Friday, December 31, 2004

Rave of the Day for December 31st: 

I'm in the mood for something sweet. My cousin Cora e-mailed this cute tale, or should I say tail? Enjoy....

A man and his dog were walking along a road. The man was enjoying the scenery, when it suddenly occurred to him that he was dead. He remembered dying, and that the dog walking beside him had been dead for years. He wondered where the road was leading them....

After a while, they came to a high, white stone wall along one side of the road. It looked like fine marble. At the top of a long hill, it was broken by a tall arch that glowed in the sunlight. When he was standing before it, he saw a magnificent gate in the arch that looked like mother of pearl, and the street that led to the gate looked like pure gold.

He and the dog walked toward the gate, and as he got closer, he saw a man at a desk to one side. When he was close enough, he called out, "Excuse me, where are we?"

"This is Heaven, sir," the man answered.

"Wow! Would you happen to have some water?" the man asked.

"Of course sir, Come right in, and I'll have some ice water brought right up." The man gestured, and the gate began to open.

"Can my friend," gesturing toward his dog, "come in, too?" the traveler asked. "I'm sorry sir, but we don't accept pets."

The man thought a moment and then turned back toward the road and continued the way he had been going with his dog. After another long walk, and at the top of another long hill, he came to a dirt road which led through a farm gate that looked as if it had never been closed. There was no fence. As he approached the gate, he saw a man inside, leaning against a tree and reading a book.

"Excuse me!" he called to the reader. "Do you have any water?"

"Yeah, sure, there's a pump over there". The man pointed to a place that couldn't be seen from outside the gate. "Come on in."

"How about my friend here?" the traveler gestured to the dog.

"There should be a bowl by the pump."

They went through the gate, and sure enough, there was an old fashioned hand pump with a bowl beside it. The traveler filled the bowl and took a long drink himself, and then he gave some to the dog. When they were full, he and the dog walked back toward the man who was standing by the tree waiting for them.

"What do you call this place?" the traveler asked.

"This is Heaven," was the answer.

"Why, that's confusing," the traveler said. "The man down the road said that was Heaven, too."

"Oh, you mean the place with the gold street and pearly gates? Nope. That's Hell."

"Doesn't it make you mad for them to use your name like that?"

"No. I can see how you might think so, but we're just happy that they screen out the folks who'll leave their best friends behind."

Brief relief.... 

Believe it or not, I'm experiencing a low pain day....my body finally caught up to the high blood levels of thyroid hormone (I went from too low to too high very suddenly), which actually isn't as good as it sounds. I'm in a mildly hyper state....no palpitations, thank goodness, but nasty insomnia, mild fever and ever so slightly jittery. It's just like when I'm on prednisone....I have to be on too much for me to feel better. But my pain is only half of what it was last night, I'm thinking slightly more clearly, and I'm VERY cheerful. I cut my dose of Cytomel in half a few weeks ago per the endocrinologist's instructions, so this hyper state will probably fade quite fast, maybe even by tomorrow. I'm trying to appreciate the improvements while they last. I particularly like being able to climb the stairs without feeling as though someone were trying to pry my kneecaps off with a bottle opener.

I'm going to work on New Year's Eve of course, but I'll have a front row seat for the downtown fireworks at 9pm and midnight. And you'll never hear me complain about holiday pay. I'm bringing some fake champagne (sparkling apple juice) to work so we can drink to the new year. I am MORE than ready to kiss 2004 goodbye! I'm hoping 2005 will be the "Year I Get Some Answers So I Can Make Some Major Decisions".

I have an annual ritual of writing a top 10 list of goals, but I don't worry about whether or not I can achieve them all. This is the first year since I was in my 20's that I'm not resolving to lose weight, but making more sensible food choices is on the list. I have to figure out how to stay on my gluten free, gastroparesis-friendly diet without spending a fortune. I have more financial goals than usual....even if I don't end up going on disability next year, I need to budget better for those times when I miss a lot of work.

Got an odd phone call today....the sleep specialist's office called and said the doc wants me to have thyroid levels and a complete blood count done. I asked if they could just look at the labs I've had done recently with other docs (the insurance might not cover doing the exact same tests again so soon). I wonder what's up? Perhaps they found something odd during the sleep study? I did have a bad bout of night sweats during the test but didn't know if that would be anything they could measure. My follow-up appointment on the study is Thursday.

In case I don't get back on here this weekend, Happy New Year!

Pain level: 5
Fatigue level: 6

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Postscript to "NOW What??"..... 

My eye seems fine now. I went to sleep with the humidifier on.

The climate where I live gets horribly dry this time of year, and my work environment is especially bad. I had to proofread most of the shift last night, and I think that aggravated my already dry eyes. But I will call the doc if it ever happens again, and will definitely ask him about it at my next appoiintment.

I think my rheumatologist's regular staff may be on vacation, and he's probably taking extra days off too. And the practice is so large that one doc won't fill in for another except for emergencies. And this med is an anti-inflammatory, so it's not really an emergency if I run out (my fibro thinks otherwise).

Must try to get some time in on the Gazelle machine to try to loosen up these joints. I feel like the tin man in the Wizard of Oz.

Pain level: 7
Fatigue level: 6

Rave of the Day for December 29: 

I can especially relate to this funny tonight. Thanks to Ducky's Daily Grin.....

You have to try on a pair of sunglasses with that stupid little plastic thing in the middle of them.
The person behind you in the supermarket runs his cart into the back of your ankle.
The elevator stops on every floor and nobody gets on.
There's always a car riding your tail when you're slowing down to find an address.
You open a can of soup and the lid falls in.
The tiny red string on the Band-Aid wrapper never works for you.
There's a dog in the neighborhood that barks at EVERYTHING.
You can never put anything back in a box the way it came.
Three hours and three meetings after lunch you look in the mirror and discover a piece of parsley stuck to your front tooth.
You slice your tongue licking an envelope.
Your tire gauge lets out half the air while you're trying to get a reading.
A station comes in brilliantly when you're standing near the radio but buzzes, drifts and spits every time you move away.
There are always one or two ice cubes that won't pop out of the tray.
You wash a garment with a tissue in the pocket and your entire laundry comes out covered with lint.
The car behind you blasts its horn because you let a pedestrian finish crossing.
A piece of foil candy wrapper makes electrical contact with your filling.
You set the alarm on your digital clock for 7pm instead of 7am.
The radio station doesn't tell you who sang that song.
You rub on hand cream and can't turn the bathroom doorknob to get out.
People behind you on a supermarket line dash ahead of you to a counter just opening up.
Your glasses slide off your ears when you perspire.
You can't look up the correct spelling of a word in the dictionary because you don't know how to spell it.
You have to inform five different sales people in the same store that you're just browsing.
You had that pen in your hand only a second ago and now you can't find it.
You reach under the table to pick something off the floor and smash your head on the way up.

NOW what?? 

About midnight, while I was at work tonight, I suddenly got a sharp pain in my right eye, like someone stabbed me with a toothpick. Ack.

I've tried both my regular preservative-free eyedrops and my steroid drops, but neither is helping. My eye is slightly red where it hurts. I've already decided if it still hurts when I wake up tomorrow, I'll call the opthalmologist.

This probably another Sjogren's-related adventure, but since I've never had eye pain before in my life, I really have no idea. I just hope it goes away. My poor hubby is sick to death of driving me to several doc appointments a week (I'm not allowed to drive until I find out whether or not I have narcolepsy).

I'm extra cranky tonight because I've been out of Bextra for a few days. Apparently, my rheumatologist is not available to authorize a refill. So EVERY joint in my body is complaining bitterly, which of course makes the fibromyalgia scream bloody murder.

I am way tired of all this. Seems every time I get one health problem figured out, two more problems take its place.

Insert your favorite swear word here.

Pain level: 9
Fatigue level: 7

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Rave of the Day for December 28: 

It's that time of year when we reflect on all that has happened during the past 12 months. Don't know what organization orchestrates the following, but I do enjoy reading about the individuals mentioned. Thanks to Joan for e-mailing me this.....

