Thursday, December 28, 2017

Side Effects from Watching the Hallmark Channel on Mute

Coping with grief means I allow myself to heal in whatever way works for me. Isn't that how it works? Currently I'm still doing some unusual things. I'm reading philosophy. Stoicism. I'm serious. You know what's worse? It helps.

My writing is currently short stories caused by travel inspiration and slam poetry. A vampire story. It's literary, I swear it. But I saw this cemetery in England and WHAT would you do with it?

Vampire that's what.

The slam poetry is just my secret thing. 

I'm also watching the Hallmark channel on mute. It's on mute so that I can play Christmas carols at the same time. Yeah, it's obvious I'm teetering here, but it's definitely the Hallmark channel I'm having these following odd reactions to.

1. The firm knowledge that I have ZERO decorating skills.
2. A disorienting realization that Santa Claus moved from mercenary capitalist to wish-granting Demi-God. Why do I NEVER get the damn memos?!
3. Wonders if ANYONE ANYWHERE outside of a Hallmark movie has EVER danced to ANY Christmas carol? And I'm not talking about an impromptu line dance to Feliz Navidad, we've all been there. I'm talking about couples waltzing to Silent Night. Just, no.
4. But the power of Hallmark compelled me to send Christmas Flowers to many old friends and family. Nice ones from florists and everything.
5. Also, Christmas cards. With stamps.
6. TERRIFYING INTROVERTED SIDE EFFECT: Everyone who got flowers was then compelled to CALL ME—NOT TEXT—BUT LITERALLY CALL ME TO SAY THANK YOU AND AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! WORDS!!!! OUT LOUD!!! Why can’t I love you from afar?!
7. SHOCKING REVELATION 101: I loved talking to them!
8. I need a freaking intervention before I start baking something.

9. Too late. I made an English Trifle from scratch, with real custard and homemade whipped cream. My mixer didn't know what to think. That's about the fourth time I've used it in six years. The worst part? It was fantastic, and now expectations are sky-high that I'll make it again.

Reality is so freaking dangerous. Go ahead and mix in some unrealistic expectations and see what the hell happens. Are you with me?

What damage has the Hallmark channel done to you? I'm telling you I WENT TO HOBBY LOBBY. INSIDE. TWICE.

The rest of the year I'm just going to read Fiction and drink chai tea until the muse drags me off and forces another book out of me. That hurts too, but it doesn't scare my loved ones nearly as much.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Deaf From Flights of Fancy—How To Fly With An Ear Infection

The Glitter Globe/S.R. Karfelt

This time I was that annoying traveler. The one armed with bags of cough drops, nasal spray, and tissue. 

There's no excuse for flying sick. I've just had more than one trip to London cancelled, and I decided there was no way in hell I was missing this one. Besides, I wasn't contagious.

Hubby had also caught the cold I'd been battling for a week. He drove me to the airport on his way to work.
   "You're so annoying," I said. "You should stay home and rest!"
   "Who's the one getting on an international flight right now?"
   "But I'm not contagious. I'm on antibiotics and I googled how to fly with an ear infection."
   "Sure. Good luck with that."

He never interferes with my brilliant plans, and I try to grant him the same courtesy. We do, however, hit up the I told you so's later.

The night before I left, my ear infection still hurt. A friend suggested a trick she'd learned flying as a teen with a double ear infection. Now she's a Mama and renowned for her ability to magically soothes her kids' ear infections with this life hack. 

Take a plastic cup and put a hot paper towel inside of it. I ran one under hot water and then nuked it in the microwave a few seconds. It was hot. I don't think it should have been that hot. Move your hair out of the way and place the plastic cup over your ear tightly. It takes the air pressure off of your eardrum says my mad scientist husband. Instant relief was all I knew. 

I did it for a couple hours that night. My eardrum stopped hurting because it popped. Did it pop because of my cup hot paper towel magic? I don't know. So don't use this treatment without medical approval. I'm not a doctor. In fact use caution when taking any advice I may give you. I make shit up for a living. It's a writer thing. Keep that in mind.

All flights out of the shire require connections, so I had to fly for an entire day to arrive in London the next morning. Ear infections hurt like hell and damnation. I couldn't hold a cup over my ear the entire time. Won't kid you though, I did pack a plastic cup and paper towels in my carry-on. Just in case. 

But I had googled how to fly with an ear infection. Mostly everything said DON'T DO IT STUPID, and WHAT IS MORE IMPORTANT, YOUR HEARING OR YOUR TRIP? Well, sorry I'm a cake and eat it too person, because my hearing and London were of equal importance. 

So after seeing them mentioned online, I searched far and wide for ear plugs called Ear Planes. They have them on Amazon. I couldn't find them anywhere near me. They basically screw deep into your ear canal. You have to put them in before the plane door is closed, and leave them in until it opens upon arrival.

There wasn't time for Amazon to come through for me. But while questing the shire for them, I found another brand that also screw into your ears. The brand is called Mack's, and they worked just fine. They're not comfortable. Not that they're painful, they're soft plastic and well-made, but after a couple flights, one of which is about nine hours, you are dying to take them out of your ears.

