Friday, September 28, 2018

Rocky Mountain High?

No, I’m not writing from marijuana-friendly Colorado, but from Utah, its neighbor to the west.

This November medical marijuana is on the ballot, but it won’t pass. My church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, has put out a statement against it. The statement expresses concern about increased youth drug use. 

Having taught middle school, I know that young people who want drugs are already getting them. I’m voting in favor, a lot of us are, because we need a better alternative for pain control.

But if it passed and medical marijuana became legal, would I use it? I’m not sure. 

I am the perfect candidate. I have long joked, somewhat bitterly, that I have the only two doctors in America who do not over-prescribe opiates. I have nothing stronger than Tramadol. I can’t help but wonder if I could have worked longer if I was more heavily medicated. And I want to get back into the workplace.


Could I ask my rheumatologist, a neighbor, and former bishop in my church ward for a prescription for medical marijuana? Not likely. He’s a good doctor and I appreciate how he’s always believed me, but he is very religious and I don’t want to strain that relationship. 

  Since I don’t know my family doctor outside of his practice, I would be more comfortable asking him. 


I believe in the FDA, testing, regulation, controlled dosage. I wan’t to buy medicalized marijuana, in pill form, with a prescription from my doctor from my grocery store pharmacy. I know part of the appeal of marijuana is that it isn’t owned, or priced, by Big Pharma, but I’d like the governmental protections that are supposed to come with research and regulation. 

I understand the irony. Methotrexate and every biologic I’ve taken list sudden death among a list of horrible side effects. I’d just feel safer that way than asking the person behind the counter of a dispensary what is good. 

I might be able to grow my own, or like my fruits and vegetables, ask my dad to grow it for me, but that doesn’t make me feel safer. I don’t like the trial and error stage of taking my many prescription drugs, trial and error in the back yard makes me more nervous. Heat, moisture, and varying soil conditions effect the composition of all plants. A non-medical example is radishes, which are mild when grown in cool, moist climates, but strong when planted in our dry heat. 

 I grow a variety of herbs in my garden, some with reputed medical properties, but I’ve never tried to treat anything scarier than cold sores. (Lemon balm tea—I swear by it, but it will take over your yard.)

In the meantime, I can dream that medicalized marijuana, like universal health care and equal rights for all will come to pass in my lifetime. 

My mother’s mother is 98 and has been in chronic pain since her forties. (She has the good drugs.) So I may have plenty of time.

 In the meantime, I’ll vote accordingly and if I hurt enough to get brave, take vacations to the beautiful state to our east. (West works too, but who wants to visit Nevada?)

THE PODCAST this week is about death. Emily could really have used both medical and recreational marijuana. She was much too much of a lady to ever smoke, but was well known for her desserts, so she could have become financially independent baking edibles.

Actually, the poem is about the things we treasure because they once belonged to people who have died. I have knit and given so many things that it would be interesting to follow their fates through various owners and good will shops to see how long they outlive me.
Along those lines,

THE KNITTING has been almost exclusively done on the baby blanket, which is nearing completion, but also starting to look appealing as a shawl, maybe something one can wear until a baby looks cold? I don't know, but it will eventually go into my shop.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Out of Work/Out of Order

I love watching people work. If’s fascinating. 

When I go to pick up dinner, the choreography of the kitchen, stirs me and I envy the grace of servers hustling with trays of drinks or multiple plates on their arms.

I watch the receptionist at the therapist's office. She remembers names so well and manages to make all those phone calls and insurance claims while ordering lunch for the counselors and chatting with me about our kids. Does she need any certifications for the job, or just good mom organizational skills?

There are some very impressive crossing guards in my town, doing mostly volunteer work for $11.00 an hour, but taking charge of four lanes of impatient traffic and getting even middle schoolers to hustle across.

The people at the grocery store move seamlessly between checking, bagging, and the service desk and seem to be able to find safe, neutral topics of conversation. They can be friendly without seeming nosy and are always standing without showing exhaustion.

People mock McDonald’s workers, but the people who work at our local store are fast, efficient, polite, and almost never make mistakes with the orders. I don’t understand how anyone can take orders and payments from two rows of cars and get everything to the right person.

I see the work of people I never see. The landscapers at the aquarium, Zoo, and aviary are brilliant. Something is always blooming. There are cool places to rest and habitats for native animals as well as the ones we pay to see.

