I Got Back Out There


I have never thought of myself as an anxious person.

I mean, sure, I’m afraid of spiders. And of murder hornets (have you SEEN those things?) I don’t like to drive too fast or engage in dangerous sports (like snowtubing.)

But I’ve never been afraid of the world itself. I love to travel I always enjoy talking with new people, and having novel experiences.

I’ve always been relaxed about illness and contagion. I was a teacher for years. I didn’t worry about catching things.

In fact, I never understood germophobes. I used to feel superior to people who were constantly fixated on their helath. I have scoffed at hand sanitizers and those who carried them. I used to laugh in the face of the common cold.

Not. Any. More.

Since the great pandemic of 2020, I have developed a new and suffocating appreciation for agoraphobics.

My last grocery store trip was on March 7th. When I checked out and dumped the bags in the trunk, I assumed I’d be back in the veggie department within days. I barely gave it a thought as I left the parking lot.

Ha.

Since that completely unmemorable trip, I have not stepped foot inside of a single retail establishment. Not one.

Given my fixation on the news and the lack of anything else to do while stuck at home, I’ve become a walking encyclopedia of COVID facts. I know how many people are sick, how many are on ventilators and how many have died. I know about the tests and the promising treatments. I watch the experts on C-Span debating the likelihood of the virus mutating into something worse.

Naturally, the more I’ve learned the more focused I’ve become on staying safe. I have been absolutely determined to avoid any possible chance of catching the deadly plague and passing it on.

I am now the queen of handwashing and I have the hangnails and chapped knuckles to prove it. I disinfect my mailbox, my doorknobs, my phone, my purse and the bottoms of my shoes. When my husband goes out for supplies, I make him strip down in the doorway and run to the shower. I put on gloves and wash all of his clothes. We throw away the bags and packages, washing our hands while we do it. Then we put everything away with disinfecting wipes in our hands.

You will not be surprised when I tell you that in the past few days I’ve come to realize that I am now nuttier than any fruitcake.

Last week I offered to share some of my giant stockpile of food with a friend (I am not hoarding…I am buying in bulk. And sharing), but when it came time to drop the lentils off at Linda’s house, I was too scared to go.

And that scared me. I didn’t like the wimpy little chicken that I was becoming.

So I decided last weekend that it was time to get back out there. I made a plan to the grocery store on Wednesday of this week. I made a list. I put it in the order of the aisles, so I could move through the store as fast as possible. I got my mask ready.

By Tuesday, I was starting to fixate on the shopping trip. Would I accidentally touch a tiny spit speck and get the disease? What if I passed it on to my brand new grandson? Or to my daughter? Or my friend who delivers our mail?

“Maybe I shouldn’t shop,” I started to think. “We have enough food.” Sure, my sane self answered, if you want to live on lentils, rice and pasta.

I am sixty four years old. I have been married for almost 43 years, and in that time I don’t think I’ve ever missed a week of grocery shopping. And now here I was, living in fear of my local PriceChopper.

This was ridiculous.

On Tuesday afternoon, I decided to take charge of my paranoia. I knew that I waited until the next day, I’d be awake half the night worrying. So I grabbed my mask, and my list. I took a box of sanitizing wipes.

And off I went.

At first it was glorious. While I’d been safely quarantined in my own yard, the azaleas had bloomed! The magnolia blossoms were starting to appear! Life was still going on!

I got to the store, grabbed my disposable wipes and headed in.

It was horrible.

There were people without masks, walking RIGHT past me. They were BREATHING on me! My skin started to crawl. People were trying to stay apart, but when four of you want to pick out a bunch of bananas, it’s hard to stay 6 feet away from each other.

And the shelves were so bare.

This is where the toilet paper used to live.

The strangest items were missing. There was a huge amount of bread available, but absolutely no flour, baking soda, or cake mix. The meat department was fully stocked with everything in the world, but you couldn’t find a frozen pizza.

It was weird. It was scary. It felt like a very bad dream. In spite of the masks worn by every employee and most customers, I still felt those invisible microbes bouncing off of my skin.

In spite of the spacing at the register, and the way the cashier sanitized the area between each shopper, I still felt exposed. The giant plexiglass spit guard between me and the young cashier should have felt protective, but instead I just felt like I couldn’t breathe.

And the worst part of all for this chatty woman, was the lack of connection with the people around me. We couldn’t share smiles. We couldn’t casually read each other’s faces to see who was looking open and friendly.

