Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Beary Beary, Quite Contrary ...

... How Does Your Garden Grow? Like sh*t, but thank you for asking.

First, meet the new self-appointed Editor of Inspiration Nation   

Yet another post-retirement project falls victim to that invisible scourge Fibromyalgia. I don't think those Japanese eggplants are edible anymore, and I don't even know where to start with the rhubarb. Perhaps the blueberries are salvageable; I should know more once they ripen. If they ripen. The weeds are overtaking them again, blocking out the much-needed sunlight. The blueberries, like me, need a daily dose of sunshine - them for photosynthesis, me for Vitamin D - but both of us are failing. My flowers up front and along the other side are doing fairly well, but I suspect they benefit from my benign neglect.  

I called my rheumatologist's office first thing Monday morning, citing a long and tedious list of symptoms which all boiled down to one conclusion: my health was deteriorating and I needed medical intervention. I guess I was expecting to be given a work-in appointment such as I would get from a PCP's office, but instead I got a royal runaround, at least it initially seemed that way to me. Since I already have an appointment set for July, the doctor has to review my message and decide if it warrants a visit prior to that. In fairness to the rheumatologist, there is probably nothing he can do for me, given the nature of fibromyalgia. Well, perhaps increasing the dosage of Baclofen, but that doesn't require an examination. In other words, I'm screwed I'm on my own.

Among those lines, just yesterday I came across an article on my Facebook feed, written by Toni Bernhard, titled 15 Tips From 15 Years Sick, which I share with you, especially anyone living with chronic pain and illness. Ms. Bernhard is a former law professor and law school dean of students who had to retire after 22 years at the University of California-Davis law school due to illness (I already feel a bond developing.) Today I decided to go with her Tip #5, Get Outside If You Can. Except for the cruise stops in Amber Bay and Old San Juan, I've had no real outside time in months. I have, in fact, turned into a Hurting Hermit (not a character in a Harry Potter novel), sort of like my Great-Grandfather, Charles Albert, may he rest in peace. Well, enough of that. I took a nice walk, with Robert's admonition "don't overdo" in my ears. To lessen the impact on my poor frail little body, I took it "lightly, slightly, and slowly" and if I live through the night, I might do it again tomorrow.

Heading out with hope in my heart and Horatio Cane in my hand

Dead snake, the very best kind

All you need are cataracts and an over-active imagination to have a TARDIS sighting 

Almost home

Until then, I'm going to do a small load of laundry (God willing), knit a bit, and post these discreet photos from the graduation in Tennessee, with thanks to our graduate's auntie for posting them.

Getting ready to walk the stage

I know her mother was watching from Heaven

Sunday, May 22, 2016

You Play, You Pay

Big sigh. I would much rather be in Tennessee today, but as the meme says "ain't got spoons for that." Ten hours driving, even with stops to rest and stretch, and I'd have to be wheeled from the car in a golf cart. But the commencement ceremony and graduation party are going to be fabulous, and I will have to get a vicarious thrill from the photos.

While my Friday started out ambitiously - I went for a haircut and then a very short walk along the old lakefront - from there I had no choice but to head straight back upstairs to my pills and pillows. Still hadn't taken my daily medication, a really dumb move on my part. Also hadn't eaten anything resembling breakfast (chocolate doesn't count) and when I finally assembled some morning edibles, it was all junk food. Crap.

While I was at the lakefront, I realized that I couldn't clearly see anything in the distance, so I blindly shot a few photos (at least the camera doesn't have cataracts). Now at least I can hold my iPhone at nose length and admire the scenery. Clever of me, albeit pathetic. I'm still waiting to hear if my insurance company will approve the cataract surgery; until then, I am stumbling around and squinting like Mr. Magoo.        

Sunday - And here we have another one of those blog posts that takes three or more days to complete.

Back when I was working, it was the petitions and final judgments that were taking ridiculously long to draft - what should have been hours became days and days became weeks. I could no longer integrate the facts provided me by the CPIs into a properly written legal document. I could no longer apply the law to the facts, because I could no longer remember the law. And I could no longer finish a full day of work - looking at the calendars I kept from the past few years, I noted a depressing number of days where I came in at an increasingly late hour and left several hours early. In my earlier years with the  Department, I worked 70 hour weeks, never needed to take sick days, and was extremely active in my synagogue's Sisterhood, published the monthly newsletter mostly on my own, and taught Hebrew school.  Damn, I was alive in those days! Even while I was shlepping an additional 150 pounds around, I was active and mostly happy. Okay, I was dealing with depression. Story of my life, literally, but being able to keep my mind and body active helped, a lot. That and a series of SNRIs. Better living through chemistry, my friends.

