{pretty, happy, funny, real} May 16, 2013

It’s been so long since I last participated! In the meantime I’ve had a breast cancer diagnosis, a mastectomy and reconstruction, and my beloved husband (who has Parkinson’s) has had to go into long-term care. After 48 years spent together, that’s been pretty hard for both of us to handle. Eventually, though, I’ve begun to see that I must – MUST – go on living as best I can the life God has given me. So this spring I treated myself to something

                                                                             {pretty}
 
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New sofa cushions!  I love the colours, and the sight of these lifts my spirit whenever I walk into the living room.  I’m lucky, because just about any colour looks good against the grey of the sofa. And here’s a closer look at those orchid metal balls I found to add to the collection in the bowl!  They sparkle most beautifully when the morning sun catches them.  That really tickles me.
 
 
 
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                                                                                {happy}
 
I even have something happy to post about this time!  My daughter and I discovered a wonderful soda fountain that recently opened in a favourite neighborhood area.  They use as many locally made ingredients as possible, and the hot fudge sauce is even made at home by the owner’s wife!  Everything’s been carefully chosen to be the best they can find.  So far we’ve tried the egg creams and the sundaes, both delicious, and look forward to trying many of their other offerings.  It’s hard to find time when we both are free to make the trip to this area, so we’re not too too worried about the weight we will surely gain.  Besides, everyone needs a treat now and then, right?  So it should be a very good, very special treat.
 
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That’s it for now.  Nice to be here again.  My thanks to Leila at Like Mother Like Daughter for hosting.

round button chicken
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Can’t Seem To Get Over Shame

I posted on the 13th about looking forward to going to my book club meeting.  It was a good and lively meeting, and I enjoyed it.  Until I was driving home, that is.  Then I began to feel as though I had talked too much, tried to get too much attention, not really listened to people but just jumped in with my own opinions.  Had I been silly, thoughtless, insensitive?  I felt ashamed of myself and wished I could apologize, but then that really would be calling too much attention to myself.  And, although the feeling of shame was strong and painful, I realized that it’s part of a pattern I’ve had to deal with for many years.  Probably no one noticed anything wrong about my behaviour.  It’s all in my head. And I seem to forget between times that this is how I will react.

I don’t know how that feeling got lodged there.  All I can remember is that when I was a little kid, definitely before the age of ten, I would be going home in the car with my parents after an evening spent with relatives or friends, and my mother would mention something I had said or done that was inappropriate.  I don’t remember this as being particularly harrowing for me, but I think it is connected to my present problem.  I was an only child and was aware that my parents expected good behaviour in front of other adults, especially relatives.  Of course I wanted to please my parents, and also I very much didn’t want to look foolish.  I was a bookish kid and had aspirations of being cultured and well-educated.  So I guess I was pretty sensitive about this going-home review of my behaviour.  But that’s all I can connect with my problem of feeling ashamed.

This reaction to interacting with people who are not family has been happening for years, and I don’t know how to stop it. I can settle down after a few hours and convince myself that nothing happened that I need feel ashamed of, and that’s good. But I really wish the reaction would not happen. Is it because I’m an introvert and not all that comfortable in groups? I’d really be interested to hear if anyone else has this problem. Any light shed on it would be welcome.

 

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I Love My Book Club

Before I get started on the topic of the book club, I want to mention that for the past few days Ricardo has been feeling better.  I think he’s finally recovering from the infections he had, and from the medications used to treat them, which really left him weak and feeling helpless.  It’s so cheering to see him enjoying a little breeze coming through his window, or to hear him ask me to do a crossword puzzle with him.  These are better times, for sure, and I should savor them.

The monthly meeting of our parish book club is tonight, and I’m looking forward to it!  I love our book club.  We have nine members right now, as well as some people who come and go.  It’s an excellent number, as we all can have a chance to talk,  and we fit easily around the refectory table at our pastor’s house, which is convenient when it comes time for tea and cookies.  Tonight, though, we’ll begin an hour early with a pick-up dinner of sushi, since Father has just come back from a four-month sabbatical and everyone will want to hear about his experiences and ask some questions.  Then we’ll move on to talking about our book.

