Writer’s anxiety

Yellow shrimp plant

Yellow shrimp plant

My current life and the geopolitical world have left me lost for words. I have been feeling anxious about everything, which is part of my diagnosis, and nightmares have exhausted me. There is a short break before I start the Super Bowl work then I will stop feeling anxious because of focus and tiredness. Sometimes writing lifts me up or helps ease anxiety but despite taking more medication, I am like a cat on a hot tin roof, yawning with insomnia.

red-spike

I have peppered this short post with some final photos from Puerto Vallarta – just to take the edge of my writing. I work alongside people who have immigrated from Iran and Iraq and wonder if their American dream feels as ephemeral as mine. Even at the shops, people are talking in hushed tones about executive orders and I don’t know if they feel happy or afraid. When we went to Puerto Vallarta, we were seriously considering a retirement home somewhere in Mexico but now I doubt that they would want us. Do you think I have enough Mexican ancestors to request entry? Should I print out my Ancestry family tree?

umbrellas

Almost every week I soothe people whose relatives have been detained at immigration. It is usually something relatively minor such as an incorrect visa or a similar name. We were stuck in Egypt until the very last minute, whilst my husband’s employer desperately tried to get a work visa for him to go to the USA. I remember being at the airport in Cairo, wondering if they were going to accept our cats’ paperwork or my husband’s. I have an American passport, so I could go anytime. Nonetheless, it was terrifying, especially since it was during Gulf War II.

yellow-blossom

I can support passengers and myself by being as helpful as always. A smile can work wonders, for the recipient and the person feeling depressed.

Zhenny – our crazy cat, RIP.

ZnK_Sept1
I had such a sad day yesterday. Our beautiful Zhenny’s heart stopped during a routine dental procedure and she is now buried in the garden with Mrs. Stripe who died earlier in the year. She was geriatric and had some cognitive difficulties but it was an unexpected death. Teddy and I are distraught despite knowing that she didn’t have much longer. She was so funny, loving and crazy, RIP our special girl. This is my original post about her.

I know – she is utterly beautiful. Her eyes are exquisite and she looks like a cat on a pyramid. That’s the problem… I first encountered her at the cat shelter where my husband and I volunteered in Cairo, Egypt. Her owner was moving from an American military base in Cairo to another in Korea and couldn’t take her fur baby. I can only imagine how her owner felt but Zhenny was distraught. She wouldn’t eat anything, despite our endless treats and pleading. The veterinarian put an IV drip in but she thought she was being tortured. We already had Mrs. Stripe and her daughter, Toffee, our garden cats, so we certainly didn’t want another one. We thought that Stripe would attack her anyway as she is so territorial. Then one day it was obvious that Zhenny was dying and I just put her in a crate, took her home so that she could die somewhere nice.

She was so skinny that we bought her a little cat nest with a hood so that she could feel safe and comfortable in her final days. To my surprise, when I introduced Stripe and Toffee to her, I could see them saying, ‘Poor little soul’ and thus she was accepted. The fight for her life went on for about a week with me forcing baby food into her mouth. In desperation I bought some minced beef and cooked it for her. For the first time, she seemed to have an appetite and started eating properly. By that time we were all bonded or used to each other’s scents and it was too late… That was 12 years ago and she was 18 months old. She is still alive but I have saved her life on another occasion when the veterinarian hospital could not look after her. We believe she may have sent someone to ER…

Stripe and Toffee are likely half Mau but completely feral. Zhenny looks like a tabby oriental but may as well be from Planet Zed. Even the vet said that she is just loco. I have looked after many cats but this one is an enigma. Only I can lift her, and only in special circumstances. Her Dad may only kiss her but not stroke her. He is also the only one who is allowed to play with her in a precise OCD way. Mum is just for cuddles and care-giving. The other two cats were utterly silent for years, as feral cats can be, but Zhenny is astonishingly vocal. I will be on the phone with my aunt in Ireland, Zhenny will be three rooms away and she can hear her screaming. After all these years we can tell the difference between her distress and laughter. The vet suggested that we give her Xanax – I looked at him and said, “How precisely should I do that, with a blow-dart, perhaps?”

