Saturday, June 4, 2011

Righten the odds

I thought nothing could get to me.  

Oh, it's okay, Dear Reader, my "jumping off" remains a trustworthy fact. But something did almost scare me to the point where I considered failure a decent enough option.

Shame stopped me, and stilled me, and brought me back to reason -- if, indeed, reason embraces notions such as God, and God's grace.

If, indeed, reason covers Kate.

I'm putting my newfound sobriety (oh, shut up) on the line and saying, "yes, reason covers not just a multitude of your miserable ass sins, reason also covers the unsullied, the babies, the loving mothers, the faithful fathers... yes, reason covers radiation and chemo therapies, covers the good doctors, nurses, aides, and techs... yes, reason covers daughter sisters and son brothers... and most definitely, reason covers kate.

I checked my email for the first time today (instead of the addicted hourly regimen followed by my Former Junkie Self) -- at 19:00. At roughly 19:00:23, I thought of my own failure, and how much of a likelihood it would become were the message I was about to read a very difficult one.  All I knew at that point was that it had been just over a week since Holly McRae had posted an update to her journal about Kate's journey on CaringBridge.  It was my catastrophic bent at that second to think the very worst.

I beg Holly's pardon as the necessary shift to it's-not-all-about-me takes hold. 

This is the entirety of what she posted (forgive me for that, as well) and if you've never met Kate through her mother's words before, consider a trip over to the CaringBridge to read all of her journaling.  It will move and inspire you.  It can almost make a believer out of anyone, just to righten the odds.

I continue to find it harder and harder to update. Not for lack of things happening, and most definitely not for lack of emotion, simply for the lack of words. No words seem adequate for what our hearts feel, on the good days and on the awful days. It is a constant daily battle to reign in our thoughts and fears concerning Kate. Being that I am the one who engages more of the medical side of Kate's diagnosis and reads more of the literature concerning it, I tend to struggle with it more heavily.

Kate is doing well. Of course everything is relative, and that being quite relative to her diagnosis. We are grateful the last chemo did not cause more symptoms or side effects in Kate than it did. She is easily fatigued, which is probably more related to the radiation, and continues with stomach pains here and there. Her appetite is unpredictable, so again we are having to be less strict with what she eats, simply to get her to eat some days. I have noticed that she also seems slightly less engaged with others outside of our home. I am not sure as to the reason, and have stopped guessing. I simply cherish the moments we see her full throttle at home.

Kate was horribly disappointed to learn that she would be getting chemo again this week. I guess she had forgotten. We had not! It has been a delicate dance learning to be grateful we have something to fight with, while at the same time despising those very treatments. She will have her bloodwork drawn on Tuesday to see what effect the chemo had on her blood counts and then proceed with the infusion of her biweekly chemo. I am sure we will also discuss a starting date for the Avastin, and begin scheduling her next MRI. We are obviously no longer on the every 3 month plan for scans. I was actually hoping for monthly MRI's and have realized that 2 months for now is probably best. It is a very delicate balance not scanning too early, and yet not allowing too much time to pass if cancer is growing unnoticed. If we scan before we allow time for the chemo to have an effect, there is the possibility we could see growth and take her off of one of the few medications that may work. The reason for not desiring to scan too infrequently is obvious. So our thought is her next MRI will most likely be early to mid July.

This month marks the 2 year anniversary of Kate's diagnosis. God has been working ferociously on my heart the past few months concerning just that. The disappointment and at times anger for that which she is faced. How we had hoped and prayed that at 2 years we would find our sweet girl cancer free, that we would be celebrating God's faithfulness and His mercy in allowing Kate freedom from the clutches of this disease. Rather we find ourselves battling 2 new tumors and facing the uncertainty of an aggressive and unforgiving disease that almost always ends in death. We find ourselves facing the ramifications of having had to aggressively radiate her entire brain and spine in hopes of sparing her life. We find ourselves craving the days past where getting the tangles out of her curly blonde hair was the most frustrating part of the morning. Now we wonder if her hair will ever come back.

And yet, despite our raging disappointments, God continues to be faithful. And He most definitely continues to be able to heal her. As much as my heart yearns to see her walk again without a brace and to see her right hand paint so beautifully as it once did, I am reminded she also faced a day she could not move her right side at all. A day when thoughts plagued us if we would ever see her move outside her wheelchair. If we would ever hear her sweet voice utter our names again, or tell us she loved us. So we celebrate the blessings mixed in with the current pains. We continue to fight for her life, and for her quality of life. And in the same breathe realize this life is not our ultimate home. Never have I been more grateful for that.

