The Spiritual Side of MS is a brief blog that I invite you to read before reading this entry; it caught my attention today on Facebook. In the opening paragraphs, the author refers to people who say that MS, or Parkinson’s, or other chronic debilitating disease has brought an appreciation of life to them, a better sense of compassion, and of love.
I appreciate the author sharing this personal perspective ; I cannot say that mine is in alignment with his. It is very difficult for me to separate out the diagnosis from the other events that took place during that time period in my life. It is challenging to look back through the lens of time and interpret those past perceptions from the different perspective of the present.
Just as our national expression of grief around the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001 coincided with the coma that foretold my father’s impending death and my own personal grief and distraction during those days, the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis followed years of elder care in my life … and the decade leading up to that diagnosis was one filled with not only physical mysteries and cognitive gaps, but also confused and conflicting responsibilities and loyalties.
To teach is to learn to partner and to parent, at many levels. To parent is to partner and to learn and teach as well. To partner is to learn to both lead and follow as circumstances warrant. Of this, I am certain. I became a partner when I was most alone in my life, in the middle of a large family without a clear purpose or an expected identity, and I love the man who taught me to be me. I became a parent twice in life, during different times of my life,with the same partner but with distinctly different children in distinctly different times, and I loved both of them equally and yet differently. I became a teacher the hard way, and I loved who I became; I could not be a teacher without first having been the partner and the parent that my life led me to be.
I would not call my thoughts here spiritual, but rather cognitive and reflective. Having spent years studying childhood development and assessing progression through milestones in such development, it was with recognition that I watched my parents experiencing neurological conditions of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s dementia, regressing back through those hard-won levels. And it was with realization that I would soon need to reconcile with my own beginning regression that seemed to begin as theirs came to an end.
MS has brought me physical changes: age might have brought some of them to me on its own, but in partnership with MS they seem to happen more swiftly. I have no memory for people’s names or faces, other than those I have known for years or more recently have had frequent personal contact. I have less sense of the passage of time now and little to no memory of recent events in a logical sequence. There are days when I awaken from a dream and wonder what season it is now, and what year it has become, and whether I am still a teacher and late for school.The changes in the structure of my brain include lesions, or scars left where myelin has been removed from my nerve axons, and ‘black holes’ have developed where lesions were once active. My sense of smell is near to nonexistent, and with it taste has diminished as well. I can rarely make a quick decision, even on the simplest level, such as what to eat, or whether I am hungry or not. I can feel very cold and shiver when my skin surface feels warm to others, and feel overheated when my skin surface is cold to the touch. I can spend an entire 12 hour day without needing to go to the rest room at all, and the next day need to eliminate water almost every hour on the hour. I can walk three miles or more when called to do so for a fundraising event, and the next day feel like the earth’s surface is embedded with magnets holding me in place and preventing almost any horizontal movement. I can receive a painful injection and not feel the pain until a moment or two later, because my nerves carry messages erratically due to the damage done by the lesions.
My formal diagnosis of MS did not come until after my parents had passed away. I am grateful that I never had to explain MS to them, though had they known, more of who I was might have been understood. I spent an unremarkable childhood and early adolescence in the city, and finished high school and began college in a small town setting. I did not fulfill my expected family role as a high school graduate who went to work full time and helped support younger sisters and brother, but rather was allowed to break the female mold in my family by attending a two year college before working and earning. My housekeeping skills were never to meet the expected standard as my energy was more often dedicated to athletics and academic study. and while this difference was tolerated, it was never respected by my mother or her friends. I was different, and did not know why I was different. My setting was radically different than what I had been raised to expect, and so those expectations were never realized … the differences between my career goals and my older sisters’ family-centered goals were never discussed. MS was developing as I struggled with unfamiliar expectations and unrealized recognition. But the label would not appear until much later.
Retired now, and having time to cognitively try to process and understand the results of those dramatic differences causes a great deal of reflection and realization. I did, as the blogger aforementioned, realize my own capacity for compassion for others, but it was during the years of eldercare, not during my own diagnostic period. With sixteen years between our two only children, it was during our second passage of parenting in a different set of decades than our first passage that I recognized my capacity for compassion in different circumstances … and different societal norms for both parents and their children. I have realized retroactively that the differences between me and the others brought up by the same parents are differences of age, of setting, and of societal change. I have accepted that, had I been born two months earlier I would be a child of the forties and not of the fifties and would have been accepted as part of the older rather than the younger half of the family. Had I remained in the city in my sister and brother-in-law’s care to finish the last two years of high school with the nuns I would never have met the public school guidance counselor who would advocate a different role than my two older sisters had fulfilled, and I might have experienced more acceptance than I did as the established mold-breaker in the family.
