Monday, November 30, 2009

I think I like this process

I wasn't sure that I was going to like the process used on the Christmas table runner.  Essentially, you are quilting and piecing at the same time.  I'm sure there is a better way of explaining this!  Anyway, I had not done this type of quilting before.  Super easy ... and one that I will definitely use again.  I have the table runner completed except for the binding and the optional tree appliques.  I may (or may not) add the tree appliques.  I'm afraid the appliques might make the table runner too busy looking.  This pattern could easily be adapted to any season of the year.  It might also look fantastic in one color palette with machine embroidery.  Endless possibilities!

As the years go by, hand sewing becomes more of a problem because of arthritis in my thumbs.  Since I have not invested a lot of money in this project, I decided to try putting the binding on completely by machine.  I used a great tutorial on the Red Pepper Quilt blog.  I sewed the binding on from the front and pinned it in place.  Now the hard part!  According to the tutorial, you sew with a walking foot from the front of the quilt in the ditch which - supposedly - secures the binding just over the edge on the back.  We'll see.  I'll finish this up next weekend since I decided to visit my daughter and family until Thursday to help out with babysitting chores.  I'll keep you posted on how it works!  I've got my fingers crossed since doing binding totally by machine will make my enthusiasm soar for making more quilts! 

Thought I'd show a closeup of the fabric, too.  I really like the border fabric, which is ivory with hints of gold metallic.  Very Christmasy!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Some years, Thanksgiving has a very special meaning

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  The family arrived safely; the turkey was almost perfect (I need to "tweak" the recipe - too salty); my sister only drove me half crazy; and the grandchildren had a great time searching for colorful leaves, riding a tricycle on the patio, and just being children.  My daughter actually took time to eat dinner!

For me, however, what made this Thanksgiving extra special was that we welcomed a brand new life into our extended family.  My daughter's closest friend gave birth on Wednesday night (at 11:13 p.m.) to her first child, Joel William.  Joel was just a little late in his arrival (eight days), but we'll forgive him his tardiness because he represents a joyful addition to our lives.

When I became pregnant with our second child in the 70s, Doug and I signed up for Lamaze classes.  Our first child, Matthew, was born using the Lamaze method and, since all had gone well, we decided to go that route once again.  We met a really nice couple during our series of classes, Bill and Judi, and shared notes on practicing breathing exercises, raising our almost-two-year-old sons, and life in general.  We had no idea that our lives would forever be linked - our daughters were born on the very same day in the very same hospital in the very same delivery room!  In fact, I went into labor when my husband was out of town on a business trip and Bill ended up serving as labor coach to both Judi and to me - an almost-stranger from Lamaze class!  Sara, our daughter, was born at 1:52 a.m. and Natalie Laura followed later that day around 8 a.m.  I remember hearing Natalie's first cries as I was eating my very soggy eggs.

Our families became fast friends.  Our sons met while standing tiptoe on stepstools to look through the glass window at their new baby sisters.  Judi and I spoke daily on the phone sharing the ups and downs of being young mothers with infants and toddlers -- were the toddlers gifted or just incorrigible?  How fast could we go back to work without being labeled unfit mothers?  (Remember - this was the 70s!)  We talked ourselves through childhood illnesses, the challenges of marriage, economic woes - in short, we supplied a lifeline to one another via the telephone.

We had cherished traditions.  Together, we trimmed Christmas trees and sang carols.  Together, we made latkes and lit the Channukah candles.  Judi's mom became "Grandma Esther" to my children.  We always, without fail, celebrated the girls' birthday together and and listened as Bill retold the story of the night they were born.  The girls became closer and closer friends as they grew up.

Sara and Natalie went to high school together, graduated on the same night, selected the same college, and became college roommates.  Together, we moved the girls into that tiny, tiny room at Humboldt State College and tearfully left them alone.

Shortly after they started their second year of college, Sara noticed a lump on Natalie's neck and urged her to get it checked out.  Natalie was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease; Judi and Bill brought her home for her surgery and treatment.  Part of Natalie's treatment involved removing her spleen and undergoing radiation.  In order to increase the chances that she would be able to conceive children, the surgeons somehow protected her ovaries from the dangers of radiation.

