I AM AN AMERICAN

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I am an American.

I believe in truth, justice and the American way.

I am an American.

I believe in facts. Lying, cheating and editing the truth to

Distort Reality is not part of who I am.

I am an American.

I am not a bigot.

I do not condone the actions of Neo-Fascist White Supremacists. I do not believe that our President should align himself with them.

I am an American.

I believe all Americans should have food in their bellies and Medical Care if they need it. That means helping others who need help.

I am an American.

I am the granddaughter of immigrants who pursued the American Dream.

I reap the benefits of their toil and courage. I believe I can’t hoard all of it.

I am an American.

I am a grandmother who worries about the future of my grandchildren. I want this planet to survive long after I’m gone.

I am an American.

I want to live in this amazing country and feel safe. I don’t want to feel threatened by anyone, including terrorists or a gunman showing up in my neighborhood mall.

I am an American.

The Declaration of Independence states: “We hold these Truths to be selfevident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness….”

We Americans need to remember that. We need to work on making those words true.

I am an American.

I’m here for the long haul. I won’t go away.

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A Turkey in the Produce Aisle

via A Turkey in the Produce Aisle

A Turkey in the Produce Aisle

 

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I live such an eventful life. Take yesterday morning at the grocery store…the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. I was there before nine. I knew the one item I had to have would be scarce and in demand: chopped onions. I hate to chop onions! No matter how often I tell myself not to blink, I always end up rubbing at my eyes until they sting and painful tears blur my vision of my smelly fingers. I was so happy when grocery stores started carrying previously chopped ones. But I’ve learned the hard way–you have to get them early or they’re off the shelves.

Once in the store, I made a beeline to the produce section. It was packed. And packed with people who looked like they needed a mental health professional immediately. I zigzagged through them as if I were in contention for the Heisman Trophy, but as I approached my goal, I saw a man headed in the same direction. He beat me by an arm’s length, scooping up four boxes of chopped onions and celery.

Meanwhile, I could see in my peripheral vision that a woman was coming up beside me.

As I picked up the one remaining square box and put it in my cart, I smilingly said, “Wow, this is such a popular spot today. It’s a good thing there’s lots more chopped onion containers over here. Otherwise we might have had to share.”

 

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The man, horrified by the “share” word, clutched his boxes to his chest. “These are a combination of chopped onions and celery,” he clarified. Then he hurried away.

I turned to roll my eyes at the woman behind me. We smiled and she shrugged her shoulders in that “what can you do?” kind of shrug. That’s when I noticed she didn’t really have any arms. And her hands had only three fingers on them. (I didn’t want to be rude so I didn’t look that closely, but I’m pretty sure one hand had a thumb.)

I leaned over and picked up the last box of chopped onions and celery from my cart. “Here you go,” I said, handing it to her.

“Thank you.” She held up her hands. “I can do it, but it is a little difficult for me to manage chopping all this.”

Somehow I found myself holding up my five healthy, if arthritic fingers, and saying, “I bet! I can barely do it with all ten of these.”

Now, you may think this was an awkward thing to say, but somehow it was exactly right. I wasn’t pretending not to notice her lack of appendages and she seemed to appreciate it. We chatted for a few minutes about Thanksgiving and grandchildren and then went on our ways.

As I told my daughter the story, I realized this was another Curb Your Enthusiasm episode in my life. Can’t you just imagine the greedy man as Larry David?

 

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An Abstract-Random Mindfulness

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It finally happened just like I knew it would. I’ve been having a few health issues (that I still haven’t accepted–never thought it would happen to me!) so I’ve been going to a lot of new doctors and filling out those long forms. At one doctor’s office, the forms didn’t just cover your physical health, but also mental and emotional. So here was the question I’d been waiting for:

“Do you ever go into a room and not know why you were there?”

The answer to that is : “YES! But I have a BUT! Please listen to my BUT before you institutionalize me!!!! I’ve been walking into rooms like that since I was in my twenties.”

Between the kitchen and the bedroom, I start thinking of other things. Or I start outlining a story in my head. Or I remember I need to call the podiatrist. It’s not Dementia for me–it’s my Abstract-Random learning style in my Overactive Mind. Truly, my brain is mostly in overdrive, but I know the young doctors won’t believe me.

