Saturday, April 30, 2011

Telling Time


Maybe if I ignore him, he'll forget whatever it is and I can get some sleep.


No such luck. Forcing open my eyelids, I note that it's 2:45 AM. Sure, I'm happy to get up. Uh huh. Right away.

"What do you need, Daddy?"


"What do you need, daddy?"

"What time is it?"

"It's not quite 3AM. Would you like a drink of water?"

He does, as always, and tries to engage me in conversation about how the war's going. I try to convince him it's been over for 65 years. He's not sure he believes me.

"What time is it?"

"It's nearly three. Everybody's sleeping."

I check his oxygen to make sure it's feeding into his nose. Sometimes he removes it. I even find it around his neck blowing into his pillow some nights. Tonight it's fine. As he continues to complain about not knowing what time it is, I pick up his wrist and press the appropriate button on his talking watch.

"The... time... is... 2:54.. A.M."

"Oh, that thing is worthless!"

I'm not in the mood to comment, just get up and leave the room, returning to bed.


"I want a clock!"

Rolling over, I wake hearing that, find myself mentally answering, "so who doesn't?" Maybe he's just talking to the people who aren't there again and I'm not needed. This will be my third night (of four, so far) with badly interrupted sleep.

"I want a damn clock! C. L. O. C. K!"

Yeah, and not much anybody's going to do about that at - I again force open eyelids - 3:30 AM. I drag myself down the hall yet again and inform him of that fact as gently as I'm currently capable of under the circumstances. Meaning not very. This is not the night I raise my voice to get through to him that I need him to stop yelling so I can get some sleep because I have to work. That was the previous night. I again address his talking watch, demonstrating it for him. He insists that it's never been helpful. I retort that he's relied on it for years, but now he's an old man and getting forgetful. I wonder aloud that he can't tell by how dark everything is that it's night and everybody is trying to sleep. His response is that his nightlight makes everything so bright that he can't tell whether it's day or night. Fine, I'll remove it. Better? I also tell him that I'm going to unplug my end of the baby monitor so I won't be able to hear him the rest of the night. He will need to stay in bed and rest, try to get more sleep. I promise to get him up in the morning when it's time. By 6:30 I can manage cheerful again.

On my way home from work I stop at the store and look for a clock with large lighted numerals that he might be able to read at night. I find one with 3" characters, and we plug it in at his bedtime. Oh such foolish optimism! He forgets it's there. He can't read the numbers. Basically, he's lonely and just needs the company. He's bumped the control for his bed and his knees are up higher than his head. He wants to be moved to the bed over in the corner. All these women are visiting him....

My going to bed two hours before my usual bedtime just isn't helping, either. I can be dead-on-my-feet tired, but not ready for sleep yet. Thank heaven for weekends. I can sleep during the day when he does. Ready for another rocky night.

New Shoes

Some days shopping comes close to being a pure pleasure. Of course, it can take a bit to get to that place. Take Thursday.

I decided it was time for new shoes. After all, by this time both my regular shoes were splitting tops off soles around the toes, after a winter's worth of abuse from snow, slush, and salt. (We won't mention dirt and grime and bad smells.) Since I had the time after work, it being a miserable day for having any work, I decided to head up to North Branch to the Tanger outlet mall. They have a Bass outlet there where I've found many a pair of good shoes over past years.

Things have changed a bit. First, it's barely a shoe store anymore. Oh, there's a central shoe section in both the men's and women's sides, but about 4/5 of the store is for other clothing these days. On the good side, it doesn't take too long to decide there's nothing they have on this day to offer me, including customer service. The closest they come to what I need is a shoe with all kinds of cut-outs through the uppers, making the style a sandal mimicking an athletic shoe. Definitely not a work shoe. The few I can find come only in medium width, and at this point in my life are just not wide enough, even though I'm starting my search in the men's section.

On my way out of the store, I stop at the front counter and inquire whether they still sell wide shoes? I get back the incomprehensible answer that's it's the wrong season.

