Friday, September 29, 2006

Ah. Facing the Truth is Hard

Okay. For over 2 years I've been fighting in my head with a definition, a label, of me. 'Pup says I've been actually fighting the world outside and trying to convince other people that I actually hurt. Which I knew, in my head.

The Electomyography and Nerve Conduction Study Report came in the mail. There were a lot of very large and complicated medical terms. I could parse out most of them. None of them were happy words.

Diagnosis/Impression (what the report said):
1. Distal symmetric sensory polyneuropathy secondary to diabetes.
2. Mild chronic L5 radiculopathy bilaterally, .....yada yada.

What the doc said? That I am disabled and this is permanent and it won't get better, though I will have good days and bad. She and my GP doc are referring me to a doctor that specializes in disability. Did you know there were docs like that? The staff at the doctor's office will help me fill out the necessary forms to give to the state to finalize and formalize my retirement from public school teaching and I will get my full pension, and can buy some insurance for me and 'Pup.

In so many ways, I was so relieved to hear a doctor tell me, up front that I really DO have a condition that really IS painful, and no. None of it's "all in my head". She says I should have a scooter. She also said that she could tell that I was trying to do all that I could do physically. That was validating. The examples I've been using to try to describe my problem has been pretty accurate. The neuropathy is the part where my spinal chord was being pinched by too much bone. It had been pinched a very long time and though the surgery helped to relieve the pain, the nerve will probably never fully recover. If it had been able to recover it would have done so by now. I have a spinal chord injury. I am fortunate that the injury is not so severe that I cannot walk.

Why have I dragged my feet on this (other than the fact that some days I literally drag my feet)? I dunno. Maybe it's because I'm only 46, and that's too young to retire?

I know I cannot return to teaching full time. The part-time job I have now is just about what I can handle. I could work a few more hours a week, but I think 40 would not be a good thing. A few more dollars an hour would be very good.

Some days, I really wish so many of my medications didn't tell me I couldn't have a drink. Or three.

I started out peppy in the car. 'Pup was silent. I was babbling. 'Pup was still silent. A silent 'Pup is not a good thing. When he broke silence we had a more serious talk. I don't like this diagnosis, but I know it's a correct one.

During the conversation, I said "I'm gonna be all I can be". 'Pup said that was the army's slogan so I couldn't use it. "Okay, then. I'll be all that I can be, but I just won't be all that I used to be."

He's scared. I'm scared. I think it is because he is so close to getting the last of the severance checks. Which would mean no more insurance from his side. And 'Pup is the kind of husband who likes to take care of his wife. He's a little old fashioned that way.

I can't count the number of times that I've been thirsty and suddenly noticed a drink at my elbow. Or the times that I wait by the store door for him to pick me up. He tries to take care of me. He makes me stop and take care of myself when I'm too stubborn to admit that there is something I can't do for myself, or that I'm too tired to finish something (I don't really like unfinished tasks). Not many people have ever done that for me.

I can take care of myself. 'Pup knows that. He just doesn't want me to have to take care of myself by myself. Me neither. We may be on a downward slide, but it's not as scary when you have someone to hold your hand.

So, it's official. I'm a full-fledged Disabled Person.

You know the real irony here? I spent the last 6 years making a garden where 'Pup could go without difficulty. I've been making the yard handicap accessible for him. Turns out, I'm the one who needs it. I think I'll take that particular irony for a particular blessing. Another blessing is that I can walk well enough to not need a ramp to get in and out of the house. Not yet. I guess that'll be the next blessing; someone to make that ramp when I need it.

I can be all that I can be, even though all I can be isn't all that I was. But maybe I can get close.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


I looked at the plant tag for those beans and found they are called "hyacinth beans". Good name. Good plant. Gonna get me summa dem seeds next spring. You betcha.

I've not said much about this, but the tutoring center I work for is changing hands. My Tutoring Boss Lady will now be a Tutoring Boss Man... TBM.........humm.

He is also Korean, and seems to have plans for the center. He got the headquarters back east to give him the concession for most of the middle of the country. From what he said, I'd figger think : Louisiana Purchase, plus Texas and up to Canada.

Big area.

