It’s the little things…

Can you see me?

This year has been one where we have had to be introspective and appreciate the little things.  It’s a small silver lining given the tragedy of Covid-19 but perhaps it will give us new coping skills for the future.  Teddy and I used to go out to lunch at least once a week.  We knew all the wait staff and enjoyed the banter along with the food.  It was my only reason to get dressed up as I wore a uniform, of sorts, at work.  Like most of us I have cleared out the closets but the pretty dresses flutter sadly in the closet.  Recently I bought two new nightdresses because that’s what I wear most.  On the plus side, I found nightdresses with pockets – wow!

Teddy was pushed to his limit last week when Hurricane Laura blew through.  It missed the large centers of population but it tore down large parts of our electricity grid to our east.  The next day the power went out unexpectedly for about 8 hours.  That seems perfectly reasonable to me but it was 100 degrees outside and 84 degrees in the house.  Teddy had to stop work and paced the house like a tiger.  He tested the generator (it works), he hunted for batteries and torches (which are all in the hurricane box which Kerry packs each year) and generally drove me crazy.  After many hours, I shouted at him, gave him a beer and told him to sit his ass down.  To his horror I said, “Look at the flowers” which is a line from Walking Dead before one of the characters was dispatched.  I reassured him that it was a Freudian slip…  Then nature sent us a little precious moment to calm him down.  Two little squirrel siblings who had been running crazy along the fences and trees, suddenly stopped and started grooming each other.  They snuggled and licked each other and our hearts melted.

I’m coming down for the snacks. Muchas Gracias, Senora!!

Like everyone else, our vacation plans have disappeared.  We had planned something special for my 60th birthday/38th anniversary in July but instead I made Teddy his favorite meal.  He loves potato gratin – so simple but I rarely make it.  For dessert I made him something he had been hankering over for 30+ years.  Many years ago I made a very decadent Pashka (Russian Easter cake) for a dinner party that we were hosting.  I searched the internet for a slightly lighter version of my original recipe and then altered it a little.  The main ingredients are butter, sugar, toasted almonds, crystallized ginger and vanilla.  Teddy was so excited!!!  I think it might have been the nicest anniversary meal we have ever had.  Our expectations were low and I was not stressed.

Potato Gratin

Pashka

Then there are the lizards.  As you know, we have been without pets for over a year now.  We rarely sat out in our back yard because Toffee was sadly sitting inside but now we can happily sit in our rockers looking at nature.  We noticed that spotted Anoles would come running when we came out.  Perhaps it was coincidence but now we have them named. Lorenzo has a regrown tail and Leo likes to sit on the prow of the deck.  When we call them, they run out from under the deck and start displaying in front of us.  Sometimes it is little handstands or head nods but if we are lucky they show us their red dewlap.  They let us go within an inch of them to admire their chameleon coloring.  We have one sweet little green Anole, Gerry, who is a native Texan.  The spotted Anoles are invasive from Cuba and they are feisty.  I Googled “snacks for lizards’ and they like live crickets and meal worms. They will have to eat what’s in the backyard…

velvet ant

Covid-19 has made me less obsessive about the usual bugs and germs.  Teddy dispatched a giant tree roach in the house and I didn’t bat an eyelid or get out the bleach.  We are in semi-drought here so insects are coming in, looking for water.  In the middle of the night, I went sleepily to the bathroom.  Through drowsy eyes, I saw what looked like a scorpion walking in while I was trapped on the toilet.  It was big, brown and not a cockroach.  Ruthlessly, I took a magazine and squashed it.  Later, I discovered that it was a mole cricket and I have been grieving ever since.  It was a harmless wee thing and I wish I had taken it out to the garden.

Mole Cricket with a curious pup, courtesy of Pixabay

Another day the lizards were agitated and when we investigated, they were chasing a velvet ant away from their babies – beautiful creature but with a deadly sting.  Red throated hummingbirds have visited the Mexican Fire Bush en route back to Latin America.  Finally, there are the babies. We have two nests of red tailed hawks behind our house. The baby hawks screech, “Mom, I need a mouse!”, then the Blue Jays start squawking and lastly the squirrels bark.  What a racket!

