Pulmonary Paper

 

ThePulmonaryPaper

The latest issue of “The Pulmonary Paper” is ready, as shared by my favorite COPD travel agents, http://www.seapuffers.com One of these days, I’m going on an adventure with them, even if I don’t yet have the need to be on oxygen.

Summer and Fall – 2020

Of particular interest is an article by Ryan Diesem, on the various strengths and weaknesses of oxygen concentrators, and being careful about trying to buy low cost alternatives.

Silenced – Ha !

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Checked in with a new-to-me blogger this evening, and I found an interesting post she wrote,

Handicapped?  Not yet, but..

Granted, she wrote the blog back in February 2019, but she closed the comments.  Seriously?

Well, I’m not one to avoid a challenge, LOL.

I was going to compliment her on her plans to remodel her bathroom to ADA wheelchair standards and do the work herself.  Had a cute Rachel Ray clapping gif, too (even if I had to use a still as I couldn’t get the gif to work)

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It wasn’t anything big, but I was going to let her know she wasn’t alone in preparing for the next stage of life as I rebuilt my deck (or, had it rebuilt) and had the shallow, adult with back problems easy riser steps put in, with plans to add a ramp over those steps should I reach the point where I must use a scooter to get around, and avoid walking up stairs.

But, I couldn’t tell her all that because I was silenced.  The comments on her blog were shut off.

Anyway, I tell you all that to tell you this.  You’re not the boss of me (so there!).  I won’t be silenced, LOL, but you’re welcome to try…

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One more for the road

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QueenCalgon wrote this lovely poem regarding her bipolar challenges, and posted it on the myCOPDteam wall.

Since I think these sentiments fit the COPD battle, too, I’m giving credit where credit is due, and sharing QueenCalgon’s beautiful writing with you.

And once again…………..the Poem of the Week:

I Rise

I rise
from the ashes of
what used to be,
a fire-forged creature
of strength and power.

Knowing my destiny
is to overcome the obstacles
life places before me.

Each day
is a quest for knowledge,
learning who I am
and striving for what
I could become:
complete oneness
with the many facets
of my being.

(c)2003 Amy Russo-Diver

Song Lyric Sunday

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Ref:  Monica and Veronica – Song Lyric Sunday

and  Song Lyric Sunday, 8-9-2020

Having read both Jim’s and Spark’s instructions (and having no idea what Monica and Veronica have to do with Jim’s harmonica), I’m sticking with the harmonica theme for my contribution to Song Lyric Sunday as Spark’s response spoke to me, even if I chose a different song by the same group she enjoyed.

For whatever reason, the harmonica bits in this particular song go through the back of my brain from time to time, for absolutely no earthly reason that I can comprehend or connect to the activities around me when the song starts uplifting my mood.

The lyrics are pretty deep, about lying to someone because you’re not ready to be honest or authentic with them.  And about that person’s willingness to let you get away with the prevarication or lies.  For now.

Run Around
Written and Sung by John Popper of Blues Traveler

Oh, once upon a midnight eerie
I woke with something in my head
I couldn’t escape the memory
Of a phone call and of what you said
Like a game show contestant with a parting gift
I could not believe my eyes
When I saw through the thoughts of a trusted friend
Who needs to humor me and tell me lies, yeah humor me and tell me lies
And I’ll lie too and say I don’t mind
And as we seek so shall we find
And when you’re feeling open I’ll still be here
But not without a certain degree of fear
Well, what will be with you and me
I still can see things hopefully
But you
Why you wanna give me a run-around?
Is it a sure-fire way to speed things up?
When all it does is slow me down
Shake me and my confidence
About a great many things
But I’ve been there I can see it cower
Like a nervous magician waiting in the wings
Of a bad play where the heroes are right
And nobody thinks or expects too much
And Hollywood’s calling for the movie rights
Singing “Hey babe, let’s keep in touch”, hey baby, let’s keep in touch
But I want more than a touch I want you to reach me
And show me all the things no one else can see
So what you feel becomes mine as well
And soon if we’re lucky we’d be unable to tell
What’s yours and mine, the fishing’s fine
And it doesn’t have to rhyme, so don’t you feed me a line
But you
Why you wanna give me a run-around?
Is it a sure-fire way to speed things up?
When all it does is slow me down
Tra la la la la bombardier, this is the pilot speaking
I’ve got some news for you
It seems my ship still stands no matter what you drop
And there ain’t a whole lot that you can do
Oh sure the banner may be torn and the wind’s gotten colder
Perhaps I’ve grown a little cynical
But I know no matter what the waitress brings
I shall drink it and always be full, yeah I will drink it and always be full
Oh I like coffee and I like tea
I’d like to be able to enter a final plea
I still got this dream that you just can’t shake
I love you to the point you can no longer take
Well all right okay, so be that way
I hope and pray that there’s something left to say
But you
Why you wanna give me a run-around?
Is it a sure-fire way to speed things up
When all it does is slow me down?
Oh you
Why you wanna give me a run-around?
Is it a sure-fire way to speed things up
When all it does is slow me down?

