The Future Is Now

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(Today’s blog post is part of a continuing series of personal stories about living with Trigeminal Neuralgia, the most painful diagnosis known to man.)

Question:  What’s even better than finding out you have the most painful medical condition known to man?

Answer:  Knowing it will only get worse.

Well, aren’t I just little Sally Sunshine today?  Actually, I’m in a pretty good mood, but the future is definitely something I think about.  Or rather I think about not thinking about.  I prefer to be in the moment – in the “now” if you will.  That isn’t some kind of philosophical crap about living each minute to the fullest.  It’s self-preservation.  See, if I really start thinking about where I’ll be in a year or five years, it’s pretty damn depressing.

Let’s look at my facts:  I’m a single, fifty years old female and I rarely leave my house, so, you know, men are really beating a path to my door.  (And if you buy that, you are clearly NOT a single, fifty year old female who rarely leaves her house.)  I’m not saying the path to personal fulfillment lies only with finding the right man, but it would be nice to be meandering through the days with someone.  I can’t have a job at present due to the TN and trying to fill my days with something – anything – I can do to help from turning my brain and body into mush is a challenge.  Please know that I am aware that a lot of people wish they were in my position of “early retirement” if only for a little while.  But it’s harder than it seems.  First the financial aspect is frightening, but moreover the psychological impact is even worse.  I’m used to working, talking with people, solving problems, heck, moving.  I don’t need a FitBit thing to tell me how much I’ve walked each day.  I can just count how many steps it takes for me to walk from the living room to the kitchen and multiply that by eight or so.

Okay, I kind of got off topic.  I started out talking about the future.  But that’s what happens.  When the spectrum of the future is laid out before me, I mentally change channels.  My short-term future consists of deciding whether or not to put more ice in my glass of water.  I don’t think of the long-term unless long-term can be defined by how many days the watermelon I bought will stay good in the fridge.

Is it unhealthy for me to not think about the future?  I’m gonna say no.  The reason being that I would probably imagine the worst possible outcome and that just may not be what happens.  Maybe there will be new advances in the treatment of TN. Maybe I’ll go into a remission and be able to work again.  Maybe when I’m out buying watermelon I’ll bump into a single man who has the looks of Kevin Bacon and is as much of a goofball as I am.

So I’m not going to think about it.  I’m just going to go put more ice in my glass of water.

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Watching The Clock

clock

(Today’s blog post is part of a continuing series of personal stories about living with Trigeminal Neuralgia, the most painful diagnosis known to man.)

It’s 10:15 pm and I’ve been stood up.  I’ve waited for over an hour now.  I wish I could say that I’m talking about a date, but I’m not.  I’m talking about my meds.  It’s been over an hour since I took my nighttime combo and so far, nothing.  I blame myself.  I got wrapped up in reading and took them almost an hour later than usual.  And if there’s one thing people with TN know is that we must take our meds with an accuracy of time similar to that used for the Olympic fifty-yard dash.  One second off and baby, you’re a loser.

So now I wait.  Wait and hope that my delay won’t result in a night spent moving from one room to the next, milling around in the dark, sleepless because of the pain.  I wish it was a date that I am waiting for in vain.  At least then I would have a different focus for my anger.  But it’s me I’m mad at.  Me and this stupid condition.  Me and my reliance on medications no matter how necessary.

And the clock keeps ticking away…

My Gain Is Someone’s Gain

Scale

(Today’s blog post is part of a continuing series of personal stories about living with Trigeminal Neuralgia, the most painful diagnosis known to man.)

This week I have embarked on a difficult and emotional project – I am cleaning out my closet.  Not just cleaning it mind you, but brutally decimating it one sweater at a time.  I have found myself looking away as my hands stuff a pair of pants or a cardigan into a large black garbage bag.  Truth is, I’m not an overly sentimental person when it comes to material items.  I do keep books of course, and my vinyl (I knew it would come back one day), but I don’t have a lot of trinkets that serve as token reminders of past experiences.

Yet, I do keep clothes.  For years.  Decades even.  My wardrobe serves as a scrapbook of my life.  Those black Converse high tops with the bleach splatters?  I got them in high school (30 years ago).  I also wore them in Florida when I was there during Hurricane Andrew.  The white splotches are from tossing chlorine into a pool in gale force winds.  That fabulous vintage beaded top?  I wore it to a concert where I met Johnny Rotten* (appropriate name).  Those Donna Karan pants?  They were the first “expensive” pair of pants I ever bought.  And the tweed blazer?  My aunt passed that down to me when it no longer fit her.

