Saturday, April 29, 2006 hardly ever heard...

OK -- here goes some downright honesty -- I'm scared.

Lately, meaning the last six months, I've been having some health problems -- muscle pains that have no real explanation and that don't seem to go away. I had a spinal x-ray taken, showing a bone spur at the 6th cervical vertebra, which is the one that is where the shoulders and neck connect, and also showing arthritis there. I was given a muscle relaxer and anti-inflammatory/pain med, but they didn't help. Physical therapy was ordered, and though it does some good, it doesn't cover it all. The pain is not just in my neck/shoulders -- it's in my arms, legs, hips, etc. Not joint pain, but muscle pain.

Friday I saw a new doctor -- an osteopath who is also in Internal Medicine. She agreed with me that there seemed to be more going on here than would be explained by a bone spur/arthritis in my neck. She's ordered an MRI of my lower back for Monday, as well as an echocardiogram for my Left Ventricular Hypertrophy. She also ordered a bunch of lab tests, enough that at least 6 vials of blood were drawn -- no clue what all for. She did mention the possibility of a condition called Polymyalgia Rheumatica, which rarely affects people under 50, but seems to encompass many of the problems I'm having. I also asked her if Muscular Dystrophy or Multiple Sclerosis were possible, and she said yes, they were possible, as well as some other things.

It's very difficult to deal with the uncertainty I'm dealing with at present. I've had the feeling for a while that something was wrong, but couldn't put my finger on it. I've attributed my pain(s) to being overweight, out of shape, sleeping on my arms wrong, etc. I've tried to let it just pass, to take OTC meds for it, and to see my doctor. My old doctor's office has cut their hours recently, and had a hard time following up with me, not to mention not being willing to discuss my getting off some of the many meds. The answer was, last time I asked, "not unless you lose weight".

Well, here's the deal -- with the PCOS, it's difficult, if not damned impossible, to lose weight. The new doc did put me on Metformin (Glucophage) Friday, which should definitely help with weight loss. What's sad, though, is that NOW they can treat PCOS so that girls who have it can have the hope of pregnancy and weight loss, not to mention reduction of the effects of the increased testosterone that is common with this condition. Now I'm 43, too old to safely have children anyway, and married to someone who is surgically sterilized. It sucks to be able to be treated now, but all for basically nothing. Weight loss would be cool, but I'm also married to a man who is comfortable and actually interested in women with some meat on their bones, so again, this is basically for nothing -- well, nothing other than my health. I know that won't make sense to some of you, but you'll just have to take my word for it.

So, now the wait is on, the wait for answers. My very wise friend R told me not to waste my energy on worrying and negative thoughts -- that negative thoughts tend to attract negative things, and I know she's right. She said to remember my own spirituality, which I'm trying to do. I'm glad I listen to guided meditations at night when I go to sleep -- I really need them right now.

My biggest fear is becoming or being disabled, having my body betray me and make my mind a prisoner inside a worthless body. It's bad enough that I haven't been able to work for 6 months, which has had an impact on our income, obviously, and on Hubby's sense of financial well-being. Thinking of potentially not being able to go back to work at all makes me feel bad, and makes me feel scared and worried. I don't want to burden him with another sick wife. He's been through enough.

I guess the bottom line is I must wait for the answers that will eventually come. I realize that whatever is going on with me is probably precipitated or exacerbated by the stress I've been under for much too long. This is stress, too, but I just have to wait it out. Folks, if you're the praying kind, pray for my peace. I really need all the help I can get with this for now.


Thursday, April 27, 2006

Randomosity <---new word I just made up

Well, I have no clue what this post is going to be about -- hence, the name. Hang on, peeps. It might be a bumpy ride.

Today I took Hubby for his 3 year colonoscopy, which is thought to be normal, though a polyp or two was found. He was told he didn't need another one for 5 years, which is excellent news. He was sooooooooooo cute lying there in the bed all doped up after the procedure. lol Couldn't focus his beautiful blue-green eyes, mumbled his words, couldn't remember things he said or heard just seconds before, bless his heart. I kept kissing his forehead and petting on him because I was so relieved this was over for him. He was nervous yesterday, and the day before, hating the prep he had to endure. He doesn't get nervous often, so I really hate it for him when he has to go through stuff like that. Even so, all's well that ends well. We went out for a little breakfast after the procedure, then came home for a little nap for us both. When we awoke, we went out on the porch and enjoyed the beauty of nature for a while. After that, well, that's private, but now he's snoozing in and out on the sofa as I write this.

Tomorrow I go to physical therapy, then to the new doc. I have a ton of paperwork to fill out here for that visit, but I'm glad to take care of it in advance. I have great hopes for this woman, and I hope I won't be disappointed. I also need to look up the drug called Byatta (sp?), which my psychiatrist is recommending to help me with PCOS & losing weight. I've never heard of it, but then again, I'm not in the medical profession. She said I could lose a pound a day if I used that -- can you imagine? 30 lbs in 30 days? I find that hard to conceive, but I'm willing to check it out if someone monitors me.

Finished with the film festival yesterday -- really enjoyed that. Met a lot of nice people, and had a kind of job offer from the ticketing software company. Not bad, huh? Also, the volunteer coorindator was interested in getting me back in a staff position, which also wouldn't be too bad, I don't think. This is a non-profit org, and I've had plenty of experience with those, so I think I would fit in pretty well. But the ticketing software sounds really interesting, too. Travel could be involved with that, not to mention getting to attend cool events. I guess I'll just send my resume and see what happens.

I'm going to Memphis in a couple of weeks, I believe. I think I'll get there maybe on a Tuesday, and Hubby will join me on Friday night. We have several friends to see, so I'm looking forward to catching up with folks.

Umm...let's see -- tomorrow night we're going out to hear one of our favorite singers and friends -- Melissa Sigler. FABULOUS blues lady -- terrific persona, and wonderful, dear friend. Check her out and buy her CDs -- you won't be sorry! Saturday night we're going out with a very dear couple friend of ours to hear another group of friends from our church play a benefit for a local organization. Looking forward to this double date, as it may be our last together for a while. R and D got married on New Year's Eve, and are going to live in upstate New York, where they're both from. She's going to use our address as a local one, and will stay here when she comes to town. She's a songwriter and hellaciously good bass player and singer -- she just pitched songs to Wynonna and Gretchen Wilson. Her hubby D is a wonderful man, and someone she's known her whole life. Somehow they never got together until this time last year, and the rest, as they say, is history. I'm so happy for them both, but I'm really going to miss her. Sunday, of course, is church.

Did I tell y'all I volunteered to teach what we call RE (religious education) on every other Sunday in the fall, with the preschool to 2nd grade kids? Well I did, and I'm looking forward to it. I've enjoyed subbing in that class, and really enjoy the other teacher I'll be co-teaching with. In our church we never have just 1 adult work with kids -- we have a 'safe sanctuary' policy, and I'm really glad for that. These days you can't be too careful.

We are putting together an event in August to train others how to get out the vote in November to defeat the marriage amendment on the ballot which will state that marriage = one man + one woman, only. This is discriminatory, and should not even be entertained. It's a matter of CIVIL RIGHTS not RELIGIOUS RITES. If GLBT folks were allowed to marry, churches would not be required to perform ceremonies if it went against their beliefs, just like now. They stand to lose nothing at all. Let's face it, marriage does make a couple more stable, so allowing people to marry will shore up the underpinnings of our society. Not only that, but 1138 civil rights flow from the state of marriage, and it's not fair that any consenting adults is deprived of those rights. We're having a senior staff attorney from Lambda Legal speaking, along with perhaps a lobbyist, and others who have good experience in these kinds of fights. We also *hope* to have Nashville In Harmony perform for us. We had them at our stewardship dinner Saturday night and they were amazing! I wrote to the director today, and even asked about joining them. I love to sing and I love that cause, so that may be a good direction for me to go in.

Not sure what's going on with my sister. I hear the ex-husband is still insisting she should be able to drink a beer or two and stop, but sister is going to day treament and AA anyway. Not sure at all how this is going to play out. Brother called sister the other day to tell her that if ex-hubby tries to give her beer or whatever, that's a direct attack on her, he dosn't love her, and is trying to harm her. He told her he took that as a direct attack on our entire family, as we all pay for this crap. I'm really proud of him. :)

That's about it for me tonight. This Neurontin makes me really sleepy, which is good, but trying to type with crossing eyes is not so easy. Forgive any typos -- they're chemically induced!


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Tomorrow, tomorrow...

This last week or two has been very hectic, and some of you lovely people have written to check on me, and I can't begin to say how much that has meant to me. :)

So, in an effort to allay any unneccessary concerns, let me update you a little on what's going on.

First, I'm in physical therapy 3 times a week for pain. I was diagnosed recently with Fibromyalgia and a bone spur at C-6, and I have arthritis in the neck joint. PT is both joy and horror -- it hurts like hell while it's going on, I feel like I've been beaten from the inside out when I'm done, but at times it really does relieve some pain I've had for years. Additionally, I'm seeing a new doc on Friday, since my old one was having some, let's say, "difficulty" in being able to see me in a timely manner, follow up on tests, etc. So, he's been fired, and yes, there has been a letter written giving the cause. He chose to be defensive rather than to redress the issues, so to another doc I go. Also, my psychiatrist has taken a more aggressive role in helping me deal with this pain situation. She changed one of my meds from Trazodone (for sleep) to Neurontin, which helps with sleep and pain both. I have had shingles in the past, and this drug does treat the pain associated with it, so maybe that's related to the other pains I've been having. She's also hand-written a note for me to carry to my new doc, outling what we've done, and what she hopes new doc will do for me. That really impressed and touched me -- how many docs take the time to do that for their patients?

