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Transitions

The greenhouse and garden, Eagle River, AK PHALL PHOTO 2014

The greenhouse and garden, Eagle River, AK
PHALL PHOTO 2014

Almost SIX weeks, and you know what I’m talking about. But I don’t want to make a big deal about it. Well, okay, I do want to make a big deal about it. Just give me a paragraph or three and then I’ll shut up about it. At least for today. More than anything, I feel that giving up cigarettes (and the caffeine addiction) has given me more freedom. The biggest freedom, is the freedom to go after a healthier life style.

No matter how many times that I have attempted to quit in the past, I always remained a slave to cigarettes. Even if I went as long as eight months without one single drag off one single cigarette, I was still chained to the addiction. I thought about the lack of them, more than I thought about anything else. Secretly (and probably outwardly) the drama was intense. It went on almost every waking moment that I didn’t smoke. “Should I? Could I? I can’t. I won’t! Damn, I’m weak. Man, I’m strong. I can’t go one more minute. If I can make it one more hour, I can go to sleep.” The internal drama was intense, as I’m sure the external was. Poor family.

This time no one suffered; not me and not my parents. That’s how I knew that the addiction was broken. For awhile, I waited for the other shoe to drop. As hours, days and then weeks passed (6 of them!), I kept waiting for that slam/slap on the shoulder and a rousting voice saying, “Fooled ya! You are about to have the worst withdrawals in the history of cigarette/caffeine withdrawals!” It never came. One of my reasons for diet and exercise, was to head off any shoe-dropping slam/slap on the shoulder. If it came, I’d be ready with a healthy routine and a new excitement for living without the chains of addiction. So far, so good.

It may very well be an illusion, or even a delusion, but I honestly think that I’m out of the woods, and that the damn shoe could never be thrown THIS far out! (Knock on wood, or whatever superstition will keep that big bad shoe away.)

On the home front. Mom goes to her first Physical Therapy session today. She has been moving less and I’m hoping that they will pick up the slack and get her into a good routine to further her recovery from the hip replacement. Dad is still fighting a painful-sounding cough. Hopefully, this last batch of meds will help him.

The best thing about the Olympics these past few weeks, has been watching mom and dad enjoy them together. Whether, mom was laying with her feet in dad’s lap, or sitting up and holding hands with him, I had the best seat in the house. They cheered and gasped in awe together at the inspiring wins, losses and injuries, while I just smiled at the two of them.

The low carb diet is going well. Really. Today will be day 5 of my crazy idea of joining a gym…wait, that was mom’s crazy idea. I’m a little sore, but it has been fun. I kind of earned another free pass by story-telling. Yep, the membership woman loved the story of Kevin and I, so much, that she promised more free passes for my future visits. Cool.

I just stepped out and took some shots of the light pastel pink and blue sunrise. It is a balmy 14 degrees this morn. I’ll share a few photos from yesterday, then I have to get ready for my next yoga class. Yikes.

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Funny, I started writing this about the transition I will soon be dealing with; from living alone in Maggie (my cave at the beach) to living with my folks for the past 2 months in Alaska, to making a new life with Kevin in the foothills of the mountains. Somehow, I never got to that…maybe next time.

Peace,

Patti

PHALL PHOTO 2014

PHALL PHOTO 2014


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Alaska Notes

From the front porch, Eagle River, AK PHALL PHOTO 2014

From the front porch, Eagle River, AK
PHALL PHOTO 2014

Alaska weather, mom’s new hip, photographic opportunities, smoking status and maybe a little romance.

ALASKA

The weather here has been weird. Almost all (not by Georgia standards) of the snow is gone, but we still get some nights of frost that don’t thaw until late in the day. While most of the rest of the country is suffering severe cold and snow, we have a temporary reprieve.

Out the kitchen window: a grove of beautiful birch trees, with a few fir and cottonwood tossed into the mix; recently snow-laden limbs, now free of their heavy white burden. Out the window that is above the kitchen table, is dad’s Quonset hut; once shrouded in a thick layer of snow and icicles, but now down to the rust-colored metal. Out the living room window: the front yard and the busy road to/from Eagle River; the regular work of the big colorful road plows is done for now. Everyone is guessing when and if winter cold and snow will come back.

