Losing things doesn’t mean you’re losing it.

I misplace my glasses a lot but it’s not my fault. It’s Hugh Jackman’s fault. I have one pair for seeing close up and another for far away, and I switch them constantly. When I’m walking around with my far glasses on, I often need to read some small print—especially if it’s something important like a photo of a scantily clad Hugh Jackman. I may be 70 but I’m not dead yet. So I have to take off my far specs and put on my close-ups. 

I lost my close-up glasses for two days once. I gave up and made do with my previous prescription pair. Then Frank, my husband, went to get some ice cubes and there were my glasses, in the freezer. And I remembered I had stuck my head in there rummaging around, way in the back, for the Haagen-Dazs ice cream, and put my glasses down so I could see because they were fogging up. I got so excited when I found the Haagen-Dazs I completely forgot about my glasses.

Often I forget to pay attention to where I am when I take off the pair I don’t need, and I have to go looking for those glasses. Sometimes I’m carrying a cup of coffee and I put that down during my search, and after I find my glasses I have to go around looking for my coffee. And so on. 

At seventy the specter of Alzheimer’s always looms when you misplace something. One well-known sign is finding things you’ve lost in strange, inappropriate places. In a public service TV ad about Alzheimer’s, an elderly couple is looking everywhere for something the woman lost, and the man takes a break and goes to the fridge get some cream for his coffee. He removes the pitcher…and car keys are behind it! The mournful, worried look they exchange makes it clear they’re positive the wife has Alzheimer’s. 

I’m not worried. I didn’t even consider the freezer a strange, inappropriate place to lose my glasses. It made perfect sense. The worse thing about the whole affair was that Frank found out I’d been into the Haagen-Dazs.

“… there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known.” -Matthew 10:26

I searched an entire afternoon for my glasses once, and the cat had them all the time.

Message from Beyond

One summer I signed up for six weeks of guided meditation. During the third-week session, I went deeper and deeper into the plumbless depths of my subconscious and became a bird. It was quite a shock. To top it off, I received instructions for living from another bird.

The bird made its instructions perfectly clear.

This all took place while I listened to music with delta waves, which are thought to bring on the deepest levels of sleep, relaxation and peace of mind during meditation. As I went deeper into my meditative state under the influence of the guide’s words and the delta waves, I found my befeathered self sitting in a tree that borders a fence in our backyard. Across from me, staring at me relentlessly, eyes boring into me, was a confident young bird also perched in a tree.

I was riveted by the power of our eye contact and telepathic connection across the yard from each other. The young bird then spoke to me. It was a profound, mystical, spiritual message: 

 “Back off, Mom.”

It was clear the young bird was my then 20-year-old daughter, Michele. She and I had relationship problems, largely because in my chronic anxiety I was always fearing for her safety. At the time, I was unconscious of it. But after this experience, I realized I did her no favors with my overprotectiveness and anxious hovering.

What her eloquent message relayed was that, emotionally and spiritually, she had her own tree separate from mine, and that I was to stay in my tree, and visit hers only when invited.

It doesn’t get much clearer than that.


“Love is patient and kind….It does not insist on its own way….”-1 Corinthians 13.4-7

Good always prevails.

The suspect

Hope was missing. My daughter had found her under a bush, a baseball-size mound of downy fur peeping like a baby bird. An abandoned kitten. Michele brought her home and we all fell in love. I took her to the vet where I dropped a pretty penny for medicine, and bought kitten feeding supplies. Over the next few weeks we took turns nursing her to health. Even my husband, Frank, pitched in.

Hope thrived. Then when she was a year old she left our yard one morning as usual and never came home. We walked the neighborhood day and night calling and calling her, knocked on doors to hand out flyers, called shelters, did everything else we could think of to find her. 

A week went by. We were losing hope, and beyond sad. Then the phone rang. “I think your cat is under our house,” a woman’s voice said. She lived around the corner. She had seen her dog, Summer, pacing excitedly in front of a vent in the backyard that opened to the crawl space under the house. It had no screen. Summer’s owner, Jean, peered down and saw a little cat shape.

