Thursday, December 20, 2012

Be a Christmas Angel to a Homeless Companion Animal

My Cammi cat, December 20, 2012. We are four days from our fifth anniversary together! 

This is my Cammi cat, a photo fresh from the camera. She wasn’t in the mood for flash photography.

I adopted this beautiful soul on December 24, 2007. I did not “need” another cat, and I chose to buy some cat food at Petco instead of my usual place because I did not want to run into any cat adoption fairs. I usually donated to a pair of rescues, nothing huge, offering to buy some cat litter or cat food. I was still missing my 16-3/4 year old cat Elliott, who’d passed away in March due to complications of chronic renal failure.

I was surprised that there was a cat adoption fair at the Petco, on Christmas Eve no less. They were operating abbreviated hours, from 9 a.m. to about 1 p.m., instead of the usual 9-to-5. I looked away, hurried to the rear of the store for cat food, and while standing in line, looked over toward the people playing with and holding cats.

Cammi looked at me, and it was over. I pulled myself out of the line and asked about her. She was very tiny, so I figured she was maybe 8 weeks old. Nope, she was nearly 5 months old, just petite. She’d only recently made weight to be spayed, her belly was still shaved. She was the property of a rescue, and had never been in a pound, though her story was no less harrowing.

Cammi’s momcat, a longhaired black teenager kitty the rescue named Gina, had been trapped as a feral, and was being held in a Hav-a-Hart cage overnight waiting for her spay the next morning. Gina had other ideas and gave birth to 6 kittens, but two did not survive. Cammi was the only tuxie and only medium-haired one, and the runt to boot. Immediately the litter got sick, and their foster caretakers worked overtime to save the little family.

Two of her littermates had already been adopted, and only Cammi (who was Hera) and Flower remained, along with Gina. I stupidly asked if I could hold her. She immediately relaxed and purred. A voice inside my head said “Take this one home, she will make a difference in your life.” The voice just got louder as I tried harder to resist. Finally, I handed her back, told the teenager who was holding her to call Rosi, the owner of the rescue, to get me approved. I’d already adopted from her rescue and had been approved to adopt a kitten earlier in the year, but I did not get to him quickly enough. Meanwhile, I’d go home and get my soft side carrier for the little girl, and make her mine. I asked for assurances that I would not be breaking the heart of the 11-year old girl who had raised the little litter, nursing the kittens to health, playing with them and socializing the kittens and their mom Gina, who went on to be a substitute mother cat to several litters of kittens and finally finding her forever home. (Yes I did meet Gina, she’s a tiny girl herself, just like Cammi. I also met her foster family and thanked them for raising such a special loving soul.)

I have never regretted listening to that voice, nor have I regretted taking on what was then a sixth cat. We bonded immediately, and she quickly fit into my cat family, even winning over Ryan, who was five months older than she.

It’s recommended you not adopt a pet as a gift—unless of course that gift is for yourself and isn’t going anywhere but your home. Christmas time is stressful, and can be lonely. I am firmly convinced that the adoption of companion animals between Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year’s is a therapeutic thing, that the bond you form with your new pet is deep and lasting.

Consider treating yourself to a new love in the coming weeks—adopt a cat. You will transform yourself from mundane person to that kitten or cat’s guardian angel. Throughout the years, you will be reminded of the Christmas gift that gives back so much more than it has ever taken from you. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Hiding the Aftermath of Loss...

Twenty-seven angels serve as a memorial to the children and adults who were gunned down at Sandy Hook School on December 14, 2012. 

I do some of my best thinking on my knees, in the backyard, with dirt in my hands.

Like all Americans, I wonder if events like Sandy Hook School’s tragedy can ever be prevented. I’ve read some very eloquent articles asking for better access to the mental health care system. I’ve read plenty of knee-jerk comments about “banning all guns,” which is about as practical as rounding up all illegal aliens and sending them hither and yon. I’ve read remarks blaming video games and movies. But I’m pretty much against censorship, even words/phrases/ideas I disagree with. (The only thing I wish would be made criminal is filming/photographing animal abuse and calling it “art.”)