Chronic Illness Tango

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1.  I’ve got a an excellent pulmonologist.  Been with him since 1992, and while we disagree on a lot, we’ve managed to go through the rocky patches and still get along.  At 27 years together, we get along pretty well even though we have vastly different opinions on my care choices.

2. I’ve got a good endocrinologist.  We are challenging each other as I try and find diabetes care that won’t make me crazy, and the committee has yet to rule on whether or not that relationship will survive.

3.  I’ve got a good herpetologist.  The liver doctor can’t do much to alleviate my pain, and there’s been nothing (so far) that she can do to address my failing liver, but I see her every year or two for monitoring and to track whether or not I have reached the point where I have cirrhosis of the liver due to improper sugar processing from diabetes.

4.  I’ve got a decent podiatrist.  I’ve decided she’s a bit nutty, but since I don’t want to deal with getting a new foot doctor, she’s good enough.

4.a.  I’ve got a decent nail tech (formerly with the podiatrist’s office), as the doctor has realigned her practice to no longer provide vanity-related spa services.  And, I’m vain enough to like my toes done a certain way, especially since diabetes attacks my feet the most.

5.  I have a good dentist.  Lying down and breathing while she does her work is hard (just like it is when I have my hair washed), but you do what you have to do to maintain everything that needs attention.

6.  I’ve got a kind gynecologist.  Don’t really need her services, but I can call her if necessary.

7.  I had an excellent skin doctor, but just picked a new dermatologist due to relocating and no longer wanting to cover the distance to the prior doctor.  (Today’s call from the nursing assistant was hysterical as she was trying to tell me my biopsy results were “not malignant” vs. just saying that they were “benign”.  She kept saying, “I’m happy to tell you your results were not concerning, they were malignant”, and then we argued with her insisting, “but it’s good news!”, as she was also saying that the results were malignant).  Sheesh !  What a cluster of a conversation.  It took three (3) tries to get a clear answer when we talked earlier this week.

8.  I think I need a good optometrist or ophthalmologist.  With diabetes, one needs their eyes checked regularly, and I’m behind on eye care as I was so frustrated with the last update of all my glasses following an exam with a new eye care provider, as I paid through the nose for glasses and sun glasses.  The sun glasses were crap and we couldn’t resolve that preference, so I have had no decent sun glasses for the last two (2) years.  Ridiculous. But, then I’m not a very patient person.  I give it a try to do what I must, and then get tired of the hassle and let things fall by the wayside.

9.  I have a great hair dresser.  She charges through the nose, but the results are worth it and I’m vain enough to know that she makes a HUGE difference in my appearance.  Now, if only the government would step out of our business and let her cut and color my hair.  I’m going on 8 months without her giving me a cut and color, and I miss her talents as well as her bubbly personality.

10.  The cat has a great groomer.  Sanchia and her husband, Cheeto, make it possible for me to keep Ms. Katie in my life because Canine Showcase bathes and grooms Katie monthly, ensuring her nails are trim enough that I don’t have to worry about being “purr-suaded” to do anything that the fur coated diva wants and I don’t.

I tell you all of this to tell you the most important part – when you’re considering wellness and chronic conditions, there’s a lot of dueling choices and options that you must consider in order to have a quality of life that works for you, the patient.

Especially when you suffer a number of chronic illnesses or comorbidities, and are not the easiest patient in the world to deal with regarding healthcare options or personal grooming needs that relate to your overall wellness.

