Saturday, April 22, 2017

2013 July 28

At 63 Years Old

Before I begin what will likely be a rant, perhaps a little background information is in order. I have been happily menopausal/post menopausal for about nine years. That in itself will give you some indication of what this rant will encompass, so if you are offended by discourse regarding female issues, stop reading NOW!

My reproductive system has never really been user friendly. I have endured PMS, infertility, arrogant fertility specialists, and assorted surgeries, pains and discomforts over the years. Once having come to terms with all of the challenges offered up on a monthly basis by my uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes, I settled in, and learned to "tell time" by the passing of each menstrual cycle. If nothing else worked well in that system, it was, at least, regular as clockwork. For me, a month was the length of time from the beginning of one cycle to the next.

When menopause began, I actually felt a little sad, in spite of the tempestuous relationship with my lady parts, because it required me to rethink my time passage measurement. But, as women always do, I adjusted. And I cruised along becoming comfortable with a new season of my life. 

In many ways, a very pleasant season. No cramps, no mood swings, no sudden gushes during a period caused by doing something strenuous, like lifting something heavy no unexplained cravings for chocolate, no emotional outbursts - none of those unpleasant, annoying aspects of womanhood. Learning a new way, albeit "normal" way to measure time transit seemed little to take on in exchange for loosing so many annoying things.

So, in this new found freedom, I have cruised through the past nine years. Granted, my family doctor, who does my pelvic exams, would occasionally bug me about a uterine polyp with which she was concerned. Mostly, I have been able to ignore her. However, once we were in Pittsburgh for an extended period this late winter into early summer, I could ignore her no longer. (The reason I was ignoring her requests to have the polyp checked was that it required me to visit the gynecologist whom I did not like. And because I was too lazy to seek out a different gynecologist) To placate her, more than for any other reason, I scheduled an appointment with the dreaded gynecologist.

Poor Raymond. I made him go with me, even into the exam room. To my dismay, his impression was that, "he seems like a nice guy". That really isn't relevant, though. The initial exam, concurred with my PCP's concerns, and I was scheduled for a procedure, to remove the polyp and biopsy it and my uterine lining, with was "too thick for someone so far post menopausal". Suddenly the lovely period of detente between the lady parts and I was at risk.

The polyp was removed and was benign, as was the too thick uterine lining. It seems that although I am indeed post menopausal, my ovaries are producing more estrogen than is considered normal, which in turn, causes a thickened uterine lining. Both the Gyne and my PCP are concerned that left to its own devices, this lining might decide to evolve into uterine cancer at some point. In order to combat that possible issue, they both think I should follow a course of treatment that would require me to take 10mg of Provera (a hormone my menopausal self no longer produces ~ progesterone) for ten days at the beginning of each month for three months. In fairness, the gynecologist wanted me to take it for June/July/August, but I didn't start it in June, as I waited until I talked to my PCP, to get her take on it. Since I trust her, and since she seemed to make a case for taking it, I acquiesced, and decided to move the treatment to July/August/September. Since my next appointment with the gynecologist isn't until late September, I figured it really didn't matter.

So, on July 1, I began my first month taking Provera. The doctor had warned me that if I had been prone to PMS symptoms, they could return with this medication. PMS would've been welcome! Instead, I became a screaming, psychopathic, irritable bitch! There is no other word for it! It was as if my evil twin had taken up residence and even though I wanted to, I could NOT evict her. I hated everything and everyone! I was critical of everything Raymond did or didn't do. I was cranky beyond measure. I cried or yelled, more or less constantly. Everything and everyone irritated me to the point that I wanted to slap them, or worse. In a word, I was UGLY! I was SO UGLY that I couldn't even stand myself! It seemed like the longest ten days of my life! I can only guess how long it felt to my poor husband.

In the midst of the early days of July on Provera, I also began a course of Medrol (a steroid - yet another hormone!) this one for the treatment of the severe arthritic changes in my cervical spine which were causing problems with a nerve root. I asked the pharmacist if this would interact with progesterone which was already recking havoc with my personality. He said that it might "intensify" thongs for the first few days, but somehow thought it reassured me when he told me, "it's really not a 'you' thing - it happens to everyone taking progesterone". I was not comforted!

The pharmacist was correct, though, as the steroid for the arthritic stuff didn't seem to effect me as badly as the other hormone.

Finally, day ten arrived. No more Provera. Thank you, Lord! I won't say I mellowed out immediately, but there was light at the end of that tunnel. 

Remember the joke about the light at the end of the tunnel being the oncoming train? Yep, there it was three days later, as promised by the gyne, the light at the end of the tunnel that turned out to be my first period in nine, did you hear me, NINE!!!! years! While I knew this was the expected outcome resulting from dumping progesterone in my body, it still came as a general shock to my 63 three year old system!

Let me say this as simply as I can: at 63 I am too old to be standing in line buying tampons and pads! Granted the whole period was over in five days, but it sucked! I don't want to have a period at 63! especially after not having one for 9 years! The whole process, from the crazy irritable person inhabiting my body, to the shedding of excess uterine lining, to finally staring to feel human again took up more than half the month of July! I don't want to repeat that process in August and September! 

Yesterday, while driving to Adams, NY, Raymond and I were discussing all of this. I said that I was leaning toward stopping the Provera. He was enthusiastic in his support. Until he questioned why I was doing it in the first place. When I explained to him that the doctors were concerned about the thickened uterine lining developing uterine cancer, he suddenly had a change of heart, and thought I should take the remaining course of Provera, in spite of the maniac we both fear I will temporarily become.

