Sunday May 31st 2009, 8:15 am
Filed under: Life

(Added note 8 pm: Don is back in the hospital. Tests are coming up.)

I’m going to move the p.s. up here so it doesn’t distract. Right after my last and most serious accident, for those who may someday need to know this, a doctor told me to keep moving, gently and while consciously relaxing, all day. Do not take a nap.  Do not allow the muscles to tense up. Keep moving. Keep relaxing.

He was right. I was hit hard enough to have a head injury for life, but there was very little whiplash effect to the rest of me, which quite surprised me.

Okay, on with the post.

Afton sent me an email about mitzvahs, and the story that instantly came to mind after reading hers of something someone had done for her was this one.  I saw this man for maybe 60 seconds out of my entire life:

“Mrs. Hyde–you got rear-ended AGAIN?”

When the guy at the dealer’s bodyshop recognizes your voice…  And this was before my big accident, where my car was totalled from behind by a speeder and thrown into another one. So.

I made an appointment for an estimate and set out. Coming off the freeway at Stevens Creek, there was a homeless couple holding up cardboard signs. My light was red; I had a moment.

Back then, we kept MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) in our car all the time.  This was not long after the 7.1 Loma Prieta aka The Pretty Big One. We’d bought two cases as emergency earthquake food supplies and kept some in the car. You never know where you’ll be.

I rolled down my window and reached back to the pocket behind the passenger seat, and as I did so, the whiplashing I’d gotten suddenly distorted my face as I tried not to groan. I got the MREs, I don’t remember how many, and held them out to the man, who by then had come near my car for his handout.

As it went from my hand to his there was something absolutely electrical that passed between us.  It took me a breath to comprehend: he had seen the pain in my face, had seen me going through that willingly for him in order to take care of him, and in that moment it felt that God Himself was using that simple means to convey straight to the man’s heart that he was Loved in this world.

And to his credit, he was able to receive that.

I will never forget him. That great healing went both ways. He had made it worth what I was having to go through.  He had allowed it to be turned into a moment of pure Grace.  And I knew I, in turn, had to forgive the man who’d eyeballed me and then deliberately rammed my car in a moment of road rage.

It was lifechanging.

What are your mitzvah stories?

Clara guarding above, baby below
Saturday May 30th 2009, 7:09 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

imgp7683imgp7687Trying to be productive while not wanting to miss a thing: how to get skeins turned into balls, finally, about 4000 yards’ worth that have needed it for some time.

Yesterday Veer spent hours on the lower ledge looking like he was trying to get up the courage to let go and take off but he just couldn’t quite bring himself to.  Then when it was getting too dark to anyway, he tried to rouse his sisters, who’d settled down in the nestbox–go, go, I wanted to fly today, what if I don’t get to, come with me now, let’s go!

VEER.  Shut UP.  So then he bounced across their backsides and tails with those huge feet of his, at which they got up and yelled at him. He ran out to the nearer ledge, walked behind the box, came back the other side and laid down too.  But not before he’d pushed them out of the coveted corner spot.

Little brothers!

Today after more of the same agonizing, he made the leap and flew to the upper ledge, somewhere only the parents had gone before.  He then flew along half its length, ran the rest, and stood there king of all he surveyed, flapping his wings, tucking them in, watching white down feathers fluffing past from the nest area, judging distances.  Finally his mother apparently thought, enough of this, and landed nearby up there with prey. He snatched it right out of her grasp and flew straight down to the safety of the runway.   Go Mom! Thank you for rescuing me from myself! Phew!


Birds of a feather
Friday May 29th 2009, 4:26 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

I opened the door a half hour ago and got an instant flashback.  I don’t know where it is and the city’s emergency warning system has not sent out automated calls.  But the smell was heavy in the air–there was a fire out there somewhere. There’s also a stiff breeze going on, and I don’t smell it now.

We never had fire season growing up in Maryland, that’s for sure.

We also never had peregrines that I knew of.  Today the falcon fledge watch has officially begun in San Jose. I saw one of the females perched up on the low ledge above their runway near the top of City Hall, looking out over the city.  Her sister stayed just below her, and as the one turned her head this way and that, looking out at such a whole new direction to take in–down–her sister started pecking at her toes.

Like siblings everywhere, the one above reacted with, Stop that! She twitched her foot away, and when she set it back down, the other started pecking away at it again: are you sure that talon isn’t a tasty bug?  And again, till finally that huge falcon foot pushed carefully slowly against the other’s head and away from her: I. Said. STOP. That. NOW.

A few more pecks from below just to get the last word in.

