Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Observational Twitter 6


"An apple a day keeps the doctor away." Origins in Sixteenth Century British Literature


"A whole bushel of apples will keep the doctor away more effectively if you aim well." Robynn Reilly

Copyright 2008


I know why God did not call on me to free His people from Egypt. If He would have given me the staff Moses had, instead of using it for Holy purposes, I would have gone around beating Pharaoh over the head with it - repeatedly. Every time he agreed there was a problem with holding the people captive, and every time he said he would let them go and didn't and acted like he didn't know WHAT I was talking about.....WHAM!! Smack upside the head. And I would have enjoyed it. I would never have made it to the big events of plagues and the like and I would have had zero lasting impact, except to give Pharaoh an elephantine headache and, with any luck, a concussion. God had much bigger plans for Pharaoh (AND Moses) and His were more effective and long-lasting.

I'm trying to keep that in mind as certain doctors in my employ (yes, they are being paid by us) condescend to me while spouting erroneous information and often mistake-laden advice. So far I have resisted all urges, strong though they may be, to conk my doctors on their collective heads with my hefty medical chart. I have to remind myself I doubt this would be deeply instructional to them. It would temporarily provide a burst of fun and entertainment in my life and, in light of the circumstances, that is not without merit. However, my celebratory moment won't further my diagnosis so, I abstain.

By way of disclaimer I want to say there have been some intelligent and caring diagnosticians who have graced my life with true concern. They remain humble, life-long learners who have not confused the image in the mirror with the God of the Universe. Unfortunately, theirs appears to be a small fraternity and I can only hope it is accepting new members.

Back to my rant......a couple of my current doctors are quite the Balaam's Donkeys without near the wisdom issuing from their equine lips. (If you've come here to listen to me be politically, theologically, or eschatologically correct then all I can say is, "Bummer!") These "Brothers of Perpetual Illness and Pharmacology" condescend to grace us with their proclamations and issuances concerning our health. We are expected to bow to their superior wisdom in much the same way the kingdom was expected to hail and applaud a very naked Emperor strolling by in his "new clothes." An example:

Two days ago I followed up with ONE of my specialists (I have to employ a different doctor for all varying body parts as no one body part is connected to any other.) This particular doctor looked at one set of tests which were positive, another set of tests which were negative and positive (both looking for porphyria) and announced, "I think the best thing to do is just wait until you have another attack and then, when you go to the emergency room, tell the doctors to check you for it." Mind you, this advice from a physician who has only crossed paths with six porphyria patients in his entire career. His advice to "self-advocate" would be presuming:

A. I am not damaged neurologically as in the last two attacks
B. The hospital would have any idea how not to compromise my labs (which has already been done because they don't see porphyria often and don't know how to properly handle lab samples - they have to be kept in complete darkness like vampire blood)
C. I am not given meds which could kill me
D. Part of Balaam's herd isn't working that night, someone is actually educated about porphyria and, unlike YOU, dear doctor, listens to me.

Now, I don't mean to go all "feminism" on you here but I can't imagine a MAN showing up in his doctor's office with a heart attack only to be told, "Well, Fred (especially if that wasn't his name) let's go ahead and letcha have another one of these old things and, if ya live, maybe we can figger somethin' out for ya."

Porphyric attacks can be anywhere from mildly damaging to fatal as there is an enzyme missing that helps you clear toxins from your blood. These episodes can be brought on by a genetic disorder or other conditions. But under no circumstances should a physician recommend someone have one. Unless it was for themselves and then, I'm all for it.

If you have porphyria, there are many, many medicines you can't take because they can trigger an acute attack. You have to be hyper vigilant about what goes into your mouth. I have always had lots of reactions to pharmaceuticals, as have many people in my family. Reactions don't mean you have porphyria. But if you have other signs and symptoms, could be. Have you ever urinated what looks just like dark port wine? Yes, many times. Swollen liver/spleen? Check. Neurological damage? Yes. Bad labs? You got it. Severe abdominal pain that feels like you were just shot at point-blank range? Yes, yes, oh-my-possibly-inappropriate-word, yes. Ever had positive labs for porphyria? Uh, yeah. So I'm just thinking, it might be porphyria. But now my Job's advisor wants me to just go ahead and have another attack.

