Archive for the 'Daily Struggles' category

How To Live Your Life Efficiently And Maximize Your Potential To Get Things Done

Aug 22 2018 Published by under Daily Struggles



1. Rise early. Rise a half hour earlier than your normal waking time.
0.1 If you have not already done so, go to bed early the night before. This will ensure you can rise early.
1.1. Having risen early, use this extra morning time efficiently.
1.1.1 As soon as your morning ablutions are over, before you have done anything else, devote 15 minutes to a mindfulness-based stress reduction meditation. This will help carry you through the day.




1a Rise early. Rise a half hour earlier than your normal waking time.
0.1a If you have not already done so, go to bed early the night before. This will ensure you can rise early.
1.1a Having risen early, use this extra morning time efficiently.
1.1.1a As soon as your morning ablutions are over, before you have done anything else, devote 15 minutes to a gentle exercise program. Go out your front door and simply walk for 15 minutes.
1.1..2 Now devote 15 minutes to a mindfulness-based stress reduction meditation. This will help carry you through the day.



1b Rise early. Rise a half hour earlier than your normal waking time.
0.1b If you have not already done so, go to bed early the night before. This will ensure you can rise early.
1.1b Having risen early, use this extra morning time efficiently.
1.1.1b As soon as your morning ablutions are over, before you have done anything else, devote 15 minutes to gentle stretching and other exercises learned from physical therapy. This will help your body recover from over-night stiffening.
1.1.2b Now devote 15 minutes to a gentle exercise program. Go out your front door and simply walk for 15 minutes.
1.1.3 Now devote 15 minutes to mindfulness-based stress reduction meditation. This will help carry you through the day.




1c. Rise early. Rise an HOUR earlier than your normal waking time.
0.1c If you have not already done so, go to bed early the night before. This will ensure you can rise early.
1.1c Having risen early, use this extra morning time efficiently.
1.1.1c As soon as your morning ablutions are over, before you have done anything else, before you have spoken to anyone or read anything, devote 15 minutes to writing. Establishing this discipline will help you develop your writing muscle.
1.1.2c Now devote 15 minutes to gentle stretching and other exercises learned from physical therapy. This will help your body recover from over-night stiffening.
1.1.3c Now devote 15 minutes to a gentle exercise program. Go out your front door and simply walk for 15 minutes.
1.1.4c Now devote 15 minutes to mindfulness-based stress reduction meditation. This will help carry you through the day.




1d. Rise a goddam hour earlier than any normal person should.
0.1d Would have been nice if had gotten some good sleep last night but no. Cat puked in middle of the night.
1.1d Having risen early, curse last night's failure to pre-set the coffee maker. Make coffee.
1.1.1d Brush teeth, splash water on face. Remember that credit card payment is due TODAY. Also, plumber is likely to arrive around 8 a.m.
1.1.1d Open laptop, pay credit card. Allow yourself 15 minutes on Facebook. One hour later, accept verdict of Becoming A Writer author Dorothea Brande that perhaps you don't really want to be a writer, you poser.
1.1.2d There's no way you can get through all the exercises of five different bouts of physical therapy in 15 minutes. Why even try?
1.1.3d It's raining. Again. Think about putting on rain boots, rain jacket, picking up umbrella and going for a 15 minute walk. Except now the plumber is here.
1.1.4d The cat has puked. Again. Meditate on that, why don't you.




1.e Sleep in.
1.1e Cat is sleeping on you.
1.1.1e Efficiency is overrated.


4 responses so far

Anti-Vaxxers Gave Me Whooping Cough

Mar 11 2016 Published by under Daily Struggles

This is the story of my trip to the hospital.

While the good people of Nevada were busy rejecting their native son a few weeks ago, and helping the nation choose a loose cannon Republican nominee that will make us all say "remember when we used to think Dubya was as bad as it could get?" I was otherwise occupied coughing out my lungs. What had started as some mild sinus congestion and a little cough had led to this - me, on my hands and knees, gasping for breath between paroxysms of coughing.

We went to the ER, where they promptly gave me a little mask to wear once they called me in for triage (but only after I had coughed up a storm in the waiting area. I did cough into my elbow, as one is supposed to do.) Once settled in a curtained-off bed, the kindly physician's assistant listened to my story, listened to my cough, listened to my lungs and then told me:  you may have whooping cough. Yes. Whaaaat? I was just thinking super-bad bronchitis. Although, there was that coughing-so-hard-I-could-barely-breath thing.

