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Goodbye 2010

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What will the new year bring us?  Last year was pretty busy.    In no particular order, I

1.  Bought a new car.  Good times.

2.  Lost my job.  Bad times.

3.  Moved to a new city, Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

 

 

 

4.  Started a small (yet modestly successful) business designing and making jewelry.

5.  Reconnected with a great friend from high school.  Hi Maria!

6.  Traveled to North Carolina for a family birthday celebration along the Laurel River.   Sublime!

 

 

 

7.  Traveled to Wisconsin and celebrated Halloween with my son and daughter-in-law.  We also went to a rock shop, and visited the Audubon Society nature preserve where he works.

8.  Read 8 books.

9.  Accomplished a lot of virtual farming in FarmVille.  Belted cows are a very good thing.

10. Lost 38 pounds.

11.  Took a class in wire wrapping.  Used one of the rocks I bought in Wisconsin.

 

 

 

 

12.  Nursed a very sick cat back to health.  Charlie used one of his 9 lives.

13.  Made 15 trips to the hospital for immunoglobulin infusions.  Yeah St. Louis University Hospital!

14.  Photographed orchids, children, trees, animals, jewelry, and heaven knows what else.

 

 

 

15.  Applied for social security disability and was approved on the first try.

16.  Successfully avoided unhealthy exposure to the sun and UV light.

17.  Witnessed first hand the damage and devastation of a F3 tornado.  This one was on New Year’s Eve.  A 50 ft. white pine tree uprooted and crashed through my ex’s home.  Nobody was injured.

 

 

 

18.    Adjusted to life out of the fast lane of full-time employment.  That was a challenge.

19.  Celebrated my sister’s retirement.  Actually, we’re still celebrating.

20. Learned not to feel guilty about getting 8-10 hours of sleep every night.

All in all, after a rocky start and a scary ending with a tornado, 2010 wasn’t too bad.  This year I’m looking forward to a less stressful life, managing my health and living with lupus in the slow lane.    Despite everything I remain optimistic and determined to live in the present.  Stay tuned.

Life in Cape

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Life in Cape

The moving expedition to Cape Girardeau was crazy.  Note to self … moving on the hottest weekend of the summer is not a good idea.  However, I had no choice.  Armed with the physical and emotional help of friends, family, cold bottled water and the welcoming arms of my sister, I started a new chapter of my life.

The procession of boxes going in and out of my house seemed endless.

Almost reminds me of a procession of bridesmaids.  Except for the boxes.

The best photo-op came when my queen size box springs was taken out of the bedroom via the balcony, as it was too big to fit thru a narrow stairwell.

At the end of a very, very hot and sweaty day the crew was happy to pose for a picture.The Moving Crew

I’ve been in Cape  for a month.  Living with my sister is great.  We have established a routine of sorts, and my days are productive.  When I’m not taking care of the house, I’m busy making jewelry, which   I’m planning to exhibit my work at a local arts and crafts fair in November and am designing all sorts of fun earrings.  In a couple months I’ll host a wine and cheese “premier party” for my jewelry line, called Harmony Beads. At some point, I’ll have a Facebook page for Harmony Beads that will feature more inventory.

Designing and creating jewelry at home provides me with a creative outlet. It’s a very lupus-friendly activity. Because I have lupus, working at home lets me control my environment, especially when it comes to temperature and light.  I’m also able to take breaks when I am tired, and get up and move around when my joints get stiff.  These type of accommodations are not typically found in a traditional work setting.  In the meantime, my sister is providing me a home.  I am able to contribute somewhat with my unemployment check.  I should find out about my disability application soon.

Change is hard.  I didn’t ask to lose my job and move to another city, but I’m dealing with it. Every three weeks I return home to receive IVIG infusions and visit with friends.  I now have the opportunity to travel and visit my son in Wisconsin, my brother in Colorado, and my niece in North Carolina.  I may be unemployed and living with lupus, but I’m a tough cookie.

So many things in life are out of my control, yet I remain optimistic.  Lupus will continue to throw me some nasty curve balls, but I work hard at being thankful for the blessings and abundance in my life.

Boxes, Bins and Flowers

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One week from today I’ll be living in another city.  I’m up to the task of moving and the adventure that comes along with it.

The Moving Tower of St Louis

The Moving Tower of St. Louis

This week I had a semi-surprise goodbye party hosted by The Ten-Thirty Singers, a church music group I’ve been singing with for over 25 years.  Today I enjoyed a goodbye lunch with some great gal-pals … the PMS Girls (which stands for Peggy, Pam, Mary Anne and Sue).  Nothing like a 3 hour lunch on a Saturday to motivate you to take an afternoon nap.  I’ve been toasted, gifted, regaled with flowers and hugged to the max!

