Monday, December 31, 2007

Quickie resolutions..... 

I do resolutions every year, and, normally, I give them a lot of thought. But I've been getting ready for another trip to the Mayo Clinic (I leave tomorrow morning), and I've had no time to prepare anything. So I'm gonna wing it and see if what I can come up with off the top of my head is as profound as a list I spent days pondering....

1. Eat out on special occasions only.
2. Haul out the recipes and do some real cooking from time to time. Use the wok and the rotisserie.
3. Check glucose levels more frequently.
4. Have someone over occasionally and make a meal for them.
5. Keep credit cards paid off every single month. Don't charge anything beyond what could be paid on the next statement.
6. Once Mayo is paid off, set aside some amount monthly to put into savings, even if it's a very small amount.
7. Ease back into doing regular stretches and using the glider.
8. Attend church more frequently.
9. Go to bed earlier, like, say, closer to 10pm than 1am.
10. Set aside time each day to read a book.

That should do it.

I shall return in 2008, by this weekend certainly. If I don't get a chance to post before I leave, Happy New Year!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Tragedy in Pakistan.... 

I rarely comment on world events, but the untimely death of Benazir Bhutto really saddened me:

Bhutto photographer: "Gunshots rang out and she went down"

How many women would have dared to lead in a country like Pakistan where assassinations are common? Not many. But she knew full well the danger she was in, as this was not the first attempt on her life.

While I did not always agree with her politics, Benazir Bhutto fascinated me. There were times it seemed she was the only voice of reason in that region. And I admired her bravery, even as I suspected it would lead to an early demise.

Now I fear for the future of Pakistan. The chaos is escalating, and who knows how many will perish in riots. That too is a tragedy.

I can only pray that her death will not be in vain.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Bonus Rave of the Day for December 27, 2007: 

So who was Jesus really? This funny courtesy of pete has some theories....

My Cajun friend had 3 good arguments that Jesus was a Cajun:
1. He liked to serve fish to his friends.
2. He could make his own wine.
3. He wasn't afraid of water.

My Black friend had 3 good arguments that Jesus was Black:
1. He called everyone 'brother.'
2. He liked Gospel.
3. He couldn't get a fair trial.

My Italian friend gave his 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was Italian:
1. He talked with his hands.
2. He had wine with every meal.
3. He used olive oil.

My California friend also had 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was a Californian:
1. He had a beard.
2. He walked around barefoot all the time.
3. He started a new religion.

My Irish friend then gave his 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was Irish:
1. He never got married.
2. He was always telling stories.
3. He loved green pastures.

But, my women friends have the most compelling evidence that Jesus, though NOT a woman, certainly could relate to women:
1. He fed a crowd at a moment's notice when there was no food.
2. He kept trying to get a message across to a bunch of men who just didn't get it.
3. And, even when he was dead, he had to get up because there was more work to do.

Rave of the Day for December 27, 2007: 

Here are some funnies courtesy of Pete....


3-year-old Reese: 'Our Father, Who does art in heaven, Harold is His name. Amen.'

A little boy was overheard praying: 'Lord, if you can't make me a better boy, don't worry about it. I'm having a real good time like I am.'

After the christening of his baby brother in church, Jason sobbed all the way home in the back seat of the car. His father asked him three times what was wrong. Finally, the boy replied, 'That preacher said he wanted us brought up in a Christian home, and I want to stay with you guys.'

One particular four-year-old prayed: 'And forgive us our trash baskets as we forgive those who put trash in our baskets.'

A Sunday school teacher asked her children as they were on the way to church service, 'And why is it necessary to be quiet in church?' One bright little girl replied, 'Because people are sleeping.'

A mother was preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin 5, and Ryan 3. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson. 'If Jesus were sitting here, He would say, 'Let my brother have the first pancake, I can wait.' Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, 'Ryan, you be Jesus!'

A father was at the beach with his children when the four-year-old son ran up to him, grabbed his hand, and led him to the shore where a seagull lay dead in the sand. 'Daddy, what happened to him?' the son asked. 'He died and went to Heaven,' the Dad replied. The boy thought a moment and then asked, 'Why did God throw him back down?'

A wife invited some people to dinner. At the table, she turned to their six-year-old daughter and said, 'Would you like to say the blessing?' 'I wouldn't know what to say,' the girl replied. 'Just say what you hear Mommy say,' the wife answered. The daughter bowed her head and said, 'Lord, why on earth did I invite all these people to dinner?'

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Had myself a merry little Christmas..... 

Pay no attention to the yawning. It's just the usual post-holiday exhaustion rearing its ugly head. Small price to pay for festive times.

My holiday funk was greatly diminished by talking with my seester on the phone for two hours on Friday. This free long distance is pretty awesome, heh heh. Not as good as actually spending Christmas with her, but much much better than nothing.

After I got done talking to her, I promptly fell asleep on the couch. Next thing I know, Dan's telling me it's 2am! I wonder if anyone else gets this tired from a simple conversation?

On Saturday, our friends came by bearing gifts. I get company so seldom that I'm afraid I held them captive and talked them nearly to death, heh heh. Ater they left, I fell asleep on the couch AGAIN for five hours or so.

On Sunday, Dan and I went to an animated light show put together by the University of Sioux Falls. It was done in time to music by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Manheim Steamroller, and, believe it or not, Linkin Park. Pretty good source of free entertainment (although they do allow voluntary donations).

