Sunday, August 24, 2008

Run for the Fallen

This morning people all over the country ran a mile in honor of each fallen soldier from Operation Iraqi Freedom. Run for the Fallen is " a collective of runners whose mission is clear and simple: To run one mile for every American service member killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom...We refuse any political affiliation or agenda, but simply honor those who have fought, and those who have fallen under the American flag." They ran, across the country, a mile for every soldier, sailor, airman and marine killed. Today they ended their run in Arlington National Cemetery, and on this day they asked people all over the country to join them.
A small group of New Mexican runners gathered at USS Bullhead Park to run in honor of the 35 fallen New Mexicans. We each pinned on a named bib, stuck a flag in our hat, and ran half mile laps on the grass in the New Mexico morning sun. We were grateful to be alive, and honored to run in memory of those who lost their lives so far from home.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Tonsillar Abscess Day

Warning: this post contains pus.

Another one. A day of three. This time it was three tonsillar abscesses. Unrelated, but with the same story. "I was fine until yesterday, when one side of my throat just blew up!"

When I looked in said throat, sure enough, the opening was lopsided, with one half practically obliterated by a big red bulge coming in from the side and covered in pus. Nice. Fortunately, pus doesn't bother me. Well, pus rarely bothers me, I should say. I have learned, however, not to use that word when discussing someone's throat with them. People don't like to hear that they have pus in their throat. I told one gal that and the next thing I knew I was scraping her off the floor. Oops.

So, what happened in the throats that day was that an infection dived deep, under the tonsils, like prairie dogs digging a labyrinth of safety under the earth. The result? Tissue swollen with prairie dogs. Or, rather, with Streptococci. And fluid. And pus. And pain. That s^^t hurts! People with tonsillar abscesses also talk funny, as if they have a- well, a mass in their throat, which they do. We in medicine give this the technical term, "hot potato voice." And they make a face every time they swallow, because they are in pain.

Back in the day, we used to call the Ear, Nose and Throat people to come and stick a very long needle--uh oh, there went another reader. Someone scrape her off the floor, would you? Yep, a very long needle into the prairie dog town and drain out all the sewage. Yowser. Nobody's idea of a picnic, right? Thankfully, nowadays we're much more humane. Someone figured out that the Strep dogs can be flushed out with chemicals. Mere pills! Who knew? So now we give heavy duty antibiotics, steroids to decrease the swelling, and, of course, last but far from least, narcotic pain medication. Decreases pain, misery and awareness of misery, for which the patient will thank you profusely when you see them back two days later for a recheck.

Two days later, I hardly recognized any of them, which reminded me how pain changes one's whole appearance and demeanor. Fevers down, pain at bay, and a throat as open as San Francisco Bay. Whew! Thank goodness for chemistry!

Wonder what "threebie" next week will bring?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Olympic Thrills

Every time I watch Olympic games, I have at least one "Olympic Moment" of my own. This usually occurs at the end of a competition. Athletes from all over the world have just given the most they have, done the best they can do, stretched their own personal limits of strength, agility, or speed. They collapse at the finish, sweating, spent.

Somebody won the gold. That's thrilling, sure. Everyone pushed hard and achieved what I could never hope to. That's thrilling too.

But what really lifts me up is watching the athletes congratulate each other. They hug, kiss cheeks, high five, shake hands. With genuine appreciation, they are acknowledging each other's efforts and achievements. It's a moment of salutation and mutual respect.

Gives me goosebumps.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Cades Cove and Abrams Falls

This is a broad view of Cades Cove, a historic area settled and farmed in the 1800's and early 1900's.

We went there to hike through the woods to Abrams Falls. Once again, evidence of water's work everywhere.
Yummy-looking white mushrooms springing out of the forest floor. Don't worry: we didn't try them!

Lichen on a big tree trunk.

The Galax plant.

Some crusty ol' tree .

And, finally, the water itself. I hate to say it, but I had to wait for just the right moment and crop the picture well to get a picture with no people in it. There were lots of folks there, from oldsters dipping their tootsies to young bucks jumping off the falls into the water below.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Smoky Mountain Run

Greetings from the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee! It is so different here from the New Mexico desert. The forests are lush with growth and rot, and the air is heavy with moisture. So heavy, in fact, that after about 2pm all we want to do is sit in front of a fan or dunk ourselves repeatedly in the pond, a murky but beloved tradition formed when my grandfather dammed up one of the hollers. My parents, who have built a lovely summer cabin here, are purists, who don't want to block out nature with something so roaring as an air conditioner. Dad looked like he might consider relenting when I reminded him that we haven't had to go down the hill to the double-seater outhouse for several years, since they installed indoor plumbing. So maybe next year they'll upgrade to temperature control! *

A 9 mile run was on my training calendar for yesterday, so I headed for Great Smoky Mountain National Park. I set out at dawn, drove to the park headquarters, silent and empty at that hour, and spent just over the next two hours running the trails nearby. I ran this trail twice, back and forth. Thanks to my esposo who gave me a Garmin GPS watch for my 50th, I could tell exactly how far I had run and how fast, in addition to my heart rate and speed. My plan was to upload photos here, but the dialup connection in the cabin won the staring contest. I'll post them after I return.

By the time I got back, drenched and depleted, the parking lot was full of tourists coming and going from the visitor's center. Some looked at me askance as I emerged, dripping, from the forest like some kind of creature of the deep. I was still on my feet, though, and proud of myself for having made my longest run yet, and all by myself.

The cabin is at the end of a one-lane gravel road. When you're here, you can imagine how life used to be in these hills, before Dollywood, before all the tourist attractions that choke the parkway. At night, the tree frog chorus screeches, and, in the early morning, the forest silence is broken only by birdsongs. These woods are old, old, old, yet in a constant state of renewal. It's oddly rejuventating.

*News flash! They got two window air-conditioning units while I was there! Bliss!

The Authors of "50 Ways" Interview on KCHF TV

50 Ways to Leave Your 40s TV interview with Phoenix' Pat McMahon