Veer, the lone male of the four, disappeared from the camera for long hours yesterday. Males are smaller, so their feathers become fully grown out a little sooner; he’s easy to pick out from the crowd, small, dark and smooth, while the others still have a few puffs of white fuzz sticking out at funny angles, although, fewer by the hour now.  When Veer was banded, they put a black band on his left foot, the opposite side from his sisters.

This afternoon, all four were in the nest box.  He flew out of it, looking steady and sure as he went, baby awkwardness gone. He instantly disappeared out of view of the webcam; I don’t know if he stayed in their runway area.

All three females cocked their head to the side in lockstep unison, then further over to the side as they watched him go: how off earth did he DO that?

They will find out in the next day or two.

Thursday May 28th 2009, 6:03 pm
Filed under: Friends

Don’s back home again, and I stopped by this afternoon and visited. I hadn’t seen Chipper and Pepper, his birds, since the day 16 or 17 years ago when we were going to remodel and Don’s wife Amalie invited me over to see some of the things they’d had done at their place.

Pepper did not deign to let me too near her, and scooted over to Don if I got too close.  She was so funny–her behaviors reminded me of a cat.  Look at me, adore me, but only do what I demand.

I asked lots of bird questions, and shared back as much of the Scharffenberger as he would allow me to.  It was good to see him back home again, and he allowed as how that was a better place to visit him–he could show off, there.

Thank you, everybody, for looking out for him with me. Much appreciated.

Wednesday May 27th 2009, 11:19 pm
Filed under: Friends

My friend Don found himself calling 911 in acute pain last night and is in the hospital. They haven’t pinpointed the cause yet.  He asked that I let my blog readers know.

He’s not at Stanford, rather another local hospital where I used to visit someone frequently and where my lupus support group meetings used to be held, so I know my way around there pretty much–that part shouldn’t be a problem.  I didn’t manage to get there tonight; visiting hours would have been over by the time I could have gotten there, but I hope to tomorrow. After yet another doctor appointment (the staph infection came back again after the antibiotics finished again. Round three.) I have asked and been promised that with the bag over it and much handwashing and Purell-ing, I will not be spewing germs around as I go.  But if any of my medical-profession readers feel otherwise, please let me know, even if I’d wish not to have to hear it.

Oh, and just to rat him out, his 79th birthday is next Tuesday, June 2.

I so hope he’s okay!

Brainless knitting only
Wednesday May 27th 2009, 5:13 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Knit

imgp7668I got told to take some benedryl this morning and a massive dose of prednisone, which is a steroid, last night, prior to coming in for the CT scan, due to previously having had an allergic reaction to topical iodine. I wanted to argue with the radiologist that I’d been told by a doctor in the hospital, prior to a CT scan there, that iodine is a mineral and one cannot physically be allergic to it, only to what it’s mixed with.  But I decided, eh. Just make them happy. I took it.

Good thing.  Yesterday evening I’d been back to serious pain, holding my stomach to be able to walk down the hall.  Took the pred, went to bed… And although I was quickly wired to the max, the pain, I suddenly realized, was almost gone.

It was absolutely stunning. Pred has never touched my Crohn’s, ever, at any dose. They had me on 200 mg/day via IV in the hospital, and, nada.

I had a longstanding appointment anyway with my surgeon for right after the CT scan, and she was delighted.  “Different body parts sometimes respond differently to the same med, and you’ve only ever had Crohn’s in your colon before.”

She thought she saw a Crohn’s spot on the small intestine in the scan; the radiologist’s preliminary report didn’t think so or didn’t catch it.  Two pairs of eyes is a good thing. We’ll see how that settles out; as the surgeon cautioned, “I’m not a radiologist.” (Ed. to add: they talked, the radiologist went carefully over it again, and said no, it was normal. There is another test that could be run, but Dr. R will have to order it when he gets back.)

But there is now a definitely-maybe hope of being successfully treated. I can’t tell you how good that feels.  It’s not gone, but I’ll take all the improvement I can get.

Oh, and, I tried to knit my Monterey shawl during the long wait between the half dozen large paper cups of dye I had to drink and the actual scan, I really tried. But benedryl and no sleep and a complex pattern–I got about a dozen stitches into a row, shook my head at a mistake, couldn’t see what I’d done for the life of me–that’s when you know I’m drugged out–and tinked back to the beginning and stuffed it back in my knitting bag. I had carefully packed a spare ball of yarn and needles just in case, picked it up, and launched into a scarf in the Michelle shawl lace pattern.  Something utterly brainless, silk and merino comfort knitting to comfort someone else by.  So many people have knitted for me lately.  Time to get back to work on giving back.

