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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Tell Your Mother You Love Her. A Mother's Day Guest Post



Hello, Jared here. I am not great with graphics, HTML, or general Blogging Fanciness like Nance is, so this post may lack some of the aesthetic pinache of a Typical Nance Post. While she takes a break from blogging, and in honor of Mother's Day, I wanted to contribute in her stead.

I remember spending the morning at the desk in my bedroom with my brother. We were so young, and we wanted it to be perfect, so we spent a long time trying to figure out what the perfect picture to draw was. Trying so hard to fold thick awkward card stock precisely and sharply. Thinking long and hard about what we wanted to say so that everything was perfectly put in a way to conjure up memories and the good feelings that we had so that on Mother’s Day, our mother could open up the handmade card and know how much we love her.


Things aren’t so different now. Sure, Sam and I don’t live at home. We aren’t folding handmade cards. We both put to rest any idea that we were artistic enough to do accurately portray all of the things that we had. Some things, though, are remarkably similar. Sam and I share an apartment. We both want to do special and nice things for our mother and father. We both still have no idea how we can possibly do that in a way to radiate the love that we have felt every single day.
Those cards from my youth were full of things like “whether it is going to a movie and lunch, or talking about books”, and trying to come up with our favorite things about those moments, about our mother. All of those times, those wonderful experiences still matter. I still carry them around with me every day. I still remember leaving the theatre and talking to my mother about the film in a way that made me feel very adult, very smart, and very complete. Now, though, there are different things to take away from those times, those moments, and those feelings.
My mother often says to me,  when I find myself in a time of anger or hurt, that “it doesn’t cost anything to be kind”. And yes, while there is no financial obligation associated with commonplace kindness, there is a real and tangible cost. You can set yourself up for vulnerability, let down, and more hurt or anger. My mother knows this, and, in my adulthood, I’ve come to understand exactly what she meant by those words. Simply, there is no cost that is too great to pay to do a kindness unto someone that you love.
2017 has, for a few reasons, not been tremendous for me so far. I have leaned on my mother more frequently in the last handful of months than I have needed to in the last handful of years, it seems. No, her taking my aimless phone calls during boring and lonely days doesn’t cost her money. The dog and I showing up at her house with little to no notice causes her exactly zero monetary hardship. There is, however, a cost to all of those things, and my mother pays it over and over with no thought to how it may affect her because in her mind, being there for me in those ways is simply practicing what she preaches, and the cost of kindness for someone that you love is always zero.
I have learned a great many things from my mother. My gift with language, my analytical nature with feelings, films, and books. My practicality, empathy, and compassion. (And apparently the Oxford comma). Most importantly, I have learned to be kind and patient and to always do the best I could to think outside of myself, the moment, and what was best for me. I think that the best way to put all of those things under one umbrella is to say that, simply, my mother has taught me how to be an adult, and she did so through an unrelenting practice of the best ways that I can find to describe kindness.  
People make jokes about “turning into their parents” on television and in movies all the time. I can feel myself turning into my mother. I’m prouder of the man that I’m becoming now than I ever have been in my 32 years. It would be foolish to ignore the fact that this change, this sort of acceptance of self and circumstances has come in the time that I needed and relied on my mother the most.

So, on this Mother’s Day, I ask you not to think of times, gifts, or tangible memories of your mother. Instead, reflect on what those things mean. The intangible aspects of what those times were, and how they shaped you.

Monday, April 24, 2017

I Stop Somewhere Waiting For You

Things have been quiet here at the Dept., I know, although I've been visiting your places and chatting here and there. I'd like to explain, take a little more time away, and then get Back To It here as soon as I possibly can.

For months and months now, I've not been well at all. I'd been losing ground at physical therapy--which had been keeping my Migraines at bay--and I could not shake this crushing fatigue. Then the deep bone pain and muscle pain started, and then lower back pain, too. And all along--for months and months--I'd been feeling so unlike myself. Confused at times, indecisive at others, still other times, I'd search for a word in the middle of a sentence while talking. (So embarrassing.)  I felt like I was in a fog all the time. Writing became such a chore; reading, an impossibility. I'd also seen my eye doctor back in December for severe dry eye and gotten on a prescription for that, with his suggestion that I get a doctor to test me for Sjogren's Syndrome once he heard the rest of my complaints.

That's where and how my Odyssey began.

I won't bore you with all of the details. My quest took me from the eye doctor to dear Dr. B., my neurologist, who ordered some labs to test for Sjogren's and a few other things. From there, I went on to a waiting list at a rheumatologist. All the while, I was losing more strength and stamina. Pain kept me from being able to sleep and carry on with my normal life. My weekly grocery store trips became my last vestige of normalcy, and they cost me dearly in terms of their aftermath of pain and exhaustion. Many times, I sat in the parking lot, waiting until I could bring myself to drive home, leaving heavy items in the car for Rick to bring in. Putting things away took forever as I rested often.

