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April 2021

May 2021

Grief

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Webster defines grief as a deep and poignant distress caused by bereavement.  So simple.  So easy to accept until it touches our lives.

Grief is all encompassing, all inclusive, unavoidable and deeply painful.  But unlike all of the other emotions that the human spirit will meet and carry through life, for some, it is only in solitude that grief can be embraced.  It is the one emotion that cannot be shared, because to share would mean inflicting that pain on another.

It has taken me twenty three years to finally understand why solitude is my "safe place to land".   It doesn't mean that I don't want to be with those I love, it simply means that some times, I need to be alone to be with Shannon.

The world is afraid of grief.  Those who are aching are often told to get on with life, get over it, their feelings make us uncomfortable.   We can't face a wound we cannot heal.   That helplessness in the face of such agony brings to the surface our own fear of our own vulnerability and frailty.

The truth is, there is no one stronger, less vulnerable, less frail...than the parent who has lost a child.  Forever changed.   Forever holding on to the memory of a face so beloved, so ingrained in their heart and soul that the present is often lost... less important and easier to forget or organize or pour energy into.

Once you have experienced a profound loss, grief is that warm blanket that you wrap yourself in, protected, isolated, comforted.   It becomes a part of living.  With time, it ceases to hold you captive because it has become familiar, less frightening.

If there is someone in your life who is discovering the truth and complexity of grief, be gentle.   You cannot fix it.  You cannot expect them to ever return to who they were before.  See them.   See that from a heart that is broken, a new light will find its way through the cracks ... in time.   Never be afraid to say their child's name.  We are never without our child, we hold them forever in our heart and in our thoughts and when you are open and honest and willing to walk through memories with them, it is a gift beyond words.

Some days, regardless of how long it has been, the wound of loss opens and we need to feel it.  We need to respect the ache and acknowledge that within the embrace of grief, we find love and hope and promise.  

It is only after we revisit the pain, trust in the wound that left the scar, appreciate the light that illuminates the shadow, that we can breathe and smile and remember the life that brought us to where we are.   Grief and Love go hand in hand.  I know that I will always have both.

"It's about love, that's it, that's all."   SAB


What is wrong with me?

In January of 2018 I had the flu.  By the middle of January I had hives.  I had had hives before so I thought they would go away.  Instead, they got worse and worse and the itching was horrid.  Every inch of my body had the appearance of being scalded.  By February I had seen my Primary Care who assured me that they would go away on their own and to use Calamine lotion to ease the discomfort.  I had been seen by a "Holistic Practice" that promised to treat the causes instead of the symptoms.   Two weeks after my initial consult I returned to get my rest results and the P.A. couldn't remember my name... certainly forgivable when they see many many patients... but even after our conversation and a recap of the symptoms, she still had no clue.

In March I consulted an Allergist.  He did a full battery of tests and blood work and determined that I was "sensitive" to grasses and leaf mold.  He prescribed Claritin and said to come back in two weeks.  Every two weeks he added another antihistamine and by the end of May I was on Allegra, Claritin, Zyrtec and Benadryl and felt worse than I had in January.

I have always believed that we are our own best advocate and continued searching for answers.  I found that all of my symptoms seemed to point to an issue with my thyroid, which didn't really surprise me since so many in my family have had thyroid issues... but it took some serious digging to discover the connection between Hashimotos and Urticaria (Hives).

My next visit to the Allergist was my last.  His only suggestion was for me to begin weekly allergy shots.  I burst into tears.  I reminded him that we had not confirmed that the hives were caused by an allergy and all the antihistamines left me feeling like a zombie.  He just looked at me.  I never went back.

I made an appointment with an Endocrinologist but she couldn't see me until the end of June and somewhere in the first week of June I had a break out that left me panicked.  I called the "Holistic" practice to see if they could see me.  They asked that I bring copies of my most recent labs.   When I got there they took one look at me and then a look at the labs and said, "You have Hashimotos.  Didn't the Allergist mention the Thyroid antibodies?"   I replied that he had said that it was a lab value that he had decided we would "watch".

That day I received a shot of Kenalog.  It worked to reduce the itching and swelling for about 24 hours and then back to Hive Hell.

The appointment with the Endocrinologist gave me hope.  She ordered an ultrasound of my thyroid and started me on Levothyroxine.  By this time my hair had been falling out for six months and seeing my scalp through what hair was left was almost as distressing as the itching.  I decided to get it cut very short to relieve any possible strain on the follicles.  We started on a very low dose of thyroid meds and gradually increased the dose through the summer.   Fall came and then Christmas and I was down to Allegra and Claritin to ease the hives but my hair was still falling out, I was so tired I had to force myself to complete even the simplest tasks, my weight was steadily going up and I felt like I was ALWAYS in a fog.  By now my joints ached and my skin was dry and I was cold all the time.