My other big time sucker-upper has been volunteering at the Nashville Film Festival, which ends today. I will go this afternoon and finish my little duties. There was talk of them actually hiring me in the future to work with the volunteer coordinator! That might be cool, but we'll see. I'm not ready for full time, or maybe even part time, work, physically or emotionally, just yet, but I'm hopeful for the future.

Tomorrow Hubby has a routine medical procedure in the morning, so I should have some time to blog in the afternoon. From there I'll update whatever all is going on.

Thank you, sweet people, for participating in my life. You *really* do make a positive difference.


Monday, April 24, 2006


Yesterday our church was rembering the Shoah -- that's the Jewish word for the Holocaust. Needless to say, not a comforting or uplifting sermon. One of the points made was that there is currently a genocide occuring in Darfur, Sudan. Women and children are being raped, brutalized, are not faring much better.

We claim to be a "Christian nation". We claim to have Judeo-Christian roots. If that's so, then why are we not stepping in to this particular horror to stop it? We KNOW that the Holocaust happened, much as, in its very grand scope, we don't want to comprehend it. How can we stand idly by while 400,000 innocent people have been killed?

I for one will not stand by silently. I went to and filled out the "postcard" to President Bush, asking him to support the liberation of the people of Sudan. This genocide is very similar to what has been going on in Rwanda, where we also stood by without doing much to help.

If you read my blog, I ask you, as sincerely and passionately as I know how, to support the website. It will only take a minute or less to fill out the form. You will be asked to spread the word -- I did, and I hope you will.

I'm not much for "causes", but this is the destruction of a people, an ethnic cleansing. On my personal email signature, I have the following quote:

*First they came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up, because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me,
and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me.

by Rev. Martin Niemoller, 1945

Please take this to heart, and do what you can for the people who so desperately need our support.

Thank you, and peace to you,

Props to FatDoctor -- my word cloud

You can get yours here: I'm thinking about actually getting one of these shirts -- they do look pretty cool.

Peace, y'all,

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Haunted, terrifying dream -- An American Haunting in my dreams

Gotta get this out of my system, ASAP.

Let me preface by saying I was able to see "An American Haunting" at the Nashville Film Festival opening night, which was April 20. This is a film about the Bell Witch, which is the only seriously documented haunting in American history. There are plenty of websites about this event and this film if you're interested in more info, as well as quite a few books.

About the movie: it scared the shit out of me. It was not bloody or gory -- just plain Hitchcock-type petrifying. I have to say it was an excellent movie, but I also have to say that, even hours after the film was over, my heart was still pounding. My hubby and I once tried to visit the house and cave which are part of the story, but got kind of pissed off at the guy selling thickest to it. We tried to ask a couple of questions - his response was always "buy the tickets if you want to know". We'd planned to buy the tickets anyway -- just wanted more clarification as to what we were actually buying.

Members of the Bell family were present at this screening, and said they thought it was very well done, despite the very difficult subject matter. They felt it was handled very well, and appreciated what the filmmaker (Courtney Solomon) did to research the facts. This said volumes to me..>

This dream begins with some sort of party I'm having somewhere, not in my own house, but in something like a traditional church building. I have lied to my parents about someone's death (feels like it was my husband Lance's death, but he had nothing to do with this dream -- I'm just saying that's what it felt like), and am in the midst of a party. My parents and brother show up, though, very concerned and sad and wanting to help me out. My parents give me checks to help me with expenses, and I make some excuse to get them to go to their hotel room, so I can have time to figure out what to do about this giant, horrible lie I've told.

I talk with my friends and decide to tell them I gave "whoever" their checks, and they all tore them up, doing THEM a favor. My parents were so relieved when I told them, as they really didn't have this money to give. I assure them somehow, after being "appropriately" sad and in mourning that they can go home, that I'm going to be fine with my friends.

One of the friends is either a gay man or someone whom I've only thought of as a friend. I go with him to his house to do something, and as we spend time together, it's obvious that he's realizing that he loves me, and I also realize that I love him. We begin to have an intimate, beautiful physical experience, but in the midst or afterwards, we learn that someone we both loved has died. The other friends of this friend of ours are having a wake/memorial service for her, but she is either a pagan or a witch. We dress in costume or dress appropriately to fit in with this crowd, and walk down the street to the site of the gathering.

All kinds of people pass us on the way -- some driving souped up cars, some on motorcycles, some flying through the air as you've been shown on TV shows or in films that witches are able to do. We get to the home where the gathering is, and my new love is just so very sad. I ache for him. People are all milling about, in various stages of grief, and there is a room containing her things that she's left to people, or that she wants people to pick out for themselves. I look for a particular pair of shoes of hers that I liked very much, but could not find them. Others were making selections or finding things particularly set aside for them. I was disappointed nothing was particularly set aside for me. Another item in this room is a box with her ashes, which we're all supposed to take a little bit of to spread wherever we wish -- she wanted us all to do this in order to spread her spirit as far and wide as possible. I couldn't do this, however, because I can't face a box of ashes that used to be a person's body. (Side note: I do have to spread Lance's ashes at a particular place that is far from me, eventually. It's hard to get to where this place is, and I've always wondered how I will react when I actually see what's inside the container of his remains.)

There is some kind of black animal there -- something like a cross between a cat, a porcupine, and a badger. When it got near me, it began to growl, which it has not done to the other guests. This is not a good sign usually, the people say, but they can't understand why it would react that way to me. In a flash it's attacking my face, clawing at my eye or maybe biting. They pull it off and I am very very afraid.

My lover and I leave this party, and the next thing I realize is that something dark and cloud-like is flying down the road toward us and consumes both my lover and me in fire and pain. We die. But I "wake up" as me in different place and time -- one time it was downtown San Francisco in the early 1900s, one time it was on an old wooden ship, one time it was in a current-day empty warehouse, one time with was with my real life friend Karen in a mall. Each time I would somehow encounter my lover, in a different body, but always the same spirit/soul, just like me. We knew each other by our souls, and our love would grow. But each time, someone would take on the role of the demon thing, and betray, then consume us.

Eventually, there was a knight in black armor, on a black horse, with black hair and beard, with a black crossbow that would show up and shoot the demon at the last minute, sparing my lover and me. We were so relieved and grateful for this, and each time we tried to move on to a different place, to escape the remnants of the demon. But each time we moved, we discovered that the demon would deceive us and part of it, even a miniscule part of it, would hide in something we had with us -- a box, a person, a door -- and we'd be imperiled again. The black knight saved us several times. The last time was driving up the curvy, rocky hills near my real-life home.

The last vignette of this dream is what caused me to shout No! No! No! over and over, and out loud so that my husband awakened me. For a while I couldn't even tell him what was wrong, I was so shaken. My mouth was so dry, and yet I was crying. Eventually I was convinced that I needed to write (type) this down in order to get it out of my head. Here's the last scene:

It's the mid to late 1800s, and my lover and I, thinking we're finally free of the demon. We are on our way to our new home, which is an empty log cabin on a prairie, near some woods. We enter our new home, which has a built in butler's pantry in the kitchen area, a black iron kettle hanging in the fireplace, and that's about it. We are so happy, so relieved -- we are finally free. As we embrace, someone opens the door. It's a man of about 25 or so, clearly up to no good. We see out the windows he has a couple of compatriots. They say this is their house, though it truly isn't. We try to reason with them -- they are not cooperative. They come in the house and grab me, as well as subduing my lover. They drag me outside, where they intend to rape me in front of him, then burn him alive, then me, too. Two men are holding me down, one is holding my lover, who is fighting to get away, as am I. I keep hoping the black knight will come, but so far he hasn't shown up. The one on the right is pulling my legs apart, raising my dress. The one on the left is holding me down, slavering, laughing, enjoying my terror. Someone kills the one on the right, though I can't tell who. I do realize it's not the black knight, though, and then understand that it's yet another "bad guy" who wants his turn. My lover is screaming at them to let me go, not to hurt me, etc, but they laugh and hold him back more painfully. I begin to scream and thrash about, "No! No! No! No! No!", whimpering as well.

This is when hubby woke me up. I couldn't tell him what was wrong for about 5 minutes. I was very hot & sweaty, and extremely thirsty. I went to the bathroom and cried. I came back to bed, and drank some of the water hubby had brought me, and then told him everything. He suggested I blog it, which I just did.

Now I pray this is out of my mind for good, and yes, I'm taking it to my therapist Monday. Hopefully, I'll be able to make other posts this weekend that won't be quite so awful. PLEASE wish me peace -- I surely need it.


Monday, April 17, 2006

New dreamscape -- positive change

If you've been reading my blog, you probably already know that I dream a lot, in great detail, and usually have disturbing dreams. Well, I hope you're sitting down when you read this, because, at least for one night, things have changed. Here goes...