Oddly enough, people barely made eye contact.

I didn’t chat with the bagger as I usually do. I didn’t offer to help him. I paid silently with my disinfected credit card. I practically ran out of the store and rushed back to the sanitized safety of my own little space.

I’m glad I pushed myself to get out there. I am.

I’m still scared. And creeped out. And sad.

But at least now I know I can do it, and that I have to do it more often.

Now as long as the murder hornets stay away, things might turn out ok.

Adding Sadness to the Isolation


The world is quiet this week. The world is afraid.

As the swiftly spreading novel coronavirus moves around the globe, people on every continent are falling ill. Thousands are dying.

And hundreds of millions are huddled in our homes, waiting to see what will happen next. Schools are closed, and most of those who are still working are doing so from home.

I recently spoke to friends and families around the world, asking about what was happening in their home countries. What I found was that we’re all experiencing the same things. The same fears and frustrations are being shared in Canada, the US, the UK, Ireland, Germany, France, Italy, Russia, Sweden, Finland, Kuwait and Iran.

I’m sure the same can be said for all of the other countries now struggling with the virus. There are so many economic and social pressures on everyone, everywhere!!

But that’s not what makes me feel sad.

What drags my spirit down is when I hear the language that our leaders use when they try to encourage us. They say things like “Keep your chin up” and “We’ll get through this together.”

Then they always add a geographic addition. They say, “We can do this because the people of Boston are so special!” Or, “I know that New Yorkers are brave and strong!” I hear, “Americans are resilient.” “The people of California will prevail.”

Really?

I yearn for the moment when some world leader, somewhere, says, “Human beings will reach out to each other in our time of need. We will share our resources, our expertise and our knowledge. We understand that we are all afraid right now, and that for once we all face the exact same enemy.”

I want to hear someone say, “Humanity is resilient. Now is the time for every human to help the species. Now is the time for unselfish dedication to the recovery of the world.”

Maybe that way, when the new craziness goes away and the old craziness returns, we’ll have learned some lessons.

Maybe we’ll be able to do it better next time.

I’ve Been Preparing For This Moment My Whole Life


The world is going to hell in a germ-infested handbasket, but Nonni will not dispair.

Nope, not I.

You see, I have been preparing for this terrible global emergency for years. And when I say years, I mean decades.

First of all, Mother Nature was smart enough to gift me with a well developed sense of anxiety. Some have even referred to me as “neurotic.” In the past, this was seen as a defect, but now? Not so much.

Remember the fear that swept the globe as we moved from the 1900s to the 2000s? The so-called Y2K glitch was supposed to impact every computer on earth. We were told that it would shut down the markets, the banks, the food supply, the electric grid.

This Italian Mamma took the threat seriously. That was when I put together my emergency supply shelf. And stocked it with a few little items like 24 boxes of pasta, 3 big bags of rice and enough canned and dried beans to open my own Mexican restaurant. And tomatoes, of course. And lentils!

So when the Coronavirus hit us, I didn’t have to run out and empty the store. I’ve been hoarding for years! I can feed my family for at least a couple of months with just what I have in my kitchen.

I also had the foresight, right after the 2016 election, to expect the collapse of civilization as we know it. That was when I started to gather up extra items that might be needed if a) the North Koreans attacked us or b) Trump got pissed off and turned off all the lights.

Naturally, this means that we have lots of batteries (rechargeable and regular). We have a solar battery charger, a solar radio, a solar lantern, and even both gas and solar generators.

And light sticks, just in case it’s cloudy.

Oh, and I should mention the bleach. Somehow, every time I’ve watched the news since the 2016 vote, I have felt the need to have extra bleach around.

No need for this neurotic old woman to fight over hand sanitizer. Nope. I have enough stuff right on my shelf!

Finally, in this time of unprecedented crisis, we are faced with hours and hours, days and days, possibly weeks or months stuck in our own homes with only our family members for company.

After we’ve re-read our books, colored in all those crazy adult coloring books and beat our husbands at card games, the boredom will surely set it.

We might find ourselves binge watching “Outbreak” or “Pandemic”. People will be overwhelmed with a feeling of uselessness and depression.

Except for me!

Because once again, I planned ahead.

Unlike some people I could name (Mom, sisters Liz and Mary…..) my house could use, shall we say, a little bit of organizing.

Take my kitchen cabinets, for example. Oh, sure, my silverware drawer is organized; I’m not the kind of woman who lets the spoons carry on with the forks.

