Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Dog Walk Sandwiches

Earlier this week on what was possibly the hottest day in spring (almost 100 degrees), I decided that it was time. Time for a Dog Walk Sandwich. That is what I call a dog walk sandwiched between two car rides.
The boys were obviously happy about this turn of events. They loaded up quite quickly and waited with anticipation for me to enter the car and take them to their favorite walking location... Lake Balboa.
Lake Balboa is a man made lake near where I live. It's run by the Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation, and is quite well kept.

Both dogs are in favor of the sidewalk that runs along the lake's edge all the way around.
They also enjoy their rest breaks... they're no spring chickens anymore to quote a man who lives in a condominium complex behind me.
And Sunny contemplates what a dinner of either duck, goose, or crane would taste like as he relaxes on the grass.
All in all, a nice way to get a little walking in.

It's strange how you can look at something for a long time and not see what is there. Behold my water bottle!

Before you lecture me on the merits and downside of drinking out of hard plastic, yes I know that I am risking brain tumors and renal failure. I'll take my chances. But back to the story.

I picked up several of these "Yoga Water Bottles" on special at my local Whole Foods Market. I really liked them, not only for the colors, but for the images portrayed on them. I should only look like those chicks. But do I really want to?

Before this evening, I thought I saw a girl standing in the "Tree" position. But suddenly I realized. She's a double amputee balancing on a single peg leg.

And people thought I had guts for going to exercise class!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Getting My Life Back

The enormity of the news that I will be enrolled in a program to be amongst the very first people in the United States to have access to
Cimzia is starting to hit me. I have had two calls from the Pharmaceutical Company in the last two days, assessing my history and lifestyle to incorporate into their trial data; they tell me it's a matter of days before I get a call from the pharmacy itself to arrange shipment of the medication and home visit by the Nurse Practitioner. According to the studies, there was a 61% favorable response rate to this medication in trials held in Brussels (539 patients, and I love Brussels Sprouts) within 6 weeks, and 39% of them went into remission. This is just in the first six weeks.

As Dr. V- explained the drug to me, it is very similar to Remicade which I have taken in the past with adverse and very serious side effects forcing me to withdraw. Apparently, the molecules of the drug are in the shape of a Y with the favorable antibodies at the ends of the top like hands. The part of the drug that they believe causes the bad reactions in many patients are on the stem of the Y. In the case of Cimzia, the hands are cut off from the stem and then bound to another molecule that does not provoke the same response. Patients like me who's IBD responded well to Remicade but who could not tolerate the regimine are prime candidates for Cimzia.

For the first time almost since I was finally diagnosed with my Crohns Disease (my early 30s although 20-20 hindsight says that I was suffering with it, undiagnosed, from age 15 on), I have hope. More than hope. I have a feeling about this new drug. Like it's going to be the answer to my dreams and my living nightmare. But that leaves me with a disquieting feeling that's bringing me to tears. Am I ready to be healthy?

This is not as crazy a question as it sounds like at face value. Think of my (and many of my readers) weight issues. I went for almost my entire life, childhood and adult, obese to morbidly obese. When, five years agoo I found my way to Richard Simmons and Slimmons, my identity was wrapped up in my size and appearance. The Weight Loss Journey, while on the surface a very positive thing, has been agonizing. It's hard to adjust to the new reality. Social interactions are not what I thought they were. I started to understand why the obese are discriminated against and it's not about appearance. Flirting with the opposite sex, and ultimately a serious relationship was an outcome. Other's expectations of me are high now, and my expectations of myself are high too. Often, I don't even know who the person staring back at me in the mirror is these days, and am dumbfounded at the things I say and do.

It's been a very positive experience, but I fully understand why my friends with weight don't just change up their lifestyle and lose it. It's been one of the most scary journies that I could ever imagine going on. And this journey gave me years to adjust to the new reality.

Another basic component of my reality is that I'm sick. At times, critically sick. It's stunted my career as well as my personal life. Opportunities that others take for granted to me are denied. Even something as simple as going to the market or the movies or even a short walk around the block is fraught with danger of medical issue and embarassment. I never know what is going to happen and when. I am always fearful of going out and trying new things.

And now the possibility lays before me that these limitations may be removed from my physical being within two months. How do I cope? It's as big a change as the weight loss. But without time to get used to it.

Do I go back to my old career? And if yes, is there even a career to go back to? How long will the drug work for? And how bad will it be if I relapse?
Will it be years - as it has been adjusting to my appearance - before I adjust to the idea that I can go out without fear? And without the illness as a basis for my operation, will I be able to meet others (and my) raised expectations of me?

Big, scary stuff. Not enough to stop me from going forward with this amazing opportunity, but bad enough to cause me nightmares.

I only hope that I have learned enough about my own capacity to adjust in the past years to see me through.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Beware the Bracelet... a B-B-Q Warning

Given my dessert "transgression" on Saturday night, I felt it was imperative to eat healthy on Sunday evening. But Eric was coming over. That's always cause for a celebration. And so I decided to finally clean out my BBQ of the old ashes and make dinner outside.

First I grilled the vegetables. Fresh tomatoes from the farmers market, topped by salt & pepper, Italian Bread Crumbs, fresh grated parmesan cheese, and fresh chopped green onion.
I decided to make a five-color-vegetable side dish along with the tomatoes for health reasons, but also to add bulk to the meal. Red Peppers (red), corn (yellow), carrots (orange), purple onion (purple or dark), cauliflower (white), Bok Choy (green), and Asparagus (green) were marinated in Moondance Marinade, then cooked in my grill top wok.
Once the vegetables were complete, I took chicken breasts (skinless & boneless) which I had pounded flat earlier (best to do that between two sheets of either waxed paper or Saran Wrap) and marinated in a Citrus marinade. When you pound the breasts flat, they cook faster and more even. Also, they look like bigger portions and I, for one, am likely to eat less.
All of my dogs approved of me cooking chicken.
So did I. But the one thing that I did not approve of in the process, was burning myself. I recently - on doctor's orders - added a Medic Alert bracelet as standard dress. It hadn't occured to me that it would heat up and burn my wrist. It did. And the worst part was that it got so hot that I could not get the clasp undone to take it off. Days later, I am still suffering, even though Sandy & Christiane gave me ointment that does help.