Also on Sunday, Dan and I watched "Love Actually" since I'd viewed Harry Potter the night before and was in the mood for some bonus Alan Rickman. After we got back from the light show, I watched the Alistair Sim version of "A Christmas Carol". And of course I fell asleep on the couch again, and Dan retrieved me about 4am.

Christmas Eve, Dan and I exchanged our few gifts after he got done at work; Dan has learned to cleverly disguise DVDs, heh heh. I was most surprised to get some foreign films, most notably a director's cut of "Cinema Paradiso" containing over 50 minutes of additional footage! Then we got cozy on the couch and watched "It's a Wonderful Life".

We went to church at 7pm, a different one than last year. This is the church we're thinking of joining next year (I've been dragging my feet because I never found anything I liked nearly as much as my previous church in Denver). It was very pleasant, a candlelight service with a choir, violin, a dancer, and an excellent reader.

We then drove straight from church to Dan's sister's house. We quickly snacked on some shrimp and cheese and veggies because our niece was impatient to get started on opening gifts. Time passes entirely too slowly when you're almost four years old, heh heh.

I brought my camera this time, knowing it would tire me out even more than just visiting, but I wanted documentation of our nephew's first Christmas. And it was a great deal of fun getting shots of our niece throwing her arms in the air like a prize fighter every time she opened something cool. I had thought that she already owned every Barbie made in the last three years, but I was mistaken.

And our nephew was hilarious. He's only four months old, so I figured he wouldn't really be that interested in presents, but he really responded to all the bright colored musical toys that his sister generously helped him unwrap. His eyes would just get HUGE, the most suprised expression I've ever seen on a baby.

Dan and I got something we very much needed, an office chair for downstairs. We have one chair at the computer, but if Dan is using it, I don't have any place to sit if I want to use the scrapbook area. So now I can work on my little projects when Dan's at the computer, yayyyyy.

The gift opening extravaganza was quite lengthy; Dan and I didn't get home until midnight! It's a wonder Santa didn't skip leaving anything for my niece and nephew since they were up so late. And guess who fell asleep on the couch again?

On Christmas Day, I awoke with a headache and pretty wiped out by the previous day. I just took it easy that morning and watched the Reginald Owen version of "A Christmas Carol". I had put it on the DVR to compare it to the Alistair Sim version; it was a good production, but I still prefer Alistair Sim as Scrooge.

One really awesome thing: we got a white Christmas! About six inches of snow fell throughout the day. Big fluffy flakes that reminded me of spring storms in Denver.

We went to Dan's parents' house about 4pm. Dan's mother prepared a huge feast with turkey AND ham, mashed potatoes AND sweet potatoes, two kinds of fruit/jello salad AND cranberry sauce, corn AND green beans as well as other stuff. There was so much food that we had to put some of it on TV trays because it wouldn't all fit on the table.

Something kinda scary happened during dinner. My throat was so dry that I got a piece of turkey stuck! I dashed off to the bathroom with a glass of water and drank and coughed until it finally came loose.

When I'm at home, when I eat meat, I usually put some gluten free steak or barbecue sauce on it to help it go down. When I'm elsewhere, most people put gravy on their meat, which I obviously can't eat, so I usually eat it plain. I should probably come up with an alternative solution to avoid choking to death in front of the relatives.

After dinner, I had nasty esophageal spasms, and my headache evolved into a migraine. I did hang around for awhile and chat while "A Christmas Story" was on, but I faded pretty fast and had to go home sooner than I had planned. I guess abbreviated celebrations are better than none at all.

Once home, I had some green tea and gradually began feeling better. I was able to watch two more movies on the DVR, "The Nativity Story" and "The Bishop's Wife". The first one was better than I was expecting, and the second was GREAT!

Surprisingly, I was able to get up at a decent hour today and go to aquacise. It made short work of me, though, and I did my usual doze off on the couch thing again this afternoon. My neck is less than thrilled about all this sleeping sitting up, but I can't take naps because I must remain upright to facilitate digestion; otherwise, I won't be able to keep anything down.

Today was the 12th anniversary of my first date with Dan the Man. We celebrated by going to Red Lobster with a gift card my seester had given us. I had my usual rock lobster (I try to stick with broiled dishes to avoid cross contamination) while Dan had one of those combo thingies.

Would like to go into more detail, but the yawns are getting ever wider. May try to watch one of the standup comedy shows I put on the DVR, either Bill Maher or George Lopez. Probably won't matter as I may fall asleep before it's over anyway.

Guess you could say I sleep in heavenly peace.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Rave of the Day for December 25, 2007: 


Monday, December 24, 2007

Bonus Rave of the Day for December 24, 2007: 

Food for thought this holiday season. These two articles came from my local newspaper.

In the first, scientists speculate as to what celestial event the three wise men might have actually been witnessing:

Notre Dame professor researches the star of Bethlehem

In the second, a Sioux Falls gallery displays Native American handmade ornaments:

History Tree honors native traditions

Am about to get ready to go to church. If I don't get back here before Wednesday, Merry Christmas!

Rave of the Day for December 24, 2007: 

Here's little goodie for your stocking from cyclelops at NeuroTalk (check out the site on my Links list). This is a holiday tale from the point of view of a woman with peripheral neuropathy. Hilarious!

