Wednesday, May 16, 2018

NO CUCKOO IN THIS NEST

I am just an ordinary person. With a big mouth and a love of writing. And total willingness to throw stigma to the wind. Stigma for a mental illness that can be caused by a biological difference to the brain and genetics, according to the Mayo Clinic. Physical. I had absolutely no control in procurring my lovely disease.

May is the month for Mental Health Awareness. I have lived with Bipolar Disorder Disease since college.


I strongly believe medical compliance and therapy are the two most important requirements for living a successful life with mental illness. A life of recovery. Good doctors and therapists, along with my faith and the support of my family are crucial. Being the best me I can be. I truly believe I would not be here without this combination.  


***
I pulled my suitcase out of the closet. Earlier in the day, when I gave up my full bottle of tranquilizers, my psychiatrist said I needed to go to the hospital. Months earlier, I found the extra bottle while I was unpacking. I had held the bottle in my hand but it gave me a weird, creepy feeling like walking past a gun counter. I knew he was right. I had to trust him. I had not been hospitalized because of my mental illness in twenty-seven years. For all of those years, I had managed to stay upright with the help of family.

I always thought I would feel like a failure if I had to return. Despite the ups and downs, those years in between were full of joy raising a beautiful daughter. Decorating homes, hosting parties.  Cooking chicken and dumplings for those in need.  Raising pups. Starting a blog. Writing poetry. Volunteering. Cross-stitching beautiful linen samplers. A third set of ears when the going got tough. Traveling. Learning to knit and to play Mah Jongg. Hitting the keys again. Teaching a Sunday School class of older ladies. Painting my office. All the while, using medication and therapy to help me be the best me possible, living in recovery. 

This was not packing for a holiday. I am known for my precise, neat packing which is exactly how I packed my suitcase. Three pairs of jeans, folded once to fit inside. A couple of tee shirts, a designer navy, white polka dotted, cotton shirt with three-quarter length sleeves, a green knit tee style gown, a Muumuu, socks, underwear. I packed my toothbrush, styling brush. No liquid. No makeup. No blow dryer. I slipped a picture of my daughter in my bag.   

How did I get here? Blame it on the Christmas money burning a hole in my pocket in April. My big box store was out of stock. I drove thirty miles to another store. I was feeling good, maybe too good. But I was in control. 

I walked over to check out my new CD/stereo system. A large screen television caught my attention. “If you give a Moose a muffin….”  I could use a new television for the bedroom.

A young man and woman took me through the department. Accessories were piling up. One is good and more is better. She detailed my new purchases. Between confessing my illiterate electronic skills and entertaining this new group of friends, I was definitely getting a buzz. A little mania is never a good thing, only addictive.

I do remember offering to buy them supper and inviting them to my house for homemade chili. I didn’t blink spending hundreds of dollars. But later that night I started to worry. They had my phone number and my address. And why did she give me her personal cell number? And they knew I could drop a bundle without flinching. What if they came to my house and tried to scam me or worse, kidnap me? It could happen. 

*
My first depression occurred in high school. By my junior year of college, I knew something was wrong. Some mornings I would wake up glued to my bed. Days of hopelessness, worry over classes. A day later I would feel happy, successful and positive. I was the one in the lampshade. Three schools in four years but I graduated. Ten years and no clue. Rollercoaster.     

I married my husband just after graduation. I had never lived in an apartment, paid bills, cooked regularly. I was trusting and naïve. Two months later, I took a job in a doctor’s office. The patients loved him. I came to hate him. He was verbally abusive, emotionally manipulative and sexually harassing.  No one talked about these things. I had just been married six months.  In front of the whole office, he said “your husband isn’t man enough for you and someday you will find someone who is.”     

After leaving the job, stress threw me into a depression which I medicated with food, gaining forty pounds in three months. This was just the start of decades of yo-yo dieting and tensions over my weight. The first two years of marriage were extremely difficult, setting up a pattern.
*
No kidnapping during the night. Now I was sitting in my own apartment. My world was teetering on extinction. Piercing quiet days spent sleeping on the sofa, jerking like a baby. Taking calls from friends and family, forcing my lying words into chit chat. No appetite for the instant potatoes, saltines, yogurt, protein shakes, Coca-Cola. Nothing stayed in my system.

