Too Soon Autumn

Barely September, I wrap myself in a warm zebra print blanket and turn the heat up.  This is me I’m talking about: constantly overheated and embracing coolness.  But the first smell of furnace permeates the house like smoke. Autumn is here, too early.

Usually it comes in small whispers.  The first hint of cool in an August breeze prepares me for autumnal grace.  This time the whisper was a loud rush of wind, rain, gray and cold.  I’m not ready to say goodbye to a summer I’ve hardly held on to.  

Yet it must be time.  Not only for goodbyes to summer, but goodbye to this house.  If all goes according to plan, in two weeks from now, I’ll be cleaning out the remnants of nearly twenty-five years as we leave for good.  

This house has never been loved by me, yet the memories contained here have filled it with a better kind of love. My children have grown up here.  Rode the big yellow school bus until they got licenses.  Jana had giggly sleepovers, while Tim’s friends had more rambunctious nights.  They went to proms.  Each launched from this house to venture out into their own worlds, to create new memories.

A view from where I sit outside in front of our home


I say goodbye slowly to this house that has been more than four sides.  In the yard, we had barbecues, volleyball games, fireworks and golf putting contests.  The kids slid down the snowy slope in sleds and a silver scoop until the teenage years when they navigated with their snow boards.  We all sat on the swing that’s tied to one of the big cedar trees.  Now, the new people’s little girl has already found her joy on that same swing.  It’s time to pass the torch.

I’m ready for the move.  The new place will be bigger to allow for gatherings during holidays or card games.  I’ll have a pantry and — wait for it — a dishwasher!!! Our kitchen was too set to allow for a dishwasher, and I’ve missed out all these years on something most people take for granted.  Maybe I should have put my foot down long ago, but I didn’t push.

As my husband Jim mowed the lawn a few times ago, I stood at the kitchen window and waved.  He won’t have to mow again.  I will miss the cute smile as he rides by.  I will miss the patterns on the bathroom tiles in our shower. There’s a horse, a buffalo, a terrier, and rabbit to name a few.  I will miss all the good times, but these I can wrap up and take with me wherever I go.  Perhaps I’ll visit this house in my dreams as I do my old childhood home in Little Neck, NY or our first home together in Gresham, OR by the high school.  

I hope the new family has as many wonderful memories as we had here.  I wish them well.  It’s time for us to make new memories in a new home.  And I am so ready to load up the dishwasher! 

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River Balm

The mighty Rogue River languishes before me on my balcony perch in Grants Pass, Oregon.  People drift past in kayaks, tubes and inflatable rafts.  Here the river is lazy, stretching out before it channels through rocky narrows and turns tumultuous.  And so I watch and soak in the beauty, the quiet, the soulfulness of this busy, but uncrowded area.

The river is like a balm, soothing the anxiousness and worry away that I have been carrying for what seems like all this year.   Most of the anxiety stems from selling our home of twenty-five years.  It sold without being listed, our inspection went well, and once the appraisal comes through, we’re pretty much good to go.

Only where do we go?  We have an offer hanging out there like a dangling carrot, but until our appraisal comes through we can’t promise some $60k in cash to buy this manufactured home we set our hearts on. So if the people get an offer better than ours, we have 72 hours to counter.  I try to forget about the fact that the phone could light up any minute with such news, yet I remain hopeful.  

The house was in an outer area of a smaller town.  It smelled like the stinky canine foursome owned by this woman and her daughter. In fact, the smell lingered there all day in my nostrils!  The carpets, flooring and paint all need to be replaced or redone. So I’m hopeful no one else will want a non turn-key, smelly home, especially this weekend. By this coming week, the appraisal on our house should be done, and then we can confidently go ahead with our offer (without the contingency that our home must sell).  

So much to process right now.  I’m still recovering from the spine surgery.  Am doing quite well, but I still feel most comfortable with a heating pad practically attached.  I worry about a family member who has cancer, but I know he’s going to beat it.  It hurt so much to see him suffering and not have his usual strength.  Now that his chemo blasts are done, he’s recovering his strength and mobility.  Am so glad.

