Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The nearest EDA group...

Pickles keep getting recommended as a good source of salt. Back in the dark ages, when I was less of a hermit and more of a mere wallflower, back in Texas, where Bible Belt folk had parties that were more talking and hors d'oeuvres than drinking and carousing, I would spending my time being social by chowing down on two particular tidbits: 1) the Bisquick sausage and cheese balls (whenever a tray came out of the oven I was right there hovering over the host's shoulder) and 2) luncheon meat-cream cheese-dill pickle pinwheel slices.  In fact, I would sometimes make the later for myself as lunch.

These days, it is often hard to figure out why I am feeling a quart low (sodium, sugar, headache, etc.), but with the wild ride my heart was taking, I eschewed the high sodium diet I am on for the dysautonomia.  Given that I have been near-fainting quite often the past few days, last night when my blood sugar crashed and I needed to eat, I thought I would break out the jar of dill pickles that has been sitting in the cabinet and make some of those pinwheels.

I fetched the jar, meat, and cream cheese. I picked up the jar. I opened it. I sniffed. All seemed well. I decided to check the expiration date, even though I was certain I got them just before moving here. 2007.

Seriously, I need to find the nearest Expiration Date Anonymous Group.

I suppose getting those pickles just before I moved here really meant purchasing them in 2005 or 2006, thinking at the time I might make some of those party pinwheels.  I really was surprised to find them that out of date.  After all, I did a kitchen cabinet cleansing just last month, one that was preceded by a refrigerator cleansing the week before, and a similar effort was also done both before I even packed the contents of my kitchen to move here and again when I was packing up all the kitchen items (non-food) for donating.  Yes, I did have items from the 1980s still with me in late January, but being shocked to find those, I--ruthless in my assessment of what might be edible in times of nuclear war or something--was certain nothing really old remained.  I was wrong.

Discouraged by pickle jar still sitting on the counter awaiting emptying and recycling, I consoled myself with sauteing asparagus in olive oil and Kulp's homemade organic garlic seasoning salt and then warming up the luncheon meat in the pan to soak up the leftover seasoned oil for my lunch.  And I downed a Dr Pepper.

At the hospital, I met this nurse who is battling migraines, seizure migraines.  [At least I do not have those.]  Anyway, I told her that I had dutifully weaned myself down from two Dr Peppers a day to one.  She told me that very well could be a mistake.  People who are used to higher amounts of caffeine and then reduce that because of migraines can actually make them worse.  Given that caffeine does not bother me in the least unless I stop drinking it--by that I mean I can drink a Dr Pepper at midnight and go right to sleep afterwards--I decided that I would go back to my two-a-day habit without guilt.

With Monday's abject failure in trying to accomplish something positive still weighing heavily upon me, since then I have now paid all my outstanding medical bills, entered them into my medical expense spreadsheet, created a spreadsheet of my blood pressure readings, sent the latter off to my doctor, written two business letters I had been avoiding, and written, addressed, stamped, and mailed eight small notecards, five of which were long overdue.

Also, I created a bag for any future emergency hospital trips (NOT that I am eager to return).  Bettina sewed a small bag for me for Christmas (a GREEN pattern, of course).  Since the sight of it would most certainly cheer me in a similarly frightening and stressful situation as last week's unexpected outing, I chose it to fill with some key items:  a change of clothing, a toothbrush, a book, a spare charger for my phone (external brain) and one day's supply of my medications.  I will need to remember to set up an alarm  (I want to do it on Fridays) to switch out the pills each week so that they are never old.  The bag is hanging on the back of the door to the kitchen, which someone years ago thoughtfully covered with hooks.  The door is always open, so no one sees the things hanging there, but the hooks provide a bit of a closet space for the first floor.

What I need to do next is create a Caring for Amos binder.  It is not like I can pack up any of his babies or anything in advance.  But I can make a packing list for him, detail his routine, provide feeding instructions, give a few of helpful hints on managing the beast, and list his vet, license, and microchip information.

Right now, though, I am still resting from polishing the small table next to the couch just before lunch.  While my heart rate is blessedly back to normal, for me, if I am sitting or lying down, the smallest bit of activity still leaves me short of breath and with a pounding heart.  The poor antique wooden inlaid table was rather dirty and dry though.  It very much needed the attention.

Surely, the pickles were the last expiration date embarrassment, right?  Surely, there is...there will end to ridding myself of the unhealthy things from the past, right?

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Hollywood fight...

I have never been to a fight, nor have I seen a real one televised. So, I have no true understanding of how fighters really move or what experiences they might have. All I have to go by are the few fight scenes that have invaded the kinds of movies and television shows I prefer to watch.

But...picture the guy about to go down.  You know, the bloody one.  The one beaten, though he refuses to acknowledge it.  The one stumbling about as he struggles to stay on his feet.  When showing the audience his perspective, the sound is usually muted, vision blurred.

That is how it was for me the night of the pit bull attack.  Each time I stumbled back to my feet after the pit bull pulled me down, the effort was harder, the direction I was to go less clear.  The last time, as I have written before, I knew that I would not be getting up again.  Three, maybe four times, I had lurched sideways as much as I lurched vertical.  That final effort to rise surprised even me.  I knew it was my last.  Confusion dominated every thought, every sense.  Confusion and pain.  Confusion and pain and abject terror.

Again, as I have written, I do not remember anything past that final lurch to my feet, that final thought I was going to fail Amos, that once on the ground his end would surely come if it had not already. And, if not mine, more pain than I could bear as the pit bull turned his feast to me.  I no longer heard Amos' cries or my own screams.  I knew nothing.  I fled some place in my mind that I have yet to find again.  I did not plan to do so.  I did not want to do so.  I just fled.  I was wounded, terrified, overwhelmed, could not face what was coming next...not alone...and so I disappeared.

I want to remember what came next. I want to remember how the pit bull was stopped. I want to remember how Amos and I ended up on the grass in a yard next to where we were in the middle of the intersection. And I want to know where my mind went.

Where can I go from Thy Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Thy presence?
If I ascend to heaven, Though are there.
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, Thou art there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Thy hand will lead me,
And Thy right hand will lay hold of me.
~Psalm 139:7-10

What if the fleeing is involuntary?  Or rather, what if the fleeing is a choice you are not aware you are making?  Do you think the places the psalmist penned, the places Christ prayed, include the places of our mind of which we know not?  Even there could His Spirit be?

If I say, "Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,"
Even the darkness is not dark to Thee,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to Thee.
~Psalm 139:11-12

Could the darkness include the darkness of the mind, of the heart, of the soul?

I want to remember what came next. I want to remember how the pit bull was stopped. I want to remember how Amos and I ended up on the grass in a yard next to where we were in the middle of the intersection. And I want to know where my mind went...where I went when I fled.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Still standing on the corner...

The truth of me is that I am still standing on the corner, stuck in the moment when the pit bull spotted Amos and I.  I knew what was going to happen.  I knew there was no escaping what was to come.

I have not walked Amos since July 12th.  I try looking at the sidewalk heading off in the opposite direction and picture us walking along the block.  I tremble.  I think about snapping on his leash and heading outside.  My stomach churns.  I have tried and tried, once my foot was well enough to venture out in the second walking cast, to walk my beloved puppy dog, but I could not.

Sandra had a good idea: go to Foster Park.  I could drive over, walk just a bit, and scurry back home. She was thinking that people would be much less likely to flaunt leash laws since it is attached to a golf course.  Sandra really does have a good mind.

I, however, do not.

The whole outing was a disaster, one made worse by the knowledge I must try again.  My head was blessedly pain free, so I thought I could try walking just a bit.  I wanted something, anything positive after the past few weeks.  I wanted to accomplish something.  I wanted to move forward in the smallest of ways whilst mired in facing the past. Little did I know the actual walking would be the absolute least of my worries.

While Amos is still no fan of the leash, he did allow me to put it on.  I parked close to a path and then had pick up Amos to force him to leave the car when dragging did not work.  I suppose I did not realize he had already spotted the other dogs in the park.  My poor puppy dog is still very much afraid of other dogs, save for Neighbor Dog.  [I am not all that certain Amos ever realized that the 1.4 lb Chihuahua puppy actually was a dog, rather than some new type of Baby with which he could play.]

As we walked across an expanse of grass toward the path, a group of excited young adults came up behind us, racing each other toward some swings.  Before I knew it, Amos was in my arms, shaking like an aspen leaf in the wind.  I calmed him down, set him back on his own four feet, and we tried this taking a walk again.

Not long on the path, a jogger came up behind me, surprising me, and I screamed in terror.  Amos leapt up again and this time, I had to really struggle to put him down.  I very much wanted to hold him.  When we started walking again, Amos spent more time putting his paws up on my legs trying to get me to pick him up than actually walking.  I was so intent on trying to get him to walk that I failed to notice another jogger, who brushed my body slightly.

