The blues and browns of January

Today’s forecast promised us it would be overcast all day. We hadn’t planned an outdoor walk, but we started our day at the “box stores” as my spouse likes to call them, which isn’t far from this place, the Baker Wetlands. I mentioned we hadn’t been there for awhile, and I was missing it. We decided to head there this morning, even though we did not have all of our warm clothing with us. Here’s our view from the parking lot; the sun is letting us know it’s not completely overcast today!
I am finding I enjoy the browns and blues of winter. The muted landscape and sky has its own beauty.
The leftovers of the growing season. Beautiful in their dormant season as well.
The sun, still illuminating our way.
When we returned home, the sun persisted in shining through the blue-gray sky. Our winter tree branches appear to reach for the touch of sunlight, just as I do.
Also at home, we winter our outdoor plants in the porch. My spouse didn’t expect this basil to hang in there as long as it has. We are treated with splashes of green, and even some blossoms. A contrast to our blues and browns.

Dear Dr. Dentist and Staff

I realized I have not communicated well with you about my issues with coming to your office. One reason is that I when am at the dentist’s office, I am using all of my coping skills to show up! I may not be calm enough to talk to you. Here’s the points I want to share with you, while I am at home and able to articulate them:

My health records include that I have PTSD. I haven’t been articulate about how the diagnosis of PTSD impacts my dental care. Upon reflection, I am realizing you haven’t asked me that either. You might want to consider asking that next question. My PTSD is a result of childhood sexual abuse for most of my childhood. Before I had therapy for PTSD, any stressful situation I encountered meant that I experienced it as trauma. One such moment as a kid was when I was at the dentist’s office for my first filling. The dentist had difficulty numbing the area. How did we know? Because I could feel the drilling! It took six numbing shots before it was effective. And this was before they used topical numbing for the shot. The end result is that getting a filling at the dentist’s office became it’s own place of trauma.

A dentist’s visit requires that I hold still and have needed, but unpleasant procedures performed on me. Or, done to me. It’s easy to feel “done to” which can take me to the victim mode. An aspect of recovery from trauma is to stay empowered, not default to victimization. While the adult me understands these procedures are for my health and well-being, I tend to default to my childhood trauma response of fight, flee or freeze. I have responded with all three modes. The “fight” part is me questioning the need for the next procedure you tell me I need. Really? I need a crown? I haven’t noticed anything wrong. Two crowns? You have got to be kidding! After you show me the X-Ray with the hairline fracture on tooth, I see the evidence/need. But I’m not ready, and I say is that the procedure is expensive and I will need to put the finances together. That’s true, but the other dynamic is that I will need to mentally and emotionally prepare myself to show up for this. The flight/flee mode is when you don’t see me as I don’t make, or cancel appointments. When I was in my twenties and just starting my trauma healing, I didn’t go to the dentist for ten years. It took a wisdom tooth breaking and crumbling in my mouth to get me to a dentist’s office.

The freeze mode is what I do in your dental chair. I don’t move. You compliment me on doing a “good job” and holding still. Which feels like you are congratulating me for being in an active trauma-response moment. I feel defeated, done to, not encouraged. I have come to dread being told I’m doing a good job holding still. I have commented that I can’t imagine NOT holding still, and you all tell me there are adults who squirm. I have empathy for those adults.

Showing up to your office takes all of my coping skills. These are some of the techniques I use: I tell a friend or spouse that I have committed to this appointment. I use self-talk about the necessity of the procedure, for my dental health. I don’t work with strangers; I have used the same dental hygienist and dentist for twenty years. (My dental hygienist recently retired. While I am a proponent of retirement, I realize I will need to build a trusting relationship with another hygienist.) I make sure to prepare for a procedure by meditating, preparing my music on my phone and grabbing my ear buds. While in the dental chair I use the relaxation breathing I learned in Lamaze class several decades ago. I have appreciated the use of nitrous oxide while having these crown procedures. The effects seem temporary and do not trigger a craving for mood altering substances. I have learned to ask for that warm blanket one dental tech offered me one time. Wrapped in warmth feels so safe and calming.

