She Read Me

I am not at a loss for family members. My mom is still around, I gave birth to three children (and they have produced four grandchildren) who are still on this earth, I have a brother who I spend time with anytime we are both available, and I have cousins galore. One of these cousins passed away last month and I attended her celebration of life last weekend.

Our Facebook Friendship

Christena “Tena” Lynn Simpson nee Savage, was my second cousin on my mother’s side. We were connected on Facebook from 2010. I loved the fact that she carried our great-grandmother’s name and the same way she spelled the shortened version. It was a unique part of our Savage family.

I’m not certain we ever met in person. Tena would have remembered if we did. If we had, I would have been very young, I do wish we would have spent more time in person while she was here.

You see, as her husband confirmed for me at her celebration–she read me. Of all of my family members, my second cousin read the words I posted: Screaming or celebrating–And I post a lot...and she kept him up on my travels and tribulations.

When her “big guy” shared that little fact with me, I teared up. I had interacted with my cousins and my mom at the celebration, hoping to hear more stories of Tena’s life, but I felt distant. I hadn’t spent time with her in person.

Talking about being equally yoked to her “big guy” for 35 years…

But we had spent time together. I realized that fact shortly after her death when I didn’t want to post any of my writing. I had recently started to write for an online site called Odyssey and I am relatively excited about all of the stories I have written…so why wasn’t I more eager to share them with my friends?

Then it hit me: I didn’t want to post because there would be no “like” from cousin Tena.

In previous years, I could count on her “like” on my Facebook shares of my blogs, as one of the first. Almost no matter what I wrote. In the past six months, as she became more ill, her likes came at odder hours and with more time between them. But they came.

As a writer constantly in search of her audience, her likes were always appreciated. As the daughter of a family full of drama and strife, the fact I could count on my second cousin to read the words I bled out of my fingers meant more than I understood until she lost the ability to push that like button.

Yes, Tena, I had you set on “see first”

I miss you, Tena. I love you. The interaction that we had from day to day, the support you gave to this writer who simply wants people to read her words, was invaluable and sorely missed. I am glad you are no longer in pain. I regret not spending more time with you here. I hope to do better with our family that remains.

Peace be with you.

A bookmark made as a remembrance by her niece representing Tena’s love of reading

Every St. Patrick’s Day I Wonder Where in Ireland My Family is From

When my daughter and her husband bought me a DNA test for my birthday a few years ago, I was thrilled to confirm that I was almost as Irish as an old boyfriend had though (he said I looked a lot like one of his relatives, still in Ireland). That made me happy.

My first estimate from my Ancestry DNA test

The combination of my (once) dark hair and blue eyes with red-headed glow-in-the-dark skin, are some of my most striking features. It was easy to fall into the “goth” fashion during my teenage years and young adulthood. I have loved my “Irishness”ever since I first learned of my heritage, but I had no idea where in Ireland my family originated.

One of my paternal great-grandfather’s names is “Foley,” which seems like a simple link to my Irish blood, right? Not so much. I have been unable to find any records of the original Mr. Foley who immigrated to the United States. Family rumor says that I have him and his (wife?) to thank for my native blood. Mr. Foley reportedly married a woman of Aboriginal American descent, who belonged to the Cheyenne Nation.

My furthest ancestor on the Foley line who I am able to identify is Pleasant Foley, my second-great-grandfather on my father’s mother’s father’s side. If his father came from Ireland as rumored, he would be one of three of my third great-grandparents to come from the emerald isle.

Sarah Thornhill, my daughter of Henry and Rebecca

Sarah Thornhill, my third great-grandmother, also on my father’s side, but this time on his father’s side, was born in Ireland in 1828. Many sources confirm that fact. I have been yet unable to find where in Ireland she was born, but her parents left Ireland after some of their children were born and settled in England. Her father, Henry Thornhill, was born in County Fermanagh in Ireland, but is laid to rest in Manchester, England (not too far from where a Facebook friend of mine lives!)

Although I’ve been unable to find a surname for Sarah Thornhill’s mother, “Rebecca Thornhill” was born in 1808 in Londonderry, Ireland. Again, she is laid to rest in their adopted Manchester.

