Category Archives: Searching for Wisdom

personal growth stories

Regaining Faith in Humanity

Another school shooting. More people’s lives ripped away. More acts of religious and ethnic hatred. You see so much meanness coming from people nowadays, sometimes you begin to lose faith in humanity. Mine was restored a little today.

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As I rounded the bend on my walk, I saw a man standing on the grass, looking at the lake. Then I saw a tiny naked bird running around near him.

“Oh my goodness,” I said.

The man turned and smiled at me.

“He’s got to be brand new,” I said.

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“Actually, he’s a couple of weeks old,” he said. “He’s an orphan we found down by the weeds. He must have been the runt. You can see he also has a problem with his feathers, so they must have abandoned him.”

I shook my head. “That’s so sad.”

“I know. We picked him up and took him home, hoping we could save him.”

At that moment, the gosling started running away from us, flapping its wings. It looked like a wind up toy.

“Hey, where you going? Come back over here,” the man called. He looked at me. “This is the first time he’s ever left my side.”

The gosling came running back, stopping to peck at the grass for a moment before he returned close to the man.

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“He comes when you call?” I asked.

The man nodded. “Yeah, and he likes to cuddle under your chin.”

The man explained that they were raising him to get strong enough so they could to try to introduce him to a clutch that has goslings his age. They’d tried once already but he was rejected. “We’re hoping when he’s older it will work.”

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In the mean time, they have a set up a crate for him. “We’ve got stuffed animal geese in there and a mirror,” he explained. “The vet told us a special feed to get. He’s skinny, but eating and active.”

“He’s so cute,” I said.

“And look,” the man said. He pointed to the little guy’s chest where soft golden feathers were beginning to appear.

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The man’s smile was wide, filled with pride and compassion. “I think he’s going to make it,” he said.

What an inspiration, I thought as I continued on my walk. It goes to show that you should never give up. And that it’s not always the survival of the fittest if there’s a helping hand.

We need more of this in the world. Acts of kindness just because you can.

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A Tribute to Barbara Bush

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I’m very lucky that I got to meet Barbara Bush. She was just as everyone is describing. She was no-nonsense and warm. She was gracious, but you knew instantly that she didn’t suffer fools for a minute. She was full of fun and full of dignity. She was funny and irreverent, serious and dedicated. And she was real.

I wasn’t going to tell my story because it’s private, but the first time I met her was such a perfect example of who Barbara was that I can’t resist.

It was in Kennebunkport twenty years ago. We were back there with friends who were close with the Bushes. Four days before we left I was told that I’d being playing golf there.

“But I don’t play golf,” I said.

“You better learn fast,” my husband said.

Let me say here that I’m not the world’s greatest athlete. Nor is golf an easy sport. After twenty years I’m mediocre on a good day. But my first 18 holes was played with Barbara Bush, God help her.

We met at their club, Cape Arundel, me still tearing the tags off my golf attire. It turned out that the Bushes were hosting a cocktail party for 70 that evening at the Walker estate — Barbara was supposed to get a chance to relax and play golf that morning. Instead she got me.

Graciously, she invited me to ride in her cart. I’m not sure who she thought she was getting — I did come with a Hollywood couple, after all, who played golf all the time . She couldn’t have known I’d be a school teacher from Seattle…who’d never played golf. She soon realized the last part as I sprayed balls right and left. One hole of Cape Arundel borders a street and my ball almost took out the windshield of a Secret Service car driving along side. Guns drawn, two men in black leaned out of the car to make sure the former First Lady was not under attack.

I was in awe just being there–pretty tongue tied as well as embarrassed at my inability. I’d hit the ball and then scurry toward it, trying not to hold up play. Barbara must have been going crazy, but she didn’t say anything. On one hole, I actually was running to my ball. Barbara drew up in her cart and said, “Hop in. You don’t have to run. We all started somewhere.”

I rolled my eyes. “But why is my somewhere with you when you have 70 people coming to your house tonight.”

She laughed and patted the seat next to her. And I knew, just like that, I was okay in her book.

On the ninth green, I said, “Mrs. Bush, you can go ahead and putt out.”

A voice from the next hole called out, “Who’s calling my mother, ‘Mrs. Bush’. No one calls my mother, ‘Mrs. Bush.’ It’s Barbara.”

I blushed as I met Jeb who was playing with his dad and my husband.

Barbara, looking pleased, laughed at her son’s teasing. And I relaxed enough to laugh too.

