Happy to Be Home from the Hospital

As one of the Red Room refugees seeking a home in Green Room, I decided I would re-post last Sunday's blog created in blogspot, where I have blogged since July 2005 even before I discovered RR.  Green Room seems to be a welcoming community with familiar faces, and I look forward to continuing friendships here.  Below is last Sunday's entry:
 
After six days of being poked, pricked, and prodded, it was wonderful to wake up in my own bed this morning.  I had slept for 11 hours when Gerald came in to wake me so we would have time for him to give me the scheduled Lovenox shot before the home health nurse would be at our house right after lunch. 
 
Gerald built me a little box for my feet under the computer to shift my legs onto, and I tried to remember to get up and walk around once in awhile.  However, the truth is that one reason I enjoy writing and surfing is that I go into some kind of brain zone that blocks out the world. The concentration is very pleasant to me, and when I could, I often sat for hours without realizing how much time had passed.
 
I continued taking warfarin, but after a few years, my primary doctor assured me I could go off the drug if I wanted.  We were getting ready to take a trip to Oklahoma City for the softball world series and on to my sister’s in Amarillo, so I turned down the offer to go off.  From then on, at my annual check-up, my primary doctor would tell me I really would not have to continue taking warfarin. I would sheepishly answer that I must be psychologically addicted to it to give me a sense of security. 
 
But as our daughter Katherine’s health worsened and I spent more time with her, I found it more difficult to make time for the regular INR check-ups that warfarin requires.  I began to feel silly that I was choosing to take a drug I was told I did not need.  So at this year’s annual check up, when the doctor told me I could go off, I hesitated wondering what would result if we took a trip (which we probably cannot do).  She assured me I could temporarily take a new drug and have that security for the trip.  I went off warfarin and felt free as a bird.  No more trips to get my blood checked.  No feeling bad when I got home so late it was really the next day before I actually took my supper pills including the warfarin, Taking only three pills (two of which were over-the-counter) instead of five made me feel so healthy!  
 
However, I continued to feel (as I had for a year or so) tired after 9 or l0 hours of sleep when I was able to get that much, but I figured that was part of being 80.  So the week before last, when I felt a bit more tired than usual, I did not think much about it.  It was not until the weekend that climbing the stairs was making me extremely breathless.  Fearing something was wrong with my heart, I decided last Sunday to call my primary doctor the very next morning.  Since I had taken no trips and I did not need warfarin any more, I did not worry about blood clots.  
 
With Gerald’s help, I made it to my appointment.  For the first time in our lives, he went in and met my long-time doctor and listened for me.  I was glad he was there because I was not thinking well and did realize that my doctor meant me to go directly from her office to the hospital for the CT scan.
 
All is well that ends well, I’ve heard, and all is essentially well here at the farm. Tests showed no heart damage.  The second CT scan (which was actually only over the lower half of my body although I did not realize it) was not to see if the clots were gone as I supposed, but rather to make sure I did not have the kind of cancer that could cause clots in the lungs.  The hospitalist, whom I liked very much, had already arranged for an oncologist to come if the tests showed cancer.  They did not. All this had taken place, and I had no knowledge or worry about it.  Isn’t that great?   The doctor was puzzled since there were no clots in my legs.  He asked, “Where did the clots come from?”  Blood tests sent off and already returned have so far given no answer, but I believe he said some were still out.  He did not want to expose me to an unnecessary CT scan since the thinner blood will eventually be at the right balance and the body will destroy the clots. 
 
Katherine was released from the hospital on Friday.  Her aide Katie, who lost her brother in a tragic accident so recently, is helping Katherine again.  Am I worried about her?  Terribly, but I cannot do much about it.  In fact I never could. Advanced multiple sclerosis progresses as it chooses weakening and destroying the body of the one it inhabits.   Do I believe in prayer?  Yes, and I am grateful that all over the nation people have and do pray for Katherine.  Long ago her friend in Nashville became angry when a prayer meeting she arranged did not stop the disease.  My cousin rode his motorcycle all the way from California to apply oil and pray for her recovery. I am grateful.  We allowed him to come if he promised not to get angry.  I really believed his prayers might bring about a remission or recovery.  Instead the disease continued to grow worse.   Many believing praying cancer victims die of their disease.  I did not even know I might have cancer causing the clots and uttered no prayer against cancer, and I got the wonderful news I was cancer free.  Life is not fair by human understanding. The writer of Hebrews tells us some get their promises fulfilled here on earth and some do not, but all are fulfilled.
 
