He who sings, prays twice: Cancer and faith

The last hour before you start a theater show looks crazy.  Everyone is getting into costume and doing their makeup in front of too few mirrors. People are making sure their props are in the right place.  Actors with mikes sing for the mike check.   The run crew makes sure the lighting, curtains, etc. are correct.  The orchestra and the singers warm up. Everyone is excited and rushing around.  The house opens and the audience starts to arrive.  Everything gets quieter backstage, but the excitement still simmers.  

Finally, the lights go down.  The orchestra starts the overture.  Everything quiets down backstage.  The actors get into place onstage and in the wings.  You focus on what you're about to do.  It's like you're suspended and waiting to move.

In that beautiful moment of suspension, focus, and anticipation, I often (okay, almost always) have some of my most focused prayers - that the show will go well for everyone, that the audience will enjoy it, that cast members who are sick or sad will be able to enjoy the show...

...and thanksgiving.  Those are some of my most thankful prayers - particularly during this summer's show since I wasn't even sure I'd be able to sing again last fall after my surgery.

I don't know that I've written about this before because... well, your best prayers are supposed to be at church, right?

After not being able to go to church for months after my partial thyroidectomy last year (post here), I embrace any way that I can worship.  I've always thought that one can encounter God all over, not just in church.  But after months of being too dizzy and exhausted to make it through a formal service, I now enthusiastically advocate meeting God anywhere and everywhere.

Otherwise, only the healthy can encounter God in a significant way!  If you can only meet God in a long church service after a drive which exhausts you, that leaves those with health problems out in the cold.  If you look at the stories about Jesus, leaving the sick out is not following Jesus! 

I've always liked physical expressions of faith - making the sign of the cross, kneeling for prayer (before I had knee surgery), genuflecting, etc.

During my long recovery from surgery, I started feeling like genuflecting at places other than in the Nave at church. 

At Ayr Mount in the spring...


...at family dinners, at choir rehearsals (I could go to rehearsals long before I could last through a formal service), while doing short hikes in the mountains, out in the gardens, etc. - anyplace I felt thankful and closer to God.

 At various churches, we've heard all sorts of things about how and why to pray to God:  To remind God of His promises (evangelical); adoration, petition, thanksgiving, confession, and intercession (Catholic), because the Bible tells you to, etc.

Since my surgery, pat answers about prayer seem even further away.  Petition?  Walk around the Duke Cancer Center and see the small,tired children with bald heads and large stuffed animals being wheeled around in strollers or wagons by their parents.  Why was my cancer solved by surgery, and their treatment goes on and on?  I don't know.  There are few prayers that are more fervent than the prayers of those parents.  

I still pray.  Mostly for other people, a bit for me, lots of thanksgiving.  I pray because... God.  

There's really nothing else to add.

Praying in a church at a service is nice - it's pretty and inspirational.  I no longer believe that it's essential - because anything that leaves out the sick can't be the only way to God.

I still believe the Eucharist is important, but - and here's the difficult part for me - I no longer believe that it's essential because anything that leaves out the sick can't be the most important way to God.

My faith at this point is expressed in two ways.  

First, by taking care of people.  After not being able to do much of that for months, it's so wonderful to be able to do.  Those of you who were in this year's musical saw that on overdrive this summer.  I recorded music to help people learn it, had the altos over to my house to work on music, hosted set painting work evenings in our garage, sewed, and I'm now going through the over 1,000 photos that my husband took at a dress rehearsal to edit the best ones for the cast.

Taking care of people - and almost all of that could be done at home because my energy isn't back to lots of running around yet.

Second, by singing to God.  That's where the title quote from St. Augustine comes in.  After the post-surgery possibility of totally losing my voice, singing is even more important that it was before.  Whenever I sing, and whatever I sing, I'm always singing to God.  It doesn't matter if it's an Alleluia, a choir anthem, a musical theater audition, blending my voice with others in the chorus of a show, or singing along with a song by P!nk.  I'm always singing to God.


[Note:  I wrote this a year ago, after I was in a local production of Li'l Abner.  After not being able to sing for four months the previous fall/winter because of my partial thyroidectomy, I actually got my first solo singing role in a theater production!  Being with my theater family that summer and being able to help out so much, was very healing for me after a long year of a slow recovery (and choir helped immensely over the spring, even though I wasn't well enough at that point to make it through a long Sunday morning).  A year later, after two more wonderful musical theater experiences (Ragtime and Annie), I've come back to this post, and it's still pretty much what I believe.  I'll be looking for a church closer to home (hopefully) in the next year or two.*  What I'm looking for in a church hasn't really changed from what I've always wanted, but I'm finally being really open about what I feel is what I should do with this time I have been given.  More on that in future posts, but, it's really all here in this one.  Singing and helping people.]

