What’s in a Name? ~ by…someone

“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title.”

So says Juliet, upon discovering her true love’s despised moniker, and perhaps it rings true.  After all, it is our character that truly defines us.  Isn’t it?  We could be called practically anything, but it is our actions ~ how we choose to conduct ourselves ~ that really matters.

Why then would I find myself hopelessly bereft over the notion that I might be in danger of forever losing my name?

This occurred to me earlier this week, on the heels of yet another call from yet another healthcare provider calling me “Kathryn.”  Only doctors, police, the DMV and IRS call me Kathryn.  Well, and my dad, who calls me by my full name, sometimes, and that’s okay, because he’s my dad.  I have never been Kathryn.  Aside from the first day they called role and I corrected them, even teachers didn’t call me Kathryn.  I was Kay when I was little, then Katie, and, ultimately, Kate.  Everyone back home called me Kate, up until I started college.  Except my dad. His nickname for me (when he wasn’t calling me by my full name) was Sam.  But then, being an adolescent girl, I got, well, you know, adolescent, I guess, I demanded he stop calling me that, because it was NOT MY NAME!

And so, he did.

But then, I felt kind of rotten about it.

So, I told him that, when I grew up to be a famous author, I would use it as my pen name.

Obviously, you can see the odds of me being a famous author are quite high.  Did you note the wry wit?  The affable charm?  The effortless prose?  It’s inevitable.

Then, I went on my merry way, being a Katie, and then a Kate.

I did all kinds of things.  Strange, awkward things, really, because I was, not surprisingly,  as strange and awkward a teenager and young adult as I am a full-grown human.  Also not surprisingly, I have not yet become a famous author.

What did happen was I went to school.  Well, everyone goes to school, I suppose.  Well, not everyone; but most everyone in the U.S. who falls above a certain tax bracket, anyway, after a certain point in history (after which I was most definitely born) has some kind of education, and so, I did go to school.  I even almost finished high school.  Wow.  What I meant was I went to college.  Junior college first, and, in fact, I liked it so well, I went for a very long time.  It’s either that, or I wasn’t very good at it, and I had to spend a lot of time working out the kinks.  Whatever the case may be, during my seven illustrious years in junior college, I pursued acting.  I did quite a lot of acting at school, and even outside of school.  Since, during that time, I found I wasn’t getting any closer to becoming a famous author, but I was acting quite a lot, I decided to use Sam as my stage name.

The thing is, when you do a lot of theatre, it tends to lead to more theatre, which leads to more theatre, which leads to more theatre…and, well, pretty soon, most of the people you know are people you met doing ~ guess what ~ theatre!  So, pretty soon, I had a lot of new friends, all of whom were calling me “Sam.”  I was having a grand time, making friends, doing shows, going to parties, trying to remember to do my homework because ~ whoops! ~ that’s what I went to college for!  It really was great fun. Some of the best years of my life, to be sure.  I made some of the best friends I have ever had during those years, and I have even managed to keep in touch with some of them.  I learned so much.  I landed an incredibly important (to me and my future) job that ended up shaping my career, completely changing the path I thought I wanted to take in life and helping me find the direction I had lacked.  There were so many great things I accomplished as Sam.

But it was always great to go home to where the people who had known me and loved me since I was a little girl still called me Kate, because, somewhere in there ~ strikes breast ~ I will always still be Kate, too.  You see, I like Kate, and I never meant to lose her entirely.

When I transferred to Arizona State University to pursue my Bachelor’s Degree in Theatre Education, I got a job at a childcare center to help pay rent and bills.  I used the name Kate at work, and Sam with friends.  When we moved to California, I initially used Kate when I was teaching and at places like the children’s school and our church, and   Sam friends, but I found, as the children got older, it got confusing.  It probably wasn’t confusing for the kids yet, but it was confusing for me, and for others around us, and I worried it would be confusing for them.  What would happen when someone asked, “What’s your mom’s name?” and they gave a different answer than the name by which that person knew me, or the name they had on record?  It was too much to expect a kid to remember.  It was too much to expect me to remember.  Now, what name did I tell THESE people?  And so, gradually, I just became Sam.

Looking back, now, I don’t know why I became Sam, and not Kate.  At the time, perhaps, it felt comfortable, because I was used to it.  It hadn’t been long since my college days.  Maybe I longed for the days of rehearsals and greenroom chatter and late nights at Denny’s.  Maybe I just wanted to be different, because I was still young, and kind of ornery.