In addition, I include alcoholism/addiction on my medical history. When you ask how long I have been sober, you all are relieved when I say forty years, that it isn’t a current problem. No, I haven’t recently been drinking and you don’t have to work with dental neglect, easily bleeding gums, lowered immunities and other impacts of alcoholic behavior. However, I believe I am one drink away from active alcoholism, that I am granted a reprieve based on my daily maintenance of my condition. My addiction information is relevant today as mood altering drugs have the same impact as alcohol in my system, meaning it can re-activate a dormant craving. We need to decide as a team if my dental treatment includes mood-altering medication while in the office, and how to manage it if it is imperative to send me home with mood altering drugs. So far I haven’t had a dental procedure that needs more than OTC pain medications when I go home.

What I want to convey is it no small feat that I show up for dental procedures. You work on my mouth, but I am a package deal. My emotional part has to be stable enough to bring my mouth to your office. I am getting that done. I don’t need accolades, but I appreciate kindness and understanding on your part. I am currently preparing myself for needing two more crowns. I’ll get there!

Sincerely,

Lorna Larson

December Skies in Kansas

Here’s our sunset sky on our street. I love the gentle pink hues of the early December sky.
I was taking the rural route to my daughter’s elementary music program, and decided to pull off the side of the road to capture this magnificence. I love getting out of town, away from buildings and trees to see the expanse of our prairie biome. I feel like I can take a deep, freeing breath.
When winter weather showed up, pictures happened through our living room window. Here’s a lovely sunrise to start the day.
And it got colder. Our morning sunrise is now framed with the lace of Mother Nature’s frosty art work.
The gentle blues of the morning might be my favorite picture to date.
Imagine my surprise when I found my husband took a snapshot of me taking a picture! I shouldn’t be too surprised; I have taken pictures of him taking pictures for years.

Oh, now I get it!

I have been this way all of my life. The best joke-killer is making the joke-teller explain the joke. It’s embarrassing. I am so slow at getting jokes that some people have given up joking with me. I seem like a smart, intelligent person, until someone starts throwing jokes my way. Especially when I’m not expecting a joke, and it’s delivered in dead pan. While others laugh, or groan, I’m doing a lot of scrambling in my head, trying to get the reason for their reactions, searching for a different meaning than my literal interpretation. I can get there, but man, can there be a delay! My husband has learned to give out some facial cues that he’s joking, otherwise we end up in an unexpected, unwelcome conversation when I have taken his joke as a factual, serious statement. I truly appreciate his accommodation.

I have not seen this part of me as a positive feature. Until this happened: I went to the post office to buy stamps. I wanted specialty stamps for fun, so chose to stand in line to buy them instead of buying them from the vending machine. The last book of stamps I bought was of different cups of coffee and I planned to buy those again. When I walked in I was relieved there were only two customers in line. I was guessing the two in front of me were together, as they were standing close together and talking, but I was wrong. They went to separate windows, the man engaging his postal clerk in quite the conversation: the increased price of the postcard he was purchasing, telling about the family who was the intended recipient of the postcard, etc. He was leaning on the counter and leaning into the conversation. His transaction was complete, but he continued to chat. I wasn’t in a hurry, and was in a good mood. I thought about people who live alone and that talking to clerks can be their human interaction for the day. And how that’s fine with me. He turned around, saw me standing in next in line, and said, “I hope this isn’t a hold up!” I smiled widely, to make my eyes smile since I was wearing a face mask. I cheerfully said, “I hope not!”

My new stamps!
Here’s my cool Title IX stamps. Here’s a link to an article about the history of US women’s rights, including Title IX.

I bought my stamps. Unfortunately they were out of the coffee stamps, so I chose some cool “Title IX” stamps. As I was walking away from the clerk, I finally got what the man was meaning! He was making a joke about me wearing a face mask to pull off a robbery! I just chuckled to myself. I realized I was the only one in the whole post office wearing one, so I was notable. I then remembered a Facebook friend posting a couple of years ago, of a person standing in line at a check out counter, making that same comment to her. When I read her post, I thought that happened to her because she lives in a rural area. And that would not happen in my town! But when it did happen in my town, to me, I was clueless! What a hoot! It’s the first time I have seen my dullness as an asset.

When I told my sister about this encounter, she said I wasn’t dull, or slow, but guileless. Since I wasn’t looking for an argument, I didn’t see it. I like how she perceives me! Maybe being slow to get the joke helps me stay guileless.