We’re a Catholic book club, so we generally read in the area of religion, but that gives us a wide range of possibilities.  We choose our upcoming book two months ahead so we have time to check the local libraries or order on line, and sometimes we spend two months on a particularly long or difficult book.  I keep a blog for the club, although in the past year I’ve neglected it quite a bit as Ricardo and I went through hard times, but now I’m getting it back up to speed, and even thinking about doing some book reviews as podcasts.  That was the pastor’s idea some months ago, and I’ll have to check with him and see if he is still interested in getting that done.  It might be fun.

Every year for our anniversary, the book club has a potluck supper and does a dramatic reading.  This year we took on quite a challenge–T. S. Eliot‘s Murder in the Cathedral.  We’d been reading some Church history in the past year, and this play seemed as though it would fit right in.  As we did our preparatory study, some members were quite amazed by the power and beauty of Eliot’s work, and we threw ourselves right into it.  We considered it a great success and were proud to have wrestled with such a grand work of art.

I’ve loved books all my life, and getting to share some with a group of congenial people is a treat.  I’ve been in other book clubs, but they mostly devolved into chat sessions and the books became just an excuse to get together.  I don’t mind good chat at all, but when the choice of books seemed to be mainly drawn from supermarket ranks, I lost interest.  So the development of this club has been a continuing pleasure.

Are you a member of a book club?  How are discussions handled?  What do you like best? What would you like to see done differently?  I’d love to hear from you, and I promise to reply.

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A Little Breathing Space

I have been touched by the kind messages I’ve received from readers, some of them wondering how Ricardo and I have been getting on.  Since I have a bit of mental clarity right now, I’ll just bring you up to date.

In June of 2012 I had a mastectomy, and was able to make a complete recovery due to the extraordinary kindness of my sister-in-law, who dropped everything and came to take care of Ricardo and me for a whole month.  It was a real sacrifice on her part, as she is an avid gardener and had to leave her beautiful gardens at the height of the growing season.  It was also hard work, but because of her I was able to follow the doctors’ instructions and not do lifting, pushing, or lots of other things. 

In early December, Ricardo agreed that the time had come when it was necessary for him to go into long-term care.  We were fortunate to quickly receive news of a possible placement, because I had reached the end of my ability to care for him at home.  Still, it was a terrible wrench for everyone when we moved him, and he had a terrible time accustoming himself to all the changes.  The Parkinson’s affects his flexibility in dealing with changes, and he suffered very much as a result.

He has adjusted now, more or less, and so have I.  I have had to learn that I am most useful now as an advocate, but I’m no longer responsible for his care.  When he is managing to get by, I’m able to be reasonably upbeat, but when he is going through hard times or illness (he recently had pneumonia and then a urinary tract infection), I have difficulty keeping tears at bay, and sometimes find myself crying for hours.

I could tell lots of tales about all the systems and people that need to be dealt with and managed, over and over again, when a loved one is in care, but I think I won’t go there.  I’m not crying now and I want to keep it that way.  Times are tough, but lots and lots of people have very hard things handed to them in life.  I’m hanging in there, and so is Ricardo.

Thanks again to those of you who have written, have offered prayers, and have wished us well.  I’ll try to update and keep you informed.  I have appreciated your thoughtfulness.

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7 Quick Takes – Friday March 30

                            7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 168)

I don’t know if I’ll make it to seven takes today, but I’m just going to dash in and see how far I get!

