Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Double Vision

First, RantWoman like all of Jana's groupies is ecstatic to note the news that Jana has been moved to Inpatient Rehab. Jana called her main email scribe in person to announce the move. The very latest email included items from Warren:

"We should know tomorrow when Jana will be free for visitors. They ARE going to be keeping her pretty busy.
For now, she's very excited about having made the move. This afternoon, she met her nurse, an OTR, a PT and the resident and attending physiatrists. These folks make up most of the "green team" which will be working with Jana daily. (Still to be met are the psychologist and the speech pathologist, and another PT and OT.)

They, who have seen it all, are astounded when they compare the initial reports of Jana's condition Sept. 3 to her condition now. They think she may be ready to go home in a week or two." (!!!!--RantWoman)

Previous tidings included taking off the cast on her L leg, removing some sutures and giving her both another cast and strict orders about NO weight bearing on that leg for another six to eight weeks.

RantWoman is so excited about all this news she is going to permit herself a few reflections comparing problems she has had with Jana's.

RantWoman long ago had a broken leg. RantWoman acquired this while attempting some kind of Olympic ice skater move trying not to fall on her tail end from skating over a rough spot in the ice. RantWoman has found herself watching Jana and her groupies hoist about the leg in the cast. RantWoman remembers that trying to shift around her own leg in the cast was just excruciating sometimes especially first thing in the morning when her overnight pain meds had worn off.

RantWoman also remembers getting the cast cut off to below her knee and then falling over when she tried to make her leg work as expected. RantWoman has had a couple other experiences where she definitely appreciated her pain meds even though she would often just bear with the pain out in public and use her meds only when safely at home. RantWoman thus marvels that every time she has heard hospital staff ask Jana whether she is having pain, Jana says no!

Then there is double vision. Email tidings report Jana has been able to read for short intervals but that she has problems with double vision and it is easier to read with one eye or the other. RantWoman can so relate. Well, double vision is RantWoman's natural state and not by a long shot all of her problems. RantWoman however does not try to drive or land jet planes. RantWoman definitely does not recommend double vision for simple easy to interpret visual experiences. She can also heartily appreciate how the comedy adventure elements of the problem might still make it really a tough sell. RantWoman is definitely heartily hoping the double-vision resolves either on its own or with the doctors' help, but if it doesn't RantWoman supposes she can be available for coaching and cheerleading.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Jana in person

For the first time since Jana's accident, Warren was in Meeting today. So was their son, along with family visitors (You don't think RantWoman is going to name the WHOLE entourage without asking them do you???). Warren ducked out right after worship but their son and the visitors stayed. They were full of the kind of details one knows from more regular visits than RantWoman has been doing. Plus, they were so forthcoming and it was so nice to hear all the chatter without having to feel like we might be mobbing Warren.

RantWoman had some errands early in the afternoon and then looked at the online schedule for people to sit with Jana. Evening well-taken care of but the afternoon was open. This fit RantWoman's thoughts and location perfectly: RantWoman hightailed to the bus stop where she would ride. The ride is just two stops but up a hill that would give mountain goats vertigo, and all the more so since the accompanying roadways are afflicted with a couple serious oversights as far as pedestrians are concerned. So shut up, be glad one just has a bus pass, and ride the two stops.

When RantWoman arrived, Warren and Jana were alone. Jana shortly summoned a staffperson to help her hop with the walker to the bathroom. When she emerged we chatted about Meeting. Warren and RantWoman were embarrassed to admit we did not remember the names of some who introduced themselves. RantWoman also noted that being able to hear introductions IS important: otherwise RantWoman would have had no idea who all was in Meeting with Warren and....

RantWoman would categorically not say everything is exactly normal for Jana. RantWoman knows a couple other people with brain injury. Jana's speech and thought processes seem to have slight tinges of things that are longstanding challenges for the other people RantWoman knows; however, for this soon after the accident, RantWoman thinks Jana is doing just great, full of humor as well. Jana is also making such big gains from one visit to another, RantWoman can easily understand all the current positive assessments. RantWoman does not remember which of the lines just cracked her up, however, there were several all around and the laughing was easy.

One of the really amazing things about visiting Jana has been all the interesting people one meets. Today a longtime friend C came and Warren and Jana were talking about other friends in common, about many of Jana's cousins who live in the area, about place names in Finland, comparisons of food in Sweden, Norway, Finland. It was clear to RantWoman that all the Finnish placenames Jana remembers are connected in her mind with cousins of Warren's that Jana has probably visited extensively with his mother about. It also seems to RantWoman that just having all these different loving people come in and talk about people they know in common with Jana has got to be helping her braing organize itself without even trying.

More than one person noted that Jana has been talking about drug interactions almost since she could say anything. RantWoman has her list of her personal issues she will be insistent about anytime she is conscious. RantWoman also finds thoughts of really different medications with similar-sounding names so intimidating that she has to swallow an extra gulp of care before interpreting about related topics. So RantWoman generally thinks Jana talking about drug interactions is kind of amazing. Well RantWoman also is not in any position to evaluate whether Jana is getting them right, but RantWoman imagines she probably is.

Jana now has some kind of coupon so she can get lunch and dinner at the cafeteria. She said breakfast would also be an option, but somehow she did not feel like that. We learned that there seem to be three options for intense rehab: one at the skilled nursing facility in W Seattle and two much more convenient in central Seattle. Nothing is for sure: tomorrow medical system mechanisms will spin the wheel and everyone will get to see what comes up.

Apparently intense rehab will add up to about 3 hours of speech, physical, and occupational therapy every day. Jana said it has been a long time since she was required to deal with that much exercise on someone else's schedule. Warren pointed out that she deals with the bus which Jana laughed off. RantWoman thinks this sounds a lot like school gym class, but hopes it goes faster than it sounds going in.

RantWoman left as Jana and Warren had summoned a wheelchair and were headed off to the cafeteria. Friends had brought an assortment of food. Jana was funny about not wanting to take it with to share but planning to eat it when she came back. Bon appetit.

Saturday Jana News

Email on Jana's daily update:

If you have been able to visit Jana lately, you know she has greatly improved. And it appears that the medical staff agrees. Most of the various therapists and medical services have signed off on Jana moving directly into an intensive in-patient rehab facility. The way Warren has described it to me, there is now an 80% chance that Jana will be moved on Monday to an in-patient intensive rehab facility, and if it does happen, there is a 70% chance that she will be at the University of Washington.

Jana is also beginning to have more independence, which she greatly values. Warren was able to take Jana in a wheelchair to the hospital cafeteria for lunch, where she could select her own food when she wanted to eat it, rather than a day ahead. And, as long as there is a nurse with her, Jana can now walk (well, perhaps hop?) with a walker a short distance.

We've had a number of people sign up to sit with Jana yesterday and today. However, we could really use a few more folks for late afternoon and early evening on Sunday. If you would like to sit with Jana ... you are welcome to email me today and I will put your name and info onto the ... calendar.

Jana is enthusiastic about the possible move to rehab, and I am sure we will all be cheering as well. When Jana does move, I will share whatever information I get about where she is, visiting hours, and other useful information.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Progress in peculiar steps

RantWoman went to visit Jana tonight. This was kind of spur of the moment, a luxury afforded by living quite close to Harborview. Another friend D was visiting and the visit definitely had its laugh riot elements.