 * Younger son has one more year of homeschooling left so I'm not splitting my focus at this point.  Also, we've always rushed into joining churches, and I'd like to do things differently this time.  

Cribs and guns

Dear Husband and I were 20 and 19 when we got married.  We lived very frugally for a long time.  Most of our furniture was second-hand or very cheap.  

However, we had/have a lovely crib and changing table.  My parents bought the crib for us, and my in-laws bought the matching changing table. Older son's baby room was beautiful because of them (use "them" either way in that sentence).  

We used the crib for three children and also lent it to friends.  It still is in fantastic condition. Recently, we've been wondering what to do with it.  Keep it in case one of our kids might want to use it some day?

It turns out that, as wonderful as our memories of the crib are, our kids' memories of the crib - what few there are - mostly involved trying to escape from it.  They have no emotional attachment to it at all.  We decided to donate both pieces....

...and found out that we couldn't.

There's a wonderful ministry, The Furniture Project, at St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Chapel Hill, NC.  They have a storage unit full of donated furniture, and they can furnish a room or an apartment for formerly homeless families, immigrant families, domestic violence victims, etc.*

As soon as I found that, I sent an e-mail to the director.  Now that we are able to donate to help others, I like to do so.  We could give our baby furniture to someone who needs it!


She told me that there was a new law four years ago.  Drop side cribs had caused 32 deaths between 2000 and 2011.  They cannot be sold or donated.  Changing table regulations had also been strengthened.

Oh well.

I'm all for making things safer so I'm not complaining.


In 2015 there has been at least one shooting by a toddler a week in the US...

They found that so far in 2015:

• 13 toddlers have killed themselves with guns
• 18 other small children injured themselves
• 10 injured other people
• Two killed other people

[From The Telegraph dated October 15, 2015]

That's just in 2015, and the year isn't over yet.  15 deaths from toddlers - almost half the death toll for a decade from the now-banned cribs.  

The second amendment reads:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

Armed toddlers do not constitute a "well regulated militia."  People who leave loaded guns where toddlers can use them do not constitute a "well regulated militia."  People whose guns go off accidentally in their pocket or their purse do not constitute a "well regulated militia."  

Continuing with the article:   

The states with the most restrictive gun laws didn't have any recorded toddler shootings. California regulates gun sales quite heavily, requiring those who buy guns to pass a written safety test, and only guns from a very stringent roster can be sold.

If we can save babies and toddlers from cribs, we should be able at least reduce the harm from guns.  The death count is FAR higher.


 *  It turns out that our church is a sponsor for The Furniture Project, although, in the last twelve years, I'd never heard of the project.  Our church's website is very pretty, but not very useful.**

**  I just looked at it - you can't even tell from the website that our church has a choir!  Then we wonder why people don't join the choir?! 

The Power of Guilt

I was at one of my favorite Zumba classes last January, and I was looking at my watch every five minutes.  I wasn't enjoying it at all.  I had noticed this feeling creeping into Zumba classes over the previous few weeks.  Somehow, I had managed to make Zumba into a chore.  

This was not only sad because I love Zumba, but also because it was one of the few non-family things I still enjoyed.  I wasn't enjoying reading.  The only thing I was reading much of anymore were Regency romances - and those only because I need to wind down before going to sleep.  I had stopped listening to classical, jazz, and folk music.  All those CDs and tapes were dormant.  I listened to pop music on the radio just to have something to do while driving.  I didn't listen to any music in the house anymore.  If someone else wanted to watch a movie, I would, but there wasn't much that I was interested in.  

I enjoyed doing things with my family (I'd have to be really severely depressed not to do that), but I had almost no outside interests left.  Photography, blogging, etc. - I had no interest in anything creative.  

I was really upset during that Zumba class because I was losing one of the few things I still enjoyed!  Fortunately, I was able to realize why I was feeling that way, decide that it was stupid, and go ahead and enjoy the rest of the class.

In the middle of that class, I realized that I was feeling guilty about having moderately high blood pressure, and I was, subconsciously (I hope I wouldn't do anything this stupid consciously), punishing myself for my blood pressure.  

I said it was stupid.

