Sunday, May 31, 2015


My grandma is one month and two weeks shy of 98 years. She has seven siblings. Of the eight children in her family, four are still living - all are nonagenarians except her elder brother who just had his 100th birthday. That's a very long life.

A couple of years ago Grandma stopped taking her daily walks. We used to joke that they were called "daily walks" because it took her a day to walk around the block. There are many people in the neighborhood who have told me they miss seeing my tiny grandma who always greeted them with a smile and a wave. She stopped walking because she had begun falling down unexpectedly and was afraid of falling where no one could help her. She also refused to use a walker because people might think she was getting weaker and falling down or something. When I pointed out to her that that was exactly the case, she laughed and said, "Well, I can't figure out how to use that big old thing anyway."

Until last month, Grandma made bread every week. Years ago she had surrendered the mixing and kneading of the bread to a machine, but I have loved to visit her on Bread Day and watch her shaping the loaves when the dough was mixed. Grandma always poked a fork from the top to the bottom of each shaped loaf prior to baking, so that no holes would form in the dough while it was rising and baking. My mother has done the same thing all her life. Until I was 12, I had no idea that a loaf of homemade bread could be made without the design of small holes across the crusty top. For the last decade, if I was visiting on Bread Day, Grandma sent me home with a warm loaf--not for me. It was for Aaron. Always for Aaron.

My boys always note that when they visit Grandma, she tells them about something she's heard recently that she thinks is funny. Sometimes it's not funny at all, but they laugh anyway because Grandma's giggle is infectious. And it's fun to laugh with her. She's always had trouble remembering Alex's name so she put a Post-it Note on the mirror in her sitting room to remind her what "Dian's second boy" was called. I love seeing the note. It's been there for more than three years now. It reminds me that I'm important to her, and so are my children. Her 90+-year-old mind is too full to retain one more name, but she wants to remember anyway so she writes it down.

My children have had the privilege of knowing all their great-grandparents. Both great-grandfathers passed away when my children were very young, but the grandmas lived long enough for them to establish a deeply loving relationship. Natalie called my dad's mother, Grandma Ruth. She passed away about 10 years ago. But my children have known Grandma Erwin all their lives. We visited her often both before she moved in with my parents, and after. When I was a child, Grandma was 5'4" tall. She was lovely and energetic and always treated me as if I was someone very special. The Grandma my children have known has lost many inches due to osteoporosis. She is now about 4'8" and struggles to weigh more than 90 pounds.

Natalie has always felt a special bond with Grandma. When she was three, she said, "I have lots of Grandmas. Grandma Erwin is like me. She's my little grandma." Over the past decade, I've watched my daughter quietly take Grandma's arm and walk her through the store, or from the chapel to Sunday School class. She spends time in Grandma's sitting room chatting with the elderly woman who can barely hear her. She makes sure Grandma gets a hug. When Nat was in a Utah facility for treatment for depression, Grandma missed her. She was losing her memory at that point and couldn't understand why Natalie was gone. I finally just told Grandma that Natalie had gone away to school. Grandma would smile and nod and say, "She needs to write me a letter."

Grandma had a heart attack last month. At that point it was clear that her death was very near. She's in Star Valley right now with my parents. Grandma's death will come in the next few days. Her body is shutting down. Her digestive system no longer allows her to eat or drink very much and her body is beginning to swell as her kidneys shut down. Breathing is labored, and Grandma sleeps most of the time. She's unaware of where she is or who is with her. Hospice will ease her pain as Grandma passes away.

She's almost 98. Her body has been unable to heal itself from minor cuts and bruises without the aid of intravenous antibiotics for more than a year now. She's lost her ability to read, do handwork and quilting, and even dress herself some days. She told me a few months ago that she's ready to join Grandpa whenever the time comes. But I'm realizing there will be no more days of watching her aged hands shape bread dough, no more giggling with my sons, no more moments for Natalie to gently take her arm and provide stability as Grandma walks. There will be no more smiling through hymns at church as I listen to my Grandma sing. No more questions about whether Chris is ever going to find a girlfriend, or what I named "that second boy."