What? Did feet start to grow and shrink according to season now and somebody forgot to tell me? Why do they always forget to tell me? Why?

I've already been standing and walking on my knees too long, and put this store down on my list of only-come-back-dragged-kicking-and-screaming shopping places.

But, hey, I passed a Nike store on my way to this one, and decide to pop in there. I used to buy Nikes exclusively, until they did a major style and price change years ago. Let's try them now.

There's an immediate difference. I'm greeted instantly, asked if they can help, and directed, no, actually guided, to the person who knows my desired area. And this store is still devoted over half to shoes. Already it looks promising. Further, once I explain my parameters, I am immediately set down and brought a box of shoes that are so exactly what I'm looking for and on sale besides, that after trying them on I order two pair. I find they actually have two pair in my size in stock. None of this let's-see-what-our-other-branches-have, can-you pop-over-to-the-Albertville-branch? They're taken right up to the cashier for me.

I'll be back.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Watching Eagle Cam

I've been enjoying stealing a few minutes every day to watch the Decorah eagles. All three eaglets have survived so far, though the youngest is appreciable smaller than its two older siblings. All have started sprouting pinfeathers, making them look like they're sporting some bad skin rash. They're a long way from getting their balance on their feet. The most amusing one this morning was an older eaglet who was exercising its wings, and every time it unfurled and flapped them, it fell over on its beak.

For a moment both parents were on the nest, though the returning parent came back empty-handed, or empty-taloned if you wish. It rearranged a large stick and dug out an old carcass, striping off bits to eat. Littlest eaglet came over hoping for a bite without competition from siblings, who were busy being fed by the other parent. It looked like it scored one, but it must have been disappointing, as it turned back around to rejoin the main group. By this time, of course, the first parent who'd been feeding the others had flown off to hunt.

Without poor timing it might have no timing at all. I'm hoping for good hunting for the parents.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Worst Christmas Ever

All day yesterday my dad kept thinking it was Christmas. We told him it was Easter. Over and over.

It didn't seem to matter that it was warm and sunny outside, and we could finally (he and I together) go out on scooters up and down the city bike path. It didn't matter that snow was gone, yards greening up, frogs singing, daffodils and scillas blooming. He kept thinking it was Christmas.

We kept the day low key. I've got enough on my plate these days. There was no company, no colored eggs, no baskets of grass that winds up spread over everything. There was, however a turkey roasted in the oven, along with au gratins and mixed veggies, and just for him some cranberry jelly left from a recent meals-on-wheels lunch.

Just before heading off to bed, he made his displeasure known. This was the worst Christmas he'd ever spent. Everybody'd ignored him, nobody'd made a fuss, and he felt disrespected by everyone.

I tried to rise to my own defense. First, it wasn't Christmas, so if he was expecting presents, it wasn't going to happen. Did he remember having a nice breakfast and lunch? How about our nice ride in the scooters to enjoy the nice day? Did he remember talking to Steve about the ice clearing their bay of their lake in Bemidji and it being time to set out the loon nest? Or the nice turkey dinner he'd just finished, with him getting drumstick meat since that was his favorite? And that I'd sat next to him and the boys next to us both at the dining table?

Well, yes, he remembered all that.

So who could possibly have disrespected him? It was all those soldiers who came and went through the house, in their armor, ignoring him, helping themselves to the food, and making noise.

Oh-h-h-h-h. He'd had a very short nap. I got it now. It was a dream. But try to convince him that those rude soldiers weren't real, much less that it still wasn't Christmas. I've had to tell him so many times and in so many ways that what he thinks is reality has been just a dream, I'm convinced he doesn't trust me much any more.

On the positive side, by morning there was no recollection of any disappointment with Christmas, Easter, or any other holiday. It was just another Monday morning... after a particularly restless and noisy night, but that's another tale.


So Much for Optimism

"Well, you're wearing the perfect kind of pants."

Huh? Not that I thought to question what the radiologist was saying at that moment. I was busy taking in the information that I didn't have to remove them for my new set of knees X-rays, and busy moving into this position and that for each successive shot. Finally, though, I had to ask, "Just what are the wrong kind of pants?"

