Panic on a gurney

silk tree flower
Silk tree flower, photo by Jericha Rendon

Two days ago I had another day surgery, related to the breast cancer surgery of June 13.  This was meant by the surgeon to be a simple event, draining a painful, annoying hematoma that didn’t seem to be shrinking on its own.  A twenty to thirty minute procedure.

Nothing went sideways till the cheerful young surgeon arrived after 9 a,m., garbed for the operating area, to inform me that since this was all being done in the Emergency Room, guess what — she was forced to give her skills first to an emergency gallbladder before she could do me.  She estimated it would take two or three hours.

Daughter Jericha arose early, took Elf and Opus for their morning run, and sat by me faithfully throughout the event.  Before it was over I was blubbering like an idiot as one awful memory after another from a previous hospitalization featuring six or seven orthopedic surgeries.  I went into that hospital at age nine, emerging at twelve and a half with a powerful determination to avoid doctors as much as I could for the rest of my life.  I’d also lost several years of elementary school education — but the results of that have been less painfully dealt with.

We had to do this day surgery by a circuitous route because of the demands of my Medicare Advantage insurance.  So, rather that having a relatively well scheduled day surgery, there was I, taking my place in the queue at the ER, complaining — as the doctor told me to do — of breast pain.  Finding one of the two wheelchair van parking spaces to be available in the hospital’s parking lot was a promising start.

I had so not wanted to have this operation, even urging the doctor to do it as a minor office procedure.  She couldn’t, though she didn’t say so at the time.  Later I understood — but in the two week period that elapsed between her telling me we would likely going to need this and me arriving to claim that parking space I had gone back into a childish state of mind, that existential fear of “being cut up”, of having the adults in the room make painful decisions for me without explanation, then me going through long and rather horrid period of recovering while encased in plaster.

Presenting a cheery demeanor to others, when alone I would sit around in my quiet apartment with the sympathetic dogs, shaking and twisting my hair, wondering how it was that my body — usually quick to heal — had failed me this time.  There was a hematoma in the surgical site that felt very much like one of those old fashioned stone or ceramic doorknobs we had in the old family home.

A large part of my resistance to this small surgery was that my daughter and her husband were scheduled to embark on a trip to visit East Coast family just a few hours after the operation.

The surgeon had a full schedule all week till Thursday, but did not want to postpone it any longer because there is a little clamoring from others for me to begin radiation treatment, while suggesting simultaneously that this hematoma thing had to go and I heal up first.  She was on board with “get this woman into radiation” but we had these outside time limits to work with.

And then the surgeon was unable to perform my simple little thing because of the gallbladder person.  Who turned out to offer her one complication after another.  For hours.  By two thirty she sent a message from the OR, “Another hour if we’re lucky.”

Doctors.  Once in, they can’t get out.  Can’t walk away from an open patient on the table to grab a bite to eat or sit down for a few minutes after ten hours of standing.  Man, you need terrific stamina and concentration to be a surgeon.

I have an intense dislike of IVs, particularly in my hand.  The day might have gone better if an ER nurse, not knowing about the surgical delay ahead, hadn’t insisting on inserting the thing into the back of my hand.  Five hours later, when at last the call came to move my gurney from the Emergency Room to the surgical prep region, it had gone bad, and there was a small balloon on my hand.

Another nurse removed that one, gave the area some lidocaine, and put a new IV into my wrist.  Owwwwwwch!

Alas, I have never liked lying on my back, yet that’s what I did from 9 a.m. till 3:30 p.m. or so, when things began moving that horrid resting place on wheels from the holding area towards the OR.  Freeing my hungry daughter to head for the cafeteria at last.  Me, I had eaten nothing for twenty four hours.  She would bring me some hummus and pita chips for later.

At first we read, played animal trivia, considered some events in the news, talked and generally enjoyed the opportunity to be there together without the usual pressure for my busy daughter to rush off.

Eventually, though, my bad back began its typical laments, which grow louder and louder with time.  Red hot demons with sharp hammers took over the lower back until I was ready to screech.  I was not allowed to take my mid-day dose of acetaminophen and gabapentin, but nurses did urge me to take some kind of opiod.

I told them gently that since I had nearly become a demerol addict back in the horrid hospital I continue to follow a no-opioids-until-I’m-dying-for-sure regime.

They tactfully left Jericha to do her best to keep me from become seriously troublesome.

Nearby in the ER was a very large woman in a very large power wheelchair, who had a big swelling on one side of her face.  Listening to one of the doctors addressing her forcefully about the need to spend the night in the hospital for observation, yet keep turning to a nurse and saying, “Look at her face, she’s not understanding anything, she’s not really here” then throwing up his hands and walking away.   He shouted, “You could have trouble breathing and die!” Treating the woman like a block of wood — it enkindled a long-forgotten rage at medical professionals.  I just knew she was understanding every word.