Here’s the deal. I didn’t need to say anything to him. He can express his opinion, it’s fine. (As long as he stays socially distanced!) My goal has been to avoid being defensive about my stance with face masks, or with anyone else’s stance on face masks. It was a goal, because I was defensive when this pandemic first started. I didn’t like it in me, as acceptance of others is my aim. Of everyone, no matter their beliefs.

Face mask mandates are gone, and I don’t foresee my state of Kansas, or the United States, venturing to mandate them again. I was okay with mandates, and am okay with no mandates now. I am also okay being in the minority of wearing them in public.

I didn’t get to test out my “I’m okay, you’re okay” stance about face masks at the post office, as that man was gone by the time I realized what he said! But I do have the experience of being able to chuckle about the encounter. And appreciating my duh-ness with jokes. That’s the best outcome, to accept myself. And him. Just as we are.

An Unusual Conversation

Yesterday morning my pharmacy texted me to inform me my prescriptions were ready. I called them back, as I wanted to make a change. The staff person answered the phone, wrote down my details and said she would need to call me back later as a car had driven through their store! I told her there was no urgency and to take their time!

Then I found this on social media!

We’re… temporarily closed. (No one was hurt!)

Another staff person texted me in the early evening, saying she didn’t understand the note taken during the “car incident”. She apologized for the confusion! I felt no apologies were necessary. I texted back “Oh, it is not a problem, you all had a pretty bizarre day!” I then clarified what I wanted.

This morning she texted, saying my prescription is ready. I thanked her and added I hoped they were all doing okay today. Her response: “We are doing alright. Appreciate all the support for our team from the community.”

Here’s some takeaways about all of this:

First, I choose to use a local, independent pharmacy. I feel they will approach my care in a more objective way, not based on perpetuating the goals of the big corporation. The two pharmacists would greet me by name when I walked into their store. I am not a “frequent flyer” but they knew me. I end up in social events with one pharmacist as our adult children are friends.

The pharmacist who was the owner sold out to a young pharmacist who had worked there while he was in pharmacy school. The change happened right at the beginning of the pandemic. The former owner continued working there part-time and the one I knew socially, retired.

They only delivered curbside during our initial lock-down. One time the new pharmacist came to my car window to hand off a prescription. I commented on his adorable Mickey Mouse pin and he launched into a story of how much he loves Disney Land. When I said I had never been, he said it was an absolute necessity to go there in my life time. Ever since then, I have adored him.

My husband and I noticed changes: they started advertising on Facebook, they started offering COVID testing, then vaccinations when they arrived. So our sleepy pharmacy turned into a hopping, lots of people coming and going pharmacy. Although we were happy for their thriving business, we missed our laid-back, sleepy store. And missed that we are not greeted by name when we walk in, as there are a bunch of new staff there.

Another change is they now use texts to communicate with us. I had never envisioned texting with my pharmacy, but it works! And it’s not canned, it’s obviously a person texting with me.

Another takeaway: My husband moved to Kansas to marry me. He had never lived in the Midwest, but has lived on both United States coasts extensively. After eleven years, he still marvels at the friendliness of people here. Having lived in the Midwest all of my life, I had no comparison. For me, any exchange with a service person has the potential to be more than perfunctory, and pleasant. For instance, last week I had a delightful conversation with the clerk at the post office, and with a medical tech taking a blood draw. I found out the post office clerk was going to go to a poorly-made movie on purpose, just for the fun of it. The medical tech used to faint around needles and now she’s headed to medical school this summer. How cool is that?

Since the pandemic, my husband is the grocery shopper in our home. He will return from his early morning shopping trip, telling me about his latest conversation with the same store clerk, who always shows up to bag his groceries. When he wasn’t there, my husband inquired after him.

About a month ago my husband learned about the bubble tea phenomenon and that we have four bubble tea stores in our town alone! We went to the one highly rated, which happens to be in the same strip mall as our pharmacy. We enjoyed it so much that we went back a week later. The young owner recognized us and reminded us to use our punch card. I know it’s good business on their part to remember their customers, but I don’t take that for granted. And again, he was friendly and engaging.

