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OUT LIKE A LION

It’s the last day of March, nothing like a lamb — rainy, chilly and windy.  Strange weather we’ve been having — some 70+ degree days, people wearing sandals — then frigid temperatures, snow, and winter coats again.  Deniers of unusual global climate change are delusional.

Missed posting in February, though a made an unfinished attempt on February 28th. A lot’s been going on.  A trip to Massachusetts for the Hogans’ annual St. Patrick’s festival – bringing my Irish soda bread, of course.  The next week went to a Celtic Celebration concert by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra — third generation Irish descent, and the songs, dances and rousing bagpipes of my ancestors move me — roots go deep. Best of all, weekly overnight visits to Bethany, Kieran and my adorable grandchildren. Volunteer work at a hospital. Exercise classes at the senior center — hanging in there.

I promised epiphanies back in January — hope you haven’t been in suspense!  Reminded me of Al Francken’s Stuart Smiley, in the glory days of “Saturday Night Live,” gazing in a mirror,  affirming himself, murmuring “deep thoughts.” Now Senator Francken from Minnesota, it was wonderfully ironic to see him  — deadpan, with a sly downward glance — skewering our so-called Attorney General, Jeff Sessions.

Have had glimmers before, but understand more now — brace yourself!  It’s a miracle we’re even here at all — think of the odds, the multiple possible combinations of sperm and ova. And God charges a fair fare for an amazing lifelong journey — challenges to try us, then blessings and joys if we keep faith. We’re all in this together — I couldn’t have managed without loving family, friends, and my angelic pet Angel.

The trees are blossoming pink and white in Maryland.  Ducks and geese are pairing up on the pond in Bynum Run Park — babies coming soon. Tomorrow, I’m sowing grass seed on the bare patches in front of my patio.  The condo’s pool passes will be ready for Memorial Day weekend.  And America will survive the ignorance and incompetency of our so-called President Trump. (So unhealthily puffy looking — so full of himself.) Anyway, springtime is a time for hoping.

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EPIPHANIES

I’m back!  Haven’t been up to writing since I posted “A Harbor Full of Grace” in October.  Tried to stay hopeful, kept moving however I felt, but my depression worsened and I was admitted to Sheppard Pratt the end of November — spent my 85th birthday there on December 3rd, dear Kieran visiting with cupcakes for all. Was in Harford Memorial Hospital last year on my 84th — really don’t want to make this a tradition!

I’ve become something of an authority on the merits and demerits of various behavioral health centers — mental isn’t mentioned much. Sheppard Pratt was absolutely the best — caring, excellent staff; private room and bath; varied, decent food; music, exercise and other therapy programs;  Lexapro, a different anti-depressant; and ECT (shock treatment).  I’d been reluctant, and my son was apprehensive at my age, adding I’d been somewhat forgetful after it was administered in 2000, sixteen years ago.  But it was effective again.  (And I don’t remember being forgetful before.)

Kieran wryly remarked I’d been admitted to Mercy Hospital on Long Island soon after “W” Bush was elected president, courtesy of Florida’s hanging chads and the Supreme Court.  This time soon after Donald Trump’s mind-boggling win.   Coincidence?

Have been home for a month — happily celebrated my granddaughter Maeve’s Christening, Christmas, and the New Year. And my family, friends, and pet Angel have been loving and comforting. I’m grateful for every simple pleasure — reading The New York Times” and “The Washington Post, sipping my now decaf morning coffee.  And when I see that our soon-to-be-presidentTrump has once more erupted, tweeting praise of Putin, maligning the media for reporting what he says and does, insulting our “Intelligence” agencies, castigating  critics — I’m wide awake, don’t miss caffeine.  Behavioral Health, Donald?

Today is January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany, remembering the Magi’s visit to the Christ Child in a humble Bethlehem stable. My Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary states that epiphany also means: “a sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something,” and “an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking,” and “an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure.”

