Thursday, June 27, 2024

Sensory Overload and the Decision to Fast from Facebook

 

This morning, I had the wild idea to check and see how long I've been on Facebook. I found out I've been on there for 15 years! That's insane! How did that time past so quickly and how valuable has all those days been to me, really??? The more I thought about it, the more I realized I've thrown away that precious time looking at and reading things that didn't matter. 

How in the world have so many of us become addicted to social media? The only thing I can figure is that we need to feel like we belong. For those of us who don't live close to family, it's a great way to stay connected but many times, I find myself wondering why I allow Facebook to steal time away from me as I peruse meaningless dribble. 

So much of what I see on FB I've seen thousands of times before. People repost the same things over and over again and it makes me crazy! 

I've tried to use my social media site for a ministry tool sharing daily devotionals and other things I hope will uplift someone's spirits. Often, I overshare, but that's just me. I'm pretty much an open book. Maybe that's why I'm feeling the need to take a step back for a while. Maybe I need to refocus. 

So I've decided to be off FB for at least a month if not longer. It will be interesting how the withdrawal goes. I'll keep you posted. 

Thankfully, I still have my blog where I can download information if I choose to. As Danny Devito says in Throw Mama from the Train, "A writer writes, always." That's been my motto since I was born I think. I don't know if I could live if I didn't have the ability to record my thoughts either on paper or on this blog. Writing is an integral part of my life and always will be. If you're a writer, you understand. If not, oh well...I'm sure you have some other vice you'll claim helps you survive in this crazy world. 

Monday, June 24, 2024

Another Month is Almost Over


I was looking at the calendar today and realized we're halfway through the year already. Where has the time gone? It seems I blinked and 6 months passed. A friend of mine told me yesterday that I'd better start my Christmas shopping. I shuddered. This year, the pickings will be slim unless I make some of my gifts. 

Since my husband retired and we're subsisting on Social Security, we've had to adjust our budget. Unnecessary items are out. Many of my friends have mentioned doing the same thing as our government continues to allow inflation to soar. 

Prices on just about everything have skyrocketed and shrinkflation is real. When we go buy our groceries, I'm careful to watch for products that have "shrunk." 

The other day, I bought a box of protein bars. The size of the box was the same so I didn't think anything about it until I got home and opened one. The bar was 2/3 the size it used to be and the price of the box had gone up by a couple of dollars. It may not seem like much to some people, but it feels like robbery to me. 

I remember my grandmother talking about the Great Depression. She told me they saved everything from bread wrappers to glass jars. They repurposed and reused just about everything. Her motto was " use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." She learned the hard way how to survive tough times. 

In my kitchen junk drawer, I've got a stash of wire bread twist ties. I don't know what I'll do with them, but they're there in case I need them someday. And last night, after emptying out a jar of spiced peaches, I almost made the mistake of throwing out that Ball canning jar. Just before I closed the lid of the trashcan, I heard that motto in my head. I yanked it back and put it in the dishwasher. I could find a way to reuse that glass jar.

On my dresser there's a big glass jar of change. We've been throwing pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters in there for years. It's comforting to know those coins are there, but if we ever needed to use them, would cash still be an acceptable form of payment? 

These are crazy times! Maybe you haven't paid much attention to these types of things yet, but you'd better start because I'm afraid it's only going to get worse. 

Whoever dreamed we'd see things like this in our lifetime? Sure, we've experienced many economic ups and downs over the years, but not to this degree. 

You may be planning on flipping the page to July without a care in the world, but I'd like to caution you. If you start your Christmas shopping early, and plan on keeping it as close as possible to last year's gift giving standards, God bless you. 

The Bible says "You lazy people, you should watch what the ants do and learn from them. Ants have no ruler, no boss, and no leader. But in the summer, ants gather all of their food and save it. So when winter comes, there is plenty to eat." Proverbs 6:6-9. 

It might be wise to change your shopping practices this year. Consider thrifting or making your gifts. Better yet, consider giving the gift of quality time through some type of memorable experience. 

