Friday, May 22, 2009


If the adjective is "wistful," the noun should be "wist," not "wistfulness." Fewer syllables are always better. (Yes, I know I'm an English professor, but I'm on vacation!)

It feels pretty weird not to be at WisCon this year, especially since two of my favorite writers, Ellen Klages and Geoff Ryman, are the Guests of Honor. Given recent expenses and my general exhaustion, combined with how much else I have to do this summer, skipping WisCon was a mature and grown-up decision (me? grown up?), but I still can't help wondering what's happening in Madison.

This morning, I read through some of the participant bios for the Narrative Medicine workshop I'll be attending in June. One of the professional chaplains who'll be there is also an Episcopal deacon. That gave me a real pang, since I've foregone both of those credentials. (I may yet do CPE sometime -- like, when I retire -- but I don't intend to revisit ordination.) Also, I'm a little nervous about how the ProChaps (TM) at the workshop will respond to my lowly volunteer status. This is not mature or grown up, I know, but the feelings are there anyway, given what a charged issue accreditation is in the field. I got a blog comment once from a ProChap informing me ever so sweetly that I wasn't even entitled to call myself a chaplain, since I'm not board-certified. Oy!

Yeah, I know: it shouldn't matter to me what other people think of me (and the good folk at the workshop probably couldn't care less). I've gotten a lot of lectures on this topic. Kinda ironic, since the people doing the lecturing seem to think I should care what they think about my caring about what other people think. Isn't there, um, a contradiction in there somewhere . . . ?

This afternoon, I cheered myself up by buying lavender and yarn. The woman who runs the lavender store has just gotten a six-week old golden retriver *PUPPY!* which is the cutest thing on four legs, even if it did try to eat my skirt and my hand. At the yarn store, I bought some Noro sock yarn to make myself a scarf, in colors that will go beautifully with the gorgeous cat pin Inez gave me at last year's WisCon.

Oh, a coupla new wrinkles on the medical front. First, the piece of putty covering the donor site for the gum graft popped off last night (the periodontist had said it probably would, although the one covering the actual graft should stay in place), so I've now learned that this procedure can be very painful indeed. I'm back on alternating Advil and Tylenol every four hours -- I haven't needed the Vicodin, thank goodness -- and my mouth lets me know about it if I'm only a few minutes late. And I'm back on a semi-liquid diet. Smoothies rule! Applesauce is good, too.

Which brings us to medical item #2. Longterm readers will recall my talking about how my father always choked on food and liquids; he had dysphagia from a stroke in 2001. He was supposed to be on a thickened diet, but hated it, although he loved applesauce and mashed potatoes with gravy, so we fed him as much of those as he'd eat.

For a while now, I've tended to start coughing when I drink water, because the water goes down the wrong way. I didn't think anything of it -- and didn't even notice that I hadn't been having the same problem with the smoothies -- until two nights ago at dinner, when I took a sip of water and started choking. Suddenly, everything clicked.

"Oh my God," I told Gary. "I have dysphagia! Have you noticed it? That I choke on water?"

"Yeah, you do that all the time. It's really alarming."

"How long have I been doing it?"


Since then, I've tried using some of the swallowing techniques Dad's speech therapists taught him (like tucking my chin when I swallow), and those help. I can't believe it took me this long to figure it out, though!

A lot of things can cause dysphagia, including the various autoimmune diseases that would also bump up my ANA. So I'll definitely mention it to the rheumatologist, although I still don't think I have any of those diseases. I called that office yesterday to try to make an appointment, but they hadn't gotten my paperwork from my primary yet. They'll call me when they do.

We're going to a barbecue tonight, although between my sore mouth and the fact that it's looking like thunderstorms, I'm not sure how long we'll stay. If we come home early, we'll watch some more True Blood, which we started watching last night on DVD and adore.


  1. I'm not at WisCon too -- because BVU's graduation is today and Nita is walking. She surprised me in my office Thursday -- she's been in Phoenix and I didn't know for sure she'd be back -- and almost the first thing we talked about was missing you (or Grandma, as Nita called you).
    I haven't seen True Blood, but the Sookie Stackhouse books are pretty good.
    Hope the teeths improve....

  2. Anonymous3:06 AM

    I've been so sorry to read about your health problems and those of the members of your family over the last bit o' what this world calls time.

    Prayers ascending.

    Please don't post the following (unless you think it helps? -- I just think it's kinda OT):

    Re: the controversies about who qualifies as a "Real Chaplain"; I've seen this kind of silliness grow as more and more people are being asked to "prove" they can do what they've been doing quite capably for a long time.

    Almost twenty years ago, I was a second year law student when God said, "You've learned what you need to know to serve me well, now it's time to stop." He sent a bad driver to make an illegal left-hand turn (clearly posted as a no-no) who gave me a choice between hitting her, hitting the cars that were stopped for the light in the lane to my left, and hitting one (or both) of the pedestrians to my right. In my old jallopy, slamming on the brakes wasn't an option -- too much pressure and I would have hit who knows what.

    So I decided to hit the person making the illegal turn. I'm still glad I made that decision since she wasn't injured -- but I was. I spent several years in physiotherapy and doped up on pills, and had to withdraw from law school as a result.

    Fast forward to a couple of years ago (when the job market was tight but not as unbearable as it is today). I'd watched all the, "been downsized? just go and get retrained for today's skills" political rhetoric with a dubious eye for decades, just as I'd watched people who hated every moment of their educations spend good money for questionable pieces of paper and saw degree inflation take over in the workplace. It hadn't bothered me because I'd been happy where God sent me to work -- until that job was downsized and I wasn't so happy anymore.

    I figured, well, at least I can become a paralegal (I'd been one my senior year of college and with two years of law school, the job should have been a snap).

    Only to be told that, without a paralegal certificate (which would require me to enroll in an accredited-but-dubious "school," my two years of law school and previous paralegal experience weren't worth anything.

    I've since found work I believe God intended all along, but I'll never forget the ridiculousness of that head-hunter's stance.

    And if the legal community can be so silly about someone who has to be supervised by a real lawyer (and I definitely support licensure rules there -- given the number of crackpots who still get through), then I hope you won't take any guff about being a "real chaplain."

    1 Peter 1:15: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation.

    I think he which hath called you would have a few things to say to anyone who doubted his ability to sanctify that which he has called!

  3. Hey, Inez! Tell Nita that I'm horribly overdue in responding to her various e-mails, and that it doesn't mean I don't love her!

    Anon: Thanks for that long, heartfelt comment. I don't think it's OT at all, since it's about bureaucratic hoops being set up as hurdles to doing work that people could do, in many although certainly not all cases, just as well without them.

    I understand the reasons for the hoops, but I also become annoyed at people who are overly invested in them.

    I hope your health has improved since the accident. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place!

  4. Anonymous8:27 AM

    Susan, I'd be lying if I said I was as good as new (but a lot of that is attributable to the fact that I'll never be 23 again, either!).

    I do feel that, in those brief instants when the rubber still met the road, that I got a very close, personal experience with my Creator and learned that my life should be spent giving Him all the glory I can.

    Hence my indignation at the idea that anyone could tell you you're not a "real" chaplain, since everything on this website speaks to your ministry.

  5. It was very odd to be at Farmer's Market this weekend and see all the people with their namecards wandering the streets without the prospect of meeting up with you for lunch. It's a completely understandable absence, of course, and my heart has gone out to you these past few months. I'll just look forward to a someday lunch with you in the future that much more.


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