Friday, July 31, 2015

Two Words: County Fair

Dear John,
It's Friday night, which means I'm tired and my feet hurt. And I'm off tomorrow, which means that I don't have to set an alarm. The animals will wake me up early, but it's a much nicer way to wake up.
The fair was great. We were there from 2:00 to 7:00. I saw all the animals, ate a buffalo burger and half an elephant ear, got sunburned, was nuzzled by a goat and headbutted by a Belgian, and had a wonderful time. As I continue to turn into my mother, my skin is also getting more like hers. I was beet red this morning (but not tender), and am now moderately pink (and still not tender). I should be brown by this time tomorrow. Yesterday was the best day of the fair for weather - 80 and sunny. It was good to go back.
I'll mow tomorrow morning. I thought about doing it tonight, but by the time I got off work my feet hurt so bad that I decided not to. They'll feel better by morning. There's never a shortage of things that need doing around here. But I'm not going to push myself too hard tomorrow because Elyssa's birthday party is Sunday afternoon. It's always necessary to prioritize.
Tonight I'm remembering days we spent at the fair. It was always good. And it was good to go back yesterday. As always, I'm thankful that I can still live here, where we lived together for so long. Not long enough, but there can never be enough time with you, can there?
Miss you,

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A Life Without Context

Dear John,
I've been thinking again. Remember that I've talked to you about adjusting to living when there is nobody who knows your past, nobody that was there for it? Tonight my mind is coming back to that.
It seems that people can adjust to that, too. It's taken a while to learn to live without context or background. Thank goodness there are people who've known me for a long time - Becky since college, Donna since eighth grade, Claire since childhood, Jim and Irene since we started dating. But none of those people live around here. My oldest friends here have known me for twenty years. I'm so thankful for that - it's one reason I don't consider moving away.
But there are different levels of "knowing." There are parts of my childhood that nobody but a sibling would know, parts of my adult life that only you know. You were the one I griped to when things weren't good at work, restored the house with, went to seminary with, took turns having health problems with, and on and on. No one has ever known me like you do. That deeper knowing is what is hard to to live without.
But I appear to be doing just that. I only rarely feel that lack now. I guess I've just gotten used to it. I'm comfortable with being contextless to the people around me. They're here and they care in the present, so it matters little that they weren't here for the past. There are days that are uncomfortable, especially around Christmas and New Years. But that's probably true for everyone who has lost a family member.
I'm pleasantly surprised that I'm becoming comfortable with this. I know I haven't explained it very well and I hope it makes sense to you. I'll let you know if I get it nailed down any better. I am alone in a sense that I never have been before. It feels different, but no longer sad or uncomfortable. And that is good.
That's my report for the day regarding what my mind has been up to. I may not write tomorrow - I'm going to the fair after work and may be late getting home, and I have to be at work at 7:15 Friday morning. So don't worry if you don't hear from me tomorrow night. I won't subject you to exhausted incoherence - you had enough of that from me during finals in college. And you married me anyway!
Love you so much,

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

More More than Much

Dear John,
Pinterest is down. The world may end.
I had a good day at work. The excitement was caused by the demise of my microphone. I spent the last two hours having to shout back and forth through the open drawer. Having come from a long line of school teachers, my voice will easily carry through bullet-proof glass. Hearing my customers is another issue. They're going to try to get out and fix it in the morning. It can't be soon enough. I'm hoarse already.
I need to mow but I'm not going to. It was 90 when I got off work, still 80 now at bedtime. I will let the grass grow in peace until the heat and humidity break. As I said to Dallas today, we're just not twenty anymore. I don't know how that happened, but it did. If I mow in this, I'll flare for two weeks. It's not worth it. From the looks of the neighborhood, I'm not the only one who has made that decision.
That's all the excitement here: it's hot and the drive-up microphone isn't working. It seems that you aren't missing much. I, of course, am missing you, and that is much more than much. It's still hard to go to bed without you. But Jethro is asleep beside me and the cats are under the bed, it's almost dark outside and the lightening bugs are out, and I have to get up early for work. I'll lie down and turn out the light without you yet one more time. I'll reach out in the dark and touch the dog, glad he's there so I have something warm and alive to put my hand on in the night. Abby will curl up at my feet and Hunter will drape himself over my ribs and purr, and I will know that they love me. And Maggie will arrive and attack my fingers at 5 AM, because that's what kittens do. I'll pry myself out of bed at 6:00, to be glad I did when I get to work at 7:30 because I enjoy my job. I'll enjoy it more if the microphone gets fixed.
It's bedtime and I'm starting to ramble, so it's time to turn out the light and miss you even more. Your little family loves you.
With all my heart,

Monday, July 27, 2015

When I am Old

Dear John,
Tonight I'm pondering what I will be like when I'm old. There are two underlying assumptions here: first, that I'm not old yet; second, that I will have to live long enough to get old which I'm not yet. I already wear purple and have a red hat, so that is moot.
I will still love and rescue animals. Heaven only knows how many more kittens Jethro will rescue, but I can't imagine myself ever being without animals. I don't mind being known as a crazy cat-and-dog lady. I'm bipetual.
I will knit as long as my hands hold out, than I'll learn how to use my feet. I'll probably still knit socks in public, cause fascination and consternation, and not care a bit.
I will be eating racist PBJs and drinking black-market raw milk. And possibly sitting on my illegal rain barrel with the Confederate flag painted on the side. I will not be anywhere remotely near politically correct.
I will still love barbecue and Delta Blues. And yes, there is some kind of organic connection between the two. And I will still talk like this. I won't ever pick up this funny Midwest accent, no matter how long I live here. And, speaking of that, I intend to keep living here. Bob will still take care of my car, Lana will deal with my hair, I'll still drive an hour to see Joe for primary care. I'll bank at Farmers State and shop at the pharmacy. I'll leave this town in the back of Yeager's hearse.
I'll still have a vast fund of nursing horror stories to tell anybody with the stomach to listen. I'll still be a story-teller. I hope I won't drive people crazy telling the same ones over and over, but there's a good possibility of it.
I'll still wear jeans, peasant tops, and bandanas. So there. And most of the people that know me will still think I don't wear enough make-up and I wear my skirts too long, just like Mama always did.
I'll still love college basketball and any football. I don't know if I'll ever be able to get back into baseball. I haven't been able to since you died.
I'll have the windows open when it makes other people think I'm crazy. Car and house, I love the windows open.
And I will still be your widow. I will never be wife to anyone else. I'm yours. You're stuck with me. Maybe, as I get older, people will stop pushing me to remarry and guys will stop hitting on me. I do hope so. I will love you with all my heart, no less than I do today. And every day that passes brings me closer to being reunited with you. I will still be waiting and hopeful, as long as I'm in this life. I'm glad you are waiting for me, too.
Well, there's your summary of my thoughts today. See what you're going to miss as I get older? The only thing I'll be missing is you. I wish we could get old together. But I know you're watching, sometimes laughing, always loving me. Thank you for that.
Keep the light on,

