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Archive for March, 2011

They say often that there is no proof of God, and perhaps that’s true from the mathematical definition of the term. But Ive lived a life surrounded by and buoyed by The God Who Is There. I don’t hear voices or see angels in trees–thankfully–but all the same there is evidence of that Creator. The evidence isn’t in the number of footprints on the beach. It’s in the grains of sand. The myriad ways both minute and gigantic that the whim and touch of a God who loves us are forever turning a hard substance like silica into a soft cushion we can traverse safely.

Tuesday was a bad day for me. It wasn’t especially catastrophic in a headline grabbing way. It was just very bad in the no good very bad horrible day way that most people get sometimes. Everything I did came out wrong. Or it came out right and I had to re examine the attitude and heart behind it. And then it got really bad. At a specific time. Really bad and very hurtful. And the hurt was followed by anger and frustration. So i mulled and cried and squeezed in some apologies and mulled and cried some more.

Then I sent an email to a few of the women I most trust to be in communion with the Holy Spirit and just asked them to pray. I sent that email in the early evening.

One of them responded by saying she had been unexpectedly thinking about me between 3:11 and 3:30. She was going to call right then but couldn’t so she said a prayer.

That time was when things were exactly at their worst for me.

Now I know there are a dozen skeptical responses to this sort of touchy-feely anecdote, and I know there are those who do (or did) read this space who will cling to that view of the world as the right and proper one. I wouldn’t ever take that away from you folks. You have every right to see the world in your way. As much right as I do to view it in mine.

I say only this. How can it not be anything but the most awesome and tremendous feeling to live in a life where even in the darkest of hours there is an ever wild gentleness quietly looking after you, loving you and showing you better ways down the road?

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Hopefully I’ve got a few more years before I’ve got to worry about it, but I’ve noticed that my writing is better during the high-progesterone side of my cycle.

is it wrong to consider HRT solely for professional reasons?!

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Last week was one of those where I decided to indulge my curiosity by watching a few Pay-Per-View movies. Every book I’m reading is the size of a large toolbox and I craved stories that would last only two hours.

Thats how I ended up watching both The Switch and Love And Other Drugs.

I felt like I’d fallen down a well in a Children’s story and entered a world where candy grows on trees and birds help you dress. Both movies were a lot sweeter, funnier and more enjoyable than I thought they’d be.

Hollywood needs new marketers.

The Switch
What I expected from the ad campaign: A whacky Jen Aniston-centric rom-com with lots of goofy mixups (he switched the sperm! Cam he get the right bottle back? A la What’s Up Doc?).

What It actually was: A sweet Jason Bateman-centric rom-com where the boy man protagonist learns about the joys of adulthood and family with the help of an adorable but odd little boy.

Love And Other Drugs

What I Expected: Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhal naked. A lot. Gyllenhal simulates lots of straight sex so we dont remember the gay sex from Brokeback Mountain the rest of his career. (every straight actor who plays gay does this. They either take a protohetero role or give a thousand interviews about their straight sexual prowess, wife and kids, etc. It strikes me as very cruelly antigay in a subtle way.)

What it actually was: well, it WAS those things. I mean, naked people having sex and eating cereal and talking and being lovely naked people. But that was a very small part of a movie that dealt with the world of Big Pharma, the out of control sales tactics for new prescription drugs, and the painful journey of loving someone with a chronic illness. There was one scene where Anne Hathaway, who has early onset Parkinsons, was trying to declare her independence and then broke a glass with her out of her control hand. She howls the same howl with the same rage I have when the same thing happened to me. There’s nothing like your body betraying you in the small ways at the worst times.

There are a lot of articles these days about how to save Hollywood and get the ticket sales back up. Very few of those articles mention that the movies’ marketing teams need to stop underestimating the audience’s intelligence and be proud of the smarter movies they put out. This is that article.

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So I dived back into reading hardcore fantasy on the urging of several who know me. That was about a year and a half ago. Now vie become socraven as to pester the authors of books I loved for their recommendations of what else I should read.

One of those pesterations led me directly to The Lies Of Locke Lamora, which I haven’t read yet, being backed up with rereads in anticipation of the new Rothfuss and the new Martin. But on the strength of that recommendation I passed it along to a friend who is temporarily bookless*. Then I got to thinking I should read another review or two.

Who knew there was a whole controversy surrounding a negative review of the book? A SERIOUS controversy. Short version is that the book was heavily hyped and the reviewer, in what I think was an attempt to be glibly funny, said that she wondered how the authors of the positive reviews had been bribed. All sorts then jumped on the bandwagon about how accusations of bribery verged on payola etc.

I just read one review of the review that was about 2000k words long. My eyes are still glazed over.

