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“Have a Nice Day ….”

21 Jul

“Have a nice day …”

I wonder who said that for the very first time, to whom & under what circumstances. I imagine it was said with real feeling to someone who was a genuinely nice person after a pleasant time spent together. And I wonder if the person who was on the receiving end of that salutation liked & appreciated it so much that he or she passed it along.  Maybe that’s how it all got started & became one of the most often used things we say, not only to friends & loved ones, but to perfect strangers as well.

It not only may be used in a positive way but may also be used with an air of sarcasm, like, “Have a nice day, you creep,” said to someone who has been particularly obnoxious. But I like the positive use much more than the negative.

I also think it’s a salutation we just use because we’ve heard it a thousand times & it seems like a good thing to say. On the other hand, the person saying it to us (or that we may say it to) could have said something entirely opposite to us, like, “Screw you!” So looking at it that way, I’m convinced that when most of us say it, in some small way we kind of mean it or we would have thought of something else to say first … & that’s just cool.

All that went racing through my mind yesterday at my semi-annual dentist appointment. I was tilted WAY back in the chair; a light was blinding me from above & the dental hygienist had a scraping tool, a water-sucking tool, a drilling tool & both her hands in my mouth, mere inches from my brain. With what felt like yet another hand, she had a vice-grip lock on my lower lip. My first thought was, “Gee … I hope she’s not having a bad day …” AKA “I hope she’s having a nice day.” Anyone who is “up in there” that close to my brain needs to be feeling good, having some really swell thoughts & having had some great experiences before she got to me.

At the end of my appointment, my teeth were lily white & in great shape (“Look, Ma … no cavities”), I’d thought a lot about telling people to have a nice day & now I have a subject for this blog entry. Not bad for an hour in a dentist’s chair praying that the woman ministering to my teeth & gums has had absolutely EVERYTHING going her way for not only the hours before she & I had our encounter, but several days beforehand. (It’s all about the proximity to my brain.)

I thought about, “Have a nice day” off & on all day long yesterday. I thought about the dental hygienist & how, if I’d thought it would have ensured that she was having a nice day before she & I got together on a Wednesday morning & she spent that time “up in there” close to my brain with all those cutting / slicing tools, I would have sent her a greeting card by Hallmark designed especially with her in mind; hoping it would be a positive Hallmark Moment & send the message, “Have a nice day …”

At dinner I told my husband all this. While he seemed to be paying attention I’m not sure it was undivided (the TV was on & he’d worked a long day in 90+ degree weather). But I persevered.

As an afterthought, which got his attention, I added, “The 3 people I want most to ‘have a nice day’ are my dental hygienist, my gynecologist & the guy who does my colonoscopy. Each of them spends a lot of time ‘up in there’ & I want it to be positive quality time. From now on I’m sending them ALL a Hallmark card.” That obviously got his attention, although he stared at me as though I’d just landed at our dinner table from Mars.

He replied, “Absolutely …”

So now I’m sharing all these deep thoughts with you & hoping this encourages you to have some deep thoughts of your own about this subject.

Thank you so much for reading this &, oh …  have a nice day …

 

The Keyboard of Life

5 Jul

My husband & I have an unlisted phone number. We got it for many reasons, not the least of which was avoiding annoying calls when I had been up all night working in the OR assisting with emergency surgery & attempting to sleep the following day.

Adding an unlisted number to our phone service costs us approximately $60 a year; not a lot but enough for a nice evening out or to buy a pound of hamburger (these days) to enjoy on the grill.  What it doesn’t do is stop unwanted robocalls, calls from non-profits, calls from political affiliates wanting to be certain we’re going to vote for their candidate (mostly those calls fall on deaf ears), & calls from bogus IRS representatives telling us (on the answering machine) that we will face a stiff jail sentence if we don’t heed this final warning & pay them the back taxes we owe them (which we know we don’t). Those calls are not only very annoying, we felt like we were wasting our money on the unlisted / unpublished number.

I’ve called the phone company & all they could do was give me advice, “Don’t answer the calls if you don’t recognize the number. Don’t talk to the caller – hang up. Never give anyone your personal information. Here’s a number to report those calls.” I’ve reported the calls. I’ve enlisted the help of every agency, the phone company, the FCC & we’re on every national “Don’t Call” list there is but the calls just kept coming. Sigh … I grew weary of just hearing the phone ring.

