Sunday, November 29, 2015

Mom and Dad's Anniversary Party!!

Today was the day. It was the day of my parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary party. My sister-in-law and I have been planning this party for the last two and a half months. I took care of arranging the venue and my sister-in-law took care of the decorating. Such special memories were made today and I want to share just a few with you!!

We found out that one of my friends from high school has a cake decorating business, so I did my due diligence and checked things out. Oh. My. Goodness. Her cakes are gorgeous!! I contacted her and she was excited to be able to make a cake for my parents. Before I went back home, she brought cake and icings and fillings to the house for us to taste. What a treat! The flavors were all delicious, but we picked out the ones that we liked the best. My sister-in-law took care of working with Stacy to choose what the cake should look like and they did an amazing job!

Our photographer was a good friend of my brother and his wife. She did a lovely job of all the photos, as you can see. She also staged a picture of Mom and Dad cutting the cake just like the one from their wedding fifty years ago! What a special memory!

The first couple that came in the door were people that I haven’t seen in 30 years, but I would have recognized anywhere. Our families used to do lots of stuff together when I was a little kid, back 40+ years ago. They moved to Okeechobee in the early 1980’s and we saw them only sporadically after that. They brought my parents a couple of sheets of photographs, including a picture of me and my brother riding horses in the 1980’s. There were also pictures of my Mom’s and my graduation party in 1990. And I got to hear about what their children are up to these days!

Another guest today was my very first piano teacher and Spanish teacher. Her daughter is a good friend of my mom’s from the church choir and this woman was her daughter’s “plus one” for the party. Starting in first grade, I went to a private, Christian school. In elementary school, we did Spanish one year, alternating with German the next year. Mrs. Chase was the Spanish teacher and Mr. Chase was the German teacher (and also an administrator). Mrs. Chase was also the piano teacher. Once a week, I was taken out of my regular classes for a thirty minute piano lesson. Mrs. Chase was also the choir teacher for elementary school. Today was the first time that I have seen Mrs. Chase in 38 years!!

There were two couples that were friends with my parents early on in their marriage and were mentors to my parents. Of course, I didn’t recognize them, but I was thrilled to meet them. One of the women is also an avid knitter, so we bonded immediately over yarn. It’s a little strange to meet people who have known you since birth when you’re 48 years old!!

Wild Man and Rosie Girl performed “Love You Too Much” from “The Book of Life” and “Love Is An Open Door” from “Frozen”. They got a great reception from everyone there. It was great fun for me to hear from people I didn’t even know how talented my kids are. I agreed that they are very talented and that they had worked very hard. At the end of “Love Is An Open Door”, the kids changed the dialogue to the following:
Wild Man: “Do you think Grams and Grandpa sang like this on their first date?”
Rosie Girl: “I don’t know. Can they even sing?”
Both: Shrug shoulders
This is hysterical to everyone in the room because both Mom and Dad sing very well and have been in choir off and on for many years!

We had a request from someone to sing my Dad’s favorite hymn, “Victory in Jesus”. The problem was that Wild Man, our resident worship leader, doesn’t know the hymn and wouldn’t be able to lead it a capella. I remembered, though, that our Minister of Music from when I was in high school (he is now a Minister to Senior Adults) was at the party. I asked him if he was willing to lead the hymn. Not only was he willing to lead the hymn, but his wife was able to play it on the piano. It was wonderful to have everyone standing and singing together with Bill leading the music just like it was 30 years ago!

Our programming during the party was my brother giving a short speech that included implying that I had vodka in my water cup as well as explaining that the secret to a long marriage is having great kids! I then gave a poetic prayer and the kids sang their songs. After the music, my dad came up to give a short extemporaneous talk on the nature of faith. That’s my dad – don’t give up the opportunity to talk about Jesus!

My brother’s two friends and their families were there. They called themselves the Three Musketeers. I prefer to call them the Three Troublemakers. They may be married and have children and be upstanding members of society now, but I remember the days when they were a bunch of high school hooligans. My brother is the only one who had real trouble with high school. He ended up getting a correspondence school diploma and joining the Marines. He’s now an electrical engineer with a masters degree working on defense contracts at Lockheed Martin. Another friend went on to become a lawyer and is married with a lovely daughter. The third guy has a degree in business, is married with three kids, and is teaching math. I guess the three troublemakers made good, after all!!