Number One Idiot of 2004

"I am a medical student currently doing a rotation in toxicology at the poison control center. Today, this woman called in very upset because she caught her little daughter eating ants. I quickly reassured her that the ants are not harmful and there would be no need to bring her daughter into the hospital. She calmed down and at the end of the conversation happened to mention that she gave her daughter some ant poison to eat in order to kill the ants. I told her, well, on second thought, she better bring her daughter into the emergency room right away."

Here's your sign, lady. Wear it with pride.


 Number Two Idiot of 2004

Early this year, some Boeing employees on the airfield decided to steal a life raft from one of the 747 aircraft. They were successful in getting it out of the plane and home. Shortly after they took it for a float on the river, they noticed a Coast Guard helicopter coming towards them. It turned out that the chopper was homing in on the emergency locator beacon that activated when the raft was inflated. They are no longer employed at Boeing.

Here's your sign, guys. Don't get it wet; the paint might run.


Number Three Idiot of 2004

 A true story out of San Francisco: A man, wanting to rob a downtown Bank of America, walked into the branch and wrote "this iz a stikkup. Put all your muny in this bag." While standing in line, waiting to give his note to the teller, he began to worry that someone had seen him write the note and might call the police before he reached the teller's window. So he left the Bank of America and crossed the street to Wells Fargo. After waiting a few minutes in line, he handed his note to the Wells Fargo teller. She read it and, surmising from his spelling errors that he wasn't the brightest light in the harbor, told him that she could not accept his stickup note because it was written on a Bank of America deposit slip and that he would either have to fill out a Wells Fargo deposit slip or go back to Bank of America. Looking somewhat defeated, the man said, "OK" and left. He was arrested a few minutes later, as he was waiting in line back at Bank of America.

Don't bother with this guy's sign. He probably couldn't read it anyway.


Number Four Idiot of 2004

A guy walked into a little corner store with a shotgun and demanded all of the cash from the cash drawer. After the cashier put the cash in a bag, the robber saw a bottle of Scotch that he wanted behind the counter on the shelf. He told the cashier to put it in the bag as well, but the cashier refused and said, because I don't believe you are over 21. The robber said he was, but the clerk still refused to give it to him because he didn't believe him. At that point, the robber took his driver's license out of his wallet and gave it to the clerk. The clerk looked it over and agreed that the man was in fact over 21 and he put the Scotch in the bag. The robber then ran from the store with his loot. The cashier promptly called the police and gave the name and address of the robber that he got off the license. They arrested the robber two hours later.

This guy definitely needs a sign!


 Number Five Idiot of 2004

 A pair of Michigan robbers entered a record shop nervously waving revolvers. The first one shouted, "Nobody move!" When his partner moved, the startled first bandit shot him.

This guy doesn't need a sign, he probably figured it out himself.


 Number Six Idiot of 2004

 Seems this guy wanted some beer pretty badly. He decided that he'd just throw a cinder block through a liquor store window, grab some booze, and run. So he lifted the cinder block and heaved it over his head at the window. The cinder block bounced back and hit the would be thief on the head, knocking him unconscious. It seems the liquor store window was made of plexiglass. The whole event was caught on videotape. Oh, that smarts.

 Give him his sign.


 Number Seven Idiot of 2004

 Ann Arbor: The 'Ann Arbor News' crime column reported that a man walk into a Burger King in Ypsilanti, Michigan at 12:50 A.M., flashed a gun and demanded cash. The clerk turned him down because he said he couldn't open the cash register without a food order. When the man ordered onion rings, the clerk said they weren't available for breakfast. The man, frustrated, walked away.

 A sign for this guy would just be a waste.

Post-Christmas activity..... 

Yesterday was the 9th anniversary of Dan's and my first date. We celebrated by going to a Chinese restaurant using a gift card we got for our anniversary. This restaurant has its own gluten-free menu! They even have a gluten-free appetizer and dessert! I tried the appetizer and ate so much of it that I had no room for dessert. In fact, I had to take part of the entree home in a box.....Cantonese shrimp with snow peas and a special sauce with brown rice.

Today, I popped in to a local department store to use two gift cards I got for Christmas. I was able to find THREE styles of pants that fit!! So I bought two pair of each style. I did not have ANY pants in my current size, so this was much needed. Two pair of stretch denim, two pair of khakis, and two suede-type that were lined. I'd been wearing baggy sweaters since October to disguise the fact that all my pants were too large in the waist.

This is an unusually quiet week for me....only one doc appointment. I'm going in tomorrow for my usual half hour massage and chiropractic adjustment. And no aquacise all this week, although I need to make sure I get in at least two sessions on the Gazelle machine to make up for it. Dan and I are working Friday night to get that much needed holiday pay.

Beyond exhausted. Nothing new there.

Pain level: 7
Fatigue level: 9

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Rave of the Day for December 25: 

A collection of holiday goodies, some funny, some sweet. Thanks to Ducky and Joan for their contributions:

Top 10 Elf Pet Peeves
10. After too much eggnog, Mrs. Claus is "all hands."
 9. Ever since they hit the big time, those damn Keebler Elves act like we don't exist.
 8. Santa keeps asking, "Does this suit make me look fat?"
 7. That idiot Blitzen always mistaking you for a chew toy.
 6. You're enjoying the Jacuzzi, and Santa gets in naked.
 5. Now have to work through coffee breaks thanks to the McCaughey septuplets.
 4. It's at least a thousand miles from North Pole to nearest strip club.
 3. Next to "race" on the census forms, there's never a box marked "elf."
 2. Hookers who laugh when you take your pants off.
 1. Health plan doesn't cover sleigh rash.

A Kitten's Days of Christmas
On the first day of Christmas, my kitten ruined for me...
A batch of my special hand-print cookies. I had turned my back to grab the cookie sheet sitting on the stove. In that micro-second, Sara climbed onto the table, poked her paw into the delightfully kneady mixture and, suddenly off-balance, fell into the cookie dough.
Net loss? Six cups of flour, four cups of sugar, three sticks of butter. Of course, it would have been cheaper to remove the feline ingredient, pick out the hairs, and just rename the recipe Paw Print Cookies.
On the second day of Christmas, my kitten accompanied me...
On a trip to the vet clinic. Who knew that skinny curling ribbon has feline taste appeal? I didn't.
Damages: $28 for the office visit, $36 for anesthesia so the veterinarian could take $55 X-rays in case Sara had taste-tested any other Christmas decorations, and a heck of a lot of embarrassment when the vet removed the 3" curly tail in slightly less than two seconds by tugging at it with a pair of tweezers.
On the third day of Christmas, my kitten wrecked for me...
13 ornaments on my Christmas tree. My mistake was forgetting to chain the decorations to the branches. My other error was leaving the room to go to the bathroom while Sara feigned sleeping under the tree. How was I to know she was actually measuring its climbing potential?
Value of broken bulbs? $7.50 plus tax.
On the fourth day of Christmas, my kitten broke for me...
A statue in my Lenox Nativity. Would you believe two Wise men plus a head?
Lenox nativity figurines: $55.99
On the fifth day of Christmas, my kitten scratched for me...
The kid across the street who collects for charity. It was an accident. She merely wanted to reach out and touch someone. Unfortunately, she used an unsheathed claw to do so. I settled out-of-court for the cost of a jacket to replace the boy's blood stained one and a hefty donation to the charity of their choice. Although the amount must remain secret according to our settlement, let me put it this way. You haven't seen many soldiers for the Salvation Army this year, have you? Think: Major Windfall!
On the sixth day of Christmas, my kitten opened for me...
The presents beneath my Christmas tree. It was only two, really. While doing some early shopping at a discount store, I purchased a catnip mouse for Sara's stocking. Apparently, anything in the same bag as catnip takes on its potent aroma for a very long time.
Replacement costs: $3.99 for another roll of Christmas wrapping paper, $4.50 for two empty boxes, $1 each for the kind of bows Sara can't unravel.
On the seventh day of Christmas, my kitten lost for me...
The earrings I bought for my sister Mary. Actually, it was one earring but since Mary doesn't have a hole in her nose or navel, a pair of matching earrings does make a more appealing gift.
Sale price: $29.95 plus tax.
On the eighth day of Christmas, my kitten helped me...
Replace my E and G guitar strings. Would you believe a kitten could fit into the itty-bitty hole in the middle of my Yamaha guitar? Neither could I,but Sara thought so. And she succeeded once she got those rascally strings out of the way. Unfortunately, her little rear end couldn't get out the way it went in. After paying through the whiskers for her previous escapades,I would have been willing to leave her in the guitar for the duration of the holiday season, except that she chose to get stuck two hours before I was due at the nursing home for our annual Christmas carol sing-a-long.
Set of steel guitar strings: $12.95;
jar of petroleum jelly: 79 cents.
On the ninth day of Christmas, my kitten destroyed for me...
My Christmas card list when she walked across my computer's delete key. Cost for call to Computer Country's 900/help line: $17.50. And I still don't know what happened to the listings of B through H.
On the tenth day of Christmas, my kitten hid from me.....
The remote control from my 13-inch TV. This wouldn't be such a disaster if she hadn't previously stolen the power knob. I missed a week's worth of Christmas specials, including my all-time favorite, "It's a Wonderful Life."
Rental of "It's a Wonderful Life": $2;
purchase of book, "Good Owners, Great Cats": $24.95. Unfortunately, it never mentions the psychological profile of kittens with kleptomania.
On the eleventh day of Christmas, my kitten ate for me.....
The drumsticks off my 19-pound turkey. OK, OK, So this one time it was my fault. I knew I never should have uttered those now infamous words: "Your first turkey, Sara. Want to try just a little piece?"
Cost: Christmas Dinner.
On the 12th day of Christmas........
Sara rested. And so, thank goodness, did my VISA card.