No, in the "heat" of the moment, it did not occur to me to run inside and put the bracelet under a stream of cold water. Don't bother me with the obvious - lol.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Cruising Eve

Twas the night before Richard's Cruise To Lose
It was time for a party,
So Patti, Lea, Rosie, Carlos and me
We did party hearty!

We drove to the beach place
To get us some food

And oh my, yes oh my,
it was mighty good!

We ate our whole dinner
And dessert with abandon
And toasted the departure
It really was fun!

We talked to a friend
Who wasn't from York, then
A fleet flying sacrifice
Was made with a fork

Laura went off to home,
The rest went straight to bed
For the merriment and drinks
Needed to be gone from their heads.

In the morning they were boarding
A ship with dear Richard.
And the only evidence of our misdeeds
Are these very Pictures!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Injection of Life

Ok, so I haven't been around much lately. I'll fess up. I've been not only busy, but in all honesty, not feeling well either. I may have intimated that on earlier posts... I don't remember. But it's been getting a little intense on and off lately. And I started to worry.

Would this be a critical go-around for me again? How would I handle it? How would everyone around me handle it? How would Eric handle it? He claims just fine but he hasn't seen me at critical mass first hand yet. I wouldn't blame him for running for the hills once he knows what it's really like.

But then on Wednesday night I received a phone call. A very important call. From Dr. V-.

Although I've been in trouble, he was already aware of it from our last appointment. He started me giving myself Methotrexate injections and we were to hope for the best. It would take up to six shots before we might see results. I gave myself my 5th this week. Not only was there no improvement, but things had started getting worse. But I didn't call in. I remember from my father - a physician - that off hours complaining calls from patients about ongoing issues without the possibility of an immediate resolution were just not welcome. I've always told Dr. V- (and all of my doctors, for that matter) that I didn't call them between appointments because I did not want to be seen as a bother. Even when they would protest at the appointment that I should have contacted them earlier. I want them to take my phone calls seriously and know that if I phone between appointments, there is always a good reason. This approach has worked well for me. Except that I've been suffering as of late.

But again, I got the call on Wednesday night. When Dr. V- identified himself, I was shocked. I had not left him a message. So I immediately asked him if I was in trouble and meant it. And he responded that I was not, sounding very excited.

Apparently, a new drug called Cimzia had been approved by the FDA only hours before. He had immediately thought of me and wanted to enroll me in the program. I was his first phone call of the very few patients he had selected to participate.

I saw him today. Signed the papers and was formally educated in the drug and the process. I may get my first dose as early as next Tuesday. And am so hoping that this works.

I feel as if I've gotten a stay of execution.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Wasa - p!

On the way hom from the doctor yesterday, I decided to stop at Ralph's Market to buy salad dressing. I've been out for over a week now and although I don't mind making my own, sometimes it's just nice to have a bottle in the refrigerator ready and waiting.

I perused the aisles; I had been at the Farmer's Market only a day before so there wasn't much that I needed, but one endcap was attractive. Wasa Lite Rye crackers were on special. I put three packages in my basket.

On checking out, the bag boy - a very handsome teenager - looked at them with interest. "Are these very good?" he asked.

"They're ok, in a cardboardy way." I replied. "That's not the point. Sometimes you don't want your food to taste too good or you'll eat it all in a single serving."

He was really surprised at my answer, but then started laughing. Both he and the cashier agreed wtih me. Some foods just can't be purchased because they can't be resisted. These crackers are not in that catagory.

Wasa Crackers really are ok. What they do for me is add a carbohydrate crunch when I am eating a salad as my meal. No, they don't taste great. I'd rather have a real cracker or maybe a whole loaf of bread. But there's no way that I can have those things in my home and not gain half of my weight back. Understanding this facet of my character and defending myself from it is part of the lifestyle change I've made.

I'll just stick with the Wasa, thank you!

Monday, April 21, 2008


Sent via snail mail to the General Manager of Nordstrom, Woodland Hills CA:

April 21, 2008

Ms. M- H-
General Manager, Nordstrom
21725 Victory Blvd.
Canoga Park, CA 91303

Dear Ms. H-:

Don’t get me wrong. I am not threatening to leave Nordstrom’s as my preferred location for lingerie in any way, shape, or form. I am normally very difficult to fit due to an over 200 pound weight loss through natural means (no pills, meal replacements, or surgeries). I came to you about half way through that loss, in tears because I had been morbidly obese for so many years that I had no idea how to size myself, and I have had a series of exemplary experiences with your amazing staff since then. That makes it all the more frustrating to be contacting you now, but I can’t take it anymore.

Last Saturday, I had had enough. My sports bras were exhausted and it was time to visit you for new ones. I showed up mid afternoon and it was fairly busy in your Lingerie Department. Eventually, A- C- approached me; I asked where they were located. They are no longer housed on your selling floor, but she was happy to pull my size from the back room as soon as she was finished with her customer. About 10 minutes later, she found me perusing your regular bras and deciding to try some of them on too. Fine so far.

I was escorted to the dressing room and she promised to come back to check on me. She had brought sizes other than what I had requested and it was a good thing too! Apparently sports bras are sized differently than normal ones. I tried them on, decided which of them I wanted, and also decided to buy a couple of Wacol bras at the same time. I emerged from the dressing room to find that the crowds had left the department and the sales staff was chatting behind the register. “Oh, I forgot to check on you!” was the comment from A-. Well, I still get that because it was busy when I went in and I have no idea whether they were slow for 5 minutes or 5 seconds. It was ok.

A- tried to pull additional sports bras from the stock room, but I am an unusual size and there were no more. I’m used to that, and she kindly offered to order them and have them shipped at no charge. I would have preferred to have them transferred to your location because delivery is difficult in my Condominium Complex, but was told that it wasn’t Nordstrom’s policy. So I agreed to have them sent.