During the afternoon, one of the servers came up to Dad and talked very seriously to him for several minutes. I asked Dad about the conversation later. Apparently, this server has been with his girlfriend for a couple of years and wanted to know about how to know when it was time to get married and how to stay married for so long. I think it was really cool that this guy came to the man who had been married for fifty years to get marriage advice!!

It was a wonderful afternoon of friends, family, and fun! Mom and Dad truly enjoyed themselves, which was the ultimate goal. I hope you enjoyed these stories and pictures as much as I enjoyed the reminiscences. If you haven't hugged your loved ones lately, go do so. Don't wait for these big events. Enjoy every single minute!! 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!! I hope you had a good day focusing on thanking God for all his blessings. I'm in our hotel room right now after a day with family.

My sister-in-law and I have been working for the last couple of months planning my parents' 50th wedding anniversary party. The party is in two days!! We've done the planning and now we just need to do the actual partying!!

I came down here on Monday to tie up all the loose ends. The good news is that there weren't many loose ends to tie up!! Mom and I cooked a bunch yesterday and then cooked some more today. PWM and the kids arrived today along with PWM's mom. My brother and his family arrived last night. This afternoon we had a big, traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Our little part of the family is staying in a hotel, so we're watching the Packer game tonight in the hotel. Well, I'm watching the game, Wild Man is doing something with his phone, and PWM and Rosie Girl are sleeping.

Tomorrow is the day for party preparation. My sister-in-law is the artistic one, so she is in charge of decorations. I'll just be helping her decorate the banquet hall at the country club tomorrow afternoon. And tying up more loose ends.

I have a list about a mile long of things to be thankful for. Despite the headaches, which have still been hanging around despite it being Thanksgiving week, I really do have a good life. My parents are both still alive and have been married for fifty years - fifty years!! That's amazing!! Not only have they lived long enough to be married for fifty years, but they still love each other and get along with each other. PWM and I are blessed to have our own little family. And I could go on and on. 

So, that's what's up with me on this Thanksgiving night.

Sunday, November 15, 2015


I'm feeling so discouraged today. I know that my antidepressant is working because I'm just discouraged and not completely depressed and apathetic.

I've had a migraine every day for about a week and a half. And this morning's was the worst, 8+/10. I treated today with 4mg of tizanidine which brought it down to a 6/10, which is much more manageable.

The migraines have all been triggered by weather or hormones, but having a reason for them doesn't make the pain better. On the bad days, I take a triptan or tizanidine, but I can only take a triptan twice a week. I took ibuprofen on Tuesday, so I could go have lunch with Rosie Girl. (Ibuprofen is something I take very sparingly because I have mild kidney damage.)

I've tried to do the things that make me feel emotionally better when I'm in pain. I've been walking when I can, although that often makes my head hurt worse. I've tried to eat healthy. I made butternut squash soup and discovered that I don't like it. Sigh. Mint M&Ms, on the other hand . . . . 

And then Paris happened the other night. Yikes! 

I have lots of plans for the next couple of weeks and I'd really like my body to cooperate. Rosie Girl is in the university's choir and orchestra's production of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony next weekend. Then, the week of Thanksgiving, I'll be in Florida to help put on a big 50th Anniversary Party for my parents. It's going to be lots of fun, and I'd like to be able to enjoy it without a huge migraine!!

I'm hanging on the John 6:33 "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart; I have overcome the world." I'm not feeling it, but it's all I've got now.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Being Thankful

Yay, the holidays are here! Thanksgiving is just around the corner, so it's time to thank God for everything I have.

Except that I'm not feeling very thankful right now.

I'm on the fourth day of this migraine. No, it's not severe - only about a 5/10 - but it's bad enough to keep me from doing much. And the stabbing pain through my right cheek every 15 or 20 minutes could go away. And my PMS irritability is through the roof. Not to mention the cramping. And occasional nausea.

So, no, I'm not feeling very thankful. To God or anyone else. 

In fact, I'm feeling pretty sorry for myself, thankyouverymuch!

And right now, I'd like you to feel sorry for me, too!