Next week I am hosting several packing parties at my place.  Amazing the things some people will do for a free lunch.

Boxes and bins are my new best friends.  I’ve acquired quite the selection of plastic bins with locking handles.  I even went so far as to delegate colors for certain rooms.  The pink ones are storage, blue for my bedroom, green handles for dining room, and purple handles for linens.  They stack and won’t fall apart.  They will never end up in a landfill because I like them too much, so in a way, I’m “going green” … or pink or blue.  I never thought I’d be one of those people who color coded anything.  I used to laugh at them.  Now I’ve become one of them.

At first I was strolling down memory lane while sorting all my worldly goods.   I was getting nothing accomplished.  Now I am ruthless about what stays or goes.  Goodwill has been happy to see me recently.  What I don’t keep is going to charity.  I have no patience for selling stuff on Craig’s List.

Surviving a move when you have lupus or any chronic illness is a tricky little game to master.  So to keep sane I work in small increments of time, sandwiched with a bit of  rest, like writing this post.    I try not to do more than 5 hours of work a day.  Hopefully, my joints will not protest and my vascular problems will remain quiet.   You won’t seem me outside much on Moving Day.  It will be hotter than hell and I will have the assistance of my son and a couple of his strong high school buddies doing all the lifting and shoving.  Having physical limitations can come with some benefits, such as help from others and I have no problems letting people move heavy stuff.

I did have a bit of a situation while cleaning last week.  I kept smelling something yucky in the living room.  At first I thought it was food or cat barf but the smell wasn’t constant.  Then I thought that maybe it was ME, as I was sweating up a storm and was possibly stinking up the house.  Finally, I decided to move the furniture around to look for the source of the by now, rancid smell.  So under the couch I found the source of the problem.  A dead bird.

Natural born killers?  Not so much.

Natural born killers? Not so much.

I immediately grabbed some paper towels, threw it out, and fumigated my house. Then I started wondering just where in the hell did it come from?  I mean really, how did it get inside my house?  Did the cats kill it?  If they did, why didn’t they eat the damn thing?  That’s what cats are supposed to do.

My only concern with the cats at this point is the 2 hour drive to another city.  They are not fans of cat carriers and car rides.  I’m expecting them to howl and shed all the way to Cape.  Who knows what will happen when we arrive at our new home.  Stay tuned.

I’ve moved a total of nine times in my life, most of them as a single mom.  By my standards, that’s a lot of moving, but I know people who have moved a lot more than that.  Moving sucks, but on the other hand, if I lived in one place all these years I would have accumulated too much stuff.  At least moving forces me to clean up and throw out. And by now, I’ve learned a thing or two.

One, get yourself some bins and forget the boxes.

Two, if you must use boxes, go for the paper boxes with lids. 

Three, don’t pack everything too soon, or you’ll be digging through your kitchen stuff to make dinner, like I’m doing tonight. 

Four, hang on to wrapping paper … my friend MaryAnne gave me 5 enormous bags of white paper left over from her move a couple years ago.  What a lifesaver! 

Five, and this is the most important, let people help you.

When the dust settles, I’ll start blogging again and fill you in on the details of my great adventure.

Trust The Process

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There’s nothing like a enormous, old-fashioned calamity to get my creative mojo in maximum overdrive.

Last month I experienced a big one.  I lost my job of 18 years.  Holy crap!  Don’t ask me about the details.  Trust me, you don’t want to know.

I took the news on the chin, packed up my office, drove home and crawled in bed.  Then I proceeded to cry, scream and freak out in more ways than I thought humanly possible. 

Fortunately, with the support of friends, family, wine and miscellaneous drugs, I avoided a trip to the crazy farm.

Still, I was left with quite a challenge.  How is a middle aged woman with lupus, who has an extremely photosensitive skin condition, chronic joint pain, increasing cognitive dysfunction, kidney damage, central nervous system deficits, anemia and minimal physical endurance going to find a well-paying job?  How is she going to find a job that allows her to be absent from work every three weeks so she can go to the hospital for day-long infusions?  How will she pay her bills and health insurance premium?

A life of crime had too many start-up costs.  And I didn’t want to cash in my vast fortune of inherited wealth.

Instead, I decided to trust the process.

