Fourteen Pills

Image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

I held the small bottle of pills in my hand. Fourteen pills. One twice a day for seven days. “May this be for the best and highest,” I stated before taking the first one.

Thirteen pills.

Since when, March, maybe even late February, I’d been eating echinacea, cranberry juice capsules, uva ursi, and olive leaf extract for a bladder infection that just wouldn’t go away.  Oh, it would calm down for a couple of weeks, then would drag me out of a sound sleep too many nights in a row with urgent trips to the bathroom.

I just need to take more of this; I just need to have a good night’s sleep; I just need not to drink this or that and it will take care of itself. I chanted that litany to myself and to Hubby.

Twelve.

The last couple of weeks found me feeling as if I were coming down with the flu, going into the fatigue, the aches, a bit of a chill, then it would go away. I’d feel better, then it would come back.

No, I don’t want to go to urgent care. I know they’re OK with us paying by credit card since we don’t have insurance right now* but I just need to figure out the right combination of herbs and homeopathy.

Eleven.

No, really, I just need to double up on this and….

You know I don’t like doctors.**

Ten.

Oh, I just have a middle aged lady bladder. Really, i just have to do this and that and no, I don’t because I don’t want to find out I’m diabetic right now.

Nine.

Woke up feeling as if I were coming down with the flu again, plus had a cramping sensation so intense that I feared that my periods were coming back on line. I dug through the drawers in the powder room. Found the thermometer, an old glass one that I think we bought when we first were married. Washed it very well. Popped it in my mouth, held it for a three minute eternity.

Eight.

Yep. Elevated temperature. Couldn’t tell how much, but it was elevated. Very well. Now what do I do?

Seven.

Went to Dr. Weil’s website. You will need antibiotics. Period. End of quotation. Not much to be done from a supplement and nutrition standpoint.

OK, what would I do if this were Oakley? I would have taken him in much sooner. He doesn’t have insurance, but that’s not an issue. So, even though we can pay for our doctor visits out of pocket, thank The Mystery, why am I doing this to myself?

Six.

Oh, let’s see…arrogance, fear, a total lack of self respect and esteem, maybe? Will wrestle with that in my journal later.

But for now, take Oakley to day care and proceeded to urgent care.

No insurance? OK, we just need you to pay a deposit. Have a seat.

Five.

The nurse gave me the bag with the plastic cup, wipes, and a lid, then pointed me to the rest room. A far cry from childhood samples caught in a baby food jar.

That completed, the nurse practitioner came in, gave me a once over and asked all the questions: how long had this been going on, pain levels, and any allergies they needed to know about. No judgement, no shaming, nothing but gentle care. OK, we’ll call in a prescription for an antibiotic to the pharmacy across the street.

Four.

Went to the pharmacy. Browsed while I waited. Bounced back and forth between keto and vegan magazines until the headache took hold. Prescription filled, not as much as I feared, plus the pharmacy tech found a couple of coupon codes after I told her we didn’t have insurance.

Three.

Went home, set intention that the pills be for the best and highest. Had a snack (the nurse practitioner explained that it would upset my stomach otherwise), and took the first pill.

Two.

Time to pick Oakley up. Started feeling better on the way home.

One.

I slept through the night.

I’m back.

 

 

*When Hubby was pushed into retirement four years ago, he just took a lump sum without benefits. The company that bought the one where he’d worked for over 35 years is notoriously unkind to retirees. They offered us a COBRA plan for $2K a month. We tried going through the ACA, but kept getting calls and letters requesting more information and more copies of his W2 and 1040s for his last couple of years. We withdrew after three months of fighting with them.

**Long story about why I look askance at anyone in a white coat that goes far beyond the scope of this entry.

The Month of the Big Let Go

 

dawn environment fall fog
Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on Pexels.com  

Last Friday brought the first frost advisory via the five o’clock weather report. I went out into the rainy late afternoon and pulled the last of the tomatoes so they could ripen indoors. Covering the plants last year resulted in watery, sour spheres despite a stretch of warmer days afterwards. Not something I wanted to go through again. At least in a brown paper bag they’ll get some semblance of color.

The cool rain didn’t bother me, even as it trickled down my neck and back. Earlier in the week we’d had to turn the air on after cooler weather briefly flashed its ankles at us. That had lasted for a few days until heat and humidity returned. Friday marked the end of the run for the heat and the beginning of weather more in line with the autumnal equinox.