Margaret Thornhill Walsh (my great-grandmother) and her sister.

Sarah Thornhill immigrated to Canada. Her death record indicates that she died at age 50, on 15 April 1878, six years after her husband, John Walsh passed away. I found her cause of death oddly familiar: “Constipation of the bowels.” Many things seem to have been inherited from my Irish ancestors…

John Walsh, Sarah’s husband, was born in Birr, County Offaly, Ireland in 1812. His father was possibly Tom Walsh (with names like “John” and “Tom” without personal accounts, it is difficult to discern if it is actually my ancestor), and John’s mother was most likely Ellin Muleahy, both who lived all of their lives in Ireland.

John and Sarah (Thornhill) Walsh made their home in York in Ontario Canada and both passed away in their 50s. Even though their deaths were over a century ago, as a 52-year-old woman, it causes me to reflect.

The other side of my father’s father’s Irish line are the Cullens. Yes, I was more than mildly amused when this ancestral surname was co-opted by Twilight’s writer as the vampire clan’s chosen surname.

Thomas Cullen, born between 1802-1805 in Strokestown, County Roscommon, Ireland was possibly the son of Patrick Cullen (1783-1865) and Bridgide Hill or McGinn. Again, some of the details have been difficult to nail down. But what seems clear is that County Roscommon can be added to the counties from which I descend. Thomas is my fourth great-grandfather.

My fourth great-grandmother, Thomas’s wife, was Jane Bentley (1805-1881) from County Longford. Her parents were Christopher Bentley and Frances Cox.


Jane Bentley (1805-1881), my fourth Great-Grandmother

My mother’s line has been a part of the building up of the United States of America since the early 1600s, so attempting to find her Irish lines was a bit more difficult. However, I was able to find a few who were born in Ireland in the 1700s.

Here is an interesting fact: My father’s Irish lines emigrated to the American Continent in the 1800s, and my Irish lines on Ancestry seem (30%) stable, but those parts that have changed (both my estimate and my mother’s Ancestry DNA estimate changed after our tests), seem to be from the Irish lines that emigrated in the 1700s. Ancestry is now calling those lines “English,” but they are not.

Isaac Highley was (most likely) born to Thomas Highley and Margaret in Ireland in 1772. He is my 5th great-grandfather on my mother’s mother’s side. The Highleys married into the Parrs married into the Savage line on my mother’s line.

When Sara Christena Parr (my great-grandmother) married William Duncan Savage, she added more Irish into my mother’s line. William Duncan’s great-grandfather, William, my fourth great-grandfather, was born in Ireland in 1797.

William Savage and his wife Harriet Eisnaugle, married and raised their family with much of my Irish ancestors in the Ohio valley before the family moved to Wisconsin.

Ancestry.com updated both mine and my mom’s DNA and our Irish turned English!

Although my mother’s Irish line has now been replaced by a generic term on Ancestry.com, this is one day that I would like to pick out those particular ancestors of hers that were born in Ireland and chose America to start over. William Savage and Isaac Highley chose a different life for their families and for generations to come.

As someone who has known that her heritage included Irish from the time she could look in a mirror, it is WONDERFUL to have County names to associate my heritage with. I now understand that I not only come from Ireland, but I come from County Roscommon, County Longford, County Fermanagh, County Londonderry and Birr in County Offaly.

Somehow, knowing all of this means a little more on this St. Patrick’s Day.

SNOWPOCALYPSE2019: Western Washington Buried in the Snow!

One part that hasn’t always been the most fun about living in the Pacific Northwest, is that there is rarely snow. We get a couple of inches here and there, usually in November and February. I gave birth to both of my February babies during snowstorms in 1986 and 1990. I love the snow.

I didn’t love being without power during the snowstorm for most of the weekend. But I did capture a good amount of pictures for all of my readers! Now that the snow has evolved into huge piles of slush making everyone’s lives torturous…Enjoy these memories of the snowpocalypse!