Sometimes, you just have to rely on optimism that even if your life seems like it is going down the toilet, it probably won’t. Change is hard.  Life isn’t fair.  Having lupus sucks.  Being unemployed sucks even more.   However, I firmly believe there is a process that will keep me resilient and open to all these changes, as long as I have a little faith.

I’ve spent the last six weeks spinning a lot of plates.  I filed for unemployment and got my resume updated.  If I can find a job where I can work in incandescent light, take frequent breaks to rest, accommodate a zillion doctor appointments, be relatively stress free, and make enough money to afford increasing medical expenses … great.  But I also applied for disability because my health limitations are pretty crazy and aren’t going to miraculously evaporate any time soon.  Realizing I can actually qualify for disability is hard to accept.  My doctor had a great way of explaining my stress, health and work challenges and living with lupus.  She said “just because you can drive yourself to the office doesn’t mean you can actually do your job.”  Mind you, I haven’t turned into a full-fledged nut case but check out this work-related-stress site called Cubicle Freak Out.

Trusting the process involves realizing your limitations, emotionally and physically.  And I have an ever-growing list of both.

Trusting the process also means that if you’re lucky, people will help you get through the bad times, as well as celebrate with you when life is good.

Trusting the process helps prioritize what is truly important. And I’ve come to understand that it isn’t about where I live, or what I may or may not do for a living.  It isn’t how much material stuff I have accumulated or what kind of car I drive.

Trusting the process is realizing that my overall health is my biggest priority.  I want to live long enough to enjoy my family, friends and future grandchildren.

To that end,  I will soon be moving to another city and live with my sister.  I was eight years old when she was married and left home, so this will be a new adventure.   I’m grateful and looking forward to sharing her big house, her patio, her garden and most of all, her company.  I’m hoping to devote more creative time to blogging, photography and painting, making jewelry, cooking and helping my sister manage her home.  My sister is such a blessing!

Life is not a static experience.  One day I lost my job and before I know it, I’m starting over in a new city.  And once again, living with lupus has changed the quality of my life.

Trusting the process does make a difference.  Try it.

You Better Not Cry

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Like the song says, ” … you better not cry.”  In a perfect world, I would take my own advise.  Earlier this month I wrote about all sorts of great ways to stay sane during the holiday season.  I also said that there was no such thing as a perfect Christmas, a perfect family … blah, blah, blah.

And it makes sense.  On paper.

So, of course I was caught off guard when I had my Annual Christmas Meltdown the other day.  And it was a beauty.

Drama. Tears. Angst. Unrequited crap.

My Annual Christmas Meltdown

How does an otherwise relatively normal person lose their mind, freak out over all things related to the holidays and have the expectations of a four-year-old during the Christmas season?

You tell me.

At least this tantrum lasted a short time.  And I’m so over it now.

My inner four-year-old is still there, but I gave her some chocolate so hopefully she’ll shut up and behave.

Eating chocolate (in moderation) will take your mind off just about anything that is unpleasant or frustrating about the Christmas season.  Plus it’s a lot less expensive than therapy or SSRI’s.

The December Rush

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I hate Christmas shopping. Don’t get me wrong. I honestly like the Christmas season and look forward to spending time with family and friends. However, being in a crowded store with maniac shoppers is enough to throw me into a crazy lupus flare. And yet, somehow I found myself in one of the big box stores the day after Thanksgiving, with my son, looking at flat screen televisions. And the stupid thing about that was knowing he wasn’t going to buy anything. However, the other nine million people in the store were going nuts with their credit cards. I hope their retail therapy experience made them happy, bless their hearts.

Nothing is worth standing in line outside, in the dark.

Yeah, let's all stand in line outside and wait for the store to open!

The December Rush is upon us.

Black Friday.

Cyber Monday.

Panic shopping at the last minute for gifts we weren’t going to buy but now feel we must.

Some of us (not me) are compelled to bake enough cookies to feed a small country.

Are you suffering from the symptoms of The December Rush? If so keep reading, because during this time of the year, I’m all about slapping some common sense into your head in BEFORE you get carried away.

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#1 Do you really want to stand in line to buy stuff? Of course you don’t! Standing in line only makes you more tired. Pay somebody 5 bucks to shop for you. It’s worth it. Better yet, shop on line.

#2 Does old Aunt Myrtle really need your homemade peanut brittle? Not if she wants to keep her teeth. Buy her something soft … like warm, fuzzy socks … from the drug store, where the checkout lines are short.

#3 Don’t be afraid to give people The Gift of Disappointment. It’s free and they will get over it.