I can’t say that I was sad to see September go. I let the rain wash it away.

I let it cleanse me of the anxiety over my brother-in-law’s bypass surgery. Four of the five blood vessels were 80-100% clogged with the gunk that collects in them as we age. Some can circumvent it with diet and exercise. In his case despite doing everything right, plaque still took up residence on his arterial walls. The surgeon was shocked that BIL hadn’t had a heart attack before this. No damage to the muscle, and just a couple of days after his surgery, he sounded more energetic if a little breathy. He was able to walk to the end of the block and back ten days after surgery.

I let the rain wash away the sadness surrounding the passage of the father of my high school best friend. He was funny, kind, and flew a B-26 in WWII. His students in the agriculture department at Michigan State were lucky to have him. He was 96, and living with problems peculiar to people of an advanced age. It was time, not to take from anyone’s sorrow. It was just time.

In the fading light, I looked upwards at the variegated grey clouds.

We’d had one call  Tuesday night from Hubby’s oldest sister, one of the calls after ten p.m. that bodes unwell when you get to be our age. Second oldest sister was on her way out. Another round of sepsis came on and the weapons-grade antibiotic couldn’t touch it and it’s any minute now. Oh, and Oldest’s husband is failing, fading. Maybe six weeks according to the doctors at Cleveland Clinic. The radiation intended to kill off the cancer irreparably damaged his lungs, making them look like the red lace doilies used by children to make Valentine’s cards.

The call we’d hoped some miracle would stave off came about 2:30 Thursday morning. Second Sister had slipped the veil into the next world. She was only 64. A retired junior high guidance counselor, gardener par excellence, and active in helping refugees.

Hubby had been able to get an earlyish flight to Phoenix. He left at 5:30. Called me at 8:30  that night. I supported him as best I could. Funeral the next day, Friday. Family members flying back and forth between Detroit and Phoenix, tending to the living as they prepare to say goodbye to the passed and the passing.

The rain washed away the helplessness, the sorrow.

I took the tomatoes inside, then sat in my spot on the sofa. Oakley, sleepy from an afternoon at day care, snuggled his tush against my hip. I rubbed his ears. We don’t need words to talk. I read some poems. I watched some mindless filler on TV, too, until bed time.

Hubby arrived about three a.m. I heard his footsteps and the soft scrape of the chair across the kitchen tiles, and went back to sleep.

Many hours later, we talked of his travel experiences, seeing his family, and the service. We talked, too, about the need to get our estate planned and our advance directives down in ink. Neither of us want heroic measures. Personally, I want to include a clause that will warn anyone thinking of putting me on life support that if they do, I will haunt them to the end of days.

And while I don’t know how my funeral will go beyond hoping that people will say kind things about me, I do know that I want the memorial to conclude with a reading of Let Evening Come by Jane Kenyon, followed by a pause, and then for the very last thing, Spring by John Denver. (A live performance would be cool, but it’s up on YouTube if that doesn’t work out.)

I hope that’s many years off, though. Our immediate tasks are to tend to his brother in law, support his sister when that time comes, and go about the present and all there is there, letting the seasons cycle as they will.

In the meantime, I’ll let the rains of autumn wash me clean.

Recovery, Rebirth, Rinse, Repeat

A 14 above wind chill started Easter on Sunday, April 1st, also known as April Fool’s Day. Not funny, Mother Nature. Not funny at all.

We are about two weeks into spring, still early, but daytime highs for the most part have fallen about twenty degrees short of the average mark. Today we have a stiff wind blowing down from the northwest. It would be a great day in February, but not in April.

We should be drinking tea on the back step while debating what to plant in the garden. Instead, inside we are and inside we will stay for the duration. Hubby and I both made some progress in getting past the crud but we both still are vulnerable to relapse. He’s not waking up with the severe headaches and congestion; I’m still getting tired really easily. As in needing naps after lunch and dinner.  I look forward to the day when I wake up without a runny nose and can function without waking up on the sofa with my neck stiffened into an odd angle.

Oakley, too, has recovered from his challenges, namely the autoimmune eye problem. I spoke to the vet tech at the eye doctor’s office to update them on how he’d been doing three weeks after his last dose of Prednisone. His eyes are clear, a tiny bit of discharge in the morning, but of the usual AM type. She put me on hold and relayed the report to Dr. V. Dr. V asked her to wish us happy spring and to call if any drama reoccured.

