Friday, August 6, 2021

Did You Think I Abandoned My Post(s)?

No, never. The need and will to craft words into sentences and sentences into paragraphs is buried deep within me. It's as much a part of me as my art.

It's just that, well, you know, Covid happened and really threw everyone on the planet in a loop of fear, timidity and, especially in my case, financial derision. Art shows were cancelled daily, and the list grew longer and longer. Luckily for me, I could file unemployment, having been in the workforce as a paid employee for over 40 years. And, the "Covid Money" and the "Trump Check" didn't hurt. I got repairs to my house done, a boatload of inventory done, and generally took a paid year of retirement off.

But, I get bored easily and needed to get back out into the world. I was ecstatic when, in January of 2021, the veil of fear started to lift, and my old ass could get vaccinated, both one and two, in February of 2021, and anticipated life returning to normal.

Which, dear readers, of course it did not.

My dental clinic finally opened back up, and I was long overdue for a cleaning. Got that, and a month later, had a blocked salivary gland. I have no clue if anything is related, but I suddenly developed ulcerous sores inside my mouth and on my tongue which kept getting progressively worse. Over the next three months, I decided to be proactive in researching what it might be and the best match for what I was experiencing was a particularly nasty autoimmune disease called Pemphigus Vulgaris.

Now, I was doing art shows now, and full-steam-ahead art shows so that I could pay all the credit cards down from my boredom purchases. I lost my buddy Wiggles in 2019, right after his mama died in 2018, so I was truly depressed. Both my best friends died. So, I had purchased another Scottie puppy from a wonderful breeder in Louisiana, and took a road trip to go get her. In the middle of a hurricane, of course. She, my little Ladybug, has been a saving grace for me this past year. She kept me active, kept me from disappearing into grief. But the mouth sores kept getting worse, and now I was developing lesions on my throat and my shoulders.

I secured a new primary care physician who worked with my insurance, but all I got were new blood sugar and cholesterol medication. Finally, after anti-virals (possible herpes) were prescribed, series of new labs done and "shingles" was suspect) neither of which were actually diagnosed, I managed to get referred to an in-network ear, nose, throat doctor. Had to wait a month, but she actually took a biopsy, after much prodding and pleading. Again, had to wait another month for the results, but they confirmed what I had known for over a year. Pemphigus. I was prescribed Prednisone to reduce inflammation, but she did not feel comfortable in treating a long-term autoimmune disease, so she suggested go see a dermatologist. This time, I got in under three weeks, but they did not treat oral lesions. So, I explained my story one more time, and she took two biopsies: one of my reddening, ulcerous shoulder and the other of my abdomen, where ulcers had begun to form in my belly button. Now, she referred me to a rheumatologist. I was looking at three months for an appointment, but I got lucky with the nurse who answered the phone, and she put me in the next available slot, a cancelled appointment from another patient. Finally, I thought.

The rheumatologist determined, just from the first biopsy and from looking at me over his glasses while sitting at a laptop, that I did have Pemphigus "most likely" and he put me on a Lupus drug called Cellcept -and a dosage of Prednisone as well, although a smaller dosage than the ear, nose throat doc. He said we would revisit my progress after my vacation trip, which was fast approaching.

Then, I reviewed the second biopsy with the dermatologist. Yep, confirmed Pemphigus Vulgaris, eating away at my skin and my mouth and my internal organs at this point. So, much larger dose of Prednisone (which I'm happy about, because that shit works), an antibiotic, the continuing autoimmune drug, and two different topical cortisteroids, one for my scalp lesions (hair loss) and another for skin. 

So, I've been a bit low-key, having done my last art show in June, and preparing to gear up again in September to take another stab at paying off credit cards. I've sold the RV, preferring instead to deal with hotels and pulling a cargo trailer. When I find a much smaller, drivable camper trailer, I'll look into doing that scene again, with the emphasis on much smaller. And I can take my Ladybug with me.

Good news is that while I'm on the mend, this apparently will never go away. I don't know how I got it, how it managed to rear it's ugly head, but here will me it will stay. Hopefully between all of the medical professionals I've been to in a year and a half, we can kick this into remission and allow me to eat normally again, and not have a very concerning and ugly ulcer on my bottom lip. My hair loss may never recover so I have to figure out what to do about that (it's minor, but noticeable). I can finally eat something other than soup and mashed potatoes, so I know all the drugs are working, albeit incredibly slow.

It's been a lesson in pain, a lesson in patience and a lesson in how short life can be. I will never take the joy of eating Doritos in vain again, if I can ever get back to that point.