And that’s where I’m at.  Due to inactivity and medicinal side effects, many – actually most – of my clothes no longer fit me.  The weight gain came on so strong that I even outgrew items before I had a chance to wear them.  I ended up with four sizes of pants in my closet – enough to open my own boutique right there in the bedroom.  Heck, just the amount of black pants I packed up was kind of embarrassing.

So far, I have five giant trash bags and one sizable box filled with clothing and I have yet to finish.  It’s like a clown car in there.  I keep pulling items out and yet it never seems to end.  I have prudently knotted the handles of the bags in case I get the urge to start pilfering items back into my dresser.  It is on one hand a good feeling to streamline my possessions (and donate them) yet also sad to see that once again TN has impacted every facet of my life.

So if you’re at a Salvation Army store in Northern Illinois in the near future and see a plethora of like-new black pants or an influx of sweaters sized from XS to L, they are probably mine.  Wear them in good health.  But if you’re trying to find those beautifully decrepit high tops, it ain’t gonna happen.  Some things are too precious to ever give away.

*Johnny Rotten was the lead singer of The Sex Pistols, a completely untalented yet remarkably influential punk band in the late 70’s.

Notes From The Brain Frog

Brain Frog

(Today’s blog post is part of a continuing series of personal stories about living with Trigeminal Neuralgia, the most painful diagnosis known to man.)

Like most of my stories, this post is going to take a meandering path, so please hang in there with me. When I was a child, my dad and my uncle used to take my cousins and my sisters and I to Starved Rock State Park in Illinois.  We would camp there in the Fall.  It is a beautiful place, with ravines that rushing water carved out thousands of years ago surrounded by high jagged rock walls.  It’s not nearly as big as the Grand Canyon but it is lush with trees and moss that is beautiful when Autumn’s paint brush turned the landscape into a mixture or greens, golds and reds.  At the time, there were no “off-limits” zones and my dad and uncle would have us scaling rock walls that no children had a right to be climbing.  Or we would have to walk along ledges, with our back to the rock, sidling on overhangs that were barely longer than our feet (and hundreds of feet from the ground).  If that wasn’t dangerous enough, one of them would say something like, “Oh and watch out for snakes as you walk.”  It was extremely dangerous and ill-advised and we loved it.

Flash forward many years to when my brother was born.  By then the park had realized it was probably not a good idea to have anyone and everyone scurrying willy-nilly up the side of cliffs, so they roped most of them off.  But it was still a good time.

When traversing the area, we would often come across creek beds that were dry by the time we arrived in Fall.  Yet in the Spring, they would be brooks and rivlets that could be unexpectedly dangerous.  Little signs were posted reading “Beware Of The Under Tow”, which became a bit of a joke to us as we took to calling it “The Under Toad” as if it was a little character that liked to pull pranks.

Okay, here’s the part that brings that whole story back home.  Like many people with TN – or other conditions – I’m heavily medicated.  And one side effect is what we call “Brain Fog”.  Somehow in my goofed up brain, I now refer to it as “Brain Frog”.  I try not to, but it still happens.  So, I’ve decided to go with it and give the Brain Frog a little personality of its own.  It is the Brain Frog that makes me forget things or do something stupid or zone out.  It sort of takes the pressure off of me to think of it that way.

So today I start a recurring series called “Notes From The Brain Frog”.  Here’s one for today:

Dearest Sally, (The Brain Frog is quite formal.)

I’m sorry I made you punch 14.00 into the microwave instead of 1:40.  And it was I who caused you not to notice my mistake until the damage was done.  I realize cleaning up the oatmeal explosion in the microwave was not on your schedule for today.  I will do my best to make sure it never happen again.

With sincerest apologies,

The Brain Frog

Have you had a Brain Frog moment yet today?  In my case, I’m sure this will not be the last, but at least I’ll have someone else to blame.

“Mother, you had me…”

“but did we ever have you?” – John Lennon

Circus Peanuts

Mother’s Day is here so of course it’s a time when I think about my late mother. Actually, I still think about her a lot even though she passed away over ten years ago.

