Sunday, November 8, 2015

Early thanksgiving

I drive slowly home from early Mass at my parish church.  It seems appropriate and timely to write this overdue blog entry regarding my recent hospitalization in the form of a prayer.  The third Communion hymn we sang, "O Lord, you are the center of my life," filled me upon hearing it with the realization that God has indeed assumed center stage in my own life, after the unlikely good effects of bipolar treatment I needed and sustained.
Thank you, O Lord, for the grace of the last two months.  I was living with wellness for the last few years and doing quite well.  Then a bout of pneumonia brought sleeplessness that had me fostering an intellectual pride and substantial feelings of self-importance and led me to voluntarily commit myself to Parthenon Pavilion, a psych hospital I have visited numerous times, in Nashville, TN.
I lost patience with an elderly friend I go to movies with and expressed to her my long held-in opinion of her religious hypocrisy.  This friend called my daughter, who knew it was not like me to verbally attack anyone.  Other symptoms brought my oldest son and this daughter to my doorstep one night, and I volunteered to go into the hospital immediately.  I was on the cusp of recovering from the pneumonia, but the cough had been keeping me up at night.  Listening to music on the computer brought me sufficient distraction from the discomfort of the cold (cough, etc.) so that I did not even realize I was suffering from lack of sleep.
A key factor: Brian, my counselor, was traveling in Paris at this time, and we had missed one or two sessions.  Ordinarily he might have seen the signs of an episode immediately.  When Dr. McFerrin agreed to admit me to PP, Brian arranged from Paris for me to be housed in a geriatric unit, where he felt I might be treated more gently.  He was right.
Arriving at the hospital at 10:00 p.m., my son and daughter at my side, I found no room available immediately.  I ended up trying to sleep in a hard chair until I could be given a room with a roommate at 6 a.m. the next morning.  So I immediately had to make up that night of almost entirely lost sleep--I did manage to doze, tangled in the chair, for a couple of hours.
I spent two weeks in what I call the "boot camp" of Parthenon Pavilion.  As in any psych hospital, I had to rough it without the many luxurious items that make my daily life so pleasant--no hair dryer, nail file, bathtub...just the basics, but excellent food and excellent company that included the salt of my earth--persons with bipolar disorder who speak honestly and forthrightly with no sh-t...Although I have historically found semi-violent encounters with patients before, when our BP delusions clashed, I managed to get along with all the patients and never even received a reprimand from the staff as a result of my careful good manners and wholesome behavior, surely composing the "cleanest" BP "incarceration" I can remember.
Shortly into my stay, Dr. McFerrin put me on a dose of Haldol that brought unpleasant side effects while putting an end to any mania that I displayed.  Then I had to be weaned off the Haldol and put on heavy Zyprexa (anti-psychotic) which brought bad restless leg syndrome that disrupted my sleep again...finally, I got sufficient hours of sleep in the hospital that Brian and Dr. McFerrin agreed to release me.
Thank you, Lord, for their confidence in getting me back home, where I could truly recover.  Thank you that they knew I could be trusted to heal thoroughly despite both my local children's insistence that I needed to be back in the hospital.  Meanwhile my third child, a Buddhist monk, Khantiko, had his fellow monks chanting on behalf of my wellness--an honor I feel unbelievably blessed to receive!  Thank you, Lord, that at last Lisa, my daughter, grasped that I was getting well.
Bit by bit, I put the pieces of my life back together.  I could not drive for about ten days.  My children and friends and relatives took turns carting me around to meetings with doctors, DBSA meetings, etc.  Then I resumed driving and was able to get my own groceries, travel to my own appointments.  I resumed piano lessons, got my finances in order without any late payments, caught up all the housekeeping, and resumed helping my daughter with child care.
Now I sit in my comfortable home with everything taken care of--I am the worthy steward of this house, which just yesterday was attended by a handyman who repaired the closure of the front storm door and located the source of a loud chirping--a defunct carbon monoxide detector that deceptively showed a green light that made me think it was working...