As RantWoman was arriving, D and Jana had managed to set off Jana's spiffy new bed alarm. Jana is not to try to get out of bed unaided. To assist with this rule, Jana is wired up to a bed alarm. The bed alarm has some wires on quite a short tether, to the point that sometimes if Jana moves her arm or tries to adjust something on her bed, the alarm goes off and a couple staff come hurrying in to make sure she is supported if she is going to get up.

In addition to the bed alarm, Jana now has rubber mats around her bed and sleeps with the bed in a very low position. She gets to be much less boxed in than when RantWoman visited on Sunday, but she also gets her fabulous bed alarm in case she gets carried away with activity.

RantWoman did not track all the details of what exactly happened with the bed alarm at the beginning but the problem was quickly dealt with and visitors sat back down while Jana finished her supper. RantWoman remembers the bed alarm getting disconnected for a bit while Jana ate on the solemn promise of everyone else present that the nurse would be summoned immediately if Jana wanted to get up for some reason. Then it was time for--peculiar progress item--using a commode, and not just using a commode but using a walker as part of the transfer process. This all still needs trained hospital staff summoned by pressing the call button, but it is still great progress.

The hospital staff usually encourage visitors to step out during such hygiene moments; while RantWoman was out, she noticed an elderly gentleman in a neighboring room who also was acting quite spry about wanting to get up and move around without his walker; a nurse also hurried to assist him.

RantWoman and D and Jana visited about numerous topic, another person we all know who is gravely ill, some other faces, adult children, Jana's trip to Finland with her family. RantWoman asked about the sauna and Jana said well the temps were in the 80's so people were not exactly dying to steam themselves further. On the other hand it was great weather for hikes to gather mushrooms and berries.

At one point Jana allowed as how she might like to read some of her favorite sci-fi: the Lord of the Rings, Ursula K LeGuin. Trying to read it herself sounded better to her than having someone read to her, a point RantWoman can definitely relate to for reasons needing another separate post.

Jana also said at one point, she feels like she is lying around playing. Despite the laugh-riot elements, neither D nor RantWoman thinks anything about the experience looks like playing. At one point Jana noticed that her glasses were dirty; D washed them and there was conversation about the miracle of the glasses surviving the accident but also problems about the lens coating. Jana said she thinks she gets to talk to someone about glasses problems tomorrow.

D and RantWoman hung around until C, another friend of Jana's arrived for overnight accompaniment on the pullout bed chair. C arrived just as the nurse was coming in with the next round of "fun," pills, a shot, and eye drops. Boy does Jana know how to party.

Last night's update email just for tracking purposes:

Jana continues to improve in many ways. The medical staff is pleased with her progress on cognitive tests and in her neurological exams. Jana has passed the speech pathologist's swallowing evaluation completely, and so she in now on an unrestricted diet. While Jana does not move her left leg leg much (it is the leg that had the surgery and is in a cast), it is expected that future physical therapy will greatly help it along.

The urinary tract infection has cleared up and the Foley catheter has been removed.

Jana had a number of visitors today and they were nicely paced. (Thank you all of you!) She decided that she wanted to be out of the bed and thus sat most of the day in either a regular hospital chair or in a regular wheelchair, while still wearing her back brace whenever out of bed. Warren and Jana even got to visit with some folks while out in a garden.

Jana is still, at times, trying to get out of bed when there is not adequate medical support for her. To make it less likely that she will hurt herself, Jana is now in a lower bed with rubber mats on the floor.

And best of all, Jana continues to be cheerful.

While Jana is getting closer to being discharged from Harborview, we still don't have a definite date nor location. But I will share that information as soon as I get it.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Peace in the Neighborhood, Peace in the World

"Please join South Seattle ... in a Peace Walk through the Central District on Sunday, Sept. 20, at 1:30 p.m. The theme of the Peace Walk is "Peace in the Neighborhood, Peace in the World." Our goal is to join with other Central District faith groups, organizations, and individuals to celebrate the U.N. International Day of Peace (9/21), make a collective statement for peace, and help those in need by bringing donations for the ...church food bank."

WHAT is wrong with this picture?

Did RantWoman have anything to do with organizing this event beyond showing up for the march? Noooo!

Did RantWoman do anything with her personal networks in the 'hood to see whether said march could include more multihued faces or have more diverse content than the usual well-meaning white people singing folksong meme? Nooooo.

Did RantWoman herself stop to talk to other churches waving as the march walked by? Nooooo.

Has RantWoman EVER gone to stand around with candle and prayers at some of the neighborhood events that happen when teenage gangbangers have outbreaks of stupidity more severe than usual? (And will RantWoman get thrown out of any conversation for speaking so planly of some of her views?) Noooooo.

So where the heck does RantWoman get off grumbling?

Well, first off, this is RantWoman. RantWoman could actually rant about multiple topics, but she will hereby concentrate her brain on the subject of Crime in the Hood. By Crime in the Hood, RantWoman first and foremost means teenage gangbangers with firearms shooting at each other in preposterous turf wars. She means turf wars so absurd that the juvenile jail is in one gang's turf and other miscreants are afraid to address their legal obligations taking place at said venue. RantWoman thinks there are other preposterous manifestations of these turf wars.

Most of all, RantWoman is considering whether there is anything well-meaning white people, well-meaning white people of multiple faith traditions could do to interrupt the cycles of violence and retaliations involved in these gangbanger turf wars.

RantWoman could be predicted to think it REALLY ducky if next year a.)the march were more diverse and b.) in the meantime some of us took our white faces in some kind of gesture of witness out to hear real issues about peace in the neighborhood.

Does RantWoman have the FOGGIEST idea how she is going to contribute to this. Heck no, not yet!

The bus to worship

Forgive me, oh Lord, for I have caffeined.

Not only have I caffeined more than enough to generate jitters during Meeting for Worship, I have done so knowingly and willfully despite the fact that my schedule was already kinked involuntarily, through no fault of my own due to the perversities of Metro's fall schedule shakeup.

The fall shakeup brings whole vast waves of upheavals, especially in RantWoman's neighborhood due to the arrival of Light Rail. RantWoman notes this in connection with Meeting for Worship partly because it seemed like the whole God bus contingent was also shaken up, some perhaps leaving earlier, some like RantWoman dealing with the FIFTEEN MINUTE change in schedule by hoping against the clock on the later bus.

RantWoman is going to have to leave this schedule kink to work itself out over future weeks. RantWoman is touched in this venture by a Friend she saw later in the day in another context and his newfound delight in riding the bus. Meanwhile, RantWoman has to concentrate humbly enough on the reasons to get herself out the door, get on the bus and engage in corporate worship. RantWoman is familiar with the arguments that God is everywhere and wherever needed. RantWoman is familiar with the concept of glorifying God through housework; RantWoman easily concedes that anyone surveying the state of her housekeeping might remark tartly that God probably needs a lot more glorifying within. And yet, RantWoman must go out, experience the worship of all that needs divine attention on the bus and worship corporately. Interestingly, at worship others agree with her, at least about the corporate worship.