Holiday Shopping Rules
Rule No. 1
When waiting for a parking spot, stop in the middle of the road, don't signal, and orient your car diagonally to prevent others from passing.
Rule No. 2
Always park on the lines, taking up as many spots as possible. Diagonal parking is preferred.
Rule No. 3
In a crowded parking lot, if you find a spot and have the opportunity to pull through to an adjacent one, drive up halfway and stop on the line, taking both.
Rule No. 4
As you pull into a spot, if you see that the space ahead of you is empty and you see another driver signaling to take it, pull though and take it from him.
Rule No. 5
Always park close enough to the adjacent car so that the other driver must grease up with Vaseline to squeeze into his or her car.
Rule No. 6
When getting out of your car, hit the adjacent vehicle with your door really hard.
Rule No. 7
When driving through the parking lot, ignore the painted lanes and drive diagonally from one end to another at a high rate of speed.
Rule No. 8
When stopped in front of a store and waiting for a friend/relative to make a purchase, make sure that you are stopped in the middle of the road. The same rule applies to picking up and discharging passengers.
Rule No. 9
When a vehicle from the opposite direction is signaling and waiting for a parking space, position your car so that you are in his way and let the car behind you take it.
Rule No. 10
If you have handicapped license plates, use up a regular parking spot.
Rule No. 11
If you hit the adjacent car with your door and leave a dent, wait for a car, which is painted the same color as yours, to drive down the aisle looking for a place to park. Then back out, giving up your spot like "Mr. Good Guy," and park somewhere else.
Rule No. 12
If the vehicle in front of you stops to let a pedestrian cross or another vehicle turn, pull into the lane of opposite traffic and attempt to pass him.
Rule No. 13
When exiting a shopping center into a busy road, exit through the narrow "ENTER ONLY" driveway, stick the nose of the car into traffic, and wait.
Rule No. 14
When driving through a parking lot with alternating one-way aisles and angled parking spots, drive the wrong way. Then when you see a parking space, take 20 minutes to do a 12-point turn to pull into it.
Rule No. 15
Always leave your shopping cart behind or tightly between parked vehicles.
Rule No. 16
Empty your ashtrays on the ground in shopping center parking lots. While you're at it, dump out all the garbage, too, including that Wendy's or McDonald's bag sitting in the back seat from breakfast.
Rule No. 17
If you are forced to change an infant's diaper in a parking lot, leave the soiled diaper under the car next to you.
Rule No. 18
When another vehicle is waiting for you to pull out of a spot in a crowded parking lot, take your time. Adjust the mirrors, your seat, and the radio. Roll down your window, light a cigarette, and eat your lunch. Feel free to go through your shopping bags and look at what you just bought.
Rule No. 19
When pulling into a parking spot, if there is a shopping cart in the way, lightly tap it with your bumper and send it rolling into another car. Then, when you step out, if the cart is still too close, push it down the parking lot aisle and let it go. While the cart is flying solo, turn around and walk toward the stores.
Rule No. 20
When walking back to your car in a busy shopping center, gesture to other drivers waiting for a spot to make them think that you are getting in the car and leaving. Then walk between the cars to the next aisle and do it again.
Rule No. 21
When shopping at the mall, which requires you to load your bags into the car and go back in to do more shopping, do NOT tell the driver who is sitting patiently watching you load your car and signaling for your spot.
Rule No. 22
When walking back to your car, if you notice other shoppers walking past your car to get to theirs, press the buttons on your key chain remote so that your car's alarm makes a sudden loud "BLOOP BLEEP" that scares the crap out of them.
Rule No. 23
If you don't see a speed limit sign posted in the mall's parking lot, there isn't any!
Rule No. 24
If you back into a parked car, and the driver isn't with it, take out a piece of paper and start writing. This is especially effective if there are 15-20 witnesses. On a piece of paper write, "There were ___ witnesses when I hit your car. They think I'm writing my name, address, and phone number."

Office Holiday Memo

To:        All Employees
From:     Management
Subject: Office conduct during the Christmas season
Effective immediately, employees should keep in mind the following guidelines in compliance with FROLIC (the Federal Revelry Office and Leisure Industry Council).
1.  Running aluminum foil through the paper shredder to make tinsel is discouraged.
2.  Playing Jingle Bells on the push-button phone is forbidden (it runs up an incredible long distance bill)
3.  Work requests are not to be filed under "Bah humbug."
4.  Company cars are not to be used to go over the river and through the woods to Grandma's house.
5.  All fruitcake is to be eaten BEFORE July 25.
6.  Egg nog will NOT be dispensed in vending machines.
In spite of all this, the staff is encouraged to have a Happy Holiday.

Signs of Christmas
Toy Store: "Ho, ho, ho spoken here."     

Bridal boutique: "Marry Christmas."     

Outside a church: "The original Christmas Club."     

At a department store: "Big pre-Christmas sale.  Come in and mangle with the crowd."     

A Texas jeweler store: "Diamond tiaras -- $70,000.   Three for $200,000.     

A reducing salon: "24 Shaping Days until Christmas."     

In a stationery store: "For the man who has everything...   a calendar to remind him when payments are due."

A Christmas story-

Pa never had much compassion for the lazy or those who squandered their means and then never had enough for the necessities. But for those who were genuinely in need, his heart was as big as all outdoors. It was from him that I learned the greatest joy in life comes from giving, not from receiving.

It was Christmas Eve 1881. I was fifteen years old and feeling like the world had caved in on me because there just hadn't been enough money to buy me the rifle that I'd wanted for Christmas. We did the chores early that night for some reason. I just figured Pa wanted a little extra time so we could read in the Bible.

After supper was over I took my boots off and stretched out in front of the fireplace and waited for Pa to get down the old Bible. I was still feeling sorry for myself and, to be honest, I wasn't in much of a mood to read Scriptures. But Pa didn't get the Bible, instead he bundled up again and went outside. I couldn't figure it out because we had already done all the chores. I didn't worry about it long though, I was too busy wallowing in self-pity. Soon Pa came back in. It was a cold clear night out and there was ice in his beard. "Come on, Matt," he said. "Bundle up good, it's cold out tonight." I was really upset then. Not only wasn't I getting the rifle for Christmas, now Pa was dragging me out in the cold, and for no earthly reason that I could see. We'd already done all the chores, and I couldn't think of anything else that needed doing, especially not on a night like this.But I knew Pa was not very patient at one dragging one's feet when he'd told them to do something, so I got up and put my boots back on and got my cap, coat, and mittens. Ma gave me a mysterious smile as I opened the door to leave the house. Something was up, but I didn't know what.