I understand that death will be a necessary release for my Grandma, but I'm missing her already. And I'm feeling a little bit sad.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

"Laughter is timeless. Imagination has no age. And dreams are forever." -- Walt Disney

If I enjoy the same longevity as most of my grandparents, I've not yet reached middle age. However, the life expectancy of a woman in Wyoming is 80, which means by that definition, I have. There are some presumably advantageous things I've left behind in this last half of my life. I find it liberating to leave them. I've pondered for the past year why I love being older. Today, I'm listing some of those thoughts.

1. I've never been great at following fashion trends--and I've never felt happy about spending the money necessary to do so. I live in comfy jeans whenever possible. I'll dress up if I have to, but the occasion needs to end within five hours or I'm ready to strip down and finish the event in my underwear (don't worry-- I won't). I kind of love that when you hit middle age you can wear whatever you want. People might think you're weird, but when they remember that you're halfway to death your fashion sense is tolerated, and even celebrated as you get older. I have fashion plans that will mortify my children before I'm 80.

2. This one goes hand-in-hand with the first: hairstyles. Let's face it, having curly hair like mine doesn't allow for a great deal of style flexibility. Add to that the fact that I hate doing my hair, and suddenly middle age feels great. People don't expect those advancing in years to have immaculate, gorgeous locks unless they're celebrities of some sort--and I'm not. I straighten my hair most days because that's predictable and fast. The curls might stand up and break dance on my head if they're allowed to develop naturally, and I'm not excited about attracting that kind of attention. However, there are certainly days when the straight hair is less straight than is trendy, and I don't care. If I've spent 10 minutes on my hair, that is enough. I have things to do outside of my bathroom.

3. In accordance with the first two, since I am now middle-aged, I don't wear a ponytail to the gym (that's right, I just let the morning hair hang as it chooses), nor do I sport cute workout clothes. I wear leggings because they're comfortable and they don't chafe, and one of Chris's or Alex's old t-shirts. I used to wear the t-shirt given me by the surgical department when I had my appendix out, but it wore out. I also wear whatever running shoes I want to. I don't care if they match the rest of my workout clothes. And most days I walk out of the gym tired and sweaty because I prefer to shower at home.

4. When I'm at a social event and I want to go home, I do. I used to worry about staying an appropriate amount of time, or making sure I talked to everybody, or some of those other obligatory things, but now that I'm middle aged I can just poke my head in the door, wave at everyone, and go home to read whatever book is currently claiming my attention. Okay, that's an exaggeration. But the truth is that I don't worry anymore about doing what's expected. I come when I choose and leave when I feel like it and I'm comfortable with that.

I suppose what I'm saying with my above list is that life is better when you stop trying to look or act within the confines of societal expectation. I've never really been swayed by that, but now that I'm not trying to attract someone sexy, or make new business connections, or climb some weird social ladder, everything feels happier and I expect the trend to continue as the years slip by. I don't need to wear makeup unless I feel like it, I don't have to fill my calendar with lunch dates. I don't have to buy something just because a magazine tells me it will make me, somehow, more beautiful.

As for beautiful, I stopped worrying about that years ago. People are just people, and the representative beautiful images we see in magazines are photoshopped. They're not real. I refuse to emulate something imaginary when there are so many amazing people to admire. I'd prefer to make life-shaping choices that follow the wisdom of Mother Theresa, rather than break my hair straightener attempting to emulate the glossy locks of Kim Kardashian (seriously--why is she famous? Probably not for her hair...). And the truth is I'll never be sexy or gorgeous, and that's okay. I don't have to be those things to appreciate the beauty of a sunset, or be entranced by shiny beetles or colorful butterflies. I can share my smile with everyone I meet and I'm guessing they won't be evaluating the whiteness of my teeth. And when I dance, the last thing I'm thinking about is whether or not my hips need to be photoshopped.

