Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Fish Doctor

I took my husband to our doctor today.  Nursing school does things to a person (me) other than educate.  Suddenly it becomes necessary to drag unwilling family members to the doctor for regular visits.  This is the price family pays for the student's future good job and decent income.

I chose this doctor for us a couple of years ago for two reasons: he is the husband of a woman I met at college, and he is a Doctor of Osteopathy (DO).  I've always been partial to DOs.  They've always seemed more approachable, more reasonable, and more concerned with the whole person versus any disease process or condition.

Dr. Rullman was a commercial fisherman here in Alaska until the age of 35 or so.  He and his wife were talking about what they wanted to do with their future around that time, and he told her that he'd always wanted to be a doctor.  She told me that she was completely shocked when he said it.  Being industrious Alaskans, off they went in pursuit of his medical degree.  It took a few years (it always does), but he got into medical school and graduated and there you go.  He's a doctor.  He takes July and August off every year to fish commercially, otherwise he's at the small, comfortable medical office he shares with a couple other providers and the friendliest, most capable staff I've ever encountered.

I accompanied my husband into the exam room today (of course I did).  When Dr. Rullman asked why we were there, I ran down the list of concerns I had written in a memo on my android phone.  My husband sat quietly and took it like a man.  His blood pressure was excellent (former concern).  He was down 15 pounds from his previous visit (good news).  I told Dr. Rullman that I have been afraid to listen to my husband's lungs with my stethoscope (he smoked for many years and my father died of emphysema at the age of 57).  He listened to my husband's lungs, then handed me his stethoscope.  I listened.  Husband needs a chest x-ray because he has what are considered "diminished breath sounds" low in his lungs, but Dr. Rullman isn't worried about it (he probably ordered the x-ray out of caution and because he doesn't want to have to increase MY xanax dose).  I requested blood work as my husband has a history of high cholesterol (the bad kind).  Dr. Rullman described the niacin and fish oil dosages he would recommend if in fact my husband's cholesterol levels are out of kilter.  Then we talked about the test to check for prostate problems.  My husband looked at me like I was crazy when I brought that up.  He has no symptoms whatsoever of any prostate problem, but I am a nursing student and he's getting the damn blood test.

I love our doctor.  I love that he treats us like intelligent human beings and suggests exercise, weight loss, a good diet, fish oil and niacin to maintain our health.  I love that he'll hand me his stethoscope.  I love that the absolutely gorgeous medical assistant who drew my husband's blood today is so skilled that he didn't feel the needle enter his arm.

I also love that nursing school has taught me what to watch for, what to test for at what age, and when to stop worrying.  Not that I actually stop worrying.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Karma of the Traveling Healers

My sister Linda and I took a trip to southern California together, from which I returned yesterday.  We flew down to visit a very close family friend who was celebrating her 92nd birthday on Mother's Day, and to comb through the last of the boxes that were in the attic of my house in California, which my husband and I are trying to sell.

I didn't think much about how the trip might go before I left for the airport on the 8th of May, in particular how my sister and I might get along.  Having just wrapped up my first year of nursing school on May 1st, I was still in post academic shock.

It seemed as though everywhere we went, somebody needed to talk and be heard.  Between the two of us, we have considerable experience in matters of the heart and soul, and we listened to people.  We nurtured, validated and encouraged as different individuals shared their life struggles with one or both of us.  As we moved through our vacation, we were grateful for the opportunity to help others.  Each day it seemed as though a series of assignments had been crafted for us by a Higher Power, and we could easily see which of us had been tapped to accomplish that day's service work.  It was actually mind-blowing.  By the time we were halfway through our trip we joked that we were "Traveling Healers".

We paid a lot forward,  but also received great, weird, unexpected rewards.  We found the grave sites of several relatives (yes, we spent a bit of time in cemeteries as Linda is into unraveling some of the mysteries of our family tree).  We searched for some geocaches (my passion).  We were spontaneous but not extravagant, and somehow we were balanced.  We enthusiastically agreed to support each other in our areas of interest, found that we can share a hotel room comfortably (Linda likes the bed closest to the bathroom, and I like the bed closest to the air conditioner).  We learned how to share the internet, hotel bathrooms, and the costs of travel.

I extended my stay for three days when a dear friend offered to take me to a Los Angeles Lakers game on Friday (Linda and I had planned to fly home on Wednesday).  I took my sister to the airport at 0dark30 on Wednesday and spent several hours finding geocaches  before trading our expensive rental car for a discounted one.  Driving the discount car to Lake Arrowhead to spend two nights in my old neighborhood with a good friend who is always willing to share his home with me, I marveled at my good fortune: a great week with my sister, a Lakers game to look forward to, and unlimited sunshine for another couple of days.

My host wanted to talk.  We spent several hours revisiting troubling old subjects that night, and a bit of time the following day.  I rested and managed to get all that had been in the attic of the old house (all that I wanted to keep, anyway) into the two suitcases I had taken on the trip down.  One of my friend's neighbors informed us that my rental car had a flat.  I had driven over a screw.  That car had 2 miles on it when I picked it up at the airport.  No worries.  I called AAA and a former Iraqi war veteran arrived in a truck to repair the tire.  He shared with me one story of his stint in Special Forces and his words were so dramatic that at one point I wondered if he might be fabricating such a tale.  Then he showed me the huge gunshot wound that had shattered his leg and miraculously healed.  I believed him.  I thanked him, as did my host, who is a veteran of the Viet Nam war.

