Life in the Time of Virus Part 1

Today I am both mad as hell and also feeling a bit overwhelmed.  The number of confirmed cases of virus continues to climb in our county, yet I went to the grocery this morning to find people with no masks – both customers and store employees.  I’m feeling overwhelmed because the store looked like a plague of locusts had been there and scarfed down everything in the store.    I was in my mask and my gloves.

I really don’t understand people here.  The governor did not issue a stay at home order until the end of March and then she exempted almost every activity.  Even at that point, my observation was that people were acting like the virus had nothing to do with them.  The town council continued to hold weekly meetings.  People were shopping for clothes and meandering around Walmart.  Certainly no one was concerning themselves with maks or gloves.

The stores ran out of hand sanitizer first, followed quickly by paper products.  Now I can’t even find hand soap.  The stores have no canned or frozen vegetables, sometimes there is no chicken, and as of this morning, there was no produce except a few things here and there.  Yet, on the White House COVID briefing last night, they said that the food chain is secure and there is plenty of food.  I wonder where they are hiding it?  It certainly wasn’t at the Winn Dixie in town or the Publix in Montgomery.

Tuesday, I was out of corn starch.  I went to the Publix in Montgomery and all they had were a few small cans.  So when I went to the Winn Dixie today and found the large containers that I usually buy, I bought 2.  That’s what leads to food hoarding – I tend to overbuy when I see something I use, because I worry it won’t be there when I need it again.  It appears that milk and milk products are also in short supply.  Is this because the farmers are dumping milk?   So again, when I found 2 containers of fat free milk, I bought both, but really only needed one.

I’m not a hoarder by nature.  It surprises me to see that all of my freezers are filled with food.  My grandmother raised a family through the depression, so I know how to create meals with cheap cuts of meat and pantry items.  Funny, I don’t remember her actually teaching me this, but then I have seen her feed a lot of people with just what happened to be in her pantry.   Right now, my pantry is full, but then I tend to buy quite a bit under normal circumsances to have on hand.  Sometimes living in a rural area that is a ways out of town makes you think ahead.

I notice that the price of groceries is going up every week.  It makes me wonder if it is a matter of supply and demand, or just that the grocery stores, that normally operate on a slim profit margin are taking advantage.  If not the store that are taking advantage, then perhaps the suppliers are.  But there will come a point, with so many people out of work that people won’t be able to buy anymore, and the suppliers may find themselves with product they can’t sell.

Last night I felt really overwhelmed.  I couldn’t find any masks to buy and my current N-95 is getting messy.  My dog seemed like she wasn’t feeling well, and I started to panic about that.  She is afraid of the vet and will not do anything they want her to do, unless I accompany her.  I had visions of having to drop her off to get Xrays and her being afraid, because our vet is only offering curb service.  The news was talking about having to deal with the virus not only for the remainder of this year but into 2021.  I’ve already watched our investments fall and I have thanked God that we don’t need them to live on, at least not yet.  I find that with too much time on my hands, I worry about things that I cannot control.  Even though I know better, my mind just goes there.

With the sunshine this morning, I am able to push away all the negative thoughts.  I won’t turn on the news, because it is the source for anxiety.  I’ll be like Scarlett O’Hara, and think about it all tomorrow.

Until next time, Elsie

 

 

A Country without Self Discipline

I have been carefully watching what is going on in our country, since the virus epidemic started.  Governors that refused to shut down beaches because of the economic drain it would cause if they lost the Spring Breakers.  The Spring Breakers that refused to stop partying and ignored physically distancing guidelines.  People that seemed to believe that none of this applied to them, just because their state, for a moment didn’t have a lot of cases.  States, that even when beseeched by the federal government to issue “stay at home” edicts, refused to do so.   People refusing to stay home and still out shopping and socializing as if there was no risk at all.

Americans cannot help themselves – they eat until obesity takes their health.  They shop and run up credit card debt until they can’t pay, and then file for debt relief.  They refuse to buy health insurance, saying they cannot afford it, yet they are driving a new car.  They say that they can’t afford to save for retirement, and they act like it is not their fault that they have no savings when they are not able to continue working.  There are those that work just long enough until they qualify for social security disability, then work for cash and don’t report it as income.

