Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

COVID and Escambia County

I love my new neighbors in my little house with the sunsets. Early in the morning, as I was hanging my swimsuit out to dry, I saw her and her daughter also out in their backyard, and strolled over to say “Hey!”

She held out her hands in warning. “Don’t come any nearer!” She explained her youngest daughter was in quarantine, her entire high school was quarantined, students, faculty, administration. My friend is a dear woman, she had to quarantine her husband in the basement far away from his infectious daughter, due to health issues. I later learned – not from my neighbor – the school blames a “secret” Halloween party that ended up being a huge crowd event. A super spreader.

Sigh. Honestly, I can’t blame the kids. There is a belief around here that the COVID virus makes you a little uncomfortable and then you get over it. The majority of the adults don’t bother with masks.

We continue to be careful in our little bubble. Today, we drove out to a restaurant we like in the more rural north part of town. We planned, if it were not too crowded, to eat there, but it was too crowded. As we waited, masked, just us and the management and wait staff, not a single other person coming in to order, whether for pick up or for dine in, was masked.

The case rate in Florida is once again rising rapidly. The death rate is rising once again. I have a sinking feeling that the normal big family Thanksgivings will take place here as usual, with a resulting spike in cases and deaths. I am so sick of hunkering down, and I just tell myself to get a grip, I take enough risks, don’t take this one.

November 14, 2020 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Community, Cultural, Eating Out, Florida, Friends & Friendship, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Safety, Social Issues, Thanksgiving | Leave a comment

It’s Personal: Quality of Life

In this endless year of 2020, among all the other changes, life gave us a chance to make another move. My Mother’s death of COVID in April brought a restlessness, and a need to divest ourselves of the sorts of detritus which can accumulate if you live for ten years in one place, which we have never done before. I wanted a smaller house, and I wanted a view of the water, particularly the Bayou. Finding a small house on the Bayou is like searching for a unicorn.

But, the perfect house came available. It was a house we had owned before, and sold, and were able to buy back. The transactions were complicated, and we currently live in our smaller house and have a larger house on the market.

Getting rid of stuff was hard and easy. Some stuff we just tossed. Some we directed to people who might make use of it. Nine boxes full of wonderful finds from the Middle East went to my niece, who is a Professor of Middle East Studies; her children particularly love the clock with the call to prayer.

Every night, we can watch the sun setting across the Bayou from our choice of eight different windows, and a porch. I can lose hours watching the light shift on the Bayou, or a storm blow in from across the waters. I can thrill to the boats passing by, or putting out lines to catch a fish or two, and the dive of the pelican thrills my heart.

“Are you happy here?” AdventureMan asks me frequently, because he knows I am. He can see it in my smile. We both have offices with views out over the water. It reminds me very much of our eagle’s nest in Kuwait, where we could see for miles out over the Arabian Gulf, watch the batteels and dhows, watch families picnic and float around the Gulf in the park across the street, or the occasional horrific car crashes which happened in our front yard. Houseguests were spellbound by the endlessly beautiful and surprising views from our tenth floor tower.

And now, I have the same, a fitness track, a Bayou, a nightly sunset, squirrels, pelicans, hurricanes, an endless source of entertainment.

As I work on my masks, I watch the sun glint off the long needles of the pine tree my husband believes is too close to the house. I don’t want him to chop this one down; not only do I have this lovely play of light on dark, but also in the early morning, the smell of pine pitch makes the air seem fresh and maybe a little cooler.

We find we actually like living in less space. The house is arranged beautifully, with open public areas and a door that closes off the family bedrooms and offices. Quality of life is in the details that delight the heart.

October 12, 2020 Posted by | Aging, Beauty, Circle of Life and Death, Cultural, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Moving, Quality of Life Issues, Sunsets | Leave a comment

Maskmaker, Maskmaker, Make Me a Mask

When I headed to the YMCA on Wednesday, it was with a heavy heart. I have loved the reservation only swimming; I have actually felt fairly safe with so few people, and the respect for protecting one another through keeping safe boundaries. Already rumors are abounding that the Governor is about to move rapidly forward with his “evidence based phase-in” headed toward the new normal, and will open gyms.