See you at the next crisis.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

I Yam What I Yam

And it ain't no sweet potato.

I have my dark moments. I can be mean as a snake when I want to be. And right now, I'm not mess-with-able.

I've not had a particularly easy life so far, and I've got a whole closet full of skeletons, with bags of rotting regrets and bad decisions stuffed in the corners. I was skating on pretty thick ice for a couple of years, and now the ice has gotten a little thin, like my patience and my time.

We've all had days where we hide in corners lest we strike out at those we care about with unimaginable venom. It's one of those days for me. It's a good thing it's just me and the dogs for a week or two, because it gives me a chance to recover from this depression and get back to pooping rainbows and hugging unicorns.

The weather is currently horrible, which pretty much matches the turmoil I'm feeling inside for many reasons. My art shows have not been going well, but it's the luck of the draw as to "good ones" versus "bad ones." Timing is everything. The last two festivals have been rainy and cold and not financially viable, and I'm so over pulling a trailer which offers a 3-gallon hot water tank and no heat. Not to mention trying to find somewhere to park the thing for the night, I miss the days of a nice clean hotel room with television and 45-minute hot showers. And fluffy white sheets.

I've got mounds of things on my to-do list at the house, and they're weighing heavy on my brain.  There are other things I'm going to have to pay someone to do, and if things don't pick up on the art front,  then they won't get done. I've got the pressure of keeping my inventory up art-wise, and I've had a few days lately where I literally sit at my art table staring out the window, in a zombie-like state. I'm always in overdrive and it's catching up.

So, I'm back to forcing myself to go slow. To think slow. To just be more deliberate in my actions and  careful to choose my words, lest I jumble up and tornado myself into hurting someone's feelings.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Gosh, It's Been a Long Time.

Always an avid writer of stories, teller of tales and composer of ridiculous rants, I am shocked that the last time I contributed to my pitiful little blog was November, 2018, when I lost my doggie, Pearl.

I guess I just stopped. Parked my rants and my thoughts in the front yard and let them all rust.

Time to crank it all up again. Time to share all my brain goop with others, and hope that I get random responses and every now and then, a little justification for my need to share.

I've started really trying to be aware of my carbon footprint, at least as much as I can. I can't do the hybrid car thing, as I am madly in love with my Jeep. And hybrid cars won't pull my art trailer. I have to rely on my Big Gold Suburban for that. So yeah, I'm still one of those using fossil fuels and will until I freakin' die.

Unfortunately, solar is too expensive to install as well, and that's a shame, because, living in Florida, it's a perfect match. I hate relying on Florida Power and Light, and really hate paying an enormous electric bill every month. You see, as well as being a fossil-fuel guzzling car hoarder, I have an in-ground pool that demands its filter to run at least 6 out of 7 days, 8 hours a day because, again, I live in Florida. Thus the electric bill. It's an expensive chlorinated bathtub, which I float around in like a bloated manatee for about 30 days a year.

What I am doing now, other than sincerely trying to eat organic, is researching compostable plastics. I am an avid recycler anyway (living with an avid non-recycler, so it's a shit show every Sunday evening when the recycling goes out to the curb), so looking for things that I normally use and cannot recycle is becoming something I devote time to. A big change is using compostable trash bags made from recycled plastics. I decided to try an online service called Grove Collaborative. Primarily because my local health food stores want outrageous amounts of money for compostable plastics, and  Grove Collaborative does not (25 13-gallon bags for $4.95 is affordable). I also bought some sandwich bags, eco-friendly laundry detergent, eco-friendly household cleaner (much like Mrs. Meyers, my current five-year favorites) and a few other things were free (because this is a subscription service, which you can cancel or change at any time).  Besides, who wouldn't want cedar-rosemary scented stuff? I mean, really.

Starting to sound like an advertisement for Grove Collaborative, so I'll stop here. But, I'm happy it's affordable, and it's really hard to justify spending a gob more money on natural, eco-friendly products when you're living art festival to art festival, so I'll buy them as often as I can. And I'll continue to buy as much organic and free-range as I can, because it's just the right thing to do - for my body and my conscience.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Pearl is Gone, and I Am Lost For A Bit

You know, I really don't want to be that person. You know the one. The one who won't stop talking about her dog, how great she was, how much you miss her and how you should have done more.

But, I am.

I went to an art show this past weekend, and it was a good one. I currently use a camper in my travels, small but efficient, with a shower and a place to sleep. And Pearl was with me. I worried that the trip was too much jostling, too much here and there for her frail health. But, being away from her in her passing would have filled me with so much angst that I had to take her. She was comfortable in a little rolling cart, on her favorite pillow, and at 2:30 on Sunday afternoon, she passed.