But I do have an area under my sink that could be declared a federal waste site. What with all the rubber gloves, bleach, vinegar, and eye protection, I can spend a day or six cleaning that place out. I might even find that lost bottle of Scotch.

Or an old sneaker.

And there is one cabinet in here that contains everything from cheese cloth to broken corkscrews. It’s that place where we put the stuff that doesn’t already have a place. You know, like shoelaces, a waffle iron and extra spatulas.

So you see, what once seemed like weaknesses (neurosis, disorganization, anxiety) have turned into Nonni’s superpowers!

When this whole terrible ordeal is finally over, you can feel comfortable coming to my house for a delicious dinner of lentil soup, served in a clean, organized house.

There. Don’t you feel better now?

My How Time Flies


I know. You think I’m looking at pictures of my kids when they were little. Right?

Or pictures of the dogs I’ve loved and lost. Or the career I’ve left behind.

Yep.

I know.

You think this is one of those sweet, poignant, tender posts about watching the next generation come of age and take the places that ours once held.

Any of those would have made wonderful blog posts, I’m sure. But this one is much more mundane.

Because this morning I got up and showered. I had my lovely iced coffee and then headed off to see my 89 year old mom. But before I left the house, where the dogs were snoozing on the couch and the husband was snoozing in the bed, I did what needed to be done.

I made sure that I peed before embarking on the hour and a half trip. I made sure that I put in some eye drops so I’d be able to actually see the road before me.

And I took my meds.

I grabbed my weekly pill minder and flipped open the tab for “Saturday AM”. I plopped the blood pressure pill, the fish oil and the multivitamin into my palm and swallowed them with a nice glass of cold water.

Then I looked at the pill minder.

It was just about empty.

I’m healthy, No, I am! Seriously, I’m healthy. Shut up.

I was completely shocked. Now, I knew that I fill said pill minder every Sunday morning. And intellectually, I knew that Sunday would be tomorrow.

But.

Didn’t I JUST FILL THIS STUPID THING?!

Wasn’t last Sunday morning only 20 minutes ago?

What the hell.

How did a full week go by without me even noticing it???????

I grumbled to myself. I cursed a little (OK< you define “a little”). I went out to the car and off to visit Mom.

Cuz, ya know. She’s OLD. I’m in my prime.

I’m definitely in the prime of that time when you measure the passage of the weeks by the need to refill your stupid, damn pill minder.

Grrr.

This whole getting old thing? Yeah.

Not for me.

Gotta go. The blood pressure pills are calling and the fibromyalgia meds are singing my name.

Oh, Dear Lord, Who Am I?


I am a middle aged Italian woman. I know myself.

I make meatballs.

I serve chicken soup to kids with colds.

I have dark brown eyes, I used to have dark brown hair, and I have a big nose.

Yes. I do. I have grown up with the realization that I have a lovely, prominent Roman nose.

This is my identity. Italian woman, big nose, big heart, big piles of pasta. It all goes together.

Because this has been my image of myself for some 60 years, you can understand how upsetting it would be to be informed that this is not actually the real me. You can imagine my moment of disorientation when the very core of my personal belief was shaken.

Holy panic attack, Batman. It was terrifying.

This is what happened.

I went to have my CPap fitted this morning. I talked to the lovely, intelligent, articulate cPap using woman at the home care facility. She fitted me with just the right hose to force my throat open and thereby stop my snoring, snorting, gasping, death inducing nighttime routine.

I have been reading about the incidence of sleep apnea in women, and have come to feel pretty much at ease with the realization that a whole lot of us women suffer from this disorder.

I am OK with that. Sorta. I am accepting of the fact that the sleep issue does not mean that I am old and fat. I am accepting of the idea that I just need some help to keep myself breathing while I sleep. It’s just a little medical issue.

All of that is cool.

But.

While i was meeting with the lovely woman who introduced me to my machine, something happened that has shaken my entire belief in myself and who I am.

Part of the fitting today included taking a measurement of my nose.

My big old, honkin’ Roman Italian schnozzola. I needed to be measured so that the nasal mask would fit me.

I sat back for the measurement. I breathed out. I was sure that the measurement would come out as “big” or “huge” or “Italian” or “Holy shit”.

When the friendly woman held up the measurement and said, “You have a small nose”, my entire world came unglued.

What?????

WHAT??!

I mean. OK. I gasp and choke and have a fat neck and can’t sleep and I need a stupid giant machine…..but my NOSE IS SMALL???????