When I was young, mine was the cool Mom and ours was the hangout house. Between my two sisters and I, there were always people coming and going, stopping in the kitchen for some conversation and a snack.  At any given time, our kitchen table held everything from books and magazines to Sara Lee brownies and giant orange circus peanuts.  There was almost no inch of table to be seen.  Mom would hold court in her chair below the wallphone.  And there was music. Everywhere, music.  She blasted the Stones and Led Zeppelin on the car radio or played XTC or the Boomtown Rats or Prince on the stereo at home.  When other moms were cautiously teaching their kids how to drive, mine was taking me to the empty school parking lot at night to show me how to squeal my tires and do donuts in the snow.

It wasn’t that she was one of those parents desperately trying to hang on to their youth by being everyone’s buddy.  She was who she was.  She didn’t dress in trendy clothes or use the teenage slang of the day.  There was always a yellow and a green vegetable on our dinner table.  My sisters and I were expected to take school seriously, have good manners and treat adults appropriately.  And although the rules often imposed on high school kids by their parents were a little more lax in our case, when Mom said, “No,” the answer was, “No” especially because she didn’t say it often.  There was mutual respect in our house.  I never worried that she was going through my room when I wasn’t home and I think she never worried that I would do something really stupid.  However, she would occasionally lob out a question totally from left field just to be sure.

“Sally?  You’re not slutty are you?” she’d say as I was heading out the door for school or work or to hang with my friends at the arcade.

“No Ma.  Still a virgin.”  I’d say over my shoulder

“Okay.”

Every now and then, when I came in at night, she’d look at me and say, “If looks like you’ve been smoking Mother Nature tonight.”

That wasn’t phrased as a question so I felt no need to reply, yet I wondered how does she know?  Turns out, she never did.  I found out many years later she’d just throw that comment out every now and again to freak me out.  And honestly, the odds were in her favor that she’d be right.

But there was something about my mom.  Something elusive.  It wasn’t a scary thing, but sort of unsettling.  Even though we had a very open relationship, I always felt as if there was a part of her whom I didn’t really know.  It was like she was giving us all maybe seventy percent of herself, the other thirty being a part that she kept hidden in a secret world inside her head.  She had this ingrained, almost pathological need to buck the system, even if that meant something irrational like refusing to wear her seatbelt simply because it was a law.  We were raised to believe that it was okay to be different, yet my mom almost questioned authority for authority’s sake.  (And I think she viewed my dad as “the authority” which was partly responsible for their divorce.)  My parents were truly living out the American dream of creating a life much better than their parents’ yet Mom almost resented taking what was the golden path because she found it too “plastic” and phony.

In many cases, age is the great equalizer and I think for many children, they develop a relationship that is on equal footing with their folks as they get older. It’s interesting that in our case, the generation gap when we were young was much more narrow than in the case of my friends, but as we grew older, the distance only increased.   But it wasn’t a chasm widened by age, but rather a shift in the balance of how much of Mom we were allowed to see.  As she became older, she lived more and more inside her own mind and it was a place we rarely even glimpsed.  What was once eccentric became erratic.   What were once free-wheeling conversations became ones where she closed herself off, sometimes even refusing to talk at all.  The rebellious streak became disdain.  Her intellect, once such an attractive part of her personality, turned into a way for her to manipulate the situation to enable herself to appear “normal” for the right people, at least for a little while.

If you’ve been reading between the lines here, you probably are thinking that it sounds like my mother was mentally ill.  I vacillate on that point, not because her behavior was more often than not anything but typical but because she would often give a figurative wink that showed she was in total control of her crazy.  But as the years went by, she was less and less the mom we once knew, so the mourning process for who she was started long before her actual passing.

Would I have traded for another Mom?  Absolutely not.  For all her quirks – or maybe because of her quirks – she is a huge influence on some of the more positive parts of who I am today.  (But in all honesty, she also contributed to the more negative parts as well.)  I loved her.  No, I actually think I adored her.  I just wish I had known all of her.

Zeligate Delegates – An Homage

Letter Z Tattoo

(Today’s blog post is part of the Blogging From A to Z Challenge during which writers all over the world blog each day in April based on a corresponding letter of the alphabet.  These are my personal stories about living with Trigeminal Neuralgia, the most painful diagnosis known to man.)

