Saturday, March 31, 2007

Goodbye, VCR

Statistic of the day:
Percentage of Americans who can’t remember the year that 9/11 happened: 30.
--Harper’s Index

Quote of the day:
"My father hated radio and could not wait for television to be invented so he could hate that too."
--Peter DeVries

It’s official. Although more than 300,000 VCRs were sold in the U.S. last year, the major Hollywood studios will no longer release movies on videocassette.

We’ve always called the tapes “VHS,” even though we don’t know what that stands for (Vertical Helical Scan--I had to look it up). Now we call our discs “DVDs,” even though we don’t know what that stands for, either (Digital Versatile Disc--I looked that up, too).

The VCR changed our lives. (See my entry Trend, We Hardly Knew Ye.) We developed the habit of visiting our neighborhood video store two or three times a week. And for movie fans like Merrie and me, it opened a bottomless treasure chest.

We now could see just about any movie we wanted, any time we wanted to watch it. We didn’t have to bear with chopped-up TV versions, or the selections on HBO or at our local revival house. We could watch hundreds of films that would or could never be shown on TV. And we did.

Our local Wherehouse had a promotion where they awarded us points each time we rented a video. One year we rented 165 videos and got a boombox out of the deal.

I suppose my recollection of the early days of the VCR echoes my parents’ stories about the early days of television. Just as their recollection echoed their parents’ stories about the early days of radio.

As my mother used to say, “Time marches on.”

Friday, March 30, 2007

Learning to Live With It

Quote of the day:
“Like a guide dog, skepticism can serve you only when it’s on a short leash.”

Today we went to see Merrie’s cardiologist. We know from experience that when we go to these follow-up appointments we want to hear that everything is fine and that nothing is wrong. We both knew that wasn’t exactly true, but we wanted to hear it anyway. We didn’t.

Merrie is doing extraordinarily well just five weeks out of the ICU. She is walking more each day, and walked up her first flight of stairs this week. She does have to rest frequently, but seems to regain a bit of energy each day.

But the problem with her mitral valve is still there, and having to live with it and watch over it is weighing on both of us. Major surgery is likely in her future, and we are still learning to deal with that prospect.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Sitting, Talking and Laughing

Quote of the day:
“We’re so rushed a lot of the time, and I think we all kind of know that, but to see people actually slow down, sit and talk and laugh.... Good things can come from slowing down sometimes.”
--Albin Ulle

The firsts keep on coming. The first for today was Merrie driving herself to the doctor for some blood tests.

One of the most gratifying things over these last few weeks has been seeing Merrie get lots and lots of sleep. She’s typically driving herself pretty hard, and often has been sleep-deprived for long stretches of time. It’s a simple and obvious thing, but lots of sleep is amazingly healing and restorative.

It is very satisfying to work hard and long to accomplish something important. There are also great rewards for being highly active while traveling or otherwise “playing hard.” We know these things from a very early age.

What takes much longer to learn in our culture is the sustaining joy described in Albin Ulle’s statement above. Ulle and his wife were featured this week on a Travel channel special called 1,000 Places to See Before You Die.

Just like most of us, the Ulles travelled thousands of miles before gaining this perspective.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Which Segment Are You?

It was one of those ideal Southern California days--bright sun, cool ocean breeze. Merrie spent a big part of the day in the backyard, reading and watching wildlife. Sophie spent the evening obsessed with one corner of the house where a real or imagined critter was making noise. She had to repeatedly check it out from both inside and outside. Translated: “Let me in.” “Let me out.” Repeat 47 times.

Quote of the day:
“All of us, I'm afraid, tend to shun the work of actually engaging our critical-thinking faculties.  Instead, we prefer to simply be told what to think, what to like and what to buy, as long as we are told in a way that makes it seem like our own idea.”
--Preston Creston

The science of marketing seems to reach higher and higher into the sophistication stratosphere. Yet focus groups and one-on-one interviews consistently indicate that almost everyone considers his or her tastes and preferences as unique--that is, not susceptible to marketing.

However, the real story is that each of us, whether we know it or like it or not, is in a demographic/psychographic segment. And marketing forces are at work on us throughout each day. Marketing has become so microscopically fine-tuned that this happens all the time.