And I realize that, if those life changes had not occurred, I would have had a different future, and now present. I would not have found and married the love of my life; I would not have had the children and grandchildren that I have and love dearly; that I might not have lived locally to take on the responsibility for my parents daily needs, and my in-laws need for a family. I may never have taught, nor owned my own quilt shop in retirement. I would still have been diagnosed with MS, and perhaps, in the absence of all that had built a recognition of my capacity for compassion, MS would have brought me to that realization. Family relationships would have been so very different for me. I would not be who I am. I would not be the different one.
And I am happy with who I am. I am loved and love those who love me. And I realize, with compassion what I can no longer be – a teacher with a good memory and organizational skills and students who benefit from my work. I realize with compassion what I will one day be, the lady in the chair with no memory, no talent and no skills to share, but a sense of having been loved, and loving. I know that I will still feel happiness as my parents felt happiness in the absence of the difficult memories and challenges. The black holes of MS will see to that, if age does not first.
I did have an appointment with my dermatologist last month – and again this past week … At my September three month checkup/skin scan, he decided to re-biopsy my left forearm melanoma scar, which has been producing new brown spots very similar to the original innocent-looking tea-stains that turned out to be malignant melanoma. This is the third time the site has been biopsied … twice since the surgery and many sutures two years ago. And again, pre-cancer a-typical cells were found, and removed by biopsy. He scraped deeper this time, because the last biopsy suggested some recurrence. He succeeded in reach clear borders on this visit, which is good.
But the deeper scraping resulted in continual bleeding. At the end of the second week after biopsy, I called his office to tell them that it was still bleeding each time I changed the dressing. He was on vacation, but his partner reasssured me that it might take a bit longer than usual for a deeper biopsy to heal, and to continue changing it daily for another week and then call or come in.
I went in this past week, as it was still bleeding and approaching four weeks. My doctor was back, and treated it with a brown liquid that I assume was iodine as he warned me that it might sting … it didn’t while he was dabbing it on, but after he covered it with a tefla pad WOW did it sting — but just for a moment. He said I have the strangest delayed reaction to things, and we laughed.
He also prescribed a compounded medication. I had been using Aquaphor as usual, but this, he said, would be more the consistency of a toothpaste, and would contain the same medication that the treatment for stomach ulcers contains. It, like the aquaphor, is applied at night and covered with a dressing.
He did tell me that some insurance policies balk at using a compounding pharmacy; I told him that CVS was the pharmacy recommended by our insurance (formerly GIC but now again BC/BS.) We went to the pharmacy he suggested in Newton, and paid a $50 copay for the ointment. They said it would come in the mail to our home.
The medication arrived via the mail two days later, and I’ve been using it now for three nights, and it has dramatically SLOWED the bleeding, and the skin around the wound looks much better, but the site is not yet what I’d called fully healed … the dressing continues to have fresh blood stains on it each night when I change it. However, the open area has narrowed to about 1/4″ in width, where last week it was the size of a nickel.
And so the beat goes on. The cooler weather is much better for the MS symptoms … summer was humid and hot and I was not at my best on many days because of it. But my thinking is again clear and I am getting things done for the quilt shop.
Wishing all of you a happy, healthy autumn. Be well.
Maybe it was too long, too wordy. Maybe it was too iffy.
I’ll recap here, in short version. (I ought to have heeded my son’s advice: always type in word first, in case it disappears.)
I’ll be right back … going to word now.
So, I thought I found a new melanoma mole.
It was, though, a tick, firmly attached to my leg. It was a Friday night, of course.
I thought I was going to have to call the dermatologist, though I had an appointment coming up with him.
But as it was a tick, and easily removed by my son, I didn’t call him.
However, two weeks later, I felt lousy. Tired, sick, general malaise, and two pains: one in my lower right rib, which is a recurring pain, one that I treat with rest in a recliner. The other pain was a new one: in my left armpit. That was scary. It was, again, a Friday night.
