Wednesday, July 03, 2013

El Rushbo's dad's famous speech about the signers of our Declaration of Independence

We should all read this, and re-read it once a year along with the Declaration itself, to remind ourselves just what this whole grand experiment in liberty is really worth.

"Our Lives, Our Fortunes, Our Sacred Honor"
It was a glorious morning. The sun was shining and the wind was from the Southeast. Up especially early, a tall bony, redheaded young Virginian found time to buy a new thermometer, for which he paid three pounds, fifteen shillings. He also bought gloves for Martha, his wife, who was ill at home.
Thomas Jefferson arrived early at the statehouse. The temperature was 72.5 degrees and the horseflies weren't nearly so bad at that hour. It was a lovely room, very large, with gleaming white walls. The chairs were comfortable. Facing the single door were two brass fireplaces, but they would not be used today.
The moment the door was shut, and it was always kept locked, the room became an oven. The tall windows were shut, so that loud quarreling voices could not be heard by passersby. Small openings atop the windows allowed a slight stir of air, and also a large number of horseflies. Jefferson records that "the horseflies were dexterous in finding necks, and the silk of stockings was nothing to them." All discussing was punctuated by the slap of hands on necks.
On the wall at the back, facing the president's desk, was a panoply -- consisting of a drum, swords, and banners seized from Fort Ticonderoga the previous year. Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold had captured the place, shouting that they were taking it "in the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress!"
Now Congress got to work, promptly taking up an emergency measure about which there was discussion but no dissension. "Resolved: That an application be made to the Committee of Safety of Pennsylvania for a supply of flints for the troops at New York."
Then Congress transformed itself into a committee of the whole. The Declaration of Independence was read aloud once more, and debate resumed. Though Jefferson was the best writer of all of them, he had been somewhat verbose. Congress hacked the excess away. They did a good job, as a side-by-side comparison of the rough draft and the final text shows. They cut the phrase "by a self-assumed power." "Climb" was replaced by "must read," then "must" was eliminated, then the whole sentence, and soon the whole paragraph was cut. Jefferson groaned as they continued what he later called "their depredations." "Inherent and inalienable rights" came out "certain unalienable rights," and to this day no one knows who suggested the elegant change.
A total of 86 alterations were made. Almost 500 words were eliminated, leaving 1,337. At last, after three days of wrangling, the document was put to a vote.
Here in this hall Patrick Henry had once thundered: "I am no longer a Virginian, sir, but an American." But today the loud, sometimes bitter argument stilled, and without fanfare the vote was taken from north to south by colonies, as was the custom. On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted.
There were no trumpets blown. No one stood on his chair and cheered. The afternoon was waning and Congress had no thought of delaying the full calendar of routine business on its hands. For several hours they worked on many other problems before adjourning for the day.
Much To Lose
What kind of men were the 56 signers who adopted the Declaration of Independence and who, by their signing, committed an act of treason against the crown? To each of you, the names Franklin, Adams, Hancock and Jefferson are almost as familiar as household words. Most of us, however, know nothing of the other signers. Who were they? What happened to them?
I imagine that many of you are somewhat surprised at the names not there: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Patrick Henry. All were elsewhere.
Ben Franklin was the only really old man. Eighteen were under 40; three were in their 20s. Of the 56 almost half - 24 - were judges and lawyers. Eleven were merchants, nine were landowners and farmers, and the remaining 12 were doctors, ministers, and politicians.
With only a few exceptions, such as Samuel Adams of Massachusetts, these were men of substantial property. All but two had families. The vast majority were men of education and standing in their communities. They had economic security as few men had in the 18th Century.
Each had more to lose from revolution than he had to gain by it. John Hancock, one of the richest men in America, already had a price of 500 pounds on his head. He signed in enormous letters so that his Majesty could now read his name without glasses and could now double the reward. Ben Franklin wryly noted: "Indeed we must all hang together, otherwise we shall most assuredly hang separately."
Fat Benjamin Harrison of Virginia told tiny Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts: "With me it will all be over in a minute, but you, you will be dancing on air an hour after I am gone."
These men knew what they risked. The penalty for treason was death by hanging. And remember, a great British fleet was already at anchor in New York Harbor.
They were sober men. There were no dreamy-eyed intellectuals or draft card burners here. They were far from hot-eyed fanatics yammering for an explosion. They simply asked for the status quo. It was change they resisted. It was equality with the mother country they desired. It was taxation with representation they sought. They were all conservatives, yet they rebelled.
It was principle, not property, that had brought these men to Philadelphia. Two of them became presidents of the United States. Seven of them became state governors. One died in office as vice president of the United States. Several would go on to be US Senators. One, the richest man in America, in 1828 founded the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. One, a delegate from Philadelphia, was the only real poet, musician and philosopher of the signers. (It was he, Francis Hopkinson not Betsy Ross who designed the United States flag.)
Richard Henry Lee, a delegate from Virginia, had introduced the resolution to adopt the Declaration of Independence in June of 1776. He was prophetic in his concluding remarks: "Why then sir, why do we longer delay? Why still deliberate? Let this happy day give birth to an American Republic. Let her arise not to devastate and to conquer but to reestablish the reign of peace and law.
"The eyes of Europe are fixed upon us. She demands of us a living example of freedom that may exhibit a contrast in the felicity of the citizen to the ever-increasing tyranny which desolates her polluted shores. She invites us to prepare an asylum where the unhappy may find solace, and the persecuted repost.
"If we are not this day wanting in our duty, the names of the American Legislatures of 1776 will be placed by posterity at the side of all of those whose memory has been and ever will be dear to virtuous men and good citizens."
Though the resolution was formally adopted July 4, it was not until July 8 that two of the states authorized their delegates to sign, and it was not until August 2 that the signers met at Philadelphia to actually put their names to the Declaration.
William Ellery, delegate from Rhode Island, was curious to see the signers' faces as they committed this supreme act of personal courage. He saw some men sign quickly, "but in no face was he able to discern real fear." Stephan Hopkins, Ellery's colleague from Rhode Island, was a man past 60. As he signed with a shaking pen, he declared: "My hand trembles, but my heart does not."
"Most Glorious Service"
Even before the list was published, the British marked down every member of Congress suspected of having put his name to treason. All of them became the objects of vicious manhunts. Some were taken. Some, like Jefferson, had narrow escapes. All who had property or families near British strongholds suffered.
· Francis Lewis, New York delegate saw his home plundered -- and his estates in what is now Harlem -- completely destroyed by British Soldiers. Mrs. Lewis was captured and treated with great brutality. Though she was later exchanged for two British prisoners through the efforts of Congress, she died from the effects of her abuse.
· William Floyd, another New York delegate, was able to escape with his wife and children across Long Island Sound to Connecticut, where they lived as refugees without income for seven years. When they came home they found a devastated ruin.
· Philips Livingstone had all his great holdings in New York confiscated and his family driven out of their home. Livingstone died in 1778 still working in Congress for the cause.
· Louis Morris, the fourth New York delegate, saw all his timber, crops, and livestock taken. For seven years he was barred from his home and family.
· John Hart of Trenton, New Jersey, risked his life to return home to see his dying wife. Hessian soldiers rode after him, and he escaped in the woods. While his wife lay on her deathbed, the soldiers ruined his farm and wrecked his homestead. Hart, 65, slept in caves and woods as he was hunted across the countryside. When at long last, emaciated by hardship, he was able to sneak home, he found his wife had already been buried, and his 13 children taken away. He never saw them again. He died a broken man in 1779, without ever finding his family.
· Dr. John Witherspoon, signer, was president of the College of New Jersey, later called Princeton. The British occupied the town of Princeton, and billeted troops in the college. They trampled and burned the finest college library in the country.
· Judge Richard Stockton, another New Jersey delegate signer, had rushed back to his estate in an effort to evacuate his wife and children. The family found refuge with friends, but a Tory sympathizer betrayed them. Judge Stockton was pulled from bed in the night and brutally beaten by the arresting soldiers. Thrown into a common jail, he was deliberately starved. Congress finally arranged for Stockton's parole, but his health was ruined. The judge was released as an invalid, when he could no longer harm the British cause. 
He returned home to find his estate looted and did not live to see the triumph of the Revolution. His family was forced to live off charity.
· Robert Morris, merchant prince of Philadelphia, delegate and signer, met Washington's appeals and pleas for money year after year. He made and raised arms and provisions which made it possible for Washington to cross the Delaware at Trenton. In the process he lost 150 ships at sea, bleeding his own fortune and credit almost dry.
· George Clymer, Pennsylvania signer, escaped with his family from their home, but their property was completely destroyed by the British in the Germantown and Brandywine campaigns.
· Dr. Benjamin Rush, also from Pennsylvania, was forced to flee to Maryland. As a heroic surgeon with the army, Rush had several narrow escapes.
· John Martin, a Tory in his views previous to the debate, lived in a strongly loyalist area of Pennsylvania. When he came out for independence, most of his neighbors and even some of his relatives ostracized him. He was a sensitive and troubled man, and many believed this action killed him. When he died in 1777, his last words to his tormentors were: "Tell them that they will live to see the hour when they shall acknowledge it [the signing] to have been the most glorious service that I have ever rendered to my country."
· William Ellery, Rhode Island delegate, saw his property and home burned to the ground.
· Thomas Lynch, Jr., South Carolina delegate, had his health broken from privation and exposures while serving as a company commander in the military. His doctors ordered him to seek a cure in the West Indies and on the voyage, he and his young bride were drowned at sea.
· Edward Rutledge, Arthur Middleton, and Thomas Heyward, Jr., the other three South Carolina signers, were taken by the British in the siege of Charleston. They were carried as prisoners of war to St. Augustine, Florida, where they were singled out for indignities. They were exchanged at the end of the war, the British in the meantime having completely devastated their large landholdings and estates.
· Thomas Nelson, signer of Virginia, was at the front in command of the Virginia military forces. With British General Charles Cornwallis in Yorktown, fire from 70 heavy American guns began to destroy Yorktown piece by piece. Lord Cornwallis and his staff moved their headquarters into Nelson's palatial home. While American cannonballs were making a shambles of the town, the house of Governor Nelson remained untouched. Nelson turned in rage to the American gunners and asked, "Why do you spare my home?" 
They replied, "Sir, out of respect to you." Nelson cried, "Give me the cannon!" and fired on his magnificent home himself, smashing it to bits. But Nelson's sacrifice was not quite over. He had raised $2 million for the Revolutionary cause by pledging his own estates. When the loans came due, a newer peacetime Congress refused to honor them, and Nelson's property was forfeited. He was never reimbursed. He died, impoverished, a few years later at the age of 50.
Lives, Fortunes, Honor
Of those 56 who signed the Declaration of Independence, nine died of wounds or hardships during the war. Five were captured and imprisoned, in each case with brutal treatment. Several lost wives, sons or entire families. One lost his 13 children. Two wives were brutally treated. All were at one time or another the victims of manhunts and driven from their homes. Twelve signers had their homes completely burned. Seventeen lost everything they owned. Yet not one defected or went back on his pledged word. Their honor, and the nation they sacrificed so much to create is still intact.
And, finally, there is the New Jersey signer, Abraham Clark.
He gave two sons to the officer corps in the Revolutionary Army. They were captured and sent to that infamous British prison hulk afloat in New York Harbor known as the hell ship Jersey, where 11,000 American captives were to die. The younger Clarks were treated with a special brutality because of their father. One was put in solitary and given no food. With the end almost in sight, with the war almost won, no one could have blamed Abraham Clark for acceding to the British request when they offered him his sons' lives if he would recant and come out for the King and Parliament. The utter despair in this man's heart, the anguish in his very soul, must reach out to each one of us down through 200 years with his answer: "No."
The 56 signers of the Declaration Of Independence proved by their every deed that they made no idle boast when they composed the most magnificent curtain line in history. "And for the support of this Declaration with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Just GIFfing around...