I find myself "at home", with my friend Karen, who is asleep on the couch. I am watching a very scary, gory movie on TV, and am really scared, though I don't turn the TV off. I am interrupted by the sound of my baby sister coming home from a night out with some friends of whom I don't approve. These girls are "fast", glitzy, wearing provocative clothing and being very loud. I tell her she shouldn't hang around with those girls, they're not good people.

My mom and stepdad come home, and it's the next night. They are in another part of the house, when these friends of my sister's come in the front door without knocking, dressed in glittery clothes, technically beautiful on the outside. They are hollering for my sister to come join them and are being incredibly loud, rude, and vulgar, saying suggestive sexual things. My sister is on her way out to meet them, but I tell these girls that they need to clean up their mouths and show some respect in our home, that my mother is here and it's disrespectful to talk like that in someone else's home. These girls sneer and laugh, but I continue to advance toward them, letting them know that I mean to get them out of my house. I order them to leave and never come back, and kind of trap them in an alcove/entryway so that they have no choice but to back up out the door. I close the door behind them and tell my sister, who is behind me watching that she should never, ever associate with these people again -- they're nothing but trouble and they're using her.

Mom comes in the room, asking what all the ruckus was about, but I tell her don't worry, they're gone, just some people who were a little too full of themselves -- they won't bother us again. But just as I finish saying that, a car pulls up outside our door, honking, with bright lights, people hollering -- it's these girls with some very dangerous looking young men with them. Mom gets her key to lock the door, but her hand is shaking so she can't quite get the key in the lock. I brace myself against the door as she continues to try, and then try to guide her hand as I continue to brace the door. The girls and young men are trying to open the door -- having some success. I have to brace harder and harder. They sometimes get the door open and reach in for us, laughing, jeering, enjoying our distress. But we finally get the door locked. This really angers these people and they tell us they'll be back, we're not safe.

My stepfather is now with us, and we discuss what to do. Mom & SF talk in private, though I want to be in on the conversation. They then make some phone calls -- one of which is to a police officer of some kind that attends their church. The other is to my brother and also to members of my Mom's family. People start showing up. Knowing there are "reinforcements", I go to sleep. My brother sleeps in the car outside. My friend and I sleep on the couch somehow. My Mom & SF and other relatives/friends are out on the screened in porch on the front of the house. They seem to be taking things in stride, at least more than I am.

When I wake up in the morning, I hurriedly look out into the porch area, and I see that more relatives have joined us. They are laughing, playing cards, talking, etc. My brother is still asleep in the car, and we all laugh, but goodnaturedly, because we know he'll have a stiff neck when he wakes up. Someone else shows up with a guitar, and starts to play and sing. I join in in harmony with the singer, and we make quite beautiful music. Then, realizing it's snowed during the night, and that these "bad people" are not likely to do anything in broad daylight, several of us pile into the car to go for a ride in a field where we can drive fast, spin around, and not hurt anyone. I experienced this as both thrilling and fun, but a little scary.

When we return to the house, more people are there, showing their support. I come in the door, and see, coming through the back door, my cousins, and cousins' children, more aunts and uncles. I weep with joy, because I know that these people are there out of love, not just for my Mom or my sister, but for ME. They know how upset I've been and how hard I've tried to keep my sister and my household safe, and they're there to show me that I'm not alone.

When I woke up this morning, it was with much more peace than I had at bedtime last night. For the last little while, I've been listening to some relaxation/meditation CDs as I fall asleep. My favorite is by Louise Hay. One thing she says in this CD is that what you think about before you fall asleep is able to influence your dreams. Last night I thought about support from friends and family, about a wide net of people coming together out of love. I don't think this was literally my entire family, but I do think it was my immediate family, friends, and my church. I got so much good attention yesterday while at the church that I couldn't help but be grateful for that.

Though I was sad and depressed at bedtime, when I began listening to the CD, I tried to focus on what was being suggested, and for once that I can truly document, it worked. Now I need to see if Louise Hay has email, so I can thank her. :)


Sunday, April 16, 2006

The real truth...instead of that fake truth I usually tell.

That's kind of a joke between hubby & me, but it fits this post.

I realized today that, despite medication and 6 months of weekly therapy sessions, I still feel like a naive child. I still don't want to admit that anything's wrong with me, even when people notice that clearly, something is. I don't want to admit that I have all of these aches and pains in my body, and in my soul.

I wonder what I'm here for. I think of my husband, working so hard to do so much for us both -- I have trouble doing things involving lifting or bending my arms in certain (many) ways, and have join pain when walking or standing for any length of time. Some people might attribute this to my being fat, but that's not it, or at least not most of it. Something has happened to my body, quite possibly as the result of extraordinary stress throughout most of my life. I can't remember a time when I was not under stress, not even when I was "happy". Is it just me, or does that sound really screwed up? I think it does.

I have a great love for many people -- ones I know and ones I don't -- but it's hard to tell if that love is given naively. Actually, I guess I know it's given naively in some cases (maybe many), but I continue to want to err on the side of mercy, if you want to call it that. However, for that luxury, the cost is great.

I feel bad for my hubby, because he takes on so much responsibility, and I seem incapacitated in so many ways. I can't imagine that I could do enough for him to make it "even". Yes, I know, you're not supposed to keep score, but doesn't everyone in some ways? I hate to admit it, but I do. I eventually give up on people when they don't seem to be interested in my attention. Is that wrong, or smart? I don't know which at this point.

So, on the inside, I'm a frightened, blubbering child, looking for that safe haven where I know nothing bad can happen. And on the outside, I am the pragmatic adult who knows there is no such place.


Easter service, or What I Learned From 1st and 2nd Graders...

Today is Easter, and I went to church, like a good girl. I was a sub in the Religious Education class for the 1st & 2nd graders, who are utterly delightful in the first place. They were very distracting in their childishness -- I say childishness here to describe a lovely quality, not a negative one found in adults. Our activity was to make nesting baskets for birds, which meant to put nesting materials (cotton balls, yarn, ribbon, paper) in baskets to be hung in trees near the children's homes so that birds could take the materials from the baskets to BUILD their OWN nests. For whatever reason, the teacher and I simply could not make these kids understand that they were not building either nests for birds or birdhouses. They just had it in their minds that this is what they were doing and there was no dissuading them. They talked about how the cotton balls would be their soft beds and the ribbons or paper could be their warm blankets, so the eggs wouldn't get cold. They also made a class basket to hang on the tree on the church grounds, a ginko tree, that belongs to this class. While out hanging up the basket, we talked about what it felt like to be outside -- the feel of the sun, the sound of the wind in the trees and grass, the birdsongs, the smell of flowers. What a beautiful way to spend a morning.

Later, my hubby and I attended the late church service. I hate to miss services just because I'm subbing in "Sunday School", which we call RE, so we either go to the early or late service, depending on when I need to sub. Today, being Easter, the sermon was about resurrection. But not "THE" resurrection -- resurrection in general. The minister told of her favorite resurrection story, written 2000 years before the birth of Jesus, in Mesopotamia. This was about the goddess Inanna, who travelled to the underworld, and all of nature died with her. She was able to return to the world only when someone took her place, 3 days later (sound familiar?), and then nature was reborn. This cycle, though, was to be repeated each half year, similar to what we know of as seasons.

The minister also talked about the necessary killing of or dying of things in order for there to be rebirth and transformation. She talked about how sometimes you have to remove certain plants, like ivy, from your yard in order to make room for the other things you want to grow. Or how removing exotic species in a wooded area can help return it to what is native to that area, or the burning of crops/trees/grasslands in order to clear them so that they can grow back healthier and more viable. She talked about how it is necessary sometimes to kill off or let die the things that hold us back. Killing off pride might be one example, and letting a relationship die when it's no longer working is another, perhaps.

Throughout this service, I could not help but weep. I'm very emotional these days anyway -- something about turning 40, I think, made that happen. I cry with joy; I cry with pain. Today my focus on the death/dying of some things focused on how my hubby's late wife's passing is having its anniversary in a week or so. Tomorrow would have been her 54th birthday. Naturally, this causes him sadness, and me, too. My spouse's death anniversary was a few weeks ago, but it's been longer for me, so there were no tears that day. Earlier, yes -- that day, no.

Beyond this, my focus was on my entire family, as we try to surround my baby sister in her current abyss. Both my brother and healthy sister have admitted that they are tired, sad, feel bewildered, and realize that when this kind of situation has occurred before with our baby sis, I've always gone to her aid, but can't now. We feel helpless, and somewhat, or maybe tremendously, hopeless for her recovery. We don't want to feel that way. My brother and I stated in unison, when talking about baby sis's embarrassment about her recent trauma, "No -- you NEVER need to be embarrassed with US. We're your FAMILY and we LOVE YOU." It was comforting to hear those same words coming out of his mouth, 600 miles away, while they were coming out of my own.

