Friday, October 31, 2008

Simple Relief of Asthma and Sinusitis

You can relieve asthma and sinusitis simply by using a Neti Pot to irrigate your sinuses.

You fill the Neti Pot with warm salt water, turn your head to the side and just slightly face up, and place the Neti Pot tip into the upper nostril. Press it close and then tip the pot up so the salt water flows into the upper nostril and then back out of the lower.1 The water will loosen mucus2 and wash away dust and pollen.

It's a relief to expel the thick mucus and to be rid of the pressure it causes. This helps keep away chest congestion, too, because there's less mucus and pollutants draining into your bronchial tubes.

You can buy a Neti Pot on I use a ceramic pot from Himalayan Institute. Mix a quarter teaspoon of salt with 8oz. of warm water to make the salt water. Be sure to use iodine-free salt. Kosher salt and sea salt work well.

1 It might take a little trial and error to get the head and pot positioned so that the flow starts. You could be so congested that the water can't get through, in which case you might take a Sudaphed to open things up a bit.

2 "Mucus" has got to be the worst word I've used in this blog so far. I hated writing this post because of it. I almost stopped writing because I figured people would stop reading at about this point.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

How to Change the World

Every so often I read a post by someone who wants to change the world.  Usually the writer is a teenager or young adult.  Here's how I usually respond:
There isn't just one world. There are millions of little worlds. They're the bubbles each of us live in. Even though you're relatively young, I can guarantee that you've changed several worlds already:
  • Has anyone ever admired any of your artwork or blog posts?
  • Have you helped anyone with school work?
  • Have you consoled a friend through a difficult time?
  • Have you loved someone?
  • Have you been born?
That last one might seem like a stretch. But think about it from a different perspective -- you reinvented your parents' world.  You rocked their world. I know that because my daughter did that to my world. I no longer went to work just to save for retirement; instead I went to work to give her the best possible future.

I do know what you mean -- you wish you could change the entire world, like end poverty and war, or get people to stop wasting so much fossil fuel. I want that, too. But really, World Change starts with each of us looking after ourselves first and then our family and neighbors.

You're an amazing person. I hope your spirit inspires others to be like you!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Dream: Dorky Dad at the Movies

I'm in a large movie theater watching a movie. My daughter is there, too. But she's sitting somewhere else. I'm sitting next to a boy.

I laugh at a part near the end of the movie. But it's a corny scene, not good enough for the sophisticated young teens to laugh at.

I'm pretty sure my daughter's embarrassed at me.

The movie is over and I'm shopping for confirmation dresses with my daughter. She has tried on two dresses that are all white. She has tried on the largest size. Apparently they don't make them for teenage girls. So we'll have to buy one of these and hope she doesn't grow out of it by February. Or we'll have to buy a wedding dress.

Friday, October 24, 2008

If This Were My Wife's Blog...

I keep trying to get my wife to start a blog. When I come home from work, I hear stories like this:
I went to see the new neurologist today. (The previous neurologists were merely residents at this teaching university. Not only did they not help her, she'd get a new one every six months and have to explain everything to him all over, at the end of which he would say, "You probably have MS. Let us know when you can't walk." This all changed when she called and insisted to see the head doctor. "Oh, you have good insurance!" said the receptionist's supervisor. "I can get you in with Dr. M. next Monday. He's a regular doctor, I promise.")

I get there (10:30), and they call my name after about five minutes. So I go in one of the exam rooms and wait. And I'm waiting. And waiting. After about 45 minutes, I start to wonder whether I should open the door to see what's up, and the doctor looks in and says, "Oh, I didn't know I had a patient booked!"

So he does some tests. Like he rubs alcohol on my leg and asks if I have any strange sensations. "No," I told him, "it just feels cold." "Then you don't have neuropathy," he says.

Then he did the knee reflex test. When he hit my knee, my leg kicked. I thought that was a good thing. But he said no, it indicates a nerve problem.

He listened to my symptoms and he said he thinks I have MS. He wanted to admit me to the hospital right then and give me IV steroid treatment. Of course I refused. He was very good about it and funny. He said he didn't blame me -- hospitals aren't a good place to be.

He gave me samples of a new med. It's supposed to be a substitute for Zoloft, plus it has pain killer. (The expiration date on the bottle is 10/2007.)

He wants me to get an MRI. And he sent me off for a blood test.

