This blog contains 1000 posts. Posting to Blogger with such a large archive has become unwieldy. Also, your blogista, who is sewing a kesa, is not writing much at present. She has ceased adding new posts. Still-active links are here.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

With great care

It's beginning to reach me that something is going to happen soon.

I have gotten serious about food, and my weight is down from a holidays-induced high of around 190 to about 183. Aiming for 175 or better.

Walking, as able, in the wettest winter here since 1996, and when work is absorbing nearly all of my time: think stair-climbing on the Library's great central spiral staircase, three times a day. I did 8300 steps the other day, just working or on breaks here in the building.

Eating with great care: cottage cheese breakfast, water bottle with dissolved multivitamins all day, supper of one veggie burrito, with fresh veggies diced and lightly steamed before wrapping.

In bed by 9 every night. Peppermint tea if I need to relax more in order to drift off.

Dr. Reed will require a thallium stress test before I go, and it had better be good or we go to a nearby hospital at best or call it off at worst. The one I cannot afford and the other would be devastating to say the least. Not to be thought of. I'm worried because I used to flunk step tests even though I was a good forest fire fighter, and eventually was washed out and couldn't go fight fire any more. This to someone who habitually climbs 10,000 foot mountains (during summers!).

I'm supposed to leave my index fingers unpainted for oximetry. Sure, it's six weeks away, but I have done this anyway -- polished eight nails. Every time I look down I see the index fingernails and it reminds me how much is at stake here. Good for the diet and exercise.

I print out my surgeon's requirements and take them to my doctor for a brief consultation.

The nurse takes my weight (three pounds heavier than my home scales, yuckers) and blood pressure ("120/70, you're as healthy as a horse, girl") and turns me over to Jean, who comes right in like she's waiting in the wings. I like her new hairdo and say so.

We go through the requirements and write out a series of lab requests. I'm out of there in ten minutes with her blessing.

Downstairs, I go first to the Medical Records window and update the release so that lab results can be sent to Dr. Reed. Then I backtrack to Lab and sit down at the intake window.

"What can we do for you?" asks Young Thing, whom I haven't seen before.

"Just a CBC today, thanks," handing her the form. She asks the usual: date of birth address, insurance ...

Knitted eyebrows. Here it comes.

"Ummm ... is [boy name] your husband?"

"No, he's my former self," I smile.

Young Thing Number Two In Second Window looks over at us, eyebrows raised.

Do I see a little extra color in Young Thing Number One's cheeks?

From there, I drive over to the electrologist's new office for south pole work. She's on the second floor of a clinic and general office building; I miss her country house and splendid Golden Retriever. I'm not due there for another hour and I know she's not in, but I need someplace to prep and a little food in me to go with the meds.

Next door there's a Burger King®. I pop in, and I'm the only customer. I sail through the winding queue ropes anyway, wings extended, which brings a chuckle from the staff.

"Umm, chicken sandwich?"

"They're two-for-one right now, getcha two?" asks the cashier. She's a cute, round butterball with dimples.

"Noooo, If I take two, the other one will disappear before I get home."

"You're that hungry, why doncha eat it?"

"Gotta lose weight."


"Operation coming up."

"Oh." Makes a sad face, then a happy face. "Here or to go?"

I lock myself in their restroom later, pull up my dress, and lather myself from a tube of Emla, cover the mess with plastic wrap, and waddle primly out to the wagon.

Rummage in car pocket.

No Vicodin. Disaster!

What to do? My meds are fifteen miles away. Appointment in half an hour.

Racking my brains, I scour the floor. Sometimes I have dropped meds and then found them later, during emergencies, and wiped them off with a tissue before popping.

Eww ...? You mean you never have emergencies? How nice for you.

Wait! Brainstorm. In the far back there's a plastic tub, taped shut with duct tape -- my 9/11 kit. I dig it out, peel the tape, and read labels in the fading light. A 35 mm film can marked "pain" swims into view. Gotcha! Among other oddments, there are a few Darvocet here, in case I ever have to set broken bones during a National Emergency. Safe!

Provided I don't drive for a few hours ...


A dear heart, whose judgment in these things I must respect, tells me I must try harder to reach my dad.

He was in the Coast Guard during World War II, and served on the cutter Champlain before she went to lend-lease and the attack transport Centaurus after that. So I have been tracking down mentions of them in books (there are 2.5 million books in my library workplace) and across the Web. These I print out and send each one in a letter, about one a week, full of disarming chit-chat and questions like "Hey, do you remember these guys?"

I know from my mom that he's probably reading and keeping them.

Now if he would only talk to me.

-- risa b

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Beloved and I met, after driving through unbelievable rain, at the credit union to move money around for the surgery.

