I Love a Good Cuppa …

TEA. You thought I was going to say coffee, didn’t you.

I like tea.  I love tea. I drink it hot, iced, even room temperature. It just has to be a little sweet. Okay, sometimes it’s a lot sweet.   I don’t know how coffee drinkers get excited about drinking the same thing day after day after day after day. “Mmmmm, coffeee….” They make a pot using the same blend like the movie Groundhog Day, repeating the routine over and over and over.  At least Bill Murray figured out how to end his cycle. I don’t get it. Sure you can go to a coffee shop and get a French Roast instead of a Breakfast or House Blend, but how many coffee drinkers have, I don’t know …uhh, 20 different flavors within reach at home on any given day? Well, they don’t. I have a cupboard and shelf packed with teas: tins, boxes, and now pouches, bags, sachets, and loose leaf in tins and pouches.  I have black tea, green tea, herbal tea, white tea, oolong tea, matcha tea, flavored herbal, flavored black, flavored green.  You get the picture.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not hating on coffee, or coffee drinkers.  Okay, well maybe a little.  I love the smell of coffee beans.  I could bury my face into a bag of coffee and breathe deeply until I pass out.  I like the smell of fresh brewed coffee.  There is a richness to the aroma that only coffee has.  I just can’t stand the flavor.  All I taste is burnt bitterness.  My dear hubs, now he is a coffee drinker.  He always made it for himself, mostly because I didn’t know how. I think we were married 10 years before I didn’t have to ask him how to make a pot in a Mr Coffee coffee maker. Go ahead, laugh a little.  It is kinda ridiculous because it is pretty easy. He taught the kids to drink coffee.  I taught them to drink tea.  They prefer coffee though.

This summer I was introduced to The Tea Spot through the fitness clothing brand, Skirt Sports.  [Full disclosure: I’m a Brand Ambassador for them.] There was a retreat for Ambassadors and The Tea Spot was a sponsor/ featured brand that weekend.  I won’t retell the company’s story, but please mosey over for all the details.  The condensed version is: it was founded in 2004, and is a woman owned business.  They blend their own flavored teas in small batches in-house.  Maria, the founder, wrote a book called Cancer Hates Tea (when I’ve finished reading it I will write a review) and designed her own brand of Steepware(R) to help make the best possible cuppa you can.

There is a reason I’m suddenly smitten with this company; my usual tea retailer is closing all its walk-in storefronts soon, and they will not be offering their selections through an online storefront.  I needed a new source for my tea! The Tea Spot has a storefront in Boulder, Colorado, where you can go in and smell all the goodness in person. Or you can order online and they currently ship to all 50 US states and Canada. When making your selections there are package sizes to choose from. Bulk teas are offered most often in 2oz (56g), 4 oz (112g) and/or half-pound (450g) pouches. Even better: a sample size is offered for nearly all of the varieties on the website for a nominal price.  The samples will brew up 5 servings, or about 40 oz (1.2L) of tea. It is just enough tea to try it out, and you don’t spend a lot to do it. Bonus with every order is a free single serving sample of one of the teas. Just when I didn’t think I could like the company any more (did I mention they donate a percentage of all sales to charity?) The Tea Spot  launched a subscription box just this week.  Of course I signed up! I have one from this month’s box in my mug next to me right now.

Each monthly shipment includes five to six loose leaf teas distinctly paired with the current season, and arrives in a cute box with a tea education postcard.   Bonus Steepware® in select shipments throughout the year.

How much fun is this!  Come back next time for my thoughts on the teas that came in the November box.  I promise there will be no cheesy ‘unboxing’ videos, but there may be pictures.

Advertisements

Dear Lord, Fix me

I wake up most days lately with an all over body ache that doesn’t go away. With it is a frequent headache that sits low on the base of my skull, enough pain to say “Hey, I’m here. Na na.”

I don’t want to get up. The comfort of layers of blankets calls like a Siren. I sleep in fits, dreams elude me. I know I’m not sleeping well or deeply if I don’t remember having dreamt. To stay is almost death, to get up means facing…well, everything. Facing the house, its clutter and dust, dirty dishes and unfolded laundry, and all the chores that have accumulated and been neglected. I just can’t.

