Tag Archives: Nita

Tuesday: Exercises in Writing #17

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From Old Friend from Far Away by Natalie Goldberg:

Tell me all you know about Texas.

I know almost nothing about Texas. I almost said I’ve never been there, but then I remembered that I was. Still, I don’t know much.

My sister Brenda knows Texas. When she was in the eighth grade, she chose that state to do a major report about. She wrote to whatever agencies a student would write to to gain information. She received a fat manila envelope filled with maps and brochures. She clipped photos from them to illustrate her project. She added to her knowledge with research from our own encyclopedias, and from books she borrowed from the library. She typed her report and put it all together in a brown duo tang folder. I was intrigued, as I was was always interested in anything Brenda was doing, but I didn’t pay that much attention.

Many years later, my sisters, Sheila and Robin, their husbands and my brother David all moved to Texas. I didn’t pay attention then, either. They went to the gulf, to go swimming. David had an accident at his workplace that – I think – resulted in an injury to his feet. That’s all I know.

When my oldest daughter was a young adult, she moved to Texas with her fiance, who was transferred there for his job. I visited her there. She had a boa constrictor, and a small collection of mice that had started out as live food for the snake, and became pets when he took too long to devour them.

I spent a great deal of time sitting near her pool with a book. My daughter and I were both reading The Clan of the Cave Bear series, by Jean M. Auel. We hadn’t yet gotten tired of the huge swaths of repetitive background information she inserted between every new occurrence, and enjoyed sharing our thoughts on how the story was developing.

One day, we went for a long drive; I don’t remember the reason or the destination. Cities in Texas can annex surrounding lands as long as they are able to provide services for them. Because of this, highways are expanded outward in the most confusing manner, running in ever larger circles around the heart of the city. That’s the only thing I learned about the state while I was there.

Many years after that, my sister Nita moved to San Antonio, Texas. Her grown children lived there, too, during much of the time that she was there. Nita loved the heat, worked – when she could – at a small factory, and lived in a community with many people who spoke mainly Spanish.

Finally, last year, my sisters Brenda and Cheryl, with their partners, went to Texas on vacation. Brenda had a bout of vertigo, and missed some of the side trips. The weather was grand. The food was good.

That, I think, is every single thing I know about the state of Texas!

 

Tuesday: Exercises in Writing #10

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This morning, looking for writing ideas, I went to amazon.com and used their free browsing feature to check out 1000 Awesome Writing Prompts by Ryan Andrew Kinder. He has some great ideas! I chose this one:

How were you named? If you feel that your name is boring and the story behind it equally so, make up a name and come up with an interesting story behind that.

My mother had trouble with names. Our dogs, even, lacked imagination. We had, first, Laddie, because Lassie was famous on the big screen, but our dog was a boy. He was followed by Tippy, because his tail had a white tip, who was followed by Tippy II and Tippy III in a smattering of short-lived dogs. We had Lucky and Lady. Husky, because he had a bit of that breed in his mix. Rusty was based on his color.

Naming baby boys was easy. My brothers were given traditional names with a family history. Ted was Theodore George, after his two grandfathers, which was usual for the oldest boy in our German family. Dave was David Robert: David after my mother’s grandfather, and Robert after our father. The baby that died at birth was given Dad’s complete name – Robert William – though we always referred to that baby as Bobby.

Girls were harder, right from the start. Mom pulled girls names from whatever inspiration was around. Brenda was named after Brenda Starr, of comic strip fame. When I was born, a nurse said, “Look at all that black hair, dark as cinders…you should name her Cinderella.” From that comment came my name, Cindy. Not Cynthia. Not, thankfully, Cinderella, though I like to tell folks that’s who I was named for.

I don’t know where Mom got the idea to name her next daughter Cherie, but she was set on it when her next door neighbor gave birth first, and took that name for her own daughter. Mom was furious! She had less than a week to come up with an alternate. Though she remained friends with that other mother for most of their lives, Mom never failed to mention that bit of thievery. My sister ended up with the name Sheila.

