January 27 – The Pity Party – Burning Mouth Syndrome

by Kali’ P. Rourke

holohololand

I have been suffering with Burning Mouth Syndrome for nearly six and a half years now. Interested in learning more about this mystery disease?

I would tell you to Google “Burning Mouth Syndrome,” but I know what mess would appear. Mayo Clinic does a fairly good overview at http://mayocl.in/1mRRGuu.

I suspect my burning was caused by dental work, but I may never know the cause. Every once in a while, what my Neurologist euphemistically refers to as “the persistence of it” overwhelms me and I have a brief, but intense pity party.

Instead of focusing on the optimistic side of the coin:

It isn’t fatal
At least it isn’t cancer
My family is supportive
There are drugs that help
I have developed decent coping strategies

I occasionally dip into the pessimistic side:

It hurts nearly every day
The drug helps but makes me drowsy and aimless
There is no rhyme or reason to the good days or the bad days
Even on good days, my tongue tingles all of the time
I think, deep down, I am angry
I fear–It. Will. Never. End.

Recently, I got a new medicine from my neurologist. It is used at a fairly low dose to control errant nerve activity and at much higher doses for patients who are dealing with seizures. Under his direction, I ramped up my dosage gradually to see if I could tolerate it. Side effects included possible lowering of blood sodium, drowsiness and suicidal thoughts.

You would think those things would scare me, but with exception of the sodium levels (which we monitored with blood tests), anything I take has those side effects, and more. They are “old hat” to me now.

Our goal in adding this medicine was to calm the misfiring nerves that cause the burning and tingling sensations in my mouth. If we could get the nerves to rest, it may help with the healing and have the added benefit of symptom relief. I could only hope.

Hope is a powerful thing, probably even more powerful than medicines.

Unfortunately this hope did not pan out, and I have added one more unsuccessful medication to my ever-growing list. I am fortunate to have one medicine that does control the pain to an endurable level and I will keep looking.

And every so often, I will pause, indulge in a brief pity party and then move on.

Kali’ is an avid volunteer, a Mentor with Seedling Foundation, and an Impact Austin philanthropist. In her spare time, she does social media for nonprofits, blogs and is also a singer/songwriter!

January 21 – Where Are My Gloves

by Patricia Roop Hollinger

black gloves

“So, what’s with the basket of gloves?” I asked my neighbor upon seeing them sitting by the front door. She has the same missing glove syndrome I have acquired over the years.

As winter approached this year my husband remind me of this disorder, so finally I bit the bullet and made the decision to purchase a brand new pair. The ones I was using, well I’m not sure they were really a pair and they had been lost and found too many times to remember.

Do any of you know just how many designs, colors, shapes that gloves come in these days? I didn’t either. The choices were overwhelming and I did not want to appear to be preparing for a boxing match.

Two black pair caught my eye. They were tried on and off repeatedly. Not too tight, not too loose. That stitching though just might be a bit garish for this Quaker who espouses simplicity. Yes, it will be the plain black pair. These were my very own gloves, not the ones from a previous wife hanging on the back of the pantry door.

I proudly arrived home and announced: “Guess what?”

And before I could finish the sentence I saw on the where-we-lay-everything-shelf in the kitchen a pair of black leather gloves. You guessed it, the exact same color and with no design.

“Where did you get these?” I asked in utter amazement.

“Oh, I stopped at Target on my way home from tennis today and found these for you,” he said.

“But that is where I just bought the same gloves,” I exclaimed.

We have only been married four years but our history of being in and out of each others lives goes back to the 1950’s. It is uncanny how we think alike and end each others thoughts and sentences. So why was I surprised that on the same day we bought the same pair of gloves from a myriad of choices.

Patricia Roop Hollinger is a Pastoral Counselor/Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and an ongoing seeker of the “truth”. She married her high school heart throb in 2010 and calls her marriage “the best yet”. She is a musician, voracious reader, and a hopeful writer. Cats make her life complete.

January 15 – iPad Blunder

by Fran Simone

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.”
– Neil Gaiman

trunk

I’m out-of-town visiting my friend, Ted, at a skilled nursing facility. He sleeps. I read a book on my iPad. Hours pass. Ted’s daughter arrives. I wait for her in the lobby where I place my coat and Baggallini tote on a chair. I love that bag. It’s lightweight with multiple compartments, including an iPad slot. Susan joins me and we head out for dinner.

After dinner, I drive to Comfort Inn and grab my suitcase from the car trunk. My bag isn’t there. I search inside the car. No bag. Not a problem. Probably left it in the lobby. I settle in and call the nursing facility, confident it’s there. No bag. Still not a problem. I call the restaurant. No bag. Maybe it fell in the parking lot.

I call Ted’s sitter. “Please double-check the lobby and if my bag isn’t there, then look in the parking lot.” No bag.