He wouldn't be alone. One doc wanted to treat me for an ulcer because of the abdominal pain. When I told him another body-part doctor, my gastroenterologist, had been part of the paparazzi at my last endoscopic photo shoot and assured me I did not have an ulcer, he continued to try and prescribe FIVE DIFFERENT ULCER MEDICINES. I turned each one down, repeating, calmly (believe it or not), I did not have an ulcer and, besides, I couldn't take those medicines as I had already been on them for what the gastro guy DID find: stomach irritation. And they all caused me major side-effects. He was so moved by my touching tale that he picked up the prescription pad he had been writing on and tore up the paper right in front of me with a heavy, knowing sigh. Knowing, that is, I was a pain-in-the-posterior patient who could simply not be fixed with a quick prescription. The worst kind. We make them look bad. I realize that and sympathize (okay, no....not that's a lie).

I know I'm looking for the nearly impossible: A caring, smart-as-a-whip doctor who, if he or she doesn't know, won't give up and consign me to more diminishment; who won't see this as a personal affront to the ego but as a challenge and an opportunity to help.

Anyone who has been through a medical mystery or major difficulty has asked the question, "Why can't I get answers or a doctor who knows what's going on?" That's normal. And we can't give up. But I also ask God, "Why am I hitting so MANY brick walls?" The only thing I can think of is, "Hey, it's not all about me." For every Robynn Reilly who squawks and talks and rattles cages, there are hundreds of people who don't know what to do and will remain caught in their illnesses. Disturbers can make a difference. We have to possess the determination to fight back for ourselves, our families, our friends. So, God knows I tend to dismantle brick barricades one way or the other and perhaps He has seen fit to use me in the "War of the Walls."

I hope it's that noble. Knowing me? It's probably not.

Copyright 2008

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Toothaches and Technology

I have a major toothache. My Bluetooth is killing me. In fact, it may be listed as the cause of my demise on the coroner’s report: “Death by safety device.” Ever since the new California law was passed last January I have become the equivalent of a six-year-old with car keys. I weave, I slow down, I park in the fast lane of the Freeway, I accelerate while making tight, left turns on overpass exits and go Dukes-of-Hazzard over the side walls, launching into the air. The landings are taking a toll on my car’s suspension and my spinal column. I’m doing all this in the name of safety while I attempt to use my “hands-free” equipment.

I had none of these problems before. One hand drove and one hand held my phone. I used voice commands and could actually utilize my eyes to watch the road. Now, I drive with my foot while simultaneously looking through my purse and pulling everything out searching for my Bluetooth. Once I’ve located it, the dangerous part begins.

As I left San Francisco recently, I headed out on the Bay Bridge. My girlfriend called me to firm up directions to her house in nearby Benicia. Just as she was telling me which lane to get into, the earpiece went dead. This meant I had to get the charger out of my purse while trying to navigate three lanes of speeding, maniacal drivers perched hundreds of feet over shark-infested waters. Once plugged into the cigarette lighter I now had to insert the other, miniscule end into my Bluetooth. This is best achieved with a skilled surgeon, floodlights, and magnifying glasses equal to the Hubble Telescope. Somehow, while nearly sitting on the steering wheel, I made the connection. I took my seat, hooked the thing over my ear, and, just as I was about to give it a command, the coil of the charger sprang back into place and launched the device off my head and into the next dimension.

There are severe issues with voice recognition as well. This is an example of a recent conversation:

Bluetooth: “Please say a command.”
Me: “Call.”
BT: “Command not recognized. Please say a command.”
Me: “Dial.”
BT: “Command not recognized. Please say a command.”
Me: “Call.”
BT: “Well why didn’t you say that in the first place, you idiot? Please state the name or number you wish to dial.”

Now, at this point, Artificial Intelligence basically takes over the planet and we are all at its mercy.