Cheryl was next; her name, Cheryl Ann, was taken from the side of a tugboat. Nita Louise followed (and later showed a bit of Mom’s desperate ingenuity when she named her own daughter Tina Louise) though I don’t know where the name came from. Robin’s name was a nod to my father, Robert. I don’t know how Mom came up with Darla, but her middle name – Jean – was for one of her best friends.

Carl and Amy owned the hotel bar at Lake Nepessing. The two had met when Carl was stationed in Germany during the war. Amy was a beautiful blonde with a strong accent. Once, when Mom was expecting, she and Dad had them over to play cards  After a few drinks, Amy got a bit maudlin. She was not able to have children, she said, but she loved them dearly.

“And just look at this houseful of children you have here! How is that fair?”

Mom shook her head in sympathy.

“If this baby is a girl,” she offered, one hand on her growing belly, “I will name her after you!”

That was how my baby sister Amy got her name. The adult Amy was flattered, and took the honor seriously, following the life of her little namesake with special gifts for holidays and other occasions.  For Mom, I can’t help but think it was just a relief: one name she didn’t have to struggle to come up with!

…and More

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Cindy, Ted and Brenda in the living room, in front of the door leading to the old kitchen

Before Dad started the big project that would become our new kitchen, he had already been remodeling the house. He had already closed off a portion of the living room, on the right side, to create a second bedroom. That became the master bedroom.

The small bedroom in back, original to the house, became mine and Brenda’s, where we slept in matching twin beds with gray vinyl headboards. Then it was ours plus Ted’s, when his big, “two-year” crib was moved in. That was when Sheila and then Cheryl, too, were sharing the other bedroom with Mom and Dad. When Cheryl outgrew the bassinet, there were two little cribs in that small room along with double bed, dresser and cedar chest. When Nita was born, Ted was moved into a big bed, Sheila was moved to the big crib in the back bedroom, Cheryl and her small crib were moved in there, too…and Brenda and I were moved upstairs.

The upstairs consisted of two large bedrooms. Dad was afraid of fire, so neither bedroom was given a door. Over the years we hung drapes over the openings, and argued for doors to no avail. If we mentioned privacy, we were told we didn’t need it, or that we should just respect each others privacy. If we’d had doors, they wouldn’t lock, anyway. Ever since Brenda – as a toddler – had wheeled her baby carriage into the bathroom and locked the door behind her, causing Mom to have to stand outside on a bench talking to her through the window until Dad could be reached to come home from work to take the door off the hinges to save her, none of our inside doors locked.

Straight ahead at the top of the stairs was a simple, square room with a closet. The ceiling was made out of tiles of wood, with the grain going first one direction, then the other. The windows looked over to the grandparent’s house. Around the corner to the right was an L-shaped room with deep shelves built in over the stairwell. The closet led to the attic space under the eaves. The windows looked over the flat kitchen roof, to the garden, the parking lot, the Lake Inn, and Lake Nepessing beyond. That was our bedroom.

It was scary, at first, to be so far away from the hub of the family. Turning off the closet light caused moments of panic, as we rushed from the pull cord to the bed in the dark. We devised a way to link metal hangars together, to form a long chain. One end, we’d hook into the light cord; the other end, we’d bring carefully across the room with us, get into bed, then pull. The light would go off, the links of hangars would fall apart and drop to the floor in a loud, clanging heap, Mom would shout up the stairs for us to keep it down and, giggling, we’d settle in to bed.

I learned quickly to enjoy the quiet and calm of the upstairs. I would sit on the top, deep shelf, away from the fray, with a book for company. I would take a tablet, a doll and a flashlight to the very farthest point of the attic, under the eaves, to sit by myself to write. We’d make imaginary lines on walls and floor, to create separate spaces.

As the little girls moved in upstairs, we helped plan and decorate their room and rearrange their furniture.  Visits to our room were special, and only allowed rarely. Eventually, Sheila, Cheryl, Nita, Robin and Amy all made their way upstairs. A half bath was installed upstairs, to the left of the landing. The little bedroom downstairs, where we had all taken a turn, was shared by Ted and David for the rest of the time that I lived at home.

As the family had grown, so had the rest of the house…

 

This Night…

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I was up this morning and ready to write.

My computer was not cooperating.

I’m having technology issues.

