30 July 2008

another long night ...

This "awake all night" thing is getting to be a bad habit. So...what's going on? Well...
On July 13, my dear friend, S, was admitted to the hospital after a fainting spell. She was released on Monday the 14th, but they still can't explain the fainting spell, and I am worried about her. (Though she's pretty sure she knows what that was about and is sure it's "no big deal". Still, she's been through a LOT this year.)

On July 14, as S was being released, John was admitted to a different hospital 40 miles away after another fall, though I wasn't to hear about it for several more days. I'm worried about John.

I got word yesterday that my dear friend, Mark, will be going back into the hospital for more surgeries to correct things that went wrong the last time. I'm worried sick about Mark and Matthew.

I got word last night that John will be entering an assisted living facility shortly. You know how I feel about that, although I can't argue with the reasons. They're quite sound. He probably will continue to run if he's not watched round the clock and he probably will continue to hurt himself. It could be *very* serious the next time. It's all true. Nonetheless, John is unlikely to take this well, and wherever the assisted living facility is, it means a long, long drive to get him and return him for our fortnightly adventures.

My back has been cramping for several days, which is probably part of what's keeping me awake.

And I am concerned about Jack's feet. Notice that his weight is resting on his instep and his foot is collapsing inward. He does that on both sides and it's getting more pronounced. Rod talked to the nurse and she says that it's several years yet before they will be concerned, so I am taking him to get some "orthopedic" shoes to see if we can correct it on our own before the mechanical stress on his body starts to cause him trouble. I know that part of my back trouble is probably my own unbalanced (uncorrected) gait.

All of this probably explains why it's been so hard to blog coherently lately.

...on the bright side, no one has died since mid-June. (That I have heard about so far.)

28 July 2008

A philosophical question...

A number of situations have come up lately and have me coming back over and over to the same question.

The question is, what exactly do we owe to other people, especially where our health is concerned?

What I mean is, it is very common for people to have opinions about how others should live their lives. What we should be "allowed" to eat, what we should be "allowed" to do or not do that might by some estimations be "bad for us".

Fat people are often scolded publicly for eating "bad" foods.
(Yeah, believe it or not, it's pretty common!) Pizza, ice cream, chips...all foods that are OK for thin people, but let a fat person indulge in public and the scolding food police start in.

But it's not just a fat issue. It's also the elderly.

My friend John loves to run. He has done so every day for, oh, sixty years or something. Running is a big part of how John sees himself.

About 18 months ago, he started toppling over while he was running and he has, several times, done himself serious injuries in his falls. Now the hospital is pressuring John's son, Bill, to put John in assisted living so that he can be prevented from hurting himself.

I certainly understand that instinct to protect him. Really, I do. Especially for strangers who see him persisting in running though he's 80 years old and has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's and he hurts himself sometimes when he runs.

But I also look into John's face as he contemplates a life in which he is not only not being able to run, but also "trapped forever" in what he perceives as a prison. The pain I see there is very sobering.

The people who think that John should just stop running don't know him well. They don't understand what running means to him. Bill does understand, but he also loves his father and hates to see him hurt.

I am relieved to see that Bill is looking for a less draconian answer to the problem than incarceration, but I also see the tough spot he is in. Aside from the quandary his own feelings provide , if he doesn't seem to be trying to stop John from hurting himself, as John's guardian he can be seen as legally negligent and interpreted as not a very loving son if he doesn't act to limit John's ability to hurt himself, when my experience of him suggests that Bill loves his father and is as devoted to him as a son can be! Bill understands the pain that never running again will cause to his father and he seeks to find the Sacred Middle Way.

And yet, if John were 30 years old and persisted in bungee jumping or diving into lakes or rivers off bridges (both inherently more dangerous than running) people might cluck, but no one would be insisting that he had to be stopped.

John has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and I'm sure the day may come when he really doesn't understand the danger inherent in his choice to run. In that case, though he will no doubt be angry with me, I would agree that he would not be in a position to make a meaningful choice. Right now, though, that doesn't seem to be the case. In talking with him, I am pretty clear that John acknowledges that running is a dangerous choice, but the pleasure it brings him when it goes well (far more often than when it doesn't) is, to him, worth the risk he takes .

This matter of our "responsibility" to others where our health is concerned has been on my mind a lot. As a fat diabetic, I find that a lot of people seem to have an opinion about what I should be eating and doing. Maybe that colours my opinions and makes them more "libertarian" than they might otherwise be.