Especially when you are on a fixed income – whether or not that income is healthy or tight.

Especially when one of your most critical side effects is fatigue.

Especially when one of the things that got you onto disability in the first place was having three (3) car accidents in a short period of time from trying to bull your way through the tasks that you feel you need to accomplish despite fighting fatigue every hour of every day.

Finding the balance is tough.  It requires internal discipline to not fall into the “Why me?” self-pity trap.  And, it requires the discipline to figure out what you are and are not good at, in order to not suck the life out of another human being due to not resolving the issue by reminding ourselves, “Why not me?!!!” to the internal whiner that lives within most of us.

For me, knowing that I started life as a burden of ever more expensive healthcare choices for my parents, I chose a very different path than most people in my circumstances.  Not saying that to be a martyr, or to elicit sympathy, but to underscore the fact that we come into the world alone, and if we are lucky, we have parents and siblings who love us, but who also sacrifice for us because we are vulnerable little babies.

As we mature, the question needs to be:  do I continue sucking the life out of someone else because they love me, or do I find a way to go it alone, fighting for independence first, and add people to our lives who love us but who are also not connected to us at the hip or who respect our independence and our need to go it alone.

I chose to go that route, as I see too many people with chronic health conditions railing at their loved ones and the fact that they don’t help them, or don’t do “enough”.  Sad.  I just can’t be entitled enough to suck the life out of someone, even if they do love me.

So, with that aspect of healthcare and choices and obligations in mind, I found this blog under the “invisible not broken” title:

Why don’t you ask for help more often?

I would give credit to the author, however, there are multiple authors on the blog, so I’m not sure who deserves the credit for writing the “why” answers that so many of us with chronic illnesses can’t articulate.

But, as someone whose father hates them for the money all my repairs cost, and who was made stronger by those things that didn’t kill me, I have to say that this particular blog hit the perfect note for me for why I’m not married or cohabiting with someone who might feel responsible or like they had a right to participate in my medical decisions.  Why I have chosen the path I’ve chosen in dancing to my own tune about dealing with the “Chronic Illness Tango” for staying as well as I can, all things considered.

Just not patient enough (either as the patient or as someone who needs lots of patience to deal with others – both factors are involved in my ultimate choice).

Being impatient in dealing with others who feel they know better than me, which is the major part of my latest “chronic illness tango” story, I may have caused myself to be fired by my endocrinologist due to my frustration with yet another medical ultimatum.  “Take this injectable insulin (or else)…”

After the appointment, I was sent a survey asking me about how my visit went.  While I was diplomatic, I did make it clear that she’s an excellent doctor but that I wasn’t feeling “heard”.  We’ll see how my feedback goes once she sees the courtesy copy of the survey I sent to her, along with the confirmation that my pulmonologist didn’t have any suggestions for me regarding my resistance to treating my type 2 diabetes with yet another medication that causes weight loss, constipation, yada, yada, yada, nor any comment on my refusal to consider injectable insulin or medications to take at least 4 times a day.

Thus, the tango continues.  I’m not dead yet, so I’ll keep dancing trying to keep as well as possible without allowing my medical situation to dominate every minute of my waking hours.

The Good Old Days

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With a nod to SparksFromACombustibleMind’s post, “Did You Ever?”, I’ll play along.

As Sparks noted in her post, her blogging friend, Jim, shared the above photo and posted the following list of things he’d enjoyed:

Jim’s list from Did you EVER experience (modified with my experiences in plain text vs. bold text):