Revisiting A Bad Drug – One Year Plus After an Antibiotic Injury

One year ago Sunday, I wrote an article about being injured by Levofloxacin, an antibiotic. Those who have been affected by this class of antibiotics, fluoroquinolones, refer to these injuries as being “floxed,” short for fluoroquinolone toxicity. The technical name for the syndrome of side effects I am experiencing over a year after taking my last generic Levaquin tablet.preview-5.jpg

At the time I wrote this piece, for the first time in months, I found myself able to stand on padded shoes in the morning without crying in pain from the searing and burning sensations on the soles of my feet. I could see a light at the end of the tunnel. Within a few weeks, I was certain that light had been the headlight of a train.

Although I had finished a course of physical therapy designed to teach me exercises to keep my tendons as limber as they could be through the changes in the mitochondrial DNA within my connective tissue. In reality, those exercises helped me to keep as active as I could as long as I could.

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The paraffin the occupational therapist used on my hands looked weird but felt wonderful

But the effects that started with fatigue and burning pain and stiffness in all of the connective tissue in my body didn’t stop in February when I wrote that piece. Yes, the pain in my feet began to lessen. But what replaced the pain proved to be more debilitating than the pain itself.

It was almost as if the nerves burned out. Fizzled out. In each of the areas of my body that had experienced extreme pain: First in the bottoms of my feet and my heels, knees, then my forearms, elbows, and shoulders I started to experience tingling sensations and dullness. Neuropathy.

Having neuropathy in my feet was not fun. While within my tiny apartment, it just became easy to fall into a wall and fall from wall to wall. I didn’t leave my apartment for much, so it worked.20180522_022642_HDR

In May, my newest granddaughter was born to my baby girl and her husband. Jaina has been a joy to visit with, but my limitations when holding her have broken this grandma’s heart. The strong arms that held my first grandchild 12 years ago now fatigue quickly and I am forced to give up holding her much quicker than I would like.

In August 2018, my mom and I went to Canada. On that trip that I was confronted with the difficult reality that I was perhaps more disabled than my 75-year-old mother. That was a difficult pill to swallow. It gets tough when you want to help your mom, but then she ends up assisting you. Realities can be uncomfortable.

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Photo by Joan Slighte

When we returned the effects from driving through the smoke of several forest fires combined with me completely overdoing it to give me my second bout of pneumonia in less than a year. My body was done. I’m still getting over that illness. I have not recovered the level of mobility I had in August. In September I began the process of asking for help.

After last year’s post, I joined many support groups on Facebook for “Floxies.” They were the source of much information. The lists of supplements that could help are long and I won’t copy them here. They work for some, but not others. Personally, I have not been able to tolerate nutritional supplements, but I have received some soothing from apple cider vinegar and Epsom salt soaks on my feet.

The other medication I have used since before being injured by this antibiotic is cannabis. Please follow this link for the recipe I use to replace the Fentanyl and Percocet that doctors had my body dependant upon for seven years. I have been free of opioids for ten years this year. Even in level 8 pain daily, I have found combinations of types of cannabis that work to help manage my pain.IMG_20180209_233946497.jpg

That being said, pain is never gone. Ever. It travels. I’m currently experiencing severe pain in my eyes when I focus. Tendons in the eye, or something else? I’ll go into my reflections on seeing in a future post.  Pain is also currently in my toes and back and knee… not to mention that locked shoulder.

Better not to talk about it.

That is the best way I know to avoid feeling pain: Dissociation. I am a master at that. Or perhaps I should say ‘we are.’ Put the pain in a box and get on with life. My current hobby is Literary Theory class. Although the reading requirements make this eye thing quite annoying. Alas, I will be sharing audiobook resources soon!preview-2.jpeg

It’s now been about 18 months since the first pill and the first symptoms. My physician prescribed a power chair in October due to my frequent falls. In November, on the 23rd, while a fall-detection device was on its way to my home, I had my first major fall, resulting in my left shoulder being frozen.

I’m currently in a portable wheelchair, borrowed, while I await the prescribed power chair on order. I don’t stand up and walk unless I am feeling extraordinarily strong and I have a caregiver by my side to make sure I don’t fall.

