Woman sitting at open laptop. Black and white line drawings of stress-inducing thoughts surround her.

I’m Over It

Woman sitting at open laptop. Black and white line drawings of stress-inducing thoughts surround her.
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

It has been months since I’ve written a blog post. Months since I sat and stared at the cursor and thought, “That’s worth sharing with my followers.” So much has happened – COVID, adapting to remote working, protests, theater shut downs – you know. LIFE. Maybe not life as we know or knew it, but life as it IS.

If I’m honest, I’ve not been consistently coping well. But I’ve been coping. Doing the best I can, like most everyone else I presume. I mastered Zoom. I hosted virtual happy hours. I called and Skyped with friends from around the world.

It’s not been easy. At a time when I want to be out in the streets, I am home because I know my chances of surviving another pneumonia-induced ICU hospitalization are poor. I should be out exploring the world in my new van. I have been to the gas station to fill it up four times since March 13.

Throughout the past six months, the relationship I have relied upon and leaned on the most is the sisterhood I have with my bestest best friend, Stephanie. Together we have laughed, cried, hosted a Hamilton watch-party, consumed tubs of popcorn while on opposite ends of the phone, and kept each other as positive as possible.

This week we’re both struggling. I have an injury. She has a multi-day migraine. I’m suffering Zoom fatigue. She’s managing an empty nest and caregiving for family. It’s difficult to maintain optimism and positivity when you are in pain and feeling overwhelmed.

This afternoon, she sent me the following words. I told her it captured a great deal of what I’m feeling and would make a great blog post. Actually, what I really said was, “I think your rant makes for a great blog post. It makes me wish I wrote it first. But I don’t have the energy to write, or a shoulder that would let me type that long.”

She gave me permission to share it, as long as I gave her credit. So, here are her words, unedited and raw. Today they describe where we are at. Tomorrow we’ll be better. Tomorrow we’ll go back to being optimistic. Or we’ll need another day.

But we’ll have each other. And for that, I am blessed beyond words.

I’m Over It

by Stephanie Canfield

I’m over people. 

I’m over the ones that work at a job for a short time, maybe a couple months to a couple years, always looking for something better, and call those jobs a “career”. I have a career in banking…I’ve been doing it for 24 years. Not two years, until the next best thing came along, but for more than half of my life. 

I am over the ungrateful ones that get a job and then complain about that job from day one. And when they finally do leave, are ungrateful that the institution even gave them a chance to begin with. I’m tired of the ones that are 25 years old, working for a 79 year old boss, that refuse to understand the generation gap and that your ideas about how a business should run and how you treat people might be a little different. And that not all of those practices are bad just because they may seem outdated. 

I’m over people blaming their job for all of their problems, including “inflaming my tennis elbow so I wake up in pain and have to go to the chiropractor and get acupuncture”. Pick a profession…I’ll show you that doing the same motion over and over will eventually cause problems with any given part of your body. 

I’m also over the people that don’t realize that just because they live their life a certain way that it isn’t the same for everyone else. Just because you have a great relationship with your parents doesn’t mean you’ll have one with your kids. Or that anyone else will. Or has. 

That just because a person isn’t Black doesn’t mean that they can’t stand up for the Black Lives Matter movement, or that just because they ARE Black it means they have to. I’m tired of people’s opinions about masks, COVID, politics…and the fact that sometimes when people ask “how do you feel about this mask stuff” that maybe they’re just trying to start a conversation with you, or engage in small talk, not have you judge them because they don’t agree with you. 

I’m over political ads. I’m over everyone’s feelings being hurt because they don’t feel included in whatever the hot topic is at the time, or the conversation at work, or the dinner table, or whatever. I’m over people fighting one another about kids going back to school, or not, or homeschooling, or remote learning. I’m over the debates about there being no jobs but seeing “help wanted” signs everywhere, and stimulus checks, and not getting charged taxes for now but paying them back later, about who should get bonus unemployment money, the definition of essential workers, and disgruntled workers that have jobs not getting paid as much as those on unemployment simply because they’re still going to work every day. 