There’s things I don’t enjoy about living in Kansas. We have a vocal amount of ultra-conservatives in our state government asserting their copycat legislation of the larger conservative states. But I keep my political views out of casual conversations, and I always have delightful exchanges.

There’s genuine caring going on around here. I like it. My husband is going to go get my prescription today. We know he will have a lovely exchange with the pharmacy staff, and with the bubble tea owner if he stops there as well.

An Accidental Mindfulness Opportunity

It took me a month to realize I had been given this opportunity. At first, I was scared, thinking this meant I was actualizing what our culture purports, that age means being more vulnerable to falls. I soon came to realize that 1)I’m only sixty-five years old which is the young side of old, 2)nothing about me is frail, and 3) I had slipped on stairs when I was thirty-nine years old, which is not old!

What was similar in my falls was I was on slick steps, not wearing proper footwear, and most importantly, not focusing on what I was doing. In my mind I was already down the stairs, doing the next thing. In fact, I fell twice on the carpet-covered steps when I was thirty-nine years old! For the first fall, my friend was within reach and caught my infant propelled out of my arms when I slipped. The second fall only had a laundry basket to slide down the stairs. Both times I injured my tail bone. My antidote after the second slip was to always count the thirteen steps, so I would focus on walking up and down those challenging stairs. I find I still count steps with my grandchildren, whether or not they are learning one to one correspondence! It’s for me!

I no longer live with the thirteen-step carpeted stairs, and now have an enclosed porch of sorts, with three painted cement steps and a landing to reach the screen door and the yard. I had slipped on it eleven years ago and chucked the knock-off crocs that I deemed to be the culprit. And hadn’t fallen since. On February 9th, after this lovely day of a hike that I wrote about here: A Local Adventure in February, I slipped again. I realized I had tracked in some of our walk onto our kitchen rug. I immediately removed the offending shoes and picked up the rug to shake it off outside. When I slipped, stocking-footed, on the cement step, I took all of my fall on my right hand. I felt something happen in my right index finger, and the pain brought tears and whimpering. When I took stock, I could flex my finger without pain, so thought nothing was broken, just over-extended. I didn’t have any other injuries and was relieved I hadn’t injured my tail bone again. I considered going to the doctor, but dismissed it as unnecessary.

When I saw little progress in healing after three weeks, and the swelling and pain persisted, I decided to go to the doctor. She didn’t seem too concerned but showed me how to buddy-tape my index finger to my middle finger for relief. She sent me to the lab for an X-Ray anyway. She was as surprised as me when she called to say I indeed have a small fracture in the middle phalanx of my index finger. I don’t think she has had as much experience treating a one-month-old injury, because she hesitated on a course of treatment. She decided to not do a splint but to continue buddy-taping it when I was going to be active, like doing garden work.

But knowing I had a small fracture in my index finger helped, as I now had an explanation for the ongoing pain and a course of treatment. I needed to stabilize it, not exercise the pain away as it was not a stiff muscle or ligament. I was already favoring the finger, holding it out and using the other three fingers for lifting pans, and other implements. It turned out it hurt the most when I was doing kitchen things. And tying my shoes. And flossing. Okay, it often hurt. I am left-handed, so one would think a break on my right hand wasn’t as much of an issue. But not the case! I found I tend to stabilize something in my left hand and do the action, like opening a lid, with my right hand. To avoid pain, and perhaps further injury, I now get the opportunity to think through and plan actions I do automatically. I found I can now hold the jar with my right hand, and twist the lid with my unharmed left hand, albeit a bit awkwardly. When I was telling my husband about the various challenges he said I could ask him for help. I am not sure why that had not occurred to me. I now sometimes take him up on that offer.

It’s been interesting because this tiny fracture is not acute pain, but an undercurrent of pain, which in the end saps some of my energy. So, yes, sometimes when I am fatigued I ask my husband for help.

I thought I heard the doctor say I could buddy tape the fingers when I needed it. I was with my husband and a couple of friends a few days later, and told them of my surprise little fracture in my finger. I said I wasn’t buddy-taping it because it was uncomfortable and one friend observed that I was a bad patient. That comment startled me, because I tend to see myself as quite the rule-follower! He was right, though, and in discussing my non-compliance with my husband later, I told him I thought it was causing more pain when I buddy-taped my fingers. He suggested I put a spacer in between the fingers prior to taping them together. I remembered I had a toe spacer (for toes to dry after a pedicure), so I cut off one segment and put it in the top part of my finger, where the fracture is. It certainly doesn’t look tidy, and an orthopedic person might be aghast, but it has reduced the pain and increased comfort.