Jana on Sunday

RantWoman spent a lovely few hours with Warren and Jana and then just with Jana yesterday afternoon and evening. RantWoman is deeply touched by what a loving couple they are in general and spends occasional moments thinking in an inquiring way about what in particular is most helpful for their life as a couple going through all this.

Here is the text of an email RantWoman wrote about the visit.

Hi All
My name is (RantWoman). I know Jana from the Friends' Meeting. I was just to visit tonight and thought I would send a few comments especially for those among us who crave up-to-the-second news and also because things are changing fast. It is still a long journey but it seems important to be aware of today's mileposts.

Apparently a move to a nursing home may happen this week. There are several choices and which one will be chosen depends on which has a bed the day it is needed. The choices are a place in W Seattle, convenient to no one in Jana's circles that the people who were chatting about options know of, a place in Greenwood convenient to Warren and Jana's, a place on E Madison St convenient to many of Jana's circle from UFM and a place in Seward Park less convenient than the Madison St choice but more convenient than W Seattle.

Jana seems to appreciate friendly conversation around her even though how much she participates varies a little. Also, even though she seems to be getting really good attentive care, having extra sets of eyes and ears helps keep track of and share key pieces of information. This is my way of saying I hope whatever the choice turns out to be offers great care and also turns out to be convenient for some of the many people supporting Warren and Jana.

Often in my experience with medical matters for family if a change in location or status is on the horizon there may be a list of things that need to happen before the change is made. I asked Warren whether he knew of what that list might be and he did not. He also mentioned concern that Jana be getting at least as much intense therapy as she gets during the week at the hospital. I cannot possibly evaluate the intensity of therapy issue, but I imagine that is determined partly by what orders the doctor writes as well as whatever the practice is at the facility.

A thought for those sitting with Jana: sometimes with my family if there is an extra set of ears around when conversations with social workers or discharge planners happen, different people think of different questions. Also, I wonder but did not think to ask Warren whether he wearies of repeating status reports to all Jana's different visitors.

Now to today's visit. I arrived late in the afternoon. A friend from a parenting group Warren and Jana have known since (their son) was a baby had been sitting there; Warren reported he had had a good break and one of Jana's cousins also stopped to visit. When I arrived Jana was sleeping and others were in the hall. After awhile Jana woke up and she and Warren and I chatted. She clearly also knew that F and S had been there earlier and as she put it "the youth had gone."

That is Jana clearly recognizes people, a big advantage of having her glasses. I told her I was glad to see her without her NG tube. I said I had been hearing about her pulling it out and she said "that's what people tell me." Then I just talked a bit about Meeting and some other personal bits.

When Jana started to doze off, Warren went for a walk and I shifted to the chair nearest her bed. From that chair I could see that family photos which previously had been across the room on the wall had been shifted to a wall to the side of Jana's head. Jana's room indeed has a view of Mt. Rainier; however the orientation of the bed and the window mean that visitors are more likely to see it than Jana herself.

Jana was not too talkative at first but she also clearly said she was very glad to keep things lowkey. We listened for a bit as two nurses worked on turning and tending to Jana's roommate. That was one of several moments of peculiar intimacy, not overtly objectionable, but probably not something one would automatically choose to listen in on.

When Warren came back we chatted a bit more about various things:Jana's injuries which include a broken right scalpula and broken rib on the right side as well as her broken left leg, bus service in N Seattle and further north, the nephew who fainted in the ICU, fell at the nurse's station, got his bleeding chin steri-stripped back together, the "incontinent" sanitarium chair, used for wheeling Jana about and also this morning leaking water from having been used to give someone a shower. Fairly soon Warren decided just to go home; we were expecting another person to come sit after me.

Jana dozed for a bit. Somewhere her supper was brought in. Jana eventually woke up again and was sort of rolling around a bit in her bed though not ready for dinner. At one point the person who had brought dinner came in but I had to tell her Jana had not started so please leave the tray. When Jana started poking her good leg out between the side barriers on her bed, I suggested we should call the nurse. Jana has many many friends who are nurses, doctors, pharmacists. And she has friends like me who know how to press the buttom to call the nurse. The nurse came and first the thought was to sit Jana up in a chair to eat. Another nurse came in to help move her. In addition to wanting to crawl out of bed, it seems that when Jana has gotten to get up before she forgets that she is not to put any weight on her broken leg.

Once Jana was transferred to the chair, Jana realized she needed to use the restroom and asked very precisely about this. Jana wanted to know whether that would be possible in either the sitting chair or the sanitarium chair, the wheeled one that must have been the one used for hallway excursions mentioned in previous emails. The nurse said they are still worried about her balance and coordination. Instead Jana had to transfer back to the bed and use the bedpan. In the end after this was dealt with, the nurse sat Jana up in bed and she started on dinner.

Somewhere in here Jana asked me and the nurse where she was; she missed that it was already Sunday but otherwise knew the month and location. Jana also talked about how kind Warren is (yes!) but also how she understands she needs more help than there is at home; at other moments she definitely just wanted to go home.

Somewhere as Jana was starting dinner, she talked about different things that reminded her of the food in hotels in Finland during last summer's trip. She had very clear memories and many of them were similar to my memories from travels a long time ago in Finland: porridge for breakfast, a smell of baked fish, food that is not overly sweetened, wonderful berries. The hospital menu was canned peaches, pureed green beans, minced turkey, potatoes, gravy, thickened cranberry juice, a banana all lactose and gluten-free.

Jana happily fed herself though the peaches did not all stay on the spoon very well. B arrived while Jana was eating and brought very thinly sliced apples K sent from the farmer's market. Jana really enjoyed these and generally said she felt like she had eaten some real food even though for instance the mashed potatoes were not a big hit. B noticed that Jana was wearing a chest brace. Talking to A later I learned the brace is sometimes a problem for eating. if it rides up it can get in the way of swallowing. I also learned that earlier someone had brought Jana Ethiopian food which must have been a treat. When Jana finished eating, B talked about taking the brace off to do some massage. As I was leaving the nurse was due in to talk about the brace issue. It is very good to see and hear about Jana having good experiences with real food. It is very good to hear all the ways she is definitely herself, and as I said at the beginning, there still seems like a serious road ahead. Blessings to everyone who is reading this.


RantWoman left out of her email a couple details: B mentioned that previously when she visited Jana in the evening, Jana was wearing a belt that went around her and around the bed and probably was not terribly comfortable. RantWoman assumes, given the energy Jana at one point devoted to trying to get out of bed while RantWoman was there that the belt may have been intended as extra security on top of the sides of the bed. RantWoman thinks it is probably good but also possibly problematic that Jana is showing so much interest in getting out of bed.

At one point Jana was kind of apologetic about not being very entertaining or wanting her brain to work very hard. RantWoman assured her that if the only decision she wanted to make for the evening would be regular or thickened cranberry juice, that is perfectly fine.

RantWoman also left out some details of what can be described as necessary medical tortures, a topic Jana was decently matter-of-fact and good-humored about, to the point that she sounded comparatively cheerful about explaining to B what the packet of supplies left on her bed was for, the tortures due at some point after dinner.