I screamed again and fell to the ground shaking and sobbing. Amos crawled in my lap and started licking the tears falling down my face.  Determined to try once more, I reluctantly rose and forced my feet to start moving, fervently hoping the third time would be the charm.  It was not.

A couple being dragged each by a large dog topped the rise and were headed our way before I could think where to flee.  Once again, Amos was in my arms before I knew it, but he didn't stop climbing until he was atop my shoulders, shaking as violently as was I a few moments before.  I stumbled off the path into the woods by the water and waited for the couple to pass.  One of them let go of a dog, which came running toward us, but was caught before it reached us.  My back turned, I had no idea how close we came to a friendly canine encounter.  All I could do was listen to both of them holler at Buster to come back.  For surely I must believe it would have been friendly.  After they had finally passed us, my trembling legs gave way and we both fell to the mud at our feet.  At least I managed to keep Amos atop my body so that he was not covered in mud.

All I wanted to do was have someone rescue us, someone come lead us to the safety of the car and take us back to the haven of our home.  There was no rescue.  I had to reach deep within my Texan roots and pull myself up by my own boot straps.

On the way back, I was openly crying the entire time.  Once he realized we had reversed direction, Amos dragged me back toward the car with every fiber of his being.  I didn't run because I could not.  And even if I could I should not.  At least we had not gone very far at all.  My heart is still far, far too jumpy. Trying to push the unlock button, I dropped my keys six times because my shaking had morphed into violent tremors.  Before I could even finish opening the door, Amos was shimmying his body beneath the door and into the sliver of space so he could crawl into the car.

Back home, Amos jumped up in the GREEN chair and buried himself beneath the three blankets I have been using.  This is the first time I have seen him hide like that.  I joined him.  Ashamed.

Ashamed of my blood curdling screams.
Ashamed of my violent tremors.
Ashamed of my abject terror that lingers still though we are safe back inside.

I tried.  I truly did.  I held out hope over Sandra's idea.  I started with a positive attitude.  I poured on the encouragement after his first set-back.  But I failed.  Utterly.

Whilst still terrified, trembling, and weeping in the GREEN chair, I took Fred's call to read me the first chapter of John.  To me, it seems as if I heard not a single Word, but I know that the Holy Spirit is greater than my PTSD and the Living Word was received.

Hours later, I am struggling to calm down, to step away from the corner.  We are home.  We are safe.  Nothing happened.  Yet my body doesn't seem to know that.  The tears spill forth.  The tremors renew.  The fear washes over me in relentless waves.

And yet I need to do this again.  Amos is a puppy dog.  He needs to be walked, to get exercise.  He also needs to learn that people and dogs are not his enemy.  I suppose I need to learn the same.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. ~John 1:1-5

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Would that I were...

More positive. More faithful.  More patient.
Alas, I am none of these things.

I had hoped that because I felt better late yesterday, that I was on a better track.
Alas, I am not.

This day.  Oh, this day has been so utterly awful.  At one point, curled in a ball, all I wanted was for someone to read John to me.  I don't know why.  I am not even sure I could have born the sound.  Right now, typing is excruciating.  But I don't want to lose this day, too.

Thinking I was better, I took a shower last night.  After just five minutes, I was gasping for breath and  was so very scared of my racing heart.  I felt like I had run a marathon or something.  Laying on the floor, trying to recover, I called myself all kinds of stupid.  But I just wanted to be clean.

Amos, bless his puppy heart, let me sleep longer and has not had to go outside hardly at all today.  I fear that means should I stumble about the house to look, I will find spots of outside inside.

Tuesday's worse migraine ever does not even touch today's.  The altered dosage of Imitrex helped for a while, but it is gone and I cannot take any more until tomorrow.  I have swallowed everything possible and spent the day in the dark, constantly switching out ice packs and clutching my puppy dog, as I whimper like a baby. At least my heart rate is now normal for long as I don't try to do anything. Never did the number 55 look so good to me.  And I can feel my lips again.  I just really and truly want someone, anyone, to literally cut off my head.  The throbbing, stabbing, imploding, exploding agony made worse by light and sound and movement is unbearable.  Really, I am not strong enough to endure this.  Nor, apparently, does my body care for any sorts of migraine medications.

I keep saying that I didn't know it was possible to be this miserable, and then I learn that actually I had not yet discovered the true depths of miserable. It is as if misery is an onion and I am but a few layers in.

I don't know why I want to hear it, but I do.  In the beginning was the Word...

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Is it live or is it memorex?

If you read about Topamax side effects, you might think that I was bonkers for ever swallowing a single pill.  The more I do, the more I am very, very much hoping that the miracle migraine pill is the source of all recent ills in my body.

Just a couple of hours after falling asleep Tuesday night, I awoke suddenly.  I thought it was early Wednesday morning and time for my thyroid medication, so I got up and took it.  But once back in bed, I realized I was feeling...odd.  First my jaw started hurting.  Then my left arm.  My lower back.  Then, I watched my heart rate climb and climb and climb and climb. By 188, I was swallowing baby aspirin and calling for help, both 911 and Sandra...for Amos at least. Another episode in the ER led to being admitted to the only opening on the cardiac floor: the heart failure unit. With negative tests and a heart rate down to the 100s, I was finally discharged late Wednesday night.

I kept getting...well..strongly chastised for taking four Imitrex; the doctors kept telling me my heart problems were from an overdose of Imitrex.  One cardiologist said that my theophylline levels were too high and that I should not be taking it at all, but then she didn't know anything about dysautonomia (mispronouncing it) and so I should ignore her advice anyway.  Seriously, what does one do with such care as that?  Once home, I confirmed that I had, indeed, followed the directions.

The next day, I collapsed at Target whilst asking the pharmacist to check my medications as she was filling two more prescriptions.  Fred had been hanging out on the phone with me for a while. I am sure if he had known how long I was standing trying to go through the papers on the different drugs the pharmacist had gathered for me, he would have hit me upside the head.  Pretty much anyone would have.  Bettina surely would have been forbidding all over the place.  The assistant turned out to be a nurse on the unit where I was, so she saw me going downhill even as she was asking me lots of questions (chief among them was why in the world I was discharged).  The assistant/nurse wanted to call an ambulance, but I just wanted to go home.  By then I knew my heart rate would eventually go down and I just wanted to be home.  The pharmacist did have a very good thought about why it might be the Topamax: how I was absorbing it, since I do not absorb Theophylline easily (hence my large dose to achieve a therapeutic level).  The assistant helped me to my car and Bettina stayed on the phone with me as I struggled to stifle my panic as my heart rate rose and rose and rose again.

Yesterday, I dragged myself to the doctor's office, earning three offers to help me on over to the hospital between car and waiting room.  I guess I looked pretty bad.  Considering that I couldn't take but a few steps without huffing and puffing, I didn't care.  The nurse wanted to admit me, but I was much better by the time the doctor saw me in the room since I napped for a while.  She told me that she had looked up my prescription and had seen that I had followed the directions given to me, had not mistakenly overdosed, and was actually not getting enough medication.  However, my prescription was written for 50mg every two hours up to 4 doses.  I should have had 100 mg up to 2 doses.  So, I was trying to stop my migraines with half doses. Perhaps...perhaps...this means I might be able to conquer the next one instead of having it linger as they all do.

That is the rub.  Most of the time, I cannot tell.  Is it live or is it memorex?

That is also the rub about Tuesday night.  I stopped the migraine!  I stopped the blasted, bloody migraine.  I stopped it.  Afterward, I put myself to bed with a bit of Xanax to be sure to get some good sleep before my appointment with the surgeon.  I was going to go the surgeon and have a hard conversation about hormones and migraines and next steps.  I was going to go to church for the first time in forever.  I had told Mary, Sandra, and Fred & Ethel about my church plan.  Wednesday was the day!

Wednesday was not the day.

My doctor agreed that Topamax seemed to be the culprit, given the timing of the onset of symptoms and pharmacist's confirmation that Topamax and Loestrin do not like each other and we already knew that Loestrin and Theophylline are not the best of friends, leading her to re-order all my medication. Being re-admitted, I would have been under observation as the Topamax leaves my system, but I wanted to be home.  No matter how wretched I feel and how scared I am.  I talked my way into being wheeled back to my car and allowed to go home.  I suppose money shouldn't dictate medical care, but I missed Amos ever so much while I was in the hospital, the hospital did not get my medications to me until nearly 5:00 PM (which meant no food since I had no Acarbose), and hospitals are very, very, very lonely places.