Last week, my good computer – the newer one, that had been my sister Nita’s, and that has the design software loaded onto it – started beeping at me whenever I turned it on. It beeped rather than turn on. It continued to do it no matter how many times I turned it off and on.

“Count the beeps,” a friend told me, “That is part of Dell’s self-diagnostics. Then google it to find out what that number of beeps means. Could be something simple.”

Well! My emotions were all over the place, at hearing that! I was upset, of course, that something was wrong; I was hopeful that it would be something simple. I was relieved at having a second computer – the old one that had been my sister Amy’s – with which to google anything. Finally, I was pretty proud of having a computer that could diagnose its own problems!

I turned the computer on again, counted the beeps (7), and googled it. Yikes! Probably a motherboard issue…possibly could be repaired by carefully removing the back panel of the computer…I was getting woozy. Changing the batteries in my camera makes me nervous. Anything to do with a computer is a thousand times worse. I’m going to the mainland next week, with my aunt. It can wait until then. I’ll let a trained professional deal with the problem.

So, life went on. My old computer is not the best for watching Netflix: the screen seizes up every now and then, leaving all of the actors frozen in place for several minutes at a time. Even when the action is moving along, the movement of the mouths, the expressions and body language are several paces behind the sound. It’s okay, though. I’m not profoundly attached to Netflix. The old computer keeps me up to date with my writing and my Scrabble playing, so I’m good.

Or I was…until this morning.

When my wireless modem quit working.

I didn’t panic. This has happened before. I, in fact, have a spare modem that was sent to me the last time it happened. The original – after being unhooked from all of its connection and then hooked up again, miraculously started working again, so I just saved the new one. The question was, WHERE? No time to try to find it before work. It would have to wait.

I was thinking, on the way home, that I’d change clothes and spend some time in the studio…maybe bring a sandwich upstairs, put a movie in the old VHS player and work on some small things.

My blog! I’d forgotten all about it!

And, in order to post a blog, I had to fix the computer modem.

First, try everything one more time, just to make sure it hasn’t fixed itself while I was at work.

No luck there so, second, I had to find that modem. What followed was a search of one file drawer, two wicker totes, a cubby over the washing machine, the entry closet, one set of shelves and the old army trunk. Then it dawned on me – with a clarity that I wish had happened sooner – that of course it was on the cabinet that sits behind a sheer curtain in the hollow under the stairs.

And there it was.

Third, I had to hook it up. I was tempted to call my daughter, Jen. I called her yesterday, to help me do some terrifying copy and paste work with files that had to be forwarded. She laughs at me and says, “I love you, Mom,” and shows extreme patience at my ignorance, but…she is trying to move, and is sick with bronchitis, and I just took two hours of her time yesterday over that stupid file…I would manage alone.

I pulled out the desk and the the bookcase, so that I’d have access to all the wires and plugs. I laid out the old modem to use as an example. The yellow telephone line plugs in to this receptacle…now follow that line from the old modem…unplug the old one, plug in the new. Repeat that process with the line that plugs into the wall outlet. Now…turn it on.

A flash of lights, then nothing. Try again. And again. And again.

After several (maybe twenty-five) attempts at turning the modem on, I turned to the instruction pamphlet:

“While it’s updating, your modem may appear to be unresponsive for a few minutes. Do not turn it off or unplug it.”

Oh.

Okay, so I’ll just turn it on and leave it alone.

Which I did and which – another miracle! – worked.

I fixed the problem! I tell you, I feel like Benjamin Franklin, out in the storm with his kite…like Thomas Edison when his light bulb lit…like Jewell Gillespie, bringing electrical service house by house to Beaver Island!

I did it!

What I’m Doing…What I’m Not

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Yesterday was gorgeous, bright sunshine and blue sky.

Today, new snow and winds have changed the view.

A little under the weather, I cancelled classes and stayed home both days. I think exhaustion, rather than illness, is the problem. I don’t seem to be able to get enough sleep these days. One night of good but insufficient rest will be followed by a night of insomnia. A trip to the city to accompany my aunt to the hospital – strange beds, city lights and worry – compounded the problem. A couple days off would do me good.

I wrote a few letters, answered a couple Emails and enjoyed two long telephone conversations.

