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Sunday, February 21, 2016


Elsah, Illinois
"Awww Mary u just gave me chills!!! Yes u always have to have courage and keep Faith!! I love u mary n I will keep u in our prayers."

"We bear the silence, cross and pain

of human burdens, human strife,
While sisters, brothers help sustain
our courage till the feast of life."

"Courage is not the absence of fear; it is being afraid but doing what you have to do anyway."

Little did I know that "courage" would be on my mind far more in the last week since I posted this last statement on a previous blog. 

The first quotation is a Facebook message from my former student T . My colleagues and I were probably more involved in her life than in any other student in Family Literacy. As I lay awake tethered to IVs during the night and as I lay in the MRI with unrelenting sound pounding in my ears, not knowing what would be found in my brain, I thought about T and how she told me that she had to have courage to cope with her difficult life. Although she left our program twice in anger, she came back a third time with courage and determination. We were both grateful that we gave each other another chance. I messaged her on Facebook this week and told her I was thinking about her during those rough hours and this was her response.

This morning we sang Throughout These Lenten Days and Nights as part of our worship. The third stanza spoke to my heart. Our theme in church during Lent is the community of believers and I have felt that gift profoundly. So many called or emailed or texted or Facebook messaged. Our pastor visited, our elder contacted us and today I was welcomed back with so many warm greetings and hugs. That support did give me courage.

I am probably just fine. This "transient global amnesia," if that is what it is, may never happen again. But it is such a reminder to me and to Jim, who watched me helplessly and wondered if this would be his life from that moment on, that we are mortal and the years ahead may only bring more of this kind of deterioration of our bodies and minds. But to dwell on that is not at all helpful. So I will be grateful to feel well, to have the support of others and to know that "Bidden or Not Bidden, God is Present."

And one more thought a day later to add to my theme:

Even though I walk in the dark valley

I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage.

(from the lectionary for today--a slightly different translation of Psalm 23 from the Bishop's site)

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

More Medical Musings--or at least, What I Remember!

Jim's solution to my repetitive questioning
Saturday afternoon and evening I experienced several hours of disorientation, confusion, and memory loss. Jim brought me to St Joseph Medical Center where I was evaluated in the emergency room and then admitted to the hospital.  I remember almost none of this.  For him, a sign of crisis was when I asked why there was candy on the kitchen counter--and I had helped him buy it for me at CVS for Valentine's Day a few hours earlier.

It's now Tuesday morning and I am home--and have voluntarily given up driving until I see my family doctor on Thursday.  I couldn't find anyone to give me a ride to Bible Study at church.  I am used to my freedom to come and go but for today, this is OK.

I am quite fine except a little weepy this morning. My granola supply was low so I thought I would make more. When I pulled out one of the many ingredients, I had a thought that maybe this seemed familiar.  Sure enough.  There were two trays of granola in the oven where they had been sitting since Saturday.  Now I am remembering that I may have asked Jim if he turned the oven off as we were on our way to the hospital. I wonder if bits of memory will return in that fashion.
The view from the 6th floor

I do not have a diagnosis.  I do know that all tests given to me--CAT scan, MRI, ultrasounds, blood work, occupational and physical therapy checks--came back negative.  I am immensely grateful for that.  I can't see the neurologist until March 2.  That's my own fault because I could have seen him in the hospital last evening but I was so eager to celebrate Jim's 70th birthday at home.

After the first day in the hospital, I felt fine but had no desire to blog.  Today I do--and that is probably a good sign.  But what I want to remember most are the many kind and interesting people who took care of me.

Jemima- the RN the first night. She was very pleasant but my memory of her is still vague. I know she looked far too young to have children almost the age of mine.  I know she was going to church before she slept and I felt sad when she left.  Shift changes can be difficult in a hospital when you get used to those who have cared for you for 12 hours.