If we think we are not susceptible to advertising it’s because we are not aware we’re affected by advertising, or other forms of marketing. And it is not just products and services that are marketed. It is also ideas, opinions and candidates.

The best favor we can do for ourselves is to be aware that this is happening.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Three S's and Two P's

Quote of the day:
“Though I remain no less sadly certain than in the past that sanity is a rather rare phenomenon, I am convinced that it can be achieved and would like to see more of it.”
--Aldous Huxley

Another post-MI first for Merrie today. In addition to taking a walk with Sophie this afternoon, she spent ten minutes walking on the treadmill. Pretty amazing.

She also said tonight that she feels better than she’s felt in a long while--”almost normal.” It’s a great reason for hope, and to begin to look ahead.

More on Look Out! Plunging and Plummeting!:
“The decline [in home sales] followed a 15.8 percent plunge in January....”
--Martin Crutsinger, AP, today.

First is the “two Ps.” Whenever there is a significant drop in any economic statistic, the two words most-frequently used to describe it will be “plunge” and “plummet.”

Second is the “three Ss.” Whenever there is a significant rise in any economic statistic, the three words most-frequently used to describe it will be “soar,” “skyrocket” and “spike.”

These words are all meant to describe extreme events. Reporters are quick to exaggerate and sensationalize events that, while they are significant, are not catastrophic. It isn’t just a few writers or news outlets who do this. These words are embedded in the news culture.

Here’s a way to think about it. A 15.8% drop is about one-sixth. If someone falls from the roof of a six-story building onto the roof of a five-story building, is that a “plunge”?

Monday, March 26, 2007

If You Have Your Health....

Question of the day:
When was the last time you used duct tape on a duct?

Quote of the day:
"The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas."
--Linus Pauling

Man, there were a lot of people at the pharmacy this afternoon! I’ve never seen it that crowded.

As I was leaving the parking lot, I saw this on a banner on the building across the street: “If you have your health, you have it all.” That’s gotta be one of the world’s biggest cliches (right up there with “first and foremost”).

But it’s true, isn’t it?

This evening, Sophie had a barking fit in the backyard and came in smelling like skunk. Oh, joy.

Fortunately, it wasn’t a full-on skunk spray, but rather more of an essence. Sort of like when you spray the cologne and walk through the mist. Or spray the cologne on the ground and roll in it.

Merrie sprang into action (great to see!) and took the dog into the garage for a washing and drying. And that took care of the problem.

Our quiet and restorative days continue.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

"Harry and Tonto"

Quote of the day:
"I learned a lot about losing from [my father]. That losing is an identity; that you can be a good loser and a bad winner; that none of it — gambling, money, winning, or losing — has any real value."
--Robert Altman

To celebrate Merrie’s birthday, we had some friends over and she showed one of her favorite movies, Harry and Tonto, from 1974. Art Carney won the best acting Oscar for playing Harry, who takes his 11-year-old cat Tonto on a cross-country odyssey. The movie is both insightful and charming in its depiction of life in the 1970s, and it is a thoughtful journey into the pleasures and sorrows of growing old.

I also celebrated the day by watching part of the Georgetown--UNC game. How about those Hoyas (or, as we say in southern California, “Jollas”)! On to the Final Four.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Birthdays, Squirrels and Birds

Quote of the day:
“After years of unusual work in exotic places, I realize that it is not how far off I go or how deep into the forest I walk that gives my life meaning.”
--Maria Fadiman

We’re off shortly to pick up the cake for Merrie’s big day tomorrow. She feels like it’s time for her to drive by herself, but I’m not sure. She is walking the dog in the neighborhood by herself each afternoon. It’s going well, except for the times Sophie simply must chase a cat and yanks at the leash. Merrie has had to let go a couple times. Sophie has yet to catch a cat.

This morning we watched as the dog chased a squirrel across our patio. Score: rodent 1, German Shepherd mix 0. Not even close. A couple of ground squirrels have taken up residence in our backyard, and Sophie has taken on the task of closely monitoring them.

The migratory birds may be arriving. There was a beautiful yellow-orange Bullock’s Oriole roosting in one of the trees this morning. It had a sort of Lone Ranger mask. And it was alone.