We have become a nation lacking in self discipline.  Now that we have a crisis, it is quite apparent that we can’t discipline ourselves even for our own good, and certainly not the good of others.  The economy is temporarily broken and people are out of work, wondering how they will meet the bills, as if they have never heard of having an emergency account.  Small businesses are going under, because they can’t open and are undercapitalized to survive.  People have never learned to cook, so they are depending on delivery services and drive thru fast food to survive.

Generations before us had self discipline because there wasn’t any choice.  There were no credit cards, so they had to wait to buy something until they could afford it.  They saved their money, instead of frivolously spending it on things they didn’t really need.  They learned to make do.  They didn’t have to go to the gym, because they worked out keeping their lives going.  Back in my grandparents day, they didn’t have social security disability, so if you got hurt doing what you used to do, you found something else to do so you could earn money.  People prided themselves on self sufficiency, because to accept help was shameful.  You did not want to be charity case.

We are no longer a nation of self disciplined individuals and the younger we are, the less self disciplined we are.  We have grown up in a time of abundance.  The adults in our lives have provided us with everything we wanted, as soon as we wanted it.  We value our wants, over our needs.  We value our personal needs over the needs of others.  We value quantity over quality.  We no longer care how we will be judged by others, because we are taught that the only opinion that matters is our own.

So we come to the virus, and we should be surprised by the attitudes of many that seem to believe this illness has nothing to do with us.  If we are asked to stay home, we do so if it suits us, no matter the consequences.  We may or may not physical distance ourselves, we may or not may not wear masks if we are asked.  We will self-justify our behaviors because at the end of they day, no matter what we say, we believe that what we want is all that matters.

Some of us hope that this virus will serve as a wake up call for our self serving attitudes.  We hope that it will make us wake up to personal responsibility and stop thinking that someone else will take care of the problem, with only minor inconvenience to us.  Make us realize that throwing money at a problem isn’t the only possible solution.  We hope these things, but I don’t believe it will happen.  Once the crisis is over, we will continue to lack self discipline.  We are utterly incapable of showing the same strength of character that previous generations have shown in times of crisis.  And that should be the wake up call we all heed and regain our self discipline.

Until next time, Elsie

Essentials

This time of the virus has really gone a long way to defining what is essential to me.  I’ve seen the saying “when you have your health, you have everything” go from theory to reality.   I now use a different scale to weigh what is essential to my well being and the running of my household, and have a different definition of what it takes to make me feel good.

One of my essentials is my immediate family – my husband, my dogs and our cat.  I am glad that my sister and I are able to speak daily on Facebook.  I am more bothered by the estrangement from my other sister.  I’ve offered her an olive branch (and I am not at all sure what I did to cause our estrangement), because I don’t want to be the person that engages in a power struggle of being right.  She hasn’t taken the olive branch, but I still send her upbeat emails, hoping that she will reach out.

The clothes that I once deemed essential have been reduced to leggings and a tee shirt.  The shoes that I deemed essential to looking pulled together are reduced to a single pair of black flats.  This is not to say that I won’t want to dress up when I am back to going out, but for now, these are my essentials.

My creativity is an essential in this crisis.  I’m spending more time thinking about dishes I make for dinner.  The abundance of food that I have always taken for granted, has been diminished and I’m having to think about introducing new ingredients to my cooking.  I can’t take for granted that the farmer’s market will be there or that I will find fresh fruits and vegetables in the store.  Since chicken has become scarce, I find myself wanting to stretch the chicken I have on hand into multiple dishes.  I don’t live in an area where there are a lot of restaurants offering take out, and no one delivers out here.

My E-book.  With bookstores closed down, I love that I can still order books online and download them.  Reading is and always has been an essential part of my life and nothing about our current situation has changed that.

In the past I have spent a lot of time thinking of new decorating ideas or wishing this or the other thing was different.  Now I realize that my house is fine as it is – that it provides the shelter that we need in uncertain times.  Projects that I planned to do this year are postponed for the near term or may not get done at all.  And that will be okay.

Finally there is nature.  Despite the situation, Spring has arrived.  The trees are leafy and the shrubs and blooming.  The weather is getting nicer.  I watch the birds in their brightest feathers coming to the feeders on my porch, listen to them chirping and watch them gathering materials to build nests.  Yes, I am still having to cope with squirrels on my feeders, but this morning I noticed a mama squirrel, her mammary glands prominent.  I know she must be feeding babies in a nest in the trees.  I have a Facebook friend who posts the most gorgeous sunrise pictures every morning – because no matter what happens, the sun will rise every day.   Nature is one of my essentials.