ONE – I’m extremely pleased that yesterday I made some really good egg salad sandwiches!  Ricardo and I love egg salad sandwiches, but for a long time (maybe forever, I can’t remember back that far) the ability to cut up the egg without making a complete mess of it was beyond me.  The yolk would get mashed, the white would be uneven, with too many large bits, and the look of the whole thing was–let’s just say, not good.  But then, TaDa!  Some months ago I acquired a convincing-looking egg dicer from, of all places, a gardening store.  I stuck it in a basket in a cabinet and promptly forgot it.  But a week ago I ran across it and stuck it on a countertop so I would remember to hard-boil some eggs.  Yesterday was the day.  I boiled the eggs at breakfast, put them in the fridge to get nice and cold, and at lunch assembled the eggs, mayo, mustard, green onions, and pepper.  The chopping device has three levels.  The bottom one has an elevated platform to put the egg, then you can bring down a wire screen to cut it crossways, or bring down two screens to cut crossways and lengthwise.  Brilliant, efficient, and it’s easy to clean, too!  Specialty tools too often don’t work, but this one is a keeper.

TWO – It took eight days after the breast MRI, but today I woke up to an absence of pain, and to feeling like my old self again.  It was a nasty week and a bit, with pain day and night, and feeling as though I had to drag myself through each day.   I sure hope I never have to have that particular test again.

THREE - I have a favourite web site that has been helping to distract me during this time of getting used to having breast cancer.  At newyorker.com, you can click on a jigsaw puzzle game and get one of  hundreds and hundreds of covers of The New Yorker magazine from over the years.  It gets cut in pieces, and then you reassemble it while a timer is running.  Generally it takes me under five minutes to play, but for me, a big part of the enjoyment is admiring the cover and trying to figure out if it is referring to or satirizing a particular event, or celebrating the season of the year, or just expressing an artist’s interest.  The covers go back to the 1920′s, and it’s very interesting to see the clothes and scenes depicted from those long-ago times.  Sometimes I find that I’m imagining myself in a seaside scene, or gazing up a road lined with trees in full autumn blaze.  The game is a great place to spend a little time.

That’s all I have time for now.  Thanks for reading, and thanks to Jen Fulwiler for hosting.  If I don’t see you before then, have a blessed Easter!

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Diagnosis: Breast Cancer

I have avoided updating for a long time because of great sadness over Ricardo’s Parkinson’s.  Back in December, we thought he would have to go into long-term care at the beginning of 2012.  And then, somehow his condition settled down and although he’s been weak, he’s been able to stay at home.  I’ve kept him awash in cranberry juice, trying to avoid any more of the bladder infections which cause him to crash, and so far, it’s worked.  I’ve kept my focus very narrowly on getting through and appreciating one day at a time, refusing to worry about the future.  But then, in mid-February, came an unexpected crash.

Finally taking notice of an inverted nipple that I had been vaguely aware of for some weeks, I saw our family doctor, who sent me off for a mammogram and ultrasound.  The technician at the clinic had their doctor come in and check, and she confirmed that it looked suspiciously like cancer.  So when I saw the surgeon to whom I was referred, I was not shocked when he sent me for a biopsy.  I also had a chest x-ray, ECG, and blood tests.  The verdict from the biopsy was cancer.  Tomorrow I will have an abdominal ultrasound to check liver and kidneys, and Tuesday I’ll see a plastic surgeon to get some info about breast reconstruction, but for now, I don’t think I will ask for that.  More surgery, more time in which Ricardo will need someone to take care of him, more appointments in what looks to be a calendar which will be crowded with tests, therapies, and follow-ups. 

The next step will be an MRI, which the surgeon wants to help guide him in the operation, and he said if the tumor is too large, he will send me for chemo (I think) to reduce the size before operating.  I’m still waiting to hear the date of the MRI appointment.

So, that’s my news.  I had no idea that breast cancer was such a complicated and long journey.  Looking right now at the future, I’m much more concerned about having weeks worth of appointments taking me out of the house than of, say, dying, which doesn’t seem too likely.  I hate the expectation of pain and loss of easy movement.  I’m not afraid of dying, but I might feel quite differently, I know, if I really came up against it.

Friends and family have been generous in giving me support.  Ricardo’s sister will be driving up from Portland to take care of him (and me) just before the surgery.  A dear friend who has been through cancer herself took me to the biopsy, and will take me for the MRI.  Our daughter has gone with me to the doctor, taken me out for tea lattes, and has been supportive in every way.  Ricardo feels very sad that he can’t be accompanying me physically through this, but he is a rock of support in every other way.  So, I am not alone and I have much to be thankful for.