Later that night at their house, she was the perfect hostess. Dressed in her classic style with the signature pearls around her neck, she made sure the evening, an event for MD Anderson, ran like clockwork. But it was with a calm and non pretentiousness that put everyone at ease.

We got to be with Barbara several other times. Each occasion was precious.

 

Glumping into Golden Age

images-1            Everything that happens to me lately, I blame on becoming older. Like I thought something was wrong with my ability to hear. I was listening to Morning Joe on Stitcher and it seemed everyone was talking extremely fast. I could barely understand what Mika was saying. It took me a couple of weeks, but it suddenly occurred to me to check the speed control: Sure enough, it had moved to 1.5 speed. A quick flick and I was back to normal speed. What a relief!

I’ve also been having trouble sleeping—the bane of Golden Agers. I was feeling quite anxious and blamed it not only on my life-long anxiety, but on my frustration with navigating this week through today’s health care system. I was just trying to get answers about test results and it wasn’t happening. Was I just too old to do it? I’d given up on getting a diagnosis—that seemed an impossibility for the UCLA system. They’d brought me to my knees just trying to get a human being to talk to me. I couldn’t even make an appointment in one office until the physician’s liaison got back to me. What is a physician’s liaison anyway?

“What is your husband’s diagnosis?” the receptionist asked.

I looked at the phone in disgust. “I don’t know his diagnosis!!! That’s why I’m calling to make an appointment!! That’s what we want to know!! I was an English major—no medical training here!! I’m not sure what the blood test is saying but when I look it up on the Internet, their interpretation is not comforting. And I’m pretty sure that the symptoms I’m now exhibiting as I talk to you, are indicative of high blood pressure and an oncoming stroke!!!!

I only actually said some of the above and I didn’t shout, but nothing phased the receptionist anyway.

“Is there someone there that can give me a hint if this is a serious situation?” I finally begged her.

“No, but the liaison will call you back with 48 hours,” she said. “Is this the best number to reach you?”

I could feel something throbbing in my head as I tried to slam down my iPhone.

Seeing that phoning was not working, I tried writing another email to our primary care doctor. Just let me know what we’re dealing with, I wanted to write. I like the idea of a health care portal and that you can write your doctor a question. I really really like it when they write back. But these portals shouldn’t release test results to lay people who don’t know how to interpret them. Then you go on-line and the answers you find are always the worst case scenario. I’m tired of being scared out of my wits.

Meanwhile, I didn’t get any answers back and had trouble sleeping that night.          The next day the physician’s liaison did get back to me. She talked in a hearty way, but would give me no information either.

“Okay. I’m guessing you’d like the next available appointment,” she said.

“Not really,” I said. “I want the next ASAP appointment.”

“Pardon me?” she said.

“I want the soonest available appointment,” I explained.

“Oh, sure. I can understand that.”

What did that mean, I wondered.

We got in two days later. We could have gotten in the next day but my husband was playing in a golf tournament and wouldn’t cancel. First things first! (Did I mention that while I was working my way into being a stroke victim, he was playing golf?)

I had no idea what the doctor would be like when we met her or him. She is FABULOUS!! She quickly explained that the alarming blood test told nothing by itself. She explained that more tests were needed. She explained what could be happening. She explained that there was nothing to worry about. It would probably turn out to be nothing. “I’ll tell you if you have to worry,” she said.

Of course she had no idea that she was talking to me, the poster girl for Worry Wort in the dictionary. I worry if I’m not feeling worried.

So, to get back to my first point about blaming everything on getting older, this frustration and non-worrying is why I thought I could barely sleep last night. But I was wrong. It was more about the bombing of Syria. I know this because when I woke up and before I opened my eyes, I thought, we’re still here, we’re still alive. I hadn’t even known my psyche had gone to Nuclear Winter.

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The Promise of Spring

It was a beautiful Easter/Passover morning. I set out on my walk without a plan in my head. I had no where I had to be until later in the day. Every plate and platter were put away, every pot was clean (well, there still was a little chicken soup left in one), and I no longer felt I’d been run over by a truck.

As I walked, I saw that the long winter’s sleep was done. Trees were budding all over the place! Primroses were nodding hello in the breeze. Calla lilies were in bloom.

When I walked by the lake I saw the many geese who’ve decided being American 24/7, 365/365 is a better plan than fighting the lines through Customs at the Canadian border. They aren’t the neatest of neighbors and can be quite aggressive at times…but not as aggressive as the coyotes who like to stretch their legs over the same grassy area.