So with determination & a side order of vengeance, my husband spent a fair chunk of change & ordered a CPR Call Blocker. It is truly an invention of the gods! It’s a small device that hooks to the phone & sits on my desk in my office. It has a window display & when the phone rings the caller’s number is displayed on that little window screen. In front of the window is a HUGE red button, obviously fashioned for the blind … easily accessible & difficult to mistake for anything else. The words in large, bold print on that beautiful red button are BLOCK NOW. When an annoying call comes in – a number I don’t recognize or do recognize as a previously annoying number, I simply limber up my pointing finger & hit that BLOCK NOW button. The word SUCCESSFUL tip-toes across the display screen, which causes such a feeling of accomplishment &, well, success. Not only have I blocked that annoying caller, hopefully for life, it gives me a tremendous sense of power. I’ve even been known to chuckle maniacally after having that button-punching experience. I LOVE it.

The CPR Call Blocker doesn’t stop all the calls. They continue to come in occasionally (& I continue to block them) but not with the frequency they did before the acquisition of the Call Blocker. It has given us peace, mostly, & has leveled the playing field. I’d recommend it to everyone.

So this morning as I poked that wonderful red BLOCK NOW button & sent yet another unwanted call to wherever it is the CPR Call Blocker sends them, I thought about life. I thought how great it would be to be able to hit a BLOCK NOW button when we’re threatened with heartache & disease & difficult situations & people. How wonderful would THAT be?

Then I looked at my computer keyboard that is right beside the Call Blocker on my desk & that made me think a little more (it’s a rainy day so sitting & thinking is a good use of my time right now … & writing blog entries). What if LIFE had a keyboard? What if we could simply hit an ESCAPE button when we found ourselves in unpleasant situations or boring company or doing stuff we didn’t want to do. How cool would THAT be? Well, just cool. If we were miserable, we could just hit the HOME button & leave a bad or annoying situation & be back in the comfort of our homes with the punch of a LIFE button.

I believe the most useful button on the Keyboard of Life would be the PAUSE button. We could PAUSE it to stay in a special moment for an undetermined length of time. We could stay in a wonderful experience or encounter & stop it from ever ending. We could extend special moments with special people & most of all we could hit PAUSE while eating Black Forrest Cake & keep those extra pounds from showing up on our hips by pausing the effect of the calories.

If I could, I would upgrade my Keyboard of Life to include a GO BACK button like we find on our TIVO remote. I’d love to re-experience some of the many exceptional moments of my life; perfect days that I never wanted to end, wonderful days spent with my mom when she was well.

As much as we would enjoy that GO BACK button, I can see there would be pitfalls; we might want to stay in those “go back” moments, which would be counterproductive & interfere with the paths of our lives.

So the Keyboard of Life would also have a CONTINUE button just like that box that records stuff from our TV. Without the CONTINUE button we could not experience all that lies ahead; all that makes us who we are, gives us strength & shapes our lives. Without the CONTINUE button I would no longer know the pure delight I feel when I hit that big red  BLOCK NOW button on our CPR Call Blocker. That would be a tremendous loss & leave a huge vacancy in my life.

If you are continually annoyed by robocalls, non-profits & politicians, you might try investing in a CPR Call Blocker. It may not take you on a trip across the keyboard of your life, but it will give you tremendous joy & a sense of unleashed, unbridled power.

Bossy and the Nature of Science

24 Jun

My husband writes a science article for a monthly newsletter & this morning I interrupted him in his office as he was in the middle of this month’s submission. He subscribes to a magazine called Science Illustrated & gets a lot of ideas for his monthly articles from that magazine. His latest issue arrived in our mailbox yesterday.

Since I’d interrupted him, he told me a bit about the article he was currently working on. It was based on something he’d just read in the magazine that confirmed a phenomenon he & several friends had witnessed on a beach trip back in the 80s. I wondered aloud if their perception might possibly have been altered by some preferred recreational substance of the era but he only scoffed at the idea & said this was a serious article. He read me what he’d written so far & I liked the fact that he’d added a story from his past that related to the scientific elements of the article, even without the enhancement of recreational substances. I told him that & how I enjoyed the “personal element” he’d included.

From that point he started telling me about some of the very interesting articles that were in this month’s Science Illustrated. There was, in addition to the subject of the article he was writing, an article about how long it would ACTUALLY take to colonize planets like Mars to make them habitable for humans, & a pretty extensive article about global warming.