Of course, there if coffee -that first cup in the morning; sharing toast with my toast crazed hound dog; my Beau kitty jumping up on my keyboard because he wants my attention.  Talu still seeks me out for bones and Lady, who seeks me out for love and petting.  The feel of clean sheets on the bed and fresh towels in the bathroom make me feel good.  Inside my home, it’s pretty much business as usual, no matter how scary or crazy the outside world gets.

Until next time. Elsie

 

 

 

The Virus

I’m staying at home and self isolating with my husband, my dogs and my cat.  It isn’t a huge burden, because we are retired and don’t run around a lot anyway.  This morning I was watching the bird feeder and a black bird arrived and I found myself singing the Beatles tune “Blackbird” and then wondered if I am losing it.  I don’t have anywhere I want to go especially, but knowing that I have to stay home fills my head with all the things I could do (not that I would).

Last night I was reflecting on the staples of our life now – hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes and disinfecting spray.  I have always had these things on hand – the hand sanitizer for pumping gas; the disinfecting wipes to clean the counters, and the Lysol spray because I have 4 animals in the house and sometimes things get stinky.  I never used to think about these things, but now that they are hard to find and so critical to our health, I doubt I will ever look at them the same way, even when they go back to being plentiful.

Before now I have never really thought much about social distancing in the grocery store.  It’s practically impossible because the aisles are not wide enough.  I find myself holding my breath when anyone passes close to me, even though I know this really won’t do any good.  When I check out, I am about a foot from the cashier, but I can’t hold my breath that long.  They aren’t wiping down the belts between customers, nor are they using hand sanitizer.  And then there are those germy keys on the credit card machine.  They say the virus lives on plastic, so even my re-useable bags are potentially bearers of viral death.  I don’t even want to bring them in the house.  And the things I order from Amazon could quite kill me, because the virus can live on cardboard.

It was bad enough when people were hoarding the sanitizing stuff and toilet tissue, but now they are hoarding bread, meat, chicken and eggs.  I am waiting for the day when people have all of their available storage and freezer space taken up by what they have hoarded.  Surely they will run out of space at some point.  Or will we see “rent a freezer” options spring up, like those storage units – and will storage units be rented out to store non-perishable items?

It’s no joke about people getting sick.  Our governor has not seen fit to lock down our state and the number of cases has tripled.  Now things are always slow to get to the South, be it fashion or slang, and we are certainly behind a lot of places in the number of cases.  That may be a blessing, but unless people start taking it seriously, that number will increase.  It may be harder for Southerners than other people, because Southerners like to talk to their friends or just about anyone.  They like to hug and they like to shake hands.  They like to visit and pass the time.  It’s hard for Southerners to look at other people are potential carriers of sickness and death, although they do make an exception for Yankees, like myself.

We all tell each other that this too shall pass, because it has to.  The question  is what kind of country will we have once it does?

 

Until next time, Elsie

Retirement

Since I am now at an age when most people are thinking about retirement, I am bombarded on social media with advice for retirement.  I have been retired over 10 years now – I was very lucky to retire at age 51, with a pension and a nest egg.  So this is about my observations about retirement.

One of the big topics seems to be how to “reinvent” yourself into a new career.  I can honestly say that when I retired I had no desire to return to work.  I could have “reinvented” myself into an industry job, but then, if I wanted to work, I wouldn’t have retired.  I wasn’t pushed out the door.  I guess my “reinvention” had to do with slowing down from a hard charging professional women into a more laid back version of myself.  No one should be made guilty about stepping away from work, yet these articles that I read seem to think that a person just falls into a pool of nothingness if not changing careers or starting a new business.  Particularly starting a new business – it takes more skills than just a dream and the cash, yet people would have you believe that with a dream, you can do anything.  But businesses require a plan, an understanding of demographics, a need in the marketplace, personnel and customer service skills, and perhaps some purchasing experience.  It’s not just about time and money.  And maybe, like me, you were happy to see the workplace in your rear-view mirror.