Then I got to thinking about movies. Personally, I’m not into those shoot everyone kind of movie, called “action” films. I believe the target audience for this kind of movie is middle-class white males, ages 15 through 40, adolescents through young adulthood.  The audience enjoys guns, or martial arts, or hand-to-hand combat, and like the adrenalin rush. In these movies, there is much carnage, much death, much suffering. In most of these movies, we do not see the suffering of those left behind when the bad guy dies.

Bear with me.

When I learned Osama bin Laden had been killed, I felt sad for a few minutes. Not because his life had been lost, but that there actually were people who loved him, children who knew him as their father. I felt the same way when Saddam Hussein was hanged.   Someone grieved for him.

Yes, both were exceptionally evil and when you live by the sword, you die by the sword. And that is usually what happens in the movies. The good guys kill the bad guys, sometimes the bad guy kills the good guy, but then the bad guy gets his or there is some sort of divine redemption. Seldom in any film does one see the aftermath of a death—a grieving wife, fatherless children. And that, in my opinion, sanitizes the death and makes it less impactful.

And if there are no consequences to a violent death in a movie, well, it must be that way in real life. 

Sure, you may get a short scene of burka-clad women wailing after a terrorist “hero” has been blown to smithereens in a war film. There may be a scene where a family is notified of a death, and you see 15 seconds of disbelief and grief. More frequently, you see an instant need for revenge. That’s certainly not the way it goes in real life, is it?

I’m not suggesting that every action film have a sub-story showing the wife of the dead bad guy telling her kids that daddy's gone, or worrying how she’s going to pay bills. I’m not suggesting that the grief of parents burying their child after a violent death be a scene in every film.

The movie “Beautiful Boy” did lead viewers through a family's grief and impact upon their lives.  A couple’s only son, Sammy, feels isolated away at college and kills 17 students and professors, finally taking his own life. You don’t see much of the act of killing itself, it’s about the aftermath. The parents were clueless that Sammy was miserable, though others did see signs that things were not right. Even when Sammy calls home the night before he goes on that rampage, and though he sounds somewhat depressed and not quite right, his parents fail to pick up on it. The next day, of course, they are shocked to hear of what Sammy had done, thinking it was out of the blue or spur of the moment.

Maybe a few screenwriters and motion picture studios might want to consider producing a few action films that find a way to humanize those violent deaths. Sure, kill the bad guy, blow him to smithereens, but find a way to show the hurt that death caused someone. Because in real life, it does hurt someone, and it certainly won’t hurt to remind that predominantly young male audience about that fact. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

An Open Letter to the Republican Party

You have failed us yet again. I’ve not been proud to cast my vote for a Republican president since Ronald Reagan. I was okay with Ford, Bush I, never a fan of Bush II, and was really not a fan of Republican party presidential nominees such as Bob Dole (an admirable man, but not a president) or John McCain (who was my choice back in 2000 and I did vote for him in the primary, but his “maverick” stuff just made him wishy-washy to me).

We are no longer the party of Ronald Reagan and we will never be, and the sooner we face that, the better. Politically, the majority of this country are centrists, though you hear the most squawking from the far left and the far right.

The reason I still identify Republican is the party’s fiscal stance, and the desire for smaller government. And I think that is the most attractive thing about our party. But the rest of the stuff our party “stands for” is what has cost us dearly.

True, it’s single-issue voters and un- or under-educated voters who really mess things up. If I thought Roe v. Wade was going to be in danger of being overturned, I’d have just not voted. If I thought Romney was going to “go after” gays, I would have not voted.  I honestly believe he would have been too busy working on the economic mess we are faced with.

But those single-issue voters pretty much always will go Democrat because of the perception “Democrats are for personal freedoms.” Oh will you see how erroneous that belief is as the next four years unfold. We have a president who doesn’t hesitate to use executive orders to get what he wants. In effect, he’s little more than an elected dictator.