The same day, I received my word that my sister, who was very sick this winter and was told over and over by her doctor that it was only severe bronchitis, has tested positive for the corona virus antibodies. She had it all along. She kept asking. They told her no.

That, along with my mother’s death from the virus, makes me cautious. We come from long-lived people. We are no match for this virus.

So I headed into the Y knowing that once the gym gets back into full swing, I may have to withdraw until I am certain the virus has diminished in our area, and that the “evidence” is supported by full transparency of the medical examiner’s reports (currently being censored / withheld by executive decision of the very governor who is telling us we will go forward making decisions on these unavailable statistics, nationally reported to be underreported in the state of Florida.)

Excuse me, but WTF??

So I wear my mask into the Y, but I take it off to swim, all that chlorine and I feel safe enough. One of the lifeguards gasps and says “I LOVE your mask! Did you make it?” and I told her I did, that I had made about 150 and given them all away.

“Would you make me one just like it?” she asked.

The mask is made from some fabric I found in the souks in Tunis, when we lived there forty years ago. It is a deep sea blue, and purple, with some black and white for drama, with Berber jewelry motifs, triangles with five pendants, crescents, hands of Fatima. I bought ten yards of the fabric when I saw it, and have used it through the years in projects and quilts, a little here and a little there. I loved it that she had the same immediate emotional response to the fabric that I had.

“I don’t know if I have any of that fabric cut for masks,” I told her honestly, “but I will look.”

I swam my mile and headed home, feeling lighter. I had my tasks outlined for the day, but I am nearing a point where I can’t go further – I’ve already packed items we need, like that spare tube of toothpaste, and my vitamin C serum. I got a little carried away with the packing . . .

So I scurried the rest of the morning, full of energy, and in the afternoon I rewarded myself by allowing myself to go back to mask-making, a place I haven’t been for nearly a month. Masks aren’t hard; I figured out a way I like to do them, and I really like to do them, I like the process, and I love working with the fabrics. Even better, my young friend asking me to make her a mask just like mine breathed new life and hope into my spirit; I was able to finish about fifteen masks and offer them to other staff members and life guards when I went in this morning. As I was working with them, I found just one piece of the fabric she loved, that I love, and it was enough to make her a mask, just like mine.

People around here are more reluctant to wear masks than people in places like Seattle. When I walked in with a selection of masks in lovely fabrics, people were delighted to be able to choose something that pleased them. One lady, when I offered, didn’t hesitate, she said “Oh, I know exactly what I want, I can see it!” and chose a dark blue batik with turquoise stars. Another woman chose a Florentine style ivory print with cranberry and green, and gilt highlights. It was fun for me to see them choose, and I can only hope they will like them well enough to wear them as we work to protect one another from this lurking virus.

May 15, 2020 Posted by | Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Circle of Life and Death, color, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Moving, Quality of Life Issues, Tunisia, YMCA | Leave a comment

We’re Still Married

AdventureMan and I are risk-takers. We set a goal. We identify the resources. We make a plan. Well, he makes his plan and I make mine. We are both strong willed, and under risk-taking, we set ourselves up occasionally, for conflict. Under “we’re still married,” we are pretty good at talking through the disagreements.

Two places we shine: travel and moves.

A lot has happened since I last wrote.

First, what I call “the great pause.” On March 13, I went to the YMCA, swam a mile, did a water aerobics class, and said good-bye. As little as I like to think about it, AdventureMan and I are in the vulnerable category. He has had a cough for over a month, and I know it is time to shelter-in-place. When I get home, I tell AdventureMan the plan. To my great surprise (which tells me he really was sick) he agreed, and he went straight to bed and slept all day, and then all night, and then a good part of the next day.

He was not so good about staying at home, but it is the beginning of gardening season, and his only trips were to Home Depot for mulch, and more mulch, and plant food, etc.

I quilted, at first, something I have longed for the time to do. I tried a new style, more modern and graphic. The first is called Corona Pandemic and the second is Corona vaccine.

