Saturday, April 30, 2016

Z is for Zest (for life)

Me, alone. Life after loss.

Errol was a mountain climber, a sailor, a builder, a master carpenter, a risk-taker, a loving family man, a caring friend, and, as many friends and relatives said at his funeral: "The life of the party." He did indeed have the city of New Orleans in his blood.

He was also a fantastic cook, a man who cooked for me every day, and not just regular food. Fabulous meals would appear most nights. He even insisted on taking special care in preparing the dogs' food. It always had to be a mixture of dry and canned food, lovingly stirred together, a small treat inserted. 

The gumbo pots would come out for Christmas, as he cooked for family and friends. His gumbo was something you would not soon forget. He truly expressed his love for me, for family, for friends in his cooking.

And he loved people. He would talk to everyone, in stores, supermarkets, elevators, the DMV. Often, I must admit, while I stood there, anxious to get going. 

He had more friends than anyone I know; he kept in touch with his high school friends, his builder friends, his old girlfriends; that man had more women friends than any man I've ever known.

When his friend Bob had a serious stroke and it was touch and go, Errol spent hours with Bob's girlfriend, now wife, on the phone. Then Errol fixed up a house for Bob so he could sell it, even though he wasn't feeling well himself. Now his gift comes back to me. Bob and his wife keep in touch and are concerned about how I'm doing. They have become friends now.

He had courage too, on so many levels. Once he crawled into a burning house and rescued two old men, but maybe I already told you about that. And sailing with him was always crazy -- water on the glass, which means the boat is listing toward the water, and you're holding on. 

He loved his dogs, cats, and birds, and couldn't pass up an animal in need. Of course he wasn't perfect and we were very different in temperament, but as we got older we really came together in a beautiful and meaningful way. 

I haven't posted a picture of Errol because he was, as he said, "old school," and didn't want to be found on the Internet. He even made his nephew take down a family photo that included him. So I haven't, but I think I can now, one from a bit of a distance, one where he stands on his land, so happy then, with his arm outstretched. He always did that in pictures. I have so many of them, arms outstretched, ready for a hug, with a big smile. 

A happy day in the fall of 2005. My favorite picture of my love.

A few weeks ago, I realized that this year will have a happy ending, after all. I, who was often impatient with Errol when he took time to talk to strangers, to kid around with people, am now doing it myself and enjoying it. I'm laughing more, Mary has been so wonderful for that. And I'm cooking too, something I never really enjoyed, and now I love it. And it's good, the food I cook is really good! Imagine that! 

Errol left a legacy for me: Be more open, laugh more, meet more people, learn about them, cook, hug dogs, and love life. How I wish I could thank him for it.

Life shrinks or expands according to one's courage. ~ Anais Nin

Friday, April 29, 2016

Y is for Yoga

Me, alone. Life after loss.

In our unique human capacity of connecting movement with breath and spiritual meaning, yoga is born. ~ Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa

As the diabetic neuropathy in my legs and feet gets worse, my balance suffers also, which is a bit disconcerting for me. I will need a cane soon. I'm actually looking for one, but I want one of those cool, old fashioned, gentlemanly canes. Not the kind you get in a medical supply house. Something along these lines:

I haven't pursued it as I don't want to order it online. I want to see it, feel it, the height and grip. Around here I use one of the antique golf clubs Errol inherited from my friend Fran's father-in-law. It's the perfect fit, but not sure if I should take it to town or not. Maybe, yes? Still, a cool cane would make the transition easier for me (the one to wobbly old woman, yes).

I'm a firm believer that there's usually something you can do to help yourself get better. In my 30s and 40s, I did a lot of yoga. I loved it, I loved the spiritual aspect of it, I loved the peace of a yoga class ending with relaxation like none you would ever feel anywhere else.

Then I stopped. I have tried many times to pick it up again, but I've never overcome the initial hurdles of my inability to do things correctly, my lack of balance, my general stiffness, my breathing issues even.

Tired of excuses, I used the last money on the Amazon gift card I got for Christmas from my friend Judy to buy a yoga mat, much like the one above. Determined to do yoga again, I tried for a while, then stopped. Again. Why I don't know. 

I want to promise myself, here and now, to begin again. Once a week, is all. Sunday mornings would be perfect. 