Natalie came through her treatment with flying colors; the girls completed college and both became elementary school teachers.

Sadly, shockingly, unexpectedly, we lost Bill to a massive heart attack in his mid-50s.  We hugged, we cried, we grieved.  I remember Sara asking me, "Mom, what do I say?  How do I talk to Natalie?"  Just hug her, I said.  Just tell her you love her.

Happily, the girls each met the loves of their lives.  Natalie was Sara's maid of honor in 2003 when she married Brian; Sara, at 7 months pregnant, was a beaming bridesmaid when Natalie married her Percy a few years later.

I watched Natalie lovingly hold each of Sara's three babies.  We celebrated joyfully when we learned that Natalie and Percy were going to become parents.  And, on the eve of this Thanksgiving, we welcomed Joel William into this crazy world.  I can't quite get the smile off of my face.  I can hardly wait to hold him and tell him I love him.  There are 32 years of family stories that I want to share with him!

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Traditions - The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly!

My family loves the traditions surrounding our annual holidays.  My mom really was the impetus behind most of these traditions because she loved holidays, parties, fun and merriment.  Thanksgiving is certainly one of the most traditional holidays in the U.S.  Turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie - what would the 4th Thursday in November be without them?

In our household, there are other traditions surrounding Thanksgiving that aren't quite as yummy as homemade turkey stuffing!  It's a pretty sure bet that my brother-in-law will arrive late in the morning and immediately make himself a pastis!  Over the freeways and through L.A. to Oma's house we go -- well, it certainly makes a man ready for a cocktail.  My 89-year-old father-in-law, John, will corner our son and son-in-law to preach the "Business Gospel According to John" - i.e., invest for the future in small companies that haven't a chance to make a profit for 20 or 30 years!

Our grandchildren will go on a walk with Grandpa to find "pretty leaves" to decorate the table.  Talia will insist that the leaf highest in the tree is the prettiest one and the one she just has to have for the table!

My husband will tell me to relax, take a break and stop stressing.  Sure.  With the people I love most in the world waiting for me to put Thanksgiving dinner on the table.  Sure.

My son-in-law will roust his family as early as possible in order to be at our house in front of the tv for the kickoff of the Lions football game.  The Lions will, of course, lose the game.

I will fail, once again, to make good, thick, turkey gravy.  My sister will tease me, once again, about my crappy gravy.  This year, I swear, I'm going to have her make the gravy.

My sister, once again, will tell me that she and her husband do not drink water with dinner so do not need water goblets.  I will bite my tongue, once again, and refrain from yelling, "It's my house, dammit, and I will set the table the way I want to!"  Did I mention that she's my younger sister?  Why is it that my sister, whom I absolutely adore and could not live without, drives me insane??

Everyone will say they don't want to ruin their appetites for dinner, but we will still eat too many appetizers.  We will promise not to have appetizers next year.

My sister will say grace and remind us of those who are no longer with us.  She and I will glance at one another and know that we are both thinking of Mom and Dad.

Our daughter will sit down to eat Thanksgiving dinner but actually will not eat any food because she'll be trying to keep her 3 babies happy and cheerful so the rest of us can enjoy our dinner.  That's okay - our son-in-law will go back for thirds!

Everyone will offer to clean up the kitchen and do the dishes so that I can relax.  Collapse is more like it!  We'll all be comatose and overstuffed until the first person says, "Who's ready for pie?"  Miraculously, we'll all want "just a sliver" of each kind of pie!

My husband will open all the windows in the house and turn the fire on even though it will still be in the 70s outside.  The whole gang will relax in front of the tv with the fire blazing until someone, probably my sister, says "Let's talk about Christmas."

Aren't families wonderful?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I will not panic, I will not panic .....

Things are going pretty well as we prepare for the Thanksgiving Day feast.  Because of my as-yet-undiagnosed pain, I can't really stand for long periods of time without discomfort.  So, I moved up the timetable for turkey day prep and asked Doug to do more kitchen work than he usually does.  He's always willing to help, but he spends lots of time getting the backyard in shape for visitors.  We're lucky in Southern California that we can count on the weather in late November being nice enough to enjoy the great outdoors.  (It's due to be 77 here on Thanksgiving!)

