Saturday, October 28, 2006

Glad to be here...

i'm glad to be alive, of course, but in California, for certain.

Today was one of those amazing fall days here in the Bay Area--the sky was a cloudless blue, and the sounds of summer played on the air: leaf blowers and kids on bikes, the heart-stopping loud bass thumping of someone's car stereo as they drove around our corner (not my favorite summer sound.)

i spent hours in the yard cleaning up my flower beds, cutting back stuff that needed cutting back, that sort of thing. It was glorious. Sunshine and a light breeze all day. Do you know what i mean by the "open" feeling of summer? Neighborhood sounds travel on the air, making me aware of being part of something larger. There's a different feel to summer air--as if it carries a bit of everywhere along with it. Nice to have today as a reminder, before we have to break out the umbrellas.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Things to embrace after 50.

Yesterday i had my eye exam. i'm getting bifocals. After increasing difficulty acting casual while trying to read small print or waiting for my eyes to refocus from close to far, i've taken the plunge. i've decided to Embrace the Bifocal. In fact, i may go so far as to do commercials to advertise my campaign to Embrace the Bifocal. In these i will be seen bounding across a grassy field of flowers (in slow motion, of course) wearing something that floats about me, hiding the southward shifting of important body properties. My carefree demeanor, centered by the fashionable bifocals i'm wearing, will show that, YES, Bifocals Can Be Beautiful! And if i am wearing them while bounding across that field, i may be able to see the shift in terrain before i go head over floaty gown...

That's the only thing i feel like embracing at the moment. i promise that if i come up with something else i have the energy to embrace, i'll keep you posted.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

To sleep, to dream...while hooked to loads of wires

7:40 pm, October 18, 2006. Sleep study night.

So far, so uneventful--unless you count the freeways full of traffic that Dean drove through to get me here. (Isn't he sweet?) He's staying in a hotel nearby, 1.6 miles away, according to Mapquest.

The Santa Teresa Kaiser's sleep clinic is a cute little bunch of rooms off a little hallway, and they're decorated like mini hotel rooms--i don't know if they're all different (like the wildly decorated Madonna Inn on the coast of California--we stayed there once.) but this one is painted pretty much the same shade of green as my bathroom at home. The bed is covered with a comforter that i sincerely hope is supposed to be that particular shade of dirty white. There are two really cute chairs in the room, a dresser, mirror, and headboard in a nice reddish-brown wood, along with the requisite piece of hotel art.

The techs are both guys--a little weird, that. Hope i can wear my bra to sleep. i know that's not my normal sleep routine, but then neither is this whole dorm-room-attached-to-many-little-monitor-thingies-being-watched-by-two-strange-men. And the girls could use some support.

A sleeping pill, Ambien, is waiting for me. It was suggested by the woman who called me to see if i could fit into a cancellation spot. So i emailed my doctor to request that. She put in a prescription for one (1.) One single pill. And an $18 pill at that. Okay. A full prescription would have cost me $20 under our coverage, but a single one at its full cost (being less than the copay amount) is $18. Bummer deal. Well, if it helps me sleep well, i may ask the doctor to give me a whole bottle. Clearly nothing else is working.

i'm in waiting mode, as both techs are with patients. There's an adorable little girl about 7 years old who's here for a study. Wow. Since i don't go to bed until 10 usually anyway, they've said to just make myself comfortable--there's a tv, i have my book, so it's all good.

i just hope the study shows something. i've gotten so used over the years to feeling like all the ways i feel unwell are my fault and could aaaall be cured by Proper Diet and Exercise that i halfway expect them to find nothing and send along a "Jenny Craig" brochure with my report.

*10:10 pm.*

Well, i am now officially wired for sound (and whatever else they wire for--delta waves and such.) i look pretty darn funny. It took Tom the tech an hour to do it all. i have wires in my hair, on my face, legs, chest, and these cool purple straps cuddling the girls--one strap above and one below. It's a look. A purple box with numbered plug-ins for the colored wires attached everywhere. i have wires down my jammie pant legs, attached under my chin, under my eyes...i can't actually smile with everything taped to my face.

