Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Well, in true "Be careful what you wish for" fashion, my new hands-on holistic doc called me 8 o'clock sharp this morning. The doctor is calling me? I thought. .When's the last time that happened? Oh; yeah; never.

The doctor was reviewing my recent blood work, she said, when she saw something surprising. "You seem to have a serious Vitamin D deficiency," she told me. "A normal lab score for Vitamin D is 70. Yours was 17."

Here I was, in the middle of delighted wonderment at finally finding a proactive healthcare provider, only to be confronted by this alarming news.

The human body can absorb a decent dose of Vitamin D through relatively short periods of time outside. Despite my geeky ways, I am outside a lot. I also eat a lot of vitamin-fortified foods and D-rich fatty fish as well. I didn't get it.

The doctor explained that Vitamin D deficiency can be caused by a variety of things, not just diet or sunlight exposure, and also noted that this problem can factor into several serious health problems, including cardiovascular health, metabolic illnesses, certain types of cancer and depression. She then prescribed me 10,000 IU's of over-the-counter Vitamin D per day; a number I later learned many doctors and nutritionists want to make a minimum daily dosage for everyone.

Well. Now I have a handle on at least one piece of my metabolic puzzle. For that I'm grateful. And I'm grateful to my doctor as well.

Spring Cleaning

We're in the midst of spring cleaning around here. We had our friend the professional housecleaner do a thorough clean last week, and this week we are tackling the yard and garden ourselves. Today I even ventured into Molly the cat's room, formerly the junior spare bedroom/office, stripped the sheets on her bed and threw them in the wash for the first time in nearly a year. (Molly is the the messiest kitteh on the planet, on a par with Bill the Cat in Bloom County, so removing her bedclothes resulted in a cloud of particulate -- hair, crumbs of mulch from around the house, Lord knows what else.)

As you may have noticed, I'm doing some spring cleaning here as well: changing up the blog template, rebuilding my lists-o-links. I'm also rethinking what and how and when I want to post here. But for now I'm likin' the minimalism of the new format; it feels like a new beginning.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

"Friday" Five: "Now Boarding" Edition

While some of my RevGalBlogPals are headed for the annual Big Event, Fellow Traveler and I are planning a trip of our own later this spring, to help Daughter-in-Law celebrate her first Mother's Day...and of course to see Miss Ruby, who is growing into a real little corker. So this is a timely Friday Five.

1) Some fold, some roll and some simply fling into the bag. What's your technique for packing clothes?
Well, frankly, my favorite technique is letting Fellow Traveler do the packing. Between her military career and her other traveling experience, she has it down to an art. By contrast, I do not come from a traveling family -- we never stayed one night away from home during my entire growing-up, and even in my young adulthood I was either too poor or too cheap to travel on my own -- so I don't have the skills. FT, for instance, has the ability to roll clothes up into tiny, manageable bundles that are nonetheless ready-to-wear when unrolled. I cannot do that. So I don't. My contribution to the process is the reminder list: "Did we remember to pack __________? The _____________? How about your _____________?"

2) The tight regulations about carrying liquids on planes makes packing complicated. What might we find in your quart-size bag? Ever lose a liquid that was too big?
Our solution to the reg problem is to simply not pack liquids -- we just hit a drugstore upon arrival and buy an assortment of sample-size toiletries to last us our trip.

3) What's something you can't imagine leaving at home?
We're pretty devoted to our laptops, so they generally come with us...although when we stay at our favorite motel in the Leelanau, we give up Internet access other than our phones.  (Red Lion Motor Inn, for anyone interested -- nice, clean old-school lodging that is neat and clean; more than reasonable; pet friendly; kitchenette units available; Traverse Bay beach access across the street, complimentary charcoal grill and bonfire privileges.)
4) Do you have a bag with wheels?
Oh, yes. I can't imagine schlepping non-wheeled bags around.

5) What's your favorite reading material for a non-driving trip (plane, train, bus, ship)?
Nothing too heavy (like my pastor's attempting to get through the Koran on one of his cross-Atlantic adventures). My favorites are murder mysteries a la Nevada Barr, or lifestyle/foodie magazines. The in-flight mags? They get my germophobic self going; I tend to leave those in the seat pocket.

Bon voyage to all the Big Event attendees! Have fun!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

People Fatigue

It's been an unquiet few weeks here in Lake Wobegon.

In the absence of our pastor, we lay ministers have been stepping up our duties, including taking on much of the chaplaincy tasks our pastor normally does himself. Our interim has made himself available for providing Communion and doing the more heavy-lifting assignments, but we're the ones who've been keeping him informed about what's going on with whom, and doing other hospital and shut-in visits.