They gave me a one hour albuterol breathing treatment which, if you are ever coughing your lungs out, do ask for one, because it is like the balm of Gilead to inflamed bronchial tubes in spasm.  The chest x-ray in the ER showed "lower left lobe infiltrate" which is fancy doctor talk for "you have walking pneumonia" which is also fancy doctor talk for "you have the kind of pneumonia that doesn't give a fever and that is sneaky and hides" and also "you will feel like crap for another week or so, but we should be able to get the coughing under some control" and "you are not going to die, and can go home with your spouse".

The breathing treatment, plus a massive dose of prednisone, plus a horse pill of Levaquin, plus cough syrup with codeine, took me from "I am going to crack a rib if I keep coughing like this, which maybe if the broken rib punctures my lung, it will let some air in" to "Jesu Christi! I can draw a breath of air without breaking into spasms of coughing!" You don't realize how nice it is to breath easy until you can't.

An inept male nurse swabbed me to test for whooping cough, which means he injected my nostrils with saline and then tried to suction "boogies" (his word) out of them for lab culture, while Mr. Z gagged in the chair next to the bed. This was a bad evening for Mr. Z, as he had already had to deal with the cat litter earlier (normally my duty).

Do not ever let anyone swab you for whooping cough, if you can help it. It is not a pleasant experience. Imagine that you have been coughing and choking to death for days on end. Now imagine someone shoots saline up your nostrils, which runs down your throat, and then they stick a thin plastic suction tube up your nostril probing for your brains. Imagine you burst into a spasm of coughing and the torturer nurse says "ready for the other nostril?" and between gasps you say "no" and he says "whenever you are ready!" in a chipper voice and all this is interrupting your balm of Gilead breathing treatment. Bastard. And also, fuck you to all the anti-vaxxers who aren't vaccinating their kids and thus creating outbreaks of whooping cough that lead to innocent bystanders like me getting swabbed for whooping cough because maybe that's what caused my pneumonia. Fucking whooping cough. Fucking anti-vaxxers.

After a five-hour visit, we left the hospital around 2:15 a.m. with a sheaf of prescriptions. We headed for the 24 hr CVS, about a 10 minute drive from the hospital...only to find that the 24 hr CVS is no longer the 24 hr CVS "not since December!" The new 24 CVS is now the CVS that is...down the road from the hospital and on the way home. So, right back to where we started and on to the New Improved 24 Hr CVS, where we waited for the scripts while the slightly crazed looking, probably sleep deprived, but very nice pharmacist called out questions and directions to me in brazen disregard for HIPPA as I sat next to one other pathetic late night prescription seeker. We bought two bottles of Gatorade, a pack of Ensure for Mr. Z to have some breakfast nutriment, and a Kit Kat candy bar for the little girl who had been so brave at the doctor's. And then we went home.

When we were waiting at the ER exit for the valet to bring the car back (you can't park at the ER except by valet) I said to Mr. Z, "I've got the walking pneumonia and the boogie woogie blues" (through my little face mask). And he said, "You surely do." Then: "Boogies! He kept saying it, over and over! Boogies! Over and over! Why did he have to say it!" It was funny, but we were too tired and traumatized to laugh.

He was so angry when the old 24 hr CVS turned out not to be the 24 hr CVS. And then, just as we were almost home we got one last red light, and he was just furious about the wait. And I felt so bad, because I knew he had to get up in about 4 hours and go to work. I felt so awful for being this person who just has one strange illness after another (in the past year I've developed unusual allergic reactions to food and now have an epi-pen; I've had a problem with my eyes; all this on top of the migraine stuff.) I thought he is just going to hate me. We got home, and I crawled into bed and started making a little mound of pillows, because the PA told me to sleep sitting up some if I could, and he said "I love you, but I have to get to sleep".

The next morning, I woke before him, with a little coughing - so I coughed into my pillow as quiet as I could and I slipped out of the room to use my inhaler. After Mr. Z got out of the shower, I said "I know last night was terrible but I'm feeling a lot better" and before I could even finish he said "you sound way better than you did even when we got home last night. I didn't think they were going to let you leave with me." And then he bent over Kitteh #1 laying at the foot of the bed, and petted and kissed him and said "Mommy's getting better, Kitteh! Everything's going to be okay again!" And before he left, he planted three soft, long kisses on top of my head. And I knew he did not hate me, and had not been mad at me for being sick.  And then I took a bunch of meds and made tea.

