Friday, January 31, 2014

My Personal Pericardial Stripping

Dear John,
I've been staring at the page and searching for words. They are escaping me tonight. Oh, I have the daily news for you - I took Abby in to get her sutures out, went to work, wrestled with IT issues all day, came home, shoveled the driveway. We're expecting five inches of new snow with a quarter-inch of ice on top of it, so I got our usual three-foot drift out of the center of the driveway. None of that really matters.
And that's all the words I seem to have. The nausea and vomiting from coming off of Cymbalta are getting much better, as long as I'm careful what I eat. Now I'm feeling the emotional fallout. Having to keep living without you has been horrifically painful. But being on Cymbalta - even, as I was, for pain - damped my emotions more than I realized. The only way I can describe what's happening now is to compare it to a pericardial stripping. (It's so good to be married to somebody who knows what that is!) The pain I feel now is closer, rawer, and I can't defend myself against it. My usual comfort things don't work anymore. I'm not crying the way I did, wailing like a banshee - I'm trickling slow tears all the time. My heart seems to be eroding. Soon it will wash downstream with the melting snow.
Well, that's a lot of words for not having any, isn't it? I know that you know all of this already. But I'm determined to be honest here, and this is as honest as my loss for words will allow. You'll have to fill in what I can't express. I love you. All I ever asked was to not have to live without you. And it's very hard right now. Please pray for me tonight, as I will for you.
Love you so much more than life,

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Tangled Musings of Newlywed Nights & Nutmeg Graters

Dear John,
I took an involuntary trip into the past this morning. And it made me aware that my Cymbaltaless emotions are a bit raw. I need to avoid musical nutmeg graters for a while.
On the way to work today, the radio played I Want to Kiss You All Over. And the clock flipped right back to 1978. Remember? That song came out right after we were married. You were working first shift, and I worked 3rd shift at The Hospital From Hell. It was so hard to leave for work at bedtime, to never get to sleep with you. Every night I heard that song on the radio and cried all the way to work.
I so wanted to have the little, normal things like sleeping with my husband. But three months after we were married you were diagnosed with your second round of cancer, and little things like a having a normal life receded in importance. And nine months after that, I quit that awful job and we both worked second shift, which was about as close to normal as we ever got. By that time the song was gone, and so were any expectations of a regular life that I might have had.
We never did get to have our days of carefree sexual debauchery, did we? Between working different shifts, health problems, and 60-hour weeks, it never happened. But that's probably just another myth, like 9-5 jobs with weekends off. Normal people have children, and that's even more devastating to debauchery than shift work. And I don't feel like I missed out on anything except getting to grow old with you. The song is another myth, isn't it? It's not what real life is about. Hearing it, then and now, made me feel like I was missing something. But I had you, and that was always the only thing that mattered. And all that matters now is that I will be with you again someday. Until then, I'll avoid emotional nutmeg graters like that song.
Love you with all my heart,

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Baby Steps

Dear John,
Sun today, no more snow, not much wind, temperature stayed above zero. It must be spring. I expect to have no trouble getting to work tomorrow. The animals will probably be glad to finally have a day alone.
I've felt better today - that means less nausea and no vomiting. I'm still more emotional than I was, but I think Cymbalta had my emotions damped down too much. I feel more like myself than I have in a long time. Jen says she's seeing the old me for the first time in a while, too. I have been paying such a high price for a bit less pain - I know now that it wasn't worth it. Miserable as these weeks have been, I'm grateful that insurance forced me to come off without letting me replace it with another drug.
Baby Steps
I spent most of the day getting my Lia Sophia orders in - new line items, regular stock items, discontinued items, supplies, everything I need for the new catalogue season. Thank you for teaching me to spend money. I know it sounds funny, but you really did have to do that, to let me know that it was okay to spend money. You were so patient with me through all the years it took me to learn that. I still have to talk it over with you in my head first, but I'm getting better at it. Baby steps.
I'm finally moving away from the television. I never watched it much until you died, then I needed the company of other human voices. Television has kept me company, and has also been anesthesia when I needed it. Lately I've been listening to music more often, and that is another baby step in the right direction.

All of my Pandora stations are blues or folk - I'm sure that doesn't surprise you. It's music that is real, that honors the fullness of human experience and the experience of being human in a way that respects and honors all of life. There will always be times I want Steppenwolf. But I'm an old earth-mother hippie, and blues and folk will always make up the bottom of my food pyramid.
Now I need to turn the music off and go to bed. It's still sad to go to bed without you. But I'm trying to do it at a reasonable hour - more baby steps. Putting it off doesn't change the fact that you're not here; it just makes it harder to get up in the morning. Come and cuddle with me tonight - I know you'd like the music.
Love you so, so much,

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Machine That Changed History

Dear John,
Woody Guthrie & Pete Seeger
We had another cold day, wind chills of -35, temperature topping out at +3. But it was sunny, so I raised the shades and let some sunshine inside. The travel ban was lifted to an advisory, but the reality of the roads doesn't always cooperate. Jen got as far as Kimmel and had to turn around and come back home. US 33 had snow, which traffic had turned into that washboard thing, and then ice had covered.
Jen and Bob were going to come and snow-blow the driveway for me, but DeWayne beat them to it with a front loader. I want one of those! It looked like so much fun! He moved all the big snow piles away from the driveway and further into the yard, so there is room now to put the new snow that's supposed to fall every day of the next two weeks.
There is no end in sight. Chris and Heather are getting freezing rain - New Orleans is having a terrible time. And Atlanta was paralyzed by three inches of snow. Meanwhile, Anchorage is having their warmest winter on record. At least our regular winter weather has been accounted for - it ran away to Alaska.

This morning I checked the news on line and found out that Pete Seeger died last night. And I bawled, positively bawled. I've never known the world without him and can't quite imagine it. I wanted to let you know so you can go and welcome him. Keep an eye out for Woody Guthrie while you're there, and give him a hug for me. And tell him that his machine still kills fascists. Pete and Woody changed history. They touched hearts and minds, but even better, they evoked the conscience. We're better for having had them.
Love you so much,

Monday, January 27, 2014

Just One More Thing . . .

