What Affects Your Life the Most?

I’ve noticed a strange phenomenon these past nine years living in Nova Scotia. The other day Dave and I were having our morning coffee and he was once again talking about the weather. Whether its going to be sunny, cold, rainy, stormy, windy, humid or overcast the discussion is always about the weather.

For example, I will say, “Let’s go for a walk.”

And he answers, “What’s the temperature?”

And so ensues a search through the Weather Channel to see whether or not we should go for a walk.

“Why not just look out the window?” I say.

Well, it’s more complicated than that. There are all these other nuances about sunglasses or not, long or short pants, hoodie or t shirt, whether its going to rain in the next forty minutes, and on it goes.

I remarked that when I lived in Quebec there were never such discussions.

However…

Life on the outskirts of Montreal had us listening to the traffic report and planning our outings around ‘l’heure du point’, also known as the rush hour. Everything we did had to take the traffic, road construction and road conditions into consideration. We didn’t worry about the weather because the roads would always be ploughed and clean.

Not so in the Maritimes. Sometimes you can wait a long time before the road workers are out after a snowstorm.

So I came to an interesting conclusion:

People who live in the Maritimes talk about the weather all the time because that’s what affects their life the most.

However, people who live in cities talk mostly about the traffic because that’s what affects their lives the most.

 

 

 

Where Are My Glasses?

How’s your eyesight? Are you still wishing for longer arms to read the nutrition information on that box of cereal? Or have you graduated to drug store reading glasses?

I have done the latter for many years now. I have a complete wardrobe of glasses in different colors and styles that go with just about every outfit imaginable. My friend Bob gets a kick out of seeing what I’m going to wear next- purple glasses to go with my purple t-shirt, pink to go with my pink dress, and on it goes. Glasses had become a fashion statement as well as a necessary appendage.

I have kept reading glasses in the car, by the phone, in the bathroom, on my night table, in my purse, on my desk and anywhere else in the house where I might need to use my eyes. And then there is a collection of glasses-in-waiting in my desk drawer, in different strengths for different uses. There is even a pair with built in lighting  which I sometimes use for knitting or threading a sewing needle.

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After playing around with reading glasses for the past 10+ years, I finally got tired of constantly showing up in photos with glasses on my head and the never ending putting them on and taking them off depending on my activity. Once I went to the grocery store to buy some tomato sauce and reached on top of my head for the glasses- Oh no!! They weren’t there. So I had to ask a clerk to come read the labels for me. A good thing she wasn’t busy-

A couple of weeks ago I went for an eye exam. Previous exams had the optometrist telling me that drug store glasses were fine, but this time I found out that not only did I need reading glasses but also something for distance. We went through choosing frames while she told me how progressive lenses work and also that it would take some time to get used to them. I chose a nice purple and black frame that suited my face and my passion (lavender).

The great day came when my glasses were ready and I went to get them. They felt good, looked good and I didn’t have to take them off until bedtime. Imagine, no more off and on all day long.

“Just put them on when you get up, and take them off at bedtime.”

That was yesterday.

This morning I was in the bathroom fixing my hair (while wearing my new glasses) when I noticed my reflection looked different.

Oh my God! Now I was seeing myself as others always see me for the first time and it wasn’t pretty. I thought I had, at 64, pretty good skin tone and not too much in the wrinkle department.

Big surprise for me. I was seeing my real face for the first time in many years. And so now I realize that I not only am 64; I also look 64. I had to be sure. I took off the glasses and saw my usual self. I put them back on and saw my real self.

Hello real self! Let’s be best friends.

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What’s the “Baptist Wall” in Your Life?

 

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A few years ago I was visiting an old beau in North Carolina. We were not far from Raleigh when I saw an ABC liquor store on the side of the road, all by itself. It was odd because the store was a one-storey structure, with a long wall protruding from its right side. There was room for two or three cars to park behind this wall and a door on the side so that people could park and enter the liquor store without being seen from the street. How strange, I thought, and how incredibly clandestine.

I asked my friend what on earth was the purpose of making a liquor store like that. He said, “Oh, that’s what people around here call a Baptist Wall”. He explained to me that there in the extreme Bible Belt of the United States, many religious denominations prohibited their citizens from indulging in alcohol. So these walls were built to prevent people on the street from seeing who was entering the liquor store. It showed the hypocrisy of a denomination whose members publicly opposed alcohol consumption but privately indulged.

hypocrite

I laughed at his explanation because this Canadian couldn’t imagine why anyone would need to be secretive about trips to the liquor store. But in the South, especially in North Carolina, the first state to enact Prohibition, it was a fact from the past. Imagine, I thought, people had to hide behind a wall to do something they wouldn’t dare in the open. And while we were talking, a woman in a nice looking car drove up behind the wall and entered the liquor store from the side. WOW!