That was the moment when I realized that I no longer have any idea of who I am.

In all of my most fragile moments, it has never occurred to me that I might have a small nose.

Never. Ever.

Look at this picture.

Do you see a small nose????

Big. Big nose. Not small.
Not a little nose. Nuh, uh.

I don’t either.

So….who am I? What has become of my entire view of myself?

If in fact I am a woman with a small nose, might I not also be a woman with a boatload of patience? (Nope.) Or a woman who struggles to put a decent meal on the table? (Nopie, nope, nope).

I am my nose.

I am my internal view of myself.

OK, fine. I’ll give the stupid CPap a chance. But seriously?

A SMALL nose??????

These medical people have no idea what they’re doing.

The Prednisone Diaries


You know you want me.

First thing you need to know is this: I am a relatively healthy old lady. At 63, I am still pretty spry, healthy and hearty. There are few things in life that I can’t do because of my health.

Got it?

But. I do have stupid, annoying, aggravating Fibromyalgia. I was diagnosed about 10 years ago, after being told that I didn’t have Zika, West Nile, Lyme Disease, Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, cancer, IBS, Epilepsy or anything else that would make me run screaming into the night.

Instead, I was told, I have a pretty common autoimmune disease that will make me tired and achy. And will keep me awake for about two months in a row. And will make my thinking resemble a big bowl of tapioca pudding.

But.

I am very very lucky. Once I was diagnosed, I was put on a dose of Cymbalta. This anti-depressant eased my pain, helped me to sleep, cut down on the famous fibro flareups and even made me less cranky.

Better living through chemicals!

However, ten years into this experience, I find that every now and then I have a big old fibro flare up. It can come on slowly, with just an extra pain in the neck (not kidding) and a general sense that I’d be better off is I spent a day in bed.

Which I have NEVER DONE. Ever.

Still, there are days when I find that the past three weeks of endless motion, action, socialization, gardening, shopping, cooking, visiting and schmoozing have left me in a fibro funk.

That’s when I reach out to my wonderful primary care doc. I send him a message on our Patient Portal. “Ruh, roh.” I type. “I’m having a bad flare up. Prednisone?”

He knows me. He understands how this works. He sends in the script.

And this is where the fun begins.

Prednisone is my savior and my worse enemy, all at once. Let me give you an inside view.

DAY 1: “I can’t move. I would love to get up and go pee, but the bathroom is so….far…away…..” The kids arrive. I say, “What a great day for movies!” Even thought its 75 degrees and sunny, I canNOT get up from my chair. I manage to feed them and change the diapers, but that’s it. I need some medicine.

DAY 2: I take my 60 mg of prednisone. I slump into my chair, coffee cup in hand. One hour later, everything still hurts, but I feel a faint buzz in my skin. It’s a quiet day, but at least I manage to turn on music and put the kids into glittery costumes to dance. Dinner is leftovers. I sort of clean it up.

DAY 3: Another 60 mg down the hatch. My neck and back hurt, but the rest of me feels ok. I serve a nice home cooked breakfast. I’m hungry, so I join in the feast. By noon, I’ve done two loads of laundry, swept the floor, exercised the dogs and cleaned the kitchen. On to lunch (homemade soup….yes I ate some) then books, then a nice dinner. Early bed. Slept great!

DAY 4: 60 more milligrams of Prednisone. I eat a huge breakfast before the kids even arrive. By the time they get here, I have pancakes, fruit, cereal, juice and muffins on the table. I sing while they eat and I sing while I clean it all up. We play outside. I manage to weed the veggie garden, prune the lilacs and fill the kiddie pool. I feel great! So much energy. Dinner is delicious and entirely home made. I eat more than my husband.

I get myself to bed at a reasonable time, where I toss and turn for 3 hours before finally falling into a restless sleep.

DAY 5: I wake up at 4. I take my medicine. By nine, I have had breakfast, made the kids meal, made us all lunch, organized the silverware drawer and polished my grandma’s silver. The day is full….even though the kids would like to rest, I keep us all outside, walking through the woods, hunting for bugs, gathering leaves, pulling up clover. I teach them all how to find the best dandelion leaves for salad. OK, the baby is only two and the older one is not yet four, but we get a lot done. After lunch, I get everyone to create a collage of nature’s treasures. They cry a lot, but the art is very cool. The kids go home at five, and I whip up a fabulous home cooked meal for the hubby, who enjoys it thoroughly. I get to bet around midnight, but I can’t fall asleep. I’m trying to calculate how many ants I have removed from the sink in the past week.

