A New Loo!

Fortunate to have three bathrooms, we are currently remodeling two. The primary bedroom has a three-quarter bath, while the daylight basement has a full one. The only lavatory not taken down to the studs is the full guest bath upstairs.

For now, one of our adult sons lives in the downstairs but, so proud to report, he very recently got a job in his field and will be moving into a place of his own, just in time for my mother-in-law to move into his rooms. Her home reportedly goes on the market in California in the next few days, and as soon as it sells my husband will make final plans to bring her here, following months of prep. Due to the remodel, everyone in our home is using the full guest bathroom; this has led to urgent pleading with one another, but not as often as I’d have guessed. Hopefully, we’ll complete the renovation before my MIL arrives.

The two rooms we’re redoing had sinks and bath/shower original to the house from the late 1970’s. We’ve been in the house for 21 years now, and I’ve been longing for an updated bathroom in our bedroom. When my husband started talking about the need to remodel a bathroom for his mother, I was quite vocal about the need to redo mine. My mother-in-law told my husband she wanted him to remodel mine first, not wanting to get between me and my new loo! Thus, the decision was made to bring in a crew to do both at the same time.

The beginning of a project is all fun and games! It was so exciting to imagine the atmosphere I wanted to create in my little washroom. The shower had been a dark, single stall in a prefab pan. Everything needed updating. My husband gave me the go ahead to pick what I want and make it my own. He is, though, a project manager with a commercial flooring and tile company and, of course, he’d be managing ours. Given my license to shop decor, I thought his management would apply only to the physical labor. The following, though, is a typical conversation we’ve had as I share with him my choices of tile, vanity, light fixtures, etc.:

Me: “Okay. I found the (blank) I want.”

Him: “Let’s see. Did you take into account this, that, or the other thing.”

Me: “I’ve spent hours going through pages and pages online, looking at ratings, comparing prices….” perhaps defensively because the actual shopping was not so much fun, after all.

Him: “Huh. So, that’s really your top choice?” “You’re going to mix finishes?” “You don’t have that much space.”

Me: “Yes, I’m going to mix finishes,” something not happening in his condo and hotel projects. I also do not want the whole room in one color/shade. My husband has a hard time seeing my vision.

That said, I am relieved now that the shopping is done. It’s a lot of pressure to choose things that will be permanent, as far as we’re concerned; I do not see us remodeling these rooms while we’re still the owners. My part is mostly done, but I still need to pick my accent tile that will serve as backsplash behind the sink as well as the corners in the new shower enclosure, which is now twice the size, as the result of using dead space, and built out of tile. I’m thrilled with the final choices I’ve made and can’t wait to see them in place.

The basement redo is focused on durable, economical materials, which is fine by me. I shopped for the accessories and accents online, and they’re being delivered piecemeal along with features and fixtures for my bathroom. We’re making progress, slowly but surely. My husband is doing the work he can manage on his own, and the crew will return when we’re ready for the tile to be set. Believe me, after 21 years, a few months doesn’t seem long at all.

My husband and I always forget to take ‘before’ pictures when beginning a new project, but above and below are photos of the demo and I’ll definitely post ‘after’ pics upon completion!

The old, sad shower stall

Ramble Gamble

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Rambling posts are a collection of thoughts I have that don’t warrant a post of their own. I also include personal life circumstances, usually near the end.

Do you speak your mind? Are there folks with whom you avoid voicing your opinions? Is it a risk to share your thoughts? I find I keep many thoughts to myself, sometimes putting them on the table with my counselor because I know she won’t judge. Such a people pleaser am I, troubling or controversial ideas are rarely shared with friends and family at this point. Keeping the peace.

This has probably been addressed in one of my prior posts, but I have to say it. When you are referring to a specific point in time, use the word ‘when.’ Ex: When the plane lands, I’ll shoot you a text. If referring to a period of days, weeks, months or years during which something may occur or an open-ended time frame, use the word ‘whenever.’ Ex: Whenever you get a chance will be fine. Serious overuse of whenever seems to be the order of the day, but I will protest (evenly silently) to the end.

Several years ago, I worked in the garden center of a large retail store. There were two keypads for employees to use for clocking in and out, and sometimes this was the only chance I had to visit with people from other departments. One summer day, prepared for the outdoors with my straw cowboy hat and sunglasses, one of the butchers approached the time clocks, greeting me cheerfully, “Hey, garden girl!” I answered, “Hey, meat man!” before giving it a second thought, until it was out of my mouth. His response, “That’s one of the nicest thing anyone’s said to me!”

Our future housemate, my mother-in-law, is radio-silent. I’m sure she’ll let my husband know once her house is on the market and she hasn’t, at least as far as I know. When my husband was with her recently, they held a three-day garage sale and unloaded much of the furniture, tools, and other household items she won’t be bringing with her. My husband told her she can bring her yard art. He wants her to feel she belongs and to enjoy her last years. (She’s not ill.) So, she has a set of seven gnome dwarves on her front steps and onto her porch. They’re faded from years of sunshine in California. She walked past them and pronounced, “These are going.” My husband doesn’t know why these are so important to her, but I never wanted plastic dwarves or gnomes in my yard. As my husband moved things out of her house for the yard sale, his mother advised he should move those dwarves so nothing happened to them. He said it wasn’t necessary. Later, he carried a load out and the last dwarf, I’m assuming it was Dopey, fell off the step and broke. It’s plastic but very dried out. That’s how many years these plastic gnomes have been sitting outdoors. My husband’s mom was furious. He assured her he’d buy a replacement and her retort was, “Yeah, sure you will.” He’s in the middle of moving her into our home, taking care of her at significant expense of time and money. I can’t believe she spoke to him that way. Following, she gave him the cold shoulder for hours. (This is one of the topics, my German MIL moving in with us, I address but bury in the “Rambling” series,)

Overwhelmed by pain, depression, and cognitive impairment, I’ve been having thoughts I’m only sharing here, but I understand this topic may be painful. My husband will read my post and see that suicidal ideation is are predominant again; after he expresses his desire that I not opt out, he’ll explain that so many people have it so much worse and are able to keep going and take away the means by which I would quit life, if I told him. This morning I’m facing myself, unsure if I really want to make that choice. The most important reason I have to keep going, is my sons. They’re 23 & 24, building their own foundations for adulthood, and I wouldn’t want to cause them to go off the rails and have to deal with the impact of my choice on the rest of their lives. The need to protect them, above all, continues just as when they were 3 & 4 or 13 & 14. I do, however, feel like giving in to fibromyalgia and depression, quitting medical treatment and counseling, staying in bed without urging myself to go outside or keeping in touch with friends and family. I’m so tired of dealing with the wide array of fibro symptoms, especially the impact on my mental functions. In my previous life, I was super smart and sharp. Not bragging, just explaining the contrast I feel and the difficulty I have adjusting to impaired cognition. I will keep going, putting one foot in front of the other, wanting to see my sons’ lives unfold. Update 7/2/22: It’s not the end of the world today.

The fourth of July approaches and, as is true with most years since our sons began making their own plans, we aren’t going anywhere or going to see fireworks. It would require more trouble than it’s worth and I’d pay for it afterwards, at least for a few days. We’re in the middle of remodeling two bathrooms, so that is our focus. (You can read more about the ups and downs of this remodel in my next post, “Under Construction.” It will most likely be published July 2nd or 3rd.)