 

 

They are just quilt tops for now; I have not yet quilted them. I found, with all my social responsibilities cancelled, my life quieter, it was very zen, very meditative, being able to quilt satisfied my heart, gave me time to think.

My mother called, from Seattle, and mentioned she needed masks for her medical appointments. I dropped the quilting and started mask making, making three immediately for her and mailing them off. The mail was slow. She called the day of her appointment; the masks had not arrived. It was a moot point, as the facility nurse had begged her not to go, there was too much opportunity for contagion, and my mother cancelled her appointment. We had a great conversation.

She never got the masks.

Late that same afternoon, she suddenly got tired, so tired she needed help going to bed. Shortly, she started throwing up. Just after midnight, an ambulance took her to a local hospital where she was given a corona virus test and sent to a hospital in downtown Seattle where they treat corona virus. Her test came back positive.

She was in Seattle. She was given hydroxychloroquin. She was given a second medicine in testing when her immune system raged into overdrive against the virus, destroying her own organs. She got the very best, most innovative treatment available in the world, and still, the virus won. In the end, she refused intubation and a ventilator – her pragmatic doctor said it probably wouldn’t have saved her anyway – and she requested hospice. This was evidently a first, as they had no hospice relationship in place for covid patients, and had to figure it out. They did, and my mother passed away in peace, and in no pain.

The earth fell away from beneath my feet. It’s a terrible thing to lose a mother. I’m the oldest, and while my relationship with my mother was complicated, she was always my mother. Now, I am so thankful for the seclusion, so thankful not to have to be around people because I can’t count on myself to be me. There are times I just fragment and fall apart, apropos of the smallest thing, a thought like “I need to call Mom and tell her about . . . such and such . . . ” and even before I complete the thought I am in tears, because I can never call her again.

I am not comfortable with my own melodrama. I prefer not to fall apart in public. I thank God for this period of shelter-in-place and social distancing, for the protection it gives me against my own vulnerability, my own fragility. And it gives me space to see these frailties in myself, and learn to live with them. One friend wrote in a condolence note not to worry if this death resounds throughout the rest of my life, that when you lose a mother, you never get over it. While it sounds negative, I found it comforting to know how totally normal it is to feel so lost.

I found comfort and solace in my mask making. I made hundreds of masks. I kept jiggering the patterns until I got one I like, where I could insert a nose-piece without breaking all my sewing machine needles. It gave me time to grieve, and it gave focus to my time.

 

Yesterday, I gave away the last six masks. I have nearly two hundred more in the making, and I am hastening about my current project so that I might have time to finish the newest series. As a quilter, I hate waste. I have fabrics from years back that I love and hate to part with, and the masks are cut 9″ x 15″ so I have lots of wonderful fabrics I can use and know they will live a useful life. One series of masks is from an old cotton souk dress which I wore out; it is soft and well used, but I couldn’t throw it away. It will now live on in ten new masks.

“What new project?” you ask.

My Mother’s death spurred me to look for a house to downsize. It is part of the plan we made when we moved here. We are aging, and healthy, but we have seen how that can change at any time, and I found a wonderful house which we did not buy. Then my son texted us that he and his wife were going to look at a house, and long story short, they contracted to buy that house and wondered if we would like to buy their house.

Would I?  I love that house! AdventureMan and I bought that house once before, to use as a retirement house, but then we sold it to our son and his wife.

They both have very busy lives, and very significant jobs during normal times. This pause has given time for new ways of thinking, and we are trying to get a move done before the world moves on and we lose this window of opportunity. Under the best of circumstances, a move is disruptive. Under normal circumstances, a move would be nearly impossible, in terms of having time. Right now – it is possible.

It is all happening very fast.

We haven’t done a move in ten years – the only other place I have lived for more than ten years is Alaska, where I was born. I am so thankful for this time, for the fact that we are still healthy enough to organize, to pack boxes, to plan actually for two moves, as we are sending furniture to the new house of our son and his wife; they will have more room and we will have significantly less.

