Monday, September 29, 2008

Autumn is Here!

The rash on my legs has healed, and I have slowed down considerably. However, I made dinner last night, which was great. It was baked salsa chicken with cheesy potatoes. It's good to be on cooking duty again. Dennis helps out a lot still. We are a regular Iron Chef team together.

I spoke with a godly and astute newlywed wife this afternoon. Her questions sounded so familiar, reminding me of my early years with Dennis, trying to figure things out and learning some things the hard ways, but most things I learned with God's help and with the support of godly older women like Donna Tobey who has been married eight years longer than me. I don't know how I would have made it without her and so thankful that God put us together in California and now again in Michigan.

As for organizing, I am almost done. I started several notebooks. I had my addresses and spiritual disciplines notes all in the same binder, but now I've divided them into two different binders. I started a new binder for ministry, for notes for one-to-one times and witnessing. I'm thinking of starting a new notebook for fellowship, including notes from my church and small group. All this organizing is actually a work in progress. It is a non-stop process.

My pre-Christmas planning has hardly started yet, but I let Dennis know what my state of mind is about it. We're having two out of town guests, plus a trip to visit a close friend's family down in Ohio. So, it's starting up pretty quickly. We will have international students over for Thanksgiving dinner, and probably a few over for a small game night/Christmas party. I am wondering if we should host a New Year's party for neighbors, or maybe a Valentine's party for neighbors instead. Last year, Dennis baked banana bread for our neighbors and we delivered them with Christmas cards. I think we could make that an annual tradition, plus an invitation to visit our church for Christmas. I also want to work on a contemplative and meditative process for my time in the Word during this time as well.

I am available for the collegiate ministry with women this year, and this is especially encouraging. Mostly because God uses these times to make me grow and stretch my faith and deepen my prayer life. I'm praying that my relationships with these young women would be deep and lifelong.

Yes, this is amazing.

Friday, September 26, 2008

It's a Blast

While I have been recovering from the burning rash on my legs, I've been staying off my feet. This is really tough.

For one, I love to cook dinner. I'm really good at it. My husband can cook, but honestly, it is way different. I'm also tired of eating out or getting take out. What to do, what to do. He bought salmon and grilled it, but we had more fish than we could eat at once. Leftover nuked fish was not really appetizing the second day, and we still didn't get it all eaten. The third day, I had to do something about this. I sent Hubby to the store and supervised dinner. He made salmon chowder last night. He wasn't sure why we had to go through all these fancy efforts, and was a little frustrated with all the steps involved. But I walked him through the recipe's beginning and he learned a few skills. And then I left the kitchen with dinner half prepared, telling my man that he will have to assemble the rest of the chowder on his own, and that I knew he could do it. And you know, he was really glad he put the effort into it.

It was wonderful. So much better than canned soup. Just as good as if we went out. We finished the rest of it today during lunch.

I'm finding that there are a lot of things I can do sitting down with my feet up. Folding laundry is one. Organizing my office is another--filing and bill paying. I can write real letters. Oh yeah, I used to be a real letter writer. I wrote letters home, to my grandma, my great Aunt Hilda, close friends and Dennis. And I got as many letters as I sent. It was a regular weekend activity--find a cozy place and curl up, turn on music, light a candle, pick some pretty stationary and start writing. It was relaxing and a way to connect with a friend or family member far away. I used to send recipe cards, pictures, bookmarks or drawings (yep, I used to draw a little).

This summer, we turned a spare room into a guest room that functions as my office and prayer place. After all that, I have trouble getting motivated to go in there. It's pretty. There are comfortable places to sit. I have a window seat. Great lighting. But it still isn't the first place I go for reading and writing or praying. I decided that it had a lot to do with the fact I still have everything spread out all over the house. It isn't quite "Althea Central" in the new office, which is the ultimate goal after all. I have a desk in the family room next to the computer and the tv, and it is never used because it isn't a good place for quiet contemplation. But my files and "stuff" are in it. So I've taken all that up to my office. Which means I had purging and re-organizing to do, which I've done all day while sitting on the floor.