It took a number of transactions to get it done. It would have either taken two separate checks or, as A- gladly did, me purchasing a gift card and then her ringing up two separate receipts; one for the three bras that I was carrying from your store and the two that were to be delivered. A total of $300.94 spent. On bras. With maybe a total of 5 minutes spent helping me including register time. But still ok.

A- needed my e-mail address – apparently “the system” e-mails tracking information upon shipment. I supplied that, and also confirmed that the address in your system for delivery was correct. I was exhausted from the process, but calm.

Today started off by me receiving e-mail Spam from Nordstrom, thanking me for signing up to receive on line advertising. (Copy attached.) I was upset by this as I do not like to have my e-mail cluttered but decided that I was over reacting.

I left home for a number of appointments and when I returned, the e-mail from your shipping department was waiting with DHL tracking information and the wrong Condominium # in my address. I live in D12. You were shipping my two $54.00 each bras to D1. Not just a mistake, but a dangerous one since that unit is populated by young men who, for all appearances, are gangsters. I don’t want to knock on their door looking for my package, and certainly DHL doesn’t really want to knock on their door to deliver it either. Yes, I made the phone call and fixed the issue, but I shouldn’t have had to.

I’m not blaming all of it on A-, so please don’t take this letter in that spirit. But enough is enough!

The total is:

1. Stock not housed on selling floor.
2. Forgotten in the dressing room.
3. Adequate inventory in my size not in stock.
4. Not allowed to have bras transferred to your store for pick-up.
5. Multiple register transactions to get them shipped.
6. Unsolicited E-mail spam.
7. Incorrect shipping address.

I feel a little ganged up on.


Laura Silverman
A loyal but frustrated Nordstrom Customer

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Eric & I decided to go out to lunch today. Because he had a coupon for a free entree, we decided that our dining fare of choice would be Chinese, at PF Changs.

I like it there. It is a chain of Chinese Restaurants; a little pricey (not a lot, just a little), but the quality is consistantly good and the portions are more than adequate.

Our waiter - named "Shalom," by the way - was friendly and courteous, and somewhat talkative. When Eric presented his coupon, he was more than happy to take it. "Yeah," he said. "These are really easy to get."

I reacted with surprise, and then I protested. I didn't get one in the mail! But he quickly let me know that all I had to do was register at their website and I, too, would get the gift card.

That made me very happy. "Oh!" I replied. "So it's just like
Victoria's Secret! You can register with them and they'll send you gift cards for free panties."

Well, he hadn't heard about that before, so I assured him that it was true and I get them all the time. He thought it might be good for brownie points with his girlfriend and intended to go home and register pronto. But then he got into their models.

How he loved his girlfriend and would never cheat, but they're gorgeous and he had to look. He looked all the time!

Well, he's a very handsome 20-something. This is Los Angeles; he's probably an actor-in-waiting or something like that. He flashed the biggest smile at me you ever saw and his eyes sparkled. I liked him. Really. And I knew that I had to respond.

"You know," I said, "Women look at those models too." He seemed surprised. "Oh yes, we look at them and look hard. And then we mutter 'bitch!' under our breaths."

He almost dropped his teeth, and Eric & I both laughed. No, I am no Victoria's Secret model and I wouldn't have qualified as one in my prime. But it does not matter. I am a real woman with real opinions, and I'm willing to bet he's never met one of us before!

As 'Shalom' presented us with our check, he said - and I believe that he meant it - that "It's been a real pleasure serving you!" So I reminded him once again... "Register for your free panties at!"

I'm guessing he's going to remember that web site.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Healthier than the Average American?

About two months ago, I reported that I had decided to take part in HMR's regularly scheduled Health Questioneer and Risk Factor Survey. I had avoided doing them in the past as I know how hard I work at my lifestyle yet I am intrinsicly unhealthy. I was afraid of what the results were going to be.

Well, I got the results back this past Tuesday.

It was exactly what I expected. My lifestyle either meets or exceeds the Surgeon General's recommendations on almost every count. I only had four items that did not measure up, and of them, only one of them registered a significant deviation. My weight, of course. I'm approximately 10 percent over where he thinks I should be. I am working on it; I'm now down six of the ten pounds that I gained and feel confident that I will get back to my personal goal of 148 pounds again. And that's where I am going to leave it, because the Surgeon General does not account for the approximately 10 pounds of excess skin that I am carrying and cannot do anything about.

The trouble with the assessment was my health status. Where he would like to see me at a zero, I scored a 19. No kidding. For the past 24 hours, I have been unable to leave my condo, and barely gotten out of bed for what I believe is a massive Crohns flare. Except for repeated trips to the bathroom, that is, and I am not going to describe them here.

I also am still fainting for who-knows-what-reason-it-isn't-diagnosed, and ended up having surgery on my left knee because of damage done in one of the falls.

I was very upset by the result of the survey; more so than I expected. The Surgeon General thinks I should have a risk factor of 0; mine is 14. Had it not been for my autoimmune issues, I would have registered with a negative number on his scale.

Lucy asked many of us, including me, what we thought about our scores. I was honest. I work very hard and am upset by the number. "But Laura," she replied. "The Average American has a risk factor of 25. Your risk is way lower than that."

That really bothers me. I have been miserable with chronic illness and come close to dying multiples of times over the past two decades. And I am supposedly healthier than Joe Average American? For goodness sake, just how unhealthy is our country?

It's About Thyme

My camera is home, just in the nick of time. Although I was very unhappy to have had to spend $35 to have it repaired when I knew in my heart-of-hearts that I did not cause any "impact damage," the compromise between D. Scarela at Fuji Film and I turned out to be a stellar move. The replacement camera he sent me (with a new 6 month warranty), although supposedly a refurbished one from another customer, has so obviously seen no prior use that it's laughable. I have a new camera. For spring.

My lack of photo accessability has left me unable to show you my lemon blossoms... they were beautiful as well as sweetly aromatic, but looking at the buds that have taken their place, I'm clearly going to have another "bumper" crop of fruit. I count at least 6 lemons in process. That would be a record!

My roses, which I cut back mercilessly in January, are full and blooming in profusion. When I think of other parts of the world that are still getting snow storms, I realize again how lucky I am to live in Los Angeles.