AdventureMan says ruefully “When you are living in a big house, there is no incentive to downsize.” He is so right. I wake up in the wee small hours of the morning and obsess  over where things will go. The majority of our boxes are books we are not ready to part with and my quilting supplies. I have some irrelevant but beautiful items I am not ready to part with – our wedding china, which is beautiful, and French, and AdventureMan’s set of German glasses, water and red wine. We have used our china for family dinners, but not so often, and I remember using our crystal maybe six times in the ten years we have lived here. I could give them up. I’m not ready.

Today we were packing up children’s books to give away. I had thought four boxes, and AdventureMan was not ready to give up so many. We ended up giving up two boxes of books, and . . . we are still married. AdventureMan and I do particularly well in two stressful situations, travel and moving. We’re still married.

I keep thinking of my Mom. She might be disappointed I am giving up the big house while I am still young and healthy, but I am not so sure. I remember visiting her in Seattle and often going to look at condos and townhouses when she was my age. She said it was her and Dad, but I always thought it was so my husband and I would buy something in Seattle. Even after we bought a house in Seattle, though, when I would return to Seattle, we would go looking.

Mom always loved a view of the water. In our new house, we have some view of the bayou, where in late afternoon, the sun shimmers off the water. I look out and think “Mom will love this.”

This is my Mom, better days, sitting by the harbor in Edmonds, WA.

 

May 1, 2020 Posted by | Aging, Biography, Circle of Life and Death, Family Issues, Generational, Living Conditions, Marriage, Moving, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Spiritual | 2 Comments

Glacier National Park: Lake McDonald Lodge and Going-to-the-Sun-Road

We settle our bags in our hotel, and as soon as we can, we head into Glacier National Park, west entrance and hurry to Going-to-the-Sun-Road. We know it is early in the season and the road may not be open, but when we got to Avalanche Creek we learn that there was an avalanche just days ago and two bicyclists were trapped several hours while rescuers tried to get them out. You can walk or bike farther beyond the gate closing the road, but you can’t drive.

Meanwhile, there is much to see, but it is very very hazy. We keep thinking it will burn off, and it doesn’t. Later we learn that there is a huge grass fire in Alberta, across the Canadian border, and the smoke has all blown south. It is a little hard to breathe.

Nonetheless, this place is gorgeous. This river is the color of old glass bottles, and it is swollen with snow run-off. I would not want to raft on this river at this time of year, it is too unpredictable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At Avalanche Creek, AdventureMan took a short walk in the woods, while I walked on the road.  Guess which one of us spotted wildlife? I was taking photos of Avalanche Creek when a deer walked right in front of me and settled down in a little grove of trees.

 

 

 

 

 

In Glacier National Park, even more than in Yellowstone, there are warnings about bear everywhere, and there are all kinds of kiosks selling bear repellent.

I grew up in Alaska. AdventureMan has heard my stories about blueberry picking so many times that he can tell the story himself, starting with “when I was a little girl growing up in Alaska, . . . ”  It never fails to crack me up. So, when I was a little girl growing up in Alaska and the blueberries would get ripe, my Mom would send us out to pick blueberries. We had big coffee cans hanging from string around our neck, and a stick. If we saw bear, we were supposed to beat the can with the stick and back away slowly from the bear. We were never never never to touch a cub, or to get between a cub and its mother. Those were the rules I grew up with.

There was a boy I knew who lost an eye to a bear, and had a big claw mark across his face. He was the lucky one. His friend didn’t survive.

So I keep my distance. I have a healthy respect for bear, for all wildlife. This is not Disney-does-wildlife, these are bear, in springtime, and they are hungry and focused on filling their bellies. You do not want to get in their way.

I spit on bear repellent. I think it gives people false courage. It might stop a bear. It might enrage a bear. I think the best strategy is not to be alone in bear country if you can help it, especially in a remote area, and to move away slowly if you find yourself in one of those “holy shit” moments that no one could predict. And I know it’s easy to say, and very very hard to know how anyone will respond to that kind of lethal threat.