I waded through snow to my hips to empty the compost – a collection of coffee grounds, eggshells and vegetable parings – into the bin on the far side of the garden. The bin is almost full. I’m not the greatest at composting. My collections never get turned, and the ratio of green matter to food scraps must be off, too. Even in the heat of summer, the compost doesn’t seem to get hot enough to break down. It should, after a while, look dark and crumbly; it should smell like earth. In odor and appearance, my compost looks like exactly what it is: a collection of old coffee grounds, eggshells and vegetable parings. Still, I persist. It seems like a good idea, and it feels more hopeful than tossing all that organic matter into a plastic trash bag. Every few years, when the bin will hold no more, I tip out the smelly mess and use it to mulch around pumpkins and winter squash. Covered with a layer of straw, the unpleasant characteristics are masked, and it works to hold in moisture.

I gave the bathroom a good cleaning. One area at a time, I am setting up my house according to the precepts of Feng Shui. I did this long ago, when it seemed like I was the only one who had even heard of the concept. As I gained knowledge and added books to my collection on the subject, I found contradictions and big problems. Without being able to tear down my home and start over, some things seemed hopeless. I let it fall to the wayside. Recently, I picked up another book on the subject. Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life by Karen Rauch Carter is a clearly written, not-too-serious manual of using Feng Shui to “get love, money, respect and happiness.” As I’m in the process of a major winter “de-cluttering”, and clutter is the enemy in Feng Shui theory, it seemed like a good time to try again. The bathroom, in my home, is in the “Helpful People” section. I had barely finished my thorough cleaning (plus one red ribbon tied around the sink drain, all mirrors shining bright and a wind chime to dispel negative energy) when my sister Brenda called, with an idea to solve a big problem I’ve been worried about. Immediate results!

I’m making soup…an awful lot on these cold winter days. Yesterday I finished off a pot of spicy lentil soup; today I have turkey and wild rice simmering. Easy: one cup of diced turkey, sliced from the bird and frozen after Christmas; two quarts of turkey broth, made and stored in the freezer around the same time; three carrots, one onion, four stalks of celery and the leaves, stems and core from a head of cauliflower, all diced; a generous handful of wild rice. It will simmer all afternoon, and be ready to eat at suppertime, when the bread’s coming out of the oven, with plenty left over for lunches this week.

I am not putting in time in the studio. Winter is usually the time for art-making. The studio can be a cozy place to work when the cold winds are blowing. With a movie or the radio for company, I’ve spent many long hours in creative pursuits. Not so much, this winter.

I’m not shoveling snow…not much, anyway. If I can wade through snow to my hips to empty compost into the bin, I guess I can tramp through a foot of snow to get to the car. In other years, I’ve done more. Usually there is a clear path from the side door to the car, and also around to the front door. There is usually a path from the front door to the side yard, so that I can read the meter. There is walkway shoveled from the sliding door in back, just for the dogs, that leads over to the pine tree at the side of the house. Today, with another six inches of new snow, my chihuahua gave me a very intense look when she needed to go out. I suppose it’s time I get going on that.

I am not, it seems, coming to grips with my sister’s death. I was not there when she died; I was unable to attend the memorial. I forget that she is gone. Because I live away, and rarely saw Nita, it isn’t immediately apparent that she’s not still with us. I have moments of sadness. There are pangs of realization. I recognize symptoms of depression in my sleeplessness and neglect. I don’t feel depressed, though. Though I know it won’t last, most days I feel as if she is still here. That’s not a bad feeling!

Nita

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She walked with us but yesterday.

But yesterday – or so it seems –

We shared each others dreams, our woes,

We shared our wild and foolish dreams.

Now there is silence where she spoke,

Nor can she hear what we would say,

But all she was is with us still,

And we are glad for yesterday.

-Phillip Larkin (from the poem “Church Going”)

Last year at this time, I wrote “A Valentine for Nita,” telling about some of my sister’s struggles throughout her life, and now, with cancer.

She said, “It’s like you did my eulogy while I’m still alive!”

I denied it, but was careful, after that, to respect her privacy. All of us that love her dealt in our own way with her illness, but her struggle was hers alone.