Turns out they'd be jeans or other heavy materials, stuff that might actually show up in the films, if films is the right term these days. They've gone digital, and that format is more sensitive to certain things, like jeans.

Today was my visit to the orthopedic clinic to see what might be done for my knees short of surgery. I didn't know going in what that might cost, but I was pretty sure it wasn't in the budget yet. My regular doctor had told me about cortisone injections and some other type of injections that might buy me some time. That translates roughly to having more months or years of minimal pain so I could stand to put off surgery and still live a semi-normal life, meaning better than I'm doing these days with no treatment. So I arrived with my forms filled out, my insurance cards, my photo ID, and a small dose of optimism.

My pictures were interesting. Even more interesting if they were somebody else's, but they were mine. The doctor pointed out several things. There is no longer anything keeping the knee bones from rubbing against each other. In fact, they're wearing each other down, and it's happening indentically in both knees. One may have had a several year's head start but the other one's caught up. They're so evenly matched that you could flip one X-ray over, reversed left-to-right, and lay in on the other and not tell them apart.

So. Options.

I could do nothing, just like now, and take pain killers and walk/stand as little as possible.

Cortisone injections might buy time with reduced pain, but they carry a side-effect that I can't deal with right now. Maybe in a few months.

The stuff you inject into the joint has finally been studied, and results show what my doctor suspected from his own observations and patient feedback: they work about 4% of the time. 4%! (Are you feeling lucky today?)

Surgery would mean a front incision, folding the kneecap back, shaving off the rounded bone ends to something flat, and capping with metal. Then a plastic disc would be set between them and I'd be sewn back together. Expect about 6 weeks recovery time, not till I'm all better, but until the nerves recover enough that I can safely drive again, as in moving the foot fast enough and hard enough from the gas to the brake and vice versa. About a year to full recovery, if I do my exercises religiously despite the pain. Repeat with the other knee.

Oh yeah, and figure about $30,000 per each. Plus unpaid time off work.

So yeah, I'll go right out and buy that winning lottery ticket that'll make it all feasible. Uh huh.

Needless to say, I left feeling a trifle less optimistic.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Tire Pressure

This is a head scratcher. It starts out with my getting my oil change at Valvoline late last week. They do all sorts of other checks and fills, including a tire pressure check. I know the guy did it. I watched him.

Yesterday I started the car and my tire pressure sensor light came on. I got out, ran - OK, walked slowly - around the car to see which tire was low. I could still have Richard change it for me while I took care of Daddy. I used to do those myself, but not these days with my knees. There's a whole lot of kneeling and jumping on the tire iron to loosen or tighten. All of me works better for leverage than anything I can do with my arms. I'm the one who taught the boys how to change tires, so I know they're competent.

But there was nothing to change, not that I could see. So I went on to work.

It was a very busy day yesterday, and periodically I walked around the car at stops to see how the tires were holding up. All day, perfect. Getting home late after 400 miles, I ignored the issue until today, and today they still looked fine. But since I ended my day near the Valvoline which had done the oil change, I decided to drop in on them for a "fill". This may not be exactly what they mean when they talk about their top-off policy, but I decided it fit my bill anyway. I can do this myself, and have, but again this requires more exercise to my knees than I felt like. Plus I wasn't sure where my tire pressure guage is. My glove box is a mess.

It wasn't a long wait. When I pulled in, I asked the guy to please let me know which tire was off so I could continue to keep an eye on it. In answer to his inquiry, I asked for 35 lbs. of pressure in each tire, standard on my vehicle.

The driver front tire was... 45 lbs pressure! He let some out. The passenger front was 28! He added air. The passenger rear was 30, so he added air to that too. The driver rear was 40. He fixed that as well, and I thanked him as I drove off. Neither one of us bothered to comment on the complete incompetence of whoever it was who'd worked on them days before. It was completely unnecessary. Had it been one tire low, I could well believe there might be a slow leak needing attention. But there's no way that air magically jumped into the two over-filled tires, and no excuse I can see for pressures being totally inconsistent. Just because the pressure averages to 33 lbs. per tire doesn't make them right. Besides I doubt that the guy who filled them the first time was math-savvy enough to try for that excuse. Just guessing.