My house in order, thank you, Lord, my spirit is also in order.  I have worked to restore spiritual wellness by continuing my journal and mood chart, continuing prayer, continuing Mass attendance.  Brian and Dr. McFerrin and I have made huge strides in my recovery.  At present I exist "well" on only a small dose of mood stabilizer.  Gone are the additional meds of a stimulant and an antidepressant, which were both discontinued in the hospital and never restored...and these two would be the meds that potentially could lead to I am in a much better place; plus, I feel most natural!
Last week I returned to my part-time work of caregiving.  I enjoyed two memorable days with clients eager and grateful to receive my services again.
The last side effect, that of restless leg syndrome, ended shortly after the dose of mood stabilizer was lowered.  For a week now, I have enjoyed good, sufficient sleep on my maintenance med.  The depression that assaulted me on waking up each morning for the last few years...well, that's gone too.  I can't say I am bouncing out of bed grinning to start the day...but I face it with optimism.
Thank you, Lord, that the final piece of my life to fall into place, is happening--the restoration of energy that allows me to keep "on top" of things...I still struggle at keeping up workouts at the Y--walking 2 miles and biking 2 miles three times a week, plus 1/2 hour strength training a week--but I went back to my strength training last week and did my workout Friday...soon will work up to the mph I was accustomed to before the episode.
Thank you, Lord, for today.  I sat with my daughter's family at Mass, and they walked me to my car.  Today I get to drive through beautiful scenic Nashville via interstate to commune with fellow members of the Associates of Mercy, as we host an event to raise funds for "Mercy Without Borders," one of our chosen charities.  I then get to drive home to my well-ordered house, cook myself an adequate and healthy dinner, and write an email to Khantiko, filling him in on life here in his hometown...
My weekly calendar sparkles with events I look forward to--get-togethers with friends, Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance on Monday night, a 12-step Nicotine Anonymous meeting Monday night, piano lesson Monday, meeting with counselor Brian on Monday, the likelihood of feedback from bff Deanne, who has agreed to help edit my life story and has received Chapter 1 via email.  And the enormous pleasure of keeping youngest grandson George on Monday morning, which date remains to be confirmed.  And who knows?  Perhaps my great friend Carol will grace me with her early presence as she does many mornings, when we sit on my twin recliners and sip coffee at 7:30 in the a.m. and talk about everything that is important!  To say my life is good and full...well, that is redundant.
Thank you for all the love I have and all the stuff I enjoy, the confidence I enjoy in my wellness and the optimism with which I approach the holidays.
May I decipher how to continue returning to you and others all the love I can, oh Lord.  You have brought me through a difficult but necessary adjustment to a plateau of wellness where I no longer feel threatened by the worst (depression) or the elusive best (mania) that bipolar disorder can offer.  Amen.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

O blessed reality

Having gone to sleep with my computer blaring my play list, for the second night in a row, I wake to the sound of my favorite musical artist Amos Lee singing "El Camino."  In the last week I have been like a thirsty dog lapping up water...only I am lapping up music, which had been so many years not a part of my life.  i stretch and rise slowly into this world which has turned out to be more magnificent than even I imagined.
I was right all along.  God is Reality; it's that simple. And if I never know more than I know today, that is enough. All religions as well as atheism are validated but Buddhism and Judaism win the prize in my opinion as the ones closest to truth.
I continue my musical journey: "Take Me to Church" is playing now. Last night I added "Let's Marvin Gaye and Get it On." These songs are as holy to me as the thickest Gospel. And the song that describes how I feel is "Chandelier," so drunk am I on stumbling into deepest eternity.
Rahner once defined God as "Absolute Mystery," and that definition served me well, until I realized that God is Absolute Reality, so much more...and the infinite beauty of the tiniest atom and the most monstrous cosmos. Plus an eternal life to explore it all as it develops into even more than that, growing in and out to new dimensions constantly...and forever.