#4 You know what else is free? Driving around and looking at Christmas lights. It’s fun and you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that YOUR electric bill won’t be as high as the guy whose house looks like it’s on fire.

#5 Wash your hands. Sleep 8 hours a night. Drink plenty of water. It’s easy to get sick when you’re stressed out and heaven knows you don’t have time to be sick in December.

#6 Try to not get sucked into the vortex of buying a Lexus with a big bow on it. Or a puppy with a big bow on it. Who does that? Really?

#7 Wine is a good thing. Not to be confused with whine, which is terribly overrated.

#8 Sing Christmas songs. And if you can’t sing well, sing anyway. Singing lowers your blood pressure.

#9 Remember that you are not perfect, the world is not perfect, your family and friends are not perfect, and there is no such thing as a perfect Christmas.

10. If you think you’re going to lose your mind over the holiday pressure, go right ahead. Everybody is entitled to a meltdown now and then.

#11 December lasts only 31 days. Eventually spring will come, which is what I really look forward to enjoying.

So Here’s The Thing …

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Where have I been for the last month?  Did not fall off a cliff.  Was not deported.  There is a story to tell and on the Lame Story Thermometer it’s quite impressive.  So here’s the thing …..

I could tell you I’ve been in mourning since Michael Jackson died.  Well, I did watch the memorial service.  And the Jackson 5 movie.   Does that count?

I could also tell you I’ve been very busy painting.  Except  I have not been painting much. But I did think about my current project .  It started out like a sunflower on steroids and LSD but somehow it wandered down the path of extreme butt-face ugliness.  After a coat of white paint to cover up the abstract monstrosity, I began work on what may perhaps be an even an even uglier abstract monstrosity with blues and yellows.   In the meantime, I have a towel flung over the canvas so I don’t have to look at it.

KINDA THE LOOK I WAS AIMING FOR

KINDA THE LOOK I WAS AIMING FOR

My sister recently had heart surgery to replace her aortic valve.  She was born with a bicuspid valve; an inherited swimming-in-the-shallow-water genetic fluke.  So now she has a bovine (moooooo) valve and will soon be able to chase grandchildren around the yard.  Last week I did spend most of my spare time at the hospital.  Her doctor noted that since this is inherited, her children and siblings should get a complete medical workup.  I’ll put that on my list of things to do.  Later.  Today she was discharged from the hospital and is happy to be resting at home.  Her short-term goal in life at the moment is to be well enough to go to the American Idol concert at the end of August.  I’ll be happy if we score a great handicap parking space.  Ya’ll think the sympathy factor would get us a backstage pass to meet Adam?

BAD VALVE

BAD VALVE

GOOD VALVE

GOOD VALVE

Last month we relocated our medical office to a new hospital campus.  Moving is hard.  So is packing.  Packing AND moving totally sucks.  But I’m a stoic individual who didn’t want to look like a complete middle-aged chicken shit wuss with lupus who can’t lift heavy boxes.  I usually save that approach for non work-related catastrophes.  However, I’m an idiot and I did overdue things.  Now my neck feels as supple as a redwood tree.  Maybe I will join the gym after all.  On second thought …

ME CARRYING HEAVY BOXES WEARING SANDALS??

ME CARRYING HEAVY BOXES WEARING SANDALS??

Also last month I went to visit my son and daughter-in-law.  Hung around the farm they live on;  spent time at the sand beach, went to a movie and attended an open house where Matt was in charge of a wild edible plants exhibit.  Nothing quite like tasting garlic mustard pesto and cattail hearts.  However, I did have a super time.  And a little FYI for you moviegoers out there.  Do not watch the new Sasha Baron Kohen movie “Bruno”.  Quite the bizzare experience watching full frontal male nudity and a swinger club party on the big screen with your family.  I wanted to disappear like the prophesied Rapture in the bible.  Turn your head and I’m gone in a flash.

PLEASE GOD GET ME OUTTA HERE

PLEASE GOD GET ME OUTTA HERE

On the lupus side of my life, I’ve had three infusions so far.  I get them every three weeks and am grateful to have a course of treatment that works like magic.  Mind you, IVIG is not a cure for lupus.  I’m in the very small minority of people with refractory response to conventional medications.  The last week or so has been hectic and my body has been telling me to slow down, stay out of the sun and heat and rest.  I did try to listen and managed to cut back on cleaning, etc.  As a result, the house is a mess and the laundry is piling up.  But that’s life with lupus.

Ego venit ego vigilo ego confero. I came, I saw, I wrote.

It’s good to be back.