Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Paean of Praise to Starbucks

For those of you who are not on my Facebook friend queue, I'd like to share the following dream I posted about this AM:

Just woke up (OVERSLEPT) from a TERRIBLE dream! I had at least 50-60 people over for Thanksgiving (never have had more than 8-10 at most), kept running back and forth from one turkey in the indoor kitchen to another bird in an outdoor/detached structure kitchen, struggling with heavy pots of potatoes, vegetables, etc., everyone grumbling about "when's dinner?" and NO ONE HELPING ME. So glad to be awake! I ordinarily don't analyze dreams, but I'm going to be thinking about this one for a while!

As we age, I've noticed more and more of us are commiserating about our insomnia -- posting late night/very early morning reports of playing Solitaire or watching those dreadful "As Seen on TV" promos. I wonder -- has there been any marketing research done as to how many sales of silly gadgets get made on the phone or internet between the hours of midnight and 5 AM? A frightening number, I'm willing to wager.

Even though my posts and blogs have been usually very candid, I'd rather not ever disclose what I know about my insomnia's origin (except what I've said in a professional setting). Just know that my nocturnal watchfulness began in my teens, with trauma. That's all I'll say.

My concern is that many depend upon my getting good sleep. There are my clients, my colleagues, my family, my friends, and anyone whose existence intersects with mine, however briefly. Naps are a band-aid solution, a welcome respite when I can grab some time.

Maybe this is the time to confess that I've fallen off the wagon -- regarding coffee, that is. The fact that my mother still has some in the morning, and her caregiver does also, is one reason my recent "tea-only" resolve got chipped away. Then, there's that lovely Starbucks that opened up about three months ago within smelling-distance of my office.

Yes, folks, I'm back to my old vice: a Venti White Chocolate Mocha expresso (2 shots), plus an extra shot. Do the math. I'm loving my coffee-plus-three-shots-of-expresso. Oh, yes, and don't forget the top layer of whipped cream. Maybe I should ask one of my medical professional friends to just hook me up to a wheeled IV, with a slow, steadily-measured drip of caffeine to get me through the day.

Creative soul that I am, I even made my own version of this drink this morning. The result wasn't bad. Yesterday, I got a mailer from Bed, Bath & Beyond, and am eying affordable expresso machines.

Yesterday, at this local "watering hole," I was looking for holiday gift ideas for fellow coffee-philes. You know that screeching sound effect you hear on a TV show when people experience a "WTF?" moment? I had something similar when I saw packages of decaf expresso. Decaf?? Expresso?? Sorry, but the combination of these two words seems like more than an oxymoron; it seems positively heretical. I mean, if you're going to indulge in something, do it with the original ingredients, like you mean it.

Okay, as I follow up with the last of my morning joe (raising a toast to Starbucks), I just wonder where this latest development will go.

As far as my vivid, action-movie dreams, I think I'll resume entries in the dream journal I started when I was in grad school. My Freudian-oriented gentleman friend took enormous pleasure in giving his interpretation.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Fill 'er up!

I've been studiously avoiding recent mention of my RA. From the time of the diagnosis in late June, the subject has consumed me on so many levels. I wanted to cut my readers/friends--and myself--a break.

A sudden setback changed my mind. Besides just being a way to vent any fears or frustration, I would hope that my adding my words to those of others might add to an atmosphere of encouragement, and promotion of research for eventual cures.

After a brief symptom reprieve, my initial medication regimen ceased to be effective. So, after consultation, meticulous documentation, and submission to the insurance company, my angel-in-the-white-lab-coat, Dr. La, has now got me on Remicade. He began by giving me the educational pamphlets on this and Humira. One option was to go with a biologic with which I would inject at home, a choice I quickly rejected. My hatred of sticking any needles into myself goes back to my days in a high school summer science class, when we were asked to poke our fingers for a lesson in blood typing. My lab partner had to do the deed for both of us. When I went home and told my mother, a nurse, about what happened in school, she scoffed, and called me "a baby." Yup, Mom, and that's why you became the nurse in our family, and I pursued another path. To this day, I cannot look when I get a vaccination or any thing similar. In fact, I couldn't even do this when I took my son for any of his many pediatric appointments.

Yesterday, after my last client, I went for my first infusion. Ushered into my now-familiar rheumatologist's office, I was shown to a quiet nook away from the main corridor of exam rooms. I had my choice of either of the two cushy leather recliners behind the privacy curtain. Since this was a two-hour procedure, I had brought a book, and was relieved of my handbag. After a check of my temperature and blood pressure, I was given a Benedryl and a Tylenol, to prevent any negative effects. The doctor himself came out, asked if I had any unanswered questions, and encouraged me to signal at any time if I felt any discomfort of any kind. Then the doctor inserted the IV himself, which was the first time I had ever had an MD doing this, rather than one of the nursing staff. Then the foot rest was put up for my comfort, and I was even tucked in with a light blanket...so reassuring was my care.

