Brave New World

Since today is the first day of school, I was reflecting on the many first days of school I have had over the years. The feeling I get is the same one I get at New Year’s Eve when the countdown to the next year begins. There is excitement, expectation, a little nervousness, and delight. Every year, Rachel and I would get a fresh touch up at Johnson’s Barber and Beauty. I would lay my clothes out the night before. My trapper keeper had all the folders, paper and utensils in their rightful places. And of course every tab was color-coded and labeled. That night it would be so hard to sleep, because the next day was the start of a brand new year! Cereal, banana, apple juice and water for breakfast. Lunch packed. Bus 25 would be coming around the bend soon and we would be off to a new adventure. Richard was our bus driver. He was probably in his early to mid-50s. Wore a cowboy hat and boots to match, every day. And when it rained, he had a fancy hat cover that he wore over that hat. I used to think that Richard slept in that hat and it was permanently attached to his head. He was the kindest man. Good ole’ Richard. Since we were among the first to get on the bus, we sat towards the front. But on the way home, we were the last to be dropped off, and we sat towards the middle. I usually fell asleep and Rachel would nudge me to close my mouth and wake up. I never could. I had to sit towards the front in class too because of my poor vision. The teachers used to try to move me to the back because of my height. But my parents told me to hold my ground. I had to be able to see the board. I loved everything else about school. On the first day, the papers were crisp, the books and supplies were new, the teachers were cheerful, and students were on their best behavior. . . for now. I hope this year, with all the changes, that students and teachers are still able to have memorable first days. Cheers to all going in for the first time, or back for another round. Stay safe and healthy. Have a great year!


Uterus Gone Wild

A while back I posted about being an “over-educated old fart with a bad uterus.” Well, since then, some things have changed. I still have my uterus and it’s still bad; but I no longer have the lining of my uterus. Who knew you could just blow up some parts of it, and it still function; however, poorly. I had an endometrial ablation in early June. All the other remedies that the Doc tried just would not stop the incessant bleeding. One month, two months, three months; Lord, please help me! The ablation was the preferred next step. I struggled with this decision because even though I would still be able to conceive a child, I would not be able to carry to term. I had time before the procedure to mourn the loss of my sacred abilities as a woman. I don’t think there is ever enough time for this type of loss. I have fought the feelings of being less than a woman, or half of a woman. A barren woman. Sometimes the feelings win.

Immediately after the procedure, I had some pain, but the bleeding had finally stopped. I was getting back to myself again, until. . . the bleeding started again. ‘Hello, old friend. I hate you.’ As I write this, it has been three weeks and still…the bleeding. The Doc says this is to be expected and that I am still in the healing process. Sure feels alot like before the procedure. But I’m no medical doctor. It is hard to be a woman sometimes. I keep telling myself that it could always be worse. God knows what He’s doing.

Living While Black: Everyday Activities

Walking in my neighborhood this morning and around 7:30, I see two police cars pull onto the street. I don’t usually see the 5-0 in my neighborhood, but it looked like they were leaving a meeting. Anywho, I keep it moving; I have steps to get in. So about a quarter-mile down I have walked down onto a different street when I look up and see one of the same police vehicles driving very slowly up the street in my direction. I look at the passing vehicle and the officer is peering at me through the window. His eyes were fixed. At first I thought, yes, I know why you’re looking. It’s these biscuit-made hips or my brown butter smooth skin glistening in the sunlight. Then, I thought, calm down Terry McMillan, this ain’t no social call.So I keep it moving. I’ll be doggoned, when I get to the end of the street to turn out toward the main drag, there goes the officer again. THE SAME ONE! Now, I am concerned. 1.) I walk ever day. The neighbors are neighborly and we know each other; I even know their pets. Buuuuut, will they vouch for me? 2.) Why do I need someone to vouch for me in MY OWN neighborhood? I don’t need papers to show I belong. 3.) Did I fit the description of a suspect on the loose at 7am on a Tuesday near the retirement center and park? Well at least one of my characteristics fit…the only one that would probably matter to them if they were looking for a “suspect”. 4.) Or did I look especially threatening in my Air Max and compression pants listening to an audible book whilst walking for exercise by myself so that no one else’s droplets can mingle with my droplets at the gym so I took my fitness outside to lower my chances of getting the plague….and breathe.