  1. Drinking from the garden hose.
  2. Riding my bicycle all over town and with no helmet.
  3. Riding on of the city buses without any adult supervision (First, though, we were trained in “the buddy system” and map reading to learn the cost and routes from 8 years old onward, and only allowed to ride without adult supervision from 10 years old onward).
  4. Going to the drive-in movies (the only way for Mom and Dad to get out on hot Summer evenings for low cost fun, with no baby sitter waiting to be paid at the end of the night).
  5. Going to the park with my friends without worrying about drug needles or perverts.
  6. Nope – never played with mecurochrome.
  7. Going trick-or-treating with my friends and no parents and covering as many city blocks as we could before trick-or-treating was officially over.
  8. Having a “few” encounters with the Poh-leese, but no record of it.   We didn’t get in SERIOUS trouble.  True.  I got in trouble from 3 years old onward, and it’s all family stories of my naughtiness only.
  9. Woody Woodpecker cartoons and a Three Stooges short film before the feature movie at the matinee.
  10. Nuns in their penguin outfits.  (Raised Catholic, the Elvis and Mary Tyler Moore film, “A Change of Habit” was a mind-altering concept, and started me on the long road to women’s liberation).
  11. Having long hair was considered cool.
  12. The British Invasion.
  13. Getting hurt in a neighbor’s yard and no one was sued.
  14. Half the town knew Mom and her phone number and she knew what I did before I EVEN GOT HOME.
  15. Rotary phones.
  16. Record players.
  17. The Sunday funnies in the Sunday paper.
  18. Having a paper route.  (Never had a paper route, but I’d help my Big Brother with his on big news days like Sundays, Thanksgiving and snow days).
  19. Getting “do-overs” while playing baseball or whiffle ball with the neighbor kids.  (The boys were sexist and wouldn’t let us play with them, but our favorites were basketball and hockey vs. baseball or whiffleball).
  20. “STREET LIGHT!!!!”
  21. Yelling “CAR!”when playing in the street.
  22. Not getting caught walking underneath any of the bridges while walking the tracks as a shortcut to one of the nearby town centers.
  23. Not getting caught climbing up to or jumping off of the roofs of various buildings.
  24. Nope.  Never got caught by any kind of authorities doing what I shouldn’t.  The buddy system ensured we had good lookouts, LOL.
  25. Being glad that there is no actual official record of #24.
  26. Looking at all of the downtown store windows with their Christmas decorations.
  27. Having more aunts and uncles and cousins than you can count on your fingers and toes and all of them living in the same town.
  28. The annual summer family picnic.
  29. Nope.  Mom was big on not starting fights or hurting others, so I never threw snowballs at cars or innocent adults.  The neighborhood kids were fair game, though.
  30. Nope.  If the Fathers had to speak to me for any reason, my life for the next little bit would not have been worth living due to #14.
  31. Camping outside during the Summer because it was too hot in the house. (Nope.  Never allowed to camp outside, ever, until I reached adulthood and was responsible for my own medical bills).  Yes, in true Princess fashion, I’m a ridiculously fragile flower, LOL.
  32. Turning the garden hose on to my little sister (or my big brother) on a hot Summer day.
  33. Going to Mickey Dees for two hamburgers, fries, a regular Coke and getting change back for your dollar.
  34. Asking for a Coke to drink at a special diner.
  35. Being asked ‘What kinda tonic do you want?” after saying that I wanted a tonic to drink.
  36. Nope.  No physical discipline after I reached the age of 5, Mom’s threshold for being able to reason consequences, and I was only ever hit with a naked hand as my mom believed the discipliners could too easily go over the line into abuse if they didn’t share in feeling the sting of the punishment, too.
  37. Grandma calling all of us kidsa bunch of wild hooligans” for any level of noise or unladylike behavior, but especially indoors.
  38. Playing “Hide-n-Seek” and “Flashlight” in the dark.
  39. The original Hot Wheels.
  40. The JC Penny Christmas catalog
  41. Skinnydipping at Camp.
  42. Rowing the boat across the lake and back again to avoid having to do the dishes (this was a great get-out-of-jail card 3 times a day as there were no dishwashers in any of our homes until I became a teenager

Whatever it is that sticks with you from childhood that kids don’t do today, feel free to jump on board and post your own list.

Anger Issues

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SparksFromACombustibleMind wrote a great blog, “I Tried… I Failed”

and while I would have replied directly to her, I could not commiserate as comments were shut off.

Today, I, too, spent many frustrating periods trying to get things done via phone, broken websites, etc., so I feel her pain and extreme frustration.

But, my inability to respond directly opened up a good opportunity that I was already working on regarding a spoken word / poetry piece that one of my cousins posted from an anonymous Englishman, who I’ve since tracked down via You Tube as Chris McGlade, also known as the Northern Monkey or Redcar comedian.  This piece is entitled, “The Right To Hate”, and I’ll try and provide a decent translation of his words for anyone who may struggle with his accent.

