Thursday, October 15, 2009

Dreams just happen, right?

So the dream went like this: I’m in a large bedroom/sitting room with quite a few people coming and going, leaving gifts. There is an attendant in the room, a woman, whose job it seems to be to supervise me, and others, who are stopping by to visit. The door to the room is open. I step out onto an interior balcony, just outside the bedroom door. Indeed, below is a large room filled with people- it seems to be everyone I know - sitting on chairs, happily chatting as they wait for the wedding to begin. There are gifts and ribbons everywhere. I feel confused and unprepared. I go back inside and I find the attendant walking carefully behind an old woman who is on hands and knees, rolling a wine cork (with her nose) across the floor towards me. A young woman who loves me comes in and gives me a small box, a gift for me for later. I am flummoxed. I look down at myself and see that I am wearing a very formal black lace shirt and skirt. This does not seem, to me, to be wedding attire. I realize I really am not ready for this wedding. I begin to worry about whether I have time to change or put on make up and just then a man enters the room and walks to me. People seem happy to see him. He stands close to me, holding three greeting cards people have handed to him. He says something to me about some object. He’s very good-natured and says perhaps we can fill the object with gifts, which convinces me that we are indeed getting married, but the problem is I still don't know who the groom is because he has no face. But we hug and kiss and he leaves the room. I noticed he was wearing a short-sleeved summer shirt. I’m thoroughly convinced that I must change my clothes, out of my funereal black and into something summery and casual. I remember a long white cotton dress I bought some years ago but have never worn. The image of a heron adorns the front and it has long sleeves and a long skirt. [I actually do own this dress and have not ever worn it.] I wonder if it will seem odd if I put full make up on but decide I must at least put on some lipstick. As I began to do this in the bathroom in front of a purple sink and mirror, I wake up. I wrote the dream in my journal and came to the computer to see if perhaps eHarmony had sent me a new match. After all I'm not even dating anyone and have long been convinced that I don't even want to be married again. There'd been no new matches since I tightened my criteria recently, but this morning there were two in my e-mailbox. The first was a former federal agent whose passions are hunting, fishing and football. Match closed. The second was......okay this is hard to say because.......well......okay, it's Santa. Claus. No, I'm not kidding. It's Santa Claus. Seriously. Long white beard. Round belly. Yes. BUT, I am not closing this match because he actually seems like a very nice and articulate man. His passion is being Santa, obviously. In Seattle. Contrary to what we may think, he claims that this is not a seasonal position. He has plenty of work and finds, too, that children recognize him all year round. And he feels a responsibility not to disappoint those children. Plus he's halfway through a six volume set on Lincoln. I'm pretty sure Santa is not the man in my dream because that fellow was not round-y, though I obviously don't know if faceless-groom-guy has a beard or not. The e-sorting of men has slowed down a great deal but there are still interesting moments in eHarmony land. Not to mention what goes on in my mind just before I wake up. And now I can't get that old song out of my head, only I see the title this way: Santa? Baby!

Friday, September 25, 2009


Tonight I've been sorting through men who I'm sure do not even know I'm here. But e-harmony sends them to my mailbox so something must be done with the ever growing list. I've just done some pretty fast culling, eliminating anyone who:
1) has a primary interest in fast cars or sports, either participating or watching
2) looks more fit than my kids
3) has lots of mis-spellings in their profile
4) answers more than two questions with an emphasis on wanting or loving women
5) lists drinking alcohol as a primary activity
6) didn't bother to answer most of the questions
7) lives entirely too far away (because I didn't assign enough import to distance)
8) holds no attraction for me

One of the men in my mailbox today pulled a big sigh out of me, just by looking so darned cute. And I'd have closed that match if only I could have sent a little message. I'd have said: "I'm quite sure we're not a match but that is the most charming, unaffected, endearing portrait I've ever seen of a man. You must be a great guy." But you can't send a little message! How wrong is that? You can only send questions you select from an e-harmony list and I imagine that fellow would have looked at my photo and thought "This gal's a little heavy for me, I'll just close this match now." So he'd never get to know how knocked out this fairly discerning woman is by his photo. And shouldn't we all get to know those things whenever possible at this stage of life?

Finally, I left one obvious mis-match with a 79 year old open (apparently I also need to assign more importance to the age-range I selected). Why didn't I close this match? I believe it would be lovely to meet this man. He says he was a broadcaster, influenced by Edward R. Murrow and actually met Murrow a few times. Better still, he says that when he's 85 he'd rather be hiking on Mt. Rainier than sitting around an old folks home. He's looking ahead to being 85. Six years older than he is now. And he's looking at that like it's a ways off. Here's a man who, I believe, is living every minute of his life with intention and joy. I have a feeling this man sparkles with energy and that a room is enlivened when he's in it.

My mailbox full of men is really very interesting. Note: not one has contacted me. So: Am I dull? Too girly? Too high maintenance? Too talkative? Too serious? I'm not worried about it. I am who I am. Just as the men in my mailbox are. Life is good.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Mailbox Full of Men

A recently reanimated woman signed onto an online match service to see what she could see. Let's be honest here, she is me. And I'm not looking for a lot, really.