'Twas the night before Christmas', when all through the house,
It was me who was stirring with my computer mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes by tomorrow they’d be warm enough to wear:
The adult children were nestled in their own queen size beds,
While visions of my check book danced in their heads;
And papa in his PJs with three dogs in his lap,
Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I attempted to move from the bed, to see what was the matter.
Alas, my behind had sunk in the memory foam pad
It took quite rustle, and, I got up pretty mad.

The moon on the crest of the new-fallen snow
Made me dizzy as I scanned for burglars below,
When, what to my half plastered shut eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, who was hot at the throttle,
I knew in a moment, I took too many pills in the dark, from that bottle.
More slowly than turtles, down the stairs I limped lame,
As he shushed, and whispered, and called them by name:

"Now, DASHER! now, DANCER! now, PRANCER and VIXEN!
We have to be quiet, this woman, don’t wake!
Or I won’t hear the end of it, for goodness sake.

"Her back is ‘a hurting‘, her hands they are numb,
That restless leg syndrome... Who named that? It’s dumb!”
Never the less, we must bring Christmas cheer
She hasn‘t done much shopping, that is evident and clear“.

And then, through that ringing, I heard in my ear
The prancing and pawing of eight tiny reindeer.
As I drew in my hand, and whacked it on the sash,
Down in the family room, I heard a loud crash.

The embers were hot, they had just warmed my feet,
I think I heard a few curse words, that I won’t repeat.
By the time I got down there, everything seemed normal
After all it‘s the Family Room, it isn‘t too formal.

St. Nick, he was toting Lowe Alpine and wearing North Face,
My cheap Wal-Mart PJs were so out of place.
A bundle of tech toys he had dragged down the flue,
A laptop, a cell phone and Blackberry, too.

His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
The guy never ages and he stays just as hairy!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
Check neuro.wustl, some odd syndrome, you know?

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
He can manage to smoke, not cough, and still breathe!
He had a broad face and a little middle aged belly,
But that pipe and that smoke sure made him smelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
I wondered if he had Lipitor or Zetia, at home on the shelf;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but he looked at me odd,
And filled all the stockings; then gave me a nod,
Aiming his finger, but missing his nose,
Somehow by magic, up the chimney he rose;

I saw a few signs of some neural dysfunction
But he did his job well, and with plenty of gumption
He works only one day per year, and elves do the rest,
I am not complaining, he does do his best.

I went back to my bed and I tried to relax
Took my Ambien, eye drops, and slurped Miralax
Santa had gone high tech, but he still DID exist
Some things can be real, if we just don’t resist.

We might not feel great, we might feel like crap,
But sing this to music and call it a Rap.
Put yourself on Facebook, but here is the rub,
You must have some type of PN, to belong to this club!

As the trendy old Santa sprang to his sleigh,
I knew after MY house he would call it a day.
But I heard him exclaim, as he checked his GPS,

Friday, December 21, 2007

Rave of the Day for December 21, 2007: 

I have posted this one before, but it bears a rerun. Perhaps annually?

Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem
By Dr. Maya Angelou

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes
And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.
Flood waters await us in our avenues.

Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche
Over unprotected villages.
The sky slips low and grey and threatening.

We question ourselves.
What have we done to so affront nature?
We worry God.
Are you there? Are you there really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?

Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.

It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.

Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now. It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.

We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.
Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
Implore you, to stay a while with us.
So we may learn by your shimmering light
How to look beyond complexion and see community.

It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.

On this platform of peace, we can create a language
To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.

At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ
Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope.
All the earth's tribes loosen their voices
To celebrate the promise of Peace.

We, Angels and Mortals, Believers and Non-Believers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.

Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A cold wind doth blow in December.... 

Been a rough month, maybe not so much for me as for the world around or at least nearby me. Well, ok, so I'm pretty ragged around the edges too. But I've had plenty to ponder the past few weeks....

First, there was the shooting at the mall in Omaha. Big news here because people from Sioux Falls were there shopping that day. And it's not like people in Nebraska are typically accustomed to dodging bullets.

Then soon after, an unstable dude opens fire at a ministry and then later at a church in Colorado. Big news here because the security guard who took the shooter down and convinced him to turn the gun on himself was from South Dakota. Since churches generally welcome saint and sinner alike, for some reason, that was less surprising to me, but no less horrific.

While I was in Rochester doing the Mayo Clinic thing, one of the members of my aquacise class died quite suddenly. He was in the hospital for a kidney stone, had successfully passed it and was looking forward to going home in the morning. Then, without warning, his heart stopped.

And the father of one of my best friends from college died last week. He'd had strokes going back the last 12 years, but recovered better than expected in the past, and when he had a new stroke this year, it was hoped he'd do so again. But this time, he stopped eating, and perhaps he was ready to go home where he'd be whole again.

I was talking with Dan about whether there is really more death going on in December or whether we are just more aware of it. I think it's probably the latter. This is the time of year we think of spending time with family, the miracle of birth, and death just seems so jarring in that context.

And while my pain is quite minimal in comparison with the families of those I mentioned above, I too am having some less than jolly moments. I am 600 miles away from the nearest blood relative, and I don't foresee me being able to spend a holiday with any of them anytime soon. Other than the ornaments on my tree that my mom made (she died in 1997), the family traditions I so treasured are all pretty much gone or unattainable, and I don't have the energy to start any new ones.

