189) Back in the Saddle Again

November 29, 2007

El Milagro:
Rosie cannulated me tonight, putting me in the corner that she thinks is my quiet seat for writing. I've got this old Gene Autry song rolling in my head as I return to blogging after my break... "I'm back in the saddle again, out where a friend is a freind..."

Dr. Rowder and crew are making rounds and I hear laughter and his explanations and "takes" on things as he moves around the cattle...., er.. I mean patients. Jennifer the Dietician is back from her honeymoon and seems quite animated... and, Monica the Nurse is taking up the rear quietly and professionally. There's no social work component tonight. When they get to me, Rowder reports that my phosphorous "is great" again and we all nod agreeably that it really must've been Luis's fault for feeding me all the wrong things last time I was in Laredo. Cheese is the culprit for me it seems. Jennifer the D. has been researching the varieties of brie, which is supposedly alright to eat.

I am working on a writing assignment here lately so that keeps me too busy to pay much attention to the goings on in the center.

ABC News comes on and I watch... of interest: 5000 kids in Austin are homeless. So then Isleep a little, and then watch Survivor. My guy gets voted off tonight so that is not so good. He was snookered by people he thought he could trust. Does that sound familiar in the ongoing relationship between the races?

I finish up about last again... right about 1/2 way through Gray's Anatomy, which is still seeming too soapy and lame to watch closely. Maybe I am getting ready to snuggle in at dialysis with a new book.

Notes: In at 75.6 and out at 72.7

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188) Thanksgiving?

November 21, 2007

El Milagro: Okay, so it's been awhile since I posted. I did make some notes thru this down time but as I look through them, it's "same ole, same ole..." This week we here at El Milagro are on the turkey-day-schedule, with MWF's coming in on STF and TTS's coming in on MWS. I was in Dallas on Monday, so I am a TWT this week.... wierd coming in on Tuesday and Wednesday but here I am. I weigh in at 75.2... I gained 1 pound since last night!

Today I'm ready to post because I'm thinking about how some old friends of mine aren't going to have a Happy Thanksgiving. Their 17 year old daughter was rushing out from home to take an AP test at her high school at 8 in the morning. It was drizzly that
day and she was in a hurry. Within a couple miles from home she slid around a curve into the path of a pickup truck and they collided... and Helena was killed in the wreck. Her brother was my son's best friend all through Montessori school and our families had many fine times together at soccer games, Montessori events, and various kid birthday parties. Katie knew the younger daughters and was the first one to go to visit after Helena's departure. I hadn't seen Helena in years, remembering her as a gawky pre-teen and having even better memories of her as a toddler with her diaper hanging off her little butt like the Coppertone girl, and Helena wandering onto one of the soccer fields of our memories. So, mostly I feel for her parents; Jerry and Sue. Jerry and I, over the years, have run into each other around town, usually in our trucks, stopping to say "Hi" and catch up mostly on Nick and Johnny's adventures. At this time, however, I am thinking mostly of Sue and I can imagine how horrible it must be to be dealing with this loss. I remember parents who've had their kids die saying "A parent always expects to die before their children... and when a child dies first, it is a terrible thing." I can't imagine how she feels. I picture her hearing the sirens and worrying about Helena who rushed out and didn't even say "goodbye", her motherly intuition telling her something is wrong (I heard from Katie that she intuited that it was Helena when she heard the sirens).

We have these descriptive metaphors in our society about death… crossing the great water; crossing Jordan, crossing to Valhalla, etc. And there are the metaphors of loss… cast adrift in a lonely sea of darkness… I seem to recall this painting by Paul Klee that has this forlorn person standing in a boat in a night-time sea. When I try to find that painting it eludes me: it is only a memory of a feeling. I suspect that my longings for Klee’s painting are an innocuously allegorical illustration of loss that I find “acceptable”. I want those feeling represented by something of value and paintings immediately come to mind. I also want to offer out to ether a metaphor that Jerry & Sue can grab onto, knowing full well that there is no real way to step into their moccasins right now.