Yesterday there was a pair of hawks doing a call and response. One was in our backyard and the other was down the canyon a ways.

Merrie has refilled the feeders and the birdbath. The feeders are close to our house under dense tree cover. The birds are pleased, and I think the hawks can’t see it.

Friday, March 23, 2007

TV, TV, Everywhere

Quote of the day:
“We’re the kids in America, everybody live for the music around.”

I am very pleased to report no news. After a bit of a punky day yesterday, Merrie is feeling better today. She had coffee with a friend while I took care of a couple birthday errands.

NBC and News Corporation (Fox and MySpace) have made an agreement to start a new website to show their programs. The shows will be advertiser-supported and therefore free. They’ve also contracted with other web services, such as Yahoo and AOL, to put their programs on their video sites.

It’s an interesting development. Not revolutionary, but interesting. It will take some time (years) or this to really make a significant impact. When CBS, ABC and other content providers sign on the process will move a bit faster.

Who wants to watch TV on his or her computer? It doesn’t especially interest me. But I suspect there will be an audience among the heaviest internet users--those age 0 to 25.

There will also be another effect. Hint: most office workers have a computer at their workstation. Hint no. 2 (and don’t tell anyone, it’s a secret): most of those workers already spend substantial time doing non-work-related things on the internet--such as shopping, banking, e-mailing friends, playing poker, watching YouTube, and reading their favorite blogs and magazines.

Indeed, before long we will have TV everywhere in the workplace. What a relief.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Past, Present, Future

Quote of the day:
"How simple ... a thing is happiness: a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea. ... All that is required to feel that here and now is happiness is a simple ... heart."
--Nikos Kazantzakis, in Zorba the Greek.

Yesterday afternoon we had a very informative meeting with a nurse practitioner in the cardiology department. She spent about an hour carefully reviewing with us exactly what had happened over the last six weeks, how things stand now, and what happens next.

How things stand now: She expressed a combination of amazement and delight that Merrie had made it through what she called a “touch and go” situation, and that Merrie responded so well to the three drug-coated stents. While Merrie continues to get stronger in just about every way, the nurse practitioner told us to expect some trips to the ER.

What happens now: It is the proverbial one step at a time. The next step is an appointment next week with our cardiologist who will likely address prospects for surgery to repair or replace Merrie’s mitral valve.

In the meantime, we are planning a quiet celebration for Merrie’s birthday this weekend.

“Celebration” has a new meaning for us.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Quote of the day:
"In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual."

Last night Merrie was experiencing some chest pain. She took two nitroglycerine tablets, but the pain didn’t go away. The instruction we were given when this happens is to go to the emergency room. So we went.

Much to our relief, she was not having a heart attack. After the usual round of tests, the doctor suggested she may be having some kind of respiratory inflammation in reaction both to what she’s gone through and her unusually active day yesterday. We had gone both to the pet store and to Vons.

Merrie has the distinction of having blood drawn three times in a 24-hour period. We had been to the lab yesterday afternoon for some routine follow-up blood tests. Then the ER nurse drew several vials in the evening. Then, this morning she had an appointment with our family doctor, and he, too, ordered blood tests.

That may not be enough. This afternoon we are going back to the hospital for a follow-up appointment with the cardiologist. Do you think he’ll want blood?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Mindful Walking

Quote of the day:
“It’s the unintentional use of words, titles and terms that can be more powerful and more insidious because so much language use is unreflective. So it carries a lot of codes, messages and meanings that people may only be dimly aware of.”
--University of Washington Political Science Professor Christine Di Stefano

This afternoon Merrie and I walked three blocks to our favorite hangout. Walking is slow and leisurely. Slowing down is more of a challenge than either of us realized. My legs are long, and Merrie is renowned for being a fast walker. Her parents once told me how fast she would get places when she started to crawl. So we’re learning something new. Walking slowly.

We had lunch and read. It’s good they have healthy menu items. And wireless, too! I visited an interesting website: (Check out the timelines for electricity and the automobile.)