So I walk over to the blood lab and hand them the requisition. There's no one else waiting, but I sit down. After a few minutes, a technician comes up to me with the requisition and points to a code and asks, "Do you know what this is for?" "No, I don't." "I'll have to call the doctor then."

More time goes by. Then a different technician comes up to me with the requisition and points to a diagnosis code and asks, "Do you know what this is for?" "No, I don't." "I'll have to call the doctor then." "That's what the other technician said! How much longer will this take?" "About ten minutes. I could take some blood now, but then you'd have to come back for the remaining test." "I'd rather get it done all at once."

Even more time goes by. Yet a third technician comes up to me with the requisition and points to a diagnosis code and asks, "Do you know what this is for?" "No, I don't." "I'll have to call the doctor then." "Two other people told me the same thing. Let me try to call him. I really don't want to have to come back."

But there's no signal on my cell phone. The technician invites me to use her phone. "Wait, let me dial it for you." Eventually, I get someone to fax the information over. Apparently it's a special test that's done at the Mayo clinic. "Haven't you ever seen the code before?" "No we haven't." "Well, now that you have the information, you should file it so you don't have to track down the doctor when you need to do it again." "That's a good idea. We do have a file for this sort of thing." This is a teaching hospital, supposedly doing lots of research.

Finally, someone draws the blood. I get out of there at 1:30.

I get home and I get a call from "Tim" from the blood draw lab. He let's out a big sigh. "I don't like the sound of that sigh. What's wrong?" "We forgot to label two of your vials. You'll have to come back to have them redrawn."
This is a typical story, believe it or not. As stress is a trigger for MS, folks like my wife are supposed to lead stress-free lives. That would seem to be impossible as long as we're stuck with this university.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Dream: Shower at Daughter's School

I'm taking a shower.  But I'm not at home.  I'm in a public facility, and it's a family shower area.  I know this because I see girls here.

And then I realize that the girls are staring at me while I shower.  I turn my back on them.  It's not that I'm embarrassed.  Rather, I think it's highly inappropriate for them to see full frontal male nudity, especially since they're staring at It.  I continue with my shower.

It's later and I'm in the guidance counselor's office.  My daughter has left some materials, like a folder and notebook.  I'm waiting for the end of school.  She's supposed to meet me here so that I can take her home.

Meanwhile, a female guidance counselor is holding the notebook and reading it.  She's commenting about the content aloud.  But she thinks the student is a boy.  The comments are positive.

A male counselor stands behind a counter, as if he's selling tickets or collecting at a tool booth.  He says to me, "Do you hear what she's saying about your daughter?" He's referring to the other counselor.  He wants me to know how well my daughter is doing.

I say to him that I think she's talking about someone else because she's referring to a boy.  But inside, I know that she is commenting about my daughter's school work.

The students have been dismissed.  I see a flood of students walking past the door.  I wonder if my daughter will remember to meet me here.  I watch carefully, trying to see her.  But there are too many students, so I pay less attention to them, and I hope she remembers to show up.  Besides, if I did see her, all I'd be able to do is follow her to the bus.  She wouldn't hear me call out to her.  Nor would she be able to stop, turn, and walk back against the flow of traffic.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Dream: Defective Mirror

I'm in an old house that has been converted into a bar and grill. It's dark and wooden, except for an air duct that's aluminum or galvanized steel and foil. I'm walking around trying to find my way.

Finally, I find some people to help me. I show them a mirror that I bought there a couple of years ago. It's about 9 by 7 inches with a gold frame. The silver backing has eroded in several spots. Most of the spots are about the size of baby green peas. But one is a bit larger, about the size of a nickel.

They agree that it's a problem.

I also have some sheets of artwork that I did in high school. They start to look at it. They appear to think it's another thing they need to deal with. But I tell them that it's mine. Then they start to admire it. I think they might be willing to buy it. I was planning to throw it all away. But now I shift into "shrewd mode." Instead of being honest and letting them take it, I act a bit defensive about letting it go. I want them to make me an offer I can't refuse.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Day I Almost Lost the Car

Today we went on a hike to a local promontory. It was extremely crowded because of a fundraiser that was heavily advertised. Normally we avoid the place when it's crowded. But for some reason my wife wanted to us to squeeze ourselves into the place.

Parking was terrible, and no police were around to help folks who parked on the opposite side of the busy, two-lane state highway.