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Relative Nature of the Relative Humidity

Dear John,
I stayed inside today. The weather has figured out that it's July - it's been in the upper 80s and humid. My fibro has never liked that. All of us fibromites are sensitive to weather - some can't handle heat and some cold. I can take the cold with no problem, but days like today do unpleasant things to me.
This kind of weather always reminds me of Durham - decent town, dreadful climate. I swear the temperature and humidity were both above 95 for half of the year. You could squeeze the air and get a glass of water from it. And, as you pointed out, it just got worse after it rained. We lived in a house with no air conditioning or shade, and I was working third shift. I'd come home from work, put on a bathing suit, get in the shower and get it wet, and sleep on a stack of towels with a fan blowing on me. Horrible climate.
I worked with a nurse from Maine and you worked with a guy from Cleveland, and everybody else we knew was local.  Midge and I would go to work in cardigans when everybody else came in wearing coats and hats and mittens. You and the guy from Cleveland were the only delivery drivers who would get out in snow, and you always got huge tips those nights. Remember the day they closed the mall on us because an inch of snow was predicted? To be fair, they didn't have any road equipment and nobody ever got much practice driving on snow. We lived there for four years and I wore my winter coat twice. Dreadful climate.
So it's warm and humid here, but nothing like Durham, thank goodness. I try not to laugh when people here talk about how miserable the humidity is. What's humid here is dry in Durham. I'm glad we went there and have good memories of it, but none of them happened in the summer. Horrible climate.
It's bedtime here. Your little family loves and misses you. Nobody misses the weather in Durham.
Adore you,

Saturday, July 25, 2015

First, Last, All, & Always

Dear John,
I had a good, busy day. After work I went to Goshen. I exchanged the wrong toilet seat for the right one, ate lunch, then brought ice cream out to eat with you. In case you noticed my unusual manner of consuming the sundae, they didn't give me a spoon, probably because I got it to go and they assumed I was taking it home. So I tore up the top cover and used a chunk of it as a scoop to eat with. It made a bit more of a mess, but the ants had a good time. And it was lovely in the cemetery today - 85, cloudy, and the breeze smelled wonderful. It's that July smell - Queen Ann's lace, sun on the grass, trees, and whatever else it is that makes July smell so good. I enjoyed being there. On the way to our spot I was grinning like a teenager, so excited that I was coming to see you. Well, not see you physically, but visit you. Whatever it was, it was good.
On the way home I heard Cheap Trick doing "The Flame," and the words struck me: You were the first, you'll be the last. It feels good to be able to say that about you. You're first, last, all, and always. It's good to know that. And I am all that to you, as well. I enjoy my life - I get to keep the house, I love my job and my animals, and I have friends and family who love me. Life is perfect except that you're not here. That is a major issue. But you're there, and that's better for you. And I'll get there.
Your first, last, and always,

Friday, July 24, 2015

The All-Important Mammary Suspensory Ligament

Dear John,
We finally had a busy Friday. With the plants taking breaks this month, they've been unusually slow for a few weeks. Today we were back to normal Friday, which means I ran full-speed almost all day.
I did get time to make phone calls and schedule the biopsy. They normally do them on Fridays, but I explained my work situation and they arranged for me to be done at 3:00 on Wednesday, August 12th. That way I can work until 2:00 that day and be off the next. We don't have any vacations scheduled in August, so I will attempt to get all my disruption done before September starts.
The all-important mammary
suspensory ligament.
The Elkhart County Fair opened today, and I've been remembering all the fairs we went to. We tried to plan our day there according to the schedule of animal judgings, and we learned so much from watching those. I'll never forget the year we saw the female goat competition. That's where we first heard about mammary suspensory ligaments and their importance in judging. Hey, maybe that's what's really wrong with me! Maybe it isn't abnormal calcification, just a mammary suspensory ligament problem! Think so?
Only you and I would think that is funny, but I'm sure you're rolling in the aisles laughing. And so am I. It was one of those phrases that became part of the family vocabulary. And it still is, but I don't say it out loud anymore whenever I pass goats in a field. I just think it, remember, and smile. See, I even found a drawing of one! Look at it and remember good days together at the fair.
I'll finally be going to the fair this year - the last time we went was 2010. In 2011 I'd just broken my collar bone, 2012 speaks for itself, and since then I haven't had anybody to go with. So Richard and I will be going together this year, and I'm looking forward to it. We have a small rivalry between pie and elephant ears, but we'll just get one of each. I never could stand elephant ears. I'll miss you at the fair, but it will be good to go back. And I'll remember and smile.
Yours always,