And I discovered a few things in the process. I once prided myself on amazing organization skills, but that is no longer true. I also kept in touch with people via letters and cards, and that is no longer true. My letter writing and card sending is an extension of my spiritual gift of encouragement, which I am no longer using as much any more. And I have cut back on Christmas cards. I love Christmas card exchanging, but I start after Thanksgiving which is the wrong time to start for someone like me in the retail/coffee business. The time to start is around Halloween for me. I can get the envelopes addressed and start a newsletter, and then work on the rest before Thanksgiving.

In fact, all of Christmas is a downer for me. It hasn't been the same for about eight or so years. I find it over rated. I often work Christmas Eve, and I never take time off for the holidays or to even travel to be with family. By the time I even think about it, it is over. I need to start thinking about it now, and make small plans about what is most important to me and Dennis.

People complain that Christmas shows up earlier every year. But, for me, it is an opportunity for me to think things over and prepare for the emotional onslaught that the holidays represent to me instead of Christ's incarnation. I'll need the extra time, because if the recent economic developments are any indication, my business will be fighting for every profit we can muster. It was tough last year, it will be even tougher this Christmas. I remember telling my boss post Christmas last year that it seemed like I worked harder than ever but got fewer results than ever. And six months later, three of the six stores that our company had in our county had to close. I am not expecting anything less than difficult and pressure-filled this Christmas. Sad, but true.

So, I will have to make choices to protect my health, physically and spiritually and even emotionally this Christmas. Thinking about it now might be really early for most of you out there, but it beats the heck out of what I've been numbly doing for the last nine years since Mom died December 3, 1999.

A Fight

On Tuesday, I walked over half a mile on a treadmill and then swam 6 or 7 laps. I was taking it easy, and the usual swollen feet and ankles did not appear like they have for the last three weeks in a row. A small victory.

On Wednesday, I was getting ready for work, marveling over my perfect feet as I got dressed. I knew it was going to be a great day no matter what happened. And a lot happened. At the end of my shift after spending most of it on my feet, I felt a little burning around my calves. I got home and was changing out of my work clothes and saw a red angry burning rash go from my ankles to my knees. So Dennis drove me to Urgent Care for the second emergency health visit I've had in two months.

I didn't wait long to see the physician's assistant, and she showed me how the rash was my body's way of trying to get rid of excess fluid since I have problems with the valves in my legs. They've completely collapsed and I have to elevate my legs at all times. Reality.

So, I had to get two shifts covered while I re-cover from this rash. It looks a little better. The PA told me that if I don't deal with it now, the rash will start to ooze the fluid from the water retention. My body is protesting. It is rebelling.

I wear mild compression stockings, but it is obvious that I need to wear firm compression socks. A lot of this is also related to my kidney issues that are taking time to resolve. I'm almost normal, but obviously not normal enough.

Diabetes is a balancing endeavor. The nurse at Urgent Care told me that it isn't too late for me, that I can reverse all this. She encouraged me, she gave me hope. After all the work, I have some good numbers to reflect that from my labs. I had one problem with an infected foot and it has been a fight ever since. But I will not give up.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Gas Mileage Tips (From The Experts)



A few months ago, CBS reporter Maggie Rodriquez had a news flash that UPS only made right turns to save on fuel. I learned a few things.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Iron Chef Impossible

I really like the Food Channel. I enjoy watching people cook. But my all time favorites are not the kind of shows that demonstrate recipes and techniques, but the most intense ones involving professional chefs trying to meet high standards in a short amount of time.

During one episode of Dinner:Impossible, a chef has to cook an international menu of comfort food for 150 homesick circus performers. He takes requests from at least 7 different world cuisines and starts to shop and cook the food in less than five hours in a cooking trailer smaller than most people's bathrooms. I noticed throughout all the episodes that none of the dishes are cooked by reading recipes, and the chef and his sous staff all seem to know what to do no matter where they are or what they are called to make. During this episode, the chef makes the point that he and his sous chefs know this food (particularly borscht, stroganoff, spaetzle, fish and chips, etc...) because they have experienced it all before, and know how to make it even better than normal while keeping it to a classic style. The challenge comes not from knowing how to cook, but from the conditions they are called to cook in. This particular chef doesn't just like to do what is asked from him, but go beyond all expectations.