I'm still not convinced. As I told Raymond, if I'm 63 and on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being no chance of cancer and 10 being cancer, I am at 1.5. And if I have been at 1.5 for at least 9 years, what are the odds that I will develop cancer? And if I do, couldn't they just yank my uterus? Raymond's response was to question whether that type of cancer would spread if it did develop. 

So… here I sit, just a few days away from the beginning of the next month with  no idea of what I am going to do. Take it, or not, that is the question. I do not want to become a screaming mimi for for the first ten days of August. I also do not want to deal with having another period. I hate the whole process. It feels so unnatural. Yet, I certainly do not want to develop uterine cancer. But the question remains, if I have had a thickened uterine lining for the past nine years without it being positive for cancer (it has been pre-cancerous - but NEGATIVE for actual cancer cells), what are the odds that I WILL develop cancer? I don't want to tempt fate. I have been down the cancer road with my bladder and am grateful for how contained any abnormal cell growth there has been.

I'm thinking phone calls to both docs are in order tomorrow. Perhaps the severity of my reaction to Provera will decrease with each consecutive month. Perhaps it won't. I need some straight answers and NOT simply, being told this is what we generally do. In spite of the song, I am NOT everywomen! I am an individual and perhaps this is not the course of treatment for me. I certainly don't want to take medication that in the long run, may not really have any effect. But, on the other hand, I don't want to see my uterine lining morph into cancer. What's a 63 year old to do?

Oh! and just a little side note. When I asked the gyne if we couldn't just do a hysterectomy, back in April, his response was, "I can't in good conscience take out healthy tissue." So, if it's healthy, why am I taking Provera and scheduled for yet another biopsy in September? It all seems rather convoluted to me. Perhaps I should've called him while I was harboring my angry twin during those early weeks in July. 

Sunday, March 26, 2017



September 21, 2016, would’ve been his 91st birthday. On that date, he had been gone from our lives two years, eight months, and twelve days. It feels both so much longer, and shorter, simultaneously.

Sometimes entire days go by and he doesn’t cross my mind. Other times, I am steeped in memories and plagued by things unsaid. To say, "I miss him" seems a gross understatement, yet what more can be said?
Lots, I suppose. 

He lived 88 years, 3 months, and 19 days.  

He was a good man; An exceptional husband; A kind father. He was a hard worker; A strong union man. He was a respectful human being. He had a soft spot for indigenous peoples, in particular the children, and to that end supported a few charities for Native kids. He was a man grounded by family, faith, and responsibility. His faith lead him to support some Catholic charities. He was an athlete, a baseball player, specifically, though he played some sandlot football, too. He was a story teller. He liked people, and they liked him. He was easy to be around, a comfortable personality. He had many jobs over his lifetime, and he did each one to the best of his ability. He was the union steward at one place, and he enjoyed that role. He also worked as caretaker of the Slovenski Dom (the Slovenian Hall), a fraternal organization in Lawrenceville, for many years. Part of his role there required him to tend bar in the evenings and on weekends. It was the place where my brother Vinny thought Daddy was happiest.

Perhaps part of the reason for his contentment at the Slovenski Dom, was his familiarity with the place. During the Great Depression, Daddy’s own father also held the position of caretaker. And though his parents owned a house on 57th Street, during the Depression, the family lived in the apartment that occupied part of the first and second floors of the Slovenian Hall. So, when Daddy returned there in the 1980s, with some of his own children in tow, it must have been a kind of homecoming for him. A return to a place of simpler times and memories of his own childhood, since he was probably a preschool age kid when Pap-Pap was steward at the Slovenski Dom.

His life wasn’t easy. He was a first generation American, born to immigrant parents, in the period before the Great Depression. Yet, all the photos I have of him as a youngster, show him as a happy, caring, animal loving, and cowboy loving, kid. He grew up number four of six children, though there were nine years between him and his next younger sister, Rose Marie, who wasn’t born until 1934. So, I’m guessing, for all intent and purposes, Daddy was treated as "the baby" for at least eight of those nine years. His next oldest sibling, Jimmy, was two years older than he was, to the exact date, September 21.

I loved Daddy’s stories of growing up in his extended family. I loved hearing about the aunts and uncles, cousins, and just good friends and neighbors who populated his youth and young adulthood. The stories were always happy ones, revolving around family and group activities, like playing pinochle, listening to radio dramas, or music. The home my Dad grew up in was a welcoming one, a gathering place. 

I know that Daddy, (AKA: William, Bill, Billy, Will, and Buzzy), loved music, and had a decent tenor voice. He sang in the Men’s Choir, at St Mary Assumption Church. He enjoyed playing characters in local theater productions. In one of those performances, he portrayed what  Dr. Larry Canjar said was a great "old, Jewish, immigrant accent". Daddy told me that the director of a local theatre group saw one of his performances and wanted to cast Daddy in a production in Oakland, but Daddy declined. Maybe if he hadn’t fallen in love immediately after World War 2, and straightaway begun a family,  he might have tried his hand at acting.

Instead, at eighteen, he went off to be a soldier, in the European Theatre. In doing so, he followed in the footsteps of his two older brothers, Joe E. and Jimmy.  