Back when my blood pressure was higher, I got guilt trips - not from my doctor because she knew everything that I was doing to try to lower it - and not from the hypertension specialist because, when my blood pressure was measured correctly, it wasn't all that high - but from other doctors and nurses who were incorrectly measuring my blood pressure in bad situations.  You're supposed to measure your blood pressure when you're at rest; not when you're panicking because your throat is closing up as a reaction to an allergy shot, your husband is in another state, and you're wondering what will happen to your younger son if they take you to the emergency room; not when you're really light-headed as a reaction to a flu shot and you're wondering how you and younger son are going to get home; and not at an appointment which you've rushed to immediately after a Zumba class (not even having any time to stretch) and your heart rate is still up.  

Surprisingly, I'm not at rest in those situations.  The hypertension specialist doesn't even pay attention to readings from other doctors' offices because she can't be sure that the other doctors take blood pressure readings correctly.  The only readings that matter are the ones in her office.  

These other readings didn't do me any good, and the doctors and nurses only did harm. Unfortunately for me, other peoples' emotions affect me a lot.  If you know me in person you might say to yourself, "But she seems so calm."  


I try my hardest not to impose my emotions on others.  I know how much harm comes to me when others spray their emotions all over me.  

[Note: If you have any good practical advice as to how not to be affected by others' emotions, I'd love to hear it.  "Just toughen up" is not good advice.  If I knew how to do that, I wouldn't have this problem.] 

The other doctors and nurses didn't do me any good at all, but they did a great job at making me feel guilty for having moderately high blood pressure.  All the "serious talks" that they gave me just kicked the guilt into high gear.  None of them ever asked what I was actually trying to do to get my blood pressure down:

  • Two knee surgeries plus half a year of intense physical therapy so that I could exercise regularly again.  I did 2 - 3 hours of physical therapy every single day.  I watched most of Battlestar Galactiac sideways because I was doing PT on the floor.
  • Four crash diets (I spent last Thanksgiving saying, "No, thank you.")
  • Lots and lots of exercising.  That's one of the few things that actually helped.  
  • Stopping using salt in cooking.  After a few weeks, the guys weren't eating much for dinner, but they were having snacks later in the evening.  I eventually got the hypertension specialist's book out of the library, and the amount of salt she used in her heart-healthy recipes was  the amount I usually used before I stopped using it.  I'm still making smaller reductions now, but keeping the food edible.
  • Drugs.  One of them knocked me out for a month and raised my blood pressure to a consistent 175/100.  Nobody's been able to explain that one, which makes me wonder about how much they know.  All three of the drugs made my throat close up.  All of them gave me bizarre side-effects.
  • Visiting a throat specialist to see why my throat closed up - no results.  He sent me to a specialist in chemical allergies.
  • The chemical allergy specialist (regular allergists don't deal with drug allergies) was really enthusiastic about my strange case.  I actually took the last drug in his office, and he was amazed at the bizarre side effects.  Fifteen minutes after a 1/10 dose, I seemed drunk and couldn't sit up.  He told me that no doctor would  be able to accept that I have such bizarre reactions to drugs without actually seeing it.
  • That's when my regular doctor sent me to the hypertension specialist who said that she'd never seen a case like mine (allergic to 3 bp drugs)  
  • The hypertension specialist sent me to an integrative medicine specialist.  Unfortunately, the IM doctor was a crackpot so I never went back.  There's a long post about that that I never wrote.
  • The IM office does have a great yoga class (for people with previous injuries)* that a friend recommended.  That's another thing that gave an observable reduction in my bp.
  • The sleep study.  It turned out that I had severe sleep apnea when sleeping on my back.  I've been using a CPAP for the last five months, and it's brought my blood pressure down.  However, as I've complained in previous posts, it also made me exhausted for most of the first four months.  For the first two months, I couldn't drive in the afternoons or evenings because I was too tired to drive safely.  I didn't do any dance or Zumba in the evenings, and I was so tired that even walks were almost impossible.  I got so out of shape.  However, getting rid of the sleep apnea did bring my blood pressure down.  

It didn't matter that fighting my blood pressure had become not only my major focus over the last five years, it also dominated our family life.  The doctors and nurses still gave me guilt trips, which I didn't need on top of everything else.  It gave me the feeling that my not being successful gave them the right to emotionally beat me up.  It also made me feel constantly tense, which, SURPRISE, makes blood pressure go up. 

That's one way in which my discipline in not showing my emotions is bad for me.**  If I discussed blood pressure calmly with a medical professional, they thought that I wasn't taking it seriously, and they gave me a big guilt lecture.  Maybe I should have made myself panic so that they would have had to calm me down instead.

I can't even picture doing that.  