And then there are hobbies.  Articles would have you believe that now is the time to  gain fame and fortune and become the master of your hobby.  When I retired, I took up painting and I enjoy it.  Was I a hidden talent, just waiting to create a masterpiece? No.  No one will show my work in a gallery.  I have a few of my paintings hanging in my house, but the vast majority are in storage.  I do it because I enjoy it.  I like to cook, but I don’t want to do it competitively.  And although I like to read, I haven’t given a thought to opening a little bookstore.  It’s okay if something is just a hobby that you enjoy doing.

Do we need to have a bucket list of things we want to do, places we want to go and if skydiving is on the list, so much the better.  I mean the elder President Bush was skydiving at 80, right?  A lot of my friends enjoy traveling, and I applaud them for doing it, since they enjoy it.  I do not like to travel and so I don’t.  I traveled a great deal in my career.  I’ve been to Paris and London, and Israel and a host of other places. But now that travel is made so miserable by the terrorist threat and the idea by airlines that they must pack the traveling public into planes like sardines, I have no desire to do that.  My husband and I make a few road trips a year, and frankly, I am okay with that and I refuse to feel guilty that I am not trekking in Nepal or on a Safari in Africa or diving off of a cliff, just so I can say I did it.  It’s okay if you don’t like to travel.  It’s okay not to have a bucket list.  No one will take away your retirement card.  And I have never gotten a damn bit of pleasure, creating lists and checking things off.

So here is what I like about retirement, and articles to the contrary be damned:

  1. I very much like getting up and going to bed when my body and the dogs feel like it.  I didn’t have that luxury in the years that I worked.  And I love being able to take my coffee outside and drink it at leisure, instead of making a pit stop at Starbucks on my way to work.
  2. I like to walk, but I am not training for a marathon or spending an hour a day at the gym.
  3. I like having the luxury to run my errands during the week, unlike when I spent my weekends doing the same.  My husband and I run errands together, with and without doggy accompaniment, and we talk and laugh (or bicker about things that do not amount to anything).
  4. I love going to art and talking with my friends there. I love that I have time to have lunch or coffee with a friend, and talk about little stuff, instead of stressing out abut getting back
  5. I love having the time to watch nature.  It’s not at all boring and it is different every day.
  6. I love that I get up every morning and decide whether or not to get dressed; what I will wear and what someone else will think about my choices.  I no longer have to worry that I am projecting the right image.  (and I love being able to express an opinion without worrying that it will follow me and perhaps affect my career).
  7. I like spending time doing nothing if I feel like it.  Or spending a couple of hours on the internet reading.  And that my email box is not longer filled up with messages that require an answer immediately, if not sooner.
  8. And I love being able to laugh at articles that suggest I am doing retirement all wrong.

No one should feel panicked, wondering what you will do with your time.  You will wonder how you had time to work.

 

Until next time, Elsie

Confession and Spring

I know some of you must think that I have abandoned this blog, but that is not the case.  Often I have come here to write on a topic, only to get a few paragraphs down and ask myself “where are you going with this”?  While I haven’t really been sick, I haven’t really been well for a few months.  I’ve had issues with my back, issues with my sleep.  My ability to do art work has also been blocked.  So I haven’t done a whole lot of anything.

It is supposed to be Spring.  My husband got very enthused when our weather was in the 70’s, and bought a lot of hot pepper plants to put in.  Then the weather took a turn and they are all sitting around in the dining room.  I don’t know, maybe we saved their lives, because we had a freeze the other night and I doubt the garden center would have taken them to shelter.  The question is why we are even growing hot peppers.  My husband grows them every year, and apparently they are very happy because we end up with a bumper crop every year.  So he makes pepper vinegar (the kind you put on greens and a lot of other things in the South).  The problem is we have cases of this stuff left from other years.  He tries to give some to our Latino lawn care people, but no doubt they grow their own too.  The lady who cleans for us took one jar, when I tried to give her a case.

I tend to grow herbs.  I’ve been growing herbs for years now, in pots.  It’s not easy to grow herbs here in the South.  The hot summers do them in by July.  I have grown a lot of varieties, but this year I only picked up a couple of plants.  Because they make me feel guilty in late July when it is hot as blazes and the humidity is 89% and I see them turning brown and then black.  The truth is I am not much of a gardener.  I love other people’s gardens and am happy to tour your garden and see your plants.  I love the way the shopping centers keep their plants up and refresh them when they start to wilt.  I told my husband the other day that if I were rich, I would have a full time gardener.  I think they still have them, unless they have all turned into landscapers, so they can charge much more.  I have lawn maintenance but while I can talk them into pruning, I haven’t seen them plant any flowers.  Mostly they want to sell me overpriced mulch.  The other day, the lawn guy said “you want mulch?”  Of course, I want mulch.  I want pine bark mulch, not pine needle mulch, which breaks down far too often.  He quoted me a price, which caused me to take a step back and look at the mulch that is still down and wonder if it is sufficient.

