Here are my favorite books of this past year in no particular order:
And all three Greg Iles books in his Penn Cage trilogy #2.
Actually, I really liked about 90% of the books I read this year. 🙂
Here are my favorite books of this past year in no particular order:
And all three Greg Iles books in his Penn Cage trilogy #2.
Actually, I really liked about 90% of the books I read this year. 🙂
I took walking in general for granted until late September 2021. I’d have an occasional ache, and kneeling was not particularly comfortable, but nothing long term. I’m not an overly ambitious person when it comes to physical activity, but I’d been enjoying a neighborhood walk about 3 times a week on days off for a couple of years in an effort to control blood sugars and remain active. I enjoyed taking a picture here and there, noticing changes in nature – and even picking up litter as I walked. Then there was the day when a noticeable shift happened. No fall, no acute injury, no twisting – but I’d walked a couple of miles and my right knee was hurting more than usual – so I finished off the walk (another mile). It took me a few days to realize I would apparently need to consult an orthopedic doctor to see why it was this painful and swollen.
My job requires walking, so by the time I got to the orthopedic doctor about 3 weeks later, I was ingesting NSAIDS regularly to keep mobile, and even driving home at the end of the day was painful and achy. I was mentioning it often to my empathetic husband and coworkers. Ultimately, in the past 15 months, I’ve had two 8 week rounds of physical therapy about six months apart, two different orthopedic doctors were consulted, three cortisone shots administered, an MRI last January, a couple of sets of x-rays and the conclusion was – yes, there was a small meniscal tear noted a year ago – but there was also significant arthritis in the joint. At this point, bone is touching bone. Touching sounds so benign, so it’s probably more like bone grinding against bone without the cushion that should be there in between. In my Google research, I learned that arthritis can be accelerated due to an injury or impact – and a few years ago, I did fall and hit my right knee on a sidewalk. The left knee feels quite normal – for now – thankfully.
Since there is nothing but surgery to improve the situation, I made the decision to move forward. I was in denial for months that a knee joint replacement was in my future, but after many more months of limping and compensating in my walk, I have a date with a surgeon on 1/17. I have watched the surgery on Youtube which looks more scary when it’s going to be ME. But I’ve talked to my many friends who have had this surgery and most state that they waited too long. A random stranger at a blood drive sitting at our post donation snack table interrupted my discussion with a friend and strongly encouraged me to proceed since it helped her so much. Knee patients have strong feelings about this and I’m grateful to live in a time when this is possible as a fix. I’m thankful for insurance, for short term disability, and for family support as I go through the weeks of recovery and physical therapy in the months post surgery.
Some of the less obvious impacts of this past year are discouragement, fatigue, mentally feeling older, and facing a decision on working full-time vs. part-time vs. retiring sooner than I’d planned. Anxiety over what’s ahead is hard to avoid, but when a surgeon does 200 of these procedures a year, and visiting a friend 2 weeks post op and watching her get around well helps – (and it’s knee #2 for her).
I hope to be enjoying my neighborhood walks next year once again.
What greater thing is there for two human souls
than to feel they are joined together
to strengthen each other in all labour,
to minister each other in all sorrow,
to share with each other in all gladness,
to be with each other in the silent unspoken memories.
It’s been 13 days since I experienced what is being called a Transient Global Amnesia (TGA) event. Seemed worth blogging about this weird experience.
It had snowed a lot in a relatively short time Monday and the roads were in very poor condition on Tuesday morning. There were tree branches down everywhere, and many areas were without power – ultimately for days for some. We only had an outage for about 8 hours on Monday, so we were fortunate on that end.
On Tuesday, I was scheduled to work and I packed a bag in case I needed to stay overnight at the hospital with potentially bad driving conditions. I headed out after my usual oatmeal breakfast. I took a couple of pictures of the road as I left our driveway (and recalled doing this when I saw them on my phone), and continued on out of the neighborhood. Although I have only 2 or 3 foggy memories of the early morning, my husband – who was working from home – says I was not acting confused prior to leaving for work.