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I, of course, have senioritis as do most of my contemporaries. Like the other day, Valerie was telling me about the great lecture she attended the night before.

“It was sponsored by National Geographic and….” She pauses and gives me the round-eyed look we all get when we can’t remember the dang name of something.

“It’s a great museum. The best. It’s in Washington D.C. ” she says.

I start nodding. “Yes, I know what you mean. It’s on the Mall. It’s got everything. From airplanes to first ladies inauguration dresses.”

Valerie nods back. “Yes, yes. It starts with an S.”

We continue to nod and mutter “yes” as we go to our respective cars.

Two hours later, while cutting up carrots,  I shout in triumph, “Smithsonian!”

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But that’s senioritis. I’m talking about a more fundamental way of approaching the world. My learning style is defined as Abstract Random, which is great for creativity but can get in the way of task completion. For instance, I need to pack for an upcoming trip. That was the task I put on my list.

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(Lists, btw, are my salvation. I have lists on top of my lists. I have long range lists. I have weekly lists. I have daily lists. If I lose my daily list, I can become like the “Frog and Toad” character: I can spend my day looking for my list but not accomplishing anything on it.)

Getting back to packing. Somehow instead of filling my suitcase that I carried up to my bedroom at 8:00 AM, I’m writing this blog. A random thought flitted through my mind that on my trip I won’t be able to write a blog for a couple of weeks so I should write one before I leave. So here I am at 12:10 PM at the computer. And this blog wasn’t even going to be about memory. It was going to be about old Betamax tapes I just found.

Oh, well. That can be for another day. I need to go pack.

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Superwoman Bites the Dust, Part 2

You know how people say, “Listen to your body,”? It occurred to me this morning that I rarely do that. Instead I say, “Listen, body, do what I want.”

Since I had pneumonia, I must have had fifty people say, “Listen to your body.” I jokingly reply that the doctor should never have diagnosed walking pneumonia because I just kept walking around. Instead, she should have said, “Cindy, you have ‘going to bed and resting pneumonia.” I’d end up in bed only because I couldn’t do anything else, and I’d feel guilty about it.

Although I’m much better (I’ve turned the corner!), I’m still a work in progress. I may start off well when I get up, but I can hit the wall at about 11:00 A.M. Then I might be done for the day. So I’ve been trying to short circuit the fatigue by resting before I’m overcome by exhaustion. I make plans for what I can do—things that I never counted before like going to the market or dropping stuff at the cleaners.

When I walked this morning, I got quiet and went inward. I tried to listen? What was my body saying? It was hard to perceive any instructive advice because I’d turned that voice off years ago.

“How the hell should I know?” were the only words that came out—and those were from my mind. Which continued: “You can walk a little farther. You should be able to! You were walking five miles some days before. You need the exercise—you gained weight on your vacation! No pain, no gain! Don’t be a sissy!”

All of a sudden Dr. Phil was there in my head too. “And how’s that been working for ya?” he asked.

When the pulmonary specialist had said, “Don’t push yourself. Don’t walk too far so you’re too tired to walk back,” the words floated to my memory bank but not my conscious decision making center.

But Dr. Phil’s a big guy. His booming voice stood out in the crowd of bullies in my brain who urged me on. So I listened to him and turned towards home.

There’s more to this never-ending story, which I’ll share later. It includes chest X-rays, CAT scans, blood tests, pulmonary tests, inhalers, netty pots and a “No cancer,” diagnosis. It also includes me needing to make an attitude adjustment, which I’m working on. It’s hard to give up the feeling that you’re invincible. I don’t like it.

 

 

 

The High Holy Days

People often ask what we Jewish people do on the High Holy Days. What’s the Jewish New Year? “Do you have parties and fireworks?” And what’s the Day of Atonement? “Do you get absolved of all the things you’ve done wrong?” Let me see if I can provide some answers from my Reform Judaism and own point of you. Apologies already to my Orthodox friends who are much more observant than we are. This is bare bones here.

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Rosh Hashanah celebrates the beginning of the Jewish New Year. It’s in the 7th month of the Jewish calendar. Wikipedia says: Rosh Hashanah customs include sounding the shofar (a hollowed-out ram’s horn), as prescribed in the Torah. (Below is Moe practicing at our daughter’s in Seattle while we’re Skyping with our son and daughter-in-law’s family in California. Our granddaughter is in awe while I’m busting a gut.)

