Parenting: Year 30

On this date more years ago than I like to count I officially became a parent. I have been raising children since I was a child myself, a phenomenon that is called parentification in psychological circles, so I’m told. I helped raise children, even though I had no idea how to raise them and they weren’t mine to raise. Sometimes in life you get handed a job that you didn’t ask for and you do the best you can with it. I was the eldest in a pack of five for several years; and as the eldest child in a single parent household you spend a lot of time herding the younger ones.

Helping to raise your siblings isn’t really parenting in the true sense of the word. Since you are a child yourself you can always count on mom to get home at some point in the day and then you can quit pretending you know what you are doing and get back to being a child yourself. You can always blame your mom or dad for putting you in the position of having to raise their children for them.

Once you are the parent, things get a little more complex. The early experience helped though. I knew how to change diapers. I knew how to feed a baby, hold a baby, a thousand different things. But at 2 in the morning, when it’s your turn to rock the baby, you find that you miss the days when the real parents would come home and take over. Well, not really. But just for a minute there.

They grow so fast. It couldn’t have been as long as she says it’s been since she was born. There is no way that it has been thirty years. She still looks like a high school student. She’s a good bit taller than she was when I first saw her. Then, I could hold her in the crook of one arm, a little over 6 pounds, light as a feather. I can remember taking her to school for the first time. I remember when she learned to read and then talked me into reading books that she liked. Dozens of them. She got me hooked on anime, an artform that she has a passion for to this day, all of us discovering she has quite a talent for art through her anime sketches. Spending years after that discovery trying to encourage her to explore her talent, without smothering her with pressure to do something with it.

I fondly remember dropping her off at the high school she still looks like she attends, dropped her off for the first time. Sitting there wondering out loud if I “should walk her in…” I mean, I had walked her into every school before this one. Taken the time to meet her teachers before I allowed them to teach her anything. Not this time. The disgusted “DAD!” that I got in return was the first clue I had that she was growing up much faster than I was really ready for.

I couldn’t stop her from doing this. I have to admit that she’s an adult now.

She’s already on an exclusive list of one in my book. She is my only daughter. That’s a good enough reason to celebrate this day all by itself, without needing costumes and candy, like her brother gets on his birthday. Wouldn’t you agree?

Happy Birthday, dearest one.

Asthma

“Go run and play.” She said. She always said that. She never understood how impossible that was, running and playing. Even short sprints would leave me breathless. when I was in elementary school, participating in my first field day, I tried running in all the races. I couldn’t finish most of them. When I came back in tears dejected and frustrated, the teachers tried to console me with a participation award. I still have it around here somewhere.

No one, especially not my mother, the “go run and play” voice in my head, ever thought to ask if I was having trouble breathing. Never in my life did anyone ask. I just assumed this was the way everyone felt while running. The feeling of slow asphyxiation, the inability to ever get enough oxygen into the blood.

I remember the time when running became a thing that everyone thought they should do. I listened incredulously to the descriptions of the runner’s high, wondering how anyone could ever get to that state of euphoria while slowly strangling to death. But I was intrigued by the idea, so I bought a pair of running shoes and some sweats, and tried running a few times just to check it out. Could I run long distances, at all? In all the times I’ve tried, I have never made it much further than a hundred yards, no matter what mindset that I started the run with. It simply was not possible for me to run long distances. I was never going to experience the runner’s high.

Bicycling was different. If you do the exercise correctly, bicycling puts you in the prone position. In a prone position you breath easier, and I could ride all day on reasonably flat ground if I needed to. Trying to ride uphill was a near-impossibility though, as I soon found out when I moved away from the flatlands of Kansas as a teenager.

Breathing is key. If you can’t breath well enough, you can’t do any of these things. I never understood this fact when I was younger. I just assumed that everyone faced the pain of their lungs being on fire all the time that they were exercising or competing. I simply wasn’t driven enough. Wasn’t motivated enough. Wasn’t good enough to compete.

That is where interest in competition stopped for me. I knew I couldn’t win, so I decided not to try. No sport that required physical stamina would ever be something I would excel at. That was me as a teenager and a young adult.

When I met the Wife, she infected me with a need for competition that I had never cultivated in myself. We tried playing softball on the team one of my architecture firms maintained. Between dysgraphia causing me to catch balls with my face almost as much as I caught them with my glove, and my restricted lung capacity keeping me from being able to sprint around the bases without needing to stop and catch my breath, I didn’t lead the roster of most valuable players on the team. To say the least.