I saw my primary doctor Monday afternoon, gave blood Tuesday morning, and waited to hear the results. He had checked the pain in my armpit but said he didn’t feel anything. He tested for Lyme disease. Those results would take another week to come back.
In the meantime, I did get the results back on some of the blood work. My liver enzymes were unexpectedly high (not dramatically high – not in the thousands, like liver disease, but in the hundred range. Unusual for me … they are usually about 22, where they ought to be.
The doctor asked me to discontinue the statin I had been taking for seven years without incident, and he would check the liver enzymes again in a month. He couldn’t prescribe an antibiotic for Lyme until he knew for sure it was Lyme.
This morning, I went for my dermatology appointment. I had a spot on my face which the doctor treated with cryosurgery (ouch!) and a spot on my leg from which he took a punch biopsy (little ouch.) He told me to put some ice on my face to lessen the swelling.
When we got home from his office, we found a message from my primary doctor, saying that the Lyme test had come back negative – which, of course, means good … wish they could straighten those terms out.
The dermatologist will call me if the biopsy turns out to be positive – which, of course, means not good. No message from him will be a good message.
Meanwhile, I did see the ophthalmologist this past week, too, and all is well there. No change in my visual acuity, though he did say the optic nerve in my right eye looks like it has taken a beating. That would be the optic neuritis, which was my early MS warning diagnosis.
In a few weeks, I’ll see the internist who monitors my thyroid (which my primary doctor says is a bit swollen.) He’ll ask for his own round of blood tests, and a new bone density scan to evaluate the Reclast infusions I’ve had for the past few years – to see if it is working to slow the osteoporosis.
Never a dull moment, season to season.
Be well, all.
The vernal equinox will happen in three days. The sun will again be due north of the equator in its annual journey across our sky ~ well, that’s not the way it happens. The science-teacher within my varied teaching repertoire would explain to students that it is Earth that journeys around the sun changing its axis-shift, resulting in an ever-changing angle of sunlight. What I ought to have tagged on to that simplified explanation was that, in time, the students will themselves reach such an age that they will return to their childhood observations and perhaps choose to believe again in the geocentric perspective, where the universe as seen in the night sky seems to revolve around the earth. That is the egocentric stage that I’ve rejoined.
Why do we revert to childhood beliefs in our December years? We spend much of our adult life gaining knowledge and more sophisticated understandings of our environment, and acquiring the specific vocabulary necessary to explain away what it is we see around us. But in the quiet moments of watching the night sky, whether “en plein air” (a French expression my artist-friend Lynne Schulte taught me, describing paintings that are done “in the open air”) or as seen beyond old windows. In my case, that includes the rising moon and constellations seen through the east-facing green house windows that shelter my friend Mary’s herbs and flowers through the cold winter months, adding color to my days and oxygen to our indoor air. It is so easy to understand that the moon is rotating around us, as in fact it is; but to assume that the sun also rotates around us is against scientific comprehension. Still, it is what we do visibly observe, from our static position on our Earth.
I revert to my teacher self when I need to reassure myself that I do understand the revolution and rotation of our planet. I do know that our solar system is heliocentric, revolving around our sun, which is one of billions of stars in the infinite universe. I learned that as a child, and so the memory is clear and comprehensive. But I also learned of those before Galileo and Copernicus, the geocentrics led by Ptolemy of ancient Greece believed that the earth is the center of the universe. Then I learned later, as an adult, that Einstein’s theory of relativity cast doubt on both the heliocentric and geocentric theories. And so I wonder, as an older adult: is there a geographic center of an allegedly-infinite universe? Does infinity have a center? Theories are just that – theories, left unproven for millennia and eons.
I can remember the sequence of my beliefs … that as a child I could observe only that the sun and moon both moved across our sky. Next came schooling, and an abstract understanding of semi-abstract drawings of concrete models of our solar system. As an adult, I was able to view an actual scale model at the Boston Museum of Science, and the described distances and sizes clarified some of that understanding. And then I read Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time and realized that Einstein is the current author of our present comprehension of the universe, but that he, too, may one day be surpassed with the next genius’s theory.
I have read that the short term memory loss is not a loss of intellect, but a loss of access. In practice though, that is of little comfort. I’m writing about this because I can. Is it hubris to take comfort in being able to channel my former self and remember things that I once believed and then grew beyond? Or is it a defense mechanism … something that can protect me from the realization that I have, finally, forgotten more than many people have learned, as a wise man once said of me in my last decade of teaching. He meant that observation as praise, not ridicule. I understand the truth of that now.
