Donuts and Martinis


I know what I want my future to look like.

I’m 63 years old. My kids are all adults and the grandkids have started to arrive.

Life is mostly fun and interesting and pretty enjoyable. Most of my body parts work the way they should and I can still take care of myself and my house. I don’t grow as many vegetables as I used to, but I can still weed a flower patch and grow a decent pot of herbs.

My life is on the downward slope of the proverbial hill, but I’m not yet rolling out of control.

So it’s all good.

Because I’m still healthy, happy and fully engaged with the world around me, I continue to work at staying healthy. I eat well, if too much. We live in a part of New England where we can easily buy local vegetables three seasons of the year. I love to can tomatoes and freeze batches of fresh veggies, so all year long we can eat fresh, local food.

We also eat fresh, local meats, eggs and chicken. No nasty chemicals in our meats.

I’m a good Italian cook. too. No preservatives or precooked foods on this lady’s table! No jars of sugar filled spaghetti sauce. No canned soup with all its sodium. Just fresh and home cooked food. Healthy as hell.

I exercise, too. Sort of.

I mean, I’m not sweating at the gym, but I have my garden, my dogs to walk, and my toddler grandkids who spend every weekday here with me. I run up and down the stairs dozens of times a day, chase tricycles, rake leaves while the kids jump in the piles, and cook and serve all day long.

You get it. I’m active.

I also take my medicine just as prescribed. One for blood pressure. One for fibromyalgia. A fish-oil pill for the old brain. Magnesium for the muscles. Papaya extract to increase my platelets.

In other words, as of this moment, I have every intention of staying healthy, staying active, squeezing all the good juice out of life.

I’m at an age where I think it makes sense to try to keep the old heart beating.

But.

My mother is 89 years old. She still lives in the house where she and Dad raised six kids. She’s still funny, stubborn, determined and stoic.

But she is smaller than the huge personality that she used to be. She has closed in. She is thinner, shorter, more stooped and bent. She is the tiny version of her old fiery self.

Mom is less opinionated than she used to be, which is both a blessing and a curse. Life with her is easier than it once was, but I miss my strong-willed warrior woman Momma.

Mom taught me to cook. She taught me how to choose the right spices, how to make the best meatballs, how to be patient while a good stew simmered. Now she lives on frozen foods or the meals that her children bring her.

She can’t really cook anymore.

And my Mom no longer drives. She used to ride her bike around our town, to work at the local school, to Curves, where she worked out and made friends. Now she doesn’t even drive a car. She doesn’t shop, unless one of us takes her for an abbreviated trip to a local store.

Her world is shrinking around her shrinking frame.

Even our house has changed. It was once the hub of our social lives, filled with happy toddlers, kids on bikes, teen aged musicians, neighbors and relatives at every holiday. It was full of noise, delicious smells, loud and laughing voices.

Now the house is neat and quiet. It feels outdated and quaint.

It feels lonely.

One old lady and her old gray cat now live in a house that used to hold a family of 8 and our various dogs and cats.

It makes me sad.

So I’ve made a plan for my future. I think it is a good one. I think it makes sense.

Here is my brilliant plan

From now until my 80th birthday, I have every intention of continuing to take care of myself. I will eat my healthy veggies and monitor my wine intake. I’ll garden, and I’ll walk my dogs. I’ll stretch and use my hot tub to stay limber. There will be no better medical patient than me. Every doctor’s order will be like one of the Ten Commandments.

But on the morning of my 80th day on earth, I will change things up and take my future into my own hands.

I will give up cauliflower and broccoli. No more fish oil pills for me. No walking briskly, no frozen veggies, no organic soaps.

No. Instead, I will have a breakfast of many fresh donuts and as much esspresso as I can swill. Lunch will be martinis and wicked fattening cheese. Maybe some good olives. And bread dipped in tons of olive oil.

I’ll snack on more donuts and finish the day with a pitcher of more martinis. Vodka martinis. Dirty, lemon, pomegranate, chocolate for dessert.

I will lie on my couch all day with donuts on the table, a bag of chips at my feet and a martini in one hand.

If all goes as planned, I will not have to slowly diminish and leave my house sad and lonely. I will not watch myself slowly shrinking and losing everything that has made me myself.

Instead, I will quickly succumb, leaving my children and grandchildren with a fabulous story to tell about me. And I’ll cross that famous rainbow bridge and find myself free of all pain and grief, and ready for the next step.

Good plan, right?

Who’s in?