Many of my friends at the service today commented on the fact that I didn't look like I felt well, or they noticed I cried a lot during the service. I'm sure they also noticed that hubby and I both lit candles in silence, rather than writing out a reason for our joy or concern, as we call it. Several asked if we'd go out to lunch with the group that does so each week, but I explained that we needed to get home soon because we planned to plant some flowers and wanted to do that before it rained. So, off we headed to the Farmer's Market, and I, like my 1st and 2nd grade friends, lost myself in the project assigned to me -- picking out the flowers. Hubby had to do all the real work -- I just had my assignment, and I completed it, with much joy. He built the garden; I "supplied" the materials. Still, though, I think of it as "my garden", just like those kids think of the supply baskets as bird nests.

Kids are pretty smart.


Friday, April 14, 2006

Is no news REALLY good news?

My mother called last night from baby sister's, but I wasn't home. The message she left on my machine was that she'd call me tomorrow. Of course, I read into this that there's news. And probably not the good kind, since she didn't leave it on the machine. Now, I wonder if I even want to pick up the phone when she calls back.

I can't imagine there will be good things happening right now. Maybe one day this incident, whatever it was, will serve to be the impetus for change and my sister's salvation. I fervently (and literally) pray it will be so, but I have to admit, I don't have a lot of faith in that.

If you're the praying kind, please keep my family in your prayers. God or whoever knows we need it.


Chag Sameach and Joyous Pesach

Folks, I had to look that up. Basically it means Happy Passover. While I'm at it, let me add Shabbat Shalom for tomorrow. Tomorrow night we're having a Passover Seder at our church, but we won't be able to attend, because hubby has a rehearsal with a singer/songwriter he performs with. And, um, I may be singing harmonies. In other words -- living my lifelong dream of being a backup singer!

I've wanted to sing for as long as I can remember -- it's the one thing in my life that I've consistenly been interested in, so I'm trying to get up the nerve to actually do it. I know I have a decent voice, and harmony seems to come naturally to me, but I'm a bit shy about singing in public. However, I'm going to try to give it a shot and see what happens.

Wish me luck!


Thursday, April 13, 2006

Thoughts on my baby sister

Since receiving the news about my sister's assault, very little else has been on my mind.

My first memory of her was before she was even born. I was nearly 7 years old, the oldest of 3 at that time. Understanding that Mom was growing a baby in her belly was such a surprise to me, but a delightful one, because I knew I'd get to "help" with the new baby. My brother and sister already called me Sissy, so I felt very special. When she was brought home from the hospital, I nearly burst to hold her. She was so pretty --- a thick tuft of RED hair, which was unlike any other member of my family. She had the prettiest dark blue eyes, which I did realize was common with newborns at the time, but she kept those pretty blue eyes, and they're two of her greatest assets, physical beauty-wise. I think we all fought to hold her or to play with her, but she was a Mama's girl. I have a picture of me trying to rock her and she's squirming out of my arms, as usual, to run to Mama. That used to hurt my feelings a lot.

I remember the day she took her first steps. I remember when she had strep throat and had little blisters inside her mouth which caused her cheeks to be all poofy. It made her even cuter, if that was possible. As I said, she was a Mama's girl. It took until she was nearly 6 to get her off her pacifier, and she never made it all the way through kindergarten. She'd cry for Mama and Mama would go get her and keep her at home.

Throughout her childhood, she was cute, gangly, and funny. She started cheerleading for a community football team when she was about 5 or 6 years old, and she continued to be a cheerleader throughout high school. She was actually a Varsity Cheerleader for the same team that Emmit Smith and his brother played for. She was one of the popular, beautiful girls.

She was always tall and thin and pretty. I was always short and fat. She was always demure. I was always outspoken. She says she idolized me during her growing up years, but I didn't know anything about that. I always thought I embarrassed her and she was ashamed of me. I know this to be the case at some points, because we would ask me not to say anything "bad" (curse) in front of whichever boyfriend she was with at the time. They were always gorgeous, too -- almost always from a wealthy family.

She said that coming into my bedroom and poking through all my "big girl" stuff was the supreme highlight of her day -- that my room was always so cool. She said she loved it when I'd cut or style her hair, or put on makeup for her. She said that when I'd take her and my sister out to the movies or something, just us girls, it was a very special experience. I didn't know this until she told me in the last few years.

I'm seven years older than she is, so I was out of the house before she even became a teenager. When I was 16 and she was 9, our father died after a long bout with lung cancer. After that experience, she became nervous, paranoid. When my Mom began dating, she would repeatedly ask them if they were going to be crossing any railroad tracks or going over any bridges -- clearly scared to death that something would happen to her. Naturally, this event affected us all in some way -- different ways, as we were all different ages and had different relationships with our father, and mother, for that matter.

I learned later that she had been discovered to be drinking during her high school years. I think this was discovered by my Mom when she found a stash of empty beer cans in my sister's closet. This was when my sis was the only one still at home, so she had a lot going for her. Mom would indulge her by buying designer clothes (jeans, shoes, etc.). She had to have everything just so. My other sister and brother and I agreed that she was incredibly spoiled and that Mom was crazy to do all that for her.

Later I learned that my sister had male "friends". My mom at one point told me about a man who lived nearby who was so nice to my sister -- he gave her money for no reason other than she was so sweet. At the time, I was definitely disbelieving, but having nothing more to go on, I couldn't really dispute it. Then my sister moved out to California, to live with my brother and his then-wife. While there, she took up company with a much older, married, rich man, who kept her in style, apparently. Got her modeling jobs, took her to Vegas, NYC, etc. Got her an apartment, paid the bills, paid for schooling in Graphic Arts. It was during this time, around 1991, when I'd start to get phone calls from her late at night, her crying, saying she'd been drinking and doing a lot of cocaine and she wanted to stop. She would have been about 22 then. I encouraged her to seek help, to get into AA or some other 12 Step Program and get herself straightened up. I was in Al-Anon at that time, due to the fact that I was married to an alcoholic myself. She would always agree with me, but to my knowledge, never did anything about it.

She grew tired of "not being allowed to date" by this man who was footing the bills (imagine that!) and he basically kicked her to the curb. She got a boyfriend immediately, and together they moved to Toledo, OH for some reason. That's where she met current ex-hubby.

They began to date. And in February of 2003, she called my mother, crying, hysterical, saying he'd shoved her and threatened to kill her cat. She needed help, and off my mother ran. Now, just the day before my baby sister called my mother, I called my mother to ask her to come visit me for the weekend. I had left my alcoholic husband and was getting a divorce. I was very upset, scared, and grossly in need of care, but mom said she just couldn't do it. Which was typical of my mother. But when baby sister called, mom got a plane ticket with that much notice, and headed up to Toledo. This also was the weekend of a terrible blizzard (we're from FLORIDA, for God's sake), so driving back was dicey, at best. Mom moved sis home, lock, stock and barrel. Then she proceeded to get her set up in an apartment, with another girl, ON THE BEACH.

Fast forward to March -- my sister breaks the news to my parents that now-ex-hubby has tracked her down in Florida, and they went to the Justice of the Peace to get married. You can only imagine the disappointment we all felt -- her marrying the guy who she said was abusive to her and threatened to kill an innocent animal. Never mind all the money my mother spent to go get her, move her, set her up, etc. Sister and hubby move back to Toledo.

Over the course of time, I get calls from her occasionally, saying he's beating her or shoving her, threatening her, punching holes in the walls, etc. I always tell her to come down to my house (then in Memphis) and we'll figure out what to do. Always she'd say she would, and then an hour or two later she'd call and say she'd changed her mind, they were working it out. This got old, of course, but I could never turn down my own blood, especially my beloved baby sister.

Then, the inevitable happened -- she had a baby. A beautiful baby girl, who continues to be astonishingly beautiful. She turned 8 years old on Friday. This child worries that her butt is too big. An 8 year old! At some point my sister told me she thought having a baby would fix things. You know -- the oldest line in the book. Needless to say, nothing got fixed.

As time went on, hubby began playing the stock market, and hit it big with day trading, so they moved back to Florida, bought and renovated my mother's house, and lived there -- neither of them working. Apparently, her drinking got worse and worse. Even her daughter knew something bad was going on. She'd say mommy smelled funny, or mommy acted funny. She was always on guard and always trying to protect her mother.

Finally, FINALLY, after nearly burning the house down leaving candles burning and passing out drunk, she was admitted into an alcohol rehab facility for women. This was in September of 2001. Early September of 2001. She seemed to be making progress, but after the events of 9/11, she wanted to check out "to be with her family". Though no one wanted her to do that, we could understand a little bit that with all the unknowns, it was at least understandable. So she went home.

They, as a family, moved back to Illinois, where they'd lived before moving to Florida. Somehow (HA!) they'd gone through all the money they'd had and hubby needed to go back to work. She starts to drink again, and at one point, AT HIS URGING AND WITH HIS SUPPORT, she became a stripper. Yes, you heard me -- a STRIPPER. One night she got into a fight inthe parking lot of a strip joint she was working at, and got beaten up badly. She was taken away in handcuffs, to the psych ward of the hospital, where she'd already been a visitor several times, after drunken fights with hubby. She claimed she "didn't do anything", but I would bet pretty much anything that it's very very rare for someone to be beaten up for no reason. This was maybe 2002.

I encouraged my mother to go get her, and bring her back to Florida because she clearly could not be around husband and the people she was associating with. So down to Florida they go, and he files for divorce. Sister gets a job, and things seem to be going OK. But she starts to "go out" after work -- be gone for hours. The divorce papers are drawn up to say that their daughter's residence must be within 25 miles of her father's union hall, period. Sister signs this without benefit of counsel, or letting ANYONE ELSE read the papers. This means she has to move back to Illinois.

