“First Door On The Right! And Be Careful . . . !”

“Awe, crap . . . !”


a-crapper1

Those were the final FCC approved two words which fell from my mouth in his parent’s first floor powder room (which remains a gallery for the family’s monogrammed and sun-bleached bathroom set) a nano-second after I recognized a rising water level in the bowl.  Debris would leisurely bob and dunk as an improbable fresh water toilet tank tsunami added gallon upon gallon upon gallon of fresh water that was uplifting the residual debris which were bushwhacked by the unexpected gridlock, and now cascades down the cold, white porcelain moving across the floor like urban crawl, defiling everything in its path.

At which time I foolhardy reached for the precious, handed down through generations, hand woven and monogrammed bathroom set

a-plunger1(upon which not a single drop of moisture touched it’s surface) but has hastily been inducted into the Le Grand Corps de Craps, an esteemed pile of rags: been somethings, used to be used for, or, it had wiped his bouncy little bottom well past ten.  Now retired and living out their days as “first responders” should absorption or heat require instantaneous dispatch, each of them, whether flannel, Egyptian Cotton, or terry cloth are proud to arrive at the incident first and they all know that this or the next alarm might be their last.  But every single member of the Le Grand Corps de Craps hopes and prays that their final call isn’t a clogged toilet.  After all, who wants their coup de grace to be wiping up someone else’s crap.

a-hellokitty

Simple Square Box and Coasters

image I’m pleased to share my latest woodworking project, aptly named Simple Square Box and Coasters.  The commission originally asked for a simple slap-together wooden box in which he could place a necklace he purchased for his niece as a Christmas present.  So the slap-together wooden box would be tossed into the same heap of recently bloomed ribbons of nylon and a pile-up of ripped and twisted wrapping paper resembling a fog-induced tangle of abstract alloy.  Really, who remembers the wrapping paper of a long-forgotten gift they received at an indiscriminate holiday, the exception being gifts which modify destiny such as an engagement ring, new car, or divorce papers.  But I couldn’t imageshake the thought; an insignificant wooden coffer hand-crafted to exact dimensions whose sole purpose rose no higher than the oft ignored cardboard box, one of millions prefabricated generic boxes produced by manufacturers. Yet this box really should´ve been seen as the first part of her gift, but instead was just another obstacle to obliterate in a doggedly pursuit of the delightful bauble inside.  And after a few perfunctory refined and delightful “thank you’s,” the delicate bauble was distractedly deposited into her motherCoasters on Display´s cupped hands.  Her mother  placed the bauble (whose importance continued to nose-dive like the stock exchange in 1929) among other gifts.  And the slap-together box had been exiled to the paper mountain, and eventually would be crushed by the insensitive jaws of an indiscriminate refuse collector. Had I blithely reached into my pile of left-over lumber and found a throw-away board I suppose the box would experience a fate very similar to the one above.  However, a particular piece of Poplar caught my eye because of its deliciously creamy base color and like a dried riverbed, a thick, malted-milk brown ran the length of the board which was absent of blemishes, gouges, chips, and knots, a cappuccino’s foam decorated by a creative barista; or, the faintly dusting of heat transforming the peaks of whipped meringue from snow-covered to densely charred remnants of a serial forestimage fire.  I held the six-foot board respectfully in my hands, looked for cupping or warping at its ends like a sharpshooter whose focus remained on his target.  I found the board to be true then placed it on the workbench to calculate the cuts. That’s when it began. I can’t find words to describe it, but it was like balance on a bicycle: no one handed you a ball of balance, you simply had balance.  My experience with that board couldn’t be taught or handed down.  It wasn’t an indicator of mania.  It was simply, to respect the trees life in the differing colors of its rings.  Those rings identified that tree like fingerprints identify people.  And yet it was more:  I felt a growing sensitivity and responsibility to work with the lumber to create an object of beauty.  The longer I listened to the sensitivity of the wood, the greater my awareness of the woods signature became.  It was then that I worked with the wood, and so did the wood with me.