The global warming article included a graph showing the history of global warming as it has been tracked extensively over the last 100 years, plus a look back at the previous 200 years.  It also specifically pointed out particular events … like the Industrial Revolution that had added to a problem that could not have been foreseen at the time. It was a fascinating article & we talked about it a bit.

Way back when I met my husband some 30-odd years ago & throughout the 20 years of our marriage, one of the things I have continued to appreciate about him is his sense of humor. He has kept me laughing during some pretty serious points in our marriage & for that I am forever grateful. Just as I am grateful that he continues to delight me with his humor at the most unexpected times.

So knowing Willy the way that I do, I was not surprised that he brought up the staggering contribution to global warming that is made by cows & the amount of methane gas they spew into the atmosphere on a continuing basis through their flatulence. I asked him if that was included in the article in Science Illustrated & he told me it wasn’t, although the cow flatulence angle has been verified repeatedly by scientists who study that kind of thing.

And thus began an interesting, but strange conversation about global warming & how it has been influenced by cow farts. (Sigh …) It raised the question with us both whether cow farts are REALLY an ingredient in the vast question of global warming or if that’s just a load of hot air??? (Sigh again …)

Willy pointed out that there are absolutely HUGE numbers of cattle … not only in our country but most countries around the world. He said that the numbers are larger because more cattle are being raised for food, not to mention the number of cattle that are revered in some countries & NEVER enter the food chain (apparently they just stand around in the fields eating & farting … & contributing to global warming until they arrive at the end of their charmed lives…WOW!)

The situation would not be nearly as critical if the choices of creatures being raised for food were primarily chickens, which, unfortunately is not the case. Willy speculated on the amount of methane that would be produced by a large flock of chickens & said it was impossible to even guesstimate. And besides … it is unclear whether the methane farts produced by cattle are a direct result of their diet or if all living, farting creatures produce methane. If they do, where does that put humans on the graph? Suddenly cow farts pulled ahead of the Industrial Revolution in the grand scheme of global warming. It was obviously a very deep question that led to even more speculation & calculation. (I was getting a headache …)

So at that point in our conversation Willy came up with a possible solution for the polluting aspects of cow farts & suggested that GasX be added to the diets of all living, methane-producing creatures. He looked at me & said, “Do you have any idea just how much GasX that would take?”

And so I went back to the kitchen to fix breakfast with questions swirling around in my head about cow farts, GasX, the seriousness of global warming & speculation about just how many couples were having the exact discussion Willy & I just had before breakfast. I’m convinced that we were unique in the universe, at least for a little while … & maybe that’s a good thing. If not good, I know it’s pretty cool.

Flipping pancakes I realized just how cool it is to be married to someone with a quirky sense of humor. Life is never boring & is always some sort of adventure, whether it’s shopping with him in Walmart or discussing the seriousness of global warming, but with a twist. I remember how that sense of humor made getting me through chemotherapy for breast cancer bearable & has seen us through the bumps in the road that we’ve run into during the journey we’ve shared over the last 20 years. It has been a blessing.

I can’t imagine being married to anyone without a sense of humor.

Recently I’ve thought how wonderful it would be if I could make Willy available to the government … both sides, red & blue.  Through Willy’s influence they might be able to see dire situations with a little bit of humor & that would make it better for everyone all around. And when someone called & wanted to speak to Willy on the phone, I could simply say, “He’s on loan to the government.”

Why are cows so often named Bossy, anyway? Well, not that anyone really cares, but here it is –  Bos primigenius is the scientific name of the species (I think that’s what it said … Remember? I have a headache).

See? … we all have learned quite a lot today. And it all started with a discussion about cow farts.

 

Nose Hairs and the Trimmer

29 May

My husband & I have reached the point in our lives where we have just about everything we need, which presents a problem at Christmas & birthdays. We don’t know what to give to each other. While gift cards are ideal – you can use them to get something you REALLY want or are great for a meal during an evening out in, say, March or April, they don’t offer the same holiday excitement you get opening a beautifully wrapped gift.

Several years ago my husband gave me a lovely little wrapped gift for Christmas that held all that holiday surprise (he wrapped it himself). I opened it to find a very small & delicate trimmer. In fact, the package said, “TRIMMER.” It also said, “Personal Trimmer,” which led my husband to assume it was an eyebrow trimmer & that’s what he told me. While the package did say, “TRIMMER,” the accompanying picture in the literature showed that delicate little cutting tool being used to trim nostril hair & said it was great as a “nose hair trimmer.” Because I didn’t have nostril hair falling onto my upper lip with wind blowing it around & causing me to lisp when speaking, I accepted it graciously as it had been given.