DAY 6: Down to 40 milligrams. Who cares? I hate everyone by now. Everytime one of the kids frowns, I scowl right back. I eat breakfast. Then I eat all the leftovers. I eat a few snacks. Then I snarl at the kids because let’s face it; if they didn’t leave food on their plates, I wouldn’t eat it and I wouldn’t be so FAT, now would I????? We do puzzles, we eat lunch (really????MORE leftovers?????) Paul comes home for dinner, which I slap down on the table. I drink some wine. I drink some more. I eat my dinner. And Paul’s leftovers. I go to bed. Hahahahaha. I am still awake at 5AM. I hate everything.

DAYS 7, 8 & 9: Why do I need this stupid medicine anyway? NOTHING hurts. I have been awake for a year. My hands are shaking. Is there any more cold pizza? The kids are handed a bunch of paper, some markers and a few glue sticks. I retreat to the kitchen, where I pretend to make lunch while eating all the croutons in the cabinet.

Slowly, slowly, the prednisone is reduced. Finally I am down to a mere 20 mg, and I start to find myself again. I manage to cut myself down to 4 eggs and two english muffins for breakfast. I remember how much I love the kids. I am able to calm myself down enough to read a few books to them. Dinner is pleasant again. I am able to sleep. A little.

And it finally winds down. The flare up is over. I feel fine again. I feel like myself. If the past is any indicator, I won’t have to go through this nonsense again for at least 4 months.

That should be enough time to shed the 15 pounds I gained while getting better, right?

To Sleep or Not to Sleep


Maybe I snore a little…once in a while…..

OK, fine. Sure. I snore.

I know. Snoring means that you have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea means that you’re gonna die. Real soon.

Fine.

I finally gave in to the gentle hints from my husband, the shrewd observations from friends who’ve been forced to sleep in the same room with me, and the evidence from my own tired self.

I talked to my doctor and I was scheduled for a sleep study.

I was not a happy old lady, but I went ahead anyway. I went to the appointment with the very, very, very sincere hope that I will not be diagnosed with apnea.

I don’t want to have chubby older man disease. How humiliating that would be!!

I am, after all, a chubby older WOMAN. I believe I should be immune to this particular problem.

A CPAP machine is my least favorite wish for my aging self.

But, I went ahead. I drove to the sleep study place. I met with the chubby older man in his scrubs, and filled out the questionnaire about my sleep. I listened as he carefully described how to put on the torture device/sleep study machine. I took notes.

That night, I got ready for bed. Paul and I had decided that I should sleep all by myself in the guest room. No chance of the talking torture device waking up him up. No chance of the dogs deciding to chew up the plastic tubes or plastic headset or plastic chest wrap.

Because I am a very good girl, and because I would rather drop dead tomorrow than do this again, I carefully followed all directions. I placed the forehead sensor on my forehead. Eager to be a good patient, I tightened the shit out of it. There were plastic sensors embedded into my temples. I let them stay.

Next, I stuck the nasal cannula way up into my nostrils, then carefully tightened it so it wouldn’t fall out and ruin the whole study.

As for the chest strap…..gentlemen, please look away. Ladies, picture this: You have to sleep in a sports bra, only its been rolled up above your breasts so you feel it all night long. There’s a lovely plastic clasp in the back that will dig into your ribs, your vertebrae and your neck (what the hell…) all night long.

The next step in this lovely adventure involved pushing a tiny button on the top of my headset. A woman’s voice instructed me about what to do. “The Unicorder has been turned on. Lie on your back, look at the ceiling and DO NOT MOVE.” Beep…beep….beepie beeples….. You may now go to sleep.”

Sure.

I laid on my back, but the squeezie rolled up bra device dug into my spine. I rolled to my left side, but the head set was on so tight that my left temple started to throb.

Try the right side. Ouch.

Try the stomach. OUCH! Bring back my nose, please……

Left side. Ouch again.

This went on for quite a while, but eventually my old body won out and I fell asleep. All was well until at some point….somewhere between midnight and 4 AM….I woke up to hear the same calm woman scolding me: “Adjust your forehead sensor. Adjust your forehead sensor. Adjust your forehead sensor.”

Holy bitch. “I did!” I snapped. I adjusted. Everything still hurt like hell, so I figured that all was well.

I dozed. Had nightmares. Tossed. Turned.

I might have snored, but who knows?