Chick flicks
Tuesday May 26th 2009, 8:05 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Wildlife

I got in today.  The nurse on the phone sounded again reluctant, at which point I played the trump card of the Urgent Care doctor having said upper-GI inflammation and that I was to be seen in GI on Tuesday.  Oh. She let me in.

I adore the doctor I got in to see.  Nancy, she’s the one your shawl went to. (And she was not there Friday.)

It might not be a new flare; it might be an adhesion from the surgery. Or a fistula. Or even another blockage (don’t think so).  CT scan tomorrow with the requisite fasting and pre-procedure meds.

Meantime, here are a couple of chick flicks for those so interested. The second is of last year’s banding, with the parents screaming past the guy’s head every few seconds–you can tell why he’s wearing a hard helmet!

Happy Memorial Day
Monday May 25th 2009, 8:34 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Wildlife

I slept in today and felt quite a bit better; yesterday was about as bad as I want to get.

Memorial Day has me thinking about my uncle. EG in the title, of course, is for the Enola Gay he flew on.

On a different note.  The baby peregrines are supposed to fledge Friday or so. (I’m wondering about the one that is two days younger than the others.)  The falconatics have a listserv where they’ve been talking about breaking out the chocolate in celebration come the day, and one said, we’d have to open a whole chocolate shop!

To which I replied that it would need to be dark chocolate to celebrate Clara silhouetted against the city lights.  Only, make sure it’s not a fly-by-night operation.

Valerie and Al, Richard and Kim
Sunday May 24th 2009, 4:02 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Family,Friends,Life

I’ve gone from a calm yeah, yeah, whatever–hey, no blood through the stoma, which they were glad to hear, so how bad can it be, to wanting to type a screaming NO NO NO NO NO!!! to semi-calm again.  Yes, we did go to Urgent Care, the deciding factor being that there’s no question they would have access to my electronic medical records there; the peer pressure via the blog was very helpful in getting me out the door, and thank you.

I did not know there was such a thing as drinkable lidocaine with maalox. I told the doctor I preferred chocolate.  He chuckled.  He came back awhile later and asked if it helped; it did. I got the impression he almost hoped it didn’t, that he wanted to be wrong.  Looks like upper GI inflammation.  That area would be your stomach, and…  What do they treat your Crohn’s with?


He allowed as how he could do a full workup with a CT scan, but it could wait till tomorrow with the GI doctors taking over. Oh, right, sorry, Tuesday.

We got home.  The phone rang. My friends Valerie and Al: his mother was visiting, they wanted to go to Santa Cruz but she wasn’t up to the walk, would it be possible to borrow my wheelchair?

Hey, not only a wheelchair.  When they got here, I apologized for the ratty-looking air cushion that we hadn’t replaced because of the unspeakable price tag, so please, no keys in the pockets, it’s punctureable.  But the chair alone would make her sore after a half hour or so, and with the cushion she’d feel wonderful however long they took and wherever they might go.

I took a risk and let my cushion I can’t afford to replace go to make an elderly woman I’d never met before today more comfortable in her day, and it totally made mine.

Of all the times she might have visited, of all the days they might have decided to drive over the hill to the beach at Santa Cruz, I needed it to be today, which they could never have known.  And so they did.  I can just hear the wheels going bumpitybumpitybumpity down the boardwalk from here.

(p.s. Today is my son Richard and his wife Kim’s first anniversary, and I can’t tell you how grateful and honored I feel to have Kim in the family. Happy anniversary!)

Bel-ly me when I say
Saturday May 23rd 2009, 3:05 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare

There was a new receptionist yesterday, she made a rookie mistake, and I didn’t correct for it.   I shouldn’t be making rookie mistakes myself by now, that was my fault.

In Family Practice, the receptionists have seemed to me to be empowered to simply create you a same-day appointment if the need is compelling. It wasn’t till after everything settled down yesterday and I’d had time to think that I realized that maybe that’s just through the one woman I know there who’s been on that job for all the 22 years we’ve lived here; she knows me and knows that my doctor and nurse in FP know me–that I don’t waste their time.  If I say I need to be seen, I do.

So when I called early yesterday morning to the GI department, I wondered if we might be able to do that, given how compelling the symptoms were to me: just give me an appointment, okay?

The result is that the new receptionist, who I’m sure could not in fact do that, made the mistake of sending a message to a nurse rather than connecting me to that nurse’s voicemail to do so myself. Which I should have insisted on, so that the nurse (who was also new and didn’t know me) would get a clear message of symptoms and would hear my voice in the process–that’s actually pretty important.