Then the afternoon I fell. What I call flat on the floor with Jesus. But on this afternoon, I lost all hope. Jesus couldn’t help me now. But He was hovering. I was face down in the rug. No neighbors came running but I don’t know how they did not hear my guttural anguish at my world destroyed. I couldn’t move. Breathing dust in and out, smelling like butterscotch sweet and salty, lives walked, shoes and crumbs. I don’t know how long I stayed down. Finally, I sat up. My face was scratched and my eyes were swollen shut.   

I called Mama. She has always been there. Calm. I could hardly put words together. I told my mother I didn’t want to live. All those years ago, when I had been born two months premature and laid in an isolette for a month, she drove to the hospital every day and sat in a chair, watching nurses take care of me. She couldn’t even hold me. On this afternoon she told me I did want to live. I had to promise her I wouldn’t do anything. Everything would be alright.

I promised to call my therapist. I saw Sheila weekly. When I called her on this horrible afternoon, she didn’t miss a beat. We had spent four years together and she knew what was happening in my life. Minute by minute, over the years she had gained my respect and minute by minute, I had given her the authority for our present hour. She talked. I would talk. Was I going to be okay for the night? Yes. We had a plan. I told her I had promised my mother. I got into bed and went to sleep.

One of the values of consistent therapy is the professional relationship between the therapist and the client, the trained versus the bewildered. A therapist is non-judgmental. One therapist told me to say anything I want, spit words on the floor and then he would sweep them out the door. 

Living with a mental illness is a hard way to do life. This is not a river cruise on a beautiful summer evening. Life is checking what’s going on in the engine room, inhaling diesel fumes. Or going back up top and watching for snakes hanging from low limbed trees. Alligators pushing off from shore, diving below, waiting for you to fall off the boat. Everyone else is sitting thin and pretty, chatting with friends. Their lives are full and happy, with energy to run an efficient home, mother two or three babies, have a full or part-time job and read books, play bunko and tennis. How many times I pushed through the pain of depression to attend an occasion, hoping I was smiling enough, wanting to appear just like everyone else. 

Despite years of successful living, even armed with valuable information, I was now going back into the hospital for the second time. Willingly committing myself for medical help, hoping I could push a reset button and gain back my health. 

One of my best friends was beside me. The moon was full and so was the hospital. They took my suitcase as I entered the admissions area. “ What brings you here?” By this time, I was covering my arms and face with wet paper towels. Mental illness is a physical illness. While I felt relatively composed, my anxiety was giving me a headache, making me nauseous and light-headed. My meal of crackers and lemonade the night before and my one meal of this day, a Starbucks tall latte with one sugar, were not helping. I was told a dinner tray would be brought once I had a room.

I was frightened but every nurse and employee met me with kind eyes and reassuring words. Hours of data entry, vitals and bloodwork. “What brings you here?” When I stepped into the small, sterile medical room, I looked down and saw a penny, for me a little piece of comfort when I needed it. Two blue gloved nurses checked me out from top to bottom. Anticipating the unknown is usually worse than the reality. I actually felt safer afterwards. 

Hours later, I fell asleep in a rolling cot between two other women. My shoestrings were removed, along with the underwire from my bra. I was given a paper sack with my possessions minus my soap, brush and cell phone. My dinner ended up being Goldfish snacks from the nurses’ station. Even with an extra blanket, I was miserably cold.

I called this medical excursion Spring Break. The required daily activities were group therapy, my psychiatrist visit, meds handout, mealtime, dayroom activity and bedtime with fifteen minute bed checks. One day, a nice, young woman with an extremely short term memory asked me if we were children. “What brings us here?”

I was moved to another room. My roommate, who was there on court order, said I was her nicest roommate of all. The bathroom door was a short-type curtain. There was no privacy with the consistent observations by people and cameras. In this setting, most people didn’t give their last name or talk much about family and home. Very little about what brought us there. We didn’t psychoanalyze each other. Days were spent in the day room coloring pictures, napping in chairs, drinking insidious coffee while the television blared MTV and the majority taking outside smoke breaks. My phone calls were not restricted. I never felt threatened or unsafe. 