I had to change allergists a few years back. The allergist that I had been going to retired, and the random choice that I was required to make put me into the hands of an allergy and asthma specialist. He immediately suspected that I had borderline asthma, and confirmed it with testing. Once again my mother’s indoctrination into the cult of Mary Baker Eddy had taken its toll. Had she been curious enough to go talk to doctors about her son’s weird breathing problems, I might have gotten treatment early enough that my lungs would have developed better.

We treated the Son’s borderline asthma when he was a baby. It was breathing the albuterol with him while giving him his treatment that made me wonder if perhaps I had similar problems. I few years later I no longer had to wonder about it. I’d like to officially thank the Church of Christ, Scientist for fucking up my life and the lives of my mother and her siblings and her children. Without their influence, I wouldn’t have had to watch my mother die from a treatable disease, with virtually the last words out of her mouth being “doctor’s don’t know anything.” As it turns out, they seem to know quite a bit.

Anemic Dizziness

I’ve been dizzy for several weeks now, in an unbroken chain of dizziness. During this period of dizziness I had blood drawn for my semi-annual blood tests, tests that came back showing that I was anemic. I wasn’t anemic by much according to the normal ranges for iron in the blood; but still it was low enough that my doctor was concerned about it and thought to mention it to me.

I basically blew the concerns off at the time. I mean, anemia? Right? What is anemia? It means low levels of red blood cells in your blood. It wasn’t critical. It wasn’t like I was four pints low on blood and I really needed a transfusion (I’ve heard that reported by others who have had anemia over the years) I was a few points low on the percentages of iron in my blood in one test. I figured, no big deal, I’ll just start ingesting a bit more iron in my diet. I shifted to taking the Wife’s daily vitamin for a week or so (her’s has iron in it. Men generally don’t need iron supplementation, women do) but after that I went back to my same old Men’s One-A-Day that doesn’t have iron in it, and I forgot all about it.

Until today. Today, as I’m standing there with the world in a fog of dizziness around me, not actually spinning but always worried that the general dizziness might turn into vertigo, it suddenly occurred to me. Brain function. Oxygen carried by red blood cells. Red blood cells distinguished by their ability to carry oxygen because of the ability to bond with the iron that is in them (that is what makes them red after all) is it possible that this prolonged bout of dizziness is caused by the anemia and not the Meniere’s?

To answer this question I turned to Dr. Google, like most of us do these days. As usual, Dr. Google was not a useful source of information on the subject of anemia and related dizziness. This image is the summary that Dr. Google offered me for the search phrase dizziness low iron. See what is second on the list? It took a minute for the reality of the situation to sink home.

Dr. Google on dizziness low iron

Acupuncture. Acupuncture is second on the list of recommended treatments for dizziness. I was almost apoplectic with outrage while reading this summary. Acupuncture has no proven use for dizziness, and yet it is second on the list of what to do about dizziness from anemia. Why? Why is this on the list at all? Why does Dr. Google think that medicalnewstoday.com is a reliable medical news source? Why is this unknown resource cited in a summary that purports to offer solutions to a particular problem? Cited at the top of a list of other possible answers to the question.

I’d like to thank Dr. Google for putting the word anemia back in my vocabulary today (words keep disappearing on me when I’m dizzy like this) put the word back in my vocabulary list so that I can hone the question I want to ask, but seriously? Why is is this website quoted as a source? In Dr. Google’s defense, Healthline is the first resource offered on the page, but the clarification block appears directly under that resource. Healthline’s value as a resource is also questionable. I wouldn’t take their advice as being rock solid without checking facts in other places first. When you read symptoms off a list of symptoms and you start saying “yeah that sounds right” even though you haven’t been complaining about that particular symptom, it’s time to find a second resource.

Using the search phrase dizziness anemia proved to be even less revealing than the previous search phrase. The top resource on that results page was yet another poorly written questionable source that I wouldn’t trust to give me advice about which direction was North, much less give me advice on how to treat chronic health issues.

After a few hours of fruitless searching I decided to quit looking and simply treat the problem that I know exists and see if that helps. I already know I’m anemic because my general practitioner told me I was. I was anemic when this dizziness started. I’m going to approach the problem as if I was suffering from anemia, and simply start by taking some iron supplements to see if the dizziness recedes or not. I have also been listless and tired a lot lately. Maybe it is anemia after all? Stay tuned.


Several days later, after a few days of adding iron to my diet (The Wife’s supplement didn’t have iron in it contrary to my prior statement) I’m already starting to notice less dizziness. Which is good. I didn’t want to have to go back to the ear, nose and throat doctor and get steroids injected into my inner ear again.

