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Monday, December 31, 2012

Transference of Pain

So it’s the day before Thanksgiving. I’m sitting in the dentist’s chair pointing out the tooth that has been causing me pain the last few days. “it’s that one right there, third from the end, the one with the silver fillings.” Add your own sound effects what I sound like with a mouthful of fingers and dental instruments.
Dr. Jerry looks confused. He taps the tooth, taps it again. Nothing. He peers at the x-rays. “It looks fine.”
“Well, it’s not hurting right now but yesterday I couldn’t even eat.”
“I don’t know how to fix this for you because I can’t see anything to fix. Hmm…. What about this tooth back here?” He taps on the wisdom tooth that has been chipped off at a slant since last New Year’s eve.  “This chip could be causing you some trouble. You know some day you probably need to have that tooth pulled.”
Exactly what I don’t want to think about right now. “It couldn’t be that wisdom tooth. It’s been like that for nearly a year. Anyway, it’s this other one that’s hurting. At least it was hurting.  It’s not right now.”
That’s when I got a lesson in a thing called ‘transference of pain.’  Dr. Jerry patiently explained to me, even using illustrations from a book – the sort you would never pick up to read - lots of open mouths, tongues and slobbery teeth.  Apparently there is a nerve that runs from close to the ear down through the cheek and jaw and into our gums. It branches off into two parts, one extending to the upper teeth and one to the lower teeth, then following the gum line all the way around to the middle.
“Because there’s only one main nerve here, sometimes we feel pain in a different area from where it’s really occurring. A problem back in your wisdom tooth could actually cause you to feel pain in a different tooth.” I’m sure I looked a bit skeptical. “In fact, this tooth down here could even cause it to feel like the pain is in the upper teeth, make your ear hurt or even your throat.”
OK. Now he had my attention. Yes. I had felt pain in my upper teeth, ear and throat, not to mention the third tooth from the end with the silver filling. Maybe there was something to this transference of pain thing.
“Tell you what. Since you’re not feeling it now, maybe the issue has resolved itself, something caught in there that washed out. We’re coming up on this long holiday weekend. If the pain comes back you call me and I’ll give you something for it and start some antibiotics. Otherwise let’s think about having that tooth pulled sometime soon to prevent any more trouble.”
Fine. As long as I can go home now. But it wasn’t fine. The tooth started hurting again within an hour after I left the dentist’s office. I took a lot of Tylenol. I made it through Thanksgiving. By Friday the pain had worsened until it was excruciating. At one point it was throbbing so hard I thought I might pass out. Time to call the dentist. Wow. I felt horrible – calling him on a holiday and all.  But he was very nice about it.
My sweet husband went to town, not for Black Friday shopping but to pick up prescriptions for me. I could only hope they would help. They did, eventually. By Sunday I felt quite a bit better but I still didn’t dare get too far away from that bottle of pain meds.
Monday morning I called the dentist. He didn’t need to see me again. The instructions were “Get it out of there.” They made an appointment for me with the dental surgeon on Tuesday for consultation. The surgeon looked at me a total of about 10 seconds and seconded that motion. “We need to get that wisdom tooth out of there.”
They asked me when I wanted to do it. Next week? Two weeks?
 “Are you kidding me?” I scheduled that extraction for 8:00 a.m. the next morning.
I was there early and ready – oh so ready. The tooth was pulled with 4 shots of numbing medicine and very little effort. It came out in 4 pieces. “Yeah, that thing was cracked through the middle. No wonder it was causing you so much pain.”
I spent the day at home feeling sore but happy. That tooth would never provide me with any more wisdom but it was a small price to pay. And yes, all along Dr. Jerry was right. It was not the 3rd tooth from the end with the silver filling. It wasn’t even an upper tooth, my ear or my throat. It was the cracked, chipped, broken wisdom tooth I thought was so innocent.    
And so my lesson in transference of pain. And the moral of this story? I know another great method for transference of pain. It’s called prayer.  1 Peter  5:7

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Flood of Thanksgiving from a Thanksgiving Flood

You know that saying about not appreciating what you have until you don’t have it? I experienced that not long ago. The story begins with a rather distasteful event. It was a Saturday afternoon. I was doing laundry. No surprises there. Then, walking into the downstairs bathroom I noticed water on the floor. “How did that happen?” No one answered the question. “Oh well, this load of laundry is almost done. “ I stuffed it in the dryer then picked up the now soaked floor rugs and several towels I used to sop up the excess water and threw them into the washer.