An inner chant started in my mind, “Lady, roll out, lady, go home, lady, don’t let them treat you like that for two more seconds!!”

And she was understanding perfectly, because she berated the next set of medical people to approach her.  “I want to go home to my dog!  I did not come here to spend a night in the hospital!”

It looked as though she won her point, because she packed her things, shoved the curtains aside and seemed only to be waiting for her discharge papers when I last saw her.  I am hoping very much that she and her dog are okay.

Then the old memories began to bubble up as I lay motionless on the gurney.  I never lie on my back, as it is quite uncomfortable, and here I was, forced to do that for over six hours.  The gurney’s back went up and down, but there was not a lot of comfort in that.  I could not move much with that IV thing stuck in my hand, since I’m paralyzed below the shoulders I need two hands to move around.

And so it was that grumbly me fell victim to such forgotten surgical dramas as a ten year old girl sitting up on another gurney with a thinner mattress, howling tearfully at the surgical team that “I want my mommy!  I want to know what you are going to do to me and I want to know why!!!!”

And getting no answer.  One of the doctors had a little ditty he would sing to me:  “Women are frivolous, women are frivolous.”  Now I wish I had whacked him, then I just stared, wondering what that notion had to do with anything.

I would work myself up into such a state of fury that they had to cancel the surgery.  Once or twice.

Then there came the day when they wheeled me into the”operating theatre”, now knowing that I had decided that neither love nor money would tempt me to succumb to their anesthesia — and I did not.  Cancel surgery again.

However, the reward for that was being firmly masked and forced to breathe ether the next four or five times.  Ether is a dreadful thing — for years the smell, the enveloping wooziness of the stuff, would come back to me in the midst of whatever activity I was busy with, stopping me cold.  Nearly six decades later it still does, though not very often.

Nevertheless I still fought.  Successfully enough that during one spinal fusion procedure I came to well ahead of schedule, listening to the doctors talking about all kinds of things other than myself, before they noticed that I was perfectly conscious.  “Lie still just a minute while we get you sewed up” was  not a particularly pleasant thing to hear.  From there I was loaded with considerable care onto a gurney and taken to the casting room.  The technician there faced the challenge of getting me encased from head to toe in plaster without moving me much, and destroying the just-performed spinal fusion.  And he had to do it with me demanding to know what was going on every step of the way.  No doubt wishing devoutly that the anesthesia had kept me under till he was done with his work.

Much as I hated the surgeries heart and soul, the aftermath was worse.  Orthopedic surgeries are painful.  Those hammer wielding red-hot demons would pound up and down my spine, in my legs that the doctors broke in order to rotate my tibias, through my hips, my legs, my abdomen.

Yet the most dreadful memory tearing at me on Thursday involved the long, long waits lying on gurneys in hospital corridors, awaiting my turn to be wheeled in, taking my position beneath the waiting hands and instruments of robed, masked, full sized demons who would never explain a thing to me, would rip off my johnny, summarily roll me over and stick needles in my spine.  Or draw and write all over me, loudly debating their surgical possibilities.

And so on.   What I wanted, oh so badly, was to be out in a field with horse friends, picking flowers, eating apples off the trees, smelling fresh  air again.  I was as pale from the many months in that hospital as though I’d been living like Gollum, in the back of a cave or the bottom of a well.

My daughter and a nurse named Emmanuel bore the burden of my tearful memories, the uncontrollable shaking they brought on, the misery of having to lie on that frickin’ gurney for hours, and painful needle thingy stuck in my hand.

But when my surgeon popped in looking less sparkly than usual for her — but still full of interest in the surgery she was about to perform (on me), my dimmed spirits shot up and life began to seem possible once again.  Life in the present, the past be left where it belongs.

I loved that she and the anesthesiologist listened when I said I wanted — needed — the least strong anesthetic possible.  Since my daughter was on an ever tightening deadline, and she would be required to drive groggy me home down the highway, we were going to have to take the driver’s seat out and make other adjustments to the van at her house, from which I would have to drive myself home.  The distance is only a couple of blocks, but still — one needs wits.  I loved that the anesthesiologist was a cheerful, warm fellow who explained everything to me.  And did, indeed, give me something that did not leave me groggy, nauseated or otherwise in need of time that wasn’t available.

By the time they one-two-threed me off the horrible gurney and onto the green sheeted, narrow OR table in a freezing room I felt thoroughly engaged and cheerful.