I don’t know the issue, but I actually feared that if something were to happen to me today at the hands of law enforcement (using that label loosely), who would be there to help me? Would anyone hear my cry? Would there be a bystander who would keep their camera rolling on my behalf? It is usually a peaceful walk, but today my thoughts of how quickly life can change and/or end, wore me down faster than the heat of the summer sun.

All in a day’s time

I havent left my house for 2 full days. The rain and winds and oh yea, the Covid; havent made it easy. I usually go home for Easter. Instead, I was in my house, I did chores and cooked for myself, and meal prepped. Exercised with my favorite coaches virtually. Went to church via livestream. Prayed from afar with my family and friends. Communicated with others via text or brief calls. I got to see a picture of my uncle, taken thru a window, that my mother and aunt took while they talked to him on the phone and waved. At the present, nursing homes and hospitals are mimicking prison visitations. But still blessed to be able to visit in any fashion. A strange feeling was in the air today. Somber. The light of the resurrection brought levity to the day. The hope for better days is palpable. And I believe they are going to come. #realitybites #brighterdaysahead

Over-educated, Old Fart!

I haven’t written in a little while because I have been dealing with some things. I never wanted children when I was younger; this is no secret. I did not like to babysit, I never ooohed and ahhhed over newborns, and I never felt like my clock was ticking. I was always encouraged to complete my education, and then focus on a career. I did both of these things well. What I did not realize was that while I was securing my professional future, I was losing ground for starting a family. I have read books written by powerful women whose mantra is, “YOU CAN HAVE IT ALL!” I want so badly to believe this, but the reality is that I am not so sure.

I started having trouble with my lady parts (I will spare you the specifics) when I was around 28 or 29 years old. Every doctor would run the same tests, examine the same images, ask the same questions, and offer the same solutions. Time and time again. Each visit was beginning to feel like groundhog’s day and I could not wake up to a new day. Finally, I am living in Columbus, OH at around age 35, I find a specialist who would, as soon as I push back onto the table and sit up, look me in my eyes and tell me the honest truth. I mean, he gave it to me straight; no chaser. “Listen, Doc. You over-educated old farts come in here with your bad uterus and you want to talk about your options.” I remember thinking, ‘well, damn’! Honestly speaking though, this is what I asked for. Goundhog’s day finally ended, and I was getting a new result. I didn’t like the delivery, but the truth was refreshing. I thought he was finished–nope. “You have a sack of marbles (referencing my uterine fibroids) and if I go in there and clean them out, I need you to have a baby within the year.” Whoa! Sound the alarm! Now, I am stuck because I never really wanted children, but I did want the choice to be there. I was in a conundrum; majorly.  My thoughts are swirling and I hear the doctor saying something, but it all sounds muffled as if I am under water. I finally focus just in time to hear, “You don’t have a man you could just call and tell him you want to have a baby. It’s okay if he likes mustard and you like ketchup, just keep them separate in the fridge.” What in the world is he talking about. Babies are conceived out of love, and with the intentions of starting a new life together with someone special. Did he just use run-of-the-mill condiments to describe what I was raised to believe was so sacred?  Alright man, enough!  I took my sack of marbles and left. My homework assignment was to think about the options and let the doctor know. Well, in my mind, I came into this world with all of my parts, and if I can help it; I would die with all of them too.

Now, living in my 40th year on this side of Heaven, I am faced with the same issues; only worse. I have continued to work with a doctor to monitor my marbles, and keep my pain managed. But something happened that is forcing me to face my reality. I keep hearing the words from the doctor in Columbus, “you over-educated old fart with a bad uterus.” Womens’ bodies have the unique ability to create miracles in the matter of nine short months. There is an expiration on that miracle-making and wondrous temple, but I am not there yet. I am not ready for certain decisions to be out of my control.  About a year ago, my body started to inform me that something was wrong. I became extremely fatigued. I was exhausted trying to walk to my office or across campus to another building. When I cancelled class one day because I could not make the walk, that was the day that I decided to make an appointment with the doctor.