Big Small


When my kids were little, they used to describe the weird feeling of having a fever as having “big/small”. They said that the world felt small, tucked tight around them. But their hands and feet felt big, as if they were filled with helium.

The strange part is that I knew what they meant. I got it.

Now that I am an old lady with sleep and pain issues, and am a happy user of cannabis at night, I REALLY know what they mean.

The room is small. The sounds are big.

So. I was thinking about all of this bizarre focusing in and out and size changing today. Because I was home on my own all day, and I read, watched and listened to WAY too much news.

My focus on my world was BIG. I was forced to confront a crashing stock market, a raging fire in our Amazonian “lungs of the world” and two new cases of deadly EEE in my state.

The big world is terrifying to me right now.

I am afraid of the ticks (lyme disease, babesiosis and anaplasmosis). I am afraid of mosquitoes (West Nile Virus, Triple E). I’m scared of getting a sunburn because my Dad died of melanoma.

But even more scary is the fact that the oceans are rising, the largest forest on earth is on fire, and the Russians are promising to create and deploy a new super weapon.

I can barely force myself to leave my house!

If I shop, I’m afraid of e-coli in my produce. I’m afraid that some pissed off guy with a gun will decide to shoot up my grocery store.

The big picture is freakin’ terrifying.

So I turned my focus inward. I made it smaller.

I rubbed my doggies’ bellies. I walked them through out quiet neighborhood. I chatted with my friend and her beautiful one year old daughter.

Looking at the bright blue eyes of that little beauty, I started to think that all was well. My focus was back on my immediate and beautiful world.

I looked at the flowers in my yard. At the crazy weeds jumping out of the fertile earth. I laughed at the ridiculous pumpkin plant that it now ten feet up in a tree.

It felt safe. I felt comforted.

But then I got home. And looked again at Twitter.

The big came back; the lies and insanity of our President hit me in the face.

I clicked off and scrolled through pictures of my grandchildren.

I thought about my own kids. About how deeply and purely I loved them when they were little, and how much I love them now.

Big focus: My retirement fund is melting before my eyes.

Small focus: My house is clean and calm and comfortable.

Big: The world can’t live through this much climate damage.

Small: My yard is blooming effortlessly, and the grass never went brown.

And so it went, my focus and my fear swinging wildly from the worst to the best of feelings.

The oaks are full of acorns. We may have a cold and snowy winter. But I have a freezer full of corn, beans, peas and carrots.

Social media is full of rage and hate. But my grandchildren, my dogs and the lovely little girl next door are full of unconditional love.

Phew.

I need to learn how to keep my focus on the little things, and keep the big things in my peripheral vision.

Staying Humble


Many years ago, when I was a tender girl of ten, I joined our elementary school orchestra. I had no idea what I was doing, but the idea of an “orchestra” was immensely alluring.

When it came time to choose an instrument, if I remember correctly, I wanted to choose the violin. I loved the idea of being able to create the gentle sounds I’d been hearing on my Mom’s “Nutcracker Suite” album. I wanted that violin.

But alas for me, there were too many girls who wanted to play the violin, so I was assigned to try the viola. It wasn’t what I wanted, but it was still a beautiful stringed instrument. I accepted it happily.

And it was love at first screech. During that year of joyful musical exploration, I discovered the glory of harmony. I discovered the power of playing music with friends. I experienced the amazing mind buzz of hitting the rare perfect note.

It was so much fun, and so inspiring, that even 53 years later I can still remember the smell of the resin on my bow. I can remember how cozy it felt to be on our school’s small stage when the curtains were drawn every Thursday. That was when the strings would practice together while the rest of the grade was at recess. I loved those lessons!

I still remember that my viola was number 82, and that the case was lined with purple velvet. I used to rub my thumb along the velvet. So rich! So elegant!

I loved every minute of rehearsal, of practice, or screaking away on my instrument in my bedroom. I loved the full orchestra rehearsals on Friday mornings. I loved our concerts.

I loved it all.

Unfortunately, I had to give up my viola lessons at the end of that year. My parents couldn’t afford to pay for two kids’ music lessons, and it was my sister’s turn to take up the viola. I gave up my beloved number 82 with many tears.

(I still haven’t forgiven my sister, just for the record. Every few months, I call her up and moan piteously.)

Anyway, the years went by. I grew up. I still managed to sing harmony a lot, and I even tried a very brief stint of playing the guitar. But in the back of my mind, all this time, the idea of returning to the viola as been lurking.

So. Recently a good friend of ours took up the saxophone. He’s our age, and not much more musical than I am, but he threw himself into learning his instrument with joy and abandon. He was my inspiration.