The problem we're having just now is that we've more students than teachers to teach them. I know, that sounds kinda like: Success!, but we need two more teachers, now. And all that are applying seem to be people who are just not what we are looking for. It really does take more than just graduating from High School, and being an "eager and energetic person with a great work ethic". A good phrase that, and I'm going to keep it in mind if I should have to redo my resume.

So. Gonna be a busy week next week.

What's kinda infuriating is that 'Pup could do this. He tutored people while still in High School, then into college. He could do this.

Problem is? One of the parents complained. Oh, not about his demeanor, or knowledge or skill. She complained that he had been in the math room tutoring! What was he doing tutoring Reading or Writing or Vocabulary?

Yah, I know that to most of you out there, that seems kinda trivial. But TBM explained that in Korea, everything was very narrowly defined. If one is an English or Language teacher, one cannot do Math. If one does Math, one cannot do Language. Ever.

Oh, and an interesting tidbit. Seems the educational system in Korea is in a bit of a flux just now over the question of discipline. Seems the modern Korean parent is not satisfied with the traditional behavioral modification technique, which was/is whacking the kid over the head with a narrow stick or whacking other places as the opportunity presents. There've been a few incidents of the teachers using more than a willow switch upon occasion.

So. He tells me that many of the Korean parents who can afford to do so are coming to American schools. To get a better and kinder education. I guess they heard of "No Child Left Behind" and came a runnin'.

Anyone know of a teacher who'd like to do some tutoring in the afternoons and on Saturday?

Now, about the nerves part of the title.

Monday I had a test that basically involves a person sticking needles in various parts of my legs and applying an electrical shock. Yah. Fun.

It wasn't as bad as the first one I'd had, with the evil doctor K who basically thought all my pain was because I was depressed and had some carpal tunnel problems in my right hand. Eighteen or so months later, I was in surgery under the care of a very conservative that only operates if there is a real need...who had wanted to do the surgery two weeks after he'd read my MRI, and who I had to put off until the Christmas break.

So, I had the nasty Nerve Induction tests performed again on Monday. New neurologist. Lady, very busy, provides therapy in her own office/suite and is going to be seeing me at... 11:10 am. Note the time. Not on the hour or half hour, but at 11:10 am.

When I'd seen her a couple of weeks ago, for her to look me over I guess, she'd set up the test date and said that when she saw me next we'd be talking over some "energy conservation" techniques. I don't think she means turning off the lights.

I've got a case of the Nerves. Gulp.

Sunday, September 24, 2006



Autumn arrived.
Last night we had a storm blow through,
leaving a cool damp day behind it.

Before the storm,
I'd sat near the pond, and listened.
I heard sounds of birds and a breeze blowing through the trees,
and I realized that the sounds of summer were gone.

All that was left was the beginning chorus of frog song,
and cricket and then:
a burst of raucous racket of the settling of a flock of grackles,
males and females together
with young, half dressed fledglings.

Gone from the even' song was the sharp swelling shouts of cicada,
and all that was left from their burst of summer sound
was the promise of next years symphony.

I like cicadas,
they are the sound of summer for me.
Summer is freedom,
even now when I am no longer free for most of it,
it still means that for me;
A break in the routine,
a rush of roses blooming,
planting, weeding and watching
change and growth of things.

I never under stood why it was called Fall.
As a young girl I observed that,
at least where I lived,
was actually
as the leaves left not in the quiet drop of Fall,
but were instead carried off by the wind,
dragged from the tree canopy and then down,
still moving until they heaped together in drifts of leafy dreams.

Last night,
I sat by water sound with cricket and croak
and the song of drying leaf, loosening leaf,
leaf rub and dance with the breeze,
and I knew.
Summer was over.

Of course now, y'all should know? The end of summer is the beginning of our second "Spring". Southern gardeners plant both in February and in late August and into September. 'Pup and I have planted broccoli and lettuce and the tomato plants we planted LAST August are refusing to die. See this picture?:

If you look closely, you'll see that it is not a new tomato plant. Oh no. This is the same plant from last August, sending out a very vigorous and quick growing shoot from the old stem. As we were clearing out the tomato pots, we noticed that it, and another tomato were doing this renewal thing. So, we cut off the old dead-ish stuff and let the plants grow. I love perennials, don't you?