Then there is Iron Chef. No cookbooks there either. No measuring cups or measuring spoons. I am always impressed by the level of expertise in time management, technique, food knowledge and teamwork. Not to mention calm professionalism, originality and creativity. Right now, I am watching two teams do things with carrots that blow my mind. There is cooking and then, there is cooking. All within one hour. What can I cook in one hour?

It makes me think about many things about how I view challenges and limitations, and the mental attitude that sets some people apart from others. These chefs respond to the hard situations relying on their past discipline and experience. It all just kicks in during the competition but it didn't come from thin air. Each cook represents years of education and training, not to mention tedious hours of making sure that each little detail is done just right. But more than that, they love what they do.

Why am I thinking about these things? Well, on one hand, it applies a lot to what I do all day at work. I make coffee for hundreds of people. Right now at the mall, I make coffee for hundreds of people in a space smaller than my closet. A couple of times, during a rush today, I had to take a look at the frappuccino I made in the blender and decide that it didn't meet my standards so it was necessary to make it over again. In addition, not everything goes smoothly. After years of working bar, you train yourself not to react emotionally to little upsets. You fix the problem and keep going. And laugh, some things are actually really funny. And you know, it helps that I love what I do.

It also applies to a book I'm reading about spiritual disciplines by Dallas Willard. We are amazed at athletes like Michael Phelps who perform perfectly at the Olympics, but we don't see the hours and hours of discipline and repetition, of aching muscles and sacrifices to keep a rigorous training schedule. But somehow, we look at spiritual mature people and think they got mature and respond under pressure magically. We don't see the hours of bible study and prayer that helped them grow and know God deeply, so that they respond to challenges born out of the trust in God's ability to keep His promises that they've seen every day. And the disciplines aren't the point, it's the experience of knowing God and loving Him born from those disciplines.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Danc e Me



Leonard Cohen "Lift me like an olive branch, Be my homeward dove and dance me to the end of love..."

Friday, September 19, 2008

Make Over

A few weeks ago, I dyed my hair reddish brown. I read somewhere that skin with pink tones is compatible with red hair. But when I looked in the mirror, I saw red hair and red skin. So I was wearing make-up to decrease the ruddiness. There is a "corrector" available in shades of green that you can wear under your foundation. But without it, I looked more sunburned than usual. Under the lights behind the bar at work, my hair looked even more red and so did my skin.

I went to Regis at the mall and had blond partial highlights put in. My hair has nice little thin stripes now. It looks fine at home and in daylight, but under the lights at work, it looks orange. However, my face is a little more balanced. Am I satisfied? Probably not. But a few of my regular customers, Lauren in particular, have commented that I change my hair everytime they see me.

Who knew that the upside of growing old and getting grey is the chance to continually re-invent myself?

Dylan Cover



Aired on BBC April 18, 2008, Adele singing a Bob Dylan tune "Make You Feel My Love", accompanied by Jools Holland. The rumor is that this is Dylan's favorite cover of this song (also done by Garth Brooks, Kelly Clarkson, Billy Joel, Trisha Yearwood, Joan Osbourne. Enjoy.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Confession

Yesterday I went swimming and nearly cried in my frustration over my lungs inability to cooperate with my workout goals. It felt humiliating to have to start all over as though it was the first time back three years ago, when I knew I was capable of doing as much or more as everyone else around me. And I nearly got myself into trouble at the deep end of the pool because I was pushing myself too hard and my bronchial tubes were having spasms.

So I hit the showers after only five laps in half an hour. I was angry and I was worried. If I couldn't work out, how would I be able to take care of myself? I had waited a month for my foot to heal, and now this.

As I left the locker room, I wondered if I was putting my self esteem into how many laps I swim. And that perhaps I should vary my work outs with walks and other exercises like more yoga. And that perhaps I should control my eating more and reduce my Weight Watchers points to a lower amount. So, I confessed my sinful way of handling my negative emotions (there was mental cursing involved) by the time I reached the car. I got home and took my blood glucose. It was 88. The lowest I had ever seen it. Which surprised me, since I cut back on my glucophage doses to protect my kidneys. It was still low this morning when I woke up, around 116.

