The “dog days of summer” — an escape to the mountains.

The dog days of summer are finally starting to wane the slightest bit here in Charlotte.FullSizeRender-2 That is to say that our high temperatures are hitting around 90 F these days instead 98-100 F. Of course when the humidity is above 70 the days remain hot and sultry which is one definition of dog days. You’ve probably guessed that I don’t fare well in hot weather. It may be something about being a mountain woman.

Imagine my delight when my daughter and granddaughter invited me to go with them to Asheville, NC. I didn’t have to think about it so I set about packing my bag.

We left early on Saturday morning for the mountains.IMG_1033 It’s about a two-hour drive. We were there before lunch and began our shopping/eating frenzy in earnest. Here’s my granddaughter waiting patiently for lunch. We took this trip in her honor because she leaves for her first year at university this week.

How do I describe Asheville? It’s a small, diverse city with many good restaurants, especially if you like being able to eat vegetarian. And I do. While I’m not a vegetarian, I eat very little meat. For beer lovers there are a number of local mini-breweries. I must not forget the Biltmore Estate, and most important of all — the air is cooler up there.

For Saturday dinner my daughter had made a reservation at The Sunny Point Cafe. Before and after our meal IMG_1034we traipsed around the backyard garden behind the restaurant where they grow many of the vegetables and herbs used in their dishes. The menu is varied and there are yummy choices for the most discerning diner, vegetarian or not.

If you click the photo to the right you’ll see a welcome-to-our-garden sign. Upper right, that orange thing is one of several bouncy rides for the children. Perhaps those little bits of entertainment help to minimize destruction of the plants. Perhaps, too, they distract big feet like mine from squashing the plants. Yes, I rode it. Yes, my granddaughter took a picture of me.  No, I’m not going to publish it.

I enjoy taking pictures in vegetable and flower gardens. This is a yellow squash that my mom called patty-pan squash.IMG_1042 I have no idea why she called it that but I liked the name because it’s a form of my name. And sometimes people call me Patty, especially Spanish speakers. In Spanish it’s spelled Pati. Okay, in Spanish it sounds more like potty than Patty but I still like it. I think the diminutive sounds affectionate in both languages.

I was surprised at the number of plants being cultivated in a small space.IMG_1044 It’s a well-tended garden with prolifically producing plants. In addition to squash, we saw grape tomatoes,IMG_1050 heirloom tomatoes, zinnias, nasturtium, sunflowers, rosemary, and on and on.

As you can see here, even their Sunny Point sign looked as if it were growing good stuff.IMG_1049

After lunch on Sunday we make one last stroll through downtown. Granddaughter and I spotted these “southern yoga” t-shirts and had to have them. I love the color. Now I have something to wear on St. Patrick’s Day.

This trip was proof that spontaneous is sometimes the way to go.IMG_1055 We had fun spending time together — lots of laughs. No stress. Good food. Happy shopping. Cool temperatures. Does it get any better than that?

If you can’t stop my pain, you may as well just shoot me!

pills_variety_crop380wI try to be a pragmatic user of medications. I think we have them for a reason and the reason was all mine when I found myself in rehabilitation and unable to perform the most mundane tasks because of intense pain. Having said that, let me add that I thought I possessed a healthy but wary attitude toward all drugs, especially narcotics. I realize now that my perception of pain-killing opioids was informed by my family of origin which was rife with alcoholism and other drug addictions. My father died of complications from his years of drinking excessively. My brother died of an alcohol and drug overdose. Obviously my viewpoint was skewed.

Over the years of my adulthood I have learned to enjoy an occasional glass of wine, and I once took a Vicodin at the emergency room when I had what we believe was a gall bladder event. Triage sent me home with four tablets and told me perhaps I should take only a half since the whole tablet knocked me silly. I ended up throwing out 3 1/2 of them. That experience didn’t do a thing to quell my fear of drugs. In fact, quite the opposite.  Imagine going from that kind of trepidation about taking pain killers to begging for them back in October after my accident. That’s some serious pain.

I don’t remember exactly how long I lay in that hospital bed without any real help for my pain. I know that the therapists came to my room twice a day and laboriously tried to get me to a sitting position but the pain was agonizing and I couldn’t do it. I told them I needed to see a doctor so they sent one to see me. She said she understood I wanted/needed something for pain. I explained that I had to have something if I were going to be able to get up and get well. She left an order. I don’t know what it was but it helped about as much as an aspirin. Even one of my caregivers told me that was not what I needed; that it was not going to help my kind of pain. More time wasted while my muscles continued to atrophy.