We rushed over, and Jean led us to the floor-opening in her closet that led to the under-house space. She lifted the lid and two bright eyes shined up at us like searchlights. It was Hope, tail wagging and vibrating crazily, her entire body wiggling. Frank lifted her out and put her in her carrier, and we took her home for a joyous reunion. She was healthy. There must have been mice, and moisture from several heavy rains, in her underground world.

Next day I brought a gift basket to Jean, including some very expensive gourmet dog treats for our hero, Summer. I did that even though I was certain Summer was also the beast who scared Hope under the house in the first place. No other animals hung out in Jean’s backyard, at least no animals that would be likely to chase a cat. I knew, in my heart, that Summer was both persecutor and savior.

Summer knew I knew. I gave her a treat and while she was gulping it down like there was no tomorrow, she sneaked a couple of sheepish looks at me. Doggish looks, I should say. She was lucky that I believe every being who sins, and then repents, is deserving of forgiveness—and a made-from-scratch gourmet Pup Tart.  

If anyone sins against you, rebuke them. And if they repent, forgive them. Luke 17:3-4

Life knows what it’s doing.

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Relax.


It was 1981. I was 35 weeks pregnant, at home enjoying a fun episode of The Love Boat. Suddenly I felt powerful contractions, while the ship’s bartender was belting out a song trying to court a talent scout. My enjoyment turned to foreboding. I had an undeniable feeling in my gut that the baby was coming, very soon. But it wasn’t time.  

I had never even considered the possibility of not going full-term to 40 weeks. Everything until then had been going along so smoothly. I was frightened. Even though 35 weeks is not extremely early, I had a sense of foreboding. In fact, by the time we got to the hospital and they were pushing me down the maternity ward corridor in a wheelchair I was crying. “Something’s wrong,” I sobbed, “Something’s wrong. It’s not time!”

Michele, our beautiful baby girl, was born that night with “multiple congenital anomalies.” They included her smallness—she weighed just over three pounds, very small for a 35-week baby; a bent nose, twisting to the left; and tiny ears. Some other anomalies and issues such as hearing impairment would be addressed as time went on. A team of doctors came and put her onto a gurney loaded with monitors and wires and rushed her to intensive care. The team leader came to my room later and, in a voice filled with compassion, told me and Michele’s father they weren’t sure she would live through the night. We were frightened, hoping desperately that she would. We already loved her deeply.  

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If Michele had been born at the “right” time, things might have been tragic.

I didn’t see Michele until more than 24 hours after she was born, because specialists were in and out of her IC room all that time, filing in and out, examining her intently.

It turned out I was mistaken to be upset about the earliness of Michele’s birth. I’m convinced she had reached an instinctual decision in my womb to come out early. And that was exactly the right thing. It turned out that she had cranial synostosis: her skull plates had fused prematurely in my womb. They’re supposed to be detached from each other for a few years after birth, to allow the brain and features to expand as the baby grows. The neurosurgeon told us later that if she hadn’t had corrective surgery by the time she was 38 in-womb weeks (two weeks “early”) there would almost certainly have been severe brain damage. Being born at 35 weeks gave her three weeks of beneficial out-of-womb nutrition and growth before the surgery. If she had been born at the “right” time, at 40 weeks by conventional medical wisdom, she would have been brain-damaged.

So, right from the get-go, Michele was wiser than I was. She knew things I didn’t. I shouldn’t have been afraid about her birth being early, I should have been reassured. I shouldn’t have been crying in my wheelchair about something being wrong, I should have been cheering—yelling “You go girl!”

Michele’s time of arrival in the world was miraculously right. Since then she’s had her share of challenges, undergoing many surgeries since that first one in early infancy until she was 20. Much has been corrected, aesthetically and otherwise. Today she’s married, a college graduate, a lover of life, independent, intelligent, compassionate, creative, energetic, beautiful…and, I might add, punctual. She’s never late.  I could go on singing her praises but I’ll stop here.

I’ve come to realize it’s silly to worry about her, because she knows what she wants and she knows what to do to get it. Just like she knew, nestled in my womb, exactly when to be born so she could have her surgery on time. 


rose-1403530_640The power of faith: As you do not understand the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the maker of all things. ~Ecclesiastes 11:5

 

chocolate-183543_640The power of chocolate: If God gives you chocolate, you open your mouth, no? ~Alejandro Jodorowski

Who is this gutsy woman?