Will let you know how it goes. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

X is for TaXes and BoXes

Me, alone. Life after loss.

Death and taxes may be inevitable, but they shouldn't be related. ~ J.C. Watts, Jr.

This quote perfectly describes how I feel about death and taxes right now. OK, so when your spouse dies, you are single, right? Which means that not only are you sad and grieving your spouse, but now you have to pay more taxes! 

Those of us who were here in 1963 will never forget 

At least they call you single at the IRS, not widow. The first time someone called me that, I almost protested because it just didn't seem to fit me. It conjured up pictures of widows of the past. On our street in Sweden, back in the early 1950s, a woman lost her husband to a sudden heart attack. She dressed in black forever and wore a black veil, don't know for how long the veil lasted, but I do know she scared me. 

 With Mary at the nuns' place.

In blue jeans, with Rachael and the statue of St. Francis

So glad jeans, boots, and sweaters are now acceptable wear for widows. Yes, I did get used to widow, but wonder why it's necessary to have that box on so many forms you have to fill out at different places. Maybe your doctors should know, but for the rest I would go with the IRS and rather be single. 

Well, on second thought, maybe the IRS could have a box for widows to check and have it mean less taxes for us. Maybe?

If not, I'm with Snoopy:

Dear IRS, I'm writing to you to cancel my subscription. Please remove my name from your mailing list. ~ Charles M. Schulz (Snoopy)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

W is for Weeds, Wildflowers

Me, alone. Life after loss.

I learn more about God
From weeds than from roses
Resilience springing
Through the smallest chink of hope
In the absolute of concrete ~ Phillip Pulfrey

For many years the seeds of these weeds lay in wait under the dry earth and when the rains came, well, there you are. They cover the ground from my gate, through my field, to the house and then on each side of the house. To the east, they cover where we like to walk and also some of the hills. Some of them are waist-high on me and I'm tall; Faith disappears in them. The tractor guy will take care of it soon. I hope nothing goes wrong with that.

Then there are many tiny ones, like these. They grow in my road. Nothing but sandy dirt.

I admire their resilience. 

California poppies now cover the steep sides of Sugarloaf mountain and 

pretty blue wildflowers grow everywhere. It has been a gorgeous spring here in the mountains.

Because Mary and I went looking for wildflowers so early, and further down the mountain, it's been such a long and wonderful season. It's hard to believe that we took this trip on February 25.
Those orange flowers are poppies also.

A field below the mountains in early March.

This is the closest I have ever come to pogonip, the ice particles that form on trees at the higher elevations after a dense winter fog. Rachael, Mary and I went to visit the monastery a few weeks ago. It's located at around 5,000 ft, and the picture is of the mountains above. The Swedish word for this, I believe, is Rimfrost. Anyway, I was delighted as I find it both beautiful and fascinating. 

To tie this into my life after the loss of Errol: This gorgeous spring, after four dry years, has made me happy to be alive, to be able to experience it all. I have never seen anything like it in the eleven years I have lived here. 

A patch of clover in the nuns' garden.

The exceptional beauty of this wildflower season makes me forgive the weeds for blooming right along with the prettier versions of themselves. 

The tractor man cometh.....



I left replies to many of your comments on yesterday's post. Let me just say here, that I have told several doctors to: "Sit, Stay," in the same tone I use for my dogs. It always works and they do listen to my questions. The endo doctor, kept telling me how intelligent I was so many times that it began to sound like an insult. Mary is now teasing me, so I have to live that down. But the doctor didn't really answer my questions. 

Her husband shooed me out of his office with the phone next to his ear and me in shock, so I just left. I will get both of them, don't worry. 

Bakersfield is a strange place. It has the worst air in the US, the most obese people, so there are an awful lot of sick people there, many probably not as sophisticated as I, so I'm sure these doctors get very bad habits and just process them. 

I have excellent health insurance and don't need any referrals, but UCLA is 107 miles away vs. Bakersfield's 50 miles. A huge difference at my age. Driving a Jeep with a soft top, in the desert winds.

Finally, my eyes are really bad. I can't drive with sunglasses or at night. I can't read street names and signs along the road. I can't read books, magazines, etc. Thanks Amazon for the Kindle Fire! The doctor barely approved me to drive last November, so I must have it done before next November or no more driver's license. I had an appointment, but the heart must come first. 

