Sunday, October 26, 2008

Man Cold

The two youngest "men" of the house have a cold. The oldest has never seen this video, first sent to me by Kim. Enjoy.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

No, YOU Can't

Ok, so I was really looking for another (kind, sweet) video to post, but came across this hillarious one. It's two minutes out of your live. Watch. Laugh. Remember who you want to vote for.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Life and Art

So, we were messing around with art the other day at a library nearby. Lots of tissue paper, lots of glue, scissors, you get the idea. I was helping Small, following directions and making a tissue paper collage with boring circle and petal flowers. Medium and Large, on the other hand, were carefully crafting yellow cone flowers, obedient plant, compass plant, cardinal flowers - anything but boring daisy like flora. We were using a little art skills textbook, and true homeschoolers they are, they took what the needed and did what they wanted. Really beautiful creations!

And on an even more positive note, I haven't had any pain in 48 hours now. I'm cautiously optimistic that the corner has been turned, the super-duper antibiotic has done it's job and life will now return to what we call normal.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Did you watch Frontline on PBS? OK, if you didn't, you must. It's a two hour time commitment, grab your knitting and cancel something else. It's important, do it with your kids. Here's the link.

Large and Medium were riveted. At least for the first hour, then it got past nine and they are fighting off a cold, and zzzzz. Small was too busy celebrating his recent, if tardy, potty training victory over "liquid waste" (as I recently saw a sign in a public restroom name it). They focused their attention, asked questions and listened to John McCain's story without the automatic, knee-jerk reaction we all have become accustomed to. Wait, that was me. I mean, so did I.

The program was a balanced portrayal of the two men who could potentially be responsible for leading our nation out of crisis. If all politics is personal, it's make or break time for our family. The next four years will transform our children into college-bound teenagers at precisely the time our income will be limited by our age and desire to shift gears. We opened our insurance open enrollment materials today and discovered Mark cannot retire at 55 as planned in less than 300 days. Instead, we must wait three more long years to get the 80% covered retiree health. (I do suspect those three years, if in his current position, will take more years off his life than paying a higher premium for "the remainder" will cost, but I digress.) Against my better judgement, I opened my 401(k) statement from a previous employer today and saw a 30% drop. And that was before October.

I don't know many families for whom this is not make or break time. Or individuals for that matter. My retired and ailing parents, my single friends, my friends with children and mortgages suddenly beyond their reach, my friends who want to buy houses, my husband's siblings and cousins. Perhaps even my own well-off siblings, but I don't know their situations well enough and suspect their political slant is different than mine.

Watch Frontline with your kids. They get so much of their political opinions from listening to us old folks, they don't have the background. They need their own background. Naive, innocent, loved and loving, our three children could not, for instance, understand why Obama's advisers would say Americans weren't ready for a black president. Our formal history study is still in the ancients, but the community they live in and the more recent history they understand did not prepare them for this statement. But, Mommy, he's the better man.

All I remember from the elections of my youth are loud, raucous arguments between my sister, who had recently learned to swear, and my father at the dinner table. More often than not, one of them would storm off in tears. It wasn't often my father, he didn't do tears until my mother had open heart surgery 6 years ago. I hope my children remember more than this, hope they remember a quest for truth and an earnest regard for the future.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Chapter 2, In Which our Health Care System Shines

This picture was taken 2 1/2 weeks ago, which was when my pain started. Mark and I keep ibuprofen in the glove box of each car for emergencies. I woke up with a little headache, but though I had just slept funny. We went off apple picking. It was an oppressively sunny day, hot in the sun, not so bad in the shade. Apple trees, primed for picking apples, don't provide much shade. We bagged a bushel of apples.

I took the ibuprofen on the way home. It took the edge off. The pain was on the left side of my head, behind my ear. When we got home, I separated the big from the small apples - big for drying and apple butter making and small for eating. I took them to the basement, the kids and I headed to my parents for the weekend. Mark was on 12-plus hour shifts and needed his sleep. Those apples are still unprocessed.

I woke up Saturday morning with a headache, but the bed in my parent's spare room is so old and uncomfortable, and the pillows so unwelcoming, I am used to waking up achy there. By the second morning, however, I knew there was a problem. I borrowed the neck pillow I bought my mother for her birthday, heated it the microwave and got relief for a while. Mark went off duty Monday morning and we drove home just as my jaw was starting to ache.

Monday night, two Mondays ago now, I had such pain I thought it impossible to bear. Little did I know how much is possible to bear. I took prescription strength Motrin. By that Tuesday morning, after discussing it with close friends and my sister who had been through a root canal, I decided that was the problem. Searing, unrelenting pain. I searched for homeopathic or natural remedy advice, only to find the most sane said "drink whiskey until there is no more pain, and then keep drinking so the pain will not return." I called my dentist and scheduled an appointment for the next day at the same time that Small was to have his cavity filled, Medium was getting her teeth cleaned and Large was getting a cleaning and a retainer check.