I need to do something with my screen porch.  I told my husband that I want to have it redone, but he heard I want it rescreened.  Well, I do want that, but I have never been quite pleased with what the builder did, and I would dearly love to have a fireplace out there.  I told this to my husband, he asked me if I wanted to have fires in the fireplace.  Duh.  Well then he went on about log storage.  I have dreams and he seems to believe it is his job to stick the pin in the clouds of my dreams, and refill it with practicalities.  Practicalities have their uses, but not when I have a dream about how I want the screen porch to be.  So I pointed out to him that we need to reupholster the screen porch furniture.  Let me stop here for a moment and explain.  My screen porch furniture is an old set of furniture that my husband decided was just the thing, although when he first saw it, it was sagging and had velvet cushions.  He had a vision.  So we bought it and hauled it off to an upholsterer to re-upholster it in a Sun Brella fabric.  The thing is this – the furniture is from the 1940s.  It has a wood frame and a cane back.  There is a sofa  and two side chairs.  It’s lived on the screen porch for the last 10 years and it is still solid.  It doesn’t creak, nothing is loose or falling off.  Nothing like the made in China furniture that is all style, but not much in longevity.  (which raises another point – why is one of the oldest countries in the world content to put out the junk they do? It’s not been too long since I found out that our whole furniture industry has pretty much moved to China)  I think when this furniture was built, it was built to last.  People didn’t buy new furniture as often as they do now, back in the 1940s.

So, getting back to the furniture, I talked about re-upholstery and a new rug and he moves on to bursting my bubble about the fireplace.  It’s like a dance.  Whatever happened to the man that thought my every decorating idea was brilliant?  Maybe I overwhelmed him when I told him I have 3 other projects I’m thinking about as well.  He’s never been good at multi-tasking.

My cleaning lady has completed the Spring cleaning,  the effects of her 4 hour/5 person efforts  lasted about an hour.  Three dogs  burst my bubble about fur free floors and clean baseboards.  Come to think of it, I don’t know why I look forward to Spring.   It’s supposed to be renewal and as I look around, seems like the renewal is short circuited.

Until next time, Elsie

 

 

Glitter

The other day, I was in Pier 1, and they were displaying Valentine’s Day decorations.  They were all pink and red, some lacy, some plain, but I realized the ones I was most attracted to were sparkly.  They glittered in a tacky, glitzy way that immediately makes me think of New Orleans Mardi Gras or Las Vegas.  The one I liked best was red and for me, everything else dimmed in comparison.

What it is about women and glitter?  A friend who teaches art and used to host a lot of paint parties says that women change around glitter.  They get excited and can’t wait to add it to their artwork.  I did a large painting to which I added glitter – fine glitter with a coppery glow.  It probably is not the best piece of artwork I have ever done, but it fun.  I have another friend who does fancy shoes for Mardi Gras, and she says her dream is to open a glitter store.

Is there something about winter that causes us to long for something bright and shiny?  Or it is because of winter – the way the snow sparkles in the sun, or the way ice looks on the branches of a tree, when the sun shines through it.  Here in the South, where I live, we don’t get much of either.  So maybe that is the attraction too – that glitter makes things shimmery in an otherwise dull landscape.

For a while last year, I played around with clay.  I actually replicated branches of trees.  I was I was pleased with the outcome, but then thought about adding white glitter for winter.  So I had to go shopping.  Have you ever been in the glitter aisle of the craft store?  It’s overwhelming!  First there are all those colors – and then the textures – fine, medium, large.  It’s so hard to decide.  But, in my normal way, I just bought some of all of it.  It worked out wonderfully on my clay branch, but then there were other problems.