I’m tired of people forgetting how to be kind. I’m tired of people that are selfish but think they’re acting on behalf of the majority, when in reality they’re only self serving. I’m tired of people that think educational institutions have to take only their child and their child alone in to consideration instead of looking at what is best for that educational community. 

I’m tired of people that are lazy and don’t take care of themselves or hold themselves accountable for their own well being. I’m over well meaning people pissing me off because they think I can’t handle simple tasks, like getting myself up on time, so they feel the need to “wake” me up, even when I’m awake. How the hell have I managed to get up and to work on time this many years without their help??? 

I’m over so many things, dude, and I’m ready to yell FUCK OFF to the entire world. To tell them all to get over themselves, take accountability for their own actions, quit blaming others, do what you feel is really and truly right and all the freeking rest will PROBABLY fall in to place. Do what you need to to get yourself to survive, and along the way if you have the opportunity to help someone else then you damn well better step up and take it! If you are able to hold yourself accountable DO IT, and then help those that TRULY aren’t capable, not the ones that are just too damn lazy to do it. 

And for fuck’s sake, BE NICE TO OTHER HUMAN BEINGS. And animals.  Be nice to them, too.

OK. Maybe I’m done. 

And I probably have opposite opinions on everything I just said, since I can hardly ever pick a side, because of my damn ability to see more than one side to most situations. 

Damn it.

Math symbols and equations written in chalk on a chalkboard.

Living Without Pee Math

Some of you may remember I had surgery last year in April. The surgery was for placement of a suprapubic catheter tube (SPTube) for urination. The decision to have the surgery put an end to me having to practice “pee math.” Those of you unfamiliar with that term may want to check out this post.

I shared my initial thoughts after surgery in this post. I wrote it just six weeks post-surgery and I was still figuring out what it meant to live with the ability to consume unlimited amounts of fluid at any time. Now that I’ve had eighteen months to experience the freedom of being able to “go” anywhere, I have a few more observations.

Never underestimate the importance of peer support!

I was fortunate to have access to peers at every step of the way who were using SPTubes. When I was doing research and preparing for surgery, my friend Emily shared information about the supplies she uses every day. My friend Autumn, who got her SPTube just a few months before me, talked me through questions about recovery and hygiene. And thanks to social media, I found a group of SPTube users on Facebook. They were all generous with knowledge, tips and tricks. I would have been much more anxious without their help and reassurance.

“Accessible restrooms” are not always user-friendly.

I know, I should have known this. I’ve been using a wheelchair since 1994. But, I didn’t use public restrooms on a regular basis for more than a decade. So I forgot how bathrooms can comply with accessibility building codes but not be easy to use. Stall doors that don’t swing shut easily or don’t have an interior pull handle allowing a person to pull them shut; sinks which are set back too far for my short arms to reach the controls; doors which are too heavy for me to pull open – I could go on. These barriers are just some of the reasons I starting reminding myself to….

Take your phone with you!

It only took one instance of being stuck inside a public restroom without any way to call for help for me to grab my phone each and every time I head to the toilet. Usually all it takes is a text to a friend and help is on the way. However, I have had to call establishments and say, “Hi, my name is Denise and I’m stuck in your ladies room.” These calls are never as fun in the moment as I make them out to be in the retelling. There is a simple fix to this. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, the law where I live in the United States, interior doors should not require more than 5 pounds of pull force pressure to open. I do my best to tell establishments about this law. Now you can do it too.

Why did I wait so long?

I spent two decades becoming an expert on pee math, dehydrating myself and restricting fluid on a regular basis. Now that I have spent eighteen months with my SPTube, I realize how foolish I was for not getting it sooner. One reason I did not get my SPTube sooner is none of my medical doctors encouraged me to consider alternatives. My doctors knew of my routine and never told me about options like the SPTube. Since my surgery, I have asked my doctors why they never recommended I pursue a SPTube. Sadly, most replied they didn’t recommend it because I was not experiencing any medical issues like excessive urinary tract infections or kidney trouble.

