Saturday, October 06, 2012

Dumb idea undone

I have a habit of over complicating my life. As if maintaining three blogs were not enough, I tried to start up a Twitter account for each. Bad idea. Bad, bad, bad. So I am going to pare that down to one Twitter, and while I am at it, combine my three blogs into a single brand new one: Between Rome and Paradise. I hope you will give the new blog a whirl. Regardless, thanks for your readership!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Don't worry. Be happy.

Warning: This post is mostly about medical issues. Sorry.

Thanks to the three doctors I have seen in the past four weeks, we had to cancel our vacation plans. I was running an intermittent fever and suffering from severe abdominal pains that were initially brushed off as "some virus" and constipation. I would probably still be suffering except one doctor finally noticed my blood work showed elevated liver enzymes. The CT scan showed diverticulitis - yay, proof I really am sick - but the meds were almost worse than the disease, providing a preview of what Alzheimer's must be like. I could not drive, I could not knit, I could not successfully make Jello. Once I finished the meds, the fog lifted, thank god. I'm almost back to normal.

During one of many office visits, when I told the doctor I had had an endometrial ablation years ago, she blurted out, "Maybe you have uterine cancer!" Which sent me to Dr. Google. Turns out an ablation does not increase one's chances of getting uterine cancer, but early signs may be missed because the cervix is scarred shut. So now I will schedule another appointment with another doctor, so I can stop chewing on that.

All through this ordeal, one thought comforted me: at least my hip does not hurt any more. But last week, after two days in a desk chair, the pain returned. Fortunately, between a deep tissue massage and my own self care, that has been beaten back. It is hell getting old.

Back to the diverticulitis, they don't really know what causes it. They say eating a low fiber diet may, but I eat plenty of fiber. My doctor said nuts and seeds, but that theory has been debunked. My neighbor's doctor told him eating bacon is the culprit, but I think he has it confused with gall bladder attacks. There is an element of stress, though. Hence my new motto: Don't worry, be happy. This is an effective method of short circuiting obsessive thoughts as the song fills my brain's thinking space, doing fierce battle with Babe Ruth's "Wells Fargo".

Since I could not do much besides watch TV, I spent my time watching four seasons of "Breaking Bad". And now the eighth season of "Desperate Housewives" and the fourth season of "Damages" are available. All is right with the world!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Six weeks since my last post, time for another

As I mentioned last time, I started a new position at work. Still in IT but on a different team, a team that is actually located in the same building. I had not realized how isolated I felt, when the rest of my team was 600 miles away. I also had forgotten how annoying people can be. One is a big sigher - yesterday she was sighing so deeply and so often, she sounded like she was gasping. She also clips her fingernails at work. Another gets herself cranked up over things that don't really concern her, but when they do, she can get a bit weepy. Which I understand perfectly, as I get that way myself at times. I am also becoming a sigher. The work is less stressful, but incredibly boring.

Since I have a local team now, I work at work most days. The additional time required for dressing, making a lunch, and commuting is putting a real crimp in my schedule, plus there are some things I do at home during the workday that I can't do in the office. Like take a quick nap at noon, or run through some physical therapy exercises while taking a break. There are "privacy rooms" at work, large enough for a small table and four chairs. I found one that is a little bigger than most, and have commandeered it for a half hour of stretches at lunchtime. The people that see me carry a blanket into that room probably think I am taking a nap (and some days, were it so!) Yesterday I bought a cheap yoga mat at Tuesday Morning to use instead, so besides the stretches I can do a few exercises as well.