BT: “Did you say ‘Humpty Dumpty?’ ”
Me: “No.”
BT: “Did you say ‘Howdy Dooty?’ ”
Me: “No.”
BT: “Did you say ‘Jabba the Hut?’ ”
Me: “Yes.” I have discovered this will actually activate the command known as “Jamie at Work,” thereby connecting me with my husband.

He is experiencing a dysfunctional relationship with his safety-accessory as well. He said he couldn’t hear anything in the Bluetooth over the roar of his truck so he went with the type that mounts on the visor. This, too, was supposedly designed to be simple to use while driving. All you do is push a button to activate and start talking. But he still can’t hear anything so he just yanks it off the visor and shoves the whole thing up to his ear. It is approximately the size of a clipboard. This comes in handy when he has to attach it to his hair and hang it off the side of his head. He says when he is pulled over by the police he will protest saying he is, in fact, using a “hands-free” device.

After I left Nancy’s house from Benicia the next day, I made a final attempt to connect with the outside world from the confines of my car. I had checked messages and knew another friend, Teresa, was trying to reach me.

Southbound I-5 stretched out before me like a comfy couch, my headset was charged; all systems seemed to be a “go.” I managed to navigate my way through voice commands and actually connect with the right person. The only problem seemed to be the volume. I mean the volume in the way a jet engine might sound two feet from the fired-up burners, only much louder. It was the demon now flanking my head. I pushed every button to no avail. I was apologizing, while attacking my ear, when the thing flew off again, this time landing under the seat. “Keep talking!” I yelled, zooming down the freeway using the sound of her voice for homing assistance. With my legs hanging out the driver’s side window, I hung upside down to peer under my seat and found it hiding behind an In-and-Out Burger napkin. I had only changed lanes seven times and driven under a big-rig once. No harm done. I resigned myself to the roaring volume and, with my right hand, held the thing three feet from my head, still managing to suffer hearing loss.

With my nerves jangled and a ringing in my head, I pulled into Starbucks in Los Banos. I figured I needed a hot cup of coffee to complete my driving maneuvers. While safely stopped in the parking lot I managed to fix the problem du jour and attempted to phone my children. “Command not recognized while flip is open,” my nemesis taunted. “Flip is open?” I yelled. “Which flip? Phone? Bluetooth? WHAT?!” “Command not recognized. Did you say, ‘Beans and weenies?’ ”

I feel much safer now with my Bluetooth. I know everyone else does, too. We’re all keeping the law as we narrowly careen around one another in death-defying destruction derbies. Maybe next they can invent something to help you drink your coffee while you drive down the road. I don't know….maybe a spigot right above your head could automatically pour boiling java all over you. You could lick at the drips while your skin falls off.

Copyright 2008

Friday, December 26, 2008

Observational Twitter 5

False Advertising:

"Victoria's Secret."

Truth in Advertising:

"Victoria Doesn't Have Any Secrets."

A prominently well-known fact to any mother accompanying a son through the mall at Christmas and past the display window.

Copyright 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Observational Twitter 4


"Necessity is the mother of invention." Plato


"If necessity is the mother of invention, laziness is the father." Robynn Reilly

(No men were injured during the making of this quote and any relation to persons living or dead is unintended.....although, didn't Plato just sit around telling everybody he couldn't be bothered because he was thinking? I'm just saying.......)

Copyright 2008

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Christmas Story....Not The One With The Leg Lamp

I am reposting this for Christmas.  I wrote it five years ago and was reminded of the story by a friend.  I hope your Christmas is filled with the joy that comes from helping others, the ability) to find and count your blessings (though they're sometimes buried among the pain and struggle of life), and the hope that came into this world through the sacrificial love of the One who breathed life into us all and calls us to Himself. Merry Christmas.

I don't think I can top the Bumpkiss' dogs or the fish-net leg lamp. I can identify with Ralphie in "A Christmas Story" when he has to suck on a bar of Lifeboy soap. I became a regular connoisseur of the latest "on-sale" bar soap when I was a kid. Lux, Lifeboy, Dial, Ivory. Apparently getting cleaned from the inside out was the way to approach child rearing. Maybe it was a chaser for the bleach I accidentally drank from a Ball canning jar several years earlier. My heart may have its stains but my intestines are clean as a whistle.