So some of the blame is absolutely mine in yesterday’s mess.

Last night was rough. Today not so much–but.  I sent a note off to my Dr. R in case he or whoever’s on call might be checking his messages, and something about spelling it all out like that… I think I may well let myself be talked into going to Urgent Care later after all.

Meantime, thank you, everybody, for your support. It helps.

Out the door
Friday May 22nd 2009, 2:00 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare

I had a conversation once with my Dr R about another doctor whose nurse wasn’t returning my phone calls over a worrisome subject outside Dr. R’s field. “He doesn’t understand,” I said, “I don’t complain. And if I *do* complain, LISTEN UP!”

Dr R agreed, “You don’t complain,” and I knew what he was thinking: about the time six years ago when I kept thinking I was surely getting better till the morning it all suddenly went south fast and my survival was no sure thing. He made me promise forevermore after that to tell him when I wasn’t doing well.

I’m not doing well. I know, I was, it was nice while it lasted.

He’s on sabbatical. The receptionist said his nurse would ask the other doctors’ nurses if one of them could fit me in today. Five hours later, no phone call–when I called again and said, here, let me add some context to that, I had a total colectomy four months ago, I got a receptionist in what-can-I-do mode telling me she’d told the nurse and the nurse would call me back.

Yeah, I’ve been here before. When that one doctor did not answer me for four days I finally parked myself in his waiting room before he arrived for work that morning and demanded to be seen. It worked.

Abdominal pain as a description may not be a big deal to a gastroenterologist who doesn’t know me, but I know me and random doubling over when I eat or walk is Not A Good Sign. See me. Now.


Follow-up,  3:30: They blew me off. But at least I made them do so to my face rather than by their having me waiting by the phone for twelve hours.  They told me to go to Urgent Care.

It’s a holiday weekend and clearly none of them wanted to put in any extra time.

You go to Urgent Care to get an IV. You do not go there to get a diagnosis. I got sent there once under similar circumstances and got a doctor who denied I had Crohn’s, denied the reality of the Asacol I’d been on for five years for Crohn’s, insisted I must have eaten raspberries with salmonella, insisted he saw that a lot lately (and on how many others of them were you wrong, too, sir?), tested me, and it came back negative as I knew it would.  He insisted on re-testing me and culturing for ten days because by golly it was going to prove him right!

It stayed negative. Fancy that.

I figure today, well, if I’m healthy enough to manage driving myself there and back, then I guess I’ve validated their demand that I not get sick till Tuesday when the holiday weekend is over.

Jay’ll bait
Thursday May 21st 2009, 4:55 pm
Filed under: My Garden,Wildlife

imgp7649First thing I saw this morning from here was a bluejay hopping around on the ground around E.’s hydrangea: planted and a solid part of the landscape now.  You could just see its wheels turning: too light and way too low to perch on. What’s the point of this? Who’s messing with my yard?

And then, after flying past the porch a few times to get its bearings, it divebombed. Richard had put the birdfeeder together and had hung it last night.  (It may have helped that I offered to do it and he visualized me with my balance and his drill in hand while trying to use it on something way above my head.  He could reach the awning easily and without falling over. The deed got done.)imgp7658

Nuts. Missed.  Annnnd… missed again!  The jay thought about it a moment and tried a gentler approach: fly a little slower and try to land on the green perch this time.

The feeder twirled, the jay’s wings flapped wildly, it just couldn’t get its feet where it wanted, and it gave up.

It has not been near it since.

The folks at the Wild Bird Center said the feeder’s for songbirds and is squirrelproof but I didn’t expect it to be jayproof!

Life grows on
Wednesday May 20th 2009, 8:47 pm
Filed under: My Garden

imgp7651Michelle and I went looking today to see if we could find out what this tree is. Like the fig, it’s just something that happened to pop up in the yard courtesy of something that climbed or flew. The natural order of things. I’d always thought of it as a pretty weed.

We narrowed it to an Ailanthus or, to my surprise, a black walnut.  I can guess which ones the squirrels would be more interested in.  She broke off a sprig and brought it in to the computer.  The nut husk is supposed to be green on a walnut; this beginning one among new leaves is a brown wooden bead of a thing with the slightest greenishness at its base. I was surprised; we’d never noticed any degree of nuts growing on it.