Now a problem.

The next morning, I check housekeeping at the nursing facility. No bag. I call customer service at Apple to report a lost or stolen iPad. I learn that I need my Apple ID and password or serial number.

“Well, what if I don’t have either one?”

“Then call the place where you purchased your device for serial number.”

Who carries around the serial number or memorizes their ID and passwords?

I call Best Buy back home to track the serial number. No dice. I need my credit card number.

My iPad was a gift to myself when I retired in 2011. Since then, Bank of America issued me a new credit card, one with a chip.

I call my daughter.

“Calm down, mom, we’ll figure it out.”

She calls back. “Mom, check your Amazon account which lists old credit card numbers.”

I track it down.

Back to Best Buy. They find the purchase order, but don’t keep track of serial numbers.

My daughter calls again. “Mom, I located the serial number.”

I don’t ask how.

Back to Apple.

“We can now resolve your problem but not over the phone. You have to report the loss in the cloud.”

What’s the cloud?

It’s late and I have a six-hour drive ahead of me. Although exhausted when I return home, I locate iCloud and report the loss. My iPad’s locked and can be located. Triumphant I fall into bed.

Next day while unpacking the car, I push aside a blanket in the trunk and uncover my tote bag. I am elated. My iPad is located at my home address. I am embarrassed.

During that frenzied day, I learned to keep track of serial numbers and passwords. More importantly, I learned that loss of an iPad  is small potatoes compared to Ted languishing in a nursing facility. Mistakes happen. No doubt I will make many more this year.

Fran Simone is a Professor Emeritus at Marshall University, South Charleston, WV, campus. She directed the West Virginia Writing Project and taught classes and conducted workshops in personal narrative, memoir and creative non-fiction. Her memoir, Dark Wine Waters: a Husband of a Thousand Joys and Sorrows was published last year.

January 5 – The Move

by Letty Watt

old

“Sometimes I prayed with every breath that my children would grow up healthy, and sometimes I prayed that we just had enough food to feed five hungry mouths. When we had more than enough I thought it was a miracle.”

My 91-year-old mother-in-law, Alleen, paused. “I don’t remember a time when I didn’t pray for a miracle in those years. Oh, Lord! And most of the time He answered.”

“Alleen, sometimes I prayed so hard for Katy and the boys that I was afraid I’d use up all my angel requests but I didn’t always recognize when God answered my prayers,” I replied, as we avoided the subject of her impending move to assisted living at Arbor House.

“But, oh Lord, I’ve prayed at night and prayed at day that the Lord let me stay at home and not have to move. I’ve lived here 60 years. You can’t make me move. This is all I know. I’m healthy. I can take care of myself. Why can’t I stay?”

This conversation we’ve had nearly every day for six months when we turn the discussion to assisted living. Now we are making the move.

“Alleen, I’ve been praying too. . .”

Alleen cut off my words. “But you are praying that I go and I’m praying that I stay. That can’t be good.”

For a while it was quiet between us as we drove to Arbor House and the new apartment that she’d soon call home. Then I began to think about God and how tormented he must be when people pray opposite prayers.

The street light turned red and I turned to her and said: “My experience is that God answers my prayers with his guidance, meaning I don’t always get what I pray for, but I do receive what I need.”

At that moment I was merely praying for strength and love to help her make this move.

At Arbor House I put the car in park and she mournfully turned her head to me and spoke: “I can’t believe you’re doing this to me.”

“Alleen, we (all of your children) only want the best for you. You are lonely and scared in your home and are afraid to cook. Please give this a chance. You might really like your new apartment,” I pleaded.

“I don’t see how I can.”

Then she put out her bottom lip and dropped her head in resignation. My heart sank even lower and I asked myself: Whatever have we done?

Letty is a writer by winter and golfer by summer and last year she become a mover. The first move was her daughter, hers came second, her son came third, and before the year ended she moved her mother-in-law to assisted living. She is looking forward to the adventures of 2015 and more stories to tell.

November 24 – Barbara Jeanne

by Nancilynn Saylor

I am the second child,
the second daughter
my older sister who longed
for me announced
to our mother
after only two weeks
You can take her back now!

My older sister told me
I was adopted, “Look around!
No one looks like you.”
I was sure I’d come from
another planet, dropped into
their Catholic midst by Aliens
(who surely would return for me some day!)

My older sister was my first
friend, sometimes we
tormented as only sisters do.
I remember snuggling under the covers
on cold Alaskan nights watching
the lavender and blue-green
Borealis race across the midnight skies.
I remember her strong arms snatching me
by my flannel shirt
from the icy Russian River
where I’d toppled-likely looking
for the glint of gold in the smooth rocks
of the swift moving shallows.