It's nearly lights out. Tom said he'd be back in about half an hour. As he was going out the door he said, "You can go to the restroom, read, whatever. But what one thing can you not do?" He looked at me expectantly. i looked back blankly, searching for the answer in my brain. i don't know, what? Wear a size 8? "Don't fall asleep!" Oh yeh. He did say that earlier.

i'm banking on that Ambien to get me calm enough to sleep.

This is weird. Good thing i got in so quickly--asked the doctor only a week or two ago. Less time to fret about it. And i'm good at fretting. Possibly a master fretter.


Actually, i'm pretty sure it's still dark outside, so no dawn, just morning. 6 am wakeup call. Last night Tom said, "We wake people up between 5:30 and 6." i said, "Could i please be more toward the 6?" Not a morning person under any circumstance.

Between the pill and my strictly cutting off any fluid intake after 6 pm, i was saved needing to be unhooked and assisted to the restroom in the night by Tom the tech. i did wake up in the night--not sure how often, once or twice out of my 11:30 to 6 night. Given the fact that i normally sleep more like 10:30 or 11 pm to 7 or 8 am (yes, i know i'm spoiled) that rude 6 am awakening is just a blip on the screen of my usual night.

Results come in 4 or 5 days--i now look forward to it.

Tom was a fun chatter while doing the wiring last night--he has 2 girls, 5 and 8, and since he only works 3 days a week, 4 when they're short handed, he gets to spend time in their classes. He admits to riling them up, he's so high energy--i told him we used to tell people who'd get Jarel all wound up in the evening, "You wind him up, you take him home--"

i felt like i was seeing what a grown Jarel could look like out in the working world, a hyper-speed, fast talking man chattering along happily, doing his job.

Dean picked me up and we're now back at the Blue Collar Extended Stayamerica--the parking lot is full of trucks and minivans, while next door at the White Collar Extended Stayamerica Deluxe, the parking overflows with spendly little sports cars. Amusing.

On the way home via 680. Just passed a hand lettered sign stuck on a hill next to the freeway:
eggs leather
Mentioned it to Dean. He said, "Sounds like a bad place to be an ostrich."

Oh what a night.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

i have good friends.

Not that i thought my friends were bad, but i've had some nice things happen lately.

First, there was that whole birthday thing in September. My sister and i have talked about how we both have some deep-seated dread of our birthdays. Nothing to do with the amount of years, though that carries its own trauma. So there i was, dreading my birthday the whole week previous, trying to put on a happy face, and then it all started flowing. i got to chat with a long distance friend, got to see my beautiful long distance grandkids on the webcam, got calls and cards from local friends and children, not to mention the perfect gift of a bag full of chocolate bars from my husband. And they weren't just any cards, and they weren't just any chocolates, they were special and thoughtful and funny cards, and lovely special chocolate bars. The kinds of things where you know the person really thought about you when they bought them. And on top of all that, i got to go to lunch and shopping with friends and daughters--TWICE!

But why just feel bad about my birthday? There is of course the whole fibromyalgia thing. Again, i try to not be a big crybaby about it. i do whine some. i do get grumpy a little. But it does tend to get me down from time to time, what with that whole crappy-sleep/constantly-achy-body thing.
And then there are always finances to worry about--why the heck our electric bill is as high as it is, why i am seemingly incapable at age 53 of making a simple budget and making it work. As somebody who believes in the God who made the universe (and me) i believe i'm to be a good manager of what resources He's given me. But can i ask Him for a raise in my allowance? That would be so much easier than trying to learn to live within my means!

And then there are my fears--the fears that keep me from doing things i would like to do. There's the fear of New, the fear of Failure, the fear of Large Bodies of Water. Recently daughter Corinne and i were discussing what we would do if we could have any job. She'd really like to know that about herself, since she's currently spending hours and hours finishing her college degree and considering going into a Master's program. i said i would love to write and publish--one thing i am passionate about is writing. i do some of my best thinking that way. Now, if we were talking about the fear of New Kinds of Chocolate, i'd be willing to try some total immersion therapy, but when it's the fear of something where i think others will be judging me? That gets pretty darn different.

