Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

The words chilled my soul.  Two elderly gentlemen were telling their war stories, going over the horrors of their time in combat.  Winding down, one of the veterans started his harangue against men and women suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  “Pansies”, he said.  “Hell, we just took another hit of Black Jack and made it through the day.”  The words chilled my soul.

These men served us all by their time in the military.  We owe them respect and deep appreciation.  If I were to take a leap of understanding, I would venture that their ‘hit’ of Black Jack was a long-standing cover-up with alcohol…a remedy of choice and cultural acceptance for the horrors of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

PTSD is real.  It happens.  It corrodes the mind, the responses,  ability to cope.   PTSD eats away at the self, at courage, at making it through the day-to-day.

Think about a car accident, divorce,  the death of a loved one, hospitalizations of self or family, rejection.  Think about a child run amuck with drugs, alcohol or even with attitude and behavior.   The traumatic event passes, but the effects linger…sleepless nights, appetite changes, tears from nowhere, anger eruptions.  Perhaps we push family and friends to the background because it is just too much to deal.  In truth, unless we heal we probably cannot deal with love and justice.

Now try to visit war.  Kill or be killed.  Overwhelming danger that is unrelenting.  Adapting to the needs and rules of warfare while trying to balance with one’s own rules of conduct–pain,   mutilation, kill or be killed.  Unless we are, or have been part of the military at war, how can we come close to understanding what war does to the spirit of a woman or a man.

The older vets do deserve our thanks, but their service does not excuse their attitude towards younger service personnel who need support as they deal with PTSD.  Alcohol may have dulled the pain but  alcoholics create new pain for family and friends.  Alcohol did not work towards curing PTSD whether from war or from the events of our lives.

I believe in compassion, understanding,  huge doses of reality acceptance.  I believe that it is impossible for me to walk the walk of war.  I believe it is my obligation to honor those who do that walk in my place.


Emergency 101

In the last several months, Bob has done the ER admission to the hospital three times–pneumonia, bleeding ulcers, old person complications.   We are wearing out  our life-time warranties.  My friend, Two-Names, reminds me of that sad fact.  He also reminded me of something so poignant.  He said a mutual friend was not sick.  Rather she was just too weak to thrive.  So she died.  I understand that.

It is frightening.  The ER is blinding white light, beeping things, smells that are stinks,  pain noises,  harried people, medical and patient’s families.  We catch snippets of dissatisfaction as the ER people vent frustrations through whispered annoyance at one another.  Tired.  Overworked in 12 hours shifts. Well, some are overworked.  Others float off the radar, sort of hiding from whatever they can scheme away.

Admission is a test of will.  Waiting, hoping that someone actually listens or reads the triage sheet.  Long periods of simply waiting and not knowing  why or for what.  Eventually, a weary transporter asks if we have ever been to a holding-cell.  His joke…or is it the hospital’s joke?  The holding-cell is a room where the patient waits to be taken to the real room.

The current problem keeps manifesting–too much blood from places where blood should not flow.  Hours are passing.  The holding-cell is nice enough except that a swarm of tiny ants moves closer to my chair.  When I point to them, the nice nurse says, “Oh yeah.  There is mulch around the tree outside.   And it is raining.”

Sorry?  There are ants moving towards me and I am too worried to be designated killer.

The A-Team, the champions at needle sticks, moves into the room.  Too much blood loss means flat veins that won’t accept the cannulae.  This person that I love gets poked, pinched, stuck and apologized to because IV’s and blood samples are not  happening.    He remains quiet, frightened.  I am numb with fear.

Pleasant enough people come and go, doing what their respective departments require.  The same questions  asked so many times that we wonder if anyone actually communicates….or even looks at those computer screens that dominate the nurses station.  ( I know.  I know.  Double checking that the answers are always the same.  They are.)

The sixth floor room is spacious and looks clean.  A nurse makes notes on a torn paper towel, notes destined for computer.  Bob looks so diminished, flat like his veins.  And we wait.

