Saturday, November 28, 2009

Black Saturday

Before Thanksgiving, I had a couple of topics I thought I'd write about. However, with the surfeit of feasting and napping, I've forgotten them completely and have only a few stray thoughts to share:

1. As we were getting ready to leave the office on the day before Thanksgiving 1999, my office mate asked me what I was planning to do on Thanksgiving.

"Write my letter of resignation," I replied.

It's hard to believe that was ten years ago. For a moment, I was despondent that I still don't have a book ready to submit for publication, but considering that I've been away from home for nearly six out of the ten years and learned a lot about the craft of writing during the rest of the time, it doesn't seem so bad.

2. I laugh at the TV commercials that say, "Black Friday starts on Saturday..."

3. If I didn't already have a good vacuum cleaner, I'd be tempted to buy the Shark Multi-Vac that's advertised during the infomercials played during the wee morning hours.

4. I don't think I'll miss the TV series, "Monk," but I will miss seeing Natalie Teeger, Captain Leland Stottlemeyer, and Lt. Randy Disher. I keep thinking of Hector Elizondo, the actor who portrays Dr. Neven Bell, Monk's psychiatrist, in the role he played in the movie, "Pretty Woman," so haven't gotten used to him in this role. I never did like Sharona.

5. Although I still have a couple of stores to check, it looks like I'll have to order my toothpaste online because three local stores no longer carry it. My guess is that because so many people want whitening toothpastes, a gentle toothpaste such as Arm & Hammer Dental Care doesn't sell as well. Why people would brush their teeth with silica, i.e. sand, a high abrasive that contributes to the wearing down of enamel much more than baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), the mildest abrasive that also happens to be an excellent cleaner, is beyond me. It must be because they don't read the ingredients and don't know that sand is silica.

While I'm at it, I may as well mention that it's so much simpler and less expensive to swish with water after eating to rinse out sugars and acids than to use a so-called "restorative" toothpaste that may also, oxymoronically, have silica or hydrated silica as an ingredient.

I've thought about brushing with plain baking soda, like people used to do back in the old days, and using a fluoride rinse to prevent cavities until I read the label on a rinse that said "sodium fluoride" which is a toxic industrial waste by-product.

Unfortunately, sodium fluoride is also the active ingredient in my toothpaste and others which is the reason for the warning to immediately contact the Poison Control Center if more than the amount used for brushing is swallowed. (All you need is the size of a pea, not the long, toothbrush-covering strip shown in TV ads to persuade you to use, and subsequently buy, more of the product.)

Of course, we're not supposed to swallow toothpaste. However, I can't help remembering that the inside of our mouths are so much more effective at absorbing that sublingual tablets for everything from vitamin B-12 for energy to nitroglycerin for angina are used instead of pills that need to be swallowed.

And, haven't we all seen a movie scene in which a drug addict rubs cocaine on his or her gums?

No, please don't try to tell me we're not getting any sodium fluoride in our bodies because we don't swallow toothpaste.

I remember when stannous fluoride, the safer, quality fluoride, was used in toothpaste. When did the toothpaste companies switch to the toxic waste by-product? Was it when the type of fluoride for fluoridating public water supplies was switched from sodium fluoride to hexafluorosilicic acid that's considered to be even worse than sodium fluoride?

Maybe I should look for a toothpaste with stannous fluoride or sodium monofluorophosphate. The problem is that I haven't found any without silica or hydrated silica. What are the chances of my finding a toothpaste with one of the good fluorides that also doesn't contain silica?

So, either I put poison into my mouth or wear down my enamel with an ADA-approved product that's supposed to be good for my teeth that really isn't or let my teeth rot by not using a product with fluoride. Some choice.

Maybe it's a good thing that I drink tea that has fluoride naturally.

That's all I have. I hope your Thanksgiving was full of thankfulness for the blessings you have and that your holiday shopping is hassle-free.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Having an urge for ribs all week, I hopped down to the nearest supermarket yesterday to take advantage of the deli's Friday special on ribs.

Placing the ribs in my cart, I rolled it to the back of the store to see what was available on the other hot table before proceeding to pick up toothpaste, margarine, and raisin bread.

Not seeing my favorite cashier, I looked for the shortest check-out line, unloaded my groceries on the conveyor belt, and swiped my card while Becky, the cashier, scanned my purchases.

Bagging my bread and toothpaste in one bag, she put the ribs into a second bag and the hot vegetables into a third.

"That bag is ripped," I said indicating the bag holding the ribs.

Becky turned the bag to see the split and put the margarine into the bag with the container of hot vegetables.

"Please don't do that!"

Her hand froze and she looked at me.