Don’t let his title put you off, because he has some valuable points to make about inequality, if you can get beyond your own internal biases.  (and, let’s face it, we all have biases to embrace or reject, whether we believe we do or not).

The author has a very strong point to make about stifling speech through the choice of less-preferred words on sensitive subjects, and I submit to you that – if we prevent people from working through these topics verbally because of the words they choose to express their honest feelings – then we’ll never make any progress on addressing the underlying issues.

Here, then, is my translation of his essay:

You tell me what I can’t say

You censor what I can

You say I’m offensive because I believe my eyes

And I say I see a woman, not a man

You call me thick and racist for not wanting to be a part of a rich man’s club in Europe with no soul, or guts, or heart

You throw at me the slave trade

You tell me my 2 year old grandson is to blame

You point your branding, accusing, intolerant fingers, and tell me to hang my head in shame

I’m free to have opinions, as long as they fall in line with yours

I can fly my banners high and proud, as long as you support that cause

You have to be right all the time,
Yours is the only way

I have to like the things you like,
be they black, trans, left, or gay

It makes no difference if I tell you I’m not the things for which you accuse 

For, once you’ve made up your closed up minds, I’m always going to lose

I have black friends, “So?  You’re still a racist!”

”Homophobic?“  But I’ve shared beds with gay men…

“I’m an anti-Semite”?  But the Rothchild’s really do influence the dollar, pound and yen.

You sip your Pinot Grigio in trendy bars down in the smoke, looking down your noses with loathsome contempt  at 33 million working class folk

Well, I’ve come to this old blast furnace to tell you that you have had your time

Because the winds of change are blowing and bells of freedom soon will chime 

Because my class, my fucking class,

Are waking up and stirring, and we’re going to peacefully attack

We’re going to breech those PC walls of segregation that have divided gay, straight, white and black

I’ve got no malice in my heart

I don’t judge people on their sex or creed or race, 

I don’t even speak ill of absolute cunts behind their backs

Not even the bloke who murdered me Dad

I just tell ‘em to their face

So, to all you branded Liberals who won’t allow debate, 

I hate no man or woman, I just want the right to hate

I want the right to hate like I want the right to love

I just want to dislike what I want to dislike and be able to vocalize it broth

I’m not responsible for slavery

And I’m not taking any blame

Because the white privilege built on black slavery you say that I enjoy,

Well, Beyonce, Jay-Z, Oprah Winfrey, Rhianna, Floyd Meriweather, Alicia Keyes, Jamie Foxx, et al, all enjoyed the same

Beyonce spent 87 million on a house, just through shaking that ass

While me and our lass sit at home lamenting over ways to pay the fucking gas

And I don’t see too much white privilege that lets Eastern Europeans or wounded soldiers live in cardboard boxes

Why do black lives matter and liberals fail to see

Not all white folks live in stately homes, chasing fucking foxes

And I’m not homophobic, transphobic or anything phobic as I don’t fear race or sex or gender

I just won’t bow down to your PC

Don’t confuse my use of slang with racism or bigotry

Don’t confuse my rejection of your shite with spite

Don’t naturally assume that I’m thick or racist because I’m Northern Working Class

I’m not

I’m articulate, sharp and bright, and I will not walk a minefield every time I open my mouth to speak

And I will not apologize for things I’ve glibly said, or spoken tongue-in-cheek

So, shape up or ship off with your fucking madness because I aim to bring you down

I aim to bring working class people together, Muslim, Christian, White, and Brown

I’m going to bring those Globalist’s walls of Jericho crashing around your brainwashed, Liberal feet

And I’m going to blow my loving, inclusive, un-PC fanfare, and your Communist, Fascist, Capitalist, Socialist, Left, Right, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Christian, Black, White, Gay, Straight, Male, Female, Leave, Remain, North, South divides I will defeat

You’ve divided us and conquered us for way too long

You’ve taken the piss out of us, and you’ve laughed and shared the benefits at the top

Well, I’ve come to this “Northern, Working-Class Shrine” of my hometown of Redcar to tell ya

It’s time for your shit to fucking stop

 

Your gov’t, NOT at work…

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I am not a big fan of phones.