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Despite this moment of hilarity, the High Holy Days are very solemn. It is a time to look into your soul.

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People attend synagogue services and read special prayers and liturgy that has been read by our forefathers and mothers for thousands of years.

 

It’s also a time to gather with family and friends to enjoy delicious meals with symbolic and traditional foods. (This requires hours in the kitchen and sacrificing manicures!!!!)

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Here’s part of something I wrote for our Rosh Hashanah dinner this year.

Tonight, we celebrate the beginning of the Jewish New Year 5778.

We celebrate

  • our love for family and all humanity,
  • our desire to help our fellow man,
  • our hope to be the best people we can be,
  • our prayers for peace in the world.

We celebrate by reflecting on our past year. We remember the good things we have done, and the bad. We make a pledge to be better people—to do more good things—to put our words into action. Life is not a game of perfect, we will make some mistakes. But we never give up. We have ten days to think about who we are and who we want to be. We search our inner selves. We slow down to take stock. We recite the prayers our great-great-grandmothers and grandfathers did, as well. We carry on our heritage and connect with the generations before us. In these Ten Days of Awe, we center ourselves by remembering we are not the sum of our accomplishments or the amount of our possessions. No, we are just human beings. Human beings who are moral at our core.

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On Yom Kippur, you fast from sundown to sundown. It is a time for prayer and reflection, a time to get back to your center—to listen to the still, small voice inside that knows right from wrong. As we did on Rosh Hashanah, we go to synagogue to pray together . We ask forgiveness from God for what we have done wrong, and ask for the wisdom to not make the same mistakes. We say memorial prayers for our loved ones who are no longer with us.

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At sundown, we once again gather to break-the-fast. Another time to be with family and eat traditional foods.

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This is not in any way a definitive explanation of the High Holy Days. Mostly it’s a glimpse into how the family Muscatel observes them.

Shalom. Peace. Amen.

In the Blink of an Eye

“Racial profiling is a longstanding and deeply troubling national problem despite claims that the United States has entered a “post-racial era.” It occurs every day, in cities and towns across the country, when law enforcement and private security target people of color for humiliating and often frightening detentions, interrogations, and searches without evidence of criminal activity and based on perceived race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion.”

 

I read a blog sent out by ACLU that said just because police are afraid of an African-American man (or woman) that is no excuse to kill them.

It got me thinking about Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink.

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He says that we make decisions in the blink of an eye. Sometimes this is excellent. Some could call it intuition. But it often leads to the kinds of tragedies that are played out on the streets of big and small cities across America.

Police officers answering calls, especially domestic violence calls, are afraid for their lives. They know what has happened to other officers and that it could happen to them. They pull their guns fast and use them faster. If it’s a person of color it seems even faster. I’m not sure it’s because of racial hatred. It’s definitely racial profiling.

Ruminating about this, I started thinking about my own quick impressions of people. If I see a white older man in a suit, I think to myself: If that guy is a senator and a Republican he’s probably a Christian who only feels charity to other Christians. If he’s a “southern gentleman”, I throw in that he’s a racist bigot. I know it’s wrong to think that way. I’m trying to get over it.

Living in California there are many Hispanic people around me. Yesterday I got my car washed and sat next to two women speaking rapid fire Spanish. I’ve been working on my Spanish so I always eavesdrop to try to figure out what’s being said. As usual, I could pick out a few words here and there, but it was too quick for me. The men washing the cars, the man who took my information, the young woman who checked me out—they were all Hispanic. Should I generalize that all Hispanics are working class so how could they afford to get their car washed? A scene in the movie Beatrice At Dinner illustrates this well. When Beatrice, a guest, comes up to speak to Lithgow’s character, he asks her to refill his drink. He assumes she’s a servant. It’s not only because she’s wearing casual clothing; it’s because she’s Hispanic by birth. It’s a cringe-worthy moment.

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The ACLU blog got me thinking about how I feel if I see a black man. Do I immediately blink and feel fear? I don’t. I’m very happy to say that. I do not want to be a racist. I do not want to jump to conclusions about a person because of his or her race.