I have seen God in every face I have beheld...every living face. I saw the absence of God in the faces of the people I have seen die. I witnessed the spirit leave from one of them--my mother. And I believe her spirit lives, perhaps in an embodiment somewhere...for somewhere has no limits and is part of God. And I can dream of a reunion with her in my life, for my life is also unlimited and no longer threatened  by death's demon and wedded only to Change. I can search in leisure for my lost loved ones, especially my son David, because I have all the time in the world.
I am not going to stay awake and write to an uncomfortable tiredness as I did last night. This is just a short tribute to Reality, that last stop after Insanity for those of us blessed with bipolar disorder.

Insomniac musings

My cell phone says it is 12:54 a.m.  I fell asleep for a couple of hours. Recovering from a serious bout of pneumonia, my biggest challenge this week has been falling asleep--because of my coughing. Now I feel wide awake and ready to start my day, but I will go back to bed soon, as it is too early to get up.  I take this hour with no reservation, to record what is happening because this is my best outlet--the blog that so few people seem to read anymore but which is visible to all.
I have lounged around my house for two weeks and have had time to create a playlist through Amazon Prime that features all my favorite artists and some incredible hits that paint a picture of the reality that this is God's time at last.
Now I listen to George Michael sing about his "Teacher..." and I recall that I have become Socrates to a good friend who has valued my advice. I love claiming credit for her meteoric success in life. Together this week we have expressed the spectacular joy we feel, which appears to be a reliable, permanent part of the rest of our lives.
Now Neil Diamond sings "Sweet Caroline" which makes it so easy to tap the keys of this laptop. I type or key in rhythm. The hit sounds as good as live to me, perhaps because I have the volume up full blast, in order to lull myself back to sleep.
Bringing music, with all its inspiration, back into my life has been a boon to my own mental and physical healing. The next song that comes up is "I Don't Know How to Love Him," from Jesus Christ Superstar. It is Mary Magdalene's anthem, talking about how to serve Jesus Christ--as a woman to a man? After all, he's just a man; and she has had so many men before "in oh so many ways."
I too have wondered how to love Christ effectively, and my answer has come--through my Catholic faith, with all its myths and all its wonderful rituals. For a long time now, I am convinced that Jesus's historic teachings set the best example for leading my life.
Yet I would have to argue that my son's Buddhism offers the more rational explanation of truth...good solid precepts to live by without having to buy the unrealistic tenets of Christianity. Tonight I feel the strong spirit of my Buddhist monk son, Tan Khantiko, all the way from the Abhayagiri Monastery mountaintop in California, where he lives in a hut. I feel his presence and that of my deceased son David as well. This is a cause for rejoicing. When David died, a friend sent me a sympathy card that read something like this: "I know that there is no place where God is not." These words of Maya Angelou were the most comforting ones I heard at the time, because they make David's presence real to me even within my magnificent grief.
Now I am playing "Phantom of the Opera" which reminds me of the Noonday Demon (from the book by the same name) responsible for the satanic influence in my life. Today I understand the dark message of this being, which has just been defeated by (can't think of a better name for him really) GOD.
The next song is Celine Dion singing "The Power of Love" which reminds me of the immense platonic love between me and my counselor, who has successfully supported me up and out of the depths of depression. This song and Celine Dion's voice express this so well.
So, at the end of this playlist I will post this blog entry and go back to bed. I have no appointments in the morning, so I can stay in bed as long as I want, which is a great luxury.
I write because I am in love with words and I must express my awareness that the kingdom of God is here...I must express it immediately, because it's too important not to share. I face another joyous day of stability and perhaps could have NOT expressed this "news."  I run the risk of being called "crazy" but that diagnosis rolls off my back.
Now "Just Give Me a Reason" by Pink is playing. I never tire of that song.
Perhaps all I am writing is redundant...I think I have announced the kingdom of God's advent before in these blog pages. But now it's just so PALPABLE.
The decision of which two eggs to choose from the cardboard container holding ten from a dozen...becomes a crucial decision because every action reflects the glory of God. Fortunately my good instincts allow me to do this automatically...but I digress, and it won't be time for my egg  breakfast until after I get more blessed sleep.
