84) Post-Holiday Vacation

December 28, 2006

Earlier in the Day:
What a great time to be on vacation. Yesterday Lizzie and I spent the first day in months just hanging out at our house… reading, eating, writing our holiday cards, doing just a few chores around the house, and remarking all the way how nice it is to just hang out. Our lives, as everyone’s I think, are so busy, it takes five days to get to one where nothing is planned or has to be accomplished. And even then we are behind on some things: I finished up packing and mailing a Hanukkah/X-mas box to Johnny in Hawaii, with a few small wrapped up things (and some cookies). Mailing boxes to Hawaii is like sending ‘em oversees… You can send them “regular” mail, which will take SIX WEEKS, or special mail, which takes 4 to 6 days and costs twice as much.

About cards: I have always sent out holiday cards to a list of friends and relations. Over the years the list has grown and shrunk but I have always sent out some cards. These cards have reflected in some way either my thoughts or my view of the world. My parents sent out cards and the ones I remember are the ones with holiday pictures of me and my brother in some sort of holiday scene meant to show the recipients how much we’d grown, I suppose. As I moved out of the house and went away to college I remember coming home for Christmas and spending some part of my time looking through all the cards from friends of my parents’, reading their X-mas notes or those catch-you-up letters with holly boughs drawn on the edges. So, naturally, when I moved on with my life I continued the tradition of sending out cards. My first cards were to friends from high school who had moved away from Ft. Bliss with their parents, like Chuck and Robin. These cards were left-overs from my parents’ cards. Then, as I moved out on my own, I sent cards back to EP to my friends, like Dale and Anita. There are some people on my list now that have been on there since the ‘70’s, like Dale and Jan (now); the Parkers (the girls come home for Christmas and my card is at their parent’s house); Lynn, Richard, and Nancy. Mostly these cards were PEACE-related. When I left for graduate school in 1977, I added all my friends (considered family) from my hippie years (Cliff & Skinny and Albert are still there, as is Connie and Edna, and Steve & Nicky). For a number of years I sent Leanin’ Tree cards featuring works by cowboy artists of cowboys coming home at night to their ranch houses all alit with yellow windows and blue snow on the evening ground. And now that email is the preferred system, I have found some other old friends and added them to email + the professional and post-graduate school people. So, over the years there have been lots of people I send cards to, and of course, there are people who send cards to me too. But, me thinks this is changing.

Liz and I were noticing that fewer people are sending cards now-a-days. It seems we used to get lots of cards (enough to string across the ceiling of our living room) and over the years we’ve gotten quite a few less. Now, either we are less popular (a distinct possibility since we’re not as “cool” as we once were - our kids will vouch for this fact), or people are all as late sending out cards as we are, or… people aren’t sending out as many cards as they used to before it cost .39 cents to mail out a card. According to the Census Bureau* Americans will send more than 1.9 billion holiday greeting cards this year. Since there are 300 million people in the US, that’s about 6 cards for each of us. We got about 20 so that means we are more popular than the average bear. And, it still seems we’re getting less than usual. President Bush sent out 1.4 million himself, according to the Washington Post**, but we are'nt on that list. Some people warn that the holidays season is a waste of paper, and thus trees… so, I guess that in the future we will receive less paper cards than now. Some say that all communications in the future will be electronic and that all books will be plastic… as in discs. That’ll be strange… although I find myself sending out more and more electronic cards, or at least brief messages with holiday pics attached. Those are the easy ones. The fun ones include choosing an appropriate card for the recipient, double stick taping a picture inside, adding a brief note about our yearly challenges or awards, and addressing and stamping them to go in the mail. I always like stacking them up and shuffling through the envelopes, picturing the recipients holding them and looking at the postmarks. For a number of years now I haven't had to buy any cards because there are half-used boxes of cards from years passed and I only wonder if anyone recognizes they might get the same card several years in a row.

Today I cut back the roses and lantana in the back herb garden, shoveled up puppy poop, and put a new latch on the back gate, which Shayna and her friend, Maddie, already left open yesterday, letting Chelsea out to bark at invisible marauders in the creek. She didn’t run off but stayed right by the back porch barking her head off. Brave dog.