I found a grassy spot to parallel park, thanks to the patient driver behind me. Then we crossed the road and hiked for about ten minutes to enter the park and reach the trail head.

We climbed the short but steep rocky trail. Our normally sluggish daughter out-paced us. We joked that it was because she was afraid there would be no sweets left by the time we arrived. That's our daughter -- Kung-Fu Panda girl! The other explanation is that she's starting her oppositional teenage years and wanted to match our snail pace with mountain goat-like swiftness. On other walks, she has stumbled along behind us like a zombie, making us wonder whose genes she inherited.

Well, I carried the backpack and walked beside and a bit behind my wife, with my hand on her back. It wasn't meant to be romantic as much as it was functional. I was applying constant force with my hand, pushing her up the incline. Her chest burned from asthma, and her legs burned from neuropathic pain.

We reached the summit, pausing only a few times to take photos of the view. My wife and daughter made their way to the treats table and came away with a nice healthy cheeseburger for my daughter. They sat at a picnic table and sent me back for something to buy with the remaining two tickets. The request was for donuts, but we had to settle for an ice cream sandwich. This was for my daughter, who had nearly polished off the cheeseburger by the time I returned.

I chewed on my Cliff bar and drank water. I then used the empty restroom that was attached to the building, rather than one of the port-a-potties that folks were lined up in front of. As I headed back, I told them about the restrooms.

Eventually we headed back down. This time I took the lead because the faster pace was easier on my knees. When we reached the trail head, my wife decided that she and daughter would wait while I should go get the car. The parking area was thinning out quickly, so it would be no trouble to bring the car in. No trouble, that is, unless you can't find the car.

That's right. I couldn't find the car. And all I had to do was cross the road and walk along it until I came to the place where I parallel parked. But I kept walking and walking, crossing side streets that I didn't remember crossing before.

I walked until I could see no more cars. I turned around and walked back up, wondering which group of passersby I should ask to call the police. I imagined myself reporting the car theft to the police:

"I parked it on this side of the road. It was behind a dark blue mini-van." I recited the make, model, color and year of the car. I even remembered the license plate, which I was amazed at. (But maybe I shouldn't be. When you're so cheap that you drive the same car for several years and then reuse the plates on the next used car you buy, the plate numbers tend to stick in your mind.)

Then I started to worry about what my wife would say. She left her pocketbook in the car. And even though I wasn't the one who decided to go on the hike, it would be my fault that the car was stolen. I hope the police officer would be the one to break the news to her.

It did dawn on me that I might've walked by the car without noticing it. But to me, that was even worse than it being stolen. How could I have walked past it and not see it? I'm supposed to be observant and mindful.

I resigned to hope that I would find it on the way back. And sure enough, there it was, about halfway back up the road. I wondered if my wife and daughter had gotten impatient and started to walk to the car. I doubt if they'd get to it before me. But as I drove back, I watched carefully to make sure I didn't pass them if they were walking back. I already missed the car pretty effortlessly. It would be a breeze to drive by my wife and daughter.

I delivered the briefly-missing car safe and sound. I was too shook up to think of a good excuse for my long absence. So when my wife predictably asked me what took so long, I said simply, "I couldn't find it. I walked right by it."

I won't describe the scorn with which my wife responded. Defensively, I blurted, "I think I had a seizure. Why else would I completely miss the car?"

"How about because you're stupid!"

"No seriously, what about two weeks ago when I drove right by our exit? I think I had a seizure then, too."

"I do that, too. You just need to pay more attention."

"But it's a huge, two lane exit! You can't miss it!"

"So go tell your doctor that you're having seizures." The intensity with which she rolled her eyes told me she thought I was an idiot. And I wasn't even looking at her because I was driving.

And now for some questions. Did I have a seizure? Or is this just an attention disorder? How much does it cost to get fitted for an ankle bracelet?

Dream: It's Not Cool to Wait For the Bus

It's the first day of school.  I'm riding a motorcycle right into the bus circle that's in front of the school.  But I have to drive very slowly because everyone else is walking.

The are two lines of kids.  I get behind the line on the left.  It goes past the one on the right.

We never do enter the school.  Instead, we walk along the bus circle to where the buses are supposed to pick us up.

We wait and wait.  Finally, with the perspective of an adult that has more self-determination than a child, I decide to leave on my own before the bus arrives.