Don't get me wrong: my in-laws have bent over backward to make me feel welcome and probably treat me much better than I deserve since I am not a particularly cuddly person and have not been able to recriprocate as I would like. But Sioux Falls can't take the place of Denver, and my in-laws can't take the place of my mom or the rest of my original family. And so while I am adjusting to my new reality, I need to grieve just a bit.

The situation would be a lot less sad to me if I were physically capable of fully participating in the usual holiday activity. I know, I am ill, and I must cut back my expectations and simplify as much as possible, so that I have a chance of being able to enjoy the important stuff. But I have simplified and simplified, to the point that I no longer shop, no longer go to plays and ballets and cool seasonal stuff, no longer do the party thing, no longer make special food, no longer decorate the whole house, no longer drive to other cities to see people.

I never thought I would say this, but my life is now so simple that I actually have extra time. This would be awesome except that I am too ill to use that time celebrating in some way, or doing something really cool for someone, or even calling the people I miss to tell them I miss them. Even the positive interactions with the world utterly exhaust me, so I have to limit even the most meaningful stuff, and that's what gets me down.

For example: my sister-in-law would like Dan and I to go to her house Christmas Eve both before and after we attend church, and Dan's parents would like me to go to their house on Christmas day. We've already told Dan's sister that we can only do church and then come by after, and to be honest, that will really be a stretch for me as I still haven't recovered from the Rochester adventure. I may be ok with going to the in-laws' house the next day because it won't be until the afternoon, but I also know that this much activity will probably wipe me out for days to come.

One thing I really REALLY hate is that when I push myself to do social things when I am not well, not only am I not able to participate as fully as I would like, I might not even remember the experience later. Last year's Christmas festivities are basically a blur to me, nobody's fault, but because Dan and I had just moved into a new house a week and a half before, I was on fumes. Frustrating because I love social activity and used to be able to make friends with anyone, and now I can't think of what to say, can't hear what's being said, or cannot remember who the person is that recognizes me.

And so for my losses and the much larger losses of those around me, I grieve. The rest of my holiday time posts will probably be funnier and more upbeat, but I needed to pause here and acknowledge the undercurrent of sadness. I will conclude with a poem I wrote several years ago about a different situation that somewhat applies here.

And for those who grieve, anywhere in the world for any reason, peace be with you.

Black Clouds in a Sunny Sky

We think we know,
And we try to prepare–
We back up our files,
Put on a jacket,
Stock up the cellar.
The meteorologists,
The preachers,
The teachers,
They try to warn us–
And we nod,
Caught up in the calmness,
The safeness,
The sleepiness of the now.
Then, when the now suddenly isn't so sedate,
We're slapped hard with the why–
"But she was doing so well!"
"But I didn't expect THIS!"
"But it's unfair!"
When faced with rain in December,
Death around Christmas,
Birds motionless against the wind–
The best that you can do
Is zip up your jacket,
Pray for understanding,
And hold onto your roses
The best you can.


Rave of the Day for December 20, 2007: 

Heard Bing Crosby and Perry Como a few too many times? Do you prefer, shall we say, more non-traditional holiday tunes? Here are some suggestions, courtesy of iTunes, the Argus Leader newspaper, and my own personal taste:

Christmastime - Smashing Pumpkins
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas - Aimee Mann
Frosty the Snowman - Fiona Apple
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings - Barenaked Ladies with Sarah McLachlan
Oi to the World - No Doubt
Last Christmas - Jimmy Eat World
Happy Xmas (War Is Over) - Maroon 5
Don't Shoot Me Santa - The Killers
Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) - Death Cab for Cutie
Happy Xmas (War Is Over) - The Fray
The Christmas Song - The Raveonettes
Santa Bring My Baby Back (To Me) - The Smithereens
Santa's Beard - They Might Be Giants
Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) - Joey Ramone
I Won't Be Home for Christmas - blink-182
Mr. Heat Miser - Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
Zat You, Santa Claus? - Smash Mouth
Merry Xmas Everybody - Camp Freddy
Frosty the Snowman - Cocteau Twins
Tinsletown - Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
Nothing for Christmas - The Reducers
Sleigh Ride - Los Straitjackets

Happy ho ho holidays!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Rave of the Day for December 19, 2007: 

Most of these holiday-related YouTube videos were listed in an article in the local newspaper, but I found a few bonus ones that were funny too. Enjoy....

Frodo the Burping Christmas Dog
Frodo the Dog makes an editorial comment regarding his participation in his family's holiday video.

Dog Opens Christmas Gifts
A Labrador Retriever demonstrates how to unwrap presents.

Let Me Out!!
A 3 year old gets his head stuck in a gate on Christmas Day; the funny part is not the poor kid, but the idiot relatives trying to figure out how to get him loose and offering ridiculous suggestions.

Lazy Tuesday, I Love a Piano Style
Parody of a Saturday Night Live skit. Helps if you are familiar with the Minneapolis area.

The Christmas Tree
A guy in drag portrays a New Jersey woman and the saga of the annual tree.

Christmas Story Recut
Didn't think "A Christmas Story" was scary? It is now! Hilarious!

Hey Ya! Charlie Brown Style

The cast of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" appears to be grooving to "Hey Ya! by Outkast. Awesome!

Happy HanuRamaKwanzMas!

