January 2008


    So back in December I asked the orthopedist* if the numbness in the extremities might be due to simple muscle tension.  He said no, didn’t think so.  So I followed up with him this month rather doubtfully, but turns out he’s Mr. Muscle Relaxers now.  Woohoo!  So far they seem to be helping take pressure off the nerves.  See a some kind of Massage Guy (an MT? A something else? I don’t know what) next week to get more specific.

 (*A wonderful guy, but who was only hired to check out a questionable hip — I kept him on to manage the case because his office staff is so stunningly competent, even though I knew he was out of his depth.  It was that or go back to the wonderful GP, also out of his depth, but lacking the competent office staff.  Just have to remind myself I’m not in it for the medical advice, just the expert paper management.)

    The hope of course is that that the pressure on the nerves is just some overzealous muscles (preferably ones who can be persuaded to resume a more moderate lifestyle), and not anything going on with the nerves themselves.  Very likely.

    And if so, I made the realization yesterday, through the chance reading of a random paragraph in an about-to-be-returned library book, that my trouble all fall has been that I live in the wrong state.  South Carolina is of course running, or rather, circling the Wal-Mart parking lot waiting for that space right by the door, neck-in-neck with a couple fellow southern states for the distinction of being Obesity Capital of the Nation.  Gotta be number one in something, I guess.

–> So when I came in with what looked like a basic model backache, the automatic response from everybody (GP, Chiropracter, PT, etc) has been "stretch and exercise".   Never mind that I was more flexible than any of the little line-drawing people in the stretching pictures. (Hence the wacky pelvis — one can, in fact, be too limber).  Never mind that I typically spent four to eight hours a day on my feet in light activity, an hour or so of that carrying a baby in the backpack, possibly pushing a toddler in a stroller as well, in addition to trying to  fit in some more intense exercise somewhere in that day as well.  In retrospect, extra special exercises was not really what I was lacking.  Tell me to "rest" and I think "go do a little landscaping project in the garden".

***

    The orthopedist has changed his guess from "mysterious autoimmune disorder" to "stress-induced ailment".  Certainly a possibility — this blog has borne witness to my rather emotionally-demanding year.  I’m a firm believer in the reality of stress-induced illnesses, though I have found there are two kinds.  The first is the kind that is caused by insufficient medical progress — "we don’t know what causes it, it must be stress".  Stomach ulcers would be a recent example of an illness that graduated from stress-induced to germ-induced, once medical science caught up.

    But there is the other kind, genuinely caused by stress, and genuinely relieved by eliminating it.  I’m good with that.  Because then I can go around telling people, "I’m sorry, you’re going to have to be nice to me.  The ADA requires it."

***

    Speaking of my busy year . . . time to start developing the Lenten Resolutions.  Way back in February you’ll recall I went out to Las Vegas for the first time, and got to help my sister de-clutter my parents’ home in anticipation of a move to a smaller house.  A trip that ended on Ash Wednesday. 

    While there, I was reminded at that time about the importance of keeping one’s affairs in order, out of kindness to one’s next-of-kin.  I promised to my sister, who is in the unenviable position of being the one who will be guardian of both my children, and of their very cluttered and chaotic inheritence, should the SuperHusband and I both die pre-maturely, I promised her this: "If I live to see Easter, my house is going to be cleaned up."

    Ha ha.  I, of course, did live to see Easter.  But what with all the other people who did not, well, lets just say my Lenten resolution for the year got a little sidetracked.  A resolution which happened to be just a slightly more dramatic formulation of my previous Advent and Lenten resolutions for at least the two years prior, I might add.

    But if these liturgical seasons are about penance, they are also about hope.  So I’m going to be hopeful this year.  And more than just hopeful: I have a plan this time.  My resolution is to use my Lenten Grandma Days (I get one every Tuesday morning, barring illness or death) to restore order to my life.  No odd jobs and errands, only restoring order.  Like getting the mandatory "portolio of the student’s work" (from last school year) into a format that an officer of the law would more easily recognize as a "portfolio" and not as "a bunch of papers shoved into a cardboard box".