I will only be adding iron to my diet for a few weeks at most. I don’t want to overdo it and cause other types of damage that can be caused by having too much iron. I’ve never suffered from anemia before. At least, no anemia that I know of. The doctor who told me I was anemic also told me that blood donation could not have caused the anemia, but I’m at a loss to explain why I would suddenly be anemic outside of the blood donation that I had just given the day previous to getting the blood tests done. I guess I will go back to him and get an order for another blood test and see if the anemia is still present, after I’ve finished my few weeks of iron inclusion.

Weather and allergies frequently mess with my vestibular system. These are a known triggers for Meniere’s in some people. I thought the dizziness was coming from weather and allergies, but then it lasted through several changes in both. I tried the vestibular therapy exercises, as I mentioned previously on the blog, and they helped for a few hours but the next day the dizziness would be back. This is a last-ditch effort. I did not want to take iron supplements because I know that iron can be quite toxic at high doses.

I don’t know what caused the dizziness and I won’t know, possibly ever. This is the problem with chronic illness and common complaints like dizziness. If the dizziness that I’ve had for a solid month goes away, and I get a blood test that shows the anemia is gone, I will have demonstrated correlation. An interesting set of facts that might be related. If I get extended dizziness several more times and each time taking iron makes it go away, I’ve demonstrated a possible causal link. At least for me.

Dizziness is one of the most common symptoms/complaints that doctors hear. Almost anything can cause it. Dizziness is not just one thing, either. It can be a mental fog. It can be a feeling of imbalance. It can be active rotation and when it is active rotation it should be referred to by its real name, vertigo or rotational vertigo. Every time I get a symptom these days I’m always wondering if it is Meniere’s or if my thinking it is Meniere’s means something more serious is going on and I’m missing it.

What I do know now is that next time I donate blood I will be sure to include more iron in my diet before and afterwards. I don’t want to do this again and blood donation is still my only explanation for the anemia. If I become anemic again even with these precautions, then I’ll get concerned.

Space Heaters

The rental house I lived in when I moved to San Angelo in 1985 had these damn space heaters in it. Still had them, fifty years after the house itself should have been condemned. Only the ones in the bathroom and living room worked, and when I say worked I mean the gas could be turned on and lit, and there were enough heating elements in them to radiate heat out into the room. I don’t mean that they kept the house, much less the room they were in, warm.

When I moved into the place in the Spring of that year, my new roommate had been living there alone for quite some time. A recent divorcee, he was living in a bachelor’s paradise. The kitchen sink had a motorcycle engine in it. Under the engine was the rotting remains of a summer feast that he hadn’t bothered to clean up before taking the engine apart on top of it. The bathtub had the engine from his truck in it. He had been showering off with a garden hose outside, or going home to his parents house on lake Nasworthy to get cleaned up. Had been driving several miles out to their lake house on a pretty regular basis, before the motorcycle broke down and after the truck broke down. When the motorcycle quit working he was kind of stuck in a rut, until I showed up.

I slept on the floor in the bedroom, on a mattress we salvaged from somewhere. He had his bed in the former sitting room. It had its own front door that we never used. A second front door that let onto the front porch, the nice entrance to the nicest part of the house, the one that still had the best finishes in it for those long-gone guests of the poor people who had probably assembled the building out of the spare trash that they had cobbled together from another construction project somewhere in town.

How we got through that year is a mystery shrouded in clouds of Ganja smoke. What I can say is we made the place livable in pretty short order. We put the truck back together with twine and bailing wire, and he rebuilt the engine for his motorcycle, which let him go back to riding motocross in his spare time, and we managed to live there for most of the rest of that year until the freeze hit. when it got cold, the downside of the shabby and time-worn construction of the house showed itself.

The house was made of pasteboard. What’s that, you ask? Paper? Not paper no, but it might as well have been paper for all the good that it did. To assemble a pasteboard house you put up corner posts and frame the doors and windows. They are generally square houses with four rooms, one in each quadrant of the structure. As I mentioned, ours still had two front doors. One door for the sitting room that you invited your guests into, and the other door was for the living room, where the family spent their time, back in the 19o0’s when it was built. In the center of the structure, where the four interior walls would meet, you put the main structural post to hold up the peak of the roof, which slopes down to just about head height at the eaves. The roof was usually made of tin, and was definitely the most durable part of that house.

After you have your doors and windows framed up, you run lap siding from the corner posts to the door and window frames. There are no studs in the walls outside of the studs required to hold the windows and doors in place. The interior walls could be made of almost anything. Anything that would hold up to what came next. On the inside face of the exterior siding you then staple chicken wire or plaster lathe (if you could afford that) and then you plastered the chicken wire and the backside of the siding to make the inside face of the exterior wall of your house. You would then carefully plaster the interior walls so as to make them look like walls, too.