I had done research and found several Facebook groups dealing with Hashimotos.   Many of them had switched to a natural thyroid hormone and felt that it had made a tremendous difference in how they were feeling.   In January of 2019, I started taking Armour thyroid, a product made from porcine ( pig ) thyroid glands.  Of course we had to adjust the dosages and do periodic blood work to see if we could get the numbers into an optimal range but I was still feeling crumby, gaining weight and losing hair.  The blessing in all of this though, is that the hives seemed to be under control.

Medicare complicates most things and coupled with Covid and the world shutting down, 2020 left me pretty much on my own.  I continued to read and adjust my meds and keep a bottle of Allegra always within reach.  I had my annual mammogram, bone density test, a swallow test that precipitated an endoscopy and a colonoscopy.  My annual physical was deemed a "Welcome to Medicare" visit and consisted of a dozen questions to test my mental acuity a walk across the floor to be sure I was steady on my feet.  The million and one issues I had been dealing with were not included in the Wellness Check and that was all that Medicare would cover.

I left the office frustrated and annoyed and as soon as I got home called my insurance company.  "Of Course you are entitled to your annual physical.  Of course that includes blood work."   I then called my Primary Care's office and discovered that they had entered the Insurance incorrectly and they would correct it.  Two weeks later I went back for my annual physical, which of course, concluded I was fine with the exception of  Hashimotos.   I asked if he had any insights into treatment options other than thyroid hormones and periodic blood work, a way to address the autoimmune aspect of Hashimotos and he said, "No."

In April of this year I started reading about the incredible results people were having with Functional Medical Doctors.  They had discovered that the standard of care for folks with Hashimotos was simply inadequate and there had to be better answers than a blood test that only told a fraction of the story and a change in the dosage of one of the three drugs regularly prescribed.

My first visit with The Center for Advanced Wellness was a conversation.  For the first time ever, the Practitioner asked questions, listened, was educated on my concerns, offered suggestions and recommendations and hope.   She does not accept insurance for her services, and makes it very clear that office visits are paid "out of pocket",  but she ordered very thorough labs that were covered.  I have never had such a complete and inclusive history taken.  My next visit... my follow up, is Wednesday.  I had additional family history and personal physical, mental and emotional questions to answer and have been keeping a food log.   I did a 24 hour iodine test and on Wednesday she will go over all of the results and we will formulate a plan.

Today I went shopping for a new shower curtain.  After painting the vanity white, the white shower curtain and towels, bath rugs and lid cover were just too white.   I shopped all over town for a navy blue shower curtain.  Apparently they don't exist and neither do lid covers.   All of that was an adventure and I finally decided new towels would have to do until I could find the other items on line.   I had put the old shower curtain in the washer before I left and moved it to the drier when I got home.   A cup of coffee and an hour later I pulled the shower curtain from the drier and to my astonishment, realized that this was not the curtain I had thought I had on the shower at all.   It was white but not ruffled... the ruffles are the reason I had decided to change, along with the color.   The shower curtain that I thought I was replacing was the one I replaced last year.   How could I have forgotten?   How could I look at this item every day of my life and not really see it?????   Do I have early onset dementia?  Have I lost my grip on reality?  My mind?

My visit with Julie can't come soon enough.   I have heard so many people talk about "brain fog" but I hadn't really grasped how serious and how frightening it could be.

After Shannon's accident I used to get lost driving to the grocery store.  I would look at work document and not be able to make sense of it....like trying to read a foreign language.  So I know that these things happen.  Over time, it passed.   Now here we are again.

There are so many illnesses that so many people are facing that are invisible.  My heart goes out to them and I find I have so much more understanding and compassion now that I am faced with similar issues.

Getting older is definitely NOT for the faint of heart !!


Henry

Henry

I'm not sure why things happen the way they do.  In that moment,  I tried to make decisions, to feel the emotions, but not panic looking for solutions. I tried to find an answer that was right for everyone... that didn't happen.

That's the way it was with Henry.  He showed up one bitter cold morning in March of 2018.  He was cold and hungry and little and frightened.  I didn't want another cat.  I had promised Jules that once the four we had were gone, there would be no more, but he was so little and so cold and so hungry so I did what I always do... fed him.   It didn't matter to Henry, he still was not going to let me close.  He would sneak up onto the porch after I went inside, eat his fill, get comfy on the chair and meow.

I tried to ignore him and hope he would go home.  That didn't happen.  So I took an electric heater outside.  I took a warm snugly igloo of a cat bed outside. I made sure he had food and water and warmth but I tried desperately not to get attached.  That didn't happen.