I also did not hear any excuses offered or apologies rendered by the fellow who corrected the situation. Then again, maybe I ought to have the pressures rechecked by somebody else in a day or two. Could be the fix isn't. But it was enough of one that the sensor light went off after about a mile down the road.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Another Scooter

One of the few remaining joys in my Dad's life is getting out on his scooter on warm days.

Yes, I said warm days. Thus far, spring has not been cooperating. He did venture out once, with Paul accompanying him on foot, and turned around and headed home halfway through his usual route. That was the one nice day of spring so far. Two days ago he tried again, so frustrated at being penned up in the house that he was willing to ignore our inputs on the temperature outside. This time he changed his mind at the end of the driveway.

Our growing concern about his excursions, once it warms up, is that his cognition is highly variable. He can be perfectly lucid at one moment and completely loopy two minutes later. In fact that happened on his first ride, where he headed home early convinced that he had to go pick up somebody from the airport. Paul was with him, and nothing happened. He found his way back OK. But what about next time?

We've expressed these concerns to him, and while seeming to take them under advisement, he in no way indicated that he shared any of our concerns. It's not that we suggested he need to curtail his excursions, but that he needed some company on them, just in case. This would mean getting another scooter. Paul in the only one in the "family" of daytime caregivers who can keep up with him without a scooter. Rich has a bad knee, and both Steve and I have two. With a second scooter, it didn't matter who was taking care of him that day. He could still go out and he'd have company. Heck, he might even be persuaded to try other routes with someone along to guide him there and back again, and call for help if needed.

We started looking for scooters, even though he'd never officially endorsed our concerns or solution. Or so we thought, until one day his physical therapist casually mentioned that Randy (county nurse) had commented to her that Daddy had mentioned his concerns about venturing out alone to her.

I had one in mind. When Steve and I were in Florida a couple years back, we had a long conversation with a lady in line next to us who was on one. What kind was hers, how did she like it, what kind of distance did it have, how portable was it? She informed us hers was a "Go-Go" and she liked everything about it. I had looked it up in the internet after we came home, and found out that they sell for less than half of what Daddy originally paid (via Medicare) for his scooter many years ago. Cool!

Now, researching more carefully, I discovered that it's made by the same company that made his old one, Pride, and thought this said something good about lasting power. They offer a variety of options, in terms of weight capacity, weight of individual pieces, distance on a charge, price.

We also noticed a new Scooter Store in Forest Lake. I tried to stop by after work one day, but they keep bankers hours. I guess all their customers are not working, or so they think. Couldn't some of their potential customers be the working family members of someone needing a scooter?

I guess not. With those hours, I wasn't going to become a customer. However, Paul offered to stop by on his day off to see what they had, what prices were, and get information on the options so we could make a decision. They had the Go-Go, although in a sturdier model than we had thought about buying, and Paul was enthusiastic about how easy it would be to take apart and reassemble for travel in a car. However, prices were close to double what was being offered on line. He'd called the internet supplier before leaving home and found out that delivery would take about a week. With the weather forecast, we thought that would be plenty soon enough.

It should be here Friday.

Good Medical News

There's good news on two fronts. While Daddy was getting his post-hospital checkup, I asked Paul to have the doctor examine his back for a couple of weird, dark, irregular-shaped bumps that had recently sprung up. I was of course fearing melanoma. I was also wondering, if that were the diagnosis, whether we'd decide to treat it or not. Daddy's spoken several times on not wanting any more surgeries, and there would be too many days when he'd not remember the why of whatever procedures, just the pain. And wouldn't he die first from something else anyway at this point? But the word came back not to worry. That's not what they were.

Further, whatever they were, one had crusted over, dried up, and disappeared except for a red spot on the skin surface. I'd thought they'd done something to it at the hospital and hadn't bothered to mention it to me. Whatever.

