Freedom from Rain

Rainy weather working its foggy magic on a landscape is beautiful. A rainy day encourages introspection. Or at the very least a nap. I love the rain in all of its spirited and benign forms. But we have had rain day after day without much respite. This is rain of a different sort. Too much rain foments rot both above and below ground. Too much rain spoils blooms. Too much rain dampens the spirit. We have had all of the aforementioned. 

Deborah Silver

Is it the rain or the cold that gets to my weary bones far beyond the havoc it reigns in the garden landscape?

Perhaps the dry-out late in July that parches the land through the Fall is even worse, when my soul aches for a simple cup of relief?

How will I look back on this season of my own life where moments of respite, nourished from the right care gives way to occasional relapse and now tragedy?

Alas my dear brother, survived with me but not with our youngest, Rob, lies in a coma amidst the sterile hum of machines you could never repair

In your appliance servicing days let alone fix your own broken spirit from never quite fitting into the affections of our Dad but perhaps too much by our Mom?

What is Mike’s world like right now: can he hear the buzz, taste the plastic tube down his throat, smell the air now sanitized and finally free of cigarette smoke?

I ache for you as I did for Rob. You two never did get the advantages I had as the oldest nor fight long enough for better despite our childhood traumas.

Or perhaps that first year of my life cinched it when there was more love to give in both bloodlines . . . oh how I wish I could go back and carve more out for you!

The Lord grieves for us three as now you are now in the juxtaposition from time to eternity. It’s just not how He meant it to be you know.

I will love you forever Mike. Godspeed if this is the end. Go to your Maker and live at last, totally freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!

A rain garden rises from the soil and rocks, bringing beauty and purification. Consider this a sign in the natural world of His creation that imitates the glory of a life surrendered to Christ.

He really cares: Part 1

The initial blog title rattling around in my brain for the last 24+ hours was, “You are THE ONE who really cares.”  After all, when each of us is alone in the midst of a trial (particularly when it is medical), it is only you that bears the greatest burden of the suffering.  Others offer comfort, prayer, helps of various levels, and if you are lucky will actually stick around for more than a few moments.  But it is you, one and only, who must bear the pain . . .  And that can be frightening to say the least!

Rather than rant about what to do with fear, give platitudes and verses with which to train your mind, and otherwise avoid ministering to the weeping heart, I will simply offer this:

Just lay your head on the lap of Jesus.

More than anyone, Jesus Christ knows what it is like to be killed, pained, abandoned, betrayed, falsely accused.  He is the only one Who can be with you as the Holy Spirit, in your time of sorrow from its beginning until its end.  He will never leave us or forsake us and always be there if we but call upon His name.  He is worthy of our

praise

tears

anger

weakness

alms

thanksgiving.  I was reminded of all of this just yesterday!

About 3:30 p.m. in the afternoon I was abandoned in a treatment room of my doctor’s office.  The nurse practitioner (NP) had left the room after writing an order for me to get IV fluids and after “catching” me collapse during a short convulsive episode during the appointment.  After all, that’s why I was there:  to document the crisis, get the orders, and head over to the hospital for treatment thereafter.  I was sitting there kind of dazed.  Soon after she left the room (and after another nurse came into the room to revise the scheduling of some other appointments), I began to list to one side.  There was a chair next to me with my purse and water bottle resting on it.  The weakness increased and a few inches at a time, I began falling to my right side, coming closer to the purse on the chair.  I could not speak.  I could not brace myself.  I could not do anything but be glad there was a chair next to the one upon which I was sitting so as to break my fall.

The next 20-30 minutes were very ugly.  My body collapsed fully onto the chair next to me.  My face smashed into the zipper of the purse while my glasses and cover-style sunglasses pressed into my face.  I looked straight ahead with my head rotated completely to my left, straining my neck most uncomfortably.   The front of my right ear was crushed underneath me on the purse whilst the back was free-falling unsupported; the back of my head pressed into the vinyl backrest of the metal chair.  Not exactly pillow material!  My right hip was twisted and pushed into the thinly padded, vinyl seat of the chair upon which I was sitting.  The ringing in my ears had already increased with the headache that had been working its way into action over the past hour.  Legs cramping, toe tips burning as much as my finger tips, and feet struggling to keep contact with the floor to stabilize my position . . . herein I would remain for the next 90 minutes.