Will left Pittsburgh, in November 1943, shortly after his eighteenth birthday. It must have been both scary and exciting for this young man who had never been out of Pittsburgh, and rarely out of his neighborhood. Traveling with other young men, uncertain of their final destination, knowing only they would ultimately be off to "fight the war". It had to have been hard on him, too, especially when he missed his first holidays with his family. Holidays were always an important to Daddy’s family. And, Christmas, without fail was always special, both as a holiday and a holy day for Daddy.

Daddy did his basic training in Georgia. He shared stories from basic training, where he met a young man from New Orleans,who became his friend and bunk mate. Jim Byrnes was the gentleman’s name and they maintained a lifelong, long distance friendship. They sent letters and exchanged Christmas cards, and on more than one occasion, Mr Byrnes invited my Dad to New Orleans, but Daddy never went. And it was a deep blow to him when he one day received a phone call from Mrs Byrnes, saying that his friend had passed away. 

There were stories about the other recruits, and stories of playing baseball in the red Georgia clay. But, of the time after basic training, spent in Ft Lee, New Jersey, little was said. From NJ, he and his comrades in arms, headed to England, and then to the European Theatre. 

He never really spoke of his deployment in Europe.  He shared transport stories of sea sickness. Daddy shared reminiscences of the brief layover in England. There were tales of the cold forests of central Europe, on the way to Germany, where he got frostbite on his toes. I remember his accounts of trying to keep warm in the back of transport trucks. But, never did he talk about the war, combat, what he saw, or did. 

Once, in the mid 1990s, while watching a TV news segment about the U.S. Holocaust Museum, I asked him if he had been near any of the concentration camps when he was in Europe. He became very quiet. A look came over his face that I cannot describe, except to say, a darkness. He paused. Then he said, "No. But I smelled them." I asked a few more questions, but he answered tersely, so I didn’t press. At one point, he said that some of the other guys in his unit went into the camps, which had already been liberated, but that he did not. I know little about his wartime experience. It was not something he wished to share.

At the end of the war in Europe, he returned home, to the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Lawrenceville, where he picked up where he had left off. At least that’s what I assume. How different it must have been, though. An innocence lost. Daddy returned home, as did his oldest brother, Joe E. Uncle Jimmy, with whom Daddy shared a birthday, was shot down somewhere over France, lost his life, and is buried in France. So, the house on 57th Street was a little emptier, and touched by the sadness of losing their middle son. Although I am certain there was some of what we now call survivor’s guilt, Daddy got on with his life. The sorrow of losing Uncle Jimmy, was something I realized more from watching the women in my Dad’s family, in particular my Gram, and my Aunt Barb, who was the oldest of the siblings.

But there were happy stories after the war, and Daddy shared those, too. I especially loved hearing about interactions between my grandparents, from Daddy. Theirs must have been a happy marriage, especially based on the reports from my Dad. It seems that my Gram was a strong, sensible, kind woman, and that she, perhaps, "ran the show". There was a lot of good natured teasing between Daddy’s parents, at least according to Daddy’s shared recollections. I loved hearing the stories of his parents, Rosie and Joe, in which Daddy would always speak in Pap-Pap’s accented voice. I so miss hearing that! I wish we had made recording of those stories.

In January 1949, Bill married Jean Marie Brogan Savage, a girl from the neighborhood, who lived six houses up the street. She may as well have been from another galaxy. Neither her Scots-Irish family, nor Daddy’s Slovenian family approved of the union. I’m not sure why, really. Perhaps it was cultural, just a desire to keep to their own ethnicities. Perhaps it was because Jean was adopted. Perhaps it was because Jean’s parents looked down on immigrants. Or maybe there was some other reason. I simply do not know. I have some ideas and suspicions, but no actual knowledge. But, marry, they did!  And with both families in attendance, they were joined in holy matrimony at St Mary Assumption Church, with a reception luncheon following at the Fort Pitt Hotel, in downtown Pittsburgh. They honeymooned in New York City. 

When I look at their wedding photos, I see two people very much in love. My mom, Jean, has been gone since August 1976. But even in the intervening years, Daddy never stopped loving her. In fact, when his granddaughter, Hannah, was in college around 2009,  she asked for me to email her a photo of her grandmother. I sent along Mummy’s senior portrait from high school. I shared with Daddy, Hannah’s response to seeing Mummy’s photo. Hannah said that her Grandmother was "quite the looker". Daddy smiled broadly, and replied simply, "I always thought so." Even after so many years without her, he still loved her, deeply.

Daddy was a kind man. A gentle man. Although, he could get riled up at times. Discussing sports sometimes made him agitated. Especially, baseball. Most especially the Pirates, under Clint Hurdle. He could also get fairly worked up about union politics. He was shop steward where he worked for many years and often became irritated with his union brothers because he felt they lacked follow through. Yet, in spite of his strong union stance, he maintained a positive working relationship with both owners and management, as well as with his union brothers. My Dad was a reasonable and balanced human being, who in most instances saw both sides of an issue. Even in the turbulent late 60s and early 70s, I never heard him speak unkindly of any of the players on the stage of social change. I never heard him speak derogatorily of civil rights leaders, though I remember hearing such hate speech from various Uncles in the family, but never from my Dad. He respected people - all people - even his oldest daughter, the rebel and hippie. 