I went out like a light for about twenty minutes, and woke up still on the table, the friendly team still all around doing whatever they do in there, chit chatting with each other and me, explaining that everything went fast and well — Whoo hoo!

Getting one-to-threed back onto the gurney didn’t bother me a bit.

Sensitive to my twenty four hour state of foodlessness the recovery room nurse offered me saltines.  I grabbed the two in a little packet like a starving person, took a chomp out of one.  Oh, how good it tasted!  Then ….  How come I am still chewing this thing?  …. Uh, I’m still chewing this thing?   How come I don’t seem to be swallowing it?  Why is it sticking to my teeth like cement?  Ummmmm, I can’t swallow because — yikes dry mouth!

I had to swig water to get two tiny saltines down in a ten minute time frame.  It felt like swallowing chewing gum.

We did get home in time for my daughter to show the teenage twin fellows who are walking Elf and Opus twice a day in her absence.  I do the mid-day event, which is shorter due to Fresno’s intense heat.

She and Paco did get off to start their trip, and here I am, doing my best to heal (again), to say farewell to some old demonic memories.

Things all turned out well, exactly as they should, despite my kicking and fussing on that accursed gurney. I don’t think I’ll ever again agree to do a quick little day surgery that starts in an Emergency Room.

Another good thing to come of the long day was that I got the chance to weigh myself again on the big scale in the surgical prep/recovery area.  I went on a diet the day of the breast cancer surgery.  Since then I’ve lost almost nine pounds — and that on a woman who gets very little exercise.

If I could just get Elf and Opus to pat me on the back I’d feel like a champ.

 

Oh tubby me — oh!

The tune for this blog name goes along with the fine and impressive aria O sole mio.

As a token of my appreciation of the new ear worm in my head, I give you, for three minutes and twenty one seconds, Signor Luciano Pavarotti, no twiggy build himself.

My unexpected area of focus on the day of my breast cancer surgery (June 13) was — embarrassingly — my weight.  A scale in the surgical prep area was the first one in a dozen years that I’ve been able to stand on, crutches and braces along for the ride.  It had a broad, non wobbly base and a strong railing around it.

My moments on the device disclosed that I am some twenty pounds heavier than I thought I was.  Er… pretended I thought I was, if we are being honest.  And what would be the point of fibbing to my blog?

Photos taken of me on such occasions as my daughter’s wedding and a pleasant trip to Fresno’s Japanese Garden gave me to speculate that I might be reaching more of a barrel shape than the woman shape I previously thought I had.  The surface mind poo poo-ed the notion that these images depicted the actual Emily.

The Inner Emily, nonetheless, was deep into panic mode.  Because, well, how DOES one shed weight when so many hours a day are spent in a lovely power wheelchair?

Here, for your studious picturing of me lounging around in my upcoming new, attitude-laden wheelchair is the manufacturer’s image of it and its capabilities:

tru-balance-3-q6-edge-2.0-electric-blue
Quantum Tru-Balance 3 Edge 2.0

 

 

Twenty pounds is a great deal of extra personal real estate for a very short person to cart around.

me in the recovery room
Here I lie in the recovery room, groggy and fuming…  Feeling like a dirigible.  My daughter took the photo.

Thus about the time I groggily noticed that the world was still there as the anesthesia wore off my mind began plotting means of dropping the excess Me.

The problem has not been that I eat too much.  My vegetarian diet has included almost no refined grains, little fat or sugar, lots of fruit and veggies, for years.   So maybe there’s been rather too much cheese, but who was counting?

Never slim because that’s not my body type, with or without the polio, my okay weight began shifting into bad three and a half years ago when my shoulders started with severe issues.  The doctor thought this would be either rotator cuff injuries or the wear and tear of walking around with wooden crutches for sixty five years.  Or both.  Didn’t make any difference to me what the cause was — I was, due to the incapacitated shoulders, quite unable to push myself up into the cab of my faithful pickup truck and get myself to an Albuquerque medical center for an MRI.

So I pampered the shoulders for a few months until they stopped with the hurting.  However, once recovered they were weak and unable to bear much weight.  Or allow me to walk around for long before my arms would start to go numb.

That sort of thing took away much of my ability to do things like yard work that had once given me pretty good workouts.  Less walking around is an obvious calorie enhancing activity.

So here I am.

For now I am doing the Dr. Fuhrman Eat to Live diet, which helped in the past when I also wasn’t equal to much exercise.   It’s vegan, with very little fat or sugar, tons of veggies fresh and cooked, plenty of fruit.  Legumes, a few nuts and such are encouraged.

