The Human Spirit

“It Is Not the Strongest of the Species that Survives But the Most Adaptable.”

I thought this column was going to be about how it feels to be a grandparent of a Westlake High graduate. I planned to grouse a bit about sitting in the stands as the heat of the sun attacked us while we waited for the ceremony to start. I planned to write about my pride in watching my Valedictorian granddaughter cross the stage to receive her diploma. I was going to write about how time is passing so quickly and how bittersweet that is.

But that was before COVID-19. That was when I still had the luxury to wonder if I could wear a large sunhat in the stands to protect my aging skin—and my hair color! As if…

Now my granddaughter will not have a graduation ceremony at all. She won’t get to throw her mortarboard up in the air in celebration. She won’t get to walk with the other Valedictorians. The world is a different place now. I don’t think it will ever be quite the same, and that’s not all bad.

Charles Darwin said that the survival of a species is all about their ability to adapt to their environment. And that’s what I see happening around me. We’re adapting to the circumstances we find ourselves in.

For instance, the hours I used to spend in the beauty salon, I’m now using to clean the house. I’m finding it satisfying in a strange way. I’d always wondered how to use a Swiffer. I’d see it in the aisle in the grocery story and it seemed a mystery to me. Not any more. But then someone told me about the power mop and I upgraded also found out about the wonders of the Clorox toilet bowl wand. My grandson, Garrett, and I tried it out together. Wow, did it clean the toilet bowl in a jiffy!

I have to admit that one day I was so industrious with my Clorox and Lysol that I gave myself an asthma attack from inhaling the cleaning solutions.  My throat was very sore and I began to cough—you can imagine what I imagined. Even my husband was concerned.

“Take your temperature,” he ordered.

It was my normal 97. 2.

Have you noticed that the things you prize after February 2020 are different than before? I first was aware of this during my cleaning frenzy when I checked under my bathroom sink and found a full bottle of Clorox spray cleaner. You’d have thought I won the Power Ball jackpot!

I’m also finding that we use things differently. My grandson, Evan, found a shell on the beach that must have been there for a while as it was crusted with sand and debris. Normally I’d have had him soak it in rubbing alcohol to see if it would bring up the shine. Because we had more Vodka in the house, we used that instead. We’re also learning to conserve. I can’t even imagine discarding a roll of toilet paper that isn’t down to the bare cardboard tube.

I see another positive pattern: neighbors helping each other out. It’s as simple as people checking with each other to see if they need something at the store. One day I found a source for masks and bought them for three families.

When Kathy came to pick hers up on the bench outside my door, she left me a bottle of Lysol spray. I was overwhelmed by her generosity.

I believe most people crave the company of others. We want to see each other and share important events together. Zoom, Skype and FaceTime are tools we’ve adopted to adapt our situation so we can do this. Even I, who can’t use the TV remote control, learned to create a meeting on Zoom so my creative writing class could meet.

We’ve had an unusual opportunity for adaptation. Two of our grandsons and their friends came for Spring Break and ended up hunkering with us in Hawaii. Every day, Moe and I have known how lucky we are to have these lively cheerful human beings with us. My only problem was learning to adapt to the amount of food young adults can eat. My first meatloaf, made in an 8X8 pan was way too small. The next, in a 13X9 filled the bill.

Adapting to how I really look is in another realm of Reality. Without Botox, my face is beginning to fold into a piece of origami. One thing I’m glad about is the loose elastic band of my sweatpants because my comfort eating has gotten out of hand. I find I can’t live without my Hershey’s chocolate bar with almonds. Or my double martini. As for the gray hair? I have used the Madison Reed hair product I bought so I don’t like so skunkish.

Staying home to stay safe has not been easy for such a mobile society as ours. We’re used to flying here and there, maybe on a whim. One of my favorite things is going to movies—I just read that may be a thing of the past. Warner Bros. pulled one of its big summer movies from release in theaters; it will go straight to video-on-demand. Universal did the same.

One of the hardest parts of the lockdown has been not being able to touch our loved ones. But keeping safe has been worth it. It not only helps us, it keeps our whole society safer. Even though I know that’s true, there’s a part of me that can’t help wishing I could still be in the Westlake High School stands, sweating through my clothes, watching my granddaughter graduate. I swear I’d never complain about anything again.