That is where faith is helpful. Faith helps you to know when the answers you want are not given to you, perhaps there are reasons beyond human understanding.  Things that are seen are not the evidence of faith.  Rather faith is the evidence of things not seen.  So I believe and ask God to help my unbelief. 
 
Jesus taught us that pain is redemptive.  The two young girls hurt in same accident as the one that took Chris Williams’ life are recovering. The orange ribbons still deck the nearby church yard fence beside the highway. Hundreds (perhaps thousands) have prayed; and  just like the girls’ parents, the community is so grateful for the prayers and for the continued healing. Will something good come from the awful pain the wreck brought?  I believe so.
 
So right now I am home bound.  I am feeling pretty good, and I think the Vitamin B-12 shots given me are helping me with the fatigue I’ve had for a year or so.  Maybe being 80 is not the cause. That too is good news!
 
 
 
 
 
 
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From Tucson AZ To The Ramon Crater Israel-- A Tale Of Unfulfilled Potential

[b2ap3_thumbnail_mizpe-red-room.jpg

 

One of the happiest winters we had was in the late eighties when we spent a sabbatical semester in Tucson Arizona. We drove from snowy Iowa City, where we lived, to Arizona at Christmas time. What I noticed first were the different colors of Santa Catalina Mountains and the smell of citrus bloom in the air. Whoever lives in a cold climate can identify with my conclusion, that we arrived to paradise.

 

A year later we returned to Israel and my husband got a job at Ben Gurion University in the southern city Beersheba. Beersheba is not a beautiful place, but an hour away in 3 directions there are some of Israel’s most beautiful spots: the Dead Sea to the east , the Mediterranean sea to the west, and the *Ramon Crater to  the south.

 

One late afternoon we drove to the Ramon Crater and were struck by its beauty. We were overwhelmed by the different colors inside the crater and loved the gazelles running on its rim. We both remembered beautiful Tucson and our happy time there and at that moment decided that we would buy a house by the crater in the small town of Mitzpe Ramon (Ramon Observation Point).

 

 The opportunity came some weeks later and within two months we were already at our new home in Mitzpe Ramon, that was 23 years ago. We only stayed one year in Beersheba and then went back to the States, but that house has remained our home in Israel and whenever we went there on vacations we spent our time in Mitzpe Ramon mostly doing what we loved doing in Tucson: hiking and being outside.

 

The sleepy town of Mitzpe Ramon has a strange mixture of people: there are the pioneers who created that settelment in the 1950s when they built the road to Eilat. Then in the 60s new immigrants were brought there from North Africa, in an attempt to populate the Negev. In the 70s a group of Americans who call themselves Hebre’ic Blacks came to live in Mitzpe Ramon, and later on the hippies, the artists, and the nature lovers came to town in an attempt to escape city life.

 

Two years ago the most expensive resort hotel in Israel was built on the rim of the crater. Guests in that hotel spend more than 1000$ a night to sit on their balconies and watch this natural wonder. However, so far, even this development has not changed the town which has remained sleepy as ever.

 

 If you ask around, many people here in Mitzpe Ramon would say that they do not want their town to change; this is exactly what they were looking for when they left the big city for the quietness of the desert mountains. Yet, other people may complain about a very high unemployment rate and the lack of opportunities for the residents.

 

Unfulfilled potential (just like unfulfilled talent) often causes disappointment-- a feeling of opportunities missed: "Mitzpe Ramon could have been just like Sedona  AZ,  if only. . . "  Indeed Mitzpe Ramon is a classic case of an unfulfilled potential: it is a small, unsophisticated town by one of the most spectacular natural formations on earth.

 

But, from selfish reasons, I still prefer this state of unfulfilled potential. In the late 1970s I visited  another magical place-- Stanley Park in Vancouver BC. It had wild, not yet explored, beach areas. Going back there with my family in the mid-1990s I saw that in 15 short years the park has been  transformed. It has become a cultured park, still beautiful, but for me it has lost its magic.

 

Whenever I tell people about my house in Mizpe Ramon they say that I am very lucky to have a home in such a beautiful place, but usually they add that it is a pity that nothing has been done here. I don’t delude myself that Mitzpe Ramon will always stay the same, and when it does I may even be happy for the local people who will benefit from more opportunities. But in the meantime I enjoy being in this quiet unfulfilled place to where commercialism and progress have not yet arrived.