One day my brother stopped by.  He got a glimpse of Henry and decided that he might be nice to have around.  I agreed to take care of all of the vetting and be sure that he was healthy before delivering him.   That was a Wednesday.   I scheduled Henry to be neutered and get his shots the following Monday.   

Jules was out of town and I hadn't mentioned the stray but now I could tell him.  I thought I had a solution that would make everyone happy. Ultimately, that didn't happen.

On Saturday my brother called to say that he had changed his mind.   I had thought that he was excited to have a companion cat.  I had finally made friends with Henry and a promise to Jules but I couldn't force a cat on my brother.  So I cried.  And then I cried some more.

I made a screen door for our spare bedroom.  I tried to introduce Henry to our other cats hoping they would all get along.  That didn't happen.

Monday came, Henry got a clean bill of health and the adventure began anew.

Helen lost her mind and decided she was no longer going to come out from under the bed.  She even had some accidental wees, something our feline matriarch had NEVER done before.  Jules was mad but because I was so sad, he accepted that Henry was there to stay.

Five months later my brother had a heart attack.  He was laughing and relaxing with a glass of wine and a friend and his heart simply stopped.

I can't believe that that was almost three years ago.   We never stop missing the people we love.

Henry has been with us for three years now and we love him dearly.   Helen has come out from under the bed but has a room of her own where at sixteen, she is comfortable and safe.

One of our other kitties has gone to Heaven so we still have four but it's manageable and Henry is the youngster who keeps everyone on their toes.

The part of this memory that hurts the most, is that for months, Johnny thought I was mad at him because I had cried when he told me that he had changed his mind about taking on the commitment of a cat.  In that moment,  I wasn't mad at him... I simply didn't know what to do.   In that moment on the phone with my apologetic brother, the situation that I thought I had control over had turned sideways and I was trying to find my way through the abrupt change in plan.  In that moment, I didn't realize that the tears I was trying to hide left him feeling that he had disappointed me.   I am just grateful that somewhere in the few short months to follow, I was able to assure him that I never been mad.  That we were good and I was happy about having Henry after all.

I have tried to embrace the fact that I do not control, nor does the Universe revolve around me.  There are always going to be moments that I have to accept and adapt and muster up as much flexibility as possible.

I guess all of these words have led me is to this.... Henry is here.  He is a joy.  My brother is with Mom and Shannon and I couldn't control any of it.  We survive and adapt and accept and count our blessings because sometimes a moment is all we ever have even the tiniest control over at all.  Sometimes we have to look back to see the gift.

If you find yourself in one of those moments... before you force the decision, melt into the emotion or lose the moment to panic, take a breath and  trust that it will be okay. 

 One way or another, it will be okay. 

   

 

 

 

 

 


Just Being

Sophie
Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night, head full of amazing and often profound thoughts?  You lay there in that calm, quiet space, strolling through an awareness that eludes you in the light of day.  You make mental notes of your enlightened brilliance, sentences coming together with grace and eloquence, thoughts so clear, flowing so easily that you know you will remember them always.  Thoughts that you can't wait to share.  Thoughts that bring comfort and clarity.  Thoughts that will be perfect for day two of my new commitment to write.  The calm, quiet space lulls you, holds you, carries you and you ....

In my life, Sophie and Opie who are now fifteen, need me to get up at 4:30.  I thought when the time changed and the clocks "spring forward", we would sleep until 5:30 but no, they still demand my immediate attention at exactly 4:30.  The meows are soft but insistent... at first.  I lay very still and pretend I can't hear them but that only works for a few minutes and then Sophie creeps up to my head and pulls my hair.  Opie quickly joins in and I know if don't force my feet to the floor, they will have Jules awake and he is NOT a morning person. 

I don't really mind so much.  I love those early hours.  Coffee on, cats fed, mug steaming, grateful for another ordinary day.  The involuntary creation of the mental "to do" begins ... pay bills, clean litter boxes, unload the dishwasher, start a load of clothes, play with the order of the seeds that I will start once the sun is up, water the beautiful flowers Skylar sent yesterday,  pot the geraniums ... and then I pause for a moment to touch Shannon's sweet face as I pass the photo on the bookcase, coffee now cool enough to sip...

And those profound and wonderful thoughts from that place of calm and quiet? 

What thoughts?

Opie


Listen With Your Heart

Hands

 

A new season may take some getting use to.  In the soft light from the  computer screen, every line and wrinkle on these aging hands is highlighted and the passage of time is overly apparent.   I write every morning with a pen on paper but facing a blank screen is different.  I think I can type more quickly than I can write but still, my hands can't quite keep up with my mind and I am having to acknowledge that getting back into the rhythm of unraveling my thoughts at a keyboard may take some time.