The resulting interior surface is markedly strange-looking, with accentuated bulges all around the doors and windows, where the only framing in the walls actually existed. You have now created your pasteboard house. It is paste applied directly to the boards that the rain runs off of on the outside of your house, and the interior walls are so thin as to make privacy largely a figment of your imagination.

There is no insulation value in the walls of a pasteboard house. The temperature outside the house is the temperature inside the house. Those little space heaters were like candles in the wind, the drafts through the cracks in the wall were that bad. We had to prop our feet up right in front of the fire to feel the heat at all. The less said about the intolerable heat in the Texas summers, the better. The swamp cooler had mosquitos living in it, just to add to the fun of the oppressive heat. But on those winter nights when it really got cold, it was impossible to get warm anywhere in that house.

The pipes froze, of course. Indoor plumbing was an afterthought, an addition that took up the space where a sleeping porch had been once upon a time. That room had the space heater that could keep the room warm, since it was the smallest room with the lowest ceiling. But the pipes froze routinely because there was no way to keep them warm. We could leave the water trickling over night, but that usually just meant we had icicles hanging from the faucets when we woke up.

The last few weeks we were there, the wooden floors started to bow up, which made sleeping or even walking on the floor an interesting dexterity test, especially when stoned. Clearly the exterior walls were not keeping the moisture out of the house, and the resulting swelling of the floorboards caused them to buckle in several places. We never could figure out how to get them to lay flat again once they started doing that. Which was too bad. The floors were about the nicest thing about the place before they started to buckle.

I caught pneumonia that winter in that rental house on Adams Street. I caught pneumonia and had to beg a space to stay at a friend’s house. A friend’s house that seemed like a palace in comparison to the rental we had on Adams. A palace with insulated walls and central heat and air. It even had indoor plumbing that wasn’t an afterthought tacked onto the back, a bathroom taking up what had been the best place to sleep in the house during the summer. Instead the bathroom was inside the house, like a bathroom should be.

That was my last experience with space heaters. I got lucky. I didn’t asphyxiate because the rooms were so drafty there was always enough oxygen to feed the gas fires and the living, breathing people, and I didn’t set myself on fire sleeping with my feet in the grate. Also? The friend I bummed some crash space off of was generous enough to let me keep living in that comparative palace that her parents had entrusted to her, let me keep living there until I found an apartment in a completely different part of town. An apartment that wouldn’t kill me. Which was a step up, for me.

Is This It?

In the cool light of an impending winter’s day, watching as the world economy spirals down the drain of the Coronavirus pandemic; as the various nations of the world including the vassal states of my own country flex their muscles to assert their dominance, and lastly in light of the naked insanity of our president and his supporters, is it completely reasonable to ask the question:

Is this it? Is this the end of us?

The question could be answered in a number of ways. Parsing the question, it depends on what you mean by the word us. The human race will continue on, and the world will continue spinning just like it always has. In that sense the answer is no. No, it is not the end of us. Some form of government will continue. Other nations will take over our leadership role. This process has already started and will continue whether we want it to or not.

A different take would be to observe that every empire in history has fallen. They rise, and then they fall. We watched the Soviet Union dissolve before our very eyes just over thirty years ago. This could be the point in time where the empire that the United States maintains falls apart.

Maybe our empire should fall apart. Maybe we shouldn’t have an empire in the first place? I’ve been warning people for years that the US is one major crisis away from ceasing to exist. Some people laughed when I first proposed this problem back in the day, the problem that the United States is a paper tiger.

A paper tiger in that, the American people don’t want an empire. They never have wanted one. The federal government in Washington D.C. established one anyway. They did it in our name, at the urging of power brokers of previous generations. Stealing the lands of our neighbors and putting native peoples to the sword in a fair approximation of England or France or any other empire-building nation of previous generations.

We have built a military that is unrivaled in the modern world, spending blood and treasure at a phenomenal rate to the benefit of our corporate masters and even to the benefit of the assembly line workers that build all the armaments that we currently deploy. We can, with pinpoint precision, remove any threat that we recognize as a threat with that military. We can do this and we have done this, right up to this point in history.

We are the wealthiest, most powerful nation in recorded human history. How can we just cease to exist?

…and here we are laid low by a virus, the simplest form of life on this planet. Life so simple that it barely qualifies as life in the first place. It is a little bit of replicating code that has evolved to use the larger bits of life around it to make more of itself without ever knowing what it was doing. It just does what it does, and we can’t stop it.