As I wrote in response to a Facebook Post about the public’s insensitivity to people with invisible illnesses (like depression, disorientation, confusion and memory lapses): “I now have no sense of direction, no sense of time, no short term memory and sometimes no sense of past vs. present or future. Calendars and notes are essentials. But most essential is Rick.”
I have not encountered insensitivity … people are patient with me. Rick models patience for them, and they generally follow his model. He reminds me of appointments; he guides me as one would guide a blind person through corridors and hallways of large buildings, hospitals and the like … for though I have not lost my sight, I have lost my sense of place … there are many places where I would stand still and wait to be found, having no idea of my own as to which direction would be the right direction. “Turn left,” he will quietly say. “Step down at the curb.” I am not annoyed; rather, I am grateful that he sees my invisible need for directions.
He reminds me of things that I need to do, like taking medications or eating lunch. He helps me remember people’s names when I’ve met them recently and can’t remember. He is aware of when I need to sleep in and when I need to be up and moving, and gently keeps me on track. He is such a blessing in my life.
That I can continue to write books, make quilts, buy fabric and notions for my new quilt shop and keep track of inventory and yet can’t remember someone’s name that I just learned a moment ago … that I can balance the checkbook and help write out the checks for paying the bills and respond to people’s questions while I can’t make a decision or offer a suggestion … that I can understand why these lapses are happening but I cannot accept the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. The Facebook post of a friend that termed it invisible illness is what helps me to understand the incongruity of my skills and my inabilities … at least as well as anyone can understand the structure of an infinite universe … in the present … for now. Until the next genius theorizes it differently. For until someone can shift the mindset of the medical world, and let them see the anomalies among patients with multiple sclerosis and treat each one differently, the treatments will remain as shots in the dark, unfocused and ineffective. And the disparity between what I can do and cannot, and what I have (Rick) and have not (memory) will remain unsolved.
This morning, as we left for a doctor’s appointment, I found the tail feathers of a cedar waxwing … the beautiful bright yellow along the back edge of the tail reminded me … angels are around … when feathers are found. There are no fermented crab-apples in the tree out front this spring, for the weather has been bitter and the air too dry; all have fallen off of their branches. In some years the Cedar Waxwings come in February and they feast for a day before moving on. The bird who lost his tail-feathers may find our feeders. Rick keeps them filled. The sparrows will share, as they do with the cardinals and chickadees.
I am blessed with Rick’s strength and love. It is and will always be enough. I am grateful and most often have prayers of thanks.
Well, I’ve been pretty pleased with myself recently – no surgeries for a while now on the melanoma sites. No falls on the ice this winter, either, though there has been plenty of ice to fall on. The pain in my side continues but hasn’t been any worse than a typical pain in my side would be. The new “Quilters’ Quarters” shop is beginning to attract visitors and I’ve had some customers as well.
But … and there seems always to be a “but” when I begin with a positive statement. As a teacher, I was careful to begin every conference with a positive, then mention any concerns, and then close with a positive. It was called a sensitive sandwich. I promise to do that here as well.
The but in this instance is my short term memory recall. I do know how important it is to write things down. I write everything down. I have sticky notes all over my computer desktop – some are color coded and some are not – and some take a long time to find. But I know they are there and I don’t worry about my memory having to contain and release them on demand.
I have a calendar on my computer as well, and Rick keeps all of my medical appointments, business appointments, and special dates on his calendar as well. I bought a new calendar notebook to keep in my bag in addition to my faithful Harvard/MIT/Coop calendar book. (I love that book, because it is so small and can only hold so many obligations … so different than my daily schedule book for my school years!)
What happens, though, is that I need to record all of those dates and appointments in three places now. And then, I have to REMEMBER to read them! And therein lies the but of this post.
I missed my counseling appointment today. I knew when I woke this morning that I had an appointment this afternoon. Rick knew it, and had reminded me of it last night. I remembered to take my pills this morning. I remembered to send an email out to my niece today to check the wedding colors for her daughter’s bridal shower gift. I had a customer in the shop and cut her fabric, tallied her price, gave her the receipt … I was functioning well. BUT lunchtime came, I ate, answered some more emails, and at ten past the hour of my appointment, answered the phone to hear my doctor’s voice. My heart sank. I had forgotten the appointment.