“In the morning” they say.  In the morning  a scope will find the source of the bleeding.  In the morning?   Tomorrow morning?  It isn’t even twilight yet.  The night looms.

And so it goes through that morning, the test that was beyond stressful, the blood transfusions, the inevitable settling in that means he and I finding a survival rhythm in the pleasant enough sixth floor room with a view.

We are home now, loaded with new medications that insurance doesn’t want to cover.  Wearied, almost somber, as we move out of the experience.

Emergency 101

Ladies Of The Bridge—Pretty in Pink

A friend and her husband, Patti and Wood, are volunteers for Project Uplift, a courageous and demanding activity.  Project Uplift feeds the homeless from a recognizable  van traveling to specific stops on a regular schedule.  The meal is given along with the list of possible needs that Project Uplift can fill, sleeping bags, clean socks, toothbrushes, soap, underwear.  Regulars know to expect the extras the next time the van appears.

Wood and Patti give more than food and practical items.  They respect the men and women, listen to them, have real conversations and offer additional help when it is in their ability to do so.

A few weeks ago, Patti asked if I wanted to join her making hats for the coming cold months.  She knits with precision.  I crochet (not so much  precision) so the Project Uplift clients will get a variety of headgear looks.

Because I think garage sales are one of the best recycling ideas to come along I search for yarn in the bins and boxes.  At first, it seemed practical to stick with subtle dark colors considering that most homeless folks probably don’t make fashion statements through color coordination.

In my search of  garage sales , a grandmother’s quilted  yarn bag was  back in a corner, a couple of knitting needles jabbed into skeins.   The large bag overflowed with dusty pink yarn.  Suddenly those dark subtle colors  seemed very inappropriate.  Pink.  Those ladies living under the bridges needed pink.

Pretty In Pink is not my expression.  I must have heard it somewhere–a song, a movie, somewhere–so credit belongs elsewhere.  However, I need to use those words.  The women living under bridges need the warmth of a hat.  Any color will provide that warmth, but pink hats could provide a bit more, a touch of being feminine, a touch of Pretty In Pink.   From now on, I crochet with more precision.

Once Upon Conspicuous

Like a hamster on a wheel, my brain is spinning with the ideas of conspicuousness of our consumption.  Reeling is a better word for the realization that we have moved too much to the mundane, to acceptance as routine.

Hub caps.  Once upon a time they covered the center of the tire/wheel–a sort of protection.  Have you see the stores dedicated to hub caps, spinners, filigree, touched with gold?  Hub caps as fashion statement?

How about nail polish?  Flowers, multi-colored, rhinestone decked fashion for the end of our fingers.  Tell me again about the state of the economy.

A garage sale hand bag  marked $80.00.  Ignorantly, I laughed as I pointed out the ludicrous tag on a garage sale item.  Oops.  Not a joke.  The owner paid over $400.00 for the designer thing to hold wallet, keys, make-up and whatever odds and ends accumulate at the bottom.  $80.00 was a steal.  My bad.

An acquaintance who works at a high-end retail shop clued me to a great bargain ‘coming soon’.  Pre-decorated Christmas Trees would be on sale for a ridiculous price of $500.00!  What is the fun of that?  Do you have hot chocolate and gingerbread cookies when the pre-decorated tree is in place?

OK…this sounds like old fogey talk.  It isn’t.  At least I don’t think it is.  It is priority talk, perspective from a different slant that sees from service at a food kitchen, a women’s center, a needs center for children.  Sigh…OK maybe it is fogey talk.

Conspicuous In Consumption

My friend suggested this blog topic after we compared definitions of conspicuous consumption.

Once again, all roads lead to perception.