Do you have a barbecue happening or a day at a lake? Will you engage in conversations that go beyond surface niceties with your family or friends? Do you set off fireworks or go to see a large, professional display? Personal fireworks are prohibited where I live, but we’ll still hear several M80 fireworks, which sound like a really loud gunshot. They’ll be set off a bit over the weekend, and several will be heard on the holiday. My dog will hide behind furniture to escape the danger, but she does that every time I sneeze!

p.s. I found a great description for what I call “fibro sick.” There are so many symptoms. For me, I have times where my body feels the way you do if you have a really bad cold or the day before you realize you have strep throat. Just icky all over.

Parent is Also a Verb 6/30/22

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Dedicated to my late dad on his birthday.

My sons were both encouraged to sign up for sports and other interests they thought might be interesting. The older one preferred to achieve his personal best in track and cross-country, while the younger enjoyed competing on a team, including basketball and baseball.

In the early years, I was a full-time mom. Even so, I needed help when one boy had something going on at one setting while the other needed to show up across town. My folks were a huge help. Later, as a personal contractor doing medicial transcription online, I was able to set my own schedule and attend my kids’ sporting events, which were usually in different seasons.

One beautiful, sunny day I sat watching and cheering the 7th grade baseball game, in my comfortable outdoor chair with my waterbottle at hand. My parents joined me after the first couple innings. They set up next to me. We followed the game, appreciated the sunny spring day, and visited.

My dad smiled at me and said, “You really enjoy being here, huh?”

I agreed, “Yes, I do! Nowhere else I need to be or should be.”

I hadn’t given it much thought before, but it’s so true. Whether or not your child admits it, they love having you attend their games and events. Don’t think it’s a big deal? Talk to someone whose parents didn’t. So, whatever you have to do to arrange it, show up for some, even a few, if not all. They may profess embarrassment, as young teenagers are wont to do, and you might not get any feedback from your son or daughter.

As a teacher, parent, and parent educator, I can assure you the number one commodity your child needs from you is attention, whether they realize it or not. Attending games, events, recitals, concerts, and ceremonies is a wonderful way to provide healthy, positive attention. These are opportunities to expect sportsmanship, reinforce a healthy lifestyle, and show the importance of family time. You will model appropriate competition behavior by not going negative on the other team or arguing with a referee or umpire.

A few weeks after that baseball game, I sat on the grassy bank at the edge of a field for my other son’s track meet. Another mom sat nearby and we talked a bit about who our kids are, what school they attend, and the individual events in which they’d compete.

She said, “I just love this!”

I answered, “Me, too! There’s nowhere else I’d rather be or should be.”

“I know, right?”

“We’re good moms! just sitting here doing nothing!”

Batter up! – Go watch your kids explore their interests.

Sara’s education and experience: B.A. Ed; M.S. Counseling; teacher grades K & 2/3, educator for childcare providers, training in Positive Discipline and Growing, parent educator, program director of crisis nursery, including parent support, staff management & training, stay home mom 16 years with two sons born 19 months apart, medical transcription for 10 years in order to stay home, substitute teacher grades K through 12. Blogs about a wide variety of topics on survivingsara.net.

I Can’t Care

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Recently, I shared that I have writer’s block. A draft was completed and I posted that, which felt good. Since then, I just can’t care about writing or blogging or connecting. I forget to even open SurvivingSara.net.

I’m sick. This is a bad fibro flare. Stress about life events is heavy with no relief for at least a couple months. Unless I address it with relaxation techniques. Can’t think of any besides breathing right now. Thankfully, I don’t have to remember to breathe.

My brain is fogged in, no landings or takeoffs. The inability to operate cognitively is stressful. Each of these sentences takes concentration and time. It feels like I’m plucking one word or phrase at a time out of the ether.

When I do check in, seeing days of inactivity would typically be a stressor, Right now, I just can’t care. I don’t know when I will.

Parent is Also a Verb 6/19/22

Happy Father’s Day!

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When my babies were very young and we lived in a cozy starter house, my husband parked his work van in the alley behind our yard at the end of his work day. More than once, I stood watching out the kitchen window, calling my husband on his cell phone when he pulled up, urging him to please come straight in, unloading supplies and tools into the dilapidated, single-car garage later. The memory has faded of what led to my “get the hell in here now” condition.

If you’d asked me back then if I would remember the chaos, you would’ve received a, “Hell, yeah! I will never forget this and how it feels.” Now, those little boys are 23 and 24. I find myself reminiscing about when they were small, memories seen through rose-colored glasses of playtime at the mall or taking them to the little kiddie rides at the beautiful park in the center of the city. It takes a little more thought to wipe away the pink fog around the edges; truth is I was so exhausted by parenting these guys that I took them to playland and parks so they could play and I could just sit.

Thankfully, my parents were retired and available. We three were at their home at least once a week, and they came to my place regularly, giving me the opportunity to shop for groceries without two toddlers in the cart. My dad taught my kids to ride bikes when they were itty bitty and took them for walks. My mom played games and read. They were also occasionally my backup; I’d call when I was desperate and unsure of how much more I could take. What was I taking? Was it the volume? Them tag-teaming me with misbehavior? Maybe the part where I would change one kid’s diaper and the other disappeared to another room, quietly?

In the midst of the hamsterwheel of parenting, at all ages and stages, it is more than okay to ask for help. Whether it’s a family member, a friend, a playdate (which comes with its own set of issues, and not just between the children), getting the kids in their carseats so you can drive around, knowing they will fall asleep. I did that frequently subsequent to my two-year-old deciding he didn’t need a nap every day while the one-year-old still snoozed regularly.

You won’t be a perfect parent but you can be a really good one, and asking for some help or engineering a break for yourself is actually a gift to your kids, not a weakness. I know it feels like you’re going to be in the thick of it forever. It is going to be a while but once those days are gone, you’ll probably look back with fondness; hopefully, so will the rest of the family!

Sara’s education and experience: B.A. Ed; M.S. Counseling; teacher grades K & 2/3, educator for childcare providers, training in Positive Discipline and Growing, parent educator, program director of crisis nursery, including parent support, staff management & training, stay home mom 16 years with two sons born 19 months apart, medical transcription for 10 years in order to stay home, substitute teacher grades K through 12. Blogs about a wide variety of topics on survivingsara.net.

Warriors

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During the seven years I was living in the Mojave desert, the northern most reaches of Los Angeles County, the round trip back home each summer had become routine. In my early 20’s, I drove on I-5, the major north-south freeway on the west coast, avoiding two-lane highways that may cut drive time but would be lonely if I had car trouble. In the time before cell phones, the freeway had frequent call boxes, which made me feel more secure.

Next, in 2015, I began making recurrent driving trips to Southern California to spend time with my sister-in-law who had been diagnosed with ALS. My father-in-law had died of the dread disease four years earlier. Soon after learning of Steph’s diagnosis, I told my husband that our youngest and I were going to see her when the school year was over. He acknowledged but didn’t interject any thoughts or plans. Roughly five days before takeoff, it finally struck my husband that I was leaving to drive to Southern California with our younger son. I wondered why he’d been so complacent. I’ve not driven to So Cal by myself since we got married.