Then I got a stroke of good luck. A staff member stopped by one day and asked me how I was doing. I told her I wasn’t making progress because of the pain. She informed me that there was a doctor on staff (I think fairly new there.) who knew all about pain management. She said, “You need to see him. He’s very good.”

I tried not to get my hopes too high but I asked my daytime nurse (CNA) to ask him to see me the next day. In fact I pleaded, “Don’t let him leave tomorrow until he’s seen me.” She promised she wouldn’t. (I have this mental image of her with a lasso around him, dragging him back down the hall. :) )

I don’t think she had to rope him but by golly he showed up and my rehabilitation took a one-eighty turn and I was on my way back. My relief was palpable.

I’ve thought a great deal about what Dr. H (H is for hero.) does that makes him an effective and outstanding doctor. I’ve recently been back at the facility for additional therapy and I saw him in the gym talking to a patient. She was in a wheelchair. He got down in a squat to look her in the face and talk to her. That’s when it all came flooding back to me. That’s what he does. And much more.

He came into my room, introduced himself, looked me in the eyes and we talked. He listened. What I said mattered. He showed no sign of being in a hurry. I was the only patient he had in that moment. This wasn’t one of those 3-5 minute visits. We talked until we said what we needed to communicate to each other. I understood him. He understood me. He made me a partner in my care. That matters a great deal to me. I monitored my medication about as carefully as he did. And guess what? I’m not addicted. That had been a big concern for me.

Dr. H is very young for one so perfectly attuned to his patients needs and concerns. I believe that medical personnel can be taught a great deal about compassion and patient care. But I don’t believe this doctor had to be taught that aspect of caring. He cares about people. He has a good heart. And it shines as he goes about his work. He’s very good indeed, and I’m enormously grateful.

Stop! and smell the flowers.

I feel fortunate to be able to walk around my neighborhood.photo-38 Five months ago I wasn’t sure I would stand again, let alone walk. I’ve put my Fitbit back on and am able to walk about 7,000 steps a day. Of course my goal is much higher but for now I feel almost like a walking miracle. We were fortunate this year to actually have spring weather on the first day of spring. As I walked I couldn’t resist snapping lots of lovely flowers.

This is a happy post. I almost have a spring in my step and Mother Nature definitely has one in hers.photo-35

There are lots of pansies that survived the winter and they start to seriously thrive in March. Later, the hot weather will take its toll. This is a basket on my front porch. My daughter gave it to me. She must have known this is my favorite pansy color.

One of the first signs of spring is the blooming of the Bradford pear tree. I have mixed feelings about this tree.photo-25photo-70 There’s no denying its lush loveliness after a long winter. Our neighborhood is rife with these flowering wonders which means the distasteful (to me) smell is everywhere and if I stay outside too long I’ll get a headache.

I noticed as I strolled that there were a number of dandelions in the lawns that are left to their own devices. Like mine.photo-73 The seriously manicured lawns won’t allow weeds to grow. Their green four-inch grass is so thick that neither the owners nor the grass would ever allow such a pariah to set up shop in their yards. Personally, I like the “dandies” in all their stages. I still love to blow the seeds so they will land where they may and grow more yellow beauties.photo-80

My yard isn’t really a lawn. It’s a random collection of grasses and weeds that give it a wonderful green patchwork effect. I have planted a spring green (chartreuse?) ground cover under my pear tree and as you can see here, it’s starting to creep into the grass to make its own statement. I realize that my neighbors probably don’t like my kind of lawn but I feel the same way about their “perfect” chemically treated ones.

I saw violets on my walk. Some people consider this plant a weed. photo-68I don’t. Nor do the owners of this little clump. See how carefully they placed the mulch around it? The violet was Eleanor Roosevelt’s favorite flower. She had lovely violet wallpaper on the walls of her room at Campobello. I had the privilege of visiting there some years ago.

I think my favorite photo for the day is this whimsical winged pig flying through the pansy bed. I often use the expression, “When pigs fly!” photo-41It says so much with only three little words. If someone is so naïve as to ask me if I would ever marry again that is my answer. Would I consider going back in to the classroom and teaching? When pigs fly!  Would I ever buy another two-story house? When… You get the picture.

