Friday, October 19, 2018

Feeling Waspish


/ˈwäspiSH/
adjective
  1. readily expressing anger or irritation.

    "he had a waspish tongue"


    synonyms:irritabletouchytestycrosssnappishcantankerousspleneticshort-temperedbad-temperedmoodyornerycrotchetycrabby;
    informalgrouchy
    "he's a waspish old geezer"


That's the Google definition. I love the sample sentences with male examples because that's the only time I know of that the adjective hasn't been applied to a woman.

I've  been grouchier than my usual self all year. My biologic may be slowly failing, or it may just be the stress of uselessness and Husband's job hunt.



I could also be described as a WASP--Almost. I'm a white, Anglo Saxon, member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. So I'm not in the club.

 I'd also be excluded money-wise. Apparently the real WASPS come from old money. I haven't even managed new money. More than 7/8 of my ancestry is definitely peasant. I'm good with that.

But there is that one line, on my mother's side, that goes back to both Jamestown and the Massachusetts Bay Colony. There are even barons on that line. We don't know why Benjamin Hume Sparks, genuine old-money WASP, took a train to wild-west era Utah, but I bet it would make a good novel.



During our first summer in this house, paper wasps built a nest outside our bedroom window. I was really anxious about my husband discovering it. Sensible people would call an exterminator or attack it with bug spray. My stomach tied in knots when my husband called, "Come look at this." from our bedroom. He pointed to the wasp nest and said, "Isn't that cool?" I fell in love all over again.


We also had mud wasp nests inside our front porch because the screen door was broken.  When we got the door replaced, the installation guy proudly told me he had cleaned out the wasp nests. I thanked him because I didn't know what else to say.


I was stung by a wasp on Thursday. My only previous stings came while working in the garden--insect territory, but this happened as I opened the door to a therapist's office. She got me just below the elbow, just below my rolled-up sleeves. (All hornets that sting, virtually all hornets you see flying around, are female.)

 I was actually indoors when I brushed her off my arm. So my first concern was not to have an angry hornet loose in the office. I got a paper cup from the water cooler and an old shopping list from my purse. I trapped her against the glass door, then turned her loose outside.

The bite burned for the first few hours and that was almost a good thing. I felt better--much the way breaking a toe can ease a headache. My general misery had a focus.

Unfortunately, by bedtime it turned into an itch, which inspires sympathetic itching everywhere. Also, I couldn't leave it alone and did some scratching, so the swelling is now huge.


Wasps are fascinating creatures. You can find a lot of basic facts about them online, though sadly, most of the sites are sponsored by exterminators. Most of my pictures come from a good National Geographic article. 

There are more than 3,000 kinds of wasp. They come from the same biological order as ants and bees. Many live like bees in colonies. Most hornets who sting do so to defend a colony. The majority live alone and don't sting. Almost all hornets eat other insects. Many also help with pollination.

I hold no grudge against the little wasp that stung me.


THE PODCAST is about the nature of the human soul. It's pretty intense. Emily Dickinson uses a blacksmith metaphor and asks, "Dare you see a Soul at the White Heat?" I think if she asked me that in person, I would say, "No, thank you." and slowly back out of the room. 


THE KNITTING consists of two earth-toned projects, both out of yarn from Mountain Meadow Wool.  If you want to see some of my more colorful work and start your Christmas shopping, visit my shop.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Points of light


We're moving into the second week of colder, wetter weather. Each valley rain storm brings snow further down the mountains.

Because our ever-expanding suburbs are located in a desert and we essentially skipped winter last year, this is exactly the kind of weather good Utah members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints* pray for.
Peculiarly, since we don't care whether it comes as rain or snow, we pray for "moisture."

Selfishly, I don't.

Dark weather and heavy clouds depress me almost instantly. Add to that the extra ache that comes from cold and changing barometric pressure and I become slow, sad, and mostly housebound. That's a hard place to be optimistic from. As Husband is frantically job hunting and we're awaiting my disability ruling, it would be better if I could be a ray of sunshine instead of a miserable lump.

It is during these gloomy times that Daddy Bush's fairly dark vision of "a thousand points of light" actually appeals to me. There are always points of light available to help..

Monday night was filled with actual points of light.

 The first was my dad's bonfire. When tree trimmings build up and it's windy enough that burning is permitted, Dad will start a fire in the fire pit. He tends to sit there alone for a couple hours just watching. As my dark weather blues were inherited from Dad's side of the family, I don't know if that is a healthy habit or not.