I was down-state last month when Nita took a turn for the worse. I was able to see her, and let her know I care. Before I came home, I was able to see that her pain was being managed, and that hospice was there to help. The day that I left, I gave her a big hug and told her, “I love you.”

Then I drove home.

My brother and sisters arranged their time around Nita’s care. We’re becoming old hands at this. Nita’s children were there, along with nieces, nephews and friends, each as they could be, and as needed to help. Hospice was wonderful.

Here on Beaver Island, back at my own work, I was away from the fray. I was with them in spirit only. I wasn’t there for the changes and the frights and the occasional “melt-down,” but my heart went out to them all, every day. I could hardly think of anything else. I didn’t want to write about it, but everything else seemed unimportant in comparison.

Nita was dying, but every one that knew her and loved her had their own challenges.

Nita’s struggle ended today, in the early hours of the morning.

As for the rest of us, we struggle on without her.

Sister Time

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I just spent a week on vacation with my sisters!

We drove to Nashville, stayed in two large side-by-side apartments in a lovely resort (thanks to my sister, Brenda!), had a wonderful tour of the city that included a traditional dinner and “honky-tonkin'” down Broadway (thanks to my sister, Amy!), took in a fantastic show at the Grand Ole Opry (thanks again, Brenda!), and all-in-all just had the best time with the dearest women I know (thank you Brenda, Cheryl, Nita, Robin and Amy!).

We started out on Sunday, in two cars. Cheryl drove one, with Brenda keeping company beside her, and me lounging in the back seat. Amy drove the other, with Robin as co-pilot and Nita relaxing in the back. Both cars were loaded to capacity with the luggage of six women off on a jaunt. Each car took a different route, but arrived within a half-hour of each other.

We unpacked and settled in, opened bottles of wine, ordered pizza delivery and started plotting our week. Some things had specific dates and times, others were just ideas or possibilities. We’re big on possibilities in my family. We prefer to not book every moment, leaving openings for serendipity and the wonderful surprise. We keep in mind that on vacation, relaxation and enjoyment trumps an agenda every time.

The wine was the first of many bottles we worked through; the pizza was the first of many wonderful meals.

Cheryl was called away on a family emergency. She left in her car on Tuesday to be with her son and his family in South Carolina. We missed her, and worried along with her, but did our best to soldier on. I’m happy to report that everything seems to be going well there, and we’ve all been able to relax a little.

I could report on all the activities we managed to squeeze into our week, all of the sights and sounds of Nashville, the many interesting shops and marvelous restaurants, the terrific characters we met. They are nice memories, but not most important.

I can say, honestly, that there were moments of tension, of anger and hurt feelings. When you get a group of people together who were all children together, those things come out. They were only moments, though, quickly resolved, and not the memories I will hold when I think of this vacation.

When I remember this time with my sisters, I’ll be thinking of other things:

…the way we kept informed and kept Cheryl “in the loop” by frequent text messaging and long-distance word games.

…early morning, sitting in the outdoor hot tub chatting with Brenda as the steam rose into the cool air.

…high fives all around whenever we pulled a correct answer out of the air during Pub Trivia.

…eating a nice meal at a brewery, Brenda and I decided to order the six-glass artisan beer sampler. I expected double-shot sized samples, but we received our beer in 8-ounce glasses. I tasted each, shared with Nita, and drank my favorite with my meal. Brenda started at the left and worked her way through every one!

…Robin and Amy, the youngest in our family, shopping for their grandchildren.

…Nita, reporting to her grandson, “I’m having SO MUCH fun!”

…the candle we lit for our sister, Sheila, to keep her close though she’s no longer with us.

…packing to go home, with one less car, more passengers and many purchases: when the hatchback finally closed successfully after many failed attempts, we cheered and embraced.

…running into bad weather on our way home, we ended up in a motel for the night. Shortly after we checked in, the electrical power went out. We drank beer and wine and played our game with one small LED flashlight, and the glow from Sheila’s candle.

These, along with the giggles, the bright eyes and sweet smiles of each of my sisters, are the memories I’ll cherish.

A Valentine for Nita

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My sister, Nita

My sister, Nita

My sister, Nita, is a legend in our family.

