goingplaceslivinglife

Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


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Almost Normal

Almost normal! It’s been about 5.5 weeks since my total knee replacement December 4 and I will see the surgeon on Monday for a post-op appointment. I have some expectations and hopes for that visit. The primary issue is will I get permission to get back into our hot tub?

We purchased an inflatable hot tub almost 2 years ago. We discovered how helpful sitting in the hot tub could be back in 2007 when Graham was on sabbatical in Pueblo, Colorado and the apartment complex had a hot tub next to the pool. We learned that the heat eased sore muscles and joints and improved nighttime relaxation and better sleeping  Although we were in Colorado from January 1 through June 30, the hot tub was available, even in the winter when the pool was closed. It was about 200 yards from our apartment door. We’d get into our bathing suits, put on our terry cloth bathrobes and some slippers and walk over. Chilly, but bearable. Getting out and back into the warm apartment after the soak was more of a challenge. I discovered that there seemed to be an envelope of warm air around my body for a very short time when I exited the hot tub. Getting the bathrobe on during that time was mandatory! Then put the cover back on the hot tub and high tail it back inside.

hot tub

Our apartment was in the building on the right side, so not too far, except when it was 5 degrees.

hot tub in WV

The photo viewpoint is from the kitchen door, so you see how much shorter the after-tub commute became.

We agreed if we ever should be lucky enough to have a hot tub it would be right by the door to the house. And so, about a year later, we found ourselves building an enclosed screen porch on the back of our house in West Virginia. The tub sat on a concrete pad on the ground and the floor of the porch was built around the tub. We stepped down into the spa and Graham installed a handicap pull bar to help any of us to climb back up and out. The walk to the kitchen door was maybe 10 feet, very easy even in the winter.

But then we moved to Oregon where we are renting a house. I was missing the evening soak time. My joints ached more and so, a friend suggested an inflatable. We bought a Coleman hot tub for about $450 the first year but after they replaced one filter/motor, when that failed within a few months, they would not replace it. We searched but could not purchase a new filter alone. So we bought another inflatable for about $250. Watch for sales!!IMG_1953

The inflatable works for us. It runs on 110 household current so we did not have to install a new 220 line into the house. That saved us some money but the lower wattage means the temperature control goes through a cycle which runs about 48 hours and then turns off. We need to check and restart sometimes before the shutdown happens so we can maintain the temperature. The other issue is that it will not run the heat if the jets are operating. Not a biggie for me; I don’t use the jets.

So, the last time I was in the hot tub was the morning before my knee surgery. After that I was restricted from “swimming, hot tubs, saunas” and a few other wet activities. One concern is infection through the suture site. That is well healed now, so should no  longer be a factor.

But, and this is a big issue, I need to be able to get myself out of the hot tub safely. First, I need to be able to swing my leg over the height of the wall. It is an inflatable so not rigid, and if I touch it, it will bend. Graham built me a contraption with 2 posts and a rope so I had something the proper height for practice.  That was not difficult to gain the movement I needed.

Image result for block and tackle to lift heavyHowever, I need to get up off my butt. The inflatable hot tub does not have the molded seats a regular fiberglass hot tub offers; we sit on the padded bottom. So, I need to be able to stand up without the need for a block and tackle.  Simple, eh?  Well, no. As my knee issue got worse and started involving my pelvis and hips last summer, Graham installed a handicapped handrail on the post holding the roof over the tub. (You thought we sit in the hot water with the cold winter rain falling on us????? Come on!)  That rail helped me, but I was able to get on my knees before the surgery. Now, not a comfortable position.  So, after thinking and thinking about it, I tried a few times at home.

Now, in order to do a task that is difficult, the easiest way to figure out how to manage the move is to figure out the physics of it to maximize the strength while minimizing effort. I didn’t take physics in high school and until now, I figured the computer science class I took instead was an excellent substitute.  But now,  more than 45 years after that class decision in high school,  I was trying to figure how to fulcrum me up and out…..hmmmmm

Physical therapists are special people. Maybe a tad masochistic as they push their patients through pain to improvement, generally they are upbeat, optimistic and very much enjoy challenges like this. So this morning at Physical Therapy I sat on the floor next to a table that had been lowered to the height I needed and it only took two times to conquer the move. I know I can get up now! No block and tackle needs to be ordered. LOL

On Monday I will go to the surgeon’s appointment prepared to show him I have the safety issue covered. And if I need to wait, I will wait……but I am betting on hot tub Monday evening!!!

