Milestones

Random Facebook meme

Today is significant to me. It’s the last day of my 30’s. Sunday celebrates the big 4-0. I don’t write this with expectations of happy birthday hoopla, quite the opposite actually.

I never wanted to turn 30. In fact up until recently (about 10 minutes ago) if you asked me how old I am, I would tell you I’ve been 29 for quite some time now. I spent a decade of telling people it was not my birthday, it was my anniversary. I’d answer their puzzled looks by explaining it was another anniversary of my 29th birthday. After all, if my grandfather could be 29 for 40 some years, why can’t I?

There won’t be a celebration. My family is far away, we couldn’t get together anyway. Stupid Covid. I will spend the day in quiet self reflection. There’s a lot on my mind.

Mom was diagnosed with cancer in December of 1993. It was the last day of school before Christmas vacation. I came home from school all excited for the magic of Christmas and found everyone crying. “Don’t worry” she told me. She assured me she’d beat it. I don’t think she said that for my benefit. I believe she thought she could. She passed away the following June. She had just turned 40 in May.

To say I feel there is a significance of turning the same age my mom was when she died would be an understatement, particularly now. I have been struggling for the last eight months for saying the words “I’m disabled.” The last several years I did my best to pretend everything was okay. I had to, people needed me. In January I wound up in the hospital and a long diagnosis list was discovered. There was no pretending anymore.

I often compare myself to my mom. She’s always been my hero. Mom always had a full plate balancing a demanding career and running a house with a chronically ill husband and daughter. She also did a lot of community involvement with agencies such as Wisconsin women entrepreneurs, Catholic junior league, being active in our church, regularly seeing her girlfriends and keeping everything organized with our extended families. I also think about how mom always strived to be better, to do good, to be an amazing wife, mother, daughter, friend and career woman. She had a teaching degree but went to a much different career in the insurance field.

Mom kept everything together. Everyone got where they needed to go. She always knew what was happening with everyone. Meals were on time, snacks were on time, she attended games, dance recitals, piano lessons and recitals, work parties all with a smile on her face. I never got the impression she was stressed. I only remember seeing her cry once and I don’t remember my parents ever fighting.

I always thought of my mom as an adult. I still consider myself a child. When I compare myself to my mom I never seem to measure up. I always thought one day I’d be an adult and I’d do everything she did. Now I’m her age. I’m turning the age she made it to. I’m as old as she was when I considered her to be an adult and I wonder if she ever felt like I do now. Did she know she had everything figured out as I saw it? Or perhaps she was as lost as I am now and trying to make it.

Failed relationships and a joke of a marriage under my belt I don’t have a partner. I was advised at a young age to not attempt to bring children into the world due to the severity of my illness. No family of my own was ever to be had. I had a career that I had to leave due to the progression of my illness. I’ve had limited community and church involvement but none of it recently due to Covid and my poor compromised immune system not to mention my constant movement limiting pain.

8 months I’ve been preparing for this time. 8 months I’ve thought constantly about turning 40 in my debilitated condition. 8 months I’ve gone to and come back from some pretty dark places but that’s just it, I’ve come back.

There’s one thing I have on my side: I am my mother’s daughter. I think of her everyday and ask what she would do or what she would advise me to do. The answer is always the same. I hear her in my head saying “keep going.”

I’ve spent my life trying to live up to my mom but I’m not her, I’m me. I need to learn to take my own path, make my own mistakes and gain my own accomplishments. That’s what Mom would want for me. Life is a constant battle of figuring stuff out. Figuring out what makes you happy and what doesn’t should be a daily question as is how do I change the Doesn’t into does?

Most recently I’ve asked myself what do I do with the rest of my life? I won’t be at a 9-5, I can’t manage that anymore. The answer so far has been writing. In the last 3 months I’ve started this blog, published several articles/stories on platforms such as Wattpad, medium and vocal, written two books and self published one. (Spoiler alert: a new book will be out in September). I often questioned whether mom would approve of my books as some material is for those of the adult age but she spent enough time with her nose in a book with a cover featuring Fabio so I think it’s okay. I’m also continuing my Etsy shop with not only creating but using my writing to promote. I’d like to one day be able to promote myself as writer for hire assisting others with the same services.