The songs now playing out are mostly slow songs, as I chose them when I was winding down for sleep hours ago.
Now Tchaikovsky is playing and I recall hearing this piece (to which melody someone put words: Alone at Last years ago; this version is the piano classic...Memory relives riding with David driving my car on our way to Fredericksburg, Virginia, through the Blue Ridge mountains. When that cd played, I was aware that the kingdom of God was there with us in all its splendor and glory. I will forever have that memory and awareness so real that it brings me to tears...That was our last journey, just the two of us, before he died after battling melanoma.
This instrumental goes on and on, with many variations in its theme. I still have some time to write freely before addressing more sleep, so I think I will sit down with a diet ginger ale and continue recording what my muse dictates.
My cat Lucy has loved having me home for most of two weeks. Now she awaits me on my bed, to finish out our night with restful sleep. She knows it is too early to entwine herself between my feet and beg for breakfast.
How quickly an hour passes when I am writing...Now the Tchaikovsky piece has turned vicious, and ends.
Now my favorite of all time: "Chandelier" by Sia. She describes how joyous I feel; only she is supposed to be drunk, according to the lyrics, and I am stone cold sober, which I have been since 2006 or 2007, when a former psychiatrist gave me a "dual diagnosis," adding alcoholism to my established bipolar. I am not sure I ever drank enough to qualify as a true alcoholic, but the sobriety has benefited me, and I am glad to be quit.
Now Sia is just "holding on for tonite..." and I can't wait to see what's playing next.
It's Toby Keith singing "Rock you baby" about a man picking up an abused ("shattered") woman in a bar, vowing to give her so much serious love that she recovers from what must have been a damaging marriage or love affair. At the end of the song, the woman acknowledges that he is the new "one"--because he makes her feel as if her life has just begun.
Now I am getting tired and the excitement with which I began this blog has faded into a gentle peace.
 Ella Fitzgerald sings "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered," which I used to play in college while I did my hair and make-up in preparation for a date with my future husband, Sonny.  He was a small man, and the song talks about how "this half-pint imitation put me on the blink." Funny lyrics and just how I felt when I feel in love with him.
Words begin to fail me, and I won't have time to express the wonder of life because I have moved past the strong inclination to write and share the the truth doesn't seem urgent or even well-documented. It's just reality I am in, which is glory enough. I no longer need to paint it with inadequate grandeur. Words fall short of telling what the music has been telling me so well.
This is why my counselor has suggested I get up and do something when I can't sleep. Instead of philosophical I have turned to purely factual. I've used up whatever creativity moved me to write this and it seems that life hasn't really changed at all. But I have.
The last song is "I'm Alive" by Celine Dion, which represents my return to sanity, reality, and happiness. Good night!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Intimations of mortality

Recovery from a severe mental illness is similar to recovery from a severe physical one. Certainly in this old woman's body, the two are hopelessly interconnected. That is why, last Tuesday, I thought low mood was making me feel like not doing anything. I proceeded with the day's plans...sat for an hour and a half in the dental office getting two new crowns, stopped at the post office and waited forty-five minutes in line to mail a package, which got to be very uncomfortable. I decided to visit the Little Clinic to make sure I wasn't coming down with the flu.
When I checked in with Anne, a nurse practitioner I had seen at other times, she took my temp and it was 101.5 degrees, which she said was significant, given my age. But I did not test positive for the flu, so she diagnosed me with a flu-like virus, suggesting I go home, rest, and take Tylenol to get the fever down, and call if I developed a cough or other flu symptoms.
I went home, cancelled work for the week, and tried to make myself comfortable enough to "rest," whatever that term truly means.  Who can rest with fever and body aches? I was thankful that I didn't have a cough or respiratory symptoms that would definitely eliminate sleep. Insomnia, for me, is the lethal side effect of a physical illness, because it is the dependable harbinger of mental breakdown.
I managed to grab some sleep Tuesday and Wednesday nights by upping my normal meds (which my shrink has authorized me to do), and reading until the Kindle fell from my hands.
