Friday, April 29, 2011

New Topic - discuss amongst yourselves.

Contemplating what I will talk about when/if I get my voice back has taken up much of thought life recently. As it is, I've noticed several changes since my voice loss.
1. I obviously talk a lot less. At first that was simply because I had no voice.
2. Then I spoke little because it was too difficult to make myself heard. It just wasn't worth the effort.
3. Then my silence became one of choice. Before I say anything, I examine it's purpose, it's usefulness. What, if anything, will my words add to this conversation? What would be my purpose for offering my words?

4. I have also become hyper-aware of conversational dynamics. I hear people conversing and ask the same questions I would ask myself: Why are they speaking? What are they adding to the conversation.

5. Often I determine, I don't have anything worthwhile to add. Maybe I could rephrase or reiterate what someone else has already said, but that's not adding anything new. Maybe I could be confirming someone else's opinion, but there is almost always someone else to add to that conversation. My personal opinion would be redundant.

6. One possibility is that I just don't have as much to share. I enjoy hearing other people talk. There are so many people who need to be heard who obviously don't feel heard. Maybe that's part of my job.

7. Another possibility is that this is my chance to learn to be a better listener. While I was supposed to learn that in graduation school, and develop that skill in my job as a school counselor, I haven't yet learned that lesson. I can tell I'm becoming a better listener. Hopefully that translates into being a better counselor.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

World's Funnest Game?

When I was young, my family played this game. I say family, but it was mostly my mom and me. Dad doesn't play anymore; he thinks it's a pointless game, but he has no idea how important this game really is. I don't know if Susan plays it with her family, but she never talks about it so I'm guessing it's died in her house.

Picture this: a new jar of peanut butter (this game works with either smooth and creamy peanut butter, crunchy peanut butter, or even extra crunchy peanut butter). You unscrew the top, peel off the foil cover underneath, and then you see it - that perfectly smooth peanut butter surface, unblemished by knife or finger.

The winner of the game is the one who gets "first dip" in that smooth surface. It might seem simple: whomever opens the jar, wins. It's not that simple.

I remember when I was a young teenager, mom came home from her weekly grocery shopping trip. I helped her unload the groceries, something I did every time because I was the perfect son. While unloading, I noticed a new jar of peanut butter, but I didn't let on that I had seen it. In my mind I was already hatching my covert peanut butter plan.

Once the bags were emptied, and the new jar of peanut butter had been placed in the pantry, I waited for mom to vacate the kitchen area. I found the new jar, quietly unscrewed the top and peeled back the foil cover, but not all the way, being careful to not bend it. In the newly exposed surface, I wrote my name, "Chris." Then, I had to wait, patiently.

Our current jar of peanut butter still had plenty left. It would be a long time before we would need to open the new jar. So I started eating peanut butter with every meal. Peanut butter on toast for breakfast, peanut butter and jelly for lunch and for an after school snack. Peanut butter on celery for dinner, or dessert.

After weeks of patiently waiting, it was finally time for the new jar of peanut butter. It couldn't be me who opened it, but I needed to be there when someone else opened the jar.

Today, I don't remember who opened the jar. I don't remember the reaction. I do know that whomever opened was denied the satisfaction of that first scoop, and they knew I had won the game because my name was right there. Mr. PeanutButterVictory!

Yesterday I went grocery shopping - bought peanut butter. And there was some satisfaction when I opened it this morning as I took the first scoop. There wasn't anyone to taunt, "New jaaaar. Who's going to get it?" There wasn't any race to the jar. It was just me.

But I won the game anyway.

Oh Sleep, Why have you Forsaken Me?

to close my eyes
drift into dreamland
for longer than a few minutes
doesn't seem much to ask
but night after night
i wake, startled by
the sudden cough
shaken by the irresistible
inevitable convulsive bouts
ten minutes after i lay down

so i get up
use the neti pot
clear the passages
and the coughing stops
but only until i am
once again horizontal

eventually exhaustion will
have to take over
i'll have no choice
but to doze

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Sunday

I haven't been to an Easter Sunday Sunrise Service in years. This year I wanted to attend one. Luckily, the Treasure Valley has a sunrise tradition: the Lizard Butte Sunrise Service. This year was the 74th annual service. I would guess there was at least 500 people there. I'm sure they all enjoyed how good the weather was. I heard that this year was better weather than they've had in a very long time. It was chilly, but the sky was clear, the sunrise was beautiful.