Doug picked up the rental tables this morning and set the table.  Looks nice!  Talia, Jackson, and Tasha will go out with Grandpa on Thursday and find some colorful leaves to add a bit of color.  The mashed yams are done; all the veggies are washed and chopped for the dressing.  Things seem to be under control.  Hmmmm .... that's a bit scary, don't you think?

I even had time today to start a new sewing project, a Christmas table runner.  The pattern  is the Flip 'n Strip Table Runner from The Quilt Company.  This is another new process for me.  You layer the batting and backing fabric then place 2" strips down the center of the layer, right sides together, and stitch 1/4" seam, adding strips one after the other.  Basically, quilting and piecing at the same time.  Am I explaining this right?  Should be fun and another stretch for me - keep that gray matter from going limp!

I'm not too happy with the fabric that I bought for this project.  By the time I decided to make it, the quilt shops were getting thin on Christmas fabric.  I was hoping to do it all in ivories with gold trim but settled for the traditional green and red.  If it comes out at all decent, I'll make another one for next year - and start earlier!

Monday, November 23, 2009

A promise is a promise

Here's the final product - the pumpkin pot holder!  I'm glad I did this project because I learned a lot about paper piecing, but I don't think I would do a large project with this process.  My brain just does not work this way.

Today was our quilt club meeting, and it was really fun to see everyone's finished pot holders with the variety of fabrics.  Isn't this part of what makes quilting and sewing so enjoyable?  One project, one layout, one pattern can have multiple results depending on individual choices.   A little like life itself, I suppose!

I hoped to have time to start on my next project (isn't there always a next project in the sewing/quilting world?) today, but Thanksgiving prep got in the way.  I managed to get the turkey washed, dried and coated with a glorious mixture of salt, fresh ground pepper, and sage, and the stock for the gravy made and Swiss cheese shredded for the corn casserole.  Also washed (and hand dried - am I nuts?) all of my crystal (service for 8 - white wine, red wine, water goblets, and champagne).  Tomorrow, Doug picks up the rental tables; then we iron the tablecloths and set the tables.  Also on the agenda is making the yam casserole.  I know all of the food should be freshly prepared, but I have to give in to age at some point, right?

A few years ago, I thought that the Thanksgiving menu was getting a little stale so I added a new vegetable recipe - Swiss Corn Bake.  My son-in-law went crazy over this recipe!  If you're looking for something new and different (and pretty easy) to add to your Thanksgiving table, give this a try:

Swiss Corn Bake (serves 8)

16 ounces frozen corn, cooked and drained
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups Swiss cheese, shredded
2 5-oz cans evaporated milk
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 teaspoon salt
dash pepper
3/4 cup soft whole-wheat bread crumbs
2 tablespoons margarine, melted

Cook corn according to package directions; drain.  In a medium mixing bowl, combine eggs, 1 cup of the cheese, evaporated milk, onion salt, and papper.  Stir in cooked corn.  Turn mixture into an 8-inch round baking dish or a 9-inch quiche dish.  Place dish on a baking sheet.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Toss bread crumbs with remaining cheese and margarine; sprinkle over the corn mixture.  Bake 5 to 10 minutes more until golden and bubbly.  Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

If you decide to make this, let me know if your family likes it!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The awesome power of the Internet

I don't know about you, but I'm regularly awed by the power of the Internet.  Since I went public with my blog just a few days ago, I've had readers from all over the world.  It's been an exciting adventure and also a geography lesson!  I've had lots of fun looking up the names of cities, and even countries, that I've never heard of before.  Thank you, thank you, to all of those who have taken the time to visit.  Please come back!

How does it happen that my words can be read from these distant lands? Beats me. But I'm glad that this wonderful technology is available. I'm also glad that I'm not one of those seniors who avoids learning new things - or at least trying to learn!

