Wednesday, January 21, 2009


For you to truly have a pleasurable reading experience, I need to encourage a certain frame of mind. The fastest and least painless way to achieve this proper receptivity is to repeat the following, adding an extra five repetitions until you feel it:

They oughta do sumpthin' about that. That ain't right.
They oughta do sumpthin' about that. That ain't right.
They oughta do sumpthin' about that. That ain't right.
They oughta do sumpthin' about that. That ain't right.
They oughta do sumpthin' about that. That ain't right.

Despite the fact that everything I write here, in these rarefied environs, is little but a hodge-podge of emotion, factoid, and self-reportage, now and again I will actually TRY to extract the loose ends of my brain.

Ever since reading about Dumbledore's pensieve*, I have wanted one!

If you are unfamiliar with the Harry Potter series, you may be cursing me under your breath (for you are ever circumspect). This stone basin apparatus, covered in runes, is filled with a silvery fluid or gas, wisps of which are always swirling and threatening to escape its bounds.

Here is an elaboration that may help:

The Pensieve has multiple functions.

At times, when one's head is so
full of thoughts that one cannot hear oneself think, it is useful to be able to take some of those thoughts and literally set them aside. The practiced Wizard can extract a thought from his head and store it in a phial or in the Pensieve for another time. If it is in the Pensieve, it is possible to stir the thoughts stored there together and look for patterns. It appears that the wizard has the choice of extracting an entire memory, leaving no trace of it in his head, as
Professor Snape does in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, or extracting
a copy of a memory, retaining the original, as Professor Slughorn does in Harry
Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. It is also apparently possible to edit these
extracted memories, though it is a difficult task and one which is often not
done well.

If one places one's head within the Pensieve, one becomes immersed in a memory that is stored in the Pensieve, and is able to relive it as if one was living that time over again. Harry experienced Professor Dumbledore's memories of the Wizengamot trials of several death eaters this way in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and Professor Snape's memories of Harry's father in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

A thought or memory stored in the Pensieve can, with proper stimulus, appear to nearby viewers as if standing on the surface of the basin. Professor Dumbledore used this technique to show Harry the prophecy that had been made about him, in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and it is used in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince when full immersion in memory was not needed.

It is also possible to take another person's memories, place them in the Pensieve, and then enter them to relive them as if one were the person whose memories you have just added to the Pensieve. Harry and Professor Dumbledore do this a number of times in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in order to determine the salient points of the early history of Tom Riddle, or as he later styled himself, Lord Voldemort.

Most interestingly, the memories viewed by the person watching in the
Pensieve are more complete than the person's own observations. For instance, in
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Bob Ogden visits the Gaunt family.
Morfin speaks to him only in Parseltongue, which Ogden does not know; yet Harry, reliving Ogden's memories, not only understands what the Gaunts are saying in Parseltongue, he is able to perceive things happening outside Ogden's range of vision.

Spacing out in front of the television this morning, I found myself weeping at the images and sounds of yesterday's inauguration, thinking of my friends who can finally look to the seat of this country's power and see someone who looks like themselves, someone who can reference black history with both the dignity of higher office and the intimacy of personal truth -- which surely extracts much of the paralyzing venom from our past that keeps us from addressing the persistent conflicts and politics of race.

The most astounding thing I've heard thus far? There were no arrests made at the event in Washington, D.C. yesterday. That is an incredible commendation of the security force that was so very apparent and of that huge celebratory crowd.

If it is true. I have a hard time believing that no one got drunk or high, then predictably stupid, in all the revelry -- that there were no instances of "terroristic threat" -- that John mumble-tongued Roberts, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, was able to leave the area unscathed!

Between them, Obama and Roberts managed to absolutely mangle the Oath of Office. Fred and I were at the Infectious Disease Infusion Center -- he was asleep in the Magic Chair while I was having blood drawn and the PICC line dressing changed. It is a miracle that Christina, the nurse, didn't stick the slumbering Fredster by mistake, as her head was swiveling back and forth in an effort to watch the inaugural festivities on the T.V. mounted in the corner of the room. As noon approached, the room filled with doctors, nursing assistants, pharmacists, secretaries, and one ancient gentleman there for chemotherapy -- two, three people piled in each of those magic recliners (everyone glaring at the now loudly snoring Fred), twirling around on those round swivel stools, holding up the walls. We were all circumspect for the initial five minutes or so, and then the commentary started to fly, beginning with the aforementioned ancient gentleman patient, who said, "I have voted in every election since Truman and Dewey in 1948... and never have I wanted someone to be out of office as bad as I want Bush gone, today." I had the impression that we all relaxed after that pronouncement. I was surprised to hear the clearly partisan chatter become uninhibited, wild -- even woolly.** Christina made several lame attempts to be fair to Bush, but the crowd just wasn't feeling it, and she came clean, eventually.