Basically, other than my ventures out to Target and the doctor, I have been languishing on the GREEN chair.  I miss my bed.  I am still huffing and puffing.  My face is still numb.  I am still having intermittent chest pains.  My heart rate still jumps with the slightest bit of movement, but it did not spike last night.  [Thus far, the highest I have seen my heart climb is 221.  Egads!] Christ be praised the unbelievably intense nausea has eased and I am no longer taking the most AWESOME medicine called Zofran, a MIRACLE drug that takes away nausea without knocking you out!  It does not last long with my body, so the nausea would return, building and building until I could take the next pill, but Zofran meant that for the first time since taking Topamax, I did not have that 16 or 18 hours of straight, horrid nausea.  [Seriously, when Myrtle cannot even look at a Dr Pepper, you know the nausea is pretty bad.]

We also opted to forgo Theophylline last night as well, since my heart is basically the Energizer bunny on Red Bull.  Tonight, I will resume that medication.  By Monday, the Topamax should all be gone.  And by the end of this next week, I should know if all is going to be quiet on the western front.  However, that means I am back to square one regarding the migraines.

The neurologist spent approximately 10 minutes with me, as a new patient.  I was appalled and felt a bit like dirt, sitting in the parking lot.  I certainly didn't matter much as a suffering human being in need of medical care.  But I filled the prescription and wrote down my appointment for a 3-month follow-up.

However, I have a very complex history and have these wretched, new intense migraines that are unresponsive to medication.  In between them, the memorex part, I have constant shadow migraines. I am on a medication that raises my heart rate because of dysautonomia's impact on my autonomic cardiac functions and this doctor prescribed a medication that has a primary side effect of a rapid heart rate.

The reason I was at her office was because the medication I was taking for a severe hormonal imbalance causing emotional and mental problems means adding hormones to a body with a neurological disease that twists hormones into migraines.  And yet this doctor prescribed a medication that has a primary side effects of depression and suicidal thoughts.  Thirteen percent of patients experience those side effects!

Dysautonomia also causes anxiety and cognitive dysfunction and confusion.  More of Topamax's side effects are anxiety, memory problems, and difficulty concentrating.

Forget the fact that the numbness is also a side effect of Topamax, surely the reason why I could no longer feel first my lips and then my face.  Simply add up the rapid heart rate, depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, memory problems, and difficulty concentrating.  Why in the world would you choose a medication with such serious side effects that mirror the problems your patient already has due to a neurological disease that is incurable and essentially untreatable?  Life with dysautonomia is all about trying to manage symptoms and find medications with side effects that might help you, not make your life worse.

Did I err because I did not insist that she look up the medication and review all the side effects with me right then and there?  Or perhaps I needed to ask her to tell me how each of my current medications interact as is and how adding Topamax might affect one or all of them?  Only...which one of is is the doctor?

The good news is that I am not in heart failure (really good news since all four grandparents had heart disease and both of my grandfathers died relatively young from it). The bad news is that I have been quite ill, I am still ill, and I am not sure when I will be better.  Plus, I do not know how the migraines can be treated.

The other medication the neurologist offered was Nortriptyline.  I had already read a bit about that one, so I chose the unknown, I chose the Topamax when told the decision was six-in-one-half-a-dozen-in-another.  I am not a doctor.  I am not a medical professional in any way, shape, or form.  But from the ER to the cardiac failure unit, not a single nurse or doctor knew what dysautonomia was beyond a disease once mentioned in a class.  From this experience and some other past distress, I want to draw a line in the sand and say that unless my life is at stake, I am not taking any more medication that has side effects that are neurological in nature, for lack of a better term, such as dizziness, anxiety, cognitive, etc. Nor am I willing to take any medication that has a side effect that includes rapid heart rate!

I suppose the bottom line is that all the migraine treatments seem to be about systemic approaches that muck about with things better left untouched in my body.  Straight pain relief is not really an option either, because hard core narcotics need to be an option of last resort with me due to the fact that they completely stop my innards for days on end now.  And I really, really, really need to find a neurologist who will savor the challenge of an unfamiliar disease.

Since I am still rather frightened, ill, and filled with gloom, I should note some positives about this episode: 1) I learned about Zofran, help with nausea that will not leave me incapacitated from drowsiness; 2) I learned that I was not prescribed Imitrex correctly, hope that I might be able to finally stop migraines even if I cannot prevent them; and 3) I was proscribed Toradol, another NSAID, help with the headaches between migraines--which helped somewhat and completely erased the tendinitis pain even though it wore off and I cannot take it full time.

And...since I know you have been grieving with me over the loss of cable, which also means the loss of all the NASCAR races that are only shown on ESPN, I thought I would note that I found a $0.99 app that has the radio broadcasts of the races.  I am listening to the Nationwide Daytona race at the moment.  Truly, concentrating on a spoken auto race is near impossible, but those announcers get so very excited.  One cannot help but join in with their enthusiasm.  Tomorrow, the race is on a main station.  Tomorrow, my heart should be slower so the excitement of all those awesome crashes won't send me back to the hospital. And, tomorrow, I might even be able to leap out of the GREEN chair and jump up and down cheering for Junior without huffing and puffing too much!

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Not quite bald...

I went to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription for the fifth time in the past seven days.  On the way back to my car, I spotted a banner hanging over the place where I got my hair cut four weeks ago announcing a $5.99 sale.  Since my bangs are hanging in my eyes, I decided to go see my new good buddy Amber before heading back home to curl up in the GREEN chair with Amos. Even wearing clips in my hair to pull it back from my eyes hurts my head.

Last night was another night of misery.  By that I mean there was much writhing in nausea and abdominal pain and no comfortable spot to ease the pain in my head the slightest bit could be found.  I do believe that I would be safe in pronouncing that my body or my other medications do not care for migraine miracle medication Topamax.  By way of protest, I spend about 16 hours of each day nauseous, from two hours after I take the medication until about six hours before I am due to take it again.  This has made nights have the now constant headaches.  Hence, the misery.

I opened my mouth to ask Amber to trim my bangs and instead found myself asking that she cut more of my hair.  Another three inches is gone!  For someone who had hair well below her waist just a short while ago, I am in shock.  I am also, however, so bloody tired of even my hair hurting.

How long has it been since I have slept more than I have been awake?  SIGH.  Curled in the GREEN chair, I regularly drop off for a while because I am so utterly exhausted and the pain in my head is better when I am upright.  Only the activity outside regularly inspires Amos to vocally guard me...which makes sleeping for any length of time impossible.  Upstairs, at night, there is no guarding, but the nausea and cramps and pain make sleeping for any length of time impossible.

This morning, I started antibiotics, in the hopes that my seven-week-old stuffed nose, ear pain, bleeding nose, green discharge is a sinus infection that is, at least in part, contributing to constant headache that remains between migraines...the constant headache that neither Imitrex, Ibuprophen, aspirin, Tylenol, or Aleve touches in the slightest bit...and not merely some lingering part of the virus I had.  The longer I lie down, the more stuffed up I become, the greater the pressure in my head, ears, and face, and the less I can breathe.  The more stuffed up I become, the greater the pressure in my head, ears, and face, and the less I can breathe, the less I am able to sleep.  So, I am most fervently hoping that by Friday I shall be posting all hail the antibiotic! 

I truly do believe that if I could just sleep some more, I could handle the nausea and pain better. I truly do believe that if I could just sleep some more, I could accept life with migraines a bit easier. And I know that if I could just sleep some more I would be a much, much, much less grumpy (not to mention gloomy) child of God. I might even find the strength to keep from picking up a razor and just shaving my head bald. simply should not hurt, right?

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Walther gets me...

It has been so long since I visited with Walther that I cannot remember when that last was.  To be honest, I think that while I have longed to do so for a few months now, I think I have been afraid to pick up my beloved copy of The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel.  It is a lovely old book, filled with that wonderful aroma of aged paper and weighted with the quality of craftsmanship that has all but disappeared in today's world of publishing.

I have not yet seen the latest and greatest version that came out last year, but I wouldn't be surprised if the long, long, long paragraphs were broken up or re-worded or somehow modernized.  But my heart sings at the sight of a paragraph that trails down one page and the spills over onto another because it tells me that Walther trusts me to listen and to think, to be patient with his thoughts and to work at gathering them into my mind.  Yet it is for that very reason I have struggled with my desire to be comforted by my best Lutheran friend.

You see, I can hardly call Luther a Lutheran friend, right?  In a way, I think of Luther as my pastor, the one who shepherds my heart the best, the one who truly is a seelsorge to me.  Walther?  Well, he comforts me and consoles me and challenges me in the way someone who misses scholarship greatly longs to experience.  The challenge itself would be enough for me, but while Walther was writing for the audience of another century, another gender, and a vocation of which I have no part, his book reads like a personal letter written from someone who longs to help his good friend and sister in Christ.