Glitter on my hands, bits of glitter on my face, my collarbone, and all over my clothes.  I think there was even glitter on the dogs.  Have you ever tried to remove that stuff?  I no more would get it off one place and it seemed like it would just migrate somewhere else.  I was thinking about this as I watched Lady Gaga’s half time show and wondered how she would get that stuff off her face.  Even when you give up, the people around you will see it in your hair and of course, they need to tell you about it, as well as that speck on your upper lip.  My husband complained about the glitter on the dogs, but I actually think they looked glamorous.

When I did my big painting with the copper glitter, I went into it knowing it would be difficult.  I thought I solved the problem with the spray adhesive, but no, the glitter had other ideas.  Pretty soon it was on the floor, then on my shoes (and everyone else’s too).  it did not behave in the controlled manner – it had other ideas.  I could only hope that it wouldn’t migrate onto any one else’s artwork and I kept stealing glances and hoping I wouldn’t see telltale spots of shine.  Of course I was wearing it and I think it took me a week to get it all off.  Talu didn’t look so bad with glittery spots on her head.  Maybe they need to develop a particular kind of  protective gear for working with the stuff.

But now it is February and I’m wondering about painting a heart painting and maybe glitzing it up a bit or maybe I should just go to Pier 1 and buy one that is already done. Besides, it would be hard to deny pink and red glitter on the dogs.

Until next time, Elsie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Odds and Ends

I’ve been having a fibro flare, so I have time to do some more observing.

I’ve been watching the news more.  People are brutal to each other.  I once read an article by a marriage counselor who said the way he knew if a couple  would mend was the presence or absence of contempt.  If we apply that thought to the current situation, I see a lot of contempt and it makes me wonder if our country will mend or if it will divorce.

I watch President Trump and I see how anxious he is to be liked.  To be accepted as popular and admired.  I wonder what has caused this.  Did he sit on the gym floor and be the last one selected for the teams?  Were his parents very critical?  Was he bullied?  One would think that being so successful and wealthy would help him overcome that, but it hasn’t seemed to.  I watch him and I can tell he doesn’t enjoy social situations.  It doesn’t matter whether I agree with his politics or not, but I feel a certain amount of connection.  I was once that kid sitting on the floor getting picked last for teams, and being bullied.  It leaves its scars.  In my case, it made me more indifferent to people’s opinions of me, but we each are different as to how those experiences affect us for years after.  In his case, while it appears that he acts like he doesn’t care, in fact, he cares very much. Politics is not a good career choice for him.

Parker, our Blue Tick Coonhound, is not much of a hunter.  He seems to be a good tracker, which is why he goes for miles with his nose down.  This morning I had to go drive out to find him and he was about 3 miles from home.  He lost his Garmin collar that tracks his movements and I haven’t yet ordered a new one.  He is an odd dog, and we haven’t found anything he doesn’t like to eat.  Last night he was begging my husband for Brussels Sprouts.  I can’t stand those nasty little cabbages, but my husband and my dog are big fans.  Parker will magically appear in the kitchen whenever I go in there.  He watches the whole cooking process closely, as though he will be called upon to cook dinner some night.  Perhaps he was a chef in a previous life?  And he is addicted to whipped cream.  Starbucks offers a free cup of whipped cream for dogs.  He sometimes decides to place his own order and barks into the little order box.  It seems to shake up the order taker.  And when we get to the window, he is standing on the console in the car, impatiently waiting.  In fact, if they aren’t quick about it, he starts barking his encouragement.  It’s been a joy to watch him grow from a distrustful, sick dog into a healthy, trusting goofball who sometimes ends up far from home.

I am observing that on social media, posts are either positive – be kind, be nice, try to get along; or they are negative – Trump is ruining the country, he isn’t my President, and he should be impeached (in his second week?) and oh-by-the-way, I hate you.  I look for the posts for the groups I belong to: Treeing Walker Coonhounds, Blue Tick Coonhounds and Cats.  Dogs and cats are not political and their complaints generally run to their food or being allowed to sleep where they want.  They don’t watch the news, don’t read the newspapers and they generally expect their lives will go on no matter which party is in power.  And their owners post cute pictures.