RantWoman writes this sort of detail for a couple reasons. First, RantWoman definitely does not notice every visual detail picked up by others, but when she reads email about such, she can better pay attention to accompanying issues.

Also, with so many different people sitting with Jana, even when care is good and attentive, handing off info helps all the extra sets of eyes and ears work together.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Happy New Year

RantWoman wishes all her Jewish friends and Friends of Jewish affinity a Happy New Year.

RantWoman herself saw in the occasion as part of the team fomenting a first in a long time in Seattle candidates' forum on issues of concern to people with disabilities. The Forum was in many respects a great success. We assembled a thoroughly motley "that of god in everyone" freak show of diverse people (probably not diverse enough but..._ with diverse disabilities and those assembled all coped quite tolerably as the diverse disabilities manifested themselves. The candidates were candid enough between platitudes in a couple cases to cause RantWoman to despair of her choices. This definitely does not mean all was peace and light, but let us get to those points slowly.

RantWoman has been reflecting about whether or not Business Meeting sets up unrealistic expectations of work in other contexts such as patience in human interactions or collective finesse in fine-grained wordsmithing.

Forget that. The above sentence is Quakeres for "RantWoman thinks it is only by the grace of God and certainly not for shortage of people she would be tempted to boil and in some cases further not for shortage of reasons to be so tempted that everyone RantWoman was collaborating with emerged alive and several pieces of technology RantWoman would have liked to rely on emerged no more dysfunctional than when RantWoman initially addressed them." RantWoman is also turning over thoughts of whether the urge to boil people could have been at least partially ameliorated with a long dose of silent worship but alas part of the problem is others' disinclination to conduct such an experiment.

Our crack team of provocateurs and malcontents at large assembled a list of somewhere around 35 questions. We had 4 panels of two candidates each and each panel had time for about 4 questions. We had brilliant interesting questions, which of course was beside the point. In several cases the candidates clearly did not know enough to comment in any depth and merely did mental cut and paste of their pet talking points.

Thus, despite RantWoman's ferocious wordsmithing bent and that of a, um, peerpetual Difficult Collaborator it would have been perfectly adequate to print our questions much earlier in the process. Then RantWoman would not have had to watch a printer grind thoughts out excruciatingly slowly. She would not have had to think yet about many soap operas at her beloved Friendly Neighborhood Center for Extreme Computing.

But let us return to the circumstances of our panel. RantWoman would like to say "I told you so." The Forum wound up conflicting with the start of Rosh Hoshanah as well of course as Friday prayers at local mosques. This meant one pair of candidates could not participate though they willl get a second chance at our fearsom questionnaire.

Even more touchingly, a Friend who is on such mailing lists informed RantWoman that he got email from the Jewish Federation of Seattle calling on people to protest our forum because of the timing. RantWoman for her part is deeply touched that the Seattle Jewish Federation noticed our forum enough to want to picket. RantWoman assured Friend that he would have been most welcome and RantWoman would have been thrilled to have such a picket show up. RantWoman knows perfectly well this Friend's general taste in pickets and he confirmed that probably the Jewish Federation of Seattle would not be at the top of his list of people to picket with.

Then we digressed to the logistics of protests that span the beginning of the Sabbath. Basically, if the pickets had shown up they would have needed to spread out mats on our breezeway and spend the Sabbath there until they could travel home at the next sunset. RantWoman thinks given her exasperation about how the forum was scheduled and other finer points of coalition coexistence that such a spectacle would have been the perfect touch. RantWoman however cannot say she blames people in the least for wishing to see in the Sabbath at home and she wishes blessings on them all.

Jana minus NG tube

RantWoman is shamelessly dumping email bulletins into her blog, partly so that she can easily look over the arc of the situation at points in the future.

There was a post about Jana eating mashed potatoes and fruit purees and only having to have the NG tube at night.

Mention has also been made of Jana moving to a skilled nursing facility at some point. Since Warren was recently given a list of such facilities, RantWoman assumes the horizon for that to happen might not be too distant. One downside from RantWoman's perspective: W and J live quite some distance from RantWoman; RantWoman sort of imagines that she herself would opt for a choice near where she lives which would mean not necessarily easily on a bus stop on RantWoman's way home. In that case RantWoman will probably have to wish Jana speedy enough healing to see her regularly at the places she is used to seeing her, but perhaps RantWoman is getting ahead of herself again.

Then there is today's wonderful news:
It is thrilling to see Jana every couple of days - she is making such dramatic progress between visits. Her feeding tube is gone - A tells me she pulled it out last night and they didn't put it back because she is eating so well. She is talking in full sentences that make about 90% sense, remembering things about the family trip to Finland and other family information that seems (to a non-family member) to be plausible.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Blittery Butterflies

"Quakers have not abolished the clergy; they have abolished the laity."

Social Worker, Social Worker, Social Worker, Bean Counter, Social Worker, Social Worker, Social Worker, Social Worker, Bean Counter,

Oops, sorry, that would be RantWoman during the introductory go-around at about any gathering of Quakers meaning to do business. RantWoman realizes she is leaving out poets, teachers, lawyers, but she is forgiving herself this taxonomic oversight. RantWoman customarily counts herself among the bean counters. Thus imagine RantWoman's surprise when she recently found herself having to coach someone even more challenged on the pastoral counseling front than RantWoman, namely RantMom.

RantWoman is quite humble about this venture and apologizes to those for whom the following RantWoman moments seem entirely obvious and unremarkable.RantMom is not a Quaker. She is a Presbyterian who belongs to a lovely church with a gifted woman pastor who appreciates classical music and has more than once in RantWoman's presence summoned words exactly right for a given situation. The other interesting point is that RantMom is new in the church and has more energy than some of the longtime members. RantMom is also eager to be connected and is quite gifted in some respects, though she also has one assignment for which, in our local meeting vernacular, "that name would not have occurred to me."

RantWoman dines fairly often at RantMom's and these feasts are one of the more special parts of living in the same town as adults. Besides watching RantMom work through her "that name would not have occurred to me" duties is one of those gifts of spiritual growth that happen sometimes. That name would still not have occurred to me, but it seems to be rising remarkably to the occasion, well except for one point.
At RantWoman's last visit RantMom was gritching as only RantMom can about one of the women from her church and then RantMom let on her name.

RantWoman recognized this name fondly: when the RantSisters threw RantMom a 70th birthday party at the church, this person emailed several lovely digital photos of the event. RantWoman listened a bit longer, until somewhere past when she might easily have detached from RantMom venting and finally suggested RantMom ask the object of her vexations whether there is anything they might pray about together. RantWoman knows perfectly well from being at RantMom's when prayer chain calls have come in that there is. Finally RantWoman realized that RantMom is RantMom and will act as lead. However, RantWoman herself could perfectly well take initiative, summon other topical commonalities, and send email on her own behalf, including quite pointed suggestions related to one of the prayer chain topics.

RantWoman is very humble about seeming to have found the right words, not only to exchange info about the topic she already knew of but also to tiptoe into other zones of family common ground related to RantBrother and the other woman's son. RantWoman saw this person on Saturday and learned she is due to have surgery but RantWoman, with her finely-grained memory of details about such matters remembers only the content of the surgery not the exact date and therefore will pray daily until shown otherwise.