But that challenging part.  SIGH.  I struggle so very much cognitively...more so now than three months ago, six months ago, a year.  I have to work and work and work at things that were as natural to me as breathing...and I still get them wrong, still cannot figure them out, still need help.  I was so very afraid that I had completely lost my ability to read Walther.

Alas, I have not!

In a galaxy far, far away, I had left off reading in the 18th Evening Lecture.  Since this one was built up to in the preceding three Evening Lectures, I re-read them.  Then, I dove on into the 18th Evening Lecture and raced on into the 19th.

Walther is writing about his Ninth Thesis.  Now, I could tell you that this is my favorite thesis, but that would be like telling you it is my favorite bit of the Book of Concord.  Favorite must be so very widely defined when it comes to our Confessions and The Proper Distinction of Law and Gospel.

In any case, the thesis is this:  In the fifth place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when sinners who have been struck down and terrified by the Law are directed, not to the Word and Sacraments, but to their own prayers and wrestlings with God in order that they may win their way into a state of grace; in other words, when they are told to keep on praying and struggling until they feel that God has received them into grace. (2)

At the risk of confusing others, I shall jump to the stopping place I found in the 19th Evening Lecture because this is not so much about teaching others as it is about remembering for later:

     ...unless a person clings to the Word, he cannot feel assured; he will waver and vacillate every day and hour.  This moment he will imagine himself a Christian, the next hour he will think that he has deluded himself.
     Luther contends that this testimony of the Holy Spirit in the heart of God's children is accompanied by strife.  There must be confidence in Christians and at the same time fear and trembling.  This is possible.  I can cross an awful abyss, trembling at the thought that I may be hurled into it; but seeing a barrier erected on both sides of my path, I gather confidence and cross over, confident of safety.  That is the strange paradox in the heart of a Christian:  he fears and trembles and still is assured. (200)

[Two random thoughts: a) Somewhere in the Book of Concord, Luther calls those of us who hold to the Confessions strange, too.  I like that that word is the choice of both men, for I certainly am convinced that I am strange! b) Notice the double entendre: ...gather confidence and cross over.  Ah, how I savor the pen of a skilled writer!]

I am to weary to truly record why it is that I stopped here or to weave together all the thoughts that brought me to this place of rest and reflection.  I do wish to note a couple of observations, along with a few other quotes, though:

The 18th Evening Lecture is primarily about Absolution and the Office of the Keys, or the Keys, while the 19th Evening Lecture is about struggle and anguish and...yes...feelings.  I would almost think these are in reverse order, since our Confessions teach that Absolution should be retained for the anguished souls that they might find the peace of Christ (BOC, AC, XXV, 4).  However, in a sense, the order fits because Walther first talks about how feelings do not matter to salvation and then how feelings do matter to the saved.  Remember the whole of that most wondrous 1st Evening Lecture?  Walther spent all that time telling me what the proper distinction between Law and Gospel was not before he told me what it was.

In the 18th Evening Lecture, Walther writes:

     ...You cannot infer from your feelings or from the divine blessings showered upon you that God has forgiven you; for He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain upon the just and the unjust.  You can draw that inference only from the fact that He tells you that you have been forgiven.  A person seeking for this assurance in any other way will not find it, but only deceive himself by imagining that he has found it in some other way.
     But where does God tell us that He has forgiven us?  Why, in His Word, in the Gospel, in Baptism, in the Lord's Super, at absolution.  In the Holy Supper the real gift of grace which we take from it is not our partaking of the body and blood of Christ, but the promise of the forgiveness of sins which Christ attached to the promise of His body and blood to be received by us: "which is given for you," "which is shed for the remission of sins."  The body and blood of Christ are but the royal seal which the Savior affixes to His words.  Briefly, then, in everything that God does to assure us of His grace the Word occupies the first place. (185)

Something that leapt out at me was the passage quoted from Luke, chapter 2, verses 10-11 found on page 179: "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord."

Funny, this, but I only remember the first and last part of that passage:  ...tidings of great joy:  for unto you is born this day...  But the passage from Scripture, before telling us what the news is, declares that the news is for every single person, believer or not in the promise, faithful or not under the Law, pious or not.

In the 19th Evening Lecture, Walther uses the example of Cain to illustrate a point.  But it struck me that he was not making Cain the polarity (if I am using that word correctly) as Christians tend to do so now.  We say:  Be Able, not Cain.  Be Jacob, not Esau.  Be David, not Saul.  But from the moment sin first entered into the world by man, God desired for all to be saved.  The promise of Genesis 3:15 was made for all.  The Psalms teach us this.  And, when the fullness of time came for the first part of the promise to be fulfilled, the angel reminded us again before announcing the Word had become flesh.

I think we tend to use Able and Cain and all those other biblical "couples" as polarities of behavior because we are so deeply ingrained, en-fleshed, with this inescapable desire to go our own way.  From Adam to Cain to Saul to me.  Really, there should be no polarities, the beginning, middle, and end is Jesus.  It is not about us, it is not about our behavior, our faith, how we approach God.  Yes, we have free will, but that will saves us not, forgives us not, frees us from death not.

That really is what Luther and Walther mean by strangeness, isn't it?  Our very nature eschews reception, yet  faith can only be received.  So, the tension between our born and re-born selves never ends.

I have said this before...shouted it, whispered it, cried it...Luther and Walther would not have been turned away by my struggles, would not have stood afar off from my anguish.  Both expect it.  Both understand it.  Yet neither one had hormone deficiency!  Strip away the estrogen highs and lows, and the heart of this child of God still struggles because she knows her sin and lives in a world that tells her there are no free gifts, there is no absolute forgiveness.  Tells her.  Whispers it to her.  Beats her up with it.  And even uses other Christians to do so...primarily through errant teaching, false doctrine, and calls for personal holiness.

I know little...very, very, very little...about pietism, however I am beginning to understand that within the LCMS exists just as much works righteousness, just as much Law taught as a specious Gospel as there is in the evangelical church.  The difference is the Confessions.  They are pure.  They stand upon the Scriptures and what is not clear, is not confessed.  Jesus.  You know, the Lutheran hero of every story, the answer to every Sunday School question.  Only this sure does get lost among all those calls for personal holiness the Lutheran way.

In the 18th Evening Lecture, regarding speaking absolution, Walther writes:  We cannot look into people's heart; but that is not necessary at all; we are to look only in the Word of our heavenly Father, which informs us that God has absolved the entire world.  That assures us that all sins have been forgiven to all men. (191)

To me, one of the great sorrows of this age is that private absolution, for the most part, has not been retained by our churches.  Yes, it is in our Confessions, and there are confessional Lutheran pastors who are rather vocal about its importance and lament greatly that people do not come.  However, it is not widely offered even in Confessional, traditional, liturgical churches...not freely, not openly, not abundantly.  I have experienced it as "by appointment," which (in my opinion) places an additional burden on the already anxious garner the courage to ask, to listen to the pastor search for time, to have it be squeezed in some time, some place.

I have also experienced it as an "instructional" time.  This (in my opinion) is a good example of something that can be rightly...or wrongly...divided.  Yes, I think of absolution as the Grand Exchange:  you give Christ your sins and He gives you some sweet, sweet Gospel just for you spoken through His undershepherd. When you receive the Gospel, there is always a learning of Jesus, a greater illumination of our Triune God, the Promise and Work of our salvation, and who were are as creatures and children of our God.

However, for example, I have an undershepherd question the sincerity of my anguish, quiz me on my knowledge and understanding of how the particular listed sin fit into the 10 Commandments.  This places focus on me, on my feelings, on my knowledge, on my faith...even though our Confessions teach that it is not the knowledge of history but history that saves [BOC, AP, IV (II), 48], not knowledge, not feelings, nor is even the listing of any particular sin necessary (BOC, AC, XXV, 7). Such a focus raises doubt, heightens despair, at the very time the Word is given to soothe doubt, to wash away despair.

I rest easy with Walther.  Always.  Even though reading this evening was more challenging, even though I had to work harder at absorbing his missive to this struggling sheep, I rest easy with Walther.  There is a certitude in the Book of Concord that is ineffably satisfying and peaceful to the ex-evangelical soul, to all souls I know, but especially to the ex-evangelical.  It is the epitome of being still and knowing He is God (Psalm 46:10).  Though The Proper Distinction of Law and Gospel is not part of the Christian Book of Concord, for me it holds the same certitude, brings the same peace.  Walter stills me.  He tells me what something is not and then what it is.  He does not do so by the ways of man, but of Scripture and of Luther, who also did so of Scripture.  And his focus is always Jesus, not me.