Since that time I’ve asked many people if they had ever heard of a Baptist Wall, and to date, no one has. I’ve searched the internet but there is no sign of it there, except for on a forum someone was explaining what a Baptist wall is. Perhaps the ‘powers that be’ have removed all evidence of it online. Had I not seen it with my own eyes, I would never have believed it.

That got me to thinking about Baptist Walls and secrets. How sometimes we are one way in public and a completely different persona when at home where no one sees us. Have you ever heard someone say, “If you really knew me, you probably wouldn’t like me.”

Do you have a Baptist Wall in your life? What are you hiding from your friends and family? Sometimes we hide who we really are because we think people wouldn’t like us if they knew certain things about us. I’ve found the opposite to be true. When people have learned some things about me, it has opened conversation about problems in their own life. Sometimes letting yourself be vulnerable makes you more real to the people around you.

Why not just be yourself? After all, as the saying goes, ‘Everyone else is taken.’

 

 

She Used To Be Rich

Yesterday I was standing in line at my favourite thrift shop, waiting for it to open. Yes, this shop is so popular and the prices are so good that people line up to get in. See, the building can only hold 100 people at a time. It’s worth the wait because the merchandise has been hand picked for cleanliness and quality. It’s in a wealthy area so the donations are in great condition, brand names, and nothing short of spectacular.

Actually, standing in line is a social culture of sorts. There is an air of excitement of what treasures will be found when the doors open, and everyone chats about where they’re from, what they have found in the past and what they hope to find this time.

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Can you see Dave standing in line? Black circle!

Dave and I were about 40th in line when a stylish, black, older woman cut the line a few people ahead of us. She was beautiful, greying hair smoothly styled to her shoulders, with a complimentary grey shawl draped over her red jacket, and the biggest smile imaginable. You couldn’t imagine why she would be standing in line at a thrift shop. She was just joining her friends who had held her place while she parked the car. But then one of them said to no one in particular, “We don’t know her.” And we all started laughing.

As the woman took her place, with a gracious smile she said, “I used to be rich.”

Looking at her with a different eye, the shoes, the clothes, the gracious air, made me think that yes, she probably was rich, once.

As I often do, I started to imagine what her story might have been. Divorce? Death of a spouse? Job loss? No one says, “I was rich once” unless there’s a whole story behind those words.

I wonder…

The Deadly Stress

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There’s never a dull moment, never a down time in my life, it seems. We have been in Hilton Head, SC for about five weeks now, and as it often happens, my health takes a nosedive as soon as I stop to rest.

After a month of December with stressful events at my church I was left quite drained and unmotivated, depressed actually. I did manage to get my mojo going again a couple of days before all the family arrived for Christmas celebrations, and then I sped into high gear.

I don’t know why I still think I have to be supermom, the Christmas fairy and Martha Stewart all rolled into one, but that’s what I attempt when my grown children come home for Christmas. The food traditions, the stocking traditions, the drawing on the revered tablecloth, I did it all and barely lived to tell the tale. This, coupled with four 2 ½ hour round  trips back and forth from the airport in some intense weather, all on the heels of December’s earlier events became more than I could handle. I mean, I handled it on the outside and thought I was doing pretty well. But inside I was not handling it. Don’t get me wrong- I loved every moment with my family. I think I just need to tone things down a bit and be easier on myself.

I am 64, not 44 or 34, but I keep thinking I can do everything I always did. Was I in for a rude awakening!

We took the last bunch to the airport on December 29th and then rushed home to shut down the house, pack the suitcases and car, clean out the fridge, clean the bathrooms, change beds and in general, get ready to drive three days to Hilton Head Island for three months. At 5AM on December 30 we left, in sub zero temperatures.

Once we arrived and settled in to the condo that has become our second home, bought the first grocery order and let everyone know we had arrived safely, the two of us collapsed. And about a week later I got sick.

What do you know; I had these suspiciously familiar symptoms with accompanying rash that a trip to the doctor confirmed as shingles…again. I had shingles three years ago as a result of intense stress in my life, and I swore that it would never happen again.

Well it did.

Compounding the distress was another rash all over my body that was not shingles. Two trips to the doctor never did give me an explanation of what it was. Probably more evidence of my body just telling me to rest and stop taking on things that I’m not able to handle any more, and to stop taking myself so seriously. A series of Prednisone and cortisone cream helped to finally get things under control after several days.

This latest illness is a warning but also a signpost for me to take stock of my life and what’s left of it.

So when people ask me if Dave and I are enjoying our ‘vacation’ in South Carolina, I have to qualify that it is not a ‘vacation’. We are living in SC for three months. And then I have to say that I have been sick once again, kicking myself in the a$$ once again for letting it happen. I am finally learning that I have to pull back and say ‘no’ to things that drag me down, stress me and make me sick.

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No BLTs until Christmas

Thirteen days ago I started my Christmas baking.

Thirteen days ago I made the revered Biscuits aux Cerises de ma Tante, an annual Christmas tradition in my house. They are sweet, delectable and irresistible. With all my boys and their significant others coming home for Christmas, how could I not make their favorite treat?