 

 

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The Magic of Having Cheerleaders

On Monday, December 4, 2017 my right knee went missing.  It had provided 63 years of walking, hiking, skiing, whatevering and it was not functioning as it should because of damage caused by a fall and by illness. The knee was replaced with a modern medical miracle, one that has become so hohum that you probably know at least five people who have had knee replacements.

It really helped to talk to all those people prior to my surgery, to hear their advice and learn of tricks they used. The one thing I heard over and over and over was “do the exercises”.  One other comment, made quietly, also was handy, “You will not always get to the bathroom on time.”

When I’ve gone through SOMETHING, whether it is a physical activity like this surgery, or an emotional voyage, like a divorce, it can be very helpful to hear first person experiences. It has let me know that what I was feeling was pretty typical….or not.

It was during one of those discussions with a friend that the idea of an allergy to the implant hit me! I can’t wear pierced earrings of any kind. Sterling silver, 24k gold, surgical steel, platinum, titanium, even plastic coated, all have caused my ears to start itching and I end up removing the earrings within 15 minutes.  So, I read and then I talked to the surgeon at the pre-op appointment and I am wearing low-nickel metal with ceramic and plastic pieces. All fingers and toes crossed.

The first few days after the surgery was spent discovering that the pain meds and I do not get along. This experience made it very clear to me just how different our body chemistries are. I was nauseated and just felt overall horrible.  I had none of the “highs” users addicted to oxycontin enjoy. They obviously do not experience all the “yuks” I had or they would move on to some other drug of choice.  (This lightbulb moment made me realize that “addiction” is a horrible thing and we need a multi-prong attack to help people get off the drugs but also help them learn coping mechanisms for the issues in life that have made them (all of us to some extent) reach for help after a hard day.)

Once we moved me down a notch in the pain medical pharmacopeia, my overall body feelings were healthier and I could get on with the business of healing.

One thing that has made this experience easier is the time people have taken to drive me to my appointments (Graham can’t drive because he is legally blind), take him to the grocery store, run to the drug store for the replacement pain medicine, and just those who stop in for a few minutes with a smile to help distract me from focusing on the knee which is yelling “OW” most of the time.

And then, there is the physical therapist. Most knee patients have love-hate relationships with the love coming much later in the time table. Mine earned it on Day One when he exclaimed enthusiastically how well I was doing. He was so effusive that I started tearing up.  “No,” he said, “It’s good, really!”

So, I explained. Anyone who knows me knows “body perfect” is not now nor has ever been a goal of mine. I try to eat healthy food and not overindulge with the “fun” things but taking the time others do to firm up and have their body parts move better has not been my thing.

Here I am, 63-years-old, and this is the SECOND time in my life where I experienced BODY PRIDE. The first was after my first baby was born and I was able to nurse him. The idea that this body had produced that miracle and could sustain it nutritionally. Amazingly powerful feeling.

And now, in pain and hobbling, I am ahead of benchmarks. Me….the “couch potato” (well, maybe desk sitter is more like it). knee day 6

Altogether, the friends giving their time and sharing their good wishes and this professional who sees a lot of people like me are my cheerleaders. They have assumed the role to help me get better. And while their time investment may only 30 minutes or a couple of hours a week, they are a component in my healing that will no doubt get me to the finish line easier.

So, thank you, each of you, who send a joke, a funny picture, a phone call, a visit, a drive in the car. To all of you who are my cheerleaders, I salute you.

 

 


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It’s a Puzzlement

Sorry for mixing my Broadway musical metaphors but I need your two cents because, like Tevye, I’m getting a lot of On The Other Hand  in my decision making.