My herb garden is growing like fury.

Last year, my mint plant did not do so well, sending off spindly shoots embellished by tiny and unsatisfying leaves. This year it's thick and abundant.

I would think that it was my blogging threats to transplant it in the ground that frightened it into it's current vigor, but in truth, I read Crazy Aunt Purl's blog about her garden (Post of 4/14/08), and she reports the same phenomena with her mint. Must be something about the seasonality and the weather patterns in the San Fernando Valley.

She also made a comment about her Thyme that startled me. In almost the same breath as her mint. Her Thyme is doing poorly to say the least. So is mine.

I bought my Lemon Thyme at the same time as my other small-pot herbs. Lavendar, Sage, Parslely, and a Mabel Gray Geranium. The latter four have grown in profusion, bursting forth from their pots in a way that makes me beam with pride. My thyme, though, never did well. It didn't grow last year; I attributed it to being underneath a couple of my succulants that were blocking it from the "full sun" that it required. So I moved it over by my front door where it could capitalize on as much light as my patio receives. I trimmed back it's dead branches and was rewarded by 8 or 10 small leaves that grew quickly into full sized thyme adornments. I pointed it out to Eric, thinking that I had fixed the problem.

Then, suddenly last week, I realized that all the leaves had dropped off. I pointed that out to Eric too. I guess it's dead. And I wondered if the pot - one that I had had for many years was somehow infected with some kind of blight and was killing whatever I was planting in it. After all, I have not successfully grown anything in it since my bromiliad - which I kept going for MANY years with multiples of blossomings - had died. Maybe I needed to really scrub the pot out and then let it roast in the 110 degree heat over summer this year. Give it a chance to detox.

This morning I went outside, sadly, to pull out the stump of what was left of the thyme. And was startled. There is, once again, a small but vigerous attempt by it to grow. Small patches of green adorn sections of what appeared to be dead stems at regular intervals.

Is this a miracle of spring? Or perhaps Mother Nature's way of messing with my mind?

Sunny is also enjoying spring. He would deny it, but the evidence of a crust of dirt on the top of his nose leather speaks volumes.

He has started his hole-digging venture for 2008.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Problem Solving Flow Sheet

20 years ago, I was working at MGM Home Video. Yes, Metro Goldwyn Mayer. Yes, Home Video. Beta still existed although everyone recognized it as the dinosaur it had become. VHS was king.

Fax machines were new to me... in fact, when my boss first described what it was and how it worked, I didn't believe him. "You must be joking," I said. But I quickly adapted and used them to their full potential. And that is how the Problem Solving Flow Sheet came to my attention. Sent directly to me "Overseas Operations." Double Click to enlarge.

Fax machines, except for the home-based versions, are somewhat outmoded these days. But I think that this flow sheet will remain eternally green.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

My First Auto Accident

It was 1974. I was graduating High School and set to start college at UCLA in the fall. And so it was that I needed a car to take me there and back. Dad gave me three makes to choose from. The Vega. The Pinto. And the Gremlin. I went for the Gremlin.

I loved that car! I don't know why since the first issue happened three blocks off of the lot when the interior of the driver's side door fell off. We went directly back to the dealership and they fixed it. It was an omen of things to come, but it mattered not. I was 17 and I had wheels.

I liked to park my car on the street in front of our house. That made Mom & Dad very unhappy. "Park the car in the driveway or somebody's going to hit your car," they would say. "Park the car in the driveway or somebody's going to hit your car," "Park the car in the driveway or somebody's going to hit your car," "Park the car in the driveway or somebody's going to hit your car," "Park the car in the driveway or somebody's going to hit your car!"

I finally succumbed. One day, on a Sunday, I came home, thought about their request, and decided to park in the driveway. They witnessed me fufilling their dreams. They were sitting in the family room eating brunch, and watched me pull in through the picture window facing the street. "It's about time you parked in the driveway," they said. "If you kept parking in the street, somebody was going to hit your car." With much sarcasm in their voices.

I acknowledged them, then turned down the hallway to the left. Went to my bedroom to do who knows what, but I was a seventeen-year-old girl by myself in a bedroom. I'm sure if we all thought about it, we could come up with some ideas what I was up to.

Dad was a Doctor. A Jewish Doctor in the San Fernando Valley. That meant that he needed to drive a big car. His choice was a Buick Electra 225.

It was immense. Wikipedia says that it was 233 inches, which translates to 19 feet. I believe it. I learned how to drive in that car, as did my sisters (a topic for another post!), and after driving it, I could pretty-much handle anything. It abounded in blind spots.

Anyway, we left the story when I went to my bedroom, my parents continuing to eat brunch and reading the newspaper. Then Dad got a call from the hospital. One of his patients was in the ER. Would he come to see him? Dad agreed to go.

He put down his coffee, got up from the table, went to the garage... pausing only to hit the button for the automatic garage door opener, and got in his car. Never looked left, or right, or most important, behind him. He started his engine, put his car in reverse, and proceeded to smash the entire front of my car into something that resembled a crushed soda can.

My parents never asked me to park in the driveway again.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Mount Fuji - Part 3

Dear Mr. Carola:

I am hoping that the situation with my camera can finally be resolved. As explained to Giraldo and Christine before him, I sent the camera to your location under warranty for repair because the screen had turned pink and the picture image was fuzzy. This occurred approximately two weeks after it was repaired - again under warranty - at Advanced Camera Care in Garden Grove. It was used only once after it was returned to me and then, for two weeks, sat untouched on my desk.

I was very surprised to receive a repair estimate that noted "impact damage" and a bill for the repair. As I know in my heart-of-hearts that there was no impact on this end; no dents or separation of top, and since Christine said that if the damage had happened during shipment, there would have been a notation upon receipt, I must assume that if the camera is indeed dented, then it must have been dropped and dented by one of your employees while being unpacked or inspected.

Christine asked me to have Advanced Camera Repair fax a copy of their report in which they note no "impact damage" (or, they they tell me no damage of any kind) to your location; they did so and I confirmed with Giraldo that it was received.

