Observations, Learning, and Activities for the New "Over 21s"

Archive for the ‘On aging’ Category

Photo101, Day 4: Blissful Captions

Pure bliss! A claw in the curtain to control the inevitable slide down, a paw ready to swat the dog’s tail, and that easy get-away. Such fun!!

Ready for mischief

Get ready. Get set. Gooooo!

Photo101, Day 3: Water

Water surrounds me. I live on a tiny island, barely 17 miles across, that would fit quite comfortably inside Los Angeles, where I lived previously. Although I’ve live here for over 2 years, it wasn’t until I obtained my DSLR, a painting assignment, and this Photo 101 assignment that I really thought about what the water that surrounds me is, and what it means–not only to me, but to the people who have spent most of their lives here, on the island of St. Martin, that is home to two countries and about 80,000 people. Today, I finally had a chance to take my new camera to a nearby beach.  I took photos of the water breaking on rocks, and photos of the “point” marking the resort on the very edge of the village of Maho, on the Dutch side of the island.  For my art class, I wanted the photos of the waves crashing against the shore and rocks.  But for this assignment, I wanted the other shots, taken close enough to sunset to color the water and the horizon in hues that are difficult to see across lakes or rivers–maybe even along other seas.  The water in these photos are the Caribbean Sea.  If I had the time to drive to Orient Bay, it would have been the waters of the Atlantic Ocean in the photos instead. Another day I’ll take those photos, but not today.

No_Green_and_purpleThis first photo is the second one I took. To be honest, it was difficult to see exactly what would appear in the photo. With the sun in my eyes, I was wearing sunglasses when I took it. I knew approximately what I was seeing, but not exactly. You can see that the sun is very low in the sky. I was surprised when I viewed the photo on my computer that the clouds formed positively fascinating patterns.  The darker clouds in the foreground have been hanging around most of the day, dropping a bit of badly needed rain. It wasn’t enough to fill our cisterns or our water supplies, but it helped some of the flora on the island to fresh and aerated rain again instead of the low oxygen content of our captured cistern water.

After the clouds, I looked carefully at the water itself. I saw the ripples of the tide coming in even though this was not the best position to catch the waves lapping the sand, closer and closer to the rocks with each soft wave. The light from the sinking sun formed a jagged ribbon more reminiscent of the tinsel garland on Christmas trees than a tattered bit of cloth, with a shimmer that augments rather than detracts from the blur of sun on the resort at the point of the cove.

The first photo I took, which I show second because there is something very special about it that even showed up on the viewer on the camera, is my favorite of the two–not only because of that something special, but also because I was actually able to see what I was shooting, and I kind of like the off-center framing. What I saw in this photo is a wider view, giving the impression of a wider expanse. The blur of sun is still there, but it no loner captures the tattered ribbon of its reflected light. In this picture, I feel the vastness of the sea surrounding me–and I guess I consider myself as much a part of the island as it has become a part of me. I also see the more of the clouds, especially that beautiful ring like a halo around the sun.


But here is the surprise: If  you look more closely at the small dot of light toward the left of the photo, you will see that it is green, not the expected blue of the sky shining through the clouds, or a reflection of the water which is clearly not a green reflection of the Caribbean Sea. At that distance, the water is deeper and holds a deep blue-gray color. A popular activity here on the island is to watch the sun set over the water and hope for a glimpse of the Green Flash which occurs just as the sun finally sinks below the horizon of the sea.  I’ve never seen the Green Flash–not yet, anyway.  Usually, when I’m up and about in the evening, I’m either not close to a beach, or there are too many clouds hanging over the water.  The clouds obscure the Flash, and many a tourist leaves the island disappointed because they didn’t see St. Martin’s Green Flash.

The green dot is not the Green Flash, but probably is based on a similar principle, that is a reaction to the “last” bit of light reflected on the water just before the sun’s rays disappear.  In this case, I think the hole in the clouds is getting the last bit of sunlight that it’s going to get for the day.  In fact, a few frames further of exactly the same scene clearly shows no green spot.  And if you zoom in a bit on this photo, not only do you see that the spot is indeed green, but that there is a faint purplish ring reflected from the clouds that parted just enough to show the green.

That the “flash” is not seen in the first photo is understandable–I was shooting that photo to give the scene “height” and the feeling of depth over that of breadth.  Had I looked at the wide photo before shooting the long photo, I may have concentrated on that rather than on the different viewpoint. What is truly interesting to me is that the long shot contains the same cloud formation as the wide photo and was taken literally a second or two after the wide shot–but there is no green light surrounded by purple. Something about taking the wide shot (which I think captures vastness better) allowed its capture, while the long shot (which seems to capture distance better) may have been responsible for the difference in the color of the dot.  Or maybe, just like the Green Flash, it disappears almost the instance it shows up…





Photo101_1: Home

#Photo101, Day 1: A Photo of Home

Home is what I do inside the walls and where I work the most.  There was a neater picture that would tell you something about me and what I do and how I live, but this one is more the real me. What you don’t see in this one that would have shown up in the other photo is the camera I took it with.  I used the iPad to make that one, but I thought I needed that to be in the picture, since it’s more a part of me than I can say. I read books on it, take notes on it, snap photos when I remember I have it handy, etc. But the camera I used to take the photo is the one I want to learn to use–the one that will eventually giveD2A5A640-478E-4922-9F8B-5C1C975D5CA7 me more control over what my photo looks like in the end, before it goes through any beautification ritual at the local Photoshop program on this computer. Except that the kittens and dog are not in this mess (thought they are undoubtedly lurking somewhere nearby), and neither is my neatnik husband (who is at work), this is where I live between the hours of 8:00 AM and about 5:00 PM.

Needless to say, I love my toys–pencils, paints, electronics, cameras… And then it all gets ruined when I have to get some real “bring home some money” work…



Golden Milk and How it Helps People of All Ages + Natural Cleansing (Detox)


There are reasons why people mix up their own turmeric paste that they use in a beverage every day. Here is a link to a recipe–not the one I’ve been using, but very close–for directions on making Golden Milk.


