Saturday, May 09, 2015

A surprise for Mother’s Day

I am not expecting flowers for Mother’s Day, and that’s OK, because I have some spectacular flowers that have appeared just in time for the occasion.

In November 2012 my dearly beloved bought me an orchid. I don’t remember now what the occasion was. It could have been a belated birthday present or it could have been simply because he loves me and knew I wanted an orchid.

The blooms lasted a long time, but eventually they died and dropped off the stalk. I trimmed the stalk back, and began taking care of the plant as best I could by trying to follow the information I found on the Internet.

And the plant just mostly sat there for 2-1/2 years. A new leaf would appear occasionally, and an older leaf would shrivel and drop off, but that’s about it. Richard said if it were him, he would have given up a long time ago and tossed the plant.

I am very glad that I persevered and did not give up. About a month ago I noticed that the plant was starting to send out something that did not look like the air roots (or whatever they are) that stick up out of the potting mix.
Could this be a bud stalk? I began to get rather excited.

And then I noticed little buds were forming on the stock, and then and got really excited…. and then…. and then… within the last week…
We aren't going out for dinner tomorrow. Instead, I am making one of my favorite meals, which  I cook in the crock pot. It starts with a layer of potatoes cut in quarters, on top of that goes an onion cut in quarters, and on top of that a bell pepper cut in quarters. Italian sausage is placed on top of the vegetables, and tomato sauce is poured over with Italian spices and Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

Mother's Day can be a minefield for someone whose mother has died and whose child has died. But enough time has passed that I can enjoy the day without falling apart. So tomorrow I will celebrate the life of my wonderful Mother, who was a wonderful example of how to be a mother, and will reflect on the years that I had the privilege of being a mother myself, and most of all, will celebrate my husband who was kind to give me a gift that has kept on giving.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Will anybody feed the kitty?

We are reasonably sure our little Squeaker has developed a megaesophagus, which means if she eats too much to quickly it all comes back up before it ever reaches her stomach. She was already small to begin with, and she has lost weight. Our first cat developed a megaesophagus and we ended up having to put her to sleep because she was starving to death and we couldn’t stand it.

Actually, we don’t know for sure whether Squeaker has a megaesophagus because that involves a barium study, and we are not in the mood right now to spend the money on the cat (hint: our co-pay for 4 months for the osteoporosis drug I have been prescribed was $2500.)

So in the meantime, we remembered what the vet told us to do to try to keep our first cat alive and so first we made her a platform to eat off of...

but that was too much of a temptation for the dog, so we have rigged up a “feeding platform” for the Squeaker...

and we have bought canned cat food which she doesn’t have to chew--she tends not to chew the dry cat food which makes the vomiting even more frequent. With this system we have rigged up she seems to be getting enough down and is holding her own, at least for now.

The canned cat food has a powerful odor and neither one of us neither one of us particularly likes smelling it, and neither of us leaps up with alacrity to feed the kitty.

So one of us will ask: “Will anybody feed the kitty?

And the other one responds, “No, I won’t feed the kitty.”
But we do, of course, feed the kitty.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The tea tree

The blog goes strangely silent while I work through yet another health problem.

So much has gone wrong with me since January that I have reached and passed the point that I just do not want to write about it any more. I can see myself turning into this person that other people take one look at and run in the opposite direction so they don't have to hear the latest medical problem. I used to know a woman like that -- you said "Hi, how are you" and she told you exactly how she was and how her children were, and...once I did cross the street and go into a store when I saw her at the other end of the block heading toward me so I would not have to talk to her and hear the latest. 

So when a person really is "not OK", the standard greeting that people give each other…

Hi. How are you?

...becomes a loaded question.

Do they really want to know how I am? Well, if they are close friends or family then yes, probably they do, but not the stranger that I passed on my walk in the park the other day who said  “How are you?” and I said “I’m great,” or even the casual acquaintance that I see at the post office or in the check-out line at the store.

So, “I am fine” is good enough for now. And in a very real sense I am “fine.”

In the meantime, with a perfectly straight face, he says, “Did you know our tea tree is blooming?”

Tea tree?

If we have a tea tree it is news to me. “Come on, he says, “I’ll show you.”

So I trail after him as he heads toward the compost heap.

 “Look,” he says, “the tree is just about ready to harvest.”

And then he bursts into laughter.