That was it. Except for burying my eyes in the lovely deep fur in the back of Oakley’s neck and shedding a few tears of relief.

Now to get the weight gained from that off of him. We just have to do a little portion control and walk. Not a good idea today in the face of the livestock-launching wind, but as much as we can when the weather permits it.

When we have been able to walk, signs of the earth waking up after a long nap have started appearing. The branches of the oaks and maples sport tiny red buds. Newborn grass weaves green threads into the brown tapestry of soil. The forest preserve district successfully completed controlled burns of prairie restorations at the preserves where we usually walk. (In this case, “successful” as in burning the dead, dry plants to release the seeds and make way for new growth without the flames spreading to the storage buildings and the gas station just east of the one with the short trail. That could be a problem.)

Walk we will, once the weather chooses a lane and stays there. In the meantime, there are naps to take, books to read, and causes to support via social media and email. Just like the other hibernaters, we will emerge when the time is right.

 

 

 

When “My Turn” Isn’t a Good Thing

First, it was managing Oakley and his meds for his autoimmune problems. That took a chunk out of me. Right now, it looks as if he’ll officially be done in about two weeks. For that I am truly grateful.

Second, it was Hubby’s UTI. The one that drove him through the snow during the last bad storm to the nearest doc-in-the-box. That got to me on a couple of different levels: he was miserable to the point where it hurt me as well. I have had those, too, and know they are no fun. The other level was the reminder that we are not getting younger. He is some years older than me, and while in good health otherwise, still needs to be reminded to take basic self care  measures including  drinking enough water and taking supplements.

And then it was my turn (she says with sarcasm). Or turns. In the middle of the above, I had a flare-up of stress related IBS. That took time and white carbs to get under control. That end is fine now.

Problems on the other end started earlier this week. Monday was dry and windy, filled with the promise of spring and allergens taking flight. My nose started running uncontrollably. I wrote it off as allergies. Then Tuesday I woke up at 4 AM feeling as if my sinuses and skull were on fire.

I drank a lot of healing herb tea, used a sinus oil that my acupuncture dude had given me some years ago, and rested as much as I could. I can’t take OTC cold or allergy meds (except Claritin) because they render me stupid or wired. I grabbed naps, ate soup, and amped up the spice content of food with hot sauce and chili where I could. I slept decently last night. Still tired, but better.

On we go. This is not a space where I want to be stuck.  We drink our water, take our supplements, and go on with the day.

 

It Could Have Been Worse: The Weekend Edition

When I was in grad school lo these many years ago, I studied rational emotive therapy, a way of talking yourself through your personal sticking points. One of the questions used to examine the thought process: how can this event be worse?

The case in point involved a gut-wrenching news story that involved a parachutist who had landed in an alligator-infested swamp. The parachute’s straps and bindings had tangled around him in a way that left him tied to a tree, unable to free his hands. Needless to say, the gators found him quite tasty. When the recovery team found him, they estimated that it had taken him three days to die. What could be worse?

Being eaten by alligators over four days.

It was kind of like that here in the soybean field this weekend. At least it was only two days.

Friday was OK. Oakley had a good time at day care, but was pretty sore. Did I mention that he had to start taking a prescription painkiller rather than aspirin because of interaction with the Pred?  I’d given him a full prescribed dose on Tuesday at bed time. When he woke up Wednesday, he ate breakfast, then laid on the floor and stared at the wall for an hour. I cut the dose in half Friday night. He managed to sit on the sofa with me while staring at the fireplace Saturday morning. I need to call the vets’ and see if I can cut the tabs in half.

Once he sobered up, we went for a ride. The roads were in great shape, and no other drivers were on the road. Left, right, straight through the midwinter starkness of grey skies, of still muddy fields reminiscent of Andrew Wyeth paintings.

Nothing like the open road to shake away the dust and cobwebs. My head cleared, I plotted a course that would take us a little further west than usual as a few flakes drifted from the sky. Then the flurry became a shower, and the shower turned into a wall of white.

I turned as quickly and safely drove home as fast as the laws of Illinois and physics allowed with the storm on my tail. I was caught in one storm this year and don’t fancy that happening again.

Hubby returned from school not long after Oakley and I shared a post-ride treat. The traffic on his route is notoriously awful on a good day. He’s wrapping up the course of antibiotics for his health issue. The only problem with them was that they impacted his mood. I’d been patient, I hope; but finally had to say something after another chanting of the traffic litany that he’d recapped every day for the last week or so.