My main complaint was the cold. I wasn’t cold-natured. My second night, I was fed up. I woke up and walked down the hall to the water fountain near the nurses’ station. “Can we help you, Amy?” “Just water.” In addition to my nightshirt, I was now wearing three cotton tees and a Muumuu along with two pairs of jeans, sock and shoes, socks on my hands and my designer cotton blouse wrapped about my head. Other than that, I was perfectly normal. And I wasn’t cold.

When Spring Break ended, I took my paper bag to the desk to verify my original possessions. I was escorted through a set of double locked doors into a foyer to wait for my things. I was amazed at how much better I felt. I was ready to go forward. My mother was there to pick me up. I felt like a six year old again, so excited to see her standing there, waiting for me. A nurse came through the doors. I took my suitcase in hand and headed out into spring.



 From Hi Low Happy Sad @2017 Amy Holt Taylor

Sunday, May 13, 2018

THE DEFINITION OF A GOOD MAMA

She got the cat a few years later. For her, it has been a wonderful addition to her life. There are others of us who are not crazy about the antics of this cat. She knocks pictures off the wall. She pushed a Waterford lamp off the table, into pieces. Shredded upholstery fabric with her sharp back claws. Yesterday, she tossed a little sign given as a gift, from the counter. A Mother's Day gift from the first born to the mother. Crazy cat lady. It was metal so it didn't shatter. But her fierce love of this nutto cat is one more example of my mother's tremendous love and devotion if a breathing body belongs in her circle of family. And this cat is quite elevated in her position. She gets away with mayhem because she has the ability to purr.

I published this post on November 3, 2013. It still describes my Mama.


The birthday girl with no party.  But don't feel sorry for her.  That is exactly the way she wants her day to be, turning eighty.  She its practically running to another state just in case someone she knows locally might take a room at the church and have a lovely reception.  Maybe just a little adoration will
be allowed from the family she is running to and her traveling companion.  She has made it very clear she knows the way with her eyes closed.  Lover of maps and adventure the road is always beckoning.  She will go anyway, anyhow, except why fly when you can get in the car and ride for eight or nine hours with birthday luck.  In her car, let me make that very clear.  Car love - seriously.

She loves the smell of new tires and squirrels away secret bars of chocolate.  She is the designated driver in her group of ladies because she can still see at night.  Her mahogany dining room table is always covered in a partial jigsaw puzzle and scattered pieces.  She has everything she needs but she doesn't want too much.  There is no excess of anything in her life except time spent at her computer playing games.  Shopping for shopping's sake doesn't interest her but she loves pretty new clothes.  I heard it from her first, a good bag and good shoes.  She is right but then again, she is right most of the time.

Impeccable taste and fashion advice.  Lipstick, powder and a good haircut.  Blue eyes and simple beauty a teenager who loved makeup could never understand.  Mama blue.  A house with nothing out of place.  A sofa, a chair, a table placement stays forever.

There is nothing in life that can't be cured by writing thank you notes, washing dishes, putting a hot supper on the table.  Writing monthly bills and watching the stock market keep her mind zippy along with crossword puzzles and staying busy.

There is a trophy on the shelf from the days of her life playing tennis.  And every Bible our family has ever purchased or received.  But she doesn't wear her faith on her sleeve.  She just shows up with whatever meets the need - deviled eggs, chocolate pie or a ham.  And she is quick to let the preacher know how she feels after sitting on the first row at church.  Nothing gets past her.

Especially raising two girls.  Waiting in the wingchair in the dark at 3.  Surprise.  Bacon and eggs for breakfast before church, after a college daughter ran around all night disco dancing.  Surprise.  Taking calls from a concerned professor, politely.  Surprise, your professor called.  Germany?  Really?  Can't see the forest for the trees.  There is this young friend of mine.

Goldwater.  Dallas tears and fears.  Presidential volunteering.  No knives of any kind but disbelief that the Secret Service would really take away his beloved pen knife at the Presidential Library Opening.