Every single day, no matter the weather, I revel in the way that the changing light of morning, mid-day and evening touch the sheen of the birch tree bark. I have seen those trees almost neon white, and with more subtle shades of pink, purple, red and blue, depending on the tint of moment.

The longer I’m here, the more I notice that I move from window to window in this small house, no matter the original purpose of entering a room. I look out the window as I enter, and then again before I leave. I’m looking for that light. I’m watching for a moose, a bear or a flutter of wings that announce a flock of Wax Wings or Northern Grosbeaks.

Maybe I’ll spot that stealthy fox that I used to see around midnight, when I sat freezing and smoking on the deck. Often, what I see makes me rush to throw on something warm, and maybe some boots, grab a camera and head out to take a shot, or two, or twenty of the light hitting the trees. That light. That moment. Sometimes even, that second.

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The health status. It seems very much as if mom, dad, and I are trading our minor illnesses back and forth. Cold and/or flu symptoms are flying around and landing on one of us, until it morphs and moves on to the next. Our sleep patterns are crazy. Despite all of that, we’ve had days where I play DJ and we listen to the old music that we all love, and days when we laugh a lot. Yep, we also have some grump days and cry days; missing our Michaela or bruised feelings.

Meanwhile, mom’s new hip is doing all those healing things that make each day one level of challenge or the next. The pain meds are not being used much at all, no matter the challenge level. Home health nurses are no longer coming to the house. Eventually, mom’s doc will allow her to do outpatient PT, but for now he wants her to take it easy. We’re hoping that the blood thinner medicine will end soon and that mom won’t have to go in for the weekly blood draw. The walker is her pal and she has a hard time remembering that it will be many months before she is allowed to bend over and pick something up.

SMOKING– Nope, not me. 20 days. I’m awesome:>)

THE ROMANCE– oops, no time to report on this right now. All is just peachy though!

Peace out and I’ll write more soon,

Patti


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Shifting Directions and Quitting A Few Addictions

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You are all going to think that the cold has gotten to me.

Since I first started packing to go to Alaska, in the middle of flippin’ winter, and leave my stormy beach life in Washington State, many things have…shifted within me. I came here to take care of my mom (and dad, somewhat) while she recovers from hip replacement. I may stay longer to help my younger brother if the docs decide to repair his back. This is where I need to be for now, but it feels different somehow.

As most of you know, I’ve been carrying on some kind of long distance…something? with my brother-in-law’s brother, who I knew when I was 15, and have spent exactly 1 day with since then. We’ve been making plans for a few summer activities when I get back from Alaska. The main thing is that we’re having fun getting to know each other and we smile and laugh a lot. So that’s a big shift for this solitary gypsy/cave woman who has been in the depths of grieving for almost 5 years. Okay, a gigantic shift.

Reuniting with my long lost girlfriend, Leslee, caused a profound shift in my thinking. Her recent brush with death was tough to hear, but her renewed energy for life had a seriously positive impact on me. You know how sometimes 7 people can say the same thing, or give the same advice, but you don’t really take it in until you hear it from the 8th person? I think that’s what happened with Leslee. I think that she offered similar grief advice that I’ve heard or read from others, but she was just the right person, who said just the right words, at just the right time and they clicked into place in my pea-brain.

Other shifts: Day 14 in Alaska, Day 8 since mom came home from hospital, Day 5 since I QUIT SMOKING AFTER 35 YEARS, Day 4 since I QUIT COFFEE AFTER 24 YEARS, Day 3 since I stopped eating evil things to make up for smokes and coffee:>)

So, there’s some pretty big shifts (I deleted all the perfect cuss words that fit so well into this sentence). Mom and Kevin are the only ones that I told. They have been my mini, but mighty, cheer leading squad (great visual). Mom told dad tonight, but he was pretty quiet about it.