 

Lake McDonald Lodge is lovely. It has all the features I love; huge old timbers, a three story high lobby, a huge stone fireplace, homey furnishings. I love this place:

 

 

 

We walk out the front door (the Lodge was built before the road was built, so the front door faces the Lake, and today you enter the Lodge through the back door) to discover there is a Lake boat cruise leaving right now, so AdventureMan buys two tickets and we scamper aboard just in time for a sundown cruise.

Can you see how hazy it is? That isn’t fog, that is SMOKE!

It makes for an atmospheric photo, but . . . no visible mountains.

 

It is dinnertime when we return to the Lodge, and we know where we want to eat. Fortunately, it is early in the season, and we are able to snag a table without a reservation. This is the creek next to the dining room, as it empties into Lake McDonald.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is what the Dining Room looks like. This was the best Lodge Dining we experienced. The food was exquisite and the service was experienced and sophisticated.The wait staff was really good at helping us choose wine that went with our meals.

I had a Farmer’s Market salad, with smoked trout on top. It was just right for me.

 

My husband had a salad, and a charcuterie platter. On the platter, the meats and cheeses were all from Montana. There was smoked duck, an elk sausage, and a bison pastrami, I think. I may have gotten something mixed up.

This was one of the nicest meals we had on our trip. We thought that the lodge prices were very reasonable, too.

June 27, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Beauty, Circle of Life and Death, Customer Service, Restaurant, Road Trips, Safety, Travel, Wildlife | , , , | Leave a comment

The Martyrs of Sudan

Today the church remembers the martyrs of Sudan.

I have met one, personally, a wonderful journalist in the Sudan, who told us his story one December, just before Christmas. I have never forgotten him; we are still friends on FaceBook. He spent mot of his youth running from those attacking his village. As a child, sometimes he would be separated from his family for months. Although a treaty has been signed, the persecution continues in South Sudan, as even heavily pregnant women have to run for the swamps, or the nearest border, when the lawless janjaweed attack. South Sudan has oil.

 

The Christian bishops, chiefs, commanders, clergy and people of Sudan declared, on May 16, 1983, that they would not abandon God as God had revealed himself to them under threat of Shariah Law imposed by the fundamentalist Islamic government in Khartoum. Until a peace treaty was signed on January 9, 2005, the Episcopal Church of the Province of the Sudan suffered from persecution and devastation through twenty-two years of civil war. Two and a half million people were killed, half of whom were members of this church. Many clergy and lay leaders were singled out because of their religious leadership in their communities. No buildings, including churches and schools, are left standing in an area the size of Alaska.

Four million people are internally displaced, and a million are scattered around Africa and beyond in the Sudanese Diaspora. Twenty-two of the twenty-four dioceses exist in exile in Uganda or Kenya, and the majority of the clergy are unpaid. Only 5% of the population of Southern Sudan was Christian in 1983. Today over 85% of that region of six million is now mostly Episcopalian or Roman Catholic. A faith rooted deeply in the mercy of God has renewed their spirits through out the years of strife and sorrow.

(From the Lectionary, Martyrs of Sudan, for May 16, 2018)

This is the prayer for the Martyrs of Sudan:

O God, steadfast in the midst of persecution, by your providence the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church: As the martyrs of the Sudan refused to abandon Christ even in the face of torture and death, and so by their sacrifice brought forth a plentiful harvest, may we, too, be steadfast in our faith in Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

May 16, 2018 Posted by | Africa, Character, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Cultural, Faith, Lectionary Readings, Living Conditions, South Sudan, Sudan | Leave a comment

Lost My Way :-)

Aren’t vacations great? I had such great plans; travel to all these fun spots AND read two books I have to have read by the time I get home AND do Trip Advisor reviews AND tell you about my trip on this blog.

Hahahahahahahhahahahahahahahaha.

I managed to read one New Yorker on my flight from Atlanta to Portland.

I managed to blog in Portland.

