Sunday, December 21, 2008

Fun in the Snow!

Wow! I can barely remember the last time we had similar snowfall in Portland--probably because I was probably younger than five! It has been a fun week, though. I had mentioned to my mom that the thought of being snowed in at my house with Grandma did not sound appealing, so when snow started coming down last Sunday, Mom suggested Gram and I pack up and come stay with the family for a few days. We've been vacationing at the fam's ever since--sleeping on their couches by night, playing games, eating good food and playing in the snow by day...well...at least I've been playing in the snow. Gram's stayed inside. :-)

On Thursday Tracy and I hiked up Powell Butte to sled in a drainage ditch up there. We rolled giant snowballs (like the bottom of snowmen) into the ditch to make a steep fast-starting ramp for pushing off. Not only was it a blast--but it was soooooo beautiful! There were dark clouds and thick clouds, and swirly clouds--and snowy clouds and icy clouds. But then sometimes half the clouds cleared and there was this gentle, blue sky to the NW or a fierce, bright sun lowering to the SW. It was one of the best afternoons I've had in quite some time. :-)




Look at that sky!





As a Christmas gift to me, Eric put up Christmas lights on my house and him and Tracy helped me acquire, set up and decorate my tree! Unfortunately...since I've been at the fam's all week long, I have barely seen my beautiful tree. Last night, four of us made the slippery drive to my house to get more meds for Gramma and to pick up my Christmas gifts for people in the family. Here's my dad next to the tree.

My house in the snow...it's covering the curb...awesome.
My car after sitting for 24 hours in front of my parents' house.
Looking past my car and down the road.
Christmas lights shade and patterns in the snow.
Last night after midnight I was out with Tracy playing around. It was so cold I was tearing up!

If you'd like to see more of our snow day adventures, peruse my picasa album at www.picasaweb.google.com/trushoe/snowdays.

My House

When I moved a friend asked me when I would be posting pictures of my house on my blog. I told her that I would have to unpack first, so it would probably not be for a week or two. Ha! I'm still unpacking, but here are few pictures...finally. :-)

If you want to see them all...go to my Picasa album: http://picasaweb.google.com/TruShoe/NewHouse

This is the living room, right when you walk in the front door.
My bathroom--make sure to notice the lovely medicine cabinet I installed. :-)
The dining/kitchen area.
The kitchen/dining area.

My bedroom.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

It's here!

For several years I've been toying with the idea of creating a website to promote my photography and/or other skills and hobbies.

This year I was trying to think up a good gift idea for a white elephant gift exchange with adults from my church. Since I just threw out all the strange junk in the move, I figured I should give something nice, but inexpensive. I decided to make a greeting card set using pictures I have taken and coupling them with scripture. The finished product was very nice.

As I'd recently been trying to think of ways to supplement my income, I decided to try selling sets of greeting cards. Each card is 5" x 7" and is made on partially-recycled, linen-textured cardstock and comes with a matching linen-textured envelope.



So, this is the project I've been working on all week long--designing and launching the website. If you're curious to see the site, interested in looking at some of the pictures I've taken, or maybe even interested in purchasing a set of greeting cards, check it out at:

www.ksphotodesigns.com

Snippets of my life the past few months.

Well, sometimes it's hard to find the time to write. And sometimes it's hard to find something interesting to write about. I make no claims as to this being particularly interesting, but I just thought I'd show you a few snippets (okay maybe more than a few) of what my life has been like in recent months.

Meet the boys: Gavin (4) and Carter (9 mos. currently; 6 mos. in the picture below) This are my handsome nephews and I'm blessed to generally have them at my house twice weekly. On Mondays I watch the boys while Trish works and on Fridays Trish hangs out with Gram so I can do...whatever it is I may need to do. The boys call Gram "GG" (Great-Grandma). Here Carter and GG take a nap together.




So for some reason Carter loves playing with my Nalgene bottle. One afternoon he was seeming fussy so I gave him my water bottle to distract him while I went to the bathroom. As I was washing my hands I heard him crying. When I reentered the living room there he was sitting in a giant puddle of icy water! Poor kiddo...I left him in it while I went to get the camera.
I have no clue how he managed to get that bottle open! But it turns out he didn't even mind the ice-water. He just was bummed because the bottle had rolled out of his reach (this was before he started crawling.) Once I gave him the bottle back, he was content again.

Ha! if only he spilt water on the floor every week instead of...juice, throw-up, poop, play-dough, cheerios, etc.

I've tried (inconsistently) to always have a special project or activity for Gavin and I to do during Carter's afternoon/evening nap. I had hoped that this would give him some needed one-on-one attention. It's hard when Gavin's always being told to wait because the baby is screaming and hungry or GG fell and needs help. Sometimes it feels like he always comes last. On this particular day we made picture frames with magnets for the fridge, and then took pictures to put in the frames. Gavin wanted his frame to be in the picture in his frame.
We did some with the frame and some without. This was supposed to be his strong-man, showing the muscle pose. It cracked me up!
The ONE picture I got Carter looking at me and smiling in... One...two....SPIT UP/click. In the end I laid him on his back and stood above him to get the second picture, he was very easily distracted outside.
Besides spending time caring for Gram and the boys, I've been slowly finishing unpacking. Since my bathroom lacks storage space, I purchased a medicine cabinet off Craigslist and installed it (with some help from my brother, Eric--thanks!). I'm definitely going to make you take a closer look....I worked hard and LONG on that. I even replaced the knobs to make it look nicer than it did before.
To finish the job I had to purchase newer, better drill bits. Here's the new set. It rolls up all real-contractor-like. It makes me feel awesome when I use it.
I've also put up more decorations. Here are some of my favorite pictures which are in the living room. Yep, I got a photoshoot with the nephs!
So, now that I'm more unpacked and decorated, I've tried to have more guests over. There was a streak of four out of five scheduled visits where the invitee was a no-show. It made me sad. :-( This one was when we tried to use the new goblets for the first time, but our guest never came, so the place setting just sat empty. Thankfully, the streak seems to have ended. Thanksgiving weekend alone I had 9 guests!
I've baked pies several times this fall. I found out why crusts were so difficult for me: I had the measurements written down wrong and was using way to little shortening. I had high expectations for the first pie with the corrected crust recipe. But alas, I seemed doomed to fail! Here was that one... Since then, though, I've made 6 more successful pies!
Sometimes on Mondays, between the boys and Gram, the most rest I get in a day comes when I lock myself alone in the bathroom for five minutes to....well, you know. On one particular Monday Carter wouldn't be consoled without me, so I brought him in with me. I put him in the dry tub, but he managed to open the shampoo, drop the conditioner on himself, and then pull himself up to standing and fall down! I had to rock him and sing to him while I was sitting on the toilet, and then he finally drifted to sleep. I waited until he was sleeping deeper and then laid him on the floor so I could finish up. I couldn't resist taking a couple pictures before moving him onto the bed.
Poor silly kid on the bathroom floor!
Only one of my cousins was able to be with us on Thanksgiving, but it was a treat to have Chelsea and her family stay overnight at my place. Plus it gave GG some extra time with some of the great-grandkids she doesn't see as often. Here she is with baby Jezzi.
And here she is with all the Berglund-Ramirez family: Andres, Jezzirayah, (GG), Tayvan, and Chelsea.
Here's the family without the GG. Thanks for the company, guys!

Okay, so there's a few of the things that have been going on with me--at least the photographed ones.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

What Would You Kill For?

I don't usually commentate on current events because 1) there are others better informed than me, and 2) if you wanted the news you'd be reading a news site right now instead of mine. But one news story I heard today I can't get out of my mind, so you get to hear about it.