Eventually, I woke up. Filled with relief that I’d managed to wrangle with the torture device and still get some sleep, I reached up to turn off the recorder.

And this is what I heard:

“”The Unicorder has been turned on. Lie on your back, look at the ceiling and DO NOT MOVE.”

Old Dog, New Tricks, Holy Smokes.


Before I begin this post, let me assure you that marijuana is legal in Massachusetts. Entirely legal. Got it? Nonni here ain’t heading for the slammer. Not anytime soon, anyway.

So here’s the story.

It all started a couple of years ago. My adult sons were home for Christmas. I had been telling them (as in, complaining and moaning non-stop) about my various aches and pains and terrible insomnia. “I haven’t slept in weeks,” I groaned. The kids knew I had tried everything from SleepyTime Tea to Ambien in search of decent sleep.

Because they love me, and because they no doubt wanted to shut me up, the boys made a suggestion. “Mom,” they said, “Come smoke a bowl of weed with us.”

I knew that my kids smoked marijuana, but I had been adamant that it not be done in the house. I didn’t like it, even when it stopped being a crime. It just made me uncomfortable.

I mean, I had tried a joint or two back in the day, but it just made me giggly and stupid. I preferred a couple of glasses of wine. And the stuff available now was nothing like what we used to have. It had none of the alluring Indian incense smell that I remembered from the 70s. This stuff was more reminiscent of an angry skunk. I wanted to no part of it in my house.

But I was desperate, I tell ya, just desperate. After hosting various holiday crowds, I found myself in the middle of a fibromyalgia flare and every inch of me hurt except my hair.

So I gave it a try. Two puffs on the boy’s magic peace pipe, and off I went to bed. I remember reading under the covers and thinking “This stuff is useless. I don’t feel a thing.” I closed my book and turned on my side.

The next thing I knew, the sun was in my eyes.

It was like a freakin’ miracle.

I had become a convert.

For a while I smoked marijuana to help me sleep, but I didn’t like the taste or the burning in my throat. Sometimes it gave me asthma. I moved on to using a vape device, but didn’t love that, either.

Finally, through the incredible generosity of some friends, I found the delight of cannabis butter. Mmm-mmm good!

Weed butter. This miracle cure is a simple concoction of marijuana and real butter. Every night now, I put a tiny bit into hot water, mix in a little turmeric and cinnamon, sip it and drift off to peaceful sleep. The aches and pains subside. I wake up feeling rested.

This old dog has learned a whole new trick!!!

Here’s where it gets dicey, though.

Nonni doesn’t exactly have a lot of contacts in the world of weed. I don’t want to depend on the generosity of friends who are too kind to charge me for my medicine.

(Plus, those friends are away for the winter, so…….)

I asked my boys to get me some weed for Christmas. They did! In fact, they gave me enough to last me probably two years (people their age go through it quite a bit faster than I do….). I took a little bit and made my fist batch of butter.

Oh, boy! I was excited! I carefully followed the recipe that I found on-line, after reading all about the process. I even took notes.

Everything was fine as the butter and weed simmered on the stove. The house smelled more like a bakery than a skunk den, so I figure it was fine.

Until the unmistakeable smell of burning popcorn seeped into my consciousness and I jumped out of my chair. I rushed to the stove, where I saw that my mixture had faded from creamy yellow to a dull brown. The butter had begun to burn, which accounted for the popcorn smell. I quickly pulled it off the stove, and hoped it wasn’t ruined.

I strained it and cooled it until bedtime.

Then I took a tiny bit in my usual cup of hot water. I sat down to watch a movie with my husband.

An hour later I felt like I’d been slammed with a dose of morphine mixed with vodka. Holy headspins!!!

I managed to brush my teeth and fall into bed, but I couldn’t read because my eyeballs were rolling around in my head like marbles. My mouth was so dry I thought I’d choke on my tongue.

My night went like this: Roll to the side, sip water, roll back, experience the thrill of riding a giant rollercoaster. Stay still, taste the entire Sahara in my mouth, roll over for water, take a sip. Now experience the delights of riding out a hurricane in a rowboat.

So.

I learned a few more things last night.

One: all marijuana is NOT the same.

Two: it’s really really hard to get the right dose.

Three: Even riding a roller coaster in a hurricane is better than staying awake all night.

Now if only I could get the marbles to stop rolling….

This is what happens when old dogs try to self medicate.