What does my party, the party of my father, and his father, my grandfather and his father, have to do to be successful? It’s quite simple. We need to butt out of people’s personal lives and work to ensure equality for all. And by “all” I don’t just mean minorities. I mean our GLBT friends, sisters and brothers. We need to let Roe v. Wade be the law of the land, and allow women the freedom to choose to terminate a pregnancy in the first trimester. Yes, many of you believe this is murder and goes against what the Bible says. And that’s your right to believe that, and I will not try to talk you out of it. But inflicting your belief on me is just plain wrong. And that’s what’s wrong with our party. Out of one side of our mouths we say we are for personal freedoms, and then out of the other side we say, “Well, except gays are evil and an abomination, and an abortion is killing a baby. But the death penalty for murderers and the most horrible criminals is okay.” 

We need to butt out. Personally, I would rather the government pay for an abortion than 18+ years of welfare. I also believe that if the government does pay for a woman’s abortion, that the first one is on us—the second one is cause for a tubal ligation, period. Welfare is a way of life in some populations, and that’s simply unacceptable, too. The only way that’s going to change is by preventing reproduction. Some of those people don’t want to work, and think they are due something simply for being American (or having an anchor baby who unfortunately is “born” American).

We need to allow GLBT people the exact same rights as heterosexual people have, and let them make the same mistakes! I don’t believe allowing gays to marry (okay I’ll let you call it a civil union as long as the rights are identical to marriage) costs us any money, so fiscally it makes sense. If we are lucky, couples will spend their hard-earned dollars on nice wedding ceremonies, and they will go on to raise children. They will get divorced and have child custody fights just like heterosexuals do. They will be allowed to make health care and end-of-life decisions for their spouses, just like heterosexuals.

We need to be the party of budgets and fostering policies that encourage small businesses to thrive. We need to have a strong, prepared military, and also honor and care for our service men and women, their families, and veterans. We need to NOT butt into other nation’s “civil wars,” and we need not be world police anymore. We have allies, and we need to stand by them. We need to do what we can to keep the United States what she used to be. We need secure borders and limited immigration.

Really, it’s all quite simple. I don’t mind if a candidate believes abortion is wrong, or doesn’t think gay marriage is the will of God. But we have something called separation of church and state, and our state says it’s legal. If he or she cannot be an advocate, just shut up and at least do not obstruct efforts to allow for gay rights or work toward making abortions unavailable. Let each state handle it, and stay out of it and do the job a president is supposed to do!

Yep, I’m dreaming. Rubio 2016. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Can this week be over... please?

This week is one I want to purge out of my mind and pretend it never happened (except for what happened to me on Tuesday between 1 and 3 p.m., because it’s going to be helpful).

I’m frustrated because I don’t think I am getting better fast enough. I had a doctor’s appointment on Monday (normal every 4 month liver functions for high cholesterol medication) and when I stepped on the scale, I expected a decent weight loss. I’ve not had much of an appetite since my kidney stone drama started on June 17, and my clothing tell me I’ve lost weight, but the scale said I’d lost only 10 pounds. There are some days I don’t eat at all because I just am not hungry. So my body is in full famine mode, holding onto every ounce it can.

My very dear stepdad drove me to my appointment in Daly City, a 2-½ hour drive. He got me there early, which is always good. Usually. Not that day.

When Jim picked me up at 8:15 a.m. he said there had already been a couple of car wrecks along our route, including in the Bay Area. I didn’t think they’d have any affect on what I was going to have done, but I was wrong! The car accidents pretty much shut down the Peninsula, and the radiology/surgery center noted that one of the doctors was late, as were all of the early appointments. So they were behind an hour or so. My procedure time was supposed to be noon, but I don’t think I got into a room until 1:30 p.m. By that time I am starving.

The procedure went fine. Dr. Palma does as I ask—I want enough drugs to not remember and to have little pain. To that end, they now have a full-blown anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist keeping patients on the table. All I remember was feeling slightly dizzy with the Versed, then I watched as the milky white Diprivan went into the tubing and into my vein. I remember thinking “Why am I not out?” and then within seconds (so it seemed) I was awake and being asked to scoot of the table and onto a gurney.

