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June, 2008: 13 17 18 19 23 25 30

6/13/08-Fri.-The joke is on me. I took a coupon for a free "southern style chicken sandwich" to the McDonald's in Oak Hill. To get there, I had to wait in a long traffic line and was nearly hit by someone running a red light. Once in the eatery, there was another line up to the register plus a small bedlam of young, unrestrained children. When the sandwich came, it turned out to be a thin, biscuit-sized bun of white bread surrounding the piece of chicken, plus 3-4 tiny slices of pickle, bunched up on one edge of one side, nothing else: no lettuce, tomato, onion slices, mustard or mayo, etc. The restaurant was kind enough to provide the "nutritional" information: 420 calories plus 19 grams of fat. The chicken itself was OK, not particularly tasty. More lines and congestion awaited me on my return trip. Ha, ha!

6/17/08-Tues.-Had another doctor appointment this morning concerning throat and excess mucus concerns. He feels a secondary bacterial infection has now been cleared up via the prescribed antibiotics, which therefore need not be renewed. He thinks it possible but unlikely a hypopharynx tumor is the catalyst for the extra mucus. Another possible but improbable culprit is esophageal reflux. (He suggests, though, not eating later than a couple hours before going to bed.) He believes I probably do not have either a viral or fungal infection. However, he suggests I be examined by an ENT specialist. Evidence of a small pharyngeal pouch or tumor or some other non-allergy related cause for the mucus should show up on a thorough ear, nose, and throat exam (including with an instrument put into the nose and sent through the sinuses into my throat). So he has referred me for this type appointment. If nothing turns up there, he suggests I call him for referral to an allergy clinic.

Austin is enduring another record breaking heat wave with the highs at 100(+)°F almost daily, about ten degrees above normal for this time of year. A drought is continuing as well. To keep things a bit wetter and some of our yard alive, Fran and I are supplementing the mandatory sprinklered water rationing with hand held use of a garden hose.

Our air-conditioner went out a couple weeks ago, but an excellent contractor had our cooling system running well again in a few hours.

I am still doing daily meditation practice, some days significantly more than others. At times the results are noticeably productive.

The news is not good either from my brother, Ernie, or my sister, Alice. Ernie's son, William (about age 17), has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Doctors felt he needed to be hospitalized for awhile and then kept in a facility where his behavior and meds could be closely supervised till he seemed to be doing better. But Ernie had no insurance to cover such treatment, which would cost $1000 or more a day! He elected to keep him at home (where William has access to drugs and alcohol, while his parents are frequently away, and where monitoring of his use of expensive prescription meds [being paid for by my mom, as Ernie cannot afford them either] is not effective).

Meanwhile, for reasons that are bafflingly unclear, Ernie and the boy's mom, Caroline, decided to take in a previously homeless 17-year-old girl as a boarder and give her an upstairs room opposite William's.

With the parents mainly just in the downstairs part of the house or else completely absent for a large portion of each day, what was anticipated by just about all who heard of the arrangement, except perhaps the boy's parents, has occurred. Now the troubled, penniless teenage couple has been forced out of the house together for violating the parents' rules against no sex, booze, or drugs. At last word, the unemployed pair was making do by living under a bridge. I suppose this helps solve Ernie's money problems, if he can absolve himself of any sense of responsibility for the teens, but I can think of no other positive spin on the overall circumstance. Churchgoer Ernie, taking a hard line, is expressing self-righteous impatience with the two (scapegoat?) kids, and doubtless sees no errors in judgment on his or his wife's part.

My sister also has virtually no income, and it appears that foreclosure on her and her husband's previously $4 million mansion is just a matter of months away after, even as neither of them had jobs, they kept borrowing against the place's equity to pay the mortgage and their other expenses, till now they owe far more than its currently plummeting market value. The situation is the more poignant for apparent "cluelessness" since, at one time during the several years while they have been out of work, the place was worth three times what they paid for it and they could then have easily sold it for at least twice the purchase price, bought a far more reasonable accommodation, and still had close to a million dollars or more to live on if they felt like being retired. As it is, they are close to "maxing out" their credit cards, having to declare bankruptcy, and losing the house, meanwhile having no other option in the wings but moving in with one or the other of the surviving moms.

The best of my esoteric groups' leaders, Janet, had a big going away party that I attended last Saturday evening. Folks gave her a tremendous send-off, as she deserved, and the next day she flew to a large northern metropolis, there to move in with her fiancé. She will surely be missed. Janet touched an amazingly large number of people in profoundly positive ways over the last 20-25 years while Austin was her home.

