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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Making the Fake Tree Look Real

I'd had real trees for the last ten years but just can't do it anymore. The expense, struggle, mess, daily watering and clean up are beyond me now. So last year I bought a silk needled prelit tree. It's 6 1/2 feet tall, comes in three parts that fit together and stores in a rather small oblong box. Made in China like everything else these days, I bought it at the hardware store around the corner, Brown & Roberts. It was $29.99 USD. The real trees were going for about 7 bucks a foot, so I was happy to save a few dollars and figure this tree, with good care, may last me 20 years. It's well made. But right outta the box, it's plain ugly.

Here's where my physical limitations actually were a plus. Putting the tree together slowly meant getting a better look at how it's made. Little by little I straightened all the main branches out. The straight branches sticking out left gaps all over. So I began bending the branches. Turning the tips up looks more natural so I did that, too. Since I can't do anything for more than 15 minutes I took frequent breaks. I'd sit down and look at it, and plan what needed to go where. Then I bent some of the inner branches up toward the inside. I did it all over the tree, starting at the top, turning the tree, sitting in front of it, working level by level. It took 3 days in short sessions. I sat with only the tree lights on the third night, amazed that something that looked so lousy could look so good with a little time and patience. It was decorated in stages also, with help from friends, and ended up one of my best-looking trees ever.

My aide brought it out and stood it up in the living room yesterday. Today I'm working on it, sitting and staring, getting up and working a few branches. It'll probably take 4 or 5 days this year but I don't mind. The end result will be something to delight my eyes for a month.

Dr. Havas: The Microwave Sickness Article

Dr. Havas contacted me via this blog. I will be letting her know what happens over the next few months as I work toward reducing the waves in my life.

The gland on my clavicle is still there, but much smaller and "looser", for want of a better term. I continue to sleep well. In the last two weeks, my "full stomach" signal has returned. This is something I hadn't really noticed was gone until it reappeared.

In any event, Dr. Havas sent her website address, and when I gave it a look, saw that the article I was quoting is there in full:

It's a pdf, as noted, and I'm glad is available for more people to read.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

How Am I Thankful? Lemme Count the Ways

This has become my favorite holiday. A day to relax, take stock, eat my favorite foods and even watch a parade in my old hometown. Somehow, the cooking of Thanksgiving has never seemed like work to me. It's a magical meal. I guess having done it for so many years it's as though it puts itself together.

So yes, I'm thankful for our food, and the animals and the vegetables and the minerals that make it possible. ;)

I'm thankful for the people in my life. I'm thankful for a safe home with potable running water (even hot water!). I'm thankful for appropriate clothing and shoes. I'm thankful for a lively community. I'm thankful for my education, and all the things that have happened in my life to bring me to this point. I'm thankful for Brooks Library and the folks who work there. I'm thankful for my aides who help keep me rolling along. I'm thankful for all my projects and the ability to keep working on them. I'm thankful for all of life's lessons; they teach me to be able to help others. I'm thankful for the Earth that supports us, the Sun and Moon and Stars, the wonders of nature and science and religion. I'm thankful for my family and my forebears. I'm thankful for my heritage and uncovering history and still being able to think. I'm thankful for the progress of social justice and all those who work for it. I'm thankful for my computer and the internet, which have brought me new friends and information and entertainment and cultures I'd not have known otherwise. And which has made it so easy to become close to and keep up with all the lives I care about. I'm thankful for music and art that give me succor when I'm down. I'm thankful for people who make my spirit soar and my brain think. I'm thankful I have enough of everything to share and celebrate life. I'm thankful for life itself.

On this day of thanks I want to start making it a practice to be mindful of being thankful every day. I have so much to be thankful for every day, not just today.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Friend in Grief

My friend Lise's Dad died Monday night. He was surrounded by those he loved when he passed, and it was expected, but it's still a hard thing for the loved ones to go through. My heart goes out to her and them all; I know she loved him very much. And now her Mom is a widow, which is a terrible grief.

Even if you've been thru a hundred deaths it doesn't lessen the blow of another one. Sometimes it brings each back, gathering deaths along its way like an avalanche. Even if you were on "Deathwatch" it doesn't lessen the impact of when it happens. Nothing can, especially when it's a very close loved one you've lost.

I do believe in learning curves; there are learning curves in every facet of life. But there are still things that stand alone despite experience; falling in love and deaths are in that category. Each death has a unique story with unique lessons to be learned in it. And every time I've been party to a death I've learned more about myself and those around me than anything metaphysical or spiritual. Sometimes those are things you'd rather have not known. Sometimes those are things you treasure and carry forever and make you value the people involved much more.