I know there are a few people who will be reading this, and I would be grateful for your prayers and support.  It seems to me that life delights in the unexpected, and it is probable that I will learn a lot on this journey.  Thank you for your company.

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Poetry Friday – BEGINNINGS by John Harney

                                     

Ricardo and I celebrated our 47th wedding annniversary this past week!  What does that have to do with Poetry Friday?  It gives me an excuse to post a love poem that is a favourite of mine, and which reminds me, in an offbeat way, of our own romance.

I haven’t been able to discover anything about the poet, so if you know of his work, do leave me a comment.  I found this poem in The New Yorker, years ago.

                              BEGINNINGS

In a light mist, in lamplight, your perfect face
caught in the black branches and creamy mauves
of the tulip tree–and a moon that saves
itself behind the mist, light that seems less
brilliant as it softens to silver.  Light
could never penetrate the dress you wore,
black below your shoulders’ whiteness, whose white
remembered, is marble laved with rain.  From where

I look back, it still seems as if you’d leave
me then.  That was when I fell in love.
Later, we drank Sambuca in a cafe–
those checkerboard tablecloths–with coffee
beans dropped in to temper the sweetness.  Then,
feigning chess with them: first your move, then mine.
                                                           —John Harney

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Some Contentment to Begin 2012

                                                        

  •                                       round button chicken

I see that I haven’t shared anything that has been going on here since October.  We’ve spent that time, mostly, immersed in the process of letting what we understood with our minds move into an understanding of the heart.  This has been very painful, much of the time unspeakably so.

And at times we felt a lot of fear and anger–not at Ricardo’s Parkinson’s, but at the inflexibility of the province’s health care system  in dealing with long-term care placements, and what the financial consequences might be for us.

But, in looking at these issues straight on and trying to understand them, we’ve been able, for now, to move past the anger and settle into the day-to-day of (somewhat) ordinary life.  We’ve been helped in this by Ricardo’s having had a long stretch of good health with few setbacks.

And so I come to my bit of contentment for today’s post.  I’m making a lap quilt for Ricardo, for now and for the future when he will have to leave home for long-term care.  I’m using fabric from Japanese pajamas given to my daughter over the years by a dear friend of hers who travels often to Japan.  As she wore them out, I saved the garments just on spec because I loved the beautiful fabric, and all these years later I decided that these fabrics would be the perfect basis for Ricardo’s quilt.

First I had to rip the seams, making flat pieces of fabric I could cut up.  The piles on the table are mostly the pajamas, with a few other fabrics  I was auditioning for possible use.

The photos here are opposite to the order I wanted, but I’ve spent as much time as I can afford in trying to make them come out right, so please excuse me.  The picture of some of the blocks hanging on the wall represents about half of what will be the finished quilt, just to give you an idea of what the style will be.  There will be a narrow red border around all the blocks, then a wider navy border.  I’m just finishing sewing the blocks together, so soon I’ll have a photo for you of the completed top, before getting the sandwich of the backing, batting, and top ready.

And this represents my {happy} for today.  I love to sew, and it helps me to a peaceful feeling of accomplishment.  Must go for now!  Thanks for reading my topsy-turvy posting!  I’ll make time to check on the entries of others–they are always interesting.

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2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

 

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,700 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Poetry Friday – Rules of Sleep by Howard Moss

Howard Moss, the long-time poetry editor of The New Yorker, was himself a poet of note.  Here is one of his that I love.

                                   RULES OF SLEEP

In the sludge drawer of animals in arms,
Where legs entwine to keep the body warm
Against the winter night, some cold seeps through—
It is the future: say, a square of stars
In the windowpane, suggesting the abstract
And large, or a sudden shift in position
That lets one body know the other’s free to move
An inch away, and then a thousand miles,
And, after that, even intimacy
Is only another form of separation.
                                       —Howard Moss

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