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Archive for January, 2008

I’ve Been Thanking #3

This is my January Thanksliving page:

Tuesday, January 1, 2008. After a rocky start, I was able to go with Jif and LG to meet my brother and his family for lunch, halfway between our home and his home in Delaware. While we waited for a table, I learned some new things about my SIL, whom I love and admire very much. I laughed, quite a lot. It is hard to attend to the symptoms of WTF while laughing. Always thankful for laughter.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008. I am thankful for Jif, my newly 50-year-old husband. The past year has been tough on him. I am thankful for his health and for his ability to keep on doing what needs to be done. He is strong. This is more noticeable, and more important, than it has ever been in our lives, I think.

Thursday, January 3, 2008. This was a day in which I clung to the thought, “Thank God it’s better than yesterday.” WTF-wise, I mean. Yesterday was very frightening. And part of that fear is, “What if this is it, what if there’s not another good day (that is, a day when I can walk, talk, use my arms relatively well)?” But there was. Today. A much, much better day. Plus, we took LG out to Cheeburger Cheeburger, and I was able to coerce her into giving me her little cardboard car that her dinner came in. A 1955 purple and green Ford Fairlane. Sweet!

Friday, January 4. I am thankful for friends who try to help. The one who gave me a brain-training, and a book and CD about “Open Focus.” And the one who had lunch with me and told me she loves me. And is always there for me. I find that people sincerely wanting and trying to help (with WTF Disease) truly IS helpful. Symptom-relieving. Or at least, providing a distraction from symptoms, providing another sensation in my body, or perhaps more accurately, in my soul. There is something more, much more, than pain, weakness, dis-ease. Something stronger than those things. It is a medicine that presents in the form of kindness, love, hope, faith, laughter.

Saturday, January 5. LG was excited about scoring a basket in her game, and doing a magic trick at a birthday party with a talent show theme. I couldn’t go to the game or the party. But she was excited to tell me about both. I’m thankful that she likes to tell me about her life, especially the parts I can’t participate in now.

Sunday, January 6
. So thankful for a very clean powder room, courtesy of Jif. And for a bouquet of flowers from a friend.

Monday, January 7
. I am thankful for my job. This is a bit of a long story, but I’ll try to condense it here. In the summer of 2005, I agreed to a one-school-year stint as a clinical supervisor at a non-profit family counseling agency. I did it for mostly sentimental reasons. It was the agency where, back in the day, I did my first clinical internship. It is where I sat with clients for the first time, and had that precious moment of realizing, “Wow. This. THIS is the work I was meant to do.” I have always been grateful for that experience, and for the excellent supervision I got at the agency. When the internship ended, I went on to other things, eventually graduating, becoming licensed and beginning a private practice. When the director asked if I would come back for a short time to supervise the counselors-in-training, I thought it would be fun. I saw it as a mission, as in “missionary.” I saw it as a charitable act on my part. A way of “giving back.” The agency has next to no money. I did take the job, happily, excitedly, as an act of charity.

Then WTF hit. In the late summer of 2006, I had to close my private practice. The job that I had taken as a favor to the agency, became my primary income. And much more importantly than that, it became the reason I get showered and dressed and out of the house, a lot of days. I NEED someone to count on me to show up somewhere and do something. And the agency does. My students do. This may sound immodest, and it may be immodest, but it is something for which I’m extremely thankful: I’m damned good at what I do. I’m good at being a therapist, and I am good at supervising and helping train fledgling therapists. Doing my job is a way of getting some regular confirmation that, regardless of throat troubles, limb troubles, whatever, I provide something of value. I am so immeasurably thankful for that.

And I’m thankful for the other people at the agency. More times than I remember now, I have sat down with the boss and said something like, “You are not getting my best, my highest energy, my most creative ideas . . . I would completely understand if you want someone else in here.” And each time she has expressed her faith that I will get well, and that me at diminished capacity is better than many others at maximum capacity, and that she has no complaints. When I have been unable to work my agreed upon 16 hours a week, she has paid me for it anyway. Every time. She says that because my position is grant-funded, it’s less headache for her to just pay me than it is to do the paperwork to explain why certain grant funds weren’t used. And if they weren’t used, the grants might be cut in the future, etc. Being familiar with non-profits, I know there is truth in this explanation. But I also know that she, and my co-workers who take up the slack on my worst days, are kind and generous people.

So the job that I accepted as an act of charity has turned out to be a blessing to me, beyond anything I could have imagined, when I took it, as a healthy person.

Tuesday, January 8. Those people? At that job? They surprised me with some gluten-free (still haven’t told you that tasteless story) brownies, some raspberries and cherries, and a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday.”