Tomorrow we celebrate a very sweet day in our daughters lives. Aaron will be baptizing both Kate and Olivia. So tomorrow we celebrate those things God has done in our daughters lives. And the rest of the week we continue the treatments hoping and praying Kate will have a lifetime to share those things with others. Thanks for being persistent in prayer for Kate's healing.

The Jump Off

Well, this methadone addict "jumped off" last night at precisely 6:30 PM. I'm not at the 24 hour mark yet, 2 more of those hours remain. You wanna hear something crazy? I've now started the "jump off" for Percocet -- retroactive to 5 AM today. I'm about at the 12 hour mark for that bit of lunacy.

The 30 hour mark for methadone is notorious for its difficulty, so tonight at just half past midnight is when the toughest times are anticipated to *begin*. Is that scaring me? Yes. Do I think I will emerge victorious in my battle against the Demon Opiates? Yes, indeed. Else I would not have "jumped off" to begin with. According to the written schedule I drew up over a week ago, I was so scared as to give each new level of methadone dosage FIVE days... Yet I decided last night to give the 10 mg level short shrift and only ONE day of experience.

My hands are twitching so much that I may actually have to run spellcheck.

We won't discuss my legs except to say that were my feet able to stand the feel of shoes, balletic toe shoes (size 15) might just slip right on. My toes seem to fusing...

And my knees are somehow imploding, bending backward.

And, yep, I am testing those knees every time the half-bath -- just 15 feet away -- calls.

And, yep, Fred is up to speed and greatly encouraging. I believe that my earlier read on The Fredster was Demon-Driven. Was I setting him and myself up as the excuse of my failure? I damned well think I was. But no more. Let's just say that I remembered, just in time, that Fred was raised on cowboy movies and cowboy philosophy, and that he cannot be envisioned in anything but a white hat.

Possibly the weirdest symptom of this withdrawal is how COLD I feel.

COLD in terms of temperature, You Numbnuts! I woke covered by heavy blankets, something that I just don't do. Always, I feel HOT, stifled by CRPS and its attendant pains. I even dialed down the temp for the air conditioner, again something that I just don't do.

The worst symptom is exactly the reason for which I began taking methadone to begin with, and that is PAIN. I feel every ache, every lancinating bit of neuropathic sadomasochism. It's the only thing reminding me of the despairing truth -- that I will have to find a new way to control pain if the new ketamine regime fails. The only thing I know for sure is that it will not be what the doctor there wants me on -- Prialt. I cannot see having that stuff injected into my spine, and you betcha, I am scared to death of the side effects.

[Chief among them being an apparent predilection for suicide.]

Anyway... though I've much that wants to be written -- most of it about the French Open, some of it about the recent USAmerican drone strike that killed Ilyas Kashmiri -- my focus right now is laser lit on my various time pieces.

Because this methadone addict "jumped off" last night at precisely 6:30 PM.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

"... rest in the grace of the world..."

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

— Wendell Berry

wednesday morning catcam

You can never have too much cat.


Buddy the Kitten is huge now, and increasingly brave.  Not quite brave enough to confront Marmy Fluffy-Butt, yet, but getting there.  In fact, about the only piece of cat documentary that we lack is a feature length film following their evolving relationship.  Buddy recognizes Marmy's superior position within Marlinspike Hall, but still covets the fluffiness and innate playfulness of her magnificent, waving tail.

He always seems so shocked when reminded that this friendly piece o' hairiness is connected to Marmy the BeAtch -- as you'll see in this little video, when he finds himself perilously close to Her Highness after jumping on the couch.  (Oh my God, she's attached to her tail... Oops!)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ustjay aysay onay otay ufflesray!

If ever there were a woman not meant to wear ruffles on her tennis clothes, it is Francesca Schiavone.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Master of Contradiction

The grin went ear-to-ear at discovering that ruuscal had used my favorite Stephen Maria Crane poem to illustrate some of his (her?) grand photographic work over at American Idyll.

I saw a man pursuing the horizon;

Round and round they sped.

I was disturbed at this;

I accosted the man.

"It is futile," I said,

"You can never — "

"You lie," he cried,

And ran on.

( offers 103 Poems of Stephen Maria Crane for download.)