So far I've done two of these, and found them to be meaningful, un-onerous work -- but probably only because I've had fairly easy visits, one with a family member during another's surgery and one with a member of the congregation I get along with fairly well, who's having some big medical problems right now. The other lay ministers are so much closer geographically to a lot of our regular shut-ins -- and in some cases are related to them -- that I've been a bit out of that loop, but am not complaining.

But meanwhile, Fellow Traveler and I have been ministering to individuals who lie outside the formal boundaries of our churches. One is a woman referred to us by our pastor, whom he met in the course of his first-responder work, prior to his bypass surgery. She is an abused partner engaged in a very nasty custody battle with her former significant other. She is getting excellent assistance in a safe place, but our pastor thought she might need some affirmation and advice from women. So we've been doing that; have been bringing her to church, taking her out for Sunday dinner, helping affirm her good choices and trying to keep up her good spirits -- all the while knowing that there are two sides to every story, and understanding that both parties in this relationship made choices that got them where they are now. FT and I go through alternating waves of satisfaction and exhaustion dealing with this lady; by the time we drop her off Sunday afternoon and head home, we're usually both completely spent for the rest of the day.

And then a high school friend of FT's with whom she reconnected on Facebook -- an individual who had a rough start in life, who went into the Army to escape his home and wound up a disabled veteran whose physical and emotional injuries have impaired his work life and relationships for decades -- tried to commit suicide; that despite FT working hard to get him his veterans' benefits (which he hadn't even filed for until recently) and get him connected to VA help for PTSD. We rushed to the hospital where they'd taken him -- a cross-country adventure across the state -- prayed with him and talked to his spouse. FT used a connection at the VA to get him transferred to a facility with expertise in PTSD, and went to bat for him when the hospital he was in tried to keep him there and charge his wife's insurance for the bill. (This family would never be able to pay the copays for several days in ICU.) We've been tracking our friend's progress this past week, and almost found ourselves on the road again when the VA facility released him without a way to get back home. (He was able to rent a car; and was empowered enough through his therapy to say, "You know, I really want to do this myself.")

I'm pretty much over any savior complex I may have nurtured under the surface. This is tough stuff; and, again, it has sapped much of the energy out of us. FT, who has her own PTSD to contend with, spent most of the day after the hospital drama in bed; I've been feeling unwell in ways that I've been trying to blame on my blood pressure medication but may have some psychosomatic component as well.

This is really hard work. And one of the hardest things is not stepping over boundaries; of remaining objective and dispassionate enough to not be completely overwhelemed by other households' tragedies and traumas. That's something they never taught us much about in lay ministry training, maybe because the goal of that particular program was more modest than the reality of what some of us are doing in our congregations.

We're having another "helping" day tomorrow...but we're having Family Movie Night tonight. Don't be surprised if we don't answer the phone or get on Facebook.

A Doctor in the House?

Ever since the beginning of the year I've been trying to find a new primary care physician.

I have been uncomfortable with my current doctor for some time now, for a multiplicity of reasons -- hour waits (and that was back when I was working; I can't tell you how many times I had to call the office from the exam room and say I'd be delayed) followed by five-minute drive-by exams; perceived disinterest (as in asking me about medications I took and procedures I had a decade ago); difficulty understanding the doctor, partly because of her accent but largely because she seemed to be in a hurry to get out of the room; sullen office staff (I have found that the discernable craic, so to speak, of any office is often an indicator of the health of an organization). And, frankly, when I came out to her, in the context of a discussion involving birth control, I could tell that she was not comfortable at all.

Long story short: After my last six-month checkup I came home and said, "I'm done." So in the meantime I have been doing online research and querying friends about possible other doctors. And I decided to cast a wide net -- Fellow Traveler sometimes goes all the way to Saginaw for her medical exams, so I figured it was reasonable to drive up to an hour for a good doctor.

At first I thought I would stay within my current healthcare system, only because they run most of the hospitals in the area and have the largest number of affiliated physicians -- and they are aggressive marketers, so don't expect any collaboration or cross-referrals. But part of the uneasy feeling I've had with my doctor's office is something I've experienced in other offices within the same system; a certain soulless, bureaucratic herd-'em-through mentality that I'm sure comes from the top down. I know; it's 2010 in America, and who am I to think that I can replicate the kindly, personalized service of my childhood doctors' offices?  But then I got angry. We spend a significant chunk of change each month for my insurance premiums, and I don't feel as if I'm getting much of a return on my investment. So why shouldn't I shop around?

So the other night I went through the "Find a Physician" page of a much smaller healthcare system centered about a 45-minute drive away, in the city where we coop-shop and where I get my monthly massages and spiritual direction. I found a couple of female DO's who seemed to be a good fit for a middle-aged female with middle-aged health issues. I did some poking around a few online physician rating websites to cross-reference their names and found nothing questionable or alarming. Then I came upon the actual website -- a self-entitled "un-fancy" one-page low-tech website -- of one of the doctors. She believes in whole-system doctoring, including nutritional counseling and osteopathic manipulation; she has some special professional credentialing in treating persons on the elastic-waist-pants side of young.