"You're putting cold food next to hot," I explained. Unreal. Doesn't she know any better than that? The vegetables will have the margarine melted before I get home.

She moved the margarine to the bag with the bread and toothpaste. Then, she put the ribs into a new bag.

"$23.22," she said after totaling my bill.

I waited.

She waited.

"$23.22," she repeated.

"My screen says it's waiting on you," I replied, not used to having a cashier who doesn't pay attention to her screen.

"Did you swipe your card?" Becky asked.


She looked at her screen and pressed a button. "Debit or credit?"

"I pressed the credit button," I said, thinking she obviously wasn't paying attention to her screen again as I began picking up my bags.

As Becky handed me my receipt, the previous customer returned saying that she didn't get her change.

"I remember you handing me the receipt, but not the money and I can't find it anywhere," she said.

I did that a few months ago at Wal-Mart and had to wait until the next day for the cashier to finish her shift, close out her drawer and do her count before I was able to receive my money. I worried that it might be only my word against hers if the cashier decided to pocket my money for herself, but the Customer Service representative said they could also check the video tape to see if I was handed my cash back or not. I don't know if this supermarket has cameras everywhere like Wal-Mart does, so it might be more of a mess to fix.

I was glad it wasn't me.

I left the store, still incredulous that Becky put my margarine in with the hot vegetables. What was she thinking?

Was she thinking?

Upon reflection, remembering how she wasn't paying attention to her screen and that she may not have given the previous customer her change, I decided that Becky was distracted by something else going on in her life and is more in need of my prayers than my criticism.

I invite you to pray for her, too.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Child of the Light or Member of the World?

Thelma, my aunt-through-marriage, owes me money.

Following the steps of Matthew 18:15-17,

(Matthew 18:
15. Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
16. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
17. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.)

in 2006, I took the issue to her pastor, Paul Anderson, of the Zion Lutheran Church in Fairfield, WA who agreed that I was doing the right thing. He asked what kind of reaction he might expect from her when he talks to her and if he may show her the letter I had written documenting her behavior in avoiding to pay me. I gave my permission since she already knows what she's done.

But, he never spoke to her nor did he gather a group of church members to talk to her. Granted, she winters in Mesa, AZ but still, he's had time enough and then some.

As a result, last month I wrote a letter of complaint to his bishop, Martin D. Wells, of the Eastern Washington-Idaho Synod located in Spokane, WA.

If I'm generous, I'll say that Wells is apparently ignorant of 1 Corinthians 6:1-7 that says we are not to go to court against one another but to resolve issues within the church.

(1 Corinthians 6:
1. Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?...
7. Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another...)

However, ignoring Matthew 18:17 that I quoted in my letter to him, Bishop Wells replied:

"...You are attempting to use his sacred influence with a parishioner to get something you want from that parishioner...

Your recourse is through the courts. Please leave Pastor Anderson out of this matter... Please fight your own fight and leave this pastor out of your triangulation."

Yes, I wrote back, challenging the bishop with a dozen questions and scripture verses that I pray will prick his conscience and lead him to repent. Since the letter went out with yesterday's mail, his reaction remains to be seen.

However, for a person to be in church, a church leader for as long as Wells has been, and a bishop at that, to instruct anyone to do precisely what the Bible says not to do, is the antithesis of Christianity. Telling me to disobey God is an action of Satan's servant, not a servant of Christ.

Harsh words? Or am I calling it as it is?

Now, here's the point to this post:

If church leadership ignores the Bible in favor of the ways of the world, is it any wonder that Christians can't be distinguished as being Christians or as being any different from members of the world?

Since we can read the Bible for ourselves and have the Holy Spirit to guide us if we're willing to be led by Him, our worldly behavior isn't excused because church leadership erroneously says it's okay or ignores it since we are responsible for our own relationship with the Lord.

So, if you call yourself a Christian, what practices do you engage in that make you look like a member of the world?

Why don't you stop?

I hope it isn't because you love the world and its ways more than you appreciate the Lord who was crucified for us.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Rude Spouses

The mind works in interesting ways. Between the receptionist I mentioned in my last post and the Ft. Hood shootings this week, memories came up of two incredibly rude spouses I've met.

The first was when I was living in Killeen, just outside Ft. Hood, and working in Temple, Texas. My supervisor had invited me to a dinner party that he and his wife were having at their home in Temple.

When I arrived, I discovered that I was the only guest from his work. The others were her college friends. Nevertheless, I had a good time.

When it came time for me to leave, I went to say good-bye to the wife.

"Thank you for inviting me," I said.

She looked at me coldly and replied, "I didn't invite you," then walked away.


Technically, though, she was right. She hadn't invited me.