I am not a big fan of government incompetence.

But, when the US Government takes down it’s social security f’ing website EVERY DAY when operators aren’t working “to assist you” between the hours of 8:30am and 5:30pm, it DEFEATS the whole purpose for having a website at all.

Seriously, if your website isn’t up 98% of the time, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, why the heck have one at all?  Just to keep up with the Jones for the “appearance” of capability?  Sheesh !

Add into the problem the fact that one simply trying to access the website off-hours, after getting the, “we’re closed for maintenance, please contact us between the hours of …” has their account locked up on the first try (not the third) is RIDICULOUS !

SSA access lockout

and

SSA lockout hours

sets me up for aggravation before I’ve even begun to talk to anyone.

Finally got on the phone during the government’s “business” hours, only to find that I can wait on hold for 35 minutes, or they will call me back in an hour and a half.  Um… No.  I guess I’ll wait on hold until 35 minutes pass and hope for the best (it’s been 22 minutes on hold at this point).

While I would normally play games on my tablet to help the hours go by waiting on hold, I use Voice Over IP (Internet based calls, or VoIP), so that option is off the table, too.

It’s a good thing that I don’t have any kind of expectations for dealing with the government any time soon…

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Unloved. Narcissistic. Whatever…

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A while back I had to write a friend a letter.  It was full of things that I couldn’t simply say.  I couldn’t say them, because she wouldn’t hear me.  Wouldn’t.

So, just like when I write this blog, I emptied all the crap that was between my ears into the letter way back in March or April, (maybe even as far back as Christmas, as time is running together at this point).  Anyway, I polished and edited it within an inch of its content, and mailed it off.

I started by saying, “I love you…”

I ended by saying, “I love you…”

In the middle, though, there were a whole bunch of buts.  And pleas for her to knock it off.  Plus reminders that I loved her no matter what, but that her inability to “hear” others when they said “enough” was driving me crazy.  That friend has tried to circle back to the topics that I don’t want to talk about – mainly her refusal to give in and accept that I won’t change my mind on a topic and we will have to agree to disagree, but need to move on to a new topic.

I am going to be 60 this Fall.  Never thought to make it to that age.  Still not sure of what to do with myself now that I’m almost-60-going-on-12 on a good day.  But here we are.  In the middle of a pandemic.  Some of us are freaking out.  Some of us are peeved.  Some of us are feeling unloved.  Some of us are in our heads way too much.

Whatever it is, it’s bringing out the worst in most of us.

I spent most of last week running back and forth with driver errands to help me stay busy and make the shelter-in-place time go faster.

Another friend, one who is 83 and in the assisted living center and cannot leave the building nor have visitors was feeling particularly badly.  Certain she was unloved.  Certain she had done something wrong to be considered an evil person and locked up, I spent most of the visits trying to talk her off the ledge as she wasn’t allowed to leave her facility and was determined to do so.  Dementia is a heart breaking disease.

Multiple calls from her before a visit, which I answered and reminded her that I couldn’t come in the building and would stop by her window after I dropped things off, and yet still she tried to meet me at the door and leave the building to go with me.  Tears when she was yelled at by the Administration staff of her facility, and more tears when I put up my hands to stop her and stepped back from her.

Tears when I visited at her window, and she was crying because she thought I should have been there sooner than I was, and she was so frustrated at being confined to her room.

Tears because she wanted to give me something, and missed me when I came to her window and called her on the phone, because she’d forgotten I was coming and was out in the private courtyard, enjoying the sun and fresh air.

So, I tell you all that to tell you this.  People are EX-HAUS-TING.  As much as we love them and want to help them be their best selves, you’ve got to keep yourself separated from their constant demands or they will make you crazy.  Or, crazier.

My younger friend is dealing with many issues as she approaches her middle 50’s, but the most problematic one is her need to swallow whole the attention of anyone in her realm.  I tried to get her to understand boundaries when I wrote that letter earlier this year.  While I have gotten her to understand that her salesperson’s persistence isn’t going to change my opinion as boundaries aren’t up for negotiation, she still tries to circle back.

Last week was a particularly bad time for her because she’s trying to negotiate a deal at her current contract position, and doesn’t like the facts.