My friend Carol advised me to see my PCP. I called the doctor's office on Thursday and got an appointment with the physician assistant, after being told by the nurse that it sounded like a virus and a trip in was probably unnecessary. I took the 1:00 slot offered and arrived two minutes late because unable to find a parking place in the massive garage where every slot not taken was marked 'doctors only' or 'reserved'.
Shortly after 1:00, I sat before a caring middle-aged woman who ordered chest x-rays, blood work, and a urine test. Less than an hour after her physical exam and lab work, I was driving home when my cell phone rang. "Where are you?" asked someone from Dr. Bal's office, then, "We've been looking for you. You have pneumonia." I was to start on Levoquin, one dose each day. along with a meal, and to call immediately if my fever did not start going down.
I took the first dose that afternoon. Fortunately my daughter-in-law had dropped off delicious soup, so I had the perfect meal to take it with. She would provide homemade chili when I ran out of soup. Even though I had almost no appetite (a sure sign of illness in me!), the soups tasted great. I used a new little Ninja food processor to blend blueberries and bananas and strawberry ice cream that I had on hand into tasty beverages. That has been most of my food intake for the past few days, with two fried eggs each morning for protein.
I was worried about not getting out to water my new shrubs. Would they dry up? On Thursday evening a huge thunderstorm came in and soaked my entire yard, leaving water standing. I visualized an image of God (with human features) expelling a flood of rain water from his uniquely huge mouth to let me know he was hearing my concern. I refuse to admonish this giant for blowing so many branches and leaves and sticks across my driveway as well.
Sleep became a bigger issue Friday and Saturday night, as a newly developed cough got worse. Tylenol was helping with the body aches. In the past I have found that no cough syrup or over-the-counter drug ever controls my pernicious pneumonia cough, so I took a third dose of my normal psych med to get me to sleep instead.
This worked. I woke this morning with a deja vu feeling of recovery. From deep within my brain came memories of feeling like this before, when the colors are bright and all is right with the world. I remember my Baptist roots, when I sensed an eternal God-given candle-like flame inside my child's body, and a strong generalized love of humankind and nature. I know this euphoria is temporary, because life gets in the way.
I needed a Kroger run, especially to get more cat food, so I made a short list, drove out into the beautiful sunshiny day, through a tree-lined street with its share of magnolias, five minutes to my normal grocery. Determined to continue rest, although feeling so much better, I returned home and stocked my refrig with healthy food. I wonder how long this illness has been coming on, since I seem to be returning to a more total state of wellness than ever before.
The physician assistant Jan called me Friday night and told me not to resume normal activities (like my part-time work) until Dr. Bal himself had seen me, and to plan to be off work another week. She said, "Pneumonia can be super fatiguing" (and kindly did not add "at your age"). She is to call me tomorrow with an appointment.
I think it interesting that my temp, still above normal last night, was too low this morning--96.2 degrees, to be exact. I looked on the internet and learned that after a siege of fever, a body may hit a lower temp. It seems to be going up gradually and I am not concerned because the body aches are now manageable without Tylenol.
If the fever doesn't rise above normal with the afternoon, perhaps I can become "non-contagious" as early as tomorrow. My son and his wife have left their crucial Care packages and a get well note at my doorstep. Yesterday Carol texted me, "Go to your front door," where I found a gorgeous bouquet of fresh-cut flowers. I have turned down my daughter's offers of assistance, as I don't want to infect that family. She has sent me pics of her girls dressed up for Cotilion or cheerleading, and I feel as if I haven't seen my grandchildren for years (it's been less than a week). My Buddhist monk son Tan Khantiko is on a silent retreat for two weeks and won't learn I have pneumonia until after I'm over it; but I sense always his powerful spiritual support for my welfare.
Friends Audrey, Barbara, Hazel, Vinci, personal trainer Jim, and counselor/mentor Brian have called, texted, and emailed me. I had to cancel plans with each of them--for dinner and an art show or workout or counseling sessions that I can only this morning even imagine feeling like doing. My employer texted me good wishes, as did a dear client in Franklin whose needs were met, I trust, by another caregiver this past week. My niece Melanie emailed me to express her wish to spend time with me when Deanne and I travel to Virginia in October. I put off telling my bff Deanne that I was sick, so I expect she will find out when she reads this blog.