Besides all the shoulder, wrist, back, and hip exercises I have been doing, I am also going to a chiropractor. As much as I hate my job, I LOVE the benefits, especially since learning the health insurance covers unlimited chiropractic treatments. The treatments themselves are a bit disconcerting - one part involves ankle restraints and a table that moves - but my headaches have abated and many parts of my body feel better. Except my right hip. It has been bothering me for about a year. I've tried yoga and deep tissue massage; rest and massive doses of ibuprofen; gone to my GP who first sent me to PT, then when I developed sciatica, for an MRI (which showed nothing significant); now chiropractic treatments. Oddly enough, it doesn't bother me when I am moving, but when I am sitting or standing for extended periods of time (and by "extended" I mean 30 minutes or so). And sometimes at night, when I lay down, so some nights I have to sleep in a recliner. Thinking my mattress might be part of the problem, I even made a pallet of comforters and afghans and slept on the floor for a while. I'm getting rather discouraged.

Which brings me to a complaint I have about people in the medical profession: once they hear certain phrases, like "shooting pain down my leg", they leap to one and only one conclusion, like sciatica, dismissing or not really listening to anything else you say. Something is hinky with my hip, but instead of being curious, they trot out the usual recommendations. Bah.

One reason I want my hip to feel better is my daughter and I are taking the granddaughter on a long road trip, to see my dad, who will be 93 next month. It is one of those trips that could be a lot of fun or a painful ordeal, and like most things, will probably be a bit of both. Toddler N will be two soon (TWO!)

Saturday, July 07, 2012

This, that, and the other

I suffer from insomnia. Lately it has become so bad that I signed up to participate in an online insomnia study. To qualify, I completed a questionnaire and submitted to a telephone interview. Then I kept a sleep diary for two weeks, recording what time I got into bed, what time I tried to go to sleep, how long it took to get to sleep, how many times I woke up during the night, how long I was awake, what time I woke up in the morning, what time I got out of bed, etc. Needless to say, my insomnia was worse while recording all this information.

The "meat" of this study consists of two websites for treating insomnia, to determine which one works best. I must have been assigned to the placebo, as it consists of the same tired advice for insomniacs I have been reading for years. It also isn't clear if I am supposed to actually follow any of this advice as part of the study. I already refrain from vigorous exercise and large meals late in the evening, but I'm not going to give up the simple pleasure of reading in bed or get out of bed if I can't fall asleep. They say to stay up until you are sleepy, but don't take daytime naps even if you are sleepy. Oh, yeah? I just took a twenty minute nap and it was delicious.

The website makes no mention of menopause. Sometimes when I wake up at night, it is because of a hot flash. Nor does it ask about pain - sometimes I can't sleep because my hips or shoulders ache. And it does not ask about stress or worry. Like I said, I must be in the placebo group.

One source of stress for me has been my job. I hate, hate, HATE what I was doing. But I am doing it no more. I still work for the same employer but as of July 1 in a different role. Already I can feel the difference - my shoulders are no longer hunched around my ears and one source of inner chatter has quieted down.

An omnipresent worry I have is growing old. Like most people, I know I will die someday but I can't really imagine my own death. I don't have to imagine growing old, though, because it is already happening. In the past six months or so, my body has crossed some invisible line and I can tell I will never be able to cross back. I'm not infirm by any means, but there is a difference.

I also find myself drawn to reading not just memoir, but memoir of old people (and by "old" I mean "older than me"). I just finished I Feel Bad about my Neck by Nora Ephron, am in the middle of This Is Getting Old by Susan Moon, and Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen is in the wings.

So I have something to read in bed before going to sleep.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Six states in seven days

My SO and I took a road trip last week, crossing Indiana and Illinois on US 24, following the Mississippi up to Galena, then crossing the river to Iowa followed by heading west in southern Minnesota, then north in eastern South Dakota, before meeting up with family in Minneapolis. We cross Wisconsin on the way home. Whew!

A few highlights of the trip:

When I first saw this bumper sticker in Indiana, I was in disbelief. Upon closer inspection, it said "People Eating Tasty Animals." Ah - that made more sense.

Because Carl Sandburg was all about cosmetology, dental hygiene, and therapeutic massage.

The one that did not get away.

As we were returning to the car after admiring the Jolly Green Giant, the LOUDEST tornado siren I have ever heard went off, followed by an equally loud PA announcement that "this is only a test".