Turning 40, I have no idea how much time is left. It may be a month as mom had or it may be 100 years. meanwhile I’ll spend every day keeping on and collecting feathers.

I can be found here:

Wattpad: mandacat80

Counting Feathers

Taken from Pinterest

We are now up to 2 feathers. Initially, I had a dream in which a feather appeared. It came alongside a meal with my deceased parents where we had a conversation about life changes. That’s when I decided to write a book.

Since taking on the writing task, I assumed what I suppose many do and that’s I write things, people read them, they like them they want to read more and so on. I wrote, I published, I wrote more and believe it or not I’m not famous.

I started job searching. Obviously this writing business isn’t a get rich quick deal and my savings will only last so long. I couldn’t do any of the jobs listed. They all want committed schedules and time in front of a desk, even if it is at home. My body doesn’t function like that anymore. I can stand up long enough to brew a cup of coffee and perhaps make myself a sandwich. After that my entire lower body is trembling in pain and spasms. I have to sit down. On the way to the chair my left knee gives a shooting pain and won’t hold weight. I grab the furniture and eventually sit down. The feeling of relief I get sitting down is better than org—- never mind.

I can sit down for a couple hours. First my back locks up. Then my hips throb eventually the pain shoots down and my feet are on fire. When I look down they’re swollen and my slippers don’t fit anymore. Time to lay down. I hobble to my bedroom and stretch out on my bed. I feel like I’m laying on a cloud. I run through my physical therapy home exercise program to stretch out my joints and then prop my swollen piggies on the wedge cushion at the end of my bed. I can lay here about an hour or so before restless leg kicks in and I have to get up. This is my cycle. This is my all day every day 24/7. I don’t sleep, I can’t get things done and most importantly I can’t make a living.

What I can do is write. I write on my phone, I write on my laptop and since they’re both Apple products they talk to each other and save all my stuff.

Here’s where the feather appears: a couple of weeks ago is when my freak out started, I needed to know where more money was coming from. My anxiety hit an all time high and I couldn’t even see through my own fear to problem solve a solution. I woke up one morning, sat up in bed, stretched and ran my hands threw my long hair. I felt something funny and went instant ninja flailing to get the offender off of my head. A fluffy white feather floated to the floor. I left it there and later that day forgot and swept my floor. I have mastered the art of chair sweeping. It’s not at all as effective as standing and sweeping but it’s what I can do.

After the garbage went out I thought about that feather. Where did it come from? I had swam the afternoon before. I then took a shower and spent a good 15 minutes conditioning and detangling my hair with a wide tooth comb. Then I went to bed. None of my bedding is down, so how’d I get a feather in my hair?

According to the diagram above, an angel came to see me and let me know they were here. They let me know to remember my Savior and trust in the powers above and I will see my path, just as the first feather did.

Since that time, I’ve been in touch with a law firm about filing for social security disability. I don’t want to do this. I hate the thought of saying I’m disabled at 39 years old when for the last 18 years I said I’m a social worker. I don’t have a choice.

After the shenanigans my long term disability insurance pulled, this is my only shot at income, at least until I become the next Danielle Steele.

Pet ownership: how adopting a furry family member improves life

Daffy was a stray. The dog catcher picked her up from the Target parking lot and took her to dog jail. My ex husband and I had recently taken in his daughter, age 5, full time as her mother was having some issues. I said no dogs. I had just lost Haley, my best furry friend of 9 years to a seizure disorder. No more dogs can’t do it.

Well, men don’t listen. Father and daughter went to the humane society and sprung young adult Daffy from jail. Once I got home from work Daffy crawled in my lap and there she stayed “but I said no dogs” I kept repeating over and over. I was shown her paperwork and noticed she had been picked up on 3/11, Haley’s birthday. “Ok this dog” I said. 

Daffy and I bonded. She ran zoomies like crazy everytime I came home. The ex was jealous because she didn’t do it for him. She was my dog. 

Fast forward a year the marriage broke up. An unfortunate event happened in which I required police assistance to safely leave my house. Daffy was my dog but she technically was not my dog she was adopted for the little girl. The girl was taken to live with her grandparents and I started receiving voice mails saying Daffy would be harmed if I did not come home. I played the messages for my lawyer who played them for a judge and I was given my house back and had “legal custody” of Daffy. She was officially my dog.