For starters you can't hear shit. I will never again give friends crap who spent their wasted youth blasting out their ear drums with rock music. I never realized how awful it is not to be able to hear. I couldn't hear my seat mate ask for me to move so they could use the bathroom. I couldn't hear the flight attendant ask what I wanted to drink. 

Not that I was completely deaf. You hear through the bones behind your ears too, but I couldn't quite make out the words spoken to me and misunderstood a lot. Would you like a cup of tea, my seat mate helpfully translated for me. I got up so he could pee. 

I could hear the movies I played because I have headphones that cup over my ears. I turned the volume on full blast and could make them out just fine. But there were plenty of half-deaf moments when I was interrupted with questions I couldn't make out.

In London I met up with a friend who's a writer/doctor. Picking me up at Heathrow she said, You really are sick. But we didn't let it stop us from using every second to hit the sites, hike little villages and churchyards, and stay up until all hours talking books and philosophy and loving every moment of our time together. 

You've probably noticed that the least sympathetic people on the planet are mostly in the medical profession. When my ear bled a couple of times she said in her delightful Natasha Eastern European accent, "Ear drums burst. They feel better when they do that. Your hearing will come back eventually."

It took a few weeks but it did. Temporary hearing loss definitely builds character. Plowing through an eternal cold to go visit London was the nicest thing I did to myself in the past month. If you want to see my amazing pictures, follow me on Instagram. I'm srkarfelt there. Currently I have 29,046 photos on my phone. I don't post them all. Just the good ones.

Sometimes you have to set your mind to endure. I have no regrets and had the best of times. I paid for it by hanging onto the cough portion of that cold for over six weeks now. My husband does keep saying, I told you so. But see, he still has it too, so I say the same thing. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

There is Now Nothing Left for Dementia or Alzheimer's to Take

Gummy died.

On a Sunday afternoon she took her last breath and our hearts broke. There were no profound last words. There was no Hollywood scene to soothe her passing.

Hospice never showed up. On the other side of the curtain her rehab roommate did exercises with her physical therapist. We held our vigil alone, unseen, and ignored. Our chairs pressed against her bed, chairs we'd sneaked from other parts of the home.

   We're here.
   We love you.
   We're staying here with you.

Once I held a vigil at the bedside of a friend's child. Machines were turned off while hospital noise and nurse laughter filled the hallway.

Maybe that's how it should be. The world does not stop for death. You get your purse and dig out car keys and drive home, leaving behind a child, parent, or a mother-in-law.

At home I stare at nothing and go through motions, dinner, laundry, funeral. I call people and go to the mall so Gummy can have a pretty new blouse for her funeral. I buy underthings too, expensive ones, because this is the last thing I can do for her.

During the next week I think that often, until I follow the minister's eulogy and speak aloud the words I'd written in the notes app of my phone, heated words, loving words. A wise woman once told me to speak even if my voice shakes. It doesn't, but my hands do. They want to hit something. Afterwards I kiss Gummy goodbye and know she's not there. I help carry the coffin that the guys said isn't heavy. It is.

At the cemetery I sit in one of the chairs by the grave, watching light and dark bounce shadows over the mahogany of the casket, like it did over Gummy's life. The minister unexpectedly sings. It's a song about turning into a butterfly. He has a beautiful voice. Mentally I always correct these lyrics. Butterflies do not hatch from cocoons. They drop their exoskeleton and form a chrysalis. It's much more magical and possibly painful, like Gummy's painful struggle with dementia and Alzheimer's. 

With family and friends I place a yellow rose on top of her casket and walk away.

Between the cemetery and the church I have time to cry. There will be more time later when sorting through her things from memory care and I find all the little notes she wrote herself.

   Gummy Karfelt.
   Call Poppy and tell him to come get you. It's been tough here.
   Gummy Karfelt.
   Gummy Karfelt. My phone number is...
   My birthday is...

Small stupid things break my heart.

   Those personal pizzas they sell at the front of Target that she liked.
   Her frog socks.
   The broken shard of a ceramic piece in the bottom of her purse—the brown hand of a Native American Princess she'd painted and broke during a tantrum. 
   A single vintage hair curler from the 50's.

The ceramic hand and curler will end up in a baggie with her notes, and tucked into a drawer in the room she used to live in at my house. 

Pictures have become priceless and they go into drawers too. For weeks I move slower and can't shake this cold. But I hold the baby tighter no matter what cooties she brings home from day care, and I buy over-priced Harry Potter LEGOS for kids I don't know from the Angel Tree at the bank. At Starbucks I drink the venti size chai latte and talk to a friend in pain of her own. We laugh. A lot.

At night before the stores close I shop for Christmas gifts for family and friends whether they celebrate or not. It doesn't matter. I'm thinking of you. You need to laugh too. We all do. Gummy would understand. Gummy would be laughing already, appropriate or not. I know this. We had the same inappropriate sense of humor.

Stoics say we only have the present. The past is gone. We'll never have the future, only a series of now's. No matter how many we get, they do end. Gummy's now is over. But she had them, and she made them beautiful and light. Neither dementia nor Alzheimer's could do a damn thing about that. Life is beautiful. If you make it so. It's not easy, but it is your choice how to spend your now's.