I am irritated with how often the press implies that we all *must* follow the latest advise about how to live forever in our little cotton-wool worlds and I am even more dismayed at how pervasive that opinion seems to be. What of a life worth living? What about the fact that life not only shouldn't be risk free - -it *can't* be risk free. No matter what we do, there are risks. (Even if you never leave your own home, you could find a truck coming through the bedroom wall or an airplane coming through your roof. Improbable, yes, but still possible; just read the paper.)

So, what do you think...how much do we owe other people in making choices about our lives? Do we owe it to the people who love us to try to live absolutely safe lives for as long as possible?

27 July 2008

Cat shifts?

Minerva spent every night of our lives together sleeping on my hip.

When I rolled over, she stood up and 'rolled me like a log". Then she snarled at me and batted me with her paw for disturbing her. Then she settled down again in as close to the same spot as she could manage.

It was not one of my favorite characteristics of my sweet sook.

Once Minerva died, Grace, who had seldom spent the night in the bedroom at all, decided that my hip was now "her place".

Morning after morning, I wake up with a weight on my hip and wake up from one strange dream or another to find the cat asleep on my hip or my lower back.

Grace isn't as heavy as Minerva was and she's not as insistent. If I start to roll over, she gets off, waits for me to settle down and then chooses her spot again. She doesn't grumble at me for disturbing her and she chooses a place based on where there's enough room for both of us to be comfortable. In many ways she's a lot easier to live with than her "sister" was.

I do wonder, though, what it is that has my hip being "the place to be at night" for the cats in my world.

Maybe I'm just lucky.

22 July 2008

My hero

Is there anything sweeter or more heart warming thana sweaty, sweet five-year-old who says

"I'll be your protector tonight, Mamma!"?

No, no, I didn't think there was.

I really think you ought to, you know...

21 July 2008

The Silver Leaf Renaissance Faire

I overslept, and I'm about to be late for work, but I wanted to mention the Renaissance Faire we went to yesterday. We had a blast!
We went to the Silver Leaf Renaissance Faire near Battle Creek. It's a bit of a drive, but we thought it was well worth it.

There were shows, vendors, beautiful garb and all that you'd expect. The food was a bit short of mediocre just like you'd expect, but the prices were reasonable and the people were enthusiastic, friendly, and talented. The crowds were big enough for a sense of busy-ness, but small enough to be a backdrop for ones own fun rather than a miserable impediment to doing anything or moving. And there was shade -- lots and lots of shade!!!!

Hmmm. I'm not sure that this was very convincing -- I'm sleepy (pre-caffeinated, even) and running late -- go see their web site, and if you're looking for chance to see knights and ladies and hand crafts and fun--give it a try!

They run on weekends, through August third.

(No, we were having so much fun we forgot to use the camera we brought...that's on old one from Australia.)

19 July 2008

Happy birthday, Mr Smiffy

Rod is celebrating his birthday today.
And I am celebrating, too. What a guy!

18 July 2008

Grandpa John

Our dear friend, "Grandpa" John Morris, has been in the hospital since Monday.

I finally heard on Wednesday night that he had been injured in a fall. Last night, I finally heard that he is in intensive care with bleeding on the brain.

I'm worried about our dear friend and it grates that I shan't be able to visit until Saturday. (I could go after work, but by the time I get there it is well past John's bedtime and he's too sleepy to enjoy a visit.)

Please join me in sending strength and healing.

16 July 2008

Planning ahead...

The bedtime story has been read. (We're reading Blitz, and poor Blitz has ha a hard time of it in tonight's chapters.)

It's lights out, but Jack is clearly deep in thought."Know what, Mamma?"

"What, Jack?"

"When I grow up, I am going to live three doors down from you."
"Oh, that's a wonderful idea Jack! And will you come for dinner every Sunday?"

"Sure! Can my partner come?"

"Of, course! I'd be disappointed if your partner didn't come."
"And my kids?"

"Oh gee, I don't know, jack. How many kids are we talking about?"


"Sure, you can bring your three kids."

long pause, duing which I think Jack has fallen asleep*

"Mamma, when is Sunday?"

14 July 2008

For Mark

Purple Cow: Reflections on a Mythic Beast Who's Quite Remarkable, at Least.
by: Gelett Burgess (1866-1951)

I never saw a purple cow
I never hope to see one;
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I'd rather see than be one!

On reflection:

Ah, yes, I wrote the "Purple Cow"—
I'm Sorry, now, I wrote it;
But I can tell you Anyhow
I'll Kill you if you Quote it!