The other good news is mine, and good in three ways. It was mammogram time again - OK, way past time due to lack of health insurance - and I scheduled it for last week. The first piece of good news is they use digital mammography (in a mobile truck) and this means when you get your boobs mashed, this way they don't have to mash them quite so hard. It's actually uncomfortable, not painful the way it used to be. And speaking of pain, I requested a chair for the procedure and got it! She argued with me that I'd only have to stand for 5 minutes. I told her that was 4 1/2 minutes too long. She rolled in the chair from her mini-office, the only one in the unit, and I returned the courtesy by returning the chair as quickly as possible. The final piece of good news was that the results were perfectly normal.

As expected.

I've never thought that breast cancer was a worry. True, Mom developed it, but I'm convinced that doesn't count. Not because she waited until she was in her 80s to start, and it was removed and had no recurrances. No, it was because I'm convinced that the only reason she developed it in the first place is that she was receiving HRT for years at such high levels that she was still having periods until the diagnosis, when she stopped them cold turkey. Not only that, but due to her wearing a pacemaker by then, and being unable to receive radiation treatments, she was put on a hormone blocking drug that cleaned all the estrogen out of her system. Talk about instant menopause! If you're going to do that to a system, you may as well do it to one young enough to tolerate the symptoms better!

I've never considered HRT as a desired possibility for me. Besides, I breezed through menopause almost without noticing, except for ceasing to need tampons, Halleluiah! Hot flashes? What hot flashes? I did notice a handful of what might be considered warm flashes, but I couldn't be sure. And since those pesky periods lasted until the age of 57, my body might as well do me the courtesy of sending them away gracefully!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Changes and Other Themes


Elizabeth Sladen will be missed. Don't worry, I didn't recognize the name either. The clue "Dr. Who" helped, and for even occasional fans of the series, Sara Jane Smith is a much more recognizable identifier.

I didn't become a fan of hers, or the series, until recently. Part of the problem was that my Ex, back before he was my Ex, tried to shove it down my throat. The basic attitude was anybody who is worth anything will like what he likes, and it doesn't matter if it comes on late at night when, after a full day of kids kids kids, the only thing I'm capable of appreciating is sleep.

Yeah, not sex either, at that time of night.

But recently she was in a spin-off that I caught a bunch of episodes of, "The Sara Jane Adventures." Sure, they were juveniles, but good romps nonetheless, and left me wanting to look up some of those earlier episodes. You know, someday, when I have time again.

* * * * *

Losing My Non-Tan Line

I used to be able to look at my left wrist and see just how white my skin is when it doesn't see sun for dozens of years. Even though a leftie, that's where I wore my watch. It's where everybody else wore theirs, so it just seemed that natural place for it. Nobody ever bothered to tell me that it goes on the non-writing hand so you can see it at the same time you're writing. Oh well.

But I lost my watch a couple months ago. In fact, just before I broke my hand. Then of course there was not room on my wrist for any watch to fit, should I actually have located it. So I got used to doing what the kids are doing these days, checking the cell phone for the time. (At least I know it's accurate.) It feels weird, however. And I still find myself checking my wrist for a watch that no longer resides there. At first I'd joke when I caught myself doing that in front of a customer, when I needed to enter the time of a pick-up or delivery on the log, that my watch just didn't fit any more. True, though I never had occasion to actually verify it by trying a watch over a bulky wrapped wrist.

After a couple weeks, when I'd change the wrap in the evening or morning, I'd notice that my non-tan line was disappearing into a vaster whiteness that comes from having all the skin protected from the sun. It was still perceptible, but only just. A couple weeks ago when I finally quit using any supports (I heal bones fast, I guess) on the hand, it started to darken up again. Of course, that's relative to me, not to any usual standard of dark: there's too much Scandinavian in my background. Still, there was a slim line that was slower to darken than the rest. Mostly, it's gone now, but not completely.