Isaac hollered at me to come take a look at this seriously horrifying GIF:





And I was all:


Friday, March 22, 2013

Spring Visitations and Miscellany

Tomorrow we're expecting a visit from our friends Joy and Aria McAfee. They were needing some green and spring and, well, NOT SNOW. I think we can come through on that one. We're planning a visit to the new Perot Museum of Nature and Science in downtown Dallas on Sunday afternoon, and I've taken the day off on Monday to perhaps go to the Fort Worth Botanic Garden or maybe the Dallas Farmer's Market. Somewhere outdoors. If it's too chilly, we may even head further south to see if we can spot some bluebonnets.

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Springtime is a whirlwind of busy activity at school; I don't get much chance for peace and solitude because if I'm not recording yearbook payments or collecting information on the senior class or ordering the decorations for senior night or designing yearbook ads or supervising pottery-making or trying desperately to get pictures of baseball or softball or track, then I'm proctoring state standardized tests or ferreting out the reason behind the weird smell in the craft closet or collecting orders for class group pictures or jumping up for an impromptu special-ed meeting.

That's all just school. In the springtime, I generally just hope and pray that stuff at home takes care of itself. I loved when my kids were little, but honestly? It's way easier now that they're all three self-sufficient and can do their own laundry and fix their own supper and take their own shower. Yes, adolescence brought its own inherent horrors which I could certainly do without. But I don't have to change diapers, either. Perspective is everything.

