Monday, September 30, 2013

Still Sniveling - or How did we go through six boxes of facial tissues in one week??!!

Tired of hearing about my cold yet? HA! Too bad! Because I still have it, and am, if the general feeling of my body can be trusted, not even near the end of it. So there you go.

Besides the only people who are really, justifiably tired of it should be my Facebook folks - because I whined about it all week-end on Facebook - and my family. That'd be Grace. And I've been listening to her snorting and hawking things up for over a week now, so she doesn't have a vote.  And Brian, who, by virtue of being my long-distance hunny, is not allowed to get tired of me in any way. It's a rule. I looked it up.

So, here we are again.  The cats are beginning to adjust, now that their food dishes are adequately topped up. Jean-Luc, who used to reel in horror at the slightest scent of Vicks, has now taken it upon himself to be the cleaner-of-my hands after each  application.  It's a sacrifice, no doubt. But he's pretty sure I must be as disgusted by the stuff as he is, and he takes pity on me.  Plus, he wants me to pet him, and I'm not touching him with those filthy hands, thank you very much.  Schmitty just sleeps where ever we are. Which is usually in my bed.  Grace has taken to hanging out in here with me, me on the laptop, while she flips things around on her tablet.  Sometimes I email her, just because I can.

 "Hi Chika, pass the kleenex?" "Hi Chik, wanna make me some tea?"  "Hey Grace, up for a few episodes of Bewitched?"

She looks at me with the patronizing patience of a young adult to a old parent and says, "Mom, I'm right beside you."

Cracks me up every time.

To be honest, I am getting tired of this.  I feel achy and fatigued and my head hurts.  The reason I have so much fun with the cold thing, though, is because it is so normal.  Everybody can relate. Even now, people all across our valley are sniffling and sneezing along with me, sharing the same experiences, the same frustrations, the same sense of gratitude to the local IGA for putting 6-packs of facial tissues on sale a few weeks ago.  By the way, we seemed to have worked our way through all 6 boxes. I've been reduced to carrying a roll of toilet paper around with me, although if I had the energy to look, I'm fairly sure 3 or 4 of them could most likely be found in Grace's room.  But who's up to going in THERE? Not me!

I digress. Yes, having a cold is normal. And it gets better. Having had the unsettling experience of being told years ago that a horrid illness that would vanquish my innards is chronic and not fixable, I get a little thrill of joy whenever I get something that will actually go away.  Like I've accomplished something. Won a victory. Defeated an enemy.

I'm not doing the happy victory dance yet, though.  Things are starting to really hurt now. It hurts to cough, which I can't stop doing. Sneezing hurts. Rolling my eyes around in my head hurts.  And self-pity has poked her head in the door and asked if I'm ready for her yet.  I yawned and told her, not yet. Maybe after nap time.  Or maybe at supper time when we tuck into the third box of Kraft Dinner this week-end - they were on sale at the IGA on Friday and I stocked's like they KNEW the entire town was going to be bed-ridden this week!

In any case, one day I will look back at these posts with fond nostalgia. Remember that time I got sick and then GOT BETTER?!  *happy sigh* Good times, those....

Just a thought.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

I god a code...*sniffle*

I have a cold.  It's just a cold, sore throat, headache, coughing...or, as I like to put it, it feels like I swallowed sandpaper, someone is pounding a spike through my head and I'm fairly sure I am about to hawk up a lung.

You know, just a cold.

I'm no stranger to not feeling well.  I think I manage to stay up beat and positive when my IC (interstitial cystitis) flares and the pain hits. I have to. It's a chronic condition, and if it's going to keep happening, I can't allow myself to be a chronic misery. My friends and family deserve better. I deserve better, or if I don't, at least I have the option of choosing a better attitude, and I know it makes my healing come more quickly and my sanity stick around. So that's good.

But a cold...a cold is fair game.  I am sitting in bed, reeking of Vicks vapo-rub, with a scarf around my throat, sniffling and coughing and moaning periodically, just in case anyone who cares is within ear shot.  Brian has given me strict instructions to stay in bed. Sweet, dear man.  He wants to take care of me, which isn't easy due to the fact that  he is 5 hours away, so his optional plan is to make me take care of myself.  Last night when we Skyped, he took one look at my bleary eyed, sniveling face and winced.

"Whoa. You don't feel good, do you?"

Then he looked helpless.  Worried.  Asked if there was anything that he could do for me. Ordered me to bed, with all the ferocity of a concerned teddy bear.

 I am adorable, hear me roar.