I have texts on my phone from my colleague that I was going to be working with – discussing the issue of the roads, the people trapped for hours on I-95, and how the neighborhood roads were pretty bad and the text was sent at 6:44am. No confusion yet. I can vaguely remember this text once I was reminded it had happened and looked at it.
I left the house at about 7:40 – confirmed by the time stamp on the photos I took as I left. Dan called me while I was on my drive shortly after I’d left and after a minute or two, I told him I needed to concentrate for the drive, and this is another of my foggy memories – the phone call.
My phone shows the texts I’d made to J who’d asked me about the condition of the main road since she had an appointment and wondered about driving to it. This was at about 8:12am. I only have a vague memory as I now look at the text, but I texted her that I was in a parking lot and felt “confused”. J ended up calling me, and I drove the rest of the way to work (about a mile) while she kept me on the phone for 12 minutes. She asked if she should call the rescue squad, but I assured her I could get to work (she says). I could not remember who I was supposed to work with. I assumed I was on the way to work since I was in scrubs. I met S in our lactation office on the third floor. She had been notified about my confusion by J once I’d reached the parking garage and our call dropped. S texted me a couple of times trying to find me but once we met in the office, S confirmed that I did not know what day it was or who the president was. She walked me to the ED for evaluation and I did not protest this decision. I had no motor symptoms of a stroke (facial droop, one sided weakness) but what WAS happening was very frightening to S. During the neuro assessment in the ED, I was asked who I lived with and I said my parents and my husband. She let me know after the doctor left that my mom had died and that I was “shocked” that this had happened. (June 13) I did not remember whether my sister was at my house or in CT (she’d returned home two days before after her week long visit in VA). This was a day earlier than planned due to the pending storm, and I also didn’t remember the snowstorm.
I have no memory of the neuro evaluation, the CT Scan, the IV, the Covid test, S taking me to the bathroom a couple of times, my manager K visiting for 1/2 hour (and kindly letting S stay with me), or anything else. I can remember my husband arriving to the room I was in at about 1:30pm. He looked worried and I remember that. He tells me I still cycled through the same questions for another couple of hours and then stopped asking them as my short term memory returned. Based on what I read, I will not likely ever remember the Tuesday morning events as short term memory was being laid down in the brain (which gets placed into long term memory for recall).
One of the classic symptoms of this phenomenon is this repeating the same questions over and over every few minutes. Even my responses were the same. I was asking if I’d had the CT, did I have the MRI, confirming that it looked like I was supposed to work, saying that this was very inconvenient. These questions are not from my own memory, but from those witnessing it. S said she was looking on the internet for a description of TGA after the Neuro doctor explained that this was likely what was going on – especially when the CT showed no stroke and there were no physical symptoms present. Typical length of an episode can be about 2-8 hours. Mine was about 6-7 hours. I retained who I was, knew familiar people, could drive, could follow directions, but the repeated questions again and again were certainly concerning until everyone knew what was happening.
Dan left the hospital by about 4:30pm since I seemed to be ok at that point, and knowing I would be admitted, he wanted to be available to my dad and his sister in case the power went out again and definitely wanted to drive in daylight with the horrible roads. He had been texting our kids, and my sister to keep them updated, and they were all very concerned.
I had the MRI after he left and have full recall of that. The ED was very full as the Covid admissions are very high – and once it was obvious I was just needing observation, I sat in a hallway on a stretcher next to the nursing station for hours. I was able to look on MyChart to review the various test results (CT, UA, MRI, Labs) and finally got to a room in the Observation Room by midnight. A couple of co-workers checked on me in the early evening and I finally got something to eat.
Once the short term memory returned by mid afternoon, the previous memories were just there – no rushing back of all the memories that I couldn’t remember that morning (i.e. snowstorm, mom dying, sister leaving).
I got some interrupted sleep overnight (lab, vital signs) and tried to process what had happened. The next day, the hospitalist came by to do an assessment and asked me year, month, and day. I got them right after a very brief pause on year – I mean we were only 5 days into 2022! But when I said it was the fifth, he comforted me about not getting them all right. Note to doc: Check what day it is before you come in to assess a neuro patient. I showed him my phone that had the correct date so he could see that I was actually oriented.