     Not that the law forbids the keeping of the student’s portfolio in an undersized box holding all the other students’ portfolios, intermingled freely with no regard for author, date or subject.  But somehow I expect my home will run more smoothly without said portfolios blocking the place where the office chair is supposed to tuck under the desk, and my heirs will thank me if I go ahead and put the papers in better order sometime in the same decade they were produced.

    We’ll see.  There are a lot of things that have to go right this Lent, if I’m going to keep my resolution.  And I’m only resolving to start, not promising to finish.    But one must be hopeful, and I do have sufficiently poor memory to allow me frequent renewals of hope.

***

    The most curious thing, though, is that for a person who might have a stress-induced ailment, I’m awfully happier and less overwhelmed than I was a year ago.   But it was a long, thick  year.  I’m looking hopefully towards a very quiet Lent this time, if I might be be so fortunate.

    My other Lenten resolution, by the way, is a return to a longstanding but recently neglected tradition: the Giving Up of Coffee.  An ugly, ugly thing.   As we are back in Ordinary Time, I’ve successfully Given Up Coffee two Fridays in a row (good thing, since I fell totally flat on my face today on my other usual back-up acts of Friday penance), and I’m seriously re-thinking the wisdom of this notion.  

    Yes, yes, my intellect knows that the better the Lent, the better the Easter.   But gosh, I *really* like coffee.  I mean, really, really like coffee.    How much do I like coffee?  I started giving it up for Lent in *early high school*.  And it penitential back then, too.  Yeah, I’m going to do it.  I know that it is the Right Thing to Do, inasmuch as these optional and personally-chosen things can have much of a right or wrong to them.

    Out of hopefulness, however, for my clean-desk resolution, I am not giving up caffeine.  Just coffee.  Tea is fair game.

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    Maple sap is running.  Went out for a walk Friday afternoon, surprised at how warm it was after a chilly morning.  Noted the yellow-bellied sapsucker, and remembered that I had meant to blog about the return of the woodpeckers in December or maybe as early as November, don’t think I did so.  And then looked again at the Syrup Maple and saw the lower part of the trunk was black — wet — when dry it is a pale grey color.  So far no one has made a move to put in the tap, so it may be that birds and ants get all the sap this year. 

    Pansies are surviving. I’m sure many were worried.   So far we’ve had two freezes, and they’ve come through fine.  They are, again, starving, just like last year’s.   Will nobody deliver the Pansy Food?  Birds are foraging on their own, too.  Lots of neglected species this year.

    No snow, but lots of ice.  Not ice-storm ice, but rather, ice collections growing in my kitchen freezer.  Our couple of cold snaps have come on the heels of wet weather, turning the assortment of abandoned containers strewn about the yard into a veritable ice farm.   What with naturally-occurring ice being such a rarity here, children have been going out and collecting specimens for further study.   Handy for treating bruises, too.

****

    School is going pretty well.  I finally got draconian – well, as draconian as I ever get, which is about two and half days a week of draconian-ness, and children are responding well.  A certain boy shows signs of Learning How to Spell.  All very hopeful.

     What we’ve stumbled on is doing more or less school-at-home on the days when the kids don’t have outside activities, which is a pretty long day for homeschoolers at this age — I used my neighborhood informants to find out the corner school’s schedule, and copied it.  Except our recess is a little longer. 

    Knowing he is going to be "in school" regardless of how fast he works, and that he’ll have homework like his neighborhood friends if he drags out his work, has really helped Mr. Boy be able to relax and just do his work.  Knowing that I can assign Silent Reading just like the corner-school teachers do, has really helped me relax and be able to keep the boy occupied with educational activities without feeling like I have to be over his shoulder doing intensive tutoring the whole time.

    Next challenge, though, is the three-year-old.  I know plenty of people who agree it’s the Tranquil Two’s and the Threatening Three’s.  Three is the age when children "traditionally" start preschool, for good reason.  It’s the age, in my experience, when simply being around the house, absorbing all that is going on, is no longer a challenge.   Three seems to be the age when planning-to-homeschool-ers become actually-homeschooling-ers; not out of eagerness, but out of desperation.  

    SB is most definitely at this age.  So I had to re-work my new school plan to fit her in.  Her first memory verse is Proverbs 27:14, which she sorely needs.  If I were the kind of person who chose a "Life Verse", I would be very tempted to choose this particular one.