I’m as shocked as you are. I don’t know, I just wanted to keep it close for a few days. It wasn’t something I planned at all; no big X for quit day on the calendar. No pills or patches or magic potions. I was just about to open my last pack, when I decided I’d quit. I smoked that pack over a couple days, then I quit. The next day I quit coffee. I’ve had no headaches or…any other withdrawal symptoms

Yes, my dad’s frequent lectures, mom’s heartfelt pleading and having to sit out in the freaking cold to smoke may have all contributed to my decision. However, my visit with Leslee, my cousins and my grandchildren also contributed. As did my word (and plans) for 2014: HOPE.

If this is going to be a year filled with hope, then I could have hope for health and happiness and maybe even hope for a partner to share it all with. I did write that. Am I sure? Hell no, just minutes ago I thought I was going to be alone the rest of my life. Really. And that was okay then—a minute ago. Maybe not now. Oh, well, stranger things have happened:>)

Peace Out,

Patti, who has no more secrets (damn!)

P.S. My writing is not on hold, but has also shifted in another direction. As I watch several of my writer-friends publishing, or getting very close to publishing, I can only look on and cheer and wonder if I’ll ever get back on track. I will. I know I will…


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EDDD 21: Travels To Alaska Home, Tangled In Ribbons

“Travel brings power and love back into your life.” ― Rumi

It’s funny, but I think that you like the truth better than any tale I could weave, and I can weave some fanciful ones. But, surely it is the real heart and real emotion that we need the most…

Whether it’s, “Oh, my gosh, I never knew!”

or, “That’s just how I feel too!”

The best and worse of me, resounds in you. P.H. 2013

I just wrote that for you:>)

Traveling home is very different, on many levels, to each of us. It also changes with the reasons that we go home. Since 2007, there has been a different reason each time that I traveled home. My late husband, Paul, came up with the money for a ticket, and then insisted that I go that first time. The visit was initially to see my dad, who had a health scare, but then, also to make up with a family that I had distanced myself from for too many years. That was good. And hard. And it lightened my heart to have my reading, gardening, rolling- with- laughter mom back in my life.

Another visit to the north was a casual one, almost a vacation. Fishing in Homer with #1, a sister who took me everywhere when I was little, says I was HER baby! A long-time friend of hers verified the news. I made up with a sister that I hadn’t seen or spoken to in at least eight years, and made headway with another. I helped dad with his yard sales and listened raptly to tales from his childhood in Kentucky. I loved the way his faded southern accent peeked in and out of his reminiscing. Of course, mom and I reveled in working the garden together, and I, in watching her dance in front of the green house in her jammies, to the loud music coming from within. Joy.

In 2012, my visit was filled with pain and heart-ripping sorrow. My direct sorrow was laced with regret. The sister I had reunited with just eight months earlier, the sister who had been sending care packages of craft ideas and love ever since, the sister I’d been sharing texts and long-missed phone calls with, was gone. The gratefulness that we DID connect, didn’t come until much later. My secondary sorrow was the torture of witnessing how the loss hit my parents; the death of one of their seven, a crushing blow.

Then, too, the twin to my lost sister, their birthday is tomorrow, lost her literal other half. There are just no words for the pain I felt she must be suffering. Still suffers. Another sister was a close business and personal buddy with our lost one. Another sister was out of the country. The brothers stood by, strong shoulders for our tears. My heart tore in painful strips of crumpled, tear-stained ribbon. I tried to capture and identify my pain and soothe it, but the ribbons flew in all directions; my parents, our twin, each sibling, even dear friends who fed and flowered us so well. A tattered ribbon of pain from my husband’s death flew in, and tangled with the rest.

Our (now) single twin flew home, soon after the beautiful memorial, into the loving and healing arms of her husband and son in Arizona. When I flew back to my beach a few weeks later, the ribbons of pain flew behind the jet and tangled between my feet as I disembarked. They knotted in my hair as I walked the beach, searching for my lost loved ones. A little over a month later, a phone call; my mother is in the hospital, and so, I packed my ribbons of pain for another flight to Alaska.