The best comment about the screwed-up oath? From one of the I.D. doctors -- a severe woman whom I saw a few times in the hospital, with an equally severe jaw and angular Eastern European haircut:

"That's okay. He'll get it right next time."

Anyway (Choo choo! train of thought?) -- so there were no arrests reported. I wonder if there were any detentions or similar euphemisms for being tossed in the slammer.

big house, calaboose, can, clink, cooler, hoosegow, house of correction, jail, jug, pen, penitentiary, pokey, prison

So it turns out that the PA I so admired is perhaps as smart as a stick. And I pay for it. Shoot, you pay for it! My insurance company pays for it. Literally! For a reason we cannot fathom, she has decided to be resistant to the idea that the pus flying out of my joints and from the interior of my bones is the result of infection. She badly wants it to be an inflammatory process.

Last week, I let her do the "gout" dance, and order diagnostic tests -- despite a long, intervening conversation that included reading the operative reports where infection was clearly what was going on. She even said something like, "Okay, so it isn't just an inflammatory process... but when I attended that lecture [on gout] last week, I thought of you!" A friend wrote me Monday night, saying that she can't wait to find out what classes or lectures the PA attended last week, because she surely would test me for it!

Ah, but this scream rises from the depths of my soul, or the chambers of my large intestine: Who pays for the tests that she orders without knowing what she is doing? SHE OUGHT TO PAY FOR THEM! She even was told to refocus by her "boss," the head I.D. guy -- she spoke to him last week and again yesterday.

My problem, and it is my problem, is that I lack mental clarity to such an extent that I can no longer advocate for myself. Truly. I am not kidding. The PA could depart from the Path of Logic and Reason and I am so incapacitated by pain and lack of sleep that I don't catch half of it. Bring someone with me? I do! That guy over there asleep in the chair!

Hell, this post is not what I wanted it to be.

"My" CRPS is worse -- particularly on the right side of my body. I was ready to jump out of my skin while Christina was searching for a vein (my PICC wouldn't give any blood, darn it all). Like so many of her compatriots, and in spite of me telling her otherwise, she thinks that gentle stroking of my skin feels good. I will ask her to please not touch me unless it is part of the procedure. She will always ask "why." I will explain CRPS again to her. She will say something that she thinks is compassionate and empathetic and will simultaneously, while wearing gloves, pat and stroke my right arm. The gloves catch and pull on my skin... and it all sends me through the ceiling because of the ensuing pain. When Fred is awake to witness it (this weekly event), I swear that he is ready to kill. She also insists on rotating that right arm out and away from the body, despite my protestations and explanations about there being no shoulder, about the distinct sensation of tissue being torn and ripped, to which she always replies: "They oughta do sumpthin' about that. That ain't right." When I rotate the arm back to a less painful position, she insists I turn it out again, else she won't be able to properly dress the PICC line. She has a point, but barely.

"They oughta do sumpthin' about that. That ain't right." My sentiments, exactly, and perhaps my motto for years to come.

This morning I learned that I am developing quite the vocal dream life, judging not only by the yells reverberating in the chill air when I jolt awake, but also by Fred's faithful transcriptions. So this is what he does while I sleep!

The most recent pronouncements?

"Ears! There are two of them!"

"I can do it. I can do anything." [Said conversationally, after sitting upright and looking around the room]

"313 Fitzgerald. 8260 Southwest 145th Street." [Old addresses]

and my personal favorite:

"Excuse me, but Derrida is down the hall." [Well, he once was! His son, too.]

Conclusion? I am awfully boring, decidedly literal.

