Saturday, August 10, 2019

Caregivers and the ultimate gift - time

I get tired.

I get tired of always cheering, always holding my tongue or using it to encourage, praise or simply so that I can listen. I cook and clean and use so much of my time to entertain and inspire (inspiring takes work) and just trying to get her to eat like a normal person. The sobriety is heaven but there is still so much to be done in a life that has been tattered by alcoholism. She's just learning how to live a normal life. And I'm holding her up while she does. It takes time, a lot of time that could be mine. Time that I give away. Not just with these things but with the exhaustion that is a given and the time to recover.

And as I've said before, I'm not a caregiver in the traditional sense, but my life is wound up with hers in a way that can't be unraveled right now. I give it, time, because I want to give it, need to give it, can't seem to stop giving it. Am I codependent (I hate that word) or am I just being responsible? Responsible to the duty of motherhood - my guilt - my love. She's alone in the world, except for me. So how do I recover enough to grab time for me? I want to make art and I'm tired. I'm tired in my soul.

And she's not a victim. She struggles and succeeds and struggles some more and needs help. And gives compassion and is not blind to the effort I make, what I give up. And it takes time, a lot of time to recover. And so much has been lost, so much of her precious time.

I've been reading a book titled - Women's Work. It's written by Megan K. Stack. She was a war correspondent for the Los Angeles Times and was up for a Pulitzer prize in international reporting.  She has written a book about her experience of motherhood, balancing her life as a writer with the all consuming tasks of caring for her home and husband and son in Beijing and Delhi.

The subject of the book is her conflict in seeking, hiring, and accepting help while trying to respect and understand the lives of the women who help her. She can't do it alone. Postpartum and the need to find the time and energy to finish the book she has been writing for two years, coupled with the guilt of letting someone else do the work she thinks she should be doing, which allows her the privilege of writing, weigh on her every day.  It's hard for her to accept it when she knows that the women who give it are probably leaving their own children and giving their precious time to care for her child. And there's a little bit of a feeling of failure in needing their help.

Time is capital. And sometimes I feel like I'm spending mine and I'm not replenishing it. Spending and not replenishing carries a level of fear and that fear invades the time that I try to steal for myself, for my art. It makes recovering it feel wasteful. I love the metaphor of a teeter-totte. Some times we get crashed to the ground and sometimes thrown into the air. Balancing carefully is the only safe way to get on and off.

"How many ideas, how many discoveries, how much art lost because the woman spent her time elsewhere? How many ideas stillborn, how many inventions undone, how much original thought passed off?" Says, Stark.

If I sound like I'm complaining, I don't care. It's just reality, my reality.

She has a good, good friend who has been trying to do things with her. Trying to get her out of the house and the small world that she has so far built. I'm very grateful for him. But here's the irony - when they are gone and I am alone, when I could fill in the black holes that dot my life, I don't. I pulled out some shells today and set them on the work table so that in the morning I have to awkwardly lean over them to open the curtains. Tomorrow, tomorrow I'll take the time.

Thank you to Elizabeth over at:
for helping me to not feel so guilty for taking time to help myself.

And to Ellen over at:
for inspiring me with your dedication to your own work.


Thursday, July 25, 2019

Can't tell goats milk from cows milk

I went on vacation. Yes, me! I haven't had a real vacation in probably 30 years and it was stress relieving and fun, fun, fun. My darling friend Nina arranged and paid for everything. And was the best companion ever. We get along like bread and butter (she's the butter, she eats keto). I only had to buy my food and good food it was, flavor enhanced by many cocktails. We went to Bend, Oregon for 4 days and stayed at the most beautiful airbnb. We had a house and an amazing view all to ourselves. The owners have a beautiful house a small distance away, but we never saw them, except to be greeted by the husband (a sweetheart) and lavished with kisses and tennis balls from their 2 very friendly dogs. We both love dogs so that was an added bonus.

