Riverbend and Early Rising

It is the end of Riverbend Festival week in Chattanooga.  The festival lasts 10 days, and attracts tens of thousands to its varied musical performances.  Even in years when I choose to avoid the heat and crowds, I can feel the excitement in the air.  Traffic patterns change, new faces appear in familiar places, television coverage and personal reports abound.  

My daughter made her first appearance at the festival at age three, dancing in the street with the community at the Bessie Smith Strut.  She still attends regularly, and I eagerly await her reports.  Last night we stayed up until 3 a.m. talking about the events of the week, the excitement still present.  She showed me her loot from the last night:  a necklace with a real scorpion embedded in glass, a six-pack of Coke Zero, jeans purchased in her pre-concert shopping.  Her descriptions of the Little Richard concert, with his unexpected presentation of his young nieces and nephew-tiny children standing on his piano to sing Itsy Bitsy Spider-kept me spellbound.  Attendance by proxy, as dictated by the current state of my lupus. 

In spite of the late late bedtime, I rose early to appreciate the glorious, bright day.  I have always been an early riser, eagerly waiting for morning to come, happy for summer when it is marked by bright light streaming into my bedroom.  As a child, I felt that I was missing something if I lay in bed late.  It was intolerable to hear activity in the rest of the house and not be a part of it.  Now, when the agenda of the day is dictated by me, I still feel the urge to jump into the day early.  I come by this honestly.  My father always rose early, his farm upbringing and Army career reinforcing the habit.  As an infant and small child, I woke to be with him and start the day. 

My son appeared unexpectedly at the front door yesterday.  He rang the bell and I interrupted a phone conversation to answer it.  My shrieks of pleasure greeting Julian probably frightened my friend on the phone.  A nice long spell of catch-up conversation ensued.  Meanwhile, a knitting friend showed up for an extended visit.  We began the evening with conversation, ended with pizza and a viewing of The Secret Life of Bees

So much to awake to, so many reasons to get out of bed.  That’s a good life.



Pick Up the Phone

Just when I thought my biggest worry today would be the aches and pains from yesterday’s cleaning, there’s more news from the Senate’s health care struggles. 

A majority of Americans support having a public plan available for folks who cannot get health care insurance through their employers and who cannot afford to buy it on the private market.  There’s a movement in the Senate to delay this, giving private insurance companies more time and options to deal with the problem, and only allowing a public plan at some fututre time if they should fail.  The private insurers have already shown us that profit is their whole motive.  They have done everything they can to deny insurance to people and to not pay for what their insured customers need.  Why should they have another chance at our expense? 

What can we do?  We can get on the phone and call our senators’ offices, telling them that we don’t want to delay a public plan, that we need it now.  It takes 5 minutes to pick up the phone and relay that message.  You can read about it here:  http://www.healthcareforamericanow.org/.  I’ve already called Senator Alexander and Senator Corker to register my request.  If we don’t have health care for everyone in 2011, I don’t want to be kicking myself for lack of action.   

Now I’ve gotta get back to cleaning.  Someone else is scheduled to see my house.  Sell, 7514 Tranquility, sell! 


My Sister Was Here – Hallelujah!

In my April 6 post, I talked about looking for infections.  If I believed strongly in jinxing myself, I would be freaked out, because on April 7 I had to start antibiotics for strep throat.  I have a swollen, red tonsil with a pocket of icky white stuff that isn’t better yet.  I emphasized vigilance about infections because prednisone masks the symptoms and they tend to progress further before we notice them.  I haven’t had fever or intense pain, which would have been guaranteed without the prednisone, but the flip side is this prolonged course. 

I mentioned my elf.  She had to remain anonymous until she announced her presence to the local family, but it was my youngest sister, in from Minneapolis.  It was the first time we pulled such a prank, keeping her visit plans a secret, and also the first time she stayed at my house instead of in town with the parents.  We had a wonderful time, from the delicious secret plans to our conversation on the way to her departure shuttle.  Who knew that highly different, feuding childhood sibs could turn out to be such close friends? 

Who knew that she was coming to take care of my house and shorten my prep for putting it on the market?  It was her spring break, and I anticipated sitting on the deck with a beverage and chatting about life.  Hah!  Her plan was to whiz through my house, throwing away things, packing others in the pod, and rearranging the remainders into a fashionable showplace.  I had to help, instead of putting my feet up and nursing my sore throat.  Claiming that she “loves” organizing, she went through yarn, books, and clothes with equal fervor, shaking her head at what I’ve accumulated and moved around over the past twenty years.  She cleaned my carpets.  By the time she left, I was out of ways to say “thank you”.  Maybe I can knit her a car. 