Anyway, I had stopped myself from enjoying more than just Zumba.  Because of the guilt, I wasn't enjoying music, reading, movies, blogging, photography - pretty much anything creative.  I'd made my life pretty flat and grey in response to the guilt.  

The wonderful thing is that, once I realized that I had turned these things off, I was able to start turning them on again.  I was too tired to enjoy things while I was getting used to the CPAP this spring and early summer, but, beside that, I've started enjoying all these things again!  It's been wonderful.  There are so many intersting things to photograph, so many wonderful books (recent post), great movies (just added a bunch to the Netflix queue), so many interesting places to go, a wide variety of food to try at Sunday's Food Truck Rodeo in Durham...

...and so much beautiful music!

Which, of course, is where I'm ending - with a song.  

I've loved folk music for years, and losing that the last year or two has been really difficult for me. I've been listening to lots of it lately.  Here's a current favorite song, Brighter from Here, by the folk duo, Martha's Trouble:


*  I can do just about everything else after my second knee surgery - hiking, Zumba, dance, etc. - (Duke Sports Medicine is fantastic!), but I still can't sit cross-legged for more than a minute or two which knocks out most yoga classes.  

** I've also read that women who don't display their own emotions and try to take care of everyone else's are more likely to have high blood pressure.

How physically fit should a Christian be?

I mean this question to be within Christian theology.  Obviously, in practical terms, Christians can work out as much and be as fit as anyone else.  

But, theologically speaking, should they?  Is that how they should spend their time?

I got really out of shape this spring and early summer when I was getting used to the CPAP because I was so exhausted all the time.  I couldn't drive to Zumba classes in the evenings, and walks were even difficult (Can I go to sleep now?  At the next driveway?).  Now that the musical is over (and it was So much fun!!!!) one of my goals for the next half year is to get back in shape.  Walking, Zumba, swimming, physical therapy exercises, weights, etc.  

This morning I walked for an hour, and this evening, I swam laps.  Tomorrow, I'll walk first thing in the morning and do Broadway Dance in the evening.  I'm going to try to keep up the "walks and..." as much as I can. 

It struck me this evening, though, that I'm planning on spending a lot of time exercising this next half year.  If I were a good Christian, is this what I should be doing?

I'm a really lousy Christian, though (I've covered that in other posts so I won't go into it here) so this is really a theoretical question.  I'm so lousy that I wouldn't become a good Christian by exercising less so I'm not worrying about it.  

The exercise question isn't necessarily new, either.  I spent about two hours a day doing my physical therapy after my second knee surgery (the pt was much more intense after the second surgery because I was doing it through Duke Sports Medicine)(one of my happy places).  After the first knee surgery (with a lousy doctor at a different practice), they gave me pt to get me back to normal activities - chores, walking, etc.  The pt at Duke Sports Medicine was so intense because it was designed to get me teaching hi/low aerobics again.  I got to that point, but then I found that hi/low had been replaced by Zumba in most health clubs.*

Anyway, I theoretically wondered the same thing then.  Was it good use of a Christian's time to spend  2 hours/day on pt to really get in shape rather than to do about 1/2 hour to get back to just basic activities?

I'm not saying that Christians shouldn't exercise, but I'll be exercising more than the recommended 60 minutes 5X a week, or whatever it is that magazines are preaching right now.  It's the extra part that I'm (theoretically) questioning.  

Of course, I could ask the same question about dance, musical theater, hiking, kayaking, reading, gardening, and any of the other things I do for fun - even writing silly blog posts.  


* The question now is:  Do I want to join the small ranks of Zumba instructors over 50?!

How long until the next election?

Politically, I'm independent. I will, occasionally, find a politician from either party that I actually want to vote for.  The rest of the time, I choose the least unacceptable of the two options, or, all too often, I hold my nose and vote.  

The last few months, I have to hold my nose to read the paper.  I've been following politics since I was in junior high school back in the 1970's.  The current crop of NC Republican state legislators is... how to put it politely... crazy?  whacko?  totally off the map?  

I really am independent.  I'll read something thoughtful and well-written from either side.  I may not agree with it, but even an essay I don't agree with can start me thinking or help me to clarify my opposing view.  

This time, I can't even understand where these legislators are coming from, and how they have found so many who can vote for irrelevant or irrational bills (here's the list in the Charlotte Observer which prompted this post).

For instance, from what I've read in the papers, the Republicans haven't even tried to come up with a public justification for keeping college students from voting.  The proposed law says that, if college students register to vote at college, their parents can no longer claim them as dependents on their state income tax.



They've provided no reasoning behind the bill.