I spent Wednesday waiting on lab results, doing another urine specimen (could not truly vouch for my “clean catch” the day before), getting a prescription called in for antibiotics for a UTI, and by 5pm – was discharged.
I had a follow up with my primary on 1/7 so I could get clearance to work the next day (Saturday) and all has been “memory intact” since Tuesday afternoon. I still have an EEG tomorrow and an ECG on 2/1 to rule out anything missed in brain (seizure?) and heart (tiny clot?) and I’m really hoping this is a “one and done” event. Based on what I’ve read, less than 10% have a future event. I may never know what precipitated it as some of the possible causes are not what happened to me that morning, other than potentially stress from the drive on very poor conditioned roads. Maybe cumulative stress from this very challenging year. And I’ll never know if I had a close call in the drive, I guess.
Here are some links to read about TGA.
…..in no particular order.
Shoutin’ in the Fire: An American Epistle – Dante Stewart (audio) Loved the poetry of his writing and audio made it even better.)
The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth – Beth Allison Barr (audio) Definitely recommended. I probably need to re-read to take it all in.
How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America – Clint Smith (audio)
Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents – Isabel Wilkerson (audio) Excellent and read her other book, too. (The Warmth of Other Suns)
Somebody’s Daughter – Ashley C Ford (print) I like memoirs and this was a good one.
Stranger Planet (Strange Planet, #2) Nathan Pyle (print) As good as his first one. He makes me smile.
Faith after Doubt: Why Your Beliefs Stopped Working and What to Do about It – Brian McLaren (print) More Brian McLaren please. (podcasts, too)
I Hope This Finds You Well – Kate Baer (print) I’ve loved Kate’s poetry since I discovered her years ago. Happy that she’s been published now (and this is book 2).
Also – Returning to Greg Iles and his back list have provided some of the most entertaining fiction this year. He tells a great story and I’m reading through the Penn Cage series. Nice to know I can still manage a long book if it’s so very good.
September 9, 1932 – June 13, 2021
She probably would not have described herself as strong, but she lived through a lot of painful experiences.
She was generous and kind when she could have easily hated and been bitter, but she never had a bad word about anyone. “She’s *or he’s* so sweet”, she’d say about almost everyone.
She lost her mother when she was 22 and her servant heart brought her home to take care of her father and two youngest siblings.
She married a kind and honorable man when she was 24 and over the years, was grateful for his “patience” with her. They of course had patience with each other in this marriage of 64 years.
She loved having children – two daughters of her own – and babysat for so many more, before and after having her own. Always a caregiver.
In her 20s, she lived a farm woman’s life; cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, hanging clothes out in the cold Maine winter weather until the clothing was frozen stiff, and taking the frozen clothes in to thaw in the wood stove warmed kitchen. She cooked simple meals, churned butter, and made homemade bread and doughnuts, and chocolate cakes. She loved music and hummed along. She sang to her little daughters: “I love you, a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck, and a hug around the neck” and “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine…”
In her 30s, she moved to Connecticut, suddenly far away from familiar friends and family and spaces. She found herself struggling with clinical depression. This unwelcome visitor would return on occasion over the years but she made her way out of it with time, family support, and medicine.
She faced breast cancer later in life two separate times and survived what her own mother did not.
Her world was entwined with his, and she quoted him often, and deferred to him most times. “He only ate half the cookie….I ate the rest!” “He saves the smallest bits for leftovers”, she’d say in frustration. “He only puts ONE slice of ham on his sandwich – he doesn’t eat enough”. But they spent their days together, ultimately in a retirement lasting nearly 28 years. Their days started with a kiss and ended each night with a kiss, decades of breakfasts and dinners together. He called her his honey, darling, baby, sweetheart. She would just smile at all of this and shoo him away.
She was truly a friend to anyone she met. She had friends in Maine, Connecticut, Virginia, and Florida. Facebook helped her connect or reconnect with them all. She loved visiting, talking, and phone calls to friends and family in all the states. Facebook got a bit more complicated in the last couple of years, and we rescued her occasionally from posts she didn’t mean to post, a LIVE Chat she didn’t intend, and unlinking from some groups she’d liked accidentally – like “Mothers Who Love Vodka”. Was that an accident? 🙂 She’d sigh and wonder how she’d done it.