She graciously rescheduled it for next week, same time, same day I will do my very best to record it in three places, and I know Rick will enter it into his calendar as well, And maybe I’ll learn how to set an alarm to go off on my computer or cell phone an hour before the appointment: something to catch my attention and make me look at my calendar(s) reminders.
The good news that I promised to share in closing this post is that I can still type fairly quickly and accurately (for the most part.) And I can qualify this lapse in memory by admitting to having scheduled too busy a week. The first week of every month includes a general meeting of the fire company, a general meeting of the Friends of the Library, a morning meeting of the needlework guild, and I made it to all three of those. We also had to attend (well, chose to attend) a public hearing on our health insurance coverage through the state’s retired teachers policy: GIC or the Town of Andover’s employee coverage. Rick and I and those we talked with on the way out all had voted to stay with the state, as if something isn’t broken why fix it … yet, the overall assumption is that it seems the town might intend to go forward with withdrawing their acceptance of the state’s group in the interest of saving money on their part.
And so the good news is that I don’t think my recall of details is getting any worse … I think I simply misjudged my ability to get to everything in this busy first week of the month. So we’ve chosen to skip the public hearing tonight here in town … one that will discuss environmental concerns for abuttors to the high school academic field’s proposed artificial turf (which is within a protect wetlands area.) There are stronger, more vocal advocates for the environment that will be present to watch out for the spotted salamanders that live in our back yard alongside the brook that borders our land, and the school’s. Pray God that they have not had the busy week that we have, and that they will be there to represent the little critters.
I learned today on Facebook that a woman I’d never met face to face died of a massive heart attack. Her name was Faye, and I came to know her long after she had come to know me. Four years ago, I opened my first website, Beyond Old Windows. It is a place where I began posting some of my accumulating writings … a way to find an audience for them. Faye found them, and was an appreciative audience.
A year or so later, after beginning to self-publish my books, I opened a Facebook account. Facebook, I’d been told, would be a place to make my books available to more readers. I wrote about Multiple Sclerosis, and I found a connection with a group of people with MS. Faye was again there, and when the group invited me to do a telephone interview about the book, she was among the callers. She told me of having read my website for the past year or so; I knew then that we were friends, even at a distance.
Faye shared photographs of herself and of her beautiful adult daughter. Her participation in conversations at the MS pages of Facebook tapered off in the past year, and then recently she returned. She was open, and wrote of losses … the loss of her husband, and then of his family – family that she felt had become her family. The feeling was not mutual, and she mourned that loss as well. But she felt that we, the Facebook members of the pages of MS, were also her family. She treasured that connection, as did the rest of us.
Her death was unexpected, and yet inevitable, given the disabilities she had experienced due to MS’s effects on her body. Her warm messages, her ever-present ” closings to her messages, SMOOCHES!” will be missed, and remembered with fondness. I will miss her steady confidence and can-do attitude, her faith and sentimentality in her posts, and the beautiful photographs of her surroundings that she shared with all of us. Perhaps we didn’t need to meet face to face, as we shared so much word to word.
There is another woman with MS whom I’ve never met; one with whom I had not been able to share words to words. I came to know her only through media … not social media, but news media. She was a woman of academia. She had dedicated her life to being a strong educator, and had found success within her field. But MS had found her, too. She eventually had to resign from her position as MS took from her the independence, spontaneity and strength needed in her profession. She went through the stages of grief one experiences with a loss. But rather than reaching passive acceptance, she remained in anger and defiance. She has preserved her thoughts and words relevant to the national health service of the UK in her farewell video. She made the video to be played at her funeral. And true to what she calls her independent self, she chose the time and place and manner of her death, rather than continuing the decline afforded by MS.
When I heard her story, I was troubled by the similarity of her career’s end and my own. I understood her reluctance to accept MS. I have chosen to stay in Denial. And I wondered how she came to her decision. I knew that her symptoms, like Faye’s, were more debilitating that mine presently are. And I chided myself for so publicly, so often, saying that I am “blessed” with a less-aggressive form of multiple sclerosis. I am humbled to think I would so confidently assume that it’s a matter of blessings … surely Faye deserved as many blessings or more than I. Surely everyone with a chronic condition like multiple sclerosis deserves blessings, as do their loved ones. What path my own MS may take is unknown to me, and while I plan to do my level best to hold it at bay, I can’t assume that it won’t have its own course to follow. I am sure this woman struggled with her decision. I am sure her sons, her family and friends still struggle with it. But I will let her tell her story here, and leave her in peace for having made her choice. I have no idea for how many years she persevered and moved forward before deciding to step out.