Of course, I'm sure the underlying reason is to make it more difficult for college students, who are usually more liberal, to vote.  However, even going by Republican partisan politics, this is a stupid move.  They're not only giving the Republican party an even worse reputation among those students, they're angering their parents who could be Democrats or Republicans - or really irritated independents.  

When daughter and older son were both little, back in the mid-1990's, our small voting location in eastern Durham, NC was on the national news.  It was a major election, and we only had one working voting machine.  The lines went on for hours, and they closed the voting late at night to give everyone a chance to vote.  I stood in line with two small children for hours because I've always considered thoughtful voting to be extremely important.  Now, they want to make that more difficult for my kids when they're finally old enough to vote?

A prominent NC Republican is quoted in the article explaining the changes:  "What they’re trying to do is help us rebuild the state’s economy. They feel they have a very limited amount of time to make the kind of reforms they want to make and put them in place before they get picked apart."

The Republicans keep mentioning the economy, but so many of the changes don't have any economic value.  Here are some quoted from the article [Sarcastic comments in brackets are mine.]:

  • Marriage: Couples would have to wait two years rather than one to divorce. They would have to take courses on communications skills and conflict resolution and – if they have children – courses on the impact of divorce on children.  [Economics?  No. Busybody-ness.]
  • Helmets: Anyone 18 years or older could ride a motorcycle without a helmet if the driver meets certain requirements, including having had a motorcycle license for more than a year.  [Why is this necessary?]
  • Charter schools: Teachers would not have to have a college degree to teach core subjects. Criminal background checks and teacher certification would be optional.  [Churches do background checks for Sunday School teachers who only teach for an hour a week, but teachers who are responsible for children for a large part of the week don't need to be checked.  Why?]
  • Teacher tenure: Tenure in public schools would be replaced with contracts for one, two, three or four years. [The state is not going to retain the best teachers by taking away job protections and reducing salaries.  That is basic economic logic.]
  • Indecent exposure: Women could be sent to prison for going topless in public in legislation to amend the state’s indecent exposure law by including "the nipple, or any portion of the areola, or the female breast" in the definition of "private parts."  [Because NC is overrun with rampaging female breasts.][Really - if NC was overrun in that way, wouldn't it help the economy?!]
  • School bus speed: School buses could go as fast as 55 mph. Under current law, 45 mph is the top legal speed for buses with children aboard, and 55 mph for school activity buses. Rep. Mark Brody, R-Union, says slow buses are “a hazard.”  [Only if the other drivers are bad drivers who shouldn't be on the road.] 

I could make this blog post really long and look for more examples (they're not difficult to find), but I'll try to keep it short(er).  The Democrats, the last time they were in power in NC, passed a number of bills that I thought were more controversial than they had support for.  I don't remember which bills in particular, but I remembered saying that, if they kept doing this, there would be a backlash.

There is, and it's a bad one.  I'm amazed at how many stupid bills the Republicans have come up with this time around.  

The Republicans may get some short-term gain from their politics and policies, but they're not looking to the long term.  They're alienating numerous groups and making themselves look intolerable to the upcoming generations.  Younger son just started really paying attention to politics in the last few years, and he has no respect for the current Republican politicians.

The greatest danger in the short term, however, is that independent voters, like myself, who used to vote for Republicans some of the time, will not only stop voting for them (I didn't find any worth voting for last November (and I tried!) so I voted straight ticket Democrat for the first time ever), but will actively work against the Republicans, which I plan to do at the next election.  


Losing a bit of November

When I lived up north, particularly in Detroit, November, basically, was winter.  Not so in the piedmont of North Carolina.  On November 1st, the leaves are still pretty, heavy raking is still in the future, and there are usually a number of warm, sunny days to go.  There's plenty of time for planting pansies and bulbs.  For us, it's a relatively peaceful month.

Thanksgiving, however, usually signals the change from fall to the shopping season.  Black Friday is gradually oozing its way into Thanksgiving. More and more days of the week have shopping names.  Black Friday is followed by Buy Local Saturday, and Cyber-Monday.  Oh, and for those of us non-holiday shoppers, the Feast of Christ the King was on Sunday.  Also, on another note, today is Giving Tuesday.

Shopping was a major focus of Facebook discussions last weekend.  One site I follow even asked what was the best deal I got on Black Friday.  

Having daughter home for five days was the best deal, of course.  My sister and her family were also here over the holiday - there was no way I was doing any shopping over Thanksgiving.  Though, really, now that I think of it, spending time with family, doing things outside, and maybe taking in a new movie (I loved Rise of the Guardians) have been the ways we've celebrated the Thanksgiving weekend for years.  I can't see ever replacing that with shopping.  