Wednesday, January 9. I am thankful that this woman, Lou Taylor, so eloquently expressed what I have been ranting about to anyone who would listen the past few days. She saved me from writing a scathing letter to Phil McGraw. Shame on him. But, yea, I thank her for letting me off the hook from writing to Dr. Phil.

And I’m thankful that the presidential election is exciting and energetic this year. And that my kid will experience that. When I was little, I SO got into the whole election thing. I remember watching both conventions and wanting to grow up to be a delegate (for either party, or both!), and wear a red, white and blue hat, and carry a sign, and have balloons drop on my head. Then for various reasons over the 11 years of my daughter’s life, there hasn’t been a lot to be enthusiastic about, where elections are concerned. This year is different. I think.
UPDATE: I just came across this on another blogger’s site: Glassbooth. I would encourage you to go take the quiz and see whether the person you’re saying you want to be president is REALLY the person you want to be president. Very interesting.

Thursday, January 10. Thankful for cute, happy socks that came in the mail 🙂

Friday, January 11. Thankful, as I always have been, for dogs. Even (especially?) “bad” ones. I saw one while I was out driving, a giant black poodlish thing on a leash, walking his person down the street. She wanted to take him up onto the sidewalk, but he was having none of it. He put on his front brakes and she stood up on the sidewalk trying to tug him up with her. Even with my arms painful and weak, and my tongue doing involuntary acrobatics as I drove, I found myself chuckling at the stubborn mutt.

Saturday, January 12. Having had the possibility raised of an illness that eventually renders one unable to use her hands, I am daily, constantly thankful for my hands. I say, “Thank You,” for everything they can do, and my heart breaks a little to think of all those who have hands that don’t do at all. I can scratch an itch. I can reposition myself in bed, or flip my pillow if I am uncomfy. I can tweeze a stray hair. All unassisted. The little things that would be such a devastating loss. I’m thankful for every day, every incidence of not having lost those things. I would like to go back to being oblivious about such things, taking them for granted. But, even if I am healed tomorrow or within the next moment, I don’t think I will ever go back to that oblivion. And maybe that’s not a bad thing.

Sunday, January 13
. Thankful that the puking didn’t last long. (Some days are like that.)

Monday, January 14. My daughter asked me if I wanted to read her favorite poem. Of course, I did. It was Langston Hughes’ “Mother to Son”:

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor —
Bare.
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
‘Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now —
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

***
WOW.

Tuesday, January 15. My mother has had a health crisis this week. She is now in the hospital. It is not as bad as was originally reported. Not at all. Thankfully.

Wednesday, January 16. One of my favorite people I’ve never met left me a phone message today. And I’m almost glad (almost) I didn’t get to speak to her, because now I have her lovely hug of a voicemail to keep for 30 days.

Plus, there is leftover homemade vegetable soup.

Thursday, January 17. Today was “awards day” in 6th grade. I had mixed feelings about this. LG is sniffly, and they just had a half day, so I would have let her stay home. But she wanted to be there in the hope of getting an award. I knew nothing about these awards — for what? by whom? etc. — and she couldn’t answer my questions. But it was a big deal to her. I prepped her to be gracious whether or not she won anything. And I secretly prayed that she would win SOMETHING. She did. She won a “Role Model” award for demonstrating “Respectfulness.” (Maybe we coulda done without the “fulness” and still had the same award, but I digress.) I am thrilled for her, and proud of her. Since this is a thankful page, I won’t tangent off into my concerns for those who did not receive an award. Today, my kid did, and she’s had a tough time in various arenas lately, so we’ll just celebrate and not be political today.

I drove home safely in very, very bad weather that came up rather suddenly.

And. Ohmygosh. I had written an appeal letter to the big blue insurance people, who had twice denied payment for a $7000 test I had for WTF. Our credit has been affected by this, while we jumped through the appeal hoops. Well guess what?! The denial has been denied, and approval has been approved, and the blue boys will pay the bill. Phew. That many extra dollars when income is less and expenses are more . . . this is a very good thing.

Friday, January 18. One really good reason to have kids is that one day, they grow old enough to make you the chocolate chip cookies. Thanks to LG. Also thankful for one large custom-made glass of real lemonade, courtesy of Jif.

And after reading a few blogs, very thankful I don’t have to deal with dating.

My mother is out of the hospital, after suffering a mild heart attack early this week. We talked on the phone for a long time, and she sounded as good as I could hope. And my brother and his wife are on their way to NC to stay with her for a little while. “Granny” had sent LG a gift of pajamas, just before she was hospitalized, for which LG still had the box. While we were on the phone, Granny asked if LG liked the necklace. We hadn’t realized there was also a necklace in the package, so it was saved before LG threw the box, tissue paper, etc., out.