As I rounded the curve, I spied an unusual sight: a goose who walked with a swagger. Most geese waddle. This guy had a long blade of grass hanging out of the side of his mouth. His cocky smirk reminded me of the silverback gorilla my brother had run into once in Rwanda.

After I’d walked a couple blocks, I got more curious and headed back to see if I could find my fine feathered friend. He, of course, wasn’t among the group on the lawn. He was much too superior for that. Maybe he was at the lake, I thought.

At first I wondered if maybe he was the one in the middle of the lake honking his head off warning the gaggle of impending doom. Or one of the two on the lake making plans for an assignation.

But, no, it seemed to me he was more the type to strut around looking for babes! And sure enough, I found him. Puffed out and looking good (except for the pieces of grass stuck in his beak.)

He kept walking around showing off but when I left, he was still alone. Just goes to show that all girls are smarter these days and as my mother always said, “Pride goes before a fall.”

Nostalgia Notes

 

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I got nostalgic yesterday for all the previous yesterdays when I could sleep through the night without worrying about was happening on the East Coast. I got nostalgic for the days when I didn’t need to know the names of people like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. I got nostalgic for the days when I believed our government was led by men and women with integrity and knowledge of national and international affairs. I wanted to go back to the days when I thought no President would tell a lie.

Then I got just plain nostalgic for that age of innocence when I was growing up. It turned into a Remember When morning and thinking of things in the past.

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Let’s start with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on white bread. Really, they were so delicious and went down so smoothly with a glass of milk. And we thought we were eating something healthy: the peanut butter was protein and the jelly was fruit. I just realized something weird — no one had a peanut allergy back then.

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Sadly, another thing that is probably in my past is prime rib. It used to be my favorite — my mother made a big one every Sunday night and we fought over the crispy fat. Now when I look at this photo, I feel a bit nauseous. Darn! And it tasted so good.

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Embroidery is a craft of the past. Probably a hundred years ago, my grandmother embroidered these napkins made out of flour sacking. My grandparents were immigrants who had nothing when they came to the United States in 1900. But my grandmother had skill and perseverance so she made things beautiful. I’ll never throw them away.

She is still my inspiration. She was the most amazing baker the world has ever seen. She never measured — well, she did use a half of an egg shell occasionally. This photo really captures her spirit.

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Spring is such a hopeful season filled with abundant energy. Winter fights with Spring, creating mischievous weather that has us layering on and off. The other day, as I put my jacket back on after just removing it five minutes before, I heard the distant drone of a propeller in the sky. When I looked up at the single engine plane, it took me back to my childhood days in Seattle. More feelings of nostalgia.

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Then there is the nostalgia for what you once could have worn, but no longer can. Like this gorgeous shoe — boot. I’m drooling as I look at it but I know there’d be no reason for me to even try it on. Too high of a heel for me and it would look ridiculous at the bottom of my babyboomer legs.

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Above is this tee shirt, which is more appropriate for me at my age. I remember getting a plaque with Getting Old is not for Sissies for my mom and dad on their 50th anniversary. Oh, we kids thought it was so funny…and we thought it would never happen to us.

Guess who isn’t laughing now.

 

 

 

Trump Tramples Women

via WHAT’S THE NEXT DOGWHISTLE?

Don’t Count Me Out: I’m not going down that path

Who thought at 72 I would still be asking myself: “Who am I?” This is not the first time I’ve asked myself that. Maybe the 100th? But I thought by now I’d know.

Last spring I still thought I was 50. Well, maybe 60. I was in great shape — walking five miles a day, doing yoga, working out — and also very productive — writing several chapters for my book, my blog and short stories. I was marching in protests, keeping up with my kids and grandkids, doing it all.

I’ve always liked to do it all–it might be my manic. Sometimes I have trouble sleeping because it seems like a waste of time. I do think our age group had this thrust on us. As the vanguard of the babyboomers, we “girls” couldn’t just be a pretty face. We had to be that, but also be athletic, get straight A’s and have meaningful professions–as well as becoming perfect wives and mothers.

Then last spring I got a bad virus that might have come to me via Brazil. At first I joked about it. I even wrote a humorous blog about all the medications I was taking from the East and West medical experts. Well, I did refuse the antibiotic — Heck, I was no senior citizen who had to jump to that extreme!

As the summer wore on, I felt worse and then better. Then worse and then worser. I did have a chest X-ray, but it was Fourth of July and the doctors were on vacation so no one read it. My cough took over the situation until I felt just like this car below. I’d been a cute model in my time, but now I held together by duct tape.