The second rude spouse was encountered last year. A former co-worker had invited me to join her and her husband for a pleasant afternoon flying kites on their acreage. Since he is the kite aficionado, I was telling him something I learned from enthusiasts I met who belong to the San Diego Kite Club. His wife was behind me, about six feet away.

And he walked away, entering their house.

Yes, just like that. While I was speaking, right in front of him, without any sort of, "Excuse me," or gesture to warn me.

Amazing. I bet he didn't do that to people when he was trying to get elected to public office.

What's even more appalling is that these spouses call themselves, "Christians."

So much for their practicing the Golden Rule.

I'm glad rude spouses are few and far between.

Luke 6:31. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Bell's Palsy or Stroke?

The pizza arrived at 7:30 P.M. on the Wednesday before last. I relaxed, watching TV and sipping water until I had an urge for a box of vanilla milk shortly after midnight.

But the left side of my mouth couldn't close around the straw.

I started to freak. Had I had a stroke?

I checked myself to see what else was different and prayed, "Lord, did I have a stroke? What do I do? What is it?"

The answer came back, "Bell's Palsy," in that still, small voice within my spirit.

Wanting to make sure it wasn't a stroke, I got on the Internet. Everything I read at the Mayo Clinic, MedlinePlus, the Merck Manual, WebMD, and other sites Google gave me said to go to an emergency room immediately. Feeling a check in my spirit for that course of action, I continued to study the pages and was gradually reassured.

Men are the usual victims. I have no family history of stroke or heart disease. I'm younger than the typical age range of those women who did have a stroke. I've never been diagnosed with hypertension. Most of all, stroke affects the lower left part of the face and is usually accompanied by the left arm and/or left leg being affected as well, while Bell's Palsy affects an entire side of the face, only, from forehead down, and from nose to ear.

Wondering what might have caused it, I checked the web sites for Bell's Palsy before calling my chiropractor for an adjustment. Everything fit.

However, my D.C., said there wasn't anything he could adjust to fix Bell's Palsy and he wasn't about to adjust my neck, anyway, because he didn't know that it wasn't a stroke and didn't want to make it worse, if it was.

Fair enough.

On Monday, I called my regular M.D. for an appointment to get an official diagnosis for Bell's Palsy. However, because of him taking time off, his appointment book is full until Nov. 10. The nurse asked a series of questions and relayed them to the doctor. When his answer came back, it was that he'll see me on Nov. 10th and if I wanted to get checked out sooner, I may go to the walk-in clinic he named.

Off like a shot, I arrived at the walk-in clinic and was given a five-page intake form to complete that inconsiderate, partial idiots must have designed. For example, instead of allergies to medicines being filled in on page 1 where doctors like it for quick reference so they don't prescribe something that'll kill their patients, allergies were to be listed on page 2...and page 4.

What the...?!

Yes, allergies were to be listed on page 2 and listed again on page 4 with the reactions. If I had been smart, I would have reviewed all five pages before starting to complete the form so I could list them on page 4 that wanted more information about the allergies and enter "See page 4" on page 2. But I didn't have that foresight.

Returning the clipboard to the receptionist, she reviewed my pages. "You didn't do this section," she said about the two-inch square box I had left blank.

I didn't appreciate her tone of voice. Was she copping an attitude with me?

"I didn't understand it," I replied.

"It's your Family History." She read, "Father/Mother/Grandparents/ Brother/Sister..."

Yup, she had an attitude.

"I know that," I sniped back. "It's all those initials that I didn't understand."

"Oh!" She went on to interpret:

Heart disease.





(That must be the "CA" that I saw; the others still didn't make any sense to me.)

"You didn't sign this," she said in a better tone of voice, pointing to a signature block on the last page.

"Sorry, I don't sign for things I haven't received," I said.

She handed me a privacy policy statement and I signed, acknowledging receipt.

Sitting back down to wait, I couldn't get into "Judge Alex" on the TV although the case sounded really funny. What would Jesus do about this twit of a receptionist and the stupidly designed intake form? There are people who definitely should not be interfacing with the public and I don't subscribe to the "Turn the other cheek" philosophy because it's for a conquered people of which I am definitely not a member. Him raging in righteous anger seems more like it except flinging the receptionist's papers about and driving her out with a whip of cords (John 2:15) would be drastic overkill as well as get me arrested for assault.

One of my college professors who taught computer programming also functioned as a group therapist after hours. We had gotten close enough for her to invite me to Christmas dinner and one year she advised, "I can be angry and you can be angry, but it's a lot better for me if you're the one who's angry," as a way to deal with aggravating people.

