Friday, July 22, 2016

The Reverent Atheist

It is very gratifying for a mom to have an adult son who lets her know he thinks she knows a thing or two about a thing or two.

Currently the discussion revolves around politics. And boy scouting. Rich was a boy scout for several years. He's taken a lot of his values system from that experience. How it comes into play right now is in a Facebook discussion with a Trump supporter, anathema to Richard. This  person is also a former boy scout, in fact an Eagle Scout, a rank which requires a lot of work to earn. Rich is trying to use those values in his discussions to persuade this guy how opposite to those scouting values the guy he supports is. Occasionally he emerges back into the analog world to pick my brain.

We've had several long discussions. As part of them, Rich tells me he's picked up most of the scouting values himself as ones to live his own life by, at least as well as he can.  Nobody's perfect, we all know. But he tries.

There is just one area where he can't see himself following the scout rules: reverence. Loyal, thrifty, brave, all the rest he has no problem adopting. But he sees reverent as an issue because he considers himself an atheist.

We examined that for a while. The oath itself doesn't say a boy scout is Christian. Nor Jewish. Nor Muslim, Bhuddhist, Taoist, Shinto, Hindu, Wiccan, or a member of and believer in any particular theology. The word is specifically "reverent." Not even "religious." Just "reverent".

He agreed.

I had a couple more questions for him. Did he respect the world around him and the things in it? You know, trees, mountains, birds, clouds, all that?

Yes, he did. Of course.

Did he feel a sense of awe at how the world was all put together along with the universe it inhabited?

Oh yes, it was overwhelmingly awesome.

Well, that's reverence.

You've got it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Motel 6: Good, Bad, and...

We use Motel 6 a lot. Inexpensive, dog friendly, fairly ubiquitous. There have been issues, like the Raton, NM room with no heat because they were going "green" while it snowed outside. Or thin walls while a hoard of drunken party animals roamed like zombies hunting their latest victims. But mostly they've been good to us.

This time "good" was two out of three. Albuquerque off Coors road: great! Lincoln off whatever exit (403?) of I-80, great!

Denver will never be forgotten. Never. Because Denver, despite reservations, didn't happen.

One of the first things I always request is a handicap accessible room. This usually involves a definition of terms: what exactly meets our standards? No stairs? High toilet and wall safety bars? Walk-in or roll-in shower in a "wet room"? There are times we can be a bit flexible. Some mornings we can skip a full immersion shower if everything else works for us, for example.

We arrive at our motel, the one at I-70 and Federal Blvd., and I go stand in line, 4th to be waited on. Not comfy, but I get the need for it. Once at the counter I'm prepared with the necessary cards and confirmation number. Only thing is, the dufus who took the reservation forgot to check the box that says handicap accessible.

Well, let's try to adapt: 1st floor?


But the totally understanding clerk at the desk offers us a room on the 3rd floor. No elevators, of course. She seemed completely surprised when I flatly refused with one word: "Impossible!"

She did offer to check the other two in the chain in Denver, so I waited a bit more. Nope, full up. Something about a big soccer event in town. How much were we willing to spend? She could locate us a room near the airport (fyi an hour back on the rush hour choked freeways we'd already traveled to reach this motel) for a mere $600. Dogs might be extra, of course. I walked out, as coolly as I could under the circumstances.

Hey guys, take a hint: if we're traveling using Motel 6, by what stretch of your idiot imagination might we be willing to consider a $600 room?

We sat in a parking lot on the phone with a Motel 6 national reservation number. They tried to be helpful. For about an hour. We decided we were in shape to keep heading up the road, winding up in Greeley at a Days Inn. The gal on the Motel 6 line claimed she found us - and per her manager's authorization, reserved us - a room there. I asked for the Days Inn phone number so I could call and 1: verify the reservation vs. our needs, and 2: get directions once in town. After about 5 delays and diversions, she finally gave up the number.

We thanked her for all her time and effort.

Might have saved our breath.

Our first chance to stop off the freeway north and call this motel, we got several bits of information. Yes, they had a handicap accessible room. No, they had never in fact been contacted by anybody to make us a reservation. Dogs were OK, at a minor fee of $25, that's per pooch, and the total fee was 3x what we would have paid for the Motel 6 room had they been paying proper attention. Oh, and here were the directions....

