I'm Just Too Happy!

On Facebook, my teacher daughter challenged me to share three things a day - for five days - I'm grateful for.  That is an awkward sentence.  For five days, I'm going to write three daily things for which I'm grateful.

That doesn't read any better.

Anyhoo....I'm going to change it.  I'm going to write here fifteen things for which I'm grateful. I hope my alteration to this assignment flies with the teacher.  I've had so many blessings this week, it's delightful to ruminate on all the goodies.

Here we go...

1.  Our teacher daughter did not go to China.  China cancelled the trip for various reasons that we don't fully understand, but if things are not squared away in China...I'm happy she's not going.  She was disappointed, but got over it.  She'll likely have the opportunity to go next year.

2.  Our girl is still getting PAID for going to China, even though she's not going.  How incredible is that?  She'll be paying off a credit card, getting some house upgrades, some car work done, taking a trip to SC with her favorite mom and saving some bucks.  China pays very well for work you don't do.

3.  Our girl is also getting free travel miles - as many as it takes to get to Beijing and back.  The airline tickets were non-refundable, so our teacher gets the miles on a gift card.  We were astonished.  She's already planning where to go and who to see.  I might be able to sneak in on some of that too.

4.  Our daughter surprised me this week with three tubs of dark chocolate malted milk balls!  I didn't know they made them, but she found a small company here in Melbourne that does.  I am in heaven.  And so grateful for my money-bags daughter's generosity.  

5.  In completing my manuscript, The 12 Days of Christmas Adventure, I'm seeking trademark/copyright permissions from some big businesses/manufacturers.   So far, every single company, except one, has granted permission for me to use an image of their product in my book.  This has shocked me.  I thought big businesses would not be interested in helping a first time author.

I was wrong.  Peeps candy company will be in my book, along with Jordan Almonds, Swiss Miss, Mattel, Fisher-Price, and my favorite - Harry Potter.  Scholastic books is sharing with me Harry Potter!  I am so grateful, I keep celebrating by eating dark chocolate malted milk balls.

6.  We had a Canadian visitor this week who brought REAL maple syrup and homemade strawberry jam with her to Florida.  Get a load of this syrup bottle. 

It looks like a bottle of rum.  It's the most delicious syrup on the planet.  This freezer jam is also the best on the planet.  My husband ate the entire first jar in about four days. 

Our Canadian friend is our favorite alien.

7.  I ordered new glasses last month that came in wonky.  I tried them for a week and kept hating them.  I took them back to Lens Crafters, and they discovered my pupillary distance was off.  I asked them if it had anything to do with the retina hole I had in my eye the week before.  They said no, pupils don't move, no matter what kind of holes you have in your eyes.  They made me another pair of lenses, and they are great.

The frames are red and bold because I decided I was going to need some color on my face as my wisdom highlights come in.  AUGH!  I have recipes dangling from the cupboards, this is why it looks like trash is sprouting from my head and right ear. 

8.  It's mango season here!  I can't touch mango sap or the inside skin because I break out with poison ivy (for that story, READ THIS.)  But, I LOVE the fruit and have no trouble eating it.  A friend of ours who has a mango tree gave us ten mangoes - half of them are gone already.  Our girl, Money-bags, purchased even more.  The area that grows them here - Merritt Island - is one of the best three mango producers in the world.  And we live 20 minutes away!  We are happy mango gluttons.

9.  My Dad has another UTI.   This is not the grateful part.  The grateful part is that we learned yesterday he can go to the walk-in clinic and get an antibiotic infusion daily for about a week rather than being admitted to the hospital for the same thing.   Because of all the meds he's on, he needs IV infusions when he develops a UTI.  In the past, he had been hospitalized for this, but that won't be needed anymore.  I can't even express what good new this is.  At 91, Dad needs to be up and around as much as possible.  Five days in the hospital never serves him well.

10.  I got a new phone, and I really like it.  I've never been able to say that about a new phone before.  Wonders never cease.