It’s been a tough year.  Losing my son’s girlfriend was like losing a family member.  I wish what happened hadn’t. I can’t get the closure I would have liked, but I didn’t make the choices she did. My son and she were having troubles before the shit went down, but I just wish the shit never came down the way it did. I know it takes two to make a mess of things, but yeah, what can you do?  I’ve always stepped back and been able to say “this is not my script”.  And it isn’t.

So the river is there washing some of my angst away.  I will no longer worry about what some people in the family say in their battle to hurt others.  I know what we have done but it’s never enough. With some people, you’re only as good as your last “give”.  And when some family say “what have you done for me/us?”  I ask why is it always you?  I could ask “what have you done for us?” But I don’t want anything done for me/us.  Does it hurt?  Hell yeah, but I can’t change anyone’s attitudes.  Indeed, several years ago when I put a basket together for these family members — made cupcakes they love, tucked a book in along with someone’s favorite snack, candy, beer, treats and gave the kids each a toy, I heard that someone in that family asked why we didn’t give money instead?  So you see, nothing will ever be good enough and I can’t help that, and maybe I should be the one mad because we never got money back that we leant for first months’ rents and to prevent electricity from being shut off.  $2800 to be exact.  I guess that’s not doing enough for anyone.  And so I am done, done and done and over it now. Let the river take all of this year’s crap and wash it away.

A river balm.  Amen.

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Trying to Gain Foothold

This year so far has been a challenge much like rock climbing.  What rock looks sturdy enough to hold on to in order for me to advance?  One false move and I could lose my place, swinging out on the safety ropes, which luckily keep me from plummeting all together. 

As I regroup after spine surgery, I realize that my back will never be the same.  For sure it’s so much better than the last few months of terrible pain.  The fact that I could barely put my own clothing on and would get stuck in my own body — a tight pinching throughout the lower back and down both legs — was really scary.  I’m free of that now and ecstatic about it, but there still persists a deep aching pain and a slight pull when I stand.  I hope it’s just a matter of needing to fully recover from surgery, yet I’m a bit afraid this could become a new way of life for me.  My back was in worse shape than I expected.  Honestly, I don’t know what I was expecting.  I knew something was worse than a muscle pull, but I didn’t know I had weak vertebrae in addition to the “stalagmites” or bone spurs growing on the back bone.  So be it, or it is what it is or might be and I’ll find out more when I get staples pulled out on Monday. 

There are already a few things I’ll miss out on, such as a jet boat ride down the Rogue River, but I’ve realized over the years with chronic migraines that I need to create my own joy.  It’s better to focus on the things I can do rather than cannot do.  So I will relax on the hotel deck in the morning, watching the river pass by, and in the afternoon stroll the streets of Grant’s Pass or perhaps hitch a ride with another “left behind” person and go to the casino up north from GP.  It’ll all be good.  No matter what. 

We all have to find our “new normals”.  It happens frequently in life, whether happy or sad.  A new job, new home, new partner, new baby, winning a jackpot — these are all usually good things but they’re life changing.  It’s the same with having to deal with a new disability, losing a loved one, being laid off from a job.  All of those are hardships, but we try to persevere so as to survive in a world that’s constantly moving forward with or without us.

I’m still looking for the next foothold.  It’s as if I’ve been climbing on automatic pilot and now I realize I’d better get with the program and start being productive.  We’ll be moving soon.  I have to get going and start packing.  So I’ve resolved to get squared with what to expect going forward with this old back.  I hope on Monday, I’ll be given a new lease on life, but if not, I’ll have to obtain the lease on different terms.  Maybe the result won’t be palacial, but even a tiny cubby hole works for some 🐁🐁🐁.

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Validation

It has been a symphony of droning lawn mowers on this holiday Sunday.  I try not to focus on my head.  For the first time in months I haven’t been logging migraines.  After six years of so doing, not recording migraines is freedom to me.  I have taken my power back.  How long I can rebel in my older age against the tools that neurologists use, I don’t know.  It seems all for naught, as migraine pain is pretty much disregarded.  If you don’t respond to any or all of the treatments, then you must be doing something wrong.  Endless months of an average of 20 days a month of mostly sixes on pain scales is seen by the doctors as “you seem to be doing okay”.  Well, no I’m not.  Having headaches nearly everyday is bad enough.  Worsening into even as low as a 3 on a migraine pain scale can be debilitating.