I actually wanted to entitle this blog post "Greedy SOB's" or few other choice words that I know some of you would find very offensive. I felt that the perpetrators of this act deserved something shocking and disrespectful--BUT--out of respect to you, the readers, I've gone a different direction.

If you haven't read the story yet about a Wal-Mart employee being trampled by a rabid mob, you can catch the story here, and then learn a little bit more here.

I am apalled. Worse than appalled; I am FURIOUS! What kind of a person breaks down store doors in order to grab a shiny plastic toy 5 minutes earlier than planned? What kind of a person shoves to the ground anyone who stands between them and $10 dollars off a digital camera? What kind of a person trips on an injured man and leaves him gasping for air on the floor so they can scamper to the electronics section and grab a plasma TV? Unfortunately, there were thousands of such monstrous individuals ammassed in front of a New York Wal-Mart this morning.

Imagine those who came home from shopping, wiped the [metaphorical] blood off their feet and went inside to wrap up their "bargain" gifts! "Don't you love your new mp3 player? I stepped on a man's head to get it for you!"

I am so angry at these people! How dare they assume that the life and safety of another is worth less than the plastic and metal gadgets they heaped into their carts? I wish there were a way to prosecute every single person who stepped on or over this man in their rush to snatch something before anyone else could. These people are MONSTERS. Horrible, terrible monsters that remind us of the worst things possible about humanity--the darkest parts of our grimy souls.

I am also angry at the store. This is not a Wal-Mart tirade--I'll let someone else write that blog. This is a tirade against Any Store--because that's where this could have happened. One of your employees was killed--killed--in the line of duty serving your store. And to honor him you shut the store down--for five hours! You shuttled off the injured, cleaned up the mess as best you could, and reopened your mangled doors because not to do so would be to lose your largest day of profits of the year. Take some responsibility! Show shoppers that they CANNOT trample a man to death and just come back later to get the deal they so wanted. Close your store--close all your stores! Refuse to open your store on Black Friday next year as a way to honor your victim and prove to the crowds that you will not tolerate violence--even in the name of Materialistic Consumerism, that god of these masses.

But that will never happen.

Maybe those of you who think that it's strange for me to get so riled up over this incident are right. I know there are further-reaching tragedies occuring in the world. I am definitely not saying by addressing this one incident that this one loss is worse than the hundreds of lives lost, for instance, in the recent Mumbai tragedies. These crazy militants terrorize for their ideals--as hateful and horrible of ideals as they may be. They are wrong and their crimes have sickened and saddened the world at large. We have learned to expect such behavior from violent radical political and religious groups who value their ideals over their lives and the lives of others. But today we have been confronted with a new group of people--a group of seemingly innocuous shoppers hunting for christmas gifts for family and friends--and we have learned that from them we can expect senseless and remorseless violence for discounted price on some piece of thing that will more than likely be within in a landfill within 10 years. Which heart is uglier? The twisted heart that aligns itself to a horrible and violent cause or the apathetic heart that cares nothing for the man gasping for breath on the floor, but eagerly runs off to fill their cart with gadgets? At this moment, I feel that they have similarities we may hesitate to recognize. Both view others as objects that stand between them and their gods--whether their god is a twisted ideal or an iPod deal. And both have killed in the name of their god.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Hope for An Overcast Heart

Generally I love fall; the colors and scents blend together in a way that makes me smile with secret delight. But this fall has felt darker to me, as if it's nothing more than an omen of fast-approaching emptiness of winter.

It had been mostly cloudy for a few days in a row and then on Wednesday it started to rain. It rained and rained and rained until gutters and drain grates were clogged and everywhere there were streams pouring off of roofs and lakes collecting on roadways and intersections. The sky was filled so thickly with clouds and precipitation that daylight seemed like dusk and dusk like midnight. In the oppressive grayness of Wednesday I saw that the tree branches were mostly empty and the leaves that lingered were wilted brown dripping sludge from their limp forms. There was no color, there was no life, there was no beauty there. Just unending ugliness and death--winter had already come.

But today something surprising happened. I awoke to bright light filtering its way through my blinds. The rain was gone. As I drove Gram to her therapy appointment I was surprised by what I saw along the roadside. Yes, some of the trees were mostly asleep for winter, but many of the seemingly brown trees from the day before were actually still in that drowsy state of being that only trees can achieve with such red, orange, yellow and green beauty. My eyes soaked it all in and each hue brought a ray of warmth to my heart.

Recently my life has been overcast. Depression is an oppressive cloud over my mind and emotions. It is so thick and dark that it blocks the sun from my eyes and shades the colorful leaves of joy and peace and hope from my vision. The world around me is actually the same as it has always been, but when my heart is shrouded in darkness it can barely see the good and beautiful things in life. Instead everything from activities to relationships to the future seem dark and dreary and dead. Although my mind knows the Sun still exists, I can't feel his warmth or nearness.

Today was a good day, though. One thing that I have found helpful in my recent recurring struggle is to recognize that my perceptions are inaccurate, and today was a reminder of that. No matter how dark it feels, the sun is still real, still there, still giving light and warmth--even though I may not feel it--it is there on the other side of the clouds. And no matter how dead and dreary things may seem in this darkness it is only the way I see them not the way things really are, just as the leaves still were multi-colored even though they looked brown and dead in the shadows cast by the clouds.

So, you who are suffering under a cloud of darkness, know that God is here with you though you may not feel him, and that his promises are true though your faith may be faltering. Realize, hopeless heart, that the things that overwhelm you, bring you sadness, anger, self-loathing and despair will not crush you. You will survive them and you will grow through them. And remember that at some point these clouds will clear and life will be warm and beautiful again.

Do not trust your overcast heart. It cannot see what truly is.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Test Results

The test results are in and....yay! Although my thyroid is enlarged and absorbed over 60% more or the radioactive material than the average thyroid, there are no nodules, growths or tumors. I'll be starting medication soonk which I'm hoping helps lower my heart rate, increase my strengh, give me more energy, help me to sleep better, lower my core body temperature, sooth my shakiness and make me feel all around better. We'll see...

I'll keep you updated but now I'm going to sleep because I kept dozing off as I typed this. Sorry if there are errors, but that happens when I sleep and write.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Just Thinking

A collaboration of the thoughts that are rumbling through my brain as I toss and turn sleeplessly tonight: health, ministry and depression.
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HEALTH:

My throat is sore. Usually, I get about three sore throats a year--one in the fall, one in the winter and one in the summer. Generally these sore throats last one to two days and are merely the first symptom of a virus that will soon follow with a stuffy nose and then finish with a nasty, lingering congestion in my chest. So, when my throat started feeling sort of sore last Friday evening, I tried to prepare myself for the onslaught. Usually preparations would consist of doses of Airborne, Vitamin C, Echinacea and Zinc, hoping to boost my immune system enough to fight off or shorten the duration of the virus. However, there are certain vitamins and supplements that I am not supposed to have for the week before my Thyroid Scan. I'm not entirely certain which ones to avoid, so I'm avoiding them all. Thus my preparations have included more sleep and lots of water. I mean LOTS of water...even more than usual. Well, today makes the third full day of sore throat and still no other symptoms have appeared other than white streaks on my tonsils (which you really don't want me to detail here!), and tender, swollen lymph nodes (a rarity for me). These could be symptoms of Strep throat, especially since I don't have any other cold symptoms that would indicate a virus. But generally Strep is accompanied by a fever higher than 101, and my temperature seems to be settled at 99.5 (which honestly could be the overactive thyroid as well as anything else). So...not really sure what to do, other than wait it out a day or two more. If it continues I probably will have to go to urgent care for a culture--which I'd really like to avoid since lab fees are so atrocious! Okay, enough whining...on to other things.