Games, always, everyday a full roster.  The Original Cowboy fan, through thick and thin and thick and thin, swaying her day.  World-stopping devotion.  A golf swing but never a player.  Tennis, tennis and more tennis.  Now aerobics to keep her moving.

To lunch but rarely dinner.  A circle of widow ladies with welcoming arms.  Whirlwind socializing.  Book review with a plate of cookies.  Symphony for the children.  Traveling just for a piece of the famous homemade pie.

Every second of every minute figured out weeks in advance, the gift of analyzing bridge twice a week for years.  Tournaments and points and good friends and manners.

The love of family but "when are you leaving" as you walk in the door.  Preparation for leaving.  Holiday dinners with just enough.  Too much leftover dressing would not do.  Leftovers are only tomorrow's meal in three weeks from the freezer.  A lifetime of little lidded cups containing mere tablespoons.  Waste not, want not.  But it was the chili, just that once.

Standing on the tarmac in her winter coat in Morocco.  Left waiting on her Naval Officer because he was right in third grade but wrong about her arrival time.  As fast as she could pack, catch a December train and a transport plane, first flight to a world only imagined in Hollywood.  Tales that would last a lifetime, the yearly tradition of a little ting of the bell on the Christmas corsage he grabbed on the way out the door of a borrowed apartment already full of presents for his bride.

Working day's end, she and two babies, bathed, freshly dressed, hot supper, everything waiting for his hand upon the door, his castle - their world.  A lively conversation that never ended until the middle of one dark morning.  Why do old people always want to know what time it is in the middle of the night?

Chopped onion and celery sautéing in a pan when he walks in the door and he will think you have really done something.  When Jesus comes, you are going to say "Just a minute, Jesus!"  Do it now.  Just do it, when the going gets tough.  One roll is enough.  Go fix the cornbread.  Are you working on your book?  What about the story?  You take too many pictures.  I don't need a cat.  Don't you dare get me a cat.  I'm not big on fruit.   I used to think I could eat a whole pot roast.   I don't eat all day, except a coke at lunch.    I'd go without but I always have six eyes looking back at me.  Happy Altoids!

No party for me.  Eighty is old.  I don't know how many years I have left (but her mother lived to ninety-three.)  True.  Pull out the map.  Check the itinerary.  Some items marked will be drive-by viewings only.  California.  New England.  Italy.  New Orleans.  Her bags are packed.  Here we come Rome.  Let the whirlwind commence.


signed,

a girl who loves her Mama



Thursday, April 26, 2018

A LITTLE DITTY FOR DANDELIONS

Poetry Month will end too soon! Four more days.

With all of the rain, we are slogging through puddles. Green is all you can see now, but to be remembered in October. This pouffy flower will be popping up soon. I dare you not to lean over and grab a few stems and watch the magic of their flight.




DANDELIONS

Springtime showers
Filled my days,
Puddles ruined my shoes.
I cussed and complained
About the incessant rain
Although it did no good.
Clouds never cleared for blue skies,
Ground mushed beneath my feet,
And why,
All this mess,
Just for flowers?

Gladiously glourolas grew
Between roses’ fragrant blooms,
Amid violet irises heights,
But the most delicate and lacking in beauty,
The dandelion.

Dandelions,
Such a common weed
But nourished as the others,
Grew in abundance under the Texas sun,
Waiting for winds
To send the seeds sailing.

Briefly,
The dandelions flourished,
But then we met
And that’s the story of the dandelions’ demise.
Explanatorily speaking,
We blew them to the sky,
In our hair and in our eyes,
We couldn’t outdo the other,
Our hands grabbed the delicate seeds.
I forgot what my earlier days had taught
A wish blown on a dandelion
Will come true in time.
If you run across a dandelion
Please make a wish for me,
Just wish we’ll meet again,
In the springtime,
So we can wish on dandelions.















Tuesday, April 24, 2018

THE HONEST TRUTH - A SECRET IN THE HOUSE April Month of Poetry

The poem you are about to read is true. And I am not the first to discuss the information. The New Yorker, October 21, 2013 Issue  Books - Briefly Noted gives a short review of Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy, by Helen Fielding. Faced with a new life raising two children, the book opens with the children having head lice. I will have to read it and compare it to my experience.