Anyway, Husband and I didn't get out to walk until late. Drawn by the fire, we walked over to visit. But Dad's yard is a mix of orchard and forest that is challenging to navigate in daylight. In the dark, focused on the firelight,  I struggled to find my way. Just recovering from being stabbed in the ear by a branch, I caught my foot on a rope anchoring one of the fruit trees and landed on my face.

My face is fine. The lawn is soft. I do have a nice souvenir on my leg to remind me that my iPhone doesn't only have a step-counter, but also a flashlight.

After the fire died down and Dad went indoors, we crossed the street for three laps in the park. The clouds had temporarily rained themselves out, so the stars and planets were visible. Mars and Saturn look lonely now that Venus and Jupiter have moved out of view.

But there were shooting stars everywhere. We saw more than a dozen during our 45 minute walk. It was the peak of the Draconid Meteor shower. We had no idea beforehand--an unexpected gift of much needed light.
Sadly, not my picture, or my view. Must get to saguaro country sometime soon.
Another gift in the form of enlightenment came in my email. 7 Things to Do When You're Mostly Housebound Due to Illness by Toni BernhardI find her writing very helpful when my illness insists on being paid attention to. I will try to apply some of her wisdom to pull myself into a better spirit. 

Already she has me appreciating my large office window. I've rebooted the bird feeders for the season, and I'm considering some downstairs house plants. The geraniums on the front porch are now vulnerable to freezing, so Youngest may be doing some heavy lifting to bring them into my lair.

* This weekend, our prophet asked us to stop calling ourselves Mormons or LDS. He gave the very good reason that we are supposed to be focused on Jesus Christ. I am trying to cooperate, but it sure gets wordy.


THE PODCAST is a funeral poem for summer, so it didn't really help with my mood, other than it did get written this week, which helps. Writing and publishing still gives me a greater sense of accomplishment than dishes and laundry,

The first image in this week's poem is a gentian, which I've only seen once as a wildflower. For Emily it's clearly a sign of fall, but it's not very common around here. I'm not sure if Dickinson is referencing a wild or garden flower, so I've found pictures of both.

Look at the last stanza of the poem. I don't know what to think about it. Clearly cheeky, likely sacrilegious. Emily had the advantage as a writer of never planning to publish, so she didn't have to worry about offending anyone.


Here is the poem:

The Gentian weaves her fringes—
The Maple’s loom is red—
My departing blossoms
Obviate parade.

A brief, but patient illness—
An hour to prepare,
And one below this morning
Is where the angels are—
It was a short procession,
The Bobolink was there—
An aged Bee addressed us—
And then we knelt in prayer—
We trust that she was willing—
We ask that we may be.
Summer—Sister—Seraph!
Let us go with thee!

In the name of the Bee—
And of the Butterfly—
And of the Breeze—Amen!




THE KNITTING is a second baby set, this time in cheap fluorescent yarn I found in the bottom of my cupboard.

There's a blanket too, which is almost finished, but not quite because knitting blankets gets boring.
The whole set will soon be in my shop.

I also finished a hat out of a blend of leftover yarns that include silk, alpaca, Morino, and linen. I like it and it's in my color, so I'm keeping it. Too bad there aren't enough leftovers in this color for matching mittens. Starlit walks are starting to get chilly.


Saturday, October 6, 2018

Judgement Day


Though you may be disappointed that this blog is not about The Terminator franchise, you should be relieved and thankful that it has nothing to do with the Supreme Court.

This week I finally had my Social Security disability hearing, so I'm going to tell you about it.

After two years of stress, it was quite anticlimactic. The hearing room wasn't very much like a courtroom. There were four rectangular tables facing each other. The judge sat at one that was slightly elevated. The clerk sat on one to the side. My lawyer and I sat at the table facing the judge, and the fourth table was for the work specialist, who actually attended by phone.

The judge already had all my work and medical records, so it was mostly a chance for me to talk about life with RA and fibromyalgia.

Everything is based upon an official government catalog of jobs, hence the work specialist. As I described my symptoms and limitations, the judge or my lawyer would ask her if someone with my abilities could do particular jobs.

Everyone agreed I couldn't teach any more, but the Social Security department initially ruled that I should be able to be an office assistant or an addresser. As my limited energy and fine motor skills were added, my lawyer may have proved that I am absolutely good for nothing. I'll find out if the judge agrees in about a month.