* * * *

Just Another Night in Paradise

It started when I arrived home from work. Daddy started in on how we needed to keep a light on in the entryway so the people who were still coming could see. Even though we told him several times that nobody else was coming, he insisted.

After we finally distracted him with his nebulizer for the evening, he started back in on lights, but this time insisting that we needed to keep them off when we weren't using them, and needed to shut off everything we could, In fact, we should all go to bed right now and turn off everything.

Yeah. Sure. Have a good night, Daddy. See you in the morning.

It should only be that simple.

I had, for several weeks now, started getting some sleep at night. Generally, one awakening needing attention, and a bit of talking to him persuaded him to stay in bed and wait for me to come get him up in the morning. I'd hear complaints about he was awake all night "for days and days" and "it was the longest night ever!" But he stayed in bed, and I got some sleep.

Last night I was just going to bed when he started calling. He wanted to know what we were going to do about all the babies.

Now last time he dreamed about babies, it was a genuine nightmare, the first actual one I've seen him have. There were all kinds of women chasing him, upsetting in itself for reasons known only to him, and they either were going to or had already started popping out babies. This upset him even more, and was one of the few times he seemed to be relieved that this was only a dream. Mostly he takes that as us calling him a liar if we tell him whatever it was, it was only a dream.

This time I worked for a while to persuade him that there were no babies, and he'd been dreaming. My level of success was emphasized by his interrupting me periodically to ask if the kids had started having babies yet, and what were we planning to do with all of them?

Finally getting him settled in again, I went to bed. Half an hour later he was yelling for me again, on the same topic. I went through another "usual" routine for us lately of asking him to please be quiet because it was the middle of the night and the rest of us were all trying to sleep. He apologized profusely for making noise, and settled down just about long enough for me to return to my bed and pick it up on the baby monitor again.

Oh goodie.

I was tempted to turn it off so I could sleep. Instead, I decided to hope it wore itself out and he'd go back to a very quiet sleep for a couple hours at least. It was a good choice.

In another couple hours, he started calling for help. Loudly. When I got to his room, Paul was already there, and Daddy was standing with his walker next to the dresser with his legs all twisted and crooked. He'd knocked his glasses from the dresser onto the floor and would likely have broken them, either with a foot or the walker foot. Paul was asking him what he thought he was doing and where he was going. I was past patience for that and just sent Paul back to sleep. Besides, I heard all about it as I helped him straighten up and work his way backwards to his bed.

First there was his I'm-such-a-charming-little-boy look that I see so often this time of night, accompanied this time by his telling me how much he loved his furry little animals.

That's nice. Sit.

Then there was apparently some dream where they had to be all put back in their cages, and he was the one to do it. Because I hadn't.

Oh. Too bad.

After about twenty more minutes, he was settled back in bed, with me asking him to please stay in bed and try to remember that anything he dreamed that made him get up was going to be just a dream so he didn't need to really get up. It was the middle of the night. It was dark. And cold. And we were all sleeping.

Trying, anyway. It would have worked better if he could actually be reasoned with at that time of night. But it was still going to be one of those nights. He chatted on for a while, and I managed to finally fall asleep, when...

"Help! Help! Help!"

I fought my way into the room with eyelids so sandpapery that I couldn't quite open them all the way, relying on my knowledge of the house and hope that nobody and left something lying out where I'd stumble over it. This time he was sitting on the far side of the bed, with the blankets all thrown off onto the near side floor. He was down by the foot of the bed but still partly wedged between the bed and the mattresses of the old bed standing along the wall. There's just no other place for them, and someday I'm going to reclaim that room, my bed, and my super-nice mattresses. Anyway, the only way for him to go was up, around the foot of the bed using the walker on the other side of the room, and back into bed from the near side. My only comment to him, other than directions for how to move, was, "I don't even want to know why this time."

When the alarm went off this morning, I just shut it off and went back to sleep. He was, after all, quiet at the moment. Not even doing the not-so-subtle loud sighing and yawning he does when he's "patiently" waiting for me to get him up, even if it's 3AM. I needed sleep and I took another hour, then quickly made coffee, set up the nebulizer, and woke Richard to take over morning wake-up. Of course, he was already sitting on the side of the bed, ready for his third excursion of the night. I just left to go shower and get myself dressed.