Which is a major panic. The ordeal of buying every lice killing product for the scalp and armloads of spray for every surface anyone may have touched in the house. And bagging up any pillow, comforter, hat, stuffed animal, couch cushion into outdoor bags for smotherification, tossed into the garage. Not to be opened for a month or two. (?) The constant inspection. Switching products. Sleeping under fumigated bedding. It can drive a body mad.

I give you my honest rendition.


A SECRET IN THE HOUSE

Alas, my beautiful hair
Did not survive a menacing snare.
No more trips to the chic salon,
I bought new “hair” and pulled it on.
This lack of locks was not from stress or disease.
I had a secret in my house
-a louse who wouldn’t leave.
Lucky me, the patient survived.
But after days of living in the waiting room
I discovered my “guest” in glorious bloom.
Despite my constant perusal
This thing was not easily removable.
Lathered in chemical foams with label warnings
Of damage to my brain,
A fortune in prescriptions washed down the drain.
After months of hidden despair I gave up my medicated hair.
Fresh and free and bald as a baby,
No longer crazy over a bug too small to see
Without good light and scrutiny.
Society thinks “nice” people do not have lice
But no one is immune.
I survived the menacing snare.
All it cost me was my hair.

Amy Holt Taylor @2011

Sunday, April 22, 2018

FRED THE TOM CAT - THE FIRST



April always sweeps me away. Then I come to my senses and realize April is Poetry Month. And I have not presented a post about one of my favorite subjects. Today is the day. One of the first of more to come. But just in case, I have picked three quick, simple poems.

Fred The Tom Cat is my first poem complete with illustration. I found this gem in a book titled Stories and Poems. In all of my eleven year old glory. As is.

FRED TOM CAT

Hello, I'm Fred Tom Cat
When I walk by people
they say, "Scat you dirty
rat!"
Now lets make this clear.
I should cause no fear.
I do not bite.
Even though I fight.
I have a wife,
She leads a normal
life.
I have three kittens,
They have their own mittens.
Our house is a big box,
Our beds are a couple
of socks.
My salery is fair,
Even though its is a
terrfic scare.
We eat fish,
Right out of a dish.
Today put out some cream
If a Tom Cat gulps it
down, don't scream.

*********

Seven Falls was written for the last page of my daughter's high school graduation scrapbook. The poem is placed next to a photo of the maple trees - the picture shot on the very fall day we danced as three.

SEVEN FALLS

BabyBird,
your story begins with a pile of leaves from the red maple trees
standing in front of Mama and Daddy’s home.
A student was raking leaves for the BSU at the U of A.
He caught my Mama’s eye,
and she was not the type of Mama who had ever gotten caught
worrying over beaus and grooms.
She just handed him a broom.
Months later, in the middle of summer
she was reading the paper and said,
“There’s my friend.”
I could not have known then
when she first said his name—
our traveled road would be the same.
On the fall afternoon when he had finished his job
he told Mama goodbye and handed her the broom—
the unsuspecting groom—
none of us ever would have guessed.
Seven falls down the road would find we three—
our family—
dancing with you in our arms
beneath the glow of the red maple trees
where he’d raked leaves seven years before. 

*********

Three 3 O'clock A.M. In the middle of the night, really morning. Waking up, putting on my robe and walking into the den. Turning on the lamp. A bump in the night wakes me up. In this case, snoring. I have written poems in total darkness but a circle of light is my preference. A clear spot on any piece of paper will do. 


THREE O’CLOCK A.M.

Three o’clock in the morning
Sounds like a snoring wall,
Joints creaking in relaxation,
The power of 1 AA battery marking the second
boxed in a red metal clock high on the shelf.
Dark and quiet.
When most people are fast asleep.
A.M.
I am awake without effort
Or caffeine
But a mind that won’t stop
Counting numbers in the dark
Without thinking
Of what to wear in ten days
On a Saturday
Three days after I turn fifty
And the color on my toes
But paler on my fingers
I will wear “Happy to Me.”
Happy to be me
Maybe not always
But always grateful for the love in my life
That has helped me get here.
A station in life
Not the stop I wanted
Or the brochure picked out
But still waiting
Breathless
Excited for the next trip.
Always grateful
Even for an illness trying to pull me down,
Showing me weak and on my knees.
Grateful for grace
That reaches down and lifts me
Back to a good day walking
Across a pebbled lot crunching
With the sun in my face
And air in my lungs.
Life in my bones,
These fifty year old bones

Carrying around the heart of a sixteen year old girl.