12 July 2008

Studying the Paleolithic

When we were in Australia, Jack and I spent about three hours per day in the park near Mormor's house.

A lot of that time was spent playing "hunter gatherer". We slept in "trees", woke up and went off "hunting". We speared various large animals and then dragged them to our "camp fire" and cooked and ate them. (Which was nowhere near the "trees" we slept in.)
It went on and on and on, and really seems to capture Jack's imagination. That suggested to me that it was time to start collecting materials for our first History unit -- life in the paleolithic.
Jack climbing a tree
(We had previously done a more general Dinosaurs theme, but I want to set a precedent of thoroughness now that we're studying human history.)

The paleolithic, of course, covers a very long time, and while life didn't change as fast as it did at the start of the industrial revolution, it did change, so I am trying to collect books that reflect that change.

In the meanwhile, how we got here was that during Jack's Dinosaur phase, he loved Walking with Dinosaurs and so we got him the post-dinosaur video Walking with Beasts. In it, we saw Australopithecus. That intrigued Jack, and Mamma was on her way! From there, Walking with Cavemen was a natural as was the discussion of how we went from Australopithecus to homosapiens, to today.

Walking with Cavemen - a documentary style depiction of homonid evolution from Australopithecus to modern Homo sapiens.
The Real Eve - the a documentary style story of mitochondrial Eve -- the most recent female common ancestor of all humans -- and how her decedents came to populated the world
Ice Age Columbus - the story of the very first explorers to discover the continent that came to be known as the Americas.
Land of Lost Monsters- the emiogration of the very first humans into New Zealand, Australia, and the Americas and what they found there.

Picture Books:
Walking with Cavemen by John Lynch and Lucy Barrett
Land of Lost Monsters: Man against Beast:
The Prehistoric Battle for the Planet by Ted Oakes
Journey from the Dawn: Life with the World's First Family
by Dr Donald Johanson and Kevin O'Farrell

The Best book of Early People by Margaret Hynes
The Stone Age News by Fiona Macdonald
Magic Tree House: Sabertooths and the Ice Age by Mary Pope Osborn and Natalie Pope Boyce
Cartoon History of the Universe: Volume 2 Sticks and Stones by Larry Gonick

Time of the Bison
by Ann Turner
Small Blue Blue Bead by Byrd Baylor Schweitzer
The First Painter by Katherine Lasky

Read-aloud books
The Story of the World
by Susan Wise Bauer pages 21-27
The Story of US by Joy Hakim Book 1, pages 16-20
The DK History of the World pages 16-28

I'm still hunting for a chapter book aimed at the age 5 to 10 crowd that would be suitable. So far, no luck. But this should keep us busy for the summer.

The plan, so far, is to move on to the Neolithic and the Mesopotamian cultures in the fall...fortunately, there seems to be *a lot* more about that for the very young.


I had, of course, heard about the controversial ill effects of electromagnetic frequencies on the human body.
Stories had filled the newspaper when I was young about increased incidence of lukemia near power stations, and the like. But I had also read about how controversial the connection was. And so, of course, I left it to the scientists to sort it out and didn't think much more about it.

Over the last few years, I had begun to suffer arthritis type symptoms in my lower back and in my feet. "I"m getting older" I thought. "You need to lose some weight" others commented. *shrug*

And then, as I was groaning my way out of my sister-in-law's car after our arrival in Melbourne, she commented that she had ha similar problems until recently, but that they were completely resolved now.

The cure? Her family had removed the wireless Internet from their home, and she was being a lot more careful about how she carries her cell phone. There was a lot more to the story -- scientist friends who had measured the levels of EMF in their home and the like. I was fresh off a grueling transplanetary flight and the details are lost to me. But the basics stuck.

My back stiffness and foot pain did indeed start not too long after we moved into Chez Smiffy and set up wireless to connect all three computers. Hmmm.

After a couple of weeks in my mother-in-law's home, with no wireless around, my back and feet felt fine. Hmmm, indeed.

When I got home, I turned off the wireless router unless I was actually *at* the computer and the pain didn't return. Interesting indeed.

I also got out of the habit of carrying my cell phone on my body. I had never been one to carry it much anyway, but I started carrying it in my purse instead of in my pocket, and my back and feet seemed to have "un-aged" a good ten years.

Then, yesterday, I carried my phone in my pocket all day without thinking about it.

Today, my back is stiff and sore and my feet ache so that it's hard to walk.