If I regret anything in my younger life, it is any pain or embarrassment I caused my Dad. I was the epitome of the strong willed child! I was thoughtless and headstrong. I often say that I thought I had all the answers, when, in truth, I didn’t even know what the questions were. Yet, I remember my Dad coming to my defense against drunken slurs against me made by one of his in-laws. I remember Daddy coming to my high school graduation and my nursing school graduation. Was he perfect? No, and neither are ANY of us. I am grateful that one of the final interchanges between Daddy and me included me saying, "I’m sorry, Daddy. I never meant to hurt you." To which he replied, while looking deeply into my eyes, "I know, kid." God! How I miss him!

He was a good listener. I miss being able to talk to him. I miss having his ear, knowing that whatever I told him would go no further. He was not a man given to gossip. I miss the fact that he listened yet never felt compelled, as some men (and women) do, to try and fix whatever was wrong. He truly listened, knowing that sometimes the person talking just needed a comprehending ear. How I pray to be more like my Dad!

When I said that his life was hard, part of the reason for the difficulty was that our family grew rapidly over the years. From their first child, a girl, arriving a month after their first anniversary, to the appearance of five boys, then another girl, and finally, the last boy, my parents embodied "the good Catholic family" of the 1950s to 1970s. I am not certain of the motivation behind having eight children. To place the blame of the Vatican seems a bit unfair. And we were an oddity, even though we were not the only, nor the largest family in our immediate neighborhood. In really thinking about it, though, most of the other Catholic families on our street, consisted of three kids, maximum. So, maybe we were an oddity, but I never realized it at the time.  

My Dad did not graduate from high school. I am not certain of all the facts or reasons, but I do know that he left Central Catholic HS after 2 years. Without a high school diploma, even in the 1950s, jobs were hard to come by, especially when relying on public transit. My Dad never learned to drive. In fact, he had no desire to learn, and no extra income to purchase a car, anyway. And I remember when I bought a used car in the 1980s, he kept asking me, "Why?"  He was a believer in public transit, and thought the "need" for everyone to own an automobile was ridiculous.

Early in his experience as a father and husband, I remember him being organized, neat, and trying to impress those qualities on his kids. In the basement, he had a workbench with a peg board behind it. On the pegboard, he kept his tools. And on the pegboard, he had drawn an outline of each tool, so that even as a child, I could see by the shapes, which tool went on which hook. I remember having a fascination with Daddy’s tools, especially his hand drill. And, I also remember his displeasure when Mummy or one of the children would remove some implement and NOT return it to its place on the bench or board. After awhile, I think he became less stringent in his organization, maybe because living with a messy wife and a bunch of kids can do that to even the most organized individual.  

There were times when we kids were growing up, that the gas or electricity to our house was shut off, because we were poor. In spite of those occurrences, and the embarrassment it must have caused Daddy, I remember those as fun times. It is my belief that my perception was mainly the result of Daddy’s attitude. He made a game out of being in the dark, when our electricity was off. We got to carry old, kerosene, railroad lanterns upstairs to the bathroom, and sleep with oil lamps in our bedrooms. He made it a fun experience! I remember Daddy putting blankets over the dining room table to make a tent for us kids when the gas was off and it was a very cold early March. He made it seem like an adventure! We got to "camp" in the dining room. I remember telling him a few years before he died, how many pleasurable, good memories I had from those times. He said that if he had known it was enjoyable, maybe he wouldn’t have worried so much about us.  

Daddy liked to cook. I remember him making pigs in the blanket, potica, donuts, and potato chips. He also baked from scratch chocolate cakes with delicious, cooked, butter cream frosting. His spaghetti sauce was extremely tasty. And he was always willing to try different things. I remember making collard greens and neck bones for him after I had been exposed to some down-home southern cooking, and he liked it. Some of his sons seem to have inherited his gift for cooking and baking. 

Daddy seemed to lose a little of himself when Mummy died. He was only 50 when she died as a result of lung cancer, so he had spent more than half of his life to that point, as Jean’s husband. Perhaps he felt lost. I have often reasoned that were it not for his youngest son, who was just five years old, he might have allowed himself to die of a broken heart. To his credit, he hung on. He was a survivor, in every sense of the word. 

He lived longer as a single parent than he had as a married Dad with a partner. He always was willing to take his children back under his roof if they asked. In nursing school, I returned to his home for a period of time, after a failed marriage and relationship. At the end of his life, he lived in a home purchased by my brother Vinny and shared with Daddy and two other unmarried brothers. I think Daddy did much of what he did because of a deep ingrained sense of obligation. His duty to his family, his spouse, his children, his faith, and even his country, sometimes led him down roads he might never have traveled except for his imperative of living up to a commitment. That is something about him, that I have come to appreciate more deeply as I age. Mostly, though, I am simply grateful that I am his daughter, grateful for him as a husband, father, son, brother, friend, and grateful for his example and perseverance. And though he never told me he loved me until I was in my 20s, he showed his love everyday, and for that I am especially grateful.

Anger, and why?

2017 January 31

Today I decided to take a break from Facebook. The decision came after yet another day spent in anger and frustration, which has become my default emotional setting since early November. The election of Donald Trump, what it represents to those of us who consider ourselves relatively centrist, has been too much of a dividing factor. Too often, I find myself reading things on Facebook, posted by people to whom I am related either by blood, marriage, friendship, or deep caring, even love, and theses things anger me. The anger comes because I cannot fathom the way they are thinking. The anger comes because I KNOW the people to be kind, caring people, people I trust. Yet, each time someone says, "Give him a chance", my blood pressure rises, because I cannot simply wait and give a chance to a man I feel is unqualified to lead. And I cannot understand the people who do not see him as unqualified.