Okay, “zeligate” isn’t actually a word, but “zelig” is and I didn’t want to close out the Blogging from A to Z Challenge on one of the obvious choices (e.g. zero, zany, etc.)

A delegate is defined as someone authorized to represent a group of people, and while I wasn’t exactly granted any kind of permission, I’ve used this month to talk about my life with Trigeminal Neuralgia.  I hope I have done so in a way that is respectful and relevant to all the TNers out there and I truly appreciate the positive feedback I’ve received.  Of course, I also hope that some people who have read my blog have not been familiar with TN, because one of our greatest fights is for more awareness.

A zelig is a person who is able to change their appearance, behavior, or attitudes, so as to be comfortable in any situation.  I contend that everyone with TN or any chronic illness, has a bit of zelig in them.  Most of us face every day by attempting to be as “normal” as possible.  We take our showers, put on makeup (okay, maybe not men, but then again…) and go out and face the day.  We cook, clean, spend time with our families and go to work.  Yet in some ways, we are playacting at being well.  We try not to let our condition, and the pain, take over who we are, when many of us would prefer just to be curled up in bed, not talking, not having to be anything.  We trudge from doctor to doctor, each time feeling hopeful that this will be the one who relieves us of the pain.

I have had the opportunity to meet people who have TN and even though we share a medical condition, I still look upon them with awe.  I am so thankful to have found people that really get it.  People with whom I do not need to change or fake it or pretend to feel better than I do.   Each of you are rock stars, inspirations, keepers of our fears, all while still being able to laugh at times about things like brain fog and weight gain (maybe not so much about the weight gain).  If I could share my spoons* with you, I’d do it in a heartbeat – and they wouldn’t be dinky teaspoons, either.  They’d be those ginormous decorative spoons people hung on the wall in their kitchens in the 70’s.

And I’ve had an additional dosage of “zelig” this month.  I pretended to be a daily blog writer.  It’s been a fun experience, but my life isn’t exciting enough for a daily update.  Oh, I’ll continue posting, just not so often and not about TN.  I’m sick of this disease – no pun intended.   (And if you want to receive email notifications when I post something you can sign up for it.  It’s over there – on the right side.)

Thank you for reading.

*Why spoons?  Learn about “The Spoon Theory” here:

http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/

Youth And Consequences

A to Z Letter Y

(Today’s blog post is part of the Blogging From A to Z Challenge during which writers all over the world blog each day in April based on a corresponding letter of the alphabet.  These are my personal stories about living with Trigeminal Neuralgia, the most painful diagnosis known to man.)

Looking back at my life, I never would have thought I’d be stricken with a chronic pain condition.  Heart disease?  Yeah.  Cancer?  Very likely.  And I still may not be out of the woods yet where those two illnesses are concerned.  You might consider that attitude to be morbid, but it really isn’t.  It’s realistic and keeps me vigilant as far as my health is concerned.

However, now that I have TN, there are some things I wish I had done when I was younger.  This is due both to the limitations of TN and also the fact that who I was and what I did had such an impact on the rest of my life.  So this isn’t a bucket list, but rather a mulligan list of things I would do if I could get a few do-overs in my life.  I don’t want this post to sound all narcissist, but perhaps someone reading, someone younger, will find some inspiration.

Don’t work so hard – or so young:  I started working when I was thirteen and never even took a summer off, or any time period over two weeks.  The upside was that I developed a very strong work ethic.  The downside is that I never learned how to slack off, and now that my life is basically all about slacking off, the transition has been challenging.

Travel outside my comfort zone:  And by this I mean, physically travel to more places but also take more chances with my life and my career.  I was into some crazy stuff in my twenties, but I always had this rigid sense of responsibility.  I took the safe route a lot.  I wish I had just said, “fuck it” more often and backpacked through Europe of something.  As much as I still want to do those types of things (although backpacking would be replaced with nice hotels), my TN kind of puts a damper on those plans.

Had a few more wacky haircuts:  I had a few.  The pink crew cut was pretty out there, and I shaved one side of my head long before Miley Cyrus or whoever has made it popular recently.  I should have gone to an extreme a little more often, because I’m dying to now (no pun intended) but I think it wouldn’t be age inappropriate.  (Granted, most people probably can’t relate to this one.)