I thought that watching Reefer Madness might enliven this afternoon's bit of methadone withdrawal -- but I haven't had the concentration (o-k-a-y, or mood!) necessary for that to happen. But that doesn't mean that you aren't primed for it!

The details behind my first viewing of this national treasure still boggle my mind.

I was in the hospital with a high fever. High enough that I had been put on a cooling blanket. Reefer Madness popped on the television and as I had been disconnected from the controls, it stayed on. It was a horrible night of chills, sweats, and confusion. Around 9 the next morning, a friend dropped in to see me. He was an engineering grad student at this illustrious university and so I didn't hesitate to enlist his aid -- because despite the reassurances of nurses, I didn't seem to be the least bit cooler from the cooling blanket. He coolly gauged the situation, grasped the cord emanating from the end of the thing, and followed it to the plug's final resting place -- on the floor, by the wall, not the least bit plugged in. So, basically, I had been baking between sheets of plastic all night long, my brain suitably entertained by the delerium of this short flick...

May you enjoy it with some friends, and in better circumstances.

film and notes are courtesy of the Internet Archive (something you MUST check out, iffen ya haven't yet!

Considered THE archetypal sensationalized anti-drug movie, but it's really an exploitation film made to capitalize on the hot taboo subject of marijuana use. Like many exploitation films of the time, "Reefer Madness" tried to make a quick buck off of a forbidden subject while skirting the Motion Picture Production Code of 1930. The Code forbade the portrayal of immoral acts like drug use. (The illegal drug traffic must not be portrayed in such a way as to stimulate curiosity concerning the use of, or traffic in, such drugs; nor shall scenes be approved which show the use of illegal drugs, or their effects, in detail.)

The film toured around the country for many years - often being re-edited and re-titled ("Tell Your Children", "Dope Addict", "Doped Youth", "Love Madness", "The Burning Question"). It was re-discovered in the early 1970s by NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) and screened again as an example of the government's demonization of marijuana. NORML may have been confused about the film's sponsorship since one of the film's distributors, Dwain Esper, testified to the Arizona Supreme Court that "Reefer Madness" was not a trashy exploitation film but was actually sponsored by the U.S. Government - a convincing lie, but a lie nonetheless.

That being said, the film is still quick enjoyable since it dramatizes the "violent narcotic's ... soul destroying" effects on unwary teens, and their hedonistic exploits enroute to the bottom.

Also, if you are interested in the rich, uniquely American history of exploitation films, there are two excellent books on the subject:

"Forbidden Fruit - The Golden Age of the Exploitation Film", Felicia Feaster and Bret Wood, Midnight Marquee Press, 1999.

"Bold! Daring! Shocking! True! A History of Exploitation Films, 1919 - 1959" Eric Schaefer, Duke University Press, 1999.

Director: Louis J. Gasnier
Producer: George A. Hirliman
Production Company: G and H Production

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Tinny Quavers: Ukulele Music

I was introduced to Israel Kamakawiwo'ole when the television show ER used his "What a Wonderful World/Somewhere Over the Rainbow" medley.  It was a beautiful pairing -- Mark Green's necessary death in Hawaii and Iz's pristine ukulele, his own gasps and sighs -- fitting, both, under a broad blue sky, floating above an ocean.

Madison Avenue was ahead of the game, casting the song in commercials for deodorant, in several soundtracks, including Meet Joe Black, Finding Forrester, 50 First Dates and IMAX: Hubble 3DAs different markets have been exposed to the medley over a disparate length of time, the work has hit high on various charts in a span as large as 17 years.  First released in 1993, it reached number one in Germany last year...

Beyond Iz, I've never gone out of my way to find the latest in ukulele music.  That truly seemed like a one-time thing, that venture into the guitar's subset.

Enter Eddie Vedder.

My introduction to Vedder as a solo artist came, once again, through television and movies -- Deadliest Catch, Into the Wild and the anthem "Rise."

And there it was, that damned uke.  Unlike a good many instruments, it gives off an aura of strict self-sufficiency -- and that is it's incomplete paradox.  It needs a counterpoint of voice, something to temper its tinny quavers.  Voice and instrument together?  Perfected melancholy, and those diminutive strings that had threatened to go off on their own, brought back in an homage to dispossession, to life on an edge.