I may have come across a couple of those of late,  wanted to publish this today since there may be a metaphorical, metaphysical convergence here — old English majors can’t resist them.  Will tell more in a future post.  But for now I wish you and your loved ones — even some you’re not that crazy about — a happy, healthy, blessed New Year, and only troubles you can handle with the help of God.

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A HARBOR FULL OF GRACE

Angel and I drove to Havre de Grace again a week after the family visit — one of our favorite outings since moving here, only about 20 minutes from Bel Air.  Nobody here pronounces “grace” the fancy French way,  but as in “Amazing Grace.” A good, old flat American “A” is fine with Maryland folks.

A bit of background. Named for a port in France, this charming Harford city, more like a cozy village, is situated where the Susquehanna River meets the Chesapeake Bay, and is a historical area.  In the War of 1812, the British burned and plundered the area.  Now, thank God, it’s a haven of peace and serenity.

The day began gloomy and cloudy, but weather reports were hopeful, and we were rewarded by the sun appearing at noon and a gentle breeze blowing from the water.We both like walking to the lighthouse and back — besides being good exercise, we always see smiling faces, hear friendly greetings, and are both delighted when children run over to ask shyly:  “Can we pet your dog?”  We’d be disappointed if they didn’t!  Had a nice conversation with a young woman who’d lived in Jackson Heights before moving to Maryland, and gave birth to her only son at 41 as I did.  Small world.

Then, walking slowly with a cane, a man coming back the other way, abruptly announcing: “Dogs aren’t allowed here.” But he looked pleasant, not annoyed, so I said I’d seen the notices posted, nobody ever stopped us, and though we may not look like it, Angel was in fact what’s called a “comfort companion,” and I definitely needed one. That’s all I meant to say then, but suddenly found myself sharing about my depression. And was abashed when he told me he was on many medications, had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease over two years ago. We hugged each other, said we’d trust in God, pray for each other, hoped we’d meet there again. And I promised to put him in my next post. So,  John Barton, I did.

When Angel and I got back to the Promenade Grille I ordered the best bowl of New England clam chowder I ever tasted, with a side of three hush puppies, one of which I shared with my friend — couldn’t resist her melting, pleading eyes, though I’ve been careful to keep to her diet and give her Cushing’s Disease medication — she’s much improved now,  even her tail hair has grown back luxuriantly. Adds more zip to her happy wagging.

Indulge this old former English major if I quote Emily Dickinson here:  “Hope is that thing with feathers that perches in the soul.” I’ve been feeling little flutters now and then.

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OCTOBER SONG

Wrote one sentence yesterday — last day of the month again — on the premise of “well begun is half done,” for a post to be called “September Song,” but never got any further after Kieran and Bethany asked me for dinner and a sleep-over. Mixed up and baked an Irish soda bread, threw Angel’s and my stuff in a bag, and off we went to Baltimore.

Nolan and Jack ran out of the house barefoot to meet us on the front porch, laughing as they sniffed the warm bread.  And there inside was baby Maeve, so responsive at two and a half months, smiling, making happy sounds, waving her arms and legs as we talked to each other. And there was mommy fixing dinner, salad and lasagne for tonight.  Then daddy was home, roughhousing with his sons, letting them slide down his back head first as he held their ankles, then cuddling Maeve.  And gramma got to hold her again, giving her a bottle as she looked steadily into my eyes.

We ate a big chunk of the soda bread this morning —  Jack mostly just the raisins in his slice. Nolan asking for a second piece smeared with cream cheese. I was looking forward to watching his soccer practice after breakfast, but coach called to cancel because of rain soaked, muddy field. Declined invitation to accompany them on alternate family amusement — sneaker shopping for the boys at Kennilworth Mall.  Hugs and kisses goodbye, drove home, missing them all the way.