To be honest, before I stumbled upon Ardyss products (click here, except for Thursday, June 4,2015, when the site will be down for maintenance), I found this to be the gentlest and best of general detoxifying and general health foods available to me, since I can no longer take NSAID products and can’t function on the pain killers containing opiates.  It relieved my joint pain, clearly helped with digestion, cleared my kidneys, and did tons of other positive things for this aging body. But if you aren’t getting enough benefits, contact me in a comment below or learn more at Ardyss Ultra Cleanse Plus pack. The Cleanse contains all natural ingredients and may be even more gentle than the Golden Milk. It works faster as well as better.

ultracleanse UltraClease

The UltraCleansePlus Pack contains 30 bags of tea as well as the 60-tablet bottle. Don’t mean to be advertising here, but I’m sold on this product and the company.

Here’s to your cleansing success, no matter whether you go the turmeric route or the UltraCleanse route.


The Dud


The Dud

For almost 2 months, I’ve been taking drawing lessons up in Grand Case on the French side of the island of St. Martin. Often, if I feel I have a reasonably successful drawing, or I’ve done something pretty neat (for me, not necessarily for the rest of the world), I post my accomplishment to Facebook as a sort of living portfolio. Last night, because I had gotten up very late in the morning and ended up staying up very late again, I decided I would try out some painting supplies that I thought were really neat. It was a set of three pre-“inked” watercolor brushes that contains the typical three sketching colors: black, gray, and sepia. I had used the company’s water-filled “travel” paint brushes a few times, and found that I really preferred them over regular watercolor brushes, which can be a bit clunky to take along in my purse. I’ve been using the water-filled brushes (when I remember I have them and have something interesting to pretend to paint) with a pocket-sized watercolor set of pan-style colors that came complete with its own attach-to-the-side paint mixing tray–and one of the brushes. That kit and a pad of watercolor postcards is what I take to the beach. When I saw the ink sketching kit, I thought it would be interesting to try. The set of brushes was inexpensive enough, so I added them to a recent Amazon order, and they arrived last week.

Well, you know how it is when you first get something new–you want to try it out (or on) as soon as possible.  I was so busy during the week that I didn’t get a chance to even think about it until last night, while watching the same episode of Penny Dreadful for the third time or so.  Being me, I knew I would ruin any attempt to use the inked brushes last night; on the other hand, there was no harm in sketching–in pencil–the basic subject I would work on in the morning.  Well, the inked brushes clearly take a lot more time to get to know than the pre-filled water brushes.  I didn’t wonder about tonal effects and how to get them, or whether I could handle the brushes without practice since I’ve been playing with the water brushes for a while.

And so, I produced a total dud!  Yes, I am an inexperienced artist.  Yes, I have progressed from poor stick figure drawing to some decent sketches of stationary objects or photograph subjects.  But that was with using graphite pencils and sticks, not watercolors–about which I know less than nothing.  I wish I had taken a photo of the results using only the inked brushes–but I didn’t think about that.  All I could think about was “saving” my dud–making it a little more presentable.

In the process of making it a bit less dud-ish, I used watercolor pencils (which I’ve been practicing with for a while) and even my little  kit of watercolor pans.  I started to “save” the work first with the watercolors, then remembered reading about how the watercolor pencils can really help define a piece.  To my amazement, it was the pencils that saved the work from becoming a complete disaster that I didn’t want to tear up and start working on all over again.  The result is the photo above–still no great work of art, but a definite improvement from where it started.

Then I posted it to my Facebook account with an explanation of it being a dud and that I just wanted to post something I wasn’t so proud of for a change.  When I look back at some of my earlier “proud of” shares, I can see how much I’ve progressed. So I also know how bad this dud is in comparison to most of my shares.  What surprised me was that I got 3 “likes” from the same people who always support my efforts and generally comment on my progress or something.  This time, although I had asked for feedback on how to improve it, all I got from my fan base was the likes.

That made me wonder–are they liking the photo just to indicate that they saw it? are they liking it because they are trying to be supportive?  are they liking it because of my self-criticism and agreeing with it?  I will probably never know, but it makes me wonder if my friends think I’m fragile and can’t handle the truth, or if all they see is another attempt at something new and just want to show support, either without reading the comment, or just without giving their opinion?

Next I started to wonder about what I do.  Like these three friends, I would undoubtedly “like” whatever they posted to indicate support.  But I don’t know whether I, too, would not leave a comment.  After thinking some more, I decided that I would leave something along the lines of “nice try with a new medium” or “nice first attempt,” or something equally as inane.  Since these are friends I actually know and went to high school with years ago, and since they’ve seen the same cat in many positions as a drawn critter, maybe they just felt no comment was necessary and that just liking the photo indicated that they know I’m there and that I’m trying.

One of my friends has become a real outdoor photography fan–something I wanted to do since I was little, but couldn’t afford the supplies that went with my little Brownie camera from Kodak.  That was back in the days when black and white film was inexpensive, but photo development and flash bulbs that burned your fingers if you tried to take a couple of shots relatively close together cost more than my family could afford.  My father subtly suggested I turn to another hobby, as my mother was complaining about the cost–particularly of film development.  Now, of course, the cost is in the DSLR equipment itself if you really want to learn about photography in all its aspects.  But my friend was using his iPhone camera and went from typical snapshots to some really masterful pieces shot in and around Philadelphia and any trips he took with his son.  Over the past two years, he has become quite good, even if most of the photos are either of his son or of woods or old historic buildings.  We all “liked” his work, and some of us took time to comment on how much his son is growing or sharing reminiscences of past outings where we saw the same subjects.  And, as I said, his photos really improved.  The process was gradual, but he is learning to do magnificent things with his iPhone camera.