  

*The Ramon Crater is a geological feature of Israel's Negev desert. Located at the peak of Mount Negev, some 85 km south of the city of Beersheba, the landform is not actually an impact crater from a meteor, but rather is the world's largest makhtesh. The crater is 40 km long, 2–10 km wide and 500 meters deep, and is shaped like an elongated heart.Today the crater and surrounding area forms Israel's largest national park, the Ramon Nature Reserve. Wikipedia:

 

 

[embed=gallery]{"file":"/","place":"user:855"}[/embed][embed=gallery]{"file":"/","place":"shared"}[/embed](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Makhtesh_Ramon)

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Sometimes

only poetry is possible.

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The Fecundity of the Desert

b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_20140717_102215.jpgI think that the most common perception of the desert is that it is a dead and inhospitable place.  I’m sure there are places like that. Maybe the Atacama Desert in northern Chile would be nearly lifeless. It is one of the driest places on earth and has been dry for three million years. I’ve never been there so I can’t report from personal observation but I’ve read that in wet years it might get a half inch of rain. That’s dry — but there are plants and animals that have adapted and thrive there. The Atacama is located along the Pacific Ocean and sea fog brings some moisture and humidity to coastal areas. There are scorpions and a few lizards. Where there are plants, there are grasshoppers who are followed by birds. Flamingos and penguins live near the ocean.  There is a species of mouse that lives in dry areas. If conditions are foggy along the coast there will be a few vicunas and guanacos, camel relatives,  who survive by eating cactus flowers.

I moved to the desert about a year ago from the humid and almost jungle-like Midwest. I lived within sight of the Missouri River. The forests in the Missouri Ozarks are almost impenetrable in summer. That is man’s doing. The Ozarks used to be a savanna. When the pines and large hardwoods were clear cut they were replaced by a mix of hardwoods — oaks, hickories, choke cherry, and hackberry — that compete in the (now) thin soil and produce a scrawny, bramble and vine-choked, tick infested forest. Winter is when you can best get to know the Ozark forests. But I digress. My point is that there is a wild abundance of living things almost everywhere except the extremes of the polar regions.

centipedeMy experience after moving to the New Mexico desert opened my eyes to the fecundity of it all.  I knew little about the desert but I learned fast. My house was vacant for about two months before I moved in and I had to reclaim it from the local fauna. I had a roadrunner in the garage and various creatures in the house. We have a nasty biting centipede that gets several inches long that you don’t want to mess with. There was one in my bed the first night but it was dead…placed there by my Guardian Angel as a warning. “Be on your toes” was the message.  My closest neighbor has had scorpions and a rattlesnake in the house.  I’ve been lucky so far. I have an indoor cat that patrols the house so he might be discouraging squatters.

I have a love/hate relationship with ants. They love me and whatever I have and I hate them with a passion. They can live outside if they stay passive and invisible but they can’t come in the house. I’ve declared war on one ant colony that must be ten years old based on the size of the mound they built…maybe older. I assume they have galleries and meeting halls and nurseries going down at least four or five feet. These are not little innocent ants. These are predators based on what I see them carrying back to the nest. I go on an ant patrol every couple weeks and wipe out the ones that are workers or defending the nest but the Queen is way down inside and laughing at my feeble efforts.

When it rains we have a burst of life. Frogs and toads appear from nowhere for about three days and then they disappear. The same is true with gnats and mosquitoes. House flies will linger a few days longer.   We had a few days of rain in the spring and that brought an invasion of grasshoppers. There were so many grasshoppers that they tracked them on weather radar. There were clouds of grasshoppers.  These were little guys…not the three inchers that we have in the Midwest. A couple days after the grasshoppers arrived the lizards showed up. Dozens of lizards patrolled the yard gobbling up the grasshoppers. Next to arrive were the roadrunners who went chasing after the lizards. Roadrunners eat snakes so it is a good thing to have roadrunners around.

I had a snake in my garage. It was a harmless (to me) coachwhip snake. These are extremely fast snakes. They will outrun a man if chased. There are old timer stories of coachwhip snakes biting their own tale and forming a hoop and rolling along the ground like a bicycle tire. Don’t believe it. They don’t need to — they are fast enough. This guy was convinced that he was going to move into my garage. I occasionally have a mouse or two trying to live there so he was just doing what snakes do. But I had to dispatch him because he was too persistent and would not leave and it was an easy move from the garage to the house.