The thing is, I have to go out today. Just for a few minutes. To drop something off at the church. To get a few things at the grocery store. You know, important stuff.

So, if anyone sees me at the IGA in Huntingdon buying cat food...

 *looks both ways, leans in and whispers* will be our little secret. Okay?

I mean seriously, in my weakened state *groan* if the cats run out of food, they're going to start gnawing on my limbs in no time. They won't even need to wait for me to pass out.  I woke up in the middle of the night a few nights ago with Schmitty chewing on my thumb! This is a THING, people!  And yes, the Vicks is a deterrent, sending them spiralling off of the bed in confused, blinky-eyed, sneezing, muttering disdain, but it's going to wear off sometime.

And when it does....oh, the humanity!

At the very least, Jean-Luc has already been in the room several times to warn me, with the anxiety rolling off of him in waves, that the food dishes are only half full. HALF-FULL. That's how bad things have gotten.  He wants to know if I am dying. Because how else would I have allowed his world to fall into such a state of utter disrepair?

*cough, choke, wheeze*

Don't worry about me, though.  I've been through worse.

Ah...ah...achoooooo!  Hey, Grace...does this look infected to you?

Just a thought.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Derek - "Kindness is magic"

Grace and I have a new favorite television show. It's a British production called Derek, written, directed by and starring Ricky Gervais.  I'm not usually a fan of Gervais', I find his humor a little harsh.  This show, on the other hand, is brilliant. The entire first series is on Netflix, and I watched all 7 episodes in one week-end. The last episode left me in tears.  Not just a little weepy, either. I'm talking big, gulping, falling over onto the sofa hugging a cat sobbing. Brilliant.

Ricky Gervais stars as Derek Noakes, a care worker in a small senior's home.  The show features a cast of  "quirky characters", working and struggling together to take care of the residents of the home, as well as each other.  The underlying theme is this, that "kindness is magic". And it's presented in a powerful way. Filmed in a mockumentary style, the characters interact with the camera and each other in ways that run the gamut from downright disturbing to heart-breakingly real and crazily hilarious. Sometimes, the most "real" moments are the most disturbing, and the heart of the show is this - through the life and words and actions of Derek, kindness is shown as something that costs something, that can leave scars on the heart of the giver and that shines most brightly when it is least deserved.  

Derek is the kind of show that everyone should see.  After finishing the first episode, I wanted to recommend it to everyone I know. Unfortunately, there is a problem. There is quite a bit of swearing, as well as offensive jokes about body functions and parts, etc. That's not the big problem, though. The power of Derek's message is that he loves everyone. Everyone. And that includes people like Kev.  Kev is a homeless, jobless man who hangs around the home, sleeps on the floor of Derek and Dougie's flat, is the third member of what Derek affectionately calls his gang, and just generally behaves in disturbing, disgusting ways.  There are lots and lots of really gross sex jokes. Lots of references to his lack of hygiene, and just general over-all ickiness.  Kev is a very difficult character to tolerate, let alone like.  The thing is, Derek loves him. Derek's kindness towards Kev is not blind. For the most part, he sees and hears and smells what everyone else does in Kev.  Still, Derek loves him.

That is one of the reasons that I love this show. In the beginning, scenes that had Kev in them literally made me shrink a little back into the sofa. Gervais has done a great job of writing a character that is truly unlikable.  There is nothing of television's classic lovable jerk in Kev. He is not lovable in any way.  Other characters, like Dougie (played by "An Idiot Abroad's" Karl Pinkington), can be a bit caustic but they always have inevitable moments of redemption and latent strength of character. Not Kev. Still as difficult as Kev is to accept, he is real. And being real means that there are moments of vulnerability hidden in the bravado and posturing.  Kev's disgusting behaviour is rooted in weakness and fear, and this becomes obvious as the show progresses. 

The thing is, to fully appreciate the power of Derek's willingness to treat everyone kindly, one has to stick with the show. Keep watching.  At first, I thought, we have to be able to look past Kev's character in order to enjoy the show. But now, I don't think looking "past" Kev is such a great idea.  I think we need to look at Kev, to get to know him even as we get to know the other characters.  Hannah, the manager of the home, has a heart of gold. Dougie, while a serious pessimist with a tendency to grumble incessantly, is fiercely protective of his friends and the residents and stands up for them in the face of manipulation and greed.  Derek is...well, Derek.  And Kev is Kev.

There is a scene in the last episode of the first series, where in true mockumentary fashion and in light of the death of one of the residents, the characters are being asked some fairly deep questions.  Kev's answer to the question of whether or not he has any regrets about his life made me weep. I want to cry now, just thinking about it.  