Outside, I became even more dismayed. There in front of the house was the work team, already hitched to the big sled. Whatever it was we were going to do wasn't going to be a short, quick, little job. I could tell. We never hitched up this sled unless we were going to haul a big load.

Pa was already up on the seat, reins in hand. I reluctantly climbed up beside him. The cold was already biting at me. I wasn't happy. When I was on, Pa pulled the sled around the house and stopped in front of the woodshed. He got off and I followed. "I think we'll put on the high sideboards," he said. "Here, help me." The high sideboards! It had been a bigger job than I wanted to do with just the low sideboards on, but whatever it was we were going to do would be a lot bigger with the high sideboards on.

After we had exchanged the sideboards, Pa went into the woodshed and came out with an armload of wood---the wood I'd spent all summer hauling down from the mountain, and then all Fall sawing into blocks and splitting.

What was he doing? Finally I said something. "Pa," I asked, "what are you doing?" "You been by the Widow Jensen's lately?" he asked. The Widow Jensen lived about two miles down the road. Her husband had died a year or so before and left her with three children, the oldest being eight. Sure, I'd been by, but so what? "Yeah," I said, "Why?" "I rode by just today," Pa said. "Little Jakey was out digging around in the woodpile trying to find a few chips. They're out of wood, Matt."

That was all he said and then he turned and went back into the woodshed for another armload of wood. I followed him. We loaded the sled so high that I began to wonder if the horses would be able to pull it.

Finally, Pa called a halt to our loading, then we went to the smoke house and Pa took down a big ham and a side of bacon. He handed them to me and told me to put them in the sled and wait.

When he returned he was carrying a sack of flour over his right shoulder and a smaller sack of something in his left hand. "What's in the little sack?" I asked. "Shoes. They're out of shoes. Little Jakey just had gunny sacks wrapped around his feet when he was out in the woodpile this morning. I got the children a little candy too. It just wouldn't be Christmas without a little candy."

We rode the two miles to Widow Jensen's pretty much in silence. I tried to think through what Pa was doing. We didn't have much by worldly standards. Of course, we did have a big woodpile, though most of what was left now was still in the form of logs that I would have to saw into blocks and split before we could use it. We also had meat and flour, so we could spare that, but I knew we didn't have any money, so why was Pa buying them shoes and candy?

Really, why was he doing any of this? Widow Jensen had closer neighbors than us; it shouldn't have been our concern. We came in from the blind side of the Jensen house and unloaded the wood as quietly as possible, then we took the meat and flour and shoes to the door. We knocked. The door opened a crack and a timid voice said, "Who is it?" "Lucas Miles, Ma'am, and my son, Matt. Could we come in for a bit?"

Widow Jensen opened the door and let us in. She had a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. The children were wrapped in another and were sitting in front of the fireplace by a very small fire that hardly gave off any heat at all. Widow Jensen fumbled with a match and finally lit the lamp.

"We brought you a few things, Ma'am," Pa said and set down the sack of flour. I put the meat on the table. Then Pa handed her the sack that had the shoes in it. She opened it hesitantly and took the shoes out one pair at a time.

There was a pair for her and one for each of the children--sturdy shoes, the best, shoes that would last. I watched her carefully. She bit her lower lip to keep it from trembling and then tears filled her eyes and started running down her cheeks. She looked up at Pa like she wanted to say something, but it wouldn't come out.

"We brought a load of wood too, Ma'am," Pa said. He turned to me and said, "Matt, go bring in enough to last awhile. Let's get that fire up to size and heat this place up." I wasn't the same person when I went back out to bring in the wood. I had a big lump in my throat and as much as I hate to admit it, there were tears in my eyes too.

In my mind I kept seeing those three kids huddled around the fireplace and their mother standing there with tears running down her cheeks with so much gratitude in her heart that she couldn't speak. My heart swelled within me and a joy that I'd never known before, filled my soul. I had given at Christmas many times before, but never when it had made so much difference. I could see we were literally saving the lives of these people.

I soon had the fire blazing and everyone's spirits soared. The kids started giggling when Pa handed them each a piece of candy and Widow Jensen looked on with a smile that probably hadn't crossed her face for a long time. She finally turned to us. "God bless you," she said. "I know the Lord has sent you. The children and I have been praying
that he would send one of his angels to spare us."

In spite of myself, the lump returned to my throat and the tears welled up in my eyes again. I'd never thought of Pa in those exact terms before, but after Widow Jensen mentioned it I could see that it was probably true.

I was sure that a better man than Pa had never walked the earth. I started remembering all the times he had gone out of his way for Ma and me, and many others. The list seemed endless as I thought on it.

Pa insisted that everyone try on the shoes before we left. I was amazed when they all fit and I wondered how he had known what sizes to get. Then I guessed that if he was on an errand for the Lord that the Lord would make sure he got the right sizes.

Tears were running down Widow Jensen's face again when we stood up to leave. Pa took each of the kids in his big arms and gave them a hug. They clung to him and didn't want us to go. I could see that they missed their Pa, and I was glad that I still had mine.

At the door Pa turned to Widow Jensen and said, "The Mrs. wanted me to invite you and the children over for Christmas dinner tomorrow. The turkey will be more than the three of us can eat, and a man can get cantankerous if he has to eat turkey for too many meals. We'll be by to get you about eleven. It'll be nice to have some little ones around again. Matt, here, hasn't been little for quite a spell." I was the youngest. My two brothers and two sisters had all married and had moved away. Widow Jensen nodded and said, "Thank you, Brother Miles. I don't have to say, 'May the Lord bless you,' I know for certain that He will."

Out on the sled I felt a warmth that came from deep within and I didn't even notice the cold. When we had gone a ways, Pa turned to me and said,"Matt, I want you to know something. Your Ma and me have been tucking a little money away here and there all year so we could buy that rifle for you, but we didn't have quite enough.

Then yesterday a man who owed me a little money from years back came by to make things square. Your Ma and me were real excited, thinking that now we could get you that rifle, and I started into town this morning to do just that. But on the way I saw little Jakey out scratching in the woodpile with his feet wrapped in those gunny sacks and I knew what I had to do.

Son, I spent the money for shoes and a little candy for those children. I hope you understand."

I understood, and my eyes became wet with tears again. I understood very well, and I was so glad Pa had done it. Now the rifle seemed very low on my list of priorities. Pa had given me a lot more. He had given me the look on Widow Jensen's face and the radiant smiles of her three children. For the rest of my life, whenever I saw any of the Jensens, or split a block of wood, I remembered, and remembering brought back that same joy I felt riding home beside Pa that night. Pa had given me much more than a rifle that night, he had given me the best Christmas of my life.

Wisdom from Santa.... 

Several years ago, I bought a cute sweatshirt for my mom for Christmas. I finally lost enough weight this year so that I can wear the shirt myself now. Here's what it says:

All I need to know about Christmas I learned from Santa Claus

Believe in magic

People love you when you're jolly

Everybody loves surprises

The more you give, the more you get

You can never have too many toys

There is a little child in each of us

If you're going to pout, you better watch out

A few extra pounds keep you warm in the winter

Wear red and get noticed

It's a wonderful life

Friday, December 24, 2004

Rave of the Day for December 24: 

For those of you still wrapping gifts, here's an encore presentation of a cat funny....

Wrapping Presents (With a Cat)
1. Clear large space on table for wrapping present.

2. Go to wardrobe and collect bag in which present is contained, and close door.

3. Open door and remove cat from wardrobe.

4. Go to cupboard and retrieve rolls of wrapping paper.

5. Go back and remove cat from cupboard.

6. Go to drawer and collect transparent sticky tape, ribbons, scissors, labels, etc.

7. Lay out present and wrapping materials on table, to enable wrapping strategy to be formed.

8. Go back to drawer to get string, remove cat that has been in the drawer since last visit, and collect string.

9. Remove present from bag.

10. Remove cat from bag.

11. Open box to check present, remove cat from box, replace present.

12. Lay out paper to enable cutting to size.

13. Cut the paper to size, trying to keep the cutting line straight.

14. Throw away first sheet because cat tried to chase the scissors and tore the paper.

15. Cut second sheet of paper to size by putting cat in the bag the present came out of.

16. Place present on cut-to-size paper.

17. Lift up edges of paper to seal in present, wonder why edges now don't reach, and find cat between present and paper. Remove cat and retry.