Thinking about her advice, maybe I should have put the monkey on their backs by filling the Family History block with "NTIKOBIDUTFLAADKFWYL" ("None That I Know Of Because I Don't Understand The Freaky Little Abbreviations And Don't Know For What You're Looking") and let them sort it out.

Before I could calm down, the nurse called me in and took my blood pressure: 208/103.

The doctor saw me immediately.

After I explained what happened the week before and finished with what my doctor said that morning, the young East Indian doctor said, "You can't diagnose Bell's Palsy over the phone and with your high blood pressure, I'm concerned you may have had a stroke. I'm going to send you over to the county hospital emergency room and they'll do CT scans and an MRI..."

"To diagnose a stroke," I interjected having learned that from my research. You can't treat a stroke by yourself because it may be caused by either bleeding or a clot and incorrectly treating one will accelerate the other that actually caused the stroke and make things worse.

"No, to diagnose Bell's Palsy," she lied, not knowing that I already knew how Bell's Palsy is diagnosed.

I kept silent. I don't know what her background is, but she was sounding a lot like a couple of doctors who left the Canadian health care system to practice here in the U.S. who did nothing but prolong my pain some years ago. The first was a French Canadian orthopedic surgeon who ordered chest(!) X-rays when my hands suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome, a worker's comp case. I switched to another doctor, an American Chinese, as soon as I could.

The second was a few years after that, an English Canadian HMO (spit!) family practitioner who ordered three MRIs with a prescription for a narcotic when all I needed was a $35 chiropractic adjustment that I finally went and got for myself out of the network. After that, I immediately submitted paperwork to change to an American Hispanic doctor whom I'm still with although I'm no longer in an HMO.

The walk-in clinic doctor continued, "I'll call over so they'll expect you and we'll get an ambulance to take you there."

An ambulance to go two blocks? I don't think so! The one time I needed an ambulance, it cost me $400 and my PPO insurance didn't pay any of it.

"The problem with an ambulance is that I'll be over there and my car will be over here," I hedged.

"Do you have a friend that can get it for you?"

"No," I lied back at her. Bad form, I know, but expedient since I wasn't going to discuss my finances with her nor let her argue with me.

She had me sign a waiver for the ambulance and sent me on my way after making me promise to go straight to the emergency room. On my charge sheet, she had written "N/C" for no charge and "Bell's Palsy" for the diagnosis.

So, diagnosing Bell's Palsy needs CT scans and an MRI?

No, she had manipulated me because, my guess is, she didn't want me stroking out in her little clinic. At least, I didn't have to pay anything. I never did mention the receptionist nor the form.

At the hospital's triage station, I was relieved to see that their form was done right. Allergies to medicines right in front, up top. For complaint, I entered, "Referred by [name of walk-in clinic]: Bell's Palsy or stroke? High blood pressure."

I was seen right away. Blood pressure: 156/106.

After the doctor had me wrinkle my forehead and nose, smile and frown, check my eyes and ears, etc., he diagnosed Bell's Palsy, gave me a prescription, and instructed me to keep my appointment with my regular doctor on Nov. 10 for follow-up. No CT scans. No MRI.

Hah! Evidently, Bell's Palsy CAN be diagnosed over the phone if the right questions are asked.

About my blood pressure going over 200? "The 156 isn't alarming and blood pressure fluctuates, but you should discuss it with your doctor if you're worried about it," he said.

While waiting to get my prescription filled at Wal-Mart, I used the blood pressure check station that's next to the pharmacy: 149/85.

After I was done shopping, I checked again: 117/96.


As far as the Bell's Palsy goes, the cause is unknown. The facial nerve (Cranial nerve VII) passes through a tiny channel (facial canal) through the facial bone. The nerve gets inflamed which pinches it and causes paralysis on the side of the face where it is located. Most people recover spontaneously within a few days to six months. Some recover in a year. A few never recover. Corticosteroids such as Prednisone are believed to speed recovery.

The major concern is that without a full blink and not being able to close my eye (other people may not be able to open the affected eye), it may dehydrate and sustain permanent damage. My Rx included over-the-counter (OTC) eye drops for the day and an OTC ointment for while I sleep to ensure protection and hydration.

Living with it is inconvenient and awkward, but bearable as long as I don't have to talk too much since I can't enunciate as clearly as before.

The doctor also prescribed an eye patch to keep my eye closed while I sleep. The nurse recommended using paper tape instead. The nurse was right. The eye patch doesn't keep my eye closed although it does protect my eye from dust and other flying objects since I can't blink or close my eye to protect it while I'm out and about.

The moral of this story? At this point, I'm not really sure. All I can say is that I'm getting more prejudiced against non-American doctors who are practicing in the U.S. and know only that God doesn't lie.

Of that, I'm utterly convinced.