I’ve been at it for over a week now and my clothes feel slightly looser.  Wahoo!

Meantime, Fresno temperatures have been in the range of 108º for days, rather quelling even the dogs’ enthusiasm for outdoor exercise.  But we have managed to record a few of the lovely flowers and trees around us.  Very healing enhancing, these lovely things are.

We now put our paws on oranges and olives

Olives and oranges dot backyards and some sidewalks here in Fresno.  In lots of other California localities as well.  This is, however, a bit of an anomaly for Elf, Opus and me, being fresh from New Mexico where neither tree grows, much.

Whoever thought these dogs might find themselves No-No’d for trying to snack on the fallen fruits?

 

A corgi is a

serious sort of dorgi

Funny and regal by turns

^^^

Dachs-terr, one bundle

Of snuggles and heart tugs

Soft eyes shine with joy

We have begun The Official Birthday Month of Elf the Corgi and Opus the Dachshund/Terrier.  Elf having been born seven years ago as of April 8, Opus twelve years as of May 1.

I figured there is no harm in giving them an entire month (almost) of being special between their natal observances this year, our first in Fresno, California.

These days when the two set forth on their trots around the ‘hood the fragrance of orange blossoms is powerful along the driveway behind out apartment compound and the lovely homes behind us.  The olive tree marks its presence by dropping lots of black  — very, very black — olives all over the backyard in which it stands.

Feral cats and brazen Mockingbirds, as well as the occasional tiny little chi-dog zooming by in its minuscule sweater, give E & O the urge to leap after them.  Alas, they have pretty much learned the hard city lesson about walking on bungee leashes.

Elf has been with me since the first few weeks of her life.  Opus for exactly half of his.  Do they ever miss the lovely dog door and fenced back yard they had in New Mexico?  Hard to be sure.  I suspect the company of my daughter, Jericha, and her husband, Francisco, goes far to dim any memories of the pleasure of running in and out at will.  Their outings are certainly more varied and far ranging than they were in our former little back yard.

In fact, we have all made a pretty good adjustment to city life, in California to boot.

Happy birthday, you little ones.  May your paws long take you through pretty vistas, where Mockers sing you their dazzling repertoires and olives might tumble on your innocent heads.

Silvio Rodriguez, the long-time Cuban poet/folk singer, often provides background music for me when I am a creative mood.  I love his gentle, thoughtful music and musings.  So today I am including ¿A Donde Van? (Where Are You Going?).  It’s a delightful wondering about what becomes of us, and things.  For an amusing insight into what it might mean, try using Google translate to give an English approximation of the Spanish lyrics.  For example:

What will my old shoes be converted to? 

Where did they go to give so many leaves of a tree? 

Where are the anxieties 

That from your eyes they jumped for me? 

It is a lovely song, though…

¿A Donde Van?

Elf the Corgi’s Bad Day

Today her humans are celebrating the birthday of one of Elf the Corgi’s best friends, name of Jericha.  Spirits are light, brightness sets the air a-sparkle, and Elf’s eyes shine as well.

But earlier in the week she was struggling with unfamiliar pains in her lady-dog bits.  It hurt to pee, and the stalwart corgi was at her wits end about getting the problem fixed.  Much as she steadfastly kept on keeping on, this was getting worse, not better.

Eventually things came to a head, as they will do in such cases. Jericha, who has been hemophobic off and on from a tender age, was leading Elf and Opus around the big block they now inhabit in the city of Fresno, California when Elf squatted to pee for the third time of the morning.  Why did this normal thing hurt so much?

Jericha happened to glance at Elf’s back end during the process.

Turning white, she asked Elf’s human, who is Jericha’s mother, “Do you see something red?”  Uh oh, Human sure did.  Bright blood both on the ground, and around a certain spot on the corgi’s iconic, rounded backside.

Jericha had also caught sight of the red spot and pretty quickly she was sinking to her knees, right there on the sidewalk.  Human took over the dog leash, a coupler shared by Elf and her partner in dragging humans along, Opus the Dachs-Terr.  Elf’s human does not walk the dogs on the coupler as the pair of them, in deciding to take off after a taunting squirrel, might just pull her out of her power wheelchair.

So the three stood by as Jericha gradually recovered from her near faint.  Up she stood, off they stepped — for about ten feet, till Jericha again caught sight of the small dog’s rear and went down again.  The process was repeated another time or two before the four of them regained the Human’s apartment, allowing Jericha to lie down on something much more comfortable than a sidewalk for a good long while.

opus-snuggled-up
Opus in a favorite spot

Opus, aware of the center of attention his canine companion had become, calmly climbed up onto a sofa and went back to his preferred indoor occupation — snuggling under covers.

