Saturday, December 27, 2008

Lifestyle changes

I'm going to be sick for longer than I thought: last night my doctor called to let me know I have lymphoma. The pear-sized tumor they found is directly under my breastbone; next week I'll have tests to see if the cancer has spread beyond that location.

Today the partner and I went to Target to start preparing for this. For the past week, I've been spending part of most nights on the couch, since it's not always comfortable for me to lay down: we bought memory foam to make the couch more restful. Three days ago, I started having drenching night sweats, waking up with my pajamas so soaked I have to change them: we bought more pajamas for me.

Being surrounded by loving and caring family, friends, and health care providers has helped mitigate my shock and fear at this diagnosis. At this time, that's all I could ask for.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Fiery angel

Last week in our Bible study group, we started the story of Moses and the burning bush. This is one of the more famous Bible stories; I have heard it many times. However, I had never read the opening lines very closely:

And the angel of God appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush
An angel is what was in the bush.

Now, I was very into fantasy novels as a teenager. This genre tends to include things like fire elementals, which appear as flame but don't actually set anything on fire unless they choose to. I find it fascinating that the story of the bush so closely parallels our modern idea of a pagan world.

No one else in the group found this interesting. So it seems more likely that I've overloaded on fantasy novels than that this is actually an insightful observation. Still, it has stuck with me; it will definitely make me pay more attention to appearances of angels as we continue our study.

New symptoms

About ten days ago, I noticed I was slouching. When I sit, when I stand, my shoulders are rounded. I can consciously pull them back, but as soon as I stop paying attention, they roll forward again. After so many days of this, I often feel like I'm turning into a hunchback.

It took me a few days to understand this new habit: I figured out that stretching my chest by sitting up straight made me want to cough. Slouching was an anti-cough reflex. Fortunately, yoga is saving me from a hunched back growing on me permanently: it greatly increases the range of cough-free motion I have with my shoulders. Thanks to my talented yoga teacher, I have learned I can even do a modified savasana pose (sitting instead of laying down).

These past two months have been unusually medical for me: doctor's visits, an ultrasound of my heart, two chest X-rays, and this coming Monday a CAT scan. Medicine is moving slowly for me. I am so grateful I have something I can do any time - yoga - to help myself right now.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Body modification

Friday, two of my coworkers were talking about how awful it was that their children wanted body piercings. It just wasn't "right" to have a hole in your eyebrow or nose or belly button.

It's an attitude I find odd, that there's some "correct" physical appearance. I've come across it in with respect to animals, too: people horrified that I clip my birds' wings; owners of dogs and cats who do not confine their pets, but believe sterilizing them would be "wrong".

Maybe it's not so odd, though. I could not support a person cutting off a toe because they preferred the appearance of a four-toed foot; I oppose declawing of cats. There is, it seems, no simple rule on where to draw the line on body modification.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Teamwork in the snow

Last Wednesday, I got nervous as I left work. During the day, we had our first significant snowfall of the season, and the parking lot was slick. I drive a small pickup; these things are notorious for bad traction in the winter.

It took about five minutes for me to back (and forth, and back) out of my parking space. The next challenge was to get up the twelve-foot tall ramp out onto the road. I get halfway up, and slide down. Three quarters of the way up, and slide down. Halfway up - two coworkers come over to help push. Up and down, up and down. Two more coworkers come to help. Up and down. A fifth coworker arrives; I go up, and up, and up, and - onto the road!

It snowed again today. I need to get sandbags to help my traction.
In the meantime, I love my coworkers.

Mousy personalities

On a Saturday three months ago, we were getting started on cooking lunch: grilled cheese sandwiches. I got the bag of bread out, and noticed something odd: one corner had a hole in it. The bread just inside the hole had been eaten.

The partner and I talked about various mouse traps. The spring kind? Doesn't always work, and we're too squeamish to finish the mice off ourselves. The glue kind? Inhumane. That leaves the live-catch traps.

After a week of replacing bait that had been eaten, we caught our first mouse - about three inches long. After dumping it into a large plastic jar and observing it for a short time, I turn back to the trap to clean it out. In the trap was another mouse! Just an inch long, it was hiding under the ramp. We took our mouse family to a park just outside of town; they did not want to leave that jar, clinging to the opening. I shook it rather forcefully to dump them out, at which point they bolted away.

Mouse #2 was another one-incher. This one, when taken to the park, walked to the opening, sniffed a few times, and walked on out. We left the traps out for another week, but the bait wasn't getting eaten. I thought our mouse problem was solved - until the incident with my shoes last week. So the traps have been out again. Mouse #3 did the sniff-and-walk-out routine just like #2.

Mouse #4 enlarged one of the airholes in the trap by chewing on it. It did not have to be dumped into the bucket, either: as soon as I opened the trap, it jumped straight out. This bucket is a foot tall; the mouse was repeatedly jumping and hitting its head on the lid. I caught it in the morning; after work when we headed for a local cemetary, the mouse was still doing the spectacular jump routine. It was more cautious going outside: much more sniffing than mouse #2 or 3. I didn't have to dump it, though, which made taking it out into the cold and snow easier to rationalize as being "nice".

It's been interesting seeing the different personalities of our rodent houseguests. I'm happy to say, though, the bait in the traps was not eaten today. Perhaps we get another reprieve from mousy companionship.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Yummy pork

Thursday night, we went out to a Chinese buffet. As we pulled into the parking lot, we noticed a very familiar-looking car. "Is that the rabbi's car?" I asked. Upon examination, we found a bumper sticker for Jewish summer camp. Yes, it was the rabbi's car.

Inside, the rabbi and his wife invited us to eat with them. We sat down at their table, ordered our drinks, and went to the buffet.

After we all had food, a steaming plate full of bacon is brought to our table. "Thank you," says the rabbi to the waiter. The partner and I must have looked surprised: "It's on the buffet at lunch," he explained. "I eat here a lot and they know I really like it."

I don't think anyone in our Reform congregation keeps strict kosher, but some follow modified versions - they don't keep separate utensils for dairy and meat, for example, but won't eat cheeseburgers. The rabbi, though? He's spiritual in other ways.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Nutty mammals

Yesterday, I arrived for my organ lesson. I sat down and started to change into my organ shoes.

The shoe wouldn't go on. A cursory inspection found that the insole had come unglued; I tried pushing on the insole, then went to put the shoe on my foot again.

My organ teacher stares in disbelief. "What is that!?" he says. This prompts me to take a closer look at my shoe. Slowly, I realize there are foreign object in my shoe: birdseed and pecans. "I have mice," I respond.