We didn’t talk to each other much Saturday night.

And then, Sunday morning was my turn, she wrote sarcastically. Emotionally, I did myself no favors by looking at social media. One friend moving on with her life; two women in a circle I distanced myself from getting all kinds of help and support without having to ask (unlike when I had some problems and was met with platitudes about prayers and holding space).  I will spare you the details of the physical end. I fell into a cesspool of self-pity and questioning my worth to other people.  Luckily, Hubby and I were back in each others’ better graces. Joked about taking the good stuff I give Oakley when his guts act up.  I drank tea prepared by Hubby, slept, watched the Olympics.

Today is Monday. It’s better so far. Hubby left early for school, circumventing the worst of the traffic problems. Oakley cuddled with me. I didn’t give him the pain killer last night; he slept pretty well. The world is a kinder place for me today. Things are not back to normal in the digestive department but they will get there.

If there’s one lesson in the last couple of days, it’s that this, too, shall pass.

Forgive me for that.

 

 

This Much I Can Do

Antique poster–no ownership in any way claimed–found on internet.

We have primaries on March 20th for governor, congressional rep, and an assortment of state and local offices.

I am more excited about election day this year than I am about holidays in general. While I’m not active in the IL-14 Indivisible group,  I do follow them on Facebook along with a couple of other local Democratic groups. Several members have contacted Rep. Randy Hultgren’s office since yesterday’s school shooting to express concern about assault weapons and mental health.

The responses from the office have been less than helpful: no, we don’t know when or if he’ll be releasing a statement. Um, I don’t know; let me refer you to our DC office on that question. Have you tried Googling your question?

He’s also been silent about the harassment and abuse so-called allegations against Cadet Bone Spurs (copyright Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-IL). I don’t think he understands that silence indicates tacit approval.

I stopped calling his office a long time ago because of conversations like these. I have enough headaches on this end without him adding to the list. I would rather put my energy towards getting Lauren Underwood or Jim Walz elected.

We will be choosing a Democratic gubernatorial candidate as well. We are spoiled for choice in that slate. I will be at peace with any of them. I never liked Bruce Rauner. I like his opponent, Jeanne Ives, even less. If you have to use cartoonish stereotypes of minorities, feminists, and LGBTQ people in your cheaply produced ads to illustrate your points, please get off of my TV and my ballot. The ad is so offensive that I’m not going to try to find a link for it.

I took a couple of small actions today. I donated to Common Dreams, my favorite progressive news site these days. NPR is getting too corporate for my taste. I did a lot of re-tweeting today as well. I avoided telling some elected officials where to stash their thoughts and prayers.  I can’t think of what else to do at the moment. If I hit the lottery, I’ll see about setting up a local Pacifica network station. But not this week.

In the meantime in the nonpolitical world, Hubby continues to improve post-crud. I had to run Oakley to the vet on Tuesday. He’d started rubbing his eyes and looking for dark places again, plus there was a bit of discharge from one eye.  The eye vet had me take him to one of our regular vets to get his eye checked. It looked good to her. After a quick call between Doc A and Doc V, the  current game plan consists of keeping him on a half-tab of Pred twice a week and reevaluate around the end of the month; in the meantime, work on his weight. He chunked up from the Pred. It will come off with a bit of portion restructuring and some walking. We changed him to a prescription pain killer instead of aspirin–it had interacted with the Pred and caused the explosive tummy upset last week. The prescription worked a little too well and made Oakley kind of stoned. He slept it off and seems OK now.  We’ll try a half dose tomorrow night.

Life goes on for the next thirty three days. On March 20, I’m voting.

And because I like it so much, I’ll be doing it again on November 6.

 

Winter: The Condensed Version

Image courtesy of Old Design Shop

This picture pretty much sums it up. A series of storms that began last Thursday night and ended Sunday afternoon dropped some 18.5 inches on us, the vast majority of precipitation for the season.

Thursday morning, Oakley and I went shopping for his food, then I made the last minute run to the store for milk, eggs, and so on. We had bread. Hubby had just purchased a fresh bale of toilet paper. After running the gauntlet, I grabbed a pizza for lunch, and went home to batten down the hatches. Called the guy who does the driveway? Check. Supplies in place? Check? Reading material and dog treats? Check. Settle in and enjoy the storm.

The first flakes drifted across the window as we ate dinner. Peace, coziness, and gratitude descended.