Just before this capture of a blue jay, he had been screeching that the water was dirty… Just as well they are beautiful.

I think this is a mixed marriage…like Teddy and I.

The eyes are the windows to your soul

cutting-cake.jpg

In my last post, I mentioned that I thought I had mislaid my parents wedding photographs.  Once I found them, and breathed a sigh of relief, I sat and looked at them.  I never really knew my father – he was a creature of legend both good and bad.  When I was young, my Mum tried her best to paint a balanced picture of Dad despite the unpleasant comments from family members.  These photographs were never displayed but I had seen them many times.  I was fascinated by the glamour of a professional shot and thought they were both attractive.  As a youngster I really looked much more like my father with our dark Mexican roots.

As I gazed at the shots, I realized that neither my Mum nor Dad looked happy.  They married after a couple of months of meeting but they were in their late 20’s, more than capable of making a sensible decision.  My theory is that they were pregnant with me and I know that my dad asked my mum to have an illegal abortion.  I had admired these photos for years, longing to have similarly glamorous wedding shots, but had never noticed the lack of happiness in their eyes.  The social mores of two Catholics not marrying after a pregnancy were overwhelming.  My mum told me that a distant relative offered to adopt me so the circumstances must have been dire.  Eventually my mum divorced my dad in 1976 on the grounds of mental cruelty.  He had already remarried in the States.

KathleenAndBeau

Then I found a photograph of my mum with a previous American boyfriend above.  If anyone recognizes him, you might have been my sibling!

My mum had mentioned that he was a really nice guy, Italian American, but that she hadn’t fallen for him.  Maybe she wasn’t ready but my mum looked truly happy in this simple photograph.   How I longed for a normal father like him when I was young.  As the years have passed I have come to terms with my Dad probably having some mental health and addiction issues (as did my Mum).  I have so enjoyed meeting members of my Dad’s family – seeing distinct resemblances both in appearance and also personality.  My mum’s bridesmaid, who has stayed close to me, told me many times that my Dad had a fascinating charismatic side that I had inherited.  To the right is a photograph of Teddy and I signing the register 38 years ago – now that’s a real smile.

We had not a single professional wedding shot…❤️

Covid Art

I am not sure who started painting rocks and leaving them on our walking trails but it was a lovely idea for young and old.  Children must be so bored staying at home – so much so that I saw my neighbor’s toddler swimming the breast stroke in the street puddle (where the sprinkler water gathers)!

 

JOY AND LOVE TO EVERYONE

 

 

Easter 2020

It’s hard to wish anyone a Happy Easter this year but I hope you are able to find small moments of joy.  Teddy took this photograph of me on Good Friday while we walked around the containment pond.  On route we chatted to some new neighbors across the fence, we met a fisherman who caught a foot long bass fish out of the pond!  Whoo Hoo!  We high fived from 10 foot distance – I have only ever seen heron sized minnow snack.  Then we moved aside while a community minded neighbor mowed the walking path with her son so we could walk more easily through the long grass.

I think you can see from the look on my face above that I am struggling to keep being vibrant although the little Zen cairn made my heart happy.  Just like all the vapid celebrities, I have no makeup on and a baseball cap to hide my hair…  As we sat down last night to watch yet more Netflix or Prime, I commented to Teddy that this is probably my worst Easter ever.  Immediately I felt guilty for comparing my luxurious life to anyone else’s this year.  How awful to be in a refugee camp or to be any of our first responders.  As I mused, I remembered my real worst Easter which was in 1970.

We lived in prefabricated metal public housing that was unbearably cold in a Scottish winter.  In the autumn of the previous year, I started getting chest infections consecutively.  My health and lungs had been compromised from babyhood in part from my mum having tuberculosis during her pregnancy with me.   In our community there was no choice of family doctor and ours had many complaints about his incompetence.  My mum pleaded with him to refer me to a pediatrician but he blankly stated that she was neurotic and continued to prescribe antibiotics.  By midwinter my Nana and mum had created a little bed for me in the nook of the fireplace of the living room which was the warmest place in the house.  I woke up every morning with dried mucus covering my whole face like a veil of illness.  My breathing was terrible and I missed months of schooling.