The room offered us was lovely, the one the manager reserves for herself when she's not in town. Third floor but with an elevator. Gorgeous sunset view over Rocky Mountain National Park on the horizon. Kitchen facilities with center island and pass-through between that and the hanging cupboards. Padded bench in the bow window with that fabulous view. Sofa and coffee table for the late night reader who can't quite sleep. Had we chosen the expense, it would have been well worth it.

There was a semi-decent breakfast the next morning, including eggs and sausage. Hot would have been a nice touch, but they were no colder, really, than the Cheerios.

And we had miles to go.

Adjusting... Sort Of

Yes, we're back in Minnesota, back where they freak out at temperatures over 90 degrees. We've had our first backyard bonfire but nary a mosquito. I finally have a chair to sit in (AND get out of!), dishes have been done though you can't tell because the sink and counters are still packed. We're learning the two-remote system for watching TV (Dish vs. Direct) all over again though what used to be the skip 30 second forward button is now the keep going forever faster button, and I have actually gotten out walking.

I still spend plenty of my days pissed off. It took so long for the new recliner to be delivered that both my shoulder and knees gave out in trying to get in and out of the old one. I got stuck in a patio chair and had to have both sons help me up properly. This was after a long frustrating day of overstraining everything trying to use the other furniture, of course, and I just didn't have it in me any more. I probably could have slept there.

The first day it took an hour to clean the shower enough that I could tolerate using it, starting with tossing out the moldy bath mat and using scrubbing bubbles plus the toilet brush to clean the walls and floor. Believe me, I looked for another brush, but... I prefer to believe Scrubbing Bubbles cleans all. If you know different, just shut up about it.

Then in order to make the kitchen usable in the slightest there were two hours of cleaning dishes, counters, and part of the table, making no pretense whatsoever that the job was finished. Just that progress had been made. And the newest replaced knee locks in place from standing a fraction of that time.

This was day one. Bachelors!

We didn't really get around to unpacking until day two. There are still dirty clothes in the wastebasket because it was there next to the hamper which was covered with my drying bath towel, but that will be sorted. There's getting adjusted to sharing a queen bed again where it's not just as simple as rolling over to the other side to ease the pain from a bad knee position but one has to make about seventeen different moves in the same location on the bed to accomplish the same effect, sort of, and that's on a mattress that's inexplicably higher in the middle so you have to beware winding up on the floor. From which, might I add, there is no recovery. Even if the dog forgives your landing on top unannounced.

I now have two usable drawers in the big triple dresser for my stuff. The top one falls on the floor if you misjudge how many millimeters it can be pulled out. The second needs a winch and chain to pull it open enough to both insert one hand and either add or remove the desired item. Hmmm, I wonder if I reversed them....

Grocery shopping happens in tiny dribs and drabs. We have to share the fridge and freezer with two more people and the latest pickings of raspberries for Paul's fall jelly making. By the time I get to the store trying to pare down the list enough to fit the available space, absolutely nothing sounds appetizing any more.  On the plus side, that means we haven't over-stuffed the fridge. It does add, however, to the mounting list of frustrations.

My biggest battle so far seems to be refilling my latest prescription which treats my RLS. If you recall, the first one made me nauseaus and and I refused more than 2 days of that. So the doc ordered just a half month of medicine #2, completely understandable on his part. I took that bottle to the local pharmacy here  and they assured me they could refill it for me, just give them a few days.

I did. No pills. No call-back from my AZ doc. I called there and his assistant first said they needed the phone number here so they could respond to the fax requesting refill. Still no pills. The pharmacy up here said no contact and the assistant there said they couldn't fax it over state lines.

Love those open and consistent lines of communication, eh?

Tonight is my last pill, and will hold me 24 hours. Meanwhile I made an appointment with my former - and much missed - doc up here. She can see me tomorrow. I can explain what's happening, show her the empty bottle with the label info, and beg for enough refills to last the three months we plan to be here. That's the plan anyway. Of course she's in MN and the nearest pharmacy is just across the river in WI, so we'll see if the state lines thing is still an issue. If it's a no-go, the poor alternative is taking the few remainders of half Percosets I've hoarded from the surgery and otherwise don't need any more. They are far from ideal for many reasons, but are an improvement from daily unremitting fights with RLS.

And maybe I'll have to shop for a new primary doc back in AZ.

For those who are wondering, Steve and one of his sons did get out in his buddy's boat a couple days ago, enjoying a relaxing day and bringing home 5 crappies! Yee Haaa! For me to clean, of course. After I'd taken my bedtime sleepy pills. And without bothering to sharpen his filleting knife for me.   But tonight we get to wheel the garbage can down curbside instead of sitting in its usual spot right outside our bedroom window.