She can be hysterically funny or drive us to tears. If she is upset she creeps along the floor, sobbing. Have you ever heard a cat sob? All treats have to be thrown like live prey and yet she is not a hunter. We discovered much later that she had kittens before we took her in but still hadn’t been neutered. Shortly after I saved her life in Cairo, she went into heat. Our villa was three houses from the baker’s shop at the end of the street and I could hear her howling inside our house. No wonder our neighbors had some issues with us… One time she was halfway up the stairs, with her head peeping through the balustrade and started ‘in heat howling’. Even she looked astonished at the guttural sound that came out of her mouth and we burst out laughing.

She should not have lived this long but Mummy is just so good at saving her life. Sigh. Our vet looks at me in horror when I say very firmly DO NOT RESUSCITATE! She is so difficult to handle that we know that she would not be able to cope with a chronic illness or disability so it would be a kindness. She has the early stages of kidney dysfunction but I suspect she has at least another year in her. Oh we will miss these beautiful green blue eyes and her funny vocalizations.

Zhenny at 2 years old in Cairo

Zhenny at 2 years old in Cairo

Bastille Day 2016

White Hibiscus

White Hibiscus

I did not intend to post today but my sadness made me want to memorialize yesterday’s sad events in Nice. I have many French friends and fellow bloggers and their hearts must be broken today. Such a happy occasion to be violated in this way. I had a belated honeymoon in the south of France and remember Nice with great fondness and nostalgia. May they rest in peace.

Je ne suis pas l’intention de poster aujourd’hui, mais ma tristesse m’a donné envie de commémorer tristes événements d’hier à Nice . J’ai beaucoup d’ amis français et collègues blogueurs et leur cœur doit être brisé aujourd’hui. Une telle occasion heureuse d’ être violé de cette manière . J’ai eu une lune de miel tardive dans le sud de la France et rappelle Nice avec beaucoup de tendresse et de nostalgie. Puissent-ils reposer en paix.

In Memorium

White Ginger Blossom

White Ginger Blossom

I was driving down our main interstate to meet my husband for lunch in downtown Houston. A large car dealership had a flag at half-mast and I wondered if I had missed something, not having seen the news since the previous day. It struck me that President Bush Senior might have passed on and then I forgot about it.

When I arrived home and turned on the TV, there was the sad news of yet another mass shooting of officers who had been guarding a peaceful protest in Dallas TX. This time, I have no opinion of the circumstances or gun law but just wanted to express my condolences not just to the officers killed this time but all the other innocent victims from other atrocities all over the world.

I now expect something awful when I turn on the news. Hostages killed in Dacca, bombs in Iraq marketplaces, a massacre at a nightclub. May they all rest in peace.

St. Mary’s of the Annunciation, Charleston

stained glass

This is a beautiful stained glass window in St. Mary of the Annunciation’s Catholic Church, the first Catholic Church in South Carolina. The original building was founded in 1789 but this is the third church on the same site. It is quite an unusual architectural design for a Catholic church and I don’t think I have ever seen one quite like this.

St. Mary's of the Annunciation, Charleston, SC

St. Mary’s of the Annunciation, Charleston, SC

I went early to visit and to my delight was the only person there. Old churches and mosques can be so busy with tourists that you miss the reverential feel of an ancient place of worship. I went straight to light a candle and this time I prayed for everyone. The church was relatively small but so beautiful, especially inside. Just as I left, I remembered to bless myself from the font and be grateful for all that I have.

St. Mary's Nave

St. Mary’s Nave

Behind the church was a lovely little graveyard but these were the saddest little gravestones I have ever seen. They must have been for stillborn children because there was no name, just a single date. So sad, and yet touching that they had been remembered in this way.

stillborn graves
My maternal family name is McHugh, it is an Irish name and not that common with that spelling. So, at least one of my namesakes had money because this is a fancy memorial.

Rich ancestors?

Rich ancestors?

This is the first time I have ever seen a McHugh stone in a graveyard, except for my own family. Recently we discovered McHugh’s in America who had emigrated generations back and we even have a mysterious photograph of my great-grandmother taken in Boston when we thought she had never left the farm in Sligo? One American McHugh I spoke to was very disappointed that my pure Irish heritage was tainted in so many ways. The dropped me like a hot potato – get it? Potato? Irish? I am pretty sure that my snobby Conquistador ancestors would feel much the same way. 🙂
Charleston is full of churches of every denomination and I tried to visit as many as possible, including their fascinating graveyards. More in the next post.