Of course, I cannot give proper shrift to the screams. The screeching scares the whole Marlinspike Hall household half to death. Cats scatter --save Marmy, who, oddly, advances. The Castafiore comes flying, the swirling hues of what can only be called a housecoat -- not so much a peignoir, really, as a kimono-inspired wrapper -- contributing to the squirrelly after-impressions of a pastel dream gone wrong.

So long as no one interrogates me about why I screamed, I usually settle back down. A few times, still caught up in the Terror of Whatever, all I perceived was a blacked-out figure bending over me and pretty much squealed -- but it was Only Fred Freaking Out [OFFO]. What a sweetie.

Hmmm. What else remains in the hodge-podge pile? Would you believe that I have at least three blog drafts written while hallucinating?

No elephants, by the way. Rather, dainty rhinos, and more aubergine than pink, with swirls of paisley in deep burgundy, offset by green forest tendrils, and small stray flecks of gold.

That's a lie!

It is not at all visual.

Rather, there seems to be a talk radio show ongoing between my ears. I suspect that I pick up the background noise of the television, the ambient noise from the street, the cats' purring, the coffee maker, the microwave.

I hear the darnedest things. Some of the broadcasts are in warm, familiar voices -- the Grader Boob's, for instance. The dulcet tones of my stepmother, I think I recognize, I am not sure. Content is the determining factor, and as I hear her recount afternoon teas and toast, being tossed in the gales, and swimming alongside our little overturned Sunfish sailboat as the dark clouds loom, thunder audible, with lightening just a promised thing -- as I hear these details, I welcome her, just as water laps against the shell.

Since my visit with Aunt Nancy a week ago, my stepmother has been almost constantly on my mind. Nancy, herself, peoples my day fantasies, these visions, my noisy dreams, as a young girl in petticoats, scared, lying under the bed, waiting for cruelty. No, no -- back to 301 Walnut Creek Drive, my glory days.

Mom reminds me how to make the toast. It matters. In the rushed early morning hour, two extra pieces of whole wheat toast are buttered, placed in that tired old pie pan recycled from the Sunday morning Sara Lee coffee cake. The bread sits for about an hour at a just warm temperature of maybe 200 degrees before we turn off the heat(never ever open the oven door before being ready to eat them, usually, Mom and I would surely agree, with afternoon tea). So we conveniently "forget" about those extra toast slices, and as we go running out the door into our day, turn the heat off. Don't dare open that oven door until you go there in surprise late that afternoon.

Crispy, aromatic, buttery, cut into triangles, served with Earl Grey or whatever was on hand. It felt civilizing. Better than Melba toast but not a telltale vice like a scone or... a cream horn. Cough. There was a bakery downtown, across the street (and believe it or not, the street was Main Street) from my stepmother's grandfather's jewelry store. This bakery made the most beautiful, light, slightly sweet cream horns and my stepmother and I would buy five -- eat two on the way home, have two with tea... and offer my father the leftover one, which he invariably refused and which we then tastefully halved! Ah, but the toast was still a wonderful accent to the day. 2.5 cream horns a day would've eventually worn us down...

Ugh. Fred just reported a "huge dead rat" in the front pasture, just beyond the Moat to Marlinspike Hall, where he was out cavorting with a friend's dog. Yes, to the three cats, he wishes to add a dog. I am a dog person, never even entertaining the thought of having cats until I met him. We had a dog together but that story is not one I wish to revisit today. Suffice it to say that I will never again subject a dog to the wiles of his temperament. He thinks he has changed and that were he to pick the dog, all would be well. I hope so, because if not, he may find himself alone in all kinds of ways.

It was only a week or so ago that I ever saw the show "The Dog Whisperer." Strangely enough, like The Boutiqueur, The Dog Whisperer advises, over and over, living in the now. I like that he does this without overburdening his subject with whatever that might mean. It may sound snotty, but it is what it is. Maybe it is not that radical a notion, eh?

"You live in the past, you get what you had in the past." I love Cesar -- when he speaks about humans, you can almost sense how frustrated the species makes him. Hence the blurb for the show "I rehabilitate dogs. I train humans."

Persistent patience. "Calm assertive."

Oh Mom.

Nancy was right, and I can no longer block what Mom said, nor should I. Why have I pretended that these things had never been said? To what end?

"[Future] Retired Educator, don't make me choose between you and your father, because I will choose him every time." And so it has gone.