It was during this same period my Christmas story takes place. It wasn't humorous but it was definitely happy. I remembered it today when the kids and I were part of the follow-up team for handing out Christmas food and gifts for the company Jamie works for. We volunteered for the privilege because who doesn't want to be part of that kind of Christmas cheer? Of course, I groused about schedule logistics (note last blog) even though I truly, truly wanted to do it. I mean really, WHAT is my DEAL?!

We drove across town to the warehouse, picked up seven boxes of groceries and a few toys, and headed to the home of a single mother with lots of children. The neighborhood was down-trodden but several neighbors stood against the blight with cheery light displays and decorations.

The home sat on a quiet corner, surrounded by a chain link fence. A chewed rope hung limply from a metal pole advertising a dog no longer tethered there. I walked up and tapped lightly, feeling slightly awkward and apologetic. The door creaked open and out peeked little shining faces, obviously excited to see strangers bearing gifts. A teenage son arrived home just in time to help unload the car and serve as translator. His mother spoke only Spanish and I spoke only English. He stared at us through dark-lashed eyes that were guarded with a mixture of suspicion and embarrassment. He couldn't have been much older than my son. I wondered if he would have felt much the same in a similar situation. I sensed his gratitude but also felt the sting that charity might bring to a young man. He quietly complied with my request to let his mother know I had been on the receiving end of a Christmas delivery when I was child. I suppose I wanted her to realize (and him to understand even more) that I knew how it felt on both sides and it was a blessing to give back. Her shy smile showed her appreciation, and discomfort as well. It truly is more blessed to give than to receive.

I wanted to share my own story with them but I couldn't invade their emotional space. He needed me to leave; she needed me to leave; and they couldn't have been more quietly gracious about it. I drove away remembering a Christmas that wouldn't have happened but for the intervention of friends and strangers.

I was ten and my sister and brother several years older. It had been a year of great upheaval. Well, come to think of it, I guess all of our years were years of great upheaval but this one came with even less money. My mother had just landed a good job but found out right before Christmas there would be no paycheck. It was a government job and the policy was to withhold the first check to be used for future severance pay.

The morning of Christmas Eve arrived but there was no sign of Christmas at our house. We had often gotten our tree on Christmas Eve because they were rock-bottom priced then. But on this day there was no discussion of a trip to the tree lot. The pantry was pretty bare and there hadn't been any talk of presents except to say there wouldn't be any. I don't remember being worried that we would eat beans for our Holiday dinner, but I do recall wondering afterwards what the menu would have been.

I think, on that day, I must have been in that beautiful place children live in their minds; the place that helps them believe everything will be alright somehow; the place where magical thinking rules and reality doesn't have a prayer. And it was in that moment that a knock came to the door. My sister and I opened it and saw our mother's friend, "Aunt" Fran. She had her husband with her and much more importantly, to our minds, the most beautiful white-flocked Christmas tree in tow. Now, our trees had been pretty much the bargain variety and we had never entertained the idea of a tree this grand. This was purview of the rich; the domain of the entitled. We were suddenly and at once part of this club of exclusivity! Aunt Fran was the prosperous owner of a nursery school that was much in demand. It was always immaculate and beautifully appointed. Each year, at the school, she prominently displayed her faith in God and her exquisite tree. It would normally have remained up through the New Year but this year she and "Uncle" Austin dismantled it and brought it to our house, along with the ornaments.

We had barely begun redecorating the tree when there was another sound at the door. Representatives of The Lions Club stood on our doorstep with arms full of boxes filled with ham, canned goods, and items far more tempting than beans. They left everything on our dining room table, wished us well and "Merry Christmas" and were gone. Here was food and here was a gorgeous tree. How could it get any better? In a matter of minutes it did. Another rapping at the door brought members of First Baptist Church bearing more food and wrapped presents. I can still see the white tissue paper and red ribbon wrapped around what I knew was a game. I couldn't wait to open it the next day. I don't know what the other gifts were that year but I was the happy recipient of "Sorry" and it's the game the kids and I still use after all these years.