Mom moves her back in early 2003. Spends a small fortune getting her set up, because hubby threw away all kind of stuff from their house -- like kitchen things... dishes... glassware... clothes... you name it.The divorce becomes final. Sister starts dating. Ex-hubby doesn't like this, naturally, because he's a controller. Boyfriend is babysitting one night while sister is at work. Ex-hubby shows up, sees him in there, knocks on the door, and when boyfriend opens it, ex-hubby begins to pummel his face, blacking both eyes, and worse. He snatches niece, and drives her, drunk, to a bar, interestingly enough. He thinks about what's happened, and decides he'd better WALK to the police station to file a complaint of assault and battery against boyfriend.

I get the call -- sister and niece need me. I need to babysit niece so sister can go file papers, etc., so I call in to my own job and take emergency leave. I go up there, and whenever ex-hubby calls, I take niece and leave, going anywhere to be away from that home because I'm petrified of what he'll do if he comes there. It was a week from hell. During this week, a very special friend of mine died, which only made it worse.

Fast forward -- a few months later, sister says she's pregnant with child #2, and ex-hubby is the father. She also tells me, I remember, that they remarried. Now she says she didn't say that. In any event, what can you do? There's a baby on the way. We hope for the best. Baby comes, and she's beautiful, but I can't stand to be around hubby, who, btw, wasn't present at the birth and left the next day to go out of town for OPTIONAL work. I brought sister and new baby home from the hospital. I stayed up, with new niece sleeping on my chest, all night long so sister, who was still in pain from the C-section, could get some sleep. Oh, and I was a six-month newlywed at that time, really missing my husband.

Within a very short time, she announces yet another pregnancy, and had a little boy 11 months after the 2nd girl. Now she's complaining again about ex-hubby, how he treats her, won't give her enough money to get more than a day's worth of food. She begs me to come visit. My brother, sister, mother and I chipped in to buy her a new computer, because we want to be sure she is able to stay connected to us, and her computer is old and on its last legs. I agree to take it up to her, surprising her. This is last October.

While there, things are tense. She and ex-hubby, with whom she still lives to this day, had a fight, because she was drunk, from beer HE had bought and given to her, and he'd thrown something at her, missing her but cracking the windshield of her car. On the Saturday of that weekend, I witness the following: phone (which is difficult to hear on at best due to static and crackling) rings, it's for my niece, the ex-hubby answers it, and gives it to her. I can see/hear her, and she can't hear what the person on the other end is saying. She finally hangs up the phone because she can't hear them. She takes the phone to her dad to tell him that she couldn't hear on the phone. He said to her in an angry voice that she needed to leave the phone on the hook so it could charge up! Actually, that wouldn't happen, because it was a crappy phone. Had nothing to do with the amount of charge on it. The phone rings again, and niece, as instructed, left it on the hook. Hearing the message as it was being left on the answering machine, it was the girl who called, calling back. Ex-hubby came around the corner, hollering at my niece that she should answer the phone when it rings! I stood up and told him to hold on a minute -- he'd just told her to LEAVE IT ON THE HOOK -- she couldn't do both. He gave me a glare that told me that if he could, he'd light into me like white on rice.

The next day, it's time to leave (couldn't have been soon enough), and my sister begins to apologize for the condition of the house. I tell her, in front of him, that considering she has no help, I think it looks fine. Ex-hubby gets REALLY pissed and says "What do I look like?". I replied, I think with great restraint, "Not much in my book." He then starts in on me, saying I don't listen, that I can't tell him how to behave with his family, etc. I argue back and finally, after a few minutes, realize he's growing more and more angry and may actually decide to hit me, so I left. I see my sister out in her driveway, which is where she went when she heard us start to fight, and I take her by the shoulders and tell her "He's going to KILL you one day, and maybe these kids, too! You need to leave, get your act together, and cut your ties with this man." She begs me not to talk this way in front of the kids. I tell her the kids already know something's wrong, and it's her responsibility to care for her children and protect them from harm.

My hubby and I leave, and are about 10 minutes down the road when I get a call from my mom, saying sister called her, after calling the police to have hubby removed from the house. She wants us to return to help her pack and help get them out of the house. We turn around, and we help them pack. We take them to our house, and deliver them to our parents in the morning.

Fast forward 2 months -- just after Christmas, sister returns to Illinois, because ex-hubby has been calling daily, sending her $$$, and violating the restraining order she swore out against him to keep him from hunting her down. In other words, same song, 15th verse.

Now my mother and stepfather are probably at her home by now, because of this rape allegation. Every one of us has wondered if this is a real or exaggerated charge. It really really sucks to think like that, but experience tells us that what she says is not terribly reliable.

On the one hand, I want to go hug my little sister, pet her, tell her everything's going to be alright. And I want to get her kids out of that house, because I don't want them to think things are supposed to be like this. I hope that at some point I'll get the chance to keep these children for a while, to show them what a "normal" family is like. I don't know if that will happen. I hope it doesn't happen through the court system, but maybe that's the only alternative.

My mom plans to insist my sister get rehab, as long as their insurance will allow her to stay in. Problem is, she's not married to ex-hubby, so it will be dependent on what she can get through Medicaid, unless she continues to do what she's been doing and pretending they were never divorced, therefore committing insurance fraud.

So there are my thoughts about my sister. One big jumbled up mess, and I've left quite a bit out. I don't know quite how to think about this or how to respond to it. I can't go be around her ex, and I don't know that I can be around her. I want to see the children. I hope I can help care for them. I want my sister to suddenly wake up and be alright. And I want to believe that fairytales, like this, can come true. But I'm a realist, and know that's not going to happen.

If you're the praying type, say a prayer for my very sick baby sister, and for my whole family. We need all the help and support we can get.



If you read yesterday's post, you'll know it was a genuinely sucky day, to say the least. But there were things I left out.

The first thing was that my mother, healthy sister, and brother were concerned about ME and how I would take the news about baby sister. ME! This is novel. But I realize it's only because I've been honest with them about what I've experienced since the big blow up with baby sister's ex in October. I told them the truth about my slide down into the grips of partially medication-induced despair, and now they are protective of me. I'm not used to this, but I think I like it. My healthy sister said the main thing she was concerned about was what the news of the rape would do to me, hoping it would not send me spiralling downward again. When she heard my voice on the phone, she said she was so relieved to hear me sounding so well. Later, we talked again, and we both admitted that we felt a little less "OK" than we had before, now that there had been time to let it all sink in, but I assured her that I'm still not backsliding. A little more depressed than I have been lately, but not overly so.

Second was the care used in how I would learn this hideous news. My mother had phoned my brother at 6am, which is about the time they learned about the incident. My brother then called my husband on his cell phone, because no one wanted to wake me out of a dead sleep to tell me this. Husband then left me a note to call him when I got up. While it was obvious something was wrong, I do agree this was a gentler way to find out than to answer that phone myself.

Third -- after my medical appointments yesterday, I realized I needed to talk to someone, badly. So, I called a friend who happens to be employed by my church. I asked if she was in her office, and could I come by. She said of course, and off I went. I was able to cry and unburden myself to her, and while I was there, our Minister knocked on her door, not knowing I was there. When she saw me she said "Oh! I just left a message on your answering machine! I was worried about you & hubby because I haven't seen you since the tornadoes and I know you live up in that area! Are you ok?" Now, this minister has only been with our church since August of last year, and is not from this area, so her knowing where *I* live is amazing to me, much less that she realized we weren't in the service Sunday (we were subbing in a Sunday School class -- actually, we call it Religious Education). I was so very touched -- I can't really express how much that meant to me.

She then said she could see that, while I said I was OK, meaning I'd survived the storm, I was definitely not OK for some other reason, and if I wanted to talk, she was there. I told her that I didn't want to talk about it anymore, but my friend could share with her after I left. Then my friend brought up something totally unrelated to my reason for being there, which the Minister needed information on, thus distracting me. We discussed this issue, and I recalled that the Minister needed help doing something on the Internet. I offered to come up to her office to help her do it, since I was there anyway.

Now, I had NO intention of talking with her about this at this particular time. I've never gone to a minister to talk about anything in my life, other than getting married. I have not trusted ministers in the past, because I've always seen them as judgemental, and feared that if I ever did tell them anything "serious" they would always hold it against me. But I had forgotten that I don't go to those kinds of churches any more. While sitting at the Minister's desk with her, working on this Internet issue, I began to cry again, and I told her what happened. She immediately took my hand, so softly and so gently, and tears welled up in her eyes, too. She heard my words and felt my feelings, I think. Though she offered no advice whatsoever, she ministered to me in the very best way possible. She simply listened and sympathized -- she didn't "preach" or anything else. She held my hand, and she heard me.

I felt more ministered to by those simple acts than I've ever experienced in my entire 43 years. Connection -- that's what ministry is. That's what church is. And I'm an exceptionally lucky person to have finally found this. Some people never do.