This visit would feel so familiar. He ran the same tests, asked the same questions, scanned the same images, and so on, and so on. This time, he had no answers and no clues. “You appear to be the picture of health”, he told me. Well, then why do I feel the exact opposite. I started taking B-12, as recommended by a friend who is a nurse. I started to have a bit more energy, but never back to the same. Now, here we are approximately 4 years later and my body has once again let me know that something is wrong. She is rebelling in a big way! If you have seen “The Perfect Storm”, I am the Andrea Gail at sea, fighting the biggest waves and going up against a tropical storm.  This time, I go into the doctor and here come those tough decisions again. I heard everything they were saying to me, but the translation was “you will never have children.” Did I wait too long? Should I have made finding Mr. Right a priority sooner? Would my outcome have been the same? I don’t know.  In the meantime, I will cope with my new reality. I am still putting all of the pieces together in my mind. One day at a time.

Our 1st Home…Office

Today was the first day that we worked from home together. We are working in separate rooms, and have claimed our personal bathrooms. The kitchen is our breakroom, and the livingroom is the lounge; only to be used for longer breaktime or simultaneous breaks.  So far, so good.

We share about our day in real time. Exchange small gestures of love from time to time. But no crossing of the line; we ARE at work afterall. Besides, we don’t want to upset HR. We impose our own no fraternization policy–and enforce it!

He gets off earlier than I do, signs off, and is ready to call it a day. I still have an hour or 90 minutes left to work. He becomes Chatty Chistopher. This may be a challenge going forward. For this week. I will just continue to monitor his behavior. While it was a good day, I wonder when we will be allowed to.go back to our offices though. Lets see what tomorrow brings 🙂 .

From the Window

Social distancing has a whole new meaning when we have lived ones in hospitals, nursing homes, and hospice care. My dad had surgery yesterday, and I wasn’t allowed to see him. Usually I drive for two and a half hours, pull up at my parents’ house, and when I open the door the scene is the same. Mom playing solitaire on her tablet, and Daddy watching the news or a game show. They both have a “big drink” from McDonald’s, and Fiona and Winnie are sitting at their feet. This time it was so different. And this time was the first that I thought, ‘one day, this will be a permanent reality’. I drove straight to the house. It was quiet. My sister had taken off work to be with Daddy, but the hospital wouldn’t let her see him either. She greeted me. She was sitting in the living room with Fiona and Winnie at her feet. No “big drink”, but a Sunkist orange pop–her favorite. This homecoming felt so strange. The smells were different; the air was different. I was overwhelmed by the thoughts that were swirling around in my mind. I needed to find something to keep me busy. I have never been more thankful to have an afternoon meeting to attend. I gathered what I needed to log into Zoom and engage in a conversation about advocating for the resources that students and families need, not just during this pandemic; but every day. I was able to think about the tremendous impact the global pandemic is having on families with financial challenges. I can’t visit my dad, but some folks can’t eat. Every school and university has gone viral, but not every home has internet access. Yet, I have filled my list with new movies to watch on Netflix and planning virtual happy hour and dinner with friends. I am unsettled and admittedly a bit nervous.  I know that when the veil is lifted and we are able to carry on with our normal lives, we will be looking at a new normal.

Right now, as I write this, my Daddy (like so many others) is alone in a cold hospital with strangers. I am thankful he is still here and when he comes home in the morning, my “normal” can presume. We will have coffee and a pastry and solve the world’s problems. Mom will be on the phone talking with her sister and posting her memories on Fb. My sister will be at work, and Fiona and Winnie will be beside the table waiting for a morsel of food to be shared or a belly rub. Meanwhile, a friend takes pictures with her mom through a glass window because the risk is too high to be any closer. My best friend is experiencing the loss of loved ones, but can’t be with her family due to health risks and the government mandate regarding large gatherings. Homegoing celebrations, weddings, births, graduations, etc. with 10 people or less. Some difficult decisions are being made. This is true for so many things in our lives right now. I then think about my Uncle who took a fall recently, and because of his limited mobility, he is in a nursing home. He, like my Daddy, is spending the night alone in an unfamiliar room with strangers. Until he goes home; I cant visit him either.

I don’t particularly want to work from home, but when I think about all the other challenges that folks may be having, I think about how blessed I really am. I am inconvenienced not down-an-out. For me, not being able to go to brunch or to the gym is only temporary. For some, extreme challenges and loss have taken up residence in their lives; and some of it will be permanent.

I will brace myself for the permanent changes to reveal themselves when it’s all said and done. We will adapt and learn the new ways of the world. In spite of the sickness, loss, change, stress, and anxiety; joy is found in the “socially distant” love we show one another.