But now…

Well, now…

Now, I think, with the advent of social media, we don’t talk on the telephone as much as we used to.  So I don’t hear the voices of my family and friends back home as often as I once did.  They don’t hear mine, either, because I don’t call, and I should.  I mean, I think I should.  They might be reading this and thinking, “Oh, dear God ~ now she’s going to call me!”  I like hearing people’s voices.  Unfortunately, I think our lives have all evolved in ways that don’t allow for telephone conversations often.  I fear…or, no, not fear, exactly, but suspect…I strongly suspect we are all now hardwired in to social media communication, which is a wonderful convenience, and I am thrilled to have it, but I do miss the voices.  I miss hearing them say my name.  It’s old-fashioned, I know, and, perhaps, a little bit self-centered.  I can accept that.  I have lived a very other-centered life as a wife, mother and teacher, so, on this point, I can be the tiniest bit self-centered. I think it’s been a little bit too long since my last trip back to Maryland, and I want to hear people say my name the way they have said it since I was a little girl.  People like my mom, my siblings, my cousins, my childhood best friends.

Then, of course, there are the ones that will never say it again: Grandma and Grandpa, Aunt Fran, Uncle Frank, Aunt Dody, Uncle Jack, Uncle Jim, Uncle Joe, Aunt Eleanor, Aunt Kay, Uncle Tony, Aunt Dee…  I haven’t even named them all.  I could never name them all.  It’s too hard.  I feel bad.  I keep thinking of people I need to go back and add. Geez.  That’s a lot of people.  And it’s probably still not everyone. What do you do about them?  I can still hear them, clear as a bell, in my mind, so, sometimes, that’s what I do.  I just close my eyes and listen.

What occurred to me recently, I think, is this notion that I am losing my name.  That, if I don’t hear it ~ if fewer and fewer people are calling me Kate, and no one out here in California calls me Kate ~ I will just gradually stop being Kate.  I felt like Alice, walking through the forest with my arms looped lazily around a fawn, both of us blissfully unaware of who we are, because we’ve lost our names.  As if somehow I will simply cease to be Kate altogether, when I know well and good that all the Samming in the world couldn’t un-Kate me.  I mean, let’s face it: once a Kate, always a Kate.  Am I right?

In the end, I might have to take exception with Juliet’s opinion on names.  While I don’t think our names necessarily define us, I have to admit, there is something decidedly “Kate” about me, and there always has been.  After much consideration, I am not ready to completely divest myself of my Kateness.  I suspect, like Shakespeare’s Kate, I have and will be called “plain Kate, and bonny Kate and sometimes Kate the curst,” and I can live with that.

I’m not asking any of you to change anything.  If you call me Sam, continue to call me Sam.  If you call me Kate, call me Kate.

And, you know, if either of us ever has a minute, we should probably call each other.

The Girl Who Lived ~ by Sam

17 years ago today, on March 28th 2000, I was 29 years old.  Gosh, it seems like a lifetime ago.  Shane and I lived in the upstairs apartment at the back of our building of six units, which faced another, identical 6-unit building.  Our daughter, Justice, had recently become a big sister for the first time, to Hallie, who was born at 11:58 pm on March 17th ~ St. Patrick’s Day! ~ on the front seat of our Honda Civic in front of Kaiser Permanente Hospital’s Emergency Entrance in Woodland Hills.  We almost made it to the hospital in time, but, what can I say?  Hallie was in a hurry to be born on St. Paddy’s Day.

When I think about that little baby, my first impressions are of a strong, alert child, right from the word, “go!”  I had a hard time, hemorrhaging and requiring a couple of courses of pitocin to get the bleeding under control upon being transferred up to a recovery room, but not our little baby.  Hallie was eager to nurse, wide-eyed, alert and responsive.  I remember lying on the sofa the day we brought her home, with Hallie resting on my belly.  She just wriggled her way up my body all by herself, like a tiny little mountain climber.  I know, I know ~ babies do this ~ but we were so impressed right from the start by her strength, her grip, and how awake and aware of the world around her she was.  She just seemed interested in everything.