Saturday was worse than Friday, and now that it is Sunday afternoon I am resolved to call my rheumatologist for an appointment tomorrow because the last few weeks have been working up to this, when every moment not sleeping is bordering on the unbearable. Every cell of my body is existing at some level of discomfort. Headache, eye pain, insane itching on my scalp and ears. Then comes the muscle pain, from the back of my neck to my shoulders and then to my back, which is threatening to shatter if I try to stand up. My legs hurt, when I walk, when I sit, when one of the puppies, all of them Yorkie lightweights, rests his paws on them. It hurts to hold this iPad and keyboard in my lap (incidentally, the Zagg Pro is nothing short of marvelous.) Even my ankles hurt, and that has totally screwed up my already tenuous balance. I cling to my tri-weekly tai chi classes like I would to a life raft, but on Saturday I kept falling forward (the floor of the school, unlike that of my house is nice and flat) and I could not keep my eyes open.

The worst for me right now are the electrically charged muscle spasms that have taken over my hands, arms, shoulders, knees and lower legs. I am having real difficulty scrolling down an iPad screen, knitting a simple pattern, typing on this keyboard, carrying anything - I dropped a half-full cup of coffee while at tai chi class, and later dropped my little lunch plate, twice - no strength. I tried to do some wire-wrapping on a single charm for a bracelet, but had no strength to wrap. My hands are jerking uncontrollably just under the skin, so even when I switched to another charm, I kept dropping it and losing the jump rings. All shoved back into my closet for now, until I regain some control over my hands and my back no longer screams when I bend over slightly from the waist.

My mind has gone on vacation again, possibly cruising the Caribbean while leaving me in the midst of a vicious brain fog.  We went to dinner with friends and I could barely conduct a coherent conversation, as I seemed to have lost a good chunk of my everyday vocabulary. Fortunately they understand my problem and have gotten quite adept at finishing sentences for me (as have my husband and son.) Still, it was another in a series of scary incidents (but the food was delicious! - Sakura Asian Fusion, on West Irlo Bronson Highway in Kissimmee, a little past Celebration) and when they happen, always brings to mind the book Flowers for Algernon, and what the main character, Charlie, writes in his journal towards the end of his mental deterioration: "please don't let me forget how to reed and rite."

Like Cloris Leachman I want to end this on a high note, and since my singing is mediocre at best, let me share some very good news.  I knew part of it, but it was "family-only" at that point, but Now It Can Be Told: my niece and her husband are expecting their first child, a little boy, in October. This is the kind of news that warms my heart (without causing a reflux attack) and makes me smile despite all the doom-and-gloom I tend to write about these days. Welcome to the family, little man! Rest assured you are already much-loved.

Friday, May 20, 2016

A Glorious Graduation

You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry

After 11 dreary days of pain, mini-electrocution, and exhaustion, I feel well enough to reconnect with the Real World. The depression is still there, but let's face it, I was born depressed. I am also dealing with some leftover anger issues from last year involving two of my doctors. Anger is too mild a word - I am furious. Mean, green, and beyond-all-reason-enraged. I want to storm into their respective offices and make a loud, nasty scene in front of a room full of patients. I want to publicly shame them for not supporting me through this chronic illness, for not knowing enough about fibromyalgia and being complacent in their ignorance, and worst of all, for not believing me when I described the pain and the mental confusion, and for refusing to realize how this had permanently disabled me. Most of all, I want not to allow the anger to push me off track as I try to normalize my day. Breathe, I tell myself. "Lightly, slightly, slowly, deeply." Just breathe.

A Happy Commencement

I want to share some very good news because, although I am unable to be at this particular event, something wonderful will be happening in Tennessee tomorrow. Fifteen years ago a little girl came into my life under the saddest of circumstances and on May 20th she is going to be graduating from high school With all kinds of honors and accolades. Her story isn't mine to tell, and I want to respect her privacy and that of her wonderful family. My part was to help ensure she remained in the loving care of that family; they did the rest, and raised her to be a sweet-natured, accomplished, and frankly spectacular adult.     

I can show you the bracelet I made for her, because God willing and the lady at the post office didn't lie to me, that package should be arriving in Tennessee today. I am proud of it, but not nearly as proud as I am of her and all that she has accomplished.          

Today I feel well enough to make a list, reorganizing my thoughts and goals. Although my lower back has gone into spasm mode while I've been typing this, I think I can manage the cooking I had planned. While my sweet husband is willing to pick up Chinese food or Jimmy Bear's barbecue or more Publix chicken and deli salads, I really feel the need to fulfill my responsibilities as the cooking member of the Rothfeld Family Team. Besides, my boys are going to be doing the dishes, which is always a tremendous help. A fair exchange is no robbery.   

Nothing fancy, mind you, and the first dish relies totally on frozen food, prepared sauce, and a crockpot. The second dish is a little more involved, but just a little. Most importantly my family won't starve and I will stop feeling superfluous, at least for a day or two.