In the meantime, RantWoman is also making exceptions to her generalized allergy to everything that ever looks smells or tastes like an email chain letter. The woman who sent the photos recently sent RantWoman the most lovely piece of email spam full of just the sort of glittery butterflies RantWoman would even be able to stand sending out if she EVER went near any such behavior. RanWoman is of course not sending along the glittery butterflies or even posting them to her blog but she is kind of hoarding them, hanging on to them to cast her tired eyeballs over fondly from time to time with extra prayers for the bafflements of the human condition.

Glittery butterflies.

Monday, September 14, 2009


Somewhere in the world of RantWoman's young adulthood, she remembers reading accounts of suffragettes, women imprisoned in Britain for some kind of uppity behavior, trying to vote or some such thing. RantWoman wishes she could remember exactly why the women would go on hunger strikes and the extreme ends they would go to fighting tube feeding.

RantWoman definitely does not think of Jana as one of the more brash outspoken feminists RantWoman has ever met: Jana is just firm and competent and engaging. Nevertheless, RantWoman is thinking of this historical mental fuzz tonight reading of the email about Jana's high points today:

"As common over the past few days, when Jana talks often what she says does not seem to make sense to those listening - and from what I have read, this is very typical of this stage of recovery from a severe brain trauma. However, there were a few times when Jana seemed to have remembered something that was said 10 minutes before, which could be a sign of a significant improvement in her mental state.

"The therapist is continuing to work with Jana on swallowing. Jana has swallowed small amounts of thickened liquids, such as juice, but Jana is still dependent on her NG tube for fluids and food.

"Hopefully Jana will not need the NG tube much longer. From watching Jana this morning, I would say that the NG tube is probably the one thing that Jana is currently finding the most frustrating - and she has been exhibiting an amazing amount of resourcefulness in trying to get rid of it! For example, Jana can get the mitts off her hands in amazing ways (and in a short period of time too, if you please) - and apparently tried to remove the NG tube using her teeth when she couldn't get her hands close enough. And even if the physical therapist couldn't get Jana to move her arm very much during therapy, Jana was quite willing to set up her own 'therapy session' if it meant getting her hand to that tube! (I look forward to watching this persistence in the future when Jana can apply it constructively during her future rehabilitation and therapy.)"

Go Jana! Think smoothies, porridge,.... Go Jana, and good for the therapist who probably has to coax and be firm by turns. Go Jana!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Out of ICU!

RantWoman stopped by to see Jana tonight after a visit to a relative in another nearby hospital. RantWoman is digesting Friday's exciting news of Jana's move out of ICU to a regular trauma surgery ward (whatever "regular trauma surgery ward" means). This move was straight into a room, bypassing some kind of stepdown ICU!

The move out of ICU has brought other big steps, a swallowing evaluation (improvement apparently still needed). physical therapy starting, and stretches of increasing length (EIGHT hours today!) sitting in a special chair. Today's email reported that Warren and Rosa took Jana and the special chair on quite an excursion around the hospital but wound up not being able to go out to one of the patios because the chair would not fit through the door.

RantWoman is amused to see that the trauma surger ward has double rooms about half the size of the double rooms on another ward RantWoman previously had occasion to visit. However, it is so nice that flowers and sweet pictures of loved ones on the wall are allowed. Jana also has a nice view.

Jana has been wearing her glasses. She says with them she sees things that were not there before. RantWoman could interpret that several ways but will simply note it.

Today Jana had a feeding tube. RantWoman remembers previously noticing something around Jana's nose that she took to be an oxygen cannula though the other friend visiting today said she had been there other times when mention was made of tube feeding. In any case, today Jana apparently had pulled out her feeding tube so she got fitted with the most spectacular white-glove-test-worthy sporty puffy white gloves, as if boxing is the next thing on her therapeutic regimen. RantWoman also noticed that Jana seemed to like to wave her gloved arms as if she were conducting something and that Jana sometimes rubbed the gloves along her mouth. RantWoman assumes this is because Jana's lips are chapped but could not tell for sure.

Jana's voice was clear though by the evening when Rantwoman visited she did nto talk much. RantWoman heard Jana cough a couple times and is glad the coughs sound smoother, clearer than previously.

One of the recent email posts about the move mentioned that in patients with brain injury there is sometimes a period of extreme agitation as the healing brain tries to put things back together. RantWoman has a cousin who, two months ago was involved in a multi-vehicle car accident. Accident was not cousin's fault; she emerged with a totaled car, a bad seat belt bruise and a lot of soft tissue trauma in her back and neck. She also regularly blogs about flashbacks and RantWoman would be very surprised if Jana is not having similar or much worse problems. Others have mentioned that she has begun asking what happened.

For no obvious reason related to Jana, RantWoman offers the follwing interesting item about an unexpected results of a stroke.

Vision Improves, Ability to speak French declines

Friday, September 11, 2009

Friday Report

RantWoman did not go see Jana tonight but she did intersect with the person who has a 90-person email list of groupies eager to have updates. RantWoman, ever the compulsive tech support geek, suggested maybe one of the email group services would save the email person time but will leave that topic for her further discernment.

However, for benefit of ... RantWoman is going to share most of the email.

The biggest news is that Jana was moved to a new room this afternoon. Not to a step-down room in another ICU, but all the way to a room on a non-ICU surgery trauma floor. They decided that Jana was doing well enough that she could skip the step-down unit step.

Earlier today, Jana sat up in a special chair, and it was noted that her lungs seem to be beginning to clear. She was also given some water to drink today, and after being reminded to swallow and to take small sips, she was able to drink a bit of water. It was also noticed that Jana does not seem able to raise her left arm very far, which might mean there is another injury there that hasn't been detected yet. An OT assessment will be able to tell us more.

Jana's new room is in the main hospital building, floor ..., room .... Her bed is by the window - and yes, there is a view of Mt. Rainer. The directions I have been given are to use the elevators that also go down to the cafeteria (and that are near the north side of the emergency room). Wind around on the seventh floor and you should be there.

However, there are some buts.... For one thing, the room is small, much smaller than the room in the ICU. And Jana does have a roommate. Warren has said that there are two chairs in Jana's half of the room but not much more room.

The other set of "buts..." relate to how to visit in a way to will help Jana heal. A number of people have spoken to me or emailed me about how tired Jana is. Also, Jana has had serious brain injuries, which makes it hard for Jana to answer even simple questions - and it affects how we should be acting if we visit Jana.