If there's one thing in life that is as constant as the sun and moon, it's death. You'd think one would get used to it, have a plan, have a way to deal that works for all deaths. Platitudes are useless to the newly bereft. In the fresh shock of loss, they're not even really heard. Aside from customs- like making food or offering an ear, we're all at a loss. Loss is loss. There's nothing can mend the void but time and to continue living.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Gimp's Guide to Life: Part 2

The No-Show Syndrome.
While one is trying to adjust to a disability, one assumes that much of the rest of life won't be effected This is a misconception. Disability has an effect on every part of your life.

A major change in my life was what I now call "The No-Show Syndrome". This happens in the life of every disabled person I know. You go thru a period where you're not aware nor willing to surrender that you cannot do what you used to do. You will make plans and start projects that you have every intention of carrying to fruition. Usually, this is what you've always done, whether (as in my case) it's trying to assemble a group together with a mission, or (as in a friend's case) it's making plans to run around or hang out. You do all the first stages as you always have- make the phone calls, emails; arrange the place to hold the meeting or when and where you're taking someone or shopping for something. But when the day comes, you're a no-show.

And you do it many times. As many times as it takes for you to "get it". You can't make plans, period. You no longer have control of what you will be able to do. And nobody will understand.

Friends and acquaintances will criticize, call you "No Show ____ " (insert your name) and talk behind your back, which will get back to you. Truth is, they're right. You've become undependable. If you've always been dependable in the past it'll be the worse to go thru. But as all things in disability, you don't have a choice in selecting when you're laid up. As the gimp, you'll be hurt that people don't understand what you're going thru. You'll be hurt by the things said behind your back. You may lose friends, as they become frustrated by your absences.

At some point you come to the realization that life is now a one-day-at-a-time proposition. The sooner you get to this, the easier the transition will be. But there's no guidebook for it, no schedule. It took me years to accept it. It was so, so hard for me to accept it. I was one of those "Let's have a Meeting" people; had been for my whole life. I've worked as a community organizer, as a union organizer... gathering people and holding a meeting are second nature to me. That part of me wanted to keep going. It was such a part of my identity. But slowly it was becoming apparent even to my stubborn Taurus head that I just wasn't dependable anymore. And there was nothing to be done for it. It's just the way it is.

So I stopped making plans ahead of time. I adjusted my life to what I knew I'd be doing no matter what- being in my home. I invite friends to my place. I can still make my home hospitable. I also know how to pace myself now. If it's Thanksgiving, for instance, I organize weeks ahead, like going to war. Figure out what's the easiest route, what can be done beforehand, and give myself recuperative time between tasks. And Just Don't Do what's the hardest. As a challenge addict, that's tough.

It's a learning curve, like everything else in life.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Gimp's Guide to Life- Part 1

I'm offering my experiences here to promote understanding of physical handicaps among the more able-bodied and hopefully to help with tips for people who are like me. I'm fairly new at this all, having bounded through the first 40 years of my life in relatively good vitality and ability. The last 10 years, and in particular the last 4, have changed my life and perspective. I call myself a gimp because I am, and because I still have a sense of humor.

In sailing through life as a gimp you have to be much more aware of hazards. Anything that was innocuous heretofore could injure you once you're a gimp.

For instance, if you have nerve problems, you are prone to dropping things. That is fairly obvious and one simple remedy is to always take things in both hands until you have a secure hold. Make sure all your body parts are clear of the falling range of whatever you have in your hands, always. If you can, when something falls, step or wheel back away from it. This gets better with practice and fairly soon it's an automatic response.

The not-so-obvious things are surprising discoveries. Among many I've made in this process is that any new attire can be a hazard. New shoes, new pants, new jewelry- anything, really. Once broken in, there may or may not be a problem. But new shoes have laid me up for a full day. New pants caused me such back pain that I actually cried. I now look for garments and footwear that are close to what my body is now comfortable in. This means no heels on my shoes. I need them flat, loose and a fit that simulates how my foot falls in the barefoot state. Topsiders work well, as do moccasins. But any sort of "support" is a potential crippler.

Belts, even waistbands, are a hazard to spines. I search for jeans that don't have enforced waistbands. Since I'm tall, tripping on dragging hems isn't my trouble but it is for friends. It's important to stay mindful of any garment that flares from your body or reaches the ground. Long skirts are lovely, but can get caught in the spokes of a wheelchair or catch on a cane. So can flowing sleeves, long scarves and jewelry. Expressing your style can be a challenge. In shopping for friends, keep these things in mind. What may have delighted them when they were full-bodied can be an unintended but hurtful reminder of things lost to their lives now.