Soon, in a matter of days, I am thinking, I need to honor this aunt of mine who has blown in and out of my path by allowing my mind to think about my grandfather, the sainted child abuser, the orphan who grew up knowing no one knows what. He and I rescued countless animals together
-- he helped me hand raise a blue jay that was deliberately pushed out of its nest. That bird stayed for about a year before being killed by a hawk. "Squawky" and I played outside, the jay hopping from tree to tree, yelling and laughing with me, but he usually came in at night, at least in the first months he could fly.

Oh, and if you did not know, teaching a wild baby bird to fly is perhaps the most humbling of activities. You are familiar with the scenario of a kitten up a tree? Substitute a baby blue jay who was taught to fly by hand flutter techniques, managed to land -- okay, more like crash land -- on this high branch, and now is stuck here with no notion what to do except to call for his largish and clumsy mother, who doesn't have a clue except to turn to her gently smiling grandfather, who quietly went and got a ladder.

My nightmares, my fevers, these hallucinatory days? I hope they will lead me to dream of Granddaddy as he might have been as a small boy -- intelligent, lovable, loving, and orphaned. Maybe I will understand how he could beat his children, but probably not. It's not something I am seeking to excuse or deny, but I know that it is important for me to accept that it happened, and to be less shocked by the many permutations it has had, as it rippled forward in time.

They oughta do sumpthin' about that. That ain't right.
They oughta do sumpthin' about that. That ain't right.
They oughta do sumpthin' about that. That ain't right.
They oughta do sumpthin' about that. That ain't right.
They oughta do sumpthin' about that. That ain't right.

*A Pensieve is a stone receptacle used to store and review memories. Covered in mystic runes, it contains memories that take physical form as a type of matter that is described as neither liquid nor gas. A witch or wizard can extract their own or another person’s memories, store them in the Pensieve, and review them later. It also relieves the mind when it becomes cluttered with information. Anyone can examine the memories in the Pensieve, which also allows viewers to fully immerse themselves in the memories stored within, much like a magical form of real world virtual reality.

Users of these devices view the memories from a third-person-point-of-view, providing a near-omniscient perspective of the events preserved. This, of course, raises questions of how they are able to see things beyond what they have remembered. Rowling answered this question in an interview, confirming that memories in the pensieve allow one to view details of things that happened even if they did not notice or remember them, and stated that "that's the magic of the Pensieve, what brings it alive". The "memories" contained in the Pensieve have the appearance of silver threads. Memories that have been heavily manipulated or tampered with to alter perspectives, or are simply aged and gone-spoiled (such as Slughorn's), may appear thick and jelly-like and offer obscured viewing. Memories are not limited to just those of humans, since at least one house-elf (Hokey) provided Dumbledore with a memory as well.

** "Wild and woolly"
Meaning: Lawless and uncultured.

Origin: This expression is of American origin and came into being to describe the 'wild' west of the country sometime after the Californian Gold Rush era of the 1850s. The US publication The Protestant Episcopal Quarterly Review and Church Register, 1855, included a reference to the "wild and woolly-haired Negillo", which is almost there.

The first example I can find of the precise phrase in print is in the Missouri newspaper The Sedalia Daily Democrat, December 1875:

"W. A. Palmer, the South Bend, Indiana, murderer and paramour of Dolly Tripp, was for several years resident of Clinton. Bill always was one of the 'wild and woolly' kind and would associate with the demimonde."

[Hmm. From further reading, I presume that "negillo" means "negrito," a reference to "pygmy."]

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Text of President Obama's Inaugural Address

Text of President Barack Obama's inaugural address on Tuesday, as delivered.

OBAMA: My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we the people have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land — a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted — for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sanh.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. All this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions — who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. Those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control — and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers ... our found fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all the other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort — even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to the suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment — a moment that will define a generation — it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence — the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed — why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent Mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world ... that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet (it)."

America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Osteomyelitis: The Crabby Disease

This ought to make you laugh.

I read that osteomyelitis can cause irritability. "Yes," thought my ill-behaved, Nazi-quoting self, eager to be let off all applicable hooks, "Why, that explains *everything*!"

Unfortunately, further inquiry determined this to be the case in...