I've never been to Bend. It's high desert so lots of Juniper trees and tumble weed and sage. I now love that environment. Bend is a small town, but very hip (we're not) but it was fun to walk and eat and drink and we did plenty of all three. Nina is incredible. She is a GPS genius. I probably couldn't have even gotten us there, but she navigated all over foreign terrain, finding us fun little places to go, one of which was a hands on dairy farm run by a young couple with 11 children, 6 of whom have been adopted from Uganda. Beautiful kids and great cow milkers, swift and smooth and confident. We herded chickens, yes, sometimes chickens need herding and Nina milked a cow while I milked a goat...poor little goat. We had a blind test drinking cow/goat milk and little miss know-it-all, bragging about how she could easily tell one from the other (I use a lot of goat milk products), of course, picked them ass-backwards. I want to live on a farm I don't, they milk at 7am and 7pm, sun-snow-rain and ice. I don't book appointments until after 11am because I get a stomach ache if I have to get up before 8am. And obviously it takes me two hours to get ready to do anything.

Letting go of stress to such a degree that my shoulders and neck finally freed up after years of tight tension was a huge relief. Of course it was back in about 2 days after getting home but that respite was wonderful and made me feel that I am still capable of "letting go", in more ways than one. Hope for the future.

The third surgery is scheduled for Sept. 9th. It will all finally be over with and I can get back to trying to live life in a normal fashion, like normal people do, of whom I know none. I'm not looking forward to the pain, obviously, but putting a chapter of my life behind me, that has consumed everything since last January, will feel so good. That's all I'm really focused on. 

After I spent two whole weeks trying to create a website on my own "it's so easy, you can do it, I did my own" I finally gave up and had to say that I am not as smart as all the people who - did it on their own - and am hiring a nice young Russian guy who touts "lots of experience" and charges a reasonable price to do it all for me. I found him on this site called Upworks. It locates tech's all over the country so you can find one near you and they have been vetted so I don't feel like I am getting a wannabe webmaster off of Craigslist. I'm probably not going to be able to do much with it until after the operation because I think I need to rephotograph a lot of my pieces and show them with some contrast so people get a better idea of how large they are. Photographing is not easy. So much setting up and arranging and carrying of heavy stuff so I will have to do it before my arms are out of commission.

I've been lamenting lately, like a big first world baby, that I live in a rented house and don't get to putter-decorate like I used to. It's a stress reliever for me and keeps the boredom at bay. I could always flip a room around and change things up because I had a ton of storage and a work shop that allowed me to hold onto more furniture than I needed and gave me the ability to repair/rebuild/reupholster, all of which I love to do. But living here without space for all of that often leaves me bored and anxious. I feel like I need to change things once in awhile in order to breathe better. I think most people are happy to find an arrangement and become settled with it but I'm not like that. My environment needs to float and I love the feeling of it always evolving. So I am ecstatic with my new find! I've been getting back to my Goodwill haunting and came across this Chinese red lacquered chest the other day which has found a new happy home in front of my couch.


The knobs make me so happy. I'm sure they say something in Chinese but I will probably never know. It's not exactly the "double happiness" symbol but similar. The two center circles are working brass locks (sans keys - pout) but the drawers are huge for lots of storage. (I now see my carpet is totally off center. How did I do that?) The coup is that it cost $14.99. I had a credit for $8.99 because I bought a pair of pants that didn't fit - why don't I try things on first? AND it was senior day, yea, discount! So it wound up costing me $4.49!!!! Now that's some shoppin!

So anyway, I'm feeling pretty good right now. 94 days sober for my little darling daughter, a vacation and Summer doesn't feel like it is scittering by as fast as it usually does. The problems are quietly resting somewhere, I don't want to go looking for them, so hopefully they will stay that way for awhile. All I need to do now is find a good book.


Thinking of you.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Is there a revolving door here?


That's how I feel. This feels like an uphill trek and I'm not a good hiker.

We have to do the whole fucking thing all over again..............yes. Yes.

I left you with the gucky photo of the first incision to take out all the cancerous breast tissue and insert the "expander". Not the real implant, just the thing that expands the muscle and the tissue to hold everything.

Since then I've had the second surgery, which was hell, to put the real implant in and reconstruct the other side so that they matched. I woke up screaming, really, there was a whole lot of running around by the staff and a doctor rushing in the door so fast he actually slid across the floor. I was in the kind of pain that pushes your blood pressure to 210. Nobody knows what happened, or maybe nobody wants to say what happened, but I woke up from the anesthesia feeling as if I had just been cut from under my arm, across my breast (in three separate incisions) and up my chest to the other side without any pain killer. Like when the serial killer comes in the door and starts to slice you up before finishing the job, but then decides to sew it all up.......... and let you live. Nice.