We took time off to make two visits to the parents.  They were thrilled to see my sister and overjoyed that she brought her animal, a blue pomeranian, with her.  Nothing makes them happier than dog visits.  Mitchell tipped around their house, leading Daddy with his leash.  He sat in Mama’s lap for a restless moment, letting her hug him and play with his abundant hair.  The second visit had to be short because they were preparing to pick up friends and go to Olive Garden.  We asked if there was a special occasion.  My dad said “No, this is what we do,” as if outlining their busy social schedule.  Chief Sister in Charge of Parent Care has done a wonderful job of making recreation for them. 

I didn’t forget my instructions when my sister left yesterday.  I continued clearing out my room today, and changed the old, dark curtains to light, neutral, crowd-pleasing ones.  I put away-or discarded-a boxful of things that I couldn’t live without last year.  Things lose their appeal so quickly.  I should confine my purchases to books, music and craft supplies. 

Oh heck, 1 a.m. and I haven’t taken the bedtime dose of antibiotics.  At this rate, my tonsil will just die and fall off. 


Diva Day, Hopefully to Be Continued

I woke this morning with a lightness, waving my feet in the air, laughing loudly to myself.  There was dancing in every movement, and I smiled to me in the mirror.  The energy today was all about hope and the expectation of good, maybe good beyond anything I deserve or claim. 

Midday, I tried on new clothes, things that arrived in the mail, ordered on line, my favorite shopping method.  I am back down to the sizes of my favorite store, and I waltzed around in a flirty skirt feeling like a million.  Losing a couple of dress sizes can revive you.  Knowing that it happened logically and by my effort, rather than through some random occurrence, is my assurance of further success. 

I called my 93 year-old aunt and caught up, including telling her of my recent weight loss.  Always one to stay small and fit, she told me her own story of a stint with Weight Watchers in their early years.  She quit the program because they required you to sing your weight to the group, and she’d never been a singer.  Indeed, as a child she had been kept after school by a disbelieving music teacher who insisted she try harder to make melodious sounds.  She laughed as hard as I did, the chuckles ringing in her whisky voice, the one I’d always envied. 

Later, I shopped at the little vegetarian market, driving home with my tofu and carrot-ginger soup (mmm, more curry), ignoring the meaty smells from the barbecue joint by the road.  By the time I put away groceries, and rescued my dog from her imprisonment in the sleeve of my jacket, I had to sit and rest.  That didn’t end my day.  After dozens of photos I was able to post the wrist cuffs and bag that now open my store. 

I hate getting philosophy from a television narrator, but the Grey’s Anatomy wrap-up had it right tonight.  Trauma always does leave scars, and for some of us, it also makes us continue forward.  Or are we moving in spite of the scars?  I don’t know.  Today I only experienced the movement, and I felt like a diva.


The PNHP Health Care Recommendation

I had planned to post a drive-by this week with the text of Dr. Fein’s presentation to the President’s health care forum.  I am a member of Physicians for a National Health Program, which advocates health care for every American, with an economical, single-payer base.  Having worked in the public and private sectors caring for patients, and looking at the built-in problems of our current system, I feel very strongly that this is the best solution. 


Please read and consider this statement, prepared by Dr. Oliver Fein of the Physicians for a National Health Plan:  http://tinyurl.com/b2udj7.

I had to revise my previous draft of this post, as the prepared statement didn’t print out properly and I was clueless as to how to fix it.  On another day I might have figured it out, but I feel a bit slow today.  My thoughts seem to require a bit more concentration and focus than usual.  I have an infection that just cropped up, and my general symptoms are pointing towards impending flare, so I am not surprised.  I spoke with one sister on the phone for a while and seemed to have word-finding trouble every few minutes.  How convenient that my child is home for spring break, here to fill in the blanks.

From time to time I get feedback on my blog in forms other than the comments printed here.  As much as anything, they encourage me to keep writing.  I’d just like to acknowledge them as a group, thank those kind folks who say that my writing informs, entertains, encourages, or comforts them.  As a doctor, I always knew that my work had value, that I did some good for the people in my care.  One of the worst consequences of disability is the feeling that you may not be useful anymore.  The first few years after I stopped practicing medicine, I had to learn a lot about my place in the universe and what value I had that was separate from my physical abilities.  That’s a whole ‘nother post. 

I’ve been doing more than just contemplating.  The organic cotton summer scarf is finished but not photographed.  I began a wide, brightly coloured, loosely crocheted scarf from gorgeous rayon yard yesterday.  I’ve got a sample in progress that is moving along well.  In between, the sorting and consolidating continues.  I made an extensive list of items that must be completed to get my house ready to show-20 items!  Yes, big number, but I feel better seeing it all laid out in front of me. 

Overall, I have a wide path ahead and I can see my way clearly, which is a lot more than I can say about some portions of my life. 


The Eyes (Don’t) Have It!!