We can’t stop it. Not with jet planes or nuclear weapons or all the money in the world can we stop it. We can’t stop it unless we accept that we have to stop it, and then make that the thing we need to do now instead of building jet planes and nuclear missiles. This is the biggest crisis we’ve faced in our lifetimes, bigger than the crash that happened in 2008 that we still haven’t recovered from. It is possible that we are living through the greatest crisis in recorded human history, when our children’s children look back at this time through the lens of history.

The future of the United States as a political entity is a small thing compared to the effect that a pandemic can have on the human psyche. In the end that is really all that matters. Unless we can grasp the threat we face right now and answer that threat. Unless we put aside the petty dictators and their Trumpismo’s and focus on the real threat, the fear that this virus inspires in us all and the impact that its continued existence unchecked in the world represents, then the United States will be done for in spite of its globe-spanning military presence and its corporate reach.

…and just maybe, in the end, that is the way that it ought to be.

Featured image: IFLScience How Long Do We Have Left Before The Universe Is Destroyed?

Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spaces within your spine, which can put pressure on the nerves that travel through the spineSpinal stenosis occurs most often in the lower back and the neck.

mayoclinic.org

At five in the morning Friday, after an evening spent feasting with the same three people that I’ve been COVID quarantining with since March, them drinking champagne, me drinking water and hoping to be able to empty my bowels later (a generally empty hope as it was that night. Alcohol causes constipation, something on the avoid list for those of us who have issues with our guts) a late night spent watching television in an all-to-rare showing of familial appreciation, I was woken from a rather weird dream in which I could hear animal noises coming from a nearby set of bushes, only to discover that the weird noises were the Wife trying to get up off of the toilet and failing to be able to manage it, try as hard as she might.

Spinal stenosis has been having its way with her over the last few years, and it has caused her to become a frequent visitor to pain specialists as they try to address the various pain complaints (neck, back, feet, knees and legs) that seem to crop up at almost random times and places. The last visit to a pain doctor for treatment was a few days ago, and we thought she was heading into a more lengthy period of being free from the daily grinding pain that Spinal Stenosis inflicts on her.

With a little coaxing I was able to help her get moved into a chair in the next room, but it was clear to both of us in a very short time that we were going to have to transport her to the emergency room in order to get the problem diagnosed and addressed, because the pain that had started bothering her as she and the Daughter were preparing pies and cooking ham together was simply getting worse with time.

The problem she was having did not appear to be related to the recent treatments, but the only way to be sure was to bundle her up and take her to a doctor. So at six am amidst the Black Friday sale desperation visible at every shopping center we passed, I drove her to the ER of the hospital that we seem to be spending more and more time at these days.

With masks in place and temperature checks passed, we were ushered into a private space where the nurses and doctors popped in and out and over the next hour or so, until they finally agreed on the pain meds they wanted to try out. The problem here is that most of the pain meds that have been made available over the last few decades don’t seem to work well for the Wife, and most of them are also extremely addictive with some severe side-effects to boot. She has some preferences for older pain drugs, but those drugs are interdicted as barbiturates or some such, and so you have to pull teeth in order to get a doctor to prescribe you any of them. But those drugs do work, if you can get someone to give them to you. The emergency room doctors will not be doing this. They’ll try some other new drug, one that isn’t already deemed bad for some reason or other. It was a new drug, so we figured why not?

Then came the attempts to get an intravenous tap into the Wife’s veins. This is always a hit and miss process with her. Very few nurses seem to have the skill to get a needle in one of her veins. After a few tries the nurse dragged in an ultrasound machine specifically set up to help nurses with people like the Wife , people who don’t want to give up their secret blood supplies to interlopers like medical professionals. It was a cool gadget and with it she was able to hit a vein with the least amount of trouble I’ve ever seen in the many times I’ve watched them try to get a needle in that woman.

With the IV in place they could finally do the thing they wanted to do, and they gave her the pain medication she needed. Her blood pressure receded from the scary levels it had been at up to that point, and she finally started to doze off, only occasionally being woken by the alarms that seemed to go off every time she fell asleep. Heart rate too low, blood oxygen too low, whatever. After this had gone on for awhile, the nurses came back in and hooked her up with some oxygen and gave her a second shot, and at that point she actually slept for a bit.

Hours had passed by then. As I sat there in my mask trying not to touch anything other than my phone, I marveled at the hectic non-stop activity all around us. City hospitals are always a little busy, but I’ve never seen the kind of activity that was going on during that morning. Signs of the long pandemic we are suffering through were everywhere. Plastic sheeting hastily taped up to partition the various spaces that used to be simply curtained off. Masks, face shields and gloves were in place for every person who wandered in and out of the room, including the janitorial staff. The room next to the Wife’s was filled and vacated three times before we left there sometime around noon. Everyone looked tired and stressed, and I wondered if we really should be taking up these poor people’s times with some simple pain complaint that seemed almost trivial in that time and place.