Just a random tree in a random place, but I’ve always liked it. I’m an Easterner, I want all the green I can get.  It got me thinking about cultivated trees: how you cut off a twig in the right place from one you want more of, tree-t it right, and it’ll sprout roots and grow upwards and downwards into a whole beautiful new one. When it gets big enough, you can repeat the process again till you eventually create a whole forest or more of trees, all of them part of and connected to that one original specimen.  Which may die of blight or eventual old age, yet still an integral, connected part of itself continues on without end to give to those who partake of the nuts or fruit or whatever good quality that tree has to give.

Plant enough of them and we’ll outnumber the squirrels yet.

A full nest
Tuesday May 19th 2009, 8:58 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Talk about watching things grow… Saturday after I mentioned the falcon cam, I saw a white ball of fluff with just the slightest smudge of gray in its tail watch its mother take off into the air and then flap its wings like crazy to try to copy her, tip right over and go splat on its beak, and then actually achieve liftoff of about two inches’ height, flying forward about a baby bird’s length! It collapsed in a tight huddle on the City Hall ledge as if to exclaim, I can’t believe I just DID that!

I felt so proud. Like my baby had just taken its first steps.

Today they were already about half smooth gray to half fluffy white in a striped effect. They still tend to tip forward but only just a bit when they stretch their wings out and flap; two in succession lifted from the ledge up into their nesting box by wingpower without hesitation, and they are clearly starting to get this balance thing down.  They’re starting to not just accept food from their mother’s beak, but to grab a bit away and hold it down with their talons like she does and pull at it themselves.

Silhouetted against the city lights right now, Clara is keeping watch over her flock by night.

Kids. They’ll grow up and leave you with an empty nest before you know it.

Little things
Monday May 18th 2009, 9:55 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,My Garden

(Hey, wait, I guess I *can* take a picture at 9:35 pm! Flying totally blind, but hey, that’s what flashes are for. Does this count as kinnearing?)

imgp7635Thank you Dr. R. for telling me if I went ahead and had that colectomy that up till then I’d been so afraid of, that after recovery, I would feel wonderful…

When we were at that hardware store Saturday, I also picked up a few chocolate mint plants.  When we got home, I planted them along a narrow strip at the front where they would be hemmed in by concrete: the walkway ahead of them, the foundation of the house behind, in a small bed less than a foot wide set between. Rinsed mint leaves dipped in sugar is a favorite of mine, and who can resist one that has chocolate as part of its very name? We would get along well.

Michelle asked me later, when she got home, “But Mom, don’t you know mint roots can grow through concrete?”  I knew they were invasive, but as in, right there right into the house?

imgp7634Huh. Well, my mom says her Aunt Betty’s old house was held up by the ivy that grew clear into the closets on the second floor (wood is wood, right?), and I know that house has been standing since at least the late 1800’s.  Mint smells better than ivy.  Still.  Um.  I might have to eat a lot? We might replace zucchini in the proverbial scenario where the neighbors close the curtains and refuse to answer the door when they see us coming bringing some to share?

I planted two tomatoes out front: I thought that’s where Richard wanted them. He thought it was where I wanted them and that he was being agreeable. Turns out neither of us really wanted them there.  Again, that was Saturday evening; tonight in the dusk (after somewhat more careful consultation) they and the cages that were around them got slipped into the back yard and disappeared from the front.  You know, just messing with the neighbors’ minds a little. It was amazing to me to see how much growth they’d put out in two days of having extra dirt and sun to kick back in, basking in the warmth.

I was careful to take extra soil with the original rootballs.

Someone, I’m not sure who, topped the fig tree last fall.  Why? …Instead of soaring straight up, now it’s growing thickly in two parts from the cut at the top.  It’s right at the fence line.  I’m sitting here thinking at the folks behind us, half for you, half for me.  We’ll see how it goes. Again with the consultation concept: I’ll ask them if they want it there and if not, out it will go and a new one will be planted elsewhere. Having now owned a fig tree, I want a fig tree.

I watered the apple and plum trees, (the Meyer lemon can fend for itself for the moment) noting that despite the blossoms earlier, there was no sign of growing plumlets on the baby Santa Rosa and a few leaves looked well chewed. Okay, I guess not this year. Next year; all the more to look forward to (while I go read up on the subject to make sure it will happen then).

I tried to plant the hydrangea to top the evening off, but I ran out of daylight, since I can only garden outside when the UV risk is essentially zero–but the late evenings are definitely mine now.  Lift a spade full of rocks?  I can do this. For so very, very long, I could not, not the digging, not the lifting, not the carrying the hose from front to back, not the spading-out where I wanted those tomatoes, but now, I can.  All this energy!

At least today I knew where the spade was; those mint plants and the tomatoes in their first spot got planted with a large serving spoon from the kitchen.  Tells you how long it’s been.