I have many friends with whom I stay in touch using Facebook. There are people whom I count among my closest friends, whom I touch base with daily via Facebook. There are people whom I initially met online, who I have come to think of as good friends. Some I have had the pleasure and joy to meet in real life, others remain online friends until such time as our paths should cross. There are people numbered among my Facebook friends whom I met because of our period of living an RVing lifestyle. Some people I have known in my past, and have been lucky enough to reconnect with because of Facebook. Some are former employers, former co-workers, former members of my old Church, and family and extended family - I value these friends, all of them. 

In spite of the deep need I have to somehow remain connected to these people, MY people, I am facing a conundrum: to continue along as I have been for the past few months, or to take a break. I need to explore possibilities, because to continue along as I have been would be detrimental to my fragile emotional health. I tend to see the world in black or white, lacking shades of grey. It is a tedious mindset - one that tends toward the "all or nothing" kind of thinking. Over my adult life I have tried desperately to change that thinking, so that I could embrace the full spectrum of people and events, experiencing them in all their shading from darkest through all the in-betweens to lightest, with every nuance possible. Most times, I am able to function in this manner, seeing that few things in life are all bad, or all good. I recognize that people and ideas are complex and I try to refrain from making judgments based on limited information, whether about people or their ideas.

However, in the time since the election in November, I find myself thrown for a loop. I am too often inundated by opinions of people I care about, but find myself with absolutely no understanding of how or why they have arrived at these opinions. It seems as if there has been a terrible breakdown in our ability to communicate, because if I disagree with them, or they with me, anger seems to result as people’s default position. I cannot do this anymore. 

I have spent the past two days simply wanting to cry, because of all this turmoil. I feel isolated. This is not how I want to feel, nor is it how I wish to live.

Addendum to the portion written on January 31:

I took a very brief vacation from FB. I adjusted my social media settings, my friends list, and my expectations. In addition, I took a step back in an attempt to get greater perspective. But, in rereading what I initially wrote, I realized that some of my frustration and anger had originated as a result, not of the election, though that was contributory, but rather, came from the accident that occurred during our return from the vacation trip to North Carolina. Having been the sixth car of a seven car pile up affected me deeply, in ways I never would have anticipated. But that’s a subject for another blog post, yet it seemed important to document that here, now. If only to document that there is never simply one cause for anger, and/or frustration, because nothing is that black or white.

Monday, December 19, 2016

2016 December 19

"All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means "God is with us")." - Isaiah 7:14 (NLT) 

This was my encouraging word, via email today from K-Love. I actually read it! Often, I do not, in spite of often needing an actual, encouraging word. But, today, as I perused my inbox, the little internal voice said, "Read it." And I did. And I am glad.

Often we are hard on the church and its paternalistic structure and the dismissive attitude toward women. I have often voiced my own displeasure with being treated as "less than" during my 9 year sojourn with a Evangelical Presbyterian pastor and congregation. 

BUT, WAIT! Read this passage. What is your immediate impression?
"All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means "God is with us")." - Isaiah 7:14 (NLT) 

Mine was this: God held "woman" in such high esteem that she was CHOSEN to bring Immanuel into the world in human form! AND, not a married woman, who might have some status, but "a virgin" - a young, unmarried woman, without status, or property. Thinking about the fact that God chose a young, unmarried woman to bring forth the Savior seems to me, to be a major vote of confidence toward the female portion of the created populace. I am blown away by seeing this for the first time! God so loved the world...but s/he LOVED WOMAN so much that Jesus was born of Mary, a young, unmarried, Nazarene - a young WOMAN! 

The creator God chose a woman. Think about that. 

Are many of the world's religions, at best, dismissive of women, and at worst, much worse? Yes. BUT that is NOT the action of GOD! God, loves ALL of her/his creation. Today, I realized that the actions of institutions are NOT reflective of God's love for creation. Today, for the first time, I saw that God deeply loves WOMEN! This is such an enormous revelation to me, that I had to share it! 

If the Creator loved women enough to allow Immanuel to be born of a woman, as a helpless baby, then, by extension, the Creator loves all women. If the Creator loves all women, then regardless of the stance of a particular religion or church, we women need to embrace God's love for us and KNOW that we are LOVED! 

This is a seriously important realization for me, as a woman who wants to identify as a Christ-follower, but who has felt marginalized by churches as institutions. This may be my very own Christmas miracle.

Friday, November 25, 2016

November 25, 2016

I am sick. And frustrated. And tired. And headachy. 

I would like very much to simply cry until I felt better, but that is not even a possibility.

I am sick in spite of eating healthily, in spite of scrupulous hand washing, and flu vaccines. I am sick, and when I plan to spend the day resting and trying to allow my body to work its self-healing, some new frustration inducing item rears its head! All the stress is simply making it harder to get well. 

The frustration, is multifaceted, and caused by a number of things:
The actual car accident of 10/23; all the surrounding events swirling amid the vortex of that 7 car pile up, including the way I have been treated by the insurance company, who has no problem taking my money quarterly, but seems unable to make phone calls to communicate with me. Also, in that vortex is my panic and anxiety when I must drive, and the looming fear regarding the drive to Virginia to retrieve our car if they ever fix it! And there seems to be great difficulty getting, not just phone calls, but any information. 
The accident, the car and the insurance company are just one tip of my frustration iceberg!
Related to the accident, is the frustration caused by the apparent lack of justice and fair play with the seven vehicles involved.  