I thought about many things.  First, I prayed.  I prayed again and again and talked to God about many things.  Will they be coming soon?  Do I hear them coming?  Was I expected to go out to the nurse’s desk after the NP left the room or was she coming back with more instructions?  I really could not remember since I was already in the brain fog of recovering from the earlier episode that she had witnessed before she left the room.  Surely the staff would notice that I had not left the room yet?  Or maybe not.  I waited in that same treatment room (#4) TWO HOURS the last time I saw the NP before I stepped out to mention that I was in there waiting.  “I didn’t know you were in there waiting for me,” she explained with her soft, sweet voice that I would learn never changes even in the midst of an emergency . . .

Time passed.  It was hard to ignore the searing pain of the two pairs of glasses being pressed with my full upper body weight into the side of my nose.  I could not move to get more comfortable.  I still couldn’t speak.  I tested this out and nothing happened.  In a while when I tested it again, my arm would start shaking; if I tried my leg, my leg would start shaking.  This is what I call, “neurological collapse” at it’s finest.  I learned on in a Catamenial Epilepsy Facebook page that in true epilepsy (which I do not have) has a name for this phenomenon called, “Todd’s paralysis.”  It can go on for up to 48 hours and mimic the signs/symptoms of a stroke.  Todd’s paresis usually resolves on its own without any residual effects.  I have experienced this complication at least once per week for the last 3 years.  Gratefully, most of the time the residual effects for me resolve within 2 hours, at home, in the evening, and within reach of my beloved husband!

There is nothing I can do to quicken the process of recovery from an episode.  It takes what it takes.  Knowing this I tried to calm myself down and focus on my breathing despite my twisted posture.  My rib cage was constricted so I did what I could to at least slow down each inhale, each exhale.  I did what I could to keep my neck and shoulder muscles tensed a bit so as not to twist my upper torso any more extremely than it already was.  I tried to relax the crushed tissues on my face so the pain would subside.  This worked poorly.  Suddenly the voices beyond the closed door seemed louder.  Then I heard the doctor’s voice.  This would be the time to try and vocalize something for help.  My voice was weak.  help.  Help.  I tried many times.  Probably no one in the same room with me would have heard those first cries.

I redoubled my efforts.  I took a deeper breath and vocalized a little louder, “Help!”  Then I rested and made more attempts, “HELP!”  Surely the door cannot be that thick!  I can see a crack at the bottom between the wood of the door and the low pile carpeting.  “HEEEEEEELP!!!”  I cried again.  My nose was running from the first time I had started to cry, dripping onto my purse.  Fortunately it is made of an outdoorsy, washable fabric.  Your mind thinks of all kinds of things when you are trapped.

To be continued in Part 2

Only my potato chips remain crushed today

Who knew that finely crushed, Unsalted Kettle Potato Chips would be like a salve to my wounded frame today?  In the spirit of my previous foodie post, I must say that finely crushed chips make my creamy beef stew-ish soup puree quite special.  Since there are potato chips in my belly, life will go on after all!

Yes, there is other good news after enduring 36-hours of hell, ending about an hour ago:  we believe we have identified the trifecta-root cause of much of my illness.  However, unlike a horserace where a bet on a trifecta identifies win, place, or show, we are not sure of the order of these little fillies:

  1. Two infected teeth with root canals
  2. Inflammation secondary to the infection and
  3. Dental galvanism from dissimilar metals in the crowns of the root-canaled teeth.

Now we recognize that while we certainly won’t know the exact cause until the teeth are extracted and I have treated the infection, if needed.  I am on a waiting list for a local surgeon after a trip to see a qualified biologic dentist out-of-state resulted in being passed on to someone else equally far from home.  My husband has led us to the decision to find someone else locally; I am on a waiting list to have my appointment moved up from April 2nd with the best local oral surgeon.  Those Gentle Readers who have followed me for awhile know that I have thought before that we found the “root cause” of everything.  The “it” still could be complicated by underlying Lyme disease, mold neurotoxins and the definite mercury toxicity fueling it all.  Yet one thing is now clear:  these teeth still have to come out!

Here’s a brief summary of these three new factors in my own words:

1.  When a person has a root canal procedure, a dead tooth is left behind.  The primary root canals consisting of nerve tissue and blood are scraped out and a rubber-like substance called gutta percha is stuffed into the remaining cavity.  While the opening is treated with an antiseptic, no one can ever know for sure if any secondary root canals were left un-cleaned and untreated.  Any remaining nerve and blood tissues dies and can provide food for aerobic and anaerobic bacteria.