Sorry about this lengthy explanation, but I know you, my long time followers, do care and I wanted to explain. You never ever have to worry about me speaking up and taking care of myself. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

V is for Vascular, Veins, Vitamins

Me, alone. Life after loss.

While Errol was ill, I put my own medical needs on hold, except for my Type 1 diabetes and my mammogram. Having had breast cancer, I will never fool around with mammograms. And in order to survive, I must manage my diabetes. The rest fell by the wayside. 

I began in November with a retina check and an eye exam. Retinas were fine, but oh my.... do I have cataracts!! I will get that taken care of.

Then mammogram, osteoporosis, pulmonary function, lipids, and other blood tests. No problems.

So last week, Mary goes with me to Bakersfield, where I first meet with my endocrinologist. She's very pleased with my diabetes control, but doesn't really answer my questions. Rush, rush.... Seeing specialists these days, you're just one little part on the assembly line, to be fixed and moved on as fast as possible. 

But I'm thrilled and happy that all is well with me and my diabetes. So Mary and I go to the car and have a snack lunch. 


Go to your bosom; Knock there, and ask your heart what it doth know... 

~ William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure


We drive across the street to see the cardiologist, who also happens to be the husband of the endocrinologist I just saw, and right now am not sure I like. I have never met this guy.

After waiting for about an hour in this incredibly busy cardiology clinic next to Bakersfield Heart Hospital, my name is called. I have an EKG. The doctor comes in, tells me I have something wrong on the EKG, but talks so fast, mentions some letters and other things I don't understand. 

Then he grabs a heart model and begins explaining how the heart works and what can happen to a diabetic heart. He mentions neuropathy of the heart, electric currents misfiring, or whatever, fast, fast, fast, he talks. But I do hear, "A silent heart attack!" 

Right after he says that, there's a knock on the door and the nurse appears with a cell phone in her hand. A doctor wants to confer with him, urgently. So he sends me off to make an appointment for a stress test and also an ultrasound of the veins in my legs. I schedule it for May 12th. 

Family: Me, my dad, my brother and Troika, 1955

There's no history of heart disease in my family, nor of diabetes. Since there are enough complications to worry about with this disease, complications affecting my heart were not on my radar.

Rest of family: Mom and I, 1983

I was upset at first, mostly for the way I was treated. Heart issues seem very scary to me. Because I don't know anything about them. But I will learn, trust me.

Thinking about it though, I realize that I may need a pace maker. I feel better now since I have never fainted, never had a single chest pain, and if something very bad had shown on the EKG, there would have been a sense of urgency in getting it resolved. 

To quote Gilda Radner, quoting her dad who said: "It's always something - if it isn't one thing, it's another! It's always something."

Finally, there's this:

I borrowed this from my friend Fran's blog because it seems both funny and sad that this is how it was, back then. But I also remember that back then doctors took time with you, didn't they? But of course, they too were paternalistic and no female doctors around that I recall. 

Fortunately, my PCP here in town takes time with you, if you need it. I see him on the 29th and I will have a lot of questions for him, heart questions......

Monday, April 25, 2016

U is for Up!

Me, alone. Life after loss.

Up at dawn, the dewey freshness of the hour, the morning rapture of the birds, the daily miracle of sunrise.... ~ Louisa May Alcott

When I came to the letter U, I had no idea what to write about. Then Up came into my mind and wouldn't leave. All  young ones have that desire to get up, higher up. Babies have it and puppies too. 

The above picture is from when Faith first got here, at about six or seven weeks old.

In the rest of them she's a little over two months. She was so determined and so happy when she finally made it. But then the worry set in. How am I getting down from here?

I guess this became a post about getting down as well as getting up. But she was so darned cute, I just couldn't resist.

I hope this cheered you UP! A little different from my posts about the past year. Up for me, I guess means a step in the right direction. My life is getting better, I have more ups than downs now, more laughs than tears. And I love my mornings, I'm up in the dark now, waiting for the sun to rise, for the day to begin. 

Human nature from hunters to farmers, get up and get going with your day.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

T is for Thoughts

Me, alone. Life after loss.