Back in January I wrote about my experience with six decades of wading through medical care with all its various changes.  (I wrote that blog to help people who might not understand why the ACA is so important to people who have difficulty obtaining health care that can be within financial reach. Many of the comments I received were that people were sad I had gone through all that. The point was, many many many people do.)  And even as I wrote of all my issues, that was before my left hip started protesting loudly the year plus of walking “wonky” with my bad right knee. After a gait adjusted for pain, my pelvis had tilted. It wasn’t enough to juggle the stupid knee and then the cornea transplant, I had a new medical issue that provided a new education. Lucky me.

The increased level of pain led me to think I would have to close my business, Can-Do Real Food, My logic said that was the right decision. My emotions were not in agreement. (You can see how Tevye’s dilemma discussion seems to be part of my DNA, or at least cultural norm.) fiddler

My regular doctor offered me pain pills.  While I filled the prescription for the muscle relaxant, I soon discovered not only did it not work, but neither could I with a muddy head. I decided to go outside of standard medical practice and found a chiropractor who might help move that pelvis back into alignment.  Between his gentle pokes and prods as well as physical therapy inside his office environment, the screaming pain has diminished and I can see a glimmer of dim light ahead.

But then I ran out of insurance benefits.

The chiropractor reminded me it had taken me a year to get into the twisted position and it would take a while longer to get out of it. His thinking was once I got that part aligned I would be functional and need only pop back in to see him when I realized I was hurting again.

But I can’t afford him.

So, back to my primary care doctor who offered to send me to the same doc who said my original injury to my knee in June 2016 was “only arthritis” and “I would never need surgery”, all without the benefit of a scan. I told my primary doc I would not go back to him. I expect my doctors to base their advice on information and avoid those who don’t.

Also, since I’ve been hearing I have arthritis for years now and the pain is increasing in the affected joints, I asked to speak to someone with arthritis expertise to give me advice.  Turns out that specialization is a rhemolotolgist and the first clinic said I was not bad enough to take up their time and the second clinic gave me their first available appointment four months from now. Since I don’t have rheumatoid arthritis it is perhaps not a needed visit anyway, but it sure would be nice to get some better info.

Yesterday I had an appointment with a new orthopedic doc. I went in wanting info, very much convinced I am not a surgical candidate nor is my knee hurting that badly right now so why would I want surgery?

He convinced me I need to have the surgery.  The pelvis will NEVER be right until I am walking more normally. My knee will never be better and will only get worse. I wanted to know the probably progression of the deterioration and he was able to take the time and explain it.

So, straddling the conventional/nontraditional medicine routes gets sticky when I opt to lean one way or the other; the other side of my care spectrum voices their concerns. Some are valid. Some may be self-serving.

Here are the issues of my dilemma:

  • My insurance will be changing. I have received notice that the plan I currently have is not going to be offered. The next “best” plan not only will cost me almost $300 a month more, but will not provide for any “out of network” benefits. Since I am not always only in my town, I understand that  even a day trip to the Coast with some level of accident could end up bankrupting me. So this next “best” option is not viable. I have an appointment with an insurance navigator next week when the markets open, so we will see what we will see then.
  • Since my insurance will be changing, any additional help beyond the immediate post-operative period by this new doctor may be a financial hardship. Do I wait to chose a new orthopedic doctor after my insurance changes, pushing me into a later calendar schedule for the surgery and recovery during my busy season with Can-Do Real Food (no, I’m not closing the business). Or do I just hope he is “in network”? Or do I just hope I can switch to another ortho doc who is “in network”?
  • Will I even be able to afford any health insurance plan next year? Since Trump has eliminated the subsidies, that means my health insurance premium will most likely take up 60% of my social security payment. That is before I actually go to the doctor and pay my co-pay and pay for all the medicines I need for my asthma and blood pressure. How can I afford this?