So those are a few worries, a select few of the worthless crop i am currently fertilizing. But again, i am somebody who believes in the God who not only made me (and the universe!) but that He actually cares about my life. And that includes my birthday-dread, and my fibromyalgia-sleep-deprivation-crabbiness, and even my phobia about opening my electric bill.

So i've been conversing with God lately about the above-mentioned stuff--living within our means financially, dreams and passions i'm afraid to follow, pretty much all the stuff above except i'm not really ready to chat about the whole water thing just yet. And i've been trying to not only talk, but listen. You know, the kind of thing that makes a real relationship--the sharing, the not-one-sidedness. And i put a disclaimer here: if you are the sort of person who feels strongly that the creator of the universe (and you!) does not dilly-dally about having chats with 53 year old women about their fears and dreams like some cosmic slumber party, you should probably stop reading. Because lately i have been having a hard time hearing His voice, and i've been asking God if the stupid little crap of my life matters to Him. These are the ongoing inner conversations in my head as i go through my day doing laundry and such.

So i've been thinking about getting a new cell phone. i realize a cell phone is a frivolous thing, so how can i think about getting a new one if i have one that works? Well, this cell phone thing applies here because i have been saying to God, in the mode of trying to be responsible with the money we have, "i will not get one if it costs." You see, in our house, we are gadget fiends. We do love our cell phones and computers and cool tools. So a cell phone, here in the land of plenty, is not a big thing. Twelve year olds have cell phones here. i decided to be content until i found a freebie that i liked. And then my friend got a new cell phone. It glimmered in the light as i felt the gadget fiend within me rise up. But no--i've made a commitment. It must be free. i had been looking on our provider's site every week at what they might have. One similar to my friend's was, with rebates, $80. Not free. Now, again, here i know that to some, 80 bucks is two weeks groceries, and to others that's just the price of a good lunch. But, remembering my decision, no go. Not free.

But what's the harm in looking at the features and comparing reviews on Cnet and Amazon and such? This will fill my gadget cup for now. So i open Amazon to see if there are more details not on the Cingular site, and look up the phone.

It was there for $0.01. One cent. One penney. Huh. Cool.

A couple of days later i received my copy of "Simple Scrapbooks" magazine, and start flipping through the pages. i'm one of those people who tends to read all the pages, even the letters to the editor. So i perused the ads in the front, i started reading the letters from readers, and one sounded so very like me until i realized, it IS me--it's an email i sent them a couple of months ago. Not a piece of writing i sweat bullets over, but an email i just sent off one day because i like their magazine. My thoughts, my name, published right there on the page of a magazine. i laughed. Huh. Cool.

So, last night with my Bible study homies, i shared these two bits of news about the phone and the magazine. i asked them, "So, do you think God really answers stuff like that?" i mean, can God answer prayers through a cell phone? Am i just nuts to think He cares about the cell phones and the writing desires of my heart? If i had not been talking to Him about these very things for the last couple of weeks, i might have thought these were random acts in a random world. But no, i think they show God has a sense of humor.

So, here's where we get back to that concept of relationship with God. My most valuable friendships are ones that are reciprocal--not just me giving, not just them giving, but the give and take that creates closeness and trust between us. God, for all that parting-of-the-Red-Sea kind of action is still seeking to have a relationship with me. i know i've made the mistake of putting my parents' faces onto God. i know i've struggled long to separate what i saw as parenthood when a child from the truth of God's care as my Father. i read a verse yesterday in the book of John, chapter 14. It's verse 18, where Jesus is telling his disciples that even though he was leaving them soon he would ask God to send them the Holy Spirit to be with them and counsel them. He said, "No, I will not abandon you as orphans--I will come to you."

Abandonment. Speaking for myself, feeling abandoned like an orphan is an underlying fear of mine. Sometimes parents are too busy with their own problems to be involved with their children, and those children can end up feeling pretty alone even though the parents are physically present. Parents can be emotionally absent, physically absent, mentally absent--there are all sorts of abandonment. There can be the sort of abandonment that happens when parents don't like their grown children having a different opinion or belief or child-raising strategy from theirs. So first, in my life, there was that whole emotionally absent thing going on with my parents, and then Dean and i lost one parent after another until we found ourselves adult orphans in 2001. Abandonment. Not always intentional, but always painful.