I liked it. I followed the e-mail link and sent her a note: Is she accepting new clients?

I have my first appointment with her Wednesday afternoon, when I'm pretty much going to lay it on the line for her that I've felt neglected and rejected and need a basic physical once-over, plus a review of my hypertension medication and some support/professional fanny-kicking to help me lose weight.

That, folks, is the result of a three-month struggle, some days ending in actual tears, to find enough information about area physicians to make an informed decision. What about the people who don't have time or money or facility with information technology? It's been a long, frustrating process to get to here.

Friday, April 09, 2010

"It's Who We Are; It's What We Do"

Today on Facebook my friend Chris posted a link to this discussion on the Duke Divinity School's Call and Response blog about what, if any, practices are mandated by the Christian faith. Blogger Scott Benhase identifies the following as some baseline normative Christian practices with Scriptural and historical chops, that cross denominational and doctrinal lines:

  • Participating in the Eucharist on the Lord's Day
  • Offering hospitality
  • Forgiving sins against us
  • Testifying to the faith that is in us
  • Serving the poor

Of course we Lutherans' brains tend to short-circuit at the very thought of tying our Christianity in a conditional way to doing stuff. Because, we argue, it's not about earning points by doing stuff.

Here's the thing, though. What if the "doing stuff" is not about earning points at all, but rather inviting people in our faith communities into a series of basic intentional practices that will help them live into their baptismal promises?  Is there a way we can articulate this that won't degenerate into a merit- or shame-based to-do list?

Discuss, please! What do you think of this list? What, if anything, would you add to it or subtract from it?

Photo by Bill Potter, Lutheran Church of Honolulu

Friday Five: "Open Road" Edition

After three cross-state trips within ten days, this week's RevGalBlogPals' Friday Five rings home for me.

1. When was your last, or will be your next, out of town travel?
Our last trip was Tuesday -- we had to drop off my fender-bendered Prius (dented in the church parking lot on Good Friday) at the dealership where I bought it, up in Cadillac; and then we took off in the Jeep for a day trip to Leelanau County, replenishing the larder at Pleva's Meats and the Great Lakes Tea and Spice Company and enjoying the early-spring countryside -- forested hillsides filled with wild leeks and red-budded maples.

2. Long car trips: love or loathe?
If I'm a passenger, I don't mind them as long as we take bathroom/leg-stretch breaks. I tend not to like long trips if I am driving, unless we're talking anxiety-minimal blue highways up north. US-2 from the Bridge to the western UP, for instance -- that was enjoyable.

3. Do you prefer to be driver or passenger?
See above. Fortunately for me, Fellow Traveler enjoys driving, particularly urban driving; so our household deal is that I do the "up north" traveling while she does the downstate driving. We do admit, however, to both enjoying the "Driving Miss Daisy" option when we're down south visiting Son #1 and Son-in-Law.

4. If passenger, would you rather pass the time with handwork, conversing, reading, listening to music, or ???
I am an enthusiastic, cheerfully nosy rubbernecker. (Not always advisable while driving.) I can spend happy hours just staring out the window at the changing scenery. If there's no scenery to stare at, I enjoy listening to whatever is on the local NPR station, or listening to music or, if I'm a passenger, reading. (I'm also an inveterate collector of local fliers/magazines/newspapers.) I'm also a reader on airplanes.

5. Are you going, or have you ever gone, on a RevGals BE? Happiest memories of the former, and/or most anticipated pleasures of the latter?
I have not been...if I were to attend one, I think matching up faces and voices to blogs would be great fun.

6. Bonus: A favorite piece of roadtrip music.
FT likes to listen to oldies while driving, and I have been known to play a mean passenger-side air guitar to some of the music of my misspent youth. When I'm alone I tend to leave it on public radio. When we listen to our own music on the road we tend to run particular CDs into the ground. (We leave the iPod at home, partly because we have a dog who eats electronics when she's anxious and partly because we both have a tendency to forget stuff, especially little, easily overlookable stuff, when we travel.)  On last summer's trip to the Upper Peninsula we listened to several rotations of Melissa Etheridge's best-of compilation, which included the following -- also a splendid air-guitar tune:

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Bloggus Interruptus

Just a note that I'm still here, still around, still intending on blogging...I've just gotten very busy in the last few weeks, with a multiplicity of things.

I just got back from a day-long trip up north that was simultaneously wonderful and exhausting. I'll have more to say (about many things) tomorrow.