Thursday, July 23, 2015

On Being Atypical

Dear John,
Today I flunked my diagnostic mammogram and will be getting a needle-aspirate biopsy. It's what I was expecting. Nothing to see here. I have some calcifications that need to be checked out. It will be done at the mammo center with just local anesthesia, so no great life disruption.
Remember, right after your lung cancer was diagnosed in July of 2011, when the cancer center counselors were fluffing over us, all worried because we weren't acting upset enough? At first they thought we didn't understand the diagnosis, then they decided that we were stuck in the denial stage. So they cornered me one day over a jigsaw puzzle. They started the tactful probing and I knew what the problem was, so I stopped them and said, "You're worried about us because we're not showing the appropriate stages of grief." They looked startled and said yes, so I told them your medical history and said that we'd done that over thirty years ago. Then they were happy and went away.
Long digression, but today was a bit like that. The x-ray tech came and told me that the radiologist wanted to talk to me, and everybody knows exactly what that means. He started explaining what they'd found and what the next steps would be. Then he kept repeating himself and they started looking at me funny, and I realized that they thought I didn't understand because I wasn't acting upset. It was obvious that intervention was necessary. So I told them that I'm a retired critical care nurse, I've been thorough three rounds of cancer with you, and this was exactly what I was expecting. Like the counselors in 2011, they were happy and they went away.
I understand perfectly. The lack of understanding isn't on my part. As is usual, what is going on in my head is atypical. First, I know that few biopsies come back positive. Second, I'm a critical care nurse. I've seen worse. Heck, I've HAD worse. Breast cancer has a much higher survival rate than gram negative sepsis. The third reason is one I didn't even try to tell them: My survival instinct left with you. I'm content and happy and enjoying my life. But I'm ready to join you any time. The fourth reason I wouldn't dream of trying to tell them: I know with all my being that whatever God sends is what is best for me, so I have no preference. My little brain isn't very bright. I have no idea what's best. I'll just wait and see what comes, and give thanks for the gift that it is, whatever it is.
Yup, I do believe I'm being atypical again. Imagine that. I can tell all of my reasons to you and none of them will surprise you. I'm being me. And I'm just being logical. I'm so glad you liked me this way. You were the same, you know. This aspect of us always puzzled our health care providers. They eventually got used to us.
I'll keep you posted. Joe's office has to order the biopsy and get it cleared with insurance. I'll call them at lunch tomorrow, and then try to get this thing scheduled on a day off in order to minimize the disruption. I'll try not to cause too much excitement.
You loving, atypical wife,

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Joys of Mowing Dry Grass

Dear John,
I had a good day and I'm completely exhausted. So let me sum up.
Work was busy in spurts. I actually felt decent today; the fibro flare seems to be winding down, to my joy and relief. After work I mowed - the house was about to disappear. It only took an hour today. We've had two days without rain, and the grass is finally dry enough that it didn't clog and stall the mower. It's the first time this year that I haven't had to stop, turn the mower over, and clean out the grass. It was a delight. I'd like to get used to this.
The basement continues to dry out. Somebody said today that their dehumidifier has run for three straight weeks, and so has ours. It's down there bravely doing its job, bless it. We aren't expecting rain until Sunday. I do hope the basement dries completely before winter comes and I have an indoor ice skating rink.
I'm off to bed soon. Tomorrow I get another chance to pass my mammogram, so I have to get up early. I'll do some shopping in Goshen after I get done there. We need dog food, and we're low on toilet paper and Kleenex. I'll get all my errands run while I'm out tomorrow. Then I hope to get some time to relax before working Friday and Saturday. After I get off work Saturday afternoon, I plan to do just what the picture says.
:Love you great bunches,

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Vacations, Dreams, & Huddled Frogs

Dear John,
That was an odd choice you made in dreams last night. I started the dream with the guy I dated before you. We traveled a ways together, then I had to go on by myself. I had a very long way to walk to get to you. I looked for a shortcut, but there wasn't one. I just had to put on my walking shoes and head out. I was a bit concerned about my stamina, but it didn't matter because I was in such a hurry to get to where you were.
On another topic, it seems that all of us widowfriends are struggling with the family-vacation season. The first year, I couldn't even bear the commercials. It's gotten a bit easier each year, but it's still sad for me. I'm so proud of myself for finally being able to take a vacation last month. It only took me three years after you died to take a week off. I still didn't go somewhere by myself - I'm not quite ready for that yet. But I did travel, and I did enjoy it. And I'm proud of myself. It's a big step for me.
It's a step that some of our little widowgroup are taking now, and we're not quite sure how we feel about it. It's like everything else - we're feeling our way along in this strange new landscape. And that's why I like this photo so much. It's us, all of us, looking for shelter from the rain, huddled together, caring about each other. Even if I was traveling alone in last night's dream, know that I'm not alone. I get by with a little help from my widowfriends.
Now, about that dream issue. You were supposed to make an appearance last night. Looking forward to seeing you isn't a dream; it's real life. Instructive as that one was, I would like for you to think up something fun tonight. You never had any problem planning dates in college. To be fair, we were usually studying. But I wouldn't mind doing that again. It doesn't have to be anything special - it never did. The point is being together.
Hope to see you tonight,

Monday, July 20, 2015

Dreams & Nightmares

Dear John,
I felt good enough today to get to work, and even good enough to enjoy it. Then I came home, the adrenaline level dropped, and I feel like I was run over by a herd of something large and hooved. I'm still dealing with this flare. Heaven only knows what I'll feel like in the morning.
For some reason, I've been sad and missing you today. Maybe it's because I've been feeling bad - that always makes me miss you more. Maybe it's because it's summer and everybody else is talking about family activities. Maybe it's just that widowhood is not linear.
Whatever it is, I would so love for you to visit my dreams tonight. Right now I'd be glad to have a nightmare if you were in it. So how's that for an invitation? Plan the dream of your choosing; just be a part of it. Tonight I'd rather be in a bad dream with you than in a good one without you. Medical emergencies, zombies, psychotic tax accountants - take your pick. I'll be happy with whatever you decide.
Can't wait!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Mixed-Up Confusion