On the evening of March 28th, baby Hallie was just 11 days old.  Justice was asleep her room.  She would have been 2 years and about 4 months old.  Shane was working at his desk in the living room, and I was napping on the sofa.  Hallie was asleep in the cradle my dad had built, which was in the room with us.  We always had our babies sleep wherever we were.  So, we kept the cradle in the front room.  I learned later that Shane had somehow become aware that something was wrong with Hallie.  Maybe it was the absence of breath sounds.  Maybe it was a choking sound.   Maybe he saw something out of the corner of his eye.  I don’t know, but I thank God that something alerted him.  I awoke to the sound of him yelling her name.  He was holding her, her face was bright red, mouth wide open, like she should be screaming, but there was no sound.  I could see the terror in both of their eyes.  I don’t even think I was fully awake before I was across the room whisking her away and saying, “Call 9-1-1!”

Having worked in a preschool classroom, I had, at least, been trained in infant CPR.  I went in to auto-pilot.  It’s hard for me to put in to words what happened next.  I can remember it all so clearly, like I am watching a movie, but it’s difficult to articulate.  I remember checking her airway.  I remember running through all of the steps in my head ~ which I remembered then, but don’t now ~ I remember performing the infant Heimlich maneuver, and feeling a tremendous sense of relief when she coughed up a huge chunk of mucous…and then a renewed sense of panic when, instead of starting to breathe, my tiny little baby went limp and blue.

I remember that Shane was on the line with the 9-1-1 operator by this time, and that she remained on the line with him until we left for the hospital.  I remember that, at some point, little Justice was awakened by the commotion, and wandered out.  I remember that the paramedics from the nearby fire station arrived within two minutes that felt like an eternity.  I remember.  I remember loosening her clothes, jiggling her limp little limbs, begging her to breathe.  I remember Shane’s voice pleading with her to breathe.  I remember repeatedly thumping the soles of my baby’s tiny feet, so she would gasp for air, and hoping against hope that, eventually, those tiny little gasps would “catch,” and she would start breathing regularly again.  And I remember that, eventually, miraculously, she did.  Right before the paramedics arrived.  She was breathing, albeit shallowly, by the time they got there, but, since she had not been, of course, a trip to the ER was still in order.

I remember when the paramedics explained to me that I couldn’t hold her on the way to the hospital.  That I had to hand her over to them.  That she had to be transported by them the way any patient would, but I could ride inside the ambulance with her.  Shane and Justice could follow in the car.  I remember the look on Shane’s face when he realized he had to let them drive away with his baby.  I remember how tiny she looked inside the ambulance on that huge gurney.

I remember sitting at the hospital while they checked her over and over and questioned us about what had happened, and found no explanation.  No explanation.  And just…sent us home.  I remember the diagnosis.

ALTE

A.L.T.E.

I remember searching for information to try to understand what had happened to my child and finding that it stood for “Apparent Life-Threatening Event.”

As if we couldn’t have guessed.

I remember months later when I had to fight for the insurance company to cover that ambulance ride and hospital visit, because, they told me, the incident “wasn’t life-threatening.”

*ahem*

“Please refer to doctor’s diagnosis.  A.L.T.E. – Apparent Life-Threatening Event.”

I remember how, at about two months, she suffered another episode of the same type.  Still with no further explanation.

I remember how, years later, she developed asthma, and often suffered respiratory complications such as bronchitis or pneumonia.  I remember the time she had croup, and developed stridor, and her little chest would cave in, instead of expanding, when she took a breath, and my heart would ache for her.  I remember other parents thinking I was being “overprotective” when I said it was important for her not to be exposed to respiratory ailments because she was at high risk for respiratory complications.

But, more than anything, on this day, I remember my child’s beautiful eyes, smile, voice.  I think of all of the amazing things this almost grown person has achieved.  I think of the art my child has created, the roles this young actor has played, all the music and dances and stories…and everything yet to come.

Hallie was due on March 27th, born on March 17th, under rather unusual circumstances.  Then March 28th came along and did its best to wrestle her away from us.  Every year at this time, I can’t help but pause and count this particularly incredible blessing.

 