Apparently, Aunt Fran had placed us on a few "needy family" lists and I'll be forever grateful that she did. It wasn't until years later I realized how close we were to having a very different Christmas experience. It was nothing short of a miracle to me and yet it lived up to my faith that all would be well. And for that time and for that day, it was. And that was enough.

I hope it will be the same for the dear family we met today. I pray a bright memory of Christmas miracles lives on in the hearts of the kiddos there and, if only for a short while, a burden is lifted for a weary mother. I hope a tentative young son feels compelled to drop his guard. I think that might be the case. I hugged his mother and then turned to him to pat his arm. He started to lean in for a hug, too, then caught himself. But it had happened, nonetheless, and in that moment, if only for a moment, I think all was well.

May you have the merriest of Christmases, my friends, and may God richly bless you.

With Love,


Copyright 2008

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Observational Twitter 3


"It's all good." Speculative origins and basically unknown author.


"Its all good........except for the bad parts and those are horrid." Robynn Reilly - speculative intelligence and basically unknown author.

Copyright 2008

Sunday, December 14, 2008

"Crabby Holidays to You....!"

"O Crabby night, the stars are brightly shining......."

Anyone else feeling a little less than “Jingle-Belly” about the whole Christmas, jam-packed schedule? I don't mean to be grumpy and grouchy. It's just that I'm so good at it I hate to let all that practice go to waste.

Just yesterday, Jamie and I were driving along on our way to his company Christmas party. It really was a worthwhile event this year. They decided to dispense with the over-the-top dressy affair and keep it very low key, using the money they would have spent and blessing six needy families instead. We all brought grocery items and had a great lunch. But that didn't stop us from grousing the whole way there about just another thing to do and how many other "just another thing-s" we had to complete. We were so ridiculous Jamie finally looked at me and said, "What else can we gripe about now?!" "Have yourself a crabby little Christmas........"

The time pressures can bring out the worst, I guess. It put me in mind of a Christmas season long past. Hannah was about four and wanting to be in the middle of every single thing I did in the kitchen. That was fun for the first 32 hours of the day. But now it was 10pm and I was down to piecrust I was trying out, for the first time, in the food processor. Martha Stewart (that self-righteous irritant) made it look so simple the day before on her show. My first crust stuck to the top and was fit for gluing wood flooring to the concrete. The next resembled birdseed and stuck together like Sahara sand. I blew that out and started over, again. In the meantime, Hannah stood beside me saying things like, "Can I do it? What's wrong with it? Can I do it? Why is it wet? Can I do it? Why is it dry? Can I do it? What's wrong, Mommy? Can I do it? Why are you making that face, Mommy? Can I do it?"

I felt my inner Grinch flexing his muscles as I told her, "Hannah! Mommy REALLY needs to do this alone. You need to leave the kitchen now and just let me do this myself!" She reluctantly left muttering, "Well, I don't know why I can't do it." The next thing I heard was a phone conversation from the stairs. There she sat in the middle of the staircase with her Fisher-Price phone plopped in her lap and the receiver pressed to her ear. "9-9-1? 9-9-1?" she asked the phantom operator who couldn't have cared less that she had misdialed. "You need to come and get my mommy cause she's not right!" Boy howdy.

The year before, when she was three, we had guests staying during Thanksgiving. Hannah was up early and yakking away. I told her more than once to be quiet since people were still sleeping. Finally I cornered her in the hallway, stared at her eyeball-to-eyeball and firmly told her she HAD to keep it down. She looked back at me just as determinedly, pointed her finger at me and replied, "You better keep YOUR crabby voice quiet, too!" Checkmate.

So, what the heck's the matter with me this year? Deferred preparations might be part of it. There hasn't been any time to break ground on Christmas around here. December 13th and no sign of the Christmas season at our house. I'm trying to knock everyone and everything out of the way so I can start celebrating joyfully. Reminds me of Sunday mornings when we're running late. The standing joke in our house is to yell at every pokey-joe motorist, "GET OUT OF THE WAY, DANG IT! WE'RE TRYING TO GET TO CHURCH AND WORSHIP THE LORD!!" Beware oxymorons driving down the road. We might run over you, too.