The ribbons of pain were no longer filling every space in my parents home. But as I cared for mom, cooked, cleaned and organized, the ribbons fell from every drawer, cupboard and closet; still there, but moved aside to make room for daily living. The ribbons filled pillows that we rested our heads on each night. We used them to wipe away the tears that flowed, unbidden, from our eyes. I was there for over 4 months, which allowed special time with the four siblings who live near.

Eight months after the return to my Washington beach, I lost my 3 year-old grandson and the fresh ribbons of pain, added to the others, almost smothered me. My mother’s sister died October 1st, adding still another tangle of ribbons. I feel them right now. Those ribbons of pain make it hard to open Maggie’s door; my little RV cave is packed with them. I am safe, as long as I keep them away from my nose and mouth. I’ve accidentally swallowed a few and they almost choked me.

Mom is having hip surgery January 3rd, and a brother is having a potpourri of surgeries in the next few months. I fly out on the 2nd and spend the day in Juneau, the capital city that I have never been to. I look forward to walking up to the huge Mendenhall Glacier, that presents its blueish glory, just a few miles from the airport. There are other wonders close by that I hope to explore. Are you excited to see the photos? I am too! If you have a friend in Juneau who can give me a quick tour between 2 and 6 that day, please let me know.

I’ll be back to my beach in mid-May and I’ve promised to visit Mrs. M soon after. She’s doing well, by the way, and is doing outpatient PT now. I also have a long list of family and friends to visit on my return. Those ribbons that I’ve been writing about? They have been keeping me inside the sorrow of those lost loved ones, and not allowing me room to be with the loved ones who are alive. I know that. I’ve decided to drop them out the airplane on my way back from Alaska:>)

“Every traveler has a home of his own, and he learns to appreciate it the more from his wandering.”
― Charles Dickens

Here’s a beach sunset from a few days ago. Enjoy, please:>)

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Peace Out,

Patti

Every Damn Day? Who’s idea was this anyway? The culprit can be found here: Every Damn Day December at http://treatmentofvisions.com/2013/11/26/evdadadec/


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EDDD 17; “Sending News Secretly,” Letter To Paul

“Your body is away from me  But there is a window open, from my heart to yours.  From this window, like the moon,  I keep sending news secretly.” Rumi

When I read this quote on my friend, Elaine’s site, it reminded me of a letter to Paul that I posted back in June. Paul died August 9, 2009 after a year-long battle for his life; first leukemia, then a stem cell transplant, then his body attacked itself with Graft vs Host Disease of the Gut. I was his 24/7 advocate/caregiver in the 3 hospitals, the 4 temp housing units in Seattle and for his final 2 weeks in our bed at home. In our short 4+ years of working, living, loving and building dreams together, we considered ourselves married. Just 7 weeks before his death, I climbed into Paul’s hospital bed at the U of W Hospital, and we made it legal and official. Since his death, I have “sent news secretly” to Paul through my journal. After the death of my little grandson, I didn’t write in my journal very often. The letter below is my catch-up letter, as I resumed my healing writing habits. I’ve recently updated it to include another lost loved one.

Look Paul, the reality is that I have no idea what you do or do not know about what’s been going on around here, and maybe just for me, I need to catch you up. For all I know you could simply be ashes buried deep; away forever, from this well-lit world that I walk in. For all I know you are “up there” bitchin’ about the fancy food and wondering when Earl’s gonna be on. So, that’s the place I’m going to imagine you while I write this little note. I mean, how can I think of you as just gone? Just buried ashes? At the same time, you know I haven’t let the bliss of religion take me over; we’ll just settle for “up there.”

In the place I keep you in my mind, you have all the sweet company of lost pets, your parents, and your former wife, Janet. We talked about it before you left, and I know where the balance of your love lies; Janet was the love before ours, I was the love of your present and future (huh! Some future!). You guys can hang out until I get there and then we’ll all be friends. Janet and I will probably ditch you and go antiquing anyway.