Bob Dylan was on to something. Read the lyrics of his song, The Times They are a Changin'-

Come gather 'round peopleWherever you roamAnd admit that the watersAround you have grownAnd accept it that soonYou'll be drenched to the boneIf your time to you is worth savin'And you better start swimmin'Or you'll sink like a stoneFor the times they are a-changin'
Come writers and criticsWho prophesize with your penAnd keep your eyes wideThe chance won't come againAnd don't speak too soonFor the wheel's still in spinAnd there's no tellin' whoThat it's namin'For the loser nowWill be later to winFor the times they are a-changin'
Come senators, congressmenPlease heed the callDon't stand in the doorwayDon't block up the hallFor he that gets hurtWill be he who has stalledThe battle outside ragin'Will soon shake your windowsAnd rattle your wallsFor the times they are a-changin'
Come mothers and fathersThroughout the landAnd don't criticizeWhat you can't understandYour sons and your daughtersAre beyond your commandYour old road is rapidly agin'Please get out of the new oneIf you can't lend your handFor the times they are a-changin'
The line it is drawnThe curse it is castThe slow one nowWill later be fastAs the present nowWill later be pastThe order is rapidly fadin'And the first one nowWill later be lastFor the times they are a-changin'
 
I'm sorry to be a Debbie Downer, but it's time to wake up people! Maybe your life hasn't changed much and maybe it won't, but frugality isn't a sin. In fact, when we're wise stewards of what God's given us, we can bless others. And I kinda think that just might make Him smile. 

Thursday, June 20, 2024

My 10th cancerversary approaches

It's hard to believe that on July 9th of this year, I'll celebrate a decade of being cancer free! Wow! 

I still don't understand why God has allowed me to survive this long without a recurrence, but I'm thankful. 

As I read back through my old blog posts, I'm thrust back into the thick of things when cancer was new to me and I was more scared than I care to admit. But that's a good thing too, I think. It's important to remember. 

I'm so glad I write things down. Now that I'm older, my memory isn't as sharp as it once was. Oh, I can remember things that happened 50 or 60 years ago with no problem, but remembering what I had for lunch yesterday - I have to really try hard to think and remember that. 

For the past 10 years, cancer consumed my life. Now, I feel like I can put it behind me. Believe me, I'm not naive. I have a friend, also named Bonnie, who was diagnosed with cancer about 25 years ago. She was cancer free for about 22 years and then, it came back with a vengeance and took her life. 

While I know cancer could come back into my life again one day, I'm praying it doesn't. It's nasty business and I don't ever want to deal with it again. 

I didn't realize, until this year, how much power I'd given cancer over my life. Every time I had a medical issue, I assumed the cancer was rearing its ugly head again and was about to pay me a surprise visit. That fear of recurrence manifested itself into chronic insomnia, PTSD, and anxiety. Each of those were tough to overcome and truth be told, I still struggle with all of them in some form or fashion. 

I've found some things that help though like CBD gummies or tinctures for PTSD, art therapy has helped with anxiety, and my doc has given me a prescription to help with insomnia. I never thought I'd need help with those things, but I did and still do. It's not something I'm ashamed of, it's just a byproduct of cancer trauma. And it's okay to do whatever necessary to battle them so I can live a semi normal and productive life. 

Many people have no clue how cancer affects a person's mental and emotional health. They can often see physical effects of the disease, but it's not as easy for outsiders to see or understand the other sides. 

Some survivors of cancer are starting to realize these various side effects are normal. They are learning it's okay to discuss their struggles and admit to dealing with the challenges these side effects bring to their daily lives. As they do, they find others are facing the same things. 

Cancer definitely alters a person's life but I've found it's best to look for the ways it's helped me survive instead of focusing on what it took from me. 

It has not been an easy road to travel and honestly, I'd never want to do it again. I have realized, over these past 10 years. that I have a good bit of gumption in my soul. The dictionary describes this old Southern term as meaning to have initiative; aggressiveness; or resourcefulness. I think it fits perfectly, don't you? 

Cancer survivors need that inner drive to survive. It's doable, but it takes guts and grit to get there. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Dog Days of Summer

I don't know when I developed an intolerance to heat but for some reason, this year seems hotter than all others. Perhaps it's because I'm older now and I pay more attention to it or to the electric bills for air conditioning or perhaps it really is hotter than it was when I was a child. 