So, I'm off to the pharmacy with a new prescription for a blood pressure med I know I don't need, simply because the doctor said that it would help my lungs function. He said that I had asthma, but I never had symptoms of it in my life. As for the low glucose readings, maybe my pancreas woke up and decided to work today. I'll take a few more readings after meals and see what happens.

I'm not sure what God is teaching me here, exactly. I wish I could say I am as fervent now in my seeking Him as I was 25 years ago. But I did learn then how it is possible to see His love and goodness even through the bad circumstances, and I know He is just as loving and good now as He was back then.

Perhaps today I will get five slow laps in. Perhaps I will be thankful I can still swim at all.

Everybody Hurts (Hold On)



I think this one is about community. By REM

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Lord, Protect My Child



Performed by Susan Tedeschi, written by Bob Dylan (bootleg song, never published)

Lord Protect My Child

For his age, he's wise
He's got his mother's eyes
There's gladness in his heart
He's young and he's wild
My only prayer is, if I can't be there,
Lord, protect my child

As his youth now unfolds
He is centuries old
Just to see him at play makes me smile
No matter what happens to me
No matter what my destiny
Lord, protect my child

While the world is asleep
You can look at it and weep
Few things you find are worthwhile
And though I don't ask for much
No material things to touch
Lord, protect my child

He's young and on fire
Full of hope and desire
In a world that's been raped, raped and defiled
If I fall along the way
And can't see another day
Lord, protect my child

There'll be a time I hear tell
When all will be well
When God and man will be reconciled
But until men lose their chains
And righteousness reigns
Lord, protect my child

How Quiet Times Saved My Life

I've been reading my old quiet time journals from 25 years ago. The entries show how deeply absorbed I was in my worship of God and appreciation of all that He had done for me. I kept the journals without thinking about someday reading them when I was a middle aged woman. I kept the journals to somehow capture the "now" of my experience of God, almost like a snapshot. I often wrote about the inadequacy of words to describe my adoration for my Lord and Savior and my gratitude for all He did for me, but I kept writing anyway.

As I think back to those days, I had a lot of problems. But I think those passionate times of prayer and reading the Bible helped me more than any counseling session because I saw God as bigger than my life and the difficulties my life brings me. I longed to see His love and goodness despite whatever confusion and pain I encountered. When I finally began counseling fifteen years later, my experienced therapist asked me how I survived. My only answer was God's love and those deep times in my devotional life. And after five years of meeting with her, she told me I had reached a level of healing she rarely ever sees. She said that my grounded faith in God and His Word made the difference. I thought about it later, and I think that was close to the words of Jesus when he said, "Your faith has healed you..."

I was going through an especially lonely time when I wrote the following in 1985:

"Jesus, I thank you for giving me love. I need that assurance even when I fail to obey with a full heart, to respond more confidently to Your promise, to speak up, to be open hearted. Always fearful. But I turn to You, I feel Your smile, Your welcome. My encourager is my LORD. You've told me to be strong, to be courageous, even when I am criticized, when I'm mocked, or hurt, or accused, or judged. If it wasn't for You, how would have I been able to pick myself up?

No wonder when Joseph said 'How can I sin this great sin against God?' It was unthinkable to betray Potiphar, and twice that to grieve God. Joseph knew You, he knew You well. Jesus, may I know you as well as your mother Mary? As well as Moses who looked forward to Your coming? I want intimacy with You Jesus. To trust You..."


I can't remember the exact circumstances I was going through at the time. It was during the summer and generally during those times with my family and at work, I was trying to share the Gospel and encountering resistance and rejection. Along with that and all the other aspects of my family dysfunction probably was overwhelming and it made sense that I could only stand under the pressure with significant times alone with God. I loved my family and longed for them to taste the goodness of God, and it grieved me that they didn't believe.

I now understand that God didn't send me home to save them, but to bring me closer to Himself. And it is often true that when I do go home to visit, my prayer life does get much deeper. He uses the pain to make a godly woman out of me.

And so now, as I encounter trials of a different kind, I know that God has a plan for me. But it won't happen without some cooperation on my part, which involves a consistent quiet time and discipline of prayer.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Bodycology

A month ago, I was told I had kidney failure and was given a referral to see a nephrologist. Since it was a year since I had lab tests on my kidneys, which were normal at the time, the doctor wasn't assuming that my sick organs were from the massive antibiotics I was taking to fight an infection.