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HEALTH, MINISTRY, LIFE, DEATH AND STUFF:

So, my thyroid scan is on Thursday, but I have to go in on Wednesday to ingest the radioactive iodine. I'm not supposed to eat or DRINK anything for four hours prior and an hour after. I'm sure that just knowing I'm not supposed to drink anything will make me ravishingly thirsty. I'm the sort of dork who carries a 32 oz. water bottle around in her purse, because I have a (mildish)fear of being thirsty and without water. So, that is probably the thing I'm most worried about regarding the scan: thirst. Not too bad, eh?

Of course there is the "Other" thing--which honestly I haven't been too worried about at all. Malignant thyroid tumors are very, very rare according to the nurse practitioner and the internet. So, like I said, cancer really isn't a very big concern of mine. But that doesn't mean I haven't thought about it--or imagined it at least.

It's strange. The students that I worked with over the past three years were the roughest, toughest, craziest, neediest students I have ever interacted with! While God was kind enough to encourage me by allowing me to see how he was working in the lives of some of the students, I felt as if others of them had walls of iron around their hearts and souls. They were so caught up in their world of school and boyfriends/girlfriends, and popularity and... shoplifting, that I sometimes felt that as I spoke to them and lived with them and loved them, my words and actions were being carried away by the wind before reaching them. I frequently felt that only something huge would shake them out of their little worlds they were so caught up in. I began to believe that one of the things that would reach them the most would be to see followers of God experience tragedy. I felt that the students would remember better the Truth the Lord had spoken through me if something happened to me to ingrain it upon their minds. I wondered if God would choose to take me away in a car or other accident, as a way to shake them out of their comfort zones and make them think about their mortality and the life that is offered to them freely in Jesus. I began to pray that God would do whatever it took to reach these dearly-beloved creatures of his--even if it meant death or serious illness for me (please don't think me a martyr--I knew well whose presence I would gain, and even ached for Him at times.) Well...needless to say, God did not choose to impact these kids through the methods that I had contrived. But if something had happened to me--even a year ago--I could imagine the fruit that could come from it!

My life is so different now. Before I spent my days loving many students, encouraging their faith and trying to help prepare them for their lives. Now I spend my days loving one woman, trying to serve her with patience, and help care for her and love her on her journey to death. While I must confess that before I struggled with pride, now I struggle with impatience and a sense of futility and uselessness. My circle of influence has reduced itself to one person, and when she is gone, what can be said of what I've done? (This is my human thinking, by the way. I would never have undertaken this if that was what I truly believed. I know in my heart that God is pleased with humility and servanthood and care for the widow in need. I know my Grandma is a person and I want her to be well cared-for and loved until the day she dies, and I think that is important. But sometimes I don't feel like these things are important--and those are the moments that I feel overwhelmed by a sense of futility.)

So...back to thyroid cancer--which I am fairly confident I do not have. In my thinking through of the rare possibility, I find myself saying that it would be ridiculous. To think that when a crisis could have been beneficial to so many, it did not come. But now, when it would seemingly be beneficial to no one, and detrimental to the one person who now relies upon me--now is when it becomes a possibility.

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DEPRESSION:

There is nothing fun about depression--regardless of what emo-band teens may say about depression and musical inspiration. But I actually do feel blessed that I have experienced mild depression stemming from different sources. I believe that people experience depression steming from at least three sources: physical depression, emotional depression and spiritual depression. Now the tricky thing is that not only can depression stem from more than one source at a time, as whole beings we may find that the state of our spirit, our [metaphorical] heart, and our bodies can interfere with one another.

When I was in Jr. High, I was angry and sad and lonely (who wasn't!?) and I lost the will to live. There was really nothing terrible in my life, but for some reason my emotions became exaggerated and the negative ones seemed to overshadow my life unbearably. I really didn't have any clue what was going on at the time--all I knew was that life hurt and I wanted to stop hurting. Despite the plans I had formed, I made it through middle school. Eventually things slowly improved. My life wasn't that different, but my feelings became much more manageable. I believe that I was suffering from a standard emotional depression.

Several years later I experienced a different sort of depression. I did something that was wrong, and realized shortly thereafter that I needed to confess my actions to a particular person to make it right. I was terrified of admitting what I had done, and so I decided not to confess. I promised myself (and God) that I wouldn't do the same thing again and wanted that to be enough. But it wasn't enough, because my sin still wasn't made right. I stifled my conscience for several months--and they were terrible months. I felt bad, I felt sad, I felt angry, I felt horrible. But still I refused to make things right. Soon I was experiencing psychosomatic symptoms: stomache-aches, nausea and general malaise. Finally...FINALLY...I relented. I went to the person and admitted what I had done (and they forgave me very graciously I might add). Suddenly I felt free! I was happy. My stomache-aches and nausea had disappeared! It was great, truly amazing. My spiritual disobedience had caused spiritual depression, and making things right with God and man was my cure.

My second year of college, I was in a hit-and-run car accident with my brother, Eric. Our tiny hatchback Toyota Tercel was stopped and a cargo van struck us from the rear corner, spinning us in a circle and flipping us upside down. The car was mangled, but Eric and I crawled from the wreckage with no broken bones. I did suffer a concussion a concussion which wreaked havoc on my brain. I was forgetting things; I couldn't concentrate; reading became more difficult; I failed a test for the first time in my entire life (A's and B's before); my gpa dropped from 3.8ish to 2.5ish. Also my emotions changed--they once again became overwhelming. My anger was violent and frequent, my sadness was dark and hopeless. I couldn't sleep. My appetite diminished. I found excuses not to hang out with friends. At some point, I realized that I had text-book symptoms of depression, and saw a doctor. She prescribed medication, which restored chemical balance to my brain. Within a week I felt like myself again. The physical and emotional trauma that I had experienced had caused a chemical imbalance in my bran and the medication solved my issues until my brain went back to normal (about 9 months later).

Honestly, if I had not struggled with depression, not only would it be difficult for me to recognize it in others, but I think I would also be much less compassionate and understanding. I am glad that I can empathize with others in their struggles (although theirs are often more severe and longer lasting than mine have been). I'm also able to offer hope to people that things can be and will be better than they are now.

And that's a truth that I'm reminding myself about once again. Another of the many symptoms of hyperthyroidism is depression. I can't remember when the last day was that I didn't cry and feel overwhelmed. Fortunately, these acute bouts of feeling hopeless, useless, discouraged and lonely are only taking up small parts of each day. I'm thankful too, that I understand what is happening, and that I can assure myself that my feelings (however overwhelming they may feel), are temporary and that life will feel much more uplifting once we can fix this silly thyroid.


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Sorry for any typos or grammatical errors. It's late afterall, and since I may actually be starting to feel sleepy...I'm not going to go back and proofread.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Endocrinologist's Office

My original appointment at the endocrinologists was for Friday, October 17th, but on the 8th they called and told me they had an opening if I could make it in that afteroon. My appointment was with a nurse practitioner with lots of experience treating abnormal thyroid function.

She told me that there are four things we can do: 1) ignore it and hope it will get better on its own, 2) treat it with meds, 3) kill off part of the thyroid with radioactive iodine, or 4) surgically remove part of my thyroid. Since I had already waited for months, she recommends starting with medication as soon as possible to help me feel better. She also wants me to get a scan, where I ingest a small amount of radioactive iodine that will be absorbed by my thyroid making it easier for them to see what's going on in there. In the meantime, she took a more specific blood test, (T3 and T4 test), which showed that level of hormones produced by my thyroid are four times that of a normal thyroid. (an upper-limit of normal would be 1.25 and my result was 4.45). My scan is next week on the 23rd, and after she gets the radiology reports from that, she'll have a little better idea of whether my thyroid is just enlarged or if there are nodules on it or something else. Once the scan is done, the practitioner will put me on thyroid medication and we'll see how well they work. If they don't do the trick, then we will have to consider options 3 or 4. Please pray that the medication would do that trick--and that ultimately my thyroid could regulate itself normally! While God has provided financing for my current medical costs, future radioactive treatment and surgical options could be costly.

