Monday, March 31, 2008

CPAP adventures

Kathy Likes Pink asked me for an update on my sleep apnea treatment. I have found a couple of masks that work well for me and I have been getting good sleep. My favorite one is the Resmed Activa, which looks like this:
Believe it or not, this thing is pretty comfortable. It's made for people who thrash around in their sleep, which includes moi, and it keeps a seal whenever I turn. It's hard to explain if you've never worn a cpap mask, but this is the best one for me.

The other one I like, for those special times when I want air blowing directly up my nostrils, is the Puritan Breeze:

Why does this man look so happy? It's because he knows he will live in the Star Trek future as a Klingon. It's certainly not because he loves wearing a cpap mask.

Although the apnea is being successfully treated, I'm still feeling kind of tired. This may be because of the restless legs (which I've been calling "the jimmy legs" since the Jon Stewart riff), known at night as periodic limb movements of sleep. I know my last post was about new health problems being made up by drug companies, but this really is a disorder that mucks with people's sleep. So yes, I am taking one of the Parkinson's meds for it. My neurologist said that the gambling side effect is rare, and since I take it at night, I shouldn't worry about it. If I start leaping out of bed at 3 am and heading for the track, he wants me to call him. I think it would more likely be online gambling at 3 am, but I'll call him either way.

So that's me and my sleep disorders. I'm not really anxious about these problems, I feel good and hopeful now that they're being treated. And, if anyone from my previous jobs is reading this, I've been on time to work since I started cpap.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

It's not hypochondria, it's anxiety

Shannon Brownlee had a brilliant opinion piece in the Washington Post today about the modern practice of scaring people into worrying about their health and being tested and treated for a myriad of conditions, some of which are fabricated by drug companies. Here's a quote:
In our desperate desire for protection against the ambiguous and unseen nature of disease, we have allowed our physicians and the drug industry to medicalize everything from heartburn to heartache. We want answers, even when there are none. We look to medicine to bring relief from the terrible unknowns of aging and its inevitable losses, even when the answers have been manufactured to sell a drug.
It's certainly something I fall prey to. I actually have some medical conditions that do need treatment, but I worry much more about symptoms than I need to. My mother had a serious, disabling stroke when she was quite young, and that contributes to my anxiety, but it's not as if I can prevent my own illnesses by worrying about them in advance...

Friday, March 28, 2008

Roget's tragedy

I just read a Reuter's Health story about Peter Mark Roget of the eponymous thesaurus fame. If you've ever had mental illness in your family and wondered what it might have been like in the days when there were no good treatments, this story will really touch you. It makes me very sad to think about someone dealing with these issues and the hopelessness he must have felt. His way out of the pain was to make lists of words. You could say that obsessive-compulsive disorder was his own form of mental illness, but it sounds like a basic coping strategy to me, given his situation. An excerpt from the article:
His mother suffered dark depressions and tried to dominate his life. His sister and daughter had severe mental problems, his father and wife died young and a beloved uncle committed suicide in his arms.

So what did Peter Mark Roget, the creator of Roget's Thesaurus, do to handle all the pain, grief, sorrow, affliction, woe, bitterness, unhappiness and misery in a life that lasted over 90 years?

He made lists.

The water tastes funny

To whom do I complain? It worries me slightly, because in the wake of the news that most drinking water contains certain undesirable elements, I ordered myself some of this here Shenandoah Spring water. I hope it won't taste funny.

It occurred to me the other day that I have been doing nothing but nothing photographical or artistical lately. Since this occurred to me while taking a picture of a Canada goose on the roof of the Hampton Inn (will share soon), that's not so bad. I think I just haven't been very noticey. Sometimes I just trudge around without really looking at my surroundings. Usually I'm a "universe in a grain of sand" type person -- I notice small things around me and find them interesting. I don't know what the hell's going on with me. I've been watching a lot of tv shows, despite the fact that I turned off my cable and gave away my tv. If you're wondering how I'm watching tv without these implements, please allow me to invite you into the modern era. Also I would like to say that as soon as I gave my tv away, I wanted a new tv and cable and a dvr. Perhaps that's a sign that I just wanted an excuse to buy a new tv. For I have been coveting the LCD flat panel of joy.

