A couple of days ago: I realize that there’s this intense, loud silence full of energy coming from the porch. (All you parents of kids old enough to get into mischief know what I’m talking about!) I go out there, and my first thought is someone had the biggest and neatest poop I’ve ever seen. One long black rope coiled around and around on itself.

Yeah. It’s a black snake curled up on the floor, playing dead while Delilah watches over it. If any part of it moves just a little bit, my cat puts a paw out and the snake plays dead again. Over and over and over and over. (I didn’t think to snap a picture until after the fact.)

I felt for the snake, but not enough to actually touch it. A planter, a magazine, and a quick run out the screen door gave the snake his freedom and deprived Delilah of her “playmate”.

Delilah

Delilah

OBESIGENIC: a term coined to suggest that in today’s [Western] society, many things increase one’s chances for overweight or obesity, including availability of fast foods, increased stress, toxic environments, decreased sleep, and a sedentary lifestyle. I came across this word in my reading recently. It doesn’t remove the responsibility from an individual, but it doesn’t make it any easier, either.

Then I came across “smell-o-vision”. It’s not for real yet, but it’s coming. Domino’s Pizza is testing a version of it out in Brazil. Currently, special [pizza] scented ink is used on select rental DVDs, and by the time the movie is over, the player has heated up the ink so that when the user ejects the DVD, it smells like pizza and the printing on top of the disc suggests that a pizza would taste great with the next movie. Not so subliminal advertising. (Heck, Barnes & Noble already sends the smell of fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies every so often through its Cafe and store.) I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before they figure out how to do it during the movie. (Hey, I suddenly feel like a pizza! Hit pause so we can order it. Thirty minutes later: hit pause again so we can pay the driver and dish out the chow. Yes! Now, back to the movie …)

It feels like we live in a war zone. On one side, the advertising and all the companies behind it trying to sell us something, no matter that it’s better for their pockets than our health (be it medical, psychological, or financial health that we’re talking about). On the other side, the individual. Or, the individual consumer if you prefer. We all know what advertising is trying to do. Many of us say we think for ourselves and ads don’t affect us. But big business spends big bucks on advertising … a big argument that advertising does affect us. It’s said that knowledge is power – but is our knowledge affected by advertising that has skewed the facts to sell something?

I worked as a grant writer when I first came to Florida. Given enough time and creativity, I can take the same set of statistics (numerical “facts”) and use that set to prove two facts that are the polar opposites of each other – i.e., mental illness is increasing and mental illness is decreasing. Why would I be surprised to find out that advertising does the same thing?

bumper sticker I had to take a picture of - car belongs to a mathemetician

bumper sticker I had to take a picture of – car belongs to a mathematician

Enough of the rant. I am feeling pleasantly relaxed smelling the rose scent wafting around my home, courtesy of Cheryl and her Haus of Scents (sorry, couldn’t resist the juxtaposition with the above rant). Let’s go to the dog park. I was there last week when a dad came in with two young boys (probably 6 and 8) and a dog. This guy is truly a dad. The lesson started with coming into the park, and how one door needs to be closed before the other one can be opened (to keep dogs from escaping). Then, it was time to teach a new chore to the younger boy. Yep, picking up the poop after the dog does his business. That little boy was so grossed out by the thought of picking up the steaming fresh poo … I looked the other way to hide my extreme amusement. Later, the dad commented that he was killing two birds with one stone by having his boys run after the dog. I told him it looked like he was actually killing three birds and wished him a pleasant evening.

I wish the same for you.

 

 

 

 

 

I have had Boo-Boo for a little over a year now, and today he did something that hit me over the head with how far he’s come in his (and my) training.

When he first arrived at my house, the first thing he did was escape. Out the door. Down the block and around the corner. He’s a fast little bugger when he wants to be. Luckily, he stopped to greet another dog and the owner walking that dog grabbed Boo and was looking at his tag with a NC number on it when I came driving up. (One of the first things I did was get a tag with my name and number on it.) The second thing he did was pee in the house. He was all over the place, literally and figuratively. When he could escape from the house, he liked to run down the middle of the street and “greet” cars. I’m still amazed he didn’t get run over.