Cold Hands, Warm…muscles? by Sam

One day last week, while I was making dinner, my hands suddenly turned bright red and felt as if I had poured bleach all over them. Thinking I must have come in contact with some allergen, I immediately stopped what I was doing, and thoroughly washed my hands. The redness and irritation greatly subsided in 15-20 minutes, but my hands remained irritated, and the skin was peeling, as if I’d had a severe sunburn. Over the next few days, the symptoms recurred, so I contacted my PCP via email, including a photograph of the initial reaction. I supposed there were three possibilities:
a) the CRPS was spreading to other parts of my body (rare, but not unheard of)
b) these symptoms, ‘though not like any I’d experienced with it in the past, might be related to Raynaud’s (to be fair, the symptoms were not exactly like CRPS, either, but it does involve both redness and burning pain)
c) this was something entirely new and unrelated to any of my previously existing conditions
     We played phone tag for a few days until I finally got a call from a nurse on Monday of this week. My doctor felt it was most likely that the symptoms were, in fact, a more extreme manifestation of Raynaud’s than I’d experienced in the past, and that, as my symptoms seemed to be getting more severe, it might be time to consider medication.  Hence, I was referred to a rheumatologist. That appointment occurred on Thursday of this week.
     As luck would have it, the medications used to control symptoms of Raynaud’s Disease are blood pressure meds; and, because my blood pressure is low, my doctor doesn’t want me to take them.  You see, unfortunately, they could cause my blood pressure to drop even lower, and this could result in dizziness and falling. Falling has already been rather a chronic problem for me, and it has been deemed an unnecessary risk, as has dangerously low blood pressure.
     So, I have been given recommendations to step up my efforts to stay warm. These include things that might seem obvious, like using hot water bottles and heated gloves/socks/blankets, warming creams, taking warm showers when I come in from being outside, making sure to keep my hands and feet covered and protected, even when I don’t feel cold, and keeping my core warm. They also include things that might seem a little less obvious, like increasing my salt intake, in hopes of raising my blood pressure, and building muscle mass. The challenge, here, my rheumatologist pointed out, will be striking a balance in which I work out to build muscle mass, but am careful not to accidentally lose weight. This will involve adding protein-dense calories to my diet, which means adding food to my diet.  (I know.  This doesn’t seem like brain surgery.  Stick with me.  It’s trickier than it seems.)  I started working on this as soon as I got home on Thursday. I immediately baked a loaf of peanut butter bread, replacing part of the flour with almond flour.  Then I made myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with it.  I figured, that way, at least I am getting lots of protein (and lots of calories ~ yay!)  Because that working out and not accidentally losing weight thing?  Believe it or not, that really is a challenge.
     I know. This all sounds sort of stupid. But…food is hard.  I mean, I have had food issues for a long time.  First and foremost, there are the lingering eating-disorder-related issues, which will always linger; but, on a more basic level, there are all of the food allergies and sensitivities.  I am allergic to milk protein (and elderberries, and echinacea, which don’t come up much, so that’s okay, really.  Oh, and shellfish ~ which never comes up, because I’m vegetarian, but does somewhat complicate eating at restaurants, or buying some prepared foods).  I also have IBS, and, while it seems to be fairly mild most of the time, it can rear its ugly head at any moment, and, at those times, it is triggered by: eggs, white/refined carbs (so, any bread, pasta, or baked goods made with that, white bread, white rice ~ basically, I do better with whole grains and more fiber in my diet), and fried foods.  Then, there are times when I think it is triggered by food.  Oh, also, stress.  It is also triggered by stress.  Then, add to that the fact that I am on a medication that makes it hard for me to keep on weight, even when I am not working out.  So, now, I am trying to eat the right things that won’t trigger my IBS, so I can be sure not to lose weight while doing PT, so my CRPS won’t flare up, so I can then work out enough to build muscle mass to try to keep myself warm ~ but not so much that I accidentally work off any of the extra peanut butter I ate.
     Because then, maybe I will be buff enough to haul in some firewood and build a big fire, and then we will all be warm.  By “we,” of course, I mean me, and all of my fingers.  And my toes. My toes are also cold, but I don’t see them often, because they are very far away, and usually inside several pairs of socks. I miss my toes.
     Ah.  But we have a gas fireplace.  So, forget about that firewood.  I’ll use my muscles to lift more peanut butter sandwiches, instead.
     On Friday, I didn’t manage to do much working out, but I ate pretty well.  I mentioned this to Hallie, adding my concern that, if I keep doing this, I won’t build any muscle, and all that extra protein will just be converted to fat.  “Well…fat will keep you warm,” Hallie responded, quite correctly.  And, so, I guess we’re good.  Because, the truth is, fat will keep me warm, and I really, really need to stay warm.  Nevertheless, I have always dreamed of being sort of buff.  Warm, and buff.  It sounds kind of dreamy.

     I guess I’ll keep working on the muscle-building thing.  To be perfectly honest, I was already working on that.  Which sort of makes me wonder if I should feel a little bit insulted at the implication that I need to build muscle mass.  Except…well, I really do need to build muscle mass, and I know it.