The weird thing is that when reading the first half of the controversial first review (I stopped reading when I realized that the grumpy chick was basically just going to summarize the entire as yet u read by me book) I never once thought anything other than that the reviewer was trying to come off as witty.

Today for any number of reasons I hate the Internet. I hate most of all that I so often fail to communicate my position in a way that isnt hurtful to others. I kind of relate to the initial reviewer in that way.

I also hate that people are so eager to get their own agenda on record that they don’t even try to figure out where the original writer was coming from. I’ve been on both sides of that equation.

The Internet is now words about word about words.

_____

*to me the idea of being bookless is worse than just about anything other than Wellness Livnng Coaches.

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I googled the Nurse Practitioner from yesterday out of a morbid curiosity.

Turns out that she’s also a “wellness living coach”.

Hence all the bromidery about “tell me one good thing” and “set some goals” and “what would you change about your life?”

I am sure that somewhere out there patients exist for whom such a thing is desperately needed. But as the wife of a man whith a graduate-level education in psychotherapy (a wife who helped him study on occasion) I know that meaningful therapy of that nature requires a degree of trust and transference.

You can’t just shake a hand and start sounding like one of those ickish paragraphs on the side of a Starbuck’s coffee cup.

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With the death of Henry Granju, talk is once again focused on the high amount of prescription drug overdoses in Tennessee. Talk the turns to the high amount of prescription pain killers in circulation in Tennessee.

There are horror stories about how easy it is to get these pills and how many of “our children” are becoming addicted to them.

What keeps getting left out of the equation is the key ingredient.

TENNCARE.

Knoxville, where Granju lives and her son died, is the apex of this drug problem. It is also, not coincidentally, the state’s largest city around the Smoky Mountains. It is also where the state’s University is located. These three ingredients: location, customer base and government healthcare are the crucible in which society is brewing this dark scum of addiction.

Pardon me for reaching too far back into history and pointing out that one of the earliest crises our nation faced–in its own infancy–was the Whiskey Rebellion. Mountain farmers resented the fact that their corn was taxed differently simply because it was easier to take to market in jugs. That highlighted the logistical issues facing those who seek to live in the Smokeys. The response of the federal government created a permanent underclass by villifying distillers. then along comes Teddy Roosevelt and some nut job whose name I cant remember (but the dude was truly eccentric). Their love of nature and belief in preserving the country’s unique landscapes led to the creation of our National Park System. Unfortunately there were a lot of the grandchildren of those Whiskey Rebellion farmers actually LIVING on the land that Roosevelt et al. decided to preserve. Through machinations and force the federal government displaced those mountain dwellers, giving us both the lovely Great Smokey Mountains National Park and a bunch of angry homeless people. Homeless people who knew how to make a living transporting and dealing substances the Federal Government vilified.

So the homeless people got new homes and made moonshine. The cars they souled up to avoid the Revenuers were used in racing when they weren’t running whiskey. And that became NASCAR. So clearly these are an industrious, creative and business-minded people. People we turned into enemies and keep slapping down.

Enter Tenncare. The noble idea of insuring “the uninsurable” quickly introduced massive amounts of narcotic pain relievers into the populace. As I’ve written before, it is cheaper for Tenncare to simply prescribe pain pills for people with chronic ailments like arthritis than it is to pay for joint replacements and biological drug therapy. It’s cheaper to prescribe pain pills for cancer patients than to perform tumor resection surgeries and chemotherapy. And since patients who are simply given pain management as opposed to disease modification are more likely to die earlier (and then stop needing insurance) it’s a win-win for Tenncare.

Did I mention that one of the largest concentrations of Tenncare patients is in the East Tennessee area around Knoxville?

So you have people who justifiably dislike the Federal Government and its rules, who are used to the family business of trafficking in illicit substances being introduced to a product that is far easier to distribute than even Marijuana. Pills don’t have to be grown in the mountains. And now pills are much easier to get. Your cousin will sell you some of the ones he gets for his arthritis and your neighbour will sell you the ones they have left after his wife died from the breast cancer that Tenncare wouldn’t pay for a mastectomy for.

Then unscrupulous doctors who have a love for money and a deep hatred of the Student Loan program open a “Pain Clinic” and you can round up a bunch of your neighbours and get drugs for their bad backs. Your buddy Bobby Ray hasn’t worked in three years since the mine shut down. So sure, he’ll go to the Pain Clinic for fifty bucks and the give you his pain pills for a dollar apiece. Tenncare pays for the doctor and the meds so it’s pure profit for him. Profit he needs to keep a roof over his family’s head.

And having a college full of kids nearby means that nobody has to go very far to find customers for all those pills.

So who IS to blame here ?