Fast forward to today. I took him on his morning walk, and we got to the corner of Waldemere and Shade, There were a few cars at the intersection. Instead of going to water the lamppost like he usually does before I make him sit as a precursor to crossing the street, he stopped a few yards from the intersection and sat of his own volition and watched the cars. When they finally cleared out (a couple of the drivers sat there smiling at him for a bit) he looked up at me as if to say “okay, no cars, let’s go!”. I said okay and we crossed the street and went on our merry way.

A friend recently pointed out how well he’s doing with staying. At first, just leaving the house was nerve-wracking. He’s faster than I am, and getting out the front door without him escaping was a feat. Now? I tell him to get up on the bench by the front window and stay. Easy peasy. Occasionally he doesn’t want to, but a stern look and pointing finger do the trick. Yay, Boo!

IMG_0741[1]

char grilled pizza

Now for the whoops: I am loving my charcoal grill. I seem to be falling into the habit of grilling my food for the week on Saturday or Sunday and packing it away in individual portion containers. (I love the Wean Green glass containers I learned about on the blog La Guerra de La Gorda!) My brain, now that it’s getting enough oxygen to function normally – for me, that is – keeps thinking of new things to try on the grill: baby Bok choy and baby beets were last weeks “innovations”. This week, I thought “Pizza! There must be a way to grill it.” I googled it and sure enough, you can. I read several different sites, figured out what to do, and tried it out today.

Ummm … when they say to grill one side for a couple of minutes, take it off the grill, brush with olive oil and add toppings, and put it back on the grill to cook the other side and the toppings, they mean that the pizza crust gets cooked because you end up grilling both sides of the crust; you put the toppings on the side that was already grilled.

Unless you’re me and that whole dyslexia thing kicks in. The first grilling went fine. I took them off, was about to put the toppings on when my brain went “that’s not right – why am I putting the toppings on the bottom [grilled] part? They need to go on top of the pie.” So I made them up, went back out to the grill to put them on, and went “SHIT. I was right the first time. Now I’m going to have burned bottoms and unbaked tops.”

You know what? They’re delicious anyhow. I put them over indirect heat and closed the lid, then moved them up to the warming rack and closed the lid. They came out crusty but chewy. Next weekend, I’ll try them the “right” way and see which way I like better.

I am not impressed with the DME company I was set up with for the sleep apnea stuff.

Every person I have talked to, every forum I have lurked on, every CPAP supply website (which I do take with a grain of salt because they profit from selling more masks) … they all say the same thing. A CPAP mask is an individual thing and what works great for one person will be the leakiest and most uncomfortable contraption for the next person. All of our faces are shaped differently. There is no “one size fits all” solution.

I have used a ResMed Quattro Fx mask for over a week now. It works great and is fairly comfortable, except for one thing: it’s eating away the bridge of my nose! I have tried everything I could find – liners, loosening the mask, tightening the mask, band aids, cushions, ointment with cushioning … it’s still bruising the bridge of my nose and I’m waking up with blisters on the side of my nose. (I guess the skin on my nose is the same as the skin on my torso – really, really thin and hypersensitive … it looks so bad after removing any kind of bandage, the infectious disease doctors thought I had a nasty skin infection while I’m going “it’ll clear up in a few days, it’s not an infection, it’s from the bandage.”) I did some research, and decided I want to try one of the hybrid masks – nasal cushions attached to a mask over the mouth. The skin around my mouth has not had any problems.

So I call the DME provider on Wed and tell them I’m having problems with the mask and want to exchange it and try out a hybrid. They don’t seem too keen on an exchange. “So you want the technician to come out and help you adjust the mask fit?” NO. I want to try a totally different mask. “The first available appointment is Friday between 9 and 12, will you be home then?” I blocked out my Friday morning and the bridge of my nose looked forward to some relief. I did think about just not using the damn thing for a couple of nights, but I feel so much better using it (me, not my nose).

Today’s Friday. I sat around all morning, alternating between knitting and reading. I got a call a little after 11:30 from the technician, who calls to make sure I’m home. He says he’s still a ways away, but I want him to help me with the fit of the Quattro, right? NO! I want to try a hybrid mask. He doesn’t know what I’m talking about, even though the CPAP sites have a separate category for hybrid masks. I describe it to him, he finally recognizes what I’m talking about as the ResMed Mirage Liberty and doesn’t know why I want to try it. What’s wrong with the mask I have? I explain about the bridge of my nose. He tries to talk me into trying different things, I say I’ve already tried that and that and that and that … “Well, I don’t have a hybrid mask with me – I’ll have to call the office and have her order one and it probably won’t be here til sometime next week. Are you sure you want to try the Liberty?” YES!! He’ll call me sometime next week when he has it in hand. I didn’t even bother to ask why it hadn’t been ordered Wed.