Super Speedy Sausage and Meatball Stew

1 pound frozen Italian sausage 
1 1/4 pounds good quality frozen meatballs
2 - 24 oz jars marinara sauce
1 - 14 oz. bag frozen bell pepper and onion blend
1 - 14 oz. bag frozen Italian blend vegetables

In a 6 quart crockpot add 1 jar of sauce, the sausage, the meatballs, and the remaining jar of sauce. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours. Add the frozen vegetables, stir, cover, and cook another hour or more until the sausage is cooked all the way through and the vegetables are tender. Serve as is or over pasta.

One Dish Pork Loin Supper With Baked Apples and Potatoes

1 - 1 to 1 1/4 pound seasoned pork loin  
4 small apples, cored, top peel removed
Sugar, cinnamon, and allspice
A few tablespoons fruit juice
1 - 14.5 oz. can whole new potatoes, rinsed, drained, and patted dry
Garlic-infused extra virgin olive oil
Salt, pepper, dried tarragon, parsley flakes
Smoked paprika

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a baking dish place the pork loin down the middle. Add the apples and sprinkle with the sugar, cinnamon, and allspice.

In a medium mixing bowl combine the potatoes with the oil and toss so that the potatoes are lightly coated.  Add the salt, pepper, tarragon and parsley flakes and toss again. Add the potatoes to the baking dish, and sprinkle with some smoked paprika.

Bake in the preheat oven for 1 hour or until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees and the apples are soft but not mushy, rotating the baking dish one time and basting the pork at least once. After the first 45 minutes, pour a small amount of fruit juice over each apple. Let the pork rest for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

I could not get the pork past 120 degrees without running the risk of drying it out, so I cut into it and checked it after 1 1/4 hours, and it was cooked all the way through. Best to use your own judgment when it comes to doneness.

I can hear you screaming about the canned potatoes. I screamed too, in my head, when I realized that the real potatoes I planned on using in this dish were deader than canasta. Ugly, slimy, fuzzy life form dead, so I tossed them into the garbage pail with the speed and precision of The Great Lebron, and reached into the pantry. Besides, canned whole new potatoes are not as bad as some canned vegetables and definitely an improvement over slimy spuds.

Mini Greek Bean Salad

1 - 7.75 oz. can chick peas, rinsed and well drained
1 - 7.75 oz. can pinto beans, rinsed and well drained 
very thinly sliced onion, amount to taste 
2 tablespoons olive oil (I used the garlic-infused but regular works fine)
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Salt, pepper
Italian seasoning, parsley flakes
Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste or not at all

Combine all of the ingredients and refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving, stirring occasionally. This is the mini version of my full-sized Greek Bean salad, which is made with chick peas and dark red kidney beans, The pintos aren't quite as visually appealing, but they do work very well in this little salad.

Now then - so what if my legs are starting to tremble and my lower back is developing cracks along a fault line?  I did something I haven't done in a ridiculously long time - I prepared food for my family (okay, it barely qualifies as cooking, but still ...) and as far as I'm concerned today's score is officially Cindy-1, Fibromyalgia-0. But now, please excuse me while I go back upstairs to rest on my laurels collapse on my bed.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

A Viral Resolution

The humorous side of fibromyalgia: the electric shocks have rendered my hands too unsteady to unwrap a Hershey's chocolate kiss. For a chocoholic such as myself, that's a pretty serious problem.

Speaking of problems, I may have uncovered the source of my photo-posting problems the past few days. While I was catching up at the Forgotten New York site (I've been reading there at least once a week for the past 15 years - it's that good), blogmeister Kevin Walsh mentioned that he had been having the same kind of problem, and attributed it to some sort of meta-virus. He is on an entirely different platform, but it could have well been that the sick little f*ckers who created the virus sent it out to infect various major blog sites. I am also going to assume that one of the Silent Geniuses (I have never gotten a return email from Google regarding any of my questions or problems) managed to disinfect Blogger, thereby accounting for the sudden unexpected return of that particular function. As the kids say, whatever.

Back to my shocking hands - I am at the point of needing to cook for the family, but with my hands jerking hither and yon, I am a little apprehensive about wielding a very sharp knife. I have some ideas in my head, but I'm still not sure they are going to make the transfer to my hands. Another humorous side to fibromyalgia: this is a cooking blog, and between my St.Vitus-dancing hands and my inability to stand on my feet for any length of time, I haven't been able to cook. I can still knit (although this isn't a knitting blog) but the results are sometimes less-than-desired. Shaky hands and arms, and a dicky memory that defies the application of even simple patterns.

Today is May 18th, and it would have been my parent's 69th wedding anniversary, if they hadn't both passed on years ago and assuming they hadn't killed each other before passing. It was a hell of a marriage, and I should know; I had a ringside seat.

