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Tuesday, March 29

addicted to hope

Mom is in the hospital again. This time it was almost the end. And she did it to herself because she is an addict.

Don't picture an 88 year old woman sucking on a crack pipe. No, for that we could have found an intervention. Mom is addicted to her mail. She doesn't get a whole lot of "real" mail. A few bills, her bank statement, sales fliers. Those are not her drug of choice. The monkey on her back is sweepstakes. The promise of a check with her name on it.

We started to become aware of this when she would force upon us bags of cheap goods. Pot scrubbers, key chains with lights on them, a talking calculator. Turns out she was ordering them from Publishers Clearing House which, of course, says no purchase necessary, but why would they sell stuff to entrants if it didn't matter? Well, Mom analyzed her odds and decided it was worth 20 bucks in Taiwanese junk craft to up her odds of having the van pull up to her house with that big check and a dozen roses. After perusing her checkbook and finding almost weekly checks written to "PCH", I contacted them and threatened them with a lawsuit if they didn't stop preying on my Mother. Their mailings stopped, but they apparently sold her info to every bottom-feeding profiteer out there because she started becoming a "finalist" in dozens of contests. Daily. All she had to do was send 5/6/20 bucks to "reserve" her finalist spot. She sent them cash because she knew we monitored her checking account.

Mom lives on $1000 a month. Period. And there are low life con artists out there, looking to snag a piece of that. Daily.

Oh, we tried to reason with her, but a creeping case of dementia makes it harder and harder for her to exercise any judgment. Why would they send these to her if it was a lie? These are big companies! No. Mom, these are small cellar dwelling companies with a mailing list of the most vulnerable and gullible and desperate amongst us. Add to them the plethora of "address label" charities that send her the little 5 cents strips with her name and a bunch of tulips on them and ask her for a donation to cover the cost and support the children/the sick/the mission/the American Indians/veterans. She must have thousands of return address labels.

She is also a prime target for Social Security warnings (send us 60 bucks to help us fight for your benefits) and various and sundry other political causes (Obama is stealing your health care and wants to kill you)

My brother, bless him, lives near Mom and goes there every day to check on her and bring in the mail that he patiently goes over with her, piece by piece. She has been known to slip out a particularly glossy and promising "You may be a winner!!!!" envelope and hide it until he leaves, but he's on to her.

Mom's mailbox is at the curb, surrounded by a mound of snow. She has to navigate 4 steep steps and a slippery walk to get there. She promised to never attempt it alone and my brother promised to always make sure her mail was brought in. A few times she called him and said not to bother coming, that she had her mail and he would explode. And make her promise again.

But the idea of being able to gather up the 20 + promises of a grand life that crowd her mailbox daily and go through them alone, without the voice of reason, without the dashing of hope, is too much for an addict to ignore. When Bob called to tell her he was delayed a half hour but would be there soon to get the mail, she saw her chance. She put on her boots and her warm coat, grabbed her cane, and made her way to the curb. She got there, but the snow behind the box stymied her. She put one shaky foot on the mound of snow and reached for the little pull down door and lost her balance, landing hard on the sidewalk and breaking her hip.

Mom has a serious heart condition which makes surgery extremely risky but without it, she would spend her remaining days bedridden and so, as a family, we had decisions to make.

Listen up, you pathetic leeches. You who prey mostly on the elderly. You who reach into their pockets and snag pathetic offerings to your promises of riches. You who then turn around and sell their info to other leeches so that the mailboxes spill over with ever increasing visions of security and well-being that many seniors can only dream of in this life. Listen up.

We had to sit with cardiologists and internists and orthopedic surgeons to decide how to help this suddenly frail woman. We had to decide whether to put our Mother's life on the line. We had to sit with her all day and sleep by her hospital bed during the night when the hallucinations made it impossible for the staff to control her without tying her down. We had to watch them wheel her up to the OR, knowing that might be the last time we would see her. Then there was the 4 hour wait for the surgeon to tell us how it went. And now the 48 hour wait to see if she can maintain the toughness that got her through surgery.

And all because she went to get her mail. Because she wasn't able to wait a half hour. Because an addict waits for the pusher, becoming more anxious every hour. You lured her out there. To get her 5 bucks added to the sad little pile of other contributions you bleed from the poor, the desperate, the innocent.