And then, on the nontraditional side,

  • I learned on my trip to New England that the CBD portion of marijuana does an extremely effective job of reducing my pain without making my head affected. (It amazes me how many conventional medical people I have spoken with HERE IN OREGON seem not to know anything about the usefulness of this herb. But here, have some oxy. The restrictions by the Federal government have muzzled them at best and stunted their education at worst.)
  • My knee pain is very tolerable right now. My hip/pelvis problem is moving in the right direction. I can still get more physical therapy and of course I have the exercises to do at home.  If I do them…..but that’s another issue.

The new ortho doc said something that sounds real: “Many people opt to wait because they are not feeling “that bad”.  And then something happens and they are in horrible pain, wanting the surgery and then needing to wait a month or two to fit into the schedule.”

And he also said “Most likely you will heal better and faster than someone who is in high pain prior to the surgery because you are still pretty mobile.”

We have mundane but real issues also.

  • I will be restricted from driving, of course, for a while. Typical is 6 weeks but it could be shorter if I can comfortably and in good time move my right foot from the accelerator to the brake sooner. Graham, being legally blind, can not drive. So while we are going into our quiet season with the business, there are normal things we do: grocery shopping for example. Also Graham teaches one forensic chemistry class each week at Western Oregon University, about 40 minutes south of where we live.  So, we will need driving help.  We have many good friends who offered with my eye surgery and that was only needed for two days, so we haven’t abused them too much yet.
  • Sleeping spaces. The master bedroom is upstairs. I have been sleeping in the guest room, a room too small to transition permanently into the master bedroom, for months now, only climbing the stairs when we have overnight guests.  Following this surgery any guests will get the master upstairs. That part was easy enough to figure out. LOL

So, like the King of Siam, it is a puzzlement to me. A time of change is upon me. A decision needs to be made that will have consequences. Those issues, with the exception of the health insurance costs, are not easily quantifiable.options

 

 

 


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I Did Okay

About thirty years ago I had an epiphany. My job was not the activity I did that provided income. My job, it hit me, was to raise those little munchkins I had birthed to become healthy and happy adults who could function as contributing members of society.

It wasn’t an easy road, as anyone who has walked it can attest. Having a spouse who had a completely different parenting philosophy was harder, believe it or not, than when I was a single mom.  But trying to parent alone can be a constant struggle against fatigue and a slippage of consistency.

I’m not a deep analytical thinker generally but as a kid, whenever I chafed at the rules and restrictions imposed by my parents that seemed unfair, I thought about why. What was the purpose of the rule?  Was it fair? Could my parents have achieved my compliance more readily if they had presented the need for a certain behavior a different way?  It seemed to me that the answer was yes, life was unfair to me then. easier to build a child

I knew my parents, overall, were okay. I understand better now that they had their own issues and that they did what they thought was the best thing for my sisters and me. And despite some developmental restrictions I had to learn to overcome as an adult (i.e, how to deal with anger in a way where it would not blow up into World War III) they gave me a lot of experiences that many other kids don’t get.

Our family was in no way child centric, but my parents were involved in activities that provided for my exploration and growth. Scouting, encouraging my love of reading, camping and travelling, helping us learn to swim, and PTA were things they did. There were inconsistencies about religious training and practice which I now recognize was a struggle between the way my dad and mom had each been raised. They encouraged my participation in the music education program starting in 4th grade, something I did with my kids and learned quickly to appreciate that my parents had provided that model.

What’s fascinating is that when I discuss memories and issues with my two sisters, their experiences sometimes were considerably different from mine. If that can happen in the same environment, the whole nurture vs nature concept shows up more clearly.genetics-nature-vs-nurture-4-638

Looking back it is easy to see that each of my kid’s personalities was evident right from the beginning.  They were who they are even as infants and toddlers. The way they expressed themselves, their willingness to explore or need to stay close, and their responses to me were challenging and wonderful and scary, all at the same time.  I recognized that this was my biggest responsibility in life and I knew I wanted to give them something better than I had had.