Dear John,
Just one more thing before I go to sleep.
Tonight I'm humming it again - Gordon Lightfoot's Song for a Winter's Night. I would be happy just to hold the hands I love on this winter's night with you. Snowstorms always bring that song back to me.
I have Gordon on Pandora. I do tend to get sentimental this time of night, don't I? I seem to feel your absence so much more, the later it gets. Maybe it's just the silence of night, the naked emptiness that leaves you defenseless against what is in your heart.
Pandora just started Wedding Song. If I had any strength of mind, I'd skip it. But I can't quite do it. We - and everybody else, those days - had it sung at our wedding, in Ron's beautiful tenor voice.
A man shall leave his mother and a woman leave her home. I remember that it struck me at the time, that that was exactly what we did. You left your mother; I left my home. I was glad to leave culture, land, and home for you.
What's to be the reason for becoming man and wife? The reason isn't changed or erased by a little thing like death, is it? Love never fails. Even the Dread Pirate Wesley knew that. All the people who tell me to move on, forget, find a new husband, must not know the kind of love I do, we do. "Until death do us part" is not a part of the Orthodox wedding vows.
That's all. That's more than I planned to say. I just wanted to tell you that it's another winter's night, and I'd be happy just to hold the hands I love.
Forever yours,

Hitchcock or Gorey: Two Ways to Face a Snow Emergency

Snow Emergency:
The Hitchcock Method
Dear John,
Indiana is closed again. The wind is creating lovely, life-threatening drifts of snow, and tonight's wind chill is expected to go below -45. We've been under a snow emergency today; it will be re-evaluated around 9:00 tomorrow morning, which doesn't help because that's when I'm supposed to be at work. The driveway is drifted pretty deep. The snow blower is working but it's not safe to be out in -45, and I'm in no hurry to waste time moving snow that is still blowing and drifting - if I did get out, it's doubtful that I could get back in tomorrow evening. And I have no intention of getting out in a snow emergency. So don't worry about me.
Snow Emergency:
The Edward Gorey Method
Meanwhile, back at the igloo, we're doing fine. It occurs to me that there are two ways to face a snow emergency: The Hitchcock Method and the Gorey Method. I don't need to panic about getting supplies - you know I stay ready this time of year - and I never was good or convincing at histrionics. I believe I will pass on the Hitchcock method. So I am choosing the Edward Gorey method - sit, knit, and be leapt upon by cats. It at least has the advantage of decorum.
Please pray for your little family. I'll keep you posted on the weather!
Miss you on these cold, snowy nights,

Somewhat Incoherent Musings at 1 AM

Dear John,
I know, it's barely tomorrow, and here I am again. You're a strong guy - you can take it.
I just realized something. Or, I just realized three somethings. Or maybe I realized something three times. 
I was grousing to you about this a couple of days ago - how two years ago everybody thought it was wonderful how much I loved you, but now that you've been gone for 21 months, people think that it's creepy. I told you that I'm ticked and baffled. And, since I'm a woman, I was wondering what could be wrong with me.
I've thought about this for a good bit of the last couple of days and have concluded that nothing whatsoever is wrong with me. You know that I've always run around with music playing in my head and I'm often unaware that it's playing. Well, three times in the last 36 hours I was pondering this issue of whether it's strange to love you long after you're gone. And all three times, I eventually realized that what was  stuck in my head was Carly Simon singing "Loving You's the Right Thing to Do."

I'd take that as an answer to my question. It's the right thing, to keep loving you. I wasn't planning to change to suit people who have no idea what it's like to be widowed, anyway. But there's something heartening about concluding that I'm being normal again.

It's a shame that our culture is so unacquainted with the ways of grief, isn't it? All these people that keep telling me that I need to forget about you will have to someday find out the hard way that it doesn't work like that. But I have my Widow Friends Forever and a wise priest and you to talk to, so a pox upon the rest of them! They need to listen to Carly sing "Life is Eternal." Anybody that can pull off that lovely hat deserves to be listened to!

Loving you and not giving a flying fig if it's the right thing to do, your rebellious wife,

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Snow Angels on Two Legs

Dear John,
I've discovered something important: Cymbalta withdrawal plus 4 1/2 hours of shoveling snow equals a very bad night. I thought I was going to throw up my toes. This was vomiting that would even impress your sister. And it's still going on. Lesson learned.
Giant Drift in the Back Yard
So, driveway report: A new neighbor came by today looking for work shoveling driveways, bless him. He shoveled the driveway, sidewalk, and front porch, and even worked on the snow blower. So the driveway re-emerged and I made a new friend. Jen and Bob came by later and Bob got the snow blower working. By that time the driveway had disappeared again, so he cleared it while Elyssa took her new sled and made runs down the giant drift in the back yard. It's higher than the fence now. I'm still waiting for Jethro to try to use it to escape and terrorize the neighborhood by bringing home more kittens.

Cymbalta report: My emotional, pain, and sensory rheostats are gradually turning down, thought I'm still tending to knit too tight and tear up too easily. The primary problem now is nausea and vomiting. Today I've managed to keep down eggs, a baked potato, and saltines. And so far I've held onto an ill-advised can of soup. Sprite is staying put. And I hope I'm losing at least ten pounds a day.
We had a brief glimpse of summer this afternoon - it reached 30 degrees. We're under blowing snow and wind chill warnings until sometime Wednesday. The temperature is dropping, and we aren't expected to get above zero again until Wednesday. But I have Sprite and milk and a functional snow blower, so we're prepared for a few days of hibernation. Father came through the snow to bless the house tonight. It was good to talk to him. He's a very wise and gentle man, and I'm thankful that Bishop MARK sent him to us.
Your little family will be going off to bed soon. If you had anything to do with sending snow angels to rescue me and excavate the driveway today, thank you. I know that you pray for us, as we do for you.
Adore you,

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Winter Aerobics & Driveway Art