I am coming to think there might be something to this EMF sensitivity thing, after all.

10 July 2008

My crazy baby boy...

...has decided that rather than any of the 20 books in our bedtime stack,
he wants to read a book he found on Dad's nightstand, instead.

He tells me he's very excited to read this adults' book!

"It's about a child."

He knows this because he started it on his own when he found it, but he has too many questions to read it alone.

The book? Yon Ill Wind, by Piers Anthony.

Anthony doesn't shy away from much, so last night's editing on the fly was...interesting.

The crazy little boy listened with rapt attention, with many pauses for questions and definitions, to an entire chapter. That's about twice or three times as long as the average book aimed at children.

We may actually finish it -- though at three hundred pages, that will take three times as long as his usual books - - and as I say, Anthony isn't writing for five year olds. It could get too intense for a sensitive little boy at some point.

I wonder whether I could convince him to switch to A Spell for Chameleon ... that was is a lot sillier and I think the plot would be a lot easier for him to comprehend.

(But..but...we haven't finished our Little House on the Prairie books yet!)

The Book Exchange

I'm sure we've mentioned the clothing exchange that Jack belonged to for his first four years.

From a couple of weeks before Jack was born, we gathered twice a year to swap clothes with a large group people, most of whom are friends from the local science fiction community. We passed along anything Jack had outgrown and picked up clothes in his new size. There were always far more than one child needs -- even when we were sharing the cache with another little boy!

It is an excellent idea with many advantages, and we really enjoyed our time with the exchange, but the time ha come to return any clothes we weren't using and drop out of the exchange. The main reason was that we are starting to prepare ourselves for our emigration, and that means jettisoning anything we can live without.
But that exchange was such a terrific idea that a couple of years ago, we joined a children's book exchange.

This one works a little differently.

Every few months, a tub (or two, or three) of children's books shows up on our doorstep.

We dig through the books, Jack chooses a few, and we put in a few books that we don't need anymore.

Then we call the next person on the list and get directions, drop off the tub, and we're done.

The tubs have multiplied over the two years until now there is one reserved for board books for babies and another dedicated to parenting books and chapter books for older children.

We have found some truly marvelous books in there! Jack knows that he may choose a few books, but that twaddle has to go back out next time the the tub comes. I have found some really interesting books for our "school" library. It also means that we're not drowning in books that Jack had to have at the library sale -- and never read a second time. It also means that really wonderful books that Jack has outgrown don't sit around unused - -they can move along to a new home and give another child great joy!

The tub recently arrived at our house and we have our work cut out for us this time!

Thank you, Trudi!

Rod's sister, Trudi, took this family portrait of us while we were in Australia. I do believe it's a first! If not a first, it's been a very, very long time.

She did a beautiful job, I think. Pity I'm talking...as usual. *laugh*

(The devilish look on Jack's face? He was trying to make it as difficult as possible. We have a dozen false starts with a boy hiding his face or launched into mi-air. But, as grandparents all, we knew that if we all persisted with patience and humour, we'd either get a decent one or we'd end up with a tearful boy. We took our chances, et voila!)

Only three birthday cards behind now; I hope to blog soon...

05 July 2008

But...I never get insomnia...!

It's 1 am and I'm awake. On a worknight.

I never get insomnia...except sometimes. Somehow, it's usually on a night I have to work the next day.

You'd think that since I am awake and have been wanting to blog for a week, I'd be able to blog.


My mind seems to blank whenever I open the page.

Jack and I have had a tough day. It seemed like we were at odds every two minutes all day. He wanted to much to be "helpful" -- but he simply wouldn't listen. Instead, he ended up undoing everything I was trying to accomplish, while I fruitlessly tried to get his attention to guide him to something more helpful. Then, in frustration, I shouted and he got angry at me for not appreciating his help.


It was, of course, a weekend on which we wanted to accomplish a lot. We had intended to paint the bedroom, but there were a lot of other small projects we needed to get done first. And, of course, they all took a lot longer than we had planned, so I was distracted, tired, and intent on getting stuff done.

I hate when that happens.

Then again, we went to sleep cuddled up, and Jack was the baby dolphin and I was the mother dolphin, we we loved each other very much and barked sweetly at each other.

That part I love!

We never did get to the painting, though. The bedroom still has dirty, ugly powder blue walls. Oh well.

01 July 2008

Jack's World, June 30, 2008

The boys went out noticing last night while I made dinner. Jack took his camera.

This is his world.