Family Weekend Part 2

Saturday, my nephew Braeden was the Panda Express dancing panda (at least for a short time). We went to cheer him on, and to support his charter school. Panda Express has this great fund raising opportunity; 20% of purchases Saturday went to the school.

Up until this year, Braeden has been a pretty shy kid. His older sister Janae has been the outgoing extroverted one, while Braeden was the quiet one, clinging to mom's leg (of course he hasn't held on to her leg since he was like six). I don't know if it's been an intentional effort, but he's developing a more outgoing personality. He enrolled in a drama class at school.

I think he did a great job as the panda. He certainly got plenty of honks from the cars passing by.

Susan is the "mama" bear.

When I got home, I had a visitor waiting by the front door. She was dressed to impress in elegant black with red accents. I don't like pretentious visitors; I escorted her off the property.

A quick sports update: Steve, my brother-in-law, and I spent some time on the putting green. I haven't been on the golf course in two years. After some practice, we had three 18 hole putting matches on the practice putting green. Not to brag, but I can still putt. I beat Steve in all three matches.

Thanks for the fun Steve!

Family Weekend

Easter weekend was family time for me. Friday night, Haline was in town (from Spokane), so every body was there. She even made dinner. Although she was making dinner for us all, I think the real purpose was to prove to Jeb, her fiance, that she can cook. Of course I could be wrong. Maybe he'll be doing the cooking when they get married.

I always like being with my family. So it's awfully convenient that I live next door to my sister and her family, and behind my parents. I'm very lucky, not only to have them in my life, but also to have them so close.

(left to right) Braeden, my nephew; Janae, my niece; Deborah, my Brazilian niece; Ernie, my dad; Jan, my mom; Jeb, my future nephew-in-law; Haline, my other Brazilian niece.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Palm Sunday Devotional

Philippians 1:20
I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ.

Even when I feel useless, worthless, inadequate ...
Even when I think I'm not doing anything to honor Christ ...
Even if I'm convinced otherwise ...

My worth is not in my hands. My purpose is not determined by me, so I can't mess it up. More than once over these last few months, I've wondered, "Did I do the right thing by leaving Wendell?" At the time, it seemed like I had no other choice. It wasn't an impulse decision; I'm not an impulse person. I rarely have buyer's remorse (can't even remember the last time) because I think about something a long time before I buy it. And I think even longer before I do something important, like quit a job I love.

Even so, did I mess up my life? Did I throw a wrench in God's plan by doing something I wasn't supposed to do? According to this scripture, that's not the way it works. God will make sure his plans are fulfilled, and that my life brings honor to him.

Philippians 1:6
I am certain that God, who began the good work within me, will continue his work until it is finally finished.

I've said before that I feel uprooted. I'm standing still, seemingly without direction. Where is God taking me from here? Where should I be going? I don't know. I do the day to day things I know to do: I fill prescriptions, I go to doctor's appointments, I pick up the mail, pay bills, grocery shop, etc. But what am I supposed to be doing?

A wise friend of mine told me, "Chris, maybe this is the time for your cup to be filled, and you don't need to be doing anything." So I wait, patiently, knowing that God will finish this work.

Philippians 2:14-15
Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you.

I hope I'm not complaining - I don't intend that. I think what I'm doing is expressing my frustration with my own limitations. I'm frustrated that I can't just "walk this off." I coached middle school football for a while. When a player would get hurt, I would ask, "Are you hurt or injured?" At first they didn't know the difference. Injured is when you've broken your arm, or sprained an ankle. If you're injured, we need to get you some help. Hurt is when you get tackled by a bigger guy and slammed into the hard ground. If you're hurt, you need to walk it off.

This time will end. There will come a time when I can work again, have my voice back, feel good again, participate in society as a contributing member again. I think I can even see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Biopsy Results Are In

Although I'm surprised, I'm happy that I already have results from the biopsy done Tuesday. The biopsy on my vocal chords shows a (3+ Betahomolytic Strep Group A). They're giving me a prescription to treat the infection. I have an appointment next month to see if the meds and the shot of prednisone in my vocal chords are creating any benefits.

Just another step in the process.

On a completely different note, I went on a photowalk yesterday, with my mom. Since I wasn't allowed to talk (doctors orders) or whisper, she had to carry the conversation. We walked the alleys around our neighborhood.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Is "Biopsy" a Four Letter Word?