Just myself!


* * * *

Another Right Wing Loon

We don't usually listen to WCCO in the evenings, unless there's a ball game on for my dad. But it was playing last night when I got home, after 8PM. According to their schedule, that's when John Hines is on. Never heard of him, never want to again. Two minutes was sufficient.

His rant was on global warming, or rather, why it's not real. If you're expecting a logical base to his reasoning, well, tough. He had a different kind of answer last night, involving Charles Manson.

Huh? You ask what that creep has to do with why anybody thinks anything about global warming? That was kinda Hines' point, in a twisted way. Apparently Manson came out and made a statement in support of or in belief of global warming. Against all that's rational, it made the news. And Manson being who Manson is, Hines "reasons" that the fact that he spoke for it means it isn't valid.

Now Manson is a very broken clock, but even those can be right on very rare occasions. One just learns never to depend on them. But they're not always wrong. If Manson said water was wet, would that make it dry? If he said grass is green would that make it orange and purple? If he said the earth is round, would that make it flat?

But the biggest question of all is this: why on earth is Hines listening to Charles Manson?

It's immediately followed by: why on earth would I ever want to listen again to John Hines?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

No Poker Face

It's never a good thing when, in the middle of you doctor's exam, while she's poking and prodding, a look of alarm flashes across her face. I'm used to cheerful, helpful, explanatory, inquisitive. Not alarm. But apparently she doesn't have a poker face.

It was my first "real" physical in a few years since losing my health insurance. Now that it's back, it's time to explore a bunch of issues, check out progress/deterioration, explore options, all the while keeping in mind the budget limits of the new plan.

We were well into the exam, and this wasn't my first surprise. That was when I stepped on the scale, after setting down the pocketbook and book, removing shoes, 2 cell phones, 2 sets of keys, a pen.... Anyway, I'd lost weight since last year. And I haven't been trying. What I have noticed was my stomach seemed to fill faster lately, leaving me with my usual serving on the plate and having to put some in a leftovers container. I suspect it's related to my second surprise.

It wasn't a complete surprise. I've known for a few years not that I had a fibroid growing in my abdomen, most likely attached to if not actually growing out of my uterus. An ultrasound diagnosed it and they sized it at 11 x 13 centimeters, or about the size of a large orange. Completely benign. I used to relax on the bed on my back and be able to feel around myself and find the thing. I haven't been able to do that recently.

As she started the belly poking, I asked her if she could still find it. This is her cue to go, "Ohmigod, it's the size of a baby!" along with the aforementioned facial reaction. Just in case I hadn't gotten the clue yet, she added, "This could cause you real problems!"

There are several ways to react to that kind of news. There's the calm reflection that it's not anything malignant, so it can be - literally - lived with. There's the noting that, well, I've already lost some weight, and if they remove this, I'll lose more: cool! As well as, here I thought it was all belly fat, but I'll look a whole lot less pregnant when this "baby" goes bye-bye. There's also the thought that this might in fact be the cause of the weight loss, since judging by where her hands were finding its edges, it appears to be more vertical than not, and thus might be pushing against my stomach, thus limiting its available room for food. There's wondering about side effects, since the only other thing I've noticed about having it is that bathroom visits are more problematical and less efficient than formerly, and if I have to spell that out further, tough! No, I'm not short of breath, with a pair of knees that keep me so inactive that I have very little occasion to notice that kind of thing anyway. There's the curiosity of wondering what else she might be talking about when she says it might cause me real problems. And of course there's wondering what can be done about it on my limited budget.

Ten grand a year doesn't go very far, and there are other things needing attention too. I left the visit with a list of 6 referrals for tests and evaluations, one of which is a gynecologist to have this checked out, and find out what my options are. But that appointment is next month. I'll be patient, since I'm not really concerned, despite my doctor's reaction. That "baby" has been growing for over three years, doesn't kick, and doesn't make me throw up 18 times a day, and won't take up the next 18 years of my life parenting.

