I grew up in a home that was always dressed appropriately for each season, even obscure holidays, such as Columbus Day or Presidents’ Day. My Mom loved to decorate! When I got old enough, I would decorate my bedroom, but usually only for the big stuff like Halloween, Christmas and Easter. Once I moved out on my own, I would decorate all of my home, be it apartment, condo or house. I still do.

For the most part, my kids appreciated the decorations, especially Kendall and Abby. I tell myself that it mattered/matters to Alex, although he usually tells me he doesn’t care. On a good day he tells me that it matters to him because it matters to me. 😉 Gaylon loves the decorations, and enjoys helping me and Abby put them out. Except for Christmas lights. But that’s probably another post, entirely, LOL!

I always feel vaguely nostalgic when Autumn rolls around, but moving to Texas has made me miss the woods and the color so much it hurts, sometimes. There is really nothing in the world that can compare to North Carolina in the Fall, and lately I’ve been feeling really homesick. It happens every year, I shouldn’t be surprised. So, I decorate. I set out all the little scarecrows and pilgrims and pumpkins. My mother bought most of them, because Autumn was her favorite season. And so this year is particularly difficult, but Abby and I felt it was important to decorate anyway. It’s the first time she has not been her to help, but it almost feels like she is here, enjoying it with us. AndIMG_2984 I can almost smell her pumpkin bread in the oven. Almost.

I sometimes look for things on Pinterest and can usually duplicate what I find pretty well. But what I cannot seem to recreate is a house full of people. All the lovely decorations in the world won’t create the illusion that our family is all still living here. If I close my eyes really tight, I can sort of almost imagine that the boys are upstairs in their bedrooms, and I can hear the music coming from Kendall’s room. Abby is outside in the woods, playing with Anamarie. They’re laughing and calling to each other as they jump into the piles of leaves they’ve created, in the shadows. I can almost imagine that we still have six cats and four dogs, and that the leaves outside are all fiery red, yellow and orange, and I just almost smell the smoke from the chimneys all through the hollers. Almost.

Czech Midwife Stamp, ca. 1936

I ran across a wonderful quote today, tucked in the very beginning of Carolyn Steiger’s book, “Becoming A Midwife“:

“We must remember that, in terms of history and in terms of the entire world, we are the norm, not an aberration. Childbirth attended by men, doctors, and nurses or occurring at hospitals or birth centers, rather than at home, is a recent and fairly local phenomena.”

So I decided to blog it, and thought it would be nice to have a graphic or two to accompany such a wonderful quote. I went to my favorite graphics site, and entered “midwife” into the search bar. Almost all of the graphics that came up were very, very medical. So then I added “homebirth” to my search query, and it pulled up a few more pictures, but these all had women in them who were obviously Mennonite or Amish! Clearly, our country has drunk the Kool-Aid and thinks that birth is some sort of emergency, requiring a hospital, unless you happen to be from a very fundamentalist sect of Christianity!

As you can see, however, I did manage to find a cool graphic that I think goes well with the quote, at least in terms of the idea that midwifery is a global thing, as well as the historical norm. The stamp (ca. 1936) depicts a midwife presenting a newborn child to its father, painting by Josef Manes, circa 1936. And I think it’s nice to remember that, since, as Americans, we tend to forget that the rest of the planet is out there doing their own thing, quite apart from us.

I grew up Catholic. It’s almost like being born Catholic. I mean, if you do it right, it’s more than a religion, it’s a way of life. Something that permeates every single thing that you do, every thought you have. (Not usually in that order, come to think of it!) Growing up in the post Vatican II chaos that was the 1970’s Catholic Church, I was lucky to actually have some pretty good catechism. I think I can thank two crusty old nuns, in particular, for that: Sr. Josepha and Sr. Mary Catherine. They were a little scary at times, but always fair, and they definitely had our best eternal interests in mind in every thing they did.