I even managed an entry or two in Seattle, where we were spending time with my Mom, who had been hospitalized the previous month with a particularly nasty bout of influenza, suffered two subsequent rounds of pneumonia and a couple small strokes. She was in rehab, re-gaining her strength, and shortly after I left, she returned to her home. My Mama has some amazing resiliency. She is 94, and she still has all her marbles. I am learning a lot about what having great genes and living a long life can mean – it takes courage. Mom has that in spades.

Once AdventureMan and I got on the road, however, I just don’t know where the time went. Certainly, I didn’t MAKE room to keep up with the blogging. We usually landed where we were headed mid-afternoon, and would explore. Then I would take a look at the next day, and AdventureMan would take a look at the map and we would plot our course. Then . . . sometimes we would take a nap before dinner. Sometimes we might take a walk. And then, by the time we finished dinner, had figured our what we might need for the next day (for example, we each had a medium sized bag, but some places we stayed didn’t have elevators, so we would repack what we needed for that night in a smaller bag and tote that in, rather than tote everything.

In the Fred Meyer’s in Lynnwood, we had found a noodle, so if a hotel had a pool, we toted the noodle in, too. It’s cheap, and it really makes for good exercise, and at the end, you can put it in the recycle and maybe someone else can use it.

So sometimes we would also tote in the noodle.

We also had emergency supplies: a bag of Halo’s (small seedless tangerines), dark chocolate, rice crackers, a bag of peanut M&Ms for AdventureMan (even the smell of them makes me gag), ginger candy for me. Mostly that stayed in the back seat unless we were staying two days or there was no breakfast included.

We quickly discovered our rental car, a Nissan Altima, had no pick up at all. Going up the twisty turny roads on Highway 1 and California 1, the car would go slower and slower. It was like navigating an ocean going vessel. We love our agile little Rav 4’s. We joke that we are a Rav 16 family; between the four adults in Pensacola, we have four Rav 4s. It is agile and fuel efficient, and comfortable for long drives. The Altima . . . is not any of those things.

Please pardon the two week interruption while we voyaged. I will start to catch you up now, I promise.

April 30, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Blogging, Circle of Life and Death, Family Issues, Health Issues, Road Trips, Seattle, Travel | Leave a comment

O’Yeah, Tasty; First Meal in Seattle

A month ago I was in Seattle when my 94 year old mother suddenly came down with influenza and was hospitalized for 13 days, drifting into pneumonia twice, and suffering several small strokes. It was a difficult time, and as I was running errands for her one day, I passed a new Chinese restaurant near the hospital, O’Yeah Tasty, Szechuan cooking.

Szechuan. Near Edmonds Community College. Hope springs eternal, maybe I can get some really good Chinese food in the midst of all this emotional chaos!

(When we were moving to Pensacola several years ago, our son sat us down, looked at us very seriously and told us he had something to tell us we weren’t going to like. With a long face he stated “You need to know that there is not a GOOD Chinese restaurant in Pensacola.” We searched. We tried them all. Most were sort of Americanized Chinese, none had the good strong flavors we had become used to overseas. Longing for GOOD Chinese food is something we have grown used to experiencing.)

I had something called Mongolian Delights, recommended from the Chef’s specials by the cashier/order taker. It was fabulous, and the Hot and Sour soup I had with it was really HOT. When I told my sister on the phone where I was, she said Mom wanted some Hot and Sour soup, so I took some to her, and she ate it, claiming it was delicious. It was just about the only thing she ate that day.  A day or two later, I ordered an old favorite, Chong Qing Spicy Chicken, and I almost cried when it arrived, it was so totally TASTY, so close to what I remembered from the Taiwan Tourismo in Amman, Jordan back in the day.

So when AdventureMan and I arrived in Seattle, at lunch time (our delicious breakfast from The Courtyard had finally worn off) we headed straight for O’Yeah Tasty.

We ordered fried egg rolls, and AdventureMan ordered the Seafood Three Delights, and I ordered my all time favorite Chong Qing Spicy Chicken.

 

 

And the dish that makes me cry, Chong Qing Spicy Chicken:

 

As we ate, the restaurant filled with Chinese students from the nearby college. We got to see what they were eating, even as we enjoyed our own food. There was so much food, we packed it up and took it with us to put in our hotel room refrigerator and have later for dinner.