The phlebotomist in the middle of the night--12:15 am.  He  kept saying "I'm sorry" every time he had to poke me.  He was the only staff person to take a piece of my Whitman Sampler when offered.  (Others didn't like dark chocolate or had given up candy for Lent or the time was too early in the day.)  He had immigrated from Ghana 1 1/2 years ago to Berrien Springs. I'd like to have heard more of his story.

Lou--Sunday's RN.  There was an African lilt to her voice; she was very spiritual and very kind.  She talked to me about how God cares for the sparrow and the lilies of the field when I was concerned while waiting for the results of the MRI.  When the results were very delayed, she pursued tracking them down and let me know they were negative.  Besides all that, when she complimented me on the color of my hair, she asked if people told me that all the time!  When I thanked her for being so wonderful, she produced a brochure in which I could nominate her for an award!  Good for her.

Dave--Sunday's PCP.  She asked if she could call me "Miss Mary" which as always rang familiar because that is what my African-American GED students often called me--not at my request.  However, Dave was 70 years old so later I said if I were Miss Mary, she needed to be Miss Dave.  I'm not sure how she reacted to that!  She was probably a bit more abrupt and told me to relax and try to lower my blood pressure.  Easier said than done!  I learned later that she had worked at SJMC for 50 years--and still was working 12 hour shifts.  She said she loved it and wouldn't want to retire.

Johnathan--the transporter to the MRI.  He was a young white man, father of four very little children, whose wife was in nursing school and who was taking online courses to get his own college degree.  He worked part-time and just eight hour shifts--always walking with wheel chairs.  He said he could never last 12 hour shifts.  I refrained from telling him about 70 year old Miss Dave!

Karen--Monday's RN--one of the few white staff who cared for me.  When we were not hearing from the neurologist, she persistantly tracked him down and arranged for an appointment with him instead of my waiting to see him in the hospital and thus having to spend another night.  She was quite forthright about my need to communicate with him and to press him if I didn't understand what he was telling me.  I am fore-warned and will be ready.  She wanted my recipe for the sherry cake I said I was making for Jim's birthday party--now postponed.  I would have enjoyed talking more with her about her work and almost adult children.

Dr. Amusin--the hospitalist who saw me both Sunday and Monday  She was a very attractive young woman who also spoke with a lilting African accent.  Someone told me she was just back from maternity leave, and when I mentioned that to her, she looked down at her belly and pulled her coat tighter.  I laughed and said I had not looked at her mid-section; she was the one who did!  She was very good about asking if I had questions and more questions but also firm about following protocal in releasing me.  I told her about Laura's blog and writing--she definitely would have been the target audience.

Logan--the PCP both nights I was there.  She was a light-skinned African American with a very natural attractivenss who would try to sneak in and out of the room to check on me.  I heard her some of the time, but once a lovely glass of ice water appeared as if by magic.   She asked me to do a survey on patient care for her and I was happy to do it.  When she turned me over to the Mimi, the day PCP, they read the chart in my presence.  What a good thing to do--to incorporate me into my own care and story.  She said I was "sweet" and at that point, I said I was not feeling so sweet any more--but feisty!

Mimi--the PCP on Monday.  She also was African-American and very lively.  She called me Honey Bun but I think she called Jim that too!  She was happy to take a piece of Jim's ice cream cake brought by friends from church.

Karen Francis--a chaplain on duty Sunday evening.  We know Karen well from church so she couldn't record or count her visits with us.  But we can count them and they were lovely.  She deals with a chronic condition herself and for a few years, I had made meals for her and her husband.  How wonderful for her to be able to give to us at this point.

There were so many others--food providers, OT and PT evalutators, MRI, CAT, and Echogram technicians--but those were  briefer encounters.  Everyone really seemed to make patient service a priority.  There was naturally enough, plenty of stress in this experience, but I will treausre the interactions with so many good, hard-working people and that's why I wanted to record them.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Medical Musings

My sister said my blogs are upbeat.  My "spiritual journal" and "therapy journal" are less so.  Maybe I will post this one and maybe I'll decide to keep my less upbeat thoughts to myself.  I certainly will not share it on Facebook!  So this is for my blog friends--and for the memory book I will do at the end of the year.

