Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Happy Halloween!
Autumn. It’s my favorite time of year, not the least because of Samhain or what is more widely known as Halloween.  For Ancient Celts, Samhain (pronounced Sow-in) was the end of one year and the beginning of a new one.  They believed that on this night the veil between the living and those who have passed on thins.  I like to think so.
The other night my eight-year-old grandson asked, “Grammy, do you believe in ghosts?”  I truthfully told him that I had no evidence either way, but that there is much in the world that has not been explained and that I like to think that those whom I love and have died have not gone far and that on Halloween are closer still.
Contrary to what the American religious Right would have you think, Samhain has never been an occasion for worshipping the devil.  Neither the Ancient Celts nor modern Wiccans even believe in the existence of the devil although both acknowledge there to be evil in the world.  That evil was not and is not worshipped except by those who have perverted the traditions of the Ancient Ones.
In the 1990s my mother had a pastor who looked and sounded like Reverend Kane in the movie Poltergeist, who admonished their bible study group that Halloween ought not to be celebrated because it was demonic.  I was surprised that my mother had swallowed that because as a child carving pumpkins and trick or treating in our ‘50s tract housing development was a big deal that I participated in and my own children had trick or treated in the 1970s and ‘80s with no ill effects.  People like “Reverend Kane” prey upon others who are already afraid of life in this world.
I like Halloween because it and its Christian off-shoots of All Saints Day and the Day of the Dead are a chance to honor and remember our loved ones who have left this world.  Celtic tradition included a Dumb Supper where a place was set at the table for the missing family member.  Last week the Tacoma Art Museum held their annual Day of the Dead exhibit where artists and groups were invited to create altars honoring people.  These can include pictures, flowers, and objects that tell the story of the life of the person.  My daughter-in-law Ana and I liked the idea so well that we adopted it in our home, albeit on a smaller scale.
Halloween is fun, too.  It is a chance for children of all ages to dress up in some way completely foreign to their usual attire and celebrate the harvest.  The notion that somehow the devil is going to get children who celebrate Halloween is ludicrous and we are sad that a combination of that idea and our neighborhood becoming largely retired folks means that we don’t get any munchkins knocking on the door.  Americans are spending more and more money on Halloween each year so hopefully some inroads are being made on the Puritan notion that if something is fun it must be bad.
So on Wednesday night instead of turning off your porch light and being afraid of malevolent demons in the night, take time to think about those who have passed from this life and welcome them back for a set next to the warmth of a fall fire.  And maybe have a bit of your favorite candy.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Maybe Ignorance IS Bliss
My friend Sydney Steven’s blog this morning was about blissfully sleeping unaware that an earthquake had occurred off the Queen Charlotte Islands last night.  This caused a tsunami warning that stretched all the way to the southern tip of Vancouver Island that points right at the State of Washington.  I should have been so lucky, but my granddaughter’s piano concert and a late night snack with my grandson meant I was awake when Joanne Rideout of KMUN’s The Ship Report began posting NOAA reports on Face Book last evening about the time I ought to have been calling it a night.
I am reminded of another night during which I slept perhaps too well.  In 1964 my mother, father and I spent Easter Vacation (it was still called that back then) at my grandparents’ beach house in Seaview, Washington on the Long Beach Peninsula.  We had neither telephone nor television and when we weren’t out on the beach we read for entertainment.  Then we went to bed.  That Good Friday was no different than any other night and does not stand out in my memory except in terms of the following day. 
That night my parents and I did sleep blissfully unaware that there had been a tidal wave warning (they weren’t called tsunamis in 1964—at least not by us) in the night.  Saturday morning was the first we heard about it from a neighbor boy, Christopher, who wanted to know why we hadn’t been at the gym at the old pink high school in Ilwaco the night before.  “What?” I’d asked him.  It seemed that the sheriff’s department had gone up and down the Peninsula with a bullhorn advising people to evacuate to the school which sits atop of a hill of sorts compare the to the relative flatness of the Peninsula.  Christopher said that he’d enjoyed laughing at the teenage girls in their bathrobes and big hair curlers (another thing we still did in the ‘60s).  I was glad for several reasons.  First of all, there’d been no tidal wave on the Peninsula so we were alive , second we’d had a good night’s sleep and third, when I got back to Tillicum Jr. High in Bellevue on Monday I enjoyed bragging how I’d slept through a tidal wave.  My girlfriend Deby Bingham thought it was hysterically funny.