When I was a small child growing up in North Carolina I remember a barber shop that advertised, Shave, Haircut, Ear & Nose Hair Trimming. I remember a man sitting in front of us in church that had a huge crop of ear hair falling out of his ears onto the sides of his face &, although I don’t remember his face, I will never forget that mane of hair plummeting from each of his ears that fascinated me sitting behind him in church. I suppose he also had a bunch falling out of his nostrils but I don’t remember ever looking.  In my young mind I made up stories about that hair & kept myself occupied until the adult service had ended, sometimes dragging on after 12 noon.

That was one of those memories that suddenly surfaced while I was holding that little TRIMMER package in my hand & reading the accompanying literature.

When I put the gift away in a bathroom drawer, I thought a lot about superfluous hair, with a target on nose hair … primarily because there was a picture.

So what is nostril hair for anyway? I’m sure I’m not the only person who has ruminated over that question, so here is what I know. Physically, it not only catches some small stuff & debris & keeps it from entering our noses (small stuff we can’t even see); it also warms up the air that we breathe when we inhale. If you’ve ever noticed walking out to your car on that first VERY cold morning of  winter & suddenly you feel like your nose hairs are frozen, then you get an idea of what great nose & internal body warmers those little nostril hairs really are & you, like I, just might ask yourself if trimming those unsightly things back is a good idea. Well, now that I think about it, probably not in the dead of winter. If we allow them to do their job, they make not only a pretty great filter, they can be an excellent nostril muff.

I guess nose hair trimming can be overdone as with anything we do to excess & I wouldn’t recommend doing it to the extreme. There are some cases, however, where regular nose hair grooming is imperative … like if they’re dragging on your top lip & becoming incidental conversation starters at parties or if they are flapping in the breeze, making eating & coherent speech difficult or become a distraction when giving a very important verbal presentation.  If that is the case, have I got a tool for you!!!

If, however, extreme nostril hair is helpful in your life, like when you’re on a trip & accidentally leave your tooth brush at home, then maybe investing in a nose hair trimmer wouldn’t be your first purchase for the trip. However, I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest braiding them or adorning them with nose hair jewelry. That seems a bit extreme but in the quiet of your own home, well, what happens at home should STAY at home & that’s all I’m going to say about that.

After a while I DID use the TRIMMER to tame a wayward eyebrow or two & have continued to use it for that purpose. It works just fine.

I will warn you, though, while good nostril health is imperative to all around good health & they should stay aesthetically pleasing, you don’t want to go poking around in there so much. It can be frustrating & you can do some REAL damage with a nose hair trimmer. Not that I know from experience but I can just imagine the perils of placing a small, battery-operated cutting tool into those two holes in the front of your head & coming out on the worst end of that experiment.

In conclusion I just want to thank my husband for a Christmas gift that has kept my eyebrows perfectly groomed for the past several years & led me to an intellectually fascinating quest to learn everything there was to learn about Nostril Wellness.

And what about that old man in church when I was just a curious child who had all that oscillating hair emanating from each of his ears? Well, that was a long time ago & I’m sure he’s dead by now … taking with him his personal secret of that lengthy growth. On the other hand, even though I don’t remember his face, I DO remember him. I guess it’s even possible that I may be the ONLY person alive on this planet that does, so in a way, my husband’s unusual  Christmas gift was more than a way of finding a unique gift to give to someone who has everything. It has been a learning experience &, more important than that, it has made me remember a poor, old forgotten man who died long ago & would never have been remembered otherwise.

Nostril hairs … God love ‘em ……………..

 

Mother’s Day

10 May

At 84 she was frail & ravaged by end-stage COPD when she died due to a 40 year history of smoking. She quit when she was 68 but by then the worst of the damage was done, yet she lived 16 more years, as much by sheer determination as by good medical intervention. Towards the end of her life she described herself, not as frail, but as “fragile.”

After I went through a divorce, she promised not to go “anywhere” until I was settled. And she didn’t. She lived long enough to see me married to my husband, Willy & finally happy.