I guess I needed a New Years Resolution or two, anyway.  Y’all watch: by 2018, I’m gonna be stronger than I’ve ever been.  And warmer, too.

The House With No Name ~ by Sam

Our House needs a name.

We have been debating this since we moved in to the new house.  We can’t keep calling it the new house indefinitely.  Eventually, it is bound to not be so new.  I would rather not call it something like, “The Money Pit,” because that’s rather depressing, but “The House on Willard Street” is so bland, and “The Blue House,” is okay, but…we already lived in “The Little Blue House,” many years ago.  We have sort of waffled between “the Blue House,” “The House on Willard Street,” and “The Homestead,” which sort of made sense when I had a thriving garden, and was canning, making jams and jellies, and baking all of the time, but now I am not doing as much of that, and it feels a little bit like a slap in the face, sometimes.  Maybe I just need to get over that.  Or get my butt in gear, and get back to doing some of that stuff.

In the past, we have named our homes.  I like that.  We like to add the tagline to invitations, greeting cards,  videos, etc.  So videos might be “A Little Blue House production,” or “coming to you live from Little House in the Big Yard!” and parties might be held at “The Homestead.” We have toyed with calling the new house something silly like “The Loud House,” because “We’re not yelling ~ we’re Italian!”*  But then, that show, “The Loud House” came out, and it kind of made me wonder if someone overheard one of our conversations in public about the whole “we’re not yelling” thing.  Also, of course, sometimes, we are yelling, which I guess everyone does, so then it seems like a lousy name for a house altogether ~ but we would mean it in the jovial way, of course.   We figured we should translate in to Italian, for maximum effect.  Or perhaps German, just because…I don’t know.  Why not?  At that point, you know, the kids once learned, from a craft kit they received as a gift, how to say the phrase “sparkling unicorn” in German, and ran around barking it at people, just because they liked the sound of it, and how it startled people when you yelled it at them.  So…we could go with “Sparkling Unicorn House,” in German.  But I don’t think we will.

I remember, when I was a little girl, as we were driving to Grandma and Grandpa’s house in McSherrystown, Pennsylvania, we would pass a house along the way that was called “Gittings Ha-Ha.”  I always wondered what it meant.  Did someone get the last laugh?  Was their house a big joke?  Maybe it wasn’t really a big, fancy house, and it just looked like one from the street.  Perhaps, the joke was on us, all the time.  I guess I may never know.

Hopefully, however, we will be able to decide what to call our own home.  We could call it “Frank.”  It’s a good name.  I mean, it was my Papa’s name, and two of my Uncle’s, as well.  No?

Fine.

We’ll keep working on it, I guess.

For now, I will just sit here, watching the rain fall.

Inside the house.

I guess we won’t be calling it, “Impenetrable.” bluehouse2

*EDIT: It occurs to me, now, we were probably also yelling because I’m hard of hearing, and now I have a hearing aid, so I’m not sure how this changes things, in this regard:  “Of course we’re yelling ~ our mom’s hard of hearing!” LOL  This ~ and the fact that I am sitting here with a foot that still doesn’t want to work, watching rain fall inside my house, as well as a number of other things that I won’t mention, because, frankly, they don’t bear mentioning  ~ brings to mind one of all-time favourite Carrie Fisher quotes:“If my life wasn’t funny it would just be true, and that is unacceptable.”  Indeed.  And so, we laugh.  Perhaps, Gittings Ha-Ha is beginning to make sense, after all.

How Bad Is it? ~ by Sam

Last night, my foot went out.  I don’t mean it had a pleasant night out on the town.  It’s done that, with me in tow (if you’ll pardon the pun), but that was not the case last night.  Last night, my foot just sort of ceased to work.  I call this “going out,” as in, “My foot’s gone out again.”  You know, like when your transmission goes out.  This happens in a number of ways.  What I mean by this is that it simply freezes up and refuses to move.  Sometimes, it sort of seizes, and assumes an usually grotesque position before freezing (often folding vertically in a way that feet don’t actually fold, so that my big toe rotates in to a position that is under or over the rest of my foot).  Other times, it just sort of flattens and becomes stiff, like a boot, all the way through the foot and ankle.  In any case, it is useless, and it feels freshly broken.  No, scratch that.  I would say it feels more painful than a break.  It feels… hmmm… It feels like it was broken, and then…I don’t know…something else happened to it.  Like, maybe it caught on fire, and got slammed in a door.  Yeah.  I’m gonna go with that.