The surgeon says Mom is tough. So am I. There has to be a way to put you creeps put of business and if I have to take you on one by one, I swear I am going to try. Enough of your teeny print disclaimers that nobody over 65 can read.

One. by. one.

But first, I have a Mom in ICU to tend to. There is only one promise of hope that matters now. The hope that she will survive this and maybe walk again. No fine print.

She may be a winner.

Sunday, March 13

my new babies

No, no, no. Not that kind. Please, we'd be talking real medical miracles were that the case.

This is a new Simplesong baby. I'll be at the Small Press Book Fair next weekend and I thought it would be a good time to expand my book jewelry line.

(And the art gods say; "Yes, Pat, perfect time to work on miniatures. When you are blind in one eye. Brilliant.")

Should have listened. It was very frustrating. I need one of those magnifiers on a stand. It was close to impossible to make the chains and figure out the tiny gluing spots.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. My book pins and book earrings sell very well at certain venues. The Book Fair is a perfect place to sell them. I've been toying with the idea of book necklaces since I started making books, but I could never come up with a design that pleased me. Regular case bound teeny books have a tendency to yawn open after they've been hanging about your neck for a few hours. I hate how that looks. Stab binding on something that small would require different needles and cord and templates and I get tired just writing about it.

Then it came to me. Often when I can't sleep, I design things in my head. One night I was drifting off when the light dawned. Accordion books. Of course! I would have to figure out the closure, of course and make up a template and I've never been good at folding the accordion but I could manage. And what teeny bits of material it would use. Stuff that would have been tossed as too small to be of use.

I was excited.

There was trial and error and I'm still in the error phase, but here is Baby #1:

and here is Baby#1 slightly opened so you can see the accordion

And a couple more:

The tough part is figuring out how to afix the little elastic cord that holds the book closed. I am so clumsy now with my lack of depth perception and reduced peripheral vision. I fumble and lose bits or use too much glue or put glue where it should not be. Stuff like that. And don't even let me start on the chain and jump rings.

I made a few tonight that came out much better so I think I'm getting the hang of it. And a friend thinks she knows someone with a standing magnifier I can use while I'm waiting for my sight to return. That would help.

I realized today that even though trying to make my widgets with this handicap has made me very creative in my choice of expletives and in the vocalization of my bursts of frustration, I am happy in my little attic studio with the traffic humming 3 stories below and the pigeons dancing on the roof next door and huge snow flakes sailing by my window. It is quiet except for my TV and the occasional growl of frustration. It is my place to be.

That's the real View from the Attic :)

Saturday, March 12

Long way to go for a fish fry

I live in Buffalo, NY, where Friday fish fries are a sacred institution. People here tend to eat out a lot anyway, but I challenge you to find a place with a decent fish fry on a Friday night, especially during Lent, where there isn't an hour wait for a table.

So, when my friend, Shaun, asked me to be part of a fund raiser for the arts at a local school and suggested that we would get a fish fry dinner at a reduced rate, I was in! Well, truth be told I am a sucker for fund raisers for the arts, but for the sake of this blog let's pretend I was seduced by fried fish, macaroni salad, coleslaw and french fries. To be a true B-Lo fish fry you need rye bread, but the dense artisan bread they served was yummy.

There were only a few of us selling our wares, but it was a fine group. Quality work, interesting mix, reasonable prices (we brought our "small" items), but we didn't sell much. Most of the folks were there to inhale fish and listen to their kids sing and play drums.

But it was a good thing to do. It was my "warm up" for the coming season. I have the book fair next weekend. I love the Book Fair. And then a Women's Conference. I needed to see how much of a problem working with one eye would be.

Well, it stinks! I swear it is a total pain and a frustrating exercise. Although my medically trained son assures me I am imagining it, I feel that not only do you lose depth perception, but you don't perceive color properly. I have to wear reading glasses because my right eye is over-corrected for distance with a contact lens. Never one to waste money on frivolity, I got few pair at the Dollar Store. I spend several hours a day looking for said glasses. The dance goes something like: pat the top of your head, then your jeans pockets, then spin to look at the table behind you, spin again to check the computer desk, stomp your foot, repeat.