Not to waste the space, we've also planted lettuce around the base of a couple of the pots. Now, if I could just get a nice smoker going and a side'a bacon, I'd have me the hopeful fixin's for a BLT sometime in November. Maybe. I'll let you know.

We've also been busy with the picket fence raised beds. We've a couple more to make yet, but I can already tell they're going to be an interesting addition. They not only dress up that side of the yard, they also give us some sunny-ish spots to try to grow some things. Some of the beds are going to be pretty shaded anyway and all year, so I've planted some shade loving things in them.

Uhmm. Just in case you're wanting to make these, you'll need:

The pickets and pliers and tin snips we got at L0wes. We'd had the zip-tie thingies for a while. They've come in handy for a lot of things.

You'll also need a three foot wide roll of quarter inch steel mesh. We cut the roll into foot wide pieces, which were pretty much a perfect fit for the pickets. We used the zipties to attach the mesh to the pickets. Oh... and be careful. The mesh is kinda prickly in spots, especially the spots where you cut it.

They're not that hard to make, but be prepared to put in a lot of soil. We found that about three 40lb bags of dirt did the trick. We went the more economical way and bought some really cheap dirt for the bottoms of the beds, added some fertilizer and then topped the bed with some good stuff dirt. Then we planted and dressed the beds with some mulch. (Cheap mulch. 'Cause yah, we like it cheap.)

The weather's been so funny lately that it's even fooled a spring flowering clematis to reflower.

One of the nicest surprises of the summer is this bean plant I picked up by impulse because I liked it's red stem. I planted it into a not very large pot, and put it under the arch we hang the bird feeders on. We've been concentrating on hummingbirds lately. The little dive bombers even tried to chase 'Pup and I off a couple of times. One of them even kamikazied 'Pup upside the head. Fortunately, the hummer bounced off. 'Pup did indeed make a hasty retreat, so I suspect that after the hummer recovered from the impact, it may have been rather pleased with itself.

Then, the bean vine began to flower.

Oh yah you bettcha, I'm a gonna be saving any seed I get from this beauty and am going to be planting it a few places. The planting tag (uhmm outside now, or I'd be telling you exactly what kinda bean this is) says that the bean, the leaves and the flowers are all edible. Humm.

Life is full of surprizes that fall into your lap.

Be ready to catch them.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

September 11, 2001

A few months ago, I signed up to commemorate one of the lives of the people who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. I knew it would be hard to or so I thought. It was hard, and easy. He would be the age my brother T is now.

I’d started off concentrating on the death, when the realization hit me that it wasn’t about how he died, but rather, it was that he had lived. That it is important to remember that each life is precious and irreplaceable.

Here is the face of an important man. It’s a nice face. It’s a handsome face. His face could be the face of anyone’s brother, cousin, nephew, uncle, grandson, husband or father. And, the very fact that he could be anyone, makes him someone important. Not because he died, but because he was a person, with a life, a soul, a destiny, a place in his family.

His name is Kevin McCarthy. He worked for Cantor Fitzgerald. He was probably somewhere between the 100th and 105th floors when the plane hit the North Tower. Things may have happened so quickly for him that he didn’t have time to feel fear. I hope so. I fervently hope that when he left this world, he entered into the next with joy.

Kevin was so close to me in age that I’m pretty sure we experienced many of the same things. We watched the Brady Bunch, and the Love Boat, the Carol Burnett Show, Sonny and Cher, and perhaps my favorite, Red Skelton. He would have watched the A-Team and the Rocky movies and ET and Star Wars and wondered who shot JR. Maybe he watched MacGyver and Happy Days and Charlie’s Angels. He may have had a poster or three on his walls.

He probably practiced fire drills, safety drills and learned to duck under his desk in case of a nuclear bomb. He probably teased his sisters at home and fiercely protected them outside of it. My family had five children, his six. I suspect that a remark once made by my mother, might have been made by his: "When the girls are gone to camp the laundry is cut in half. When the boys are away, the food bill is cut by two-thirds."

He may have liked the Beatles and owned their records. He knew what records WERE… and would have been trying to explain them to his grand children eventually. He experienced the amazing transformation of our world, from records, to eight tracks, to floppy disks, to CD’s and DVD’s. He went from Pong to surfing the ‘net.