Dear John,
There's no motivation needed for winter aerobics. I spent 4 1/2 hours shoveling snow today. Now I'm trying to get warm and hoping the Motrin works. The snow was up to my waist in the driveway and partway up the back door. After I finished the driveway I brought the shovel through the kitchen - since the back gate is completely impassible - and got the snow off the back steps, out of the window well, and away from the dryer vent. The big drift on the west side of the back yard is as high as the fence now. I do hope it won't hold Jethro's weight - I have no doubt he'll give it a try soon.
I'm doing all this by hand because the snow blower won't start. I thought it was the intense cold, but it got up to 20 today so that's not it. I'm looking for somebody that will make a house call. Kauffmann's would be happy to look at it, but I'd have to pay them $100 to come pick it up - there's no way I can lift it into the trunk of the car. I didn't need it last winter - didn't even have to shovel all winter - and it had it's yearly check-up right before that. It just won't quite turn over. Let me know if you have any thoughts about it. I've read the owner's manual and it didn't help.
We have another storm due tonight and a cold front coming tomorrow. Great Vespers was cancelled tonight and I don't know if I'll be able to get to church in the morning. It's supposed to be bad tonight and tomorrow. But the driveway is clear and the dog can get out the back door, so we're okay. The only thing we're missing is you!
Love you, adore you, worship the ground you walk on,

Friday, January 24, 2014

It's My Climate & I'll Cry if I Want To

Dear John,
More snow. Morning temperature of -8. High winds and a wind chill of -25. Drifts across the driveway. White-out part of the way home. County roads drifted shut. Schools closed. All in all, just an average day.
I went to see you again today. I was leaving the Goshen post office again, but this time there was nothing special on the radio. The car just went to the cemetery on its own. I was a little bit teary while I was there - after I found the roads, negotiated them successfully, avoided the snow drifts, and managed not to get stuck. As I was leaving, I heard Gerry and the Pacemakers singing Don't let the Sun Catch You Crying. Since I'm here downwind of the lake, in the Seasonal Affective Disorder capitol of the world, that means that I can cry all the time if I want to. There is only a slim chance of the sun catching any of us doing anything at all. Then I heard Judy's Turn to Cry, and had a good laugh. You have to be glad Johnny came to his senses and that love triangle ended happily.
Harvest Moon - I'm still in love with you
Something dawned on me today. People keep telling me, "You'll fall in love again." Today I realized that the underlying assumption is that I'm not in love now. But I am - I'm just as much in love with you as I've ever been. And the Dread Pirate Wesley told us, death can't stop true love, it can only inconvenience it for a bit. Why do people assume that my love for you ended when your earthly life did? That makes no sense. Do they fall out of love when their husband is in another room or out of town? Why on earth would I love you any less than I did 21 months ago, or 21 years? As is not unusual, I am baffled by the assumptions of normal people. I remember once, a couple of months after your death, trying to explain to somebody that I still loved you. They thought it was creepy. Neil Young said it in Harvest Moon - I'm still in love with you. And I wouldn't have it any other way.
I've done something wonderful on Pandora tonight. I created a Carole King station, and I may never go to bed again. So far it's been songs from Tapestry, James Taylor, and Landslide. I could sit here and weep softly forever, or at least until you come back for me. If I could only work this life out my way, I'd rather spend it being close to you. But I'm still in love, and that is good, and almost adequate.
Love you always and forever,

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Why I Need a Hug This Time

Dear John,
It's been deja vu all over again. I got up, shoveled snow for an hour, then got a text from Kathy that she's still sick and preferred that I stay home. I slept most of the day again. The worst thing today has been nausea.
I really need your prayers right now. I heard from Kathy today that I'm to go to work tomorrow not matter what the weather is like (though it wasn't my choice to not go earlier this week), and I do believe she's going to fire me. And I wouldn't mind if I was independently solvent. But I know the Lord is still in charge and is still taking care of me. There's nothing to fear. I dread the upheaval right now. But I could take a week or two off and get over the worst of the Cymbalta withdrawal, and that would be a good thing.
So, please pray for me. I want what is best, and only God knows what that is. I certainly don't. Maybe you do. If you'd like to drop me a hint, I wouldn't mind. I wouldn't mind anything you want to do or say! Please come and visit tonight - I really, really, really need a hug.
Adore you,

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

So Many Rheostats, So Little Time

Dear John,
If yesterday was a smashed kumquat, today was a hail of ripe persimmons. Growing up where you did, you were probably never in a persimmon fight, were you? I'm sorry - you missed so many joys of life!
Abby was spayed today, and is back home sleeping it all off. I took her in at 8:15 and picked her up at 4:30. Except for half an hour for lunch, I slept all the time she was gone. I lay down on the couch with a blanket and an NCIS marathon, and slept like a rock. Jethro and Hunter joined the mammal mound and slept with me.
Exhaustion seems to be the next phase of Cymbalta withdrawal. It's tiring to have all of my rheostats stuck on high. All sensory input is magnified now. I expected to have heightened pain, and I was right.  But everything else is heightened, too. I never knew the sun could shine so loud. My emotional rheostat is stuck on high. And my sympathetic nervous system has been stuck on high for two weeks. My body seems to see Cymbalta withdrawal as a threat, and I can't disagree. It's been hard to sleep the last week, hard even to relax. But today I managed both. And I know that I needed the sleep. Judging by the way I feel now, I expect to have no trouble sleeping tonight. Maybe I should just hibernate until spring.
All in all, I'm in good shape for the shape I'm in. Cymbalta is a selective serotonin and dopamine re-uptake inhibitor - it's enough victory that I'm still breathing and not institutionalized. I've only thrown up twice today, though I have a suspicion the number will change soon. I slept without nightmares today. And my vision is getting better. So there is progress. And every day that ticks off on the calendar is progress. As I've said before, it will go away and I will still be standing. The brain zaps have been a bit less frequent since I started fish oil yesterday. And I have the tremendous, amazing blessing of a boss who understands. I'm too shaky to be worth much typing anyway. Another day off work is possible tomorrow - we're under another weather advisory. We're expecting another few inches tonight, but the big thing is the wind, and warnings about blowing and drifting snow. The driveway is disappearing under new drifts. I don't even want to think about another round of shoveling!
Thank you for listening to me whine. I'm trying not to, but honesty is indistinguishable from whining at the moment. Thanks for listening, anyway. You always wanted to know the truth about what was going on with me, and I know that hasn't changed. Now would be a good time for you to petition for me to join you soon!
Love from your overly-tough, overly-stubborn wife,

