. Billy was a hero to the end.

He gave us life lessons through this last battle with cancer that proved to me that giving and receiving unconditional love can help get you through the toughest of trials. God’s plan played out well and we are grateful for the extra time we had with this wonder of a dog. We thank Him.

Rest In Peace Sir William Wallace
You lived up to your namesake and you loved us well, as we loved you.
You are already missed.

 

Billy and Terry

 

 

Keeping Ahead

Catching Up by Leunig,This just about sums up how I’m feeling right now. If I could catch up with my head, I’d be grateful. My head is full of the stuff of my life. Jam-packed with multitasking projects, concern for my friends and family and too many dates and times. The last two include numbers; numbers of which I am allergic to. I hate numbers, but that will have to be another blog.

I’ve committed to chairing two events with my Red Cross Chapter that I want to be successful. Successful isn’t easy. Wrangling people isn’t easy. Multitasking – not too easy for me. Lots of lists, times, dates, numbers and expectations. The weight I’ve put on my head is holding me down instead of lifting me up which is what I need. A helium balloon with a pretty ribbon wrapped around my head would help. Off with the weight – but not off with my head.

My Nana/Nanny position was put to the test yesterday when my fifteen month old Lil’ Doo, was stung by a red wasp as I was trying to keep Blind Dog from going down the steps of the deck. Oh, the weight on my head from that won’t be lifted for another day or fifty. All 6 dogs were on the large deck and Lil’ Doo was splashing in the kiddy/dog pool when I heard him howl. I grabbed him, saw the demon red wasp and ran into the kitchen. New dog followed me in. My brand new smartphone and I hadn’t really made phone calls, so figuring out how to call Doo’s mom took an extra 30 seconds which felt like three hours. While making the call, New Dog, who loves to walk on his very long hind legs, got my lunch from the kitchen table, devoured it and then tried to chew up the plastic container where it had once been secure. The poor sobbing baby boy took the mom prescribed ibuprofen easily and I made an ice pack from a dishcloth and held it on his poor little swelling, red fingers as we read his favorite Truck book. I felt as though I should have had my head in a guillotine because that sweet baby was so hurt. As time went by, the swelling and redness eased up and he didn’t have any other ill effects from that damn wasp. I’ve allowed my head to remain with me.

On Thursday I sat in a local hospital with friends while one of our gang had complicated lung cancer surgery.  I was there six or seven hours while others were there double that. My friend got through it. We all got through it together. We laughed. We almost cried. We talked. Some of us prayed. We remembered and we planned our futures together. My head stayed where it belonged. I believed that he’d be okay because we four friends all had good heads on our shoulders that instinctively brought us together. We kept bolstering each other up with talk, laughter and silent prayers.

Bossman, my mate, left for a 12 day Father & Son trip out to Oregon on that same crazy day of the surgery followed by the day with the dogs, the wasp and the baby. I am grateful he and our son are having this special time together and that I have a new smartphone that keeps me in touch with the adventure. My head has figured out voice texting, picture capturing and keeping the battery charged. I’m not putting down my net, yet, though. My head is here but part of my heart is in Oregon.

 

 

Cartoon by Leunig

Stories of Dad

I was two years old in this picture that was taken in the backyard at my grandparent’s house in 1954. Evidently I thought I was a cowboy. Actually, that was a thought I had for a long time. Years, in fact. I should have kept that hat on at all times according to a story told to me by my Dad when I started having my own little ones.

According to Dad, a man who I adored, when I was little like that cute picture up above, I played out in our tiny yard a lot. There was an old slapper of a screen door in the rooster wallpapered kitchen that opened into the fresh air and tiny green patch of backyard, complete with a clothesline. A wheel pulley nailed to the post on the back porch held ropey clothesline that traveled out to the telephone pole at the back corner of the  yard to another wheel pulley. All the ladies in the attached yards had the same set-up with the exception of the “smart family” two houses down. Mrs. English had a umbrella-type clothesline that looked like my other grandmother’s patio umbrella. It was very fancy-schmancy. The clothes pole stuck into a hole in a concrete pad. I got dizzy trying to follow all the different pieces of rope that seemed to zig and zag on that umbrella looking contraption.

But, the story I’m telling is about the ladies pinning their clothes to those lines. Every piece of clothing and anything cotten went on those ropes that ran to the back yards from porches and high-up windows.

The problem was the neighborhood crow, Jake. He’d come along and pull the pins off the lines and all the clothes would drop into the yards. The neighbor ladies and my Mom didn’t like Jake. Neither did I. But, my Dad loved him.

Jake provided Dad entertainment. He’d sit in the kitchen on a padded chair he’d swing around from the kitchen table, pour himself a Shlitz and watch the show in the yard. Fruit-Of-The-Looms, MaidenForms, girdles, diapers, big white underpants; they all eventually ended up in the grass. When Jake was done with the clothes it was Dad’s turn to direct the entertainment.

“Here Susie. Here’s a cookie, now go out in the yard and play.”

I’m thinking this was when my cowboy hat must have been hung on my spurs in the bedroom.

I’d take the cookie, swing the slapper open and go out into the yard to play and enjoy my cookie. That’s when Jake would show up, peck me on the head until I dropped my cookie and then the SOB would steal it and fly away.

Daddy would sit in the kitchen and laugh his ass off.

I’m sure I didn’t cry or have blood dripping down my cute little face or my Dad wouldn’t have repeated the scene as often as he said he did.

I entertained Dad and he in turn entertained me. Constantly. Wiggling his ears or his fake tooth. Doing it in church was especially entertaining. Of course that only happened at Christmas and Easter. We fed off each other as I grew and enjoyed the laughs and jokes we pulled on each other.

I lost him to cancer in 1988, two days after his 62nd birthday day and a few days after Father’s Day. June 25, 1988 is the day the laughter died.  I have resurrected it over the years. It was hard to laugh for a long time, but his gift to me was the gift of making people laugh and laughing with them.

I promise never to send any of you into the yard with a cookie, though. But, if I do–wear a hat.