It was now Elf’s human’s turn to turn white, as she reflected over what blood in one’s urine often means for human beings.  Web searches revealed that in dogs the top cause is urinary tract infections (UTIs) and bladder stones, though the horrible malignant possibilities are also present.

Time to find the dogs their second brand new veterinary hospital in seven months.

Being a sensitive little creature, Elf spent her next hours commiserating with the woman lying so pale and listless on the sofa and the one staring rigidly at the laptop screen in the den.  Absently they would reach down and rub her big ears and the itchy spots around her neck — but she was not fooled.  The were scared, and nervous.  About her.

Several hours elapsed before she found herself being loaded into her traveling crate in the Human’s van, hurtling up State Highway 41 to the new vet’s office.  There, after what seemed an interminable wait punctuated by a prancing, if sickly, boxer, an adorable little ginger colored chihuahua who was a  ferocious biter of human hands that tried to pet him, and a cat craftily sneaked past the dogs in a crate by a vet tech, she was deposited onto a high steel table to have her vitals measured, notes vigorously typed into a computer over her head, and lots of absent minded petting by her humans.

The light tone of the vet tech did not fool the corgi at all — these people were worried, markedly worried.  She was too — about missing her dinner time.

elf-at-vets-2
Elf looking frightened, as Jericha comforts her

Eventually a silent big woman carried her off to the back regions, leaving her people alone in the examining room.  The woman put her on her back on a strange table with a depression in the middle, turning her one way and another for some mysterious process called X-rays.  Then her lower tummy was wet down with isopropyl alcohol, she felt a prick and saw the woman looking pleased to see a lot of red fluid flowing in some sort of tube coming out of Elf’s belly.  She was glad when that part ended and she was escorted back to her humans — relieved, and none the worse for the wear.

She did not fully understand the words the doctor said, but she well grasped the relief the humans were showing.  He had told them that, while nothing could be ruled out, this looked more like a UTI than anything.

Her humans got a supply of antibiotics for her, and to her immense delight she did not miss dinnertime.

For the next couple of days Elf spent as much time as possible sprawled by the humans as they carried on with the long process of moving her particular Human into the new apartment.  Numerous heavy boxes of books were emptied, books lined up on shelves in various areas of the spacious apartment.

Surrounded by the familiar smells of the furnishings that had accompanied herself and Opus from their longtime home in New Mexico, to Mountain View in the Bay Area for seven months, and finally now down to California’s Central Valley, the small dog began, at last, to feel an easing of a long time tension in her humans.

elf-outside-den
Elf takes up guard outside the Human’s den

She was healing, getting that warm cheese with a funny little hard thing in the middle twice a day was a fantastic treat, and what’s more, Miz Jericha was remaining firmly on her feet during every walk.

Bring on the squirrels.

Meanwhile, the Human is seeing a new doctor in Fresno, and hopes to get a good bill of health, herself, after all the tests he feels she needs.  He is a Sikh, and wears a turban. This is a most interesting development in Human’s nearly lifelong closeness to medical professionals.   It’s been a while  since she’s had a serious medical review, and this doctor seems intent on getting that job done.

Ow, it will take a great many squirrels to ease the Humans’s mind!

A song for the mood here… Cuban singer Silvio Rodriguez, ¿QUÈ HAGO AHORA?

In case you are wondering about the lyrics:

¿dónde pongo lo hallado,
en las calles, los libros, las noches ,
los rostros en que te he buscado?
¿dónde pongo lo hallado,
en la tierra, en tu nombre, en la biblia,
en el dia que al fin te he encontrado?
¿que le digo a la muerte
tantas veces llamada a mi lado
que al cabo se ha vuelto mi hermana?
¿que le digo a la gloria
vacia de estar solo
haciendome el triste, haciendome el lobo?
¿que le digo a los perros
que se iban conmigo en noches
perdidas de estar sin amigos?
¿que le digo a la luna
que crei compañera de noches
y noches sin ser verdadera?
¿que hago ahora contigo?
las palomas que van a dormir a los
parques ya no hablan conmigo.
¿que hago ahora contigo?
ahora que eres la luna, los perros,
las noches, todos los amigos.

Death Valley: Wherever You Go, There You Are

Death Valley is certainly its own kind of place on Earth. When my daughter and I spent time there back in February, 1998, we were living in New Mexico. Which also features that sort of wide, wide, open, open space that feels as though nobody will ever occupy it on a full time basis. Thus I am intrigued with the way DV felt to a person who lives in upstate New York. She noticed the lack of green. When we were there DV had enjoyed a mite of moisture so flowers had shot up and shoved aggressively colored blooms towards the sky, ready to get pollinated and set seed before the soil would crack open again.