I almost feel silly detailing all this information here, but I figured my many medically-minded relatives (ha! how's that for accidental alliteration) like details. Honestly, hyperthyroidism is a fairly common condition that is generally only serious if left untreated. I've never really had a medical condition before though, so it's all new to me.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Full Day

So, this morning I awoke looking forward to tonight, when three young ladies were coming over for a book club meeting. This was to be the first time two of them had seen my house and I, like a new mother, was excited to show them my baby! Of course, I wanted to change it and bathe it first and all.

First things first: I threw on a t-shirt and yesterday's jeans still smelling reminiscent of nephew messes from the day before, and quickly rinsed my face and brushed my teeth. Grabbing Gram's morning pills from the container atop the fridge, I made my way down the hall and into her bedroom. "Good morning Gram! How are you this Tuesday morning? Did you sleep well?" I was happy to hear that she didn't remember, which usually means she slept most the night! The next hour was dedicated to assisting with the first half of her morning routine.

Leaving her to the easier second half, I started a load of her laundry and then straightened up the living room. Leaning against the fireplace was an unassembled end-table/magazine-rack that we wanted to put next to Gram's bed for her to set things on and store newspapers under. I opened the packaging and tackled the project, which I expected to be as easy as the toy chest I assembled earlier this week. But it wasn't. When did directions become so illiterate-only anyway? I mean, I certainly don't mind the drawings, but could someone please put a sentence underneath the diagram saying, when attaching the legs, be sure that the large holes are facing away from the short side, and the small holes are facing toward the short side. Well, they didn't so I had to take the legs off and do that part over. In the end, it turned out well, but took me 30 minutes longer than I had hoped it would.

Grandma had never come out from her bedroom, so I went in to check on her. She was engrossed in a "good movie" and didn't want to come out to eat so I brought food in to her, before I began preparing the food for tonight. I mixed up a white enchilada sauce and added chicken to the mix, then wrapped it up in giant tortillas topped with more sauce. The mixture went further than I had expected, so I ended up with 1 and a half pans of enchiladas! I put them in the fridge to be cooked in the evening.

After a rainy bit, the sun had now been out long enough to semi-dry the front yard, so I grabbed a rake an attacked the leaves that had abandoned the two trees on my property. I remember raking with my dad when I was little--it was easier with him! This project also took me longer than I had hoped and by the time I was finished, my right shoulder was aching again (it's been hurting since I moved, but very much so since trimming my trees on Saturday and Sunday). I decided it would be easier to spray off the driveway and walkways than to sweep them, so I hooked up my brand new hose, attached a nozzle onto it and turned the water on. SSPPHRITTZZZ!!! Immediately I was doused with water and splashing dirt as water exploded out of a hole in the hose, dousing me and the flowerbed with a high-pressured stream. I quickly saw this wasn't going to work, and turned off the water, grumbling to myself about how Bi-Mart better come clean up the mess their faulty hose caused!

I slushed my way back inside, dripping from the waist down and glad that I had waited to clean the floors until after finishing the yard. Once in drier clothes, I cleared and polished my table, then reset its runner, placemats and centerpieces. It was time. I pulled the vacuum out of its closet and pushed it around the carpet. I considered sweeping the tiled hall, dining room and kitchen, but decided the vacuum would do fine today.

By now it was 5:00, and I decided to call the guy with a pantry cabinet that I had found on Craigslist the night before. I turned on my computer and glanced through my new emails. One was from one of the book club girls. She wasn't going to make it afterall. Bummer! I missed her, but what can you do. I thought I'd check on the other two girls. I texted them both. One of them replied that she was too busy to come tonight. Great. That left Jess, me and Grandma with a pan and a half of enchiladas! Not only that, but since Jess had already seen my house, I suddenly lost all desire to dust, do the dishes in the sink and clean the porch and screen door. I called my mom to see if the family wanted a pan of enchiladas, but she already had pans to make turkey noodle soup. Oh well.

I called the Craigslist guy and was happy to hear that he still had the pantry. I got dimensions from him and went to my car to see if there was any possible way I could fit it into my Camry. I reclined the passenger seat as far as it would go and measured from the rear driver's side corner to the glove compartment. I was about 3 inches short. Bummer! I called the guy again and asked offered him extra $ if he could deliver it to me. Thankfully he had a truck and was willing!

I took a quick shower, washing off the house grime and yard dust, and put on clean-smelling clothes. Ahhhhh. Nice. I told Gram I'd be back in a half-hour, jumped in my car and drove to the nearest supermarket. I bought cheese and got cashback so I would have enough cash to pay the Craigslist guy. Upon returning home, I popped the half-pan of enchiladas into the oven, and began clearing space where I wanted the pantry. Then Jess came and we chatted for a while. Then the Craigslist guy came and Jess and I carried the pantry inside and set it up. Craigslist guy offered me a $10 discount for the tiniest scratch on the side. I thanked him and took the discount realizing I had overpaid him for delivery anyway!

When the enchies were ready Grandma, Jessica and I ate our fill and had some after-dinner conversation. Ibrahim called and Jess happily flipped through old photo albums while he and I caught up a bit. Eventually we hung up and Jess went home. Gram and I finished our day with ice cream and then I changed the laundry and she folded.

Even though I didn't get done everything I wanted to do today, it's one of those nights where I crawl into bed satisfied that I was busy and worked hard. It was great catching up with two of my friends I don't get to spend much time with these days, it was yummy eating ice cream and I am so excited to have a pantry so that I can actually finish putting away things in my kitchen. Maybe tomorrow. Good night!

_________________________________
Sorry to bore you with a kind of dull entry, but it was just a good day and I felt like writing about it. If you feel cheated, you can have a free enchilada. ;-)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

What?

Grandma was taking a nap in armchair in her bedroom. I went and awakened her to give her some pills. The first strange thing was that she would hold her straw cup about an inch away from her mouth and then make a sucking motion with her lips, like she thought she could get it from there. I helped her put the straw in her mouth, realizing that since the pills were a little late, her motor skills might not be at their best. Meanwhile I told her about working in the yard in the rain and how now I was cold and my shoulder hurt. She dropped some of her pills and I picked them up and watched carefully until they were all swallowed. I figured it would be best for her not to keep napping if she wanted to sleep well tonight, and so I asked her if she wanted me to turn on the TV in her room.

"You better not do that," she said in an ominous voice. I looked at her and couldn't tell if she was joking or serious.

"You don't want to watch TV right now?" I asked her. "Are you thinking of going back to sleep?"

"No, I need to be holy." Again I was confused, wondering if she suddenly thought that Murder She Wrote and Matlock were somehow evil. Then she followed with, "I need to do some holy work." What? Did she mean she wanted to read her Bible? I was so confused.

"What kind of holy work do you need to do?" I asked.

"Well....I need to.....what does he do?" she fumbled.

"Who is he?"

"You know, him. Uh....."

I waited for her to think of the name.

"Galen," she finished.

"Are you aking what my dad does for work?" I tried to clarify her question.

"He drives trucks," she attempted to answer the question herself.

"No, Gram, my dad does Payroll for Multnomah."

"Oh, but he works with the trucks and the cars," she offered.

At this I had to chuckle, "No Gram, Dad doesn't do much work on cars."