This procedure involves sticking electrodes into my back and zapping nerves that run through the facet joints. I asked Dr. Palma to really zap them and he did. This time I had horrible pain in the recovery room, so horrible that it took 4 mg. of Dilaudid and a Toridol injection to get me comfortable enough for the ride home. In a month I’ll be in great shape for winter gardening/cleanup.

So I was not terribly clear in the head and it was the next day when I learned about the going-ons of 9/11/12. Wednesday I scoured the Internet, using the usual sources and of course some definite political ones, to learn about what had happened. Couple that with a photo of a cat disappearing from my wall, and I spent Wednesday crying.

The “cat disappearing from my wall” was a cat in an animal shelter in Baldwin Park. I’d been sharing his photo and pleading—go get this kitty, share this photo. One of the shelter volunteers said his time was almost up. He was a ringer for my little Cammi cat.  So I am assuming the worst and am still so damned sad for the loss of that sweet soul, Bond, who just wanted a home and love of his own. I still get weepy; I look at Cammi and see him. Why can’t people just spay or neuter and be responsible for the cats they are responsible for bringing into the world.

On Wednesday the animal shelter posted a photo of brother and sister kittens who are ringers for my Ryan—tuxrdo, mittens in front, little streaks of white on their foreheads. Now I am worried for them. I promised my deceased kitty Elliott that I’d take care of tuxedo cats like he was. I have only three… that’s not saving very many.

Thursday the pain was increasing rather than decreasing. The pharmacy finally had the right medications, so it took a few hours to get the pain under control. I was still looking for information about 9/11/12, asking myself “how could this happen?” Isn’t 9/11 a high alert day for Americans anyway? Why should it be any different for Americans in Islamic countries? If anything, every day should be high alert there.

I learned that the assassinated ambassador was involved in the so-called Arab Spring, that he loved his post and the people of Libya. I also learned he had been sodomized before he died. Then I started tripping over stories about the president and how he’d skipped security briefings—and yes, he’d skipped the most recent one where 9/11/12 was discussed. I learned there was credible information that something was up. Why weren’t embassy staffs at ALL Islamic nations on high alert? Why weren’t there Marines crawling all over he place—ARMED Marines who were ready, willing and able to take care of problems should they arise!

Thursday evening I was scrounging up something in the kitchen, and four-month-old tuxie kitten Morgan was skittering at my feet. One of the dogs, the “best behaved” one, Stoli, was in the house, too, across the room. At my feet (so at Morgan’s feet, too) there was a rawhide chew toy neither of us noticed. Suddenly the dog dashed across the room, teeth bared, going after the kitten and I for being close to her chew thing. Had I not had the walker, she would have knocked me down and no doubt harmed the kitten. I threw the walker at her to protect the kitten and myself. The dogs are out of control, and I am pretty close to admitting I am in over my head and rehoming both of mine. Four big dogs are too much, and earlier in the week they broke into a neighbor’s yard, chewing up her garden hoses and terrorized her all afternoon. All I’ll be left with are my daughter’s two, and if she hasn’t collected them by Christmas, I’ll rehome or PTS the black one (I cannot rehome her boyfriend’s dog).

So Saturday finally arrived, and as I type this, six Americans have died as a consequence of “unrest” in Islamic countries. Our secretary of state claims those protests aren’t directed at Americans per se, but are a reaction to a film produced on U.S. soil that is critical of their prophet. Please, Madame Secretary. Stop the political correctness and see this for what it is: It was 9/11, Islam’s new traditioinal spit on Americans day.

This afternoon, one of the Facebook groups posted a photo of Black Muslims holding a cross with a “crucified” cat on it. I could not believe what I was seeing, shared it with an anti-Muslim extremist group, and reported the image to Facebook, who refuses to remove the image. It is horrific, and I cried for a good 15 minutes after seeing it. I imagine the poor cat is dead, its paws attached to the horizontal bar of the cross, its abdomen tied to the vertical bar. I have never felt such hate for humans or a group of humans as I did looking at that photo.