Humphrey Tales: All Manor of Cat at Downy Birch (the Foreword)

The stories you’re about to read took place in a town very much like your own.  And the streets, and the gardens, and the two-footed, unusually tall, disturbingly loud, rambunctious then ravenous, warm-lapped for napping human‘s (as I’ve heard them called) are all, coincidently, similar to your’s in your town.  With one very distinct difference:  In Cricklade, a marvelous miracle occurred.  Humphrey was born.

Humphrey has an unusual talent, even beyond the mystical reputation of Jellicoe Cats (tuxedo or black-on-white Cats).  Humphrey has the blessing of serendipity, cousin to the enormously influential Providence, under whose influence Humphrey was born at the musty corner of a dank basement.

Borne into the Royal Order of One, Humphrey’s FemmeFeline (that is, his birth feline), was an orphan herself.  She’d been abandoned in a bus line repair shop, so that the nameless mother might survive that bitterly brutal winter.  Humphrey’s mother, just another anonymous female, it is rumored, had the kind of litter which occurs only once in every 62,835 litters brought into this village every decade: The litter came to be known simply as The One Litter.

This fortuity often delivered hope to all cats;  The One Litter brought one Tom Cat predestined to a higher standard, and the true spirit of feline friendship, duty, and allegiance to whomever discovers Tom Cat, The Litter of One.

The talent Humphrey possesses is the ability to communicate with whomever rescues him from oblivion after being orphaned by his nameless mother.  This human will give Tom Cat his true Jellicoe Name (as communicated to him by the kitten he just found).  And everyone that meets Humphrey will think it is the perfect name (which it is).

These are the adventures of Humphrey, the cat of Downy Birch Manor and his Great Purpose?  To dethrone the Mongrel Canine and the moniker “Man’s Best Friend,” thus returning to all felines the righteous mantel and distinctive title designated by a human clan: He’s-Part-of-The-Family and with that moniker comes the Fireside-Favorite-of-the-Four-Footed-Feline, in the case of Downy Birch, an age old Hearth Braided Rug.

 

One More . . .

3-One

5-One

1-One15-One

One more trip to the doctor.

One more admission of humiliating symptoms.

One more physician‘s persevering uncertainty.

One more hunch about drugs even after repeated failures of 6 week trials.

One more hopeful bottle of toxins to ingest.

One more set of side-effects to endure.

One more crippling debility: Illness’s strong swing of a sharp ax into the pulp of my dignity cutting deeply.

One more intentional assault leaving me with a staggering and teetering propriety.

One more debility before I’m disqualified from sovereignty; stripped of my liberty, freedom, and independence, my self-reliant character reverts to childhood, a time of absolute dependence for survival.

One more obedient abdication of my extinct identities and forthcoming dog’s age.

One more no more.

 

“Hopeless Ness” and the Lass “Chance” (a recent chat) for marsh d.

atextingThis is an excerpt from a longer conversation with my cousin who’s been living with chronic pain and fibromyalgia.  This excerpt was of particular significance because it was answering an unasked question which was hidden “between the lines” regarding hopelessness.  If one is faced with 20 years of chronic pain, immobility, mood swings, etc. AND loss of hope what might their next stop be named?

Or is it the end of the line?

LUCY

Hello T. M. . . .,

I’m worried about you. You wrote a great post on hopelessness, are you feeling hopeless?

How can I help….I’m a good listener. You’ve poured your heart out onto the pages, you’ve been through a lot in your life and every one of those memories makes changes in the way our central nervous system functions and in the way the brain functions.

We (all of us who are chronically ill) put a lot of hope in those little pills. Those pills are able to aid you in functioning but can’t fix what has been broken. But, there is HOPE! The hope is within you and, with the help of another human being (not another pill), you can find a sense of peace and understanding.  Then we come to acceptance…..well, that’ll be a whole ‘nother blog.