STEPI knew I wanted to parent differently but also knew that unless I made an effort to learn a new way, the guidance I heard in my head and heart would be the way I had been raised. I was fortunate that my older two kids attended an elementary school in  the “poor” neighborhood of a town in Connecticut where education was held in high esteem. (in other words, we paid higher taxes for the school system there than any other place I have lived.) The principal of the elementary school was a consummate grant writer and we had an amazing array of programs, offered free. One was a parenting class called Systematic Training for Effective Parenting.  While child raising practices have moved on, this served as an amazing framework for me to teach my kids about fair communication, accepting responsibility, and understanding that there will be consequences for misbehavior.  One of the best parts, particularly after a year or two of practice, was that we all had fewer angry meltdowns.  Me too.

I know it would be interesting to read their perspective of the experience. Now adults in their 20s and 30s, I suspect I would hear about all the horrible things I did to them. But I also think there would be many more positive issues. (I recognize that statement might be self serving. LOL)

I just came back from a long weekend to celebrate my youngest’s 23rd birthday. The joy I felt was better than any drug. I could easily see that despite a pathway taken that was not the original planned, he is doing fine. He is healthy. He is supporting himself (well, almost). He has good friends who also are finding their way along their own pathways.

One important difference, I think, between my parents and me is that I do not expect my kids to live their life the way I would if I had their opportunities.  This son struggled in school, a surprise to all of us. Yet in today’s economic turmoil, a college education is not proving to be the answer it was to my generation, so understanding there are other ways to earn the money to live is part of my letting go.  After all, earning a living is NOT the same as building a fulfilling life. My hope for this young man is the same as it was when he was born and he is well on his way to being the healthy, happy, functioning adult I tried to aim for with my parenting.

 

 

 


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How It Happened To Me

I met him when I was 10 years old; he was 16 and to me he was totally cool. He was dating my oldest sister for a short time and after a few months she felt uneasy so broke off with him.

We had an issue with communication in our family. My parents wanted us only to express “positive” emotions, so her concerns about him were never brought up.

Meanwhile, my mom had essentially noticed he was a bit of a lost one who could benefit from a healthy family and so, “adopted” him. My sister never said much of anything whenever he showed up for dinner, but she always had a lot of homework those days.

He went off to VietNam for not one but two tours as a Green Beret. Special Forces, rah rah. Mom was so proud. He never told us anything, just brought gifts for each of us whenever he returned to the hometown and ended up at our dinner table again.

So, when he proposed 12 years later, I sort of knew him but only realized later that I had no idea who he was. I thought since he cherished his “home away from home” at our house, he understood and believed in the kinds of ethics and love we exhibited.

I was eager to get away from New Jersey and he offered a route away. I was such a fool. Naive. Innocent.

And so I jumped in, prepared to love this man until death do us part.

But on our first few weeks of marriage he wanted to invite another woman to join the two of us on his boat on one of Nashville’s lakes. I suggested he should not; that we could enjoy some “special time” in a secluded cove, but he was not on the same wavelength.

I had a friend from college visit and after dinner I drove him to where he was staying the night and he asked me how I was. He saw clearly that something was not right. I denied it. All was fine.

Still in the reserves he would go spend his weekend up at Fort Campbell where he worked in the hospital. He was trained as a medic and had dreams of becoming a physician’s assistant but had no sticking power in his studies. He would leave the house to go to school but I noticed he never worked on any homework. One day a woman called asking for Sargeant X. I gave him the phone and he took it into the bedroom for a private conversation that included a lot of laughter and lasted over an hour. When he came out he told me that she wanted to know who had answered the phone. He had not told her he was married. npr_abuse_

One day while riding in his sister’s car we were struck by a truck. My head hit the side window hard but I recovered my wits faster and told her to put her foot on the brake as we were headed to a ditch. . When I called the place where he was hanging out (he should have been in school) he told the person who took the call to tell me he was in class. I told her to tell him we had had an accident and where it was. Believe it or not, he was there in about 15 minutes, an illegal driving speed was evident.  But he did not go to me. He enveloped his sister in a warm and caring hug.  She had started sobbing as soon as she saw him, and told me to get out of the way.  On the way home he told me her stomach was upset and I needed to make chicken soup…from scratch…and have it ready fast.  I was glad I had some in the freezer.   But he never asked how I was and since I had a raging headache for 3 days, I probably had a concussion.