So, I had a conversation with my pharmacist, who told me that the antibiotics often temporarily decrease the filtration capability of my kidneys, but they should return to normal after a few weeks. I decided to hold off seeing the nephrologist, and made another appointment with a new general practitioner for a second opinion, who ordered another round of lab tests which just came back to tell me that my kidneys had significantly improved. I will take another test in two weeks, and then we'll see about needing a specialist.

I also talked to my pharmacist when I had a bad reaction to a new blood pressure medication, and I got answers from him a lot faster than the physicians I called. In fact, I'm not sure why I have to have blood pressure medication. Neither does my doctor I saw this morning. I haven't had medication for a week, and my readings were really good this morning in the clinic. I'm trying to decide whether or not to take the drug.

A year ago, a cardiologist prescribed a statin which I decided not to take for a few months because I wanted to change my diet and exercise to fix the high cholesterol. And it worked. Later, I read how that particular statin was causing heart attacks and actually killed some people. It was taken off the market by the FDA. So, my gut instincts proved to be correct.

I usually do what the doctors say, but at this point, I'm learning to draw the line. This morning, my doctor and I took a walk to the lab to ask a question. We walked at a fast pace, and at the end of our destination, he was much more winded than I was even though he is about 15 years younger than me. Either he is really out of shape, or I am doing much better than I think I am.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Another side of Mr. Bean



Rowan Atkinson, English comedian famous for Mr. Bean, is actually brilliant in portraying darker kinds of characters, such as this schoolmaster. This particular video is the less offensive on Youtube of Atkinson's earlier work before Bean.

I have more to say about Atkinson, but I'm saving it for later.

Quality Control

In 1979, I was sixteen and working at A&W as a cook in the arid Columbia Basin of Washington state. I had worked there since the day after I turned 14, and my wage went from $1.50 per hour to $2.65. Until my brother,John,worked there that summer, I was the highest paid high school employee.

I had regarded my job as mostly systematic. It was a matter of method and timing, but I hardly thought of what I did in terms of actually cooking. I prided myself mostly over the cleanliness and order of the kitchen, not the skill in preparing the food. But one day that all changed.

It was a cold winter's day, and very few customers were in the cafe. The orders were the usual chili dogs and burgers. Then I got a ticket for two grilled ham and cheese, and a word from my boss to make it good, it was for two out-of-towners from "the coast", east Washingtonian talk for people from Seattle. From his tone, the people sounded like they were rich and had to stop but there was nothing else in our little town open. Okie dokie.

So, I cleaned a spot on the grill and sprayed a little grease to make it non stick. I put on a few slices of ham and used tongs to move them around as they fried. I wanted to see the edges get crispy and curl and a little sizzle before I drained them on paper towels and put them back in a warming area of the cooktop. Meanwhile, I sliced a small red onion as thin as possible and put that on the heat. I liked to see them get soft and get slightly browned. The bread was the thick texas toast kind and I brushed one side of each with melted butter and placed them on the grill with two slices of American cheese. And this was the hard part, being patient, monitoring the heat and checking to make sure the bread and cheese were at the right stage of browning and melting. I loaded the ham and onion and then placed the uncooked bread on top also brushed with butter and flipped the sandwiches over for the final meltdown. I had fried up some fries, and they were going to be ready at the same time as the grilled cheese were. I resisted pressing down on the sandwiches, I wanted them thick as possible. I trusted that the cheese would melt into the onion and ham without my help.

At this point, Elvin, my boss came back to check on me and get a status report. I told him it would be two minutes and started on the final touches. I drained the fried under the heat lamp and dusted them lightly with seasoned salt and mounded them on paper lined plastic baskets. I took the sandwiches off the grill and sliced them diagonally and put a toothpick through the triangles. I added a few sliced pickles on the side and hit the bell. Elvin came back to take the sizzling hot food to the customers himself, he looked kind of nervous. Perhaps it took longer than expected, but I didn't care. I knew this order was perfectly cooked.