Saturday, January 19. For the first time this year, I made it to LG’s basketball game. (It wasn’t pretty, but I was still happy to be there.) I was very tickled by the dad behind me. Remember, this is a church league, where cheering for both teams is recommended, and the emphasis is on sportsmanship and respect for authority. The Dad behind me was making up lame cheers that cracked me up. There were maybe half a dozen of them, ranging from, “Don’t just chuck it; put it in the bucket!” to “Get off the pot! Take another shot!” His wife silenced him after that one. Embarrassing partners are very entertaining (unless they’re yours).

Sunday, January 20. In the afternoon, we went to a small gathering at my friend’s house, in honor of her cousin’s birthday. I didn’t feel like going. I didn’t want to go. But I wanted to support her entertaining efforts, and I wanted to help get Jif and LG socializing more. (WTF has isolated us all.) When we got there, we discovered it was a birthday thing for all the January babies — Jif, me, her cousin — and it was lovely. And tasty. And moving. And funny. I’m very glad I pushed myself to go. And thankful for friends, old and new.

Monday, January 21. Talking with LG about Dr. King, and how things were in the 60s when I was a little kid. I remember. She asked me if there’s still racism, and I told her that there is. She said, “But things are definitely a lot better than they were then. . . ” and I could honestly say, “Yes, they are.”

Tuesday, January 22. I sleep between a good man and a bad dog. I am thankful it’s not the other way around.

Wednesday, January 23. Oops, I’ve been forgetting to post here. OK, on Wednesday, I felt thankful for stretching. When I wake up in the morning, I stretch. Because I can. I know now (I never considered this before) that some can’t. But I can. I’m thankful.

Thursday, January 24. My head was spinning from something one of my students thought that my boss said, in direct opposition to some direction that I had given the student. It made no sense, and I was all ready for an unpleasant confrontation with the boss, because I couldn’t see compromising on my position about how to treat this particular client. Turned out, the student misunderstood. The boss and I were, as she said, “singing from the same hymn book.” All stressed for nothing. Thankful it was nothing. If it were something, it would have been a big something.

Friday, January 25. I learned today that a friend, who was not a friend (had not yet met), was in the Pentagon on 9/11. Very thankful to have had the opportunity to meet him, when . . . I almost didn’t. Also thankful for the delight that I feel when around precocious toddlers. Today, a three-year-old daughter of a friend was holding an ice cube, gazing upon the mystery of its melting, and she said, “My hand . . . my hand is like the sun.” Because its warmth was melting the ice cube! How brilliant is THAT?! It’s the little things.

Saturday, January 26. The song stuck in my head is “Anyone Else But You,” from the Juno soundtrack. It’s not a bad song to have stuck. Quite charming, really.

Sunday, January 27. A nice, husband-made Irish coffee. One open nostril.

Monday, January 28. I got us signed up online for conferences with 3 of LG’s 8 teachers. This is thanks/rant. I’m happy to get to meet with them. Last quarter, we didn’t get to meet with any, because they sent home the instructions on how to go online and schedule an appointment, and they gave a range of dates when one could do that. I didn’t wait until the last minute, but I also didn’t race to the website. So I learned. You have to race to the website. I got shut out. The teachers don’t schedule enough time slots to meet with all the parents, and it’s first come, first served. It took me a while to get over that — that you could get shut out from meeting with your child’s teacher — like they’re Hannah Montana or something — but anyhow, I got over it, and got with the program, and we will be able to meet with our three (there’s a limit of three per customer, even though, again, she has eight teachers) first choices, for 15 minutes each, during the first week of February. So, yea, my point was, school conferences ain’t what they used to be. No, wait, that wasn’t my point. Point is, we will see the teachers we want to see.

Tuesday, January 29. I received an email from someone who had a dream that WTF was gone. That made me feel so happy. The idea that out there in the universe, there is an unconscious understanding that it will be gone. And that she would be kind enough to take time to tell me that. 🙂

Wednesday, January 30. I am slowly savoring Eat, Pray, Love, which I think every other woman in the country has already read. Some of the observations in there hit me so strongly, I need to take a break to let them marinate for a few days. I love it when writers do that. I love good writing. Or writing that suits me well.

Thursday, January 31. Today, Jif donated at least 3 hours of his day to hang new shades at the agency. That is so generous and good of him. He had stuff to do at work. The agency is poor and everyone who works there is over-worked, and fresh, new shades that don’t fall on our heads when we raise or lower them — priceless.