I have coyotes that come up to the back door. I can hear them singing at night. This year we have a super abundance of desert cottontail rabbits  and jackrabbits. I expected the coyotes to keep them in check but we must not have enough coyotes. I guess those we have are well fed and happy. Next year we will have a lot more coyotes — that’s how the cycle works.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen I bought the house I noticed that there was a water feature — a koi pond with a little stream and waterfall.  “How cute is that?” I thought.  Well, a 1,500 gallon pond requires a lot of work. It turned out that the koi fish were extortionists and would eat everything in the pond if I didn’t feed them twice a day with two kinds of food. Koi fish can live 80 years. They have been described as the pigs of the fish world but some people really like them and will spend huge sums to acquire a single fancy koi.  That made getting rid of them easy.

The pond also had sixteen goldfish of various colors and shapes. Goldfish are polite and respectful compared to koi and they don’t eat as much. This spring I noticed that the goldfish were playing tag. Pretty soon the game intensified and I realized it was spawning behavior. They spawned seven times that I noticed and the process was quite violent. Some of the fish were injured but all survived. Now I have several hundred baby goldfish.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOf course the pond isn’t a desert feature but I mention it because it is the only reliable water source for wildlife in my area. It is like a watering hole in the Serengeti. All of the animals come to the pond.  When I walk out the front door there will always be something running away or flying away. The most notable visitors — because of their punctuality and numbers — are the doves. There are dozens of doves that come to the pond every night just after sunset. The rabbits are almost always there, one or two at a time. There are ground squirrels that hang out with the rabbits.

A Rock Squirrel built a den in the rocks near the waterfall and decorates it with twigs and small branches. If I remove the twigs they will be back the next morning. He is aggravated that I take his twigs so he brings pieces of cactus, from some distance away, and places cactus among the twigs to deter me from messing with them. That’s a very ingenious effort on his part.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve been adopted by two boy quails. They follow me around whenever I go outside and call the whole time. One, I’ve named Buddy, is a Gambel’s Quail…the kind with the little droopy feather on its head. The other, named Sparky, is a Scaled Quail…with a little white topnotch.  Both were unsuccessful in finding mates. Buddy had a girlfriend for about four hours one afternoon but she got a better offer. Sparky is in more serious trouble. He’s the only Scaled Quail I’ve seen in the area. Prospects are pretty slim for Sparky. Since they can’t find a mate they decided to adopt me. Lately Buddy has been scarce. I had to go on a trip for a week and he may have adopted someone else. At least that’s what I’m hoping. Sparky is still around.  I think I have a split personality. Some days I feel like Marlin Perkins and some days I feel like Beatrix Potter.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve talked about the animals but the plants are almost as busy. Everything blooms in it’s own way. We had a huge germination and growth of a blue flowering plant that turned out to be Wild Heliotrope  – if you like it — or Scorpion Weed — if you don’t like it. I liked it and let it grow. It carpeted the whole yard. My neighbor spent hours chopping it out.  It didn’t last too long. The grasshoppers found it when they arrived and the blazing sun finished off the rest.  The bees are kept very busy as are the hummingbirds. There is almost always something in bloom.

The sun is really the deciding factor in what lives or dies. It is unrelenting and will scorch anything that is unprotected. Even though it isn’t a hot day the sun will heat up anything that is exposed and the dryness will pull out any moisture. It is often cool in the shade on those days.

I visited the White Sands desert a few months ago and there is a notable amount of plant life and some small animal life. Predator animals, like coyotes and hawks, live on the edge of the desert. They patrol the dunes but uually don’t live there.  So the desert is far from being a dead or inhospitable place. Things are always growing and reproducing. This is high desert, around 5,800 feet in elevation. The summer temperature only rarely exceeds 100 degrees. A lower and hotter place would have different plants and animals but there would be a similar array of wildlife.

Our monsoon season has started and has been going on for a week or so. We get a little bit of rain almost every day. Watching the storms is a form of entertainment for me. The lightning is spectacular and you can track storms for 100 miles. This year it arrived a little early and promises to be a good one….meaning lots of rain. My rain barrels are almost full. Apparently El Nino has a role in how our monsoons go so our weather is determined way out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  More wet weather will bring more life to the desert.

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