So I learned my prayers properly and in the old formats “. . . blessed art thou amongst women. . .” none of this “blessed are you among women” stuff! And I learned to say the actual sign of the cross, (“In the name OF the Father, and OF the Son, and OF the Holy Spirit”) not the “swatting of the flies” (“fathersonholyspirit”) as Sr. Josepha described the haphazard way 2nd graders are wont to perform this act if they’re not carefully monitored!

I heard Catholic terms like “Fullness of Faith”, “Faithful Departed” and “Apostolic Succession” without ever really giving it much thought. I knew I was Catholic. Everyone I knew was also Catholic. It wasn’t until High School that anybody even challenged my Catholicism. I still remember that day. Keri (Carrie?) somebody-or-other asked me if I was saved. I had no clue what she was talking about, because “saved” is not a term we use. So I said “From what?” She thought I was being sarcastic, gasped, spun around in her desk and Never. Spoke. To me. Again. Years later, I had a Baptist boyfriend who had the same question for me, only he cared enough to explain it to me. Once I understood I assured him that I was, indeed, “saved”. And just for the record, ALL Catholics believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. The only difference is that we don’t ever go through the phase where we question this fact and then make a public ‘decision’ or announcement. We are taught from birth that Jesus is our Lord and Savior. We never question that. Just like we never question that the sky is blue. Anyway. . . my point here is that growing up Catholic meant I took a lot of things about my faith for granted, and never fully appreciated the depth and meaning in many of our beliefs and practices.

Like All Souls Day. For anyone who doesn’t know what this is, it is the day on which we commemorate and pray for everyone who has passed on before us. And this is where I realize that we Catholics are a bit different from our fellow Christians. We pray for the dead. Or at least, we should. And we believe that they can pray for us, as well. As a child, this practice didn’t really mean much to me. But now, as the half-century mark looms large in my near future, I find great comfort in these celebrations and traditions. I’ve mentioned before how comforting the familiarity of the Mass is to me when a loved one dies.

This year is the very first time in my life that it has become very real to me how important All Souls Day is. Because my own precious mother is now a member of “The Faithful Departed”. Yes, my grandparents and father all died before she did, but I was so much closer to my mother, and her death has touched me more deeply than anything in my life before. Maybe because there is something so sacred and perfect in the bond between mother and child. Maybe because she lived with us for almost 10 years before she died and was part of my daily life in a way that no other person was before at the time of their death. Maybe because I am really starting to fathom my own mortality. Whatever the reason, attending a special Mass today, dedicated to those who have been interred at Our Lady of the Rosary Cemetery where we laid my mother to rest just ten short months ago, hit me deep within my being.

I had planned to attend the Mass. I knew my daughter would go with me, and I hoped Gaylon would be able to take off of work and come, too. I didn’t think Kendall or Alicia would be able to come, and I was pretty sure Alex wouldn’t want to. He does not do death. I sort of saw attendance at the mass as an obligation of sorts, and didn’t really want to go, but at the same time, I didn’t want to miss it. And then, my precious friend, Becky, texted me early this morning to verify what time the mass was. She said she was rearranging her schedule so she could attend. I thought that was really sweet, but as the day wore on, and I pondered why on earth she would want to rearrange her schedule to attend something I had sort of seen as an obligation, it hit me: she understood the depth and meaning of this day better than I. And she wanted to be there to support me, because she knew this would be difficult for me. Unfortunately, I was applying mascara when this realization dawned, and after I managed to stop crying, I had to start over.

This. This is what being part of the Family of God is all about. I am so very grateful for the beautiful and comforting rites and traditions of the Catholic Faith. And for family and precious friends to share it with me. I am blessed beyond all imagining.

 

 

Herbal Remedies Back in September, I got a sore throat. And after a couple of days, I got that feeling that it was going to take me down for a couple of days. I could feel it moving into my chest, and I knew I was going to get Bronchitis. I know this feeling all too well, having had Bronchitis probably once a year or so since I was a little girl. Usually, it goes away on its own, and I’m ‘down’ for a few days. And, after a while, the cough finally subsides.