I grew up with no air conditioning. So it shouldn't be a big deal now, but it is. Back then, our little cinder block home only had an attic fan and casement windows for ventilation. During summer months, we'd wear as little as possible to stay cool. Thank God for shorts and for Mama letting us run around barefooted. 

I used to hate our old tile floor in the living room and in the kitchen because when it was dirty and I wasn't wearing shoes, it felt gritty beneath my feet. But in the summers, that tile was so cool beneath my skin and I was thankful for it. 

We spent most of our summer days back then playing outside beneath huge Oak and Pine trees. Their shade helped keep us cool. Occasionally, we'd play in the sprinkler or squirt each other with the hose. 

One Summer, Mama signed us up for swimming lessons at our local pool. I don't know how much she had to pay for us to be taught to swim, but I was very grateful for the opportunity to learn the basics of swimming and also enjoy the pool after our lessons were over. Back then, I think it cost .50 cents to get in. Teen lifeguards were on duty but that didn't stop people from drowning. 

Milam looked like this back in the day

I'll never forget one summer in particular they had to close down the pool because a teenage boy got his leg caught in the drain that filtered debris from the pool. He was unable to get loose and drowned. It was a huge tragedy for a small town. 

Summer nights were our saving grace. When we were home and getting ready for bed, Mama would turn on the attic fan, we'd open all our bedroom windows and a gentle breeze would blow across us lulling us to sleep. 

One night in particular was scorching. Nothing Mama or Daddy tried to do could help us cool down and we were all complaining. Mama told us to get our pillows and bring them down to her. She took a spray bottle and sprayed each of our pillows with a fine mist and told us to put them in the big chest freezer in the garage. We obeyed although we had no clue what she was doing. After about thirty minutes, she told us to get our pillows and go back to bed. 

The pillows were nice an cold! What an ingenious idea. I think Mama could have become a millionaire if she'd thought to invent cooling gel that goes inside many pillows and mattresses these days. 

Milam now
The dog days of summer are usually in late July and August but man, I swear, it seems they're here now. Is it "Climate change" or are they tampering with the weather by other means? Who knows. I could have just become a wimp in my old age, but I don't think so. 

Every day I sit out on my back patio and enjoy the early morning air. It's breezy and perfect for a cup of tea and a good book. In the afternoons, it gets sweltering and uncomfortable so my husband and I come inside to cool down. 

I'm so thankful for air conditioning. I do try to keep the thermostat set at 76 most of the time during the Summer months, but sometimes, we have to drop it down a few notches. 

My heart hurts for the homeless this time of year. It must be horrible for them to try and find a place to cool off. Some churches offer respite from the heat for them and I've seen many homeless just sitting in our libraries, heads hung as they try to remain invisible before being kicked out. 

Milam at dusk


There are so many things we take for granted each day - a glass of iced water, our air conditioned homes and cars, lightweight clothing, etc. 

In the Summer, I always try to keep some cold bottles of water in the car. When we see someone walking on the street in the heat, we offer them a drink. They're usually very grateful.When we do it, we do it in the name of Christ, as He encouraged us to pay particular attention to the less fortunate and to strangers. 

Yes, it's hot this summer and it will probably get hotter in the next month or two, but hopefully we can bear it. Thank goodness we haven't had any power grid issues and hopefully we never will. 

Can you say "spoiled American"? I'll admit it, I am, especially when it comes to staying cool.

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Father's Day Memories

 

Daddy was a Sergeant 1st Class

I miss my Daddy every Father's Day. He was one of the most unique people I ever knew. Though quiet and pensive most of the time, the wheels of his mind were constantly turning. How do I know? I watched him like a hawk. 

I learned so much from watching my Daddy. As I grew up, I found one of the best ways to gain his time and attention was to be where he was. If he was under a car, working on something like changing the oil, I crawled under with him asking him a million questions - "What are you doing, Daddy?" "Why are you doing that?" Usually, he'd let me ask away without answering. 

Occasionally, he'd ask me to hand him a tool. If I knew what it was, he'd smile and not say a word, but if I messed up, he'd let me know. Needless to say, I wanted to please him so I learned very quickly the names of tools and how to use them. 

Daddy loved to tinker. He'd take things apart and put them back together again just to see how they worked. His Father had been an inventor and held several patents, so I guess Daddy came by his curiosity naturally.