In desperation my uncles gave my mum £40 (a fortune for us) to visit a pediatrician privately.  He also worked for the National Health Service, as do most private surgeons, and I was in hospital the next day.  By this time 6 months had passed and it was almost Easter.  There was no room in the children’s ward so I and 3 other little girls were placed at the end of a Victorian long ward full of ladies with cancer.  I was terrified by the older ladies barely holding onto life and the strangeness of the situation.  The two little girls opposite me were sisters and had been flown in from one of the outer Western Islands.  Was it a twofer or were they both genuinely needing their tonsils out?  It would have been very expensive back then to fly in from Barra.  They were relentlessly cheerful and kind to me in their soft accents from speaking Gaelic.

My mum tried to visit every night after her very long work day and I think I sobbed every visit.  When I was wheeled to surgery, alone, I asked the surgeons if I was going to die.  They removed my adenoids and tonsils – a complaint was made about our family doctor who we still had to see because of no options available.  In those days they made you eat scratchy toast to heal up your throat – ow!  All the food was awful and worst of all – it was EASTER!  Family and neighbors rallied around with an array of chocolate eggs that I could not eat.  All except a little egg box full of Cadbury’s Cream Eggs with a sixpence underneath each from my aunt Cathie and uncle Donal.  I was able to suck the cream out of the eggs even though I couldn’t eat the chocolate.

Eventually I went back to school although I had some home tuition.  I had no voice for weeks and I struggled to catch up.  But I did, and life moved on.  It was so stressful for my poor mum that she had a major mental breakdown after this and never worked again.  I am so grateful for the all the kindness given to us at that time.  One of the greatest sacrifices was from my mum’s colleague’s son who donated his extensive collection of rare American comics to this sick little girl.  Richie Rich and his friends made me so happy.  I still love the gift of a magazine – it feels like a treat.  The taste of artificial cherry that disguised childhood penicillin makes me feel sick, as does the smell of a hot toddy.

Kerry’s egg shaped cyst behind her lungs

In retrospect, I realized that my peculiar egg shaped cyst behind my lungs may have made me sicker than I would normally have been.  It looks like a portent of doom, doesn’t it, but the cyst has shrunk back to the size of a raisin.  There is always light at the end of darkness.  Hollywood endings are rare but we will overcome our current sickness and learn how to make our lives safer.  I had the Catholic Last Rites when I was less than a year old but so far, so good.  Keep faith in humanity.

I send springtime wishes to all of you, whatever your faith or lack of.  Be well.

The Grinch won’t leave!

What is it about the holidays?  My mental health is better than it has been in months but still the festive season pushes all my buttons.  I think I used to enjoy Christmas but at some point it just became stressful.  It was better when there was very little money in our lives.  Presents were much needed and usually a delight – despite a white and brown polyester dressing gown that I had to wear for years…  In later years my late crazy mother got her knickers in a twist about the varieties of Christmas puddings and drove her daughter nuts trying to find the PERFECT one.  Remember when there was only one or you made your own?

As my mental health was improving during fall, I got very busy creating postcards from Teddy’s beautiful images.  Then I started on my handmade soaps and enjoyed the process.  I wrapped them prettily and gifted them to everyone.  It backfired somewhat as I made some friends feel that they had to reciprocate.  The true joy is in giving with no expectations.

Then Teddy got some unanticipated leave from his new job and we went to Fredericksburg for Christmas, possibly the most famous German town in central Texas Hill Country.  It was really beautifully decorated and the weather was fantastic – photos to follow.  Despite enjoying my environment, historic buildings and endless wineries, I couldn’t stop being irritated.

  • There were too many tourists yet we were two of them…
  • The other cars were driving like crazy Grinches – especially through Austin, the most traffic-congested city in Texas.
  • Our luxurious room wasn’t quite clean enough (it really wasn’t).
  • I was bored and tired.
  • The road from Medina to Kerrville was ridiculous – hairpin bends and really steep gradients. I guess I missed the point about visiting the hill country.
  • Teddy sleeps like an owl and I am like a bear. Maybe I should hibernate through winter??
  • Other guests. That’s a standalone but they were talking outside in broad daylight, beeping their cars locked and worse still, talking in their room at 7 pm.  They ate all the breakfast.

