Saturday, March 31, 2007

Not A Heart Attack

Since Monday or Tuesday this week my chest has felt kind of tight. I'm not quite sure how to describe it--it's like my rib cage is pushing against my heart. I was a little worried because I've added a cardiovascular routine to my weightlifting routine, and all three times I've been on the exercise bike this week I've been hyperaware of the tightness. My instinct when I noticed the discomfort in my chest was to breathe deeply--I felt as if I weren't getting enough oxygen--but generally this had no effect but to make me more aware of the discomfort.

On Wednesday as I was sorting through our file cabinets I came across the printout from my last cholesterol test, a couple years ago. I'd completely forgotten about this, but I had been told that my cholesterol was a little higher than healthy--especially the bad cholesterol to good cholesterol ratio--and then I'd never really done anything about it, at least consciously. Now, truthfully, I'm a fairly healthy person, particularly in the last couple years. I eat fairly well, albeit not overly conscious of cholesterol, and I go to the gym regularly, even if I haven't done a lot of aerobic exercise until this week.

On Thursday I looked up ways to lower one's cholesterol online and I went to the grocery store to buy a loaf of whole wheat bread. I was sure to eat plenty of fruits and veggies too.

Friday morning as I ate a doughnut in class I asked a classmate if he thought it was a good idea to eat doughnuts when one is having a heart attack. He appeared concerned so I assured him that I was only joking. I hoped I was. He suggested I take some aspirin.

I considered stopping by the campus health center yesterday just to be sure, but I didn't have time--I had to go to the gym and ride the exercise bike, after all. By the time I got home from work at 5:30 I'd decided I should take some aspirin. The only pain reliever I had on hand was clearly labeled NON-ASPIRIN (it's like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife), so I headed over to the drugstore and picked up some aspirin. I took two and, though I didn't feel any better, I at least felt like I'd done something.

By eight o'clock I was getting worried. I took another two aspirin. I looked up heart attack symptoms online and pretty much every site said that if you feel pain or tightness in your chest you should call 911 or go to the emergency room immediately. I panicked. I did not want to be having a heart attack. I had too much going on in my life to have time for a heart attack. Somewhere in the back of my mind the thought of my own mortality loomed. It terrified me.

I called Tolkien Boy.

"Hey, Master Fob, how are you?"

"Good," I said reflexively, then remembered why I was calling. "Well, actually, not good. Bad. My chest has been hurting all week and I think I should go to the emergency room. I'm scared."

Tolkien Boy explained that he and Sir Jupiter were in Factoria, which is almost a half-hour away from me. He encouraged me to call a neighbor or, if necessary, call an ambulance. I told him I'd walk to the hospital, as it's only a couple minutes away, but I'd appreciate it if they could meet me there. I didn't want to be alone in the emergency room.

On my way to the hospital I cursed myself for insisting on walking. My logic had been that I could justify going to the emergency room for heartburn, which this no doubt would end up being, but I couldn't justify calling an ambulance for heartburn. Walking, though, seemed to be making the pain worse, and I was having a hard time breathing. I was so relieved when, halfway to the hospital and less than fifteen minutes (maybe even ten minutes?) since I'd gotten off the phone with Tolkien Boy, he and Sir Jupiter pulled up alongside the curb.

In triage the nurse told me that my blood pressure was a little above normal--155 over something or other--but not alarmingly high, which was a good sign. He asked if I'd been under a lot of stress lately. "Um, yeah, a little."

After waiting a few minutes for a room to open up, I was brought to the back where I was instructed to strip down and put on the flimsy piece of cloth they call a gown. Through the course of the night I was asked the same set of questions at least ten times: What does the pain feel like? How long have you had it? Is it worse at some times and better at others? Have you experienced any shortness of breath? Is the pain radiating? Do you have any history of heart disease in your family? Have you been on any flights recently? The student doctor, as I'm sure she's trained to do, expressed skepticism when I said that I don't drink, smoke, or do drugs. "This is a very important question. Are you sure you don't?"

First they did an EKG. Then they put me on oxygen. Then they drew blood and put an IV in my arm--without a doubt the worst part of the evening, as I am absolutely sickened by the thought of needles, so the idea of leaving one in there is just about enough to make me pass out. Finally, they did a chest x-ray. After several hours of waiting, Sir Jupiter insisting that men don't have anginas and making references to fobby story titles while Tolkien Boy expressed distrust in the coat hangers by the door, my blood pressured dropped down to 120 over something or other and the doctor told me that all the tests said that I had not, in fact, had a heart attack.