Our little family

Daddy was a simple man. He never asked for much, especially in the way of material things. I think, since he grew up without much, he learned to make do with what he had. 

But as we grew up, we learned he'd often put the needs of others before his own. He'd often go with holes in the bottoms of his shoes or wear things until they fell apart. 

He was a hard worker and a good provider. When I was growing up, he usually worked 2 jobs. With 3 little mouths to feed, money was always tight. My mother was frugal and we learned quickly that money didn't grow on trees. 

Mama & Daddy's engagement pic

We did the best we could with what we had and though money was always tight, Daddy found a way for us to take a vacation each year. 

He had a friend named Bill who owned a motel in Florida. I think Bill's last name was Reid, but I'm not positive after all these years. The motel was nothing fancy but Bill let Daddy have a room in the hotel with a small fridge for $50 a week. What a steal! I don't know how we all managed to fit into the room, but we did it every year for years. 

Back then, my brother, sister, and I didn't understand that we were technically poor, or at least lower middle class. It didn't really matter. Mama and Daddy did what they could to provide for us and we were grateful. 

Daddy enjoyed going to the drive in theater. We'd often go the Starlight Drive in. While Mama and Daddy were enjoying the movie, we'd play on the playground. 

Daddy with his cigarette

He also enjoyed watching TV after a long day at work. He'd sit and watch wrestling or baseball for hours as he smoked a cigarette and occasionally had a can of beer. The simple pleasures in life seemed to be what mattered most to Daddy. 

On weekends when he wasn't working, he'd drive fifty miles to my Granddaddy's house to help him fill contracts for a local cotton mill. All weekend long, Daddy would be out in the shop while my siblings and I played with our cousins. 

Daddy also enjoyed fishing. Once he took my brother, sister, and I on a family fishing trip he and his brothers put together. It was the first time my Daddy and Uncles had taken us kids on a trip and it was one I'll never forget. 

I followed behind Daddy as he set up the trot lone along the riverbank. To this day, I can't remember if they caught anything or not. 

I was too busy hanging out with my cousins. We were preteens on that trip and we didn't play foolish childhood games anymore. Instead, we cut up and listened to music on the radio. 

I remember that evening we had the radio blaring to "China Grove" when one of our other cousins began to scream in pain. He'd been hooked by his brother who'd thrown his fishing line out while standing too close on the riverbank. Instead of the hook flying into the water as it should have, it ripped into my cousin's flesh. Daddy came to his aid with a trusty pair of pliers. As he and my Uncle Donald were discussing the best way to remove the hook with the least amount of pain, Daddy's suggestion won out. They cut the barb off the hook and pushed it through my cousin's skin. 

It scared the rest of us to death and as we were all chided about the importance of having good distance between each other while casting, I know I was shaking in my shoes. I felt my cousin's pain as he screamed out and I didn't want to experience that again.

He loved to fish!

We all knew Daddy loved fishing and we had several other opportunities to witness him sitting by a riverbank on other trips we'd taken through the years. One of his favorites was to Lake Marvin, an old Girl Scout retreat, way up in North Georgia. 

My brother loved to fish, too, and they'd often spend time together talking about bream, crappie, or catfish. 

Daddy taught all of us to bait a hook, take the fish off the hook, and how to clean the fish. I didn't mind any of that, but I sure didn't like the taste of fish and don't eat it to this day. 

At our old house, Daddy had a folding table he'd set up in the back yard after coming in from a fishing trip. He'd line that table with newspapers and get out tools for cleaning the fish. 

He didn't have fancy stuff. He used a sharp kitchen knife to slit the fish down the belly, showing us how to remove the entrails. Then he'd cut off the head and take a spoon to descale the fish. I always hated when the scales would pop up and stick to my face as we were scaling together. He'd go so fast and I'd try to match his pace, but never learned to do it as quickly. 

After the fish were cleaned, he put them in a big bucket of water and rinse them a time or two before we cooked them on the grill or he'd take them inside for Mama to cook.

At my wedding

When the famous "Billy Bass" singing fish came out one year, we got one for Daddy. He loved that it was motion sensored and whenever someone would walk in front of it, it'd start to sing "Take me to the River." 

But as the years went by and Daddy's health declined, he no longer went fishing. Oh, he loved to talk about it and loved hearing other folks tell about their trips. He really enjoyed hearing details of my brother or my nephew's trips because they'd often kayak when they went fishing.