Today is also the anniversary of the day we lost our beloved Tuffy, at an advanced age for a dog, but still much too soon.

I do have some pictures to share; late to the party, but a rather nice collection of photos of the stir fry chicken dish I prepared last week. Minimal knife work a plus.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Shattered Dreams

What a perfectly craptastic day. I still haven't figured out what happened to the bookmark function on my iPad, nor why I can no longer insert photos into the blog. I don't have the energy to sit at Rob's desk while the iPad and his desktop make friends and allow me to access the contents of my iCloud, which is still not going to resolve the issue of the photos.  I am so over Blogger and Google I could scream. Convenient to use and at the same time the clumsiest, most user-unfriendly piece of programming I have met in a long time - at least since I retired. Programs developed by and for governmental agencies are the worst. (Think: Signing up for Obamacare)

That wasn't the worst, by a long shot. It never is, when you have fibromyalgia and you've just drifted through six straight days of steady pain and chronic exhaustion and you really truly believe, from the bottom of your misfiring heart, that tomorrow will be better. Last night, after Tai Chi class, I was  feeling sufficiently better (and quite a bit more chipper) to set my mind to a Much Better Day. So today, Day Seven, I woke up with that happy thought lingering in my head only to find it was 3 hours later than I anticipated and my body was already engulfed in spasms of pain even though I hadn't yet tried to stand up. It was downhill from there.

Forget the whiny details. Besides the pain, my head has been going to those Dark Places I try to avoid. First, a few days ago I was able to remember which of my doctors had upset me when he/she spoke the words "I can't write down that you are disabled just because you don't want to work anymore." I knew I had to get rid of that doctor, but fibromyalgia brain fog took that memory from me for the longest time. I was considering getting rid of both of them, when as in a dream, I heard the person speak those words. I know that voice, clear as crystal, and I now remember the doctor who thoughtlessly and cruelly added to my distress by not believing me. From that one moment of clarity after so many months of fog, I grabbed the memory and wrote it down to hold on to it. Time to do a search for a doctor in that area of medical practice that accepts my insurance.

What the chronic pain and exhaustion means is that I have to reinvent my life. I imagined that retirement, which I had planned for at age 67, would be a slow, pleasant waltz with my husband, during which we would do some traveling, if not overseas, then motor trips around the US. I wanted to do some volunteer work with the GAL and Teen Court programs. And for years, I silently dreamed of going back to school to finish my advanced degree in psychology. I was going to cook and bake all the recipes I'd had to set aside while I was busy working. I would entertain again, keep a garden, finish my first degree black belt in taekwondo. Shattered dreams, all gone now.

Some new symptoms to add to the recently appended electric shocks in my fingers, hand, and arms - excruciating lower abdomen pain and nausea followed by full body weakness and passing out. Not a true faint - I was able to make it as far as the bed, but the second I got there I was down and out.

Sorry to kvetch yet again, but I had high hopes of driving to Tennessee this weekend for a very special high school graduation and I simply can't do it. Sitting in the car for extended period of time, standing, socializing, eating, smiling, applauding, exchanging hugs, and crying happy tears, all too much for me now. I've lost count of how many special occasions I have had to miss because of fibromyalgia.

The photo-inserting function and my favorites list just reappeared as suddenly as they disappeared last week (and that's how long it has taken me to finish this one post). I still have no idea why it happened and how to avoid it in the future. Story of my life.

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Russians are Coming, The Russians Are Coming! - Pantry Pollo Stir Fry

Really, I don't get it.

What particular interest does the former USSR have in my little blog? This isn't the first time my blog statistics have revealed the Russian adoration for a blog that is usually seen by maybe 35 people on a good day. Right now the Russians are beating the Americans, which is never a good sign. Any techie-type folks out there who might have an answer? Please send me a clue, because I clearly don't have one.

Today is Tuesday and it promises to be as painful as the four immediately preceding it. Forget laundry, unpacking, cleaning up after the pets, or even knitting; all I can think about is whether I have the energy to get into the shower. Yeah, it's that bad. My mood is in the dumpster.  

My arms don't have the strength to hold knitting needles, but even if they did, my hands are shaking too badly to even attempt it. With a lacy-type pattern, that's an invitation to hysteria, wherein I melt down faster than eighties-style cheap acrylic yarn near a cigarette lighter.

I still can't contemplate cooking and I fear I am getting to the point where my family may just starve. It's true that I can live on soup from Wawa and Little Debbie's cakes, but my two martial artists need a little bit more than that, and the rotisserie chicken from Publix is just a fond memory. Good thing I had some beef stew in the freezer, but even my frozen stores are winding down.

Wednesday isn't shaping up to be any better. I have no choice but to leave my house today, which is both good and bad. Bad because my entire body hurts and all I want to do is head back to bed. Good because I have a necessary appointment with the individual who has been helping me keep my head attached for the past 18 years, and because I have to pick up a chicken if my family is ever going to eat again.