El Milagro: I’m Reading two new books that I got for gifts: Marion Winik’s new book of essays; Above Us Only Sky, and Michael Walker’s Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock-and-Roll’s Legendary Neighborhood, which I took and read for an hour or so today. Crystal cannulated me today, quickly and efficiently. I was the last person in on my shift, making me the last person to leave at about 8:20 pm. There’s a new guy (patient) I hadn’t mentioned. He is a slightly portly guy about my age who has tattoos from his head to foot and for awhile after he started I thought he must be some sort of guru or holy man. His bald head has these zig zag stripes from front to back that look reminiscent of Tlingit tattoos. His cheeks have swirls on them and even his nose is tattooed. His chest and arms down to his wrists are tattooed a solid dark navy blue and he has stretched his earlobes so they dangle down about 3 and a half inches. This guy looks like he must have been led to this body art through meditation or some sort of shamanic vision. Several women, who I took to be his devotees visit him and sometimes rub his feet. One of them is quite young and pregnant and the other is older but just as attentive to the man with the tattoos. So fianally I ask Herman what his story is, and it turns out he is a tatoo artist, not a holy man. One of the women is his young wife and the other must be her mother. And I was just about to prostrate myself in front of his chair and ask him for the answer to life’s tribulations. So it goes. (Usually, I think I know the answer anyway.) It’s just that when you see a person like this tattoo guy you think he must know something you don’t.

Notes: On Tuesday, after spending three days in Dallas eating holiday foods, I weighed in at 75.4 and out at 72.1 Kgs., losing over 7 pounds in dialysis! Today I came in at 74.6 and left at 71.8 Kgs.
*Census Bureau retrieved online at:
http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/releases/archives/facts_for_features_special_ editions/005870.html
**Washington Post retrieved online at:


83) Holidays at El Milagro

December 21, 2006

El Milagro:
There are no Christmas decorations at El Milagro Dialysis Center… maybe because they don’t know how to mix Hanukkah, Kwanza and Christmas and don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. To me it is kinda weird because there is a strong Hispanic presence there and I expect the Hispanic culture to decorate like the dickens. I always enjoy visitin
g Mi Tierra in San Antonio for the holiday decorations that are up all year round. And, at this time of the year, I miss anticipating Christmas eve, when the family would pile in the car and drive over to Cumberland Circle (El Paso) to inch around, bumper to bumper, without our lights on, surrounded by luminarias along the sidewalks, porches, and rooftops of all the houses in the neighborhood.

I think that El Milagro ought to express the Catholic / Hispanic culture’s love of the Christmas season by hanging holiday decorations all over the place without worry or concern. When the complainers complain, there will be plenty of time for apologies and nods to the restrictions of political correctness. I can visualize the place with garlands of shiny metallic greens and gold’s hanging from TV to TV; large red and silver Christmas balls hanging from the ceiling with opened up paperclips; multi-colored strings of Christmas lights around the supply islands; and plastic frescoes of Santa Claus taped to the walls beside the “on stage” signs.

Gladys smoothly cannulated me today and I spent most of my session listening to KUT on Shayna’s little radio and drifting in and out of a long winter nap. At some point I awoke to find two boxes on my chair-table and, looking around, noticed that everyone had these two boxes at their chairs. Staff explained that these are DaVita’s gifts for us patients. That’s sweet… the people that we pay $74 K a year (through our insurance) are giving us gifts. I got a “DaVita” embroidered pair of navy blue mittens, a pair of slick wrap-around Gap sunglasses, and a $10 gift certificate to Applebee’s!

So, the holidays continue. Tonight is the seventh night of Hanukkah. Our gift giving is drawing to a close before the Christmas people have even started. Of course, I still have lots of Holiday chores to do: making cookies; getting out our holiday cards; sending a package to Johnny in Hawaii, etc. I started my annual holiday vacation today so I should have plenty of time to put towards these tasks. YEAH Vacation! Tomorrow Shayna and Lizzie will be off too and we’ll all have a jolly time for the next few weeks.

Notes: In at 74.3 and out at 72 Kgs.


82) It's A Cowboy Chanukkah!

December 16, 2006

El Milagro:
When I arrived at 1 the place seemed very quiet… many staff were out getting lunch and the next shift of patients haven’t arrived yet. They are putting me on between shifts it seems. Earlier I had called I call Ron the Nurse and he said I could come in at 1 today. Gladys stuck me swiftly and painlessly today and I put the TV channel on college basketball and used Shayna’s I-pod-like radio to continue listening to KUT’s Folkways* Holiday show. I ended up listening to the radio the whole time, drifting in and out of naps through the end of Folkways, through Live Set, and finally elevating back into beta consciousness to listen to All Things Considered, hearing about Mick Kipp’s cayenne pepper and chocolate salsa.**

Afterwards, I drove home to our Chanukkah celebration with the relations.
I usually am in a tired out and “quiet” state when I return from dialysis, so I spent the drive home mentally preparing myself for a party… yawning all the way. As I zip-sped along on the Ben White Freeway, Jingle bells was jingling in my head… “Oh what fun to drive on home, yawning all the way…” And then, I thought up “On the second day of Chanukkah my true love made for me… A Brisket and a Latke partee…”, giggling all the way. What else can I say? Yawning all the way.