Here’s a reaction to my comment on American Idol, from Mike, a professional musician:
“The vast majority of those people can't sing their way out of a paper bag. I don't know if you saw the recent quick interview with Norah Jones in Time Magazine, but she said that while she is voting for a friend of hers who's on the show (Josh somebody?), she ‘wasn't sure she needed to hear so many great songs sung so poorly.’  All I can say is: Right On, Sister!

“I must say, Kelly Clarkson is the only one who is really at the professional level and makes actually decent commercial pop records. Taylor Hicks should be selling suits at Ed's Big and Tall. Give me a break. No personality, no voice, and we already have Kenny Rogers for the ‘Grey Fox’ look. Thank you very much.

“And these ‘judges’? PAHLEEEEZE! Who are these people and what real qualifications do they have? Paula Abdul is the only ‘name’ among them and she was in trouble previously for having another singer as the actual voice on ‘her’ recordings.  I know. It doesn't make any difference because it doesn't really matter. The only important thing is to create as many ‘Monkees’ as we can and get them out as fast as we can, and shove them down the throats of the
dumb-as-cotton record-buying public. Hell, the Monkees actually had talent. Considerably more than most of the absolute dung I see on this show.

“The people I work with in the casual business can all sing rings around these people. It's even more about looks and age than it has ever been. True talent is the last consideration anymore. It's really nothing new, but it's just so blatantly in our faces now.”

Monday, March 19, 2007

SDSU Basketball and Jack Bauer

Quote of the day:
"A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know."
--Diane Arbus

Well, San Diego State’s basketball season is finished. Syracuse finished us off in the second round of the NIT. All in all, a very good season, 22-11 with three of the best games we’ve ever seen them play. The SDSU program is turning around, and even though the gradualness exasperates fanatics, it’s rewarding and fun to see.

I took Merrie to Kaiser for a 2-hour class in living post-MI. It doesn’t sound like fun, but she came back energized and motivated. And that was wonderful to see.

The evening was notable for two reasons. First, Jack Bauer actually let someone else (briefly) attempt to save the world from destruction. Of course, Jack did have to pause on his way to diverting a nuclear device to resolve a romantic issue. He still hasn’t had anything to eat since being released from Chinese prison.

Second, Merrie read the blog for the first time in a month.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

"The Lives of Others"

Indeed, we picked up a friend and went to see The Lives of Others this afternoon. Then we had a simple dinner at a nearby restaurant. Merrie made it through just fine, and we all enjoyed both the film and the food.

The Lives of Others won the Academy Award this year as best foreigh-language film. It’s obvious why it won. The acting is sensitive, the story is simple yet unpredictable and the themes explored are universal and profound.

The setting is East Germany in the 1980s, and the main character is a Stasi agent tracking the loyalty of a writer. This is not an action movie, unless you consider the action going on just beneath the surface. It’s that action that kept my attention for all the movie’s 2 1/2 hours.

The look and feel of East Berlin in those days is exactingly and compellingly presented, and we get to see how a wide variety of personalities react to being closely monitored in a police state, Among the characters are a worker who follows the rules, a manipulative middle manager (a redundancy, since all middle managers have to be manipulative) and a demanding boss who abuses his power.

Ultimately, though, the movie touches on the biggest question: what gives meaning to life?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Food is Good

Quote of the day:
“There are currently 60,000 prisoners who have less than three years on their terms, and California has a 70 percent recidivism rate. Without more space and better rehabilitation, about 42,000 of these inmates will reoffend, creating many new victims.”
--James E. Tilton, secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Today has been a stay-at-home day, and we watched some of the second round of the NCAA tournament. There were some very close and dramatic games.

We are both feeling pretty good. Merrie is slowly regaining her energy. It has helped that several very generous friends have brought over some excellent food during the last week. It has made life much more restful and comfortable for us. These are gracious gifts. Thanks!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Trip to the ER

Last night we we enjoying some wonderful low-fat spaghetti that our neighbor Vito brought over, when Merrie got a phone call. It was our doctor’s office calling to answer a question. Merrie happened to mention that she had been a bit short of breath during the day. The nurse said she needed to go to the emergency room.

The instruction was understandable, but about the last thing either of us wanted was a trip back to the hospital. But back we went.