But back to the busy-ness. I'm a true introvert by nature. I simply MUST have solitude in order to recharge my batteries. It's not even an option. Family vacations actually drain my tank rather than filling it back up. So once a year I try to plan something in the summer that's just for me, for more than just a day or two, where I actually get on an airplane and GO AWAY somewhere BY MYSELF... see some art in some museum on the east coast somewhere, where I can stand and stare at a painting or sculpture for an hour without saying a single word to anyone... sit somewhere quiet and just look... eat something new and different... think and think and think and never talk... this, to me, is heaven.

I could SO be a hermit.

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If you're ever driving through southern Oklahoma on Interstate 35, may I humbly recommend you pull off at Exit 51 and grab some Arbuckle Mountain Fried Pies? Because they're awesome. They come in pretty much every flavor of pie you might think of. I actually buy them by the dozen and store them in the freezer for a treat later.

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Okay, now I've flung a craving onto myself. [heading to the fridge] Catch y'all later.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Return of the Spring

 Because Chickie asked me to, I'm posting the signs of Spring we're currently enjoying around our homestead.

First, we have Flowering Quince (commonly called "Japonica" around here). I adore the happy pink blossoms on the bare branches; the leaves eventually show up. The shrubs are unremarkable any other time of year, but the pink harbingers of Spring make them very popular. They're like little barometers; they're some of the first pops of color that can be seen in local landscapes, along with the jonquils and daffodils.
 Here's one of my regal purple iris blossoms. They're just exquisite. I'm always so glad to see the purple ones, as they're kind-of like the yard royalty. The particular specimens that grow in my yard aren't anywhere near as tall as the other ones, interestingly... but short folks can be special too, right? [she says, being all of four feet, eleven inches, herself]
 These little weedy punks always make people think the bluebonnets have arrived early... but they're not even related to Lupinus texensis. No, they're Muscari neglectum, tiny perennial bulbs which do best when [go figure] left alone to do their thing. Which, now that I say that, also applies to bluebonnets. But the bluebonnets are so antisocial that if you even try to transplant or water or mess with them in any way, they refuse to bloom. Unless you walk on them; they seem to dig being abused and neglected! But the grape hyacinths can often be seen spreading in patches of sunny yard that haven't been fertilized or tilled or herbicided, especially old-timey homestead yards... like mine, come to think of it.


The white irises are like nuns, very plain and pure and dependable. I love the way the light filters through the translucent, thin petals... like diaphanous silk.
Dude the Magisterial Moggy Man-Cat approves. He saw me sitting on the ground and trotted over for skritches. Then he settled into position next to a little Muscari blossom and surveyed his kingdom.

Happy Spring to you and yours!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Sometimes you just have to rage about stuff.

As much as I love my job and the town we now live in, this fact is not lost on me: had we not chosen to uproot ourselves from Iowa and replant here in Texas, we would not be staring in the face of financial ruin.

In 2006, we had a great house, great jobs, a church where we were happy, and no debt. We felt strongly that we needed to move closer to family, that his sister and my parents were going to be needing our help soon. That proved to be true.

However, it did not come without a huge price. The months of unemployment coupled with the need to give up his chosen career of Christian ministry and go to work for a [gasp] CASINO, the terrible health insurance (TX teachers) combined with huge health expenses for all of us, the desperate struggle to parent an extremely difficult child, and (frankly) the readjustment to life nearer our family members... all of these and many more have made these years So. Dadgum. Hard.

Obviously, one cannot just say "If we'd only just stayed in Iowa, we'd be just fine." Who's to say that would be the case? Disasters fall upon us in lots of different ways and means. But it doesn't prevent me from, every once in a while, wondering what the heck we were thinking.

I am hugely grateful for God providing me the Best. Job. Ever., though... without my life at Ballyhoo High School, I don't think I'd've been able to withstand any of this other stuff. It really has been my Happy Place.

People wonder why I'm such an enthusiastic supporter of my school and my town. How could I begin to explain to them that it's kept me from getting into my car and driving away and never coming back?

Saturday, March 09, 2013

L'amour

It's Skunk Dating Season here in the bustling metropolis of Ballyhoo, Texas, and the neighbors across the street have informed us that one has apparently decided to take up residence under the piers and beams of my 113-year-old house, because they watched him do it.

Each evening, the delightful skunky aroma wafts upward through the cracks in the floor. I'm probably weird in this, but I don't mind skunk smell, per se. Unless it's fresh and actually ON something near me, of course. Then it's unbearable.

I don't want to be near a skunk, though. We have kittycats who go in and out the pet doors, and I don't want one of them to come high-tailing it into the house one day covered in SkunkFunk. So we gotta figure out a way to get Pepe LePew out from under the house.

The neighbors were hoping to get rid of Pepe with a firearm, but couldn't get a clear shot the other day when they spotted him shuffling through our yard. I informed them that unless my kitties were anywhere nearby, they were welcome to take aim and do him in at their discretion.

I love living in this place.

I really do.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

BAM.

I spent the day today at Eagle Gun Range in Lewisville, Texas, completing training requirements for getting a Concealed Handgun License. My dear friend Betsy also joined me, and I am pleased to say that she and I both scored 100% on the written portion of the exam. I scored 245 out of 250 on marksmanship, but I don't normally find hitting a target difficult. I spent many-a many-a many-a summertime day shooting distant fenceposts with a BB gun as a kid. I am dead-tired. I had to leave the house before dawn to get down there, and the state requires a ten-hour course, so we didn't get dismissed until 6PM and I didn't get home until around 7. Tomorrow I will post a photo of my target -- a nice little souvenir.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Aaaand she's back.

After ten months, I have decided to resume blogging. I just seem to need to write down stuff. For a while, I thought perhaps that Facebook had filled my writing niche, but the longer I go, the more I miss the longer format.

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In the interim, my eldest finished her high school requirements and received her diploma. She didn't walk across the stage; it was summer when she finished, and we would've had to wait almost a year, and it just didn't seem necessary. She hasn't expressed much interest in it, so I haven't made an issue of it. She didn't exactly do the traditional high school thing, with proms and clubs and stuff.

She spent most of the summer roaming around with other friends and living in other places. We never even saw her until shortly after school started back up for me, when it appeared she had run through all the friends she had left to mooch from, and she was strung out and messed up. I wasn't having her back in the house in that condition, so I dropped her off at a homeless shelter. After a night there, she spent several weeks at my sister-in-law's house getting sober, and then came home. The rules we set down were that she could remain at home if she started working toward getting a job and if she kept the house clean for us while we were all gone to work/school. That's been iffy, but slowly she's begun to realize she doesn't have any other options, and that if she chooses to scream obscenities at us and mistreat us, she's got to go. There's oh-so-much more to this, but I'll have to save it for another post. Eventually everyone's gotta come to grips with real life, and real life doesn't look much like she thought it did.