He was probably in the first classes that experienced true desegregation. He sadly watched as Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were shot. He watched the news coverage of the riots at Kent State.

He would have watched the evacuation of the embassy in Vietnam. He may have had friends with older brothers in ‘Nam. He may, as I did, know of a brother who never came back, and others that came back as changed men. Then he probably asked himself: WHY.

He watched a man walk on the moon for the first time. He watched astronauts soar into space, some dying in the attempt. He watched as the Challenger flew its brief flight. He watched a space station be built, and then fall to the earth, and another space station be started.

He experienced a boy’s life with the freedom our children do not have anymore. He might have gotten a BB gun for Christmas one year, or a ray gun or a water pistol. He might have been a cowboy for Halloween one year, and routinely have worn his six shooter, loaded with caps. And just when he was old enough to go out by himself on Halloween, to hit the good neighborhoods for candy, it changed forever because of a poisoned pixie stick.

“Just be home for dinner before darkness falls”, our mothers would have told us. “Wash up well before coming to the table, and YES you DO have to use soap.” We watched the Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday night. You could go to a movie and get drinks and some popcorn for under $2.00, and we could go there alone. Our world was smaller, but we explored it a little more one on one than is possible today. Our bikes could take us anywhere. Just get home before dark…

After college he got a job and a wife and family. He lived in Fairfield, Connecticut and must have had a lovely home. The commute was long and he may not have made it home before dark every day, but I’m sure he was glad to get there at last.

He left for work one day on a beautifully sunny, clear day. He was a Stock Trader for Cantor Fitzgerald, who occupied the 101st to the 105th floors of the North Tower. The view must have been breathtaking from his floor, the 104th. The day was so clear, the sky so blue. I’d venture to guess that he and his colleagues probably remarked on the nice weather, and clear air.

And then darkness fell, and he left this Earthly home. He was 42 years old. He will live on in the memories of his family and our minds forever as a 42 year old. His hair will never grey. He’ll never age. He’ll never walk a daughter down an aisle. He’ll never smile at the sight of a son and his bride. He’ll never be the fun uncle to his nephews and nieces. There will never be a time when his particular place in his family will be filled. There will always be a face missing from the family photos.

He is survived by his wife Debra, daughters Chelsea and Stephanie, and son Andrew; parents Charles and Marie McCarthy; four sisters; Kathleen Sullivan and her husband, Richard; Karen Toomey and her husband, Kevin; Maureen Baumgartel and her husband, Scott; Mary Ellen Rice and her husband, Tim; one brother, Charles Jr. and his wife, Deborah; and 9 nieces and nephews as of September 11, 2001.

And be cause of that place he left, he is an important man. Please, instead of Speaking, Thinking or Feeling angry about the end of his life, Stop. Think, hmmm no make that: Ponder about the beauty of the world around you. Study it well and Smile. Celebrate his lives, both the Earthly one and the Eternal One.

As Red Skelton would have said: “And May God Bless”.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Denizens of the (not so) Deep, or as some would say: Pi'chers.

I've been taking a lot of pictures lately, but haven't had time to post them. Besides, ever since our little spat with the telephone company our DSL hasn't been flowing at it's usual lightning speed.

So, since it's about 3 am, the pictures will finally load.

Let the critters commence.

As I've mentioned before, a lot of Nature has been goin' on in our little garden. Good thing the fern protects the G rating this blog generally sports.

The result of some of this nature is an abundance of tadpoles. I feed them, as they'd be eating the fish food anyway. This way, I'll get more of these: (sorry for the picture quality...them things hop along faster than you'd think and they're about the size of your little toes toenail).

They grow up eventually. I like frogs and toads. I have evidence of this all over the garden.

I like turtles, tortoises and little garden fairies too. Even snails have a place. Notice, I said snails and not slugs. Slugs are nekkid and spoil the G rating and eat up my plants. For them I have a nice beer jacuzzi waiting. Hey, if ya gotta go.... right?

Lady Spitfire is slowly returning to normal. Her grieving seems to be relenting and she's even taken to making friendly-type overtures to Chuckles. He's not sure about her.