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Three's the charm (not even funny)

When I woke up this morning, preparing to go have my CT scan, I found a note from my husband on my laptop saying to call him as soon as I got up. That's never good news, people. I had heard his cell phone ring earlier, but never heard him talk on it, so I thought that had been a wrong number. It was not a wrong number. It was my dear brother, who'd just spoken to my mother, and he was calling to tell my husband that my youngest sister, the "bad" one for whom I have to find another name, was raped last night/this morning. Yes, you read that right -- RAPED.

Background -- little sister is an alcoholic from way back. Has been in and out of treatment. Likes to drink, but also seems to like to take anything that will get her high. Don't know about stuff like meth, though -- that hasn't cropped up yet, that I know of. But pot, liquor, pain killers, cocaine -- that stuff has all been in the picture. She has had many run ins with the law -- she has been in bar fights -- she has been "an exotic dancer" -- she has been taken to the hospital in handcuffs. None of this looks good, does it?

She also has an emotionally and sometimes physically abusive ex-husband, WITH WHOM SHE STILL LIVES. I had a run in with him in October, which precipitated my fall into the depths of post-traumatic stress and depression. She also has 3 children: my precious 8 year old niece who tries to take care of everyone, bless her heart; a nearly 2 year old daughter she had with the ex after they were divorced, followed by the nearly 1 year old son she had with him.

The story: After ex-hubby goes to sleep, she goes out with a girlfriend and that girl's boyfriend. She leaves ex-hubby a note saying she's gone out with them. This has happened before, we learned today. At 4am, sister returns home, screaming, crying, looking very disheveled, saying to the girl "You set me up! How could you do that to me???" She tells ex-hubby she was raped, held down by the girl's boyfriend and raped. Her clothes are torn and she looks as though she's been in a struggle. They call the police, who take her to the hospital to have the rape kit done. For some reason (can't imagine!!), the police don't seem to believe her, or this is what we're told. I spoke with a friend here who is a social worker and works closely with people in situations like this and was told that it may not be that they don't believe her, but that they don't have enough to go on. After all, there would be 3 of them against 1 of her, where stories are concerned.

My sister-in-law, who is about the toughest, most tenacious broad on the planet, got some info from sister and ex-hubby, and starts poking around on the internet. She finds a guy who matches the boyfriend's description. Where does she find it? On a sexual predator database. She's faxed this info to sister and ex-hubby. Ex-hubby has been calling the "friend" who was involved in all this, who they claim has changed her story several times. When ex-hubby stated that the police were going to get the surveillance tape of the place where this supposedly occurred, the girlfriend's story changed again.

As of this moment, my parents are on their way up to Illinois from Florida. They may or may not stop here overnight. They hope to be able to get my sister into an alcohol & drug treatment program, and apparently really have a come-to-Jesus-meeting with ex-hubby. He has been buying her alcohol, pot and pills, supposedly to keep her from going out drinking. But he doesn't seem to understand that MY SISTER CAN NEVER, EVER DRINK OR DRUG AGAIN. She can't handle it -- she's an addict and he enables her to remain one. Nevermind that that might be his way of controlling her and keeping her where she is (with him, dependent).

My brother somehow became the smartest guy on earth when I wasn't looking, too. We learned a while back that ex-hubby only gives her enough money to buy one meal's worth of groceries at a time, or one day's worth of baby formula. Brother extrapolated today that maybe the reason for this is that ex-hubby knows if he gives her any more, she'll go out and drink. I think he may be on to something.

So, here we go again. All attention is focused up Illinois way, and we're awaiting the outcome. I am praying that A) sister did not contract any STDs, including HIV, and B) that this is the bottom she's needed to hit to get her into rehab for the long term, and for real this time, and C) they find the bastards who did this and lock them up and throw away the key.

PS -- Thank God for Klonopin and Xanax.


Health news

Today I had a sinus CT which showed that I do not currently have a sinus infection. It did show, however, that I have an extra blood vessel in my skull itself. What's up with that????

One other finding was that there is a place in my sinus cavity that has the potential to become a chronic site of infection, but nothing can be done about it now. I had Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery in 2002, and I did get better. I would have to have that again if this site of some kind of cells whose names I don't remember thickens or whatever.

Tomorrow I go for my first physical therapy session. I have no idea what to expect. This is for my neck/shoulder/arm/back pain, but I have to show them also my left calf. Why, you ask? Because I did something bad to it, apparently.

A couple of weeks ago, my 15 year old niece visited, and we went to SHOPRYLAND! That would be the Opry Mills Mall-o-rama, which is probably 1 mile or more of walking if you do the whole thing. Which, of course, we did. Well, Aunty here got what I thought was a charley horse in my calf. But, it didn't get better. In fact, every time I tried to walk on it, it seemed to hurt. Then, Friday, when we were having the hideous tornadoey day from hell, I was trying to go down the stairs to the basement when I felt something pull or tear. So today I notice that area of my calf is bruised, and that there feels like there's a knot inside there. So, one more thing to add to my growing list of ways that I'm old, tired, and worn out.

Ain't life grand?


A new dream

Tell me, people, does anyone else dream as much as I do? I don't even put down on cyberpaper all the dreams I have -- just the ones that I can remember enough to keep intact while writing about it. I think my mind is busier at night than it is in the daytime, which is quite hard to imagine.

Let me preface this post by saying that April 28 is the anniversary of my husband's late wife's death from Acute Myelogenous Leukemia. She had this disease for over a year, and he nursed her the entire time. At one point she was hospitalized for 104 days, and he took a leave of absence from work so he could stay with her. Further, during the last months of her life, she developed neutropenia. This is the definition, taken from the Merck Manual:

Neutropenia is an abnormally low number of neutrophils in the blood.

Neutrophils serve as the major defense of the body against acute bacterial and certain fungal infections. Neutrophils usually constitute about 45 to 75% of all white blood cells in the bloodstream. When the neutrophil count falls below 1,000 cells per microliter of blood, the risk of infection increases somewhat; when it falls below 500 cells per microliter, the risk of infection increases greatly. Without the key defense provided by neutrophils, a person has problems controlling infections and is at risk of dying from an infection.

Her neutropenia made daily life difficult, to say the least. In her last month of life, she was plagued by a number of conditions, including a chloroma. This definition is taken from Wikipedia:

A chloroma is a solid tumor composed of immature white blood cells called myeloid precursor cells.

They are most often found in acute myelocytic leukemia (AML) but may be found in other myeloproliferative disorders such as polycythemia vera, hypereosinophilia, and myeloid metaplasia.

Chloromas may be seen under the skin, around the eyes, or in the mouth. They are often very tender.

In her case the chloroma was at her ear, causing her intense and excruciating pain.

She also began to bleed out, which was difficult to deal with, of course. She became more and more "out of it", partially due to the morphine and other drugs she was given for pain management. She could not see, she could not walk unaided, if at all, and the list went on and on. My dear husband, to say the least, was a saint. He remained off work to care for his dear wife throughout her illness until she was finally taken on the very last day of her life to inpatient hospice care. It was there she was released from her pain.

On to the dream:

She and I are in "our house", which is not really the house we've both lived in, but the one in my dream. We're alone, and she doesn't know who I am. I introduce myself by name -- I know who she is, and I know she's dead. She doesn't know that, but knows something's different. She looks beautiful -- her skin is clear and so soft, her hair is nice and full and wavy -- darker like it was toward the end of her life. She does not have the Bell's Palsy that she had toward the end, or any other malady. She is happy, and happy to know me. She also has a melodious giggle and such a sweet voice. (She really did in real life too, though she was also known to be quite loud and rowdy at times, much to the delight and chagrin of all who knew her, from what I've been told). She is a little confused about why things are moved around, but I help her find things. She still hasn't asked why my last name is the same as hers, but I think in my dream that she knows why. I tell her about Hubby, that he's doing well and that he loves her very much. I tell her I wish I had known her sooner, because I like her so much and know that we would have had such fun together. She agrees, and we feel like old friends. We hug, and I feel warm, and loved, and welcomed.

I don't know how this dream ended, but it wasn't in a negative way at all. I felt so warm and happy when I woke up. I don't believe in ghosts or visitations, but I still have the feeling that she was with me last night. It is not, I don't think, coincidental that Hubby just finished transcribing his journal from that last month just yesterday. He has journaled for years, but he could not bring himself to read or transcribe that last month until just the last 3 days.

When I told him about this dream, he broke down into tears, and then into sobs. He was both so happy and so sorrowful at the same time. I held him, and stroked his hair, telling him it was alright to cry on my shoulder. He loved her to distraction, and he cared for her like no one else could. And now, he loves me and I benefit from his tremendous capacity for love and devotion. Everyone of you reading this has the right and reason to be jealous, because my hubby is the total package and then some. Bonafide.

Now he's out mowing the lawn. I hope he take comfort from what I was able to tell him. I know I am comforted by it.


Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The first "something" identified, and more medical stuff

(Images borrowed from

Today I learned that I have a bone spur around the C-6 vertebra, and arthritis.

