Thursday, March 31, 2011

Visiting My Kids

I went to visit Wendell today. Octavio, the new school counselor, wanted to meet to discuss what needs to be done. I gave him some ideas and I think he'll be good for the schools. I also went because I miss my kids and wanted to spend some time with them.

After having breakfast with my friend Dan, I headed to the middle school, getting there about 7:20. There were already a few students there, and some teachers. I got hugs as soon as I walked in. Maryanne, Gramma, and Sue were all in the office (they're all teachers). It was so good to see them.

By 7:30 I was in my circle, waiting to greet the kids. The smile on my face had been there ever since I drove off the freeway at the Wendell exit. When the first kids started coming in, my smile got even bigger. Some of the kids ran to me. I got hugs from most of them, even from some kids who don't normally hug. I even got hugged by some of the 8th grade boys.

If I thought being with the middle school kids was great, being at the elementary school was even more of an emotional ego boost. As I was walking toward the lunch room, the first graders hadn't been let out for recess yet. The person who normally does duty on the first grade playground wasn't there. So I offered to take the kids out to recess. All I had to do was walk across the cafeteria to where all the kids were sitting and take them out. It didn't work that way.

I didn't even make it into the actual cafeteria. Before I could get there I was literally surrounded by 30 kids. Once the first kid noticed me, and yelled, "Mr. M!" all the other kids started leaving their tables and running to me. It took me 10 minutes to get across the cafeteria and I loved every single second of it. In those few minutes, I probably received 200 hugs.

When I did finally make it to recess, I had still more fun. Kids would come running from across the playground, "Mr. M, Mr. M, Mr. M." Some kids stayed close to me the whole time. I told every kid I could how much I missed them.

After recess I went to Mrs. Brown's class for a visit. It was so much fun. She had me sit down for an interview; the kids got to ask questions. The first kid I called on gave me the best "question" ever: "Mr. M, I love you every day."

It was a bittersweet visit. I loved being back in my schools. I hated knowing that I will never be back, for real.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Getting Old - What Happened to My MadSkillz?

Now I realize that as I get older, my skill set may increase, but the proficiency with which I do things will decrease. If I were able to play golf (which I still can't because of the RA), I would not be as good now as I was 10 years ago when I was working as a golf professional. If I were still able to play racquetball, I would not be as good because I'm slower. I realize these things and I live with them.

But there's one skill that completely baffles me.

I used to be an excellent sleeper - an Olympic caliber sleeper, a professional sleeper, a world class sleeper. I could sleep any time, any where, for any length of time. If I was waiting for a flight, had 14 minutes before boarding, I could take a 13 minute nap. When I got tired, or sick, I could sleep for 14, 16, 18 hours in a row, non-stop.

Somehow, I've completely lost this ability. Now, my typical sleep time is about 20 minutes, often exactly 20 minutes. Yesterday, after my dad's birthday party, I had reached the end of my energy. So I came home to take a nap. I lay down at 4:37, falling asleep almost instantly. I started coughing - and subsequently woke up - at 4:57. Today, I lay down for another nap, at 2:34. Guess what time I woke up, coughing again? That's right, 2:54, exactly 20 minutes later. This 20 minute thing has happened a lot.

I really want to be able to sleep, to deeply sleep for more than 20 minutes; 20 hours of sleep would be nice. I can't remember the last time I slept through a night and I'd like to change that. I've tried a lot of different sleep aids. Nothing really works.

I'm hoping that if the docs can figure out whats causing all the problems, and get rid of my cough, I'll be able to sleep - someday.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Missing Wendell

Yes, leaving Wendell was the right thing to do. I made it through the winter without getting sick (from being around the kids). Of course my voice hasn't returned - another reason I couldn't stay. Yes, I like being close to family.

Even so, I miss Wendell so much: the kids, the staff, the schools.

I spent this evening taking some senior portraits for one of my Wendell kids. She brought along her mom (one of the middle school teachers), her sister (who's in 8th grade this year), and her grandmother. Being with them reminded me how much I love my Wendell kids.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

On second thought ...

When I left yesterday, I didn't know what the meeting with SSA was going to be about. Turns out, Angie (my new favorite person) brought me in to tell me that my disability application had been approved. I'll start receiving checks in May. It's a good thing there was a counter between us ... I wanted to hug her when she told me.

Obviously this doesn't solve all my problems, but it does give me some breathing room. I can take the time I need to get healthy, to figure out what my next move will be, career-wise, to be able to support myself (although I'm sure mom and dad will still be helping).

Isn't that interesting timing?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Great Salt Lake

During my trip to SLC Sunday/Monday, I had a lot of time to think. And I did a lot of thinking, about a lot of topics and situations. One thought came to me several times: Maybe going on disability is not the way to go. I realize it can be a long process, and when I started the process I knew it was the right thing. I am disabled, in several ways. I had to quit my job because of my physical problems.