In my very uneducated opinion, it seems to me that Walter took a look around him and saw that the ways of man had crept back into the way of God, where the church was concerned.  So, he spent time at his own little restoration (for the reformation was not a reforming of the church but a restoring of it) so that, once again, anxious souls might be given the pure doctrine, might have the sweet, sweet Gospel poured into their ears...the way Luther longed to hear it in his own when he needed it, longed for it.

I need to think on this further, but I will finish by noting that Walther seems to be saying that you must hear to believe and believing you must feel, that Psalm 34:8 is not merely referencing the Lord's Supper, but experiencing the Word.

Experiencing the Word.  What a wild thought........

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Silly and scared...

Forty-eight hours. Forty-eights hours later, I am finally getting over eating that blasted pizza.  Forty-eight hours of writhing, cramping, vomiting, and unbelievable bloating.  All because I ate the pizza.  Never before has it taken this long.  Never before have I had to battle my own body for two days because of a consumption choice. I am feeling so utterly stupid.

And exhausted.  I have not slept much.

Right now, I am lying in the GREEN chair with an ice back on my head, icy-hot packs on both my elbows, a therma-care pack on my lower back, and a heating pad on my stomach.  The migraine from last Sunday will not leave, the shadow of it lingers, still coloring every moment of ever day.  My elbows hurt, more so because I was even more stupid about something.  The arthritis in my lower back is worse because I have been lying down too much over the past forty-eight hours.  And while my entire abdomen feels as if a herd of wild elephants has been stampeding across it for the past two day, I am also cold as cold can be.

Right now, I am lying in the GREEN chair, weary and afraid.  I wish that Bettina or Ethel or Mary would abandon their beloveds and cherubs, jump in a car, drive across the counrty, and sit with me.  Impossible I know.  It is just that I am here sitting here thinking all sorts of silly thoughts.  Like those icy hot patches.  They are supposed to be helping the tendinitis, but they those strange chemicals are leeching into my skin and poisoning me.  Silly, I know.

And I should eat now.  I should eat something now that the battle is over.  Only I am afraid.  I know there are things I can eat that will cause no problems.  I have eaten them before.  I will do so again.  But right now, at this moment, I am afraid.  All I can think about is the past forty-eight hours. All I can think about is two nights of lying in bed weeping because all I wanted to do was sleep, but I could not because I was stupid enough to eat four slices of pizza. I should eat now.  I need to eat now.  But I am afraid.

I am afraid because I am just so bloody tired.  I am so tired that I cannot muster up happiness that the blessed Loestrin is doing its job, is back in my life, has freed me from prison once more.  I am so tired of hurting, of being confused, of battling...everything.  I am so tired of being alone.

Amos...he is a mighty puppy.  Seriously, he is a puppy among puppies.  Never before has the world known a puppy who is more affectionate, more attentive, and more eager and most willing to be with his puppy momma.  Even when I am writhing on the floor or in the bed, even when I push him away again and again and again, he keeps trying to find a spot that does not hurt me.  He keeps trying to find a way to make it so that I am not alone in my agony, in my anguish, in my fear.

I do not know why he is not tired of trying.  Truly, I do not.  I am weary of me.  As weary as I am of the nausea and cramps and puking and fainting and migraines and pain, I am also weary of having to think about seemingly everything, easy things that should be without thought.  I am weary of worry and confusion and fear and nightmares.

I am weary of battling.  I am weary of me.  And I am weary of being alone.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Good cable guys actually exist...

Nineteen days after trying to cancel service, my cable and home phone service is finally canceled.  Five appointments later (four of them no shows/no calls), these services are finally canceled.  However, I do not have DSL!  I still have FIOS service, just half the speed I previously enjoyed.  Given that my speed is still 15/5, which is crazy fast, I am exceedingly pleased at the moment.

The unbelievably kind cable man came in and asked me if I would help him understand why I wanted to switch from a great service to a poor one...asked very kindly mind you.  I almost burst into tears, but the stronger hormones are taking effect, so I managed to hold back the tears and merely tell him what I was trying to accomplish.  After four phone calls, he got my account switched to FIOS stand alone Internet service, which is $25 less than what the DSL service was going to be!

The very pessimistic Myrtle I have become will not believe it until I see the bill.  However, I should now be saving $100 a month with just this change, $130 with both the cell phone and media changes.  Add that to the $70 savings between the lowered mortgage and car insurance, and we have a $200 change in basic living expenses.  Still, this is a drop in the bucket for what I need giving all the medical mess, but I was very thankful that two days after I start a new medication that is more monthly money I learn my Internet will be less monthly money.

So kind was he that he did not mind that I was puking throughout his visit.  I am not sure if it is still the utter folly of eating the free pizza (okay...eating 4 slices of the free pizza) or the new medication...for I was rather nauseous yesterday morning without having previously consumed pizza the day before.  I am actually hoping it is the continuation of the innards distress I battled all blooming night.

Pizza is now on the Verboten List, along with Chinese food, Ding Dongs, grilled cheese, Wendy's frosty, and foods with high fiber in them (like bran muffins or my beloved cereal).  I would have to be with someone helping me with will power and the pizza would have to have copious amounts of cheese and chicken and bacon (protein) on it for me to dare have just one slice.

Even Ginger ale is bothering my stomach.  Horridly so.  I really and truly did not remember that pizza was a poor choice for me.  All I was thinking about was that it was free food.  SIGH.

Also, I learned the new medication is a migraine  preventative medication so I am still to take the migraine attack medication.  I did.  It is not helping all that much.  I still dream of guillotines.

Finally, I have been remiss in noting that the new mattress has made sleeping less painful from the bed perspective.  No more lower back pain; no more arm and hand pain.  So, if I am not writhing in innards or head agony, I am actually sleeping more.  My advice:  Do not wait 17 years to get a new mattress!

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Friday, February 17, 2012

A serendipitous gift...

My mother sent a quilt set for the bed in the basement living space!  And I love, love, love, love it!  Who cares what visitors or renters think, eh?

It is a botanical theme with colors that tie together the sheets I already had, the color I painted the walls, and the russet stairs that match the outside of the house (which is why I really do not want to paint them).  The way, way cool thing about this choice is that the photo was not truly representative of the colors or detailing on the quilt.  So, the purchase was a bit of a serendipitous boon!

Sometimes, I get a bit frustrated with myself that such a silly thing as a beautiful quilt that is a trifecta color match can get me so giddy, but I wonder if I should instead just revel in the matching joy and botanical joy and craftsmanship joy and gift joy and ignore my own introspection.

In any case, I am very excited about this beautifying gift.  I had been using my grandmother's wedding ring quilt on the bed.  It is a beautiful quilt, but is old and fragile.  Now, I have something durable and equally beautiful to me!

Well, one hour and twenty-six minutes until day two of taking the new magical migraine pill.  I did not notice any progress against my nemesis last night, but I was told to be quite patient about this in not even think about judging it for at least a month.  I guess whenever I grow impatient with its slow progress in waging war, I should pop on down to the basement and gaze upon this beautiful quilt for a hit of giddiness!

A work in progress...

There is a possibility I might have a couple come stay in my basement living space for a couple of months.  So, I have been slowly working on creating more space in the shelving area for their groceries and to make the bath area more useful, as a part of my on-going effort to reduce, recycle, and reorganize my stuff in the basement.

I still have a ways to go here.  Even seeing the "missing" research binders in the after photo is still hard for me.  But if you care to look closely, you will note that I reduced my research text books by nearly half.  Since I had them all off the shelf, I did take the opportunity to group them by topic.  While there are a few books I waffled over, in the end I believe I still have a strong collection of texts regarding literacy, including children's literature, multicultural literature, reading, writing, drama, instructional methodologies, assessment, and remediation.  They are all on the bottom shelf.

On the top shelf, you will see the vertical stack of binders that still need my attention.  I am loathe to simply toss them as they are all teaching materials.  However, I am not sure it is realistic for me to think I might transfer them all to electronic form.  The other binders are a mixture of my dissertation stuff, family history, the mother-daughter book club, professional work samples, and organizational development samples.  Of these, I suspect there is still room for some reducing and recycling of paper.

The other main difference is that I have moved the office supplies from one of the smaller black metal shelves to this shelving unit.  I put all the hole punchers and the paper shredder on the floor, but I would rather they not be there.  I think I still need to work out what I have out by way of office supplies, especially since I have that other shelf still, full though it is.