I see a lot of red tailed Hawks.  They hang out on the power lines.  I like to see them, and I try to forget the reason they are sitting there – looking for an unsuspecting field mouse, a squirrel or chipmunk.  I put out a bit of bird seed on the porch rail the other day, and as I went to pull  into the carport, a hawk was winging it’s way out of there.  I tried not to think what he was doing, but instead admired his wingspan and his colors.  One time my husband pointed out to me the mocking birds and how they rule their area.  Now I can’t help but notice them every where we go.  They are mostly in town, carefully sitting in a hedge or a tree and fiercely guarding their turf.  It seems that every store or business has their resident mockingbird.  I watched one day, sitting in a Starbucks parking lot, as a single mocking bird took on a flock of small black birds (Starlings?), chasing them out of his area.  Feisty birds.  I see a lot of cardinals, so red against the colorless bushes this time of year.  The two birds I would like to see are Blue Buntings (iridescent  blue) and the state bird Yellow Hammer.  I think the reason I don’t see a lot of Buntings is that they prefer the open spaces of fields.  I read an article that the Yellow Hammers are so rare, no one really understands why they are the state bird.

This afternoon, I saw a herd of 5 deer.  They are dark this time of year, so if they are against the trees and still, I almost can’t see them.  But these 5 were yearlings and they immediately leapt into the woods.  The other day, I saw a magnificent buck, crossing the street from my neighbors house.  No doubt he was drinking from the lake and eating her plants that aren’t deer resistant.  We don’t have a problem with deer,  given our 3 dogs.  Tallulah dispatched a raccoon the other day.  She had no interest once it was dead, but Parker grabbed it up and paraded it around the yard, as proudly as if he had dispatched it.  No one tried to bring it in, and I was pretty happy about that.

The other day in Whole Foods, I bought a bunch of tightly budded Pussy Willows.  I brought them home, put them in a large vase and today I notice that they are all bloomed out.  I love pussy willows as they remind me of the pussy willow that was in my grandmother’s yard and we used to cut branches for the house.  I don’t know how they got their name, but those soft furry buds do remind me of cat’s fur.

Until next time, Elsie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fibromyalgia

I have Fibromyalgia.  It’s a disease with no definitive test and a lot of doctors that don’t believe in it.  It causes chronic  fatigue, mental fog, an aching in your muscles and has been linked to depression, Irritable bowel syndrome, headaches and a host of other things that can’t really be explained.

It has turned me into a human barometer – I can feel the changes to barometric pressure just by the level of aching in my body,   I’m very lucky, because my case is mostly controlled by the medicine I take.  This doesn’t work for everyone, and some people just give up on medication all together.  There are those that modify their diets, turn to acupuncture, mediation, herbal supplements  – in other words, those of us with this disease will try just about anything to get it under control.  Some become overwhelmed by it and will spend months in bed in pain and depression.  They are called lazy because they simply cannot do the simplest tasks with out a tremendous amount of stain.  Even in my case, I can tell if I over do it, because my pain level will be significant.  Some explain it by the spoon theory, which says imagine that you have 12 spoons for the day, and everything that you do costs you a spoon.  So taking a shower costs a spoon and doing your hair and make up costs a spoon and putting on your clothes takes another spoon, and even mundane task in your life takes a spoon and pretty soon you are out of spoons.

I have a lot a questions about the genesis of my disease.  Well before I knew that I had fibromyalgia, I suffered from irritable bowel, that my doctor at the time wrote off to stress.  And I suffered from depression.  I was tired a lot but I explained it away with too many long days and short nights.  I had never even heard of fibromyalgia.  I did notice that I was frequently achy, especially when the weather was cold, damp or changing.  At first I thought that it was my bones that hurt.  So I told my Dr. this and he sent me for bone density tests and bone scans, to no avail.  Then one day I really concentrated on the pain and realized it was not my bones at all, but the inter-connective tissues  hurt and the pain seemed to vibrate off my bones.  There were other symptoms too, but I didn’t know that they might be related.  So, I kept talking to the doctor and he kept sending me for tests and nothing ever showed it.  It was very frustrating and went on like that for several years.

I got on the computer and started googling my symptoms and it kept coming up to fibromyalgia.  Armed with this information, I went back to my doctor who pooh-poohed it.  This is not an unusual reaction by the medical community, most of whom think that if there isn’t a test for it, then it doesn’t exist.  But all the logical tests had been done and they all came back negative.  Fibromyalgia is a disease that is usually found by ruling out everything else.  So I begged to see a rheumatologist  and when I explained my pain, my other symptoms and how foggy I felt much of the time, the rheumatologist  concurred that I had fibromyalgia.  Although having a diagnosis confirmed felt like a victory, it was not a cure.  There is no cure at this time, and the best one can do is find a treatment that seems to work and stick with it.  But I still wonder about being diagnosed with irritable bowel in my 20s and all the digestive issues that have followed; and I wonder if the depression came before fibromyalgia or if it is the fibro that causes the depression.