Poor babies!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Per se

Following the death of a man with CRPS, the anesthesiologist interviewed by the local Colorado NBC news station said that CRPS takes over, or consumes, a patient's life. It's true, and while a simple and easily understood truth, it is embarrassing.

Equally odd? He refers to CRPS as an "entity," which feels, somehow, like unwarranted exhibitionism, like having a flasher for a doctor. I mean, it's like this: I can know The Entity because we are intimate; You can't because you aren't.

"Do you get out much?" ventured my tremulous aunt a few days ago.

That ought not to be so hard to answer -- a little white lie would do nicely. Instead, I found myself trying to tell the truth and heard utterly twit-like statements leave my mouth -- stuff about pain and fear of injury, fever and sweats, an intravenous schedule; But mostly I harped on overwhelming fatigue. That's not something I often formulate, so I surprised even myself with that excuse. Like I said, embarrassing.

I try to remember and heed the advice of the good Boutiqueur: "Take it a day at a time. Heal."

A landmark birthday rapidly approaching, I have been thinking quite a bit about death, and so, by extension, about life, as well. I don't believe that God saves people -- or, at least, does not kill them off -- because He has something super special in mind for said folk. I don't believe that God is out there opening some windows and doors, shutting others, and urging us not to hit our heads -- it is just much too pedestrian a role for the deity.

There are days I would like to die, days I pray for it, proving myself, in the process, to be an unenlightened hypocrite -- the worst sort of bad hypocrite! Yesterday having been such a day, I approached today with caution and stringent organization, divvying up the allotted hours and minutes as if my activities actually had import.

Shiver. Flashes of a recent Jane Eyre interpretation -- and the wonderful scene in Chapter 21 where an uptight Eliza lights into the vacuous Georgiana, as Mrs. Reed lay dying upstairs in the famous "red room" at Gateshead Hall. Eliza advises:

Take one day; share it into sections; to each section apportion its
task: leave no stray unemployed quarters of an hour, ten minutes, five
minutes — include all; do each piece of business in its turn with method,
with rigid regularity. The day will close almost before you are aware it has
begun; and you are indebted to no one for helping you to get rid of one
vacant moment: you have had to seek no one's company, conversation,
sympathy, forbearance; you have lived, in short, as an independent being
ought to do.

Okay, so my internal Eliza Reed has been mouthing off, leaving me convinced that I'll be a better person for checking items off of a list -- and being solitary about my accomplishments, too. Don't we all want to arrive at the end of a day, or a life, able to say we "got rid" of those pesky stray vacant moments? I set off. The game was a foot.

Getting the years of what I hope was gravy off of the aunt-donated tureen took its entire allotted 20 minutes, and a more righteous person would have stretched it to half an hour. (Hey, you try doing the dishes without benefit of shoulders! That freaking tureen was filthy, too, and I can count on one hand the number of times I have plaintively wailed: "Oh my dear Lord! If only I had a huge freaking soup tureen with little acorns on the handles and lid, as well as unidentifiable muddy brown stains in every acorn-encrusted nook and cranny! Yes, God, if only I had such a tureen.")

Fred's tureen reaction was the best:

"I guess we gotta make some soup."

Unfortunately, the tureen is not Pfaltzgraff. I love saying Pfaltzgraff. Though there is nothing keeping me from saying Pfaltzgraff. In fact, there are young men and women putting their lives on the line right this instant just so that I may freely say Pfaltzgraff. (It doesn't hurt to occasionally beat the bushes of the blog {blush} just to see who is skulking around and besides, I refuse to be liable just because you were stupid enough to lolly gag around in the poison ivy.)

Next domesticity? Attacking the accumulated cat hair! If I consolidate the time spent on this eternal project *today*, it'd be close to an hour and a half -- including vacuuming. I am queen of the Lint Rollers, keeping one hidden in almost every room, along with my collection of 14 karat gold designer Grabbers.