And that is the story of my trip to the hospital. The End.*

*It was not, however, the end of the story. Eventually had to get a nebulizer for home use, every four hours. And I have to see a pulmonologist. And I've got my fingers crossed that I don't end up with asthma out of all this. So, once again: fuck you, anti-vaxxers. Your irrational, unfounded superstitions about vaccines have real-life, harmful consequences for people.

14 responses so far

Formica (But Not the Countertop): A Cautionary Tale

Jul 06 2015 Published by under Daily Struggles, Gardening For Life

Formica is not just a made up word for a substitute material for mica insulation that eventually became countertop material because corporate monopolies in the early 20th century forced it out of the insulation biz. (Btw, the new Jonathan Adler collection patterns are very hip! Also Aqua Dotscreen is retro-funky. But I digress.) No, formica is first and foremost the Latin word for ant.

As in: ants, who make the foul smelling formic acid. Which, when they bite you, they will inject into the bite, because they are tiny, and how else is an ant going to defend itself and the colony? And you, stupid gardener, blithely ripping out tired pansies from late April to replace them with sunnier summer annuals, you who disturb the colony and look at all the teeny tiny ants swarming madly - so very small! - and think it's nothing to do with you, and brush them off as they start crawling over your gloves - so fast! - you are a fool. They will crawl right inside your glove cuff where you cannot get at them - they are tiny, but crafty! - and they will bite, Bite, BITE! Tiny, sting-y, ant bites. Hastily you finish planting, swiftly you rush to clean up, lavishly you apply cortisone cream. Alas! It is no use. You will have swarms of unsightly swollen itchy red bumps all over your wrists for days.

Do not fuck with the tiny little black ants.
They will acid-lace your sorry-ass wrists.

The End


For the ant-lovers in the reading audience, these ants were making their home and their living in the ground near the top edge of a rock wall in the garden - nice loamy well-drained soil, shade in morning and evening but sun from about ten a.m. to two p.m., near plantings of annuals, some perennials (dianthus, heuchera, wild strawberry vine, wild violets, day lilies) and a witch hazel shrub. They were very, very small - maybe 3-4 mm - and all black. And bitey. And fast. Beyond that I didn't stick around to get much more information about them. I have tried to figure out who they are using Alex Wild's website, the School of Ants, and other web resources, and guess they may be Little Black Ants, Monomorium mimimum. But it really is just that, a guess.

In case they (whoever they may be) or their designated representative(s) are reading, I herewith respectfully apologize for the disturbance I caused.
Please enjoy that patch of the garden - it's all yours!

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Twelve +/- Months of Zuska 2014

Dec 06 2014 Published by under Daily Struggles, Positive Actions

It was not a good year for blogging.  But what the heck, according to Drugmonkey's meme, here's the year in review.

January So, this is not the way I imagined breaking my writer's block.

February Not you, I bet!

March It struck me the other day that I now have a small and growing elder care section in my personal library.

April *crickets*

May I see the Google doodle today is in honor of Dorothy Hodgkin's birthday.

June My theory, which is mine: it shows why Einstein was wrong!

July Disorganization.

August So thanks, guys.

September Last night was it.

And...that was it for the year.  Prophetic, that last line, no?

I had envisioned this year as the time when I would nurture the withered stalk that had been my writing life and watch it come to blossom again, in whatever so small and self-satisfying a world it exists. But this year people I loved were in need, and/or ill, and some of them died, and then it came winter and year's end.

The days are short now and it's the time of year when the lack of light makes me gloomy but I'm going to resist that as much as possible. This week I got my basement waterproofed and as crazy as it may seem, that one unglamorous household improvement has buoyed my spirits. It's a dreary rainy day but I can tell myself: there won't be any water in the basement! So I don't care if it rains! (sorry, all you other folks who are still getting water in your basements. I know you still suffer. May waterproofing come your way soon.)

