Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I’m suffering the attack of the killer allergies, and boy do I have the lethargy to prove it!

Central Ohio is generally known as allergy central. I have known many people whose doctors told them the best treatment for their allergies would be to simply move away. But I have lived almost my entire life in this area, and I didn’t really suffer any allergy symptoms until I was in my forties. Then I started having mild hay fever symptoms – nothing a little Claritin couldn’t handle.

Last spring, my body upped the ante. When the spring trees bloomed, so did my eyes. They swelled, turned a lovely shade of red and began to water profusely. I would wake in the morning unable to open them because of the thick layer of goop that had accumulated overnight. I went to the doctor and stepped up to Zyrtec. It took care of the other increased allergy symptoms, but didn’t seem to touch the eyes. Eventually my doctor prescribed both antihistamine eye drops and an antihistamine nasal spray, and using both of those with the Zyrtec I managed to get through the few weeks when the tree pollen was thick. Afterward, it seemed my base level had ratcheted up a notch. Claritin didn’t touch even my low-level symptoms. But as long as I took my daily Zyrtec, I was OK.

Well it’s tree pollen time again, and my eyes are at it again. I have worn contact lenses for 36 years and these two springtime allergy events are the only things that have ever kept me out of them. (My eye doctor always comments on what surprisingly healthy eyes I have for such a long-time contact wearer.) Today I wore my glasses all day. In the morning my eyes were literally running like a faucet, but it rained today and I think the pollen count improved when it did. Now my eyes don’t feel too bad, except that I have to pay attention or I will find myself rubbing them. They have just that low-level itch that makes me want to dig in them, but experience has taught me that they fell so much worse when I do!

The thing I’ve noticed – and the real reason I thought all this might be of interest to someone else – is that when one’s eyes are swollen and itchy, it is very difficult to feel one’s normal energy level and conduct one’s normal daily functions. I mean, it is really only one little part of my anatomy that is in discomfort, but WOW does it affect my overall productivity! I have had a hard time getting even the most basic chores done today. I think it’s because that whole itchy eye thing is a lot like what it feels like when I’m sleep-deprived, and my mind misinterprets it. Like it says, “Hmm, the sandman came through. Must be time for some shut-eye.”

Or at least, that’s my story – and I’m sticking to it!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I’ve been having this strangely disorienting feeling about the “green movement” lately. Or, I guess more precisely, about where I am in life, and how this movement makes me feel.

I am 50 years old. (I still react like an alcoholic standing in front of the AA meeting every time I say that so bluntly. Take a deep breath and lay it out there, and then smile a little at the realization it’s OK to say!) When I was in the seventh grade, which would have been about 1972, I had a social studies teacher named Miss Sigfreid who made a big impression on me. She taught about ecology and the interdependence of everything on earth. She taught zero population growth. (I still don’t quite know how she got away with that in a public school!) She taught us to recycle and really imbedded in me the idea that taking care of the planet is just what the good guys do.

Over the years that message was reinforced in other places, and it really took root. I’m sure it didn’t hurt any that the energy crisis occurred during my senior year in high school, disrupting classes because they couldn’t heat our building. I remember learning about alternate energy sources in college, and forming the opinion around that same time that gas-guzzling cars were just icky. So as an adult, all that was always a part of my psyche. Even in the 1980’s and 1990’s, when the economy was booming and energy was cheap and everyone in America except me, it seemed, fell in love with the SUV, that whole recycle-reuse-conserve consciousness was part of who I was.

Now, I was never flashy about it. You would have had to actually watch us to realize things were different at our house. My husband and I needed two bins to put out our recycling each week while most of our neighbors didn’t fill the one that they were provided, while our garbage can was half empty until neighbors would fill it with their overflow on collection night. We never owned an SUV or even a mini-van, and I tried to buy a hybrid in 2003 when I bought my most recent vehicle, though in the end I just couldn’t quite afford it. (I was coming off a car lease, so waiting while I saved a little more wasn’t an option.) We were using compact fluorescent light bulbs in our home years before the government decided to ruin a good idea by mandating it, and I wouldn’t know how to act in a house that was warmer than 65° overnight. We installed a programmable thermostat as soon as they became affordable and stopped heating our home much through the day when we were at work, too. And we run our air conditioner less than anyone in the neighborhood in the summer! It’s got to be pretty sticky before we turn it on. Day-in, day-out, lunches were carried in washable lunch boxes, gift boxes and bags were reused again and again…well, you get the idea.