This country has had a dearth of leadership for most of my life. Presidents are worried about being politically correct and afraid to offend any one group, even if it is for the good of the majority of Americans. Most of my life I worried we were going to be overrun by Mexicans. That’s no longer the case. We are being overrun by Muslims, who take over a city, install Muslims into city/county government, and then work to establish Sharia law. We have a president who has published the words “I will stand with the Muslims should the political winds shift in an ugly direction.” We should all be very afraid. I believe he is doing just that.
If that poor crucified cat is something acceptable to Islam (or anyone), they deserve to be wiped off the earth. I cannot believe the cruelty, the disregard for life. I know that there are so-called Christians just as evil, and I think they are no better than Islamic extremists. But for now it is plain that our enemies are Islamic nations who have zero respect for the U.S. because we have spineless leaders (starting all the way back to Johnson) who get and keep us in wars where there can be no winner, where the goal was impossible (in this decade, “establishing democracy” in nations where Sharia law is what they want is as far from a democracy as one can get). I do not want any Americans fighting a ground war in this region. Bring our troops home, blow up a few mosques for good measure, pull all foreign aid to Islamic-identifying nations, and protect our own continent. Secure the southern border (I read an article that mentioned that prayer rugs are among the litter left by border hoppers—since when did overwhelmingly Catholic Mexicans start using prayer rugs?), deport students from the Middle East who have overstayed their visas (What what the heck, deport those from any country who have overstayed a student visa) and keep our own nation secure.

I hope our government learns something from the goings-on this week. I hope I soon forget the mental and physical pain and find myself digging in the dirt, getting my roses ready for winter, and being able to somehow learn that I cannot save every animal. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Getting Older is Not for Sissies

An example of a pain scale, from zero (no pain) to 10 (worst possible pain ever)

I have just re-calibrated the way I use the one-to-ten pain scale. Prior to this afternoon, I reserved “10” for childbirth and waking up from my back fusion surgery.

I live with what I judge is 6 to 8 pain every day, and medicate only when the pain approaches 8. I stood for a couple of hours pitting sour cherries yesterday, and woke up with back pain, which was expected. As the day progressed, the pain began to radiate from my high lumbar area to around the front—what one might call “flank pain.”

Nurse Cathy did a decent job of denying how bad the pain was or what it was likely to mean. I knew I had a kidney stone, I could not remember its size but knew it was in my left kidney. It was diagnosed by ultrasound in January of this year.

However, when I found myself on my bathroom floor, looking for anywhere to get comfortable, I had to accept the truth and diagnose myself with a kidney stone. The little bugger had worked its way loose.

After today I have a new pain scale and ways to relate to it.  Ten is a kidney stone on the move, period. I have never endured that kind of pain, ever. And I’ve had lots of different kinds of pain, but this takes the cake. I would rather have another baby, even a 100-pound baby, or have another fusion surgery than ever do this again. Childbirth is now relegated to a 9 on the pain scale. I’m going to drop my daily pain to a range from 5 to 7, and reserve 8 for the day after an active day, or a day I’ve walked on concrete, or a day after I’ve overdone yard work.

Unfortunately the 9-mm stone is likely too large to pass on its own, and I’m headed for a lithotripsy or a percutaneous nephrolithotomy. It took 4 IV shots of Dilaudid to ease the pain. I have orders to call my urologist’s office first thing in the morning.

The only good things that happened in the ER were: (1) I was taken care of by the daughter of an RN I used to work with at Mee Memorial in the 1980s. KCHS peeps may remember Denise Dart from Greenfield. Her daughter, Cassie, is her only child (Carlos Soto of Greenfield is her dad). I’ve not seen Cassie since she was perhaps 3 years old, and my strongest memory of her is as a preemie, just brought home from Stanford Medical Center 27 years ago. Cassie is a most excellent RN, needing only two pokes to start an IV on me (I have terrible veins). (2) I also got to see my step-cousin Molly, who was working a rare day shift, and invited her to come pick some sour cherries from my yard. (3) I semi-reluctantly went to the King City hospital, knowing there was a real possibility that the medical staff knew my siblings and would be eager to pre-judge me and believe I was seeking narcotics for my amusement (a trick they did). I was examined by a doctor who has been in King City forever (and I did used to work with him while I was on staff at Mee Memorial), and I was worried that he would not listen to me regarding my pain (I was audibly moaning, I could not help it!), and be reluctant to treat me with heavy-duty narcotics because I do take daily pain medication, and ultimately discount what I was saying about the pain. He didn’t, and Dr. Robert Hostetter I believe did the right thing by me. Dr. Hostetter had a full head of thick, dark hair back then. It’s thinner and gray now.