The weird thing is, I have actually loved every single event we've attended this Christmas season. That hasn't been the problem. It's those spaces between the events where I get into trouble. The ones where I actually have to be grateful for four hours of sleep and haul it up anyway; the health issues I can't control; the moments in the kitchen believing wholeheartedly that counters are only a theory (as I haven’t seen them in days) and something else must be holding up this assemblage of dishes and debris; the effort expended trying to decide if Sir Edmund Hillary could have scaled a mountain the size of my laundry pile.

But now, just one day later, there are days like today. I spend time with my love-em-to-pieces teens in my Sunday school pastor/dear friend gently exhorts us from the perspective shifts. I begin to count my blessings and realize I managed to buy a Christmas tree in three minutes flat last night. No lie. Hannah decorated the mantle and got the decorations out yesterday in my absence. Jamie put the lights on the house. Hunter played a shepherd in a Christmas production and, with the fake penciled-in beard and headdress that looked more like a 40's fedora, managed to emulate a mafia gangster shepherding his sheep and made me nearly drop the camera laughing.

I was also overcome with the blessings of incredible friends we're surrounded by so much of the time, but especially in the last 72 hours of event-laden days and evenings. We've all been running in the same circles but many of us are facing rough challenges: A very needed liver transplant and declining health, offering to donate part of a liver to meet the need and all that entails, sending a precious son to be deployed as a new Marine, waiting on God as a beloved husband and father battles ALS, overcoming cancer and life changes, financial shockers and job loss.....the list goes on. Sometimes I just need God's Holy 2x4 to the forehead to get some perspective.

It has arrived, I’m happy to report, and with it, joy. Joy in realizing how rich we (my family, my friends, and I) are in all the things money can’t buy, how blessed we are by God's gift to us and by those who love us, and how, if you climb to the very top of my laundry pile and lean left, you can see the snow covered Sierras out the top of the bathroom window.

Copyright 2008

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Observational Twitter 2


"That which does not kill us makes us stronger." Friedrich Nietzsche


"That which does not kill us leaves us maimed, bleeding, and disabled." Robynn Reilly

Copyright 2008

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Doughnuts and Fools

A doughnut sang me a song this morning. It had a lovely voice.

Actually, I'm not sure if it was the doughnut or the sugar, or both, but it was effective and soon we had a trio going. I always end up singing lead in these little productions but I'll hum the tune all alone when I step on the scale tomorrow. I'd like to say I just don't know how this happened but I have EVERY idea how it happened.

Sugar signed on as my paramour very early on and I encouraged all courting. We'd break up occasionally but this marriage of passion caused us to work things out quickly. I did get wiser as time went on and finally asked for a divorce. But it seems we're very modern and it has remained way too friendly between us. Bitterness would have been better.

I started out with hope. I was a proud, defiant, skinny-little-anorexic-anemic when I was four. I ruled over food and threatened to pummel it if it got near my mouth. I endured needle jabs to check iron levels, ominous threats, and enemy attacks in the form of spankings in the food wars, but I remained steadfast until one day: I discovered candy at the corner liquor store. Ah, Dominic's Liquor. The siren's call to the local drunks and willing children with left-over coins from our mothers' cast off purses.

It was down the block and across Blackstone Avenue. We navigated the streets regularly, my sister and I, along with the other neighborhood addicts. In the summer our bare feet would be dyed with road grime and we'd choose the painted white lines of the crosswalk to avoid third degree burns from the fry-an-egg asphalt. My heart would flutter a little when Dominic's would loom into view with its welcoming double-doors thrown open wide. What could compete with the cool, loamy smelling, darkened interior of booze and Sugar Babies? The Jim Beam decorator bottles of cars and horses and ladies in skirts were almost as enticing as the row of Necco's wafers, candy cigarettes, tiny wax soda bottles full of dyed sugar water, and little chocolate babies you could chew up. But sleeves of Sixlets and our day-long attractions, Big Hunks, were calling and we rushed to answer.