And yeah, I did feel a wee bit smug about it. I’m entitled, aren’t I? After all, I wasn’t going to get any OTHER reward, so I might as well bask in a little self-satisfaction. It’s gratifying to do the right thing, and why not enjoy a little glow about it?

But today, I feel like I’ve been robbed of that reward. Suddenly it’s cool to be “green,” and I feel so unappreciated for my 35 or so years of good effort and commitment. The level of effort I put in during those long, lonely years when people mostly thought I was just odd is now merely the baseline. I mean, people are by-and-large embarrassed to do less than the things I’ve mentioned. The government is mandating the use of compact fluorescent bulbs even in places where they may not make sense; even those who love gas guzzling SUV’s are dumping them because gas prices went up to $4 a gallon last summer and we all know they will go there again. Programmable thermostats are commonplace, most of the neighbors now fill two bins of recycling, and reusable lunch boxes are more common than brown bags.

All those are really, really good things. I hate to sound like a whiner when talking about things that indicate our society is improving. There’s just this little, tiny voice in my head that says, “Hey, would it kill ‘em to give me an attagirl? A little tip of the hat to those of us who stayed faithful and slogged through the long years when ecology wasn’t cool?”

Sigh. I guess I have to let it go. And I have to let go of the umbrage I feel when I hear some of the more extreme “greenies” suggesting changes that are – well – extreme. (I’m pretty sure we should still bring babies into the world in spite of their carbon footprint, for example.) But hey, I’m 50 years old. The way I figure it, that means my life is probably around 60% over. Surely that buys me the right to be a little curmudgeonly, right?

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Those who have followed this blog know that I tried hard to apply myself to the disciplines of Lent. My efforts weren’t perfect, but I think back to something our priest said the first Sunday of Lent: “If you get to the end of Lent and you are unchanged, then it was not a successful Lent. You should be able to notice a difference by the end.” By that standard, I think this was a successful Lent. I improved my prayer life, and I think I made great strides in trying to let go of my need to be in control and truly put my trust in God. These are very uncertain times in my life, but I can see a lifelong pattern of God taking good care of me. I know He will continue to do so now and in the future.

And now here we are at the end of Lent! Today starts the series of worship services the Catholic Church calls the Triduum. They are supposed to be viewed as one service, continued in three parts. The traditions are quite ancient, going back to the very beginnings of the church. Our choir will sing at all three services, and I find them quite beautiful. In fact, I’d have to say they are one of my favorite things about Catholicism.

Tonight's service is joyous in nature. It commemorates the last supper, with Jesus instituting communion. There is a ceremonial washing of feet, and all the ministers who help with communion in the church are officially "commissioned" for another year. It's all about community. (This year will hold a special treat for me because Sam went through the training and will be commissioned this year, too.)

Friday's service is just the opposite. It remembers the crucifixion and is very melancholy. In fact, at times it is more than melancholy – downright anguishing. It can be a difficult one to get through, but as a musician I have to note that the music is absolutely gorgeous. And of course, if you don't acknowledge how horrendous the crucifixion was, you can't fully grasp how amazing the resurrection was. There is no “closing” to this service, it just ends in silence and people file out to reflect. It is not a service I enjoy, exactly, but let’s say I appreciate it.

Then at Saturday's service we celebrate the empty tomb. The Mass doesn't start until it's dark outside, this year set for 9:00. It starts out at a bonfire where the Easter Candle is blessed, then the congregation lights candles and processes into the dark church. There are several Bible readings and psalms before finally the resurrection story is read and the lights are all brought up and from then on, everything is celebratory. New members who have been studying to join the Catholic Church come in at this Mass, so there are always baptisms and confirmations at it. At our parish we have a nine-piece orchestra accompanying us, which makes all the music seem special, even the routine mass parts and hymns. But we do some awesome special pieces, too. It is a Mass full of joy. I always leave it feeling great.