Truth is, migraines are incurable at this point in time.  There are things that can help the sufferer feel better, but doctors have cried foul in the last five years whenever I’ve ask for 20 – 30 pain pills a month.  “Causes rebounds” they say — or they invoke the latest phrase “medication overuse headaches”.  Then why do the migraines continue on in their near never ending stream if I don’t use pain pills?  What is wrong with this picture?

I believe I am done seeking help for migraines anymore.  What help?  Basically I interpret lack of pain relief as lack of humane care.  I could be in a zen spot all day looking at birds (per my last neurologist) and while that might make me feel better about my migraines, it doesn’t do anything to make the migraines feel better.

And now I feel like I have an ace up my sleeve.  Recently diagnosed with spinal stenosis, I was automatically given pain meds and more, no questions asked.  All this because an MRI validated the pain I was in.  There’s no such measure to show migraine pain unless you have something visible going on in the brain — tumor, traumatic brain injury or concussion to name a few. 

My back can hurt like holy hell, but the migraines can too.  So why is the back pain addressed with pain meds (surgery is going to be scheduled as soon as all the pre-authorizations come in) but migraines are not?  It isn’t fair.

However, just a few weeks before my back pain was officially diagnosed, I began using marijuana.  My regular doctor never prescribed anything for my back, not even after I asked for prescription ibuprofen or a stronger muscle relaxer since we were embarking on a 21 day road trip.  I didn’t dare ask for pain medication.  That seems to be a big no-no at this clinic. When I returned from the trip and called to say my back was worse, I was sent to physical therapy.  Three weeks in, with the back still locking up, pt only made a dent of a difference, so I scheduled another appointment with my pcp.  I was immediately referred for an MRI, but it would be another 10 days to get one scheduled.  Still no meds prescribed and was told to continue the pt.  So at this juncture I’d endured ten weeks of pinching pain affecting walking, bending, sitting, standing.  Ten weeks too many.

Instant validation from the MRI.  There’s  calcification and arthritis narrowing the spinal cord.  I’m not a doctor, but maybe the MRI should have been done when I came back from the trip?  Instead I was thrown in to physical therapy.  I went for four weeks and they still wanted me to come back for more.  It turns out no amount of pt would have unkinked the spinal cord.  I could have saved the $80 a week in co-pays for the pt till after surgery. 

But at least finally, an MRI showed that I had a reason to be in pain.  I was believed!  I’ve become so used to being in migraine pain with no validation, that I was afraid to stand up and say that the back pain really, really hurt.  I wondered if I had a low threshold for pain tolerance and began doubting myself when I wasn’t progessing through pt.  Now I know whole heartedly that I’m not an exagerrator.  I just wish there was some way to show that my migraines are real and that they hurt. 

I’m afraid I’m at another juncture of having to find another pcp.  My husband is very upset with the current one.  He has been witness to what I’m going through and he feels I’ve been failed.  One step at a time though.  Surgery first, then pcp search.  I know there’s an opioid addiction crisis, but where does that leave some of the rest of us?  I believe we have a right not to be in pain.  And the pcp had the MRI results a full nine days before I met with the neurosurgeon, yet I was offered nothing.  It seems like an injustice to me and I know I’m not alone in this.

Disclaimer:  This blog and post are my opinions only.  Seek the help of a physician for any problem.

Marijuana is legal in my state.

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So Lucky

How fortunate I’ve been these last few weeks.  The great United States of America has so much to offer us.  Every state delivers unique treasures, though some perhaps more than others.  From the plains of Wyoming and Nebraska to the rolling hills of Missouri and green grasses of Kentucky, I was transfixed.  Like a window shopper I peered greedily as landscapes changed, wanting to stay and savor.  Tennessee, Georgia, then onto South Carolina, the South resonates with sweet accents and hospitality. 

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Swampland on the Magnolia Plantation in South Carolina

Even though I didn’t get to stay awhile in too many places, even passing glimpses sufficed.  I’ve seen The Gateway Arch in St. Louis before, but Jim had not.  Despite the pouring rain from a thunderstorm and rush hour traffic, he was thrilled to see this man-made beauty.  As we drove past, I caught my peek through the eye of this cell phone: 

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What else but joy in the discoveries of our nation’s wonderful states?  As we ate in the different diners of America, I remembered thinking how we are people first and not our politics.  I felt an affinity for everyone.  I know that’s trite and shortsighted but so be it.  From cowboy Joe to the Cajun people in Louisiana, we are Americans.  We’re in this together. 