Can you believe that the town where this sign hangs has two institutions of higher learning? True!

Ride 'em, cowboy!

Paul Bunyan, in case you can't tell.

I wish I had taken photos of the welcome signs outside many of the small towns we passed through. Each town has its own motto, none of which I can recall, but that seemed curious at the time. Or maybe it was road fatigue that made it seem so.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

How to drink beer in Minneapolis

This vehicle is known as a PedalPub. It is powered by the passengers. I'm guessing the exercise helps offset the drinking. This photo was taken Saturday morning, well before noon; maybe it was the same people we saw the night before?

Yes, I was in Minneapolis last week. My SO and I met up with some of his family members, for a couple of days of museum hopping and food consuming. One restaurant we supped at was the News Room, where I saw someone that looked remarkably like R. I could not get a good look at this R's date, but I think R's husband H is really tall. So I watched and waited, and when they got up to leave, confirmed that this H was indeed very tall. Back at the hotel, I showed my SO a picture of R on her blog, and he too thought it was her. We were convinced. But guess what. We were wrong. Thankfully, I'm too shy to accost strangers in public.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Done and done

Once in a while a co-worker will insist they told me something and I pull a complete blank, have absolutely no memory of what they said, which causes my heart to leap with panic and my brain to latch onto a diagnosis of Alzheimer's.  Then the co-worker says, Oops, my bad, I told that to so-and-so.  Jeeze, don't DO that!

Yesterday was my last session of physical therapy - yay!  It was very helpful, as it should be when each session took TWO hours.  The protocol involved manual manipulations (aka torture) by the therapist herself, plus exercise, plus the delivery of cortisone to the joints being treated by means of iontophoresis (I think that's right - it involved electrodes), plus electrical stimulation of the muscles (more electrodes), plus heat packs.  I still have issues, am not 100% yet, but any further improvement to strength and flexibility will be incremental and can be accomplished on my own.  I am tired of going, tired of the time commitment, and tired of hearing the same stories over and over again from my unfortunately chatty therapist.

Still struggling with insomnia.  I've become accustomed to the Ambien and use that a couple of times a week.  Other nights I use valerian and melatonin.  When I find myself jerking awake from dreaming about work, I reframe that problem by telling myself, It's okay to dream about work.  Maybe you need to dream about work, which has turned out to be surprisingly effective.  And I try to quiet the middle-of-the-night monkey mind by saying, Think about that in the daytime, not at night.

Last night that last bit was not very effective because today will probably be Fern's final trip to the vet.  She acts okay, but there is a lot of discharge from her mouth, some of it blood-tinged.  She still tries to clean herself, and her fur gets matted from the discharge.  She pulls out the mats she can reach, so her once beautiful coat is a mess.  Eating and drinking have been difficult for her, resulting in weight loss.  But now she has stopped eating altogether, despite my efforts with a variety of cat and human foods.  It is time.  Unfortunately, Fern will not go gently into that good night.  She will try to hide from me when I go to put her in the travel crate, she will cry on the drive to the vet, she will huddle against me on the exam table.  She will break my aching heart.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Little road trip

My SO and I drove down to Indy last night to listen to the Wood Brothers.  (I did not take these videos.)

I would describe their music as southern rock with folk/blues/gospel influences.  Besides Oliver on guitar and Chris on bass fiddle, they had a percussion guy (Jano Rix) who for some songs thumped a guitar modified to be played percussively.  It looked like he had a mini-tambourine on one drum stick, too.

We would have stayed for the whole show, but 1) there was a warmup act (Seth Walker), so by the time the Wood Brothers hit the stage, it was already past our bedtime, and 2) there was no place to sit.  The few chairs set up were reserved for people we presume won tickets from the sponsoring radio station.  The crowd varied in age, with a preponderance of twenty-somethings who drank beer, danced perilously close to our feet, frequently thumbed their phones and took photos of themselves and each other (I photo bombed at least one picture), and talked, talked, talked.  While we greatly enjoyed the music, we might be getting too old for the other shit.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Falling apart

I hope this blog does not turn into a litany of complaints, but it does feel like I am just falling apart these days. The latest evidence is a crumbling filling. While that was easily fixed, it feels like one more sign post on the road to decrepitude.