I am now taping them more often. I realized I need to buddy-tape my fingers when I am around my grandchildren, as I am more active and forget to be cautious. And one never knows when they will dive in for a hug!

It’s important for me to understand my injury is due to not paying attention, and to remain confident in continuing to be active. I have seen people be fearful and shrink away from the activity they were engaged in when they had an injury.

Although I would have rather I had been mindful five weeks ago, and not caused a fracture in my finger, I use it to help myself take one movement at a time, one step at a time. Thus the mindfulness, and being very conscious of what and how I am doing my daily tasks. The side effect of this is that life is more enjoyable if I am present for every moment, every seemingly mundane task in front of me. Indeed, the joy is in the now.

Post-script: It didn’t occur to me to read about buddy taping, but here’s a great article about it! “How to Buddy Tape Fingers and Toes”.

Whew! Humans are still needed!

Google photos offered a compilation of pictures I have taken of snow. Since it’s snowing today, I thought it was so appropos. I watched the video, only to discover that Google Photos included our trip to White Sands National Park last October! Really, Google, that’s pure white gypsum sand, not snow! I guess there’s still room for actual human input.

Enjoy “Snow Days”

A Local Adventure in February

Last year at this time, we were in a ten day arctic freeze. I live in Northeastern Kansas, and though cold weather is not unheard of here, that many days in a row of frigid temperatures is very unusual. It started easing up on my birthday (I think it was a high of 10 degrees that day) but I was tired of the extreme cold and resolved I did not want to be in Kansas for my birthday in 2022.

February 2021: when the arctic blast was easing up, we bundled up and headed to our local levee for a much-needed outdoor walk. This is a picture of the boat ramp to the Kansas (or Kaw) River. The blue sky and the white snow remains breathtaking for me.

Well, I am in Kansas for my birthday, and it’s mostly okay. We traveled to New Mexico last October and it was a wonderful trip. The delightful scenery is still staying with me and I don’t want to take on another trip right now after all.

This is a picture of me sliding down a sandy hill at White Sands National Park in Alamagordo, NM.

But part of being home in Kansas in the winter is that I get restless, and want to be outside. Fortunately, we are having mild weather now, which takes less outer-wear to spend time outside. This morning we ended up at Baker Wetland’s for our walk. Being a wetlands, it has several ponds, with marsh and other grasses surrounding the ponds. It’s located on the south end of the city, so one quickly sees countryside. It helps me feel like I have left town, which is pleasing.

Although I wasn’t fast enough to capture it in a picture, a coyote crossed our path today!

This morning we decided to walk on a path in the small wooded area that borders the Wakarusa River. We hadn’t ventured on this path before, and it was a welcome change from our routine walks. But the path may have been best suited for critters. After I took this picture, and continued forward, the path ran out. We decided to walk into the wooded area and find the actual trail which we knew was north of us.

I love the muted colors of winter: the different shades of brown, highlighted with the gentle blue winter sky.

After walking through scratchy underbrush, then in a gulley, which may actually be a creek in summer, we did indeed find the public trail, and happily scampered back on it. This is a picture of the now-shallow Wakarusa River, while walking on the trail and heading back to our car.

I remarked to my husband that I don’t need to take a long trip to have an enjoyable and adventurous time. We can have our local excursions and still get home in time for lunch!

I’m gonna bake my way outta this!

Locally, like a lot of the United States, we have had an enormous increase in people having COVID. We are now fully in the highly transmissible Omicron variant. When my grandson, then granddaughter, then daughter, then son-in-law, became sick two weeks ago, many COVID tests were done, and always tested negative. After two weeks of the grandchildren and my daughter still having upper respiratory struggles, they all saw their doctors again, and my daughter has pneumonia. The grandkids qualified for antibiotics for their upper respiratory infections.