But not this time. I don’t know if it was because I had been under so much stress throughout the month of August, or if it was just that my entire system is sort of out of whack this year since Mom died, and I’m just not my usual strong self. Whatever it was, it kept hanging on. I got winded just going up the stairs, to the point that I sort of stopped going upstairs during the day until bedtime. I pretty much lost my voice. And the cough! I thought I was going to cough up a lung or something. It was worse than I can remember in a long, long time. Now, before any of you get started, I was diffusing essential oils in my little diffuser beside my bed every night, and wearing my diffuser necklace with oils on it every day. I smelled like a eucalyptus factory, but I didn’t care.

Now, we don’t have insurance. We are self-employed, and in order to get insurance, it would cost us roughly $750.00/month with a $10,000.00/year deductible. Yeah. . . you read that right.  So, unless something is going to cost us OVER $19,000.00/year, it’s not anywhere near worth it for us to buy insurance. So, we don’t go to the doctor unless we’re on Death’s Doorstep. But I knew I wasn’t going to get better on my own, so I went to the doctor. My regular doctor was booked, so I went to see a different guy at the same office. He determined that I had an Upper Respiratory Infection caused from acute Bronchitis. Of course, I knew that, but still had to pay for him to figure it out. He prescribed antibiotics (Augmentin, for those of you who are interested in that sort of thing), some hydrocodone cough syrup and an albuterol inhaler. Office visit: $192.00. Meds: $118.00. For a grand total of $310.00! (Still $440.00 less than one month’s worth of insurance). The antibiotics made me sick as a dog every time I took them, but I took every last one of them. On time. And did not feel any better. At all.

I sent out a plea for prayer on Facebook, and got lots of prayers and advice. I was already doing most of it, (running the humidifier, diffusing essential oils, hot toddies, etc.) but a friend suggested I start applying the Essential Oils on my spine and feet as well as diffusing them. So I did. Immediately. And I started taking maximum amounts of Elderberry extract for my cough. (I’d given up on the hydrocodone syrup, since it wasn’t really helping, anyway!) My cousin’s wife sent me a bottle of “Thieves”, which Abby says smells like Christmas. (I do think it smells better than DoTerra’s OnGuard). I have been using it all, with very minimal results.

I called my doctor, and scheduled a time to see him. I was coughing as much as ever, and wheezing/rattling when I breathed. Which makes sleep nigh impossible! Anyway, my doctor told me that I had RAD: Restrictive Airway Disease, which is reversible, but miserable. He said he’d had it before, and he was very sympathetic. He prescribed prednisone and gave me some sample steroid inhalers. (Thank God for the free samples!!!) He also told me not to laugh, because it would make me cough more. (Have you guys MET my husband? That’s a tall order!!)

Now, my personal doctor knows that I don’t have insurance, and is totally in agreement with me about how awful Obamacare is, so he made sure that the office visit was as cheap as possible. $79.00. And the prednisone was pretty cheap, I honestly don’t remember the cost at the moment, but I think it’s one of those $10.00 drugs. For those of you keeping tabs, I’m still $340.00 under what a monthly insurance premium would be.

Anyway, I took all the prednisone as prescribed, and felt a bit better, and it definitely improved my willingness and ability to go up and down the stairs, but by that point my sinuses had managed to become clogged to the point of excruciating pain. Every time I coughed, my teeth hurt! Thankfully, I wasn’t coughing as much, but I was still coughing. I called the doctor’s office. Again. He called in more antibiotics. I don’t remember what they were, but it was a 10 day supply, and they didn’t make me quite as ill. By the time I finished taking them this past Sunday, I actually felt worse. 😟 I cannot hear anything but ringing in my right ear, and I cannot smell or taste ANYTHING. At all. I stuck a bottle of Eucalyptus essential oil UP MY NOSE and could NOT smell it. I tried ear oil. No good. I am not big on ear candles, since I’m not convinced they actually work, and they hurt my ears.