Opposition to my idea of driving straight through was strong from my husband and my traveling partner son. Substantial plans were then put in place. One practice that I maintained from my early days was stopping overnight in Redding, CA on the way down (if stop I must!). Upon return, I stayed in Medford. The drive was 24 hours, and these stops broke it up in two 12-hour days. I tossed aside my mom’s fears about a 22-year-old, blonde woman traveling more than 1,000 miles alone. The current plan did take me on the two-lane highway through the middle of Oregon, stopping at Klamath Falls for overnight rest. Cell phone and a teenager changed the course.

Over the course of the next few years, when my sister-in-law lived, the regular annual trips resumed. Varying combos of parents and sons allowed everyone in our family a chance to visit each summer, while providing SIL two separate breaks in her routine. It turned out my visits were all in June, and every year the Warriors were in the championship series, aside from 2016 when they went to conference finals. Now, I’m not much of a basketball fan. When I lived in So Cal in the mid-to-late 80’s, I had a great time cheering on the Lakers but mostly because it was a reason to go out and watch on big screens in bars.

This was different. I found Steph Curry. I really like that guy. He seems to be a standup guy of strong character and high expectations, for himself and the team. Some of the names are the same today: Steph Curry, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, and Klay Thompson. These players, and more, were part of my stayovers in Redding every year. They kept me company.

Then my sister-in-law died and the travels came to an end. I’ve still paid attention to the NBA finals, some. This year, I’ve gotten involved again, cheering Steph Curry and the Warriors. Watching them play brings a sense of comfort, warms m heart. It takes me back to a roadside motel at the halfway point of my trip, first in my independent 20’s and later, when my sister-in-law was still alive. I’ll be watching game 6 tonight and cheering for Steph Curry again.

p.s. Warriors win the championship in game 6! Steph Curry was star of the series.

Slow Thinking

I’ve taken to sharing with people that I have cognitive difficulties when I have trouble in the midst of a conversation, usually about scheduling an appointment. A friend and fellow blogger, Ashley https://mentalhealthathome.org, used the phrase ‘slow thinking’ in her writing and I think I like it. This week, I’ve been seriously slow thinking. I’ve been writing each day but not much, and the result is three more drafts living in limbo. Can’t trust my ability to actually write well and I’m unable to complete anything – except this. The fibro fog is strong and I have no idea how long it will last this time.

Rambling On

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Hello, there! Here’s one of those posts where I share some random thoughts and ideas that do not warrant posts of their own.

The process of moving my mother-in-law into our home continues. My husband is headed to her place for ten days, completing final preparations before it goes on the market. Yes, that’s right. When he leaves her place this time, she will put it up for sale. The realtor they met with a month ago said the most recent listing she’d had sold after one day. When it sells, here she comes. Instead of moving into the bedroom across the hall from me, she’ll have the daylight basement for some space of her own. Her cat can hang out there and so can its litter box. I try to stay present, not chasing imagined problems down rabbit holes.

Physical therapy involves a therapist massaging my scar, tissues surrounding, and all of my ankle and foot. It feels great but I’m pretty sure I got bumped down from the exercise level begun on my first visit to the massage level, maybe something about me being near tears on the second appointment, suffering vertigo every time I lie down on the PT table, and nausea the last two sessions. One day, as I left the PT office, the lurching I do in the hall at home became a serpentine stroll down the sidewalk. Progress with therapy is slow.

We finally got central air conditioning the end of last summer after 20 years in this house, so as we near official summer, my area is cloudy and wet. It’s my fault.

My eyebrows are disappearing. What’s next? Aging. Ugh.

Because my mother-in-law is moving in straight to the basement, it will be our 24-year-old son who moves up across the hall from me. Downstairs, he’s had a pretty sweet setup, using one bedroom for an office, with his bed and clothing across the hall in another. He primarily comes and goes using the code on the garage, avoiding upstairs parent people completely so they don’t ask him to do anything. Perhaps, he will be more motivated to move after getting dislodged from his rent-free, two-bedroom space. He doesn’t want to live here in a crowded house. That works.

My current affirmation or mantra is, “There is no threat. No need for fight, flight, or freeze.” I’m using this to address concerns about living with my German MIL. She is not a threat. No need for fight, flight, or freeze. Having her in my home, and possibly making suggestion or helpful hints about homemaking, is not a threat. It is something, but not a danger to my survival. There will be no escape from her audio output. I’m writing with code words, as though it obscures my intent. My MIL doesn’t know about or read my blog, and I want to keep it that way. In the case she ever peruses my posts, I couch statements that may imply a negative connotation. I know I’m not fooling anyone. Red alert post will be published if she does read my blog. This saga will be reported further in future ramblings. Breathe.

Here I provide a factual example of interacting with my MIL In 2019, I’d purchased a women’s t-shirt with a V neck of an ALS t-shirt that had the names of both my sister-in-law and my husband’s father, my MIL’s ex, who had both been lost to that awful disease. This was arranged by family on FIL’s side, so it wasn’t mentioned to MIL. She wants nothing to do with them, although it’s been about 50 years since the divorce. Gathering before the funeral of my SIL, my niece gave me the t-shirts I’d ordered for my sons, husband, and myself. I tried on mine. My niece said she had a few extra shirts if MIL wanted one. Well, of course, she wanted one. Those extras were size mediums and they were not cut for a woman’s shape, no V neck. MIL said she sure wished she could have one like mine. Although I knew she would never wear this black t-shirt in the California desert and I’d actually wear it frequently up north, I went into the bedroom where we were staying, take off the shirt, and put on something else. Back into the living room, I told MIL she could have mine and I would take hers. I knew I would never wear the medium because it was snug. She feigned surprise, as though she had no idea I would respond to her complaints about what she was given. I teased her, “You can tell your friends your daughter-in-law is the kind of person who would give you the shirt off her back!” Her reply, “Well, I would if I thought it was true,” straight facial expression though, if reminded, she’d say she never said such a thing or she was obviously teasing. I’ll keep you posted about how the new living arrangements play out. Keep me in your thoughts. I will ramble on…

If You Want Something Done…

After receiving a diagnosis of fibromyalgia in 2009, I accepted it as well as the repeated professional opinions that nothing could be done to address the situation. Huh, I’ve got a condition and the only advice I get is to deal with it. When fibro was googled, I found many check lists of symptoms, which aided me in proceessing that these many, diverse signs combine to construct the picture of fibromyalgia vs a constellation of random, disparate experiencees.

For more than a decade, this was it. Upon meeting a new doctor, I’d list fibro as a previous condition. Most doctors gave it a nod, “Fibromyalgia, that’s no fun.” I would agree and indicate I had no plan to treat any part. The doctors agreed, noting how tough it is to address.

Fast forward to this year. Though previously ignoring fibro videos online, I decided to check out a couple. In the past, I skipped them because I already knew it all, right? I had it, needed to cope, and best to simply accept, attempting to ease symptoms as they arose. When I saw videos from ‘UCTV Mini Medical School – Fibromyalgia’ (See post Mini Medical School) and ‘David Ruthermore – Cutting through the bs Fibromyalgia,’ I decided to give them a try. Imagine how surprised I was to realize medical research has continued and progressed so much over the last decade.