I would like to be reading more. Although I have been reading for the Bookfest. Again, I don't know what my problem is. I think I'm adapting to life with sleep apnea, still. I wouldn't have thought it would take so long. I seem to be feeling my age right now, which causes cognitive dissonance, as emotionally I feel like I'm around 12 most of the time. Which is not to say that I'm not emotionally mature, it's more to say that I'm neurotic and continue to worry about what people think, mostly when I'm communicating with them. Which is why I love blogging, I have no idea what people are thinking unless they tell me and so far people have been kind.

Since getting chewed out whenever the hell that was, I've been a bit extra-sensitive. I'm feeling like I should just keep my mouth shut. Except with the dogs and cat, they're very accepting of whatever I might say, and also they like my singing. Also, they like my stinky clothes. Is this unconditional love or just the inability to use language with which they could disagree, argue, reprimand and demand, etc? It feels like lurve.

And speaking of unconditional love, thank you for putting up with my sentence fragments.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Maisie Dobbs, Jacqueline Winspear, and the Festival of the Book

The 2008 Virginia Festival of the Book kicked off yesterday and if you didn't make any sessions then, you might want to go to their website and check out the current and upcoming sessions. Changes have occurred, so if you haven't checked the site for a while, it's worth doing again.

Naturally I would like everyone to come to the "Crime Wave: Murder, Murder Everywhere" session (8 pm tomorrow, March 28, at the Albemarle County Office Building) to hear and see my new favorite, Jacqueline Winspear, author of the "Maisie Dobbs" series of mystery novels. I'm telling you, you will love these books if you don't already. (If you do already love them, you have no excuse for not showing up and if you don't I will track you down and... wait, I'm not going to do that.)

Winspear's most recent book, An Incomplete Revenge, continues to follow Maisie's development as a "psychologist-investigator," as she calls herself. This job title is a clue to how different these novels are from most mysteries. Set in post-WWI England, the time period is critically important to these books. England was still reeling from the effects of the Great War years after its conclusion. The psychological scars ran deep and were motivating factors for all kind of behavior, and of course because these are mysteries, for criminal behavior. Because Maisie is part psychologist and interested in motivation, the reader sees more deeply into the minds of the criminals and understands them as human beings in a way rarely found in other mysteries.

I've blogged about Winspear and the Bookfest because I was invited to, and I have been very grateful for the opportunity, not least because I have discovered a wonderful mystery writer whose future career I look forward to following. One of the most wonderful aspects of the Bookfest is exposure to new-to-you authors. Certainly seeing your old favorites is very enjoyable, but I urge you to take a chance on sessions that interest you topically. You'll discover some fresh faces and voices who contribute to your lifetime of reading.

See you at the Bookfest!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Birds of a Feather, the 2nd Maisie Dobbs novel

As you may know, I'm blogging about Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs mystery series. I found that the second book, Birds of a Feather, got off to a fast start, really grabbing my interest right away. I think it helped that I already "knew" Maisie from the first, eponymous book, and was interested in finding out what was happening to her "now."

The book is, naturally, very well-written and the mystery unfolds seamlessly and gradually. It is really a page-turner. Like the first book in the series, the mystery revolves around an incident that has its roots in the First World War. These books have a strong sense of place and time. Although I knew that WWI had a huge impact on Britain, I didn't realize how long-lasting that impact was. I can't imagine living surrounded by all that sorrow and loss. Of course in those days, there was not much that could be done medically for the wounded, who were encountered everywhere.

This second book is not as didactic as the first, because the reader is already grounded in the scene and times. The character development is wonderful. Maisie's progression as a private investigator is interesting, as is her novel approach for solving crimes. Maisie depends not only on concrete evidence and clues, but also on intuition and maintaining a calm mind so that she is open to whatever occurs. I continue to find this unusual and somewhat mesmerizing. I haven't encountered any other detectives who meditate.

All in all, a quite enjoyable read. I'm now in the middle of An Incomplete Revenge, Winspear's latest Maisie novel, and enjoying it immensely. I'm sorry not to be able to get to the 2nd and 3rd books in the series before the Bookfest, although I have them on my bookshelf and will be reading them later. If you're a mystery fan, I think you'll enjoy these books. I would also recommend them to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

And I would be remiss if I didn't remind you all that the Bookfest starts this week. Jacqueline Winspear is part of a panel called:

Crime Wave: Murder, Murder Everywhere

Fri. March 28th, 8:00 PM

David Ignatius (Body of Lies), Margaret Coel (The Girl with The Braided Hair), James W. Hall (Hell's Bay) and Jacqueline Winspear (An Incomplete Revenge).