I know what you are thinking – poor Teddy.  It’s true that he put up with a Grinch wife but we still had wonderful meals and laughed all the time.  I am hoping that made up for the time, after driving for hours in silence, I turned on the CD to keep myself focused AND THEN he started talking.  I told him to Shut the F*** Up and gave him the finger.  Thirty seven years and counting – I love you Teddy!!!!

 

Sporty Spicy Valentine

I haven’t posted anything on fashion for a while and this is a poor offering… This outfit has adorned my ‘sporty’ body for two days, thus the ‘spicy’ description. Yesterday Teddy came home, admired the leggings and felt my bum. Rather than change the routine for 36 years, I remarked, “Don’t touch what you can’t afford”. Hilarity ensued.

I am having some motion problems with fingers and toes, so clumsily opened a packet of orange Metamucil drink which I spilled all over the blue top. Coming from a generation that still had weekly baths, I just shook it off and wore it this morning. For a moment I wondered if I should change before going to the mall but couldn’t be arsed, in the Irish vernacular. While browsing in a very high end boutique, not one but two of the store assistants asked me where I got my leggings.

I could have muttered something about Lululemon but chose to tell the truth. They were snagged at the local supermarket for a few dollars, the sweater was also a few dollars in Old Navy’s super sale. The expensive Nike’s came from the outlet store. I walked from the store with my head held high, vaguely wafting the citrus scent of Metamucil.

Stopping at Nordstrom’s for my usual coffee, my eye was caught by two businessmen speaking an unfamiliar Spanish dialect. I asked them where they were from – Chile! They were asking the barista the origin of the expresso they ordered – no self-respecting Texan would ever do that… We only drink expresso in Houston to keep us awake on long shifts.

My dining table is covered in an array of lovely pink wrapped gifts from girlfriends. Valentine’s Day has become a Hallmark occasion but isn’t it lovely to celebrate the love of friendship with a handmade gift or card?

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!!!!

Katniss has gone…

…and that is one of the reasons for my absence from WordPress. How many times do our hearts break when we lose a beloved pet? We had been feeding Katniss for a few years and I think she was about 4 years old. This year we bought her a little house and she finally figured out that she could use it on inclement days. A few weeks ago she suddenly disappeared and I quickly realized she was dead. After a couple of days there was a smell of death on the air and all the other little critters disappeared from our garden.

She was hale and hearty before she disappeared so I suspect she was run over by a car or succumbed after an encounter with another animal. The armadillos have created a warren of burrows under our deck and into the reserve so I will never find her. Possums and raccoons have started to visit again. For weeks we looked out of the window to no avail, as did Toffee, our elderly inside cat. My grief is tarnished with relief. We have spent almost 40 years looking after difficult, feral cats and would like a break. I was so worried about Katniss’s future and potential illness but fate has taken care of that.

This is the last photograph of Katniss enjoying her little house. It now sits empty like the Taj Mahal.

Feral cats have a short lifespan compared to domesticated cats so she had a lovely few years being spoiled with ‘pasta and trout’, her very own house and loving servants. Her little house sits empty but I have seen squirrels hop in and out. The fat raccoon could only squeeze her head in… We will leave it out as our Taj Mahal to Katniss. Perhaps it will give one of our many critter visitors a warm shelter?

I am going to take a little break from blogging and following but thank you to all my visitors. I look forward to catching up with everyone in the New Year. May you enjoy a marvelous festive season. Merry Christmas!

Birthday Dress

Bargain Birthday Dress!

It has been a while since I did a fashion post.  This bargain buy was a treat after a very long work week.  I found it in Nordstrom’s Rack for $17.  It is a Maggy London dress so they normally retail at around $120.  I have paired them with my favorite BOC lime flower sandals and the foxes’ mermaid.  We have a video of the puppies carrying the mermaid in their mouths.

I wore it for a pre-birthday dinner with Teddy and my friend.  On my actual birthday it was over 100 degrees so it was too hot to wear it.  Teddy and I also celebrated our 36th wedding anniversary, the day before my birthday.  We didn’t know each other very well when we married in haste, so I thought if we married the day before my birthday he would never forget my birthday.  Teddy never forgets anything but Bunny does…

Our 36th wedding anniversary

We spent our anniversary in a historic little town just north of us.  Teddy loves antiquing so I just follow him around…he also loves ballet.  Who knew?  As far as I know, he is out of the closet.