18. Place object on paper, to hold in place, while cutting transparent sticky tape.

19. Spend next 20 minutes carefully trying to remove transparent sticky tape from cat with pair of nail scissors.

20. Seal paper down with transparent sticky tape, making corners as neat as possible.

21. Look for roll of ribbon; chase cat down hall and retrieve ribbon.

22. Try to wrap present with ribbon in a two-directional turn.

23. Re-roll up ribbon and remove paper that is now torn, due to cat's enthusiasm in chasing ribbon end.

24. Repeat steps 12-22 until down to last sheet of paper.

25. Decide to skip steps 12-16 in order to save time and reduce risk of losing last sheet of paper. Retrieve old cardboard box that you know is right size for sheet of paper.

26. Put present in box, and tie down with string.

27. Remove string, open box and remove cat.

28. Put all packing materials in bag with present and head for lockable room.

29. Once inside room, lock door and start to re-lay out packing materials.

30. Remove cat from box, unlock door, put cat outside door, close door and re-lock.

31. Lay out last sheet of paper. (Admittedly this is difficult in the small area of the toilet, but try your best!)

32. Seal box, wrap with paper and start repairs by very carefully sealing down tears with transparent sticky tape. Now tie up with ribbon and decorate with bows to hide worst affected areas.

33. Label, then sit back and admire your handiwork, congratulating yourself on making good of a bad job.

34. Unlock door, and go to kitchen to make drink and feed cat.

35. Spend next 15 minutes looking for cat, before coming to obvious conclusion.

36. Unwrap present, untie box and remove cat.

37. Retrieve all discarded sheets of wrapping paper, feed cat and retire to lockable room for last attempt, making certain you are alone and the door is locked.

38. At time of handing over present, smile sweetly at receiver's face, as they try and hide their contempt at being handed such a badly wrapped present.

39. Swear to yourself that next year, you will get the store to wrap the darn thing for you.

Docs all day.... 

Went to the endocrinologist this morning. She told me the reason why my thyroid bloodwork showed hyper levels but I never got any hyper symptoms was that sometimes the body takes up to three weeks to react to a change in levels. So had I stayed at the previous dose of thyroid medicine, I would be starting to feel hyper in the next few days.

So I don't officially have Hashimoto's at this point, but my thyroid is definitely being affected by the Sjogren's. The doc wants me to check the thyroid hormone levels every three months instead of the usual once a year. I don't have to go in to see her again until March though.

She said my gastroparesis migh be another reason why I have some fluctuation going on. Some days my medication just sits in my stomach and doesn't do what it should. She suggested that I check to see if anything I'm taking can be found in a liquid form to make digestion easier.

She said I should definitely have the swollen lymph nodes looked at as they appeared to be growing. So I called my ENT's office this afternoon to make an appointment. The soonest I can get in is January 20.

Even though my appointment with the Sjogren's expert was moved to next month, they decided they still wanted me to come in this afternoon for x-rays. They did a full baseline set, a total of 19. I've never had x-rays for arthritis before.

Pain level: 7
Fatigue level: 9

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Rave of the Day for December 22: 

Since my last rave was about dogs, how about another canine funny that has been making the rounds? This one is cute and of course all too true. Thanks to Ducky.....

Wrapping Presents With Dogs
 1. Gather presents, boxes, paper, etc. in middle of living room floor.

 2. Get tape back from puppy.

 3. Remove scissors from older dog's mouth.

 4. Open box.

 5. Take puppy out of box.

 6. Remove tape from older dog's mouth.

 7. Take scissors away from puppy.

 8. Put present in box.

 9. Remove present from puppy's mouth.

10. Put back in box after removing puppy from box.

11. Take scissors from older dog and sit on them.

12. Remove puppy from box and put on lid.

13. Take tape away from older dog.

14. Unroll paper.

15. Take puppy OFF box.

16. Cut paper being careful not to cut puppy's foot or nose that is getting in the way as he "helps."

17. Let puppy tear remaining paper.

18. Take puppy off box.

19. Wrap paper around box.

20. Remove puppy from box & take wrapping paper from its mouth.

21. Tell older dog to fetch the tape so he will stop stealing it.

22. Take scissors away from puppy.

23. Take tape older dog is holding.

24. Quickly tape one spot before taking scissors from older dog & sitting on them again.

25. Fend off puppy trying to steal tape & tape another spot.

26. Take bow from older dog.

27. Go get roll of wrapping paper puppy ran off with.

28. Take scissors from older dog who took them when you got up.

29. Give pen to older dog to hold so he stops licking your face.

30. Remove puppy from present & hurriedly slap tape on to hold the paper on.

31. Take now soggy bow from puppy & tape on since the sticky stuff no longer sticks.

32. Take pen from older dog, address tag & affix while puppy tries to eat pen.

33. Grab present before puppy opens it & put it away.

34. Clean up mess puppy & older dog made playing tug-of-war with remnants of wrapping paper.

35. Put away rest of wrapping supplies & tell dogs what good helpers they are.

Thyroid biopsy results.... 

The endocinologist's office left a message on my voice mail today telling me the thyroid biopsy was normal. Pretty much what I expected. One less thing to be concerned about, eh?

I'm still going to go to the endocinologist for a follow-up, if I can get a hold of anyone in the office. I've called on three different days and got a recording each time. I've left a message each time stating I leave for work at 4pm, and each time, they return the call after 4pm. While my doc is a good one, I get the distinct impression that her office staff might not be.

I need to find out if there's anything else I should be doing for this wacked out thyroid. I'm curious also how the hormone levels went too high without me experiencing any symptoms. And how can I have Hashimoto's if the antibody tests come back normal? I suspect there's won't be any answers for these questions.

And I think I may have my ENT take a look at the swollen lymph nodes on the left side of my neck. They have gotten larger in the past three weeks, and I'm hoarse much of the time now. It's probably just unexplained swelling like the edema in my left foot, but I suppose it wouldn't hurt to make sure.

That feeling good last night didn't last long. The temperature was 60 degrees yesterday and below freezing today, so every joint in my body aches. And it's supposed to get below zero tomorrow and/or the next day, so I won't have any relief for awhile.

Pain level: 9
Fatigue level: 7

Monday, December 20, 2004

Rave of the Day for December 20: 

This funny has made the rounds a few times, but I really like it. Thanks to Ducky for the revisit....

Puppy Christmas

On the first day of Christmas my puppy gave to me,
The Santa topper from the Christmas tree.
On the second day of Christmas my puppy gave to me,
Two leaking bubble lights,
And the Santa topper from the Christmas tree.
On the third day of Christmas my puppy gave to me,
Three punctured ornaments,
Two leaking bubble lights,
And the Santa topper from the Christmas tree.
On the fourth day of Christmas my puppy gave to me,
Four broken window candles,
Three punctured ornaments,
Two leaking bubble lights,
And the Santa topper from the Christmas tree.
On the fifth day of Christmas my puppy gave to me,
Five chewed-up stockings,
Four broken window candles,
Three punctured ornaments,
Two leaking bubble lights,
And the Santa topper from the Christmas tree.
On the sixth day of Christmas my puppy gave to me,
Six yards of soggy ribbon,
Five chewed-up stockings,
Four broken window candles,
Three punctured ornaments,
Two leaking bubble lights,
And the Santa topper from the Christmas tree.
On the seventh day of Christmas my puppy gave to me,
Seven scraps of wrapping paper,
Six yards of soggy ribbon,
Five chewed-up stockings,
Four broken window candles,
Three punctured ornaments,
Two leaking bubble lights,
And the Santa topper from the Christmas tree.
On the eighth day of Christmas my puppy gave to me,
Eight tiny reindeer fragments,
Seven scraps of wrapping paper,
Six yards of soggy ribbon,
Five chewed-up stockings,
Four broken window candles,
Three punctured ornaments,
Two leaking bubble lights,
And the Santa topper from the Christmas tree.
On the ninth day of Christmas my puppy gave to me,
My wreath in nine pieces,
Eight tiny reindeer fragments,
Seven scraps of wrapping paper,
Six yards of soggy ribbon,
Five chewed-up stockings,
Four broken window candles,
Three punctured ornaments,
Two leaking bubble lights,
And the Santa topper from the Christmas tree.
On the tenth day of Christmas my puppy gave to me,
Ten Christmas cards I shoulda mailed,
My wreath in nine pieces,
Eight tiny reindeer fragments,
Seven scraps of wrapping paper,
Six yards of soggy ribbon,
Five chewed-up stockings,
Four broken window candles,
Three punctured ornaments,
Two leaking bubble lights,
And the Santa topper from the Christmas tree.
On the eleventh day of Christmas my puppy gave to me,
Eleven unwrapped presents,
Ten Christmas cards I shoulda mailed,
My wreath in nine pieces,
Eight tiny reindeer fragments,
Seven scraps of wrapping paper,
Six yards of soggy ribbon,
Five chewed-up stockings,
Four broken window candles,
Three punctured ornaments,
Two leaking bubble lights,
And the Santa topper from the Christmas tree.
On the twelfth day of Christmas my puppy gave to me,
A dozen puppy kisses...
And I forgot all about the other eleven days.