Getting to a New Normal

I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve written. I’m supposed to write every two weeks or at least once a month. But it has been a busy time. Our grandsons came for Spring Break and stayed for seven weeks. We were dealing with the disaster of the Covid 19 Pandemic and trying to create a haven for us all. I became a great cook again after a hiatus of quite a few years. I learned the wonders of the Clorox wand. And my best toy is the new Sharp power mop.

We sure have changed in a short period of time. I can’t believe I took that dopey picture in my last blog. Boy, was I ignorant. I’m making fun of the virus–who would wear a mask and gloves? Ha, ha, who’s laughing now. This new photo of me is from opening mail and boxes.

What! Me Worry?

I’m trying to be levelheaded about the COVID-19 virus, but I find myself of two minds. One of the minds says not to worry, that this too shall pass. And if I’m in good health and living a healthy life, I should be fine…even if I’m in my seventies and have lung issues.

“Oh,” the other mind points out. “You’re a perfect candidate, not only for contracting the virus, but dying from it.”

Great! I think and head to Target for more hand sanitizer.

I read an article by a man who had the virus and said it wasn’t that bad. That was the headline, at least, but as I continued to read about his 103 degree fever and two week hospital stay, I wasn’t reassured. Actually, I had a PTSD flashback because it reminded me of how I felt when I had malaria ten years ago. I had a 105 degree fever for many days–let me tell you it wasn’t good.

I decided to do a little more research on the effect of the corona virus because I wanted to be pro-active. One thing I read is that medications may become in short supply. That’s because many of our medications are made in China (who knew) where factories have been closed down and transportation cut back. So I decided to refill as many of our prescriptions as I could. That was easy. Hopefully there won’t be a problem, but I still have the medication for 3 months.

An issue that is already coming up is the hugging, kissing, shaking hands dilemma. I faced this two years ago when recovering from pneumonia. I didn’t want to be rude, but I was vulnerable to any infection and my lungs weren’t functioning well, as it was. I got good advice from people whose lungs were also not at 100%. One friend told me she bumps elbows with people instead of knuckles. Another told me to hold a glass of wine in one hand and an appetizer in the other at a cocktail party. “Then you shrug and say sorry when they zero in for a handshake,” she explained.

I think it’s important not to be Chicken Little. The sky is not falling. We’ll be okay. Meanwhile I hear my husband on the phone with his cousin. “Worst case scenario,” he chortles, “is our kids get their inheritance early.”

Happy Valentine’s Day

I fell deeply in love with Valentine’s Day on the day my mother let me buy a box of Valentines for my classmates in third grade. My love affair with February 14 had started in first grade when our teacher handed out red and pink construction paper, Elmer’s glue, and scissors. But the cute little cartoon Valentines in the box stole my heart. You can download them from your computer now, but it isn’t the same as going to the drug store and buying the exact box you want.

In my elementary school, if you gave a Valentine to one person, you had to give them to everyone. I still remember that in sixth grade, Barry Reed didn’t give me one. I can’t tell you why he chose not to, but I felt so hurt. I still feel chagrined when I think about it. Back then, it fed on my low self esteem. Not that I hold a grudge, but I really never talked to him again…even when he was seated in front of me in Sophomore English. For the whole year, I ignored him. Instead, I chose to talk to Jimmy Hendrix who was on my left.

Another Valentine favorite of mine through the years is the box of Sweetheart candies. My mother, ahead of her time, didn’t allow us sugar…except for these little sweeties. Here’s the history behind these heart-shaped messaging candies. They are actually the descendants of NECCO candies, which were the offspring of lozenges created by pharmacist and inventor Oliver Chase. In 1866, his brother suggested they print “love messages” on the candy for Valentine’s Day. In 1901, they became heart shaped. In today’s world, messages include: TEXT ME.