Fifteen minutes later, Elvin came back with a big smile on his face, and an expression of awe. He handed me a five dollar bill, and said it was my tip from the out-of-towners. He said that they loved the sandwiches, and had grilled ham and cheese everywhere the United States but mine was the best they ever had. Right then, a middle aged lady in a big fluffy coat and a gentleman in a dress coat passed by and waved to me as they exited out the cafe door. I was too shocked to wave back or say "thanks". Elvin slapped me on the back, and told me "Congratulations, you're now a real cook!". I should have asked for a raise right then and there.

After that, all the food I made got special attention. It was simple stuff, nothing fancy, but I did the best I could. And I kept to the original recipes, but somehow everything came out better. I trained my brother and I would like to think that he was great--he got several raises quickly--because of me. But he never got a five dollar tip.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Starbucks--The Movie

In 2009, Tom Hanks will star in "Starbucks" based on the memoir by Michael Gill "How Starbucks Saved My Life" about the years he worked as a barista after being fired from his firm at 63 years old. He brags "I can still detail a bathroom like a ferrari". He better.

Despite rave reviews from Christine, my partner who now works at Corporate in Seattle, I still haven't read the book. I'm sure it's great. And I hope a lot of people read and enjoy it, as well as the upcoming movie. Gill, from the snippets I read, does well at describing the culture of working at a Starbucks, that it is more than just a job. And unlike most workplaces, there is a sort of home or family feeling that outsiders, even the most regular customers, aren't aware of.

So now all of that will go on the big screen. I've thought of my life at Starbucks as a world unto itself, a separate universe all my own. I'm sure that everything will be accurate and portrayed just like I know it. And it is disappointing.

Everything about the company I love is open to the public. And now, this too.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hope

As I'm writing about one health thing after another, I'm longing for "normal". A day without a new problem with my body. My body disappoints me not only in its aesthetic as I get older, but also in its decreasing functionality.

But I complain too much. Or do I?

I was working at the mall today and made drinks for two women. One was wheelchair bound accompanied by a friend who was blind with her seeing eye dog. It made me realize that I have it pretty good right now.

And that my complaining and dissatisfaction could lead me down a road to bitterness and anger. Or depression. And so I am learning how to be grateful although my body is dying, my inner man is being renewed day by day (2Corinthians 4:16).

And God's word reminds me in 2 Corinthians 5 how my "earthly tent" will be torn down to replaced by a heavenly one, and in the meantime, I will groan to be clothed with my "dwelling from heaven". The groaning, or burden, that I experience because of the trouble my flesh causes me, and its continual decay makes me hope for something better and imperishible.

"For momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison". 2 Cor. 4:17

So, where do I place my hope? In this world? Or in God?

But despite all this encouragement and perspective from God, the reality of it all is painful. It hurts.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Such A Pain, Part 2

Yesterday morning when I woke up, my back had healed and I had another medical situation that was dragging me down. After I had breakfast, I took my prescription meds including a new one for my blood pressure. I was supposed to meet Susan at the pool at 10am, and as I got ready to go, I started to have trouble breathing. I went down the stairs from the front door to the car and thought I was going to collapse.

A smart woman would have called her doctor and canceled the swim, but not I. I went to the pool, thinking that a good workout would help me. But I struggled to put in eight laps in 45 minutes. That's not me.

The reason I didn't worry was because I had already taken my blood pressure twice that morning and it was 125 over 74. Way under the 140/90 standard for health. And I had swam both Friday and Saturday and met my modest goals without trouble. The rest of my stats, like my pulse and my blood glucose were normal. So, I knew it had to be a side effect of my new blood pressure prescription. I went home, looked at my drug information pamphlet, called my pharmacist and found out that I had bronchial spasms which aren't life threatening although rather annoying. He said that it was a very rare side effect of beta blockers, not many get it, and at the low dosage that I had, it wasn't supposed to affect me that much, it usually starts at 400mg instead of my 25mg. My respiration didn't get any better the rest of the day. I went to work, hardly being able to move without wheezing.

This morning, I took my blood pressure, which was 120/70, and decided to skip the metoprolel that was making my bronchial pipes have spasms. I still feel "wheezy" but it's not as bad as yesterday. I went swimming. And even though I wasn't doing as well as last week, I did better than yesterday. In fact, the life guard dropped some metal connector for the lane divider buoys in the deep end, and I dove 12 feet to get it. I got it, and felt great. It was a challenge, and I really didn't expect that my dive would be successful.