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“Kansas City Here I Come” – Ah, if only I were able to see a KC Chiefs game at Arrowhead Stadium!

And how’s this for a rest area stop?  Paducah, Kentucky:

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Today we delighted in seeing the Vermillion Cliffs in Arizona and Zion National Park in Utah.  We were absolutely mesmerized.  We could understand where the inspiration for the movie Cars came from:  this park

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      The Vermillion Cliffs of Arizona

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In Zion National Park boulders abound

Because my back has been messed up since before our trip and has worsened each day, I haven’t been able to hop in and out of the car to take pictures as much as I’d like.  I wish I could have captured the beauty of Zion.  The red rocks are sculptured by the settlement of time.  It was absolutely amazing.  Photos by this amateur would never have captured the stunning essence of Zion.  This shot of the tunnel we had just gone through provides a glimpse at the colors in which we were so transfixed:

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There’s so much to see in America.  We really are very lucky.  I would love to continue exploring this great big land of ours.  We shall return for more.

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Part of My Heart

This was the state I almost stayed in:  Arizona.  But for lack of change of seasons and no family around, I might have stayed.  Tonight, we stay in a Phoenix WorldMark, and I hear coyotes, siren like in their communal howls.  My view is solitary, blissful, a piece of desert.

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Patio view from WorldMark in Phoenix

I let the sadness dissipate.  I felt badly when it came time to check in.  They always hound us owners to go to these sales meetings disguised as breakfasts and education updates.  I heard the spiel as I waited for my turn.  This time I got away.  We’re only here for the night, doing laundry, catching up and are leaving early in the morning.  This I told the woman.  She didn’t quite let me off the hook that easily.  She asked if we could delay the early leave time and attend the breakfast meeting at eight.  Yeah, right.  To spend three hours in a sales pressure bubble?  I don’t think so.

But I’m not going to dwell on that.  I’m going to enjoy the desert’s last call for me.  I’m glad I chose the route I did, but Arizona will always have a part of my heart.  It will always be “the state not taken”.

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At Saguaro National Monument East in Tucson. The sky is amazing. The saguaro a friendly spirit.

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The South

Peacefully I sit, quiet after days of traveling and hustling to see sights unseen before by us.  I relish the fresh memories of Southern charm, its animals, the food, the architecture and some of the history.  It is what it is, the history of how things came about, and no one glosses over it — neither the African American trolley host by the name of Hollywood in Savannah nor the old Southern gentlemen whose name none of us recall amd who drove a tour bus through Charleston.  The slave trade was abominable but on the surface of things, people mingle about and chat like old friends.  I’m not naive, and I know feelings run deeply on some levels, but it’s good to see people getting along.

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A lighthouse seen from our boat from Hilton Head Island, SC to Savannah, GA

It is different here as it should be; quite a contrast from the day to day in Oregon.  Southern South Carolina has palmetto trees instead of palms, lowlands instead of mountains and alligators instead of Chinook salmon.  Even the seagulls are vastly different.  They fly smaller and whiter with black highlights rather than larger, off white grayish seagulls with yellow beaks in the Pacific Northwest.  The air right now is just as warm as it is back home, but our winters are surely much cooler and wetter.

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A juvenile alligator sunning by the road

So today I rest, I catch up on news and trivia, and I listen to families playing in the pool outside our balcony door.  Family is priceless.  I try writing here only to pause while my long time brother-in-law tells jokes he’s reading off the computer.  The blog can always wait.  Our time together as family is precious as we don’t live close to one another, and we’re certainly not getting any younger! 

New horizons await us on our trip home.  Florida, New Orleans and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon just to name a few.  I’ve hiked the Bright Angel Trail and have seen the visitas from the Fred Harvey Lodge on the Southern Rim a different time.  It’s always good to have more than one perspective of things.  I will allow myself to heal there as my heart breaks into a million pieces.  It’s all I can cling to at this time as life unfurls in ways never expected.

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Harbour Town lighthouse at Harbour Town, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

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