When I read non-fiction, I find myself focusing on single topics for a period of time. For a while, it was horse books, then dog books, then books on menopause, autism, Alzheimers. Now I am in the midst of books on aging. I recently read Blue Night by Joan Didion, in which she quotes from In the Fullness of Time: 32 Women on Life after Fifty. Both books are full of loss and somewhat depressing - is this what we have to look forward to?

It does not help that my pets are aging, too. Fern was recently diagnosed with tongue cancer, a particularly aggressive squamous cell type for which nothing can be done. She is still able to eat and drink, and does not appear to be in any pain. Recent trips to the vet have left her more suspicious than usual of my motives when I pass, so she avoids me unless I am prone. Not ordinarily a snuggler, she now seeks my warmth when I am laying under an afghan on the couch. Sometimes I catch her staring at me with great intensity, like she knows.

Thursday, February 09, 2012


That is the result of my ultrasound: unremarkable. And I have gall stones. The phone nurse said the doctor wanted to refer me to a surgeon, but I declined. For one thing, I have known about those gall stones for over eight years, and since I don't have gall bladder attacks, I feel no urge to do anything about it. Also, in my experience, surgeons epitomize the adage, "If the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail."

I'm a little discouraged over the physical therapy. While my strength is improving, my flexibility is not, at least not as rapidly as I would like. I'm tired of going to PT, but I am also tired of my aches and pains.

The Ambien, while providing a solid seven hours of coma-like sleep, leaves me feeling stoned the next day, plus appears to be giving me headaches. I take it only twice a week, but about 24 hours later, my head hurts.

Wouldn't it be easier to just make me young again?

Friday, February 03, 2012

So what else is new?

The doctor's office called about my cholesterol today. Still highish, but since there seems to be a loss of continuity in my chart from changing doctors, they first recommend diet and exercise, with repeat tests in six months. I tend to be more active March to November and eat more fresh fruits and vegetables then, too, so I don't see a problem with this. No results on the ultrasound yet.

I almost did not answer the phone when they called because caller ID showed the caller as "unavailable". The number was local, though, so I did pick up. Recently, I have been getting a ton of unsolicited phone calls from "card holder services". These used to be recorded messages, but lately it sounds like so-called human beings are placing the calls. I don't pick up the phone, but my voice mail is frequently activated, and if a message is recorded, it is usually, "Hello?" My telephone number has been on the National Do Not Call Registry since 1993, but only recently have I started reporting these calls.

Maybe I should resort to social media to shame these callers into finding another way to make a living. After all, it worked on Susan G. Komen and the National Wildlife Federation.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Poked and prodded

I'm sure I have written on this blog somewhere about how I wanted to divorce my doctor, but damned if I can find that entry. Anyway, I lucked out - my doctor relocated, so I was free to pick a new one. And since I was getting a new doctor, I decided it was time for a physical.

I hadn't had a physical in about 12 years, other than the occasional pelvic, so I did not really know what to expect other than a blood draw and maybe a urinalysis. I took a laundry list of little complaints - you know the kind, all those aches and pains and questions that don't warrant an office visit on their own - but the big question was, To shave or not to shave?

This winter I've been really lazy on that one area of personal grooming. It helps that the older I get, the less hair I have on my legs; in fact, my SO can't even tell that I haven't shaved since before Thanksgiving. And really, who else is going to notice? Even though it was 50 degrees outside the other day, it is hardly shorts and tank top weather.