She had “macular” (degeneration) and six pairs of glasses that were somewhat interchangeable. I’m not sure she knew which pair worked best on any given day and she was always misplacing the “pair that worked best”.
She had a dry sense of humor and I grew to appreciate it more as something we shared.
She felt the losses resulting from aging and physical deficits, and in the last few months, mourned the loss of her hair as she was told she faced cancer once again. This time, cancer would win.
It felt like a full circle moment one morning when she looked up at me during one of her dressing changes on her head, and said “I don’t know what I would do without you”. So many times, she had told me about her own mother saying the same words to her when she helped her mother in her last months. So many dressing changes, but also so many conversations that would not have happened. We bought doughnuts or milkshakes on our drives home from appointments since “I guess I don’t have to worry about that now”.
A little over a week before she died, we returned home very late after a blood transfusion. I helped her into bed where he was already sleeping. He woke as I was helping her in under the covers. I re-checked her bandage under the cover one last time, and saw that they were already holding hands. We all miss her, but he misses her the most. Being prepared for the loss is not the same as experiencing and living with the loss, he says.
Her faith was both simple and complicated – believing in a God who loves everyone, but feeling unworthy of that love. Depression, early childhood trauma, and a black and white view of faith and right and wrong and sin and worthiness and Depression can complicate belief, trust, and faith. Eighty eight years of being unsure, and now I believe she is at peace and knows at last that God always did love her.
https://poets.org/poem/notes-other-side A link to the poem my sister read at our Celebration of Life.
I’m reading a book called Share Your Stuff. I’ll Go First by Laura Tremaine. She also has a podcast called 10 Things to Tell You that inspired the book. There are ten chapters and Laura shares portions of her own life and then there are writing prompts and questions for your own responses; a conversation with someone, or a journal entry, or in this case, a blog entry. I’ve actually used prompts from her in previous entries, so I’ll try them again.
Chapter One is “Who Are You?”.
I’m Val and I am a blusher. This is at least one part of who I am. I guess I’ve always been shy, but my first vivid memories that I was turning VERY red – causing further embarrassment – were in 9th and 10th grade. I remember a teacher commenting about it in 9th grade – and it’s amusing to think that he was one of my favorite teachers. (Why didn’t his comments make me mad?) My first vivid memory of blushing and being very conscious of it was in 10th grade. It was English class and I can even remember what the room looked like at my old high school. Tall windows, sun shining in. I’m not sure what the exact circumstances were, but it might have been comments around my 16th birthday.
Over these many decades, it has been an annoying buzz in the background of my life; wondering if any given situation would make me blush, and knowing some situations or people would definitely cause me to blush. I would be dreading it, and the dread would cause it even when I was long past any anxiety or shyness with a situation or person. Erythrophobia is the fear of blushing.
Having someone – a non-blusher obviously – point out that one’s “face is sooo red” would then worsen the symptoms. Trying to avoid circumstances that I feared would put me at risk for blushing obviously had an impact one’s life. But when it was impossible to avoid the risk – like a job interview, a presentation, then I’d dress appropriately:
Blushing does not only involve one’s face; a blotchy neck and hives is especially noticeable. I’ve been asked if I was having a medication reaction, if I was sunburned, if I was “ok”?
I’ve generally avoided public speaking as much as possible. High school oral reports were dreaded. Spending many years at home with kids, I didn’t face a lot of situations where I’d blush out of social anxiety. Starting a job and college at 39, entering nursing school at 44, and over the years, having a job involving talking to patients or superiors – plenty of blushing times. (Following a husband into his pastoring world for a few years, music ministry as a barely adequate piano player – fun times.) Eventually teaching a breastfeeding class as a lactation consultant, ironically, no blushing. I guess when I was the authority and fully prepared, the risk is greatly eliminated. But speaking to my peers in a teaching situation, I start out pale and end up blotchy. Talking to anyone in authority = blotchy neck eventually. Having difficult conversations with anyone – there is just no hiding my feelings or anxiety.