As my health continues to improve, I plan to monitor myself more closely. In the past two years, I have caught pneumonia four times. This tells me I must be cautious. I bought a good thermometer and will question my physical wellness whenever my mood dips below normal. I do love this earth and the people on it and I am neither willing nor ready to leave it yet.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Grandmother heaven

Life in Nashville,for me,is amazingly good.
Last week I had the opportunity to stay with five of my grandchildren at my daughter's house. The parents left Tuesday morning at 6 and returned at 10:30 Friday night.
Lisa's good friend Tracey transported the four older children to and from school each day, which was a tremendous help to me. On the second day, when my grandgirls each forgot something, Tracey came back to fetch the items and delivered them to the school.
Little George, 2, had not started his part-time 'school' yet, so he was my steady companion. Having raised four children of my own, I soon felt nostalgic and comfortable caring for a toddler who was as exemplary as all of mine had been at his age.
Each morning we rode to my house to feed the cat and to spend the requisite half-hour or so looking at images of animals and balls on the upstairs computer. Then we visited Kroger to pick up a few items but, more importantly, to allow my grandson to ride the musical horse at the store's entrance.
After lunch back at his house, George went down for a 2-1/2 hour nap near noon after I read two short books, Where the Wild Things Are being our favorite. With the baby monitor visible and audible, I was able to take a luxurious bath and write in my journal.
When he got up, George liked to play a while alone with the stash of toys kept in the corner of the den. Then we went outside and kicked a soccer ball back and forth on the driveway while waiting for his siblings to arrive home shortly after 3.
For the hours until dinner, his siblings almost totally occupied their little brother and I could hear his squeals of delight as well as his forceful directing of the others’ play (!) but I only intervened when a diaper required attention.
For example, big brother J.D. walked down the stairs, looked me in the eye, and said softly, “George has a stinky." When did this 9-year-old grandson develop such manners? I wondered. It would have been so logical for him to yell this info down the stairs. And only after I had finished the child care assignment did I stop to appreciate that the older children had gone the week without a squabble--surely unusual for a family this size.
I lucked out on Wednesday when two soccer practices on opposite ends of town were canceled due to rain, and I didn't have to be three places at once—a trick my daughter has mastered but at which I remain a novice.
The first two nights George slept through the night but, thankfully, the third night he woke up at 3 a.m. I went upstairs and put a dry diaper on him and asked if he wanted to cuddle in bed with me. He said yes. For the next two hours, I held him close under the covers of Lisa and Alex’s bed, in a restful state sweeter than sleep.
On Friday we attended an introductory open house at George's preschool. While a few of his fellow students clung to parents or cried at the unfamiliar classroom, my grandson, with a wary eye but without hesitation, approached the new toys and tried them one by one, waiting his turn when necessary.
That afternoon I managed to please everyone's sweet tooth when I made 24 red velvet cupcakes and topped each set of 8 with vanilla, chocolate, and cream cheese frosting. As I was congratulating myself on this coup, Molly the Golden Doodle leaped up and secured George’s half-eaten chocolate cupcake off the kitchen counter and devoured it, paper muffin cup and all. I called her vet and was relieved to hear that, given Molly's good size, she would probably be all right. (She was.)
After I got home late Friday night, I didn't see these precious children until Sunday morning. As I approached their house after Mass, I cautioned myself not to get my feelings hurt if George cried upon seeing me. After all, he might think I was coming to babysit again and that his parents were going away.
He was playing in the driveway under his mom’s watchful eye when I drove up. He saw me get out of the car and ran toward me. I scooped him up and said, “Oh, George, I have missed you so much!” He threw his little arms around my neck and held me tight for a long, long time--the ultimate thank-you to a Gaga who had already been thanked profusely.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Welcome to my crawl space

My house takes me on a journey of continuous repair with no end in sight.
