Thursday, October 28, 2010

New Mexico sunset

I want to draw attention to some extraordinary photography of an awe-inspiring New Mexico sunset.

Clairz put some exceptional pictures up.

I literally gasped when I saw these. And remember when you view: I could be there, seeing sights like these, but five faces I love keep me here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

When Things Change and Stay the Same

My last blog alluded to the interruption of my pleasant day by technology interruptis when heavy rain caused my tv to go off three times. It is a routine matter today--even my 8-year-old granddaughter is aware of it and the cause.

It is part of life today. I still grumble about paying for tv that was free most of my life, but the visual quality and quantity of channels is certainly improved. I suppose it is my fault I cannot seem to find any programs I want to watch regularly.

Last night, I attended my older granddaughter's fall chorale concert. The music was as sweet and good as any I've heard. The students behaved well. The auditorium was crowded with proud families and friends. And among the performers were two students who wouldn't have been there when I went to school--a vision-impaired girl and a young boy in a powered wheelchair. They and the other students took it for granted they were there and participating. Wouldn't have happened when I was growing up. The technology for the wheelchair wasn't in existence, and probably not the medical and educational techniques needed for the vision-impaired girl as well.

Something has not changed. We accept as truth facts which are untrue, information "everyone knows", accept as "always" the way things have been done in our memory. We look at one another and smile, and take comfort in our accord. It was a bit of "always" for me last night, attending a school program where kids were still fresh-faced and ready to perform with a community of families to support them.
I hope that does not change. I do think one value of aging members of society is our memory of when realities were different, even when history as we experienced it is different from "what everyone knows."

Schools still teach information that isn't true. Can't help it. A whole generation of folks going through school in the 1950s and earlier were told petroleum came from the remains of dinosaurs under the earth. I've checked with others my age and older, and they confirm: yep, we were told as truth that petroleum was basically distilled dinosaur guts. It was a tall tale. But we were told it as truth. I wonder what tall tales persist. A lot I hear about deal with "can't" and "impossible." And then we learn it can be done, or the impossible has quietly been going on without human observation all along.

I remember learning how to write a formal letter back in 1950-51 (letter writing was a big deal back then, of course), and being called down by a teacher for writing Post Office Box 607 for our address (oh, and there weren't zip codes, either).

"You don't need to say Post Office," she said. "They all are. They always will be."

Fast forward to my driving along a rural highway in East Texas some 15 years ago, where I saw an old woman stepping up to her rural mailbox to get her mail. And I wondered how long that would be a reality.

I wish I had the analytical ability, the intellect, to shrewdly predict what would last and what would expire. Oh, what a blog I would have. Oops. Blogs are one of the things I don't know will persist.

In the 1970s, I regularly read a professional medical magazine with a columnist, Dr. (Joe?) Alverez, who knew medical lore already being forgotten and who wrote a popular collomn commenting on lore already being lost. He always quoted a saying I do believe is true:"Half of what we know about medicine isn't true, and the trouble is, we don't know which half."

Except, I think that is true in general. With so much so-called information out there on the internet, I think many would agree.

Trying to keep up, to assimulate, analyse and act, gives me a great mental workout day by day.

And that is what I like best about the present. I will add this to the value of elders in our population: with the sheer weight of new information getting our attention, things we already knew and have already discovered often get buried. Sometimes age can bring a fresh approach by retrieving information we really can't afford to lose.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Cooking Chicken and Falling Rain Beats TV Anyday

Yesterday, the thunder rumbled and invited me out to my deep, screened porch just as the rain begain to fall. Intermittant splashes became a torrent of water on land untouched by rain for at least a month. Lights were on inside--the clouds all day left a twilight visibility. It was kind of homey.

I retreated inside and set some chicken cooking. The appetising smells of chicken, garlic and sauce filled the air and it was cozy inside, with the thunder, lightning and rain outside, the comfort of a dry home, dinner cooking, and an undemanding day.

For the first time in heavy weather, I turned on the television, only to have it lose signal three times. Regained it three times. Had heard about this--in bad weather, why would I want to lose the signal? Oh well. I've Bundled. Phone, satellite tv, computer. Same provider.