The "bath" is really in two parts: 1) a toilet, sink, a "new" storage option, and soon-to-be-installed medicine cabinet, light, and plug in the far, back, right-hand corner of the room and 2) a shower stall over by the laundry area. Above, then, is my solution for a bathroom cabinet.  I spent $5.98 on a rather cool textured spray paint for the shelves.  The baskets are all ones that I had "rescued" from the trash after office catering parties.  When I was working, I used the four larger ones for filing bins.  I also often used all of them at expos at our table display to hold collateral materials.  Once again, I am re-purposing them.  I thought that the couple could use them to store their bathroom items.  Of course, the shelves could be used bare, but when I have things just standing on a shelf, I tend to knock over items when reaching for something else.

The other largest difference I do not yet want to post a photo.  This is because the medicine cabinet, light, and plug are not yet installed.  They will add to a superb before and after shot.  As for the difference...I had been using a couple of curtains that were left in the house as a screen for the toilet.  For someone to stay here, I need a true room divider for privacy.  But when I was taking down the curtains, I got this rather brilliant idea.  Hanging from the ceiling like they were, the curtains looked kind of silly, but moving them to the wall behind the toilet made them look more like a fabric wall treatment.  AND moving them to the wall behind the toilet meant covering up the exposed toilet and sink water lines and main sewage piping that was look at and really made the bath less of a bath and more of a basement.  

Just making that change and adding this new storage option next to the toilet and sink have made a tremendous difference in the space.  I cannot wait to see what it looks like once the medicine cabinet, light, and plug are there.  The plug electrical wire will be running down the wall, but I hope to paint it to mask its presence a bit.  [Yes, I am not supposed to be doing any sort of painting, lifting, scrubbing, or the like for months.]

I got two quotes a while back to move the shower stall over and create a real bathroom.  Both were about $5,000.  Given the cost of the house, that is not the best investment, I believe.  I do believe restoring the shower, replacing the broken toilet, adding the sink (and soon the mirrored medicine cabinet, light and plug), moving the free-standing closet to the living space, adding a bed, desk, couch, dresser (I still need to find one), and electrical outlets on all the walls, painting the walls and the ceiling, putting lace curtains over the windows (they need a bit of sewing still as they are currently pinned to the rod), and re-doing the laundry area (creating the counter, moving the washer next to the dryer, replacing the broken sink, painting the walls, and adding the faux window mirror and the large area rug) has made a tremendous difference to the basement as a living space without a tremendous outlay of cash.

If I do get some longer term renters, I would use the money to continue to improve the space, such as carpet the floor, replace the florescent lighting with something that fits up between the rafters, add a light above the shower, perhaps even replace the shower, and perhaps create a storage area beneath the stairs to the outside.

The bath is in the utility part of the basement.  In that space is also the old, old, old GREEN wooden table that used to serve as my desk. I was thinking that a couple could use it as a table when they wanted to eat alone, instead of upstairs in my dining room.  However, on the table right now are some antique books.  Sadly, I cannot find a spot for them elsewhere.  I do still have an empty banker's box on the main shelving unit that I believe should hold them all.  I plan to have someone help me move the table away from the wall and turn it so that is functions more like a table and less like a desk.

I love that old wooden table, and not just because the paint that remains on it is GREEN.  I love it because one of my stepmother's relatives made it decades and decades ago, from old barn wood.  It is solid.  It has experienced more life than have I.  And it is still useful even though it has seen its better days.  Perhaps, one day, I could get a glass top for it.

Sometimes, I sort of worry at how restful it is for me to putter about organizing, reducing, recycling.  I did finally donate the disastrous-to-me crock pot and the wok for which I could find no home.  The woman helping me told me about this non-profit that allows homeless families transitioning back to apartments or homes to choose household items for free.  Before taking those two larger items over, I went through ever cabinet and drawer in the kitchen and pulled out things I simply have not used or had more than one of save for rubber spatulas since you can never have enough of those.  I ended up with two boxes and one bag of items.  For example, I had two colanders.  I really only need one.  I also had two serving dishes I have not used in at least a decade.  If I ever left the hermit life and cooked for others again, I could just use the depression glass dishes I have to serve instead of those every-day ceramic ones.  I added extra cake pans and utensils like peelers and tongs.

When I dropped them off at the Mustard Seed, the woman nearly wept. Again, I was so very embarrassed and humbled by how needful and desired were my cast-offs.  She practically salivated over that darn crock pot!  When I am feeling better, I wish to go through the kitchen items again to see if I might have missed anything that could be used by another family rather than gather dust in a drawer or on a shelf.

Of course, all that reducing...along with finding still more expired items that are not even from this decade...means there is now more space in the kitchen for some renters' groceries upstairs as well.  If only I could figure out the puzzle of sharing a refrigerator!

Capturing the memories of ground gained over the past two months, of good things, after struggling through a really difficult time is in itself good.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

If I ask you...

Should I accept a free pizza?

Please answer:  Absolutely not!  You have no will power and a free pizza does not make for a small meal. You will only put your innards in distress because of your weakness for pizza.  You should only accept a free pizza if you were having guests whose own hunger would keep your share of the pizza to a slice or perhaps two if you ate the second one later.

Trial and error...

Because of the migraines, I finally, reluctantly agreed to try the lower dose hormones.  By day five, I was weeping.  By day seven, I was imprisoned.  By day 10, I was desperate.  In the face of such a dramatic down turn, the surgeon had me change dosage before the end of the pack.  I am now at day four of the original prescription...still rather fragile and still rather frightened at the swirling dark chaos I am in the process of escaping once more.  I shall not mention the other symptoms that also started returning.

The infernally positive folk in my life chirp how this was a great confirmation of the source of my problem in this area.  If I were not so bloody weary, I would throw something at them.

For the record, I would now add Loestrin to the list of drugs for which I would term myself a junkie.

I never, ever, ever, ever want to go back there again. However, truly, I wonder if I can endure a life with migraines just to have that freedom.  Though, since I had a terrible migraine on the lower dose, I suspect that were I to stop hormones all together, my head would not necessarily stop trying to wreak havoc on my life.  I suspect dysautonomia would keep the migraines around.


I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A servant's despair, a child's joy...

When you are a huddled mass of misery, it is easy to fall into despair over your faith.  When you are a huddled mass of misery, it is easy to fall into despair over your faith, especially if you are an ex-evangelical.  For when you are a huddled mass of misery and an ex-evangelical, you are crushed by the weight of the burden that you are not serving others when you are huddled in misery.  You are not being Jesus to them.  You are not witnessing mightily for your Lord.


Mary, my sister in Christ, my writing partner, the most gentlest and (to me) wisest of women, has written me about witnessing and then sent the words again because I lost them, but I am not ready to share what she said.  Mostly because her pen is ever so much better than mine that I am holding out foolish hope she will just write the post for me.  No matter that she's recovering from pushing out a cherub whilst chasing around two other wee ones!

I think, though, that her words are ringing in my ears in a perfect harmony to what Fred prayed for and with me today, even as this insidious (and, yes, I mean what that word means) praise song is crashing about in my beleaguered brain.

Pastor Eric Brown is a hero of sorts to me.  I am sure that Lutherans are not supposed to have heroes other than Jesus, but he is.  I find him to be brave.  But mostly I just plain old like what falls from his pen.  For all the talk about keeping things about Jesus, he actually does do that. You might think that lately this is a "topic" for him on his blog, but back when I was on Facebook, I would find his comments popping up here and there in discussions.  In my uneducated opinion, he has a penchant for pointing back to Jesus, back to Scripture, back to our Confessions. This is not just a new soap box for him.

Adding to my uneducated opinion is my arm-chair analyzing: he's not trying to argue, not trying to grand stand, and few folk interacting with him seem to get that.  Part of my problem on Facebook was that I was so very distressed when reading what I thought were theological discussions laced with things that were not from our Confessions, from our Scriptures.  I think I am beginning to understand they were not really theological discussions.  I mean, it was on Facebook!  What was I thinking?  Besides, most of the instant chatting, instant commenting is so...egocentric.  A word I perhaps use too much is pontificating.  But that's what it seems like to me.  And maybe that is because so many of the comments were about me, about man, about what we should be doing. Funny thing for a bunch of Lutherans, but at the end of the day, the greatest passion was for positing a particular position, not proclaiming the theology of the Cross, not crafting a soap box of Christ and Christ alone.

Anyway, Pastor Brown has been writing a bit on his blog about not putting law about a particular matter on other folks where the Scripture makes no law.  Sometimes, when reading his little bits and pieces, a part of me sighs in relief. The part of me that is weary of trying to be a good Christian...the Lutheran way.

So, swirling about my mind are his words about not putting burdens upon others about which Scripture has not spoken clearly and definitely. Also in there are Mary's words about witnessing.  And then the praise song that will not leave my brain:

Make me a servant, humble and meek
Lord, let me lift up, those who are weak.
And may the pray'r of my heart always be;
Make me a servant, make me a servant,
Make me a servant, today.