I chose a Fuji camera over other options in part because of your reputation for excellent customer service. I am confident that, upon reviewing the facts, that you will repair my camera under the warranty umbrella under which it was still covered and return it to me soon. The truth is the truth, and the truth here is that there was no damage to that camera of any kind when I sent it to your location. I hope that you will choose to honor the truth.

My contact phone # is 818-881-xxxx.



This is the e-mail I sent to Fuji Film after Giraldo - the customer service person I spoke to last week - couldn't help me. He had put me on hold so that he could transfer me to his manager, then said that the manager was on the phone and would only be a few minutes, then finally came back to say that it was going to be a long wait, so why don't I send the manager an e-mail explaining the problem. He promised that the manager would be back to me the same day.

I am sometimes a somewhat patient person. I did not really anticipate that dscarola at Fuji would be back that day. After all, it would take him a while to research my situation so that he could come to the honest truth. I did not dent that camera. So I gave him a whole week to respond, and when he didn't, I called back this morning.

I initially got a girl on the phone who refused to give me her name. Refused to put me through, saying that the manager was not in yet. Would not give me the name of his supervisor, or transfer me to somebody else who would handle the case. And then, on purpose as she announced as such, hung the phone up on me.

I've worked in corporate offices, so I was not daunted. I called Fuji Corporate and spoke to I-don't-know-who, but he was very polite and understanding. I remained calm although frustrated, and verified with him that that's the way that I was coming across. I wasn't angry, or rude enough to warrant being hung up on, and he agreed. I wish I did get his name because he was very helpful. And, after conferring with somebody on his end, put me through to the manager of the Digital Camera Repair unit at Edison - Mr. Scarola, who happened to be at his desk and picked up the phone immediately.

At first I had to explain my position, and the fact that I am very frustrated but am doing my best to be polite and calm, and he agreed that I was perfectly within line. Anger management therapy... you're working. I've spent a long time on this issue and there is a decided difference in my approach.

After explaining to him why I was so frustrated, it came down to the same thing. I say that I did not dent that camera, and they claim that it arrived dented with the top separated. And swore to me that there was not a penalty for their employees dropping cameras... it happens all the time and they even installed rubber floors so that the damage would be minimized. But I would not relent... I did not drop and dent the camera. And I didn't.

He did ultimately try to be accomodating. He said that the original estimate was to replace the part that got damaged in the "impact," but that the damage was not that severe and the camera could be repaired without new parts. They could fix it for $35. But the issue still remained... I did not dent that camera and I don't want a dented camera in return. He mentioned that the camera was quite worn... it had seen a lot of use. "That's true," I replied. "I've enjoyed that camera immensely and used it quite a bit." And I hope that my honesty and candor in that respect made an impression on him.

We finally came upon a compromise that although I am not happy about, I can live with. Fuji, for the $35 'repair fee,' will - rather than repairing my old camera, will send me a "new" one. In fact, the camera that they are sending me will be refurbished from another customer, but since many of the Sony products that I bought while working for them were also refurbished and I never had a problem with any of them, I can live with it. And, in addition to getting a newer camera that will not be dented, I will get a six month warranty. The warranty on my original camera expired this week.

Mr. Scarola thought that the 'new' camera might be shipped out as soon as today, so I might take receipt next week. Even as soon as early next week if I am lucky. Although I am not thrilled at paying anything at all for a situation that I fully state - once again - is not my fault, it is a cheaper solution than going to Costco and buying a new one.

And I will finally be able to take pictures and bring my blog back up to it's full potential.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


I got a call from Ian last night. After exchanging greetings, we got down to business.

"It was a very sad day at Woodcraft Rangers today," he said. Woodcraft Rangers is the after-school program that he participates in. "Hannah was on the monkey bar and it broke. She fell and broke her arm."
(Oy. I can see yet another debate with Adele about how prudent it is to put PE back in schools coming on.)

"The ambulance came for her." he continued. "There were also two fire trucks. The fire trucks were overkill."

"Overkill?" I repeated back to him.

"Yes Aunt Laura." he sighed. "The firemen surveyed the situation and then left the scene."

These exact words, unprompted, out of the mouth of an eight-year-old.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Dialin' it Down

Weight loss isn't easy. Weight maintance is worse. In fact, I think it may be considered excruciating. When you're losing weight, you have the changing numbers to give you momentary highs... at least when they're going in the right direction. You can do three things. Gain weight. Stay the same. Lose weight. But it's a lot of pressure.

Once you hit maintenance, it is a different kind of pressure. At best, you can maintain. At worst, you can gain weight and fail. I maintained for well over 18 months, then over the last holiday season, I let it go and I gained 9 pounds. I've been struggling with those nine since then.

One of the biggest indicators of permanent weight gain, from my view, is to stop looking at the issue. In my former life, the whole point was to hide from the numbers... I would not get on the scale when I gained. I would not buy clothes to fit my expanding body, and when I was forced to, I made it the larger numbers on the clothes the fault of the clothing manufacturers. Smaller cuts... shrinking fabric.

This time, I decided to handle the issue differently. It's been frustrating, maddening, painful. Despite the gain, I got on the scale each and every day. I wrote to Richard about the issue, letting him know early on that I had a serious problem. I discussed it with Lucy too. My friends knew about it, as did Eric. Family too. They were all very supportive of me in my struggles, but I never expected them to come up with an answer. The problem was mine to deal with.

I don't think that weight gain has as much to do with food as commonly believed. Rather, it has everything to do with changing lifestyles and inability to look at what continues to work and what behaviors are no longer productive in our lives. The obese tend to want to isolate themselves (we have reason... trust me on that), and live in a world of denial where if we don't acknowledge our failures. If they don't exist, we don't feel quite as badly about ourselves.

My lifestyle has changed radically over the last year. Eric came into it and with an intimate relationship, I've had to shift a lot of the things that I do. We're a "we" now, rather than a him and me. That's a wonderful thing and feeling; knowing that we will always have each other's backs. But there's the flip side. Social encounters often mean eating engagements. And trust me, I've eaten.