Here are some pointers, taken from an email from ..., who has worked as an ICU nurse in the past:
"Jana may seem reasonably clear but is really in and out of a state of confusion, delusion, and exhaustion with brief interludes of clarity. Her body and most importantly, her brain, is healing but it really is drifting all over the place. She needs short periods of quiet stimulation followed by longer periods of sleep and rest. If you factor in how much the staff do with her, her time for visitors is pretty marginalized.People visiting with Jana should be close to the bed, preferably sitting and in her line of vision when she's awake. The more familiar the friend or family member, the better. Warren and Rosa singing to her is great because Jana gets to see people she loves doing something that is familiar and important for her. If she knows you as a knitter, then knit; a reader then read. I don't think it matters how long people stay as long as they are quiet and reassuring and bring reminders of "normalcy".Touch is very important so hold her hand or soothe her shoulder. Even just touch the blanket gently.Touch IS healing. Touch her when you arrive and touch her when you leave....always,of course, washing your hands!Keep the conversations to Jana simple. When you arrive, announce quietly who you are and maybe tell her the day of the week, time of day and that you care about her and will be there with her for a few minutes. A steady line of visitors all asking,"How are you", "How are you feeling","Are you doing better"is pretty much non-productive and certainly not restful for a shocked brain trying to reorganize itself.
...... all caring and wonderful people and it is wonderful to see all the folks who have been touched by Jana. Thanks for being who you are."

So BIG steps and...

A pessimistic neurologist

Tonight on RantWoman's way home, she stopped by the hospital to look in on Jana. Rosa and Warren were the only ones there but Rosa said there had already been more than 20 people stopping by today.

Jana can clearly greet everyone who comes in. Rose is fixing her up a playlist for her iPod and Jana was clearly able to respond to queries about music choices. Jana's voice is a little rough and speaking does not seem entirely easy for her, but she does it! There was one moment during queries about whether anything else from home is needed when Jana mentioned something about Microsoft. No one in the room has any idea what she meant though it is funny to think of possibilities.

One highlight of the day was a pharmacist from Harborview. Rosa noted that he and Jana were chattering away about some medical thing that neither Rosa nor Warren knew anything about.

Since Jana no longer has a probe in her head, today she was fair game for an MRI of her head. Rosa reported that one of Jana's nurse friends says the neurologist who read the exam results tends toward the pessimistic end of assessments. He said that Jana has only a few places in her brain that seem to have problems and likely within 3 to 6 months her brain will learn to work around them. That's the pessimistic view! Well, RantWoman who knows by comparison nearly nothing about the healing of brains would still caution that exactly what turns out to be critical for different functions, sometimes subtle, can be hard to pinpoint. But for now it is so good to note all these huge strides of progress.

Jana also got carted off for surgery on her left leg Wednesday evening. RantWoman had the impression this happened in the matter-of-fact way of freight, scheduled when convenient, no fuss, no muss, no getting to the hospital at 6 am for an 8 am surgery time, just in the evening when it fit into the schedule. RantWoman supposes that is one advantage also of still being on IV nutrition. Rosa reports that the surgery successfully aligned the fibula and the doctor does not anticipate need for any more surgery on her leg.

Both Jana's arms seem basically to have escaped injury.

Jana was licking her lips a lot; there was lip balm somewhere but those there also figured the nurse can handle regular applications.

Rosa said it does not appear that Jana is on any paid medication but Jana reported feeling good, 10 on a scale to 10. We had a discussion of an ortho doctor RantWoman once heard talking about people just being wired to handle pain differently. At the time RantWoman did not think to ask whether there is any chance that Jana is still not feeling a lot because of yesterday's anesthesia; this is something RantWoman remembers from when RantMom had knee replacement surgery. Because of the spinal block RantMom really felt no pain for about a day after surgery and then she wanted a little more medication.

To say the least, everyone is glad Jana is in much better shape than she was at the same time last week.

Mention was made again of some kind of email communications. RantWoman made another attempt to find it but at this point she is hoping the weekly bulletin will have more info.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Oh Good, an Ophthalmology Exam

It's all in one's frame of reference, and RantWoman must say from the outset she herself has an unusual one.

RantWoman is also aware there is some kind of email information exchange. RantWoman has not yet connected with the precise coordinates so she apologizes if this duplicates content available elsewhere.

RantWoman went to see Jana today (Tuesday), don't let the time stamp on the blog entry fool anyone). For someone lying in intensive care 5 days after trying to stop a speeding car with only human flesh, a LOT of things look and sound darn good. RantWoman cautions readers though that these are the comments of a layperson. As the ophthalmology resident indicated there is still a pretty good problem list, so best not get too carried away.

Jana has been free of ventilator and breathing on her own since Monday afternoon. Today she had a LOT of visitors, so many that when RantWoman arrived sometime a little after 5, there were already 4 people there including Warren. Some visitors took the opportunity to say Goodbye and Warren also went for a cup of coffee.

Jana's ICU nurse was worried about overstimulation. Warren reported that Jana had spoken and said clearly that she really appreciated the conversation, even though she did not talk a lot and spoke with a little difficulty. Jana also was able to say "Hi sweetie" when a phone was held to her ear with a call from her daughter. Warren also said at one point, she said "okay, we can go now!" though Warren was not sure where she meant to go except probably out of the hospital. RantWoman sort of imagines that Jana's daytime work at a busy pharmacy involves a lot of people around so that all the voices probably in some way sound perfectly normal to her.

Jana's friends commented about her licking her lips frequently. Someone applies lip balm and also moistens her mouth sometimes with a hospital sponge on a small stick.

RantWoman gathered from bedside conversation that today was when the bolt, the instrument that has been monitoring pressure on her brain was removed. RantWoman is not quite sure what the connection is between removing the bolt and being able to do an ophthalmology exam including dilation, but that was one of today's tasks. The Ophtho resident came shortly after RantWoman arrived and did his initial check. Jana has broken facial bones under her left eye that eventually will have surgery but other problems are ahead of that in line.

Right now Jana can clearly control her right eye--and arm and foot. The left eye does not close completely. There is a stitch near her eye and a little bulge of conjunctival tissue that keeps the left one from closing completely, so someone has been applying some kind of ointment that might look blurry if Jana commented. The resident said they are monitoring her eyes so her corneas do not dry out with the one eye that won't quite, quite close. The Ophtho resident was definitely into eyes in the kind of enthusiastic way that suggests he is in the right line of work.

Then the ophtho resident put in the dilating drops and RantWoman, ophtho frequent flyer that she is suggested turning down the room lights so Jana's eyes could dilate more comfortably. One of Jana's nurse friends asked where to find the light switch and this was easily accomplished. While we were talking, Warren mentioned that the day's earlier exam had shown that both eyes are in good, pretty normal position and tracking the way they are supposed to. (RantWoman did not ask specifically whether the eyes were tracking together but she thinks, precise as the doctor was that he would have said something if not. RantWoman's own eyes do not track together by default; RantWoman supposes that not having eyes track together if they usually do could mean something different than if, post accident, eyes that don't track together still do not track together or track differently than before an accident, but she definitely is not doing experiments about the topic today.)

After time for Jana's eyes to dilate, the resident came back, plugged his special eye exam head gear into one of the cords hanging from ceiling tracks over the bed, and did the usual bright lights and magnifying glass exam. He asked Warren what kind of brain bleed Jana had and Warren said actually he did not know; the resident said he would look it up on the chart. At one point in the eye exam, Jana needed to cough, a kind of deep cough to remind us that all is definitely not perfect.

The important points: there is no blood in back of the retinas and the optic nerves look good and pink, not pale. The doctor said sudden changes in blood pressure can damage the optic nerves; RantWoman was in braille class with someone that happened to and is very glad for what sound like comparatively positive reports today.