Daffy moved with me from Maryland to Massachusetts and then on to Florida. She saw a few boyfriends come and go and stayed by my side through it all. 

I was diagnosed a type one diabetic when I was four years old. I’ve struggled with it my whole life. One night Daffy crawled in bed with me, which isn’t abnormal but kicking me until I woke up was. I quickly realized the problem; my bloodsugar was 35. My goal bloodsugar is 120. I was able to find myself something to eat and Daffy stayed right with me until I was safe to go back to sleep. Not only has she done this numerous times since then but she has also thought my big dog and my cat how to sense changes in me because they have both alerted me as well. I wouldn’t be here today without Daffy, she is my hero. 

Daffy did an important job besides taking care of me. I worked in nursing homes as a social service worker for 18 years. At my last home, Daffy proudly went to work with me on Fridays. While there we would make our rounds and find anyone that needed a cuddle. Daffy would crawl in bed and snuggle residents who were ill, or sometimes she would just stand still and be pet. Suddenly everyone developed memory of her name, knew what day of the week Friday was and I went from the evil lady who says it’s not safe to discharge to the lovable dog lady. Soon enough residents were asking their families to bring pets in for visits or pictures of their favorite furry friends to share with me. They told me hunting stories and road trip stories and sitting on the porch with your dog at your feet stories. 

As fun as that was my favorite part of Friday was watching our residents with dementia interact with her. Some residents in the very late stages of the disease who needed physical help for everything would track her in the hallway with their eyes. I would pull up a chair next to them with Daffy in my lap and they would allow me to take their hands and put them on her. I would notice a slight smile creep across their face. 

One particular resident had a form of dementia where she would wheel herself around and make random noises. None of the words were sensical, until she saw Daffy. She wheeled right up to her and said “hi baby I love you, you need a treat” I offered the woman a treat to give her but when I attempted interaction she went on her merry way down the walkway making noises. 

My favorite was a woman who stopped by the office on her way back from lunch. Daffy has just gone outside and did her business and was settled on her blanket for a nap. The woman kept calling her until I explained she’d had a busy morning she was an old dog she needed a nap. “How old is she?” The woman inquired. I responded that she was, at the time, 12. “12?” She repeated, “that’s not old. I’m 85 and I don’t need a nap!” That gave me a chuckle but alas Daffy was not to be disturbed. 

Daffy and I celebrated her thirteenth gotcha day in March making her at least 14 years old. She retired from her Friday job a year ago as she couldn’t handle it anymore and I could tell it no longer brought her joy. She slowed down quite a bit. I got her a pink fishy life jacket and she enjoys floating in the pool to soak her old bones. 

Daffy’s vision may be poor, she may be slow to move, she does occasionally have accidents and the signs of doggy dementia come and go. I don’t know how much time I have left with my best friend but her heart is strong, she still loves to cuddle, the tail still wags and kisses are plentiful. As long as her sparkle is still there, we give extra effort for the rest. 

I may have said ‘no more dogs’ once upon a time but my Haley dog knew better. Who better to recommend your best friend than your guardian angel?

Living in an anxious mind

Courtesy of Pinterest


Mental health is a topic that has come to light more than ever in the last few years. While the resources potentially needed may not yet be in place, acknowledgement that mental illness exists is a big leap.

One of the most common mental illnesses is anxiety and is something that plagues me daily.

Anxiety is defined by the Mayo Clinic as intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. This definition may sound like stress which is a normal reaction to many situations. The difference is anxiety interferes with everyday life.

Anxiety is something that has plagued me my entire life. I’ve always had poor self esteem and often interacting with other people was a terrifying situation due to fear of rejection. Most often I’d rather keep solitary than be with friends because I’m not good enough and if I try to make friends I’ll be rejected and that’s embarrassing.

I do know that isn’t true and I do have a few friends but that’s what it’s like to be in my head: you’re not good enough and they won’t like you.