I've decided to throw together a chicken stir fry for my Hungry Men, "throw together" being the operative phrase. I tried to find an actual recipe to follow, but my eyes are playing tricks on me and my brain is stuck in neutral. In other words, I left my ability to comprehend the written word back on the cruise ship. I'll certainly be contacting Carnival's lost and found department but until then I'm going to wing it. That means no shopping list - too stressful - with the majority of the ingredients coming from the depths of my pantry. I have a rather impressive collection of Chinese-type ingredients stored there, and now would be a really good time to dig them out.

And now it's Thursday, and I did cook last night and it has cost me dearly. My head, neck, and shoulders are not responding to the Advil, and my rheumatologist doesn't want me taking the Advil anyway (because of my gastric bypass) so my pain-killer options have been reduced to zero. The rest of me hurts also, but not quite to the same degree. Just enough that getting out of bed to use the bathroom was a tough choice, and walking downstairs to get some coffee took an act of will on par with sitting for the bar exam.

Lately I've been super hypersensitive to heat and cold and sound. I happen to live on a somewhat noisy corner, but that has never bothered me in the past. I've almost always lived in very close proximity to an airport, including 17 years right next to JFK - now that's noisy! - and then there were those years I lived in my parent's house fronting Kings Highway. Noisy city buses, belching smoke and squealing brakes, and of course there was a stop on the corner closest our house. Trust me, my current location doesn't even come close, but because of the fibromyalgia everything is unreasonably amplified, and that includes voices, television, and the sounds normally associated with dogs and cats. You know, woof and meow and incessant scratching. Doors being opened and closed; remember, part of this building is an office and there is a lot of door repositioning, as it were. Audible pain, it sucks.

Here is the recipe and it turns out I didn't use a darn thing from my pantry. Frankly, I couldn't have opened any cans or sliced my own vegetables if my life depended on it. Bad enough I had to cut the chicken. Just so you know, I used an electric wok, which has a nonstick interior and comes with a lid. The boys report that this turned out rather tasty. I wouldn't know, I'm still subsisting on Wawa soup.

Cooking oil (canola, vegetable, peanut, corn)
1 bottle or jar pre-chopped garlic
Salt, pepper, granulated garlic, ground ginger
2 pounds chicken tenderloins, crosscut into squares
2 - 8.8 oz. bag a Uncle Ben's Ready Rice, Teriyaki Style
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 - 12 oz. bag Pero brand Fajita Mix
1 - 12 oz. bag Eat Smart brand Vegetable Stir Fry
1 - 20.75 oz. bottle Panda Express Orange Sauce (available in supermarkets)

Season the cut-up chicken with the salt, pepper, granulated garlic and ground ginger and set aside. Add a few tablespoons of the oil to a very hot wok, and then add the rice. Stir fry for several minutes to get rid of excess moisture and until the rice is lightly browned. Remove it to a serving dish and keep warm. Add a little bit more oil to the wok and cook the egg, stirring constantly while spreading it out so the pieces are somewhat thin. Break up the cooked egg into small pieces and scoop them on top of the fried rice.

Add several tablespoons oil and a tablespoon (or more) of the chopped garlic. Cook for just a few seconds then add the contents of the vegetable stir fry bag. You put this in first because the broccoli takes a little longer to cook. Stir fry for several minutes, then add the fajita mix. Continue to stir fry together until the vegetables are as tender or crisp as you like them. Because I like even my stir fry vegetables to be more tender, I added about 1/4 bottle of the orange sauce and put the lid on the wok for a few minutes more. When the vegetables are done to your liking, remove them from the wok, either to a separate serving dish or on top of the rice.

Finally, heat a little more oil in the wok and add the seasoned chicken. Stir fry until chicken is cooked through and browned slightly. Add the remaining orange sauce and cook until the sauce reduces a bit and the chicken has a glossy appearance. You may want to cover the wok for just a few minutes at some point near the end of cooking to ensure that the chicken is completely cooked but tender. Add the finished chicken and all of the sauce to the vegetables. Serve and enjoy immediately.

It looks to me like this can serve six to eight.  And although it was ridiculously easy as wok cooking goes, you've got all fresh vegetables and chicken in there, and the prepared ingredients are good quality additions. I do think this dish lends itself to personalization - a handful of cashews, a small can of well-drained pineapple tidbits, some slices of jalapeƱo or another hot pepper, the smallest grape tomatoes you can find. You get the idea.