A death in the family immediately changes all your plans. It sweeps clean your brain and your schedule and takes over on all your cognitive and emotional levels. All your little plans and the things you thought were important just hours before are swept off the burners, trashed, and no longer seem of any relevance at all. The shock puts you directly in the present with your thoughts and feelings. I imagine all the things that may have seemed important to Sue until she found her daughter dead... and how that fact and the attendant shock swoops in and overwhelms everything else in a way nothing else can. Just imagining stepping into her shoes makes me shudder. I can't even really associate into what I hallucinate is her state without shuddering. But, when I see my own big kids I want to hug them close. So, my commiseration about Sue, Jerry, Nicky, and Adrian and their pain and despair in their loss acts as a backdrop for the usual festive celebrations of our own family Thanksgiving.

I want to cherish every droplet minute of the holiday and want to notice and archive each fleeting nuance... Uncle John takes pictures but they don't capture my perspective so even as I review the pics, I am not satisfied. It is a somewhat uncomfortable thing to be in my current space. As the surface moves along affably I am grouchy underneath. I don't want to take it out on my family and yet I find myself being less than sensitive to my own people.

For example, when my dad and aunt came up for our traditional after-turkey-day brunch I was more interested in my work on the back 40 than on visiting with the company. I actually loved the seating of the whole family (minus Katie who was working) at the table of luscious lox, bagels, herring and cream sauce, kosher salami and all the fixin's, seeing everyone visiting and catching up with each other... Johnny sharing about working at UNT; Lizzie showing Shayna pictures; and even Carol telling stories about the current horrors of working for the State Comptroller. As they were all enjoying the food and fun I couldn't help thinking about how it probably compares with my hallucinations about Sue & Jerry’s current state.

And so, amidst this disconcerting medley of thoughts and feelings, I pass another Thanksgiving and into the fall and winter.
So it goes.


187) Election Day

November 6, 2007

Voted for 11 of the 16 constitutional amendments for adding to Texas' already huge constitution... I've heard it is the biggest of all states. Of note: we voted "No" on amendment # 10, abolishing the authority for the office of inspector of hides and animals; agreeing with the Chronicle's recommendation, "Is this Texas or whut? Remember the Alamo!"

El Milagro: So… another day, another cleansing. I arrive late after stopping by the house to check on the guys building the fence for our ‘back 40’. It is almost done and looks great… another of those plans that has been in the planning phase for about 8 years now. Rosie the Tech pokes me and I settle in to read the Kellogg’s Foundation guide to developing Logic Models (for work). I read, watch the news, watch NOVA’s show on the history of Sputnik, and doze for awhile before leaving for home. So it goes.

Notes: In at 75.8 and out at 72.4
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186) Fall Back For More Daylight

November 3, 2007

Morning @ Home: There is no soccer today! They played last night and Shayna SCORED!!! And, Kick Kats won, 8 to 0! Shayna's score came on her third try; two of which were from corner kicks by Kiki, where Kiki sent the corner kick into the area in front of the goal. On the score, Shayna wrestled with about three defenders and slid the kick through them and past the goalie. She immediately threw up her arms and ran outa the goal cheering. All of us on the sidelines who'd watched her miss those last three tries, yelled too. Shayna said on our walk to the field t
hat she likes playing night games... so I guess we need more of them. So today is a lazy house day so far: reading the paper, making pancakes, and finally calling Phyllis the Nurse to find out what time I can come in today. Anytime is fine for me today, since UT is playing on ABC @ 2:30. Phyllis gives me a 1:30 time.

El Milagro: I’m a little late and walk in quickly to find my favorite corner chair waiting for me. I sit for awhile watching the staff hurriedly rush around doing their jobs until Rosie the Tech comes over to hook me up… and I have forgotten my weight, so I have to go back out to the weighting room to see what I wrote down on the weight chart. “73.8… 73.8… 73.8… 73.8” I say to my ADD self over and over as I walk back to the corner and then Rosie is off adjusting someone else. Soon she returns and I hav
e remembered and I say assuredly “73.8”. She quickly cannulates me and takes off to do something else, while Phyllis the Nurse comes over to measure my vitals and hear my chest. No comments today about puffy face or ankles. Today the guys in the place are waiting for the UT / OSU game, which will be starting in about 40 minutes. I look around and about 7 or 8 TV’s are tuned into ABC, which is showing the ESPN games today. In the paper this morning it seems like most people think OSU will beat UT. Even the ESPN commentator picks the Cowboys.