After the eye exam, a nurse came in to turn Jana, clean her a bit. The nurse shooed Warren, another friend and RantWoman out to the waiting room for a bit. The other friend left; when Warrren and RantWoman came back, Jana was in a slightly different position. The nurse had found a pillow because the other friend had been holding Jana's hand and noticed that Jana kept trying to hold her arm up a little and having it drop. When we came back, RantWoman noted that Jana's broken leg is in a cast that stops below the knee. The nurse said surgery on the leg will happen Wednesday or Friday she is not sure which. Warren soon said good night and departed to go to a Healing Worship with his son and other Young Friends. RantWoman stayed for another half hour or so. Jana seemed glad to rest.

The hospital brought in an email from a friend of Jana's. RantWoman dug out a magnifier and read it to Jana but could not tell what the reaction was. RantWoman stuck the printed email slip in the notebook full of good wishes and also wrote the friends name and phone number in the guestbook in case the slip gets lost.

Before leaving, Warren kindly fretted about people crossing streets; RantWoman assured him again that her bus leaves from right across the street and pointed out her extensive list of visibility-enhancing measures including reflective armbands, reflector tape on several bags, and her cute little bright orange light on one of the cords around her neck. RantWoman did not mention that she had a couple more errands between the hospital and home, but she definitely thought of him when someone on the bus was lecturing her about how she should be home before dark.

Before leaving the hospital RantWoman asked the nurse whether Jana had a call button. RantWoman thinks she could press it if it were there, but the nurse thinks maybe not. RantWoman also notes bedside conversation with a friend who is a hospice nurse about teaching people to operate the machine that dispenses IV painkillers. The machine, like a welder's propane tank mentioned by the other friend present, has features that make it not exactly super easy to use or to use incorrectly. RantWoman was thinking about this and also thinking that personally, being sometimes into musical or other distractions from pain, RantWoman might wish for the kind of button that starts up a CD or delivers music, not just a painkiller.

Jana's daughter comes Wednesday and RantWoman probably will go back in a couple days and meanwhile try to intersect with other info flows.

Monday, September 7, 2009

More on Jana

RantWoman has a strange reserve about using people's full names or things that are distinctly identifying on the internet. It is not that RantWoman thinks people already in the know, passionate, interested, concerned would be a problem. The problem is all the other mysterious vermin infesting the interwebs and wanting to hijack information for various nefarious purposes. With that in mind, RantWoman is probably going to use only the first names, if that of the couple, her friend who was hit by the car and her husband.

RantWoman is also conscious that sometimes when one is in the midst of overwhelming circumstances, there can be a million ways for wires to get crossed and information to get tangled. With all that in mind, RantWoman humbly offers further brain dump from yesterday's visit to the hospital.

First, Warren spoke from the heart of how well he feels enfolded in love from several directions, Friends, Jana's work, neighbors, her recorder group. Our meeting peppered Warren with questions and offers of various kinds, info about buses and good walking destinations near the hospital, offers of free places to park and short rides to the hospital, concern about meals, rest, relief, a care committee and many more gestures than anyone could react to all at once. People have been dispatched on various notification duties though RantWoman supposes there are strays who can be reached or follow other ways.

Warren said he is sleeping at home every night. His son and the son's girlfriend are visiting every day. His daugher will come from college for a week, though everyone who weighs in is unanimous that we will wholeheartedly support her returning for things she has already committed to this term. We know she loves her mother and father. We know that school may be rough but that continuity can also be valuable. So many, many people are reaching out to both her parents in Seattle that what the daugher can do can be done as well from college as from home.

Jana is in ICU so only 3 people including staff can be with her at one time. However, visits are definitely welcome, and someone from another of Jana's circles of friends is working on a roster of people to be with her at the hospital.

Jana is on a ventilator so actual talking is not to be, but yesterday she could definitely move an arm and leg to acknowledge presence and also grimace when she felt pain.

One Friend spent time offering John Calvi's idea of healing touch.

Friends from worship made plans to come play a harp, to come sing, to bring CD's and of course to visit.

While we were at worship, a coworker stopped by; a neighbor who is a pastor at another church stopped by on his way home from preaching somewhere and offered a prayer with all who were interested.

Sometime in the next couple days, Jana likely will have surgery to reset bones in her leg that initially knit together incorrectly. RantWoman supposes that anytime anesthesia is involved is a time of heightened risk and commends all for heightened prayers.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Prayers, Remorse, and ....

A member of RantWoman's meeting was badly hurt Thursday night while walking home from a bus stop near her home. Our Friend was crossing the street with the light and was hit by a driver going 35 mph who did not see the red light. RantWoman will use her name a little more freely in a bit. For now other things are more important:

Friend is now in intensive care at Harborview. She is likely to be there for some number of weeks and then in the hospital some number of months longer. Friend has many fractures. There was bleeding on the brain and other internal injuries. So far, her vital signs are strong and many functions are working as well as can be expected. There is no way yet because of needed probes to tell some important things that might offer clues about longterm prognosis. Friend likely will pass through more surgeries and critical junctures. Friend could die; Friend could do dramatically better than that. Hold her, her wonderful husband and their grown children in your prayers.

RantWoman joined a small number of Friends to hold Meeting for Worship in a room near the ICU today. We learned that she is indeed badly injured, that she is less swollen and bruised and more responsive today than previously. This is because the medical staff have been rolling back the medically induced coma. However, rolling back anesthesia makes pain more apparent; we are very glad for indications of her presence among us and ambivalent about the need for pain medications that make her less reactive.

It is clear that friends from many, many circles of this Friend's life are rallying around her, her husband, her grown children and the interwoven circles of people who love her. It is also clear that these many circles will observe and contribute in many different ways.

Worship today began with assembly in a waiting area on a skybridge with remarkable views. RantWoman expects we will visit this waiting area and the different stories passing through many times and will not linger there today. Some Friends brought flowers for the waiting area. Others sat offering silent prayers while someone near us used the phone to speak of someone else with bleeding somewhere unwanted.

After a requested meeting room was unlocked we assembled and settled into worship. Worship was entirely silent but after worship broke, floods of questions came.

We learned from a co-worker that the way her husband learned of the accident, while sort of odd, could be understood as standard. Friend's husband first received a call from her boss. Her boss had heard from their company's consulting nurse that the wife had been in an accident and the boss wanted to know whether he needed to find a substitute for her the next day at work. Husband called the consulting nurse and then the hospital, and by some miracle RantWoman is not sure she in her driving days could have duplicated made it safely to the hospital. He said when he went home, there was a call on his machine from the social worker in the ER.

One Friend who also lives in the same area was stuck in the traffic backup from the accident. He said it would be healing to revisit the site. We learned others think cars just are not careful at that intersection. RantWoman, already afflicted with febrile obsessions about walkability, pedestrian safety and radical critique of everything to do with car culture feels she must also visit the site.

We learned the driver who hit our Friend expressed remorse at the scene. She stopped and said she just had not seen the red light. There seem not to be any indications that she was drinking. As for speeding, texting, putting on makeup, arguing with a lover....? A Friend who has been an ER nurse spoke of the burden people who have injured someone in such circumstances sometimes carry for the rest of their lives and asked permission to convey comments along these lines to the detective investigating the accident. RantWoman is grateful that others besides herself want to temper this line of thinking with respect for legal and insurance processes that also need to run their course.