Toilet Paper Caper Part 3: Mission Complete

It started with a premonition. We visited General Dollar last night and Sgt. Price the “Cutter”. No luck with either of them and no leads. Whilst making our way back to camp, bewildered, tired and hungry; we were just about to wave our white flag. But wait, retired Master Sergeant, J. Allen, message in that Ft. Sam’s in Jeff City would get a shipment in on Sunday. She would nab the TP for us and place in the reserves. This was good, but not great news. Jeff City was just too far; we were uncertain if we could make it before our current supply ran out. Alas, we slept on this decision and were hopeful that by day break, we would have another solution. I awakened refreshed! I say, it came to me in a dream that Sgt. Price the “Cutter”, who was closest to our camp, would have the TP. I saw doubt on my partner’s face. I mean, a dream, ha! I would have probably laughed too. Nonetheless, we prepared ourselves for the day and hustle over to see Sgt. Price, “The Cutter”. We were braced for disappointment. This feeling was all too familiar now. I guess my premonition was wrong. No TP here either! Alas, a voice in the distance. ‘Excuse me, they have some down at Camp Republic West, Walmart.’ Could it be? Did my premonition lead us to meet this Friendly who one might call the–The Enlightened One? Do we trust her or is this a trap? But this was no chance meeting. We then made haste and journeyed on. Upon arrival we immediately begin to feel excitement as we see civilians leaving with TP in their possession. We enter and split up for efficiency. We arrive and to our surprise, what had once been empty bunkers now contained what we had longed for! TP!! Oh happy day!! The Elightened One did not lead us astray! Victory is mine! Sweet, sweet victory! We head on into town to celebrate. The crusade has ended and it is time to enjoy the spoils of war. Moral of the story is that perseverance, faith, hope and persistence will prevail in the face of adversity! Toilet Paper Caper: Mission Complete

Toilet Paper Caper Part 2: Once again, it’s on!

6:30 am, we mount up and journey to Home Depot Station 11. We are sleepy, but hopeful. Determined not to be defeated, we descend upon the orange steel doors. To our dismay; no TP in sight. But we did discover where all household cleaning items are in abundance with maximum purchases of 10. We turn about and quickly move down old Glenstone Road to Lowe’s Landing. Omg! This looks promising. We were greeted by Friendlies who quickly informed us that there had been no TP seen there for days; and that there may not be any for quite some time to come. This left us with no choice but to visit Mt. Menard’s. This would be my maiden voyage. Having traveled Chestnut Expressway to this massive structure, excitement builds once we approach and I see the beacons of light shining through the large windows. These lights were the siren song of Mt. Menard’s as they lured us inside and sealed our fate. There were traps set down every aisle. We dodged deals and doorbusters and remained focused on the mission at hand. Wait, what’s this?! A moose riding a zambonie-like machine that is leaving floor wax in its trail. What does the enemy have planned? What is this distraction? In the distance, we spot it….end caps FULL of TP. We approach with caution. We have been out a long time. Our caffeine is waning and our bodies are weary. Could it be? No! PT; loads and loads of PT (aka Paper Towels). An enemy disguised as a Friendly tries to convince us that we will go into quarantine indefinitely and there won’t even be deliveries. And then he says it; they may never get another delivery of TP again! We’re smarter than that. Oh, we will be back again. We plot our next move, but first; refuel! Alas, a First Watch tower is in our sights. With bacon and coffee, we accept our defeat on this day. Oh, TP hoarders, you may have won the battle; but you have not won the war! We will be victorious! Part 3 soon, but first, a proper nap and new strategy. We will ride again!

Toilet Paper Caper Part I: The Quest

1am, it’s on! First to Denny’s to fuel for war; the conditions are unstable. Who knows how long we will be trekking. Next, Walmart at Camp Campbell. We strike out. There are signs that TP once existed, but that’s it; none to be found. Redirect, and decide to forage for non-perishables, fresh fruit, veggies, and meat for rations. Onward to Fort Walmart Independence. We survey the area; the scene is some better. A Friendly asks if we are just passing thru, we respond in the affirmative and continue to marvel at the damage down each row. Shelves empty, frozen food destroyed, fresh meats–obliterated. What’s this? Kleenex disposable fresh wipes? We shall both get our 2 packs each and check out separately. Stick it to the establishment. Ha! Take our haul back home. Will rest, refill the canteens and head out at daybreak. Got a tip from another Friendly upon leaving Fort Independence. At 6:30, we shall ride again! Stay tuned for Part 2!