Last night my mind was turned to my mother who fifty years later lives in an apartment in Ilwaco and has a tsunami bag.  Ironically on October 12th they’d supposedly had a test of the tsunami preparedness up and down the West Coast.  There are big flying saucers on poles located along the Peninsula that are supposed to issue warning.  I’ve heard them test it and thought God was speaking from the clouds.  There are supposed to be robo calls to the local numbers warning people to evacuate.  My mother has received those calls in the past, but not this time.  Because she’s 90 I had warned her so that she wouldn’t freak out.  This summer I spoke to Jackie Sheldon, the manager at my mother’s apartment building, and she told me that she’s arranged for buses to arrive to take the largely old and infirm residents to higher ground. 
So last night as KMUN’s The Ship Report gal posted NOAA updates about the seemingly ever expanding area of the warning and sat 150 miles away unsure of what I’d do if suddenly the Washington coast was included in the warning area.  I really panicked when it reached southern Oregon and northern California and Hawaii, but seemed to skip over Washington.  Had NOAA left something out?  Finally round midnight Rideout posted that the warnings had been reduced to advisories along BC and OR so I turned off the light and went to sleep.
My mother has a tsunami bag.  In it she has bottled water, a can opener, and a fifth of bourbon.  The latter has puzzled us since she asked my husband to buy it for her.  My youngest says that she’s going to get blind drunk and ride out the storm in her second story apartment.  Based on the tsunami practice this month that may be her best bet, but just last week she had me buy her a thermos for her bag.  She says that she’s going to make coffee if there’s time.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Better than a poke in the eye with a sharp...oh, wait
I am not a great one to run to the doctor much—ever—but because of my high blood pressure she—my doctor—does keep tabs on me at least once per year.  This year I decided to be a good patient and get all of my tests and checks done during the tail end of my Summer Break from school.  I hadn’t had my eyes checked in about seven years and to my dismay what I had interpreted as a need for new glasses was really an occluded vein in my right eye, making a fair sized hole in my vision in that eye for which my left eye, which had not changed a bit, was compensating for.  This was the result of my HBP.  But there was treatment, the ophthalmologist at Tacoma Group Health said, but for that I’d have to go to Federal Way.  I tried to wheedle out of him what sort of treatment we were talking about, but he quickly handed me the directions to the Federal Way clinic and fled. Because my commuter husband Dave returned home for surgery, I put off getting an appointment with the Federal Way clinic until after he’d returned to AZ—at least that was my justification in my mind.
My daughter-in-law Ana made the trip to Federal Way with me.  I knew that at the very least they were going to dilate my eyes again and I had no desire to attempt to drive back to Gig Harbor on I-5 with dilated eyes.  Grandson Gabriel came along, too and our threesome trooped into the examination room.  After the dilation I was sent to get my eyes scanned and then back to the exam room where we waited over long.  Gone are the days of the eye chart tacked to the wall.  Now they have a computer screen that the doctor can see and the patient views in a mirror.  After sitting there for 45 minutes we decided at least they could offer us a movie for distraction. 
Finally the doctor returned pointing out the engorged vein in my right eye and explaining the treatment would amount to injections of Avastin into the eye every four to six weeks for one to two year.  This was what I’d been afraid of.  I somehow knew that it was not going to be as easy as a pill.  Treatment had a 50/50 chance of improving my 20/50 sight in that eye.  There was a small chance of infection, damage to the cornea or damage to the retina.  Cheery.  He said they would numb my eye thoroughly.  Ana asked about the rest of me.  The doctor said that he’d never heard of anyone taking anything for nerves before the procedure.  I’m glad that Ana was there because she asked lots of questions including “How many of these have you done?” and “Would you recommend this procedure to your mother?”  Hundreds and yes were the answers.  Because I was intending to drive to the coast to shop for my mother I allowed as how I was NOT going to do it right then.  I did make an appointment for a week later and thus bought myself some time to talk to Dave and mull it over.  I could always cancel the appointment.
The next seven days were not pleasant.  I was reminded of being a child and knowing that a physical was coming that would include a shot and how the days seemed to fly by towards an appointment like that but the days to Christmas crawled by.  During that week I’d conferred with Dave who said that he was 100% behind whatever I decided to do.  My aunt counseled that I do it as did four women friends for whom I have the utmost respect along with Smitty, my dear friend from high school.  If I could give birth without drugs surely I could do this.
Too quickly it was Friday again.  By the time it did I just wanted to get it the heck over with.  We dropped Gabriel with my other daughter-in-law and headed north into the teeth of Friday rush hour and a truck that had lost a wheel reaffirming my dislike for freeways.
