Sunday, May 8, 2022
Sunday, April 10, 2022
I wrote this piece about ten years ago. Still the most embarrassing moment of my life.
My mother was somewhat of a snob. Not intellectually, for sure. Not even socially, for the most part. She was a high school graduate who made good by marrying a career military officer. From her position of safety, she was free to cast judgment upon others. And she taught her daughters well to do likewise.
Friday, March 25, 2022
I wrote this in 2014, just eight years ago.
My husband Art is six years older than me and for at least ten years he's been complaining about his aching bones. He's had a hip and a knee replaced, two rotator cuff surgeries and a hand surgery. Oh, and a pacemaker following a cardiac arrest last winter. He didn't use to seem that old to me. When we met we were in our 40s and he was trim and strong and nimble. Now he walks with a little hunch and groans a little when he gets out of his chair. Some days when he's cranky all he wants to do is read the paper and work the puzzles and read in the living room, I ask if his arthritis is bothering him and he says yes.
That is not going to happen to me. I know it isn't.
I've been healthy nearly all my life. When I was younger I broke my left arm and my left leg. Once in a while my back would go out, but it would be better within a few days. Usually it happened after I lifted something heavy.
When I was 59 I ruptured my Achilles tendon working out at the gym. No big deal, the trainer said. I'd have surgery and P.T. and then I'd have a full recovery. So I had the surgery and did the P.T. and have, I'd say, about a 90 percent recovery. I don't have any pain but my right leg is smaller than my left. Something about the other leg compensating or whatever. Funny that didn't happen when I broke my leg at 23.
That same year I strained my SI joint. Maybe doing yoga, or maybe once when I slipped on an icy sidewalk and fell. My chiropractor took X-rays and pointed out that my lower spine is messed up and my pelvis is tilted. He said I was lucky I wasn't in any pain. But I was - for six months my SI joint hurt. We went to Paris for Christmas and I walked with a cane the whole week. Eventually I figured out I could go to the gym and work out on the elliptical trainer and get myself back into shape. I thought I'd recover completely, but the SI still bothers me seven years later when I'm on my feet too much in a day, or spending too much time in an airplane seat. I'm hoping it will get itself in order pretty soon. When I was younger my body always healed right up.
Three years ago I sat down in a chair that was two inches lower than I was expecting and I messed up my back. A light show of nerve sensations ripped down my leg from thigh to knee. Within half an hour my feet were tingling. I went to a chiropractor who said the sensations would pass within a few hours. They didn't. It's been three and a half years. The sensations are still there, though not as strong as they were at first. I hear it can take five years for these kinds of things to clear up and sometimes they never do get better. I think about my feet from time to time, especially when it's cold and they complain, but I don't worry. Everyone gets injured now and then, and I'm no exception. This doesn't have anything to do with getting older.
This summer I did so much watering of my garden that I strained muscles in my arms and legs. They're still bothering me. Really, it's annoying. This never used to happen to me.
I have other little odds and ends of physical issues. Nothing serious. I had one cataract removed a couple of years ago and will take care of the other one next summer. I try to get all my errands run before dark since I don't see so well at night. I'm a little stiff when I wake up in the morning.
But I'm never going to have aching bones like my husband. Not me. Nope.
Saturday, March 5, 2022
This has been a week!
A week ago today I got a video from my Afghan friends Shakofe and Nasar. Shakofe had arrived with her family in Turin earlier in the week, and her brother Nasar had driven with his wife and four children from Germany to be reunited with his sister, whom he had not seen in six years. I played the video several times, tearing up at least once, and feeling so glad for the outcome of Shakofe's journey.
Early in the afternoon I had an hour-long Zoom call with my sister and brother-in-law. My husband Art joined that call, and we talked and laughed together.
Then the carpet cleaner came. While he worked, I sat on the deck and read in the sunshine. I didn't know what Art was up to. When the carpet guy left I went to find Art.
He was lying on the bed. He said he felt terrible after half a dozen occurrences of vomiting and diarrhea. I took his temperature and it was 100.4. I gave him a covid test and it was negative. Within half an hour his color had changed to a grayish blue. I took his temp again and it was 102.1. Art said he had never felt so bad. By this time his voice was husky and his breathing was rapid and shallow.
I called the consulting nurse for Kaiser Permanente, our health care provider. She asked me a few questions, then asked to speak to Art. His voice was faint. I took the phone back from him. The nurse said, "You need to call 9-1-1."
I said, "Art, she says I should call 9-1-1." He said, "No." I said "Yes."
Ten minutes after my call to 9-1-1, the EMTs arrived at our house. Art's oxygen saturation was 83. Within 15 minutes they had carried him on a gurney to the ambulance and left for Banner University Medical Center.
Before I went to the hospital myself, I contacted several close friends; I knew I'd need their support for whatever came up.
By the time I got to the emergency room, Art was wearing an oxygen mask and receiving antibiotics. The doctor told me it was likely Art had a bacterial infection that had gotten to his bloodstream. When he arrived at the hospital he had severe sepsis - septic shock.
The medical team at Banner saved Art's life on Saturday night with oxygen and antibiotics and expertise. A lab culture grew e-coli within two days. He spent the next four days in the hospital's Progressive Care Unit as the staff monitored his progress and administered IV antibiotics and fluids. I talked to the doctors and the nurses. They were all committed to educating us as to what was happening and the plan for Art's treatment.