I'd never have thought that a ukulele -- played beautifully -- could speak so perfectly to something within, some archetype that sleeps until teased, its strings strummed almost angrily or picked and plucked in a near simper.  It's the perfect vessel for folklore, and for the dispossessed. (Ua Mau ke Ea o ka ‘Aina i ka Pono, indeed...)

Based on I-don't-know-what, the uke has been classified in my sad head as a trite sound, as if it were a toy instead of an actual instrument requiring great skill.  It's one of those "idées reçues" for which I'd love to find the genesis.

Tiny Tim?  Maybe, though I was actually a fan -- a fan hoping to irritate the 'rents, sure, but still, a fan.  He was way more than "Tiptoe thru' the tulips." **

I woke up feeling mighty ill this morning, but musically inclined.  Nothing that I put my hands on fit the bill, however, and I was close to settling for local radio.  My detoxifying brain nixed that notion and I found myself on the NPR website, combing through entries to "First Listen."  

There it was:

First Listen: Eddie Vedder, 'Ukulele Songs'

May 25, 2011

For his second full-length solo album, Eddie Vedder has taken up one of the most useful creative tools available: limitation. It's embodied in a little finger-strummed thing that the Pearl Jam singer picked up during a beer run in Hawaii nearly 15 years ago, an instrument whose limits he never pushes, and which ends up refining and expanding his own range. Ukulele Songs isn't a novelty record; it's a statement of truth. Made calm and open by the ukulele's intimacy, Vedder sounds like someone getting out of his own way and discovering what really matters within his art.

What matters musically, as he's been saying lately in interviews, is melody. The baritone growl that not quite singlehandedly defined millennial American rock transforms here into the lullaby singer's murmur and a romancer's croon. Pearl Jam is a big, noisy band, and in many of its best songs, Vedder has ridden its big waves hard: He's helped many a fan safely unleash un-pretty emotions. Here, though, he asks the listener to pull back with him and pay attention to the tiptoe of his voice as he descends a scale, or the sweetness of slipping into falsetto.

Vedder's song selections are culled from more than a decade's worth of writing he's done on the uke. A Pearl Jam song, the driving "Can't Keep," opens the set and seems like a form of reassurance — Vedder hasn't gone totally soft, Ten Club members! But the craving for escape that the song expresses here seems like a bit of a fake-out. Everywhere else, from tearjerkers like "Sleeping By Myself" and "Broken Heart" to the more hopeful likes of "Without You" to the vintage crooners' favorites that Vedder covers, Ukulele Songs is about staying still enough to feel something calmly and clearly... READ THE REST *HERE*

You can listen to it in its entirety at the NPR website -- but when it is released for sale on May 31, remember to support the artist by buying/downloading it -- perhaps HERE.

I've had my musical fix for the day.  Uh-oh, I'm lapsing into more drug jargon... Mwa ha ha!

Seriously, though, I cannot see that there are any other musical contenders beating down my door to participate in the Ukulele Folk/Rock Division. 

How goes the methadone taper?  Famously, I suppose.  I am holding at 15 mg for a few more days, or for good, I haven't decided.  What I have done, I have done much too rapidly and my body and mind are determined that I should suffer for it.  Last night, around 3 AM, the urge to give up almost won -- due to my version of Restless Legs Syndrome (also known as Wittmaack–Ekbom syndrome).  Methadone doesn't bear the entire burden of blame here, as I inherited an affinity for "jumpy legs" from dear old Dad.  I can still remember him coming home from a mission, dead tired, falling into bed, only to be betrayed by the dread spasms and misfires in his legs.

Wikipedia opines that "[o]pioid detoxification has been associated with provocation of RLS-like symptoms during withdrawal," but what does Wikipedia know?  I also happen to have almost every pre-disposing malady it lists.  Still, the timing is kind of suggestive.  Oh, all right...

Anyway, I did what any person would do in that situation -- I dug up a bottle of trazodone and took it. 

Oh, all right...  I took a whopping 150 mg -- not the whole darned bottle -- which allowed for some sleep until pain woke me at 5 AM.  Got up, baked scones, in the process dumping half a bag of flour on myself and the kitchen floor.  Mopped, washed up, changed clothes, and slept wonderfully from 9 to 10:30 AM, at which time I began the aforementioned search for music, and began this post.

When next I attempt to sleep? I expect a hell of a soundtrack!

**  I can't resist.  This is one of my favorite covers by Tiny Tim (Herbert Khaury):