Very funny song about the PC way to wish someone a happy holiday.

PotterPuppetPals.com's Emmy's Christmas Gifts

Ok, this one is tacky and probably inappropriate. But I couldn't stop laughing at the South Park-style animation of Harry Potter and friends.

An Alan Rickman Christmas

A very sweet montage of Alan Rickman clips set to Christmas music. Worth watching multiple times. I admit I liked this one best.

Who needs network TV reruns when you can waste hours and hours on YouTube? Um, don't answer that.

Diary of a Mayo patient.... 

Left Sioux Falls on Sunday, December 2nd for Rochester. Should have been an easy drive but was complicated due to ice and high winds, and we passed lots of overturned and wrecked SUVs and pickups. We left about 10:30am and got to our destination, the Extended Stay hotel, about 3pm.

Was bitterly cold. If you ever have to go to Rochester in December, I recommend an oversized winter coat that can go over big sweaters and waterproof heavily insulated boots and some sort of head covering. For indoors getting around Mayo, you can get by with a lighter jacket and tennis shoes, but dress warm when travelling.

The Extended Stay was cheap but still nice. I got a handicapped accessible room even though I don't use a wheelchair full time, because I needed grab bars, and these rooms had the showers with a seat in them and no tub to have to climb in or out of. There was also a working kitchen, so I just brought food from home, bought a few perishables from the grocery, and I was good to go.

The hotel had a free shuttle service running every hour during the hours the Mayo Clinic was open. I needed to be at the Admissions desk at 6:45am on Monday the 3rd, so my husband and I jumped on the shuttle at 6:00 and made it in plenty of time. Got to talk to someone else at the hotel who'd been in town for awhile, and she was very helpful getting us pointed in the right direction.

Was glad I left my wheelchair at home, because the ones at Mayo are MUCH nicer! There is a whole fleet of them right at the entrance to the clinic, and they have padded seats and padded calf rests. Still, I recommend bringing your own stadium cushion to sit on if you have a lot of low back pain.

My first appointment was at 7:30 with Dr. Osborn in rheumatology. Very different from the awful rheumatologists in Sioux Falls; he wasn't in a big hurry, and he didn't treat me like I was wasting his time. We went over the history of my Sjogren's symptoms; I was very nervous and tired and left out some things I hadn't meant to, but I'm pretty sure I got the most important things across.

Much to my relief, Dr. Osborn had a sense of humor (a rarity in rheumatologists), which helped because I tend to joke when I'm nervous and/or tired. Knowing that people with Sjogren's dehydrate easily, he asked where my water bottle was, and then laughed when I showed him the sports bottle attached to my shoulder with a strap. When I mentioned that my eyes usually felt like they had sand in them, he said, "Yeah, I call that the Sahara sign".

But he did note all of my symptoms, even the ones I wasn't sure were relevent. He looked pretty closely at my rashes and the petechia on my legs and noticed some scarring that I had forgotten about. He also found some swollen glands in my neck I hadn't noticed because I'd been distracted by the swollen lymph nodes.

During the exam, there was something about my heartbeat that didn't seem right to him? I cannot remember what he said it was, but he did mention that Sjogren's can affect the heart (although I believe it is pretty rare). Because I'd never had my heart looked at before, he scheduled some tests.

He took note of my icy hands and feet, the poor grip strength, the non-reflexes in my heels. He checked all the areas I have arthritis, which is pretty much every major joint except elbows and shoulders. And we talked about the neuropathy symptoms, about the pain and numbness being now accompanied by feelings of something on the skin and odd vibration, and how my acute episodes have responded to prednisone.

We talked about me having negative antibodies. He said he would check them again because it had been three years since the last test, and some labs are more sensitive than others. He told me that I may have negative antibodies now because I'm relatively young (43) and am relatively new to the ailment, and that I'll probably test positive at some point in the future, but that doesn't mean that I'm not really sick now or that I have a minor case of Sjogren's.

We went over my meds. We talked about stronger immuno-suppressants than the daily one I am on and what does and does not work for Sjogren's. Dr. Osborn felt the best thing to do would be to check any major organs that had not previously been examined for evidence of autoimmune damage before deciding on a course of treatment.

It was very nice to not be dismissed as a know it all or placated like a child. There was one point, though, when I was talking with Dr. Osborn about the manifestations of vasculitis in Sjogren's, and I happened to glance at Dan and saw that he was just staring at us with no idea what we were referring to! Oh well, it was good that he got to see me being taken seriously by a doctor.

Once I left Dr. Osborn, it was time to let the testing begin. I started with the usual blood sample; eight vials (my current record for a single blood draw is 10). And they got the vein the first time and used a small needle, which always helps.

Then I was free to end my fast. I celebrated by drinking a Boost while Dan checked out the cafeteria. I noticed they list nutrition information on the food at the cafeteria, which is pretty cool, but I never got to try any because I brought all my own food due to my restricted diet.

Next, I was off to the cardiac department. They did an ultrasound of my heart, which was painless, and I thought it was really interesting seeing what my own heart looks like. The technician even pointed out to me what all we were looking at.

The next test was I think the EKG? Funny, they spent way more time hooking up the various electrodes than running the actual test. Also painless except for the fact that my skin is sensitive to adhesive and some of my skin came off when they removed those little patch thingies.

