Sunday, February 3, 2019



My world continues to shrink. Since becoming ill I’ve lost my health, of course, my job, my 
friends…the outside world seems a dangerous, scary place so I stay in mostly. Now I have pretty much lost the ability to eat. My life revolves around pain, pills, bathrooms, doctors and Amazon prime. I am rarely motivated to do much else. The last few weeks have been a blur, can’t seem to focus on anything. I distract myself with games and movies on my phone and then feel ashamed for not doing more…. a vicious cycle.

 I do have people that care. They help and support me always. But the anger and resentment I feel about this ailment have been growing. I feel I am continually analyzing, questioning, and even complaining or lamenting about it all.  I want to accept that this is the way things are for the moment and may continue like this for awhile, maybe the rest of my life. I want to be at peace with it all. I want to be the caretaker not the one being taken care of…I want my life back! To not worry about the future or regret the past…you know…mindfulness, living in the moment…that! And not to be obsessed with what is happening to me physically. Peace!  I feel my family deserves that from me. How do I get to that place? I haven’t figured that out yet. I am always apologizing for being a burden. They assure me I’m not but I’m not convinced. I may still be in denial that this is happening to me. I must find a way to cope better with all this…Even this post sounds a little too much like my last post...but there it is...I'm stuck and desperately trying to find a way out of this dark mood.

Ok…and so it goes…moving on now…wish me luck!

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Things to say

Yes, I know…I was going to write something every day for a year. but I have neglected it again. It's been several months I think.  If I write an extra long post today will it count?

Let me reintroduce myself again since it has been awhile. I am a mother, a grandmother (of 5), a wife, a sibling, a friend, a homeowner, an amateur photographer, poet, a bird watcher, an avid facebooker and tweeter, a retired special education teacher and a cancer survivor who is now burdened with a chronic illness called radiation enteritis. The radiation, that is supposed to cure, did stop the cancer cells from multiplying but damaged my small intestine beyond repair.  After months of intestinal distress, I got to the point of malnutrition because I was not absorbing nutrients from food. So now nutrition is pumped into me while I sleep through a PICC line that was positioned in my arm. I don’t know if this will be permanent or not. Last week the PICC line was out of position and the formula went to veins in my neck instead of directly to the large vein above my heart it is designed to empty into. I’m not sure how it malfunctioned but the irritation of the veins in my neck caused a blood clot to form and horrible pain in my throat, arm and back. I can kind of understand how people get addicted to opioids.  They moved my PICC line to the other arm, performed a CAT scan, prescribed blood thinners and pain pills and sent me home. And so, I begin again.  I eat small snacks throughout the day if I feel like it.  My life is severely limited now due to this illness. It is difficult to make plans or leave the house even. A huge amount of time is spent dealing with pain, digestion issues and innumerable trips to the bathroom. Is it any wonder that I don’t write or do much else?  

 I say all that to say this…the other day I was filled with an extreme feeling of tranquility. There was no singing choir or shafts of sunlight beaming down on me but for one minute (60 seconds) I felt well and at peace. I sat quietly and let that feeling flow throughout my body. It was transforming. Then the rumbling inside my stomach started again, the pain increased and I was back to dealing with illness. But I have that moment and I think about it a lot…hoping to feel it again. Sure, I have other moments, especially with family and friends and we laugh and love and support each other which helps me not feel so useless. That peaceful moment, though, is what I long for and work toward. Whether I have pain or not I want to feel peaceful, serene and I want it for those I love as well. One needs goals, I guess.

One other subject I have been thinking about is my need to be liked and please people. I think it is a family trait passed down from generation to generation.  As I get older, I am seeing more the importance of being myself. Yet, I still find it difficult to disagree with people I care about. Except my sister…I have no trouble, as she will attest to, disagreeing with her and stating my opinion. Maybe it’s the rebellious, baby-sister syndrome.  But I will confess I still worry about not liking what other people like. I want to fit in and not feel odd. On the other hand, being odd and unique is becoming more appealing to me, which is probably good since I am alone most of the time during the day and there is no one there to witness my quirky behaviors.  Still, my sister jokingly chides me, often, about not liking Jane Austen and opera. There are probably other things I don’t like that she does enjoy (like Hallmark movies), however, those two stand out. So, in a spirit of solidarity I spent a day watching the Pride and Prejudice series. It was the 1995 series with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. If I was going to do this, I at least needed Colin Firth to get me through. After binge-watching the entire season, I now know I have not changed my opinion about Jane Austen. I mean, it was watchable but it just seemed all about nothing. Finding husbands, either for love or prestige or both, and following the strict requirements of a demanding society seemed to be the theme. Maybe I’m missing something deeper but I couldn’t seem to care about these people. And I think I’m okay with feeling that way.  Love you, sis!  And then there was opera…nah…I didn’t even try! 😊
I’m going to try and be around more…hopefully…and so it goes…

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Aunt Gwen

This is my aunt, Margaret Gwendolyn Buchanan Ethridge. She is my mother's older sister. I have written a few stories about her on the blog because she is my favorite aunt. She lived close by when I was growing up so I saw her often. In many ways she was my second mother.