We were relieved that the initial screening showed no problems, but Merrie wound up spending five hours there, mostly waiting for test results. Those of you who’ve been to the ER know that, unless you have arterial bleeding, are having a heart attack or are in the very late stages of labor, the real name of the ER is WR--waiting room. There was a "Saturday Night Live" sketch about that years ago.

The good news is that all the tests showed that Merrie’s condition was continuing to improve. I brought her home and we had a very late dinner and watched "Mrs. Miniver" on TCM.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Like Surfacing From a Dive

Quote of the day:
"I never thought about any reward or anything in return. I can never keep anything that belongs to any other person. I have been this way all my life,"
--Osman Chowdhury, New York cabdriver who returned $500,000 accidentally left in his cab.

Quote of the day no. 2 (arachnophobes beware):
“One Dutch researcher estimates that there are some five trillion spiders in the Netherlands alone, each of which consumes about a tenth of a gram of meat a day. Were their victims people instead of insects, they would need only three days to eat all sixteen and a half million Dutchmen.”
--Burkhard Bilger, in the March 5th "New Yorker."

I thought I might have to take Merrie’s blood pressure at the end of "American Idol" last night. Neither of us can understand how anyone but Sanjaya can be eliminated. I mean, c’mon. He’s a nice guy but clearly can’t sing. (Actually, we do understand why he’s still on the show: heavy voting among preteen girls.)

This morning, Merrie was still fuming about this. I guess "American Idol" continues to teach us what we don’t want to know about the commercial music business. I know calling it “the commercial music business” seems redundant, but what we are dealing with here is the most-commercialized part of the music business. And it sometimes ain’t pretty. But we continue to watch the show.

As I write this, a hawk (not a red-tail--not sure what kind) is flying up and down our canyon.

We ran into a couple of our terrific neighbors on our short walk this morning. I realized how much energy these conversations can take, as Merrie came home tired.

A friend has compared what we are going through to a deep-sea diver returning to the surface. It must be done slowly so that the body can gradually get used to decreasing pressure.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Taking it Slow, Slow, Slow

Quote of the day:
“Sleep, riches and health to be truly enjoyed must be interrupted.”
--Jean Paul Richter

It’s been a beautiful and cooler day in San Diego. Merrie, Sophie and I took two walks. The rest of the day was very, very slow. Beethoven Piano Sonatas, some newspapers, coffee, delicious food, a bit of e-mail, some college basketball.

We are so grateful for a bit of recovery each day, and we are still learning to be patient with the pace of healing. It doesn’t seem to happen according to our expectations and schedule.

We delighted this evening in SDSU’s win in its first-round NIT game against Missouri State. It was a nail-biter, and I’m not sure either of us needed the stress, but it was fun. Now, on to Syracuse on Monday.

Thank you to the friends and colleagues who continue to think of us and send us good wishes!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Extraordinary Ordinary

Quote of the day:
“A taste for the extraordinary is characteristic of mediocrity.”
--Denis Diderot

This morning Merrie came along for two blocks of Sophie‘s morning walk. As always, when Merrie turned around to head home, Sophie turned around, too. It didn’t matter that I was the one holding the leash. So the pup had a short walk this morning. We made up for it in the afternoon.

As you can see from the photo, the cats are quite pleased to have us both at home. They love joining Merrie for her nap.

In the afternoon, Merrie went on her first outing. She had her hair cut and then we went to the lab to have blood drawn.

It seems kind of boring, I suppose there are few things more prosaic and ordinary than these kinds of errands. But we enjoyed them.

Monday, March 12, 2007

No More IV

The home-health nurse came this afternoon and removed the catheter from Merrie’s arm. Another small but significant healing step.

While the cats have been working at their 20 daily hours of sleep, Sophie is full-time back on the job keeping an eye on Merrie. She has chased away a couple of marauding squirrels, and she barks to let us (and the neighbors) know that our property has been invaded by a neighborhood cat. Most important, wherever Merrie is, Sophie is.

Speaking of neighbors, Merrie and Sophie’s friend Vito came by for a visit yesterday. Vito has lived all his 90 years in San Diego and used to captain tuna boats. He doesn’t hear, see or walk well but goes everywhere on his scooter and has an amazing passion for life.