I was fortunate to grow up in Seattle and attend schools that were multi-racial and ethnic. I went back and taught in my junior high school and learned as much from my students as I taught them. So I avoided a lot of the scourge of racism. Not all, of course. But like Spanish, I keep working on it.

Besides being “white”, I am Jewish, which makes me a little schizophrenic in America, and always a little afraid.

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I don’t “look Jewish” so I can pass easily in society. Until someone spouts a Jewish slur. That’s why I announce early into a conversation with a new acquaintance that I’m Jewish. I don’t want to suffer again the embarrassment of hearing someone say: “Don’t Jew me down.”

I’ve never wanted to admit that America is not the land of the free and the home of the brave. I love that myth. I love the stories of the Pilgrims and the Indians sharing the first Thanksgiving.

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It’s so sad at 71 to be aware it was a mythology we were taught. My generation was raised on Westerns where homesteaders and cowboys were heroes.

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We never realized that the scalps being taken and the arrows being shot were from the knives and bows of the people the land belonged to.

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They were defending their property! We had no compassion whatsoever. It’s taken me a long time and perhaps the Donald Trump administration to pull the blinders fully from my rose colored eye-apparel.

I’m not saying I’m not proud to be an American. I am.

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I know how lucky I am that my grandparents had the courage to immigrate here, to a democratic capitalist nation. To a place where they had opportunity. I’m just acknowledging that the United States is not perfect. Nothing is. (Not even me.) But we can keep learning and growing.

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We don’t have to be a melting pot to create a fabulous America. We can be a mixed salad with innovative and flavorful ingredients. Remember the posters United WE Stand after 9/11? Let’s remember that is our greatness.

Miss Smartypants Bites The Dust

So for some reason I’ve been putting off writing this blog. I could plead fatigue. I could plead that my worries are so small in the face of all the disasters around us that I’m embarrassed to focus on me. But I realize most of it is avoidance and denial.

Our mother always said: Pride comes before a fall. This can be a crippling refrain if it plays constantly on your brain’s radio dial. But in the story I’m about to tell, it plays a big part. I let my ego take control and it all got out of hand.

I was so proud of myself at the beginning of May. Here was my mindset: Seventy-one years old and close to being in the best shape of my life!! Walking four to five miles a day, working out, doing yoga, eating well (well, mostly well), and in fantastic health. Working on my memoir, writing short stories, writing my blog! And I only needed 6 hours or less of sleep a night! Others around me might be aging, but not me!! I was like good wine. (Muscato fine vintage.)

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Then on May 25th, I got a sore throat. But because of allergies, I often get a sore throat and then it goes away. Or if I get a cold, I easily get over it. Positive thinking and meditation helped with that. I even wrote a funny blog about how sick I felt. But after a month, it wasn’t so funny. I made it to the important things like my grandson’s high school graduation, but I’d have to rest all day. My brain was a little fuzzy—I’d mean to say kitten but I’d say cotton. Even though I couldn’t manage to go to a manicure appointment (that should have told me how sick I was) I managed to finish a memoir piece about being sexually harassed when I taught school in the Sixties.

And I did start to get better. “I can tell I’m turning the corner,” I’d say to people when they asked if I’d gone to the doctor. “Look at Rachel Maddow. She had this thing too and it knocked her out of work for over a week.”

But then I started to get worse. I began to feel like a vintage wreck.

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“You’re still coughing?” my son said at the beginning of July when they returned from their trip to Thailand. “What did the doctor say?”

Well, unfortunately my doctor was away on a trip also. And it was a holiday weekend. I found out a month later that no one had really read the results of my chest X-ray to see the pneumonia and other issues. So I kept going like the little engine that could barely get up the hill. I thought I should be done with a cold so I started walking three miles. Yeah, not so smart.

After two months I went to Seattle. My daughter took one look at me and called her doctor. We went first thing the next morning: her doctor diagnosed walking pneumonia and I got on an antibiotic. It probably would have been better if she had said I had lying down pneumonia or stop what you’re doing pneumonia because I thought I could still walk around. Me, who thinks I’m so smart, just didn’t hear the message that I needed a lot of rest.