I am hoping that tomorrow’s as of yet unscheduled visit to Dr. Renfer takes care of this problem.  I really don’t like the idea of having this pain ever again. I had a final dose of Dilaudid at around 8 p.m. on my way out of the ER, and I had better take a Percocet for the pain that is slowly returning.

Once the stone is passed/retrieved, it can be sent to pathology to see what kind of stone it is, and what kind of dietary changes I need to make, if any.

The summer of 2012 is going to be one full of doctor visits… this unexpected kidney crap, my yet-to-be-scheduled left hip replacement, and yet-to-be-scheduled bilateral 2-level, rhizotomies for my back. I don’t dare ask what else can go wrong, and even with all of that, I consider my health good. Ad yes, I am a bit delusional I suppose.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Dirt Therapy

One of my very happy yellow roses in bloom.

Apple blossom complete with bee at work!

Today was a bit of a tough day; I’m not quite sure why I’ve been so uncomfortable—I’m probably in deep denial about needing to go to my back doctor and get in and have my annual neurotomies, and I really should go see a rheumatologist about the persistent ache in my hands (and hoping the pain in the hips is related to the pain in my hands). So I wasn’t terribly productive in the yard today, though I did cultivate some nasty baby weeds and pick up some big mistletoe branches that fell due to the high winds. Consequently, tonight I’m not feeling so rewarded by my lack of productivity.

There are two things I like best about doing yard work. The first has been the opportunity to learn how to take care of plants and trees—thanks YouTube! To the best of my physical abilities I pruned my roses this past fall—and pruned them properly—and I’m reaping the benefits by finally having abundant, beautiful roses.  Time will tell if the aggressive pruning I did on the grape vines will result in edible fruit, how many blackberries I end up harvesting in July, and if my nectarine and peach trees give lots of fruit.

What I like best about yard work (something I call “dirt therapy” for lack of a better term) is it gives me lots of time to think. Sometimes thinking can be dangerous, sometimes productive. I’ve had three main life goals I’ve been thinking about, thoughts and wishes that are motivating me.

The first of course is the hope I can someday buy myself a mini-horse as therapy, both mental and physical.  Being involuntarily weaned from being owned by horses is probably contributing greatly to my overall dissatisfaction with life. I accept that I shouldn’t be riding anymore, but I miss just having a horse to brush, care for, and talk to.  But no one can help me with that one—I have to find the money, it’s on ME.

The second goal is pulling my house and yard together to the point where I can entertain family and people I care about. I’d love to be able to open my front door (which needs to be replaced or refinished…) and invite people in to a nicely furnished house, with a nice, inviting backyard and deck. The ghetto-ness of my house starts right at the driveway with weeds and a truckload of garbage that just doesn’t seem to get hauled off. I guess there is hoarder’s treasure somewhere in there. 

Face it, I’m old enough that I should be hosting holiday dinners and family get-togethers.  And someday, when this house* and yard is whipped into shape, I’d like to have host a family reunion of sorts, a party bringing together the descendants of James McCoey and Mary Ann Welsh, my paternal great-grandparents on my father’s mother’s side.  James and Mary Ann (who were divorced, and it was some sort of family scandal, because my grandmother wouldn’t talk about it at all) now have great-great-great grandchildren, and there are actually quite a few of us still in this area. I know I’d have a houseful, but I really want to reconnect with those loved ones I’ve simply not seen in forever, and meet their children and grandchildren (some of whom I’ve not met…). It’s not going to happen this summer, because I’ve not yet figured out how to rid myself of the ghetto deck and opossum condo that doubles as a broke-down hot tub.