Between the root canal channel and the outer enamel of the tooth is the dentin, consisting of 3 miles of dentil tubules.  These are too numerous to be completely sterilized before placement of the gutta percha.  Thus there is a possibility of infection seeping into the dentil tubules.  When a tooth is healthy, all of the dental tissues are washed with blood but this is no longer possible with the severing of the blood vessels during the root canal procedure.  However, if the infection grows, the bacteria can eventually seep from it’s hidden little factory in the tubules into the jaw bone and surrounding blood supply thus potentially affecting the mouth and rest of the body.  It is well-recognized that these bacteria can be exceedingly dangerous.

Lastly, during a root canal procedure the periodontal ligament is often left in place around the dead tooth, adding further risk for infection and necrosis from this dead tissue lying next to the gums or jaw bone.  Only in the dental industry is a once-living, now-dead tissue and a dead structure (the tooth) allowed to stay in the body; otherwise this tissue would be surgically removed as in the examples of damaged frostbitten fingers, gangrenous toes, severely burned skin, etc!

2.  As spoken by the nurse in my doctor’s office this past week, reddened tissue means inflammation and often indicates the presence of infection.  Pain in the upper left portion of my jaw has lasted over 13 years, increasing lately to the point of requiring periodic Ibuprofen and topical treatments such as (diluted) clove oil.  I now chew food only on the right side of my mouth, avoid hot and cold temperatures, and consume soft/pureed foods so as to minimize the chewing and pressure on my teeth that trigger convulsive episodes.  Geez!

3.  Though considered controversial by traditional dentists, it is easy to find hundreds of mainstream and holistic dentistry sites that have described the dental galvanism (aka “battery effect”) that can occur from the use of dissimilar metals in amalgam fillings, crowns, and dental appliances.  I had my amalgam fillings (generally consisting 50% of mercury) removed many years ago yet there remains a question if there is any remaining underneath one of my crowns.  The bigger issue is that three of the four crowns in my mouth consist of a combination of metals.  To establish if the presence of metals (in the presence of saliva) creates any currents between my teeth, yesterday my husband and I touched the probes of a voltmeter to the surface of the two teeth in question.  The voltage was TWICE that of my skin on my arm!  Steve questioned if this small amount of voltage would be of any clinical significance?  Note that microcurrent (significantly less than the voltage we measured on my teeth) is used in rehabilitation for the treatment of pain.  This means that the body must be affected by tiny currents.  Too bad the current in my teeth is not mitigating pain!    Conversely, I wonder if this battery-effect is over stimulating a part of my brain, triggering the convulsions instead?

Now to flesh out number 3 a little more, I refreshed myself on a little neuroanatomy.  The upper branch of the trigeminal nerve innervates the upper and lower jaw of the mouth.  The trigeminal nerve originates from a part of the brainstem called the “Pons” which sits on top of the spinal cord inside the back of the skull; three branches extend on each side of your head and across the face with the mandibular branch dividing over the top and bottom of the jaw.   During dental procedures, this is the nerve into which a dentist injects a numbing agent such as Novocain.  The motor division of the entire trigeminal nerve derives from the basal plate of the embryonic pons, and the sensory division originates in the cranial neural crest.

Fifth Cranial Nerve Distribution:  Trigeminal Nerve (from Wikipedia 2.27.15)
Fifth Cranial Nerve Distribution: Trigeminal Nerve (from Wikipedia 2.27.15)

To hypothesize what electrical stimulation from 1) this battery-effect flowing 2) BACK TO the brain in the first two of these three areas could mean for a person, I took some liberties and looked up the symptoms of the person who has a stroke affecting these three areas.  (The cranial neural crest has more significance in embryonic development and stem cell research than the discussion here so I left it out.)  My findings are fascinating.  Please note that the exact symptoms will depend on which biological “electrical circuits” and junctions are affected since the structures are so small and interrelated; we cannot know for certain which structures will be affected.  Regardless, I have listed a few symptoms that I do experience from each of these respective areas during my own seizure attack or convulsive episodes.

  • Damage to Basal Plate Symptoms:  Loss of movement, such as stiff, rigid or weak muscles; tremors or body shakes; aphasia (difficulty speaking); changes in eye movements; or changes in motivation or personality.
  • Damage to Embryonic Pons Symptoms:  Weakness of upper and lower extremity (arm and leg on same side as damage); dysregulation from inhalation to exhalation (difficulty breathing); sleep paralysis (inability to move when falling asleep or after waking up and altered dreams); difficulties with balance (ataxia); dizziness due to vertigo; or clumsiness of a hand or arm.  A person with a severe stroke may need help with self-care or feeding as a result.