One of the problems with us Boomers is that we didn’t get the same kinds of opportunities many Gen-X-ers had in schools. In hour town, the schools were so overcrowded that the junior high was on “split sessions” (7th and 8th graders from 7:00AM to noon; 9th graders from noon to 5:00PM), and the high school was on some incredible schedule that you needed a slide rule to figure out when to be in school on what day.  By the time my class reached high school, we entered into a brand new building that was big enough to accommodate us all at the same time. But in 7th and 8th grade, although we were lucky enough to have art classes at all, we were limited to 35-minute classes for one-quarter of the school year.  And there is not much that can be accomplished in an art class in 35 minutes, especially when your teacher goes on to become one of the great sculptors in the art world for quite some time.  So we didn’t even get the basics, and students whose parents could afford it sent their kids for private art lessons or private group classes.  The rest of us were pretty clueless, except that our parents seemed to all agree that music needed to be part of our education, whether lessons given in school or those given privately.  For college prep students, art wasn’t even an option as an elective in high school, although I can’t for the life of me remember why not.  The school offered art classes, but seemed to reserve those for non-college-bound students.  Instead, our electives tended to be things that would either help us succeed in college or that were musically or theatrically oriented–band, orchestra, drama. Some electives were preselected for certain students–the school newspaper, the yearbook committee. But I really don’t recall the physical arts as being part of our offerings.

And so I missed my chances at becoming a better drawer or photographer, as did many other Boomers who attended city schools.  That is one of the main reasons so many of us, as we approach retirement or are in retirement (or are pretty much unemployed, like myself, with retirement looming before the year is out).

Personally, I think it is remarkable that people who have not seen each other in many years–especially those of us who live so far away from our home towns and no longer have family to stay with–are able to keep in touch and support each other’s efforts through social media and share the progress we are making on things we only dreamed of taking up in our youth.  When we graduated from high school, computers were used only by the biggest businesses and institutions.  Our high school had a computerized grading system, but I am certain that the computer was not “on site” and that information was sent out (probably to the school district offices or the state department of education) and reports were sent back. During my own teaching days, personal computers–nothing like what we have in our homes now–came out after I had already been teaching for more than 10 years.  I took a teacher training class on a computer that was so slow that today’s kids would use it only as a door stop–except that it was too big and ugly and heavy to be aesthetic enough to please even the least aware young person.  But I fell in love with the things, dropped out of teaching, and went into computers for a ten years, working on mainframes for large companies in the greater New York metropolitan area. By the time I was ready to learn to program personal-sized computers, I had remarried and moved across the country, where the whole world of computing was so different that I went back to teaching.

I’ve remained in education in one capacity or another ever since, but have only recently started taking up art forms.  Even my drawing lessons were predicated on a theory about educating both sides of the brain, either for people recovering from stroke or the loss of a dominant writing hand, or for students with special needs who might benefit from learning to become ambidextrous.

But back to my original problem: Are my friends being supportive, or are they afraid to give their actual thoughts?  I’ll never know, and wonder how much I care.  Feedback of any kind is supportive, even if positive critique is even more important.  I’m finding that as I develop my creative writing skills.  Whether taking a course online or in a classroom, writing students are as reluctant to share positive or constructive criticism, too.  It’s not like being with your best friend who tells you exactly what they feel and have no guilt about telling you the absolute truth.  In fact, that’s one of the reasons I started a small writers-in-training group, with the help of WordPress, for those of us who were feeling we were not getting the level of feedback we wanted from other participants.  On the other hand, there were about 130 students enrolled in an intense one-month class of writing, and no one could get to reading more than five people’s submissions per day, with or without honest and constructive and positive feedback.  Even in the small group, only two of the five or six participants are actually giving “real” feedback.

Should I expect more from my friends on Facebook than I get in the writing group?  No. I should not.  My friends want to be supportive, not critical, and–although I am much more likely to be the one to give a different opinion–I have tried to respond with either a “like” or a positive or otherwise very supportive comment.  We are all flawed beings, no matter how wonderful we believe ourselves to be, and we each are involved in those things that are meaningful to us, whether we are doing a “great job” or a mediocre one.  Each of us is living one day at a time, especially at our time of life.  Why spoil things by being critical?


Ideas for Empowerment of the Aging

This post started as an explanation/apology for yesterday’s post.  But it ended up being a kind of call to arms for those of us facing retirement or already in it.  It calls for a new way of dealing with aging, individually and with a little help from our friends.  Collectively, we know a lot and have a lot of practical and professional information to share.  You can skip the next three paragraphs, but don’t skip the rest.  Be a part of our own solution.  Read on.

In my first post on this site, I warned that I would be writing about life as an aging person. In January, I will be officially retiring, although the truth is that I have been “retired” for years–after the university campus where I worked was closed due to high costs (not the faculty, but other reasons–none of which made sense). After three additional surgeries–back, kidney, thumb tendon–I became unemployable because of physical limitations, none of which qualified me for disability, but nevertheless limited my physical capabilities on the job.

Yesterday’s post, “Happy Mothers Day!“, ended up being a stream of consciousness piece that didn’t meet the standards of a happy Mothers Day post. I’ve learned recently that stories/posts tend to take over you and write themselves.  That’s what happened yesterday.  After reading it in its published form, I was appalled by grammar and spelling errors, part of which are due to a crappy computer, but most because I simply didn’t edit before posting.  I considered editing and reposting, but I really don’t want to return to it–at least not right away.  It is more than I can emotionally face today, and probably for a number of days hereafter.  Bottom line: I’m probably going to let it stand, warts and all.

What was interesting to me was that 6 people visited this post yesterday, but left neither comments nor “likes.” It’s hard to like a sad post, and I was grateful that a few friends either commented directly on FB where it posts automatically, or in private messages.