We drink a lot of green tea, and the used bags go into the compost bucket, which in turn is thrown on the compost heap. And there is a bush right next to the spot, and the inevitable happens.

A tea tree indeed.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Some Odds-and-Ends on an Orangish Afternoon

What would otherwise be a bright blue sky on a beautiful Spring day has instead turned to a rather peculiar orange-colored sky because the smoke from a 100-plus acre controlled burn started by the Conservation Department southwest of town is billowing into the air and is obscuring the sun, which is headed in that direction.

A friend who reads this mentioned when I spoke with her last night that all she sees is the “I am not a robot post.”

Well, that is because since Monday last I have been operating on a back-up Windows 7 computer because the motherboard on my XP workhorse died. True, I should really not be using the XP for a variety of reasons, but I prefer the way Word is configured on that operating system. In any event, the Windows 7 computer was not quite set up for blogging or Face Booking, and I was too preoccupied trying to get up to speed on Word 2007 that I did not feel like tackling social media too.

Over the weekend I just about finished Friday...

the 1982 novel by Robert Heinlein. This novel happens to be about a woman who is also not a robot but is instead is what is referred to as an artificial person, she is human and even has the capability of reproducing in the normal way, but did not come herself into the world in the usual way, and so faces certain discrimination because of her status.

What continues to amaze me about the science fiction writers is that they had such good imaginations that the things they invented in their novels often came to pass in real life.When Heinlein wrote this novel, the Internet existed but not in the format it is today and not with the graphic interfaces and speed that we currently enjoy. Nevertheless, his character is able to access libraries and watch concerts and videos of events that happened “10 years earlier ” (her time, which is appears to be rather far in the future).

Which leads me to the real reason for this post. When I began having trouble with my back in January and it gradually became apparent what was wrong and what might be done about it, my sweet sister-in-law Donna, wife of my youngest brother,  who has had some trouble with her back...
warned me not to go on the Internet and look up stuff about it. I did not exactly follow her advice at first, and then realized she was "spot on."

Well, most recently, last Tuesday in fact, I started having a problem with my lower leg. Unfortunately, I have spent years (years, I tell you) editing medical manuscripts for a vascular surgery journal and for a group of vascular surgeons at a teaching hospital in The Netherlands. How many manuscripts have I worked on outlining problems with deep vein thrombosis, blood clots, peripheral arterial disease, critical limb ischemia, claudication, and aneurysms of arteries in the lower leg? More than I can count. Does one have a tendency to become a hypochondriac in those circumstances? You betcha.

To back-track a bit, some years ago a bulgy lumpy thing formed at the back of my knee. It did not hurt and it did not bother me in any way, it was just there. By this time I had developed a very cordial relationship with the supervising vascular surgeon in The Netherlands, and so I sent him an e-mail in which I described the lumpy thing and asked his opinion. He said it sounded to him like it was a Baker’s cyst and did not suggest that it needed treatment. And I promptly forgot that exchange, until today.

Between Tuesday night, when I discovered my lower leg just didn’t hurt (I thought it was a strained muscle from overdoing the chair exercises at aerobics on Monday) was also swollen and yesterday, I was fairly convinced I had a blood clot or an aneurysm and was going to end up in the hospital undergoing some sort of bypass operation or and perhaps I'd even be dead from a pulmonary embolism, except I wasn’t convinced enough to go to the emergency department. And of course, none of the possible explanations for the symptoms I was having mentioned what I no doubt probably have.

I did, however, present to Not-a-Doctor Bob this morning and I described the bulgy thing that used to be in the back of my leg and he felt my leg carefully and said, “I think you have a ruptured Baker’s cyst.” The only way to tell for sure is to do an ultrasound. We have a guy that comes here or you can go to the hospital.”

I decided I would see the ultrasound guy at the clinic and forgo going to the hospital for the scan. So, I am going to assume that Not-a-Doctor Bob is correct and that I am not going to drop dead between now and next Monday from a pulmonary embolism.

Stay tuned!

Friday, March 20, 2015

I am not a robot

Suddenly appearing on the "Comments" window is the "I am not a robot" widget.

I didn't think anything about it until I was visiting another blog which has the "I am not a robot" widget and I wanted to leave a comment but before I could, I was made to try to type the words, one of which is so distorted it can scarcely be read.

I hate that.

So just out of curiosity, I tried leaving a comment on this blog and sure enough, I was made to type the distorted words.