IMG_2349

My new Neti Pot

So, I called again. This time, they said I should come back in, which is what I figured they would say. The triage nurse recommended Mucinex DM. I had already been taking it for days. She asked about the humidifier, I told I’d been running it for over a month. Then she recommended a Neti pot. Honestly, if she’d told me to eat a couch cushion, I’d have run straight into the living room and chowed down! I’m seriously desperate. Desperate enough to send Abby out to buy a Neti pot, which I’ve now used a few times. It does seem to help, but I’m still not able to taste or smell anything, and my right ear is still ringing. But I can sort of pop my left ear from time to time. Then it slowly fills up. I’m going to keep using it to see if it eventually helps.

I have an appointment tomorrow at 1:00. I don’t know what to expect. Like I said, I’m still planning on using the Neti pot, and the oils, and the humidifiers, and the Mucinex. I’ve also started using the homeopathic remedy Kali Bichromium. We’ll see what happens at the doctor visit tomorrow.

In the midst of all of this, I am still working toward getting my midwifery license here in Texas. I’ve been working on Anatomy & Physiology, and have an end-of-module workshop coming up in about three weeks! It is almost impossible to focus on my assignments when I feel like my head is in some kind of a bubble, and I’m coughing like crazy! So I’m a little worried that I won’t remember everything I need to, and won’t pass the exam.

I have also had the good fortune to start an apprenticeship with Michele Fitzgerald, an amazing midwife here in Austin. I started working with her on the 6th of this month, and have already gotten to attend a birth with her. I am very worried that this respiratory stuff is going to be an issue, and I desperately want this apprenticeship to be successful. I already love working with her, and with her other apprentices. Her office has such a wonderful Austin vibe, and she is just so warm and real. I am determined to feel better!!!

So, having said all of that, if you read all the way to the end of this: Thank you! I need prayers. Please pray that I’ll be healed, and all of these things I’m doing will help. And, if you have any suggestions for me that I’ve not already tried, please let me know! Like I said, I’m pretty desperate, and very willing to try anything that might help! (And, fwiw, I quit smoking years ago!)

Dirty_LaundryThere is a disturbing trend in our nation (and possibly globally) to air our dirty laundry publicly. We use the internet as a sort of “Cyber Clothesline”, where we hang out information about ourselves that we’d never even consider displaying in real life.  I have long suspected that the “Com Box” is going to be the downfall of our civilization. People will say all sorts of mean things in comment boxes that they would never have the courage to say to someone’s face. Ever. I have seen some of the most irrelevant, yet hateful speech in these comment boxes. Don’t believe me? Just check out the Weather Channel. I promise you, no matter what major weather event is happening, someone will mention politics, which will offend someone else, and it will go straight downhill from there. And without fail, it will get UGLY.

And lately I’ve noticed that this trend of “honesty” is bleeding out into other areas of people’s lives. One of the new things that absolutely makes me crazy is “GoFundMe”, and other like sites. Let me explain. I remember, as a child, when a family in our community had a big need but little means, we would see jars all over town with a photograph of perhaps a child who had a serious illness, with a little blurb asking for donations to help defray medical costs, or some such. The community would rally around and raise money to help the needy family. And, when used appropriately, I think sites like “GoFundMe” serve a great purpose. But so often, they are not used appropriately.

But today it just seems that anyone who thinks they’d like a few more bucks can set up a website begging for money! I’ve seen all sorts of stuff that just makes me want to scream! I understand that families need money. I’ve sold off so many of our belongings over the years just to buy groceries. Years ago, our family even made use of WIC. But we never broadcast that sort of stuff. It was private, and even shameful. If you couldn’t afford something when I was growing up, well, you just didn’t get it. Period.

