Sunday, February 26, 2006

the cuckoo's nest

While I sat in the waiting room of the Colonoscopy facility I seriously considered jetting. I really was not keen on the whole idea. I had to argue with the administrative woman to find out how much the anesthesia would cost me. She started raising her voice at me, and I broke down in tears saying, look you are not the one about to have this horribly invasive procedure and at a cost that is going to break me... ok I admit I can get a little dramatic... but alas that is why I'm a writer :) Finally she figured out that I wanted "conscious sedation" which did not require an anesthesiologist anyway. Sheesh, you know you can tell your doctor but you still have to deal with the bastardly administrators to get anything accomplished and they don't know what the hell they're talking about half the time. (Wait, my sarcasm valve has flapped open again).

So finally, I got called back to the backroom. I changed into this extra large gown (the only available size). As an extra small person it swamped me. You try tying these two little ties at the top, gown opening to the back without your ass sticking out - it takes creative gown management. So the room had a nurse's desk in the center, surrounded by about 20 wheeling beds with faded orange curtains around each bed. I thought the procedure would take place in this room at first and I was shocked! There were some people recovering, with oxygen mask on their face, lying on their side. Others were being talked to my doctors or nurses about their medical history: Do you have constipation? Hemorrhoids? blah blah blah - how unprivate can you get? I can't believe it's legal - what was that damn HIPPA law about anyway?! And in some beds, people are letting out huge gas noises as they recover from their colonoscopy. I was freezing, and I started to cry. I was scared and felt very vulnerable.

Some of my friends don't understand why the whole prospect scared me so bad. I think it comes down to two main things. One, I don't like the loss of control that giving one's life over to medical professionals that I don't necessarily trust entails. I know one has to be one's own medical advocate, but when you do, you inevitably annoy the people who are used to not having patients question them (doctors, nurses) because most blindly accept whatever is doled out. Second, the last time I was totally unconscious like this, I was raped.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. So, here I am lying in this little cubicle with faded orange curtains that only barely cover the bed, and the nurse brings me a heated blanket because I was shivering. She said she was inspired by my recently getting a literary agent and being a writer. She had asked me what I did and turns out she has always wanted to be to a writer. She was born one day after me - same year too. Anyway so she knew I was scared and said she could give me some Valium to "take the edge off". I think that phrase is so overused it's almost funny. At first I said no, but then I changed my mind. I was afraid that the Demerol would not take fast enough so I decided I'd get a little Valium while waiting. Mind you I have not touched a drug in over 15 years besides ibuprofen. As soon as she put the stuff in my IV, I started to feel very loopy.

So after what seemed like an interminably long wait, they wheeled me into the procedure room, and gave me the increased meds to put me out. The next thing I remember, Matt was sitting there and the nurse was saying "You're done! The procedure is over" and I was like, huh? what? The doc talked to me and said a few things, looks ok, blah blah blah. Some cells in my colon are dead, and the lining is turning dark colors. I only found out later that they did biopsies from the written report. Now why, I ask you, would he not tell me that then? The doc is very good but the nurse back at his doctor's office is horribly annoying. She smacks gum and is very flippant and nonchalant about your questions. These people don't realize the fears that people have about these things. Just because it's common place to them does not mean it is to the patient.

So the procedure itself, I do not remember but that is good. However I did not get an amnesiac at my request and so I do remember afterwards. It took me a while to get to the point I could sit up and walk. When I finally sat up I thought I was gonna hurl. I slept in Matt's truck all the way home, then I slept pretty much all afternoon and night. That is the story of my first colonoscopy. Oh joy.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

an unusual expedition

well i must admit, i thought about not blogging about this mighty personal new adventure of mine, but decided to. i am about to go get a strange flexible utensil - probably with a video camera on the end - jammed up my rear end and through my intestines. yes, its the infamous colonoscopy.

i am terrified. i have catastrophic thinking as it is, and i am a highly sensitive/emotional person. so of course i'm thinking of all the things like, do i need to write my kids a loving goodbye note in case i don't wake up from general anesthesia? i have cried because of the fear. i have cried to god saying, i want to help people! i want to stay here on earth and do so many good things for the world! i have fears of them finding cancer. i also have had some chest pains a lot lately, and weird blood pressure (108/80... so low on the systolic and a very low pulse but high diastolic. in other words, as i understand it, i have a weak contraction and yet my heart doesn't relax enough on the relaxation). so of course i worry that my heart will just stop beating. i also have night sweats sometimes so have had fears of cancer or illness on top of the present issues.