The rheumatologist's initial diagnosis was palindromic rheumatoid arthritis and possible Sjogren's, and a couple more labs were done. No results were conclusive. I had a brief respite after a steroid blast, but another try a month later when the pain roared back gave me no relief. In desperation and in debilitating pain, I contacted a friend who is a sonographer for the Cleveland Clinic. She pulled some strings and got me in to a top rheumatologist there.

In a two-hour consultation, this doctor took an extensive history and then narrative of my condition: its origin, development, symptoms, and affected areas. Then she examined me and asked me about my lifestyle, diet, and habits. Then she ordered twenty-two lab tests. And she identified at that moment what she thought it could be, something simple and, most importantly, reversible, although it would take some time.

The labs confirmed a couple things I already knew: one, that I have a lousy immune system; two, that I do not have TB or any thyroid issues. But the labs also confirmed what this doctor suspected from my symptoms and examination: my problem is not rheumatoid arthritis--those factors came back negative. So did Sjogren's. My problem is a severe and prolonged Vitamin D deficiency.

It's astonishing to me that something that seems so small and so banal-sounding can wreak such havoc. I was being tested for heavy metal poisoning, aluminum poisoning, arsenic, Lyme disease, even Parvo! They were testing my blood for markers indicating lupus, MS, rheumatoid arthritis, and other frightening things. But they all have some of the selfsame symptoms in common, and let me assure you, these symptoms are frightening to endure. I am beyond grateful not to have those illnesses, and I look forward to the end of my misery, whilst sufferers of some of the aforementioned illnesses must only manage theirs.

My deficiency is such that it will take months to recover my health. I am currently megadosing twice a week (50,000 IUs) for two months, at which time I will be retested. The doctor is confident that I will recover completely from this, but has told me that I will need to supplement Vitamin D3 for the rest of my life.

I can do that.

In the meantime I have to work very hard at Being Patient. That, as many of you know, is not my gift. I want My Life back. I want Me back. I want my brain back. I am tired of being tired. I am tired of not being able to Do Anything, especially the Things I Love. And I am so very, very tired of Pain. My heart breaks for those who must live with it as a Constant Presence Lifelong.

I hope I find someone here when I can finally return.  And I hope I am finally Me when I do.


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Thursday, April 06, 2017

In Which I Wonder Why I Ever Leave The House At All, And Leave All Of You To Make The Obvious Pun Involving Eggs

ACT I.  Scene opens on Nance, standing in yet another ridiculously long line at the grocery store. Sympathetic Manager catches her eye, waves her into a new lane, just opening.

Nance: (to Manager) Oh thank you! (begins to place items on the belt)
Cashier: Hi, how are you today?
Nance: Fine. How are you?
Cashier: Good. Hey, do you have any heavy items under there?
Nance: Yes, I was just going to tell you--
Cashier: (interrupting) Okay. I'm not allowed to bend or lift anything heavy.
Nance: That's fine. I usually leave the cases under there and let the cashiers--
Cashier: (interrupting) If you push your cart up here, I'll give you the scanner and let you scan 'em.
Nance: Whatever works for you. (finishes unloading and pushes cart to cashier's station)
Cashier: Okay, here you go. Just scan the one, and I'll double it here.
Nance: Got it. All set.
Cashier: Yeah, no heavy lifting or bending for me. Found out I'm not just fat--I'm pregnant!
Nance: (not sure how to respond to this, or if it's even required, continues preparing to pay for eventual final total)
Cashier: (blithely continuing with great aplomb) Yep! Thirty-seven weeks. At first I thought it was all the holiday eating, but nope. It wasn't just fat. (looks directly at Nance, expectantly--no pun intended)
Nance: (truly stuck now) Oh...my. Well. There you go!
Cashier: Huh?
Nance: Um, did you subtract that coupon?
Cashier: Yep! Sure did.

(They are interrupted momentarily by another shopper who, upon leaving, mentions very discreetly to the Cashier that her bagger, a young man with special needs, is losing his pants. Not wanting to embarrass him then, she hopes that perhaps this Cashier might speak to him.)

Cashier: Okay. Thank you. (turns toward bagger, several lanes down, shouts) Hey! Hey! Darrin! Pull your pants up, dude! Pants!
Nance: (mouth starting to dry out from being agape, closes it)
Cashier: Okay. Here's your total. I can print that check for you. Oh, by the way, I see you got large eggs. Didn't you know that the extra large are the same price this week?
Nance: Oh, no. I didn't. Had I known, I'd have gotten the extra large.
Cashier:  ( pityingly)  Yep. They are. Okay, here's your receipt. Have a great day!