I loved my mother more than anything, ever. From the time I was old enough to pray with understanding, the main message in my prayers was for the safety of my mom & that I be allowed to have her in my life a while longer. Subconsciously, that was probably in part due to the sudden loss of my father when I was 6 to an unexpected coronary thrombosis. I harbored the fear that my remaining parent might be taken from me just as suddenly.

Throughout my life my mom was my teacher, my mentor, my best friend & my disciplinarian. She saw to it that I had everything I needed & a lot of what I really wanted, even if it meant working extra hours or long weekends at the phone company. Many of the lessons I learned from her were taught to me through her wonderful & unique sense of humor & the optimistic view she had of life, which she held onto even in the face of personal disappointment.

Growing up, my elementary school girl friends loved pajama parties at my house mainly because of my mom & my high school best friend, who couldn’t talk to her own mother, talked to mine.

My mom taught me compassion, understanding & love. She taught me respect, not only for people but all living things. She taught me to believe in myself, my judgement & my decisions but she also taught me humility & how to admit when I was wrong or had made a mistake. She taught me to understand finances, to be independent, how to manage my bank account & my emotions. She was there WITH me & always FOR me.

I believe most everyone’s mom was / is like that but to me my mother was unique in the universe & to this day, she continues to be.

Most of the critical medical problems I’ve had have been since my mother’s death. But, oh, how I wished she had been there with me when they reared their ugly heads. I especially missed her when I was diagnosed with breast cancer & went through nearly a year of chemotherapy & radiation. I believe she would have been proud of the way I handled all that & the life changes I’ve made as a result of it but mainly I wished for her closeness during those times because of her way of handling illness. She would tell me, “It’s going to be alright,” & I always believed her, even though I knew intellectually it wasn’t always going to be.

When she knew her time was limited she tried to tell me things she wanted me to know; from stories of her life she’d never shared with anyone but wanted to, to where important papers were. I couldn’t listen & she responded by gently asking me, “Do you think I’m going to live forever?” My response to her was a very defiant, “I’m counting on it.” And so she told my husband everything she wanted me to know & after her death, when he thought I could handle it, he told those things to me. I came to think of those times as Mama Moments & through his telling them to me from his heart where she’d placed them, it helped keep her alive a while longer when I really needed her to be.

When I feel lonely without my mom & the special feelings of warmth & security we feel when our moms hold us close, I remember her sense of humor & the wonderfully unexpected & humorous things she said. And I smile. Sometimes I burst into laughter & feel her at my side, reaching out to grab my hand while smiling into my eyes & into my heart.

One of the things I miss most, aside from conversations, afternoons shopping, lunches at our favorite restaurants, sharing exceptional books & going to spur-of-the-moment movie matinees is no longer being anyone’s “little girl.” No matter how old she & I were or got to be, I was always that to her & we both knew it & were wrapped in the warm cocoon of that knowledge & that special place we shared. It is a love that is shared only by mothers & daughters & I am forever blessed to have known that in my life & to have been in that special place.

The author, Mitch Albom wrote a novel several years ago called, For Just One More Day.  Its premise is a simple one & here is a description of the premise as it appears in the advertisement for the novel:

A beautiful, haunting novel about the family we love & the chances we miss.

   FOR ONE MORE DAY is the story of a mother & son, & the relationship that covers a lifetime & beyond. It explores the question, “What would you do if you could spend just one more day with a lost loved one?”

I bought the book because I was intrigued with the possibility & the premise set loose in me a huge desire to have just one more day with my mom. What would I tell her? What would she tell ME? How could I ever let her go again?

Mainly I would just like to hug her & feel the warmth of her …  that frail body…  & drown in the hugeness of her personality & her love for me … to be her “little girl” For Just One More Day.

I’d tell her, Happy Mother’s Day & thank her especially for being my Mom.

 

 

BLAND is a Four-Letter Word

24 Apr

I’ve thought about the word “bland” a lot. What I’ve decided is that it’s definitely a 4-letter word although not in the same context as the more obvious 4-letter curse words. You can say “bland” at the Sunday morning church service & not be removed by a deacon & you can shout it out in almost any public venue & not be removed by the bouncer … unless, of course, it’s a quiet setting where shouting is frowned upon. But “bland” still qualifies as being offensive, even if in a subtle or passive aggressive way.