I dunno, the dogs didn't seem to mind.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Shooting Black, Shooting Back

Trayvon Martin, while far from the first, is probably the one who woke up the nation to the dangers of being a black male in this country. Even after he was pursued, stalked, and threatened, provoked to the point where he turned on his vigilante stalker, all his killer had to claim to get away with it was that he feared for his life.

Just that. Nevermind Trayvon was "armed" with Skittles and a soda can and his killer had a gun. Nevermind that Trayvon tried to get away from his attacker before finally himself feeling threatened enough to stand his own ground, he committed the very severe crime of BWB, Breathing While Black, and his killer got off.

Put this in another context. Suppose you approach a beehive, full of little buzzers just going about their own business, gathering pollen and nectar, raising the next generation, cleaning the hive. Sure, each one has a stinger, but if you just stand a bit back and keep still, you will be perfectly safe. However, keep poking the hive with a stick and there will be consequences. Whose fault is it? Yours, you idiot. But the bees will be blamed.

Trayvon was the first most publicized victim. Unfortunately there has never been a stop in the parade of black men shot by white cops who have egregiously killed them, even when they are down on the ground, disarmed, and surrounded by cops. Bless the ubiquity of cell phone videos to show us just how threatening those men weren't when they were shot.

The cops in question have found a get-out-of-jail-free card. "Ohh, me, I feared for my life!" You're one of multiple cops, you have the gun out and pointed, he's down, and you're the one who's scared?

What kind of a coward are you, anyway? We certainly see what kind of a bully you are.

I was brought up to respect cops. They are helpers, they keep you safe. I still believe that of the vast majority of them. But then, I'm white. Blue eyed, fair skinned, blonde before it turned white. I'm not worried every time I see a cop, beyond a reflexive glance at my speedometer. Even if I was a bit fast, I'm not going to get grilled, made to leave my car to get frisked, have my car searched for presumed guns and drugs, get roughed up, get shot if I move a bit. Heck, I might even just get a verbal warning and sent on my way. It has happened.

I admit to a concern if I'm pulled over in a random sobriety checkpoint and they want to make me walk a straight line or stand, eyes closed, on just one leg. After years of osteoarthritis and now double knee replacements, I can't walk a straight line and my balance still sucks. But I could probably just ask for a breathalyzer in case the cop hasn't nose enough to smell I'm sober. I'm still not concerned that my actions will be taken as threatening and likely to get me shot.

But the American black community has to worry about that. They have to teach their kids how unfair the world is. They have to hope their kids survive growing up black. And they have to stand by and watch the police shootings happen over and over and over.

Last night in Dallas 11 police officers were shot. At this point 5 have died. One shooter has been killed, but early reports were that two snipers were involved. It was a terrible tragedy for both sides. Yes, both.

But can anybody really say that it wasn't completely predictable?

Further News... A Little Blue Pill


I went with the recommendation to take half a dose of the new medication, hoping it would both treat the RLS and not induce hours of nausea. "Hours" became defined as most of the day. Even after the nausea tapered off my stomach communicated its total antipathy to food of any sort. But I was willing to try the ammended dose.

You know that saying about fool me twice?

By 1 AM I was awake again. So much for drowsiness, eh?  And my legs were twitchy again. Adding to the whole mess was the nausea, keeping  me awake despite repeated attempts to lie down and snooze. Allergy tickle in the throat led to an occasional cough which invariably ended in gagging. Any time I moved from room to room it was accompanied by the presence of a plastic tub for just-in-case.

You can bet I called the doctor the next morning minutes after his phone message system was being answered. After explaining to the voicemail what was happening and my refusal to take another one of those pills, I waited in hopes of a new medication with better (fewer) side effects. I wound up with a new one called in, this time only in a quantity of 15 pills. Why waste more if these weren't the ones for me either?

Today was also Steve's visit to his doctor. Included in the list he took along with him were requests for new prescriptions so he'd have what he needed, and access to them in Minnesota. So we both headed out shortly after lunchtime - not after actual lunch, mind you - to the pharmacy.