I've been through two and a half years of near continual worry and stress and grief and loss. It's no good waiting for everything to clear up in life to spare some attention for mundane happiness. And it does need attention.  The good and the bad are all mixed up together. If I don't look carefully I will miss the good bits because the bad is always eager to overshadow. I will try to focus on good things when they come along.  Whether it is a water-proofed basement or a bowl of chocolate yogurt or an entire day without migraine, I'll give myself permission to enjoy. Maybe this will help with the writing, who knows? We'll see!

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The Die Is Cast

Last night was it. After an attempt to file but dimly viewed nails, I asked Mr. Z for a pair of his reading glasses. Donning them I saw the world anew. Oh yes, the nails came into sharper focus; it was a delight to see them clearly, and a surprise at just how much I'd not been seeing. What I really saw, however, was my future of increasing disability.

I've been in denial about how difficult it's become to read my iPhone, how often and how much I have to blow up the screen, how very preferable the iPad has become. No more. My near vision sucks. It's going to get worse. I will one day be as my elders are now: happy youngsters will show me blurry screens of what they say are pictures of their cat; I will nod, smile, say yes I see.  The youngsters will know my vision is bad, but they won't know it, not really. I'll know they mean well and want to include me, and that's why I'll smile. That is, if there are any youngsters who come around when I'm elder. I don't kid myself. I don't have kids.  No kidding. The youngsters, if there are any, will be full of well-meant advice, and I will tell them I don't hear that.

We know what's coming, even as we work out at the gym, we aren't stupid. Unless there's an accident or a terrible illness like cancer, death creeps our way slowly. We make jokes about the reading glass harbinger at restaurants with our friends. We ask our partner to crank the volume on Alex Trebek - and wonder why everyone is mumbling. We dutifully remove treacherous throw rugs, install night lights all over the house, grab a cane for outdoor strolls (and then indoor ones too). We put in grab bars, high-seat toilets, convert to walk-in showers with shower chairs, all on the first floor.

We sell the house and move into a two-bedroom one story condo with a patio and outside maintenance provided, become best friends with the nurses at the clinic and the ER and the technicians at Quest, and upgrade to a walker. We become fond of ramps, acquire a handicap parking pass, complain about the lighting and noise in restaurants. (But not at Eat-n-Park, where the coffee is always just right.)  We upgrade to a better walker, add in a transfer chair, and turn in the car keys (some of us more some of us less reluctantly). We depend increasingly upon our children or the kindness of strangers and home health aides to supply us with Turkey Hill Lemonade Tea. Glasses and dishes and silverware grow so heavy, but we don't have much of an appetite anymore anyway. Our pillbox metastasizes from a discreet manageable one-compartment per day to a giant gargoyle garishly color-coded for morning/noon/dinner/night, permanently perched on the kitchen counter, filled (more or less accurately) by the visiting nurse.

We stay home/move in with a child/go to assisted living and we fall and break a bone/we bleed out from coumadin/we get recurrent resistant UTIs and we get pneumonia/have a stroke/become dehydrated and we die.

Mix and match as preferred, feel free to combine as you like, all permutations are allowed. Eventually, all roads this side of the Rubicon will lead to Rome.

The way that you can know all of this, know it casually from reading or intensely from up-close personal experience, and go on living, the reason you don't start haunting the Hemlock Society website, is cognitive dissonance. You think "eh, there's no good way to go, but I can make it another year, plenty of time for that, and maybe I'll go out with a heart attack in the middle of the night when I'm 80 and still kinda strong" and THEN you fall and break your hip.  Now you aren't strong and well enough to do anything about it. Welcome to the rehab hospital. The rehab hospital is where you go to be helped to be a little less debilitated before you die.

A few weeks ago we were visiting one of our elders at a rehab hospital. At one point I took a break to sit outside - there were some lovely rockers on the "porch", the covered front entrance area, and the sun was shining. A woman older than me, younger than rehab, sat in an adjacent rocker. She was visiting with her friend who sat in a wheelchair bemoaning her condition. The visiting woman offered up the following in a very soothing voice: "Well it comes to everyone eventually, though we never think it will, we think we'll always be young and strong, but it comes to all of us, it will come to me too one day. I think 'I'm always going to be just like this' but I won't, it will come to me too." But the older lady in the wheelchair was not much consoled. Because she doesn't have access to the cognitive dissonance anymore.