All is fine for awhile until the washer starts its second spin cycle. This time we see it happen. Water is gushing out of the toilet so fast that the bathroom floor (now minus the rugs) is flooded and water is running into the kitchen. I couldn’t think what to do. I panicked, just stood there staring. Fortunately my husband had the presence of mind to associate our indoor river with the washing machine and ran to turn it off. Yep, the water stopped.

So you can see where I’m going with this. After cleaning up the newest flood I have a whole laundry basket full of soaked towels on top of the towels and rugs already in the washer – and yet I can’t wash anything. And, if the washer causes the toilet to overflow – what else might produce similar results?

Thus began a rather difficult week. I couldn’t wash clothes. I couldn’t wash dishes. I could take a spit bath without too much water and flush the toilet now and then, but mostly we tried to curtail pouring anything down our drains. Need I mention this was rather inconvenient?

The plumber was called Monday morning but said he couldn’t make it until Thursday.  I convinced myself I could live with this minor bit of discomfort for a few more days.

Plumber arrives on Friday. He uses his driller thingy to go clear down through our drainpipes and out to the sewer line in the alley. “This should fix it, right?”

“Well, you can try it, but I don’t know. I couldn’t get it to go through to the main line. Something is blocking it, like maybe part of the line is collapsed.”

But I remained hopeful. I tentatively put a load of underwear and socks in the washer (we were getting rather desperate for thus named articles of clothing that didn’t get washed the prior weekend.)

Result? You guessed it. Another flood in the bathroom. Another load of wet towels I can’t wash. By this time the dishes are piled high, I’m feeling a little frustrated and wondering if I will have to break down and – horror of horrors – go to a Laundromat!

Another weekend of no water. Plumber is called Monday morning. “Okay, I’ll bring my digger out and we’ll dig through your back yard and see what we can do. “

Great. Sounds lovely. Did I mention it’s now Thanksgiving week?

“I’ll be out of town over the holiday but I’ll try to make it by next Monday.”

Another week of no water? Can I do this? Nolan just came home from college with a ton of dirty laundry.  I need to cook a Thanksgiving meal that might require some clean dishes. Yes, I know. I could have done the dishes the old fashioned way, but I wasn’t quite that desperate yet. Nolan insisted he could take his laundry back with him and do it himself. Really? Maybe it would all work out.

By the weekend after Thanksgiving my totally awesome husband figured out a system. If I ran the washing machine through one cycle, stopped it, then waited about an hour before I started the second cycle, the water would have time to drain without making a flood. I could do laundry!  Sort of. What’s more, the same solution worked with the dishwasher – and the bathtub. Yes, I was feeling a little better. At least our clothes were clean now and I had avoided the dreaded Laundromat.

So to spare you all the unpleasant details, the plumber and his digger showed up on Tuesday next, dug up our backyard and made my dog really happy by being in her pen all day and paying lots of attention to her. They fixed the lines (I don’t understand all the details of the actual problem but all I cared about was having it fixed.) By the end of the day, it was.

Thank you, Mr. Plumber. You have my utmost respect and gratitude for the yukky, dirty, smelly job you do. Anybody know the Anne Zimmerman song about “The Plumber is the Man”? It was one of Randon’s favorites. I’m sure he would be singing it at the top of his lungs about now.

And the moral of this story? Let’s all take a moment to be grateful for things we often take for granted – like indoor plumbing. This fiasco showed me how I don’t appreciate so many things that I should – and during Thanksgiving week at that. Ironic? No. I just think God has a wonderful sense of humor.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Spoonful of Sugar....

It all began one day in late October when I woke up feeling as if I couldn’t see right. It was like some kind of haze covered my eyes preventing me from looking into the distance. Objects not right up close looked blurry and foggy. I couldn’t make out things like signs, faces etc. I couldn’t see the projections on the wall in a meeting at work. I couldn’t see the backdrop screen in church. I couldn’t see the football game I tried to watch on TV.

It was somewhat frightening, but I didn’t say anything to anyone right away. I decided it was probably some sort of allergy thing or infection and that it would go away. But it didn’t. I finally told my husband and he insisted I make an appointment at the eye doctor. I didn’t want to. I thought there would be no point because soon everything would clear up and having a new (much stronger) prescription for glasses would be a waste. But I did it anyway. I couldn’t get into the eye doctor for about a week.