I still have some difficulties with getting the X-mas traditions out of my head to make room for the Jewish traditions… so, they all get jumbled up inside. When I first got together with Liz and we decided that we wouldn’t have a Christmas tree in our house (unlike her brother and sister) and I was happily delighted to not have to do that chore every holiday season! Then I found out that she had these ideas about decorating for Chanukkah (The Jews response to Christians decorating for Christmas I believe). When I was a ki
d, I don’t remember my Jewish friend’s parents decorating anything. I just recall their menorahs and prayer shawls. So, now we have shiny banners and sparkly hangings and strings of dreidel lights strung up on the walls... like if a detonated Christmas tree vaporized, flinging it’s decorations out to stick on the walls. It’s really okay and I do like how excited Liz gets about putting all these things up and enjoying them. I especially like the Chanukkah guest towels hanging in our western bathroom with the saloon shutters and Al Harris brood mare painting on the wall. It’s a Cowboy Chanukkah around here.

I arrived home after the first round of gin and tonics and the festivities were in full swing. The younger children were shrieking; the girls were running about being giggly pre-teens; and the adults were finishing their drinks and watching Liz complete the feast of the night. The new puppy, Chelsea, was fairly subdued from her usual frisky self, probably because it is her first party and the noise and running boys are a bit overwhelming. She was spending her time being cuddled by one adult at a time, going from John to Jen to Larry to me. There were snacks that I imme
diately sat and munched on cause I’m always famished when I come home.

We rounded up the kids and lit one candle and the Shamash (the lead candle) on four menorahs, and according to Maya there is one for each kid! Lighting eight candles warmed up the room so much that we finally had to turn on the air conditioner to cool us off. The two bat-mitzvah-studying girls sang the Chanukkah prayers and we adults stood back and delighted at their high but perfectly pitched voices.

Present opening was quick and furious and David (4) asked after the five minute furry, “Is that all? I don’t have any more presents…”. This part of Chanukkah equals one-for-one gift exchange and that is, in my way of thinking, less materialistic than my experience of past Christmas mornings. Spreading the Festival of Lights out over the eight days of the lighting of the menorah also spreads out the gift giving and receiving and somehow keeps more of the religious significance in the holiday. That’s the way I see it. Tracy Rich*** sees it quite differently: “It is bitterly ironic that this holiday, which has its roots in a revolution against assimilation and the suppression of Jewish religion, has become the most assimilated, secular holiday on our calendar.” I see Tracy’s point and at the same time, I am considering Chanukkah from the perspective of a person raised with Christmas and Christianity.

The feast was delicious, as usual, and the kids got to decorate dreidel cookies with electric blue frosting after dinner. Once the cookies were devoured the children resumed their running and shrieking behaviors.

Notes: In at 74.2 and out at 72.1 Kgs.
*Folkways online @
**Mick Kipp’s cayenne pepper with chocolate salsa
***Rich, T.R. (2005) Chanukkah. Retrieved online December 17th from Judaism 101 at


81) Exit the Puppy

December 12, 2006

El Milagro:
Matt cannulated me today and I sat there for my four hours being really bored. Matt was telling me all about how he has never infiltrated anyone and just basically very yacky. Later I heard him tell another patient that he is ADD and off his meds. Aha!

I had forgotten a book I was going to read and there is really not much on TV on Tuesdays, aside from the news. I thought about Wildhairs Chelsea and how much additional work is involved in having a new puppy invading the house.

I was somewhat fidgety tonight… which hasn’t happened in awhile. I think maybe I’m fidgety because there is still so much to do to prepare for having everyone over for the family Chanukah celebration next Saturday. I still have shopping to do, wrapping, getting our holiday picture session set up, taken and put in cards, etc. etc.

Later: When I got home Liz reported that the puppy has discovered how to open the crate door and escape: she was running around the house like a crazy dog when Liz and Shayna got home. Evidently she hasn't been out long, since the house is still intact. At first we thought that someone left the crate open, but upon inspection, I could tell that it is really pretty easy to knock the latch in a way that allows it to slide to the open position. You would think that some engineer in the design department woulda been able to visualize puppies opening the crate… I didn’t inspect it when we got it because I just assumed… So, we got a clip from the garage and now the door can be secured so that little terrier stays safe while we're gone!

Notes: In at 74.3 and out at 72.1 Kgs.