ACT II. Scene opens in living room, later that evening. Rick and Nance are on the couch. Nance is telling Rick about her grocery store adventure.

Nance: (still not over any of it) ...and then, after all that, she waits until she has rung the total and is sending me on my way to tell me about the eggs! Why?! I should have said, "I'll stand here while you go get me the extra large" or "I'll wait here while you send someone to get me the extra large" or...something!
Rick: (laughing) Really? That's what you wish you would have said?

End.

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Saturday, March 25, 2017

I Cannot Believe I Am Writing About...Cars

In a million years you would never, ever guess where I spent time last weekend. I was in Cleveland at the IX Center at The Piston Power Show, looking at...cars. Nothing but cars, cars, and more cars. There were so many cars there that I thought for sure I would throw up.

Or die.

Did you know that it is Entirely Possible to walk around and around and around and around and around for hours and hours and keep looking at cars, cars, and more cars and still not see all the cars in a show?

Because it is. It absolutely is.

And lots and lots of people--other people--do it. I did it just this once because This:



That's my son's car (before display setup), which I tell him looks like a big saddle shoe. Sam bought a gutted, destroyed old Honda Del Sol and rebuilt and modified it into a little race car. The Piston Power Show was his first big show, and I wanted to go and support him. He won a Second Place Trophy in his division. Not bad for his very first car project.

Despite my obvious pride in my son's accomplishments, his little car was still not the best or cutest car that I have seen lately. No, Dearest Readers, and it was Not Even Close. Not when this is Out There:



I. Know. And I saw it In Person! At the grocery store!

I could not wait to get into the store to zip around the aisles and see if I could determine who the driver of this Fantastic Vehicle might be. Would there be an actual clown in the store, grabbing bags of balloons or candy or an illicit pack of cigarettes? Or would there be a middle-aged woman dressed in Bohemian garb, scarves flowing and bracelets clacking on her arms as she piled cans of dog food into her cart? Maybe there would be some way to tell--some way--who the driver of such a joyful and ostentatious vehicle was!

Alas, my powers of observation failed me.  Try as I might, I was unable to discern who among my fellow shoppers owned this Magical Mystery Car.  I left the store with no idea of its owner, but with so much Cheer In My Heart.  This is The Happiest Car On Earth.  And I bet these dogs are plenty content, too.

Why this car wasn't in the Piston Power Show, I don't know.  I would give it First Prize in the Bliss Division.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Bunch Of Stuff Off The Top Of My Head

Obviously, I'm in a Writing Slough Of Sloth. If I wait until I have Something Valuable To Say, this spot will collect cyber-cobwebs and digital dustbunnies. So! I'm going to just reach into my head, grab whatever I find, and see what we think.

Here we go.

Wake Me Up When: 1. Winter is really over. 2. republicans knock it the hell off/are extinct. 3. He's arrested and frog-marched out of the White House with his staff. 4. Wine is the cure for migraine. 5. Joe Biden is President*.
*Since we can't have Hillary, because Woman. (And actual Fake News. Thanks, Facebook.)

Either No One Ever Told Me Or I Was Young And Therefore Stupid: Holy Crap, what is the deal with suddenly becoming as dry as those bleached bones in the desert? I used to have oily skin, oily hair, plenty of spit, and the ability to wear contacts and grow my nails long, longer, longest. I had to wash my hair every day--hell, when I was a teenager, I would sometimes use dishwashing liquid! Now that I am technically Too Old to be termed even Of A Certain Age, I can go two or three days before my hair becomes oily or flat. My contacts are a misery; my skin is taut and painful this winter. My hands are strangers to me, with their ragged cuticles and peely nails kept short by necessity. Did anyone ever foretell this Sadness? Probably I laughed merrily, tossed my brilliant locks, and waved them off with my long-nailed hand. What a heartless bitch I was, surely.

When Your Husband Is A Carpenter And You Are A Knitter: As you, Dear Readers, well know, I accompany Rick on many of his Outings to stores For Him, such as Home Depot and Harbor Freight and the like. It's not always All Bad, as there are more than a few things there which are Multipurpose and Handy for other things, and some of the stores, like Rural King, even have baby ducks, which are the most charming animals in the world (possibly). After seeing me linger over one Handy Item, my husband bought me one as a gift, so it could become my Knitting Caddy. Here it is, and I love it:



It has a place for everything! Eight side pockets hold my stitch markers, spare glasses, lotion, stitch counter, tapestry needles, scissors, you name it. Deep end pockets hold a small tablet and pen, pattern, and circ needle packet. A loop on the end even holds a large safety pin, used to hold stitches when I make my charity bears. And, as a bonus, when I hold it on my lap and prop my elbows on it, it keeps my knitting at eye level and my shoulders squared, just what the physical therapist ordered to combat my cervical myofasciitis. (Bonus: it is, apparently, an Excellent Cat-Chin-Scratching-Edifice.)