During this week, my vision worsened. I experienced headaches from eyestrain. Finally, by the end of the week I was convinced there was more at work here than old eyes so I called the doctor’s office. They could see me Friday afternoon. I drove myself there even though I knew I couldn’t see well enough to be driving. By the time I got there I had a horrendous headache, felt weak and shaky and was running a slight temp.

To my surprise, the attention of the medical staff at the clinic was immediately grabbed by my eye problem. I guess it was the suddenness with which it came on that concerned them. They examined me, drew some blood and scheduled an MRI mentioning things they wanted to rule out such as stroke or tumor. OK. Now they had my attention. MRI scheduled for Tuesday. Monday morning was the eye dr. appointment, and yes, they still wanted me to go.

I spent the weekend sleeping a lot as they insisted I take allergy medicine even though I told them I couldn’t stay awake if I did. My husband had to take off work to drive me to the eye dr. on Monday. I saw a new doctor I had not seen before (because of my need to have the appointment immediately). I dreaded explaining the whole circumstance to her, but she understood and addressed the vision issues like she saw it every day. Dr. Conway told me she suspected a blood sugar issue was causing the problem. After many tests and much discussion she sent me home saying my eyes were healthy. I was to let her know the results of blood tests as soon as the dr. called.

The dr. called that afternoon and yes, sure enough, my blood glucose levels were extremely high. (Nearly 400 with normal being about 120). Blood sugar. I confess I was rather naive about such things but I was intelligent enough to know what “blood sugar problems” probably meant. Still, nobody said the ‘D’ word. They did tell me I needed to be in their office first thing Tuesday morning and that btw, I could skip the MRI.

Long story short, Type 2 Diabetes. I would have to eliminate most carbs from my diet and add more exercise. I could take glucose inhibitor pills instead of insulin for the time being, but I would have to do the ‘poke my finger thing.’ My vision would improve and return to normal as the blood glucose levels went down.

They did. It did. In fact, my distance vision is now better than it was before this happened. I have no need of my old glasses. I have grown used to poking my finger so that I don’t mind it quite so much. My readings have gone down to normal levels. My dog Angel loves the walks I take her on now that I try to exercise more. I feel better all the way around. The one thing I am still trying to come to an understanding with is my relationship with carbohydrates. I don’t need or want sweets and desserts. Recipes that cut the sugar don’t interest me. What I miss desperately is bread and potatoes. Sometimes I am tempted to have a little more carbs than I should, but I always see the results in my next pin prick. Vegetables and I pretty much don’t like each other. Protein is OK but a hamburger just isn’t the same without a bun or fries. I put onions on most everything these days. I at least still have that indulgence. What ‘carb-less’ food is there that can’t be improved upon with a little onion for flavor?

One thing I have noticed that astounds me is the widespread belief that people with diabetes got that way because they ate too much sugar. Entirely untrue! It is not a self-inflicted disease. Please don’t add this insult to the injury one already feels when being faced with a Type 2 diagnosis.  Sugar has never been my weakness. Bread, potatoes, pasta, yes – but not sugar.

And the point? It’s just this. I have learned I don’t need potatoes or even bread to enjoy meals. I live a healthier lifestyle as a diabetic. I am healthier, a few pounds lighter and stronger. It’s all good. Everything – even the bad stuff – works for good. And guess what? As long as my family and friends are there to care about me and pray for me, life is pretty sweet, even without the sugar.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

In Training

During October my co-worker and I spent two weeks away from our regular jobs. A vacation? Hardly the word I would choose. We were in training. Boot camp so to speak. Learning and implementing a new accounting system for our school district. 

I do a lot of accounting work. It’s my job. I even enjoy it most of the time. There’s something about making the numbers balance that gives my heart a tiny thrill  (I know – doesn’t take much). Working on the computer is a nice thing too. I do it every day. Work, home, wherever I am. I can’t imagine being away from my keyboard. But…

This training was NOT fun, nor could it be described as pleasant. While Deana and I sat at the training table for two weeks, we didn’t do our regular work. But then, no one else did it either. It just kept piling up until even glancing toward my desk became painful. I would get there early in the morning, stay late at night and even worked a few evenings just to keep some semblance of order with the stacks of paper. Pretty much unsuccessful. Thank goodness for my friend Tammy who came to sit at my desk those weeks and answer phones. I'm sure anybody walking into the office thought all those piles were hers.

So, not only did the regular work not get accomplished, but we were hit with so much new information, new procedures, new methodology in every one of those days lasting into perpetuity, we were brain-fried by lunchtime. Try to imagine how it felt by 5:00 because I can’t figure out how to describe it.