For fun I am reposting this blog. Death Valley is a great spot, wherever we come from to visit. One day I’d like to check in on it one more time. 🙂

CREATIVE JOURNEYWOMAN

death-valley The world stretches wide open. Badwater Basin, Death Valley, CA.

Once in my life I could truly say I was at my lowest point. The lowest point in North America, that is, at approximately 282 feet below sea level in Badwater Basin. And it wasn’t a bad thing at all. Instead it was a journey I’ll never forget, a trip to Death Valley several years ago that changed my idea of what natural beauty meant forever.

The desert had never held much fascination for me. I’d been to Arizona a few times as a child, and remembered finding it interesting but so very brown. I love trees and green, growing things. And the arid landscape I recalled in my mind’s eye always seemed to be lacking somehow, in life, in shade, in mercy.

But then I travelled to Death Valley, California. And though green and growing things were few and far between, life was still there, waiting.

From the…

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Hummingbirds and oranges for the holidays

The holiday season just ending presented a curious feel to it this time around.  There were Christmas lights draped on a large balcony in the building behind ours, while below them stood glowing orange globes on a sturdy little tree — fruit, actually.  Oranges, uh huh.

A friend sent a gift of many delicious lemons from one of her trees last week.

Although lots of trees have dropped their leaves and it is pretty cool day and night hummingbirds have been buzzing around our balcony feeder non stop since summer. The species present are mainly Anna’s right now, though the odd Blackchin can’t be ruled out.  There’s been a night or two just below freezing, when the tiny birds showed up extra early, sticking around longer than normal.  Little energy wasted on chasing one another.

The oleander trees have flower buds, while a tall sycamore flaunts dark yellow feathery flowers three stories above us.

Meanwhile, across the region marches a series of storms, drenching the northern part of the state, piling snow many, many feet high in the Sierra Nevadas to the east.  Yosemite is being buried as I write.  While I’m used to the West and the effects mountains have on weather I have to admit that the variety of Northern California climates occasionally makes my head spin.

my-new-sprouts-bag
A sign of my growing bond with the state, a new Sprouts bag!  I like bears, and listen interestedly to plans about reintroducing Grizzlies in remote spots in the California mountains.  Big brown bears such as Grizzles help people keep a perspective that is healthy, I think.

Here we are bundling up as for New Mexico winter to take the dogs for a midday walk, during which we spot …. hummingbirds! …. dashing from one oleander to another.  Since there are no actively flowering bushes in our surroundings at present it is good to know that the small creatures also eat tiny bugs, which I hope crawl out from beneath bark in the sunshine.  Condo neighbors seem to have mostly removed hummer feeders for the winter.

The most up-close-and-personal change has to do with the transformation of our pleasant condo into a wedding warehouse and assembly line.  With Jericha and Paco’s marriage a week away we have 75 pounds of table linens stacked in boxes.  That is seventy five pounds of table stuff!!  Would the Waldorf Astoria need that much for three hours one day?

There are sheer curtains which my daughter and a small army of friends have transformed with crepe paper strips (on the back side) to offer gentle colors when hanging in the many large windows (with indifferent views) at the wedding venue.  More sheer curtains have had LED light strings attached, to hang behind the raised stage at the head of the room, glowing during the ceremony.  We have been gluing lovely quotations, printed on vellum, inside three of the six sides of small jars she found to serve as wedding favors.  Into the jars go small strings of LEDs, with switches craftily held above view in pretty netting just under the lids, tied tight outside with ribbons.

Earlier today Jericha baked an experimental batch of the cupcakes she wants to have stacked up into a wedding cake shape.  We’ve happily been fattening ourselves on the things — which, full of butter and honey, along with fine cornmeal and almond flour — are making their way towards “you can’t have just one” fare.

This evening the kitchen workshop is open for creating huge paper flowers out of gigantic coffee filters.

Also this evening we are having rain.  So good for this region with a six-year drought, so slowing for getting one’s wedding errands done.

Besides living in my daughter’s dreams of a beautiful wedding in which she imagines and then creates most of the decorations with help from a special wedding planner friend, and many good hands, I’ve continued to get grounded with my new state, and enjoyed reconnecting with several good friends I hadn’t seen or spoken with in a long while.

Amidst this cheerful disarray came along my birthday on the 6th. Not seventy yet, but working on it…  That idea brings to my grasshopper mind yet another view of the ways in which my life has changed since last June.  Jericha and Shirley, our roommate in the condo, took me for a birthday lunch at a Himalayan restaurant next to the preschool where they both work.