Though quite relieved to be alive and to have them take that darn IV out--I hadn't dared move my arm an inch since they'd put it in--I was kind of frustrated to go home still having that pain in my chest and no explanation for it. As the ER doctor explained, though, their job is to make sure I'm not going to die; I'll have to go to my regular doctor to figure out what non-life-threatening things are going on inside me.

Tolkien Boy and Sir Jupiter, being the true friends they are, spent the night on my living room floor so I wouldn't have to be alone. According to my calendar, I should be going to the gym in twenty minutes, but I think I'll pass today. Today I'm going to take it easy and thank God I'm alive.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Guide to Understanding Master Fob's Response to the Question "How Are You?"

"I'm super-fantastico!!!"=I'm doing pretty well.

"I'm doing pretty well."=I'm okay.

"I'm okay."=I'm alive. (i.e. I'm still breathing.)

"I'm alive."=My life is falling apart around me and I'm lonely and shaky and I'm not sure I'm capable of doing anything but hurting the people I love and please, I really need a hug. And don't let go.



Unfortunately our home teacher, who just stopped by, didn't have this handy guide with him. He did, however, leave a box of doughnuts, which is almost as good.

Monday, March 26, 2007

FLASsing Regularly

I have been informed that the federal government wants to pay me lots of money next year to take Spanish classes. I'm convinced this is a direct result of the fact that I have flossed every night but one since Ash Wednesday, and that one flossless night was when I was in Utah and FoxyJ had taken the floss with her to Wyoming. God rewards good dental hygiene.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Dogma

Friday night I watched Dogma with my brother Svoid and his girlfriend Yodame. Aside from problems I had with some of the acting*, I enjoyed the movie for its humor and for its commentary on religion. The movie seems to revolve around a tenet stated by Rufus, the thirteenth apostle**, that the problem with organized religion is that they've taken a great idea and ruined it with a bunch of beliefs.

I've spent the last couple years continuing to attend the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because... well, for a lot of reasons, but largely because I like many of the ideas behind the church, despite the fact that I am bothered by many of the beliefs. This morning I attended a local congregation affiliated with the United Church of Christ. I had come across the church while reading Hurricane's blog, where he presented it as a place that people come together to worship God without any expectations of a shared set of beliefs. Hurricane explained that the thing that unites the members of the UCC is "a common commitment to faith, broadly defined, and community." His positive experience with the church, together with what I read on its website, made me hesitantly hopeful that this church might be the right place for me.

So this morning I walked into the University Congregational Church, accompanied by my supportive friends Tolkien Boy and Sir Jupiter, and we found our way to the small Sunday school*** class on the second floor, where six gentlemen and a lady, all but one of whom were over sixty, were gathered to study the first epistle of John. The class welcomed us in and we proceeded to read and discuss faith, testimony, and spirit. The class, like many good LDS Sunday school classes I've attended, involved a teacher leading a discussion in which all class members were encouraged to participate, sharing their thoughts and experiences. What impressed me most about the class was the answer to a question Sir Jupiter asked:

"Do you believe each person has a spirit that will live on after we die?"

"Well," the teacher answered, "the Bible isn't conclusive on that matter. Different parts, in fact, seem to contradict each other." He went on to talk about various interpretations that could be made based on different passages, and how surrounding cultural assumptions might have affected various biblical writers' views on matters of body and spirit.

I appreciated that he did not have a straight answer for Sir Jupiter. He didn't claim to know anything he didn't know. He didn't recast some biblical passages to jibe with others, or to jibe with any set of extratextual doctrines.

I honestly don't mean to bash the LDS Church here. I don't intend to portray Mormons as dogma-crazed zealots who can't admit that there are some things we just don't know. Gordon B. Hinckley himself would just as readily admit there are things he doesn't know as the teacher did this morning. In my experience, though, I have often felt that in order to accept Mormon doctrine I had to do all sorts of mental acrobatics to explain away or ignore not only the complexities of the Bible, but the complexities of my life. And if I did not accept the doctrine, I didn't feel I could participate fully in the community.

Which is more to the point. I didn't even fully realize this until a couple weeks ago, but attending the LDS Church for the past couple years has been hard on my spirit. I haven't felt like I belonged because I didn't share in the beliefs I was expected to, and I haven't felt like church brought me any closer to God because I spent most of my time focusing not on the things I shared with fellow believers but on the differences between me and them that seemed insurmountable. I don't blame this on anyone but myself, but the fact is that I haven't felt the Spirit while at church in years.