Why? I enjoy the company of men, very much, especially if we have core interests in common. I thrive on good conversation and have that with my friends, yet I do miss having a companionable man in my life. So, while I'm used to and like living alone and have trouble even imagining living with someone or marrying again, I've decided to see what connections the net can bring me. Dating in a small town, especially for a woman of a certain age, isn't very likely to bring great results. We all pretty much know each other and most people are already married or matched. Before I moved out here I heard a radio piece about this very town, on NPR, where one person interviewed said: "Every single person here has dated everyone else already and they're in line to go around again." Funny? Not so much. I knew then if I wanted a mate I'd better move to a bigger town. But I didn't want a mate. So I moved here. Right now, though, in one important way I'm like most of the guys in my online dating service mailbox: I miss the cuddling and conversations that come with a long term meaningful relationship. So why not give this internet thing another try? It can't hurt to be optimistic and try, right?

The most endearing thing I've seen in some of these profiles is the answer to the question: "Who is the most influential person in your life?" Variations of this same answer have come up now and then: "My wonderful wife. We were married 37 years." This melts me every time. Who wouldn't be drawn to a guy who loved his wife and was married that long to her? I consider raising the top of the age range I've requested to find more widowers. Though I am divorced and haven't had a successful partner-relationship in my life, wouldn't I have a better shot with someone who had?

Opposites attract? When you're a woman of a certain age it's amazing how many potential matches you can close after just reading a line or two. Say the first line is: "The one thing X is most passionate about - great cars, motorcycles, diving." And say the last line is: "X typically spends his time - cleaning the car, eating barbecued wings, maybe a movie." Say the woman of a certain age is most passionate about: "the arts." And say the woman of a certain age drives a '97 bottom-of-the-line Toyota Corolla that might be dark green and definitely always has a dirty dog blanket over the back seat. And she's a vegetarian. And she would like to live at her local movie theater and just rent out her house. Match closed.

Adventure Guy. This guy is articulate, interesting in the thoughtfulness and maturity of his answers to profile questions. So, I'm attracted immediately. Most of his photos show him to be far more fit than I am, which normally would be enough to close the match. I wonder how old the pictures are - but I try to take people at their word so I'll assume these reflect, at least, who he sees himself as: kayaking the Sea of Cortez; strapped into something that appears to be a very pricey backpack...or is it climbing gear? Reality check. This guy is five years younger than me and he's into adventure. I did white water open canoe slalom racing for 13 years to challenge myself (and because I thought it was good for my marriage), and I will step onto a stage to act or sing but I honestly do not like adventure if it involves speed or bodily risk. Match closed.

The Berkeley Guy. On the surface you'd think this would be a great match for me. His first passion: couple dancing. He does it twice a week. The couple dancing, I mean. I've always wanted to learn to dance. He loves cultural activities and puts live theater high on his list. I love theater. So why did I skim this match and close it in less than a minute? He's too perfect. Not for me; for himself. The man is already in love. And he realizes how fortunate he is to have himself, just as wonderful and enlightened as he is. And he wishes more people would see how great he is and how much he wants them to just be happy, too. Match closed.

The Regular Guy. He's not saying much in his profile except that he appreciates and loves his family and friends and that's the most important thing in his life. Occupation: Construction. He doesn't give me a lot to go on here, so we might not have much in common. No indication of interests or activities. But his most influential person? "My late wife taught me how to love and be a good person." Match open.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Eau de Pheremones, or Reanimation, Part 2

A funny thing happened once my sensual side was sparked, or as I put it in my last post, reanimated. The pheremones apparently are flowing again.

I went to Mt. Rainier for a couple of days of wildflower peeping and walking. I got there late the first night, slept well, enjoyed acquainting myself with the lodge at Paradise, and got up and out early for a walk in the morning mist. I lucked out, second week in August, to find the wildflower bloom still at peak. I'd never witnessed that and felt I'd put myself into a little bit of heaven, which was just what I needed after burying my cat a couple of days before and saying farewell to my dying neighbor before driving up the mountain.

That afternoon I went out walking again and found that a man about my age seemed to be trailing along and stopping when I stopped and, indeed, he started chatting with me as I was taking photographs. Pleasant enough, but I felt my boundaries firming up and after walking a ways I bid him farewell and went into the Inn. He followed "to see if it was as he remembered" but then left me alone.

Back home I discovered a phone call from a fellow who belongs to an organization I'm a member of but who I don't know at all except to say hello to when I see him. Last time I did that I saw something light up in him. Now anyone who knows me knows I'm no femme fatale. But I think any of us, when we are animated and feeling our best, have a different effect on others than when we're, say, idling in neutral.

Then a day or so ago I was walking downtown when I ran into another fellow I know. I crossed the street to say hi and we chatted amiably for a few moments. As I said goodbye we shared a hug as we usually do. But as I stepped away he reached for me, hugged me again, and put a sweet little kiss on my lips - something he'd never done before.

So all I'm saying here is this: I had put myself to bed, so to speak, sensually, some years ago after one too many unpleasant experiences with men. I'd grown comfortably independent to the degree that I felt "this was it" and I was 99.9% sure that I would never feel these feelings again. I'm overweight, out of shape, trying my best to work on those things, but most certainly past my physical prime on the exterior at least. And yet...a fellow touched me about a month ago and I have felt reanimated, happier, more complete ever since. And now it seems I'm passing a little of that joy along. May it continue.