So, now that that's off my chest, let's talk about what real thankfulness is all about. It's about giving thanks for what I have no matter what I feel like. God has been amazingly good for me, in spite of the migraines.

"Give thanks in all circumstances, for this God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
I Thessalonians 5:18

That was written by the Apostle Paul who had a lot of practice being thankful even when life was hard. And I think being thankful despite shipwrecks and being in prison is pretty impressive.

Actually, thankfulness is an act of the will, not something we feel. So, I can tell God that I am thankful for my family, my home, my church family, my friends, the fact that migraines are painful but rarely fatal, etc. even when I don't feel particularly thankful. When Patrick gets home, I'll thank him for being a wonderfully supportive husband even when I'm headachey and cranky. When Chris gets home, I'll thank him for bringing home Subway (not a day for me to cook!) and for being an awesome teenager. When I go to Stevens Point to see Lydia tomorrow, I'll hopefully feel more thankful, but even if I don't, I'll thank her for being an amazing young adult with a compassionate heart who cares about her mama. 

And having written all that out, I'm starting to feel a teensy bit thankful. (But I just had another stab of pain in the cheek, and that can really go away forever as far as I'm concerned!) But, mostly, I'm reminded to express thanks no matter what I feel. It's what God tells us to do, it makes me quit thinking about myself so much, and it allows me to communicate to others what they need to know.

So, go tell someone that you are thankful for them! (And quit feeling sorry for me - no matter what I said before!)

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Thinking About Gay Marriage

I've done a lot of thinking about gay marriage and homosexuality over the last couple of years. How could I not? It's in the news; it's in our churches; religious leaders are talking and writing about it ad nauseum.

I'm pro-gay marriage because it doesn't affect me if a gay couple wants to have the same rights and privileges that my husband and I share. As a physician, I know how difficult it can be to deal with medical and end-of-life issues with a friend of a patient, but how easy (relatively) it is with the spouse of a patient. That marriage certificate smooths many things, including being allowed into an ICU, being allowed to continue or terminate life support, etc. And I don't care if that spouse is the same sex or opposite sex of the patient I was caring for.

I will admit that my views have crystallized in the past few years because of a gay friend. She's not the first gay friend I've had, but she is almost a daughter to me and has been since she was five years old. She came out a few years ago. Now she has a partner and might one day like to get married. Last week, she and her partner came over to dinner before they went to the Fair with my daughter and we all had a wonderful time. Even if I believed that gay behavior was sinful (which I'm not sure about) and didn't support gay marriage, I would still be friends with these young women. They are lovely girls and are fun to be around. Just like lots of straight people.

I also know lots of divorced people and I hang around with them. They are great people and fun to be with. But, I know that divorce is wrong. But, that doesn't affect my relationship with them. I still love them.

I read a lot of Christian blogs. There has been a lot of virtual ink spilled about the evils of gay marriage and how it's going to destroy marriage in this  country. Very little has been written about the divorce epidemic in this country, and even in the church (yes, I know that committed Christians actually have a low divorce rate, but I'm talking about overall attenders).

I think that the reason we don't talk much about divorce is two-fold. The first reason is that once people are divorced, it's over and done with and they are forgiven and can move on with their lives. Generally, I buy this, especially when people are moving on from abusive marriages.

Second is that most of the people writing this terrible blog posts about gay marriage know plenty of divorced people and not a lot of gay people. It's easy to call gay people names and act like they're going to send this country to hell in a handbasket when you don't have much relationship with any. It's harder to write mean things about people you know and like. I have a feeling life would be different if they had lunch every week with a couple of gay friends - not just acquaintances, but friends. They might still oppose gay marriage, just like they oppose divorce, but their tone would change. They would be sorrowful, instead of angry.

Loving your neighbor is hard from a distance. Maybe we all need to figure out a way to get to know these neighbors that we rail about. I have a feeling what we write in blogs and on Facebook would be a lot different.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Suicide and Physicians

This week, it was announced that my colleague and pulmonologist was found to have committed suicide. He disappeared about two months ago and his body was found about a month ago. The medical community in the Fox Valley and Waupaca has lost a wonderful and compassionate physician.