Never be afraid to sit awhile and think.
~ Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun

I don't know about you, but I don't often sit for a while to think. This past year, thinking is something I have often tried to avoid. Thinking is what brought all those feelings I wrote about earlier, sorrow, guilt, and anger.

I have learned throughout my life that if you have a healthy mind, you are responsible for how you react to whatever happens in your life. I knew crying would be OK, but I didn't want thoughts about Errol in ICU to keep repeating in my mind, over and over again.  Last year, after the funeral, after family and friends left, after I was alone uninvited thoughts would come into my mind. I would start to relive all the horrors of Errol's last year and I did not want to. 

When images of him in that ICU bed would come, I would tell him to go away. I would even ask him to please go and come back in October, a safe several months away, hoping I would be better able to deal with it all by then.

To change the subject a little, it has been interesting to observe myself this past year. I had no time to think of myself or my thoughts for several years. Now that I could, I realized that facing old age alone would give me a chance to observe, without distractions, my feelings and thoughts on this process, so scary to many. Is it to me? Not sure yet.

Friday, April 22, 2016

S is for Souls

Me, alone. Life after loss.

One day, our souls will dance together into eternity.
~ This quote is by me.

To honor Errol's Creole heritage, and quite frankly, to also help me through it all, I hired a New Orleans traditional jazz band for his funeral. After the coffin was placed in the crypt, the band changed to the happy send off tunes. 

As family and friends did the second line, I walked over to the now closed crypt and whispered, "some day our souls will dance together into eternity." 

I don't know where it came from, but it has since become a great comfort to me. 

A year ago, April 22, 2015, I held his hand as he passed away at 2:33 in the afternoon........

Thursday, April 21, 2016

R is for Rest

Me, alone. Life after loss.

Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop. ~ Ovid

 Now that I'm retired, I should rest as needed, right? And I do, but I feel sort of guilty. Don't know why. Of all the quotes I have found for this Challenge, the one above is the one I need to take to heart. 

How I loved our garden........

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Q is for Questions

Me, alone. Life after loss.

A child can ask questions that a wise man cannot answer. ~ Author Unknown

I wonder if I asked enough questions when you were so ill. 

Should I have asked more? Would it have helped? 

Did I trust the doctors too much? 

After all, UCLA Ronald Reagan Hospital is the Best in the West, or so it says on big signs in their fancy-looking lobby. 

Infected probes, or stents, or whatever gave you your infection, well, you don't expect that. 

By the time you had it, there wasn't much anyone could do. 

As I found out.

And asking more questions would have made no difference.

Why do I still wonder?

Because I love you. 

You are not suffering now.


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

P is for Peace

Me, alone. Life after loss.

Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without. ~ Gautama Buddha

While the Peace Bell at the Mountain Spirit Center here in the canyon is beautiful, the peace I seek does not come from there, not even from the mountains, the rocks, the flowers.

It must, indeed, come from within. 

Working on it....

Monday, April 18, 2016

O is for Obstacles, Order

Me, alone. Life after loss.

Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak whispers the o'er-fraught heart and bids it break. ~ William Shakespeare

I wanted to write about Order. Instead I see Obstacles:

Can't stop thinking about last April, wondering how much you knew, how much you suffered. 

Know it's important for me to get the words out. 

Wonder how long it will be before I feel normal. 

Want the chaos of the past couple of years to turn into Order. 

I cleaned out your stuff, early on. I gave to your brothers, tools, clothes, the Mustang, and the Van. I kept lots that I wanted to have. To have you close by, your jeans fit me, your shirts, your belts. I love your thick leather belts (think I must have bought them for you) and donated the rest.

Recently, I began to go through photos. So many, all those duplicates you meant to give to family, but never got around to. I will do it now. It hurts, but has to get done.  

Worked on the house, new windows, new siding. Glenn has been an angel. Helped me so much. 

Living trust, DMV, checking accounts, income taxes, and all the rest of the paperwork. Did that, all of it. 

Much accomplished, much left to do.

Friends ask: "How are you doing?" "Fine," I say.

And it's true, I do feel OK. Now I do.

This is not easy. 

I'm tired......

Saturday, April 16, 2016

N is for Nature

Me, alone. Life after loss.

How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains! ~ John Muir

Morning walks with the dogs, sun rising over the mountains ~ my happiness now.


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