Dear John,
It's been a quiet day - outwardly, anyway. I did laundry, put stew in the crock pot, and froze ten pounds of blueberries. And I finished one Christmas-present sock and started the second one. And there's some good news: Netflix finally has NCIS, eleven seasons of it. I watched four episodes, long enough for the dish receiver to turn itself off because it thought I was dead.
There's lots of emotional stuff going on inside me. I'll try to be brief. You know that's hard for me.
I've realized that I can't see my life as a continuum, at least not now. I could until you died. I could see my childhood, teen years, marriage, and adulthood as all one piece. Now I can still see that, but not how it connects to who I am today. I seem to have sprung forth fully-formed from the chaos of your death, with no past, no history, no connection to anything. Not having any family of my own is probably a factor. But the moment of your death became a chasm between what is and what was. I can't bridge it. Maybe someday I'll be able to, but not now. This is all a bit disconcerting.
The current political issues rage on, and I find myself struggling with no longer being able to define myself as a liberal. It's a difficult metamorphosis. I see postings on Facebook deriding liberal positions, and my knee-jerk reaction is to be angry. But I step back and realize that I agree with the posting. I realize that it's the liberal position, not me, that has moved. But shifting tectonic plates are always disorienting, whether we're talking about a literal or metaphorical earthquake. And I struggle with that disorientation.
The fibro flare continues and I feel awful. Flare are always frightening because you don't know how long they'll last. Remember that one in 2010 that lasted over six months? And that was when I could stay home and take care of myself. Now I have to work full-time to support myself, and it's scary. I tell myself, as you always told me, that this didn't take God by surprise. And in these last three years, I've certainly has an opportunity to see the providence of God in action. So I try to step back, take a deep breath, and remember that I'm in His hands. It's not always easy to keep my eyes on that.
I guess I've already told you what I'd like you to pray for tonight, haven't I? As Dylan said, I've got mixed-up confusion, and it's a'killing me. I know that you can pray much better now than you could before. But I miss hearing you pray for me. I can't tell you how much that meant to me. If I was sick, or scared, or woke up in the middle of the night with a bad dream, you'd hold my hands and pray for me, and everything got better. If you can, stop by tonight for prayer. I have new blueberries in the freezer - you can take some out and put milk and sugar on them, let the milk freeze, and eat it like you always used to. And, as I keep telling you, you can finally meet your cats! I'll leave the door open for you.
Missing you so much tonight,

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Leftovers & Lightening Bugs

Dear John,
This may be my last letter. It looks like the world is ending. The radar shows that the storms are past us, but the sun is setting and the sky is orange at one end and green at the other, and the light is this strange greenish-orange color. Jethro is sleeping from pure exhaustion after surviving all the storms today. And the basement continues to dry out - all those storm didn't bring much rain, thank goodness.
Today I paid for yesterday. It was a day for Fibro's Revenge. All I did was knit, sleep, and get the dishwasher unloaded. Tomorrow I hope to do even less. And maybe, by Monday, I'll be able to work without crashing again. This is irritating.
There are a couple of things I keep forgetting to tell you - it's Leftovers Day.  First, Abby's eyes have turned green. She's almost two years old, which is a bit old for that, but it's not unheard-of at that age. They're beautiful with her black coat. Now I call her my green-eyed lady.
Second, I flunked my mammogram. In all the years I've had them, I've only had two that I didn't have to do over again. So this is familiar territory. I go back next Thursday for a diagnostic mammogram and an ultrasound. The few folks that I've told about it are in panic mode, but I've done this so many times that I can't get worked up. I never did, actually, not even the first time. I'm dense and lumpy (no comments about my brain here), so what can I expect? I'll let you know it if's anything inconvenient or time-consuming.
Talking about leftovers reminds me how much it meant to me that you liked to eat them. My father didn't allow leftovers at the table, so Mama and I ate them for lunch. But you loved them and I appreciated that. So, thank you. You're so wonderfully practical and grounded - you felt like, if you liked them the first time, you'd love them the second. And there's no excuse for wasting perfectly good food. Remember, during the recession in the '80s and we'd both had our pay cut back, when I got ten meals out of that miserable-looking two-pound hen? My Mama taught me how to stretch food!
I wish I knew how to stretch energy, but fibro is in charge, as usual. It's dark outside now, except for the occasional lightening bug. Maybe the world isn't ending. When the apocalypse comes, I don't expect to see lightening bugs.
Love you forever,
Joan .

Friday, July 17, 2015

Friday with Stonehenge

Dear John,
The fibro flare let up enough to let me go to work today. It's Friday so it was busy, but pleasantly so, not frantic. It was good to be back. Bless them, the people I work with sympathize instead of judging. That's unusual when you're dealing with fibromyalgia.
I slept some last night. It took 75 mg of Benadryl because of the pain. And I was up once with Jethro when some storms came through about 3 AM. The alarm was set for 5:45, but there was a flash of lightening at 5:30 and, the first thing I knew, there was a dog on my head. Tonight's storms went a bit north of us. I'm glad - the basement is still drying out, and I have no desire to get any more water in it.
Today I've had more pain but less itching, and that is a good trade. Now, as the sun is going down, the itching it starting up again. I'm still getting that feeling like I've been stabbed with a hot needle - a couple of times at work I jumped and yelped, but people were nice to me anyway.
I'm glad I'm only working four hours tomorrow - I'm worn out from today. It's going to be in the 90s and humid all weekend. I believe I'll stay inside and knit socks. I'm hoping that, if I'm careful for the next few days, this flare will go away quietly. I'm very ready to be done with it.
Thanks for listening to me grumble. I know you've always wanted to know what's going on and how I'm feeling. You probably don't think I've been grumbling, and I've really tried not to. You were the perfect husband for a fibromite - patient, understanding, glad to help but never hovering, never for a moment considering leaving me. And I can hear you saying that I never left you, either. But I married you knowing you'd already had cancer. Fibro wasn't something you bargained for. But, as I've said, we both took our wedding vows very seriously. When we said, "In sickness and in health," we meant it.
Still waiting for the "in health" part,

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Confounding Roger

Dear John,
I'm sleeping in this tee-shirt tonight. I don't think I told you: Becky got one for me and I love it. If I can't sleep with you, at least I can sleep in this shirt.
Today I was thinking about our pre-marital counseling, and particularly pondering one question that Roger asked us: Who was going to do what? I grew up in the 1950s with a stay-at-home mom, and I was determined that, even though we'd both be working full time, you wouldn't have to lift a finger at home. You were equally determined to split the housework 50-50. So we argued it out in front of an open-mouthed Roger, who had never expected to see the argument go that way.
You won, of course - you had logic on your side. Who did what was an ever-shifting picture, but the bottom line was that we were equally responsible for everything. Who did what depended on who was best at it and had time. And health issues were often a consideration. We each enjoyed doing things that made the other one happy. You enjoyed vacuuming, and it was fine with me for you to take that job. But you could not be trusted to dust; I would invariably find you an hour later, sitting on the floor reading a book that you'd run across. We were equally good at bathrooms. You mowed and I took care of the flower beds. We enjoyed doing the shopping together. You did the finances and I had the kitchen - unless pizza or cookies were involved, and then you took over. It worked because we love each other. And it was good that Roger made us talk about it before we were married.
It's bedtime. Tonight I'll go to sleep remembering those early years. I think it's easier getting married right out of college. We didn't each bring our stuff and our routines - we had no routines yet and no stuff. We built our adult lives together. And part of that began when Roger asked us that question. Thank you for insisting on going halves. Thank you for feeling responsible for things at home. Thank your father for me, for raising you that way. I can't wait to meet him. For now, give both of your parents a hug for me. I'd be there if I could!
Waiting for my turn,