What I did experience before my SPTube was reduced quality of life. I enjoyed time with friends, but I was never free from worry about when I would get to go home and use the toilet. I had fun with family, but I always counted time until I could begin consuming liquid at parties. I was never able to drink as much as I wanted, when I wanted.

Now, I can drink as many cups of tea as I want to in the afternoon. I can have an extra cup of coffee in the morning. I can drink the water at a restaurant and still eat the soup for lunch without worrying about if that choice means I have to skip liquid for the rest of the day until I get home. My skin, nails and hair look healthier. My lips aren’t as cracked.

My days of pee math are gone. These days, when I do math I am calculating the quality of life benefits that come with additional choices and independence.

What Happened to Dee?

Colored leaves float on a river under red and orange trees on the riverbank.

It is fall again in northeast New York. It has been almost a year since I’ve posted anything on this blog. During those eleven months, I have been coming to terms with my diagnosis of depression and what it means in my life; learning how to drive my new van with high tech hand controls (FINALLY!); working and advocating to save the home care program that keeps me independent in my home; having and recuperating from major surgery; and trying to figure out what happens next.

Did you notice there was hardly any mention of writing in there? I have not written as much as I hoped to this year. In fact, other than the pieces I have written for my monthly memoir writer’s group and the essay I’m working on for this year’s Brava!I have not written anything outside of work other than social media posts and grocery lists.

Rather than be upset about my lack of writing, I have chosen to cut myself some slack. This is not my normal reaction to failing to meet a goal, and some might say it is a positive step for me.

Now, things are starting to come together. I am healed from surgery and have been cleared to return to work next week. I feel the best physically and mentally that I have felt in four years. I am driving again and embracing the privilege of independent mobility and the extra time it gives me.

I do plan to return to writing and blogging. In fact, I am excited to give DeeScribes an overdue update. When I started sharing my words here in 2014, I lacked a direction and was just trying to get practice at pressing “publish.” I have given considerable thought to what I want from my writing, and where I hope to take things.

Thank you for your patience as I took the time to work on my mental and physical health. I hope you will stick around to see what is next.

BraVa! 2018 – Playtex 8267

I was honored once again to have a piece selected for the 4th Annual BraVa! This event benefits the YWCA of the Greater Capital Region. It is a fundraiser that seeks to provide new bras to women and girls that live at YWCA-GCR and those in need in the Greater Capital Region of New York. As described on the YWCA website, the event features writers from around the region and beyond who read jury-selected poems and essays or perform songs and monologues on the subject of brassieres in their lives.

Once again, it was an inspiring and uplifting (pun intended) evening. The audience laughed and some of us cried. The poems and memoirs were poignant and truthful. I left the event grateful for the opportunity to witness these stories, ready to write more of my own.

I haven’t written much at all these days. I wasn’t even sure I would write something for BraVa! this year. I spent three days in the hospital in mid-October and was released just 10 hours before the submission deadline for the event. At 7:10 pm, four hours and fifty minutes before the deadline, I decided to write this piece. I read it to my mother on the phone before I hit “submit.” On Friday, I read it for the audience at BraVa!

If you are shopping this holiday season, consider buying a new bra for your local women’s shelter. Everyone needs support now and then.

A woman wearing a red cape is seated in a wheelchair in front of a podium. She is reading into a microphone. There is an indoor circular clothesline with various color bras hanging on it on the other side of the podium.
Photo courtesy of Daquetta Jones

Playtex 8267

Whenever I am shopping in the lingerie section of a store selling Playtex bras – the ones sold in the plastic containers with the blue or pink cardboard – I always look for model number 8267, the 18 Hour Original Comfort Strap Wirefree Bra. 34 C is apparently a popular size because rarely do the stores have it in stock. If I am lucky enough to stumble upon the coveted size and model, I whip out my phone and call my mother.