I never completely lost focus on what could be lost from my life if I let food get out of control, and truthfully, Eric has been more than accomodating in helping me. We tend to go to smaller restaurants, or those that can accomodate my need for lower calorie fare. But as Richard says, and Lucy too... going out for meals is a ticket to weight gain. In order to keep going, I needed to make adjustments in other areas.

The first and most obvious area I could change was my exercise. But that is not so easy. Matters of health keep popping up, forcing me back into either a chair or on a complete hiatus from movement. It was clear that I needed to change my eating habits. But that was a tough nut to crack. I had only been keeping sporadic food journals since last December... hmmmm - a one on one correlation to not wanting to deal with the issue.

Still, I never completely turned away from the issue. And it appears to finally be paying off in dividends. Several things have happened in the past few weeks that have made a significant change. I finally opened up enough to try the meal replacements at HMR. I only take in two a day; not as a substitution for meals but to use as snacks. Truthfully, my Crohns doctor is the one who finally forced this issue because I was not processing real food properly and I was going downhill. Fast. When I started taking them, I got a big surprise. The MRs are nutritionally balanced, and I suddenly was getting vitimans and nutrients that were not being absorbed from real food. I felt better and didn't feel the compulsion to eat so much. As the total calories in the MRs I take in combined are only 200, I know the loss is not because I've turned away from food. Trust me, I'm eating. But there's a physical component that has shifted.

They also had me double up on my daily vitiman. That helped too.

But then there was a very important turning point. Two weeks ago, Richard was holding another of his chats in his clubhouse. He talked about a student at Slimmons who had been struggling. (No, I honestly don't know who this student is.) They were parked next to each other one evening and after class, he saw what she had in the passenger compartment of her car. All sorts of junk food!

At that point, he stopped her and together, they made a written list of her top 10 trigger foods. He had her keep the list and told her to avoid buying anything on it. And she kept her promise and she lost weight.

So I thought about this story and decided that it was worth a try. I decided to list my trigger foods.

1.) Chili Encrusted Dried Mango
2.) Dried Cranberries
3.) Crackers
4.) Bread (if not kept in the freezer)
5.) Hard Candy (I had taken it up as a breath freshener since getting sick)
6.) Protein bars from HMR

I looked at the list. This was all I could come up with! And I realized that my eating habits had changed so fundamentally that I no longer crave cookies and candy and cakes and whatnot. No wonder that my gain had been so slow! What was on the list was just not such a big deal.

I decided to apply Richard's idea along with the other two components that I had added into my life. And remarkably, have lost 5 of the 9 pounds.

I know that this is not the end of the story. But it has been a lesson that is not lost on me. I know in my head and heart that the most important thing I can to to ensure my long-term success is always be willing to look at myself with a rational - not condeming - mind. To be willing to acknowledge not only my successes but my challenges too. (Not failures... just issues.) To be willing to change things up, to experiment, until something clicks into place that works.

My life circumstances are a constant evolution. I need to be sure that my mind evolves along with them.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Dogs Rule

Both of my dogs are getting up there in years. Given that, like grumpy old men, they are getting really set in their ways. Especially Cosmos.

He has certain - ahem - rituals that must be adhered to. Breakfast at 7. Biscuit at 10. Dinner at 5. And it's time to go to bed prompty at 9:30pm. His bed, which he kindly allows me to share.
When it's time to put him into the bed, he comes to me. Aggitated. Insistant. Crying like a squeaky wheel. And when I ask him if he would like me to put him into the bed, he reacts clearly. A very relieved expression on his face at a minimum. Often he will get up and run in little circles in anticipation. And sometimes I get the impatient bark. "Ok, get on with it. Help me jump in."

When we're by ourselves, I can put him into the bed (he requires assistance these days because he's too arthritic to jump in on his own) and then go on about my own business. But when Eric is over, he needs to monitor the situation. Be sure that Eric is aware that I belong to him. So on those Friday nights that we decide to stay in, we will typically go into the studio and watch TV, Cozie on the floor. And when it's time for him to go to bed, he can still hear what is going on.

This evening was different, though. We decided, ah - around 10pm, that it would be nice to have a cup of tea. I went up into the kitchen to prepare it while Eric stayed behind on my computer. Later joining me at the kitchen table, Cosmos at our feet.

Cozie was clearly aggitated. Not connecting the time with his distress, I initially thought he was looking for a biscuit. I admonished him, telling him that it was just too late to eat and that he would have to do without. But after a little while, it dawned on me that he was ready for bed and it was not acceptable that we should populate the front of the condominium at a time like that.

I asked him if he would like me to put him into the bed. An immediate sharp bark of approval. I got up and he spun in circles so fast that he was hardly even a blur. We walked back, I helped him in, and then I went out front to rejoin Eric.

Within five minutes, I heard a thud in the bedroom, and then Cosmos appeared from out of the hall. Clearly irritated. Tired. Not prepared to put up with this nonsense. He came to us, gave me a pointed stare of disgust, and then proceeded to cry. Loudly.

I looked at Eric helplessly. Asked him if he would mind joining us in the back room. Being the consumate good sport, he immediately agreed.

And so it came to be that the dog hijacked our date night. I put Cozie into the bed, I joined him, and Eric joined us on the other side. We both pet Cosmos although he made it quite clear that only I was important. He pointedly looked away from Eric and rested his head on my waist. And then, to seal the deal, he insisted that I move between him and Eric and he (we) napped, Cosmos pressing up against my back.

Yes, I was the meat-in-the-sandwich. The only thing that would have made it "perfect" was if 'Torn between two lovers' had been softly playing on the radio.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Nuttin' Honey

I'm back. Having not only survived the Carotid Artery scan, I have been declared "as clear as a bell." The tech was impressed, stating that he rarely saw people in our age group with absolutely no plaque build up. This, right before he came on to me.

Yup. Yet another pass in a hospital setting. I officially know that he prefers "thin, pretty, and unencumbered by children." Oy. Me thinks I'm really good at putting on make-up or the man needs glasses. Likely both.