Of course, there are plenty of examples of people who live into a ripe old age retaining their wits and vigor, caring for themselves at home, until they die peacefully in their sleep. You could be one of them. Or you could be poor, in which case you will probably die sooner and younger, because you won't have access to as much elaborate health care to prop up your failing body.

If you are not poor, if you are blessed with the resources, I suggest using some of them not for elaborate healthcare but to talk with a doctor or someone trained in elder care about end-of-life planning. I mean a serious and sustained conversation, not a brief chat. In another post I will talk about some things you might like to discuss during such a conversation.

Do not despair! You are young and likely don't even need reading glasses yet! Possibly you even hope to have your oceanfront home drowned by the rising oceans before any of this stuff I'm talking about comes to you!

The fear of death and disability, and the fear of talking about them, is not helpful. Not thinking about these things now means it's much more likely that you could end up in a situation you don't want to be in - experiencing poor quality of life that goes on for years long after you can have any real say over what is done to and for you. I do not mean just in the case of being kept alive by machines. This is what I'll talk about in another post.

5 responses so far

Spousal Support Part 2

It was last weekend I decided the grease-stained stainless steel tea kettle with the half-missing whistle spout had reach the unbearably uncleanable stage. "It's time to throw this out and buy a new one!" I said. Mr. Z agreed. "I'm going to buy a new one this afternoon!" I declared as I tossed the old one in the trash.

A few moments later Mr. Z said, "When are you going to get a new tea kettle?" He sounded kind of uneasy.

"In a few hours, when I go out to get the lemons. The Giant Box Housegoods store is in the same plaza as the grocery store."

"Maybe you should keep the old one for now, until you get the new one," he suggested.

"Why on earth would I keep that disgusting tea kettle for two more hours when I am going right out to get a new one?"

He hesitated. "Well...that's a lot of time between now and then. Anything could happen. You could have a migraine by then and not be able to go." Pause. "That's just how I think these days."

My heart broke with love and sadness. I said, "It makes me feel really loved to know that you would worry about me. But I feel so bad to know that you worry so much that you feel like that. I don't want to be a burden to you." I said, "If I have a migraine and can't get the tea kettle, we'll boil water in a pot on the stove. We'll boil water in the microwave. We'll manage. It's summer and we aren't drinking tea much anyway."

Dear reader, I was trying to tell him I can still cope with life even if, even when, the migraine strikes. But he knows I can't cope as well. And despite the neurologist's assurance that with ten years past, my stroke risk is just the same as any other woman my age, he sees every migraine as the terrifying potential prelude to another stroke.

Right now there are Things going on, Serious Things, with his parents, and that seems to keep changing every day. The ground underfoot is shifting, uneven, treacherous. He wants to be able to count on me going out to buy the teapot. But he can't. And neither can I, truly. The migraines have been a little worse lately. Chocolate is still my friend, but it seems peanuts, bananas, yogurt, and milk have deserted me. (But not raw onion! I can still eat raw onion! At least the scallions.) Either that, or there's a med that still needs some adjusting. I'm crossing my fingers for the med.

Right now he needs my support as much as I ever needed his. He's not a talker; what he needs is as much stability and sense of homey-ness, calm and order in our house that can be provided. He knows I hide headaches from him so as not to worry about him. So every time I'm in the bathroom if he thinks he hears a pill bottle he interrogates me: do I have a headache? what am I taking? shouldn't I go lay down? Meanwhile I know he hides a lot of the news about the Serious Things so as not to distress me any more (because I have my own family things, and lost a brother and mother in the past two years, and then just this past month my mother's sister passed.) So every time he goes outside to talk on the cell phone I think it's his sister, and more bad news, and I worry about extreme scenarios, but don't ask, because he's not a talker, and I don't want to make him talk if he doesn't want to.

He says I do a lot to help him, but because none of what I do that helps him is what I would want done for me, I feel like I'm doing nothing. And I don't know what I'd do without him, but because he can't magically prevent or stop my migraines, he often feels he is not doing anything of value for me.

If you are a talker, say thanks to your spouse for the support. If you are a doer, do something to show your thanks.

If you are in a talker/doer relationship: talkers, please try to recognize what the doers are saying with their doing; doers, please try to understand what the talkers need to do with their talking.

In the advanced talker/doer relationship, doers can endure and even start small conversations with their talker, and talkers can learn silence and the value  of "now" for getting around to that Thing That Needs Doing.