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No worries.

Several months ago doctors discovered a potentially cancerous cyst on my husband’s pancreas. They saw it on a CT scan, taken to investigate a possible infection before performing a rather simple hernia operation. The cyst was a surprise to everyone. Frank promptly had his hernia repaired and shortly after that had a major operation to remove the cyst. 

The whole experience was very challenging for both of us, as you can imagine. But through our struggles, we grew. In fact, the difficulties that arose made me realize I’m much more than I ever thought I was. Abilities and strengths had been hiding inside me, undiscovered until Frank’s operation. Here are some examples.

PATIENT ADVOCATE: I’m usually rather timid, but as Frank’s advocate I was take-charge and creative. I wandered around the hospital and stole magazines from waiting room areas when Frank was out of reading material. When the doctors switched his diet to solid from liquid, I went out to wonderful little restaurants around the hospital and smuggled in sushi and sashimi and tempura and other favorite delicacies. When he became alert enough to want to watch television, I figured out how to operate the TV in his room because the nurse didn’t have time. This is the accomplishment I am most proud of. There wasn’t even a manual, and to say that I am electronically challenged is a real understatement. But I did it. I stretched my boundaries. Maybe I’ll even do some troubleshooting to solve some problems with my PC. On second thought, never mind. That’s why God made Geek Squad.  

I was at the hospital early in the morning every day for the week and a half he was there. I nagged him to make sure he breathed every half hour into his spirometer, a device to help prevent pneumonia. Nagging isn’t pleasant but somebody had to do it and I rose to the occasion. It’s a lot more pleasant than pneumonia.  I took him for at least two daily walks around the corridors, so he wouldn’t get pneumonia just lying, inactive, in bed, and after I got home in the evening I always called and made sure a nurse or assistant walked him before bed.  I made sure he ate, instead of sitting and looking at food that was often left in front of him too far away to reach, in containers he couldn’t open in his weakened condition. I think without someone in the room to help him with his food he would have starved. When I left I made sure he was warm and positioned comfortably and his nurse call button was in reach. I made sure he drank lots of fluids. I emptied his plastic urine container.    

WOUND NURSE: I am alarmed at the sight of blood. That’s another understatement. There’s a great line in a Woody Allen movie (I can’t remember which movie). It goes “Blood. That’s supposed to be on the inside!” I couldn’t agree more. That’s why I can’t quite believe I did what I describe below.

Our wonderful home health nurse, Mandy, came three times a week to change Frank’s wound dressing. As queasy as I am, I forced myself to watch her every time because of the possibility, though unlikely, that someday there would be too much drainage to wait for Mandy’s next visit. Sure enough, the someday came. I checked his bandage one evening and saw a lot of pus and blood. I took a few deep breaths and splashed my face with cold water, to keep from shaking. I knew I had to do the deed.

As queasy as I was, I managed to calmly remove the old bandages. Mandy kept her supplies in our house, and I cleaned the wound out by putting saline-soaked gauze pads into the sizeable incision on his abdomen, pushing them down gently with long Q-tip type things, and used them to lift out the gauze pads along with the pus and blood that clung to them. I did that several times until the soaked gauze came up clean, then wiped his abdomen around the hole, tamped fresh saline-soaked gauze down into it, and sealed it up with tape and several gauze pads.

Okay, I confess. I had help. Panicked, I called the home health service and told the night nurse on duty what was going on. I couldn’t have done it without her, or without my speaker phone. Her calm, professional voice broadcasting from my landline led me through the whole process step by step. Still, I can’t believe I mucked around like that in a hole in my husband’s stomach. The next time Mandy came I told her about it, and Frank actually said it was “heroic.” I treasure his remark. I think he has a new respect for me. It’s the highest compliment I’ve ever gotten from him. The only one, actually. He’s a man of few words.  

CHARGE NURSE: When Frank came home from the hospital I set up a detailed medical schedule, giving him all his antibiotics and pain and other medications on time using a timer I bought just for that purpose. I kept a killer written schedule and recorded time and amount of every single medication dose I gave him. You’d have thought I went to nursing school. I made sure he walked with his walker at least twice a day and breathed into his spirometer frequently. Every day I made three balanced, nutritious meals, sufficiently bland for his tender, surgically assaulted digestive organs. I gave him a daily sponge bath. I stayed with him day and night leaving the house only for groceries and prescriptions and the occasional furtive stop at Starbucks, for several weeks until he was able to do more things independently and was steady on his feet. If I had to leave I made sure the phone and the emergency inhaler for his COPD were within reach.