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Fibro Flare: Day 3

Dear John,
Still home, still flaring. Jen came by tonight to pick up some mail. She's the first actual, living person I've seen since Saturday afternoon. It was nice to have real human contact.
Last night I took 50 mg of Benadryl and two Tylenol #3 at bedtime, and was still wide awake at 5 AM. Between pain, itching, dizziness, nausea, and twitching, there was no sleep until then. So I missed another day of work, which I mind more than all the symptoms put together. This is the first flare I've had to miss work for, but it's also the first that I've had the constant, intense itching. It's not fun. But I did get Elyssa's birthday socks finished. The basement is drying out. I even managed a load of laundry. That was my big day.
It's late and I'm tired, so I'm not going to talk long. I have hopes of actually sleeping tonight. I'm itching a bit less and hurting a bit more. But it's easier to sleep through pain than itching. The poor animals are worn out after the last couple of nights. I need to sleep so we can all get some rest!
Miss you so much,

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Great Renunciation

Dear John,
I wasn't any better this morning so I had to take another day from work. The worst part of fibromyalgia is the guilt from having to let people down. The itching is down to a dull roar so I should be good to go to work tomorrow. I still feel awful, but I should be able to wear clothes without being stoned on Benadryl, and that's all that's necessary.
The flag issue rages on. Today I heard what I've been expecting and dreading. The NAACP is petitioning to have the carvings on Stone Mountain destroyed. First of all, you don't destroy art because of politics. The parallel with ISIS is obvious. Second, you can't change history by removing all evidence of it. And third, I grew up climbing that mountain. If it comes to that, I'll be standing in  front of it. They'll have to go through me.
And that takes me to politics. I have officially renounced my lifelong liberal Democrat position. It's not so much that my position has changed. I still stand where I always have. The political spectrum has moved under me like tectonic plates. Everything has gone so far left that I can't recognize it anymore. The party that stood for civil rights and equal opportunity has transformed into a liberal fascism, a tyranny of political correctness, where the rights of the majority are sacrificed to meet the demands of every minority and there is no absolute truth.
True to my political youth, I will not go quietly. I'm quite prepared to build my rain barrel and paint a Confederate flag on the side of it. I'll help man the barricades at Stone Mountain. And I'll drink raw milk if I want to, by golly. I've marched for civil rights and the Red River Gorge. Now it's raw milk and rain barrels and the flag - another kind of civil rights, another level of freedom, this time from a government that seeks to micromanage every aspect of my life. A pox upon them.
There's an election coming up and I am without a party. I'm not the only one; there is a great shift going on. I have yet to see a candidate who doesn't scare me. Heck, I have yet to see a party that doesn't. For the first time in my life, I'm afraid for the Constitution. Where is the barricade for that?
Please pray for all of us, and for this next election. And for Stone Mountain. Pray for the return of sanity. It's madness down here.
Wish I was there with you,

Monday, July 13, 2015

Bailing, Itching, & Kitty Toes

Dear John,
Last night went downhill fast. I woke up at 1 AM with terrible itching all over. There was no rash or anything, just the fibro itch. I took 25 mg of Benadryl, not wanting to take so much that I couldn't get awake for work this morning. I was still wide awake with itching unabated at 5:00. So I texted that I wouldn't be in to work and took another 50 mg. I finally got to sleep around 6:00.
I got up at 10:30 and felt awful all day, hurting and itching and nauseated. Strong storms rolled through and I realized why I was flaring. It was the weather. My body knew the storms were coming long before I did. I napped and knitted and scratched all day. My one productive act was trimming toenails on Hunter and Maggie.
Now it's 9:30 and I'm in bed with the laptop, and more storms are moving through. We're under a tornado watch and a severe thunderstorm warning. Jethro is squeezed between my back and the headboard. And everything hurts and itches. I'm going to take 50 mg of Benadryl after the storms pass and hope to sleep tonight without waking up scratching. This is one of the less-endearing forms of allodynia. But we fibromites all do it. It's not a skin thing - there's never anything there where we itch - it's the brain misreading nerve input, like everything else. And it will go away. I hope in time for work tomorrow.
That's all that's happening here - bailing the basement, itching, and trimming cat toenails. That's been my day! Today I really wished you were here to help with the basement. But I'm doing okay keeping up with it. There's one thing, though. I can't find the hose for the wetvac. Could you call or text me and tell me where it is? It would save so much time and effort if I could use it instead of sweeping the water into the sump hole. And, from the weather forecast, I have several more days of rain ahead.
The storm is easing up so I'll be getting the critters off to bed soon. Continue to pray for the basement, and also for this flare. And maybe for a good night's sleep? That would be easier if you were here. But what wouldn't? Sleep well, far away from wet basements and itchy wives!
Love you with all my heart,

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Good Times and Ninja Cats

Dear John,
As expected, the basement-bailing took its toll and I felt awful today. I got up at 10:30 and did as little as possible, and feel better tonight. I stretched out for a nap this afternoon and slept for two hours. Evidently the animals thought that was enough. I was sound asleep and Maggie walked up and punched me in the stomach. She made sure I was awake and walked away. She's strong for her size! That was quite a whack she gave me.
I woke up with "Sweet Caroline" on my mind. (Yes, I saw that episode of Big Bang Theory last night.) I hit the line about good times never being so good, and my brain got stuck. I turned over the phrase "good times," and you know exactly where it ended up. It landed in the lecture hall in the new biology building, in BIO 201, listening to Dr. Sabarwal teach botany. When he talked about plant reproduction, he always referred to the process as plants having "good times." I can still hear him say it.