This time instead of a little orange pill it was a little blue pill. No, not that little blue pill, although Steve and I joked about possible similar effects. This time it's not labeled for RLS, but acknowledges that it may be prescribed "for other conditions" than what's on the label. I have to hope my doc knows it has a chance of working. The listed side effects this time do not include nausea either. But they also do not include hallucinations like the orange pills did, plus a few other scary things. I might get a headache, oooh scary! It's still a medication to take very seriously. I'm supposed to watch out for a number of possibly fatal side effects, including possible suicide.

I'm hoping this process doesn't make me quite that frustrated!

Like the last one, I'm to take it in the evening, presumably due to drowsiness (we can hope for drowsiness anyway) but this time they say "at bedtime" rather than 1-3 hours ahead. It also specifies on a full stomach and with a full glass of water. So I'm sitting around blogging and waiting to begin to feel drowsy. The tummy is full, and it was chicken so it'll stick around for a while. The water glass is full and also waiting.

In another 24 hours I should know how this one goes. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

A Reluctant Diagnosis

I don't know why I was persisting in denial for so long over what was the obvious. After all, I was naming it to myself even as I told myself it wasn't that. Perhaps if I did nothing it would go away? Say, after the knees finished healing? Maybe it was just a temporary side effect?

I'm talking about RLS, Restless Leg Syndrome. It's what was keeping me stretching out my painkiller supply as long as possible, taking fewer a day, cutting pills in half for a lower dosage. My thinking there was that the supply was definitely finite, and maybe the whole thing would go away if I just dealt with it my way for as long as possible.

It was intermittent when it started, but the pattern quickly emerged. Sometime in the afternoon the legs would start a deep ache, and I'd need to move them - more and more often - in order to find a more comfortable position for them. Of course, the ache kept keeping up with me. When it began, I took it as a signal that I needed to go to bed. I was tired. Even if it were just a short nap, I'd wake up without it, but especially if I could manage to sleep through to the next morning. It would take about half a day to return. And the percoset worked. Mostly. At least I could get some sleep.

Then it changed. Sleep wasn't the cure for what was happening. What was happening became what was preventing me from getting sleep. I take that very seriously, since lack of sleep seems to be my primary trigger for A-fib attacks, and the last one, a year ago, scared the crap out of me.

I finally decided a trip to see my primary care doc was in order. But not before a bit of an internet search. Was I consistent with the recognized symptoms? Were there lifestyle things I could do in the meantime to help?

Yes. And yes.

I needed to move more throughout the day, get out and walk, and more than just down the hall and back. That's a bit tough when outside temperatures overheat me in the two minutes I go out with the dogs while they empty what needs emptying. After all, I'm just sitting then, even if I do take my big elastic band out to help stretch my knee. Meanwhile, just keep changing positions.

There was a list online of possible causes other than sitting still too long, and some I could do something about. I might be low on iron, or folic acid, B12. Kidney function may be impaired, and while I get their function levels tested regularly, they may have changed. My diabetes may have advanced from the pre- to the actual stage. All of those things meant some lab work was in order, reinforcing my need to visit my doctor.

A couple of causes went beyond lifestyle. Nerve damage might be the cause, and I know some have been damaged, i.e., sliced through, during the knee replacements. Cause/effect? Who knows? And as for a genetic component, Mom had it during her later years, which is how I even knew RLS existed in the first place.

I had to wait out the holiday weekend to see my doc, but got in easily on Tuesday. He ordered lab tests, results to be back in a week or so, and gave me a prescription.

Normally I don't bother too much with all the information on the sheet stapled to the bag holding the meds, but when the words jumped out at me that this was primarily prescribed for Parkinson's, and sort of as an afterthought also for RLS, I decided to read it all. The page and a half of possibly life-threatening complications was more than sobering. I read through it twice, and am keeping it close at hand for referrals. The "usual" side effect is drowsiness, which is why it's to be taken before bed, either an hour per the pharmacist, or 2-3 hours per the internet. At any rate, make sure I'm settled in. Oh, and hey: insomnia cure maybe?

Had the first pill last night. Woke up nauseous. Never actually threw up, but just plain felt sick. Carried a plastic bucket around the house with me all morning. Couldn't stomach the thought of breakfast, but tried some crackers late morning. Normally I can just gobble those down, but this time I didn't eat more than a third of my carb-conscious portion.

I didn't remember nausea as one of the listed side effects, so I read through the info sheet again. (It's about the only thing I managed to concentrate on for that long all morning, and I'm in the middle of a good book by a favorite author.) Nausea was not listed. Not the first time I get a side effect not on the list. Lucky me.