I needed my wisdom teeth extracted. He came to pick me up about 2 hours after I called him I was ready and then dropped me at home and took off to join “the guys for a drink”.  I truly felt unloved.abuse power wheel

But I was raised that all issues in marriages can be worked out and that there would be no such thing as divorce in our family. So I tried all different things. I tried being nice and sweet. (okay, it was not as hard a stretch at age 23 as it might be now…quit laughing) I tried to be firm and strong back at him. He only raised his voice and got angrier.

My sister, his old flame, came to visit with her husband. She told me later that he hit on her, but at that time she shared a technique she had been learning while pursuing her master’s’ degree in psychiatric nursing. The treasured “When you do such and I such I feel this way” which is a fairly non confrontational alternative to “What the hell are you doing treating me this way!”  He got angrier with that one also.

There was no way to escape his anger. Basically, there was no escape.  He had the car and a motorcycle and never gave me a set of car keys.  He often would leave the house on a weekend day on the motorcycle, taking the car keys and not tell me when he would be home.

All this is classic emotional abuse. It was my fault there were red lights. It was my fault it rained. It was my fault if I did not automatically intuit what he wanted for supper. But I kept hoping things would get better.

My period was late one month, something that never happened. Yes, I prayed. I knew children with this man would be a mistake. The prayer worked a couple of days later.  Thank you Lord.

And then he announced we were going on a honeymoon, about 15 months into our marriage. He wanted to go scuba diving at Grand Cayman. Cool. I also learned to scuba.

But I anticipated a new beginning. I bought a new negligee and was ready to play the  excited and eager bride. He had selected a place to stay on the eastern side of the island, far away from all the touristy things. I loved it. It was a small place where each room had a slider out to the beach.

I suggested we go for a walk on the beach and he angrily said no. He then proceeded to rape me.

Some people believe that in a marriage there is no such thing as rape. I anticipate a lot of women snorting when they read that statement. We know, so without getting graphic, let me explain.

When you want to make love you spend a bit of time making sure your partner is relaxed and then titillated. That caresses and kisses help build the energy and help the juices flow.

When you have a man who has no concern other than where to put HIS body part, it can be a long, dry, painful experience.

The next evening, when he expected the same activity, I smiled in what I hoped was a sweet way and suggested we make love.n-WOMEN-VIOLENCE-large570-427x178

He hit me.

Immediately I knew he could kill me.  I grabbed my clothes and went out on the beach. I sat there, waiting for him to come out, to apologize, to realize he had chosen something very wrong.

After 3 hours I went in. He was snoring.

The next day he told me he would prefer if I would leave. From Grand Cayman. When he had the money and the tickets and was supposedly the man who had promised to care for me.  I stayed.

Grand Cayman has a bit of a volcanic section called Hell. It has a post office and I actually had enough chutzpah to send him a postcard at home that said simply, “The next time you tell me to go to Hell, I will remind you that you drove me there.”

He was not amused.

Everything came to a head about a month later when my parents came to visit and he was rude, even to my mother, someone who had always given him love.  She said to me “I don’t understand how you can stay with him” and the gates permitting me to leave opened.

I left the next day, after my parents were gone. Three weeks later he came over to my friend’s house where I was staying and tried to rape me again. I was able to get him to leave.

Valentine’s Day came and went with no comment from him, not even a “I know we’re in a tough place but we can work this out.” I filed for a divorce the next day.

I had nightmares for years.

So when I see women in a similar situation, particularly women I know and consider friends, I don’t avoid the issue. I want them to know I have been there and they need not stay there.

Most never make a move. Most continue the same way.

Someone posted today on facebook that about a third of all women have been the victim of domestic abuse. I think that number is low. no silence

 

 


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Learning Along The Pathway

When I was growing up my Dad would often drive into town and pick up the Sunday New York Times. As I got older I enjoyed reading not only the magazine but I started perusing the classified, looking for my “someday” job and apartment. Oh, the dreams I had of what could be……and then life took another pathway.