I guess my hearing is non-existent when I’m supposed to be listening to my body. I always push myself beyond my limits so was I going to quit now? No, not me. I went to Canada as planned and to the Bruno Mars concert. IMG_1719

 

I didn’t cancel plans with friends in Seattle though I was having trouble breathing, especially in the smoke filled air. I couldn’t really talk because it made me cough, but I went to a party and tried.

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I could go on and on, and I did. When we got back home, I finally shut down.

 

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So now we’re past the third month. I am better. I am. I’m trying to do less while keeping up with must get done. I prioritize better.

I’m not good at staying in bed. I get antsy. Fortunately, I’ve kept busy at home with little projects. Researching sponges was fun!

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Yes, I did become addicted to Facebook and the news.

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I found Facebook to be similar to leafing through magazines in the old days when you were sick. Oh, and shopping online!

I always try to learn from my experiences. This time I’ve learned that I’m an idiot. My husband is happy with that thought, and the fact that I’m no longer giving him advice on how he should follow doctor’s orders. The blind can’t tell others how to see.

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Okay, there’s more to this story, but I’m tired. I think I might listen to the doctor’s advice and go rest. He did go to medical school, after all.

 

Believe it or not: I Found a Hair Volumizing Product that works!

This is a message for those of you who are folliclly-challenged. The rest of you who have full, thick heads of hair probably won’t be interested, including my sister who was handed out all the hair anyone could ever want at birth. She still has lots of hair she can have fun with.

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I, myself, would do almost anything to have thicker hair…and I probably have. I can resist other types of products but if anything has “MORE VOLUME” written on it, I buy it. I have more products under my sink than Johnny Appleseed had seeds. IMG_1646

Some of these things above have been helpful but I want to announce that I have found a new hair produce that actually seems to work: Toppik Hair Fattener.

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It is giving my limp, lifeless strands more body! Just a little before I blow dry and my hair is so much thicker. How it works, I don’t know. I’m just seeing with my own eyes that it does.

I am obsessed by hair. When I’m in a crowd, after I’ve checked that no one is carrying a suspicious package, I’m checking out everyone’s hair. I can honestly say it’s the first and last thing I notice about a person. “Why can’t I have a swinging ponytail?” I mutter under my breath as I watch a woman walk by. “Why can’t I have a thick bob?” I whine to myself. You can’t really let people know how you feel about this, especially when there are children starving and good friends are losing all their hair to chemo. But, I know I can confide in you.

My story of hair deprivation begins early and with a mother who had scads of hair. You can see that she’s already wondering if the bow will cover the bald spot. I’m already questioning the fairness of the Universe: why I didn’t get the thick hair genetics?

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By nursery school, my hair wasn’t lush like my friend, Chi Chi’s in the foreground, but it wasn’t bad except for the bangs. I’d suffered a burn to my forehead so the bangs had to be short.

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Grade school I don’t know how my hair looked because I didn’t care. By the end of high school I got interested, but the results were mixed.

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In the Sixties, big hair was in. Everyone teased and sprayed and wore these little dome wiglets on top of our own hair.

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I wore one at my wedding:

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That began my life long love of wigs and falls. Here my granddaughter is modeling one.

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An extension of the wig is extensions, which I adored when I wore them. Unfortunately, they are hard on the hair, creating more hair loss.

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My amount of good hair days compared to bad is miniscule. My hair is not only thin, it’s baby soft. Also it has just enough curl to cause problems, better known as frizz. My hair won’t stay down or straight. ( My oldest granddaughter and I were measuring the other day to see how tall she is now. My son said if you discounted my Afro, she’s as tall as I am.) My hair is unable to withstand humidity or a windy day. If anybody touches it, they run the risk of great personal injury. I almost divorced my husband once when he insisted on driving his father’s classic 280SL with the top down to a party. Has he no sensitivity?

In order to counter effect my reality, I wear a lot of hats. And once I wear a hat, I can never take it off until I get home. If anyone playfully tried to take it off, they’d probably lose a hand.

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I grade photos of me on how good my hair looks. Here’s a couple of examples:

You might think I like this photo because my little grandsons who are now 18 and 19 look so adorable. No, it’s because my hair looks great!

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Here’s another one. You might think I like it because I’m with Charles Schultz at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference–nope, I like my hair.