I haven’t provided any childcare because we have learned when I take care of sick grandchildren, I get sick! And it takes me much longer to get well again. We figured out I could play outside with them when the January weather was mild and the kids had the energy to play. I wore a face mask, even outside, because my daughter advised it. When she ended up with pneumonia this week, it hit me that there are many illnesses out there that are also of concern. I had pnemonia at the same age she is now, working and parenting, and remembered how taxing it was. And how concerning pneumonia is, in and of itself! I was grateful the other grandmother volunteered to help with child care, and wanted to help too. But didn’t want to get sick.

I decided to bake healthy goodies for them. When the pandemic started and we went in lock-down mode, my daughter got the idea to set up a mailbox on their front porch railing, so the grandparents could deliver presents. (When I remarked to her that this was such a clever idea, she told me it was inspired from her own childhood! My parents bought a house that had a play house in the back yard, with a mail box. When their grandchildren came to visit, my parents would make “mail” for them. It was usually a piece of gum in an envelope with their names on it. The grandchildren loved it!) I made some mini-muffins, my husband and I both drew pictures, and delivered them to the mail box. The grandchildren were thrilled to check the mail box for deliveries. The youngest dubbed the mini-muffins “Granna Muffins” and the name has stayed. When Dunkin Donuts, came into their repertoire, the donuts won out. But when there’s no Dunkin’s, they still enjoy the Granna Muffins. We have also made them together for fun. (I have learned to pre-measure the nut butter, as it takes me a fair amount of time to wrangle one cup of it!) Or I make a batch and send most of them to their house, and keep some for our house. We still enjoy them too!

These are the Granna muffins. The only change to this recipe is to make them mini-muffins (with mini chocolate chips) instead of muffin sized. Another change: although I enjoy the flavor of almond butter, it is so pricey that I now use peanut butter instead. Here’s the recipe: http://detoxinista/paleodoublechocolatepumpkinmuffins

Since the other grandmother reluctantly gave up chocolate to prevent migraines, I sometimes make a treat for her that sans chocolate. With my husband’s input, I adapted a grain-free pumpkin bar recipe until it’s more like a pumpkin cake. Here’s that recipe: Grain-free Pumpkin Bars

During this sick time, my daughter’s bff had a baby. It’s been a hard reality for her to meet this exciting addition only through video chats. A meal train was set up for the new family, and my daughter reminded me to sign up. For almost being 65 years old, I don’t have a signature entree I like to make for others, so I freeze when meal trains show up. Fifteen years ago I changed to a gluten-free diet, so I quit making my standard casseroles, and don’t think the average person would enjoy my gluten-free meals. But the meal train also allowed for sending snacks. My husband suggested I send over the tried and true granola bars. I started making them for my sister-in-law and her family several years ago when she was ill. Her family loved them and I bought a cake pan to be the revolving granola bar pan for the family. I recently found out from my great-niece her family calls them “Aunt Lorna Granola Bars”. This great-niece is a teenager now, loves to cook, and is making them herself. Here’s my adapted recipe with the original linked in: PB and Honey Granola Bars

By last Friday, I did provide a few hours of care with the youngest, but I still wore a face mask. She’s three years old, has a cough and does not consistently cover her mouth. When her nose was running, I asked her if she could blow her nose into the tissue she was using, and she said “I don’t know how to do that.” Of course, she’s three years old!

She requested we make ice cream, and fortunately there were frozen bananas to use, so we made this recipe: PB Banana Ice Cream. When I left their house, she was snuggled into her other grandmother, watching Frozen for the third time that day. She lited her head up and said “Good-bye Granna. Thanks for the Granna muffins.” Heart melted. Mission completed.

Walking in Winter

I took this picture on our walk on the levee on December 31, 2021. It was a light-jacket kind of day. Not too windy, the winter-muted sun, and an easy, pleasant, 2 mile walk.

This is today, January 8, 2022. We had had a light snow a few days ago, and today is the first day the temperature was above freezing. This picture doesn’t reflect the light mist we were walking in. I had my umbrella, but the mist stayed misty and I didn’t need the umbrella after all.

I got sick Monday evening, so between the inclement weather and not feeling well, today was my first day out for a few days. I am finding the weather doesn’t have to be perfect, even close to perfect! We avoid icy conditions, dress for the cold, and get out there. It indeed, cures what ails ya!

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