Fact 1)  When you accept a position, you also accept that rate of pay until the contract comes up for renewal, or a year has passed.  You made the best deal possible, so you live with it unless you’re willing to renegotiate due to misrepresentation, and willing to walk when you don’t get a fair or reasonable response.  Renegotiating in the middle of a pandemic, when they have cut your billable hours down to 20 per week, is possible but not recommended.

Fact 2)  Having your hours cut does impact your ability to live on the rate of pay you negotiated.  Again, though, see Fact 1) before being impetuous.

Fact 3)  You can’t always get what you want, but if you try real hard, sometimes you’ll get what you need.  Life just works out that way.

So, her contract is up for renewal at the end of June, and she tried an end-run around her agency (that I told her NOT to do, as you’re only as good as the agency’s clients, and you don’t want to burn an agency relationship).  The old agency that she would prefer to work with dangled a $2.50 an hour raise to her, but didn’t bother to read that employment contract she’d signed for this job.  That contract said that she couldn’t work for the client the agency assigned her to for one (1) year from date of departure on any assignment without first clearing it with them.  That’s a HUGE sign that they won’t take kindly to her changing agencies in order to get better pay and benefits, but she ignored that language in her contract, and the old agency never bothered to read her contract until last week, blowing up her negotiations-in-progress.

So not my problem.  Especially when she’s just venting and not hearing me when I tell her that she needs to suck it up.

Anyway, those two things were going on, plus the houseguest’s arm surgery and interview to (maybe? hopefully?) get a place of her own in subsidized, disabled and elderly, housing.

My patience was at a very low level, so I began ducking my friend’s calls from Friday onward as I’d had it, my energy was sapped, and I was itching like nobody’s business from all the bug bites I got while fishing.  (By the way, I advise anyone who plays the stock market to buy Gold Bond itch cream shares, as well as Benadryl.  If other people are like me and hiding in the woods and open spaces to get through this pandemic, those are two of the chief products that should see a huge surge in demand this Summer).

Anyway, I tell you all that to tell you this.  I was reading SparksFromACombustibleMind’s blog, Monday Peeve, and I had to laugh.  Her response to the self-help guru fans was very similar to mine.  My younger friend spends so much time inhaling every self-help book under the sun, yet she fails to put any of those suggestions into practice.  By this time she KNOWS what she needs to do to address her issues (constancy and reasonable expectations management being just some of them), so trying to get me to read the book isn’t going to happen as I just don’t see things the same way she does.

So, I tell you all that to tell you this.  I just finished a tear-jerker of a book about the Tennessee Children’s Society or Home, which was a fictionalized account of real happenings.

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And I just want to tell everyone who is feeling unloved and unwanted and unappreciated to go read that book and concentrate on the lead character, “Rill” or “May” (as she was later renamed), and figure out a way to heal yourself and go on with life.

People are going to break your heart.

People and circumstances are going to not live up to expectations.

Whatever it is that’s driving you crazy, nobody else can fix or change.  It’s always up to you.  What I enjoyed about this particular book is that it reminds us that we have choices in life, and it’s what we do with the no-win scenario that makes a life worth living.  Being a survivor isn’t pretty, but sitting in a corner and obsessing over things that you cannot change isn’t practical, either.

I love my friends.  I’ll be there in whatever way I can, in sickness and in health, just like the friendship vows state, but I can’t let myself be sucked into drama that I cannot change.

Yes, I’m just selfish that way.

Accepting what is (when our mind isn’t playing tricks on us due to dementia), is one of the hardest things that we all must adjust to in order to make progress in life.  The sooner we get on with it, the happier we will each be.

I don’t have any better advice than that.  No ponzi schemes for making money off others unhappiness.  As I would say to my Las Vegas Auntie (and she would go crazy, as she loves a good fight), “It is what it is.”

 

 

 

Sean Dietrich

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My wife and I are at a blueberry farm located in the middle of nowhere. My wife wears a sunhat. I am wearing a third-degree sunburn.

There are acres of blueberries stretching toward the treeline. The bushes are loaded with beautiful purple berries that are—this is a well-known fact—explosively high in fiber.