Now the esoteric groups will be, at least for awhile, struggling to adjust to her absence. Currently nobody else has the apparent facility and maturity she did for guiding the meetings with kindness, brilliant insight, and balance. Everyone else, especially among those most ambitious to be the groups' leaders, has a small or large ego-bound ax to grind. I foresee a time of turmoil for what remain in her wake of these formerly promising groups. I do not want to be one of the victims of the bickering and backbiting I anticipate among several members in the weeks and months ahead.

6/18/08-Wed.-Last night we had a good discussion at my book group. About 12 people attended, including the author of the book we were discussing and his wife. More interesting, fun, and entertaining than our usual meetings!

Later, I took the pooch for a walk, played some online chess, and did a little emergency watering in our front yard. The temperature was still in the 90s(F) by around midnight. Fran was this evening at a dress rehearsal for the latest Gilbert and Sullivan Society offering.

The hot drought goes on. We are having a heck of a time keeping a small pond in our backyard viable, much less our yard and gardens. Today we are once more adding emergency water wherever we can in the few hours permitted under the city's water conservation plan. The chances of rain declined from 40% to 20% and then to nothing at all again yesterday. The area is a tender box. Several hundred acres burned recently in McKinney Falls State Park.

I have another book group meeting this evening, tonight's talk about A Sudden Country, by Karen Fisher.

6/19/08-Thurs.-Our uncomfortable La Nina weather pattern persists, with a record thirteen 100 or greater degree F days so far this spring. Summer does not even begin till tomorrow. We have, over the last several months, also had much less precipitation than normal. There is little likelihood of a change in the exceptionally hot, dry local conditions until late August or perhaps well into September.

Puff and I went for an early morning walk.

Last night, only one other person showed up for our book group meeting. Nonetheless, we two were both "up" on caffeine and managed to keep a lively, fun, far-ranging discussion going for almost two hours.

Frances and I are going again today to the Indian Palace restaurant for a lunch buffet. Mm, good!

We are in the midst of preparing our final draft for a monthly online family newsletter publication, due in a couple days.

This evening, I meditated about an hour and a half, played with the dog, watered more of the yard by hand, had supper, played some online chess, read some of The Tin Roof Blowdown, and did some exercise in the hot front room, the AC on but taking its sweet time to cool things off after getting up to 81 inside during the warmest part of the afternoon. Our system is not big or strong enough to really bring the temperature down when the weather is quite high outside, but at least it does an OK job getting things comfortable by time to go to sleep. Have been fantasizing about going off for several weeks or even months to a much colder place.

My throat situation is still problematic. It's like having a cold not in my nose but at the level of my windpipe, vocal cords, and larynx, one that just does not quit no matter what I do, a constant nuisance when I am awake and that has been with me for four months or so. I now have an ENT specialist exam for Monday morning. Wish me luck.

Fran has a friend whose neighbor just died of esophageal cancer. I think it may be time to keep fingers crossed that I do not as well.

Am also somewhat concerned about one of the esoteric group leaders, Sonya. She has not answered a couple of e-mails and did not show up for Janet's going away party, though she had been like a second mother to her. Probably it is just an oversight or two. When she was first over at our house, she had that morning acted as though she had suffered a couple mild senior moments or TIAs (transient ischemic attacks), with a little confusion, and then it had taken her awhile to get fully oriented again. Chances are, she just forgot to get back with me (or her computer is out for some reason) and also had discovered she had an unexpected conflict the night and time of the party. We are not close enough either as friends or in geographical proximity for me to just pop over and see how she is doing. But if I have not heard from her by tomorrow, I shall at least call and/or see if one of her better friends knows what is going on with her.

6/23/08-Mon.-A higher anxiety morning than usual. I had an appointment with a throat specialist and was concerned he might find a tumor. The bad news is he did not diagnose and immediately solve the problem. The great news, though, is that, after examining down my pharynx, he is sure the difficulties are not due to a lesion. He also ruled out an allergic catalyst. The doctor thinks the excess mucus I have been experiencing for over four months now is due to acid reflux, a not uncommon complication as one gets older.

He recommends: 1. not resting (or otherwise lying down) within two hours after eating; 2. avoiding clearing my throat, which can keep the lower pharynx area (especially the larynx or vocal cords) sensitive after it is already tender from the acid reflux; 3. routinely resting or sleeping with my head on a couple pillows, to decrease the likelihood of acid reflux affecting so high as the throat; 4. consuming more liquids, particularly with sips (instead) when feel the urge to clear the throat; 5. using sugar-free lozenges at times too, if otherwise inclined to clear the throat.