Merrie has refilled the bird feeders and they are now fully populated. The house finches, doves and orioles have shown up, and we heard a bird call today we’ve never heard before. It might have been a parrot--I’m not sure. There are also a pair of Cooper’s Hawks hanging around. And we heard what I think was a screech owl last night.

Tomorrow we’ll likely go on Merrie’s first post-hospital outing, to Wal-Mart for bird seed and to the lab for a blood test.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Sleep, Hoops, and Healing

Sleeping in has never been as rewarding as it was this morning. I made up for the time change, plus some. I don’t remember ever being this tired. It was great to just sit back, read the paper, and watch some basketball and the NCAA Tournament announcement. This was, after all, “Hoops Sabbath.”

Merrie seems to be slowly regaining strength, though simple things often exhaust her. She has established the tradition of a long afternoon nap with the cats.

Today was her last at-home IV. That’ll be one less drug to deal with.

We continue down the long and winding road. We are blessed to have good follow-up care, lots of good food and the caring and support of friends.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Reaching a Rhythm

Survey result of the day:
“Busy schedules seem to shape how we dine: Every day, 30 percent of 15- to 18-year-olds skip breakfast. The number-one reason Americans give for making a particular dinner? Because it’s ‘easy.’ (Because it’s ‘healthy’ ranked number six.)”
--Life Magazine, March 9

Several years ago a colleague made an interesting observation about traditional Italian culture. He found it refreshing that the people he encountered in Italy would spend an entire day on the business of living, especially gathering and buying food, carefully preparing meals and visiting with family and friends. These were the most important things in their lives, and their days were filled with them.

I’ve been thinking about this observation as Merrie and I have begun to consider a new rhythm and pace for our lives. Over the last three days we have been focusing on the basics--rest, a bit of exercise, eating well and conversation. This is different for us, because we have both been so attached to, and identified with, our work over the last 23 years.

Merrie walked half a block down our street last evening. While we don’t know what will happen next week, the healing continues.

Friday, March 9, 2007

How to Get Better

We’ve received many terrific and cards, notes, photos and e-mails over the last few weeks. Thank you for your generous support and thoughtfulness!

Our most-recent get-well wish is a wonderful and insightful book called How to Get Better, put together by Cheryl’s kindergarten class, room 9. I wish I had space to show all the pages--maybe in future entries.

Here’s the advice, and who it’s from:
Amilia: “Don’t eat lots of candy.”
Alexa: “Go to the doctor.”
Tomas: “Blow your nose.”
Heath: “Take the right pills.”
Bianca: “Sleep when they tell you.”
Ivy: “Sneak into your parents’ bed.”
Michael: “Go to the hospital.”
Evan: “Hide toys in bed.”
Rachael: “You must take your medicine.”
Trinh: “Stay in bed.”
Erick: “Get lots of flowers.”
Andy: “Tell the bad germs to go away.”
Levon: “Get a good pillow.”
Preston: “Ask for things like toys.”
Deandra: “Watch a lot of TV.”
Jamilah: “Sneak around at night.”
Long: “Sleep with stuffed animals.”
Adrian: “Wear your slippers.”
Ethan: “Wear your Superman pajamas.”

This is all good advice! Thank you so much for sending it along.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

You Can Take Me Out of the Hospital

You can’t take the hospital out of me. We came home from the hospital with a passle of medications and supplies, a few of which are shown above. There are also numerous follow-up tests and doctor visits coming. It’s good that Merrie has strong organizational skills to put together a daily plan for what needs to be done when.

My one-word summary for Merrie’s response to being home: “rhapsody.” She has been rhapsodizing about the comfort of the mattress, the quiet of the house at night, the salmon I made for dinner (and raw vegetables are tasting mighty good), the friendliness of the animals, the warmth of the backyard, and on and on. She’s quite tired but enjoying moving among four chairs, including one in the backyard, where she’s sitting as I write this.

I made a leisurely midday trip to Vons, to replace all kinds of things depleted over the last few weeks. I spent quite a while reading nutrition labels for salt and saturated fat content.

