Of Flooding and Exploding Blow Dryers

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We’ve all heard the expression “When it rains, it pours.”  January was a monsoon for me.

It actually started mid-December with the news of my mother-in-law’s stage IV stomach cancer diagnosis.  With a six-month timeline, Elke* has opted to receive hospice care.  All her life she’s dealt with cancer.  It started in her late 20s, returned in her 40s, again in her late 60s, and with this last bit of news, she said she’s done.  Prognosis was not good to begin with, and she just didn’t want to go through the “cure” again.  Her husband, John*, has been displaying signs of dementia/Alzheimer’s Disease.  He had to be reminded who we were, and yet, most cruel, he’s aware of it right now.  They live in Texas, three and a half states over, and timing was not good.  But it had to be done.

The journey back to Texas was odd.  Any road trip I’ve taken before has always been a good thing.  My husband and I made the most of it, since it was three days hard travel.  My sister, who lives in Bakersfield, was gracious enough to let us use her place as flop house.  We literally spent less than 15 minutes talking to her before we headed for bed, and then in the morning, we hugged one and another and moved on, both going and coming back.  The second day out, I wrote some errant thoughts.  Those long drives gives a person way too much time to think.

January 4, 2017, Wednesday

When the sun is rising, the errant contrail casts a shadow on the higher clouds

Driving east along Interstate 10 to Texas

Don’t know how to feel

Sedimentary, layered mountains Las Cruces

Texas landscape out of El Paso flat

Scrub brush

Minimal traffic

Can use cruise control – indefinitely

Occasional butte, rolling hills

Road stretches out in front of you in gentle, undulating waves

Cerulean sky, painted with high altitude stratus clouds

Harmless, no rain

When sun is setting, the color of the western sky shifts from blue to lavender, then gradually to a dusky plum, all but obscuring the horizon, then gradually, deep purple to the black of night.

Headlights

On the third morning of our visit, I was drying my hair, when my blow-dryer of at least 10 years decides to go out with a bang.  Sparks flew and I had to unplug it to stop the sparks from turning into flames.  The acrid smell of burnt electronics filled our hotel room for at least a day.  I felt it was appropriate, somehow, that it should happen at that time; however, I had spent the night before crying, so it was possible I was just upset.  Saying good bye to something else, even something as replaceable as a minor appliance, really set me off.

When driving back, we ran into the storms in Northern California that we’d been monitoring even before we left.  It was an eye-opener to see the areas around Sacramento, flooded by water that had overrun the bank of the Cosumnes River.  Sacramento has the American and the Sacramento Rivers to deal with and the levies around the city are monitored more closely.  What I photographed was the Cosumnes River gone a bit wild, just south of Elk Grove, a suburb of SacTown.  And then from Highway 99 North to I80 East, up around Applegate, the trucks were pulled over because the road over Donner Pass was closed due to snow.

I was so grateful to be home…because our garage was flooding.  We got some more sandbags (don’t ask) and cleaned up what we could.  Thanks goodness the foundation is concrete, and no real damage was done.

On a lesser, but more immediate note, my husband’s car has stopped running.  The money we would have used to fix that was spent visiting his mother.  It sits in the front of the house, ads running on Facebook, Letgo and Craigslist with no results.  I guess no one wants a mechanic’s project at this time.

There is more to the story, but I will leave it.  Sometimes it’s good not to tell so much, and this is one of those instances.

*names changed for privacy

Of Miracles and Ponchos

A few days ago, a miracle happened to my friend.

Sister checking out her baby brother

Sister checking out her baby brother

Well, when you think about it, in depth and medically, objectively, and statistically, it is a miracle.  The fact that it happens about 353,000 times a day around the world does not diminish the joy, the awe and profound sense of wonder for the new parents when it happens to them.

I was privileged to hold the little gift.

I was privileged to hold the little gift.  I was trying not to breathe on him!