 

T. M.

Hi Lucy:        
ahopeless
I made a promise to myself when I started this blog that I would be honest in my writing without sounding pitiful. I believe honesty transcends our diversity and therefore many can relate. The problem I have is that I suffer from untreatable maladies (brain, heart) and have recently been plagued by severe shooting pain in my lower and upper right side of my back, sciatica on my left leg, and most recently pain and weakness in my lower right leg. I was compromised with untreatable long-term illness, but then add these perpetual pains and immobility (I’ve been in pain every single day for 10 months): I take a cocktail of pain relief and muscle relaxants which work somewhat, but gastric bypass changes everything. Pardon my expression, but I feel like I’m all fucked up, none of my doctors seem to have the answers, and I am virtually homebound and use a small 3-wheeled walker to move around the house (which I’ll give to Rick when I’m finished with it). It’s almost impossible to have hope when you take stock of your life and all you see is lunacy, suffocation or heart attack, and constant and crippling pain. I’ve asked myself, “Am I really alive? Is this 24 hour ticktock simply doing time for a crime I didn’t commit? The only thing I look forward to is writing my blog. If only I could discover pain relief.

LUCY

I’m so sorry about your back pain….I have been through terrible sciatic pain and understand completely what you’re describing. It IS hard to abackpainhave hope!  What you’re describing is what everyone with fibro describes……many lose hope. Without hope, you have nothing. I was at that point at one time, too and made a plan to commit suicide. All seemed hopeless and I didn’t want to live a life of pain. i threw myself into research and coming to understand what was happening inside of me. I’m still coming to understand what’s happening…..researchers are still trying to come to understand what’s happening.  For 40 years, I went to the doctor, described my problem….he did tests, which all came back as normal. As long as the tests came back normal, there wasn’t a real problem. Thousands of people have gone through this same thing….test after test and all is normal. I was turned away and humiliated by a few specialists who didn’t believe me….no one would believe me. The doctors were trained in medical school that when someone like me comes in….to disregard the complaints….it’s all in her head and she’s making it up to get attention. Talk about losing hope!!!!!
Dr. Oz actually did a show on this a few months back and he admitted this is how the medical field has been trained …..to not take seriously any pain that can’t be diagnosed on a test. And, he admitted that he felt this way, too…..until just 2 years ago. Now, he has come to understand more of what’s actually going on inside of us. I am not alone.

Facebook has been like a miracle for me because I have found all of these other people just like me who have suffered for forty years and discounted, too. There are thousands and thousands of people all over the world who are suffering. The medical profession doesn’t know what to do with things they can’t see on a test!!  You have terrible pain in your back…..surely they must be able to see this pain on a scan. But, no….they won’t see it unless you have a herniated disc, that they can see. That, they can do something about because they can see it.

T. M.

I used to volunteer at The National Runaway Switchboard as a “liner” (the person who answers the call. I decided to continue until my problems surpassed those of the caller. Well, I stopped when Rick got sick and haven’t been back since. I could deal with the long-term illnesses if I could just shake the pain.

LUCY

I have learned so much. I went off on my own and spent a fortune on alternative therapy and a Fibro Specialist that wasn’t covered on my insurance plan. I had to drive 12 hours one way to get to see him….talk about desperate!! But, he helped me gain a semblance of a life back. alternative medicineIt was worth every penny.

What I’m trying to say is this….the doctors don’t have all the answers. In fact, they don’t have many of the answers. There is much more you can do to help alleviate the pain.

One thing I suggest is seeing a Pain Specialist. Jeff has been suffering with debilitating sciatic pain for some time. He couldn’t walk without his walker. He was losing hope.

He went to see the pain specialist who injected the spine…….because the injections helped somewhat, the doctor knew that a more radical treatment would work. He did the treatment on his sciatic nerve and it was a MIRACLE. He was able to walk, to stand up straight and to begin to enjoy life again.

Just the value of having one other person understand what you’re going through and to be able to relate with compassion and empathy is very healing.  I’ve seen it again and again as I talk to people. They all say it . . . empathy, simple compassion for another’s suffering.