I'm glad for a lot of reasons that I was a biology major for two years before I switched to nursing. It gave me so much more science background, and I've always valued that. But it also meant that your first two years were the same as mine, except that you took Russian and I took German. It was good to have shared all of that with you.
So tonight, laugh with me about "good times" and sympathize with me for being cat-punched. I can't hear you laugh with me. But I can come here and know that you know and are chuckling about it. And that is good.
Can't wait to hear you laugh,

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Requiescat, Part II

Dear John,
You will be relieved to know that the dead raccoon was picked up and taken away. You'll be happy to know that the memorial lives on in a different form. Isn't this delightful? I want to meet these people. Evidently it all started with a tweet about the poor creature. It seems that Twitter can be useful after all.
 I had a bipolar day. The first half was great. I made my monthly shopping trip to Goshen and got home about 2:30. Then began the second half of the day, which was not so great. I'd checked the basement after the last rainfall and it was fine. I checked again today and found the worst flood we've ever had. Areas that have never flooded before had an inch of water. I checked the sump pump and confirmed that it was fine, then I got out the push broom and swept all the water into the sump hole. I closed the windows and turned on the air conditioning to help things dry out. It's much better this evening. After it's all dry, there will be things I have to get rid of. But none of that is bad; it's stuff I should have thrown out but couldn't bring myself to. It's time for a grand clearing out and reorganizing. The biggest adventure was that the carpet on the landing at the foot of the basement stairs was soaked. I spent the rest of the day rotating towels between the carpet and the dryer. That will continue tomorrow. And possibly tomorrow and tomorrow. I'm glad there is no subflooring there, just concrete. What a mess!
So, are we having fun yet? The day was productive. Besides drying out the basement, I got cheese and tomatoes from Fritz and a bar of soap at The Soapy Gnome and twenty pounds of blueberries at Kercher's. I had a 30%-off coupon for Kohls and they were having  a sale, so I got four tops and saved $91. I'll have three of them embroidered with the bank logo to wear at work. And I picked up kitty litter. It's going to get warmer tomorrow, so I was going to have to close the house anyway. It's supposed to rain the next three days. That may mean more bad news for the basement.
Please pray for our carpet and our basement, and that the rain will drain elsewhere for a change. And pray for me, since the fibro didn't at all enjoy sopping up all that wetness. I don't believe the raccoon is in need of prayer. If you see him, let him know how many people have been touched by his demise.
Adore you,

Friday, July 10, 2015

Requiescat in Toronto

Dear John,
Canada is clearly related to the US. You'll love this. A dead raccoon was found on a street corner in Toronto. The proper authorities were contacted about removing it, but they never showed up. So people did the only logical thing: They constructed a memorial around it, complete with a photo. Isn't this great?
It's this wonderful, offbeat, completely inappropriate sense of humor we have. I remember right after the OJ freeway chase, when a local car company had a contest. First prize was a white Ford Bronco with AC in the front and OJ in the back.
Yes, it's a little bit on the sick side. That's what makes it so good. We have this ability to not take ourselves too seriously. Even most things that are deadly serious have a little corner to them that's funny. We seem to be good at finding that. Growing up on MAD Magazine  probably didn't hurt.
Thank you for understanding and appreciating my sick, warped sense of humor, the kind that only critical care nurses have. You never tried to rein it in, never even attempted to have me institutionalized. You knew full well what you were getting into before marriage. After all, you were the only non-nursing-student that would eat with us when we came to the dining hall straight from clinical. So, of course, I threw a net over you. Thank you for being caught.
Tonight, know that, even with all the distressing things going on, we have not lost our sense of humor. And it's still a bit sick. That is good.
Love you so much,

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Jethro the Cat Herder

Dear John,
There's not much to tell tonight. It's late - I have to get up in less than eight hours. So I don't have much time in which to say not much. At least there is symmetry involved.
You know Abby dotes on Jethro, who doesn't give her the attention she wants. She's gone back to doing something she did when she was a kitten. When I let the dog out, she sits at the back door watching him outside. When he comes to the door wanting to be let back in, she howls until I come get him. They all have times that they watch him out the back door, but Abby is the only one who howls for me to let him in.
They're all so funny. And they're all still cuddly since I went on vacation. I've been back almost a month, but they still can't get enough petting and cuddling. I enjoy it as much as they do, so we're all happy here. For a few minutes tonight, I had all of them in my lap at once.
It's time to get them and myself off to bed. Jethro is, as usual, asleep beside me. The cats are chasing each other up and down the hall. I'll have to send the dog out to round them up, like the one in the picture. Come join us if you can!
Adore you,

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Sadness, Weirdness, & the Lawn

Dear John,
It's late and there isn't much to say. I'm still having one of those times that I miss you so much. It's a kind of sadness that comes occasionally. As we've said before, nothing about widowhood is linear.
Along with sadness is weirdness. Things at work have been just a little off-kilter all week. It's going well for everybody. It's not a bad week, just a bit strange. Maybe this happens after a holiday. Maybe the town partied a bit too hard. Is the moon full? It's entertaining, at any rate.
I mowed after work. It was cloudy and 65, and that was too good to waste. It sprinkled rain off and on, and that felt good, too. Half the neighborhood was mowing this evening. We're still getting rain every few days, so it's not easy to keep up with the grass. At least mine is done for a while.
Tomorrow I work my half-day. After work I need to clean the house, mail some packages, and get cat food. Saturday I'll go to the farmers market and the co-op - make my monthly shopping trip to Goshen. And maybe mow again. We'll see.
The dog is asleep beside me and the cats are in various  window sills. I'm getting sleepy, so I'll end before I go face-down on the keyboard. I really could use a cuddle tonight, just because I'm a little sad right now. So come if you can. Your little family misses you.
Love you with all my heart,

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Wonderful. Another Way to Miss You.