I fatigue extremely easily. I had already started dozing off between tests and at the end of the ultrasound test when we were waiting for a doc to review it. By the time I got wheeled in for the full body CT scan, I had slept in a hallway in my wheelchair wearing a hospital gown for half an hour!

Hadn't had a CT scan since 1986. This was way faster and more efficient than what I remember. They captured images of slices, like slices of bread, of my mid-section, and all I had to do was breathe or not breathe as directed.

By the time I completed the CT scan, it was 4pm, and I was more than ready to head back to the hotel. Our friends had loaned us a portable DVD player, and I tried to watch a movie that evening in the room, but I slept most of the way through it. Probably just as well because I needed to get up at the crack of dawn the next day anyway.

Tuesday the 4th started with an EMG. I'd had one in 2004, so I knew what to expect. I was exhausted at having to get up at 5:30 to catch the shuttle, so no problem with me being relaxed for the test.

Part one is what I call the cattle prod test. They zap your nerve with a taser-like device, which I found not exactly comfy, but also not terrible. They did arm, leg, hand, foot.

Part two is what I call the pincushion test. They put a needle into your muscle and have you flex it while electrical activity is noted. Unpleasant, but unlike the test in 2004, not unbearable, and they were able to test areas like my upper arm and spine that I couldn't tolerate before.

When I got done being a pincushion, I had Dan take me to Mayo's coffee shop so I could get some hot green tea. This was in preparation for the sweat test, the idea being that the warmer you are before the test, the less effort it will take to raise your body temperature during the test. At any rate, I was grateful for the break.

Then it was time to pretend I was at the beach. First I was weighed, then I got to lie down wearing only a paper bikini, and then I was liberally sprinkled with an orange powder, and for the finishing touch I got a thermometer attached to the inside of my mouth. Now I was ready to bake.

All I had to do was lie still while I was wheeled into an area sealed off with plastic that had strong heat lamps overhead. I found it very ironic that they piped in Christmas music, but it gave me something to listen to. And of course it should come as no surprise that I promptly dozed off and sort of wafted in and out of sleep for the next half hour while I was observed and checked in with periodically.

Except for the hands and feet, no sweat at all for over 30 minutes. Then all of a sudden, it was like someone flipped a switch, and the floodgates opened. It took 15 more minutes for me to turn the orange dye completely purple (it does that when it comes in contact with sweat), but I did manage to accomplish this.

When I had fully become a Barney look alike, the technician took photos of the results and then helped me sit up for awhile. I was feeling weak and dizzy, so I waited until that improved before I got up and attempted to wash off the purple dye. After a shower that got rid of maybe half of the dye that had soaked into my ultra-dry skin, I was weighed again, and discovered I had lost an entire pound in less than an hour!

When you are given a schedule of appointments at Mayo, some of the consultations might be scheduled for future weeks or even months. Knowing that most patients can only be there for a limited amount of time, Mayo allows you to volunteer to be a checker, meaning that if you are willing to sit in their waiting room for most or part of a day, they can try to squeeze you in earlier. This can work in your favor in the winter when bad weather causes other patients to miss or cancel their appointments.

Because there was a significant snow storm in Rochester on Tuesday evening, I arrived at the clinic first thing in the morning on Wednesday the 5th and asked to move up my neurologist consultation. I not only got in, my appointment was at 8:15, leaving me plenty of time for other tests. The doctor I met with was Joon Uhm.

He already had the results of the EMG and the sweat test. The EMG was essentially the same as the one from 2004 with only mildly abnormal results. The sweat test was not significantly abnormal either.

We went over both my neuropathy symptoms and the strange stroke-like episodes I have had, where I get one-sided migraines accompanied by speech and cognitive impairment as well as numbness and motor skill problems. I also told him about symptoms like dizziness when standing, irregular heart rate, problems swallowing, difficulty adjusting to sudden changes in lighting, incontinence, etc. And I told him about previous tests that had ruled out MS, stroke and other diseases.

Dr. Uhm explained to me that while primary Sjogren's is progressive, it can also be episodic, mimicking relapsing/remitting MS. Chronic migraine is common in Sjogren's, and while the stroke-like episodes are unusual, they have been documented with Sjogren's patients with neurological complications. So the increase in new neuropathy symptoms may be a blip on the radar, or it may become more frequent over time.

I discovered during the exam that I can no longer hop on one foot. I can stand on one foot in a wobbly sort of fashion, but the foot that's on the ground really wants to stay there. And walking with one foot in front of the other makes me lurch like a drunken sailor, so I hope I'm never pulled over by the cops and given a sobriety test.

Dr. Uhm was particularly concerned about the stroke-like episodes and chronic migraines and decided I was in need of further tests. He scheduled a tilt table test for autonomic dysfunction, an MRI with contrast of the brain and neck, an ultrasound of the top of the heart, and a lumbar puncture. He said the spinal tap would be optional and that if I couldn't fit it in, I could have it done in Sioux Falls later on.

I also got some more blood drawn. They were checking for antiphospholipid antibodies and other stuff. Made a joke to the lady with the needle about her being a vampire; thank goodness she found that funny.

Then I had a three hour gap before my next test. Not enough time to go back to the hotel on the shuttle, but too much time for me to be comfortable waiting without getting some sleep. That was when I had my mini-meltdown, when I realized that I wasn't going to be able to get everything done before my husband would have to go back to work on Monday, and I was far too exhausted to see a solution (I found out at the end of my trip that Mayo does have a "quiet room" for patients to take naps, handy for future reference).