That is what we are trying to prove, but it still isn't great for my self esteem. I keep having optimistic thoughts about things I could do, then I try to do something, anything, more complex and tiring than emptying the dryer and I can't.
A Saturday afternoon mountain stroll--first snow

The hearing, the rainy weather, the reminder of my uselessness, took me down this week. I've done a lot of sleeping, too much eating, and everything is running at least a day late.

Those of you who were disappointed that there weren't more "Terminator" references in a blog titled "Judgement Day" may be interested in a strange book I just read, A Truly Remarkable Thing  by Hank Green. It is about the appearance of large machines or sculptures of unknown origin and how our society reacts.  I'm still deciding what to think about it, which is a good sign because it made me think.

Because I really like what Hank and John Green do on-line and in charitable projects, I bought four copies, which will go to my siblings and parents. So after Christmas I will have people I can discuss it with.

THE PODCAST is written, but not recorded. Maybe skipping this week and recording two next week will give me one extra for a while until my next down week

This picture shows the colors most accurately.

THE KNITTING

I finished the baby blanket and had enough yarn left over to make a matching hat and socks. I'm very happy with them and would like to give it to my grandchild, but as I don't have one yet, the whole set will soon be available for $80 in my shop. I know that sounds very expensive, but it barely pays for the gorgeous, hand dyed, American raised merino wool. Mountain Meadow Wool

My next project is a similar set out of cheap, but still soft, and nicely machine-washable synthetic. I can probably charge half as much while still giving myself a little for labor.

The colors are a little wilder. I would happily wrap a child of either gender in either set.




Friday, September 28, 2018

Rocky Mountain High?


No, I’m not writing from marijuana-friendly Colorado, but from Utah, its neighbor to the west.

This November medical marijuana is on the ballot, but it won’t pass. My church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, has put out a statement against it. The statement expresses concern about increased youth drug use. 

Having taught middle school, I know that young people who want drugs are already getting them. I’m voting in favor, a lot of us are, because we need a better alternative for pain control.

But if it passed and medical marijuana became legal, would I use it? I’m not sure. 

I am the perfect candidate. I have long joked, somewhat bitterly, that I have the only two doctors in America who do not over-prescribe opiates. I have nothing stronger than Tramadol. I can’t help but wonder if I could have worked longer if I was more heavily medicated. And I want to get back into the workplace.

But,

Could I ask my rheumatologist, a neighbor, and former bishop in my church ward for a prescription for medical marijuana? Not likely. He’s a good doctor and I appreciate how he’s always believed me, but he is very religious and I don’t want to strain that relationship. 

  Since I don’t know my family doctor outside of his practice, I would be more comfortable asking him. 

However,

I believe in the FDA, testing, regulation, controlled dosage. I wan’t to buy medicalized marijuana, in pill form, with a prescription from my doctor from my grocery store pharmacy. I know part of the appeal of marijuana is that it isn’t owned, or priced, by Big Pharma, but I’d like the governmental protections that are supposed to come with research and regulation. 

I understand the irony. Methotrexate and every biologic I’ve taken list sudden death among a list of horrible side effects. I’d just feel safer that way than asking the person behind the counter of a dispensary what is good. 

I might be able to grow my own, or like my fruits and vegetables, ask my dad to grow it for me, but that doesn’t make me feel safer. I don’t like the trial and error stage of taking my many prescription drugs, trial and error in the back yard makes me more nervous. Heat, moisture, and varying soil conditions effect the composition of all plants. A non-medical example is radishes, which are mild when grown in cool, moist climates, but strong when planted in our dry heat. 

 I grow a variety of herbs in my garden, some with reputed medical properties, but I’ve never tried to treat anything scarier than cold sores. (Lemon balm tea—I swear by it, but it will take over your yard.)


In the meantime, I can dream that medicalized marijuana, like universal health care and equal rights for all will come to pass in my lifetime. 

My mother’s mother is 98 and has been in chronic pain since her forties. (She has the good drugs.) So I may have plenty of time.

 In the meantime, I’ll vote accordingly and if I hurt enough to get brave, take vacations to the beautiful state to our east. (West works too, but who wants to visit Nevada?)

THE PODCAST this week is about death. Emily could really have used both medical and recreational marijuana. She was much too much of a lady to ever smoke, but was well known for her desserts, so she could have become financially independent baking edibles.

Actually, the poem is about the things we treasure because they once belonged to people who have died. I have knit and given so many things that it would be interesting to follow their fates through various owners and good will shops to see how long they outlive me.
Along those lines,

THE KNITTING has been almost exclusively done on the baby blanket, which is nearing completion, but also starting to look appealing as a shawl, maybe something one can wear until a baby looks cold? I don't know, but it will eventually go into my shop.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Out of Work/Out of Order


I love watching people work. If’s fascinating. 