It was Friday, a day when great numbers of tech industry employees love to grab a longish lunch.  We had a bit of a wait to get in…  In line with Asian men of different ages.  After we finally took our places at a small table there was time to look around.  Cheerful paper lanterns hung from ceiling beams, bearing the message of a Happy New Year.

While munching my way through excellent Indian food that calm feeling came over me  that can settle when I’m in a new, good mind space.  Looking around I realized that there were over a hundred people sitting at long tables, mostly in large groups.  That we three women were a) one of perhaps five women in the entire restaurant, and b) besides one distant man we three were the only pale faces that I could see.  To which it isn’t too much speculation to say that we were also in a wee minority of diners not employed by Google.

These things made me smile, all the more when, as we were leaving, Shirley wished me a happy birthday and right afterwards a friendly hand touched my shoulder, a young man leaned towards me and murmured, “Happy Bird-day!”

That one little gesture lighted me up in the midst of what was already a specially good day.

This was all the more relished since the many changes in life of late may bring happiness to the heart one day, yet sadness will invade the next.  Sadness for what (and who) is now gone forever.  Making this an appropriate moment, perhaps, to suggest that we not hesitate to offer a smile, a small compliment or bit of help to some complete stranger, randomly.  It makes a difference, it really does.

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Jericha planning table designs, taking photos for her wedding planner friend

On New Year’s Eve

When a blogger friend suggested that as this unusual year, 2016, comes to an end we reflect on  our personal positive aspects of it, the idea appealed.

That’s a promise and a threat to me, really. The way I usually meet life, as a series of actions and reactions, causes and consequences needing to be considered before jumping headfirst.  Finally, as being what I willfully choose to ignore when inevitably struck by a determination to get right in there.

Early in the year I promised myself that I would at last pull up the gumption and the wherewithal to shut my mouth and put paid to the business of selling my last home, in New Mexico, in favor of the more nomadic life of an apartment dweller, in California.  That’s where daughter Jericha has been for some years.  This inner discussion had occupied my stew pot of a mind for a long time.

So — we did it, and in 2016, to boot!  Never would this have happened without a bit of help

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Brian at an early stage of loading our truck

from our friends.  Two of them trekked from California to the middle of New Mexico where they labored in June heat loading a mountain of furniture, kitchen gear, clothing, wheelchairs, saved crutches and leg braces, books, bonsai and artwork into what had at first looked like a huge (or is that  pronounced “yuge” of late?) U-Haul.  Ha!  Barely standing room for two humans remained after the truck was packed, floor to ceiling.

Part of my brain had been denying that this packing job would ever be completed.

There was personal sacrifice and faith involved in this move.  Jericha gave up her comfortable apartment with same-age friends in order to share rented condo space with her mother and a middle aged teacher friend; none of us could afford Silicon Valley rental rates alone.  I sold my sturdy, eleven year old Ford Ranger with its wheelchair lift since it no longer really served my needs.  That left me for the first time in forty-six years with no wheels of my own.  Flat scary.  The trip in a rented Ford Taurus was uncomfortable in many ways, the motels pretty bad for wheelchair-bound me, and the timetable kept us on the road for more hours than my back chose to accept gracefully.

On the super plus side, Elf the Corgi and Opus the Dachs-Terr mix proved themselves to be good travelers, excited about exploring, accepting of their coupled leashes and hurried meals in motel rooms.

As time moved along in the beautiful Bay Area my views of how a life is lived adapted as they generally do.  Some things got better — Jericha  rediscovered a certain handsome friend whom she will be marrying in two weeks — while I finally decided that saving the proceeds of house selling (meager by California standards) would not make me as happy as getting a used wheelchair van.  So I did that — staking out at least a modicum of independence going into a new life in yet another new location — Fresno.

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Paco and Jericha

And some things got no better.  My post polio syndrome, for one.  And I did not lose any of the extra pounds I’ve gained over the three years since my shoulders began acting up.  A goal for the upcoming new location.

The significant decisions we made took place against the backdrop of the USA’s most horrible presidential election ever.  What seemed a laughable candidacy by a yugely unqualified individual abruptly turned into his victory, so hotly contested by himself and unbelieved in by so many that it first stunned at least half the nation, then plunged large numbers into the kind of darkness that does not quickly ebb.  There are still people shedding tears over what is happening to the country on a daily basis.

I admit to having sniffled steadily through election night and much of the following day, off and on for some time after that.  Yet… the good in it at first came to me as something along the order of, “Well, at least now we have something wonderful to look forward to — the end of this particular period down the line.”  Then, of course, hit the realization that this rise in favor that populism is experiencing is spreading around the world, that things are going to change for many others quite apart from the new regime in the US, the increasing cyber threats we seem quite unprepared for, among other things.