I could go on because I’m always watching other people work. That’s because I can’t work any more, at least not right now. Pain is denying my right to be useful. 

Until two years ago, I worked more than full time at a demanding job that promised never to be boring. I both loved and hated teaching because it was so difficult. For years I blamed my aches and pains on work.

But work is gone and I’m still hurting. Next week I’ll have my disability hearing. After the ruling, I can work with Social Security to gently get into some part-time work. 

If the ruling comes against me, I may need to find some part-time work to help feed myself.

Unfortunately, my body disagrees. 

I can get in a few fun hours a week. If I rest first, take all the drugs, and rest afterwards, I can enjoy two hours or so out and about, but not everyday, and not predictably.  

So I keep watching other people work, hoping to spot something I can do, maybe after the perfect biologic comes along, maybe sooner, if I can find a way to be useful. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Preparing to Enjoy Holidays: Tips and Tricks

Don’t hate me. My Christmas presents are chosen and wrapped. 

Actually I've only wrapped the presents from my family to others, but I'll have the rest done before Thanksgiving. 

I'm not super-organized. I've just found a way to survive and enjoy my favorite holiday by preparing all year. 

The suggestions I share are things that work for me, some of which I definitely picked up from Lene Andersen and her excellent book, Chronic Christmas, which I recommend to everyone, not just those of us with chronic illnesses, as guidance toward a saner holiday season. I'm due for a reread myself this year.

Christmas is my choice, but it doesn't have to be yours.

1. Decide which, if any, holiday you want to make a big deal out of. 

If you are a grill-master, it might be Memorial Day, Labor Day, or the 4th of July. A chef would logically pick Thanksgiving. If creating a spook alley or a neighborhood egg hunt gives you joy, choose accordingly. Is there an ethnic holiday you want to share with your friends? That may be your best option.

2. Find low-key ways to celebrate the rest. 

Instead of decorating your living room for every holiday, just change the door wreath or yard flag. If you are crafty, there are plenty of ideas for teddy bears or rabbits you can dress for each holiday without stirring up the rest of the house. 

Or decorate only with your grandchildren's elementary school art, or not at all.

Marie Calendar will prepare your Thanksgiving, or you could make it a pot-luck and rotate who has to host. Village Inn makes great pies, but remember to reserve ahead of time. Most grocery stores have great catering options as will many local restaurants.

Unless you find true joy setting the table and washing dishes, use paper plates.

I enjoy the 4th of July each year very simply. My mom drives me up to the elementary school where we watch a neighborhood parade of bikes and old cars. We bring lawn chairs and sit in the shade talking to old neighbors for an hour or so.

In the evening, my aunt and uncle host a cookout. Sometimes they let me bring chips or soda.

At night, my son drives us to an empty parking lot where we watch distant fireworks with my sister and her kids.

In between, I usually insist on watching 1776 and listening to the NPR reading of the Declaration of Independence. That makes for a busy day. I will need to sleep most of the 5th because of all the socializing, but I'm not inviting a flare.

3. Decide what really matters. Eliminate the rest.

I collect nativities. I knit them too. There is enough Christmas stuff in my house to drape every room in tinsel. 

When I was well, I adorned each flat surface in the living room with a nativity and covered the dining room and kitchen in Santa stuff.

I also decorated two trees--one in snowflakes and mittens and the other with the religious ornaments I collect.

Now I put up one or two favorites nativities and decorate my "Jesus Tree." The rest of the house stays uncluttered. My husband appreciates the lack of mess.

I also have two special dishes that are traditional to my family. I make German Stollen for extended family during the week before Christmas and Yorkshire pudding with beef and gravy for Christmas Day. 

Those are my requirements for Christmas to be Christmas. Everything else can be simplified or skipped.

4. Prepare ahead.

I look for and make Christmas gifts all year. This spreads out the expense and labor and keeps me away from crowds and craziness. I buy clearance wrapping paper after Christmas and start wrapping a few things at a time. Because I put things I knit into an Etsy store, I have a photo record of gifts that are in my house and already paid for.

Everything can be purchased on line. If you don't enjoy the craziness of holiday shopping you don't have to do it.

Keep that in mind for grocery shopping for other holidays as well. The stores are crowded the evening before. Shop a few days in advance.

Lack of free time before the holidays while teaching got me in the habit, but it still works for me now that I have all free time, but no energy.

5. Pace yourself.

If you are cooking, make as much as possible in advance or stretch cooking throughout the day.