Here’s what the dictionary says about “bland:”

Bland / bland / adjective – lacking strong features or characteristics & therefore uninteresting. Synonyms: uninteresting, dull, boring, tedious, monotonous, monochrome

So if we say someone has a bland personality that certainly qualifies as an insult (even if the person DOES, indeed, have a bland personality) &, to some, qualifies it as a 4-letter word, depending on how they perceive the depth of the insult. The same is true of saying someone has a “bland” wardrobe, sense of humor, lifestyle or is a “bland” conversationalist. Heaven forbid that we should live in a house with a “bland” exterior or have someone (other than ourselves) describe our marriage as “bland.”  Deliver me from spending time reading a “bland” novel or watching a movie with a rather “bland” plot.

So that’s how I decided “bland” is a 4-letter word. It is often more offensive than those other, real 4-letter words that get us kicked out of places or frowned upon as socially unacceptable when we use them.

“Bland,” I think, is also an onomatopoeia. It’s one of those words that sound like what it actually is. The word “bland” just sounds gray or muddy brown & lacks the excitement of words like “exhilaration.”

Now, a “bland” diet is something I’m way too familiar with.  I got too familiar with it for the 5 months I was on one while my doctors & I tried to figure out why I kept waking up in the morning sick with an upset stomach … from the stomach literally to the last silly millimeter of my colon.  The detective work led to a rotten gallbladder but that is secondary to the story. It was miserable & while I struggled through that, the diet of choice for me was “bland.”

 A “bland” diet will sustain life. However, if you’re one of those people who build social events & friendships around dinner out, then “bland” is definitely not going to be your cup of tea. Perhaps the most redeeming quality of a “bland” diet is something I remember from childhood & a friend’s mom who was a lousy cook. If anyone complained about the quality of her meals, she would simply respond, “It fills a hole.” And that’s exactly what a “bland” diet does; it fills you up while keeping you alive with absolutely no frills or fanfare.

So during those 5 months I ate the heck out of grits & rice & green beans, peas, oyster crackers, Jell-O & Animal Crackers. There is most likely a potato shortage in Idaho because of my almost daily consumption & I’m guessing the majority of chicken farms are saving money on mammary supports for their hens. I’ve consumed more chicken breasts than there are chickens & most are currently mastectomy survivors, thanks to my “bland” diet.

In the early stages I’d bake a potato at home & take it with me when dining in the home of friends. In late December we were invited to a restaurant with a number of friends to celebrate someone’s birthday. I wanted to go & told my husband I’d just order a baked potato.   Unfortunately, the dinner was at the ONLY restaurant on this PLANET that did NOT have baked potatoes on the menu &, although we were certain there were potatoes somewhere in the kitchen in that restaurant, they refused to bake one for me. So I sat with my Coke & watched my friends eat the most delicious meals. In addition to that particular restaurant, “bland” sucks.

Easing AWAY from a “bland” diet is challenging. You attempt to add new (old) foods to your diet a little bit at a time, hoping to be able to add them permanently BACK into your list of “CAN EAT” foods. There is nothing more exciting than being able to add a food to your list of those you can once again tolerate. Adding pork tenderloin to my diet & eventually Vanilla Wafers was a time of rejoicing & celebration, even though they were once such an accepted part of my diet. I will never take Vanilla Wafers for granted again.

What I’ve learned about “bland” is this:

  1. “Bland” is a 4-letter word & the things we associate with it can seem offensive, if not downright insulting by association.
  2. “Bland” is an onomatopoeia. It SOUNDS like it actually is … gray, muddy brown & lacking in most everything exhilarating.
  3. A “bland” diet will keep you alive. It will keep your stomach & your colon reasonably quiet & you will lose weight. Your cholesterol will take a nose dive & your medical doctor will be impressed, so at least it’s satisfying to someone.

What it WON’T do is bring you joy at dinnertime. It won’t titillate your taste buds & a certain restaurant in our area will not serve you a baked potato because they aren’t included on their rather spicy menu … whether they have them physically on the premises or not.

  1. I’d rather deal with a “bland” diet than nausea, vomiting & diarrhea but not for very long. Potatoes, chicken & Jell-O get “old” quickly & you start lusting after your husband’s roast beef sandwich & that pizza he brought home as a carry-out.
  2. Mealtime is a wonderful thing when you start adding foods to your meager “bland” diet & are able to tolerate them again.
  3. Life is still a beautiful thing, even when infused with a little “bland.
  4. Except for a “bland” diet when it’s necessary, you can always steer clear of those people with “bland” personalities, lousy choices in clothing, housing & spouses.

Sacrificing an Organ ….