Post Script: 26 November 2011
Happy to note that I've lost 20 pounds since I wrote this, in a healthy, slow way. When it snowed on monday and the roads weren't good I walked uptown, about 2 miles uphill from me, and I did it in good time, feeling strong all the way. That would not have been true a year ago. This day after Thanksgiving I'm feeling very grateful for good health and increasing fitness!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Working it out while I sleep

I woke this morning from a nightmare. I haven't had one in a while but my dreams and nightmares are stories and I can usually, if I take the time, figure out what it is my subconscious is working out. Sometimes it doesn't seem so much like I'm working out a thing as reliving a trauma and this may have been both but was definitely the latter.

My mother died a couple of weeks ago at 11:20 p.m., and I felt grateful to be with her at the moment of her death, after a few days of being companion and advocate, along with my sister, as she made her way towards the end. I mean to write about that but as yet have felt too tender to do it.

One year before my mother died, on the same day, August 28, I was present at another death. A former neighbor had called me to say he'd returned to town to die. His cancer was quite advanced. He wondered if I would visit once in a while and have tea and chat with him. Easy enough. I made strawberry muffins and brought my teapot and tea along too.

A few weeks later he asked if I could help more often and I said that I would. His best friend works out of town a lot and it was at his urging that this new arrangement was made. The friend left town on a Sunday and on Monday my former neighbor, who had been out of touch with me for five years, asked me to help him get registered with Hospice. We did this.

I began doing some laundry, making sure he had meals on wheels and other food, cooking a little for him and joining him now and then for breakfast. I'd drive him on errands too. This was not hard for me. What became difficult was the fact that not only was he dying but he was unable to allow Hospice to be in charge of controlling his pain. He had OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and a stash of drugs he'd collected from different docs in different towns. He asked me to come into his therapy session and we talked about that. The therapist said he had a right to his stash. The problem was, he tinkered with his meds, which had been painstakingly doled out in containers by Hospice to help keep him calmer and pain free. One day he'd be relatively comfortable and the next hour or day he'd be in great pain and pacing or saying the same thing over and over "why doesn't Hospice want my pain to go away?" They'd raised his fentanyl patches from 25 mg to 50 to 75 to 150 in about a week.

Sadly I went one day to take him to therapy and found him disoriented, meds laid out in little piles everywhere, including a slightly fuzzy pile that had obviously been in his mouth and spit out. And he'd taken off his patches and all the extras were gone. Hospice speculated that he'd sucked the meds out of them for a quicker hit. His OCD was out of control and I told him I was doing my best to stay with him but I really needed him to calm down and stop asking, over and over, why Hospice, or I, did not want him to have pain relief. Because, indeed, that was our main goal in helping him: to keep him comfortable.

I suggested we leave early for his appointment, go by my bank, get money and go pay my house cleaner, then stop at the beach until it was time for his appointment. I just wanted to help him focus on anything other than the sensation that his pain was a constant ten and nothing was helping. Hospice told me over the phone that more patches would be delivered but not to leave them in the apartment and that they might have to let him go off their program as he was not cooperating and was the most difficult patient they'd ever dealt with to date.

He agreed to my suggested outing before the appointment and I gathered my purse and a few things and was standing waiting for him to come with me. He paced from the bathroom to the bedroom three times and when I asked if he was ready, he said: "Just a minute. I have to change my pants before we go." He walked from the bathroom to the bedroom and closed the door and then I heard a gunshot. I was on the phone talking to his friend Mark at that moment and I screamed and ran from the apartment. I thought if he had not succeeded he might be staggering out of the bedroom shooting. And if he had succeeded I was not going in there to see it.

I ran from his place to another in the complex, as far away as possible, and asked for help. That neighbor walked me to another neighbor, who took me in and called 911. Officers came, asked me if he had a gun and I told them I was pretty sure it was a gun. I said " sounded like a firecracker but it wasn't a firecracker." I remember the officer in charge was looking directly into my eyes and I recognized him and the others around him were like a blurry blue cloud. They efficiently and bravely went up to his place, warned the closest neighbor to stay down and burst through his door and found him, dead. Another officer was interviewing me. I was, I'm sure, in shock. I had not known that he had a gun. I was surrounded by loving, caring, supportive people and it has still been a tough year absorbing this event and healing from the fear. At first on my daily walks I feared strangers I saw, sure that they had guns concealed in their jackets or coats. I don't have that reaction now.

But deep in the subconscious it's still getting worked out. So this nightmare is part of that and is partly about losing my mother, too. I dreamed I was walking across a field, past a soccer game and to a house with three intact sides and an open front. All the people in the house were people I knew, including family members, but none were at their current age. Except for Dr. Krieher, the elder care doc at Hershey Medical Center who tried to evaluate Mom and help us understand what was going to be happening with her. She was in the center of the open house, directing people in their packing and leaving preparations. For some reason I left the house and was walking towards the youthful soccer game when a man passed me, walking towards the house, and he was carrying a gun, moving with obvious purpose. I turned to watch him and he walked straight in and raised the gun to Dr. K, who shouted out to me "Call 911. Tell them Paul did it." In the dream I did that, then the soccer teams and I fell to the ground to avoid gunfire and the police came and apprehended the man. But the man was not my brother-in-law Paul. It was Mike, the former neighbor who committed suicide a year ago. Paul, though, while I was with the family after Mom's death, told a story about shooting a great many crows, randomly, when he was young, so I think that's how he squeaked into the dream.