This will be brief because I’m typing with one eye dilated and I might be missing errors that will land me in jail for slander or salaciousness or worse.  However, I could not wait to tell my news!  My eyes are fine!!!  No bleed, no retinal tear, just normal vitreous jellly breaking loose and making those little floaters, probably more than usual because of my extreme near-sightedness (near-sighted means longer eyeball and more tension on the walls where the retina attaches and the vitreous is anchored and…oh hell, my eyes are fine!).  I asked Steve if I’m coming in for silly stuff and he assured me that my concerns were justified and that I should come in for any worsening of these symptoms.  Yay, I’m not no stinkin’ eyepochondriac! 


That’s good news number one.  Number two is that yesterday morning I got a hankering to dive into my bedroom trash can to search for my camera, and while I felt foolish digging through the trash, I did find it!  Go figure.  It either jumped off the bed into the can or I absent-mindedly dumped it there with a load of discarded mail.  I’d like to label everything I own with some responsive material that would make it clang or beep or light up when I pushed a button, Mary, but it would sound like the cast of Stomp.  I misplace things regularly.  Usually when I’m putting them in a safe place that I will remember forever. 


Number three good news is that I increased my prednisone back to my 10 mg baseline, and I got up feeling good today.  I’m going to finish the baby hat I’m working on, start my load of turtles, and work on another project that has a deadline.  I don’t have to stop for cooking, I’ve got leftover tofu/cabbage/mushroom/onion sautee and simmer in my refrigerator. 


Oh yeah, one caution.  I mentioned the Lion Brand Recycled Cotton.  I will think twice about buying any more of it.  I am halfway through a skein and so far I’ve had about eight separate pieces of varying lengths.  They should have warned me!!!  I like how the yarn knits, and my toddler hat is adorable (I’ll show when it’s finished), but I’m gonna be weaving ends forever.


Someone put me in an awesome treasury last night.  I’m honored to be in that particular company – some very creative designers there.  You can see here: 

http://www.etsy.com/treasury_list_west.php?room_id=42083.  It will be up for two days. 



Another Saturday, Not As Mellow

I’m on the downslope!  This is perhaps my favorite time in the disease cycle of lupus.  I’m over a major flare, my energy is improving daily, and I’m able to increase my activity.  I feel like I’ve been released from prison after several months of false accusations and physical torture.  I have to survey the wreckage and handle it, but anything is better than the previous confinement.


The “wreckage” consists of all the things that I’ve missed or put off due to the flare.  Sometimes it’s more emotional, other times it is primarily physical.  Among the emotional issues this time is the separation from familly and friends.  I am so grateful to those that sought me out, came to my home during the worst of the flare, and weren’t put off by my inability to get out and meet.  I’ve missed seeing my little old parents, who rarely leave home for anything but doctor visits.  Physical consequences have been pretty large, too.  My house is cluttered and messy.  My organizing of the craft room stopped mid-stroke.  I didn’t finish my yarn de-stashing, and there’s at least one more box to go to the prison yarn project.


I wrote the paragraphs above at the beginning of the week.  Now it’s Saturday, and I have not taken the week as I should have.  With all the energy and emotion of my new freedom, I jumped into moving my daughter into her new apartment.  I shopped too much, walked too far, carried too many items…there was no moderation.  By Thursday I was wondering if I would have to stop in the aisle at Target and sit down on the floor.  My back and knees were dying.  I made my last purchase, got in my car, and vowed to sit out the next few days. 


My idiocy was compounded by the fact that I landed in a hotel that didn’t provide the accommodations and service that they have in the past.  My room was persistently hot (in a town that has been 90 degrees every day), I had to fuss to get my room cleaned, and there was an infestation of ycky little black crawlers.  I’d been there a dozen times and never had that experience.  I complained mightily, got a night comped, and moved to another hotel. 


Sometimes this lupus provides me with more challenges than I want to think about, but I have to sit still and think them through in order to handle them.  Right now, I’m noticing that the tiniest activity makes me sweat.  I am so out of condition that my body thinks it is running laps when I’m just pushing a cart slowly through the grocery store.  At the same time, I am holding onto fluid like a champ, with the swollen ankles and legs demanding a diuretic.  I’ve concluded that I have to moderate my activity, watch the unaccustomed salt intake (hey, I can’t cook here), and get some real sleep.  The chores of my trip are over…I can do this. 


I have been knitting all along, of course.  I completed the little girl sweater.  I love it.  You can judge for yourself:

Starting from the top, you see the whole front view, then a front placket detail, then sleeve detail, then the back view.  It is ready to mail.  I hope I’ll get a photo of the little girl who requested the pink and white, three-quarter sleeve, girly cardigan.  I always aim for one size larger for children.  That gives one year with a sweater or heavy shirt underneath, then one season of lighter coverage, and if we’re lucky, an additional season where the cardi can be worn as a top alone.  I now sympathize with my mom, who made those over-size, you’ll-grow-into-it calculations for six daughters.  An expensive piece should last more than a minute.


I remembered to photograph my girls when they were all together:

There they are-my daughter in the middle, with her sister and her niece.  The most beautifulest!