I am overwhelmed. I want darkness, and quiet. No, I want silence. I do not want distractions, annoyances, sound. I want to cry.

I find myself jealous for things and situations of other women that I shouldn’t be. “Why does she get ____, and I don’t?” This isn’t usually me. Or maybe it is me, and the darkness of this depression is brining it up so I can deal with it. I’m not angry and have no malice. I’m just jealous. I don’t like this feeling, and feeling it makes me feel like I’m slipping deeper.

My doctor upped my meds. It’s been a couple of weeks. How soon before I feel the effects? Have they started taking effect and I’m slipping farther just as fast?

I try to pray, and talk to God. The words just aren’t there. All that comes is Fix me.

Dear Lord, fix me.

Las Vegas : It is so Extra

There is something about this city. It draws millions every year. There is more to it than neon, gambling and (legal) prostitution. Those are usually the first things people think about when you mention you are planning a trip here.

For the introvert looking for a quiet relaxing vacation Las Vegas is prob’ly not going to be a first choice. There aren’t many places to “get away from it all” if you stay on The Strip. And yet I love coming here. Granted, it is always only a long weekend, and also every few years. The last time I was in Vegas was just over 2.5 years ago.

I was thinking about this current visit today while walking, well, everywhere. This contemplation began during a walk to a drug store this yesterday morning before breakfast. It included climbing and descending no fewer than 120 stair steps, one elevated pedestrian bridge, dodging hundreds of people walking, stopping, standing, panhandling or busking, taking pictures, taking selfies. There was a line of 30+ waiting to get a table at Denny’s, a dozen or so bodegas hawking everything: discount show tickets, alcohol, tobacco, cheap souvenirs, electronics accessories, hats, shoes, clothes. There were people trying to make their wages by handing out coupons for Uber or Lyft first ride bonuses, and several dressed in knock-off character costumes who will pose with you for pictures for a few bucks; Hari Krishna, or some other Eastern religious order wearing amber colored robes, passing out cards to help find your inner peace. The “Slappers” pushing cards for hookers and brothels don’t start coming out until late afternoon. There was one street evangelist encouraging us all to repent. I saw 3 ambulances, one fire rescue truck, 4 motorcycle cops, 2 patrol cars/SUVs. There were showgirls wearing next to nothing, and the destitute with next to nothing.

How far did I walk? About 0.8 mi (1.3km), making it 1.6 mi (2.6km) round trip. This city is stimulation overload. It gets busier, and worse, on the weekends.

I tried listening to my favorite Third Day worship album. I made it as far as the mezzanine above the casino floor before having to turn up the volume to the point my phone practically shouted DANGER! at me. I should clarify, that was out the room, down the elevator and a span of a few hundred yards through hotel ‘filler space’ (past open lobby areas to ball rooms, restrooms, coffee and souvenir kiosks, some public seating and two restaurants I can’t afford). My Vivofit tracker counted almost 1,600 steps from the room to the front doors. Huge is an understatement. And yet, this particular hotel is one of the smaller ones on The Strip.

This makes me sound like such a rube. I’ve been to Washington DC, Chicago, San Francisco. I would go back to any of those, but I jump at the chance to come back here. The kicker is I don’t come to gamble. I mean, I’ll lose a few dollars on the slots. I could gamble at the tribal-run casino that’s about 40 miles from my house if I wanted. I’ve never been. And I won’t go. Addictive personalities and casinos don’t generally mix well, ya know?

But this city! The little bit of extrovert in me adores talking to all the people, engaging in conversation with absolute random strangers at the most random of places and times. Sweat Pea is here with me and more than once she’s said, “Calm down. You don’t have to talk everyone.” I wouldn’t say she’s mortified; it’s a side of me she rarely, if ever, has seen. After all, I did warn her she would see a side of me that doesn’t come out to play very often. Hmm, maybe that’s why I like coming back.