RantWoman is humbled to read, while looking for any media tracks about the accident, news of a recent WA Court of Appeals decision invalidating a City of Seattle law making any traffic infraction that injures or kills someone automatically a crime. RantWoman has not read the whole opinion but the gist of the article was that the court ruled that the city of Seattle under state law does not have authority to enact such an ordinance. Friend's accident actually was in Shoreline, not Seattle and RantWoman is storing this constellation of data in case she is led to further activism and agitation about her pedestrian concerns.

Meanwhile, since RantWoman rides bus by Harborview fairly often, she will certainly add stops to visit along with the prayer list.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Ramadan Prayers

RantWoman appears to be observing Ramadan, at least to the extent of digesting the annual discussion of Ramadan on her local public radio station.

RantWoman was doing her usual several audio tracks at once half-listening thing through a good bit of the broadcast--until one of the speakers mentioned 50-gallon buckets of flowers and people of many faiths streaming to local mosques after September 11 in outreach and solidarity, curiosity, chagrin.

RantWoman remembers some frank hate crimes directed at Muslims in her area after September 11. RantWoman remember several co-workers in a commercial division of a local inescapable airplane manufacturer encouraging a woman from India to be extra careful in those days, more because she was brown than because of whatever faith she did or did not practice. RantWoman remembers a shift or two with Friends from her Meeting sitting vigil outside a local mosque during Friday prayers as religious congregations reached out.

The mosque had suffered several dangerous incidents of belligerence and ignorance and we wanted our neighbors to be able to worship freely. RantWoman also remembers thinking nothing of sitting alongside both men and women from her Meeting none of whom she was married to while the men and women streamed into their separate doors at the mosque but perhaps that is a meditation for another time.

Today though, after the 50-gallon buckets of flowers, the conversation turned to what openings the events of September 11 have created, to the number of schools and congregations who want to visit local mosques or to invite speakers in, to pastors and church members who share some or all of the fast. RantWoman would say that is a lot of death and destruction to bring about such an opening, but sometimes openings are to be seized when they arise.

The radio show then shifted to the dynamics of the fasting, of feeling closer to the poor, of not overdoing the breaking of the fast. One speaker mentioned losing weight and feeling less burdened by overconsumption by the end of the fast. RantWoman is simply going to leave this thought hovering like a smoke ring over her own meditations about abundance, overabundance, calories that are way too easy to get and that require way too little expenditure of energy. No, RantWoman is not simply going to leave this as a smoke ring, but she is going to come back to it later. Meanwhile, moments about other celebrations.

Thanks to the peregrinations of Ramadan among calendar points and other religions' holidays, RantWoman herself once was part of an idiosyncratic observance of Ramadan--over Christmas and New Year's while visiting her ferrener husband's family in Russia.*** The history of Islam in the lands of the Russian and Soviet empires is long and complex. Islam was one of the four faiths officially registered during the Soviet era. In post-Soviet upheavals, Islamic political movements and observances have taken on whole new dimensions and variability. RantWoman will consider whether to address this topic further another time.
***Alert readers may find the idea of RantWoman and a husband, um, unexpected. RantWoman is happy now to be separated, and there are many stories RantWoman is unlikely to revisit in this blog. However, this blog is also to honor some tender points and to revisit such spiritual nurture as sometimes comes tied up with Experiences of various flavors.

Although RantWoman has many indications that Ferrener Husband has an interior spiritual life, the exact dimensions of it are hard to define, possibly harder to define than God among Quakers. Islam is part of his faith and ethnic identity, it is tied in his head with memories of a very beloved grandmother and story after story about her protecting husband and all his deaf brothers from juvenalia in their community, about what she did or did not think of husband's father, and about how husband's mother made it through classes in the school where his grandmother taught.

But let us for now simply consider Ramadan in December in the frozen center of a frozen continent, where there is only about 6 hours of daylight a day. Spend Ramadan among a family of several scary alcoholics, the sort of scary alcoholics RantWoman could sensibly have avoided even getting entangled with though entangle she did. Naive readers will ask how a religion that proscribes alcohol consumption can engender scary alcoholics. RantWoman assumes denial works really well in such situations, and all the more so if one is surrounded by a larger rather ethnocentric culture of generally drinking oneself into oblivion. In any case, RantWoman spent way too much time during this visit just observing family dynamics even to inquire further.

Ferrener Husband's parents seemed to be observing Ramadan in a most peculiar way. They definitely preferred not to drink vodka during daylight. How does RantWoman know this? RantWoman was basically jet-lagged out of her mind from a 13-hour time difference with home. Holiday rituals also required lots of visitations and consumption of chocolate and tea, caffeine in several forms from early in the morning until late in the evening, just in case RantWoman thought she had any prayer of trying to right her internal clock.

About the second or third day of a visit, RantWoman's in-laws were terribly, terribly interested in having A TALK with RantWoman. A talk about abortion. A talk about abortion over vodka, before daylight set in. A talk about abortion while RantWoman was still trying to rub her eyes and check whether her body and the external schedule were somewhere in the same universe, never mind whether or not they were in the same time zone. Somewhere around 9 am the discussion began over tangerines, homemade meat pies called pilmeny with ketchup and a shot of vodka on the side.

Bear in mind that RantWoman had already discerned in-laws vehement and rather fixed views about a number of topics and by mutual consent with husband decided not even to go near alternate views. Bear in mind that almost any woman of a certain era has probably had ample opportunity for passionate discussions up one side and down the other of abortion. Add vodka at what to anyone but an alcoholic would be a decidedly ungodly hour! Then ponder ardent inlaws wanting RantWoman to know that, should she ever be considering an abortion, she should bring them the baby and they would raise it.

Looking back, RantWoman SUPPOSES she could have gone all Carrie Nation on the situation? You call yourselves Muslims? What about fetal alcohol exposure? Have you even heard of that? RantWoman further supposes that such an outburst would in its own peculiar way have fit spectacularly into the household dynamics. At the time though, RantWoman simply assured her in-laws that no abortions would be happening, downed enough pilmeny to blunt the vodka, and shared some modest toast, all before sunup. (RantWoman had a similar discussion later the same day with husband's even scarier alcoholic older brother except that one was in a kind of pidgin sign language and with notes written because older brother hardly spoke at all. Carrie Nation did not do sign language.) In honor of this memory RantWoman offers prayers for her inlaws; maybe later she will even poke about the interwebs and see what is new in Ferrener Husband's home town and what RantWoman can read if the alphabet / local language revivals all the rage in some former Soviet lands have not overtaken all of the media.

RantWoman thanks a group of young women at the bus stop last night for bringing her back to the present. The young women were more or less wearing Western dress and seemed to be in their late teens or maybe very early twenties. They were chattering not in English and laughing and playing some kind of music from someone's backpack. It was dark, and RantWoman is not quite sure why she thinks they must have been continuing a celebration at the bus stop. It was the sort of moment where even asking might have made the whole thing vanish, so RantWoman just smiled and looked away, toward where the bus would come.