The most poignant statement she made, in reference to her view of MS and its incurable status and ineffective treatments that frustrate patients, families and the medical community alike, is the one in which she says “Compassion has no cost, and yet lack of compassion has an immeasurable cost.” She felt that some in the medical community involved in her care and treatment were without compassion; no doubt she believed that her decision was the most compassionate thing she could do, both for herself and for those who loved and cared for her.
Here is the link to Frances Medley’s “Explanatory Statement.” http://vimeo.com/84508563 I will always keep in mind her honest estimate of the value of compassion,and plan that in my life, compassion will always be freely given, and freely accepted.
Happy to say that the dermatologist’s assistant called me Monday to say that the biopsy on my “Mark of Zorro” emerging mole is just that, a mole, and benign. Happy to have good news to share, she was. And happy to receive it, I was. Now I get to have FOUR months free of dermatology visits! If I’m still clear, maybe we’ll get to six months, and then maybe a year!
Twenty-fourteen is off to a good, positive start! And positivity is the name of the game with melanoma, multiple sclerosis and anxiety!
Speaking of positivity, we’re making good progress on our Quilt of Valor. Check out our progress at the new blog for our quilt shop: you’ll find a table of pages in the top right corner of each page. Having fun, both with the shop and its blog. At Quilters’ Quarters holds the story of our new venture. Visit us and sign up to follow by email if you haven’t already, so you won’t miss any posts.
And thanks, always, for reading here and keeping tabs on me.
This week was another three month skin check with the dermatologist. And as much as I’d like to say all was well, I can’t, yet.
When I was in Bethesda in November, the doctor there (a neurologist who is running the Parkinson’s Disease study group looking for early biomarkers) did a quick physical, and commented on my ‘Mark of Zorro’ scar at the melanoma site on my back. It’s the first time I’d been back to Bethesda, and he hadn’t seen the scars before. It was the nurse practitioner in Bethesda who first suspected skin cancer of some sort, and that was eighteen months before this past visit (which is, as it turns out, my last visit to their site.)
He noted that there was an emerging new spot on the Z-shaped melanoma scar that looked suspicious, and asked me to have the dermatologist take a look at it. And so when we went into Brighton this week, the dermatologist agreed that it warranted another biopsy.
The same thing had happened three months ago with the melanoma site on my forearm. He did a biopsy there, and it came back showing melanocytic nevi, which he explained were cells about to become melanoma. He did a second biopsy right away on the site (actually, a double biopsy each time, as there were two emerging spots on my forearm’s scar) and the second repeat biopsy showed that he had reached the outer edges of the nevi and reached clear tissue.
Optimistically, he’ll do the same with this site. As he hasn’t called in four days, it’s possible that with this biopsy he’s already reached clear tissue and there is no need to go further for now. That would be the good news. The down side is that we continue to find sites to be concerned with, including the sites we’d already surgically dealt with. He said with these repetitions he’s unwilling to move me to a six month schedule of skin checks; we agreed to four months for the next visit instead of three, with the understanding that if I or another doctor spot anything, I’m to schedule earlier.
And so I will. If I hear anything from the dermatologist when I call in on Monday, I’ll update here again. But for now, the biopsy site is beginning to heal; Rick is doing his fine work with the wound care, and the discomfort is minimal. Bless him. And the antidepressants are doing their thing, for this round of suspicion has not provoked any anxiety in me. I guess I have normalized the routine. Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis has definitely taken a back seat to Recurrent Malignant Melanoma.
Today I will be an elf. I’ll call myself “Nana Elf.” Santa will be riding the fire truck to visit homes where parents have asked the fire department’s help in bringing Santa to visit their children and hear their wishes. As Santa’s own elves are very busy this month at the North Pole, I’ll be joining him as a ‘helper elf’ and visiting the children with him on the truck, going house to house, following a carefully planned schedule. From 3:30 to 7:30, when all the streets begin to light their Christmas lights, we’ll be driving through the neighborhoods bringing smiles, candy canes and presents to the lucky boys and girls whose parents’ wishes for a visit from Santa will come true. This will be my first time as a ‘helper elf,’ and I am so looking forward to it. Rick is concerned that all that hopping up and down in and out of the fire truck will tire me out or prove to be harder than I can do, but I’ve assured him that my joy in seeing all of the children and their smiles and delight with Santa’s visits will energize me to complete the evening’s tour in true elf style.