And there we sat, ten days of torture. Now I need to make one thing VERY clear. Our trainers, Jeanne and Lynette were wonderful. It’s not their fault we had to cram so much into 10 days. And they have my utmost admiration. This is what they do – all the time – not just for two weeks. After training us they were gone to someplace else to train for two weeks. I have no idea what their paychecks say, but it’s not enough.

So we learned our new accounting system (sort of), got most of our data input (right or wrong) and sent out our first payroll under the new system. Worst payroll of my career.  Everybody got paid and mostly the right amounts, but the stress it cost me could not possibly have been worth it. 

But, now it’s over, we’re sailing along with a few hiccups here and there. Ever notice how when you get the hiccups it’s usually one after another after another until your gut aches?  Drink a glass of water or get scared – that’s how to stop them. The water didn’t work as well as the being scared part.

When I finally made it through these ten days of torment, I had a strange thought. I think all of life is a training ground. Whatever circumstance we find ourselves in at the moment is simply preparation for what is to come. All our thoughts, dreams, hopes and experiences are part of the master plan for our lives, always readying us for what is to come. The Master Artist has the blueprints all drawn out. Everything has a reason and a purpose.

So if this is true, let’s all mire ourselves into the training put before us, get all we can grab from it and learn everything we can. Sometimes it’s seems easier to stick my head under the covers and ‘skip this lesson’ but in reality that would only make me farther behind. Remember in high school when the teacher assigned a research paper due in a month or six weeks? How many of us went home that very night and starting working on it? OK – I always was one of the weird ones. But really – think about it- many of our experiences aren’t fun or pleasant. But when you’re through, you’re through. The building blocks stack higher and higher, just like the papers on my desk and soon you’re ready to tackle whatever lies ahead in the strength of what you left behind.  

Go ahead, dive in head first, the deep end in the coldest part. No point in sticking your toe in first. And remember – there’s usually someone around somewhere nearby who’s already been through that training program in some fashion or another. I bet they won’t let you sink. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Grandma's House

Long time – no blog post. I am sorry about that. You know those times when life just kind of throws more at you than you can efficiently manage? Been there this last month.

A while back my cousin Kiley posted a picture on facebook (that’s it to the right) that immediately let loose a flood of memories that just wouldn’t let up. It was a picture of the house where my grandparent’s lived on their farm in the Kansas Flint Hills. No one lives there now and dilapidation has accomplished its evil deed, but that makes no difference to the memories. As a child I knew its every corner, every hiding place, where I could go to be alone and even where I didn’t want to go. Like the dark scary store room that had a garment bag with Halloween costumes in it! When I close my eyes, in my dreams at night, that’s what I see, that old house the way it looked back then.

That house – and the one my other grandparents lived in not far away, made a big impression on me. They were places where so many wonderful memories were made. The memories haven’t faded. It’s only the wood, plaster and mortar that fail. But a home isn’t made with boards and nails. A home is made with love and memories and it stands forever. As does my grandparents’ home.

I chose to set all my books in the Kansas Flint Hills because I have so many experiences of this area always close at hand. It is a little known fact (unless you recognized it) that my book ‘Shades of Summer’ is set in that very house (with a few fictional add-ins.)  Yes, when I read those words it’s like visiting Grandma’s house all over again.  It’s why Annie’s story is my favorite of them all.

One of the comments on Kiley’s facebook post that day was directed to my sister, asking if that’s the house where she grew up. The answer, for me, my siblings and my cousins is an adamant ‘Yes!’ We all did a fair share of our growing up there, in Grandma’s kitchen with a bottle of Pepsi, ice cream from the big chest freezer in the bedroom and the much sought after colorful metal cups. So for Tim, Jill, Brad, Tyler, Kiley, Brenda, Ryan and Erik: we may have done our growing up in different times and in different ways but we all have this in common. We were blessed with the greatest grandparents imaginable, a wonderful place to spur our imaginations, and now we have this in common, a bond for life that will never shatter. Grandma’s house. Enough said. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Unexpected Treasures