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I do like the following one because I had a great lunch with Judy Blume, but also my extensions looked fabulous:

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You might think I like the next one because it records a very special time, but get a load of my hair! It looks amazing! It lasted through the B’nai Mitzvah ceremonies and then it was toast for the next ten days.

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You might think I like this one because I’m surrounded by my family. I do, but the hair is the main thing–it looks thick!

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Besides just having lousy hair, I have a long and sad history with hair loss. Each time I had a kid, my hairline receded a bit. I had a widow’s peak before them.

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Widow’s peak was gone after. (I wanted to have three kids, but I guess it was prudent that we stopped at two.)

When I had malaria, my hair fell out in handfuls. And then grew back sparsely. That’s when I joined the American Hair Loss Association.

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My dermatologist saved my sanity when she suggested Kenalog injections. She felt that the malaria had sent some of my follicles into a dormant state and they could be “reawakened.” Yes the injections hurt but they worked!!! And yes, I’d do it again in a second.

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This is the photo I had my daughter take of me a couple of weeks ago, trying to show I was getting better from the virus. Actually, we had to do it that night because I’d had my hair done earlier in the day and it looked good. No matter that I needed my bed, I wasn’t going to waste any opportunity.

So now you know more about me, probably more than I’d reveal on an every day basis.  Probably TMI, actually. But if you’re interested in any other products I’ve found useful, just ask. Oh, and for those of you who have oodles of hair

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and tell me how difficult it is to take care of, (you know who you are) be nice to me and others like me. You never know when we’re carrying scissors.

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All About Me! or Get Her Well and Shut Her Up!

Since there’s nothing happening much in the news, I thought I’d give you all an update on my health! I mean, let’s keep what’s important in perspective, right?

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I’m well into week 5 of this virus, no pun intended. I do think I turned a corner last week in that I’m not as flat-out sick as I was. But still, once I start feeling tired, I’m done. There’s no cushion to the fatigue. And once it comes, so does the cough, which tires me out more.

I’d like to first say that I have so much more compassion for people who have chronic illnesses. And I’d like to say that I’m sorry for not understanding how debilitated a person can be. I now understand why people become incommunicado—it’s just too much work to get in touch. It takes too much energy to go to lunch or even have a manicure. I don’t mean to say that my virus is on the par of chronic illness—I fully realize it’s just a virus. But it’s given me a taste of what people go through.

I think it also gave me a taste of what I may be like when I’m old, in my late 90’s. Right now my energy bank is not very full. I rest a couple of hours a day, especially if I have to go to an event. Otherwise, I wouldn’t make it. I make tradeoffs, also. If I’m going to go to the grocery store, I can’t take a walk or go to yoga. Not enough energy to cover both.

But I’m grateful that I’ve been able to do the important things this month. I made it to my grandson’s high school graduation and to my granddaughter’s dance recital. I made it to my daughter’s birthday and to our neighbor’s birthday. I made it to the family celebration of birthdays, Fathers Days, graduations and anniversaries. I even finished the chapter I’d been working on.

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I couldn’t eat much with this virus—too tired and slightly nauseous from the fever—so I lost a few pounds. (there has to be a silver lining!). My brother saw one of the family celebration pictures and thought I looked too thin.

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So last Friday, after I had my hair cut, I put on a lot of make up and had my daughter take my picture. That way I could show Steve I felt much better.

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One disturbing thing I realized during this siege is that if you don’t feel well, you make a lot of mistakes. My mind was kinda fuzzy—from the virus or the meds, I don’t know. I tried to keep going and accomplishing, but I’d come back to find out I hadn’t actually finished a task or had not done something correctly. Imagine if I were your pilot! Or your lab technician.

I want to thank everyone for the good advice, encouraging words and help. I did go to the doctor three times and I did get a chest X-ray. I did take more vitamins and kept up my fluids. Part of it was fear engendered by midnight coughing fits. Didn’t Jim Henson die of pneumonia? I’d think as I chugged cough medicine. Oh, and that reminds me. I had a lot of trouble with cough medicine—I tried it with codeine and I had weird dreams and sores in my mouth. And most over-the-counter ones have sucralose in them, of all things.

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A final thought: I realize as I read this over, that I must be very grateful to be such a healthy 71-year-old. If I can complain so much about this virus, I’m mostly in good health! I may be a rust bucket but I have classic lines!

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