Looking at the calendar on November 1st made me grumpy.  Thanksgiving was the earliest it can be this year - November 22.  Only three short weeks of November fall enjoyment, and then the focus is on shopping.  I'd lost beautiful days of November.


I've decided not.  I usually start my shopping on the first Monday of Advent.  Often, that's the Monday after Thanksgiving.  This year, there's a week between the two.  I don't have to start shopping just because Thanksgiving is over.  Advent starts next Sunday.  I have another week (almost) of non-commercial November left.  Younger son and I are going to rake leaves every day, and dear husband and I are going to plant bulbs.  It looks like next weekend will be good weather for that.  

2011_12_12_9999_17csNext Monday, I'll start a frantic round of preparations (while trying to make time for exercise and for relaxation exercises).  For better or worse, I'm going to be done by December 12th.  Older son will be done with exams that week, and we'll go up to Asheville to bring daughter home from college - after wandering around Asheville to look at decorations.

Older son is a senior in college.  This is his last long Christmas break at home.  I absolutely will be done by the 12th.   

I didn't want a super-Christmas-y photo for this post, but I did want to post something from our Asheville trip last year.  This photo is of a decorated, espaliered tree in the Biltmore House Conservatory.  

Next year, however, Thanksgiving is on November 28th - the latest it can be.

That's more like it.  


The last two weeks have been busy - with wonderful things, but busy all the same.  I was looking forward to this week being calmer.  

Not so.  I won't be staying home any evening this week.  I usually like to have at least one or two evenings during the work week at home.  

I'm still getting caught up on all the things I didn't do last week, taking care of financial things, and trying to get to Zumba at least three times this week - along with homeschooling, of course.  

I'm still trying to get my blood pressure down normally, although I almost totally fell down on the things I've been trying to do last week.  I did do some eating that I didn't really want, but, overall, I ate less than during past Thanksgiving weeks.  All the de-stressing and learning how to relax stuff went totally out the window.  The bright spot, blood pressure-wise, was Zumba.  I went four times, which, last winter, kept my blood pressure the lowest it's been since I started having trouble.  I've been doing Zumba 4X/week for the last few weeks, and, so far, I haven't had any Achilles tendinitis or plantar fasciitis, which is what derailed my exercise last winter.  Up until last week, I'd been really working on the physical therapy exercises for my heel.  

I realized a few weeks ago that working on reducing my blood pressure during the holidays would be difficult.  The holidays are like a sprint from Thanksgiving on.   One evening, I started feeling hopeless.  Working on my blood pressure is getting in the way of all the rushing around that people are supposed to do.  Does one deserve to exist if one doesn't rush around?

Thank goodness for Zumba!  It cheered me up and made me determined again.  After class that evening, I decided that, even if I only got gift cards for people, I was still going to work on my bp.  

Back in October, when I was having really bad allergy problems, I had a difficult time falling asleep because my body wouldn't breathe in when I was lying down.  I had to sleep in a chair or propped up on a pillow for a week.  The doctor recommended me for a sleep study.  She'd asked about that back when I started having high blood pressure, but I didn't want to look into it because I didn't want to find out that I'd have to wear an ugly CPAP mask at night.

How romantic.

However, after all the drug reactions I've had the last few years, I'm not as worried about that anymore.  There are worse things than a machine.  

My sleep study is tomorrow night, and I'm dreading it.  I have a difficult enough time sleeping as it is, much less in a strange place hooked up to machines.  

Well, that was a lot of panicking for nothing

I had a hypertension specialist appointment yesterday.  It turns out that there is a right way and a wrong way to take your blood pressure, and most of the nurses that have taken mine have done it the wrong way and have gotten erroneously high results.  Taken properly, like the P.A. did at my appointment, my blood pressure isn't dramatically high.  It's only a bit above where they want it to be.  

So, all the panicking I've done about my blood pressure over the last four years not only wasn't necessary, but it also was bad for me because when I'm panicking... my blood pressure goes up.  

My blood pressure still is higher than it should be so I'm still going ahead with the changes I've planned on, even though they will inconvenience other people.*

The doctor (who is the head of the Duke Hypertension clinic), said that I have plenty of time to work on natural methods of getting my bp down.  Not only is it not as high as other doctors have measured (I'll get to that in a moment), they checked my blood vessels (including looking at the ones in the backs of my eyes), and I'm actually really healthy.

That was wonderful to find out, and I've been much more relaxed in the last 24 hours than I've been in the last four years - which can only help my bp.  