Maybe all the people in the house were people dying or preparng to die. Maybe I turned away and towards youth/vitality/life as a healthy instinct to embrace life. Maybe my quick response to the Docs cries was a reminder that I do what needs doing even when things are terrifying. Maybe it had to do with feeling overwhelmed by death right now. My neighbor Ray died, then two months later my eldest cat Lisa died, and a couple of days after that Ray's wife, my friend Marjorie, died. I was at her side twenty minutes before she passed away. It's all been very sad and a lot of death in two months. Then Mom's passing was a deep, intense experience and happened to come on the same day as Mike's suicide. And the day after I got home from her funeral there was a funeral for a man I'd been in a band with a couple of years ago. I'm kind of spent. And I'm grateful on more levels than I have the energy to describe. Grateful for friends, for the kindness of strangers in that apartment complex, for the resiliency to heal and go on with joy and hope.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


I never saw it coming. Seriously. I was clueless. And then, there it was. My "on" button was pressed. And I lit up.

My initial reaction to someone's sexual interest in me was "What??? Wait. Not a good idea. We're not doing this" and finally "I don't do this anymore." Which is to say I don't go from no hint of sexual interest to sliding into bed in a few moments time. But the overture felt fantastic.

A week later I still have a spring in my step. I'm taller. I feel vibrant. I feel more complete. Which is interesting because I did not feel less than complete before. I often say to friends that I am content and not looking for a relationship at all. In fact I have expressed a lot of doubt as to whether I still have the ability to share my life intimately with someone. I like having everything in my space and on my schedule arranged according to my desires. Yet I have known in the back of my mind that if someone wonderful and companionable came along I would probably open to possibility.

I wasn't looking. And this person wasn't looking for much from me. He just wanted some fun. I felt pretty sure that if I tried to "just have fun" I would end up feeling badly about it afterward. So I called the game on account of maturity. And yet...

It's been a wild week of internal questioning and responding to this reanimation. I cannot deny, and have been fascinated by, how alive I feel, how complete, how much more myself. So finally tonight I went on EHarmony's site and filled out the interminable questionnaire and perused my "matches." Not one felt right. I'm not terribly disappointed or surprised at all. I've tried that in the past with similar results. I'm not desperately driven to find a partner but my spark is not extinguished either.

With any luck I will remain reanimated. I don't think it served me well to tamp down my natural sensual nature. This feels much more like who I am. And after a week I'm getting more comfortable living in this state of being again.

What I've learned about myself over time has not vanished. I am who I am, who I've worked hard to become, but I do feel more open, more whole. I am grateful to feel more alive.

Update:  26 November 2010
15 months after this post I find that that experience, that reanimation, continues. I've come to realize I would very much like a partner and I have no doubt now that I will be open to making a life with someone if I'm lucky enough to find a good match. Sometimes it's hard to keep hoping for that, but I find that I can't stop hoping, either.

Monday, June 29, 2009

I Heart Lucy or The Keystone Cops performed by one inept woman

I just reread my last blog about what a serene and reflective and luscious day I was having on Wednesday. Note to self: do not enter blogs about the day until the day is over. After that idyllic morning, here's what happened. I got up from the couch and swung my foot into the base of the coffee table, spraining the middle toe on my left foot, which bruised almost immediately, although in truth I might have had twenty toes throbbing for all the resonating pain I was experiencing. I hobbled to the computer to take my mind off it by doing a little work. Still in my robe, sitting there trying to figure out why iphoto kept seizing up, I was thinking that force quitting a program several times a day was probably not a good sign. Then the phone rang. My friend Lee informed me we were not shooting rehearsal that night, but only dress rehearsal thursday as the set was not yet ready. As we talked, the doorbell rang and Shadow morphed into Cujo. I hastily told Lee I'd be right back and dashed to see who was at the door. It was the locksmith trying to deliver a receipt and keys for a job he'd finished the day before. Shadow apparently did not remember the locksmith fondly. Grabbing Shadow by the collar I pulled her out the sliding door onto the deck where I could fasten her to a cable until the locksmith left. I did all this in bare feet, having learned nothing from the stubbed toe incident an hour earlier.

One step onto the deck and I slammed a huge sliver - sliver????- no, chunk of wood into the bottom of the same foot. Yowling in pain I grabbed the keys and receipt from the locksmith, while yelling: Sorry! Thanks! and hobbled to the computer room, hung up on Lee and just rocked and whimpered for a minute. Then I called my neighbor Bridget and asked if she'd remove a splinter for me. I put on some jeans and a tee shirt and got myself next door. Everything at this point was moving in slow motion because all I wanted in the world was for Bridget to pull that tree trunk out of the sole of my foot. She, of course, was formulating a plan as to how to do this, recalling how her father would run through the house yelling "surgery!" when he had to remove a splinter from her when she was a child. I had carried over my faithful Uncle Bill's brand tweasers but Bridget didn't even acknowledge them. She got out the mega tweesers that I'm quite sure would not even be called "tweasers" if they were hanging out in a bar for implements of a surgical nature. They'd probably be called BubbaBoyPointyHead. They looked about 8 inches long which is never comforting when an implement is metal and being directed towards an injured part of one's anatomy. But BubbaBoyPointyHead wasn't going anywhere without DaSlicer. Bridget's husband Jake got home just in time to assist. Bridget had cleared with me the necessity of slicing the skin along the top of the sliver before trying to remove it as it was "so big" that she felt it couldn't just be pulled out without a larger opening to exit. Jake found some sort of razor blade in the garage which he kept assuring us was clean and only needed to be sterilized. Bridget held a flame to it and then very neatly made the cut (her Dad would be very proud I'm sure) and after a couple of grabs got a good grip on the tree, er splinter, and pulled it out. She cleaned it up with an alcohol wipe, very thoroughly and I told her she was a really good Mom and I had needed one that day. I thanked her and went home, much relieved. As I left, Bridget was thinking of calling her Dad. I guess the memories of "surgery" were making her a little verklempt.