I'm loving this middle-aged thing. I should have done it years ago.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

"You can't patch a wounded soul with a Band-Aid." -- Michael Connelly

Especially me, because I'm allergic to Band-Aid adhesive.

I had a very long chat with a friend yesterday. We met about a year ago and have spent some time getting to know each other. I'm always surprised when I actually connect with a person also feels connection with me. This was one of those times when we both realized we have a great deal in common, we like to talk, and we like to listen. That last part is rare. Anyway, it's a good idea for me to meet new people. I think, for someone with my kind of life, it takes the heat off people who have been supporting me for a long time.

When we met I told my new friend that, in order for me to sustain friendships, I have to be in contact with people regularly. If we're not, it doesn't mean I won't talk or socialize with the person. It just means I'm not able to share and confide. It's impossible for me to develop a trust threshold that allows me to do so. Aaron says it's weird to tell new friends those kinds of things. I think it's vital. And it also gives that person a chance to run away if they need to before we decide we love each other forever. Aaron says that's a little weird, too. I would have to agree.

Anyway, this friend understands PTSD on a level that many others do not. I need friends who do not have PTSD, but still understand when I'm struggling. I also need someone who will let me laugh and cry and be available when those moments happen. Usually that person is Aaron, but he was gone yesterday. And yesterday turned out to be one of those unexpectedly awful days.

This isn't going to be a post about PTSD exclusively, but sometimes I will post about it. It's a part of my life right now. I don't believe, contrary to what I've been told by medical and psychological experts--because why would I believe them? I'm Dian. I choose who/what I will become--that this is a lifelong disorder. I think at some point I will figure out how to make it through all the emotions (scary!) and become less overwhelmed by the symptoms I now deal with. And I just have to say, that moving through those emotions by myself is terrifying. So I'm pretty grateful to that friend who allows me to call on a whim, or who catches me online and stays with me. And I know you read this blog. I'm saying thank you again.

I awoke this morning feeling almost normal, which means I woke up feeling like I needed to get outside and go for a run. The weather, however, is telling me to wait. It's still less than forty degrees, cloudy, and the wind is blowing. Also, a rest day might be a good idea for me. I usually hear the songbirds in the morning, but today the seagulls are out in abundance, their louder cries distracting me from the conversational chirping outside my window. We're supposed to get rain today. I would like that.

Aaron attempted apricot jam yesterday. He reads directions--usually several times and aloud at high volume, which sends the rest of us running for cover. Chris called Aaron while he was in the middle of jam making, with an auto emergency. I said I'd finish the jam. That's when I found out that Aaron did NOT read the instructions correctly. I did what I could to remedy the mistakes, and I think we ended up with a good product. It tastes good, anyway. Apricot jam usually takes a few days to become jam. We had waffles with apricot jam in the syrup stage Friday night.

Natalie pointed out to me yesterday that I've marked the wrong week on my calendar for Summer Music Institute. It's June 14-20th, rather than the week before. This means I might actually get to attend my nephew's wedding. It depends, of course, on Aaron's job prospects. If they're looking slim, I might stay home anyway, just to ease our budget. Still, it's nice to know I might be able to go. Also nice to know I have an extra planning/recuperation week before I have to teach.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

"...everyone's in love and flowers pick themselves" -- E.E. Cummings

I had a follow-up appointment on Friday, at which time my surgeon let me know that closing leaky incision holes is very hard work which is why my body feels exhausted. Also, it seems my sodium levels were very low when my blood was tested. He said that can lead to fatigue, too. Today nothing is seeping out of me. I'm still tired. Sigh...

However, it means I'm getting better, and that's very good news.

Yesterday there was an oriole in my backyard. He stayed in my tree for awhile, allowing me to admire his bright orange coloring. I've never seen an orange bird in Laramie before. On Saturday we had canaries migrating through. This is one of my favorite times of year because of all the birds that stop briefly-- ones I would not otherwise have the opportunity to see in person.