Then there is my job. While I love the kids I care for, I arrive frazzled after my long commute, which causes me to be more short tempered than I would like.  Add to that, the fact that too often, I receive a text asking me to work an additional day, because the kids Mom is herself, overburdened and frazzled, and forgot that she is required to work on a particular day. While I empathize with her plight, it doesn’t help my frustration levels. And, while I love my charges, I fear there is no Mary Poppins award for me. The kids are 9, 7, & 4. The 7 year old wants to act like she’s 27, or 37. It’s wearing on me.

I am frustrated by my inability to cope. With the kids, with the accident, with my illness of the past week. And I despise feeling like a whiner, yet I seem to reach that whine-inducing threshold more and more quickly lately.

I am frustrated by little things that I should be able to overlook. Minor incompetence by customer service. Words from a friend that my brain twists into something hurtful. My perception of simple day to day things, that take an air of being monumental. 

The tiredness probably goes hand in hand with the other things, because I have not been sleeping well, due to whatever bug is bugging me, and because of working extra, and worrying more. My sleep is disrupted by stuffy sinuses, the ache from coughing, and the ache from the accident. I have tried napping and resting when I am at home, but I need a stretch of several days, which I do not seem to be able to accomplish.

The headachy stuff is both physical and mental. The physical, related to the sinuses and lack of sleep. The mental, related to trying to wrap my mind around the astonishing levels of cruelty in this world, and how things seem to be escalating beyond our control. It hurts my head and my heart.

All things currently seem just beyond anyone’s ability to control, or even explain.

YEP. I am sick, frustrated, tired, and headachy. And heartachy, too.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Emotional Eating

21 May 2016

Today has been a bitch! See, I am an emotional eater, first class! What I mean by that, is that when life gets tough, I eat. Pizza, cake, ice cream, candy bars. Usually high sugar, and/or high fat items. I should also mention my history of depression. When life gets tough and I indulge, I open the door to allow in the depression, in the form of isolation, self-loathing, sadness, and a general feeling of emptiness.

54 days into using Medifast on the Take Shape for Life program, and today is the first day that has been seriously hard for me.

For those unfamiliar, Take Shape for Life is a health transformation program that includes weight loss. The weight loss is accomplished using meal replacement foods, produced by Medifast. The combination of nutritionally balanced meal replacements, along with one meal daily consisting of lean protein and low glycemic veggies, as well as the support of a personal coach, books by TSFL founder, and an online community of other folks also doing the program, are usually enough to keep me on track. 

I came to this program as a 66 year old woman with borderline hyperglycemia, borderline high cholesterol, and borderline low density lipoproteins, an inactive lifestyle, and a body weight of 212.4 pounds. My goals were to get my borderline blood values into the normal range, lose weight doing it, and learn what  got me to this weight, so that I could address the appropriate changes. I wanted to be healthy and learn to eat like a healthy, thin person.

Yesterday I was to have a shortened work day, with only 2 of the usual  3 children I care for with me. I was looking forward to spending some time with just the two older kids, who only had a half day of school. The plan, as communicated to me, was that I would pick the kids up at their elementary school, and take them out to lunch, followed by some time at the park. Sounded good. But, due to poor communication, on both my part, and their Mom’s, I hadn’t realized I was stepping into a situation fraught with children’s anger and disappointment. 

Yesterday was "Kennywood Day". (Kennywood is a local amusement park) And, the kids were not going, even though the original plan was for the family to go. Personal family issues made changes necessary and these had been discussed with the kids the previous evening and again that morning. Although, I knew nothing about any of this at the time.

Within 10 minutes of picking up the children, things were headed on a severe downward trajectory. So great was my frustration, that I even told the kids that I had no idea how anticipation of time together could turn to dread within 7 minutes! (Yeah, I know, no freaking nanny of the year award here!) But, we did, after a phone call to Mom, some intense talking time among the three of us, finally rescue the day. At lunch, I had a salad with only items allowed on my low glycemic plan. It was what we on the program refer to as a "NSV", or non-scale victory. But it wasn’t enough to remove the darkness of the days earlier experiences. Nor could the fact that one child reported, "it was a great day!"  How could it?  Especially when the other child still thought it was "the worst day" of her life?       

OK, so why is that included here, in this saga of mine about a bad day on my lifestyle change plan?  Because those kind of bad feelings linger with me. It’s as if those kinds of feelings have some sort of emotional stick-um, which prevents me from just shaking it off. As a result, when I got home from my shortened day, I was feeling emotionally drained and very tired.

We had our dinner, without any drama, thank goodness. And I was still on plan. We sat down to watch my beloved Penguins play game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals. I was tired, but really had high hopes for the game. As the drubbing of my guys at the skates of the Tampa Bay team progressed, I became even more dejected. At the end of period 2, I went to bed. I was feeling overwhelmed by those sneaky feelings that creep in and can result in a full blown depressive episode, - the sadness, lethargy, need to isolate, emptiness, and self-loathing. But, at that point, I really thought I would wake up feeling "normal" in the morning.

The plan for Saturday was to include some neighborhood yard sales, which I was looking forward to earlier in the week, my weekly weigh-in, and relaxation. Laundry was already done, and except for some dusting, so was the cleaning.