Most people seem to automatically say “the pills”, as though those inanimate objects snuck themselves out of pharmacies and medicine cabinets to dance around bored little kids on the playground.

A few people will blame the pain clinics or the doctors. A few more will blame the dealers.

But no one seems too eager to blame ourselves.

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So today was my three-month followup with the Rheumatologist. Since I’ve had to reschedule it twice (kidney stone, driver conflict) it’s actually four months running into five. I’ve got to keep a close eye on my liver panels so it couldn’t be put off any longer.

That’s how I ended up with the Nurse Practitioner instead of my regular doctor.

I’ve got a great rapport with all of my regular physicians. That’s why they’re still employed by me. If we’re going to have this long, intimate partnership I figure we’d best get along. If we don’t get along you’ll be replaced.

The Nurse Practitioner is going to be replaced.

She did give me my refills and order my labs and that was, after all, the main reason I was there. So that part was successful.

What was less successful was when she started approaching me like Generic Fat Woman Patient. I knew I was in trouble when she checked my blood pressure and said–in a tone of utter astonishment–”wow! You have great blood pressure! 98 over 60.” I haven’t yet gotten the memo, apparently, that all Fat Women Have High Blood Pressure.

Next came the standard Lifestyle Interview. They do this with Rheumatological patients because so much of our illness is reflected by lifestyle. And so many of us (thankfully not me at the moment) are clinically depressed. For some reason not being able to open tubes of toothpaste and shower without pain make some people kind of sad. Anyway, she asked me to “think of one good thing that happened to me last week.” The honest answer–that I’d had so many good things happen I couldn’t narrow it down–didn’t make her happy. When I finally tossed out that I “was happy with how much I’d accomplished on my rough draft” she let it go. Had I realised how fat-adverse she was I would have perversely said something like “I ate a whole chocolate cake and it felt YUMMY.” I don’t like to lie, but it would’ve been funny to see the look on her facelift.

Anyway, I started to get more of an inkling of her fat-adversity when she asked me about “my exercise routine” in the same way that prosecutors ask you where you were the night of the murder. I was pleased to tell her–honestly–that I have a long-standing regimen of Pilates and Gentle Stretching. She seemed as astonished by the fact that I exercised regularly as she was about my healthy blood pressure. (“This can’t be right! This fat person can’t have healthy habits!”)

But here’s the part that really got me enough to write about “on the internet for everybody to see” (as my mother will chasten me). EVERY visit to the Rheumatologist starts out with a review of your medications and procedures. They ALWAYS go over everything you’re taking and everything you’ve had done to you. Since part of my treatment involves studying a couple of the rarer–undisclosed–diseases I have, they are sticklers about this. They are always looking for causality, and I’m a sort of lab monkey. Anyway, we’d already had the part where we talked about my kidney stone surgeries and endometrial surgeries and childhood pneumonia. Everything I’ve ever had done to me by the well-meaning medical profession. And we were reviewing my labs with my chronic malnutrition. I said “yeah, those are always low. We suspect that I have a malabsorption problem.” Because we–my doctors and I–do.

Her response?

“Have you had a gastric bypass or a lap band surgery?”

::pause for internal scream of rage, eyerolling and mental pimp-slap::

A) You have had a detailed review, both oral and written, of all my medical procedures not =THREE MINUTES= ago.
B) Yes. All heavy people can trace all of their medical problems to weight or weight-related procedures. If I’m not sick because I’m fat then I must be sick because of surgery to make me not fat.
C) Could you act like I’m less of a practice doll in a seminar?

There were a lot more irritating parts of conversation after that, but she lost me. Her whole “you need to set goals” speech washed over my now-emotionally-tuned-out self. The assumption that illness robbed me of both my IQ and goal-setting ability would have ordinarily caused a rage in and of itself. But after the whole “have you had a lap-band surgery” thing…

ARGH. Like I said…this is why people don’t like the doctor. Which is sad because, ironically, I wasn’t even seeing a DOCTOR.

It’s such a Monday.

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Over at Tiny Cat Pants a couple of days ago there was quite a conversation about the problems facing single ministers in the Evangelical church.   Seemingly unrelated, at first, is the fact that I’ve been watching Greek* on Netflix.

The combination of those two things has led to a sort of Eureka moment for me.   I’ve been wondering about myself with more than a slight amount of worry.  I’m a person who prizes learning above almost everything else.   There have indeed** been times that I’ve turned learning into a sort of idolatrous pursuit. Despite that, I dropped out of formal college studies before getting a degree, while taking half-hearted stabs at official classes throughout the years. I’m still largely autodidactic, a method of learning which has as many drawbacks as it does things to recommend it.

But why this severe prejudice against the institution of college? I realised the prejudice was bad when I was actually relieved to hear that a neighbour’s daughter had dropped out of college to have a baby. Am I turning into some sort of oppressor of women, keep them illiterate and pregnant?