I knew it somehow - that it would happen that weekend. She drank some water dutifully, tried to walk and pee, then stretched her neck over the top of the cart and gasped a few times...then, peacefully passed. I was holding her, touching her heart and calling her name. I had to keep my head and heart in check for three hours during the show, then another two hours while packing up the tent...but the minute I was in the car heading home, I was lost. Lost to grief, lost to infinite sadness.

I really don't believe in the afterlife, honestly. I believe that we return to energy, as we are born of energy and live as energy. I buried her body that night, and haven't been able to visit the grave yet. I am grieving and think of her every hour of every day since she died. She has left a wound in my heart. I miss her.

I'm not quite all right yet. I'm in a bit of a fog. I'm adulting. But what I really want to do is push the grief to a crescendo so that I can get over it. I want to look at all her photos, I want to relive all my best moments and remember all the goodness that was that little dog. I helped her with all her puppies, and nursed her through her worst times and would have gladly taken care of her for years to come, even if it meant constant attention. She gave me unconditional love, even when I was impatient with her, or complained of how I had to walk her or groom and bathe her. She was a loyal companion.

When we leave the earth, we are gone, and all that remains are memories. When I die, she will die with me.

She deserved so much more.

Friday, October 26, 2018

The Foods Of Historical Significance

I'm not sure why, but recently I felt compelled to revisit some of the foods I grew up eating when I was a child.

I think it was an old Monty Python sketch about Spam that launched this uncomfortable journey.

Because, like most every American household in the 60s, we ate a lot of Spam.

Spam was the meat du jour on any given day, and to my recollection, almost every Friday evening. The big thing in our household was "Breakfast at Night," whereby we ate scrambled eggs, toaster waffles, bacon and fried Spam. Saturday's lunch menu was always Spam sandwiches (on Wonder bread, of course, with plenty of mayonnaise. As kids, we didn't care, because Big Meat was always cooked on Sunday (whether it was a gorgeous beef roast, complete with savory veggies or a roast chicken, with dumplings cooked in the juices), so we knew we would have "real" food to gorge ourselves on the next day. Sunday's all-day cooking would result in lots of other leftovers that did not resemble Spam.

Dad loved the stuff. I loved opening the cans, because it required a mysterious "key" with which to hook onto a small metal tab, and if you took your time and rolled back the metal just right, you could open the can. If you broke off the metal, well, then it was time for the pliers, because no can opener, electric or manual, could open that rectangular contraption. It was my singular achievement to roll back the metal so tight that you couldn't tell where the metal and the key became fused. It was something I was quite good at.

I decided that a taste of the 2018 variety of Spam was in order.

I had recently purchased a tin of Deviled Ham, another of my childhood memories (again, on white bread with a lot of mayonnaise) and I found it to be suitable for a chip dip, but not a sandwich. One can was all it took for me to decide it wasn't suitable for that, either, after I had a bit of stomach distress after eating the whole thing (I bought the double-size). I had also bought a can of "Sweet Sue Chicken and Dumplings," which we ate in double doses when we had a no-cook evening, and I remembered it to be a savory meal of tasty dumplings with real chicken, stringy and pressure-cooked just like the real thing. The can I opened had the dumplings stuck to the inner lid, smelled of Alpo, and had bits of rubber squares masquerading as chicken. We won't even get into the description of what the dumplings tasted like.

Spam has tried to corner the market on all things instant meat, with several varieties, ranging from "spicy" to "lemon-pepper." I bought the normal, run-of-the-mill Spam, marked "original," and was dismayed that the can no longer sported the essential "key" with which to open it. After opening the can, the first whiff brought back all those things I loved about Spam, along with the "squishy" sound it makes as you pry it from its container. I sliced it up, and placed two on a piece of sandwich bread and took a bite.

I'm not real sure how I survived the 60s, eating Spam as a food source. Or, for that matter, Deviled Ham and Sweet Sue Chicken and Dumplings.

It tasted remotely of ham, but mostly of a slimy grease, for want of better words. The next morning, I decided that I would fry up a slice. Needless to say, I did not need to put any oil in the pan, as it contained plenty all by itself. It did make a slight difference in the taste (better) but not on the "this will give me a heart attack if I eat any more of it" register.