The results of the test is a good-news-bad-news scenario, of course. The good news is that I do not have Carotid Artery Disease. That would be a very serious diagnosis. The bad news is that we're still befuddled about what's happening to me.

After I finished up with the test, I stopped by my Cardiologist's office where I received this:

That's right. It's a permission slip to return to exercise class. Hand written and signed by the man himself.

Now it's up to me to decide what I want to do. I have to figure out if I am brave enough to go again after my recent record of failing, or stay at home.

I am vascilating, but I'm starting to lean towards a return.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Picking Up the Marbles

On Tuesday, I saw my new Podiatrist for the first time. My old one, Dr. B-, seemingly could not make an appointment without changing it... from afternoon to morning, from morning to afternoon... from week to week. We finally hit a point when I could not accomodate his schedule. After we had a 3:30pm appointment for 3 weeks out, I got a call from the office in which he practiced. At 4:30pm the day before. He wanted to change it to 10:45. AM.

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, that conflicted with my Physical Therapy appointment. I complained to the staff. Explained to them - and they already knew it - that I had been more than accomodating to his shifting-like-the-sands-of-the-desert schedule without complaint for months now, and this time I couldn't do it. What were we to do?

Dr. B- only practices at that location on Wednesday afternoon, and when queried, they couldn't guarantee that if I made an appointment with him for the following week, he wouldn't change it again. So that was a no-go. Then they suggested that I see the other Podiatrist who was still practicing in their office (and I assume will be taking a larger role with Dr. B-'s eminent departure to another location). After a brief discussion about finances because I did not want to have to pay for another doctor because the first doctor that worked in their office left me hanging post op, we agreed that they would pick up the charges and we made the appointment. For last Tuesday.

I liked her immediately. Dr. K- did not change my appointment, and in fact was right on time. We briefly discussed my surgery and the aftermath; she was surprised at how painful it still was (I hadn't realized it until she gave it a good squeeze which made me jump and yelp) and how weak the toe was. She showed me an exercise in which I was to pick up a pencil from the floor with my toes for the next two weeks ("at least 10 times a day") and she would see me again then. When she would be prepared to make me orthotics for my exercise shoes so that the bones that were clearly shifting in my foot might be contained and we just might delay the onset of yet another Neuroma. Like I said, I liked her.

I told Rocky at Physical Therapy about her. He has been aware of my ongoing concern over Dr. B- and was happy to see that I was better suited. We've agreed that my last rehab appointment for my knee will be tomorrow. Truthfully, there might have been some merit to me continuing for another week or two, but my finances after four-plus-years on disability just won't sustain it so I'll have to make due on my own. I've made a remarkable recovery already, especially for me.
Anyway, Rocky decided to have another exercise added to my routine. It was one in which they spread marbles on the floor and I was to pick them up with my toes and drop them in a little cup. After 15 minutes, I had not yet completed the task. As I said, my toes are really weak.

Not being able to do such simple things is very frustrating, and an analogy for my whole life. I would like to be normal. Well, maybe not normal because that's pretty boring, but it would be nice to have a life where my body was not constantly failing me.

I am currently struggling with a number of medical issues. My left knee and toe are recovering nicely, but I'm sure that my right knee has a torn meniscus (damaged the week before the left knee surgery) and I had an MRI yesterday so that we can confirm it. My Crohns is flaring and, although it's not escalated the past couple of weeks, it was advancing at an alarming rate up until then. I have not got a lot of faith that the newest medication - something that I have to inject myself with weekly - is going to help, but I have no choice in the matter. I'm giving myself the shots and hoping for the best.

In the meantime, the fainting issue also returned about two weeks ago with a vengence. I don't even necessarily have to be doing anything taxing to bring it on. I can just be standing there talking to somebody and boom! I'm on the floor. But of course, I hate it the most when it happens at Slimmons and it did twice in one week in two successive visits. The second one in which I never progressed past the front desk.

I've seen my Internist for it a week ago - I think/hope he is taking the situation seriously - and also the Cardiologist. Wouldn't you know it, Dr. G- gave me an Event Monitor (again) and sent me on my way until May when I will have a stress test done in his office. And the last faint before seeing him happened two days prior. I've had some vague dizzy spells since then, but in all honestly, I've kept my butt planted in a chair and I never go down when I am sitting. I can feel kind of bad sometimes, but not to the point of a faint.

Then, yesterday, I was at my therapy appointment and discussing my frustration about the whole thing with Dr. M-. Especially that I would be responsible for pushing the button on the monitor when something starts to go wrong. One of the unfortunate things about the big episodes is that I seem to have an intellectual disconnect before I go down. I don't have a lot of time when my body is signaling distress, but I usually think "Oh my God I'm about to faint" and if I acted on it right away, I could probably avoid it by getting to a chair. But that's where things go awry. I don't seem to be able to act on the thought and if somebody asks me if I'm ok (I am often very flushed too), if I'm able to answer at all, I say "yes." Not the right answer but all I can get out. And I'm supposed to be able to push the button?

"That sounds like oxygen deprivation to your brain," Dr. M- said. And we discussed the pressure that I always feel in my neck before such episodes. Carotid Artery Disease was his immediate suggestion. A build up of Plaque in the Carotid Arteries.

I looked the ailment up on the internet this morning. There I found a lot of my symptoms. Transient ischemic attacks. Weakness, numbness, tingling, or paralysis of arm, leg, face, on one side of your body. (I had a neurological work up about this complaint almost two years ago with no identification of the issue.) Blurry eyesight. Dizziness, confusion, fainting, or coma. Sudden severe headache with no known cause.

But then there are the risk factors. Hi levels of low-density lipoprotin cholesterol and triglicerides in the blood. Nope. High Blood Pressure; Diabetes. Used to have both, but they went away years ago along with the weight. Smoking. Obesity. Lack of exercise. No three times over. The only risk factor that I currently have is a family history of coronary artery disease.

Dr. R- scheduled the test for it tomorrow. He told me point blank that he did not think that this is what is wrong with me. And I appreciate his point of view. But I am desperate at this point to have some kind of diagnosis. Anything. Even something as serious as what we will be testing for.