This is how much I love this food: when we were talking with my mother who, by the grace of God is greatly improved, and improving more every day, she said she was able to go out for dinner this very night. A part of me ALMOST said “how about tomorrow night?” because I love that Chong Qing Spicy Chicken so much, but fortunately I love my mother more and the thought was just for an instant; we quickly made plans to take my mother to an Italian restaurant she loves this night and to have our treasured left-overs for dinner tomorrow.

If you are ever in Edmonds looking for spirited and authentic Szechuan cooking, hurry to O’Yeah, Tasty.

April 12, 2018 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Living Conditions, Road Trips, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

“We Don’t Know What it is, but it is not Breast Cancer”

(This is just an example, not my real image)

I like to stay out of medical facilities. I think it’s better for our health. 🙂  People who go to doctors tend to be sick, and we still have a lot to learn about germs, viruses, flesh-eating diseases, and even intestinal distress, and how they all spread. I’m pretty sure that there are a lot of things you can be exposed to in hospitals and doctors’ offices that you are less likely to be exposed to elsewhere.

On the other hand, I am all for preventive medicine, and by the grace of God and my husband’s military service, and the American tax-payer, I have decent medical coverage. I see my doctor twice a year, and he reminds me if there are other things I need to do. Some, like an annual skin scan, and eye exams are easy. Mammograms, not so much. For me, it is easy to skip a mammogram for a year, or two, or three.

(Segueing into an aside – if men had to put their testicles in between two sheets of cold plastic and then have the sheets tightened by turning a knob until it was really, really uncomfortable, I am willing to bet they would find a more efficacious way to do the job.)

So it has been three years, and I scheduled, and went in for a routine mammogram. The technician was cool and I was in and out quickly; next contact should be a letter saying a radiologist has examined the photos and all is well, that’s routine.

Umm. Next, I get a call saying we need to schedule right away as there were some . . . I can’t remember the word. Sort of like ambivalencies or ambiguities in the films, and we needed to redo those on one of the breasts. And she got me in like day after tomorrow.

So we re-do the shots, and then we do them again. This is taking a long time. Then she comes back and tells me that they have an ultrasound scheduled for me just down the hall to get a better look.

I’m pretty cool. But I’m starting to get a little nervous.

The ultrasound lady is very professional, very thorough. Very thorough, and finally I glance up at the screen to see flares of blues and reds and yellows as she moves the scope around and I don’t show it but I am seriously starting to freak out.

She tells me she needs to talk with the radiologist and leaves the room and it seems like a long long time and then she comes back in and tells me the radiologist needs to talk with me. If I were the kind of woman who cries, I would cry, but I’m not, not in front of other people, so I just look cool.

The radiologist comes in and says a lot which I hear as “blah blah blah;” when I am freaking out, I have trouble understanding words strung together. I can understand each separate word, but I can’t understand them in a sentence, like “what does that mean?”

And then he says “so we know it is NOT breast cancer, but we don’t know what it is. It’s not even something we could biopsy. I’m not calling you back in six months because it isn’t something that has form or substance but be sure to come back in a year this time so we can take another look.” (I might have paraphrased everything after “We know it is not breast cancer . . .” Everything is pretty hazy except that I do NOT have breast cancer.)

Walking out of that clinic (it took hours) was like getting my life back again.

February 12, 2018 Posted by | Aging, Circle of Life and Death, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Women's Issues | 2 Comments

Life is Complicated: Maintaining Balance

It’s been an odd new year. It started with loss and grief, and quiet introspection. Once the season ended, we were caught in the whirl of daily life, amplified by our son’s need for an ACL fix, which has totally immobilized him for a couple weeks and which requires we all pitch in to help keep life going smoothly.

And, I had a major birthday.