I first knew Jeff as a colleague when I was working as a Family Doctor in Waupaca. I referred complicated pulmonary cases to him as well as getting ICU consults. He was always incredibly professional, but also just a nice guy. After I quit practicing, I went to see him for a sleep study and I was diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea. I saw Jeff as a pulmonary patient once a year. Again, he was professional and a nice guy. And he always asked about my migraines and about whether or not I was close to being able to come back to practicing medicine.

He hid his depression well, as those of us with depression tend to do. But, 400 physicians every year commit suicide. 400. That's a lot. Too many. According to what I've read, the primary underlying cause is depression or bipolar with substance abuse coming next.

Why so much suicide? I've done a little research and what I've read confirms what I experienced. Even in physician groups that try to do a good job of finding depression in patients, physicians are terrible at taking care of ourselves. Many physicians don't have a primary care physician themselves. Many don't recognize the symptoms of depression to see a physician.

And then, there is the stigma of depression or, even worse, substance abuse. Admitting to substance abuse can affect licensure and future practice. This is devastating to a physician.

There are remarkably few support structures for physicians who are depressed. Apparently, Jeff was known to have a history of depression, so he, at least, was in the mental health system. But, he was in a minority. Most physicians with depression or otherwise at risk for suicide don't seek help and don't have much help available.

Working in medicine can be stressful and overwhelming. I worked in a large medical group that did make some attempts to provide some mental health resources in times of stress. After a case where we lost a baby, both the clinic and the hospital did debriefing sessions to help us process our feelings. At the hospital debriefing, the (humanist) chaplain said, "Well, we know that life has no purpose, but we can still find meaning in it." I left soon after. I was reading the book of Lamentations at home and trying to find meaning through God. I didn't find the chaplain helpful at all. At the clinic debriefing, we were led by an EMT and didn't try to find any religious meaning, but talked through our actions on the day in question. It was much more helpful. So, the current structures to help are iffy, at best.

But, it's not just the bad days that are the problem. Medicine is inherently overwhelming. Physicians are expected to not make mistakes day after day after day. Working in an ICU has the immediate life and death decisions, but even the day to day work of a family physicians has the overhanging dread of making a big mistake. And this is just wearing.

I'm going to miss seeing Jeff once a year for my pulmonary visit. I'm sure his friends, family, and colleagues are devastated by their loss. And what is so sad is that Jeff had an illness that probably could have been treated.

I've written before about depression. Untreated depression leads to suicide. And it leads to suicide more often for physicians than for other people. 

Please, whoever you are, if you are depressed, contemplating suicide, or even just thinking that the world would be better without you, talk to someone. If there's no one around to talk to, call 911. They know who to contact to get you help. 

Depression is a fatal illness. And it hurts more than just the person who has it.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Depression, Medications, and Me

A number of years ago, I read a letter to the editor of the journal of the Christian Medical and Dental Association that questioned the use of anti-depressants. The author suggested that if some of the authors of the Bible like David and Jeremiah had lived in modern days they would have never written their portions of the Bible because they would have been medicated. At the time, I disagreed with the assertion, but I didn't have the confidence or experience to write back. Now, fifteen years later, I'm going to respond to that unknown physician.

Anti-depressants are used to treat depression, not sadness or guilt. Depression is not ordinary sadness. Yes, the primary symptom is sadness, but it also includes lack of motivation, inability to feel happiness, and physical symptoms such as sleep disorders and appetite changes. 

We know that anti-depressants work when someone starts to feel normal emotions, not just happiness. In fact, someone on anti-depressants will feel sad at appropriate times, but will be able to feel happy at reasonable times, as well. A depressed person can't feel normal emotions. I can speak to this because of my experience as a physician who has prescribed anti-depressants to patients, but also because of my own depression.

There's no evidence that David was depressed. He was still able to write much of the book of Psalms. A depressed person has difficulty doing things because of a lack of motivation. According to Psalm 51, David did feel appropriate regret and remorse from his "affair" with Bathsheba and his subsequent murder of her husband.

Jeremiah was very sad about the state of Judah and the prophecies that God had given him, but he was also able to continue to prophecy. Again, there was no evidence that he was depressed.