I’ve had a checkered past. I earned a degree in geography and urban planning, but  my first job out of college was for the Tennessee Supreme Court in the court administrator’s office. They were starting a judicial PLANNING division and so, since I had a degree in urban PLANNING, I was hired. It was fun but as I realized I was getting further from my education, I looked for and moved to the planning job.  For three and a half years I actually worked for a planning and engineering company and really enjoyed it. But again……life took another pathway.

There was a death in my husband’s family. His mother asked us to move to Connecticut to take care of the estate issues. We lived in the house rent free and would until it was sold. One of my tasks was to determine the market value of the property and in doing so, we listed it for sale and boom! we needed to move within a couple of months. I was looking for work as a planner but we were in the middle of a recession then and jobs were scarce. So… life took another pathway.

I started working as an real estate agent for the broker who had listed the house. While I did well, I didn’t particularly enjoy it. Showing houses was a challenge because I did not know the area well and there were no apps with a talking GPS (hey, no cell phones at all)  in those days so I had to rely on paper maps, all the time portraying an image of competence to the buyers.  That was stressful enough but the part that made me more uncomfortable was listening to a homeowner extol the cost of the renovations he had made when it looked like a piece of incompetent amateur construction.  And then Baby #1 was born and I no longer wanted to put in the long hours needed in that kind of sales position.  Once again…. life took another pathway.

 

When I told the broker I was going to let my sales license go he persuaded me to start an appraisal division of his company. I built the reputation and business started coming in nicely and then I needed to hire some staff. The broker told me he was moving to California and was selling the real estate business, including the appraisal division. I said no way, it may be your name but it was my blood, sweat and tears. He very much understood and so, I soon owned it. I got a partner who had the bookkeeping kind of background and so we went on, growing during the 1980s real estate boom to 12 employees. (Although I planned longer, I only was able to take off one week when Baby #2 was born.) And then there was another blip in the financial market and property values started to decline. Where there is no room for a second mortgage or a current home value did not support getting the mortgage refinanced, there are no appraisals. We closed the business and…… life took another pathway.

By this time I had had baby #3 and no income. My husband got laid off. We ended up moving from Connecticut to Tennessee where I stayed home with the baby. Then my husband was diagnosed with brain cancer and after surgery, radiation and chemo I got a job at Vanderbilt Medical Center, working for one of my husband’s eye doctors. I had looked for a managerial position at Vanderbilt and when HR asked me what salary I wanted I thought about what I had made in the good years in Connecticut and then made a “cost of living” adjustment and said $30,000. They laughed…too high apparently. Anything lower would not help the family so I changed my resume to administration instead and ended up taking that first position as an AA for $18,000. I figured if I was not going to earn enough money I might as well not be in charge of anything. And so….. life took another pathway.Image result for vanderbilt university medical center

After five years of learning eye health jargon, things changed when the doctor in charge left. My position was eliminated but I was not, so HR moved me to another place in the hospital. The boss was, to put it nicely, a challenged individual. I left and move over to the university side of Vanderbilt to the Department of French & Italian. More new things to learn and master. And then my husband died and there I was a widow with a young child. Graham entered my life and I sure made him work to woo both of us. And there I was again….my life took another pathway.

My kiddo and I joined Graham when he went on sabbatical to Colorado for six months. I thought a start together in a neutral location would be good. We made friends and when it looked like he might be offered a job there I started looking for work. I had a sweet sweet double interview with the statewide blood bank and they offered me a position for a beautiful salary. I came home from that interview to be told we were moving back to West Virginia.  Ha ha…guess what….. my life took another pathway.

Looking for work in the Rust Belt was a challenge. I finally was hired as a practice manager for a financial adviser. Since it was a start-up I accepted a lower than desired salary with the promise of bonuses that would boost it to the sky (dream on, eh?). That never happened. After three years of building that business into something sustainable, I asked for a $10,000 raise and he basically countered with 50 cents an hour. I resigned. This time, definitely my choice…..my life took another pathway.

