Monday, March 30, 2009

Mrs. 4444 Asked About It

A few weeks ago over at she talked about the Heimlich maneuver. I commented and said that it had saved my life. She asked me to tell my story. So here it is.

I was working for a client in Bakersfield. He was sponsoring a lunch for the unions that would eventually build his power plant (he worked for Enron, but don't hold that against him). They had signed a contract with him to build the plant. Big celebratory lunch, which was my idea.

I was busy talking and eating...that's the important point. All of a sudden I couldn't breathe: meat was caught in my throat. I knew to do the universal sign; put your hands up to your throat. I was gasping for air. The first guy who tried it wasn't successful. Finally as I was about to pass out, another fellow came up and literally picked me up off my feet with the force of his fist. And that's the key point. The other fellow was trying to be nice. This guy knew that force would do it.

The meat actually went down not out; I started to breathe. Another guy from Enron guided me into the bar where he got me a big glass of water. I was shaking like a leaf and scared to death. On the flight home I began to feel real pain in my abdominal area. I had the biggest and darkest black and blue mark I had ever seen.

A few days later I had my annual pap smear. Well, as you women know, all is uncovered during those exams. My doctor saw the horrible bruising on my upper abdomen and assumed I was being abused by the man in my life. She started in on her talk about how help is available. She was visibly relieved when I told her what happened. Turns out she had been helped by the Heimlich maneuver when she choked on some pineapple when she was in med school.

So have you been saved by the Heimlich Maneuver or have you saved someone else? Tell me about it.
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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Grocery Shopping

I was so excited this morning when I woke up. It's farmer's market day in Auburn. I gathered up my bags and cash and headed out the door. The place was booming. The pictures show some of the stuff I bought: green garlic, leeks, kale and rainbow chard. Plus I got the first local asparagus of the season, tomatoes, Fuji apples, portobello mushrooms, a couple of kinds of cheeses plus bread and Nan from the Indian Spice seller.

Most of the tomatoes are already in my dehydrator. I'm also going to make some more tomato paste.

I talked with the guy who sold me my ten pound chicken earlier this year. He will start regular sales of chickens in late April. I am so happy. He told me he would sell me one before it's even frozen. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

There is a new egg guy too. He has 550 laying hens who are pasture raised. Well, at night they go inside so the coyotes don't get them. My pork guy had saved me the bacon he promised so I stocked up on that. Once you've had his bacon you can't go back to the other stuff.

My chicken guy, Dan Macon, says he has an intern who is raising goats for their milk and experimenting with cheeses. I volunteered to be a tester. Dan farms with mules. No tractors belching smoke on his farm. Check out his web site for pictures:

I'm so excited about all of this that I have to take a nap.

My friend Deborah is coming over soon to help me with a project I'm doing for Mark and Julia; it's a sleeping quilt that is supposed to be easy to make. They struggled with it so I volunteered to help and then called upon Deborah who can make anything. In return for her help we invited her and her husband for dinner: BBQ locally raised lamb, kale sauteed in green garlic and leeks, a salad that Deborah is bringing, and a coconut cream pie made at a wonderful local bakery. I really appreciate her help.
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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I'm Home

The photo isn't very clear but I figured it was worth posting. It's a stack of mattresses at the Minneapolis Airport. Due to storms, some folks spent last night at the airport. They put these out for those unlucky souls. Just more of that Midwestern caring. I got home pretty late but I did get home.

First thing I did this morning was dig into the freezer to find locally raised ground beef and marinara sauce I made last summer. Both packages are defrosting. Then I toasted some homemade bread to have with my coffee.

My list of catch-up chores is long but satisfying. Weeding is at the top of my list. It's sort of a meditative thing. The bird feeders need lots of replenishing too.

Harleen is snoring at the moment; the cats are outside hunting for whatever gladdens their little kitty hearts. I'm just so thankful that my sister is doing well and that I'm home with Kerry and the critters.
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Monday, March 23, 2009

Going Home Tomorrow Evening

Two weeks is a long time to be away from home. I miss everyone at my house plus my sewing machine, which is back from the hospital.

Vicky is definitely doing better. Yesterday she walked four times. She gets up to go to the bathroom and is eating a small amount at each meal. The doctor still doesn't want her to eat much.

Her pain pump is gone; she's on Vicodin. I think she misses the pump because it gave her immediate relief. Vicodin takes about an hour to kick in. The surgeon will see her today.

Physical therapy thinks she is strong enough to be at home. That was a huge relief; no transitional care.