I went home and called Lee to tell him all my screaming was not for anything life threatening. As we laughed about my foibles he said "did both injuries happen to the same foot?" "Yeah," said I, then "Damn! I've just set the good foot down in some fresh cat vomit." Laughter is the best medicine, right? Even when you're wiping cat vomit off your "good" foot?

There was a tiny speck left under the skin, but I hoped it was nothing or would just fade away or work its way out, if it was a bit of wood. It has not so far done that. And I haven't been for a walk since. When I get up in the a.m. it seems not to hurt. Until I walk around a bit. It's beginning to feel larger. I'm not sure what that means except that I am going to call the doc in the a.m. and see if I can get in and have the speck removed. I'm sick of not walking Shadow. I miss it! I am not looking forward to the doc reopening this wound and digging around in there but it's got to be done, I guess.

May I not have another "I Love Lucy" or Keystone Cops day for a really really long time! May you not, either!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sea breezes and kittenish Cats

Our perfect summer days have tiptoed temporarily out the back door. We're back to a chill wind and overcast sky. Often as not in summer, later in the day, the sun will make an appearance and we will traipse along outside, through northwest beauty, in comfort once more. This morning the little bells hung from eaves and branches around the yard are ringing steadily in the wind and I just realized that I have developed a morning routine:
* Rise.
* Clean up cat vomit;
*gather Lucy and Lisa's dishes;
*wipe up food covering the floor around Lisa's dish;
*wipe the floor itself;
*carry dishes to kitchen,wash them, refill them, put them back down.
*Feed Gracie, Smoky & PJ.
*Lock the boys in the bathroom so Gracie doesn't eat too much.
*Feed Shadow.
*Take her out back to do her business - clean that up.
*Brief check of email.
*Back to bed if possible, to read a little bit and pet the ancient cats who live in the bedroom.

Today I was able to do that, go back to bed. Lisa had lapped up water but ignored the new food, I think, though she may have helped Lucy with her plate. Nowhere in sight, Lisa Miranda was likely curled up in the little cat-bed under my bed as is her habit for part of the day. Later she will ensconce herself up near the pillows and be quite annoyed - except for getting whatever petting she desires - when evening comes and I am in her way again.

But Lucy is always ready for a visit and some ritualized petting. I say ritualized because she walks in circles around me, almost invariably, as I pet her. When I come back to bed this morning she is on the window sill. She walks over to the Dolly (which I put in that window each day) and pushes her off the sill, peering over the edge to see Dolly hit the floor. She is satisfied. Her big job of the day is done. Then she leaps to the bed and allows me to pet her lovely gray fur.

I'm reading an interview with Mary Oliver, about the generative process of making her poems, and it occurs to me that I am living somewhat as she does. Except going out into nature is not the first part of the day for me. Being with what passes for nature (and relationship) in my house, is my daily spark to consciousness and being present in this world. Later, Shadow and I will walk 2-4 miles, pulling inspiration and plain good exercise from the experience. But for the moment I am content right here, with the little bells clanging in the breeze which meanders up from North Beach and pours in the bedroom window.

I never saw the ocean until I was thirty. In my fifties in Virginia I drove forty minutes to sit on a beach and breathe that healing moist air. Now at 61, though I can't afford waterfront luxury, the sea air sometimes finds its way to my bedroom. Last night it helped me drift off to sleep and it greets me again this morning- how lucky am I? Very.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Lucy Fur, aka, Fang

My son Ian rescued Lucy from an island in Long Island Sound where her mother, a stray, bore two kittens in a stone building, dubbed "the castle," which Sarah Lawrence College's crew team used for boat storage. When he realized that the island regularly flooded, he figured that the mother cat likely wouldn't have time to get two kittens safely across the bridge to the mainland. So when they were weaned he tried to catch them both but only could snag one.

Ian had driven a couple of hours to deliver her to me at the vet's office so I could get her checked out and bring her home safely among the rest of our fur family until we got her adopted. She was, I think, a couple of months old. He walked through the door and approached me holding out the box as if he was presenting me with the crown jewels. I have always been taken by that delicacy and strength in one motion, when one hands over something reluctantly, while feeling the weight of some mandate to do it. In this case I had told him it was unfair to keep her in his dorm, illegally, until she was grown past kitten-cute and then hand her off to be adopted. Of course he knew that was a reasonable assessment. And I certainly couldn't take on another cat, already having Paws, Sheba, Puff, Spike and Lisa Miranda.

When I looked into the box all I could say was: "She's mine." There was no way I could adopt that kitten out and I could see why Ian wanted to keep her with him as long as he could get away with it. She didn't so much look like a kitten as a block of deep rich gray fur. She was completely irresistable. The vet tech took her in back to do blood work but was gone an awfully long time. When I asked at the desk what was going on they said: "Everyone back there wants to get their hands on that fur." She was healthy except for a hernia and now I can't remember if we got it fixed immediately or waited a bit and maybe they did it at six months when they neutered her.