Amy Holt Taylor@2018




Wednesday, March 21, 2018

FULL VOICE (Spring Break)

Taking a spring break. Originally published March 31, 2015.


I usually miss the official spring service of The Messiah.  But not on purpose.  I grew up hearing my Daddy practicing the music as he prepared for the yearly Easter event at our church. Humming, whistling or just bursting out with a word here or there.  Wonderful.  Counselor.  He loved to sing. And he loved to improvise on the piano in his own special method.  Having played in the band, he knew music but I don't know if he ever took piano lessons.

I'm not up with the roosters.  I'm up with those earliest of morning birds.  My favorite morning birds bursting with the joy in a dark morning.  I don't know what wakes them up but you could set your watch by them.

When I was little, for some reason, I would wake up in the middle of the dark early morning which seems to be the darkest time of day.  I was wide awake and afraid, probably because every noise in the night had to have a reason and I would lie in bed trying to figure out in my nine year old mind what caused the noise.

One particular morning I was terrified.  I woke up and thought a man was crouched in the shadow at the end of my twin bed.  I had a foot board so I couldn't see but I had hung a small hat at the top of the short poster.  It may sound funny now but  I was scared beyond scared.  I couldn't decide what to do.  I could see the man and he wasn't moving and he wasn't leaving.  Of course, my mind probably couldn't reason enough to realize a real person couldn't crouch in this position forever and especially not breathing!

After what seemed an eternity of not moving my own position, I came up with a plan.  I can hear my trembling voice as if I were saying the words right now.  I didn't want anyone to be hurt and I wanted him to leave. Most of all, as a fan of too many detective movies, I knew I didn't want to see his face.  You have to believe me when I say I had been waiting a long time figuring this out.  This person's knees were most likely permanently frozen into place.  But I didn't know that.  I knew I wanted my Daddy.

I yelled out into the dark.  "STAY DOWN! STAY DOWN!  I don't want to see your face.  STAY DOWN!  STAY DOWN!"  Of course my plan had not gone much farther as to who would leave the room first.  Well, he didn't move.  In the background, I could hear the first early bird beginning to chirp.  To this day, I love that sound of morning around the corner.  And then another different bird.  I cried out again so loud I hoped my father would wake up and hear me.

He came hurrying down the hall, opened the door and turned on the light, running to my side.  What was wrong?  Of course, then all my bravery of resisting the man at the foot of the bed gave way to tears, finally.  My father picked up the cap on the poster, holding it up to show me.  He didn't laugh at me because he could see it wasn't funny.

How blessed to have a father who would come running to me, in the dark as I cried out, too scared to move.  And how wonderful to have a Heavenly Father perching The Early Bird on a branch near my window, reminding me it may be dark now but morning light is just around the corner.  And a chorus of morning birds singing Hallelujah, The Prince of Peace.






Sunday, February 11, 2018

BUT LATELY, I'VE LEARNED ALOT

I didn't know a collarbone could get old. Or there could be too much chocolate. Maybe the Patriots could be beaten. Or too much plaid was too much plaid. But, lately, I've learned alot.

I don't even think about my collarbone. How dare it age on me? I drink my milk. I don't flash it in daring, fashionable revelation. And yet the disadvantage of time called me to attention in less than three days. But not three regular days of just sitting around typing, napping or watching Wheel of Fortune. 

At first, I thought the pain was not a "good' pain, the maybe I should tell someone just in case pain. I took some Tylenol and hit the pillow. And now, a week later, I still have occasional discomfort. I have learned my sixteen year old mind is attached to a little bit older physical body. Helping Cate and Finn move was physically taxing but necessary work.