At home, I've been taking my blood pressure the right way, but at the wrong times.  Most doctors' offices haven't done either right.  The P.A. yesterday told me not to even bother taking it the wrong way or at the wrong time because those readings are not relevant.  

Here are the Mayo Clinic guidelines to taking blood pressure readings at home - with my comments in italics:

  • Don't measure your blood pressure right after you wake up. You can prepare for the day, but don't eat breakfast or take medications before measuring your blood pressure. If you exercise after waking, take your blood pressure before exercising.  So I shouldn't take my bp after Zumba or fast walking.  The P.A. mentioned that, when people are rushing around doing errands and then stop at a pharmacy to measure their bp in the machines, those measurements are not representative.  
  • Avoid food, caffeine, tobacco and alcohol for 30 minutes before taking a measurement. Also, go to the toilet first. A full bladder can increase blood pressure slightly.  They never mention any of this at doctor's offices.
  • Sit quietly before measuring your blood pressure. When you're ready to take your blood pressure, sit quietly for three to five minutes beforehand. In a doctor's office?!  I find the TVs in many doctors offices annoying.  After I sit with the annoying TV in the waiting room, the nurse then taking my blood pressure while also taking my temperature and discussing my health with you.  There hasn't been any sitting quietly since long before I left home.  Sit in a comfortable position with your legs and ankles uncrossed and your back supported against a chair. Most doctors' offices take bp while I'm sitting on an examining table with my feet dangling (they're supposed to be flat on the floor) and no back support.  Try to be calm and not think about stressful things.  So, for instance, the blood pressure reading that they got at the allergists' office when my throat was closing up in reaction to the allergy shot was also not relevant.  
  • Make sure your arm is positioned properly when measuring. Rest your arm, raised to the level of your heart, on a table, desk or chair arm. You may need to place a pillow or cushion under your arm to elevate it high enough. They almost never do this at the doctor's office.  Place the cuff on bare skin, not over clothing. Rolling up a sleeve until it tightens around your arm can result in an inaccurate reading, so you may need to slip your arm out of the sleeve.  They don't do this either.
  • Don't talk while taking your blood pressure. Take a repeat reading two to three minutes after the first one to check accuracy. You can wait as little as one minute in between your readings. If your monitor doesn't automatically log blood pressure readings or heart rates, write them down in your own log.  Nurses and doctor's almost always ask questions while they're taking my blood pressure.  Talking in an unfamiliar situation requires a lot of focus from me because it takes me a while to get my thoughts together so I feel like I'm talking on fast forward.**  

As far as position (feet flat, back supported, etc.) goes, I've been taking my blood pressure the right way.   But I've been taking it when I've been rushing around doing chores, when I've been angry or stressed, etc.  I did read, a few months ago, about taking a repeat reading.  In fact, one website recommended taking three readings, five minutes apart while relaxing, throwing out the first, and averaging the second and third.  It's amazing how a little relaxation changes things.  When I do that, my bp can go down by 20/10 between the first and third ones - even if I have a migraine and nausea (apparently that's also not a good time to measure it).

Rather than the up on the examining table/feet dangling/no arm or back support/taking way that most doctor's take bp, the P.A. took my bp while I was sitting in a comfortable chair, with back support, and my arm on the desk. Between the second and third measurements, she quietly looked at her computer for a few minutes, and I just did slow breathing and thought about LOLCats.  My blood pressure that time was the same as it usually is when relaxing at home, and it was only a little bit above where they said they wanted it.  I asked her about the differences between the way she did it and the way most doctors do it.  She smiled gently and said that this was their specialty so they do it the right way.  

I've lost over two months of time to blood pressure medication side effects only to end up with allergies and asthma/throat closings.  I'm still making lots of other changes which are much easier to make if I'm not demotivated and stoned out on bp meds.

The most recent drug, in September, left me feeling hyper at night (I read an entire book and played a computer game between midnight and 4 am), and totally undisciplined during the day ("Hey look, there are dirty dishes in the kitchen!"  Four hours later:  "Hey look, there are dirty dishes in the kitchen!"  Dear husband did the dishes).  As far as side effects go, I actually had high hopes for it until my throat started closing up.

Since my appointment yesterday, I've been unusually relaxed, even when things haven't gone well (dizziness reaction to the flu shot).  For the last four years, I've felt like I have a time bomb in my chest, and I don't feel that way anymore.   

* For instance, one thing I'm changing, eating-wise, is that I'm no longer going to eat to be polite.  I do a lot of polite eating because someone spent lots of time making the food, and they seem to really need me to eat it.  I never push people to eat anything (besides my kids eating vegetables) so, when someone else pushes me to eat something, they seem really needy to me.  I'm not going to give in to that anymore.  