Somehow, the motorcycle I had is gone.  Instead I start walking.  At first I figure I might be able to get on the bus if it passes me before I get home.  But then I realize that's not likely to happen.

It's a really long walk, too, like my commute from my work place.  But I just keep walking.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Yes, I Am a Guy

Soon after I started this blog I ego-surfed. I Googled "Square Peg" and "Square Peg Round Hole" because I was curious if there were other blogs like this. I found a gem of a website, Karen Caterson's Square-Peg-People. It's not like this site -- it's much, much better.

Not only did I start reading Karen's blog regularly, I visited the blogs of those who commented on hers. I enjoyed many: Entertaining Stories From Everyday Life by Jenny Ryan, Lynne Morrell's Musings for the Soul, Cardiogirl: 19% body fat 100% fun, Slywy's The Dark Side of the Moon, for example.

I started to comment on them, using the handle "Square Peg". But Karen also commented on them, using her handle "Square Peg Person." Pretty soon an astute blogger noticed that similar-named people had two blogs with similar names but different content. That blogger started to wonder if Karen were leading a double life.

Unfortunately, the dull truth is that there really are two distinct individuals who call themselves "Square Peg." And this one should've used a unique enough handle for comments so as to prevent this kind of misunderstanding.

So from now on, I'll sign blogs that I comment on "Square Peg Guy." Also I've updated my About section to make my gender a bit more obvious. And in case you were wondering, that's my real nose, glasses and mustache!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Guys Just Want to Have Fun

On Monday Petra Wise "The Wise (*Young*) Mommy" wrote about ovulation. I enjoyed every word.

It was her first ovulation after stopping birth control. The account of how she tried (unsuccessfully) to get her husband to conceive their next child(ren) almost inspired me to respond, "I would've given in right away."

But I didn't write that, and I'm glad. It was the way my horny hormones wanted to respond. The fact is that the worst sex I've ever had was when my wife wanted to conceive. Thankfully, it was only once.1

Because for a guy, the meaning of sex changes when conception is the goal. It suddenly stops being fun. One day you're holding back from getting the new sheets spotted, the next you're trying to perform. One day you're sneaking it in and pulling back just before it's too late, the next you're almost forcing it to happen.

Making love is fun; making babies is not.

Ironically, once my wife found out that she was pregnant, sex was fun again. Why? "Because," I told myself, "she can't get pregnant, again."

So I'm sorry Petra. You're beautiful even with the tattoos. But I'm not available right now.

1 Yes, my wife got pregnant on the first try. She said later that if she knew how easy it was, she would've waited another year. But nearly everyone else around her was having so much trouble getting pregnant, she was worried it would be difficult. Not me. I figured I'd be buying baby furniture and losing that second income real soon.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Dream: Yet Another Prescription Without a Diagnosis

I'm at a new doctor. He has a simple procedure for me to follow. I simply have to hold my head still and trace my eyes along the rims of his outrageously weird glasses.

So I make circles with my eyes looking to the extreme left. Then I make my eyes follow the arc up and to the center and then down to make circles at the center. Finally, I scan up and to the right again, following the right hand arc, and I do more circles with my eyes at the extreme right side of my vision.

As soon as I'm done, he says that he sees the problem, and he gives me some pills for it. But he won't tell me what the pills are for or what I have.

I wish I had one doctor who could tell me everything that's wrong with me and give me a diagnosis. This is really frustrating.

Dream: Canal Journey

I'm a crew member of a boat.  We're traveling in a long canal.

There is no wind, so we need to get out into the water and pull the boat.  There are cables that we can grab onto.

The whole area appears to be a bright interior, like a marble hall in part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.

Now we need to turn around and go back.  We can ride in the boat for this.  I've done this route a few times, but we're taking a different path.  I know we go downhill, but I suddenly see that this path is a great deal steeper.  It looks like we're at the top of an escalator, with the two moving handrails.  But this is even steeper than a typical escalator.  It's almost a sheer dropoff.

But we're going down before I can react.  And it's actually very fun!

We get to our destination very quickly.  It's actually a supermarket.

Dream: Nasty Neighbor

I'm a boy in my old neighborhood.  I'm hanging out with my friend John.  Everything seems quite normal except that we're standing in front of Miss Marie's house.  Usually we play in his backyard or mine.  And there are bullies further down the road, so we wouldn't normally be here without a grown up.