So I did not shave, and since the physical involved the removal of no clothes except my shoes when I climbed on the scale, I was glad I had not bothered. I like the new doctor, someone I had seen once before when my previous doctor was unavailable. My only complaint is there was a student doctor along for the exam. This was not really a problem, except my doctor kept explaining things to him instead of talking to me. Then when my 15 minutes was up, she beat the hell out of there.

My laundry list included 1) a family history of abdominal aneurysms, so she ordered an ultrasound; 2) pain in my right hip, right wrist, and both shoulders, so physical therapy was recommended; 3) intractable insomnia, so I now have an nonrefillable prescription for generic Ambien; and 4) this thing on my scalp (Seborrheic Keratosis, aka "wisdom spot") that has been there for years but is getting bigger - she offered to freeze it off at a later date; the last time I had one removed, it took forever to heal, so I think I'll pass. Besides, the area would have to be shaved, and we know how I feel about shaving.

I started the PT the same day as the physical. I have been through PT before, for my back (which was a lifesaver) and my shoulders (not as successful, obviously). I've had three sessions so far this time, and already I am seeing some improvement. For example, when doing downward dog, I can actually put weight on my right wrist, and I can get my coat on and off without grimacing. My hip is still tight but better.

My insurance pays for the office visit (minus a copay), it pays for the prescription, but for PT, I have to meet my annual deductible and then pay 20% of the remainder. The PT is something that actually improves my health and well being, but insurance does not want to pay for that. I don't get it. Nor do I get how my insurance company negotiates lower fees with in-network providers, in this case about 50% of what the providers would charge someone with no insurance. That just isn't right.

I had the ultrasound (still unshaven) and a blood draw for the usual tests, but they haven't called with the results yet. I don't expect the ultrasound to show anything, but I have had high-ish cholesterol in the past. If I haven't heard from the doctor's office by next Monday, I'll call, but for now, no news is good news.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


Since I can work from home, I am home a lot, but rarely does my doorbell ring unexpectedly. Lately, however, there has been a parade of "entrepreneurs" hoping to generate some income by selling this or offering a free estimate for that. So far, no out-and-out beggars, but I have to wonder if my recent visitors aren't feeling a bit desperate, to be going door-to-door in January.

Last week at Target, the cashier mistook me for a fellow employee, because I was wearing a red jacket. I told him I did not work there, I just liked the color red. "But you're wearing khakis, too!" Great. I dress like I'm on duty at Target.

More apps for the Nook: NY Times crossword (which unfortunately are not tied to a subscription, so while the app is great, you get only 30 puzzles) and Lose It! for tracking diet and exercise (also good, but you cannot enter the food amounts by weight).

Football playoffs have begun. Since the Colts did not make it this year (really REALLY did not make it), I'm not too interested in the outcomes. The Saints-49ers game was exciting, but watching the Pats cream Denver was a yawner. Glad I did not stay up for that one. And by the way, a note to Tim T and all the other players giving glory on the field: God does not care whether you win at football. At least, I hope not.

The pets had their annual exams and shots recently. Fern has been losing a lot of hair. I've talked with both vets about it, but neither has much to offer since there is no obvious cause. One even suggested she might be "stressed" which sounds a lot like "it's all in her head". I've tried feeding her sardines and fish oils, but she refuses to eat them. (What kind of cat does not like fish?!?) I did change her food, and I *think* there may be some improvement.

Meanwhile, Betsy is kind of lumpy. I noticed a lump on her chest, which is probably a fatty tumor, plus one in her armpit. The vet detected some in the lymph nodes in her neck. No treatment, but now I am suspecting she has a bladder infection because she has peed on the carpet twice in the past week or so. She has not done that in years, since the last time she had a bladder infection. I am tricking her into drinking more (a little chicken broth in the water bowl helps), but may request a round of antibiotics as well.

As for little creatures of the human kind, my granddaughter is getting so BIG. She can climb on and off chairs, reach things on tables, and almost turn door knobs. She is also starting to imitate - I gave her a cloth napkin to play with and she used it to wipe down her high chair. Totally ineffective, but totally cute as well.