Mother's Day brought a huge snowstorm for the second year in a row. The blossoms on my trees seem unscathed. I'm hoping more will bloom as it warms up. Our lawn is very green and needing to be cut. Aaron wanted to do that today, but we had rain instead. I'm guessing, based on the forecast, that lawn mowing will not happen this week.

This time of year is filled with performances-- too many for me, given my physical state, I think. Usually it's busy and hectic and I really love it. Today I'm just wanting it all to be over. I have two more major performances and then life should swing back toward normal.

Aaron completed a mammoth application for a job with the school district. It's distinctly possible that the 11-page application drained him of motivation to keep applying for jobs. He's taking some time to relax today. I'm hoping he'll get back to job search/applying tomorrow. Looking for jobs can be a thankless, time-consuming, life-sucking task.

I took some time to watch the sunrise this morning. It wasn't spectacular-- muted colors in a gradually lightening sky. But it was peaceful and quiet, and really necessary for me. I've been working in the early hours to get time in before I have to leave for rehearsals, which has caused me to miss the sunrise. I think I need to put "Watch sunrise" on my daily schedule.

Things I need to do by Saturday:
1. File documents left on the floor by my desk when I was working on my taxes (yes, they've been there for a month).
2. Make apricot jam.
3. Send a hat to my friend, Danny.
4. Read. Read a lot. Read fun things-- not stupid work regs and tax law changes.
5. Make arrangements for long business trip that is happening the end of this month. That would be in two weeks.  Sigh-- I cannot procrastinate this.

Okay, break time is over. I'm going back to work.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


Sunday morning after my last post, I awoke to find blood and clear body fluid coming out of my navel. This is where the main incision was made and the site of removal of my gall bladder. Also, the pain I was previously experiencing had decreased. In spite of that fact, I freaked. No one wants stuff coming out of their belly button, especially when the month before, a surgeon has used that place to get into one's guts.

Monday morning I called my surgeon and explained what was happening. They told me to watch the color and amount of fluid, and also to watch for signs of infection. They would see me on Wednesday. My head was saying, "WEDNESDAY??? Did you not hear me? I'm leaking STUFF out of me! Wednesday is two whole days away! Don't you mean, 'COME IN IMMEDIATELY!!!'???"

I waited until Wednesday. I felt miserable. I had no idea why I was leaking, and the area was swollen and sore.

When I saw the surgeon, he determined that my incision had developed a tiny hole. There was even an official medical word for it. I have no idea what it was. I was a little distracted by the fact that body fluids were seeping out of my tiny incision hole. The surgeon stuffed packing into my already sore belly button and placed a gauze bandage on my stomach, assuring me that in two or three weeks the hole will seal. I didn't mention that I'm allergic to the tape he used to fasten the bandage to my body. I'm a little tired of all the things my body hates, and a rash right now is the least of my worries. Also, Aaron got laid off that day.

I see my surgeon again on Friday. In the meantime, I feel really, really tired. I don't know if it's the time of year-- this is when I accompany millions of students for juries, festivals, and concerts, so I'm rehearsing several hours daily in addition to my regular jobs-- or if it's the result of leaking constantly. Maybe it's both.

Yesterday was grueling. I had my first rehearsal at 7:45 a.m. and my last one ended at 7:30p.m. I had three hours in-between different rehearsals. I spent that time working on a rush file for transcription. My hands were done around 6 that night. The final rehearsal did not go well.

Aaron asked for some help with his resume last night, but I was still working on the transcription file. I finished at 10 p.m. and offered to help. We were both too tired. Aaron had hoped to have several job applications in by this time, but he's working for the school one last week and this eats up much of his day. I'll see if we can work on his resume sometime today and get it to a couple of jobsites he's been looking at.

I keep telling myself that this will all slow down after next week. I have performances every day and then nothing big until June, so I can spend some time regrouping and lesson planning for summer music institute. I have a feeling nothing will ever slow down, and actually, I'm okay with that. But I would really, really like to wake up one morning with a normal belly button. This thing that's happening now is not okay.