Wow.  These all have happened in some combination with each “tazoring” as I call it.  Thankfully there are higher parts of my brain in the cerebral cortex that appear unaffected and thankfully the symptoms are not permanent so far!  I would not be able to write this blog if the damage was permanent.  But I know I cannot overthink all of this.  After the onset of acute upper back pain two days ago, I feared what the range of random electrical charges on my weakened frame could do to my heart.  Or was it a heart attack?  Well, no.  I had gone too far.  Pain comes from thrashing around and will be dealt with when I return to physical therapy and chiropractic care sometime after dental surgery.

Wasn’t this interesting?  There is much hope in putting all of this together.  Please join me in praying for the Lord’s will in all of this.  And if it is the Lord’s will, I would love to have these two crazy teeth outta here ASAP!  Time for these little ones to go!  I prefer to be toothless in Indiana with crushed potato chips on my soup of the day instead of this saga continuing.  Even if my hypothesis was wrong, I am grateful for the mental stimulation, the challenge of the hunt.  I trust that the Lord will use all of this for His glory.  Maybe this insight will help someone, somewhere, someday?

And you know and Lord willing, this year I AM GOING TO GET WELL!!!  Yeah baby.  Take care Gentle Readers.  JJ

 

 

And then I got up

It was the most horrific of reactions:  writhing and such.

Even our pup could not make guttural sounds like me in my muck.

Earlier I sensed a reaction soon was a’comin’ . . .

And lo on the way home the tics started showin.’

So we showered once home, throwing our clothes in the wash

In case you think romance followed I’ll tell ya that was ‘nash —

Not the way it came down I say as I leaped into bed

Barely dried off and with a wet towel flung from my head.

An hour many would not survive followed me in there

I marveled as my lungs, heart, and mind would again persevere.

My beloved raised me in his arms to feed me some water

Then with more wimpers and smaller jolts he sensed the cause of the matter:

An older building, became soiled with everything one could imagine

‘Twas cosmetically upgraded with bright lights and smiles on everyone.

It was hard to tell during a visit as important as this

That there would be hell to pay later for pursuing a visit.

But that’s the way it goes when your brother finally gets the care he needs

In a 4-star nursing home upgraded from one he survived where they could subtract at least 3.

We chatted, we laughed and the pupster Elle provided all the charm

The rekindling of family love, fulfilled with treats from my oven still warm.

Then came the gift from my bro when Mike let me play O.T.

And minister to his contracted frame, providing hope to both him and me.

My skills were still there and his muscle memory someday could return

Lord willing we shall see His purpose and be grateful for this wild ‘journ.

So how can I complain that some new treatment of my own did not hold

When I just started 2 days ago then walked into a fiery test a bit too bold.

‘Cause long after the last jolt, the last choreathetoid seize

I was able to get up and make myself something to eat.

Now sitting here listening to my slumbering beloved who works in the ‘morn

I am grateful for so much although tonight so much is yet unknown.

“When will this crap end?” I ask myself and the darkened night air

“In just a little while,” responds the Lover of my soul Who holds my life in His care.

So even in this I will trust in the God Who has promised

That all things will be good.  Get back to bed.  Good golly it’s almost (morning)!

JJ

Mike and Julie at Medilodge in Michigan
Mike and Julie at Medilodge in Michigan

 

The Real Tree of Life

Monet Japanese bridge at giverny

 

In the 1980’s I visited the Monet exhibit when it was at the Chicago Art Museum.  My husband at the time humored me with tickets and appeared to be as delighted as I was with the works of this famous impressionist.  Sometimes you just have to see things in person to understand their brilliance; this was true for both of us after we toured the travelling exhibit.  We brought home a print of the Japanese Bridge at Giverny to frame and proudly display in our home as a remembrance.  I still have that picture lying in wait for the perfect place to showcase it in the more contemporary-styled home of Steve and me.  Perhaps we will find that spot in another few decades or maybe our next home, whichever comes first!