By Thursday Art's medications were being administered orally and his supplemental oxygen was discontinued. And yesterday, Friday afternoon, he was discharged from the hospital. He'll be resting and recovering at home for the next week or so. Today he spent the day in his pajamas, watching TV. I went for take-out Thai soup, and as he ate it, his face lit up at the flavor. It's been a week since that last happened.
I called the Kaiser consulting nurse service and thanked them for saving his life. The nurse I talked to got a message sent directly to her. I called the ambulance service and thanked them. I have the name and email address of the administrator of the Banner hospital team. I will thank the medical team, through her, on Monday. It often happens that these lifesavers don't know the outcome of what they do. I think it's important to let them know.
Grateful, grateful, grateful!
Sunday, February 13, 2022
Last Sunday, my Afghan friend Samira and her family flew from Islamabad, through Abu Dhabi and Rome, to Turin. Samira has been offered a one-year research project at the University of Turin. They are now finishing up their 10-day covid quarantine in an airbnb. They have been welcomed by the academic community and she is very glad and grateful to have arrived in a safe place to begin a new life for her family.
This was Samira's first Facebook post when she arrived in Italy.
I Never Give Up!
Friday, January 28, 2022
I chatted online last night with my Afghan friend Samira, who is still in Pakistan with her husband and three small children. In December she had found a research scholarship the University of Turin in Italy. All she had to do was get there.
Acquiring a visa required passports stamped to prove legal entry into Pakistan. And she did not have those, because when the family left Afghanistan and entered Pakistan, its passports were taken, then returned, with no stamps. Also, at the border, the family's luggage was stolen, with all of Samira's documents buried beneath the clothing. This is often the case with migrants entering a new country.
No exceptions were allowed for Samira and her family to leave Pakistan without the passport documentation. So she recently returned to the border and got the passports stamped. That is a story for another time. I was pretty much speechless when she told me about it.
On February 2 Samira will take her passports to the Italian embassy in Islamabad, and she told me the visas should be issued within a day or so. The family will then be able to fly to Italy to begin a new life.
I have two friends, Janet and Jack, who have offered to pay the travel expenses for Samira and her family. I have been in touch with Simona, Samira's Italian contact, who is a university professor. She is working with a travel agent to get prices for a flight to Milan and a train to Turin. I will wire the funds; Janet and Jack will reimburse me.
Simona tells me that Samira's first paycheck will not be issued for two months, so funds will be needed to support the family until that time. Her paycheck will be 2,000 euros a month. So I will be doing some fundraising in the next week to give her 4,000 euros (about $4500) for rent and living expenses until her paychecks begin.
We hear so often about the tragedies experienced by refugees who have to leave their homeland because their lives are in danger. I met many of them when I volunteered at the Oinofyta refugee camp in Greece. Samira is the sister of Nadim, one of those Oinofyta refugees. When Samira and her family arrive in Italy next week, I will be relieved and grateful to have helped.
I tell this story often:
Friday, January 14, 2022
We've had Larisa, our Designer Cat, for 11 years. She is a Siberian Forest cat; her registered name is Windrifter Larisa of Lundberg. She was a breeding queen at a small cattery in Oregon, and she was retired when she was five years old. We bought her because my husband Art is allergic to cats, but Larisa is a very-low-allergen cat and he is not allergic to her.
Larisa would not let us touch her until she had lived with us for 62 days. Now she's a typical cat. We can touch her when she lets us.
We live in a Seattle suburb for six months of each year, and in Tucson for the other six months. Larisa travels on the plane in a soft-sided crate under the seat. She knows both of our homes and heads for the litter box when she first arrives at each place.
Last June, in Washington, I watched her exploring the yard. She looked a little hesitant, a little stiff. I guessed she had some arthritis in her hips. I hadn't noticed it until then because we'd been in Tucson, where it's warmer and drier and easier on the joints of most elderly creatures. We called our vet and she prescribed gabapentin for Larisa's arthritis. Powder in a gel tab. We spent most of the summer trying to get Larisa to take her medicine, a usually fruitless effort very familiar to cat owners all over the world.
Also last summer, Art had back surgery in June and I had a hip replacement in August. We were both distracted by some pain and by the pre- and post-surgical limitations each of us had. Larisa had gotten a close haircut in the spring, when the weather in Tucson got hot, and it grew all summer in Washington. By the time we left for Tucson again in October, Larisa looked like a slow-moving hedgehog.
I noticed that she wasn't grooming herself much. She had mats in her fur - under her chin, on her belly and on her back just in front of her tail. We'd brush her, but she was sensitive in the matted areas. Her coat looked dull. I wondered if she was sick, or just on the decline.
Last month, finally, we made an appointment for Larisa to be groomed. She got a bath and a haircut. It had been over six months. Art and I had been distracted enough by our own issues that we hadn't thought about it. We realized then that Larisa's arthritis had prevented her from reaching the mats to take care of them herself. When she moved or we brushed her, the mats had pulled on her skin.
When we brought Larisa home from the groomer's, she was a different cat. She had a very short cut. She spent the first half hour grooming herself. Then she played with toys she'd ignored for months. She sits on my lap now most evenings. She sleeps in our bed most of the night.
She's a happy cat. She's purring on my lap right now, her tail resting on my keyboard.