What was so quirky about this baby’s path is that a month before he was conceived, my friend, Wendy, had decided to have a tubal ligation.  I remember asking her if she was sure.  Once these procedures are done, there’s usually no going back.  It’s done.  She said, yes.  She didn’t want anymore babies, didn’t want to be pregnant and in her thirties.

The day before her procedure is scheduled, she cancels.  Doesn’t want to do it.  When I saw her again, I hugged her and then asked again, Are you sure?  She was sure; said it didn’t feel right.  I guess she knew, because here he is, 10 months later, her intuition.  The labor was all of one hour and 30 minutes long and relatively easy.  I say relatively, since the uterus really didn’t have any time to adjust, like in longer labors, and she was having the worst cramps when I took that picture.  She was near tears.  Needless to say, I didn’t stay long.  I know when I’m in pain, I don’t want to maintain friendly conversation!

I was just so happy for her, I had to write about it!

Fall colors

Fall colors

Now for the poncho.  (If you know of a better segue, please let me know!  The miracle of birth and life is a tough act to follow.)   The way I’m putting it together feels more like a vest…poncho?  Anyway – no sleeves!  Yay! It’s a gift for my postal carrier, so I thought of how she works and what she does.  I didn’t want the standard poncho design, because it would get in her way. I’ve been seeing pictures of ponchos that have buttons on the side and look sensible and relatively easy to make, especially when you’re lifting boxes and moving all day long.  It wouldn’t get in the way.  So, with a gleam in my eye, I decided to create my own design.  I did ask her favorite color, and she likes green also!  I didn’t want to overwhelm her with a monochromatic palette, so I added in some festive yarn.

Now I have a bit of a dilemma.  I have decided to drop it off at her work when it’s finished, which should be within a week.  My great fear is that she won’t like it.  You know how it is when you’re making someone a handcrafted gift.  Should I leave it anonymously and let her figure it out?  Or, should I let her know, so she knows whom she should be disappointed with?  (I know…bad sentence structure!)  Or is there another way I’m not thinking of?  I’m making a poll, so please let me know!

How Time Flies

It’s already been a year since my last mammogram, and here we are doing it again – which is a good thing.  I remember being astounded the first time I had one of these done that my body could be stretched and distorted in such a way.

All kidding aside, I think it’s very important for women to have this diagnostic performed regularly; you never know.  As far as procedures go, this is relatively painless and very fast.   As for those of you ladies who should be doing this but keep putting it off, stop that!  Don’t blow it off because it doesn’t run in the family, that your copay is too much, that you don’t have the time or you think the odds are in your favor.  Early detection is crucial to getting favorable results, i.e., to stomp cancer’s ass!

Now after saying all that, I hate having it done.  I really do.  But, I’d rather catch any anomalies before they become growths or tumors.  Ick.

So are you up to date?

All Good Things Must Come to an End

I'm going to miss his lovely face.

I’m going to miss his lovely face.

After two years of working at the local cannabis clinic, my interests have lead me elsewhere.  I will miss meeting all the people who came in:  the miracle stories, the walking wounded, and the chronic pain sufferers and even the slackers.  They all had their stories; some of them were horrific, some amusing, some were inspiring, but all very human.  When I first started here, I was dubious about the efficacy of marijuana, but after seeing real results, I have now changed my mind; I even got up and made a speech at a city hall meeting to defend our need for a local dispensary.  Anybody who knows me understands I HATE speeches and how much this experience has changed my attitude toward the much maligned cannabis plant.  So it is with mixed emotions that I bid farewell to a controversial field and start some trouble of my own!