But Jesus said He wouldn't abandon me, wouldn't leave me alone--He would send me the Holy Spirit to take his place.

My friends said, "It sounds like God is relating to you in a way that speaks to you--with a sense of humor." i like the thought that a relationship with me is important enough to the God who created the whole pickin' universe (and me!) that He would not abandon me. That's an active thing. A two way thing.

Oh, and the topper for good friends? i have one that actually says she thinks i'm organized. (Thanks, Adina!) But the subject of why that is worth putting out front in lights is another subject for another day.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

"If i only had a brain..."

Yesterday i had a unique experience. Because of the whole fibromyalgia-arthritis-hard to work thing i've had a couple of interesting doctor visits lately. Last week it was one where i got weighed and measured (why will they always take my word on my height, but not my weight?) and told to bend here and fold there....the young girl taking the measurements very delicately put her tape measure to my legs and arms (i apologized for not having shaved my legs, had i known i would be fondled about the calf and thigh i surely would have) and checked for matching/not matching sides of my body. The doctor then came in and spent his 2.5 minutes speaking with me, looked at my scoliosis in the lower spine, and told me he makes no decisions, he merely does the exam and gives the information to the Social Security people, and they decide.

Yesterday's appointment was much more entertaining (hard to imagine, i know) as it was a psychological evaluation. Did this have me nervous? But of course. Did it help that Mapquest has an odd sense of humor when laying out the route to an unknown doctor's office? Not really. But once i was there outside the office, shoving nickles and dimes into the parking meter, i steeled myself for the upcoming unknown evaluation.

The office was in a lovely old building in nearby Oakland. i let myself in to the suite's waiting room and was handed a clipboard with 6 or 7 sheets of questions. Some i could answer easily: "do you smoke? use drugs? feel like killing anybody?" But questions like, "what do you think is your main problem?" or "did you feed/bathe/dress yourself today?" begged for answers i felt i should probably NOT put down on a psychiatric evaluation. And yet, those questions barely prepared me for the battery of tests administered by the doctor herself. (And why is it called a "battery of tests"? Is it because you feel battered after taking them?)

i was feeling all pumped by the questions like "how are apples and oranges alike?" BOTH FRUITS! or "how are "cars and boats alike?" BOTH TRANSPORTATION! Maybe i can pass this test! Ah, but they got trickier as time went on: "how are flies and trees alike?" Uh, both alive and hopefully outside. "Why do we have a probation system?" HUH? "Name all the continents" "Who was president during the Civil War?" What are we testing?? Whether or not i was i asleep during history and geography classes???

And then came the evil *Numbers*.... "I am going to say a list of numbers, and you repeat them back to me." Numbers--never my favorite, and here they come to bite me in the backside-- "5. 8." Okay i can do this!! Then eventually, "6. 3. 5. 1. 9. 8. 3. 4." Um..(furrowed brow...) "And now I will give you a list of numbers and I want you to REPEAT THEM BACKWARDS TO ME." Now, nice Doctor Lady, if i couldn't repeat 8 numbers to you FORWARD, what makes you think i shouldn't just go out and get myself a candy bar and come back later?

And there were patterns to be copied made of blocks. Anybody familiar with "Flowers for Algernon," the story of a mentally handicapped person who has some experimental treatment or something and becomes brilliant, but then it wears off and they go back to where they started? Well, whether or not i just butchered that story, guess what part of the story i felt like? Yep, back to slow. And there were patterns to be copied in pencil. Cool. i'm all over that one--yes, i have copied the "Could You Be An Artist?" pictures from the ads-- "Now, I will take away the cards and your drawings--Now draw them from memory." Back to slooower.

By the end of the testing i was seriously questioning my ability to unlock my own car door, and i have one of those "push the button on the remote to unlock" thingies.

i did get myself home, though. But today i am not getting out of bed. Not sure if i can feed/bathe/dress myself anymore.