So, learning new things: Fibromyalgia has been thoroughly studied and medical findings are clear. At some point, in most patients’ history, the fight, flight, or freeze response was triggered by childhood/young teen trauma, either physical or emotional. The amygdala kicks in the most basic of all human survival instincts, begins pumping out stress hormones in reaction to the serious threat, but it doesn’t get the message later to call them off when the threat ceases. Sometime following, those hormones have been flooding the whole organism long enough to wreak a little havoc. The body shows signs of distress but the diagnoses of a variety of seemingly unrelated symptoms begins sporadically, each one a domino added to the line. Fibromyalgia has begun and the patient has started a long, tortuous journey, searching to make sense of what’s happening once they see the dominoes set closer and closer. If you’re not lucky enough to stumble across a medical provider knowledgeable about fibro and willing to address it, those dominoes all fall down. Daily life with work and family gets complicated and debilitating.

The first steps to putting even one domino away involve quieting the stress hormones. Long-term heightened unnecessary release of adrenaline, testosterone, cortisol and more leads to a wide variety of issues in systems of the body: Neurology, thyroid, bad gut, immune, dermatological, etc, all are affected. A major problem is peripheral small-tissue neuropathy. The coating that protects the pain nerves dies off as a result of the sustained onslaught by the body’s survival mode. Pain nerves become less able to differentiate and the system is on overload. Traffic jams compromise nervous system communication, hindering the synapses’ ability to send clear messages effectively.

How to stop the inordinate amount of threat stress spewed by the amygdala? Strategies include aromatherapy, yoga, therapy, meditation. Repeating the phrase, “There is no threat. No need for fight, flight, or freeze,” has been my first effort. I’ve been able to physically feel stress in the area of my diaphragm for more than a decade, near the adrenal glands. I knew it was stress I held tight between my lower ribs but no idea why. I am feeling a gradual loosening of the knot of nerves, and I’m still talking myself off nonexistent ledges.

Other recommendations involve explaining to your medical provider why you need to have a particular blood test conducted, although it’s outside the regular complete blood count tests. It’s obvious to me now that long-term easing of symptoms, maybe even eliminating a few completely, requires the patient advocating for themselves. This includes education, adopting proven strategies, requesting specific testing or other assistance of physicians, which may require convincing your insurance company to cover it. Apparently, many general practitioners are reluctant to get into the thick of it. They certainly haven’t offered me anything in the way of treating symptoms or the source.

I’m not a doctor, physician, or provider of medical services or advice. I am a complete novice, newly beginning my own journey to find a way to cope, to live with fibromyalgia. Reading that last part of the paragraph immediately preceding, about advocating for yourself, makes me feel overwhelmed. This is why I’ve started with repeating one thought. “There is no threat. No need for flight, fight, or freeze.” That’s what I can handle right now. Being fully present, mindful of where I am and what’s around me, is a habit I have yet to adopt. I am trying, but it’s not my main perspective, or even frequent. Onward.

I do have an annual physical exam coming up. I’ve written previously about my doctor who listens to me describe what’s happening, and provides a menu of options. She asks me what I want to do about it, and every time I feel like a deer in the headlights. This time, however, I will be prepared to ask for a specific thyroid test I want that is not included on the usual run. Look at that! My doc supports me in advocating for myself and I didn’t even know it.

I may have written much of this before; it sounds familiar! After more than two years, I’m forgetting exactly what I’ve penned previously, not to mention my fuzzy memory and cognitive function. Earlier, I did check a couple times to confirm or deny an inkling that I may have posted quite a similar expression previously or used a title more than once. Now, though, advocating for my reduction in stress, I’m not going to give a flying fig.

Pooped

Woke up worn out My get up & go got up and went. Exhausted

Fatigue is one of the most difficult fibromyalgia symptoms to deal with for me personally. It affects every fiber of my being when it makes itself at home, whether that’s around lunchtime or even first thing in the morning. Today, I opened my eyes and felt wiped out immediately. Ugh.

Worn out Spent Tired Wiped out

The word ‘tired’ doesn’t accurately describe fibro fatigue. It’s deeper. When I say I feel it in absolutely every bone and muscle in my body, it’s not exaggeration. Just as one can be tired without being sleepy, so it goes with fatigue. I may lie down because my neck can’t handle the weight of my head or because being upright is a step too far.

Deflated The tank is empty. Weary Drained

Cloudy brain, or fibro fog, sets in, an inextricable partner to fatigue. Movement of extremities is in slow motion, feeling as though you’re moving through soup, thick soup. Reaction time is slowed. My gait is unsteady, unstable when I’m weighed down with gravity plus. Breaking a leg must be avoided and all I require is being on my feet. Driving can be performed but I don’t think it’s a safe choice for any of us.

Burnt out Sluggish Prostate Collapsed Enervated

Consistently, I’m plagued with fatigue most days. On a good day, I’m free of it until after lunch or even 2:00 p.m. Planning would be seriously aided by a schedule of fatigue and time of arrival. Sometimes, only occasionally at this time, the weariness is there to greet me when I first awaken. Today is one of those days. Managed to get myself to physical therapy, slept for about an hour, and here am I – pooped.

Lil’ Old Ladies

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You’ve seen a senior woman and thought, “Did she look in the mirror when she put on that makeup? Does she know what she looks like? Can’t she see the clumpy mascara, messy bright blue eyeshadow, and too thick eyeliner? Why is her lipstick covering more face than her lips?” I am here to explain these mysteries.

Embarking on this mission implies the author has a level of familiarity with the topic at hand that is, unfortunately, well and true. It began with needing to wear my reading glasses to look in my makeup magnifying mirror to see the eyebrow hairs that were waiting to be plucked. The first time I did this, I could not believe how many strays had escaped both of these measures separately. This was the first inkling that I wasn’t seeing all there was to see and didn’t know what I couldn’t see.

Memory brain kicked in, and I remembered years ago, I was involved with women’s ministry at a presbyterian church, helping to organize and host events for women of all ages. A mental picture I still recall, though a bit blurry or faded, is an elderly woman, walking with her cane, to whom I gave an arm and then helped to one of the spring tea tables. The decor centered around beautiful teapot, some with cozies.

Her cosmetics were colored outside the lines, all of them. I marveled at the bright sky blue eyeshadow reaching up to penciled eyebrows, which were not adhering to a natural brow shape and which were not penciled in equal to the other. Her mascara and eyeliner seemed to be one and the same with serious eyelash clumps. And I thought, “Did she not look in a mirror while applying her face or before she left the house?” I vowed to quit wearing makeup if I couldn’t wear it well. She’d done her best to get ready for this tea, and here I was critiquing. All these thoughts raced through my mind.

As petty as it was, petty as I was, the memory of this woman was a guideline for me, when my vision became deleterious. So began the inconvenient tweezing of eyebrows with reading glasses to look in a magnifying mirror. Over the years, applying mascara and eyeliner required use of the enlarged reflection, but eyeshadow? Not much can go wrong there, right? I believed I’d addressed the issue by sticking to earthtones. No blues for me, no matter the current trends. Oh, I’ve also learned that fashion styles are not meant for women of a certain age. For me, I avoided the shifts and drifts in ‘Do’s and Don’ts” imparted by fashionistas.

The eyeshadow failed me eventually, disappearing after I’d been satisfied with my application. I’d reapply to both eyes, but by the time I finished, it was already soaking into my skin. Most times, the saturation of the powder was uneven, with some areas maintaining the intended color but others appeared much lighter. Attempting to add eyeshadow to the light spots results in darker color than I wanted for daytime. It was driving me nuts. Add face primer, before painting. I’d never anticipated this challenge. I am streamlining my makeup regimen and am comfortable going without, though my eyes disappear. Talk about disappearing, where the hell are my eyebrows going?