Daddy's old Ford

Daddy wasn't a man of many words. I think he thought long and hard about what he wanted to say before he said it. Sometimes he'd blow you away with things he said and sometimes, he'd say things to make himself smile at our reaction to what he'd said.

I wish I could talk to him one last time. If I could, I'd tell him I wasn't able to keep his asparagus growing in the garden or tend his blueberries because the property sold not long after Mama went into the nursing home. I think he'd be understanding, but I still feel bad I didn't get to keep that promise I made to him just before he passed away. 

Losing someone dear to you is hard. It's even harder when there's a special holiday each year that brings that person to mind. But I'm thankful for the time I had with my Daddy. I'm glad he didn't mind my being under his feet as he was working on things. I learned so much from him even when he didn't explain what he was doing. 

His quiet strength, his mischievous smile, and his fighting spirit are what I miss most. One day, I'll get to see him again and we'll catch up. Maybe he'll say, "What took you so long?" or "Did ya come to see me?" things he said often as we were growing up. And I'll smile as I do my best to hold back the tears.


Wednesday, June 12, 2024

If it ain't one thing, it's another!

 

Trying to smile through the pain

I've been AWOL for a while now, so this post will more than likely be longer than most. I don't even know where to begin so I guess I'll just start and possibly backtrack at some point. 

On May 6th, I was scheduled for a hiatal hernia repair surgery. I went in for surgery, stayed one night and thought all was well when they sent me home. I had 8 laparoscopic incisions and was definitely sore, but figured that was par for the course. 

I was sent home with detailed instructions on diet - 2 days of completely clear liquids, 2 weeks of soft liquids (think protein shakes, yogurt and non chunky soups) and then a full liquid diet for a month before progressing to normal food 2 months later. Long story short, that never happened. 

On Friday of the same week, something weird started happening. My belly swelled up like I was carrying triplets and it really hurt. I knew something was definitely wrong and told hubby I'd better go to the emergency room.
Quickly, he shuttled me there and I didn't have to wait long to get put into a room. After many tests, they determined I'd developed an Ileus, a complication from abdominal surgery. Without going into tons of detail, it basically means your belly is full of gas and your bowels aren't working. It's an emergency situation so I'm glad I went to the ER!

They immediately inserted a nasogastric tube, which is extremely painful! I've only had it done once before and that was way back in 1971 when I had emergency gall bladder surgery. I'd forgotten how painful the procedure was.  The nurses were kind and kept saying they were sorry as they shoved the hard tubing into my nose and down my esophagus into my stomach. I cried the entire time and that's saying a lot for me. I have a pretty high pain tolerance but this thing, I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. 

I stayed in the emergency room overnight as they tried to decide what to do with me. Finally it was determined I'd be transported to Piedmont Atlanta, the hospital my surgeon was based out of. They felt like he needed to follow up since he was the one who did the original procedure and to quote one of the nurses, when I asked why they weren't keeping me at Piedmont Newnan, "We don't like to clean up other folks messes." That didn't make me feel good...

About 7:30 AM I was put into a specialized ambulance with the capability for suctioning and draining the nasogastric tube. (I'd been told 3 times prior different times I'd be moved but those ambulances weren't equipped with the suctioning machinery, so I had to wait.)

When I arrived at Piedmont Atlanta, I was put on the cardio thoracic floor. Since I also have blood pressure issues, I guess they wanted to monitor everything all at once. The nurses were attentive and I was thankful Phil was about to stay with me. At that time, I had no idea I'd be kept there an entire week. 

When he found out I was being transferred from one hospital to another, I told him to go home and get some sleep. He'd been with me and hadn't gotten a wink of sleep in about 14 hours. I asked him to pack a bag for each of us with clothing and necessities and he assured me he would. Well, guys don't pack like we do. 

When he got back to the hospital the morning they were moving me, I asked if he'd packed several different things. He said he'd forgotten because he was so tired. I didn't know what we'd do, since the ambulance was arriving and we had to leave. 

He followed me to the hospital and when we were assigned a room, he brought our things in from the car. We had no idea what was going to happen until later that afternoon when one of my docs partners stopped by to explain things to us. 