The two of them have been playing "catch the kitty" This is a more sporting event than it first seems. Even though Chuckles weighs about 35 lbs to Spitty's 7 and three quarters, he has the double handicap of only one eye, thus, a true blind-side, and he's limited to the floor. Spitty can, and does take to the high ground, has two eyes and a very good aim along with several sharp pointy objects on each of her paws.

Chuckles has the advantage when one of us returns home. Spitty has always greeted us at the door, like any good child of a dog would, sedately sitting and then complaining loudly that she's not been fed in far too long and how can a poor kitty keep up her strength on just dry food?

Chucky's not sedate. He jumps, twirls, scampers, gallops, hops, runs back and forth and just generally carries on something fierce.

Remember that blind-side I spoke of earlier? He runs, hops, ect right over Spitty. She yelps about it, and I'd swear it sometimes sounds like a little sister complaining her brother's picking on her. He's not. He just doesn't know that she's there until she whomps him a couple of claw filled slaps upside his head. Even that only gets him to detour a little. That's when she takes the high road again.

The fish are doing well. I seem to have figgered out how to keep the water chemistry balanced.

The garden in the back is just doing well in general. The elephant ears aren't as large this year as they were last year, but there are more of them. I've not watered as often, and that seems to have limited the size. The other plants are taking off and filling in.

Speaking of filling in:

It's getting cooler now in the mornings, and it's been very nice to sit in the shade when all the lovely little darling neighbor children are in school. The only noises I hear are the wather, some birds and a low background hum of the compressors of the airconditioners. Since the mornings are cooler, their hum is muted so the water and bird sounds take center stage.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006


'Pup's doing well. The Doc' said he'd probably get out tomorrow or so, and he's on the mend. The bacterial cultures have come back with nothing of any note to worry about, but he will be taking his vitamins and potassium and drinking gatoraide when the temps are over...say...........70.

He's got a roomie now. Seems this guy came in (to Montrose for those of you familiar with Houston so you know exactly what I mean) from Kerrville for a little recreation, and three days (and lays) later he had no money left. So he started walking home. After 4 days or so, he got as far as Katy.

'Pup says every time a new nurse comes in he hits her up for some icecream or a Sprite. 'Pup says it's been kinda entertaining, in a can't-look-away-from-the-disaster kinda way.

Oh, and there was a lady from the Executive Office of Investigations (sounded scary to me too) from AT&T who called just to check up on the fact that I was happy with the way we'd resolved our little difficulties. Y'all. I musta been scary mad, 'cause they're not only putting the lines back the way they were, they are making the "eating vessel constructed with a declivity suitable for holding soup" Network people give us our "non refundable" money back. And she's called up twice since then to double check that I'm not still discommoded. And (and if this were one of my kid's papers and I was editing it I'd be tut tutting about not one but TWO sentences beginning with "and") (wait, where was I?) (oh yah) (oh, wait. Heck. Where WAS I going with this)... And... oh manure. Never mind.

Y'all have a good day.

Monday, September 04, 2006


'Pup's in the hospital with a mystery infection. They're pumping him full of antibiotics and drawing about the same amount of blood from him.

And, oh. they're wondering why he's anemic.

I'm not too worried about him, as he's giving the nurses holey hell, so... basically he's not feeling too sick, just in pain and worry and grumpy.

You know, the usual for most of us over 35 in this world.

I'm still trying to find a neurologist that takes Aetna HMO to see why I can't walk as well as I was last year and why I can't walk far enough to get out of breath before the pain stops me.

I swear... 'Pup's in a semi private room and hasn't got a roommate just now. Sometimes? I feel like crawling into that bed. But, someone has to feed the cat, the birds (0ut side.. free) and the dog. Who has developed a somewhat odd attachment to one out of two pairs of slippers. Hum. that didn't read right. I mean, he's seems to prefer to cuddle with one slipper out of each of two pairs. He's not chewing on them, he just brings them into the bed sometime in the night.

So, I wake up everymorning with a dog that has accumulated: 1 chewtoy rawhide knot, 2 slippers and a stuffed green aligator that has been named "Wally Gator".

This dog has some major issues. He's living in the right house for them.

The cat is now looking to me for cuddles, as her Momma isn't coming back. Tho' she still looks for him. Which, oddly enough, out of all the things that have gone not so well lately in my life, is the one that makes me cry.

What makes y'all cry?