Huh. I am such a non-tech. Is THAT why later, when I came to my blog, I couldn't access it? and when I went to internet tech support, I failed again and again?
But I didn't know exactly how to get where I needed to be for quite a while. I got there. And it is embarrassing how long it took. But it didn't interfere with a fine day yesterday and a fine day today, ending with a new password and the ability to write this and read some other postings.

Today could have been dicey weather again, but it was east of here. We got almost 2 inches of rain yesterday, and we needed the rain. Tomorrow, I will start chopping out way too many iris in my backyard. Today, I went to church, mellowed out, made real mashed potatoes and green peas to go with my already cooked chicken, visited a couple of friends I love, and came home. And finally got a new password and back on the internet. It took more hours than a savvy person would have, but i did it, and I still had a great weekend.

I start my week charged up with happy. Hope you do the same.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Never mind--you're not doing what I wanted.

Years ago, when I was in CPS, a woman called into the office and talked to a secretary.

She said, "You can tell that investigator you assigned not to bother any more. She's not doing what I wanted her to."

And we all laughed. Fact of the matter is, people make reports all the time about neglect or abuse of children. Concern for the child is only one of the many reasons they call.

I think we, as voters, have our agendas, too. A lot of us think our representatives aren't doing what we want. Or if they are, then their challengers are going to try to make them look like they aren't. That's politics. I think, however, voters increasingly feel they aren't getting what they asked for, and they can't find any alternatives. color us frustrated.

It adds up to a whole lot of whoppers on the airwaves this fall. Texas doesnt even have contested races in half the positions, but where we do--I don't think I've ever heard such a pack of amazing lies in my life. Not to mention inaccuracies I suspect are grounded in dumb ignorance rather than lies at times. Only a few weeks to go.

I'm gonna be listening to a lot of music for the next couple of weeks. I love it that I can go in early, at my leisure, to vote. And I can root for the Texas Rangers. That's fun to think about.

As I say, I will vote. Always have. Always will. When I was a state employee, I was expected to behave honorably with the families I worked with, to find the services they needed to make a better family for their kids. Some of them made amazing changes in their lives.

Seems to me the people we elect keep saying that's what they want to do, too, to work for their constituents. Then they get in office and it's all about party solidarity and what they can scarf up for themselves....yeah, that's been going on forever. I am just tired, perhaps.

Freedom is still good. I'm still glad to be an American, and I actually know and like several of the county candidates this time around. And the first Tuesday comes extra early this November. Lots of positives.

I can, after all, just go out and sit on the porch. Not so hot now. Lots of sunshine, and tons of butterflies. Can't do anything about all that, either, but it sure is nice to contemplate.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Stopping to Look Around On a Really Nice Day.

The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex now sprawls over at least seven large counties. We have more than seven million people and umpteen area codes, but we also are spread out some. Public transportation has improved to sucky. It used to be more or less nonexistent.

For years, I would pass the lettuce farm on both sides of I35, less than a mile from the downtown skyscrapers. Whole working ranches--some measuring in sections, not acres--are surrounded by new housing and strip malls that have sprung up to support the 300+ people that move in every day.

In short, we have a lot of rural in our cityplex. Acreage of beef cows, and increasingly goats, are scattered about. Some mighty fine horses get raised here. I have three neighbors in one block who raise a few chickens. Just enough for the family and to sell a dozen or five every week.

The late, very wet spring followed by the intense 18 days of above 100-degree heat, made for the poor tomato crop this summer, but the fall crops are coming along.

Okra and black-eyed peas are re-invigorated and producing again.

I've seen 100 degrees in October, but about three weeks ago, an unusually cool wave of air came along and hasn't really left yet. This is the last week of the State Fair in Dallas, which started Sept. 24. The weather has mostly stayed in the 70s and 80s. If attendance is off this year, it's the economy, not the weather. Nigh perfect. Texans loves to fry just about everything at the fair, but I am still a fool for the corny dogs, funnel cake and Belgian waffles with whipped cream and strawberries.

We have a bumper crop of ragweed this fall, which really needs a more useful purpose than spiking antihistimine sales.. The silvery doveweed was plentiful this year, too, and in the early mornings and evenings I've heard the shotguns in the neighboring fields as hunters test themselves against the wily, fast dovebirds in flight. Even in the so-called city, the country intrudes.

I doubt most city dwellers go out to get the morning paper, sniff, and look around to see if the passing skunk is still around like its aroma.