The last major birthday I had like this one was when I turned 35 and realized that I hadn’t accomplished my major dreams. I cried all day. People kept stopping by, bringing gifts and cards, and I just kept crying That year, I started graduate school, and never looked back. I was a military wife at an overseas post, with duties to my husband, my community, my church and my job, and I piled on evening classes and all the attendant work of research and studying on top, and I had never been happier. Going back to school was like flying. I loved my studies, and on the days I felt overwhelmed, I would realize that grad school was the only thing I could resign from and I would choose to go forward. My studies were my reward for good behavior in all the other areas of my life.

“What? You didn’t love being a mother?” I hear you asking. We had an oddly shaped room in our quarters, long and narrow. My desk was at the far end, and next to it was my son’s desk. We would do homework together. I adored my son. I would take him to karate lessons, iron his acolyte robes, be there when he got home from school; he enriched my life. But what made my spirit fly was my studies.

Yesterday, things were relatively quiet and I started a project I usually start in January, cleaning out. We haven’t moved in nearly eight years. I tend to be pretty good at cleaning out and passing along or throwing out, but when you are settled, you don’t do so as conscientiously as when you live with a weight allowance. My weight allowance always heavily favored our items collected from foreign postings, and everything else was expendable. Now, the expendable is taking up space, and I want to clear out that which only burdens me and ties me down, and make way for whatever is coming.

En route, I came across a large packet of printed out letters from my earlier lives, one entry in particular, 5 pages describing our arrival in Kuwait. Oh! There are so many things I have already forgotten, so I read it through, and then passed it along to AdventureMan, and listened to him laugh as he hit the funny parts. I owe my Mother a great gratitude for having saved all those letters, for which, having gone through several computers since I wrote them, I have no records. Those were pre-FaceBook times, when we still sent out group e-mails, which then got forward on. Now, we have less time – or we take less time – to write at length about what is going on in our lives.

I made room for my growing collection of religious-oriented books. I have a shelf for them. I have my spiritual disciplines, like doing the Daily Lectionary, but for additional readings, books were scattered here and there. If I am going to get serious about reading them, I have to have them where I know where they are, and I can retrieve them easily. They don’t call it “discipline” for no reason.

When I was a nomad, life’s busier moments were balanced by the enormous quiet of being in a new location. There were the logistical challenges of deliveries, moving out / moving in, looking for the good grocery stores, the cleaners who could do your nicer clothes without ruining them, getting new visas, driver’s licenses, memberships, etc. but in general, life could be very quiet for up to six months. I always found those quiet times, before new friendships, meetings, commitments, etc. very nourishing to my spirit.

I’ve never been so settled. There are times when my spirit rebels against the sameness of it all. There are times when I miss being around people who don’t always use deodorant and who smell sweaty; it takes me back to riding the strassenbahn (street car) in high school in Heidelberg, or to Africa and our adventures there. There are times I catch a whiff of Desert Rose, and feel an urgent upwelling of nostalgia for walking down a Gulf Arab avenue, or through a mall, and how it was the men who smelled so good. There are times I would kill for real flatbread, fresh out of the oven, or for a Tunisian “brik,” done in pure olive oil, or for the simplest French dish, moules frites, mussels in a simple wine sauce with fries.

I do love Pensacola. I have friends here. I’ve always been lucky that way; people take me in and take me behind the scenes. I hear the old stories of how Pensacola used to be, and I hear the new stories, that corruption is never hidden enough to go undiscovered. People in Pensacola, like people everywhere, know things, and I am honored that they share these insights with me. I have found religious community here. I have found meaningful work.

I have a son of whom I am enormously proud. I love and admire his wife. And I have two of the smartest, funniest grand-children on earth, with whom I love spending time.

(Did you know that the use of “whom” is generational?)

It is a sodden, rainy day in Pensacola. AdventureMan is on the couch, here in my office, snoozing as I write. We are on our way to church, then I have a meeting before coming home to do my studies for my class this week. As it says in our Episcopalian Forward Day-byDay: Oh God, Give me strength to live another day. Let me not turn coward before its difficulties or prove recreant to its duties: let me not lose faith in other people   . . .

On on.

February 11, 2018 Posted by | Aging, Blogging, Books, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Parenting, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Random Musings | Leave a comment