Part of aging is coming to terms with out past.  For those who believe in reincarnation or channeling, I have no idea how you cope with past lives that are completed as well as past events along the timeline of your current life.  I have enough trouble dealing with all the mistakes I made earlier, the corrections I’ve made–or tried to–and all the daily unexpected problems that come up on day-to-day basis.  But whether you choose to follow this blog, disconnect from it, add it to your list of blogs to watch, or whatever, there will be times that happy things are posted–things shared by others, things that have added a positive touch to my own day, articles that I come across that may have meaning to post-Boomers or those trying to understand older people.  Most of the time you will find a well-edited blog–one with all the errors fixed before publication–or a post that was edited after the fact because I simply missed something as I typed or read through the preview (where I catch more errors than through the normal writing window).  Other times, I will write a streamof-consciousness post and simply leave it unedited, as I am doing with yesterday’s post.

But know this about people over sixty: We are a force to be reckoned with. (Please don’t critique on ending a sentence with a preposition–the sentence as written says it better than if I re-write in good standard English.)  We have lived through much, starting with families that may not have been perfect because of a parent who served in World War II or the Korean War or the Viet Nam War. We saw the hey-day of television as it evolved from all-live shows in black-and-white, Million Dollar Movie which played the same ancient movie for a week at a time, The Twilight Zone, and many other shows limited to maybe 6 or 7 (if we were lucky) stations; to color TV and then hi-def renderings that touch on problems that exist in society that we never learned about as youth.  We were glued to TVs–or perhaps even present–for the peace marches for Negro (now African-American or Black) rights, the continuing movement toward equality for women, Woodstock, the first Mets World Series win, the changes that shook college campuses and changed many from single-sex places of learning to co-educational institutions.  We were there for JFK’s assassination and funeral which took over television and radio to the exclusion of everything else for days.  We witnessed the first US flights to the moon and the progress of technology from better vacuum cleaners and toasters to the microwave and the all-powerful personal computer and smart phones.  We lived through changes unanticipated in previous generations in the US and around the world.  We learned a lot. We understand a lot.  We can, therefore, understand the problems that military personnel are coming home with from recent conflicts with enemies that play by different–and often unknown–rules.  We understand the problems of our young military personnel because we have been there before, long before services were available for our returning soldiers–whether as fathers, husbands, brothers, sisters, mothers, nieces and nephews, and close friends.  We fought hard to ensure appropriate medical and psychological services for all soldiers who needed them regardless of war or mere conflict.  We are here to help assure services for today’s returnees even as the Congress cuts funds and spending for their care and rebuilding–psychologically or physiologically.

Many of us lost money during the financial crashes that left us with little to look forward to in our IRAs, 401Ks and other retirement benefits, and we rally to ensure that the poor are taken care of and that so will we as we become financially dependent on a government that cares little for us.  Because of ever-improving medical technology and techniques, we are looking forward to longer and longer lives, and are rapidly becoming a majority–ethnicity or country of birth notwithstanding.

Do not ignore us.  Do not think that when I post personal problems on this blog that I speak only for myself.  I do, but I represent many people over 60 who are experiencing similar difficulties and experiences.  Right now, I am lucky to have free time to become involved in new hobbies to both improve my current functionality, to strengthen my brain so that any future stroke does not obliterate everything I know or can do now.  I am training both sides of my brain to survive–not through games software that promises to improve our memories, but through challenges of learning to do physical tasks with my other hand, foot, leg, arm, etc.  If I have a stroke, I want the other half of my brain and body to be able to take over–much faster than current techniques allow–to help me rebuild the damage in the other side of my brain and on the other side of my body.

To all you readers of my age who are trying to do the same, let me help you. Let us become stronger and more independent together.  Let us help each other find the best help for the problems that each of us face individually.  We will be around for an average of two decades longer than our parents, and we need to remain as free as we possibly can.  I don’t care if you are a Christian who believes everything is in God’s hands, an atheist who believes that all the power lies in what you do for yourself, or all the shades of gray in between.  Let us get together and help each other beyond what AARP can publish as suggestions and “facts.”  We can use such organizations as sources of information and direction, but we need to help ourselves and each other more than what millionaire actors or business executives can do for themselves.  For many of us, we and our faith are all we have.

Leave me suggestions for what you would like to hear about.  Take part in comments and discussions.  I can always make this blog independent of my other blogging sites on WordPress–either through WP or by other means that allows us to share ideas from ancient medical practices such as Ayurveda and Chinese or Tibetan medical knowledge.  For example, I can tell you about some excellent anti-aging and all-natural products that are working for me, as well as things like Golden Milk made with a home-made turmeric paste that cleanses the system naturally and improves bodily functions as well as thinking processes by slowly and carefully getting rid of the plaque in our bloodstreams.  If we get together, we can share diets that are outstanding for helping people with Type II Diabetes or with loss of body strength or loss of thinking abilities and memory.  We can prepare for the possibility of stroke and its aftereffects.  We can become stronger, and–because we are rapidly becoming a majority in the voting pool–we can change what government does for us.  There is a big difference between socialism and social programs:  The former is a restrictive political phenomenon while the latter is an outcome of the Golden Rule of helping our neighbor and treating our neighbor as we would want ourselves treated in return.

Leave a comment. Let’s see where an idea you suggest can take us in a subsequent blog or in a continued discussion format.  Work with me to make life better for all of us.


Happy Mothers Day!

Featured image

Happy Mothers Day to all who are mothers, step-mothers, mothers to furry or feathered  “children,” surrogate or substitute mothers, caregivers, aunts, grandmothers–any woman who plays a nurturing role in the life of someone in need. You are my heroes.

Mothers Day has not been easy for me for several years.  My daughter never called or sent a card or eCard in all the years she lived away from me.  For whatever reason, she felt that it was my duty to call her on all holidays, and she never felt the necessity of calling or sending a card on my birthday or on Mothers Day.  About two years ago, I felt it was no longer my responsibility to call my daughter on my day.  I used to send her flowers for the sole reason that she was the original reason for my becoming a mother to begin with; then I sent her flowers because she was a mother herself.  This year, I stopped.