There is some disagreement about when the Internet was "born." Most experts point to 1969 as the birth year.  (You can read a little about it here; for a more indepth history, go here.)  National Public Radio had a really funny piece last month on Morning Edition called "An Ode to the Internet's Big Bang." You can read the transcript or listen to the actual broadcast.  I think it's funnier if you listen.  After you listen (or read), see if you can figure out what all the terms actually mean.  Funny stuff.
Speaking of 1969, it was a really interesting year.  I Googled "what happened in 1969."  Here is what I found in less than 2 seconds on this amazing Internet:
  • Richard M. Nixon becomes President of the U.S.
  • 1/4 million people march on Washington, D.C., to protest the Vietnam War
  • Neil Armstrong becomes the first human to step on the surface of the moon
  • Ted Kennedy & Chappaquiddick
  • Charles Manson & Family
  • Woodstock
  • Pontiac Firebird introduced
  • First ATM installed in the U.S.
  • Test flight of the Concorde
  • microprocessor invented
  • Sesame Street debuts
  • The Beatles' "Abbey Road" released
  • Brett Favre is born (sorry - remember, I'm a football fan!!!)
And that's just a partial list.  Quite a year - I remember it very well.  It was the year that I fell in love with my best friend.  He's still my best friend, and he cooks for me every Sunday.

Men Watch Football and Women Cook - Not Necessarily!!!

I am a huge NFL football fan.  My friends and family do not call the house on Sundays or on Monday nights.  Some weeks, Thursday nights are off limits.  I allow myself this obsession because I:
  • do not watch soap operas
  • do not watch afternoon talk shows
  • do not watch reality tv shows
If you calculate all the hours that I've spent watching grown men run around grassy fields, I should be a football expert.  Sadly, I am not.  My son-in-law tried several years ago to teach me how to play John Madden's video game.  I was a complete dunce!  It's the excitement that I crave and the chance that the next play will be one for the highlight reel like Dallas Clark catching Peyton Manning's throw today in the end zone - with one hand!  Now that's fun.

Doug is not a sports fan at all.  He'll watch the World Series or the NBA championships - maybe.  He watches the Super Bowl only because it's a party!  Years ago Doug offered to make dinner on Sundays during the NFL season.  Works for me!  Not only is he a good cook, but I get to spend my favorite day of the week doing one of the things I like best - watching grown men run around grassy fields!

Now that's love for 'ya.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Another busy Saturday ....

I am well on my way to finishing the pumpkin pot holder.  I only have the binding left to put on, but the light in my sewing room is horrible after sunset and I dare not tackle binding without good light.  Plus, I like to handstitch the binding to the back of the quilt (or in this case, pot holder) and I definitely need good light to work on the dark brown fabric that I've chosen for the binding.

Lest you think that I've been frittering away the day instead of sewing, I was pretty busy:  read two newspapers (admittedly, I am a news junkie); shopped for potatoes (I insist on Yukon gold for turkey day mashed potatoes); bought a flash drive to back up my embroidery design files (horror stories about computer crashes finally scared me into action); picked up a book at the library (Beautifully Embellished Landscapes by Joyce R. Becker - way beyond my abilities, but the pictures are pretty); had a pedicure (I enjoy being a girl); made place cards for the Thanksgiving table (I'm the only one who really cares who sits where - my house, my rules); read 50 pages of the newest James Patterson book (I, Alex Cross - mindless entertainment that relaxes me and keeps me coming back for more).

But I usually make time for sewing, and I loved seeing the pot holder take form.  Bernina is well known for the quality of their presser feet.  One of the things I most enjoy while sewing on the 640 is choosing the correct foot for the job.  If you own a Bernina, I encourage you to look at the videos on this Bernina site which demonstrate what you can do with each foot or attachment.  I'm a visual learner; even though I have the Feetures books (all 3, lucky girl that I am), these videos speak to me.

While working on this simple pot holder project, I managed to use three feet - seriously!  For the paper piecing itself, I used the #34 clear foot.  Being able to line up the marked line on the paper with the red line on the foot was heaven to me since this was my first attempt at paper piecing.  Foot #57 (patchwork foot with guide) is a favorite of mine for getting those 1/4" seams to behave.  Then I pulled out my favorite foot of all, the walking foot, for the actual in-the-ditch quilting and the lines on the pumpkin (you'll see those tomorrow when I post a picture).

When I first started sewing on my mom's Singer in the 50s, I think there was a standard foot and, if you were fortunate, a zipper foot.  How lucky we are to have such a variety of specialty feet and attachments to make this hobby so interesting.  What are your favorite accessories?  What foot would you absolutely not do without?  Are there feet and/or accessories that you purchased and now wonder, "What was I thinking?"