Derek is just a television show. Kev is a fictional character. He doesn't need us to pay attention to him, to really see him, to accept that he is what he is and to care for him unconditionally. He's not real. I think, though, that we need to do these things.  Gervais has created a show that challenges us to move past our own comfort levels and stay invested in the story, in the characters, even when doing so makes us squirm in our seats.  Not for their sakes, but for ours.  Everyone likes to think of themselves as kind people.  Yet we walk past characters like Kev on a regular basis, and we reason that there are some people who are just too far gone to even care if we are kind to them. Derek doesn't think so. Derek doesn't think about it at all.  Derek is kind because that's who he is. And if we stick with him on the journey, if we give this show and this character a chance, we just may find ourselves, after 7 episodes, listening and really hearing the heart of someone who, it turns out, isn't too far gone at all.  

Keep the tissues handy. Just in case.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Summer...gone before I've even said hello...

Can it be September already?  Can the nights really be cooling, the leaves beginning to colour, the buses scooping up groggy children in the morning and plopping them out onto their driveways in the afternoon?  Is it really time for sweaters and scarfs, hot comfort stews and homemade baked goodies, fresh apples and tomatoes and basil from the garden?  Is it time to curl up on the couch with a blanket, a book, tea and scented candles as the sun sets earlier and the cats curl up close for warmth? Has summer really passed on?

This summer, I spent a week at Burke camp, a non-denominational family church camp in Burke, N.Y.  I spent special time with family and friends and God, house-sat with Grace at a goat farm where Grace fell in love with goats and I fell in love with the Jacuzzi.  I enjoyed some freedom from my usual IC pain, as I flared significantly less that usual, and had almost no angina, even in the hottest, most humid days. On the other hand, I had a painful heel spur on my right foot that started in July and lasted until now, when it is finally starting to get better. So I limped, and ached and fussed a bit, and was reminded once more how possible it is to feel old in body while being irrepressibly young in spirit.

I sat on a barn floor covered with goat manure, cradling the head of a dying goat in my lap, keeping the flies off of her face so she could sleep, because it was all I could do, and I had to do something.  I watched my daughter face her deepest fears, behave in unimaginably brave ways and, holding onto God's hand tightly, begin her journey into freedom from crippling anxiety. And I ached with pride. I enjoyed the company of my sisters and their families, ate wonderful food, drank lovely drinks and fell in love with homemade grappa and maple syrup, because maple syrup makes everything lovely.

I read books, went to the Almanzo Wilder Farm in N.Y state and met Dean Butler, who played Almanzo in the Little House on the Prairie television series.  I shook the world of my kitties, Jean-Luc and Schmitty, by going away and I settled their unsteady feelings by coming home, and offering treats and love and catnip and new toy mice.  And lots of snuggles.

I laughed a lot, and cried a bit. I sang and danced and prayed and worshiped, and bowed and frowned and complained and apologized and picked wildflowers and cuddled babies and conversed with toddlers and got to know new friends and old friends in new ways.

And I fell in love.  Wildly, wonderfully in love.  I thanked God for email and Skype, for phone calls and letters in the mail. The real mail.  I realized that I needed someone who was willing to love me when I am not at my best, when I am weak and frail and miserable and struggling, even when I am bad.  I realized that I have always needed that. And I have always had that, in God.  I relaxed in God's unconditional love, and then saw that love reaching out to me through a wonderful man who took my breath away, along with my fears and my loneliness and my sadness.

I went to visit him last week-end, for a long week-end. I met his family and friends including the lovely girl at the coffee shop whose eyes lit up when she saw me beside him at the drive-thru window because she had heard all about me. She bounced up on her toes and waved cheerfully and chirped, "It's so good to finally MEET you!"  I felt welcomed and warm and happy.  And when it was time to go home, I thought I'd be sad, I thought it would be so hard, but while it wasn't exactly pleasant, I knew that it was just the beginning, and our relationship had been built on talking and sharing through emails, texts and Skyping, and that was what we were going back to.  God is in charge of the timing and the plan and the path. We just get to enjoy knowing each other more and more each day.  And so it is all lovely.

I haven't written a lot, mostly because I wanted to live these days without distraction. It is kind of like wanting to sit back to enjoy my child in a school play without having the distraction of taking pictures of her on-stage.  I can write about it later...I guess...if it wants to be written about.

I am just really, really grateful to have had the chance to live it.  I am a blessed woman.

Just a thought.

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