When I think back to my life, just 19 months ago… camping with friends by a river in a tent. Something I don’t know if I will ever be able to do again…thanks to an antibiotic taken for a sinus infection.IMG_20170906_171505_253.jpg

Asking for Help

Last August and September, when the physical effects from my second bout of pneumonia in less than a year would not cease and desist and this current episode of Major Depressive Disorder was well underway, I became unable to do many of the things that I count on being able to do to be me and run my home.

Ruger’s got me

What happens when a disabled person can no longer care for themselves and their home? Asking for help seems simple, perhaps, for those who’ve never had to, but for those of us who are used to doing for ourselves, it is quite complex.

The first part of the process was as simple as checking a box when I reapplied for assistance with food and paying my Medicare premiums. I checked the “Home Health Care” box on September 2, 2018, with much trepidation. I wasn’t sure what to expect next.

The screen has changed slightly since I applied six months ago

When I hadn’t heard about the “Food Stamp” part of my application by the end of the week, I went to the office. I was told since I had checked the home health care box, my application had been transferred to a neighboring county. I was perplexed.

After some bureaucratic shuffling, my food and medical parts of the application were transferred BACK to my home county for expedient processing. I was granted Food Stamps and assistance paying my Medicare premiums. Then I waited to hear about the other box.

In late September I received a phone call from a woman around 6:20 at night, who identified herself as a Case Worker for the Lewis-Mason-Thurston office of Washington’s whatever office… I did not recognize the acronym she specified. I was already discombobulated by receiving such a call after 5pm (what can I say, I take off my headset at 5, figuring I am done with “business calls”… sigh), and I answered in a manner that reflected such.

 

Now I was astonished. It had taken three weeks for this phone call, responding to what I considered a “scream for help” to have it considered by the ONE PERSON who actually received it as ‘a mistake.’

She asked, “Did you check the “Home Health Care” box by accident?”

The tip of a wooden cane on the floor

“No, it was not a mistake,” I answered. “I need help desperately. I have not been able to recover from this pneumonia and I need help. I am having trouble bathing and dressing myself and I’m even missing church in spite of having a Dial-a-Lift ride set up.”

She answered in the affirmative and continued with my application. My home assessment for my application was scheduled for early October, about a month after I ‘cried for help.’

The evaluator was pleasant. I easily forgave him for indicating that my canine service companions were “gigantic dogs” on the assessment when he did accurately indicate the services they perform for me (in spite of being, technically a “medium” and “large” dog respectively). Mr. Evaluator had my evaluation (that indicated I was barely functioning with assistance from church friends and relatives) input into the system by late October.

Dog toy between the wheels of a wheelchair on the floor

I continued to wait.

My physician was angry it was taking so long. In mid-November, she ordered a different sort of Home Health Care. I had been unaware there was more than one type. It was so nice to finally have a bath-aide come in and help with some of the most difficult parts of being disabled.

Ironically, on the date of my first major fall (not just “ping-ponging” my way into the walls on the way to the bathroom), a device was delivered to notify my doctor’s office when I fell. They delivered it an hour after the fall that jammed and froze my shoulder. My doctor then prescribed a power chair.

When it was discovered that I leave my home for church and medical appointments, I was deemed “non-homebound” and the device was demanded back. The bath aids and physical therapist who were coming in every week for three weeks ceased. I was not eligible for THAT type of care.

I was offered my first caregiver, a person who had never held such a position, in late December. She had retrained after having worked as a bartender. She worked for 6 days before she called (14 hours before her next shift) to say she couldn’t come back to work because she couldn’t afford the gas to make the journey from the coast where she lived.

I spent Christmas and New Years without assistance. I spent a lot of time in light housecoats, being cold. My heating bill is skyrocketing.

In mid-January, a new caregiver started. Unfortunately, she did not work out. Yelling at me during a bath just adds to my menu of triggers. Yeah… Nope.

The next caregiver presented herself as having experience with mental health issues, then proceeded to gaslight me. Then, I spent an inordinate amount of time in my therapist’s office wondering if having a caregiver was worth it. I almost wish it wasn’t.