Always factor in the physical toll of socializing. If you will be putting forth the energy to be a gracious host, plan on that being your main holiday activity and try to have everything done ahead or by others.
I love decorating my Christmas tree. I live with my husband and two adult sons, so I'm the only one who cares that we have one. I have accepted that. It's fun me-time playing with sparkly things.

I've also accepted that with all the bending and reaching, it is an athletic endeavor that needs to be spread out. It usually takes three days. That could be a problem if I waited until mid December, but I start right after Thanksgiving and usually have the boxes back in storage by the end of November.

6. Accept and demand help.

Unless you are inviting friends over for chips and dip and an annual rewatch of Groundhog Day, any party is too much work for one person.

When someone asks what they can bring, assign something. Call close friends and family who don't ask how they can help and tell them how they can help.

My boys now knead and shape the double batch of stollen under my direction. When (if) they move out, I'll except my husband's offer for one of those big Kitchenaid mixers that take up so much counter space.

My menfolk haul boxes up and down stairs and takes care of Christmas lights outdoors and luminaras on Christmas Eve.

7. Accept reality.

No holiday lives up to movie magic. Focus on enjoying who and what you love. Let everything else go.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

My Blind Date with a Doctor

If I have to have a new doctor . . .

When I called to set an appointment for my annual physical, I was told my family doctor was "retiring from clinical practice. She's younger than I am, and I'm not fifty, so I was thrown a bit off balance.

It's the time of year for flu shots and drug renewals. The nice receptionist told me the last names and medical degrees for the two doctors taking new patients. I felt that asking about gender would be sexist, so I took the one with the soonest appointment.

I'd rather not have one quite this new.
Apparently my new doctor is so new that the web site hasn't caught up. No clues there. I had to wait until I arrived at the clinic and saw business cards with HIS name on them--Dustin.

My last two family doctors have been female and that's nice, but I can handle this, but Dustin sounded very young.

I've taught lots of Dustins. I did teach with one, but he was also very young.

I've gotten used to a young dentist who looks like she's still in high school, but I was still a bit apprehensive.

Fortunately, my new doctor looks at least thirty, therefore older than my children. I like to ease into the idea of all the authority figures in my life being younger than I am.

But he is definitely a millennial and has the obligatory neck beard, but no man bun. The clinic has become a very hip place. A beautiful young NA with a pierced nose took my blood pressure. The receptionist has a leaves tattooed on her arm and the phlebotomist has a safety pin through the top of his ear. My blue hair fits right in.

Looking less than conservative didn't make any of them less than professional. Everyone was knowledgable, considerate and friendly.

Dr. Dustin is kind and thorough. We went over all my meds and vaccinations. He praised my weight loss and was sympathetic to my struggle to exercise.

Do all TV doctors have crooked smirks?
Next year I will need tetanus and shingles shots in addition to the usual flu shot. I will have to schedule a colonoscopy and a mammogram. What I won't have to do is worry about meeting a strange new doctor.

My other doctor, a rheumatologist is about my age, and therefore will probably retire in the next ten to twenty years. I hope it's not too soon.

Blind dates, even when they turn out well, are pretty stressful.

Friday, September 21, 2018

I'm Good at Being Sick

This week my family is coping with what might be a a bad head cold or a mild flu. We are quickly burning through cough drops, Dayquil, Vicks Vapor Rub, and orange juice.

My poor husband is developing abs of steel through hourly coughing fit workouts. He's carefully timing drug dosages to fit a busy schedule of meetings and a few job interviews. At least he can work from home.

 Oldest has recurring fevers, but must soldier on with school and work, so is sharing this virus with the retail and college worlds.

So far, Youngest has been spared. Due to his unique health, he had to do the heavy lifting on the annual local event we call Dumpster Day.  Hopefully he will continue to be immune.

The rest of us are snotty, germy messes.

Which means I feel slightly better.

It is a strange phenomenon among some of us with autoimmune diseases, that when our immune system has something legit to do, it temporarily stops reeking havoc on other parts of our system.

My nose is awful, but I'm sleeping slightly better and haven't needed the serious pain meds all week.

Also, I don't cough. My mother will deny this, but at some point I was told to knock it off during a coughing fit and due to a rare moment of obedience, I did.  I wake myself up with the need to sneeze, but am spared the all-body pain of coughing that torments my sweetheart.