"Oh." This "oh" sounded very confused.

"Do you want to come hang out with me in the living room?" I invited.

"No, I'll stay here."

"Okay." I figured she was so confused she wouldn't remember what she'd said before about tv, so I tried again. "Do you want me turn the TV on for you while you're in here?"

"No! It's enough of that. We need to mend our ways."

"Umm...okay Gram. No TV for now. Are you hungry or are you still full from the big late lunch?"

"I guess I'm still full, but I don't know why."

"It's probably because you ate almost all of your giant plate of food and you didn't finish eating until mid-afternoon."

She seemed like she was going to fall back asleep. "Do you want to lie down on your bed?" I invited.

"In my bed."

"Do you mean for the night? Do you want to go to bed already for the night?"

"I think I better. I think you want to go to bed now," she replied.

"Nope," I said with forced cheerfulness, "I'll be up for a few hours still. It's just after 7:00."

"Well I better," she persisted.

"Okay, are you sure you don't want food first? A snack or something?"

"No, I'm just real tired."

By now she was seeming a bit more lucid, so I tried to see if she remembered what she had been
saying before.

"Hey Gram, do you know what my dad does for work?"

"He works with math," she answered.

"Yeah, that's right," I figured it was sort of right, "He does math for the Payroll."

"And what do you think about watching TV?" I tried to sound casual.

"I don't think that's a very good idea," she persisted.

"Do you want me to help you up?" I asked her in the midst of getting her ready for bed.

"I don't think you should help me."

"Why not?"

"Well, you worked so hard today, I think I should do something."

"Gram, you don't have to do anything. It was yardwork--so it was cold and tiring--but it wasn't terrible. It gave me a good sense of accomplishment. Besides, I want to be able to help you."

She consented. She finished getting ready for bed and then I helped her into it. We made plans for me to wake her up for her pills at what would normally be her bedtime. I asked her one last time, "Would you like me turn on the TV for you to listen to until you fall asleep?" (You have to understand that it's not so much that I'm a pusher for TV as that I was curious to see if she would persist in her idea that TV was evil and she wasn't going to watch it anymore. But that seemed forgotten.)

"That would be nice," she said. I turned on the tv and put it on her Hallmark channel.

"Good night Gram." I sat on the edge of her bed and rubbed her arm affectionately. "I sure hope you get lots of rest and wake up feeling clearer. You had me a little bit worried earlier."

"I'm sorry."

"That's okay, you just seeemed really confused and it made me wonder what was going on with you." I paused, then continued. "Do you remember what you were saying at all when you were on the recliner?"

"I was talking about your mom."

"You were talking about Dad. You said he was a truck driver."

"I did?"

"Yeah. And then you said you couldn't watch TV because you needed to do holy work and that we needed to mend our ways."

"I said that?" she chuckled incredulously.

"Yep...I'm glad that you think it's funny now. Maybe you were having weird dreams of some sort when I woke you up."

"Huh," she said curiously not confusedly.

"Well, g'night Gram. I love you."

"Thank you honey, I love you too."

I shut her bedroom door and shook my head. "What in the world was all that?"

My New Church

I am now attending First Covenant Church on 45th & Burnside. The "Covenant" refers to their committment to one another and not to any particular theology that may share the term. (So calm down, everyone!) :-) I am super-excited about and really enjoying my new church. I guess you could say it's that infatuation period where I see so many things that I like about the church, without knowing it well enough to know the problems that I'm sure exist somewhere as they do in pretty much any community of people.

I found the church by a fluke--they were in a random article and I looked up their denomination online since I'd never heard of it before. I liked the orthodoxy, yet simplicity of their doctrinal statement, so I decided to put it on my list of churches to visit. It was one of 20-some churches that I visited, and when I was nearing the end of my list I was beginning to detest being a visitor and long to settle somewhere. First Cov was the place that I was most drawn to, and so I decided to go for a month or so before committing. In the meantime, I asked the pastor some questions that I had about the church, and was pleased with his answers. After 8 weeks of "visiting" (I kept fearing that some "red flag" would come up, and so I put off committing), I decided I truly wanted to be a part of the community. Since then I have joined a care group, and am hoping to soon begin helping out with the youth ministry. I am excited each day that brings me into contact with people from this community and I am eager to get to know more of the people and to become more involved with the church.

Some of the things that attracted me to the church from its website were...
  • The simple affirmations of belief that covered the basics of Christian doctrine.
  • The grace that the community extended to one another in areas of Christian practice.
  • Some of the missionaries and service organizations that the church supports were listed
  • Yes, I'll say it even though it's unpopular midst my family and friends: the church ordains both men and women to ministry and leadership, a position that I have grown into on my journey to seek God's heart for the church.

Some of the things that attracted me the first day there were...
  • The church laughed with one another over silly technical difficulties.
  • People seemed casual and comfortable
  • There was a sense of community midst the members of the congregation
  • There was a wide age range of people.

Some of the things that I have loved since then are...

  • Old and young enjoy enthusiastic and heartfelt musical worship.
  • The church takes a church mission trip, not a youth one--this being a long-time dream of mine.
  • Solid biblical teaching, that addresses the tough questions.
  • My care group spent the first 30 minutes of our meeting identifying some of ways we will serve the community and those in need this year.
  • We take communion every other week and there is a variety in the method used which keeps things fresh and not mechanical.
  • They love one another.
  • They laugh with one another.
  • They care for one another.
  • I can see myself serving there.

I am realizing though, how much time it will take to know these people. At my first care group meeting last Thursday I felt so proud because I learned 14 people's names. But then when we began to share prayer requests I realized how little a name tells me. Someone would ask for prayer for so-and-so, and I would have to ask the kind woman next to me, "Who is that?" "Her daughter"..."their friend"..."grandson," etc. I never realized before how difficult a prayer meeting at Cascade could have been for a newcomer. When someone there shared a prayer request, I had no problem understanding because I knew the names of their family members and the situations that their family members were in. Seriously, it will take years and years and years--if ever--to know these people like that. But I'm trying to learn!

Monday, September 29, 2008

One of Those Days

Today is one of those days. You know...

One of those days when your alarm clock doesn't go off and you are awakened at the exact moment when you're supposed to be starting to do something else.

One of those days when you don't have time to change from pajama pants to jeans until 2:00 pm.

One of those days when you don't have a moment to change from your pajama shirt to a bra and t-shirt until 6:00 pm.

One of those days when you don't find the time to brush your teeth 'til after dinner, but all day long you've been promising yourself that it'll be the next thing you do.

One of those days when no matter what you're doing, there's always someone who needs help in the other room.

One of those days when you get four types of bodily fluids or excrements on you.

One of those days when just when you think you get to take a nap, one of the them wakes up and needs your attntion.

One of those days when you have sat, squatted, knelt, bent, and stooped so many times that you are starting to have a hard time getting up off the foor.

One of those days when your phone rings constantly, but since you're in pajamas which don't have any pockets, you have to rush off each time to find the last place you left it.

One of those days when five minutes on the toilet alone with the door closed is the biggest break you've had all day.

One of those days when you constantly feel the need to apologize for not being able to do everything everyone wants of you.

One of those days when you go to get the mail and are tempted to sit down on the curb and breathe for a while.

One of those days when half the day someone is on the floor wanting to be picked up.

One of those days when you feel like you need to complain a little bit about your day at the end of the day.

One of those days when you cut your complaining short so you can go to bed.

*sigh*

Tomorrow's a new day.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Grrrr... --OR-- I'm an Idiot

So I have The Count of Monte Cristo checked out from the library so I can read it for our book club. I remember reading it this morning, then I'm pretty sure I set it on the kitchen table while I put more water in my water bottle. Then I thought I collected my book, my purse and my Bible and went into the garage, throwing all three onto the passenger seat of my car. I was bringing the book because I thought I was going to be pretty late for my adult education class, and if it was already half over I was just going to read in my car.