It started when she was about two, and her baby-blonde hair gave way to a darker, almost reddish shade of brown. Mom had always wanted a redhead! The first touch of sun gave Nita’s little nose and round cheeks a nice dusting of freckles. Her twinkly eyes and bright grin finished the look.

In our family, we had sweet and silly and pretty and goofy-looking. We had, rarely, the child who might grow up to be beautiful. Nita effortlessly mastered her own look. She was cute!

Nita was also sassy. In a family of shy and easily intimidated children who were raised to know their place, Nita stood out! She would talk back to either of our parents; she’d stand up for herself and her brothers and sisters; she would vehemently defend her right to finish a game before chores or bath or bedtime. If Brenda and I were too bossy, she called us on it. Nita was the first, always, to cry “No fair!” Mom attributed it to her (nearly) red hair, which – to her – determined a certain rebellious, feisty spirit…so she didn’t work to squelch it.

The rest of us watched in awe.

That girl…cute and scrappy…was going to go far!

She did, too, with setbacks that might have stopped another person in their tracks.

Nita hasn’t had it easy.

Nita got pregnant before she was out of school, worked through her studies while expecting, and graduated high-school with a new baby.

Later, with two little ones at home, she managed to earn a college degree.

An amazing seamstress, one Christmas Nita made “pound-puppy” stuffed animals for each of her nieces and nephews, each customized to suit their owner. If I remember correctly, hair and eye colors matched those of the recipients. The one our nephew, Alan,  recieved (he was a teen-ager at the time) had one earring!

Nita has worked at all kinds of jobs. For several years, she took in piecework, mending underwear for residents at the convalescent home where my mother worked. Most recently, she worked at a fast food restaurant in Florida, frequented by the elderly. “I have to remember what they want from one day to the next,” she told me, “because they don’t.”

Family anecdotes tell of accidents and misfortunes enough to fill a book…but she has always kept us laughing.

Of all of Nita’s attributes, I think the best is her ability to laugh at herself, whatever calamity befalls her, and to make the rest of us laugh with her.

Nita lived, for a while, in the little house next-door to our family home. It had first belonged to Mom’s parents; after they died, it became a rental property. Aunt Margaret and her brood crowded in there for several years. There was a well-worn path from our front door to that front door, from years of visiting back and forth. “That path is an eye-sore,” Nita decided, and vowed to get rid of it. She raked up the soil for the length of the path, added fertilizer, then grass seed. As the final part of the process, she dragged the large picnic table over, and put it right dead-center on the pathway, “so people will have to find a different route.”

One summer evening, after tucking her children into their beds, Nita noticed a police car pull in to the house next door. My parents were both working second shift, so the only one home was my brother, David. If he wasn’t already in some kind of trouble, Nita rightly figured he would be shortly, as he wasn’t known for his compliance – or even polite conversation – when police officers came calling. She scooted across the yard to help.

It was only a friendly inquiry, if I remember correctly, but they talked for a while about one thing and the other.

The sun went down.

A car pulled in to Nita’s driveway. Oh no! If they came to the door and knocked, it would wake up her children!

She set off running in the most direct path across the yard from one house to the next.

When she tells this story, Nita says, “I estimate my speed at 35 miles per hour.”

That’s how fast she was going, then, when she ran into the picnic table…flipped over the top of it…and landed in a heap on the other side.

For six weeks, it looked like her left shoulder was attached to her earlobe.

She was crooked for months.

I still can’t hear this story without giggling!

Though, in our family, we are not above laughing at one another’s pain or embarrassment, it’s her telling of it that makes it so funny.

Nita never takes a “poor me” stance, but rather looks at her misfortunes with amazement, wry humor and a “can you believe this?!” attitude.

Nita’s going through a rough spell right now. Radiation treatments, chemotherapy, doctors and hospitals: these take their toll. Because we love her so much, it has brought the whole family down.

Still, she holds true to herself.

Nita still finds comfort in family and friends.

She still amazes me with her strength and resolve.

And, whenever I speak to her, Nita still always makes me smile.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Dear Sister!

Poison

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I take a little pink pill each morning, to regulate my thyroid.

I’m not much for taking pills, generally.