A couple of years ago, drinving to Fort Worth from Denton,I saw a large buck bound across the road foom the thin greenbelt on one side to the greenbelt on the other. Wild turkeys hide out, too.

Life is busy right now, but I try to stop, look around and smile at folks who, like me, are just enjoying an ordinary day in the land of North Texas.

Friday, October 1, 2010

When we choose to go easy into the night--or not

When my mother's autonomic system began to fail from advanced Alzheimer's in 1978, she was hospitalized, and I was given a form to fill out. It asked, specifically, if I would approve any of the listed "extraordinary measures" to save her life.

I remember being so very thankful Mother and I had discussed this in depth when she was still reasoning and lucid. It was hard to check "no", but I did so. (By this time, I was also her legal guardian, but still.)

Today, the patient must have a signed, notarized document on file, as I understand it. When my friend recently died of lung cancer, things got dicey when her lungs started failing and no DNR was in the orders. She was one day away from being put on a ventilator when a 24-hour hospice service finally accepted her and took her home. She died within 48 hours. If she had been on a ventilator, it would have been the end of any real life as she knew it, but she might have lasted days or even weeks at great expense. Nobody wanted that. The staff was upset. The family was upset. My friend would have been upset, but her oxygen level by then was so low she slept most of the time.

She died easily, family with her, in her own bedoom, nurse attending.

That's an institutional DNR. It seems such a simple thing, but in an emergency, it is hard to know when to utilize it.

Another friend's mother has just died. She was 88. She had never had surgery. She never took any medications, although she knew her blood pressure was high. She donated her body to the medical school, an aging, unsullied, hopefully interesting specimen for some aspiring doctor to learn from. She was so adamant about no extreme measures that she had a DNR document posted at the house. She was up for a stroke, and she knew it.

And she had it. When a daughter found her, it had probably been 12-18 hours since the first massive seizure. The ambulance transported only to the hospital. And there, not knowing the severity, not knowing enough about what was going on, her family agreed to treatment. And she survived. Half her brain gone, part of the other gone, but she survived. She shouldn't have been able to move her arm, and possibly not been able to talk, but she could. Memory and reasoning nowhere near who she had been, but there. She was in the hospital awhile. Assuming she was going to survive another few months or even a year, family submitted to having a feeding tube put in, as partial paralysis made it hard for her to swallow. The doctor expected this to rectify in a few weeks. But this extraordinary woman was apparently lucid enough, herself enough, to make her wishes known. Her three children conferred,and the tube was removed. They all understood the consequences. They brought her home on hospice. They rearranged their schedules, because hospice for them, until the last few days, involved a daily visit only. It was scary for the family, these responsible, loving, middle-aged children who nonetheless had no knowledge of caring for a dying mother. They learned. They turned her, talked with her, bathed her, changed her, yes, that, too.

My friend said her mother would have been appalled at the cost of the medical treatment. She commented herself that with the Baby Boomers aging, our nation cannot survive the cost to Medicare if everyone chooses to go this way. Her mother, she said, would have said the money would better have been spent on well baby visits, vaccinations, on those who can recover from their body's blows, on those who have others to care for.

I know this is a growing dilemma. When I went in for my physical, I asked my doctor about an out-of-hospital DNR form. She was startled and said she didn't have them in her office but she supposed I could get one online. But, she asked, what if resuscitation could bring me back to a productive life? It often does.

My medical DNR, dutifully notarized, has been in the folder with my will, my power of attorney, my medical power of attorney and my living will, for five years, at least. I don't know if a conditional DNR is possible. I guess I will have to check back with my attorney.

I heard on the news last week that it has been 50 years since CPR was introduced to the world. This procedure, in so much time, has undoubtedly saved thousands, maybe millions, of lives. But 50 years ago, CPR could carry a patient only so far. The medical support available today didn't exist.

I see older people all the time who want to survive at any cost, literally and figuratively. I see the poor souls like my mother who had no choice, but have been treated longterm with tenderness and care.

I have seen grieving parents let their dying child go peacefully. Most of us know at least one person whose family just couldn't let go until they went through hell.

CPR. Such a simple thing. Even I have taken lessons. Hard to imagine Before.
But After involves complications that those who developed CPR never anticipated.

Before, they really couldn't.