When I go to pick up dinner, the choreography of the kitchen, stirs me and I envy the grace of servers hustling with trays of drinks or multiple plates on their arms.

I watch the receptionist at the therapist's office. She remembers names so well and manages to make all those phone calls and insurance claims while ordering lunch for the counselors and chatting with me about our kids. Does she need any certifications for the job, or just good mom organizational skills?

There are some very impressive crossing guards in my town, doing mostly volunteer work for $11.00 an hour, but taking charge of four lanes of impatient traffic and getting even middle schoolers to hustle across.

The people at the grocery store move seamlessly between checking, bagging, and the service desk and seem to be able to find safe, neutral topics of conversation. They can be friendly without seeming nosy and are always standing without showing exhaustion.

People mock McDonald’s workers, but the people who work at our local store are fast, efficient, polite, and almost never make mistakes with the orders. I don’t understand how anyone can take orders and payments from two rows of cars and get everything to the right person.

I see the work of people I never see. The landscapers at the aquarium, Zoo, and aviary are brilliant. Something is always blooming. There are cool places to rest and habitats for native animals as well as the ones we pay to see.

I could go on because I’m always watching other people work. That’s because I can’t work any more, at least not right now. Pain is denying my right to be useful. 

Until two years ago, I worked more than full time at a demanding job that promised never to be boring. I both loved and hated teaching because it was so difficult. For years I blamed my aches and pains on work.

But work is gone and I’m still hurting. Next week I’ll have my disability hearing. After the ruling, I can work with Social Security to gently get into some part-time work. 

If the ruling comes against me, I may need to find some part-time work to help feed myself.

Unfortunately, my body disagrees. 

I can get in a few fun hours a week. If I rest first, take all the drugs, and rest afterwards, I can enjoy two hours or so out and about, but not everyday, and not predictably.  


So I keep watching other people work, hoping to spot something I can do, maybe after the perfect biologic comes along, maybe sooner, if I can find a way to be useful. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Preparing to Enjoy Holidays: Tips and Tricks


Don’t hate me. My Christmas presents are chosen and wrapped. 

Actually I've only wrapped the presents from my family to others, but I'll have the rest done before Thanksgiving. 

I'm not super-organized. I've just found a way to survive and enjoy my favorite holiday by preparing all year. 

The suggestions I share are things that work for me, some of which I definitely picked up from Lene Andersen and her excellent book, Chronic Christmas, which I recommend to everyone, not just those of us with chronic illnesses, as guidance toward a saner holiday season. I'm due for a reread myself this year.



Christmas is my choice, but it doesn't have to be yours.


1. Decide which, if any, holiday you want to make a big deal out of. 

If you are a grill-master, it might be Memorial Day, Labor Day, or the 4th of July. A chef would logically pick Thanksgiving. If creating a spook alley or a neighborhood egg hunt gives you joy, choose accordingly. Is there an ethnic holiday you want to share with your friends? That may be your best option.

2. Find low-key ways to celebrate the rest. 

Instead of decorating your living room for every holiday, just change the door wreath or yard flag. If you are crafty, there are plenty of ideas for teddy bears or rabbits you can dress for each holiday without stirring up the rest of the house. 

Or decorate only with your grandchildren's elementary school art, or not at all.

Marie Calendar will prepare your Thanksgiving, or you could make it a pot-luck and rotate who has to host. Village Inn makes great pies, but remember to reserve ahead of time. Most grocery stores have great catering options as will many local restaurants.

Unless you find true joy setting the table and washing dishes, use paper plates.

I enjoy the 4th of July each year very simply. My mom drives me up to the elementary school where we watch a neighborhood parade of bikes and old cars. We bring lawn chairs and sit in the shade talking to old neighbors for an hour or so.

In the evening, my aunt and uncle host a cookout. Sometimes they let me bring chips or soda.

At night, my son drives us to an empty parking lot where we watch distant fireworks with my sister and her kids.

In between, I usually insist on watching 1776 and listening to the NPR reading of the Declaration of Independence. That makes for a busy day. I will need to sleep most of the 5th because of all the socializing, but I'm not inviting a flare.

3. Decide what really matters. Eliminate the rest.

I collect nativities. I knit them too. There is enough Christmas stuff in my house to drape every room in tinsel. 