Jewelry is an area with lots of options. I wear a single leather thong with a very dear silver bell as my omnipresent necklace. It's practically weightless, is neither too long nor too short and nothing catches in a leather thong as it would in a chain. I wear one braided string bracelet that would open if caught in anything on my chair or walker. Though my ring size has grown, I have two that fit no matter what, go with any outfit and don't hinder movement. When dressing up I'll add manageable bits, but they are a hassle to stay conscious of, and being a gimp is an exercise in being conscious of one's immediate surroundings at all times. Keeping it simple is a great rule.

There are tools in helping one dress. I have an indispensable sock tool. They are painsavers and ingeniously simple. If you have trouble putting socks on, get one. They can even be made with a 2-liter soda bottle, a bit of cord and a stick-on insole, cut up. If you want instructions, email me.

So much for part 1 of A Gimp's Guide... I'll be back with more.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My Clavicle's Back!

Perhaps coincidence but I have to wonder. The two nodes behind my left ear have shrunk and the huge one on my clavicle has receded to the point that I can feel my clavicle all the way along now. It's only been 4 days since I stopped using wireless devices and again, could be coincidence, but I've been sleeping soundly and actually digesting better. No other change but the absence of wireless things.

If this turns out to change my physical conditions permanently I think I'm going to get loud about it. I have to add that it's refreshing to be back on an old tethered phone. Just the sound of the ringing is enough to make me happier, as the chirpy-beepybuzz of the wireless always annoyed me. I'm getting things done also, as the phone is something I take time out for now, not a constant companion/distraction to my tasks. There are quality of life issues. My closest friends and I used to even accompany each other to the kitchen, bathroom, etc. No more. And the ear quality- no fuzzing in & out, no loud background noise picked up, no cutting out. Yes, I'm old enough to appreciate regaining civility over the "convenience" of being able to do other things while talking. I live in the sticks, not the city; I gave up the city to live a better life. It seems that losing the wireless is making life better. I'm not going to question it.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

An Experiment in Microwave Sickness

A friend gave me a subscription to Bottom Line- Personal for Christmas last year. It gives advice on consumer issues, investing and health. Most of the time I read it and wonder why it isn't a well-known publication. Tonight it may have changed my life. The headline on this issue (November 15, vol. 30, number 22) reads, "Don't Stand In Front of the Microwave", written by Magda Havas, PhD, Trent University. Dr. Havas writes that "Radiation levels up to 1,000 times lower than the FCC guidelines have been shown to affect our health".

A 2007 study reported that cell phone users who spend more than 22 hours per month on their cell were 58% more likely to develop tumors on their salivary glands. Another study determined that 2 types of brain tumors had doubled on the "phone side" of the head after a decade of cell phone use. The studies funded by telecom companies typically lasted 6 years or less, not long enough for tumors to develop; and most of the studies defined "heavy usage" as using a cell a few times a week, far from the ubiquitous times it's come to be used.

Cordless phones (this is where my mental lightbulb came on) pose the same risks. Cordless phones with DECT are even worse. Dr. Havas' recommendation is to replace your household phones with corded phones.

So the dots started connecting in my brain. Since 2001 I have had swollen lymph glands on the left side of my head, neck and clavicle. Twice, surgeons have removed and biopsied these abnormally large glands. No cancer, no explanation. My former GP actually said to me, "Maybe you're just a person who gets large glands." For the last four years a gland just above my clavicle has remained swollen and here and there, a gland or two will swell and go down. Always on the left side. I've had a cordless phone since 2000. Being pretty much a social person, and now homebound, I spend more than 22 hours a week on my cordless phone. Much more. And it's always on my left side, often cradled in my neck and shoulder.

Luckily I own two corded phones and have connected them both tonight. I'm going to go without the cordless for 6 months and see if my glands return to normal.

As for the microwaves, most ovens leak a fair share of electromagnetic radiation. The Dr. suggests: "Put your cell phone inside the oven and close the door (do not turn on the microwave), call the cellphone number. If you hear the phone ring, the cell signal was able to pass thru the walls of the oven- meaning that microwaves are able to pass out". She has tested the levels inside her home, and detected electromagnetic radiation from 20 feet away. So leave the kitchen when the microwave is on. I also recommend that everyone read this article. It may be available online, but I haven't looked. Consider it homework.

I will blog on this experiment. It'll be nice to return to the old tethered way of using the phone. I suspect it'll cut my phone time, too, as I won't be doing other things when I'm talking. Like being on the internet. And maybe I'll get my nice neck back...