I take aspirin for headache. If I start getting leg cramps, I’ll take magnesium for a while. I’ve learned to take 600 milligrams of ibuprofen the minute I feel my back go out. Now and then I start a daily vitamin and baby aspirin regimen, but I forget, and neglect to form a regular habit of it.

The pink pill, I remember.

Without it, my skin dries out and my hair and nails become brittle. Without it, my cholesterol levels go all out of control. My energy level drops. Depression blankets me.

The pill does exactly what it is supposed to do.

It also strips my body of calcium. That’s a well known side-effect of the prescription drug, and I knew it going in.

I come from a family of strong-boned women…yet I have osteoporosis.

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My little dog, Rosa Parks, has severe allergies.

I inject her, every ten days, with a serum made specifically for her. It contains the essence of the many things she is allergic to, so that her body will build up defenses against them. It’s a lifetime commitment, but her little life is worth it.

Usually in about 24 hours after receiving her dose, she starts to get uncomfortable. Her ears get yeasty and itchy; her eyes water. They are the same symptoms, but in smaller measure, that she would exhibit all the time, without the treatment. If she becomes too miserable, there are other things I can give her to counteract the discomfort.

They come with their own side-effects.

It’s a balance we strike.

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My little sister Nita – my cute little sister who can make me laugh like nobody else in the whole world – starts chemotherapy today.

Her prospects are dire. Knowing it wouldn’t save her, she didn’t want treatment.

She knows what a challenge it would be!

The doctors spoke to her about time, and quality of life, and comfort.

They assured her she could stop at any time.

They convinced her to try.

Yesterday – a long day for her – she had a port put in, for administering the chemicals. She went for her first radiation treatment after that.

Today, she will receive her first chemotherapy.

I’m not thinking of Nita in the hospital bed.

I’m thinking of Nita, standing strong like a warrior, in her raggedy wide-leg bell-bottom jeans with her long dark hair showing glints of red highlights in the sunshine and a big smile on her freckly face.

I’m not thinking of the toxins being introduced into her system. I am thinking of those chemicals as soldiers, every one, dressed in white with silver swords blazing, marching in to fight the disease.

We find the balance.

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Rambling

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I’ve just spent a full ten minutes debating about whether this title should be “Rambling” – as in “I have been rambling around in the woods” – or “Ramblings”, like a series of random thoughts.

No kidding!

I got up and circled the chair, to look at it from a distance. I put the “S” on and then took it back off again.

More than once!

I even – briefly – considered replacing the “g” with an apostrophe…as in “I’m a ramblin’ man.”

That’s the way my mind is working these days.

Rambling.

I haven’t been sleeping well.

I was wide awake through much of last night. The little dog had gone outside to pee at three o’clock, and I’d gone to the bathroom to do the same. When I came out, she was already at the door, peering in, anxious to get out of the weather. Back in bed, she quivered and moaned in her sleep, breathing fast, heart pounding. When the other dog does that, I attribute it to dreams of chasing squirrels. I wasn’t so quick to let it go, in this case. Had she been terror-stricken when I wasn’t right there at the door to let her in? What went through her little dog-mind for those few moments alone out there in the dark and snow? Was that to blame for her restless sleep now?

After mulling that over for too long in the early morning hours, I turned my attention elsewhere. My notes for art class were brought out for examination and review. My finances then came to the forefront, were worried over and set aside. A grant I’ll be writing was given its due. Next, a hangnail that’s been bothering me, and achy joints, and the persistent tickle in my throat.

Finally, my thoughts turned to my sister Nita who, truth be told, is the cause for my restless nights.

She was sick in bed over Christmas…got worse when she expected to get better…went finally to the hospital…and no good news came of that.

Last week my sister Brenda and her husband drove from Michigan to Florida and back, to collect Nita and her few belongings so that she can be surrounded by friends and family that love her.

She saw a specialist yesterday…is having more tests and procedures today…and will likely begin a difficult treatment regimen next week. It’s not a good prognosis, in any case.

When I spoke to her, she said, “Yeah, I’m dying,” and gave a bit of a laugh. Dad and our sister, Sheila, fill her dreams, she said. “I’m sorry to put you guys through this again,” she told me.

“Don’t worry about us,” I said, “Take care of yourself!”

In the middle of the night, seems I can do enough worrying for all of us.