Timing is good. Next week is the Annual RD blog week, headed up by the brave and hard-working Rick  of RADiabetes. That means I will ideally post every day.

 Feeling a little better this week has given me bit of a head start. I've written two and have two started. Not needing to curl up in fetal position for half an hour every two hours is great for productivity

I'd hit the town to celebrate feeling better, but the snot and the sneezes--I'd better stay home and write.

On an unrelated topic, one of my podcasts, More Perfect has released an album of songs inspired by the amendments to the constitution. I've listened to them twice now and am looking forward to this season of the podcast when short stories and explanations of each of the amendments will be the focus.

Listening to the songs made me do a constitutional review and a little bit of research. Many were written from the point of view of people who still haven't fully enjoyed the rights the constitution should have given them.

For example, Native Americans were not made citizens and given the right to vote until 1924. 1924.

()f course, even the most privileged American women couldn't vote until 1920.)

The whole album, and the previous season of the podcast are good lessons on the struggles that have occurred and still need to occur before we can truly live up to our own ideals.

THE PODCAST is about the onset of Autumn and the love/have relationship Emily Dickinson and I have with it. Fall would be hands-down the best season of the year if it didn't lead to winter.


I've finished a cute scarf that is now in my shop.

The baby blanket is making slower progress than planned because I pulled out a lot of work that was too narrow and re-knit it--a fun part in most creative processes. One more section to go.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Audience and Purpose

I am passionate about history. I find it comforting to compare today’s world, which often seems chaotic and terrible, to troubled periods humanity has already survived. It is also invigorating, in my invalid state, to vicariously experience great moments of discovery or progress.

This week my history is coming in a variety of flavors, which makes me look at each in a very English teacher way. For years I taught budding writers to consider who their audience will be and what purpose they want their writing to achieve.

Ancient People’s of the Southwest is sold in National Park gift shops and purports to be written for a non-academic audience. But it reads like a textbook, designed solely to inform the audience. This book is heavy with facts and often credits sources—two things I appreciate, but the author’s voice is absent.

 He doesn’t sound like a living person until the epilogue, in which he expresses admiration for Native Americans who found a way to survive the challenging Southwest environment, then to preserve their cultures despite war and disease under the Spanish, then land lost and the reservation system imposed by the United States. If more of this passion had crept into explanations of dendrochronology and irrigation, I would have enjoyed the reading more and focused better. 

Another history book I recently started listening to is Saints, a new history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints. Again it’s purpose is to give information, but the book is also expected to inspire and persuade. 

Audience is tricky. No one book can be accurately targeted at a worldwide audience of millions of all ages and levels of education. As a result, this one is designed to be accessible. Older elementary students could read it without trouble. 

I’m a tough audience for this particular book because I’ve heard it all before many times. I’m listening for new insights, but also for potential problems skimmed over. Nothing new so far, but problems are dealt with fairly. The book openly talks about people in that time and place believing in magic and doesn’t omit a fraud charge against Joseph Smith after he was hired to help someone hunt for treasure. 

One thing I really enjoyed was the first chapter. It told about the eruption of Mt. Tambora, in 1816, that destroyed not only the island of the volcano, but villages and crops affected by following tsunamis. Ash spewed into the atmosphere created chaos with the weather world-wide, resulting in what was called in Europe and America, “the year without a summer.” Many died worldwide from famine after  summer crops were lost.

Many people believed the end of the world had come and turned to religion for guidance and comfort. 

Then the world wide view narrows to the Smith family in Vermont, barely scratching a living from a rocky farm. Summer without a crop was the final straw. They decided to move to New York and start again. This Smith family Joseph Smith’s family. He was ten years old at the time.

I thought it was a great idea to take a recent-ish natural disaster, which plays a part in the history of most countries, to make this very American origin story more accessible to a world-wide audience.

But mine is not the only interpretation. I started talking about the book to a couple of DUP friends who expressed joy in the “miracle” of God making the volcano explode so the Smith family would be in the right place in the right time. In order to maintain any faith at all, I’ve had to accept that God is less troubled by death than I am, but I still can’t accept the idea that He would kill millions to move nine people a few hundred miles. 

My final dose of history will come in the form of historical fiction. I’ve become a bit of a snob, so I usually buy non fiction. Luckily, my family knows better and has a book rotation system. Soon I'll be starting Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker. 

I'm familiar with the basic story because I heard a podcast about the work done by Elizabeth Keckley, a former slave who rose to be America's top dressmaker. (Unfortunately I can't find that podcast.) 