Last Sunday we all went apple picking at a Churchville farm — donuts and cider, sitting on the floor of a big wagon on the way to the orchard, Jack cautiously choosing only a few, Nolan asking for help carrying his heavy bag. Then to the casual Promenade restaurant at Havre de Grace marina for lunch, followed by joyous sliding and swinging at the harbor playground. Sat contentedly on a bench with Maeve on my lap — with a short break to show Jack that Gramma could still pump a swing — Bethany and Kieran keeping track of Nolan and Jack.

To make up for all this fun, I went to the Abingdon Y this afternoon where I staunchly pedaled an exercise bike for 40 minutes — a personal record. First time Kieran dragged me to his Baltimore Y a couple of months ago, I lasted 10 minutes under protest. He’s  disappointed when I admit I haven’t been “working out” — three days a week is his goal for his nearly 85 year old mom. I’m allowed, for variety, to now and then walk the treadmill at my condo community center.   Wanted to make him happy today.  He was.  Didn’t mind my rewarding myself with a Friendly’s coffee Fribble.  My idea of exercise is a leisurely walk with Angel on a beautiful day, but this doesn’t count, says Kieran.

Started a new antidepressant, Pristiq (Desvenlafaxine), three weeks ago, prescribed by nurse practitioner at Harford Memorial  clinic — cheek swab for DNA showed this medication to be more effective for me.  I’d googled and found that Effexor (Venlafaxine) and Trazodone were to be “used with caution.” Had been feeling groggy for several hours after waking in the morning. Now I’ve learned that Wyeth makes both Efexor and Prestiq,  and that there’s little difference between both.

Trying to keep moving rather than moping at home. And have registered for classes at senior center beginning next week:  Toning and Stretching on Mondays, and Line Dancing on Wednesdays. Started the latter a couple of years ago but dropped out when I couldn’t keep up, was usually on the wrong foot — most took the beginner class over and over, knew every step by heart. But thought I’d give it another try. Better than an exercise bike or treadmill, for sure.

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ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH” Part Three

Some slightly amusing incidents at Hopkins Bayview to lighten the foregoing:

After several days of eating large portions of bland, lukewarm food, became what is euphemistically called irregular.  Went to medication window, told humorless technician I needed laxative. He silently turned around and picked up a syringe.  Alarmed, I gasped:”Is that for me?”  Back still turned, he filled the syringe, mumbling:”It’s for someone else.”

When he visited, Kieran brought the tweezers and small hand mirror I’d asked for, and a nurse supervised as I plucked, standing at a sunny window.  Non-glass, dim mirrors in bathrooms for safety reasons. No nail clippers or files allowed at all.

I wore same long pants most days, hadn’t brought many clothes. One morning,  for a change, put on knee length denim skirt.   Nurse followed me, tapped me on the shoulder saying:  “Please go back to your room and change into something else.”  Apparently concerned that the narrow back slit would reveal a scandalous peek at my thighs.

By the way, had dinner and stayed overnight at Kieran and Bethany’s Saturday night — so good to see them and wonderful grandchildren again. When I went to get car, heavy rain began, dangerous storm on my way home, I was invited to stay. Didn’t want to take Kieran’s temporary bed in guest room, but I did, gratefully.  My son  in charge of Nolan and Jack  in room next door — Jack sometimes wakes crying.  Bethany and Maeve together in another room for nighttime breast feeding.

Kieran slept on futon mattress on floor in dining room. And Sunday morning persuaded me  (very reluctant) to work out on exercise bike at the their Y in Baltimore, and added me to their family membership.  Knees and insteps a little sore today.  But intend to go regularly to Abingdon Y — my son claims exercise boosts spirits.

Collected Angel at Kieran’s, drove to noon Mass at St. Margaret’s, stayed for blessing of the sick as I’ve done before, then to moving  memorial gathering for Charlotte, my good condo neighbor,  who died after bravely enduring several illnesses.  Her family served a generous lunch for relatives and friends in our community room, and spoke movingly of their happy times together. I’ll miss her in apartment C next door.

