Tuesday, September 30, 2014

As Soon As Possible

I was lying on the couch, thinking that I should get up because I needed to pee and get a drink of water. Twenty minutes later, I was still on the couch thinking the same thing, only more intensely. Today, I'm dizzy. I'm very dizzy, and my orientation with the world feels off when I'm upright. 'You need to lie down,' a quiet yet insistent voice in my head repeats. Another ten minutes pass. That walk I took yesterday was not a good idea. That short walk, just over a mile, moved too much shoulder. I looked at the water bottle on the coffee table as if staring would make it float to my side. The phone rang. I couldn't get up fast enough. I'm getting a fair bit of exercise in my core by getting up without using my right shoulder, but I still can't leap from the couch like a ninja. It hurts to move my broken shoulder.

Yes, it is only fractured, not broken. Nick keeps reminding me that a fracture is not the same as a break. Kid, when you have a bone chip floating in your shoulder, you can minimize the tingling and the ache and the dizziness that I have had for the past two and a half weeks since I fell.

Have you gotten your MRI yet?, you might ask. Thank you, but no, I haven't been able to get my doctor to give me an MRI yet. I was given a copy of the orders with instructions to wait so the doctor's office could schedule it. After a week of hearing nothing, I scheduled it myself. But when I called to tell them that I'd scheduled it myself, the nurse was annoyed that I had circumvented their usual routine. Oh, I kept the MRI on my schedule, but I still have to wait until this next Friday. Had I already told you that the orthopedic surgeon's office forgot about me for more than a week? I did? Oh, sorry. I'm repeating myself.

Last night, I dreamed that I was floating in the ocean, wishing I could swim fast enough to cross paths with the cruise ship that I'd fallen out of. They had this game where I was supposed to jump really high at the same time that the captain gunned the engine and I was supposed to keep from falling out. Everyone on board was laughing as I rolled into the water and they left me in their wake.

So, this morning, I was still thinking about getting up to pee and to get my water, about thirty-five minutes after I first began to think about it when the phone rang. Remember the phone?

Well, by the time I wrestled with the blanket, threw the pillow onto the floor, kicked the recliner footrest until it clicked into place, levered myself into a standing position, and waited for the wave of dizziness to pass, someone was already speaking to my answering machine.

It was my doctor's office, the ones that first told me I needed an MRI, the ones that sent me to their orthopedic surgeon's office where I was left to wait it out for ten days before I finally scheduled my own MRI. It was them, the doctor who was supposed to care about me the most.

'Oh good,' I thought. 'They're calling to see how I am doing.' Relief washed over me as I thought that they might help me get the process moving more quickly to fix my shoulder.

"Hi!" a cheerful voice began before I could pick up the receiver. "This is Evergreen Family Medicine calling. We have received a notification letter from Xxxxx Gastroenterologists that it is time for you to have a colonoscopy. They tried to contact you but were unsuccessful. So would you please give them a call and schedule an appointment with them as soon as possible."

As my hand hung inches over the receiver, she hung up.

A colonoscopy. As soon as possible. Right.

Thank you for listening, jb

Friday, September 26, 2014

'Harris and Me' by Gary Paulsen

Sometimes I read children's books. There. I admitted it, my big secret. I am a closet children's book reader. So sue me.

Tonight, I pulled a book off Nick's shelf. There stood books that had waited for a couple years, books I doubt he'll ever read. It's a shame too. I read the first two chapters of Gary Paulsen's book, 'Harris and Me.' Oh man. I was hooked by the time old man Louie scarfed the first nine pancakes at breakfast. What this guy writes is alive. But I'm only Nick's mom and I can't make him like reading at this point. If I encourage him, he'll just think it's an attempt to educate him. Well, I am, but there's something else he's missing that I can't seem to get across.

I love to be so far into a story that my life peels away and I'm somewhere else. After reading a little bit of 'Harris and Me,' I'm solidly in my own childhood.