For the past two or three years, my son has not bothered to call on any occasion, either.  Whether it was because he was too busy with whatever was going on in his life, or because he had stopped caring, I don’t know.  I understand why he would not call this year–his wife and I had somewhat of a falling out after I visited them last year, and she had offered to help me rebuild my professional web site.  I think that she had erred and accidentally taken it down; then didn’t want to admit that she had done that and didn’t know how to fix it.  Since she is a professional in the web building area, apparently, and had me purchase a new site for her to do her development work, it never dawned on me that she would ruin the existing site before building the new one on the “development” site.  But that was an assumption I had made from the ten years I had spent as a programmer analyst on large main-frame computers for some pretty impressive East Coast-based companies.  No site ever replaced whatever the executives were currently using until the new site was ready to deploy, with all possible known bugs shaken out.  That’s not what young developers are doing, apparently.  For them, the site gets taken down and then is replaced–when she gets around to it–with the improved version that is worked up on the development site.  That she never told me about her mistake speaks volumes; that she decided to stop work on the site even after wrecking it speaks louder.  It took me several months to discover that the site had been destroyed, but I was lucky enough to be able to have GoDaddy, where the site is housed, recover it.  But that’s not what started the “fight” between us.  It started with another habit young people have gotten into–not reading carefully.  She thought I was insulting my son, whom I loved as much as life itself, when I was praising him.  Only she never got to the next phrase in the sentence and went what used to called “ape-shit” on me on Facebook.  And the tragedy is that, had she read to the end of the sentence, she would have known that I was complimenting my son, not tearing him down.  For reasons I won’t go into, I know that she made my son stop following me on Facebook, not to take any of my phone calls to him, and–bottom line–caused an estrangement not only between her and me, but also between my son and me.  The funny thing is that although he hadn’t called on my birthdays or Mothers Day for the past several years, he was at least returning my calls when I left him messages.  So it was merely one small step to stop returning calls and ignoring texts and emails.

Although I continue to love my daughter very much, our estrangement began when she was either eleven or twelve.  For the first time ever, I slapped her across the face for something really nasty that came out of her mouth.  She slapped me back harder.  I was completely flummoxed and unable to respond.  This occurred at my parents’ house where we were living at the time.  My mother, who was standing behind me at the time, was–for probably the first time in her life–stunned into silence.  It was she who broke the silence among us by saying to me something along the lines of, “Aren’t you going to do anything about that?”  It seems a bit strange to me that, although I can picture the exact scene perfectly as though it happened a moment ago–my son at the railing of the top step to the lower level of the “split level” staircase to my right, my mother behind me, my daughter one step above me on the rest of the staircase at the edge of the living room, with the kitchen doorway (no door, just a portion of wall delineating the it from the living room area); the walls a pale green that my mother was especially fond of even if it was too close to the institutional green of my elementary school and junior high, the thick dark green carpet of the living room and lower stairs, the wood of the stairs moving to the bedroom level–I cannot remember any of the words, not even the reason for the initial slap by me.  My daughter has always had a mouth on her, so there was nothing unique about what she said that brought on my slap, or I would have remembered it, I’m sure.  I remember my mother making a comment that I paraphrased above. I remember my son staring at the scene in total disbelief.  I remember that my daughter had her eyes locked on me with a raging fire and the stubbornness that was worse than the combination of her father, me, and her brother all put together.  I remember no longer being angry or hurt by her physical response.  I also remember that this event marked the end of my relationship with my daughter.  There was no guilt in her eyes or face.  There was no sense that there was then or has since been any remorse for the action.  I remember that my anger ceased, but the relationship of mother and daughter tore irreparably.  And so, when she did not initiate calls on my birthday, Mothers Day, or any other holiday such as Christmas, it was no big surprise to me.

A few years later, my second husband and I were married and, because my job seemed more portable at the time than his, my son and I moved to Northern California.  Amy, thinking she was still in control with that two-year-old slap, thought she could force me to stay in New Jersey by refusing to come with us, and stating her desire to live with her father.  She was thirteen at the time, so no judge in either state would have forced her to move with me.  I didn’t have the money to go to court anyway, so I simply agreed.  I didn’t put up an argument, but told her clearly that she was welcome to change her mind and come with us.  Her response to my refusal to be blackmailed by her left her angrier still.  During the entire interim period between slap and statement that she would move in with her father, not a single word of apology for slapping her mother ever came from her lips. Not a single action indicated any confusion or remorse.  In fact, she had become so haughty about what she believed to be her upperhandedness probably caught her off guard when I simply wished her well in leaving the household.

My son knew how I felt.  He missed his sister very much, and knew that I had been badly hurt by the incident two years earlier.  At the age of 10, he had more compassion than most people his age, especially boys.  I don’t know to this day which of us was hurt more by her decision. I believe he never talked to her about it, just as I had been unable to say a word.  For the first time in my life, I had felt a depression that I knew would last for a very long time.  And when we moved to California and I realized that my husband was married to his job and not to me or family, it just made things worse.

Perhaps that’s why my son has chosen to stop communicating with me.  It may have been something that was coming anyway for many years.  When I visited them last year–when they married each other for the second time–I rejoiced that he was happy.  He was saddened by the fact that I was in the process of terminating the marriage in which he grew up, but offered me a place to live if I needed it.  When I returned home to the island, my husband and I reconciled.  He would never change–he would always be married to his job–but that was less of a problem for me when I came home.

After finally leaving my son’s home without information that I had been waiting for from my daughter, I spent about a week and a half with her until she basically threw me out.  She made accusations that were untrue and based on her own biased perceptions; I found that I could not stay under her roof before my flight left in a few days.  I was going to stay in a hotel, but my sister opened her home to me for those last few days.