When people hear the word biopsy, many of them automatically think cancer. When I first started this whole voice ordeal, the ENT in Twin Falls mentioned a biopsy, but also said he didn't see anything that looked like cancer. So when the ENT in SLC mentioned a biopsy on my vocal chord, cancer was not my first thought. He talked about several autoimmune diseases that can affect the vocal chords, so my focus was on that.

Tomorrow I head to SLC for the procedure. It should be quick and easy. Although surgery is always risky, I've never had any problems with anesthesia; I seem to recover quickly. What I want is to have some answers. They (the doctors) keep saying they need more tests, there's nothing conclusive, they have some ideas. How about some resolution? How about some definitive diagnosis? When does that happen?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Be Specific

The radio station I listen to plays short snippets of sermons, kind of like commercials. Last week one of the speakers said that God doesn't answer general prayers. He wants to hear specific prayers. Now I'm not sure exactly what that means - Where's the line between general and specific? But it made me wonder about my prayers. So I've been paying attention to what I pray for. I'm finding that I do pray a lot of general prayers. When friends post prayers on Facebook, often I'll just pray, "God be with soandso this week. Bless their life." Although I don't know where the line is between general and specific, I can tell this isn't specific.

So I'm trying to be more specific in my requests, which includes some specific requests for myself. I'm not going to tell here all that I pray for myself; they're much too personal, and writing about them feels like it would lessen them somehow. But I am changing my prayer of "God help me feel better." That seems awfully general.

I'm making another change too: I'm trying to get back my photographic creativity. I think it left me. The photos I've taken recently seem boring, uninspiring. I want to take photos that create emotion in the viewer, even if I'm the only person who sees them. I don't think I've taken a photo like that in years now.

But I'm going to start taking photo walks around my neighborhood, photographing whatever catches my eye. Even if I don't get any great photos, I think the practice of taking more photos will help my creativity. If I stumble upon a picture that I like, I might even post it here.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Medication Side Effect?

I can only assume it's because of the meds I'm on: my taste buds have changed, remarkably. Meat no longer tastes good - beef, chicken, turkey. Pepperoni pizza seems to still be good, which could be because the meat is in smaller amounts. But hamburgers, chicken breast, turkey sandwich, they all just taste horrible.

For a while I thought it was just meat. Other foods seem to be fine. This last week, on the way home from my visit to Wendell, I bought a bag of rye chips, the kind that are in Gardetto's, which is one of my favorite junk food snacks. I love the rye chips. Between the flavor and crunch, I figured they'd keep me awake on the drive home. Turns out my taste buds don't like those either. It's not that they tasted bad - there was just no taste. It was like eating crunchy cardboard. They smelled great, but had no taste.

I'm sure there's nothing I can do, other than quit taking all the meds I'm on, which is obviously not an option. My other choice is to find foods that taste okay. Maybe I'm becoming a vegetarian by default.

It also seems to have affected my tolerance for spice. Even mild salsa now makes me sweat like it's made from super hot peppers. I had a piece of Costco pepperoni pizza the other day - sweating like I had run a marathon.

Actually, if hot has that affect, maybe I should eat more hot stuff. I could do that instead of exercising.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Mr. Focus Group

I think I belong on a focus group, a group that watches commercials before they air to see if they're effective, or tv show pilots, that kind of stuff.

Some commercials just play and are easily ignored. Some shows are just good for background noise, best "watched" while washing the dishes, cleaning the kitchen, doing laundry, etc. Other commercials and shows instantly access my emotions. Since becoming a counselor, I've become much more in touch with my emotions, and much easier to cry, or laugh. I think since being diagnosed with RA, my emotional regulator has become much less efficient. It's way too easy for my emotions to bubble to the surface, and too often burst out of control.

When I watch a good commercial, I get emotional; tears start forming at the corners of my eyes. I hate doing that, but it's pointless to try to stop it, so I just go with it. Sometimes, when I realize the emotions are coming - even the sad ones - sometimes it makes me laugh. I'm sitting here by myself, so no one else is here to watch me laugh and cry at the same time. I'm the only one to see the humor in the situation, especially one brought on by a stupid commercial for some product I can't even recall.

So I would be a great focus group member. If your commercial is good, you'll know by my reaction. If it sucks, I'll just tell you.