I'm living a lie. I'm not all grown up and living in a cultured neighborhood. I'm not. I'm still that kid who ran barefoot through the woods, the one who had a crush on her brother's best friend. I'm the kid who climbed trees and spit. I'm the kid who pressed melted tar with her big toe in the street to feel it squish. I'm the kid who poked a hog nosed snake with a stick to see him play dead. I swatted flies with a wire fly swatter while my grandma sat in the squeaky porch swing and grandpa talked so much that most of his cigarette hung precariously between his forefinger and thumb as ash almost an inch and a half long clung before it shook loose. If allowed, I would put five layers of jelly on my flaky biscuits. And yes, I even pulled six legs off a granddaddy long legs to see if it could walk on two like I did.

I love when any book makes me remember me more clearly. I needed that.

Thank you for listening, jb

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Don't Read This - Too Much Complaining

Too quiet in here?

<crickets chirping>


<even the crickets are quiet.>

Bear with me. I'm hurt. I fell off my bike and hurt my shoulder. I got a big bruise on my leg that's purple, yellow, and green. It was heart-shaped until I walked around on it too much and it grew. Sometimes I think I should get a tattoo, but then I look at how my leg looks with these pretty colors and I realize that it would be a bad idea. My lumpy legs will never look good with a tattoo, even if it is heart-shaped.

I've gone to the doctor three times since last Friday. Finally, I had Mike look at my back under my shirt. There's something there, a strange rash that not one of the doctors caught when they 'examined' me. You'd think that at least one of the three would have looked under my shirt to find a strange rash that accompanied burning and itching there when I complained.

The big problem is that I can't raise my right arm. It hurts to have it high enough to type. At least the second doctor took an X-ray and he saw a zig-zag in my bone and a little shard floating out there. I don't like having floating bone shards or zig-zags where straight lines should be. He said I needed an MRI. That was Monday. This is almost Thursday. Why does it take so long to get an MRI? I'm just complaining because I can't use my right hand. Oh yes, I can write with my left if I go very slowly, and some of my letters come out backward like in kindergarten. I have trouble opening cans and with the way I feel, that's mostly what we're eating, stuff from cans. Chopping fresh vegetables? No way. It's not safe to be in the kitchen with me when I have a knife in my left hand. Mike is doing a lot of the cooking anyway. Still comes from cans with him. It hurts to carry a bag of groceries in my left hand when it's very heavy and I have to use muscles in both shoulders to heave it.

So, Mike is doing the shopping too. Besides, I'm too dizzy to drive. I almost hit the counter the other morning. That might have tattooed me with more pretty colors. Might have been the drugs the doctors prescribed. I don't like these drugs. I feel drugged. I hate feeling drugged. So I stopped taking them today. I'm back to Aleve, Tylenol, and ice. Much safer. My pharmacist said that one of the drugs can damage my kidneys if I take it for more than five days in a row. Neither the second or third doctors seemed to have much to say about that when I asked them.

I've been watching too much TV. I'm bored. Nova specials on Amazon Prime have been saving me. Mars, robotic cars, tornadoes, fractals. I love that stuff even when I'm dizzy. I finished reading three books last week. I reread the same paragraphs this week when I was on all the crazy pain meds, anti-inflammatories, and muscle relaxants. They made me fall asleep two or three times during one Nova special. I'm so bored, I'm sitting here typing even though it makes my shoulder ping and zing as my fingers move. Better stop.

I'm a mess. I fell down. No, I didn't break my hip. Yes, I can get up.

Thank you for listening, jb

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Dead Batteries, a Tunnel, and Falling Off My Seat

On Sunday, I fell down.

Fall down and go boom. Badaa boom. No, I'm okay ... mostly. The seat on Jill's bike was set too high and my headlamp decided to die right inside the tunnel. I had checked the batteries earlier in the morning, but they didn't decide to die until I was on Jill's bike with the seat set too high in the tunnel. Did I tell you about the tunnel?

The Snoqualmie Valley Trail has a tunnel up by Iron Horse State Park. It's so much fun. Even if you don't want to shuttle a car to Rattlesnake Lake and ride 21.5 miles, you can go through the tunnel and then turn around and go back. It's a great thing to do on a hot day because it's nearly 50 degrees inside the tunnel.