I decided to take up the strings and the bow once again.

My younger brother (aka, the musical genius) had a spare violin hanging around his house. I learned that a novice like me should start with the violin and then move on to viola if all went well. I happily took Dave’s violin.

I signed up for lessons.

I rubbed the resin on my bow.

I made hideous zombie noises on my lovely little violin, but I was thrilled. It was all so familiar! So wonderful! I remembered the movements, the feel of the strings, the shiny glorious wood of the instrument!

Huzzah!!!!

Luckily for me, there’s a fabulous local teacher who was undaunted by the specter of an old lady rookie. I went to my first few lessons, learned my scales, practiced my basic fingering.

It has been so much fun!

My teacher, Susan, is endlessly upbeat and joyful. Her smile is the most encouraging thing I’ve ever seen. Even when I continually run my bow across two strings at once, she smiles. When her chickens run out of the yard at the sound, she still smiles, and encourages, and makes tiny adjustments to my wrist.

With Susan I feel like a musician.

So you can imagine how exciting it was for me to arrive at her house yesterday, ten minutes before my lesson time. I took out my instrument, tuned it with my phone app, and resined up my bow.

From the lesson room, I heard the sound of the same familiar song I’d been working on for two weeks.

Not Tchaikovsky, but still, it was a song.

It was someone working on two of the five variations of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” that are the first lesson in our Suzuki violin book.

That someone was doing OK. A little slow on the fingering, but not bad. The student did hit a few extra strings, (maybe more than I do) but it was still cool to hear it.

“Ah, another novice,” I thought.

As the other student played, I quietly played along on my own. I heard Susan’s voice, as joyful as always. I smiled to myself. “Self,” I told me, “You actually play a little bit more smoothly than this person.” I had an image of another woman, younger than me, but struggling to get the combination of finger placement, bowing and rhythm all correct.

“You’ll get it eventually,” I thought to myself as I smugly packed my instrument back in its case.

I heard the door to the lesson room open, and two women’s voices chatting happily. I made out the word, “Good job!” and “Thank you!”

I stood up, ready to head into my own lesson.

And a teeny, energetic little 6 year old boy came careening around the corner, his mother trailing behind.

“Hi!!!!” he called to me. “I just played my WHOLE SONG!!!”

Susan was still cheerful and smiling when she found me standing with my mouth wide open.

(“violin” by Stiller Beobachter is licensed under CC BY 2.0 )

Yes. Pumpkins CAN Climb Trees


I am a very relaxed gardener. I am very trusting. I believe that nature is uniquely designed to take care of the seeds that we put into the ground.

I mean, seriously. Who am I to challenge the superior wisdom of Mother Nature when it comes to planting a garden?

The result of my calm and serene approach to gardening is the appearance of a very free spirited yard.

For example, my daylilies are mixed up nicely with my goose necked loosestrife, and both of them share space with the tall phlox that I never even dreamed of planting but which arrived via bird poop. There are the mallow plants that came on their own and the coneflowers that I actually placed in the flowerbed.

See?

Loosestrife. Nice.
Phlox (volunteers) and Sundrops (planted, but only two of them!)

It’s all pretty and it smells great and it comes back every year! And…..Mother Nature is pretty much responsible for all of it.

See how relaxed and trusting I am? “Go, Mother Nature! You rock!” I quietly chant under my breath as I sit on the deck with a nice ginger libation.

I trust her.

I sometimes drop a seed or two, or pull out a few weeds. But mostly my yard is in her capable hands.

My pumpkin garden is the most perfect example of what a nice laid back gardener I am.

We have a small fenced off garden area that has gradually become too shady to grow most summer veggies. It’s OK for peas and garlic and a few onions, but not much else. This year, because my grandkids really love pumpkins, I put in a few hills of pumpkin plants.

And now, 8 weeks later, I have a few hills of wimpy, droopy pumpkin plants.

But.

After I planted my few hills, I decided to toss the rest of the seeds out into the woods that encircle my yard. There is one small spot, about 3 ft by 3 ft, where I composted for 25 years. I tossed a few of the seeds out there, too.

The days went by. I forgot about the back woods pumpkins, but was careful to weed and water my “garden” pumpkins.

You can guess what’s coming next, can’t you?

Yep, you got it.

My planted, fenced garden is doing…..ok….ish. There are a few slender vines and some of them hold a couple of limp blossoms. I haven’t seen a future pumpkin yet.