One of the worst aspects for me has been the fibro-fog.  What is that?  Some days my brain is so foggy that I can’t remember why I went to the kitchen (especially bad with 3 dogs following), I forget to buy things on my store list, and I feel like there is literally a pea-soup fog between me and the rest of the world.  It is embarrassing when I cannot spit out my latte order in Starbucks, or when I get up to the counter and draw a blank as to what I was going to say.  I notice when I am like this, people tend to ask me if I am “okay”, so it must be apparent to other people.  This also seems to be associated with becoming clumsy and I can barely get out of my own way, lest I trip over my own feet.

The fatigue is equally annoying.  There are days when my body feels so heavy and exhausted and I will fall asleep if I sit down.  Sometimes my arms and legs feel so heavy, that it feels like too much effort to move them. Today was one of those days.  I was working on my computer and the next thing I woke up with my computer in my lap and it was 2 hours later.    And then after dragging myself around all day, I get into bed and sleep is impossible, even with sleeping medication. Last night, I was up until 2, then sleep came on suddenly and I woke up in my recliner.

Even though it’s a challenge, I am very fortunate to have what seems to be a light case.  I have never felt the kind of pain that others report when the sleeve against an arm is agony and when a life is taken over by just coping with the pain.  I know someone that spent 6 months in bed because between the fatigue and the pain, she couldn’t be out of bed.  The world at large is not very sympathetic to a handicap that cannot be seen.  We look normal and I know quite a few people that are harassed by their families because they don’t look sick, so add guilt into the already painful mix.

I was moved to write this as I am currently going through a light flare up.  The main piece of advice I would give is that if you identify with the majority of the symptoms and have been dismissed by your doctor, don’t give up.  You can get help, but you will have to be persistent.

Until next time, Elsie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflections on January

If I had to pick a word to describe January for me, it would be “comfort”.   Something in my soul wants to pull back from the world,  and make myself comfortable.  I am perfectly happy to stay home in my yoga pants and t-shirt and read.  I find myself staying up a bit later and sleeping longer in the morning.  I appreciate my comforter, and am happy when the dogs cuddle into me on these lazy morning.  And, I think how much I love being retired and able now to do this.

I will spend my time thinking about projects that I want to do – update the guest room, clean out the cabinets, organize the loft.  I find myself studying the design magazines, looking at my decorating books, trying to find the right mood.  Right now, I don’t want to act on any of it, but I just want to think about it.

One of the things I love about January here in Alabama is the occasional 70 degree day.  This past week we had both freezing temperatures and Spring-like temperatures in the same week.  If we get more than a few days, it can be disasterous for the plants, as they get lured into a false sense of impending Spring and then shocks if the temperature drops back sharply.

I don’t want to shop in January.  I’m pretty satisfied to wear the clothing and shoes that I bought in anticipation of cooler weather (you remember, those days that were so hot and humid).  Catalogs continue to arrive showing resort wear, but since I have no need to hit the resorts, it is lost on me.  (Besides doesn’t bathing suit shop suck enough once a year?) I am tempted by those lovely linen catalogs, but the truth is that I am a woman who sleeps with dogs, and dogs do not go with lovely linens – they go with linens purchased at Costco, that can stand up to multiple washings.  My washer will not hold my king-sized quilt, so when it gets dirty, my cleaning lady is nice enough to take it and do it in her washer.

I remember when I was working, January seemed like such a long month.  It was awful, because all those  bosses who had been off during Christmas must have spent all their time coming up with lists of things that needed to be done immediately, if not sooner.  It always seemed to me that January should be for reflecting and developing new goals, not running around trying to do a thousand meaningless tasks, that won’t like go anywhere.  Now that I am retired, I can ease into January thinking my thoughts and making my plans.

Soon it will be February and my husband will begin telling me that Spring is almost here.  He’s wrong, of course – because I can feel Spring in the air and that happens in March.  But, the other day, I saw Burpee seeds in a rack in the grocery store, so someone is plant dreaming.  I’m not a gardener, but it is still a sign of hope

Until next time,   Elsie