***

   Opened the last can . . . didn’t find any worms.  Mystery Ailment is appearing to be an assortment of otherwise unremarkable (though annoying) bits of this and that, who have just chosen to gather together all at once.  Like boisterous siblings, they seem to enjoy aggravating each other, frankly. 

    There’s a mild but persistent back ache that responds best to aggressively avoiding all the helpful exercises recommended for back aches.  A mild but cantankerous and stubborn case of pubic osteitis, that just wants to be left in peace for a very long time, and then it will probably go away.  At which time we can do something about the wayward femur, probably innocent, but which ought to get on the straight narrow just to make sure.  (All the exercises designed to tighten up a hip joint?  They pull on that pelvis, the one who observes she’s had quite enough pulling already, thank you, these last couple years.)  And the miscellaneous numb extremities seem to be garden-variety compression neuropathy. 

    That last one is less certain; there’s always a chance there’s an underlying problem of a more nefarious origin.  But odds are way in the favor of targeted-R&R as the treatment of choice, and with that hopefully it will ease up and go away.  (If it doesn’t go away, we learn that it is not garden-variety.  But of the choices left, they are all rare and relatively untreatable, except, you know, with targeted R&R, so no sense worrying about it.)

    At least, that’s where I think we are.  You never know when a medical professional is going to come up with some great New Idea to investigate.  Did manage to talk the neurologist out an MRI to rule-out MS.  Because, um, I don’t have the symptoms of MS.   (Yes, MS causes numbness in the extremities.  But in a completely different pattern than compression neuropathy.  Kind of like the difference between a migraine and a hangover.)

    Speaking of Fybromyalgia . . .  Oh, wait, we weren’t speaking of it.  But other people do . . .

     We discovered something very entertaining about this particular disorder, an otherwise very un-fun ailment per my several friends who suffer from it.  Apparently, there are two types of medical professionals:  Those who don’t believe in fibromyalgia, and those who suspect it any time they don’t know what is wrong.  I think I’ve had this conversation a half-dozen times now:

    Concerned Medical Professional:  "Has anyone mentioned fibromyalgia?"
    Me:  "Yes.  I don’t have the symptoms of fibromyalgia."
    CMP: "Oh."

    

    Quick reminder: Anyone who will publicly admit that they think torture is acceptable, is a person you do not want in your nation’s government.

    Here’s a link to a newspaper article that sums up who is admitting to what.  Turns out your choices are limited, and probably not who you really want as the next President.  But, as much as we make jokes about the IRS, or the nation’s various economic policies, or its bureaucratic inefficiencies, we are only speaking *figuratively* when we describe them with the word "torturous".   Actually torturing people is quite different.

    I linked the article, because it was fairly difficult to find a straightforward comparison of the candidates on this issue, which apparently isn’t yet being treated as an "issue".   Finding out a candidate’s stance on abortion is a little more straightforward; if you’ve been living in a cave and haven’t the time to google now, at this late date, you can take a look at the comparison chart found at sclife.org.  Narrows you down even more, sorry to say.

    ***

    So what will happen if you vote for a non-torturing, non-aborting candidate, and as a result the Republican party falls apart, and the Democrats win the general election with one of their legion of ardently pro-abortion candidates?  Aside from the obvious silver linings (um, did you agree with the Republicans about everything?), here’s what will happen: The Republicans might catch on that they shouldn’t torture people.
   
    "Ho ho ho!" they will say.  "Yes, it’s true we can propose all the crazy tax schemes and border plans we want, and still get elected, but turns out, not only do we have to be opposed to abortion, we have to oppose torture, too!."  Sure, not perfectly.  Maybe, the 2012 Republican candidates will be only *pretending* to oppose abortion and torture.  But even that would be quite an improvement over shamelessly admitting to supporting those two evils.

    ***

    Don’t be a case of  "Reward for A, hope for B".  Just last century — just five years ago, even — everybody *knew* torture was wrong.  As a culture, we mocked and scorned those who, in the past, had considered it acceptable.   This is our first presidential election since our culture fell apart on this issue.  It is absolutely imperative that our politicians get the message, now, that "okay-with-torture" means political death.