Taken more pictures:  There were no selfies in my day.  There were not cell phones in my day.  But we did have cameras, like my trusty little Kodak 110 Instamatic, which wasn’t instant at all, but required that the film be developed at Walgreen’s.  Half the pictures were probably left undeveloped in a drawer somewhere at my parent’s house.  But I wish I’d taken more pictures – not just of places I’ve been, but of the people who were with me.

Be who I am now back then:  I am so much more confident than I was ten or twenty years ago.  I wish I’d had the same attitude and opinion of myself back then.  I wonder what my life would be like if I had been more assertive and stopped playing it so safe.

And finally…

Uhhhh?  Crap: I’m sure I had some really profound last point to make, but being a TNer, the fog has rolled in and I totally forgot it.  I hate it when that happens.  So I guess I’ll end by saying have more fun, be a little selfish and a little selfless, and never get someone’s name tattooed on you (unless it is your Mom’s).

Xanadus And Don’ts

A to Z Letter X

(Today’s blog post is part of the Blogging From A to Z Challenge during which writers all over the world blog each day in April based on a corresponding letter of the alphabet.  These are my personal stories about living with Trigeminal Neuralgia, the most painful diagnosis known to man.)

Drama.  That word is getting overused a lot lately and it isn’t in reference to Arthur Miller.  Instead it is something people say with scorn.  “She’s got so much drama” or “I don’t need that drama in my life.”  But here’s the thing…life without drama wouldn’t be much of a life at all.  Sure we could all walk around glassy eyed and blunted like Stepford Wives, but would anyone really want that?  The reality is we can’t know success without sensing failure.  We can’t experience joy without understanding sorrow.  And we can’t feel passion without experiencing apathy.

Sure, we could live our lives in some idyllic wonder world – a Xanadu if you will – but we could never truly appreciate it if we haven’t, at some point, faced hardship.  Most of us will experience love and loss, good fortune and hard times, health and illness.  It is that spectrum of the human condition that makes us have emotions to begin with.  Granted, there are some people for whom every bump in the road is a cataclysmic event and that can be draining.  But most people – at least those I know – persevere through even the most difficult moments.  And those of us who have TN have our own unique mountains to climb.  But we do it.   And in some ways having those bad days makes the good ones seem ever so much more precious.  I supposed that’s the silver lining to the Trigeminal Neuralgia cloud (and I know it’s a bit of a reach).

I tend to use salty language at times.  And while “life” is on the list of four-letter words, “drama” isn’t one of them.

Where’d That Come From?

Letter W

(Today’s blog post is part of the Blogging From A to Z Challenge during which writers all over the world blog each day in April based on a corresponding letter of the alphabet.  These are my personal stories about living with Trigeminal Neuralgia, the most painful diagnosis known to man.)

Today’s post isn’t quite about TN, but more my experience with aging.

I don’t think about my age often.  I don’t imagine many people do.  It’s not like we walk around with a track playing in our heads that says, “I’m forty, I’m forty, I’m forty, I’m forty…”  Sometimes I’ll see a news report pertaining to health, “Women over forty, blah blah blah…” and I think, Man, those poor women over forty.  Then a second later it hits me.  I AM a woman over forty.  And actually, forty is pretty far back in my rear view mirror.  Well, Fuckin’ A.

But in reality, the older I get, the more I realize that I don’t really feel different from a mental standpoint.  I still like my music loud and my car fast.  My personal style hasn’t really changed.  With the exception of ditching the mini skirts, I have no qualms about wearing my black leather jacket, skinny jeans and skull t-shirts.  It’s me.  It’s who I am.  And I think I’m honest enough with myself to notice that I look like a complete idiot.

But a strange thing did happen after I turned forty – literally the next day after I turned forty.  I was getting ready for work, and stood at my bathroom mirror.  I swear there was something – I don’t remember what – maybe a dark spot or a grey hair or a wrinkle, that wasn’t there the day before.  What the fuck is that? and where the heck did it come from? I thought.  And for the next year or so, things like that just started popping up.  A freckle here, a new wrinkle, even the slightest beginning of a turkey neck.  There was a lot of swearing at the mirror in those days.