BUT: my compost pumpkins are OUT OF CONTROL! There are huge vines taking over the entire area. There are dozens of blossoms on every vine. There are little newborn pumpkins forming on at least half of those vines.

All without one single bit of effort or attention from this mere human gardener.

Yes. This giant pumpkin vine IS climbing a cherry tree.

So. I am now the proud farming Momma of three giant, tree climbing pumpkin plants.

Whoo hoo!

Whoo hoo???

I’m not convinced that my laissez faire 8 feet in the air pumpkins will live long enough to ripen.

But I don’t want to waste all of this fecundity, do I?

Of course not.

Luckily, I grew up in an Italian family. I know how delicious zucchini blossoms can be. I figured that pumpkin blossoms couldn’t be too far off.

So here I am. Making giant-free-natural-tree-climbing-pumpkin flower fritters.

Looking healthy and fresh, right?

I went out there this morning, into the wilderness of my backyard, and made my way to the compost garden. After pulling aside the humongous crab grass, the maple saplings, the Joe-Pye weed, the Queen Ann’s Lace and the nettles, I grabbed about half of the open blossoms that were spreading across the area.

I brought them inside and cleaned them out a bit. Pulled out the flies, and the stamens. Opened each one into a flat plane. Then I dipped each piece into egg and milk, and tossed them into salted flour. I browned them in olive oil, and added a little more salt.

Holy Yummo.

I ate them all, one by crispy one, with an ice cold glass of white wine.

We might not get any jack-o-lanterns out of this particular airborne patch of pumpkins, but that’s OK.

I had a plate of crisp, salty pumpkin flower fritters.

I trusted Mother Nature and she came through.

And who knows?

Elle and Johnny might just find themselves the very first owners of the original air pumpkin.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?


Aw for crap’s sake.

As if we didn’t have enough to worry about these days! Between the killer heat waves, the rising oceans and the increase in mega storms, it’s already obvious that Mother Earth is trying to kill us before we kill her.

There are weird new super germs appearing everywhere, and the drugs we have aren’t working.

Did you know you can get flesh-eating disease from swimming in warm ocean water? And ALL the ocean water is warm now!

(Who the hell thought up the name “flesh-eating disease” anyway? Sicko.)

And even if you decide to risk having your flesh chewed off my bacteria and you jump into that warm ocean, you’ll probably be eaten by a great white shark.

I tell ya. It just isn’t safe out there.

The food supply isn’t safe. Our household cleaners are giving us cancer.

Don’t even get me started on what happens if you drink water that got left in a plastic bottle in your car!!

So as if all that isn’t enough to send you to the therapist with a bottle of Xanax in one hand and a pot brownie in the other….There is a scientist in Tennessee who is trying find a portal into a mirror universe.

Yes, I am serious.

A. Portal. Into. A. Parallel. Universe.

What in the world is wrong with people? Shouldn’t scientists be busy trying to cool off the earth, or stop the bacteria from eating our flesh?

We don’t need another universe, thank you very much. We’re having enough trouble with the one we’re in now.

So I’m reaching out to all of you. Please send a letter to your local elected officials. Tell them that unless the new mirror universe is cool, safe and has a non-insane President, we don’t want any part of it.

Thanks.

I think I’ll go bake some brownies.

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.

First Day of Summer


Well, happy Solstice, everyone! Yay! It’s finally summer, for real!

The days get shorter from here.

Sigh.

I guess you can see how ambivalent I am about the end of the school year. Now that I’m no longer a classroom teacher, the end of the year is less about having time off and more about feeling at loose ends.

My daughter has the summer off, which means I won’t have my grandkids here for a few weeks.

I mean, I am very, very happy to have some time to rest and recuperate. I love watching my grandkids every day. I really, really do!! Toddlers are magical!

Exhaustingly magical.

So I obviously need some time to catch up on sleep. I need time to organize all these art supplies, old toys, and dried out play doh. I want to garden and read and maybe finally submit some writing somewhere. Summer is a good thing!

On the other hand, it’s amazing how dull it can be when the only one to talk to around here is me. I’m somewhat less riveting than I thought.

So day one is coming to a close. I’ve watched the news, read a lot, argued and snarked at people on social media and done four loads of wash.

Yay, me.

Now what?

I need to figure out how to fill my hours without the kids here to say, “Nonni, watch!” and “Nonni, guess what?” I need to feel useful without serving food every hour on the hour to hungry kids.

At least I have the dogs for company.

But you know what?