The Wife was sleeping, which was all I really cared about. Sleeping, when she hadn’t been able to sleep at all before that point because of the constant pain. As I mentioned, they discharged her at about noon Friday. We got back to the house and got her into bed, and she promptly passed back out again. The pain doctors are all on holiday, of course. None of them will be available for consultation again until Monday. In the meantime she needs pain medication to keep the back pain to tolerable levels, and none of the pain meds that are commonly on offer do anything to help her with the pain she is experiencing. The ER doctors got her pain to recede enough that she has limited mobility again but they didn’t have any medication to send home with her.

The Wife has to be able to walk in order for her to to get around inside our house. It is an older two-story home, and it simply isn’t set up for wheelchairs or even a walker to work inside of it, even if she stays on the first floor. She can barely get around the house on crutches. Luckily we had some crutches that her father bought her after she injured her leg in high school and that we have never let go of since then. If we hadn’t had those crutches we would have had to call an ambulance to even get her to the ER in the first place, and she wouldn’t have made it back into the house when we were discharged and sent back home.

One good thing that the COVID pandemic has done is allow telemedicine to gain traction in society. Leaving the house is an invitation to get infected, and so talking to doctors via video chat makes it possible to see a doctor without having to sit next to sick people for several hours at a time. We managed to get a telemedicine appointment with or general practitioner on Saturday morning. That is the miracle of telemedicine. Seeing your GP for a few precious minutes on the weekend in order to get you some medicine that you need so that you can not be enduring constant pain for three days waiting for the specialist to get back to you about this problem that just might kill you with pain-induced stress. With the desired prescription winging its electronic way to the pharmacist, I can finally rest easy knowing that the Wife will not be in constant agony over this long weekend.

The insane war on drugs goes on, though, and its victims are people like the Wife who cannot get pain medication because every medication that works for her chronic pain is a medication that every doctor can get in trouble for prescribing too frequently. Pain doctors are the targets of convenience for these stupid government drug crackdowns because obviously you go to a pain doctor to get your pain meds. That is what a pain doctor is for. To help you alleviate your pain. Sometimes the drugs are required and when they are required that point in time has a two in seven chance of being on a day when the doctor will not be available to prescribe them, and no one is willing to go out on a limb and give pain meds to a patient that they don’t know personally, even when that person is in the kind of pain that registers as spikes in blood pressure. This situation is intolerable and has to change.

Pain management has to turn a corner and come to grips with the fact that pain meds are both required and potentially addictive, both at the same time. It is a juggling act that the medical establishment had better learn to master, and soon, if they want to head off the next oxycontin embarrassment. That debacle simply waits in the wings for the next corporation to see a chance to reap a profit from people who have pain and have the money to spend alleviating the pain. This problem is not going away because the problems with pain are not going away either. We are going to have to learn how to deal with this problem. The sooner the better.

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The Tonight ShowSheryl Crow “You Don’t Know How It Feels” Tom Petty – Nov 25, 2020

Vestibular Physical Therapy

I had been seeing a Physical Therapist for years before the time of COVID. I have a recurring issue with the lower back, a common complaint among older people, come to find out. I’ve also messed up my neck and shoulders in car accidents over the years, so I have plenty of things to work out with my physical therapist. Or did have before the time of COVID. I haven’t been back to Symmetry Physical Therapy since before March of 2020, because as painful as my joint and muscle problems are, they pale in comparison to the kinds of problems catching COVID would mean to someone like me.

Back in 2019, when the lack of plague allowed me to leave my house for things other than the essentials, I just happened to be at my Physical Therapy appointment when I mentioned that I was having recurring problems with minor vertigo and dizziness that lasted for weeks or months at a time. He got a quizzical look at that point asked me if I had ever tried any vestibular training exercises.

I had never even heard of vestibular training before, much less tried any of the exercises. He then demonstrated a few of them for me and had me work through them. I don’t know that they had any positive effect, but the knowledge that there was PT for my vestibular problems started me on a mission to find out more about the subject.

After mentioning the subject to my Ear, Nose and Throat doctor (ENT) on my next visit (she was mortified that we had never discussed the subject before) She gave me a referral for and I went to see the specialists over at 360 Balance, which just happened to be the people that my PT had been to a seminar with and had put the bug in his ear about retraining the vestibular system after injuries like the ones that Meniere’s inflicts on sufferers.

Over the course of the next six months or so we set up a set of exercises that addressed the issues that arise from the inner ear damage that Meniere’s causes. The exercises did, in fact, stop the nagging dizziness problems that I had been experiencing all that summer of 2019, and I have not had a recurrence of those symptoms since then. Did not have them again until a few days ago.