Then I entered what I refer to as my renaissance period.  I’m gonna say it hit when I was about forty-three.  I grew more confident and more comfortable in my own skin.   I know I’m not a “10”.  I’d say I’m a solid “6” or maybe a “7” on a really good day, and that’s okay.  I no longer obsessed about what people thought of me and focused more on what I thought of me.  I’ve always been kind of a fixer.  I tried to make the people around me happy which is an impossible task, unless they are just as invested in their own happiness.  I realized that I couldn’t fix everyone.   That’s not to say that I became selfish, I just stopped being so selfless.

It was around this time that my TN emerged for the first time.  It would come and go so and didn’t became a major issue until a few years later.  In the meantime, when I was maybe forty-six, I started going through “the change” as my mother would say (usually in hushed tones).   I remember as a child when my gram was going through “the change”, the adults in the family spoke of it as if it was like “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” where her body stayed the same but her mind was somehow altered. I tried to figure out what Gram had “changed” into, but she seemed pretty much like the same person to me.  Yet there was a fear instilled in me from the experience.  The knowledge that I, as a female, would somehow “change” too, and when I did it would transform into an entirely different “me”.  Or so I thought.

My mom didn’t discuss it when it happened to her, and she passed away when I was forty, so when it came my turn, I just winged it.  Actually, I embraced it. What other option is there?  Yeah, I got the hot flashes and gained weight, but on the plus side, I don’t need to shave my legs as often and don’t have to deal with PMS. But I never lost my sanity, so overall, it was kind of a benefit and not a burden.

Then, as many of you know, my TN hit with a vengeance, eliciting a whole new round of Where’d that come from? questions that still haven’t been answered to this day.

In June I will turn fifty-one.  Do I like the number?  Not when I really think about it.  So I suppose the best thing to do is not think about it.  I’ll leave that up to the poor women over forty to worry about.

I’ve decided I’m going to live my life by the philosophy of my father.  “I’m not growing older.  I’m just living longer.”

Vying For Attention

A to Z Letter V

(Today’s blog post is part of the Blogging From A to Z Challenge during which writers all over the world blog each day in April based on a corresponding letter of the alphabet.  These are my personal stories about living with Trigeminal Neuralgia, the most painful diagnosis known to man.)

This conversation has actually happened.  More than once.  I will use the abbreviation F which could stand for “family” or “friend”.

F:  “I’ve heard you’ve been sick.  How are you feeling?”

Me:  “Well, I’m not exactly sick.  I have a condition called Trigeminal Neuralgia”

F: “Tralalala…what?”

Me:  “Trigeminal Neuralgia.  It’s a progressive chronic pain condition affecting the trigeminal nerve system that sort of snakes its way around my head.”

F:  [blank stare]

Me:  “My face hurts.”

F:  “Ooooh!  Do you want a Tylenol?”

I don’t recount that common conversation with hostility.  No one has heard of this condition, so I really don’t expect not to have to explain myself.  But therein lies one of the biggest challenges of having TN:  no one has any idea what I’m talking about (unless they have it, also).

Having any chronic illness is difficult.  Having one that nobody has heard of adds a whole different level of complexity.  First there is the whole diagnostic process.  Some people just don’t have access to doctors who have even heard of this condition.  And for some of us, it is more a diagnosis of exclusion than an easily-verified disease.  Next, the “wheel of pharmaceuticals” we all spin.  There are no dedicated medications for TN and even those that work are often not eligible for insurance because they are prescribed “off label”.  Each of us go through an often lengthy process to find drugs that provide some relief.  And good luck getting disability.  Little data has been gathered on people with TN so some sufferers are received with skepticism by their doctors. There are several surgical procedures, but no definitive cure.  Heck, we don’t even have our own dedicated ribbon color – TN shares theirs with other conditions (it’s teal btw).

I’m pragmatic.  I don’t think funds should be diverted from say, breast cancer or brain cancer research, to studying TN.  In reality, our small numbers make that impractical.  Add that to the fact that TN is not a fatal condition.  Yet at the same time, it is frustrating that the “most painful diagnosis known to man” doesn’t get a little more attention by the medical community.  You’d think some med student or doctor would find some personal challenge in identifying a cure.

We need a spokesperson.  Someone famous.  Someone famous who is universally liked because they are a good person.  No…wait…I wouldn’t wish TN on aa person like that.  I wouldn’t wish TN on anyone.

(Note:  I realize there may be some redundancy between this and past posts.  It may be because I’m running out of things to say, or because my meds have fried my short-term memory.  Or a little of both.