But that’s a mouthful; so I just say, “My foot’s gone out.”

It goes out a lot lately.  I think I should buy it some fabulous jewelry.

Anyway,  this is a CRPS thing, and, yeah, it has been happening, so I guess I had better call my excellent Pain Management doctor, because his job is, after all, to help me manage my pain.

But, see…

It’s hard, because I can’t think of myself like that.  As a person who has a Pain Management doctor, and a chronic pain condition that needs to be managed. Coincidentally, just yesterday, Justice was asking me if I considered myself to be disabled, due to fibromyalgia, CRPS (and a host of other health concerns that have cropped up recently, I suspect), and I told her I don’t.  Of course I don’t.  I am able to get around and do what I need to do.  …pretty much…  I might not feel great, but I get by. …most days…  I mean, I had to quit my job, but I am still able to do a lot of things.  …usually…  I am even able to do things I enjoy.  …sometimes…

And then, here we are, on a day like today, when CRPS has brought me, literally, to my knees.  I am not looking for sympathy.  I am not making excuses.  The thing about CRPS, for me ~ where I am with it, anyway ~ is that I have been advised to just keep using my foot as much as possible, no matter how much it hurts.  I just have to keep making myself use it, even when it feels like it’s broken, and on fire, and someone slammed a door on it, because, if I don’t ~ if I let that stop me, and it stops me for a day, and that day turns to 10 days, then a month, then 4 months, then a year…well, then, eventually, I might lose the use of my foot.  And that  would be unacceptable to me.  I think, perhaps, I am writing today to figure out where it is I stand with all of this.  (Again, if you’ll pardon the pun.  There are just far too many foot puns.)

So, last night, when my foot went out, I took my Nortriptyline, like I always do.  I struggled to get my jeans off and pajamas on over my stumpy boot-foot.  I used the ketamine gel that I only use when I really need it, because, frankly, it’s just too expensive to use more often.  I ran through my exercises.  I cussed while doing all of the above, because, frankly, it hurt like a motherfucker (you can consult the  McGill Pain Index to see exactly how much a motherfucker hurts, if you are curious ~ it’s a lot).

(Sorry.  That was rude.  I probably apologized last night for cussing, too, even though Shane was the only one in the room, and he was asleep.)

This morning, I got up and made coffee, and didn’t help much with getting kids ready for school, and drove Kaia to school.  Then I went to the store, because I had to.  I mean, I probably didn’t have to, but there were a few things we needed, so I did it.  At one point, as I was pushing my cart, a man said to me, “Oh, come on now ~ it can’t be that bad,” and I thought, “Fuck you,” but I didn’t say it, and I think he’s kind of lucky I didn’t say it, because, really, just a little bit, fuck him.  I mean, I get it.  He had no idea what I was going through today.  He has no idea what my life is like.  In fact, I have no idea what his life is like.  He might have a terrible time, for all I know.  But, you know what, it is that bad.  Sometimes, it really is that bad, and I guess, this morning, maybe that was evident, in my demeanor.  I know I was limping.  I know I was using my cart for support.  I can assume I was obviously not having a great time, or he would not have commented.  And yes, as a matter of fact, it really was that bad.  I guess, I’m lucky he didn’t ask me to smile.  Or maybe he is.

On the way out of the store, after I had paid, I noticed a woman walking directly behind me with her shopping cart.  “I’m sorry,” I said, as we made our way through the automatic door, “I’m very slow.”

“Oh, that’s okay,” she replied.  “So am I.” After a moment she added.  “At least we have our carts to lean on. I don’t know how I’d make it without that.”

“Yes,” I agreed, “that does help, doesn’t it?”

We walked very slowly to our cars together.

So, I’ve come to the end of this entry, and I haven’t figured out anything ~ except, perhaps, that, sometimes, it’s enough to know that someone else understands.

To Start Anew ~ by Sam

2017 finds us all poised at the breaking dawn of a fresh, new year.  A year full of hope, and promise and possibilities.  The problems, the struggles, the tears, the regrets, the trials, the toils of 2016 and before lay behind us, and what lies ahead is infinite and unknown.  People encourage us to move only forward, to cast off the negative, never looking back; but, like Lot’s wife, we find ourselves compelled to cast that glance aft, and then…

Then what?

Isn’t it our history that informs us?  Isn’t it our past that makes us what we are today?