Dear John,
The windows are open and it's in the low 60s. We got an inch of rain this morning and should have lower temperature and humidity for a few days. It's been a lovely evening that, for some reason, is reminding me of summer evenings in Springfield in that wonderful house in our beautiful old neighborhood.
I'm still on my news moratorium, but current events are forcing themselves upon me. And most of it is depressing, which is why I went on my news moratorium in the first place. As we have previously noted, it appears that the world has gone mad. Tonight I was thinking about how much I miss having you to talk to about the world's craziness, how much I miss your sanity. And I realized it's something more than that: I miss your goodness.
You are the most truly good person I've ever known, good all the way through. I know you're saying that you're no such thing, but in saying that you're only proving my point by demonstrating humility. So give it up. Just like there are ways you know me better than I know myself, there are ways I know you better than you do. I've always known your goodness, knew it at first sight. That's what first drew me to you. Your goodness was an anchor for me in the face of general insanity. I admired, respected, and honored you for it, and I still do. It seemed effortless, an innate part of who you are.
I, of course, have no such trait. The first thing I saw in you was goodness; the first thing you saw in me was that I'm an independent, strong-minded, smart-mouthed woman. Between the two is a world of difference. When you were here, I could share in your goodness. Now, with you there and me here, I struggle to get along without it. I could use some help tonight. So please, please, if you can, pop in tonight and cuddle with me and tell me everything is going to be alright. Come and be my anchor for just a little while.
Drowning just a little bit,

Monday, July 6, 2015

The House is Yellow - Who Knew?

Dear John,
I had the house power washed today - it turns out that it's yellow. Who knew?
We used to get it done every year, but I haven't been able to afford it so it's been four years. We had mold and moss growing on the north side and it was filthy. I'd tried to wash it myself, but there's no substitute for turning Steve loose on it with his hot water truck. It's beautiful.
Yesterday afternoon I took out the screens and moved the window boxes. After work tonight I put them all back, filled the birdfeeders, and took the trash to the street. And then I took a shower - it was nearly 90 today and humid. I was a mess after doing all that.
The house looks nice on the outside - you'd be happy with it. Now I need to turn my attention to the inside. It never ends on either side. Inside, the animals keep shedding. Outside, the weeds and grass keep growing. It gives me good, healthy occupation and plenty of exercise.
Now I'm in bed with the dog asleep beside me and lots of lightening bugs out in the back yard. It's dusk and they're lighting up the neighborhood. The windows are closed until tomorrow, when it's going to cool off again for a few days. I miss the sounds and smells of the outside, but none of us need to have the house open when it's 90.
What temperature is Heaven? Is there temperature in Heaven? Can your new body even feel things like that? And when are you getting Skype up there so you can answer all these questions? My laptop is ready - I'm just waiting for you.
Waiting for you, always,

Sunday, July 5, 2015

And What Came of It

Dear John,
Today I paid for all that marching around town yesterday. I drank as much as I could before the parade but couldn't drink during it. I hit the Gatorade when I got home. But apparently it wasn't enough - heat and dehydration hit me this afternoon and I've felt awful all day. Thanks to lots more Gatorade, I am finally feeling human. But I did have a wonderful time getting this way, so it's all okay.
Fireworks went on well into the wee hours of this morning so we didn't get to sleep until after 3 AM. We all slept in this morning and took a couple of naps this afternoon. Nobody is showing any signs of reluctance about going back to bed now.
I have good news and interesting news. First, the US women won the World Cup. It was played in Vancouver so there were plenty of American fans there to celebrate. The interesting news is NASCAR. Talladega was covered with Confederate flags today. They offered to give everybody American flags if they'd turn in their Confederate ones, and the latest news is that only three people took them up on it. I wondered how the NASCAR fans would react to being told to leave their flags at home. It will be interesting watching how this plays out.
It strikes me, though, that this controversy could be a good thing. You know I've bemoaned for years the co-opting of that flag by racists and white supremacists. Well, right now, those of us who love it for the right reasons are getting our chance to speak out. It's an opportunity to educate northerners about what it really stands for. And we are busy reclaiming it. I believe the north will also get an education about southern stubbornness and loyalty, and what happens when you push us too far.
You know well my stubbornness and love me anyway - thank you for that! I'm normally peaceable and law-abiding, but can be otherwise when I'm pushed too far on matters of principle. I still might have to build that rain barrel. I'll keep you posted.
Sleep well there, where nobody argues about flags and there are no cars driving in circles and making left turns. And pray for us down here, where we still have things to wrangle about.
Adore you stubbornly,

Saturday, July 4, 2015

How I Carried a Banner & Marched Through Town

Dear John,
Happy Independence Day! I doubt that you keep any such observances in Heaven, but here it's important. We're having our usual nationwide block party. And it is good.
Of course, this is THE holiday in Topeka, and the whole town is out celebrating. I went with Richard to the pancake breakfast to raise money for the fire department, then I watched the police do a K9 demonstration in east park. It was wonderful, seeing what those dogs can do. I watched a bit of the basketball tournament and talked to some friends. Then I came home for lunch and was sleepy, so I lay down for a bit and woke up three hours later. (I didn't get much sleep last night because the fireworks went on until after midnight and the dog wouldn't just sit on my head; he had to squirm.)
I left a few minutes before 4:00 to walk down to the bank and help get our parade float put together. Then we all walked over to Crystal's house to inflate the cake (a big birthday cake for the bank's 100th birthday). Then we trooped over to the NISCO parking lot to get in the parade line. The parade started at 5:45, only 15 minutes late this year, and was so long that it ran for a full hour.
We had the bank van, the Billmobile, with a big "100" balloon on top and a decorated trailer behind it that had the cake and Charley dressed up in the Bill Dollar costume, which must have been terribly hot today. Cindy and I walked in front of it and carried the big bank banner, with the rest of the people behind us with candy to throw to the crowd. And there was a crowd! It seemed like half the county was here. A lot of it probably was; we always have lots more people for this than our little 1100-person population.
Now I'm tired and sweaty and happy and my feet hurt. I walked miles today. I'm on the couch with the laptop and a frantic dog who just got his pre-fireworks Benadryl, listening to the music from a local country band in the park. It's been a perfect day. Even the weather has been perfect - 80 and mostly sunny. Today demonstrates so much of what I love about this town and this country. Independence Day isn't about military demonstrations and political posturing; it's about bands and parades and hotdogs and picnics. It's a day to celebrate who and what we are. So we get together and eat and play and listen to music and have parades and watch fireworks. We enjoy who and what and where we are; we love our families and communities and nation; we all get together and embrace all of that.
We have issues to struggle with and things that divide us; we always have and we always will. But right now the town is singing along to "Rocky Top" and setting off sparklers and eating Nelson's chicken, and what we share far outweighs what we don't. We will survive the current disagreements as we have survived the past ones. After all, we made it through a civil war. We're a family; we can wrangle over things and shout at each other, and that's allowed. We're America. And it is good.
So come and watch the fireworks tonight - 10:00, as usual. Stay for the last bit of our national block party. There is much to be thankful for.
Adore you,