My best friend of this era was Jackie Doke. For the first six years of my life we lived directly across the street from each other. She was also brazen in her search for the sugar high. She was allowed to walk to the ice-cream store alone. One day she came strolling down the street with two dripping cones, one in each hand. What did she need two cones for? I tried to wheedle one out of her. She must have been anticipating this attack and planning her move. She'd give me one, she said, for a price. Go find something I knew she wanted and the ice-cream was mine. I rushed through my front door and dashed around my room quickly weighing my options. Not the white stuffed cat with the blue glass now estranged father had given that to me......hmmm, it would have to be the three-foot-tall walking doll. Yes, that was it. We struck a deal, I ate the ice-cream, and the doll was gone. Jackie's mother, Juanita, called a short time later to return my plastic pseudo-child but my mother was resolute: a deal's a deal. It wasn't my birthright, as with Esau and Jacob, but I did regret it for a long time after my sugar stupor wore off. Jackie and ice-cream will be forever etched in my memory with a near DNA link.

I sometimes wonder, as I look back, if I loved certain people for who they were or for the treats they offered. The two were often inextricable. My paternal grandmother, Nana, always kept a huge bowl of M&M's on her table. The estranged father's future mother-in-law (I KNOW), Ola May, would buy me sweet bananas, which I craved as though I were King Kong. I hope I at least said hello to both of these old ladies as I eyed the objects of my gustatory heaven.

But doughnuts, oh my, they came looking for ME. By the time I was eight we were living in the Projects; that run down part of town relegated to the down-on-your-luck, prostitutes, and drug users. I fit right in. For a nickel I could savor my way into another world. The "Doughnut Man" drove a slow moving truck that steamily idled its way through the neighborhood on cold, foggy mornings. When he spied you he would stop, open the big doors on the back, and slide out steaming trays of fresh, glazed doughnuts. The taste would never be equaled in all my future doughnut exploits and the intoxicating fragrance drifting off those trays will linger forever. I was always and only a nickel away from euphoria.

So, maybe it was all of those things coming back to me this morning as I left a 7am appointment feeling entitled to some sort of reward for due diligence and grown-up responsibility. I knew those were the thoughts of a fool but fools do fool themselves and listen to siren songs. And shouldn't you keep your friends close and your enemies closer? I wonder if a lifetime on your gut is close enough.

Copyright 12/2008

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Observational Twitter 1


"Anything worth doing always starts with being scared." Art Garfunkel


"Also a bunch of rot that isn't worth doing." Robynn Reilly

Copyright 12/2008

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Sickness and Other Things That Make You Popular

Grab your tea or coffee and pretend you've just decided to do your good deed for the day by visiting your Great Aunt Ethel. That's the excitement level you can expect if you decide to read this post. If not, no hard feelings. I secretly admire your lack of reticence in blowing me off.

For the rest of you compassionate souls who've decided to stick around, here's the lowdown on the latest installment of, "As The Stomach Turns."

You may know I have battled "The Mysterious Malady" for about ten years. It started with my feet and legs going to sleep as I sat teaching the kids one day. Unlike the rest of me, they decided to never wake up again. Think the pins and needles after you've fallen asleep on your arm. It was maddening and it was 24/7.

For two years I sought answers and got treated for things I didn't have. One doc put me on diabetes meds because to him it was obvious I had diabetes even without a test. He almost killed me. The physicians creed seems to state: "We hold these truths to be self-evident.....if you're fat this WILL be the root cause of all your health problems." Patient: "Dr., I think I've deviated my septum, contracted strep throat, and possibly sustained potentially fatal injuries in a car accident." Doctor: "I told you to lose weight!"

So, lacking diabetes I kept seeking answers. I found a neurologist who put on me on a med that helped immensely with the leg/foot issues but didn't answer the reason why. They suspected MS and examined my cranial cavity, through an MRI, for evidence of a brain. The brain was there but lesions were not. That was a good thing. More years, more meds, fewer answers. The doctor wanted me to see an environmental specialist at UCSF or Stanford to hunt down problems with a lead exposure in my past. Someday I would if the insurance agreed. Lots of sickness plagued me in between times and I never knew why I got sick so easily or felt weird, or exhausted.