Do not get me wrong...serving others is a good work, what we are charged to do.  In fact, during my formative years as a young Christian, the highest compliment you could receive was to have someone declare you to have a servant's heart.  But the prayer of my heart should not be about "doing."  In a way, this praise song is like this absolutely gorgeous Steven Curtis Chapman song, Heart's Cry.  I love listening to it.  I love singing it.  However, it is insidious as well.

This is my heart's cry
I want to know the One who saved me and gave me life
This is my heart's cry to be so close to Him that all my life becomes
A testimony of my Savior's grace and love
This is my heart's cry

Gorgeous.  SIGH.  I love melodies like this one.  I just do.  However, how in the world can my sinful flesh ever be a testimony of my Savior's grace and love?  Both songs point to me, while seemingly praising Jesus.  They point to me and my work and my testimony.  The cross is the only work that matters. Jesus Christ is His own testimony.  His is the only testimony that needs to be told.  Period.

[Did you happen to notice the pronouns in these songs?  Me. My. I. When you get caught up in blog comment threads or Facebook comment threads, note which pronouns are most prominent.  It is a rather telling exercise.]

Well, there I was, a huddled mass of misery listening to Fred pray with and for me--Fred who had no clue what has been swirling about in my mind--and he was praying about God's servant Myrtle.  Hearing servant made my heart sink.  After all, how do you serve God when you are a huddled mass of misery?  How do you serve God when you are so very tired, tired of pain and more pain and still more pain?  Tired of being the person who rides elevators because she cannot figure out which button will take her home?  Tired of having to think about everything she eats, tracking contents and calculating interactions?  Tired of being so cold that she can do nothing else but huddle in misery and wait for it to pass?  Tired.  Tired.  Tired.  All that flooded my heart and mind and soul as despair washed over me in the heartbeat of that single word.  Yet Fred immediately added, who is not only His servant but also His daughter, His beloved child.

I nearly laughed.  I mean, Fred is an undershepherd after all. I shouldn't be surprised that Christ could use his mouth to speak to me.  Yep, speak to me, to Myrtle.  For joy washed away the despair.  Joy washed away the despair of that heartbeat, of that word, in a great tidal wave because what else does a child in pain do but huddle in misery longing for her parent to hold her, to love her, to help her through the pain?  Not joy from how I have served God, not joy from how I have been an incredible, godly testimony of grace and love.  No, the joy is that I am a beloved child of Christ...even though I am a huddled mass of misery.  Because that's what children do when they are overwhelmed with pain and confusion and fear and exhaustion.  They huddle and wail and want to be rescued.

After hanging up with Fred, I stumbled into Target to pick up the latest, greatest medication to combat my migraine misery.  Of course, the prescription had not gone through even though I waited in the parking lot for an hour, so I had to use my phone on a land line call for the umpteenth time this week to try and get the prescription filled.  While waiting for the pharmacist to count out my magic pills, I laid down on the floor, not caring about the stares I was getting.  After all, my huddled mass of misery self that is wracked with a terrible stabbing pain behind my left eye and a head that is simultaneously trying to implode and explode is a beloved child of Christ.

On the way over to the pharmacy counter, I passed a display and then back tracked.  While the whole world would probably be "shoulding" all over me about how I had no business plucking the two bags I chose off the shelf, I just knew that if Mary were there beside me, she would be cheering me on, clapping me on the shoulder, and offering to carry the bags for me so that I could keep my eyes covered from the bright lights in the store.  My new coping mechanism: alternating eating Cadbury's mini eggs with M&M's new peanut butter eggs.  "Chocolate," Mary would be sure to say, "is a good gift of this world God has created for us.  Enjoy it!"

Thirty more minutes before I can take my new magic pill, the pill I asked the pharmacist to think good thoughts about as he counted them into the jar.  He chuckled.  He would like for me to stop coming in huddled in misery, chasing a new solution for the migraines that ebb and rise like tides of pain.  How much more does my Creator and Savior and Helper wish for me to leave the pain behind?

May it be soon.  If not, may God grant me the grace to believe as I struggle with unbelief in the darkest moments of that misery.

I am Yours, Lord. Save me!

Notes of my days...

scrubbing an attic floor
with muscles compromised
by neurological disease
equals tendinitis in both elbows
equals pain no longer unable
to ignore
weak muscles means 
recovery time is uncertain
difficult to achieve
means no  easy answer 
to six weeks of pain
I could no longer ignore
a new horse on my carousel
lower hormones flung me back 
in prison
bound by storms
terrified by sensation
blood, hair, skin
everything is back
some still better
some much worse
a horse I thought had been removed 
a sympathy of pain
in my head
clashing chaos in concert 
stabbing, throbbing, pulsing, pressing
filling every moment with agony
turning every soft surface
into concrete
a wearying horse that comes around
too often
blood sugar plummeting
blood pressure spiking
blood pressure plummeting
nausea rising
innards writhing 
migraine enveloping
headache lingering
pain in my foot,
pain in my elbows
arthritis pain
multiple sclerosis pain
dysautonomia pain
confusion, cognitive sludge
speaking wrong, writing wrong
losing short term memory, losing long term
losing time and place
losing words
losing who I was
losing me
the turning never stops
slip off one horse only to find myself on another
struggle to accept the ones I have to ride
only to discover another one has been added to the carousel 

all this 
and...rogue senses
weak in body and heart and soul and mind
weary in body and heart and soul and mind
wishing I could get off even knowing I cannot

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

It isn't...

It isn’t just the violence.  Or the shame.  It isn’t just the violence or the shame. Nor is it the whole of it. The magnitude of the experience, of its impact. For in this, the adage that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts holds not true.

It is the smell.  It is the sight.  It is the taste.  It is the touch.  They are like pieces of the puzzle, the puzzle that is the shattered self left behind. Pieces lurking deep within.  Pieces strewn about life outside the forgotten memories. Pieces oft hidden until.  Until a smell, a sight, a taste, a touch.

Until a smell, a sight, a taste, a touch freezes you in fear, drowns you in shame, flings you into a maelstrom of pain and confusion and terror and denial, be it for a split second or for a moment that seemingly never ends.  Even when you thought all the puzzle pieces were back together.  Even when you were sure you were whole.  You can no longer cling to the other adage: That was then…this is now.

A child cannot really understand, cannot really put the pieces back together by herself.  And the adult she becomes is still really a child if no one safe has ever guided her in picking them up, turning them right and left, up and down, studying closely the shape of them to understand how they fit into the whole. 

It isn’t just the violence and the shame.  Even with all your efforts to avoid them, they oft come around again.  And even if they do not, even if you beat the odds, the scattered pieces still remain. You avoid a smell your whole life without even realizing you are doing it, without understanding the why of the fear triggered by that particular aroma.  You hate a taste your whole life without rhyme or reason, without understanding what you hate is the loathing triggered by the taste rather than its presence on your tongue. The inexplicable.  

A window can make you tremble. A texture can make you angry. A jiggling surface can paralyze you.  A salty dish can churn your stomach.  Things that do not makes sense.  Things you ignore, set aside, deny.

However, a single piece, seemingly insignificant, can make the puzzle you worked to put back together fall apart, as if someone, some thing, came along and lifted it off the table. 

Yet it is the violence.  And the shame.  It is the violence and the shame and the whole of it.  Because the whole of it oft means that one or more of your senses fool you…or you fool it.  So much so that you never realize that the picture on the front of the box that you are using to fit together the pieces of your shattered self is not really you.  The picture is not who you are. The picture is who he wanted you to think you are, how she wished for you to see yourself.  To make it easier for him, easier for her, easier for the others.

It is the picture on the box.  It is the pieces of the puzzle.  It is the whole and the parts.  It is the bait and switch of the moment or the moments, of the day or the years, so that you will believe, so that you believe that this is who you are, that this is normal, that this is okay, that this is love, is safety, is the way life should be.

It is incredibly difficult to encounter the puzzle pieces.  It is nearly unbearable to start to gather them to together and try to piece them back in place. But when you realize that you did not even see that the picture on the front of the box is a lie, is not really the way that life should be, your world shatters once more and  nearly unbearable becomes seemingly impossible.  Worse still is that an ineffable state steals over you as you some ways...the lie is easier, more comfortable, even safe.  Sometimes, it is easier to simply walk away, to forget you discovered that the sky is blue, the grass is green. You would rather the sky remain orange, the grass purple…because you need them to be so.  You need them to be so because, at times, the truth can be too much to bear. 

It isn’t just the violence…or the shame.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Note to self...