And so, I offer this advice for the New Year: Don’t attempt to make a brand new start, as people suggest.  That is far too tall an order for anyone, and destined for failure.  Sure, go ahead, move forward.  But don’t just put one foot in front of the other and trudge blindly on.  Move forward informed by the past, strengthened by your experience, hardened in your resolve ~ battle-scarred and imperfectly-perfect, as are we all ~ ready to conquer whatever life happens to throw your way.

In that spirit, I give you my Resolutions for the New Year, in no particular order:

In 2017, I resolve to:

Be Kind.
Listen.
Visit Places.
Make Things.
Plant Things.
Play Music.
Take Care of Myself.
Cook.
Write.
Read.
Dance.
Laugh.
Sing.

I might clean some stuff, too.
Maybe.

I think I can handle that.

Wishing you and yours Peace, Love, Health & Happiness in the New Year and beyond.  With all of those things, how can we possibly go wrong?

New Year’s Eve Eve -by Sam

As I find myself looking back on the past year, I can’t help but think, “It’s been a rough one;” and the thing is, I’ve been here before. It’s starting to feel like I say this to myself at the end of a lot of years. You might be thinking, Oh, that must be a chronic illness thing. Some of you might be thinking (and some might be irritated about it), Is this about all of the famous people who have died this year? Is it about politics?

You know what, it’s not.

Well, or, maybe…maybe those things are all a little bit harder to take because everything is a little harder to take because there’s just always this underlying…well. Things have been difficult for our little family, dear friends and readers. The thing is, see, I don’t…well, this goes back to that complicated part of my last post, in which I talked about how I don’t talk about all of my business, because it’s not solely my business. So, I can’t just put it all out here for the world to see. In fact, I can’t put it all out anywhere, so, I am just kind of alone with it, and that’s very, very difficult for me. But I guess it’s normal, too.

What I mean is, you know, life’s not always a bowl of cherries. Or, well, maybe it is. But, maybe, sometimes, it’s not just a bowl. Maybe, sometimes, it’s a huge, steamy, rotten, mess of moldy cherries somebody bought a really long time ago, and no one ate, and they’ve been fucking sitting in your favourite chair for so long that they’ve started to decompose. Then, one day, you come home, sick and exhausted, and overwhelmed, unable to work, and in debt, and thinking, good god, if one more thing happens, it will put me over the edge!…and you flop down in that chair just as the phone rings to tell you that someone, somewhere needs you to come, immediately, to do something, or else the world will collapse, because, really, you’re supposed to be a superhero. And your coffee spills all over your lap, causing a chemical reaction with the rotten, moldy cherries, making their effect seemingly permanent.

So, now, everywhere you go, for the next two or three years (at least ~ jury’s out. This could be permanent) the rotten cherry funk is in your clothes, your skin, the very fiber of your being, maybe even your soul. It’s still in the chair, too, so other people in the household are going to be exposed, and there’s nothing you can do. It’s terrible stuff. It makes everyone miserable, and no one knows why, and no one knows how to talk about it, because no one even really knows what it is.  It is just so incredibly awful, so unexpected, so utterly preposterous.

And people can tell something is wrong, so they ask.

They keep asking.
“How are you?”
“Are you okay?”
“How’s the family?”

And, you know, society has these conventions, so you have to say,
“Oh, yeah, I’m fine.”
“We’re fine. “
“We’re great.”
“Everything’s good.”

But you know you’re not fooling anyone. You’re a lousy liar. You always have been, and you always will be.

To further complicate things, in the meantime, all of the normal, everyday things that happen in life keep happening around you and your moldy-ass cherries; and, you know, they’re totally normal things. Things that involve other people, but actually aren’t a huge problem. They’re little things, normal things, easy things that might be sort of challenging or, you know, require an adjustment in the way you think or do things; but they aren’t a big deal. They aren’t bad. They aren’t cause for strife or anguish or concern. It’s just that, sometimes, these people, who don’t know about your moldy cherry situation, they just don’t get that, and they think it’s all about them. Maybe we all think it’s all about us, all of the time. I guess that’s just the way humans are made.