Until the next morning when everything went off the rails, making me wonder momentarily when the walls and floors would emit flames and sulphur.

Hubby hadn’t been feeling well for a couple of days. We had chalked it up to one of the variations of the crud going around and treated it with standard home remedies of soup, tea, NSAIDS, and Vernor’s (you can take the kids out of Michigan, but you can’t take the Michigan out of the kids) ginger ale. His symptoms intensified to the point where he went to the local walk in clinic.

By himself.

Fine. I didn’t ask if I should go with him. He’s driven himself to the emergency room twice with gout in his right foot and once for stitches in his left knee after a mishap with a grinder while restoring a pickup truck. Should he ask me to accompany him, I’ll take it as a sign that he really needs an ambulance.

In this case, his solo journey was not a bad thing, even with my mumbles of “fine, be that way.” Just after he left to pick his way down the slippery sloppy road, Oakley frantically ran in circles around his crate and the dinette table. I snapped on the leash and lead him outside just before he had an attack of colitis. That was for the first time in over two months. That was when we started him on the Prednisone for his eyes. His digestive system calming down has been a bonus. We–the vets and I–had been weaning him off of it. I will spare the details, but will say that Stephen King could have used the incident in a novel. Luckily,  I had the herbs for calming his colon and the preferred antidiarrheal here at home.  Both were administered before I took my coat off. He paced around a little like he does when he’s crampy, gave himself a good shake, then joined me on the sofa with his tush pushed up against my hip before the snoring started.

Hubby had picked his way home again, pharmacy bag in his hand. Only two other patients were there. One was on the way out with a bandage enveloping one hand; the other was signing in as Hubby left. The doctor called in the prescription to the pharmacy across the street. His whole adventure had only taken an hour and a half, even with the abysmal roads and the obligatory moron going the usual speed limit of 55 and honking at Hubby for not doing same. He ate lunch, drank tea, then took his meds and went for an afternoon-long nap.

Little else could be done. The driveway guy came and went several times. Hubby rested. I tried some new recipes based on research on food choices to reduce blood pressure since his was high on Friday. Not bad, pretty tasty.

Finally, the roads cleared and we were all able to get out yesterday. Hubby went to school. I went to the local big city for a long overdue lunch with a friend before a self-care appointment.

Today starts the February thaw. No precipitation until this weekend, but that seems up in the air at this time.

We welcome the thaw. Even with a condensed winter, it is a welcome friend.

 

The Second Day of Christmas

Image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

We didn’t have a partridge in a pear tree. Nor turtle doves, unless you want to count their two mourning cousins who crashed into the back door while Hubby and I had lunch.

The last couple of weeks have been busy with a graduation (nephew launching into the great wide open); the family holiday gathering piggybacked on that to spare the Michigan relatives a second drive down in a week; a wonderful Yule party thrown by a couple of friends, one of whom is a culinary school grad; and yesterday came the season finale with dinner at another couple of friends’.

Today is the big deep sigh of letting go, of making space for the new year. It’s up to a whopping two above as I write, making it a good day to dream, to reflect. We’ll be back in double digits by Thursday, sort of, anyway. One of the almanacs predicted that we’d be cycling in and out of the deep freeze this winter. All OK as long as we don’t get the huge snows to go with it, or stay stuck there for protracted periods.

And that’s good. Several occasions warrant leaving the house whether I want to or not. We have a couple of vet visits coming up. The 10,000 mile annual check up and three year rabies shot needs to be scheduled with the regular vet before the 11th.  Oakley goes to Dr. V for a recheck of his eyes on the 8th. We’ll be discussing what longterm management of his uvulitis [sp?], the autoimmune condition triggering the abnormal growth of blood vessels in the eyeballs. In the handout that she gave me, Dr. V said that humans who have it described the pain of this process as severe cramping. I’m not thrilled about Oakley being on Prednisone long term, but if it’s a choice between side effects from a maintenance dose of it or a 100% chance of him going blind in a lot of pain, I think you know which risk I’ll take.

So far, Oakley has had minimal side effects from the Pred and the anti-rejection drug  taken with it. The former necessitates a couple more potty runs during the day and makes him hungrier and thirstier. The latter caused him to emit sulphuric gas clouds–no cramping or discomfort, just gas–the first couple of days. Since dogs have different standards for what constitutes a pleasing odor than humans, I’m sure he’s enjoying it. I swear I’ve seen him smile a couple of times after he’s cut one. His eyes are clearing up and he’s much more comfortable.