The third “something” is figuring out a way to give to people who need just a tiny bit of help to keep them going. I’m not talking about throwing money at people—I have none (and if I did, look at the second paragraph again to see where my money would go!). I’m talking about doing things—a little something that might make someone’s life easier. Be it as small as coming in and doing some light housework/yard work, I know what a difference it would make. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a “club” (for lack of better term) of KCHS graduates who would be willing to get together and just DO something for someone? Put our pennies together, or our abilities, and just take on a small project that would brighten someone’s day and maybe make their life easier? Like a 4-H for grown-ups I guess!

* Whipping this house together means fresh paint outside and inside, new carpet in two bedrooms, new flooring in two bathrooms and the kitchen, remodel of the bathrooms [specifically new vanities], remodel of the kitchen, a dining room set [including a sideboard for storing nice stuff] and a television wall unit with shelving. In other words, it means pretty much a new house and furnishings. 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

I Need a Good Electrician…

Penny the Therapy Pony. She is therapy for me, and I want a therapy pony of my own!

Okay, so the title is a bit misleading. What I really need, I suppose, is a good shrink. I need assistance in getting my brain re-wired to a more positive place.

Last weekend (from Friday, April 20 at 3 p.m. to Sunday, April 22 at around 4:30 p.m.), I had the best weekend I’d had in over 15 years.  I admit I had concerns about driving myself for four hours, as my usual pain limit is around an hour. And yes, when I got out of the car in Tehachapi to refuel, those first ten steps or so were excruciatingly painful. But any hint of pain utterly vanished as I drove toward Bear Valley Springs and descended into the valley itself, looking at open spaces, nice homes and horse properties complete with horses.

Normally what I would have done after a 4-hour car ride is take something for pain. But I didn’t. I visited with my friend and within an hour I was holding a horse in a wash rack, with horse hair flying all over, and reveling in the smell of wet horse. We bathed three horses together, and while Charisse and her husband Vic bathed a fourth, I sat in the sunshine with Penny while she was drying from her bath. I should have been hurting like hell, but I wasn’t.

It was only after I took a shower, washing off horse hair and horse smell that I figured I probably should take something for pain, because pain just has a way of keeping me awake. I fell asleep reading horse magazines and woke up 7 hours later, a bit stiff (normal for me), but nowhere near in as much pain as usual. I took a pain pill, and went about the day’s activities, which included several hours of photography, walking, bending, kneeling—whatever it took to get the shot.  I know I should have been in pain—I do these things when I do yard work. Mind you, I am as slow as a turtle doing yard work—I require frequent rest periods and stretches, and at times I do have to break and take something for pain. So by no means am I fast, nor do I lift much, and it takes me three times as long to do something when compared to an able-bodied person.

That second night I noted I went 14 hours without taking any pain medication.  The next day we spent time with the horses, and I even spent a good 15 minutes kneeling on the barn breezeway floor, a brick surface, scratching dear Penny between her front legs while she reciprocated and groomed the nape of my neck at the base of my hairline. I did not want to return home, but knew my cats probably missed me (and I them), so  off I went in the late afternoon, wishing I could bottle whatever “it” was that made the weekend so wonderful.

By the time I got back to the Salinas Valley, I noticed how much my low back was stinging. It was close to bedtime, so I took something for pain. I was sad and my mind dwelled on how I would never have a horse property, how I would never be able to have horses or live in the country on a house that is surrounded by a few acres. I woke up in pain four hours later, my knees just ached to the core, and I repeated my pain meds. About five hours later I awoke again, and again took something for pain.

I tried real hard to not fall back into my pain pattern my first day home, and I did okay. But as the week has progressed, I’m back to my old pattern. I don’t watch the clock, but my body just tells me that my back and knees hurt, and first thing in the morning my wrists, hands and hips hurt so badly that I’m just one package of pain.

Yesterday morning (Saturday) I woke up in horrible pain. The first few steps I took across the hall to the bathroom were excruciating. But I’d promised a friend I would visit her and bring her some blackberry cuttings from my yard—I have so many blackberry plants, they are like weeds growing everywhere! I forced my carcass to move around, eventually repeated my pain medication (about 5 hours from the previous dose), dug up some plants, cut some roses as a surprise to cheer my friend up, and off I went!