The bone spur is impinging on the canal that carries oh, pretty much all of the body's nerves from up the spine. This is causing me to have pain in my neck, back and arms for sure -- possibly causing some pain in my legs and hips. If you want to read more, I found this: A Patient's Guide to Rehabilitation of the Cervical Spine, also from

While I'm not thrilled to have this diagnosis, I am, in a weird way, relieved. I'm not crazy! There really has been something wrong and it still is wrong. For the last two weeks I've been taking Skelaxin, a muscle relaxer, and Lodine ER, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory that is stronger & more effective, supposedly, than over the counter meds. While there has been some improvement in my headaches (YAYAYYAY!), there has been little to know improvement in the pain in my arms, shoulders, neck and upper back.

So, I am to continue taking the rest of the meds I was given, and I am being set up for physical therapy. Don't know exactly what that will involve for me, but I'm hoping it will help. If it doesn't, then we go to more aggressive measures, with the first step being an MRI to determine exactly what kind of damage I have in that region.

Also, tomorrow I'm set to have a sinus CT, to determine if I do indeed have yet another chronic infection (I'd lay odds that I do). Tomorrow afternoon, I'll see the ENT again. I've had surgery for this once (Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery), and I suppose it helped. Apparently, my turbinates on the right side were congenitally tiny -- had been that way since birth, in other words -- which explains why I've had sinusitis all my life. For a while, I was doing better, not having infection after infection. The problem, I think, was that I'd become resistant to a lot of commonly used antibiotics, like Augmentin. Last time I was treated with Augmentin was January, but I ended up having to see an ENT last month because the infection never totally went away. He gave me Levaquin, which helped, but I still have some congestion and other issues that make me think there's still some infection process going on. Hopefully, we can identify what's going on and take care of it. Being "sick" gets really old.

That's it for this post. Hope you're all healthy -- if you're wealthy and wise, though, get in touch with me. We need to talk! :)


Monday, April 10, 2006

Tornadoes and hummingbirds

Friday was a terrifying day. Today was quite the opposite. On Friday we were tormented by tornadoes, which left 13 people dead in my town and surrounding area, and destroyed countless homes and businesses. Today is a picture-perfect spring day, and I saw my first hummingbird of the season. Funny how so much can change in such a short time.

It's hard to imagine that life as we know it can be gone in an instant, but nature shows us that all the time. Out of nowhere there are violent occurrences -- earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes -- that prove to us that life is fragile, and possessions are virtually meaningless. What good does it do to own a million dollar home if a tornado finds it? Ask people from New Orleans how much possessions actually matter when you're faced with leaving it behind or losing your life.

Then again, there are these little hummingbirds, that seem to have no mission in life other than to eat and be miraculous-looking. How do they hover in midair like that, sipping nectar? I know the mechanics of it, but why are there creatures like that that need to eat so much because they use up so much energy just getting the food?

Why did the hail that pounded my house on Friday knock holes in a plastic bin on my deck, but didn't dent my car, which was parked out in the driveway? How did I get so fortunate as to have a neighbor I've met only a few times call me from her office on the other side of town to warn me to get down in the basement before the storm hit? And then, later, her daughter called to check on me. What's up with that?

I'm exhausted today, and won't write much more. Just wanted to put those thoughts out there and get them out of my head. I'm hoping to sit here and see more of my beautiful visitors partake of the nectar buffet we've laid out for the, eagerly awaiting their arrival.

April 7 -- my precious niece's birthday, and the day Goodlettsville, Hendersonville and Gallatin were partially demolished. April 10 -- the day the hummingbirds came back.


Thursday, April 06, 2006

Last night's dreams...

I hate having to put this stuff here, but if I don't, I'll forget or won't be able to get it out of my head. This is another bummer -- be warned.

A bit of history/context. Tomorrow is my niece's birthday -- she's the oldest daughter of my "bad" sister. (I have to think of another way to refer to her. I don't want to continue having negative feelings towards her. Any suggestions, you all?) My Mom and I were talking yesterday about her birthday, and I mentioned that I might call. Mom said that they (Mom, stepdad, sister and nephew) planned to visit other sister and her kids in the summer, and will have another party for niece so that my nephew can be there. She adores him, and he pretends to be very indifferent, but he's really not. Anywho, I told Mom that they were all welcome to do the visit here, and that I just couldn't go to sister's house. I know my other sister doesn't want to go there either, and neither do my parents. None of us have any interest in being around my ex-brother-in-law, with whom my sister still lives and has had 2 additional children by after their divorce. Now, onto the dream.

We (me, hubby, Mom, stepdad, sister, her hubby, nephew, and my brother) are visiting sister at her home, against our better judgement. Ex-b-i-l is out of town, supposedly, but we still feel uneasy. Naturally, he returns home, and the games begin. He gets angry, outside of our presence, about a little gift I'd given niece. (I have sent her a Butterfly growing kit for her birthday in real life -- hope she gets it in time!) It was a little replica of a Carolina Wren (no clue why I remembered that part). He was hollering at sister, saying something about it messing up his truck in some way, like interfering with the way it ran. This was impossible, and the men just kind of blew it off, saying how stupid he is, obviously not understanding anything about how vehicles operate (kind of true in real life). They suggest that we get out of the house for a while, take my niece for a walk or something. We do, and are browsing around a country kind of general store -- wooden floors I remember clearly. We realize it's time to return home, though no one wants to. When we get back, ex-b-i-l is gone, thankfully. We relax, and sister wanted to make something to eat. But when she checked, there was basically nothing in the house -- only cleaning supplies, and very little of those. (Ex-b-i-l has a habit of constantly using stuff like 409 every time any little thing gets dropped on the floor or sits on the countertops. With 2 toddlers under the age of 2, that happens ALOT. VERY weird.) Sister is embarrassed, as she normally is when we visit because of him. He returns home, and they have a conversation in another room so we can't hear, but of course we hear him because he's hollering at her, again. Sister comes in the room to try to make an excuse, and Mom asked why she stays with him, he treates her so badly that it makes NO SENSE for her to stay. Sister doesn't answer. We start talking about other things. Ex-b-i-l is doing something with his truck that he said the present I gave niece messed up, and gets it running, but uncontrollably, and it wrecks through the wall of the garage, and goes out into the street. We all see then that the truck is just bare bones, basically, and shouldn't be allowed to be used anyway. He gets angry that we see this and can see how stupid he is. He comes into the house, stomping around, hollering, etc., so the men get up and get ready to protect us. We girls go into the bathroom to hide, and even have to get into the bathtub to all fit. The bathtub had water in it. I sneak out somehow so I can see what's going on and see that my brother and stepdad have guns, so I naturally feel afraid of what's going to happen next. In my dream (and in real life) I know that only the most dire situation would make them bring or use guns, so it's clear to me that they're going to put an end to this (him) once and for all. But I'm very afraid because I know how cunning ex-b-i-l is and how crafty he can be.

My last memory is of being in the bathtub with water and being very afraid. I can see my 'good' sister's hands shaking with fear, and my niece's eyes so wide and terrified that it breaks my heart.

Then I woke up.

Events of the day

Well, this morning I had my C-spine series, and now I'm waiting to hear back from my doc about how we proceed. I'm hoping for physical therapy, and perhaps stronger drugs for a while. That sounds bad just on its own, but I mean I want to feel better, not get doped up! lol

For quite a while, like 4 months or more, I've tried to avoid any substance, natural or otherwise, that would interfere with my getting better. I would LOVE to get off as many of the drugs I take as possible. I am not sure why I have to take BP meds when my BP is normal, though in the high range of normal, even when I don't take them. I frequently experience (check out this high tech doctory phrase) orthostatic hypotension -- meaning when I stand up after sitting or lying down, I get all dizzy and fainty and stuff. You've all probably experienced that from time to time. I experience it several times a day. Now that I think about, probably mentioning that to my doc would be a good idea, huh? My yearly physical is scheduled for May, so I think I'll start making a list of questions/concerns that I need to have answers for.

Also, I'm having my gynecological exam then, too, and hope that I can actually ADD a drug to my routine. I would like to find out if I can take Metformin (Glucophage). I have the condition known as PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome. This is why I've never been able to have children. Here's some info about PCOS:

PCOS: Symptoms

PCOS is not easy for doctors to diagnose. The common symptoms of PCOS include irregular or absent menstrual cycles and evidence of excess male hormones, such as facial hair growth, acne, and hair thinning (female balding). Many, but not all, women with PCOS are overweight. Even if several of the symptoms that follow are present, a woman may not have a case of PCOS. They may have a condition that affects the adrenal gland or the thyroid gland, for example.

The underlying cause of PCOS is an imbalance of hormones. This imbalance often seems to be linked with the way the body processes insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas that promotes use of blood sugar (glucose). Insulin problems can increase male hormone production by the ovaries.

So, you can see the interest in Metformin. I don't know if I can take it with all the other crap I ingest, but it's worth a shot.

Switching gears -- we're expecting strong storms tonight and tomorrow, which bites. This is the time of year when the south, particularly, gets bitch-slapped by Mother Nature. The midwest catches it too, but since I've always lived in the south, this is something very familiar to me. Sunday night was when west Tennessee and south central Kentucky (just above me!) had strong, violent storms that left 23 people dead. Now, I'm not normally a chicken, but I do admit to being a little freaky about the storms.

Growing up in Pensacola, FL, I was used to hurricanes and thunderstorms. But up here it's different -- there are TORNADOES to deal with. That's a very different animal. With hurricanes, you have warning, and have an opportunity to prepare or flee. With the storms we have here, you don't get that opportunity. You just have to wait & see what happens. I really HATE that part. I'm not good with the unknown factor in all of this. Spontaneity is one thing, but this isn't the right kind of spontaneity I'm into.