This morning as I sat in the worship service after Sunday school and listened to the choir sing the Lord's Prayer, I wept. To be honest, I'm hesitant to equate crying with feeling the Spirit because I've criticized others for doing so and I had a lot of other reasons to be crying this morning, but at the very least I felt something. For the first time in a while, I was able to set aside the question of beliefs and latch onto the great idea at the center of Christianity--that there is a God who knows and loves me, who hears my prayers, and who, through the atonement of Jesus Christ, can make right the wrongs I've done and help to bear not only my pain, but the pain of those I've hurt.



*To be fair, my problem was that many of the characters didn't seem to act naturally, but I can't say I'm a great judge of how one would act naturally if one were told by the Voice of God that one is to go to New Jersey to stop two fallen angels from walking into a cathedral and thus negating all existence. Or, for that matter, how one would react naturally to the attack of a crap demon.

**Played by Chris Rock, of course.

***They call it Christian Education.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Decisions

Today I visited the library I worked in for three years. It was wonderful to see many of my friends there and to see the library itself--I love that library. I admired the newly-remodeled wing and caught up on all the gossip. I was happy (and somewhat disappointed) to find both that the library is doing fine without me--not that there was ever any serious doubt that it would, but still one can imagine--and that the library still suffers from all the same problems and silly politics it did for the three years I was there. I still love the library as much as I ever did, but it's so much easier now to see the things about it that made me miserable and would have continued to do so as long as I stayed. I left today feeling nostalgic for all the good memories the library brought me and pleasantly free of regrets over my decision to leave for Seattle.

I wish I could go back in time seven months, to when I was torn over the decision to stay in a place I was very comfortable or leave for something potentially better but terrifyingly unknown, and assure myself that this really would be for the best. I wish all decisions, big and small, could be made with the advantage of hindsight. Making them without it is scary as hell.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Home Again?

Well, here we are, back in Utah. Boy, that was a long trip. It feels like we've been in Washington for months!


Actually, I just took a quick trip down State Street to Costco, then up past the library and our old apartment, and I was surprised to find that Utah doesn't feel like home to me, despite the seven years I lived here. I guess that's a good thing. We'll see how at home I feel when I get back to Washington on Saturday.

Monday, March 19, 2007

On the Road Again

7am. Little Dude's internal clock works like, well, clockwork. Never mind the fact that he went to sleep three hours late last night.

8:30am. Pancakes provided by Theric. Mm. Maybe I'll let him live.

9am. Managed to get even more stuff in the trunk. Yay!

10am. On the road.

11:30am. I feel sorry for people who live in Sacramento. I'm not sure exactly why it exists.

12:30pm. Lunch at In-N-Out (a must before leaving California). Not only does this one accept credit cards, but the cashier is nice enough to tell us so before we waste money on ATM fees.

1:30pm. With California--and more specifically, the Bay area--behind us, I'm now able to breathe clearly through nose and mouth, and my eyes no longer feel like they're going to fall out. From allergies, anyway. Now they feel like they're going to fall out from driving.

2pm. Reno. See note on Sacramento above.

3pm. I actually kind of like driving through Nevada. It's certainly not a pretty drive--nothing like the drive from Seattle to Berkeley--but it's kind of peaceful and relaxing to drive really fast with long spaces between little dots of civilization. Also, this is somewhat of a familiar drive to me, so I felt kind of at home.

3:30pm. The rest stop before Winnemucca. We've been here before, we think, but it's hard to say along this stretch of road. It's really windy. I'm not sure what exactly I had to say about this stop, but I remember I wanted to say something. Hm. The toilets have no liftable seats, which means that you get to sit on the rim where everyone splashes. S-Boogie definitely got a paper seat cover here.

6pm. Elko. The motel dude charges me even though Orbitz already did, but later on he gives me a refund when I convince him to look it up. The room is clean and big and there's a nice dark spot to put LD's playpen/crib away from the rest of us.

7pm. Dinner at La Fiesta. Deep-fried ice cream. Yum.

9pm. Still loving Foxy's laptop. If I had one of my own I'd never have to go home.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

California

I'm allergic to it. Other than that, though, it's a nice place.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Fobbing the Thteedcave

Yesterday was uneventful, mostly. Spent eight and a half hours in the car, making frequent stops to go potty and run around. Ate lunch at McD's in Weed. Murdered Theric.