When I arrived at the church, I remembered to take my atenolol, since I've been taking it at 10:00 am and it was just after 10. In the process, I dropped the open bottle on the floor underneat the steering wheel and had to pick them all up. By then the class was more than two-thirds of the way over, so I reached over for my book, but it wasn't there . I looked all around in my car, and didn't find it. I figured I was just remembering wrong and that I had left the book on the kitchen table, but when I got home the book wasn't there either. I looked on the couch, I looked where I remembered reading it last and then on another couch. I looked on the kitchen counters. I looked all over everywhere I could possibly set the book. Then I decided to look crazy places: I checked the garage, I checked the refrigerator, I checked the bathtub. No book.

You have to understand; this is not a small book. It is about 8-1/2"x6" or so. Oh yes, and it is 1400 pages thick--about 4". This is not the sort of book that slips in cracks somewhere. I researched my car, I researched the house. Then I re-researched the car and the house. The only other option I could think of was that maybe I had set the book on top of the car and then drove off with it on the roof and it had fallen off somewhere. But I think I would hear or see that sliding off. And wouldn't other cars honk to let me know it was up there? It was my last idea, though, so I got in my car and drove the first couple miles of my route to church. Have you ever realized how much junk there is on the sides of the roads? There was a lot--but I didn't see the book.

Where in the world can that stupid book be?! Not only will I have to pay back the library if I can't find it--but I won't be able to read myself to sleep tonight. :-( This is so frustrating!

THE END

*You don't get closure because I don't get closure. But if you have any ideas as to where else I should look...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

In My Mailbox

Twenty minutes ago I walked to the end of my street to get my mail from today and yesterday and to haul back the garbage and recycling carts that I neglected to bring back to my garage yesterday. I tucked the mail under one arm, grabbed a cart with each hand and carefully hauled everything back to the house. I tossed the mail on the couch, went back out to the garage and straightened the bins, then made my way back to the living room and plopped down on the couch. I separated the mail into three stacks: junk I wouldn't even bother opening, personal mail, and everything that may or may not be important, like bills and other things from companies I deal with. First I opened up the lone personal envelope. An adorable baby girl peered up at me from the picture enclosed in my friend's daughter's birth announcement. I smiled and read the announcement, then set it aside and picked up a natural gas bill, or so I thought. It turned out that it wasn't a bill, just information for me as a new customer. Okay.

Next was an envelope from the hospital that my bloodwork had been sent to when I went to the doctor a couple weeks ago. I figured if a UA cost $20 and an EKG cost $35, then the two blood tests would each be somewhere in the same ballpark. I slid my index finger under the flap of the envelope and tore it open, then pulled out the paper and remittance envelope inside. $236. The number jumped off the page at me, and my heart started pumping faster. I was not expecting it to be that big, and I sighed and began to feel a bit panicked. I don't know what you do when you get bad news or good news or funny news or ironic news, but I always call my mom. It's not that she can necessarily fix the problem, but it just always feels better to know that there's someone who knows what I'm going through. I held down the 3 and my phone speed-dialed my mom. "Mom, I just got my bill for the blood tests. Two hundred thirty-six dollars." I hoped my flat tone wouldn't betray the frustrated tear that slid down my cheek. She wondered why it was so much, I replied that I didn't have a clue. She sympathized. "Well," I admitted, "that's all I had to say. Sorry to dump that on you, but you're the one I call with bad news or good news or funny news. Maybe there will be good news in my next bill." "Yeah, maybe," she said wrily. We said goodbye and hung up. I breathed in deeply and then blew the air out slowly through pursed lips. Well, I'd figure something out. I've never not been able to pay a bill yet.

I reached for the next envelope, from my mortgage bank and slowly pulled it open, expecting another invitation to by life insurance that will cover my mortgage--the stupid bank has been sending me an invitation like that every other business for the past four weeks! But what I pulled out looked different. It was a check. For $274.67. What!? I started looking for the catch, you know, something that says, "when you cash this check, you are enrolling yourself in our life insurance program: or something like that. Instead it said "Escrow Overage Refund." Relizing it was genuine, I eagerly grabbed my phone and again held down the 3 button. "What, good news so soon?" she asked facetiously. "I just got a check for $274 dollars as a refund for overpaying to my escrow account!" "Really? Wow! How much was the other check for? Doesn't that leave you with $40 leftover?" "Yep," I grinned, "praise the Lord!"

You know, this actually isn't the first time this has happened to me. When I was in college, one of my cousin's and her husband out of the blue sent me some money and a card that said, "We were just thinking about you and praying for you and felt that God wanted us to send you this." I was surprised and felt a little bit guilty--I wasn't sure what I should spend the money on. Maybe a new coat? Winter was coming on and I didn't have a very warm one. I deposited it in my bank account until I could decide what to do with it. Two weeks later, I went to the doctor with a broken foot, and the sum of my medical bills (office visit, cast, podiatrist checkup) totalled up to $10 less than what they had gifted me. Wow.

I hope this is a lesson that I can "get" this time. God will be faithful to provide for my needs, so next time I'm facing a financial challenge, instead of freaking out, I should remain calm, pray and trust that the Lord knows my need.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Good, The Bad and The Uglies

My computer is back after a couple weeks once again at the brink. I thought I'd catch you up to date with two each of the good, bad and the ugly things you missed out on.

THE GOOD

Most days Grandma is very, very appreciative of my care. It makes it so much easier to serve her when she is thankful for my help instead of resentful for it as many aging people can be, when they don't want to have to be helped. She thanks me frequently throughout the day for little things I do for her, and she thanks God for me in her prayers, which touch me deeply.

Another good thing that happened came from a sorta-bad thing. I have always had weak ankles, but the past couple years have been blessed enough to not have sprained them at all. The other day I was unloading Gram from the car, and just as I was about ready to push her wheelchair up the ramp into the house, my ankle suddenly gave out on me, turning my foot completely onto it's outerside with a big popping sound. It hurt terribly and I could not put any weight on it, but using Gram's wheelchair for support made it much easier to hop up the ramp and through the kitchen doorway which is inches away from the freezer which holds the ice packs. I iced it immediately, which seemed to keep the swelling to a minimum. When I turn my ankle, the pain always is very intense and I can't tell how bad it is until 5-20 minutes later. If it isn't any better it will usually be a bad sprain that can take weeks or even months to heal. I had no clue how I'd be able to support and transport Grandma if that happened. Thankfully, after five minutes I was able to put weight on it and could tell by the limited pain and swelling that it was only a minor twist. I was able to limp around on it that night and the two days since I have been able to walk normally just being careful not to retwist it in its' weakened state. Praise God for preventing it from being a serious sprain!


THE BAD

There was an accident of the most foul-smelling nature that took quite some time to clean up. As it was the first major one since she's been here, it took me a while to figure out how to best clean everything up. And I mean everything. After 2 hours of wiping, washing, and sanitizing...we conquered the mess. But I'm hoping it won't be frequently repeated. At least next time I'll have the process down. :-)

I've been feeling pretty weak, which makes some days very difficult. My appointment with the endocrinologist isn't until mid-October. On top of that, the migraines that have been much less frequent the past few years have resumed (or perhaps even surpassed) the frequency I was accustomed to in college. I've been experiencing intense migraine headaches about every four or five days the past several weeks. Medication doensn't always relieve the pain (not even twice my dose of vicodin!), and when it does work I worry because I have a limited quantity of it and every time I use it I'm closer to running out. Even when the pain goes away I am often nauseaus, which is gross, but I guess it's better than being light and sound sensitive since those symptoms make it much harder for me to help gram than just nausea and malaise. I'm tired of my body and ready for a new one.