I know I mentioned several years earlier that I was having trouble putting aside my camera for good.  I gave away so much because I was “done”.  Since writing that blog, I have had several gigs for friends, mostly as a favor or a trade and I have stumbled upon a cool sideline, doing social media, to include my photography, for local businesses.  These are not what I would consider paying gigs, as so far, I have been doing it for trade.  I get food credits for Cafe Luna, and cheese credit for Wheyward Girl, (no, Wheyward Girl does not reflect my images or my handiwork  – yet!) and honestly, I think I’m getting the better end of the deal on these!  I’m now focusing my attention on other local businesses that are running on a shoestring budget but need the help.  What better way than to offer a trade if cash money is tight?  Let’s keep it local, right?  And you are buying local, correct?!  I won’t get on that soapbox today, because I am guilty of making weekly trips to the closest Wally World for those super economical deals – damnit!vanilla latte socks with two colors

As for my other loves, knitting and crocheting, that goes without saying that they’ll be in my life.  I will continue to make designs, review patterns or tools of the trade and bitch about my latest disaster, be it knitting or crocheting – never fear.  I am currently ignoring a pair of socks, using the basic Vanilla Latte Socks pattern, my fave.  The pattern is free, so snatch it up!

See you in the funny pages!

Post Script:  I just published it and noticed all the links I have in this article – oops!  They’re good references, but you’re off the hook if you don’t want to follow them.

Mammograms and a Yearly Reprieve

What is it about that yearly exam that makes one think of death as an imminent event in one’s life? True, most of us don’t know when we’re going to die, but there are certain reminders of that fragile state known as “living” and one of them, at least for me, is my annual boob mashing.

Yeah...it is as uncomfortable as it looks.

Yeah…it is as uncomfortable as it looks.

All year long I’m busy living my daily life, taking my health for granted and the illusion that I’ll have it forever.  Working at a doctor’s office, I talk to patients who have all sorts of health concerns, and it always freaks me out when cancer is involved.  Cancer knows no age limits, no general health indicators, no gender or race preference.  I have lost family and friends to cancer and there’s always a story from a friend or acquaintance about some unlikely, for lack of a better word, victim, who has just been diagnosed with this scourge.  At work, there have been patients whose cases have made it difficult for me to maintain composure and all I can think is “Fuck cancer!”

So every year I get checked.  And every year, while waiting for the results, I think to myself, “What if this time…?”  So every time I get the all clear, I feel as if I’ve been given a reprieve from the inevitable.

The point of this post?  Just wondering if I’m the only one who goes through this.  Am I?

I Love My Job

I will start this post by admitting that it has two distinctly separate thoughts with a fine thread that connects the two. I think, technically, that it could qualify for two separate entries, but we’re not going to do that. I’ll start with the whole reason that compelled me to write this poorly composed thought…

To begin with, we’re all guilty of running on auto-pilot from time to time, especially at work. You get caught up in the daily routine of small details, and not so small details, that go into working at an office. Detail checking needs to be improved, more files need to be scanned, get the credit card machine fully functional, and discover why the picture taking apparatus works on a sporadic basis while making appointments, setting up new patients, updating returns, blah, blah, blah….you know, work.

Then something stops you short in your tracks to remind you why you’re doing this.

And that happened on Thursday, July 30.  Our last patient.*  She was running late and we’d had a slow day.  You know the situation.  When she came in I thought she looked familiar.  I took care of her input information and noticed the picture we had of her from last year.  Did not look like the same woman; haggard, tired and sick.  This year, she wore make-up, had done her hair and looked good.  I checked some details and found out last year, she was going through chemo, wore a handkerchief over what was probably a bald pate at the time and she had stage IV lung cancer.

I checked again.  Stage IV?  I have included a link to the American Lung Association so you may read for yourself the grim survivability rates are at this point.  I have known people with lung cancer, and I’ve known for quite some time that lung cancer, usually because of when it’s detected, is fatal.  And it’s fast.  Technically, the patient shouldn’t have been here, but against all odds, she was.  And even looking healthy.

When her visit with the doctor was over, I had to speak with her and her caregiver/daughter.  They came out all smiles and I had their recommendations printed up.  I told her how happy we were to see that she was here and what a great thing this was.  Her daughter described the desperate days of last year when she didn’t think her mother would make it and how she became very aggressive with the cannabis oil treatment.  And here she was, downgraded to Stage I lung cancer.