“Mom – you still wearing a 34C? It’s the 18 Hour one, right? I’m in Boscov’s shopping for bras and I looked at the Playtex ones for you. They only have it in white, is that alright?”

The call is really just to let her know to expect a new bra in the mail. Of course my mother, Caroline or Dolly as she is known to everyone, is still wearing the iconic Playtex 18 Hour Bra! It’s the only style of bra I have ever seen her wear in my 45 years of life. At 91 years old, Dolly is not about to change something as critical as her trademark bra.

Dolly’s bra, like her, is no nonsense and genuine. It is functional without needless frills. It gets the job done in a superior manner without calling attention to its work and craftsmanship. No excess lace or color is necessary for her brassieres. Although the model now comes in a variety of colors, you won’t see Dolly wearing any colors other than white or natural beige.

As a child, I noticed the other neighbors only put sheets and towels on their backyard clotheslines. However, Dolly’s underwear and lingerie were displayed for all to see as they dried in the breeze. Of course, so were mine when I lived at home since I was physically unable to do my own laundry. This didn’t seem odd to me because Dolly never used her clothes dryer then and only rarely uses it now. Two days before I left home to be an exchange student to Australia at age 16, I posed for a photo in the backyard with my parents. Dolly sent the photo halfway around the world to me and I promptly put it on the dresser in my borrowed room, in a borrowed frame my host brother gave me. Not until he asked me why we had posed before laundry did I realize Dolly’s five bras were waving in the wind behind our smiling heads. The photo spent the entire year with me, on display in each host family house – me, my parents and Dolly’s bras. Today it is on the first page of my 4 photo albums from that magical year Down Under.

A few weeks ago, I told my mother I might write this essay about her and her bras. I wanted to know if she would be comfortable with me sharing what some would consider personal information with strangers.

“Well, I suppose if anyone can find a way to make my dull white bras interesting, you could. Remember, I wear the 18 Hour – not the Cross Your Heart.”

Was she telling me I was shirking in my bra shopping? Had I made a mistake and accidentally purchased the wrong style? I went online to verify I had purchased the right bra and made a shocking discovery. In 2015, Playtex had a rebranding and changed the model number and name of their iconic bra. It is now model number 4693B, known as the 18 Hour Ultimate Shoulder Comfort Wirefree Bra. I called her again, wanting to make sure she had this important update and also to verify she had sufficient quantity. Apparently I had been neglectful in my duties.

“I’ll still wear it! I have 4 right now so I’m good. I rotate them in my drawer after I do the laundry so I don’t keep wearing the same one all the time. That way they last longer.”

Even though it has been years since I’ve sent a new bra to my mother, she is still treasuring the past gifts I’ve given her; taking care to keep them in good condition for a little longer until life permits me the time and energy to resume my regular lingerie shopping.

Simple life lessons from Dolly. Who knew so much could come from a bra?

Everyone Loves a Snow Day

I went to bed last night thinking the predicted storm might not be so bad for us. The meteorologists were calling for heavy wet snow for the nearby Catskill, Adirondack and Berkshire mountains – over a foot. But as of 10 PM, we were only supposed to get 2-5 inches.

Here’s what it looked like at 8 AM. When my Personal Assistant left, the snow was over her shoes. Side note – she’s a gem for driving here at 5:15 AM to get me out of bed and showered on days like this. She never calls out due to snow.

My office was closed today because the building lost power due to the storm. Even though it’s been 23 years since my last days as a full-time student, I am young enough to appreciate a snow day. Especially one I did not expect!

So far, I have been fabulously lazy. For the past 4 hours all I’ve done is crochet while binge-watching episodes of Bondi Rescue on Netflix. Yes, I know, it’s crap reality TV. But it’s sunshine, blue water and Australian (mostly shirtless) life guards. When this is the current view outside, I’ll take mindless sun and surf any way I can get it!

Winter scene of heavy snow on an apartment building with cars parked in a lot.
That’s my van Clyde buried under the snow.

How about you? What’s your favorite snow day activity?