I sat in the waiting area, reading Good Housekeeping, as other women walked back and forth between tellers, loan officers, restrooms and the coffee machine. The lady at the information booth craned her neck around, looking at the vaulted ceiling far above.

"Have you got a leak?"

"It doesn't show, but, yes, we've finally sprung one. The water goes down the underside of the roof and down a wall, and it's getting into the carpets."

We sighed together over the long, dark and wet winter, and then she greeted a very wet Beloved.

The loan officer was very sweet to us both, and we each signed document after document till we came to the last one.

I froze.

"This is not my name on this one."

"We have to use this," purred the bank lady, "because it is still the name on your deed."

"Even though it's not her legal name?" asked Beloved, shocked.

"Until you change it at the county assessor's office."

"But we never got it back! Your office was supposed to send it to us in October."

"Oh!" Clickity-clickity. "You're right; we'll fix that. Apologies. But if you want this at this time, it has to have that signature, I'm afraid."

Oh, god.

I picked up the pen with a shaky hand and wrote as in a dark dream. I felt the tears coming; and as she continued her soothing monologue I reached for my purse on the floor, fished out my handkerchief, and folded and unfolded and refolded it on my lap, until the dam burst.

Everything around us seemed to come to a standstill for a moment; not that was sobbing or anything untidy like that, but as I sat with the hanky over my face, a shock wave of grief went out into the lobby behind us.

The bank lady started crying too.

She asked Beloved if she could get me a glass of water or anything.

"No, I .. I'm fine," I offered in my most reassuring voice. "It was just unexpected."

After we rose and shook hands and Bank Lady, her composure regained, left the cubicle, Beloved noted that some such things had yet to be dealt with.

"There's the car insurance, for example."

Yes, there is; but on that one I'm holding out ... if I'm in a wreck I don't want one thing to say 'M' and the other 'F'. It was bad enough having that rude letter on my bracelet at the hospital ...

We ate small cakes from a small cart in the outer lobby and decompressed. The older people at the next table were cheerful and friendly, and it became a bit like a tea party. I could see that they were family of the cart lady, and, noticing a figurine of a Chihuahua on the counter, I asked if she had Chihuahuas.

"Yes, how did you know? One's a purebred, the other is half Schipperke."

"And they are a riot," put in the other lady.

"Eat you alive," said the old man at the other end.

"Will not! They're sweet, and you know it."

"There aren't that many Schipperkes here," I offered.

"Do you have some time? I'll show you their pictures."

We admired each portrait of her little darlings, and made the appropriate remarks. The whole time, we were conscious of the other mementos at the food cart. Intensely Evangelical. Perhaps, if she knew my background, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

But we were, and I enjoyed its cheerful companionableness.

I began to breathe again.

-- risa b

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The counselor letter

So, things are moving a little faster now.

I had an appointment with my counselor, and ran through rain to get there, and we talked for an hour and he gave me my copy of my letter, and I cried on it, and then ran through the rain with it to the car, so it's awfully splotchy.

But mine.

Yesterday I wrote to the surgeon and he emailed right back (he's extraordinarily accessible and even answers his own phone) and advised me to talk with Anne, the woman-of-all-trades, about a date.

That would be in the morning.

So I drove (through rain you could cut with a cold knife) to my electro appointment, and lay still though two hours of torture, and got back on the freeway, heading home, through yet more torrential rains ...

... and failed to negotiate the curve on the exit.

I sailed out into the median between two exit ramps at fifty miles per hour, and hit the mud going just a bit sideways, driver side. I could feel the station wagon getting ready to flip. So I slowly cut the wheels to the left. The vehicle responded well (for a wagon) but then slewed to the right. So I slowly cut the wheels to the right. Just like hitting an ice patch.

There was sufficient momentum that I somehow got across the miniature wetlands in the middle without bogging down ...

... and found myself, undamaged, in an undamaged vehicle, on the other off ramp, going in the right direction ...

... and, this being Oregon, not only did I not hit anyone, I had no witnesses to the miracle, other than a couple of rather bemused deer.

And I thought: oh, please, not now. Not when I'm so close ...

... and drove slowly the rest of the way through the black night ...

... and got home and went to bed and slept ten hours.


This morning I got up with enough time to spare for the phone call. There was a fire and coffee waiting; Beloved had already gone to work and still didn't know about my practically out-of-body experience yesterday.

I dressed to the nines, checked the mirror, and, to calm my nerves, transferred all the numbers from cell phone to address book that hadn't got there yet.

Then picked up the phone and called Anne. She was right there.

We established that my idea of going to Miami for Spring Break was unrealistic as the doctor isn't in during the last week of every month, and after that would be at a conference. So we investigated the available dates and came up with March 14th.

Wouldn't you know it ... my mother's birthday. That's in, hmm, 73 days.

A lot to do between now and then, my dears.

-- risa b


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