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(CAUTION: This one ain’t pretty. It’s kind of gritty. If you’re looking for witty, this is not the right city. Um…sorry. I’ll stop that now. But really, this is heavy. Especially the last one.)

71. Since reading blogs, I’ve encountered a lot of anti-Christian sentiment, passion, furor. I often wonder what has been done to those folks, in the name of Christianity. And I’m sorry for whatever it is. And I wish they (both the “victims” and the “perpetrators”) could separate the acts of the humans from the acts and the person of Christ.

72. The Bible is very important to me. I read it (not as much as I should or as much as I still aspire to); I quote it; I’ve given Bibles as gifts. But one thing I can truly say I have never ever done, is thump a Bible. I have thumped a melon. I have thumped someone on the head. But no Bible.

73. I’m of the belief that if you don’t vote, you forfeit any legitimate right to bitch about the outcome of elections. And I also think if you do vote, and things don’t turn out the way you want, bitching for four to six years is perhaps not the best use of your political energy.

74. I flow between “knowing” that I do have ALS, and “knowing” that of course, I don’t. And on the days when I’m pretty sure I do, I flow between panicked fear and faith-filled peace with whatever and however it’s going to be. I have an appointment in mid-February at an ALS center. I would surely love to find another diagnosis before that appointment comes up.

75. In light of WTF Disease, I have a lot of regrets about how I’ve lived life to this point. Mostly about things I haven’t done. I really want enough health, and enough time, to get those things done. Before I’m done. Here.

76. I don’t see my mother often, because one of my brothers is an active, rageful addict who lives in her home, and she won’t throw him out. I won’t put myself or my family in proximity to that mess. She knows why I don’t come around, and she still allows him to be there. She can’t put him out. He’s her (42-year-old) baby. It all makes her sad. Me, too. Oh, just in case you wondered, making this choice for myself and my family is not one of the things I regret.

77. Sometimes I wonder, if my time really is limited by WTF Disease, is blogging a good way to spend it? I can argue both sides. Here I am, at least for today. (My illness has made me more mindful that everyone’s time is limited, and every day would be well-lived as though we don’t get another.)

78. I like jewelry. And makeup. I don’t wear much of either. Although I keep meaning to. And I will. Like eyeliner. I’ve never in my life worn eyeliner, unless I was just playing in makeup. But I see so many people who won’t leave home without it. I might be old enough to wear eyeliner now. (Ha! She decides this when her arms and hands don’t work right half the time. This oughtta be pretty . . .)

79. I have never been patient with complainers, and unfortunately, my illness has made me less so. Usually no one knows this except me and God. It takes the form of, “Do you know how THRILLED I would be if I knew that all I had was [fill in the blank with any illness that doesn’t leave you drooling, paralyzed, mute, feeding-tubed, suffocating, etc.]?” I don’t say that. And I’m not proud of the fact that I think it. I’ll have to get over that. And I will.

::clarification:: I’m not talking about someone who is in a bad situation (physically, financially, relationally, whatever), and talks about it to vent or explain, or get support. We all need to be able to do that, from time to time. I’m talking about incessant whining, “my misery is worse than yours,” etc. I’m more of a “serenity prayer” mindset. If the situation sucks, have I done all I can do about it? If not, I need to do what I can. If I really can’t do anything, I need to try to turn my attention elsewhere. Whining just fertilizes the growth of negativity. Having researched so many illnesses in the past couple of years, I’ve been struck by how much of what we complain about is so lightweight, in the whole scheme of things. If we have the ability to gripe, and some sort of audience who will listen, we’re really quite blessed, relatively speaking.::end clarification::

80. I am seriously way too fat. It has never concerned me, particularly. But now it does. And now exercise is somewhere between difficult and unwise (I fall, can’t use various parts, etc.). This is one of my regrets. I hope I have a chance to fix that. Because I surely will, if given the chance.

UPDATE: I think this is the weight loss plan I will attempt, the one described by one of my all-time favorite comedians, Richard Jeni, may he rest in peace:
(This is R-rated)

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Sunday Post

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“True freedom is being able to dance in your chains.” — Fredrich Nietzsche

Romans 8:35-39
John 16:33

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The past few days, in addition to WTF Disease, I’ve been dealing with a sinus/ear/throat thing. Congested, stuffy, sneezy, bleeding from my eyes just generally miserable. So yesterday I asked Jif to pick up a few things at the store for me, including a jar of Vicks. Last night, I asked him to hand me said jar.

maypop medicine

At first, I was only aware of a vague sense of something not being quite right. There was a bluish-greenish swirl, and a blue jar and a green lid but . . . . I read silently, then aloud, “MEDICATED CHEST RUB!? What is this?!”