Dear CVS, I Hay Chew


Generally speaking, I live a pretty easy life. I’m retired, I get to spend the days gardening, reading, playing with my grandchildren. I don’t have many stressors.

And that’s a damn good thing, because the ONE huge issue in my life is my ongoing war with CVS.

The trouble started a couple of years ago, when my Mom realized that it was time to give up her car keys. She came to this difficult decision after her kids and grandkids gently persuaded her that she had become a menace to herself and to everyone else on the road.

It only took a few weeks of endless haranguing, but Mom eventually agreed and gave up both keys and car.

Phew.

At that point, I had the brilliant idea that we should switch Mom’s prescriptions from the local CVS to the online Caremark/CVS system. Smart, right? No more worrying about needing a refill every thirty days, because with Caremark, we can get three months worth sent right to the house!

No more multiple texts to figure out who can pick up the medicine, and who can call the doctor to reorder.

So.

Smarty pants me went online and signed Mom up for Caremark. Awesome!!!!

I checked all the boxes, filled in all the information, clicked where I was supposed to click.  Thirty days later, right on time, Mom’s three medications were refilled! Huzzah!!!!

Annnnnnd….30 days after that (even though CVS/Caremark had sent us 90 days worth of meds), Mom got a call from her local store asking her if she wanted to refill her scripts.

Huh. I thought I had clicked the “no longer refill at local CVS” button….Oh, well. No big deal. I called Caremark and spoke to a nice lady. She promised to fix things.

One peaceful month passed, and then, you guessed it. CVS called Mom again. She got confused but figured they knew what they were doing. So she got refilled AGAIN.

This time I called both CVS and Caremark. The local store promised to take care of it and change the status in their computer.

But Caremark, the same place I had called four weeks earlier, told me that they couldn’t speak to me about my Mom.

“But you did speak to me a month ago.”

“Well, we can’t speak to you now. You need to prove that you have power of attorney.”

“Uh…Will her medicine be refilled when it’s due?”

“I can’t tell you that.”

Grrrrrrr.

Fast forward about 4 weeks. My older brother has sent proof that he has power of attorney. I have walked into our local CVS to explain the situation. I’ve been reassured that they won’t try to refill her meds at the store any more.

Time for the Caremark three month order.

Which did. not. come.

Double grrrrrrrrr.

Log back into Caremark, click more boxes, check more checks, remove Mom’s phone number and replace it with mine. Fill out the “Automatic Refill” form. Again. Put my name on as “medication manager”.

Feel satisfied.

Until Mom calls to tell me that……CVS CALLED HER AGAIN TO REFILL THE MEDS!!!!

This has been going on for months. Months, I tell you!!!!

I have called the local store 3 times, been in there twice, called the 1-800 corporate number twice and gone to CVS online at least five times.

The last time I went into Mom’s local store, I begged the pharmacy lady, “Please, please, forget you ever knew Mom! Pretend she died! Can you mark her record as deceased??”

They were horrified, but I was getting desperate.

I swear, I don’t know what to do!

Two weeks ago I had to get on line again because one of the Caremark medications, one that is marked “automatic refill”, failed to refill.

SCREECH!!!!

Got that sorted out without resorting to any felonies.

And three days later I got a text from CVS. The store. The one that is supposed to  think that Mom has crossed that rainbow bridge. The exact same frickin’ text that I have been getting every thirty days for eons.

“If you want to refill your prescription for C, text YES. If not, text NO.”

I kinda lost it.

I texted back, but it wasn’t NO. It was something more along the lines of “What the FUCK is wrong with you people???”

Answered with: “Invalid response.”

This went on for a while.

“Go to hell!”

“Invalid response.”

“Stop bothering me!”

“Invalid response.”

“Never darken my door again!”

“Invalid response.”

“I fuckin’ hay chew.”

“Invalid response.”

Finally I started to feel a little silly. Also a little vindicated. So I texted NO and figured we were set.

Nope.

Mom called me yesterday, feeling confused and embarrassed. It seems that CVS, or the tiny brains that run the place, must have decided that I was too insane to deal with. So they apparently dug out the old phone number that I had spent a year getting them to delete. They called my poor Mom, who tried to tell them that she didn’t need any refills because her kids are taking care of it.

I can’t even imagine how that conversation went.

Because not only did CVS decide to refill the meds, they also decided that Mom needed a welfare check. So the poor lady got an unexpected visit from a local police officer.

Yeah.