     Don’t you think the best moments in life are the ones that come as sweet surprises? You know the ones, those where you’re not expecting what comes your way, those that make the smiles all the more enjoyable.  
     Can I describe one of those moments? It’s part of another story, but I want to share that too. A few weeks ago, Labor Day I think, I decided to tackle the task of bagging up the rest of the movies from Randon’s collection. You’ll recall we gave away nearly 300 movies last spring through the school. They went into classrooms, daycares and homes of children where all could be enjoyed. The amount was staggering but even more so when you considered the ones we still had at home.
This second round,  I bagged nearly 200 movies. If you’re getting a visual of this movie collection let me remind you that the movies I gathered for give-away don’t count the ones I kept either because I like them a lot or for the sentimental value of how important they were to Randon. It doesn’t count the ones I donated to the church library.  It doesn’t count the ones his brothers chose to keep. It doesn’t count the ones that had to be thrown away simply because they had been viewed so many times they no longer worked. I don’t know how many movies Randon had, but my best guess is about 600. No – it wasn’t too many. He loved his movies and we loved indulging him.
     As I bagged movies I also made piles of cassette tapes, audio CDs and computer games. Lots of them. Again, the school was the recipient. Staff gleaned what they wanted for their classrooms or homes then the rest were offered to parents and students at parent teacher conferences. Thanks to all my friends who took movies, etc. You have no idea how important it is to me that people who knew Randon are now enjoying the things he loved so much. It is so much more meaningful to me than having them in the hands of strangers. Special thanks to those who made donations to Randon’s memorial fund for the school library. His legacy will continue to the benefit of Bennington students for many years to come.
     The treasure. OK, I’m getting there.  I have to say that as I’ve gradually tackled this unenviable task of sorting and distributing Randon’s possessions, I’ve found many treasures. Most of them wouldn’t mean a thing to anyone else but they mean everything to me. I’ll cherish them and the memories they bring. But the treasure I found this day did not belong to Randon.
     One of the stacks I made was blank cassette tapes. My kids all played with cassette recorders when they were young so there were several of these tapes lying around.   I thought to throw them away but decided at the last minute I should listen to them to see if anything was still recorded on them.  I waded through preschool songs, unintelligible gibberish and long minutes of nothingness. Yeah, we don’t need these things.
     Then I found it. I didn’t recognize what it was at first but finally figured out I was listening to Nolan making an audio recording of the Inspector Gadget movie. I‘m estimating he was about seven at the time. Why he wanted to record Inspector Gadget, I’m not sure, but it doesn’t matter. What was special about it was the voices in the background. I can hear all three of them, Ty, Randon and Nolan talking to each other, enjoying the movie, laughing about it and having a good time. Every now and then Nolan seems to pick up the microphone and sing a little song about Inspector Gadget or super heroes or Wonder Woman, all very cute and obviously off the cuff.  I was enchanted by this recording.  For a short while it was like having my boys be little again. I enjoyed their young voices, the interaction between them and the memories that came flooding into my thoughts. I knew I would save this tape.
     Then Inspector Gadget ended and the tape went silent. Just as I was about to turn it off, I hear Nolan’s voice again. He announced himself as singing “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” Well, of course I had to hear that. The only problem  was he didn’t know most of the words. But that didn’t stop him. He bravely pushed forward making up the words as he went along.
Using the tune of “The Bear Went Over the Mountain,” his song began like this:
"The devil went down to Georgia
The devil went down to Georgia
The devil went down to Georgia
And this is what he did"
     I was then regaled with a description of a fiddle tournament between a devil with a golden fiddle and a boy who seemed suspiciously like my son.  The rendition came complete with sound effects of the fiddle “music .”
     By this time I was laughing so hard I had tears coming from my eyes.  Nolan’s little song was SOOOO much more entertaining than the version by Charlie Daniels. I could have listened to it forever. Then the ending. It caught and held my heart in a way I haven’t experienced for a long time.   It went like this:
"So I won that devil’s soul and I put it in a bag.
I took it home to my Mom and dad
I told them I won it in a fiddle tournament.
They didn’t say any words to me but they gave me 400 hugs and 400 kisses . 400 love hugs."
     I wish you could hear the pride in his voice as he sings his little song. I wish I could go back to that day so many years ago and give my little boy 400 love hugs and 400 kisses. I want him to know I love him 400 hugs and kisses worth even if he doesn’t win a fiddle tournament. Even if his singing voice came from the Luginsland family. Even if he’s all grown up now.  The song I would sing back to him? “I don’t care if you’re eighty, you’ll always be my baby.”
    And now, I have this treasure on an obscure cassette tape I almost threw away.  Who knows what other treasures await me as I continue to sort through Randon’s possessions.  I’m looking forward to Christmas. Guess what? There is a whole box (big box) of Randon’s Christmas books and movies in the basement. Lots of Christmas movies. And you all thought I was out of movies by now….