I slept in until 8:15 AM.  Still wasn’t feeling great, and since it was cooler outside and raining, that added to my feelings of dismay. But since today was weigh-in day, and I just knew I was finally going to be under 190, I was sure things would begin looking up.

WRONG! Weigh-in was 190.2 pounds. Now, to those who have not hitched their wagon to the numbers on the scale, that two tenths may seem insignificant. However, if you are sticking to a program, and wanting desperately to stop seeing the 190s on the scale, it is greatly significant. Just another in the series of small, crappy feelings that cling like dog poop to your shoe.

So, I thought, I should go to the support page for the group on Facebook and post my weight and my feelings of dejection. Which I did. Only I included a snippet from yesterday’s lunch at Steak & Shake, about me sticking my baby finger into the younger child’s hot fudge sauce, as a cheat. Really, it was a non-issue for me, so I really shouldn’t have even mentioned it, except for my need for full disclosure. The important parts of my post to the group were that I was still in the 190s weight wise, that my team lost an important game on the way to the Stanley Cup, that I wanted to go eat a freaking Blizzard, or giant piece of chocolate cake, AND that I really wasn’t feelin the whole Medifast/TSFL thing at that moment in time.

[In fairness, a couple of people "got it". But, there seemed to be many who thought my issue was that I had "cheated" with that minuscule bit of hot fudge! Those people irritated me!]

I don’t know, maybe I’m simply an angry, obtuse, slightly-less-fat-than-I was in March person. I still want to go get an order of Gorilla Fries at the pizza place in Zelienople!  I don’t think I will. But I want to. 

I know that everybody has bad days. I know that no plan is a panacea. I know that emotional eating opens the door to depressive behaviors that I want to remove from my life.  I know enough to know that if I didn’t write this down, I would continue in a downward emotional spiral, and that is not a healthy direction. I also know that this too shall pass, but for some reason this, Day #54 on my health plan, has been the hardest since day #2. And on day #2, I sat on my LR couch and cried, because I felt physically ill, and had a headache that would not abate. I think that was easier to navigate than this emotional quagmire.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Happenings of an Unexpected Day With Three Kids

Surprise! No school today. Until I arrived and everyone was still in bed, I had no idea. 
Perhaps it's a sign of age that I need advance notice if I am to have all three children on a given day.  Maybe it's a result of being sick yesterday, and still feeling less than 100% today. 

Thank dog the weather is reasonable & relatively dry. That means a trip to the park is possible. 

Of course, even the park doesn't offer immunity from the consistent arguments, fights, and yelling between Nick & Anamaria.  

When I explained that they need to either resolve their issues, play separately, or play without hitting, Anamaria declared I was being mean to her. The upshot was my declaration that continued fighting & arguing that was brought to my attention would result in a return trip home, where the two older child we will play separately in their own rooms. 

Then Nick got his head stuck! He was terrified. It was simply a matter of moving lower between the blue metal barriers along the elevated walk, so he came out unscathed. As I held him, sobbing, Anamaria piped up with: I can do it and not get MY head stuck! Which, of course, gained my immediate reprimand: Did you learn NOTHING just now? DO NOT STICK YOUR HEAD BETWEEN THOSE RAILS! Then, I continued in a more reasonable voice: You may indeed be able to put your head between the rails now. Nick used to be able to, too. But, you are growing children & eventually your head will get stuck, too. Nick was calm now. Anamaria was glaring at me, as if I had just ruined her childhood!

There are no other children here at the park today. The only other folks we've see are people walking their dogs, or young moms with babies in strollers, running. 

Sometimes I wish I could run... But I choose to be with these kids and I DO love them. Some days are just more challenging and require that I write about the challenge.

Sunday, December 20, 2015


2015 Dec 19

My friend Grace asked: "You are really into this minimalist thing, aren’t you?" 

I’m not sure either Raymond or I would describe ourselves as minimalist. But, we are definitely no longer collectors, or hoarders. We rarely make unnecessary purchases. I no longer troll yard sales and Ebay for things I didn’t know I "needed" until I saw them! We have what we need. We don’t want much. We don’t accumulate. We have mostly items for which we see a clear, present use, or function.

We do have, according to my brother, "too many books". In our defense, we gave away multiple boxes of books when we left our previous house. I attempted to stop buying books and only use the library, for a couple of years before we moved into our RV. I tried using electronic books, exclusively. In the end, we realized that we both like books, and enjoy holding actual, physical books, in our hands. We are more selective than we used to be, but have decided that it is OK to have what my nonreader brother considers "too many books". To that end, we opted to forgo a dining room in our new house. Instead, we have a den, which is where our books and laptops will reside. 

The two extra rooms of our new house currently have nothing in them. We envisioned at least one of them as a guest room, but we are in no hurray to furnish them. Does that make us minimalist? No, that just means we’re taking our time before deciding what those rooms will evolve into. 

As to all the stuff (and there were boxes and boxes!) that we got rid of when we left for our adventure, I don’t think we miss any of it. We sold a couple of things, but most of it we gave away, or donated. With the exception of those incredibly heavy IKEA Billy bookcases, the crystal cross that my Daddy gave me, and the doggie angel Christmas collectibles, I can’t say I miss any of it! In fact, as I sorted through a couple of bins that Vinny and Davey brought over, I asked myself, "Why did you feel such an attachment to this that you HAD to keep it?"  Only one thing is still MIA that I was truly looking forward to having and displaying, and that is my collection of Hallmark Lighthouse Christmas ornaments. I thought I had "loaned" them to Vinny, or stored them in with some of the Christmas ornaments we kept. They have not yet turned up. But, they may be in a bin in our basement, since not all of those have been emptied yet.