Fast forward into career mode. I can’t write my own resume. I sat down with a professional resume writer who asked me what I was skilled in. I stared at him blankly. I’m not “skilled” in anything I thought. He had to pick apart questions from what are my skills? Which was overwhelming to what am I good at? To which I answered nothing. Finally we moved on to what do I know how to do. Hooray! A question I could answer. Listing my “skills” to me felt like bragging and what if someone says I’m not good at something? Then I’m a liar. Again, not at all the case, I do have talents but my brain tells me I don’t.

Over my 18 years in social work I’ve had several bosses. I have switched jobs a few times as have bosses I have worked for. In my experience there have been two types of bosses: ones that thank you and praise the work you do making you want to do more and those that no matter how hard you work it’s not enough making you work to try to please them. There were times that I was highly complimented and I could do no wrong and there were times where I could do no right. I underwent public humiliation, had my peers come to me informing me my superior complained to them about my job performance, I’ve had write ups for not doing things I’m not legally able to do and I’ve had witnesses to these acts tell me I should sue. I’m not singling out any employer as it’s happened on more than one occasion. I’m also not saying I had bad bosses as each boss was an excellent leader, their style just was not effective for me. I would skip meal breaks to work, let my insulin pump run empty because now wasn’t a convenient time to change it, stayed overnight at work to accomplish huge tasks I’d been given with minimal deadlines. I worked myself until I was physically unable to work anymore and on more than one occasion wound up in the hospital because everyone else was more important than my own health. Even then I answered messages from my hospital bed because the show must go on. My brain tells me everyone else is more important than me, they matter more than I do. Truth is, I matter too. I know that I matter yet my brain tells me I don’t.

Dating with anxiety is an adventure. Many I have chased away when they have confessed feelings yet I thought they were joking. Some actually became angry at me. My track record of relationships has been those who have struggled in life. A list of men with substance abuse problems, inability to hold a job, co-dependent on me for survival and unfortunately a couple of times abusive. Money went missing, other girls appeared, there was trouble with law enforcement all because my anxious brain says latch on to who shows me interest even though that interest is in what I can offer rather than who I am. This concept I am still working on. Stable people are friend zoned because I feel they will reject me otherwise while if I dare to proceed elsewhere I quickly sabotage it. I’m told confidence is sexy however I live in awkward.

At one time joining a convent was a serious consideration so I could avoid the whole topic all together.

Now comes the biggest cause of my anxiety. I was diagnosed a type 1 diabetic right before I turned 4. Over 30 years of self neglect from anyone with a debilitating chronic illness and bad things will happen. My lab levels are a mess, my kidneys are working at just 38% capacity making it difficult to flush my system, my arteries are narrowed so I cannot effectively pump blood through my system. These two things mean I’m carrying an extraordinary amount of fluid. My legs swell and sometimes leak. My left lower leg is quite painful always from a bad bout of cellulitis while neuropathy has taken over my right thigh. I have severe obstructive sleep apnea but good luck finding a mask for my C-Pap that doesnt cause a panic attack. I’m told I have asthmatic bronchitis along with the fluid overload so I become winded very easy. I was diagnosed with degenerative joint disease in my spine hips and knees. Something in my lower back is out of place and suspicion of some significant nerve compression means I hurt. I hurt a lot and it’s constant. I can’t walk any form of distance and I require frequent position changes through the day. I go from standing a very short while to needing to sit to relieve pressure on my joints to having to lay down and stretch because my joints lock up and my muscles seize. That’s what it’s like to live in my physical body, now my brain has to compute all that. I must fight for improvement while accepting reality this may be it and that’s terrifying.

Each of these aspects have been enough to greatly contribute to my anxiety but fact of the matter is it was there to begin with. I have irrational fears of odd things. I don’t leave my dogs outside in the fenced yard for long because bad things could happen if I’m not watching and I prepare for the apocalypse every time I leave my house. I don’t leave if it looks like rain and most often I just make excuses to not leave anyway.

I have horrible insomnia for the strangest reasons. Example: my cat catching a mouse and being afraid he would bring one to me in my sleep. Sleep offers the unknown and I don’t like the unknown.

Now, a lot of what I’m describing is a fair amount of depression for which I’m also medicated. the combination tends to go hand in hand but the anxiety is what keeps me hindered. I just always anticipate the worst and have to talk myself into better scenarios.