I will not report on the conversation I had with CVS after that. I just hope this time they believe that Mom is “in a better place” and they don’t try texting Heaven to see if she needs more blood pressure medicine.

CVS.  I seriously hay chew.

golden_rx_pharmacy_symbol_mortar_pestle

 

 

Food, Glorious Food


I am not generally a fan of food trends. I don’t follow the latest crazes (acai berry, anyone?) My Dad always taught us, “All things in moderation, including moderation.”

I eat meat, dairy, wheat, veggies, fruits, cookies and just about everything in between. I am, in a word, an omnivore.

But I am also the friend of some very intelligent, highly informed, super healthy women. When they talk about nutrition, they know of what they speak.

The upshot of these friendships is that I am now living a gluten free life.

The thing is. I don’t have a particular difficulty with wheat. My digestive system is generally pretty reliable, as long as I go easy on the brussel sprouts and black beans.

But I do have fibromyalgia, and I complain a lot. So on one of our women’s getaways we were talking about all of the potential effects of gluten. Most of the women in the room had researched gluten intolerance. In fact, 6 out of the 8 of my pals were not eating gluten anymore.

“You should try the gluten free diet, ” said my brilliant actually-a-real-live-nurse friend Karen. “It might make a big difference with your inflammatory issues.”

“I lost a lot of weight once I stopped eating wheat,” added our equally brilliant (and very tiny) friend Cindy.

So. What could I do?

I came home from our weekend and decided to try it out. How hard could it be to stop eating wheat?

HA.

First of all, I’m Italian. Pasta is my middle name.

Second of all, I am a food snob. I refuse to eat things that are processed and preserved and all that. No fake gluten free pizza dough for this woman!

So I stopped my morning toast, my noon time sandwich, my crackers for snack and my pasta for dinner. I happily ate my meat and more fruits and veggies than usual. I was careful to add in gluten free carbs, like quinoa and rice.

Healthiness, here I come!

Within two days I was shaking. My palms were sweaty. I felt weak. And that reliable digestive system? Holy rumbling grumbles. I wanted a bagel. I wanted ravioli. I wanted toast.

I wanted salt.

By day four, I found myself salivating at the thought of potato chips. I bought a bag of “Skinny Pop” and ate it. I was craving fries. Pretzels. I kept adding salt to my pots of quinoa.

By day six, I noticed that I was tasting things more sharply. Adding a little cumin to my chicken marinade made me feel like Giada DeLaurentiis (without the perky boobs.) A bit of turmeric on my saffron rice? Magnificent!

And by day 7, I had lost three pounds.

What the hell.

I wanted my bagels back, but….three pounds in a week?

As week two got underway, I noticed that I was still shaky, still feeling weak and still craving salt. And the digestion issues were not getting better. Ugh. I would have quit right then, but….three pounds.

So I reached out to my wise women of the village. My super healthy, super aware friend Maureen said, “Your body needs time to adjust. Stay with it.”

I did.

It’s now week three.

I have lost another two pounds. I have mastered the fine points of preparing both quinoa and polenta, neither of which I thought I’d ever achieve. I feel fine. The rumbles and grumbles from my slightly smaller belly have subsided.

But my fibromyalgia and the aches and pains that go with it are unchanged. My energy level is unchanged. Stuff still hurts.

So now what do I do?

Well, I certainly have given all of this some thought.

While I don’t believe that gluten or wheat are hurting me, I sure do wonder how much salt I am taking in with my store bought bread items. I definitely know that bread fills me in a way that other foods don’t, which is why I think I am losing a bit of weight.

Here is my plan.

I am going to limit my wheat consumption to a few times a week. And I’m going to go back to baking my own bread. I even have a yeast free sourdough starter going. I’ll skip the crackers with my cheese and will eat carrots instead. Or olives. Or fennel!

I’ll enjoy my newfound quinoa and polenta skills. Maybe I’ll even master lentil salad. Who knows?

I feel happy to have tried this food adventure. I can tell myself that I did what I could to control the fibromyalgia aches. I have learned that commercial breads, muffins, bagels are loaded with salt and sugar.

At last, at last, I can whip up a batch of quinoa or a big pot of polenta and cheese with basil.

So even though we are heading into the hot part of the year, I’m going to renew my efforts to make my own pasta (which has a really unpredictable success rate), my own bread and my own (yes, I mean it) bagels.

And I’m going to NOT give in to my potato chip cravings.

Instead I’ll eat an entire jar of pickles.

Thanks, wise women of my village! I love youse!