That was a difficult heal because the operation was so much more intense, a lot of work to be done. My healing time has been crazy long because I got an infection and had to lay low for awhile. I also, sort of - kind of  got depressed there for awhile, but have bounced back to my usual lovely self.

Now it looks as if it will all have to be redone because there is too much unexplained pain and I have begun to develop a ridge, also unexplained, that is traveling up my breast bone to my throat. It's just the muscle but it shouldn't be doing this. So I am scheduled for another surgery in August that will replace this implant with a different kind and further reduce the real one to try to match it again. And various other little things that need to be tucked up and cut off.  My God, right? But the insurance is paying for all of this - they are very nice to you when the word cancer is involved.

I'm questioning the whole thing. Although, once you start it's almost impossible to stop. Not the questioning, you have to get ahold of that, but the whole, too long, process.  Should I have gone for just loping off the whole thing? Hindsight. I don't know. I don't know anything as we have long ago discovered.

In other news, my beloved daughter has been sober for 65 days! Stopped dead the day she moved in here. She says she was just really done this time and hasn't any cravings or desire to go back. She has, however, substituted wine for raspberry danishes. Thank god for pastry! I am beyond words proud of her and life is so calm and easy that we both just revel in it. Nobody is thinking backwards, it's just move forward. In all things.

As for me, besides the crazy healing and all the mind fuck from that, I am building a website for my small business of selling my art, shell sculp., paintings, etc. called Sudden Splendor. I'm pretty excited about it when I am not freaking out, because it is like trying to learn to knit underwater. I constantly get tangled in what came first and where to go next, while running out of breath. I have to get up every hour or two and go have coffee and one of those pastries to keep sane. But it has to be done if I ever want to sell a single piece of this art that is taking over the house. The website needs to be connected to Etsy, where I have a dozen ads but haven't published a single one because I .... well let's face it, I am a 12 year old chicken.

I don't know how you all have time to post and read (which I'm sorry I haven't been doing much of that or at least not commenting when I do) because I can barely find enough time to wash the dishes, let alone talk to real people....that would be you. I miss you.

Keep a good thought for me, as I know you will. You like me. And even though I haven't been pulling my own weight here, I truly, truly think of you all way more often than you would think I do. Because I like you too.

PS: I am thinking of you most of all, Ellen, and hope the best for you!!


Thursday, April 4, 2019

An update from the caregiver

I'm just checking in so that if anyone is out there and still remembers me, I will feel less invisible. That's the way caregivers feel sometimes. I am considering myself to be one these days. Not to be disrespectful to those who truly are and are astonishing in their fortitude and integrity. This is a different kind of caregiving.

My Thai roommate, I blogged about her last year, has moved on to her world travels. She's seen 30 countries and is doing 10 in this trip (why she  left) and is determined to do a total of 100. I didn't even know there were 100.... Google now tells me there are 195, I live such a shallow life.
Anyway, we had our ups and downs and even though she was 49, I wound up being her surrogate mom/sister/auntie/granny, I was the single shoulder in her life that she could count on and lean on. It was taxing. But I learned a lot about being a giver and not getting hung up in reciprocation, knowledge put to good use - if I want to stay sane.

Then there was the Idaho transplant. A very nice guy (I do not discriminate), 6"3"! who came here to find a job and leave the confines of Boise. I guess if you live there it seems like a small town. He was only here for two months because it is very hard to find a job around here unless you are looking in the tech industry. He was not. So in the end it turned out that he really just spent all his time locked in his room with his girlfriend - not necessarily a bad thing. However any time that she was gone, he was by my side looking for guidance and inspiration, I guess. He couldn't really cook, he brought a 20# bag of pinto beans with him.... so I helped him a bit with that. He was only 33 - it's understandable, sort of. Right? (eye roll) But both roommies took a lot of energy and patience, patience, patience.