True to their generation, S-Boogie and the Big O spend all their time talking with each other on the phone, despite the fact that they're in the same room. Little Dude, meanwhile, is ravaging the Thteed bookcase.

Up next: lunch.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Fobbing Oregon

9am. How many bags do you suppose we can stuff into a Chevy Cavalier and still have room for four people?

1pm. Mems how I mentioned a couple weeks back that I only had one more paper due this quarter? Does it surprise anyone that I waited until this morning, when I'm supposed to be getting ready for a two-week road trip, to actually write the darn thing?

2pm. On the road.

2:15pm. First forgotten item: the sling. Which means I get to carry Little Dude in my arms for the next two weeks, and he will not be falling asleep while we're out and about.

5pm. Portland. Wow. I'm in love. And traffic's not even too bad, considering we're passing through at 5pm on a weekday. Going the other way is much worse; I guess everyone who works in Portland lives in Vancouver.

6pm. Salem's okay, I guess. At least we made it through without being tried for witchcraft.

6:30pm. Surely the next town will have a Shari's. Every other town before now had one.

7pm. Okay, we'll settle for Denny's. Thank goodness they put us in the back corner, where five hours of sitting in the car can work its way out of the three-year-old without disturbing other customers too much.

8pm. Back on the road.

9:30pm. I'm digging the America's Best Value Inn in Roseburg. Cheap, clean, big room, internet connection. I'm also digging FoxyJ's new laptop, which allows us to take advantage of said internet connection. I might be digging the big mirror on the ceiling over the bed if I weren't, um, traveling with two small children.

11pm. Who, by the way, won't go to sleep. I think Roseburg is where my brother was born, but I haven't seen any umbilical cords or placentas to support the theory.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Who Knew?

When you reference your published essays on your resume, potential employers--particularly those who are librarians--actually look them up and read them. Which makes coming out to your boss sort of anti-climactic.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Abraham's Purgatory

Abraham’s Purgatory

Ben Christensen

“Father,” said the boy, grasping Abraham’s shoulder, “wake up. The sun has risen and I see the mountain in the distance. We’re here—we’re in Moriah!”

Sharp pains stabbed at Abraham’s back as he sat up. He was too old for this. They had been travelling for two days and had not stopped to set up camp last night until late, too dark to see how far they’d come. He had neither the strength nor the heart to go on. The boy’s enthusiasm only made it worse.

Isaac grinned. “Come, Father, it’s not far. We’ll get there by noon if we leave soon.”

The men had already prepared breakfast, but Abraham didn’t eat. He feared he wouldn’t manage to keep anything down. While Isaac ate, Abraham prepared wood for the burnt offering. He laid a pile of faggots atop two small logs and tied two cords around the bunch. One of the servants began to ready the donkey, but Abraham stopped him. “Abide ye here with the ass; the boy and I will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.”

“Just you and—” Isaac grunted as he strained to lift the pile of wood. “—you and I?”

“No,” said Abraham. “Never just you and I, Isaac. You and I and the Lord.” He turned away to hide the quivering of his bottom lip. Please, Lord, Abraham thought as he lit a torch in the campfire, please be with us. I will do what you ask, Lord, just don’t leave me alone. He slid the sacrificial knife under his belt and they were off, Isaac practically bouncing at his side despite the heavy load of wood.

“Father?” said Isaac after they had walked a ways.

“Here I am, son.”

“You have the fire, and I have the wood, but where is the lamb?”

“My son,” Abraham said, “God will provide the lamb.”

Three hours later, Isaac lay on a slab of stone, a log along each side of his torso, as Abraham tied the boy’s hands and feet down with the twine that had held the wood. The boy did not struggle; he only looked up at his father, his eyes filled with tears and questions. “Father,” he said, “I don’t understand. What’s happening? Why are we doing this?”

Abraham did not speak, did not look at the boy. He focused only on tying the knots. Please forgive my weakness, Lord. I know this is what you have commanded, but I’m scared. I don’t want to give up my son.

Please, Lord.

Please give me strength.

He lay the knife against the boy’s neck and cut.

When it was done, Abraham knelt before the burnt body and wept into his own blood-stained hands.

#

“Father,” said the boy, grasping Abraham’s shoulder, “wake up. The sun has risen and I see the mountain in the distance. We’re here—we’re in Moriah!”