That was another mistake.  My sister is almost twelve years younger than I am, and my mother lives with them.  I was surprised when I first saw my brother-in-law along for a few minutes that the first words out of his mouth was that my mother had no money.  I don’t care about whether or not my mother has any money.  I don’t care if she provided them with funds to purchase a house that they quickly found themselves unable to afford.  I don’t are that it is my son-in-law who basically deals with my mother, and that my sister feels free to do perfectly well with as little interaction with her as possible.  They were able to provide her with a home when she needed it, after selling her house, losing a great deal of her pension and house sale invested profits in the financial bubble that halved my IRA which never recovered.  My mother and I were never as close as we should have been.  When my sister was born, my mother literally pushed me away and “gave” me to my father as his responsibility so long as I did everything her way.  My mother has been extremely depressed since I’ve known her.  I remember the severe spanking I received when I was about seven or eight and “played” with her light green and dark green capsules from her doctor–what I much later learned was some sort of sedative that helped her get through her days and her life.  So while my father, who worked the second shift and was only around on weekends, drank himself into stupors each weekend, my mother happily subsisted on pills that, when she stopped taking them after I graduated from college, made her into a character worse than Kate in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, I went off and married the first person who showed me any kindness and love.  My mother favored my sister but played the mother game of getting me to my high school All-County Orchestra recitals.  She hated the idea of opening her home to me not once but twice after I divorced my first husband–in between, I bought a small house just outside of Trenton, New Jersey, which I found I could not continue to afford when the children’s father refused to reveal his true income in court and paid the absolute minimum for child support.  It was my father who over-ruled her, especially the second time.  He loved my sister very much–she was his daughter–but he didn’t know her as well as he knew me because my mother so jealously guarded her influence over my sister.  I was forced to rent out the house and move back in with them, even when both children begged me not to because they feared my mother so much.  And I was blind to her negativity toward both of them when I was at work.  They never explained, just didn’t want to go back.  Yet my daughter was already turning into the princess her paternal grandparents made her into.  And she could not manipulate my mother the way she could her other grandmother.

It was years after I was married to Joe that my son, Josh, explained the situation with my mother to me. I was stunned.  But no matter what, she was my mother, and I was raised by my father to love her above all other women.  That their own marriage was tragic was something I had learned when I was very young–maybe five or six years old.  It seems to me that Josh knew my marriage was in trouble long before my visit last summer. He knew it while he was too young to do anything about it, and, I think, ran away in his mind to a better place.  I think he blamed the marriage problems on me–I had expectations of a partner that I still do not believe are unrealistic.  But Joe, who ran away in his own mind at a very young age from his own family and didn’t even know his mother’s birthday when we married, would forever be like Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory, and I would forever be closer to the Bernadette character than to the Amy or Penny characters.  Josh saw the negatives and had no control, but then neither did I, except to leave.  And by the time that realization came to me, my father had died and I had no place to leave to.

My son was completely surprised when Joe and I reconciled when I returned home to the island.  Maybe that was part of the reason he stopped all communication.  Or maybe he simply believed what his wife had said and decided to distance himself completely.  The fact is, I don’t know, will never know, and no longer care what the difficulties are with my children.  I have tried to reach out to both of them many times, and finally gave up.  My New Year’s resolution was to stop caring.  This was after four months of severe illness that neither my children nor my sister cared about. That all of them call themselves very Christian or very devout in their Christian faiths has made me realize just how few real people in this world live with a sense of morality that deserves to call themselves followers of Christ or Gandhi or Confucius or any other person who embraced people for who they are and not for what they could give them.  The ability to quote the Bible or the Koran or whatever religious books are holy to one’s faith does not make a person good, bad, or indifferent.  It is how one lives one’s life that matters.  I have many friends who feel the way I feel, both back in the States and here on the island.  I love them more than I can express.  They can give me nothing but a shoulder or a reminder of my own way in the world.  But they are there for me in ways that my family can never be.

So my children ignore their own mother on Mothers Day.  They do the same on my birthday, at Christmas and New Year’s, and at any other family time.  I have one granddaughter who has not excommunicated me from her Facebook friends list, but probably should, as that final argument with my daughter involved her in ways that were not meant to be.  My daughter is an angry woman.  My son is gone for reasons unknown.  It no longer matters to me, as I continue my life in a manner than is best for me.  Although my husband–who cannot be bothered to wear his hearing aids at home–and is very opinionated on far too many things argues with me over every little detail of our lives together, I’ve grown to understand a lot about him over the years.  He does not understand why the pets protect me and not him, hang out around me when I am home more than with him, actually come when I call–even the cat!–and retire with me when I begin to fall asleep, or stay downstairs with me during my sleepless nights instead of going up to the bedroom with him.  He doesn’t understand why I am much more tolerant of island life than he can possibly be–yes, I would love for life here to be more as it is back home, but this is a different culture and requires a different level of understanding than he can manage.  But he also does not understand how he is directly responsible for many of my ailments, that my right thumb has weakened my hand because he was responsible for tearing my tendon, that I cannot find work because I was unable to find any with the doctoral degree that he forced upon me because he would not “allow” me to live away from him for two years to get the degree that would have guaranteed me work no matter where I moved…

On this Mothers Day, I can claim an independence that my husband has balked at for the past year.  I have learned to completely ignore him when he has his hissy fits and have learned to either out-wait his adult versions of sticking his fingers in his ears and screaming, “La la la la la. I can’t hear you!”  I don’t care enough about his behaviors to pay him much heed.  I merely wait for him to become silent and tell him how his behavior is childish.  He argues but I stop listening–without putting my fingers in my ears literally or figuratively.  I manage whatever money I can to the best of my ability, to take back what he owes me and to save for the future.