  

    Weather couldn’t have been better — clear and warm but not hot.  (In the January sense of "hot", that is.  Or rather, that wasn’t.)  I thought the rally was excellent, but the borrowed boys were disappointed that there wasn’t more marching and less rallying; perhaps I should have sent them to do laps around the statehouse. 

    Instead they took turns heading off in pairs to fetch more free hot chocolate from the hot chocolate people, in between wrestling matches on the patch of grass we claimed for ourselves.  Funny, no other families joined us, what with all that wrestling and signs-as-weaponry play.   That pained look in the photo probably has to do with being required to stand still.

    The one family next to us was very sweet, though,  and did and helped keep a certain three-year-old entertained, and even got her shoes back on her when it was time to go.  

    The three kings, who ought to have been making their appearance at Epiphany, have been put off a couple days due to other obligations.  The kids really enjoy dressing up to re-enact the visit of the magi, with the variation that there are presents for all children, not only the one playing baby Jesus.  (This year: books from my brother, and a box of ornaments from my dad — basically, whatever packages we hadn’t gotten to yet over the twelve days).

    We put off the family observance of Epiphany in order to accept a dinner invitation (format: shared leftovers — much better than it sounds), which turned out to be a strategic win-win for this coming Saturday.  I found a ride for LP to an important birthday party, and in exchange I get to borrow three boys for the SC state March for Life (warning: link is to a PDF).  Which solves the problem of who is going to manage a certain three-year-old during the march (hint: not the middle-aged lady with the bad back, when there are perfectly good teenage boys along). 
    
    The whole arrangement is amusing on multiple levels.  First, it’s always really funny how differently folks react when I am out with six or more versus out with four.  Rightly so, I guess.  Not that I won’t blend right in at the march, of course. 

    And then, it turns out the other mother (the one who is taking LP to the birthday party) has never, ever, participated in any kind of public protest.  Shocking, I tell you.  So my taking along her boys counts as a civics lesson for them.  It counts as one for my boy, too, of course, but gosh, it just seemed so strange that a young man could be old enough to drive and have never been taken out to protest something.  What kind of people are these?  Terribly content, I guess.

    Boys are getting together Wednesday to make signs — supplied by a magical grandmother who just happened to give us a supply of poster-board for Christmas today.  Mr. Boy came up with a winning slogan on his first try: Abortion is Bad.

Here’s a link to the March details from WMHK’s website – no PDF
   

   
      It may have been unwitting, but the music selection at our parish for yesterday’s solemnity hit the nail on the head.   During holy communion the song was "What Child Is This?"   One of my favorite Christmas carols, but yesterday, transformed for me. 

    There we were, asking as we processed about to receive, and knelt to adore, the Real Presence: "Why lies He in such mean estate, where ox and ass are feeding?"

    Naturally the song does not pause and give us time to decide, which am I — ox or ass? — but goes on to answer the question of why He’s there with us.    Bit of a double whammy.   I took the hint, enlightened, warned, and consoled.   In all, a very motherly way to get a message across.

 

    A certain parent has observed that no matter how much the 2nd grader may have learned about the battle of Thermopylae, there was no one involved called the GRECRME.  And, by the way, that math book looks a tad lonely.  The corner public school, meanwhile, is home six hours a day, 180 days a year, to many happy, well-adjusted Children Who Know How to Spell.

    Mr. Boy and I can take a hint.  2008 will be the Year We Get Our Act Together.  Because we do not — do not, do not, do not — want to have to be out of the house at 7:20 am.  If we’re going to have to do the less-exciting stuff, at least let us do it at a civilized hour. 

    Trouble is, it’s just so hard to put down a perfectly good history book in order to go Practice Things.  Or to make a child put down a perfectly good history book, in order to go supervise the Practicing of Things.  But we will do it.  Because the alternative involves sitting at desks way too much, and doing other people’s worksheets, and all kinds of dreaded fates, including going hours at a time without ever picking up a wooden sword or running out to chase squirrels real quick, I’ll be back in just a minute, I promise. 

    So we will do it.  We will learn to spell.  And to say our math facts.  And to use punctuation and spaces and to write left-to-right and top-to-bottom, every time.  We will do it.  We must.