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Smushed Kumquat of a Day

Dear John,
Giant Kumquat Smasher
It's been a strange day. It not only went pear-shaped. It was more like a smushed kumquat.
First, I tried to get to work. The snow had drifted across the driveway overnight, I got the cat stuck, and shoveled for three hours before I finally left for work. It seems that shoveling snow is not the best thing for Cymbalta withdrawal. It's amazing how much I hurt tonight.
I had a couple of errands to run for Kathy and had to wait an hour before I could see the right person. So I got a taco and dumped my Coke all over the table, and managed to go to Kroger without creating a disaster. By the time I had Kathy's errands run, her temperature was up to 101.5 and she called and told me to go home. So I came home, took a shower, threw up, took a pain pill, and crashed on the couch with the animals and an NCIS marathon. This day has definitely been stranger than pear-shaped.
I ended up visiting you again today - I'm developing a pattern. I was leaving the Goshen post office by the back way again, and just as the cemetery came into view, Clapton's "Tears in Heaven" came on. So I had to come. The snow has melted from the front of the stone, so you can see our names. But that blanket of snow is perfect except for some rabbit-tracks, and I still couldn't bring myself to disturb it.
Sleep good under your perfect quilt of snow. It will be below zero again tonight - I'm glad you have the insulation. I'll put the window quilts up and cuddle with the critters, and be as warm as I can be without you.
Adore you,

Monday, January 20, 2014

Victory for One More Day

Dear John,
I've fought through one more day, and done it
with no pain medicine or Benadryl. So hooray for me! And I've made it through one more of your birthdays while we're apart. And one more anniversary of Kyle's death. It seems that I've been quite busy while I was doing not much.
Reporting in Cymbalta-wise, it was an awful day - pain, nausea, electrical malfunction, lots of dizziness, the whole thing. I've done a massive amount of laundry and not much else. I have to work tomorrow - my first time since the symptoms became severe - so I've taken it easy today. I've met a few people from Pinterest that have done the same thing, so don't worry, I'm not alone anymore. Like I said yesterday, I will put my bullheadedness to good use.
I hope you've had a happy birthday. No, that's wrong. I KNOW you've had a happy birthday. I just wish I could have spent it with you. I'm sure you and Kyle commemorated your respective births, yours on earth and his in Heaven. Be sure he knows that Becky and I are looking after each other. We know that both of you will be waiting for us until we get to come join you. Give him a hug for me and tell him that I miss him. And you know how I feel about you. DRAT you for leaving on such a journey and forgetting to take me with you!
Love you, adore you, worship the ground you walk on,

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Situation & Manifesto

Dear John,
I hope you enjoyed your birthday party! I know the rest of us did. We're all glad that you and Ron and Josh were born.
It was a smaller party this year - the roads aren't good, and I'm not feeling good, so it was Ron and Tammy and Josh and Brandy and the kids. Jethro loved it and was a complete nuisance, and the cats finally came out of hiding. It was good.
It kept me distracted from how bad I'm feeling. After extensive internet research and an increasing amount of personal experience, I have a partial list of symptoms of Cymbalta Discontinuation Syndrome. (Yes, it's bad enough and common enough to have a name.) Common symptoms are:
  • increased pain,
  • mood swings that can include rage and violence, depression, and suicidal thoughts,
  • itching, all over, all the time,
  • nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, 
  • lovely things called brain zaps - they feel like electrical shocks, but you can also hear them, and they make you a bit disoriented, and they can come several times in a minute,
  • dizziness,
  • seizures,
  • vision changes,
  • nightmares,
  • restless leg syndrome,
  • headaches,
  • insomnia,
  • confusion,
  • sweating, alternating with chills, 
  • shakiness that has me putting immense effort into not letting my teeth chatter.
Symptoms often last for six months, and can recur for at least ten years. Safe tapering is not possible within the limits of the doses manufactured - I told you about that last night. Over half of the people who have tried to come off haven't been able to. So, as Crash Davis said in Bull Durham, we're dealing with some serious $hit here. Add to that picture the fact that I only had ten days to taper, and it's no wonder I'm struggling a bit.
Extensive internet research and personal experience have come up with some coping mechanisms.
  • First, hydration. I'm drinking as much water as I can keep down, and supplementing with warm liquid Jello.
  • Second, hydrocodone and oxycodone to keep the pain down to a dull roar.
  • Third, managing the nausea. People said that Benadryl helped this particular nausea, and they're right. I'm also doing liquid Jello and Saltines, and staying away from sweets.
  • Fourth, protein. This morning I had scrambled eggs with Polish sausage in them, instead of the usual oatmeal. (By the way, that meal is a good way to get mobbed by the dog and the cats.)
  • Fifth, sleep. That one's a challenge. Last night I took Ambien, Oxycodone, and 50 mg of Benadryl, and managed to nap for about four hours.
  • Sixth, body temperature management. I'm layering. Last night I had the covers up and down and up and down so many times that the cats gave up and slept under the bed.
  • Seventh, call in the support system. I'm talking to the WFFs and calling in every friend I know who's experienced withdrawal from any illegal substance. And it helps. It's good to talk to people that know what withdrawal is.
I've known since childhood that I have a gift for patient, stubborn endurance. I've used it during severe illness, and never more than this last 21 months without you. All that practice is helping now. Here's the plan:
  • I will not go back on this drug.
  • I will not begin a similar drug that will cause the same problem down the road. This will go away, and when it does, I'll still be here.
  • I will not yield to a pharmaceutical company's greedy incompetence.
  • It won't be quick or pleasant. I'll try not to be unpleasant to be around. 
  • I'll take the best care of myself that I can.
  • I will put my bullheadedness to good use, for a change.
  • I will knit and pet animals and watch comedy on television and eat well and stay hydrated and try to learn how to sleep.
  • I will not forget that this is biochemical and I am in no way to blame for it.
  • I won't hide it. People need to know.
  • I'll do it for all the people who couldn't.
There are the situation and the manifesto. Your prayers would be appreciated - for me, and for all the people out there who are in this mess because they followed their doctor's instructions, and for all the doctors out there who did the best they knew because all this was concealed by the manufacturer. And you should probably pray for all the people that will have to put up with me for the duration. You've never doubted my ability to do what I put my stubbornness to work doing, and I thank you for that. I'm also thankful for the internet - that the information is finally out there, put there by people like me that just had to be sure that word got out. For a head person like me, knowing what the problem is, is 75% of solving that problem.
Now I'm going to take my aching, shaking, teeth-chattering, queasy body off to bed. And if I can't sleep again, well, that's why God made Pinterest!
Love you, adore you, worship the ground you walk on,