I’ve been slacking off my exercise regimen lately. The allergens outside the house have kept me sequestered indoors more often, and even the little bit of pollen and dust that get into the house are enough to make me feel like I’ve got a permanent head and chest infection. A feeling that can persist for weeks on end. Starting sometime last week I started to feel like I was heading into another bout of vertigo, so I started taking my meds in response. I’ve managed to avoid worshipping at the porcelain altar so far (knock on wood) but I have had that nagging bit of dizziness and nausea that comes along with it that has persisted for almost the whole week since I first noticed the warning of oncoming vertigo.

So today I decided it was time to break out the PT routines and see if I was going to finally worship the god of the toilet bowl or if I was going to stop feeling this stupid constant dizziness. The results are mixed. I do feel slightly less dizzy just sitting here typing. Any kind of movement does make the dizziness worse though. There is something different about the way my inner ears are working at the moment. I can determine that much. I don’t think I’m quite through the woods with this re-arrangement that my vestibular system is going through.

At least I can sit here and type words without feeling like the room is going to take off spinning like a top. That is a good thing. I think I will go walk the dog once I’m finished writing (I did) but in the meantime I’ll outline the exercises the therapist has me doing to help ease the dizziness.

  • Dynamic Standing Balance – I have a pillow that is so damn firm that it doesn’t give under the head when you lay on it. The Wife and I both hate the thing, but now I have a use for it. I place it on the treadmill near the grips in case I fall over and stand on it. Then I close my eyes trying to maintain balance for 30 seconds.
  • Kick the pillow out of the way and stand with your ankles touching. Close your eyes and try to maintain balance. If you can do that for 30 seconds, move your head from side to side at a moderate pace and try to maintain balance for 10 back and forth movements.
  • Vestibular Ocular Reflex (VOR) Exercise/ Gaze Stabilisation Exercise – I do both back and forth and up and down with these exercises. I set a metronome to 150 beats a minute and try to keep the mark on the wall steady for at least 15 seconds of head movement. I had to slow the metronome down today for the first set. I could not keep the mark still at that pace.
  • I can’t find a name for this one. I hold my thumbs out at eye level and maintain my gaze on them. This should be done against some kind of busy background. Bookshelves or blinds are both good choices. Rotate your torso to the left and to the right, back and forth, repeatedly, maintaining eye focus on your thumbs while the background moves behind them. I find this to be one of the best exercises for quieting the periodic dizziness that I get between vertigo spells. Making the world spin on purpose while focusing on a still object counters the feeling of spinning when it hasn’t yet turned into active vertigo.
  • Walking with head movement is the last exercise that they had me doing. Not just side to side, as the video demonstrates, but also up and down and diagonally (high left, low right/high right, low left) if you can pull that off without tripping all over yourself, try giving yourself mental tasks to do like naming groups of things or counting backwards from different starting points.

The hard part is making yourself do these things every other day or so. You feel fine and you think I have better things to do, so you don’t do the exercises that day. Before you know it a month has passed and you wake up dizzy for no apparent reason. Then you have to get back on the bandwagon and deal with the dizziness and the nausea until the exercises have the intended effect and you start to feel better. Now I’ve done my exercises and walked the dog. Time to reward myself with some more video gaming!

Christine Herndon Provence Schulte 1927-2020

Christine Herndon Provence Schulte passed away on Thursday, November 5th, 2020, in the presence of her loving daughter, Sandra.

She was born on October 1, 1927 in Madill, Oklahoma to W. C. “Pete” and Ossie Biles Herndon.  She graduated from Madill High School in 1945 and went on to get her associates degree at Murray State School of Agriculture, Tishomingo, Oklahoma in 1947.  It was there that she met Elmer A. “Bunk” Provence.  They married on Oct 16, 1948 in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  She went on to get her B.S. in Business from Oklahoma State University in 1956.  

After graduation, She and Elmer moved to Lawton, Oklahoma where she worked as a bookkeeper from 1957 until 1963 when they adopted their daughter Sandra Kay.  The family then moved to Altus, Oklahoma in 1965.  

Christine returned to school at Southwestern State University in Weatherford, Oklahoma and graduated in 1971 with a second Bachelor’s Degree in Business Education.  She became a business teacher at Altus High School in 1971 and taught general business classes and typing. Many of her students fondly remember their experiences with her and credit her with their success in business. She continued teaching at Altus High School through the 1984 school year.  