I don't feel upbeat today.  Last night was the first night of my Novasom sleep study.  I was prepared to lie awake all night but I did better than that.  I feel tired but I don't feel any worse than after other nights of insomnia.  An earlier oxometry test showed that I have mild to moderate sleep apnea.  That is not really news because I know that I snore and need a new sleep appliance.  By doing this more thorough sleep study I may have a chance of  health insurance paying for a rather expensive snore guard.

Last night was an adventure in being a bionic woman with a breath sensor, chest sensor, and finger sensor all plugged into a gadget on my wrist.  The worst part was the first hour when a voice said at least five times "Check finger sensor" or "Check breath sensor."  Sometimes it needed to be plugged in again; sometimes I could find nothing wrong.  It was very hard to get comfortable but I did get the necessary four hours of sleep even if it was in 30-60 minute snatches.  This morning I unplugged all the cords and replugged the gadget to a charger which sent my data to Novasom.  One night down; two to go--maybe, unless I just forget the last one. .

If this blog has a theme, it is living in retirement and the changes that makes in our lives.  We are trying to get our medical and dental issues done before we go on Medicare and while we still have Notre Dame's good insurance.  So in the last month, I have had a physical, mammogram, bone density scan, dental appointment with the x-rays that I always try to avoid, and the snore guard consultation.  Much of this brought good news with no need for biopsies or more medication and even no need for the crown that my dentist has discussed for years.

But the sleep apnea is an issue and how much it is related to the insomnia I often experience is not known.  I know that insomnia causes depression and that depression causes insomnia.   I can feel  pretty low after not sleeping or after taking any sleep medication, prescription or over the counter.  Maybe a new sleep appliance will help.  I hope so.

I am often glad I do not have the commitment of teaching each day because that took a lot of energy. I do what I need to do, sleep or not, and try to remember something I read and noted: "Courage isn’t the absence of fear—it’s being afraid but doing what you need to do anyway."  One of the biggest issues in insomnia is the fear of not sleeping and coping with the tasks of the next day.

In the middle of the night I pray, "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee."  It occured to me that that text comes to me in King James English and with a sexist pronoun!  Never mind.  It is a heartfelt plea in the wee hours of wakefulness.

One day and night later--all went much better last night.  It really is an amazing system--and far better than going to a medical center for a sleep study.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Super (Bowl) Sunday

The Super Bowl hasn't even started and I've had a Super Sunday.

It started with a good night of sleep--something I do not take for granted in my life.  I needed it because I was playing the organ for our service today so I was grateful.

I played music that I really liked. I never play stuff I don't like but sometimes I get to play favorites. Today's prelude was Genevan Psalm 47 by  Dutch composer and organist Cor Kee and the postlude was  Little Prelude in F Major by JS Bach. The hymns were strong and lively ones for Transfiguration Sunday.  Love Divine all Love Excelling is familiar and when I heard how beautifully the congregation was singing the first verse in harmony, I scrapped my alternate variation for the last stanza and led them into acappela singing.  It was beautiful.

Our pastor's sermon was powerful; I prayed the prayers and said the liturgy from my heart; and we celebrated communion.

Then there was the Notre Dame women's basketball game in which they were behind the whole game until the last few minutes--and won by five.  I watched the first three quarters at home, napping a bit as I am wont to do on Sunday afternoons especially after playing the organ.

 I tuned in on the radio for the last several minutes while driving to Gloria Dei Lutheran Church for a Bach Cantata sponsored by Notre Dame's Sacred Music Program.  To my delight, it was not just a performance, it was a Vesper worship service in which we all participated in the sung liturgy and prayers.  And what a lovely little church it is in the middle of a downtown neighborhood with its boarded up houses and vacant lots.