 She has been in a nursing home for 9 years suffering from Alzheimer's. I really lost her years ago because she had forgotten who I was.  I  visited her every time I went to Florida. The last few times I visited she had become almost unrecognizable and we all knew she wouldn't live much longer. We were told on Thursday of this week she would probably die in the next few days or even hours. She has forgotten how to swallow and weighs about 79lbs. My sister went to see her and said her breathing was very labored and expected her to pass away that day but so far she hasn't. Of course we are sad, but I also feel a sense of relief she won't be in distress anymore.

The Aunt Gwen I knew was always cheerful, kind, beautiful with a gorgeous laugh which made me feel loved, accepted and happy. I'm sure there were other sides to her I didn't know about and, frankly, don't want to know because I want my memories of her to stay pristine, not sullied with tales of woe. Maybe that's selfish of me but she will be gone soon and I don't need to know the sorrowful, gloomy parts. Her illness and what it did to her has been enough. Parts of her childhood were bleak, but she escaped from her previous life. What I knew of her life seemed idyllic, and I want it to stay that way. I do remember the last time she recognized me before she went to the nursing home. She took my face in her hands, kissed me, and told me how beautiful I was and how much she loved me. Then she told me she couldn't remember my name but she knew who I was. I could tell from the look in her eyes that she did.

Aunt Gwen was the one that introduced tuna noodle casserole to our family. She would often invite me over for dinner when she fixed it because she knew it was my favorite food. On one visit I put my face too close to the hot dish when it came out of the oven to get a good sniff of all its cheesiness, and burnt my lip on the dish. I remember her being concerned about me, not laughing at me, and treating the burn with aloe vera. Later, of course, it became a funny story about me and my love for tuna noodle casserole and I was teased about it but when it happened she cared for me lovingly.

I only caught Aunt Gwen in one lie. I was staying with her for a few days when my mom was out of town. I was hungry and asked her for something to eat. She explained we didn't have time because we had to go pick up my sister from school, and I would have to eat later. Then she ran back inside to get her purse and keys. When she returned I noticed a strong scent of peanut butter. It made me even hungrier.  I asked her why she smelled of peanut butter and she told me it was a new perfume. I believed her for a few years then realized she must have grabbed a spoonful of peanut butter, but didn't want me to know since she had just told me I had to wait. It was another incident that became part of our family funny stories, and I would often tease her about perfumes that smell like peanut butter.

We joined a health club together and exercised several times a week. I told her about my first experience trying alcohol and she told me about trying margaritas for the first time. She loved it but was so embarrassed when she got home and looked into a mirror and she had salt on her nose which had probably been there all evening. I loved spending that time with her.

Aunt Gwen's house was a safe refuge at various times in my life. It was there that I learned about John Kennedy's assassination. My mother and sister were there too and it felt comforting for all of us to be together. Another time I was walking to school past her house when a bully from my class crossed over to where I was to rub his hand between my legs. Several of his friends were watching and it was a great joke to them. With my heart pounding I ran into Aunt Gwen's house to get away from them. She listened as I told her about what happened and told me I had to tell my teacher when I got to school. Then she drove me the rest of the way to school in order to avoid them but I think they ran away when they saw me go into her house.

Aunt Gwen's daughters were my role models as I grew up. They used to let me hang out with them while they got ready for dates. And when the dates brought them home I would sneak a peek of them out on the porch that I could see from their living room window. Thus I learned about kissing and making out from them too. Aunt Gwen's husband, Uncle Gene, was also someone I loved dearly. He always seemed happy to see me when I came over. He used to pull splinters out of my hands and when he removed it he would then rub it into my hair because he said it wouldn't come back if he did that. After he died and she found out she had Alzheimer's she would talk to him as if he were there and set a place for him at the dining table. They always seemed like a happy couple who really enjoyed each other. I don't know of any troubles they had, and I want that to stay that way as well.  Ignorance is bliss.

We just got the news that Aunt Gwen is gone now. She died this afternoon. I'm sure there are more memories that will comfort me in this time of grief and sadness. And I will be comforted too by the fact that she is now at peace.

Thursday, November 8, 2018


The wasps have found a way
inside the little yellow house.
I watch from the
safe haven of my blue chair,
as they flit and skim
to and fro
across the wide expanse
of the ceiling.
Their droning buzz
filling the room as
they search…
Sometimes there is only
one lonely wasp, sometimes
four or five.
I don’t know how they get in.
I don't think they know either.
Did you know the pitch
of their buzzing noise
is based on the number of
wing beats per second?
Smaller wasps have more
wing beats so are high-pitched.
Larger wasps have less
and, therefore, are low-pitched.
I often wonder what
they are searching for
as they travel back and forth.
Is it food, a mate, or escape?
They often pause in their journey
Across the ceiling onto
one of the window panes.
I imagine them looking outside
wondering why they can’t reach it 
and how did they end up in this trap
on the wrong side of the glass.
Strange thing is (or maybe not strange)
they eventually start moving
slower and slower
making more stops 
as they travel
until they drop
and fall dead without
ever finding the desire
of their pursuit.