Menopause and hot flashes in my fifties exacerbated this and in my current job, I spent nearly a decade wearing turtle necks or a scarf, and when a hot flash started, the heat under a warm shirt or scarf did not help reduce any blushing. I started wearing make up foundation to even out the tones on my face if I was blushing underneath it.
The most irritating and frustrating aspect of this trait: you cannot fake anything. Your anxiety or stress or anger is revealed for all to see. Fight or Flight, as I learned in anatomy many years ago, permits the blush to happen rapidly (sympathetic nervous system), but the blush has no way to disappear quickly (parasympathetic nervous system). Hormones are fun and uncooperative. Hormone Replacement Therapy during menopause helped eliminate some of the hourly (!) flushes for a few years, but when I stopped the hormonal therapy, I also decided to stop wearing the turtle necks at work, and just go with it. I think I was tired of worrying about it all the time. It’s not like people who were familiar with me were surprised at a red face or blotchy neck, and new people would just learn that I really was “ok”.
I’ve always been aware of how much this trait has impacted my life, but in typing it out, it’s rather frustrating to realize just how MUCH a part of me this was. The trait hasn’t left. I just don’t have a lot of energy left to over worry about it.
I read 42 books and these were my top nine in random order. Hoping to read more in 2021.
It seems obvious that Covid-19 will be the most memorable aspect of this year (and we did not get to visit our distant grandson for his first birthday) The Black Lives Matter protests after the murder of George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor protests. Statues being painted with protest graffiti. Other things I’ll remember vividly: voting early in this election, helping my parents fill in their votes (mail in) with my sister who was visiting – knowing they were voting for 45, and then hearing that Trump would not be president for another term on the Saturday after election day, and the sense of relief I felt and excitement with my children about this fact. Enjoying attending the Celtic Service at St George’s Episcopal Church on Sunday evenings (pre-Covid19) and looking forward to doing this again someday.
2. Who were your people?
My husband, my children, my sister, along with my co-workers who were so important in that they helped me feel less disconnected from my “friend” world.
3. What was the best entertainment?
A second watching of Schitt’s Creek, Mrs. America, The Crown, The Queen’s Gambit, Ted Lasso, and so so many podcasts – favorite one was Pantsuit Politics and many episodes of You Have Permission (not entirely as entertainment but educational) and nearly 40 books, the occasional Tik Tok or Twitter amusement. Oh – and jigsaw puzzles!
4. What were the most important conversations?
I can’t remember any specific conversation but know there were many on the topics of faith, deconstruction, rebuilding, and on systemic racism in our culture with my daughters / husband / bookclubs.
5. What was the biggest surprise?
Just HOW divided our country is politically – and how much my opinion and views have changed from the views of such a large portion of the people I’ve known forever. Realizing that I may not be someone that they would want to remain friends with. (on politics and faith and racism)
6. What was the most consequential decision?
To begin to walk around my neighborhood for as many days as possible on days that I am home from work. (2-3.5 miles) I listen to podcasts, take photos, enjoy nature, and hopefully impact my HgA1c and overall health.
7. What have you learned?
I have learned that I greatly miss being able to casually arrange a lunch date with a friend. I have learned (and been amazed) that people will deny science because they’re tired of this pandemic. I’m tired also. I am very glad to have my family “on the same page” regarding what needs to happen this year so we can be together next year.
8. What has changed?
In me – not enough, but some. I now keep tabs on my toilet paper and paper towel stock more than I have ever before. I am very used to seeing masks in my purse, hanging from my mirror in the car, and at the door before I go see my parents. I have bought more books than before – with libraries closed or complicated to access at times I have available. I have cooked at home far more often than in the past few years. (thanks to meal services and being home more)
9. What are you leaving behind and making space for?
I’m leaving behind more answers and things I thought I knew, and am making space for more questions and am at peace as I look at many things in new ways.
10. What do you want more of next year?
I want more time reading books (vs. reading, skimming stuff online) and deliberate efforts to find more quiet spaces. (20 min / day, and 10 min / day)