Friday, November 20, 2009

When life interferes with the "to-do" list!

Our quilt club at The Oasis meets every Monday. I joined about 6 months ago and have really been enjoying it. Some of the ladies are quite prolific and have a project or two (or three or four) to share every week. Some members come just to chat! It's a fun way to start the week.

We've been trying to have small projects to work on after the business part of the meeting so that we can sew together. Last week, one of our members taught paperpiecing. I had never tried this before. My brain has a hard time working through the steps, though. If I slow the process down and really concentrate, the lightbulb eventually goes on! Our project was a pumpkin potholder. Here's a picture of my potholder only 1/2 done. Finishing the potholder was on today's "to-do" list along with shopping for Turkey Day.

About 10 a.m. we got a call from a friend who had been trying to reach my father-in-law for over two days. The phone was constantly busy. Dad is 89 and lives alone, so we were immediately concerned. Several hours and many, many phone calls later, we learned that he had inadvertently left the phone off the hook! Doug had just arranged for a police cruiser to go to the house to do a "welfare check." Fortunately, we were able to contact the police before they actually got to the house.

I did go grocery shopping, but the potholder might not get finished today.  Now we have a goal for Thanksgiving Day .... get my very private and self-sufficient father-in-law to give us telephone numbers of neighbors in case this happens again!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Love, love, love my Bernina!

I finished making Christmas ornaments for my 3 grandchildren today. A friend from our quilting group at The Oasis gave me the idea to personalize the ornaments with their names and the year. A perfect idea for a doting Oma!

They were really fun to do and quite a learning experience. I still consider myself a newbie at machine embroidery; each time I tackle a project, I experience a "teachable moment." This design, from Dakota Collectibles, is a combination of free standing lace (Santa's hat) and applique (face and beard). I've used both techniques before but not in the same project.

I really struggled with making the changes in the software (Editor Plus v. 5). It's clear that I need to work through the manual page by page and spend some time with this software - it's pretty powerful! Anyway, the original design had a swirly thing on Santa's beard which I removed in order to make room for the lettering. Then somehow (little elves running around windows XP????), the lettering changed color and I could not get it to be red. I searched the on screen manual and followed the directions, I thought, to no avail. I finally gave up and just stopped the machine and changed the thread color when it stitched out to the lettering part. Did you notice that Santa's nose is black in one of the ornaments? Haven't a clue how that happened.

I'll run small red ribbon through the loop so the kidlets can hang their ornaments on the tree. I actually feel the Christmas spirit creeping into the house ... .

The world as we know it did not come to an end!

I've been blogging for awhile now and only my husband and daughter were aware of it. I gave the web address to my daughter several months ago just to get feedback on the blog. Being the kindhearted kid that she is, she offered some constructive criticism about the "look" of the blog but seemed to think I was going in the right direction.

It took a "martini day" like last Tuesday to get me off the bench and onto the playing field. So I let my immediate family and one very close friend know about the blog. My husband was positive, my sister's response was "you've gone insane," but I've made it to my friend's list of favorites! All in all, not too bad for a newbie in the blogosphere.

The combination of the new recommendations for mammograms and learning that my last test was perfectly normal just sent me over the edge and into the very public world of blogging on the Internet. Now I'll look for more ways to let people know about my blog. Let's see .... I can use Facebook, my yahoo chat groups, e-mail addresses, sign up for blogrolls like Quilting Bloggers, etc.

I was half expecting to see lots of comments once I "came out of the closet" but nary a one has been posted. Glad I'm not particularly sensitive about things like this! I blog because I enjoy it. I also think it's a healthy exercise in keeping my writing skills and aging brain cells active.

By the way, a "martini day" in our household is one that is a little more stressful than normal. This concept started about 5 years ago when my mother-in-law first because ill. Several times a week, I would make the 1 hour trip from Menifee to Carlsbad to visit with her, take care of her, shuffle her back and forth to various doctors, etc. I'd call Doug from the front gate of our community to tell him it was time to mix the martinis!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

How furious can one woman get?