Those Damned Little Pills

amanandpill

For the very first time since I swallowed my first 20 mg. tablet of Paxil four-and-a-half years ago, I finally understand why so many people living with mood disorders stop or want to stop ingesting those damned little pills. Those little pills, like slap-happy lovers, amend their  promises of change immediately after they’ve failed you once again.  One more chance?  One more try?  We’re narrowing the field; one day we’ll strike the right chord, just have patience.  Patience?  What patience?  NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) reported that adults who live with serious mental illness die 25 years earlier than other Americans . . .

Imagine yourself standing next to the Greyhound bus to say good-bye to Hope as she takes a window seat, looking at you detached and hopeless2indifferent.  Your worst fear is happening: That Greyhound bus is leaving you utterly Hopeless.  Hopelessness is a loaded .38 in the nightstand on your dad’s side of the bed; hopelessness is impressionable and interested in alternatives; hopelessness implies that the rough-housing and agonizing conflict you’ve accepted as life is all yours, pal, so grab some gloves and climb into the ring!

Eighty-sixed and cast aside, people with mood disorders are often adrift and desperately clutch to any buoyant object to preserve the credo of the awringingdowncast, that missing people like you are rescued.  But there is no rescue.  Or search.  No one even noticed you were gone.  But then serendipity zips past on her jet-ski waving and reassuring her return. Immediately you squeeze and squeeze again until every bit of blue sky is wrung from her fly by.  You weave strands of hope into bonds of promises and cling to them for their six-week trial, hoping your wholeheartedness created the perfect environment for the mood stabilizing drug to speed down your arterial on-ramp and slide into your bloodstream, easy-sneezy!

Nope.  Nothing.  Nada.  That bitch Hope and her batty cousin, Serendipity played you once again for the hapless Sad Sack, the lunatic adrugcompdesperate for clemency, the believer of broken promises in the form of a pill.  Those damned little pills!  The pharmaceutical industry’s great hoax endorsed by psychiatrist’s, dispensed by Pharmacists, and dutifully swallowed with some water and a handful of hope.  Hope that it’ll take; make a difference; do something; ease my burden; make me laugh.

At my desk 30 minutes after waking, the gravity of hopelessness, fatigue, and apathy plunge my mood underwater; the depressive side of bipolar ajetleads to chronic pleas for the manic cavalry to save the day.  Hold on, I mutter to myself, Just hold on for the pills; they’ll carry you far away from despair. Into my mind’s ground fog I wander further out on the pier when a carefully apportioned packet of dextro-amphetamine salts (think F-22 Raptor Fighter Jet in a mach-1 vertical climb); mood-stabilizer (think the F-22 Raptor running out of gas); and anti-depressant (think glider) are swallowed to ensure mood stability.  Followed by a pair of diuretics to reduce significant edema caused by heart failure and pulmonary hypertension.  At last I down two pain medications and one muscle relaxant for back and knee pain associated with recent weight gain caused by heart failure and venous insufficiency.

How did life become a scene from Soylent Green?  Not so long ago I’d lounge sleepily awaiting the skipping return to bed of my spouse.  Now mycomforter mornings are strict regimens in a very specific sequence to assure all medication has been ingested.  I too, would like nothing more than to flee from this pill-filled merry-go-round so-called Life and run back to that sanctuary of pressed sheets, downy comforters, famished pillows which swallow everything, and quiet, inside-joke laughter reserved for those blessed with wellness.

Instead, every morning I sit at our kitchen table despising those damned little pills. 

 

Hu-mil-i-a-tion, Noun, 2. To Produce Resignation or Shame to the Dignity of Another

Humiliation comes in many flavors: decline, disgrace, resignation, ridicule, shame, stigma, and upset.

HUMILIATION BY RESIGNATION AND SHAME

A bike to a 11-year old is like a compass to an explorer; it ensures progress, freedom, and discovery.