It's rainy and windy here today. We might even get some thunder and lightening; I love them both.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

She's Doing Very Well

Turns out her epidural was not dispensing the right amount of drugs because someone had not inserted the cartridge properly. That means she wasn't getting enough pain meds for about 24 hours. This was discovered on Thursday when the epidural came out and they started her on dilaudid through her PIC line. She pushes a button to deliver the meds. I call it her "junky button."

But it made a world of difference in her pain level. Yesterday she walked four times including at PT. The thought of going to transitional care is also a great motivator. She hates those places.

Still only clear liquids by mouth. Last night they added a nutrition line to her PIC line to increase the calories she's getting. I have to digress for a moment and rant a bit about the clear liquids they are serving her. As you know, I'm fussy about my food. I want real food not a bunch of chemicals. Well, she has not received any real food. I could make her great clear chicken broth that would truly deliver nutrition. The hospital doesn't seem to see things my way. She got this pudding thing last night. The first three ingredients were water, corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup. I'll stop ranting now.

They are finally giving her something for the gas, which is helping with her discomfort. The walking also helps. The catheter is out so she pees like a regular person. They moved her to another room yesterday. She has to be in isolation due to her super bug (starts with the letter "v"). She'd been in a double in which she was the only person there. Now she's in a single which is much better because she is closer to the TV so she can read the closed captioning.

Neil and I went out for pizza last night to the Eagle's Nest, a real dive in Robbinsdale that serves the best pizza I've ever had. I had anchovies on my half...heaven.

The doctor won't release her to home or transitional care until she gets rid of her IVs and oxygen. I'm going home Tuesday night. Her release will probably come later than that.

I returned my new phone that I bought and had them reactivate my old one which miraculously appeared at Vicky's bedside the same day I bought my new one. Don't know where it had been. I like my old one much better than the new one.

Off to the hospital in a bit and then to Mike and Minna's for dinner. She's cooking Asian food tonight. I can hardly wait. She says I wouldn't like Hmong food because it's all very spicy. So she's just cooking southeast Asian stuff.

Once again your prayers, energy and Reiki have done the trick. This year she will not celebrate her birthday (April 12th) in the hospital. She will turn 60 in her own home surrounded my family and friends. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I Lost My Phone

I have looked everywhere. I called housekeeping at the hospital to see if they found it. Nobody was there so the message machine asked me to leave a call back number. I don't have one. What a world. I just never realized. Vicky's friend tried calling my phone to see if we would hear it but I had it on vibrate. That brought a chuckle.

Vicky is doing well, complaining, but doing well. She sat in the chair twice yesterday and walked a bit. It's hard to convince her that the reason her body hurts so much is because it isn't moving enough. She got a dinner tray (if you can call it that) last night; clear liquids.

Today her epidural comes out. They put a PIC line in yesterday which makes it much easier to administer drugs and draw blood. That's probably the line they will use for the new pain killer.

So, off to buy a new phone and then go to the hospital.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

She Fell Out Of Her Chair Today

She thought she could get up and go to the bathroom on her own. Wrong!!! Her nurse was really upset; surgeon arrived and said all was fine.

So now she is in a bed that is very low to the floor and has more guard rails. Plus there is a pad on the floor by her bed to cushion her fall if she tries again.

The transfusion really helped. She was still hallucinating, but overall she looked much better. She vividly described to me the people in her hallucinations. They never move toward her even when she goes toward them. They just back away. This all takes place in a bar.

Tomorrow her epidural comes out; if it stays in too long there is a chance of infection. She will get something else for pain.

Still no sign of food. She says she has some nausea so the doctor doesn't want to let her eat and then have her throw up.

So that's the news from Methodist Hospital, which is just south of Lake Woebegone. Corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick's Day tonight.

Monday, March 16, 2009

I'm Outraged by The AIG Bonuses

Can't quite believe that AIG is paying bonuses to people who nearly brought this country to its financial knees. If you would like to express your outrage, you can sign a petition. Just click on the link below.

Subject: Help stop AIG's outrageous bonuses


The people at AIG who are most responsible the severity of the financial crisis should be in jail. But instead, they're slated to get $450 million in bonuses. Unbelievable, right?

I signed a petition urging Secretary Geithner and Congress to do whatever it takes to cancel these bonuses. Can you join me at the link below?


Poops and Prayers

That pretty much sums up today.

Yes, she farted and pooped twice. Between poops the chaplain came by. She was busy hallucinating and trying to sleep when he arrived. No one seemed to worried about the hallucinations; it's all the drugs she is getting.