Birthday girl at Lake Conroe

On my birthday we tried a new restaurant on Lake Conroe.  There is a real haze in the air from Saharan dust which some weird weather has brought to Texas.  We managed to stay outside despite the blistering heat.  Then we went home to collapse in the air conditioning!.

Suicide is painless…

…or is it?  The recent suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain have shocked the world.  How could people with so much money, privilege and opportunities hang themselves?  That method of suicide is very hard for those who loved them to cope with.  Most of you know that I have a chronic mental illness but I have a particularly intimate knowledge of suicide.  Two of my cousins killed themselves, one by gun and the other with medication.  I lived in a village that suffered a contagion of suicide during a ‘dustbowl’ depression.  In the UK I managed a nonprofit project for people dealing with the effects of severe mental illness.  Somehow the last telephone call on Friday night always seemed desperate and you wondered if the person would survive.  Finally, I have thought so often about suicide or nihilism myself that I hope I have talked myself out of it.

The last thing that anyone needs is castigation or judgment for feeling so desperate that you no longer wish to live.  I had my first bout of depression at age 7 and then a more serious illness when I was 20.  I was young and convinced that my living conditions (with a mentally ill mother) were the only contributing factor.  In a future life, I would get a job that didn’t stress me and marry a man who would look after me.  Never did find the former but I did marry my husband who loved me so much that divorce was never an option in his eyes.  Over the years, we both learned that I had a life-long illness that I had unfortunately inherited (why not money, for goodness sake?).

I can’t claim to know Kate or Anthony but from all reports, they were kind, loving, quirky, charismatic humans who had inner, mostly hidden, pain.  I hesitate to use the word demons because it is so generic and unfair.  When I was working in the field of mental health I would give talks to student nurses and social workers with one of my volunteers who had schizophrenia.  Despite all of them nursing or caring for people with severe mental illnesses, they struggled to empathize.  You truly do need to walk a mile in a person’s shoes to know their angst.  What surprised the students the most is that we were articulate, funny, knowledgeable and well-educated.  They rarely had an opportunity to see the hospitalized person after they had recovered from that breakdown so this was an eye-opening opportunity.  We don’t usually recover from a chronic diagnosis – we just manage our illness to the best of our ability.

So let’s talk about suicide.  One of my clients had a very severe mental illness, most likely one of the bipolar illnesses.  Every time he had a psychotic break, delusional and manic, he recovered in hospital but a little part of him died inside.  To make it worse, he didn’t react well to the medication.  Every day he would see a relative, walking the main street, who also had the inherited illness but had retreated into homelessness.  It was as if he were looking in miserable mirror.  He talked to us so many times about his sense of hopelessness.  There were other clients who could bounce back much better.  It was as though our Fairy Godmother gifted us with self-deprecating humor, a sprinkling of fairy dust and charm to balance what ‘Malificent’ gave us.  One day he called the office, having escaped from a locked psychiatric unit, and said goodbye to me.  I knew immediately what was going to happen and called the authorities.  In the weeks following I comforted his family and friends but they found his body in a wooded glade, having taken his life.  Normally, I would feel just deep sadness and regret.  In his case I understood his pain and the relief he sought.

CNN had an expert talking about a contagion of suicide which is an excellent way to reference this.  Was Anthony inspired by Kate or was it just some awful coincidence?  I mentioned living in a village with this contagion earlier.  It was a farming community and the crops had failed for the third year in a row, leaving many of the farmers with huge debts.  It had a knock on effect for other workers such as painters, electricians and plumbers whose invoices were ignored.  One farmer, who I knew, shot himself.  The plumber hanged himself in the garage a few days before Christmas and it continued.  I completely understood – these people had lived in this area for generations.  What would they do if they had to leave their farms and businesses?  For some of them it was unthinkable to live in a nearby town in rented housing when they had always lived on the land of their forefathers, in gentle silence.  Our community was grief stricken and all of us took some blame.  Did we not say hello one day or be over critical about some work?  One wife could not forgive her husband for the manner of his death.  All I could hear was “How could they do that to their family”, “Selfishness”, “Other people manage without money”.  No one kills themselves without feeling such anguish that life no longer seems feasible.  The very nature of mental illness is that it makes you selfish and sometimes narcissistic but that is a symptom not a personality defect.  Not everyone who takes their own life is mentally ill but surely in that moment it’s moot.