And then, if you’re super lucky, you get not-a-diagnosis (which has nothing to do with the cherry situation, by the way, but conveniently occurs right on top of it), and they say to you, “Just keep on this band-aid*, and don’t take it off! I mean…we really don’t think you’ll bleed* profusely if you do, but DON’T TAKE IT OFF….just in case.” So you tell them, “Hey, you know, that’s…um…great and all, but…uh…I’d really like to know why I am having these symptoms.” And they tell you that what you can do, if you really want a diagnosis, is take off the band-aid, hook yourself up to a monitor for a few days that will cost roughly 8-gazillion bucks* and hope you bleed a lot during that time, so they can record it and figure out what’s happening. “Uh…” you say, “That sounds sort of…um…expensive…and dangerous…” They confirm that this is true, and so, you decide to keep your band-aid and lack of diagnosis, so, when people ask you what particular health problem you are having, you can now, officially, say, “Fuck if I know, man.”

So.

When I say it has been a hard year, I mean it has been a hard year. I mean it on a very personal level. I can’t say I don’t want to talk about it. I want so very much to talk about it. I mean, come on, guys, I’m a talker. It’s just, well, I can’t, because you’re not my therapist. I say I am alone with my problems, but the truth is I can go talk to a therapist, and so, at least there is a place where I can unload all of this bullshit, so I don’t have to unload it all on my family and friends, and that is good, I guess.   I mean, it’s expensive, and I will always have trouble spending money, because, no matter how much money we make, and no matter how many times I am told not to feel guilty about my current inability to work outside the home, I will always be made the way I am. It’s hard for me to spend money ~ especially money I did not earn. Also, I would rather talk to friends. Or even strangers that, you know, I’m not paying to listen to me. It just feels more natural, somehow. Therapy has never felt natural to me. I guess that’s just me. Also, it’s expensive. Did I mention that it is expensive? I’m kind of a cheapskate, in case you have forgotten.

Anyway…

I sat down and wrote this up today for two reasons:

One) I plan this year to get back to writing, and this seemed like a logical place to start. I can start journaling. Honestly, as I sit here writing, I don’t even know if I plan to share this with the world. I am writing this in a Word doc on my MacBook Air, and it may never see the light of day. If you are reading it, we will know what decision I made. Hopefully, writing this way will lead to other writing. Who knows? Maybe I will take a class. God knows I could use a little more class. (Ha. See? I’m funny)

Two) I need to get back to being me this year. I am not able to carry the weight of knowing I have this secret funk lurking in my life; and, even ‘though I cannot share details about it, I think just sharing the fact that there was a Thing, and it was Bad, might help. Just so people know that I actually have been dealing with something. You know, because I know people must have been wondering. I feel like I haven’t been true to myself. Like I have been presenting a façade to the world, and I don’t do that well. So, I guess this is me, very vaguely, coming clean. ish. sorta.

I know that, if I share this, people will, most likely, start all kinds of wild speculations about what The Thing was. Can I ask you a huge favour? Don’t. Please. Just…stop it. If it was your business, it would have happened to you. I know that’s a tall order. But, you know, it’s also a respect for privacy thing. I’m asking. I would do the same for you.

So, I guess, in a way, this is me, getting a jump on my New Year’s Resolutions.

I’m off to a decent start, really, if you count yesterday. I talked to my mom and dad, and my cousin, Alice, very briefly, on the phone. Left a message for one of my very best friends (will call another today). Texted back and forth with my big brother (because we are just so cool and modern like that), and set up a time to call and talk (we penciled each other in ~ I’m having my people call his people ~ we are ever so Important). Talked on the phone with my big sister, while going for a walk around the neighbourhood, thereby killing two birds with one stone (my least favourite idiom ~ so gruesome!). I also cleaned the bathrooms, dust-mopped all the hard floors, did some laundry, tidied up the house, worked in the yard a little, emptied the rain barrel (just in time for today’s rain), made a nice dinner, did my physical therapy, practiced banjo, and baked the last of the froggers. Then, I took a hot bath with Epsom salts, because some of that was a lot of work, and sat down to watch an episode of Major Crimes with Shane. I even worked a little bit on a ruffle scarf while watching.

This morning, I awoke to find the rain has come to wash away the dregs of 2016, and not a second too soon. So, today, I’ll balance the checkbook, and make sure all of the bills are paid. I might even make a pot of soup. Seems appropriate for a rainy Southern California day.

Wishing you all peace at the end of this year, whether or not it has been a rough one for you; and wishing us all a bright and beautiful New Year. I think we all deserve it.

 

*For clarification purposes: the terms “bleeding,” “band-aid,” and “8-gazillion dollars” are as analogous in this piece as cherries. I am not bleeding. Well, not at the moment. Give me time. I am very accident-prone. I do have a chronic health problem that requires constant medication. I would rather not be specific.  It’s a thing I do.