More photos from my yard. A white camellia. Yellow daffodils. A red camellia. photo-77photo-75 photo-76

A loss of innocence.

I grew up in the 50s. Some have called it a time of innocence. The war was over.photo-7 Our returning veterans were able to attend college or university on the GI Bill. Eisenhower was President. He played a lot of golf as I recall, and my dad criticized him for it. (Some things don’t change.) Families were buying homes with white picket fences. Well, maybe they didn’t all have fences. The point is those were the halcyon days.

Nineteen sixty ushered in a new decade fairly quietly but the calm was short-lived. I write this today in order to recall the day I realized for the first time that my safe, secure homeland wasn’t quite what I thought. On November 22, 1963, our young president, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. I remember where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news. My feelings about my country and the basic good in people were permanently altered. What kind of monster could be capable of shooting our energetic young leader? And why? Some questions have no answers.

Last week a man went to the apartment of three young Muslim students in Chapel Hill, NC, and fatally shot all three of them. Why? Some said it was a hate crime. Aren’t all murders hate crimes? Some said it was over a parking space. Really? The murderer was a self-avowed atheist. Did he hate all religions? Or only the Muslim faith? I’m guessing we will never know the answers to these questions either.

I’m relieved to report that he gave himself up the same day and has remained in custody since.

The night after the slaughter of these students, my granddaughter sent me a text. ” I can’t stop crying and wondering why and how a thing like this is allowed to happen. I don’t understand how this was allowed to happen in my home. It’s the worst thing I have ever experienced.” I tried to console her but I had no answers for her.

I can’t help remembering that I had the same questions all those years ago when our President was shot and killed. The frustration and sadness that H is experiencing in exactly what I dealt with at almost the same age she is. I was a sophomore student, one year older than H, and was attending university in my home town.

My granddaughter H was born and reared in Chapel Hill. She’s a freshman at the university there. It’s the oldest state university in the country. It’s small-town southern America with a great deal more diversity than most towns in the state. It’s the diversity that makes it a very special place.photo(20)

 

H’s parents have taught her to have a strong sense of justice and to do what is right. Not just for herself, but for those in her community–all of them. She has marched in the state capital for voter rights and other issues. Whenever she sees someone in need, she chooses to help if she can. Eventually this crime in her home town will strengthen her convictions. But first she has to mourn.

 

 

 

Going home.

pavilionI’m going home tomorrow. I’ve been away since October 19. I wish I could tell you I’ve been on an extended vacation. But I have not. I’m happy, however, to report that I can chuckle  as I take a moment to remember the dreamlike haze of many of the nights I spent here under the influence of drugs, given to me to help dull the pain enough for me to sleep.

I hope to write more about the use of drugs to manage pain. That will have to be a future post. This post must be short because I’m tired, sleepy (but can’t sleep). I’m both excited and scared about being home again. You see, my home, my safe haven betrayed me and took me down back in October. Or maybe my body was the betrayer. Maybe it was a combination of the two.

Just after midnight on October 19, I had insomnia and so I decided to get up and go downstairs. Sometimes moving to the couch allows me to doze off and sleep for the rest of the night. I managed to descend about four steps when suddenly I found myself skiing down the stairs at an olympic pace. I still don’t know quite how it happened.

I sustained several injuries — the worst being multiple fractures in the sacrum. I was fortunate enough to get my hand on my cell phone and was able to dial 911. (In the US that’s the call to report an emergency.) The service is quite good. I heard the siren start almost immediately.

So, I have spent the last 40-something days in the hospital, and then the rehabilitation center.

I’ve missed reading your blogs and hope to get back in touch soon as I work my way back to I’m not sure what. I thinking a full recovery with lots of determination and patience. Oh, and therapy. Communicating with all of you in the meantime will become a part of my emotional therapy, I’m sure.

And life is still good.

Small (and large) comforts see me through.

I had my second corneal transplant yesterday. My left eye seems to be progressing at about the same rate as the right one did back in February.photo(2) I’m not one to quote the Bible but I can’t help thinking about the verses in 1st Corinthians 13 about first seeing dimly and then seeing clearly. I could hardly see through the haze at all yesterday. Today I’m seeing better, though still through a veil. In a few days, if I progress as I hope to, I will see clearly.