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Love You as Much as an Elephant Loves

Dear John,
I cried, bawled, and screamed for four hours straight. Jethro and Hunter stayed right by my side, and Abby matched my crying pitch for pitch. I went through half a box of Kleenex. I sniveled through a bowl of oatmeal, then cried for another hour. I found The Philadelphia Story on television, and it made me feel better. Then I realized what was wrong.
You know that insurance cut off the Cymbalta I was taking for fibromyalgia, and gave me ten days notice. I did some research, and found out Cymbalta is one of the hardest drugs to taper and has a nasty withdrawal. I've had more pain, which I expected, but also more energy, and that's a trade that I'm happy to make. I've been watching myself for depression, and haven't seen any. But today I've been dealing with heightened and labile emotions, and Cymbalta withdrawal is to blame. It's hard to taper because the lowest dose made is 30 mg, so you have to open the capsules and count the beads, and you need at least six months for a good taper. All I could do is take 60 mg once a day instead of twice, for ten days, then go off. If this is all I do, I'm doing very well.
The result of all this emoting, besides a pile of wet used Kleenex, is a new board on Pinterest: For Elephants and Dogs. I found wonderful things. Did you know that elephants are the only animals besides humans that have funeral and mourning rituals? And their hippocampus is better-developed than ours. They put us to shame in so many ways. So I suppose I was being elephantine today.
As my body regains its physical and emotional balance, I will try to take care of myself. I'll watch comedy when I need to. I will probably have tomorrow for self-care, judging by the rate of snow coming down and the increasing wind.
Thanks for listening to me this morning. I'm glad you didn't have to see what I looked like by the end of it! I know you never minded seeing me cry, but I hated having you see what I looked like. I'm better now that I know what's going on.
Love you as much as an elephant loves,

For Dogs & Elephants

Dear John,
I know. It's 10 AM, and I'm blogging. What is the world coming to?
Elephant Grief
Yesterday I wondered if I was building up for a good cry. Now, almost two hours into one, I know that I was. What started it was a piece of news film about Tommy, a German shepherd in Italy, who went, on his own, to the church for his human's funeral, and has been there for services every day since. He sits quietly in the front, and honors his mother.
And I began to cry for all the grieving creatures - for Tommy, and Jethro, and all the birds who mate for life, and all the elephants who love and grieve so well, for Monday when you were born and Kyle died, for Becky, and all the WFFs, your mother and both of my grandmothers, and St. Anna the Prophetess who was widowed so young and spent the rest of her life in the temple, and all the dogs who lost their humans in Iraq and Afghanistan. And even for me.

It's shattering to think of all the hearts - human and otherwise - in this world that have been broken by grief. It's especially painful to know that animals grieve, particularly elephants and dogs. My heart breaks for elephants and dogs. Animals are innocent; we're the sinners; yet the results of our sin are visited upon them. I wish I could keep the elephants and dogs from grief and pain.
I can't prevent it. I can just share it, and give love and respect and comfort where I can. I know the animals go to Heaven. I know it because they love, and grieve, and have no sin. May all the humans who grieve go to Heaven, too.

Please ask if I can come very soon, because I love you more than life,

Friday, January 17, 2014

Old Love - Quilts of Snow

Dear John,
It's been another busy day. I had a long, wonderful breakfast with Danica. I love her dearly, and I hadn't seen her in two years. But that's why God made Facebook. And it is good.
After work I made a sentimental journey. I had to run some orders to the Goshen post office, and I went out the back way so I could turn left at a stoplight. I had Clapton's Unplugged CD on random play. And just as the cemetery came in sight, "Old Love" came on. So that's how I ended up visiting you. I didn't get out of the car - it was 14 and snowing - so I sat there and listened to the rest of the song. And the snow was so perfect and untouched that I didn't want to put footprints in it. That seems silly. But I couldn't bring myself to disturb that quiet white blanket lying over you and keeping you warm. Like Clapton, I know the flame will always burn.
 Maybe it's your birthday coming on Monday that is making me so emotional today. You are invited to the Second Annual John-Ron-Josh Birthday Party on Sunday at 3:00. I'm having a variety of munchies, hence the trip to Walmart on a Friday afternoon. Tomorrow I'll cook and finish cleaning. I hope the weather doesn't interfere with the party. There is snow coming tomorrow; the different models are predicting anywhere from two to eight inches. Which reminds me - I need to shovel the driveway tomorrow.
So please do come to the party.  After all, you're one of the guests of honor. We'll celebrate the three birthdays, and we'll all be glad you were born. And we'll miss you. For tonight, sleep good under that lovely quilt of snow. And know that your little family loves and misses you. And so do your godchildren, official and unofficial. And especially me.
Love you so, so much,

Thursday, January 16, 2014

It's Never Good When You're On CNN

Dear John,
It's been a long day. I worked nine hours, starting at 7 AM. I'd planned to see Danica tonight, but the weather had other ideas. She flew into Detroit and just now got home. The inch of snow we were expecting turned into a few more. Coming home from work was a challenge again. My side of the road was drifted over. And I kept meeting oncoming traffic in the stretches where you just drive between the mailboxes and the telephone poles, and hope that there's a road in there somewhere. Danica and I will meet for breakfast in the morning.
We all have heavy hearts today. Yesterday a man when into the Elkhart Meijer with a gun and killed two people. The police were there very quickly, which is good - when they came through the front door, the gunman had the manager down on his knees with the gun to his head. He was distracted when the police came through the doors, and the manager took the opportunity to get away. News and law enforcement agencies all over the country are commending the Elkhart police for keeping it from turning into a hostage situation. Now two victims and the gunman are dead, and nobody has a clue why.
It's been a long time since we've made the national news. The last time was over ten years ago, when Goshen had that workplace shooting. Daddy was watching CNN and saw it, and called me. I was watching local television, and had no idea that CNN was carrying it. Life is so much nicer when we're off the national news radar.
So we've had our own shooting, and in a grocery store, of all things. The shooter was only 22 years old. Please pray for the two women he shot and for their families. And pray for the shooter's family, too, and for the whole area. Folks are pretty shook-up right now.