Also striking me, as the currently popular saying that “You don’t know what you don’t know” suggests, there are way more things we don’t know about one another and about our little planet with its complex systems of life than there are that we do understand.

Eventually the reflection swam into consciousness that what is happening represents undercurrents long present, yet not acted upon, bringing to attention long neglected injustices and darkness.  There is no longer a way in which we can move forward as the human race without first facing up to certain things.  Racism, sexism, human rights including women, LGBT, disabled; jobs lost to unstoppable globalisation; the changing climate; the lack of critical thinking skills that place us in jeopardy from threats we cannot begin to visualize otherwise about these issues, and others.

We look for so many demons now that we forget to look at the simpler things that bring people together, shared feelings and goals, courtesies, looking for the good in others, finding joy in learning about people we have never encountered before, joy in learning about the world, how things open up when we set aside preconceived ideas (little more than prejudices, often) on choose instead to open our minds.

For the USA — indeed, the world — to move forward into a more just, equitable era we must face the long festering issues, work them out — together.  We also must remedy simmering resentments towards people who are unlike ourselves, whose lives do not resemble our own in the slightest, of whose life styles and orientations are opposite to our own.

Whoever we are, we need to learn to coexist with differences, to stop belittling, degrading those with whom we disagree.  To speak up for what we believe to be just and fair, no matter if agents of the current government seem to be moving us steadily back into 1953 — to pull any old year out of a hat.  That was the year when I met my first personal armageddon in the form of paralytic polio.  It was also before leaders in the oil industry decided to deceive the public about the hazards posed to the planet by excessive burning of fossil fuels, before widespread deforestation, before civil rights became a front-and-center issue, before women began to speak out so frequently for themselves, with no husband or father standing beside them to explain their beliefs.

It was before excellent means of travel was nearly as well advanced as now, and there was no internet or cell phones in constant use.  Before the US had a national highway system.

It was also well before the US, as a nation, lost the ingrained courtesy and respect for most people that made life far more pleasant and comfortable than it now is.

All of us need to inhabit the same world in a courteous manner, to handle differences with grace.  Right now in our knock-‘em-when-they’re-down reality TV worldview such characteristics are scarce, indeed.

Someone noted the other day that conditions in the world at present are frighteningly similar to right before World War I broke out.  Ah, thought I, that “last gentlemen’s war”.  The “war to end all wars.”  Right.  Since the days of Albert Einstein it is, however, clear and evident that another world war can never be fought if we, and the planet, are to carry on with much semblance of life as we have long known it.

So now is the time when we learn to work our differences through in ways that don’t involve ignoring one another or plotting elimination of people who don’t fit into our ideas of the way our various countries should look.  Or it is the time when we knock ourselves into global chaos, potentially involving oblivion.

Many people have commented on the number of special celebrities who died in the last twelve months, what shades of sadness those departures from the world stage have cast into their lives.

Well, I’m no different.  I was stricken with the death of Alan Rickman early on, knocked over several times more as months marched by.

While I find his last album too dark I found myself listening to it again this last morning of 2016 — as the representation of the passing of a generation, a way of seeing the world, so familiar to me back in the 1960s folk scene.  The song “Steer your way” provides some food for thought, so I include below a uTube of it.

By the time Princess Leia — Carrie Fisher — breathed her last I was all primed to bawl like an infant the moment I read about it.  Selfishly I found myself wondering what right these entertainers had to leave us when we need more of their performances.  Surely we’ll be seeing more of Professor Snape one day?  A retrospective peek into his wizardly espionage career, perhaps?  Plus I was touched by  the possible last words of Debbie Reynolds, who was Fisher’s mother.  “I want to be with Carrie,” she told her son.  A tiny part of me understood that, since it wanted to be with at least some of the departed celebrities rather than facing what is beginning to unfold in our world.

So as the last couple of hours to 2016 tick away, here am I with this thought:

… When we consider outcomes in the world of existence, we find that peace and fellowship are factors of upbuilding and betterment, whereas war and strife are the causes of destruction and disintegration. All created things are expressions of the affinity and cohesion of elementary substances, and nonexistence is the absence of their attraction and agreement. Various elements unite harmoniously in composition, but when these elements become discordant, repelling each other, decomposition and nonexistence result. Everything partakes of this nature and is subject to this principle, for the creative foundation in all its degrees and kingdoms is an expression or outcome of love.

~Baha’i

Steer Your Way, from Leonard Cohen’s last album, You Want It Darker