Naked lady on top of big rig

naked lady on big rig1

Courtesy of chron.com

We went to our lawyer downtown to change our wills on Monday. The lawyer’s assistant asked us if we had heard about the naked lady dancing on top of a big rig on the 290 highway. We burst out laughing and said, “What next?” Houston’s freeways are notorious for odd things happening. Accidents happen every day, not always fatal, and weird things fall off trucks all the time. I don’t know how many times I have had to veer to avoid a sofa or a ladder. As Texans we are also kinda nosy and rubber necking at accidents sites is a real problem. You will be in a one hour delay with nose to tail traffic and then you discover that the accident was on the OTHER SIDE OF THE FREEWAY! It is a very hard-working city with tired, underpaid, under-qualified drivers from all over the world. When I greet tourists, I ask them if they have ever driven in Mexico City or Egypt – just to forewarn them.

As I started to think about this naked lady incident, I thought she must have just flipped. Briefly, she had been involved in a pile-up then took off all her clothes and clambered on top of the big rig that had been involved in the accident. She danced and twerked according to reports and this a link to a thoughtfully written article by our local paper The Houston Chronicle Naked Lady story

After my last post, it made me so sad that yet again this whole debacle was caused by a psychiatric problem and thank goodness the first responders were empathic to her issue. Can you imagine if she had thrown herself off the truck or ran into 5 lanes of traffic? Life is so frenetic here that she may not have realized that her mental health was breaking – who knows but at least she is in a hospital now. On a funnier note – can you imagine what the truck driver was thinking as a naked lady clambered on top of his rig?

I mentioned to our lawyer that I had a bad car accident a few years back when I was rear-ended by a truck carrying a heavy load. She asked why I didn’t approach her and now I wish I had. As someone with a mental illness, I was entirely traumatized by the incident, the ambulance, the predatory surgeon, the endless bills and bureaucracy. I did approach one reputable lawyer who was very keen to take on my case, particularly because both my physical health (spine) and mental health were impacted. Finally, I realized that I would only recover mentally if I moved on and settled for a paltry sum that didn’t even cover medical costs. I also didn’t want to ruin the life of the contractor who accidentally ran into me.

I have had more accidents since – it is such a common occurrence here. Often I wonder why there aren’t more fatal accidents? On one occasion a Latin American man stopped to give me his card as a witness and I now will always do that if it is safe for me to stop. Pay it forward.

Community Mental Health

risperidone prescription
My previous field of work was community mental health care and when we were downtown I spotted this prescription sticker stuck onto a bench in the park near the ‘before I die’ chalkboard. I instantly recognized the drug which is an anti-psychotic medication commonly used to treat illnesses like schizophrenia. When I was working it was a new wonder drug and very expensive. I expect it is generic now but still a useful medication.

Then I noticed the David’s surname which was Spanish and that the prescription was printed in Spanish. Mental illness affects people irrespective of income, ethnicity and circumstances but I suspect from his mother’s address they were first or second generation immigrants on a low wage. The script was issued from a hospital near the downtown area so it suggested that perhaps they could only afford to go to ER or it was an emergency situation.

David is not even 20 and my experience tells me that it is more likely the onset of schizophrenia rather than bipolar. It commonly presents in young men between the ages of 17 and 25. It can be sooner or later and slightly different for women. So why did he put the sticker on the bench? In retrospect I should have ripped it off because all his personal details were on it and made him a potential victim.

Was it a cry for help or a passive aggressive statement? More importantly, did he take the drugs? I wondered if his mother was sobbing, wondering what happened to her beautiful son and what to do next. The homeless people in Houston are often mentally ill and many self medicate with alcohol and drugs. I get angry and frustrated that there is so little community mental health care for parents or their adult children. When I volunteered at a local psychiatric hospital I was shocked by how many patients were brought in by policemen, sometimes at gunpoint. There has to be a middle ground.

Osyth commented in my last post that she was touched by the comment, ‘be happy’ (on the before I die chalkboard). Maybe David wrote that, in the hope that his illness would stabilize and he would be happy. I hope that he was still able to stay in his family home and not have to sleep in the parks, no matter how pretty they are.
art sculpture