Potassium is also a concern, though we’re still figuring it out. One medication says to eat a banana to replace the potassium lost by taking the drug. Another says to avoid potassium. Go figure. Maybe the doctors and pharmacists need to fight this out among themselves.

Sophie is one pleased pup to have her number one playmate around again. The two cats are, too. I am, too.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Free At Last

Merrie was wearing that same Canine Corners t-shirt when we came home from the hospital this evening. We brought home a bag full of prescriptions from the pharmacy, and equipment for a daily home IV.

After an ebullient reunion with Sophie, Merrie installed herself in a La-Z-Boy in which she spent the evening luxuriating in the privacy and the quiet, and anticipating an uninterrupted night of sleep.

Our release was delayed when doctors discovered something critically wrong with Merrie’s roommate and she had to be prepared for transport to another hospital. It was good that she was not in pain, and that she had family with her.

Three weeks in the hospital means we have accumulated many stories like this. We have seen and heard people and their loved ones in pain and shock, and they have seen and heard us.

We come home with gratitude for healing, and for the love and support of family and friends. And we have a new, tangible sense of the richness of living.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Ahead: Lots O' Waggin'

Quote of the day:
“I have long thought that anyone who does not regularly gaze up and see the wonder and glory of a dark night sky filled with countless stars loses a sense of their fundamental connectedness to the universe.”
--Brian Greene

Quote of the day no. 2:
“Maybe the best we can do is do what we love as best we can.”
--Galway Kinnell

Last night I started Merrie’s car for the first time in almost three weeks, and drove it to the gas station and back. When I came back in the house, Sophie the German Shepherd mix took a keen interest in my shoes and ankles, and got quite excited. I was carrying Merrie’s scent from the car.

When I brought home some of Merrie’s clothes today, Sophie took a very close interest as I put them in the hamper. She tried to go running off with a sock. Later she retrieved the plastic bag I carried them in, and I caught her disassembling it.

If all goes well in the next 24 hours, we are getting ready to come home late tomorrow. There will be an IV antibiotic for a few days, and several other medications for the long term, including forever. But Merrie will be able to sleep in her own bed, and sit in her own chairs, and move between them under her own power. For this, we are grateful.

It’s been three weeks in the hospital. It feels like three months. We are both looking forward to lots of quiet time at home, relishing the simple things. And we are planning a special, low-key celebration for Merrie’s birthday at the end of the month.

Monday, March 5, 2007

We've Stopped Counting at 19 Days

The word for today is “bevy.” Merrie has seen a bevy of doctors and had a bevy of tests.

The cardiologist came by and said that, from the perspective of her heart, she’s ready to go home. He says that her eventual goal is to walk for 30 minutes and, as long as she can do that, there’s likely no need for heart surgery.

The rest of her body is not totally cooperating. She has a slight, persistent infection, which has required a potent IV antibiotic. (Just when I thought we were done with beeping machines.) An endoscopy revealed a small stomach ulcer. And she had an abdominal CT scan to rule out the remote possibility of bleeding after last week’s angiogram.

We don’t know when we might go home, and I think we’re going to stop asking. Merrie is feeling feisty and is peppering doctors, nurses and sometimes me with questions, which is a very good sign.

One thing I remember from our time in the hospital in the early 1990s is that, just as we began to think we’d never get out of the hospital, the nurse would come in and tell us to pack up her stuff.

On another note:
I mentioned last week that I hadn’t heard reported the real reason the market went down 400 points last Tuesday. The reason is because it went down. That sounds glib, but it is true.

Investment managers often employ traders who use momentum indicators to automatically buy and sell stocks. In the 1980s this was called “program trading,” but it is much more sophisticated now. Simply put, these traders will buy when stocks are going up and sell when they’re going down. This means that certain kinds of rises and dips will be automatically accelerated.

The “trigger” for Tuesday’s decline may have been fear of excess in the Chinese market, but that would account for just 10%-20% of the move. The rest is selling because the market is going down. So, quite logically, the market went down because it went down.

Related to this, perhaps the most important piece of investment information comes from the movie Jerry Maguire. I’ll talk about that some other time.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Living With Uncertainty

We had a nice evening yesterday, and played a few hands of gin rummy. She beat me three hands out of four.