then i am also freaked about money. so finally i am actually doing fairly well with the finances and freelancing, so then what happens? i get some stupid "issue" and having self employed insurance with a high deductible, i am going to be out of pocket about $2000. and that's IF they don't find something major wrong. and that of course sends me into internal panic mode.

then the doc wants to give me this anesthesia called propofol. i did a bit of research and its an amnesiac. well i am 100% opposed to amnesiacs in anesthesia. i asked the doc when we were visiting about it (before i knew it was an amnesiac) - and the added cost b/c it requires an anesthesiologist as opposed to demerol which does not need as careful of monitoring. and he came back in with a breakdown of the costs - NOT including (i learned later) the cost of any biopsies or other procedures - just his fee and the facility fee, even though i asked "and this covers EVERYTHING, that's it?" i have no faith in people anymore!!!! you really have to fight for your own welfare, because i don't care what they say, the doctor does not care about you the way you care about you.

so now i have to figure out what to do. part of me wants to just cancel and stick my head in the sand. i'm sure i'm fine, so just fuggedaboutit. part of me wants to find out. i am really scared. did i say that already?

i will say that there are some things that may be routine to the docs and nurses but each and every patient who walks through that door has their own internal fears about death, illness, leaving their kids mommyless, and they need to address that person as if they had the same thing going on - because health issues are scary, and you want to feel like that person giving care has your best interest at heart and not their pocketbook, or how much time it takes to get you in and out of their facility.

so this all will go on thursday, if i go through with it.

Friday, February 17, 2006

photos of my latest adventures

The stringer of smallmouth bass we caught on the Blanco River Wednesday - myself and a bunch of biologists and grad students. Mind you, I caught the biggest one! :)

Three bass that look like Guadalupe bass - whiter in coloration than smallmouths, which were introduced into the river drainages. However research indicates most "apparent" Guadalupe bass in the Blanco have hybridized with smallmouths.

A wetland on the Amelia Island Plantation in Florida.

Some writers on a Segway Safari. They are soooo cool!!! Lots of fun! Soon you'll be popping wheelies! (ha ha, JUST kidding!)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

my pastors and fragile flames

bless their hearts, i would be remiss if i didn't mention that after i emailed both my pastors my blog entry that they both contacted me and apologized and opened way for a dialogue about these issues. the head pastor called me before church on sunday and his calling me brought tears to my eyes. it touched me. i wrote the things i wrote in retrospect and contemplation of the past. i'm far beyond the place i was in during the separation and divorce over two years ago.

well time for bed, just wanted to post that little update. did you know i am in love with vegetables! i am in love with maple syrup! lol. just had to add that little tidbit of info since i have not talked about anything too quirky or funny lately, like frozen pee (see Nov 2005).

i was sitting in my bathroom the other day thinking about how it would feel to be an old person and know that life was running out. i used to think when you got old, somehow your mental state changed and you became ready to die just as your body wore out. now i know that your mind stays much the same, assuming you don't get alzheimers or other mental deteriorations. so you have to just deal with the fact that life is running out and you're going to die soon.

yet in reality it is for all of us. our time on earth could be called over at any time. i try to think about this often, not to be macabre or gloomy, but in contrast because i want to live my life to the fullest, to enjoy each day as best i can, and to not take myself or life's crazy happenings too seriously. sometimes it gets me into trouble as people don't always get my freewheeling spirit. but i try to hug all my friends and kids, tell them i love them often, and let everyone in my life know that i genuinely appreciate and care for them. people - as selfish as we can sometimes be - are also beautiful souls dancing like fragile flames through life, trying to keep the flame alive and to not wither. i like to try to see that beautiful flame in each person, and to give my own enough oxygen to breathe and thrive. sending you electrons of love, space, freedom, peace, acceptance, and joy...

Saturday, February 11, 2006

nepal, houston & feeding the poor

I'm sleepy... Why does it always take longer than you think to do what you need to do?

I have been doing a writing project on Mt. Everest and Nepal and I'm enthralled. I have to get over there sometime. Definitely on my to-do list now :) Nature calls my soul right now. I see these wide open vistas, forests, glaciers, wildlife in images as I research the Himalayas and my soul longs for nature. I am blessed in what I have, but it does not bless my soul this home, this suburbia. I don't like how it makes me feel. I live in Houston's cancer alley. The poisonous air pollution comes from Baytown and Pasadena right up the San Jacinto River and Kingwood and Porter have some of the highest rates of cancer and respiratory ailments of anywhere in Houston. Dina Capiello did a great report for the Houston Chronicle last year on the air pollution in Houston. Developers around here are just chopping trees down as fast as their truffala-whackers can smack. It's such an un-green place - and I don't mean the color but the attitudes. And yet throughout Houston strides are being made to replant and green the highways. I tell ya though, what good does it do to plant a few roadside stick trees when developers are allowed to mindlessly graze hundreds of acres of 30-50 year old trees? The carbon storage and benefits trees provide are substantially greater for old trees... I know something has to be done, but I just wish there were a more concerted effort.