21 Mar

I’m convinced, due to my own experience, that we don’t really appreciate food. We probably really enjoy a special meal when we’re out for an evening but even then I don’t think we REALLY appreciate food.

Food – the flavor, the satisfaction of the taste on our tongues, the different textures PLUS the time for social interaction with good friends around a wonderful meal are so important to our emotional well-being … just as sitting down to a rather normal evening meal after a difficult day at work is. When those things suddenly are missing in our lives we are impacted in a variety of ways; not the least of which is a tremendous sense of loss.

I’d been having digestive issues perhaps 1 to 3 times a year since way back in 2009 when I was having chemotherapy for breast cancer. At the time of the first several attacks I simply associated them with the chemo. When they continued the years following the end of that treatment, they were infrequent enough not to cause unusual concern.

For anywhere from 1 to 3 days I was incapacitated several times a year with nausea, vomiting & the associated inconveniences. I could never pinpoint an association to a specific food. When a couple of attacks interfered with something very special I had planned, I finally saw a gastroenterologist.

Diagnosed with acid reflux, I was subjected to all the “purple pills” in the available arsenal of medicines that were known to treat that illness. And I had a gastroscopy that revealed an esophageal condition called eosinophilic esophagitis; an esophageal reaction to an allergen, most likely food. Since I had no symptoms (swallowing difficulties), I wasn’t treated for that. But my attacks of nausea, vomiting & that other stuff persisted, still on a 1 to 3 attacks per year basis. In between attacks I ate what I wanted. It was weird.

Suddenly the last of November in 2016 everything changed. The attack episodes kicked up a notch & I began having an attack every-other-week through December. Now, December is a very important month to me as it probably is to most of us. The food is pretty spectacular at Christmas & throughout the holidays & my birthday is December 31. Not only did I miss most of that because I was AFRAID to eat after a while, I missed the entire winter season while trying to find a reason for the attacks & began a medical odyssey the likes of which I could never have imagined.

Because I woke up first thing in the morning with the attacks, I became afraid to go to sleep.  The GI guy had me sleeping almost sitting straight up because of the acid reflux thing & one of my medicines gives me insomnia. A good night’s sleep became an impossibility.  And I was afraid to eat anything that wasn’t on my increasingly brief list of tolerated foods. I was a psychological mess in addition to all the physical problems.

Our lives changed drastically.

Through January & February I had every kind of “scope” known to man & the medical community. If I had an unfilled orifice someone found a way to stick a scope in it. Everything was negative except for the eosinophilic esophagitis that was asymptomatic. It was frustrating.

I put myself on a very bland diet. Afraid to eat anything other than bland … meaning “good,” … I started losing weight. I figured a little weight loss was a good thing but by the time I made some definite decisions about what to do about the attacks,  I had lost 15 pounds, most of which I didn’t need to lose. My list of tolerable foods was short, my dessert was Jell-O only & my snacks consisted of oyster & Animal Crackers. All crackers & Jell-O & no real enjoyable snack foods made me a very dull girl. I was use to cookies.

To make a long story a little less long, nurse that I am, I started thinking my symptoms sounded a lot like gallbladder attacks so I asked my GI guy to please do a gallbladder ultrasound. He agreed & ordered it but said he didn’t think that was the problem. The results came back “abnormal.” While I didn’t have gallstones, I DID have “sludge.”

It became evident that if you don’t have gallstones the size of Cleveland, very few medical professionals take you seriously. BUT … I was an OR nurse for more than half my life & I KNOW “sludge” can make you very ill. So I pursued it.

Throughout January & February I saw no less than 5 doctors & had enough bloodwork to justify a zipper in a vein if there were such a thing. 3 agreed with me & believed my “sludgy” gallbladder was causing my suddenly very frequent & unpleasant attacks. One said he didn’t think it could possibly be the cause & the 5th. doctor became a fence sitter.

After being an OR nurse for so many years, the last thing I wanted to consider was surgery so I did everything within my power & what medical expertise I possessed to avoid a cholecystectomy (surgical gallbladder removal). The last physician I saw before making my decision was an allergist about the esophageal thing. He tested me for 70 food allergies, all of which were negative & said he believed my problem was digestive & not esophageal or due to an allergen.

So I made the decision to have the gallbladder surgery. Suddenly sacrificing an organ became a small thing in the grand scheme of getting my life back & enjoying food again.

Cascading events …………..