I know I could get a job; my options of possible jobs are so limited. Because of my voice, I need a job that doesn't require any talking. Because of my RA, I can't lift heavy objects, can't be on my feet for a long time, and I require (physically require) rest during the day. When I run out of energy, I have to nap. Because of my poor immune system, I need to NOT be around a lot of people (read: germ carriers). How many jobs meet those requirements?

So I'm confused about where to go, what to do.

I have an appointment with the local Social Security office today. I don't know what they're going to be doing today. I guess I'll find out when I get there.

Monday, March 21, 2011

More Tests, then maybe some more

I had my appointment with Dr. Smith today, in Salt Lake. Although my larynx looks better than it did six weeks ago, there's still no voice. Is that improvement? Kind of.

He has ordered some tests - blood work mostly - and scheduled a biopsy of my vocal chords. Some people hear "biopsy" and think cancer. Dr. Smith didn't mention cancer, and that wasn't my first thought. He said, "We need a sample of the tissue to figure out if there's another disease affecting your larynx." Apparently there are several auto-immune diseases, related to RA, but different, that could be causing these voice problems.

So tomorrow I go for some tests, have the results sent to SLC, and go from there. Mom asked me, "So how do you feel about what the doctor said?" I didn't know how to answer that, still don't. I'll say again what I told her, "It is what it is."

On a completely different note, on my way down to SLC, I had some time to listen to my favorite radio station, one that was always on in my truck: The Effect. Here in Nampa, I can't get the station in my truck, but I can listen online. I had forgotten how much I like that music. It was great to have several hours each way that I could listen.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Why Do I Need to Know This?

I swear, I'm not turning this blog into a dream journal, but I just have to share one more.

In the dream, I was working in a residential hospital, and assigned the task of diagnosing a new patient while another "doctor" interviewed him. After just a few minutes, I diagnosed him with OCD, based on some repeated motions. He would bend at the waist, perform a series of hand motions a specific number of times, then stand up and reengage with the interview.

Based on the angle at which he bent over, the angle of his arms, and the number of times he did the hand motions, I was also able to diagnose him with sine, cosine and tangent.

Shout out to my high school algebra teacher. I knew that stuff would be useful someday!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Irrational Hope

I frequently fly during my dreams, nearly every night. Sometimes I fly like Superman, fast, laying flat, fists breaking through the atmosphere, but without a cape. I've never flown with a cape. Sometimes it's less like flying, more like floating. I know that if I step off that building, I won't fall; I can just float down to the street. Or if there's something I need that's up, way high, I float up to it.

So last night in my dream, I was getting ready to fly home (I don't remember where I was), and started strapping on my back packs (for some reason I had two), and my golf bag. This is the surprising part of the dream. I haven't played golf in 2 or 3 years. The arthritis in my hands and wrists just won't tolerate that kind of physical motion. Other than moving to Nampa, I don't remember the last time I picked up my golf bag. So to dream about golf, just carrying the bag --- that's interesting to me.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Busy Weekend

Friday I go in for second infusion of Rituxan (another $15k), but then I don't have to go in for another 6 months. Then Monday I return to the Voice Disorders Center for my follow up appointment. Hopefully they'll find that there's been some progress and my larynx is more hydrated, and they'll tell me I'm closer to being able to speak again.

Speaking of speaking, I had the best dream last night.
What might the best dream in the world be about?
Maybe it was about unlimited money, fame, power, super powers - not so much.

I had a dream that I was talking, out loud, and people could hear me.
I don't remember who I was talking to, or what I was talking about, I woke up so excited that I could talk. I also don't know if it was my real voice. I don't even remember what my real voice sounds like.

Monday, March 14, 2011

So, Now What?

Even though I'm not big on labels, I do like that I've been able to label my current feeling: uprooted. Without realizing (although I may have had inklings here and there) I based my identity on my life as a school counselor. My identity was rooted in an occupation, something I have counseled people against.

That's a first step, I suppose, but now what?

How do I reestablish my roots in Jesus?
It can't be just by going to church; I do that.
It can't be just by reading my bible; I do that (although I certainly could spend more time studying the life of Jesus - that's probably another blog post).
It can't be as simple as saying, "My life is rooted in Jesus."

What will my life be like with my roots in Jesus?
How will that be different than now?

So many questions, so few (concrete) answers.

However, I'm living in the midst of Jesus, content that he is in control. So it's okay to live without answers.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A New Journey

I recently received a message from a good friend who will be teaching a Sunday School lesson on the parables of Matthew 13. If you don't remember them, go read it here.

Reading Matthew 13, I was struck by something:
"But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died."
"But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long."