Now he has gone back to Boise to his more reliable old job and the girlfriend is probably still sobbing. She was so sweet, really, but only 21 to his 33. They have a long way to go.

The next step, if I don't fall off the cliff, is that my beautiful daughter is moving back in. Since the suicide attempt, you'd have to go back a little ways to read that one, she has not been coping well. The adjustment to "normal" life has been extremely difficult for her. Lots and lots of anxiety and catastrophic thinking. The drinking is back, albeit in a much more controlled way and she is trying very hard with two days sober to one drinking, that seems to be the pattern now. But even though in the face of this stuff, I can tell you that the medication is still working - as much as possible. I have spent the last 11 months being her sole (soul) support and believe me, I adore her but my shoulders ache from the weight. And yes, I am very nervous. Financially this is the only solution for a lot of reasons - no need to go there. But can this be done? Will it be ok? Yet I walk on, go forward. Even if I get pulled back, I go forward.

So I feel like a caregiver, of a sort, and am acutely aware of what an invisible and unacknowledged job that can be. My heart gets ripped think of those who never have a break. At least in my life they go to work each day, thank God.

On the cancer front, well, it's just the boob front now (I hate that word) I am doing ok. I've had this saline implant in for about 2 months - my God! - and I have opted for another month before the operation to put the real implant in and reduce the other side, as an operation of that magnitude would obviously just be too much right now. The next surgery will be around the first week of May. May is my birthday month. I am turning 69, although I will not be using that number, so I will, out of necessity, have to stay 68 for the next year.

We've had a lot of sun and the camellia bush is blossoming heavenly pink, peony like flowers. I've grabbed as much quiet time in between the demands of these three that I possibly could and I've been able to spend some quality time with my friend, Nina. But I'm gaining weight. I've discovered Trader Joe's intense chocolate ice cream and I should be ashamed at the quantity I have consumed in the last two month. That will stop right here and now....I've run out.

So, will I be ok? Will it be ok? All of it? Any of it? -- Maybe.
But right here, right now, I am ok.

I'm only putting this in because it is stunningly beautiful. And I hope my breasts look that good when this is done.....ha!
                                                                                                     Irving Pen

And then there's this.                                            

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

I did some work-art-work ----- and a reveal

Hello friends  and lovers.

Thank you all for your kind and loving comments. I'm doing much, much better. The first surgery is done and now the temporary implant is in. It's just called an expander and is slowly filled with saline in order for the remaining skin to stretch. I'm going to show a picture of the initial operation at the bottom of this post, so consider yourself forewarned. If you are squeamish then look away before you get to the last photo. I will eliminate it in a couple of days because, well, it's a bit icky. But I think it is a good thing for people to see what actually happens to a woman when she is faced with a mastectomy. That's such a vague word, it really doesn't convey the impact. It's a medical term that distances. I think perhaps we should just say amputation. Now that I know what happens, I am shocked that there isn't more empathy and real understanding of this process. It is a complicated surgery involving 2 surgeons and months of healing. My heart goes out to all the women who go through this with little support or understanding. I've had great support, I'm a lucky one, from my daughter, my dear friend and my sister - which I desperately needed when I got home. You can not even lift yourself up from the bed to get to the loo.

Anyway, now there will be a second surgery in about mid March to reconstruct the amputated breast (yes, I'm going for an implant) and to redesign the other in order to give balance, otherwise I would be listing to the left for the rest of my life. Because this one will, obviously, involve both sides, the recovery time will be longer so I don't expect to be back to my regular slightly annoying self until mid April. I have become a very quiet and lazy person these last few weeks. I think it's due to the anesthesia and it's impact on the brain. And, fuck it all, I didn't lose one single pound!!

So now I'm going to show you two decoupaged Retablos that I did just before this all happened. Pretty damn sure I haven't done that yet, but things are still a bit foggy. They both represent strength and courage of women to look above and beyond the immediate and to compassionately guide humanity. But I don't hold fast and tight to any interpretation, even my own. So feel free to find your own.




This second on is done on a background of pages from a book called "The Life's of Women". I love that part of it. Something hidden that is only revealed on close inspection. There are lots of them in both pieces.

So now............................................................................the reveal.