One batch makes a complete cookie sheet full. When they came out of the oven the aroma was intoxicating: buttery shortbread base and cherries with cornflakes and a carmelicious topping.

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Oh my!

I usually cut them up into squares to be put away for when the family arrives on Christmas Day, and that’s what I started to do thirteen days ago.

Betcha can’t eat just one!

Right.

Before I knew what had happened, a whole row of cherry squares had disappeared! Just gone into thin air.

I thought of an old rhyme from my youth:

“Over the lips, through the gums,

look out tummy, here it comes!”

Yes, I ate a whole row. A whole row in a cookie sheet makes about ten squares. Yep that was what I ate. The first couple went down pretty good, but after that I was eating cherry squares by rote, automated, in a daze.

A little while later I felt so toxic and uncomfortable you can’t imagine. My tummy hurt, my head hurt; heck, even my feelings hurt.

I did it to myself.

The other eight rows of squares went into the freezer and I wondered how I would cope with the rest of the Christmas baking. Doing the calculation, I figured that after I made the shortbreads, soda cracker candy, Swiss cookies and chocolate chip cookies, I was in line for the most major sugar rush and weight gain imaginable if I continued to eat out of control like that.

I had to do something.

Thirteen days ago I decided to have no more sugar until Christmas.

And I haven’t had any.

Since the ‘cherry square day’ I have been to three pot lucks, an open house, two other gatherings of friends and two family dinners. Not only that, all my baking is done.

I did not have so much as one BLT (Bite, Lick or Taste) of sugar in all that time and I am so proud of myself.

Not only that, my digestion has been perfect.

Not only that, I feel focused and determined.

In addition, I have a little more energy.

And I’m finding my mood is more stable. That’s a lot of benefits from abstaining from sugar for 13 days, don’t you think?

But that’s not all. I have actually lost a couple of pounds at a time of year when most folk, myself included, usually gain seven pounds. I had to white knuckle it the first couple of days but after that it got easier. It became like a game to me.

In one more day it will be Christmas and you can rest assured I will have some dessert and a couple of sweets, but after that I think I will continue my sugar fast until Valentine’s Day.

Would you like to join me?

 

V.O.M.I.T.

 

The other day I was sitting at the computer planning Christmas things while listening to some easy music on the radio. The sun was shining for the first time in ten days here in Nova Scotia and I was thinking that right now life’s pretty good. My children are all coming home for Christmas, we’re heading South for a couple of months and we’re both healthy. What more could a person ask for?

The incessant ringing of the phone interrupted my reverie. Who would be calling on the house phone at this time of day? Most of our callers use the cell phone number.

I checked the call display to make sure it was a legitimate call and not a telemarketer.

Oh! It was the IWK hospital in Halifax. There is only one reason anyone from the IWK would be calling our house. And my mind flashed back to a couple of years ago…

It was January 2015 when I ended up in hospital with Bell’s palsy. The doctors weren’t satisfied that it was just Bell’s palsy because of a few other symptoms I was presenting. I languished four days in hospital while waiting to have an MRI of my brain, with dye.

Pure joy.

Finally my big day arrived and I was wheeled to the X-ray department. Darn MRI machines give me claustrophobia so they dosed me with Ativan and put a cloth over my eyes. I wrote a blog in my mind while in that tube, with all its attendant noises.

Finally it was over.

The result was that I ‘just’ had Bell’s palsy BUT “We noticed a lesion on your brain.”

Saywhat?

I said, “Calling it a lesion is just a gentle way of saying tumor, right?”

And they affirmed that was correct. And now because we have seen this tumor/lesion, you will have to be followed by a neurosurgeon. So now, in addition to having a doctor, chiropractor, massage therapist, dentist, gynecologist and gastroenterologist, I will also have a neurosurgeon.

When I visited my neurosurgeon a couple of months later, he told me that there was indeed a lesion/tumor on my brain, but it was small and there was nothing to do about it, save to monitor it by MRI every year to make sure it was not growing. Then he showed me a picture of my brain! It looked something like this:

brain

He told me I could live my whole life and never have known about the tumor, unless, that is, if I started having wicked headaches and other nasty symptoms. It was only because of the MRI for my Bell’s palsy that they found it, and now that they know about it they have to monitor it. He said that in medical circles I was what they called VOMIT

Hello?

                               Victim Of Medical Imaging Technology

                                                       V.O.M.I.T.               

To date I have had two MRIs and each time I wait anxiously for the results. So when I saw IWK on the call display I knew what was coming.

Bravely picking up the phone I said, “Hello”

It was Dr Walling, my neurosurgeon. After exchanging the requisite pleasantries about impending Christmas and the weather while my heart pounded louder and louder, he said, “There has been no change!”

Breathe.

Done for another year with my V.O.M.I.T.

Yay!