P.S.: Something has gone terribly wrong with either my iPad or Blogger or Safari, and I am unable to establish a link to my photos to insert them here. Will work on it, ha.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

When Homebound Becomes Housebound

You all know what happens - after spending a gorgeous week on your favorite beach (St. Croix, in case you were wondering) or cruising the Caribbean while sipping chilled wine (Italian Moscato, very fine) or seeing the sights in your favorite go-to vacation city (Savannah, oh the food and the architecture!), you return home and promptly collapse. It doesn't matter if you never moved from that pool deck chair or rappelled down into the Grand Canyon, you are going to collapse. No matter if you have to report into work at 8:00 the next morning or are retired and can sleep a little later - you are going to collapse, and worse, you are going to feel like you never had a vacation.  Bam!

For me, crossing time zones has always been a problem, and I happen to live in a state with two time zones. A road trip to Panama City Beach for a taekwondo event could whack me out for a week, even though I did not participate in the event. Flying, which I used to undertake easily and joyfully has crept onto my list of Worst Nightmares. Sometimes I think I am still recovering from a return flight I made from Greece in 2005.

So it was no surprise to me when I managed to shuffle off the ship and into our car parked at the Port of Miami, and thereafter crashed into a deep sleep for most of the drive to Kissimmee. This is, we all agree, normal behavior for many post-vacationers. I passed out in Sunrise and awoke only after we crossed over the border at Yeehaw Junction. We made it home, Rob unloaded the car, we cleaned up after our rowdy four-legged children, and I fell back to sleep. I was, by now, in considerable pain (you don't think I left the fibromyalgia on the ship, did you?) which withstood several different kinds of medication, and sleep was my only option unless I wanted to stay awake, moaning piteously. No way. Besides, I couldn't keep my eyes open.    

So here it is, The Day After, and I am back in the position of gathering spoons for my upcoming week. Today I am going to unpack, which is going to take me a ridiculous amount of time because I am moving about like a crippled turtle. And then, if I have any shred of energy left, I am going to knit some more on the Branching Fern Scarf.

I generally don't have a great deal to celebrate, but permit me a bit of pride over my stick-to-it-ness to this project, the result of some deep thinking during the weeks I cleared and organized a yarn stash dating back to the Nixon administration. Since I committed to finishing the UFOs in my closet, I have knocked off several pairs of socks and made major progress on the scarf. Normally I would have gotten distracted and started a shawl or something, but I did not, at least not after a stern talking-to or two I had with myself while perusing Ravelry.

While on the ship, the knitting was everything I hoped it would be: personally fulfilling, enjoyable, and relaxing. Which caused me to wonder, and not for the first time, why don't more people knit? (Or crochet - same lovely benefits!) Up until the sixth day of a seven day cruise, on a ship with several thousand passengers, I did not see one other person knitting! Knitting is not incompatible with cruising or television-watching, or even reading (audio books, folks). If I am not chatting with Robert or screaming at a basketball game, or keeping most of my political opinions to myself, I like to listen to music while I knit. Of course you have to pick just the right music and I have several playlists that enhance the knitting experience. You should try it. Knit, crochet, even needlepoint (which I love but find difficult on the eyes). Do something with your hands besides exercising your thumbs while texting or checking Facebook. Dig down deep to find your unused creativity. Go for it.

Yes, I realize you may be a bit embarrassed to ask for my help in learning how to knit, or perhaps you are hesitant to intrude into my fibromyalgic nightmare, or are faced with the sad reality that we live 1,156 miles from each other making a series of pleasant afternoons drinking coffee and learning how to slip-knit-pass-slip-stitch-over a bit difficult. I could point out that the year is 2016 and there is Skype and there is FaceTime if you would like to ask me for real-time assistance, but if you are an introvert like me who does not like to display my lack of coordination even to my nearest and dearest, there are books and there is the Internet with limitless search engine possibilities including glorious sites like Ravelry, Pinterest, and Knitty. No one need ever know that you dropped a stitch 10 rows down or that you can't figure out a way to wrap the yarn around your finger so that it flows evenly to morph into completed stitches, or that your stitches are so tight that the aluminum needles have been bent into a 45 degree angle. I certainly kept these little problems a secret all these years.

Seriously, if you have been thinking about trying to knit or crochet, I would be more than happy to point you in the right direction (regretfully, my lesson-giving days are over.)  I can even guide you through all the bad parts, like finding out you don't knit English or Continental, that you are neither a thrower or a picker, that you really do knit weird, and there is even a name for it.  If you want to crochet, I can help there also.

Sometime this week I hope to return to cooking. Standing has been problematic, but I'm working on it. The keys to success are the gathering of spoons and muscle relaxers, but figuring out a way to sit while chopping onions has crossed my mind.

As to this Day After, when all was said and done I did not unpack one thing, not even a little thing. Instead I let my backache be my guide and stayed upstairs in my room, mostly with my feet up, and quietly gathered spoons. And I don't feel guilty, not a jot or a tittle, because chronic pain is no frelling joke and besides I needed a few extra spoons in case I decide to do laundry...