I'm sorry to give you bad news right at bedtime. But maybe you already knew. I have no idea what the news distribution is like there - maybe you can come and tell me about it some night when I can't sleep. I still hate going to bed without you.

Love you so, so much,

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Gimme a Head With Hair

Dear John,
I have an announcement. Sit down, take a deep breath, and brace yourself. And . . .
I've decided to grow my hair out. I'm tired of having it short. I'm growing it long.
Yes, I can hear you saying that it's me that you love, and you like my hair either way. And I know that, and I thank you. But this is really huge for me. It would be for most women of my generation. It was so drilled into us as children that when you started getting your first gray, you had to cut it short and keep it that way for the rest of your life. It was one of The Rules, like not wearing white after Labor Day. But most of those rules are no longer standing, and I'm seeing more and more women with long gray hair. And I've decided to be myself and follow that growing minority. As usual, I'm rebelling.
I found this drawing and realized that it really was me in every way except the hair. The older I get, the freer I feel to disregard convention, and I'm enjoying that tremendously. My hippie/boho side is coming out again. I'm not trying to be young again - I really love being this age. I just want to be who I really am.
I'll save money not getting it cut. And it's so easy to take care of when it's long - wash it at bedtime, put a towel over the pillow, and go to bed. Then get up in the morning and put it up, and you're set for the day. But what first made me think about it was the photo I showed you of Delores Taylor - her hair is long, white, and beautiful. I raised the question on Facebook, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
I probably won't wear it down much. When it was long the last time, I usually wore it up, and I think it was flattering. My gray is coarse and wiry like the hair in this photo, and I can see myself wearing mine this way. I'll have lots of options and can play with it. And, of course, there are always bandannas!
There will be some challenges as it grows out. But my hair still grows so fast that it won't take long. I do hope you like it as it changes. Break the news gently to Mama - I don't know what she'll say at first, but she'll get to like it. She may even wish she could have done the same thing.
Every hair on my head adores you,


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Yielding to the Inevitable

Dear John,
The wind is howling tonight. It's out of the northwest at 30 mph. The house is creaking and groaning and the satellite dish is out. The animals are jumping  at the noises the house makes. It would be a lovely night to snuggle under the flannel sheets with you.
I didn't have nightmares last night, because I was awake until 3:30 and got up at 6:30. Being off of Cymbalta is doing interesting things to my body. Last night it was the dreaded fibro itch. It woke me up four times in the first hour after I went to bed. So I yielded to the inevitable - I took Benadryl, and played on the laptop until the itching got better. It seems that fibro itch can prevent nightmares through sleep deprivation - who knew?
Tonight I've been meditating on inevitability. I remember one time, about five years ago, when you marveled at how much twenty-eight days of radiation had changed your life. Today I realized that from the point of that radiation, your early death was inevitable. At some point in those twenty-eight days the radiation reached a tipping point, an amount of damage that your body couldn't heal. We didn't know it, but your death was irrevocable from that day, set in motion, set in stone.
Standing Alone
I'm glad we didn't know it. I'm glad nobody knew it. Our years were happy because we didn't hear the footsteps right behind us. But now, as hindsight accompanies memory, there is a feeling of inexorable doom over our early years. I don't know how to explain it - it feels inevitable, inexorable, inescapable, a foreshadowing of tragedy, a pain for the future that is now part of the past for me. 
I know that you came to feel the inevitability, too. And you bent to it so gracefully. You never gave up, never quit trying. But there was a gracious yielding to what had been set so many years ago. I did no such thing. I fought tooth and nail, like a tiger defending her cubs. I defied some of the doctors and all of medical science. But then, I had more at stake than you did. You went home; I had to stay here alone. We always said it was easier to be the one leaving than the one left. And I was never very good at yielding gracefully anyway. I'm a defiant fighter. All my fighting gave you eight or nine more months. It's well worth that for me - they were special months to get to spend together. I don't know if it is worth it for you or not. But I have no what-ifs to live with, and I'm so thankful for that. I only wish I'd made meatloaf and mashed potatoes for you more often. That is my one regret.
Well, that's more than enough metaphysical meditation for one night! Suffice it to say that I love you, I miss you, and I do wish that Jen would let me dig on my side of the cemetery plot. I'm tired of standing alone under this tree, waiting.
Love you so, so much,

Monday, January 13, 2014

Shake Me From My Sleep

Dear John,
First, the good news: I completed my Obamacare sign-up today. I'll be getting the same coverage, with $2000 less in deductible, for nearly $400 less. That's the same as getting a third paycheck every month. I'm very thankful. And I got my courage up and said so on Facebook. I expect to be devoured shortly. But there need to be reminders that there are lots of people like me for whom this is working, and saving from bankruptcy or worse. If I don't show up tomorrow night, you'll know I've been eaten.
And now, we need to talk again about your nighttime manners. Every time I sleep longer than six hours, I have nightmares. Last night was ugly - it wasn't only you that died again, but Mama, too. At the end of the dream I returned to your hospital room after getting some lunch, and found you wrapped head-to-toe in white sheets. I woke up screaming, clawing at endless layers of white sheets, trying to reach you.
You have to admit that this is excessive. I didn't take a pain pill at bedtime, so don't try to blame it on that. I didn't eat anything unusual, or watch scary stuff on television, or read sad poetry. The only cause I can think of is that today is twenty-one months since you died. But there was no nightmarishness in your death - it felt sacred, not scary. Now I'm afraid to go to bed tonight.
So, please pay attention to your manners when you come to visit. I know you have the tremendous disadvantage of being from the Midwest instead of the south, but your mother taught you better than to act like that. Stop that. Come and talk to me, or sit and watch television, or play with the animals. No more nightmares. Okay?
Wanting to sleep peacefully with you,

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Knitting According to Grommit