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Dear CapitalOne Card: You're using a racist, bigoted, out-of-control wank-job like Alec Baldwin in your commercials. I will never use your card. EVER.

Why is it that Mel Gibson gets ostracized and demonized and marginalized for doing the same things as Alec Baldwin? I don't get it.

I have little use for either man, but I honestly don't get it.

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Okay, that's it for right now. But there will be more. And I don't intend to wait ten more months to post it.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Cherry blossoms

A couple of years ago or so, I was able to take a day or two to visit DC during the Cherry Blossom Festival. It was utterly breathtaking, and I've never quite gotten them out of my head since. The past week I've been administering state standardized tests, and once those have been finished, we have a lot of down time. Instead of doing something useful like tidying up my classroom, I instead chose to paint. Well, DUH. What did you THINK I would do? Anyhoo, here's the first one I quickly splashed onto the paper:
But I felt vaguely unfulfilled. Several years ago I painted a little ditty for my BFF that was a park bench with autumnish leaves... just a very simple little painting, but I really liked the effect, so I took a similar tack with this one:
I'm seriously considering doing another "painting a day" marathon. I would like to purchase a secondhand kiln on Craigslist for some ceramic and glass work this summer...

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Who's a nerd?

My twelve year old son, Isaac, mentioned to me last night that he had only one regret about his name.

"I really like the name 'Isaac', mom, but there's one thing I really hate about it."

"Oh yeah?" I said.

"Yeah. Nobody seems to know how to spell it," he grieved. "Everybody spells it 'ISSAC' and it makes me crazy."

"You'd think people would realize that it has two As and not two Ss," I commiserated. "I suppose that's my fault."

"Why is it your fault?" he asked.

"Well, I should've thought of that when I named you 'ISAAC'. Even your teachers at school get it wrong about half the time," I said.

"Yeah, but it's gotten better since they actually corrected the spelling in the school database," he said. "That was really annoying to be on the computerized roll sheet as 'ISSAC' every year. How did you get them to change that?"

"It pays to have friends in high places," I said. "I just marched right into Janet's office and said 'Change it' and she did."

"Dang. Do you think you could go in there on Monday morning and tell them to change it to 'Doctor Who'? Because it would be really cool to have the teacher call the roll and say 'DOCTOR WHO' and I could say 'HERE'"

I love having a nerd for a son.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Finality... and beginning...



Ten days ago, my precious Daddy went home.

I was able to spend those last three days with him nonstop, along with my sister and my mom, and I don't have any regrets other than I just don't think there's ever enough time.

Have I mentioned that brain tumors are vicious and undignified and it is desperately hard to watch them inexorably overtake the life functions of someone you love?

The memorial service was yesterday. It is so strange to go on with life, to see everyone around doing everything as usual, as if nothing important had occurred, and yet I'm going on, too. And it's okay.

I am joyful to know without even the slightest doubt that my Daddy is fishing somewhere in heaven with his own daddy and maybe with Peter and James and John too. I have no fears that we can all manage... Mom, Beth, me... grief is a fascinating process and it has been interesting to me to go through it and YET to be able to view it impersonally, in a "meta" sort of way, to observe my responses and my feelings and to categorize them in somewhat clinical ways. I think it was one way my brain was able to cope with the intensity of emotion and stress.

I think that I have been able to make a further leap toward accepting who I am -- I am my father's daughter and I am so very much like him, and that's an awesome thing. Not so much a *responsibility*... no, I don't feel that I have to somehow fulfill some diaphanous beyond-the-grave destiny... it's not at all like that. It's just that I am more OKAY with who I am, with my flaws and needs and strengths and with who I've been all my life.

That has to be a good thing.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I'm just not ready

For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you may be aware that my beloved daddy is gravely ill. A few years ago he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, which is a type of cancer affecting the bone marrow. He received lots of big-time treatment for this, including a bone marrow transplant from his brother... which meant that he had to take immunosuppressant drugs. His myeloma went into remission, but he developed an extremely rare cancerous tumor on his brainstem which occurred precisely because he was too immunosuppressed. This tumor is caused by a viral infection that we all carry around in our bodies, but our immune system keeps it from developing -- usually, the only people who ever get this kind of tumor are AIDS patients. Anyway, this tumor is expected to bring about my dad's untimely demise. Hospice is involved, but he is still mentally alert and knows what is happening (he is a medical doctor, so he's even more aware than most folks would be).

I won't even go into how angry I feel. Yes, yes, I know... I have no real right to be angry with anyone. People die every day all over the world and many of them die much younger than my dad (who's 64). It doesn't make me less angry... and I'm not really angry WITH anyone. I'm not even angry with God. I'm just ANGRY. I don't want my dad to die. He is so smart and loves to fish and hunt and whittle and talk politics and opera... he has worked so freekin' hard his whole freekin' life, and never got to enjoy being retired. He's been reduced to a feeble shell. And I'm mad as hell about it. My sister's two young children won't even remember him and how much he loves them.

Dad has asked me to put together a video montage of pictures and music for his funeral. I have been scanning pictures a few at a time for quite a while now, but it always seemed so distant that I never really kicked it into gear until this week when things started to seem like they were descending faster and faster. I took the day off from school yesterday to spend the entire day at my mom's scanning and piecing things together, and I'm getting pretty close to having something to show him.

And I'm still holding out for a miracle.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Making of a Moonflower

Recently I completed a painting of a moonflower, and I took photos of the process. First I laid down a layer of light green:


This also established the outlines of the white flower. Since the flower was white, I wanted to leave bright white highlights available for the flower's petals, and the only real way to do that with watercolor is to leave highlight areas unpainted.

Next, I needed to establish the shadowy background behind the leaves:


I don't really use the color black in pure watercolor paintings. I don't think it gives the eye enough "life"... it's too much of a cheat, and it's too final. I'm sure that doesn't make sense. Let me take another stab at it. In actual real life, there really isn't much that's truly flat black... even black marker or black crayon is often created by just an over-excess of blue or red or purple pigment. Besides, a viewer doesn't need everything just force-fed. Your eyes need something to do, to make a painting more interesting. You see my final painting of the moonflower, you don't perceive the background necessarily as "purple", even though it really is. You perceive it as "shadow", and your mind automatically classifies it as "black" or "dark" and then no longer considers it.

Next, I need to deepen the tones in the leaves. Again, sticking with only green tones is too easy and deprives the eye of its fun in piecing things together for itself. So the darker areas get some blue:


Deepening those background areas with some indigo tones:


When working with things that are white, you have to remember that there are shadowy areas even on white petals. How to go about creating these? Pale purple. Really. See? :


Details of purple splotches and yellow-green throat:


And then finally, I add some slightly darker gray-green "details" in the leaves to make them seem more nubbly and textured:


That's it.