And the Super Bowl hasn't even started yet.  I can't remember the last time we really partied for the Super Bowl.  Last year Jim was able to enjoy it with our sons who were stranded here because of the snow storm after Grandma's funeral.  I read my book in the bedroom.  Maybe I'll try to be a better fan with Jim tonight.  There's always the half time show and the commercials!
For the record--and because at the end of the year I make a Blog2Print book for memories--The Broncos won over the Panthers.  Peyton Manning got his 200th victory thanks to his team's strong defense.  Cam Newton, the Panther's quarterback, sulked during his post game interview and walked off with his hoodie up.  Beyonce got lots of attention with her political song Foundation and the commercials were not terrific--except for the singing sheep.  I liked that but don't remember what it was selling!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A Solo Trip to Chicago

Monday night at dinner, a friend prayed, "God, your mercies are new each morning." and for me that was true.  I had a good night of sleep in spite of my stress about this little trip and felt ready for an adventure Tuesday morning.

My Edward Hopper scene
I was the only passenger getting on at the Niles Amtrak station.  The station manager was very helpful and eager to share information.  As a rookie, I took an unfortunate backwards seat which upset me when travelling 70 mph--or more.  The manager said the train sometimes reached 110 mph! So I got a cup of coffee in the cafe and settled down to a table facing the right way.  It was fun to see familiar landmarks enroute to Chicago from the back side.  The steel mills in Gary looked like a vision of hell with fire and steam.

Peacock Door at Palmer House
with beer truck passing by!
It was a rather long, wet walk to the Palmer House Hilton Hotel.  I was checking in almost three hours early, but was welcomed and once again, upgraded from my very small but Hip and Historic double room to a Hip and Historic king room with a fireplace!  Plus I was offered a complimentary continental breakfast.  Hilton Hotels and I are a good pair.

After eating my bit of lunch in the room, I headed to the Chicago Institute of Art.  Having forgotten my umbrella, it was a very wet walk.  I wandered through the galleries heading in the general direction of the 20th century art which I like best.  The museum was probably the first big museum I had ever been to fifty years ago and it still is great, but I have been to so many others that I felt a bit disappointed.  The Warhols were good, but not as fun as the exhibit I saw in Tampa last fall.  The Pollocks and Manets were interessting but not like the overwhelming ones that filled entire walls that I saw at MOMA last February.
Easter Mystery by Maurice Denis

Now I'm waiting for Annette, my friend and former colleague at Family Literacy, to join me for dinner.  She just texted that the rain is too much to walk to the Metra station so her husband Dan will drive her downtown.  I have not been overwhelmiingly sure that this is all going to work out which has been part of my stress!

Wednesday morning

Annette was about an hour late but we were texting back and forth and I had a book to read while sitting near the Monroe Street entrance of the hotel.   We walked to La Cantina where I had a reservation that was now an hour past due--but I had called and they were not full.  We had ten years of catching up to do--plus plenty of reminiscing and it was a great meal.  Dan picked her up again afterwards at the hotel.  Ironic that one of Annette's jobs when she returned to Chicago was as a maid at the Palmer House.  I remember the call from HR asking me if I could give her a reference.  Of course, I could.  That job was not a good match for her skills however and she is doing child care again.

We left each other with hugs and "I love yous." I walked back into the hotel with tears in my eyes.

I am about to enjoy my continental breakfast and then will walk to Trader Joes to get my favorite candy bars.  There will be time for another hour at the Art Institute this morning--and then the 12:50 train back to Niles.

A foot in front of St. Luke's Episcopal Church-Why? 

Street Art

A postscript  upon returning home: Amtrak is great.  The senior rate was a bargain, parking at Niles was free, and I even was asked to board ahead of the regular passengers at Union Station.  The trip was fast and comfortable.

Brand loyalty is great.  I learned that my upgrades and free breakfast and wifi are offered because I am a Hilton Gold member.  It's all those Martin's grocery bills--plus we usually stay at Hilton Hotels if it's convenient.

And...sometimes it's so much easier to stay home but I feel as if I have had a very full 30 hours on my Chicago adventure and I will enjoy the memories--as recorded in this blog!