11.  My check-up with my eye surgeon today went well.  My holey retina has sealed properly.  I'm so grateful for Dr. Paul Winslow.  Anybody who can use a laser on an eyeball and not blast the eyeball apart gets a ten in my book.

12.  I'm changing general practitioners, and the doc I want to start seeing is taking new patients.  He's actually my parents' doc, and I know the man well because for five years, we've been a team when dealing with the folks.   He knows all the family quirks.

13.  I've found a supplement that is helping my fibromyalgia.  It's called Curamin, and the basis of it is turmeric.   My pain is reduced by 30-40%.  Curamin is not cheap, but I'm not griping about that today.  This is a grateful list.

14.  Dad, whom we call Pops, was going to travel to China with our daughter by way of this...

She glued this image of him eating a hot fudge sundae onto a tongue depressor.  She was going to hold this in all her photographs (like Flat Stanley), so he could say he'd been to China.  This is her Pops-sicle.  HA!  I smile every time I look at it.

15.  My girl and I are heading to South Carolina next week to visit her godson and his parents.  I'm going to help his mom re-organize her kitchen.  I love to sort and clean and donate.  I think I'll take a tub of malted milk balls with us.

God has so blessed me recently, I almost feel guilty.

I'm sure there's a challenge around the corner.

Until it gets here, I'm soaking up every minute.


Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Hair is on my mind a lot lately.  My own, other women's, my daughter's.  It's a huge part of our identity.  Not sure yet if this is a good thing, or a bad thing.  Or just a nothing thing.

Four pony tails got chopped last week.

From the same head.

My daughter's hair is thick and varied in color and gorgeous.

I braid her hair in my free time.  I love doing it, and she's patient with all the tugging.   She teaches high schoolers, so she's used to putting up with all kinds of nonsense.

She's going to China for a month on Saturday (more about that in a minute), and she wanted to chop off her hair before she goes, because she was told it's hot and humid over there, and who wants to be messing with a hot mess of heavy hair?  I told her she could pack me in her suitcase and I could braid her hair every day to keep it off her neck, but like I said...she hears all kinds of nonsense.

Anyhoo...she wanted to send her locks to Pantene, which makes wigs for cancer patients out of chopped-off hair.  This is the second time she's given her long hair to cancer patients.  It's the only reason she grows in out - to cut it off.  It takes about three years to get the 8-11 inches needed for donation.  I love that she does this.  If I had cancer - and no hair - I would want my girl's locks.


Whew.  A big change.  Almost like letting your gray grow in.  ARGH!  More on that in a later post.

Our girl was selected along with another teacher to teach biology this summer in China.  She's very excited, but we all have some trepidation because it's so far away.  Exactly twelve hours away.  We're not sure what communications will be like until she gets there, so talking with her might be intermittent or non-existent. 

We'll deal with it, because this is a great opportunity to teach at the University of Bejing AND eat REAL Chinese food!  She's been told they serve veggies and rice at every meal, even breakfast.  Whoo-hoo!

I'm fortifying my heart for the send off on Saturday.  What mother allows her child to go so far away for a month?!  I have to keep crushing that voice in my head.  She's a grown-up.  It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  She'll be home before I know it.  Maybe she'll learn how to make fortune cookies.

Here today, gone Saturday.  Sniff.


Shades of Gray - part 3

It's time to face the music.  Or the mirror.  Or the camera.  Or the facts of life, as I've never known them at this point in my life.

My fairly thick, wavy hair that I've always loved...is shedding its coat.  It's L'Oreal 5AR coat.

I have to admit, it's a bit painful.  Not physically, but emotionally.  A stranger is growing out of my head.

Here's a glimpse from the back.   

My daughter made me flip upside down and show the underbelly of the stranger.

I have to admit, I winced.  It just doesn't look like me.

But, really... it is.  This is me, today, right now with silver strands sprouting from my crown.  I'm going to call them Wisdom Highlights.

I read that somewhere, and I like it.  I'm sure I've gained some wisdom in life (I'll try to scrape that together for a later, I suspect brief, post), and I've certainly had many highlights in my life - joyous moments like the birth of my children, and savoring Godiva truffles.  So, these silver highlights seem to be appropriate.  I've earned them.  And I've won them.  They ought to be celebrated.