I gave him a short history of her long medical mess. The last thing I told him is that she had pooped and that was the best thing that could happen. I told him I wasn't religious in response to his question about that. Then he asked if he could pray and thank God for her poop. I agreed. Half way through the very short prayer she got pretty agitated so I told him to finish on his own and I went to help her.

I had a hard time not giggling while he prayed about her poop. But I managed to hold it together.

Surgeon came by late this afternoon and ordered a blood transfusion. Her hemoglobin is 8, which is pretty low no matter how you measure it.

That should really perk her up. She needs to get up and move so her body will heal better and she won't get any bed sores. The transfusion will give her the energy to do that.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Tough Day For Her Today

The past year of medical misfortunes has taught my sister a horrible lesson; always expect the worst. Her glass is always half empty when it comes to her health.

Today was a tough one. Actually it started last night when she threw up. That's a tough one when you haven't eaten since last Tuesday. No one from the family was there. Her surgeon saw her this morning and didn't seem concerned. When I left tonight she was clutching the bag she would throw up in; she was asleep at the time.

But by the time I got there today she was sure she was headed down the same awful path of 2008. Her pain was high and she was shaking. I finally got the nurse to give her some atavan; that calmed her down so she could sleep. Then when the pain got bad her husband and I got her epidural meds increased. Does anyone out there know what a "bolus" is? Anyway, she had a bolus of the epidural stuff. That helped a lot.

The problem is that she has trouble telling the nurses what she needs. They can't help her if they don't know. Finally they've noted on her chart that she has trouble asking for help.

Then they were concerned about her urine output. The minute she heard that she was sure she was headed for dialysis and didn't want to go there. Her husband calls her the queen of pessimism. After what she has been through, it's easy to see why. Our job is to override the pessimism and keep her focused on the moment.

Turns out her urine output is just fine. She's really thin and shouldn't be putting much out.

Tomorrow will be another day. We just need to try to get her to focus on the moment she is in. That's a tough one for her. So we need lots of prayers, energy and Reiki tonight and for the next few days.

No Fart So Far

I discovered a woman near Vicky's room who had the same surgery to reattach her colon to her intestines. I was joking about waiting for Vicky's first fart. This woman looked me square in the eye and said "4 a.m. Friday for me." We both giggled. So we are all expectant "farters."

Her surgeon is working this weekend, which is really nice. He saw her twice yesterday and will be by twice today. He took the bandage off so we got to see her incisions. Yikes, they are really long but looked to be healing. Her skin is starting to itch so that's good. He was pleased with her progress but still denied her a diet coke. She looks resigned to her fate. My sister LOVES her diet coke.

I'm waiting for the butter to soften so I can make banana bread; then I will head for the hospital. My nephew Adam made sausage and shrimp Gumbo with rice last night. Very good.

That's all for now. More later.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday The Thirteenth

She sat up in a chair twice today and basically got to the chair by herself.

Her pain level is higher today; doctor thinks it's due to the hernia surgery because he really pulled her belly tight. So far no food. I think the surgeon doesn't want to chance something bad happening. She's getting plenty of fluids.

They increased the meds to her epidural so that helped. Her sense of humor is still there so that's another plus.

Also, her surgeon is on duty all weekend. Last time her surgeon not only wasn't on duty but he was out of the area. I saw her last surgeon today. Didn't even look at him. I'd love to punch him.

She is still worried about things getting worse. I'm working on getting her to take one day at a time. Not easy when you are in pain.

It's supposed to be in the 50s here tomorrow; that's plus 50.

Once again, thank you all for your prayers, energy, positive thoughts and Reiki. It's all working. Will post again tomorrow night.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Surgery Update

It went very well. The surgeon was able to remove the stoma and reconnect her colon with her intestines. He also fixed her very large hernia which she referred to as her third boob; he removed lots of scar tissue. Surgeon said it was his hope that this would be the last surgery she would need. She's wearing a truss to make sure that everything stays in place.

It took about 4.5 hours. We finally got to see her at about 3:30 today. She was coherent and actually funny. It's obvious the hospital recognizes that they need to get this right this time. She's in an isolation room because she tested positive for some Super Bug so she can't mingle.

By the time we left tonight she had sat on the edge of the bed and dangled her feet. We all applauded. She has a low grade fever but apparently that is to be expected right after surgery. It was already going down when we left.

Tomorrow she sits in a chair and takes a few steps. It was such a relief to see how lucid she was by the time we got to her room.