Friday, July 3, 2015

Sleeping with a Dog on my Head

Dear John,
This will be short - there are fireworks outside and I have a terrified dog who won't give up on crawling into my lap. The cats, on the other hand, are in the window sills watching and listening.
We had a slow day at work. It seems that lots of the regular Friday folks came in yesterday, thinking we'd be closed today. And most of the factories are closed this week and next, so there's not much paycheck traffic. It was nice to take things a bit easier today after working in the yard for most of yesterday.
Now I'm tired and would like to go to bed, but probably not to sleep until the fireworks die down. Tomorrow night I'll give Jethro some Benadryl. Tonight he'll just lie on my head. Maybe it's me that needs the Benadryl tonight! Sleep good, where there are no fireworks or frightened dogs to keep you awake.
Wishing I was sleeping with you, with our without the dog on my head,

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Happy Name Day!

Dear John,
St. John of San Francisco
Happy name day! As you well know, today is the feast day of St. John of San Francisco, whose name you took when you were chrismated. Please kiss his hand for me and ask his blessing, not for you but for me. You are no longer in need of blessing. When I pray to him, I ask him to pray for me and to continue to take care of you.
What I said to you yesterday has not yet resulted in my being devoured. Or arrested. I was too busy today to begin the construction of my rain barrel. I had a lovely day. The animals woke me up at 7:30, so I got an early start in the flower beds. I weeded, pruned trees and bushes, edged the driveway and patio, and trimmed around the flower beds and fence. While that was going on, I washed sheets and blankets and did some spot-cleaning on the stair carpet. I would have swept and dusted except that I spent some time talking to Janet over the back fence. That was much more important than sweeping and dusting. The animal hair isn't going anywhere.
I took a break in the afternoon to go to Goshen for my mammogram. Due to the perfidy of insurance companies, it's been four years since my last one. Then, as you also well know, I brought lunch out to eat with you. I just had to come visit you on your name day. There's a marker on the bike path a little ways west of you that tells some of the history of the cemetery. Did you now the first burial there was in 1832, and that there is at least one Revolutionary War veteran buried there? If you haven't, you should go read it. It's interesting. We are in august company.
It's time for bed here. There are already some fireworks, so Jethro is presently hiding behind my grandmother's chair. The next few nights will be hard for him, poor baby. Last night I went to sleep with fireworks going off and his big head laid over mine to keep me safe. He is very serious about protecting me, now that you're not here. I am well-looked-after. But I'd rather have you.
Wishing you were here,

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Don't Tread on Me: A Diatribe

Dear John,
Today they took down the Confederate flag at Fort Sumter. It's terribly painful. It feels like losing the war all over again. I have visions of federal troops marching into Atlanta again. And so I'm quoting the motto of South Carolina: Don't tread on me. Mama is proud, I'm sure. 
The latest manifestation of political correctness consists of removing every remaining symbol of Confederate history. Now, I do think the flag has no business flying over the South Carolina state house; that's bothered me for years. But Fort Sumter? It's a historical site; the flag belongs there. Groups of people are trying to get streets and parks renamed and monuments of Confederate war heroes destroyed. (Didn't ISIS just do that?) I remember how painful and shocking it was the first time I saw the statue of Sherman in Columbus. But it never occurred to me to ask anybody to take it down. I just avoided it when I could and put up with it when I couldn't. And I didn't die from it.
We lost the war - well and good. Rhett Butler was right about the South's chances; declaring war was foolish. But neither the war nor the flag was about slavery. For the first portion of the war, slavery was legal and practiced in the north. I've been irritated for years by the association of the flag with rednecks and racists. It's about our history. It's about the Southern attachment to land and peoplehood, and honors the valor and sacrifices offered to them. And, by golly, it's ours. That flag, like the Oxford comma, must be pried from my dead, cold hands.
NASCAR has banned it. Today TLC cancelled The Dukes of Hazard because of it. As an experiment, somebody went into a Walmart and tried to get a cake decorated with the flag, and was refused. They had no difficulty getting one with the ISIS flag on it. Amazon no longer sells Confederate memorabilia but still carries the Nazi flag. The world has officially gone mad. What's next? Outlawing fried chicken? Forcing Cracker Barrel to remove grits and turnip greens from their menu? Laws requiring the presence of sugar in coleslaw, heaven forbid? Fining people for saying "y'all"?
And the South isn't all that seems to be under attack. Last week the police told a lady she could no longer cook bacon in her own home because the odor offended her Muslim neighbors. Oregon jailed a man for collecting rain water off of his own roof. Florida has jailed a woman for being off the grid. Raw milk is illegal. I'm fed up with being micromanaged. The government continues to pressure the Redskins to change their name. The world has gone mad.
Tonight I'm angry. I'm certain you expected that after the first sentence. I feel like I'm being pushed on too many fronts at one time. So tonight as I mowed, I was fantasizing about what I'd like to do, both as protest and to see just how many people I can tick off at one time. Here we go:
  1. I want to build a rain barrel and paint the Confederate flag on it.
  2. I want to drink raw milk.  And yes, I'm willing to go to jail for buying it on the black market.
  3. I'd like to buy the complete box set of The Dukes of Hazard. And watch it. Even though I never liked the show.
  4. I want to dig a well and put up a windmill and go off the grid, just to annoy Florida.
  5. I'd like to put an icon over my front door so everybody has to see that I'm Christian. But this it Topeka, so that wouldn't annoy anybody at all.
  6. I might even be caught cheering for the Redskins.
  7. And tonight, I even want a bumper sticker endorsing secession. Again.
Well, that's about the end of the diatribe. If you were here, you'd agree with me but calm me down. I'm a Southern (hence, I have a temper) lady (hence, I don't use all the words that come to mind. My grandmother Keistler always said that swearing is a sign of an inadequate vocabulary.) So come by tonight and help me use this anger constructively. Or at least rub my feet so I can get to sleep. And how about taking me back with you when you go? If not, I may be reduced to constructing that rain barrel.
Love you so much for putting up with me,