So, send me some good vibes, wouldja? I will be keeping a "weather-eye" out -- is that really a phrase or just something weather people made up?


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Adventures in healthcare

Sometimes I feel like a walking disaster, especially medically. For my entire life I've had various conditions that have been at best, a pain in the ass. At worst, they've ranged from just plain annoying to potentially life-threatening. Though I have always described myself as pretty healthy, I have to now wonder if I can continue to say that. I'm thinking no.

I am a walking pharmacy.

My current prescriptions are as follows:

Norvasc 10 mg – QD
Diovan 80 mg – QD
Aspirin 81 mg – QD
Triamterene/HCTZ 37.5/25 – QD
Spironolactone 100 mg – QD
Multivitamin with Niacin – QD
Astelin – 2 sprays each nostril BID
Flonase – 2 sprays each nostril QPM
Effexor – 225 mg QD
Klonopin -- .5 mg (1/2 to 2 tablets QHS, .5 QAM and .5 PRN)
Trazodone – 50mg (½ to 2 tablets QHS)

And, temporarily:
Skelaxin 800mg TID
Lodine ER 400mg QD

So, if you made it through the whole list, you may ask, what all is wrong with you??? Well, here's the list: chronic sinusitis (lifelong -- had sinus surgery a few years ago that helped, but am having problems again), hypertension, under good control, even without meds (developed after my husband died -- prior to that, I tended toward low BP, and at worst, normal), mitral valve prolapse, sliding hiatal hernia (mostly controlled), depression (under good control now), anxiety/panic disorder (under control), left ventricular hypertrophy (as the result of hypertension), carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands (had surgery scheduled in January but had to postpone due to sinusitis and psych issues at the time, now resolved), and now, some musculoskeletal pain and headaches bothering me since January, about the time I had a "pseudo flu" that rolled over into acute sinusitis, that don't seem to have a particular cause.

I discussed these issues with both my psychatrist and a nurse practitioner in my family doctor's office. Both, independently, stated that it's possible that I may have Fibromyalgia. I am not happy to hear this, although the nurse practitioner did state that it might be nice to have a name for all of these seemingly unrelated symptoms. The symptoms include:

  • Depression (more under control with Effexor)
  • Numbness or tingling sensations in the hands and feet (paresthesia)
  • Difficulty concentrating (not constant, but bothersome enough)
  • Mood changes (more under control with Effexor)
  • Chest pain
  • Irritable bladder (have to urinate frequently)
  • Dry eyes, skin and mouth (definitely skin & mouth, maybe drugs-related)
  • Painful menstrual periods (not sure if it's the "normal" pain)
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety (under control with Klonopin)
  • Widespread pain (neck, shoulders, arms, hips, thighs, calves)
  • Fatigue and sleep disturbances (not as bad with Trazodone)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (occasionally, and life-long)
  • Headaches and facial pain (right temple, site of shingles previously, bridge of nose)
  • Heightened sensitivity (sound for me)
I have 13 of these symptoms from time to time, some almost always, some just occasionally. So, I'm hoping that since I don't have a lot all the time, that means I don't have this umbrella syndrome.

Today I go for an X-ray
to determine if there's any reason I can't have physical therapy.

I truly hope I can have the physical therapy. I think I would benefit from that in a number of ways, including pain management. I truly don't want to hurt. I truly want to be healthier. I truly want to be able to use my body the way it was designed to be used.

I am also obese, in case I haven't made that clear in the past. But, as a result of living with a man who actually cares about being healthy (he's been doing Jazzercise for 18 years now) and knows how to eat correctly, I've lost weight and become healthier in the process, I believe. My cholesterol is under 200, my blood sugar is normal, my heart rate is normal, bp stays normal, and even the stress test I had a couple of years ago, before marrying healthy hubby was normal. I even walk/do physical things more than I used to.

Overall, I'm pretty fortunate. There are no major diseases on either side of my family, other than the fact that my father died of lung cancer at age 46. His father died in his 70s of complications from atherosclerosis, but his mother died at age 89 from an abdominal aortic aneurysm that she'd had for many years. My mother's father died at 89 from complications of a stroke he'd had more than 10 years before (that's all the info I have -- I'm sure there was more to it). Her mother, age 88, is still alive and doing well. ALL of them consumed tobacco products, either by smoking hand-rolled cigarettes or dipping snuff. My Dad smoked, and so did my Mom for a long time. I smoked until a little over 9 years ago, when I quit cold-turkey.

So, here I go to get my x-ray. It will be interesting to see A) what kind of xray(s) I'll have, and B) what they'll say, and finally C) where we'll go from there. Naturally, I'll put it here in the blog.


Frustrating Dreamscape, AGAIN

Anyone who knows me knows this is a picture that rattles my nerves. I am viscerally freaked out by this image, but it's the one that best portrays what my dreams last night made me feel.First dream: Lance was still alive, or back, maybe, and I knew exactly when he was going to die, but he didn't. I don't think he even knew he was sick. Every moment was tinged with great sadness, because I couldn't let him know. We went down to the University of Mississippi, his alma mater, and I pointed out that there was a traditional rebel flag flying, but it was old and tattered. It was definitely out of place, but not, if that makes sense. He laughed about that. We went to the "library" which was a very opulent place, with artwork all over and very elaborate, swooping walkways -- very elegant, kind of art deco style. I was wearing a ball gown -- a kind of light blue with a little hint of green, with a shimmering, nearly transparent outer fabric. The fabric underneath was the same color, but satin, and I felt beautiful in this dress. He kept lingering over certain things, laughing, enjoying, but I felt a sense of urgency, knowing how little time we had. His friend Mike was with him, and that contributed to his dallying. Eventually, Lance and I were home, and he was still oblivious to the impending end of his life. I felt the weight of the knowledge I had get heavier and heavier, though he remained his usual cheerful self. I don't recall the details, but I know we were separated at the time of his death, which is not what happened in real life. I recall, though, trying to get to him from wherever I was, but it just wasn't possible.

Second dream: I am going to Las Vegas to attend a work-related gathering, which I have done in real life. I'm staying at one of those giant, opulent hotels. My (good) sister is staying there as well, along with a lot of people I've worked with online over the years. Arnie is concerned about my going and being there alone. I get checked in, go to my room, and leave my things. I leave the room to go meet up with other people. I don't realize it but I haven't brought my room key or my ID, money, etc. I do meet some folks face to face that I've only known online and we have a good time. I head back to my room, but realize I don't have my key, etc. I need to get dressed for an event that evening that is pretty formal. I mention to one of my co-workers that I need to get ready but don't have my room key. She suggested I just use one of their bathrooms to shower in. I go to where a common bathroom is, but it's already being used. I lie down on the floor, because I'm so sleepy, and do fall asleep. I try to wake up to check to see if it's empty, but I just can't stay awake. This goes on several times, until I'm finally able to wake up enough to stand. By that time I realize I have to get to my room, and I head toward the hotel lobby. As it turns out, it's a long, circuitous route to that area, but finally I find it. I tell them that I realize they can't just hand this out, but I need a duplicate room key and will be willing to give them any information necessary to verify that I am who I say I am. They give me a look that says, "Yeah, right." An older woman gets some paperwork and asks me to move over to another area to get this info. I have some papers in my hand that keep slipping out, and I'm having to stop and pick them up frequently. The lady asks me to write down my date of birth, and a few other things, which I try to do, but the paper she wants me to write on is very thin and flimsy, so that if you don't do it just right, it will tear. I start to write my DOB, but realize it's in the wrong place, so I scratch it out, and then fear they'll think I'm lying because of that. I again try to write it down, but the paper is just too flimsy. The woman has disappeared anyway, so I have to go find someone else who can help me. This person is more helpful, and I tell them not only can I give them my DOB, I can give them the 3 digit security code from my credit card, along with about the first 10 numbers. Then I realize my sister is in the hotel and can vouch for me, so I tell them that, too, but the DOB and CC info is enough, and I get my duplicate room key. Though I've seen them somewhere, I don't remember where they are, and ask for directions. They say they're not allowed to tell us that -- company policy. So, in great frustration, I start searching for the elevators that will get me up to my room. Walking, walking, walking -- so tired -- there are show people everywhere -- glittery costumes, theaters with Vegas-like performances going on, but no elevators. I get lost, because there are no landmarks that are any different from any others. I try to ask people for directions, but everyone is so busy with what they're doing that they don't even notice me. I find an area where there are some things for sale -- perfume is the thing closest to me, and there are some salespeople and janitors there. This area is not as ritzy as the rest of the hotel, and it's practically deserted of anyone but staff. I go up to 2 of the male janitors, and tell them what's been going on. I beg them to please please please tell me how to get to the freakin' elevators, and they agree, because they think the no-tell policy is stupid, and they can see how frustrated and tired I am. One guy gives me directions while the other guy looks out for people trying to listen in. I thank them and head in the direction they told me. But quickly I realize I've forgotten the instructions, and can't find my way back to them. More and more one to help... Then I either wake up or just can't remember the rest.