A couple of months ago, I saw a Facebook post by a woman who’d set up an online account and was begging complete strangers to give her money so she could go take a Neonatal Resuscitation Course! She is apparently a student midwife (like me) and we are all required to take an approved NRP course. But this woman wanted to take one of the more expensive courses, and felt like we should all chip in to help her out! Really? If you can’t afford it, perhaps it’s not yet time to go to school. Just a thought. I saved my money and paid my own way. It’s how I was raised.

I also have seen various folks get on Facebook and start whining about how much money they don’t have, and how desperate they are. I’m not talking about a single prayer request, but an ongoing theme of poor-mouthing. Here’s a tip: if you are self-employed, offering some sort of service, folks don’t want to give their business to someone who’s always carrying on about needing more money. People start to feel like you’re not really interested in them, or even in the service you’re providing. It’s all about you, you, you, and the money, money, money. And, since there’s never enough of it, we, the consumers, can only conclude that you are a poor manager of your resources. I, personally, will not do business with someone like that. I want to support people who seem to know what they’re doing and exude some sort of confidence and success. I tend to believe they are better able to provide the services they’re offering than someone who’s so caught up in their own desperation that they can’t see past the end of their own bank account.

My Daddy always said you don’t go airing your dirty laundry. Maybe that’s a Southern thing. Maybe it’s the sin of pride. All I know is that it’s ridiculous how people will prostitute themselves online for practically anything, and call it a worthy “cause”. But then I guess it’s just the logical, modern extension of those ‘beggars’ under the overpasses all over Austin. Dignity is becoming a lost art.

I am (believe it or not!) a bit of an introvert. I love being with people, and going out and doing things, but when I’m done, I’m DONE. And then, I want to be ALONE. I’ve spent a great deal of my life fantasizing about how wonderful it would be to have some time. . . ALONE.

Well. I have plenty of that time now. Gaylon and Abby work all the time, and Mom is gone, so most days I’m alone. And you’d think I’d have accomplished so much. Like that quilt I started two years ago for A.J.’s son, Asher. At the rate I’m going, he’ll be in college before I get it done! (I hope A.J. and his wife don’t hold their breath on that t-shirt quilt I’m going to be doing for them. . .!) Or all those other sewing projects I’ve got planned. Or, how about my last lesson in Module 2, Unit 5? Nope. It’s just sitting here accusingly as I type.

And never mind projects and schoolwork. You’d think my prayer life would be brilliant! Nope. I mean, I do still pray, but all those Bible study aids are still covered in dust. As is my house. (In my defense, it’s hard to be motivated to dust when one has brochitis!)

And I keep sitting down at my computer thinking I’ll design a website for Gaylon Brooks Construction, or write all these riveting blog posts that will rock the world. But, no.

I really do think it’s shock. Or maybe this is what “Empty Nest Syndrome” looks like. I used to be such a doer, a go-getter. I would make a list, and by nightfall, I’d have it all marked off. But instead, I get to the end of each day, and wonder what happened. I usually manage to get the bed made, the coffee pot cleaned out and prepped for the next day, and most of the time I get dinner made. No, I don’t think I’m depressed, although I suppose that’s an option. I just think that after almost 50 years of having someone around to be with, I’m in a bit of shock that I’m alone  now.

I remember my Mom was always doing something. Going to lunch. Shopping. Political meetings. She was amazingly busy for someone who hated cooking, refused to sew or do any sort of handiwork and pretty much had no hobbies. And then I think, perhaps its because she didn’t have the internet to distract her. I mean, Facebook is the one think I manage to “accomplish” daily. I never turn on the television, but I do check Facebook, Instagram, etc.

So, I’ve promised myself that I’m going to put all this wonderful “Alone Time” to good use. I’m going to force myself to spend at least two hours each day working on school. And as soon as I get this darned bronchitis under control, I’m going to start going back to Daily Mass. I love Daily Mass, but it’s so easy to slip out of the habit.

So, yeah. . . .being alone is not exactly what I’d imagined. But I’m hoping I have the power to change that.