Location:Albemarle County Office Building
401 McIntire Road

Please come! I think it will be a most enjoyable session.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Maisie (Dobbs) Googlism

maisie is off on an adventure

maisie is much annoyed

maisie is hanging in there as long as she can

maisie is fortunate enough to be in a home where someone is home with her all the time

maisie is excited because she thinks she might get to work in one of the film studios

maisie is more like me than any other character i've written

maisie is a large friendly tortoiseshell

maisie is also dealing with another emotional roller coaster ride

maisie is not a quitter

maisie is the main character

maisie is from england

maisie is used as a pawn in the power games of the adults who surround her; her perception of their corrupt lives leads her to an odd and disconcerting maturity

maisie is lonely

It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

You know how sometimes you get to work and something major goes wrong and someone chews you out and you cry while you're fixing the problem and later on the person who chewed you out smiles at you but doesn't apologize and you feel like an idiot and you're no good to anyone so you leave early and as soon as you get out of the building you fall on your ass causing you to bruise and your entire body to ache? That was Tuesday.

You know how you love your job and you've never had a bad day there and then suddenly you have this kind of a Tuesday and someone you greatly admire kind of lets you down and you feel pretty disillusioned and don't want to go back? That was Wednesday.

You know how you think things over and blame yourself and get mad at yourself and the person who chewed you out and then you realize that people make mistakes and that you're a person and that the other person is a person and that you can forgive and forget both yourself and the other person without actually forgetting anyone which would be kind of bad and you get up in the morning and you don't ache anymore and you realize that having one bad day in a year and a half is actually pretty good? That's today.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Review of Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs

My main task for the Bookfest is to review Jacqueline Winspear's latest book in the Maisie Dobbs series, An Incomplete Revenge. While waiting for it, the good people at the Bookfest sent me the first two books in the series and I thought it would be good to get some background on Winspear's heroine before reading the most recent mystery.

Maisie Dobbs introduces, uh, Maisie Dobbs and it's an interesting introduction. I have to admit, I had a little trouble getting into it at first. The book begins in medias res, so that right away we're seeing Maisie interact with various people including her first client. Maisie, whose business sign intriguingly reads "Psychology, Investigations," seems a bit abrupt at first. I wasn't sure if I was really going to like her, which although not necessary in many books of fiction, is, I think, necessary to mysteries. The first part of the book also seemed a bit heavy-handed in instructing the reader about post WWI England. Why this bothered me, I don't know, since I for one needed the education.

Maisie's case leads to a mystery involving veterans of the Great War, and triggers Maisie's own memories of that time. The reader is thus taken back to Maisie's humble beginnings and her educational and professional rise. I found this part of the book fascinating. Maisie's character is revealed to be kind and modest, while she is also a voracious reader and scholar. She finds she prefers studies that ask open-ended questions, such as philosophy and psychology.

When the war begins, Maisie trains to be a nurse and is sent to France. Her experience there greatly informs the person she becomes later. When the book comes back to the "present," we have a much better understanding of Maisie, which is most welcome as she pursues her increasingly more interesting case. Naturally, I won't spoil the ending, but it calls upon Maisie's talents both as a psychologist and investigator.

The two most notable qualities of this mystery are: (1) Maisie's introspection and the way that it is triggered by her cases and (2) her stated requirement that any information she turns up must be used in a responsible way by her client. She feels a responsibility not only to the client, but to anyone that she investigates. This makes her unique among detectives, in my opinion.

I highly recommend this book and hope that you'll read it and come to the Bookfest to see and hear Jacqueline Winspear in person.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

One of *those* days

I was running around like a maniac all morning, going to and fro from meetings to appointments and back again. By the time I got back here and went to the cafeteria for lunch, I was pretty much fried. I had the baked potato bar -- my favorite meal the cafeteria serves -- and the server had to teach me the following words:

Sour cream

Seriously. I could not think of those words, and I didn't even point. I just looked in the direction of the desired topping and tried to think of the word. Sad. Luckily the server was patient and we laughed together about it.