Everyone Stop:  1. Quoting Twitter as a News Source. 2. Overusing the word amazing (still!). 3. Telling me that Spring Officially Starts Next Week. 4. Saying Daylight SavingS Time (THERE IS NO 'S').  5. Putting up holiday decorations if you cannot take them down in a timely manner.

Okay.  Your turn.  I can't wait for you to peel off a little brain banana or two in Comments or chat about mine.



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Monday, February 27, 2017

The Contents Of Our Character

At first I didn't notice anything different as I pulled my car into a parking spot at the grocery store. The forecast was calling for rain, and the skies were already threatening. I wanted to get what I needed in pretty good time and get out--a daunting task at Marc's, which has a large closeouts section that bogs me down. In it, I can find anything from garden rakes to wall clocks, room-sized rugs to purses. But I was resolute as I grabbed my bags and started towards the door.

Suddenly, I saw the police car. It was pulled up parallel to the front of the store. Its lights weren't flashing or anything, so I figured they were probably grabbing a few things themselves. But as I came closer, I saw the back door open, and an officer had a young woman by the arm. Neither one looked particularly distressed, but it was clear that he was going to put her in the squad car. Another young woman, who looked nearly identical to the first one, was standing there calmly asking, "Do you want me to drop off the car? Do you want--?" and I stopped listening and looking.

That sort of thing bothers me, and I don't like to gawk. It's clearly None Of My Business, and no one needed my help, obviously. It wasn't Entertainment.

I'd like to say that everyone else had the same philosophy, but of course, you all know that's not the case. There was almost a traffic jam of people and their shopping carts trying to come out of the store, caused by the two or three Elderlies with full carts, standing stock-still, watching this unfortunate drama unfold. I had to almost thread myself through a few more just to get through the IN door.

Once I did, however, I was soon stopped in my tracks by a monologue spoken loudly enough for everyone at the front of the store to hear. A woman's voice, speaking conversationally but assertively, said, "Just cut their hand off, that's what I say. If they want to steal, cut off a hand. For a first offense, maybe a finger, but if they do it again, then cut off the whole hand. Maybe then they'd think twice."

Aghast, I turned around and was astonished to see that the speaker was one of my favourite cashiers, a woman about my age, maybe a little younger. She was always so pleasant and kind to me, making sure to pack my groceries so that the bags were light. She was unfailingly chipper and chatty, talking about weekend activities and even inquiring about my health when I hadn't come in for a while. To hear her speak so easily about such brutality was jarring.

This happened a week ago, and I'm still struggling with it. So much is so wrong about it.

With everything in me, I wanted to challenge that cashier. I wanted to ask her if that is truly what she believes, that maiming a young twenty-something woman for what may well be the one mistake of her life is really what she considers to be Justice. I wanted to ask her if she knew that she was advocating for Sharia Law when she invoked these penalties for theft. I wanted to know how she could find such bitterness and hatred in her heart for a stranger, and for someone who had done nothing to her personally. And I wanted to ask her if she had ever stolen anything--anything--in her life; and if not her, what about her kids? What about her friends or co-workers? Did she really want something ugly and primitive to be Justice In America?

But I didn't do that. I didn't confront her then and there. I decided to wait and go through her line, speak to her civilly and calmly, but then she wasn't there. And now I know my chance is gone; I won't go through her line anymore.

I feel lousy. I feel as if I didn't Stand Up For What's Right. Like I let her get away with a big load of crap and spread it around, unchecked.

These days, any little Inch becomes a Mile pretty damn fast. I hope that, by my silence, I didn't help start a superhighway.

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Friday, February 10, 2017

They're Out There And They Voted: I Can't Go To Home Depot Anymore

I'm sorry. Massive, cavernous stores already have a strike against them by being dauntingly huge and tiresome. At least Costco, for instance, has an endless and ever-changing variety of goods--including food--to keep me interested. I once rested against a gigantic cuddly teddy bear there that was larger than me whilst Rick pored (eternally) over a selection of work gloves. Then we went to visit the food and wine, found some truly excellent olive oil and asiago cheese, and went home without any Untoward Incident.

Not so, however, at Home Depot, where there is almost nothing Interesting to me. While Rick can happily spend an hour or two there, I become restless and fidgety after about ten minutes. And that is without signs like this one:



Groan.

(I'm having flashbacks from my teaparty sign days. Remember those?)

How could things go so wrong on such a simple sign?

Now, stipulating that Idems means Items, as in "pieces, things, goods, gadgets", how can such entities be Selective as in "choosy, judicious, discriminating, or discerning"?

And do not even get me started on that asterisk.

Goodbye, Home Depot.  I've decided to become more Selective in where I spend my time.  You and I are no longer an Item*.

*But Rick will never quit you.


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