My machine’s beeper goes off and Phyllis comes over and guesses that Rosie was so quick that she didn’t check the venous needle good enough and it needs to be turned to get it off the side of the vein, which will make the machine happier. It goes off again and Monica the Nurse comes by to push the ‘stop beeping button’. She too says Rosie should come back and re-adjust… and moves off to do something else. Herman the Nurse is the only one of their ilk who’ll actually mess with the poking of people, it seems. Rosie comes by pretty soon and just glances over and the machine hasn’t beeped again and I don’t call her over to give me a little PAIN as she adjusts the needles… and so it goes.

As I watch all the pre-game TV hoopla I think about the fall season and the upcoming time change tonight. I think it is funny that the time change is one of those things that the society still does, even though scientists now know that it is not healthy for people. We started this daylight savings time (DST) thing with an idea of economical savings written in an essay by Ben Franklin in 1784.* The first DST law was enacted in the US in 1918 and made into a uniform application in 1966. These laws have been revised in ’72, ’86, and ’05, even though there has been mounting evidence since the early ‘70’s that DST is actually unhealthy for human beings. According to Rick Weiss** “Artificial illumination is fooling the body's biological clock into releasing key wakefulness hormones at the wrong times, contributing to seasonal fatigue and depression. And daylight saving time, extended by Congress this year for an extra four weeks, risks dragging even more Americans into a winter funk.” This is not good. Scientists in a number of fields of study (not dissimilar to the scientists who announced the difficulities of global warming years ago) have produced empirical studies that show that from the psychiatric perspective extending daylight is a bad decision because it inevitably leads to more depr
ession, mood disorders, seasonal affective disorders (SAD), and perhaps even an increase in seizures (related to fluorescent flicker). "WOW", I think to myself as I contemplate all this.

Dave Crawford from the International Dark-Sky Association*** ponders, "If we sprayed water all over the place here in the desert, we'd be put in jail. So why is it okay to spray light all over the place at night?… More than half of all mammals spend most of their waking hours at night or twilight, including teenagers. Light is fine -- in the day… We're trying to bring to everyone's attention that there is a night." I personally have always loved the dark sky.
My memories take me back to standing on a mesa overlooking the Pecos River outside of Rowe, NM in the middle of the night. The air is brisk to the point of chill on my blanket and I stand there wishing I’d put on my pants, looking out over the Pecos valley below, with the broad expanse of the universe above the sharp whip of winds. Looking up, the sky is so deep and star-filled that I can see vast rivers of stars so thick they almost look like sparkle clouds… reminiscent of Van Gogh’s Starry Night. Standing there became a life-long memory that I can bring to the fore even today and it is probably 35 years later. I believe this is the sky we should try to protect. When John and Katie were kids I took them camping up in the Lincoln Forest. They too saw those New Mexico skies and I hope those are life-long memories for them.

Okay… so now it is time for the UT game. I get all ready and line up my dum dum lollipops that Shayna gave me from her Halloween take. “Oh Boy”. Texas kicks off to OSU and they march right down the field and score. Then UT gets the ball and on the first play Colt falls back to flip a short pass out to Nate Jones and it goes over his head into the arms of a happy Cowboy who runs it in for a score… 14 zip against us. “$s%>!!” What a bad start. It gets worse. By half time we are down 28 – 14. What a lousy showing. Kurt Bohls and the announcer guy from ESPN who said Texas would loose are right! We can’t beat these guys. What a miserable day. I snooze through halftime, trying to lower my raising BP.
The third quarter comes and I watch them score again and we are down 21 points again. I’m having a sad time here today… but I keep watching. Then in the fourth quarter that boy McCoy decides to run it himself… for 17 yards. That’s a lift. Then Texas moves down the field from the 5 and Charles dashes 75 yards for a TD. And then Colt passes to Shipley for a 60 yard run and with two minutes left we’re tied at 35! We’re back in it and now I just know we’ll win, having caught up 21 points for the second time in this game. With a minute left our soccer boy, Ryan Bailey kicks a field goal and WE WIN, 38 to 35. Do I feel sorry for those OSU fans who were so delirious in the third quarter? Nope. I feel just great and it is a good day today. I leave dialysis feeling just fine… and go home and take a long nap.