So, the whole issue comes down to whether or not anti-depressants make us "not ourselves" and whether or not God wants us to use them. After all, if they would change us so much that God wouldn't be able to use us to do something like inspire the writing of the Bible, then they must be pretty bad.

Hogwash! Depression is an illness of the brain. It makes it's victims feel sad and melancholy and unable to feel happiness. Anti-depressants don't make a person feel happy; they make a person able to feel normal emotions, both happy and sad.

I've felt the stigma of depression, but I'm glad I've been willing to accept treatment. My risk for depression was really high based on my family tree. There is depression and addiction scattered throughout my family tree on both sides. I was fortunate that my first bout didn't happen until I was in my 30s. Now that I've got chronic migraine, depression is an unwelcome companion.

Without treatment, I wouldn't just be sad, I'd be sitting on the sofa and doing nothing. My doctor and I are titrating up my dose of amitriptyline, which is the second anti-depressant I'm on (I'm also on citalopram). I don't really like the side effects of the amitriptyline (dry mouth, hunger, fatigue) but I've spent this summer being sad and headache-y from trying to go without my medication. 

My depression meds aren't my entire treatment. They help adjust my brain chemicals, but they are helped significantly by counseling, exercise (when my head doesn't hurt too much), and a (somewhat) healthy diet. 

Depression is real. It's treatable with non-medical treatment and with medications. It seems to me that if God is OK with antibiotics for strep throat, then he's OK with anti-depressants for the biological illness of depression.

And the meds work. I'm still having headaches, but my mood is finally better. I'm tolerating the headaches better. I'm not happy about the headaches, but i can feel a range of emotions again. And it feels so good.

Just stuff . . .

  • Chronic migraines suck. Really. I'm on Day 4 of this one and going crazy.
  • The increased dose of amitriptyline is decreasing the intensity of the headaches so I tolerate life a lot better. I'm increasing up to 100mg (with my doctor's permission) tonight to see if we can stabilize things even more.
  • The liquidators came this week and bought the last of our yarn, notions, and fixtures. They didn't pay near what they're worth, but we knew that. The fact is, they paid something and they took the stuff away.
  • Wild Man has the music room in the shop looking good. And we still have a good incentive to replace the old windows and update the heating and cooling system since he's keeping musical instruments in there.
  • When my head calms down, PWM and I are going to spend a night at a hotel with Sleep Number beds because we think that we want to purchase one. There's a hotel in the Valley that has those beds, though, and we'd like a full night's sleep to see if they're as good as advertised. Then, Rosie Girl can have our queen sized bed in her apartment and the double bed will go in the guest room out in the shop.
  • Poor Wild Man has a cold and went to see the NP today for the cough. He doesn't need antibiotics, but he got steroids, and inhaler and cough suppressant. The combination of steroids and inhaler makes him quite jittery and he's not happy about it! But, he's not coughing as much and will probably be able to sleep tonight
  • Rosie Girl has a real, live boyfriend. They don't get to see much of each other because of work schedules in the summer, but they'll get more face time when school starts!
  • I've been pondering 1 Corinthians 11. It's the chapter about head coverings in worship and it's quite confusing. The interpretation that makes the most sense to me is that Paul was having a mock conversation with the Corinthians. Here's a link to a good post.
  • I've been distressed this week at how little I've been able to do. I cooked dinner on Monday and Tuesday nights. Other than that, we've had food from The HItching Post, leftovers, and PWM grilled. So, we're not starving. I just feel bad when I'm sitting and reading a book when others are working.
  • We got a new deck. The contractor was just going to replace the sections that had been made with untreated lumber and leave the good stuff. It turned out that there was untreated lumber even all the way up to the house, so we had them just start over. Now, we have a brand new deck with all the railings up to code and the stairs with proper width, etc. I keep forgetting to take pictures. And, we have to stain it in about a month after the lumber all dried
  • Our tags for our items for the fair came in. We're still a bit confused about when to take our stuff and where, but we know who to ask now. The tickes had misspellings that had to be remedied and I didn't now that I could only submit one item per category so they just put my second item under PWMs name. I think we understand the basics now.
  • Well, it's probably time to try to sleep. I had a three hour nap today, so I'm not super tired, but I could probably sleep if I had a chance. We'll see.