Right?  Right?!  I can't hear you!

OK, it's going to be a journey.  And there is probably going to be some gnashing of teeth.  Because Wisdom Highlights are frowned upon these days.  At least on women.  Men seem to walk around with them just fine.  What is wrong with this picture?!?!

Here's how I feel about the whole thing.

I'd rather just not look.

But, I'm going to put on my big girl panties and deal with it.  It's just hair.  It's not my heart, or my mind, or my spirit.  It's not who I am.  I don't think.  ARGH!

My girl, who has beautiful auburn hair, has a birthmark near her forehead, and out of the birthmark, gray hair grows.  It's fascinating.

She's excited to have some gray hairs.  She's only a young 30-ish woman, but she has a few grays sprouting further back as well.  She's proud of them and is my biggest supporter in me giving up the bottle.  She's a spring chicken, what does she know?  ARGH!

OK, I'm calm.  I'll redirect my mind.

I've joined Twitter!  See the link at the top of my blog, to the left.  If you're a Twitter-er, let's connect.  I've only posted a few toots, I mean twits, or chirps, or whatever, but it's kind of fun.  It keeps my mind off my Wisdom Highlights.

I also added a Pinterest widget to the blog about midline on the right.  You can see my recent pins and other whatnots.  I have boards on writing, upcycling, holidays, caretaking, and words of humor/wisdom.  I have to say, Pinterest is my favorite form of social media.  It keeps my mind off my Wisdom Highlights.

I need a Godiva truffle.

Shades of Gray - Part 2
Shades of Gray - Part 1



Book Review - A Long and Winding Road

I read an e-book recently by Linda Brendle called A Long and Winding Road - A Caregiver's Tale of Life, Love, and Chaos that resonated deeply with me, because it's a story about Linda's caretaking journey.  As a caretaker myself, I'm drawn to the experiences of others on this path.  It's such a wild and crazy ride. The Long and Winding Road covers one six-week period where Linda and her husband David take her parents (both suffering from forms of dementia) on a cross-country trip in an RV.  Brave woman.  I interviewed Linda last week.

Linda, you share that caretaking is often heartbreaking and tedious.  About halfway through your book, you realize it is an honor and a privilege to care for your parents.  What changed your perspective? 

I met a lady who was caring for her husband, and she spoke of the honor and privilege of caring for the man she loved.  As I grieved for the parents of my childhood, denial and anger kept me from feeling the meaning behind those words. With a lot of prayer and support from friends, I came to at least a partial acceptance of our new normal.  Once I stopped looking for who my parents had been and began looking at who they now were, I was able to give up the struggle and feel the honor and privilege it was to care for them in their time of need. 

You write, "...my sole responsibility was to see to the welfare my parents.  If I did everything right, they would get well and things would go back to normal.  If they didn't get well, it would be my fault."  What would you say to other caretakers struggling with that same thought?

The first thing I would say is that there is a God - and I am not Him. God reminded me on more than one occasion that Mom and Dad were His children, and He loved them more than I ever could.  My philosophy of caretaking came to be something like this - do everything you can reasonably do, and then let go, and let God.

With dementia, the lives of the elderly become very small.  There is great sadness in seeing your parents lose once full and active lives  What gave you strength on difficult days? 

Even before caring for Mom and Dad, I got up early to spend time in prayer and read the Bible.  I continued to do that.  David and I attended a caregivers support group and later, when Mom and Dad became more dependent, we had a sitter come in every Friday so we could ride the motorcycle or have breakfast with friends.  On the worst days, I wrote.

After your divorce, before you met David, you prayed, "Lord, if you want me to be married (again), I need you to choose him (my husband) for me.  If you don't want me to be married, give me the grace to be happy living alone."  This is a great prayer for woman of all ages.  What advice would you give young women about the realities of marriage?

Both parties need to share common values.  A spender and a saver can have a happy marriage, but it's going to take more work than if they shared the same financial goals.  Regarding caregiving - as our population continues to age, most of us will find ourselves in the role of caregiver at some point.  If your spouse didn't care about his own family when we was younger, it's unlikely he'll care about yours in his later years. 