This may be bad for me while I am trying not to buy more dresses until we're on sure footing income-wise, but I'm looking forward to reading a book written to entertain as well as inform. 

I crawled out of bed this week to write a podcast about pain. Emily Dickinson writes about pain a lot, but is private enough that no one really knows the source. 

I'm not nearly as mysterious--RA, fibromyalgia, and a pinched nerve. I tell about my pain in reference to her poem.


I made a whole scarf and wrapped it up before taking pictures because I went nuts and did my Christmas "shopping" and wrapping this week. I like to spread Christmas out because it is so much work and can be so expensive. This bout of shopping was already paid for because I took items from my shop. Heads up to friends and family. Hats for everyone this year.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Can I Be a Good Immigrant?

Most countries ask the same things of their immigrants:

Work hard
Learn the language
Act like us.

My father's family did this when they came to America from Germany in 1949. Both of my grandparents worked low-level jobs until they could afford to own their own small business--a common goal for immigrant families.

All of the family learned English. The children forgot how to speak German.

American-born children were given American names. Grandpa and the boys played softball instead of soccer.

The family was quickly accepted by the community. We grandchildren are as "American" as anyone could be.

Immigration worked differently for my mother's side of the family. The earliest group came over on the Mayflower. They came not to join a community, but to form their own. They also came with prejudices against the people who already lived in America. Puritans thought of the natives as "savage" and "pagan."

Because the Pilgrims had no desire to fit in with Native American communities, misunderstandings and offense happened quickly and violence followed.

Generations later, ancestors of the Puritans joined a much larger group of new immigrants from every corner of the British Isles to cross the plains and establish a new, Mormon community in Utah.

Church leaders advised kindness towards the Native Americans. Tribal leaders worked toward peace as well.

But it didn't last. There is only so much fertile land and water in Utah. Settlers built on lands that were traditionally used in the Natives' annual cycle of hunting and gathering. The cultures differed in language, religion, and beliefs about land ownership.

Mormon communities grew and tensions increased. Both sides committed massacres, often as revenge for previous killings that could have been prevented.

When Utah became a territory, the army moved in to push tribes onto reservations. In the end, Utah's native populations were left no better off than other tribes in the United States.

If I had lived at the time, I couldn't have done any better than my pioneer ancestors. But what can I do now?

Learning is about all I can do. My goal is to start reading about the history of Native Americans in and around Utah. I also want to know more about how they are living now, so I can be aware of when my voice and my vote can be of use.

I'll keep you updated as I learn interesting things. In the meantime, I need to read the final chapter about the ancestral Puebloans. Much of the book is about irrigation. My dad, and Brigham Young, would approve.

THE PODCAST is about two Emily Dickinson love poems. They could be about divine love, or romantic love, or one of each. You'll have to listen and decide for yourself.

THE KNITTING has been mostly on the baby blanket, with occasional work on Christmas Ornaments for future years--stars this time. I also just got an inquiry for a custom order from my shop. It's for a remake of a shawl I've made once before. It was hard, so I'm trying to decide how much or how little to charge. Minimum wage is out of the question--more than anyone will pay, but how much is enough? It's always a hard call.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Down and Out

It's hard to accomplish much while sleeping at least 14 hours a day.

The laundry and dishes are caught up, but I feel like I've barely even been here.

I think the stress of the upcoming insurance change, my disability hearing, and my husband's layoff is getting to me.

Most times it doesn't seem too bad because my conscious mind can't hold a thought for more than a few minutes, but underneath I know it is all coming and it's making me tired.

So I haven't read anything interesting. I haven't done anything interesting. I haven't thought about what to write.

I'm really only logging in here this week to report myself among the living. I'll work hard to do better next week. RD Blog Week is coming up and I want to participate fully, but will need to find some of the energy I've lost.

THE PODCAST didn't happen. It is half written about two poems I quite like, I just have to find the strength to finish and record. Ideally I will finish and record two episodes this week, so I can have a spare available for future crashes

THE KNITTING I did finish knitting my "Christmas Cards" for this year. I should have plenty of sheep for friends and family and I've started stars for next year.

The stars will need embroidery or cute buttons, I think.

I've also started what may end up as a baby blanket. I don't currently know any babies, or any expecting mothers, but it's what the yarn is saying it wants to be. It will end up in my shop until it finds a home.