I'm so glad we took lots of egg salad sandwiches and fruit to the hospital today. I just couldn't eat the cafeteria food. I've had a bit of dinner and two glasses of wine; I'm ready to sleep through the night.

Once again your prayers, energy, good thoughts and Reiki are working. Please keep them coming. She could still leak. I'll have more tomorrow night.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


It's -17 F. this morning but the sun is out so it doesn't seem that bad until you go out.

Went out for dinner last night with my sister, her husband (Saint Neil), her son Adam and two friends. We feasted on Texas barbecue. We looked like we belonged there because my rental car has Texas license plates.

Not doing much today. I just spoke with the surgery nurse and gave them all of Vicky's history and answered a bunch of pre-surgery questions.

We have to be at the hospital at 5:20 a.m. tomorrow morning. That's all for now.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Artichokes And My Sister

The first artichokes have arrived at my local organic food market. That to me says spring like nothing else, well maybe asparagus at the farmer's market. That will happen. They are from Castroville, which is down the coast from San Francisco near Monterrey.

We ate everything but the heart last night so that will be part of our dinner tonight. I finally found a whole wheat bread recipe that does not turn out like a small, but tasty, brick. This one is light and sweet with lots of wildflower honey from nearby bee farm.

On top of the delicious bread I will pile thin slices of barbecued (last night) rib steak, a small slice of smokey bleu cheese and an artichoke heart. On the side will be a simple salad of lettuce and avocados with a lemony dressing.

The bread recipe came from a blog I really like. She calls herself Mangochild; her blog is Her recipe is amazingly simple. It might be the plain yogurt that helps make it so light. I was skeptical at first but Kerry pronounced it delicious this morning.

It's the last meal I will fix for Kerry for a while. I just hope he will eat healthfully some of the time I'm gone. There are some things in the freezer that should get him by but he and any one of his vehicles have trouble passing up fast food.

I leave tomorrow on an early flight to Minneapolis to be with my sister for her next surgery. It's on the 12th. The surgeon will rejoin her colon to the whatever you rejoin a colon to. She is terrified. I am too. We have both been having dreams related to the surgery. I am just anxious to get there tomorrow.

I'll post when I can to update you on her progress. I just want this to go well for her. Your prayers, energy, Reiki and chants are most welcome. We take any and all help.
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Sunday, March 08, 2009

A Peak Inside My Food Life

Several bloggers have barred all by showing their refrigerator contents. I have to say that mine looks better in a photo than it does in person.

My freezer, which is on the bottom of the refrigerator, really reflects my commitment to eating locally.

The deli tray on the bottom is where the eggs, deli meats and cheeses go.

I'm not too embarrassed to show this. At least you can't tell the last time my shelves were washed.

The jug wine is on the door.
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Just Say No To Monsanto And Food Irradiation

Food safety has become a real issue in the past few years. That means Ag Secretary Vilsack's appointments to that part of the USDA are critically important. Currently there are two people being considered for Food Safety and Inspection Service. Once is from Monsanto (boo) and the other believes that irradiation of food is the way to go to protect consumers health.

I hope you will consider sending the e-mail below. One more reason to buy your food locally from people you know.

Dear Secretary Vilsack,

I ask that you take the lead in helping America protect the safety of its food supply by appointing a real reformer at the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) position and advising President Obama not to name Michael Taylor to any position in the administration.

Please appoint someone other than Michael Osterholm, who has proven to be too biased in favor of a single technology that has been ineffective in stopping food safety outbreaks and is something that most American consumers don’t want.

I took the President at his word when he said he would close the revolving door in this new administration and I know that you want to lead a new era at the USDA. Please appoint true reformers to positions within the USDA to help you transform America’s food and farm system for the 21st century.

Thanks for your consideration.


Saturday, March 07, 2009

Snow Day For CCI Dogs

George and Lorrie Moore host the CCI dogs for a snow day each year. They live outside of Truckee, CA near Lake Tahoe.

A week ago their backyard was nothing but mud. Now it was filled to the brim with fresh snow. That's those late California storms.

As a Minnesotan, I should remember these things, but I didn't. Snow does not necessarily support you. I sank up to my knees in it. Harleen and the other dogs, until they got the snow good and beaten down, sank up to their bellies. The dogs raced around, played, pooped and created yellow snow until they couldn't move.

There were four people in attendance who are CCI service dog recipients. It was great to see just how well these dogs do and how they help the individual needs of each person. One is a high level quad who has a ventilator. At 6,000 feet that must have been a challenge for his caregiver who I think is his mother. He's been at other CCI events.