You share in the book that you have a son who struggled with mental illness for awhile.  What words of encouragement can you give to parents in that situation? 

Keep the lines of communication open, and really listen.  Provide a safe place where they can share their dreams, goals, fears, and stresses.  Be aware that sometimes you are not that safe place, and give them permission to confide in another trusted adult.  Be aware of changes in behavior that might be more than a phase they will grow out of, and don't hesitate to seek professional help if you are concerned.

After your RV adventure with your parents, how long did they live with you?  Are they still living? 

Our great adventure ended in November 2007.  Three years later, I experienced some health problems, so Mom and Dad moved into an assisted living facility near my brother.  Dad suffered a major stroke and went home to be with the Lord in May 2011.  Mom's Alzheimer's continued to take its toll, and she followed him home in May 2012.

Author Bio:
After 12 years as a family caregiver, Linda began writing to encourage, inspire and amuse other caregivers.  She loves to travel and since retiring has traveled mostly by motorcycle and RV.  She and her husband live in a small East Texas town where she gardens, writes, and attends church.

Linda's website HERE

A Long and Winding Road will be released July 1, 2014 by ANAIAH PRESS, and is available here:

ALAWR up on UK Amazon! http://www.amazon.co.uk/Long-Winding-Road-Caregivers-Chaos-ebook/dp/B00LDV3W50/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1404173365&sr=8-1&keywords=Linda+Brendle

US Amazon with a review http://www.amazon.com/Long-Winding-Road-Caregivers-Chaos-ebook/dp/B00LDV3W50/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1404173447&sr=8-1&keywords=Linda+Brendle

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Thank you, Linda, for sharing your story!

1. Linda, you share that caretaking is often heartbreaking and tedious.  About halfway through your book, you realize it is an honor and a privilege to care for your parents.  What changed your perspective? Displaying Interview for Marianne Ball 062414.docx.


From One End to the Other

As I shared on Facebook this week, I learned last Thursday I had a small hole in the retina of my right eye.  Today I had laser surgery by a very kind eye surgeon to seal the hole.

It was a procedure that gave me the willies.  I mean, a blinding (literally) heated light seared eye tissue closed to create scars so the vitreous humor doesn't leak behind the retina, causing it to pull away from the wall of the eyeball.  I shudder writing that.  Gross.

The amazing part is that this procedure doesn't really hurt.  It's uncomfortable, and warm, but not painful.  My procedure lasted only five minutes.  The dilation of my pupil took 20 minutes.  Once I disappeared into the doctor's procedure room, my daughter had just enough time to text my husband that I had just gone back, when I appeared again.  It's miraculous what a physician can do with a laser beam and a coal miner's hat.   
Ophthalmologist Wearing Examination Instrument
How did I get a hole in my retina, you ask?  Apparently I have thin retinas, a condition called lattice degeneration.  It sounded pretty with the lattice part, then I heard the degeneration part and thought, of course, another aging issue.  As I wrote on Facebook, at least I have one body part that is THIN.

I'll just have to give up those weekend boxing matches.

In other news this week, I heard from the editor who had requested to see my manuscript, The 12 Days of Christmas Adventure.  After having it for six weeks, she decided it was not for her publishing house at this time.  To my surprise, that email of rejection was not too painful.  It was disappointing, but not excruciating.  It was kind of like eye surgery - uncomfortable, but not unbearable.

I don't know what I'll do next.  I might blog the book here.  Part of me finds this very appealing.  Part of me thinks I'm tired because a laser burned my eye this morning.

I'll think about it tomorrow.  Tomorrow's another day.  Another uncomfortable day, because I can't eat anything but Jello and Popsicles.  I'm having a colonoscopy on Friday (it's been such a fun week.)  Tomorrow night, the real fun begins because I get to drink that tasty fluid that precedes hours in the bathroom.

I'm so grateful there are doctors who like to poke around eyeballs and colons.  You could not pay me enough to do either one.