I really hate that.

I didn't ask to have "I am not a robot" and I am not sure if I can make it go away.

I'll try.

I get so few comments as it is, I hate the idea that someone who just might want to leave a comment is discouraged from doing so by being made to jump through the "I am not a robot" hoop..

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Eye of the beholder?

This morning when I took Mollywog for a walk in the park, a freight train pulling mostly boxcars came down the tracks next to the park and gradually slowed until it was stopped on the siding to wait for another train coming in the opposite direction.

I noticed that with perhaps one exception, every boxcar that I could see on this long train had become the canvas for graffiti artists. I stood mesmerized while Mollywog snuffled and sorted at a ridge made by mole. I was stunned at how beautiful some of these freehand drawings were/

Art? Yes, I think so. Vandalism? Yeah, that too.

But definitely food for thought: Who decides what is art?

When I was a child, we spent a lot of time at the LA County Museums that were part of the Coliseum complex in downtown Los Angeles. It was only perhaps a 10-minute drive down the freeway from our house and admission was free back then. My folks were very clever at finding free things to do to amuse their four children and we went there often. Back in the day, before the LA County Art Museum had been built some miles away down on Wilshire Blvd by the La Brea Tar Pits, all of the art in the collection was housed in the Natural History Museum. I loved looking at the beautiful paintings.

One incident I have never forgotten took place after Dad and I climbed the stairs and came into a gallery with a number of sculptures, including one that was a large collection of scrap metal that had been welded together. There were lots of large and small car parts in the creation--tail pipes, mufflers, engine parts, transmission parts, that sort of thing.

Now my Dad, who was an automobile mechanic, had a finely tuned sense of what was “art” was and what was “not art,” and like Justice Potter would say not too many years later in the landmark Supreme Court case on obscenity “"I know it when I see it.” Well, Dad had handled many of the objects in this sculpture day in and day out, and he knew art when he saw it, and he had an opinion about this particular piece of art.

What a piece of junk!

 And he wasn’t exactly whispering when he said it, either. But as the cliche goes, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. 

Now, this is a perfect point to insert a video essay by the late great Molly Ivins about fine art in the great state of Texas. Do take a few minutes and watch it. 

It is just too bad that the skills of these extremely talented young people who are vandalizing the boxcars can’t be channeled into something that isn’t against the law.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Pushing too hard?

Last Friday I spent 3+ rather miserable hours at a consult with an interventional radiologist about my back. How miserable? Oh have mercy. Let me count the ways (no, on second thought, I won’t).

I realize that the competence of a physician and his or her skill at diagnosing and treating disease has nothing to do with the person’s personality. But it is a bit easier to warm to a physician—or a Physicians Assistant, such as Not a Doctor Bob, who takes care of my basic medical needs, who is loving and pleasant and kind, even when I am a “bad patient”—than it is to one who is the archetype of “I am the physician, I am God. You are the patient, and this is what you will do.”

Unfortunately, the physician who I was consulting about my back was something of an arrogant bully.

However, as much as I did not like him very much, I acknowledge that he does seem to know his business. Because the level of pain in my back has subsided a great deal—I have not had to take a heavy-duty pain pill for almost 2 weeks—he believes that I do not need the vertebroplasty that was being proposed, at least not for the time being.

Vertebroplasty is a procedure in which the interventional radiologist sticks a needle into the bone and injects a plastic cement to shore up the bone.

Instead, he is more concerned about stopping the progression of the osteoporosis in my spine, which is fairly advanced, and maybe even rebuilding the bone.

Now a few days before this appointment, Not a Doctor Bob gave me a list of all the available treatments for osteoporosis so I could research it out and decide which one I wanted to do. The very last one he listed was a particular drug that must be injected every day. I immediately decided I did not want to use that medication. 

Dr Bully happens to believe that that very drug is the best one to stop the process, and so he sent me home with a 28-day supply of it and I received instructions on how to do the injection.

"Now don't press the needle in too hard," the nurse says, "you don't want to cause a bruise."

I have been injecting myself for a week, and it is not a big deal after all. The needle is tiny—about as thick as a sewing thread and maybe a quarter-inch long—but nevertheless, I have a some spectacular bruises decorating my belly. I can barely feel the needle going in and I guess I am pressing too hard.

Good thing my belly is not on public display.