It’s now going to be no earlier than Tuesday for Merrie’s hospital release. And it may be a day or two or three later. Hard to tell at this point. We are both learning to deal with uncertainty and some setbacks--I guess it’s part of our lives for good.

While overall she seems to be continuing to gain strength, there was a complication this morning. Her doctor is checking on the possibility of some internal bleeding. She’s back in bed, on oxygen.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Another Small Step

I don’t know why this observation came to mind during my visits to the hospital, but here it is:
“If you took all the human urine produced in the world in one day, it would take a full 20 minutes for it to flow over Niagara Falls.”
--Scott LaFee

Well, the SDSU Aztecs won their last basketball game of the regular season, 56-51 against TCU. Merrie and I listened to some of it in her room today. She’s hoping to be home in time to watch the Mountain West Conference tournament, which begins on Tuesday.

Good news: Merrie’s blood counts are back to normal. Whatever infection was present is now gone. Her blood pressure seems to be stabilizing.

She spent most of the afternoon and evening sitting up, and we went for a couple walks around the third floor. It’s good to see her slowly begin to regain her strength. While she is still being closely monitored and is still quite tired, she seems to feel a little better every day. That statement needs to be qualified, though, because Merrie is experiencing sensations that she’s never known or been aware of before. It can be a little confusing or concerning.

We had fun today reading notes and cards that have arrived over the last few days. Thanks to everyone who has sent a card or an e-mail. Your kindness and support are carrying us through.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Sergio Leone at Kaiser Hospital

It seems appropriate to touch on this topic since we’ve been enmeshed in the health-care system since Valentine’s Day:

Follow-up to my earlier entries Health Insurance and Iraq and How We Ration Doctor Visits:
“A majority of Americans say the federal government should guarantee health insurance to everyone, especially children, and are willing to pay higher taxes to do it, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll.”
--The New York Times, today.

True truism of the week:
“Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.”

Merrie continues to do well. We are both well settled into her new room--the sixth since she arrived. She ate all her lunch and it tasted good to her. She’d worked up an appetite by taking two laps around the nurses’ station with a walker this morning. She walked again in the afternoon and once again in the evening. Those who know Merrie know there is a bigger risk of her attempting too much than too little. But with the help of the nurses she’s doing a great job of pacing herself.

There’s a small cha-cha (remember: two steps forward, one step back) in that she has developed a low-grade infection which the doctors are trying to identify and treat. Because of this, we will be leaving the hospital no earlier than Monday. While we know this is the best course, we had hoped for earlier.

The afternoon brought a refreshing, long nap for her, and a short one for me. Sleeping is sometimes interrupted by the phone at the nurses’ station, which has a ring like a fast version of the first few bars of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.

Sleep, good food and a walk are all mighty wonderful things.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

New Room, New Life

Yes, that’s a photo of Merrie taken today. Ain’t she something?

It was a day of reclining and gathering strength. We hope that some walking is in the near future, but the staff is being very cautious until they are sure Merrie’s signs are stable. Her medications are being adjusted to ensure that.

She’s looking and feeling good, though she’s very, very tired as her body continues to heal from the many insults it has endured over the last two weeks. She has enjoyed reading cards and e-mails, and she read the newspaper for the first time in 2 weeks.

We spent the morning in the ICU, and moved in the afternoon to a room in the DOU (another of many hospital acronyms, standing for definitive observation unit). We weren’t sure when this might happen. It turned out that, just like so many things in the hospital, it’s either hurry-up-and-wait or wait-and-hurry-up. Nothing may happen for a long time, but when things begin to happen, they happen quickly. The guy with the wheelchair shows up, and it’s time to go.

While we were pleased to leave the ICU, we also realized that both of us had developed an attachment to the accommodations there. The level of service, the privacy, and the size of the room were quite nice. It was sort of like the concierge level of a hotel. But we don’t recommend staying there. In fact, do everything you can to avoid it. Stop smoking. Eat and sleep well. Drive carefully. Get some exercise.

Home may be in Merrie’s future in just a few days. There is much, much rest to come. And a new life. We are profoundly thankful for the promise of days ahead.

Again, thanks to everyone who has been thinking of us and praying for us. It makes a difference.