I lived in the big log house at that time, with five other cats, the youngest of which were Ian's Spike and Bill's Lisa Miranda, each about four years old. Lisa and Spike had had trouble integrating into the family of cats. Paws had tumbled each of them across the floor when they approached him. Sheba and Puff hissed them away. So tiny Lucy had her work cut out for her - at her age she was bound to try and bond with one of them. Her last try was successful, sort of, when Lisa allowed her to follow her everywhere, quite closely. I saw no affection between them but at least the little one had someone to shadow.

Now they are 19 and 15 and live in my bedroom and bathroom, in chosen isolation from three Virginia cats I adopted despite the Connecticut girls' objections. But they are the queens who sleep in my bed and next to, if not often touching, one another. And of the two of them, Lucy has become the cuddle cat. She spoons and cuddles me so delicately that she is a constant comfort without ever causing me discomfort. It occurred to me today that I have been preparing myself for months for Lisa's death as she has flirted with it and is a walking skinny mass of matts. But Lucy? I have not even considered her leaving. Yet this morning I began to worry that this little "cold" she's had is not only not getting better but is suddenly much worse. The sneezing became very frequent and the runny nose downright disgusting. It sounded difficult for her to breathe. I called. They could get us in at two. Which really means about three, so we sat in the office for nearly an hour. Then Dr. Tony looked at her and quickly said "here it is. She's broken her tooth. Must have got it caught in something." "But what!" said I "What on earth could she break a tooth on in my bedroom?"

"Anything" replied Tony, "caught in a bit of cloth, the bedspread...." I was shocked to see her proud little fang hanging loose. "It's infected her sinus" Dr. Tony said, "We've got to put her under and get it out of there and get her on some antibiotics."

I felt like a child. I had failed her, not noticed the dangling fang. Not been there when she was caught and struggling. And I'd told her in the car not to worry. I'd said we would just get some meds and drive right back home. Promised I wouldn't leave her. The normally silent girl was meowing loudly and none too happily. We'd be home soon, I promised again. Now I felt panicked at leaving her because everything I'd thought and said had been wrong. And I think that was the first moment I realized that I won't have her forever. I want to delay our parting as long as possible, which of course meant I had to let go of her right that moment so she could get the help she needs.

So here I am about to go to bed without Lucy for the first time in fifteen years. All I can think of is whether she's sleeping. Or crying and frightened. Did they do it after hours tonight or will she be sedated in the morning? Will I be able to bring her home early tomorrow? One thing I do know is that I am anxious to have her curled up beside me again. But even better will be if her impish side comes back quickly. Even feeling lousy she had done her daily devilishness yesterday. I'd found the old woman cloth doll on the floor, her hat torn off, her yarn hair a mess, her neck starting to separate from her body, her shawl flung aside. The little cloth lamb had been tossed off the shelf too. But in a new twist, my antique hat pin holder was in the laundry basket and all the pins were helter skelter. So, yeah, I think even more than cuddling, I want to see that spunk back. It reminds me she was feral when she was found and is still a little wild thing inside, despite our shared contented sleep. Sleep well tonight Lucy. Deb's coming back for you. I promise.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Never never never take a chance when bone tired

The first oddball thing that went wrong today was that I reached into my purse and came out with a handful of hand lotion. A tiny bottle of it, in the bottom of my purse, had unscrewed its own lid (okay, maybe I shouldn't swing my purse around?) and the lotion was now coating all the contents of the purse. So I stopped what I was doing, emptied the bag, wiped off what could be saved and tossed the rest. Thank goodness the camera seemed okay. Then I plunged the purse into the bathroom sink with water and Woolite. Fast forward to the end of a day that began with a fire truck and two ambulances idling outside my bedroom at 6 a.m. ( my neighbor had a heart attack but is resting at the hospital now and expected to improve) and ended with a three or four mile hike. I still have a ton of work ahead of me to prepare to leave five cats and a dog and gardens for a few days during a heat wave, but I decided all I could manage tonight was to change the cat litter and vacuum.

When I finished the pans in my bathroom I noticed the purse, squeezed it out and began filling the sink to rinse it while I went to the kitchen to wash up the feeble 19 year old cat's dishes and bring her fresh food.

You already know, don't you? Yes. This sink does not have a safety drain feature. Yes, it ran over. The floor was flooded.My hairdryer, hanging on the side of the vanity, had water running through it. And worst of all, the vanity itself was full of water, cabinet and drawers.

Now a bag of ruined stuff is in the garbage - and really, hadn't I meant to get rid of those tampons these seven long years since menopause ended? The rest is spread all over the bathroom and bedroom, drying out. I had no idea I had accumulated so much bandaging material and so many spare toothbrushes. Not to mention little travel items like a tiny box of Q-tips - they really do absorb a lot of water.

I believe I need ice cream and sleep. Maybe I can rise "early" and get done what needs doing and take off for Seattle just a bit late. Of course I have no idea if I'm bussing it or driving because I don't know if the bridge is repaired and open yet. But I'm going to take a wild guess here and say I'll be driving the scenic route along the Hood Canal. And after all, isn't that a great start to a little holiday?

Friendship that works

So, today I invited my aforementioned friend for a long walk. He sounded happy to hear from me and eager to join me and Shadow, which was a relief to me. I had let the gossip about us rattle me but he sounded like himself, so maybe it was all going to be okay. We walked to the beach on a trail he'd not been on before, which was fun. And he threw a stick for Shadow to swim for, then we walked back up through the woods to the idyllic overlook on the bluff and sat down to rest. He didn't need a rest, but I'm walking more than usual and I certainly did need one. There in the grass I screwed up my courage and asked him: "Have you been getting asked the sorts of questions I'm being asked?" And so it all came out and he seemed genuinely surprised about it. As we talked, all of my anxiety, clearly born out of a fear of losing my friend over gossip, melted away. We shared disappointment about the folks who'd invited me to dinner, then uninvited me. My friend said: "So what they were saying, in effect, was that they don't believe you." And I felt his empathy. It was a cleansing, energizing moment for me. I felt more myself again, confident that I know who I am and who my friend is and that no matter what people say, the truth is the truth.