The day before yesterday I realized how empty and disconnected the atmosphere is here, and how much I’ve allowed to get pulled, sucked really, from me. With 100,000 people wandering, shopping, commuting up, down and across Las Vegas Blvd I felt a pervasive spiritual emptiness. There are churches growing and thriving here, I’m sure. I doubt any of them are planning to build the next Crystal Cathedral or Willow Creek on the vacant 22 acre parcel at the south end of The Strip though. This emptiness is what had me walking to the drug store with Third Day cranked up. I needed my heart fed; it got a little nibble. I needed a moment to recharge.

The drug store jaunt wasn’t enough to refill my introvert self, and that was the reason for the middle of the night soak. Headphones were at the ready. They became dampers to the white noise of a hotel: hvac fan, three others sleeping twenty feet away, the bathroom vent rattling the steam away, room doors closing loudly as all hotel room doors do. I got very little sleep, and don’t entirely care.

The sun is up and a new day of crowds and sounds has begun. In 37+/- hours I’ll be home again. My usual introverted self will relish a good long sleep. Until then I have one last day to let the Extra that is Las Vegas take me in.

Depression

It’s opening the front door on a gorgeous day, knowing that being outside will do so much good and then not going because putting proper clothes on, like a bra and clean socks, let alone finding shoes, is just too much work.

It’s being hungry, knowing you should eat something mostly good for you, and grabbing the bag of chips or package of cookies because it’s just easier. Then feeling awful because you know you’re going to gain weight, which depresses you more.

It’s looking at the work at hand and being so overwhelmed with the size of the job that you become mentally paralyzed and don’t know where to start.

It’s not showering or brushing your teeth for a few days, because you just don’t have the energy.

It’s insomnia, full body fatigue, and apathy so deep it’s hard to explain.

It’s forcing yourself to smile because genuine ones have disappeared. It’s hiding in plain sight, hoping you’ll be noticed but not seen, and yet not forgotten.

It’s cancelling plans. Or you’re just a no-show because A) explaining why you don’t feel up to going out would take too much energy B) your friends may not understand C) you don’t want to lie, and you hate being lied to D) all of the above.

It’s having some really good days, even a few that string together, and you come out of your cocoon of Darkness and Wallow, and you go outside to enjoy the gorgeous day.

It’s feeling the warmth of life from the sun on your face, and you relish the moment, sitting quietly in your car observing the world, being in it and yet, not fully participating.

It’s the comfort of a genuine hug that pulls the stress out of your shoulders, and being able to relax.

It’s standing at the open front door, staring outside for a minute and closing it again.

Crying “Uncle!”, or You Know What, I’m Just Done.

“Hey, how’s it going?”

Such an innocuous set of words aren’t they?  We ask them casually to friends, family, acquaintances alike.  We expect the same answer, or variations thereof: “It’s going okay.”

Guess what.  It’s not okay. I’m not okay.  I am ‘stick a fork in me’ done. This is My Own Little Soapbox after all, so you’re just gonna have to listen to me vent, kvetch, or as my Dutch grandparents or in-laws would have said, “brommen”  (grumble, growl, drone, mutter).  My grandfather’s usual context was to tell us to “Quit your brommen.

A month ago our youngest nearly died.  She was dying, actually, and her body was shutting down.  She spent five days in the hospital, most of that in ICU.  In medical terms she was mildly hypothermic, hypovolemic, in septic shock, and suffering severe DKA. In terms we all can understand she was cold, like under 90 degrees cold, severely dehydrated, and had a rare strep infection in her blood.  The DKA is a complication of diabetes wherein your body burns fat for energy instead of glucose, and the fat-turned-energy leaves an acid called ketones in your blood. Too many ketones and your body pH drops and you become acidotic.  Her pH was 6.8.   A nurse said they have a little saying about low body pH: Under 7, they’re going to heaven.

She had lots of fluids, IV antibiotics, lots of electrolytes, insulin, sodium bicarbonate — at one point there were EIGHT IV infusion pumps running at once and she was intubated to keep her body from quitting completely.