I'm actually still learning to do this. It's all a grand experiment, and as often as not, my experiments don't turn out to be blog-worthy, or even light-of-day worthy. But it's all a great exercise in learning to SEE... to see the colors behind the colors, which when layered together give you more than the sum of their parts.

I have more to show you in the upcoming days.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Get off my lawn...


A Fence
Carl Sandburg

Now the stone house on the lake front is finished and the 
workmen are beginning the fence. 
The palings are made of iron bars with steel points that 
can stab the life out of any man who falls on them. 
As a fence, it is a masterpiece, and will shut off the rabble 
and all vagabonds and hungry men and all wandering 
children looking for a place to play. 
Passing through the bars and over the steel points will go 
nothing except Death and the Rain and To-morrow. 



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So here's what I want from whoever seeks to become my President this year:


GET OFF MY LAWN.


That's pretty much it. Quit spending my money, quit doling out my money to people who I believe do not deserve it and causes which I not only do not support but which run contrary to my values and principles, and quit telling me what I can and can't do when I'm not bothering anybody.


Do I think that'll happen? Pshyeah, right. But there's how I feel. That's my ideal politician leader. Somebody who cuts the whole shmear... who sends 'em all packing.
=====================================================


Five more months and I get to shut the gate for good.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Happy 2012!!!

Standing in the parking lot of First Baptist Church, Valley View, TX, looking westward.
January 1, 2012

Happy 2012 to all!
May there be glimmers of green sprouting up in YOUR world, too.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

It's New Year's Eve and I'm home with my three babies safe and sound. 2012 looms ominous on the horizon, but I will persevere. The "next thing" is always out there to do, and I plan to do it. Whatever it is.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Still here.


I know, it’s been months since I posted. I really am going to get back to it. I have some ideas that will hopefully get me back in the habit; it is therapeutic for me and I need it. I just have been pretty closed-off to it for a while. Part of that is Facebook’s fault – FB gives me the immediacy and spontaneity that comes so easily to me anyway. But I need a slightly more anonymous outlet where I can speak in a longer format, and I have been avoiding that because things have been so hard and so unrelenting.

The eldest hasn’t changed. Not that I expected her to, or anything. But I don’t write about it because I know it has to be tiring and discouraging to read somebody yammering on and on about the same crap. Once we get to next May, however, things could change significantly, because we will no longer be legally bound to keep her here and provide for her.

We have done our best – I promise – and we have forgiven and punished and loved and excused and applied disciplinary measures meant to hem in her compulsiveness. I’m sure there’s someone out there who could have done a better job… perhaps if she had been raised on an Amish farm, she might have been forced to be more responsible… but she wasn’t. She was raised by us. There wasn’t an Amish family in line to adopt her, there was only us. So we did it.

I read every book I could get my hands on. I went to classes. I researched things on the internet. I joined support groups. I enrolled her in gymnastics, dance, violin, swimming, Space Camp, tutoring, testing, Montessori, playgroups, Sunday Schools, basketball, soccer, and volleyball. We have used charts, graphs, reward systems, corporal punishment, time-outs, exercises, and privileges. I took her to psychiatrists and counselors. I went to psychiatrists and counselors myself. I even checked myself into a psych unit for a few days in 2006 and realized pretty quickly that I needed to take better care of myself in order to be a better mom.

I have fielded irate phone calls from principals and teachers and counselors and other parents. I have been called in for investigation due to accusations of child abuse. I have had Child Protective Services show up at my door and I have cheerfully invited them in because I not only have nothing to hid, I have privately prayed that someone would install cameras in my home to videotape our interactions, because I just wish someone could watch us and help us know what we’re doing wrong.

And now I’m just tired.

But on May 12, she turns eighteen. After that point, we are no longer obliged to put up with it.

I’m not certain we’ll immediately change the locks, although there are days when I’m on the verge of calling the locksmith to schedule a visit for that day. But I will have the Final Weapon at my disposal after that day has passed. If she loses her temper and becomes vicious and abusive and does something completely dumbass like haul off and hit her sister after that, she gets to go away and I don’t have to let her back in.

Yeah, I feel like a horrible mother for saying that.

Don’t care much anymore. Eventually you have to look out for the rest of the kids in the family. She has sucked the oxygen out of our lives for seventeen years. I think it's enough.


We’re also on the verge of having to file bankruptcy. Isn’t that cheerful and tasty?
I have taken on more piano students, and am praying for more, but there’s no way that a few more dollars a week will put a dent in this $40K debt that keeps accruing. Medical bills will begin to get better once Eldest is gone, and the medical expenses have improved significantly since we now get our insurance through the Chickasaws and their wondrous CashCowCasino (God bless them – they’re taking care of my family and I will be forever grateful to them for that). But the damage is done.  I tried to get my master’s through the University of Fawkes a few years back… never was able to finish, and the loans were crushing. Add to that a few ill-timed employment (or non-employment) choices by the other dues-paying member of this dubious team, and you’ve got serious trouble.


There are basic ideas which I had assumed were binding upon a contractual – or shall we say sacramental – relationship between adults. Apparently I don’t share those ideas with the other member of the team… and never really have. I’ve fought it hard for twenty-one years, because I believed it was what I had to do.
And yet, I look at the whole thing and wonder, is this a breach of contract? A rejection of the fundamental meaning of a relationship? Or does God just expect me to smile and keep up appearances? Is this what He had in mind? I don’t know anymore.


So here we sit.

No idea where it’s going to end, but something will give. I’m not going to endanger the mental or physical health of my other two charges, but things WILL happen to change this situation. Maybe things that not everyone will approve of. But again, I’m tired now and I don’t think I really care what people think anymore.

More to come.

Eventually.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Little things that are big things

Last weekend I wrote about not wanting to go to church. Well, I did anyway, because it's not about me... I'm a mom with kids who need it and love it... so I have to hitch up my big-girl-panties and deal.

Church services at the New Place are actually a respite. I don't feel pressured or "on display" or even obligated. I didn't lead worship. Didn't want to. I just enjoyed it quietly.

After we wrapped it all up, I was gathering up the Offspring when a kind-faced lady sidled up to me and handed me something. "This is a Wal-Mart gift card. There's $150 on it, for you to go get your kids' school supplies."

I wanted to melt into a puddle of butter.

God is so good. And He doesn't seem to mind when I'm tired and cranky; He keeps loving on me through it.

==============================

Rick brought home some seedless green grapes from the grocery store yesterday. I hadn't really even taken them out of the sack; we'd just stuck them into the fridge as soon as he got home with them. I pulled them out tonight for a snack and HO. LY. COW. these grapes are the giant economy sized softball grapes... more like grapeFRUIT in size, maybe. Okay, I'm exaggerating. But they ARE enormous.