Anyway in following up on my thread a couple days back, I decided one thing I can do to help the poor in my life and career. I decided that in each and every article I write, I will explicitly ask myself the question of how this particular issue affects the poor and whether I can write about some angle that would help the poor. I consider the poor also those who don't have a voice to speak for themselves and that includes those who are unaware, and wildlife/plants that have an inherent God-given right to live and thrive. But specifically I will address the issue of how the situation might be written about in a way that will benefit the poor. For example, in the Everest piece I found that the use of non-traditional forest products and medicinal plants can benefit rural poor and indigenous people, but has to be done in such a way that the locals aren't exploited by businesses who come in and harvest without returning profits to the community. So I included some of this in my project. Raising awareness is a crucial first step.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

further comments on the church

It seems like over the past 7 or 8 years I've been at my church, they have expanded their outreach to the poor both in our city and in other nations. They have so many opportunities for individual members to participate in such activities. I've always wanted to go on the Mission Trip to Mexico or elsewhere - doing construction etc. - but while I was married that wasn't an option. Now I definitely think I will sometime soon.

The church bought a million-dollar property to expand its "campus" and expanded its programs. But it seems to me the church has not taught itself how to reach out to individuals in the church, like me. It's one thing to offer programs and it's quite another, more difficult thing to talk to people and reach out to them and show that you care. One of our pastors did more for our family through meetings and prayers than anyone else that I can think of during the marriage itself, but afterwards I almost felt like hands were thrown up. Nobody really knows what happens within a relationship and it's easy to cast judgment and harder to "cast love." But this is what Jesus did for his followers.

For some time I've thought about finding a new church, because I don't like the feel of the big building as much as the old smaller one, and I don't feel particularly bonded to anyone in the church. People are friendly but few are intimate in friendship. I see a lot of what is written about in the Casting Crowns song from the previous entry. However I know their youth group is incredible, and I love the music and occasionally the message often says something meaningful and I want to keep my kids there.

Love, what is love? To be able to genuinely look upon a person and empathize with their pain. And to take personal action based on this knowledge - we all carry pain and some times in life are more painful than others. When someone fails, which a divorce inevitably is, the people involved need love more not less than other times. This love shown by the church (which ultimately just means the believers under the shepherd's guidance) - or not as the case may be - can drive that person to stay on the path or away from it for those whose faith may waver in the difficult times. Many people do throw out the baby with the bathwater and those people holding the flag have the most responsibility for expressing love through action toward the church members. Guy Doud - - who I heard on Focus on the Family - was a Teacher of the Year award several years back. He speaks of this and is such a powerful speaker and author.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

failures of the church

A couple weeks ago in church they did a skit that was really unique. A college student was sitting in a chair with a sign that said "Confessions." A skeptic walked by and scoffed and the Christian said, "No you don't understand. I want to confess to you." And the guy was like, "Say what?" And the Christian went on to talk about his personal failures in holding up his own values, the way he may have made non-believers criticize the faith due to his own hypocrisy and mistakes, and the failure of the church as a whole - the Crusades, etc.

And I related to it for my personal life in many ways, but to turn the tables, it would be nice if the church actually did this for its members rather than just performing a skit. I like much about the church I attend but the whole thing would be more powerful if it were more than a skit. I feel like my church failed me in many ways during my divorce and separation. Nobody ever said anything to me, but that is just it. Nobody said anything to me. Both pastors have seen my ex and I in counseling. One met with my husband regularly. Why didn't either of them ever call me and see how I was coping? What about the dozens of times when in church tears welled up in my eyes, or that I cried so hard during the songs that I looked like a mess.

When I laid on my carpet curled in a ball desperately crying, because I had no choice, I was so physically desolate, feeling the weight of a lead blanket of depression over me for months, what about when I found a lump in my breast and my blood pressure was up and I thought I might have cancer. Did anyone ever once even check on me to see if I was ok? There is only one woman in the whole church who knew me both before and after the divorce who I can think of who I never felt judged by - because she acknowledged the divorce and told me about a group at the church for "single again ladies." Maybe the judgment was my own projection and my own feelings of failure for most people, but I don't know - the non-acknowledgment may seem politically correct but really it's a judgment.