And, like any good nurse, I didn’t put up with any shit. It was for his own good. I watched him like a hawk. No way could he get out of breathing exercises or walking or eating his veggies or taking his multivitamin, which he thinks is for sissies. He didn’t want to take the probiotics I gave him to prevent diarrhea either. He’s suspicious about anything that’s new and unfamiliar to him. He argued and gave me a big hard time about it, but I brought him in line by dropping subtle hints about putting him in a skilled nursing facility. I was up to cleaning out his wound and changing the bandage, but I wouldn’t have been able to deal with diarrhea. A baby’s diarrhea is one thing. I’ve done that. But an adult male? Forget it.

One day I heard him mutter something under his breath about Nurse Ratched but I just let it go. I don’t think I was that bad. And I was tough on him because I love him.   

BAD ASS BIG-CITY DRIVER: I’ve been a timid country girl all 70 years of my life, hiding out in the suburbs of Silicon Valley. I was born here when it was still sleepy Santa Clara Valley. I’m a bit reclusive and I have a big phobia about driving in big cities, like San Francisco, which to  me is huge and frightening. It’s way bigger than Fremont, the boring little bedroom community where Frank and I live.

Hiding behind my phobia, I had managed not to drive to San Francisco for decades. But SOMEBODY had to drive Frank to his biopsy since he would be anesthetized and could not drive himself home. And the biopsy was in San Francisco. A cab or Uber simply wouldn’t do.

The demon was at my door. It was staring me in the face. The SOMEONE who had to drive him was ME.

I went to war against my phobia. I pored over printouts of Google Maps. I memorized all the streets and printed directions for the drive not only to the hospital but the drive back home as well. A friend showed me the basics of my iPhone GPS, which I had never used, and I drove around with it on all the time until the biopsy date, getting used to it. To top it off, Frank and I made a couple of dry runs before the appointment. We parked in each nearby parking garage so I could get familiar with the drill. They don’t have parking garages in Fremont.

I even prayed.

On the big day my knuckles were white on the steering wheel but I made it to the parking garage for Kaiser San Francisco. The biopsy was positive, which meant another epic drive in a few weeks, this time to the surgery center in Oakland. Again we did a couple of test drives. Eventually I got to be an old hand driving around Oakland streets because Frank was in the hospital for 11 days and I made the round-trip drive every day by myself.

Today I no longer shrink from city driving. I can outmaneuver the best of them. I can change lanes on a dime and cut people off and beat people to parking spaces like I’ve been doing it all my life. I can be as verbally abusive as any Type A driver. I’ve used words I never even knew I knew. Frank no longer likes to drive with me. He says I’m rude and reckless, and that I could move to New York City and make a good living as a cab driver. And he says if I do, he will stay here.

Those are the highlights of challenges I rose to meet. I look back at when we first found out about Frank’s cyst, and remember how daunting it was to contemplate being his sole care giver. But I did it. I did it all, from changing his bandage and being an all-around nurse to taking care of the house and the housework and the yard and the cats and taking out the garbage and paying the bills and chauffeuring and cooking and grocery shopping and all the rest of it. I continued doing it all for months after his surgery while he slowly recovered.  

All the things I was afraid of actually expanded my horizons. Things that I was certain would be too much for me to do turned out okay. I learned first-hand that I am up to more challenges than I ever thought possible. I’m going to say it, just this once: I was awesome.

Everything worked out including the outcome of Frank’s surgery. The cyst was completely removed, and turned out to contain an extremely low-grade cancer, and nothing had spread beyond its borders.

It doesn’t get any better than that. 


rose-1403530_640Scripture:  “But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God, and Google Maps, and nurses on speaker phones, and a mocha latte now and then, all things are possible.” ~ Matthew 19:26

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The Power of Chocolate: “I’ve been through some tough times, with no one to talk to, to share with, to count on. Thank God I had chocolate.”


no worries

Relax. It all works out.