I started to build up my book selling business that I had been running on a small scale for about 12 years to provide additional income. I was able to match that prior salary for the next two years while having the time to also get involved in the farm-to-table movement and helping build The Wild Ramp. All the time, we were planning for my husband to retire when my kiddo left for college and so……my life took another pathway.

We moved to Oregon just about four years ago. I applied to about 50 jobs, making sure each cover letter and each resume was custom tailored to each specific job. I never heard from 46 place, but had four interviews. One had the grace to tell me I was overqualified and they were sure I would be bored and quit. I countered with an comment (I had nothing to lose)  that at this age I would love a job I could do with one hand behind my back. But no job was offered. (Ageism is one more hurdle to getting a job that needs to be fixed.  Date of birth information can no longer be asked, but they can and do asked for education information, including year of graduation. I think you agree, most of us complete high school at age 18, so extrapolation is easy.) So feeling ready to do anything….. life took another pathway.

I took a summer job as a farm hand. Yes, me. I never ate so much ibuprofen in my life but I did it and learned a lot more. In all my effort with The Wild Ramp I had probably visited 100 farms and had heard their stories. Now I got to get a (very small) taste of the life farmers live.  And the experience confirmed something I already suspected: I am not a farmer. But I need my farmers (we all do) and respect them highly. And so, taking a plunge……my life took another pathway.

I started up the commercial food processing business, Can-Do Real Food, to support local farmers by preserving their surplus produce by canning and dehydrating. (This gives the farmer another income, provides consumers a way to have a taste of the local summer harvest any time during the year, and reduces food waste.)  When we moved to Oregon I learned to can, so I had one year of canning at home. Other people have forgotten more than I have learned but it has been a pretty amazing experience. You can read more about it at the Can-Do Real Food blog. 

In the past year I had been dealing with a knee that has been injured but there is nothing surgical that can be done to fix it. It forces me to walk a bit wonky which has now affected my hip joint on the other side. I am in a new world of hurt and so…..I suspect my life is about to take another pathway again.

Through all these years (63 and counting) I have received continual education. The first part is one we all are fed K through  12. The next was the narrowing down of a field of study (college). And since then, through work and seminars and conferences and self teaching, the learning has continued and increased.  I urge everyone I love to never stop exploring, never be afraid of change.

I know jargon related to the legal profession, the medical profession, the academic profession, and now food processing (and government regulation thereof).  I wonder what’s next!  Whatever it is, I strongly doubt I will ever live in New York City!

 

 


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How to Say Thank You

Someone died. And I got a cornea to fix a vision problem. 

Each of us has the opportunity to think ahead to a possible situation where we might not be able to live, but can donate parts of our own bodies that can make someone else’s life better. Thinking this way does not make your death happen. It makes a precious gift happen if and when. What a legacy. Go to this website if you already do not have it marked on your driver’s license.

Years ago I lost a husband to brain cancer. At the time the shit hit the fan I was quietly told by the neuro-oncologist that we had 3-5 years. Well, he lived 10 years and the doctor really had no idea how. The last MRI, done about 18 months before his death, showed that this incurable cancer had not grown. For some reason, his brain chemistry caused it to act differently. It was that summer I decided and got things in place to donate his brain when the time came. Heading to a neurological research program, perhaps whatever he had in his brain chemistry could be identified and help someone else. I wanted to make lemonade out of the very sour lemon we had been given.

Perhaps this concept is not so hard for me because I appreciate the sentiment of Thanksgiving.  While I don’t count my blessings daily, I give thanks after we return to our driveway after a road trip, when we have a good day at the farmers’ market, when one of my kids has a wonderful achievement. Thank you. Thank you Lord. Thank you God. Thank you Man in the Moon. It doesn’t matter who receives your thanks. It’s recognition that we are not alone.  And the One who is honored hears it all.

Being part of society means I chose to be active. I offer skills and energy within my capability to issues I feel are important.  As I age perhaps the working parts are not as usable to someone else as if I had died early. But letting them harvest whatever can be used is one more way I can give back to my community. 

When we feel this connection to others, our world is safer. When we feel we can have an impact, our world works smoother.