There are many legends about who Saint Valentine actually was and how February 14 became associated with romance. It seems that Valentine was a popular name during the Roman Empire so it could have been one of the many early Christians martyred at the time. The story I liked was about Valentinus, who secretly married Christian couples. He was ordered beheaded by Claudius II. If you’re ever in Ireland, you can go to Dublin’s Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church to see a relic of Saint Valentine and a shrine to him. Many people do make this pilgrimage to pray for finding true love.

My husband has a mixed record on Valentine’s Day. One year he gave me a diamond and sapphire heart—I treasure it to this day. Other years, there’s been nothing or worse, wilting flowers from the grocery store. If it’s the thought that counts, either he is a loser or I am. One year we were in Africa on safari. Moe didn’t even think to bring a card but our friend Earl brought his wife, two. Moe tried to buy the second one, but Earl refused. Neither has ever lived it down.

I admit that I love greeting cards. February, especially in Seattle where I lived until I was 45, is a very dreary month. Valentines brightened the days. I’ve always given my grandkids a Valentine and a box of Sweethearts. Now that three are in college, I still send them Valentines, with a little spending money included. It’s an opportunity to say “I love you” in the middle of winter without being grandmother mushy. They like the Sweethearts too.

Plastic Promises

Here’s another thing on my mind that I’ve been meaning to share to get it off my desktop. I deeply care about the environment.

I know plastic is terrible but I do like my bottle of water when I walk. I’ve never found a substitute that works as well for me. Count me guilty on that count. So, I try to find other ways to make up for my plastic habit.

I don’t use plastic bags in the grocery store.

Also, I no longer buy detergent or anything in big plastic containers. These are two things I’ve done. Any more suggestions?

Another Disaster!

I have a problem. I did the FoodStats Antibody Assessment. It assesses your immunological reaction to certain food allergens. The doctor pricked my finger and did 6 blood smears. Then sent them in for analysis.

I just got the results. Most of it wasn’t a surprise: Cow’s milk, Goat’s milk, Casein. That’s why I try to keep dairy free.

I’ve also been aware of my nut allergies and never have felt good after eating a delicious bowl of oatmeal. I’ve tried to say that I don’t need to be gluten free no matter my doctor’s advice so I was glad to see my reaction to gluten was low. Unfortunately, my reaction to wheat was high.

The worst news is that three of main stays scored the highest: eggs, sugar and chocolate. 😱

I have eaten eggs for breakfast everyday for twenty years. What am I going to do without them?

New Year Resolutions: 😱

I decided to do something different this year. I made resolutions I knew I had a small chance in hell of keeping.

I will wear rubber gloves in the kitchen. This is a worthy goal, as it would save my manicure and aging hands. Many times I’ve vowed to do this, but then it seems like such a big deal to pull the gloves on.

I won’t eat gluten anymore. I actually meant to do this, but then yesterday our neighbor brought over her famous sticky buns, still warm from the oven. They smelled divine and tasted even better. Channeling Scarlett O’Hara, I said, “I’ll become gluten free tomorrow!”

I won’t look at Facebook right before I go to sleep. This is a really good idea because when I do, I can get so upset that I can’t sleep. So far no good.

I will keep track of where my phone is. I’d really like this to happen but thank goodness I have an iWatch. I’ve only had to ping for my phone five times since January 1.

 I will not rinse dishes or flatware before I put them in the dishwasher. My children assure me this is safe to do—they don’t understand why I wash everything so thoroughly before. I will try, but I just know the food will get baked on and I’ll have a heck of a time getting it off later.

I will start using the calendar on my phone instead of using my hardcopy calendar. Sure I will.

I will not use as much hairspray. This is another thing the younger generation assures me that I don’t need. But these whippersnappers don’t have my fine hair. They don’t understand that hairspray is my first line of defense against losing any volume I’ve managed to tease out.

I will not try to be perfect all the time. This includes not making my bed everyday. I don’t even know how I became a perfectionist—it’s not my basic personality. It would be perfect if I could make this resolution work.

I am not going to be as empathetic. You may be thinking this is a strange resolution, but I am so damn empathetic that it’s pathetic.  I’m working on not experiencing other people’s pain. And I’m not going to be as nice and polite!!!!