Another piece of art takes my breath away every time I see it.  If I can ever find another print of it I suspect that I will always have it on display somewhere no matter our décor.  I was in the gift shop of the Chicago Art Museum with a boyfriend at the time, years before finding the Monet print, when I found a poster of Henri Matisse’s “The Tree of Life.”  It’s a photograph of a stained glass window from the Chapel of the Rosary in Vence, Italy.  Something about it captured my heart.  The colors and themes are simple, completed in a form of collage for which Mr. Matisse remains famous.  I’m not particularly fond of most of the rest of his work however, that tends to be more abstract or includes distorted images of people, places, and things in bright colors.  Many of those people are partially naked:  tis not my cup of tea to have an image of a naked stranger on display in my living room!

We carried the poster home on the commuter train back home to the suburbs like a prized possession.  This trip occurred before I had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the true giver of life.  Oh I knew the story of Adam and Eve from Genesis and the two trees in the Garden of Eden:  the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, the Tree of Life.  Perhaps it was the simple themes, Biblical title, and reverence for our Creator that struck a cord in me when I saw this image.  Sadly over the years of living in various apartments then storing the print in a storage locker, the framed poster was damaged by a basement flood beyond repair.  Or perhaps it was the distraction of graduate school that cost me my better judgment in keeping this little memento safe.  Oh well.  It’s not that important right?

Years later I came upon the Tree of Life image online.  I searched and searched through scores of poster websites trying to find another copy.  On two occasions I even called the gift shop at the Art Museum trying to locate a source for securing another copy.  The image was printed for that temporary exhibit only and the staff said I would have to contact the Vatican in Italy for another one!   Yes, I looked for contact information for the Vatican gift shop and eventually ran into a dead end once again.  Still another lead led me to an oil painter who could make copies of it but the online service appeared somewhat nefarious for the cost.  I’m not sure it would be worth a few hundred dollars to have a beastly oil painting when a nicely matted and framed print will do just fine.

tree-of-life-stained-glass-behind-the-altar-in-the-chapel-of-the-rosary-at-vence-1951 

So the search will go on for perhaps another few decades.  That’s fine too.  These days the “stuff of life” (as in art prints) is less important to me.  An older mentor once taught me at a critical time in my life to hold things of value lightly before the throne of God’s grace.  It’s like placing a pencil in the palm of an outstretched hand.  He may grant you good things or non-material blessings depending upon each season of life in which we find ourselves.  Sometimes we hold onto the pencil for a purpose as it lies on our hand and other times the pencil falls away.  To discern whether to hold on to it or let go out of our hands is wisdom indeed and worth holding onto the most.  Let’s reflect on this further:

She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her;
    those who hold her fast will be blessed.  Proverbs 3:18

Ah yes, there it is.  Looks like in the Bible the Tree of Life was first noted in the Garden of Eden and later referred to wisdom.  What else we can find?

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and the one who is wise saves lives.  Proverbs 11:30

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.  Proverbs 13:12

The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.  Proverbs 15:4

On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.  Revelation 22:2

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.  Revelation 22:4

And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.  Revelation 22:19  (Our just reward if we do not heed His invitation.)

 

Knowing that I have access to the tree of life through my relationship with Jesus Christ has made a tremendous difference in my life.  These past 2 1/2 years have been wretched with painful, noxious symptoms and waking seizures every day, multiple times per day, and often for hours.  Other symptoms come and go every day.  Knowing the hope that lies within our Lord’s living water manifest within the image of a life-giving tree resonates with me.  I love gardening and increasingly appreciate being outside more than indoors:  two ingredients drawing me towards His majestic creation in the natural world.

As He gives life to nature so does He breathe life into you and me.  The past 1 1/2 months since my brother’s devastating stroke pains me as I realize his suffering too.  My love for Mike draws me to pray for him in hopes that he rededicates his life to the Lord who loves him despite this situation.  As we both dwell in the presence of the Lord there will be a purpose for our lives, a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).  We must draw upon the living water extended to us through Jesus’ death and resurrection to realize these promises, until we are called home to dwell in His presence forever.  His indwelling Spirit will sustain us, and strengthen us like that tree of life growing strong and tall against the storms that may come.  It is the harsh winds and rainstorms that help the sapling to develop strong roots, sturdy branches, and rings in the trunk that tell the stories of His amazing grace through it all.

The real tree of life is not a poster or a pendant found on the internet:  that is for certain!  The real tree of life is the Lord Jesus Christ as the rock of my salvation, His firm foundation under my feet, nourished from the Word of God, yielding the fruit of Holy Spirit for His glory alone.  We will grow in love and admonition of the Lord:  a wonderful place to be.  I am so grateful to have found the true Giver of life.  Gentle Reader:  have you found Him too?  :J