That older woman has:

  • done her best, using a mirror. This was a big event, tea at the church. She is not aware of clumps or lipstick pips here and there. She feels beautiful.
  • put on some makeup. She’s sure it’s not perfect and she doesn’t give a hoot. She likes bright colors. She feels beautiful.
  • been made up by her sister. You know sisters. She feels beautiful.

Yes, how petty of me.

Color Me Pleasant

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Having received a brief litany of my current state of fibromyalgia (frustratingly reluctant to improve), my husband grew quiet and then began, “It’s so weird. It seemed like when you had a broken leg…” his voice fading.

“What? When I had a broken leg, what?”

“I don’t know how to describe it. When it was broken, it was almost like you had a different … aura. It’s so weird.”

After reminding him that it’s not ‘weird’ for me to have ups and downs with fibromyalgia, I explained, “Because you were doing everything, I was totally dependent on you, and I knew how hard the entire circumstance was for you, I chose to be pleasant and patient. Doing my part.”

The look that passed through his face made me feel like I could see him thinking, remembering. “You’d go around on your scooter with a smile, so cute.”

“You didn’t see me cursing you when I was alone and you left the barstool in my path, again. And I can’t keep that up indefinitely. Now that I’m back on my feet and much more independent, my aura is back to normal.”

Hook, Line, & Sinker

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A little neighborhood in the Mojave desert called Lake L.A. had no lake and was a two hour drive north from Los Angeles. It, nevertheless, saw an explosion in population mid 80’s as people were priced out of the Greater L.A. market, and that drew an interesting mix of people recruited to serve the rapidly growing school district. One school, grades K-8, had sufficed for decades. In 1986, the schools in the Antelope Valley could hardly keep up with hiring.

In my little district, several recent graduates of my university in Washington State relocated to Southern California to begin their careers when I did. A surprising, to me, number of teachers came from back East. Our eclectic mix of personalities blended with the Lake L.A. community. The teachers who been with the school district for many years welcomed us outsiders. The fall I joined the faculty, a middle school was opened, and three years on, a second elementary school was added.

We were fortunate to have a middle-school science teacher from South Carolina land way out in nowhere. Marlene was an award winning educator, including State Teacher of the Year. By this time, Challenger Middle School was separate from K-5 on their own campus, so I only superficially knew the folks who joined that staff. A month or so post Christmas break, trouble started for Marlene. I didn’t hear about the harassment until just before spring break.

Beginning sometime in February, Marlene shared with her colleagues notes she’d found notes once in a while in her classroom that said things like, ‘bitch’ or ‘go away.’ Occasionally, she’d find a desk item where it didn’t belong or missing even, but it always reappeared. in a spot Marlene knew she’d searched. She wondered if anyone else had that kind of experience or maybe saw anything. They agreed it was just middle school pranks, simultaneously acknowledging the number of incidents was odd.

Everyone understood Marlene’s concern when just a day or two after speaking with her teaching team, her classroom lights were on when she returned from lunch. It was common for lights off and door locked when they ate midday. Perhaps, the lock hadn’t engaged? F0r whoever was messing with her, this fell in their lap after noticing her door ajar. Next day, Marlene turned off the lights and locked the door, pulling it shut. Again, when the teachers returned from lunch, the door was locked, shut tight, but the the flourescents were bright. With a locked door.

News about this finally got through the grapevine. My good friend who taught math to 7th graders mentioned it to me. Weird. That’s all the attention I gave it for a couple of weeks. Marlene’s classroom thermostat would be turned up or down, happening after she’d gone home or before she arrived. Lights on/lights off continued intermittently. Classroom items, science equipment, now went missing but stayed gone. At this point, the grapevine was heavy wih fruit. Everyone heard about the creepy events. Who could it be? It must be someone with a key. Why would someone do this?

Could it be done owing to Marlene being gay? That was hard to believe. Our superintendent was gay, one of the principals was gay, and other faculty members were gay. For the late 80’s, this was quite an accepting environment.

Are other teachers jealous of Marlene? She’d written for science education grants and received a couple. Her classroom was outfitted for a menagerie of rodents, bugs, a bird, a snake and a couple fish tanks. Her personality was outgoing and she fit in immediately. Could it be a custodian? Gotta be careful there, not too many from whom to choose. Might the motive simply be someone doesn’t like her, really doesn’t like her?

One day, a couple cages were left open and I think a hamster and some crickets were loose in the classroom. A small reptile disappeared. This was so bizarre. Some unknown powder was poured into plant soil. No one understood who or why. The crescendo occurred upon return from spring break. Thermostats on the fish tanks had been hiked up far past appropriate for a fish environ. They were floating. And falling apart some. All the fish were muerto. Seemed the deadly act happened before the week-long break. Marlene was distraught. All of the other animals were removed for their safety.

Everyone, and I mean student, staff, and the community, was talking about the stalking behavior. The death of the fish raised it to a higher level of concern. What if students had walked in with her? Luckily, it was an adult who shared Marlene’s shock, another science instructor standing in the hall when the door was first opened. People offered their support for her, so bothered were they by the stealth badgering.

Apparently, a bit of investigating had begun quietly before this event. It stepped up in response to the horrible killing of those poor fish. Cellphones and other small cameras were still being developed in Silicon Valley, no nanny cams; surveillance was indeed transpiring, old school.

The result was shocking! Shocking! Almost no one saw it coming. The person cruelly antagonizing Marlene was….Marlene! She was behind the whole thing. Who would do this? She wrote the notes. She switched lights. The cages left open, vandalism and damage, were all orchestrated by Marlene. And the fish, the innocent fish!!! She cooked them sous vide.

Without alerting her, a few individuals had been watching Marlene’s classroom before and after school, during short breaks and lunch. During surveillance, only she was coming and going. No one else entered the room without Marlene unlocking the door. The few in the know had no way to anticipate that she’d turned tank thermostats as high as they would go before leaving for spring break. When the sick denoument had been revealed, school authorities knew they had to insist on other animals being removed for their own safety. They double-checked the accounts written of Marlene entering and departing from her classroom. It could only be her, and it was announced.

It seems a few of the colleagues in her wing had been uncomfortable, and then suspicious, at the outset of the aggravations. Support staff familiar with her had gone to the principal to express doubts. The whispering and watching had begun with Marlene oblivious to either. When the pestering elevated to involvement of the animals, the district administration agreed that it was time to expose the true culprit. The discovery wasn’t publicized but it didn’t need to be. Staff and faculty were sharing the news through the branches of the grapevine faster than powdery mildew, and Marlene was put on leave, which proclaimed the truth for any left still wondering, and she no longer was a part of our little district in the desert.

I, for one, was shocked. My math friend told me as soon as she found out for sure. “She did all that herself?” I asked incredulously. “Yep, the notes, the missing shit (we were off duty), the animals let free, and the fucking fish!”

Everyone expressed sadness for the fish lives cut short.