20170404_091012[1]

That was April 5. She pulled through and came home.

Last week Sunday we went to the emergency room because she has a spot on her leg from an intraosseous needle inserted into her shin — yes, straight through the bone into the marrow — that wasn’t healing very well.  She had one in each leg, by the way.  I thought it may be a little infected.  I called an Urgent Care and they said if she needed IV antibiotics they would send us to  Emergency since they can’t administer those.  Okay, ER it was.

The PA-C and a doctor both looked at her leg.  Both determined it was ugly, slow to heal, but not infected.  Now can we address the severe belly pain she’s had for nearly 2 weeks?  A routine urinalysis showed she had a UTI and  bladder infection.  I am my daughter’s Patient Advocate.  She doesn’t like to make a big deal of things, even when it’s a big deal. She was downplaying the pain, and I knew it. She was in tears. I requested an ultrasound just to rule out any other problems.  (I was thinking appendix or ovarian cyst.)  My request was ignored.  We were sent home with 7 days’ of oral antibiotics for the UTI.

Wednesday evening comes and the belly pain had not let up, and was actually worse than before, she said.  It was after 9:30 pm, so back to Emergency we go.  I was thinking they’d give her a prescription for some stronger pain meds and we’d be on our way.

Did you know that Emergency departments of larger hospitals have different rooms for different levels of “emergency”?  When our girl was brought in a month ago, she was in a Level 1 Trauma Room.  They are huge to make room for all the staff that needs to be on hand to save a patient’s life. There are Observation rooms.  These are decent sized spaces, and away from the noise of the rest of the ER.  Patients who need to be watched for a few hours come here. For example: sudden onset of pain after surgery or chemo, or other procedure, a runner needing hydration after race.  They need help, but won’t be admitted.

Then there are the “you’re not bleeding, dying, broken, shot, stabbed, and otherwise look pretty good, and we wonder why you’re here” rooms. The “Let’s read all of War and Peace while we wait” rooms.  That’s where we were taken Wednesday night.  O, I failed to mention they are not private in any way, shape, or form.  This room was semi-private so we could listen to the other fella in the bed next to hers have conversations with his friend who brought him, the staff, and hear the multiple episodes of Law & Order he watched.  Yes, multiple — remember, the theme of these rooms is “hurry up and wait,  and… wait.”

Around 12:30 am it was decided that she should have a CT scan.  FINALLY! Also by this point they decided she was going to be admitted for DKA — and we didn’t even come in for that! What seemed like ages pass and they take her down.  No, they don’t know how long it will take to get results.  At 2:24 am Thursday morning she is finally brought up to the ICU — again.

Neither of us was prepared for an inpatient stay.  We’ve learned to pack a hospital bag in 10 minutes at home before coming to the ER just in case she gets admitted. We didn’t have blankets, comfy pants, phone chargers, my tablet and headphones, eye mask, or earplugs — nothing!

Around 4 am all the staff finally leaves the room so we can get some rest.  It takes that long to get IVs started, meds ordered and brought up, vitals taken (again), EKG monitor pads affixed, the same questions asked with the same answers given, the IV infusion pumps attached to pole, set and running.  And my girl is still in pain because they haven’t given her much to control it.

Daylight comes bringing a shift change, more questions and the results from the CT scan.  It shows she has a kidney infection with a possible abscess on it.  She will be staying for a couple more days, at least 2, until they can scan the kidney again to check on the “spot.”

This news induces a wave of tears, anxiety, stress and fear.  I’m too exhausted to feel all the rage I want to knowing we could have been 3 days ahead on healing if they had just listened to her mother on Sunday!

What brought me to tell all y’all about this?  Thanks for asking.  I was supposed to join my friends for a group run Saturday (yesterday) morning.  I fell asleep in the recliner in the hospital and didn’t make it.  It turned out that wasn’t so bad after all.  She got discharged and we left the building around noon. If I had been running I would not have been able to take her home.  Sidenote: I slept all 3 nights in the hospital with her, if you can call what I did “sleeping.”