Blueberries are a big part of life in South Alabama. My wife is from Brewton, the “Blueberry Capital of Alabama.” It’s your quintessential small town, with a cute mainstreet, historic homes, and 1,228 nearby churches.

Brewton is the kind of place that dedicates entire holidays to the humble blueberry. They have the Alabama Blueberry Festival, complete with a car show, arts and crafts, and music. And of course they have the Blueberry Drop. The Blueberry Drop is a New Year’s Eve event where instead of dropping a big ball like they do in Times Square, they drop a giant blueberry behind the Church’s Chicken.

When I first met my wife, we spent a lot of time picking blueberries. One summer, a local farmer got several volunteers from our little church to pick blueberries for a three-day weekend. I was an adult “chaperone” for the youth group blueberry squad.

Now, let me say upfront that the last thing you want to do is chaperone a youth group for a weekend in rural Alabama. It’s misery.

When youth-group kids reach a certain age, all they do is run around pinching each other’s hindparts and smuggling unfiltered Camels. And at night—at least this was true for the boys—they would sit around a campfire and hold scientific discussions about human anatomy using slang words only.

I remember when the farmer warned the youth group that blueberries were a VERY high-fiber fruit, and not to eat too many of them. The boys ignored this and ate their weight in blueberries. The next morning, these boys spent a lot of private time in the woods having moments of deep spiritual reflection.

I was in my early 20s back then, which seems like a lifetime ago.

Anyway, today I’m picking berries like a maniac. I’m filling my bucket one berry at a time. And I’m almost feeling human again. For the past 90 days I’ve been cooped up, quarantining, social distancing, and losing my mind. Sometimes I think I’ve lost my inspiration altogether.

But standing in this countryside, my wife beside me, a breeze whipping around me, I feel like a person again.

My wife says, “Remember the last time we were here?” She speaks with a mouthful of berries.

As it happens, I do remember the last time. It was one summer day about 15 years ago, my wife and I were having a miserable year. We had both lost our jobs. We were hemorrhaging money and didn’t know where our next paycheck would come from.

Then, as if things couldn’t get any worse, that was the same period the doctor found a lump in my wife’s breast.

It was on one random weekend that my wife suggested we forget about doctors and pick blueberries. I thought this was a horrible idea, but I agreed.

We did a lot of holding hands that day. Some crying. And a lot of eating. But it was good therapy, and after a marathon of picking berries we were on our way home when my wife declared that she wanted pizza.

“Pizza?” I was thinking. We didn’t have enough money to buy Chiclets, let alone dinner. Even so, I looked at this woman, her bare feet on my dashboard, and I marveled at how short life can be. I wanted to tell her it was going to be okay, but I didn’t know whether I’d be lying.

We pulled over at a Pizza Hut. My wife ordered a pizza buffet for one person. I ordered tap water. When nobody was watching, we shared our pizza. This is of course expressly against the rules, but at least we said grace first.

Before we left, I crammed 19 slices of pizza into my wife’s purse and ran like the wind. This is also against the rules.

In the following weeks, my wife and I were sick with worry over what the doctor would say about her lump. But it was weird. Because also during that time, we had so many blueberries that we didn’t know what to do with them. We ate pies, cobblers, pancakes, muffins, and blueberry ice cream until our kidneys were permanently purple.

I will never forget the morning when the doctor said my wife’s mass was benign. My wife and I cried for a full hour in the parking lot. And do you know what we did a few days afterward?

We drove to this little U-pick blueberry farm. I felt like I’d been reborn that day. I didn’t care if I ever had a steady paycheck again, as long as I had my pizza-thieving partner beside me.

Finally, I am done picking for the day.

After several hours of filling buckets, I am on my way back to the car. I pass a young couple in the parking area. They are wearing straw sunhats, carrying buckets. They are eating blueberries by the fistful. I overhear their conversation. I can tell they are newlyweds.

And I can’t help but wonder if they know how surprising life will be. I wonder if they know how many curveballs this world will throw at them. I wonder if they know how beautiful they are.

Above all, I wonder if they understand how truly high in fiber these blueberries are.

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Note:  not my writing.
Reposted from facebook, where Sean posts his thoughts regularly.  I wanted any non-fb people to be able to sample his wonderful storytelling, if they so wished.