==============================

Pop came home from the hospital tonight. A few days ago, I hadn't been entirely certain that he would. I really want him to get better; it seems brutally unfair that he's worked so hard all his life, that he's so young, and that he doesn't even get to enjoy it. I know, I know... lots of people don't get to have even the enjoyment that he's had... but I can be petulant from time to time, no? I want him to feel really good again. Mom got her second chance seven years ago. I'm hoping Pop gets his now.

==============================

Tomorrow is Saturday. I am tentatively planning to do something unusual... I'm going to go to a Saturday vigil at the St. Maximus the Confessor Orthodox Church. Not because I particularly want to become a member of the Russian Orthodox Church, per se. No, it's just because I want to connect with God in a different way. It was suggested to me by a longtime friend, and I think it's a good idea. Or it could be just awful; I may accidentally desecrate something and get struck by lightning. Either way, it will be a change of pace.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Only a brief reprieve...?

Yesterday was spent on Interstate 35 traveling down to the San Marcos Treatment Center, where Martha is an inmate. We have to have weekly family therapy sessions, but since we obviously will be unable to travel the zillion miles down to SMTC once a week, we will be able to meet via teleconference.

I was discouraged pretty hard after yesterday's meeting with the therapist. He told us that it was unlikely she would remain there more than about thirty days.

THIRTY DAYS.

After attempting to compose myself, I (as calmly as I could) explained to him that if they send her home, they will be splitting up our family. Neither Rick nor I are prepared to EVER bring her home to live with us again. This is not because we hate Martha, because we do not. We do, however, love our other two children just as much and believe that their safety is paramount. As long as Martha lives in our home with them, they are not safe. This is not a situation we will allow. We will separate and I will live in my car or in a tent at the lake with her if necessary, but we won't bring her home EVER AGAIN.

Nor will I take the other two and leave. This is THEIR HOME and THEIR FAMILY. I refuse to punish them by taking them out of their own home and disrupting their lives.

Write that down in your session notes, Mister Therapist. Anyone with Child Protective Services who comes across this blog post -- write it down. I mean it. I have never and will never perpetrate abuse on Martha, but I WILL NOT BRING HER BACK INTO THIS HOUSE.

The therapist hemmed and hawed about it, mentioning programs here and programs there, but nothing definitive. Which is why we have never had any idea what to do, for years and years. It took a CPS investigator to tell me what to do (take Martha to UBH in Denton immediately) the night we finally took her in. We are a family who has absolutely no idea what to do about situations like this... we've handled everything ourselves... we take no money from the government EVER... to our near financial ruin, I'll be honest... but vague references to this program or that facility? That got me NOWHERE the night I tried to take her to a homeless shelter. Every bleeping vague reference I was given? Just another runaround. We have been responsible citizens, paid our taxes, mowed our yard, voted, and taken care of our own problems without defaulting or falling back on public assistance of any kind. If you look at our pay stubs, we don't qualify for anything because we make too much money. But if you then were to look at our out-go, you will see that because we foot all our own bills, we are very nearly bankrupt.

I am convinced that our daughter is an Axis II patient (in the DSM-IV lingo). According to Wikipedia, here are some of the disorders classified as Axis II: paranoid personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder, schizotypal personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, avoidant personality disorder, dependent personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder; and intellectual disabilities.

Do I know which one of these fits her? No. I'm not trained to diagnose these things. I am, however, a professional educator and a parent who has DONE HER HOMEWORK with regard to her children and their needs, and I promise you -- if there had been a pill or a coping mechanism that would have solved Martha's problems, I would have found it.

But regardless of Martha and her particular issues, this has now become a safety issue. And if we can't get help from the people who are supposed to be able to help us, we will protect all three of our children in the next best way we can find to do so.

==================

I spent most of the day working in my classroom. All the computers had been removed and then returned, supposedly refitted with updated software... I have no idea yet whether that actually happened, as I was quite busy trying to put everything back where it's supposed to be. We do have an IT guy, but he's not known for completing things in a timely manner OR putting things back the way he found them. Thankfully I am fairly competent in the way of hooking things back up to the network. I got most of it done today, but I needed two 15ft cat5 cables, so I sent the spouse to pick some up for me. (If I asked the IT guy for them, it might take until Christmas to receive them... much simpler just to go get them myself) Tomorrow morning I will fire up the old 'puters and see if they come alive.

The security blocks on the school's network render it virtually useless. I would venture to guess that upwards of ninety percent of the students and faculty have smart phones which operate on 3G and 4G networks by which they access the internet for things they really need to look up, and the remaining few of us who limp along with little brickphones (me included) have to rely on proxies and other less-than-kosher means of access. I mean, honestly... we're not spending our class periods doing internet gaming or social networking or Youtubing. But I would like to be able to show the occasional Youtube viddy that illustrated a concept I was trying to teach. AND I would like to be able to use features like GoogleDocs and online blogs in ways that I was trained to do at the workshop at the Smithsonian.

But we live in the Dark Ages here in Ballyhoo. We can't spend money on textbooks and materials, but we also can't let you look up stuff on your own. WTF is that?

=============================

And yet, this is a very good place to be, despite its drawbacks.

=============================

Piano students have begun signing up! I am excited about the prospects of helping raise up a new generation of musicians to take my place when I'm old and decrepit. I'm pretty close to that right now, so they'd better darn well hurry it up.

Monday, August 08, 2011

A good shellacking

It's been about three years since I've had a professional manicure, but last week I had some time to kill while I was in Fort Worth for an education workshop, and my fingernails were actually sorta grown-out and healthy, and I'm in-between piano gigs, so what the heck... I had heard that the new manicure rage is "shellac", and that it's super-durable, so I thought I'd try it.

I don't want long, fake fingernails, not now and not ever. It's just not ME. And they get in my way; everything I do that I'm good at, I do with my fingers and hands, so I have to be able to use them. Anyway, it's been a few days, and I have to say -- this stuff is AMAZING. Not a chip, not a scratch... they look exactly the same today that they did when the tech finished with them.

====================

I've been driving back and forth to downtown Dallas every day now for about four days in a row to check on my Pop. Mom's with him down at Baylor, of course, but things are pretty delicate right now with his health. His cancer is in remission, but the ensuing graft-vs-host issues and childhood infections like chickenpox all over again have just taken a very heavy toll on him.

It's not about me, obviously, but this is MY blog, so yes, this WILL be about me. I have to have somewhere to decompress.

Martha has been calling me every day from the treatment center with a list of things she wants and of things she wants me to do for her. I have stopped answering the phone when it says "UNKNOWN" because I am just tired of having my chain yanked around by a mentally-ill hormonal teenage girl. If it's one of the nurses or therapists down there, they can leave me a message and I'll get back to them. If it's her, she can go to Hartford, Hereford and Hampshire (in the immortal words of Eliza Doolittle).