THE UGLY

As Gram has expressed dissatisfaction with her hairstyle, I tried to help her with it. I parted it in the middle, and pinned it back on the sides in a cute style that helped cover the areas where her hair is thinning. Well, she didn't like it. "I look haggy," she grumbled as she looked in the mirror. "What does that mean?" I asked. "It means I look like an old hag!" So the next few days instead of styling her hair the way I thought it was cute, I tried to help her style it the way I thought she wanted it (which I don't think is very flattering on her, but I guess it's more important how she feels than how she looks). But even then she was always dissatisfied (even though she sometimes tried to hide that so she won't discourage me). In the end, I gave up helping her as each attempt produced an "ugly hag" look to her eyes. :-) On a positive note, though, I cut her hair the other day and she really really likes the hair cut!

Moving from the mundane to the serious...ugliness number two is my heart. I'm not quite as worried about the discouragement and hopeleness that I sometimes feel. That's just a result of many changes, and the depression and anxiety that have come along with the hyperthyroidism. But what does worry me is the bitterness and resentment that I can feel in my heart sometimes. Tonight I am very frustrated because after coming home from Mindy's birthday dinner at my parents' house, Grandma has spent over two hours getting ready for bed. She is doing all sorts of extra preparations tonight even though I've asked her to be quicker, since I have to wake up at 5:30 on Sundays in order to have time to get myself and then her ready for church. Last week I was nodding and blinking all service long and didn't really hear what the pastor was saying because I was concentrating so hard on staying awake. Gram has insisted that I can go to bed and she'll just put herself to bed just fine--but that doesn't always work out as we hope, and since she has a hard time rousing me from sleep, I want to stay up until she's tucked safely between her sheets. In the meantime, I am so angry with her. I'm exhausted and all I want to do is sleep, but I can't because she's won't go to bed until she puts her curlers in (apparently and hour-and-a-half process that I will ruin of course if I try to help). And because I'm feeling angry at her, I'm now feeling angry with myself for being so impatient and bitter and spiteful right now. She's an old woman who doesn't look the way she wants to look anymore, but has a strong sense of how she should look for church. I chose to care for her so that I could love her and help her and serve her, but sometimes I feel resentful to her for what was my own choice. I don't know that there is any answer to this besides continuing to pray for patience and love. But it is definitely the ugliest part of our situation.


ANOTHER GOOD SO I DON'T END WITH A DOWNER...

It's been fun to get to hear stories from Gram's life. I knew that her dad died when she was 13, but now I know what that was like for her, and I can imagine the happenings of that sad and scary day. Okay, that was a bad example of fun...but I've been able to learn about her relationships with siblings, and the various romances that each have been involved in. I've learned about Gram's various boyfriends, her first fiance, and her later relationship with and marriage to my grandpa. I've heard about her job in a theatre and her job with information at the telephone company before she moved up to the position of operator. She remembers those days vividly, like they were yesterday, but she can't remember the real yesterday--or even two minutes ago sometimes. Which is probably why she calls her son and daughter by the names of her older brother and sister. It's been fun hearing stories and imagining the full life she lived that I only have had a glimpse of as her granddaughter.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

My Health

I've already been sick a couple of times this year. It's normal for me to have much less energy and strength when I'm sick. That coupled with the fact that I was out of shape, made me super tired this May as I was getting over being sick. Eventually I realized that it was too long after being sick to blame that for my fatigue. I decided I was in the worst shape of my life as it became difficult to even climb stairs--my legs felt to weak to climb the last couple steps.

On July 5th, I finally realized that this was more than an out-of-shape issue. For one thing, I was losing weight. In three months I had lost 20 lbs without trying to. Also, even when I was resting, my heartrate was high--usually above 100. I was fatigued and my muscles were weaker than ever. I went to the internet and found a website where I entered my symptoms and it told me possible diagnoses. The most likely one seemed to be congestive heart failure (or CHF). This absolutely freaked me out, since it's serious but I was afraid to go to the doctor until I could obtain and afford insurance.

Needless to say, my family (once I decided to share with them) was very concerned for me. After several weeks of believing myself to have CHF, I had the opportunity to get the opinions of several nurses. One of them listened to my lungs and didn't hear the crackling sound that would indicate CHF. The other two mentioned that generally someone with CHF would gain weight, not lose it. My aunt (a nurse) mentioned that the sudden weight loss could indicate an overactive thyroid.

My family has continued to be concerned about me, and last week when I slept through my grandma's calls for me in the morning, and she feared I had died in my sleep, I decided I needed to get checked out--for them as well as for me. I called the only medical office I know of in the area that accepts patients without insurance, and was told by them to go to urgent care if my heartrate was rapid. She gave me the number for an clinic that would acccept me without insurance (and give me a 25% discount for immediate payment!). I felt stupid about it, but I did go the next day. To my surprise, I had the best medical experience of my life at that urgent care clinic. The doctor I saw listened to me, examined me thoroughly, ordered necessary tests and spent time answering my questions. I had some bloodwork done and the lab results showed that I do have an overactive thyroid. The doctor prescribed me beta blockers, which will help keep the heart healthy and working well, and is referring me to an endocrinologist who should be able to help me determine what caused the condition and how we can treat it. The urgent care visit, EKG, and UA only cost me $150. The lab that did the blood tests is going to bill me for those tests, but I'm pretty happy with how inexpensively I was diagnosed. Unfortunately, the specialist will probably cost more, but mostly I'm hoping that I'll be able to afford whatever treatment is necessary.

I honestly don't know much more other than that, I'm still learning about this condition. But I am really, really, REALLY glad that there is a reason for why I've been feeling so crummy the past few months, and I'm hoping that in a few more, I'll be feeling back to normal. Now that I'm learning a bit more about hyperthyroidism I'm recognizing other things that are symptoms that I didn't know were related (difficulty sleeping, tremors and shakiness, intolerance of heat, anxiety and panic attacks, etc.). It's nice to know those things may stop with treatment, too.

Well...my uninsured plight has turned out pretty good so far... I'll keep you all updated when I find out more.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Plight of the Uninsured

Imagine that you do not have health insurance. It may be because you were dropped off of your parents' policy when you finished your schooling and you never bothered to activate your own policy. It may be because you switched jobs and your work no longer provides group insurance. It may simply be because you cannot afford the premiums of group or individual insurance.

At times when you find yourself without insurance--especially if you've always had it before, but now it's gone--you live very carefully in an attempt to make up for your lack of coverage. You spray disinfectant all over the entire apartment after your sick roommate goes to bed and you avoid hanging out with your family when someone has a cold or the flu. You cringe when someone sneezes and hold your breath while their germs "settle"--or you try to breathe through your sleeve, using it as a filter. Despite your best efforts, you occasionally get sick, but are relieved when you get better without requiring the assistance of a prescription.

After a while, years maybe, you begin to develop a sense of security. You think to yourself, I've saved myself thousands of dollars by not paying for insurance--and look! I didn't even need it! Maybe it's better not to have insurance at all until I get older. I mean, I'm sure I'll need it sometime...maybe I'll try to get it next year. You keep putting it off because you keep not needing it.