We can get along.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Listening to the Ice Move

It's unseasonably warm today, and, unfortunately, seasonably sticky, assuming the season for the latter is a Minnesota summer. I decided a remedy to Daddy's sleeping all day long would be to bundle him in the car and take a drive up to Crex Meadows to see what spring has brought.
The trip itself depended on weather, of course, and it was forecast to be perfect for such an expedition: a bulk of several afternoon hours between thunderstorms.

These days it's even more of an event than, say, last year. One O2 bottle, for example, would have sufficed then. Today he went through both and still ran out by the time he had to walk into the house. Then though it's very warm and he'd be inside the car the whole time, he insisted on having his hat. No jacket, but the more I insisted he didn't need the hat either the crabbier he became.

He got his hat.

I lost half my view out the side window.

This hat is a straw hat with a wide brim and a green plastic visor/shade extending well out over the front. I presume it's like portable sunglasses for the hat wearer. For the person nearby, it's an obstacle. Whatever.

Driving into Wisconsin, we saw the last of the snow for this season - we hope. There were mounds left in large parking lots and where there had been drifts under the north side of dense trees. Ice on the ponds is mostly or all melted, depending on their size. Ice on lakes is very black, and very broken up.

Since this is about ice, I won't bore you with trumpeter swans sightings, or sandhill cranes, harrier hawks, Canada geese, loons, mallards, buffle heads, redwing blackbirds, courting frogs, pussy willows, bad roads, or any of the other things the camera and I found interesting. These are common at Crex. But there was one thing that was new to me today.

I always go by Phantom Lake when I enter the area. Today there were few birds there since the lake was still mostly ice covered. However, as I proceeded through, I soon realized it wasn't as simple as a solid sheet. The lake was covered by a combination of large solid sheets and areas covered in floating ice bits. If you sorted out the textures for a bit, you could soon easily tell which was which.

Especially if you stood still.

There was a stiff south wind blowing, and the large sheets were moving north, pushing their way between other sheets through gaps of open water left from other sheets moving by. The big sheets were in turn pushing the small bits out of their way, and where gaps were narrow, that meant pushing them up onto adjoining sheets.

Where the bits floated on the water, they were as black as the big sheets, just lumpy and uneven in texture. Where they got pushed up out of the water, they instantly turned white, even in the lower light levels of a still very cloudy day. And if you were very quiet, with the car engine turned off and conversation stilled, you could hear the gentle tinkling of the ice bits colliding and shoving and piling up.

Good ears of course helped. Daddy no longer can hear soft things with higher pitches, so he missed the ice music. While he sat and watched the large sheets move, I stood, and photographed, and listened. Just listened.

And wished I'd thought to bring the camcorder too.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Raptor Cams

If you want to watch eagles and other birds on the nest without risking an eye or a broken leg, check out this.

Monday, April 4, 2011

And... Home

Whew! Only 6 days in the hospital this time. That is, if he doesn't alarm his doctor again at his 1-week-past checkup. He seems better though, than he did then, back in early December. I'll chose to be optimistic.

So, in Monday, out Saturday. I convinced the doctor that his lying around a few more days wasn't going to help him in the long run. He needs to move around, and for his mental acuity, he needs to be home in familiar surroundings. His mind sharpened midway through his stay,and then went wandering again. He's been as sharp as we expect these days since he got home. (Translation: he generally knows where/when he is and who we are, and how to manipulate his environment like raise and lower his lift chair.) He's also slept most of his time home. He'll get up to get dressed and relocate, take his nebulizer, and then nap before breakfast, nap after breakfast, wake for lunch, nap... I guess it's good for him. His wakeful time seems to be late afternoon and early evening when he can hear a Twins game or watch taped episodes of Minnesota Bound or Nature with his nose a foot from the TV. Saturday night he slept through. Last night he woke once. Tonight?

We'll see.