... What was I thinking? Laundry? Cooking? Really? Two more days since I wrote that and I've spent them practically incapacitated, sitting on the bed feet up when I'm not passed out. Arms too tired to hold knitting needles, legs too tired to support me for a little Tai Chi practice, and all-over pain that prevents me from sitting downstairs to watch the NBA play-offs. Now you know it's bad.

And I still haven't unpacked.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

A Week on Cruise Control and Not Yo Mama's Mama

First, the cruise.

We sailed out of Miami on the Carnival Glory, our first time on that particular ship. The itinerary was a blend of old and new, so with four stops we decided to sign up for shore excursions at the two new locations, Amber Bay in the Dominican Republic, and San Juan, Puerto Rico. That meant two days at sea plus two days in port (St. Thomas and Grand Turk) wherein we stayed onboard. Staying onboard is a big part of our vacation; having the ship mostly to ourselves, picking our favorite seats to hang out, read, knit, and sample the different food venues. Most importantly (to us, at least) the food was fabulous. Yes I said fabulous. On a Carnival ship, no less. The only items that were less-than-successful were the frog's legs (sauce was oddly bland) and the corn bread that accompanied my frankly fabulous barbecue ribs. The rest of the food (and we ate a lot) was prepared perfectly. The desserts and baked goods were utterly sublime. Way to go, Carnival!  

Both of our shore excursions were extremely enjoyable. We have traveled around the Carribbean a number of times and taken many excursions where we climbed onboard a nice, cool tour bus to see and hear about the particular island - it's history, people, economics, infrastructure, and food. Somehow I never gave a coherent thought to the Big Picture involving the aboriginal peoples, the not-so-pristine actions of Christopher Columbus, the Spanish Catholic royalty, the Dutch, and a couple of wars we never really studied in the Lawrence-Cedarhurst school district. I've always  admired the various styles of architecture, but never really thought about the "how?" and the "why?". And although I have gotten into the habit of thinking of Puerto Rico as a southern outpost of Florida, our tours of Old San Juan and Amber Cove consolidated the rich back story of the Caribbean in my admittedly cognitively-impaired head.  Loved every minute.

These photos are from Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic. Then came Old San Juan, but by that point, I was seriously wearing down, and left all of the picture-taking to Robert. Once he gets a chance to download them from camera to computer, I'm going to steal a few to share with the blog, but until them, I did snap just a couple from our stop at Princessa for lunch:

Mojitos and mofongo - one of the best lunches ever.

In addition to being our annual post-tax season cruise, this was a celebratory cruise. Robert turned 70, an exceptionally special birthday, plus we had an anniversary fall out during the week. I was all about making the birthday special and had made some arrangements via the Internet prior to sailing; cake and room decorations, a bottle of wine and glasses, and all the birthday cards a dad could want. To our surprise, Carnival got in on the act, birthday and anniversary, possibly because we are at their frequent cruiser platinum level. Extra cake, messages on the mirror, special towel animals, cookies (really good cookies), champagne and a special dessert at our Steakhouse dinner, and I probably forgot something. Thank you, Carnival. It was all rather wonderful.

Of course the fibromyalgia came along for the ride, but I managed. Moved at a comfortable (read: slow) pace, maintained a positive emotional attitude, took my prescribed medications faithfully, took all time necessary to rest and relax. I napped often, put my feet up when I wasn't using them for walking, knit comfortably on one project that was just the right degree of complexity to avoid causing me to rip the yarn off the needles in crazed frustration and hurl big handfuls into the nearest garbage pail (don't giggle; my knitting experience in South Korea was less than stellar, resulting in my leaving piles of shredded bulky red yarn all over Korea except in Busan. That was only because we didn't stop in Busan.)

And perhaps most importantly, I practiced my Tai Chi, at least as much as I could remember. Tai Chi has really helped me live with fibromyalgia; look, there's no cure, medical, pharmacological, or otherwise. All I can do is find what works for me and use it to obtain a few more lower-pain hours and to keep the really dark depression a little bit at bay. This is where Tai Chi shines. My memory is still crashed and my overall cognitive ability just ain't what it used to be (and will never be again) but I can calm myself when I feel a panic attack coming on, or focus better, at least for a short while.

It was a very good cruise, I can't emphasize that enough.

Lots of birthdays this week! Yesterday was my cousin Steve's birthday, and I am sure his beautiful family celebrated accordingly, with much joy and laughter and cake. Gotta have cake.  I truly believe that the measure of a man is what kind of family he has helped to make, and Steve is at the top of that list. I wish I had known you while growing up, but I am so happy I did find you. Happy birthday cuz, and may you have many more happy and healthy birthdays.

Today is my sister's birthday, which still feels strange (but very nice) to be able to write. Happy birthday, Nora! So glad I found you and so grateful to your daughter/my niece, for helping to put us in contact. Have a wonderful day and a blessed year.