For now that’s what counts.

And even with the generosity of family and friends, there’s nothing else I could ask for.

 

The Peace in the Pose

relax-1308028

 

My arms started to wobble as I held in plank.

Calls at 9:30 bode unwell any day, but especially on a Friday night. 

The teacher made some adjustments, guiding my arms and feet with touches about the weight of a nickel.

It was Eldest Sister on Hubby’s side. Are you coming to Arizona? No; why? Second Sister had to have colon cancer surgery.

“Find the peace in the pose,” said my teacher.

“Oh, no. How is she?” 

Once aligned, my body, although surprised, settled into position. One, two, there breaths. Lower to the bamboo floor, lying parallel to the spaces between the boards.

Something had gone horribly wrong. Sepsis developed. A respirator breathed for Second, breathed while the life-giving fluids and antibiotics dripped into her veins in a fight against the infection. 

Push up to baby cobra, then step back into downward dog. Balance on hands and feet, butt towards the ceiling, thighs pointing to the back wall. Look down. Amazed that I tracked Oakley’s fur onto the mat.

The teacher made some feathery adjustments. Again, my body settled into position. The muscles engaged while staying relaxed. My brain appreciated the fresh blood flowing into it. “Find the peace in the pose,” she reminded me again.

Another call. Second Sister had been taken off the respirator, but was unresponsive. The doctor remained unhelpful. One day, acting as if she’ll get better; might take a year, but she’ll get better. Next day, asking if they’d thought about funeral arrangements. 

Walk hands back to my feet. Dear Mystery, do I need a pedicure.

Hubby went to Michigan to work on his mom’s house. Dropped by to see Eldest and her husband. Eldest Brother in law had been living with stage four lung cancer for eighteen months. The most recent check up showed that the cancer had jumped the chemo fence and started taking up camp in other parts of his body. Try something different? Or put the emphasis on comfort for whatever time is left? They will look at options with the care team. We wait. 

Bless my sturdy, stalwart feet. Stand up in tadasana, mountain pose, thighs inwardly rotated, hands in prayer position at heart center. A few more stretches to mobilize the hips, then hug knees to chest, exhale into savasana to close out the class.

Roll onto my side. “Take just another moment to thank your body.” I did. Deep, sincere thanks that she hasn’t retaliated for all the unwise food choices and spotty exercise by giving me cancer, diabetes, or heart disease.

There hadn’t been any word from Detroit or Arizona, but that meant nothing. We wait. 

Teacher and I parted for the evening with a hug. I stepped out into late summer twilight, looking at the gold-tinted pouring over the houses and trees on the west side of her cul-de-sac.

Sadness, yes. Nothing to be done except wait, and pray, and go about our life in the meantime as we wait the long wait to see how these stories play out. But somehow in the middle of the chaos and sorrow, there would be an island of peace.

 

 

A Tuesday State of Mind

Yes, Gentle Friends, it’s Tuesday. And I am grateful for it.

Unless something catastrophic happens in the next couple of days, I will be celebrating one birthday more than my mother had when she was on this side. I feel as if I have broken an unintended curse laid on me by well meaning but ignorant relatives who expected me to be her all over again and fill the deep shadow left by her departure. Yes, I look like her. Yes, I inherited her spiritual streak, her love for animals, and when all is said and done, I hope that I will be remembered for being as compassionate and tolerant as she was, even just a fraction of such.

Over and over again, the relatives on her side chanted, “You’re just like your mother.” At the least, irritating and a factor in why I went away to school. At the most, wondering if I had value beyond being a shrine to her while struggling with the great fear in my soul of dying unexpectedly as she had in what are supposed to be the best years of my life. For many years, part of me wondered if I would make it to that magic day that marked a year beyond what she had in this life.

Mom was one of the estimated thirty percent of people with cardiovascular disease who didn’t know they had it until they have a fatal heart attack. The smoking, the stress of dealing with my dad’s four heart attacks in nine months, and the high-estrogen birth control pills to hold menopausal symptoms at bay conspired against her.

I did learn from her, though. I smoked one experimental cigarette, and that was it. I went off The Pill to another form of contraception. I meditate and exercise to control stress, and do acupuncture to control the midlife lady issues. In addition, I’m on track to get back to a healthy weight.

So some hours out from the start of the next trip around the sun, I feel pretty confident that I will be here for many years to come.