My parents never let me go to concerts when I was a teenager. They were strict, and probably for good reason. However, as a result, I never got to see any of the really good bands until I was an adult. And honestly, most of them are still pretty awesome! I’ve seen KISS, Mötley Crüe, Aerosmith, Lenny Kravitz, Alice Cooper, Heart, Joan Jett, Robert Plant, and several others since I’ve been a ‘grown-up’. And they were all still really good. Especially Alice Cooper! He was fantastic!

So, when we heard that Van Halen was coming here to Austin, Alex promised he’d get me in. He made good on his word, and even though I’ve been battling a very nasty bout of bronchitis, I decided to go last night. After all, the bronchitis will eventually pass no matter what. And Eddie Van Halen has had half of his tongue removed due to cancer, for cryin’ out loud! So who knows how many more opportunities I might have to see the best guitarist in the world? I’d also not been to the Circuit of the Americas yet, so it just seemed like a good plan.

The opening act was Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and he was great. I’ve always liked him, love his lead singer, and in general they put on a good, mellow show. And then Van Halen took the show, with flashing lights and rock-n-roll thunder! It was awesome! Until David Lee Roth tried to. . . I’m not sure what to call it. . . sing? At first we thought maybe his mic was messed up. But no. It was totally him. To say that he sucked would be too kind. It was really painful to watch and listen to. I mean, this guy used to be the stuff rock-n-roll legends and fantasies were made of! But clearly, those days are GONE. And the onstage magic between David and Eddie was completely missing. (Perhaps that was because DLR feared if he got to close Ed might clobber him with his guitar and put him out of his misery?) It was almost like the Van Halen guys got together to jam, and some crazy person jumped up on stage and started jumping around and pretending to sing while changing clothes all the time. (Gaylon even said “I would have thought he was sick or something, but he kept jumping around up there . . .”) I cannot begin to express our disappointment.

We felt really bad for the rest of the band. Eddie, Wolf and Alex ROCKED! But DLR. . . paraded around the stage like a drunken monkey, changing clothes and trying to deliver some sort of slapstick comedy lines that were either unintelligible or just not funny. At all. His voice is shot, and it seemed to us that he couldn’t even remember half of the lyrics. And the ones he did remember, he either mumbled or spoke. Sort of. Like I said, it was downright painful.

The night was not a total loss, however. Eddie absolutely brought the house down with his guitar solo at the end! Of course, he played “Eruption”, but he played a lot of other stuff, too, including a Happy Birthday tribute to their mom, who would’ve been 100 years old yesterday. Alex was awesome on the drums, and it was cool to get to see Wolf, even though they didn’t really highlight him much.

Anyway, as a tribute to the glory days of rock-n-roll yore, here is a video of how I remember Van Halen. Enjoy!

Well, my apprenticeship in Bryan was eventful, but has come to an end. I got to observe 5 lovely births, met lots of delightful folks, and learned a bit about birth centers. Now I just need to observe 5 more births before I can move on to “assisting under supervision”. I will have to do 20 of those! Then I will need to do 25 “Primary Midwife Under Supervision” births, along with mastering various skills. (Anyone wanna volunteer to let me practice venipuncture??) I am hoping to find an apprenticeship in the Austin/Round Rock area this time. It was really difficult being out of town so much.

But, now that I am back home, I am hoping to get back to work on some quilts and other projects that have been on the back burner for far too long. I still have plenty of studying to do, but I am confident I can still get quite a bit of sewing in, too. I’m also hoping that, since I won’t be eating out so often, that I can actually start and complete a Whole30. I feel so much better when I’m not eating junk food!!

Abby has decided to take a Gap Year from school. She is babysitting a LOT, and spends the rest of her time in the sewing room. She is happy, and I’m happy she’s home. Alexander finally got some roommates that he enjoys, and bought himself a new car. He is also happy. Kendall and Gaylon are working their fingers to the bones trying to keep our business moving in the right direction. They are amazing.

There’s not much more news to tell for now, but I thought I’d just sort of post a brief snippet to let everyone know I’m still alive.

 

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