My plan was to run today.  I’m training for a 25K that is next weekend, and a marathon the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. My plan was 22 miles. My goal was to be out of the house around 2 pm.  That came and went.  I ate, drank water, started getting my gear together.  I wandered around because I can’t focus.  My head just wasn’t in it today, certainly not my heart.  The straw that broke the camel’s back?  I couldn’t find my headphones, and I couldn’t remember where I had put them.  I couldn’t find my new bottle of electrolyte capsules either. I would need both to survive 22 miles on my feet.  It was now 4:45 pm and I called it.  “Uncle!” I said to my husband.  I just can’t today.  And now you know why I am ‘stick a fork in me’ done.

Tomorrow is another day.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As for more tomorrows, our daughter is now a legal adult.  She has over $30,000 in existing medical debt.  These last two inpatient hospital stays have not been added to that total.  Please read her story, and consider a generous contribution to help save her future before it has a chance to really start.

Come Thou Fount

Tears. Unexpected, streaming tears. Sweet, cleansing, purposeful tears. Washing, joy-filled, releasing tears. The kind that catch your breath and leave you speechless.  It was just what my weary heart needed today.

 

Come thou fount of every blessing

Tune my heart to sing thy grace

Streams of mercy never ceasing

Call for songs of loudest praise.

Teach me some melodious sonnet

Sung by flaming tongues above.

Praise the mount I’m fixed upon it

Mount of thy redeeming love.

Here I raise my  Ebenezer

Here by thy great help I’ve come

And I hope by thy good pleasure

Safely to arrive at home.

Jesus sought me when a stranger

Wand’ring from the fold of God.

He to rescue me from danger

Interposed his precious blood.

O that day when freed from sinning

I  shall see thy lovely face.

Clothed then in blood-washed linen

How I’ll sing thy sovereign grace.

Come, my Lord, no longer tarry

Take my ransomed soul away.

Send thine angels now to carry me

To realms of endless day.

O to grace, how great a debtor,

Daily I’m constrained to be.

Let thy goodness like a fetter

Bind my wandering heart to thee.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,

Prone to leave the God I love

Here’s my heart, O, take and seal it

Seal it for thy courts above

I have loved this hymn since I was a little girl.  The melody is simple and almost poetic.  I want it played, or sung, or both, at my funeral some day, many, many years from now.  Lord willing.

An Englishman, Robert Robinson, went to a revival with the intent of mockery and heckling attendees.  Instead his soul was touched and three years later he gave his life to  Christ. In 1757 or 1758, he wrote this hymn while preparing a sermon.  Two hundred fifty-nine year later the words are still moving within the hearts of those who will listen.

And listen, won’t you?

The Family Tree Grows

.

I’ve been working on my family tree since Christmas.  Here is a little update on what I’ve found.  I have found it to be fascinating (like seeing an actual copy of a great-grandfather’s 1917 draft registration card with his own signature on it) and frustrating (like painstaking time spent translating Dutch to English with Google Translate).  I can now recognize the Dutch words for birth, died, married, none, municipality (of), female, male, year(s), month(s), father, mother, bride, groom.  I can read most of a Dutch birth, marriage or death record and get the gist of it.  Deciphering the handwriting though — well, that’s something else completely. Totally random, but remember the Burgermeister Meisterburger from the 1960’s stop-motion movie Santa Claus is Coming to Town? He was the cranky fat man who outlawed all the toys.  Okay, so a Burgermeister (pronounced: bur-ger-mice-ter)  is a real person.  I mean, it’s a real thing.  He was basically the village clerk keeping the official records. 

~ I got a hit on my DNA with a possible distant relative.  It seems we share a common ancestor 5 generations back on my tree, or what would be one set of my great-great-great grandparents; 3rd or 3x great-grands.  This “match” appears to be closer to my parents age.  I’m guessing based on the number of branches that follow after him (3: kids, grands, great-grands) compared to my own (2: kids, grands).  I understand the website’s need for privacy for family members still living on the trees built on the site, but it would be nice to have some names and birthdates for what seems to be a 4th Cousin. All I can see is PRIVATE in box after box after box.