Our back story is a discussion of Halloween costumes and the creative dilemma involved in a Nana-job of reproducing a Star Wars character.  The dad of the prospective black costumed bad guy is someone who daily walks his walk.  When I suggested we just buy the costume, the dad’s response was, “Not in this family.”  That is definitely a part of his walk; recycle, reuse, avoid waste, etc.   Combine that with raising his family on a teacher salary in an area with a higher cost of living and home sewing is the logical way.  Going back even farther when Nana was Mom, home sewing was the way of all costumes.  A teacher’s salary operated that home as well.

My friend said her idea of conspicuous consumption was six tennis rackets, 150 pair of shoes and three houses.

No way to fault that perception.

A person would have to change shoes 25 times for each of those six rackets while running house to house 50 times— if the shoes were equally stored.  Not only conspicuous consumption but quite a few Tylenol moments.

So we are back to the roads leading to perception.

Where we start determines what we see, how we balance, where we go.  One person might bristle at the idea of six rackets being over-kill, saying that each racket has a purpose, a place, a need to fill.  Another person might be job hunting never considering playing at any hobby sport.

Those shoes?  My friend is right again.  One hundred and fifty pair of shoes is a shoe store, not a consumer’s closet.    Three houses?  Too many hard-working people lost their one home to even go down that road.

Perception is as varied as each person’s comfort level.


Peanut Butter Grandma and Little Frank

Yesterday was birthday 72, a reminder that one of these days the adjective ‘old’ will apply.  Not yet.  The hair is silver, not gray.  The step is quick and determined.  The denim shirts and Birks remain unchanged in the last 20 years.

Keeler Women’s Center has offered the opportunity to facilitate a journaling class.  Four Ordinary Women is reinventing.  We continue to do author events, speaking about our writing group, the process and the importance of women to women communication.  In addition, we now offer our experience to any group wishing to take the same route to adventure–writing, supporting and publishing.  Patti and I offer perspectives on that great concept, authenticity.

If you are a regular visitor to this blog,  Gentle Reader,  you know I show amazing restraint when it comes to letting you know that my grandchildren are beautiful, wonderful and amazing–that my children and my grandchildren are my Alleluia moments.  They are,and I do— show restraint.   Birthdays allow exceptions.

To Peanut Butter Grandma and Little Frank

Frank lives in Greenville, S.C., is a six-year-old pirate with at least four years of experience as Captain Jack Lobster and the author-illustrator of Peanut Butter Grandma and Little Frank, his birthday gift to me.   Frank and I are box people with arms and legs at the four corners, perfect people with giant smiles.   The story has it all, plot, characters, conflict and resolution–I get to keep my favorite lunch on the food group pyramid.

Happy Birthday to me.

Alleluia Moments

Literature, great to dreadful,  continues the search and rarely discovers a universal answer.  Meaning of life, good and evil, love/hate kind of stuff.   God, with all his names,  gets a mighty run.  Immense piles of uncertainty find comfort in his omniscience/omnipotent image.  When all else fails, god is the go-to in most of history and culture.

Without reflection or judgement on that comfort— that need for god to supply an answer— maybe we need to spend a bit of  reflection on what we keep close and true.

Years end.  Choices made in haste often salve the minutes yet destroy huge chunks of the years.  People we love will leave us or we will leave them.  Those awful things will come.  Opportunities to say “I love you.” will be no more.  Nothing to celebrate, nothing to share, nothing of hope.   That is not gloom or dread.

It is a  call to alleluia moments.

While we have our live and loves, keep them close.  Find a way to fix the broken parts.  Be the first to mend. Make the gesture.  Heal a wound.  Touch a place of hurt.  Erase a line in the sand if the line is a barricade.

We absolutely do live in a throw-away culture–use, discard, get another, get more, use, discard and throw away.   We pollute our land, our ocean, our loved ones and ourselves.  There are huge consequences of discarding the belief in fixing, repairing, saving.  Reality is that there will not always be more.

Find, create, savor the alleluia moments.  Love, listen to and treasure the people who are special.  Hold them close even if they push away.  When we love, listen to and treasure them the alleluia might  be there.