6 responses so far

Things That Keep Me From Blogging

Disorganization. Procrastination. Endless estate paperwork and ensuing depression.

Trips back to western PA to empty out the house, and ensuing depression. Knowing the house is finally empty, putting it on the market, selling it two days later, and ensuing depression.

Sunday evening making a cake while dreaming about renovating my ugly kitchen when suddenly the power goes out because the electric panel died, 24 hours before a planned trip so hello emergency electrician, goodbye 10% reno budget...and cue ensuing depression. While a supposed-to-be vacation week is suddenly and terrifyingly made a visit-to-the-hospital week, returning home with worry worry worry on the mind, and ensuing depression.

A garden that was the source of pleasure and rejuvenation now overrun with weeds, baked dry as a bone, plants dying or suffering powdery mildew - in just one week! - looking like an eyesore and a hopeless chore, and ensuing depression.

Some hours on the phone for a $$$ doctor's bill the insurance won't pay, for the same test they paid for a month prior, submitted with an incorrect procedure code, impossible! for the aggressive billing office to deal with in any way, and ensuing depression.

No thing is unbearable, but everything is. No thing is impossible to deal with, but everything is difficult and draining and filled with despair.

No thing keeps me from blogging, but everything does.

7 responses so far

No Going Back

Feb 28 2014 Published by under (if) Elder (why) Care, Daily Struggles

I have a good friend with some chronic health issues. Our lives are very different, but we have much in common. We talk about how losing a husband or a career changes your identity and understanding of yourself. How the responsibility for young children or elder care grinds at you, day by day. How illness turns what was once a pleasure into a source of dread.

We both had our social circles, liked to eat out. Then health issues made that impossibly difficult. At my worst point I stopped eating out altogether; she went down to two places whose food wouldn’t harm her. I have since been able to reintroduce many foods into my diet and can eat at a wider variety of places; she is still mostly limited to the two, so that’s where we go when we go somewhere.

We both know what it’s like to try explaining complex dietary restrictions. “Peanut allergy” and “gluten-free” are in the general public vocabulary, but “onions give me migraines” and “I’m eating raw or plain food” are not.  A few weeks ago we went to see a favorite band, had dinner at a nearby Asian restaurant. She asked for steamed vegetables and brown rice.  It was the work of several minutes to convey this as a serious request. Usually Asian restaurants are safe bets for her; everything is to hand and it’s no big deal to throw a few steamed veggies on a plate. Why it wasn’t this time, who knows.

And then there is the discomfort your dining partners experience. They will range widely across the menu and enjoy their meals with gusto. They can’t help it, and you don’t want them to. But it makes them feel bad, when they look at you. Sometimes your dining partners are not just discomfited, they’re angry. Why don’t you just try a little x? Are you sure you can’t eat it? Do you have to be so picky? It’s so difficult every time we go out to eat! Eventually you just stop going out to eat. Except to your two places, with the handful of people who understand.

We vent together  – food, our once taken-for-granted good health now gone, the responsibilities weighing us down, the isolation we experience. One day she said “People say when God closes a door he opens a window. I’ve been waiting for my window for a long time. I try to keep hopeful, but I just don’t see it. I just keep wondering, when am I ever going to get back to myself, back to [the person I was before marriage and children and divorce]?” Here, dear Reader, was the time to blow sunshine up her ass with a cheery “keep hopin’ on that window!” Or not. I chose not.

I said that some experiences we have change us so profoundly that there is no going back. That person is dead and gone. We are now some new version of ourselves, and it is not the person we were planning to be. The door was one-way.  The view from the window is strange. We can look over our past, and should be generous to the person in those memories. But we have to grapple with this and now. Quite often, it is not a lot of fun. Not that there isn’t fun to be had, but there is also the realization that life never lets up for one damn minute, till you’re dead.

Obviously a stroke, lost career, and years of severe migraines have had their effect. But it’s the past six years of elder care that beat a lot out of me.  I know elder care made me more aware of disability issues, even helping me see my own chronic illness in a stronger light. I know it made me value kindness more highly than ever. I know it gave me the gift of long hours spent with my mother and in-laws that would otherwise not have been. But I am also a duller, slower, person with an even narrower life than before.