I’m sure my sis, Michaela, has found you by now. She’s the one cracking up, putting on fancy parties and trying to take care of everybody else. Our family friend Tommy is probably with her, and you two are going to get along great—you both have that little sparkle in your eyes that I never did figure out. It does my heart good to think of the three of you having fun together, and you pulling them into your own family circle up there. You’ll probably sit around watching Johnny Carson with my grandma and ogling pretty women during the commercials with my Uncle Eddie. My Aunt Norma has joined you, her parents and her brother, Uncle Eddie, by now. She’ll be telling bawdy jokes that you guys will eat up. She’ll be fighting my sis, Michaela, for snuggling time with Tiven, then the two of them will exchange manicures and recipes. Don’t miss Aunt Norma’s chicken enchiladas or Michaela’s layered chocolate pudding, whip cream and cake dessert!

There’s a precious little 3-year-old blond boy up there too now. He’s Jon’s son, Tiven, born just a few months after you left. That birth was an amazing event, and one of the only things that could get me out of the house. You’ll probably find him snuggled up with my sis, since she’s always been an awesome mommy. He needs one. And Tiven actually knows you, his papa, from all the pictures he’s seen and from all the stories we tell about you. You were so good with Nola and Cora, and I know you’ll just love our Tiven as much.

We could use some help down here, with keeping an eye on and caring for Tiven’s brother, Hunter. If you folks in the know up there could visit him and surround him with your love, I’d appreciate it.

Anyway, honey, I miss you more than you can imagine, and I hope you are dealing with this better than I am. I’m trying and I’m finally back to writing, so don’t nag about that. Just like we talked about, my hope is that our memoir will help others travel that rocky road of love, illness and death with better ease than we did. Well, I better get back to it.

IMG_0688You always loved holidays and had a way of getting me to love them too, so Merry Christmas, my sweet man.

Love you always and forever, Your Patti

Oh, and I know it’s you, sending Tiven to wake me with his little kisses. Send more.

 

Every Damn Day? Who’s idea was this anyway? The culprit can be found here: Every Damn Day December at http://treatmentofvisions.com/2013/11/26/evdadadec/

Rumi quote from: http://elainemansfield.com/2012/solstice-blessings-a-family-ritual-of-remembrance-and-love/#sthash.Mj2l11ac.dpuf


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EDDD 14; Family Health History, The Perfect Gift (Says Mom)

Totally unrelated to this post. saw this young bald eagle on the beach this afternoon. The 2 adults that were with him exited, stage left. PHALL PHOTO 2013

Totally unrelated to this post. I saw this young bald eagle on the beach this afternoon. The 2 adults that were with him exited, stage left.
PHALL PHOTO 2013

Have you ever wanted to change your phone number? I had that sudden urge just tonight…but it was too late, because I had already answered the damn thing. Too late. She was off and running before I even got the second half of “hello” properly spoken. “I’ve got the most wonderful thing for you to do for the whole family for Christmas!” Dead silence on my end. Who in their right mind would reply to that statement, especially  even from their own mother? Not me. I struggled not to hang up and sever our ties completely.

“Don’t you want to know what it is?” Then, before I even had a chance to not answer the statement or the question, she was back at it. “I know everyone one would LOVE to have the health history of our family, and you can do it, Patti!” She released a few syrupy sweet lines, adding a mound of butter, to really set the hook. As if. I’ve had over 50 years to learn how to deal with these tactics.

If only…For the next hour, I held my cell phone in one hand and a pen in the other, as we charted 5 generations of our family tree, including physical and mental health issues for each person. RELATIVE ALERT: This information will NOT be in my next post! Or even the next one. This is private family information that is only for family. Seriously, don’t freak out.

Besides, it’s all mom’s fault. While I am a family history researcher, this topic can be a little iffy (note the alert above). Mom and I went back and forth about what should be included and what, if anything, should be denied excluded. We have lost at least one person, from all but one generation, mainly to heart problems or cancer; this is important stuff.

As a matter of fact this information can tuck neatly into the health file that I hope you started working on during my Postcard series. Remember that? No? I will have a hard copy of it available soon, but here’s a link to the last one, which has links to the whole series http://wp.me/p3i5jo-8N.

So, uh um uh, mom was right (I might as well tattoo that on my forehead now), this will be a great gift for the family. I send out a yearly name, address, phone number list most years anyway, so I can just add this to it.

There, my Christmas shopping is done, before it even started. I like that in a holiday!