I intend to grill the tech about the results during and after the test. I don't expect to have them fully revealed to me, but I will phrase the question in such a way that he will be hard-pressed not to give me some kind of response. Something along the lines of "I intend to return to exercise class on Saturday as my Cardiologist said I could. Are you seeing anything on your screen that would suggest that this would be a bad idea?"

And then, since Eric & I had a long discussion about it last night, if there is no reason that the tech can give me not to attend, I will return.

I don't know what will happen when I arrive. I know that they all care about me at Slimmons, but how long are they to be expected to put up with my medical issues before they finally pull the plug on me? It's been years going there, with regular issues of health predominating my appearances. I'm always fearful of the day that they will finally tell me that they've had it with me and ask me to leave.

And if I do attend on Saturday, what will happen in class? I'm really scared of that too. If I go, I intend to participate fully. After all, my doctor said I could. And if, by participating I provoke another spell? That might not be a completely bad thing. Because I'm practicing now, telling myself to "Push the button." "Push the button." "Push the button."

Maybe if I rehearse it enough, when I have the issue again, hopefully while I"m wearing the monitor, I'd like to think I'll have the presence of mind to push the button before I go down. Get a recording of what is happening with my heart at that moment.

I'm desperately trying to pick up one of the marbles in my life.

Body Worlds

Last Sunday, Eric & I decided to go to the California Science Center in downtown Los Angeles to see the Body Worlds exhibit. For the uninitiated, they display real bodies, and parts thereof, so that the public can learn how they work.

It was a fascinating exhibit. The lines were lengthy, but because of my ongoing intermitant health issues, we were able to bypass them and get right in. It was very crowded; the people were polite and interested. And many of the exhibits were - ahem - life sized.

The displays were startling. They have a process by which they plasticize the parts - and the whole - so that they're perfectly preserved. The Body Worlds link that I've provided has a separate embeded link within it that will explain the process if you are interested. They had whole skeletons with the muscles, tendons, or "whatever" attached. Glass eyes would look upon us as we would stare at them. But the weirdest part was the poses that the bodies were in. Olympic poses. Like they were playing the Olympic games. I'm serious. A Javelin Thrower, a pair of Ice Skaters... and many others.

Eric was a little bit nervous about the exhibit in advance. "I heard that most of the bodies are Chinese." he muttered. But I was not concerned. Nor was I "grossed out". He couldn't claim the same, however. He confided that it made him a bit nauseous, and that he was likely to have nightmares.

I grew up in a physician's home. My father would often initiate blood-and-guts conversation at the dinner table, and it was not unusual that we would have blood draws from various patients with chemicals added percolating in our refrigerator at home next to the food. In fact, I had a conversation with my sister when I was just entering my 40s. I was startled because I had just realized that when people asked me not to discuss certain topics related to the body at the dinner table "because we're eating," that they actually MEANT it. She had not come to the same conclusion yet.

So I was not disturbed at the museum. Rather, I was impressed by the many displays and could hardly get my fill. I was sorry that I was tired towards the end... they were just getting to the part where they were showing the effects of a fatty and poor diet. There was a cross-section, the long way, of a human where you could see at least 3" of fat between the organs/skeleton and the skin, all the way around. There were veins and arteries coated in plaque. I, of course, have a special interest in that given where I come from. But fatigue set in and rather than examining this part in depth, we decided to head on home.

I started asking questions about the bodies later. Did they really all originate in China? And if they did, is there an ethical dilema? Although I was assured by friends that they didn't, I was not reassured.

The bigger question I had, though, who were these people in life. They were posed in olympian stances... were displayed as fit and true. In life, were these people athletes? Were they young? Or were they old and then "lifted" and the poses they are in were the ultimate joke? How, exactly, did these people die?

When you donate your body to science, you take a chance on what happens to it. But if the people knew of their end, would they approve?

I strongly agree, in principle, to the exhibit. Not only do I recommend going to it if you're lucky enough to have one come to your geographical area, but I plan to take Vennie to it when she comes to California later this month.

But I'm still left with the disquieting feeling that everything is not quite right about the origins of the displays. I guess that means that I am not quite as calloused as I formerly thought.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Mount Fuji - Part 2

The saga of the brojen Fuji Finepix continues.

I made the call to Fuji Repair today and got a woman named "Christine" from the repair department. I was very calm and collected, and told her that there must be some kind of mistake. The camera was not dented when I sent it to them. She asked me to hold while she pulled the camera.

When she returned to the phone, she calmly told me that there was a very extensive dent on the bottom "by the port." Since I know in my heart of hearts that the camera was not dropped or dented in any way when I sent it to them, I asked her if she had any idea how it happened. "It couldn't have happened in shipping" she said. "If it had, then there would have been a report."

I calmly explained to her that if it hadn't happened in shipping, then somebody on her side must have dropped the camera. She wouldn't budge on her postion, but when I explained to her that the camera had only been back with me for a couple of weeks after the last repair, she said that if I had the previous repair center fax a copy of the repair report along to her, she would take it - with their notes of any damage on it - to her supervisor. Since there was no damage, I had no problem with that.

I called the last repair center:

Advance Camera Repair
7441 Garden Grove Blvd.
Suite J
Garden Grove CA 92841
Phone: 714-799-6175
Fax: 714-799-6145

and spoke to Harold. He was lovely and helpful, pulling the paperwork and noting that there were no notes of significant damage to the camera on it. He is having "Lisa," his secretary, fax a copy of the report on to Christine later this afternoon.

Meanwhile, I looked up Fuji Repair on the internet. There are a whole host of complaint reviews about them telling the exact same story. New cameras, older cameras, cameras that never worked right from being taken out of the box new. All of the cameras were sent to them under warranty for repair; all of the owners who swore that there was no impact, received a bill exactly like mine, requesting $80 to repair the camera due to "impact damage."

So the saga continues. Will they fix my camera? Will I ever be able to post real pictures to my blog again? Will Fuji do the right thing?

Or will I be forced to buy a new camera because Fuji does not honor their warranty agreement?

Only time will tell.


Related Posts with Thumbnails