So, why do we think about suicide?  I can only talk about my own experience and it doesn’t really make any sense.  Having volunteered all my adult life, I know all too well about the resilience of the human spirit.  People can lose everything, be imprisoned in a concentration camp or tortured and still live a long, happy life.  Last week I had three long days of work and an event.  I managed the work and enjoyed it but I had to leave the event with an anxiety attack.  I stayed in bed for four days with my mood going up and down.  Thoughts of hopelessness and failure were flitting through my head just as quickly as writing a story about fairies.  People with psychoses sometimes hear voices that can be disturbing.  Their illness makes them unable to perceive that these are just delusional thoughts created by the psychosis.  I know what my thoughts are but can’t control them.  On the outside, I just look haunted but with so much psychotherapy, I can switch up my mood in a second so that I can manage an interaction.

Getting older, in my case, is making my illness more difficult to manage.  I suspect the natural drop in estrogen is contributing.  With the help of my doctor, I have been changing drugs, combinations and strength.  Right now it is difficult for me to do the other things that help such as eating well, no alcohol and exercise.  Here is an example of one of my thoughts. “Whales are being found with lots of plastic in their stomachs” “Perhaps if I cooked from scratch I could avert this” “That’s not possible but perhaps I could just eat bananas and avocadoes?” “Life isn’t worth living anymore; do I have enough air miles to go to Switzerland for assisted suicide” “What about Teddy and Toffee – I can’t leave them”.  At the end of these thoughts, which go on for hours, I am utterly exhausted.

Two days ago I felt exactly like that but today I went out to lunch with my friend and we had a genuinely lovely time.  I have gone for a walk, cleaned the house and have been asked to do a really fun job next week.  The job will exhaust me but the accomplishment will help my mood.  Now I can anticipate a good weekend, living for the moment.  There is not much likelihood of a cure or completely successful treatment for me.  When I think objectively, I realize that life is full of beautiful moments and I try my best to avoid stressing myself.  During all of this, I feel so sorry for those people who do take their own lives but pity whatever drove them to it.  I hope that this post might help someone who is considering suicide or those who have lost someone.

If you feel desperate please share your feelings with someone you trust or reach out to –

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

“We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.”

1-800-273-8255

What is this?

A mystery…

Those strange markings in a circular pattern; flying saucers or just saucers?  Did a small alien land in my garden?  No…just a very fussy feral kitty called Katniss who decided that she doesn’t like gourmet chicken with tomatoes.  I fed her first and then went in to tend to Toffee who was wailing because Katniss was fed first.  I glanced out afterwards to check on Katniss and she was standing staring at me through the window.  Her dish was missing too, so I went out to see what had happened.

She stared at me with her little round green eyes and I started laughing when I saw that she had covered (the very expensive) food with stones and dirt.  “Would you prefer something else, Princess?” “Yes, please, strange human mummy”  She deigned to eat the crunch but was silently condemning me for my poor grocery shopping.

I suppose she looks rather well fed and spoiled for a feral.  She has a strange psychic ability over me and I can sense she has arrived in the garden waiting for food, even when I can’t see her.  My car noise is immediately identifiable and that often brings her running.  Toffee often knows when her Dad is turning into the street before he arrives at the house.  Animals have amazing sixth senses.

I caught a cold this week, just a regular snuffly nose one, but it turned my brain to jelly.  During a phone call I could not remember my home telephone number which I have had for 14 years.  My recent travel photos are waiting for me to turn into a Postcard from Kerry but they will have to wait until my brain recovers.

My heart goes out to our neighbors at Santa Fe, Texas with another school shooting by a disturbed young man whose father’s guns were available.  They should be locked in a gun case.

My heart glows to see Prince Harry marry a biracial American.  As Teddy knows, all the smart guys marry one of those…❤