I was eleven or so and riding my Columbia 3-speed (I really wanted the cocoa brown 10-speed Schwinn but when my father asked without acolumbiabikelooking at me – (a seldom used, but spot-on tactic {for parents reading this, it’s found in appendix C entitled “How To Use Their Own Ignorance” page MCDL of the “Parental Handbook} letting the child see for him/her self that they don’t know why they need the thing they’re asking for) “What difference can seven more gears make?  How is ten gears easier to ride than three gears?  I, of course, didn’t know about torque and gear ratios so I settled for the defensive approach, which really set myself up by saying a parent’s favorite answer, “Because everyone’s riding them!  Who rides a lime green, lame 3-speed, Columbia bike?” And then, in true triumphant spirit (knowing he played this round perfectly) my father delivered the estocada with deft precision, “You do, my boy!  You do!”

ahillAnd so I did, and so I was the only kid puttering around our neighborhood with a 3-speed which was okay until I reached the piedmont of the Great Lapham Hill.  Three speeds were clearly insufficient to maintain both balance and momentum required to propel me to the Hill’s summit.  Any bicyclist knows you need at least five or better ten gears!  And so I tried pedaling my 3-speed Columbia up the 47 degree slope and then it began, the gear torque problem; the gears on a 3-speed couldn’t withstand the amount of torque my slow pedaling and they began to slip, which in turn caused my pedals to slip, which in turn interrupted my concentrated, all-out pumping.  When my pedaling failed to produce any forward movement, which caused a stall, followed by imbalance, and eventual failure expressed by my bike and I crashing onto the street and sliding downhill several feet.  Laying in the street against the curb I was utterly ashamed of my feeble attempt and was, at last, resigned to the truth that my father’s tyrannical reign was impossible to denounce.  I felt absolutely deflated and a prisoner of my father’s own mania expressed by indifference and cruelty.  I was forced to wiggle from beneath the damned 3-speed and push not adograceride my 3-speed bike up Great Lapham Hill cursing at my father, which intensified with each step, while dragging my boyhood pride behind me.  Suddenly, from behind like a leash of Greyhounds, my classmates rode Schwinn Varsity Double-Shifter 10-Speeds flew past me and quickly disappeared behind the crest of the summit.  And then he approached quietly in the 1965 Rambler Wagon, pulled up next to me, lowered the passenger window and began his litany of taunts using his professorial tone.  At which time I sensed a kind of heartburn, but deeper and with greater volume. I began to perspire, brow first, then neck and shoulders.  This isn’t going to end on a positive note, I told myself.  And when I couldn’t restrain it any longer, out it flew like a bird set free.  But it wasn’t lunch that exploded from my mouth but a raw, quick, and cheeky bombardment of varied and loud expletives and vocabulary usually reserved for drunken sailors on furlough.  I was still screaming when he slowly closed the passenger window, put the Rambler in gear, and floored the V-8 engine which bellowed the blue smoke of burning oil.

Why did I challenge Great Lapham Hill when I possessed three crippling debilities: Obesity, three speeds, and an overwhelming hatred for my perpetually condescending father who refused to buy me a 10-speed as an example of his dominion.  Not because he was a tightwad, not avarsitybecause he couldn’t afford it, but simply to crush whatever degree of animosity I may harbor against him.  Looking back, he baited me at the very start by taking me to the bike store; then he fed me frenzied hopefulness when he stood before the twin-shifting, steel-forged and welded frame, drop handlebars, and racing seat, all painted a beautiful metallic cocoa brown, and asked, “How about this one?”  That was the exact bike I dreamt of every night.  But as I moved closer to where he stood, his eye caught the glint of a lime green bike obscured by Varsity’s and Paramount’s.  Yelling across the store at the sales clerk he said, “We’ll take this one.”  “But what about this one?  The Varsity?  This is the one I want. . .”

The sales clerk stood next to my father, paperwork in hand, when my father asked without looking at me – (a seldom used, but spot-on tactic {for parents reading this, it’s found in appendix C entitled “How To Use Their Own Ignorance” page MCDL of the “Parental Handbook} letting the child see for him/her self that they don’t know why they need the thing they’re asking for) “What difference can seven more gears make? Besides, if you can’t ride up Lapham Street on your very own 3-speed, why bother buying a bike?  Let’s get a baby carriage that you can push up the hill and have a tea party like a good little nancy.”