On this Mothers Day, I also claim my independence from children who prefer their father to me, and that’s OK.  They complain bitterly to me about their step-mother, but it is their father–who has more financial resources and living accommodations to share with them than I can hope to have in this marriage–to whom they turn for everything they need that is beyond their means or when they are at the end of their ropes.  It is unfortunate that the grandchildren have been lost to me, too.  But that’s the way my children operate.  I at least get photographs of my son’s natural sons from their mother, so I can keep up with what they are doing.  On occasion, my daughter’s elder daughter “allows” a post to come my way on Facebook, and she is growing into a fine young woman. But as of today–more like as of last summer–communication with grandchildren has also come to an end, for the most part.  I spent the past year reconciling myself to this situation and can honestly say that I’m OK with all of it.  I have learned to breathe.  I have learned to do those things that I find beneficial to me.  I have started writing more, taking drawing lessons, involving myself in a business that I probably won’t do well in but that should provide me with enough business sense to try something new.  I take the time to see friends on the island.  I take time to call people I haven’t seen for a while, or at least communicate with them privately through Messenger or private chats on Facebook.  I am not completely alone.  And if I die before my children talk to me, it is not I who will care.  I have made efforts at reconciliation between last summer and this past week, all of which have been rebuffed.  I won’t be the one wishing when I am in my sixties that I could talk to my mother, because I did so earlier today and do so at least once a month, despite the fact that she has hurt me in ways that my children will never begin to understand.  She is still my mother, and no matter what she has done or not done for me in the past, she gave me life and deserves my respect and gratitude for at least that.  When she finally dies, I will not be wishing I had had one final opportunity to tell her I love her for what she was capable of giving. I took the time to visit my father months before he died because he had a condition that would take him any time without warning.  We said our good-byes at the time, and I had closure.  My monthly call to my mother–who will probably outlive me anyway–allows me to have that same sense of closure.  My children won’t have that, and I do not envy them.

In two hours, we are meeting two other women at a local restaurant to celebrate Mothers Day. Today does not go uncelebrated by me.  I will soon pick up the telephone and all my sister-in-law, who, although younger than her brother, has taken on the role of his mother.  I will wish her a happy Mothers Day for that and for the gift of her daughter, my niece, who was raised to respect her absent-minded uncle and crazy aunt, as well as her various paternal relatives. I’ve sent personal Mothers Day greetings to women who are mothers, and who are my friends.  I have a few more to send out, but not many.  I can get all that done before our outing at a restaurant next door at the casino.  Island life. I celebrate it as much as I celebrate today…

Happy Mothers Day to all the loving women in my life.


Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.

This post was the outcome of a writing class offered by WordPress. I am sharing it because we should all be discussing depression and suicide instead of hiding behind some nebulous debate about normal versus not normal behaviors and states of mind. If you have ever been depressed–as many of us had at one time or another, or will be at some future point–heed the lessons of this beautiful piece. If you know or think you know someone who is depressed, be a person they can talk to, and help them find the phone numbers of suicide hot-lines.

King of States!

To the people who took the time to read and say embarrassingly kind things about this post, thank you.

To the people who shared their own stories of struggle and loss: I’m so sorry.

To the people who are worried about themselves or someone they know, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (US and Canada) is at 1-800-273-8255. Use it.

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The Discworld for Eternity

It’s been a week now since Terry Pratchett, author best known for his Discworld series, took DEATH’s hand and stepped into his creation for eternity. The day before his death, I finished re-reading all 40 of the Discworld novels, and wondered when the next one would be offered on Amazon.com for pre-order. I had already pre-ordered the fourth of the Long Earth series, which Pratchett co-authored with Neil Gaiman; and the fourth volume of the Science of the Discworld is due for sale in the US soon (also pre-ordered). But I learned the next day that I would never know where the lives of so many of my favorite fantasy characters would lead them next.

And I was deeply saddened…

For those of you who have never heard of Discworld–or for those who know Discworld but not the order of books–I’ve listed the books in order, including the young adult (YA)/juvenile novels which are as much a part of the overall development of the series as are the young-at-heart novels. It helps to read them in order, as each novel builds on the past–just like Roundworld people develop and grow over time…

  1. The Color of Magic (the book that started it all in 1985)
  2. The Light Fantastic
  3. Equal Rites
  4. Mort
  5. Sorcery
  6. Wyrd Sisters
  7. Pyramids
  8. Guards! Guards!
  9. Eric
  10. Moving Pictures
  11. Reaper Man
  12. Witches Abroad
  13. Small Gods
  14. Lords and Ladies
  15. Men at Arms
  16. Soul Music
  17. Interesting Times
  18. Maskerade
  19. Feet of Clay
  20. Hogfather
  21. Jingo
  22. The Last Continent
  23. Carpe Jugulum
  24. The Fifth Elephant
  25. The Truth
  26. Thief of Time
  27. The Last Hero (illustrated; not yet available for electronic media)
  28. The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents (YA)
  29. Night Watch
  30. The Wee Free Men (YA)
  31. Monstrous Regiment
  32. A Hat Full of Sky (YA)
  33. Going Postal
  34. Thud!
  35. Wintersmith (YA)
  36. Making Money
  37. Unseen Academicals
  38. I Shall Wear Midnight (YA)
  39. Snuff
  40. Raising Steam (The book that leaves us hanging from 2014)

Although Sir Terry Pratchett is no more, the Discworld will remain for a long, long time…


Sudoku and Me

Sudoku Photo

Lots of people my age look forward to the Sudoku in their daily newspaper. Some older people swear that it is a memory aid, for sharpening or maintaining memory that may be faltering. For some people it works. For others, well…let’s just say it’s hard to complete a puzzle when you can’t find the pencil that was just next to the paper a moment ago. These are not the reasons I play Sudoku every day–or at least every day I get a newspaper (no Sunday papers here on The Island). I play Sudoku to test my logic–and what effect my medications are having on me. But mostly it’s the logic aspect.

Some puzzles–ones that give no logical clues to a mass of “pencil marks” so that only trial and error with educated guesses can help solve the puzzle, or let me know that a different educated guess should be attempted–are ones I solve only when I have hours with nothing to do, a luxury I rarely have. For some of the solutions, a pattern emerges if I leave the puzzle alone for a day or two. Others are so convoluted that a “guess” has to be made 5 or more times, meaning that all the erasures have worn holes in the newspaper and the original puzzle needs to be transcribed into my Sudoku Excel template so I can erase to my heart’s content  on “real paper.” However, most puzzles with high difficulty ratings are quite orderly and can be worked with only a little bit of educated guessing.

In the newspaper, the Sudokus progress in difficulty from “Easy” on Monday to “Difficult/Hard” on Fridays. Saturday puzzles are always rated “Difficult,” but, as I stated above, often involve more guessing than logic. So, for me, it’s the Monday through Friday puzzles that are both enjoyable and tests of my current logic abilities.