I am slower in part because I am older – the difference between 45 and 51 is real and I feel it. The slowness is also because the work and stress and worry of the past six years tired me out. I am disinclined to work really hard at anything. I am hoping spring and the garden will have some reversal effect on that.

I am a duller person. It takes me longer to read. I can’t always follow what’s going on in a commercial – there’s a lot of flitting from one image to the next so fast a dull mind gets lost and quits.  I am more forgetful. I struggle more for the right word or name. Some of this is due to natural aging and the effect of menopause and also no doubt to the effect of so many different meds mixing in my body. But I know that part of it is due to the long, steady drain of elder care on my cognitive resources.

And my life is narrower. The intermittent but unpredictable debilitating migraines had taken away my work connections and most of my social life. We had moved from one state to another. The few friends I once had in this area had themselves moved away. Children and church are the two other main conduits to social interactions, and I had neither. I was just taking baby steps to build a social life for myself without the usual resources of work, family, and church, when elder care arrived on the scene. Elder care is a chronic unpredictable set of minor and major disasters plus daily repetitive tasks that are always urgent and never completed. It gradually swallowed up more and more of my time. It occupied my mental and emotional energy even when I wasn’t directly engaged with it. It became my new job, family, and church all in one – just without the social contact.

In this and now, life will still not let up for one damn moment on the slower, duller version of me. I am aware that, if I’m lucky, I have about thirty good years left. I would like my slow, dull ass to do the best it can with them. The view out my window right now is blank. Apparently tilling and planting of the earth are required of me, if I want to enjoy the view.

5 responses so far

The Cabbage is Sad

I've been eating a soup of struggle, pain, and loss for the past two years. Still I have not found my way back to the center, and I begin to suspect there is no one who will or can say "stop, little pot".

Mr. Z and I throw in a dash of bluegrass festival or getaway vacation or just an evening's Jeopardy-watching marathon to season, as we can. In this way it is possible to continue eating the soup; our eyes meet over the rim of our bowls, and we remember the world-without-soup.

In the past few months, we have been eating the soup of sorting, packing, giving away, and leave-taking. My siblings and I are clearing out the house my mother lived in for over eighty years, the house she was, literally, born in, so that it can be sold. Mr. Z and I are helping his parents winnow down their already-once-winnowed possessions for the move from two-bedroom condo to daughter's house. Three lifetime's worth of belongings form a river past our selves; some diverted to siblings, some to charity, some to us, until the river will dry up. As our tributary washes in the front door I begin to dig a channel out the back, pouring in unworn clothing, unused bedding, dishes-replaced-with-dishes, furniture-with-furniture. My channel is no match for the tributary, itself a tiny offshoot of the river; the house floods with worldly goods, memories, and regrets. The river itself would drown me if I am not careful.

Yesterday evening Mr. Z came home with three pottery bowls and a cookbook. You've seen the type; a church or community or extended family gathers favorite and treasured recipes; they are typed up, printed, often spiral bound with a cover evoking embroidery or tatted lace. This morning I began reading the tales of food, love, friends and family. Appetizers and Pickles proved disappointing. How many Taco Dip recipes does one need? The next section was Soup, and there it was, first recipe on the first page: Cabbage and Potato Soup. Hungarians, cabbage and potato soup - surely this will be good. The ingredients list included Kalbasz and sour cream; very promising. And then the first instruction:

Place cabbage in large bowl; sprinkle with salt. Allow it to get sad.

If only this cookbook came with a bubba! Perhaps a DVD bubba, if a real-life one cannot be assigned. A bubba to say "this is how cabbage looks and feels when it is sad; this is what I mean by 'stir occasionally'; lard will not kill you, eat, eat!; done but not mushy is like this; season to taste just so; and here is where you can get real Kalbasz, or how to make it if the old ones are all gone."

Alas, it does not. My mother is gone. My mother-in-law is moving away. I shall have to content myself with My Grandmother's Ravioli. And imagine I am a bubba myself, and try the Cabbage and Potato soup recipe. I will allow the cabbage to get sad; I will stir occasionally; I will cook until tender; I will cook until done but not mushy. I will mix and return to pot. I will season to taste, and I will always remove scum from top of water when cooking with small strainer.

I will do all this, as A.W. asked, in memory of E.R., and in honor of all the bubbas who so willingly cooked and served up food and love against the struggle, pain, and loss, all throughout my life.

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