I think maybe I have the right word for how I've been feeling: uprooted. I was established in Wendell, firmly planted in a job and career I love. My roots were becoming ever more solidly established, in my church, in the Wendell community, in the schools. Then God uprooted me. I may be planted back in familiar surroundings (living behind mom and dad, next door to Susan, around friends and family), but my roots aren't here. I have no roots and I'm wilting.

But that leads me to realize, my roots shouldn't be in my job or a place, or relationships. My roots should be in God, need to be in God. He has taken so much from me: health, income, voice, possessions. All the while I keep wondering why. I wonder what more is there to take?

I think this move from Wendell to Nampa, from school counselor to unemployed, from influential to voiceless, has taken my support to show me that I've been depending on the wrong things.

So now, maybe, I have a direction for my next journey. My task seems clear: structure my life, my thoughts, my prayers, my career my relationships, so that they are centered around my roots: my relationship with Jesus.

I need to make sure my root system is in Jesus, and only Jesus. Certainly there are strong branches in my life, and healthy plants all around me. But my roots are not in those temporary things. My roots are in the eternal.

A new journey begins.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Interruptions

The truth is, what we call interruptions are precisely our real life, the life God is sending us day by day. - CSLewis

In the middle (beginning) of a wonderful career as a school counselor, in a place I love (Wendell, ID), with the best people in the world, I got interrupted. Instead of serving my 7th year as school counselor, I resigned. My health problems dictated an interruption in my life - a seemingly long-term interruption.

The last few days, I've been feeling increasingly unmotivated, lack-luster, melancholy - actually, I've been searching for the right word and just can't find it. Those are all guesses, but none of them very accurate.

So why is God sending me this interruption?
How long will this last?
What am I supposed to be doing during this time?

I just don't know.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

I can do all things

Philippians 4:13 says, "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."

Because of my arthritis, there are so many things I cannot now do, things I used to do, things that I enjoyed doing.
I can't golf.
I can't play racquetball.
I can't run.
I can't carry 3 bundles of shingles up a ladder to the roof.
I can't roof houses.
I can't go on long hikes in the mountains.
I can't ...

So what does this verse mean, specifically to me?
I don't know how to answer that question.

Friday, March 4, 2011

New Meds, New Hope

The agenda today was sitting in a comfortable recliner in the 4th floor outpatient room of St. Luke's downtown. Nurse Sharon was so nice, but tried 3 times to get the IV needle in my arm. The 4th one, she passed off to nurse Sharon, who found a good vein (or artery - I don't know which they needed to pump stuff in to my arm). It wasn't quite 7 hours long; closer to 6 hours total.

This new medication, Rituxan, is supposed to work differently than other meds I've tried, and hopefully more effectively. I'm not ready to hope that I'll be able to play golf again, but that would really be nice.

One of the questions nurses always ask, as part of the intake procedure, confuses me every time they ask:
"Are you in pain today?"
Well, I have RA. I'm in pain everyday.
"On a scale of 1 to 10, what level would you say your pain is today."

I never know how to answer that. Since I live with pain all the time, zero - meaning no pain - isn't even a possibility. There's a new zero. Yes I have pain, but it's at the level I've gotten used to, so that I hardly notice it. Nurse Sharon said, "I think for a lot of RA patients, the new zero is like the old 3 - not enough pain to treat, but enough to notice. The new 2, the old 5, is enough pain that you need something for it."

That feels like as good an explanation as I've heard.
I told her I was a new 1, old 4. That seemed perfectly vague to me.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Repurposing

My mom found an old pulpit - somewhere, probably a thrift store - paying $29. She tried to find a church that could use it, worked hard to find a home for it. Nobody wanted it. So she had dad cut off the top part, the slanted part that would hold papers, leaving a roughly counter level base, on wheels. Dad had a piece of formica in the shop, just big enough to cover the top and sides. Ray Becker did the laminating work, which turned out very nice.

Now, for $29, I have an island in the kitchen. Instead of eating at my desk, right next to the computer, I have a place to eat now. An extra benefit: I have more kitchen storage now. Of course I don't have anything I need to store, but still.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Time to Start Again

Although so much has happened, and I may try to update everything (at least the most interesting parts), I haven't blogged, let alone written in a very long time. I kept having this vision in my head that a blog has to be meaningful, profound, important, worthwhile. Otherwise there's not really any point in posting.

I've reconsidered that opinion. I have several friends who maintain blogs. I like reading their blogs.

Ryan Roberts has a great family blog. The posts are short, he doesn't over-think things; he just posts what's happening. His blog is fun to read.

My friend Eden has a blog too. She doesn't worry about posting important life-changing matters. She posts her life, which is what makes it interesting and fun to read.

So I'm making a March Resolution. I'm going to start blogging again, probably about completely meaningless things.