You really need a flashlight though, and spare batteries too.  I had spare batteries, but my headlamp didn't fail until I was just inside the tunnel. Doesn't that just suck?

Then, having borrowed a bike from Jill, one with fat tires because my bike has skinny tires and can't make it through gravel, I didn't get everything set up just right before everyone took off. Oh, I thought I did, but the seat was just a little bit too high and when I stopped in the dark to put new batteries into my headlamp, my toes just didn't connect with the ground properly and I went over. Dumped. Fell down and went boom. Big badaa boom.

Since I was close to the tunnel wall, I reached out with my hand, but it didn't really connect either but the wall managed to catch my upraised hand and I fell against the underside of my shoulder with my arm raised and hyper-extended it.

Now, I've been watching Nick put his hands together above his head and stretch his shoulders in what looks like an unnatural way. It works for him. It doesn't work so well for my 54 year old shoulders.

I also bruised my thigh. The handlebars, I think, grabbed a hunk of fat on the inside of my thigh above my left knee and twisted it.

Mike came back to see if I was okay.

I was mostly okay. I could feel where my shoulder hurt, but I could comfortably stretch it out to hold the handlebars. Jill has longer arms than I do, but I managed.

And the bruise on my thigh was just a bruise. It was even heart-shaped for a little while before it spread.

I decided to keep going. Hell, I had only biked a few hundred yards before I fell. I wanted to go the whole distance. I did. I figured I could turn back in a mile or two if I didn't feel well enough to keep going.

This is biking at its best, for a novice biker, anyway. Twenty-one and a half miles of gentle down hill. I barely had to pedal. It was fun. Oh, my leg ached when I hit bumps and the fat on my leg jiggled, but I've had bruises before. This was a simple bruise. And my shoulder didn't hurt much at all while I reached out for those handlebars.

After a while, I think I got a hit of endorphins because I just felt so good, except for my jiggly bruise and my sore shoulder. I chatted with my friend Suzanne the whole way down the mountains. I think she felt bad because I fell and she didn't come back to see if I was okay. Oh, they all waited at the end of the tunnel and having that many people stopped inside the tunnel would have been a mess, but I'm glad Mike did. It's one of the things I love about Mike. He checks to see if people are okay. 

He was more worried about my bruise. "It's a nasty bruise," he said.

"It's just a bruise," I said. "I'm more worried about my shoulder."

"Do you want to go back?"

"No, I'm going to go on and see if I need to turn around in a mile or two." I really wanted to do this ride. I have always wanted to ride down a mountain. I did it once in Montana. Mike drove me to the top of Sun mountain and I rode to the bottom on my bike. It was no fun though. I spent the whole time holding onto the brakes and trying not to skid out around the switchbacks. If you want to ride your bike down a mountain, Iron Horse State Park is your ride. Just bring your Discovery Pass for your cars.

The rest of the ride was uneventful. Really. Lunch on a sunny day. Cold spots of air and warms spots flowing down the mountain sides. Bridges over gullies. People with dogs. Walkers. Intrepid uphill bikers. Climbers on one section of vertical rock. More dogs, and at the end, when we turned off the trail to get to the Rattlesnake Lake trailhead, people with dogs and inner tubes and swim suits and hot dogs and canoes. Oh, it was a lovely day.

And then, when we got home, the endorphins wore off and I could feel my shoulder and my jiggly bruise. I took Aleve and Tylenol. I iced both places. I worried a little until Mike and I went through his way of diagnosing my symptoms. Mild pain in my shoulder. Soreness and stiffness when I raised my arm. No bumps. I looked pretty even. He told me to rest it for a couple of weeks, ice it, and take anti-inflammatories. So I did.

Yesterday, I stayed on the couch most of the day. I felt bad enough that when I needed a drink, I thought about it for about a half hour before I got up. Ice, Tylenol, and Aleve. I was pretty good but I was sore, really sore.

This morning, I felt just well enough to use the computer. I love WebMD. It's a way to go to the doctor without having any copays, without having to get an X-ray, and without having to explain the stupid thing I did to get myself into this mess. I used the symptom checker. It came up with exactly the same diagnosis that Mike did. Isn't he smart?