In 1984, she and Elmer both retired and moved to their farm outside of Sterling, Oklahoma, where she attended the First Baptist Church and was a member of the Sterling Ladies Town & Country Club and the Arts & Craft Club. She was also a member of the Comanche County Retired Educators Association and the Oklahoma Retired Educators Association.

Elmer Provence passed away on Dec 17, 1997. She lived alone in the house she and Elmer built until March 2, 2002, when she married Henry J. Schulte.  The Schulte’s lived together on his farm on the opposite site of the same highway that bordered the Provence farm until Henry passed away on April 8 of 2006.

She continued to be active in the social life of her community of Sterling until stricken with illness in 2016 when she moved to Austin, Texas in order to be closer to her daughter. We owe a debt of gratitude to Paul Yanez and all the nurses at Clare Creek memory care home for their tireless work. We know that Mary Belle and the other ladies at the home will miss Christine a lot.

She was preceded in death by her parents Pete and Ossie; her sisters: Janice Robinson and Betty Jane Matthews and her brother, Grover Herndon. She is survived by her daughter Sandra Kay Steele, her son-in-law Anthony Steele and her two grandchildren Alyssa and Gregory all of Austin, Texas, and numerous nieces and nephews. 

We are born with the seed of who we can be, unrealized at our core. To live fully we must find that seed and become the potential person we were always meant to be. It will be the hardest struggle that you can know in order to become that person, and yet it will be the adventure of a lifetime to engage in that struggle.

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Services will be held at Sunset Memorial Gardens in Lawton, Oklahoma where she will be laid to rest on November 11th, 2020 at 10:30 am. Donations may be made in her name to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, The Susan B Komen Foundation or the Disabled American Veterans.

Roxanne Longstreet-Conrad 1962-2020

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It was the iguana you noticed first. That much I can say for sure. The bright green iguana named Miss Iggy, who would one day go on to be an invited guest at conventions, a star attraction herself, before age crept up on her too and stole her away. It was the iguana I noticed first. I have always had a fascination for lizards. They simultaneously repulse and attract me with their odd movements and strange eyes. The next thing you might notice would be the smooth mane of raven-black hair. Then it would be the impish grin that seemed always to threaten to spread across her face. Above that expressive mouth were the sparkling eyes full of mischief. That was Roxanne, when we first met.

It was at an Armadillocon. I don’t remember the number or the year, but I know we were there as part of our Star Trek club, and I’m reasonably certain that the only reason I met Rox there was because the Wife was having one of her usual gabfests with her, and I needed the Wife’s attention for something else at the time. So here I was studying the iguana and the face while Rox and the Wife discussed the mutual experiences the two of them had growing up, and the various kinds of fandom the two of them were interested in. They both had a lot in common in those days, still do for the most part, but back then the trials that they both had faced resonated between the two of them.

It is a queer coincidence that Rox died this weekend, a day after Sean Connery. That is one of the things that I remember about her, the fascination we both shared for the movie Highlander, which is the role that I most strongly remember Sean Connery for. When Cat and Rox invited me to stay with them while I took my architectural exam, I remember that she and Cat, her husband, and I sat and watched an episode or two of the series. I can’t say I shared her fascination for the show, but we did both enjoy the narratives that could be constructed around the character of an immortal figure striding unknown through history. The ability to have a single persona witness the rise and fall of civilizations, virtually unchanged.

I had a real appreciation for the easy way that she could write narratives. I have always admired those great storytellers that can weave a good yarn out of almost anything, even if I don’t appreciate the actual stories themselves. The ability to just take a random object and craft a backstory for it is a true talent. The ability to make you see the thing in a new light, even without ever seeing the object at all, but describing it through words alone to the point where you swear that you know exactly what that object looks like. As I said, it is a true talent, and she had that talent in spades.

I wish I could say that I had read all her books and loved them, but I haven’t. I tend more towards an appreciation of a good biography or tome of history than I do almost any work of fantasy. The Wife and Daughter have read most of her books, and they recommend them highly to anyone who will listen to them. For myself, I was more interested in the person, rather than the stories she told. When Rox was at the table with you at dinner, the conversations were always light and lively. She was always quick to laugh and a joy to be around. All of us here in the Steele household are missing her greatly right now. I am so crushed by the news, even a full day later, that I can barely string these few words together as a tribute. I’m sure I will have more to say in the coming days. As the immediate grief lessons, the words will come back to me. They always do.

She was the one who encouraged me to start writing, if what I wanted to do was write. She was the one who suggested starting a blog and just putting my thoughts down in it a few at a time, as the ideas formed in my head. Just write it down, she said. So I did, and so I have. So I will again.

There has been too much death this year. 2020 is indeed a beastly year, and it can’t be over soon enough to suit me.