So, all in all, it was a good outcome of the meeting with this physician, even if I now have one more chronic condition with which to deal. He did not feel I need to see him again for this and just suggested I get an appointment with my primary doctor if conservative measures are not sufficient and I need to take prescription meds for the acid reflux.

Concerning Sonya's absence last week, it turns out she was simply out of town due to a relative's emergency with which she became involved.

6/25/08-Wed.-Another quite hot, dry day. Fran and I have both been making almost daily watering efforts to help keep our yard and trees alive, our home foundation sound, or our ponds filled. It is a lot of H2O and effort, but seems to be doing the job.

The excess throat mucus symptoms are an ongoing nuisance, seemingly unaffected by changes I have begun in diet, avoiding throat clearing, how and when I sleep, etc. I looked online for advice on anything more I can do to cut the mucus. The news is not particularly good: evidently, even with all possible lifestyle changes and appropriate medication, the problem may persist or not clear up for at least half a year. Bother!

Got a haircut this morning, then did some supermarket shopping. Also picked up a couple chicken to-go boxed lunches for Fran and me. After eating, I waited the requisite hours before taking a short nap, then got ready for my dream group meeting this evening.

Am enjoying reading The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros.

6/30/08-Mon.-As of this morning, for the first time in probably over five decades, I am abstaining from both coffee or any other source of caffeine (tea, chocolate, soft drinks, etc.) and alcohol, per guidance from my western as well as traditional (Chinese medicine) doctors. Am also cutting out high vitamin C (acidic) foods like citrus fruit or tomatoes as well as spicy foods, chili peppers, hot sauces, and such.

With these measures, plus avoidance of significant amounts of aspirin or Ibuprofen, which weaken sphincters in the esophagus that help keep stomach acid from backing up into the lower throat or larynx, etc., along with special herb tea powder prescriptions and needles at key meridians, my acupuncturist thinks I should get substantial improvement in my excess mucus difficulties in just 2-3 weeks, compared with six months using only western medicine approaches. We shall see. If it turns out that way, I shall definitely be sold on acupuncture and other alternative medicine remedies!

The western medicine for acid reflux helps that problem but also leaches calcium, making one more vulnerable to osteoporosis. It can cause diarrhea too.

I saw the acupuncturist this morning, the first visit since last December.

I need to find a good and healthy (herbal?) substitute for the usual anti-inflammatory pain medicines, aspirin, Ibuprofen, and Acetomenifren (Tylenol), since in quantities large enough to do any good for troublesome joint problems, etc., all of these are bad for us, weakening the liver and/or other body systems or functions.

We had a good visit this just past weekend with our sister-in-law, Mary. And, through her, I also was invited to a fun get-together, supper at the Brick Oven last Friday with Mary, Dave, Celia, Elise, and Sarah.

Over Saturday and Sunday, besides visiting back at our house, Mary, Fran, and I, or just Mary and I when Frances was busy with a nature walk or Gilbert and Sullivan concerts, had a good time eating meals at Indian Palace and Trudy's, going to the LBJ Library and Museum, and taking in a movie, "Wall-E," which I can enthusiastically recommend.

And, of course, Saturday evening we went to the G & S Society's current production, "Pirates of Penzance," a terrific show with awesome singing, fine orchestral entertainment, and loads of laughs.

During the "Pirates... " intermission, Mary and I ran into our long-time Lifestream Way (LW) friends, Carl and Bonnie, together as a couple since 1987, married since 1993. In my much much younger days (and hers), I was one of many single Lifestream Way fellows with a crush on Bonnie. But she settled on and married a young man who seemed even more flaky than I was then, and they had a couple kids. She is now a grandmother! Even with the children and being quite active in LW, after her divorce (from that poor initial choice) Bonnie went on to get a Ph.D. in India languages, study in India, and later work till retirement as a University of Texas professor. She still seems as warm and effervescent as she did back in the early 1970s.

Fran and I were pleased yesterday evening to finally get a little rain.

Am enjoying reading Girl with a Pearl Earring, by Tracy Chevalier.

Our computer system caught a virus yesterday morning and it has been resistant to all the corrective measures Fran (our resident computer whiz) can figure out and to our anti-virus software which, till now, has been excellent at dealing with and overcoming (or preventing) such problems. Bother! For me this situation is a worrisome nuisance, but for Frances, who is used to being able to solve such difficulties, it is also extremely frustrating and discouraging.

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