Dear John,
Things caught up with me today - the weather, falling on my rear a few days ago, and having to go off of my fibro meds because Express Scripts stopped covering them. It's been a long time since I've hurt this bad. But soft-tissue injury is a fibro trigger for most of us, so it was to be expected. I got up this morning and tried to get ready for church, but I was hurting too bad to do anything but go back to bed. And Jethro didn't mind - he cuddled up, put his head on top of mine, and went right back to sleep.
After breakfast I thought about using the heating pad, but couldn't decide which of a dozen areas to put it on. So I took pain meds, and used the electrical outlet for the laptop instead of the heating pad. After about an hour the pain medicine kicked in and took the pain down to barely bearable. It's amazing how good it feels to hurt a bit less. It was probably best to go without the heating pad anyway - it was in the 40s and sunny, so I had the window next to me open an inch or two all day. The cats and I loved the fresh air, and the house got some midwinter airing-out.
Soo sent me a delightful knitting board she found on Pinterest, and I had a two-hour pinning orgy. After that, my knitting pins badly needed some organization. So I divided them into three boards: one for wit and wisdom, one for tool, tips, and tutorials, and one for yarn and patterns. I believe I have my next two projects chosen. But I'll leave the final decision for a day that I'm not on pain meds.
I'll take the stronger ones at bedtime and hope I'm past the worst of it. I've said it before: I'm too old to be falling down, even if I do land on my best padding. But I'm young enough to do that without breaking anything, and that is very good. Tomorrow I'll take the car down for an oil change. I have some chores to do if the fibro eases up. If it's still bad you'll find me curled up with yarn, because knitting makes everything better.
Love you, adore you, appreciate how you always enabled my yard addiction,

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Waking Up & Seeing Things. Or Not.

Dear John,
It's been a slow, lazy day. And a cold, damp, gray one. It's been in the low 30s, alternating between rain and snow. The fibro has been expressing it's displeasure with the weather, so I've taken it easy today. It's an investment toward being able to go to church in the morning.
I found this today. Do you know that I still wake up every night and look for you? Every time I wake up at night, I look at your side of the bed. If I've been sleeping lightly, I remember as I do it that you won't be there. If I was in a heavier sleep, I wonder where you are.  Sometimes I sit up and look to see if there's a light on somewhere in the house. A couple of times I've been sleeping so hard that I saw the dog and thought it was you, got up and went to the bathroom, and realized that it was Jethro when I came back to bed. Then I remembered. It hurts every time I remember that you're not coming back.
t's been almost twenty months and I still look for you. Like other things, I wonder how long I'll do this. Jethro must wonder why I reach over and touch him when I wake up. And his fur always startles me.
I miss you. You may have suspected that. You were there on the other side of the bed for almost 34 years. So I suppose it's okay that it's taking me a while to realize that you're gone. I'll never like it, but I do hope someday I really know it and don't have to keep getting surprised in the middle of the night.
Missing you more than I can say,

Friday, January 10, 2014

Rain, Edward Gorey, and Cat Naps

Dear John,
Yet another update: My hand is better today - still swollen and painful, but better. Express Scripts continues to disavow all knowledge of my insurance, I called Panera Benefits again, and I'm beginning to think that the Lord doesn't want me on this drug. I'll keep you posted.
Getting to work was an adventure - the county roads were bad, it was foggy, and there was freezing rain coming down. By the time I came home it was still foggy but in the 40s, and the roads were just wet. It's been raining all evening and the basement is dry - thank you again for the dry basement.
I was sleepy when I got home, and decided to take a nap electively before I ended up face-down on the computer. So I lay down on the couch and got settled, Hunter came and lay beside me, and we took a nap together. We woke up a couple of times, and Hunter would just stretch, snuggle his head against my arm, and go right back to sleep.
Isn't this print delightful? Becky sent it to me for Christmas! It's obviously Edward Gorey, it's numbered, and it's named "Tower Scene." I love it. It looks rather like one of the stylite saints, doesn't it? I'm going to hang it in the living room where I can see it all the time. And I can freak out visitors. But I do that, anyway - if it's not the print it's the icons, or the dog, or two cats, or the books I read - I've never cared if I was socially acceptable. I love it that Becky and I both love Gorey. And you did, too - we both thought he was the best of PBS, and we'd giggle so over his work.
And now I have some on the wall. Is that enough reason for you to come visit? Having two cats to meet wasn't enough, honey roasted peanuts and spritz balls weren't enough, but surely Gorey will do it!
Love you immensely,

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Gravity is Doing Fine

Dear John,
To update you: I went to the pharmacy and found out that things aren't fixed. So this time the pharmacy people called Panera Benefits. We'll see if that helps. And I did call Joe's office and got my hand X-rayed. Nothing is broken, just soft-tissue damage, but there's plenty of that. My hand is swollen and red and it HURTS. But I'm not in a cast, and that's a great relief. It still hurts to do things, but I can do them. And that is good.
The drive over was pretty good. I went State Route 5 to US 20. That is, I did until they had 20 closed at the intersection with State Route 19. I found out later that there were several accidents up ahead. That's where the 4-lane part begins to be elevated, and it's always bad when there's snow. I went my usual back way. And so did all the semis, which made it more interesting than necessary. I gave myself an extra half-hour to get there, and needed it. By the time I came home they had opened 20, but I came back US 33 since I was going to work.
So I have learned several things today:
  1. The main roads aren't bad.
  2. The county roads aren't good.
  3. I really should keep one box of cat litter ahead during the winter.
  4. Groceries are hit-or-miss after a snow emergency. I hit the milk and missed the eggs.
  5. You really shouldn't fall down at my age.
  6. Soft-tissue damage takes longer to heal than fractures, but is less of a nuisance.
  7. I love my doctor. It's worth driving an hour.
  8. I won't be arm wrestling any time soon. Or shoveling snow. Or wearing rings, playing the piano, or knitting. We'll have to see about vacuuming.
And so, as my great-great-grandmother Harris would say, I won't die tonight because I learned something new today. I'll take Motrin and sleep with my hand propped up again. And I'll try to go slow at work tomorrow. That may be moot if we get the freezing rain that's predicted tonight. It's finally warming up above zero, so we're trading the snow for freezing rain. I do hope the groundhog is paying attention - there are lots of unamused people out here that will be ready for an early spring!
Love you, adore you, and worship the ground you walk on,

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Maybe I Need Landing Lessons . . .