After an hour and a half of dozing off while trying to figure out the schedule (and a few times in mid-sentence while trying to have a conversation with Dan), I was able to get my head together enough to form some ideas. I cancelled the lumbar puncture, asked to combine the MRIs to save time, and decided I would try to move my autonomic test from Friday to Thursday, possibly freeing up time on Friday for consultations.

Then I was off to tackle the pulmonary function test. This is where you sit in a clear box the size of a phone booth and breathe into a tube that measures how long and how forcefully you exhale both before and after you inhale something called (I think) albuterol. A second part of the test is supposed to be measuring your breathing while you go up and down a step, but I had to skip it because I am physically unable to move fast enough to do it properly.

Thursday the 6th started with an MRI at 6:30am. I took some Valium beforehand to cut down on the possibility of muscle twitching while I was doing the test, but I slept through nearly all of it anyway. Good thing too, because I was in that little tube for quite a long time.

After a Boost break, I headed to neurology to see if I could get my autonomic test done early. I did manage to get in there in the afternoon. This is the one known as a tilt table test.

First, they are supposed to attach these capsules that stimulate certain nerves to respond to the sweat impulse, but my limbs were ice cold, so they had to warm them up first. They stimulate the capsules with an electric current, which feels like bugs on the skin but is tolerable. They do a do a breathing test while monitoring your heart rate and blood pressure.

Then comes the fun part. While monitoring your blood pressure, the table you are lying on is raised from a flat position to a 70 degree angle. I felt like I was still moving after the table stopped, my blood pressure dropped some, and I was a little wobbly, but no fainting or anything major happened.

Because of my creative re-scheduling, I only had one test remaining on Friday: the ultrasound of the top part of my heart. This is more complicated than it sounds because to get a clear picture, they put a tube down your throat with a camera at the end of it, so you need IV and local anesthesia. I am sensitive to anesthesia, so I had them give me the lowest amount necessary; I was awake during most of the procedure and got to see my heart illustrated in pretty colors on a screen, but the tube down my throat started bothering me and they gave me a little more medication and I don't remember the rest.

I had a four and a half hour gap between the ultrasound and my final consultation with the neurologist that afternoon, so I tried to get squeezed in to my ENT consultation. No such luck. I waited for four hours, trying to play a hand held video game because I was too messed up from that morning's sedation to read.

But I did get back in to see Dr. Uhm. The ultrasound came back fine, and the autonomic test was not far enough off of normal to require me to change anything I'm already doing. The MRI showed no clots, inflammation or MS-type lesions.

But there WERE some plaques on my brain that were not there on my last scan in 2004. I'm not clear whether they are the cause of my chronic migraines or the result of them, but the neurologist felt there was a definite connection. They probably don't have much to do directly with neuropathy.

Regarding the neuropathy, he felt that it was too early to be doing any invasive biopsies because they might not reveal anything yet. But he told me that because Sjogren's is not curable, the time will come eventually when those procedures will be needed as well as stronger medication. At present, though, he thinks the side effects of potent immuno-suppressants would outweigh the benefits (I am incredibly sensitive to medication), unless evidence is found of organ damage.

He said that if start experiencing more consistent or wider-ranging numbness to come back in and he will arrange for biopsies. And he said if I have another stroke-like incident to call his office immediately so it can be investigated while it's happening. As for all the tests I had, he said that at the very least, they can be considered baselines to measure future tests against in the coming years and decades of having Sjogren's (I intend to live a very long time, of course).

Dr. Uhm had very high praise for how I've successfully managed my diabetes for the past three years. He said I have probably spared myself a considerable amount of nerve damage seeing as how diabetes combined with Sjogren's can really get the neuropathy going. He commented that all the medication in the world can only do so much if the patient is not willing to take good care of themselves.

Because I had all my tests completed, my husband took me home on Saturday the 8th. I have three consultations left: the ENT and the pulmonologist on January 2nd, and the final wrap up with Dr. Osborn in rheumatology on January 3rd, so I will have to come back that week. It is then that I will find out the results of the rest of the tests, figure out a treatment plan, and get a referral to someone who can treat me long term.

So that's what it's like to go to the Mayo Clinic. Your results will of course vary, particularly if you have more pervasive neuropathy or more serious health problems. I wouldn't say it was fun, exactly, but it WAS a learning experience.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Not just another auld lang syne.... 

RIP, Dan Fogelberg.

Singer Dan Fogelberg dies

I've always had a soft spot for the poet singers, and he was one of my favorites from the late '70's/early '80's. And he had a sweet voice. I think the best tribute would be to post the lyrics to what was probably his finest song....

Same Old Lang Syne

Met my old lover in the grocery store
The snow was falling Christmas Eve
I stole behind her in the frozen foods
And I touched her on the sleeve

She didn't recognize the face at first
But then her eyes flew open wide
She went to hug me and she spilled her purse
And we laughed until we cried.

We took her groceries to the checkout stand
The food was totalled up and bagged
We stood there lost in our embarrassment
As the conversation dragged.

We went to have ourselves a drink or two
But couldnt find an open bar
We bought a six-pack at the liquor store
And we drank it in her car.