My sleep has been studied.... 

The technician during the first part was nice and let me go to sleep a little later than 10pm. When I don't have to conform to the hours of my work schedule, I usually am ready to go to sleep about midnight. I think I went to sleep about 11pm.

I was happy to have short hair because of all the electrodes and such I was hooked up to. I had stuff stuck to my face, back of the head, shoulders and calves. In addition, I had a band around my chest, a connector for a CPAP device on my upper lip, and a finger cuff.

Now, you'd think with all these itchy electrodes stuck on me, there'd be no way I could sleep. Believe it or not, I think I dozed off after about 15 minutes, not bad for someone who'd skipped their usual Ambien. Even though the bed was too firm for my comfort, I brought my own pillows, which helped.

I did tell the tech I thought it unlikely I had sleep apnea as I'd lost 60 pounds and had had sinus surgery since the previous study (that one had showed mild apnea). So he agreed to only hook me up to the CPAP if I showed any signs of apnea. He never did wake me up for that, so I'm guessing that aspect of the test was normal.

But I did wake up 5 times last night, which is probably not normal. One of those times was for a potty break. The technician had to come in and unhook various devices, which woke me up enough to make it difficult to get back to sleep.

I did, however, sleep deeply enough during the night to dream, and the dreams were quite bizarre. One dream was that several sleep study patients had agreed to have a contest for entertainment, and one of the patients did an imitation of Buddy Holly being electrocuted in a shower while wearing all those electrodes for the sleep study. I guess I don't lack imagination.

Part two of the test was during the day today. All I had to do was take five 20 minute naps (fully monitored, of course) at intervals of two hours apart. The only bummer is that most of the electrodes stayed attached all day, and if I wanted to move around, I had to cart around a box that everything was plugged into.

I killed time by watching TV (Price Is Right, Millionaire, Jeopardy and the news), eating a few snacks I'd brought from home, playing a hand-held Yahtzee game and reading Mark Twain. I did some stretching, or at least as much as I could being attached to all those wires. I did not find it boring at all, but then, I am quite easily amused.

Oddly enough, I believe I did doze off a bit during each of the naps. At least I know for certain I was NOT alert each time they came to wake me up. And I think I may have dreamed at least once....I don't know if I was in deep enough sleep to show up on the charts, but I suspect it is not normal to doze off that fast several times in a row.

As for narcolepsy, I guess it depends on whether I achieved dream sleep during at least two of those naps for a positive diagnosis. If I did not dream but simply reached a light doze, they may decide I have hypersomnia instead. One really amazing result of this test....after five naps, I am more alert right now than I have been in at least two months.

I get the official results during my follow-up appointment with the sleep specialist on January 6th. I am very curious about this....perhaps I'll have an answer for this horrible nearly constant exhaustion. Or maybe they'll just confirm the same lack of stage 4 sleep that they found five years ago.

I think I'll get dressed and go to the 24 hour grocery for some ingredients to make cookies. Yes, I feel that good, and I think I should take advantage of it.

Pain level: 6
Fatigue level: 2

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Rave of the Day for December 19: 

Went to my dad's last night for an early Christmas celebration as my sister will be with her fiance's family and my stepbrother with his in-laws on the 25th. One of the things we did was play a new game where you had to guess who said a particular quote. One of the quotes last night was by Erma Bombeck, which reminded me of this funny. Enjoy....

Martha Stewart's Christmas letter to Erma Bombeck and Erma's response.
Hi Erma,
This perfectly delightful note is being sent on paper I made myself to tell you what I have been up to. Since it snowed last night, I got up early and made a sled with old barn wood and a glue gun. I hand painted it in gold leaf, got out my loom and made a blanket in peaches and mauves.
Then, to make the sled complete, I made a white horse to pull it from DNA that I had just sitting around in my craft room. By then, it was time to start making the place mats and napkins for my 20 breakfast guests. I'm serving the old standard Stewart twelve-course breakfast, but I'll let you in on a little secret: I didn't have time to make the tables and chairs this morning, so I used the ones I had on hand.
Before I moved the table into the dining room I decided to add just a touch of the holidays. So I repainted the room in pinks and stenciled gold stars on the ceiling.
While the homemade bread was rising, I took antique candle molds and made the dishes (exactly the same shade of pink) to use for breakfast. These were made from Hungarian clay, which you can get at almost any Hungarian craft store.
Well, I must run. I need to finish the hand-sewn buttonholes on the dress I'm wearing for breakfast. I'll get out the sled and drive this note to the post office as soon as the glue dries on the envelope I'll be making.
Hope my breakfast guests don't stay too long. I have 40,000 cranberries to string with bay leaves before my speaking engagement at noon. It's a good thing.
Love, Martha
P.S. When I made the ribbon for this typewriter, I used 1/8-inch gold gauze. I soaked the gauze in a mixture of white grapes and blackberries which I grew, picked, and crushed last week just for fun.

Response from Erma Bombeck
Dear Martha:
I'm writing this on the back of an old shopping list. Pay no attention to the coffee and jelly stains. I'm 20 minutes late getting my daughter off for school, packing a lunch with one hand-on the phone with the dog pound, seems old Ruff needs bailing out again. Burnt my arm on the curling iron when I was trying to make those cute curly fries, how DO they do that? Still can't find the scissors to cut out some snowflakes, tried using an old disposable razor . . . trashed the tablecloth. Tried that cranberry thing; frozen cranberries mushed up after I defrosted them in the microwave. Oh, and don't use Fruity Pebbles as a substitute in that Rice Krispies snowball recipe unless you like food that resembles puke! Smoke alarm is going off, talk to ya later.
Love, Erma

Tired and cranky.... 

Have you ever noticed how much easier is it to voluntarily give up something than it is to be told NOT to do something prior to a test? In this case, it's sleep and caffeine I'm trying to do without. My sleep study begins tonight and continues for nearly 24 hours.

As part of prep for the test, I was instructed to go to sleep earlier and get up earlier than usual with NO naps. With my night shift job, I'm accustomed to a bed time of about 3am, but during tonight's test, they want me to go to sleep at 10pm, so I've been trying to adjust. Was supposed to go to bed by midnight last night; the best I could do was 1am.

I think what was tougher than going to bed early, though, was getting up early. I had to get up at 9am today....unheard of for me unless I'm on vacation or something. I'm fighting like crazy to not doze off.

Also, I had to promise to not have any caffeine after 2pm yesterday. I complied, and was rewarded with a migraine that began last night and has not let up since. Hence, the enthusiasm I'd had for doing something productive to pass the time before the test has evaporated.

The migraine's making me too nauseous to stay on the computer much longer.

Ah, well, this too, like all things, shall pass. Now, if I could just think of something besides a nap....