When we got back to my place I suggested we go out for a bite..." Are you sure you want to be seen with me?" he asked. Oh yes I did. Oh yes I do. I said that at this point I feel so empowered I rather want to flaunt our friendship. We sat at a window table in a restaurant in the center of town. Over dinner we talked about many things, as we often do, and this time spoke of the fact that we have each always been drawn to and comfortable having close friendships with the opposite sex. He said maybe when he is seen with someone else out and about that will take care of the situation. But then I realized, and had to laugh out loud about this, that then the gossips will feel sorry for me because in their minds I will have been ditched for another woman! There is absolutely no way I come out of this unscathed in the minds of these people. They have decided what they believe is going on so any change will have to reflect the story they already believe. How completely obvious is it that one cannot do a thing about the thoughts of others? The only thing to do is let go of it and go about continuing to be true to who I am.

After dinner I went up to his place and we shared some leftover chocolate birthday cake I'd made him along with delicious strawberry rhubarb sauce he'd made, a scrumptious combination. Then I drove us here, we visited a few minutes more and he rode his bike home and called me to share some news about a serendipitous contact from an old girlfriend. Because who do you call when interesting things happen? You call a friend.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Life with Shadow

Shadow's had a rough start to the year. Why? Because I did. I was filled with anger and anxiety. A lot of fear. Residual, unresolved stuff from a trauma last year. It just bubbled up and showed in her before I was aware that it was coming from me. At Christmastime she began acting like Cujo whenever a delivery person or stranger approached the house. She stood on her hind legs and flung herself at the full glass door. Fortunately it's some sturdy glass, what they call a "full light" wood framed heavy glass. My voice/commands meant nothing at these times. She was protecting us and our territory.

Then, on walks, she began lunging at cars and other dogs, much in the way she'd behaved at the front door. My left arm became near useless for a couple of months, very painful, from inflammation developed by holding her tight while she lunged. I began walking her with treats in my hand, anticipating the moment, getting her to lay down until the car or dog passed, then rewarding her. Things remained dicey. I got a gentle lead and that worked. She only flipped out once on that. But today, and yesterday (the gentle lead left at a friend's house) I walked her on the old extension leash. And she was GREAT! She did not always come when called immediately but we worked on that. The big joy for me is that right away I realized I am calmer, more settled in my emotions, so she is too. Tonight, walking at the dark side of twilight, I became fearful for a few minutes on part of the walk. I realized she immediately lost her easy gait and seemed on guard again. I thought about pheromones. I'll bet she smells the change in me when I am anxious or fearful. What an amazing creature. My therapist on a leash. Keeping me conscious.

I'm very grateful. And I feel a responsibility to do the best I can at taking care of myself so that she doesn't suffer along with me when I don't.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Deficient again. Good grief.

March 20th. 2009
Before doing a writing assignment for a workshop I thought I'd warm up here. I failed pretty miserably at resetting my body clock. Until last night, the same game was going on: Deb trying to milk more out of each day in a sad attempt at lengthening her life. More hours a week = more life, right? 

Let's talk quality. I know damned well when I'm sitting in front of the TV at night with burning tired eyes that I am not extending my life or enhancing it. I know that medical studies show that lack of sleep is a factor in lots of negative physical outcomes. And I know how I feel the next day: slow starting, dragging around, tired. So I am making an attempt to improve my quality of life. 

I began, a couple of weeks ago, with a post on Facebook, to keep  myself honest. I am recording there, each day, how far and often I walk. I'm trying to increase distance and move to two walks a day instead of one. Progress on the former is steady, the latter is spotty. Due to some harsh, cold, damp weather I will forgive myself for not getting out twice a day very often. But walking is getting easier and I am getting stronger. My former minimum walk of 3/4 mile is now up to pushing for a mile, at least a half hour instead of twenty minutes. A few days ago I managed a three mile walk (with a break at the beach half way) with only aches and no ill affects after it. I backed down to one and a half to two since then and hope to build back again. 

However I am fighting three difficulties in my quest. One is the whole getting to bed difficulty. Not getting to sleep. I drop right off. But  I realized a second reason I avoid going to bed. I have nightmares. Since being present (in the next room) when a man dying of cancer, who I was helping with daily care, shot himself to death, I've had some post traumatic stress and anxiety, not to mention anger. Part of the fallout has been nightmares. Duh, I realized last week, no wonder I don't want to go to sleep! 

The second difficulty has been Shadow's change in behavior. Around holiday time she began turning Cujo at UPS men, the mailman, visitors in baseball caps, missionaries and more lately, cars driving down our street. She has for sometime been doing this while she's riding in the car, barking at certain bikes and dogs who are out walking. I have been working on it but lately have felt too worn and on edge to deal with it effectively. My anger comes up. I want to pick her up and shake her. I can't. I don't. But I want to. And my right arm is much less painful from the strain of all her lunging after two months of walking her with my left arm, but I'd hate to reach the point where I cannot walk her at all while I heal both arms! So I've been working hard at being conscious and focusing on her more intently when we walk, trying to catch the behavior early enough to get her in a sit/lay and stay until the stimulus has passed. I did better at that yesterday, though it was exhausting. 