As so often happens, especially if you happen to be a nurse, I ran into a set of cascading events. As I was beginning to lose significant amounts of hair, was very cold & tired – most of which I attributed to the GI attacks, my medical doctor discovered my thyroid levels were extremely low & she began treating me for that; promising I would feel better soon. It couldn’t have happened at a worse time.

For months I had had my annual mammogram scheduled & that came just 3 days before my posted gallbladder surgery. Because of my previous breast cancer, the annual mammogram always fills me with anxiety … anxiety I didn’t need while preparing for surgery & dealing with significantly lower thyroid levels but I’m a tough old girl & made it through … stressed to the max but very glad the mammogram, at least, was negative.

The Dominoes continued to fall. Once those darned things get started, you just can’t stop them & I still had some unpleasant cascading events ahead. I could not have imagined ….

Surgery, thankfully, went without problems. When I was dressing to leave the hospital I realized I had a terrible sore throat so I asked the nurse to take a look. With flashlight in hand, she reported that my uvula (that little hang-down thing in the back of our throats) was red & very swollen. The injury was due to intubation prior to surgery. She spoke to the anesthesiologist about it & they sent me home sucking ice chips. The post-op discharge pain medicine seemed to decrease the throat pain as well.

Saturday morning, back home, after breakfast I noticed something in the back of my very sore throat … coughed it up & found out it was the tip of my uvula, so traumatized that it simply sloughed off. This would ONLY happen to a nurse … sigh.

I just realized there’s no way I can make this a short story so my apologies to those struggling along with me.

Day 2 post op …

After lunch, which was difficult because of the uvula discomfort, I attempted to “keep things moving” & did quite a lot of straining. This resulted in a colon bleed of fairly significant proportions. My doctor sent me to the ER on Sunday evening. After being examined & seeing 2 doctors I was admitted to the hospital.

It occurred to me that I am older … not as resilient … & that I didn’t really want to die. I had the gallbladder surgery in an honest attempt to be able to do nothing more than eat again. Mortality due to a colon bleed seemed anticlimactic, yet absolutely possible & my stress level went up to “arc weld.”

I was hospitalized for almost 3 full days, none of which I was fed anything but IVs because the looming possibility of surgery was always right there with me. I saw 4 doctors (one was my original surgeon, thankfully), 2 nurse practitioners who were wonderful & one surgeon “on call” who suggested I might have to have my colon removed as a last resort. I told the nurse in no uncertain terms that he would not TOUCH me.

I had blood work no less than 2 times a day & a full assortment of x-rays. If I don’t glow in the dark it’s a miracle.

My original surgeon … the voice of reason in that cataclysmic void … assured me that even though no one could find the source of the bleeding, it would resolve itself. I was counting on him knowing exactly what he was talking about. Around mid-day on Tuesday, that’s exactly what happened & I was discharged from the hospital … given a clear liquid diet & 5 more pounds lighter.

So now I’ve been home a week & the gallbladder surgery was 11 days ago. My husband took a week of vacation to stay home with me but he is back at work now. This week has not been without its difficulties but I believe we may have finally turned the corner sometime on Sunday night.

I’m better …

I’m still taking special care about my diet, mainly because of the colon bleed & not wanting to eat something that would kick off an episode of nausea & vomiting. Heaving is not on my dance card until my gallbladder has healed a bit longer.

Was it all worth sacrificing an organ? Yes … if everything works eventually & I can eat like a normal person again, it was.

As I’m slowly introducing different foods into my diet, I’m looking forward to the day when I can eat a full meal filled with diversity & shared with friends.  Someone gave me a case of Cadbury Crème Eggs, which is the light at the end of my tunnel & my goal for full recovery.

Gallbladder surgery is a simple thing these days. They use a scope through buttonhole incisions & most people are back at work in just a matter of days. But I DO caution you no matter what you’re undertaking medically or surgically if you happen to be a nurse. Dominoes & cascading events follow us around like flies on a pile of very ugly stuff. Do your research & make sure whatever course you’ve decided to follow, you are prepared for events that seldom happen to “normal” people. We usually survive because being a nurse has made us not only tough, but REALLY tough. Just be prepared … this can happen to you.

20 pounds slimmer as of Sunday, today I’ve finally gained a pound. My butt is gone & I miss those curves in my jeans & in the mirror. 6 months ago I couldn’t have imagined hoping to gain weight. In the grand scheme of things, I guess it’s all relative.