I was finally diagnosed with walking pneumonia. They should have told me I had go-to-bed pneumonia ‘cuz instead, I just kept walking around doing my normal stuff. That’s when being 70 caught up with me. Turned out I have COPD that was being exacerbated by the bug and the pneumonia. My lungs and bronchials are permanently damaged, which explains why I get so tired when others don’t. It’s taken months to get back enough energy to create a normal life; and it’s a new normal, at that.

That became jeopardized last week when I got sick with a respiratory bug. I felt like I was the star of “Groundhog’s Day”, repeating the same symptoms as six months before: fever, sore throat, cough, swollen glands, nasal and ear congestion. A year ago, I’d have said I had a head cold, but this time I saw the doctor and was on a Z pack within two days. And I’ve added an inhaler into the mix. Plus I’m eating a healthy diet: eliminating gluten and dairy and most sugars.

I started lying around all day, like the older person I am. Especially because of all the articles about people dying from the flu. And my friends advising me not to take this illness lighting. And because the doctor told me to lay low. And my husband telling me to please not exert myself. Actually, I had so many well intentioned warnings that I started getting short of breath just from anxiety. I was a nervous wreck!

Yesterday I realized I’m beginning to think of myself as an invalid. I ventured out to do yoga and walk a half a mile. What’s going to happen, I wondered with trepidation. I came home and pampered myself, making sure I took my medications, rested, and checked in the mirror often to see how ashen my face looked. It was when I woke from my nap that I began to question: Who am I?

One thing I can tell you, the answer is not going to be invalid. When the going gets tough, the tough get going! I like cliches that are helpful.

 

Marching for the American Way

 

I was surprised last night when I went on Facebook and saw negative comments about the Women’s March, especially surprised to read those from women. “Why are you marching? What don’t you have?” someone asked to women in general as if we are spoiled little girls who just want more and more!
“What were all these women doing blocking the roads when people needed them to get to work?” another person groused.
“Why take up the time of the police? They have better things to do than herd women with little pink pussies on their heads,” said someone else.


Okay, I thought.  I’m not sure why, out of all things going on, people are so annoyed about women organizing and marching. Obviously, they just don’t get it. Women, and men, marched together for what we were taught in school: American values. The March supported women, yes: equal pay, protection from harassment, the right to female healthcare–those kinds of issues. But it also supported the values of honor, integrity, respect, truth and fair play. We marched for equality and justice for all.

Did I think I’d be doing this at 72? No, not at all. Did I think my sisters from all over the country would be marching in January because we felt we needed to? No, but here we are.

I went to the Kona March with 12 people, male and female. We ranged in age from 2 and 1/2 to 88. We weren’t a militant group–just neighbors who care about each other and the United States.

It was hot. We needed water, and lots of it. No one complained, even the baby girl!

There were all kinds of people there–people who cared enough to come out and stand together . It felt good to chant: RESIST, PERSIST, INSIST. We will resist injustice. We will not be good little girls and go away–we will persist as we insist that our flag stands for everybody. We are a diverse nation–that’s a fact. And we love it.

A man asked me what I thought about the Trump year. He recorded what I said (Will I be arrested soon?), which was: “I think the band aid has been ripped off the cover of America, and the ugly wound festering beneath has been revealed. Perhaps now there can be some healing.”

No Laughing Matter

At the beginning of the summer I wrote an, “Oh, so funny. I have a cold”, blog. Only it turned out to be no laughing matter. It was a bad virus that lasted for weeks. I stopped taking my temperature after nine days. After nine days, you don’t have a temperature anymore with a cold, right?

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(do not ask me why I took this picture–I don’t know. I must have had a reason, but it couldn’t have been a good one.)

 

And I only had a cold…all you had to do was ask me and I’d tell that I had the same virus that knocked out Rachel Madow. I refused to believe it was anything else and put away all my cold paraphernalia.

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I’d been coughing for so long that I stopped hearing myself cough. I was on the verge of total exhaustion by 8:30 in the morning, but I began taking my daily walk again.

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This cough medicine and Vick’s VapoRub stayed on the counter.

I didn’t realize I was spending a lot of time in bed. “Mimi takes rests,” my five-year-old granddaughter said in the middle of the summer and I laughed.

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Here she is entertaining me when I woke up one afternoon.