Which brings me to the third difficulty. On March 6th. I saw the doctor for "routine maintenance" and he sent me for blood-work. I went directly next door to the hospital and got that over with, no easy thing for me -the stone- from which lab techs must somehow coax blood. Now when I suggest putting a hot pad on my hand for a while before they try, they don't even raise an eyebrow. So yesterday - yes, 9 working days after the blood draw - my doctor's nurse called suggesting I go to the pharmacy and pick up a prescription for potassium. I did. I took the horse-pill with a glass of water like the paper said. She also told me my cholesterol has soared over 300. The exact number did not register as I was so stunned by the three hundred part. So I figured they'd put me back on Crestor, which had worked very well at lowering my cholesterol until they took me off it a year ago while trying to diagnose my sudden deterioration, which involved a lot of muscle pain and they thought Crestor "could" have been, though we found it wasn't, the culprit. But no. I cannot start the cholesterol meds until I visit the doctor again. Next week. Okay. Fair enough, I guess. I procrastinated and did not go in for my six month check up in February as I was asked to do, but waited until March. So who am I to complain about slow reporting of lab results, which were probably available on the 6th. but I was not called about the deficiency in potassium until the 19th? I am complaining because on the 17th. and 18th. my malaise was palpably worse. On the 19th. I felt incredibly bad. Scary bad. Like back to last year bad, without the muscle pain. I had invited a friend for dinner and besides my walk and the trip to the pharmacist, dinner was all I could manage. I did not make a dessert. Anyone who knows me well knows the significance of that statement. 

BUT, I did eat dinner with my friend, and I did get to bed at eleven and I did sleep a blissful eight-hour sleep! And I woke up feeling like myself. Not sick and scared like I felt yesterday but well. So I feel a tad pissy about not having this potassium two weeks sooner. And I remember my friend Carolyn, at Dana Farber Hospital in Boston, at the end of a weeks experimental chemo. The nurse changed the iv bag and almost immediately Carolyn started complaining to her that whatever was entering her veins was burning and she couldn't bear it after the week of chemical assault. "What is it? Stop it now! I can't bear this!" And the nurse told her it was potassium and she absolutely had to have it - it was vital. "There must be some other way. What do I have to do to make you stop this?" Carolyn demanded. The nurse said there was a pill but that she could never keep it down. She would throw it up. "I won't. I promise. Take this out of my arm now and give me the pill. I promise I will keep it down." And she did. And the nurse put another in her blue cosmetics bag and said she must take it by one o'clock the next day, Saturday. Carolyn promised she would. I drove her home later that day. And the next day I called her at one. "Carolyn, did you take your other potassium pill?" 

"What?" she answered. "What are you talking about?" So I told her and she took it. And for years after (she lived ten more rich and full years) she would ask me "Tell me again about how I talked to the nurse at Dana Farber." She was rightly proud of how she'd advocated for herself and taken control of her care even though she was weakened and wrecked from a week of 24/7 chemo, then an experiment to save her from a deadly breast cancer. All this was considered her only hope after a double mastectomy and radiation. And she could not even remember doing it. That's how strong she was. So when I feel like pissing and whining about all my "deficiencies," I think I'd better remember that day and take the damned horse pill in her memory and be grateful. 

Update: 26 Nov. 2010
Most nights now I do get to bed at 10-11p.m. and I wake up early and refreshed. Walking 2-4 miles daily helps. Getting rid of the TV in July helps. Getting off Facebook last April helped. And the supplements, well, I'm sure they help too. Not too great a price to pay for feeling great. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Being Deborah Now

Here I am. It's pretty obvious what's going on here, I guess. I'm sixty-one, working out how to live here now. A year ago I thought I was dying. I was, as it turns out, just deficient in B12, B1 and D. B12 apparently leaves the body slowly, but when it got low enough it took me down suddenly and shockingly. One day I was walking upright, albeit in pain and kind of pulling my right leg around. I had been conscious of pulling my right leg for nearly two years. I was thinking I had suddenly aged a lot. And that it was all because I was out of shape, fat. But it was the B12. I had developed parietal cell antibodies and lost my intrinsic factor, likely due to years of taking zantac and then prilosec, on doctors' orders,  to deal with severe reflux. No one had warned me of this possible side effect. No one figured out why I was suddenly down and hurting and feeling like hell for about four months. Then, with lots of physical therapy and persistence and B12 injections and B1 and D supplements, I regained some spring in my step, feel reliable on my feet and move with bearable pain. 

So now I want to put that in the past and get back to living my life as best I know how. 

This little spot is for self examination and celebration and keeping myself real. Today's challenge has not been met: I am to get to bed by eleven at the latest and get my sleep patterns round to what I need again. I have been trying to extend my days...hang onto them until the last possible moment. I have given so much of my life away obsessively, hoping to be a good person by serving, volunteering, and a lot of that has been fulfilling and good. But now that I have more selfish goals, my great fear is that there is not time to achieve them. So I have been somewhat mindlessly trying to stretch my days into night. This is not serving  me well. 

So, hello, and goodnight/goodmorning. I have failed two nights in a row. Not a great start. But at least I'm conscious and maybe tomorrow I'll be able to begin resetting this body clock.