Notes: In at 73.8 Kgs. and out at 72.1 Kgs.
* Douma, M. (nd) Daylight savings time. Webexhibit. Retrieved online November 2007 from the Webexhibits website, (a public service of the Institute for Dynamic Educational Advancement [IDEA]), at http://webexhibits.org/daylightsaving/

** Weis, R. (2007, October 30) Seeing the light of day. Washington Post. Retrieved November 2007 from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/26/AR2007102602479.html?nav=emailpage

*** International Dark-sky Association available on the web at http://www.darksky.org/


185) The Immorality of War

November 1, 2007

El Milagro: I have to wait for about 10 minutes today, after walking in and walking completely around the perimeter of the place and finding no empty chairs. Hum. Must be they’re not ready for me yet. I go back out to the weighting room and sit in a chair along with the other eight people. Soon Gabe the Tech calls me in and I’m in the far corner. I sit and Gladys the Tech is already there fiddling with machine. She asks my weight, figures the figures and pokes me with her long slender fingers that always remind me of some teacher or nurse out of the depths of my memories of childhood… there is something about those fingers… I ask her to send Phyllis over before she leaves for the day.

So, pretty soon Phyllis the Nurse comes over and listens to me and checks my FACE for puffiness. I have a Fine Face today. I ask her to explain the whole deal about another round of Hep B shots. She reports to me in her usual evolution of history format: Most people on dialysis do not keep their immunity to Hep B because of the nature of their depressed immune systems. So, mostly they have to have two rounds of the shots over about two years in order to be safe… although, “there are no Hep B patients in any Austin facilities except one of Moncrief’s. They put them all together now. In the old days… blah blah blah…” and dialysis patients get a 40 ml slug which is way more than non-dialysis people get. The score of 5 is lower than the level that is “immune” from Hep B... the immune level score is 10 or greater… and Phyllis thinks it is pretty normal for someone like me to have to have two rounds, since most dialysis people do. Has nothing to do with anything but the norm… in other words I am in the Bell part of the curve. I tell her to tell Ms. Celeste to poke me a shot today. Phyllis comments on my account of trying to talk to Celeste in a way that makes me realize that the problem is not totally mine.

So today I’m listening to a report on NPR-ATC about Paul Tibbets* dying at 92. Anyone remember this guy? I do. I read about him on and off throughout my life becau
se I always thought the part he played in the evolution of war was quite interesting. He was the pilot of the Enola Gay in 1945 that dropped the first A Bomb and blew the poop outa Hiroshima. He always maintained, in response to folks who said using the bomb was “immoral”, that that argument was ridiculous… “All war is immoral so you can’t select out one act as more immoral.” He claimed too that he was no different than anyone else in that war… following orders. He’s no more guilty of immorality than any one person on any side who follows orders. Only on the grandest level do any of these folks fight for their national values. On the personal level most soldiers wrestle with their personal values versus following orders, I suspect.

I remember counseling with an Air Force pilot once in therapy. He felt terribly guilty about doing his job bombing villages and “military targets” in North Viet Nam and knowing that he was inevitably killing civilians and people who were not part of the “enemy”. He couldn’t access those memories of flying without bringing up nauseous and emotionally distressing feelings. We taught him how to think of these things without ‘associating’ into the memories so he could access them without the associated feelings (called dissociation). When he associated into the memories, he remembered them as if he was actually there, seeing and feeling what he saw and felt then. By learning to dissociate the memories, he was able to see them from a perspective outside the memory, which allowed him the ability (distance) to view them from a neutral point of view. The advantage of using dissociative thinking is to review memories and label them from your present knowledge rather than having to have the old feelings attached whenever you bring up the memory. The client thought this was a wonderful change in that now he can think of those times and put his current perspective on them, which is more like remembering that he was following orders and that in the long run he was not responsible for his actions personally. For him, this was a good reframe that was only possible once he could access the memories in a more neutral way.**

At 7 I watch Survivor and they put the two tribes together tonight which gives my guy more of a chance to survive. Gray’s Anatomy is the usual fluff and Gladys unhooks me in time for me to rush home to see Without A Trace. Another Thursday TV nite completed.

Notes: In at 74.7 and out at 72.4 kgs.
* Siegal, R., & Block, M. Pilot of Enola Gay had no regrets for Hiroshima. Retrieved online November 2007 from the NPR website: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=15858203
** Lee Lady. Mental imagery: Association and dissociation. Retrieved online November 2007 from http://www2.hawaii.edu/~lady/archive/submod-3.html

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