Mom and I agreed to add all known physical and mental health issues for those who have died (not in the mood for a tactful euphemism). For living relatives, we will leave the mental health issues for individuals to fill out on their own and share with whom they chose.

I decided not to change my phone number, at least until next time.

*please note, motherly quotes directly from daughter’s faulty memory.

How Do I Do This?

Below are some questions to start with, from this site: http://nihseniorhealth.gov/creatingafamilyhealthhistory/howtocreateafamilyhealthhistory/01.html   They have an online form you can fill out and have saved for your private use, or you can print their form and fill it out. (There are other resources available from any search engine; copy & paste or type: family health history form.)

“To start, make a list of relatives to contact. See if there are any existing family trees, charts, or baby books. Important questions to ask your blood relatives include the following.

  • What is your age or date of birth?
  • Do you have any chronic conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma, or high blood pressure?
  • Have you had any other serious illnesses, such as cancer or stroke? (If you know of a specific disease or illnesses in your family, ask about them, too.)
  • How old were you when you developed these illnesses?
  • Have you or your partner had any problems with pregnancies or childbirth?

Other questions to ask are:

  • What countries did our family come from? (Knowing this can help because some genetic diseases occur more often in certain population groups. Also, different diets and living environments can influence the risks of developing certain diseases.)
  • Has anyone in the family had birth defects, learning problems, or developmental disabilities, such as Down’s syndrome?
  • What illnesses did our late parents or grandparents have? How old were they when they died? What caused their deaths?”

Do you think you will work on this? How important do you think it is, that we share this information with our family members?

I just think, if I have to do it, you should too:>) I’ll tell mom!

Patti

Every Damn Day? Who’s idea was this anyway?

From writing challenge Every Damn Day December at http://treatmentofvisions.com/2013/11/26/evdadadec/

 


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EDDD 13; Waking Up To 8 Strangers In Your Room

 

Notes from a memoir in making…

Crap, the alarm didn’t go off. Okay, maybe it did, but I just set it two hours ago, so maybe we both slept through it. So, here I am on this cot next to Paul’s hospital bed, hair going every direction, eyes still stuck together and my brain on sludge mode. Without the elixir of life (coffee), and with a full bladder, I have to wake myself up enough to answer specific questions and protect Paul from cruel and unusual poking and prodding.

In a teaching hospital, this happens 5 days a week. Waking up to strangers in your room, and not screaming, “Get out!,” is an acquired skill. You can tell who the doctor is, because he or she is usually a snappy dresser, and freshly showered. The students either look intimidated by the doc and exhausted, or they look attentively up into the doc’s face, have brown noses and try for the matching snappy look, with a semi-pressed lab coat.

Either way, it is game on. Once in awhile I can get them to check back later, but usually they are in a hurry and won’t can’t change their routine. It is amazing how different their behavior is when I’m just waking, and still in bed, compared to when I’m dressed and alert when they arrive. I know they are not the enemy (at least I do on my good days), but I still have to make sure the facts they are using to decide Paul’s meds and treatment, are based on what he and I know to be the reality.

Paul is groggy, but always humble and accommodating. He knows I’m listening, making notes and generally on top of it. This is the best gift I can give Paul, who is on his 6th or 7th plan B treatment to try and stop the aggressive attack of Graft vs Host disease. The gift is allowing him to not have to remember medications, side affects and his vital statistics. If there is an issue to be discussed, he can lay and listen, while I rattle the cages to correct or get more information about his treatment.

I grab a hair clip, my notebook and pen and another day begins.

~~~~~~~~

Frosty garden colors and the end of the primrose. PHALL PHOTO 2013

Frosty garden colors and the end of the primrose.
PHALL PHOTO 2013

It’s almost midnight and I’m happy to report that I made it through another dreaded Friday the 13th. Personally, I think it is a lucky day. Turns out, I had neither dread nor luck today…but isn’t that lucky?

Thanks for hanging out,

Patti

Every Damn Day? Who’s idea was this anyway?

From writing challenge Every Damn Day December at http://treatmentofvisions.com/2013/11/26/evdadadec/