80) Enter the Puppy

December 9, 2006

Before going for dialysis at 1 pm (today we are all officially early so the staff can have their annual Holiday Party tonight), I drove down to Lockhart to pick up Shayna’s big Hanukkah present, a little cairn terrier puppy. The plan was to pick up the puppy, drive to Kim’s house and drop off the puppy, go to the pet store for all the puppy supplies, take the puppy supplies back to Kim’s, and then leave the puppy there unti
l next Saturday.

But, on the way back to Austin, with the puppy laying in my lap, I decided we should bring her home today, so I took the puppy to Kim’s, went to get Katie (as my co-conspirator and gift giver), went to the pet store for the puppy supplies, got the puppy from Kim, and went home.

Well, of course, Katie had to go to get ready for work at 1 and I had to be at El Milagro at 1 so there we were waiting for Liz and Shayna to get home from services…. and waiting for them some more… and trying to call
them to see what time they’d be home… and then waiting for them some more. They finally got there at about 12:30 so we had a few minutes to celebrate and watch Shayna’s surprise before getting on with the day’s business.

Shayna was surprised!

El Milagro: I got in a few minutes late and found out Matt had tried to call me in at 11 or so. Got hooked up and watched MSU beat BYU 76-61. My dad is happy and I thought of him watching while I was watching. My BP was low again at the end of dialysis (95/52) so I had to wait awhile before leaving. I’m gonna have to check with Moritz about changing my BP meds: I came in today with a BP of 105/70, without taking any meds today. Makes me wonder if I still need them.

Later: Shayna went out to a birthday sleep-over and Liz and I had tickets for Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison at the Paramount so we put the puppy in her crate and hoped for the best. When we got home at midnight, she was fine and happy to see us.

Notes: In at 74.2 and out at 72.4 Kgs.


79) French Fry Fiasco

December 4, 2006

Body Functions Ahead: This post is not for the faint of heart!

Last Night: In continuing our holiday partying, we took Shayna to see the Gizmo Guys* at the Parmount Theatre yesterday afternoon. We got outa there about 5 and decided to continue our downtown holiday revelry by going to Hut’s to eat. We celebrated with Hut’s** famous hamburgers, where I broke my diet rules (holiday hoopla) by drinking a Shiner Bock and eating FRENCH FRIES. I duitfully took my binders afterwards and all was well.

Well, at 1 o’clock in the morning, the result of my binders binding with the phosphorus made me have the urge to have a bowel movement. I ran to the toilet and began blowing out the phosphorus in the beer and fries. This continued for awhile and then I climbed back into bed to resume my snooze.

Then at 3:30 I was up and at it again. Then at 4:45 I was up and at it again. Then at 7:30 I got up… and immediately had that urge again. What a busy night my bowels had!

And, my recommendation for all of you dialysis people: Stick to your diet and don’t cheat on French fries.

Notes: *The Gizmo Guys website available online at
** The Chronicle on Hut’s available online at


78) Of Basketball and the First Holiday Party

December 2, 2006

Early Afternoon:
Matt the pierced tech called about 1 to ask if I could come in early, which was excellent, since we have Steve’s annual X-mas party to go to tonight.

El Milagro: Matt stuck me quickly and efficiently and I settled back to watch the new UT basketball team (4 freshmen and one sophomore) loose to Gonzaga by 10 points. It was okay even though we lost because it was exciting to just see the new team play… they are gonna be enjoyable to watch and they will improve over the season. They need to work on their defense but they have some shooters that are incredible (like Abrams and they have possibly the best forward in college right now in Kevin Durant, who scored 29 points. So, that’s my Longhorn Basketball Report for today!

And oh yeah…. BASKETBALL season is HERE! My favorite TV watching season of all.

Later: All the usual suspects were at Steve’s X-mas party this year (You know who you are). I didn’t get outdoors quick enough to avoid cat dander attacking me, but we still had a good time. Every year at this gathering, I get my food and drink and immediatly head out to the back patio, since these guys have about 10 cats or maybe less but my allergies tell me its at least 10. As usual, the food was great (turkey, brisket, meatballs, etc.); the visits with friends from LifeWorks were lively, and the back yard fire pit and outdoor TV watching (Oklahoma vs. Nebraska) was entertaining. An added delight was running into Ben from our Kerrville Kitchen Krew, who knows Steve from some local pub hangout.

Shayna won $20 in the annual kids’ contest, which wasn’t a counting contest this year, but holiday-related worksheets including a word-find game, brought on by a visiting teacher. The kids were somewhat disappointed about the school-like activities, but happy to win money. Later Shayna and Maya went around the house counting cats in the decorations in the lavishly-decorated house. Later they roasted marshmallows and made s'mores out by the fire. A great time was had by all... thanks Steve & Marylou!

That's it for now.

Notes: First readers, see August for a Welcome Post