They would keep me hooked up to a suctioning machine that would remove all of my stomach contents and help ease the swelling. I wouldn't be allowed to have anything to eat other than ice chips for 2 days then they'd reassess. In the meantime, they ran all sorts of bloodwork and monitored me every hour or two with blood pressure checks and recording vitals. 

Since I had the nasogastric tube in, I didn't get much sleep. I normally sleep on my side but had to sleep on my back. Also, I couldn't have my cpap on so they had to hook me up to oxygen at night. 

Every day, one or more of my IVs would blow and they'd have to find another place to insert one. With Lymphedema (a complication of breast cancer surgery) they could only use my left arm below the elbow. That meant every IV had to be done in the tiny veins of my hand or in one of the ones below my elbow joint. There weren't a lot of options! Most of the IV team had to use an infrared scanner to even find a vein. 

Every day I was also give Heparin shots to prevent blood clots. Those suckers hurt like a really bad bee sting! They gave them either in my stomach or in the back of my arm. (When I went home, I looked like I'd been in a bad fight with all the bruising!)

At the end of the week, after trying to give me TPN through an IV and having it infiltrate into my shoulder muscle, the doc said they'd remove the nasogastric tube and let me try liquids again. I was so happy! 

A team of 4 nurses came in to remove the tubing. At the time, I didn't realize there were so many of them because only one had ever seen one inserted or knew how to remove it and she wanted to teach the others. 

When they began to pull the tubing out of my nose, I said, "Once you start pulling, you'd better do it quick and not stop or I might scream!" So they did. 

That afternoon, they brought me a small container of apple juice, some crushed ice and some chicken broth. That stuff never tasted so good!

Fast forward 37 days. I'm still on soft liquids. When I tried to progress through original diet plan they gave me, I had trouble with food getting stuck in my esophagus. Immediately I contacted the doctor and she said I'd probably have to have my esophagus stretched again. (This will make the 3rd or 4th time now!) I can't get in to see her until June 21 so I imagine I'll have lost even more weight by then. I've already lost about 15 pounds since all this junk started. 

I'm so thankful Phil has been so encouraging and supportive throughout the entire process. Without him by my side, I don't think I would have made it. 

I also owe a huge debt of gratitude to my middle daughter, Laura, who went shopping for me. She picked up most of the items Phil forgot when he was packing. 

My youngest daughter, Jamie and her husband, Thomas, came to visit as well as my son, Dave, and my sister, Valerie. I really needed those visits more than they knew. I had become quite depressed at all that was happening to me medically. 

It's hard when you can't control anything about your body. I still don't know exactly why my insides decided to shut down other than things I heard medical staff say. They told me when you have abdominal surgery, docs fill your belly with CO2 to inflate you enough to clearly see and work on your organs. Most times, your body expels that gas but sometimes, when they're in there jiggling stuff around, it can cause your intestines to stop functioning and that leads to big problems. 

I guess, when I see the doc at my upcoming appointment, she's going to recommend I have my esophagus stretched again. That means being put to sleep and having an outpatient procedure. 

I was supposed to have a knee replacement earlier this year but have been trying my best to put it off as long as possible. I've already had 2 surgeries on that knee but the doc said at my last appointment it's now bone on bone and my last option is replacement. 

I told Phil I think my body is just falling apart. As we get older, things just start to wear out. It's so hard because there are so many things I still want to be able to do and I really need to be able to walk without pain. (I've been wearing a knee brace for the past 3 years - since my lateral meniscectomy and my chondroplasty.) I definitely don't want a knee replacement and don't look forward to rehab after but I guess I don't have much choice. 

First of all, I have to get this belly junk resolved and then we'll think about the knee. 

I have an upcoming vacation I want to enjoy and early next year, I have another cruise to go on. I'm praying, by then, I'll be healed up and feeling normal again (whatever that feels like! It's been a very long time since I've felt normal...)

Please keep me in your prayers and if you feel like it, leave a comment (please be nice!) Thanks for reading and hopefully, I won't be lax in posting again. Hopefully, you can understand why there's been such a gap after reading this post.

Another one dies from Breast Cancer

It's a sad day. I'd just recently posted on Cure Magazine about my happiness over celebrating my 10th cancerversary and then today, ...