As the details unfolded, I thought of my Uncle Bill who died recently, and how studies in the specific brain tumor type he had showed great results when treated very aggressively with the cannabinoids found in marijuana.  Unfortunately, he’d been in Tennessee when this happened, and the doctors he and his immediate family consulted were concentrating only on traditional methods.  What a waste.  Then I looked at the patient in front of me, happy and given a fighting chance at living out the rest of her life without the immediate threat of cancer looming over her.  I ducked my head, wiped at my eye  and murmured something about having to print up something(yes, just like that), while my co-worker, Wendy, was openly crying, dabbing at her eyes with a kleenex.

Did the marijuana help or was the patient going to improve anyway with the chemo?  I don’t know.  I related this story to my general practitioner and his tone was very neutral when he said that was really unusual.  I understood his position.  Doctors in California have to be careful about their stance on marijuana; it’s not covered under any insurance, the federal government does not recognize its legality here or in other states and they have to consider the general consensus of what their patients think of it.  Most doctors with a private practice can’t afford to jeopardize their standing in the community, medical or otherwise.

But think about it:  A plant that has medicinal qualities, never caused a death from overdose, and even has the venerable AMA wanting to do clinical studies and the federal government has it classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance.  I know, I know, I think I’ve talked about this before and until the issue is resolved, I’ll probably talk about it again.  When you have a documented case of stage IV lung cancer being reversed in an elderly patient, wouldn’t you want to how much of this was the traditional medicine, how much was the marijuana, how much was genetics?  So why is the government dragging their feet?  How many more people have to die?  And WHY?

Inhale deeply. Hold for 10 seconds.  Exhale.

Ok.

The doctors who are usually associated with cannabis have mixed motivations as to why they are practicing this.  Most of them are employees of a larger company with the protection that comes from having a group; kind of like

Dr. Banister wearing the hat I made for him for his birthday

Dr. Banister wearing the hat I made for him for his birthday

an umbrella.  The stories I’ve heard from some of the patients about their experiences at other clinics are appalling.  Patients packed in tiny waiting rooms, overworked staff and a quick how-de-do with the doctor.   No real information is given and definitely no rapport is gained with the individuals.  The three of us who work up front definitely try to make the experience go smoother, and the doctor who works here is in it for the right reasons, as far as I’m concerned.  He is a favorite for many around here and wherever he works, they’ll follow.

When his birthday rolled around this year, I thought I’d make him something special.  I put

Using the duplicate stitch was the only option here!

Using the duplicate stitch was the only option here!

aside my shrug (yes, I’m still stuck in the monotony of knitting 46 inches of pure stockinette!) and quickly whipped up a hat.  I tried to make the leaf look realistic, but in the end, I freehanded the Rx to leave no doubt as to what kind of plant was being depicted.  It took me awhile to get the plant graphic down, as I used an image of a real leaf.  Nature is not symmetric!  He accepted the gift with aplomb and said that definitely, he would wear it when he went skiing.  And no, it didn’t escape my attention that I was giving him a knit beanie on the hottest day of the year.  Oh, well.

 

*Patient names not used to protect identity.

The Cat’s Out of the Bag

 

Looking like an old hippie - LOL!

Looking like an old hippie – LOL!

I was just going to go to work and back home. It wasn’t a patient day, just time for the office help to get caught up and set up a new computer.  So why not wear the tee? And don’t bother with makeup or doing the hair- just put it in a braid. It was appropriate.

wpid-wp-1427405756134.jpeg

Most of the shirt…

As much as I am an advocate for medical marijuana, I don’t use it,  and when you live in a small town, you have to tread carefully. So what do I find myself doing? Going to the local grocery store and pizza place. Yea. Treading carefully. If I was to judge by the looks alone, I’d say I was doing the butterfly stroke!  Oh, well.  No pussy-footing around any more-  the cat’s out of the bag!