Dear John,
I'll try to keep this short - typing hurts tonight. I was leaving the house today, juggling three empty egg cartons and trying to get the screen door open, my boots got caught on the mat, and I landed on my rear and my right hand. Not in the snow, either; in the kitchen. I got up and carried on - after all, I landed on the most amply-padded portion of my anatomy - ran my errands, and was fine. But as the night goes on, my hand is hurting more. If it's not better in the morning, I'll call Joe and see about getting it X-rayed. It is my dominant hand, after all, so I need to look after it. I'm supposed to work tomorrow, but if I can't type there isn't much to do about it but get it looked at.
I had more adventures in health insurance today. I went to the pharmacy, and Tom said my prescription insurance was showing as cancelled. I came home and called Express Scripts who said that yes, all my insurance was no longer active. I called Panera Benefits, and they politely said impolite things about Express Scripts. I'll try again tomorrow and see if it is fixed. I'll be so glad to be done with this policy, in ways other than saving $450 a month.
And that's all the excitement. I'll be avoiding arm wrestling for a while. And I'm covered if my hand is broken. And that's what it all boils down to. When you were alive I was glad you worked for Panera because you loved the job and they treated you well. Now I'm still glad, because they take care of me now that you aren't here. If I have to go to South Bend for X-rays tomorrow, I may stop by Panera and get a cup of chai and say thank you. I do not have time for a broken right hand. And yes, I can hear you asking just when I would have time for that. We'll deal with whatever happens!
Love you great bunches,

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Red Beans & the UK Ice Polishing Crew

Dear John,
Another day inside, another day of polar vortex. There's a variety of news items for your edification and enjoyment.
First, I trimmed Hunter's toenails, and he purred through it and lapped up the attention. I do wish Jethro would learn from him.
Second, Becky came and plowed the driveway this afternoon, bless her. I opened the garage door so she could get the blade inside and drag all the snow out. It's lovely, and I appreciate them so much.
Third, the county has been backed off to a Travel Advisory. The roads are still not for the sane. But the wind is down enough that plowing actually does something. Unfortunately, as the plows remove the snow, we're getting down to the ice underneath. The schools and factories are still closed tomorrow.
11 AM today, from a State Trooper's car
Fourth, the stores are open but there isn't much food left. The stores in Goshen don't have much in the way of dairy or produce. People are screaming about it, but how do they expect food to get there when the roads are closed? Thank goodness, my pantry and freezer are stocked. The only thing I really need is milk, and we'll live if I can't get it.
Fifth, taking the wind chill into account, when it hits 35 this weekend, that will be 70 degrees warmer than where we've been. We'll all be out in shorts.
Sixth, I made a pot of red beans today and had a lovely supper tonight. I wish you could have been here, the way you love red beans and rice. It's perfect weather for it.
Seventh, I rescheduled Abby's surgery for the 22nd. That way it will be done before February, when her cycle would start up for the spring.
I've been thinking lately about the UK Ice Polishing Crew. Every time it snowed, they brought those strange things out. They didn't have blades to plow the snow off the sidewalks - they had brushes. And what they did was brush the snow off of the ice and polish it. So we all walked beside the sidewalks instead of on them, so we were in snow instead of on polished ice. It was a nuisance. Whoever thought that would be a good idea?
That's all the news here. Like I said, weather trumps everything. We'll still be on your doorstep if the power goes out. And you never did send me your phone number!
Love you so, so much,

Monday, January 6, 2014

Indiana is Closed Until Further Notice

Dear John,
The state of Indiana is closed until further notice. Governor Pence has declared a disaster for almost half of the counties, the state government remains closed, and a third of the counties are still banning everybody except emergency vehicles from the roads. LaGrange County sent emergency drivers out to bring in the snow plow drivers this morning, and then sent them back out to bring doctors to the hospital. The county sheriff had reiterated that the travel ban is open-ended, and he has no idea when it might be lifted. I'm guessing Wednesday afternoon. Tom at the pharmacy is guessing noon tomorrow, but then he wants to get open as soon as he can.
The travel ban doesn't matter here. The driveway is under major, moving drifts that top out at five feet up against the garage door. And if I could get the driveway cleared, the street is drifted shut. I heard the plow go by around noon, but in half an hour it was impassible again. I didn't go outside at all today, and I didn't hear any plows or shovels in the neighborhood. The way the wind was blowing, all effort to clear driveways would have been pointless. And dangerous, since the wind chill never got above -35 all day.
Poor Jethro - he wanted to go out around 8 this morning, but when I opened the door and he felt that blast of frigid air in his face, he backed up and hid. He finally got desperate enough to go out around noon, again at 4, and for 30 seconds at 10 tonight. The sky was clear and the sun blazing, but not a thing melted. People were throwing boiling water into the air and watching it freeze before it hit the ground.
I'm not working tomorrow. Wednesday I have Abby's spaying scheduled, but I'll have to call tomorrow and reschedule. Making two trips to Rome City in one day, in this weather, doesn't seem at all sensible. And the hurry was to get it done before she went into heat the first time, but she's already done that. It can wait. And I'll be going to work late on Thursday - Chris Castetter's funeral is that morning at Topeka Mennonite. I know and love the family too well to not be there. I'll give them your love.
There really was a driveway out there on Thursday; I got it shoveled down to dry pavement. Now it looks more like the Golan Heights in winter. I don't know how long it will take me to clear all that off, especially if the wind chill stays low and I have to work outside ten minutes at a time. We'll see - I'm in no hurry. By Thursday I'll be out of milk, but I can walk to the church for the funeral, the down to Save-a-Lot for milk, if I can't get the car out. It's a small town - I can walk anywhere I need to go.
The power has held out so far, but I still plan to come stay with you if it goes out. I didn't specify last night, but you know I'll be bringing Jethro, Hunter, and Abby with me. I wouldn't leave them alone in the house when it's that cold. So don't be surprised if we all end up on your doorstep suddenly. I'd be happy to call ahead, if you could just give me a number where you can be reached.
Love you immensely,