Disclaimer: I added some of the little details that I’ve pictured in my mind from the very strange days of Marlene. The exact animals she had, the ones that were let out, etc. but I certainly remember those fish.

p.s. Perhaps another time I’ll share more about my California school district with the former nun and the Aussie motorcyclist, both principals, who had an affair on out of town recruiting trips, were spotted entering a hotel together during school hours, left their respective spouses, and held a wedding where nearly the whole school district showed up, plus one, to celebrate. Great times in So Cal.

Overdone

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Do you overdo it sometimes? What do you overdo? Drinking alcohol, weed, or food? Time in your own imagined life, away from the daily grind? Running, biking, or tennis? Makeup, shopping, or handbags with their own bags? Writing? Gaming?

My physical therapist fears I’ll overdo activities on my newly surgically-repaired ankle. It’s healed but I have zero muscle strength. He’s right about overdoing. Dinner out for my son’s birthday and a short walk didn’t feel like I’d overdone; well, yes, by the end, back in the car I was definitely aware that I had certainly pushed my strength and stability to their limits. It was worth it though.

The planters and border beds are planted with flowers, vines, and spikes now, due to my husband’s hard work. My plan is to get outside everyday, cleaning pine needles out or picking off the blooms that are done. Gardening was my glorious hobby for a few years before I became unable to do much. When my dog and I are outside now, she insists we play frisbee and won’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Whether I feel like going down the stairs and walking on the soft lawn, we’re doing it. She’s a blue heeler and she will nip my heels to keep me in line once in a great while, not as much as when she was a young girl. While I’m in the yard, I look around and I see a small piece of yard art that needs to come out from under the deck. I got my lotus frog out this morning. Before I went outside, I felt lousy. After I did it, I felt lousy and tired. I did it.

Emptying the dishwasher, folding laundry, and washing a couple pots in the sink are all things I think I ‘should’ totally be able to do, at least one a day. You can see there are many opportunities for me to overdo. It’s always been my style to overdo when recovering from whatever. So I must be overdone. If you overdo, you’ve overdone, right?

My plan is to continue to do a little something each day, increasing in time and strength as able. Occasional family celebrations are totally a go, even if it kicks my butt. So, do you overdo? So often or so much you get overdone? Most often, the evidence of our excesses is behind closed doors or inside us, shuttered away from view. We are usually much more discreet than the lip lady!

Deep in the Lilacs

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My hometown is known as the Lilac City. The pretty bushes can be spotted all around the area in purples, pinks, and white. Each year in May, the main event of the Lilac Festival is the nighttime Armed Forces Torchlight parade. It really is beautiful with floats and bands lit up in creative ways.

Another favorite of Lilac Week is the 12K run held at the start of festivities. Over 50,000 pe0ple participate each year.

High school students from area high schools makeup Lilac Royalty. My sister was a Lilac princess in 1980. You knew that right? If you were alive, you must know because it was the center of the world that week. My best friend and I ran from block to block downtown to wave and cheer my sister as her float snaked through the streets.

So, one year, I picked up my niece at her dorm for a walk through Manito Park, a sprawling, forested greenspace with a variety of beautiful gardens. My niece and I walked around the Japanese garden, then up the hill to see the Duncan Rose gGarden, but the flowers were still waiting to be in full bloom. As we walked on a path back to the car, we stumbled into the lilac garden in full, glorious bloom. We were surrounded by the scent like a light, fluffy blanket wrapped around your shoulders when you hadn’t yet noticed the evening chill in the air. This was a wonderful surprise! I thought my niece would love to hear all about her mom’s lilac experience as we strolled through the bushes, but not so much.

Lilacs after they open. Photo by Irina Iriser on Pexels.com

It’s been years since. My beautiful niece graduated university, moved away, got married, and now she’s getting ready to have a baby! Over all these years, I put myself back in the midst of the purple bliss in my mind. For this reason or that, I hadn’t made a return visit.

This past Saturday, late in May, my husband and I met with our sons to celebrate our youngest’s birthday at a very chicken-wing joint. Not my fav but all my guys love them. When we entered, both of our sons and a couple friends were enjoying adult beverages at a buddy bar in the elevated chairs, which means for me that I won’t have feet on the floor, which is rough on my low back and legs. My youngest is 23 years old. How can that be??? We had a great time with “the boys.” Gotta quit calling them that.

As we walked to our car, some kind of bug bit me and I suggested we should head south, away from home, to visit those lilacs. My husband questioned me, skeptical that this would end well. Doubts remained but off we went. On our drive across town, purple, pink, and white puffs dotted landscaping here and there. I was so excited! We were really going and this time I knew what immersive goodness lay ahead.

It took a lot of effort to get out of the car when we finally found the location of the lilacs and the closest parking. Using a cane, I was tired but doing okay on the rough asphalt path and it wasn’t long before we saw the first bush. I could hardly contain my giddiness. Moving from the pavement to a dirt trail was challenging but I was more determined than ever.

Using my cane and with my husband close, we entered the little garden. My hopes deflated quickly, like an elementary school girl who gets runner up in the spelling bee because she wasn’t sure how to spell ‘moustache’ and gambled on no ‘e’ at the end. (Yes, that was me in 6th grade.)

The bushes looked odd. I scanned the bushes and grass all around, trying to figure out if we’d missed the big bloom or if they hadn’ yet. Were the scattered bushes with full flowers on display delayed or stragglers at the end of season? Luckily, my husband doesn’t get cloud brain like I do with fibro, and he pointed out the plethora of tight buds adorning all the branches, much like the first flower posted above. While it is the end of May and the little flowers should have been bursting by this time. we’ve had a wet, cloudy spring without much sunshine. Sigh. There was still a scent in the air but my sense of smell has greatly diminished, so I leaned into a few fluffs to get a good noseful. Without exception, I lost my balance on the incline of the grass close to the base of the bush, more unsteady on my feet, and my husband repeatedly prevented me from falling.

Wow. What disappointment. The rainy days have contined. Once we have a few days of blue skies and sunshine, I’ll have to decide if I want to make the trek again. Two days following my big outing, I’m still recovering, shaky, unstable, and weak. It was tough to carry off first go round, but I made it. Will the memory continue to compel my desire to relive it? Do I accept that despite the flower driving an annual festival, I probably won’t recapture that lilac serendipity?

Parent is Also a Verb

My 14-year-old son was in for a difficult conversation. I brought him into my room, shut the door, and we sat on the bed.

Me: Unfortunately, I’m going to have to share with you something I was hoping I’d never have to say.

Son: My younger brother (name withheld) really is retarded?

M: No. He’s not and don’t say retarded. No. I want you to know that I know you’re a liar. When I don’t believe what you’re saying to me, it’s not that I think you’re a horrible person; I just know you’re not telling the truth.

S: What?

M: The reason I refuse to believe you when you’re lying is because I, too, lied a lot in my youth. I could look my parents in the eye and lie to avoid or get out of trouble.

S: You lied to gramma?

M: Just the way you lie to me, and I was good at it. That’s the reason I see it in you, no matter how earnestly you try to convince me.

S: What did you lie about?

M: I lied a lot. I spilled nail polish on an end table, and it ruined the varnish. Gramma knew it had to be me but I never admitted it. Once I rode in a friend’s car without permission to somewhere other than the basketball game where gramma and pop thought I was, (Had to be careful with this one because the period of prolific, adept lying involved partying and having sex.)

S: Did you get caught?