Tomorrow is Mother's Day. Lilacs are blooming in my hometown of Brooklyn as they always do in time for Moms Who Live In The Northeast. I miss lilacs so much. A relatively new phenomenon, public declarations of love and appreciation are all over my Facebook News Feed. So many of my friends and relatives have been posting lovely photos of their mothers and it is very clear that those mothers are much-loved and in some cases, missed terribly. I think all that sentiment is absolutely heartwarming but also terribly foreign to me. I don't understand people who proudly announce that their mother is their best friend. As long as I can remember, my mother was my worst nightmare.

Don't get me wrong; I am truly happy for my friends and family who have clearly experienced the type of childhood I never imagined existed. I won't deny there is a twinge of envy there. Okay, maybe more than a twinge. At the same time, I am woefully aware that my experience is not unique. Toxic parents like my mother have sadly left a trail of tears and huge therapy bills.

But then there are mothers-in-law and I've got the best. Thanks for everything these past 45 years, Mom. Happy Mother's Day, with love.

Mother's Day will always be a mixed bag for me, with the very best part being that I am the mother to the Best Son in The World. All grown up now, but still my crowning achievement as a human being. So many wonderful characteristics that sheer modesty prevents me from recounting them all; however, I can tell you how I did it: I simply did everything the opposite of how my mother raised me. Worked like a charm.


Saturday, May 7, 2016

This Time I Know It's For Real

For the first time since I acquired my iPad Pro, I feel like it is a wonderful, useful extension of my fingers. My Zagg Slim Book finally arrived from Amazon, and if first impressions count for anything, this is even better than the Zagg keyboard I had for my last iPad, which served me extraordinarily well for years and years.

There was no Zagg case for sale when the iPad Pro first arrived, so I bought a much cheaper keyboard case through Amazon. Within a day I realized I was saddled with a real POS; within two days, the iPad had jumped free of the case and landed on the tile floor. There was damage to the corner of the glass protector and I was pissed. Eventually it became so difficult to use that damn keyboard that I avoided using my iPad. When the Zagg Slim Book became available I bit the proverbial bullet, paid the steep price and here we are. You get what you pay for.

Over the past few days I've had another flare, and my normal bad got worse, a lot worse.  Never mind the details, you've all seen my ubiquitous complaints.

So today is now Thursday, April 28th and I have made it past yesterday's eye evaluation - yes, it is cataracts, yes, we can schedule surgery as soon as we get an approval letter from my insurance company, yes, it will take about a month - I figure the first surgery will be in July, which is after the disability hearing. I'm good with that. Besides, I got the good news there was no retinal detachment.  My eyes got dilated in the process, which put an end to any driving I might have wanted to do yesterday, which meant no therapist, which was unfortunate because I was feeling unbearably cranky and trying so hard not to turn it on Robert and Cory.  I sort of yelled at Romeo and Anakin though, and I feel a little guilty.            

The days are starting to get jumbled for me as I move closer to our cruise. There is stuff one has to do before leaving for a vacation but it just seems this time there was a lot more stuff than usual. Having done all my gathering, it is time to pack. I don't mind packing, but it does leave me exhausted.

I want to pack today, but I promised myself that if I did nothing else I would finish a certain bracelet and earrings to match and bring them to the post office to be sent off for a certain birthday. Just when I thought it was all ready to go I got a brainstorm and made two additions.  It pulled the whole thing together. In typical Cindy-style, I forgot to take a picture before I sealed the box, and all I have is this shot from several days ago.

The theme is Sisters, and this is a birthday present for my sister who I have never met. We have a father in common, and I think I've told the story of finding my father's side of my family at an advanced age - I was 60 - and learning that I'd had four siblings beside the brother I grew up with. Sadly, three of the four had passed away years before, but I was fortunate to find, and with the help of her daughter, my niece Rachel, make telephone contact several times.

I added an angel charm and a beautiful sky blue and cloudy white bead in memory of our youngest sister, who died of breast cancer almost 30 years ago. I also made some drop earrings to go with the bracelet and tucked in a couple of those cotton face cloths.

Without a common upbringing, and without being able to see each other on a regular basis, and you know I hate the bloody telephone, it's been hard to build a relationship. Anyway, I knew her birthday was coming up and I decided to send her a little something. All I have to do is get this little box to the post office because if it fits, it ships, and this box is stuffed to the gills. I hope she likes everything because truly it was made with love.

(She liked her gifts!)

So then, I did not post this before we left on our cruise nor at any time during our cruise, and now it is Saturday, May 7th, and we are back from our cruise, back from Miami, sitting in our personal chairs and recovering from 8 days off our regular schedule. It was a lovely vacation, one of the nicest cruises we've taken. Details to follow.