Both Lennie and Bentley spent this entire first day of summer wandering from room to room looking for the kids. They both spent a ton of time sitting in front of me with their big, sad, hound-doggy eyes.

We took a walk. They liked that!

But then we came home and they both went from bedroom to bedroom to kitchen to the deck. They both sighed. They both turned in circles. They gazed out the window. They chewed on their nylabones, but you could tell their hearts weren’t in it.

It’s going to be a long summer, pups. No kids until September, at least not on a regular basis. No games. No laughing. No sweet snuggly little girls to wrap an arm around your furry necks. No giggly little boy for you to chase down the hall.

Most importantly, no dropped cheese for many long weeks.

What are we gonna do?

You mean….nobody will be dropping string cheese?
I kinda need a hug.

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.

Take That, Bitch!!!!


Oh, dear. Oh, dear dear me.

Nonni is taking her prednisone.

This means that Nonni has lots and LOTS of energy. It means that Nonni has so many fun and amusing plans! Plans for how to repaint the house, inside and out, while writing a novel and baking organic cookies!!!! Yay, Nonni! Yay, Prednisone!

It also mean, alas, that Nonni is just a teensy weensy bit cranky. And that Nonni is ready to use that all that energy to utterly destroy anyone who gets in her way.

ANYONE.

Yesterday is a good example of poor Nonni’s conflicted relationship with Prednisone.

You see, Nonni and Papa went out to hear some great music from one of our favorite bands on Friday night. As always, Upstate was amazing and exciting and fun and uplifting. We had a fabulous time.

But we got home late. And Nonni was feeling those fun Prednisone energy jolts. Until about 4 AM. At that point, she fell asleep.

So. Saturday morning found this old woman on three hours of sleep, with way too much energy but no strength. I was crabby (if “murderous” and “crabby” are synonyms.) I paced around for a bit. I did dishes. Cleaned the fridge. Paid the bills. Organized my pots and pans. Used a tiny bottle brush to scrub out the silicone straws that the kids use.

By noon I was climbing out of my skin.

So I headed into the yard.

And that is where Nonni discovered that she is not the only crabby old bitch to be on the loose.

We’ve lived in this house for close to thirty years. In that time, we have created a lovely garden area filled with flowers and bushes and blooming shrubs.

And when I say “we”, I mean ME. I mean this woman. All by myself. I ripped out grass and put in perennials and ripped out weeds and put in bushes. I have trimmed and pruned and raked and fertilized and transplanted. And it is gorgeous out there.

Yep. I planted this beauty 25 years ago. Yep, I prune her!

So when I headed outside yesterday, I noticed that the yard had begun to close in on us. Every year, it seems, the trees sneak a bit closer. The woods encroach. The wild comes just a bit closer.

And yesterday, for the first time in a decade at least, Nonni had Freakin’ HAD IT.

I took up my brand new rechargeable, super efficient trimmer. And I went to town.

Thirty minutes into my “pruning” efforts, the driveway was littered with the chopped off limbs of maples, oaks, hemlock, ash, beech and birch. There was suddenly sunlight again on parts of the yard that had become moss covered and shaded.

I looked up.

I LIKED this!

Nonni, in all of her angry, teeth gritting, pissed off over-energized-jittery glory had found a way to burn off some steam.

I made my way up and down my driveway, swinging my tool of revenge in front of me like a demon. “Take that!” I crowed, as I buzzed five oaks and three maple saplings from the edge of the drive. “You won’t take over my one means of escape, you foul beasts!!!!” I lopped them off at ground level.

I believe I chortled.

I kept the driveway space clear for my car.

I kept going. My heart was racing. Mosquitoes were lodging in my ears, nose and on the edges of my sweaty gray hair. Still, I could not be stopped. This was FUN.

And so empowering.

Mother Nature wants to put out ten knew pine trees in my GRASS? I don’t THINK SO!!!

Buzzz, Bzzzzz, bzzzzeeepeezeeep! Down, down! I vanquish thee!!

Fourteen baby oaks popping up off of one downed pine tree? Not on my watch, kids!!!!

Vrooom, vrooomy, vrooomotchka!!! Out you goes!!!

After three hours, my arms were shaking. I couldn’t see because of all the sweat, dirt, dead bugs and pine needles plastered to my face.

But I felt GREAT.

I knew it was time to head inside for a shower, a triple tick check and a martini. But I needed one more quiet moment of reflection.

Take that, Mother Nature!

Mother Nature, you’re not the only cranky old pissed off lady out here today. So you just back off, bitch. Nonni is here to save the yard.

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?