Now, I need to rest, take my anti-inflammatories, and ice my shoulder and my jiggly bruise.

I guess I'm not going to Costco today.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Learning When to Say No

Sometimes a small job generates its own work. I volunteered to help some Boy Scouts with the Citizenship in the Community merit badge. This is not an easy merit badge. Oh, it started all simple and stuff.  I printed some copies of the requirements and the worksheets and we started banging away at them at a meeting. The best part was getting the boys to understand that you can be a decent person, have a job, pay taxes, follow the laws, and even vote and not be an exceptional citizen. They finally started telling me about coaches who had gone out of their way to help their teams and kids who had been good leaders when others were making mistakes. These people were heroes.

I had started out with a zombie apocalypse theme that seemed to fit most of the requirements. Hey, if the CDC can do for hazards preparedness, why can't I? Zombies were people who broke the laws, stole things, littered, or dealt drugs to school kids. Non-zombies were ordinary people who did their jobs, paid taxes, and sent their children to school. Operatives were the heroes who volunteered their time and energy, the police officers, teachers, and fire fighters who's jobs put them on the line every day. At the first meeting, we talked about who a hero was and  how zombies could affect schools,  libraries, and hospitals. We even talked about whether zombies have rights! I thought it was fun.

The next week, I planned to talk about how we would begin to rebuild our community after the apocalypse. We would figure out what services were critical, like police, libraries, and fire departments, and what places needed to be protected, like the hospital, the schools, and the natural resources like our river. But, a wrench got thrown into the works. An almost completely different set of boys showed up. So, we spent a bunch of time catching the new kids up and suddenly, when one boy said the zombie thing was stupid, the air let out of my balloon. I let them vote on how they wanted me to present the information. It seemed to be unanimous. Straight up, no chaser. The zombies were out.

After the meeting, I walked out with a Scout who had joined us even though he had already done this merit badge. "Boy, I wish somebody had done this merit badge using a zombie apocalypse when I did mine," he said. It made me feel better. I had been about to go home with my tail between my legs because the zombie approach failed. Maybe it didn't fail completely. Well, it did, really, but at least one guy appreciated my effort.

Next, I organized a trip to a city council meeting and a few totally different kids showed up. Plus, I started getting emails from Scouts who hadn't shown up for the first two meetings and wanted to start working on the merit badge in the middle, with the city council meeting, except that they couldn't make it to this city council meeting.

I'm not sure how far back to go with these new kids. So far, I have about six Scouts who have done everything except the service hours and the interview. And there are three who haven't really started and have expressed some interest, or at least their dads have. Finally, there are three or four dads who wanted the paperwork. Are they going to earn the merit badge, I wondered? Where do I draw the line?

I've decided. I don't. I'll keep working on this until all of the boys who express an interest have been given the most of the same opportunities I gave the first six Scouts.

Oh, I'm not done yet. At this meeting, the mayor encouraged me to get the boys enrolled into a seven week course the city offers that covers some of the same material that we had already covered and then some. And then a lot, actually. Its a course that's geared toward adults. It's an hour and a half each week plus an all day Saturday class. It's seven weeks long! My boys were having trouble staying awake for an hour and a half council meeting. My Scouts are back in school six hours a day.

How do you say 'No, thank you' to the mayor?

I'm really not in this to torture kids.

Then afterward the meeting, two of the speakers offered to present their information to the boys in person. In more detail? With a different perspective? One of them said we could drive into Seattle to meet with her. Oh, how do I tell these enthusiastic and dedicated people that most of the boys are in middle school, that they barely understood what was presented the first time and a repeat probably wouldn't be necessary or appreciated. I tried to indicate that I was interested. Carbon footprints? New trails to hike? Heck yeah, I'm interested. Yet I already can't keep up with all of the things I'm interested in volunteering my time for. I have a responsibility to these Scouts plus a few more and I'm trying to help them with a merit badge.

It was supposed to be simple.

Thank you for listening, jb

Monday, September 8, 2014

Go LL Bean!

So, I talked to my credit card company yesterday about my claim against the Sixt Rental Car company.