Sharp pains stabbed at Abraham’s back as he sat up. He was too—

“Isaac?” Abraham wrapped his arms around the boy and squeezed. “Isaac!”

Isaac pulled back, his cheeks flushed red. He smiled sheepishly. “Good morning, Father. I just wanted to tell you that it’s not far at all. We can get there by noon if we leave soon.”

“Leave?” Abraham covered his mouth and turned away when he realized what morning it was, what he must do—again.

Three and a half hours later the boy cried as Abraham fastened the twine around his wrists. Please, Lord, Abraham thought, please give me strength.

He placed the knife against his son’s neck and cut.

#

“Father,” said the boy, grasping Abraham’s shoulder, “wake up. The sun has risen and I see the mountain in the distance. We’re here—we’re in Moriah!”

Abraham stared at the roof of the tent. How many times will you require this of me, Lord?

Four hours later, he placed the knife against his son’s neck and cut.

#

“Father,” Isaac said on the fifth journey to the mountain, “you have the fire, and I have the wood, but where is the lamb?”

Abraham did not answer.

#

“Father,” Isaac said on the eighth—or was it the ninth?—journey to the mountain, “you have the fire, and I have the wood, but where is the lamb?”

“You, my precious son, are the purest lamb there could ever be.”

Isaac did not understand what his father meant until he lay on the stone with his hands and feet strapped down.

#

“Father,” Isaac said on the tenth—Abraham was sure it was the tenth—day, “you have the fire, and I have the wood, but where is the lamb?”

“My son, you are the lamb.”

Isaac frowned. “What do you mean?”

“There is no lamb. The Lord has commanded me to sacrifice you. Do you understand?”

Isaac nodded as tears welled up in his eyes. He went willingly, but didn’t stop crying until Abraham had completed the horrible task.

#

“Father,” Isaac began on the eleventh day, but Abraham shushed him.

“Don’t ask questions, boy.”

#

Please, Lord, don’t make me do this.

#

I beg of you, release me from this hell.

#

Please, not again.

#

Abraham had lost track of how many times he’d relived this day. It felt like months, perhaps a year. He was not sure which he dreaded more—waking up the next morning to kill Isaac yet again, or waking up the next morning to find that he was truly gone.

#

Abraham wept beside his son’s burning corpse and cursed God. He knew, though, that he would continue to obey as long as it was required of him. There was no other choice.

#

Why do you still test me, Lord? Haven’t I proven my loyalty yet?

Isaac walked beside his father, humming a tune his mother often sang.

Is this why you blessed me in my old age, only to see if I would destroy that blessing in your name?

#

Abraham remembered his life before this hell began only as a dream. He began to wonder if he had really been commanded to sacrifice his son. Had it been the Lord speaking to him, or had he imagined it?

Surely it was the Lord.

#

But had the Lord really meant for him to kill his son over and over like this? Perhaps God had required it of him only once, and now the abomination was on Abraham’s bloody hands.

#

Abraham held the knife over his weeping son and begged the Lord to release him. Please, I don’t want to do this anymore. Send me a sign. An angel, a bird, anything to tell me it’s okay to stop.

There was no sign. Abraham did his duty.

#

Once again, Abraham raised his knife high and did his best to ignore his son’s pleas.

“Father,” Isaac said through tears, “I don’t understand. Why are you doing this?”

The knife trembled in Abraham’s hand.

“Please, Father, isn’t there any other way?”

“No, son. We must obey the Lord. We—we must—” No.

No.

I will not.

Abraham lowered the knife to his son’s wrist and cut the twine. Above Isaac’s grateful sobs he heard a rustling in the bush.


Three days later, Abraham returned to his home with Isaac and the servants.

Sarah sat in her tent, red eyed and pale. “Did—did you do it? Is my son dead?”

Abraham smiled for the first time in what seemed like years. “No, my love. An—An angel appeared and stopped me. It was enough, he said, that I feared God. He commanded me not to lay a hand on the boy. The Lord provided a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns, in Isaac’s stead.”

Outside, Isaac chatted excitedly with the servants’ sons about the adventure he’d had. His laughter was justification enough.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

To Zion

Next week Foxy and I are stuffing the children in the car and heading down to California, then on to Utah. While I am anxious to see my friends in Utah, I am especially happy that I will get to see my family, as I have been reminded in the last couple days that they are truly a wonderful bunch of people. Really, I couldn't ask for better siblings.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Great Clip

It's unfortunate that I feel so crappy, considering how good I look with my new haircut.