M: Oh, yeah. Not every time but sometimes. So, when I refuse to believe you, it’s because a liar can see a liar. Lying doesn’t mean you’re an awful, terrible human being. It’s a character flaw, If you accept that you’ve got a character flaw, you can choose to improve it by telling the truth instead. Even though it feels harder to be honest, it actually gives you a great feeling. I don’t lie or try to avoid responsibility for things I’ve done anymore. it’s such a relief. You don’t have a racing mind trying to consider options and what exactly you did do or say. The truth is much more peaceful. It’s your choice. I love you.

S: I love you, too.

Sara’s education and experience: B.A. Ed; M.S. Counseling; teacher grades K & 2/3, educator for childcare providers, training in Positive Discipline and Growing, parent educator, program director of crisis nursery, including parent support, staff management & training, stay home mom 16 years with two sons born 19 months apart, medical transcription for 10 years in order to stay home, substitute teacher grades K through 12. Blogs about a wide variety of topics on survivingsara.net.

With Everything, Turn, Turn, Turn

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I sense change coming. From this side of nearly six decades, a most profound lesson I’ve internalized is that we will always face new challenges. Sometimes the current season feels like trouble that’s here to stay. When you have a two or three-year-old throwing a fit as they work out exactly what they can control while you’re trying to get them to an appointment, it feels like the time of toddler tantrums will last forever. This, too, shall pass, Unless it’s won’t. Then, whatever the never-ending battle is, it becomes a season unto itself.

For sure, life will be different after my mother-in-law moves in with us. That will change everything. There will be many new experiences.

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Our aging dog’s liver is dying, has been for a few years now. She’s really slowing down and keeping herself to herself more than was typical. She’s the best dog in the world; fight me.

We haven’t had any stretches of sunshine to remind us summer is on its way, and the cold, gray skies bring a general malaise for those of us who already treasure our precious few months of warm, sunny, blue skies. Take away regular short periods of enough sunshine to give us hope in the lead up to summer, this outdoorsy population gets grumpy. For me, it’s looking forward to days warm enough to have my morning coffee on the deck. A wee bit of gardening flowers in a few large pots brings me joy, though a far cry from the borders, rocks, and variety of flowerpots I’d plant myself, feed & water, and clean for the season. Our newly-acquired, small, hanging birdbath and cute, wooden cabin full of birdseed occupy opposite sides of a tall shepherd’s hook, and I’m happy to say we’ve become quite popular with all manner of songbirds. This tickles me and there’s joy in that. I’d love to be out there all day but heavy winds and rain most days sends all of us birds to our nests.

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Transparency will not extend to familial relationships because they didn’t sign up. There’s nothing wrong, no conflict, just that I dread the next season.

Fair to Middling, Cinderella to the Ball

Oh, where do I begin? Here we go, I survived! My husband and I had an interesting weekend, and you know when someone describes an event or a weekend as interesting the undertone is, “Get a load of this.” So, get a load of this.

After weeks of planning and prep for our weekend staycation at a four-star resort, it was finally go-time. My husband’s work success, and that of others, was being celebrated by his company, and we were splurging on extras for his very recent birthday.

Friday was spent getting ready, packing up, driving about 90 minutes, completing check-in, and entering our room. Our room. So wrong. We were in a corner of the second floor, the smell of chlorine permeating from the hotel spa directly below us. Opening the window coverings provided no relief. We looked out at an outdoor cement staircase and ramp out to the boardwalk. No one used the stairs, at least it seemed so. I closed the blinds after taking in the depressing, dark concrete scene. Perhaps the quality of our accomodation had something to do with my husband being a bit tardy with his RSVP. Free room at a 4-star, gotta be good with that!

A room with a view of a boat on the lake. Can you see the pontoon boat out there? It’s one of the resort’s tour boats.
Looking up, one can bask in the sunlight finding its way to you through a screen, kind of what I imagine of a jail cell, without the windowcoverings of course.

With an hour before cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, I freshened my makeup and put on my dress. This may be too much information for some, but I had tried the dress on braless at home after buying online. Loved it! It was THE one. At the hotel, I wore the strapless, pushup bra that I’d purchased as part of my online shopping spree readying for this evening, overcompensating for my insecurities. Well, one might imagine what difference a good bra does to the fit of a frock. I stared at myself in the mirror. Surely I’d tried this on and really liked it, but now it had a much different length, as compared to my first try-on as well as lengths varying front vs back. If a reader has been following along, they’re aware of the obnoxious attention to detail I have given to every aspect of my evening dinner presentation because I’m self-conscious about the weight I’ve gained since fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety, and a broken ankle resulted in a couple of very sedentary years. Back to matters at hand, there I was, pushing and pulling the dress to make it look like what I’d remembered. Whatever. After all of this preparation and concern about this evening, I threw up my hands.

Having been the first to arrive at past parties, we decided to stop for a quick drink in the bar before heading to the dinner venue. It was 4:15 pm and there were still 15 minutes before the start. Talk and time got away from us. Suddenly, it was 5:30 and the boss was calling to see where we were. Apparently, they’d begun taking photographs and were waiting for my husband so they could take pictures of their work group. We were beyond fashionably late, and I was already exhausted with my ankle swollen and aching. Speaking of which, here’s a look three months post surgery (without swelling).

I’m very pleased with my surgical scar.

As he headed to get the photos taken, I walked into the banquet room. This was the largest group of people I’ve been with since waiting in line for a vaccine. Fortunately, our table was just a couple in from the main doors. I circled, reading nametags, and found mine next to this woman. This woman. I’ve been visiting with her at work Christmas parties and such for 20 years or so because she is the wife of a colleague in my husband’s division. I’ve very much debated whether or not I should describe her and the interactions I have with her. I’ve decided, “Fuck it. She’s not going to read this blog.”

This woman, let’s call her Debbie, as in Debbie-downer. She believes we are friends and looks forward to having someone with whom she can hang in these work-related situations. That would be fine, even welcomed, if she wasn’t a constant complainer and malicious gossip whose delivery of such seems slimy. And there’s no getting away from her for me. My man and her man working in the same office, she’s my banquet buddy.

Having located my name card, next to hers, I began to take a seat, but there she was. “Sara! Oh, Sara. How are you?She sounds as though I’ve just returned after being missing.

My response was wary, “Okay, how are you?” I continued to be seated, place the napkin on my lap, and try to figure out what the hell to do with my newly purchased clutch. She sat next to me with her knees pointing at me rather than under the table. I wish I could describe the worrisome look she has most of the time, her eyebrows scrunched together, expressing faux empathy about your personal struggles, whether you’ve identified any or not. Picture a really bad actor trying to portray someone who is incredibly concerned about you. And all you’ve said is that you’re okay.

She lowers her head and moves it closer to mine. She asks, “Are you on any medication?”

At this p0int, I think she must’ve heard about my broken ankle and surgery from her husband, so my answer is, “Just tylenol now.”

“Just tylenol?”

“Yes, I’m off all the post surgical meds. I just take tylenol when my ankle hurts.”

“Your ankle?! What happened with your ankle?!” and after I explain briefly, she cries, “I didn’t know!” (Okay, “cries” is an exaggeration – but not much.)

Enough said about that, she went back to what she meant. “I was talking about depression and anxiety. Are you on medications for those?” I would try to explain why she asked this but other than my oversharing in the early years about the struggles I had, I have no fucking idea why she asked this instead of, oh, “How are you doing?” This. This is what I’m talking about, but it gets worse, much, much worse.