Friday dawned clear and relatively cool.  I made my way to lunch with two dear friends with whom I had previously worked, then drove to the airport to return the rental car with its repaired tire.  The friend who had invited me to the Lakers game picked me up at the airport.  She drove us to Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles in her husband's luxurious SUV, and we had a wonderful dinner before the game.  My friend needed to talk.  She is grappling with empty nest syndrome and another life issue.  I listened and validated and supported her.  We sat at the game and screamed and cheered and enjoyed ourselves immensely when the Lakers beat the Oklahoma City Thunder.

I'm not a good airline passenger.  I don't like to fly at all and am sorry to say that flying is only one of my irrational fears.  24 hours before my flight was due to leave I checked in online and found, to my delight, that there was an aisle seat available in row 6, the first row behind first class.  I like aisle seats because I feel less helpless sitting in one.  I grabbed that seat for the first leg of my flight and hoped that I could exchange the window seat I had reserved for my second flight for a 1st class upgrade when I arrived at the airport.  My friend dropped me at the airport on Saturday morning and when I checked in I was told that there was indeed one remaining seat in 1st class for the second leg of my trip.  I upgraded for $50, happy at my good fortune.

When I boarded that first flight, there was a gentleman sitting in my seat.  A woman and child were sitting in the two seats next to him.  As I approached him, he asked if I had been assigned that seat, and if I would be willing to trade seats with him so that he could sit with his family on the flight.  I asked him where his assigned seat was, and he pointed to 1st class.  As I settled into my nice wide comfortable seat, I began to speak to my seatmate.  He was a friendly man who revealed that he was an engineer who spent several years early in his career serving as a safety consultant for Trans World Airlines.  As we took off he educated me on the specifics of airline safety.  He told me all about how jet engines work and that flying really is the safest way to travel.  For some reason, I believed him, and enjoyed the flight very much.  I boarded the second plane for the second, longer leg of my journey and learned that my seatmate was a Physician's Assistant.  He, too, was very friendly and we discussed my status in nursing school, supplements that will help my brother in law recover quickly from the total knee replacement he is having in three weeks, and the glories of Alaska for the three and one half hour flight to Anchorage.  When we parted ways, he gave me his card and said that he hoped that we would one day work together.

The last leg of my journey home was of most concern to me.  The flight from Anchorage to Kenai covers only 60 miles, but it is in a small, 9-seat plane and it seems that the route is always windy and therefore turbulent.  I sat waiting for that flight and a woman dressed in a flight attendant's uniform sat next to me.  She had worked the flight that was the second leg of my trip home, and we began talking about her career.  She loves being a flight attendant and assured me that no matter how turbulent our short flight home might be, that we would be safe.  When we climbed into the little plane, a man joined us as a passenger.  The man had been a pilot for 30 years and had flown all over Alaska.  He and the flight attendant struck up a conversation and I listened to them talk about the joy of flying as we bounced and bumped the 60 miles to my home airport.  I felt completely safe in that plane.

I retrieved my luggage and left the airport terminal to see my husband waiting to take me home.  In that moment I marveled at what a lucky woman I am to have a loving husband, a new career on the horizon, a healthy body, and interesting and loving sister, good friends both here and in California, and what can only be considered excellent karma.  The Universe had me in the palm of its hand every moment of that trip, and it rewarded me handsomely on my journey home, just as it has ever single day of my life.

I wrote this post for me and not for anyone else.  There will be days in my future when I cannot see past an exam or other challenge.  I want to be able to read this post on those days and be reminded of the absolute truth that what goes around, comes around.

Friday, May 4, 2012


I was just putzing along today, riding my bike, conversing with the realtor who says he has an offer on our house in California, donating books to the library, and looking forward to a trip with my sister next week when horror struck:  I forgot to acknowledge my cousin's husband's birthday on May 1st.

You might wonder..."your cousin's husband's birthday?".  Certainly somewhat extended family, right?

No.  Not somewhat extended.  Not remotely extended.  Alan (the cousin's husband, whom I fondly call CIL for "Cousin In Law") is a pearl.  Understand that due to varying degrees of dysfunction in my family of origin (and my cousin's), my cousin and  had met only once when we were tiny children before reconnecting when my husband and I moved to Alaska three years ago.  I fell in love with her right away, and with him maybe 15 minutes later.  They welcomed us to their home and their home state with open arms as well as providing my husband with a place to live while he was working in their town and we were still living in ours, 80 miles away.  I don't know what we would have done without them.  We've shared holidays, laughter, health scares, pet losses, campfires, worries and successes, and they are close, close family.  He matters even more to me because I am not easy to take, and he has done such a good job of accepting me, and actually caring for me (one night I ran out of automotive oil in Anchorage - it was dark and cold and I couldn't reach my husband, so I called Alan for advice, which he was happy to give).  Not to mention that he is one of the smartest and funniest people I've ever met, a pleasure to be around, and grills the very best rib eye steak on the planet.

So I forgot his birthday this year.  I've had a card for him for months.  I found it in October and it was perfect, so I hid it someplace safe.  On Tuesday, his birthday, I was taking my final exam for my second semester of nursing school and was entirely focused on that and moving out of my digs in Anchorage to return home.  I'd have remembered if he had his birthday listed on Facebook, but he doesn't, and he shouldn't have to.  I should have remembered.

I will never forget his birthday again.  Kinda like I won't ever forget the answers to the test questions I missed in nursing school.  Mortification will do that for a person.   I'm scheduling an appointment to get a tattoo that will read MAY 1ST and I plan to have it done in red across my forehead.