I am busy. And tired. I'm not sleeping well anyway, because I'm worried about my dad.

The Lord worked it out so that I didn't have to deal with her here at home, and I am grateful. And I am not going to let her run my life from down there, either.

======================

In times of family stress, the cracks tend to show more readily. Old wounds, imagined slights writ large, visit us like nighttime hallucinations, and no-one can make us believe they aren't real. If only there were a way I could gently wipe the filmy residue away from the hearts of the ones I love most, so they could leave behind the fear and isolation that is SO. UNNECESSARY.

But I can't change any of it. I just have to navigate it. And try not to let any of it stick to me.

=======================

I'm going to go over to my mom's to sleep tonight. She normally comes home from the hospital at night after Pop goes to sleep, but he had a really awful night last night, so she wants to stay with him this time. They have a little dog at home, though, so Alice and I are going to go take care of Coco.

Tomorrow, assuming all is well with Pop, I'm going to meet my best friend from college, Emily, at Grapevine Mills Mall for a couple of hours.

=======================

I think that, sometimes, the gifts that God gives us are the actual struggles and hard things... because without having been through the struggles and hard things, how can I be of any help at all to others enduring the struggles and hard things?

Sunday, August 07, 2011

The circle of life?

Whenever someone asks, "When does school start?", I clap my hands to my ears immediately and begin chanting "LALALALALALALALA" to drown out the thought.

This is not to say that I do not enjoy my job. I do. I love it, in fact. But sudden jolt changes are hard, even when they're good. Slamming headlong into the inflexible routine of the public school year is inexorable, like the jab of the flu shot, and causes me similar anxiety.

I am also experiencing something that I don't think I ever have before... I don't want to go to church.

Huh?

Okay, so I am aware of all the externals, here. Lots and lots of people don't go to church. And probably don't feel weird and guilty about it.

But "church" has been as much a part of me as the egg in a cake. You don't get to take it back out. You can scrape the frosting off and even slice off a thin layer to remove it, but take the egg out? Nope. It's sort-of fundamental. And that's how church is, and has always been, for me.

Also, for a significant chunk of my life, I have either been personally employed by a church OR have been married to someone personally employed by a church. As churches are full of human beings with frailties and are subject to shifts in mood and philosophy, these jobs have come and gone, leaving learning and wisdom in their wake... and hurt, too, but less so as time has gone on. You begin to realize as you grow older that when you find yourself hurt by a church, you had your priorities and expectations placed in the wrong spot. Fix your priorities and expectations on God (Psalm 62:5, anyone?), and there won't be nearly the same kind of hurt... keep in mind that God puts up with spoiled, petulant Christians all the time and still loves them, and that God has a much bigger plan that mine, so getting my dander up about pitiful little stuff is a fruitless waste of emotion.

So for the past couple of years or so, I've been plugging away as the musical entertainment coordinator at a local establishment. My official title was... hmm, what was my official title?... worship leader? Music minister? Something like that. But if we're going to be honest in job description, we have to call it an entertainment coordinator.

And therein lies the problem... because I actually wanted to lead worship.

Since that didn't really match with their expectations, it didn't really work out that I should remain there. I actually have no hard feelings about them... lots of folks have been tiptoeing around me, asking if I'm "okay", etc... yes, I really am. I just wasn't a match, and that's okay.

But it also meant that our Sunday morning routine changed. We didn't miss a beat; the very next Sunday, we were worshiping at the church where Isaac's guitar teacher is the pastor. It's a small gathering, and very out-of-the-ordinary, which is refreshing. I have no complaints.

And yet... I don't want to go to church. Not this church, particularly. Just church.

Being a parent has kept me from veering into the Chaos Zone a number of times. Knowing that Isaac and Alice are depending on me... well, I won't lie, I probably would have gotten in the car and just kept driving and disappeared on a few occasions, if not for them. I owe those two babies a good, solid upbringing. Which means I suck it up and deal with my darkness instead of running away from it.

So I take them to church. They love the new church -- infinitely more than the one we recently left, in fact, and this one seems to have the potential to meet their spiritual needs much more effectively.

I have brought along my keyboard several times and it's been terrific. Those people SING, like no group of believers I have ever been with.

And yet... I don't want to go to church.

I'm still working through it. I don't think I need advice, per se... I listen to the spiritually wise people around me, and I listen to God's still, small voice in the air around me. I'm not angry with Him... not at all. If anything, I love Him more now than I ever have.

It's just one of those in-between times, like the week or two before school starts, when you just feel the need to BE STILL and quit scurrying around because you know there are Imminent Things ahead.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Pseudohyperkalemia

Yep, the first blood draw was compromised. The nurse called me back today to let me know that I did NOT have hyperkalemia, as they had first feared. AND... even better... my iron levels are normal. NORMAL! Woohoo!

So the weird light-headedness I've been feeling? In all likelihood it's a side effect of not using the hormone patches anymore.

And you may be wondering why in the world I would stop taking the hormone patches... and I will be perfectly honest with you and tell you that it's because my face was breaking out horribly in hormonal acne and I'm just too vain to put up with it. I'll suffer the hot flashes before I'll put up with the giant tennisball tumors on my face.

The things we suffer.
==========================

Tomorrow, Martha gets shipped off to a residential treatment facility in San Marcos.

I am SO. TIRED.

I had a dermatologist appointment this morning, then on the way back home to pick up Isaac to take him to the orthodontist, I was trapped for an hour and a half on I-35N in Sanger when a semi overturned about ten cars in front of me. I was grateful I wasn't involved directly in the incident, but after an hour and a half of idling and running my A/C at full blast in 110 degree heat, I ten-point-turned my van around and drove down a steep embankment in an attempt to reach an access road where I might actually have a chance to get around the mess. Thankfully the other cars around me were polite enough to move as far as they could out of the way so I could even make the attempt.

And we weren't late to the orthodontist. But I felt like a wrung-out dishrag.

The rest of the evening, I went to Mom's to have a low-key celebration of my sister's 30th birthday. Pop is just so weak and frail and sick. It's so unfair. And the whole time I was at mom's, I was parked at the kitchen table sorting through the enormous pile of paperwork I had to go through in order to have Martha committed to the place in San Marcos.

While I was sitting at the table reading the interminable legalese and doing my best to recall every cut and scrape she ever suffered, Isaac came in the kitchen. "So when are we going to get my school supplies?" he asked.

I literally felt like coming unglued. But I didn't.

I am JUST. SO. TIRED. And today I just can't think.