Why test my logic? Because I take a pharmacopia of daily medications. There are pain relievers, cholesterol controllers, blood pressure equalizers, muscle relaxants, and–for when life is driving me crazy or I simply can’t get to sleep–tranquilizers or other prescription sleep aids. And then there”s the medication to protect my stomach lining. I used to take OTC or prescription-strength versions of pain relievers, but a “surprise case” of bleeding ulcers put a stop to that. So now my mobility is severely limited by the amount of pain I feel, and that means that by 3:00 PM, my spine decides it’s time for more curvature, which increases as the clock progresses and prevents me from standing for more than two or three minutes. It’s no fun looking like a question mark without a period underneath. But pain has nothing to do with logic unless it’s overwhelming. However, some of the other medications do affect my thinking processes, even after the “getting used to” period has long passed. And these are the ones whose effects on me I monitor like crazy.

All medications that effect the nervous system–including many medications to reduce pain–affect how the brain functions. If, a week or two after starting a new or replacement medication, I find that my memory is worse than usual, I visit my doctor and insist on something different. Take Lyrica, for example.You see the advertisements for it all the time on TV for use in preventing or easing the pain of diabetic neuropathy. It had been prescribed in the past (long before it became the pain reliever for people with diabetes) as an outright pain control medication for anyone, and continues to be recommended by pain management specialists, especially to help patients get past pain to sleep at night. The commercials give a long list of possible side effects–except for what I consider the most important one: they affect memory, and worse, the effect may be permanent. When I was taking it, I realize that it wasn’t just that I was forgetting while under its influence; it was that the lost memories were not recoverable, unlike with most other memory-effecting pain relievers. Think of this as getting so completely drunk at a party that you can’t remember what you did that was so entertaining to others at the party. After a while, your memory of some of your insane activities comes back, and you become so embarrassed that you can’t look other party participants in the eyes for quite a while. While taking Lyrica, my memory of events never comes back. It’s like those memories have been sucked into a black hole. My husband and friends would report that I am acting perfectly normally–going about daily routines, driving, etc; things that are in “muscle memory”–but I have no memory of having lived those days. Ever. And I suspect that there may be a permanent effect on certain memory functions for which, if the patient is not aware of this little publicized side-effect, a decent work-around cannot be developed. A patient needs to be aware of memory loss before reporting it, after all.

The brain is a marvelous organ. There is no such thing as a single “pathway” to things that have been learned, behaviors one has acquired, etc. The brain basically distributes information in such a way that, even if it takes a little longer to recall a memory, that memory can still be accessed. But some drugs seem to build a titanium wall around memories accumulated under their influence, and no amount of soul or mind searching ever breaks through that barrier.

If one goes to web sites such as WebMD or even CDC, many “nerve” medications list memory loss as a possible side-effect. What they can’t tell you is if you will be one of the persons affected with memory loss, especially permanent loss. Each individual has slight variations in reactions to any medication; some individuals have significant problems. The information these sites give you is the “normal” reaction, and “normal” has enough variations to stud the night sky with galaxies of stars. “Normal” refers to how the middle 67% of the population of patients (or individuals who participated in the clinical trials, anyway) reacts or reacted. Unfortunately, physicians often do not report variations that are not listed, so unusual variations that did not turn up in clinical trials may never be listed–unless some medical researcher specifically looks for a specific side-effect after the drug has been FDA approved and is on the market.

For example, it took the medical profession years to discover that, although benzodiazepines had become a drug of abuse, one-third of the people who take them never develop a dependency on them. And then there are the dosage variations: patient size is also not necessarily an indicator of the proper dose for the prescribed purpose. Dependency means the patient cannot function without them, and often means an increased dosage is eventually needed to obtain the original effect. Patients with dependency do not forget to take their prescribed meds–ever. I am a good example of a person who does not become dependent on benzos. Also, I start forgetting to take the benzo within 10 days, and remember that they were prescribed only when I become overwhelmed or anxious. By then, I can’t find them, as I have a somewhat unique filing system for my medications. Even when I organize my daily meds into those little pill organizers they sell at the drug store, and then run out and can’t get to the doctor for a refill prescription, it might take me ages to remember I am supposed to have them on hand. A person with a benzo dependency would never forget to get that refill prescription written.

But what I learned from all the various meds–including every blasted anti-depressant on the market–is that they affect the nervous system, especially the brain, and (in my case) logical thinking. So I monitor my logic daily with Sudoku. If I can’t solve a Monday through Friday puzzle, I start experimenting with which drug (or combination) is responsible, and then go to my physician with my findings. Because doctors are naturally skeptical of patients’ self-accounts, I first discuss my “findings” with my husband (sometimes,when a physician doesn’t believe me, I ask him to come with me). My husband is a neuropharmacologist—that is, a scientist who studies the effects of drugs on the nervous system, especially the brain. He has also spent his entire career teaching medical students, and actually keeps up with what’s new in the field. He loves being married to me because I seem to have paradoxical effects to most of my prescribed medications. Thus, give me a low dose of benzos and my energy level skyrockets; give me much larger doses and I just might exhibit the intended effects. I’ve been used as an example of paradoxical effects in too many of his lectures to count–at least I’m useful to him, and he starts researching studies in which others react as I do.

But back to the logic testing: Sudoku is my method of self-monitoring, and it lets me know when I need to re-evaluate what’s going on with me. If I have trouble with the puzzles early in the week, I know I’m in trouble. It may not be from drugs; it may be that I’m becoming anemic again (which affects thinking, also). But I know that there is something not right and I do something about it–mostly drive my doctor crazy, but he’s used to that in me, and has found that I am generally right about something being wrong. I’m not a hypochondriac–I’m simply very aware of small changes in my behaviors. But then, I’m aware of small changes in behaviors of others as well…

Bottom line: Sudoku is my friend–and a very useful one at that.