Face it, we ALL want to live long enough to become disabled, but NONE of us wants it to happen to us when we are still “with it.”

I succumb to the assessment that I am “hard to handle.” My mother and my first husband made a point of saying for years that “no one could handle [me].” Now that is getting in the way of “me” being “me.”

I have recently interviewed two ladies who I would like to work with me as a team. I pray to my Heavenly Father that the broken pieces of “my MEs” can play nice and allow things to be taken care of. Seriously. I’m tired of being naked and the dishes are piling up.

My Choice

A lot of people are talking about choices right now. Many people are angry. Others are upset about “rights,” who has them and who does not, or who is a human and therefore has rights and who is not.

I felt it was time to share the choices I have made.

Maggie as a small child, smiling

As a young woman growing up in the early 1970s, I was exposed to a society yelling about my rights. Of course, I wanted rights! Yes, of course, I didn’t want anything to happen to my body that I did not have control over (let us ignore the fact that all throughout my childhood, I was experiencing exactly that since I was the victim of sexual abuse from a very early age). I agreed with all of the rhetoric that screamed about my right to choose what happens to my body.

Then I got pregnant at 16.

The woman who was supporting my father at the time demanded that I get an abortion. My father became offended, saying the pregnancy was “his grandchild,” and I was confused, yet thrilled that the doctors who had told me I would have difficulty conceiving after many medical issues (from the early abuse) were wrong.

After a tumultuous nine months that included changing my own custody to join my mother leaving my father alone, crawling back to the woman he left to “save his grandchild from abortion,” I gave birth to my first son. During the pregnancy I voluntarily underwent counseling for adoption. Then, when he was born, I took parenting classes with my baby.

When my first son was nine months old, he weaned himself from the breast. I believe that was the emotional inspiration for the conception of my second child. But at the tender age of 18, I did not think I was ready to cope with being the single parent of two children.

I made an appointment for abortion counseling which would be followed in two days by the surgery. I was approximately seven weeks along.

The day came. I took my infant son to daycare, just as if I was going to school. Then I got on the bus to go to the abortion office.

I hadn’t eaten at all that day. I couldn’t stop the nausea, it seemed even worse than normal. As I looked out the window down Harrison, I saw the building where I knew from the protest signs, held the office where I was going.

Suddenly, I felt something in my lower abdomen. A shutter? A shake? A “quickening.” I felt what I knew was my second child’s soul enter his body.

I stayed on the bus.

18 and pregnant with my second

Then came the difficult part of admitting to my family that I had gotten pregnant once again. I was going to be a single mother of two at the age of nineteen. On February 14, 1986, my sweetheart of a second son was born.

While raising my children, in SPITE of the fact that I was completely upfront about the above story with my family, I also taught my children that it was a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body. I continued to stand up for the legal rights of women to choose to abort their pregnancies.

I didn’t change that viewpoint when I was Baptized in 2013. I considered it. I prayed about it. Then, I read a story written by a woman who had survived her mother’s choice to abort her. She asked, “What about her choice?”

Abortion and childbearing are very emotional topics. Sexually active women struggle with choices. No one responsible makes these choices without a lot of consideration and more often than not, a lot of tears.

Personally, I am thankful that I am no longer sexually active. I made a choice to be celibate until and except within marriage. I am also long past the age of unintended pregnancy. So, in that respect, my choices have already been made.

Do I want the world to go back to a paradigm of women dying by hangers in the alley? Of course not. I DO want my granddaughters to think carefully about all of the consequences of sexuality BEFORE they choose to make that very large leap. I DO want all people to understand that sex is far less casual than it is portrayed by the media. There are repercussions.

I wouldn’t trade either of my boys or their children

I also hope and pray that we, as a society, become more charitable with our feelings towards those who behave in opposition to our or even their own, beliefs. I pray that we as a society start FEEDING the HUNGRY and HOUSING the HOMELESS, especially the children. These are URGENT human rights concerns.

I am heartbroken by the tears of so many of our population right now. We have differing beliefs, we all come from different backgrounds that formed those opinions. We feel strongly about those beliefs and opinions. I only hope we can learn to respect one another and learn from each of our experiences.