I had to sign a consent form so I could not hold the doctor or Group Health responsible if I lost the sight in my eye.  I told Ana I’d just find someone named Guido to take care of the doctor if there was a problem.  The doctor has an Italian surname and he laughed.  My eye was washed, numbed, numbed and numbed again.  By the time the doctor came into the operatory I was upside down nearly and doing my best to go to my happy place.  My eye was clamped open; the doctor told me to look down and left.  He marked the “target,” I felt a pinch and it was over. I was releaved that I had not been able to actually see the needle coming at my eye.  The procedure was over, but I had amoebas swimming around in my eye.  The doctor said it was the Avastin.  It was a little like the old “light shows” done on an overhead projector back in the ‘60s, but without the color.  The doctor was way too young to get that analogy so I kept my mouth shut.
I was given drops for my irritated eye and the doctor addressed Ana about not letting me touch my eye like she was my mother or as if I am in my dotage.  That annoyed me, but I was just glad that getting a needle in my eye wasn’t more painful than it was so I didn’t mention that either and will try to seem more competent when we meet next month.  That evening my eye felt like I hadn’t slept in a very long time so I closed both of them with an early to bed.  The next day it was as though nothing had happened. 
I close my good eye and try to determine if this procedure did any good.  At first I would have said, no, but now I say maybe.  Working in Special Education I am good at spotting tiny amounts of improvement so just maybe…just maybe this will be worth it.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Honoring the Harvest
They claim that politically the country is pretty well split down the middle between Democrats and Republicans.  There are other denominational differences.  There are Summer people and there are the rest of us.  I suspect that the Summer people outnumber the rest of us.  Any of them who live in the Pacific NW are welcome to move somewhere that never knows the changing of the seasons.  We mossbacks will get along without you just fine.
I am an Autumn person.  Much as I love the summer flowers, watching the changing of the leaves makes me happy.  I love the cool crisp mornings and evenings, flannel sheets, and soup in the crockpot when I get home from work.  I even love the rain and am hungry for it during this interminable dry spell we are having. As much as anything I love the holidays. 
Halloween or Samhain is the Celtic New Year and when it is believed that the veil between the living and the dead thins.  This notion was incorporated into the Christian Church when Europe’s pagans were converted.  As with most Christian holidays, pagans kept their holidays and simply called them something else such as All Saints Day and All Souls day.  With the growth of the North American Hispanic population we’ve seen more attention paid to the Day of the Dead.  As Americans, we tend to bury our dead and that’s the end of it.  My daughter-in-law Ana and I have embraced Day of the Dead, creating altars that include our beloveds who have passed over.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it can’t be commercialized and it’s for everyone.  It is not a religious holiday and doesn’t involve anything save family and food.  What’s not to like?  I am sure that Native Americans do not celebrate or view it in the same way since the holiday was meant to celebrate the survival of a white settlement in a land and bounty they willing shared only to be annihilated one way or another.  Thanksgiving is not about the Pilgrims for me.  It is about the ritual of eating with family and friends, honoring the harvest and bounty of Mother Earth and getting ready for Winter when all of Nature turns inward to rest and prepare for Spring.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Weighing the Odds
Well, Dave left last Wed.  I had Ana take him as I doubt I would have even slowed down at departures.  I doubt I will ever get used to this commuter marriage thing.  It took a call to Group Health customer service to get his doctor’s release faxed to Lockheed and then signed off on by the flight surgeon.  He’d been trying for several days.  He never did get an MRI on his shoulder because the records for the ear surgery he had twenty years ago are in a warehouse in Tukwila along with the Lost Ark of the Covenant.  We did find out that Group Health will pay for physical therapy and acupuncture in AZ so hopefully he will get some relief for his shoulder and some rehab for his knee.
Last Friday I had my consultation with the Group Health ophthalmologist who specializes in treating occluded veins in the eye.  The treatment involves injections into the eye once a month for one to two years and has a 50/50 chance of helping and a one percent chance of hurting.  Left alone the eye might stay stable (as long as my blood pressure is stable) or it could get worse.  Swell.  Right now I am scheduled for the first treatment this Friday to which I am looking forward to like—well, a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.  Ana is taking me and hold my hand.  I’m not impressed with the odds or the idea that I could devote a couple of years to getting my eye poked and be no better off than I am.  And then there is the question that nags me: if I get my eye poked with a needle does a voodoo doll somewhere feel it?