Have appointment this afternoon with psychiatrist at Harford Memorial Hospital in Havre de Grace who monitors  medications.  Not sleeping well with Trazodone at home.  And  an hour or so after taking 150mg of Efexor with breakfast, start to feel groggy and confused. I keep moving anyway, but it’s hard after not much sleep. Had to correct lots of typos on this. Will close for now and take Angel and myself for walk around condo, increasing our melatonin and endorphin levels.

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“ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH” Part Two

Somehow clicked Publish by mistake.  To continue…

Discharged last Tuesday, well enough to continue meds at home, the doctors decided, and I agreed, would visit therapist in Bel Air and psychiatrist at Harford Memorial to monitor prescriptions, do more volunteer work.  Going to see Maeve at last.  Walked to Emergency Room parking lot where left car 16 days before, gave grumpy attendant at exit a letter from social worker stating I’d been an inpatient, forgive fee.

Woman in booth frowned, made phone call, asked me for license, gave me a form to sign, sternly said I’d be billed for $150! I pleaded to no avail, she called for security guard who took his time coming, but was kinder —  went into booth and lifted the gate .  I’d been delayed from Kieran’s, was there over an hour, sometimes standing outside car in hot sun. But social services is now on the case!

Then to Kieran’s, finally got to hold Maeve in my arms, saw Mommy, Daddy and Nolan — Jack napping — couldn’t wait for me. Later went to get Angel from vet — happy to be together again — and home at last.  Saw therapist today, said I wasn’t sleeping well on Trazodone, had tried unsuccessfully to reach Hopkins and Harford Memorial psychiatrists.She reminded me that meds “take time to work.”  I know that, am trying to be patient. Keep me in your prayers

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH…”

I’d told my son I wasn’t doing well the week after coming home from St. Joe’s, and he called on July 7th, persuaded me to come for dinner and stay overnight. That afternoon watched Nolan and Jack happily splashing in a backyard wading pool — with their daddy pretending to be a big fish for them to climb on. The next morning, Kieran talked me into walking a mile long trail with him — exercise creates endorphins and lifts mood, he said, and though I felt a bit unsteady on my feet — he didn’t  seem to notice — I kept up the pace, didn’t want to worry him.

I’d been taking  Paxil for three weeks, prescribed at St. Joe’s, no weaning from the Zoloft and Lithium prescribed at Meadow Wood which I’d been taking for about a month.  Now I was waking often at night,  walking  wobbly, head muddled — and had a urinary infection, a probable side effect of Paxil, I learned. On July 11th, after seeing Dr. Naguib re now cleared urinary infection, but feeling generally miserable, I panicked again and drove to Johns Hopkins Bayview Hospital in Baltimore for admission to their behavioral health unit.

Kieran very upset this time.  I’d broken my solemn promise to talk to him first, but knew a brisk walk wouldn’t be enough to help. Took Angel to board at the vet, crying s I left her, I called my son to tell him I was going to another hospital. He tried to persuade me to come to their home, but I was determined. After a sleepless overnight in the noisy Emergency Room, was admitted to the In Patient Psychiatric Unit the next evening, then taken off the St. Joseph’s medicines and prescribed Effexor — an antidepressant I’d been on for fifteen years until last January and was sure had stopped working.

Very long days at Hopkins — working crossword puzzles, reading, taking notes for “The Perils” in the Common Room, talking to other patients. Few group sessions, an occasional craft workshop and sessions led by a nurse or social worker — “How to Find Happiness” the theme of one, led by an almost annoyingly chirpy social worker.

Was surprised many patients were allowed to spend most of the day in bed, some only coming out for meals. Not sleeping well again, given Ambien several nights, then taken off and prescribed Trazodone and Remeron at bedtime. Antidepressants can cause insomnia.  Sleeping medicines can aggravate depression.

Happy news in the  middle of all this:  My beautiful granddaughter, Maeve Gallagher, was born on July 15th, a healthy 8 pounds, 9 ounces.  Sad that I’d have to wait to see and hold her when I was discharged — finally, on July 26th, after an endless two weeks and two days.

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