Then I brought the potato back to my office, went down the hall for water, and poured some on the cap of my water bottle -- yes, the cap was on. Made it back to my office and tried to drink from the water bottle with the cap on it.

Cheez. I felt quite restored after eating the potato, though.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Rounds that are Grand

Tuesdays have been entirely discombobulating for me lately. I've been managing Grand Rounds for a few weeks. I won't be doing it much longer; there's a new person to do the administrative stuff. I'll be in charge of getting funding for it, though -- applying for grants, etc. (Do not ask me what "etc" is in this case, maybe begging on street corners? Exploiting friends and acquaintances? Publicity stunts?) But the whole rhythm of the day is off, especially because it's such a whirlwind of activity on Tuesday mornings through 1 pm, when the talk is over. Didn't you always think that Grand Rounds had to do with a bunch of doctors and residents going from room to room and reviewing patients? In our case, GR is a lecture series. A very interesting lecture series! One of the best things about handling GR has been attending the talks. Although a lot of it goes over my head, I always learn a lot too. And plus, I get a free lunch, if you believe in free lunches, which I don't. I work for my lunch.

In Book Fest news, I just started the first of the Maisie Dobbs books last night. I mean, I got 3 pages into it before I fell asleep. Wait, that didn't come out right -- I was reading in bed! It was very interesting, I just have a sleep disorder! I conk out at the smallest provocation. I look forward to reading more tonight. The kind folks, I mean people, at the Book Fest loaned me the first two books in the series, although I will be formally (or as formal as this blog gets) reviewing the latest book in the series. But it will be very helpful for me to know the beginning and learn all about who Maisie Dobbs is. So far, we know she is a detective. Perhaps I will learn more as I read more pages... that seems likely, doesn't it?

Did I mention lately that I lurve mysteries??? And I can tell already that I am going to like these books.

Monday, March 3, 2008

What to blog about... or should that be About what to blog?

I believe I shot myself in the foot the other day (or week) when I (a) stated that I wouldn't blog about my health problems anymore and (b) put up and took down a post about Weight Watchers. Watch me take this one down as well.

(A) Health problems are a lot of what's going on with me right now, so I am going to blog about them, and if I sound like a whiner, that's ok. Sometimes we all need to whine, but I'm not sure blogging about legitimate health concerns means that someone is a whiner. And if you wonder who I'm trying to convince here, clearly it's myself.

(B) Re: Weight Watchers: I have learned that when I commit to doing something on this blog and monitoring/reporting on my progress, that I lose all interest in pursuing the thing. This isn't rational, but it's true. That's why I took the post down -- the second I posted it, I felt like going off my diet. So this is pretty much the last time you're going to hear about Weight Watchers from me.

The only real health problem I'm having right now is the sleep apnea, but it's been all-consuming, I have to say. The adjustment period for the APAP machine is difficult, although I've been doing well with it. My problem is the mask, which keeps slipping every time I roll over, which is a lot. So I've tried a couple of different ones and I need to try yet another. So I feel like my sleep still isn't as good as it ought to be, but on the other hand I've been getting up on time so there has been an improvement, as I haven't gotten up on time for approximately eleventy-seven years, or since I was a child, whichever is older.

People think, "how can you adjust to sleeping with a mask on your face?" The answer may disgust you. I have to tell you, and I realize how ridiculous this is, I enjoy having air blown up my nose. Especially warm, humidified air. It's sick, but that's how it is. That, and I think the mask is sexy. Seriously, there must be a fetish community out there that likes this sort of thing. I need to find them...

But seriously, this whole thing is making me feel very old and I have been distracting myself from it with mysteries and The Colbert Report (two very successful distractions, I must say). Also, and this is pathetic, computer solitaire. When I give myself time to think, I cry. I really do. I'm upset about this diagnosis, I'm upset that I need a machine to sleep. I'm staying in the house all day on my days off. I'm feeling unattractive, even though I'm thinner and I don't actually wear the mask out of the house. I feel like I'm grieving, which makes some sense. I'll adjust eventually, but right now that's where I am.

In cheerful news, my dogs and cat are also powerful distractions, and now I will regale you with a Queenie story. Queenie has always been enthusiastic about meals, and her "down" is quite athletic, as she hurls herself to the floor. The other night at suppertime she hurled herself to the floor in the living room and slid, in the down position, into the kitchen. It was hilarious and I'm hoping she does it again soon.