Okay - I thought all day about this post. I heard the story on NPR, I read the newspaper, jotted down notes, remembered not-so-nice episodes in my life, and really planned to write a scathing indictment of the U. S. Preventive Services Task Force announcement that recommended regular mammograms for low-risk women begin at 50 rather than 40
years of age. I've been seething all day -- how dare they?

Talk to all the women you know. All of us know women who have fought this disease. Many of us know women, fine women, who have lost the battle. We have the tools to help us detect and fight this dreaded disease. Now some panel tells us to delay diagnosis and treatment? I don't think so.

I've read the reports. I understand the concept of weighing the risks versus the benefits. A little voice in my head is also saying that this panel wants us to weigh the "costs" versus the benefits. Can't prove it .... but it does make a little bit of sense.

Find a woman in your life who has not had breast cancer touch her life. She has a friend, a relative, a co-worker who has met this disease head on. I lost a dear friend to this disease at the age of 42. 42 42 42 42 42

Think about it. 42 42 42 42

I'm 64. I've lived 22 years longer than my dear friend. Life is cruel. It didn't have to be this way.

What galls me most about this report is the insensitivity of it. Quoting the article in the L. A. Times this morning:

"Screening 1300 women in their 50s to save one life is worth it, but screening 1900 women in their 40s to save one life is not." Just whose life isn't worth the cost of a screening? I want to know whose life is expendable?

Another quote: "Women in their 40s have more aggressive cancers, have higher risks of death and recurrence, and more difficult cancers to treat," added Dr. Alice Chung, assistant director of the John Wayne Cancer Institute Breast Center in Santa Monica. "When you are weighing the benefits and risks for them, the benefits clearly outweigh the risks."

Is there someone out there willing to step up and be the sacrificial life? By the way, the article also noted that 17% of breast cancer deaths in 2006 were among women diagnosed in their 40s. How many breast cancer victims SURVIVED because they were diagnosed in their 40s?????

We've spent decades educating women about breast cancer, encouraging them to have routine mammograms and look for signs of breast cancer. This is a treatable, curable disease if caught early. How many women will hear of this "recommendation" and put their mammogram - and their health - on the back burner? I shudder to think about it. Give women an opportunity to put others first, and they will jump at the chance. We sacrifice, we martyr ourselves, and then we lose ourselves.

I want my daughter, and my granddaughters, to have better health care than I have had, not worse. Why are we taking a step backward? Okay, I'm a reasonable person and a fairly intelligent person. I understand that science moves forward and accepted practices from one generation become antiquated and no longer necessary or recommended. Remember blood letting and leaches? But come on .... mammograms? Mammograms that save lives? Are we nuts?

So tonight I plead with my daughter and all of her generation .... take responsibility for your own health. Insist on those mammograms. Step up to the machine and lay out those boobs! Do not permit a "panel of experts" to dictate your future health.

Monday, November 16, 2009

This is a pain in the gut --- Chapter 5

Today I learned firsthand about nuclear medicine. In the ongoing quest to find a reason for my gut pain, my gastroenterologist ordered a HIDA Scan with CCK, which is basically a really fancy (and probably expensive) CT scan. I was told to be at the imaging center at 8 a.m. for paperwork, with the test scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m.

No food or drink for 6 hours prior. No problem - I awoke at 2 a.m. and stayed awake staring at the ceiling until 6:10 a.m. when I decided I could get out of bed and settle my nerves by showering and dressing in "comfortable, loose-fitting clothes." Again, no problem - that's all you wear when your gut hurts 18 hours a day.

Unfortunately, there was some kind of mishap and the concoction that they were planning on injecting into my veins was not at the imaging center. So I waited for an hour past my scheduled appointment for the test to begin. The technician, George, started the IV about 9:15 a.m. and waited patiently with me for another 15 minutes or so until the medicine arrived from Loma Linda. A knock on the door, and a delivery man walked in the door with a small, zippered parcel labeled "biohazard." Oh, boy! Radioactive material on site ....

I know I should be more proactive and assertive. I expected George to give me a little info on the procedure, so I didn't ask questions. All of a sudden, I was encased in a large circular device with an IV started in my right arm and George was gone. There was no sound, no movement, only soft jazz music playing. I assumed George would tell me that we were starting the test. No. After a couple of minutes, I decided that we must be going forward and then just tried to relax and stay still.