The solar panels in several of the photos support most of the electricity needs of the house. The house is huge.

Harleen came home, took a nap, ate dinner and hasn't moved much since. When she does move she makes these little moaning sounds. I think her muscles are sore. She did get to play with her brother Heron. They just find each other and romp around.

The last photo is when things were winding down. The puppy raisers had feasted on a delicious array of potluck items and the dogs were just plain tired.

It will be an early night for Kerry and me. We are both sunburned from the reflection off the snow. One of the dogs had sunglasses. Very cool.

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Friday, March 06, 2009

My Latest Mini-Quilt

This was all made from fabric that I had in my stash. I love the Mardi Gras masks. My sewing machine is going to the hospital while I'm in Minneapolis. It's doing a few things that it just shouldn't. Hopefully two weeks will be enough time to set it right.

Also, I have two black eyes. I noticed this when I was putting my contact lenses in this morning. They are from my sinuses and my most recent cold. I have been coughing and blowing my nose a lot. Kerry wanted to take a picture of them. I declined.

The blackness is on either side of the bridge of my noise deep in the corners of my eyes.
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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

It's Good To Be A Dog

No stress in her life. Not sure how she got into this position; I looked over when she snored very loudly and then just had to take the picture.

Saturday we are taking her up to the mountains for a CCI snow day. All the pups, graduate dogs, breeders and change of career (aka pets) will be there. Should be fun. I'll take pictures.
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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

It's Square Root Day: 3-3-09

But that's not what I want to write about. Although it is amazing that I realized that. I am math compromised.

Corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup are the number one enemies of people who want to be healthy. As the cartoon says, "I'm in everything." Michael Pollan's book "The Omnivores Dilemma" spends a lot of time talking about corn and how many places it shows up in our diet. The growing of corn is highly subsidized by the federal government. When you have a lot of corn you have to do something with it. Pigs can only eat so much; ethanol is not turning out to be the next great fuel. Also, it depletes the nitrogen in the soil faster than just about any other crop. So we get it in all kinds of foods.

The other day I wrote about wanting local fresh corn in the winter; that doesn't mean I want corn syrup. Real sugar is more expensive so companies add this cheap substitute to make stuff taste good. If you can get your hands on a can of Coke that came from Mexico and is made with real cane sugar, you will know the difference immediately. Corn syrup is like white bread, nothing to it and it won't make you feel healthy.

So when Kerry and I began our "locavore" journey the first thing I tried to do was eliminate corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup from our diet. Sometimes they are both in the list of ingredients. Nearly everything you find in the middle aisles of your grocery store has it in it. Want to know why diet salad dressings taste so got it, high fructose corn syrup. Just about anything that comes in a box in the grocery store has it. When I do go to a chain grocery store, which is pretty rare these days, I just stay in the outside aisles: produce, milk, butter, cheese, eggs and meat.

I got really good at reading labels. I'd been doing it for years because I'm allergic to MSG, but now I have a new culprit to locate.

As I've said before, locavorism is something you ease your way into. So start reading labels and find out where the corn is. It's great in the summer with butter and salt. It's not so good in your cereal.
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Sunday, March 01, 2009

Another Chapter In Our Locavore Living Story

I bought a "Seal-a-Meal" gadget.

Several times this winter I've thought about fresh corn, peas and asparagus. But they weren't in season, at least not within 100 miles of my kitchen. I vowed to freeze and dehydrate more of this stuff and other things during the upcoming growing season. I already have a dehydrator; it's great.

Plus another of my favorite bloggers, is always writing about meals she prepares that include some of my favorite vegetables that she froze last summer. That was another impetus to expand our locavore living.

I found the National Center for Home Food Preservation thanks to one of my other favorite food blogs: It doesn't sound that hard to freeze fruits and vegetables...except for the potential for freezer burn. That's when I thought of seal-a-meal.

We started down the road to "locavorism" after we read Michael Pollan's book "Omnivore's Dilemma." We had no idea, however, where it would lead us. I guess that's the way it is sometimes when you try something new. If I had thought the whole thing through I might not have done it. But expanding our "locavore thinking" over time makes it seem pretty easy. Plus the food is delicious and we've gotten to know some wonderful people.

My plan is to look at what's at the farmers' markets and in my CSA box (go to to find a CSA provider near you); then figure out what I'll freeze or dehydrate that week. It will be a bit of extra work but having locally grown asparagus and other things in December and January will be worth the work.

All of this could further reduce the time I spend in chain supermarkets. That's a worthwhile goal too. They have enough customers; I won't be missed.
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