“What?” he asked, all innocent-like.

“You got me MAYPOP VICKS!”

“They didn’t have Vicks. It’s the same active ingredient . . . ”

“But it’s Chest Rub! Vicks is VAPORUB! What if I don’t want to put it on my chest? What if I want to put it on . . . ”

“Your VAPO?”

“Yea. What if I do? You got me the pops-rub, that’s all I’m sayin’…”

“I’ll get you the good stuff next time.”

“OK.” I might be a little whiny when I’m multiply afflicted. Add Vicks to my brand-name must-haves.

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Flag This

During the past week, I noticed a renewal of rhetoric about the Confederate flag in South Carolina, with various candidates using the topic to score points with voters, take jabs at opponents, and the like. It is an issue that pushes my buttons, I must admit.

I consider myself a Southerner. Not because I live below the Mason-Dixon line. Despite that arbitrary landmark, Marylanders aren’t Southerners. I consider myself a Southerner because of my parents, grandparents, and so on, all from the South — North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee. And because of the years I spent living there. And because of a deep love and affection for many things, places, people and ideals, Southern.

But I take umbrage at the flying of a Confederate flag. For a moment, let’s set aside the racism buttons that flag is bound to push. Aside from that, to me, that flag represents a series of really bad ideas, followed by a mulish commitment to “stay the course,” followed by an ass-whuppin’. Who wants to fly a flag commemorating bad ideas and an ass-whuppin’?

I would proudly fly a flag that I believe truly represents Southern . . . pride. Maybe a flag with some biscuits and gravy on it. A banjo. No, seriously, if there were something that visually depicts a laid-back grace; a good day’s work; abundant contributions to the arts, to agriculture, manufacturing — contributions in all areas that have led to our nation’s success and prosperity; a true understanding of hospitality; such a depiction would make a fine Southern flag. Or maybe even, as Chris Rock once suggested, a flag with a cracker on it. I’d fly that.

Of course, a discussion of this flag can’t put racism to the side indefinitely. So let’s talk about that. There may be, as those in favor of pubic display of the C-flag argue, those for whom the flag represents “the South,” and pride in being “a Southerner.” Maybe to some it only represents the good things about the South. But to many others, it represents something menacing. It represents ignorance, oppression, hatred, a time better left behind. I keep coming back to the idea of hospitality, which so often follows the word, “Southern.” If one of my claims to fame, indeed, one of my identities, is being hospitable, how can I possibly condone the display of an item that communicates such hideous messages — maybe not to me, maybe not to those who think like me, but if I know that emblem causes so many to be so ill at ease, why would I want to display it? Can’t I find something else that lets me tell you who I am, where I come from, but does so with only goodwill? Something that elicits no fear, no defensiveness, no hyper-vigilance, no need to wonder about its motive?

I can’t think of any culture that doesn’t have both high and low points in its history. But when a symbol of that culture becomes so closely identified with the victimization of a people, it’s time to fold it up and put it in a museum with an explanation of what it was, and wasn’t, and why. And then it’s time to claim a new symbol.

As I shake my head in sadness that this is still a topic for discussion, I close with a quote from Mike Huckabee, with whom I disagree on this issue:

“You don’t like people from outside the state coming in and telling you what to do with your flag,” Huckabee told supporters in Myrtle Beach, S.C. “In fact, if somebody came to Arkansas and told us what to do with our flag, we’d tell ’em what to do with the pole, that’s what we’d do.”

Nice. (Where’s that pole . . . )

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Sunday Post

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“Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

Luke 6:27-36

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On a car ride, playing with Jif’s fancy cell phone. Mine merely sends and receives calls, as far as I know. His could launch a nuclear attack, I think. I don’t know how to use it (I remain a techno-dunce). It’s called a Palm Trio (Palm Tree, OH!).

I push this button, then toggle that toggle. Suddenly I’m in his work email box. I see subject lines like “all night longer.”

“What is this?” I ask, and read some of the suggestive subject lines.

“That’s my email. It’s spam.”

“You get spam on your cell phone?”

“I get it in my email box. Everything in my email shows up on my phone.”

“Don’t you have a spam filter?”

“About 95% of it gets caught in the spam filter, but I still get a few every day.”

“What are these . . . ” and I read some more subject lines.

“I get those all the time. Apparently someone thinks my penis should be ‘enhanced.'”

“Uh . . . that’s not spam. I send those.”

“Every day? Twenty-five times a day? For two years?”

“You’re very slow to catch on.”

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