This is nothing short of miraculous. I find myself feeling tremendously grateful to the donors who cared enough about others to make their organs available in the event of their demise. It’s a generous and forward-thinking and liberal act.

And it’s impossible to appreciate the donors without thinking and wondering about the families and friends they have left behind. I don’t need to meet them but I wish I were able to send a thank-you note for this remarkable gift that is my much-improved sight. I thank you most kindly.

Also, to my family and friends who so graciously give your time and love and transportation in order to make my way easier, I give you my thanks and my love.

And I mustn’t forget Lulu aka Baby who snuggles with me and comforts me when there’s no one else here to do it.photo(18)

Another letter to my ex-husband.

Sometimes an idea for a post pops into my head. If the notion pays the rent and takes up residence, I feel compelled to write it out.photo-43

I have noticed for months that there is one post I wrote early in my blogging days which continues to get attention. It’s called “A letter to my ex-husband.” and it consistently receives 50-60 clicks a week. I think this is telling me that there are new “victims” every day who seek comfort and company on the internet. Hopefully, they are seeking to lose that feeling of being the victim. What I know is that most are in a great deal of emotional distress.

Then I start to wonder, “Should I revisit that post? Should I write an update?” I seldom return to old posts. It’s rather like a sixteen-year-old backtracking to read what she wrote in her diary as a twelve-year-old — naïve and poorly written.

Dear D,

I have just read and re-read the open letter I wrote to you back in November, 2010. I stand by what I wrote. If I were composing the same letter today I might not use the Pearl Harbor metaphor but I’m not sorry I used it then. That’s how I felt at the time. I hope my writing is somewhat improved since those days.

I’m happy to say that I no longer dwell on the difficulties of that period in our history. My life moves along with more happy times than not as I try to focus on those most important in my life — my family. I must admit, though, that I still miss your family. At the time, I felt as if I had suffered multiple amputations but those wounds have mostly healed.

I have come to realize the we have a history — you, your family and I. And I know now that it’s mine to keep. No one, no divorce, no would-be interloper can ever take that away from me. I’m free to remember the happy times, and sad, as I choose. I even have a couple of pictures of you on display in my house. There’s one of you and two cute little granddaughters, all of you wearing identical Harley Davidson t-shirts. There’s the one of you and me and H when she was baptized  in your grandmother’s christening gown. When someone who doesn’t know you sees the latter and asks me if that’s my ex, I always say, “Yes, it is. Wasn’t he a handsome fellow.”

As I was reading the old letter and starting to write this post, I remembered the disconcerting dizziness of feeling as if I were on a merry-go-round back when I first heard the infamous divorce announcement. My mind would get in a loop and I had a hard time escaping the negative and unhelpful self-conversations. I even dreamed about carousels and their eerie, hypnotic music. I would feel it slowing and think it was slow enough to step off. But, alas, I would stumble and fall in a teary puddle every time.

My son-in-law recently told me about going to a colleague’s office to discuss a work-related matter. Instead of addressing the issue at hand, she looked at him and stated, “My husband is having an affair.” He asked me why she had said that to him. They weren’t buddies or anything so why would she do that? My immediate response was, “That’s all she could think about.” In other words, she was on the merry-go-round. It takes a while to get off. I had to ask the same “What did I do wrong?” question over and over before I finally let it go as unanswerable.

You’d think one carnival ride would be metaphor enough for one in the throes of despair. Not for me. I went straight from the carousel to a giant roller coaster. And sometimes the two merged into a monstrous nightmare.photo-73 This new ride came along when I stopped asking hypothetical questions and started to figure out what I must do to take care of me. I allowed my anger at you and at my situation to spring into action.

Anger can be a wonderful resource and motivator. It enabled me to start taking care of important divorce-related issues. Things like feeding myself properly, getting enough sleep and starting to raise my consciousness about financial matters and finding the right attorney to help me with my decision-making.

During this period the roller coaster started going up fairly often and I would feel pretty good. Fear would strike and I would crash back down. In between there were loop-de-loops when I was upside down and inside out and didn’t know what I was doing. One wise person named John told me, “Some things just take time.” He was right. As I found my sense of humor again and enabled my positive attitude, I came through and am better for it. I truly hope you are too.

Life is good as I remember our happy times together.

Fondly, Pat