Last year I discovered "fluid art" on You Tube.  I quickly made friends with a new circle of artists and looked forward to spending time with them each day, learning their craft.  Their ability to mix and pour and tilt and blow and swipe and allow liquid color to move and blend and unfold fascinated me. 

 I am not alone in admitting that I am addicted to fluid art.

One artist in particular, with her big smile and welcoming way, her minimalist approach and gift for choosing color and sharing her journey, quickly became one of my favorites.  I attempted her technique, "The Dutch Pour" with limited success but watched every video multiple times.   On May 1 last year, she announced that she would be making one of her series of pieces available for purchase.  Number 9 in the "Vibrant Black " series was still available and I purchased it to commemorate Shannon's 22 Heaven Day.

It took weeks for the piece to arrive from the Netherlands.  Covid's effects on life was far reaching but #9 arrived six weeks later.   I started to write immediately to thank Rinske and tell her how happy I was with the piece but life is busy and I put it off.

On June 21st I was going about my day, litter boxes, laundry, vacuum, dishes etc and through it all I kept feeling an urgent nudging to write to Rinske.  NOW... not this afternoon when everything is done, not tomorrow morning with coffee...THANK HER NOW.   It was the kind of nudging that I couldn't ignore.

"Good morning sweet Rinske,
I received #9 in the vibrant black series this week and I love it.  I wanted to share a personal story.  My daughter Shannon was an artist.  She returned to Heaven following an automobile accident in May 1998.  She was 23. 
For the 22 years following her accident I have tried to commemorate her life in some special way on her birthday and heaven day.  This year on May 1, her Heaven day, I was watching your channel and heard your announcement of the availability of the black series.  Shannon's favorite number was nine and nine was still available and I purchased it. 
To me it looks like an angel with open wings which is perfect!
She would have loved your sweet spirit and incredible work. 
The state of the world has made me feel so very sad this year but discovering fluid art has been such a wonderful experience.  Your Dutch Pour is my favorite and although I still haven't mastered the soft edges and vibrant color combinations, I will keep trying.
Thank you for sharing your love of color and passion for beauty with the world.
With much love and gratitude,

Jan Broom
Fredericksburg, Virginia"

I live my life asking for Guidance, looking for signs.   I'm sure I miss more than I see because Angels are subtle and signs are often no more than soft urgent whispers.

The next morning I received a response from Rinske...

"Dear Jan, 

Your story touched me. It is beautiful and my heart goes out to you. I am so sorry for your loss. And I am so happy you commemorate Shannon in your way. 
You know, I am one that is down to earth. But something just happened, and on that time you wrote this email to me. I want to share, cause this is important, I dont know, you dont know, but I think your email was very important for me to read: I just have a new car, my brother was in the other side of the Netherlands with a bike broke down and called me if I could pick him up, cause he could not take public transport due to Covid. So I went to pick him up, I drove on a big intersection, and somehow I could not steer or give gas anymore, the car did not react to anything. But I could hit the brakes. I immediately clicked on my dangerous lights. Put the car off. And then put the car on. It worked again, everything. I drove a little further to a quiet place, and decided to google this. I saw your email, read it real quick, and googled further. Could not find why this happened, normally I would have driven back to home, since the car worked again? But I decided to call for help, after I read your email. So I did, and the help came, and told me it was super dangerous to drive with this car and that I was super lucky and I handled right. (katalysator and a steering ball is broken, they told me)
I just don't know, but I think you just pushed me over the edge to call for help immediately and prevented me for another dangerous situation. This maybe sounds crazy, or not. But it happened. Thank you. 

So Jan, Thank you for your love for art, you sharing your story, and all the love that shines through your message. "
 
One of my first dreams following Shannon's death, she visited.  I woke from a nap to find her standing beside the Christmas tree in the family room.  She was so excited and just beaming.  I was so happy to see her that I could hardly contain myself.  She said, "Mom, I had to tell you.  I got the best job in Heaven.  I am a Path Director.  You know, I am one of the ones who gets you to turn right instead of left to keep you safe or organizes one of those "chance" meetings.... "coincidences".  It is wonderful."
Then she touched the beeper on her belt and smiled and said, "Back to work."
 
So, when I meet an artist on You Tube in February, who lives 5000 miles away, and write a thank you note to her in June that she stops to read, in the dark, on the side of the road when her new car has just broken down and she is searching for what to do....a thank you note that might have prevented her from being hurt....is it a coincidence?   Of course not, it was our Path Directors on the job and enjoying every minute of their opportunities to fulfill their Heavenly job description.
 
  Surrender to the magic that is all around us.  Believe that anything is possible.  Accept that we are never alone.
 
....and always listen with your heart.