I don’t know whether I will blog again before Easter, so just in case I don’t, I wish all who read this a blessed and wonderful holiday. I think we all need a good immersion in Easter joy!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

I've been having a great week so far! On Tuesday I took a vacation from being unemployed. Sam was away on his class trip to Chicago, and Bob took the day off work. We lazed around the house all morning, then went to the art museum in the afternoon. Late afternoon we watched a video at home, then we used a gift card we'd been keeping back for a special occasion to have a nice dinner out. It was a lot of fun -- kind of felt like playing hooky, which only made it more fun!

Today brought somewhat of a return to the mundane (sending out resumes), but I met my dear friend Jamie Sue for breakfast and we are going to begin lifting weights together a couple times a week. She is the most upbeat, energetic, positive person I have ever known, and I know it will be good for me to soak up some of her "Jamie Sue fairy dust" as I like to call it!

Then late tonight Sam returned home from his Chicago trip. He had a ball. I think the thing he enjoyed most was attending a performance of the Blue Man Group. It continues to be so satisfying to me to see him having such normal experiences. His middle school years were rough and we used to really wonder if he'd fit into society. Now, it's hard to imagine that we had those fears. He's a tad eccentric but not in any ways that are problematic.

One of Sam's eccentricities is that he wears his hair long. I don't mean soccer star long, I mean ZZ Top long. It currently reaches about the middle of his back. But he has recently agreed that in the interest of continuing to wear it long, it probably behooves him to get some inches trimmed off the bottom just to keep it healthy. So we have an appointment Thursday afternoon to get that done.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

In my most recent post, I promised something more upbeat next time around. As I sit down to write this I am looking out the window at a nearly perfect day with a blue sky and bright sunshine, so it certainly seems like I ought to be able to keep it cheery!

The thing that I’ve been most excited about lately is that my son, who is 15 years old and a Freshman in high school, has his first girlfriend. Friends have asked me if I like the young lady. It’s a little soon to say, really. I have only met her once, and that was before they became an item. I understand that she has had a pretty challenging life, with several stints in foster care, some abuse issues, a variety of different schools, etc. So on one level, she isn’t the girl I would have chosen for his first relationship. I just figure any kid who has been through all that stuff will have some issues, and in the best of all possible worlds I’d like him to have had a relationship without those challenges.

On the other hand, I am proud as can be of him because those things haven’t deterred him. I don’t think he likes her either because of her issues or in spite of them – I think he just likes her and accepts her exactly how she is. And he definitely DOES like her. It’s fun, as a mother, to see his face light up when he talks about her.

They haven’t had much opportunity to spend time together away from school yet. They just decided to “be girlfriend and boyfriend” a week ago, and kids’ lives are so structured and full that there hasn’t been any time for them other than telephone conversations since. But his spring break is about to begin, and I anticipate I will see more of her then.

On a completely different note, my mother-in-law returns from six weeks in Phoenix tonight. She has been staying with Bob’s brother Ric and attending the Cleveland Indians spring training games. We are all thrilled that she is finally getting to have some of those retirement experiences we all dream of. When she retired Bob’s dad was in bad health and she nursed him at home far longer than she should. Then when she finally moved him to a nursing home, she was there almost all the time. After he passed away it took another good year, I’d say, to get basic stuff caught up around the house and things cleaned out and to just get to the point where she finally feels like her time is her own. So at 80 years old, after a lifetime as an Indians fan, she finally got to go out to sunny Phoenix and be a bleacher bum for a while.

After six weeks on the road I had assumed that she would want to get right home and pick up the pieces of her life. I assumed wrong. Bob’s nice Paige turns 7 tomorrow, and Mom Beasley is sticking around Columbus through the weekend to celebrate Paige’s birthday. I don’t really know what all the plans are, but it looks like it is going to be a very Beasley weekend for me!