I’m on medication, I’ve used meditation, I put trust in the power of prayer. I have lavender essential oil rollers, several mineral stones handpicked by someone who knows what they mean, my pillow is sprayed with a calming scent. It’s not for lack of effort. Just, in my brain I have to talk myself out of worst case scenario and try to take a chance to live. It’s all exhausting.

I hope I’ve provided some clarity on your friend/ family/ coworker who suffers from anxiety. Although you’d like us to “chill out” and don’t get why we won’t now just know it’s not that we won’t, it’s that we can’t.

Authentic love: a short story

I saw the message request notification on my social media profile. I opened it up to find a very attractive man who called himself John Wilson had written to me. “Hello Gracie” it started “I was looking up a friend when I came across your profile. Your eyes captured my attention I had to say hello” I rolled my eyes and let out a sigh “great another catfish” I said aloud to no one in particular. I was alone after all. The story was always the same. They were looking for something when they came across my profile, I’m gorgeous they couldn’t look away, they had some tragedy happen where they’re all alone in the world looking for love. Except of course they’re on some top secret mission for the military with some crazy high rank. They need money sent right away or their unit will leave them behind. “I’ve never met a 38 year old General with scraggly facial hair and an obnoxiously thick gold chain” I had said to the last one before blocking and reporting the profile. Catfish: someone who pretends to be someone else in order to pull a scam on an innocent victim. The fakes were bad enough but stolen valor irritates my soul with vigor. I knew I should ignore the message but something told me to respond. I knew he was fake for how attractive he was with those bright blue eyes and dimpled smile. There were no fatigues with the name he gave plastered across it but sometimes the military part comes later. “Okay John Wilson we can chat but you must answer me one question.” “Anything doll face” he replied. This is how I know he was fake. The over extensive flattery. My round cheeks dark brown hair, brown eyes and slightly crooked nose did not belong on a doll, maybe a haunted one. Anyway, John Wilson agreed to a question so a question he shall get. “How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?” I’m a bit of a smart ass but I always said it was better than being a dumb ass. The indicator appeared that John was responding. Then it stopped. Then it started again. Then it stopped for a long time. “Ha! I got him” I again said aloud. I really needed to stop talking to myself. I went and made a cup of coffee and when I returned there it was: “He would chuck, he would, as much as he could and chuck as much wood as a woodchuck would if a woodchuck could chuck wood.” I stared at the screen flabbergasted. He responded correctly. “Okay John Wilson you have my attention” I replied. The saga continued on he told me he was in the army (shocking) but had no family. He never married or had children he enlisted right out of high school and made a career out of it. I listened to him. I listened to every word he said but I didn’t believe any of it. He was still kind of fun to talk to though, he made me laugh a lot. We didn’t chat much as they’re busy overseas (of course. enter eye roll here) but over the next few months I enjoyed my sporadic catfish messages. We talked about everything and anything. I was careful to only allow very limited information what he could see as my friend on my profile. I thought about it showing where I worked but thought meh he wants money not me. The more we were able to talk the more I started wishing those messages were from the real John Wilson. Every time my feelings were stronger I would just pick a fight about him being a catfish. “Ffs Gracie you still don’t believe me?” “Well” I’d respond “I gave you tasks to do in pics and you can’t and you won’t video chat with me so I have yet to see proof” “Gracie these guys already tease me mercilessly about you the last thing I need is some jerk making obscene gestures in the background.” “That’s a flimsy excuse” I’d replied. I didn’t hear from John for a long while after that. I was starting to think I had successfully broken his scam. Then it came : “Gracie I will be returning stateside next week I’d really like it if we could be friends.” Oh boy I thought any second now he will need money to get home. “Gracie please the army is bringing me back what I want is to continue to build what we’ve started here you’re special to me.” The week went by and no request for money. I had broken the scam. He was done. I was in a way sad but still admired my victory that I didn’t give in. I went through my daily duties at the magazine I worked for. Wrote articles, played with products, banged my head on my desk. Yesterday was the day “John” was traveling. I used air quotes to refer to him now. My work bestie Rebecca plopped in a chair opposite my desk and pulled out her lunch. I had told her everything in the last few days. “I’d noticed” she said “you were on cloud nine and now, not so much.” It was then I realized how much I was going to miss what had happened. “I gotta get back before my department kills each other” she headed back towards the lobby to get to marketing. Advertising geniuses could be a challenge at times. I shook my head as I edited the article I was working on. I saw a slow trickle of women head toward the lobby. Some giggled when they walked past. Strange I thought as I shook my head. Just then Rebecca’s voice came over the intercom: “Gracie Johnson you have a visitor in the main lobby!” Odd I wasn’t expecting any appointments today. I got up and smoothed out my skirt as I headed for the lobby. The marketing department was gathered there I could see through the small door window. What on earth? I wondered. I pushed open the door as a couple of the girls let out soft squeals. I stopped dead in my tracks. His bright blue eyes looked right into me as he cracked that dimpled smile. The big bouquet of flowers almost blocked the name tape on the fatigues that said “Wilson” “what? How?” I stuttered. My knees buckled and the squealers stood on either side holding me up. “Hiya doll face” he said “maybe you believe me now?” I ran with everything I had across the lobby and wrapped my arms around him as tight as I could. I couldn’t believe it! My boss appeared then and told me my day was done enjoy my weekend. I looked over at Rebecca who had a huge smile on her face and she winked at me. John took my hand and led me out the door. I’d tell you what happened next but Amanda says this is a PG-13 blog 😉 -Gracie yes Gracie I’m sure we can imagine -Amanda