Pain level: 9
Fatigue level: 10

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Rave of the Day for December 16: 

'tis the season to try new recipes. Ducky had this one in her Daily Grin, and all I can say is maybe you'll want to leave this one in the hands of professionals, hee hee.....

A Christmas cookie recipe worth trying...
1 cup of water
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup of sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup of brown sugar
lemon juice
2 large eggs
1 cup nuts
2 cups of dried fruit
1 bottle Jose Cuervo Tequilla
Cooking instructions
Sample the Cuervo to check quality. Take a large bowl, check the Cuervo again, to be sure it is of the highest quality, pour one level cup and drink. Turn on the electric mixer. Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add one teaspoon of sugar. Beat again. At this point it's best to make sure the Cuervo is still OK, try another cup ... just in case. Turn off the mixerer thingy. Break 2 leggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit. Pick the frigging fruit off floor. Mix on the turner.
If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaterers just pry it loose with a drewscriver. Sample the Cuervo to check for tonsisticity. Next, sift two cups of salt, or something. Check the Jose Cuervo.Now shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts. Add one table.
Add a spoon of sugar, or somefink. Whatever you can find. Greash the oven. Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over. Don't forget to beat off the turner. Finally, throw the bowl through the window, finish the Cose Juervo and make sure to put the stove in the dishwasher.

A post-biopsy report.... 

Before I got started on the biopsy, I talked with the doc who would be performing it....he said it was far more likely that I had Hashimoto's thyroiditis than cancer. Hashimoto's is directly linked to Sjgoren's syndrome, and both ailments can exacerbate swelling in the thyroid and surrounding lymph nodes. I already knew all this from my research, but it's always good to hear it in person from a doctor.

When he got a good look at my neck with the ultrasound, he thought it was probably a very large lymph node (the swollen area is a few INCHES long) that is causing my hoarseness, cough and occasional trouble swallowing, rather than the thyroid nodule which is behind and slightly below it. He then told me I could opt not to do the biopsy at this point as long as I continued to monitor the nodule for any changes. I decided to proceed anyway, my reasoning being that if the lymph nodes got even more swollen, I might not be able to do a needle biopsy of the thryoid in the future if I needed to.

So they put lidocaine on the area to numb it and at my request gave me a bit more time to get numb than the average person (for some reason I don't get numb very fast). They used the smallest possible needle to get the sample but had considerable trouble getting around the lymph node. The pathologist was right there and took a peek and informed them that they didn't have enough cells for an accurate diagnosis, so they had to try again with a larger needle. I think a person without fibromyalgia would find this procedure painless or very nearly so, but I was moderately uncomfortable, especially when they used a larger needle. They were careful not to hurt me any more than necessary, though, and the doc said if the sample with the larger needle was still inadequate that he would not recommend trying again because they would have to resort to something more invasive and probably not worthwhile given the liklihood of this being cancerous is less than 10 percent. I agreed.

I really liked the doc's assistant....her hair was my favorite shade of violet black. We talked a bit about snowboarding, something I'd always wanted to try but couldn't due to being deaf in one ear (making me permanently off-balance). It was good to have the distraction (although I mostly listened rather than talked since they were working on my neck after all).

I decided to take off work tonight since they instructed me to do nothing strenuous for 24 hours. I took one of my emergency pain meds when I got home, not because I was in a huge amount of pain yet, but because I know from past experience that even a small trauma to my bod usually results in at least a brief fibromyalgia flareup unless I do something to prevent it. It worked well enough to let me take a 4 hour nap. Now it's a bit red on my neck due to irritation from adhesives, and the muscles on the left side of my neck are sore and twitchy, but I think if I behave myself tonight and ice this properly, I'll probably be back to normal tomorrow.

Oh, and the doc asked how my thyroid hormones had been lately. I told him how they were bouncing like a ping pong ball, first too low and then suddenly too high. He said Hashimoto's will do that in some people and that my endocrinologist could help me wtith that. Again, that's what I figured was going on, but it was a relief to hear it anyway.

So I will follow up with the endocrinologist when I can get in to see her. I figure if nothing else, this test can serve as a baseline in case something suddenly does change. And I of course will ask if there's anything I can or should do about these pesky lymph nodes.

Time for me to get some ice on my neck and maybe watch "A Christmas Carol" on DVD. I have the version with Alistair Sim, my favorite. I just love it when he gets the uncontrollable giggles at the end....

Pain level: 7
Fatigue level: 6

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Rave of the Day for December 14: 

This past weekend I watched, for the first time ever, "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" (the original animated one). I had no idea it was so good! Now that I finally thoroughly understand the concept, how about a little funny on the subject courtesy of Ducky?

The Grinch Test
This is a set of essential personality tests to prepare you misfit readers for Christmas and your New Year's resolutions:

You reuse last year's Christmas cards and send them out under your own name (5 points).
You steal light bulbs from you neighbor's outdoor display to replenish your own supply (5 points, 10 if neighbor's whole light sets or lighted Santa goes out).
You have dressed a dog or cat as Santa Claus, elf helper, or reindeer. (10 points for each; if you dressed an endangered species, 5 extra points).
You put out last year's stale candy canes for children (1 point for each piece of sticky candy). If you put out a chocolate or marzipan Santa also, add 10 points.
You enclose a shoddy and inferior gift from Target, Walmart, or K-Mart in a Bloomingdale's or other prestige box to impress your friends (5 points for each infraction).
You make collect long distance phone calls to your family on Christmas day (5 points, 10 if from a cell phone), claiming you are stuck in a phone booth.
At the office Christmas party, you horde huge stockpiles of goodies for later consumption at home (5 points; 15 points if you use this stuff for your own party).
You steal the wreath from a parked car to use on your own (Southern California only, others ignore: 5 points).
After an invitation to a friend's house, you bring a commercially produced fruitcake and try to pass it off as home made. (5 points; 15 points if the fruitcake is from last year).
Any stealing from the Toys-for-Tots collection bins is a definite no-no (20 points).
Evaluate your score on the "Grinch Scale" from 20 to 100.
20-30: You are just a cheeseball.
30-50: You are an apprentice in Yuletide larceny and are probably wanted by the police for overdue parking tickets.
50-100: Grinch, move over. The Meyer Lansky of Christmas crime has arrived.

Thoroughly confused.... 

The endocrinologist called the house today when I wasn't home and left a message that my thyroid blood level results were in and that they were too HIGH. Just two months ago, they were too low, and a month ago, they were acceptable. This doesn't make sense.

About two years ago, I had an episode where my thyroid hornone levels went from too low to ever so slightly too high, and I knew it immediately. I had palpitations, I was fidgety, way too wired to sleep, etc. This time, though, even though the levels are way off, I'm experiencing NONE of the hyper symptoms: my resting heart rate is 72, I feel calm and certainly not wired in the least.

I'm getting concerned. I guess there's nothing I can do but wait, though....the biopsy on the thyroid nodule is Thursday morning. At the moment I'm envious of anyone with normal health.

Pain level: 8
Fatigue level: 8

Monday, December 13, 2004

Rave of the Day for December 12: 

This one has made the rounds before, but I find it highly appropriate given the current climate of my workplace (more layoffs announced right during the holday season). Thanks to Ducky's Daily Grin for this funny....