We all learned that the mover doesn't have to show up on a cold, drizzly February day if there might be any chance of precipitation. But we are over that stress. And maybe there wasn't a lot of job security involved when you know the movees will be thrilled with the next day - On the next day, the day after the Super Bowl, I failed to ask the movers if they were happy with the outcome. We were too blitzed to even watch the last ten minutes. Go Team!

I have learned that by the end of my visit I am just beginning to tolerate going up the stairs from the street to the front door. Eight or ten. A person could eventually accomplish the up part. But the down part still leaves me hunched over like Old Mother Hubbard looking for her cane. Which makes it hard for me to carry boxes down to the car. But we now have new front steps that are manageable. And new basement stairs. 

I call them Reagan Planes. When I wake up early in the morning and the totally dark curtains have a faint piping of earliest light, I can hear the beginning of the day as the planes begin to fly in and out of my Capitol city. For the rest of the day, I might notice one or two others.

This wasn't a plane. I had an armload and was getting ready to head up three steps at the new house. But I hesitated curbside and looked up at the noise which caught my attention. Loud and so low, I wondered if they were looking down on me looking up. Three Black Hawk helicopters in a row with another large helicopter at the rear. Major military might going right over my head. Impressive. I could see that.

I have seen every President in my lifetime except for Eisenhower and Ford. And on this afternoon, I learned I was most likely watching Trump in escort to a function. According to my experts. I will take that sighting as my best ever Presidential flyover in my Presidential check off column.  

A homeless man of sturdy stature carrying/pushing two large bags through the cafe where we are eating hamburgers. He is getting a large coffee with cream. It is cold outside and I can't imagine how it feels to sit or sleep outdoors. An employee brings the man a hamburger basket piled with french fries. I think maybe I should go buy the man more food. He is nice-looking and not eroded from a long life on the streets. But he looks different. He goes outside to a table and writes in a small notebook. I don't know what I have to offer him. I haven't learned this part. Later, Finn tells me the man paid with a card. Maybe I could carry a few pre-paid credit cards for this situation. In the middle of the night, when I wake up, I think about that man sleeping in the cold.

I have learned that you can lose your boarding pass but not your cool while the TSA agent is nothing but nice. Of course, no one was in line, thankfully, while you pull little receipts out of your crossover bag and lipstick and a credit card and the "pill" tin and the phone and take the suggestion to go print another one. Never in my life does happen. And away from the stress of the TSA, another perusal turns up my boarding pass in the possession of my cool and collected traveling companion. Ha. Ha. Ha.

I have learned how well we train Navy Intelligence Officers and their canny abilities even in retirement. He told me about Polish City Chicken and Michigan and Cast Iron Skillets. What did I not tell him? He was very pleasant. 

I have learned that 4,000 miles in one month is alot of travel. And trying to do life in the between of washing and packing and bill paying and participating in my two favorite groups and learning a new phone and entertaining and beautifying and dealing.

Learning not to have throw down, screaming fits when the Internet and the refrigerator both glitch out not totally but sporadically because the final curtain is always so much better and definite than maybe or maybe not milk will be cold when you pick up the Fire to read the blank page of a book that expires in 3 days on 43% read. For almost two weeks in the middle of the coming and the going. In progress. 

But most of all, I've learned children grow up. And thank goodness, they have figured alot of stuff out. Not everything but plenty enough to go there and through without you, when necessary. Because you have to remember how much you knew when you were their age. How fresh the world seemed and new products could be mastered and new stuff actually anticipated just for the newness. 

There is much they still don't know but they don't know they need it, yet. But thankfully, they still know they need you and they are getting to an age when it's okay to finally admit they always did and always will. 

I have learned they are really physically stronger and even their corrected vision might view better, those new eyes. Those new views on the future and where they are and where they will go. They are only beginning but theirs' is so much and so long in front of them. They are not afraid of change because they haven't lived long enough for much. So they change without a big deal. 

Their collarbones won't hurt for a long time. Hopefully, with blessing and bidding, they will fly through relatively unscathed. But even then I have learned and I have seen, shoulders hoisting boxes and running up and down stairs in the coldest night air. Strength for days just because. Problems solved. Love and forgiveness. Two sheltering three. Solid.