My older sister taught me
to sing harmony-endless summer
days rewinding the Everly Brothers
until our voices sounded perfect.
My older sister taught me
how to do the splits
when my short legs refused
to open. She stood behind me
pushing on my shoulders
forcing me to the ground, then
laughing when I could not get up.

My older sister explained sex,
filling in the parts the nuns left out
adding more than I needed to know.
She found boyfriends for me:
“she has a great sense of humor.”
She was beautiful, I was funny-
I came from aliens after all

Nancilynn 2014

Nancilynn lives and works and writes from Austin, Texas, where she gardens, spends time with Romeo, her son, 7 grandchildren and her 9 great grands. She works as a full time Patient Advocate at a Level 1 Trauma Center.

November 12 – Resist or Release

by Patricia Roop Hollinger

Autumn in the Cariboo-1

Quaker Meeting was my destination on this crisp, windy fall morning. Trees were swaying; some as though their boughs would break, while others seemingly allowed the wind to give them the ride of their lives. Leaves were swirling in spirals while others floated lazily to the ground below.

“Why that fits the description of how people choose to die,” I thought.

I have outlived many of my family members and peers; thus been a witness to various and sundry methods that death has released them.

My grandmother had a brief illness during her last year. She was recuperating with my mother and took her last breath while asleep during the night. No lingering for her. She had swayed through a myriad of fall seasons, the death of two husbands, and sunnier days, raising four children, in a lifetime of 88 years. She knew when it was time to take her last breath.

Then there are the deniers. Death happens to other people. I witnessed such a death with my second husband. We couldn’t talk about death in spite of the fact that his body was wasting away due to cancer, multiple heart problems, diabetes and beginnings of dementia.

“I am going to live until I am 90,” he would tell me.

The reality only hit him when his M.D. pulled up his chair, got in his face and said: “You need to hear this, for you are dying.”

Was this heartless? No. My husband needed to be shaken out of his state of denial, for death would have the last word despite his protestations.

The leaves symbolized the deniers of death as they hung onto the branches tightly in spite of winds that were battering them to and fro. “No, no, it’s not time yet” they were saying. “We want another day, another week, and another month.”

As a hospice volunteer witnessing the death of the physical/bodily existence is just a rebirth into another form of living. I do not proclaim to have the answer as to why one person dies seemingly peacefully while others struggle with agonizing breathing for what seems like an eternity for the witnesses.

May I leave this life floating and swaying to the rhythms of Andre Segovia’s guitar or Deuter Buddha Nature like the leaves that know when it is time to stop hanging on and just drift into what lies ahead.

Patricia Roop Hollinger: cat lover, musician, gardener, voracious reader, now exploring writing skills in retirement. She was employed at Brook Lane Health Services as Pastoral Counselor/Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor/Chaplain for 23 years prior to retirement in 2010. Celebrated her fourth wedding anniversary on October 30, 2014 to a former high school heart-throb.

November 2 – Was I Wrong to Yell?

by Martha Slavin

road

 “Be kind, be kind, be kind, be kind.”
~ Henry James

I am the last person to yell at anyone but I found myself rolling down the window of my car today and yelling at a young mom to get off her phone and pay attention. She turned around and yelled back that it was none of my business what she was doing.

Actually it was my business.

The road I was driving on was sectioned off for oiling. The lanes for both directions of traffic were very narrow. The young mom was walking along the edge of the road with her two young children while she was talking on her phone. Her daughter kept looking back apprehensively to see if cars were coming their way. At the stop sign, a large pickup truck began to turn the corner, almost getting stuck because the turn was so narrow. The mom and her kids decided at that point to walk in the middle of the road beside my car and the truck. I just couldn’t believe what she was doing and rolled down my window, and yelled, “Get off the phone!”

The truck managed the corner and drove away. The young mom, still bristling from our exchange, looked at me and yelled back. I waved for her to go ahead and she stepped out in front of my car to walk across to the other side of the street. I had no idea what she would do next. She decided to walk along the side of the lane where traffic cones squeezed the road space instead of crossing to the sidewalk on the other side. Once again, I had no idea what she might do so I slowed down and followed her at a safe distance. My husband urged me to go around her even though the lane was narrow. My anger was up though, and I decided not to take the chance, passing her only when she arrived at a safe island in the middle of the road.

Was I wrong to yell?  Yes and no.

No, because sometimes when we make poor decisions we need to be accountable to the ‘village’ around us.

And yes, I was wrong to yell. Yelling doesn’t solve the problem (other than to release some spot of anger inside me). I could more effectively have helped the young mom in a moment when she was confused and frustrated. The angry part of me won out today, and the part of me which is usually filled with empathy had disappeared. It makes me think how quickly we can react in a way that we don’t expect of ourselves.

Martha Slavin is an artist and writer. She does book arts, mixed media, watercolors, poetry, and memoir pieces. She is working to produce chapbooks that feature both her art and writings. She lives with her husband and 2 cats in California