"I can't really think about that just yet, buddy-boy," I said in the most light tone I could summon up.
===================

I have an educational workshop I must attend tomorrow in Fort Worth, on top of all the other fun and games that tomorrow brings. I am seriously praying I can just stay awake and appear to be interested. Meetings are excruciatingly difficult for me under the best of circumstances.

One bright spot? They require us to bring a laptop to the meeting.

Which means that I may at least be able to edit photos while listening to someone drone on. This might not be so bad after all...

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Short update

A couple of hours ago, the hospital called and said that they are looking at putting Martha in residential treatment in a facility in San Marcos. The irony isn't lost on us... San Marcos is where her adoption was finalized seventeen years ago this November.

Duration of treatment, etc., we don't know yet.

This is very promising news.

Monday, August 01, 2011

And so it continues

Martha is back in the lockup, after becoming physically aggressive toward Alice.

In our first family therapy meeting on Sunday afternoon, she was primarily angry because the session had been scheduled during a time when she had hoped to be able to go to the gymnasium.

After complaining bitterly about the whole arrangement being "fucked up," she decided that the clothing she had chosen to bring was not adequate to her liking and I should bring her more. I explained that the contents of her room were horrifyingly rancid and that I was disinclined to spend time washing and sorting any of it. "Then go buy me new stuff," she demanded.

This evening she used her one daily phone call to badger me about bringing her more clothes or buying her some. I told her I wasn't interested, and that she should make do with the ones she chose to bring. "OmiGOD," she spat. "Bring me some crayons and a coloring book."

"They'll give you paper," I said. "Draw your own pictures."

"That's gay. I hate my drawings. Then I get pissed off."

[silence]

"Anything else?" I asked, after a rather long stretch of nothingness.

"No. Bye." [click]

I didn't hear from the therapists or the release planners today, but I am hoping with all my heart that they are finally able to convince the insurance provider that she cannot come home and that long-term residential care is really the only option we have left. They closed the Nebraska loop-hole, or I'd already have packed her in the car and headed for Omaha to leave her at the hospital doorstep.

Maybe that makes me a bad mother.

But I think that allowing her to torment and physically abuse her siblings makes me a worse mother. So that option's out of the question. If we are forced to bring her home again, I will be packing up the other two and we will seek shelter elsewhere.

There. I said it. [/marklevinvoice]

Honeybadger JUST DON'T CARE. Honeybadger gets stung by bees. Honeybadger gets bit by a cobra. Honeybadger don't care.




=====================

The 2011 school yearbooks are in and are sorted and ready for distribution. WOOT!

=====================

I have been feeling rather light-headed for quite a while now, so last week I called my hematologist's office to schedule some blood-work. I've learned to pay attention to my body, and when I feel weird for more than a week or so, I figure it's time to run the numbers and see if my iron levels are where they should be.

They drew blood this morning. It hurt like Hades, which is extremely unusual; I usually don't even feel it when they do their phlebotomy jiujitsu on me.

They called me this afternoon. Apparently my potassium levels are extraordinarily HIGH.

WTF?!? The only meds I take now are colestipol, which is a bile-acid sequestrant and which can cause one to be LOW in potassium... and omeprazole, which shouldn't have any effect on my potassium levels.

It is possible that I could've gotten a false hyperkalemia indication because of this:

Pseudohyperkalemia is a rise in the amount of potassium that occurs due to excessive leakage of potassium from cells, during or after blood is drawn. It is a laboratory artifact rather than a biological abnormality and can be misleading to caregivers. Pseudohyperkalemia is typically caused by hemolysis during venipuncture (by either excessive vacuum of the blood draw or by a collection needle that is of too fine a gauge); excessive tourniquet time or fist clenching during phlebotomy (which presumably leads to efflux of potassium from the muscle cells into the bloodstream); or by a delay in the processing of the blood specimen.

Since the blood draw WAS somewhat abnormal, they're going to re-draw blood tomorrow morning. In the meantime, though, they were extremely concerned and wanted me to head immediately to the E.R. if I got extremely dizzy or felt some kind of cardiac problems, since hyperkalemia can lead to cardiac arrest.

I swear, it's always something.

If they determine that I really do have hyperkalemia and it isn't due to a lab quirk, I may end up in the hospital tomorrow. But let's hope not, k? I just don't have the time or the inclination to be hospitalized.

=======================

I am really worried about my Pop. He just isn't doing well. He's cancer-free, but the ensuing misery of re-establishing immunity has been nothing short of horrific. A couple of weeks ago he erupted in a virulent display of chickenpox, which has left him pocked from head to toe and disturbingly addlepated.

Cancer sucks. And life is just not fair.

=======================

On the plus side, "serene" is precisely how I'd describe home and family life without her here. Even "Zen-like." And yet, as Rick and I discussed it, we're both gritting our teeth in anxiety over the uncertainty of what we'll have to endure. It's just too good to be true, this peacefulness.

The first time she was in the lockup, we felt almost celebratory. We took family walks. We went places. We all sat together and laughed about stuff and watched television and left bedroom doors open without fear of having our things ransacked. And then they dropped the bomb on us that even though they completely agreed that she needed more serious and long-term intervention, the insurance company would not cover the expense because of the lack of a history. The pall descended upon everyone in the house almost immediately.

This time around, the exuberance is muted. We don't trust it, because it will get yanked away from us again just like before.

We're like abuse victims who can't get away from their abuser. It's like living in a war zone... you become inured to the daily, hourly, minute-ly whistle of incoming sniper fire or bombs, and when everything goes silent, you still can't relax because your body (at an almost cellular level) just knows it won't last and you'll have to duck and cover again.

======================

People all the time ask me if I'm okay. I work really, really, really hard to be positive and funny and to NOT be a complete funsucker, which is why I just don't talk about this stuff much.

Yes, I'm okay. As okay as I can be, I think.

I am meaner than this crap. People all around me are suffering in private ways, and I've got no reason to expect different. My pain ain't special. And I'm not going to allow it to take center stage. You bet -- life does suck. But it doesn't mean I can't figure out ways to make it suck less.

Such as:

Crab Imperial
Sauvignon blanc
Show tunes
Afternoon naps
Funny Facebook status updates
A good cry
Puns
The color green
Sparkly things
New boots

======================

I glued some teeny Swarovski crystals to my big toenails so I could have sparkly things with me on a continual basis.

======================

I think that having a Facebook account has taken quite a bit of my blogging impetus away. But some things, like the stuff in this blog post, just don't lend themselves well to a Facebook status. They're too, well, serious. And because there are just so many people who read my FB status updates, I fear that writing about this on FB would appear to be a solicitation of pity. I'm not interested in people "feeling bad for me" ... but I do need this outlet to write it down from time to time. If anything, I'm grateful that so few people read my blog. It liberates me to be a little less concerned about how people will "take" it. Because this honeybadger JUST DON'T CARE.