Finally, I am going to accept myself as I am today. This includes recognizing I’m a 74-year-old grandmother. My hair is thin; my body’s thick. And if people ask me if I need help getting my groceries in the car, I won’t be insulted. This actually happened to me towards the end of 2019. I laughed and said, “No, I’m good. But in five years, I might take you up on it.”

Christmas Conflicts in Parts

Christmas Conflicts in Parts

Regenerating the Elders: Stemming the Tide

The Platelet Rich Plasma is the yellowish substance. The stem cell is the clear liquid.

My husband and I have gotten into regenerative medicine big time. Both of us just had stem cell therapy.

Regenerative medicine is defined on Google as: “the branch of medicine that develops methods to regrow, repair or replace damaged or diseased cells, organs or tissues. This field holds the promise of regenerating damaged tissues and organs in the body by replacing damaged tissue or by stimulating the body’s own repair mechanisms to heal tissues or organs.”

I damaged my left knee this past summer. The MRI showed three tears in the meniscus, plus osteoarthritis and inflammation.

“Get a replacement,” my husband ordered.

I’d just nursed him through a total hip replacement and wasn’t anxious to become the one in the hospital bed. So, I started with SynVisc injections. SynVisc is made of hyaluronic acid that helps cushion and lubricate your joints, (which in my case had become as dry as the Sahara).

“If SynVisc doesn’t work, the next step is PRP. Then stem cell therapy,” the orthopedist said.

“What’s PRP?” I asked.

“It stands for Platelet-Rich Plasma therapy. You can look it up on Google,” he said as he injected my knee.

So of course I went to Dr. Google. “PRP is a form of regenerative medicine that can harness healing abilities and amplify the natural growth factors your body uses to heal tissue. Plasma is the liquid portion of our blood. Platelets, also called thrombocytes, are blood cells that cause blood clots and other necessary growth healing functions.”

Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy uses injections of a concentration of a patient’s own platelets to accelerate the healing of injured tendons, ligaments, muscles and joints. In this way, PRP injections use each individual patient’s own healing system to improve musculoskeletal problems.

So there, I knew what PRP therapy was. I had a feeling I was going to need it although over a ten-week period, the SynVisc improved things. I could sleep without too much pain and I could walk again—almost two miles. But I was definitely not perfect.

Meanwhile, my husband had had pneumonia and was mistakenly prescribed Levaquin, a super antibiotic with an unfortunate side effect in people over 65—it can damage the person’s tendons. And it did. Moe could barely walk because of the damage, let alone play golf.

This is what brought us limping into the doctor’s office in Kona, Hawaii.  The doctor examined us and went through our health histories and blood tests. On the next visit, he suggested PRP and a stem cell for my knee. For Moe, he suggested stem cell therapy in the blood stream.

“It’s experimental, but we’re having phenomenal results,” he said.

Last Friday, the doctor drew my blood (I have stingy veins—he said something about a turnip) then put it in a centrifuge. After about 45 minutes, he injected PRP in my right knee. Then he injected my left knee along with a stem cell.

All was super easy in my right knee. In my left knee—so painful!!

“That’s because you have so much inflammation in that knee,” the doctor explained as I moaned.

My husband and I have been having intravenous vitamin infusions every couple of weeks since September. We have a “Myers’ Cocktail” that contains magnesium, calcium, B vitamins, vitamin C and magnesium. After, there’s a small infusion of Glutathione. These infusions enhance the immune system, reduce fatigue, and help with seasonal allergies plus other benefits. Since my husband was already hooked up, the doctor injected the stem cells for him right into the IV—no pain for him!

No problem!

“When will we see results?” I asked the doctor as we left his office.

“Your knee is working day and night on a microscopic level to improve tissue health. Most patients can see more significant improvements at weeks 4-8 and 12+ weeks post injection,” he said.

Four to eight weeks!!!!! OMG!!!

Now, it’s only a week later. (I’m sure it’s been a least a month). I’ve been under instructions to rest my damaged knee. Tomorrow I can start a mile walk every other day. For someone who’s used to walking at least three miles a day, it’s taken a lot of patience to stay away from my Nikes. But I want to give this procedure a chance. I’ll let you know what happens.