The Feather Appeared

I had a dream, not a famous one but an ordinary dream. A couple of dreams, actually. In those dreams, feathers appeared. Now, I’ve always heard the quote “when angels are near feathers appear,” but I hadn’t seen it until now. In my first dream, I shared a meal with my parents, who have both passed on. I was whining and carrying on about being sick and tired of being sick and tired and not being able to get up and go to work. I had gotten very ill in January and wound up septic in the hospital for a week. Following hospitalization, I was primarily on bed rest due to a leg wound that required me to elevate my leg as much as possible. Due to lack of activity for three months and not being in great shape, to begin with, I lost a good deal of muscle tone in my legs. I had also advanced into stage 3 chronic kidney disease and am carrying around a good bit of water weight. Doctors recently discovered I have degenerative joint disease in my spine, hips, and knees and something in my lower back is not where it should be. All of these make minimal tasks very difficult for me. Mom looked at me from across the table and said, “if you cannot get up and go to work, then work sitting down,” and with that, they were gone. I was left in the booth by myself, and when I ran my hand along the top edge of the stall, I felt something metal. I picked a carved metal feather with ribbon on it, a bookmark. I knew the feather was significant, but I didn’t know why at first. My medical condition has left me in a state where my former employer no longer held my job because I could not do it at the end of my FMLA time. I can’t commit to any 9-5 right now with the number of doctor’s appointments, medical tests, life-changing procedures to follow, and the like. I started to research work from home positions, and the same consistently caught my eye: writing. A light went off in my head, and the metal bookmark reappeared. It’s a feather from heaven with a message: books. I decided to write a book. I needed a subject. Some thoughts occurred but seemed more short story type than a book. Enter dream number 2. There’s some background to this. For a very long time, I have been dealing with anxiety. Not normal pressure, no mine is wake up in the middle of the night in complete panic and never want to leave my house anxious. It stems from stress regarding medical issues, having so many complications of my condition, being unable to work, figuring out how to support myself, jobless roommate and pets when I just have savings, not feeling well ever, and finding normalcy in a completely abnormal situation. An excellent friend helped me develop “my happy place.” A place I create in my head where I imagine myself being when the stress gets to be too much. Shortly after the book idea, I began to worry about all of the above, and I went to my happy place, and I fell asleep. I remained in my happy place in my dream and at my favorite resting point was a feather. I woke up and said I’m going to write a story with my happy place as the setting and the ideas sprang forth. I’m doing it. I’m writing a book. At the time of this blog, I’m 20,000 words in, and I’ve just begun. I realize a book is a big undertaking and won’t happen overnight, so I’m looking for some other projects too. This blog will be one of my projects. It will showcase my thoughts, my struggles, my health, and life journeys and, at times, feature some short stories or random things. It’s a jumping point to bigger things. Even being gone all this time (1994), Mom still gives good advice.