I'm waiting to see if I actually get hungry later in the day. Lunch was a tiny snack, and I pushed myself on the last two bites. Supper is to be in a restaurant with friends, saying "Good-bye" before we head north, and while I don't think I'll have to cancel, there may be a big doggie box heading home.

I'm also waiting to see if the RLS actually goes away. It it doesn't, I see no point in continuing the medication. If it does help, I can take a half tab and see how I react to that dosage, per the nausea. (Yes, half-dosage is per the doctor.) Once the lab results are in and we're up north, I'll check in with my old much-trusted doctor and see what she has to say. I know other meds are available for RLS. Between that and the nausea, if I have to go with one for a couple weeks, it won't be the nausea. I still have percoset half-pills I can take late in the day when my share of the driving can be declared done, a choice making the trip tolerable. That's my immediate primary goal.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

New Reason to Hate Drones

By now everybody's heard about civilian deaths from war drone usage. You've heard folks worry about their privacy, and concerns about airliner collisions. Maybe you haven't heard about this one... yet.

Arizona is a very dry state. Many western states are. Global warming is preventing winter die-off of the beetles that kill pine trees, leaving vast areas full of standing fuel for fires. If you follow news, you likely are aware of at least some of the many forest fires out in this part of the country.

They are being fought, of course, and the bravery of those fighting them is heroic. But there was a glitch recently in fighting one of the fires in a well-known recreational areas in this state. It was nearing sunset and the planes dropping chemical retardants and water were about to drop the last assistance to fighting the fire before dark. But they had to pull out of the area with their loads unused.


Because some idiots, likely thinking to get that perfect birds-eye shot of the fire, maybe the one that would make them rich and famous, were flying a pair pf private drones right over the area, endangering planes, crews, and anybody and anything on the ground who needed that last bit of assistance before night fell.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Rain... Not!

Monsoon season. That's the claim. True, the air is more humid, where 90 degrees is now uncomfortable outside. Entertainment includes watching clouds build, anvil out, spread, slide past... somewhere else. It also includes listening to the news crews spazz out over a few drops on the windshield of their out-and-about news vehicle while we can't help but notice that it's seldom enough to even turn the wipers on, or at least not above the slowest intermittent level.

It's truly different down here. I just finished watching the local news with its weather radar showing the whole west valley - yes, including here, and for miles in all directions - in the green that indicates light to medium rainfall. Reality? Not a drop. Not here. Not in any direction I can see the sky from. Nothing falling. Nada. Just little clouds breaking up. Maybe 20 miles away there are actual storms.

Good thing I watered the backyard bushes today. Leaves have been dropping, stem ends curling, flowers somewhere between anemic and stopped, some remaining leaves turning white at the tips and the dead bits moving in towards where the stems join the branches. Last fall's new cacti plantings are yellowing, agaves browning. OK, only one agave, but other established ones are yellowing from their usual deep green.

We did have some actual rainfall the other night. I guess that's what you could call it. When we went out and stood in it, we'd get maybe five drops on us per minute. Felt great. Where it hit the driveway, easiest place to see the reflections of anything wet from the closest street light, each indivual drop lasted perhaps 15 seconds before drying up. The whole thing lasted about 5 minutes. We noticed it because we were taking garbage out. Steve and I sat out to enjoy it, it's been so rare.

Yes, it's truly different down here.

You might think there is no chance mosquitoes thrive down here. We used to. But apparently enough of our neighbors water stuff that there are scattered tiny cups of water that last just long enough. Dry as it is, they only get to about a third of the size of what we're used to in Minnesota. They make up for size in the venom they inject, not only stinging sharply as it goes in but leaving a badly itching welt that bothers for over a week. Fortunately they are also fairly rare in the backyard.

I got the good-to-go from my surgeon this afternoon, so the day I hit the 8-week mark I promised him I'd stay for, we're on the road. Lists are made, stuff getting checked off. I got that 6-month oil change this morning, quite a contrast from my former semi-monthly one. I still hadn't driven enough miles to need it for that reason, but hey, six months and ready to hit the road. The surgeon wants to see me again in four months for another post-surgery check, and we'll be back well before that.

Probably be ready to get away from the hoards of Minnesota style skeeters by then too. They may not be as obnoxious when they bite, but make up for it in ravenous swarms.

Oh, the radar is still showing green for rain here and still for miles around. The sun is lovely.