And, since I am not fond of, but have had plenty, "TV Dinners," mostly Swanson, I think I'll leave those convenience foods off my list for a little while. When Mom discovered the Amana Radar-Range (it took up half of the kitchen counter, and shined like a beacon in the night), she also discovered Swanson dinners, pre-packaged with meatloaf, fried chicken and salisbury steak, along with a spoonful of corn or mashed potatoes (heaven forbid green beans) and a brownie that never quite came out of the paper dish. There weren't a whole lot of varieties of food in TV dinners back then, and unfortunately some of them still came in the aluminum plates, which took care of Mom's first microwave in about 30 seconds. After much wailing and absolute despair, another one was purchased at Sears, and TV dinners were no longer in the freezer, for fear of another incident. It was a bit of a status symbol back in the day to have an Amana Radar-Range, and Mom was very proud of her new appliance. She wasn't going to take another chance. Dad's limit on purchasing appliances had been reached.

I've never been able to master a lot of the great foods I grew up eating, such as fried okra and green tomatoes, Sunday roast with Yorkshire Puddings (cooked right in the enamel roasting pan - yum!) and fried fish (I ate the crunchy fried fins like they were candy). Dad cooked frog legs and oysters and rabbit (and I ate every single thing without hesitation), but I wouldn't not touch a frog leg today, and certainly not rabbit. I haven't cooked a Cornish game hen for decades, nor have I dined on goat, dove or alligator, also dishes prepared by Dad on any given weekend. I'm giving up on Spam and Deviled Ham, and gladly so. Cans of Sweet Sue will never grace my pantry shelves again, hurricane or no.

I have yet to revisit tins of Corned Beef Hash (also a staple of my youth) or LeSuer English Peas (try as he did every year, Dad could never grow English peas to any great extent, and love them he did), but I think I'll let my digestive tract recover for a while. Some things you don't need to remember.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Beware the Awareness of Greatness

As some of my friends know, or don't know and perhaps don't care, I have a true affection for Tom Robbins.

Not Harold Robbins, also a novelist, or Tim Robbins, an actor of dubious fame who had the also dubious pleasure of sharing a great deal of his life with Susan Sarandon, another one of my mental idols, along with Marilyn Monroe and Will Rogers, all for very different reasons.

No, I was introduced to the written meanderings of Tom Robbins back in 1980, when I read his third novel, "Still Life with Woodpeckers," having been an aficionado of book stores (and reading) back in the day. I was looking at a table stacked with the newest publications and saw his face on the back cover. So, I suppose, even before I read a word, I was intrigued by his "look," which in a word, looked almost exactly like a cartoon I had drawn on a paper bag back in high school, a vision of what I hoped my future husband would resemble. In fact, my husband at the time did resemble him, with a bit of a lackadaisical swagger, tousled wheat-colored hair and that crooked smile. But, soon after our daughter was born in 1979, I was divorced from the aforementioned husband, and sadly so. But I digress, as usual.

The book's cover also intrigued me. It was a beautiful rendition of a woodpecker (the large variety of the bird, I believe) holding a match, and was reminiscent of a pack of Camel cigarettes. The back cover touted that it was a "sort of love story" that "dealt with the problem of redheads." Flipping immediately to the back of the paperback, as I am wont to do before reading any book, there was a scrawled statement: "It's never too late to have a happy childhood." I purchased it ($4.50) and I have been hooked on Tom Robbins and his books ever since.

But, I have never, in all these years, dug into the man himself, preferring to learn him from his words, and to savor the snippets of his life written on the inside covers of said books. When I learned he had written books prior to this one, I was down at the local Barnes & Noble, purchasing them to savor up even more of the strange wisdoms I found to be so like my own. I have purchased every one of his books since, reading them with cookies and milk, reading them on buses and planes, reading them after Friday night beer escapades (although not for long).

In 2011, a sort of autobiography was released, "Tibetan Peach Pie." Of course, I had been out of the reading habit for well over two decades by this time, and didn't find out about this book until 2018, but in need of diversions, and having a bit more free time via self-employment and semi-retirement, I purchased it.

 I read about his childhood, his marriages (which also strangely resembled my own) and his former and current philosophies of life: then, now and forever. He described his voice as having a North Carolina affectation with a heavy dose of Appalachian twang. I realized I had never heard his voice.

I had never, in this age of internet stalking, googled him. I was content to read his words, marvel at his acquired wisdoms, gobble down all of his imaginative scenarios with singular characters of whom I would have been sitting at a bar with, and probably have at one point or another. But now, I needed to hear that voice.