When I was well, I adorned each flat surface in the living room with a nativity and covered the dining room and kitchen in Santa stuff.

I also decorated two trees--one in snowflakes and mittens and the other with the religious ornaments I collect.

Now I put up one or two favorites nativities and decorate my "Jesus Tree." The rest of the house stays uncluttered. My husband appreciates the lack of mess.

I also have two special dishes that are traditional to my family. I make German Stollen for extended family during the week before Christmas and Yorkshire pudding with beef and gravy for Christmas Day. 

Those are my requirements for Christmas to be Christmas. Everything else can be simplified or skipped.

4. Prepare ahead.


I look for and make Christmas gifts all year. This spreads out the expense and labor and keeps me away from crowds and craziness. I buy clearance wrapping paper after Christmas and start wrapping a few things at a time. Because I put things I knit into an Etsy store, I have a photo record of gifts that are in my house and already paid for.

Everything can be purchased on line. If you don't enjoy the craziness of holiday shopping you don't have to do it.

Keep that in mind for grocery shopping for other holidays as well. The stores are crowded the evening before. Shop a few days in advance.

Lack of free time before the holidays while teaching got me in the habit, but it still works for me now that I have all free time, but no energy.

5. Pace yourself.

If you are cooking, make as much as possible in advance or stretch cooking throughout the day.

Always factor in the physical toll of socializing. If you will be putting forth the energy to be a gracious host, plan on that being your main holiday activity and try to have everything done ahead or by others.
I love decorating my Christmas tree. I live with my husband and two adult sons, so I'm the only one who cares that we have one. I have accepted that. It's fun me-time playing with sparkly things.

I've also accepted that with all the bending and reaching, it is an athletic endeavor that needs to be spread out. It usually takes three days. That could be a problem if I waited until mid December, but I start right after Thanksgiving and usually have the boxes back in storage by the end of November.

6. Accept and demand help.


Unless you are inviting friends over for chips and dip and an annual rewatch of Groundhog Day, any party is too much work for one person.

When someone asks what they can bring, assign something. Call close friends and family who don't ask how they can help and tell them how they can help.

My boys now knead and shape the double batch of stollen under my direction. When (if) they move out, I'll except my husband's offer for one of those big Kitchenaid mixers that take up so much counter space.

My menfolk haul boxes up and down stairs and takes care of Christmas lights outdoors and luminaras on Christmas Eve.

7. Accept reality.

No holiday lives up to movie magic. Focus on enjoying who and what you love. Let everything else go.


Sunday, September 23, 2018

My Blind Date with a Doctor

If I have to have a new doctor . . .

When I called to set an appointment for my annual physical, I was told my family doctor was "retiring from clinical practice. She's younger than I am, and I'm not fifty, so I was thrown a bit off balance.

It's the time of year for flu shots and drug renewals. The nice receptionist told me the last names and medical degrees for the two doctors taking new patients. I felt that asking about gender would be sexist, so I took the one with the soonest appointment.

I'd rather not have one quite this new.
Apparently my new doctor is so new that the web site hasn't caught up. No clues there. I had to wait until I arrived at the clinic and saw business cards with HIS name on them--Dustin.

My last two family doctors have been female and that's nice, but I can handle this, but Dustin sounded very young.

I've taught lots of Dustins. I did teach with one, but he was also very young.

I've gotten used to a young dentist who looks like she's still in high school, but I was still a bit apprehensive.

Fortunately, my new doctor looks at least thirty, therefore older than my children. I like to ease into the idea of all the authority figures in my life being younger than I am.

But he is definitely a millennial and has the obligatory neck beard, but no man bun. The clinic has become a very hip place. A beautiful young NA with a pierced nose took my blood pressure. The receptionist has a leaves tattooed on her arm and the phlebotomist has a safety pin through the top of his ear. My blue hair fits right in.

Looking less than conservative didn't make any of them less than professional. Everyone was knowledgable, considerate and friendly.

Dr. Dustin is kind and thorough. We went over all my meds and vaccinations. He praised my weight loss and was sympathetic to my struggle to exercise.

Do all TV doctors have crooked smirks?
Next year I will need tetanus and shingles shots in addition to the usual flu shot. I will have to schedule a colonoscopy and a mammogram. What I won't have to do is worry about meeting a strange new doctor.

My other doctor, a rheumatologist is about my age, and therefore will probably retire in the next ten to twenty years. I hope it's not too soon.

Blind dates, even when they turn out well, are pretty stressful.