I would have liked to think that our church was warmer and more forgiving a place. It's one thing to say it and preach it (i.e. the skit) and it's another to take the action and go out of your way to reach out to the individuals who need love, forgiveness, grace. And that includes every person in the church. Divorce is one of the most difficult things most people ever go through. You experience a real grieving - unless you just deny its pain and lessons. I fully recovered from the depression which I consider a natural grieving - without any antidepressants or "self-medication." I healed through time, enduring friendships, knowledge of God's grace, and self-love. But you know at the same time, I forgive the church. Like me, it is imperfect. It is just a body of human believers doing the best they can to follow the Way.

I relate to these lyrics from a Casting Crowns song. Although in contrast, I would not say I pretended to be strong or ok. I openly cried in church. And yet still the pastors nor the care ministers nor most anyone said a single word to me to see how I was, and if they could pray for me or help.
Am I the only one in church today feelin' so small
Cause when I take a look around
Everybody seems so strong
I know they'll soon discover
That I don't belong

So I tuck it all away, like everything's okay
If I make them all believe it, maybe I'll believe it too
So with a painted grin, I play the part again
So everyone will see me the way that I see them

Are we happy plastic people
Under shiny plastic steeples
With walls around our weakness
And smiles to hide our pain
But if the invitation's open
To every heart that has been broken
Maybe then we close the curtain on our stained glass masquerade

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

feed the poor and love your enemies

I was out in the field with biologists and water planners on a really cool wetlands water filtration project at Richland Creek Wildlife Management Area on Monday. Check out the photo of the before and after water. The water on the left is what it looks like coming out of the Trinity River, which comes downstream from the Dallas/Ft Worth area. The water on the right is after going through several wetland cells and several days in the wetland. Pretty cool aye?

I have been thinking really hard about how I can make my life and career to serve God and to follow Jesus' example. I always think that I strive to always help others as much as I can, and to do work - both paid and unpaid - that helps the environment which I know ultimately benefits humankind and honors Creation and the Creator. I strive for this with my writing and nonprofit work and just in my personal interactions with friends and colleagues. But I still wondered, just what is it that God commands us? I don't think it is the 10 commandments because those are the shall nots, not the shalls. I don't mean to imply we should neglect to obey them, I mean that Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God, and all the commandments are summed up in that one - if Jesus was about anything in addition to forgiveness it was to show how wrong it is to be legalistic about religious rules! They are for our benefit and must obey from love and a genuine desire. And at the same time we're all forgiven... Anyway, so the other command after Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind is to love your neighbor as yourself.

Jesus also tells us to feed the poor, and to love our enemies. So as I was driving, and last night in my contemplative bath, I was wracking my brain to ponder, how can I do these things? Does my writing or teaching help the poor? Not really. How can I change this? Does Jesus' command include the "poor in spirit" as he mentions in the Beatitudes? I do feel I try to reach out to teach spiritual truths that I feel I have learned and that may help others that may be "poor in spirit." I can teach some things I've learned and can learn some things I need to learn from others.

But really I need to figure out how I can help the poor. I have a grand idea that I just need a benefactor for. I think that we should eliminate poverty in the third world nations by developing a well-thought out plan to eradicate feral hogs and package the meat and send it to those countries in need. This is not everything. Man can not live on feral hog alone. But it would be a way to tackle on environmental problem and a social one simultaneously. I don't believe people who say we can't get rid of them- they're too invasive, too omnipresent. If we could get rid of passenger pigeons that numbered in the gajillions, we can get rid of feral hogs IF there is a driving, concerted, well-planned out effort concentrated over a particular duration and not stopping until it's done. We used this strategy to do much evil in the world - now it's time to use it to do good. Feral hogs cause an incredible amount of environmental damage and cost a lot of money to taxpayers through the efforts state agencies must take to keep them from causing worse damage. We should channel that money toward eliminating poverty. But I would not know where to start with this plan. Any ideas?

The other thing is how to love and pray for my enemies. Who are my enemies? I don't think I have any real personal enemies (I hope!). But... there are environmental enemies. How do we love environmental enemies? Who are they? I think of corporate America. Not the businesses in themselves but the greed that can take over corporate decisions when even the individuals are good people. When a company puts the bottom line before people and that includes above the environment which we all absolutely need for survival and quality of life. How do I love the companies that make stupid decisions and just look for profit? Through education I suppose - it's the only way to teach people that they are ultimately harming themselves and their children's children. Inspiration and teaching appreciation for the beauty, grace, and joy that exists in a tree, a bird, a flower, a laughing child playing in the mud or catching butterflies... this is one way.