Then--and this may happen suddenly or it may creep up on you gradually--your body is at some point different. You've been telling yourself that this weakness was merely residual from the flu-bug you're getting over, but then you realize that it's been over a month since you were sick. You've been assuming that your fatigue and rapid heart rate are because you're falling out of shape. But then you realize that you've been in worse shape before and you've never felt like this in your entire life. One day you wonder if there is something wrong with your body, but you shrug it off and try to convince yourself that you're being a hypochondriach. A few days later, though, you google some of your symptoms on the internet (the grand E-Doctor to those without insurance) and you're terrified by what you find. No, you tell yourself, I'm too young for that. I'm just exaggerating this. I'm just really out of shape. And you almost convince yourself that you're fine. Until you begin to notice other things with your body that could possibly be a symptom of what you saw on the internet and after a few days, you resign yourself to the fact that you are not well. Hopelessness ensues.

You know that you need insurance if your worst fears are confirmed, but there's a problem. Your problem may be that you still just can't afford the premiums or that you are not healthy enough to pass a physical exam required before acceptance because of what's going on or because of past injuries or conditions. Your problem may be that you can't meet reasonable underwriting guidlines because of your age, weight, smoking habit or other high-risk factors.

You wonder if you can share your fears with your family or closest friends. If I talk about this to someone now and then get insurance later, could my insurance company refuse to cover it saying this was a preexisting condition? Could my conversations be used to prove that I had suspicions about my health? Would they think to interview my family or friends? At this point, you decide you can't risk it and you feel completely alone facing this situation without anyone even being aware of your struggle. You feel sick to your stomach and begin to experience symptoms of extreme stress.

Finally, you can't hold it in anymore and you confide in someone you trust, telling them how you've been feeling, what you've read about it, and how you don't know what to do. They respond encouraging you to go to the doctor. You want to see a doctor, but you're fearful that if you do you may be diagnosed with something that will preclude you from ever being able to obtain private insurance. You keep hoping that if you wait a few months more, you can improve whatever is keeping you from meeting the insurance underwriting guidelines now: you can quit smoking or lose weight. Or if it's a monetary issue, maybe in a few months you can save up enough money to help with the premiums.

You feel relieved that you now have someone to talk to about your situation, and some of your stress subsides. But without insurance you're between a rock and a hard place: you fear that waiting months before seeing a doctor could complicate your medical situation, but if you go see him now, you risk being diagnosed with something that you can't afford to treat and that will keep you from ever getting private insurance that could help you afford treatment. So you make a choice.

Since we are imagining, I can't happy-end this hypothetical post. There are too many alternate endings: the uninsured person could...

1. Wait to see a doctor, obtain health insurance, and be happily treated.
2. Wait to see a doctor and obtain health insurance, only to find out that irreversible damage has been done to body in the meantime.
3. Wait to see the doctor, still not be able to obtain health insurance and be in the exact same situation, only with a progressing medical condition.
4. See the doctor immediately, find out that the problem is serious, but that treatment is insanely expensive.
5. See the doctor immediately, find out that the problem is not major or that it can be affordably treated.

How does the uninsured person choose?

I know this is a bad ending to this post, but you know what? For the uninsured person, the story sometimes ends badly or with uncertainty.

I bet you've probably guessed by now that this isn't a hypothetical situation for me. You'll have to read my next post to see where I am in this journey.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Lucid Mornings / Confused Evenings

Wow. I guess I just experienced the highs and lows of functionality that can occur in a single day in Grandma's life. Today when she woke up, Gram was doing very well. She wasn't shaking, she was transferring herself without assistance, and dressing herself. We conversed about stuff throughought the morning and she communicated fine.

Then this evening, I was preparing a pot roast while Gram was in her room organizing her toiletries in the bathroom. Once the roast was in, I sauntered on down the hall to see how things were going with her, and to see if she needed my help with anything. I walked into her room just in time to see her scooping pills out of multiple sections of her weekly pill case. (I had left the pill case in a prominent place in her room so that I would be reminded to give them to her regularly.) At that point, the only pills she still needed to take for the day were her bedtime pills. "Gram, what are you doing?" I asked, as I hurried to take the pill case, "you already took most of your pills for today." She insisted that she hadn't taken any pills yet, and I gently reminded her that she had taken some when she woke up in the morning, midday, and in the early evening. "No, all my pills were still in the case," she insisted. I looked at the case and explained, "Gram, today is Monday...see your pills are gone except for the bedtime ones. You were looking at Tuesday's sections." "Oh..." She finally relented. Thankfully, the dozen-plus pills that she had emptied were still clutched in her hand, and it only took me a few minutes to sort them back into the appropriate places. I'm now keeping the pills on top of the refrigerator. I learn by experience, but I'm glad that lesson took place without her harming herself with an overdose of some sort.

Since she slept in late today, Gram wasn't ready to go to bed until way after I had wanted to be in bed. She insisted that she could get herself ready, but agreed to let me help. All the while she kept telling me I could just go to bed and let her finish on her own. We got her changed and ready so that all she needed to do was brush her teeth and climb into bed and at her insistence I left her at 1:15, assuring her that if she had a hard time getting into bed she could use her whistle to call me. Then I went to bed. 45 minutes later, I thought I semi thought I heard something and sat up wondering, was that Grandma calling me? I didn't hear anything else so I lay back down. But then I heard a whistle followed by "Kristi! KRISTI!" I jumped out of bed and ran out, wondering if she had fallen out of bed. Thankfully, Gram wasn't on the floor. She was sitting in her wheelchair at the doorway of her room. "Oh...there you were," she said as I came from the room next to hers, "I thought you were down there." She pointed to the living room, forgetting that she had told me to go to bed, "Why didn't you hear me?" "I heard something," I explained, "but I wasn't sure if what I had heard was your voice until you whistled. That I clearly heard over the fan in my room." "Oh...that's right, you have a fan." "So what's up?" I asked, "Are you having a hard time getting into bed?" "Oh...I don't know...... I guess I haven't tried yet." "Well, what did you call me for?" I said with a puzzled look. "Hmm...," she lowered her eyes sheepishly, "I guess mostly just to hear your voice." "Well, why don't I help you into bed now," I suggested and to my delight she consented. I helped her in and pulled up the covers. "Good night, Gramma. I love you. I'm really glad you're here." "I'm glad I'm here too."

So, leaving my grandmother's room at 2:00 am, I smiled to myself. I'm not tired yet, since I had quite the adrenaline rush when I thought she'd fallen out of bed, and it always takes a while to come down from that. So now I'm just sitting here on my bed giggling to myself about her calling me for no apparent reason at 2:00 am. And I decided to share it so that you could giggle too.

Monday, September 1, 2008

She's Here!

Yesterday we moved my grandma into my house. Now there are two people half-unpacked here. heh heh. (I decided I hate unpacking almost as much as I hate dusting.) But I'm so thankful that five months after we made the decision to move forward with this plan, it's finally begun!

Today we both slept in, and then we got her ready for the day. Since she eats very slowly, I finish way before. She doesn't read so well anymore, so I'm going to read the Bible to her after I'm done and while she's still eating.

After that I told her we should check some of our relative's blogs. I went to my bedroom and came back into the dining room carrying my laptop. "Do you call that contraption a blog?" Gram asked me.

"Ahh, no...this is a computer. But we use it to look at blogs." My grandma has a very vague sense of what the internet is, and so she looked on in amazement as I popped up one of my cousin's blogs. I magnified the window to 200% so that she could see the pictures better, and read the last few entries of the blog.

"That's so nice," she said as we left a comment, "so they see our note the next time they look at it?" Yay! She's getting it! Then we read another blog. And another. The third one had a video clip of my cousin's baby boy playing with his daddy. Gram and I both laughed as we listened to his adorable giggle. Then we watched another 10-minute video that was in the blog. "It's amazing what they can do these days!" she exclaimed. As I shut the laptop she admitted, "I can see why you guys get so attached to those things--computers."

I was pretty happy with her response. :-) It's been a great first day.