After the first ten days, I did go to the doctor, but he said it was a virus so no antibiotics were necessary. Three weeks later, I even had a chest X-ray—my husband insisted on it, which should have given me a clue something was up. But when you’re sick and so tired, you have trouble adding up two and two let alone that you’re husband’s mind, which is always on golf, was cognizant I was not doing well. Another clue that I was really sick was that I kept cancelling my manicure appointments. When you don’t have the energy to drive fifteen minutes to sit for a half an hour, you just might have a problem. Oh well, hindsight is 20:20.

The Fourth of July holiday is not a good time to be sick. Everyone in a doctor’s office is on vacation or wants to be on vacation. Chest X-rays don’t get read. Lungs aren’t checked. Temperatures aren’t taken. I was given an Okay when I shouldn’t have been.

By mid-July I had walking pneumonia. I knew it had to be walking pneumonia because I was still out walking the dog, no matter how exhausted I was. I began to sleep more during the day and continued coughing most of the night. This was when I began to feel like a wreck.

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In August, when I went for my annual check up, I insisted on another chest X-ray. That’s when things started hopping. The radiologist was so alarmed by what he saw that he called the doctor immediately. I was scheduled for a CT scan the next day.

This was around the time I asked my Facebook friends whether I could put off my mammogram. How much radiation can a person take in so short a time? I wondered.

In any case, the CT scan showed all kinds of gunk in my lungs and bronchioles. One pulmonary specialist sent me to a special lab to have 14 vials of blood taken. I guess they were looking for what kind of microbe had set off the chain of events.

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I started seeing a UCLA pulmonary specialist in September. He assured me that the nodules were so small they weren’t cancerous. “No problem. We’ll keep track of them with CT scans every six months,” he said. “But you do have a lot of schmutz in your lungs.” Schmutz! Now there was terminology I could understand.

After a gazillion tests, he diagnosed me with bronchiectasis and COPD, and said the virus had set off an exacerbation. All of a sudden, the little cold had turned into a full time job!

I must admit to a bit of panic during the time between the CT scan and the diagnosis. Oh, all right: a lot of panic. And the diagnosis didn’t really ring my bell either. I had never thought of myself as a Spiriva type of person. Shows you what I know.

I am much better than I was. I look back on July and wonder how I dragged myself to the Bruno Mars concert in Vancouver, B.C.

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I think about how gray my face was in September at our anniversary party.

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Even in November, I was in a state of exhaustion that could lead to coughing spells. A low blood sugar attack could hit me unawares, which was not pleasant either. That’s better now.

Still, the slightest thing can set me off. I never wanted to be the Princess and the Pea, but I am more than ever. I’ve become hypersensitive to scents, especially chemicals. I can’t walk down the grocery store aisle stocked with detergents, etc. without going into a coughing spell. And no more perfumes or colognes! I have to dust my bedroom a couple of times a week. All that kind of stuff. And I had to have flu and pneumonia shots because I’ve been cautioned not to get a respiratory illness! I don’t like being difficult. I had a difficult mother and my compass has always pointed directly away from her actions. Still, if I don’t hug you, don’t feel offended.

So what prompted me to write this expose? The smoke filled air. I’ve become one of those people who must check the air before I go outside. We have a lot of smoke from the tragic uncontained fires around here in Southern California, and my lungs can be endangered by poor air quality. I’ve needed to stay inside several days. Yes, me! I can’t believe it either. I was healthy as a horse in May.

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I share my story to encourage everyone to see their doctor if they have symptoms of any kind that persist. I also love this new site someone clued me in on: AirNow.gov. You get up-to-date reports about the air quality in your zip code.

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Also, I share my story because I realize now how depressed I was. And afraid. Even though I had a lot of people around me, I didn’t feel I should bother them. Nor am I good at accepting help. I kept trying to do everything alone and I wasn’t doing a good job of it. God forbid, I should admit to slowing down! How embarrassing!

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Now things are definitely looking up. Seven months into this, I’m taking the medications I’m supposed to (didn’t want to do inhalers) sparingly. I do breathing exercises and Nettypot twice a day! I eat more healthy foods more times during the day.

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I’ve also decided I needed to think more positively. I do NOT want to wear a tag that says I have an elephant sitting on my diaphragm. I’m renaming the diseases I was labeled with. Bronchiectasis is a scary thing so I’ve decided to say I have chronic bronchitis. COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States so I don’t need that hanging around my neck. Instead, I acknowledge I have asthma. But I’m not just going to use prescription meds. I’m going to yoga three times a week and walking every day.

I’ve learned that it’s important to avail ourselves of western medicine. But I don’t want to be trapped in it. One thing I know. I’ll never give up.

 

 

 

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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