Monday the doctor visits will begin again, with a trip into the city in a promised blustery storm. I know that Rick will get us there safely, and our Abby will carry us well. The following Monday we’ll return to see another doctor in the city. And then we’ll travel to Maine to see our grandchildren and daughter to bring presents to them later in the week.
We are so fortunate to have Abby, a vehicle we can depend on to take us to these visits. She is the one luxury in our lives … safe, dependable travel. Though I’d planned to work through her final payment date, and though the early ‘Medically-required” retirement interrupted that plan, we’ve carefully budgeted our lowered income and prioritized keeping her in the family. Chevy has never let us down. Of course, we could get a bumper sticker that we’ve often seen on smaller cars – one that says “My other vehicle is a fire engine” – but that would seem to undeservedly belittle our Abby. So we ride instead with a proud “State of Massachusetts Retiree” sticker, and a “Phi Kappa Phi” sticker, and a Firefighter’s horizontal red line on black sticker, which would alert other firefighters that we’re family in case we’re ever lost or stuck somewhere. And we also ride with our magnets on the back that say “Wooden Toy and Gift – Buy them all; we can make more,” and our new one, reading “Quilters’ Quarters – Fabrics, Notions and Lessons.” Each of these gives a glimpse into our lives in our happily ever retirement. And each invite conversations along our way.
Wishing all of you happy Christmas memories-in-the-making! And please remember to Shop Local!
The clocks all went back an hour this morning. I’m very happy that they don’t do that before Halloween, although our town delayed Trick or Treating for thirty minutes to accommodate the many working parents who needed those extra minutes to get home before the trick or treaters went out. We had a little drizzle of rain, but that did not dissuade the parents who had toddlers’ costumes ready. I think we saw about sixty children with assorted parents in tow.
The dermatologist’s secretary called me on Halloween morning to let me know that the repeated biopsies of my arm showed no ‘atypical nevi’ at the edges, and pronounced the earlier reading scar tissue. I’m clear, now, until the New Year. Two full months of no digging or prodding or waiting for call backs.
I found some old cafe-type curtains when we moved into this house almost twenty years ago, and tucked them away “just in case.” This week, I found a use for them. We used them to drape the space underneath the cutting table, hiding the storage area from view. The curtains are reversible: a solid red cotton on one side, and a forty-fifty-style small print of red and brown medallions on the other. That print reminds me of the kitchen wallpaper in our home in Boston during the fifties. The fabric, perhaps because of its age and frequent washing, is incredibly soft,; as I hung them out on the line to dry they brought a wonderful fresh-air feeling into the Quilt Shop with them. I had to hem two of them to match the others, but that was fairly easy. I still have three longer ones left, and am thinking of possibilities for them. I could have just tossed them out when we moved in, as I hung my own yellow gingham curtains in the kitchen, but instead I added them to my fabric stash. And that’s where they were when I realized a new use for them.
My new book has gone through a week and a half of proofreading, changing, re-proofing and additional text being added. I’ve now reached a point where I’m re-thinking the idea of publishing it as the two-part, mystery story and annotated album of quilts that it is presently. To print it in it’s current state will cost more than I think most customers will want to pay; it’s a paperback, after all. I might separate the two parts and publish two distinct, slimmer volumes with more reasonable prices. I know I wouldn’t want to pay almost $30.00 for the combined volume, but might be willing to pay $15.00 each. Or not.
We’re off to the quilt supply this coming week to purchase more notions and fabrics. Then our Abby (vehicle) goes in for her 50,000 mile tune-up to be ready for our long ride to Bethesda later this month. This will be my fourth week-long visit to NIH (National Institute of Health) for the Parkinson’s Bio-marker Study group. When I told my colleagues at school how well I was treated there in the hospital, one of them told me I really ought to take a cruise sometime to experience true luxury! So I call these visits my cruises.
November will be a busy month. Be well, all, and thanks for stopping by here to see how I’m doing.