The other time I eat to be polite... well, sort of... is at restaurants.  I always feel that I should eat everything on my plate, even though the portions are usually huge.  I particularly have trouble with this if I'm traveling because I can't bring leftovers home so I feel like I'm wasting food.  I end up eating much longer than I'm enjoying, which is ridiculous.  

** Friends who let me have even just an extra second or two to get my thoughts together are wonderful.  

The Disappointed Choiritarian

Choiritarian:  One who worships through enthusiastic choral music.

Choir rehearsal was wonderful tonight, and older son and I really enjoyed it, but there were two disappointments there - neither of them having anything to do with what's going on in the choir itself.  

First:  I usually don't want to hear any Christmas music before Thanksgiving, except in choir.  Since October, we've been working on carols for the Christmas Eve Service of Lessons and Carols, which comes right before the later Christmas Eve service.  I've really enjoyed the Service of Lessons and Carols since I joined choir because there's so much beautiful music.  Between the music and the readings, I've found it a very focused, thoughtful, and prayerful time, and I get totally caught up in it.  It's been a wonderful way to start the Christmas celebration.  

No longer.  We just found out today that it was cancelled.  I'll really miss it.  All the music we've been working on for it has been put away.  

Second:  In the hallway outside the choir room, they recently put up the plan for the church renovation.  I wish they hadn't put it right there because it's just like rubbing our noses in it.

They're getting rid of the choir room.

Now, the choir room isn't all that old.  Ten years ago, a few months after we joined the church, they finished adding on to the church.  When we first started going there, the choir rehearsed in the Nave (the Sanctuary for those of you from other denominations).  Part of the new addition was an actual choir room.  It's named after someone in particular, and, though I may be wrong, I remember that there was money donated specifically to have a choir room.  Older son and dear husband had been in choir since the week after we joined, and they found that it was really nice for the choir to have its own place to rehearse in.  

In the new renovation, the choir room will now be the choir room/chapel.  

I guess, if you don't know anything about rehearsal spaces, that might seem to work, but it doesn't.  

Rehearsal spaces - drama rooms, orchestra rooms, and choir/chorus rooms, are generally not neat places (the neatness of the Glee show choir room always looked bizarre).  Rehearsal rooms are filled with piles of music, filing cabinets, music stands, instruments, props, costumes, and whatever the musicians/actors need for their practicing.  They're working spaces - not nice, neat worship spaces (although lots of worshiping goes on while we're singing).  Although the name suggests that it's a combination choir rehearsal room/chapel, I doubt that the whole wall of choir music shelves and filing cabinets will stay in there (and there's no place on the plan to put all that), much less any extra instruments, music stands, etc.  The choir will have to bring their stuff in and out for every rehearsal.  We'll be back to the way things were before the choir room was added.  


From what I heard in the discussion tonight, nobody in the choir was asked about the change or about what the choir would need from a renovation - not even the choir director.**  Tonight, it feels like the choir is being pushed to the periphery.  

Strangely, that feeling is pushing me the other way.  Older son graduates next June, and, if he moves away, I'll be the only one in the family going to church on Sunday.*  I've always found, in any church, that I turn off half of my personality in order to not be offensive.  This is a church thing and has nothing to do with choir, except that it's part of a church.  

In the summers, my personality goes all on again when I'm doing community theater.  Last summer, daughter mentioned my "coming out of my shell" during the musical.  

That really struck me, because I hadn't looked at it that way.  I was determined that I wasn't going back into my shell after the musical was over. 

So far, I've done pretty well.  I've gotten to know lots of people at the Zumba classes.  I'm more outspoken in other venues.  Church, of course, was my biggest challenge.  

I'm also trying to not be tense all the time, which aggravates my blood pressure.  Keeping half my personality turned off involves a lot of tension.  I decided at the beginning of the fall that, if I couldn't be myself at choir, I'd have to seriously rethink being part of it after older son graduates.  

The last few weeks, I've been much more myself at choir.  I've found that I have even more fun that way.  I hope that I can keep it up.  

I've always been the sort to root for the underdog.  As the choir has become much smaller since I joined it, and as it seems to be losing its rehearsal space, it makes me want to work harder for it - increasing the chances I'll stay...

...because, after all, I'm a choiritarian.

* Younger son doesn't like crowds so he and I go to Daily Services.

** I don't understand this at all.  How do you renovate spaces without asking any of the people who regularly use that space?!