This was a woman whose specialty is managing credit card disputes. What a nice woman. Whenever I've talked to these employees, they are outgoing and helpful. I get off the phone and I'm actually happy. How do you do that when you're talking to someone about misuse of your credit card?

Have I ever told you that I love LL Bean?

Well, I do. My husband and I visited Freeport, Maine after we honeymooned for six days in a canoe along the Alagash waterways. That was twenty two years ago. We were tired, happy, and ready to start our new lives together. Somehow, we both agreed that we wanted to decorate our house in a cabin theme. Canoe bookshelves, a green and tan futon, a green Waterford wood stove. Oh, it was going to be beautiful. The only problem with what we wanted to buy in Freeport at the main LL Bean store was how we would get everything home. By the time we left there, our suitcases and the new suitcase we bought were all stuffed tight.

We also came home with new LL Bean credit cards. Do you remember those days, when every department store offered you 15% off your purchase when you opened a new account? Well, our LL Bean credit card is the only remnant of those days. We buy things on credit and we get coupons for free clothing. I'm wearing three very comfortable articles of LL Bean clothing as we speak.

So, we've also worked with the LL Bean credit card company for a while now. These people are totally proactive about misuse of our credit. The Target kerfuffle? New cards were sent before we found out we were involved. Someone used our number at Match.com? They guessed it wasn't us and let us know. It was a funny conversation when I called to see what was up. I had to get off the phone with the 'lost and stolen' people and actually ask Mike if he had, by any strange coincidence, used the services of Match.com to match him with another woman. Then, when I got the same LL Bean representative on the phone after that awkward call, we both laughed until I cried a little.

So, I love the help I've gotten from my LL Bean credit card people.

Yesterday was no different. I needed to confirm that a letter I sent was received. At first, the woman was very professional, but then she remembered that she'd already talked to me and she relaxed a little. Do you know what she said?

She said that she hoped that it worked out in my favor because the outrageous cost of the extra insurance for this rental car from Sixt was something that nobody should have to worry about when they are traveling. Even when I told her again that I had indeed signed a contract with those numbers but that I hadn't calculated the cost in my head, she said the fact that the company hadn't been explicit in discussing the extraordinary cost with me should be enough for me to get a refund. That's what she said.

She told me she was on my side!

Go LL Bean!

Thank you for listening, jb

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Remembering Grief

Mike didn't sleep on Friday night after beginning a new medication. When I awoke, rested and curious about why his pillow had migrated to the couch, he told me that he hadn't slept, not one moment.

My breath went. I went into the kitchen to make breakfast and tried not to cry. A weight settled on my soul. I remembered that same feeling after my dad had died when I was thirteen. I would wake in the morning refreshed and as I got my wits about me, I would remember and a weight would descend on my heart. My breath would become shallow.

Grief is heavy.

The thing is that I hadn't realized just how hard it had been the first time Mike went through this. We just did what we needed to do. The summer days changed, became more quiet. If there was the slightest possibility that Mike was falling asleep, I shushed anyone in the house and turned down any lights. At any hour, we were prepared to go silent. Mike missed a few weeks of work, didn't drive safely, and couldn't decide simple things like what he wanted for dinner, let alone anything important.

He held my hand.

He didn't want to be left alone.

We were all afraid of what his sleeplessness could do. The list was frightening. The whole family felt the effects. After seeing three doctors and getting some help, Mike slowly began to sleep. After a month, he'd average two or three hours of sleep. When he got up to four hours, he went back to work and managed, though he didn't thrive there for a long while. After six months, he announced that he'd gotten six hours of sleep and I wanted to throw a party. Who would come to a party like that if they didn't know what it meant to us? We didn't care. We were happy. All I wanted was more of my ordinary life with this man. Was that asking for so much?

It took almost a year for Mike to get seven hours of sleep and he would occasionally get eight. His remaining doctor called his condition adrenal shock. It had a name.

And I very nearly forgot what that time in our lives was like. Nearly.

Until yesterday morning.

Thankfully, Mike slept last night. Oh, I don't think he got eight hours of sleep, but he said he rested. That translates to at least six hours of sleep.

Today, I'm breathing again.

Thank you for listening, jb