I won’t think about what happens if the Liberty doesn’t fit my face. (Although I do already have a plan. If my DME won’t order the other company’s hybrid mask, called the “Hybrid”, I’ll buy it myself because reading reviews it seems like if one hybrid doesn’t fit well, the other will. It’s half the price of the ResMed Liberty, but I get the feeling that my DME only offers ResMed respiratory stuff.)

Two other random unimpressions: CPAP masks fit differently depending on whether you’re sitting up or lying down (not to mention whether you’re lying on your side or your back). Why then, wouldn’t you fit a mask in the lying down position? Or at least mention it to a new CPAP user? This is why I try not to trust just one source of information. I don’t remember what I did before the internet.

My CPAP machine was set up stupidly. It didn’t show any kind of data; the “sleep quality report” told me how many hours I used the mask. That’s it. Well, I am nothing if not resourceful. I not only figured out how to get into the number data on the machine telling me about apnea numbers and mask leakage, I also figured out how to get into the clinician’s screens to change settings. (No, I did not change anything therapeutic. But I did set the clock to the correct time so that the data would correlate to actual time instead of being 5+ hours off.) The next project is downloading the open source code program floating around out there that can read the data from the SD card in the machine. (Yes, I looked at the manufacturer’s site for the software. They refuse to sell it to patients. Apparently us sheep are incapable of processing our own data and have no business wanting to know anything about our sleep quality. No, I’m not bitter – much.)

I wonder what Sheldon would have to say about all this?

It has been almost a week since I started getting help breathing at night, and all the adjustments are SO WORTH IT!!

I no longer feel like I’m plodding through a thick, murky fog each day. I still get headaches, but my mind is starting to work again and my stamina is improving. My energy is returning, and I can actually process what people are saying to me (well, as much as I ever have anyway).

There’s a sign on my street that flashes the speed you’re going, and if there are no cars around me, it will clock my bike. I used to round the corner at 12-14mph. Over the past year or so, it’s been 6-8mph while feeling like I’m working just as hard – if not harder. Friday, on my way home from a Soiree concert, I got clocked at 8-10mph. Not where I used to be, but definitely an improvement.

I’ve also stopped falling asleep while sitting down to eat something in front of the television. My dog is not so happy about this. He is ecstatic, however, about my new charcoal grill. Today, I whipped up some food for the week:

organic chicken thighs from Trader Joe's

organic chicken thighs from Trader Joe’s

hamburgers from Omaha Steaks (thanks, mom!) and steaks from Trader Joe's

hamburgers from Omaha Steaks (thanks, mom!) and steaks from Trader Joe’s

potatoes speared on cast iron skewers

potatoes speared on cast iron skewers

Yes, Boo gets samples. He also gets to lick the plate I carry the cooked food in on after I’ve transferred everything to the fridge.

mini peppers, onions, beets, and (hiding underneath) baby bok choy

mini peppers, onions, beets, and (hiding underneath) baby Bok choy

pineapple - tried slices instead of spears this time, not sure which I like better

pineapple – tried slices instead of spears this time, not sure which I like better

The grill can hold a lot of food and the charcoal I got from Trader Joe’s stays hot for quite some time. I’m starting to have fun experimenting with it  – today I made a marinade to brush on most of the food instead of just throwing it on. It helped immensely that the weather stayed sunny and the rain/wind stayed away. (I’m still amazed that I spent all afternoon grilling and enjoyed it after spending the morning at Barnes & Noble and Trader Joe’s … )

There are so many things I want to do, and now I’m getting the energy back to do them. I’ve even started thinking about (key verb: think) cleaning the house, inside and out.

OXYGEN AND SLEEP ROCK!!

Last night was my first night at home using my new CPAP machine. Wow. There’s a bit of a learning curve.