Do not try to install a television antenna with a puppy dog who has a propensity to shred paper in the same room with you.  Instructions are ever so important in dealing with new installations.  SIGH.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Thanks Bettina for your ideas...

Someone who recently had gestational diabetes helped explain that orange juice is a known dipper, meaning that it would quickly raise my blood sugar, but would make it plummet again later without real protein to counteract the quick rise.  I am surprised, still, that the cheese and nuts did not help.  However, first she and then the doctor recommended glucose tablets instead of any juice.  So, I bought some raspberry flavored ones.  They are huge!  I have also heard they are quite chalky.  [For the record, I put them in the basket on the counter with my meter.]  As far as real groceries, the grapes, carrots, asparagus, and yogurt were all on sale.  I also bought some spinach dip, bananas, and sliced meats.  I still need more creativity in eating small meals that are more protein than carbohydrates.

I tried to think hard about reducing pricing on groceries and forewent things I would normally buy.  Still, I spent more than I thought I had in my five shopping bags ($124).  Of course I bought some more Ginger ale (that is NEVER on sale), cranberry juice, Cheerios, and milk.  I also needed toilet paper, Kleenex, and a Brita filter.  In addition to the other items, I bought some more eggs, peanut butter, sunflower seeds, and the things to make my own trail mix, because if I have to keep using that as a recovery option, making my own will be much cheaper than the handy packets I bought last time.  Since I had some cream cheese sitting in the back of the refrigerator, I bought some half-sized bagels that I found.  It might sound strange, but I remembered that I used to like bagel sandwiches of cream cheese and grilled chicken. When I was done at the first store, I was too bloody exhausted to go to the other store where I buy chicken, laundry detergent, and the chalupa shells.  Normally, I would have just shopped there, but I needed new test strips.

I see the doctor on Monday.  She recommended a decongestant that should not affect my blood pressure and said that she wanted to do an CT scan of my head.  However, don't you think that is overkill?  I mean, how about a round of antibiotics first?  I told her I could not afford the scan, so I would try the different decongestant even though I think 5 weeks of decongestant is excessive.  My goodness, I really do think that I have a sinus infection.  The main reason I called, though, was that I have had a sudden onset of pain in my elbows, wrists, and hands.  I have been ignoring it for a few weeks, but it makes sleeping hard.  I find it strange since I am on Celebrex, but taking aspirin, aleve, tylenol, and motrin have all not helped the pain at all.

Fred wrote such kind words on my post about how hard it must be to have to think about food all the time when eating is such a natural thing to do.  That was encouraging, for I really am discouraged.  I do think creating a magnetic chart on the refrigerator will be helpful to me in remembering and varying what I eat.  But I wish I could just stop thinking and planning and, well, worrying about eating.  And, frankly, I simply do not understand how I can eat a Chili's shake and yet a Wendy's frosty makes me rather ill. I do not understand how I can eat a Reese's peanut butter cup, two Ghirardelli squares of strawberry chocolate, pumpkin cookies, or a slice of pound cake, but I cannot eat a Ding Dong without my pancreas trying to kill me.

I do think that if I have to continue testing my blood sugar as much as I have done of late, I need to get a tattoo of a red circle with a slash through it on my ring finger of my left hand.  There is a wonky nerve in that finger and when I forget and prick it, I am hard pressed to keep from screaming from the initial pain and am bothered by the reduced level of pain that lingers for several days.  Of course, I am sure that the tattoo would probably hurt, too!

The up shot of today's outing?  I was bemoaning my drastically low supply of Dr Pepper last night...the cost of getting more when I really should give up this beloved luxury.  However, when I went to get the grocery bags out of the back of the Highlander, I discovered 10 boxes of Dr Pepper.  I suddenly remembered that two weeks ago I found it on sale, priced $2.50 off a case, nearly two for the price of one.  I bought all they had.  I just forgot that I did so between buying it and coming home.


Though I do not expect the pain in my arms/hands to magically disappear tonight, I am hoping that I shall have an crash free evening.  Who knows, perhaps the new decongestant will help me sleep despite wanting to amputate my elbows at least.  Frankly, don't you think elbows should not hurt????

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Lord, have mercy...

82 minutes after my last blood test, I find myself sweaty and weak and trembling.  I debate for a while, but finally crawl out of bed and go downstairs to check.  Not only am I crashing again, but I am 10 points lower than before!  I start to make an egg, but grab the Cheerios instead, thinking that they have sugar and the milk will be a good balance.  I check my blood sugar again after 15 minutes and it has not changed at all.  I start shoving the trail mix hand over fist and guzzle Gatorade.  I have not used orange juice as a rescue for a very long time, but surely it could not be the reason why I am here again? I am utterly confused.  I am scared.  I am also terrified to try and sleep though I am exhausted.  And I am wishing I didn't feel so guilty about waking someone up to be with me just now.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Noodling help...

My blood sugar just crashed.  It was another time when I was not aware it was dropping until a light bulb went off and I wobbled to the kitchen.  Sloshing around in my stomach right now are orange juice, sunflower kernels, and cheese.  Swimming around in my head are shouts for help.

I will admit that I dared a Ding Dong this evening, after eating lots of beef jerky and cheese.  I think, though, Ding Dongs have to be stricken from my life.  Apparently, I can eat a Reese's peanut butter cup at night, but not a Ding Dong.  So, despite the tears that fell doing so, I dumped the rest of the Ding Dongs in the trash and tore up the box for fire-making supplies.

I think, though, that part of the problem is I was out of Ginger ale and did not want to go out to the store today when I have to go out of the house tomorrow.  When I have the Ginger ale and cranberry juice, it takes several hours to finish it because it is basically a can of Ginger ale and a can's worth of juice since I mix them both half-and-half.  Since I am drinking that for a long while, from time to time I eat a little something.  Tonight, I did not. I had but three "meals" today.  The other difference is that I ate the Cheerios in the morning instead of the afternoon as I have been doing. Today, I had two chalupas with black beans, sour cream, cheese, and grilled chicken; cheerios; and cheese & beef jerky.

So, I was thinking I could see if Sandra (hint, hint, hint) would help me make a magnet system for my refrigerator that is about food, to help me better remember what I have eaten and make wider choices in what I do eat. I am not good at envisioning visual things, nor am I creative in that manner.  I think it should have the days of the weeks and a whole lot of options of things to eat, multiples of the same foods, so I can pick from a pool of choices and easily see what I have had to eat that day.  [I often forget what I have eaten earlier.  Because of this, I have taken to letting dishes sit in the sink until the end of the day so they might help me remember.]

However, in addition to the memory and decision-making help the magnets would be, I need to have a few more snacks that I won't turn my nose up at and that won't stress my innards that I can have as options.  I am thinking of this because I ate the cheese and nuts to go with the juice.  When I correct the low blood sugar with juice, I will merely crash again in a few hours if I do not have something to balance it.  And I think if cheese and nuts is going to be the best go-to when I am anxious and confused and weak from a crash--the option I would least have to think about--then I need to lessen my cheese and nuts during the day.

You know, my crappy pancreas no longer knows how to do anything but to shoot out copious amounts of insulin if it spots a carbohydrate in my body.  And it really seems to HATE carbohydrates that have flour and sugar both.  Straight sugar is no problem.  Flour with little to no sugar (like a tortilla or saltine) is no problem.  Put them together and neither my digestive system nor my pancreas is very happy should that happen later in the day (for example, having French Toast with breakfast is also no problem).

In thinking about having other options in what to eat, I realize that I have forgotten I like those petite carrots with peanut butter.  I am going to the store after my appointment tomorrow, so I will put those on the list.  I also need to think about eating an egg more frequently than I have of late.  Yes, slicing up cheese and crackers is easy, but an egg or two would be better.  I guess I should also get more yogurt, because I realized I have abandoned that, too.

The noodling help I need is some more snack/small meals items that I would cotton consuming (sort of picky eater that I am), which are primarily protein or vegetable.  This would be easy for most people, but when you truly dislike olives, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, cottage cheese, celery, citrus fruits, peaches, pears, and a dozen other common items that are not coming to mind right now because you am still shaking, you are sort of up a pole without a ladder when it comes to having small, easy-to-prepare things to eat.

So, in writing this, I have noted carrots and peanut butter, yogurt, and eggs.  Can you think of anything else I could either snack on or have as a small meal?  I will promise to try very hard not to "Yes, but..." if you will please offer some noodling help.

[NOTE: I would, at the moment, be weeping with frustration over this problem, but Amos has been frolicking about with his Flower Baby and has now collapsed at my side in exhaustion, with Flower Baby clutched firmly between two paws and resting beneath his head.  Oh, how thankful I am for that silly puppy dog!]

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!