We drank a toast to innocence
We drank a toast to now
And tried to reach beyond the emptiness
But neither one knew how.

She said shed married her an architect
Who kept her warm and safe and dry
She would have liked to say she loved the man
But she didn't like to lie.

I said the years had been a friend to her
And that her eyes were still as blue
But in those eyes I wasnt sure if I saw
Doubt or gratitude.

She said she saw me in the record stores
And that I must be doing well
I said the audience was heavenly
But the traveling was hell.

We drank a toast to innocence
We drank a toast to now
And tried to reach beyond the emptiness
But neither one knew how.

We drank a toast to innocence
We drank a toast to time
Reliving in our eloquence
Another auld lang syne...

The beer was empty and our tongues were tired
And running out of things to say
She gave a kiss to me as I got out
And I watched her drive away.

Just for a moment I was back at school
And felt that old familiar pain
And as I turned to make my way back home
The snow turned into rain --

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Rave of the Day for December 16, 2007: 

Have you been to "Funny or Die" yet? Got the link to this hilarious video from Feathers....

Chinese Food on Christmas

Want more? Here is a whole list of holiday-themed videos....

Funny or Die Christmas Videos

Finally got the check book caught up and some holiday cards sent out. Should be back to update my anxious readers about my Mayo adventure soon.

Hmmm....after watching that video about Chinese food, I'm suddenly hungry, heh heh.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I've been tagged! I'm IT! 

Or, at least, I've been selected to participate in a blogosphere meme. Alicia over at
I'd Like to Buy a Bowel tagged me. Check out her hilarious blog on a less than fun condition, and make sure you scroll down to the YouTube video that teaches the Japanese how to say "I have diarrhea" in English!

Even though I'm still awash in brain fog, I'll attempt to come up with seven random things about me that maybe not everyone knows:

1. I once got busted for stealing enough change out of my mom's purse to buy myself not one, but TWO soft serve cones from the ice cream man. I was probably five. My mom didn't even have to punish me because I was absolutely sobbing with guilt. That was pretty much the only time I stole anything.

2. Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, was a distant relative of mine, a great great great uncle I think. On my dad's mother's side of the family.

3. I used to eat in my sleep. I literally sleepwalked to the kitchen, got out a spoon, and ate gobs of Peter Pan peanut butter straight from the jar. I finally figured out I was doing this when I woke up with peanut butter on my chin and found a mostly empty jar still open on the countertop with a spoon stuck in it.

4. I once won a trophy for giving a speech about speech tournaments.

5. I never successfully learned how to drive a stick shift. And I didn't get a driver's license until I was 21.

6. I have been in a mosque, a synagogue and a Catholic church all in the same day.

7. I still know (most of the time, anyway) an embarrassing number of commercial jingles from the 1970's. And TV theme songs. And songs I learned in Girl Scouts and really awful parodies my mom taught me.

Now comes the hard part. Coming up with seven people I want to saddle with this meme.

First, I tag at Much to My Sjogren in the hope that this will be a welcome distraction from her recent GI disorder diagnosis.

Second tag goes to Pete at CynicalOptimist as a lot of very serious things are happening around her right now and maybe she could use the diversion?

Third, I'm tagging L. Rob Hubbard at (mim-uh-zeen) & other loss leaders, mainly just because I can.

Next, I've selected Chuck at Chuck's Lo Down because he seems to be in one of the few parts of Oklahoma that didn't get iced in.

Number five might be Greg at Captain's Blog. I say might be because I don't think he usually does stuff like this. Also, I'm not able to leave comments on his blog because I don't have Windows. But hey, maybe he'll see this.

Sixth? If she's up to it, I'm hoping Ricky at Journeying/Journalling will participate too.

Ack, I can't seem to come up with seven. Several friends whose blogs I read are no longer updating them, and the rest of the blogs I peruse I visit only sporadically and have not introduced myself to the authors. So six will have to do.

If you've been tagged and you would like to participate:

1) Link to the person that tagged you, and post the rules on your blog.
2) Share 7 random and/or weird facts about yourself.
3) Tag 7 random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
4) Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Opening one eye to announce my return.... 

Actually, I got home Saturday afternoon, but today is the first day I felt well enough to use the computer. I slept 14 of the first 24 hours I was home, and have only slowly been able to reduce the amount of rest I need. Last night, 11 hours, and I'm pretty much in zombie-land again already.

Unfortunately, I am NOT done with the Mayo Clinic yet. Had more appointments and tests than I could possibly finish in a week, and Dan didn't dare miss two Mondays from work in a row, not in December at the peak of advertising season, so I will go back for three appointments on January 2nd. Luckily, Dan has New Year's Day off, so we should be able to use that as a travel day as long as he is approved for the next couple of days off.

Will report back with details of the Great Rochester Adventure once I take care of some preliminaries. Gotta get that checkbook balanced because without the long-term disability insurance benefits, the budget is stretched so thin it's practically transparent. And even though I'm not able to give gifts this year, I'd still like to at least send a few holiday cards, and I haven't even gotten started on that yet.

Also plan to post some holiday-themed Raves of the Day, links to blogs I've stumbled across, and maybe even an article or two if I'm up to it. But for now, I'm yawning so hard I've nearly unhinged my jaw, meaning I'm gonna conk out in mid-sentence if I don't call it a night.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?