First, the machine wants me to breathe more than I want to. It wants me to take more and deeper breaths, and it signals it’s displeasure with my slow shallow breathing by making the mask quiver: that is going to take some getting used to. Last night, I’d go along with it for awhile, but then it’d just get to be so much work. It’s easier to be still. So I’d start “fighting” it. (If I didn’t have a mask over my nose and mouth, I would have yelled at it about cooperation and playing nice … I know. It’s supposed to make me breathe, that’s the whole point. Still. It’s going to take some time for us to feel like partners.)

Then there’s the humidifier. Did you know that you need to fill the tank with water for the humidifier to work? Otherwise, morning brings a very dry nose and mouth. It felt like I’d been up all night shouting myself hoarse at a video game. (Yes, I speak from experience. Both staying up all night and making myself hoarse by yelling at a video game I’m playing.) I need to integrate the CPAP into my morning and bedtime routines. Fill the tank and clean the tank and mask every day.

I also rediscovered that I drool when I sleep. Not much of a problem, wipe it away with your hand or on the pillow when it starts bothering you, right? Except that THERE’S A MASK IN THE WAY! So it doesn’t automatically get wiped on the pillowcase. No, you need to remove the mask (or lift it up if you’re feeling daring), wipe it away, and replace the mask, making sure you get a good seal or the CPAP doesn’t work. (Of course, without a good seal I wouldn’t have to fight about breathing rates, but I’m trying to be a good patient.) Then, just as you start settling in again … more drool!

The last thing I’m going to talk about today is my dog. He’s a 10-12 pound Yorkie-Poo with a very cute face and short little legs. Meaning: he can’t jump up on my bed by himself, but I’m a sucker when he steers those puppy-dog eyes my way. I have an ottoman next to my bed for him to jump onto and from there he can get on the bed. Usually. Last night, he woke me up twice by yipping and pawing at my arm. He’d gotten down, the CPAP hose fell across the ottoman, and his way up was blocked. Yes, I picked him up. Yes, I moved the hose for him. He also woke me up a few times barking and growling so much I thought there was a stranger in the house. There was – the CPAP hose.

I’m going to try routing it a different way tonight. Wish me luck!

Today, I got a compliment and a criticism in the same sentence at tai chi. “Moves look good but no forces.” (native Chinese speaker) I just wanted to yell AAAARRRGGGGHHHH. I feel like Luke Skywalker with Yoda, trying but not doing. Spirals. Circles. Stupid forces. (Yeah, I know. They won’t be stupid once I figure them out. But right now …) All I can do is keep experimenting. I do wish we were still doing push hands, though. It’s less work when you don’t need to imagine the forces you’re deflecting – it helps to have real people “coming at you” with real forces. I haven’t reached the point where I can pull those forces out of the air. Yet.

In other news, I finally have an appointment to get my CPAP machine and oxygen. They’re coming to the house on Monday after a morning rehearsal. It means missing a meet and greet lunch with our new conductor, but it was that or wait another week … and I’m so over waiting. My patience no longer exists. Just two more nights, then I’m looking forward to a nap with the new machine. A planned nap, unlike the disaster that happened yesterday …

I swore I was not going to take a nap, just go to bed early. I was wrong. I sat down to watch The Big Bang Theory while drinking a green shake. I don’t know how long I was out, but the show was over, the television had shut itself off, and my dog was ensconced on my lap, licking at the green shake that had spilled all over my shirt and shorts when I somehow fell asleep while drinking it. I’m still not sure who got the lion’s share of that shake – me or Boo. Guess I was tired … and really glad my aunt got me a washing machine!

 

First I waited for them to figure out why they keep finding infiltrates in my lungs. (Still no clue.) Then I waited for them to decide what the two nodules in/on my lung and liver are. (Still guessing – adopting a wait and watch strategy.) Next I did a sleep study, waited a week for another sleep study, waited another two weeks for my doctor to come back from vacation.

Now? Had the doctor appointment, found out I’m getting a CPAP machine with supplemental oxygen and am now waiting for the medical equipment company to call again. They called a bit earlier to say they’d gotten the faxed orders, but now they have to wait for insurance company approval before they call me again to set up an appointment to come and show me the ins and outs of the machine … here’s hoping it’s sometime this week since we’re working next week! (Not to mention it’d be really nice to sleep and breathe through the night.)

 

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