I have always had physical limitations—always! When I was a very young child my knees would just stop working—probably dislocated kneecaps, but I was too young to remember. If I took a wrong step or if my horse took me into a tree or a fence, and I was hit just right, I’d dislocate my kneecap, and I was at the mercy of whomever was with me to pull my leg out straight and the kneecap would pop back into place.  I had to stop ballet in the third grade because my knees would not tolerate dancing en pointe. I had limitations in PE throughout junior high and high school. So I’m used to pulling myself out of very physical activities.

But when I saw my friend for the first time since 1974—someone who was so golden, so vivacious, so unlimited and whose body has utterly betrayed her despite doing everything right physical activity-wise, the breath was knocked right out of me. Her spirit is still exactly as I remember, but now she’s got the physical limitations—multiplied twofold—that I have.  Back in high school, nothing stopped her.  Immediately my “pain,” the pain I always have, went right into the shadows and I went into “what can I do for you?” mode.

I happily planted the infant blackberry plants I’d brought for her. Some went into pots, and I planted five in the ground, in a strategic location so she can easily water and ultimately harvest the berries that will come to her in July. I walked on uneven ground, sat on the ground, kneeled, got up, walked around, and even carried in a case of dog food for her. When she voiced concern about my pain, I had to say “I know it’s here but it’s just not here.”

I went home expecting to “pay” for my activities. But I didn’t. I took something for pain just before I went to sleep, and had my sleep interrupted about 6 hours later, so repeated the medication. I putzed around the house for a couple of hours in preparation for doing some of my own yard work.

At noon I went to the side yard to water my little bulbs who are peeking their heads from the mulch. I watered them, and cultivated some weeds (I’m trying to get rid of weeds before they get very big; I’m trying to avoid having Round-Up sprayed all over the place). With 30 minutes of slow and fairly gentle yard work, I hurt terribly. I took something for pain, and continued cultivating the weeds in the dry, hard ground. An hour later I still hurt, so I repeated my pain medication, and then went back outside to burn some yard waste—branches and leaves I’ve trimmed from all over, dried weeds I pulled up several weeks ago, and lots of mistletoe that is falling from the elm tree I’d like to cut down.

I was happily interrupted by a visit from a friend I’ve not seen in some time. She and her family lived in the house above ours, and we grew up running around in the hills like wild animals—we’d leave home in the morning, maybe go home for lunch (or more often, take food with us), play in the creek or in the hills, and go home before dark. Our parents never worried for our safety.

The only trauma from the visit was she saw my ghetto house and ghetto yard. My house is nowhere near “house beautiful.” It’s in bad enough shape that I generally don’t invite people in, I am so embarrassed. Two slobs live in this house, and one of the slobs isn’t able-bodied enough to clean up after two! I’m embarrassed she had to look at the ghetto deck and the ghetto hot tub where an opossum sleeps! But she said nothing—I think she knows and understands my physical limitations, and of course now my financial ones. Someday I will have the house and yard I want—no garbage strewn about, nice furniture, a comfortable place that people want to return to, a place where I can host family get-togethers during the holidays and not be embarrassed by piles of paper and torn-up furniture.

Anyway, I am beginning to come to the conclusion that I have less pain if I am doing something I love or doing for others. Now “all” I have to figure out is where and how I can routinely apply this to my life every day. Opportunities to “do for others” are sorely lacking in SoMoCo. I’m looking at joining the Daughters of the American Revolution (yes I am eligible, I have TWO relatives who served!) and I’m hoping there will be service opportunities there.

In lieu of a mini-horse I think I will buy some chickens and care for them—probably a temporary fix until I can afford to buy a mini-horse and build a little turn-out pen for it in the backyard. Even though I’m not an egg-eater (I cook with them) I know there’s nothing like fresh eggs, and I think it will give me immense pleasure to raise chickens and collect their eggs and give them to family and friends. Wonder if I can make a little money by selling eggs… maybe that’s how I will be able to buy myself a mini-horse, which is what I think will contribute greatly to keeping the pain I will always have in check. 

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