I don't drink whiskey and it seemed like a whole lot of wine would only provide me with temporary relief at great cost, so I took a vicodin I had lying around from something or other. And Mark got me clove oil, which did nothing, and anbesol, which seemed to help. Armed with those two, I went to bed. Nothing but psychotic dreams, the mildest of which involved our poor birds leg falling off in my hands, the many others involved death and destruction of all of my loved ones. I forced myself to stay awake, and still had no relief from the pain.

The next afternoon, I counted the hours, we went to the dentist. We took up four chairs of a six or seven chair office. I begged them to remove my teeth. Not a tooth problem, not TMJ as I had in my college days. My dentist performed a very thorough exam and then decided it could be an infection of the bone behind my ear - he probed and prodded there and in my mouth. I had a lump behind my ear that felt warm and extended down to my neck. Or it could be a stress response.

Who doesn't have stress? I liked the stress answer, although a root canal would have meant an end to the pain. I immediately called Mark to give him the "good" news and then called my doctor's office to schedule a tuina massage and see if I could be squeezed in for acupuncture. Thursday morning, massage. Later a cancellation gave me an acupuncture appointment. The dentist told me to take three ibuprofen and two acetaminophen at the same time - same thing my sister told me. That provided relief for a half hour or so at a time. The rest of the time I had radiating, agonizing pain - throbbing and stabbing.

Thursday. By the time the doctor saw me - I hadn't taken the pain stuff because I wanted to be able to describe it - I was in tears. I've spoken to her about my life long hopes and dreams, my constant struggle with my weight, my poor Small's life-inhibiting eczema, my other children's allergies. I've never cried. I had the massage, which took the edge off and then the accupuncture. I felt OK enough afterwards to run an errand. And then I spent the rest of the day on the couch with heat packs on.

In the midst of this, Mark's beloved Uncle Bill died in Wisconsin. Although he was 95 and had some ailments, it was a surprise to us all. We dropped everything - including my Roots&Shoots group, some community commitments and other dates - to get up to Wisconsin and support his remaining children, their children and the rest of our family.

That Friday morning I was up at 4 or so with my pain. It really is beyond words - soaring from the back of my jaw outwards, pulsating, hot, sharp and pointy. I've shattered an ankle and had a 9 1/2 pound baby without an epidural - neither of those compare to this pain. I thought there was no way I could make the trip. And then in the next instant I realized there was no way I couldn't. I couldn't trust myself home alone not to just kill myself. It was suicidal thought provoking pain. With no end in sight.

My doctor put me on the first antibiotic when I called on our way to the funeral, which helped take the edge off. By Saturday and Sunday, I had a full hour or two with minimal pain. I also had much distraction with family and a beautiful funeral service. But I also napped, took my pain combo more frequently than advised and applied heat whenever we were back at the room.

By Monday I called again my doctor to say the pain was increasing after a break. My doctor asked me to see an ENT, who provided me with two diagnoses different from mastoiditis, without even examining me. He walked into the room behind me and said "It's not mastoiditis, who told you it was that?" His first words. Then he pronounced it TMJ. When I protested that I had TMJ in the past, it only confirmed his diagnosis. I said I didn't grind my teeth and that the pain was no where comparable. He said I had to go on a two week course of ibuprofen to reduce the inflammation, or it could be Trigeminal neuralgia (Tic Doloureux) , but that he couldn't know for two weeks. Incredulously, I asked him if he expected me to go through two more weeks of this pain. He, literally, patted me on the shoulder and said I was grinding my teeth at night and needed a mouth guard.

Went home, scheduled another dentist appointment. My doctor called, I told her what transpired at the ENT, she prescribed me a stronger antibiotic. The man hadn't even given me a CT scan, which is a bit surprising, as it would have been covered by insurance. None of my symptoms matched with TMJ or Tic Doloreux. The second antibiotic took more pain away. My dentist confirmed I have no evidence of grinding my teeth and none of the hallmarks of TMJ.

It's been 6 days on that antibiotic. I still have several hours of pain a day, but they are spread out. I still have the lump behind my ear, cannot have anything too hot or too cold. I went through ten days of constant, tormenting, suicidal pain and lived to see the other side. Tomorrow I will call to see if we should switch antibiotics again to knock it out completely.

I've learned that our health care system is not about keeping the insured well. It's about passing the buck, making snap decisions and trying to fit round pegs into square holes. My own doctor is outside the health care system. She's out of network, out of pocket. She schedules 45 minute appointments with her patients and regularly runs behind. I'm lucky to have her. Broke, but lucky.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

This guy wants to be president?

I'm still not well enough for any wordy blogging. Here's a great, short video.