Because I am immunocompromised, I am not allowed to clean the cats' litter boxes. Crocodile tears... That pleasure falls to the Fredster who is just so darned *good* at it, and cherishes the task to such an extent that no one would dream of depriving him. Don't even joke about it! Pfaltzgraff! Still, they react to my hair assaults much in the way that they react to the organized removal of their precious pee and poop. I look down to see them moving around the chair much like one would expect a gaggle of shark to swim. Then they find a perch from which to observe -- Sam-I-Am from the highest point possible, maybe atop the shredded leather recliner; Dobby from some midpoint, like the second story of the Cat Condo; and Marmy from an I-Can-See-You-But-You-Can't-See-Me spot, usually behind the turned leg of a chair. Her tail alone is bigger than anything she ever hides behind, but, hey! That's Marmy. *Ack* *Ack*

When I drag off coverlets, pillows, throws and what-have-yous to the washer, they all troop behind me, one by one, reminding me of how elephants sometimes troop along, tail to trunk, trunk to tail. Even though we always do full loads, always use cold water and the shortest cycle, I know I am making big old carbon footprints when I go on the warpath against cat hair. I hope future generations will forgive me.

Vacuuming with CRPS and no shoulders from a wheelchair is a riot, a veritable hootenanny. Pfaltzgraff! Watching it is also fun, from what I am told, particularly if the spectator is clueless as to why someone might yell, curse, and gyrate while tossing cords high into the air and popping wheelies...

Sure as can be, whenever there is domestic discord in Marlinspike Hall, one of two calamities will befall me when I endeavor to vacuum. Either I will manage to wrap the electric cord of the vacuum around one of my huge back wheels and therefore am unable to extricate myself without, sniff, assistance, or, similarly, I will get the cord wrapped around my feet and from the pain that causes, become incomprehensible, useless, and desperate, but very LOUD.

It sucks to have to thank someone when you are mad at them. Fred is always gracious about it. I wonder, though. As often as it happens? It has only happened twice when he was not at home. Pretty astounding odds. Hmmm.


Yes, I am perfectly aware of the link sitting atop all my verbiage, the genesis for this rambling. A man who had CRPS died. People with CRPS die all the time, I would imagine, there being no special dispensation from death just because you spent your lifetime in unimaginable pain. A fair number of people, in fact, reportedly kill themselves in advance of their God-allotted term due to the constant burning, throbbing, lancinating pain.

Due to not being able to wear shoes. Not being able to wear any clothing that is not almost sinfully soft and of a good natural fiber -- oh, but it all must be "pull on" -- you know, the crapola that passes for gimp "active wear." Get CRPS in your face and enjoy fissures splitting open your skin, oozing. Try hard to swallow your longing, your desires, especially when the only place left that's tolerable to touch is one half of one hand.

No, in all seriousness -- this is why I would kill myself: I am not able to do that which I was born to do. I am extremely gifted and now that talent is nothing but a gaping and twisted empty grin. Caring for, nurturing, teaching, and learning from others has become this entirely oral affair -- just costume jewelry verbiage kissed with cheap Austrian crystals. Oh? Excuse me! Pfaltzgraff! Did I say all that out loud? Did I mention the unending pain -- not minor pain -- unending burning, throbbing, lancinating -- oh? Been there. done that? Okay.

I used to scoff at what had to be Urban Legends, until I recognized the thoughts rolling by on my personal teleprompter as being born of the same Myth: if I could, I would cut this leg arm hand foot face head off...

My condolences to his family and friends. Maybe he died from a drug reaction, a stroke. Maybe he had a heart attack. They speak of his peace, and that is a grand, grand thing.

CRPS cannot kill you. It takes over, it drives you crazy, it makes you hurt beyond what you thought possible. In combination with my necrotic and infected skeletal system, with that dilation of the aortic arch, I feel downright doomed -- tick to ck. Pfaltzgraff!

But don't overreact! Because CRPS cannot kill you --

Per se.

Nick HOCH, October 10, 1971 - January 7, 2009. Resident of Thornton, Colorado. After a courageous battle with RSD, Nick passed away peacefully while in the hospital awaiting surgery. Nick was born and raised in Aurora, CO and graduated from Rangeview High School. He honorably served his country for 3 years as a Paratrooper in the U.S. Army. He was one of four children born to Thomas and Laura Hoch and was the beloved husband of Katherine Hoch. Nick will forever be remembered by his devoted brothers, Tom Jr. and Rob, loving sister, Emily, beloved children, Nicholas Gerald Jr., Peter Thomas and Henry Douglas, along with countless other friends and family whom were blessed to know him.