Then that conversation at TCP came up. Coupling that with reliving college days via television I realised something.

Modern institutions of learning seem to be for a lot of the students who attend them more about hiding out from the harsher realities of life than about any sort of life preparedness. How else could one have enough intellectual mettle to make it through undergrad and intensive seminary training while still being almost completely unaware of the culture they were ostensibly preparing to lead? Not just enter but lead?!

Now I know a fair amount of professors stop by this blog, and I have to make it clear that I’m in no way blaming you folks. Lord knows you do all you can to teach life skills such as attention to detail, professionalism, communication, reasoning and other sorts of things people need to get by in life. And I don’t know that I can even hold most of the institutions themselves responsible. Nearly all offer work study programs, insist upon internships and the like.

I think maybe I blame our culture. This culture that insists you must have a college degree to be successful while at the same time insisting that college are the best years of your life and must be spent in some sort of sex-, booze- and shopping-filled haze. Or, contrary-wise, that you must be so focused on the esoterica of your studies that you fail to see the planet spinning around you.

In other words, so much of post-high school education seems to be for the bulk of people who go through it, studying without learning.

*I refused to watch in in first run because the show’s logo used the Greek letter Sigma in place of the twin “e”s in the word Greek. Thus, effectively, renaming the show Grssk. It made me ssk. But now I’m bored and so my effete snobbery has fallen by the wayside.

**I’m watching entirely too much Stargate-SG1. I’m using the word “indeed” more than the word “the” these days.

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Not a day goes by without me being fully aware of how many people have it much worse than I do.   Much of my correspondence with the outside world includes folks so ravaged by their disease that they can’t stay in their own homes.   An acquaintance of mine recently had to move to an assisted living facility.  At 53.  Because she can no longer bathe or dress herself.

I think of her when I’m bathing my smaller dog to wash off the pee my bigger dog put there.   (It’s not the best of ideas to have one pet who stands at exactly penis-height of the other.)   I think of her when I’m dealing with the two dozen other daily rituals of the RA-stricken.

My post yesterday turned from a blithe, breezy entry about my aging memory into a little bit of a funky riff on the bully in my life.   So then someone anonymous–with all the courage that refusing to identify yourself affords–pops up in the comments to tell me to suck up because at least I’m not drowning in radioactive flood waters or starving in the wherever-people-are-starving-now-and-the-cool-white-guilters-like-to-bring-up.    In short, they came to bully me about how you shouldn’t whine about being bullied because God is the biggest bully of all.

That “It Gets Better” book is having its big publicity tour now.  It’s the book that was compiled from the stories of the adult homosexuals who survived the years of being bullied gay teens.   The point of the It Gets Better movement is to let gay teens know that there is hope and they won’t spend their whole lives being picked on for being homosexual.

There is, you will note, no equivalent book for those who got picked on because they were fat (check), weird, (check), smart (check), nerdy (check).   We just either had to figure out on our own that life had to get better because it couldn’t get much worse OR we had to embrace being the clown in other people’s worlds.  Or a little bit of both.  That is, of course, if we wanted to survive.

I know that I’m lucky.   I know that I eventually figured out I was pretty (check), funny (check), smart and nerdy (check and check) and that there were as many people who wanted to get to know me as there were who wanted to hold my head under the water of their disapprobation until I stopped breathing their air.   Now at 40 I find myself in the unique position of being truly and deeply loved by enough people to make the hate not matter anymore.

Most of the time.   There are still times, like these past few weeks, where the cruelty of others starts to remind me of the cumulative cruelty I’ve lived with and suddenly starts to look like a wall I can’t climb over.  I know it’s not starving.  Or gasping in thirst for potable water.   Or having your house swept away by the earth’s heaving.    But there is a point where sadness is sadness and pain is pain.  And telling another person that they have no right to be sad, no right to be in pain is the cruellest jab of them all.

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Taking Notes

I am just going to have to start carrying around a steno pad or one of those little memo pads they use on Law & Order.   Because all weekend long the husband and I had marvelous conversations that spurred great blog post ideas in me.   Yet now that Monday is here I don’t remember any of them.  Not a one.   And so we’re stuck with this incredibly lame thing.

I want very much to write about what it is like to have mean people in your life, people who think it’s funny to tear you down and funny to pounce on any perceived weakness.   I want to write about how it is to try to make something of yourself when that sort of tiger waits for you in the trees.    But I can’t help but know that as soon as that person reads this they will once again do or say something mean in the guise of being funny.

It isn’t funny.

You shouldn’t have to live your life as if you are forever in Marine boot camp, with the drill sergeant breathing down your neck.

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