To pass the time, I chose to bring my latest leisure read, Haldol and Hyacinths: A Bipolar Life, by Melody Moezzi. This feisty new memoir is something I highly recommend to anyone who is familiar--personally or professionally--with this disorder. Even with the Benedryl buzz, I was able to read at a respectable pace. At one point, however, my head snapped up, and I began coughing. I'd probably dozed off, and "swallowed wrong." A nurse was there in a flash, asking if I needed anything, like water. No, I was okay... And so, before I was even eighty pages into the book, the IV was spent, my final BP reading was taken, and I was given an order for a lab test before my next "refill" in a couple of weeks. Mission accomplished. All A-OK.

Once I was home, I called it a night early. This morning, I immediately checked out my hands and wrists, and have done so throughout the day. Just as I shared with you a few months ago after my first round of dosing, I have noticed a dramatic difference in the way I feel, and yet, also recognize the possible role of hope that a treatment will be effective. One thing I've learned is that I have to keep an eye on my response to emotional stress; any negative mental energy ripples through my bones like a tuning fork.

Coincidentally, my latest issue of Arthritis Self-Management was in my mailbox when I arrived home. Of particular interest in this very practical magazine is an article, "Choosing Home Exercise Equipment." I've been wondering just what I will do with those eight-pound hand weights I used to so easily heft over my shoulders in the quest for toned upper arms. Swap 'em out on Craigslist or Freecycle for some less heavy, I guess. The stationary bike is again my friend; recently, I've been able to dial the pedal resistance back up as I watch my recorded TV shows.

Another must-read article is "Getting the Support You Need." At the top of one page, one can see this highlighted passage, "BenefitsCheckUp, a free service from the National Council on Aging, can help you find government programs for which you may be eligible." This, and the cover feature, "RA in Young Adults: Social Relationships," reminds us that this disease cuts across demographic lines and calls for more aggressive funding for research.

As we head into a weekend, I wish everyone well.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

I hit my reset button

Yesterday's ups and downs were what I needed to get myself out of the rut I was in.

I've never been one for memorial services (sometime I'll tell you just what I want to happen to my old bones), but yesterday's tribute to Sharon was beautiful. She lived a busy life of sharing with others, and a massive display in the church social hall was evidence of this. Memorabilia from her SWE (Society of Women Engineers), photos from travels with her kids to experience archeological digs or solar eclipses, articles expressing appreciation for the MANY causes for which she tirelessly volunteered before and after her retirement...it was beyond impressive.

I knew Sharon for so many years, but to hear her story retold through the eyes of those whose lives she touched more than enhanced my appreciation. It gave me pause to consider what kind of life I'm living, and just how others will remember me. It's often the case that we do New Year's resolutions, or mark other days with some self-reflection, but now I'm considering the benefits of ongoing checks, kind of like the auto-spell check on my computer. I want to hold myself to a higher level of accountability.


The flip side of taking myself very seriously is the wonderful gift of laughing at myself with old friends. It was such a gift to see a small group of the BHS class of 1972 last night, and see again just how our lives have unfolded. The photo above was a joke posted to FB for the benefit of one of our own. That's me peeking around the door in the green shirt. Ah, I love these people!

So, on with my life, hopefully in a more thoughtful and joyous frame of mind.








Saturday, October 12, 2013

A Bittersweet Juxtaposition

Today, for the first time since the holidays, I'm taking a planned personal day off from my clients and paperwork.

The first order of business is the memorial service for my sister-in-law on my late husband's side of the family. Sharon Cascadden lost her valiant fight with ovarian cancer recently. Rest in peace, my dear lady.

My own kin, the Cooks, and my family by marriage, the Cascaddens, have always been so far-flung, it's been too easy to lose touch. In the past few decades, it seems the only connection we have experienced has been when someone passes away. This further emphasizes the personal urgency I wrote of following the Burbank High School reunion for the class of 1972. For me, with everyday life going on as usual, it has been often all too easy to say, "Oh, yeah, I need to call (fill in the name(s)), and then have that intention forgotten amid mundane household and career tasks.

Sharon, I so humbly apologize for my taking you for granted lately. Your life was an inspiration to your family, and everyone else you touched. You seemed so upbeat and hopeful when we spoke on the phone just a month or two ago. It was always on my mind to call back again whenever I got home after work...and then, to see news of your passing during a chance survey of Facebook.

I'm so ashamed of myself for all the times I've gotten "too busy" to maintain connections with those who should be vitally important to my existence and my identity.

I must come today to pay my respects and reconnect with your family, no matter what distractions exist in my life. Stopping the momentum of everyday distractions and demands runs counter to my usual mindset, but it's vital I do this. It's a matter of making amends as well as paying respects.

Then, in the late afternoon, it'll be time for a stop back home to change clothes--and mood, the best I can. Tonight, I'll be seeing old high school friends I've only kept up via Facebook pictures and posts since our magical reunion night on August 18, 2012. Now, joy at socializing and festivities will be taking on another meaning for me.

Oh, to embrace anyone I can, and not lose touch! Everyone is a piece of me, keeping me alive and existent. I'm reminded of a quote I learned in Mrs. Conery's English class in my sophomore year at BHS:


"No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee."
John Donne (1572 - 1631), Meditation XVII