Getting back to what Grace asked … I don’t think Raymond and I could’ve stayed in our old house and gradually downsized to get to where we are now. For us, the process was too overwhelming. It was better for us to simply get rid of our accumulated stuff in one fell swoop. It was better for us to walk away. It was better to move absolute essentials (or what we thought were absolute and essential) into our RV, and learn to live in a tiny space. That experience required us to become more organized, to own less, and to be content with what fit in less than 200 square feet. 

And, truthfully, while we were traveling, we were fine. Discontent set in when we spent 20 months in one place. It was during our stationary time in North Carolina, that we felt claustrophobic. Our choice, to either continue traveling, or to settle somewhere. We choose to settle down. But, that time in the RV taught us to live with less, to be more organized, and it was a needed lesson. It was also a lesson we took in and made part of us. We no longer have the need nor the urge to buy and accumulate stuff. That is NOT to say that we don’t buy anything. Just ask the UPS, Fed Ex, or USPS delivery person. But, we are more attentive about what we acquire. That circumspection is a direct result of dumping most of what we owned, living in less than 200 square feet, and realizing what is really important.

In some ways we seem to have come full circle, by returning to western PA. In some ways, maybe we have. But, our return is as better human beings, people with a greater sense of self and others, and a deeper appreciation of what really matters in this life. For us the journey home required drastic action before we could click our heels and say, "There’s no place like home".


2015 Dec 18

It has been one month, and a couple of days, since our return to the western Pennsylvania area. It has been a month of adjustments, changes, and adaptations, along with new beginnings in old situations.

We have settled in at our new-to-us home, in Ambridge.  We have met a few of our neighbors, and discovered that, in addition to us, there are several other newcomers to our immediate neighborhood. We felt extremely blessed that the weather in western PA was unseasonably warm during our first month back. That made for easier adaptation, after experiencing little true winter weather these past four years. 

We have gotten much of what we needed to furnish and make our house functional. Because of the kindness of Martha, we have seating in our den, and side tables in our family room/man cave. In the living room, we have a brand new sofa, thanks to the benevolence of Carolyn. The future family space, or man cave, in our finished basement, has plenty of seating thanks to Barbara, who also, through her generous gift to us, made possible several Craig’s List purchases, and the ability to hire people with trucks to haul Martha’s wonderful donations, as well as the family room furniture. And, dear Pat and Van, supplied us, through their bountiful Home Depot gift card, a new microwave, and large wheeled trash receptacles! The previous owners left us a couple of lamps, as well. All in all, the only things still on our list of needed items are a bed frame and headboard, and more kitchen chairs, and possibly an expandable table, for when more than four people are eating together.

We have a wonderful bunch of friends and family, who made the adjustments that much easier. Dear Laura, who in the midst of her own life altering events, came to North Carolina, as promised, to drive our Jeep back for us. I cannot  thank her enough! My brothers, Vinny and Davey, who loaded all the stuff that had been stored in Vinny’s attic and basement, and brought it to our house AND unloaded it! All before we ever arrived! Again, thank you pales as a response to their hard work. And again, Vinny, on the day we arrived from North Carolina, spent five long hours, helping us unload the RV, and bring all that stuff into our new home. THEN he drove the Jeep, following me to the storage facility where the RV is now living. I am lucky to have such a brother. And Bill & Ann, my brother and sister-in-law, who are Ambridge residents, who have been helping us each step of the journey, though their guidance, their local knowledge, and their kindness. My sweet niece Jennifer, who brought us a beautiful Himalayan Salt candle holder, and offers unending positivity and love. 

On December 1, I began a new beginning, in an old situation. I returned to the family for whom I previously babysat. Another blessing, to be sure! When I was their babysitter in the past, there were two children, now there are three. My previous young charges have grown and changed. The boy, who is approaching nine years old, informed me the other day, while crossing a busy street in a commercial area, that he really didn’t hold anyone’s hand anymore. I explained that while I certainly understood, I was a bit nostalgic for the little boy whose hand I used to hold and who willingly held mine. His response: "That’s what my Mom says, too". The girl child, too, has changed from the tomboy, who happily wore her brother’s hand-me-downs and played in the dirt, to a junior Diva, with a flair for the dramatic, who loves wearing party dresses. The youngest, who came along after my tenure, seems to be a sweet, soft-spoken child. He and I are just beginning to establish a relationship. The only drawback to the job, is my commute. It is a 35-40 minute drive in the morning, which is long, but manageable, since the hour is early and traffic is usually light. However, my return commute is long and for three quarters, usually heavily trafficked. It sometimes stretches to 60-75 minutes, deals with crossing bridges at the downtown area, which any Pittsburgher will tell you, is stressful. I am attempting to learn calmness and developing the ability to go with the flow, even if the flow is only moving at 5 mph.

All in all, I am glad to be back. Nearer to family. In a familiar situation. In a house which is much more manageable than the one we left. And, the lessons we learned along the way, have made us different people than the ones who headed out on the road. Better? Maybe. Wiser? Definitely.