So, I found a YouTube video of an interview done with Tom Robbins. An 80-year old Tom Robbins, who had lost that boyish grin, that tousled hair that bloom of youth. Not the Tom Robbins I had admired for decades.  I am only loyal to two novelists: Tom Robbins and Carl Hiaasen. I've heard Carl Hiaasen's voice and it matches his writing, and that lovely slightly honey-smooth Southern accent is definitely pleasing. But, Robbins' voice is creaky like an old pantry door, with almost no discernible accent, much less one of the Southern variety. I attributed this to his many years in Washington state, where there is no accent to speak of. I wasn't devastated, but certainly not overjoyed. What I had expected to hear, and what I heard, were not cohesive.

Sometimes, I have found, it is best to leave a bit of mystery, a bit of wonder, in all that which we find interesting. It's good when we can have that tiny tidbit of our own imaginations about something - or someone - unknown. Perhaps knowing everything about those whom we hold in high esteem is not necessarily a good thing. If Robbins manages to crank out another novel, I will surely buy it, if only to see what bit of takeaway wisdom I can glean from it. But I will never, ever google him again. I am content to know just enough.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Pearl is Ending Her Journey

After a series of what appeared to be small seizures, my little Black Pearl may be on her last and final days.

Pearl is my little Scottish Terrier, purchased for me not long after I lost my soulmate dog, Rita, to a brain hemorrhage brought on by a nasty fall on the staircase leading to the second floor of my building in Kentucky. I grieved for months. So did her companion, another Scottish Terrier named Lucy, and she died three months later, in her sleep. My husband informed me that we needed to have a nice dinner out, and he proceeded to drive south from our home. I loved being in the truck with him, he was always full of interesting stories. I do have a thing for storytellers.

Two hours later, we arrived in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, where we stopped at a Cracker Barrel. That's where we met a wheaten Scottish Terrier, a beauty of a puppy, although he was almost a year old. This was to be officially Dandy Jack, called affectionately "Jarhead" by my former Marine husband, TJ, who wanted to ease my heartache a bit. He was a wonderful dog, perfect actually, but he wasn't my Rita. He followed me dutifully, was easy to train and love. A couple of months later, we went on a road trip to Missouri, where I met a small Scottish Terrier, who became my Black Pearl. She was offered up to me, along with her littermate, and I saw the she was the shyer of the two, and seemed a bit sickly. 

So, of course, as she was in need of a caretaker, and I was in need of a little soul to take care of, I chose her over her feistier sister. As we drove away, the first thing little Pearl did, after licking me to death and yipping off and on, was to pee on my lap. Yep. We were bonded. 

Since then, my Pearl and I have been inseparable. Her first-born son is my Wiggles, whom I adore. I also have charge over two of her pups, Calypso and Violette. When my painful divorce brought me back to Florida, she rode with me in the truck, hanging out the window, ears flapping in the wind. The first time she had ever been to a beach, she threw herself into the sand with a vengeance, immersing herself in the salty sand. She chased crawfish in mountain streams, but the ocean was altogether different. How she loved the beach!

It's always Pearl with whom I have shared my heartaches, my loneliness, my solitude for the past twelve years. She has given me total loyalty and immeasurable happiness. If I had a bad day, Pearl was there, giving me those eyeballs of love, pleading with me for a walk and a talk, and somehow she knew that just her presence was enough to ease the anger, the hurt, the confusion and the frustrations of any given day. She hated that, after the first years of my being home every day, I was soon back at a full time job, leaving her looking at me out the window of my bedroom.

She has been showing her age of late. The past month has been a heartbreaking decline in her physical health and she appears to be fading. As I write this, she has had small seizures off and on during the previous day and night, and I have not left her side. She has bounced back from each seizure, slowly, but has been eating and drinking and walking, if but incredibly slow and measured. I do not see pain in her eyes, and she is comfortable, being transported outside for pees and poop, and whatever room I end up in, she tried to follow me, as she always did.

However, this morning, she cannot move. She won't eat or drink. She has labored breathing. I am giving her eyedroppers of water and milk every half hour or so, but she is going. She knows it, and is leaving me with grace and dignity, while I am in denial and can't accept her passing. I am too selfish to let her go. She is not in pain, and sleeping mostly, even when the other dogs come around and sniff at her, sometimes licking her face for a drop of milk caught in her whiskers. 

I won't have her euthanized, because I don't believe in it, unless an animal is truly in pain. I have her progeny here, and they seem to know, and I have to give them love and care, even while my Pearl is  resting on her pillow, near my art desk, and I will give her as much comfort as she needs. She will go in her sleep, so I stay awake as much as I can, so that I can be there when she does pass. 

I just don't want her to go.