Do you know how hard it is be motionless when your brain is telling you that you have to move? Every muscle in your body is screaming "I need to move!" So it is truly an exercise in mind control. I kept telling myself that one squirm = do this test over. I did not want to do it over!

After about an hour and a half, George permitted me to squirm and stretch (although I was not allowed to use the restroom - bad, bad, bad), and then he took a few "side views" and got ready to start the second half of the test. The "special delivery medicine" was injected into my veins and I was cautioned to stay very still and not to take deep breaths. Okay, mind control once again. I really fought this time to stay still picturing each of my grandchildren in turn and focusing on their great smiles!

I'm glad this is over, and I really hope that the test shows some kind of problem so that I can get to the next step - fixing this!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Forgotten "Veterans"

We celebrated Veterans Day today in a handful of ways. The flag was up before 7 a.m., of course, and we participated in our community celebration at the clubhouse. A local color guard presented the flags, our choral group sang patriotic songs, we heard stories from resident veterans, and we all sang and cheered to the various corps anthems as veterans stood at attention and received grateful applause - Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard. I loudly applauded my dear husband when he stood to be acknowledged for his service in the U. S. Army in Vietnam. I once marched in protest of that war; I will always be proud of the men and women who answered their call to duty.

I was a little nostalgic today, though, for my dad. My dad was born in 1914 and would have been a prime candidate to serve in World War II. He looked like a healthy American man, ready and able to serve his country. He was, however, 4F, due to a childhood accident. At the age of 12, he was hit by a hardball during a baseball game. He had continued vision problems, infections, complications, and his eye was eventually removed at the age of 18; he wore a glass eye for the rest of his life.

Dad "served" during WWII by working for the Pratt-Whitney Company, assembling airplane motors. According to mom's stories, he even tested the motors occasionally which was not in his job description!

We hear a lot about "Rosie the Riveter" - those women who filled in for men who served overseas during WWII. We don't hear a lot about men who stayed at home and also served their country by working on the assembly lines to supply the fighting forces with the tools they needed to fight the enemy.

My dad was my hero. He was a gentle, quiet man. If he had been eligible, I have no doubt that he would have joined the armed forces and served gallantly across the seas to defend our country and fight for the freedom that all people deserve. I imagine that Dad had a few painful moments wondering what people thought when they saw this outwardly healthy man living with his family on the homefront when others were under enemy fire in distant lands.

So, on this Veterans Day, I say "Thanks, Dad" for serving our country.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

This is a pain in the gut --- Chapter 4

I've spent most of the last 6 weeks or so since I last posted in daily pain. There is still no answer to why I have continued abdominal pain. A few weeks ago I had an esophagogastroduodenoscopy (yup - that's what they call it!). Fortunately, you are sedated during this procedure and don't realize that they are shoving a tube and camera down your throat to look at most of your digestive system ....

The results were basically normal. Good news, of course, except that I am still left with the pain and no diagnosis. Last week, Doug and I headed off to my primary physician because over-the-counter meds (ibuprofen) were no longer getting the pain to a manageable level. She prescribed voltaren. Some days it works, some days it doesn't work.

If I manage my activities (i.e., no long drives, periodic breaks during the day to sit and relax, going bra-less), I can get through the day. Late afternoon and evenings are the worst. I'm usually in a great deal of pain from 1 to 2 hours every night before bedtime. This is certainly a mystery!

On Monday, I am scheduled for an HIDA scan with CCK. This is a second go-around on the theory that the gall bladder is the culprit. Apparently, there are diseases and/or malfunctions of the gall bladder that do not show up on an ultrasound. So off to the imaging center we go once again. They'll insert various substances into my veins, take multiple images, and see what they can see. I've got my fingers crossed that this test shows something! At least if it is the gall bladder, they can just yank that sucker out!

If test shows no abnormalities, then the assumption is that it is musculoskeletal. In that case, I get a referral to a pain management clinic. I have reservations about treating something without a true diagnosis, but the pain is really having a negative effect on our lives. Reminds me of what my mother-in-law said when she was in pain: I want my life back! Do I sound like I am whining? You betcha ....