Fast forward a few years and I came home from a family vacation in Hawaii to the next phase of my adventure. Now my liver and spleen were sick, too, and bizarre things began to happen to me including intermittent tremors, weakness, stomach pain, and a near complete inability to take a variety of meds. I will spare you the details your Aunt Ethel wouldn't but, suffice it to say, there were other symptoms and you'll love me for not telling you what they were.

Now, I'm not wild about having my picture taken but there are truly places cameras just don't belong: in your body would make the top of my list. When you consider it, the medical paparazzi only have a few entrances to swarm when trying to get that perfect internal shot. And you will not have an opportunity to cover any of those entrances with a newspaper to avoid prying eyes. They never got the money shot, the smoking gun, the CSI evidence. But somewhere out there I'm sure there's a flattering picture of my colon.

At least the next phase took me to UCSF where they were promptly unable to tell me anything. Well, not that promptly actually. It took two years to discover that the damage was progressing and they had no idea why. More suspicions, more MRI's, and more needles in the muscles to measure progressive muscle loss in my feet. More glow-in-the-dark radiological tests, more dead ends, more conjecture. In the meantime I searched the internet high and low to diagnose myself. Physicians love it when you do this, especially if you offer your input. You will have "NUTCASE" stamped in red letters on the front of your chart.

Finally, with another attack of whatever this is a few months ago, I plopped myself in my primary care doctor's chair and said, "We gotta figure this out. Would you check me for this, this, and this?" He stamped "NUTCASE" on the back of my chart, too, and agreed. Son of a gun.....everything came back abnormal. Now we had a possible working diagnosis: Porphyria. Coproporphyria to be exact and also some immunity issues. Porphyria is a blood disorder that could be responsible for the majority of my issues. More tests were performed yesterday to make the final determination and I won't know the complete bottom line until the end of the month. But that's the way it's looking. I'll explain what it is in more detail in a future post when all the results are in but for now it's just good to have an idea of what it could be.

As Jamie and I sat discussing this with the hematologist yesterday he remarked, "What super smart doctor thought to look for this?" I demurred and said it was actually me who asked for the test. His tone turned decidedly away from "super smart" and he replied, "Well, you can't just figure out what you have that way." Well, there certainly hasn't been any other way, doc.

So, there you have it. I'm battling new symptoms that leave me feeling faint and shaky, and with high blood pressure. It's all making me lose weight. I've dropped 20 lbs. since August. That's the up side. And the antidote for these symptoms is immediate sugar. So, if you see me laying around in a coma, just shove a cookie in my mouth.

There really is a silver lining to just about everything.

Copyright 12/08

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


I am grappling with guilt.

As I pondered my blog today it occurred to me that writing a blog might be an exercise in self aggrandizement. I mean, by its very nature aren't I saying, "Hey! Look at me and be riveted by my fascinating exploits and intrigues?" I guess if you're a biographer or journalist (and other good examples I'm too lazy to recall right now), you're writing about other people and issues. But aren't you still saying, "I can tell that story better than anyone else?" Maybe. If you are, if I am, all I have to say is, "We better be right, Bucky."

Hoping I won't let you down. Oh for Pete's sake. You KNOW I will. That'll be good for me, too. I'll get over all this naval gazing. Hey, is that lint?

Copyright 12/08

I'm Finally Here!

For all who have waited breathlessly for my opinions, reflections, and life-changing insights,(both of you), I have arrived.

I named my blog "Laugh Til You Die" because I can't handle life without finding something to laugh about on a nearly daily basis. While it's true there are experiences in our lives which come without any humor, most of the time we can find a chuckle even in the dark. For me, the laughing lights a light so I can navigate. If I must face all difficulties with intense sobriety and "appropriate" seriousness, I forfeit joy. And joy is God's gift to me. I hope to use it until I leave for heaven and then I hope to get new material.

Copyright 12/08