I'm wondering if I need blood pressure medication at all. My doctor (another new one) questioned it as well, but he was concerned about my kidneys.

But my breathlessness reminded me of Mom, when she couldn't climb the stairs in our house without stopping every three steps at the age of 50. I thought that she was out of shape, but now I realize that she was dealing with beta blockers, probably. At higher dosages than mine.

Later, she wasn't breathing heavy anymore, when she was in her early sixties. I wonder if it was because someone took her off the beta blockers and put her on another med that didn't have that side effect. Her life improved a lot, she started to go to the gym and swam a little at the family reunion at the Aquatic Center, and she danced.

Monday, September 08, 2008

It's Such A Pain

Right now I can't sleep because of back pain. I strained a muscle this morning while giving a testimony, it was so bad I couldn't breathe. It was a combination of tension and an extraordinarily heavy purse (I've been trying to not carry so much, but I've been busy and the purse kept accumulating more crap).

I have some kidney problems, so taking painkillers is out of the question. I have to live with this for awhile. I've taken two hot showers and that has helped, but that's temporary. And no matter what I do, I can't get comfortable to sleep. Deep breathing and sitting still also helps, but it makes me drowsy.

Meanwhile, I haven't gotten test results from my last GFR and creatinine lab. It's been over a week. Usually, I get phone calls and letters if there's bad news within a few days. So I'm going to call tomorrow morning.

Worst case scenario, I have lactic acidosis. Its symptoms include muscle pain and fatigue. No happy thoughts here.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Shout to the Lord, in Hawaiian



I could watch this one all day. Lizz, this one is for you!

How Great Thou Art, in Hawaiian



The beginning of the hula is sung in Hawaiian, the second part in English. I like the fact that half of the group are older women in their 40's on up.
I am swimming again. Today was my second work out and yesterday my first since my foot infection a month and a half ago.

During my first work out, I think I did about eight or nine laps. Today, I swam 15. I am not as fast and have to catch my breath a lot at the beginning. But by lap 10, I got my second wind. Pushing myself at the beginning paid off as I improved within a half hour. Lap 10 was the backstroke, my favorite. I like to see the wake that my kick produces as I progress down the lane. And I don't have to work on breathing rhythm because my face is above water. For the first time in weeks, I felt like a strong woman again. Even though, in reality, this is an illusion.

I saw another doctor this morning. He told me that I was going to have kidney failure someday, and that hopefully would be far into the future, as he attempts to preserve its function as much as possible. He was a new doctor, and was amazed at my file, which showed drastic improvements in weight loss, glucose control, blood pressure and HDL. But some of the drugs I've been taking can be bad for my kidneys. And he's worried about lactic acidosis.

So, I went to the gym and swam, wondering how much longer I have before I can't do it anymore. I wonder if my desire to be an old lady in the pool, swimming laps forever, will be fulfilled. I don't know. All I have is now. And if that's all I have, I will enjoy it to the fullest. I've been praying, however, for healing, that I would be able to continue to serve God without distraction. My prayers seem to be answered whenever I take my blood pressure, check my glucose and look at a near perfect right foot, with new skin coming in and old dry skin reduced by 85%. And now, I need some good kidneys.

I went to the barn party for welcoming international students and found myself sitting next to a woman in our church I've long admired for her servanthood and love for people, she's served as deaconess for a long time. We chatted, and I found out that her Alzheimer's has progressed to a point where she is now on disability and had to quit her job. She said the hardest part is knowing that she's losing her memory and being able to function, she has known that this was happening for the last eight years. When she is having a good day, she lives it up as much as possible, being in the moment, appreciating what she has right now. And after our chat, she seemed energized, getting involved with the internationals, playing with the kids (there were a lot of families this year) and helping out. She still is joyful, serving and loving God, because she is confident in God's love for her. Just by being herself, she encouraged me immensely to not sit around feeling sorry for myself. Not to live in fear, but keep on trusting God.

"My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." Psalm 73:26 NASB