I will adjust to this. I have no choice. There may be cursing involved and I will admit to feeling tears of frustration creeping over my still achy eye ball at odd moments. But I was able to put together a respectable collection for the show

So, how was the show? Well, once we paid for our dinners (at a reduced rate of 5 bucks), donated back 20% for the fundraising, bought tickets for the Chinese auction and grabbed a couple of brownies from the sweets table, we basically earned a cheap fish fry and gas money. But that's OK. I got to see a few folks I really enjoy. I got back in the swing of things.

I also came to grips with the limitations I will be dealing with for a month or 2. If you hurt your foot or tail bone or something that's way different than having a wonky eye. I mean, your eye is RIGHT THERE! No matter what you do, the wonky eye is RIGHT THERE. Between you and the rest of the world. You can't put a thick sock on it, take an Advil and keep going.

What I'll probably do is work in one hour shifts or until I start cursing, whichever comes first. And I'll stop whining now, too. Video of the Japan quake are playing in the background as I write this and it occurs to me that although my personal world has recently been rocked a bit, the earth beneath my feet is solid. Perspective. I keep finding that in odd places lately.

Saturday, March 5

can you see me now?

There is a reason for the latest bloglessness. It started a few weeks ago.

I noticed that there was a shadow at the bottom of my field of vision. Now, I am the sort of person who thinks "Ach it will go away, give it a few days". This, of course, is why I am now getting chemotherapy, but I digress.

The shadow became blobs. Picture a lava lamp. Now picture that action happening in your eye. OK, I'm calling someone.

It took a few days for each Doctor I called to referreferrefer until I landed in the spiffy wine colored leather examining chair of Dr Henry Lee who tsked and said I had a detached retina. Lovely.

He tried a procedure in the office that involves injecting a bubble of gas behind the retina to slap it back against whatever part of the eye it got detached from. But, a few days later we could tell it wasn't going to work and I would need surgery. Lovely.

Of course, by this time the reality of losing sight in that eye was helping me agree to anything they thought might help. Put my eye in a pickle jar for a week? Sure!

So, off we went to the hospital, my nerves all a jangle, my resolve intact. The wait was torture, but they had to put drops in my eye every 45 minutes for a while, so we watched TV and chatted and pretended that I was not going to have my eye sliced up in an hour.

Now, I have to say that I have never been one to drink much or do drugs. High on life, as they say. The few times I have been overserved I have made a fool of myself. Not hard to do since I teeter on the brink of foolishness just in the regular course of my day. So when the Anesthesiologist, who looked like one of the Doobie Brothers, promised to make me "mellow", I was reassured but hoping that I wouldn't start singing the "A" side of The White Album.

There was no singing, but there was also no pain and I was certainly mellow. Mellow enough to remark that they might want to remove "Blinded by the Light" from the operating room playlist. This resulted in general laughter amongst the disembodied voices and a discussion of what the line "dressed up like a ...." really was. I said "deuce" before I drifted off to nap for a bit. Not sure if they agreed or not.

I was home before dark, a cone over my eye. The next day we saw the Doc again and he said that although I wasn't totally out of the woods yet, the retina was now fully attached. Yay.

So now we wait. And hope that my sight will slowly return. The procedure they used, a sclera buckle, is aggressive surgery and it will take 6 weeks or more for us to know just how much better I will be. I think I can still do my craft, even with just one eye, but don't ever let anyone tell you depth perception is no big deal.

So, that's where I have been. I went 30 years without needing a doctor for anything related to illness. I got smug. OK, I am humbled now. I get it, OK? Cut it out!

Now here's the cute part. At first, after the easy procedure, I was told I had to sleep sitting up. Luckily, I have a big cushy chair with a big cushy footstool, so I bundled myself into it, with pillows strategically placed and hoped for the best. Russell came down with his pillow and a blanket and I asked what he was doing. Well, what he was doing was sleeping on the couch to be with me. I assured him it was OK for him to sleep in bed, I would be fine. He could not imagine leaving me alone downstairs. And so for a few days there we were. Me in the chair, Russell and the dogs on the couch.

I may be blind in one eye, but some things I can see crystal clear, right from the heart.