In February an ice storm caused the re-emergence of a chronic roof leak as well as "ice damming" concentrated above the kitchen area. My insurance professional said my policy did not cover the former problem, that it was the fault of a negligent roofer from years back. He reimbursed me for sixty per cent of the ice damming fall-out, which included dry wall replacement and resurfacing of hardwoods throughout the first floor--work I contracted out to a comprehensive, well-known company that I felt was reputable.
The roofing company finished up in March and the second company began work. Toward the end of their repairs, my washing machine sprang a leak (I thought) and I purchased a new one. When the new machine was installed, the delivery man had to be called back in, as water from the sample wash load spread across the utility room tile and threatened to cover the newly refinished hardwoods. As it turned out, a backed-up water pipe under the house was the cause. My plumber became the first of many visitors to my crawl space. No need to bother the insurance company, as his bill was less than the $1,000 deductible.
Months later, when the other work was complete, after the floors had cured and the furniture had been put back in place from pods in my front driveway, my daughter walked barefoot across my kitchen floor and noticed the hardwood around the refrigerator was cupping. And the ice maker had stopped working. Not seeing the connection (duh), I bought a new refrigerator.
When the contractor sent several men to make a final inspection, they found the refrigerator was leaking.  They summoned a crew who went into the crawl space and reported three leaks there, of possibly months' duration--under the refrigerator as well as under the guest and master bathrooms.  Immediately upon discovering the scope of the problem, the contractor called his personnel off the job.  On the phone with my insurance company, I learned I was denied any coverage because the leaks were old and not "catastrophic"--indeed, they had been there long enough to cause mold formation. 
Two of the leaks apparently and coincidentally(!) began when the guest bathroom toilet and the refrigerator had been re-situated after being set aside to facilitate the floor re-surfacing.  The other leak?  Well, who knew the cause? The company I had hired did not respond when I suggested their subs might be partly responsible. So I was on my own.
I hired a plumber who spent most of a day in the crawl space and took care of the leaks. Then I interviewed two companies that specialized in crawl space clean-up and one general contractor to address the mold remediation. I accepted the median bid on a Tuesday and felt pleased with my choice.
On Wednesday two trucks with three workers arrived and began work at 8:30 a.m.  By Saturday they thought they were finished. They had removed existing mold, treated the entire space, and installed a new vapor barrier. De-humidifiers would run for a few days to complete the drying process. In his letter advising completion of the job, the supervisor attached two photos advising me of "foundation issues" that I might want to address "at a later date."
When the men came to remove the dehumidifiers, they determined that moisture levels remained too high and that continued dehumidification was required. I learned that extra rental of the machines would be granted me "at a discount," which gently let me know that the cost of the company's work will exceed the estimate.  The machines have now run for a week.  
Today the supervisor informed me that the water in the crawl space is "bound" to the wood "at the molecular level" and he installed a third machine in my den that pushes air through two wide hoses into the crawl space through vents in the den.  
The first machines routinely throw a breaker when I use my hair dryer each morning; this new double-acting machine now drowns out the main TV as well as my piano practice.  
I made two appointments on September 1 with foundations specialist companies to give me free estimates.  One of these companies mailed me a daunting 4-inch thick catalogue entitled "Foundation Repair Science" that I have perused with mounting dread of estimates to come.  My brother-in-law, a retired builder, advised me not to address foundation repair until I get ready to sell the house, at which time he assures me more "foundation issues" will be found.  But the book I received, replete with a "before" picture that resembles the pic of my own foundation crack, states the importance of taking care of damage upon discovery. 
I am reminded of my journey in cognitive therapy.  When I first visited Brian, my counselor/friend/advisor/life coach, we tried to forestall behavior problems arising from the extensive damage in my brain.  We examined the negative messages that dictated my judgment and addressed them one by one.  In the process we went back in time until we uncovered serious foundation issues...times in my formative history when cracks and deficits were not filled but left gaping, to forever cause future problems of trust and faith. For almost eight years, I have kept a detailed journal that only Brian reads. Having done extensive remediation of my brain, he can quickly recognize the countless forms my foundation issues take...We address them in our sessions and squelch them one by one...with reason and with humor. Seeing him every other week appears to be sufficient to maintain my well-being.  My psychiatrist credits my "work with cognitive therapy" as much as he credits the medicine he prescribes for my recovery.  