A woman approaches.  It is the nasty neighbor.  Everyone around here knows she likes to cause trouble.  She stands in front of John and me and tells him she knows what really happened when he was born.  "Didn't anyone tell you?" she sneers.  I'm thinking she's going to say he was switched at birth with some other baby.  But she never does say what happened.  We wouldn't believe her, anyway.

I stare at her right eye and cheek bone.  She almost looks Asian.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

My Second Pet

This is a continuation of My First Pet...

About two years after giving away my first cat because of asthma, my cat-loving girlfriend and I got married and moved into a house. At first she was resigned to not having a cat. But after trying to put up with me for a few months, she was clearly unhappy.

So we struck a compromise. We would get a cat and keep it in the lower level of the house. I figured that by being in a house that was larger than the apartment in which I couldn't breathe, I might not have trouble with allergies. Also, I had been getting allergy shots for two years, and I was taking medicine to control the allergies. Besides, the woman we bought the house from had a cat in the house.

This actually worked out pretty well. My breathing wasn't as clear as it should've been, but I wasn't laboring to breathe. And the cat spent time outside, from mid-morning until dusk.

The cat was our baby for a couple of years, an orange and white tabby with white paws. My wife called her "Twinkie." When our real baby came along, Twinkie finally realized that the crib wasn't for her.

The cat didn't like our daughter too much. Our daughter's attempts at petting the cat were met with flattened ears and extended claws.

One windy October day, about one month after 9-11, our daughter came home from pre-school. The cat was not there. But she didn't ask about it until she was a bit older and saw pictures of the cat. By then it was easier to say that the cat was hit by a car and killed. I didn't tell her how the neighbor walked over to tell us. Or how upset her mother was. (My wife vowed she'd never have another cat in that house again.) Or how I placed her stiff body into a copy paper box and then into a hole I'd dug into the ground.

I showed our daughter the grave, which I marked with a small cairn. It was in the center of a square formed by four small trees, except that today only two of those trees still stand. When we would walk by, we'd say a small prayer, "Please God, welcome Twinkie into your Kingdom." I'm not too good with prayers, but our daughter liked that ritual.

Five years later my wife's legs started to feel numb, and she had trouble walking. She was soon admitted into the hospital and treated for transverse myelitis. She was released after four weeks. It was a strange time in our lives. The birds stopped showing up at my wife's bird feeder. But a skittish cat started to show up and run away when we approached it. It was an orange and white tabby, with white paws. I told my second-grade daughter that it was Twinkie, looking for mommy.

That cat visited us every few days, but it would always run away. After my wife came home and resumed walking, the cat stopped showing up.

That's the story of my second pet. But it wasn't the last pet....

Dream: Naked in the Parking Lot

My wife and I are in the parking lot at work. I'm naked for some strange reason. My wife suggests I should put some clothes on. But I tell her that no one's around.

As soon as she leaves, I'm surprised by a large black car that pulls up right in front of me. It's a stretch limousine. It's followed by a small read car. The occupants of the two cars are husband and wife. They want to talk to me.

I realize I'm naked, but I have no way to hide and no way to throw clothes on. So I just accept the fact that I'm naked and somehow stash away my embarrassment.

I face them and meet them.

Friday, October 3, 2008

My First Pet

This post was inspired by Cardiogirl's post, "I will not experience the dog days of Summer, Fall, Winter or Spring"...

I was allergic to cats ever since I can remember.

One day my girlfriend convinced me to get a cat. I told her that I was allergic. She didn't believe me and she insisted that we go to a pet store to at least see if I was still allergic.

So we did and I felt okay. I thought that being in my own apartment (rather than my mother's moth-ball infested house) made me somehow less allergic. One of the kitty critters seemed real interested in me, poking his paw out at me and giving me kitty love eyes. He was a gray tabby fur ball with yellow-green eyes.

So he came home with me. He would sit on my lap and eat supper with me. He insisted on eating everything I ate, even broccoli. I kid you not.

I was glad that I didn't have the itchy watery eyes and the runny nose that I usually get around cats. But every day I found it a bit harder to breathe, even though I kept the cat out of the bedroom.

By the time I started taking Claritin and allergy shots, it was too late. I gave kitty up a month later to a nice young couple.

I felt the heaviness in my chest for a long time. But it was not so much asthma as a broken heart.