I state briefly that I’m continuing to take care of my mental health and she responds, “Well, I’m on xanax and _____, so if you need one….” (I couldn’t hear her clearly on the second name because she was burrowing into her purse and putting a pill in her mouth. She looks at me and gestures, “Sure you don’t want one?” I wave her off to assure her I’m fine.

Debbie inquires about my sons. I share how they’re doing generally. Her take away is, “Oh, your oldest is still living at home?”

Mama bear repeats, “Yes, he’s got his four-year degree and he’s looking for work.” She nods sympathetically as though it’s so awful that my 24-year-old isn’t living in his own place. I resist the urge to tell her he did live on his own for a couple years until his situation changed and he needed to come back.

When I ask after her daughter, Debbie shares with me that her daughter is getting married. I congratulate her and she says, “He’s half black…..but that’s okay. We like him. My husband really gets along with him. I just worry about the problems they’re going to have in the future.”

Me, “With your family?”

Debbie, “No, problems like when their kids go to school and the other kids make fun of them for being half black/half white.”

After taking a breath I explained that there are so many shades of all kinds, most likely no one will notice or think anything.

“Well, I don’t know about that. I just know they’ll be made fun of.”

This woman. This is what I’m talking about.

The guests take their seats and food is served. As I’m eating my chewy chicken at a 4-star resort, ahem, I glance around the table, noticing name cards alternate by gender – until you get to me. Somehow, my place card ends up next to this woman and her husband is seated next to his boss, a male. Hmmm. Wonder how just in this spot the pattern was interrupted. Debbie engineered my disappointment in being stuck next to her. Figures.

Halfway through the dinner, Debbie’s husband said, “Sara.” I turned to him. “You look beautiful.”

“Well, thank you.”

“Really, you look beautiful.”

He looked at my husband and said, “You too. You’re great, man. Seriously.”

My partner was reciprocating the sentiment, but I couldn’t hear because Debbie was harrumphing and scolding. She looks at me and says, “Can you believe this? Are you okay with this?”

“Two men expressing appreciation for each other? Yeah. I think it’s great. They should hug. I’ll take the picture.”

My ankle was throbbing now and more swollen than it had been in weeks. I indicated to my husband that I was ready to get dropped off at the room when he was done with his filet mignon, chewy filet mignon. He returned to the festivities and enjoyed himself a lot and late. That was it. For all my anxiety and shopping, I was at the banquet for an hour-and-a-half, and I’m pretty sure no one would have noticed if I had a broken nail or used my everyday black purse, and if anyone was surprised by my weight gain, they didn’t tell me.

The rest of the stay continued in the same vein. Saturday, we set out to find a place that was still serving breakfast, as the resort restaurants began lunch service at 11:00 am, discontinuing service of the morning menu. We walked a couple blocks in cold wind and sprinkles here or there. My ankle did not appreciate the trek. We reached the Iron Horse diner, which I was sure would serve breakfast at least until 1:00 or 2:00 pm, but which actually stops service at noon, 20 minutes before we arrived. We ordered cheeseburgers & fries.

As we sat in the large, mostly empty restaurant, waiting for our food, I looked at the memorabilia on the walls from early days of the town and watched people strolling up and down the sidewalks. Into this tableaux of families and small town reminiscence drove three pickup trucks in a row sporting huge flags reading: 1. Election 2020 was stolen 2. Biden is not president 3. Let’s go Brandon and the like. They had their little, 3-vehicle political parade but it didn’t strike me as a high profile event. Motorcyclists driving up and down main street reminded me that not all states require use of helmets. Unintentional Darwinism at work there. About 12 Buffalo Soldier bikers came in together. I didn’t know if they were all smart enough to don helmets and I sure as hell wasn’t going to ask!

The skies had grown thick with dark blue thunderclouds surrounding us on all sides and a far away skrim of rainfall to the southwest. Obviously we didn’t want to get soaked in the arriving storm, but my ankle had no hurry in it. We managed to arrive dry at our hotel and I suggested we sit in the bar overlooking the lake to see the weather; we certainly weren’t going to see any of it from our room. The espresso martini I ordered was de-licious, so much so that I ordered one in a plastic to-go cup before we left. Available window seats with the best view were filled, so we settled at a small cocktail table. Unfortunately, the vision of the lake being whipped up by the wind and rain was mostly blocked by the jutting out of the bar, where those prememium tables and chairs were located. Story of our stay – Room with a View of a Building.

Our day was filled with being lazy in the incredible bed and watching movies, which did not disappoint. I will say, though, my dreams have been action adventure movies each night since our marathon. I rarely watch that genre so my psyche is still trying to work it out, I guess. I’m pleased I made it through a very challenging obstacle course beginning the day I panicked in reaction to the news we’d be attending this event. Hours and hours of scouring and scrubbing to make it to the ball. for one hour I’ve got my Prince Charming and I’m surviving Sara!

Goodbye Maybe

Why write? I’ve accidentally become woven into a writer’s community on twitter and I feel illegitimate. As they discuss WIP (work in progress), MC (main character), plot lines, unplanned turns of events, perspctives, querying, getting agents, publishing the latest book, etc., I’m thinking blog, blogger, topics, followers, and likes or comments. These two worlds do not lend themselves to the idea of common creative writing skills. Those folks sound like “real” writers. I’m not completing novels and laboring to get them published. Currently, I have no desire to restart my own efforts with my book, Charmed.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Pexels.com

So all this has got me thinking about my “writing.” Am I a writer or did I surrender that identity when I shelved my WIP? (Maybe I’ll feel more like a writer if I use the correct lingo.) Does it make a difference that I’ve been blogging regularly for over two years? The next rabbithole is one where we consider, ‘What is a blog?’ To qualify as a blog, is average word count taken into account? Could I write one word and call it a blog? Then publish a blog daily, each containing one word, different words or same word? Would that be considered a piece of art? I could do that, but I’m not sure that would make me a blogger or an artist.

Most blog posts I read are much longer than mine. It seems most blogs have a theme rather than writing about whatever springs to mind, as I do. The number of followers I have is more than I thought I’d have; and I don’t mind including the commercial blog sites that follow everyone in order to get their product out into the marketplace. Although I’m pleasantly surprised by how many “followers” I have, and even moreso the regular readers who’ve stuck with me and a few with whom I’ve interacted, I don’t have thousands of people checking in on my missives. It’s practically a diary with a few extra readers, too.

This view of my creative productivity leads me to a sense of flogging a dead horse, a gruesome depiction of which Dostoyevsky provides in Crime and Punishment. That’s not my goal with SurvivingSara. Two-and-a-half years of blog posts primarily about life, love, and family have not substantially increased in views or likes, even as the number of followers has. Much thanks go to Ashley Peterson, Tubley001, …

Nevermind. I just went into my list of users to make sure I got Tubley’s numbers (001) correct and I saw many people, real people, have signed up for notifications when I publish. If people are still interested in taking a look, I’ll continue to write. I am in quite a mood today, so I probably should pay myself no mind. My apologies for dragging readers through my angsty perturbations. I still don’t know if I’m a real writer, though.

p.s. As previously promised, now that I decided to keep blogging, I will soon report how my big weekend away from home went. Lots to say about that.

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