The work on my house, like the work on my brain, has been top to bottom, and it may indeed be never-ending. Try as I will, I may not be capable of ignoring the crack in my home's foundation. With every breath I take, I confront residual fall-out from the cracks in my own foundation, and continued commitment to treatment, I know, is my only viable option. That's what my life is all about--changing when necessary to stay healthy.
I can easily visualize repairing this house until I can no longer afford to stay in it, which may not be a bad thing.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

April musings

My life tumbles along toward a seventy-first birthday.
 I continue to work as a caregiver, having renewed my nurse's aide certification.  My three clients, new in January, have endeared themselves to me in countless ways, and I love making their lives easier.  I never know whether I will be grilling a sandwich, walking a dog, cleaning an oven, vacuuming, chauffeuring, giving a shower, rolling up a head of hair, helping sort tax documents, organizing a closet, smashing cardboard boxes for recycling, replacing a light bulb, walking a poodle (mix)...
For a few hours three or four days of the week I become part of others' worlds.  I meet their loved ones and listen to their stories and I study the coping mechanisms of senior men and women debilitated by disease, injury, and Alzheimer's.
When I am not working, I spend a good deal of time attending to my own mechanisms for coping with advancing age.  On Monday I meet personal trainer Jim for half an hour's strength training.  At least three times a week I walk two miles on the treadmill and ride two miles on the stationery bike.  My goal of adding a swim to this schedule fades with daily procrastination, mainly because I cannot swim straight enough to stay on one side of a shared pool lane.
Every day I guzzle at least six cups of water, one with lemon, and include plenty of protein, fresh green vegetables, two bananas, and a pint of blueberries in my diet.  I usually stay away from sweets and have no sugar cravings.
On most mornings I grab a cup of black coffee, turn on the "Happy Light" that sits atop the piano, and practice music for at least half an hour.  My counselor and I came up with this activity because reading music, drinking coffee and absorbing bright light simultaneously almost tangibly lighten my mood.
At night I go to bed before ten and make getting enough rest a top priority.  I have my shrink's blessing to take an extra pill if I don't fall asleep within two hours.
When I attend to my physical and mental health, I feel good enough to move from one enjoyable leisure activity to another: watching grandchildren's volleyball, baseball, and soccer games; keeping the almost-two-year-old, lunching with friends, attending support group meetings, participating in Associates of Mercy events at a Mercy convent.
This past weekend I accompanied my daughter and four of her children to Tims Ford Lake for a parish get-together.  Although the excursion lasted less than twenty-four hours, including four hours' driving from Nashville, the break from routine refreshed me like a vacation.  Thanks to the hospitality of Lisa's good friends, I got to take a boat ride, then spend the night in a beautiful lake house.  I don't remember the last time I slept with fresh air swirling over me all night long.
Most nights I find myself alone with cat Lucy after dinner, feeling almost guilty that I so enjoy the solitude.  The phone seldom rings, probably because I almost never phone anyone (preferring to text and email).  No visitors ring the doorbell.
Often I turn in shortly after eating my freshly prepared, full dinner.  I turn out the lights and pull up the covers and pet my cat Lucy for as long as she can stand it.  Then I turn out the lights and turn on the Kindle and read the latest novel by Alice Walker or a classic I don't remember reading (To Kill a Mockingbird) or a book recommended by a granddaughter (Frankenstein).
I remember, in the 1980's, lying in bed next to my husband and thinking how wonderful it was that he and our loved ones were alive: his parents and brothers and sisters, my parents and brother, and our four precious children.  The years since then have brought chaos, upheaval, and unconscionable loss.  Surely it is a miracle that a similar peace now fills my heart.