Saturday, January 07, 2012


I have consumed my share of alcohol in my lifetime. In college, it was probably more than my share, but not as large a share as many of my cohorts. In adulthood, it has varied from none to a few drinks a night. When my kids were teens, I did not even keep alcohol in the house - they may have been consuming but not from my liquor cabinet. I was looking forward to doing some serious drinking in late middle age.

Unfortunately, I seemed to have followed in my father's footsteps in my early 50's. After a lifetime of being the one-or-two-cocktails-a-night kind of drinker, he developed an allergy to alcohol at age 55. Even a sip or two could send him to the emergency room with a severe asthma attack. In my case, the reaction was sometimes an instantaneous hangover, sometimes a delayed stomach upset. With reluctance and disappointment, I faced a future of no booze.

Still, periodically I would try to drink. Thinking the problem might be additives in commercial products, I made some hard cider - mistake. Vodka was usually a safe bet, but only Grey Goose or Ketel One. Beer and wine were not wise. So much for a cold one on a hot day.

Then last summer I tried some Woodchuck Hard Cider. That seemed okay. This fall I sampled some organic ales with no adverse affect. Christmas eve we had tequila sunrises with our tacos. No problemo. Huh. I'm not drinking with abandon, but now I find I can enjoy a beer or two, use wine when cooking risotto, finish the day with a couple of cocktails. What a nice surprise!

I have no explanation for this change in my tolerance for alcohol. I have always leaned toward organic fruits and vegetables. In recent months, I have switched from store-bought, grain-finished meat to purchasing pasture-raised meat from a local farm. I now also drink raw milk and buy cheese made from raw milk. Could there be a connection? Who knows.

Of course, there is the question of, why drink at all? While raising my kids, I consciously lead a safe life, to ensure I was there for them, because my mother died when I was 20 and my brother 17. As an adult, I have always been uber responsible. Add to that, in recent years, so many pleasures have been demonized in our society. It has reached the point where I feel like I am saying NO, NO, NO all the time. Well, now that my kids are grown and I am old enough to throw some caution to the wind, I would like to say yes once in a while.

So here's to behaving with a little irresponsibility! (In moderation, of course.)

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Hope springs eternal

It's that time of year again, when this old girl's thoughts turn to resolutions. It seems I make the same resolutions every year: lose weight, exercise more, keep up with the housework, etc. This year is no different. In fact, looking back at an entry I made a year ago, the resolution list looks suspiciously familiar. Only this year, I started/restarted a bit early.

When I work at work (instead of at home), I sit near the actuaries. Some of them have started what has become a semi-regular tradition, of challenging each other to lose weight. Being actuaries, they have a method and a strategy whereby one can earn points, keeping track of it all on a spreadsheet. Some of them actually have lost weight, and a subset of them have also kept the weight off. They kindly invited my co-worker and me to join the current wave (are they saying I look fat?!?) Since there was a financial penalty involved if one did not reach one's goals, I decided I could not afford it. My co-worker, however, is participating, and after hearing him comment that, while he has not lost weight, he has dropped two belt notches, my curiousity was peaked.

So, about six weeks ago I asked him about it, and basically the strategy is one earns points by dieting and/or exercising, every day. The dieting guidelines are a bit stringent, so while he has been watching what he eats, he has been concentrating more on exercise. And it shows. Given that my exercise routine has become non-existent in the past year or so, thanks to some hip-shoulder-wrist problems, I decided the least I could do is go for a walk outside everyday.

And since the weather has been surprisingly cooperative, I have been able to do just that. And in case it isn't, an exercycle has found its way from my daughter's house to mine. Not only do the walks make me feel better physically, they elevate my mood a significant amount. And, to give myself a little incentive, I have an appointment for a physical in about three weeks, with a new doctor.

My weight has crept up about 15 pounds over the past year or so, so I am hoping to reverse that trend, with baby steps.

What are your hopes for the new year?