And thanks again, Amanda, for such a great gift. :D

Update 11/14:
Found an interesting article from 2007:

I'd recommend, also, Googling Drs. Hertel and Blanc. They are two Swiss scientists who were gagged from publishing and speaking their findings on microwave use in cooking. The gag order was lifted in 1998 and their results are available in numerous articles.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Each Day a New...Well, Something

In the ongoing battle to get things done, things happen. Sometimes good things, but more often and consistently monkey wrenches.

Trying to get the ground barriers done- ok, the Masons don't have a lot of the window quilt material. The motherlode is in a pile that the dingaling I'd thrown the ball to last spring knew about, but for some assinine reason kept a secret. I found out about it by accident. Afterward, he called to tell me about it. So now I have to coordinate the other parts while trying to get my paws on that motherlode.

On a much more personal note, the VNA is firing 2 dependable employees- my RN, and the scheduler we just got back after the midsummer nightmare. Since my OT is retiring on that same day, this leaves only one decent human in that organization, my PT. So I've decided that when they leave it, so will I. And I'll leave with a noise. I've had no coordinator/socialworker for over a year. My allotted hours have changed with no notice, and I have no way to check if they're still billing Medicaid for the higher hours I had at the beginning. Aides quit regularly, leaving long gaps in service. You never know if anyone's coming until an hour before they're scheduled to be at your home. Every other week I have no help on Tuesdays at all. When you're only given 4 hours a week to begin with, losing half of that puts everything behind and things pile up. There is another home nursing/aide agency, so they'll get my business. The VNA is changing to a computerized, inhumane corporation led by a liar-in-charge; she has manipulated the truth and verbally abused me in the past, and I have no reason to think things will get better, so bye-bye.

And I won't even go into what the local coop is becoming; that's a story for another day.

But in all the scary bad there's good, too. The Healthcare is a Human Right campaign goes on, gaining support and slowing growing. My brothers and their wives are okay, my extended family is fine, nobody's actively suffering today. For all that and much more, I'm truly thankful.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Post-Halloween Report

The time collapse that happens every year come November started early this year. I can't believe it's a week since Halloween and I didn't blog about it.

This was the Halloween season of all Halloween seasons. I'm not meaning trickortreaters, what was on the tube, or the trimmings. I mean, the period from Weds, September 30th til Halloween night was truly full of ghosts. It started for me in my apartment, on Sept. 30 with noises all night and that feeling that you're not alone; then other building regulars reported similar activity where they were. In the weeks following and really all throughout October, random friends and townspeople told me of apparitions in their homes, footsteps, things being moved around. It was a whole paranormal time period. One night I was in the bathroom and saw something that looked like a 50s blue plaid skirt step out of a wall in my bedroom. Fed up, I said, "Look, get out. I don't care what your deal is, I'm not going to help you. I'm not the one. Get out. I've had it."" It had already disappeared when I began talking but for a couple nights things were quiet in my place. Then the door and wall knocking returned, the magnets fell off the fridge, noises came from whichever room I wasn't in, for weeks. During this time, a friend and her dog were awakened all night with footsteps and low voices in her dining room. Another friend saw a man with a mustache bending over and looking curiously at his TV. And shadow people were in his apartment, too. I was thinking the veils between the worlds must be particularly thin this year, but why? I started dreading Halloween night, reputed and revered as the thinnest veil in the calendar. A somewhat nutty friend wanted to have a seance and play with the ouija board that night and I about ripped her a new piehole. It was no time to play with dead things or whatever else might be around. Then on Halloween night, it all stopped. I felt the change, physically, sentially. There was nothing in the atmosphere, all at once. No creepy feelings like you're not alone, no knocking, nothing.

It's been an insomnial week since, and still nothing. I've been reading until the wee hours, even read Her Fearful Symmetry (fantastic fiction! read it!) and The Haunting of Hill House without a shiver or anything. When you've just gone through the real thing, fictional ghosts don't faze you anymore, I guess. What a strange and potent month it was, though. Still wondering why and how but I'll probably never know. It was very rainy for October, a bit cooler than usual. We really only had a couple of days that were "October's bright blue weather" and the leaves came down all at once in the pouring rain.

We've finally gotten moving again with the ground barriers for the homeless and started the fruit drive for the VA hospital. Hopefully that'll all be done on schedule, though I shouldn't have thrown the ball to others and waited so long before taking it back. I'm concerned that we lost valuable time and won't have the help to finish the barriers with the holidays so close now. As always, fugit ab mea gluteus maximus.

Happy Samhain, y'all!