Subject: The Office Party
FROM: Pat Lewis, Human Resources Director
TO: Everyone
RE: Christmas Party
DATE: December 1
I'm happy to inform you that the company Christmas Party will take place on December 23, starting at noon in the banquet room at Luigi's Open Pit Barbecue. No-host bar, but plenty of eggnog! We'll have a small band playing traditional carols...feel free to sing along. And don't Be surprised if our CEO shows up dressed as Santa Claus!
FROM: Pat Lewis, Human Resources Director
DATE: December 2
RE: Christmas Party
In no way was yesterday's memo intended to exclude our Jewish employees. We recognize that Hanukkah is an important holiday which often coincides with Christmas, though unfortunately not this year. However, from now on we're calling it our "Holiday Party." The same policy applies to employees who are celebrating Kwanzaa at this time.
Happy now?
FROM: Pat Lewis, Human Resources Director
DATE: December 3
RE: Holiday Party
Regarding the note I received from a member of Alcoholics Anonymous requesting a non-drinking table ... you didn't sign your name. I'm happy to accommodate this request, but if I put a sign on a table that reads "AA Only" you wouldn't be anonymous anymore. How am I supposed to handle this? Somebody?
FROM: Pat Lewis, Human Resources Director
DATE: December 7
RE: Holiday Party
What a diverse company we are! I had no idea that December 2 begins the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which forbids eating, drinking and sex during daylight hours. There goes the party! Seriously, we can appreciate how a luncheon this time of year does not accommodate our Muslim employees' beliefs. Perhaps Luigi's can hold off on serving your meal until the end of the party - the days are so short this time of year - or else package everything for take-home in little foil swans. Will that work?
Meanwhile, I've arranged for members of Overeaters Anonymous to sit farthest from the dessert buffet and pregnant women will get the table closest to the restrooms. Did I miss anything?
FROM: Pat Lewis, Human Resources Director
DATE: December 8
RE: Holiday Party
So December 22 marks the Winter Solstice...what do you expect me to do, a tap-dance on your heads? Fire regulations at Luigi's prohibit the burning of sage by our "earth-based Goddess-worshipping" employees, but we'll try to accommodate your shamanic drumming circle during the band's breaks. Okay???
 FROM: Pat Lewis, Human Resources Director
 Date: December 9
 RE: Holiday Party
People, people, nothing sinister was intended by having our CEO dress up like Santa Claus! Even if the anagram of "Santa" does happen to be "Satan," there is no evil connotation to our own "little man in a red suit." It's a tradition, folks, like sugar shock at Halloween or family feuds over the Thanksgiving turkey or broken hearts on Valentine's Day. Could we lighten up?
FROM: Pat Lewis, Human Resources Director
DATE: December 10
RE: Holiday Party
Vegetarians!?!?!? I've had it with you people!!! We're going to keep this party at Luigi's Open Pit Barbecue whether you like it or not, so you can sit quietly at the table furthest from the "grill of death," as you so quaintly put it, and you'll get your freaking salad bar, including hydroponic tomatoes. But you know, they have feelings too. Tomatoes scream when you slice them. I've heard them scream. I'm hearing them scream right now!
FROM: Teri Bishops, Acting Human Resources Director
DATE: December 14
RE: Pat Lewis and Holiday Party
I'm sure I speak for all of us in wishing Pat Lewis a speedy recovery from her stress-related illness and I'll continue to forward Your cards to her at the sanatorium.
In the meantime, management has decided to cancel our Holiday Party and give everyone the afternoon of the 23rd off with full pay.
We hope that this change does not offend anyone.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

browser life since Hawaii.... 

I'm embarrassed at how much time has passed since my last entry. I've actually been too ill to keep up with this, and then my friends began to worry, and then I began having to e-mail them updates, and part of the reason for this blog was to keep everyone up to date on what's up. Sigh. It's sort of like keeping the house clean....if you tidy up one little thing per day, you never fall very far behind. But right now my life looks like a hurricane's been through it.

The really crummy thing is that my memory is so awful that I can barely remember what I had for lunch yesterday, let alone what I did in October or even November. When I don't write things down, I tend to space them out completely. And then I'll go to a doc who asks when it was I had a certain symptom or saw a certain specialist, and I'll have no clue because I never got it in print.

So I'll do a large post here to attempt to catch up a bit, and then I'll endeavor to do small but frequent entries in the future no matter how shitty I feel. It's always a boost to my mental well-being anyway when I have an outlet of some kind. And right now I need as much boosting as I can get.

Ok, I got back from vacation October 14. I think it was the next week when the guy who did my neuropsyche exam calls me to tell me the results. They did pick up on some slowing of mental processing speed that was inconsistent with my general intelliegence level. And I showed noticeable disruption of my thought process. But my problem solving skills were intact. So far, we're on the same page. But then he starts telling me all these pyschological problems I manifested via the "personality" test, the one I hate because it leaves no possiblity of a physical cause for some of your responses. I am told I am defensive, obsessed with my health and reluctant to acknowledge that I possess any faults (perhaps they should read this blog?). It is suggested that I am secretly depressed; the term "somatoform disorder" actually came up. I am furthermore told that I should seek therapy to learn to acknowledge that psychological stress is causing my physical problems! My cognitive dysfunction is explained away as resulting from poor sleep. I am told to get off of Ambien because it obviously isn't helping and to get a sleep study because I probably have sleep apnea.

Yikes! And here I was thinking it was a GOOD thing that I decided a few years ago that I didn't possess the energy to let the little things get to me. I acknowledge something, and then I let it go, not because I'm in denial, but because it is too exhausting to worry. I feel like someone just patted me on the head again and said, "Poor dear, you're just depressed"! That's the same bull I heard that got me into this mess 8 years ago, when I was told an anti-depressant would make me all better. That little pill changed my life, all right.....it gave me insomnia and muscle spasms that progressed to fibromyalgia and the assorted other ailments that followed.

So here I am with this glaring report having to go back to the neurologist who didn't quite know what to do with me. I mentioned the psychological counseling, and her response was, "couldn't hurt". Hmmm. So I promised to look into it, not because I agree with the report, but more to prove the report wrong. And because I'm on the verge of permanent disability, which even I will acknowledge as stressful. I've asked a few docs since if they could refer me to a clinical psychologist, but none had any names of someone who specialized in patients with chronic illness. I will get around to finding one on my own eventually, but right now there is too much else going on.

The neurologist had a similar response to my inquiries about repeating the sleep study I had five years ago which showed mild sleep apnea and zero Stage 4 sleep (I later had sinus surgery that I am convinced cured me of the apnea). She gave me the name of someone to call about that, and I made an appointment with a sleep specialist. To my surprise, after the specialist inquired about the intensity of my daytime sleepiness, she not only suggested a sleep study, but that I also do a sleep latency test to check for narcolepsy! Both tests are to be done back to back over a 24 hour period starting next Sunday night (the 19th).

I had a sudden worsening of reflux symptoms sometime after I saw the neurologist. I could hardly eat and was so nauseous that nothing wanted to stay down. The gastroenterologist repeated the barium swallow I had last year and confirmed it was just reflux. I was told there was nothing more I could do that I wasn't already doing. It did improve a bit after a few weeks, but by and large, I just try to ignore it.

I had an appointment in late October with a rheumatologist who was a Sjogren's expert to get a second opinion on my treatment options, but four hours before the appointment, his office called and said I'd have to re-schedule! The next available appointment wasn't for another month! Why is it that a doc's office can do that, but if I tried it, I'd be fined for a missed visit?? Anyway, even after I got to the re-scheduled appointment, I waited TWO AND A HALF hours in that office before I saw the doc! By then, it was nearly closing time, so everything was so rushed it was just a blur. The only comprehensible things I got out of that appointment were that I needed a bunch more tests, that I should come back in another month, and that most of his patients who had Sjogren's symptoms similar to mine were made sicker by working and had to go on permanent disability. One very useful thing did happen, though: he looked at the amount of thyroid medicine I was taking and walked right over and examined my thyroid. He asked how long it had been swollen. I told him three years. He asked when was the last ultrasound I'd had done on it, and I said never. He said that would be the first test he would arrange.

True to his word, I had a thyroid ultrasound a few days before Thanksgiving. I didn't hear anything back for a few weeks, so I figured everything must have been fine. But then I got a call from the rheumatologist's office saying that the scans showed two nodules, one of them quite large, and they recommended that I see an endocrinologist about it. I found one and got in pretty quickly: last Thursday, in fact. She looked everything over and said I should have a biopsy of the thyroid to make sure the large nodule wasn't cancerous. I have one scheduled for this coming Thursday; they'll have to use another ultrasound to make sure they get the needle in the right place because I have several swollen lymph nodes in my neck on that side. The endocrinologist also wants me to do a fasting glucose tolerance test to make sure I'm not diabetic. I'll probably set that up tomorrow.

That's the extremely short version of everything. There is of course much much more going on than that, but my hands will not endure much more typing right now. I'll try to pop in on a regular basis with updates, especially on some positive stuff.

Pain level: 7
Fatigue level: 8

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