~ 4 new babies have been born and added in the last month from one First Cousin and then two Second Cousins. Thanks to Facebook I saw the announcements. People don’t mail birth announcements anymore, do they? One thing hasn’t changed, and that’s the tragedy of newborns who don’t survive. Medicine and NICU have come so far and despite all the interventions some babies just aren’t strong enough to overcome.

~ 1 mystery was solved regarding a Nellie, who wasn’t illegitimate after all (WHEW!) just in the wrong place.  When a repeated first name shows up and you don’t know if the last name given was her maiden or married name it can get confusing. The 1800s are rife with repeated and reused names.  It was not unusual after a child died to name the next one born the exact same as their dead sibling. And unlike George Foreman who did name all of his boys George I, II, III, IV and V these people didn’t specify which one came first or second.  I spent some time digging through Dutch records to find out who she was. This Nellie was wrongly placed on the tree under her married name.  Once her maiden name was figured out I just had to make sure her parents were correctly listed. If you don’t remove the wrong ones your relative would hang on two separate branches and then things get really messed up.

~ Four (so far that I know) have served in the US Armed Forces during WWII, Korea, and peacetime between and after that. My great uncle (grandfather’s brother) served as a clerk in the Marine Corps from his enlistment in April, 1943 until April, 1946 achieving the rank of Technical Sergeant. I didn’t know he was in the military until I was in my 20’s and I saw his USMC tattoo on his arm. My mother’s brother served in the Navy after Korea in peacetime. He spent time in Japan.   I wonder if my very straightlaced uncle has a Navy tattoo hiding up his sleeve.

~ A 3x great-grandfather (Albertus, b.1818) was married 4 times and had 11 children. Four of whom died between birth and age 6.  Sadly each of his wives saw one of her children die.  I’m thinking he must have been wealthy or how could he be in his mid-40s (somewhat old in that era) and marry a young woman.  The eldest child was born in 1844; the youngest in 1878. I have not found out if any of the later wives had been widowed, or had children from previous marriages.  Finding them would be a curiosity, more than a necessity.

~ My 2nd great-grandfather (Karst, b. 1844), the eldest son of the one I just mentioned, was married twice and had 10 children.  Likewise he and his first wife suffered the loss of two young children; a third died at age 30.

~ A 1st cousin 2x removed [my grandpa’s 1st (half) cousin — I’m 2 generations away so that make it 2x removed — or also: 2nd great-grandfather Karst’s grandson through his second wife — you know in case you weren’t confused enough already] was an international champion billiards player (who I knew about, just didn’t know what branch he hung on). He served in the Army during the Korean Conflict.  I don’t know if he saw combat.  He died at age 37 of cancer.

~ And to make this 2nd great-grandfather’s legacy even more interesting we have this: With Wife 1 he had a daughter called Nellie (her given name was Lummigje); Wife 2 had a son called John with her first husband.  John and Nellie, he was about 17 and she 13, became step-siblings in 1892 when their parents married.  They got married to each other in 1897. He was then about 22 and she was just shy of 19.

The biggest scandals would prob’ly be the folks who left the Dutch Reformed Church for the Christian Reformed Church (yes, that really was a big deal), and a couple of shotgun weddings in the 1800s.

Some thing I have come to realize was the importance and necessity of marriage for the females of the time.  Women couldn’t work enough to support themselves.  Men needed a wife to take care of house, home and children, and if she died there was no one to do that job. Men had to remarry in order to have someone help raise the children left behind. All this makes me wonder how ‘blended’ families from the 1800s got along. Think about it: eleven children with an age gap of 34 years from oldest to youngest.  Did the sons from Wife 1 feel more entitled than the ones who came later? Did the younger ones even feel a familial bond of any kind with the siblings who were old enough to be their own parent? Maybe the concept of family was different when second cousins and step-siblings married each other. Today is just seems kinda creepy.
The digging for more family roots continues.