You'd think I would be shy about this whole thing, but I'm not. It's just a body. We all have them. This is about a week after the surgery so the bruises are just about gone. The temporary implant is in and that is the bulge at the top and believe me, that sucker hurts. It feels like it has a metal rim that is pressing against your ribs, but it's only a soft plastic pouch. I have the good old phantom pain, it comes from a nerve that was cut and it keeps screaming "what the fuck!" all day, everyday. My plastic surgeon assures me that the big scar will go away after the next operation and there will eventually only be a faint white line. I don't really care. All I want is something that will make a shirt look normal, and no, I won't be showing the final product! I do have a limit.

Again, thank you all for your kind and caring words, you make my life so much richer.


Tuesday, January 8, 2019

And the beat goes on....

Well, here's what I know so far.

I saw the plastic surgeon on Friday, what a doll! He is a gorgeous Korean doc.with impeccable style. Ivory polished linen shirt, not a crease, black silk tie, high end black slacks (you can tell) and Italian shoes (you can tell).  He is very professional but not uptight about it. Thorough is his middle name and he called me dear once. Once is enough, otherwise is seems condescending.

His suggestion is that instead of doing a double, he could possibly do only the right and a reduction on the left. God knows it needs it! The surgeon wants to do both, over cautious is not a bad thing when dealing with this shit. However, Dr. Gorgeous didn't sound real enthusiastic about saving the right breast as the right side has received substantial radiation which makes the skin not want to stretch to accommodate an implant. If he couldn't, then he would have no choice but to take it all the way off....lord! That would mean a prosthesis to balance me out. Not something I would enjoy, having to wear a rubber lump on my chest all the time. (I have a male roommate coming so braless is not an option with only one.)  And the roommate, OMG, the poor guy. He is an absolute doll but this is a lot to ask. He doesn't get here until the 12th and I haven't told him yet. I thought it best to do it in person. I hope I'm not wrong.

Anyway, Dr. G  so sweet. I have to go back for a second consultation to make sure that all my questions are answered and he was very adamant about that, saying that he had a patient when he first started that did not fully explain what she wanted and consequently didn't get what she wanted. He said it "pierced his heart" and that he never wanted that to happen again. That's my guy! He says he will do his best and I completely believe him.

Of course this gets hashed out by the two of them and I will know that on the 11th when I see the surgeon. My god, I have already had 5 appointments, not counting the biopsy and I have 3 more before the surgery which will be on Jan. 22, if you're curious. Just a side note: the mammograms, of which there were 4 different sets plus the biopsy with 2 incisions cost, wait for it............$9,836.00.
Yes, not kidding. Praise God for medicare. My portion of that is only 3 figures. A-fucking-mazing!!!! However, I would estimate that the two surgeries will total in the neighborhood of....$80,000 - $100,000??? More??? OMG. The surgery on my nose 2 years ago was $22,000. And that was just to fix a sinus problem.  There will be 2 because you don't know how much to reduce the left until you know if the right will stretch and that can take as much as 4 weeks, little by little adding saline. I'm going for a B....a small B! They don't use silicone anymore. Now it is a substance that he says is like a gummy bear so that, Gforbid, if anything happened then it would just sit there and could be easily removed. Believing stuff like that is one of the hard parts when considering what to do.

I've checked out tattoo's if it has to come off entirely, Thank You, Ellen! And they are pretty cool, some are gorgeous. But I think I might be too chicken. I have to hold my breath and close my eyes when they draw blood.......

I had a total meltdown day yesterday, pissed offfff and crying my head off when I talked to the medical assistant and she explained recovery time. It's insane, especially since I only have about 4 days worth of care from my daughter and my friend Nina - old friend (20 yrs), they're the best. But I won't be able to raise my arm above my head for 4/6 weeks. Hair! Acckkk!!!  And this is nothing compared to what might happen if they are both sayonaraed.
However, I have heard that there are fabulous women out there who will do a shampoo and blowout for free for women going through this. How cool is that? Just have to find one.

I sound pretty all right now, but believe me I have my moments of complete and utter terror. They pass and they are not that frequent, but they are certainly there. It would be weird if they weren't. I have so very much appreciated your kind comments. Keep 'em comin', Loves, 'cause I need 'em.

Love, love, love